Friday, October 14
Editor's note: Jon Garland pitched. Paul Konerko hit. The umpires umped. Chicago won again. Pretty basic, right? Not if you're Rob Neyer and Eric Neel, who can always find something to second-guess ...
Rob Neyer: OK, you're Ozzie Guillen and you've got the deepest bullpen in the major leagues. Jon Garland is pitching one of his best games of the year, but he's also thrown 91 pitches. Do you let him come out for the bottom of the eighth to protect a three-run lead?
Eric Neel: Hang on, I'm still wrestling with "OK, you're Ozzie Guillen." Do I get to take a potshot at Mags Ordonez before I answer this question? Can I call for a gratuitous sacrifice bunt first? The possibilities are dizzying, and that's before we get to whether I can now cuss in Spanish without even thinking about it. But as for your question, no, I do not come out with Garland. As I said last night about Phil Garner's use of Brad Lidge, I'd like to get my guys a bit of work here. Cliff Politte and Bobby Jenks both need a little LCS experience and some loosening of the arms and such. They're my move here. Pollitte for the eighth and Jenks to seal the deal. And you, if you're Ozzie (which, by the way, you can't be, because I'm never giving up the role), what do you do?
Rob: Well, as I'm writing this the White Sox are batting in the eighth and they've got runners on first and third with nobody out, so the lead might get bigger in a hurry ... For the moment, though, I would say it's still Garland's game, since he's thrown so few pitches and the White Sox have two more games in the next 48 hours. A rested bullpen is a real luxury in the postseason, because of course you're generally not going to be as patient with your starter as you would be in June. If the bullpen's rested tomorrow night, it's all hands on deck in case Freddy Garcia doesn't look good early. Anyway, the Angels escaped with no damage, so it's still a three-run lead heading to the bottom of the eighth.
Eric: I see what you're getting at, and maybe Ozzie is right there with you. But if I'm Ozzie (and again, this is just a ridiculously intoxicating thought; I mean, I could threaten to retire right here, tonight), my guess is I'm actually leaving JG in because I'm feeling kind of throwback, kind of men-are-men about it all. Either way, Garland looks good and, as you say, the bullpen is rested.
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So here's my question for you. If you're Mike Scioscia, at what point to do you call the guys together, all Buttermaker-hatching-a-secret-plan-in-the-dugout style and say, "OK, somebody take a walk. Trust me. It'll shock them. It'll be like Mo sticking fingers in Curly's eyes, they won't know where they are ... "? What's up with the no walks, is what I'm saying. Can it be even remotely justified?
Rob: I would like to be Mike Scioscia, just for a day. Maybe that's a part of our future, the ability to be Mike Scioscia. In that Spielberg movie set in 2047 (or whenever; not the one about the robot boy, the other one), the people in the fantasy parlor were either yelling at their boss or enjoying the pleasures of multiple beautiful women. But me? I'd like to be a manager. Or a center fielder. I'd pay good money for that.
Oh, you asked about walks ... Yeah. Lou Piniella actually had the unmitigated gall to point out that the Angels have just one walk in this entire series (and they walked only five times in five games against the Yankees). This is pretty ridiculous.
I don't think it's intentional, per se. But have you ever noticed that as we get older, our dominant qualities tend to become more dominant? I wonder if the same thing doesn't happen to baseball teams. "You thought we were aggressive during the regular season? Just watch this." Basically, if they don't draw any walks and Vladimir Guerrero's not doing anything, they're not going to score enough runs to compete.
Eric: Yeah, it's hard to change philosophically at this stage, and as things get tighter, more intense, you do tend to do what you do all the more. That said, part of winning a seven-game series is making adjustments. And it seems to me very likely that both Bengie Molina and Vlad Guerrero are hurting to some degree, and that's a big, big part of your offense right there (actually, Vlad and anyone, Vlad and a skate rat you find on the curb and cajole to play with some quality nug is a big, big part of your offense), and it seems to me you have to be willing, as a club, to change what you do to compensate for those sorts of things. We've seen the Angels do that with their pitching staff -- making the desperate switch to Santana, leaving Colon off the ALCS roster, etc. -- but it's not something we're seeing with their approach at the plate.
OK, so now the game is over and Garland looked terrific and threw 118 pitches and the White Sox bullpen is fresh going into Game 4. Three questions: 1. Are you still saying Ozzie made the right call sticking with Garland tonight (not for this game, because it obviously worked out well, but for the full length of the series, because at this point he's had two guys in a row go nine innings and has seen just nine pitches from his 'pen, total)? Do you not want to see what your 'pen is made of, how they're handling situations, etc., before things are really pressing? 2. Given the way Gregg and Donnelly looked tonight, did Scioscia wait too long on taking Lackey out? And 3. Has the Rally Monkey lost a step?
Rob: I've made this point before, but 50 years ago the starter probably would have been yanked after the first or second inning, because managers simply didn't have any patience in World Series games. Managers don't have quite as much flexibility these days, because they don't have "swing starters" and "long men" (I put those terms in quotes, Eric, because you're probably too young to remember when those beasts actually walked the earth). Let's say Scioscia pulls Lackey after three innings ... and by the way, it's not at all clear that pitchers "do" or "don't" have their good stuff on a given night ... so then what? He's got to get six innings out of his bullpen, which leaves him little flexibility the next night.
Which is my typically long-winded way of saying that Scioscia got five innings out of Lackey, and I don't blame him for it.
I don't blame Guillen for sticking with Garland, either. Let's assume for a moment that you want to get your bullpen some work ... but do you use Jenks, your best reliever, for an inning? If so, does that mean he can't pitch two innings tomorrow night? And if you don't want to use Jenks because you want him rested, which of your good relievers do you not want rested? I see your point, but it's not like these guys haven't pitched in a week. I think they can handle a few days off. And if Garcia pitches a complete game tomorrow night and again the bullpen spends nine innings in the bullpen? Then the Sox are sitting pretty anyway.
Rally Monkey? The Angels need some Rally Walks and a Rally Guerrero, otherwise the Monkey stays in his cage.
Previous Second Guesses
• Oct. 13: Why pitch Lidge two innings?