This is how great relationships are established between sports writers and managers. I always tell every manager with whom I work to feel free to ask me about anything I write. At the same time, if I have a question about strategy, I need to feel free to be able to ask the question.
In 18 seasons of covering minor league baseball, there’s only been one manager in the Modesto clubhouse who couldn’t stand to be asked questions about strategy, but the truth is that I seldom ask such questions, and I can think of only three instances where a manager disagreed with my right to write something.
With that in mind, I did have a question for Modesto manager Don Sneddon following Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to Visalia.
The situation was this: trailing 5-0 in the fifth, the Nuts had runners at first and second with nobody out. In my mind, they sorely needed a big inning to get back into the game, but the decision was made to play for a small inning.
Chris O’Dowd tried to move the runners up with a bunt, failed, and ended up popping out to third base. Wilson Soriano followed by grounding into a double play and that was that.
With the Nuts so obviously scuffling on offense right now, my question for Sneddon was why play for the small inning in that situation. His answer? They played for the small inning BECAUSE they’re scuffling.
“You’re trying to get the runners over there,” Sneddon said. “We’re trying to get a couple runs in right there so we don’t have to make up five all at once later. You can’t play for a big inning – we haven’t had one all year. We’re just trying to cut the deficit.
“We’re more of a one-run, two-run per-inning club, not a five-run, six-run club, especially in this ballpark. We’re just trying to get runs on the board as soon as we can. We were hoping he’d get that bunt down in that situation.”
It was a very interesting answer and one that perhaps reflects the renewed emphasis in the Colorado organization on manufacturing runs. O’Dowd may have failed in getting the runner over in a situation that in the big leagues would never be greeted with a bunt (unless the pitcher was batting.)
On the other hand, it’s a play all minor league players are going to have to learn to execute regularly as they move up the ladder, and if they’re going to fail, it’s better done in Modesto than in Denver.