22 April 2010

Tony La Russa's need for control

Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski on Tony La Russa's overmanaging in the 20-inning Cardinals-Mets game on Saturday.

I must admit: I do get a kick out of overmanaging. Sure, mostly it's like a kick to the sternum... but there's something utterly human about overmanaging that I can appreciate. A baseball manager has so little he can CONTROL on a baseball diamond. He can't design a play -- hit and runs and wheel plays don't satisfy. He can't make halftime adjustments. He can't substitute players in-and-out or change up his lines. You don't think about this much -- or I don't -- but perhaps the biggest thing is that a baseball manager can't even put his best player in position to make the big play. In basketball, you get LeBron to take the last-second shot. In football, you have Tom Brady throw to Wes Welker on fourth down. In baseball, sure, you can put in your closer. But you can't just send Albert Pujols up there with the winning run on third base. And even if you DO happen to be at Pujols place in the lineup, they will walk him.

It's just a whole different type of game, and I think overmanaging really is a natural reaction to the frustrations of the job. Tony La Russa has been managing baseball games for more than 30 years -- he has managed almost 5,000 games in his career. And even now, he HAS to use the most pinch-hitters, and he HAS to change around his lineup, and he HAS to use a lot of relievers, and he HAS to move runners, and he HAS to sacrifice. It's his nature. He has to attack the game before it attacks him. Why? I think it's because he knows the limitations of the job. And he can't help but rage against them.
Posnanski goes on to detail the key moves/missteps in each inning.

Over the last 30+ years, Tony La Russa has managed 4,780 major league games. And he is still intensely engaged in each game, each at-bat...there's something cool about that kind of passion.

No comments:

Post a Comment