The better team probably won, and there's something to be said for that. Without two of their best players (Chipper Jones and Martin Prado) missing, the Braves just couldn't put as much talent on the field as the Giants. Not that talent always determines the outcome. But that's the smart way to bet.
A few jumbled-up thoughts about Monday night's game:
I'll have more about this next month, probably. But Brian McCann, performing brilliantly at the plate and behind it, reminded me that he's one of the best players in the game, and definitely one of the more underrated. McCann's never picked up a single point in MVP balloting, but he's been an All-Star in each of his five full seasons, and has the beginnings of a good Hall of Fame case.
I wonder ... If Billy Wagner had been available, would Bobby Cox still have allowed Derek Lowe to come out for the seventh inning? Lowe had thrown only 85 pitches, and been brilliant. But his usual limit is roughly 100 pitches, and he was pitching with less rest than usual. Ultimately, I can't really quibble with Lowe starting the eighth. I will question Cox's decision to let Lowe pitch to Pat Burrell, with two on and one out, Lowe by then having thrown 96 pitches.
This is probably a subject for another day, but it struck me tonight just how little the players care about the fans. We know players don't care about fans when it comes to money; we can't really expect them to. When it comes to winning, though? We can assume the Giants didn't bunt toward Troy Glaus at third base for one of two reasons: 1) Early on, it wasn't considered proper to break up Lowe's no-hitter that way, or 2) it wasn't considered proper, at all, to take advantage of a veteran like Glaus, pressed into service because a colleague had been so terribly embarrassed in the previous game.If I'm a Braves fan, though, I want the players to do everything (within the rules) they can, to win. If the Giants had picked on Glaus, maybe a few dozen men at Turner Field would have been mildly offended. Meanwhile, some 40,000 more people would have cheered their guts out. Particularly if their team had scored more than two runs. And not been knocked out of the tournament.
It's a shame things ended this way for Bobby Cox. In a sense, though, he earned it. He might have lost Game 3 because he didn't get Brooks Conrad out of the game, and he might have lost Game 4 because he didn't get Derek Lowe out of the game soon enough.
Then again, Cox has never been famous for his tactical acumen. He never had the sort of reputation held by Earl Weaver, or Tony La Russa. He wasn't a cheerleader like Tommy Lasorda, either. He was simply a player's manager, a leader of men who just kept plugging away for nearly 30 years. And it says a great deal about Cox that for the last 21 seasons, he's managed the same team through great successes along with the occasional failures. He might not have been the best handler of pitching staffs, or lineups. But he was steady, and he might have been the best handler of men.
It would have been wonderful to see Cox go out on top. But that doesn't happen often. There's a reason they go out.