My work accomplishments for the day amounted to filling out a form and listening to a few voicemails. Not exactly an opportunity to show off my brilliance. Oh, well, it happens from time to time.
After work, I was off to the Lisner Auditorium to hear John Grisham interview Tony La Russa and Buzz Bissinger. For those who don't know, La Russa is the manager of the Saint Louis Cardinals (and, prior to that, managed the Oakland A's and the Chicago White Sox). Bissinger wrote a book titled Three Nights in August, describing the strategy of three games the Cards played against the Chicago Cubs in 2003. For anybody who has never seen an airport book rack, John Grisham writes legal thrillers.
It was pretty entertaining and a little bit educational. La Russa was less articulate than I expected. Not that he was stammering or anything, but he didn't get right to the point in his answers - sort of surprising given his background as a lawyer. Some of that was probably because he was trying to avoid giving specific negative examples. He was more generous with positive examples and full of praise for Albert Pujols and Dave Eckstein. He held up Pujols as a guy who's continued to play just as hard after getting a multi-year big money contract as he did before.
One of his more interesting comments had to do with stolen bases. His claim is that the reason there are fewer these days than there were some 20-40 years ago is not the emphasis on home runs. Instead, he said the difference is that managers have gotten savvier about defending against base stealing. The tricks of timing that pitchers and catchers are taught now inherently make it harder to steal a base than it was back then.
There was also an interesting discussion of pitchers hitting players. La Russa admitted that there are times when he's deliberately had a pitcher hit a player even when it meant losing a game as a result. He defended this by saying he needs to protect his players. He also said that any intentional revenge is always below the waist and claimed he never has his pitchers start things. You can decide for yourself how plausible that is.
La Russa has had along and successful career as a manager (27 years and counting), so it was worth hearing his ideas about baseball strategy. But I decided not to buy the book. I'm sure it's interesting, but I'm not, in general, the sort of fan who feels the need to second guess managers. Except when the Red Sox do something dumb with their pitching staff, but that's another matter.
Copyright 2005 Miriam H. Nadel