One of my favorite people in the universe is Texas Rangers bench coach Tim Bogar. I met Tim when he was a Double A player for the New York Mets, and we’ve stayed in touch over the years. Whenever Tim comes to town, we get together and catch up.
Monday night after the Royals-Rangers game, we went to Grinders, had a couple of slices of pizza, a couple of cold ones and talked baseball. During that conversation, Tim asked an interesting question: What if we didn’t keep stats?
What if the only stats recorded were team wins and team losses?
And then — as long as we’re fantasizing — what if all the money were put in a pool and players were paid based on how many wins their team had?
How would the game be played then?
Right now, players play to put up numbers. That’s how you get paid. And it can lead to selfish baseball. Play hot grounders off to the side. If you miss one, you won’t get tagged with an error. Forget hitting the ball to the right side to move a runner over. Try to drive him in yourself. Don’t let someone else have that RBI. And if you don’t feel 100 percent, don’t play. You might be better than the guy replacing you even if you’re at 80 percent, but why risk your numbers by playing hurt?
This stuff goes on every night in the major leagues, and for the most part, we don’t know enough to spot it. When I started covering major-league baseball, I naively assumed players put the team first until their team was knocked out of the race. After that, they took care of their own numbers.
Ask people who know, and they will tell you the opposite attitude is all too common. You worry about your own stats and then, if it looks as if your team has a shot, you start putting the team first. But what if the only stat that mattered was winning?
How would the game be played then?
Should Yost have pinch-hit for Moustakas?
Here’s a comment about Monday night’s game against the Rangers:
I thought when Washington brought in the left-hander to face Moustakas in the eighth, Yost should have countered with Butler off the bench. You had runners at second and third. Moustakas is hitting .160 against lefties, Billy .330. It's like those insurance runs didn't matter to Yost. I wonder how many other managers would have played it that way.
Let me answer that by telling a story:
When Clint Hurdle was managing in the minor leagues, he pulled a couple of his best hitters from the lineup for better defense in the top of the ninth. His team had a one-run lead at the time, so after the game — which his team won — I asked him why he did it. Wouldn’t he need their bats if the other team tied the game?
Clint thanked me for solving a problem he didn’t have. Clint said he had all the runs he needed to win the game. All he needed was three outs. That was the problem he needed to solve.
The same thing applies to the Moustakas situation. Royals manager Ned Yost had a one-run lead no matter what Mike did in the bottom of the eighth. He opted to keep his best defensive third baseman on the field, and I think most managers would have done the same.
Bottom line: If a manger is ahead in the later innings, he will worry more about defense than offense. If his team is trailing or tied, it’s the opposite.
The field-level scoreboards
In the seventh inning of Monday night’s game against the Rangers, Jarrod Dyson hit a double, came too far around second base and was tagged out before he could get back to the bag. Texas’ first baseman, Adam Rosales, did his job. He trailed Dyson to second base, snuck in behind him and took the throw from right fielder Alex Rios.
Dyson slipped as he tried to get back to second, but there was another problem that might not have been so obvious: the field-level scoreboards.
The scoreboards, which stretch from the bullpen gates to center field, can make it hard to see a baseball against the bright light. Dyson lost the ball temporarily and got caught off-guard when it came in behind him.
Mike Jirschele, the Royals’ third-base coach, says he loses the ball on a regular basis and can only go by the reaction of the other team’s outfielders. If one acts as if he made the catch, Jirschele assumes he did. If an outfielder acts as if he missed the ball, Jirschele has to go off that. Much of the time, the outfielders are just silhouettes against the bright lights.
So if you ever see a guy act as if he can’t see the ball when he’s dealing with those scoreboards, he probably is not acting.
Now on Twitter
I’ve resisted for quite awhile, but I’m going to experiment with tweeting during ballgames. I haven’t wanted to do this because I felt like I needed to concentrate on the game, but times change, and so do baseball writers. I tried it Sunday night, and, for the most part, thought I did a lousy job.
Figuring out what to comment on in a timely manner isn’t as easy as it seems. You don’t need me to tell you Alex Gordon hit a double, but maybe I can be of use if I point out that the pitcher then wants Billy Butler to pull the ball and Billy needs to hit the ball to the right side.
If you want to follow along as I stumble through this learning process, you can do so @leejudge8.