Who’s at the center of Series snafu? A former Brave, naturally

"Maybe I shoulda borrowed Bobby Cox's iPhone." (AP photo)

"Maybe I shoulda borrowed Bobby Cox's iPhone." (AP photo)

We all know that the Braves have no equals when it comes to finding ways not to win postseason games. Call the roll: Lonnie Smith dallies at second base; Jeff Reardon is undone by Ed Sprague; Mark Wohlers throws a slider to Jim Leyritz; Bobby Cox starts a Class AAA lineup in Games 3 and 6 of the 1998 NLCS; Kyle Farnsworth yields two home runs in one appearance against Houston; Brooks Conrad commits three errors on one dark night against San Fran.

That said, even the Braves never messed up a game as completely as the Cardinals — who, as we’re aware, surged from 8 1/2 games behind on Sept. 5 to shade these Braves for the wild card — did last night.

The game’s key at-bat featured a game who throws with the wrong arm (in this case, his left) facing a hitter who destroys lefthanders, and even before Marc Rzepcynski had delivered his first pitch to Mike Napoli the guys on the Rangers’ radio crew were going wild over Tony La Russa not having a righthander ready. (I choose to listen to the local feeds on Sirius XM because of two words — Tim McCarver. And the Rangers’ crew of Eric Nadal and Steve Busby is very good.)

Why didn’t La Russa have a righthander ready to face Napoli? Because La Russa said afterward, he’d called down to the bullpen twice asking that closer Jason Motte, a righty, start warming, and twice the request had gone unheard. Said La Russa:

“They heard ‘Rzepczynski’ and they didn’t hear ‘Motte,’ and when I looked up there, Motte wasn’t going. [Later] I called back and said ‘Motte,’ and they heard [righty Lance] ‘Lynn.’ So I went out there, wrong guy. [Lynn] is not going to pitch today …”

Apparently it was loud in Rangers Ballpark as the home team was rallying to take the lead. Apparently it’s impossible to see the visiting bullpen from the visiting dugout. Whatever the case, the whole thing went so badly wrong that La Russa — who’s generally considered one of the game’s best, if sometimes excessive, strategists — wound up with the worst possible matchup at the worst possible time and then, just to add excess to error, had to order Lynn, the righty who did show up to pitch (albeit late), to walk a hitter intentionally just so the correct righthander could be summoned. Amazing.

And who, you’re asking, is the Cardinals’ bullpen coach? Who’s charged with answering the phone when it rings? Why, none other than Derek Lilliquist, the former Georgia Bulldog pitcher whom Cox, then the Braves’ GM, made the sixth overall pick in the 1987 amateur draft. Lilliquist and Chris Carpenter — not the same Chris Carpenter who started Game 5 for the Cardinals — had just led UGA to the College World Series. (For the record, Lilliquist was — and presumably still is — left-handed.)

Along with Pete Smith, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, Lilliquist was one of the Braves’ original Young Guns. (Steve Avery came along a bit later.) Lilliquist went 10-18 in two seasons with the big club and was traded to San Diego in 1990 for reliever Mark Grant, whose claim to fame as a Brave was in posing for a photo sequence in this newspaper demonstrating how to do the Tomahawk Chop.

Lilliquist was done as a player by 1996, having compiled a career record of 25-34 for five different teams. He has worked in the Cardinals’ organization since 2002. This is his first season on the big-league staff. And now he’ll be known as the guy who couldn’t handle the difficult task of answering the telephone.

Although it must be said that not many among the attending media were taking La Russa’s explanation at face value. Here, from Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is a roundup of national disbelief. So maybe poor Derek Lilliquist will, not to put too fine a point on it, be left off the hook.

By Mark Bradley

92 comments Add your comment

Dawgitty

October 25th, 2011
11:50 am

Blarg! I guess they need texting to the bullpen, not an 80’s style phone

MightyQuinn

October 25th, 2011
11:50 am

Could it be that I’m…..

MightyQuinn

October 25th, 2011
11:51 am

Well. guess I’m not….its that kind of day!

Step Further

October 25th, 2011
11:52 am

Hey Bradley, when are you going to do another satirical piece about the Braves?

You know, along the same lines as that one you did a few days ago when you said the Braves were close to being in a World Series?

Matt

October 25th, 2011
11:52 am

That’s an utterly ridiculous and inexcusable mistake to make, especially in the World Series. Unbelievable.

Matt for MN

October 25th, 2011
11:54 am

Thanks, Mark, for dredging up all those painful memories of Braves post-season chokes gone by. I could have done without that this morning.

Don

October 25th, 2011
12:00 pm

If we want to talk about an UNBELIEVABLE SNAFU –
WHAT ABOUT the Braves in the Six or Seven years since Leo left as the Pitching Coach – having a situatin in which ALMOST EVERY STARTING PITCHER THAT THEY HAVE HAD IN THE ROTATION for those Six or Seven years becomming INJURED at some point – and THEY STILL DO NOT MAKE A CHANGE IN PITCHING COACHES.
EVERYTHING ELSE (who they acquire, who they bring up, how good their hitters are, how good their defense is) EVERYTHING ELSE IS MEANINGLESS AS LONG AS THEY CONTINUE WITH THIS SITUATION.
Right now the three young Starting Pitchers (JJ, Hanson, and Medlin) who should have formed the core for a great rotation for years to come — ARE ALL INJURED – and who knows if they will ever come back and be really effective again.

Joe Buck

October 25th, 2011
12:01 pm

Tim McCarver is the worst announcer of all time, slightly worse than Joe Morgan. Now that’s bad!!

MightyQuinn

October 25th, 2011
12:03 pm

If the Cards come back and win this thing, maybe they can laugh about it by doing a “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me NOW?” commercials. It would be perfect. But only if they win the Series. Also, can’t help but wonder if privately Bobby Cox was laughing his retired butt off.

dean

October 25th, 2011
12:06 pm

This morning, around 5:30am, I was listening to La Russa’s explanation. Having only been awake 10 minutes or less, I thought I wasn’t hearing very well. After hearing his explanation a second time I’ve come to the conclusion that he must be telling the truth because he couldn’t make it up. Baseball: You never know what kind of goofy stuff is gonna happen next.

sane dawg

October 25th, 2011
12:06 pm

Bradley and his worms at the AJC and the Atlanta media just love bashing the Bulldogs, don’t they? Journalism died a while back, and remains dead.

Herschel Talker

October 25th, 2011
12:09 pm

Step Further:

Well said. What a joke that piece was. Until we get rid of Fredi the Fool, we are NOWHERE near a world series.

HT

Jerry Willard

October 25th, 2011
12:17 pm

I can’t believe it!! Mark Bradley and I are on the same page about something!! Tim McCarver is horrible..

submariner

October 25th, 2011
12:43 pm

Another Tim McCarver hater! I thought I was the only one! I never turn up the volume because I can’t stand listening to that dude! Where’s Deon with the champaigne when you need him? Now that would be a great Direct TV commercial!!

B-Fan

October 25th, 2011
12:46 pm

Tim McCarver is one of the worst announcers. He’s right down there with Chip Carey.

dr henry augusta

October 25th, 2011
12:51 pm

No Joe Buck – McCarver is worse than Morgan. At lest Morgan got us in the playoffs in 82……McCarver has never done anything except ‘ Beat Dead Horses’ . His going on and on and on about a mute point lends me to watch the game with no sound

Tony

October 25th, 2011
12:59 pm

Again the loon from the Urinal Constipation writes at the middle school level. Who gives a Darn that the loon dislikes McCarver? This “man” actually gets paid to write this drivel?

rich

October 25th, 2011
1:01 pm

Agree Dawgitty….with all the technology available, the best baseball can come up with for summoning the bullpen is a phone???probably rotary at that

rich

October 25th, 2011
1:02 pm

McCarver is so bad, it make you appreciate what Neon Deion did

Dawglasville

October 25th, 2011
1:04 pm

Dang Mark, 17 hits in an hour and a half. Guess no one is feeling baseball. Write something about Richt or Johnson.

SimpleDawg

October 25th, 2011
1:05 pm

La Russa must’ve been talking in tongues….

…..none of the names mentioned sound even remotely alike.

Lumpkin

October 25th, 2011
1:17 pm

McCarver is so lame; what the h— does Fox see in him??

B-Fan

October 25th, 2011
1:18 pm

rich October 25th, 2011 1:02 pm
McCarver is so bad, it make you appreciate what Neon Deion did

McCarver (drenched with ice water): “You’re a real man, Deion!”

One of Deion’s most classic moves.

vagabondking

October 25th, 2011
1:22 pm

Hey dr henry augusta, What is a mute point?

smyrnabob

October 25th, 2011
1:24 pm

bro

October 25th, 2011
1:24 pm

Send a runner to the bullpen if you don’t know if they heard you. Excuses really suck at a time such as this. Maybe LaRussa needs a good lawyer.

AtlantaNative62

October 25th, 2011
1:25 pm

My respect for you just went up 10-fold! (Don’t get cocky, it started at 1 on a scale of 100). Tim McCarver literally hurts my ears! I actually turned last night’s game off in the 7th because I just couldn’t take him anymore! How does he keep that job?!?!?!?!

DDPO

October 25th, 2011
1:28 pm

I guess that the Rangers Bullpen has AT&T!

drive by blogger

October 25th, 2011
1:40 pm

If only Tony had the “AT&T Call to the Bullpen”…

Innocent Bystander

October 25th, 2011
1:42 pm

“warm up motte plz”

“o and ripe cyst skis too”

“wait *rzepcynski* – autocorrect lol”

“wtf lynn

Ted M

October 25th, 2011
1:42 pm

LaRussa is not telling the truth.

Innocent Bystander

October 25th, 2011
1:46 pm

“warm up motte plz”

“o and ripe cyst skis too”

“wait *rzepcynski* – autocorrect lol”

“wtf lynn? IBB k? lol u mad?”

“o hey motte. K thx bye lynn”

Where's McCarver, where's McCarver...

October 25th, 2011
1:52 pm

…you’re a real man, Deon….

Where's McCarver, where's McCarver...

October 25th, 2011
1:54 pm

spam filter is not working correctly…

muting the TV

October 25th, 2011
1:57 pm

Seriously Mark – does Tim M. know something on someone at FOX – why in the world would FOX have him on TV – he is the most annoying announcer ever.

anotherdawg

October 25th, 2011
2:07 pm

The only Tim McCarver appearance I’ve ever enjoyed watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p8mXc4pfAo

Deion Sanders

October 25th, 2011
2:10 pm

Hey Bradley,
It was a pretty good one I got on McCarver in the playoffs when I dumped the bucket of water on him when he was all wired up!
We might not have won that game, but damn I got McCarver good.
Nobody talks smack about me playing for the Falcons and the Braves on the same day and gets away with it. Punk arse McCarver.

Matt

October 25th, 2011
2:13 pm

I’ve always wondered why they don’t build stadiums to have the bullpen as an extension of the dugout (with a fence or something separating them to keep errant throws from hitting people) instead of putting the bullpen in the outfield or something.

extremus

October 25th, 2011
2:14 pm

At least when huge blunders like this are made during a championship-caliber event, the teams and managers can take some comfort in the fact that most of the fans of the other 20 to 30-plus teams are off doing other things with our time and are blissfully unaware. Maybe THAT’S why so many folks around the country don’t understand the cynicism that surrounds the Atlanta pro sports fanbase; they weren’t as invested as we were during all those heartbreaks.

Dr. Phil

October 25th, 2011
2:20 pm

Mark, you are a little hard on Lilliquist and too kind regarding McCarver, and, I might add, Buck. I didn’t like Buck’s dad, and I don’t like Jr. I don’t care that much for Deion Sanders either, but I loved it when he dumped the ice on McCarver.

My favorite call to the bullpen...

October 25th, 2011
2:25 pm

Was when Casey Stengal had two righthanders warming up for the Mets and got to the mound to make the change. He could not see the bullpen and so he couldn’t point to which pitcher he wanted but he knew he wanted Bob Moorhead. So he stood facing the bullpen and held his hands over his head making a sign of “morehead”. priceless!

dtanner

October 25th, 2011
2:25 pm

i agree with you mark 100% on hte tim mccarver comment,can’t blieve they have had this old fool on the air over 20 years now,i remember this idiot calling the “91 braves twins world series

kappellmeister

October 25th, 2011
2:27 pm

LOL at the Tim McCarver point. Buddy of mine loves him ‘cuz of his MLB pedigree, but I cannot stand his broadcasting. Almost as bad as listening to Joe Morgan on ESPN constantly saying when a guy fouls a pitch straight back that he is ‘as close as you can get to a homerun’ without hitting one. What the #*&% is THAT supposed to mean? Would it not be true that a fly ball to center, or even a popup to the pitcher, would be actually closer to hitting it out of the park? I mean, I hate to bring up tings like logic and physics, but c’mon people.

dr bob

October 25th, 2011
2:37 pm

A “mute” point must be one that is silent and requires assumption.
I could not agree more with those who find Mr. McCarver objectionable. I find him arrogant, condescending, paternalistic and a general bore. I, too, mute the TV and watch. I find it much like being at the ballpark only a bit more comfortable. Deion is the “man” and McCarver the dupe.

country boy

October 25th, 2011
2:41 pm

Hello Marky boy. Ditto on lousy Tim McCarver. The only other announcer I hate to hear even more is slurring, stammering, mindless Lou Holtz of college football.

b

October 25th, 2011
2:57 pm

That Carpenter at UGA is spelled Cris.
And the commentator at Fox that annoys me is the host on pregame, Chris?
He just doesn’t sound like he belongs on a baseball broadcast.

James

October 25th, 2011
3:11 pm

Mark,

How about that shortstop playing for Texas that the Braves exchanged for that rental player.We could sure use him right now.

DawgDad

October 25th, 2011
3:14 pm

Yeah, I wondered what was going on there, and La Russa was a bit puffed on the first failed hit-and-run, too (comatose after the second). A series of bad breaks for the Birds there, but let’s face it, Texas is a good team, and this has been a very enjoyable World Series.

From the Cardinals perspective this series is all gravy. There’s a lot of character on that team, though, and I don’t see them going down quietly in a sea of red.

Redneck Bill from Trailerville

October 25th, 2011
3:14 pm

Well, Marge woke me up from what we call my Unemployment Nap to say Bradley had another post up and it involved baseball. So where’s Sonny Clusters? There had better be a Sonny Clusters post soon and it better have a story about Stinky Wintes.

DawgDad

October 25th, 2011
3:20 pm

Think Miklasz is just a bit over the top in that article? Well, that’s been his MO for years.