Don’t make Will Middlebrooks the goat for last night’s game

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Ken Davidoff of the New York Post ponders whether or not Will Middlebrooks will become a goat after last night’s obstruction play. The headline — which I’m certain Davidoff did not write:

source:

Davidoff himself does not believe that Middlebrooks should not be a goat, saying “Middlebrooks “faces a future in which he might known be known best as the obstruction guy,” but notes that “it would represent a cruel fate.”

I couldn’t agree more. Middlebrooks has nothing to be ashamed of.

It would’ve been close to impossible for Middlebrooks to not have obstructed Craig. It was a totally s**t-happens situation. Maybe he could’ve knocked the throw down, keeping it from getting by him and causing Craig to stay at third, but that’s not what those who would make him a goat are likely to be on about. They’re going to talk about the obstruction itself. And as far as that goes, the rule has no intent element to it for a reason. Middlebrooks can not be said to have screwed up that part of it because he could not have possibly gotten out of the way.  And thus Middlebrooks should not be said to have messed up in any legacy-defining way.

If there is blame here, it can go to Farrell for not having his best defensive catcher in the game there. Or it can go to Saltilamacchia for throwing a ball he’d be better served putting in his back pocket. That kind of blame happens a lot, though. It’s run of the mill, “oof, bad move” stuff we see hundreds of times a year. It’s not Bill Buckner stuff.

But if people are looking for Buckner stuff — if they decide that Will Middlebrooks is some epic level goat here — it says way more about those people and human nature’s almost pathological need to assign blame than it says about Middlebrooks’ actions. In that case it should be between those people and their therapists, not Middlebrooks and the judgment of history.

Game 6: This is why the Astros traded for Justin Verlander

Associated Press
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Houston’s pitching has not been their biggest problem as they’ve watched their 2-0 series lead turn in to a 3-2 series deficit. It has not been good, mind you — Charlie Morton got rocked in Game 3, the bullpen collapsed on Game 4 and Dallas Keuchel was suddenly mortal in Game 5 — but even then it’s not been the biggest concern. The real problem has been the lack of offense.

The Astros led the majors in runs (896), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.478) during the regular season and were second to the Yankees in homers. Despite that, they have scored just nine runs and have hit only one homer. The team’s ALCS batting line, those two wins included, is .147/.234/.213. As such, facing off against Luis Severino and a rested Yankees bullpen tonight can’t give them a ton of confidence.

They do have one thing going for them, however: Justin Verlander. The same Justin Verlander who received only two runs of support in Game 2 of the series but made it hold up thanks to his 124-pitch, 13-strikeout complete game victory. You can’t really expect a starter to do that sort of thing two times in a row, but that’s what the Astros acquired him for at the end of August. In a league where there are vanishingly few horses a team can ride to victory, Verlander stands as one of the few remaining old school aces. Expect A.J. Hinch to keep the bit in Verlander’s mouth for as long as this game is close and, even then, maybe an inning longer.

Is there any reason for optimism regarding the Astros’ lineup? Sure, of course. They didn’t suddenly all forget how to hit. Every team goes through a stretch of 3-5 games where the hits don’t seem to fall. There may, possibly, be some reason for hope in the man they’re facing too. Severino lasted only four innings in Game 2, having been removed early after taking a ground ball off his left wrist. Severino said he was fine and wished that Joe Girardi hadn’t taken him out, but (a) he was acting a little odd, shaking his arm out like he was trying to shake off some pain; and (b) starting pitchers almost always lie and say they’re better than they are. I’m certain Severino is healthy enough to go, but there’s at least a small chance that he’s vulnerable, somehow. At the very least Astros hitters can walk to the plate convincing themselves of it. Any edge you can either get or imagine, right?

Game 6 seems like it will have to be a matter of a small edge one way or another for both teams, really. The Yankees are rolling, but their assignment tonight is a tough one as they try to chase a guy who fancies himself — and has often shown himself — to be a rare throwback to those 1960s and 1970s aces who only seem to get better as the ballgame goes on. The Astros, meanwhile, are tasked with solving a young, fireballing stuff monster who has something to prove after his early exit in Game 2 and, even if he can’t prove it, a corps of relief aces who are among the most formidable in baseball. Add to that the notion that Major League Baseball, Fox and most commentators and casual fans outside of Houston want to see the 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup and the Astros have to be thinking everything’s against them.

Which is OK, though, right? Ballplayers love it when no one believes in them. That’s not better than six or seven runs of support, but the Astros will take anything they can get at the moment.