La Russa’s Game 5: Age? Medication? Exhaustion? Or does stuff just happen?

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Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a provocative column today, trying to drill down into why, exactly, things got out of Tony La Russa’s control in Game 5.  It goes in a direction that I’ve not seen anyone take — and I predict that Bernie will catch some serious hell from some quarters for even raising the issue — but he asks whether La Russa is burnt out or, alternatively, whether his medical treatment for shingles has caused him to lose an edge.

Please read the column before you spout off. It’s measured and reasoned and ultimately Bernie is, I think, correct in saying that it’s silly to make any definitive judgment about anything based on a couple of mistakes in a single game. Miklasz himself calls the notion that La Russa is done or close to it “ridiculous.” I agree.

But they are questions that, even if they’re not germane to La Russa at this particular time are germane to any person in a stressful job as they get older. Every general, public official, coach, teacher, executive, factory worker and every other person in a position of power, influence and responsibility reaches a point where it’s not as easy to do what used to come so easily. If it’s burnout it could come at age 30, not 70. If it’s exhaustion it could come and then go with some rest.  If it’s age, well, there isn’t a hell of a lot we can do about that yet.

But it’s worth asking the question. Brave column, Bernie.

Rougned Odor didn’t technically steal home, but he basically did

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Just saw this from last night’s Tigers-Rangers game. It was pretty wild.

Rougned Odor walked in the seventh inning. He broke for second on a steal and was safe due to the throw going wild, allowing him to reach third base. The Tigers called on reliever Daniel Stumpf and he was effective in retiring the next two batters, leaving Odor on third with two out.

Stumpf, a lefty, was paying no attention whatsoever to Odor, so Odor just took off for home, attempting a straight steal. Stumpf was so surprised that he tried to throw home to nail Odor, and in so doing, he balked. That technically means that Odor scored on the balk, but I think it’s safe to say he would’ve scored on the strait steal regardless. Watch:

 

He definitely gets points for style.

 

Aroldis Chapman is pitching himself out of a job

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Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman looked shaky again last night, coming in to the game with a three-run lead before allowing a two-run homer to the Mets’ Amed Rosario. He would nail down the save eventually, giving Sonny Gray his first win as a Yankee, but Chapman’s struggles were the talk of the game afterward.

It was the third appearance in a row in which Chapman has given up at least one run, allowing five runs on three hits — two of them homers — and walking four in his last three and a third innings pitched. He’s also hit a batter. That’s just the most acute portion of a long slide, however. He posted a 0.79 ERA in his first 12 appearances this year, before getting shelled twice and then going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, missing over a month. Since returning he’s allowed 12 runs — ten earned — in 23 appearances, breaking out to a 4.09 ERA. He’s also walked ten batters in that time. At present, his strikeout rate is the worst he’s featured since 2010. His walk rate is up and he’s allowing more hits per nine innings than he ever has.

It’s possible that he’s still suffering from shoulder problems. Whether or not that’s an issue, he looks to have a new health concern as he appeared to tweak his hamstring on the game’s final play last night when he ran over to cover first base. Chapman told reporters after the game that “it’s nothing to worry about,” and Joe Girardi said that Chapman would not undergo an MRI or anything, but he was clearly grimacing as he came off the mound and it’s something worth watching.

Also worth watching: Dellin Betances and David Robertson, Chapman’s setup men who have each shined as Yankees closers in the past and who may very soon find themselves closing once again if Chapman can’t figure it out. And Chapman seems to know it. He was asked if he still deserves to be the closer after the game. His answer:

“My job is to be ready to pitch everyday. As far as where I pitch, that’s not up to me. If at some point they need to remove me from the closer’s position, I’m always going to be ready to pitch.”

That’s a team-first answer, and for that Chapman should be lauded. But it’s also one that suggests Chapman himself knows he’s going to be out of a closer’s job soon if he doesn’t turn things around.