ARLINGTON -- Prior to Saturday night's Game 3 of the World Series, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa put his fingers in his ears when asked whether he expected to return next season with a chance to pass John McGraw of the New York Giants into second place on the all-time list in regular-season wins. He's 35 away.
"If it's about 2012, we've got a deal with our club," La Russa said. "We don't talk about anything beyond this season. It's worked really well for our guys to concentrate, and I'm not going to upset them by breaking that rule. That was the reason why we put it in place."
Afterward, La Russa couldn't avoid talking about this postseason. On a night when Albert Pujols hit three homers to tie a single-game World Series record, the Cardinals pounded the Rangers, 16-7, at Rangers Ballpark, and La Russa moved into second place ahead of Braves great Bobby Cox with 68 postseason wins.
Only Joe Torre lies ahead, far ahead with 84 playoff wins, all of them with the Yankees. La Russa has 2,728 regular-season wins, in third place behind Connie Mack at 3,731 and McGraw at 2,763.
"Well, if he catches me [in playoff wins], I'm going to go back to managing," quipped Torre, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations. "But I'm only going to manage postseason games."
Tony La Russa now stands alone in second place among managers on the all-time postseason wins list.
Tony La Russa
La Russa has managed for 33 years with the White Sox, A's and for the last 16 in St. Louis with the Cardinals. He's been to the playoffs with all three teams, won three American League pennants in a row with Oakland from 1988-90 and three National League pennants with the Cardinals. His 1989 A's team swept the Giants in the World Series, and his 2006 Cardinals defeated the Tigers in five games.
With the A's, he lost the World Series in 1988 to the Dodgers and in '90 to the Reds. His Cardinals were swept by the Red Sox in 2004.
"Some people may think that this is a joke, and some may think it's bull, but a record like that is something not to take personally, but just to be appreciated," La Russa told MLB.com in his office afterward about his 68 playoff wins. "Tom Kelly and Jim Leyland are two of my best friends, and they both believe the same thing. I've lost more World Series than they've lost. If they were where I am, then they would have had the same number.
"I've been very lucky. I'm very thankful about it. But I don't overstate it as far as what it means to me, personally. I mean, I think I do a good job, but if they were here ... I've said this: If Jim Leyland had been in my place, he'd have the 2,000 wins and I'd have 1,000. Leyland is the greatest."
Kelly won the World Series twice during his years leading the Twins, and the much-traveled Leyland has been to the World Series twice, winning with the Marlins over the Indians in 1997 and losing with the Tigers to La Russa's Cardinals in 2006. Cox took his Braves to World Series five times, winning only the 1995 Fall Classic in six games over the Indians.
Torre won four World Series titles in five years -- including the last three in a row -- with the Yankees from 1996-2000. His Yankees teams won six AL pennants.
"What Tony has done is significant, because he's gotten his team to the postseason," Torre said. "I was fortunate to manage the Yankees for 12 years, which all of a sudden made me a genius. Nobody should be surprised about the job Tony has done this year, because he's so serious about what he does. But it's been remarkable."
For that reason, Torre said he'd be surprised if La Russa, who just turned 67, steps away from the game after the season. The two are close friends, and Torre said he's talked with La Russa regularly since retiring as Dodgers manager in 2010.
"I think he'll be back," Torre said. "It's tough to go to the World Series and say goodbye. We'd all like to do it. There's always that curiosity about doing it again. It's tough for me to talk about because he's a friend. But he's done a great job. He really has."
Under any circumstances, La Russa will retire with the most wins of any manager in his generation. McGraw, who managed the Giants from 1902-32, is certainly within reach. Mack, who owned, operated and managed the Philadelphia A's from 1901-50 and never wore a uniform in the dugout, seems beyond reach.
Like catching the 70-year-old Torre in postseason wins, La Russa would have to manage well into his 70s to even have a chance at matching Mack. La Russa says he doesn't think that far ahead anymore. Managing is on a year-to-year basis.
"This is all very nice for all of us," La Russa said. "I think for Joe, it was the imprint he left about the way to win. The Yankees were so professional as they won over and over again. They never showed anybody up. As for me, I don't take it for granted. I know I've worked my butt off, but the numbers? They're no big deal."