There is a short list of absolutes in this world. But a precious few decisions have enough historical precedent as to render them so insanely idiotic that they should get a man reprimanded/fired/drawn-and-quartered. For example:
Invading Russia (see Napoleon or Germany)
Betting on the Bills in a Super Bowl
Allowing your kids to play at Michael Jackson's house
Buying any movie starring Rob Schneider
Leaving Albert Pujols on the bench of a one-run game in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and the bases loaded
I should not have to explain to even the most hare-brained baseball fan about the last one. But Tony LaRussa, with a chance to finally end a 10-game winless streak against the American League, for some reason left on the bench the best hitter in the NL, maybe in the majors, over the last six-plus years.
You know something's wrong with the game when one of the greatest managers in recent memory decides to keep Albert Pujols on the bench in case "they needed him in extra innings."
Newflash, dumbass: THE BASES WERE LOADED. A single by Pujols and the game is over.
Extra innings? The game should have been won right then and there. This can't be the real reason Tony LaRussa didn't play Pujols, could it? Maybe he was worried that Albert would pull a hamstring with that at bat?
I have the utmost respect for Tony LaRussa as a person and manager, but he seriously disappointed me last night.
“Once (Miguel) Cabrera’s shoulder made him unavailable, (Freddy) Sanchez (who) was going to be the do-everything guy, became the third baseman,” explained LaRussa afterward.
“So you had to save somebody you could use all over the place, and, you know, the game was close enough to where (if) we tied it there in the ninth, somebody has to play in the 10th. So Albert was the guy. Very versatile.”
Essentially what that means is that LaRussa was saving Pujols for the 10th inning and beyond.
And I’m sure Albert felt better when he heard the “very versatile” comment.
That’s usually reserved for skinny middle infielders who can’t hit their way out of a paper bag.
But in figuring out all of this in my mind, I tried to give LaRussa the benefit of the doubt.
And I’ve decided that, well, Tony made a really dumb move.
Go ahead, pick a bullet point and run with it:
• Correct me if I’m wrong — you can’t get to the 10th inning if you’re trailing after the ninth inning, right?
I always thought that you were supposed to play to win, not play not to lose.
• Was the Pujols-Rowand thing a righty-lefty dilemma as far as the pitching matchup?
Nope, Pujols, Rowand and Anaheim-Los-Angeles-San Diego-Riverside Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez are all righties.
Rodriguez got Rowand to fly out to end the game.
• If Pujols did indeed hit for Rowand, and the game went into extras, couldn’t Pujols have played left field and have Alfonso Soriano move over to center to fill in for Rowand?
Both Pujols and Soriano have played those positions in the big leagues before. They didn’t win any Gold Gloves out there, but they have done it.
• All of this aside, here’s what seals the deal for me.
If I’m the National League manager and I’m trailing by a run with the bases loaded and two outs, and I’ve got arguably the best overall hitter in baseball sitting in the dugout, I take my chances with him.
Especially if he’s my own guy. Wouldn’t I rather take my shot with somebody who delivers for me all year — and for a number of years — than somebody I’m not that familiar with?
If nothing else, at least it makes for a happier clubhouse in St. Louis after they fly back home.
• Had Pujols managed even a single, chances are two runs would have scored and the NL would have won. Worst-case scenario, a Pujols single or walk would have tied the game.
Obviously, a double or better wins the game, too.
• Even if Pujols would have done the same thing as Rowand, Wednesday-morning-managers like me would never have second-guessed Tony for sending his main man to the plate.
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Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
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The Coors Family
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Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
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Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
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