Tony La Russa is a hall of famer and by all accounts, a smart guy. He lost some credibility when he got busted for DUI a few years back and couldn’t recite the alphabets in order, but that’s neither here nor there. I guess we can let a little DUI go when the resume is as impressive as La Russa’s. He has been a very successful baseball lifer who is smart and unique with his strategies. He also does a lot of good things off the field like his work with animal rights groups. But yesterday’s game 5 of the world series was a disaster for Tony. Good for him that he is a hall of famer. If the other manager, Ron Washington had been involved in this mess, the baseball experts would have buried him alive. The Texas-St. Louis world series is getting bad TV ratings as expected, but Tony might be reviving the interest all by himself with some crazy controversies.
Speaking of TV ratings, baseball ratings are obviously down and it’s a fascinating fact that 14 million people watched game 1 and that’s less than half of the 30 million people who watched the world series in 1971. That sounds like a bad stat if you think about the almost 100 million people added to our population since then and the millions of additional HD TV sets in circulation today compared to the seventies. But the context has changed too. We have 700 channels today and people’s TV watching habits have changed considerably. So 14 million is not bad and the interesting stat that proves this point is, the world series in 71 was the eighth highest rated TV show that year and guess what! The 8-Th highest rated TV show in 2010 was the World Series as well. We just watch TV differently these days. It’s a fragmented audience.
Anyways, the story of the world series right now is the bullpen communication issue ad the phone fiasco. The Cardinals could not get the right pitchers up and ready in the bullpen and every time Tony went to the mound to replace the pitcher in the critical 8-Th inning, he seemed to get the wrong guy sent. It sounds bizarre to say the least and Tony called it embarrassing. Apparently he asked for Motte on the phone and the bullpen coach heard it as Lynn. That’s the only explanation. How amazing that a championship game in a 7 billion dollar industry was decided by a bad telephone call? Sometimes in life, crap happens, especially when people instead of machines are involved. But for La Russ and the Cards, these bad mistakes happened at the most inappropriate time yesterday.
There was also another issue with a bad hit-and-run call that apparently Pujols called himself. That’s not looking good for Tony right now either. We are learning new things now even in this day and age of 24-hour sports TV and radio where every angle is analyzed a million times daily. Apparently, it’s pretty common to have star players call their own hit-and-run sometimes and that’s exactly what Pujols did – at the wrong time in this case of course. Also, it’s apparently common to have bad phone connection and communication issues with the bullpen. We just don’t care enough to learn about all that unless it’s the world series. In any case, the Cardinals are now going back home trailing 2-3. They still got 2 games at home and I expect them to push this to game 7 if not win it in 7. It’s been an interesting world series so far despite the lack of widespread interest among fans.
In the NFL, it was not a great weekend of football across the league last weekend. The national TV games were horrible as if to help the world series with it’s TV rating. Baltimore and Jacksonville forgot how to play offense Monday night and the Sunday night game between the Colts and the Saints looked like one of those college pre-season games between a football superpower and a no-name school – Ohio State V Youngstown State or something. Who wins a pro game 62-7? And these 2 teams were in the Super Bowl less than 22 months back. I have always said (and blogged) that the best examples for the term “franchise player” you can ever find are Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning and Tim Duncan. LeBron too was going to be that guy in Cleveland before he took his talents to South Beach.
Peyton is now proving this point with his absence. The perennial power Colts are 0-7 and all they are missing is this one guy named Peyton Manning. How (franchise) player is that? May be Colts got a little older, may be some talent left, may be their offensive and defensive lines have regressed in ways that the average fan usually can’t detect, but there is no way this team is a sub-500 team with Manning, let alone a 0-7 team. That’s how great that guy is and quarterbacks are that important in the NFL. Not only is he affecting the Colts, he has single handedly destroyed NBC’s TV ratings twice already. They have had 2 unwatchable Sunday night games that they couldn’t get out of and those 2 would have been major “blockbusters” if only Manning was playing. The only positive coming out of this for the Colts fans may be that they luck into Luck – Andrew Luck.