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Managing for the Media

I felt really bad last night when I failed to consider last Sunday's marathon when writing about playoff games the Astros have won while leading a series, and I had to be corrected by an alert and  Nameless Crawfish.  It made me look like a piker, I thought, and it was the kind of mistake I shouldn't make if I'm gonna have the continued audacity to post  daily my opinions on the Astros.  

But I feel a little bit better this morning, seeing how John Lopez had to correct his blog entry to get the series tally right, and how Jose Jesus De Ortiz placed both the Astros' and the Cardinals' first runs in the wrong innings.  

My error hurts, but if I am left with a better track record for accuracy than those who actually get paid to write this stuff, I have to be at least reasonably content.

Taped Game Three, because my lovely and voluptuous fiancé had to work.  And I watched most of it again with her last night.  As I found when reviewing last Sunday's 18-inning affair, it is often enlightening to watch a game after you know the final, when you're not all amped up in the volatile moment.  

Track back to the sixth inning, when Pujols leads off with a single against Clemens, who was by then hanging on by a thread. Edmonds then singled, and Pujols, running the bases aggressively, took third, and Burke's throw from right center dribbled in behind him as Pujols got in.  And it occurred to me as I watched that, you know, maybe if the stronger-armed Taveras had been out there, maybe Willy's throw gets him, or more likely, maybe Pujols doesn't try for third at all.  David Pinto, over at Baseball Musings, was able to make a connection in real time, saying, "a good throw would have got him."

The mechanics of the inning suggest that if Pujols had stopped at second with Taveras in center, that the run in the sixth would have scored anyway, on Molina's single.  

But you never know, and in the glow that is surrounding Garner this early Sunday, it is worth recognizing that the switch that got Burke and Lamb into the game  may very well have cost the Astros a base if not a run. Lopez, linked to above, and Buster Olney both suggest that Garner put Burke in center because it was the only way to get both Burke and Lamb into the game.  Actually, that's not true:  he could have started Burke in left, and Lamb at third, and sat Ensberg, who as I write is now 1 for 10 in the NLCS.  But although, in hindsight, a move like that WOULD have been justified yesterday, there's no way Garner would have sat his cleanup hitter.

So how outside the box was he?  

OK.  That's a little harsh; I give Garner credit.  He knew he had to get Lamb, with his numbers against Morris, in the game, and he did.  The way he did it, I understand, is subject to some quibbling.  

But there's more.  I'll still say that Clemens was left in an inning too long.  The Astros were lucky, pure and simple, that Clemens escaped the sixth, when the umpire made what very well could have been a bad call on Nuñez' dribbler.  And if Garner was considering removing Clemens--and he surely was, considering that the pace of Rocket's game had slowed to a crawl, that he kept grabbing his hamstring, that the Cards had swung and missed only three times all day at Roger's pitches--then why would Garner have refrained from doing so?

Two possibilities:
a) He didn't want to hear from Clemens
b) He didn't want to hear from the media.

So perhaps Phil isn't as removed from that sort of thing as has been suggested.