If I were a big-league manager, I'd be Earl Weaver (only with less scratchin' and spittin' and smokin').
No, I'm not saying I'd be as good as the former Orioles skipper. What I'm saying is that I'd have his same philosophy for winning baseball games:
Pitching. Defense. And three-run homers.
I hate bunting and would just about never ask any non-pitcher to do it. Unlike Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, I wouldn't have told Juan Uribe to bunt in the eighth inning of last night's NLDS game with my team trailing the Braves 3-2.
Yasiel Puig had led off with a hustle double. He already was in scoring position. Why take the bat out of the hands of a proven postseason performer such as Uribe, a former World Series hero for both the White Sox and Giants? Why give away an out? Why settle for just trying to tie the game after Puig's hit created the potential for so much more? If Mattingly really wanted Puig on third with less than two outs, why not let one of the fastest guys in baseball steal the base? It's not as if Donnie Baseball is unwilling to gamble; earlier in the day, he decided to start Clayton Kershaw on three days' rest. Going with your ace on short rest used to be a routine postseason decision, but now it's a move that elicits oohs and aahs and hours of debate.
Fortunately for Mattingly and the Dodgers, Uribe tried to bunt and fouled off the pitch. Then he tried to bunt again and fouled it off again.
Then, with the bunt sign removed and the manager no longer impeding him, Uribe hit a no-doubt, two-run, series-winning bomb into the left-field seats.
Somewhere, The Earl of Baltimore was smiling.
I just looked up Uribe's bio and was surprised to see he's only 34 years old. It seems like he's been around forever.
Uribe has never been a high OBP guy, but he has had a knack for delivering clutch hits and making big plays. It's no accident that winning seems to follow him around. He's the kind of player I'd want on my team. When I covered the White Sox, his teammates and manager loved him, both for his winning style and his clubhouse demeanor.
Uribe homered in the White Sox's first playoff game during their incredible 2005 run, doubled to drive in a tone-setting run off Roger Clemens in Game 1 of that year's World Series, singled during the 5-run fifth inning that led Chicago's rally from an early 4-0 deficit in Game 3, and hit a three-run, tiebreaking homer in Game 1 of the 2010 World Series for San Fran.
The shortstop also made two great defensive plays to close out the Astros in the '05 Series. First, he ranged far to his right and dived into the stands to grab a foul pop. Then, just moments after catching his breath, he made a nice pickup and throw of a tough grounder to end the game and give the city of Chicago its first baseball championship in 88 years.
Had Derek Jeter made the catch on that foul pop, it would be remembered as one of the great plays in World Series history. Then again, when Jeter passes gas, it's an occasion for the national media to genuflect.
I bet Mattingly's mentor, Joe Torre, wouldn't have asked Jeter to sacrifice in the same situation that Mattingly faced with Uribe.
I know Earl Weaver wouldn't have.
And while we're talking about great baseball minds here, I wouldn't have, either.