Bottom of the sixth inning, the Reds coming back. A Ryan Ludwick homer brings them to within three runs. Then, Jay Bruce walks, Scott Rolen singles, putting Bruce on second. Ryan Hanigan comes up to the plate — still no one out — and works the count full. Matt Cain is on the ropes!
Then Dusty Baker sends Jay Bruce on a steal of third for some damn reason, Hanigan either doesn’t realize it or doesn’t care, and fails to swing at Cain’s pitch, which is called a strike, and then Buster Posey fires it down to third and nails Bruce by a couple of steps. Stike-em-out-throw-em-out double play. Cain is off the hook and then after a pitching change Drew Stubbs grounds out to end the inning. We’re in the seventh now, with the Giants up 6-3.
Why Baker is sending Bruce in that situation, in that park against a pitcher who is fighting for his life is a mystery. But he gave the Giants a free out and, depending on what Hanigan was thinking, maybe two. Just a disastrous sequence of events.
But Dusty sure showed us who can manage, in every active sense of the verb “manage.”
A few weeks back the Washington Nationals designated reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment the morning after he threw his glove into the ground and glared at the Nats dugout in frustration after giving up a homer in a blowout win against the Mets. He was later traded to the Athletics. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said at that time that he thought Kelley was trying to show up his manager and that there was no room for that sort of thing on the team, offering an “either you’re with us or you’re working against us” sentiment in the process.
Today the Washington Post talks about all of the Nationals’ bullpen woes of late, and touches on the departure of Kelley as being part of the problem. In so doing, we learn that, on the night of Kelley’s mound tantrum, he and Rizzo almost got into a physical confrontation:
Rizzo headed down to the clubhouse and confronted Kelley, according to people familiar with the situation. The argument became heated, including raised voices, and eventually it almost became physical, according to people familiar with the exchange. Adam Eaton got between the two of them and separated them before things could advance further . . .
Might I point out that, the fact of this emerging now helps to vindicate Brandon Kintzler who, the day before, was traded away, some say, for being the source for negative reports from inside the Nats’ clubhouse?
That aside, the article does not make anyone look good, really. Rizzo had the backing of his team with the Kelley incident, but the overall story — how did the Nats’ bullpen, which was once a strength — get so bad? — does no favors for Rizzo. Mostly because he seems to have thought that they had so much extra bullpen depth that they could afford to deal away Kintzler, which he says was a financial move, not a punitive trade for being a media source.
Question: when was the last time you heard a baseball man say he had too much relief pitching? Especially today, in which the bullpen has assumed such a prominent role? Seems rather unreasonable to cut relievers when you’re trying mightily to come back from a sizable deficit in the standings, yes?