Tony La Russa goes out on top: A lesson for politicians?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Talk about going out on top.

After skippering his team to a stunning World Series victory, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has announced his retirement.

As the New York Times noted,

With 2,728 victories, La Russa ends his career with the third most victories of any manager, behind Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763). He is only the ninth manager to win at least three World Series titles, and his résumé also includes six league championships, three each with the Oakland Athletics and the Cardinals.

This, of course, is a great story for sports enthusiasts and leadership/management gurus. But there are a few political hooks to this story, too.

As you might recall, La Russa attended Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally last year, introducing Cardinals star Albert Pujols — who received the Hope Award for his philanthropic work off the field.

And as ESPN reported, on another occasion, “La Russa…said he believed the Tea Party’s stances were ‘correct’ on ‘a lot of things’.”

He was also publicly supportive of the controversial 2010 Arizona immigration law. “I’m actually a supporter of what Arizona is doing,” he said. Clearly he had the courage to voice his opinions — even if he feared they would offend some (they did).

But putting La Russa’s political philosophy and courage aside, there’s something else that most politicians could learn from La Russa: How to quit while you’re ahead.

Think about it. Few people truly go out on their own terms. Jerry Seinfeld is an obvious example of someone who quit at the top of his game. The list is short, though. We’ve all seen sports stars who hang on too long. And we’ve all seen politicians who would have been better off riding off into the sunset.

“All political lives,” Enoch Powell said, “unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.”

The same is true of baseball lives. Mostly.

Matt K. Lewis