On running out of pitchers in the fall league and Don Mattingly

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Last week I passed along an MLB.com story about Don Mattingly running out of pitchers while managing in the Arizona Fall League, causing the game to be stopped after seven innings.

Mattingly taking over as the Dodgers’ manager has been met with a lot of scrutiny, in part because he’s never managed before and in part because he committed several gaffes while subbing for Joe Torre in the past.

He’s participating in the AFL to gain some managerial experience before the games actually mean something, and so his running out of pitchers while there seemed plenty newsworthy (particularly since MLB.com ran a relatively lengthy story about it).

However, quite a few Dodgers fans have chimed in to say that the AFL incident is meaningless and covering it only serves to flame the “Mattingly is overmatched as a manager” fire. I don’t necessarily agree, but I’ll let Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts state his case:

As someone who wishes the next Dodger manager had more experience, I nevertheless found this to be completely unremarkable. Some people have been using it to launch more snark at Mattingly, but that snark betrays a lack of understanding of what the AFL is–a series of games designed to provide a limited number of players with practice in a (pseudo-)competitive setting.

The math is simple: Mattingly was given five pitchers to work with Thursday (two others were injured), and was expected to get them all in the game while adhering to strict pitch-count limits. Over the first six innings he used three hurlers, none of whom pitched all that well, leaving him with two for the final three.

The real trouble began with Dodger prospect Steven Ames, a 17th-round pick in 2009, couldn’t retire any of the seven batters he faced in the seventh inning. The next pitcher, Marlins prospect Steve Cishek, fared little better, retiring only two of the next seven batters, using 36 pitches in the process.  That forced Mattingly to use a sixth pitcher, Braves prospect Cory Gearrin, who was supposed to pitch today, in order to complete the seventh inning Thursday.

Weisman also quotes Mattingly as saying, basically, “My hands were tied and I’d do the same thing again.”

I don’t doubt that’s true, nor do I doubt that the whole thing is ultimately meaningless, but that doesn’t preclude it from being newsworthy given the interest in all things Mattingly-as-manager. With that said, many Dodgers fans are already tired of the topic, so I don’t blame them for pushing back at guys like me who bring it up. Or as Weisman put it: “Save the grievances about Mattingly for when they actually matter.”

Braves minor leaguer Braxton Davidson fractures foot on walk-off homer in AFL Championship Game

Braxton Davidson
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Braves minor league first baseman Braxton Davidson played the hero during the Arizona Fall League Championship Game on Saturday, but followed up his game-winning homer with what appeared to be a broken left foot.

Braxton had just lofted a 2-1 pitch from Nationals left-hander Taylor Guilbeau in the bottom of the 10th inning and was making his way around the bases when he started hopping on his right foot as he neared the plate. After being helped off the field, that the infielder was quickly taken to a local hospital for further examination, the results of which have yet to be made public.

The 22-year-old helped lift the Peoria Javelinas to their fifth AFL title and second since 2017. He went 2-for-5 with a single and home run in Saturday’s finale over the Salt River Rafters. During the regular season, he completed his third consecutive campaign in High-A and slashed .171/.281/.365 with a career-high 20 home runs and a .646 OPS through 481 plate appearances.