June 17, 2011
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Bruce Bochy wants the Bobby Cox Exception because, well, the Bobby Cox Exception has always been there.
The problem is, the Bobby Cox Exception has been largely muscled out of the All-Star Game selection process. Thus, Bochys flag-waving for Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo as All-Star-worthy pitchers is going to run into significant Ohhh, really? from the other people in the room.
Starting with the fact that there are other people in the room.
In the good old days, the manager picked the full All-Star roster with a little bit of help. Then the fans were allowed to pick the starters. Then the rosters were expanded. Now its a hugely convoluted mess with 34 players, but an Internet exception, and there are so many people in the room with Bochy who have their own ideas and urgencies that neither Lopez nor Romo is a lock to be anything other than cases of Guys, I did my best.
But lets do this systematically, and go through the 16 National League teams to decide how many open spots on his pitching staff Bochy actually has:
POSITION PLAYERSVOTE LEADERS
Brian McCann, Atlanta; Albert Pujols, St. Louis; Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati; Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado; Placido Polanco, Philadelphia; Ryan Braun, Milwaukee; Lance Berkman, St. Louis; Matt Holliday, St. Louis.
POSITION PLAYERSSTATISTICAL NO-BRAINERS
Joey Votto, Cincinnati; Prince Fielder, Milwaukee; Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee; Chipper Jones, Atlanta; Jose Reyes, New York Mets; Starlin Castro, Chicago; Miguel Montero, Arizona; Yadier Molina, St. Louis; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles; Hunter Pence, Houston; Jay Bruce, Cincinnati.
Thats 19 position players, and were probably shorting Stephen Drew (Arizona), Kelly Johnson (Arizona), Gaby Sanchez (Florida) and if you have to have a Giant, Cody Ross.
That means 15 pitchers, which is last years number and included three set-up relievers Arthur Rhodes, Evan Meek and Hong-Chih Kuo. So now lets take the starting pitchers.
STARTERSTHE MORTAL LOCKS
Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay, Philadelphia; Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles; Anibal Sanchez, Florida; Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta; Tim Lincecum, San Francisco.
RELIEVERS THE NEAR-MORTAL LOCKS
Brian Wilson, San Francisco; Heath Bell, San Diego; Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati; Jonny Venters, Atlanta; Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta; Tyler Clippard, Washington; J.J. Putz, Arizona; Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh; Drew Storen, Washington.
Thats 15 already, leaving zero spots open for Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh; John Axford, Milwaukee; Kyle Lohse, St. Louis; Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado; Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee; Tommy Hanson, Atlanta; and the Giant candidates Lopez, Romo, Ryan Vogelsong, Ramon Ramirez and Matt Cain.
Anibal Sanchez has to go, unless Bochy wants four first basemen and would make Gaby Sanchez his Florida choice. Either Maholm or Hanrahan have to go to represent Pittsburgh, and either Storen or Clippard will be the Washington rep.
Now comes the next hard part taking a setup man instead of a very qualified closer. Putz and Kimbrel get the congratulations letter in that case, and now there are 15.
But lets say Bochy wants to get hard-nosed, as he is wont to do, and wants to ramrod another one of his pitchers onto the 15. Which one would he pick over the others?
Herein lies the hardest part of all picking one of the kids over the others. Is Vogelsong having a better year than Romo? Are Lopez splits (great vs. lefthanded hitters, bad against righthanders) still good enough to bump Ramirez?
Frankly, Bochy needs some timely injuries to players other than his own to avoid having to make that painful I-like-you-more-than-you call. Barring that, he might be better off not taking any of them and blaming the other guys in the room for doing the right thing viz. Kimbrel, Putz or Cordero.
In short, he can talk about being conscienceless toward his biases, but the math suggests that he wont be able to use the Cox Exception. The last time he managed an All-Star team, he took only three Padres Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman (obvious) and Andy Ashby, who had gone 17-9 the year before and was 7-4 with a low-threes ERA the first half of 1999.
That was a modest enough haul back in the day, when the rosters were a paltry 32. Now, at 34, Bochy thinks he has tons of room. He doesnt. What he has, is time. Time for this to settle a bit more. Time for players to get hurt (yeah, like he doesnt have experience with that). Time for decisions to make themselves.
And if worse comes to worst, time to throw up his hands and say, Fine. If you want Ryan Madson so damned badly, you manage the freakin team. And dont think he wont do it, in that deep, drawn-out baritone that people confuse at their peril for dull-wittedness or indecision. He is none of those things. He is also not omnipotent the way All-Star managers used to be.
You know. Like Bobby Cox.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com