Why Bobby Cox can’t (and won’t) start Conrad in Game 4

There's no reason to inflict further indignity. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Managerial mercy required. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Well, I’ve slept on it (though not well), and I’ve decided: Bobby Cox cannot start Brooks Conrad in Game 4 of the NLDS tonight. This has nothing to do with baseball strategy. It has everything to do with human kindness.

Brooks Conrad is a journeyman whose journey has led him into the wilderness, and he can see no way home. It’s incumbent on someone (meaning Cox) to come rescue him. It isn’t that Conrad has developed Steve Sax/Chuck Knoblauch Disease, where he can’t throw straight. Poor Brooks is so confused he can’t even think straight.

We saw it last night even at those times he wasn’t making an error. He looked to second base before throwing — accurately — to first base, and in the game’s strangest moment he called off Derrek Lee to run over and catch a pop that should have been the first baseman’s all along. It isn’t that Conrad isn’t trying. On the contrary, he’s trying so hard he can barely remember where to stand.

Credit Conrad for facing reporters after the worst postseason game any Brave has ever had. (Let’s recall that Lonnie Smith ducked out after stopping at second base in the Metrodome in 1991.) But now it’s up to Cox. He has to do the right thing: He has to bench Brooks.

If that means playing Troy Glaus at third base and letting San Francisco bunt three times an inning, so be it. (The Giants are starting Madison Bumgarner, who’s a lefthander, so having Glaus at third — as opposed to Eric Hinske — makes a bit of tactical sense.) Omar Infante can move back to second, and Conrad can go back to being a pinch-hitter.

The important thing is to get Conrad in the dugout. He’s doing no one any good at second base, himself least of all. (His evocative postgame words: “I wish I could dig a hole and sleep in it.”) And there’s no percentage in inflicting further indignity on the tough little guy whose big hits helped get the Braves beyond Game No. 162.

He’s doing his best, but at the moment his best isn’t very good. I’m not certain what Bobby Cox will decide, but if I’m anything of a Bobby reader after 25 years of study, I’d say he’d made up his mind last night. This would not be a punitive benching, a Charlie-Finley-trying-to-deactivate-Mike-Andrews-in-the-World-Series thing. This would be an act of mercy.

Update: The Braves have announced their lineup for tonight’s game. Glaus is starting at third base. Conrad isn’t starting.

800 comments Add your comment

Mark Lemke

October 11th, 2010
9:35 am

blazerdawg

October 11th, 2010
9:35 am

Mark Bradley

October 11th, 2010
9:35 am

Lemmer grabs the kudos.

kent

October 11th, 2010
9:36 am

I actually felt sorry for him. I hope he can resurrect his career but he can’t play any longer this season.

Denny

October 11th, 2010
9:36 am

Denny

October 11th, 2010
9:37 am

Dang it. I read the article before posting

Brandon Bond

October 11th, 2010
9:37 am

I couldn’t agree more, all of this, there’s no crying in baseball!

how sad

October 11th, 2010
9:37 am

Tom

October 11th, 2010
9:38 am

the drop that should have been heywards was also a bad play. he should have been benched when he got his 3rd straight error in 3 games and not 7 in 6.

Matt B.

October 11th, 2010
9:38 am

We aren’t in the postseason without a couple of Conrad walk-offs, so let Cox show him some mercvy and let the rest of us give a break to a guy who was a bench player (and a good one at that) that is in way over his head.

jumper57

October 11th, 2010
9:38 am

Giants had great pitching last night, but the Braves gave the game away. We’d have fared better without a 2nd baseman and a manager. Trade Conrad to the US Census Bureau and stuff that petrified fossil, Cox, in a Cooperstown janitor’s closet. Pitiful pitching change decisions in the top of the 9th. Booby single handedly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Conrad’s three errors were just icing on the cake…..and it was Cox who left him in the game. He’ll be just as calcified tonight.

Rick S

October 11th, 2010
9:38 am

Totally agree- Glaus at third base and Infante at second- this only makes sense!

DeepDiver

October 11th, 2010
9:39 am

Poor old Brooksy. Dreams of a gold glove look like they’ve gone out the window…

roger harrison

October 11th, 2010
9:40 am

call mike andrews and let him play BC cannot and will not ever be a everyday player He is a total ding dong out there and the Braves can do better How about Dios where can he play Bc sux palin and simple and if I see his lame-ass starting tonite I am going to watch ANYTHING else

danny

October 11th, 2010
9:40 am

What a know-it-all

Hammer This!

October 11th, 2010
9:40 am

I agree Mark it’s in his head now. I can almost bet you he is out there saying “please don’t hit it to me”. But, if I had to bet, he is in the starting lineup.

81Dawg

October 11th, 2010
9:40 am

If Bobby has any sense left in him, please spare us and keep Conrad on the bench. Better yet, hide his glove so he can’t even think about getting on the field. I understand he helped us get to the postseason, but he has killed us this series. We may have one this thing in 3 without his errors.

vafalconfan

October 11th, 2010
9:40 am

If anyone can comfort and encourage this young man it’s Bobby Cox. I do however expect him to sit Conrad and I think Conrad would welcome the change.

Hammer This!

October 11th, 2010
9:41 am

Why didn’t Diory come in as a defensive replacement?

Phil

October 11th, 2010
9:41 am

Typical Bobby Cox post season managing. There is a reason he has lost more post season games than anyone in history. You clowns keep drinking the Bobby Cox Kool-Aid.

81Dawg

October 11th, 2010
9:41 am

won, instead of one.

Oregon Brave

October 11th, 2010
9:42 am

Good morning Mark. Look everybody, the sun came up this morning after all. I agree with you about Conrad, but something that mystifies me is how does the ball find the weak link all the time? How many chances did Omar get yesterday? How come the ball found Troy Friday night? Keep up the good work Mark, and go Braves.

meh

October 11th, 2010
9:43 am

I agree. keep him on the bench. then let him do is 8th inning pinch home run thing and just like that he’s feeling better about himself.

Ted M

October 11th, 2010
9:44 am

Cox should have left Kimbrel in the game because he is a strikeout pitcher. Cox should have known he couldn’t trust his infield defense. When you can’t trust your defense stick w/the strikeout pitcher.

Conrad should have a session with that sports psychiatrist Smoltz used to use. His head is messed up big time.

MitchC

October 11th, 2010
9:44 am

Mark, your analysis is absolutely correct. The problem is: Bobby, with all his accomplishments as a manager, often has one major fault: He can be too loyal to players.

I agree with you that benching Brooks would be an act of mercy. I hope, for what might be his last game as a manager, (although hopefully not) that Bobby uses his head, and benches Conrad. Unfortunately, it wouldnt surpise me if he was in the lineup. Mark Bradley isnt managing the Braves, and MitchC isnt managing the Braves, and, we aren’t inside Bobby’s head. What we would do, logically, doesn’t necessarially equate to what Bobby is going to do.

[...] a.m. New blog/column by AJC’s Mark Bradley on why Bobby Cox can’t start Brooks Conrad [...]

Blog comments are retarded

October 11th, 2010
9:45 am

Hammer This! Cox didn’t want to use his last position player, in case of extra innings.

DawginLex

October 11th, 2010
9:45 am

All the idiots who are bashing Conrad need to remember that the Braves are sitting home watching the Padres if it weren’t for Conrad’s grand slams as a pinch hitter.

I’d love to see him hit a pinch hit game winner and turn around and give the middle finger to the folks who booed him.

Ted M

October 11th, 2010
9:45 am

What was hurting Heyward after he hit the wall?

Russ

October 11th, 2010
9:46 am

I feel terrible for Brooks but he simply cannot be put out there again tonight. He will be booed by the fans which will just increase the pressure he will feel in the field. What we are left with is a bunch of terrible options but that’s what happens when you are faced with so many injuries.

Any word on what’s up with Heyward (and I don’t mean crashing into the wall)? Although I haven’t read anything about his thumb hurting him again but it must be! He hasn’t hit a ball hard since his triple on the last day of the season and it only has two homers since the beginning of September. He must be hurt!

THE CURSE OF DAVID JUSTICE WILL BE BROKEN THIS YEAR

October 11th, 2010
9:46 am

MARK BUT BOOBY WILL START HIM ANYWAY,I HOPE SAN FRAN BEATS US SO THAT BOOBY SEASON WILL FINALLY BE OVER WITH!

IF WE WIN THIS SERIES,BOOBY WILL MAKE MORE DUMB COACHING MOVES AGAINST THE PHILLIES,WE WILL GET BEATDOWN!

THE CURSE OF DAVID JUSTICE WILL BE BROKEN THIS YEAR

October 11th, 2010
9:47 am

THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT CONRAD ON THE MLB CHANNEL NOW,SAYING YOU DONT START HIM!

Milt Famey

October 11th, 2010
9:47 am

I agree. How about giving Diory Hernandez a start at 2B or 3B.

Douglas

October 11th, 2010
9:47 am

I don’t understand why Bobby pitched multiple pitchers in the 9th. You don’t make lefty / righty moves with your closer in there trying to close it out. I have never seen Billy Wagner removed when he lets a couple of guys get on in a save situation. Kimbrell’s fastball was unhittable and Bobby pulls him with 2 outs. Totally ridiculous.

Old School

October 11th, 2010
9:48 am

With all things being the same EXCEPT last night and tonight being regular season games, I have no doubt whatsoever that Bobby would start him. But because of the magnitude of last night’s and tonight’s game I would be shocked if Bobby sent him out on the field. Pinch hit him? Yeah, definitely but he won’t put him in the field unless Infante is injured or he runs out of players in the late innings— shudder the thought.

The first thought that went thru my mind when they did the closeup of Conrad immediately after his third error gave the Giants the lead was the late Donnie Moore, the guy who gave up the homer who kept his Angels from winning the AL pennant in ‘86. I felt the same thing after hearing his postgame comments. Moore was so depressed for the 3 years after his gopher pitch that he shot himself. Think he may have played for the Braves briefly.

Yes, you really can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. I cussed him at the moment, but just think, he will now be mentioned in the same breath with Bill Buckner for the rest of his life. That’s a heavy load to bear for anyone, especially for someone who is a really good guy from all accounts.

Phil

October 11th, 2010
9:48 am

Couldn’t hurt to try Glaus at 3rd. We could use his bat as well. Conrad is trying, can’t say he’s not. Got to try something different though.

Ted M

October 11th, 2010
9:48 am

The Giants are due to score some runs. The Braves are going to have to put 7 or 8 on the board to win.

JC Boscan IV

October 11th, 2010
9:49 am

I agree. The best thing for the Braves and for Brooks is for him to go back to his pinch-hitting role for the rest of the playoffs. But, “fans” should lay off of him, if they are truly Braves fans. Without his numerous big hits, the Braves never would have made the playoffs. I had been hoping that Troy Glaus would have been at 3rd starting with Game 1. Even with his mobility issues, we need SOMEONE in our lineup who is capable of producing some runs. How many playoff series MVPs do we have on our roster?? Not many, but Glaus was a World Series MVP. Maybe he’s got a little left in the tank…………?! (and please, keep Melky out of the lineup……and pretty please, don’t take Kimbrell out again if he has another chance to save a game!)

Braves73

October 11th, 2010
9:49 am

I am certainly proud of this Braves team as it’s obvious that they are clearly undermanned. What I am frustrated with (AGAIN), is the mind numbing stupidity of Bobby Cox. For those of us who are loyal,unbiased Braves fans, this was painful idiocy.

Now, I will Bobby credit for pinch hitting Hinske which was HUGE, but here’s what I just don’t get. Why do you pull your new designated closer (Kimbrel), with two outs in the ninth, to bring in a guy who has the same experience, but less STUFF to get batters out. Huff was having better success against lefties, and Boy genius brings in a pitcher who’s not as good as the one on the mound…DUMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Another huge point, WHY IS BROOK’S CONRAD in the game in 9th????????????? It’s obvious that Brook’s (who I personally think is a GREAT PINCH HITTER), should be replaced defensively with Diory Hernandez (who is a much better fielder). This is the true definition of a love-hate relationship…I love the Braves/Bobby, but I HATE HIS IN GAME DECISIONS!

THE CURSE OF DAVID JUSTICE WILL BE BROKEN THIS YEAR

October 11th, 2010
9:50 am

DAWGINLEX,REMEMBER CONRAD PINCHED-HIT,YOU NUTS KEEP COMPARING A PINCH-HIT HOMERUN,AGAINST FIELDING ERRORS!

P.S. IT’S HIS FIELDING THAT’S COSTING THE BRAVES THE WIN,HOW BOUT BOOBY JUST KEEP HIM AS A PINCHHITTER ONLY?

Toughnite

October 11th, 2010
9:50 am

Well said. I don’t see how Bobby can start him. However, how many times did we say that about Lockhart, Norton and others of Bobby’s “guys”? Very unfair to Conrad. This should have been a storybook rookie year. Bobby’s “loyalty” to ‘dirt” players has turned it into a nigtmare. That stubborness is the main reason 95 stands alone.One more frustrating day in a long line of them. Sad

Phillies, Class of the NL

October 11th, 2010
9:51 am

I feel horrible for the kid Conrad, he’s a good kid…

Herschel Talker

October 11th, 2010
9:51 am

MB:

Is it possible for Bobby to bench Bobby so that he doesn’t make more stupid decisions that cost us games? How come neither you nor Schultz will take him to task for butchering that 9th inning?

HT

Ryan

October 11th, 2010
9:52 am

Here’s why he can’t start him. HE SUCKS!!! There I just wrote the article for you.

yunel asscobar

October 11th, 2010
9:52 am

Mark – I agree completely and wish it could have happened before last night’s game. Some people don’t have the mental toughness to play on the big stage, in the spotlight, in prime-time. I don’t think though, that description fits Conrad. He’s been there and delivered this season, providing some of the year’s greatest highlights!

One of the things players love about Bobby is that he plays everyone; giving them time during the regular season, so they’re ready for the post-season. Bobby has positioned Conrad for success, getting to this point. Now, Conrad is pressing, trying too hard, and everything is tense, unnatural, out of synch. He’s not down in a fielding position, uncertain about where to go with a play, basically frozen – not unlike Ankiel in the series against the Cards several years ago.

Hopefully, Ankiel can come alongside and be the voice of experience in what has to be an excruciating time emotionally, for Conrad.

If only Hinske could play 2b!

Phillies, Class of the NL

October 11th, 2010
9:52 am

Bobby butchered the pitching replacements last night, he didn’t let anyone get into a rhythm, between the 8th and 9th inning he used what felt like 6 pitchers – meanwhile, Cole Hamels cooly and calmly went the distance in Cincinnati.

Phil

October 11th, 2010
9:52 am

Curse of David Justice,

Lay off the CAPS man, you’re giving me a headache.

Herschel Talker

October 11th, 2010
9:53 am

“Now, I will Bobby credit for pinch hitting Hinske which was HUGE, but here’s what I just don’t get. Why do you pull your new designated closer (Kimbrel), with two outs in the ninth, to bring in a guy who has the same experience, but less STUFF to get batters out. Huff was having better success against lefties, and Boy genius brings in a pitcher who’s not as good as the one on the mound…DUMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Another huge point, WHY IS BROOK’S CONRAD in the game in 9th????????????? It’s obvious that Brook’s (who I personally think is a GREAT PINCH HITTER), should be replaced defensively with Diory Hernandez (who is a much better fielder). This is the true definition of a love-hate relationship…I love the Braves/Bobby, but I HATE HIS IN GAME DECISIONS!”

Yes, can someone please answer this? Schultz? Bradley? Furman Bisher??? We’re all wondering how Bobby gets a free pass for this?

DawginLex

October 11th, 2010
9:53 am

Curse idiot,

Are you disputing the FACT that conrad won 2 games for the Braves with walkoff pinch hits? Without those 2 wins, the Braves are not in the playoffs, the Padres are.

Read you moron.

Milt Famey

October 11th, 2010
9:53 am

I know how he feels and BTW it wasn’t the beer, it was just a matter of location, Probably my mechanics. Just because I hit a batter in the on-deck circle doesn’t mean it was the beer.