The final match of the preliminary rounds is upon us. After this, we will be halfway done with the managerial tournament, as 4 quarterfinals, 2 semifinals, one finals match and one toe-to-toe face-off with Mike Scioscia await.
We enter into today's match after we see our second full-length, uncut, R-rated beatdown of the tournament. Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays manager and the best to manage in this century, absolutely OWNED Angels third base coach Dino Ebel by the score of 107-16 (87% to 13%).
Today's winner faces the growing legend of Maddon. However, each combatant is a legend of their own. The first has managed three teams into contention, guiding two of them to the World Series and is the proud owner of three World Series rings. The second is one of the greatest one-team legends to play the game, and won his own World Series (and AL MVP) in 1983 (ironically getting there by defeating the team managed by the first combatant in the ALCS). Let's get the preliminary finale rolling!
TONY LA RUSSA (N/A) vs. CAL RIPKEN, JR. (N/A)
Tony La Russa managed baseball from 1979 to 2011, with three different teams: the Chicago White Sox (1979 to 1986, winning the AL West in 1983), the Oakland Athletics (1986 to 1995, winning the AL West in 1988-90 and 1992, the AL pennant from 1988-90 and the World Series in 1989), and the St. Louis Cardinals (1996 to 2011, winning the NL Central in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004-06 and 2009, the NL Wild Card in 2001 and 2011, the NL pennant in 2004, 2006 and 2011, and the World Series in 2006 and 2011). Suffice to say, his list of accomplishments is quite notably strong. Every team he went to, he changed their year-to-year outlook. The White Sox went from Bill Veeck's quirky guinea pigs to being contenders within just a few seasons, while the A's launched from mid-80's massacre to league powerhouse, and the Cardinals, not even a decade removed from their 1987 World Series run, reloaded and became a perennial contender for many a year to come, winning their division and being one win away from the World Series in his first season at the helm. Although many Cardinals fans complained of his sometimes brainless day-to-day operations (broadcast nationally in Game 5 of the 2011 World Series when he completely wasted half his bullpen due to miscommunication), he has to be doing SOMETHING right to have been able to build contenders within three seasons of his arrival every single time he went to a new team. Like with fellow contestant Jose Oquendo, the presence of Albert Pujols can be a factor in drawing him to Anaheim, and he could also be drawn to the younger pieces such as Grant Green and Kole Calhoun, building blocks for the future here. Can he be coaxed from the retired life to work magic a fourth time?
Cal Ripken, Jr. is on many a short list when it comes to the greatest shortstops to play the game of baseball. Nicknamed "The Iron Man" due to his unusual and legendary durability (shattering Lou Gehrig's consecutive games mark by playing in 2.632 straight games from 1982 to 1998), he put up monstrous stats with the Baltimore Orioles from 1981 to 2001: 3,184 hits, 431 home runs and 1,695 runs batted in, with a .276/.340/.447 slash line, 95.6 WAR (including 11.5 in an historic 1991 campaign) and the dubious honor of the most GIDPs in big league history, with 350 over his career. While he's yet to manage or even coach in any official capacity, he has been very involved on the business side of baseball, being the owner of three different minor league teams (Aberdeen IronBirds, Augusta GreenJackets and Charlotte Stone Crabs) and been very active in charitable causes, particularly those centered around a cure for ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. His baseball philosophy and style isn't exactly an open book, but if it's anything like that of his lesser-skilled brother over at MLB Network, he's likely of the more "old-school" style--though I won't speak to what I don't know. Would Ripken even consider cutting his managerial teeth with anyone but his hometown Orioles?
Two legends at hand here, folks--vote and discuss away!