Page 2 staff

We're not here to analyze, scout, predict, project or proclaim Derek Jeter a "winner." We're here to Second Guess. Hey, isn't that half the fun of baseball's postseason?

Thursday, October 14
David Schoenfield: Well, kids, I'm so mad at Phil Garner at right now I can barely type. My hands are shaking in disgust. Which are more than Brad Lidge's hands can say. They sat idle in the bullpen, unused, while a stiff named Dan Miceli got tattooed across the Mississippi. Can you dare defend Garner's moves in Game 2? Do you dare? Because I'm ready and willing to attack ...

Eric Neel: I can't defend him. I can wonder whether he had money on St. Louis tonight, but I can't defend him. Lidge hadn't pitched in Game 1. Miceli had been lit up by Atlanta. (And, oh by the way, the Cardinals are just a little bit more potent than the Braves.) Lidge should have been in there in the eighth. Period. You'd gotten everything else you could have hoped for ... Pete Munro got it to the mid-point, Beltran and Co. had put up some runs, Lidge was your one strong card left to play, your one advantage in a moment when you were expected to be down and out. You have to press your advantage. You have to try to steal this game and keep the series alive.

David: Let me quote my good buddy Will Shakes, who probably would have made a nice lefty out of the pen for the Astros:

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. And some, like Brad Lidge, baseball's most dominating reliever the second half of the season, don't get a chance to be great, and are left unused in a tie game."

Grrr.

The game is tied 4-4, bottom of the 8th, St. Louis has up some guys named Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds, who aren't exactly a trio of yahoos. So Garner, in all the wisdom he displayed in nine consecutive losing seasons managing the Brewers and Tigers, brings in Miceli. Can they just name Bagwell and Biggio player-managers?

Look, here are three reasons this move is 100 percent wrong:

  • Miceli stinks.
  • The heart of the order is up. You need your best pitcher in there.
  • Garner had proved earlier, against Atlanta, when he brought in Lidge in the seventh that he wouldn't fall into the conventional, "save your closer for ninth inning when you have the lead" bullcrap.

    Except he never got the lead.

    And don't even get me started about the fifth and sixth innings.

    Eric: I will say this, though: There's a pretty good chance we'd be talking about 2-0 no matter who Garner brought in and no matter when he did it. At some point in each of these two games the Astros were going to have to take their chances with the Micelis and Harvilles of the world (assuming they couldn't count on Lidge to go five innings or so), and that likely means that at some point Rolen, Pujols, and Walker were going to go baba-da-bing! On some level, this series, and these two games in particular, were determined in the Atlanta series, when the Astros had to trot out Oswalt for Game 5.

    David: Grrrr.

    Eric: The strange thing, as you say, is that Garner was willing to break the mold and bring Lidge in in the seventh against Atlanta, and now he was back to stone-age managing, going with Miceli, as if using Lidge in this spot, as a setup man, might somehow magically transform him into one.

    David: OK, you may be right about your previous point, but Garner didn't help himself with the way he managed the fifth.

    Here's an IM exchange Eric and I had as the fifth inning was unfolding:

  • davidschoenfield: I'm going on the record with this now: Don't fool around, Munro should not face Walker with a runner(s) on. Lefties tattooed Munro to a .337/.389/.587 tune this year.
  • ericneel: was it walker who hit the home run?
  • ericneel: i missed it.
  • davidschoenfield: you didn't, and neither did walker
  • ericneel: gotta get him out of there now, my dollar be damned
  • ericneel: ohmygod ... that was a terrifying shot from rolen
  • davidschoenfield: look, you've got the WORST starting pitcher to start a playoff game in the last decade. he's horrible, he's been horrible for two months. you're up 3-0, fifth inning, runner on, meat of the order up. GET HIM OUT. Why play with fire? Now, I know the problem -- you don't really have any relievers to go to. Well, shoot, bring in Lidge ...

    Graham Hays: I hate to play Devil's Advocate with this bunch of omnipotent second-guessers, but it's not as if Garner brought in Bobby Ayala to face the heart of the St. Louis order. Say what you want -- and I know you will -- about Dan Miceli, but he posted a 3.59 ERA in 77.2 innings this season and a 3.20 ERA in 70.1 innings last season. Not to mention right-handed hitters hit under .200 against him this season, and he was outstanding in September. Garner saw what happened when he brought in Lidge too early against the Braves. Russ Springer happens. And let's not crucify him for failing to be an innovator in the crucible of postseason play. Does it make sense to save your best pitcher for the ninth inning when the other team's best hitters are due up in the eighth inning? No, but EVERY manager does it.

    Eric: Those are decent numbers, G, you're right, but by the eighth (which Garner and the whole team should have been ecstatic to reach in as good a shape as they did), with Lidge rested, there is no reason to even wonder what Miceli's numbers are, because all you have to know is that they are nowhere near Lidge's numbers.

    David: Graham, who do think you are, Dave Schoenfield, throwing around stats like that?!?

    OK, Miceli is better than I realized.

    Of course, I know one manager who wouldn't have managed like that -- Mr. Joe Torre. Look, I'm not saying Lidge is Mo Rivera, but Torre always brings in Rivera into a game like that. (Well, except for the Jeff Weaver Incident in last year's World Series.)

    Most importantly, you can't lose a close game without getting at least one meaningful inning from your best reliever, no matter how good or mediocre the rest of the pen is.

    Eric: Here's what happened when Lidge went two-and-a-third against Atlanta: He struck out three, walked one, gave up one earned run ... one really damaging double. I'd have taken my chances that he could do even better tonight, especially with his wicked fast stuff busting through rain drops.

    I wonder if Garner is feeling snakebit for that usage, a usage that went well, but not well enough, as it turned out, for the Astros to win. Is he still backtracking from that move? Could he be that concerned with how that move was received? I'm not even pointing fingers at this point, I'm just trying to understand a fellow human being who truly mystifies me right now ...

    David: Hey, Mr. Smartypants, I'd like you to defend Garner's bunt in the sixth. Two on, nobody out, trailing 4-3. Meanwhile, your skip over your two best pinch-hitters -- Mike Lamb and Jason Lane, both of whom can hit it out of the park -- and they never get in the game. Who bunts trailing by a run?

    Graham: Come on Dave, you know you'll never catch me defending a bunt. But look, if we're going to start blaming managers, how about putting a little heat on Jimy Williams for the baserunning work he did with this team in spring training? If the Astros hadn't run themselves out of scoring opportunities early in the game, Miceli's souvenirs might have just made Astros fans nervous instead of nauseous. There were nine innings in this game, and the Astros made mistakes or missed opportunities in just about all of them. So let's throw Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jeff Kent and up there on the pyre with Mr. Garner.

    Eric: Good point, G. I'm thinking particularly of Bagwell getting caught off first on that botched steal play. Did he have a flashback? Did he think he was Jeff Bagwell circa 1992? Did he think, like all of us do, that it would be cool to be Carlos Beltran? First question for Bagwell after the game: Hey Jeff, It's raining here, and in this world, you're old. What's it like where you are?

    Second Guessing, Second Helpings ...

  • Red Sox Nation for thinking Schilling was the answer for the Yankees ... it should have been A-Rod.

  • Two LCS games on at the same time. It's a disservice to fans. Why does Major League Baseball treats day games as if Dracula was the commissioner?

  • The term "quality start." Pedro pitched 6 innings, gave up 3 runs. That's a 4.50 ERA. That's not quality in our book. That's mediocre. And mediocre isn't enough to end the curse.

  • Tom Gordon's moustache.

  • The Yankees for not enforcing their no-facial hair policy on Gordon's moustache.

  • Kevin Millar's Brothers Karamazov beard. Seriously, the crazy beard and cowboy talk are pretty funny when you're winning and beating up on the Devil Rays in August, but you gotta step up in October and if you're hitting fifth, you gotta put some good wood on the ball once in awhile.

  • If, just to mess things up a bit, if Francona needs to accuse Rivera of doctoring the ball ... there's no way that thing is that heavy on its own, man. Gotta be a sharp belt buckle in there somewhere, or some Panamanian pickle juice hidden behind his left ear, or maybe a little Vaseline, leftover from Whitey Ford's locker, applied with a little dab will do ya inside the heel of his glove.

    Previous editions of Second Guessing
    Oct. 13: LCS' already over?

    Oct. 11: Phil Garner got away with one

    Oct. 10: Phil Garner wears the dunce cap

    Oct. 9: Ten things on Twins-Yankees

    Oct. 8: Angels decide to go with Jarrod Washburn

    Oct. 7: Did Bobby Cox play too much Small Ball?

    Oct. 6: Ron Gardenhire leaves in Joe Nathan