Hindsight is Watching Leaks Spring Forth From the Dam
The Johnstown Flood
This is a story about the 2020 Tampa Bay Rays and Game 6 of the World Series.
In 1879 a bunch of rich men, including Andrew Carnegie, wanted to create a pleasure lake. They found an abandoned earthen dam in western Pennsylvania and restored it. The birth child of this newly restored dam was Lake Conemaugh. The rich men, who called themselves the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club, stocked the lake with fish and took to sailing about and enjoying their sport.
Meanwhile, 14 miles down the road was the small community of Johnstown. Some of the people in Johnstown were unsure of the repurposed dam. They inspected the dam. Many imperfections were found and the imperfections were dismissed.
May of 1889 rolled around and with it came heavy rains. Lake Conemaugh filled and filled and filled until it topped the rickety dam. Messages were sent to Johnstown of the impending doom, but the messages were ignored because they’d heard about the unstable dam before and nothing catastrophic had happened. The dam eventually collapsed and sent 20 million tons of water rushing at Johnstown.
Over two-thousand people perished as a result.
131 Years After the Johnstown Flood, Mr. Snell Has A Day
Blake Snell was having an amazing day on the mound. Through the first five innings of game 6 of the 2020 World Series, he struck out nine, gave up one hit, zero walks, and managed to shutout a Los Angeles Dodgers lineup that resembled a modern-day Murderers’ Row. That’s right, Snell was living every pitcher’s dream.
Then the bottom of the sixth inning came around:
A.J. Pollock led-off the inning with a pop-out to Brandon Lowe at second. One up, one down. Good start.
Then Austin Barnes stepped in the box. Snell gave up a line-drive single to center. Okay, not bad, righ–
The answer is yes. It is and did happen.
Mr. Cash Fills up the Dam by Raining on Snell’s Parade
Calamity ensued. The first sign that things were going south was Snell’s vocal response to being pulled. It shouldn’t be repeated, but let’s just say that his choice words might require a bar of soap to give his debased mouth a cleaning. It’s not just Snell or Cash that felt the negative energy, it was the entire team.
The next sign of an impending upheaval was the relief pitcher, Anderson. As the saying goes, you don’t mess with a streak, good or bad, and Mr. Anderson was having a taste of the latter. In each of his last six outings he had let up at least one run. Not really the first place a manager should go if the World Series is on the line.
So what was the deal? Why did Cash pull Snell when he was obviously on a roll? Analytic inclinations are the answer. Cash and the Tampa Bay Rays are a team that relies heavily on the analytics game. Their numbers told them that exposing a starting pitcher to an opposing lineup for the third time around is bad. So, Snell was out and Anderson was in. And while analytics play a huge role in the modern, or as some people are calling it, the post-modern game, they are not the whole game. Yes, baseball is a sport obsessed with numbers, but it is also filled with heart. One must balance both to attain immortality.
The result was, as I’m sure most already know, not great for the Tampa Bay Rays. Anderson came in and promptly gave up a double to Mookie Betts, sending Barnes to third. Then Barnes tied it up on a wild pitch by an already rattled Anderson. Betts scored on a fielder’s choice, and after getting Justin Turner to fly out to deep left, Anderson’s day was done. He didn’t even finish the inning. So much for analytics in this case.
The Dodgers would go on to add an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, but they didn’t need it. They went on to win the game and the 116th World Series.
The people of Johnstown ignored ten years of signs that the dam was faulty. The dam collapsed and many people died. Five years later the town was rebuilt and the good people of Johnstown moved on with their lives.
The Rays ignored heart and relied on analytics. They lost the World Series and are sitting at home thinking about what they did wrong. Five months from now they will be back on the diamond, having moved on with their lives.
This is not a story of failure. It is a story of learning, rebuilding, and continuing on in the face of adversity. Cash and the Tampa Bay Rays made a mistake, they neglected heart. They relied on what they already knew and disregarded the warning signs. While analytics have their place, heart has its place as well. It’s time to rebuild the dam with a little more stoutness. The people of Johnstown carried on and so will Cash and the Rays.
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