Conventional wisdom is for the birds
”Defense wins games,” ”just try to make contact; don't swing for the fences,” and ”look at the numbers.” The sages of baseball have used countless clichés to successfully manage baseball teams over the years. Last night Game 4 of the World Series defied them all.
Arizona Manager Bob Brenly has been heralded for his loose managing style and reliance on gut instinct over conventional wisdom, a sharp contrast to the John McGraws of old. In perhaps his most controversial single decision, Brenly allowed Curt Schilling to pitch on just three days rest. Schilling shined in the House that Ruth Built for seven dominant innings.
Pitchers used to be relied upon to go all nine innings. Nowadays six is the standard and a solid seven is considered a good outing. With four days from his last start and four until a possible Game 7, it was only logical that Schilling should quit while he was ahead, and let the closer finish the job. But logic has no place in this World Series.
With two outs in bottom of the ninth, the Yankees were down by two and there was one man on base. Except for being Game 4 instead of Game 7, last night's scenario was straight out of a storybook, and Tino Martinez became the hero. Martinez crushed a two run bomb to deep center to tie the game and force extra innings.
What would have happened if Martinez had ”just tried to make contact”? The Yankees scored every single one of their runs last night from the long ball. Manufacturing runs just doesn't cut it. Craig Counsell laid down two beautiful sacrifice bunts, advancing Tony Womack to scoring position in the first and third innings with two outs to go. McGraw would be happy, but Counsell's diligence didn't help Brenly.
A fourth day of bold pitching against the dynastic Yankee offense didn't help Brenly either. The bottom-of-the-ninth fiasco aside, keep the total performance in perspective: a young franchise with a rookie manager held the most intimidating team in baseball to three runs in nine innings. If defense wins games, Arizona should have gotten the ”W,” but they did not. Struck with a failure to produce runs reminiscent of the Orioles behind Mike Mussina, Arizona went off silently into the night.
Speaking of Mike Mussina, the defector went 17-11 with a 3.15 ERA in the regular season but yielded five runs, two unearned, in Game 1 in just three innings. El Duque went 4-7 with a 4.85 ERA in the regular season yet emerged from multiple jams allowing just one run in six and a third innings. O, for the days when past performance had meaning.
The truth is, the postseason has been full of surprises. Oakland, the hottest team since the All-Star break, was eliminated in the Division Series. Seattle, with the best full season record this year, was eliminated in the Championship Series. But these surprises have a common thread, a pinstripe if you will. The Yankees beat them both.
Game 4 may have done away with any universal truth to the clichés, but it was just another tally on the stack confirming an age old axiom: there is something magical about the postseason Yankees.
Ben Meiselman. Ben Meiselman is a senior in the Communication Arts Program at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. He enjoys playing sports, especially baseball. Ben is seventeen years old, born May 16, 1985. He has played the trumpet since fourth grade when he began … More »