A day after watching the Arizona Diamondbacks lose just their fifth game all year, the news is abuzz with reports of Randy Johnson's terrible performance. In what should have been a 5-inning, 90-pitch start turned into a 5.2-inning, 104-pitch mistake. Johnson, appearing in only his second start of the year after coming back from back surgery, had been given five days of rest but should have been handled tenderly by the Arizona manager. By example, Dan Haren only threw 92 pitches in his second start of the year, and Johnson should have had a similar cap placed on him. The reason he wasn't? His position in the lineup for the next inning.
Johnson had appeared in the on deck circle in the bottom of the 5th inning but after Alex Romero made the final out, Johnson went back out on the mound. This was understandable. He was just above 80 pitches and the notoriously stubborn pitcher was obviously convinced that he could get the middle of the San Diego order out without much trouble.
After retiring Adrian Gonzalez on a foul out, Kevin Kouzmanoff ripped a hard double to center. Johnson was at 88 pitches at this point and should have been sat down with the go-ahead run sitting at second. Instead, Johnson stayed in and was forced to watch the second-string Sunday squad botch play after play. Chris Burke let a Josh Bard ground ball bounce under his glove and Kouzmanoff came in to score. With the switch hitting Bard on base, right handers Greene and Huber were coming up which begged for a Juan Cruz.
Unfortunately, Melvin was more concerned with trying to avoid the double switch and stuck with Johnson. The wheels came off after a Greene single and a Justin Huber home run. The switch-hitting Crabbe knocked another double into left and Melvin watched as Crabbe was advanced to third on a ground ball by Randy Wolf. Finally, after an RBI single from Scott Hairston, Melvin pulled one of the most complicated double switches I have ever seen.
Johnson was removed for Brandon Medders who would hit in the 8th spot. The number 8 hitter, Alex Romero, was removed from center field and replaced with Eric Byrnes who slid over from left. To fill the spot in left, Chris Burke was moved from short. Filling in at short and in the ninth spot was Augie Ojeda. Two pitches later, Iguchi is robbed by an amazing diving catch by Ojeda and the inning is over. The Diamondbacks are down 6-1, 4 of those runs being charged to Johnson.
If the handling of his starting pitcher wasn't bad enough, Melvin then proceeded to perplex the minds of Dbacks fans everywhere in the bottom of the 7th. With a dramatic rally that climaxed with two runs scored, no one out, and runners standing on second and third, Bob Melvin had to pinch hit for Brandon Medders. With Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Jeff Salazar, and even (dare I say it) Chris Snyder on the bench, Melvin went with the popular yet idiotic move of using Micah Owings. Owings, the "hits well for a pitcher" Silver Slugger recipient, proceeded to strikeout on three pitches. Bringing in Brandon Webb to bunt would have been more efficient than Owings' performance that stranded two runners in scoring position. Ojeda then grounded out to the right side scoring another run and leaving two outs for Byrnes who also grounded out. Three runs scored and a man stranded at third.
Finally, as if Melvin wasn't enjoying being within two runs of his opponents, he decided to use his only left handed reliever. With the Padres excelling at hitting lefties on the day, the usage of Melvin's only left hander was suspect. After giving up two more runs, it was all but confirmed to be a stupid move.
If anyone believes that managers don't really make a difference, I submit to them this example. From the weak and poorly planned lineup to the indecision by Melvin, everything he did in this game caused the loss. To blame Johnson, who is still building stamina, is ludicrous. Bob Melvin is a fine manager at times, but he benefits from a stellar bench coach in Kirk Gibson, pitching coach in Bryan Price, and hitting coach with Rick Schu along with some great young players thanks to Josh Byrnes. In 2001, Bob Brenly was given an All-Star multimillion dollar team and rode their skill to a championship, exerting absolutely no skill. He was like a monkey piloting a space shuttle. In 2008, Bob Melvin is like George Bush. He was given something successful and surrounded by talented people who had plenty of experience but the second he puts his hands on the controls, all hell breaks loose. We can only hope that there are no major tragedies this season that cause Melvin to take full control.