What’s the dumbest play in baseball? For my money, it’s the intentional walk. The entire point of playing defense in baseball is to keep the other dudes from scoring. The first step in that process is to keep them off the bases. And here you go putting a guy on intentionally? Yeah, I know all the arguments. You set up a potential double play, or you walk a really good hitter to pitch to a less-good hitter. Still, it’s possibly the most overused play in baseball, and rarely is it the right thing to do.
This video, however, just might be the best example of a time when it’s not obviously incorrect to intentionally walk someone. Runner on third in the home half of an extra-inning tie ballgame with less than two outs. In this very specific case, intentionally walking the batter (or even walking two batters to load the bases, as this team attempts to do) may actually improve your odds of winning the game. The two potential runs you put on base are completely meaningless, since the guy on third is the only run that matters. Now a ground ball likely gets some kind of double play and ends the inning. And if it doesn’t get two, there’s a force play at home that eliminates the need for a tag on a play at the plate.
But this pitcher fucks it all up. Take a look.
Wow. Just… Wow.
The pitcher has been tasked with possibly the easiest job he will ever be asked to do. Lob the ball eight consecutive times to his catcher, who will catch the ball significantly out of the strike zone, thus resulting in two intentional walks. And he blows it. Worse, he doesn’t just blow it. He chokes hardcore. Of the six pitches he manages to throw, half of them are not anywhere near where the catcher is standing. He finally throws a wild pitch and the winning run comes home from third. A wild pitch! During an intentional walk!
It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. The manager comes out to talk to him after he nearly throws the game away twice while trying to walk the first batter. I can only imagine how that conversation went:
Manager: “You OK man? Is your arm, like, broken or something?”
Pitcher: “What? No, I’m cool.”
Manager: “Because I asked you to walk the guy, not fucking throw two balls in the dirt and scare the bejeesus out of me. You think you can manage to walk this next guy without making me soil my pants again?”
Pitcher: “Sure coach, I’m good. I’m good.”
Manager: “Because seriously. I can bring in that goon in right field or something if you need it. You can go out there and just wait for four pitches if you want. Collect yourself or whatever.”
Pitcher: “Coach, I’m fine. I’m fine. I can walk this guy.”
Manager: “You sure? You got enough left in the tank to walk this guy?”
Pitcher: “I can do it coach.”
Manager: “…all right then. Go get ‘em!”