St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa pulls relief pitcher Marc Rzepczynski after he gave up a two RBI double to Texas Rangers' Mike Napoli in the eighth inning of Game 5 of MLB's World Series baseball championship in Arlington

Tony La Russa cost his team Game 5


When it comes to the managerial matchup in this World Series I was right and wrong. First the wrong part, which I wrote last Wednesday when comparing Tony La Russa and Ron Washington:

A managerial mismatch? No way. At least not one that will determine the course of this World Series.

Inasmuch as Game 5 determines the course of the World Series, yeah, the managerial moves mattered. Managerial decisions cost both teams outs and opportunities last night, but they cost the game for the Cardinals. Which leads us to the part I was right about:

But at the same time, as a lot of Cardinals fans will tell you, La Russa can over think things. Anyone who thinks deeply about things is prone to that, actually.  For all of the moves that work, he’s just as capable of making moves that don’t work, such as intentionally walking a guy when it makes little sense, going too crazy with pitching changes or double switches to gain a platoon advantage when the advantage is far outweighed by the loss of the players he has burned through …

Yeah. That happened in spades last night. La Russa gave away an entire inning’s worth of outs with bad decisions with Allen Craig alone, bunting with him despite the fact that he is one of the team’s best hitters and running him — twice — with Albert Pujols at the plate. Albert Pujols, whose job description does not and should not include “getting some wood on the ball to make the hit-and-run happen.” Craig shouldn’t have been even taking a lead off the bag with El Hombre at the plate, let alone running.

And of course the pitching change fiasco in the eighth inning which Aaron described last night. La Russa’s explantion was that bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist didn’t hear La Russa correctly when he asked for Jason Motte to warm up. Twice. Once when he asked for Marc Rzepczynski to warm up — La Russa said he wanted both Rzepczynski and Motte getting ready — and once when, later he realized that Motte wasn’t getting ready and called down again, only to have the bullpen mess up and get Lance Lynn ready instead of Motte.  The explanation doesn’t seem terribly plausible.

In the first instance, when Rzepczynski came into the game there was no one else warming up in the pen. The shots from the Fox camera made that pretty clear. A miscommunication on that first call from La Russa would have conceivably had the wrong right hander warming up, but not just one guy when La Russa asked for two.

So La Russa’s story is that he called again. And the bullpen coach misheard again, getting Lance Lynn up instead of Jason Motte. Which also doesn’t make sense because who on the planet — especially the bullpen coach of the Cardinals who gets more calls from the dugout than the next five bullpen coaches in baseball combined — wouldn’t question why La Russa would want an unavailable pitcher (Lynn was listed as emergency use only before the game) getting warm with Mike Napoli looming rather than Motte who is clearly the best option?  How does that simply go mis-heard? How doesn’t someone say to La Russa “dude, you sure you want Lynn here?” only to have La Russa clarify “No! I want Motte!”

If you’re answering that phone and you hear the manager say he doesn’t want a righty up when a righty is truly called for, and then you later hear “Lynn” instead of “Motte” when that makes no sense, you clarify. You’ve had over 170 games of this stuff this year and you know how things go. I believe it way more likely that the folks down in the bullpen heard La Russa loud and clear and followed the man’s orders because he’s the boss. It’s just that the orders were totally FUBAR.

I suspect that La Russa had a brain lock and simply didn’t anticipate or believe that David Murphy would reach against Rzepczynski, necessitating a righty to face Mike Napoli. I also suspect that he was hoping to save Motte for a save in the ninth or in extra innings or something. I believe that these brain locks — in addition to all of the base running stuff — cost the Cardinals the game.

Tony La Russa is one of the best managers ever. But he is not infallible. He overmanaged last night as it is his wont to do. He made a pretty major blunder last night because not even he is immune to doing so.  It’s also possible that he threw his bullpen coach under the bus last night on that telephone stuff, which is pretty sad if you ask me.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.