This is from Friday night, but it’s well worth revisiting.
Seems that for the second time this year, Mike Quade was unhappy when a Cubs’ opponent tried to steal a base with a big lead. This time it was Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, who attempted to steal with an 8-1 lead in the fifth inning. Earlier this year Quade was angry when Brewers’ outfielder Carlos Gomez stole a base with a 6-0 lead late in a game. Quade’s comment: “I probably have to get a copy of the Milwaukee and the Los Angeles unwritten rules books … There might be a Los Angeles and Milwaukee version I need to read.”
Oy vey. Look: I’ll give you your unwritten rules when it comes to matters of etiquette, ethics and professional courtesy like, say, refraining from flipping bats and showboating after a home run. Or batters looking back at the catcher to steal signs. Or even the rules governing beanball wars, even if I think beanball wars are themselves illegitimate.
But please, spare me the stuff about stealing bases when you have a lead. At no time in any game should any perfectly legitimate strategy be considered out-of-bounds. Neither 8-1 nor 6-0 leads are insurmountable. At no time does the losing team cease to use all of the weapons it has at its disposal, so neither should the team with the lead.
But there’s a philosophical point to be made along with the tactical one. Animating Quade’s thinking here is that, hey, the game is over for all practical purposes, so stop trying to win. The next logical step to that is to have Quade throw in the towel and take his losing team off the field. After all, that would be courteous too! It would save a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the pitchers! It wouldn’t, if you believe Quade, make any difference in the outcome! If the team with the lead is expected to stop trying at some point, why doesn’t the manager of the losing team make it easier for them to do so by clearly noting the exact moment they plan to quit, and then literally quit. If Quade’s not going to do that — and I’m guessing he won’t — he shouldn’t have a problem with Don Mattingly still trying to score runs.
This isn’t Little League. Don’t want A.J. Ellis stealing bases on you, Mike? Have your pitchers hold his butt on the bag, OK?