It has been over a week since Jason Izringhausen was last afforded the opportunity to come in and close out a win for the St. Louis Cardinals, and in the process inch himself ever closer to the illustrious 300-save mark. Yes, so illustrious that only 102 other guys have that many saves.
In that game, “Thin” Izzy was brought in to preserve a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Always reliable Ron Villone had done his job, promptly giving up a home run to a struggling Andruw Jones.
What? Isn’t that the lefty specialist Villone’s job? To come in for one batter and give up a home run – in this case Jones’ first since spring training? Well, maybe it just seems that way.
Anyhow, back to Izringhausen. Much to the wondering eyes of the 40,773 in attendance should appear, was another blown save and a whole lot of spilled beer.
And then out on the field, there arose such a clatter. There were boos and cursing as if something was the matter. So Tony La Russa sprang from the dugout before Izzy could face another batter.
Okay, ixnay on the ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ theme. But something interesting did happen when La Russa stepped on the field. All the boos directed toward Izringhausen suddenly stopped, and loud cheers took their place. I assume these cheers were for La Russa for removing the embattled closer from the game.
This is Jason Isringhausen we’re talking about. The guy with all of one save since May 5th. Not for a lack of opportunities though. Unfortunately, Isringhausen would have his coveted 300 saves if not for a slew of collapses between then and now.
Remember when Isringhausen was put on the disabled list a couple months ago? No matter what propaganda La Russa tries to purport, this move had more to do with his lack of performance than any real injury.
Then Izzy came back, and La Russa clearly stated that he would have to “earn” the closer’s role back, that the bullpen by committee would continue as it had in his absence until someone emerged from the pack. Izringhausen would be given save opportunities, but so would other relievers. If Izzy pitched well, he could get his closer’s job back.
So it stands to reason that after promptly blowing four more saves in a row, including a four-run debacle at Pittsburgh, that La Russa would proclaim Izringhausen King of the Bullpen once again. Clearly, he had earned it.
If you think this is all a bunch of malarkey, as I do, ask yourself this question. Why would anyone boo Isringhausen? He is simply doing what his manager tells him to do. It’s not his fault his career is over. What is he supposed to say, “Sorry skip, but I don’t really feel like I can do the job anymore. Maybe you should try someone else.”
No, that’s supposed to be the job of the manager, who is supposed to be able to recognize such things. So don’t boo poor Isringhausen, we all know he’s got nothing left in the tank. Instead, boo the stubborn, set-in-his-ways manager that keeps trotting him out there time after time and expecting different results. Why don’t you boo him, Cardinal Nation?
Izzy’s not the one making the decision to keep putting his tired, old carcass out on the mound in save situations. The Cardinals far and away lead the major leagues in blown saves with 27 at this point in time.
And there has sat Chris Perez this whole time, a lights-out closer since high school. One would think that with all the struggles of the thirty and forty-something club, Mr. Perez would have gotten a shot at finishing games before now. A real shot, not one of those Tony-La Russa-One-Mistake-and-You’re-Sent-Down kind of shots.
Never mind that Todd Worrell came up in 1985 and did a pretty good job as closer leading the Cardinals to the World Series, all Don Denkinger calls aside, then went on to win NL Rookie of the Year honors in 1986. Never mind that La Russa’s only World Championship as a Cardinal in 2006 came with three rookies at the end of games, setup men Tyler Johnson and Josh Kinney, and closer Adam Wainwright.
And without those three guys closing out nail biter after nail biter in the playoffs that year, the Cardinals don’t have a World Championship in the Tony La Russa era.
Of course, the only reason those rookies found themselves in such important roles was because of injuries. Sadly, it had nothing to do with La Russa’s ability to recognize talent in an unproven but promising player. He would probably rather take cyanide pills than entrust his bullpen to someone not old enough to be President.
You would think that the experience of 2006 would have some sort of effect on his outlook toward young relievers, but this is Tony La Russa we’re talking about. So instead of giving Perez a chance to close a few games and show what he can do while Izzy has been out this summer, La Russa was busy trotting out geezer after geezer and making excuses for why Perez wasn’t ready before he even got off the bus from Memphis.
Tell me something, oh Mulleted Mastermind, does Isringhausen seem “ready” to close to you at this point in time? Is Ryan Franklin ready? Is Ron Villone ready? Will any of these guys ever be ready? I think the answer to that one is a resounding “NO”.
Sure, Izzy had a fairly good year last season. But if you look at the number of base runners allowed per inning, you realize a lot of it was smoke and mirrors. It’s no surprise that those base runners have been scoring in bunches this year. Perez has the stuff to be a dominant closer, the kind of guy that nails the door shut emphatically.
Another guy that has been pretty lights out at AAA Memphis has been Jason Motte. The 26 year-old right-hander is cut from the same mold as Perez – a young, hard-throwing strikeout machine. Just the kind of guy La Russa hates. After all, if you’re striking guys out you’re not “pitching to contact”.
Currently, Motte sports a 4-2 record with a 2.91 ERA and an eye-popping 97 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. That’s basically like striking out two out of every three guys you face.
You would think that will all the struggles of our geriatric bullpen, a guy with numbers the likes of Motte would get the call to the big leagues to see what he could do. He couldn’t possibly be any worse than most of the guys we’ve had this year.
Then again, you would think Perez would have been given a chance to close long before now. Let’s see, the Cardinals have major league leading 27 blown saves, and currently trail the Cubs by 7 1/2 games.
You do the math. You would think an egghead like La Russa would have before now.