Brenly's hook hung up Diamondbacks



November 04, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - It's almost impossible to be a Yankee agnostic anymore. The evidence is overwhelming that the experience, talent and team chemistry of the umpteen-time defending world champions is something beyond any logical explanation or quantification.

And yet, for all the talk about the "Yankees' mystique" and all the great moments that have supposedly sprung from it over the past few weeks, we would all be pretty in purple if Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly had not charged up the mystique with his huge Game 4 mistake.

Brenly is a nice guy who was smart enough to hand the ball to Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson twice every five days on the way to the National League West title this year, but he got stupid in a hurry when the spotlight found him at a pivotal moment in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium.

Everybody knows what happened. He took the ball away from Schilling after his right-handed ace threw just 88 pitches in an overpowering seven-inning performance that put the Diamondbacks in perfect position to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Fall Classic. Closer Byung-Hyun Kim came on to pitch well until one of those patented pivotal Yankees moments arrived with two outs in the ninth inning and changed everything.

Here are the facts: Schilling told Brenly after the seventh inning that he was "gassed," but could still go out to start the eighth inning. Kim had pitched well during the playoffs and seemed perfectly capable of pitching two innings. If it had been a regular-season game without serious playoff implications, Brenly would get no argument for preserving his big right-hander regardless of the eventual outcome of the game.

But it was not just any game. It was the pivotal game in the Series - the game that could all but lock up a world title for the Diamondbacks or usher the Yankees back into contention for their fourth straight world championship.

Regular-season games are managed with logic and long-term thinking. Postseason games should be managed with an understanding of the effects of emotion and momentum on a short series. That's where Brenly blew it.

He committed the cardinal sin of postseason managing. He made the move that the other team wanted him to make. The Yankees were thrilled to see anybody but Schilling take the mound for the eighth inning, and Diamondbacks fans all over the Valley of the Sun were kicking their TVs and screaming, `Please Bob, don't start managing now!' "

Of course, if Kim gets the last out of the ninth on Wednesday instead of giving up a dramatic game-tying home run to Tino Martinez, no one would have been any the wiser - except maybe Brenly. The Diamondbacks might already be home celebrating their lightning-fast ascent from expansion to championship and Brenly would be that rare first-year manager with a World Series ring.

Instead, his inability to stay out of the way when Schilling clearly was on top of his game put the Diamondbacks in position for a classic fall in the Fall Classic. Everything that went wrong after that - in both Game 4 and Game 5 - stems from that one piece of poor judgment.

Never mind that Schilling said two days later that his arm was unusually sore on the morning after Game 4. He wasn't hurting when he left the game on Wednesday, so that didn't play into the decision. Chances are, if he had thrown 15 more pitches - at least started the eighth inning and got an out or two - the Series would have ended in Arizona's favor before he had to think about a possible Game 7.

Brenly, whether he wanted to admit it or not, was pulling Schilling to preserve him for a possible Game 7, a poor gambit when history shows that there is an excellent chance there won't be a Game 7 if you take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series.

If that wasn't foolhardy enough, Brenly left Kim out there to throw 2 2/3 innings and 61 pitches in Game 4, as if he had suddenly been struck with a revelation that it was the most important game of the Series and had to be won at all costs.

See the logical problem there. If Brenly had thought it was the most important game of the Series at the outset, he would not have worried about pushing Schilling into the eighth inning. The guy was still throwing the ball 97 mph, for God's sake. If Schilling pitches all or part of the eighth, Kim is fresher for the ninth and, presumably, would have been fresher the following night, too.

Instead, Brenly's inconsistent strategy in Game 4 left the thin Diamondbacks' bullpen even thinner for Game 5 and Kim emotionally devastated for any future World Series appearances.

That's not the way they teach it in Managing 101.

Gotta have Hart

The Texas Rangers went for a proven commodity when they hired former Cleveland Indians executive John Hart to replace fired Doug Melvin as general manager on Thursday.

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