OK, so top of the second inning in last night’s Mets/Phillies game. R.A. Dickey drops down a sacrifice bunt to move Josh Thole over to second base. No big deal, right? Except for some reason, Thole decided to run back to first base. He ended up getting tagged out for the final out of the inning. You can watch the bizarre play here.
Initially it appeared as though Jimmy Rollins may have told Thole that the ball was foul, thus tricking him to go back to first base. That was certainly my first reaction. But it turns out that’s not the case. Rollins merely put his hands up to tell him that the play was uncontested.
Thole told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com after the game that he simply lost his head for a moment.
“I was coming into second, and Jimmy put his hands up, like, ‘Come in easy. You can come in easy.’ And I knew the ball was fair. I even looked down. You go watch the video. I checked it. The ball was on the floor. And I just took off running back to first. I’ve got no other explanation.”
I’m not so sure about that explanation. The bunt was along the first base line and the video certainly makes it look like Thole thought the ball was foul. Pretty embarrassing moment, but at least he looked good doing it. The new Mets’ road unis are pretty snazzy.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.