July 11, 2009
Rob Dibble doesn't know it. Ray Knight either. And certainly Pat Listach doesn't have the first idea, since he made the same ridiculous mistake, TWICE, in a 5-4 loss to the Houston Astros.
Two times in last night's one-run game, third base coach Pat Listach sent a runner home with only one out on a base hit to center field. In the fourth inning, Nick Johnson, who still runs with a noticeable limp as a result of his horrific collision in 2006, was thrown out by center fielder Michael Bourn trying to score on a single by Adam Dunn.
In the top of the ninth, game tied at four, Willie Harris led off with a single and took second on a sacrifice by Anderson Hernandez. Nyjer Morgan then delivered a line drive up the middle that Harris had to freeze on for fear of the pitcher—or shortstop—snaring it. Once clear of fielders, Harris took off.
Inexplicably, Listach waived Harris home, although the ball was just in short center and Bourn had already reached the ball. Bourn then delivered a throw that was up the third baseline a bit, but catcher Pudge Rodriguez had plenty of time to make the catch and slide back over to the plate to tag out Harris, who was trying to contort his way around the tag instead of sliding.
The play was lauded by booth announcers Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble, and later on the post-game show by analyst Ray Knight. And I hate to continue harping on these guys, but I guess I have to until they get it right.
Both plays of "aggression" were just plain stupid. There was absolutely NO REASON to send either Johnson or Harris with just one out. This team is plenty bad on it's own to have the third base coach making mistakes as well, getting runners thrown out at home.
Manager Manny Acta defended his coach after the game, as he should have. Hanging Listach out to dry in the media would have been a spectacularly bad thing to do, especially coming into the all-star break. But Acta's words here shouldn't confuse baseball fans about the original plays.
"You have to be aggressive. If the throw would have been one foot to either side we wouldn't even be discussing this, and I never second-guess my third base coach because we have scored over 300-something runs, and on every one of them he has waved the runner home. So I'm not going to second-guess him when one guy gets thrown out."
True enough Manny, had the throw been worse, Harris might have scored. But you cannot count on major league players to make a bad play in order to try to force in a run, which is what Listach did...TWICE.
It's normal for players to try to be more aggressive to get out of a slump. It's the only way they know how. If you're failing, try harder. It's the complete opposite as a coach. You're supposed to be the voice of reason and restraint, reigning players in to do their jobs, not to do too much.
Put it this way: If Listach puts up the stop sign on either play, and either runner ran through the stop sign and were out, it would have been a terrible case of the player trying to do too much, right? In these cases, it was the coach that was trying to do too much.
It was the wrong call. Twice.
I have two more comments about last night's game.
First, Nick Johnson is broken. It is plainly obvious that he is afraid to go backwards to chase pop-ups. I suppose I would be too after what happened to him. The fielders around him are going to have to be more assertive in helping Johnson play those types of balls.
Hernandez clearly should have called Johnson off on the pop foul that went untouched, giving Geoff Blum new life, then doubling to put runners in scoring position and allowing Jeff Keppinger to hit a sac fly to plate Rodriguez with the tying run.
Second, I still don't understand the double-switch in the ninth inning. Acta brought in Austin Kearns and Mike MacDougal at the same time, moving Willingham to left and Harris into center field. I get that the pitcher's spot was coming up, but why wouldn't he just have Kearns pinch-hit, instead of removing his best defensive outfielder (Morgan) to accommodate a double-switch.
Would Tejada been able to take second on Carlos Lee's fly out to center if Morgan were still in the game? It was pretty close play on Harris' throw.
If anyone has ideas on that, I'd love to hear them in the comments.
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