"If my players perform, I don't have to worry about matching wits."
That was Rangers manager Ron Washington's response to questions about his questionable decisions during Game 1 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday night, in which the Cards defeated Washington's club, 3-2 to take the Series opener.
While Washington may not see "matching wits" with Tony La Russa as important as his players performing, recent history—of which Washington himself is a part—would suggest otherwise.
In last season's Fall Classic, the upstart San Francisco Giants, the heavy underdog in the World Series against the offensive juggernaut of the Rangers, defeated Washington's team handily, needing just five games.
But much of the credit for steering San Francisco's ship through choppy playoff waters was given to manager Bruce Bochy, who pushed all the right buttons and made all the right calls in ensuring his club would reach the pinnacle of the baseball world.
Hence, a team that was far inferior offensively, with far fewer well-known stars than in the Rangers dugout, defeated Texas and took home its first title since the franchise moved to San Francisco 52 years earlier.
So "matching wits" is pretty important, even when you've got players like the Rangers do. That much should have been made clear to Texas a year ago this month.
When Washington chose to pinch-hit Craig Gentry and then Esteban German, who had only taken 11 at-bats the entire year, instead of Yorvit Torrealba or Mitch Moreland, spectators collectively removed their respective teams' cap and scratched their heads in unison.
And then, the predictable happened. With the tying run at second and one out in the top of the seventh, Gentry struck out on just four pitches. Then Esteban followed suit, fanning on three pitches, and the inning was over.
In the prior inning, it was La Russa's time to make a fateful decision. And his turned out to be the right one, as pinch-hitter Allen Craig drove in the go-ahead run for St. Louis, which in the end would prove to be the decisive blow.
With two teams that are so evenly matched in so many different facets of the game, with many experts predicting a seven-game series, and what may be a must-win situation for Texas in Game 2 (a 2-0 series lead for St. Louis would ensure a return to Busch Stadium for a potential Game 6), Washington's Game 1 mistakes could end up costing the Rangers a world championship.
If it does, it will be the second straight Fall Classic heartbreak for Texas, and no team has appeared in three straight World Series in the last decade.