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|A dejected Torre (far right) looks on from the dugout during the sixth inning.
PHOENIX -- It goes without saying that this is the biggest stage, the hottest spotlight of the baseball season.
So it stands to reason that every managerial decision is that much more magnified. Which makes the grand ol' pastime of second-guessing that much more fun.
In a 9-1 blowout, it's hard to say any one decision caused a loss, but the usually impenetrable Joe Torre had a couple of calls go sour on him in Game 1. You could say he's overdue -- just about every decision he's made in the last five years has worked out to the Yankees' benefit. But on Saturday night, there were a few things, in hindsight of course, which didn't help the Yankees' cause.
And it's my job as the official Second Guesser for MLB.com to point these foibles out. You don't like it? You've got a chance to give your own opinion on our message boards.
"A lot of my moves worked, but for the other team," Torre joked after Game 1. "I've been very fortunate that a lot of the stuff I've done has worked, but I understand there's the other side of this thing. You do what you think is right at the time, and then live with it."
Here's what Torre will have to live with, at least until Game 2.
1. There's no Justice in this world.
Torre's first questionable decision occurred before the game even started. It's when he penciled David Justice into the lineup in right field, batting third.
Yes, I know, Torre was in a bind. Without the DH, he couldn't start Justice, Paul O'Neill and Chuck Knoblauch all at the same time. And yes, Justice had those good numbers against Curt Schilling.
"It took me a long time to do it," Torre said before the game. "I guess David's numbers are a little bit better than Paulie's, and really, that's all you have to go on at this juncture. You know, for me, it's a coin toss, and then the thing that really swayed me, I guess, were the matchups."
Justice had hit .357 against Schilling over the course of his career. Of course, most of those hits came a century ago.
"A lot of Dave's numbers came early in my career, when he was with Atlanta," Schilling said.
Schilling showed that he's improved a bit since then, striking out Justice three times. So the offensive reasons for giving Justice the start over O'Neill are out the window. You don't know what O'Neill would've done, but my guess is maybe he makes contact.
Justice didn't support Torre's decision defensively, either. It was just 3-1 in the third inning when Steve Finley lofted a long fly to right-center. Justice caught up to the blast just fine, but then played it like a guy who's been DHing a lot this year. His one-handed attempt was futile, and the ball bounced off his glove for an error. Two more runs scored because of the miscue.
"Justice has been a good outfielder for us," said Torre, who never seriously considered sitting Knoblauch and starting both Justice and O'Neill. "He's caught up to a lot of balls and he got to that ball. He may get to a ball a little bit better than O'Neill. O'Neill may have more experience catching it because DJ has DHed a lot, but I think at this point, physically he may be able to get to more balls than O'Neill because he's got two sound legs."
Hmmm. I vividly recall O'Neill making a terrific running catch in the World Series with a bad hamstring a couple of years back. Saved the game, if I remember correctly.
Torre is usually a very loyal guy. Sometimes to a fault. Especially with Paul O'Neill. Considering this is likely his right fielder's last World Series, and that he won't start Game 2 against Randy Johnson, you would've thought he'd go with his guy in right, and not play the numbers.
The way things panned out in Game 1, it looks like he should've.
I would be remiss if I didn't point out one other (actually two) Torre errors. As he pointed out, they don't come along very often, so I should take advantage of
2. Oh, those intentional bases on balls.
In two different instances, Torre elected to give free passes to Diamondback hitters with first base open. The first time came in the third inning. With a runner on third and two out, Torre opted to walk Mark Grace and face Damian Miller, the number eight hitter, instead.
Miller doubled in a run, and also allowed Schilling to bat in the inning. Backfire No. 2 for Torre.
Torre was either brave or crazy enough to do it again in the fourth. After Luis Gonzalez doubled with two outs against lefty sidewinder Randy Choate, the Yankee manager ordered an intentional pass to Reggie Sanders. The thinking must've been that you'd rather have Choate face the lefty Steve Finley instead of the righty Sanders.
Oops, they did it again. Finley singled in Gonzo to make Torre a three-time loser for the night. I guess everyone can have an off night.
Jonathan Mayo 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.