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ESPN’s Bush League Yankee Hating

I vowed that I wouldn’t follow the baseball post-season after each of the Divisional Series featured one or more horrific calls by the umpires. And true to my word, I haven’t watched a single second of any game since. But quitting cold turkey can be tough, and I’ll admit that I’ve slipped…by checking box scores.

Oh, human frailty!

However, my moment of weakness did allow me to stumble upon this foolishness. The article, written by ESPN’s Ian O’Connor, takes potshots at Yankees manager Joe Girardi for decisions he made in New York’s Game 4 loss. Now I’ll concede that O’Connor probably knows more about the Bombers than I do, and may even have a better sense of Girardi’s capabilities as a manager. But his after-the-fact armchair criticism is a low-blow.  

And completely wrong to boot.

In most circumstances, I oppose intentional walks as an in-game strategy. Putting a runner on base often comes back to bite the team that does it, and I certainly wouldn’t give a team like the Rangers extra baserunners in a post-season series that has repeatedly seen them flex their batting muscles. We’ll get back to that in a moment, but before we dot, consider the entirety of O’Connor’s critique.

Who's responsible for blowing the sixth-inning lead? Look no further than A.J. Burnett. First, he sets the scene.  New York leads 3-2 in the sixth, bases empty, 2 outs. Ok, I’m visualizing the game. I can feel the tension and– oh, hang on now. Wait a minute. Let’s talk about Mark Teixeira’s injury that happened in the previous half-inning. Because that has a lot to do with A.J. Burnett facing David Murphy.

No…you’re right.  t doesn’t. 

The journalistic detour gets worse when O’Connor proceeds to prattle on about Yadier Molina, as though a post-season home run he hit is somehow tied to the fact that he is a Molina. “It’s in the family blood”? Reading that made me want to bang my head against my desk. 

The fact that Bengie and Yadier are brothers could not possibly be less relevant to this situation. Yet not only does O’Connor talk about it, he tries to use Yadier’s 2006 home run off of the Mets’ Aaron Heilman to indicate the level of danger looming in the on-deck circle.

A home run hit 4 years ago by a differentplayer on a different team against another different team in a different league. This matters why? 

Nevermind. Shake it off and keep reading. O’Connor eventually finds his way back to the actual point of the article– Bengie Molina. Unfortunately, if this piece was all you had to go on, you might think that Bengie Molina was a Ruthian figure in the annals of MLB.

Bengie hit 3 homers against the Yanks in the 2005 playoffs!
Bengie had 9 RBI in 12 poplayoff games against New York!
Bengie hit a home run in this year’s ALDS!
Bengie hit between 10 and 20 homers in 8 different seasons!
Bengie has had 70 or more RBI 5 times!

…At this point, I was close to losing consciousness. O’Connor’s desperation to sell Bengie Molina as a legitimate offensive threat is nauseating. In what universe is “10 to 20 home runs” an impressive accomplishment? Ditto for “70 or more RBI”? Did we travel back in time somehow to the Dead Ball Era?

Said Texas manager Ron Washington, ”If you look on the back of [Molina's] baseball card he’s always been an RBI guy.”  Sorry to burst your bubble there, Ron, but I’m calling shenanigans on that one.  Molina has never once surpassed 100 RBI. His162-game average is 85 RBI, so the fact that he’s played something akin to a full season only 4 times can’t be used as a mitigating factor. Batting the heart of the Giants’ lineup for several years the highest total he had was 95 despite being the team’s main RBI-guy.

Now I’m not trying to disrespect Bengie, because he’s a solid enough player. But here’s a much-needed dose of reality.  Molina is a lifetime .274 hitter with an OPS+ of 86, indicating that he’s significantly below average at the plate. Yes, he bats .291 in the playoffs, but in 3 ALCS he’s racked up a whopping .233 batting average and an anemic .670 OPS. This is the guy I’m supposed to be afraid of?  This is the guy that Joe Girardi was unwise to challenge?

Oh, say it ain’t so, Joe!  Tell us you didn’t risk you post-season by having your starting pitcher face this batting beast!

As O’Connor himself points out, the left-handed David Murphy came to the plate 5-for-17 off of the righty Burnett, lifetime. Add to that 4 walks, and Murphy has reached base 9 of 21 times. That’s a .428 on-base percentage.  Murphy also homered off of Burnett in one of those appearances.

So to circle back, the bases are empty. There are 2 outs. And a guy who has demonstrated the ability to hit your starting pitcher (for power) is at the plate. According to O’Connor, the decision to issue the intentional pass was a bone-headed maneuver that will haunt Girardi to his “managerial grave.”

That’s quite a tribute to the Gods of hyperbole. Too bad that it’s also a grossly inaccurate assessment. 

David Murphy is 28 years old. He hit .291, had an .806 OPS, and hit 12 homers in 128 games this year. And, as stated, hits Burnett well.

Bengie Molina is 35, and a catcher. He hit .240 this year with a .599 OPS and 5 homers in 118 games.

How on earth can O’Connor suggest that Girardi’s decision was a blunder of historical proportions? Where is the evidence? He seems to base his stance on the fact that Molina hit the Yankees well several years ago while playing for a different team under entirely different circumstances. Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but the illogic is frightening.

For the record, it was A.J. Burnett, not Joe Girardi, who gave up a 2-run shot to Molina in the next at bat. Surrendering a game-changing home run to guy who has hit 5 all year means that you missed your pitch. Badly. It is in no way a reflection on the quality of the team’s management.

I’ve been harsh on ESPN before, but the more I read this article, the more my disbelief grows. It’s incredible that such things are published.  Girardi will surely ignore it. I wish I could do the same. But some things can’t be unread.

ESPN’s Bush League Armchair Criticism is a post originally from: - In Sports We Trust

Related posts:

  1. Rangers Trade For Molina
  2. Around the American League: Toronto at Texas
  3. Nothing Major About It: A Day at the Minor-League Ballpark


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