Just another day from the "Cito Gaston is not the brilliant tactician I thought he was" files. The same manager who complained about pitchers having to bat in National League parks after closer Scott Downs injured his big toe running out a ground ball almost ended up running out of pitchers on Thursday because he did not double-switch in the eighth inning in order to, wait for it, avoid the pitcher's turn in the order. As Mike Wilner put it:
"The Baseball 101, incredibly obvious, only correct move - especially since the Jays only had two pitchers left in the bullpen ... was to bring Rod Barajas in to catch as part of a double-switch, with (Jason) Frasor coming in to bat in the 8th spot and Barajas, the new catcher, batting ninth and leading off the ninth.You know the rest of the story. The Blue Jays ended up winning, 8-7, by the margin of Barajas' pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning (a fastball up and away that he hit over the centrefield fence 401 feet from home place). The dude who replaced the dude who was replaced by the dude who hurt himself running to first base (duuuuude, just say Jeremy Accardo got the save) ended up getting the save. The Jays won the damn game to complete a series sweep of the World Series champions (which was probably just an evenout since they could not be as bad as they were last weekend vs. the Florida Marlins), so what is it to anyone if the manager and his coaches flunked Baseball 101?
"Instead, Gaston only brought in Frasor, with the intention of having him lead off the ninth inning if he had been able to hold the lead." (The Phillies tied the game.)
" ... It was a ridiculous non-move to make, and almost cost the team the game. If Gaston didn't realize that the double-switch was the move, then one of former National League manager Nick Leyva or former National League coach Brian Butterfield should have been screaming in his ear. Just terrible.
There is much less receptiveness for playing armchair manager when the team ends up winning the game. However, talk about a manager flirting with disaster The amusing part, speaking personally, was arriving at work shortly after 4 p.m., having forgotten the Jays had a day game and assuming it was over. It took all of 10 seconds to establish that the score was tied and, hey, what was regular catcher Barajas doing batting .in a day game after a night game? It seemed strange it had come to that point. It was even stranger that Gaston, after saying, "My pitchers don't take batting practice every day and don't run, so things like this are going to happen," would risk putting another pitcher in that situation only two days later. But hey, he is the manager.
To be fair, he did have a point
Gaston's rant did blow the dust off the DH debate. Whether it should be in both leagues, or just used for all interleague games (there is no political will to change it, since the AL is dominating once again in the interleague play contagion).
Not to over-intellectualize it, but one's position might hinge on a working definition of tradition. It seems like to some tradition connotes doing something the way you believe it's always been done just because. Tradition, though, means something is handed down, passed over to another generation. It's more like a trust to keep and if there's a way to improve on it without making a radical change, you do it.
Sun Media's Bob Elliott, to whom this author is very indebted, wrote a follow-up column on the skipper's comments. Elliott quite rightly pointed out that it was a bit of a CYA move to complain about Downs getting hurt. As he noted, the Jays knew interleague was coming. Downs had also hit before, plus running to first base should not be beyond a pro athlete's grasp. Plus, the Jays had left a lot of runs on the table.
"Gaston had every reason to be angry, but not at the National League designated hitter rules.Those were all good points. The rub is eight of those 15 stranded runners were a byproduct of starting pitcher Ricky Romero batting in a real game for the first time in his professional career. Romero struck out three times. On eleven pitches. José Bautista or Kevin Millar would have stood a far greater chance of driving in a couple of those runners.
"He could have been angry at Alex Rios having a brain cramp and neglecting to tag with the Jays down 3-2 in the eighth when Marco Scutaro lined to left-centre.
"Or he could have been angry at the Jays hitting 2-for-17 with men in scoring position, or leaving 15 men on base in regulation."
The craw-sticker, though, was the closer, "Pitchers hit in the NL, and it's how baseball was created." That is very well and good. However, the counter to that is that the players would still go without gloves if everything was done according how baseball was created.
Games and sports evolve. Football pays a lot of lip service to tradition. However, with regard to specialized roles, they stopped asking the quarterback to double as a free safety generations ago. You don't see the starting split end (as wide receivers used to be called) coming off the field to get his kicking shoe on before he tries a field goal, straight-ahead style.
The best compromise as an American League guy is that the NL is free to keeps its antiquated rules. It's not necessary that the so-called senior circuit swings with the times. It just can't impact on any meaningful game affecting an AL fan's favourite team, or any game of significance. Sound fair?
P.S. ... about Vernon...
What was that about how Vernon Wells' production (his OPS is down to .676) might be about as good it gets?
"Of course, there was no mention of something most sentient Jays fans have already contemplated, that maybe this is as close to as good it gets for Wells. Five minutes of reading The Hardball Times or FanGraphs combined with a willingness to reason will show anyone that 40% of the way into a major league baseball season, a player's production has usually close to finding its own level, just like water."Take it away, Fangraphs:
"ZiPS doesn’t see Wells improving all that much this season with the bat, ultimately finishing with a .254/.310/.400 line. The projected 15 HR and 18 SB help elevate the wOBA to .316, but a below average rate like that coupled with a UZR perhaps on pace to be worse than -15 runs makes Wells a replacement player. In a full season in 2007, Wells produced just 1.2 wins. He added another 0.8 more last year albeit in just 108 games. This year: -1.0 wins. Rios is proving that he can be a good, not fantastic player, while Wells is showing that he does not deserve a starting spot in the big leagues, let alone one at such an important position." (Emphasis mine.)