Wednesday, October 08, 2003


A lot of people are on Macha's case for pinch-hitting for Jermaine Dye, down 4-3, with runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

I happen to agree with the criticism, but I think they've got the reasoning wrong.

First of all, let's get this straight: Macha out-managed Little by a mile. Little got shit-faced lucky in Game 3, and Game 5, and if that makes him a great manager, then I'm the starting CF for the Boston Red Sox. (Niles questions whether Kim should be back in a Bosox uniform next year, but if Theo is as reputedly smart as his girlfriend is reputedly pretty he won't let this turn into Bowa v. Rolen lite. It's Little who should go.)

But on to the issue at hand.

We can debate whether Dye's a better clutch hitter than Melhuse (although for all of Dye's RBI heroics in the past, he hasn't been the same player since breaking his leg on a foul ball in the '01 ALDS--I think he's still psychologically hurting), but it's mostly irrelevent because it's clear the Bosox weren't going to take a chance with the hot-hitting Dye.

And thus I would have let them likely walk Dye (like Macha expected them to walk Melhuse), to set up their double-play with the best groundball-to-flyball ratio pitcher in baseball, and had Melhuse available to pinch-hit with the bases loaded for Singleton, or maybe even save him to step in for Terrence Long. And even if Lowe had ended up pitching to Dye like he did Melhuse, I think it's safe to say I'd rather pin my hopes on a Dye at bat rather than a Terrence Long at bat.

The problem wasn't pinch-hitting for Dye. It was not having Melhuse or anyone else available to pinch-hit for Long. Macha essentially took the bat out of Dye's hands, and handed it to Terrence Long.

I know Joe and others like to get on Billy Beane's case for being opposed to small ball and all other forms of old school wisdom, but if you really want to blame Beane for this latest A's collapse, this is it: there's no way in hell that game and the A's entire postseason should have come down to Terrence Long. Yes, Game 3 was an epic disaster. Yes, losing Mulder in August then Hudson mid-series was horribly bad luck. Yes, the otherwise brilliant Foulke continued his trend of occationally morphing into Mitch Williams when trying close out a Hudson start in Game 4. And yes, Tejada and Chavez were hacking away at anything and everything as if trying to prove that nobody walks out of Oakland. (Bye-bye, Miggy. Your no-cost replacement is ready.)

But shit happens. Because the sample size is so small, post-season games do come down to a lot of luck. Since Beane (and DePodesta) work with probabilites to manage risk, all he can do is assemble a team with the best chance to win. With everything out of whack in a small number of games, it's like Beane says: "My shit doesn't work in the postseason."

That's true, but it's not totally true. Beane's (and DePodesta's?) bizarre obsession with Terrence Long cost them in the end.

You reap what you sow.

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