Is Tony LaRussa Insane?
By this definition, Tony LaRussa is absolutely, undoubtedly insane. He repeats failed strategies continuously, pulls roster moves again and again to the same effect, and plays the same players (because he likes them) despite producing the same failed results time and time again. If that’s not insane, then the condition simply cannot be defined.
For instance, LaRussa spent most of 2010 irrationally pulling his effective starters in the sixth inning for a series of ineffective relievers like Mike MacDougal or Blake Hawksworth. LaRussa simply cannot resist an opportunity to “manage” a game ad infinitum. This led to many terrific starts being blown in disastrous seventh and eighth inning meltdowns.
So a rational Cardinal fan would assume LaRussa had learned his lesson – leave the starters in the game if they’re doing well. However, last night was a return to insane form for LaRussa, who decided (based on ???) to remove Jaime Garcia in the middle of another masterwork of pitching (6 innings, 9 strikeouts, one run) so that he could bring in his relief corps. This year, that means an over-reliance on LaRussa’s new favorite veteran, Miguel Batista. Batista did well, better than he’s been all season. But that merely opened the door to bring in LaRussa’s cherished explosive device, Ryan Franklin. And we all know how that turned out.
Ryan Franklin is another part of the mounting evidence that LaRussa is actually insane. What manager ever decides that the pitcher with the most hittable stuff on the team should close games in the ninth? Hitters NEVER miss a strike thrown by Franklin EVER. He throws 90 mile an hour softballs right down the middle, and that’s his only game plan. In a perfect world, Franklin’s stuff would only qualify him to throw batting practice to the kids before the start of the Little League World Series in order to get them warmed up. HE IS NOT A CLOSER by any definition honed over the last several decades of baseball history.
Yet LaRussa will not stop playing him. Ever. LaRussa would bring in Franklin for the ninth if God himself showed up and told LaRussa that was a bad idea. Many Franklin supporters like to point to his 2010 performance, when he saved 27 games while only blowing two. Yeah, that’s great, except that even a cursory glance at the rest of his stats shows exactly why Franklin is not a closer: he pitched 65 innings, and gave up 57 hits, 10 walks, and 7 home runs!! The year before (2009), he pitched 61 innings and gave up 49 hits and 24 walks! That’s more than one baserunner for every inning pitched! The guy is not a closer, but try telling that to Puppy Hugger! You’ll probably get treated like a Post Dispatch reporter in the press room after another tough loss.
Another proof of LaRussa’s insanity is his obstinant insistence on batting the pitcher eighth. THIS HAS NEVER WORKED, but LaRussa continues to employ it whenever he sense the team needs “extra offense.” Even though it never produces extra offense! Any other manager in MLB will tell you that, if your lineup is so thin that you need to try and get another batter on base in front of Albert Pujols, then it’s time to discard that lineup! Here’s a radical concept: GET BETTER POSITION PLAYERS. Stop relying on weak-hitting, poor fielding players like Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot, or Daniel Descalso (last year it was Aaron Miles and Randy Winn – GAG). Actually build a solid team with talented people who can handle the bat! This isn’t rocket science, Tony!
But the crazy doesn’t stop there! How about LaRussa’s irrational hatred for certain talented young players? Or his bewildering double switches with marginal bench players? Or his complete inability to honestly assess talent or what is wrong with his ballclub? The list goes on forever. Either LaRussa is drunk (again), or he’s insane. Either way, it’s time for him to retire.