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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 10, 2010 at 9:39 PM

    I blame bad karma from the constant “war chants” and the tomahawk chops. And having fans behind the plate who don’t know to stand and cheer on two strike counts until the scoreboard says “make some noise.”

  2. dlf - Oct 10, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    Huff had — in 2010 — a higher BA versus lefties. But his OPS was higher with the platoon advantage even this year. And for his career, he has a pretty normal 90 point OPS platoon advantage. The mistake wasn’t calling Dunn in, it was Kimbrel throwing a mediocre slider to Sanchez instead of his 95+ MPH heater that Freddie couldn’t catch up to. Flashbacks to Wohlers hanging a slider to L#r^tz in 1996.

  3. JCD - Oct 10, 2010 at 9:56 PM

    When does Jason Heyward start taking some heat? Has he even had a hit yet in this series?

  4. Filmter - Oct 10, 2010 at 10:01 PM

    Bochy had his tactical mistakes too. After Romo went in and Cox pulled Glaus in favor of Hinske, Bochy should have went to Lopez. If Lopez pitches to Hinske like he has since he came to the Giants, Sanchez has a win, Wilson has a save, and Giants win 1-0.

  5. RickyB - Oct 10, 2010 at 10:13 PM

    Bochy couldn’t bring in Lopez to pitch to Hinske. Romo hadn’t pitched to a batter yet. Romo simply threw an awful slider to Hinske, who did with it as he should have.

  6. Professor Longnose - Oct 10, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    “He’s not a good tactician, but he handles the players well.” Joe Girardi gets the same general assessment. So does Joe Torre. Dusty Baker can’t handle pitching changes, but relates to the players. Ozzie Guillen can’t do the strategy thing, but fires everyone up whether they love him or hate him. Tony La Russa, anybody?
    They all seem to be that way. Which leads to a couple of questions. First–are we right? Are we sure that managers are making these bad decision, not because they don’t work out (lots of good decision don’t work out, either), but based on sound analysis?
    And if so, why can’t managers absorb this? Is it just conventional wisdom that hasn’t yet caught up to the new analyses? Or are there rational and unavoidable reasons why managers must let sound tactics take a back seat to other considerations?

  7. CJ - Oct 10, 2010 at 10:40 PM

    my question is, why was Conrad even on the field in the top of the 9th with a lead? They have a defensive replacement/utility guy on the roster for these precise reasons…ESPECIALLY given the fact he already had 2 errors in the game, and has struggled this series in the field regardless of position.
    Either put Glaus at third and move Infante over, or (preferably), put Hernandez in at second.

  8. nfieldr - Oct 10, 2010 at 11:01 PM

    CJ, Bobby was asked that question in the postgame presser. He said that Hernandez was the only guy left on the bench because they didn’t want to Ross. As for Heyward, IMO, he didn’t give much effort on that hit to right that put the Giants up. Also, as BB noted during the broadcast, that play in short right where Conrad made his second error probably wasn’t his ball. Most times, the RF will get to that ball and call off the infielder. I’m that collision with the wall did a little more damage to Heyward than he’s letting on.

  9. ScottBravesfan - Oct 10, 2010 at 11:15 PM

    mcsnide ,
    Bad karma? Get out of here with that crap. There are several teams all over the world that do the chop. FSU, Kansas City Chiefs, a rugby team in England, and a soccer team in Australia all do it as well.
    And those people behind home plate are all rich and corporate, they aren’t really fans. Those seats are sold to corporations before the season even starts. No real fans have ever sat there. It’s like those seats behind home plate in New York, they are all way too rich to really care about a baseball team. Those seats were put there so the Braves can milk more money out of the corporations in Atlanta. And if you don’t know that those fans are not real, and it’s like that in every city, then you are incredibly naive. Of course you talking about Karma already illustrates that.

  10. ScottBravesfan - Oct 10, 2010 at 11:16 PM

    I also agree with the point that Heyward needs to start taking some heat for his lack of performance not only at the plate but in the field, but he won’t. He’s the darling of the Atlanta media and Braves fans.

  11. nps6724 - Oct 10, 2010 at 11:27 PM

    Why is Glaus on the bench? Conrad is a terrible defender and not much of a hitter. Can Glaus be any worse? Jesus.

  12. JBerardi - Oct 10, 2010 at 11:34 PM

    Are you aware that Jason Heyward is a 20 year old rookie?

  13. JCD - Oct 10, 2010 at 11:47 PM

    Buster Posey’s a rookie too, it’s not impossible for a rookie to play well in the playoffs.

  14. JBerardi - Oct 10, 2010 at 11:55 PM

    The point is, it’s the first three playoff games of his extremely young career. Give the kid a chance, ferchrissakes.

  15. JCD - Oct 10, 2010 at 11:59 PM

    That would be easier to do if Posey weren’t in the exact same situation and responding beautifully right now.

  16. Mister Bear - Oct 10, 2010 at 11:59 PM

    Perhaps one difference between using the faux Native American themes by the Braves and by other teams is the despicable treatment of Native Americans by Georgia.

  17. James - Oct 11, 2010 at 12:26 AM

    Posey also isn’t dealing with a season long thumb injury.

  18. JBerardi - Oct 11, 2010 at 12:29 AM

    Who f’n cares what Buster Posey is doing? The guy has a couple good games, and suddenly that’s the gold standard for every rookie ever?

  19. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 11, 2010 at 12:33 AM

    Unfortunately, Saint Bobby used Glaus as a pinch-hitter who didn’t hit in the 8th. Can’t really blame him, since it was Hinske who hit the 2-run bomb…but still…don’t these guys think ahead at all? How the plan wasn’t to save SOMEONE…ANYONE to play third and move Infante to second is beyond me. Or just save SOMEONE…ANYONE to play second subbing in directly for Conrad is beyond me. The dude isn’t Babe Ruth with the bat…he’s 1-10 with 4 Ks. Why was he even in the starting lineup for game 3?

  20. Old Gator - Oct 11, 2010 at 12:33 AM

    Jason Heywood is just out there to run into walls. It’s what he does.

  21. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 11, 2010 at 12:34 AM

    Any Braves fan who doesn’t put the blame SQUARELY at the feet of Bobby Cox is crazy. Conrad shouldn’t have been in the game in the 9th inning.

  22. schmedley - Oct 11, 2010 at 1:22 AM

    When in doubt, blame Steve Bartman. It worked for the Cubs.

  23. matt - Oct 11, 2010 at 1:33 AM

    Im not a braves fan so Im not sure who was on the bench and available but craig made a good point. Why would you not put in a defensive replacement for Conrad knowing he has had the yips for a few games now? If someone better was available for the final inning than this loss is on Cox way more than conrad.

  24. Filmter - Oct 11, 2010 at 3:35 AM

    he’s also not dealing with an 0 for 12 postseason.

  25. Filmter - Oct 11, 2010 at 3:40 AM

    The BBWAA cares. Thats why they are going to make him ROY. Because he plays a tougher positon better than Heyward plays his. Case in point, Heyward had a chance to throw out Ishikawa, but tossed a brick up the line. This is AFTER he dropped Fotenots fly ball at the wall.

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