Roberts Takes Baseball to its All-Time Low 12 Sep 16
by Tony Medley
consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“They had a 90 pitch
limit.” Former Dodgers GM, now TV commentator Ned Colletti.
Dodgers manager Dave
Roberts pulled his pitcher, Rich Hill, after 7 innings of perfect
baseball, having retired 21 straight Miami Marlins on 89 pitches with a
5 run lead, 6 outs away from the 24th perfect game in 140
years of major league history. How much damage would it have done to
leave Hill in until someone got a hit, regardless of Roberts’ artificial
90 pitch limit?
Immediately after the
game, TV interviewer Alanna Rizzo, probably the best sports interviewer
on TV, had the following colloquy with Dodgers pitching Coach Rick
Honeycutt, who was intimately involved in Roberts’ decision, and who was
clearly uncomfortable with it:
Rizzo: Was there an issue reoccurring with the blister? Was there a
hotspot? Is he physically okay?
Honeycutt: No, physically he’s fine.
unaware that Honeycutt had given Hill a clean bill of health and
specifically confirmed to a Los Angeles TV audience that the blister had
nothing to do with the decision, in the clubhouse after the game Roberts
tried to blame it on “heat” on Hill’s former blister. This spin is in
direct contradiction of Honeycutt’s answer that categorically refutes
Roberts’ apparent disinformation.
But there’s worse
news about Roberts. They used to call former Cincinnati Reds and Detroit
Tigers manager Sparky Anderson “Capt. Hook,” because of the way he
pulled pitchers willy-nilly, and rightly so. But Sparky is not in the
same league as Roberts, who took baseball to its absolute nadir in the
sixth inning of the September 7 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Leading 2-1 in the
top of the sixth inning, he replaced rookie pitcher Brock Stewart, who
had allowed only one run on five hits, with J.P. Howell. Howell struck
out Jake Lamb, on five pitches. Roberts then pulled Howell and inserted
Louis Coleman, who struck out Yasmany Tomás on three pitches. He then
pulled Coleman and put in Luis Avilan, who walked Chris Herrmann on six
pitches. He pulled Avalon and put in Jesse Chavez who retired Mitch
Haniger on a grounder to end the inning.
Four batters required
four pitchers to get three outs, one pitcher per batter. It took 15
minutes to complete a four batter half inning. And it wasn’t as if the
Dodgers were facing Babe Ruth (.342), Lou Gehrig (.340), Jimmy Foxx
(.325), and Al Simmons (.334) at the plate. The batting averages of
Lamb, Tomás, Herrmann, and Haniger were .257, .260, .284, and .231,
respectively. So why do each of these less than mediocre hitters need a
separate pitcher? It defies common sense.
In the next inning,
Chavez allowed singles to the first two hitters, but there was no move
from the dugout until after Chavez retired two hitters and walked Paul
Goldschmidt intentionally (after a visit to the mound by Roberts) to
fill the bases when Roberts pulled him, too. In the end, Roberts used
eight pitchers to defeat the Diamondbacks 3 to 1. That is even more
stunning when one realizes that the Diamondbacks scored their run in the
first inning and Roberts didn’t start pulling pitchers until the
sixth inning! He used 7 pitchers in the last three innings.
Why did each of these
batters in the sixth inning require a different pitcher when batters in
previous and subsequent innings did not? Why were Howell and Coleman
pulled after striking out their batters but Chavez was left in the game
after allowing two straight hits in the top of the seventh?
Is there some actual
common sense reasoning involved in Roberts’ handling of pitchers? Can
the answer be found by consulting Aristotle or Descartes? Or is it just
the monumental group-think foolishness that pervades baseball today
which Roberts has taken to unprecedented ridiculous lengths? This
irrational handling of pitchers is an affront to the game.
Quick with the eye:
Sportsnet LA has been using a promo all year long to advertise upcoming
series with the Giants. It includes quick clips of highlights from past
meetings, like Bobby Thomson’s home run in 1951. If you watch it and
don’t blink there is an almost subliminal shot of Jackie Robinson wiping
out Davey Williams at first base, ending Davey’s career in 1955, the
story that Vin Scully has told at least twice with a blatantly false
ending about which I have written critically. The clip only lasts about