September 21, 2003

The Hot Hand. Saturday night's 13-4 implosion in Cleveland was horrible anyway you look at it. Boston's wild card lead dropped to 1½ games and Grady Little proved for the umpteenth time that he couldn't manage a lemonade stand, let alone the Red Sox. Little promised he was going with the "hot hand": "We don't have time in these games or in certain situations to wait too long on a pitcher that's on the mound to get it back together, to get it back in a good groove. ... [W]e will go with the hot hand." Okay, so why did Grady rely on the "cold hand" last night?

Derek Lowe pitched 6 masterful innings (14 ground ball outs, only 60 pitches) and took the mound in the 7th with a 4-1 lead. He threw 118 pitches last time out, so even with the low pitch count, it was time to get the bullpen warm.

Broussard led off with a fly ball to center. It was Lowe's longest at-bat of the game (7 pitches) and his first fly ball out. Lowe had now thrown a first-ball strike to 21 of his 24 batters, but he threw a ball to Bard, then surrendered a 438-foot home run. 4-2 Boston. Peralta hit a first-pitch single and Santos followed with a 1-0 single. Jackson muffed Crisp's double play grounder (again, on an 1-0 count) and couldn't get anybody out. Bases loaded. Considering how Lowe has reacted to bad events all season, the smart thing would have been to get him out (maybe even before Crisp). But no one was ready. Did Grady simply assume Lowe would be lights out for the next three innings?

Lowe got Blake to swing and miss, but then threw a wild pitch. Boston 4-3. On the 9th pitch, Blake doubled in two runs. Cleveland 5-4. How can Grady and Dave Wallace sit there and allow this to drag on in an important game? There are 8 pitchers in the pen and Grady has never shown any aversion to warming up guys and not using them, so why not now?

So Grady finally pulled Lowe -- several batters too late, as usual. Who came in? Who's the "hot hand" with the game on the line? Scott Sauerbeck. The worst pitcher in the pen. What is Grady's fascination with this guy? Since he arrived in Boston, he has done nothing but stink up the joint. He ought to be "Acevadoed," but instead, he's Gump's go-to guy. What is the rationale? Does Grady think that Sauerbeck has been so bad for so long he has to turn it around sometime and maybe this is the game? Is Grady's wife's madien name Sauerbeck?

Anyway, Sauerbeck got Gerut on a fly ball. Two outs. Perfect. Pull him and bring in a right-hander? No. Sauerbeck walked Escobar intentionally, then followed with an unintentional walk, reloading the bases. On his next pitch, he hit Broussard, forcing in a run. And he remained on the mound. He gave up a single to Bard, which scored two more runs. The inning ended when Broussard was caught in a rundown.

Grady told Gordon Edes he left Sauerbeck in because "Bard is better against righties than lefties." A quick look at his splits shows Gump is 100% wrong:
        AVG   OBP   SLG

v LHP .278 .301 .392
v RHP .216 .272 .338
I'm speechless. Edes made no mention of these splits.

Sauerbeck: "It's a ton of things. ... Part of it is physical, part of it is mental. ... When I'm out there, mechanically I feel awful." He has allowed more walks and hits (15 each) than innings pitched (13) and has a 7.24 ERA. And Grady still sounded like he'll use him again soon: "It's disappointing but hopefully he'll turn it around and hopefully he'll turn it around quickly. It's a good time for him to get hot.'' ... Gump had another slow hook with Williamson in the 8th [Out, double, wild pitch, walk, double, K, single, wild pitch, walk], but he likely had conceded the game at that point. ... After the game, Grady was still advocating the "hot hand" philosophy: "We're looking for outs. From here on, we're going to go with the people we feel like we can get the outs with."

Elsewhere: Garry Brown says Gump deserves a contract extension and quotes Millar: "Grady Little is the best manager for Boston. I'd say give him a 4-5 year deal. He's level-headed, and he handles a job that is tougher than anybody knows. This team is under constant criticism, but he keeps us going, and he stands with us. I'd rate him as one of the greatest managers in baseball." ... To quote Woody Allen in "Manhattan": "I have to go now, because I'm due back on planet Earth. "

As I was cursing Grady, my partner (and Yankee fan) Laura wanted to know why I wasn't blaming the players for their poor performances. "Why is it all Grady's fault? Everything can't be the manager's fault."

Yes, I said, the players do deserve blame when they can't do their jobs, but Grady mismanages this team on a near-daily basis, refusing to put the team in the best position to win. Why does he keep bringing the pen's worst pitcher into crucial spots? Why is he batting Walker 3rd and Merloni 2nd? Why rely on a second baseman with no range when a groundball pitcher is on the mound? Grady's job is to know what each player can and cannot do and use them accordingly. Grady does the opposite."

"So why does he do that?"

"I don't know. No one asks him. It never comes up, blown game after blown game, dumb move after dumb move. No one ever asks him to explain himself, just like they never did with Jimy. I can just about guarantee you there will no comment tomorrow about how wrong it was to use Sauerbeck. It'll be 'Sauerbeck couldn't get the job done, poor Grady's stuck with shitty pitchers' with no thought to whether he should have been in the game in the first place." (Sure enough, no one questioned Grady on using Sauerbeck.)

Finally, some SoSH thoughts, to which I can add nothing other than "Amen": "Grady Little is a complete and unredeemable shithead. ... Don't tell me that Scott Williamson doesn't know his manager's a fucking idiot. Don't tell me that Scott Sauerbeck wasn't out there wondering why the fuck he wasn't getting the hook. Just one more log on the conflagration fueled by Grady bungles." ... "blame the players if you want to, but it is the manager's decision to pull a pitcher who has lost his shit, and that same manager's decision to bring in a reliever who has demonstrated he can hold a lead." ... "I will go to bed tonight dreaming of Grady being torn to pieces by industrial machinery."

Pedro will attempt to save Gump's bacon by throwing a 50-pitch complete game shutout at 1:05 pm.

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