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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 18, 2014

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After 33 straight seasons in a Major League dugout, Tony La Russa is finally calling it quits.
After 33 straight seasons in a Major League dugout, Tony La Russa is finally calling it quits. (Photo: Getty Images)

La Russa calls it a career

Thirty-three years is a long time. A literal eternity, in fact, to some.

For Tony La Russa, 33 years was his career as a Major League manager.

"It's just time to do something else, and I knew it," La Russa said Monday morning in a news conference to announce his retirement. "If we won, if we lost, it wasn't going to change."

La Russa drove Brewers fans crazy for decades, but his track record is nothing short of incredible. In all, 5,097 regular season games managed. He has 2,728 wins, third all-time in baseball history, and a mere 35 wins away from second-place John McGraw. He is only one of two coaches/managers to have been at the helm for more than 5,000 games in any North American professional sport. Connie Mack, who both owned and managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 seasons, is the only other.

"Other than some of the personal attachments, I feel good," La Russa said. "I feel good that this is the right decision."

We all know the records: six pennants, three World Series championships, a four-time Manager of the Year. Someone who was so well thought of by the Oakland A's that he was snapped up by them almost as soon as he was fired by the Chicago White Sox – midway through the 1986 season.

To try to put La Russa's five decades of managerial experience into perspective, the Brewers had been in Milwaukee for just nine years when he managed his first game against them. Jimmy Carter was President of the United States. The week before La Russa became a big league manager, Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" was released. Even with an energy crisis, the cost for a gallon of gas was 86 cents.

Among the events of the world that have happened since La Russa started racking up wins as a manager: The Iran hostage crisis began and ended; so did the space shuttle program.

The 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. hockey team won gold at Lake Placid during Tony La Russa's managerial career. John Lennon was murdered. Albert Pujols was born. ESPN, CNN and MTV were launched.

W…

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Their fortunes tied together, Doug Melvin and Ryan Braun should both be getting something for their respective trophy rooms very soon.
Their fortunes tied together, Doug Melvin and Ryan Braun should both be getting something for their respective trophy rooms very soon.

The envelope please... (Part 2)

Yesterday we took a look at those who should be the major award winners in the American League. Today, it's the National League's turn.

Whereas the junior circuit winners were pretty clear-cut by and large, the NL has some more intriguing battles. There are even a couple of battles where my vote probably won't mesh up with the voters say, but that's okay. Everyone has different criteria. For example, part of what I look for is how players performed when the pressure was at its zenith. How did a pitcher perform in the heat of a September pennant race? How well did a batter hit when all eyes were on him? I think that's a critical element.

So, without further ado, here they are:

For reference:

OPS = on base plus slugging percentage (the higher the better)

WHIP = Walks plus hits, divided by innings pitched (the lower the better)

 

National League Cy Young Award

The candidates: Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw, Philadelphia's Roy Halladay, and Arizona's Ian Kennedy.

Kershaw: 21-5, 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP in 233.1 innings pitched

Halladay: 19-6, 2.35 ERA, 1.04 WHIP in 233.2 innings pitched

Kennedy: 21-4, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 222 innings pitched

Here is where I will probably differ with the voting writers. Kershaw's season was suburb. Amazing. Spectacular. But he never had anything to really play for, as the Dodgers never contended. In the second half of the season, Los Angeles didn't get above .500 until after they had been eliminated, and trailed in the NL-West by double digit games every day of the season from June 27 on.

Conversely, Halladay led a staff that was baseball's best. This season, the Phillies ran away and hid from the rest of the pack, evidenced by the events of April 26. Why is that day special? That was the only day Philadelphia not in first place in 2011. However, Halladay's numbers are only marginally better than teammates Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

Most votes will either go to Kershaw or Halladay. However, the pitcher that gave his team the bi…

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He no hit the Brewers four years ago; this season Justin Verlander will win his first Cy Young Award.
He no hit the Brewers four years ago; this season Justin Verlander will win his first Cy Young Award. (Photo: Getty Images)

And the award goes to...

Baseball does so many things perfectly. The pace; the nuance; the romance of the game is unparalleled. Magical numbers don't need explanations to true baseball fans. 56. 714. 755. 3,000. 61*.

One thing baseball does really poorly, however, is the way they trickle out like molasses their postseason awards. After the World Series ends, into November, one at a time, one calendar turn after the next, we get one award per day; ostensibly to draw out sportscasters continually being forced to talk about baseball long after the champagne has dried in the World Series Champions clubhouse.

Nonsense; it need not be this way. Let's do this in two days, shall we? We'll do the American League today; the National League tomorrow.

Before we start, at least as far as the official vote is concerned, since I am not a member of the ultra-exclusive Baseball Writers Association of America (since I work for a – gasp – website) I don't have a vote (someday I'll soapbox about that; less for me and more for the game broadcasters and MLB.com beat writers that live and breathe with these guys every day for seven months, but I digress), but if I did, here is who would get them.

For reference:

OPS = On base plus slugging percentage (the higher the better)

WHIP = Walks plus hits, divided by innings pitched (the lower the better)

 

American League Cy Young Award

The candidates: Detroit's Josh Verlander and Los Angeles' Jered Weaver.

Verlander: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 251 IP, 0.92 WHIP

Weaver: 18-8, 2.41 ERA, 235.2 IP, 1.01 WHIP

This one isn't a tough call, even though Weaver deserved better for the incredible year he had. Verlander also gets points (at least from me) for pitching well in games that mattered down the stretch. Even though the Angels hung around in the AL-West, they never really made a strong push. Verlander was dominant throughout, even no-hitting Toronto on May 7. Verlander led the American League in innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA, wins, batting average against, and WHIP…

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Is this the man that can save the Milwaukee Bucks?
Is this the man that can save the Milwaukee Bucks? (Photo: Getty Images)

How many Bucks will it take?

Senator Herb Kohl may be the single most enigmatic figure in Wisconsin sports history.

He spends lavishly on players and coaches he believes will help his Milwaukee Bucks win. When George Karl was hired, for example, he was the highest paid coach in North American professional sports history.

Yet the Senator wears suits he bought in the 1970's and still wears a purple Bucks cap.

Kohl, while being one of the wealthiest individuals in the U.S. Senate, is also probably the most unassuming gentlemen you will ever come across. He is small in physical stature, yet arguably (along with his lifelong friend, Bud Selig) the most powerful figure in Wisconsin sports history.

As our state's political mudslinging has never been less civil, Kohl's demeanor to his political opponents has been always dignified and well above the fray. In the ultimate irony, this nobility comes from the man who currently holds the very same Senate seat once occupied by Joseph McCarthy.

Kohl has saved the Bucks by keeping them in town; however, his stewardship over the team's fortunes has been the most futile in franchise history.

Whereas an appearance in the playoffs was once a foregone conclusion, that is hardly the reality today. In the 18 seasons before Kohl purchased the team, the Bucks made it to the postseason 14 times. Included in that was their only championship (1971) and another NBA Finals appearance (1974). In the 25 years of Kohl's ownership, they have only made the postseason 12 times; five of those seasons were the first five under Kohl. In the last 20 seasons, in a league where more teams make the playoffs than don't, Milwaukee has only played past the regular season seven times. More damning, they have made it out of the first round only once (2001).

At one time, the Bucks were one of the most feared and dangerous franchises in the NBA, making regular appearances on national television. Clearly that has not been the case for some time.

In recent years one can make the argument…

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