And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A dominating closer? If so, how come nobody’s striking out? These guys are putting the ball in play, and as I always say, a lot of what’s perceived as good pitching is in fact solid defense.
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a fake;
Since the guys before him stink so much, Mudville’s obviously batting Casey first in the order. A lot of people would say he should be slotted in at cleanup – after all, he’s a Justin Morneau, not a Jose Reyes. But Bill James has shown that you can put all possible lineups for a baseball team into a computer and play a hundred virtual seasons, and you’ll score pretty much the same number of runs in every case, so I say go ahead and leave him as your leadoff guy.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
Blake, the nine-hitter, is most likely the pitcher – probably a middle reliever with an atrocious WHIP, since he’s “much despis-ed.” But even if he were “much lov-ed,” he should have absolutely been pulled for a pinch hitter in this late stage of the game. The fact that Blake tore the cover off the ball is dumb luck.
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Now you’re in a tricky spot – with two outs in the bottom of the 9th and guys on second and third, do you go ahead and pitch to Mudville’s top power hitter? My gut says to walk the guy and set up the force. Sure, you risk walking in a run on the next batter, but if this Casey guy gets the crowd yelling until it rumbles through the valley and rattles in the dell, I’d stay away from him. Never underestimate home field advantage.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.
The closer’s doing the right thing keeping the ball inside. He can afford to walk the guy; he can’t afford to toss a meatball to the potential game-winning run and have to watch the results on Sportscenter. Nice to see a guy who can work the inside of the plate, by the way; a lot of young pitchers are too used to the quicker speed of aluminum bats to be comfortable there.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
Casey’s cool may play well with the fans, but this is not the time to let the ump expand the strike zone. As a hitter, you’ve got to get in his face a little about that. It won’t change the count, but it might make the guy think twice before calling an inside strike next time.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
Casey’s rattled – who wouldn’t be after back-to-back called strikes? But this is a pitcher’s count, and he should know that he’s not getting anything remotely hittable. Casey needs a quality hitting coach in his ear to keep him cool. He’s certainly not going to keep the yells rattling in the dell without better plate discipline.
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.
I still think there’s no such thing as a “clutch” player, but this kind of meltdown can definitely saddle you with a reputation. Welcome to A-Rodville, kid.
Bottom line: Casey may be a crowd favorite with plenty of raw power, but his immaturity is going to lead to a low on base percentage in the long run. And considering Mudville is fielding lulus and fakes, seems like he’s a good candidate to sell high, no matter how glorious his handlebar mustache may be. If Casey’s got that much marquee value, a good GM (paging Theo Epstein) could probably field half a team out of that deal, and Mudville might finally get some joy.