Brian Sabean

Leaving Ross in RF wasn’t Bochy’s biggest mistake

For a game where we got to watch Jonathan Sanchez carve up the Rockies for eight innings, that was one terrible game to sit in the stands and watch last night. Terrible offense, several head-scratching managerial moves, poor defense and a huge letdown at the end.

In all, it led to the third-worst Giants game I’ve ever watched in person, after:

1. Game 3, 1997 NLDS against the Marlins (the Devon White grand slam game, which my buddy Carp and I saw from Section 60 in Candlestick Park…click here to see how far away that was)

2. This game, in which my sister and I watched the Giants lose 1-0 in 18 innings. It was the only game I’ve ever gone to where I knew that no matter how many innings were played the Giants weren’t going to score. Whether they played 9, 18, 27 or 36 innings that night, they weren’t scoring. I’m pretty sure they didn’t even have a runner reach third base.

It’s never a good sign when there’s loud, prolonged booing of a guy playing for the hometown nine, and Cody Ross heard it (unfairly) from the crowd last night. The mistake he made that Nate Schierholtz wouldn’t have was on the triple by Ryan Spilborghs, not Carlos Gonzalez.

When people say guys like Schierholtz and Randy Winn know how to play right field at AT&T, they’re talking about balls off the wall and positioning, not reading broken-bat fly balls. And it wasn’t Ross’ fault that Gonzalez scored on an awful throw by Freddy Sanchez that was followed by an attempt to catch the throw by Pablo Sandoval that was almost as pathetic (not to mention Brian Wilson was nowhere near where he should have been to back up that throw).

Bruce Bochy has been bashed for the last 16 hours or so for a ton of things, including:

– Leaving Ross in right field

– Leaving Jonathan Sanchez in to hit in the bottom of the eighth

– Leaving Jonathan Sanchez in to pitch to only one batter, meaning Brian Wilson entered the game with a runner on base

– Taking Jonathan Sanchez out of the game instead of letting him face Gonzalez, who’s 0-for-11 lifetime against Sanchez with 1 BB and 5 K’s

– Not giving a fair shot to John Bowker, Kevin Frandsen or Fred Lewis (just kidding)

If you’re looking for someone to bash Ross, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m okay with booing your own team if someone runs after a fly ball with all the urgency of a teenager forced to clean his or her room. Or if they make a mistake and don’t seem to care (or in the case of Alex Sanchez years ago at a game I saw at AT&T, gesturing to the crowd as if to say, “What’s your problem,” after failing to charge a fly ball that fell six feet in front of him, resulting in runs being scored — he never played another game for the Giants after being booed off the field). Ross wasn’t dogging it, he made a mistake. Fans didn’t need to boo him to make him feel all alone on the field. It was like a classroom of kids pointing and laughing at the new kid after he fell down and scraped his knee.

And if you’re looking for someone to bash Bochy for leaving Ross in, that isn’t going to happen either. It’s not Bochy’s fault Brian Sabean keeps giving him outfielders to juggle. Ross is known as a good defender, and Bochy tried to show faith in Ross on a night when all he could muster at the plate was two strikeouts and a GIDP.

No, Bochy’s problem isn’t about one move he should or shouldn’t have made, it’s his philosophy when it comes to dealing with starting pitchers at the end of games, which is kind of surprising for a manager who’s strength is generally agreed to be how he handles a staff. And I might get accused of wanting Bochy to coddle professional athletes, but I’m going to say the following anyway: Bochy made every possible mistake in the way he handled Jonathan Sanchez last night, and it’s something he does all the time with all his pitchers when they’re going well — he keeps them in the game in the late innings with no margin for error.

Everyone in the park knew that Sanchez would get yanked if Dexter Fowler reached base to start the ninth inning, but why does Bochy do this? If you’re so worried that your starting pitcher is losing it, why let him hit in the bottom of the 8th inning with a 1-run lead? If every game is so important, why does it seem like Bochy uses some of them to test the mental/physical toughness of whatever starting pitcher happens to be doing well that night? How well does Bochy expect his starters to pitch when he’s perched at the top step of the dugout like some giant-headed parrot on someone’s shoulder, ready to remove the pitcher after the slightest sign of trouble? Does he feel unsatisfied whenever he manages a game where he doesn’t get a chance to walk out to the mound and take the ball away from a pitcher? Can I fit another question into this paragraph?

My first instinct when the game was going on was to wonder why if Wilson didn’t start the inning, why didn’t Bochy have Javier Lopez warming up to face Carlos Gonzalez? But then I got home and checked the stats, and Gonzalez is 1-for-4 lifetime with a homer against Lopez, a stat that surely scared Bochy away. Plus, Wilson broke Gonzalez’s bat anyway.

I’m not blaming this loss entirely on Bochy like so many others are, because other than Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants didn’t play well. But he did squander a great start from Sanchez. No, Sanchez hadn’t thrown that many pitches through 8 innngs (103, I believe). But if the choice is either leave Sanchez in until he screws up or lift him after 8 near-perfect innings for a pinch hitter to lead off the bottom of the 8th, I’d rather Bochy remove the pitcher too early rather than too late. Because once Fowler walked to lead off the ninth, it was definitely too late.

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