Even though it may be a part of the networks’ television contract with Major League Baseball, it is time to end the in-game coaches interviews.
In the early innings of Sunday night’s Game 2 of the National League Division Series from Philadelphia, viewers were shown the image of a visibly angry Tony La Russa stalking the St. Louis Cardinals dugout. The manager clearly did not like the strike zone being called by home plate umpire Jerry Meals.
In fact, La Russa made an unusual trip to the mound – likely to jaw at Meals, rather than offer wisdom to his struggling starter Chris Carpenter, going on short rest. The veteran skipper knew that was the best way to get his message across to the umpire given arguing balls and strikes is prohibited.
The obligatory in-game television interview followed shortly after, as the Cardinals were down 4-0. After having lost Game 1 as well, one could not expect the emotional La Russa to be wearing a happy face.
“I would add – which could get me in trouble, but I’m going to add anyway – is that we are pitching to two different strike zones,” La Russa said. “I guess for this club or any club, that’s an advantage you don’t want to give up.”
After the game, in which the Cardinals came back to win 5-4, La Russa was asked to explain further.
“Well, I don’t think there’s a manager around, coach, that doesn’t watch the game and think about how you want it to be,” La Russa said. “You know, we care. I care, our team cares, and it’s not a great comment to make, but I was upset.
“I’ve never had a problem with Jerry before, ever. The only thing I had a problem with – one of the things, you go out there, whatever the strike zone is, it makes no difference to us, we’ll adjust to it. That was my only point. He had to figure out what the strike zone was,” the manager concluded.
By the camera having been thrust upon him while he was still angry, La Russa was put on the spot. Because he spoke openly about his concern, he could end up being fined. Other repercussions are also possible, though more difficult to assess.
In the post-game show on TBS, former Cardinals closer Dennis Eckersley was very vocal in his view that La Russa was working the umpires and seemed to have been successful. Eck was neither surprised nor upset about it, and in fact, offered praise.
TBS analyst David Wells was less sure, wondering out loud if the umpires may take exception. Noting the arbiters do not like being shown up, the ex-Yankees pitching star wondered if they might remember this when calling Game 3 in St. Louis on Tuesday.
La Russa always takes these in-game interviews himself, in contrast to some managers. For example, on Sunday, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel sent his pitching coach, Rich Dubee, in front of the camera instead.
But it doesn’t matter who it is, the La Russa episode is a reminder that interviews are best held before and after the game, rather than during the heat of battle.