Category Archives: Play Your Best Lineup

Bitter Bobby: Valentine Slaps BoSox, Fans on his Way Out the Door

For anyone who might have, against all reason, been maintaining even a modicum of hope for the tenure of Bobby Valentine in Boston, the soon-to-be ex-manager effectively flipped the bird to the entire Red Sox organization on his way out of town. He used as his weapon Boston’s lineup against the Yankees:

Pedro Ciriaco, 2B; Daniel Nava LF; Cody Ross RF; Mauro Gomez 1B; Ryan Lavarnway DH; Jarrod Saltalamacchia C; Danny Valencia 3B; Che-Hsuan Lin CF; Jose Iglesias SS.

Yep, six of his nine hitters were in their first or second seasons, five of them with fewer than 150 at-bats on the year.

The pertinent unwritten rule here, of course, is that late in the season, teams with nothing to play for nonetheless offer their best effort down the stretch when facing teams still in a pennant race. And thanks to its 10-2 victory over Pawtucket North, the Yankees opened up a one-game lead over Baltimore, which lost at Tampa Bay.

That it’s New York, of course—Boston’s arch-nemesis—makes it all the more fitting for Valentine to completely throw in the towel. Why not? He has no vested interest in his team, and it’s just one more way to piss off ownership.

None of this makes him a bad manager—just a man with a mean streak and a deficiency of morals. Difficult to say which is worse.

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Manuel Plays Late-Season Roster Roulette; Braves Benefit

When the Phillies played Atlanta on the season’s final day, there were questions about whether Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel would go all out for a victory. It was a must-win for the Braves, but not for the long-since-clinched Phillies, and he had the clear option of resting his roster in advance of the playoffs.

In the end, he did a little of both. Manuel started his regulars, and left his entire starting outfield in for the game’s duration. Even though every infielder was pulled early, they each got at least three at-bats. Manuel even pulled off a double-steal in the eighth inning, and his team battled back from an 8-2 deficit (thanks largely to its bench) to pull within 8-7.

Still, that Cole Hamels went only two shutout innings (followed, though not consecutively, by an inning each from fellow starters Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton) could be openly criticized. Manuel, however, did what he felt was best for his team.

He also brought to the fore an unwritten rule that’s valid only in the season’s final days (or sometimes weeks): teams with nothing left to play for should give their best efforts down the stretch against teams that still have hope.

It’s why in 1991, the fourth-place Giants trotted out a series of young players when facing the sixth-place Astros in their second-to-last series of the season, but utilized their starters against the Dodgers in their final three games. Los Angeles was battling the Braves for the N.L. West crown, and after the Giants won two of three, had to settle for second, one game back.

In 2004, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle paid no attention to the Code, trotting out lineups with as many as six rookies for Colorado’s season-ending series against Houston. San Francisco would have taken the wild card had the Rockies won a single game in that series, but the Astros swept, winning it for themselves.

“We were sitting there watching that, yelling, ‘This is a joke,’ ” said Giants closer Matt Herges. “We couldn’t stand Clint Hurdle after that.”

The counter to that opinion comes from no less an authority than Tigers manager Jim Leyland, a man whose track record of putting his team before any sort of moral convention is unmatched.

“My first concern is my organization,” he said. “If I have to play some younger players because I’m looking at them for next year, well, goddammit, if I’m that far out of the pennant race, the players I was playing weren’t worth a shit anyway. . . . That’s the one trump card the manager has. I’ve got the lineup card. I decide who goes to work today.”

In Atlanta, Charlie Manuel had the best of both worlds. His pitchers are rested, his regulars gave it their best, and nobody, really, is complaining.

- Jason

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