You are truly blessed to have stumbled onto StanGraphs, as we once again have the lowdown on a new leaked excerpt from Tony LaRussa’s upcoming book. La Russa’s magnum opus is to be titled “One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season, and Dog Foundations, and Wine.” The book will be hitting shelves soon, but why not catch a second preview of what’s to come? Spencer already had the pleasure of sharing one of at least a dozen anti-Rasmus chapters with you, so I feel it’s my duty to present a more positive entry in TLR’s tome. The following chapter centers on former Redbird reliever Ryan Franklin. The excerpt covers Tony’s relationship with him, admiration for him, and dedication to him. And, yeah, there may be a Colby mention or two in there as well.
The day I decided Ryan Franklin was the future of my bullpen I never looked back. Never. Sure, Franky didn’t have the kind of stuff a lot of bullpen guys do; he wasn’t going to blow you away with mid-90s heat or throw a wipe-out slider that left hitters just standing there, jaws dropped. No, Franky went about his work a much different way, and a way that makes my heart pang to this very day. Many might suggest that I should actually seek medical attention for the constant fluttering in my heart that occurs when I think of the best reliever I’ve ever seen, but I say it’s a natural feeling.
Ryan Franklin famously threw seven different pitches, each of them under 90 miles-per-hour and straight as an arrow. He didn’t ever bother trying to get strikeouts or pander to the crowd that likes to look at meaningless statistics like things other than wins or saves. Franky just threw ‘em in there and let the defense take care of the rest. I remember even Dave Duncan, my long-time colleague and
lover confidant, began to question my decision to stick with the hairy-chinned reliever. “Tony,” he said, “every pitch he gets in there just gets completely hammered. They’re all just hit right at the defense or caught at the wall.” I smiled my crooked smile and replied as I did so many times before: “He’s got ‘em right where he wants ‘em, Dunc.”
The media would still be singing my praises for sticking by Franky for four years if my plans had not been interrupted by a cocky little child determined to ruin the game of baseball as my generation knows it. I can trace it all back to one specific play, one play that forever damaged Franky’s chances of topping Mariano Rivera’s lucky saves record. It was an early 2011 game against the Giants when an opposing hitter crushed a ball to deep center and The Child misplayed it horribly. I’d gone over it all with the little turd a thousand times; the whole plan was to let the hitter think he was winning the battle. Let the hitter smash the ball as hard as he wants to and then we will just find a way to catch it. Well, apparently the little insolent baby didn’t hear me, because the ball deflected off his glove and the Giants wound up winning the game.
It was only after this that Franky lost his uncanny ability to hold hitters to 370-foot fly balls rather than 390-foot fly balls, and that’s when I knew I had to make a change for the media’s sake. For weeks I couldn’t bring myself to say the name of the little boy responsible, the name of Colby Rasmus. I actually toyed with the idea of referring to him as He Who Should Not Be Named, like in that Percy Jackson kids book series, but I thought better of it. He didn’t even deserve that much respect. From that day forward, I began to hatch an elaborate plan to ship Colby to Canada. The plan didn’t work out quite as expected, as originally he was supposed to be a meat packer once arriving north of the border, and he was supposed to be sent there via wooden crate rather than airplane. Turns out the Blue Jays were dumb enough to think he was better at baseball than meat packing. I’m willing to bet he’s terrible at both, and I have a law degree so I must be right.
Soon after Colby Rasmus put a dent in both Franky’s career and Hall of Fame credentials, I received a phone call from John Mozeliak. If you’re not familiar with the name, Mozeliak (or Stat Devil, as I call him) is Walt Jocketty’s usurper. Mozeliak’s voice was noticeably shaky, and I remember the conversation like it was yesterday:
“Hey, Tony. How are you doing this morning?”
“I’ve been better, Johnny; I’ve been better.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I just called to let you know we had to shake up the roster a little bit. I wanted you to be the first to know.”
“Just get right to it, Johnny. Quit beating around the bush and give it to me straight. A man deserves the truth!”
“Tony, we’ve only been talking for about 10 seconds. I–”
“No excuses! You will give me the truth right now or so help me God!”
“Wow. Okay, well we went ahead and let Franklin go. We’ve got to go ahead and let the young guys take control of the bullpen. We have a surplus of legitimate talent right now, and keeping Franklin around isn’t going to help us win ballgames at this point. Look, I like the guy too but we had to do it.”
“Tony? Are you there? Tony?”
“Okay, Tony. Please feel free to call me back anytime. I’d love to hear your thoughts on which guys in Springfield and Memphis we should take a look at.”
I went on to give Johnny the silent treatment for three more weeks, right up until the point at which I was notified by ownership that apparently such behavior, even in an appropriate situation like the releasing of a 38-year-old reliever, was considered detrimental to the organization. What no one realized is how detrimental the whole ordeal had been to my well being. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think about helping dogs find new homes or organizing my David Eckstein memorabilia. The releasing of Ryan Franklin was a very dark time for me, and for that I shall never be able to truly forgive those responsible. One day, my true revenge will be exacted. The guilty parties will wish they had prepared themselves, but I assure you, there is no way they can.
Does anyone else feel like the ending of that chapter is just terrifying? It’s a good thing for Colby Rasmus he’s already found his way out of the country. Remember, since we have the luxury of just completely fabricating anything we want, we’ll be your choice destination for new excerpts from Tony’s upcoming book. Look for plenty of updates throughout the summer. Rumor has it there is one chapter simply titled “Skip Schumaker’s Big Bat.” We’re really hoping that’s not a euphemism.