When Dave Roberts Shut Down Rich Hill, We All Felt It


Take a look at these numbers: Major League Baseball has existed for 140 years. More than 210,000 games have been played over that span. There have only been 23 perfect games thrown. Last night, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill was on the cusp of becoming only the 24th man in history to accomplish that feat. And then his manager, Dave Roberts, stopped him cold.

The skipper pulled Hill just when he could see the top of Mount Everest. Someone else would be planting that flag on the peak. He was yanked after running 23 miles of a marathon. Someone else would cross the finish line. He had won nine rounds, but he had to remove the gloves, and let someone else finish the fight.

That’s the rub. Baseball has its stars, but above all, it’s a team sport. In basketball, one player can score 40 points and win the game. In baseball, even someone throwing a perfect game needs players behind him to play flawless defense and make spectacular catches – like Yasiel Puig did – to keep the quest alive. Apparently, the Dodgers are going to ride that team concept all the way, in the biggest way possible.

In the eyes of Dodgers’ management, Hill’s individual accomplishment was outweighed by the larger team goal – to win a World Series. My brain can certainly see the logic in that, but my Dodger blue heart felt Hill’s disappointment at not being allowed to finish, almost as though it were my own.

Lots of us felt that way. The immediate reaction to Hill being pulled was flames shooting from my Twitter app. Dodger fans across the board were falling out of their chairs, dropping their beer glasses, and generally losing their minds.

We all knew we were seeing something special. And we all felt the momentum building toward Hill making it to the highest baseball peak. He had struck out the side in the 6th frame, and in the 7th, Yasiel Puig made a fantastic, almost impossible, catch to preserve his pitcher’s perfect game (talk about being a good teammate).

That’s why we all felt kicked in the collective blue gut. Like Hill, we were starting to taste that perfect game. We were on the mound with him. We were all sharing that dream that was coming into reality. Only baseball does that to you.

Many of us grew up dreaming about hitting that World Series winning home run, or of pitching that perfect game. I dreamed it because baseball is the only sport where many of the athletes look like regular-sized people. I wasn’t going to grow up to be a 7-foot-something point guard, or a 240-pound running back with lightning speed. But I could see myself as a light-hitting second baseman who catches lightning in a bottle in one magical moment. Thus, it wasn’t such a reach to imagine myself in Hill’s baseball cleats, and to feel some of his frustration.

Regardless of the logic behind the decision, Hill was cheated out of something incredibly rare. He was that close to the goal – and he earned the right to win it or lose it. A fellow Dodger might have made an error, or a Marlin could have gotten a hit, but Hill was in control of his destiny about as much as one could be. He was making steady progress, and then his manager took the ball away. It wasn’t his night, because the boss said so.

dave-roberts

After the game, Roberts and Hill gave conflicting stories about Hill’s blister-plagued finger. Roberts said the finger was building “heat”. Hill said he felt nothing unusual, and his finger was fine. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt was asked what were the mitigating factors behind pulling Hill. Honeycutt gave a long answer that didn’t list a single one. When he was further pressed on Hill’s status, Honeycutt said Hill was physically fine. There was nothing wrong.

The Dodgers will move on with another win in the column – a team win. Because that’s how the boss wanted it.

 

 

 

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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30 thoughts on “When Dave Roberts Shut Down Rich Hill, We All Felt It

  1. Well Puig was at it again, causing clubhouse discontent. If he doesn’t go all out and make the catch, Hill would have had a 1 hitter after 7. No controversy. But noooooo. Puig has to make one of the best catches I’ve seen. Yeah he’s a real knucklehead.

  2. I am always disappointed when Puig is not in the starting lineup because as long as he is on the field, we have a good chance of seeing something spectacular. I hope that that catch and the fans’ reaction give him some fire in the belly to carry over to impact his hitting.

  3. “I think there’s a bigger picture here and we all know what it is.” — Rich Hill

    Rich Hill was flirting with immortality and I had a sinking feeling when he threw his last pitch. I didn’t want Hill to come out – I wanted to give him a shot at immortality, but I knew Roberts HAD to take him out. To me there was no question. My heart said let him stay. My brain said no way.

    I thought Chad Moriyama said it best:

    “Me? I wanted to see Hill get the opportunity to try.

    But that’s also me as a Dodgers fan, knowing how rare it is to see a perfect game and wanting Hill to get what I thought he deserved. Roberts? His job is to try to win a World Series, and if they’re gonna do that, then they’re going to need Hill healthy.

    As much as I would’ve liked to seen if Hill could induce a couple of quick innings just for the sake of history, I also understand that he’s making his third start off the DL, that he has chronic blister issues, and the reason he’s not signed somewhere for $200 million is because he’s historically been made of glass. Roberts will be harangued for the decision, but I do understand it from his point of view.

    Doesn’t mean we have to like it, but saying it makes no sense simply isn’t dealing with reality here, especially given that many of the same people complaining about this were likely complaining about Hill basically missing all of August injured.”

    To pitch a perfect game Roberts was going to have to let Hill throw well over 100 pitches and face the strong possibility the Dodgers might lose Hill for a few more starts with blister issues.

    No thank you immortality of a Perfect Game. I’ll take the immortality of a World Championship, Thank You.

    Interestingly, many who complain about this decision also complained about FAZ, Roberts, Hill and predicted disaster for the team. Leaving Hill in the game might have short-circuited the pursuit of that World Championship!

  4. Lost in all the controversy is that Walker Buehler threw two scoreless innings with no hits or walks and 1 strikeout. He now has logged 5 innings and has struck out 5 in his comeback from TJ.

    Kyle Farmer played 3B and was 3-4 at OKC. I don’t know what to think about Kyle. This guy doesn’t have great power, but he has started showing me he can hit.

    Cody Bellinger was 2-4 with another bomb.

    Micah Johnson has been on fire in the playoffs (.412). I still find him intriguing, but he hasn’t progressed much this year.

    1. Also lost in the controversy was the fact that Puig was playing LF instead of RF his usual position. Had he been playing RF I don’t believe that ball would’ve been caught by anyone else.

  5. I don’t think you deny a 37 yr old pitcher the opportunity to do something so few have done when his pitch count was still low. I understand it especially with Stripling but I don’t agree with taking that away from him and his teammates.

  6. Odds are against Hill seeing seven perfect innings under his belt any time soon, However odds are a thousand times better he’ll be more useful in what’s left of this season and a better chance of doing something special post season. We all felt like the chance to see something extra-extraordinary was ripped from our sights as well as the man making it all possible on the mound, but his personal issues are covered by a paycheck that determines his value as part of a team. A perfect game counts the same as a narrow win and now hours later it’s easier to look at with less emotions. The manager did the job at what is best going forward and we all need to respect that sort of wisdom. Good spur of the moment call Mr Roberts!

    1. What controversy?

      Roberts made the right call with Hill, just like his call to put Puig in leftfield.

      And from the begining of spring training, Roberts has tried to make everyone of his players, buy into playing as a team.

      And really a perfect game comes not only from a pitchers
      Performance.

      The team has to do everything right, to help a pitcher pitch a perfect game.

      And any Dodger fan would know that a perfect game, is only posible if a team plays perfect on the field too.

      Because Kershaw would have a perfect game, if the rest of the team, were not a factor.

      And in Hills seven perfect innings, there were some good plays, to keep Hill’s performance perfect.

      So when Roberts made his decision to pull Hill, he had to think what was best for the team.

      And why would Roberts do anything different, after having these players play as a team, and buy into the team concept.

  7. A poster on an earlier thread had a trenchant observation, although it was not perhaps clearly articulated: prior to the SABR revolution and the constant concern about pitch counts, there is no way that Hill exits the ballgame.

    He had only thrown 89 pitches. He was still pitching effectively. The cant about the “hot finger” was rebutted by Hill himself. This was about pitch counts.

    No pitcher had ever been removed this deep into a perfect game. Roberts’ decision was inconsistent with the whole of baseball history. And you have to go pretty far out on a limb to say “No thank you immortality of a Perfect Game. I’ll take the immortality of a World Championship, Thank You.”

    Really – you know that the Dodgers will win the Series because of this decision?

  8. It’s a sucky situation. Only Rich Hill himself and the vets on the team can make sure it doesn’t ruin our run to the division title.

    We don’t know if the blister would have returned in the 9th. We don’t know if allowing Hill to get to the 9th may have cost him 2-3 weeks again. We don’t know if taking Hill out early ensures the Dodgers get to the World Series. What we do know now, is that we really need Hill if we want to go deep, because our staff is an injured Kersh, an injured Hill, a delicate Maeda, a overused Urias (according to his innings limit thing), and Jose DeLeon, who we all love. It’s a tough situation for Doc.

    I continue to believe he made the right call, but it sucked that he had to make it. It is what it is. Now let’s go win today and take this series.

    Today’s lineuup:

    Utley
    Reddick
    Seager
    Agone
    Grandal
    Joc
    Ethier
    Howie
    Maeda

    1. Like I said last night, how can any Dodger fan question Roberts decision.

      Hill has had continual blister problems, and was on the DL almost as long as Kershaw was, for a heriated disc.

      The Dodgers traded three young prospects, to get Hill to be there number two pitcher, to help get the team further into the play offs this year.

      And because of that, Roberts couldn’t chance letting Hill pitch any longer, and get another blister, that could keep Hill from pitching in the post season.

    2. Well I like that Roberts has Howie batting eighth again.

      Because when Howie was batting eighth before, he was hitting and driving in runs.

      And other then that one game, that Howie had five hits, he hasn’t been hitting much lately.

      I do have mixed emotions about Ethier getting a start, but let’s see what happens.

      And let’s see what Reddick can do batting second, because even though he was getting hits, he hasn’t really drove in many runs.

      And he had no hits yesterday.

      Maybe Roberts just wants to see how Ethier does.

      But I still wish Toles would get another start.

  9. Here’s what I see:

    1. We can disagree about whether it was the right decision or not – I understand both arguments. I would have liked to see Hill get a perfect game. He told Roberts his finger was fine. That I am sure of! Do you really think it was? I don’t believe his arm had two more innings and I don’t believe his finger was OK. The dude spins the hell outta’ the ball and a high humidity environment (Florida), is the hardest on blisters. Do you really think a pitcher with a chance to pitch a perfect game is going to tell you anything but what they want? Even after the game…

    2. Do I think the Dodgers will win a series because of THIS decision? Not just because of this decision, but partially because of this decision. What I do think is that they will not win without Hill and that pitching more could have well put the Dodgers in a situation where they would not have him.

    3. With all due respect, Rick, you are a guy who doesn’t like the fact that FAZ traded for Hill. Is there any personal reason you don’t want to maximize his impact for the team?

    1. Mark, I was and am not adverse to making a deadline deal. The Dodgers had/have one commodity in abundance: right handed minor league pitching. we can argue the merits of whether, in trading their #4, #5 and #13 prospects they gave up too much for two 2 month rentals, but I assume that the Braintrust decided that Holmes was not making the progress that they were hoping for, that Cotton would never be all that, and that Montas might not ever recover from his first cervical rib issue, so I do not have an issue with the three guys that they traded.

      Hill has pitched brilliantly for the Dodgers (in a small sample to be sure). He has only pitched 3 games and hasn’t been much of a help during the pennant race so far in reality. The Dodgers got him August 1 and he has pitched THREE GAMES IN 42 DAYS.

      Reddick hasn’t been a help either. He is a better ballplayer than he has shown during his tenure with the Dodgers, but really, did they need another lefty hitting OF with platoon splits?

      My present beef with the acquisition of Hill has to do with his unavailability to pitch for most of the past month plus. My beef with those who are chomping at the bit to resign him have to do with the fact that he is 37, has pitched a full season exactly ONCE in a 12 year major league career, and that I have had enough of the strategy of constructing a starting rotation by signing the old and infirm. This years’ crisis in the rotation (and it has been exactly that) is due to the fact that the McCarthys, Anderson, etc. of the world are likely to be injured almost every year and the Dodgers built their rotation on them. So now we are to offer 3 years and $45MM to a guy who has thrown over 100 innings exactly once in a 12 year career?

      Obviously, since they have Hill now and he is pitching great now, they should get what they can out of him. But does that mean that we should ignore baseball tradition?

      Here’s a hypothetical – you compare Dave Roberts to Smoky Alston and Tommy Lasorda – do you think that either one of them would have lifted Hill after 7 perfect innings?

      1. I don’t know about Lasorda, but Alston would have had him pitch with blood coming off his finger. Alston ruined a few guys. I think in the same circumstances, Tommy would have taken him out, but I can’t speak for Tommy. Maybe Tommy will speak about it.

          1. the pitch count issues used today are quite different from the 80s and early 90s. Guys just threw more pitches then, without the fear of overuse that exists today. It’s not a fair comparison to use that baseball mentality to today’s mentality.

            What would Tommy Lasorda, at age 54, and a first year Dodger manager in 2016 have done if his blistered pitcher had a perfect game after 7 innings and 89 pitches, when that pitcher hadn’t thrown 90 pitches in 3 months, his trainers told him that the blister on that middle finger was getting tender, and he’s had 28 guys hit the DL, and humidity factors in Florida are not conducive to blisters? I don’t know. Nobody does.

  10. One final thing before I head downtown to the Colts game:

    We are seeing history in the making:

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    The team was disappointed, much like when Kershaw went down or when AJ was traded. But this will be just like those situations – This will be a stepping stone, not a stumbling block!

  11. Do you remember the last time the Dodgers had four players hit 30 HR? I do. It was 1977 and Steve Garvey hit 33. Reggie Smith hit 32 and Ron Cey and Dusty Baker both had 30.

    This year, the Dodgers will like have 5 players hit 20+ HR – Adrian Gonzalez needs 3 more to make it 5, but there is a long chance that Justin Turner (26 HR), Yasmani Grandal and Corey Seager (25 HR), and Joc Pederson (22 HR) could hit 30. They would have to finish out strong… but it is possible!

    … and to think one person who has left this board, said the Dodger wouldn’t have anyone who would even hit 20 HR! That was a major miscalculation on his part!

    1. Actually Mark, Karros , Piazza, Mondesi, and Zeile his 30 in like 1996 or 1997 as well.

      I think Mondesi hit his 30th on the last day of the year

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