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Somebody should have given Tampa Bay manager the hook

Brad Myers
Delaware News Journal

I really miss baseball.

No, not because the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday, meaning we won’t get to see any more of “America’s Pastime” until next March.

I miss the baseball I grew up watching in the 1970s and 1980s, the way it was played that continued well into the 2000s. Until this new thing called analytics sucked most of the excitement out of it.

Fans nationwide are still howling over Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash’s decision to pull starting pitcher Blake Snell with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday night. But if you’ve been following Major League Baseball at all the last few years, you could see it coming from a mile away.

Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell is removed in the sixth inning, despite giving up only two hits and striking out nine, during the Rays' 3-1 loss to the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday.

Snell is a very good pitcher, and he was having a very good night. The 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner had allowed just one hit through five innings.

He struck out nine in the first four innings. The last pitcher to do that in the World Series was the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax, against the Yankees in 1963.

Koufax went on to strike out 15 that day in a complete-game victory. But if you thought Snell was going all the way Tuesday night, I’ve got some Enron stock you can buy.

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When Snell gave up a softly hit single to Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes with one out in the sixth, Cash immediately came out with the hook. Because oh my gosh, the Rays were only leading 1-0, the Dodgers had a runner on first, and the murderer’s row of Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner were coming up.

That unstoppable L.A. trio was 0-for-6 – all struck out twice by Snell – up to that point. All three of them had struck out swinging both times. So obviously Snell was, as they like to say, “missing bats.”

Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell was not happy about being removed from Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Rays went on to lose to the Dodgers, 3-1.

But this was going to be his third time through the order, and as we all painfully know, that’s a no-no in 2020 baseball. So the Rays brought in another pitcher – it doesn’t even matter who – and he promptly gave up the two runs that put Tampa Bay behind for good.

Snell had only thrown 73 pitches when he was pulled. He had thrown more than 100 four times in this coronavirus-shortened season. He threw 105 against the Astros in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series on Oct. 11. So stamina couldn’t have been the issue.

Analytics was the issue. Snell hadn’t gone past 5⅔ innings in any of his 17 starts this year. So the book – written by some guy with degrees from Harvard, Yale and MIT but no actual baseball experience anywhere – said Snell would turn into a pumpkin at any minute.

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And as many correctly pointed out, this was the Rays’ standard strategy. A Tampa Bay starter hasn’t pitched a complete game since May 14, 2016, when Matt Andriese fired a 106-pitch, two-hitter against Oakland – presumably as Cash was tied to the bench in the dugout and unable to reach the mound.

But what happened to knowing when a guy is dealing?

Roy Halladay had a no-hitter going when he walked the Reds’ Jay Bruce with one out in the top of the fifth in the 2010 NL Division Series. Thankfully, Charlie Manuel didn’t reach for the bullpen phone, and we all remember what happened from there.

As Chris Branch, former Phillies beat writer for The News Journal, tweeted on Tuesday night: “Our analytics said it’d be more efficient to lose in Game 6 than Game 7.” – Kevin Cash.

Baseball has always been open to second-guessing, which is one of the things that makes it great. But now, it’s easy to know what is coming next – from any team. The answer to any problem is another relief pitcher.

It slows down the game. Every reliever throws 97 mph or harder, which adds to the strikeout-or-home-run philosophy that makes current baseball almost unwatchable.

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Stolen bases, hit-and-runs, sacrifice flies and bunts are all things of the past. The 2020 Dodgers hit 118 home runs in 60 games. My all-time favorite team – the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals – hit 87 homers in 162 games.

Those Cardinals manufactured runs. Vince Coleman and Willie McGee would walk or single, steal second and third, and Tom Herr (110 RBIs with just eight homers that season) would drive them in with a hit or sac fly. The only thing that could stop them was Don Denkinger (Google him, kids).

Home runs have always been exciting, but now all of the other best parts of the game are missing. I officially became the old man yelling at the TV during this year’s playoffs, muttering “bunt him over,” “you just need a fly ball here” and “would it kill you to hit a ground ball to the right side?” during countless situations.

Defensive fundamentals are lacking, too. Before anyone begins crowning the 2020 Dodgers as the greatest ever, don’t forget they lost Game 4 on a ninth-inning comedy of errors that would embarrass any Little League team.

If you still love baseball, great. But take it from the suddenly old man – it really was better back in my day.

Contact Brad Myers at bmyers@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ