It starts casually. Maybe you’re at a party, and someone offers you a right-handed hitter to put in the lineup against a left-handed pitcher. It makes some sense, and, hell, everyone else is doing it. Why not? So you do it, and there’s a rush when that right-handed hitter gets a hit. Exhilarating. Unreal.
You start to pull left-handed hitters in the late innings if they’re facing lefty relievers. It’s still cool – you know tons of managers who aren’t affected at all by recreational platooning. Like, Joe Torre used to switch lefties out in the late innings all the time, and he won all those championships. He was able to maintain, and he could still platoon.
Suddenly you’re pulling a left-handed youngster out in the fourth inning because a left-handed pitcher comes in with the bases loaded and no outs. That’s a little extreme, sure, but you still know you don’t have a problem. Seriously, you know you don’t. You’re not like those freaks who pull right-handed hitters against right-handed pitchers. I mean, my god, those people have a problem. I mean, some people can smoke heroin and be just fine, but when you start injecting it, that’s when the line is crossed. Same thing. When you start messing around with right-handed platoon players – say, like, sitting a cagy veteran like Rich Aurilia because a right-hander is on the mound – now that’s when you’ve gone too far.
You’ve crossed over from recreational platooning, for sure, but you’re confident you can still "maintain" with daily platoon match-up use. Friends and family are starting to worry. They can see the warning signs. They point out that certain left-handed hitters can actually hold their own against left-handed pitching. You brush them off. C’mon. Platooning helps you deal with real-life lineup problems. It isn’t just a bunch of passive wishing. You need to platoon. Just because Nate Schierholtz was able to hit lefties in the minors doesn’t mean he could do it in the majors.
Then it happens. A left-handed pitcher – one of the all-time greats, age be damned – is on the mound. You feel the itch. But you don’t have a right-handed outfielder to fill in! What are you going to do? John Bowker is left-handed (…you start to breath a little heavier…) and Nate Schierholtz is left-handed, and he’s even a little banged up (…palms sweaty….) Dave Roberts is a veteran, but, oh god, he’s left-handed too (…mouth dry, eyes darting wildly….)
So you put an infielder in the outfield to make sure that Ivan Ochoa gets at-bats instead of a left-handed outfielder. The non-outfielder misjudges a ball in the outfield, and this leads to a loss. It isn’t just any loss, though, as it’s only the fourth loss of the season for your Cy Young candidate. All to make sure Ivan Ochoa would get at-bats instead of Dave Roberts or John Bowker.
Ivan Ochoa. Ivan Ochoa. Ivan Ochoa. The name rings over and over in your mind as you slink down in the parking lot, leaning up against a dumpster, with your eyelids heavy, you don’t remember sitting down, but here you are, and oh god, you’re melting into the pavement, so tired, a warm and slow trickle of blood moves across your upper lip, oh god, your heartbeat rattles inside your ribs, pounding but growing fainter. Fainter. Fainter.
Rock bottom. But you survived, Bruce, and that’s why we’re here. We know you can kick this. We know, that if you stand here and look us all in the eyes, and see how much we care about this franchise, you won’t be able to hide from the truth. You have a problem with platoon match-ups, Bruce Bochy. It’s easier to make blanket generalizations about lineups, we know. But sometimes, putting a left-handed hitter against a left-handed pitcher isn’t the end of the world.
You can do this, Bruce.
Kick the habit, Bruce. Make a new life for yourself.
We love this franchise. We love rooting for this team. We want something to root for. Help us find that something.