Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum has Ransom bunt, which is a perfectly acceptable move. Every available bat on his bench is right-handed with Reds righty Jonathan Broxton on the mound, but the runners need to be moved over. Ransom lays down a successful sacrifice, advancing Luis Valbuena to second and pinch runner Travis Wood to third.
Hairston can't be sent up there because his average with runners in scoring position doesn't require his attendance at the ballpark. Sappelt has struck out in over a third of his season at-bats. Castillo isn't an ideal option because he's your backup catcher and already has to enter in the bottom half defensively after Dioner Navarro was removed for a pinch runner, which likely means you'd slot your pitcher in at No. 6 in the order. Barney's offense can accurately be described by the noise meh since returning from injury.
Again, it's 1-0. A base hit likely puts you in the lead. A medium-depth fly ball ties things up. The infield is even playing back, conceding the run, so a groundball also ties things up.
But Sveum sends the guy to the plate who has struck out in nearly half of his career at-bats against Broxton.
Tale of the tape: Soriano vs. Broxton: 1-for-9, home run, four strikeouts. These are two established veterans. Sveum has these numbers available to him in the dugout.
You need someone to put the ball in play, not hit a three-run homer. And you go with the guy wielding a bat heavy enough to use for curl reps with positive results. You go with the everyday cleanup hitter with two RBIs in 78 at-bats. You go with the guy famous in Chicago for driving in all the runs the Cubs don't need. You go with the guy with a probability of striking out against the guy on the mound that would translate to a respectable enough field-goal percentage on the hardwood.
Spoiler alert for those who haven't yet consulted the DVR:
If striking out against Jonathan Broxton is cool, consider Alfonso Soriano Miles Davis.
Make that strikeout stat 5-for-10. The Cubs lost, 1-0.
The decision got brushed under the rug when attention shifted to David DeJesus being narrowly thrown out on a nice play by Reds shortstop Zack Cozart to end the inning.
Attention should have remained on Sveum in this case.
Why not let Castillo take a few swings? He's 1-for-2 with a RBI double and a strikeout against Broxton. Oh, and he's batting .328 this year, .381 against righties.
I don't care if that handcuffs you into inserting a pitcher into the No. 6 hole. At this point, when your team's batting average is far and away last in baseball with runners in scoring position (.140), you can't worry about who's going to bat in the extra innings you're not going to get to. Worry about scoring a run, if only so poor Jeff Samardzija doesn't lose 28 games this year with an ERA around 3.00.
Or send Barney up there. He's 0-for-3 with zero strikeouts against Broxton. He's more likely to put the ball in play than Soriano. Show fans something they haven't had to watch consistently since 2007. They've seen Soriano unable to catch up to too many up-and-in pitches in key situations for too many years. It doesn't work, and after this long, fans are now basically watching a team strike itself out like an upset little kid punching himself out.
That said, in large part, this team's failures have very little to do with Sveum. He's in all sorts of tough situations with a team that can't score runs, a bullpen that can't hold leads, and a few out-of-place players taking up roster spots. And I also believe calling a manager out for a move like this is a convenient hindsight move sports media often use to stir up some sort of story.
But this move had to make fans scream before it was made just as much as it elicits screams after the fact. All it did was set a failing team up for an afternoon more certain of failure.
Kevin Chroust has covered baseball and various other sports since graduating from Colorado State in 2005. He has been following the Cubs since age six when Mark Grace hit .647 in the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinchroust.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jonathan Broxton
- Alfonso Soriano
- Cincinnati Reds
- Welington Castillo
- Darwin Barney