The Phillies have completed an outstanding season in which they won 102 and dropped only 60.  They then lost in five games to the eventual world champion Cardinals, whereupon Tony LaRussa retired.

File:Tony La Russa May 2008.jpg

LaRussa is a great champion.  He has won world championships for the As in the AL in 1989, and two more pennants there in 1988 and 1990, a bunch of division titles over there, and two or three more world titles over in St. Louis, along with a ton of division titles and pennants.  Some of the Hall of Fame (and near HOF) players he has coached include Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Mark McGwire, Dave “Smoke” Stewart, Jose Conseco, Lance Berkman, and many many others.  In short, Tony LaRussa is the real deal.

Aside from the championships in three different decades in two different leagues (can we even remember 1989???), LaRussa has racked up more wins than any other managers except for John McGraw and Connie Mack.  This is fairly impressive, because by all accounts John McGraw was the toughest Irish sonavabitch who ever played baseball, being the leader of the 1890s Baltimore Orioles (who played very dirty baseball) and then the manager of the very winning NY Giants for nearly 35 of their fifty years in NYC.  In short, he was just too tough to quit.

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Connie Mack, who also won numerous pennants and world championships like McGraw, and an even larger number of games, simply managed until he was nearly 100 years old–he broke in before McGraw, and managed long after him.  Mack was most famous for the 1902-05, 1910-14 and 1929-31 Athletics of Philadelphia.

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It’s ironic that the best two managers of all time are associated with times of the first half of the 20th century which essentially no longer exist, the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Giants, and teams at that which used to meet each other pretty often in the World Series, and which had a pretty good rivalry to boot.

It’s not the same when the Mets hit town.  The NY Giants had players like Christy Mathewson, Willie Mays, Mel Ott and Bill Terry.  The Mets other than Tom Seaver really haven’t had a single player as good as Willie Mays, except of course, for Willie Mays, in 1972-73.

Anyway, back to the Phils.  They have already let Oswalt and Lidge walk on their options, saving $28.5 million with $3.5 million of buyouts, thus saving a net of $25 million. Madsen, Rollins, Ibanez and several others have free agent walks as well.

In addition, Ryan Howard has a torn achilles and will be unavailable for perhaps nearly a half of 2012, which is a big issue if the Phils want to win now.

One way the Phils could go is to blow the team up a bit and let Rollins and Ibanez walk.  That would save another $20 million.  They could re-sign Madsen (or sign another closer) and use the $45-50 million they save to sign a couple of free agents.

The Phils’ biggest needs are (1) a power hitting RH third baseman (2) a LH hitting corner outfielder and (3) a RH power hitting 1B to come in a spell Howard till he comes back.

The ideal solution would be to sign or trade for Andre Ethier, Albert Pujols and Michael Young.  Alfonso Soriano would be ok in left.  Failing Pujols, signing Jim Thome for half the season at 1st isn’t bad if he platoons with Mayberry and Mayberry plays with Dom Brown in left.  Michael Young seems like an obvious addition to the Phils–he can hit a ton and will hit HRs to lf.

Michael Young, 3B TX Rangers.

The idea here is to strengthen the bench–if Polanco comes off the bench, he can play 2B, and let Utley play 1B some days.  Dom Brown coming off the bench and Mayberry coming off the bench gives the Phils a lot stronger bench.  And a lot better pinch hitting and pinch running  and defensive subs.

Finally, the Phils need to improve their bullpen.  We all saw what happened to Texas in blowing three saves in Game Six of the World Series,  and what happened to Brad Lidge in the 2009 World Series.  A closer and a closing bullpen is a must.

–Art Kyriazis, Philly