Jeff Banister returned to his soap box Sunday morning, asking the media for the second time this week to ask him about a game decision that riled up Texas Rangers fans on Twitter and, yes, some in the media.
Two media members politely declined the manager’s invitation to talk about the bottom of the 11th inning in Saturday’s 11-3 win. Another, though, took the bait and asked the question Banister wanted to answer: Why did he elect to pitch closer Shawn Tolleson with an eight-run lead after he had pitched a high-stress 10th inning?
Banister didn’t take 10 minutes, as he did Monday in defending the decision to pull Martin Perez at only 80 pitches in the ninth inning. Only seven minutes and change.
He gave a thorough answer (take a deep breath): Tolleson had pitches left, Sam Freeman and Spencer Patton weren’t available, he wanted have long man Anthony Bass available for Sunday, he didn’t want to put rookie Luke Jackson in a potentially tough spot, he didn’t want to give the Mariners a chance to rally and get a spark for Sunday, the Rangers are still in the option window for pitchers they had just sent down and couldn’t recall them if an arm were to be needed, the Rangers lost a five-run lead to the Mariners with two innings to play April 19 at Safeco Field.
Most importantly, and this is his strongest argument, the Rangers needed the win.
“Tolly still had pitches to throw, and at that time based on where we were in the bullpen, given the emotional rollercoaster of that game and where we’ve been in this ballpark before we had a very similar situation where we had a five-run lead and watched it dissipate, those players out there needed their best on the mound to close the game down,” Banister said.
“I know that it’s not the conventional thought process for whoever wrote the Modern Book of Managerial Strategy.”
Luke Jackson shouldn’t feel slighted, Banister said, by a move that essentially said that a guy just called up the major leagues can’t be trusted with an eight-run lead. When asked what the ideal situation is for Jackson to make his debut, Banister said that can’t be planned and that it will just happen.
“I know everyone wanted to see Luke Jackson in the game,” Banister said. “This does not send any message whatsoever for him not coming in the game. This is not about Luke Jackson. This is about winning ballgames, shutting the door on ballgames.”
There’s no disputing that, with the Rangers in the hunt for the postseason. Banister can’t be faulted for doing he believes is necessary to win a game.
Again, though he can be faulted for responding to criticism after most people have moved on. Baseball doesn’t stop for anyone or anything thing as petty as a late-game decision that people questioned.
But he asked to be asked about it.
He’s the manager. He shouldn’t be concerned about what the fans or media think, just his players, coaches and the front-office folks and ownership.
If he can’t stand a little heat after a quality win against a sub-.500 team in August, just wait until a bad loss while in the hunt in September or, at some point, in the postseason.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760