(Photo Credit: Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)
Tempers were flaring once again among many fans of the Dodgers on Saturday night, this time with a large group showing sympathy for Rich Hill after being yanked during a quest at perfection, while another lot was steadfast in backing skipper Dave Roberts‘ choice in making the controversial decision to remove him. Social media was a mess — supporters of the club were deeply immersed in the conjecture, so much so that many overlooked the stellar performances of Joc Pederson and the Dodgers’ offense, which was a driving force in winning another key game in the battle to maintain the lead in the NL West.
Personally, my phone was making a lot of noise after Joe Blanton came on to pitch in the eighth inning, but I refrained from jumping into many of the conversations, mostly because I thought the paramount issue was the bullpen sealing the victory. And besides, an opinion from a wannabe writer who thought at one point the A.J. Ellis deal would destroy the club’s chemistry, who opined the bullpen was an ugly mess and who thought the offense had no way of sustaining itself for the entire season probably isn’t worth much, anyway.
Roberts, Rick Honeycutt and Bob Geren are very qualified for their esteemed duties, and should be respected for their in-game decisions rather than seeing a ton of fans playing general manager for hours on the Internet and fighting off self-inflicted blood pressure rises over meaningless arguments.
The history pundits explained that never before has a pitcher been lifted from a perfect game with at least seven innings pitched. While that may certainly be the case, it could also be true that never before has a pitcher missed almost two months of a season because of a measly blister on his index finger. To make matters worse, quite a few bloggers said that this decision was critical for the Dodgers moving forward if the team wanted to ensure its hopes of winning a World Series. Seriously, a World Series? This statement could hold a bit of truth, but the primary focus right now is maintaining a rotation good enough to win the division and securing a spot in the postseason.
It was only a few weeks ago, before the return of resident ace Clayton Kershaw and during a time that Hill couldn’t heal, when stalwart Kenta Maeda was leading the rotation and was backed by a handful of unproven rookies.
Now, heading into the middle of September, a playoff rotation of Kershaw, Hill and Maeda seems like it would have a decent chance at faring well in a NLDS scenario. That being said, the decisions and judgments by Roberts and his crew to give Maeda an extra day of rest, to yank Hill during a perfect game or to pull Kerhsaw after just three innings in his first game back are simply attempts in preserving the optimal chances of a successful run down the stretch of the season.
With all of the usual suspects — Brett Anderson, Alex Wood, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-jin Ryu — still on the disabled list and not showing much promise of returning, the big three of Kersh, Hill and Maeda may be the Dodgers’ best hope of winning the divisional crown.
And there’s absolutely no reason to question the coaching staff’s decisions to keep that particular trio’s well being and health concerns at the top of the priority list heading into October.