When Eli Whiteside came into a 9-2 game, it was almost amusing. It was the perfect situation for Buster Posey to make his major league debut. Posey would probably catch pitchers he was familiar with -- Alex Hinshaw, Dan Runzler, Waldis Joaquin -- and there wouldn't be a high-stress, tying-run-on-third situation that could possibly embarrass the rookie.
Nope. Whiteside. He's had some fantastic moments, don't get me wrong. Usually, backup catchers aren't noticed, and if they are, it isn't a good thing. But Whiteside's had a few well-timed hits, and he's had more than a few well-timed defensive highlights. Still, he's a backup catcher's backup catcher. He's a fringe guy; every organization has five Whitesides.
Forget the idea that Posey should start over Bengie Molina. Like it or not, Molina has been the team's cleanup hitter since Barry Bonds left. He caught a Cy Young winner last year, and he's caught the best pitching staff in the majors this year. Starting a rookie in September over Molina only makes sense in nerd world. I'm the duke of nerd world, so I happen to think it's a fantastic idea, but 99% of the baseball world would think Bruce Bochy went nuts if he sat Molina for Posey in September. Give up that fight.
But if a team wants to win, there just isn't an argument for playing Whiteside over Posey. Even a former backup catcher like Bochy has to know that no matter how well Whiteside handles a staff, no matter how defensively sound Whiteside is, Buster Posey gives his team a better chance to win. Whiteside's minor league career suggests that he's closer to Matt Cain than Bengie Molina as an offensive force, and that isn't hyperbole. For Posey to give back all of the runs on defense, he'd have to use a lacrosse stick to throw and catch. Posey might be rough around the edges, but he's still a professional catcher.
At first, I thought Bochy really was concerned that Posey would come in, allow six passed balls, throw 15 balls into center field, nail his pitcher in the head with a return throw when the pitcher wasn't looking, and punch an umpire in the throat. Like, not trusting a rookie catcher was some macho rite of passage thing that only catchers would understand. Pay your dues before you have anything handed to you, kid. That's still stupid -- if a player can help you win, you play that player -- but crappy logic is at least a kind of logic.
It's clear, though, that this has nothing to do with ability. My guess:
- Someone upstairs -- of the bow tie variety or the goatee variety -- thought Molina might be out for a while, or they thought he needed a fire lit under his ample buttocks.
- Posey was called up.
- Bruce Bochy, a player's manager, thought that was disrespectful to Molina. In order to keep Molina's support, and the support of the veterans in the clubhouse, Bochy was willing to get into a tinkling contest with the mysterious someone upstairs by not playing Posey. Ever. Under no circumstances. Not in a blowout, not in a close game. Not as a starter, not as a defensive replacement. Not on a boat, not with a goat.
Is that close? There are probably more than a few key details missing. But it has to be close. Bochy's answer for why he put Whiteside into the blowout -- that he wanted to "keep Whiteside fresh" -- was the lie of a man who didn't have a better lie lined up. Whiteside caught 12 innings on Sunday. He didn't need to be kept fresh; he needed a day off. By not putting Posey into today's game, subtlety just went out the window. What was once a secret pissing match is now an obvious act of defiance. You can give me this rookie. But you can't make me play him.
It's a fascinating development. I always thought that Bochy's return was inevitable. Like a Hall and Big-Headed Oates, Sabean and Bochy would remain an inseparable, if unfortunate, team. But this bizarre refusal to play Posey makes me think that Bochy's really not seeing eye-to-eye with someone important. There's something going on. And it's hurting the team.
Buster Posey is, at the very least, the second-best catcher on the team. Absolutely no one should dispute that. By playing another catcher over Posey, Bruce Bochy is gambling that his fist-in-the-air solidarity with Molina is more valuable to the team than the difference between Whiteside and Posey. It might have already cost the Giants a game on Sunday -- maybe Posey could have bested Whiteside's 1-for-5 performance. So hopefully the improved veteran morale will give the Giants wins in games that they otherwise would have lost, and maybe the off-field improvements will trump any potential on-field improvements.
That might happen. It's possible, I guess. It's just a really silly way to run a baseball team.