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Murph: We’ll never forget Kevin Cash’s decision in Game 6, but maybe that’s a good thing for baseball

© Tim Heitman | 2020 Oct 27

Devoted readers of the LRJB (Lightly-Read Jock Blog, for you newcomers) could see this one coming like a Cody Bellinger two-cheeked swing for the fence:

Yeah, like any red-blooded American with a pulse, I’m irate at Rays manager Kevin Cash for pulling Blake Snell in Game 6 of the World Series.

Here’s where the LRJB may surprise you, though. 

Instead of only spewing rage when Cash robbed us of an October moment, maybe we can use this.

Instead of just howling to the baseball gods when Cash thieved the very reason October baseball lives in American sporting lore like no other postseason tournament, maybe we can grow from this.

Instead of simply tweeting with fury when Cash and his merry band of laminated-page binder warriors shouted “NO THIRD TIME THROUGH” and turned the lights on in the theatre just as Rocky was coming off his stool for the 15th round against Creed, maybe, like Balboa, we can say to the investment bankers making these non-baseball decisions during a baseball game:

If I can change . . . and you can change . . . maybe we all can change.

Maybe, just maybe, the Kevin Cash Incident can be a flash point in helping our beloved sport of baseball return to its roots of glorious sporting drama on a fall stage.

And yes, I’m talking to KNBR’s own bell cow, the San Francisco Giants.

Because I had the queasy feeling — as Cash removed Snell in a 1-0 Game 6, after 5 1/3 innings of two-hit ball, with nine strikeouts, and no walks, and only three balls out of the infield, and *SIX* strikeouts in six at-bats by Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner — that the Farhan Zaidi-Gabe Kapler Giants are candidates to do the very same thing should the Gigantes ever make it back to October.

My fears are grounded. Zaidi spent five significant years as the general manager of the Dodgers under head of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Friedman is pretty much Patient Zero for the baseball thought that would remove Snell before he faced a lineup the third time through. You can imagine Zaidi and Friedman nodding knowingly as Cash left his dugout to go get Blake (You’re Not Really Taking Me Out Right Now, Are You?) Snell. 

Of course, this line of thinking does not hold water for any other epic, October complete game shutout you may have had tingle your baseball bones, as I was just saying to my good friends Madison Bumgarner, Jack Morris, Bob Gibson, Josh Beckett and Randy Johnson.

I mean, I get the data. I understand “Third Time Through” is the name of every new GM’s favorite indie band. But as John Smoltz said, quite calmly and rationally as Snell was removed: October is different. October is the time when heart rates quicken. October is the time when heroes are made. Data from June is not data from the Fall Classic. 

And we saw what happened.

Not only did the Dodgers feel like the Jaws of Life had rescued them from certain death when Snell was removed, they turned it into an instant adrenaline rally — just like your Giants did in the 9th inning of the 2014 NLDS in Washington DC when Matt Williams removed Ryan Zimmerman; or when your Giants rejoiced at the sight of Homer Bailey’s 9th inning removal from the 2012 NLDS; or how the Angels felt when Dusty Baker went and got Russ Ortiz in 2002 . . . oh, wait.

Too soon?

Anyway, the universal condemnation of the move — everyone from Alex Rodriguez to Patrick Mahomes and every ball fan in between — spoke to a primal thing. In baseball, we love the October warrior. It’s a fundamental element of the game’s appeal. When we romanticize baseball, we do so because the game moves at a pace we can absorb, and on a stage our eyes can trust. In football, even coaches have to go back and look at the film. In basketball, coaches take about six timeouts in the final minute of every NBA game.

But the solitary drama of an October pitcher carrying a team? That fulfills a deep place in a sport-loving soul.

And by robbing us of it, Cash — and the front office which scripted it out with him before the game — has brought baseball to a tipping point. 

Maybe, just maybe, the thinkers of the game saw this, and will remember it.

Maybe, just maybe, they will not be so fast to disrupt dominance.

Maybe, just maybe, the cries for the return of baseball’s October soul will, in the end, help bring back baseball’s October soul.


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