Commentary

'Two bad decisions' cost Red Sox

Spotlight is on third-base coach Tim Bogar after Boston's 9-8 loss to A's

Updated: June 3, 2010, 11:00 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

Victor MartinezAP Photo/Steven SenneVictor Martinez was one of two Red Sox runners thrown out at the plate on Thursday.

BOSTON -- So what do you do when you have 18 hits, 10 for extra bases, including three home runs, and lose?

Why, you blame the third-base coach, of course.

Tim Bogar grew up a Cubs fan in suburban Chicago. He idolized Walter Payton of the Bears. When he was in third grade, he wrote an essay in which he said he planned to be a big league ballplayer. His mother framed it and hung it in the house. He played for the Mets, Astros and Dodgers, couldn't hit, but played excellent defense at short. He worked as a rep for a sporting goods company for a while, then took a job as a Class A manager. He made it back to the big leagues with the Tampa Bay Rays, where he was known as the "quality assurance" coach.

His primary role in that job, Rays manager Joe Maddon once said, was "to try to get ahead of our own mistakes."

In his spare time, Bogar likes to make furniture, things like rolltop desks.

None of which is of the slightest bit of interest to Red Sox fans who are already inclined to believe that as a third-base coach, Bogar is the latest incarnation of Dale Sveum, Wendell (Wave 'em in) Kim, and Rene (the Windmill) Lachemann, former Sox third-base coaches saddled with a reputation for human sacrifice -- i.e., sending Sox runners on kamikaze missions to home plate.

[+] EnlargeTim Bogar
Hannah Foslien /Getty Images"I think generally I do a good job over there. Today was one of those days where I made two decisions that went the wrong way," said Red Sox third-base coach Tim Bogar.

The grumbling began early. In April, Kevin Youkilis was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first with none out against Tampa Bay. Then last month in Baltimore, Bogar urged Jason Varitek on a first-to-home jaunt on a two-out hit -- normally eminently defensible -- but in this case, the throw arrived so far ahead of the gassed Varitek, the Orioles catcher called for a fair catch before applying the tag.

But those were just appetizers for what took place in Thursday's 9-8 loss to the Oakland Athletics. Bogar waved home two runners who were thrown out at the plate. Victor Martinez, who has a bad big toe, was thrown out in the third inning trying to score from first on Youkilis' double to the left-center field gap. An inning later, Darnell McDonald, who had just twisted his right knee banging into the ground while diving back into first, was thrown out trying to score from second on Jeremy Hermida's single to right.

In both instances, there were no outs when Bogar waved the runners home. Rule No. 1 for a third-base coach: Don't get anybody thrown out at the plate with no outs. Fans held their breath when Bill Hall, who had four hits, led off the sixth with a double, but Jeremy Hermida hit the next pitch into the visitors' bullpen, relegating Bogar's job to offering a handshake as the runners passed.

What were potentially big innings turned into a zero in the third, and one run scored in the fourth. In a one-run loss, those things tend to be noticed, even more so than the fact that the Sox were just 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The Sox had runners in scoring position in every inning but the ninth, and in that inning Bill Hall homered to cut the final margin to one. In all, they left 11 runners on base.

There were other contributors to the defeat. The Athletics hit four home runs, the first time this season they've had more than two in a game. Kurt Suzuki hit two off Tim Wakefield, who followed up a 12-hit, nine-run outing (in 3 2/3 innings) in his last start by giving up another six runs on eight hits in six innings Thursday. Then reliever Manny Delcarmen, with the Sox down just a run at the start of the eighth, gave up home runs on consecutive pitches to Jack Cust and Kevin Kouzmanoff.

But as the Sox packed up for a two-city swing to Baltimore (three games) and Cleveland (four games), it was Bogar whom a gang of media inquisitors summoned to make an accounting of himself.

(They asked Terry Francona first, but the Sox manager throws no one under the bus. Not his players, and certainly not his coaches. "It's a tough job,'' he said, "especially here.'' Well, OK. Francona did say he suggested to Bogar after the fourth that developing a little amnesia might be useful.)

"Obviously nobody out, I made two bad decisions and got two runners thrown out at the plate," said Bogar, who last season was Boston's first-base coach until moving across the diamond to replace DeMarlo Hale, who was superb as third-base coach but deservedly was promoted to bench coach when Brad Mills left to become manager of the Astros.

"Obviously it's all about results, and obviously both times I was wrong, so I'll take full responsibility for it.''

The gimpiness of the runners, Bogar said, "had nothing to do" with what transpired.

"Just two decisions I made that didn't go our way,'' he said. "Obviously I should have learned from the first one.''

Bogar was dismissive of the suggestion that he might still be learning on the job.

"No, not at all,'' he said. "I'm confident in what I'm doing, I'm confident in my decision-making. I, you know, I think generally I do a good job over there. Today was one of those days where I made two decisions that went the wrong way."

Bogar was asked if the results were what made the decisions wrong.

"No, I mean, obviously it's easy to look at the scoreboard and say there's nobody out, don't send 'em. Hindsight's 20-20. But the bottom line is neither play went our way and we ended up losing the game. So obviously they were decisions that affected the outcome.''

Bogar said that Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki made a good play handling a short-hop throw from shortstop Cliff Pennington to tag out Martinez on a close play. "The second play, obviously I didn't think the ball was hit as hard as it was, so that was just a bad decision. Sometimes you have to give credit to the other guys. But when there's nobody out, you gotta make sure you can score, and it just didn't go that way."

Truth of the matter is, this is a hard place to coach third, and Bogar is a little more than two months into the job. And a little amnesia really isn't a bad idea. Otherwise, as Bogar acknowledged, the stress can build.

Even better is a little anonymity. The best third-base coaches are often overlooked. Like Hale.

It's kind of like with umpires. Ask Jim Joyce.

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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