Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wildcards and a bonehead

When the baseball playoffs started a couple weeks ago, who would have ever believed the San Francisco Giants and KC Royals, both wild-card teams, would wind up going to the World Series?

All year long we heard about Cy Young award winners and MVPs of the past (or soon to be). Ace pitchers here, sluggers there, and sensational athletes elsewhere. The Detroit Tigers, the LA Dodgers, the Washington Nationals, the LA Angels, and even the Baltimore Orioles jumped into the picture. All dominant teams throughout the regular season. And they've all been kicked to the curb.

Let's not forget the loveable talking heads and scribes that bombarded us with stats from hell over the past six months. There was WAR, OPS, the dreaded "sabermetrics", and many other categories consisting of tera-gazilla bytes of useless information they continually droned on about. Trying to decipher the baseball statistics put forth these days is akin to understanding the complexities of the human genome. Very few people comprehend it, and most don't give a damn anyway. In the end, only the finished product matters. There's good guys and bad guys. Smart people and dumb people. Pretty girls and ugly girls, etc. How they came to be the way they are is irrelevant. It just IS. Yet sometimes the bad, dumb, ugly clowns wind up as the most successful and powerful -- even to the point of taking our money and bossing us around. These are called politicians. Sabermetric THAT.

And this year certainly proves the same can be said about major league baseball teams. Two wild card clubs navigating their way through the gauntlets of "superior talent" to face off in the World Series? Who woulda thunk it?

As for the bonehead? That honor should be bestowed on St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. With his team trailing 3-1 in the NLCS, he had his ace pitcher Adam Wainwright on the mound protecting a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning. The Cards needed a win to stay alive and send the series back to St. Louis for game 6, and maybe 7. For the previous several innings, Wainwright had been mowing down the Giants' hitters. He had great "stuff". But Matheny decided to yank him. It didn't take long. On the first pitch from the relief pitcher a Giant hitter clubbed a home run to tie the game. They would go on to get a couple more hits, and then a dramatic walk-off 3-run homer ending the series.

And what was the logic in taking Wainwright out? Pitch count? That ranks right up there with sabermetrics. If a guy's going good, leave him in. He's got four days of rest coming up anyway. A few more pitches aren't going to result in his arm falling off.

Further, consider this was Game 5 of the NLCS. Even had the Cards won, Wainwright wouldn't have been available to pitch in the remainder of the series anyway. Do the math. Friday would have been a travel day and games 6 and 7 would have been on Saturday and Sunday in St. Louis. Why, pray tell, would Matheny yank his ace, who was going good, only to see his bullpen suffer a meltdown and end their year?

This is not the first time Matheny has pulled a bonehead in the 2014 post-season that cost his team. But this gaffe wound up being terminal. Outta here.

Consensus has long had it that the baseball fans in St. Louis are the most knowledgable of any big league team. So chances are they certainly understood a boneheaded move when they saw one, expecially a gaffe that resulted in their team being eliminated. But Cards' fans are also extremely loyal to their beloved Redbirds, and all they entail. They can close ranks and protect their own with the best of teams in any sport.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, fallout Matheny has to face......

Nevertheless, on with the wild card World Series. This wasn't supposed to happen, but it's kinda fun in a way.

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