Second-guessing is always part of the fun at World Series time, and this year's classic has been a particular delight for the armchair managers. The succession of close, well-pitched games plus the absence of the designated hitter rule combined to make both pilots put on their thinking caps more frequently than usual. And before it was over, both Dick Howser of Kansas City and Whitey Herzog of St. Louis had a few questions to answer. Howser was the object of the most intense second-guessing, with many observers feeling he blew Game 2 by leaving starter Charlie Liebrandt in too long during the four-run ninth-inning rally that produced a 4-2 Cardinal victory. Dick was being readied for the hot seat by the media in Game 6, too, until pinch-hitter Dane Iorg took him off the hook with the bases-loaded ninth-inning single that brought the Royals from behind for a 2-1 victory that evened the Series at three games apiece.
This time, too, it was Howser's handling of Liebrandt that raised questions. The 29-year-old left-hander had pitched a two-hitter through seven innings, but the score was still 0-0 when he came to bat with two on and two out in the bottom of that inning. Howser left him in, and Charlie struck out. Then in the top of the eighth, in a similar situation, Herzog lifted starter Danny Cox, for pinch-hitter Brian Harper, who delivered a run-scoring single.
The situations were different, of course. The so-called ``book'' says you almost always pinch-hit late in a tie game on the road, while it's not quite so imperative at home. Then too, Liebrandt had been much sharper than Cox, who had pitched in and out of trouble on a few occasions. But second-guessers don't worry about things like that, and if the Royals had gone on to lose the game 1-0, Howser would have had a long evening.
Or, as the Kansas City pilot himself put it:
``These are not easy games to manage, to pitch or to umpire. These kind of close games are hard on everybody but the second guessers.''
Herzog certainly would agree on the umpiring part, and after some questionable calls went against his team in a few games -- especially Game 6 -- he didn't seem to sure that this year's arbiters were up to the task. And as many other managers, writers, and fans have asked over the years, Whitey wondered out loud why baseball has one system for the teams that make it to the World Series (the ones that do the best in the regular season and the playoffs) and another for the umpires (a ``take turns'' formul a with no regard to ability or performance).
Kansas City's winning rally in the sixth game began with a disputed call at first base. Pinch-hitter Jorge Orga, leading off the ninth, hit a slow roller to first baseman Jack Clark, who threw to pitcher Todd Worrell covering the bag. It appeared at first glance, and on TV replays, that Orta was out, but American League ump'ire Don Denkinger called him safe. That was the last straw for Herzog -- especially after the Royals won the game.
``I don't mean to get on the umpiring, but we're not getting too many calls,'' Whitey said.
``I'm not supposed to say anything about the umpires, but I sit here and see what's happening and it's ridiculous. . . The top two teams are in the World Series, they should have the top umpires. We rate them all year. What do they do with the ratings? We should have the top six (in each league) in the playoffs and the top three here.''