Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Penny For Grady's Thoughts

It didn't take Grady Little long to do something bizarre in postseason play. The last time we saw this stoic man on the big stage he was staring off into space while Pedro Martinez labored against the Yankees in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS. We all know how that worked out, which is to say, not well. So not well, in fact, that Little was bounced out of town, which is pretty rare for a manager that just took his team to the American League Championship Series. That said, not a soul was surprised when Grady was shown the door - that is how egregious the Pedro Decision was.

Well, now Grady is back. And while yesterday's game was only the opener of the NLDS, it was also Little's first chance to get back in the saddle astride the beast we call "Playoff Baseball." And he pretty much screwed it up as badly as one can.

In the 7th inning, the Dodgers (already down on the "bad decision" scorecard after somehow getting two runners tagged out at home plate on the same play) clawed back into the contest behind a huge two-run double from Nomar Garciaparra. So with new life in a 4-4 game, what did Little do? He inexplicably put Game Four starter Brad Penny into the game.


I know that tying the score in the top of the seventh probably gave rise to some "it's a new ballgame!" cheers in the dugout, but did Little get confused and think that they were literally starting another game? With stud rookie Jonathan Broxton (who eventually came in after Penny) at his disposal, Little somehow decided it was a good idea to bring in Penny instead, despite the fact that his 16-game winner has made all of two relief appearances in his 197-game career. Brilliant.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Penny had a hard time getting loose fast enough, walked two of the first three hitters, and then gave up two runs that put the game out of reach. The result was a 6-5 win and a 1-0 series lead for the Mets.

Not only did the decision to put a starter into the game for middle relief duty cost the Dodgers the game, it also gave New York a good look at Penny, which will afford them an advantage in a potential Game Four. It also had the possible side effects of A) throwing Penny off his usual rhythm and B) damaging the confidence of not only Penny but every guy in the L.A. bullpen that was bypassed. It was akin to Little issuing a public indictment of his relievers right there on the field.

The only thing more surprising than this development is the fact that no one seems to be talking about it. I mean, this was a move that flew in the face of all logic, smacked of desperation (something you might do in a Game Seven when you are out of pitchers), and cost the Dodgers the game and, in all likelihood, the series. This isn't a big deal? Throw in the fact that it was one of the first managerial decisions Little has made in a playoff game since The Pedro Incident and I have to believe this is a big story.

Thoughts? Feel free to throw out some chatter in the comments section, or weigh in on any and everything Mets-Dodgers.

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