Thursday February 16 2012- St. Louis, MO- In a move anticipated for many years by the Cardinal faithful, Ozzie Smith has returned to the Cardinal family. But not one second before his nemesis, former manager Tony LaRussa, was gone.
Upon his retirement after the 1996 season the Hall of Famer made it known, without fanfare or public pronouncement, that he would have nothing to do with the club as long as LaRussa was in charge. True to his word, he has stayed away lo these many years until a phone call from new skipper Mike Matheny brought the Cardinal and St. Louis legend back into the fold.
The rift began even before spring training in LaRussa's first Cardinal season and what would prove to be Ozzie's last when LaRussa made bringing in a shortstop, Ozzie's position, a priority. Smith considered this a slap in the face, even when assured that this was a competition move that was best for the club, not personal, and he would be given a fair opportunity to earn his starting shortstop job and the best man would win.
At the conclusion of spring training, Ozzie had accumulated a .288 batting average with no errors while Royce Clayton, LaRussa's handpicked replacement, embarrassingly hit .190 with 8 errors. Smith rightfully felt he had earned the job, but LaRussa disagreed and Smith broke camp in a platoon with Clayton.
Smith finished the season, but never forgot or forgave LaRussa's dissembling, vowing to never again be part of the team until LaRussa was gone. Only rarely would Smith be seen at Busch Stadium, attending only special events honoring former teammates or manager Whitey Herzog.Or to loan money to Jack Clark.
Smith, at Matheny's request, has agreed to help coach the infielders at spring training this year in Jupiter Florida. The Cardinals have also invited Cardinal great Jim Edmonds to participate in spring training as a coach, which Edmonds has accepted. Former relief pitcher Ryan Franklin will also join the club as a special assistant to GM John Mozeliak. Here's hoping for the best for the Wizard and Jimmy Ballgame. And hoping Franklin gets lost on his way to the park.
From the "No really, what did he say when you talked to him?" File: Pittsburgh, PA- In a story so childish and bizarre it could only involve to very childish and bizarre personalities, Todd "Hobostank" Haley, a.k.a. "I think I'm being followed by Scott Pioli's gardener" and Ben "Not Guilty" Roethlisberger have not spoken despite "I am NOT paranoid" Haley being named Steeler Offensive Coordinator more than a week ago.
Here's how it plays out: During an interview, Roethlisberger was asked what he thought of Haley's "scream in your face" management style. "I've been yelled at, it's not fun to be yelled at." He replied, " I don't think anyone likes it, but to me, you get more out of me by talking to me, whether I screw up or do good. Just talk to me so we can work through my reasoning instead of getting yelled at."
Is this a bait question? You bet, but that doesn't make him wrong. Haley says, "If you are sensitive this is probably not the best place to be."
So now the Pittsburgh Steelers wait for one of these two to blink. Haley should remember that as a Coordinator, if the Steelers offense smells like it hasn't showered in a month, he is the one that will be fired. Not Roethlisberger. He should also realize that since he never played football he wouldn't have the first idea what it takes to motivate a player. Or, evidently, a man.
From the " He's a bad mother..." File: Former player and Tennessee Titan Defensive Coordinator Chuck Cecil has been hired by the St Louis Rams to be their new defensive backfield coach. Cecil, a 7year vet with the Packers, Cardinals, and Oilers, was well known as being the hardest hitter in the league. Sports Illustrated famously asked the question, "Is Chuck Cecil too vicious for the NFL?" Cecil also gained notoriety for photos taken of him during and after some games with blood running down his forehead and face. Want to toughen your defensive backs or instill an attitude? Hire Chuck Cecil. He ups the tough quotient by driving by the facility. Another good hire by Jeff Fisher.