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Saturday, October 15

Rob Neyer: Considering that the Angels were never in this game, and the National Leaguers didn't really do much worth second-guessing, let me start with something off the path and maybe we'll wind up finding it before we're through ...

For me, the biggest surprise in the ALCS has been Lou Piniella. At times, he's displayed a strange ignorance ... he really wasn't sure that Josh Paul used to play for the White Sox? He's really never heard the term, "neighborhood play"? But he's also been willing to state the obvious, which might not sound like such a great thing until you start to notice how often broadcasters are afraid to state the obvious, probably for fear of offending anybody.

I've enjoyed Al Leiter in the booth, but he's a little too smooth for my taste. Piniella's insightful and he's a bit rough around the edges. I'm sure his producers and his broadcast partners would eventually beat those qualities out of him, but for the moment he's a lot better than I imagined he would be.

More playoff coverage
Click here for complete coverage of the MLB playoffs, including Insider columnist Rob Neyer, who will be contributing to Second Guessing during the postseason.

Rob Neyer: A short history of the White Sox Insider

Angels-White Sox series page
Astros-Cardinals series page

Playoff theories: What really wins in the postseason

David Schoenfield: I believe Piniella spent a little time in the broadcast booth with the Yankees in the '80s when he was on the manager/general manager/broadcast cycle Steinbrenner had all those guys on back then, but I expected this would be an absolute train wreck, especially sitting alongside the great Tim McCarver.

I won't nominate him for an Emmy just yet, but Sweet Lou's been bearable, which is more than I can say for many baseball broadcasters. My favorite line tonight was when the crew was discussing whether Ozzie should bring in some of his relievers, since only Neal Cotts has pitched in a game in over a week. And Piniella summed it up perfectly: "You're trying to win a baseball game." His point: Why the hell would you even consider taking out Garcia if he's not in any trouble?

Rob: Actually, I would argue that if you're trying to win this baseball game and it's close, you're better off with Bobby Jenks than Freddy Garcia (as well as he's pitched). The general point is a good one, though: getting some work for the bullpen must be a tertiary consideration compared to winning Game 4 and going up three games to one. And I'll say tonight what I said last night ... there's an inherent problem with using guys to keep them sharp, which is that if you use them tonight so they're sharp, they might not be 100 percent tomorrow night, and if they're not 100 percent tomorrow night, there's no point in using them.

I'll say this, though: if the White Sox are way behind late in Game 5, that is when you should get Jenks and maybe one of the other key relievers one inning of work, because of course they'd have plenty of rest before Game 6. Generally, though, it's pretty hard to second-guess Guillen considering how well his starters have performed in this series, and how well his relievers performed all season long. It's easy to make fun of Guillen because he says some strange things and fetishizes the running game, but the two most important things every manager must do is (1) create an atmosphere conducive to winning, and (2) run the pitching staff. And to this point at least, Guillen would seem to deserve the highest grade in both categories.

David: Do you think it's possible that Ozzie left Garcia in for the ninth inning on purpose? Meaning, like a "purpose pitch," he's sending a little message to the Angels about the dominance of Chicago's starting pitching in the series, almost rubbing it in their faces, actually. It certainly fits in with Ozzie's personality we've seen throughout the season.

I have to admit -- I like it. I like that he has a little hate in his eyes. That he has a some defiance in his attitude and that, in this age of political correctness and saying all the right things to the media, he's not afraid to express this attitude. It sure makes watching the games a lot more entertaining.

And one more thing about not using relievers: the less he uses them, the less the Angels -- and advance scouts from the Astros and Cardinals -- get to see them.

Rob: I'm glad you brought that up, because I had the same suspicion. Relievers? We don't need no stinking relievers.

And your point about the advance scouts is a good one. But it seems to me that in this day and age, advance scouts are practically anachronisms. I mean, I suppose it's not fair to the guys who do the work, but is there really a lot you can see at the ballpark that you can't see via TiVo or DVD or MLB TV these days? Wouldn't watching every one of Bobby Jenks' regular-season appearances tell you everything you'd want to know about him?

But while we're on the subject, let me engage in a bit of premature second-guessing ... If the White Sox continue to shut down Vladimir Guerrero, I promise you that somebody will say it was due to their "advance scouting" but if scouting really held the secret to shutting down Guerrero, wouldn't somebody have done it before? He's having a tough series, no question. It happens. And that's the thing about best-of-five or even best-of-seven series. Anybody can struggle for a week, and unfortunately for the Angels, they're simply not good enough with the bats to survive when this particular anybody isn't hitting.

David: As Lou Piniella would say, you make a good point. Remember when the Yankees -- it seems so long ago -- won four World Series in five years from '96 to '00 and everyone wanted to give some of the credit to their superior advance scouting? What, have those Yankee scouts gotten dumber the past five years? Anyway, back to Ozzie. He reminds in some ways of La Russa. La Russa, for all his situational lefties and multi-positional guys and charts of statistics, treats baseball as a game of manhood probably more than any other manager. There is a long passage in Buzz Bissinger's book about La Russa's philosophy on the proper etiquette for throwing at an opposing hitter. Well, of course, there is no etiquette when purposely throwing at a hitter; it's really about challenging the other team, or maintaining the importance of "manhood" -- "You throw at us? Well, *&$!! you, I'm throwing right back at you." It's a hockey mentality, really. Ozzie brings the same sort of presence to his managing. He'll bunt in the first inning because damn if he's isn't going to do what he wants to do. Starters need to give the ball to relievers, because that's the way it's done? Not in Ozzie's world. And maybe the attitude is rubbing off on his players. Maybe at some point in the sixth inning, when the Angels still had a chance for a comeback, Ozzie strolled past Garcia in the dugout and said something to the effect of, "Hey, Freddy, Buehrle and Garland are tough men. They just went nine. Can you do it, too?"

Or maybe the Angels just can't hit.

Rob: That's what I've been thinking for years about the Yankees' advance scouting. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they had the best scouting in the business, then and perhaps even now. But 95 (or so) percent of what happens on the field is due to the abilities of the players and the naked manifestations of those abilities. There's room in the equation for chemistry and attitude and managing and, yes, advance scouting. Not a lot, though.

The Angels can hit. They just haven't. They, like the White Sox, have a middle-of-the-pack attack, which means they're obviously vulnerable to excellent pitching. We can talk about advance scouting and hockey mentality and all that other stuff until the broadcasters come home, but all that's happened is the outstanding White Sox starters have been -- surprise, surprise -- outstanding.