Despite clinching the division, Tony La Russa was angry about something over the weekend:
Dissatisfaction over a seeming discrepancy between the visitors bullpen mound and the Coors Field main mound caused Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to seek an umpires’ review of the two following Friday night’s loss and led to an animated exchange with the Rockies grounds crew Saturday . . .
. . . The umpiring crew measured the two mounds Saturday and found no discrepancy. The finding didn’t prevent La Russa and Duncan from a testy back-and-forth nearly four hours before first pitch with Rockies head groundskeeper Mark Razum.
This may seem like your standard “Tony La Russa being difficult” kind of story (why argue with the groundskeeper even after the umps made the measurements?), but I think there’s more going on here than meets the eye.
For one thing, the article notes that Chris Carpenter — who lodged the mound complaint — said that the problem wasn’t the height of the bullpen mound, but the slope. It’s possible for the bullpen mound to be regulation height yet still have the wrong slope due to the whole mound havng a greater diameter or something. I’ve seen umpires measure a mound’s height before — it’s a fairly simple operation involving a stick, a level and a tape measure — but I’ve never seen them measure the slope. It’s not clear from the article, but it doesn’t seem likely that they could have done it, let alone accurately, before Saturday’s game (UPDATE: OK, I may be wrong about this). La Russa is a lawyer by training. Though this often makes him a jerk, it also makes him the detail-oriented guy that he is, and I’m guessing he still wasn’t satisfied on Saturday, maybe for good reason.
The much more interesting thing about this comes via the Baseball Think Factory message boards. It’s no secret that long time Rocky Mountain News writer Tracy Ringolsby posts over there from time to time under the name “ballfan.” Ringolsby knows Rockies’ baseball of course, and in response to the mound dispute, “ballfan” posted this yesterday:
Interesting tid bit is that Mark Razum, groundskeeper at Coors Field, was hired from Oakland, where he developed a friendship with former A’s manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. Now, here’s the real question. Could Duncan and La Russa be suspicious because of anything they might have been involved with in the past?
Nice catch, Tracy. Could this be a situation in which La Russa and Duncan know damn well that Razum messes with the bullpen mounds based on personal history? If so, it might explain the argument on Saturday.