About That Stolen Base…
Errata: Quite a few Giants fans wrote in to point out that at the time of the stolen base the Phillies were up 8-2, not 6-2 as I wrote. I apologize for the mistake. We had a lot of runs to keep track of. I still maintain that an 8-2 lead with four innings to play isn’t insurmountable. At least it shouldn’t be for a World Champion.
Much has already been made of Friday night’s Giants v. Phillies skirmish. But today’s New York Times interview with MLB disciplinarian (and former Dodger!) Joe Torre is taking it as a given that Rollin’s stolen base is the de facto cause.
Let’s review the facts: Top of the 6th, Phillies lead 6-2, 3 runs already scored in that inning.
These facts are also worth noting: The Giants still had 4 innings to play. That’s 12 outs. And they were down by 4 runs.
One of the unwritten rules of baseball is that you don’t steal a base late in the game if your team has a big lead. The idea there being that the losing team has already conceded the game and the stolen base is an ungentlemanly case of being a dick and rubbing it in. The punishment for breaking one of baseball’s vaunted unwritten rules is, fairly enough, a fastball to the ass.
That rule can be a bit subjective though. Let’s take a look at two troublesome phrases. First, “late in the game.” I’d argue that “late in the game” would apply to the final innings. The eighth and ninth. Not the 6th. They still sell beer during the 6th. Secondly, “big lead.” Perhaps the Giants consider 4 runs a big lead, but I’ve seen plenty of teams come back from bigger deficits with more time to play. So what constitutes a “big” lead? Quoting from The Unwritten Rules by Paul Dickson, who in turn is quoting former Braves manager Bobby Cox:
…one rule of thumb that managers have used is not to let a grand slam beat them. In other words, if they have a five-run lead late in the game, that should be sufficient.
There’s that phrase “late in the game” again.
I find it odd that the current champs would concede a game where they had 4 innings to play, 12 outs to make, and were only down by 4 runs. Then again, when Carlos Beltran, the Giants newly minted right-fielder was asked about the stolen base he replied:
“I wouldn’t have done it.”
So, there you go. Down by 4, 12 outs to go, Carlos Beltran feels the lead is insurmountable. Once a Met, always a Met.