Terry Francona would gladly pay you Tuesday for a cheeseburger today

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In the Popeye comic back in 1932, character J. Wellington Wimpy uttered the famous phrase, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a cheeseburger today.” It’s a phrase that has since been used to illustrate a lack of foresight — wanting instant gratification for a future cost.

Indians manager Terry Francona played the part of J. Wellington Wimpy during Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox on Thursday night. While his bullpen strategy ultimately worked, it might have ramifications throughout the remainder of the ALDS.

Starter Trevor Bauer found himself in more hot water after allowing a leadoff solo home run to Sandy Leon in the top of the fifth inning, cutting the Indians’ lead to 4-3. After Bauer got Andrew Benintendi to fly out and Dustin Pedroia to strike out, Francona decided to bring in All-Star reliever Andrew Miller. Miller has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season, compiling an aggregate 1.45 ERA with a 123/9 K/BB ratio in 74 1/3 innings this season between the Yankees and Indians. And after we just got done torching Orioles manager Buck Showalter for not bringing in his best reliever, how could we ever criticize Francona here?

The problem was that Miller wasn’t brought into a high leverage situation. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference measure the importance of a situation with the “leverage index” statistic. According to FanGraphs, a “low leverage” situation is between 0 and 0.85, “medium leverage” is 0.85 to 2.00 and “high leverage” is above 2.00. The top of the ninth inning, which was started by Brad Brach, had a leverage index of 2.26 and it only escalated from there to a high of 4.30 when Russell Martin grounded into an inning-ending double play. The 10th and 11th innings started at 2.26. Miller’s first at-bat, against Brock Holt, had a leverage index of 0.57. Of course, Miller increased the leverage of the situation by allowing a double to Holt and walking Mookie Betts, but the Indians could have conceivably worked the fifth inning without expending their best reliever.

Miller also pitched the sixth inning and got the first two outs of the seventh. Those LI’s? 1.21, 0.83, 0.48, 1.32, and 0.88. The lefty finished the night having recorded six outs while throwing 40 pitches, a season-high.

Francona also used closer Cody Allen for a five-out save. Allen’s LI was 1.55 upon entering with one out in the eighth inning and it was 2.83 at the start of the ninth. A one-inning save would’ve made more sense. Allen got his five outs on 40 pitches as well, also a season-high. Allen threw 30-plus pitches only three times this season and had three days’ rest after two of them. Miller threw 30-plus pitches four times and had at least two days’ rest after three of them.

It’s not unreasonable to think that the Indians will look to rely on Corey Kluber for seven or eight innings in Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday. That puts immense pressure on Kluber, but also the rest of the bullpen if Kluber is not able to pitch deep into the game. It wasn’t necessary for Francona to put all of his eggs in the Miller-Allen basket.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.