Immediately following the All-Star Game, I made a post where I thought that LaRussa should've used Pujols as a pinch-hitter. For those of you that read the post, I was wrong. LaRussa did his homework before the game. I've always told people that there are only three active managers in baseball that could do a better job than me. This is why LaRussa is one of the three.
After careful consideration, I noticed that leaving Pujols on the bench was the right thing to do.
Soriano homered to bring the National League within a run in the ninth inning with two outs. Then, Hardy, Lee, and Sanchez walked before Rowand flew out to end the game as Albert Pujols sat on the bench.
After Miguel Cabrera was unable to play defense, Freddy Sanchez was forced to serve as David Wright's backup. This meant that LaRussa needed to find another player that would be held back in case of an injury. LaRussa had four first basemen on the team and the most versitile of the four was Albert Pujols. That was an obvious choice.
With the winning run on base, many questioned why LaRussa didn't use Pujols to hit for Sanchez or Rowand. Pujols was the last player left on the N.L. bench, meaning that pinch hitting would've created a defensive mess. In case of an injury, LaRussa would've most likely put Pujols at third base and used Sanchez to fill the vacated position. For that reason, taking Sanchez out of the game would've been suicide. Sure, Pujols plays third base, but what happens if an injury occurs? Sanchez needed to remain in the game, because he could've played all seven positions.
How about hitting for Rowand? Sanchez can play center and Pujols move to third, you say. While the team would've been okay in the tenth inning, there's no telling what LaRussa would've had to do if an injury were to have occured. First of all, a pitcher would have to take the field defensively and that defensive position would probably be first base. This would either force Derrek Lee into the vacated position or into the outfield to allow Sanchez to take over for the injured player.
The latter choice opens up a whole can of worms: Lee can't play center. Can Soriano?
The fact of the matter is that burning Pujols forces LaRussa into an uncomfortable position. An injury gives him no option but to put someone else's All-Star pitcher on the field and three or four more All-Star players in unfamiliar positions. It's an injury risk that he wouldn't want to take with his own players -- let alone someone else's.