Did you have any doubt? Really, though?
When David Ortiz stepped to the Detroit dish with the Red Sox down by a run in the bottom of ninth, did you expect anything less than a game-tying home run? He just does it. Again and again. Ortiz has an uncanny knack for coming through at the most opportune moments, staking his claim as perhaps the most clutch player in team history.
Yaz? Well, there was that popup to end 1978. That's almost unimaginable when Ortiz comes to plate with the game on the line, or with the season on the line, as we learned almost a year ago.
His accompanying three-run shot an inning later, well that was bonus material, extra jimmies it seemed at the time (thank you, Mike Remlinger), the Sox pouring it on. You can picture the Sox signing a card in the dugout for Alan Trammell as a big-time thanks for lifting a guy (Nate Robertson) against whom they had just two hits over eight innings. Apparently while thumbing through "Three Nights in August" in the dugout, the Detroit manager failed to realize his dominating starter had tossed just 90 pitches, and perhaps as a result of some Tony La Russa Jedi mind trick, brought in his closer. Well, closer is such a defining term, and since what the Tigers have is akin to an intern ... wait, what in the hell was he thinking?
Yikes. If this is managing, Dave Dombrowski ought to just get it over with and install an iMac in the Comerica Park dugout. At least it might be able to make a no-brainer decision.
Maybe Lou Whitaker needs to sign on as bench coach, kind of how Affleck needs Damon.
Trammell tried to defend the move last night. "I think it's called second-guessing," he said.
Actually, no, it was first-guessing, at least on the part of Don Orsillo, who openly questioned the move in living rooms around New England. Trammell argued that Fernando Rodney, still getting the hold of this whole closing thing, is obliged to get the ball in a one-run game. Oh, he's obliged. Neat. If fewer managers thought that way, they might win five or six more games a season.
Let's see who was on that lineup card in the Tigers dugout. Hmm. Renteria. Ortiz. Ramirez. Now, if you're Trammell, and you see a scribble resembling "Ortiz" on the wall, and he, as well as Ramirez, has been held hitless against your nasty starter, you still go to your "closer?" Really?
It was no less than a terrible baseball move, following the book that has supposedly been written about how to win a baseball game. There are a handful of times every season when the skipper will go to the bullpen and his closer to try and finish out a game, and everyone else in the entire ballpark knows that it was the wrong move to make. Maybe the starter is pitching one of those special games and deserves the chance to close it out, much like Robertson. Maybe your setup man is so overpowering that you'd be foolish to make a move with such a tight margin for error. I'm not quite sure why the incessant insistence to get that last guy out a save. The complete game isn't a thing of the past because of the wear and tear a pitcher takes these days, it's because of the idiocy of the managing mind.
In Boston, we know all too well what a closer brings to the equation. The lack of one, and a manager's failure to go to one, cost the team a World Series appearance. A year later, it was one of the very reasons they raised the trophy. In front of La Russa, who is highly discredited with saddling the baseball public with the cheap save stat to begin with. Poetic. There's a big difference between going to your closer to finish a game and going to your closer because that's what you're supposed to do. Last night was a prime example of that.
Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg writes today that Trammell can't win. "If he manages simply to win, he probably should have stuck with Robertson; but if he wants to find out about Rodney's mettle in the future, it makes sense to throw him out there against the heart of the World Series champs."
It's a weak argument in that it made Trammell, already on the hot seat, look foolish. The Tigers weren't expected to compete for the AL Central just yet, but they are expected to win games they should win. They came back valiantly Monday night against Curt Schilling, and should have won last night.
Their manager's blundering decision took care of that.
Or, maybe they should re-enact the scene in "Face-Off" to see if the likes of Dwayne Hosey has assumed Beltran's identity. The real guy has got to be sunning on a beach somewhere while his counterpart is hitting .267.