Can You Hear Me Now?

As we approach 24 hours after the bizarre bullpen screw-ups that may have helped to cost the Cardinals Game 5 of the World Series, one question crystallizes out of the haze:


Tony LaRussa expects us to believe that his bullpen was told to get closer Jason Motte and lefty specialist Mark Rzepczynski ready, but heard only “Rzepczynski”? And following that disaster, they were again told to get Motte ready but instead thought they heard “Lance Lynn”? That the noise was so deafening and the bullpen phone so reminiscent of a string-and-juice-can, that they missed the name of the number one guy down there, and then mistook one name for another that doesn’t sound anything like it?

And most importantly, after it happened once, nobody double-checked the second time they tried to get Motte warm? No “repeat it for me! Spell it!”? Nobody down there with a sense that in a sport where the bullpen coach was blamed and fired for Bobby Thomson’s home run (“Erskine is bouncing his curve,” Clyde Sukeforth said in 1951, sending the other pitcher warming, Ralph Branca, to his Dodger doom), that screwing it up once was a fireable offense?

Even if the bullpen staff is – so to speak – off the hook in the responsibility equation: are there no monitors? Are there no coaches who don’t think Jason Motte and Lance Lynn aren’t the same guy just because they both have beards? Did we really luck out last night because Bruce Sutter didn’t find himself warming up? LaRussa and Dave Duncan never noticed the wrong pitcher was throwing? When it was shown on tv? The second time?

If all of these questions are legitimate, there should have been people fired this morning, LaRussa included. My guess is the questions are not – they’re too amateurish to be believed of the worst manager in baseball, let alone LaRussa.

And if that’s true, it raises two more and far more disturbing questions: why is LaRussa lying and what really happened?

What? You want to know about the Albert Pujols “I called the hit-and-run then chose not to swing” fantasy? Don’t get me started. Let’s just chalk that one up to extra-terrestrials.


  1. J.D.

    Okay, intervention time. Your LaRussa hangup is getting as bad as the Tea Party’s thing about Obama. What is the real issue, seriously? Despite the fact that he managed this team to a historic comeback, he can do no right in your eyes. No credit, but you jump on every perceived fault. Fire him? After that comeback? Are you nuts? This is really…odd. I’ll tell you the same thing I say to the teabaggers…seek professional help. Seriously. I’m not kidding.

  2. Chet

    Here is the problem with LaRussa J.D. He has an excuse for everything that goes wrong. He never accepts responsibility. He talks about how his team plays the game the right way, but then you have a pitcher like Carpenter hurling F-Bombs at Napoli. Pujols not talking to the media after a major mistake that lead to a Rangers win.
    He has blamed the Brewers for lights that are distracting, stealing signs, and Brewers pitchers intentionally throwing at Pujols. Even though Ryan Braun was hit the game before. It is one excuse after another for LaRussa. His schtick is old and you get mad at KO for calling LaRussa out?
    And it’s not LaRussa’s managing why the Cards made the playoffs, you can thank the Atlanta Braves for their historic collapse.

    • J.D.

      Um, the Braves collapse means nothing unless the Cardinals, um, you know…WIN. Which they did. You may not like his methods – hell, even I think Whitey Herzog was a much better manager, overall – but he gets the job done. I wouldn’t mind the blame so much, but what bugs me is Keith almost never gives him any credit. And this goes for not just LaRussa, but the Cardinals as a whole. I heard barely a peep out of KO after Game 3, for instance.

      As a Cardinal fan for over 25 years, it gets a bit tiresome. The Cardinals have one of the greatest franchises in the history of the sport, with the second most championships of all time, yet all we hear about is the Yankees-Red Sox thing, or what the Cubs are up to, etc. Keith is far from the only culprit here (MLB Network’s Rangers-boosterism borders on Fox “News” levels of bias), but we love our team, and we’re a little sick of the hate…or should I say, as Yankees fans often do in reference to the hatred of their team…jealousy? 🙂

      I would have to ask Keith…is this a political thing? If so, while I agree with his politics 9 times out of 10, I’d have to ask that he stop letting it get in the way of his objectivity. I hate LaRussa’s right-wing idiocy as much as KO does, but I don’t let that stop me from giving him credit when it’s due…and that goes back to Tony’s days in Oakland and with the White Sox, so you can’t chalk it up to pro-Cardinal sentiment. Results are results, and they show that LaRussa’s one of the best managers in the history of the game. Wins don’t lie.

      • TC

        Oh c’mon, STL is one of the most hyped teams in MLB. There is a level of respect for Tony LaRussa, in spite of his constant whining and inability to take responsibility for shortcomings, that surpasses baffling. The media long ago ordained him a Very Smart Man and any number of shortcomings will not undo that diagnosis. If you have to deal with some stick, oh well.

      • yazsirgyaz

        You’re serious? You think LaRussa and the Cardinals don’t get enough credit? The man was anointed a genius decades about by George Will and we’ve been hearing about it ever since. You’ve had St. Louis boosters like Costas and Buck dominating the airwaves all that time. Give me a break!

        A 25-year fan of the Cardinals has no moral standing calling out a network for bias. Do you realize how silly you sound? “I’m not biased, but those MLB guys sure are!” Please.

  3. Sam

    All this seems like a non-story to me. The bottom line is the Cardinals bullpen which was so good during their run to the World Series is falling apart. But I wonder if the pitcher could fake an injury on the mound so the right guy could replace him and have all the time he wants to warm up. Any drama in this series would be welcomed anyway because what looked like a potential classic is turning into another ho-hum affair. I tend to be anti-La Russa but I think he’s doing a decent job in the World Series. The players need to hit with runners in scoring position, Carpenter needs to bear down and not let the lead slip away, and the bullpen (no matter who is on the mound) needs to get the job done.

  4. billso (@billsoSPORTS)

    MLB rules require that the dugout phone be restricted to specific handsets in the ballpark. Usually the dugout phone goes to the bullpen. Some MLB dugout phones have 2 buttons – to dial the bullpen or the press box.

  5. Lisa Bolton

    Seriously. One last time. I’ve tried. I’ll be there about 10 tonight and stay to the point where my my coach turns into a pumpkin or I go home. MLB is playing there it says.

  6. Chet

    Sam makes a good point, it’s the players who make the manager look good or bad. LaRussa made the same moves against the Brewers and they all worked.
    Good points J.D. Being a Brewers fan I thought MLB Network was pro-Cards most of the time. Personally, I thought they have been pretty fair both ways during the World Series. Cards deserved where they are at, they were the hottest team at the end of the year, but while they won it did take a big collapse on the Braves part. Personally, I was rooting for the Brewers to face the Phillies in the Championship series. Cards got hot at the right time and would not be surprised if they win the next 2. The one big mistake I think LaRussa made in the Series was taking Motte out after facing just 2 batters. No other manager in the bigs would have made that move. In game 5 of NLDS, Axford did the same thing in the 9th, but was able to get out of it with only 1 run and then the Brewers won in the 10th on Morgan’s hit. Gotta stick with your closer, who has been lights out, in that situation.

  7. John (@jcsnotes)

    @JD – as a non-East Coaster, come on, it’s totally legit for KO to ask these questions about last night. Washington has been “unconventional” as well but in terms of the pitching changes and the 2 Craig CS, LaRussa had a Grady Little game last night. If he was managing for a franchise that didn’t already have some pennants flying (as Little was in 2003 for Boston or, for that matter, any Cub manager), there would be an even bigger uproar.

    This isn’t East Coast media bias, all of the usual non-aligned baseball bloggers (who equally decry the NY-BOS bias of the networks) are all over this today. LaRussa didn’t lose the game last night, but he did put a lot of extra guys on base and give up a lot of outs. That doesn’t help.

    • J.D.

      My issue wasn’t with the questioning, which I agree is legit in this instance, but rather KO’s repeated pattern of LaRussa bashing.

      • J.D.

        It was the firing comment where he went over the line, in my opinion. Up until then, I had less of an issue with this particular commentary, and even agreed with parts of it. But firing? Come on, geez. That’s where his bias started to show. While the “seek help” comment was over the top on my part, I stand by the rest of my statements.

  8. John in STL

    I agree the Godfathers lyin. My thought is he may be taking heat off Cardinal failure of batters in general or more likely Albert’s failure to hit and calling for those disastrous hit and runs. TLR is incredibly (understandably) protective of AP.

  9. TC

    In Japan they have flat-screen TVs of the bullpen in the dugout so the manager can SEE who’s warming up down there. That might have come in handy in this case.

  10. BW Radley

    I can think of several reasons to dislike LaRussa:

    1. He’s a micromanager, who is as responsible as anyone for the use of 78 relief pitchers in every game. If a pitcher can’t face more than one batter, he has no business being a Major League pitcher IMHO.

    2. His turning a blind eye to steroid use while at Oakland and then with St. Louis. I know he isn’t the only guilty party for this chapter of baseball history, but if there was any justice MLB would have stripped the 1989 World Series championship from the A’s.

    3. He has a law degree, which makes him a trained liar.

    I wouldn’t be too sure about KO rooting for the Rangers. After all, his “good and dear friend” George W Bush has been front and center as the Rangers’ biggest fan again during the World Series.

  11. Bob Leatherwood

    This is all really quite simple. LaRussa screwed up and is throwing others under the bus. This is the second game in this series that was decided by manager’s decisions and Ron Wash kicked his ass BOTH TIMES! Wash kicked LaRussas ass, Napoli kicked what ever pitcher’s ass & the Rangers kicked the Cards ass. Stop making excuses

  12. William Corbett Love

    In short: LaRussa is the most overrated manager in baseball. I thought this even when he was in Oakland. The fact that he’s managing a team in the Series and won’t even take responsibility for his own decisions — or at least say “the buck stops here” I just find sad.

    He’s got a terrible dye job, too.

  13. tinagrrl

    Very few GREAT managers throw either their players or their coaches under the bus. LaRussa seems to want to be anointed a genius, but refuses to accept responsibility when he screws up. In that he appears to be a typical right-wing crybaby — DEMANDING “personal responsibility” of others, while blaming others for his mistakes.

    His entire “We play the game the right way” schtick is getting tired.

    Of course, Washington’s, “I just put them out there — he’s THE manager – I just want my boys to play” stuff also gets very tired.

    As we all know, “It’s one game at a time”, and we all “put our pants on one leg at a time”. Remember, “anyone can win a short series”, and “you can never tell how one play can turn a game”.

    etc., etc., etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.

    I was 12 in 1951 and loved The New York Giants. 1954 was pretty neat too.

    In other words, I’ve been listening to this stuff for a long time.

  14. walt kovacs


    the cards werent even supposed to get to the post season….let alone get passed the phils, then the crue and get to the ws

    so tony made a mistake

    so he doesnt want to admit a mistake

    big whoop

  15. Patricia Ellyn Powell

    Okay, they need to start using that echo system employed at Occupy Wall Street. LaRussa hollers it to the bullpen. The bullpen hollers it to the stadium. The stadium hollers it to the dugout. The dugout hollers it back to LaRussa. Checking. Mic check. One two. Is this on? Tap. Tap. Mr. LaRussa looks a little too much like Charlie Sheen these days. I am not kidding. I think that IS Sheen dressed up in a Cardinals’ costume, going bat-or-beating as a major league baseball manager. The only catch is, he is not saying “WINNING!” (He did drink a little Tiger’s blood.) This year they are giving out lots of bubble gum and sunflower seeds! But it looks like something TRICKY is going on. I don’t want to say something is rotten in Denmark…ahm…I mean Arlington…even though these games feature The Bush Bunch in all the background shots…and the former potus is throwing out the first ball and all. I agree that this does not add up. Someone has been dressed up as Pujols, too, lately. The guy looked just like him, but obviously is not him. The real one tied with Babe and Reggie…who both got their own candy bars! Where did this new guy get that costume? Now, it is back to BUSCH stadium…Oh Lordy…there is that name again! This time associated with the sauce. What to do? Come in at number two, I reckon! And all this while my local channels on DISH are NOT AVAILABLE! I am having to call the old man down the street to get the scores during the last game! It is a damn conspiracy or something! The DISH man will be here FRIDAY! So, you know what that means! Soup cans and string, like you suggested, Keith. You are right about space aliens, too! ET, forget about phoning home! Phone the damn bullpen!

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