Angels manager Mike Scioscia gave Ernesto Frieri a vote of confidence over the weekend, but he made it clear today that he’s looking at other options to close games.
After Albert Pujols delivered a two-run double in the top of the 10th inning against the Indians this afternoon, most expected that Frieri would come out for the bottom half of the inning, especially since Joe Smith already pitched the ninth inning. However, Scioscia threw everyone for a loop by turning to rookie Cam Bedrosian. The decision quickly backfired, as Bedrosian walked two and gave up a double before Frieri was brought in to put out the fire. Frieri got David Murphy to fly out for the second out of the inning, but he then gave up a walk-off grand slam to Nick Swisher. Disaster complete.
After the game, Scioscia told Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he has no set closer and wanted to give Bedrosian an opportunity against a team who had never seen him before.
“I don’t think it’s any different from what we talked about,” Scioscia said when asked if Frieri is his closer. “What’s different from matching up like we talked about?”
It was a questionable decision for many reasons, most notably that Bedrosian has been far from lights out since coming up to the majors. And if Scioscia didn’t have faith in Frieri to start the inning, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher why he turned to him once Bedrosian got into trouble. Talk about your mixed messages. There’s no excuse for Frieri giving up the grand slam, as he still has to execute, but the margin for error was razor thin and Scioscia essentially set him up to fail. The Angels own the fifth-best record in the American League right now, but the back-end of their bullpen is a mess.
Retired big league pitcher Barry Zito has a memoir coming out. Much of it will likely track the usual course of an athlete’s memoir. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a few fun and/or sad and/or thoughtful anecdotes along the way. One bit of it, though, is not the stuff of the usual athlete memoir.
He writes that he ctually rooted against the San Francisco Giants — his own team — in the 2010 World Series. He did so because he was left off the postseason roster, felt miserable about it and let his ego consume him. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“It was really hard to admit . . . I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost then I could get out of there . . . It would a) prove they couldn’t do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day. I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.”
Zito at that point was midway through a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Giants after the 2006 season. Almost as soon as he signed it he transformed from one of the better pitchers in the game — he had a 124 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics and won the 2002 Cy Young Award — to being a liability for the Giants. Indeed, he only had one season in San Francisco where, again, by ERA+, he was a league-average starter or better. In 2010 he went 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was way worse than that down the stretch. It made perfect sense for the Giants to leave him off the 2010 postseason roster. And, of course, it worked out for them.
Things would improve. He’d still generally struggle as a Giant, but in 2012 he was a hero of the NLCS, pitching the Giants past the Cardinals in a must-win game. He then got the Game 1 start in the World Series and beat Justin Verlander as the Giants won that game and then swept the Tigers out of the series. As time went on he’d fine more personal happiness as well. When his contract ended following the 2013 season Zito took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle thanking Giants fans for their support. He’d leave the game in 2014 and pitch three more games for the Athletics in 2015 before retiring for good.
Not many baseball memoirs deliver hard truths like Zito’s appears willing to do. That’s pretty damn brave of him. And pretty damn admirable.