Last Friday night, after a blown save in Milwaukee, Jason Isringhausen looked and sounded like a man lost in his post-game comments. He called his performance ''embarrassing,'' and said that the coaches were going to have to find another solution for closing ball games, because he just wasn't getting the job done. Afterward, La Russa spoke of giving Izzy a mental health break; of using him in low leverage situations as he tried to work himself back to what he was previously.
So on Thursday, in a one-run ball game, in the eighth inning, Tony picked up the bullpen phone and called for Izzy.
Now, I realize that the eighth inning doesn't have that same mystical aura as the ninth. I realize, also, that Tony had pretty limited options to go to. Russ Springer couldn't pitch, as he had gone in the two previous games. Kyle McClellan had already been used, ditto Randy Flores; both casualties of another Joel Pineiro single-inning blowup special. Mike Parisi is being held back because Kyle Lohse is having some shoulder soreness and Parisi may have to take his next start. The cupboard was very nearly bare, and the Cards still needed six outs.
And so, what we saw was pretty predictable. We saw a proud athlete head out to the mound with no chance. Isringhausen gave it what he had. The problem is, he just doesn't have it right now. The boobirds were still out during the game, but not the way I had expected. Not even the rain could quite explain the silence.
Isringhausen's better days.
I work with a guy named Darren. He's a pretty cool guy, and we talk baseball a lot. He's never been an Isringhausen fan. If Izzy blew a save the night before, or even just very nearly did so, I could always count on Darren tossing his signature line about Izzy out when I saw him the next morning.
''Dude, Izzy fuckin' sucks.''
There was never real malice in it. It was just a statement on a guy he didn't think was getting the job done. He saw a guy going out and making the ball game way more interesting than it should have been, and he didn't much care for it. So, Izzy sucked.
Not now. I saw him the morning after the Milwaukee game, when Izzy first called for La Russa to move him to another role. Darren didn't say Izzy sucked. I believe his exact line was, ''Dude, they've got to get Izzy out of there. Guy's just getting killed. Tony can't keep sticking him out there.'' Again, this has gone way beyond a normal skid. This is something entirely different.
The fans are still booing Izzy right now; the message boards are still full of bile toward him (see: IzzySucks.com)while others see the guy for his toughness. But, slowly but surely, everyone is beginning to see that this is different. The guy isn't fighting back anymore, and he's still getting pummeled. La Russa sent him back out there, in a situation with just as much leverage as any save situation, with no defense.
What choice did Tony have, you ask? That's a fair question; he didn't have much in the way of bullpen depth yesterday, and I understand that. But the problem is largely one of the Cardinals' own making.
Izzy is apparently going to upset the doctor today. I fully expect they'll find something or other to park him on the disabled list for awhile. He can then go to the minors on a rehab start and actually try to regain his form. The question is, why wasn't this done a week ago? Why wasn't this done when Izzy first broached the idea of moving to a different role? Invent an injury then, and stick him on the DL. Give him a real, fighting chance to fix himself. Instead, the team kept him on the roster, a lame duck if ever there was one, and ended putting him right back in harm's way.
This is ridiculous. The Cardinals finally have some real depth to reach into in the minors to help out. Why are they so reluctant to do so?
I'm sorry, but seeing Izzy like this hurts me. Not just in the manner of a sports fan who keeps seeing his team lose in the same way day after day, but as a human being. I see a once great, proud athlete going out with no chance and getting brutalized. What's worse, there isn't really a reason for it. The Cardinals have options. It's time to use some of them, and stop this horrifying experiment. It's pointless and sad.
At least give Izzy a fighting chance, Tony. Save him from himself, and you.