Rich Hofmann | It's not '70s anymore, especially in 'pen
THE MALE STREAKER made it all the way from left-centerfield to near second base before being subdued by a group of Citizens Bank Park security people, all of them highly underpaid.
THE MALE STREAKER made it all the way from left-centerfield to near second base before being subdued by a group of Citizens Bank Park security people, all of them highly underpaid. When the decision was made to handcuff the miscreant with his hands behind his back, though, there was a dilemma. Suddenly, highly underpaid became grossly underpaid - in every sense of the word - as one of the security people was forced to hold the guy's clothes strategically in front of him for the walk off the field.
So it was back-to-the-'70s day at the old ballpark. And after a game in which the Phillies lost to the Brewers, 3-2, the Phils were able to give Bruce Sutter the afternoon off. Er, Brett Myers.
"He says he was available," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. "If we'd have gotten ahead in the game, you might have seen him. Maybe."
It is time to gather around for a story, children. It is from the olden days, a time when nobody ever heard of a setup man. And you might not believe this, but Bruce Sutter, a Hall of Fame relief pitcher, routinely pitched for more than an inning per game. Really.
Seventh-inning guy, eighth-inning guy, closer - there was none of that. Sutter and people like him didn't do that. On a given day, they weren't the eighth-inning guy - they were your guy, that day's guy, out there to do whatever it took to hold on to the lead (within reason).
And, well, the way Manuel has used Myers lately, it gets you to wondering. Pulled from the starting rotation in April to fix a reeling bullpen, Myers was used in the 7 days from May 9 to May 15 for 6 1/3 innings in four appearances, two of them lasting two innings apiece. Save situation, not a save situation, didn't seem to matter. The imperative was simple and old-fashioned: win the game.
And it makes you wonder. Could Manuel be thinking of way-back-when? In 1974, he used to catch a reliever named Mike Marshall in the Dodgers' bullpen - and Marshall freakishly pitched in 106 games that year. Manuel nods when you talk about Sutter and Goose Gossage and names like that.
But, still . . .
"I know Brett is young, he loves to pitch, and he's strong," Manuel said. "I think about a lot of things, about giving him a bigger workload. But then I think about how we've got to have him day-in and day-out. That's a part of baseball that's changed. I don't want to overwork him.
"But I think about a lot of things, yeah," he said.
Back when, a typical year for Sutter was 1982. He had 70 appearances that season and pitched 102 1/3 innings. Forty-two times, he pitched more than an inning. Twenty-six times, he pitched two or more innings.
These days, a closer appears more often, but pitches fewer innings overall because the gods (and the people who keep the stats for salary arbitration and contract comparisons) demand that it be so. It might be the single biggest thing baseball fans today hate, this paint-by-numbers, seventh-inning guy/eighth-inning guy/closer thing.
But it is the way of today. If you look at the top 25 seasons for relievers, measured by saves, 24 of them came in the 1990s or later. Most of those guys didn't pitch even 80 innings. In the last seven major league seasons, only six times has a reliever pitched more than 100 innings. It is just a different mind-set.
The problem for the Phillies is that if you could find a way to use Myers like Sutter - fewer appearances, more innings - you would need to identify a secondary closer who can work reliably on the days when Myers needs to rest. That is Manuel's dilemma.
"You've used him a lot already," he is told.
"Right," Manuel said.
"You've used him too much already, truth be told."
"Yeah," Manuel said, laughing. "But I really was going to stay away from him today. You've got to remember, especially when you start to use him for two innings, that will wear him down. That will really wear him down. Twenty pitches is OK. But once you get to 25, 30, 35 pitches, you're really pushing it and he's going to get tired."
Myers wore an ice pack yesterday and didn't feel a whole lot like doing the historical-comparison thing.
"I think there are more guys in the bullpen now - that's one thing," he said. "I don't know about the rest of it. I just don't know. I've got no answers on this one. Whatever they want is fine. Throwing four innings in 2 days, I don't know if they did that a lot back then. If you start doing that, I'd think you would need a day off in there somewhere."
He is right, of course. You need that secondary guy. You can't use Myers in every ninth-inning save situation and also have him getting you six outs on the other days. If you want more innings from Myers, you would need to get them in fewer appearances - and you would need to flout one of modern-day baseball's most honored conventions, and also run a physical risk with a guy who had never pitched out of the bullpen before.
So that's it? So Bruce Sutter will never happen again?
"Sutter, Gossage, Mike Marshall, no," Manuel said. "But I think about a lot of things these days with Brett."