Broxton's eighth-inning 'save'

August, 25, 2009
8/25/09
3:43
PM ET
I meant to follow-up on this when I saw the box score, but forgot. Fortunately, today I got a nice kick in the pants from Teddy Mitrosolis:
    On Saturday, [Joe] Torre got closer Jonathan Broxton heating up in the seventh inning instead of his normal routine in the eighth when the Dodgers were hanging onto a 2-0 lead over the Chicago Cubs. Everybody knows Broxton has the ninth and newly acquired George Sherrill has the eighth. Except Saturday. The roles were switched and Sherril was the one shaking hands with catcher Brad Ausmus after the final out was recorded, not Broxton.

    Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote a column in Sunday's paper talking about this "role reversal” in the bullpen and how it could possibly create a rift between Torre and Broxton, the big guy who has been handed the ball to close games the entire year.

    --snip--

    But you're not going to hear excuses from Broxton, and you're not going to hear Torre admit that he has lost faith in Broxton, even if that seems to be the case.

    "We're not as concerned about who gets the stat as much as the only stat that is important is that 'W' on the left-hand side,” Torre said. Which brings us to the situation we saw Saturday with Sherrill, the former closer in Baltimore, getting the save. Both players, Sherrill and Broxton, said all the right things after the game, speaking of the team and the pennant race and "all that really matters is that the team won,” but we know there are more feelings than that. But Torre said he doesn't expect there to be any ill feelings, and here is the money quote that leads to the larger point:

    "If somebody gets offended by pitching to the 3-4-5 hitters in the eighth inning, they're not the person I think they are."

    We don't need to ring Torre's house phone to ask him if he was talking about Broxton on that one. That was Torre's unofficial message to Broxton that it's about the club, not what inning you're pitching.

    While this may not be true, it is possible that Torre knows exactly what he is doing in this situation, and it's not all about giving the ninth inning to Sherril and taking the pressure of Broxton. The fact that Torre alluded to the importance of pitching to the middle of the order in the eighth inning in a two run game says something.

    "After the game, Joe came up to me and said it was an eighth inning save, and I believe him,” Broxton said.

Sorry, but I don't. If Torre thinks using his closer against the heart of the order in the eighth inning is such a great idea, why didn't he do it with Mariano Rivera? Is Torre just now, at 69, realizing that a manager should manage to the situation rather than the statistics?

I think Torre didn't want Broxton pitching the ninth inning, almost entirely for reasons having nothing to do with the composition of the Cubs' lineup. Those 3-4-5 hitters? Merely a convenience for Torre, who had to tell Broxton something that wouldn't mess too much with his head.

I'm not saying it wasn't the right thing to do. Torre knows a lot more about his pitchers than I do. In that particular spot and considering Broxton's recent struggles, the switch might have been exactly the right thing to do. But if you see any connection between Torre's deployments of Broxton and Sherrill at any point in September, I'll be surprised.

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