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.