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Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Failure To Communicate - Game 5 of The 2011 World Series

Communication…funny thing about it is, you never know how important it is until you don’t have it.   Arguably, two of the greatest inventions that have propelled mankind through the years have been the telephone and the internet.  Both technological breakthroughs that have changed the way we live.  At the core of our existence is the ability to communicate a message, a directive, an emotion to someone.  How many times have you heard a relationship end, and the reason… “We Just Don’t Seem To Communicate Anymore!” In every Business Strategy brief there is a section on the importance for CLEAR and CONCISE COMMUNICATION.  Think about how many times you have said to a co-worker, “I wish there was better communication between the departments,” or “if only my boss had told me exactly what they wanted, it would have saved a lot of time and energy.”    

The 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers has seen its share of strong pitching – see Rangers’ starting pitcher Derek Holland in Game 4…Record Tying Hitting - see Cardinals first baseman Albert Puljos in Game 3…and clutch performances – see Rangers’ catcher Mike Napoli in Game 4 and Game 5.  Yet, the 2011 Fall Classic might be remembered best for Game 5 and the breakdown in communication between a manager and his bullpen.  By now, we have all heard the story about the Cardinals bullpen’s inability to hear the instructions from manager Tony LaRussa (twice LaRussa called the bullpen and instructed them to get closer Jason Motte ready to come in) resulting in the manager’s decision to stick with relief pitcher, lefthander Marc Rzepczynski to face the hot hitting (and Series MVP candidate) Ranger Mike Napoli with the winning runs on in the 8th inning.  Napoli, a righty hitter, took Rzepczynski deep to right field and drove in two runs.  Texas won 4 to 2 and are one game away from winning the franchises first World Series title.  (For the record, lefty hitters batted .165 against Rzepczynski in 2011 regular season.  Righty hitters batted .275).  Would you want Rzepczynski facing the hottest hitting righty in the Rangers lineup with the game and possibly the series on the line?

Could the noise from the Texas Ranger’s fans be so loud that the bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist  didn’t hear LaRussa say “get Jason Motte ready” and instead, heard “get Lance Lynn ready."   Could the bullpen coach be so focused that he is not watching the game situation unfold before him, and understand the match up between left hander Rzepczynski and right hand hitter Napoli.  Wouldn’t one think that LaRussa, pitching coach Dave Duncan, and bullpen coach Lilliquist  go over who would they want pitching in certain game situations during their pregame meeting?  (According to LaRussa, it had been determined prior to Game 5 that relief pitcher Lance Lynn would not be pitching in the game due to his workload in Game 4.) 

It’s been stated that some of the pitchers in the Cardinals bullpen were aware of the situation that was unfolding, yet didn’t feel it was their place to say anything.  LaRussa does the thinking, and the players do the playing.  Sometimes not being able to communicate is just as bad as the wrong communication.

Whatever the reason…the noise from a home team crowd that is starving for a World Series championship, a bullpen coach who can’t understand the difference between the names Motte and Lynn, a misunderstanding between a manager and his relievers or a mental lapse from a manager who is known for his focus and discipline…Game 5 and the 2011 World Series may be the first Fall Classic that was decided not because of one team’s sub par pitching or lack of hitting, but because of poor communication.  And if you're a Cardinals fan, that's got to be tough to hear. 

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