Blowout leaves second-guessers grasping

October, 18, 2010
Ahem. I trust that everyone enjoyed dinner? This place is famous for its meat loaf and green-bean casserole. Now you know why.

Before we get heavily into this meeting of the American Second Guessing Association of America (A.S.G.A.A.), is Mr. Neyer out there somewhere? Ah, there he is. Back in the corner, as usual. Robert, will you stand up for a moment?

I'm just wondering if you learned a lesson today ...

[Inaudible, mumbling response from Neyer.]

Sorry, couldn't quite make that out. But I will guess that you just admitted that first-guessing only makes you look foolish. Considering that Jonathan Sanchez pitched pretty well in Game 2 -- just hours after you questioned the decision to shift him ahead of Matt Cain in the Giants' rotation -- maybe now you'll understand why we in the A.S.G.A.A. have devoted our lives to second-guessing. Remember, you've got my e-mail address and I'm always home (except tonight).

Now, on to our latest business.

I know that most of you are baseball fans, saw the Phillies beat the Giants Sunday night. There's not a lot we can do with this one, for two reasons.

One, it was a five-run game.

And two, there's nothing remotely second-guessable about the Phillies. Their second-best starting pitcher went eight innings, gave up just one run, and threw 111 pitches. The lineup contained all the right names, and the one notable Game 1 flaw -- two left-handed hitters batting consecutively -- was corrected for Game 2.

Which leaves the Giants, and manager Bruce Bochy.

We've already dispensed with Bochy's decision to start Sanchez rather than Cain. It's certainly possible that Cain would have pitched better than Sanchez -- who was ultimately charged with three runs -- but the best reason to avoid Sanchez in Game 2 was that Sanchez is slightly more home-run prone than Cain. And Sanchez did not, in the event, give up a home run. (Granted, if Cain gives up a cheap homer to a left-handed hitter in Game 3, we may revisit this subject. Because that's what we do.)

Again, after a five-run game we don't usually have much to say. ... Did it have to be a five-run game, though? The Phillies scored their first run with help from an error by "third baseman" Mike Fontenot. And while I hate to use the air quotes -- such a cliché! -- Fontenot's really not a third baseman, by trade. As a major leaguer, Fontenot has started 200 games at second base, and only 47 at third. Fontenot made a bad throw in the first inning, didn't take control of a pop-up in the third, might have forgotten to cover his base in the seventh, and generally looked like a second baseman playing third base.

Which would be OK if he could hit. And he does hit, a little. Against right-handed pitchers. Shoot, maybe we should join Mr. Neyer and engage in a bit of first-guessing. Preliminary first-guessing. And recommend that however far out of favor Pablo Sandoval has fallen, he shouldn't be sitting on the bench against left-hander Cole Hamels in Game 3.

But for the sake of second-guessing, let's assume that Sandoval had played third base in Game 2, and made that play in the first inning. That's one run the Phillies probably don't score. They scored a perfectly legitimate run in the fifth.

Those four runs in the seventh, though ... With Sanchez still in the game, Roy Oswalt singled. We're inclined to give Bochy that one, as Sanchez had been on a roll since the first inning and thrown only 95 pitches. It's what happened next that engaged our natural impulses.

With the Giants trailing by just one run, and nearly 48 hours until their next game, Bochy had a bullpen full of relievers available. And to quell the Phillies' latest rally, Bochy summoned ... Ramon Ramirez? And after Ramirez, Jeremy Affeldt? Just 24 hours after Javier Lopez had pitched so impressively?

Bochy managed the eighth inning as if his team was losing (which it was) and as if he needed to worry about tomorrow's game (there isn't one).

None of which mattered, ultimately. Because the Giants managed to score just one run in the game. The chain of hypothetical events required to give the Giants a Game 2 win would tax even us.

But then, we're the A.S.G.A.A. This is what we do. And we'll do it with even more gusto at our next meeting, if Bochy remains enamored of Fontenot and manages every game like there's no tomorrow.



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