W: Henn (1-0) L: Borowski (0-1)
I had two separate people yesterday express a desire to read this column. Although I certainly appreciate the sentiment, it is a little disturbing. I want to enjoy writing this column. I want to enjoy being an Indians fan. This kind of game, rather than being “one of those things,” feels more symptomatic of the kind of game we played last year that led to me emotionally disinvesting for a while. There is something to be said for perseverence, though, even is that something is, “Feh.”
1) Eric Potter and the Order of the Asinine
I thought briefly about doing an entire parodic column in the style of J.K. Rowling to emphasize my feelings about Lord Joedemort, but this had to be scotched when I found that Ms. Rowling does not, in fact, have a writing style. The books are plot-driven, and I enjoy them very much, but could not identify a feature that differentiated a “Harry Potter” book from unidentifiable fiction.
This having been said, Lord Joedemort, He Who Should Not Be Named Closer, had a problem, in that he threw several types of pitches that I would prefer, Bartleby-style, not be thrown. There is the curveball, It That Shall Not Be Thrown For Strikes. There is the slider, It That Shall Not Move For Shit. And there is the fastball, It That Shall Be Flat And Drip Gravy.
I am not going to get too medieval on Lord Joe here: he pitched poorly, which distinguishes him from Jeremy Sowers and Jake Westbrook only in that he is not twelve years old and does not throw a sinker. Players sometimes perform poorly. This is baseball. And the fact is, Joe Borowski is Just Some Guy. He is an average pitcher with above-average resilience. Good for him.
But great googly moogly, that was something awful. And the really salient fact is, after watching Alex Rodriguez golf a home run off Tom Mastny’s near-bouncing pitch yesterday would simply have redoubled my conviction that this is a man who is locked in right now and is the very, very, very, very last guy I would give an opportunity to beat me right now in mid-April 2007. Once first base was open, I would have thrown the ball so far out of the strike zone, you would have thought I’d had a stroke. Why are you throwing the ball in a place where Alex Rodriguez can hit it when first base was open? The fact that he was 0-for-4 up to that point meant powers of a million less to me than the fact that he had 9 homers and had just proven the night before that he could hit any pitch within reach and is a first-ballot Hall of Famer if he contracts beriberi right this minute and never plays again. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. To my knowledge, no player has even been voted in on the first ballot after contracting beriberi. But gods above and below, why are you throwing that man a strike?
2) Weren’t you supposed to mention someone, anyone, named “Eric”?
I’m getting to that.
Astute readers may have noticed last year that I am not the greatest fan of Eric Wedge in North America. (Given that there are currently ants trying to eat my doughnut right now, I am not the greatest fan of Eric Wedge in my cubicle.) It could be the title of “Inertia Man” I saddled him with. It could be the Haiku Contest I ran denigrating him. It could be the frequency with which one of my items needs to be entitled “Managerial Head-Scratchers.” It could be the fact that I said (ed. note: we have become a more family-friendly site now). But I have a history here.
And to this end, I will be enacting a new feature here at The B-List. I cannot think of anything else to do. I am at the end of my rope. So, Mr. Mark Shapiro, or more likely, the Deputy Assistant Underling that is reading this column on his behalf, I am issuing an ultimatum. I am going to devote the last item of The B-List every day to writing a completely unsubstantiated, completely false statement about Mark Shapiro until Eric Wedge is fired. It will be ridiculous. It will be nonsensical. But by golly, everyone who ever does a Google search for “Mark Shapiro” and (said ridiculous statement) will come up with a hit from now until the Internet is bought by little green men from Alpha Centauri.
And why is this? Well, look, much of managerial second-guessing is simply an exercise in ex post facto diatribe: as I said earlier, the quality of the decision cannot be measured solely by its result. For example, I saw many people complain of letting Mike Rouse hit with the bases loaded and two out. Frankly, I have no problem with this decision. Either Mike Rouse is a major-league hitter or he isn’t. If he is, he should bat there: the bench players at this point were Kelly Shoppach (hate to blow the backup catcher in the 6th, and besides, Shoppach is right-handed and is hitting about .150), Josh Barfield (also right-handed, also hitting about .150), and Andy Marte (also right-handed, also hitting about .150). Trot Nixon was sick (which, ironically, contributed to making me sick). This is our bench. You can argue about whether one of these men would have has a better chance to get a hit than Rouse, but I say there’s at least a valid argument that Rouse’s chance was within a small epsilon band of any of the others’. Inertial, yes. Obviously bad decision, no.
But letting Borowski continue to flounder after it became obvious that he had It That Should Not Be Thrown was simply asinine. If Ferd Cabrera wasn’t warming up as soon as Damon walked, why the hell not? If he wasn’t ready to come in as soon as Borowski uncorked a wild pitch, why the hell not? Who was more likely to retire either Alex Rodriguez (I wouldn’t have let Ferd pitch to him, either) or Jason Giambi? The guy with the flat 88-MPH fastball, or the guy with the hopping 95-MPH fastball and the K/9 over 10? And why does this team continue to look lethargic, play wretched defense, and run the bases like the manager owes them a trip to Dairy Queen after the game if they win?
I’m sorry. Enough is enough. Eric Wedge is a bad manager, and the Indians would perform better with any number of other men in the role. Eric Wedge must go.
Poor Fausto Carmona. The man will never win another game in the major leagues. It sure won’t be because he sucks, though: in 6 innings, Carmona gave up 6 hits, 1 walks, and two runs (one on a solo shot to Giambi). He only struck out two, and despite the glowing praise of the YES announcers comparing his “power sinker” to that of Westbrook and Wang and Kevin Brown, his GB:FB ratio was a pedestrian 10:6. He only struck out 2: his rate had climbed last year, but 2 in 6 is consistent with the kind of non-bat-missing numbers he’d put up in the minors in years past. But the fact is, he faced a tough, patient lineup and largely throttled it through 6 innings of work.
Look, I want Wedge fired, but he’s not a hopeless flatworm as a manager. After two starters got knocked out in the third inning, he had managed his bullpen well enough to have Aaron Fultz and Raffy Betancourt available to throw scoreless innings. Fultz in particular looked good, throwing 9 strikes and 4 balls in a perfect seventh to protect the new 5-2 lead the Indians were staked. Raffy threw strikes (10 in 14 pitches) and had a K to go with a hit.
5) The ol’ 3-4 punch
Did I mention that Travis Hafner appears to be out of his slump? Although all three hits were “only” singles, Hafner went 3-for-4 with a walk to score 2 runs and raise his average back up to .333.
But this pales in comparison to the returning return of Victor Martinez. At the time, Martinez’ 3-run homer off Luis Vizcaino looked like The Most Important Hit By An Indian Thus Far In 2007. Martinez went 2-for-3 with a walk and a plunking by Mike Myers: his average sits a .421. We’re mildly glad he’s back in the lineup.
6) (Other) Managerial Head-Scratchers
On a 3-2 count to Casey Blake in the second inning, Ryan Garko (who had been plunked the first of two times) was sent on an ostensible hit-and-run. I say “ostensible hit-and-run” because there’s no way Ryan Glacierko is trying to steal a base for the sake of stealing a base. Casey Blake struck out 93 times in 109 games last season, similar to his pace of the previous two (116 in 147, 139 in 152). He pretty much strikes out once a game. He is hitting .182. His slugging percentage is .295. The best chance Garko had of advancing was for Walter Matthau to tell Blake to lean into the pitch.
Jason Michaels, who is quasi-hot, batted ninth, so David Dellucci, who is quasi-David Dellucci, could bat second, and Blake-Peralta-Rouse, who are quasi-fungal to this point, could hit 6-7-8. I actually feel for Wedge here: this is my lineup? Ptui.
7) Ducks on the pond!
In the top of the 4th, after Dellucci’s home run (woo woo!), Hafner singled, Martinez walked, and Garko got plunked again. With one out and the bases loaded, Casey Blake took a ball and fouled out, advancing no one. Jhonny Peralta, not to be outdone, simply whiffed.
In the sixth, Hafner singled, Martinez was plunked, and Garko worked a ninety-three pitch single. With no outs and the bases loaded, Casey Blake took a ball, then SMOKED a line shot … right at Alex Rodriguez. Not to be outdone, Peralta popped out and Rouse flied out on the first pitch.
In all, the Indians left 10 on base, 6 in scoring position. Peralta himself left 3 in scoring position making the last outs of innings. Blake and Peralta saw a combined 15 men on base during their plate appearances and went 0-for-10 with 5 Ks (2 Blake, 3 Peralta).
Blake had a bad break on the liner … but that’s still almost inconceivably bad.
8) Humor near second base
Grady Sizemore led off the game with a double. After several foul balls, David Dellucci hit a liner to Robinson Cano at second, who easily doubled off the leaning Sizemore, who looked like he was thinking “run scored” all the way.
Ryan Garko was thrown out stealing because … come on, he’s slow.
And Lord Joedemort’s first recorded out was an adventurous fly ball to center during which Grady almost ran into BOTH Rouse AND Peralta (and vice-vice-vice-versa). Just a comical play all around, where it’s “comical” only because no one got hurt and the out was recorded.
9) Completely False Statement for the Google Search Engine
Mark Shapiro flew to Australia last night, where he kidnapped a platypus and fried it with leeks and shallots. Although untrue, this statement is false. Fire Eric Wedge.