Buster Olney, the ESPN senior baseball writer, was tweeting out Tom Emansky YouTube video clips that demonstrated how kids are taught to hit the cut-off man.
“Eighteen seconds into this,” Olney notes, the pupils are shown the right drill, “over and over and over.”
Gabe Kapler, the Fox Sports 1 baseball studio analyst, posted his thoughts on Twitter as well: “Sorry #Puig fans. We knew it would impact a game at some point, welcome to that game.”
“The wild horse spit the bit,” TBS play-by-play man Ernie Johnson said, a reference to the nickname created by Vin Scully.
But of all the Yasiel Puig instant analysis that came out of the Dodgers right-fielder’s performance that contributed to a Game 6 freefall in the NL Championship Series on Friday night in St. Louis, Scully may have delivered the most scalding blows.
“Yasiel Puig is going to school and getting poor marks in the third inning,” Scully summed up as the Dodgers quickly fell behind in the four-run third, at the expense of some poor pitching by ace Clayton Kershaw as well as some tight calls at the plate by umpire Greg Gibson.
It started with a throw Puig made off balance toward home when picking up a single to right by Carlos Beltran in an attempt to get Matt Carpenter trying to score.
TBS replays show the throw may have started too high but it actually got to cut-off man Adrian Gonzalez in time for him to catch and perhaps make a play at second to try to get Beltran going to second. But Gonzalez dropped the ball.
Scully immediately called it “a bad, unwise throw” that went too high from Puig.
“Beltran would not have advanced if Puig made a decent throw to the infield . . . once again, they are burned by a poor throw . . . and it wasn’t just a bad throw, it was a thoughtless throw, too high to hit the cutoff man.”
Moments later, it was Puig sailing a throw over the head of Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis on a single by Shawn Robinson, “another huge bad throw,” said Scully.
TBS analysts Ron Darling and Cal Ripken Jr., were also focused more on being critical of Puig’s plays than of Kershaw’s abilities in that game-changing inning.
“You can’t afford those kinds of mistakes,” said Ripken. “You take an extra step, make a strong throw knowing there’s not a play at the plate.”
After the second poor Puig throw, Ripken responded: “It’s little points of execution, those things come back to haunt you.”
That elicited a thought from former Dodger Thoughts blogger and one-time Daily News sports media beat writer Jon Weisman, who writes for Variety: “TBS – the last inning was about Kershaw, not Puig – and I know you know this. Why are you being so dim?”
Because it’s a great story line?
Usually, the between-innings interview TBS gets with managers aren’t very insightful, but the one with the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly right after that mess gave him a chance to sum up what he just saw and prepare his post-game response.
As Ripken brought up Puig’s performance, Mattingly sounded exasperated: “It’s been our battle. He’s always trying to make plays. We’re trying to teach. I don’t know how else to say it.”
As Puig took his final at-bat for the season in the eighth inning with the score 9-0 – eventually striking out the second time – Scully reiterated how “thoughtless” the throws were in allowing hitters to go from first to second.
“The Dodgers only hope he will learn and be better for it,” Scully said.
Maybe “Late Show with David Letterman” executive producer Eric Stangel said it best with his tweet: “If only Puig had a crazy beard, the #Dodgers might be winning right now.”
By the way, Olney circled back to his Emanski reference with a tweet: “Emanski jokes aside: Puig’s mistakes incidental to score. Carpenter pushed the first domino on Kershaw with 11-pitch AB, other Cards followed.”
== More analysis from the TBS’ post-game crew looked at that Puig-to-Gonzalez cutoff play in the third inning, along with graphic lines and circles added, and maybe reassessed what really happened there.
“This is Little League stuff here,” said Tom Verducci, “(Puig) throwing off his wrong foot like an infielder, lobs the ball in the air because he’s got nothing behind it — and Beltran sees that and knows he can get to second.”
But then it was fairly obvious where Gonzalez was positioned.
“He’s got to move in,” said analyst Gary Sheffield of Gonzalez.
“Gonzalez has to see his out is at second and has to meet this ball, not let it land at his feet,” added Verducci. “You’ll see him take his eye off it, and he loses the out at second.”
After showing Puig make a second error later in the game, Verducci concluded: “This is the downside that you live with. It’s all funny, you laugh at the hustle, it’s entertaining, I get it, but it came back to bite them in the biggest game of the year.”
Analyst Pedro Martinez, however, seemed to be more concerned about how Kershaw was allowed to throw 48 pitches in the four-run third inning, then finally come out during a five-run fifth inning.
“Watch out next year,” Martinez said, getting into Charles Barkley mode. “If they don’t care of this kid, with the amount of innings they’re putting on his shoulder, I guarantee you next year there’s gonna be trouble for that kid. That bothers me a lot because as an athlete, I’d like to see the manager, the pitching coach, someone stand up for this kid. This is a special kid, a kid we all have fun watching. You want to protect the treasure that you have. This is probably one of the most exciting pitchers you’re going to see in the big leagues being exposed out there with no need. I feel disappointed Mattingly did not protect this kid a little bit better.”
Kershaw ended up making 98 pitches, going three batters into the fifth inning without getting an out recorded, eventually charged with seven earned runs.
== TBS graphics were right on top of providing subtext to events as they unfolded in Game 6, maybe consistent with the job their stat crew has done all series, but perhaps more visible in a game of this importance.
As the Cardinals’ Carpenter started the bottom of the third inning, a graphic went up that said he had “95 two-strike hits” during the season. After fouling eight pitches off, Carpenter finally doubled to right on the 11th pitch to start the rally.
Interestingly enough, Scully pointed out in Carpenter’s first at bat that when Kershaw starts a count 0-1, hitters are only .109 against him; when he starts the count 1-0, they hit .300.
Kershaw got Carpenter to strike out the first at bat, starting him 0-1. Kershaw fell behind Carpenter, 1-0, in his second at bat before that back-breaking hit.
As Yadier Molina came up later with a runner on second and two outs, the TBS graphic flashed: “In the regular season, St. Louis had 287 2-out RBIs (led NL).” Molina followed with a single. Carpenter drove in two more later that inning.
== Maybe the most stunning statistic was uncovered by veteran sports-talk show host Fred Wallin of Sports Byline: At vegasinsider.com, the Cardinals started off being listed as -360 favorites with Adam Wainwright, the loser in Game 3, if there was to be a Game 7 against the Dodgers on Saturday. Meaning, you had to bet $360 to win $100.
“Even if the Dodgers were the worst team in baseball, and they’re not, -360 would be high,” said Wallin.
Maybe the oddsmakers saw the worst of Friday’s game before it happened?