Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Winning Hides Flaws

And, that’s really OK.

Jimy Williams used to do something that annoyed me. Well, he used to do lots of things that annoyed me, but I’m only going to focus on one of them right now. He used to use his back-up catcher as his DH. That used to drive me batty. How stupid was that? If your back-up catcher was in the game as a DH, then he couldn’t be the catcher later. If he did, that meant the pitcher would have to bat. So, if the starting catcher got hurt, or needed to be pinch run for, you were screwed. What a stupid idea.

Thing is, that never happened. The pitcher never needed to bat because the starting catcher was injured. It’s possible that there was a time that Williams couldn’t pinch run for a catcher because of it, but I don’t remember it. So, it didn’t bite him. And, even if it had, what would the problem really be? Say the worst had happened, and the starting catcher had to leave the game due to injury in the first inning. That means the pitcher would have had to bat three or four times. Or he’d burn through his bench using pinch hitters. It might cost the Red Sox the game. That one game. The rest of the time he was able to take advantage of having the better hitter as his DH instead of saving him on the bench just in case.

Sounds like a pretty good trade after all.

Because, that’s really what putting together a baseball team is. Hoping that the things that can hurt you don’t hurt you enough to outweigh the good stuff. 

Take yesterday’s game, for instance.

The Indians scored a run on a sacrifice fly that wasn’t especially deep in left. Some on twitter wondered if someone like Rusney Castillo would have thrown the runner out, as opposed to Brock Holt and his infielder’s arm. That’s a valid question. It was certainly a concern that the Red Sox should have had when putting Holt out there. In this case, it (may have) bit them. But, not enough to hurt. A run scored that might not have had to. The Sox had to expect that would happen at some point. Their hope/plan was, though, that it wouldn’t be a key run. Really, what are the chances that any given run that Holt allows that Castillo wouldn’t is important. It’s much more likely that it’s a run that makes no difference. Just like the one yesterday. It was a flaw, but didn’t cost them the game. Winning hid the flaw.

Or, take Hanley Ramirez. He’s not expected to win the gold glove this year. Sure, he handled his chances yesterday, but that was one game. What about tricky things like covering a sacrifice bunt or a cut-off throw. Will he screw one of those up? He may. In fact, he probably will. The Red Sox probably assume that he’ll make several errors this season, as well as a couple miscues that avoid the box score. Their assumption is, however, that it won’t matter. That the chances of any specific error being game changing are small. And, even if the error does cost them the game it’ll be worth it because Hanley will have helped them win many more. Like he did yesterday.

Which is also why occasional lack of hustle is tolerated. Sure, he didn’t run out a ball as well as he could have yesterday. But it didn’t cost the Sox. (Again, what are the odds, really, that it would?) Winning hid it. Especially when his hustle in the game, going first to third, helped them win it.

So, before you find yourself falling into the trap of looking for things to concern you even in victory, remember that’s not the point. Yes, every team has flaws. Winning teams just hide them better.

Winning hides everything.

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