Over at Sports On Earth, Will Leitch masterfully summed up what has been a theme for the Cardinals over the course of the entire postseason, and something that has driven me absolutely crazy day in and day out.
Urgency. Or rather, lack thereof. Mike Matheny’s (and John Farrell’s) major flaw throughout this World Series.
Say what you will about sloppy play, unconventional finishes, or a combination of miscues that have led this World Series to look unlike any other we can remember. The takeaway for me, no matter which team ends up as World Champions, is about urgency. Or rather, lack thereof.
Without re-hashing Will’s (and so many others’) columns, or an entire segment of my show, I will try to explain why things SHOULD be different. Why this isn’t like any other series of baseball games. Why you never know when you might have the change to manage and play in the face of urgency again.
You’re now one loss away from it being over. From a winter in front of you and plenty of time to stew and thing and talk about “what if?”
That also means you’re one win away from extending the series. But what could have been if Matheny had channeled a little Tony LaRussa? Channeled some Joe Maddon? Channeled the moment, and managed like his team’s life depended on it?
It isn’t just the World Series. You can go back to the Pirates series. Not pinch-hitting for Joe Kelly in Pittsburgh in Game Three in the top of the fifth inning with none out and runners on first and second, trailing 2-0. Your best chance ALL YEAR to get to Francisco Liriano. You end up scoring two runs in the inning, but lose the game.
How about against Los Angeles? In Game Four in LA, your “faith” in Lance Lynn was rewarded, thanks to Don Mattingly inexplicably allowing Ricky Nolasco to bat with the bases loaded and two out in a scoreless game. You parlayed that into 5+ innings of Lance Lynn, although not exactly clean innings. Must have been taking a cue from the Dodgers dugout. Last starter out gets the win.
And against Boston, decisions again made in the face of the most urgent situation in all of baseball. In the face of the last seven (if that many) games of your season. Lance Lynn hits with runners on first and second in the bottom of the fourth in a Game 4 loss. Adam Wainwright gets ONE MORE batter. One more chance to get out of a jam.
One bad pitch. One bad swing. That’s all it takes. And your back can suddenly be against a wall.
Now, it may work out. Perhaps the Cardinals win this series, like they won the last two. Does that change the perception? Perhaps. It shouldn’t, but it might. Will it change the reality? It won’t. And that is maybe the most urgent situation of them all.