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Sports Medley: Canít anyone here play this game? 18 Jul 16

by Tony Medley

Thatís what Casey Stengel famously asked about his Marvelous Mets in 1962. Given my antipathy to the overreliance on relief pitchers, the hits keep coming when watching the Dodgers. Saturdayís game against Arizona epitomizes the absurdities of the handling of pitchers today and how ignorantly the Dodgers play the game.

In a game in which the Dodgers had a 1-0 lead, rookie manager Dave Roberts pulled starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy after six innings in which McCarthy allowed only three hits, struck out eight, walked nobody and threw only 77 pitches. Roberts put in Adam (Seventh-Inning) Liberatore who retired the side, striking out 2. Roberts had seen enough of that kind of nonsense from Liberatore, so put in Joe (Eighth-Inning) Blanton, who allowed one hit and walked one before staggering out of the inning barely alive. (As an aside, do young boys today, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, answer, ďI want to pitch the eighth inning.Ē?)

Leading 1-0 going into the bottom of the 9th, Roberts brought in his beloved, Kenley Jansen, from the bullpen. With one out Arizonaís Michael Bourn hit a single. Bourn is a good baserunner, having stolen as many as 70 bases in one year, and got huge leads on Jansen, who was basically ignoring him.

When Arizonaís best hitter, Paul Goldschmidt, popped out, up came cleanup hitter Jake Lamb with two outs. Although Jansen made one token throw to first base with Bourn just standing there, he was still ignoring Bourn. Jansen would go into his stretch and not even look over to first base. No dummy, Bourn got such a huge jump on lazy Jansen that he didnít even draw a throw stealing second, putting him in scoring position.

Letís stop here. What kind of relief pitcher has a premier base stealer on first which represents the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning with two out and doesnít make every effort to keep him on first? It probably takes a triple to score from first, but only a single will score the runner from second. Isnít that important?

Obviously, not to Jansen, because he clearly couldnít have cared less about Bourn, allowing him to steal second effortlessly. Naturally, with two strikes on him, Lamb ripped a double off the left-field wall driving in Bourn, tying the game, and the Dodgers lost in 12. Lambís ball was hit so hard that there would have been little chance for Bourn to score from first.

But thatís not the only problem with Roberts that stood out in this game. With one out rookie shortstop Corey Seager tried to go to from second to third on a ground ball to the shortstop and was tagged out in a rundown. Freshmen in high school know enough not to try to go to third from second on a ground ball to the shortstop; but not a Dodgersí baserunner. Itís not the first time this has happened this year, either, and Roberts apparently does nothing about it. Worse, Yasiel Puig got thrown out not once, but twice trying to steal second.

Thereís more! With one out in the top of the 11th, Scott Van Slyke hit a pinch-hit single and was promptly picked off first base. Van Slyke has stolen nine bases in a five-year major league career. Why is he getting picked off first base? Or did batter Chase Utley miss a hit and run call or Van Slyke see one that wasnít there? In all, the Dodgers left 15 runners on base, while only scoring one run.

But the big question is what will Roberts do about these dunderhead goof ups? Will he chastise or discipline Jansen for not holding Bourn on first, Seager for his bonehead base running, Puig and Van Slyke for their reckless base running (or Utley or Van Slyke for messing up a hit and run play that might or might not have been called)? Will he finally relent and let a starting pitcher finish a game when the pitcher is dominating?

Stay tuned, but donít hold your breath. When the Dodgers were in Brooklyn and before Larry McPhail and Branch Rickey built the Dodgers into the power they became, itís reported that one fan, listening to Red Barber on the radio, said to another, ďThe Dodgers have three men on base!Ē The other fan replied, ďWhich base?Ē

Donít be surprised to see more Class D play from these 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

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