World Series Notes
What a great game! In theory, I was routing for the Cubs, but without a dog in the fight I reverted to my usual no-dog-in-the-fight mindset: I found myself rooting for individual players in individual situations based on my own personal prejudices. In other words, I was rooting for the guys I like against the guys I don’t like, or at least like less, and I was rooting for my own hunches to be proven true.
For example, I’m a fan of Rajai Davis based on personal history, so I was thrilled about his big home run. A former 38th round draft pick, the SF Giants acquired Davis for what was basically a pure salary dump of Matt Morris‘ contract back in 1997. I expected little from Davis and was very pleasantly surprised when he turned out to be a useful piece in what was otherwise a dreary season.
Through his own hard work, Rajai turned himself into a legitimate major league regular, and I couldn’t be happier for him. It’s easy to root for guys who no one ever expected anything from but who turn out to be something.
For all the talk about what great managers Terry Francona and Joe Madden are, their performance in the World Series didn’t impress me and was arguably cowardly, or at least overly safe. There is obviously a lot more to managing than in-game decision-making and roster management, but Game 7 was pretty much a testament to which manager had overworked his best pitchers too much. 25 players get you to the post-season, and you get to pick your 25 for each post-season series, so there is pretty much no excuse for not using every player on that 25 roster to your advantage.
I also didn’t like Francona’s decision to pitch around Anthony Rizzo to face Ben Zobrist in the top of the 10th inning. No matter what the past history of the individual match-ups suggested (and they had to be very small data sets given the players involved), Zobrist struck me as the player on the Cubs’ line-up with the single best likelihood of a productive at-bat in that scenario. I also thought that putting Rizzo on base could mean a critical second run, and this time I turned out to be entirely right.
Managers have the least secure jobs in major league baseball, and it puts a lot of pressure on managers, even the best ones, to make safe decisions that won’t be second-guessed to the nth degree if they don’t go as hoped. Of course, precisely because managers’ continuing tenure is based solely on results is the very reason why this strategy/tendency is so self-defeating. If you are judged solely on results, you have to make the decision that is most likely to get the win, no matter how much it goes against conventional wisdom or what the sportswriters think is inside baseball.
I will admit that my own opinion that Francona in particular, but also Madden with Aroldis Chapman, overworking their best pitchers would likely blow up in their faces was based on my own subjective observations. I remember all too well how Dusty Baker rode his excellent bullpen horses as hard as he possibly could and how they just didn’t quite get him to the finish line in the 2002 World Series.
Even assuming that you go into the World Series with fewer pitchers on the 25-man roster than you carry during the regular season, you have to find a way to steal outs here and there with the bottom of your World Series bullpen so your race horses don’t run out of gas. Madden “stole” two crucial bottom of the tenth outs with Carl Edwards, Jr. (I hope that Senior is still around and proud of his son tonight), which was a gutsy and ultimately successful move.
I also have to say that the Giants’ World Series victories in 2010, 2012 and 2014, after 32 long years of personal disappointment and suffering (I became a die-hard fan in 1978), have given me a certain equanimity that I wouldn’t possess otherwise. I enjoyed the shots of Cubs and Indians fans looking miserable each time the game turned against their squad. I’ve been there, brothers and sisters, but now that the Giants have won a few, I will likely never experience that level of misery ever again.
In fact, if the Giants never win another World Series again in my life time, I will still have 2010, 2012 and 2014. It will be so much easier to see the glass as half full going forward.