During the ninth inning of last night’s game against the Phillies, Carlos Beltran made a throw to third base in attempt to nail Eric Bruntlett going from first to third on a single by Pedro Feliz. The ball got away from third baseman David Wright, allowing Bruntlett to score and Feliz to take second base.
When questioned about the throw after the game, on SNY, Beltran responded,
“well, I felt I made a good throw. David was trying to tag the guy, and the ball went by him.”
A reporter then said that something to the effect that people thought it was a bad decision to throw the ball to third in that situation. The thin-skinned Beltran then got even more defensive, answering,
“well, you’re not a baseball player, that’s why. Well, I mean I felt if he would had caught the ball, the guy wouldn’t got to second.”
Well guess what Mr. Beltran … I AM a baseball player. One who played and coached at a fairly high level. (Not MLB, but high enough — baseball is baseball.) Total games, between playing and coaching, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000. So I know a little bit about the game, and how it should be played.
First of all, Mr. Beltran, your English is horrendous. I’m not getting on you for your accent, but for your grammar. A word to the wise: if you are going to take a highly visible, $119M job in NYC that requires frequent interviews, spend a few bucks on a media coach. Buy “Grammar for Dummies” for 13 dollars. (For those who somehow find this “offensive”, get over yourselves. I slammed California-born Keith Hernandez for HIS grammar in the previous post — this isn’t about ethnicity, but rather responsibility as a publicly quoted figure.)
But hey, you’re not paid to speak, right? You’re paid to play ball. To play it well. So pretend I didn’t write that last paragraph, and let’s focus on “the throw”.
1. The situation
It was the ninth inning. The Mets were leading by two runs. There were two outs. With two outs, the runners are going at the crack of the bat, because they don’t have to worry about the ball being caught or anything (I added this for everyone who is not a baseball player, Mr. Beltran). Because the runners can run on contact, they have something of an advantage.
2. The hit, and ensuing actions
Pedro Feliz hit a grounder up the middle, into centerfield. The runner on second, Shane Victorino, is known as the “Flyin’ Hawaiin” for his speed and was running on contact, and scored easily. Also running on contact, but from first base, was Eric Bruntlett, who is not known as the “Flyin’ Indianan” but who has above-average Major League speed and a Stanford education. By the time you, Mr. Beltran, collected the ball in your glove, Mr. Bruntlett was about halfway between second and third — or around 45 feet from third base.
3. The Throw
It took you, Mr. Beltran, 2.2 seconds (I timed it) to get the ball from your glove to the third base area. For comparison, this is about two- or three-tenths longer than it takes Brian Schneider to throw to second base on a steal attempt. I bring this up because it was a similar situation — the runner was about halfway to the base, and you had about a 120-foot throw to make. In order to get the runner, the throw had to be absolutely perfect.
Unfortunately, the throw was far from perfect. It was at least four feet wide to the left (or right, from your angle) of the bag. It might have been six feet, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. In addition, the throw was, predictably, late. The ball didn’t make it to the third base area on the fly, but bounced about ten feet ahead of the bag. At the time of the bounce, Bruntlett was already in his slide, about two feet from the bag.
4. The catch — or lack thereof
Because your throw, Mr. Beltran, was short of the bag, was off-line by at least four feet, and took a tricky hop, it was difficult to handle by David Wright. Seeing the ball off-line, Wright should have forgotten about tagging the runner and focused on stopping the ball. We will agree with you that Wright could have, and probably should have, stopped your poor throw.
5. The decision
With a two-run lead, and two outs, and the runners going on contact, and the #7 hitter on deck, what made you, Mr. Beltran, decide that it was a good idea to throw to third base on that play? In what “book” on baseball does it make sense to attempt such an extremely low-percentage, highly risky play? Regardless of whether Wright lets the ball go by, the batter-runner and TYING RUN had an opportunity to reach second base, a.k.a., “scoring position”, as a result of such a decision. To retire Bruntlett, you would have had to come up with the ball cleanly, got a firm, cross-seam grip on the baseball, and made an absolutely PERFECT throw, straight to the third base bag, AND, Wright would have had to make a clean catch and a quick tag. All of this would have had to happen within 1.97 seconds — the time it took Bruntlett to get to third once your glove touched the ball.
6. The opinion of Mr. Beltran
In the post-game interview, you, Mr. Beltran, claimed, “well, I felt I made a good throw”. Did you, Mr. Beltran? Seriously, do you really, truly, believe in your heart that it was a “good throw”? Because by “good throw”, we mean, a throw that was:
a. intelligent; i.e., the “right” throw in that situation; and,
b. on target; and,
c. on time.
If you honestly believe that your throw was a fundamentally sound decision, that it was on target, and that it was in time to retire the runner, then, I’m sorry, Mr. Beltran, but you may have to consider another line of business. Baseball simply isn’t your strength.
7. The reaction of Mr. Beltran.
Mr. Beltran, we are willing to give you this: David Wright most definitely should have focused on stopping your errant throw, rather than trying to catch it and tag the runner at the same time. Of this there is no argument. However, we suggest that you reconsider putting the blame on Mr. Wright for your ill-advised decision and poor execution. It doesn’t make you look good to blame others for your mistakes. “Throwing a teammate under the bus” makes you look selfish, self-centered, and irresponsible. It’s especially tasteless when you make more money than anyone else on the team. The highest-paid person in any organization is looked to as a leader, and leaders don’t blame others — they are culpable, and willing to take responsibility even when it is not theirs to take. Further, by blaming a teammate, you are fostering ill will, and creating dissension in the unit known as “team”.
8. Conclusion, and advice
a. Watch the replay, and reconsider your decisions — both in the game and your position afterward.
b. Apologize to Mr. Wright for throwing him under the bus.
c. Look at the obnoxious figure on your paycheck, and use a tiny portion of it to pick up a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People
d. Think about those grammar lessons.