By: Kurt Snyder
We all knew it didn’t we? We all knew it was a dangerous move. Mike Pelfrey on Saturday had survived a horrible beginning. Texas had begun the game with back to back homers.
But after the opening damage, Pelfrey settle down and headed into the 6th inning with a 5-2 lead. What a turnaround! Finally, it appeared that Mike was in a position to get his first win; a victory sorely needed by the Tigers.
So what was the dangerous move? Well, the Rangers began the 6th with the top of the order, Odor and Mazara, who had opened the game with the back to back homers. They came to the plate and began the inning with 2 consecutive hits, resulting in their third run. Meanwhile, appropriately, Ausmus had both Alex Wilson and Kyle Ryan warming in the pen.
With Beltre coming to the plate, it would certainly be the end of the day for Pelfrey. Didn’t it have to be? Wasn’t it important, after such a rough start to the game and to his season, that Pelfrey leave the game with the lead and feeling relatively good about himself? And more importantly, with the bullpen warming with both a righty and a lefty available, why gamble with Pelfrey against a player who has routinely killed the Tigers over the years?
The Ausmus decision? One more batter for Pelfrey. A dangerous gamble. An unnecessary gamble. As soon as I heard Beltre’s name announced, I expected Brad to emerge from the dugout. And he did eventually; after Beltre’s homer that is.
It reminded me of one of the strengths of Jim Leyland’s managerial style. It was important for him to give his starters the opportunity to win a game. It was important for a rookie or a struggling starter in need of a win to instill some confidence going forward to get that win, or sometimes just not get the loss. So Leyland often removed his starters at a time when they may be in danger of losing the lead and the opportunity to getting the win after pitching well.
This was a time when that way of thinking needed to be put in motion. Pelfrey has struggled so much as a Tiger. And the Tigers were still reeling from the sweep in Cleveland and the series opening loss to Texas.
It’s hard to say Saturday’s game was critical. It’s hard to say that this May game against Texas would make the difference in the team’s quest for a division title. It is still “early.”
But it didn’t have to be this way, and Saturday showcased another reason why Ausmus continues to attract criticism. He needed to be looking for the best time to get Pelfrey out and I find it hard to fathom that he thought that time was after Beltre batted, not before. It was so important in my mind that he leave the game with the lead.
There must be so much that needs to be considered during every game, every situation in order to be a successful major league manager. And with a tough schedule ahead of them, Saturday’s game needed to be treated with more of a sense of urgency.
The Tigers need Mike Pelfrey. They need him to be successful. And setting him up for failure puts undue pressure on him going forward, even as a 37-year-old veteran pitcher.
After giving up the game tying Beltre homer and subsequent “too late” removal, camera shots into the dugout showed Pelfrey suffering on the bench; beating himself up over another failed start.
But this was not his fault; he should have never been in the game when Beltre came to the plate. Anyone knowing the situation could see that. Why our manager couldn’t is troubling.
It’s why I harken back to the days of Leyland. Sure, Jim never won a World Series with the Tigers, but he won a lot and I mentioned long ago that his shoes would be hard to fill.
Managing requires a constant peek into the future. Brad not only needed to get a win under Pelfrey’s belt, but he also needed for him to begin feeling better about himself, whether the game is won or not. A confident Pelfrey is sorely needed going forward and it’s the very last thing he will be, heading into his next start. There won’t be confidence. There will be doubt.
So is this another Totally Tigers trashing of our manager? Well, it’s certainly a situation again worthy of discussion. This is the state of our team and we are obligated to discuss what is ailing the Tigers when things are not going well. We can’t ignore the source.
There is continued evidence that the Tiger manager continues to fail in both execution and the psychological aspects of the game. Poor decisions can have lingering consequences. Mike Pelfrey was a victim today and who knows how it will affect him going forward?