All-Encompassing Play of the Night

At the plate was Todd Helton, the signature player in Rockies history. But he never saw a pitch in the eighth, as Papelbon whirled and picked off Holliday.

"Probably will go down as one of the biggest outs of my career," Papelbon said.

It was not happenstance. Holliday was intending to steal – he confirmed so after the game – and the Sox had a strong suspicion he was going.

Gordon Edes deconstructs the Sox’ pickoff of Matt Holliday in his game story this morning, and it’s a fantastic piece of sports journalism.  Edes digs into the background scouting that led to Jonathan Papelbon’s dramatic eighth inning outfoxing of the Rockies’ MVP candidate.  The article shows just how little we fans know about what goes on in the manager’s and coaches’ offices, about how much work, mostly unseen, goes into every single game, into understanding the idiosyncracies of any given team’s opponents. It even exposes a little tactical self-awareness on the Sox’ part, showing their anticipation of how the Rockies might play this specific, late-game situation was based on an understanding of their own prior performance against the Angels.  That late pickoff, a potential game-changer, was the product of coaching, scouting, managing, and player execution.  In other words, a true team effort.

19 comments… add one
  • Great article by Gordon Edes, thanks for sharing it with us SF. You rarely hear about the long hours put in by the behind-the-scenes people, and this gives a great amount of insight.
    For the record, I couldn’t believe Holliday was going to steal. I’m surprised they didn’t use a pinch-runner, except of course the fact that if they DID tie it up they would lose their most valuable player.
    Of course, you have to tie the game up first before worrying about that.

    Atheose October 26, 2007, 12:11 pm
  • From the article:
    Okajima, the first Japanese pitcher to appear in a World Series game,
    Holy shit. Oki is the first? I feel so happy for him, especially after seeing how happy and honored he was when it was announced that he was going to the All-Star game.

    Atheose October 26, 2007, 12:14 pm
  • Great article! Thanks for sharing it!

    Chris SF October 26, 2007, 12:26 pm
  • The pickoff was amazing; I was pretty certain Colorado was sunk once Paps got that out.
    However, I thought that Lowell faking out the Rockies’ right fielder (what, I’m supposed to remember his name?) by rounding second leisurely, then burning for third once the fielder loafed on the pickup, was equally important.
    Meanwhile, the national media keeps harping on the “patient,” “take-and-rake” Sox offense. But to me the real story of the run to the playoffs has been pitching.
    The Sox only scored two runs last night, but they won. The Rockies have 2 runs in 18 innings in the World Series. And the Sox pitching shut down Cleveland, too, in the final 3.5 games.
    In other words, the Sox could have scored a lot fewer runs over the past five games and still be where they are. The starters and the pen have been phenomenal.
    It’s too early to even speculate, but who on earth could be the Sox MVP for this series? The team has been incredibly well-balanced.

    Hudson October 26, 2007, 1:26 pm
  • P.S. I don’t think it should be surprising that Holliday was planning to steal. He runs decently (11-for-15 in the regular season for steals, iirc), and there were two outs in a one-run game.
    The Rockies needed a man on second, so that they’d have a chance to get a run home on a single. Otherwise, they need a very long extra-base hit, a home run, or two hits to get Holliday home from first base.

    Hudson October 26, 2007, 1:29 pm
  • // The article shows just how little we fans know about what goes on in the manager’s and coaches’ offices, about how much work, mostly unseen, goes into every single game, into understanding the idiosyncracies of any given team’s opponents. //
    I wonder if this is a glimpse into how *all* teams work, or if this level of research and preparation is only typical of the top teams, or those with a major stathead culture. (I could see the A’s taking this approach, for example.)
    I mean, did every coach on every team in the NL postseason have a little card in their back pocket with information like “Holliday likes to try to steal second on the first pitch with two outs?”
    (I don’t see much evidence that the Rockies have effectively scouted the Sox… Though last night’s game was a squeaker, so maybe they’re getting their legs under themselves again. I’d expect them to have at least one breakout game at home.)

    Anonymous October 26, 2007, 1:41 pm
  • On another note: Papi looked like he was really struggling when he rounded third to score that run last night. I now completely expect to see Youks start Game 3, with Ortiz reserved for pinchhitting late if necessary in a clutch situation, or allowed to rest completely if the Sox have a nice lead.

    Hudson October 26, 2007, 3:49 pm
  • Hudson – I was thinking along those lines as well but read another article in the Globe wherein Francona said he was planning on starting Papi in Game 3 at least and probably Game 4 as well, bringing in Youk for his glove in later innings. Of course, I can’t find it now, so maybe take this comment with a grain of salt.

    Jackie (SF) October 26, 2007, 4:51 pm
  • It does appear that Papi is playing at least game 3.
    http://cbs.sportsline.com/mlb/story/10433649

    Rob SF October 26, 2007, 6:45 pm
  • It has been confirmed by Francona: Papi to start game 3

    Cape Codder October 26, 2007, 7:20 pm
  • Sorry for the double, that’s why once in a while one has to refresh the browser

    Cape Codder October 26, 2007, 7:22 pm
  • “…how little we fans know…”
    uh, speak for yourself my friend…how naive are you?…
    “…how much work, mostly unseen, goes into every single game, into understanding…”
    no, they don’t do any work behind the scenes to scout other teams and try to understand tendencies, strengths, weaknesses…it’s all smoke, mirrors, curses, and flukes…

    dc October 26, 2007, 11:26 pm
  • “…how little we fans know…”
    uh, speak for yourself my friend…how naive are you?…
    “…how much work, mostly unseen, goes into every single game, into understanding…”
    no, they don’t do any work behind the scenes to scout other teams and try to understand tendencies, strengths, weaknesses…it’s all smoke, mirrors, curses, and flukes…

    dcdc October 26, 2007, 11:27 pm
  • That’s odd, Irabu was on the World Series roster against the Padres, but we swept so he never pitched. For some reason I would’ve thought he did. Ah well.

    Lar October 26, 2007, 11:56 pm
  • Actually having watched the top of the eight a few times, it is easy to see that Holiday wasn’t running on the first pitch, he was running on the first MOVE, the replays clearly show him beginning his steal attempt just as he realizes Paps is throwing over. It’s actually pretty funny, Holiday’s whole body is moving toward second base for less than an eye blink but you can see him totally commit, then you can pratically see him thinking “oh F**K” and his whole body convulses then heads back to first about an hour too late.

    Brian October 27, 2007, 1:00 am
  • IN the postgame, Schilling credited the advance scouts for the pickoff.

    Tommy YF October 27, 2007, 7:45 am
  • The “All-Encompassing Play of the Night”?
    That would have to be Jacoby Ellsbury stealing a base.
    This has got to be the biggest stolen base of Ellsbury’s career so far.
    Thanks to “Tacoby Bellsbury,” everybody now gets a FREE CRUNCHY SEASONED BEEF TACO on Tuesday, Oct. 30, between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m!
    Talk about coming through big time in the clutch.
    http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/extras/extra_bases/2007/10/tacoby_bellsbur.html

    SoxFan October 27, 2007, 8:24 am
  • “Talk about coming through big time in the clutch.”
    Ahhh… shouldn’t that be
    Talk about coming through big time in the CRUNCH?

    Brian October 27, 2007, 9:34 am
  • I actually prefer “Tacoby Ellsburrito”, but that’s just me.

    Jackie (SF) October 27, 2007, 6:34 pm

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.