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Sports by Bruce Penton
It’s straight out of the Unabridged Baseball Coaching Handbook: With one or fewer outs and a runner on first, the batter should attempt to bunt the runner into scoring position.
Well, that was then. Now, that formerly automatic baseball strategy is fast becoming a thing of the past.
Thanks to sabermetrics (digging deeply into the statistics of the game), Major League managers are more apt these days to tell their hitters to swing away. Unless it’s a pitcher, of course, because those who pitch are traditionally lousy hitters to begin with.
A recent Associated Press story said many managers consider the sacrifice bunt to be a wasted out, according to Mickey Morandini, a former Blue Jay now coaching at first base for the Phillies. The sabermetricians claim the numbers indicate that teams have a better chance of scoring a runner from first with no outs than scoring a runner from second with one out.
Different situations call for different strategy, of course. A ‘bunt situation’ in the first inning may result in different managerial decisions than a ‘bunt situation’ with a team one run down in the ninth inning.
Last year, there was one sacrifice bunt every five games — a total of 1,025 — the lowest number in the history of baseball. Phillies’ bench coach Larry Bowa says 21st century strategy — letting the big boppers go for the big blast — is not just because of the newfangled statistical analysis. Some of it is just because players aren’t as skilled in ‘small ball’ as they once were.
“Guys don’t want to work at it and they can’t bunt,” Bowa told the AP. “They don’t know how to bunt. To me, if you practice bunting, it’s the easiest thing in the world. If you don’t practice, it’s the hardest thing in the world.”
A manager takes game situations into account, as well as his knowledge of a player’s bunting skill level, when making a decision on what sign to flash. Chances are good that power hitters such as the Jays’ Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson are rarely going to be asked to bunt. If you’re manager John Farrell of the Red Sox, you probably don’t even need a bunt sign. Last year, the Red Sox laid down only eight sacrifice bunts, but they had seven players with home runs in the double digits.
And anyway, the old adage goes, chicks dig the long ball. So, apparently, do managers.
• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald, on the Kentucky Derby: “They call it the ‘Run For the Roses.’ Which also is what I do when I suddenly realize I’ve forgotten my wife’s birthday.”
• Greg Cote again: Super-dad LaVar Ball and his Big Baller Brand introduced a $495 signature sneaker for his NBA rookie-to-be son Lonzo Ball. If I’m spending $495 on sneakers they’d better be stuffed with about $400 in cash.”
• Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on Twitter: “Bad 24 hours in D.C.: Capitals lose series, Wizards lose Game 5 and FBI loses director.”
• Chad again, on the dearth of black players in major league baseball: “At the start of this season, only 62 were African Americans. Sixty-two! Heck, you could find a larger gathering of black men at an Engelbert Humperdinck concert.”
• Reader Roger Strauss of Silver Spring, Md: “Do the Cleveland Browns’ rookie contracts include vocational training for their next career?”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “A former NFL player, Colt Lyerla, was arrested after escaping from jail, bouncing a cheque and then overdosing on drugs. That guy is ready for the really Super-Duper NFL.”
• Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune: “The largely uninteresting and uninterested Jay Cutler has been hired by Fox an as NFL analyst, and I’m thinking, Cutler must have an endless need to get ripped for what he does on Sunday.”
• Another one from Rosenbloom: “Alabama safety Eddie Jackson, one of the Bears’ fourth-round picks, is coming off a broken left leg last season and a torn right ACL in 2014. I’m guessing the Bears would have drafted him higher if he had shown up at his pro day in a neck brace.”
• Comedy writer Jim Barach: “Tony Romo says he expects to ‘stink’ at first as a broadcaster. Which shows he is ready to pick up his new career in the same place he left his old one.”
• Groaner of the week from RJ Currie of “Skippy peanut butter finally pulled its product from Canadian shelves. No surprise to insiders, who were betting against the spread.”
• RJ Currie again: “Mets ace Noah Syndergaard is out with a torn lat muscle after refusing an MRI days earlier for a hurt bicep. Figures a guy named Noah waits for his injuries to come in twos.”

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