Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The raging genius that is Tony LaRussa

Tony LaRussa: Even great managers can make
decisions that make no sense at all.
I'm about to mock Tony LaRussa. I will do so with all the respect his incredible managerial record deserves. Thirty-three seasons in the dugout, 2,728-2,365 regular season record, two World Series titles (and four other trips to the Series, including this year) ... the only managers with more lifetime wins are Connie Mack and John McGraw, and LaRussa is going to catch Muggsy.

Tony LaRussa is a great manager. I don't much care for him, but that's my problem, not his.

I know a few people who have a particular problem: They feel constantly compelled to prove that they are the smartest guy in the room. (Sometimes it's me doing that.) LaRussa sometimes manages that way— as if he's just got to prove that he's smarter than anybody else.  His record allows him to get away, in the court of public (or media) opinion, with nontraditional moves for which others would be criticized, if not crucified. Hitting the pitcher eighth, for example.

He had one of those moments in the eighth inning Monday night. It didn't affect the outcome, but it was still weird — he took a left turn at inexplicable and parked at illogical.

I refer to his decision to being in Lance Lynn to issue an intentional walk to Ian Kinsler, then immediately relieve Lynn with Jason Motte.

Deploying a reliever solely to walk someone intentionally sometimes serves a purpose. Let's say the Twins are playing the White Sox, and Paul Konerko is up against Scott Baker with two outs, a man on second and Adam Dunn on deck. Ron Gardenhire wants to walk Konerko and bring in Jose Mijares to  face Dunn, but he expects the Sox to pinch hit for Dunn, which would force Mijares to face a righty. Instead, Gardy can have Mijares come in and issue the walk to Konerko. Now if the Sox pinch hit for Dunn, he can counter with a right-handed reliever.

But that wasn't the case here. It was right-handed pitcher for right-handed pitcher, and there was no way Texas was going to pinch hit for Elvis Andrus anyway.

I'm sure LaRussa had reasons for burning Lynn, but I can't imagine what they were.

I don't fully buy the manager's post-game explanation — that the bullpen coach misheard (twice) the instructions phoned to him. Even if the root of the problem was that LaRussa wanted Motte warming up, not Lynn, he still could have had Marc Rzepczynski issue the walk to Kinsler.

This is a different issue than letting Rzepczynski face Mike Napoli. At the time, I figured LaRussa was sticking with the left-hander because Mitch Moreland was on deck. Apparently, had Motte started warming up in time, he would have pitched to Napoli. That makes sense, and I credit LaRussa's version of events there.

1 comment:

  1. Not to mention all of the bunts, especially in front of Albert, completely taking him out of a couple of at bats. And the aborted run-and-hit again with Albert in the 9th? He's the tying run! I was in shock at that point. What about not letting Octavel pitch to Cruz? That made no sense, either. Incredibly badly managed game.