Nothing makes me feel dumber than typing the following sentence – the Boston Red Sox won Game Four the World Series because of guts. They aren’t in the World Series because of guts or intangibles or magic potions but they certainly look like a team on level footing because of guts. John Farrell, the erudite manager who combs through myriad reports and confidential cables from his front office brain trust, is making decisions that can only by his guts. His feel. Educated guesses informed by a watchful eye and a hopeful heart.
When half the baseball consuming public was ready to pull the plug on Clay Buchholz when his turn in the batting order was due up in the third inning, Farrell stuck with him. Farrell ended up ringing four excellent innings out of the stringy hair of his weary starter. His velocity obviously lacking, Buchholz worked around his lessened zip and pitched great, allowing three hits and three walks. “Great” might be strong but “good enough” fits nicely, given the situation. Dare we say…gutsy?
Then Farrell leaned on Felix Doubront for nearly three innings. Eight invaluable outs after Doubront threw two equally strong innings the day before. Farrell might not have the lefty again until Game Seven but going down three games to one is simple not an option.
It took guts to pinch run for David Ortiz with just a two run lead and extra innings still a distinct possibility and it took guts to run on Yadier Molina (and information, too. The Sox picked their spots and used their secret base running weapon Quintin Berry to great effect, grabbing their first steal of the series.)
But making these decisions is only half the story. Game Three was the marred with instances of Farrell choosing wrong, or appearing to choose wrong because his executive decisions didn’t pan out. In Game Four, things went the Red Sox way. The Red Sox manager put the players out there and they delivered, so John Farrell gets to be the fearless visionary again. It’s the World Series, hyperbole is part of the package.
Dustin Pedroia is undersized and underskilled in the traditional sense so he always gets credit for his guts. The weird thing is, watching him turn double plays and hang in against baserunners with malice on their minds; “guts” is the only word I think of as he gets blown up for the umpteenth time.
Going to starter John Lackey, who hasn’t pitched in relief in almost a decade, in the eighth inning was a gutsy choice. One that could have gone wrong in a million different ways but, rather than asking for three more outs from Junichi Tazawa, he called on his rejuvenated starter. Weird but effective so here comes the praise for results, not process.
Did Mike Matheny show any guts? I don’t know. His treatment of David Ortiz suggests otherwise, though David Ortiz’s treatment of Cardinals pitching shows, once again, there is no right answer. Pitching around Big Papi is no sign of weakness, though he just might keep Mike Matheny up at night. Does David Ortiz have guts? If he keeps hitting like this, who cares?
If we choose to take this “guts” concept to its logical conclusion, we could say the Cardinals lineup is “gutless” thanks to the ongoing struggles of David Freese, Jon Jay, Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso.
Let's add Kozma. Jay/Freese/Descalso/Kozma 25 for 150 (.167) in the playoffs.
— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) October 28, 2013
A lack of genuine options makes it hard for Mike Matheny to make any gutsy calls. John Farrell earns his plaudits after Game Four because of his willingness to try and win this game, rather than doing what he can to avoid criticism by trying to not-lose. It’s a risk/reward proposition and when the risk is going behind 3-1 in a best of seven series, the reward is everything.
For a series that isn’t particularly “well played” in any one facet, these tiny edges matter. But then again, you watch an apparently overmatched Jonny Gomes hit a three run home run into his team’s bullpen and you just want to throw all the charts and graphs into the Mississippi. You wonder why the Red Sox are bothering to hold on a runner whose run basically doesn’t matter and then you watch him get picked off to end the game and you wonder why anybody cares about the game’s excruciating minutia in the first place. Baseball is an inexact science. It’s really more art than science, if we’re being honest.
It takes guts to stand at your locker after the game, all of 70 Major League plate appearances to your name, and answer questions about how you ended your team’s chances of winning on this night while one of the greatest postseason hitters stands in the batters box, watching in disbelief. It takes guts to face television cameras with tears in your eyes when your job is to betray these very emotions at all times. Not real life guts but baseball guts. Kolton Wong has guts, to be sure.
This series has countless ways left to blow our minds and blow up our expectations and tip the scale from sublime Fall Classic for the ages to ridiculous mind-bending proof of baseball’s enduring ability to make your mouth hang open in disbelief. Makes the impartial observer thankful they don’t have a dog in the fight. Honestly, I don’t know that I have the makeup to ride the emotional rollorcoaster. That takes guts.