Tony La Russa is completely out to lunch


Chris Carpenter yelling.jpgWhat a crock of a controversy in the Cardinals-Astros game yesterday.  While no punches were thrown, the benches cleared after Carlos Lee and Chris Carpenter started arguing with one another following Lee’s pop up in the third inning.

Based on all the reports I’ve read, the source of the problem was Lee yelling, presumably at himself, about popping up. “My word, I hath made a mistake,” he declared. Or something to that effect.  That set off the jawing because, apparently, Carpenter found it disrespectful that Lee blamed his own swing rather than Carpenter’s pitching prowess for the pop up. Here’s Tony La Russa explaining it all:

“Pence hits the ball out of the ballpark. Carp didn’t make a
good pitch. Carp doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t say anything to the guy
that hit it. It’s his mistake. Well, routinely now, hitters pop up a pitch they think they should
deal with and they start making noises, and that really is disrespectful
to the pitcher. Most of the pitchers just turn around and ignore it.
Carp doesn’t. I think Carp’s right, and I think Carp’s in the right.
Respect should go both ways.

“If he gets you out, he gets you out. Zip it and go back to the
plate. If he gives it up, you zip it and let the guy go around the
bases–or single, double, whatever it was. Most pitchers let the guy
jabber. I don’t think Carlos Lee is anything special as far as a guy who
disrespects, but it’s so common now. Carp will let you know.”

Which is completely crazy. Ballplayers now have to be so mindful of their opposition’s feelings that they can’t even register anger when they screw up?  If this was ever something anyone besides Tony La Russa believed guys like Paul O’Neill would have been murdered years ago.

Players have cussed, slammed bats, punched walls, destroyed water coolers and otherwise exhibited anger at their mistakes since time immemorial.  That La Russa is now creating, from whole cloth, some notion that baseball respect requires that they never display emotion like Lee did would be pathetic if it wasn’t so doggone laughable.

Here’s what really happened: Chris Carpenter was still angry at himself for giving up the homer to Hunter Pence. Having his confidence shaken a bit, he needed to feel like he was a stud for coming back and retiring Lee.  When Lee wouldn’t do him the courtesy of acting like a beaten man, Carpenter flipped and decided to jaw about it.  There’s not much more to it. (UPDATE: Oops, I was wrong: Pence’s homer came after the popup. Lance Berkman’s RBI single preceded Lee’s at bat. General point still stands, though; Carpenter was sore that he was pitching in trouble.)

I appreciate that La Russa is simply trying to defend his guy here, but please, baseball is positively drowning in unwritten rules, secret handshakes and the Byzantine politics of “respect.” How about everyone just get over themselves already and play some friggin’ baseball?    

Nationals fire reigning Manager of the Year Matt Williams

Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams looks on from the dugout during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Friday, May 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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Matt Williams was voted the National League Manager of the Year on November 11, 2014, receiving 18 of 30 first-place votes from Baseball Writers Association of America members.

Today the Nationals fired him following a season full of disappointment, reports of clubhouse discontent, and Jonathan Papelbon choking Bryce Harper in the dugout.

Williams went 179-145 (.552) in two seasons in Washington, which is an excellent winning percentage, but when you take over a stacked team the expectations are extremely high and there was seemingly nothing anyone could point to about his actual managing that suggested he was doing a good job.

His in-game tactics and particularly his rigid bullpen usage patterns infuriated fans. His dealings with the local media became increasingly antagonistic. And even setting aside two players literally fighting in the dugout there’s ample evidence that Williams lost the clubhouse a long time ago.

Williams was far from the only thing wrong with the Nationals this season and he’s hardly the primary person to blame for their disappointing record, but it’s also hard to make a strong case for his sticking around–meaningless, beat writer-voted award or not–and general manager Mike Rizzo predictably acted quickly to move on.

Now we’ll see who gets to take the next crack at managing the Nationals to play up to expectations.

Dan Haren plans to retire after the playoffs are over

Dan Haren
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Dan Haren, who said two months ago that he was leaning toward retiring after the season, reiterated those plans following the Cubs’ regular season finale Sunday.

At age 34 he started 32 games for the Marlins and Cubs with a 3.60 ERA and 132/38 K/BB ratio in 187 innings, so Haren would have no problem finding work and a solid paycheck for 2016.

However, he’s not expected to part of the Cubs’ playoff roster and told Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago:

That was it for me. If I have to pitch in the postseason, I’ll be ready for sure. Happy the way the last few starts have gone. Being able to contribute to this amazing team. I’m just thankful to be a part of it. If I don’t pitch in the postseason, that’s it. It’s been fun. Hopefully there’s a lot more games to go. … If my name is called, I’ll be ready.

Injuries has lessened Haren’s overall effectiveness in recent years, but he’s remained a solid mid-rotation starter and has pitched 13 seasons in the big leagues with a 3.75 ERA in 2,419 innings. He made three All-Star teams and earned more than $80 million.