ST. LOUIS -- Tony La Russa is a great manager. He's had a great postseason.
But is he the reason the Cardinals won Game 1 of the World Series? Or is Ron Washington the reason the Rangers lost it?
I don't think so. Neither does Jon Daniels.
The Rangers general manager couldn't wait for the question before Thursday's Game 2. He couldn't wait for a chance to defend his under-fire manager.
"For me, that game was not about managerial decisions," Daniels said. "They executed in a couple of situations with the game on the line, and we didn't.
"I read where it was manager vs. manager, and that's crazy. The game is about the players. Did Wash beat Jim Leyland [in the American League Championship Series]?"
For all the La Russa love, the moves the Cardinals manager made in Game 1 were fairly straightforward. He got six innings out of starter Chris Carpenter, he used his best pinch hitter (Allen Craig) to hit for Carpenter with the go-ahead run on base with two out in the bottom of the sixth, and he went right-left-right-left-closer out of the bullpen.
Nothing against him, and it worked in large part because he has set up his bullpen well through the postseason, but it wasn't exactly revolutionary thinking.
Washington's use of his bullpen was fine. The game-winning hit scored on Craig's single off Alexi Ogando, but Ogando was the perfect reliever to have in the game at that point.
I believe Washington erred in using Esteban German to pinch-hit with two out in the seventh, and that's the move he has been most criticized for. He should have used Yorvit Torrealba.
More than that, if he thought German was the best guy in a game-on-the-line situation in Game 1 of the World Series, he should have given German at least one at-bat sometime after Sept. 25.
But if Nelson Cruz catches Craig's slicing fly ball in the sixth inning (and he did come close), we're not having this conversation now.
If Albert Pujols doesn't make a nice play on Michael Young's ground ball to strand the go-ahead run on third base in the top of the sixth, maybe we're not having this conversation.
They didn't, and we are.
"I don't think I can win a chess game against Tony," Washington said Thursday afternoon. "But you know, the best I can do is try to put my players in a position to be successful and hope that they execute. I think the chess matches take care of themselves."
And when they don't, Washington's general manager will be there to defend him.