Some Quick Thoughts On Day 5 Of The Playoffs

Sighting!

I'll have you know I still had my God damn Sunday pancakes. I just had to make them myself, on about five hours' sleep. What now, Tampa Bay?

  • Players screw up. They screw up all the time. They screw up in important situations. We just don't see it that often, because baseball's a difficult, fast-moving sport, and the mistakes aren't always apparent. Tim Wakefield probably wishes he threw a different pitch to Aaron Boone. Johnny Cueto probably wishes he threw a different pitch to Chase Utley. Jason Kubel probably wishes he took a better swing against Phil Hughes. For every success there is failure, and for every failure there is a player who is disappointed in himself.

    But at least most of the time, those players are free to wallow in their own misery. When you fail at something that only a select few people in the world are able to do, it's usually acceptable. It's when you fail at the routine that the heat really gets turned on.

    You don't want to fail at something the viewing public thinks it could do itself. Ask Bill Buckner. Locally, ask Rob Johnson. And, after today, ask Brooks Conrad. There's nowhere to hide. You can't fall back on the excuse that, hey, baseballs are really hard to throw, or hit, or whatever. You just have to deal with the reality that, in a critical spot, you messed up something that much of the viewing audience literally could've done without trouble.

    It's amazing how powerful that is. If Brooks Conrad had bounced into a rally-killing double play, people would've been mad, but they would've forgiven. This won't be forgiven. Not soon. It won't be forgiven because we all hold athletes to a certain standard of performance, and that standard comes with a lower threshold below which the players must never fall.

    That threshold is above the routine. We never excuse any players for kicking what ought be routine. And, you know, that's usually fair - players shouldn't screw up what's routine. What's routine should be easy. But, man, the hate. The anger. Brooks Conrad made three errors. Two of them led directly to runs. One of them came on a routine grounder. The other came on a pop-up. Those are plays people feel like they could've made, and so the fact that Conrad didn't make them is considered inexcusable.

    It's a shitty situation all around. Some people will try to make it better. People who aren't Braves fans. Already, Conrad is being made out by many to be a sympathetic character. This is just the Jim Joyce situation all over again. People feel bad for Conrad, and they'll express how bad they feel. But that's not going to make things any better. Not for him. That's all just more and more attention paid to what may very well have been the worst day of his life.

    You know what's funny? The only true way for Conrad to redeem himself would be by hitting a big, lead-changing or tie-breaking home run in Game 4 or Game 5. That would make people feel better for Conrad. That would make people feel like everything's been righted again. And that big, lead-changing or tie-breaking home run would have had a pitcher. It would have had a guy who screwed up. He just wouldn't have screwed up as visibly. I guess players are less sympathetic when their screw-ups aren't memorable.

  • You'll recall that Brooks Conrad was an Atlanta-area hero earlier in the season. He had that pinch-hit grand slam, and he had a number of other big hits off the bench that turned the career minor leaguer into a fan favorite. Now, like a bit character in a bad TV show, Conrad is being overexposed. The reasons he was a career minor leaguer are becoming more and more apparent by the day. And his popularity is shot. Hey, turns out he sucks at defense!

    Real life isn't like the movies. Real life doesn't end when you achieve a life goal and all your friends are cheering your name. Daniel Nava didn't hit another home run. John Lindsey isn't staying in the bigs. Brooks Conrad made three errors in a playoff game.

  • Raul Ibanez has had two at bats against Aroldis Chapman. In each of them, he pulled line drives to right field. I regret a lot of the things I wrote about Ibanez during his time in Seattle, but perhaps more than anything else, I regret labeling him as a liability against left-handed pitchers. That conclusion was based on a small sample size of data, and he is very clearly still capable of doing damage against the most talented southpaws in the game, even at the age of 38.

  • Brian Anderson and Joe Simpson were in the TBS booth calling the Reds and Phillies. Today, I learned that they're easily self-satisfied. At one point, one of them was talking about how Cole Hamels directed traffic on a foul pop-up by pointing at Placido Polanco, and the other remarked "you can't hear a point." Then they both started chuckling for 15 seconds. Later, when discussing the flashbulbs that go off whenever Aroldis Chapman throws a pitch, one of them compared the setting to "sparkling lights on a Christmas tree." The simile was immediately followed by complete silence, and you could just feel Anderson and Simpson slowly grinning and nodding as they stared off into space.

  • This is Cole Hamels telling unfunny jokes. The important thing here isn't the unfunniness of the jokes. It's Cole Hamels' voice. See, until a postgame interview today, I don't think I'd ever heard Cole Hamels' voice. Now I have. And now, even though he just threw a complete-game shutout against the NL's best offense to clinch a series sweep and send the Phillies to the second round, I just can't think as highly of him as I did before. Good baseball players should have good baseball voices. Deep baseball voices. Deep, gruff, dismissive baseball voices. Cole Hamels sounds like a white guy doing an impression of a black guy doing an impression of a white guy.

  • The person who's most upset about today's Giants/Braves outcome is Eric Hinske, who will have to continue buying his own drinks.

  • The next time someone tells you that a moment in the playoffs seems scripted, or seems like destiny, remind him of all the moments we've seen so far that seemed like destiny, and weren't. Remind him of Joey Votto's double play tonight. Remind him of Buster Posey's double play in Game 2. Remind him of Aubrey Huff's game-tying base hit. Remind him of the Rangers' bullpen collapse in Game 3. Remind him that Jason Heyward's still hitless. We've seen a lot of classic playoff set-ups so far, and we've seen a lot of classic playoff moments, but many of the moments haven't come from the set-ups. They've been unpredictable. They've been Rick Ankiel on Friday. Maybe the only truly predictable classic moment was Roy Halladay throwing his no-hitter, which sounds a lot weirder than it felt.

  • I guess Aroldis Chapman won't be this year's Francisco Rodriguez after all.

  • The Giants and Braves came in with the two best bullpens in the playoffs. We've now seen them combine to blow three games in two games.

  • Every time I see Vladimir Guerrero have an at bat like the one he had today against Wade Davis with the bases loaded, I wonder how and why he ever saw enough pitches to bat .320 for his career.
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