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McKeon steals the thunder

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Another similar article on McKeon's philosophy when it comes to running.



http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/basebal...ports%2Dmarlins


HYDE: McKeon steals the thunder
Published May 28, 2003


There are more than a few ways to see the difference between nice-guy Jack McKeon and nice-guy Jeff Torborg. For one thing, there's the cigars McKeon loves ("Any kind, any time," he says). For another, there's the fact he'll discuss a mistake by a Marlins player rather than sugarcoat it the way Torborg always did ("Why pretend?" McKeon asks).

And now for the biggie:

"We're not going to try to set the stolen-base record," McKeon said. "Who cares about that kind of record?"

He reaches over in the dugout Tuesday afternoon, and taps you on the leg to underline his point -- yet another difference between the former and current Marlin managers. McKeon likes to tap listeners in a friendly kind of way to punctuate an idea.

"I don't like to give away outs, especially with our middle hitters coming up," he says, tapping your leg again.

Let's pause here to put the Marlins' offseason blueprint run through the shredder. But it's about time someone inside the club admitted this philosophical flaw, isn't it?

The Marlins lead the majors with 70 steals. That's more than double every team in the National League. It looks good. It sounds fun. It's exactly what Torborg envisioned, too. He'd go on and on about it, typically throwing in a story about the old Dodgers and how they won with pitching, defense and speed.

McKeon has a story, too.

"I managed for Charley Finley in 1977-78, and he put in the rabbit," McKeon said. "[Juan] Pierre and [Luis] Castillo are what he'd call rabbits. On my bench that year, he gave me four pinch runners -- no bats, no situational players.

"Just rabbits.

"He said to me, `We don't have good pitching, we don't have good hitting and we don't have good defense. But we're going to steal the pennant by running.'

"He wanted to steal every chance. And if you didn't send someone the phone would ring in the dugout. Finley would be on the other end saying, `Why didn't you send him?'

"So I began sending them, even when I knew they had no chance. He wanted us to run, and we ran. But we didn't win. You see, it's not all about running.

"Running is a part of the game. But you've got to be smart about it. You don't just run for the sake of running."

You see, the dumb flipside to the Marlins leading the league in stealing is they also lead in being caught stealing 27 times. That's nearly double every team in the league, too. That means 27 times in the era of the juiced ball, pumped players, downsized ballparks -- however you want to say it -- that Marlins runners have taken the bat from Marlins hitters. And at-bats are too valuable to let that keep happening.

This isn't exactly revolutionary thinking in baseball. Most teams follow it.

Statistical guru Bill James has been saying for years that stolen bases and sacrifice bunts are two of the most overrated statistics in the game. That's why lots of people scratched their heads at the Go-Go Marlins' blueprint.

It's all borne out, too. The Marlins are first in the National League in steals and 10th in runs scored, which lest we forget is the stat that matters.

This is hardly a numerical figment, too. Pittsburgh is second in the league in stolen bases and 13th in runs. Milwaukee is third in stolen bases and 12th in runs.

Or, to view the same picture from a different angle, Toronto leads the American League in runs scored and is last in stolen bases.

McKeon says Castillo and Pierre still have the green light to run. But, again, it's pretty clear that running doesn't translate to winning. The Marlins don't have a stolen base in the past four games. They've won them all.

The big problem for the Marlins isn't so much the pitching injuries. At least not yet. It's this run-run blueprint. General Manager Admin Beinfest put a premium on running and defense over hitting. Pierre is one example. Todd Hollandsworth replacing Kevin Millar at the same salary is a better one.

Thing is, even with getting a combined two home runs from their Pierre and Hollandsworth, the Marlins rank fifth in the league with 59 homers, in good part because of first-quarter MVP Mike Lowell. McKeon sees this. And so he says the Marlins way to win will be with pitching, defense and, um, situational hitting.

"We've got to cash in on all the little opportunities because we're not a club that can put five to six runs up every inning," he said. "And those home runs will be add-ons. We can hit some, and we'll take them. We'll run, too. But we'll run smart."

He taps you on the leg.

"I like to run. I like to be smart, too."

Dave Hyde can be reached at dhyde@sun-sentinel.com.
 

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The big problem for the Marlins isn't so much the pitching injuries. At least not yet. It's this run-run blueprint. General Manager Admin Beinfest put a premium on running and defense over hitting. Pierre is one example. Todd Hollandsworth replacing Kevin Millar at the same salary is a better one.

That's the "big problem"? The running blueprint? What kind of a dumb statement is this? Pierre in place of Preston wasn't done because the team wanted to be faster, it's because they wanted to be cheaper. That's not an example Dave Hyde, try again.

Hollandsworth replacing Millar is a better example, but we're slowly beginning to see that despite Hollandsworth's awful start, the two may not be all that far apart offensively. He's easily a much better defensive player than Millar too. And while I would still probably take Millar if I had my choice, this is not the "Big Problem" Hyde calls it.

Also a dumb statement is that the Marlins lead the league in being caught stealing with 27 times. Well it's pretty obvious that if you steal more than twice as many bases as any other team, you're going to lead the league in being caught also. Oh wow, they "took the bat out of Marlins hitters hands 27 times." So maybe they get 8 or 9 extra hits out of it. How many games would that have changed at this point? 1? 2 tops? That's the "big problem" with the Marlins?

Try again Dave Hyde. I didn't necessarily think that the run-&-gun approach would take the team to the playoffs either, but these guys write about it like it destroyed the team or something. Stupid....
 

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