St. Louis Cardinals: A Culture of Complaining

by JohnBowen

Remember the movie Wedding Crashers? Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson…heck John McCain had a cameo. Remember rule number 76 of crashing?

“No Excuses. Play Like a Champion.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has very clearly never heard of that rule. This is odd, because La Russa is himself a 5-time pennant winner and 2-time world champion with the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals.

August 2, 2011 epitomized what Tony La Russa is all about: making excuses.

After losing 6-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers, La Russa decided that his team hadn’t been beat fair and square (though they did get hosed on a double-play ball). No, something is up. Chris Carpenter is a young, spry 26 year old who has been lights-out all season long. So Tony La Russa decided to file a complaint against the NL Central Division leaders for tinkering with the scoreboards and stealing signs. Naturally, there’s no evidence of this whatsoever. After La Russa alerted umpire chief Gary Darling (meaning that the umpiring crew was onto the alleged cheating) as well as changing up the signs, the Brewers offense continued to roll, scoring 17 runs on 29 hits over the next two games against Cardinal pitching.

This, of course, isn’t the first time La Russa has complained about nothing. In September, 2009, La Russa threw a hissy fit about the bullpen mounds at Coors Field being so different from the field mounds. The next season, he lashed out at the Cincinnati Reds for allegedly using slippery balls at Great American Ballpark. Naturally, no other Major League manager has raised these complaints. And, may I add, it’s especially rich for La Russa to call other teams out for cheating, given the former first baseman he employs as his hitting coach.

Conspiracy or not, there was baseball to be played on Tuesday night, and the Brewers and Cardinals engaged in a fierce affair with the two sides exchanging blows throughout the first 5 innings. In the top of the seventh, with the Brewers up 7-6, Albert Pujols came up to bat with two on and nobody out and was hit by a pitch by Brewers reliever Takashi Saito. There are approximately 78 million reasons to believe that this was not intentional. Here are three:

1)      Albert Pujols is probably the best right-handed hitter ever, and there’s no way to beat him without pitching inside.

2)      There were already two runners on base with nobody out.

3)      Two of the top-10 batters in the National League were due up next in Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.

Regardless, Tony LaRussa decided to “send a message” and throw at Ryan Braun in the bottom half of the seventh. When pitcher Jason Motte’s first pitch missed its target, LaRussa had him send another message, and actually hit him. What was he trying to accomplish? Did he actually think that the Brewers were deliberately trying to hit a batter to load the bases for Matt Holliday with zero outs?! Naturally, this was just La Russa’s way of complaining, as if to say “how dare you pitch my superstar in such a way that he occasionally looks human!” La Russa wants different rules for his players than for others.

The shootout continued into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina struck out on a pitch that was pretty clearly inside. What happened next was an example of LaRussa’s terrible, it-can’t-be-us attitude spreading through the clubhouse like a cancer. Yadier Molina – widely regarded as the best defensive catcher in baseball – went on an absolute tirade, bumping home plate umpire Rob Drake and spitting in his face like a seven-year old. Oh, and he certainly wasn’t alone; LaRussa rushed out in a hurry, and not just to pull Molina away from Drake.

The result will likely be a 5-10 game suspension of the gold glove backstop. That means 5-10 games of Gerald Laird instead of Molina, widely regarded as the best defensive backstop in the game for both eliminating the running game and managing pitchers. Oh, and he’s hitting .293 this season too. The Cardinals prevailed in 11 innings, but took a much bigger hit in losing Molina who, likely focused on the ramifications of his actions, made a throwing error and allowed a passed ball the next day, resulting in two additional Brewer runs.

All because of a bad call. In baseball. A game umpired by humans who aren’t perfect. Bad calls happen to every single team, but Molina felt they were unique to him, even though Drake’s strike zone was everywhere that night for both teams (which, as catcher, Molina should have aware of).

Given the tendencies of his manager, this is hardly surprising. La Russa has insisted on blaming everyone and everything in the world for his teams not going 162-0 every year. La Russa does not help his team with this attitude. We all know that guy, whether at work, school, life, whatever. Nothing is his fault. This amoral leader, when put in charge of others, often becomes a toxic leader, who refuses to take responsibility for his or the group’s failings. The result is a failure to recognize shortcomings – like a 36-year old pitcher that leaves pitches up and makes Yuniesky Betancourt look like Willie Mays. If you don’t address shortcomings, you can’t address them. And if you don’t address them, they won’t go away.

Own up, Tony. Your team won’t win this divisional race by pointing fingers.

15 Responses to “St. Louis Cardinals: A Culture of Complaining”

  1. David Says:

    I disagree completely with the interpretation of the facts in this article. First, yes, La Russa could be considered a whiner for complaining about the lighting. I am a Cardinals fan and agree., With that being said, the reason the Csrdinals were mad with Pujols was the location of the miss. La Russa even said it was unintentional. We hit Braun in y the back where there was no risk of injury. This always happens in baseball and any person who understands the came knows you hit one we hit one and its over. Finally, Molina did not spit on purpose, he probably had some fly from yelling. He wasn’t mad at the call but the inconsistency of the umpire. If you want to call what be did unprofessional and childish then make sure you recognize the childish behavior of your own player Nyjer Morgan. The only problem I have with this article is the judgment that people who know very little about the true nature of the game rush to. As far as La Russa being a whiner, I agree and think it makes St. Louis, a city that knows the game, look bad

  2. Jim Says:

    In many ways La Russa reminds me of Tom Kelly in his last few years with the Twins, continual scowl, whining and an inability to get along with young headstrong players. No one in the organization will put La Russa in line, the GM is too weak and ownership too fragmented. So Tony goes on daring anyone to interfere.

  3. John Says:

    Good points Jim. And as a Brewers fan, I say, just let Tony be Tony.

  4. Cameron Says:

    I’m surprised that he hasn’t complained about the mounds in Kaufman Stadium. I was on the field to set up a sky show last season and was on the mound and I actually threw off the bullpen mound when I was bored and there was downtime. The bullpen mound feels at least a foot higher and the distance between that and the wall is shorter than from the mound to home.

    Never heard Tony complain about that.

  5. John Says:

    Welcome to DC, David! You should be approved to post now.

    Nyjer Morgan indeed had an unacceptable outburst last year, charging the mound on the Marlins and all-and-all going absolutely crazy. He was also playing for the Nationals.

    Now, he’s with us, he hasn’t had any terrible outbursts with us (but he indeed a crazy person as evidenced by his alter-ego Tony Plush and post-game interviews).

    The problem with the Braun HBP is it was a deliberate retaliation to a very obvious accident.

  6. Chuck Says:

    I think we made this clear yesterday, John.

    While the hitting of Braun was clearly intentional, it was not ordered by LaRussa.

    He’s not stupid enough to put the lead run on base in the seventh inning of a tie game with the cleanup hitter due next.

  7. John Says:

    “”We did not hit Braun on purpose,” La Russa said. “We threw two balls in there real good just to send a message.”"

    Interpret that however you want. If you take La Russa at his word, he was willing to go behind 2-0 to one of the very best hitters on planet Earth.

    I looked it up…Braun has a .360/.560/.683 career line after a 2-0 count.

    I’m not even sure what’s stupider…automatically putting him on, or deliberately going down 2-0 to him.

    “He’s not stupid enough to…”

    Whatever you were about to say, yes, Tony La Russa is stupid enough to do it.

  8. brautigan Says:

    +1 @ David.

  9. David Says:

    I agree that it was a deliberate response to an accident, but it’s the fact that the miss was near a player’s head. When you hit someone in the head the ball doesn’t take into count whether our not the pitch was on purpose when it messes with a player’s likelihood. Pujols was able to get out of the way, but the issue was up and in pitching so high and close to the head. If the Cardinals had thrown a pitch near a Brewers head first, even if on accident I know that their fans would want retaliation. Braun was hit between the numbers, which it’s the right way to hit someone, assuming it was on propose, which as Chuck explained would’ve been stupid to put the rooming run on on purpose.

  10. Cameron Says:

    Hey David, somehow didn’t see you post yesterday. My bad, man. Welcome to DC.

    …Also, I’m no longer the new guy. SCORE!

  11. Bob Says:

    C.J.Cron is off to a nice start for the Angels. 3 homers last night, 11 overall in 137 plate appearances.

  12. John Says:

    @10, haven’t you been here for like 2 years?

    Also, curious question, how do you get an avatar?

    “I agree that it was a deliberate response to an accident, but it’s the fact that the miss was near a player’s head.”

    But that’s just it. Should teams refuse to pitch inside to a hitter like Pujols because the chances for an accident are higher?

  13. Mike Felber Says:

    Hey John, baseball-reference.com had none, then started using Honus Wagner as a default. So I snagged myself you know who.

    http://en.gravatar.com

    Pitching inside still should be considered OK, but you have to be especially careful about high & tight.

  14. Cameron Says:

    2 years or so, but y’all were here before me.

  15. kmcolejazz Says:

    Big Cardinals fan; sick of Tony’s act. Constant double standards, even within the team.

    Can we please put to rest the idea, though, that Yadi spit on Drake? There’s a big difference between spittle and sweat…and intentional spitting. Was he too close? Yeah.

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