There’s nothing more frustrating for me as a baseball fan to watch than a sacrifice bunt.
I suppose there’s a time and place for it in baseball but more often than not, it should be at the bottom of a long forgotten closet.
Such was the case last Friday night in the 9th inning of a game the Reds were losing 5-4 to the Pirates. Most of you know what happened. Essentially, the Reds gave up an out to advance a runner to second. That led to what you knew would happen– a walk to Joey Votto– and yet another loss.
Earl Weaver said years ago, before the wave of sabermetrics, that in the absence of a time clock in baseball, your 27 outs on offense were the most precious commodity in the game. Don’t waste any of them, Weaver said. Treasure every one of them. Never, ever give one away.
And yet, the Reds gave away one of them in the 9th inning. Of a game they were losing. At home. With Jay Bruce on the bench as a pinch hitter. And I’m at a loss for words.
This isn’t an anti-Bryan Price article. Price’s actions, or lack of actions, speak volumes and for themselves. But I remind myself that I’d get frustrated with Dusty Baker for doing the same thing when he managed the Reds. He would pull off a sacrifice bunt in the first inning!
The problem is Price was sold to Reds fans as an intellectual, a forward thinking manager. And while I’m sure he’s a very smart man, it doesn’t necessarily translate well to the baseball field. No one ever confused Sparky Anderson with a Harvard professor. All you had to do was listen to Sparky talk. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That Concepcion,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Sparky in 1970, Ã¢â‚¬Å“could field shortstop with a pair of pliers.Ã¢â‚¬Â Case closed. He was right, just not very eloquent.
An honest admission: I’m not a big fan of sabermetrics. I accept and like some of it; other parts of it I either don’t fully understand or care to understand. One thing I agree with the folks who cherish these new stats is the absolute hatred of a sacrifice bunt. I don’t pay attention to the Ã¢â‚¬Å“win probability chartÃ¢â‚¬Â but I know that when you give one of your three outs away in a game you’re losing in the 9th inning, it ain’t a good thing, to paraphrase Sparky.
And I also thought that since the Reds aren’t in playoff contention, Price would loosen up a little bit. Like maybe use Aroldis Chapman a little more. Or gamble a little more.
Example: if the Reds are playing a contender and in a jam in the 8th inning, use Chapman out of the bullpen. Let him fire away. If he can’t pitch the next night, see how J.J. Hoover does if a save situation pops up.
As a Reds fan, the last two months of this season are interesting to me– to see how these young pitchers develop, to sort out the bullpen better and to prepare to be a winning team in 2016. It can be done.
When the Reds announced they had signed Marlon Byrd before this season, WLW interviewed Byrd on their station within a few hours. I didn’t listen to it. I didn’t want to. Signing Marlon Byrd didn’t excite me at all. But if I lived in the Cincinnati area, I would buy a ticket to watch Robert Stephenson’s coming debut in September at Great American Ballpark and cheer this kid on and welcome him to the Reds. Byrd is a stop gap, and a poor one at that. Stephenson is part of our future.
As a sports editor for 23 years, I dealt with a lot of coaches, mostly at the high school and college level. They all pretty much said the same thing and did the same thing. I loved it when a school would hire a young coach, full of new ideas and challenges for the program and for the kids. It was like a breath of fresh air. The younger coaches were more bold and unafraid.
I thought the Reds had something like that in Bryan Price. But it looks like I was wrong.