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Sports Medley: Roberts Takes Baseball to its All-Time Low 12 Sep 16

by Tony Medley

“A foolish 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.

But apparently 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 a second.