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Tony La Russa takes responsibility for bullpen mix-up

Oct 25, 2011, 8:02 PM EDT

Tony La Russa

Tony La Russa tried to explain the bullpen phone mix-up following last night’s loss and failed miserably, seemingly throwing his bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist under the bus. Fortunately he sung a decidedly different tune in his comments to the press this afternoon at Busch Stadium.

According to the Associated Press, La Russa took full responsibility for the mix-up and said that he told Lilliquist “10 times” that it wasn’t his fault. He also shed a bit more light on how the miscommunication may have happened in the first place.

While La Russa reiterated that he called the bullpen twice to get Jason Motte ready, he admitted that during the first call, he might have mentioned Motte’s name after Lilliquist had already hung up the phone.

Plausible? I suppose. It works for a pretty good excuse, if anything. But it’s just as plausible to say that he was simply unprepared for the inning to get to Mike Napoli. Since nobody heard him, we’ll probably never know for sure.

  1. texasdawg - Oct 25, 2011 at 8:13 PM

    La Russa’s explanations of this make Mike Francesa’s Al Alburquerque explanation look perfectly logical.

    • pjmarn6 - Oct 25, 2011 at 11:30 PM

      And if you believe that in one of the most important games of the year, the manager is accidently going to flub this, I have a bridge for sale cheap!

  2. Kyle - Oct 25, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    This is a total mess and I doubt we’ll ever really know the whole truth. But at least he decided to do the right thing and accept responsibility… the next day.

    • lakerfan32 - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:01 AM

      I agree about perhaps never knowing the full story. I saw it, have written down the sequence from TLR’s explanation last night, and still it doesn’t add up. I think he wanted “Scrabble” to pitch to Napoli.

  3. jasonforb - Oct 25, 2011 at 8:50 PM

    Bad word choice: “Maybe I slurred it…”

  4. lovesmesomeme - Oct 25, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    TLR likes his martinis shaken not slurred

  5. cur68 - Oct 25, 2011 at 10:02 PM

    Well I don’t know what to think. I’d like to believe Tony. So I shall. Hard luck with the phone, bro. May I suggest a good droid?

  6. xevofb3k - Oct 25, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    This is the same guy who pitched to a one-legged Kirk Gibson with first base open in a WS game. He’s just trying to deflect the blame for a bad call he made.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:57 AM

      Not that it matters….but I believe it was a “one-armed, one-legged” Kirk Gibson that was so broken down he stayed in the clubhouse getting treatment the entire game (up to that point). Oh…and 1st base wasn’t open. It was occupied by the previous batter as they pitched around him get to the light hitting guy on deck (who Gibson pinch hit for)! Only in the 8th inning after hearing Vin Scully say something to the affect of “there will be no Kirk Gibson” did Kirk get out of his chair and say “my ass.” So…he rode the wheelchair up to the dugout…stayed hidden until the last minute…and then went all “Natural” on them. Gibson credits a long time scout who had seen Eck pitch for years. The Scout told him to watch for the back door slider and what do you know…back door slider. Great…great moment in World Series history.
      There you have it…another NL win!

  7. genvarsh - Oct 25, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    that’s why larussa and stinkin’ cardinals deserve to lose the series.

  8. stabonerichard - Oct 25, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    On a somewhat related note, I found La Russa’s comments–when speaking about the differences between AL & NL rules and the effect it has on managerial decisions–interesting and refreshingly honest. And these comments came earlier in the series ahead of the Game 5 bullpen drama…

    “There’s an assumption that somehow pitching changes in the National League are tougher. It’s not; it’s easier. … The reason it’s tougher in the American League is every decision that you make about the pitcher is based on your evaluation of who should pitch, how long the in there should pitch and who you should bring in. There are times, a lot of times, it’s a really close call. You’re splitting hairs. In the National League just enough times to make a difference … a spot comes up and you’ve got to (pinch) hit, and you don’t have to make that decision. You never have that decision taken away from you in the American League.

    I enjoy watching baseball from both leagues, but it gets a little old hearing some of the crusty NL purists ramble on about how the DH takes away from the game of strategy, when in fact it’s not that the NL has more strategy but rather different strategy. Sure the NL rules dictate more moves being made, but that shouldn’t be confused with strategy, and while he wasn’t entirely eloquent with how he put it, I thought La Russa’s point was pretty well made with the comments above.

  9. polegojim - Oct 25, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    Hey Tony, how about this explanation: The Rangers just flat beat the Cards.

    Isn’t that much easier? Why jump through all the hoops – just say – “We Lost”.

  10. stabonerichard - Oct 25, 2011 at 11:56 PM

    Here’s the full context of TLR’s comments about managing pitchers/bullpen in the AL vs. NL…

    Q. There’s a school of thought that pitching changes in the American League games can be a bit more complicated because where the pitcher’s spot in the lineup won’t dictate the move. What’s your take on that? What differences do you see in decisions on pitchers in American League games?

    TONY LA RUSSA: I totally agree with you. I went over to the National League, and after two, three, four years, whatever it was, I realized, wow, and I said it and people looked at me — most people looked at me like, you can’t be serious. There’s an assumption that somehow pitching in the National League is tougher. It’s not, it’s easier. It’s never easy anyplace, and the reason it’s tougher in the American League is every decision that you make about the pitcher is based on your evaluation of who should pitch, how long the guy in there should pitch and who you should bring in. There are times, a lot of times it’s a really close call. You’re splitting some really fine hairs. In the National League just enough times to make a difference, about the time, all right, what — a spot comes up and you’ve got to hit, and you don’t have to make that decision. You never have that decision taken away from you in the American League.
    So I think it’s — and then if a guy is pitching really well, you’ve got to be really careful that you don’t burn him out and hurt him because sometimes in the National League you may have Chris Carpenter in a Cy Young year and he’ll pitch six or seven and you’re down three to — it’s your chance to score and he doesn’t pitch. American League, happens all the time. Handling pitching in the American League I think is tougher.

  11. pandebailey - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:32 AM

    Hard to see why Tony would make up this story to cover-up something – what else would the story be……he wanted to pitch righty-lefty to the Rangers hottest hitter? No way.

    But two quick points – 1) Does a manager really HAVE to rush a relief pitcher in? What is the penalty if he says the pitcher coming in is the wrong one and he need to delay to have the right pitcher warm up? The ump suddenly awards the Rangers 5 runs or 7 walks? I’ve never seen it, but what would really happen if Tony said “Nope, wrong pitcher, we need to wait. So sue me!”?

    2) And NEXT time a manager gets into this situation, the solution is to say to whatever pitcher you don’t want in…”Kid, you just got an injury – grad your pitching elbow and I’ll wave for the trainer to come out.” Umpires give tons of time for injuries and nobody is going to say “Hey, that elbow looks okay to me!” Easy fix…….next time…..

    • philiplewis1 - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:57 AM

      Not positive but I think the rule is – the umpire requests the conference be concluded. If the team refuses to end the conference and begin throwing pitches, he goes back to the plate and calls for the next pitch. If no pitch is delivered, he calls a ball. He continues this “ball” call until a pitcher (anybody) starts throwing pitches. I don’t know what the time requirement is between ball calls but something reasonable. In the case of Game 5, you would have a string of what amounts to intentional walks until pitches were delivered. If that’s the case, you might as well just have your pitcher currently in the game start lobbing balls periodically until the bullpen is ready. TYou can probably drag it out more that way. That’s exactly what LaRussa did with one pitcher.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:38 PM

        Yeah…that is the way I understand the rule too Philip.

  12. ms72lbc - Oct 26, 2011 at 1:36 AM

    What’s this discussion even about? Very simple – Cards 1 for 12 with RISP! The rest of this has nothing to do with the outcome of the game!

  13. Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2011 at 8:20 AM

    He was sleep talking on the bullpen phone again? I hear Mrs. LaRussa is getting sick of him getting up in the middle of the night, picking up the phone and calling in Rhodes to relieve him. (shudder shudder)

  14. paperlions - Oct 26, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    Hey, sometimes old people just have trouble communicating on phones. Having a coherent conversation on the phone with my grandma can be a challenge at times.

  15. stlouis1baseball - Oct 26, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    And you have it…mystery solved. Bring on Game #6…with the associated 7 or 8 pitching changes, sac bunts, hit and runs…and hopefully…a plethora of squirrels. Fear the squirrel!

    • paperlions - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:08 PM

      I am just hoping for a Cardinal win and a game 7….though this series already feel like it has been 20 games long.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:27 PM

        Your not joking Paper! I quit smoking one week prior to the playoffs starting. Guess how long that lasted? You guessed it…ONE WEEK. Beer, Cigarettes, Beer, Cigarettes, Beer, Cigarettes, Beer and NO dinner. Did I mention Beer and Cigarettes? My stomach has been far to “unstable” to eat. So in a nutshell…I have lived an incredibly healthy life over the last few weeks. Fortunately, I have a very understanding Wife who also happens to live and die with the Birds on the Bat. Two more wins and I am quitting again.

  16. The Baseball Idiot - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Who cares? The bullpen mistake had nothing to do with the Cardinals losing the game. The only reason it’s important is so that everyone can talk about it.

    This is such a non-issue.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:42 PM

      It allows people to throw darts TBI.

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