Yes, we can all smile when a baseball game devolves into a seventeen inning contest and the managers have no choice but to pitch position players. Isn't it cute that Chris Davis and Darnell McDonald pitched? One did well and got the win. The other did not do well at all and earned a crash and burn loss. Yes, we all want to see the video highlights of this little side show. But the assumption here is that the managers had no choice. Is that accurate?
There is some concession here when a team is getting blown out and does not want to tax its pitching staff. The game is already out of hand and what the heck, right? But even making that concession, there is some concern that putting position players on the mound are toying with those players' health. You are asking a guy who doesn't normally pitch to do so and arm injuries could result. Isn't that what happened to Jose Canseco? And usually such an event means that the guy tasked with pitching is usually one of the last people on the 25-man roster. Darnell McDonald certainly fits that category. Aaron Miles is that kind of player. So that concession is made with some reservation. You are not going to risk injury to one of your "good" players.
But with a game on the line? Seasons can be won or lost based on one win. The Boston Red Sox finished only a game out of the playoffs last year. Is that a proper time to pitch a position player? Hardly. Again, the assumption is that the managers, Buck Showalter and Bobby Valentine, had no choice but to go with position players when they did. That is an argument that does not sit well here. Couldn't you go with the starting pitchers slated for the next day and then make a roster move for a day to cover the next day's starts? Felix Doubront could have been called upon and Showalter could have gone with Brian Matusz. The object is to win a game and worry about tomorrow...tomorrow.
It is hard to argue with Showalter because Chris Davis got the job done. He pitched two scoreless innings and won the game. Showalter comes across as a genius here. Chris Davis is not one of the last players on the Orioles' roster. He is a central figure in the Orioles' offense. That is a huge risk to take with one of your important bats. Bobby Valentine was not so fortunate. Darnell McDonald was crushed and took the loss. It was a loss the Red Sox could ill-afford to add to their already sorry win-loss record. And yet Valentine threw in the towel and felt that hoping against hope that McDonald could get major league hitters out was his best option at the time.
It wasn't. The game was on the line. A season is in the balance. Every game is important and when you have a chance to win, you have to go for it--tomorrow be damned. Valentine chose not to go for the win. He threw in the towel. That is unconscionable.
Position players pitching is cute. But not with the game on the line. Not in a seventeen inning tie game. Not when a victory was still possible.