Quick rant before I grab some lunch:
I’m watching the Yankees-Astros Spring Training game, and the Astros’ broadcast team has manager Cecil Cooper on during the third inning. Kaz Matsui reaches first. The Astros put on a hit-and-run, which miraculously works, resulting in runners on first and third with no outs. Carlos Lee comes up, and promptly hits a home run. Mr. Cooper, what is your take on this sequence of events?
(paraphrasing): “See? That’s what we’re trying to do here. That’s going to be our brand of baseball. That all started from the hit-and-run, putting pressure on the defense, and that allowed Carlos to do what he did.”
Firstly, I think it’s neat that Mr. Cooper thinks the whole “let’s get runners on base and it would be sweet if someone hit a homer” is an approach unique to the Astros.
Secondly, Mr. Cooper is wrong. I do not believe that the Yankees’ defense was so terrified and skittish about the Astros’ hit-and-run tactics that Mike Mussina threw a meatball to Carlos Lee with two strikes. Mr. Cooper is seeing careful planning and premeditation where there is only circumstance. There happened to be runners on base when Lee hit a homer. The runners on base – and, furthermore, the means by which they got there – did not cause Lee to hit a homer. There is no cause and effect relationship here. Lee achieved the single best outcome an at-bat can yield, and happened to do so with runners on base.
For all my complaining about this sort of stuff, I really do think the interview with Mr. Cooper during this whole sequence gave valuable insight into the mind of the average baseball manager. It’s almost as if they see what they want to see. If the hit-and-run works, it’s deemed valuable and worthy of repetition. If it doesn’t, well, they were just “being aggressive” and “putting pressure on the defense.”