OK Baseball-savvy T-Folk:
Riddle me this: What the hell was Grady Little thinking last night? Let me set the stage a little. Clemens has been shelled, and Pedro is sitting on a 4-run lead in the 5th. I’m sitting there with my girlfriend, and I ask her what the pitch count is. She says, “Why does that matter?” I tell her that everyone in Boston knows Pedro gets tired in the 90-100 pitch count range (it’s been discussed ad naseum on the sports shows, including interviews with Mr. Grady Little, all year), so if he can make it through the 7th inning before getting over that range, the game should by all rights be over.
Fast forward to the middle of the 7th. Pedro gets in trouble, and the pitch count is around 100. I’m thinking, “OK, time to yank him – a little early, but it’s still all right.”
They decide to keep him out there and let him pitch his way out of the inning. Fine, I can see that, although it seems you need a shorter leash in the 7th game with a guy who is already in his danger zone. He gets out of it, but he’s giving up deep pop-fly balls and fouls.
Now it’s the bottom of the 8th, and even though there are pitchers throwing in the bullpen, Pedro trots back out onto the field. I’m thinking, “What the heck? Why deviate from the playbook of what got you here?” It’s 8th inning, Embree, 9th inning, Timlin, game over. Those guys have 0.00 ERAs for the post season, and you’re sitting on a 3 run lead. Bring on the bullpen… But no, there’s Pedro on the mound. And then he’s getting hit. So Grady trots out there, and everyone is thinking, “OK, finally, time to pull him. That was scary.” His pitch count is in the high 110s at this point, and he’s just given up a fat hit on an 0-2 pitch. You let him pitch until he was really in trouble, and now it’s time to congratulate him, take the ball and bring on the fresh horses…
AND GRADY LEAVES HIM IN. The progression at that point was just from the feeling of impending dread until the actual tying run crossed the plate, and then Grady finally pulls him.
What was he thinking? Also, why didn’t the catcher tell him Pedro was throwing meatballs and it was time to pull him? And what about the pitching coach? Shouldn’t he have been telling Grady to pull him?
Well, OK, I don’t know what the catcher and pitching coach said – maybe Grady just ignored them. But this was just the latest of Grady’s messing with stuff that worked, while leaving stuff that wasn’t working alone – exactly the opposite of what a winning manager like Joe Torre did. They asked Torre afterward if he would have felt bad about pulling Clemens if that had been his last game. Torre said, “No. It’s game 7. You’ve got to have a short leash.” And of course he was right. He also changed around his batting order because Giambi wasn’t hitting (until game 7 that is) – Grady left Nomar in the same spot even though he wasn’t hitting the entire post season until game 7. He pinch ran for two of his best bats at the end of game 7, and then didn’t do any small-ball to advance the runners to score – so he was deprived of Varitek and Ortiz with nothing to show for it. In the series against the A’s, in the game where Damien Jackson and Johnny Damon collided, he played Jackson over Todd Walker, his hottest bat at the end of the year, for a supposed defensive upgrade – but he played him at the beginning of the game, not to protect a lead (and his fielding percentage was only a couple hundredth’s of a percent better anyway).
And I’m not even really that big of a Sox fan. I just wanted them to keep winning because the city has been wild while the Sox have been in the playoffs. There’s been a spring in everyone’s step, and a smile on each face. Now they will go back to wallowing in their misery for the balance of the cold winter. You’ve got to feel bad for the true die-hard fans. Grady definitely gave away the World Series to the Yanks. Or do you guys have a differing take?