By Jason Wojciechowski on May 24, 2011 at 12:05 AM
As with all bullpen decisions in the major leagues (almost with the exception of the Red Sox that year that media crucified them for going a new direction), there's a lot of nonsense being tossed around in this silliness over when Brian Fuentes comes into games.
I have no doubt that the interneterati will crucify Bob Geren for his lack of communication, using his closer at the wrong times, &c. &c. blah blah blah. On this one, though, they're wrong. Mostly.
Here are some things Bob Geren said:
"I can use anybody late in the game. It's been that way. Everybody knows that."
"The situation yesterday, we had three choices right there: [Jerry] Blevins, who hadn't been throwing that well; [Fautino] De Los Santos, who hasn't thrown a big league pitch; or [Fuentes]. You don't necessarily go with titles but somebody who is the best available at the time."
Here is a thing that Brian Fuentes said:
- "You try not to rewrite the rulebook of baseball or try to reinvent the game. You try not to be critical of the manager's decisions. If that's what he wants to do, that's what he wants to do."
The rulebook of baseball. Yeah.
This isn't to say Geren's some Maddonian genius in hiding, of course. He did make some gurgly noises about not wanting to put your closer in the tie game in the ninth when you're on the road, but how it's totally ok when you're at home. (Even worse: the reason why it's ok is because that's how it's done.) And further, his actual usage has not truly been flexible -- Grant Balfour pitches the eighth and Brian Fuentes pitches the ninth, regardless of matchups or anything else. Fuentes has been named the Closer and thus pitches in Closer Situations. The saving grace here is that Bob Geren defines "Closer Situations" a little more broadly than does, say, Ron Washington. Said saving grace is more about my sanity than about winning games, though, because Brian Fuentes has been decidedly mediocre, not really missing bats (95 batters, 15 strikeouts, though just 4 unintentional walks), though perhaps Balfour isn't the solution with his control troubles (89 batters, 10 UBB, but an excellent 26 strikeouts).
Shawn Haviland, the A's minor leaguer who blogs1 at the obnoxiously titled "Ivy League to MLB"2 once discussed his view that pitchers really do need to be told their roles and to have expectations of when they're going to come into games. I appreciate this point, to an extent. If you're Grant Balfour and your expectation is that you'll be called on sometime in the 7th, 8th, 9th inning, perhaps trying to get yourself locked in so you can be prepared to pitch the 3rd is tough to do.
But even granting that point, can Brian Fuentes seriously bitch about being called in the ninth inning of a baseball game, whether it's tied or not? Does he only start getting locked in when the A's have a lead? And if so, isn't that his problem, not Bob Geren's? Does he seriously expect Fautino (The Mormon) De Los Santos to make his major league debut in the ninth inning of a tied game for a team that needs every win it can squeeze out?
I don't know Brian Fuentes from a pothole. The story linked above calls him "normally reserved." I have no idea whether he's smart or dumb or perfectly average. He's got no call (and neither does Jane Lee, for that matter, who I suspect may have instigated this whole line of bullshit) to be questioning Geren at this level of detail.