BoSox Bumbling: A Recurring World Series Theme
Yogi Berra is famous for mangling metaphors, but his accuracy was never in doubt.
"Half of this game is 90% mental."
Right now, in the 2013 World Series, the Boston Red Sox are on the wrong half of that 90%.
And here's the ultimate example of the wrongest of their wrongs:
The question here is not the umpires' judgment. They got it right.
The question is this: What was Jared Saltalamacchia thinking?
Consider the situation, which is something he should have done before Red Sox closer Koji Uehara's pitch was even delivered:
- There was already one out in the inning.
- The Cardinal batter on deck was Pete Kozma; that's light-hitting Pete Kozma, who batted .217 for the season and was 0-for-8 in the World Series to date.
- Uehara may have yielded a double to the hobbled but still dangerous Allen Craig -- who led the Cardinals in RBIs this season -- but Pete Kozma is no Allen Craig.
- And there was no infielder left on the St Louis bench to pinch-hit for Kozma.
- Yadier Molina only represented the tying run at third base; Craig's presence at second didn't really matter.
- There was no way St Louis manager Mike Matheny was going to pinch-run for Molina, widely acknowledged to be the best catcher in the game today and a major reason why the Cardinals' hot young relievers have been so successful.
- As well, Matheny wasn't going to burn another player from his then-scant bench -- or risk injury to a starting pitcher by asking one of them -- to pinch-run for Craig, as before the action unfolded, his being a trail runner for the home team in the ninth inning of a tie game made his presence innocuous.
This may look like a laundry list, but in real time, it's all normal stuff for a baseball player to consider before a pitch. The catching position is defense-first, so this should have been more than second nature to Saltalamacchia.
Thus, after a brilliant defensive play by Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox catcher should have merely held the ball and waited for the Uehara vs Kozma mismatch. Chaos would most likely have been avoided. Boston would have lived to fight another inning, one that would not have included fireballing closer Trevor Rosenthal. Craig had pinch-hit for him.
In a sense, Saltalamacchia was only following the cue of his leader. This World Series has not been manager John Farrell's shining moment, and the events of Game Three have underscored that point in the harshest manner imaginable.
Say whatever about the DH being more exciting, but its presence can also dumb down a game in subtle ways that can converge to create major repercussions. In this respect, Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny is managing rings around Farrell. To wit:
- Matheny found a way to get his injured star, Allen Craig, into the game at a point where he could make a difference. In contrast, Farrell left Mike Napoli on the bench.
- Matheny managed for defense late in the game. In contrast, Farrell managed like the seventh inning was his team's last gasp at victory.
- Matheny thought far enough ahead in the late innings where he knew he could burn David Freese's initial late-inning replacement at third, Daniel Descalzo, moving closer Trevor Rosenthal further down the rotation in the batting order so that he could pitch a second inning; Matheny thus double-switched second-baseman Kolten Wong and Rosenthal for Descalzo and reliever Carlos Martinez, shifting Matt Carpenter to third, a position he'd played well earlier in his career.
- Farrell blew through his bullpen and his bench so rashly in the seventh, he was left with the prospect of sending reliever Brandon Workman to bat for the first time in his professional career. Trevor Rosenthal barely broke a sweat.
One irony in this Series to date involves stealing bases. It's been a major weapon for the Red Sox all season. The Cardinals were last in the National League in that category. Yet, St Louis has three swipes in this Series: two on a vital double steal that set up their triumph in Game Two, and Kolten Wong's in Game Three. Boston has none. Yes, Molina gets some credit for this development, but it's incredible that Farrell and the Red Sox have yet to test him.
Managing is supposed to be about preparation. It's even why the bench coaching job title was created, to assist with in-game preparation. Right now, that's where the Cardinals are winning the war; Matheny and Mike Aldrete are putting their players in better positions to succeed than Farrell and Torey Lovullo.
Incidentally, Lovullo is a leading candidate to become the next manager of the Detroit Tigers.
Luckily for him, they're in the American League.