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October 18, 2000

Playoff Prospectus

Picking Over the Bones

by Joe Sheehan

A few random notes from the LCSs:

  • Tony LaRussa's decision to use Darryl Kile on three days' rest has opened him to some criticism. I don't think this was LaRussa's best performance, but I can't argue with that decision. Kile threw fewer than 90 pitches in Game One and LaRussa's pitching was a mess with the loss of Garrett Stephenson and effective loss of Rick Ankiel. He needed Kile to be the team's ace, as he'd been all year, and it just didn't happen.

  • LaRussa's misuse of Mark McGwire, though, was inexcusable. Game Two has been picked apart on this site, but not getting him into Game Five, either for Carlos Hernandez in the eighth or Edgar Renteria in the ninth when a baserunner would have brought the tying run to the plate, was a mistake. The bombs he can hit are nice, but McGwire's .480-odd OBP is nicer, and the bigger issue for a team coming from four runs down.

  • Can we finally stop with the Roger Clemens nonsense? The idea that an inner-circle Hall of Famer can have his reputation tarnished because his postseason performance--against the best competition, in scattered samples, over 15 years--doesn't quite measure up to his established standards is silly. Now that Clemens has put up one of the best October starts ever, on the heels of last year's World Series win, it should be clear that greatness is greatness, in any month.

    Same goes for Barry Bonds.

  • A hard-throwing left-handed reliever grows to hate New York City. We've seen this before, right?

  • I have to think if you told Lou Piniella that his team would get seven runs off Orlando Hernandez and Mariano Rivera, he would have been pretty damn happy. As it turned out, it wasn't enough, and just by the slimmest of margins. There's going to be a lot of talk about how the Yankees willed this victory with their veteran presence and knowing how to win and on, and on....

    If you want to know why we say postseason series are impossible to predict, though, just look at the bottom of the seventh inning. David Justice's upper-deck bomb was the memory-maker, but the two scratch singles that set it up were hits by inches. That's the margin in this game. Give Mark McLemore or Carlos Guillen an extra step, and maybe we're talking about how great Alex Rodriguez played in the biggest game of his life.

  • Well, let's talk about that, anyway. A-Rod had two doubles, a home run and an infield single. If it's possible to be thoroughly disgusted by a home run, Rodriguez certainly seemed to be after his eighth-inning shot. Watch the tape as he rounds second base, and you can almost read his mind: "Hey, that could have been important...five runs ago!"

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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