Braves' Conrad shouldn't have been there

October, 10, 2010
10/10/10
8:32
PM ET
You hate to see that happen.

I don't know Brooks Conrad. I don't know anything about him (except that right now he's probably wishing his parents hadn't named him Brooks). I can't help feeling for him tonight, though.

Because he will forever be blamed for losing Game 3, 3-2 to the Giants. And if the Braves don't beat the Giants in the next two games, Conrad will forever be blamed for losing this series.

[+] EnlargeBrooks Conrad
AP Photo/John AmisAtlanta's Brooks Conrad committed three errors in Game 3.
He will, as they used to say, be the goat. Wear the goat horns. Forever.

Which is both ultimately fair, and terribly unfair.

It's fair because he did make three errors, two of which led directly to San Francisco runs. It's fair because he deserved to be charged with each of those errors. It's fair because, compared to most things in life, baseball is pretty good at assigning both credit and blame. Brooks Conrad did make those three errors, and the Braves did lose because of them (and other things, yes).

It's unfair because Brooks Conrad was trying his best. It's unfair because nobody feels worse tonight than he does. It's unfair because he's not even supposed to be there. When this season began, Conrad was essentially the Braves' sixth infielder; mostly, he served as a pinch-hitter. When Chipper Jones got hurt in late July, Conrad was pressed into service at third base because Martin Prado was out of action, too.

When Prado returned, Conrad returned to his reserve duties.

But Prado got hurt again, in the last week of the season. Bobby Cox was almost out of infielders. Omar Infante would keep playing, and Conrad would join him.

But where would Conrad play? In his action at third base, Conrad had posted a .903 fielding percentage. In particular, he'd been erratic with his throws. The throws from second base are shorter. So Infante went to third base, Conrad to second for the Division Series. Bobby Cox probably figured he couldn't win if he couldn't score, and Conrad was his best chance to score.

In fact, the Braves have just one more middle infielder on their roster: Diory Hernandez, who's got a .138 batting average 53 major league games. Hernandez's Triple-A statistics suggest that he's capable of much better, but you can hardly blame Cox for not playing Hernandez's .138 batting average ahead of Conrad's .445 slugging average.

In the first inning, that is. Still, the mind does wonder ... Hernandez has played a lot of shortstop in the minors, along with some time at second base and third. Heading into the top of the ninth inning, the Braves held a one-run lead. Conrad had been charged with two errors already, plus another in Game 1. Leaving sentiment aside, was there a good reason to not replace Conrad with Hernandez? For just one inning? And if Hernandez isn't markedly better with the glove than Conrad, then why don't the Braves have someone who is? It's not like the entire baseball world doesn't know that Conrad's all bat and no glove.

If the Giants had lost Game 3, the goats would have been Sergio Romo and Bruce Bochy (for using Romo). But the Braves lost, so instead Brooks Conrad gets to wear the goat horns.

I can't help thinking, though, that we should save one of those horns for Bobby Cox. Because when all the bad stuff happened, Brooks Conrad should not have been on the field.

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