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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?

Sunday, October 17
David Schoenfield: Well, kids, I'm all Yankeed-out and Red Sox-fatigued, so I don't even want to second guess tonight. What I want to do is first-guess Game 5 of the NLCS. Besides avoiding throwing anything with five feet of home plate when Carlos the Great or Albert the Punisher is up, you have any suggestions for our favorite whipping boy, Phil Garner, or Tony La Russa?

Eric Neel: Here's one for Phil ... since we've grown so close these last few days: Tell Wheeler to be ready to go three or four innings in Game 5, if necessary, backing up Backe. You have to do everything you can to win this game, then take your chances with Game 6, and then have the Rocket on full rest, and Oswalt in the hole, ready for a Game 7.

Scott Ridge: Basic strategy for Phil. Dan Wheeler two innings. Brad Lidge two innings. That means five from Brandon Backe. It's that simple. ... and no more running into outs with Lance Berkman at-bat. ... For Tony La Russa, somebody, anybody other than Tony Womack leading off.

Royce Webb: Can Lidge go two innings?

Scott: Ask Goose Gossage or Rollie Fingers. Of course he can!

Eric: I agree, there has to be some concern about Lidge, especially because none of his work has been easy ...

Royce: I know Garner played with both Fingers and Gossage ... but as Lidge's manager, he may not see it that way.

Eric: Another thing to think about, in the middle innings, is that Miceli was much better this season overall than he was in the first couple of games in this series, and now you've given him a day off, so maybe he comes fresh, and unbothered by his earlier performances ...

David: OK, I'm guessing you guys think the Astros need to win Game 5, then you can almost throw away Game 6 with a Pete Munro start and put everything behind the Rocket in Game 7.

So, with that mind, how quickly do you yank Backe? I mean, other than Lidge -- who has thrown 4 innings and 67 pitches the past two days, mind you -- and Wheeler, the rest of the pen has been awful. And Wheeler has strictly been a one-inning guy in his short time with the Astros. So, my question: When do you pull Backe if you have to win this game?

4 innings, 3 runs ... pull?
3 innings, 3 runs ... pull?
2 innings, 3 runs ... pull?

Eric: It's not the number of runs, exactly, it's the margin. If the offense is keeping pace, you can be more patient, I think.

And my thing is, given everything else he's shown us, I'd pitch Beltran after Wheeler ...

Scott: Hey, Roy Oswalt spotted the Cardinals three runs in one inning and they came back. If Backe has decent stuff, keep him in there as long as possible. Last thing you want from Garner is multiple double-switches at this point.

Eric: I think the key thing here is that Garner has to be thinking, right now, and all game Monday, about keeping Clemens out of Game 6, about giving himself his best chance at a full-strength Rocket. He has to manage Game 5, I think, like they're still down in this series, he has to avoid the temptation to think "we're right back in this thing," etc. He has to be just a little bit desperate, and therefore a little bit innovative, Monday.

David: What about La Russa? Besides the need to move down Womack, as Scott suggests, how does he manage the bullpen in this game? In the back of HIS mind, he's gott to be thinking he doesn't want to get to Game 7 with Roger Clemens on the mound.

(Of course, that's assuming that Garner, if the 'Stros take Game 5, would start Munro over Clemens in Game 6. And, man, how good would Houston be if Pettitte and Miller were healthy ...)

Eric: If I'm La Russa, I honestly don't change much at all. Womack's no great shakes in the leadoff (.308/.352/.383), but he's not hideous, either. If I'm La Russa, I'm just not too worried. My guys were close to hitting Roger last time out, and they had good shots at Oswalt today, and I expect that to continue against Backe and Munro, for sure. Rolen's waking up. Pujols is the series MVP if not for Beltran. Etc., etc. If I'm La Russa, I'm just not too worried. Unless, of course, you ask me about Matt Morris ...

Scott: Isringhausen has thrown only 4 1/3 this postseason. Since Tuesday is a travel day, La Russa should definitely have him ready by the eighth inning. And by all means keep Tavarez out of the game.

I'll throw this out. Since Bagwell is 3-for-13 in the Series ... does Beltran get the Bonds treatment?

Eric: Something close to it might make some sense, though I think La Russa wasn't too fond of giving even Bonds the Bonds treatment this year. Am I wrong about that?

David: Bonds only had three walks in 21 plate appearances against the Cardinals, so you're right, La Russa went after him.

Eric: As you said earlier this afternoon, D, Beltran's mug is in the dictionary next to "Zone" right now. You shouldn't mess with him. The problem you face is that he's hitting balls off his shoelaces out of the park right now. Don't you think Bagwell's looking at this guy with some awe and envy right now? Bagwell's a great player who never has solved postseason pitching. Beltran comes along and makes it look ridiculously easy in his very first postseason. I mean, Bagwell's the guy who's supposed to have eight HRs in the postseason. The other problem you face, if you're La Russa, is that 13 Bagwell ABs just ain't much of a sample, and Jeff hit the ball, as Olbermann used to say, "real hard" in the NLDS.

Second Guessing, Second Helpings
We question ...

How come we haven't any seen any sightings of Jason Giambi in the Yankee dugout? Did George ban him? Is he hiding out in the trainer's room with Travis Lee and Steve Karsay? Is he back in the Bay Area working out with Barry Bonds?

If it bothers David Ortiz to know he and James Lipton have the exact same beard?

If there is a cleaning agent that exists which is strong enough to clean those Red Sox batting helmets for spring training.

Ray King's diet. Seriously, Ray, you don't look healthy. Lay off the Big Mac breakfasts this offseason, OK?

Manny taking that 3-0 pitch in the bottom of the ninth.

Previous editions of Second Guessing
Oct. 16: Another Scrap Iron stinker

Oct. 14: Another Scrap Iron stinker

Oct. 13: The ALCS & NLCS are already over

Oct. 12: Yankees get the better of the Red Sox

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