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Tuesday, October 25, 2011


The St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of the World Series. Nothing odd about that…. It has been a competitive, back-and-forth series. What is odd is the series of events that led to Texas taking the lead for good.

If you did not see the game, the Rangers had two runners on with one out in a 2-2 tie game in the bottom of the 8th inning. Conventional wisdom would dictate that Cardinals closer Jason Motte would be likely to enter the game in such a critical situation. Instead, the Cardinals sent reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the mound.


Tony LaRussa has been known throughout his career to micromanage late game situations, especially those involving the bullpen. The red flag has yet to go up in the minds of Cardinals fans. Rzepczynski gave up a go-ahead 2 RBI double to Rangers catcher (and series MVP to date) Mike Napoli. LaRussa signals to the bullpen again. Certainly Motte is on his way out to stop the bleeding and give the Cards their best chance in the 9th. Out from the bullpen trots Lance Lynn…LANCE LYNN????

The seldom used reliever, who only pitched 34.2 innings in the regular season, was not scheduled to pitch last night. What is LaRussa thinking? This must be one of those “gut instincts” by the manager, right?

WRONG! Lynn intentionally walked the first batter he faced and was removed from the game for Motte, who finished the inning. LaRussa’s explanation for the head-scratching chain of events in the Cardinals’ bullpen? The instructions to bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist could not be heard properly over the bullpen phone due to the crowd noise. REALLY?

LaRussa: Lance Lynn?
Lynn: HEY...!
LaRussa: What the f%$& are you doing here?!? 1

I’ve been watching baseball for over a quarter century. I thought I had seen every imaginable unusual happenstance in the game. I have seen nothing like this.

I’ve seen the George Brett pine tar incident. I’ve seen the ball rolling through Bill Buckner’s legs. I’ve seen Chuck Knoblauch fake a throw to second base, without having the ball, and make Lonnie Smith hesitate and likely prevent a winning run in a World Series game. I’ve seen Joe Carter’s walk-off. I’ve seen the Steve Bartman fiasco. I’ve seen a team blow a 3-0 series lead in a league championship series. I’ve seen a rainy game halted and resumed the next day (in the rain, again) just to play less than half of a close out World Series game. The wrong reliever was sent out...twice...because the bullpen coach couldn't hear the manager? Baby, I’ve seen everything!

I don't think LaRussa believes his explanation himself. 2

We’ve put a man on the moon. It’s a good thing LaRussa and Lilliquist were not in mission control that day. Neil Armstrong may have been given instructions to head on over to Mars after the moon landing.

God forbid we are ever on the brink of a nuclear act of war. But if we were, how much trouble would we be in with the LaRussa-Lilliquist connection to the red telephone in the President’s office? We may have instructions to bomb Iran and end up wiping out Iraq!

Capital punishment? I guess it depends on your political views. If you are against the death penalty, the Cardinals crack management team could be your heroes! If the governor calls at the last minute, with that caliber of communication, it could be the wrongful execution that ends all executions, because the guy in the chair is gonna get cooked!

LaRussa is not allowed near the red telephone. 3

In the 19th century and early 20th century, there were no telephones in the bullpen. Managers communicated the old fashioned way: face-to-face. We have some other alternatives like cell phones, text messaging, computers, laptops, iPads, bullhorns, carrier pigeons, American Sign Language and the old message in the bottle. If the instructions seemed unclear or questionable, any of these alternatives could have cleared this up nicely.

But the Cardinals did not get the correct message down to the pen. Now they head back to St. Louis needing back to back wins against a team that hasn’t suffered back to back losses since August. If you are the sponsor of the Cardinals Call to the Bullpen, will you renew the deal next season?

If you can understand this imperfect message, you'd think that Lilliquist could decipher "Motte" from "Lynn". 4

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