By In Stuff

Watching With The Legends

It’s easy to lose sight sometimes of just how much baseball has changed over the last few years. This came into focus during the ninth inning of the Giants-Cubs game on Tuesday night. The Giants led the Cubs 5-2 going into the ninth inning.

And let’s just say, for fun, that you were watching the game in The Good Place with late great managing stars Earl Weaver, Casey Stengel, Walter Alston and Sparky Anderson.

“$*%$*#*!” says Weaver. “How did the $%#*$#* Cubs get into the playoffs?”

Yes. Well. The Giants did lead 5-2 in large part because Giants starter Matt Moore, somewhat absurdly, had pitched an absolute gem. Moore had once been the best pitching prospect in baseball, but that was before he snapped his UCL.

“What in the world is a UCL?” Alston asks.

Ulnar Collateral Ligament. It’s the tissue that connects the inner arm to the inner forearm — right around the elbow. It’s the ligament that Tommy John had repaired in that miracle surgery.

“Ah yes,” Alston says. “I do remember Tommy. Good sink on his pitches.”

In any case, he struggled after that and his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays …

“I apologize,” Stengel says. “Did you say there is a Major League baseball team playing in Tampa?”

Well, technically, they play in St. Petersburg, but yes, they’re in that Tampa Bay area.

“Wonders never cease,” he says.

Point is, Tampa Bay gave up on him this year and dealt him to San Francisco. And he pitched moderately for the Giants. But on this day, Moore pitched eight marvelous innings, striking out ten, allowing just two hits and only one — a hanging breaking ball homer to Chicago’s David Ross — of consequence. And then, of course, he was pulled going into the ninth inning.

“What’s exactly is happening?” Alston would ask. “Why is he out of this game? Is he hurt again? I never did trust that Tommy John surgery.”

No, you explain. It’s just that he has already thrown 120 pitches.

“Is that a lot?” Alston asks. He starts to wonder how many pitches he’d allowed Koufax to throw before the guy’s arm almost fell off.

Yes, you explain, in modern times it is quite a lot. Pitchers almost never throw 120 pitches these days. Only 13 pitchers all years threw more than 120 pitches in a game (though one WAS Matt Moore back in August when he threw a earth-shaking 133 pitches).

“That the biggest &$&#*$&# I’ve ever ##^$*#@ heard,” Weaver says. “Jim Palmer wasn’t even warmed up until he threw 120 pitches.”

Well, see, it is done to protect pitchers arms from injury.

“What a load of $#&$&#*#*,” Weaver says.

“No, Mr. Weaver, wait just a minute,” Casey Stengel says. “It is true that in my day a pitcher’s arm was indeed an endangered species. I remember one pitcher, young man from Dubuque if I recall correctly, threw a good live fast one, until one day I see him walk in limping. Says he hurt his arm. I say, well if it’s your arm that a hurtin’, why you limping …”

Sorry, Casey, the game is getting ready to start here again.

“I guess my point is, it’s good to limit these pitchers because, I assume, they don’t ever get hurt now that they’re limited.”

No, pitchers still get hurt a lot.

“Ah,” Stengel says. And he rubs his chin.

Well, anyway, pitch count is not the only reason Moore was pulled. If Bochy had stayed with Moore, he would have been facing the Cubs lineup for the fourth time.

“So?” Anderson asks.

So, you say, there is solid evidence that shows pitchers do not do well when facing the lineup for the fourth time.

Alston makes a particularly sour face.

“Yes,” Anderson says. “I can see that. So who is this Derek Law fellow? He the Giants’ best available pitcher, I assume.”

Well, no, Derek Law is not actually the Giants’ best relief pitcher. He is a 25-year-old rookie who had kicked around the minors for years. But he’d been given a chance this year, and he pitched pretty well, and, even more, he had shown real moxie in pitching two scoreless innings in Game 3.

“Well,” Weaver says, “I like moxie. OK, this is why you $#&$&#* trust the manager. Bochy is following his hunch. I like that. I respect it. Let this kid finish it off.”

Well, no, he wasn’t put in to finish it off. He was put in to retire Chicago’s Kris Bryant, the probable league MVP. Instead, Bryant hits a ground-ball single off Law to lead off the inning. Bochy goes to the mound.

“Where is he going?” Alston asks.

He’s pulling Law out of the game to bring in Javier Lopez, of course.

“What the $($^@*#?” Weaver asks.

Well, see, lefty Anthony Rizzo is coming up. And Lopez is a lefty reliever who Bochy tends to bring in to face lefty batters.

“So he’s bringing him this young man to get one batter out?” Alston asks.

Well, he’s not that young. He’s 38.

“That’s young to me,” Alston says.

OK, well, Bochy does this pretty often. He has brought Lopez in to face one batter 40 times this year.

“This Lopez must have an impeccable record of success to be kept on the team if his job is only to get one batter out,” Stengel asks.

Well, not really this year. He kind of has control problems. See, look how he walks Anthony Rizzo.

“That seems unfortunate,” Stengel says.

“So you’re telling me he’s coming out of the game now?” Alston asks.

Yep. Here comes Sergio Romo.

“Oh,” Stengel says, “yes. I’m well aware of this gentlemen. I believe he pitched a few speedy ones against us in the ‘62 Series.”

No, he’s not quite that old. But he was the Giants closer a couple of years ago.

“What in heaven’s name is a closer?” Alston asks.

He’s the guy that closes out games.

“What does a closer close if there is not a game to close?” Stengel asks.

He sits and watches.

“Wait, so if the Giants have a closer, why have they not called him out to pitch?” Alston asks.

Good question. It seems the Giants have lost faith in their closer Santiago Casilla. He had some poor outings in the second half.

“My head hurts,” Sparky says as Ben Zobrist doubles to score one run and put runners on second and third with nobody out. The score is now 5-3.

Shortstop Addison Russell is coming up, and he hits right-handed and, no, wait, it looks like Cubs manager Joe Maddon is hopping into action. He’s going to pinch-hit Chris Coghlan, a left-handed batter.

“Excuse me,” Sparky says.


“I’m looking at your statistics here, and it shows that this Russell kid had 95 RBIs this year.”

Yes, that’s right.

“Why in the world is the manager pinch-hitting for a guy who had 95 RBIs?”

Well, um, teams don’t really use RBIs much these days to judge players performance.

“You’re joking,” Sparky says.

No, see, RBIs are a contextual statistic that rely heavily on teammates and timing. There are more telling statistics such, well, maybe we don’t need to get into that right now.

“You’re telling me this manager prefers a .188 $(%*%&# hitter over a clutch player with 95 $^#^$*# RBIs?” Weaver asks.

Well, you started the crazy platooning, Mr. Weaver.

“$*$&%*$ straight,” Weaver said.

“Well, I’m at a loss,” Sparky says.

Please, let’s not talking about pitcher wins and losses. Point is, pinch-hitting Coghlan is probably just a deke by Maddon. He probably just wants to inspire Bochy to take Romo out of the game. And it’s working. Look, here comes Will Smith.

“The Fresh Prince!” Weaver shouts.

The other managers all look at him curiously.

“I had a $#$&#*# television,” he says.

No, it’s not the same guy. This Will Smith is another lefty specialist.

“How many lefty specialists can one team employ?” Stengel says.

“Say,” Alston says. “Does this Joe Maddon fellow have a right-handed hitter to use here?”

Good eye, Mr. Alston. He does, a darned good one, a rookie named Willson Contreras. Contreras hit .282 with some power this year.

“What about his RBIs?” Sparky says. “Is he clutch?”

Well, he’s clutch in this situation. Contreras hits a ground ball single to tie the game up. Now it’s Jason Heyward’s turn to hit. He bunts …

“Yes, finally something I understand,” Alston says.

“I $&#^#^#* hate the bunt,” Weaver says.

Yes, Mr. Weaver, you are quite famous for that. People will love you for your aversion to the bunt. Many consider you the father of modern baseball strategy.

“They do?” Weaver asks. “You hear that Sparky?”

“How many World Series did you win again, Earl?” Sparky says.

“&^$]$#*#* you,” Weaver says.

Anyway, the bunt fails — should be a double play — but shortstop Brandon Crawford throws the ball away. So Heyward ends up on second, one out, tie score. Now Bochy pulls Will Smith because a righty is coming to the plate. In comes reliever Hunter Strickland.

“I’m afraid I’ve lost track,” Ol’ Casey says. “How many pitchers does that make this inning?”

That would be five pitchers.

“I believe that equals the number of pitchers I used for the entire 1950 World Series,” he says.

Yes. That is true.

“Yes,” Stengel says, and then he turns to Sparky Anderson and says, “Sir, how many World Series did YOU win?”

“Three,” Anderson says fiercely.

“Very good,” Stengel says happily and he hums a happy tune to himself.

Strickland gets an 0-2 count on the Cubs’ young star Javier Baez, and then he drills a ground ball up the middle for a base hit. That scores Heyward. And the Cubs lead 6-5.

“OK, can we take this from the top?” Walter Alston asks. “Why was it again that this Moore youngster could not pitch in the ninth inning?”

I’m afraid we have keep moving forward, Mr. Alston. The Giants come up in the bottom of the ninth, down a run, against Aroldis Chapman. The side strikes out on 12 pitches. The Cubs are going to the National League Championship Series.

“Well,” Weaver says. “I don’t know much. But I’ll tell you one thing. That $(#*$*#&#*@ Chapman guy throws %(#*$*#* hard.”

33 Responses to Watching With The Legends

  1. KCJoe says:

    That is &%$*&%^ classic!

  2. Karyn says:

    I literally LOLed. Several times.

  3. Gordon hewetson says:

    Liked Sparky, he would have adapted. Great second life with Tigers. Did not like Earl Weaver. He didn’t want anyone to like him. Hard headed, hard ass. One World Series win, HA! Four WS losses. Everybody loved the ol professor Casey Stengel. I miss Yogi Berra.

    • SDG says:

      If there has to be a baseball player famous for saying odd things that make sense, then Casey > Yogi. Although Casey was famous for deep platooning and using the whole bench in a game. You would think he’d get current strategy. As much as anyone does, I mean.

      Now I’m wondering if Koufax ever spoke publicly about pitch counts.

    • BSChief says:

      The Weave won once (’70), lost thrice (’69, ’71, ’79).

  4. Ryan says:

    Loved the whole @!%^!^@$ thing.

  5. Paul Willson says:

    Willson Contreras, not Wilson Contreras

  6. Llarry says:

    But I wanted to hear the rest of Casey’s story about the guy with the bad arm limping…

  7. Paul Schroeder says:

    Great article, as usual, Joe.

  8. invitro says:

    I’ve loved the playoffs this year. And the game last night was awesome. No more &$&#*$&# Giants and their ##^$*#@ elimination game magic. The 2016 Cubs avenge the ghosts of Dwight Smith, Mike Bielecki and the 1989 Cubs. Life is sweet, especially if you’re Bill Murray, or one of his heirs.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Definitely glad to not see another 87 win team win the World Series.

      • invitro says:

        Yes, that’s nice. Toronto’s 89 isn’t too far off though. They seem several games better than that. Oh, I see they were +93 in runs, kind of like last year. Run difference has predicted the winner in each series except for Boston.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          I thought about Toronto, too, and I hope Cleveland wins. But, Toronto at least was not one of the worst teams in baseball the second half of the season as the Giants were. This would have been the second time the Giants snuck is as a mediocre wild card team. Toronto had a bad early September which cost them the division, but they seem like a more solid team than the Giants.

  9. Frank says:

    Earl Weaver used five pitchers in the ninth inning of game 7 of the 1979 World Series. Worked about as well as it did for the Giants last night – gave up two big insurance runs. So let’s not let the facts get in the way while we’re dissing the old geezers.

    • invitro says:

      Why do you think Joe’s dissing the ghosts?

    • Dave says:

      And Alston would need to be told what a closer was, even though he brought in Mike Marshall 106 times in 1974.

      • GWO says:

        Marshall wasn’t a closer, though. Closers don’t pitch in 100+ games, and they definitely don’t pitch 200+ innings. Marshall finished 83 games with 21 saves and 12 blown saves. That’s nothing like the usage of a modern closer.

        Marshall was a fireman, and only Terry Francona still uses a fireman.

        • Dave says:

          Your argument is that Marshall wasn’t a closer, because he closed too often?

          You argument is that “closer” is a modern term of art so esoteric and yet so universal, that a man who used a single relief pitcher like no one has before or since would be utterly confounded?

          Well, the good news is that I won’t have to worry about you leaping to MY defense.

          • GWO says:

            No, he wasn’t a closer because his usage pattern bore no resemblance to what a closer does in 2016. Not mostly used in save situations. Not saved for the ninth. Not asked to pitch just one inning.

            In 2016 a closer is not a guy who finishes a lot of games, its a guy who pitches the ninth inning in a save situation. You saw how surprised everyone was when Jansen pitched the 7th and 8th last night, because Jansen is the closer?

            Marshall did that stuff all the time.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Well, I think Kenley Jansen is officially a fireman now after pitching almost three innings last night. Clayton Kershaw was actually the closer. I wouldn’t expect Roberts to make this a habit and, frankly, it almost backfired.

  10. Hardy Callcott says:

    Anderson was pretty observant – probably would have noticed Law was pitching for the Giants, not the Cubs.

  11. Donald A. Coffin says:

    One of the funniest thinks I have read in quite a while…Did yoy use a Ouija board to contact these guys?

  12. Tim Mueller says:

    Managers these days must be pretty damn good at the crap tables when they vacation in Vegas!

  13. Rob Tallia says:

    Your single funniest post ever, Mr Poznanski!

  14. Richard says:

    Needed a dose of John McGraw: When did the Giants move to San Francisco?

  15. howard says:

    That was wonderful.

    “What in heaven’s name is a closer?” Alston asks.

    Could’ve said, “Ron Perranowski”. but, like the above comment, like Marshall, more of a fireman I suppose. His W-L in 1963 was 16-3 with 21 saves in 69 appearances (zero starts).

    • nightfly says:

      That’s the idea. The “closer” as such really is only because of LaRussa using Eckersley exclusively in the ninth inning – before that, you simply had ace relievers, who came in when they were needed most. And since they were already in there, if they got out of the jam, they finished if they were able so you rested the rest of your bullpen. You were only carrying 10 pitchers anyway. LaRussa’s real innovation wasn’t the “closer” but the habit of using other pitchers to bridge to the closer. If anything, he invented the set-up man.

  16. cas says:

    Casey’s comment about Romo throwing a few speedy ones against his team in the 1962 series was truly a senior moment. Not only was Romo not around
    back in ’62, but Casey was no longer manager of the Series champion Yankees, he was managing the Mets that year.

  17. KHAZAD says:

    I have noticed that in the three key games in the series that had some element of doubt in them, the manager that tried to get through an inning by playing the matchup game and using half their bullpen to get through a key inning had it blow up in their face, while the other team usually put their best arms out there and let it ride and were rewarded. This is something I have also noticed in the previous couple of years.

    Showalter, Bochy, and perennial offender Dusty Baker can watch the rest of the post season together, muttering about how the manager needs to get that left vs. lefty or righty vs. righty matchup while the other managers let their best pitchers decide the game.

    As a Royals fan, I only wish Bochy had stayed true to his nature in game 7 in 2014, instead of riding with Bumgarner. We could have won it twice.

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