In the bottom of the 8th yesterday, Matt Garza – perhaps the worst hitting pitcher in baseball – came up with one out and a runner on first. On deck was Starlin Castro, standing at 199 hits, and hoping to reach 200 at Wrigley Field.
That’s when Chicago Cubs’ manager Mike Quade asked Matt Garza to put the bat on his shoulder, and not swing. He wanted Garza to strike out on purpose to avoid the chance that Garza would ground into an inning-ending double play, which would deprive Castro of one last at bat.
“You’ve got to explain things a few times to him,” Quade quipped about Garza.
You don’t have to know much about Matt Garza’s competitive drive to know that he was unhappy about the request.
“It is what it is,” Garza said. “I’m trying to hit too, guys. Shoot, I want 20 wins, I want 200 innings, I want 200-plus strikeouts …. I was in my mode, so, I’m going to go out there and compete. I’m not going to just give up …. I’m pretty sure [Castro]’s going to [get to 200], so that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”
So, other than pissing off his ace, was Quade wrong? It would have been nice to see Castro get to 200 at home, and Garza is a truly awful hitter. Indeed, there are some statheads who contend that, in that situation, a strikeout is actually the best move, regardless of the sentimentality attached to the next batter.
But there’s something that feels icky about it, no? A manager telling a player to strike out on purpose? I’m flashing on the Cobra Kai sensei telling that one kid to go for Daniel’s knee, even though he knows it will get the kid disqualified. Yes, that’s a bit extreme, but if you don’t take every opportunity to reference ‘Karate Kid,’ you aren’t living.
So, as I said in the preamble, I’m not sure what I think. Anyone have a hard and fast opinion on this?
The ultimate irony? Castro got the at bat anyway, and he kept the bat on his shoulder, walking in five pitches – the last of which was quite hittable. It may have been the most mature and impressive at bat I’ve ever seen Castro take.