Baseball is the best sport in the world.
Monday night's game was a perfect example of that. In no other sport can the coach leave his fingerprints on nearly every aspect of a game. Baseball doesn't have head coaches; they're called managers for a reason. They sit in the dugout, hilariously donning a uniform as if they're going to grab a glove and man second base, making tactical decisions they believe will help their team win the game. We've seen two different styles this World Series, each of which would send tears welling behind Joe Maddon's hip spectacles.
In one corner you have Ron Washington, who seems to have been sleeping with the Luck Dragons all series, especially when it comes to hitting Mike Napoli eighth. He french kissed with danger again Monday night by intentionally walking Albert Pujols three times, once with two out and no one on, and refused to pinch hit for the left-handed David Murphy -- he of the career .253/.298/.349 line vs southpaws -- against the left handed Mark Rzepczynski. Naturally, the Pujols walks didn't end up hurting, and Murphy hit a tailor made double play ball that fortuitously glances off of Scrabble's hand, eschewing any chance the Cardinals had of making an out and leaving the inning tied.
The other corner is occupied by Tony LaRussa, who had one of the more comical instances of managerial failing we've seen in some time. It was the stand up equivalent of Louie C.K circa 2011. You've all heard the excuses for the eighth inning bullpen mix-up that essentially cost the Cardinals the game, but there was also the litany of sac bunts, the two failed hit and run calls with Pujols at the plate, and the intentional walk of Nelson Cruz by Octavio Dotel.
As a Rays fan and unabashed lover of all things Joe Maddon, I couldn't help but come away from Game 5 -- and the whole series, really -- with a greater appreciation for his abilities. Call it revisionists history, call it homerism, but I don't think there's any chance that Maddon makes the same mistakes of Washington or LaRussa. Results be damned. Would he have sac bunted in the fifth inning with his leadoff hitter? Or failed to pinch hit when far better options were available? No way. He makes his mistakes like any manager but they're few and far between. You can be upset with his ever changing lineups or playing time decisions, but there aren't many times when you can look at a decision he's made and categorically say it was incorrect.
You don't have a career like LaRussa's without being a good at what you do, and while the consensus seems to be against Washington being a good manager, he's made two straight World Series appearances so maybe he's doing something right. Unlike Master Gee and the Sugar Hill Gang, I absolutely mean to brag and I mean to boast. Maddon is the best manager in the game and it becomes more evident with each passing day. Hopefully every Rays fan is taking notice. We're lucky to have him.