Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Hang-ups: Wash, Napoli deserve credit, too
By Jim Reeves
We can’t seem to get enough of "Phone-Gate" and the fact that Tony La Russa might have actually made a managerial mistake in Game 5, to the point that most of the country seems ready to buy into the idea that if the Cardinals’ bullpen snafu hadn’t happened, they would have won that game instead of the Rangers.
Maybe they would have. But the fact is, they didn't -- and not just because La Russa didn’t have the right reliever in the game when he should have.
Give Ron Washington some credit here, too. His gut told him to stick with David Murphy against left-hander Mark Rzepcynzski -- that’s exactly who La Russa wanted in that situation -- and Murphy responded with an infield hit off the lefty’s arm to load the bases. In the Cardinals’ dugout, La Russa tried to pull his cap over his eyes.
Yes, ideally La Russa would have then brought his closer, Jason Motte, into the game to face Mike Napoli, but the communication gaffe meant no right-hander was warming up. So Napoli delivered the game-winning double. Give him some credit here, too. Who’s to say he wouldn’t have come up with a clutch hit against Motte there, too? He’s been doing it the entire postseason.
The rest of the bullpen mixup -- Lance Lynn mistakenly being warmed up and called in instead of Motte -- was basically irrelevant to the game. Lynn intentionally walked Ian Kinsler, and Motte, now warm, came on to strike out Elvis Andrus.
Two days and a hundred explanations later, there are still plenty of questions. How did La Russa say "Motte" into the phone and bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist hear "Lynn," even in a raucous stadium? And why wasn’t Lilliquist privy to the information that La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan had decided before the game that Lynn wasn’t available? Shouldn’t the bullpen coach be included in those discussions?
But here's the bottom line: La Russa and the Cardinals could have easily done everything right and still lost this game. He would already have had to use his closer in the eighth inning of a tie game on the road, not the best of circumstances for any manager or team. And La Russa's hitters were a woeful 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
The Rangers didn't win this game because La Russa blew it. They won it because they were the better team in Game 5.
Hard as it is to believe, it’s not always about Tony Genius.