Kendall bounced one to third, and my thoughts briefly brightened. This could end the inning with no damage. Bautista cleanly fielded the ball, but I winced as I detected a slight hesitation before he fired to second. Nevertheless, his throw easily beat the runner for the out. Freddy Sanchez received the ball and headed towards the dugout. Confused, my eyes jumped to the top of the screen. Yes, it did indeed show only two outs. I looked back down as the camera focused on Corey Hart. He had just crossed the plate and looked as puzzled as I felt. It was only the second out, and the Pirates had missed an opportunity at an inning-ending double play. Sanchez, having realized his blunder, flipped the ball back to Maholm and returned to his position with his eyes focused squarely on his shoelaces. Only someone that has made an obvious mistake with a large group of people watching could understand what was going through his mind at that moment.
Obviously, fans are going to be frustrated after seeing such a huge mental mistake. They will want a response from management, and you are very likely to hear the word “accountability” tossed around quite a bit. I can’t say that I don’t appreciate that point of view. It is an inexplicable gaffe, one that should never be made by anyone above the Little League level, let alone a Major League player that is surrounded by scoreboards displaying the game’s information. Furthermore, easily avoidable mistakes like that hurt a bad team like the Pirates much more. They simply cannot afford to give away runs and outs.
That being said, it is not beneficial to dwell on this play for very long. First of all, the Pirates eventually lost the game 7-2. It is unlikely that the first run they allowed cost them too much. Secondly, it was going to be close at first even if Sanchez makes the turn. Kendall still has decent wheels and Bautista was a little slow getting the ball to second. Combine that with the shoulder issues that Freddy is still battling, and you have a bang-bang play at first. Finally, Sanchez has always been a smart and alert player who rarely makes mental errors. Even the best will make the occasional foolish play. And there is nobody that will be harder on Freddy than Freddy himself.
I guarantee that Sanchez never makes that mistake again. He will have a clear visual reminder in his head for as long as he plays the game. I played ball through high school, and I still have vivid memories of a few incredibly stupid mental mistakes I have made in my lifetime. In Little League, I once began jogging to the next base on ball three to the batter, thinking he had just walked. I was easily thrown out. Ever since, I have waited for the batter to take about five steps to first after a walk before advancing to the next bag. You can bet your house that Freddy will constantly be glancing at the scoreboard for confirmation for the rest of the career. Making an example of him will not change that fact.