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La Russa no fan of 'Moneyball'

Cardinals skipper has his own ideas

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / October 27, 2011

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ST. LOUIS - After Major League Baseball pulled the plug on Game 6 of the World Series last night, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he planned to go see the movie “Moneyball,’’ even though he despises the concept the film is based on. Whether he really went was another matter.

Unfortunately, there are no tips in the movie concerning communications with your bullpen.

La Russa has managed 33 consecutive seasons but had never experienced the miscommunication he had with his bullpen that contributed to a 4-2 loss in Game 5 Monday in Arlington, Texas.

Bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist took the call, and La Russa told him to get lefty Marc Rzepczynski ready and have righty Jason Motte play catch. But Lilliquist never heard the Motte part.

La Russa brought in Rzepczynski to face the lefthanded-hitting David Murphy, but when Mike Napoli came up, La Russa finally realized there wasn’t a righthander warming up. He had to leave Rzepczynski to pitch to the dangerous Napoli, a righthanded hitter, and Napoli hit a game-winning two-run double.

That may haunt La Russa and the Cardinals.

As for “Moneyball,’’ La Russa said he went once already and walked out on it.

“It’s our tribute to all the scouts and baseball people that were dissed by ‘Moneyball,’ ’’ he said. “That’s why I walked out of ‘Moneyball.’ ’’

Why is he down on the concept?

“On-base percentage is one of the most dangerous concepts of the last seven, eight years,’’ he said, “because it forces some executives and coaches and players to think that it’s all about getting on base by drawing walks. And the fact is that the guys that have the best on-base percentage are really dangerous hitters whenever they get a pitch in the strike zone.

“So if the pitcher knows that and the catcher knows that, they work the edges, and pretty soon it’s 2-and-1, 2-and-1 rather than 0-and-1 all the time.

“You watch your productive hitters in the big leagues, and they get a chance to drive in a run, they look for the first good strike, and the better the pitching, especially this time of the year, you get that first strike, that may be the last one that you get to see. So you’d better be ready to swing early. It’s not sitting up there and taking strike one, strike two so that you can work the count.’’

Trouble ahead

The call on the postponement was made 4 1/2 hours before game time because the forecast was so bad, the first postponement in a World Series since 2008. Executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre made the call . . . La Russa said he would likely not use Chris Carpenter out of the bullpen tonight, and he would not commit to a starter for a Game 7. Jake Westbrook is a candidate . . . Texas manager Ron Washington said he would have C.J. Wilson available in the bullpen for Games 6 and 7. Matt Harrison would be his Game 7 starter.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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