by Josh Kipnis
Game 5 of the World Series was a disaster for the St. Louis Cardinals; they couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position, they couldn’t take advantage of Chris Carpenter’s great outing, and manager Tony La Russa lost his mind.
In the most pivotal game of the series, La Russa, a two-time World Series Champion and the 3rd ranked manager on the all time wins list, complicated things beyond measure. His list of mistakes covers essentially every aspect of the game, including, unbelievably, a telephone conversation gone haywire. But hey, everyone makes mistakes right? We just have to learn from them. So here is a checklist La Russa should think about posting in the dugout for the Game 6 matchup:
1) Unleash the beast that is Albert Pujols
Don’t take the bat out of his hands, ever. Twice, a hit-and-run was called when Pujols was at the plate, and each time the runner on first was thrown out. I understand the Cardinals have set a franchise record in double plays this year, but you can’t play scared. Trust the man that has taken you to the Promised Land. Albert Pujols is a machine, seriously. If we refer to Calvin Johnson as “Megatron,” what are we supposed to call Pujols? Super-Jumbo-Ginormous-Humongo-tron? (I think we’re on to something here). Let him hit! He might just go 5 for 6 with 6 RBI and 3 HR. Wait, he already did that?
2) Don’t bet on a horse with three legs
A hit-and-run was called twice in Game 5, and both times Allen Craig was the runner on first. While the batter is supposed to make contact, he is also told to leave any “unhittable” pitches alone. So when a ball soared out of the strike zone, Pujols, wisely, decided not to swing. But how slow can Allen Craig be? Mike Napoli, the catcher for the Texas Rangers, had to leap up and turn his back just to catch the ball; and he still threw Craig out by a mile. If you can’t steal a base on a pitch like that, don’t even bother tying your shoelace. It might be less embarrassing to just trip over your own leg and fall face first into the dirt. No more gambling on the base paths.
3) A massive beard is the key to winning playoff games
Brian Wilson taught us to “fear the beard” in San Francisco’s run at the championship last year. This year, closer Jason Motte, is sporting his own frightening facial hair. Motte has been nearly perfect, shutting down opponents in every appearance except his slip-up in the 9th in Game 2. In Game 5, Cards killer, Mike Napoli, approached the plate in the bottom of the 8th with one out, the bases loaded, and the game tied--meaning a simple sac fly would score a run and win the game. With this in mind, La Russa decided to keep his lefty reliever, Marc Rzepcynski, in the game to pitch to the righty hitter. But why? Once again, La Russa abandoned the simple strategy that has consistently worked in the past; he refused to go to a righty-righty matchup with Motte. Motte strikes out nearly all of his victims, a turnkey solution for the predicament. Instead, clean cut Rzepcynski stays in and gives up the lead on a 2-RBI double by Napoli. Stick with consistency; facial hair trumps all. (By the way, Derek Holland of the Rangers? Sorriest attempt at a moustache I’ve ever seen, but it seemed to work. Last start: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER)
4) Make sure the delivery man knows your exact order
Ok, this is the most pathetic excuse I have ever heard. In the eighth inning, La Russa picked up the dugout phone and called his bullpen coach to tell certain players to warm up. Only problem: he didn’t speak clearly enough for the bullpen coach. Really? That’s the best you got? Instead of requesting Jason Motte, the coach thought he heard Lance Lynn. Honest mistake, I confuse those names all the time. What’s worse? La Russa called a second time to get Motte up and ready and there was yet another miscommunication. I offer two pieces of advice:
a) Think of it as ordering a pizza. If I order a delicious “za” and they get it wrong the first time, no way am I messing it up a second time. Mandate that you want some pepperonis. After all, it does sound a lot like sausage.
b) If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Think of all the ways you can get a message across nowadays. You can email, text, or Skype. If the phone lines are down, lets get a little creative in the dugout. Pull up your Facebook or Gmail and instant message the bullpen. Open up your twitter account and tweet whoever you want in the game. By far the most flawless plan-go to Hogwarts, pay a first-year for his owl, and let him sit atop the railing of the dugout next to Dave Duncan. No way Hedwig doesn’t get the message delivered.
Listen, hindsight may be 20/20, but come on; we should be able to expect a little bit more out of a hall of fame manager.