Starting Buehrle was right move in long run
The idea was that after Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle completed his needed two innings to reach 200 against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, he was going back to the mound for the start of the third.
At that point, fellow starters David Price, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada and Marcus Stroman were going to visit the mound as a group, show their support, and then the five would have left the field together. It may sound a little hokey, but it demonstrates the real respect his teammates have for Buehrle.
To a man, they supported manager John Gibbons’ decision to have Buehrle start on just one day of rest.
“By Gibby allowing Mark to do that, and us still having something at stake, I think that shows you how much respect he had for him,” Dickey said. “That spoke for everything. There was still something on the line, but what Mark has done in his career is just . . . I thought it was pretty awesome.”
There are times in life when, as a leader, you have a chance to sacrifice the short-term to gain something bigger in the long-term. Such seems to be the case with the Jays manager, who showed respect for an athlete and demonstrated some real humanity in dealing with Buehrle, even though he was going against the grain of public opinion with first place in the AL still on the line.
But the bottom line, gleaned from touring the clubhouse in the wake of a12-3 loss to the Rays on Sunday, is that Gibbons has gained profound respect from his clubhouse as they head into the first playoff series for the franchise in 22 years. What he gave up in the short-term possibly was home field advantage for the ALCS.
“Listen, if you can give me somebody that’s better we could’ve started,” Gibbons asked rhetorically of what would have been a game started by Drew Hutchison, with help from the bullpen. “Then of course I stand by it. (Buehrle’s) a warrior, he gave it his best shot. We make a couple plays, it might be a different story. The guy that has had the career he is, he was running on empty to start that game anyway. I didn’t think you could leave him out there.”
Gibbons had finalized his decision on Saturday, not merely to ask Buehrle if he wanted to go after the two innings in Sunday’s start, but to urge him to accept the assignment in order to record the two innings he needed to extend his streak to 15 consecutive seasons with 200 or more innings.
The 36-year-old left-hander accepted, despite just one day’s rest, having started and won on Friday at the Trop. Buehrle became the first major-league starter to go on one day or less of rest since Zack Greinke with the Royals on July 7-8, 2012.
“Again, I put myself in position to be in that spot,” Buehrle said of needing the two innings. “It meant everything to me for (Gibbons) to call me in and tell me ‘If you’re feeling OK, go out there.’ Sad thing, I felt better today than I did on Friday, better than I’ve felt in the last month, month and a half. This game is crazy. I didn’t feel great on Friday and went 62⁄ and today I felt great
3 and they had to take me out in the first inning. It’s a weird game but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
No, it did not work for the Jays. Buehrle was let down by his usually solid defence and squeezed at key moments by umpire Alfonso Marquez. The Jays needed to win and have the Royals lose. With the Royals beating the Twins, in the end, did it even matter.
If Gibbons can be criticized — which he always can — for anything in allowing a two-game lead over the Royals to slip away in the final five games it would be for shutting David Price down or for not fielding his ‘A’ team in the second game of a doubleheader in Baltimore when the AL East-clinching partying had not yet even started.
Gibbons knew he was not going to use them in the noon game on Thursday and could have asked them to play Game 2 because of what was at stake. But once those decisions were made, move on.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball because of all he’s done for such a long time,” admiring teammate Jose Bautista said. “Obviously it’s unfortunate he didn’t get it done, but he deserved a shot. I really don’t want to get on social media or start reading articles about how that wasn’t the right move. I don’t even want to hear it. So I’m going to be the one to step ahead of all of that and say that man deserved that shot he got today to get 200 innings.”
Buehrle was emotional after the game. His wife, children and parents were at games all weekend to offer their support. He also revealed that contrary to social media rumours, he has not decided if Sunday was his last game and also informed media he had been told he was not on the playoff roster but would be the most supportive player in the dugout.
“It’s tough, it sucks, but I understand the situation,” Buehrle said. “I haven’t been throwing great the last month and we’ve got four guys who have been throwing the hell out of the ball. They’re going to take it and run with it. I’ll be ready if something happens.
“I’m disappointed, but they made the right decision.”
Meanwhile, not one player complained about Buehrle’s failed outing and the decision to let him try.
They support their manager, probably with increased respect.