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i don't think kenny rogers' cheating is the main reason the cardinals lost. he only had that foreign substance on his hand for one inning; he pitched the last seven with no evident enhancements and held the cardinals to one base hit in that time. indeed, the cards' best threat against rogers came in the only inning in which we know he had the means to load the ball up. it may be alleged that he continued to load it up after the 1st inning, and that he simply stashed the slop elsewhere (back of the hat; inside the glove); but that can't be proven. the simpler explanation is that he suffocated the cardinals for the same reason tom glavine did in game 1 of the nlcs, and darren oliver did in game 3, and oliver perez did in game 7, and the likes of scott mathieson and carlos villanueva did in the regular season: he's left-handed. he didn't have to cheat. i think he beat the cards on the merits.

having said that, he could and should have been ejected from the game. erik posted the pertinent rule in the overflow thread last night:

Rule 8.02
The pitcher shall not --
(b) Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section, the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game. In addition, the pitcher shall be suspended automatically for 10 games.
this rule has been applied in the postseason before -- game 3 of the 1988 nlcs, when dodger closer jay howell was found to have pine tar on his glove while on the mound. that last phrase -- "while on the mound" -- is the key: the umps would have to find the incriminating evidence while the pitcher was on the mound. la russa didn't ask for an inspection while rogers was still on the mound in the top of the first, for reasons unclear; matt leach has a pretty good summary of how things unfolded. it's possible tony wasn't sure rogers was loading up until after rogers had left the diamond at the end of the first; it's also possible that la russa considered it more sportsmanlike -- and less embarrassing to jim leyland -- not to force rogers from the game but rather to make him pitch it unassisted. maybe he preferred challenging his players to hold rogers accountable themselves -- remove the pitcher's illicit advantage and beat him in a fair fight -- over tattle-taleing to the umpires and introducing a sideshow element into the proceedings. we'll never know, because la russa refused to discuss the matter at all in the postgame interview room. but read between the lines of leach's article: la russa "didn't want to discuss it, lest he come off as a sore loser." if discussing the matter would have made him look like a sore loser, i guess tony was sore about it.

i can accept that rogers beat the cardinals fair and square after the 1st inning. but i also believe cheaters don't belong on the field during the world series, period. rogers only got the opportunity to compete after an unnecessarily indulgent, lenient response to behavior that ought to be met with zero tolerance. when you know a guy is corking his bat, you don't just send him back to the rack for another stick; you kick him out of the game. major-league baseball already has a big image problem vis-vis banned substances and illegal enhancements; last night's events didn't raise anybody's confidence that the sport can enforce deterrence and curtail cheating among its players.

the controversy doesn't work in the cardinals' favor. they'll be asked about this ad nauseum between now and game 3, a regrettable distraction. our boys are gonna have to find a way to stop thinking about kenny rogers and spend their energy on making adjustments at the plate; they face another very capable left-hander, nate robertson, tuesday night.

jim leyland handed the cardinals a gift by sending todd jones to the mound in the 9th inning to close things out. true to form, jones -- the tigers' answer to jason isringhausen, v2006 -- made it a game, putting the go-ahead run on base with 2 outs in the 9th. at that point la russa returned the favor, allowing yadi molina to bat for himself with the game on the line. call me an ingrate: the kid's pennant-winning homer doesn't change the fact that he is a terrible hitter, one of the worst in the major leagues. both duncan and j-rod were available on the bench, and both hit about 100 points higher against right-handed pitchers this season than molina did. 100 points, when a simple base hit would have tied the game. i've praised la russa up and down this postseason for his adaptability, his liberation from old bad habits; he fell into one of those habits last night, making a totally illogical decision that apparently was based on irrelvant factors -- ie, molina hit a big homer three days ago. a few people in the game thread defended the decision on the grounds that molina is riding a hot hand, but that's not even true; yadi came into that at-bat with 4 hits in his last 17 trips (a .235 average). if he'd been 9 for his last 17, i might buy the hot-hand theory; but ultimately you want your best hitters out there with the game on the line, and molina is not one of the cardinals' best hitters. he's a #8 hitter -- the type of hitter you pinch-hit for in a big situation.

it really was a straightforward decision, and la russa blew it; molina hacked at the first strike thrown to him -- a pitcher's pitch, sinker down and in -- and got himself out.

i also wonder who would have pitched if molina (or a pinch-hitter) had, indeed, tied the game and sent it into extra innings. la russa had emptied the bullpen, using all his best relievers in low-leverage situations; he could have kept wainwright out there for another inning, maybe even 2, but leyland had fernando rodney and joel zumaya both fresh. we might well have seen the shell-shocked josh hancock on the mound in a tie game or save situation. . . . .

it was easily tony's worst-managed game of the month. i'm not blaming him for the loss, but he didn't give the team its best chance to win -- ie, he didn't do his job.

i take encouragement from two things: the cardinal pitchers continue to get it done -- 5 runs in the first two world series games -- and rolen continues to swing the bat well (2 more hits last night). they'll play the next two games at home behind their two best pitchers, and in game 5 they'll get another crack at verlander, who hasn't pitched well since july. and they still hold trump for game 7 --- carpenter. so last night's loss doesn't weaken their position substantially.

p.s.: i want to commend everybody for their interactions last night with muldster, the tiger fan who showed up in the postgame thread. he was hoping to make trouble, and not a single person took the bait --- our community made very strong responses to the guy, and did it without hostility or disrespect. excellent showing.

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