I hated Alex Rodriguez, the player, because he was a cheat.
He wasn’t the only one, I know, but there’s something about being that incredibly talented and yet still feeling the need to cheat, for no other reason than to feed your own ego, that really ate at me. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens – these guys were surefire Hall of Famers without the juice, and yet, because they were so damn selfish, they tarnished their own incredible legacies.
But something happened with A Rod after his career ended that has completely swung my opinion about him.
I’m a big fan of A Rod the analyst. Maybe it was just that one time when he, Pete Rose and Frank Thomas riffed on hitting during a pre-game show during the 2016 NLCS, after the jump:
But to be honest, the more I listen to A Rod talk about baseball, the more I like the guy. Yeah, sometimes his anecdotes are corny. Sometimes they take to long to be delivered. As someone who tends to be long-winded, I can appreciate where that comes from.
And yes, he has one too many malapropisms during broadcasts sometimes – most notably here in Philly referring to a cheese steak as a cheese sandwich.
But, when it comes to actually analyzing situations in baseball games, A Rod is pretty darn good. He’s got a little Tony Romo in him. He can see what’s coming before it happens and isn’t afraid to put it out there, even if he is wrong sometimes.
There’s something to be said for that, especially in an age where sports telecasts are often filled with broadcasters fawning all over players, managers, coaches, etc. as if they can’t do a damn thing wrong.
Which is why when A Rod decided to take Phillies manager Gabe Kapler to task in the eighth inning of Sunday’s night’s game, it was a breath of fresh air:
It’s as if A Rod was speaking for 75 percent of the Phillies fan base. It’s as if A Rod was putting the Phillies on blast nationally for something that has only been boiling over locally.
And the best part is, he is exactly right. This one was entirely on the manager.
Nothing bothers me more than apologists for the manager and the way he has managed the team in games over the past two seasons.
I’m not going to always agree with every managerial decision, and I can admit that there are times managers get it right and I get it wrong. That’s the beauty of baseball – there are so many little decisions in each game that can be debated for hours on end.
But, I also think there is an alarming pattern of bad decisions that end up costing the Phillies games that far too often are defended by “Gabe’s Guys” in the following ways:
- The team didn’t hit. That’s not the manager’s fault.
- The bullpen has been destroyed by injuries, that’s not the manager’s fault.
- The pitcher missed his pitch, that’s not the manager’s fault.
- The pitching coach is 100 percent in charge of the pitching staff, that’s not the manager’s fault.
- The team is poorly put together, that isn’t the manager’s fault.
- The players make a ton of mental mistakes, that isn’t the manager’s fault.
STOP. Just stop. Right there. Because what happened Sunday in the eighth inning – none of the above applies.
Because, like A Rod said, Once the wild pitch was thrown, and a base opened up at first, and then Nick Pivetta threw ball three to Kevin Pillar, Gabe Kapler, AND ONLY GABE KAPLER, had a choice.
Walk Pillar, who entering that at bat had been hitting .349 (15-for-43) since July 28th, with eight of those 15 hits for extra bases, and pitch to Brandon Crawford, who was in an dreadful 8-for-56 slump (.143).
Throw a 3-1 fastball to Pillar and hope he misses it.
Gabe chose the latter.
And don’t go defending Kapler by saying Pivetta missed his pitch. He did no such thing. Scroll back up and look where J.T. Realmuto was set up. Pivetta threw the pitch called exactly where they wanted it. and Pillar crushed it.
Gabe even said after the game that this was the strategy:
“Pillar has chased quite a bit recently. He’s chased up and out of the zone and below the zone. We had that matchup tailor-made. It was the matchup we looked for. We talked about it before the inning. We were going to set up Pivetta for fastballs up and out and hammers (curveballs) down. We weren’t able to execute.”
And the boneheaded strategy cost the Phillies another game. This is managerial malpractice. As I told someone on twitter last night:
You don’t give him an opportunity to miss the pitch. The count is 3-1. Open base. A 3-for-42 hitter on deck. Manage based the situation, not based on the simulation.
— AntSanPhilly (@AntSanPhilly) August 12, 2019
Computers can only tell you so much….
Maybe, at some point, Phillies owner John Middleton will have heard enough carping about how piss-poor the people he has in charge of his team are of actually being in charge of a team and do something about it.
Listening to the fans of Philadelphia might not have been enough for Middleton, but now, maybe a national analyst telling all of America just how bad a job his people are doing will finally fix this broken team.
How wild though would it be if A Rod, of all people, were to bring him to that tipping point?