Ray Ratto

Fierce competitor La Russa goes out on top

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Fierce competitor La Russa goes out on top

Somehow, you could have guessed Tony La Russa wasnt going out unless he could go out looking down at the field he had just laid waste to one last time.La Russa, who announced his retirement this morning three days after cheating the experts one last time by winning the World Series, always had a competitive streak that Attila the Hun would find off-putting. His stock answer to the mindless greeting, How are you doing? was Ill tell you in three hours, and he meant it. The game would dictate his mood.
And the game would dictate his moves. He was among the first of the statistical managers, but he had a fierce sense of his own madcap genius. He did things his way and did so with something of a vengeance, to the point where the new-age baseball analysts often found him not only imperious, arrogant and frustrating, but even retrograde in his strategies.To which he revealed his truest self that of the unrepentant red-ass.La Russa was caricatured a lot of ways in his 30 years of managing, but the one that got the least attention was his frustration with things that didnt go his way. He was generous with his time, and he loved talking about baseball, but his questioners needed, in the words of the mob movies, to come heavy or not come at all. He wanted your preparation along with his preparation, and he wanted you to acknowledge that your preparation was inferior to his. Not necessarily because he was smarter, but because he spent more time at it.As in most of his waking hours.It is instructive that he found kinships with other authoritarians of his day George Will was his Boswell, Bob Knight was his spring training companion. He brooked little argument unless it was (a) well-prepared and (b) had the predetermined result that he would be right and you would be wrong. Not because he was a genius, but because hed worked at the problem longer than you. Youd slept; he hadnt.The day that may have revealed this trait loudest was the day the Texas Rangers came to the Coliseum for the first time since Jose Canseco was pulled from the on-deck circle and told he was no longer and Oakland Athletic. He and La Russa had been butting heads awhile, and when push came to shove off, La Russa won, as he knew he would. Canseco burned the available bridges he had, but La Russa would get the last word because he knew he would.And he prepared for it. He was at the ballpark early, and feverishly wrote out a detailed rebuttal to Cansecos remarks, his work ethic and general Canseco-ness, and he studied it so that he could deliver it for as long as he wished. And he went a good half-hour rhetorically blowing Canseco into small bits.When it was done, he turned to a reporter and said, How did it sound? He wanted to know the job had been done right. His way, his words, but with the acknowledgement that nobody else could have done better.La Russa was not a Zen creature. He and Jim Leyland, one of his best friends in baseball, both had fracases with their best players, and both won. They didnt let small issues become big ones and on the occasions that they did, they dealt with the problem with lineup cards and general managers moving the problems elsewhere.And he especially would not go out except on his own terms. He was ferocious in that he might not win, but he would lose his way. Indeed, his odd explanation for BullpenPhonePalooza after Game 5 was so bad that he felt compelled to recraft it the day after and acknowledge what he knew he should have right after the game. He was in charge, it was on his watch, and there was more he should have done to prevent and correct the problem.He was capable of charm, but it was leavened with stubbornness. He didnt conquer St. Louis, one of the most traditional and hidebound and yet devout baseball markets there is, so much as he grappled with it. He had been the second banana in a big market (Chicago), the first banana in a slightly smaller market (Oakland), and he took on the beast from its belly. St. Louis is as hard a ball town as Boston, and its love for the Cardinals has its jagged edges. La Russa didnt avoid those edges he scraped against them and created new ones, all in pursuit of the next three hours.He crafted his legacy elbows-out, leaving as many detractors as admirers. As a manager, the numbers didnt lie, but his methodology took regular beatings. As a human being, well, baseball was his one true love. If he could stay, he would.But nobody stays. They all go eventually, and he went out the only way he would allow himself to having whipped everyone in his teams path. You may decide for yourselves whether that is an admirable trait, but he admires the hell out of it. He did not leave the job undone. He doesnt have to wait for the next three hours to tell you hows hes doing. He has one more ring. The newest one.And hell be a lousy retiree. Bet on that.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

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AP

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

For the record, and just so you can’t say you weren’t told, these are the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and the 50 backups. Draw your own conclusions.

(Author’s note: We list these only because Joe Webb was just signed by the Buffalo Bills, whose starter and first backup, Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates, are still in the concussion protocol).

AFC WEST

DENVER: Trevor Siemian (Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler)

KANSAS CITY: Alex Smith (Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray)

LOS ANGELES: Philip Rivers (Cardale Jones)

OAKLAND: Derek Carr (E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook)

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE: Joe Flacco (Ryan Mallett)

CINCINNATI: Andy Dalton (AJ McCarron)

CLEVELAND: DeShone Kizer (Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Josh Woodrum)

PITTSBURGH: Ben Roethlisberger (Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs)

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON: Tom Savage (DeShaun Watson)

INDIANAPOLIS: Scott Tolzien (Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett)

JACKSONVILLE: Chad Henne (Blake Bortles)

TENNESSEE: Marcus Mariota (Matt Cassel)

AFC EAST

BUFFALO: Nathan Peterman (Taylor, Yates, Webb)

MIAMI: Jay Cutler (Matt Moore, David Fales)

NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady (Jimmy Garoppolo)

NEW YORK: Josh McCown (Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg)

NFC WEST

ARIZONA: Carson Palmer (Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert)

LOS ANGELES: Jared Goff (Sean Mannion)

SAN FRANCISCO: Brian Hoyer (C.J. Beathard)

SEATTLE: Russell Wilson (Austin Davis)

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO: Mike Glennon (Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez)

DETROIT: Matthews Stafford (Jack Rudock)

GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers (Brett Hundley)

MINNESOTA: Sam Bradford (Case Keenum)

NFL SOUTH

ATLANTA: Matt Ryan (Matt Schaub)

CAROLINA: Cam Newton (Derek Anderson, Brad Kaaya)

NEW ORLEANS: Drew Brees (Chase Daniel, Taysom Hill)

TAMPA BAY: Jameis Winston (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin)

NFC EAST

DALLAS: Dak Prescott (Cooper Rush)

NEW YORK: Eli Manning (Geno Smith, Davis Webb)

PHILADELPHIA: Carson Wentz (Nick Foles)

WASHINGTON: Kirk Cousins (Colt McCoy)

Again, draw your own conclusions. I know I’ve drawn mine.