"I guess Mike Cubbage just got bumped out of
the lead graph," he thought to himself as he contemplated what it might feel
like to relate happy feelings for a change.
Who would have thought that a night that saw the Red Sox make
a season-high four errors, allow seven Angels to record multi-hit games and
establish a newstandard for base-coaching incompetency would yield the sweetest
victory of the year?
This is how we've dreamt it could be. This season's big free
agent signing and last year's huge free agent signing combining to lead the
league's fiercest offense. No deficit too big for this wrecking machine.
This win was indescribably delicious. For those of you
convinced that I am incapable of joy, I'll have you know that I allowed myself a
solid fist pump and, yes, even a smile. Not since Yummy O'Leary's seven RBIs
backed Petey's six no-hit innings in 1999 have I felt this good about a W. While
Shea ripping Rivera earlier this year was indeed amazing, it didn't have the
dire urgency that this one did. This one brought us back from the brink. Which
is why it pains me to even have to mention why it almost didn't happen. But for
chrissakes, Wendell Kim: The Sequel must be stopped. The basecoaching seminar
will be presented in italics if you would prefer to skip to the positive stuff.
Here is a simple rule for coaching third base: If there is
nobody out, do not send the runner unless you are positive that he can score
standing up. If your projection of the unfolding play indicates that a
slide might be necessary, hold the runner at third and hope that one of the next
three hitters can drive him in. If you send a runner in the belief that he will
score standing up or without even drawing a throw and he is thrown out by 20
feet, then you, sir, are decidedly unqualified to coach third base. At any
The Drama of the Gifted Child is in one of those stirring
stretches where we love Manny and want to hold him to our collective bosom and
protect him from shinguards, Devil Ray headhunters and Dustin Hermanson's
kitchen. Where might we be if the Manny who was hitting .372 when he broke his
finger and the Manny who is hitting .412 in August hadn't been separated by a
long stint on the DL followed by a long stretch of in-game rehab and fine
Which brings up the question, "How many outs were there when
Manny Ramirez was sent home from third to crash into Dan Wilson's shinguards?"
Oh, that's right, ZERO! None. No outs. Mike Cubbage played eight seasons in the
Majors, mostly at third base. Did he learn nothing at the hot corner? Does he
not understand the fundamental principles of coaching third? It is so terribly
basic - particularly in the American League, where a pitcher never waits on deck
or in the hole - that the mere possibility that we might not make the playoffs
because our third base coach doesn't know what he's doing is enough to make a
fan forget that Cubby is by all accounts a good guy and wish him ill.
Of all the struggles the struggling Sox have slogged through
this summer the toughest to watch has been Johnny Damon's batting average
falling almost 90 points as he grits it out on a bum knee. The guy is a stud, a
throwback who plays hard all the time, even when he shouldn't be playing at all.
He has fun playing the game, smiling at umps when they blow ball-strike calls
with an impish grin that says, "You owe me one." He's the kind of player you'd
want your kid to grow up to be. He's the kind of player we all wanted to be: a
record-setting center fielder who can run like the wind and hit with some pop.
Last night he hit with just enough pop to go easy on that knee as he circled the
bases in the bottom of the 10th. That was not the case in the fifth inning,
however, when he was called on to race home at top speed by his third base
If you grew up watching the Red Sox, you've doubtless seen
more games played in Fenway Park than Mike Cubbage has. So you assumed when
Manny roped a bullet base hit to left in the bottom of the fifth with runners on
second and no one out that the runners would move up 90 feet. The truth is there
is no park in baseball where it would have been appropriate to send Damon. But
it was particularly egregious in the Fens. The ball got to Garrett Anderson in a
heartbeat and he fielded it cleanly, making the third base coach's job easy. But
Cubby doesn't know what the hell he's doing out there. So here's a primer. Pass
it along if you see him. With two outs the third base coach can be very
aggressive. Unless he thinks the on-deck hitter has a better chance of driving
the runner in than the runner has of beating the throw, he should send him. This
means that even if there's a 65 percent chance the guy will be thrown out, if
the next guy up is a .250 hitter, you send the runner. With one out it is a bit
more complicated. The quick probability calculation the 3B coach has to make is:
Given where we are in the lineup, what are the chances of driving this guy in
vs. the chances of him making it on this play. A key factor in the riskreward
analysis is the rally-killing devastation of running into an out on the bases.
With no one out, it is really very elementary. You absolutely, positively cannot
make the first out at home. Trust me, a third base coach who holds a runner with
no one out will not be held accountable if the team fails to score. But even if
Cubby did have a complete understanding of third base coaching philosophy, he is
still obviously incapable of making those snap judgments vital to an effective
3B coach. From where he stood, he thought Johnny Damon would be safe. From where
the rest of us watched - home, pressbox, stands - we all knew he couldn't score
on that line drive. So why will Mike Cubbage be coaching third for the Red Sox
As you can tell by this cheery epistle, nothing can mute the
joy of this victory. Go Sox!