There is no All-Star Game as magical as baseball's Midsummer Classic, especially when the manager is Tony LaRussa. LaRussa did not disappoint, as there were many classic Tony elements to the game:
When you're managing the All-Star Game in a National League park, there is an added challenge to dealing with the bloated, 32-man roster, due to the absence oft he designated hitter. However, the main benefit to a double-switch is that it allows a team to avoid or delay a weak-hitting pitcher's plate appearance. In an All-Star game, pitchers only bat if there's an unusually long first-inning rally. In addition, LaRussa only used each pitcher for single inning.
What was the real benefit to the excessive double-switching? For one, it showed America that Tony LaRussa is a strategic genius. It also screwed over anyone foolish enough to try and keep score of the All-Star Game. I used to be quite passionate about scoring baseball games when I was little, even as young as age five. Though I was to young to stay up past the sixth inning, I insisted that my father complete the scorecard. The 1986 Game was a classic for me and headache for my dad, as he had to both shoehorn in extra names into the tiny space available, as well as figure out how to score an eighth inning featuring a passed ball, a balk, and a strikeout victim reaching first on a wild pitch.
2. Refusing to use his powerful pinch-hitters
The ninth inning ended with the bases loaded and Aaron Rowand at the plate. Aaron Rowand?!? Albert Pujols, still one of the most feared hitters in baseball even during a down year, could only watch from the bench. I assumed Pujols had an unreported injury, but no, Tony was making sure the team was prepared for extra innings that never came. It's not an unprecedented situation for Tony.
In the 2000 playoffs, the St. Louis Cardinals had a loaded team, including a hobbled Mark McGwire. McGwire couldn't run the bases, but he could pinch-hit. To maximize his value, LaRussa had to find a high-leverage pinch-hitting situation where McGwire could not be walked intentionally. LaRussa failed. In two games, McGwire never got off the bench. In another, McGwire got up to pinch-hit after a double, at which point he was walked intentionally. McGwire finished the series 0-for-2 with a walk, and St. Louis lost in five games.
3. Wearing his cap like a dork.
Just like always.
(Baseball posts will now be simulcast over at Humm Bloggy.)