Dubious managerial decisions by LaRussa are among this Series' flaws
Before video of Game 6 of the 2011 Texas Rangers/St. Louis Cardinals World Series is bronzed, shipped to Cooperstown and declared the Greatest World Series Game Ever, let's remember:
This Series, for all its drama, has been as remarkable for its sloppiness—physical and mental, on the field and in the dugout—as its brilliance.
Don't mistake this as a quarrel with raw entertainment value; with viewer ratings still hovering near all-time lows, baseball's postseason can use all the messy drama it can muster.
It'd just be nice if the last two teams standing were executing their tasks a bit more...professionally?
So, before it's too late, here are four reasons the first six games of this Series have been less than legendary.
Rzepczynski shouldn't have faced the Rangers' Napoli in game 5
Neither Tony LaRussa nor Ron Washington are going to be invited to publish tactical guides for baseball managers after several head-scratching moves in this series.
LaRussa was second-guessed after allowing left handed reliever Mark Rzepczynski to face red-hot righty Mike Napoli in the bottom of the eighth in Game 5. (Napoli's double provided the winning margin in the 4-2 Rangers win.)
LaRussa had inserted Rzepczynski to face the previous hitter, David Murphy—a smart move, considering that Murphy batted 81 points lower against lefties than righties in 2011.
While Murphy spoiled the move by reaching base on a potential double play grounder that Rzepczynski failed to cleanly field, LaRussa's move itself made sense. Far more so than his "the dog ate the bullpen phone" excuse for odd bullpen management.
Unless you can figure out how "Rzepczynski" could logically be confused with "Motte."
Add the head-scratching, botched hit-and-run in the ninth inning with Albert Pujols at the plate as the potential tying run, and you've got to wonder where LaRussa's head was. Especially when it was revealed that Pujols, not the bench, put that play in motion.
Washington's tactical acumen also raised eyebrows, especially in Thursday's epic (yes, even a cynic can admit that) Game 6.
Situation: bottom of the tenth, two outs, Rangers ahead 9-8, potential tying run at second base, Lance Berkman batting. Washington positioned his outfield so deep they were across the Illinois state line.
Berkman's soft liner scored the tying run; David Freese's solo homer won the game in the eleventh. Would Josh Hamilton have had a chance to throw out John Jay even if he were playing a shallower center field? Doubtful, especially with Jay running on contact.
Point is: World Series managers ought to be on top of their games. This year, they aren't.
Young's bobbles in game six epitomized a generally sloppy series
The 2011 Series has been, to put it bluntly, a mess.
A beautifully dramatic mess, to be sure. But a mess nonetheless.
Thirteen combined errors (nine committed by the Rangers). Nine unearned runs allowed (six by Texas).
And, a host of physical and mental miscues—including the game five, eighth inning fielding faux pas by Cardinals reliever Mark Rzepczynski that blew up a potential inning-ending double play.
Last year's Series, won by San Francisco in five games over these same fumble-finger Rangers, was hardly spotless, either: nine combined errors, five by Texas, four by SF.
(Interestingly, Texas has lost a game by nine runs each of the last two Series; 9-0 to the Giants in Game two last year, 16-7 to the Cards in Game 3 this time around.)
But the Yankees' 4-2 Series win over Philadelphia in 2009 included just four fielding miscues, three errorless games, and no more than one error by either team in any game.
Bottom line: the 2011 Series highlight DVD could include enough kicked balls to be mistaken for a soccer match.
Carpenter has been a (high-performance) exception to otherwise mediocre pitching
Through six games, the 2011 Series had featured five so-called "quality starts." (six innings pitched, three or less earned runs allowed.) Two of the five were delivered by the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter.
There were a few stinkers: neither the Cards' Kyle Lohse nor Rangers' Matt Harrison made it out of the fourth inning in game three; Ranger "ace" C.J. Wilson walked six in 5.2 innings in Game 1, earning the dubious distinction of losing at least one game in each of his club's three postseason series.
That's just a sampling.
The Rangers-Giants series included several standout pitching performances: Matt Cain's game two 7.2 shut out inning gem; Colby Lewis' 7.2 inning, five-hit gut-check performance in game three; Madison Bumgarner's brilliant eight-inning two-hitter in game four; and the Series-clinching, game-five duel between Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee.
San Francisco's bullpen was brilliant; Brian Wilson closed out Games 4 and 5 with perfect ninth innings.
Again: great Series are defined by taut games (like Game 6) and memorable individual performances. In this series, there've been precious few of the latter from either pitching staff.
Pujols' Series: one brilliant game, five zeroes
One post-game show following Game 6 featured a video montage of past legendary Series game-sixes.
Reggie Jackson's three-homer game in 1978. Bill Buckner's through-the-wickets error on Mookie Wilson's grounder in 1986. Joe Carter's Series-clinching homer in 1993.
Without question, the Cards' two last-strike rallies and David Freese's 11th inning homer on Thursday are instantly part of Game 6 (and Cardinal) lore.
Otherwise, how—and for whom—will this Series be recalled?
Not Albert Pujols, who gorged on five hits and six RBI in game three, producing one hit and zero RBI in the other five. Tonight may be his final game in a Cardinal uniform; we'll see if he creates any (happy) memories.
(Lance Berkman and David Freese have combined for 17 hits and 10 RBI. Brilliant work—especially by Freese, the Hometown Hero—but how well will either be remembered beyond Cardinal Nation?
Probably not Josh Hamilton, either. His two-run, tenth-inning homer would have been remembered as the Series clincher but for a meltdown by the Texas bullpen (or heroic comeback by St. Louis, depending on your rooting interest). Otherwise: .240 Series average, three other RBI.
Fans will remember a brilliant series from career journeyman Mike Napoli (10 RBI, 1.31 OPS). And solid pitching by Colby Lewis. That's about it.
Don't get me wrong: the fact that this Series has a seventh game—the first since 2002—is cool. (Especially for Angels fans who can vicariously re-live their fat-out-of-the-fire comeback against the Giants in that year's Game 6).
But I wouldn't put this Series in the "best ever" category. Yet.