Whitey Herzog disappointed a lot of baseball people when he decided Thursday night that he had to take Joaquin Andujar out of the St. Louis Cardinals' pitching rotation.
Come on, Whitey, let him get crushed just one more time.
Maybe Herzog is right. What happened to Andujar in Chavez Ravine in Game 2 of the National League playoffs seems so well-deserved that it would be a shame to spoil it by letting him pitch again.
Andujar might win.
When you're a wrong guy, but a success, people walk around you and wait. They let time do the work of malice. Sooner or later, you'll get yours.
All the teammates you high-hatted, all the opponents you showed up, all the bosses who swallowed your arrogance for the sake of your talent, all the working stiffs you snubbed wait patiently for your day of reckoning to come.
And when it does, they say . . .
Nobody has to say a word.
Your enemies just smile.
And your friends . . .
Gee, where'd they go?
No silence is more eloquent.
On Thursday, Andujar, who'll be the first to remind you that he's the only major league pitcher to win 20 games the last two seasons, played what may be the most atrocious game in postseason history as his team lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-2.
Talk about a well-rounded performance. Andujar did it all.
He pitched badly, getting knocked out in 4 1/3 innings. He has only won once since Aug. 23 -- and he lost two crucial pennant-race games to the Mets.
He hit badly, never taking the bat off his shoulder on three straight strikes with two men on base.
He fielded badly, forgetting to pick up a bunt and making an unnecessary wild pickoff throw to first base when the Dodgers were trying to give him the second out of the inning with a sacrifice bunt. That nearly made Herzog apoplectic.
After Los Angeles pitcher Orel Hershiser had fouled off two squeeze bunt attempts, Andujar grooved an 0-2 fast ball that Hershiser chopped over a drawn-in infield. And you think Herzog was hot before.
Later, Andujar popped up his own sacrifice bunt, then sat like a lump in the batter's box as Hershiser let the ball drop and started a double play.
Andujar preened and showboated when the going was easy, as he struck out four straight batters early on. Then he fell apart under pressure.
Faced with defeat, he almost hit one Dodger in the face with a fast ball, then screamed obscenities at his fallen opponent as millions of TV watchers got to read his lips.
As Andujar walked off the field, having botched his team's most crucial game of the season, he took off his cap so that the TV cameras could get one last look at his handsome face. Nice widow's peak, Joaquin. Then he stayed in the Cardinals dugout -- getting more air time -- as he pantomimed alibis to any teammate who'd pay attention.
Afterward, no one had much to say.
"I'm not talking," said Andujar, in his best decision of the night.
"I don't want to talk about Joaquin," said catcher Darrell Porter.
"I just leave Joaquin alone," said Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark, explaining why the St. Louis infield treated the mound like a radioactive zone when Andujar might have needed a kind word.
"I don't want to judge what kind of person he is," said the Dodgers' Steve Sax, who almost was beaned by an obvious knockdown pitch after a home run.
"I don't want to say anything bad about him," Dodgers shortstop Mariano Duncan told the Los Angeles Times. "A lot of people say he is crazy, but he is a nice guy."
So nice that he threw at Duncan's head to start the game. Think how complimentary Duncan might have been if he and Andujar didn't live in the same tiny town of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic.
Only one person really had much to say about Andujar -- Manager Herzog. His usual quip about Andujar is, "They pay him a million dollars to pitch, and they should pay me a million dollars to manage him."
Thursday night Herzog had a new line: "Bob Forsch'll pitch Game 5."
See you next year, Joaquin.
Andujar set the stage for his own booby trap. In July, he boycotted the All-Star Game because Manager Dick Williams was slow in naming him the starting pitcher. Andujar didn't wait to be insulted before lamenting that he was persecuted.
Then, in a magazine story, Andujar explained how he was unappreciated.
Next, Andujar was named in court in the Pittsburgh Seven cocaine trial.
Then, on Wednesday, Andujar told a news conference that he felt too much emphasis was being placed on his game. "Thank you," he said, leaving, "and don't blame it on Joaquin."
Some say Andujar is merely childlike, that his malice is just a small boy pulling wings off flies, that his arrogance is insecurity.
Maybe so. It's also true that he's smart. Smart enough to act better than he does.
Nobody wishes Andujar misfortune, or that he lose his millions or that his pitching career go sour.
What happened to him -- losing a ball game and making a clown of himself in the process -- is enough punishment to fit his petty misdemeanors. A pratfall may even do him good. Perhaps the worst luck that can befall a vain man is to be laughed at, then ignored.
Speaking of Howard Cosell, he's been taken off ABC-TV's World Series telecasts. His weekly "Sports Beat" show may die of bad ratings. And it's not certain he'll do any of his scheduled assignments next year. Cosell, it seems, could almost disappear from TV.
Just as some would like to see Andujar pitch one more time, others would love to see Cosell left on the air to feud with enemies, belittle friends and rail against imagined persecutions.
Even for Andujar, even for Cosell, men whose good work seems beside the point compared to their personalities, that is too cruel a wish.
Let them both leave the rotation quietly. There's nothing more to say.