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

75 Comments

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.

Twins pitcher barfs before almost every appearance

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 18:  Ryan O'Rourke #61 of the Minnesota Twins reacts after loading up the bases in the seventh inning against the New York Yankees on August 18, 2015 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty Images
5 Comments

Twins righty Ryan O'Rourke has pitched in 54 big league games. He has barfed before almost every one of them.

No, really:

Through his first 54 big-league outings over the last past two years, O’Rourke estimates he emptied the contents of his stomach close to every time.

“I don’t do it in the public’s eye,” O’Rourke said Tuesday. “I go in the bathroom, or sometimes it’s just on the back of the mound. But, yeah, it happens.”

I wonder if I’ve barfed 54 times in my entire life. I doubt I have. Then again, I’m not doing anything in front of tens of thousands of people with potentially millions of dollars at stake.

Yet he who is without sin hurl the first, um. Well, never mind.

The new intentional walk rule isn’t a big deal but it’s still dumb

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 06:  Anthony Recker #20 of the New York Mets calls for an intentional walk as Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on during the eighth inning at Chase Field on June 6, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Getty Images
21 Comments

Let us preface this by stipulating that the new rule in which pitchers will no longer have to throw four balls to issue an intentional walk is not a big deal, objectively speaking. Teams don’t issue many IBBs to begin with. A couple a week, maybe? Fewer? Moreover, the times when a pitcher tosses one to the backstop or a batter reaches out and smacks a would-be intentional ball may be a lot of fun, but they’re extraordinarily rare. You can go years without seeing it happen.

So, yes, the intentional walk rule announced yesterday is of negligible consequence. We’ll get used to it quickly and it will have little if any impact on actual baseball. It won’t do what it’s supposed to do — speeding up games — but it won’t harm anything that is important either.

But let us also stipulate that the new rule is dumb.

It’s dumb because it’s a solution in search of a problem. Pace of play is a concern, but to listen to Rob Manfred and his surrogates in the media tell it, it’s The Most Pressing Issue of Our Time. Actually, it’s not. No one is abandoning baseball because of 5-15 minutes here or there and no one who may be interested in it is ceasing their exploration of the game because of it. And even if they were, IBBs are rare and they’re not time-consuming to begin with, so it’s not something that will make a big difference. It’s change for change’s sake and so Rob Manfred can get some good press for looking like a Man of Action.

It’s also dumb because it’s taking something away, however small it is. One of my NBC coworkers explained it well this morning:

I agree. Shamelessness is a pretty big problem these days, so let’s not eliminate shame when it is truly due.

Picture it: it’s a steamy Tuesday evening in late July. The teams are both way below .500 and are probably selling off half of their lineup next week. There are, charitably, 8,000 people in the stands. The game is already dragging because of ineptitude and an understandable lack of urgency on the part of players who did not imagine nights like this when they were working their way to the bigs.

Just then, one of the managers — an inexperienced young man who refuses to deviate from baseball orthodoxy because, gosh, he might get a hard question from a sleepy middle aged reporter after the game — holds up four fingers for the IBB. The night may be dreary, but dammit, he’s going to La Russa the living hell out of this game.

That man should be booed. Boo this man. The drunks and college kids who paid, like, $11 to a season ticket holder on StubHub to get into this godforsaken game have earned the right to take their frustrations out on Hunter McRetiredBackupCatcher for being a wuss and calling for the IBB. It may be the only good thing that happens to them that night, and now Rob Manfred would take that away from them. FOR SHAME.

And don’t forget about us saps at home, watching this garbage fire of a game because it beats reading. We’re now going to have to listen to this exchange, as we have listened to it EVERY SINGLE NIGHT since the 2017 season began:

Play-by-Play Guy: “Ah, here we go. They’re calling for the intentional walk. Now, in case you missed it, this is the way we’re doing it now. The new rule is that the manager — yep, right there, he’s doing it — can hold up four fingers to the home plate umpire and — there it goes — he points to first base and the batter takes his base.”

Color Commentator, Who played from 1975-87, often wearing a mustache: “Don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. There was always a chance the pitcher throws a wild pitch. It happened to us against the Mariners in 1979 [Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice: it didn’t] and it has taken away something special from the game. I suppose some number-cruncher with a spreadsheet decided that this will help speed up the game, but you know what that’s worth.

No matter what good or bad the rule brings, this exchange, which will occur from April through September, will be absolutely brutal. Then, in October, we get to hear Joe Buck describe it as if we never heard it before because Fox likes to pretend that the season begins in October.

Folks, it’s not worth it. And that — as opposed to any actual pro/con of the new rule — is why it is dumb. Now get off my lawn.