Follow-up

In my email today, I received an interesting and fair criticism about my response to the Jason Isringhausen question in this week’s mailbag. The main thing the reader/writer called me on is for saying I was "tired of" an issue that is clearly a major issue to fans. And you know what? No doubt about it, that’s a perfectly fair criticism.

So I thought about it, and I responded. But I also realized that that one reader probably isn’t the only one who had that reaction. So here’s the explanation/clarification/etc.

What I’m tired of isn’t the issue itself. It’s a legitimate issue, though as I’ve said before, I think the current bullpen setup is the way to go. Doesn’t mean I’m right, it’s just what I think. What I’m tired of is that every single time Isringhausen has a bad game, I get a ton of emails about it, and they tend to be extremely angry — "He’s terrible, he’s got to go."

I even get things like, "There’s no way the Cardinals will make the playoffs with him as closer." Well, they’re 3 games up now with him, so why won’t that stand? I get things like, "every time he comes in a game, they lose." Well, that’s obviously nowhere near true.

But I don’t get a ton of emails about every time Jeff Weaver has a bad game. Or Jason Marquis has a bad game. Or Yadier Molina goes 0-for-4. And so I think there’s a lot of scapegoating going on. I think people look at Isringhausen in games when there were a lot of other things that contributed to a loss. If that makes me a shameless apologist or something, so be it. But the point isn’t so much that Isringhausen is having a great year, but rather that I don’t think it’s fair for him to get so much of the blame.


He hasn’t had a great year; that’s no secret. But I think a big segment of the fan base is making him out to be the only problem with this team, when every starting pitcher but one has taken a step back from last year — to name just one issue.

I think Isringhausen has been blown into a far bigger issue than he should be, and I think a lot of people have been angry and irrational about a situation that’s no bigger than several others. I don’t hear the same anger about Marquis/Weaver/Mulder. I don’t hear the same anger about Molina having regressed at the plate, rather than improving. The only guy I hear this absolute rage about is Isringhausen. But he’s trying just as hard as anybody else. He agonizes just as much as anybody else. If you cut the other guys a break for effort, then he deserves one too.

Nobody’s wrong to say, "Hey, maybe there are
other options in the ninth." But don’t pretend that that would be a
cure-all. And don’t think that it’s as simple as just using somebody else in the ninth next time out. Because as much as I’m a believer that the closer’s role is overstated, there’s also the simple fact that one of the manager’s jobs is dealing with people and managing his clubhouse. It’s just not as simple, not as black-and-white, as the emails I get would suggest.

And that, friends, is why I’m tired of the topic.

-M.

9 Comments

Very good point, Matthew.
I agree 100%, even though I’m not an Izzy fan, you’re right.

B

Yes you’re right Matthew. The closer is an easy scapegoat & I’m guilty of the same thing. Izzy has been outstanding in past seasons and when I go to Busch to see him, he always closes the job. He’s not the only one struggling, but I think because he’s a bullpen guy and plays less than the rotation and position players, I could see how others could point him out when they are leading at the end of the game. It’s a team game and Pujols has said many times they lose as a team. But how much longer do we let those things slide? Molina batting 200, Mulder’s rush to horrible starts, the starting rotation not lasting but 4 or 5 innings, and of course Izzy blowing a few games. I think the hostility is necessary across the board. They are great competitors and we as fans need to keep a lit fire under their rusty dusty, even if it occasionally comes off as too quick or too harsh.

The reason Izzy gets alot of the heat and not Weaver, Marquis, Mulder, Molina is the nature of the position. Closers are brought in to finish the game for their team who has given them the lead. If Molina exclusively played to save his team with one at bat, or the 3 starters Leach mentioned existed to save the team by facing a rotation 3-4 times then ML’s beef would be legit-we shouldn’t blame Izzy.

Closers by nature are the easiest to criticize: their job really can lose games. Molina going 0-4 and a starter earning 5 runs doesn’t necessarily equal a loss (becuase other offense can pick them up). With a 3 out situation with a lead, the closer’s flop does equal a loss.

That said, there is plenty of criticism for other guys (Mulder, Molina, etc.) But the criticism is of a different nature. Teams don’t always lose by one guy’s mistakes. But they often do lose by a closer’s. It’s just that some fans choose to focus on the closer. It’s okay to admit that we would be in a litte better shape if 9 saves weren’t blown. But come on, no closer is perfect and if the redbirds had the perfect closer they would still have the woeful 2-5 starting position problems, the periodic hitting slumps of the middle lineup, the LOB problem, etc. So it’s fair to cricize Izzy for what Izzy does (or doesn’t do), but crazy to think the birds would be fine if Izzy had 40 saves vs 31.

Matthew, I have read the earlier post and dont feel that there is need for hostilities. As far as Izzy is concerned, he is way down on the list of people I would blame for the Cards current performance. Sure he hasnt done as well as other years but still is 4th in saves in the NL. There are alot of clubs that dream of a closer of his caliber. I’ve seen several mention the bullpen is weak. If the starters could pull their on weight the bullpen would also improve.
As stated in another post, Mulder came back too early and isn’t up to same level that made him the best lefty since 2001, but I see very little complants about him. Jeff Weaver is like many pitchers and has a hard time in the early innings but he too is gaining confidence and improving. Suppan is getting back to normal at this time of year which is really needed. Marquis need to pitch to his abilities, which he hasn’t consistantly done since he became a Cardinal. Carpenter is Carpenter, but think back to when he was released by Toronto because he wasnt getting it done.

We have a real hard time hitting left handers recently. It’s been feast or famine form game to game.

I love this team and always have(since’68) and always will. I remember the not so good years in the ’70s. I think Walt and Tony will find a way to get to the post season and hopefully it it all. We are number 2 in number of world series titles. If the unthinkable happens and we don’t get there I will been here and on XM next year supporting the Cards, and of course yelling that the TV, Radio, or Computer. GO CARDS in 2006!!!

I think Isrighausen is the root of the Cardinals problems. Nothing against him personally, but 10 blown saves and 7 losses add up to a sloppy record. Imagine where the birds would be if he did his job on HALF of those 17 games?

I realize they won’t get much for him on the open market, but paying this guy $8+ million a year for this kind of performance is ridiculous.

He is the difference between being three games up as opposed to being up to 17 games up this late in the year. If the Cardinals don’t make the playoffs, they should put a huge bulls-eye on Isrighausen’s back.

I’m not going to add anything about the nature of the closer role that hasn’t already been said. It’s obviously important for a contending team to have a strong closer. ML’s comment in the mailbag that Izzy’s been good since about the beginning of June is nonsense though. Just look up the stats. He’s been in 32 games since June 2nd, with 21 save opportunities. Of those 21 chances he’s blown 7, or 1/3 of the time. He also has 5 losses in that period. That’s good? Izzy’s not gettting the job done and others need to be given a shot. I have a hard time imagining Looper would be worse. If they can’t get anything done this season, in the off-season it has to be addressed for next year.

I agree that Izzy is not the only problem, and I have been as critical of him as anyone. And right now he, unfortunate as it may be, is the best option in the ninth. The reason for all the heat is because he only has 1 job, and that is to get 3 outs in one inning. That is his ONLY responsibility on this team. And he gets paid over 8 million dollars a year to do it. True other players have struggled, but the fact remains if the Cards get to the ninth with a lead his ONLY job is to hold it. It doesn’t matter who didn’t do well on a given night. If Weaver/Marquis/Mulder give up nine runs on a night but the Cards score 10 and have a one run lead in the 9th, that is a game they should win. If Carp gives up 2 hits and has a shutout in the ninth, but the offense has only managed one run, that is a game they should win. It doesn’t matter whether the starting pitching or the offense struggled on a given night, if they get to the ninth with a lead that should be a W. Last week at the Mets was a perfect example. Yes, Weaver squandered a big lead, but that doesn’t change the fact that if Izzy does his one and only job they still win the game. I am not saying Izzy has to be perfect, nobody expects that, but 10 blown saves is a little much. Especially for 8.5mil a year. If he only blows 5 saves the Cards have an 8 game cushion. As it is they are in a dogfight so everything Izzy does or doesn’t do is magnified, that is why he takes the heat. I don’t know what is wrong with him but right now every player and fan has to be terrified every time he comes in the game. Even when he saves one, he has to either put the go ahead run on base, or bring it to the plate. And if the Cards are going to make the playoffs and advance, Izzy has to become more dependable.

OK, I’ll get off Isrighausen’s case for a minute. Let’s talk about LaRussa’s decisions. The other night against the Cubs, it was obvious Weaver had given all he had for 6 innings, and was leading 6-4.

In the bottom of the sixth, he sends Weaver to the plate with one on, one out, instead of lifting him for a pinch hitter. Weaver strikes out. THEN, he sends Weaver out for the 7th and he promptly gives up a hit, and then gets pulled. Cubs eventually tie the game up, only to be rescued by Bennett later on.

Weaver can’t go beyond 6 innings. You know it, I know it, LaRussa knows it. So WHY didn’t he pinch hit in the 6th and worse yet, send him out for the 7th. Weaver is nototiously unreliable, particularly after 5 innings.

Eccentric managing……….

Total agreement with your assessment of the Izzy situation. I am mystified by the reaction to Izzy. He’s not had his best year, but few others have. I tend to blame the starter who blows a big lead, or the hitters like Molina [my favorite scapegoat]who are ineffective.

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