"You Be the Coach"


The Situation - "Donnie On the Spot"

Toronto Blue Jays versus the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston

It is a scoreless game in the bottom of the first inning with nobody out. Donnie Sadler leads of with a triple to right centerfield. Damon Buford follows with a four-pitch walk. The count is 1-0 to the third hitter, Troy O'Leary, with Nomar Garciaparra on deck and Mike Stanley in the hole. On the 1-0 pitch, Buford gets a great jump as he attempts to steal second base. Darren Fletcher is the Blue Jay catcher.

The Question

Third base coaches - get your thinking caps on! Once you see that Buford is off for second, what do you tell Donnie Sadler to do at third base both before and after the catcher receives the ball? Be sure to give me your supporting reasons for your answers.

Here's WK's answer:

"You tell Donnie to stay close to the bag and fake like he is going to the plate. Why? With Buford getting a great jump to second base, Fletcher's only play would be to look at Donnie on third base. You also don't want to make the first out at home plate. With Troy, Nomar, and Stanley coming to the plate, we will have a great chance to get the runners in."

Here are some good answers from various coaches on the internet.

"I believe that Sadler should stay at third and try not to take home. I understand trying to steal second base, but in the bottom of the first inning, with three of your top hitters coming to the plate, there is no reason to try and take home."

Drew Hammond

"I would tell him to fake like he is going to the plate in order to get the catcher's attention, but to be careful doing it. He doesn't want to get picked off with Nomar and Stanley coming up. My hope would be to give Damon a better chance to get to second base."

Brian Fuller

"I hold Sadler at third. Even though it's only the first inning, I don't think Fletcher is going to risk making a throw to second since Buford got such a good jump and Donnie would be a threat to steal home once the ball is released.

I would want to know whether the pitcher is a righty or a lefty. O'Leary hits right-handers much better (30 points better) than southpaws. I would expect that once Buford successfully steals second, they might intentionally walk O'Leary to load the bases and have a play at the plate and outs at any base. I mean they could pitch to him and take a chance on it, but O'Leary also hits better (.300) with men on base than with bases empty.

Donnie will probably score anyhow. Nomar will hit the ball at least out of the infield and he can tag up, or better yet Nomar could simply hit him in. With no outs, it is a safe enough bet with the meat of the lineup coming up."

CATERBABY@aol.com

"I'd tell Sadler to make a start toward home, two quick steps and hold on the balls of his feet ready to move either back toward the bag or toward the plate. If Fletcher, the Jay's catcher, hesitates at all, it allows Buford to swipe second bag and Sadler can get back to third. If Fletcher doesn't react to Sadler's movement and throws to second, Donnie should take another step toward the plate when Fletcher releases to get a running start if there's a bobble or misplay while they're trying to nail Buford.

Given that the Jay's starting pitcher is a little shaky (a lead off triple, and five straight balls would shake most any starting pitcher), the Red Sox have some stellar RBI guys coming up with less than two outs, and the fact that it's the first inning and I want to get the goose egg off the scoreboard as soon as possible, I wouldn't be aggressive and try the double steal."

Kevin Caswell

"I have Sadler take a couple of steps off third, but I don't send him. If Buford is safe, I have two runners in scoring position with no outs. If Buford is thrown out, I still have Sadler on third with less than two outs which means that he can score on a ground ball to the right side as well as virtually anything hit to the outfield, especially considering his outstanding speed.

If Sadler takes off for home, there is the possibility of the pitcher cutting off the throw or one of the middle infielders taking the throw before second base and throwing Sadler out at the plate. Even though it's early in the game, I wouldn't want to run myself out of an easy run by being too reckless at this time.

It's easier to score Sadler from third with no one out or one out than it is to score Buford from second with one out."

Jim Monaghan

"This was a tough one! I imagine you could send Donnie as soon as you notice the throw going to second. With his speed he would have a good chance to make it.

However, I would play it conservative and hold Donnie because:

However, Sadler with his awesome speed should be prepared to bolt for home if it appears that the throw to second is bobbled at all or if Fletcher is not prepared to make the play at the plate."

Patty Morneault
Red Sox Fan living in Washington, DC

"There are no outs and it is only the first inning so you tell Sadler to take a small lead and when Fletcher throws to second, send Sadler a fourth of the way to home in case Fletcher throws the ball away. You don't send him home on a good throw because there are no outs and you are looking for a big inning. Even if Buford gets thrown out at second, you have Troy O'Leary batting and the way he's been playing, he will come through with a big hit or at least a sacrifice fly. Next, you have the A.L. MVP, Nomar Garciaparra, following and you know he'll come through so you are looking at a three-run inning or even more with Stanley batting after Garciaparra."

TOleary25@aol.com

"With Sadler on third, no outs, the runner getting a good jump, and Troy, Nomar and Mike coming up, hold Sadler on third unless the ball is loose in the outfield. Basic rule: Don't make the first out at third or home in the any inning. Probabilities are right now on your side - keep it there!

Keep sending those runners! {but not on this occasion}"

Steve Ferreira

"The key to this is that you say, "Buford gets a great jump as he attempts to steal second base." Sadler is pretty quick and can certainly cover the ground necessary to score IF the throw goes to second. Sadler needs to look as though he is either (a) the front end of a double steal, or (b) completely uninterested in the play to decoy the catcher into making the throw. In either instance, the catcher is likely to give the runner at third a glance. If it looks like Sadler is coming, he will likely fake the throw and try to catch Sadler leaning.

Generally, as a coach, I like the idea of having Sadler fake the sprint home and return to the bag (on or just inside the baseline to impede the throw from the catcher). This increases the odds that Buford will be safe and that Sadler will still be at third. This early in the game, with no outs, the odds are good that Sadler will score anyway. Men on second and third with nobody out is often better than the alternative results.

If the throw goes, however, so should Sadler. The risk of the shortstop cutting the throw is there, but Sadler is fast enough to make it to the plate anyway. A play we used when my brother-in-law pitched had him standing on the mound and me throwing at his head (without even a glance at the runner at third). He'd snag the throw and fire back to me. We caught more than one runner with this play, though I've never seen it done in the bigs. Still, it is an option some teams may try."

Rick Donnelly

"I would tell Donnie to get off the base and stand half way down the line. When the catcher receives the ball, I would tell him to dare the catcher. Can you give me the right answer if Im wrong (which I am, I think)?"

Gijs Hooftman from Holland (European champion baseball)

"I would tell Sadler to break for home after making sure that the throw from the catcher went through to second. The reasons I would send Sadler are:

  1. It's early in the game and the Sox should have plenty of opportunities to score as the game progresses.
  2. If either the ss or 2b takes the throw in front of the bag at second, ignoring Buford, and throws out Sadler attempting to score, there's still just one out with Buford in scoring position at second and O'Leary at bat with Nomar and Stanley to follow.
  3. If the throw goes through to second, Sadler scores, and, depending on whether Buford is safe at second or out, O'Leary, Nomar and Stanley are still going to get their at bat with a chance (if Buford was safe) for RBIs.
  4. This is Toronto we're talking about and sending a message to them early in the game, especially if it produces a scoring rally, might put them on the defensive for the whole series, if not the rest of the season!

That's my story and I'm sticken' to it! (But, I could be wrong.)"

MoreyJ3@webtv.net

"I would hold Donnie on third base because if Homer Bush, a very good middle infielder, cuts off the baseball and Darren Fletcher, a good defensive catcher, can get his leg in front of the plate, Sadler is toast. Let Donnie get a little walking lead and if the ball gets by the infielders, then Donnie will take off."

Darren Harrison-Panis Milton, Ma

"With a 1-0 lead, nobody out, and the power of the order coming up, I play this conservatively. At the pitch, I tell the runner at third to anticipate a passed ball and let him know of the steal on second. With the jump, I would have him take a step or two in if the third baseman is slow at covering. With a great jump stealing second, Buford may not need any help taking the bag. With the throw, I tell Sadlerto look for an errant throw to advance to home.

I would tend to play this conservatively with the runner on third. Worst case scenario is we have a runner on third, one out, and the meat of the order coming up."

Matt Bianchi

"I would hold Donnie at third, but tell him to fake the steal of home to get Darren to hesitate with the throw to second. With no outs, Troy ahead in the count, Nomar on deck, and Stanley in the hole, we have an excellent chance to get Donnie home."

Robert Welsh

"If I'm coaching third base, I'm telling Sadler to slowly creep down the third base line, anticipating a possible bad throw from Fletcher. I'm not telling him to break upon Fletcher receiving or releasing the ball, just anticipate. There's no sense in taking a risk so early in the ballgame with a runner in scoring position and the meat of the order coming up. Chances are that Buford doesn't get thrown out, so then we have second and third with no out rather than second and one out if Sadler gets thrown out trying to score on Fletcher's throw down to second. If it's later in the game and the score is tied, I might take a chance depending on who's pitching, but for now I'll play it safe and trust that the meat of the order will come through."

Micah Rockwell

"I would have Donnie act as if it is a double steal to freeze the catcher and give Damon a good chance to take the base. If the catcher doesn't bite, then Donnie could easily take home plate. I would do this because Donnie Sadler has tremendous speed and agility and he is always a threat to steal a base and the catcher is going to be on the lookout and probably let Damon steal the base."

Carla Papolio

Thanks for answering my situation. Be sure to include your name and where you are from with each response.

That's it for "Donnie On the Spot".

Good luck until next time!

All my best,

WK

Updated October 8, 1999