October 25, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas — Just when we were in danger of being lulled to sleep by the umpteenth postseason press conference involving a manager along comes the show that Tony La Russa put on after his team's 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers in Monday's Game 5 of the World Series at Rangers Ballpark.
Seriously, I've never seen anything like it. I may never see anything like it again. You cover enough of these things and you begin to think you have a pretty good idea of exactly how it will go. But then the St. Louis Cardinals skipper comes along and blows everything out of the water with a lengthy description of what went wrong during an eighth inning that featured a nonsensical parade of four relievers from the bullpen.
Because the explanations offered by La Russa and the rest of the Cardinals will confuse even the most dogged of investigative reporters, we've decided just to run La Russa's side of the story from what was a very surreal scene. If the Cardinals lose this series, I fully expect Will Leitch to stage dramatic readings from this script in a bar out in Brooklyn some day.
*All portions unrelated to the communication breakdown have been omitted.
Q: Could you take us through the thought process leaving Rzepczynski to pitch to Napoli?
La Russa: Well, what happened was that twice the bullpen didn't hear Motte's name. They heard "Rzepczynski' and they didn't get Motte [when both were supposed to be getting loose]. I looked up there and Motte wasn't going. So I called back for Motte and they got Lynn up. That's why he wasn't supposed to pitch today so I wasn't going to let him throw that hitter. He just threw the warmups and walked him and Motte behind was ready. I don't know if it was noisy, probably real noisy. They just didn't hear the second time.
La Russa: They heard "Rzepczynski" and they didn't hear "Motte" and when I called back I said "Motte," they heard "Lynn." So I went out there, wrong guy. He's not going to pitch today. I said, "Go back, get Motte ready." We'll walk the guy because I don't want Lynn to — he is not supposed to pitch. I didn't want to hurt him. And then Motte came in. That's why — it must be loud. I give the fans credit.
Q: Has that ever happened to you before where you had a call to the bullpen and guys didn't hear you right?
La Russa: Yeah, well, sometimes it's real loud, especially when some of the bullpens that are right amidst the fans and excitement. It happens in Philadelphia. It's hard to hear it there. So it's not unusual. Maybe we need to come up with some ear mikes or something.
Q: Just to be clear, if Motte was ready, he would have faced Napoli?
La Russa: Yeah.
Q: So you had no choice at that point —
La Russa: He was warming up, so I said "Get Motte up" and they heard "Lynn." But by the way, we had a chance with Rzepczynski's stuff to get Napoli the first pitch and then he put a nice swing on a breaking ball.
Q: Not to be dense, but what's the sort of procedure in terms of when you guys have the phone call and call down there, who gets the word and how do they convey it?
La Russa: The bullpen coach hears it, and like he heard "Lynn."
Q: Oh, he heard "Lynn."
La Russa: Yeah, that's why Lynn got up and I went out there. I thought it was Motte and they were yelling at me as I went out. I didn't hear them. It wasn't Motte. So I saw Lynn. I went, oh, what are you doing here?
Q: On the telephone he didn't hear it?
La Russa: Yeah, when you say "Motte," they heard "Lynn." It wasn't supposed to be Lynn because he wasn't going to pitch today.
Q: I think this was brought up earlier, but is there a problem when something like that can happen? Is there a better way to do it?
La Russa: Yeah, smoke signals from the dugout. There are times, likes what happened in Philadelphia, the phone went out and so we used cell phones and then the Phillies brought down walkie-talkies and they fixed the phone. But that phone in a loud ballpark, it's not an unusual problem. I mean, it doesn't make it right, but ...
Q: You said it happened twice?
La Russa: When Rzepczynski first got up, I mention Motte's name.
Q: So Motte ends up — did you want both of them to get up?
La Russa: Motte was just going to go along because I was hoping that we'd get the left-hander out and then we were not going to pitch to Napoli, and then we were going to go after Moreland. And then Motte would have been ready if they brought in a pinch hitter.
Q: I guess this is a protocol question: If Lynn isn't available for this game, doesn't your bullpen coach know that —
La Russa: He's available in an emergency, but I wasn't going to use him. But if he hears "Lynn" and I'm the manager, what is he going to say?
Q: That's why I was saying is there a protocol thing. Does he say, "Tony, are you sure on Lynn?" Or something like that?
La Russa: I'm sure he's thinking that now, but when you hear something, he had a day off, but like I said, he wasn't going to pitch until Game 6. I saw the big fella come in, and I said, "Why are you here?" He came to pitch. "Walk the guy," because the next guy was going to pitch.
Q: One more clarification: Is that conversation between Dunc and Lilliquist?
La Russa: It depends on who makes the call. I made the call.
Q: So you made both calls?
La Russa: Today I did.