Boston Red Sox versus the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore
The Orioles lead the game 2-1 as the Red Sox bat in the top of the third inning. Nomar Garciaparra is on third base with one out and Mike Stanley is the hitter. Troy O'Leary is on deck. On the 1-0 pitch, Stanley hits a short fly ball to right field over the head of Orioles' second baseman Delino DeShields. The ball is about 180 feet from home plate and the only player with a chance to catch the ball is DeShields. The first baseman, centerfielder, and rightfielder can only expect to play the ball on a hop or two.
Third base coaches - get your thinking caps on! What do you tell Nomar both before the ball has been hit and after you see it is heading toward short right field? Be sure to give me your supporting reasons for your answers.
"Before Stanley even gets set in the batter's box, I have told Nomar to tag up on any fly ball or line drive. The infielders are back so I told Nomar if a ground ball is hit to the shortstop, second baseman or first baseman, to go home. Also be ready for a pass ball or wild pitch.
When the ball was hit, Nomar read and reacted and went back to the bag to tag up.
"Before the pitch, I would remind Nomar of the usual 3rd base situations:
With Deshields the only one with a chance to catch the ball, I would tell Nomar to tag up. Deshields' momentum would most likely take him a few steps in the outfield, making this a high percentage play. By the time he sets up and throws the ball, Nomar should be half way home. If the ball drops Nomar, would be able to get a jump as the ball is rolling."
"Here are my thoughts.
Before the ball is hit, I assume that Jimy Williams has these things thought out beforehand (i.e. go on contact if on ground unless directly at pitcher or hold up until ball gets through the infield). Personally, I'd send him on contact with one, as opposed to no outs though I'd take into account who is pitching for us and them. For example, with Pedro on the mound, I might play it more conservatively given my confidence that he can hold the opponent down, but say with Mike Mussina going for them, I'd be more aggressive as you might not get too many scoring shots against him if he's on his game.
After the ball is hit, I'm yelling for Nomar to get back and tag up. If it falls, I'm confident he can score no matter who picks up the ball. Since DeShields is the only one we judge can possibly get to it, I want Nomar tagged so he can score. DeShields will catch it going full tilt away from the infield and he doesn't have a great arm anyway so Nomar should score easily. TIE GAME!"
"Prior to the pitch, tell Nomar to tag on anything in the air. He'll have time to score on anything that drops. Since DeShields is the only one who can make the play and he's running away from home, tell Nomar to tag and go. It may be a close play, but in the third inning. it's still early enough to gamble."
"You have to tag-up and score him because that is a very difficult play for a second baseman to make (catch, turn and throw a strike with something on it to home). If he doesn't catch the ball, Nomar will score anyway because DeShields doesn't throw that well."
"As the third base coach, I would tell him if the ball is hit in the air to immediately come back to third. When I see the ball is not very deep and not a routine play, I would tell him to go halfway (not literally). If the ball is going to drop, he will be able to score. If the ball is caught, even if Deshields is going away from the plate, 180 feet is too close to tag. It is only the third inning. If he gets thrown out, you will have six more innings to tie or win the game."
"Before the ball is hit, I tell Nomar to take his normal lead. I assume he takes an additional extra lead after the pitcher releases the ball to the catcher. After identifying the hit, I make sure he is halfway down the third base line, but ready to come back if the ball is caught. If the ball is caught, he is told to return to the bag PDQ. If the ball is over the second baseman, he can jog home."
"I think that Nomar should run home because he has the speed to make it. I saw him run his butt of at the April 15th game, so I think he can make it."
"This is questionably a bloop single. Send Nomar halfway. If Deshields is indeed the most likely one to field the ball, it is to Nomars advantage. He will be fielding the ball moving toward the outfield. If he by chance catches the ball, Nomar must return to third. This is not bad since the number five hitter will be up next with two outs and a runner in scoring position. If the ball falls for a bloop single, Nomar can proceed home (it should only take him less than two seconds) from the halfway point because Deshields will have nothing behind the throw. Its a new ball game and the score is 2-2 with Stanley standing on second due to an overthrow to home (and one out)."
"Before the pitch, I'd remind Nomar to tag up on anything hit in the air. On this play, I'd definitely have him tag up. If DeShields makes the catch, he's likely to be moving away from the infield, so it'll be tough for him to spin and make an accurate throw to the plate. He doesn't have the strongest arm in the world anyway, so it's a good chance to tie the score. If it doesn't work, it's only the third inning so there's plenty of time to get the run back later."
"Because there is only one out, if Stanley makes an out, there's still a chance to score on an O'Leary hit or a wild pitch/passed ball. Before the ball is pitched, I'd tell Nomar to run if Stanley hits the ball on the ground to the second base side of the infield and to hold if it's hit on the ground on the left side of the infield. On a fly ball to the outfield, I'd tell him to take a short lead off third. With his speed, he should be able to score on any fly ball of medium depth or deeper or if the ball is a clean base hit. After seeing where the ball was hit, you have to assume Deshields will catch the ball. If it does drop in, Nomar will score easily. If Deshields catches the ball, he will be facing away from the infield with his momentum taking him further into the outfield. Making a throw home with any accuracy or strength in time to throw out a tagging Nomar at the plate is highly unlikely. Knowing this, I'd tell Nomar to stay on the bag, watch the play, run if the ball drops in, or tag if the ball is caught. Even if Deshields makes a great play and throws Nomar out, it's still only the third inning of a one-run ball game and with their offense, the Red Sox should have more opportunities to score as the game progresses."
"Nomar's the tying run, but it's early, so I'd be more aggressive than I would if it were the 7th inning or later. Another consideration is that Nomar isn't very fast, but he might not have to be, because DeShields has a weak arm even though he has above-average range. Before the pitch, I tell Nomar the usual stuff: Make sure that liners go through, stay on a groundball unless it goes through, listen to me on outfield flies.
When the ball is hit and I see that DeShields is the only one that could possibly catch it on the fly, I've got Nomar tagging and going all the way. If the ball drops and it looks like an outfielder (Belle or Anderson) is going to get involved, I hold Nomar because they've got adequate arms and their momentum is toward the play. O'Leary is a good combination contact and RBI man who is a fly ball hitter so I don't worry too much about the double play. Why not bring him up with runners on the corners with one out? Throw me in that briar patch!
If DeShields doesn't catch the fly, he's absolutely not going to make any other play. His back and momentum is away from the plate and he doesn't even have enough arm to throw you out at first on balls up the middle, let alone a 180 foot throw or more. If the first baseman (Clark or Conine) is going to pick up the ball, I send Nomar. Even though they have better arms than DeShields, again, they're going away from the play, it's early, and it's a reasonable risk.
Bottom line: I only hold Nomar if an outfielder picks up the ball. I tag and send him on a fly caught by DeShields, and send him straight if anyone but an outfielder picks up the ball."
Thanks for answering my situation. Be sure to include your name and where you are from with each response.
That's it for "A Green Light for Nomar".
Good luck until next time!
All my best,
Updated April 26, 2000