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

52 Comments

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.

There was another miscommunication between the Phillies and Pat Neshek

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Back in June 2017, then-manager of the Phillies Pete Mackanin and reliever Pat Neshek had some miscommunication. In a series against the Cardinals, Neshek worked a five-pitch eighth inning and it was believed he would come back out for the ninth inning, but he never did. Mackanin said Neshek said he didn’t want to pitch another inning. Neshek said he was never asked. There was also some miscommunication the game prior. Neshek thought he had the day off; Mackanin said Neshek said he wasn’t available to pitch.

Mackanin is no longer the Phillies’ manager, but the miscommunication between Neshek and the team apparently persist. Neshek was notably absent during the Phillies’ hard-fought 5-4 win over the Cubs on Monday night. The game featured a struggling Seranthony Domínguez pitching two innings, yielding three crucial runs in his second inning of work.

Manager Gabe Kapler called the bullpen and instructed Neshek to begin warming up to prepare to face Albert Almora, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Kapler rang the bullpen after Domínguez walked Jason Heyward, who batted ahead of Almora. Neshek wasn’t warmed up yet. Domínguez was able to retire Almora on a sacrifice bunt, which was reviewed and gave Neshek some extra time to get ready. He was ready for the next batter, Daniel Descalso, but at this point Kapler no longer wanted to bring Neshek into the game. Descalso lined a triple to left-center field, scoring two runs and came home himself when shortstop Jean Segura‘s throw caromed off of his foot out of play.

Recounting the situation, Neshek said, “I got on the mound and threw two pitches. [Kapler] said, ‘Is he ready?’ And I said, ‘No. I’m not ready yet. I’ve thrown two pitches.” Neshek was asked how long it takes him to get ready. The veteran said, “A minute. Not 20 seconds. I’m, like, the best in the league at getting ready. My whole career has been coming in like that.”

The Phillies were able to eke out a 5-4 win. Had they lost the game, Kapler and Neshek would likely have been under the microscope for the awkward situation leading to a crushing defeat. Kapler drew plenty of criticism over his bullpen management last year in his rookie managerial season. That included bringing in lefty reliever Hoby Milner into a game in which he hadn’t yet warmed up.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the manager who struggled with bullpen management last year nearly mucked up a win last night, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that a reliever who’s had prior issues with communication had another communication mix-up. Maybe it’s not. It’s worth noting that the Phillies needed three innings from the bullpen to protect a 2-1 lead over the Cubs on Tuesday. Kapler called on rookie Edgar Garcia for two outs, lefty José Álvarez for four, and then brought in Juan Nicasio to close things out in the ninth. No Neshek, even as Nicasio got into trouble. Nicasio would surrender the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a deflating 3-2 loss.