Sometimes I wish baseball managers had the ability to think outside the box. Break free of the constraints of conventional baseball thinking. Actually try to figure out what gives their team the best chance at winning.
Today, we saw two managers cower to every conventional thought when it comes to managing close games. Maybe it’s because they’re two guys who have a pretty good chance of being fired if things don’t turn around soon, and it’s a lot easier to keep your job when you do what you’re “supposed to do” and it doesn’t work out than it is to go against conventional wisdom and still fail. Maybe that’s the case with Brad Mills, I don’t know. But after watching Ken Macha for the past 1.25 seasons, it seems pretty clear to me that this is just the way he operates.
Somehow, though, I still find myself getting surprised when he pulls something like using Craig Counsell — one of about 1.5 available bench players (Inglett can hit, but apparently still can’t run with his injury) — to put down a sacrifice bunt in the 9th inning. Forget for a second how dumb it is to waste an out in the 9th inning when you’re trying to come from behind to win… If you’re going to sac bunt, why would you use one of your precious few pinch hitters to do that? You’re telling me one of the pitchers sitting on the bench couldn’t waste the out for you?
That was irritating, but the Brewers managed to tie the game anyway. I thought I would get past it.
Then we got to the 10th inning. Bases loaded. Pitcher spot up again. Top prospect Jonathan Lucroy still on the bench — standing right next to Ken Macha, as a matter of fact. And Macha pinch hits for John Axford with… Randy Wolf.
The idea that you can’t pinch-hit with your back-up catcher under any circumstances has always seemed ridiculously conservative to me. Just like how you can’t play a game worrying about whether you’ll get hurt, you can’t manage a game worrying that one of your players will get hurt, either. When you’re in extra innings and all you need is a sacrifice fly to win the game, YOU SHOULD PUT IN SOMEBODY WHO CAN ACTUALLY MAKE CONTACT.
Thankfully, Rickie Weeks bailed Macha out by drawing a walk-off walk in the next at-bat. I can’t imagine the uproar if Weeks had struck out instead of drawing the walk. You think he’s getting roasted now for pinch-hitting with Wolf? There’d be pitchforks and torches in the post-game press conference if Weeks didn’t draw that walk.
I’d like to say that this is just another reason why Macha should be let go, but the truth is any other manager probably would have done the same thing. And that irritates me. At the very least, we can be happy the Brewers won their first series at home since the opener against the Rockies, and hope they can back into another series win against another horribly managed team.
MIL HR: None
HOU HR: None