Santana on 3 days' rest? I love a good debate

October 14, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

I love a good sports debate. Truth be told, I love a good debate of any kind. I think it's the genes. My grandfather Ira is a politician-at-heart who loves a good back-and-forth discussion, and it got into my blood.

You should see us at times. He's a pretty staunch Democrat and I tend to lean a little more to the right (I'm what would be called a "swing voter"). Let's just say we've have some lively discussions. But that's neither here nor there.

One of the better in-office debates happened between sports editor Mark Keller and me last week. We were discussing Johan Santana pitching on three days' rest in Game 4 of the American League Division Series with the New York Yankees, who were up two games to one.


I didn't like the decision. Mark did.

Now, I understand I am and always will be with the minority when it comes to this debate. There's an old baseball adage that, when you're pressed into a win-or-go-home situation, you go with your gun. Jefferson baseball coach John Lowery uses this adage, and who am I to argue with Lowery?

So, of course, in this particular instance, I did.

Here was my position. The Twins knew going into the series they were going to have to get two wins out of the games Santana pitched, and hope the rest of the team could find a way to get the third. In other words, at some point, somebody other than Santana was going to have to beat the Yankees.

If I'm the Twins' manager, here's what I would have told the team before the series: We're going to throw Santana in Games 1 and 5. Period. It's up to us to find a way to win one of those other games to get it back to Santana in Game 5 to win us the series.

Mark saw it differently. After the Twins blew Game 2 (which we both agree was where Minnesota lost the series) and then lost Game 3, he went with the "go with your gun" theory, even on three days' rest, because "if you lose Game 4, there is no Game 5."

Fine. But even if you go with Santana and the Twins pull out Game 4, you still have to beat the Yankees without him in Game 5. Minnesota would have gone with Brad Radke in Game 5, and he would have been on three days' rest as well.

The record of guys pitching on three days' rest in recent playoff history is well under .500. Some guys can do it, but not many. The odds of two guys leading their team to wins on three days' rest in consecutive days are slim.

I'd rather try to find a way to win Game 4 without Santana - and with Kyle Lohse and his 5.00-plus ERA - on the mound. If I win, then I give it to my ace on his regular rotation in the most important game, in which we would be the favorites.

In other words, I'd stick to my pre-series strategy and try to beat the odds in one game instead of two. If unsuccessful, I'd stand up and take the heat for sticking to my strategy and not throwing Santana.

It turned out not to matter very much. Santana, to his credit, pitched great in Game 4, but the Yankees - as they always seem to do - rallied. The Twins couldn't overcome that disasterous Game 2.

The point is, a lot of times in sports, there is no clear right or wrong decision, no matter how many people say there is. Which is great for those of us who love a good debate.

Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at

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