Running Ourselves into the Ground
From: Kevin Hench
Subject: Running Ourselves into the Ground
I played Little
League. I played Junior Babe Ruth. I played high school
baseball. I played Senior Babe Ruth. I played in the glorious Country
Mountain Men's League in central Vermont and in the somewhat less pastoral
L.A. men's league. I've played in more softball leagues that I can recount.
That said, I have never seen worse baserunning on any level than I witnessed
by the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball's American League this weekend
Excited, incontinent nine-year-olds could not possibly embarrass themselves
on the paths to a greater degree than Messrs. Bichette, Stynes, Garciaparra,
Lansing, Hillenbrand, Everett and Lewis. That's right, no fewer than seven
Red Sox players made mistakes on the bases as we dropped a critical series by
losing back-to-back one-run games.
Dante Bichette -
After embarrassing himself Saturday night by ignoring
on-deck hitter Scott Hatteberg's frantic slide signal and being tagged out at
home plate, Dante outdid himself Sunday. In the top of the second, Bichette
stood at second with Hillenbrand at first and none out. Troy O'Leary - who
has not had a successful sacrifice since 1997 - pulled back from an inside
pitch to run the count to 3-1. In the Vermont Country Mountain League, we
considered two on, none out and a 3-1 count on the hitter a pretty darn good
situation. But on that same pitch, Dante wandered too far off second base,
stumbled on his way back and was picked off by the catcher. Wow. It should
be noted that the catcher was not Pudge Rodriguez but old friend Bill
Haselman. Not that it mattered. Once Bichette bolted so foolishly far from
the bag, any catcher could have picked him off. Even Scott Hatteberg. Once
the sleepy-eyed Bichette was tagged out by A-Rod, he shuffled off the field
with his standard absence of emotion.
Shea Hillenbrand - Dante had barely lollygagged into the dugout when rookie
Shea Hillenbrand was picked off first by lefty pitcher Doug Davis. While on
the other side of the ledger we were meticulously recording Pedro's precious
pitch count, Sox baserunners gave a young pitcher two outs without having to
throw a pitch. You idiots!
Darren Lewis - Darren Lewis is a 12-year Major League veteran. He entered
Saturday's game in the 17th inning as a pinch runner. The pitcher was Chris
Michalak, who happens to lead the league in pickoffs. Assume he's throwing
to first! Make sure he's going to the plate! Under no circumstances can you
get picked off. Bang. He's picked off. Useless.
Chris Stynes - Saturday night, an 18-inning loss where one run at any point
over hours four, five and six gets us a win. With Stynes at second and
Everett at first a pitch kicks away from Pudge Rodriguez. The ball is not
bouncing around Pudge's feet. It's not spinning in the lefty batter's box.
The friggin' ball is more than a first down to Pudge's right and Stynes stands
there with his thumb up his ass instead of getting 90 feet closer to a must
Carl Everett - Dostoevsky devoted hundreds of pages to The Idiot, but I'll
have to settle for a paragraph. While Stynes was paralyzed off second base,
Everett took those fatal strides toward that occupied bag. Pudge threw
behind him, Fieldin Culbreth blew the call and the rally was dead.
Mike Lansing - After Mike Lansing "stole" second on ball four to Trot Nixon
and Pudge's throw ended up in left center, we were all wondering if Lansing
would at any point share our interest in the actual location of the baseball,
or if he would continue signaling the umpire for time while the ball rolled
on the outfield grass. Would Mike have been able to advance if the ball
split the gap? If Pudge's throw reached the wall? Probably not. Because he
never showed the slightest interest in finding the ball. He must have been
wondering what Lamont was screaming and waving his arms about. Way to be
heads up, fella.
Nomar Garciaparra - In the aforementioned Vermont Country Mountain League, I
had the thrill of a lifetime when I reached first base off of a 46-year-old
lefty named Bill Lee. Granted, it was on an error by the second baseman.
But I was one of only two guys to reach base in that 7-0 loss, so guess what
was not going to happen? I was not going to get picked off. I took my
14-inch lead and kept my weight on my left leg until I saw that ball going
plateward. The point is you can always not get picked off. So when Nomar
reached base Friday against Michalak in another squeaker against these
Rangers who can't get anyone out he needs to know a few things: First, you
have to assume you're going to reach Chris Michalak with the sticks. Second,
the guy leads the league in pickoffs. And third, you're not going anywhere
against Pudge anyway. So why, why, why get picked off? What is to be
gained? This is the baseball equivalent of the no-look, behind-the-back pass
to a guy 10 feet beyond his range. There is no upside.
In 48 hours, from 10 ET Friday to 10 ET Sunday, we had seven baserunners make
mistakes and only four avoid embarrassing themselves. I've never seen
anything like it.