Another day, another loss for the Cardinals. All just a part of this team's complete collapse over the last month of the season.
You know what, though? I don't have a huge problem with the losses. I really don't. Don't get me wrong; it is very frustrating to watch this team go in the tank, but I can handle losing. I thought this was a .500 ballclub at the beginning of the season. They've proven me wrong for most of the year, and it's been great. Now, though, the team has come completely apart at the seams, and it looks like they'll finish up just about where I expected in the first place. It was still a more interesting and exciting season than I expected to see, honestly.
On the other hand, there is one thing that's been on my mind lately regarding this team, and I just can't let it slide any longer.
Along with another loss, last night we saw yet another game in which Tony La Russa embarrassed his team.
For the past couple of weeks, we have constantly seen infielders playing in the outfield. We've seen Adam Kennedy in right field. We've seen Felipe Lopez play left field on a nearly regular basis. We've even seen Aaron Miles take a turn in center. Every night you sit down and turn on the baseball game, and what do you get? You get to see players playing out of position. You get to see sloppy, poorly played baseball by players who are being consistently put in position to fail. And why do you get to see all that?
To send a message.
That's right, so that Tony La Russa can send a message. The word around Busch Stadium these days is that La Russa has graduated from simply calling players and everyone else out in the media to full blown team sabotage. Half the players on the team seem to be in La Russa's doghouse for one reason or another. When Bernie asks Joe Strauss what's going on with the lineups that La Russa is running out there, Strauss answers that Tony is sending a message to everyone.
That's right, folks, Tony is playing these players the way that he is to send a message to ownership. They didn't get him the impact bat that he wanted, so hey, here you guys go! Adam Kennedy in right field! They didn't trade for Brian Fuentes, so guess what? That's right, more career utility players starting every day, all over the diamond.
We always hear about La Russa's supposed great respect for the game, but this tells me that he has no respect for the game. The Cardinals have outfielders on the roster. You could easily run Ryan Ludwick, Brian Barton, and Skip Schumaker out there every day and never have to have a backup second baseman trying to track down balls. Instead, though, La Russa wants to play his little games, sending messages by putting these ridiculous lineups on the field.
Tony is angry that the Cardinals didn't go out and get him the players that he wanted.
He's trying to tell all of us that this is the sort of team that we can all look forward to seeing unless he gets what he wants. The problem with that, of course, is that La Russa is more responsible for this team's failures than any individual player can be. Who continued to run Jason Isringhausen out on the mound when it was clear to everyone else in the city that he just simply couldn't get the job done anymore? Hell, Tony and Dave Duncan want Izzy back again next year. Chris Perez? Who? He can just hang out in Memphis.
Who put Chris Duncan's name on that lineup card day after day, often at the expense of Ryan Ludwick, when he obviously wasn't healthy? Who sent Ryan Franklin out to try and close games out rather than turn to one of the less experienced but far more talented young bullpenners? Who consistently puts players on the field when they're hurt, until they end up injured enough that they miss significant time? If Tony wants someone to blame for this year's team's failures, he need look no further than the nearest mirror.
And now he wants to send a message. Well, guess what, Tony? Message received, loud and clear. You're going to tank the rest of this season because you didn't get what you wanted. Awesome.
No, don't anyone out there give me the spin that Tony and the Cards are trying to see what they have in these players. If Tony were playing youngsters all over the field, that would be one thing. Again, I can handle bad play when there's a real reason for it. Trying to figure out just how good some of these kids could be certainly qualifies in my book. But you aren't trying to figure out what you have in Adam Kennedy. He is what he is: a defensively talented second baseman whose hitting skills have eroded badly, and quickly, the last couple seasons. Putting him in right field accomplishes nothing, other than removing the one thing he still does very well from the equation. Do you really not know what you have in Aaron Miles? Of course you do. In fact, the one player who still could probably use some actual evaluation, Brian Barton, is the player riding the pine through most of this whole shebang. We can't bring up Colby Rasmus, god no, he hasn't earned it yet. Just like Randy Flores didn't earn a return trip up from the hinterlands, Tony?
I was a Tony La Russa fan once. As the years have gone by, though, I've become very disillusioned with many of the things he does. Even so, I've always maintained that the Cardinals could do much worse, that the man still has many good points. Now, though, I'm done. I'm done defending him in any way, shape, or form.
Tony La Russa is disrespecting the game of baseball. He's putting his own nasty little vendetta and his own desires over the good of the team, of the organization. By running these players out there in these farcical lineups night after night, Tony is essentially telling us all that he's just flat out more important. The fans who come out to see the game don't matter. Hell, he would probably tell you he's doing it for your own good. Albert Pujols' MVP chances are slipping away day by day as the losses mount, but screw him. This is much more important.
So the next time you hear a local writer or sports personality talking about Tony wanting to send a message, just remember what that message really is. None of this matters. Tony is bigger than all of it. Screw the Cardinals, screw the fans, screw the game.
Now that's a message.
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