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Soup of This Day #184: Moats And Boats And Waterfalls

May 27, 2012

Michael Schumacher at Monaco in 1992
Michael Schumacher driving for Benetton in Monaco for the 1992 edition of the most famous of F1 races. He would finish 4th that day in his F1 debut on the claustrophobic street circuit. The 7-times World Driver’s Champion has had a mixed but mostly good record on the storied streets of the Principality since then, winning 5 times and failing to finish on another 5 occasions – Photo: Iwao, 1992. Iwao is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I believe that the smartest folk are those that know just how smart they are not. As Harry Callahan once said:

‘A man’s got to know his limitations.’

Which may seem a little glass half empty, a little negative. It’s not meant to be – We all of us should be able to celebrate what we do know, our core strengths – What Harry Callahan is telling us punks is that we should also be able to know when we’re treading into territory that is not really our forte, particularly when there is someone waiting in the wings to handle it like a pro.

Take baseball for instance – A pop fly goes up right between you in left field and Jenny in right field. You can both make the catch because both of you are well positioned. Jenny however is a much better catch than you – For you it’s a nerve-wracking lottery while for her it’s like shelling peas. Some folks will tell you that the courageous thing to do is to call for the catch anyway, to not shirk the challenge. Others though will remind you that for the team it’s best to call yourself out and let Jenny do what she does best. The former is brave but reckless while the latter is knowing your limitations – It’s the smart play.

I’m well aware of my limitations at catching pop flies.

Sometimes though as a sports fan it’s easy to get caught up in the action as an armchair critic. You can watch play develop and convince yourself that you would have seen that error coming, would have worked out the correct angle to approach that problem.

I find myself doing that with the 3 teams I follow, the Boston Red Sox, Fremantle Dockers and Liverpool FC. I’ve watched them a fair bit, even played the same sports, so from time to time I fancy myself as a bit of an amateur expert.

There was a great example this morning. The Red Sox were trailing the Rays 1-2, bottom of the 9th at Fenway. Daniel Nava had worked a lead-off walk off of 6 pitches from Rays closer Fernando Rodney. Next up to the plate is Kelly Shoppach. The former Rays catcher had a double off his last hit and is in reasonable form.

Bobby V pulls him, pinch-hitting with Nick Punto.

Punto is at .135 off of his 37 at bats for the season. He reeks of bad form and is pretty much the last person I’d have stuck in there. I’m a little surprised – Maybe Shoppach is injured. He must be, I think – Why else would you send in Punto?

The Punto who can’t hit right now.

The same Punto who sac bunts, advancing Nava to 2nd on the 1st out.

And this is where it begins to make some sense – Because the nominal next on deck is Marlon Byrd. Byrd has a better batting average than Punto but I figure the margin is pretty thin (It’s not, Byrd is hitting at .273 but is well down on slugging) – You wouldn’t be relying on Marlon to bat you out of a hole. To be honest I’m not entirely sure that I want centre fielding Marlon underneath that example pop fly I talked about earlier either but that’s a whole other matter – Mostly because at this juncture the Sox are in a hole that only a big bat can get them out of.

So Bobby V pulls Byrd, pinch-hitting with Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Salty is hitting at .268, by far the best of the bats left on the bench. His OPS is at .853, significantly above Byrd’s (.620) thanks in no small part to the 7 home runs he’s smacked (Byrd has just 1).

He’s also a catcher.

So what Bobby V has done is sacrifice the fragile Punto on a runner advancing bunt while switching over his catchers (to the better slugger) and he’s done that while avoiding having to rely on Byrd (who isn’t much of a slugger). It’s still a gamble, a long-shot even, but the odds have shifted a little more back towards Boston, not just on the next play, but for the 1s to come – Say for instance Salty, doubles in Nava – Well, then they have a tie and Salty is available to catch off of whoever is next on the mound, while Punto can give you options as a utility – You won’t be relying on his hitting for another 7 at bats so you’ve added some strength there.

Which you don’t need because Jarrod Saltalamacchia takes an 0 and 1 pitch from Rodney and places the ball a couple of rows back behind the bullpen in centre.

And then the plan makes perfect sense because the Sox walk off with a 3-2 win.

I would not have gone that way. I would have just looked at Shoppach vs Punto and gone with the bat on form. I probably would have taken out Byrd but I don’t know that Saltalamacchia would have been the guy – He’d never hit a walk-off home run in his career to date.

I think I might have learned a little more about 1 of my limitations.

There are a couple of key sporting contests left in the day – In a little under an hour the Dockers take on the Eagles in the 35th Western Derby (Pronounce Dur-bee, with the ‘dur’ bit as in the ‘tur’ in turn). The Dockers (10th, 5 and 3) are the underdogs against a West Coast outfit (2nd, 7 and 1). Later on this evening Mark Webber will start from the front of the grid in the 70th running of the Monaco GP, the most prestigious and storied of the F1 races. Webber wasn’t the fastest qualifier – That honour fell to the 43 year old Michael Schumacher who pipped Webber with the last run of the day. Sadly for the German driving legend he has a 5-place penalty in play from the last round and so he will start from 6th.

I hope to be watching these events but I reckon I’ll view them with a little more balance and introspection now.

A man does have to know his limitations.

Moats And Boats And Waterfalls

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