Hey, I love blaming the manager. You love blaming the manager. It’s as much a part of baseball as peanuts, Cracker Jack and questioning every home run hit from 1993 to 2005, except those hit by David Eckstein.
So let’s go around one night in baseball and play the newest SweetSpot game, coming soon to GSN, “I Could Do A Better Job, If Only I Weren’t Sitting On My Couch Blogging Instead.”
The move: Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez brings in Leo Nunez to close out a 6-5 lead against the Braves.
What happened: Nunez got the job done, giving up a leadoff line-drive single to Alex Gonzalez, but escaping further damage.
My take: Nunez is a mediocre reliever (4.37 career ERA) who lucked into the Marlins’ closer role a couple seasons ago -- and held on to it despite allowing 13 home runs. I would have kept Clay Hensley in the game. Hensley, so dominant last season (2.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, only three home runs), threw five pitches in the eighth inning in recording the game’s two biggest outs, Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward, leaving the bottom of the order for Nunez. Even then, Nunez was lucky to escape without a blown save. After Gonzalez’s single, Freddie Freeman laced a liner into deep right-center that Scott Cousins made a nice running catch on. A couple more feet and it’s a tie game.
What happened: Double, walk, two-run double, game tied. Twins lose in the bottom of the 10th when Matt Capps blows another lead.
My take: Two years ago, before Nathan blew out his elbow, this move wouldn’t have been questioned, of course, as Nathan was one of the most dominant closers around. But he’s not Joe Nathan anymore. His fastball, 93-94 mph before the injury, has been averaging 91 this season. Pavano had thrown just 104 pitches and allowed four hits and two walks. He’d retired the side in order in the eighth, including a strikeout of Johnny Damon. He’s a workhorse. Leave him in.
What happened: Swisher hits a sac fly to give the Yankees a 6-5 win.
My take: I wholeheartedly agree with this move. Not a big fan of the intentional walk to set up the double play, as it forces the pitcher to throw a strike -- and the hitter knows it. (Last season, batters hit for a higher average and more power with the bases loaded than with runners on second and third.) Plus, in this specific case you have a high strikeout batter (Swisher struck out 139 times in 2010) and a pretty good strikeout pitcher in Gonzalez. The argument for walking Swisher would be to set up a double play with Jorge Posada, but last season Posada grounded into a double play in only 7 percent of his possible opportunities (14 percent in 2009). And Gonzalez isn’t a groundball pitcher, so a double play would have been unlikely. Sometimes the right move just doesn’t work. (Now, if you want to argue whether Kevin Gregg should be Baltimore’s closer. …)
The move: Eric Wedge hits Adam Kennedy cleanup for the Mariners. Kennedy had started at cleanup once before in his career.
What happened: Kennedy drives in Seattle’s lone run in a 5-1 loss to Kansas City! Shockingly, a lineup with Adam Kennedy hitting cleanup struggled to score runs.
My take: Look, I know why Eric Wedge did this: He doesn’t want to bat Justin Smoak cleanup, presumably to take “pressure” off him. Hey, I don’t know if Smoak is going to be any good. He’s easily been Seattle’s best hitter so far (cough) and whether he turns out to be a big-time hitter will have nothing to do with where he bats in the lineup. Either he can hit major league pitching or he can’t. And I know this: the only way Seattle will ever be a good team again is if Justin Smoak develops into a cleanup hitter. At some point you have to take the training wheels off and let the kid ride or fall.
So there you go. One night in baseball. Sometimes the moves work, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they just confuse us. But in the end I tend to believe it’s the ballplayers who win and lose the games.
It’s just more fun to blame the manager.
PHOTO OF THE DAY