The Cardinals haven't missed a beat without their former skipper, reaching the Fall Classic this year behind second-year manager Mike Matheny. Despite Matheny taking over without any Major League coaching experience, La Russa said he isn't surprised by Matheny's success.
Like Matheny, White Sox manager Robin Ventura and Colorado's Walt Weiss were hired with an empty managerial resume.
"Their secret is they have well-deserved reputations from players. They were top-notch competitors and teammates who, most importantly, earned a lot of respect and trust," La Russa said. "Nowadays in baseball -- in any professional sport -- the No. 1 quality you've got to establish with your team before you even mention anything about how you're going to compete, is to establish their respect and that they're going to trust you. And Mike had that going in and he's built on it."
A big part of Matheny's success is joining an historic organization that goes about its business using the "Cardinal Way" -- which has been getting lots of attention this postseason.
So what, exactly, does that mean?
"The 'Cardinal Way' is a sense of history. When you put that uniform on, there's a lot of reminders of what was happening in the '30s and the '40s and the heydays -- the '60s and the '80s -- and you really recognize and don't get too big for your shorts," La Russa said. "You've got the chance and you're the caretakers of history, and that's a real strong message throughout the system.
"The 'Cardinal Way' of competing is you're going to give it nine innings of your best effort and you're going to try to limit mistakes, play the game right and be tough enough for anything that comes your way. And I think they do a great job in the Minor Leagues. Once a young guy signs, early and often you hear that. And you don't get to the big leagues and get a chance unless you prove that you're that type of player."
In his new role in the Commissioner's Office, La Russa has a variety of assignments -- including being an integral part of the expected expansion of instant replay in 2014.
But his favorite part of being away from the dugout is the same as nearly every fan.
"Now, it's second-guessing," La Russa said with a laugh. "I can see why you get so much from fans and the media and front offices and owners. You sit and watch games, and it does look easy up there."