Grady has Little clue

NEW YORK -- Joe Torre, on the other hand, knew when to take his starting pitcher out of the game.

"Roger Clemens is always easy to take out,'' Torre said after the Yankees' 6-5 Game 7 victory over the Red Sox. "He knew as well as anyone that he didn't have his best stuff.

"There is no time for sentiment when you're trying to win a ballgame.''

That's why the @&^@#%!!! Yankees are going to the World Series again and Boston fans will spend this winter and the next winter and the next winter and probably every other winter of their lives moaning about the Curse of the Dumbo, Grady Little, their soon-to-be ex-manager of the Red Sox.

There the Red Sox were, five outs from the World Series with Pedro Martinez on the mound, five outs from beating their arch rivals with their ace in charge, five outs from finally beating the nemesis that has whipped them mercilessly since before Don Zimmer had hair.

Then Derek Jeter (who else?) doubled on Pedro's 111th pitch.

And Little left Pedro in.

Then Bernie Williams singled home Jeter on Pedro's 116th pitch to cut Boston's lead to 5-3.

And Little left Pedro in.

Then Hideki Matsui doubled on Pedro's 119th pitch to put the tying run on second.

And Little still left Pedro in.

And then Jorge Posada singled on Pedro's 123nd pitch to tie the game and bring the sellout crowd screaming to its feet and the ghosts of postseason past screeching into Yankee Stadium.

That's when Little finally took the ball from Pedro, and by that point, the only surprising thing was he didn't immediately hand it to Denny Galehouse.

"Pedro Martinez has been our man all year long and in situations like that, he's the one we want on the mound over anybody we can bring in out of the bullpen,'' Little said. "He had enough left in his tank to finish off Posada.''

That sounds great, Grady. Be sure to include it in your resume when applying for your next job.

Little's decision to stick with Pedro far too long is so much worse than manager John McNamara's failure to put in a defensive replacement for Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series. Worse than the move to take out Jim Willoughby in the 1975 Series. Worse than the decision to start Galehouse instead of Mel Parnell, in the 1948 playoff game against Cleveland.

This is a decision that will haunt Boston fans until even after the Big Dig is complete.

The Red Sox clubhouse was mostly silence after the eventual loss, with several players choking back tears. Pedro, who showed little character after the Game 3 melee last weekend by ducking the media, showed a great deal of it Thursday night by standing as tall as his 5-10 frame allows and taking full responsibility for what happened.

"I wouldn't put Grady on the spot like that whatsoever,'' Pedro said. "I am the ace of the team. I wasn't thinking about pitch counts then. That is no time to say I'm tired. There is no reason to blame Grady. He doesn't play the game. We do. I do. If you want to blame someone, blame me. I walk out there. I'm responsible for the pitches I make in the middle of the game.

"Grady did a great job throughout the season. I don't think it's fair to blame Grady for the decision made out there.''

Yes, it is. No starting pitcher as good and as competitive as Pedro is ever going to say he is tired and isn't strong enough to continue. That's why you hire managers to make the decision for them.

I can understand the reasoning behind letting Pedro begin the eighth inning. He allowed only two runs for the first seven innings, he is the ace and he has earned the right to stay in a game in that situation if he wants. And you could also make a case for letting him stay in even after Jeter's double, because Williams is a switch-hitter who would simply step across the plate and bat from the right side if Little brought in lefty Alan Embree.

But you can't let him face Matsui, who had two doubles in six previous at-bats against Pedro this week, including one in the fourth inning Thursday. And after he doubled yet again, you certainly can't let him face Posada.

This isn't second-guessing. Pedro was tiring, Boston's pen was outstanding the entire postseason and Embree was ready. The decision was so obvious that as soon as Little left the dugout to talk to Pedro after Williams' single, I drew a line in my scorecard to indicate a pitching change. Everyone was screaming for Little to take out Pedro (and probably none louder than the Fox executives suddenly stuck with a Yankees-Marlins World Series on their schedule).

Only Little didn't make the move. Evidently, he was busy wondering whether he should use a defensive replacement for Buckner.

"When Matsui came up, I was like, 'All right, this is it. This is (Pedro's) last batter,'' New York pitcher Mike Mussina said. "Then Matsui hit the ball down the line for a double and I'm like, 'OK, that's it, that has to be his last at-bat.

"I know he's got some good numbers against (Posada), but it seemed like we had gotten some good swings against him lately. I'm sure (Little) will look at that decision and think about it most of the offseason.''

There's no doubt about that. The Red Sox haven't picked up the option on Little's contract for next year yet, and after the eighth inning disaster, they shouldn't.

"He was trying to win the game,'' Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "I'm not going to second-guess our manager. I support our manager. He's a huge part of our team.''

Naturally, Epstein wasn't going to fire Little then and there. The decision to do that or not will come later.

In the meantime, the Sox have yet another postseason failure to add to their history, just as the Cubs do. Both teams can look at the Yankees, who seemingly go to the World Series at will, and the Marlins, who have reached the World Series the only two times they've really tried, and wonder why they can almost never get there, nor win when they do.

And while they do that and the rest of us mourn the dream World Series that so nearly was, Little should begin checking the help wanted section.

In fact, there are probably plenty of openings for selling "Cowboy Up'' t-shirts now.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.