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Who's really to blame for the loss in Game 3?

Oct 10, 2010, 9:28 PM EDT

Brooks Conrad is the one wearing this thing. And maybe he should be. But he's not the only one who should be.

“I feel absolutely terrible right now. I wish I could just dig a hole and go sleep in there.”

Brooks Conrad, moments ago.

My first impulse was rage, and it’s an understandable impulse I suppose. In the hour and change since Conrad let that ball get through his legs to allow in the go-ahead run, however, I’ve moved on to . . . something else.

I’ll tell you one thing, though: I’m not going to fall for the “hey, if it wasn’t for Brooks Conrad the Braves wouldn’t have made the playoffs in the first place” line some folks have been trotting out.  If you’re a ballplayer it’s your job to perform at all times, not just in those rare, freakish moments of glory like Conrad had earlier this year. If it wasn’t for Tim Hudson the Braves wouldn’t have been there either and he went out and did what he needed to do to help the team win tonight.  That ball in the ninth inning was playable. Conrad didn’t play it, and it’s on him.  He knows that more than anyone.

But I’m off of rage. Fact is, Conrad isn’t a good defensive second baseman. We know that. We knew that a long time ago. Bobby Cox sure as hell knew it, yet he had them in a one-run game in the ninth inning when a victory would put Atlanta in the catbird seat. Conrad tried his best, we must assume. It’s just that even at his best, Brooks Conrad doesn’t belong at second base in that situation.

Cox also should have known that Aubrey Huff hits lefties better than he hits righties, yet he pulled Craig Kimbrel in favor of Mike Dunn in the ninth as well. If Kimbrel stays in it’s possible that no one’s talking about Conrad right now.  Instead, Dunn gave up the game-tying single.

I guess the point here is that rage at a given outcome, at least if only lasts for a short while, is understandable.  Rage at a person, however, doesn’t make a ton of sense. Blame makes a bit more sense because, ultimately, you gotta blame someone for this kind of thing. But giving 100% of the blame to a guy in Conrad’s situation makes little sense when others had just as much if not more to do with that situation than he did.

Which brings us back to Cox.  Braves fans have lived with his tactical mistakes — especially his tactical mistakes in the playoffs — for close to 20 years now. There have probably been worse ones than the ones he made with Conrad and Dunn today, I’m sure, though I can’t grasp for any at the moment.  They happen.  Cox’s strengths are many, but he does not push the right buttons all the time. Never has. Braves fans have come to accept it for the most part.

But with a bit of reflection, I have to say it: if it has to be on anybody, this one is on him.

  1. mcsnide - Oct 11, 2010 at 8:07 AM

    Ha. A bit touchy, are we? Blaming a loss on karma is called sarcasm. Maybe having a username that has the word snide in it was too subtle for you?
    That said, racially offensive stereotypical BS is wrong, no matter the fan base. And I didn’t bring up the other groups because this is a post on a baseball blog talking about a baseball team.
    And, really, the best seats in the house are owned by large corporations? Gee, Wally, I had NO IDEA.

  2. CJ - Oct 11, 2010 at 8:19 AM

    Heyward made the right play on the ball…he was caught in no man’s land. If he lays out for that ball and gets it he’s a hero. If he misses it, he’s villified. I can’t say he didn’t have a shot at it when looking at the replay, but if he makes the safe play like he did, 1 run scores and the game is tied. If he dives and gets it, of course we’re not talking about Conrad. And if he dives and misses it, that GW run scores on that play and we’re not talking about Conrad’s error(s) this morning…we’d be talking about Heyward’s.
    And IDC if no one is left on that bench or not…if you have a 1 run lead going in the ninth and a chance to have a 2-1 series lead with the next game at home, you don’t play the rest of the game with extras in mind…it don’t matter who’s (not) closing. In the words of Herm Edwards “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME.” There’s no excuse for your worst defender to still be in the game in that situation, especially since he’s proven he can’t handle that position in this series already.

  3. nps6724 - Oct 11, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    Posey is also 3 years older.

  4. murd - Oct 11, 2010 at 9:19 AM

    It’s not a matter of subbing late at this point. Conrad hasn’t done anything at the plate, couldn’t even get the bunt down yesterday .Glaus needs to start at 3rd, Infante at 2nd. Glaus couldn’t be worse in the field or at the plate. I think he’d be better at both. Use Conrad in his true role, as a PH late. I don’t like starting Hernandez because he’s the only guy with speed. Mclouth could run, but he may need to hit.

  5. nps6724 - Oct 11, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    Heyward was 5th among all ML RFs in UZR/150 (3rd in the NL) and 4th in Defensive Runs Saves (2nd in the NL).

    Posey didn’t have enough innings at catcher to show up on any “qualified” list, but he would’ve been tied for 4th in DRS among ML Cs (tied for 3rd in the NL). He also had a -6.3 UZR/150 at 1B. Posey is a very good catcher but his defense was on par with Brian McCann’s, who most Braves fans will tell you is a “meh” defender. And Posey gets way too much credit for his pitcher’s success.

  6. BC - Oct 11, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    The pitching change with Huff at the plate was ridiculous. I have NO idea what he was thinking there, or why he didn’t let Kimbrel try to finish the game. The guy’s been unhittable. Biggest pitching decision fail since Grady Little. EPIC FAIL, Bobby!

  7. Mr. Heyward - Oct 11, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    I look good doing it though, don’t I? Plus I’m a rookie like the rest of my offense so give me a break. You think powerhouses like Ankiel can win every game for us?

  8. f*ck la - Oct 11, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    heywards just not clutch . posey is older but heyward has played more games, they dont change the rules in the playoffs same game. if he is playing poorly because hes 20 then what the fck is he doing playing, if hes injured then whys he playing. by your logic he’ll be able to hit a ball in games past 162 in a couple years. posey is the man.

  9. nps6724 - Oct 11, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    It’s ignorant to think age and experience don’t play into the postseason. Posey has 3 years’ more experience than Heyward (all in college BTW).

    Among players with at least 50 PA with RISP w/ 2 outs, Heyward was 4th in the majors with a .345 BA and 3rd in the majors with an OPS of 1.110 (behind only Pujols and Votto). Heyward was better than Posey in both RISP and RISP w/ 2 outs.

  10. Tim's Neighbor - Oct 11, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    To be fair, the sarcasm really doesn’t come out very well in your statement. And I’m not even being sarcastic at all. Or am I?

  11. Griffey's Gigantism - Oct 11, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    We are talking about the same Buster Posey that grounded into the game-ending double play on Friday night? And the same Posey that should have had another inning-ending groundout on Sunday were it not for Brooks Conrad? My points isn’t that we should be blasting Buster Posey for those ABs — we certainly shouldn’t be — but that we probably should avoid calling Jason Heyward a dog after four games when perhaps one guy has had a bit more luck at the plate than the other.

  12. smootysmoot - Oct 11, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Heyward is nothing more than a streaky player for now. I do believe he will be a very good player, but he is not helping this team right now.

  13. 3&2oneon - Oct 11, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    I sit behind home plate frequently and am not rich. I just order from ticketmaster well ahead of the game I want to attend.
    I agree that Bobby Cox stands to blame for the Braves loss on Sunday night.

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