OK, give me a second to take off my shoes and relax on your leather couch. Ahhh, Alex Gonzalez....
There are two Alex Gonzalezes who play SS in MLB right now. But just for the sake of a good rant, I'm going to assume this is the one who butchered
that routine ground ball, thereby giving overly charitable Cub fans a chance to say Idiot Child Bartman's blunder wasn't responsible for the Cubs'
meltdown when they were 5 outs from the World Series.
In truth, of course, Bartman AND Gonzalez AND the Cubs' young star pitcher, Mark Prior, were all partly culpable, but the point of this post is that
it didn't end there, and that the guy who's perhaps the biggest villain never gets ragged on.
(1) NO "lifelong Cubs fan," much less one who coaches a Little League team and is smart enough to be in the biz world, blows that play for Alou while
sitting in the front row--even if the guy next to him ISN'T pulling away from the ball as a clue (which he was), and even if Doofus Bartman ISN'T
wearing Walkman headphones as part of his clown suit (which he was);
(2) NO competent MLB shortstop, no matter how mad he is at Doofus for the "fan" interference, butchers that grounder; BUT
(3) I can understand a 22-year-old pitcher, even one as good as Prior, coming unglued over that play. And it was DEAD obvious that coming unglued
was exactly what Prior was doing. Everyone who watched that game could see it for him/herself. If Prior were 32, I'd say shame on him AND his
pitching coach and manager. But he was a 22-year-old kid, capping off a tremendous year, and all night he'd been moving the Cubs steadily and
inexorably toward their first World Series since the same year HITLER died (massive applause) and the atom bombs fell (for better or worse).
Does anyone doubt what the magnitude of that moment felt like to a 22-year-old kid, especially in a city so steeped in knowledge of its baseball
history? And given the electric flow with which he'd been pitching all night, and the explosion which occurred in him after Idiot Child did his thing
with the foul ball, and after he surely died another death inside over the butchered grounder to Gonzalez...?
Well, I've never managed a Little League team (like Idiot Child), much less an MLB team, but I will guarantee you this....
If I'd been Dusty Baker, the very nanosecond my brain registered how mad Prior was over Idiot Child's interference--and if you saw the play, you know
Prior was immediately enraged--I would have been on the mound, with or without my pitching coach, at once. I would have put my years of playing poker
to use, telling the kid everything I could think of about how we desperately needed him to pretend it never happened, regain 100% of his composure,
finish what he'd so beautifully done for 7-1/3 innings, and not let an imbecile in the stands spoil the highlight of his career.
And if the kid emotionally couldn't do that, then despite his great year and his great game to that point, I would have pulled him IMMEDIATELY, not
after he'd blown the game for us.
Do I think anyone should ever blame Prior for that game? No. Not a bit. If I'd been blessed with his pitching arm, and I'd been on the mound that
night at age 22, I'd probably have pulled Nancy McNimrod out of the seats and stomped him... for starters. And I'm sure I couldn't have regained my
But Dusty Baker, like me, is well into middle age now. Wasn't he 22 once? And even if he's forgotten what it felt like, couldn't he fricking SEE
what McDimbulb's blunder had done to Prior's composure?
If he couldn't, he was the only person watching the game--live, or on TV--who couldn't
And here's the thing:
I still hear people talk about that game, and I'm sure I always will. There will be those who blame it all on Bartman; there will those who, out of
some perhaps religious need to be charitable, let Bartman totally off the hook and make the preposterous statement the Cubs would surely have lost
anyway; and there will be those who, like me, say the blame has to be shared--most of those people probably not being as harsh in speaking of
BLECCHH-man as I am. lol
But how many people have you heard/seen put a huge share of the blame at the feet of Dusty Baker?
My question is WHY? Anyone who's ever been 22 could see what a perilous adventure it would be to leave that kid out there, and ESPECIALLY after
Gonzalez butchered that routine grounder. Is not a baseball manager, like a football coach, supposed to be a person of many parts, but above all
things a student of human nature who can play each of his players like a piano? Am I a person of unfathomable genius where human nature is concerned
(I'll answer--NO!!!), or wasn't everything I'm talking about in this post very obvious that night, especially to a man who'd been in baseball half
again as long as Prior had lived?
And while I'm about it:
The 2002 Giants had only 8 people fit to be in a pro lineup. Their "designated hitters" in the games at Anaheim were hilarious, featuring a
completely washed-up Shawon Dunston with a season ON-BASE % of .250; a young speedster, Calvin Murray, who was hampered by the old adage that you
cannot steal first base; and various others who could not hit a lick. Their CF, Kenny Lofton, was far past his prime defensively.
Need one have been a genius to see that since Baker could not use the DH offensively with that team's roster, he should have used it DEFENSIVELY?
THAT he could have done very well:
Put Shinjo in CF instead of Lofton, which would have been a gigantic defensive improvement. Put Lofton in LF instead of Bonds, which would have been
an even bigger improvement. And use Bonds as the greatest DH (with a giant asterisk) in baseball history. If Bonds pitched a fit about it, fine, let
him take it out on the baseball.
The team would have been enormously improved in the field, and the outfield debacles in the Game 6 meltdown would never have occurred. That way,
Baker's outrageous arrogance in giving his pitcher the ball during the sixth (?) inning of Game 6, while still enraging the Angels and being a
boneheaded thing to do, mightn't have come home to haunt him.
But, this is a manager who, like successor Felipe Alou, has no problem with players who swing at almost everything and have atrocious
strikeout-to-walk ratios (deemed by Bill James to be 30% of what determines whether one is a good "percentage player"--a category at which his and my
#1 second baseman of all time, Joe Morgan, rates as the greatest in baseball history). Under Baker, like Alou, the Giants were not exactly a team of
"percentage players," and that, too, says a lot about the man in the dugout.
WOW, DOCTOR, I knew I didn't like Baker as a manager, and I knew I felt he got off WAY too easy for that horrible Bartman game, but I didn't realize
how much I despise the guy's managing. Thanks. See you again next week. Maybe I can let loose on Alou.
POSTSCRIPT TO TOEJAM, TRD AND GIBBS: OK, There is your first official "rant" by me. I'll try for more later, but this felt like a fun place to
start, in that 3 young men have taken pretty much all of the blame for something which I think is, more than anything else, a middle-aged manager's