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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Matt Harvey debate: never replace a somebody with a nobody.

This title compliments:

Never trade a somebody for a bunch of nobodies. Saturday, August 1, 2015

One friend of mine said he knew for sure that Matt Harvey would blow the 2-0 lead in the 9th inning of game five of the recently completed finals series in which the Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets 4-1 in games.  Yeah, right.  And I knew that David Wright would cut in front of the SS and not check the tie runner back to third and not know that the batter was very slow and that the SS would not continue to third to check the runner and that the first baseman Lucas Duda had made almost no throws to home in his career and would make a wide throw allowing the runner to score from third on the ground out and tie the game.  Top that.

People are out of their minds with second guessing.  Everybody wants to show how smart they are.  To paraphrase and mock Brian Kenny: the only thing that is indefensible is saying that not removing Harvey is indefensible.  Guess what Brian Kenny said.

Matt Harvey is not just a somebody, Matt Harvey is the franchise.  The day after I saw isolated video of Harvey in the dugout insisting to his pitching coach and manager that this was his game and he was going out there for the 9th inning with that 2-0 lead and his Mets facing elimination.  Harvey and Met fans expected this to be the final inning of baseball in New York in 2015.  And here was Harvey charging out of the dugout running to the mound, leading his team for that final inning.  Imagine the reaction of the Royals.  It must have been intimidating.  OK, they weren't intimidated too long.

The late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner once said about one of his starting pitchers failing in a big spot: he spit the bit.  Well Matt Harvey is the Met stallion and he was all lathered up and ready for the home stretch.  And what, you expected Met manager Terry Collins to change horses then?  Every manager hopes for a guy like Harvey who embraces the moment and combines that attitude with supreme talent.  Collins may have some second thoughts but not for long.  Had Collins replaced Harvey with relief pitcher X and had X then spit the bit and blown the lead, Collins would regret that forever.  And remember, the Mets were facing elimination.  Harvey had been dealing with that for eight innings and wanted more.  There is no way to know beforehand how reliever X would react to the pressure.

But Harvey blew the lead and eventually the Mets were eliminated in extra innings.  So allowing Harvey to pitch the 9th having already crossed the point of no return (more than 100 pitches) was a mistake, right?  Don't results always trump all?
Photo of Pedro Martínez
Pedro Martinez
I won't even mention the name of the relief pitcher people say they preferred to Harvey in that situation.  Within two years most people won't even remember his name.  It's like the infamous precedent in 2003 when Pedro Martinez was left in too long and blew the lead in game seven of the semi-finals to the Yankees.  I thought then that no one would remember the name of the relief pitcher they preferred to Martinez when Martinez was making his acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame.  Plus, results can be deceiving.  The final blow to Martinez in that inning was a hit by Yankee catcher Jorge Posada.  Posada even remembers it as if he hit a line drive.  It was a bloop.  It was an accident.  Martinez did his job.  Other than a strike out, Martinez and anyone in his right mind would take that bloop and take your chances that it would be an out.

Harvey walked the first batter in the 9th with a two run lead.  Even a home run would not tie the score.  You cannot walk the leadoff hitter.  On the 3-2 count Harvey threw a breaking ball.  That was a huge mistake.  Let the guy hit it and take your chances.  You might be luckier than Pedro Martinez.

There's also the Jack Morris precedent, which preceded the Martinez precedent and so is eliminated because managers and other anal types mostly cling to the more recent and more comfortable.  At age 36 and then pitching for the Minnesota Twins Morris went ten innings in game seven of the 1991 World Series.  Supposedly Morris convinced Twins manager Tom Kelly to let him stay in the game and pitch the tenth.  Twins scored and won 1-0.  Morris had a 126 pitch complete game ten inning shutout win in game seven:

Sunday, October 27, 1991, 7:38, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Attendance: 55,118, Time of Game: 3:23
Twins 1, Braves 0

Braves manager Bobby Cox had removed his young stud John Smoltz in the seventh inning after 105 pitches.  And who was the relief pitcher who lost the game in the tenth?  Do you know without looking?  Smoltz is in the Hall of Fame with Martinez.

Mariano Rivera is the answer to these two questions:
Who is the greatest relief pitcher of all time?
Who has the biggest blown save in baseball history?

Sunday, November 4, 2001, Bank One Ballpark
Attendance: 49,589, Time of Game: 3:20

Diamondbacks 3, Yankees 2

The winning hit was a bloop but by then the save had been blown and the bases were loaded with one out.  Rivera threw a total of 28 pitches in the game and breezed through the 8th inning but blew up in the 9th, including making a critical throwing error on a possible double play grounder.  The only out was a sac bunt.  Rivera spit the bit.  Relief pitcher X in the Met bullpen was no Mariano Rivera.

Finally, even if the Mets had won game five, they still needed to board a plane, fly to Kansas City and win games six and seven on the road.  Here are teams that won games six and seven on the road in the World Series:

1926 St. Louis Cardinals at New York Yankees

1931 St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Athletics

1952 New York Yankees at Brooklyn Dodgers

1958 New York Yankees at Milwaukee Braves

1968 Detroit Tigers at St. Louis Cardinals

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates at Baltimore Orioles

1979 is 36 years ago.

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