Although there are always references to one, there really isn't a "baseball handbook."
There's nothing that managers use in the dugout to decide which course to go during a game. They can't say to themselves, "OK, men on second and third, two out, score tied at zero, in a lose and go home game."
If there was, you can bet Texas Rangers' manager Ron Washington would have found a very simple explanation: The number four. As in the number of balls Cliff Lee should've intentionally thrown to Giants' shortstop, Edgar Renteria.
In case you missed it, Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum met last night in Game 5 of the World Series. It was a rematch of Game 1.
In Game 1, Lee was tagged for six runs over 4.2 innings of work. Lincecum wasn't much better, but got the win. Both starters were solid last night, matching zeros through six innings.
In the top of the seventh inning, with the score still tied at zero, Rangers' starter Cliff Lee gave up back to back singles to Cody Ross and Juan Uribe. Aubrey Huff then laid down the first sacrifice bunt of his career to move the runners up to second and third. Lee then came back to strike out Pat Burrell, which brought Renteria to the plate with two outs.
Now, I know what you're thinking people. Intentional walk, right? After all, Renteria, at that point, was batting .411 in the series with three RBI. He had burned the Rangers in Game 2 and they weren't going to let that happen again, right?
Instead of checking that baseball handbook, Cliff Lee chose to go after Renteria instead of putting him on to pitch to Aaron Rowand. Well, it didn't work out, to say the least.
Renteria hit a three-run homer that barely cleared the left-center field wall, but brought the Giants their first world series championship in 56 years and the first since their move to San Francisco.
After the game, Lee said, "I don't walk people. I go after them."
Oh really? Well that decision cost your team the game and the World Series.
I understand the incredible numbers that Cliff Lee had put up to that point in the postseason. Other than his Game 1 start in the World Series, Lee was masterful. He had struck out 41 batters and walked only two. But, if Cliff Lee's 2010 postseason record showed three walks at the end of Game 5, there might have been a Game 6 and there might have been a championship in Arlington.
Lee's decision may have been the right one as far as his ego is concerned, but it was the wrong one as far as his team was concerned. The best pitchers in the game are fearless. They attack hitters and don't worry about runners on base, just concentrate on the man in the box. But there is a fine line between being fearless and being reckless.
If Lee had struck Renteria out, maybe we'd be looking at a different box score, but he didn't.
I understand that the decision to intentionally walk a batter should come from the manager, and it didn't. But in his post-game comments, Lee took full responsibility for pitching to Renteria. If Washington says not to walk him, and Lee thinks they should, call time and say something. Otherwise, get the out. Lee did neither.
Cliff Lee is one of the best postseason pitchers we've seen in a while, and whether or not you feel his decision to pitch to Renteria was on his shoulders or Ron Washington's, it was the wrong choice and it cost the Rangers their season.