Here’s what we know happened. In the eighth inning, with the score tied, Tony La Russa picked up the phone and asked for Marc Rzepczynski to begin warming up. But here’s where it gets tricky. That’s all bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist heard. But La Russa would say afterward that what he actually SAID was that to get Rzepczynski AND Jason Motte working… he then noticed that only Rzepczynski was warming up. He then picked up the phone and called Lilliquist again to get Motte working. Fortunately, we have a recording of that conversation:
La Russa: “Hey, I told you to warm up Motte.”
Lilliquist: “You want me to buy you a yacht?”
La Russa: “Yes, that’s right, warm up Motte.”
Lilliquist: “Where am I going to come up with that kind of money?”
La Russa: “I don’t think it’s funny at all. Warm up Motte.”
Lilliquist: “You see a swam of dots?”
La Russa: “Yes.”
Lilliquist: “Guess what?”
La Russa: “Hey, man, there’s a game going on here. Just do it, all right? We’ve got a game to win.
Lilliquist (to Lance Lynn): “Hey, start warming up.”
La Russa was already having an astonishingly bad day. Before the game would end, his team would give up three outs on sacrifice bunts and two more on impossibly stupid stolen base attempts—it’s not often that a manager (or his players; it would be said that one of the busted hit-and-runs was called by [Albert] Pujols) can take personal responsibility for five of the 27 outs. He also ordered an intentional walk that backfired*, and later brought in the aforementioned Lance Lynn to come in only to intentionally walk another batter. This day was the managing equivalent of the day the Principal had in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
*As all intentional walks should.
But as absurd and illogical and freaky as all that was, nothing touched the phone call nightmare. And, unlike many, I believe the phone call nightmare justification because it’s simply the most plausible of all the incredibly stupid explanations for what happened.