Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stealing Third

In (what proved to be) pivotal Game Four of the 2009 World Series, Johnny Damon pulled the rare feat of stealing two bases on a single play. In the top of the ninth with the score tied and two out, Damon fell behind 1-2, before working Brad Lidge for six more pitches and singling to left field.

Running on the first pitch to Mark Teixeira, Damon stole second, and barely pausing proceeded to take third as with the Phillies' shift, the bag was uncovered. Several Phils could have covered the bag, and Damon probably wouldn't have gone unless he was absolutely certain he could make it. Lidge proceeded to meltdown (hitting Teixeira with a pitch, and giving up an RBI double to A-Rod), and the Series was gone.

The mistake was actually made by Lidge, as it was the pitcher's responsibility to cover third with the shift on. But Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins said:

"I'm the captain of the infield," Rollins said. "It's my job. … I didn't signal to Brad to make sure he gets to third on a throw. All you've got to do is take two steps in that direction and you stop it right there. But I didn't do my part in making sure he knew the defense we were in."

Why focus on a play that happened four months ago? The same sort of mental mistake just occurred in Massachusetts. As the NYT reported today, as of December 16th, Martha Coakley was leading Scott Brown by 13 percentage points(*); but inside the numbers (or "cross-tabs"), when the respondents were limited to just those "likely" to vote, Coakley's lead shrunk to just 3 points. Scary numbers for Dems, and encouraging ones for the GOP.

(*)-The Times cites a GOP poll, but presumably other public polls (and Dem polls) would have -- or should have -- shown the same results.

As the Times shows, the GOP and Tea Partiers, used the holiday season -- when Coakley went off the trail for at least six days -- to build up momentum quietly behind Brown. By the time the public at large -- and the media -- caught up to the campaign, the "Brown-out" had broken out. Momentum and likeability -- combined with a public race that really lasted just two weeks (shortly after New Years through last Tuesday) -- spelled doom for Coakley.

No one has played the role of J-Roll in the Democratic party. Instead, we saw the incredible scene of dueling quotes on Tuesday -- before the voting booths had even closed.

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