Bochy ball a little suspicious

Bruce Bochy's San Francisco Giants come to Citizens Bank Park for a three-game series next week. (Jeff Chiu/AP)
Bruce Bochy's San Francisco Giants come to Citizens Bank Park for a three-game series next week. (Jeff Chiu/AP)
Posted: July 21, 2011

IN ANOTHER TIME, in another day, the events that transpired during last week's All-Star Game would be viewed benignly, even humorously.

Bruce Bochy wouldn't be that devious to try and wear out the Phillies' two best-paid aces while saving his own. He wouldn't be that calculating to plot this far in advance, knowing his decisions that night would result in a distinct advantage when the Giants come to town for next week's playoff rematch at Citizens Bank Park.

Would he? Think about it. If Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were the ones unused in the National League's 5-1 victory over the American League, they would have pitched against the Mets, been spared the suffocating weather of Wrigley this week, and been lined up to pitch against the Giants when they come to town next week.

No big deal, right? The Giants games don't count any more than the Cubs games this week or the Padres this weekend. Mathematically, yes. But if baseball really is a game played between the ears, then next week does have some importance for two clubs seeking to defend their divisional turf against improved challengers, especially when the wild-card race is thrown into the mix.

Which makes Bochy's actions last week unsavory to some, and even worse to others. Words like "snake" and "sleazy" have been attached to his name on blogs and over the air, guaranteeing the Terry Francona/J.D. Drew/Scott Rolen treatment when he delivers the lineup on Tuesday or heads to the mound (you hope) for a pitching change.

Phils manager Charlie Manuel has stated several times that he puts no blame on Bochy for maneuvers that could mean an extra home game for the Phillies this fall, and pitching coach Rich Dubee, who stated his trepidation about using either arm before the game, voluntarily muzzled himself when asked what he thought of Bochy's extensive use of both.

Bochy's argument that night was that both Lee and Halladay were having better seasons than any of his starters - Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong. That didn't stop him from choosing them, though, over arms that some believed more deserving - particularly Florida's Anibal Sanchez, who was 6-2 with 117 strikeouts at the All-Star break.

Lincecum was 7-7 for the Giants.

"I got nothing against Lincecum," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said after the rosters were announced. "But . . . He's not having an All-Star first half."

Maybe Bochy felt the same way. When Manuel picked Ryan Howard over eventual Most Valuable Player winner Joey Votto last year, he was rewarding "my guy" for the previous season, particularly his torrid September. They are called managers, rather than coaches, for a reason. As Kirk Gibson once observed about Tommy Lasorda's managing style, "The happy cows give the most milk."

So here are some suggestions:

Since the manager chooses the pitching staff, install a rule that requires him to use any pitcher he selects from his own club. If he chooses a reliever from his team, require that he pitch to at least one batter. If he chooses a starter, the number of batters should be at least three. This would eliminate the perception of managerial impropriety, or the temptation to stretch another team's starters out past an inning in order to save your own arms.

Not saying Bochy did that night. Not saying he didn't. Not saying Manuel might have done the reverse with his pitchers had his team won last year's National League Championship Series.

But why build bad blood through a game that is supposed to be a respite from the endless grind, a game that is supposed to be a midsummer celebration, not a trash-talking bar fight? If this game is going to count, and the manager's job is to win the game, then your choice is either to allow him free rein devoid of bitterness and acrimony or create a set of rules to avoid the abuses that seem to crop up each year.

Imagine, if you will, that Clint Hurdle had permanently damaged Brad Lidge by having him warm up repeatedly in the 2008 All-Star Game. Because, as Lidge's history in ensuing seasons has shown, that could have very well happened.

Which brings up another good suggestion. If the game is tied, stop it after 10 innings. Period. Then the determinant of home field in the World Series becomes the overall record of interleague play that season. Probably should be determined that way anyway, if network money wasn't involved . That way, there is less temptation to save pitchers, or to overwork them. And, in the case of Lidge, have them warm up repeatedly.

Yes, I know there's a proposal out there to balance the two leagues someday and play interleague games as late as September. And yes, that will provide logistical challenges the sport has not had to deal with. But the other three pro sports manage this, and for the arena teams who often share the same building, the matrix is far more challenging.

But that's a future that Michael Weiner, the players union chief, said recently is beyond the horizon. So for now, let's eliminate some of the unsavory loopholes. Won't save Bochy from getting booed here next week, but it might make it easier on Charlie when he manages next year's game in Kansas City.

How's that for optimism?

Send email to donnels@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/SamDonnellon.

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