Remember after Game 1 of the World Series, when Tony La Russa piloted the Cardinals to victory with his strategic brilliance? Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Suddenly, after a disastrous Game 5 last night, the talk shifted from “La Russa the mastermind” to “La Russa the bumbling fool” with remarkable speed. We guess that’s the thing about micromanaging every minute detail: sometimes things go well and sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, you look especially bad.
And today, La Russa looks especially bad…but not just from overmanaging. In fact, what he’s being ripped for the most today is exactly the kind of thing one would expect not to happen under a guy who famously pores over every last detail. And that’s the bizarre way he handled his relief pitchers last night – something La Russa blamed on crowd noise messing up his calls to the bullpen. The ultimate result: La Russa’s closer, Jason Motte, not being ready when he should have been, and one pitcher, Lance Lynn, actually being ready when he shouldn’t have been (that he wasn’t supposed to pitch was clear when he came in, issued one intentional walk, and was quickly yanked by La Russa).
Lynn’s appearance, in fact, was so bizarre that it led many to wonder if La Russa – again, famous for attention to detail to the point he goes completely overboard with it – could have possibly been telling the truth about a simple miscommunication/mix-up potentially derailing his team’s shot at a championship. What wasn’t so hard to believe: La Russa’s dismayed reaction to the game falling apart in front of him. Via SB Nation:
This reaction probably marked one of the few times Cardinals fans and La Russa were on the same page last night. And the skipper even gave his team’s fans one more chance to make a face like that: in the ninth inning, the Cardinals got a runner on, and then had a hit-and-run on with Albert Pujols batting. With Pujols, you don’t try to advance one runner one base – you let the best hitter of the last decade, and one of the best ever, try and make something much bigger happen.
Sure enough, Pujols struck out, the runner took off and was thrown out, and the Cardinals’ last best chance to get back in the game was done for. With one more loss, so are their title hopes. And for all his success over the years – for all the praise given to him earlier in this series for exhibiting these same managerial tendencies more effectively – La Russa’s going to deservedly take some heat if the Cardinals can’t win two games in a row.