What Was La Russa Thinking?


Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wasn’t kidding when he mentioned Jason Motte was not his official closer to Fox Sports.com’s Ken Rosenthal the other day.

La Russa took Motte out after he got himself in a jam in the ninth inning. That move did not work out as the Rangers were able to score two runs off two different relievers on a sacrifice fly, which eventually gave them a 2-1 victory last night to even the World Series at 1.

After Rangers manager Ron Washington dealt with a deserved second-guessing after Game 1, it was La Russa’s turn to be second-guessed in Game 2.

This was easy to question La Russa. Why would he take his best reliever out for couple of relievers that are not flame throwers to get hitters out?

Arthur Rhodes and Lance Lynn does not strike fear to the Rangers. Now, those two were able to get two outs, but those outs proved to productive outs that helped the Rangers scored two runs.

What the Rangers needed was a strikeout and a double play. Motte was the best guy to do that. He has the stuff that can strike people out or get guys to ground out with his sinker.

There’s no question La Russa has had success with mixing-and-matching relievers in the postseason, but in this situation, it was not the way to go.

In fact, it does not make sense to throw in different relievers just to get an out. It’s overmanaging at its finest. Managers like to talk about matchups all the time, but more times than not, it doesn’t work. If it did, Craig Gentry and little-used Esteban German would do well as pinch-hitters for the Rangers in Game 1, and Washington would be considered a genius for making it work.

It’s no secret La Russa loves to make a difference in games. He likes to engage in matchup moves with the opposing manager, and he likes to make his counterpart think. It works for him, and it doesn’t sometimes.

La Russa enjoys being the smartest man in the room, and he is not afraid to let everyone know about it. If anyone questions it, he is not afraid to give them a lecture about it.

Don’t expect La Russa to change his approach with the bullpen for one bad night. Not only is he set in his ways, but it’s too late for him to make change when he has been successful this postseason run.

It’s not the way I would have gone about it as a manager, but I am just a writer while La Russa is heading to the Hall of Fame at first ballot when it happens.

Relievers are better off being in assigned roles. They are a creature of habit. They need to be on where they are comfortable to being at. Managers can’t put relievers out of short notice. That would be like putting Alexei Ogando in the ninth inning rather than using him in the sixth inning or seventh inning where he would flourish.

Also, it’s amazing why managers take a reliever out for matchup purposes. If a reliever is doing well by getting one or two outs, leave him out there to finish the inning. Let him be trusted to get the inning done rather than take him out. By doing that, it saves the relievers for the next few innings of the game.

There’s no question managers want to manage for the moment rather than think about later, but that’s an impulsive decision.

Don’t expect Motte to lose any confidence in himself. He knows La Russa always takes him out whenever he wants.

Still, the Cardinals have to hope La Russa’s reliever de jour approach does not come back to haunt him as the World Series go over. The Rangers are a good hitting team, and they eventually will find a way to expose La Russa’s strategy.

This decision gives the Rangers life now. They have not hit well in the first two games of the series. This was a chance for the Cardinals to go up by two games, which would have give them confidence.

The Rangers have to feel good about themselves heading to their ballpark, which Game 3, 4 and 5 will take place. They hit well at home, and they are going up against Kyle Lohse on Saturday, so they can be up 2-1 now. If they can get their mojo back at their place, this will not end up well with the Cardinals.

All of this based on La Russa not sticking with Motte. Even if that move did not pan out, the Cardinals could justify it by going with their best pitcher.

It came down to La Russa trying to be too smart, and it ended up haunting him.