Opening Day 2010: How the Red Sox Could've Stopped Yankees' Double-Steal

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIApril 5, 2010

BOSTON - APRIL 04:  Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees is congratulated by teammates Alex Rodriguez #13 and Nick Swisher #33 after Gardner scored against the Boston Red Sox on April 4, 2010 during Opening Night at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

For citizens of Red Sox Nation, the season began on a high note last night as Boston thumped the Yankees, 9-7.

We saw much to be excited about. After spending months hearing analysts predict doom and gloom for Boston’s offense, the Red Sox proved that they can put runs on the board without Jason Bay. The team showed the kind of indomitable spunk that was missing from their playoff games last season. And, of course, they beat the Yankees.

Unfortunately, the outlook wasn’t completely bright for the Boston nine yesterday.

Josh Beckett looked—well, pretty bad. The Red Sox’ hitters were fairly ineffectual for the first half of the game, and Boston’s much-ballyhooed defense let quite a few balls drop in the outfield grass.

But the most painful play of the game to watch came in the top of the fourth inning when Derek Jeter swiped second base, creating a diversion that allowed Brett Gardner to steal home. Shortstop Marco Scutaro cut off the throw to second, but realized before he could relay the ball to the plate that he didn’t have a play.

The broadcasters laid the blame at the feet of Boston catcher, Victor Martinez. It’s true; it was irresponsible to throw the ball across the diamond with a speedy runner ninety feet from the plate, and the whole thing might have been averted had he looked Gardner back before trying to peg Jeter.

But there’s another piece of the story that I have yet to mention, one that implicates Scutaro as a possible candidate to be at fault, if not the likely one: there were two outs.

For those of you who have never heard of baseball, a team loses its opportunity to score runs once it accrues three outs. In other words, if Scutaro had tagged Jeter, Gardner would not have scored.

There was no guarantee that Jeter would have been out had Scutaro not cut off the ball; he got a great jump, and Martinez’ throw came in a little low. But it was certainly a possibility, and, in economics terms, making the attempt would have had an opportunity cost of zero.

The mistake was understandable.  It was a high-pressure situation that demanded a quick decision, and both teams seemed to be recovering from a Spring Training hangover.

But I was shocked that none of the color commentators shared my reaction.

The trio of talking heads focused their collective wrath on Martinez, which would make sense if there had been fewer than two outs. But it didn’t occur to any of the announcers—including two legendary former players, Orel Hershiser and Joe Morgan—that the whole thing would have been resolved if Scutaro had just tagged the runner.

It’s not even a question of faulty information, as was the case with the Cy Young voters who made their choices based on wins. The play-by-play guys seemingly lacked either common sense or a basic understanding of how baseball works.

Of course, it’s irrelevant since the Red Sox won, even with the extra run. But the biggest error of the night wasn’t made behind the plate; we saw bigger boo-boos at shortstop and in the press box.