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May 25, 2007 at 12:30 PM

Garcia gaffes redux

THIS JUST IN (1:45 p.m. PST): Horacio Ramirez has been put on the DL with left shoulder tendinitis. Jon Huber has been called up as a needed bullpen arm and the new starter for next Tuesday will likely come from Class AAA. Could be Justin Lehr, if he’s pulled from tonight’s Tacoma start, or Ryan Feierabend would be another logical choice.
On to the posting…Just arrived in Kansas City, where it’s a lot cooler and more overcast than it was in St. Petersburg when I left my hotel at 6:30 a.m. And it’s an outdoor game. Oh well, cross your fingers. Just saw all the fuss kicked up by “Dr. Naka”, who I will agree with once again in saying that Ichiro does not have to give interviews in English if he doesn’t feel comfortable. I completely understand. That said, I will tell the good doctor that I am fully billingual (English-French) and am attempting to learn Spanish so that I can speak to the huge number of Latin American players on the Mariners in their own language. Japanese will have to wait, for now. Just not enough hours in the day, but Ichiro’s interpreter, the intrepid Ken Barron, understands my English just fine as I do his.
On to a more important topic than my linguistic skills.
The reviews are in on yesterday’s Carlos Garcia production at Tropicana Field and none are very flattering. Garcia was widely panned in Seattle, as expected, and didn’t fare all that well in the Florida papers either.
While the chorus unanimously blasted Garcia for waving Jose Lopez around third to attempt an inside the park home run with none out in the fourth inning — his team down 10-4 at the time — there was also shock expressed about his second inning attempt to score Lopez from second on an Ichiro single. Devil Rays right fielder Delmon Young threw Lopez out by a good 10 feet on that play.
“I was kind of surprised at that one,” Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
We’ve discussed Garcia on this blog before. I haven’t agreed with at least one of his decisions this year, but defended him at the time by saying that plenty of third base coaches are made to look bad when aggressive decisions don’t always pan out.
You don’t want an automatic stop sign at third base, either. But there are cardinal rules you don’t break in baseball and taking extra bases needlessly when your team is desperate for runs would be one of those.
It’s not like stopping Lopez at third in that fourth inning was going to cost Seattle the game. Two outs in a one-run game in the ninth and sure, you go for it if you really think that carom off the wall in left center was going to be enough.
But down six runs? With Ichiro due to bat that inning? Mr. automatic hit?
No, this was a brain cramp of the highest order on Garcia’s part.
Not realizing the full arm strength of Young in right field in the second inning, as Garcia admitted to afterwards, also doesn’t look too good on him. A coaching staff is supposed to be prepared and know the players they are facing when entering a series, as some of you have already pointed out in your emails and comments below.
There are too many computer readouts, videotapes and scouting reports available to teams on a daily basis for Garcia not to have known how good an arm Young has. How much of a reminder did Garcia need? He was around last year when Ichiro got thrown out by you-know-who when he tried to go from first to third. I liked this guy’s recounting of that play, especially the part where he writes that “Ichiro had never been thrown out like that in the majors.”
Sorts of sticks in your mind, doesn’t it?
If the media knows how good Young’s arm is, the coaching staff should know it twice or three times as well as they do. And this wasn’t Willie Bloomquist or Ichiro being waved around. Lopez has speed but is not the fastest guy on this team by any stretch. As good as Young is — and Garcia said he knows Young can throw — the odds of Lopez winning that footrace were not in his favor.
Now, should we crucify Garcia for this? After all, it’s just one loss. Feels like six or seven, especially when a team scores 12 runs, pounds out 18 hits and gets 24 men on-base. But it only counts for one.
I like Garcia and he was harder on himself than any of the media was about the second decision in the fourth inning. Not so much on the first blown call.
And everybody has bad days, including the media. Heck, I had a brain cramp of my own yesterday, writing that Shinjo Takatsu was the “current” instead of “former” or “onetime” Chicago White Sox closer — our copy desk caught it in time — despite having long since been usurped by others. Even watched closer Bobby Jenks firsthand while covering the White Sox in the 2005 ALCS and World Series. But my job allows for a small brain gaffe of a word or two among the 3,000 or so words churned out daily and often on deadline.
Big mistakes or errors in judgement are dealt with more seriously in our business. In Garcia’s business, the mistakes he made on Sunday are considered pretty big errors in judgement.
In the best case, this was an example of a coach just zoning out inexplicably in that fourth inning. In the worst case, this was a coach who committed two mental errors a pair of innings apart, first by not doing — or remembering — his homework on Young, then by simply forgetting the score and situation in that fourth inning.
Either way, this was serious. Not serious enough to replace Garcia in-season. But something that will stick to him to rest of the year. Any more mental lapses like those this season and his future as a third base coach will certainly be in doubt.
Coaching third base is a high-pressure job and Garcia will no doubt fail at it again between now and the end of the season. Trust me, he will. But what Garcia simply can’t afford to do any more is put himself in a position to fail by forgetting the basics. He’ll get a pass this time and will be around coaching third tonight. Next time, he may be on his own and out of luck.



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