The Braves Can Blame Themselves, Like Always
Bobby Cox's last game as manager of the Atlanta Braves ends in a 3-2 loss, and like so many postseason games before it, everything in the world went against them: costly walks, barely hit baseballs going for hits, and of course, like sands through the hourglass, bad umpire calls.
The Giants were afforded the benefit of almost every close call, including one where Omar Infante may, or may not have, held second base on a fielder's choice that would have resulted in a tie game, men at first and third, and two outs, rather than tie game, bases loaded, and one out. And like all Braves games in the postseason seem to play out, the next guy struck out (which would have been the third out), and the next guy hit a single to left to give the Giants the lead.
The umpires are generally under fire like every official is in every playoff in every sport. Every playoff results in plays that under review should have gone the other way, in an alarming amount of instances. Because the play is more intense, and plays are closer than usual, calls are always harder, and I think game officials also get caught up in the emotion and are prone to mistakes.
This is called "the human element," and the argument goes, well, the players are human too and they make lots of mistakes. But as fans we accept that players make mistakes, especially since they are going against other humans, two opposing forces trying to stop each other. We are not as forgiving of officials. Their only opposition is their eyes and perception.
The theme throughout the season with umpire calls has been letting what might have happened get in the way of what probably happened. You get the call right most of the time by making the call that is simplest. The play at second base tonight: sure, Infante could have been pulled off the bag before he had possession of Alex Gonzalez's throw, but you can't possibly see that. It wasn't obvious. And even in slow motion replays, it was difficult to see what happened. So the right call is out regardless of what you think you saw. When in doubt, the ball beat the runner and you can't possibly say with any certainty he was off the bag before he caught the ball. This is the problem with a lot of the questionable calls this year.
Of course you have some that are just plain wrong, and those are the most brutal. But those happen less than the close play scenario where an ump inexplicably makes the call that is against common logic.
The Braves lost this series because of a punch-less lineup and bad defense. The pitching was stellar, and everything else was not. Injuries were an overrated topic, but yeah, I'd have liked to have Chipper and Martin Prado playing. The lineup had to fill holes with guys who are better suited for the bench and the weaknesses were glaring. I think there's no doubt the Braves win this series with those guys. But they should have won without them. The Giants were ripe to be beat. I don't think the Braves beat the Phillies in the next round, however, and I certainly don't think the Giants have a chance, even with their pitching. The Phillies just shut down the best hitting team in baseball. What are they going to do against a team that has way less offense?
I'll definitely miss Bobby Cox in the dugout. I have had a number of criticisms of his in-game management in the past and that I won't miss. But the guy is like your dad out there, you love him no matter what. All of my teams: the Braves, Titans, and Predators, have had the same guy leading them forever and I'm not used to change. I guess I'm lucky that way, but I'm looking forward to the Braves moving on.