Yeah, I was tempted to use the old "The Giants Win the Pennant" headline but decided on something a little more obscure and more to the point, if a bit cloying.
Tony LaRussa. If I were a Cardinals fan I would be spitting that name out with vengeance in my eyes. Did this man cost the Cardinals the series? No. Did he do anything to help? No. LaRussa in his infinite wisdom stuck with Matt Morris through the middle innings and was rewarded. He stuck with him in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and left-handed-hitting Barry Bonds at the plate and was rewarded (who would expect more than from a pitcher than one run allowed in that situation?). But LaRussa should have thanked his lucky stars, pinch-hit for Morris who batted second in the top of the ninth, and had a well-rested Jason Isringhausen ready to go in the ninth.
By allowing Morris to bat, he was as much as admitting that he was playing for the tie on the road. This goes against conventional baseball wisdom. Morris came out in the ninth, got two quick outs, and then gave up a couple of hits. Steve Kline came in. Kenny Lofton jumped on his first offering and the game was over.
I feel bad for the Cardinals especially Scott Rolen because he is an ex-Phil and because he did not get an opportunity to play. I feel good for Lofton who bounced back finally after the so-called brushback pitch (he did over-react, but he came by it honestly and it seemed to get him out of his game for a few days) and for the great Barry Bonds. I also feel good for baseball. Baseball needs its great players in its finest showcase, and finally Bonds will be there.
I don't feel bad for the supercilious LaRussa. He knew better than to make the moves that he did. He knew that Morris should have been pulled after eight innings. He knew that taking 12 pitchers including two starters (Simotacchi and Stephenson) who did not appear in either postseason series was an ill-advised move. He knew that sticking Rolen on the roster even though he wouldn't be ready until at least the fifth game was doubly bad given that the bench was already depleted (basically the Cardinals played three players short this series with Rolen and the two unused starters). He bunted every chance he got, kept starters in too long, failed to pinch-hit when it was called for, etc. He flouted convention, thought he was above it, and he paid.
By the way, of those 12 pitchers that the Cardinals carried, no more than 5 ever pitched in one NLCS game. In fact only about 3-1/2 were used per game (game 1: 4 pitchers, game 2: 4, game 3: 5, game 4: 3, game 5: 2). Steve Kline appeared in four games and Rick White 3, but no other reliever appeared in more than 2 and the eight-man bullpen averaged less than two appearances each in the 6-day NLCS.