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The Tuesday Discussion: Recent Bad Sports Decisions and a Yankees’ One…

This week we asked our writers:

Which decision was worse?

1) Kevin Cash pulling Blake Snell after 73 pitches and throwing a shutout with 9 Ks and 0 Walks? or

2) Packers head coach Matt LaFleur deciding to kick a field goal down 31-23 with 2 minutes left in game?

Finally, can you think of a big moment decision like this that cost the Yankees a championship?

Here are their responses:

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Lincoln Mitchell –Kevin Cash’s decision to pull Blake Snell was worse because baseball is more important than football.

Part II-In game two of the 1981 World Series, Tommy John pitched seven innings of shutout ball to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the World Series. He was back on the mound in game six with the Yankees down three games to two. John was not quite as sharp in game six, but held the Dodgers to one run in the first four innings. In the bottom of the fourth, with the score knotted at one, the Yankees had a minor rally with two on and two out. Bob Lemon decided to send Bobby Murcer up to hit for Tommy John. I still remember being shocked when he did that. Murcer hit a long fly ball that was caught at the warning track. The Yankees bullpen could not keep the Dodgers close. The Dodgers scored three in fhe top of the fifth off of George Frazier and the game and World Series was effectively over. I still think that game, and that series, goes very differently if John stayed in the game.

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Andy Singer – This is an easy one for me. Whether or not you agree with the decision (and to be clear, I’m really not sure what I would have done in Cash’s shoes, though I lean towards leaving Snell in), there are at least logical arguments that could be made in favor of pulling Blake Snell in this year’s final World Series game (Snell never hadn’t gone that deep in a game in over a year, his stuff was pretty clearly diminished facing his final batter, etc.). Kicking a field goal sown by 8 with 2 minutes remaining when Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback with one of the best offenses in football is Grade-A level stupidity. There is no traditional or analytical argument for that decision. I think Packers fans will look back at 2021 for a long time and wonder what could have been.

In fact, I can think of a similar championship-costing decision in Yankee history, and it’s one that will surprise many of you. Those of you that have been around here for more than a minute know all about my general opposition to bunting except in very limited, specific circumstances. I’d like to take you all back to the 2003 World Series, otherwise known as the 2nd most painful ending to a season I remember in my lifetime. Many Yankee fans look back at Game 5 when David Wells left early with back spasms and the infield botched a run-down as the defining game that lost the Yankees the series, but I think the true botched move came earlier. In Game 4, the Yankees came back to tie the game in the top of the 9th inning with two runs. In the top of the 11th inning, the Yankees had the Marlins on the ropes with bases loaded and just one out with Aaron Boone at the plate. The Yankee bullpen, featuring the best closer in the history of the game, only needed one run from the offense, and the game would have been sealed. Despite Boone’s heroics in the ALCS against Boston, he struggled mightily throughout the rest of the playoffs (and pretty much his entire time in pinstripes). This is one of the rare scenarios that called for a perfectly executed bunt, which could have scored the single run the Yankees desperately needed. However, Boone swung away, and struck out against Braden Looper. The Yanks went down with a whimper, and Jeff Weaver gave up the winning run in the 12th (why Weaver was in a game that mattered in 2003, I’ll never fully understand). All the Yanks needed was one perfectly executed bunt to get Mariano Rivera into Game 4 in the bottom half of the 11th inning, and I think the rest would have been history…I’ll always think that the non-call on a clear bunting situation cost the Yankees the 2003 World Series.

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Paul Semendinger – The Packers made the bigger blunder. You have to go for it if you’re the Packers. Their strategy was, “Let’s score and hope the greatest quarterback ever can’t get one first down.” That’s like saying, “Let’s bunt here to get one run and then we’ll hope to score three off Mariano Rivera in the 9th while we have our worst hitters up.”

I don’t know if this blunder caused the Yankees to lose a championship, but way back in 2020, pulling Deivi Garcia after one inning to go to J.A. Happ who didn’t want to pitch in relief which subsequently burned out an already tired bullpen certainly didn’t help the Yankees in their effort to defeat the Rays in the ALDS.

Thinking back to a bad memory – the “Bloody Sock” game… As I recall, Joe Torre commented that the Yankees wouldn’t bunt on Schilling. Why not? They lost the game, of course. Maybe not giving up a possible way to win might have helped…

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Patrick Gunn – That’s an impossible choice since both calls were so crucial. If I must pick one, I’m going with LaFleur’s choice to kick the field goal as being worse because it’s later in the game. Snell should have thrown more innings, but the decision came early enough that the Rays could still come back, so much as their bullpen doesn’t give up that many runs. Also, Tampa Bay has been making those decisions all year to great success, Anderson just struggled as he did all postseason. With about 2 left in the game, you can’t give the ball back to Brady trailing by a TD. He’s a master of late-game clock management in the playoffs and Green Bay’s defense hadn’t exactly been stout so stout when they didn’t get turnovers. Also, with all due respect to Blake Snell, he’s not Aaron Rodgers. He has been the Packers’ franchise QB for the last decade, who’s come up with big play after big play, get a chance to score the TD there. Also, the Packers had one of the most efficient red-zone offenses in the league this season and either way, Brady had to get the ball back while having to score a touchdown. Better to give Brady the ball back on the eight-yard line than around the 20. So, the Snell move is bad, but the LaFleur decision is an all-time flop.

The Yankees haven’t made many poor decisions like that, but one that came up in my quick research was Babe Ruth getting caught stealing to end the 1926 World Series. That’s a boneheaded baseball play that took the bat out of Bob Meusel’s hands.

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Chris O’Connor – I think the decision by Matt Lafleur was worse. I want to preface this by saying that I understand the analytics behind both decisions: pitchers, especially Snell, perform worse the third time through the order and the Packers wanted to win the game in regulation and not opt for the coin-flip of overtime. However, there are numbers upon numbers to rely on when it comes to these situations, and no decision is foolproof. With the game on the line in the small sample size of the playoffs, I want my best players to make the plays that decide the game. Never take the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands with the game on the line; even if it fails, the Bucs are pinned deep in their own territory. With the Rays, like it or not, that is how they played all year. They had what probably was the best, deepest bullpen in the league, so it is hard to completely rip Cash for going to them too early rather than too late.

With regard to the Yankees, it is hard to point to a decision in recent years that cost the Yankees a championship. Against the Rays, I did not like the Garcia-Happ bullpen game, nor did I like the decision to pinch hit Mike Ford rather than Clint Frazier late in Game 5. I think managerial decisions have less of an impact on the outcome of games than most people think, but these were two recent decisions that certainly did not help the Yankees win the series.

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