Here is a link to my column about Game 3 of the World Series. The full text runs below:
SAN FRANCISCO — Sure, one Giants’ crisis took place on the field Friday night. They lost to the Royals 3-2, couldn’t overcome a one-run Royals’ lead, and fell behind two games to one in the World Series. It was a dispiriting loss, and now we discover who these Giants really are.
But a second crisis took place, one you couldn’t see. It was almost as big as the first crisis, and it took place in Bruce Bochy’s head. No jokes about his head being big. It took place in the massive Bochy brain.
A theme floated around here on Friday and this theme emerged before the game. Reporters asked Bochy in his pregame news conference if he would dump Ryan Vogelsong as his Game 4 starter and replace him with Madison Bumgarner. Would he do that if the Giants were to lose Game 3 on Friday? Which they did.
Bochy, who thinks like a poker player, who keeps his cards close to his chest, who keeps his options open, said, “Well, sure, we talked about it. I mean, we discuss everything, our options. That would be an option. We have really ridden this guy pretty good. Doesn’t mean we can’t do it or won’t do it. I mean, it’s a little different in today’s game with the Wild Card and then you have two teams to go through. It is something that Dave Righetti and I have discussed, but right now Vogelsong’s our starter.”
It was a complex answer. You could see Bochy improvising, working things out as he spoke. And he said — I think — he might start Bumgarner, he could start Bumgarner, but he probably would start Vogelsong? In other words, Bochy demurred. OK?
You can imagine the scene after the Giants lost. Reporters pounced on the Vogelsong/Bumgarner choice. Now, Bochy didn’t mess around. I am going to quote him at length for a simple reason. He addressed the crux of the issue, the crux of his team’s issue.
“Well, Vogelsong’s going (Saturday),” he said. “He’s done a pretty good job for us, so he’s going to have his start. Sure, we talked about other options, but there is a confidence we have in Vogey. So he’s set to go.”
Q: Is some of that decision wanting to keep things so your players aren’t feeling you’re changing because you’re down in the Series?
Bochy: “No, not at all. It’s confidence in Vogey, and I’ve talked about we had pushed Madison pretty good here. It’s been a long postseason, and he’s had a lot of starts. So we’re going to keep things in order and go with Vogey. He has experience. He’s pitched great in the postseason, and he had one little hiccup, but it’s all about . . . we have confidence in all these guys, including Vogey. It was a good ballgame tonight, but we’re not going to change things because we lost.”
Q: Can you say how hard Madison pushed to pitch (Saturday)?
Bochy: He’s going to say he’s available. That’s who he is. It’s not like he pushed real hard. If Madison pitched (Saturday), we’re going to have to pitch somebody the next day. But getting back to what I talked about, it’s our confidence in the guy we have going. I don’t think at this point we should push Madison, either. Then you’re going to ask him to go on another three days. So we’re keeping things in order because of how well all of our starters have thrown.”
Bruce Bochy made the absolute correct decision to start Vogelsong today and not to start Bumgarner. Bochy made the correct decision even though Vogelsong got clocked his last start, even though Bumgarner is the better pitcher by a million miles.
Why did Bochy make the right decision?
Because Bumgarner, as great as he is, never has pitched on three days’ rest. If Bochy went with Bumgarner, Bochy would be asking him to do something he hasn’t done before. He would be asking that in Game 4. And then Bochy would be asking it again in Game 7. Who’s to say Bumgarner with three days’ rest is a better pitcher than a fully-recovered Vogelsong?
Bochy messing with his rotation could be — probably would be — a recipe for disaster. And remember this. Modern-day pitchers — name your date for modern — do not pitch well without proper rest. The best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, tried it in the playoffs and got whacked.
There’s more. Bochy changing his rotation would smell of desperation. It would mean Bochy is changing his plan because he doesn’t believe in his plan. Bad move.
The Giants still are in this series. They are very much in it. They do not back down from losses or from deficits, and they enjoy facing hardship — actually, they thrive on it. It’s who they are.
There is no need to despair. Bochy knows that. He knows pushing Bumgarner forward would give the wrong message to the team — they are done for unless a savior performs superhuman deeds.
And acting in desperation would be totally un-Bochy. It would be the act of a different man, a man we don’t respect. If Vogelsong goes bad early, Bochy can bring in Yusmeiro Petit, a hero from that 18-inning game in Washington. That’s what Petit is for — to save the day.
Bochy is confident. He is optimistic. He acts slowly and only after due diligence. He does not panic. Never. His players play well for him because he believes in them. He believes in them and then they believe in themselves — Vogelsong included. All this is Bochy.
He made the right choice when he chose to change nothing. He showed strength and wisdom and leadership. Let the Giants succeed or fail on who they are, not on some fantasy of who they want to be.