Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'd buy the explanation that Tony LaRussa didn't want all that "BS" if he were a "you put your best nine guys out there, I'll put my best nine guys out there, and we'll see who's better" type of manager.

But he's not.

LaRussa, more than any other manager, inserts himself into the competition. He'll use three pitchers to get the last three outs when his team is up by four runs. He'll bat the pitcher eighth. He'll order squeeze plays. He'll play a .200 hitter in left field because he likes the match-up with the starting pitcher.

This isn't all about between-the-lines strategy. La Russa gets in the opposition's head, and makes the other team do stupid things (like, making several throws over to first base when the runner on first is a hulking slugger with a bad hamstring, and one of those throws ends up in right field).

If pitchers looking for every edge is part of the game, then paying the price when caught is as well. If there's some sort of gentlemen's agreement that opposing managers don't press things like this, then part of that agreement should be that players be somewhat skillful in disguising it -- i.e. don't get caught on camera with a giant smudge on your hand. Kenny Rogers made Tony La Russa look like either a moron or a chump. There's nothing gentlemanly about that.
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