“Roy Oswalt kept throwing baseballs to those Japanese hitters,” laments the New York Post‘s
Brenda Mike Vaccaro after Team USA’s 9-4 semi-final exit at the hands of Japan last night. “Davey Johnson, the manager of the team, kept seeing what everyone else was seeing, saw the Japanese cuffing Oswalt around. And he did nothing.” If you’re to believe the game analysis of ESPN’s Joe Morgan, Johnson is answerable to concerns of Astros fans, who presumably want nothing more than to see Oswalt throw batting practice on national television.
“Maybe I could have gotten Grabow up a little sooner,” Johnson later would lament. “But I really thought Oswalt was throwing the ball pretty good. I felt good about what he was doing out there.”
If anything, there may be odd comfort in Johnson copping to a bad strategic decision, rather than one mandated by outside influences. Earlier in the tournament, it was clear that Johnson allowed Jake Peavey to absorb a vicious pounding from Puerto Rico in order to serve his second master: allowing his players to “get their work” in what remains prime spring-training time.
It was just one of a thousand reminders that no matter how cool this tournament may be and it is and how good for baseball it might be – and it is, with tonight’s Korea-Japan game sure to be a wonderful scene that will be viewed, maybe, by 62 U.S. citizens it needs the U.S. to be a powerful source, a constant presence.
This was at least better than 2006, when the U.S. failed to even qualify for the final four. But throughout the U.S. stay in this WBC, even when it flashed the potential of what the event can be with their dramatic ninth-inning win against Puerto Rico last week, there has remained a backdrop of alternate concern: keep everyone healthy, keep them on track for Opening Day. Keep their routines.
Which is why it looked so dreadful for Johnson to stick with Oswalt, when it looked like a chance at the finals was being sacrificed in the name of reaching a pitch count. For what may be the first time in baseball history, it turns out that it was a good thing that a manager simply was managing poorly. Rather than irresponsibly.