An Open Letter:
|Matt Williams and Rod Barajas console Kim after he allowed a game-tying home run in the ninth inning.
Mr. Bob Brenly,
This is about your use of your closer, Byung-Hyun Kim. To be clear, we'll identify the major characters the way you and your guys do, with initials. It's kind of annoying, frankly, but it could save time.
So, B.B. it's about the kid, B.K.
He's not Mariano Rivera, B.B. He might not even be Geraldo Rivera.
But that's just half of what he isn't, B.B. He also isn't Superman, Batman, or anybody ever played in a movie by John Wayne.
He's a 22-year-old pitching in his first World Series, B.B. Even without that, he's a stranger in a strange land. He isn't even pitching in his home hemisphere.
It's one thing to spend the summer closing out the San Diego Padres of the world. You're out in Arizona, the air conditioner is on full blast, the dome is sealed and the fans are splashing around in the pool like they just found the only oasis between Casa Grande and Yuma.
Those are the good times, B.B. B.K. has a funky delivery, different movement on the ball. He can beat some people with that stuff, especially when they don't see him that often.
But when you play the Yankees at their place in the World Series it's an entirely different game. Maybe rugby. You had 56,018 people Thursday night -- and early Friday morning -- screaming at the top of their lungs, hour after hour, like maniacs, like banshees, like they were possessed by some alien presence. And that was just in the line for the men's room. You can imagine what it was like in the seating area.
OK, B.B., you sent the kid out in front of this mob the night before because he was your closer. You said all along he could give you two or three innings, and man, you kept the plan. Curt Schilling pitched the first seven and said he could take the eighth. But B.B., you seemed to start managing Game 7 instead of Game 4. You lifted Schilling after seven, because, like you said B.K. could go at least two.
So he gives up two home runs, game-tying and game-winning. And he throws 62 pitches, about a week's worth for a closer, just 26 less than Schilling threw.
"He'll be fine," you say afterward. I don't know, B.B. Exactly how fluent are you in Korean? I mean, maybe he's physically OK, and maybe he looks like a true stoic on the outside, but maybe on the inside he's just a young guy who messed up. He just blew a save and lost a game in Series with the whole world watching and he's 22 years old.
So he has thrown 62 pitches, he has thrown under tremendous exposure, but Thursday night, B.B., you send him out there again with the two-run lead, though this time you at least wait until the traditional closer's time, the ninth.
Boom. Two run home-run by Scott Brosius. And you know what, B.B? It wasn't a surprise. You removed him then, closing this particular barn door when the horse was miles away.
Mike Morgan then pitched well but you replaced him with Albie Lopez, who did get a couple of people out in the late '90s. You lost with Lopez in the 12th. But by using B.K. this way, by pretending that all systems were go, by pretending that B.K. was some kind of well-established, veteran closer with built-in bounce-back, you didn't deserve to manage a winner on this night.
Nobody blames young Kim. You could only feel sorry for him as Korean reporters questioned him at a length that suggested they were writing books, not stories. Imagine the way he's being portrayed in his homeland. Imagine the responsibility he feels for that. The thing some of us hope is that you haven't ruined his entire career with your insistence that he's the Man of Steel or Bruce Sutter. Some guys never recover from moments like this.
"I try not to throw the same as yesterday," was one particularly poignant translation of a Kim quote.
It was also not hard to feel sympathy for starter Miguel Batista. What a superb performance he gave, only to see you press the wrong button, B.B. But he didn't point any fingers.
"It wasn't pretty to watch," Batista said of the Yankee ninth. "But you can't show any emotion or you show up your teammate."
B.B., your defenders -- and I'm sure we can find some outside your immediate family if we involve the FBI -- will suggest that you have very few bullpen options available. Agreed. But you had one less Thursday night than you thought you had.
B.B., you simply couldn't run young B.K. out there again after 62 pitches and a heart-breaking loss. This isn't a second-guess. The entire Yankee Stadium press room practically staged a demonstration when Kim came into the game Thursday night. You set the kid up for failure, B.B. And that's what you got.
"I talked to B.K. earlier today," you said. "He assured me that he was fine and he wanted to pitch, he wanted the ball."
B.B., you're not a dull fellow. What did you expect B.K. to say? Did you expect him to plead with you not to use him? The guy's manhood was at stake. You put him in a place where he could only answer one way. And then you choose to believe his answer means something. You're the manager, B.B. You have to be the guy who sees beyond the superficial to the useful. You have to be more astute than this. I think you are. You may just be slumping, B.B. There is still time to pull out of it before the Yanks win. Again.
So just one more thing, B.B. As you think of Randy Johnson for Game 6, and if you get to think of Curt Schilling for Game 7, keep this number in mind:
Nine. That would be, to be completely clear, Nine. The number once again, to remember in Arizona would be Nine. Two more than seven. One more than eight. The number of innings in a standard complete game.
That may be the only way you can win now, B.B. Or maybe one of the older guys in the pen can get you past this predicament. Or, you can keep muttering "he's my closer" until the medical people show up with the sedatives.
Manager, Arizona Diamondbacks.
Blown Saveville, U.S.A.
Your Managership, Sir:
Mike Bauman is a columnist for MLB.com. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.