Monday, April 07, 2008

Game 7: Cubs 10 Pirates 8

If there's anything in the world that I hate, it's stupid baseball. Stupid baseball drives me insane. The Pirates pretty much define stupid baseball in every way you can. Today's game was full of stupid plays and moves, including one of the stupidest plays I have ever seen on a baseball field.

If you missed today's game, the play in question happened in the 9th inning with the score tied 8-8. With one out and runners on the corners, Jose Bautista laid down a bunt. Brian Bixler, standing on third base, didn't budge. Derrek Lee fielded the ball and tagged Bautista while Doug Mientkiewicz advanced to second. Of course, that meant nothing at all except that the sacrifice fly was now out of play and the inning ended without the Pirates scoring, leading the 11-inning loss. There are only so many things that could've happened on that play:

  1. Brian Bixler missed a squeeze sign.
  2. Jose Bautista misread a sign.
  3. John Russell is the biggest moron to ever put on a baseball cap.
  4. Jose Bautista is the biggest moron to ever put on a baseball cap.
I'm being told that after the game, Russell said that Bautista bunted on his own volition and he was, "just trying to make something happen." If that's honestly true, Bautista should be cut right now because there's just not room on the baseball field for people that stupid. With a runner on third and one out in a tie game, there's NO WAY IN HELL that he scores on a bunt that he doesn't know is happening. It's literally not possible unless someone makes an error, which was taken out of the equation when Bautista bunted the ball to first base. Honestly, I don't know how or why Bautista thought this was a good idea. He's not a good bunter and all things considered, I would probably classify him as a fly ball hitter. I think even a squeeze in that situation is mildly crazy, but to bunt on his own is the most insane thing I've literally ever heard.

This is what I was talking about when I said that the "culture of losing" was impossible to change without changing the players. Maybe Bautista bunted because of all the emphasis put on doing the little things right by Russell this spring. Maybe he missed a sign and Russell didn't want to hang his rookie out in public this early in the year. Maybe he's a wuss that was afraid of striking out in the most clutch of situations. Maybe Russell didn't know the situation and gave the bunt sign, then was embarrassed to own up to it after the game. Maybe Bautista is quite literally the stupidest person on the face of the planet. I'm really doubting that Bixler missed the sign as everyone that's seen the play has told me that there was no angry reaction directed towards him from Tony Beasley and Dejan recounts that Bixler was "livid" when the play happened. That means that there's literally no excuse for the play. Confusing a fly ball in the outfield is bad, but not knowing the situation is a thousand times more unforgivable. Bautista should be embarrassed and Russell should be LIVID.

UPDATE: The PG updated the article between when I wrote that and when I posted. The team's official position now seems to be to blame Bixler, even though I can still find no indication that the play was called for from the dugout. That's what I call misplaced blame. In fact, this will get its own post later tonight.

The thing is, that play was just one stupid play in a game full of them. In the seventh inning, Nyjer Morgan got caught trying to steal second with two outs and Nate McLouth was at the plate, taking the bat out of the team's hottest hitters' hand. Since I'm assuming Morgan always has the green light, this could be his fault or it could be Russell's fault. Regardless, it's still a stupid play. To even risk taking the bat out of McLouth and maybe Sanchez's hands is just a foolish play in a tie game. Of course, Morgan was in the game because Russell chose the sixth inning of a game he was losing as a good time to put McLouth in left and Morgan in center. It's likely that Russell will claim it was a defensive move, but that's a dubious claim at best because I'm not sure that McLouth/Morgan is that much of a better tandem than Bay/McLouth. More than likely, it's because Russell is sending a "message" to Bay for his slow start because the fans have completely turned on the guy and Russell's spring stump speech was all about accountability. I'm sorry, but that's just stupid. Bay is, by leaps and bounds, the team's most talented player. Yes, he's struggling. Still, he's been a slow starter the past couple years and he's certainly not struggling for lack of effort because every time I've seen him (with the exception of that pop-up in the opener that was equally McLouth's fault), he's moving in the field like he hasn't in two years. Bay playing well is integral to whatever it is the Pirates want to do this year. Maybe he won't do that, but there's no way to tell at this point in the season.

Amazingly, the course of this game made me almost forget about how awful Gorzelanny was to start this game. In less than three innings, he only got 36 of 70 pitches across the plate and of those 36, six went for hits. That's two straight starts that he's struggled with control and according to's Gameday, most of his fastballs were sub-90 mph. Since I harped on his health all spring you can probably guess what I'm going to say next: I think Gorzo's hurt and that's a terrifying thing for this team. I can also add that I think the Evan Meek experiment is probably going to be a short one, but you already knew that and there's no use harping on that. This game was lost long before he got into the game.

We're seven games in and I don't see any reason to think that this team isn't the same old Pirates.