But I told you so. What I don’t get is why, in Dusty Baker’s mind, Kirk Reuter wasn’t strong enough to start the game on three days’ rest but was strong enough to pitch four scoreless innings in relief.
Why not start Reuter and have Hernandez ready for long relief? Especially given each pitcher’s respective performance earlier in the series and the overarching fact that the Angels are a lefty-dominated lineup that hits better against righthanded pitchers.
Even leaving aside the question of why Baker went with Hernandez as starter, why did he leave him in so long when he so clearly struggled from the very beginning? He waited too long to get the bullpen warmed up and because of that Anderson had doubled home three runs before Zerbie was ready to come in.
Why? Why? Why? Still hesitant about Reuter? Fine. Zerbie pitched great in game two (four scoreless innings to give the Giants a chance to make it interesting) and hadn’t pitched since. Ugh.
Baker did a great job of getting the Giants to the World Series and all the way to game seven. He’s done a wonderful job of managing that clubhouse and especially of gaining Bonds’ confidence, but he blew it in game seven. His management of the pitching staff in game seven was as terrible as the Giants’ relief pitching was in game six.
There’s no guarantee that the Giants would have won had Reuter started, of course. But he was their strongest chance to win, and all you can do as a manager is make the right moves to give the strongest players a chance to perform. He thought he was doing that with Hernandez, but he was wrong. And he didn’t figure out he was wrong until it was too late.
That said, it’s hard to be too upset about the way things turned out. The Angels are a feisty team and most definitely un-evil, unlike the Yankees or Mets. It’s always nice when a franchise wins its first ever championship. As for Bonds, he did about as much as a man could do this postseason.
Through game six of the World Series, Bonds had hit .356 with eight home runs, 16 RBI, 18 runs, and 27 walks. His on-base percentage was .581, and he slugged at a .978 clip. He was at his best in the World Series, hitting .471 with four home runs, 13 walks and eight runs.
His team actually got to the World Series — a first. His team actually won a round of the playoffs — a first. But how it all ended up only proves what Bonds said all along — one man cannot win it all. This was partly just excuse-making for Bonds’ pathetic .196 career postseason average coming into this October, but the nut of it is true.
Of the four major American professional sports, baseball is the one where a single player cannot carry his team to a championship. In baseball, no matter how great you are, you only get four or five trips to the plate. And if you’re really great, they can just pitch around you.
If you’re a starting pitcher, you can only pitch three times at most in a seven-game series. Someone has to win that fourth game. It took both Johnson and Schilling to beat the Yankees in seven last year.
Even a great reliever like Mariano Rivera needs solid starting pitching and enough offense to get to the seventh or eighth inning with the lead. I bet that if you systematically looked at the hall of famers in each sport, you’d find that baseball has a higher percentage of members without world championships. Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Ty Cobb, Nolan Ryan, just to name a few.
In basketball, football and hockey, one player can dominate. When it came to the final seconds, everyone knew the ball would be in Jordan’s hands. Wayne Gretzky won games single-handedly with his scoring and passing when he played for the Oilers. Marshall Faulk could handle the ball every down.
Of course these guys need good supporting casts. They cannot do it alone. It would be preposterous to suggest such a thing. My point is that when it comes to crunch time in these other sports, a single player can control the fate of his team. Barry Bonds couldn’t just grab the bat out of Kenny Lofton’s hands and say, “Hey, I’m going to take this at bat against Percival. Watch me tie it up with a three-run homer.”
Barry had to wait his turn. He was in the dugout, his bat in his hands. Waiting for the moment when he had to be pitched to and he had the chance to affect the outcome of the game with it all on the line. And he’s still waiting.
Who knows if he’ll get it now? Kent and Baker may be gone. Both can be replaced, but some of that magic might be gone. The Giants were nine outs away on Saturday night. A couple of ground balls, a couple of fly outs, a pop foul, a strike out. One last lazy can of corn to left field for Barry to squeeze tightly in his glove, as a huge grin encompasses his face.
But those outs were more than enough for the Angels. And Barry’s still waiting.