Monday, June 30, 2008

La Russa Gets the Credit for Win against Kansas City

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 10:30 AM

Well, they finally managed to beat the Royals. Congratulations to our boys in red.

I know that I complain about Tony La Russa a lot in these pages.

I do so for two reasons:

1. I'm not a huge fan of his anymore, and I often disagree with the things he does.

2. A sports columnist's job is very, very difficult to do without complaining about the managers and coaches. Seriously. Just think of how few things there would be to talk about if you didn't criticize managerial decisions. We'd all be Dan McLaughlins. Just one of those things.

That being said, as much as I do complain about Tony, I feel that I also need to give him credit for the good decisions that he makes, simply in the interest of fairness. In yesterday's game, I think we could all see quite easily that Braden Looper simply didn't have it. He couldn't find his control, couldn't get the ball down, just couldn't do pretty much anything he wanted. In the bottom of the fourth inning, when Looper loaded the bases largely by just missing the plate, Tony went out and got him. He brought in Chris Perez with the sacks jammed and one out. Perez proceeded to get out of the jam with an absolute hand destroying jam shot and a weak fly-out to left field. Crisis averted.

The thing is, we've seen in the past the other side of the coin with La Russa. He's left starters in much too long for their own good for a variety of reasons, from wanting to save the bullpen to wanting to get the guy the win, to just having a hunch. As much as Looper was struggling, he did still leave the game with a lead. Tony could very well have gone out to the mound, talked to him, and then left him in to try and get the victory. It would have been a terrible idea, but I could definitely see it happening. I could also see him going out there, getting Looper, and then bringing in either a veteran to get out of the jam or someone more in a mop up role, to try and save some innings on the bullpen arms. Instead, he went with his young fire-baller in an extremely high leverage situation. He played to win the game yesterday, and everything else be damned. I thought it was absolutely the right decision, and La Russa deserves a ton of credit for it.

The Cardinals will have to make a move before tonight's game to bring in another reliever, since so much of the 'pen was burnt yesterday, but they have guys who are available. It looks like Brad Thompson will probably be the guy, with Nick Stavinoha riding the I-55 Express back down to Memphis. Mark Worrell is also a possibility, but I doubt he's the guy. Either way, it just goes to show that there are acceptable reinforcements just a phone call away, and Tony's willingness to go all out in yesterday's game, and his willingness to worry about Monday's game on Monday, went a long way toward getting the Cards the series win and one game closer to the Cubbies.

- Aaron Schafer

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