In case you didn’t know, Tony La Russa is the smartest guy in the room every time he is in the room. And as Tony proved once again on Monday night, the only guy who can outsmart Tony La Russa is Tony La Russa. The Master’s undisputed genius has the Texas Rangers one win away from the World Series title.
La Russa made a couple of puzzling decisions late in the Cardinals 4-2 loss to the Rangers in Game 5, one of which is being blamed on a telephone.
With the game tied in the bottom of the eighth, La Russa brought in lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski to face lefty Mitch Moreland, then kept him in to face righty Mike Napoli — aka the guy who will be World Series MVP if the Rangers take home the trophy, and arguably the MVP even if they don’t.
Anyway, Napoli did what he’s been doing all series and delivered with a clutch hit — sorry stat nerds, but they exist — that put Texas ahead 4-2.
Certainly people are wondering why Rzepczynski was still in there — and according to La Russa, he wasn’t supposed to be. When La Russa made the call to the bullpen, bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist supposedly only heard La Russa ask for the lefty instead of double-barreled action with Jason Motte.
When La Russa called back wondering why only one guy was warming up, Lilliquist then thought he said “Lance Lynn” rather than “Jason Motte” and started warming up Lynn.
This is where the story gets a little fishy to me.
Are the telephones at Rangers Ballpark made out of paper cups and string? Does La Russa call the bullpen with a mouthful of sunflower seeds? Does Lilliquist have the worst hearing ever? Because I can’t even fathom a scenario where “Lynn” sounds anything like “Motte.”
Whatever. I’ll buy the miscommunication story as the truth, which explains why Lynn was brought into the game for the sole purpose of intentionally walking Ian Kinsler to buy Motte a few extra minutes to warm up. (At the time, I thought it was just La Russa’s cleverness running completely amuck).
But I still think La Russa outsmarted himself in the ninth.
With Allen Craig on first and Albert Pujols in the batter’s box, the Cardinals decided to go for a hit-and-run. They tried the exact same thing the previous time the situation came up, with Napoli gunning Craig out by a mile. So for whatever reason they tried it again — only this time it ended up even worse as Craig was thrown out after Pujols struck out. Double play.
I understand that you are trying to stay out of the double play by moving a runner to second, but down by two runs with Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman coming up, what the hell difference does it make having a guy in scoring position? Those guys are there to hit the ball out of the park. If he’s going to score, that’s the way it was going to happen. You need two runs, not one.
La Russa deserves credit for leading the Cardinals to the World Series, there’s no doubt. I mean, he won a pennant with Kyle Lohse in his starting rotation.
But if St. Louis loses, it looks like he’ll deserve just as much blame. Hopefully people will see through the veneer of La Russa worship enough to realize it.