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Manager’s toughest call: sitting a slumping star
Question of the Day
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Pete Rose sat in the World Series. So did Reggie Jackson, Barry Zito and Paul O’Neill. Tim Lincecum lost his spot in the San Francisco Giants‘ rotation this October, and Jose Valverde forfeited his role as the Detroit Tigers’ closer.
Finessing slumping stars with enormous egos and prodigious paychecks is part of a major league manager’s mandate, and sensitive situations can turn radioactive come October.
“It’s one of your most difficult things you have to do as a manager, particularly when you’re talking to a star player,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, “and you have to tell him that you’re going to go another way as far as the postseason.”
“Any time I’m in any lineup, I think that lineup is better and has a better chance to win,” said the $275 million man, baseball’s highest-paid player. “Any time I’m in the box, the game can change, and everyone knows that.”
But a string of strikeouts earned A-Rod his own private brig on the bench.
Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner for the Giants, won the Series opener and the Game 5 clincher against Texas two years ago. Dropped as a Series starter this year following a 10-15 regular season, he came out of the bullpen in Game 1 and retired seven straight batters, striking out five.
“A different vantage, a different kind of feeling,” he said of his `pen appearances this October, “a whole different experience for me.”
A World Series benching that brought a particularly resentful response came in 1983. Then 42, Rose had started 31 consecutive World Series games before Philadelphia manager Paul Owens banished him against Baltimore ace Jim Palmer in Game 3. Tony Perez, Rose’s 41-year-old replacement, went 1 for 4, and the Orioles overcame a two-run deficit for a 3-2 win that gave them a Series lead en route to a five-game victory.
“I’m hurt and embarrassed,” said Rose, who went on to become baseball’s hits king. “There are 65,000 people in this stadium tonight, and the two most surprised and astounded people are Pete Rose and Tony Perez. I didn’t think that’s the way baseball should be played.”
Yankees manager Joe Torre removed four-time All-Star Chuck Knoblauch for Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series after an 0 for 12 start, put him back in the lineup for a night and then took him out again for Game 7.
“I’m just fiddling with it to see if we can stimulate some offense here,” Torre said.
He also sat five-time All-Star Paul O’Neill against Curt Schilling in the opener and O’Neill was joined by two-time All-Star Tino Martinez in the dugout for Game 2 as Torre went with eight right-handed hitters plus Andy Pettitte against Randy Johnson.
Torre’s moves didn’t work. Johnson pitched a three-hit shutout to give Arizona a 2-0 Series lead. He restored Martinez for Game 6 but not O’Neill, and Arizona won 15-2 to force a Game 7.
“I liked the days when I didn’t have to look at the lineup,” O’Neill said.
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