Sports Medley: World
Series Heroes and Goats 30 Oct 17
by Tony Medley
This column is being
written on Monday after the fifth game of the World Series, so by the
time it is published, the Series could be over, or the 7th
game looming. However, the comments are valid regardless of who wins.
It has been a pleasure to see so many of the young, untested Dodgers
come through in extremely high pressure, clutch situations. Cody
Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson, Kiké Hernandez, Charlie
Culbertson, Yasiel Puig, and Austin Barnes all came up with key hits in
tense, pressurized situations with the game on the line and the entire
world looking on. One never knows how one is going to respond when the
world is on your shoulders. All of these young players came through with
Of course the first name here is manager Dave Roberts. His specious
views on pitching have been catalogued enough here so they do not need
to be repeated. In the second game he pulled his starting pitcher, Rich
Hill, who was in total control. In four innings with the Dodgers
trailing 1-0, Hill had allowed only three hits, one run, had walked
three and struck out seven. Nonetheless Roberts pulled him (Hill was
furious and justifiably so), ostensibly because the next five hitters
coming up for Houston were right-handed and Hill is left-handed. If this
is a reason to pull him in the top of the fifth inning, then it was a
reason not to ever start him. Roberts makes decisions on pitchers that
are simply without any rational basis and this call probably cost them
the game and a 2-0 lead in the series, because Hill’s replacements were
bombed for 10 hits and 6 runs.
While Roberts babies
his starting pitchers, allowing them only so many throws, he destroys
his bullpen by pitching the same players day after day after day, which
has resulted in a bullpen with weak arms. This was exemplified in Game 5
when he inserted Brandon Morrow in for the fifth time in six games and
Morrow produced the worst relief performance in the history of the World
Series, facing four batters allowing a home run, a single, a run scoring
double, throwing a wild pitch, and allowing another home run. Four
batters, four runs.
I have chronicled the
number of times that Roberts has pulled a pitcher only to have the
relief pitcher allow a home run to the next batter. He went over the top
in the fifth game of the series by doing this twice.
ineptitude doesn’t stop with pitching. With the game tied 7-7 in the top
of the seventh inning of the fifth game, Justin Turner led off with a
double, bringing up cleanup batter Kiké Hernandez with nobody out.
Mystifyingly Roberts ordered a sacrifice bunt…by his cleanup hitter…with
nobody out…and a runner in scoring position! Fourteen runs had already
been scored in the game, both starting pitchers had been knocked out,
and it was incomprehensible to play for just one run in this high
scoring situation. But that’s what Roberts did. To call this decision
idiotic does not do it justice.
But Roberts is not
alone in the goat category. Poor Clayton Kershaw just cannot stand the
pressure. Even though my pitching experience is limited basically to
high school and a little college, there isn’t any difference in the
basics of pitching regardless of the level. The idea is to get the ball
over the plate. I rarely walked anybody. I could throw the ball where I
wanted to throw it.
If I could do that as
a teenager, Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball, can do it
also. His problem, in my judgment, is that when the going gets tough at
the end of the season in playoffs and World Series games, Kershaw tries
to pitch too perfectly. Instead of trusting his stuff and throwing
pitches over the plate, challenging the batters to hit them, he changes
to pitching too fine and gets behind on the count which is death for a
pitcher, even one as good as Kershaw. Kershaw has the best control of
any pitcher in baseball today, witness his amazing strikeout/walk ratio.
So it’s not plausible to think that he simply loses his control in these
pressure situations. Pressure gets to him and it affects his choice of
where to throw the ball. It’s a conscious decision.
Then there’s Kenley
Jansen, the alleged “super closer.” With two outs in the bottom of the
10th inning of the fifth game and the score tied 12-12,
Jansen, who also is known for his control, hits catcher Brian McCann on
a 2-2 count! He compounds this felony by walking George Springer, only
throwing one strike out of five pitches, putting the winning run on
second. He then surrenders the game losing single, a line drive by Alex
Kershaw and Jansen
suffer from the same problem, they can’t stand the pressure, unlike
their teammates mentioned above, who rise to the occasion. When you see
pitchers known for their control start walking people in high pressure
situations, it’s mental, not physical.