“I feel absolutely terrible right now. I wish I could just dig a hole and go sleep in there.”
My first impulse was rage, and it’s an understandable impulse I suppose. In the hour and change since Conrad let that ball get through his legs to allow in the go-ahead run, however, I’ve moved on to . . . something else.
I’ll tell you one thing, though: I’m not going to fall for the “hey, if it wasn’t for Brooks Conrad the Braves wouldn’t have made the playoffs in the first place” line some folks have been trotting out. If you’re a ballplayer it’s your job to perform at all times, not just in those rare, freakish moments of glory like Conrad had earlier this year. If it wasn’t for Tim Hudson the Braves wouldn’t have been there either and he went out and did what he needed to do to help the team win tonight. That ball in the ninth inning was playable. Conrad didn’t play it, and it’s on him. He knows that more than anyone.
But I’m off of rage. Fact is, Conrad isn’t a good defensive second baseman. We know that. We knew that a long time ago. Bobby Cox sure as hell knew it, yet he had them in a one-run game in the ninth inning when a victory would put Atlanta in the catbird seat. Conrad tried his best, we must assume. It’s just that even at his best, Brooks Conrad doesn’t belong at second base in that situation.
Cox also should have known that Aubrey Huff hits lefties better than he hits righties, yet he pulled Craig Kimbrel in favor of Mike Dunn in the ninth as well. If Kimbrel stays in it’s possible that no one’s talking about Conrad right now. Instead, Dunn gave up the game-tying single.
I guess the point here is that rage at a given outcome, at least if only lasts for a short while, is understandable. Rage at a person, however, doesn’t make a ton of sense. Blame makes a bit more sense because, ultimately, you gotta blame someone for this kind of thing. But giving 100% of the blame to a guy in Conrad’s situation makes little sense when others had just as much if not more to do with that situation than he did.
Which brings us back to Cox. Braves fans have lived with his tactical mistakes — especially his tactical mistakes in the playoffs — for close to 20 years now. There have probably been worse ones than the ones he made with Conrad and Dunn today, I’m sure, though I can’t grasp for any at the moment. They happen. Cox’s strengths are many, but he does not push the right buttons all the time. Never has. Braves fans have come to accept it for the most part.
But with a bit of reflection, I have to say it: if it has to be on anybody, this one is on him.