Griff's View O'The Game: 8/7-Flawed Fundamentals

I'm sure a lot of Little League coaches fired up their VCRs for Wednesday night's Mets-Brewers game. If not, they missed a prime chance to show their charges exactly how not to play the game. The game was pretty much a clinic of poor fundamentals and botched execution. The coach would probably have to bribe the team with a pizza to follow the game tape watching, but whatever has to be done to improve the team, has to be done. Even order take-out pizza.

The first mistake made was the most forgivable, as it was done by a rookie, Ty Wigginton. With Eric Young at first, Richie Sexson hit a deep fly ball off of Jeff D'Amico that ricocheted off the wall in left-center field. Correction, the first mistake was made by Timo Perez who overthrew Rey Ordonez and Wigginton wound up catching the ball. Wigginton made two huge mistakes in a split-second. First, he assumed that Young was going to be held up at third base. He wasn't, and as Wigginton had this register in his brain, it caused him to double-pump before throwing the ball home plate-ward. That split-second made the difference between throwing a strike to Mike Piazza to nail Young and throwing a ball that wound up nailing Young in his back as he slid safely across the plate to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Here one can imagine the baseball coach freezing the video as the team sits around the TV. Never assume, the coach will say, pointing at the TV.

Ordonez made the next mistake,running out an infield single and sliding head first into first as he is so fond of doing. He was very shaken up however, as he hit his face in the dirt as he was sliding. Fortunately he hit the hardest part of his body, his head, on the ground, so after a couple of minutes, he was able to shake off the cobwebs and stay in the game. Again, the tape would be stopped. Always run through the base will be the lesson told to to the wide-eyed youngsters. The example will be given of how Kenny Lofton nearly tore his shoulder apart during a similar slide in the '99 wild-card playoffs between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. Late in a blow-out in the deciding game, Lofton tried to get on base by beating out an infield hit and doing an head-first slide. He landed so awkwardly on his shoulder that he had to be helped off the field and only a miraculous recovery in the off-season from surgery got him on the field in spring training in '00 rather than the projected May 1 date.

Perez, who has made questionable baseball decisions at the plate all season long, making bunt attempts with runners on base, was in a favorable situation in the same inning as when Ordonez made his mistake. He had a 2-1 count with runners on first and second. Piazza was due up next, and he was certain to get a good pitch, so Perez, notorious for being a free swinger, would get a good pitch to hit. Sure enough, Glendon Rusch grooved a pitch right in Perez's wheelhouse. Problem was that Perez took the pitch and the count was 2-2. Pause. When ahead in the count, be agressive at the plate. Perez then swung at a pitch out of the strike zone to strike out.

Piazza made the next fundamental mistake and was only saved by the first base umpire making a call out of position. Piazza hit a Rusch pitch the other way to right, but instead of hustling to first with a double in mind, he watched the flight of the ball. When Jeffrey Hammonds made a great catch of the carom off the wall and threw the ball to second, Piazza, who had made an extra wide turn at first, had to hustle back. Brewers shortstop Jose Hernandez made the cut-off at second and fired to first baseman Richie Sexson, who appeared to catch the ball and make a swipe tag on Piazza's leg a split-second before he reached first. Fortunately for Piazza, the first base umpire was out of position and called Piazza safe. Since this is a video for the Little Leaguers, the coach leaves out the part about the umpire. He leaves that for the umpire school. Again, don't assume that the ball is going to go out. Don't be styling like Barry Bonds. It can cost you and it can embarrass you.

In the fourth, it was Roger Cedeno's turn. With D'Amico at first base, Cedeno, a popular target for Mets fans wrath for playing poor fundamental baseball, first made the right play, trying to lay down a bunt. The bunt rolled foul, and Cedeno lost his aggressiveness. He meekly waved at the next two pitches, and wound up not doing his job. Do what you can to get the runner to the next base.

In the ninth, down 6-0 and Wigginton on third and no outs, Joe McEwing lofted a medium fly ball to left. Wigginton was held up, and told to stay even when the ball was thrown off-line and he would have scored easily. He still scored on Roberto Alomar's pinch-hit single, but was still a questionable decision.

The Brewers, not the most fundamentally sound team in the game themselves, made some mistakes. First their John Daly "Grip and Rip It" style of batting has cost them a lot of rallies, and it actually drove Rod Carew, their hitting coach last year and one of the most pure hitters in baseball history, to quit in disgust. They actually survived a blown suicide squeeze when Hernandez broke for third, but instead of bunting, lead-off hitter Alex Sanchez lofted a fly ball to left. Hernandez was able to get back to third to tag up and score. Always pick up your sign. By now the kids are likely thinking about the take-out pizza supposedly on the way.

The coach actually got a positive thing to show in the sixth when the Brewers turned a nifty double play when, with Wigginton on first, Jeromy Burnitz hit a grounder towards first. Sexson caught the ball, stepped on first to force out Burnitz and then threw to second, where Hernandez caught the ball and since the force was taken off when Sexson stepped on first, tagged out a sliding Wigginton for the double play.

The managers were not immune either. Bobby Valentine first made a questionable decision by starting a struggling D'Amico. Second, as is his habit, D'Amico started tiring in the fifth inning, but Valentine left him in the sixth. I've never understood why he does this, as D'Amico usually runs into a buzzsaw in the sixth.

Brewers manager Jerry Royster, for the second night in a row, waited until the seventh inning had started before bringing in a relief pitcher. Very strange. Royster also brought his closer, Mike Dejean, in a 6-0 situation. DeJean, who did not have his focus with it being a non-save situation allowed two runs before closing out the game.

After the tape ends, the coach would likely turn around to tell the kids that the pizza would be here soon, and find the kids all lying on the floor, sound asleep. Smiling, the coach would turn off the tv, and going into the kitchen, ready to eat some pizza alone.



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