If there is one thing we know about Tony LaRussa, it is he likes to make decisions. And a lot of them. I can only imagine this guy at Olive Garden trying to navigate their “Taste of Italy”, poor waiter never stood a chance did he. Asking for more bread sticks when he should have switched to salad and sending back the lasagna for chicken parmesan while swapping out the Alfredo with his wife. Only to get home and lament with regret the soup that got away.
Tony’s managerial approach follows similar logic. Sure the decisions pay off from time to time and in most circles around baseball he is thought of as a “genius” and “master strategist.” However, often at the peril of his own team he cannot get out of his own way at times. His inability to sit on his hands and allow the natural course of things to play our around him is excruciating at times.
The point is not that TLR should not make moves, adjust his line-up or try to out think the other manager. The point…is that TLR is like a child with A.D.D. on a sugar rush who cannot sit still and leave well enough alone. His though process, that if he’s not making moves he’s not managing or giving his team the best chance to win is ludicrous. A move for the sake of a move or a decision for the sake of a decision is just that and counter-productive at best.
Can you just hear his inner conversations, “if I know that he knows that I know that he thinks that I think if he has the pitcher spot come up he’ll take out Hamels.”….”yeah, I’ll IBB the 0-for the series catcher and take my chances with a gassed out pitcher already extended against their pinch-hitter. It’s so crazy it has to work.” Ball game. You just out managed yourself Tony…well done.
Here are a few decisions made in this NLDS whose effects were felt almost immediately still impact the series as game 5 nears. Starting Chris Carpenter on three days rest; letting Garcia bat with runners at 2nd & 3rd with 2 out in the 6th, Starting David Freese over Daniel Descalso in game 4 (ESPN reported that it was a game time decision not to go with Descalso over Freese) and sitting Theriot in favor of Schumaker in game 4.
Granted there have been numerous others to examine. But as this is a blog post and not a dissertation on chaos theory I thought it best to narrow the selection.
Starting Carpenter on 3 days rest for the 1st time in his career after just throwing a complete game in Houston raised a few eyebrows. Rightfully so, had never tried it before and had just thrown 106 pitches. This was clearly done to avoid having Garcia start on the road in Philly, which is understood. However it should have been Edwin Jackson in game 2, bring back Carp for game 3 on normal rest and then you have Garcia rested and ready at home for a game 4.
You are still ensuring Carp gets his turn to make sure the series goes four and you avoid starting Garcia on the road. Those that argue the fact that now the Cardinals get to use Carp twice and have him for the deciding game 5 are using faulty post hoc ergo propter hoc logic. Just because it worked out does not mean it was right. Because just a easily one can rationalize that starting Carp in game three could have wrapped up the series by giving the team a better chance to win in BOTH games 1 & 3.
On to the afore mentioned game 3. Most are focusing on TLR’s decision to issue the IBB to Philly catcher Carlos Ruiz. Yes, Ruiz has killed the Cardinals in the past. But the Cards are not Garcia, and it’s not as if Garcia has been the one pitching to Ruiz in every game. And besides Ruiz had been held hitless in the NLDS thus far. No this is about his decision to bat Garcia in the bottom of the 6th with runners at 2nd & 3rd and two outs.
Up to this point Garcia had given TLR more than he could have hoped for through six innings. Scattering a few hits and no runs. Based on, well, the entire regular season Garcia struggles going beyond six innings and down the stretch even getting that deep into a game was not happening. Here you take the New England Patriots approach. It is better to let someone go too soon and get value rather than hold on a bit too long.
With Holliday, Schumaker and Chambers all available to hit this is where you use them. This was the turning point in the game. Allowing Garcia to bat forced TLR’s hand in the 7th and was the first domino to fall leading to the Francisco PH home run.
Two big decision were made prior to game four and both worked out in the end. ESPN reported last night that TLR discussed sitting Freese in favor of Descalso at third base. Through three games Freese was hitting .167 in the NLDS with six strikeouts. TLR elected to stick with Freese and in paid off to the tune of a 2-3 game with 4 RBI, including what ended up being a game-winning 2-run home run. One of the few times TLR didn’t tinker and it paid off.
Unable to leave well enough alone for long. TLR did pull Freese for Descalso after the 6th. This was surprising for two reasons. Freese was playing well defensively at third and had the game become tied or the Cardinals fallen behind you would not have Freese to bat in the 9th.
The other major move was inserting Skip Schumaker into the starting line-up over Ryan Theriot. No stranger to the discontent of Cardinal fans Theriot came out swinging in the NLDS. Through three games he was 6 for 9 against Halladay, Lee and Hamels. Hardly giving TLR a reason to sit him. In addition to that neither Theriot nor Schumaker had match-up data one way or the other against Oswalt. Knowing better as he always does (sarcasm) TLR decided it was Skips turn. Chalk up another one for the skipper as Skip (see what I did there) went 2 for 3 with a run scored.
It has been an up and down, roller coaster ride of a season. So why would Cardinal fans expect the playoffs to be any different. There will undoubtedly be buttons to be pushed and decisions to be made on Friday. Here is to hoping TLR leaves the deciding game 5 and a berth in the NLCS in the hands of his players and out of his mind.
As always these are just my thoughts…keep on reading and you’ll get up to speed.
Derek is on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze and also writes for the Rams at RamsHerd.com
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