Wait? Did Bobby Cox really pencil in the right lineup tonight?

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An hour ago I said that Bobby Cox did the best he could given some bad choices with tonight’s lineup.  My friend Rob Neyer views it a bit differently:

If Cox really thought his best lineup included Troy Glaus at third base and Omar Infante at second base, that’s the lineup he would have been writing out every game.

He hasn’t been. In his heart, Cox believes his best lineup includes Infante at third base and Brooks Conrad at second base. Except now psychology has come into this thing . . . If Conrad really isn’t good enough to start, Cox should have known that
before today. And I can’t stop thinking that all this could have been
avoided, if Cox had simply lifted Conrad for a better defensive player
in the ninth inning of Game 3.

I’m sorry to say this about a Hall
of Fame manager who’s on the way out. But he blew this one from six
ways to Sunday. Plain and simple.

Is psychology such a bad thing in this instance? I ask because in many ways Cox has operated like this for his entire career.  He has pitched Charlie Liebrandt or started Keith Lockhart or any number of other things that weren’t always the best tactical move. Maybe not even what he thought was the best tactical move himself. Such an approach may have cost him some games. Maybe even some big ones.

But he’s never lost his clubhouse. He’s never, as far as I know, had his players seriously question his judgment.  His steadiness and his attention to player psychology has arguably been his greatest asset over the years.  It’s who he is as a manager. It’s who the Braves are as a team for better and for worse.

We on the outside can’t know for sure, but I bet Cox’s decision to go with Glaus is a function of him knowing — as really only he can know — that his players need that lineup tonight. That no matter how politic he has been, Derek Lowe will freak out if he looks back and sees Conrad at second tonight.  That Alex Gonzalez or Derek Lee will try to do too much if they see him there.  That Conrad himself may freeze up and, if it’s at all possible, play worse himself if he gets the start.

Maybe Cox does realize, deep down, that starting Glaus is the wrong move, tactically speaking. But for him to ignore what is most likely unanimous — albeit likely unspoken — team sentiment that Conrad shouldn’t start tonight would be for him to reject everything that has made him the manager he is. At this late date — perhaps six hours before his career comes to an end — how could he possibly change the only approach to managing that he’s ever known?  And why would any Braves fan want him to, no matter what the stakes?

We’ve reached a point where the micro-level tactical considerations seem, I don’t know, beside the point. The Braves are bleeding. They’re tired. There’s only one bullet left in the chamber and the place they’ve holed up in is surrounded. Even if they get out of this mess, there’s a much scarier horde waiting for them just over the ridge. 

No manager is perfect. Bobby Cox certainly isn’t perfect. But I believe in Bobby Cox. I have no choice but to.  And if he’s going to go down tonight, I want him to go down doing it the way he always has.  I think his players do too.  And I think he’s doing just that.     

Pete Mackanin doesn’t see the point in playing Tyler Goeddel

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 20: Tyler Goeddel #2 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a two-run home run in the first inning during a game against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on July 20, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Phillies outfielder Tyler Goeddel was included in Wednesday’s starting lineup against the Nationals. It’s notable because it’s only his eighth start in August. The Phillies selected Goeddel from the Rays in the Rule 5 draft during the winter, which means the club has had to keep him on its 25-man roster all season. If the club didn’t, it would have had to offer Goddel back to the Rays.

Goeddel is by no means a top prospect, but the Phillies deemed him worthy enough of taking a year-long 25-man roster spot, which are quite valuable. And the rebuilding Phillies aren’t exactly fighting for a playoff spot, so why not play him?

As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, manager Pete Mackanin asked, “What’s the point?” in regards to starting Goeddel. Mackanin said, “I’ve seen enough of Goeddel to know. We’ve kept him this long and we’re going to keep him and we’ll see where we go next year with him. I don’t see a need to play him, especially after he hasn’t played so much.”

That seems like circular logic. You don’t see a need to play him because he hasn’t played much. Well, maybe if you played him more often, you’d see a reason?

In fairness, Goeddel hasn’t exactly torn the cover off the ball, putting up a .191/.250/.296 triple-slash line in 217 plate appearances. But the Phillies have chosen to play utilityman Cody Asche and journeyman Jimmy Paredes (“an extra player,” according to Mackanin), who both don’t figure to be in the Phillies’ future plans. Goeddel is only 23 years old. In May, when he was starting regularly, he posted a .794 OPS.

This isn’t a roster blunder on the Ruben Amaro, Jr. scale, but it’s a very odd way to handle a Rule-5 player for a rebuilding team.

Shelby Miller’s first start back in the majors wasn’t a disaster

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 31:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the second inning at AT&T Park on August 31, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller returned to the majors on Wednesday after a stint of about a month and a half in the minor leagues. The right-hander had compiled an ugly 2-9 record and a 7.14 ERA over 14 big league starts along with a finger injury and the minor league demotion.

On Wednesday afternoon against the Giants at AT&T Park, Miller still got the loss, but he gave up only two runs on six hits and a walk with three strikeouts in three innings. It’s the fifth time in 15 starts he gave up two or fewer runs. Opposing starter Matt Moore, who nearly authored a no-hitter his last time out, was just a little bit better, limiting the D-Backs’ offense to a lone run in 5 1/3 innings. The Giants ultimately won 4-2.

You may recall Miller was part of the trade that forced the Diamondbacks to send Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair, and 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson to the Braves. It’s a trade that chief baseball officer Tony La Russa defended as recently as last week.