A few weeks ago, Baseball Prospectus published an article by Russell Carleton in which he equates difficult decisions that a Major League Baseball manager must make to unwelcome duties with which you and I might be more familiar. The point of the piece is to show that being a manager is far more difficult of a job than we often realize. I have no doubt that this is accurate.
Unfortunately, all of the new found empathy for managers that such a post might create in baseball fans is thrown by the wayside for instances like last night in Anaheim, where Bobby Valentine fed a struggling Alfredo Aceves to the wolves of the Los Angeles Angels, after making him pay his own way there.
However, before we get into that, a bit of a back story:
The Boston Red Sox started the season without the bullpen that they imagined. After allowing Jonathan Papelbon to leave via free agency, the team acquired Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon through trade as potential replacements. However, it quickly came to light that Bailey was injured and Melancon perhaps wasn’t the pitcher the team believed him to be. The Red Sox scurried to find a replacement and ended up using the eventually effective Aceves.
Aceves pitched well as the closer through most of the season. If he wasn’t spectacular, he was reliable. However, Bailey eventually recovered from his thumb injury and returned to the team. Five days ago, Aceves blew a save in the ninth inning against the Angels, allowing five runs in a single inning of work. The next day, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine went to Bailey to close out a game against the Kansas City Royals. He was successful, but Aceves wasn’t impressed.
The reliever was livid. Reports indicate that the biblical meltdown included the rending of garments, gnashing of teeth and the slamming of the manager’s door. Aceves was eventually suspended for a few games by the Red Sox for conduct detrimental to the team. The suspension was perhaps highlighted by the fact that Valentine wouldn’t allow Aceves to join the team on the flight to the West Coast, even though his suspension would be lifted by the time they arrived to play the Angels in Anaheim.
Forced to pay his own way there, Aceves rejoined his team ahead of last night’s game. Up by a single run in the eighth inning, and with Bailey most likely exhausted after pitching in four of the last five days, Valentine called on Aceves for a two inning save. This, in and of itself isn’t that rare of a request from the manager this season. Aceves, a former starter, has the stamina to pitch multiple innings, but three of the last four times he’s been called on to do so had resulted in runs being scored.
After a three-up-three-down eighth inning, Aceves got Macier Izturis to lead off the ninth by flying out, and then it all fell apart. He hit Erick Aybar, walked Alberto Callaspo on four pitches, gave up a game-tying single to Mike Trout, and then Torii Hunter hit a sacrifice fly to win the game.
Again, I don’t think the call to put Aceves out there for two innings was necessarily a wrong one, but at some point during that disastrous ninth inning, it might have been nice if Valentine had thought to maybe use Junichi Tazawa who was warming up as the cracks started to form.
I understand not using Bailey or Vicente Padilla out of fear of over working them, but both Tazawa and and Craig Breslow were available. Valentine merely decided not to go to them, and I really don’t know how you justify that without at least entertaining the possibility that the Boston manager was more concerned with sending Aceves a message than he was with winning the game.
With the trading away of Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett among others, it appeared as though the organization was working hard to create a fresh start and perhaps a new clubhouse dynamic than the one that had come under so much criticism and scrutiny earlier this season. As the Red Sox team blog Over The Monster put it:
The Bobby Valentine coffin which seemed to be pried open a few inches by the blockbuster trade and the Aceves suspension has hopefully been nailed back down. But that seemed shut for good a week ago, so who can even say?
And The Rest
Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp was removed from the game last night after injuring his knee and jaw after a collision with the outfield fence. [Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness]
The greatest play of all-time? Or is it merely the best thing ever? [MLB.com]
New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman wasn’t surprised by the suspensions handed out to Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon. [ESPN New York]
Mitch Williams thinks that someone else is clueless. [Huffington Post]
Great baseball tattoos for your bum. [Old Time Family Baseball]
The Baltimore Orioles are beginning to look like a team of density. [ESPN Sweet Spot]
Being in two places at the same time isn’t difficult for Pedro Alvarez. [MLB.com]
Jack Morris and Rick Reuschel. [Joe Blogs]