Don't Play Aggressively with a Big Lead, Pandemic Baseball

Dave Winfield Knew Better

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: what and what not to do when your team holds a big lead late in the game.

On May 10, 1993, Minnesota’s Dave Winfield pulled a Hall-of-Fame-worthy turnaround when, in the sixth inning, with the Twins sitting on a 6-1 lead, he took advantage of the deep positioning of Angels third baseman Rene Gonzales (“In left field” was how Winfield described it after the game) and bunted for a base hit. At that point, Winfield was dying to reach base, having entered the game batting .204. When he followed his bunt by stealing second, Anaheim pitchers were furious.

He came up again two innings later, this time with his team leading 8-3, and Angels pitcher Chuck Crim took the opportunity to put a 2-0 fastball underneath his chin. Perhaps it was because Winfield recognized his earlier breach of etiquette, but he limited his anger to a heated glare at the mound as he brushed himself off. “It was a purpose pitch,” said Crim a day later in the Los Angeles Times, “because what he did was uncalled for. I used to have a lot of respect for him, but after he pulled something like that, I lost a lot.”

As a bonus, Winfield found himself in an exceptional situation. He was angry, his team had a big lead and he was facing a 3-0 count. A good hack here was certain to drive the Anaheim bench up the wall. Instead, Winfield struck a conciliatory tone, watching Crim’s next pitch split the plate for a strike. Only then did he start hacking, and eventually lined the eighth pitch he saw into short left field for a single. Crim had nothing more to say and the matter was dropped. 

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