For the first Sunday since the middle of last February, the field is empty. The base paths are vacant. There are no bats in the rack nor bat weights in the on-deck circle. Rosin bags are resting, not on the mound, but in the club house, waiting for next season’s use. For Richie and others who have pushed and pulled their teams to hopeful victory during a most difficult year, the season is over. For those who love this game, the silence is now deafening.
The good news is, each of our favorite teams have a chance to win next year. All except for those who have a manager that is playing by a book designed by dummies. For this we have to understand that baseball pitchers can and should go for as long as they feel good about the way they are pitching on that particular day, in that particular game. This means that the managers, regardless of the rhyme or reason, DO NOT have to take their starter out for the guy who pitches in the seventh and then the guy who pitches in the eighth and finally for the closer in the ninth. We are reminded starting pitcher Jose Quintana had a two-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts through seven innings in a White Sox game in August. He looked good. He was feeling fine. Then the manager walks out of the dugout and goes to the bullpen. Why? That’s what the modern book of baseball managing says. If its written, so it shall be done.
Sure it works! Take for example the Milwaukee Brewers. How many games were their starting pitchers, while leading the game, pulled out, and watched as the game exploded around them for a loss because the modern book of baseball managing says that it is right and just to bring in Axford?
When a starting pitcher is in a grove and his 2-seam fastball’s painting the corners along with his 4-seamer, a wicked slider and a devastating change-up, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you have caught magic in a bottle on this given day. The modern book of baseball managing should be thrown away. This game was never meant for 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th inning pitching specialists to interrupt the textural weave of a brilliant pitching performance.
Furthermore, this game was never intended for the modern book of baseball managing to have a roving shortstop or second baseman to play in the shallow outfield position of an over-shift plan to stop an above average pull hitter. This is the stuff of silly old men dressed in major league uniforms while greying at the temples. Silly men. Silly, silly men. (My apologies to the Coen Brothers and the writers of their film, ‘Intolerable Cruelty’ for that description.)
While the rosin bag rests in the box within the confines of the clubhouse, it’s time for the Hot Stove League. This is where the game of baseball gains its lore and its lure of statistical bias. This is why Tim McCarver could pull out such bizarre statistics only Elias Sports Bureau would have dug into for him to use in whatever key situation he felt was relevant. Who cares how many times a player drives a ball to the right side of the infield after falling behind on a 1 ball, 2 strike count? How many times does it matter if that batter leads the league in consecutive foul balls during a single time at bat? Do I care that David Ortiz is the only player to total 90 or more extra base hits in a season without scoring at least 100 runs when he finished the 2004 campaign with 91 extra base hits and 94 runs scored for the Red Sox? And do I care if I never hear such junk uttered by McCarver ever again? That’s perhaps redundant because Tim-boy has finally retired. Is it alleluia or hallelujah?
When you get over stat-urated, you run the risk of falling into the belief that the modern book of baseball managing actually means something. As a point to this madness of over analyzing every pitch and every at bat and every situation because of the doctrine of the modern book of baseball managing (MBOBM-every baseball stat now has an acronym so I’ll start this one in order to be placed in the register of the modern book of baseball managing on the baseball Wikipedia page), reached its height in the fifth game of the 2013 World Series in St. Louis. There were the Cardinals, in the bottom of the 9th, with two out and the potential tying run coming to the plate. The player on first was replaced by the manager because this manager had read the modern book of baseball managing and within it, on the chapter “What to do when there are two outs in the bottom of the ninth, in game five of the world series, with a runner on first and the tying run comes to the plate?”, it states put in a player who is fast.
What? What for? He only represents a run, not the winning run, not even the tying run, but just a run. The real question is what will happen at the plate? That’s the potential runner who can tie the game. If you watched and saw a young rookie, Kolten Wong, crying in the locker room after the game because he got picked off when he strayed too far off the bag, blame it on the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, not the kid who was put into a position where he could fail. As a manager of anything, business, ministry, naval vessel or a hot air ballooning fleet, you never put a young employee into a position where they can fail. That’s Business 101.
Let’s get started. Now we are into one of the most important parts of the season…the Hot Stove League where we can rip and applaud, scream and shout, laugh and cry all over again. The rosin bags are resting in the clubhouse. Let’s….