Just as he did last year, Frank Robinson took his old, withered fingers and clamped them around the throat of this struggling team, again strangling the life out of it until defeat had been snatched from the jaws of victory.
With a three-run lead in extra innings, all Frank had to do was get three outs. Didn't happen. And it's because Frank manages like his pants are on fire, and as if he's deathly allergic to relief pitching.
The Nationals only have two effective relievers: Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch. The rest stink to various degrees. Since Cordero had already pitched beautifully, keeping the team in the game so that they could even get to this point, bringing out Rauch was the right move.
Rauch struggled a bit, allowing back-to-back singles, but got lucky when Ryan Freel tried to stretch the second into a double and was thrown out. Two outs. That's all he needed, and the tying run still wasn't at the plate.
So what does Frank do? Sure, he calls for the bullpen, bringing in Felix Rodriguez. FRodo has an ERA over 5, and hasn't been able to consistently get the ball over the plate. A single and a walk later, and what had been a few loose bundles of dry wood was now a raging fire.
So what does Frank do when there's a raging fire and Ken Griffey at the plate? Sure, bring on the arsonist. Joey Eischen has a feckin' ERA of 10!!! TEN! He's pitched 10.1 innings and has allowed 14 runs!!! He's not fooling anyone.
Only in Frank Robinson's senile old mind is replacing a guy with a 0.92 ERA with a guy with a 5.59 ERA and replacing HIM with a guy with a 9.58 ERA logical. WTF Frank? WTF?
Joey Eischen, who god willing is making his last appearance in a Nats' uniform, gave up the game-losing homer, and we all go home miserable. (We bypassed the numbness)
This is the same mistake Frank made last September in the game against the Padres which my therapist has done wonders to help me forget. If you play reliever roulette, you're eventually going to find one having a bad night. Rauch wasn't sharp, but you had a bit of a cushion to play with. Why hurry to get him out of the game when Felix Rodriguez has been so inconsistent? It just doesn't make any sense. By the time that FRodo coughed up baserunners, bringing in Eischen for Griffey was almost automatic, and you can't really fault Frank for that.
But it shouldn't have come to that.
Frank ALWAYS overmanages. He has to have HIS footprint in the game. Whether it's bunting in odd situations, strange combos of pinch-hitters, or just general intimidation of the opposing team, it's all about HIM. Just let the goddamn players play, Frank.
Thanks to the gutter politics played by certain scumbag politicians in this city, you can't fire him. But Frank is a prideful man. I hope he realizes that he's killing this team. Killing them with his managing decisions. Killing them with his lack of motivation. Killing them with his inattention to detail. I hope he resigns.
Go home, Frank. Enjoy your family while you still have your health. This team isn't a good match for you.