Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sacrifice Bunt Hailed As Another Example Of LaRussa's "Genius"

St. Louis, MO. (Sept. 11) - Although it had no bearing on the outcome of the game, and therefore did not prevent the Chicago Cubs from defeating the St. Louis Cardinals, a sacrifice bunt called for by Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa Wednesday night was roundly hailed as the latest example of the longtime skipper's "genius."

"Just when you think you've got the hang of this managing thing, Tony does something like that to remind you why he's Tony LaRussa and you're not," Cubs manager Lou Piniella, himself a veteran manager but not as smart as LaRussa, said in the aftermath of the game, won by the Cubs, 4-3.

The brilliant move came in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Cardinals trailing, 4-1. Sensing his team's offensive sluggishness, LaRussa called for what some baseball observers have described in various terms as a move that was "bold," "daring", and "damn-the-torpedoes" when he signaled for a bunt to be laid down by pinch-hitter Brian Barden.

Runners were on first and second with one out when LaRussa, through a series of hand gestures that the observers said were "dizzying yet precise", signaled for Barden, a 27-year-old just called up from the minors, to execute the bunt.

"I didn't think the bunt was coming because there was already one out," Piniella said afterward, simultaneously admitting his lack of baseball intellect when compared to LaRussa's. "Because even if it was successful, there'd be two outs and they (the Cardinals) hadn't done well in two-out situations all night," Piniella added, further illustrating his stupidity when his mind is up against LaRussa, who has infinite baseball brain power.

Barden squared to bunt as the Busch Stadium crowd gasped. The first pitch from Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly was high and outside. Undaunted, LaRussa again went through a series of gestures, adding such wrinkles as gently tugging his left earlobe, brushing his fingers across his chest, and tapping his nose intermittently.

"That stuff had me reeling," Piniella said of the gestures and non-verbal signals. "I look at Tony and he's doing all this stuff," Piniella said as he tried, futilely, to mimic the gestures to reporters, "and I'm thinking, something bad is about to happen to us, and by extension, to me personally."

The second pitch from Lilly, who appeared slightly rattled, was delivered. Barden again squared to bunt, but then, at the last moment, pulled his bat back even though the pitch was a perfect strike.

"I almost threw up," Piniella said of LaRussa's apparent strategy of having Barden alternately showing bunt and reneging.

Finally, on Lilly's third pitch, which was simply lobbed to the plate because the left-hander was too discombobulated to throw anything else, Barden laid down the bunt, which was described by witnesses as being "good."

Cubs catcher Geovany Soto was able to shake himself from his stupor -- an act that Piniella called "courageous beyond belief" -- and leapt from his catcher's crouch. Soto then pounced on the dribbling baseball, picked it up, and threw to first baseman Derrek Lee, who some say had a "stunned, faraway look" in his eyes, but who was still able to catch the throw from Soto.

The incredibly smart LaRussa weighs the effects of his thinking, moments before terrorizing the Cubs with a sacrifice bunt in the 8th inning of Wednesday's game

The bunt, successful, put runners on second and third with two outs.

"If this was football or basketball, I'd have called a timeout," Piniella said. "You know, to gather ourselves and to make sure we didn't lose our composure."

Instead, Piniella wanted to at least go to the mound to talk to Lilly and his infielders, but found himself "anchored to the bench with fear."

"I simply could not move. I was truly helpless at that point," Piniella said, his voice wavering, clearly not soothed by his team's eventual victory.

Lilly managed to gather himself to face the next batter, Cesar Izturis, and despite his "heart pounding out of his chest", according to Lilly, the pitcher retired Izturis with a flyball to center field.

"My legs were like spaghetti when that inning was over with," Piniella said, a shaky hand reaching for a post-game cup of water. "I'm sorry," he added, excusing himself from his office, leaving reporters to their own devices.

LaRussa, according to team spokesman Louis Harrison, had no comment about the bunt.

"Tony doesn't talk about why he does things, mainly because none of you would understand anyway," Harrison said. "You're all dumb. Baseball dumb."

Too intimidated mentally to argue, the group of reporters all nodded knowingly. One was heard saying, "That's why LaRussa's a genius and we're the idiots writing about him."

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