The Real Curse, part 2

Not to be outdone by Dusty Baker, Grady "Slingblade" Little proved that even when you have an obvious cautionary tale of a manager who doesn't get it right in front of you, there are some managers who still don't get it.  Jack McKeon understands what it takes to win a Game 7.  Joe Torre showed that he understands as well, bringing in Mike Mussina and David Wells in relief of a struggling Roger Clemens.  He knew that his bullpen couldn't handle those middle innings and that he somehow needed to keep the BoSox at bay until he could pitch Mariano Rivera.  It didn't work out as well as he'd hoped with Wells giving up a home run to David Ortiz, but Mussina pitched very well and did just what Torre needed.

Little, on the other hand, does not get it.  After Pedro Martinez managed to wriggle out of a jam in the 7th inning (he gave up three hits including a bomb from Jason Giambi) and after Ortiz' homer re-established the 3-run lead, he sent a fatigued Martinez back out for the 8th inning.  I don't have much objection to that, largely because he had only thrown 100 pitches at that point, but I would have definitely had the bullpen warmed for any sign of trouble.  The Red Sox were 6 outs away from the World Series and there was no point in playing with fire.

But Little stayed with Martinez, even after Derek Jeter doubled on the 110th pitch.  At that point, Little had a decision to make: go with my tiring ace who's given up 4 hits to the last 6 hitters including a double and a home run, or turn the game over to my bullpen that has pitched 25+ practically scoreless innings this postseason (3 runs allowed in 25.2 innings, 1.05 ERA).  The Yankees would have to score more runs in less than two innings off these guys than they had allowed in 11 playoff games.  To me, the decision seems pretty obvious.  This was no time for heroics, no time for tales of glory and machismo... just win the game and move on.  But Little didn't see it that way.  He didn't see it that way after Bernie Williams singled to bring in Jeter (5 hits in the last 7 batters, now).  Only two runs up, he still didn't see it that way when Hideki Matsui doubled for the second time in the game to put men on second and third (6 hits in the last 8 batters, 3 of which were for extra base hits).  No, it was only after Jorge Posada doubled to tie the game that it dawned on him that it might be a good idea to take Pedro out.  The damage: 7 hits in the last 9 batters that Pedro faced, 4 of them for extra bases and the Yanks had scored 3 runs in the inning to tie the game.  The game went to extra innings where, of course, the Yankees extended the Red Sox post season miseries with a bomb off the bat of Aaron Boone.

I know some people will rush to the defense of Little and Dusty Baker because of their ability to run a clubhouse, but the whole purpose behind playing professional sports is to win championships.  Plain and simple.  Baker and Little have clearly demonstrated that, while they may be able to get their teams to the postseason, they are completely ignorant of what it takes to win a championship.  With their postseason performance as evidence, those two would in fact seem to be a major impediment to their teams winning in the postseason, even if they were blessed with far superior clubs than their opposition.  And it's not clear at all that with the talent the Cubs and Red Sox had, that either team required much "managing" to contend during the regular season.  Perhaps it's time that the front offices and the fans of these teams stop wondering about the supernatural and take a closer look at why their teams are not playing more October baseball, because it sure isn't due to a lack of on-the-field talent.  The curse of the bad manager lives on.

That said, this has to be one of the worst possible match-ups for a World Series imaginable - a team owned by a man who bought his way to the pennant (they have twice the payroll of all but 6 teams in the majors) and the team owned by a man who has been the Angel of Death for baseball in two cities, a team that has the third worst fan support in baseball.  Yeehah, very nice.  I wonder what's on the Discovery channel this weekend...