One of the many quirks about St. Louisans is that we have a tendency to idolize those sports figures we feel are above reproach. We feel this way about Whitey Herzog. Bernie Miklasz latest column looks at the comparisons between Tony La Russa and Whitey Herzog.

Bernie Miklasz kicks off the column giving a little background on St. Louis Cardinals fans:

We love baseball nostalgia in St. Louis. It’s one of the most appealing aspects of the baseball experience here. We remember and savor the moments, the memories, the characters. We’re old-school.

This is true to a certain extent. The problem is that many people have short memories. In the early 90s and most of the 70s Busch stadium was a graveyard of potential.

Bernie then says:

St. Louis is America’s most civil baseball city.

This fact cannot be argued. We clap for good plays by opposing teams and we appreciate the efforts of all our players even if they don’t succeed. I guess it’s our Midwestern politeness or it could the love of the game. Whatever the source, the fact that we’re observant and polite makes us the best baseball city in the country.

Bernie then gets into the meat of the debate:

It’s different for managers. Just place the names Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa into the public square, and watch Cardinals fans line up and choose sides. When La Russa recently moved past Herzog on the franchise list for most wins by a manager, the revision in the record book set off another vigorous round of Whitey vs. Tony woofing.

Tis true.

Bernie Miklasz lays out the comparisons in three categories:

  • Style
  • Overall success
  • Franchise building

Bernie teeters on choosing winners in each category. This is best seen in his overall success breakdown:

Herzog (1980-1990) managed the Cardinals to three National League pennants and one World Series title in 10-plus seasons; La Russa (1996-current) captured one NL flag (and no World Series) in his first nine years. But La Russa has a higher overall winning percentage (.548) than Herzog (.530) as the Cardinals’ manager. La Russa has won more postseason games overall; Herzog has a superior record in the National League Championship Series and the World Series.

It’s true that Herzog’s Cardinals had to compete in a tougher division (the old NL East) than La Russa’s residents of the NL Central have. Then again, La Russa’s clubs are required to win two postseason series to reach the World Series. Back in Herzog’s day, his Cardinals didn’t have to worry about the NL Division Series; they advanced immediately into the NLCS, one step from the World Series.

(Insert cop out sign.)

Huge cop out by Bernie here. The debate about which was easier in the post season is easy … Herzog had the easier task, but the key here is winning your division. Prior to the wild card you could find yourself in a division with the best team in a baseball, but if you had the second best team in baseball you weren’t making the post season.

Bernie ends his column:

We can go around in circles in the Herzog vs. La Russa debate. And we haven’t even talked about Red Schoendienst . . .

This is a perfect example of the columns Bernie rights when he wants to stay in the middle of a bridge. He gets stuck in the middle without walking to one side or the other.

Columnists should be opinionated and should give their opinion. If you read this article you’d think Bernie doesn’t really have an opinion on which manager is best. Does that make for a good sports column? Sure does in a one paper city. Ugh.

Score: 3 out of 10.