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JAMESON TAILLON (AP PHOTO)

On July 7, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the thick of a very nasty losing streak. They were facing a Philadelphia Phillies team with a nasty disposition, a nastier offense and one of the nastiest pitching staffs in the National League. I could spew a few stats to back up my claim. However, in many cases, stats are just footnotes to the passion, spirit and the psyche of any game. Any leader or star in any sport, rookie or veteran, high-priced draft choice or lowly free agent, will never be relaxed or be able to perform at their optimum, if he or she thinks that “the captain’s hook” is always somewhere just over the horizon.

On this perfect afternoon for the game that was invented by Abner Doubleday, Pirates’ starting pitcher Jameson Taillon seemed to be pitching the sort of game that even Ol’ Abner would have admired if he would have had the opportunity to witness such a gem of a game.

I don’t want to play “Rainman” and spew a bunch of stats at you because this game, this one game was based on confidence, spirit and heart and uncertainty.

Taillon displayed confidence, spirit and heart. I never thought I would say this because professionally and personally, I regard Pirates manager Clint Hurdle as one of the managers in the NL that can play the baseball “chess game” with any of the them. But on this day, this very day, did Clint Hurdle unknowingly unleash the “pitbull” of uncertainty on the “three Chihuahuas” of Jameson Taillon—confidence, spirit and heart?

During the first six innings, Taillon appeared as if he were a composite of Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, and David Blaine. Taillon caused the Phillies to appear as if they were batting with toothpicks instead of 32-inch MLB standard issue baseball bats.

Taillon did not even remotely seem to be pleased when he glanced to the rear and saw someone warming up in the Pirates’ bullpen. Taillon had reason to be concerned about getting the win, based on the most recent performances of the Pirates relievers.

However, the idea of Taillon notching a win, based on his performance through the first six innings, would have been an excellent wager by anyone looking to snatch a few dollars out of the pockets the “Vegas” bookmakers. The Pirates eventually lost the game, 3-2.

Let’s check out Jameson Taillon’s insight regarding the game. “It’s pretty unfortunate, that’s the human element of it, pitching looking over your shoulder and someone’s warming up, that’s tough.”

I don’t care how much money these players earn, diluting their self-esteem and negatively impacting their confidence, especially when they could be in the midst of self-inflicted doubt is not recommended even if you didn’t complete the final course of MLB Manager 101.

Jameson Taillon was not positively affected by the proactive and provocative strategy of his boss.

“I know I haven’t been pitching the greatest, so I understand maybe the trust isn’t there. I was, again, looking forward to being the guy to give the bullpen a rest and go even deeper and end the streak,” Taillon told reporters after the game. “Today was one of the better total-package games. It was one of those days where everything was rolling together.”

There have been many instances that baseball mangers have been justifiably and unjustifiably criticized for leaving a pitcher in too long or having wielded a leash that was far too short. Until the seventh inning offensively, the Phillies looked as if they were playing baseball on an almost pitch black field with black baseballs and white baseball bats, with lights focused only on home plate. The Phillies offense spent most of the day, second-guessing the pitches of Jameson Taillon. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle may have spent the remainder of the evening wondering if he made the wrong decision to pull Taillon out of the game in the seventh inning.

I, for one, thought it was the wrong decision.

(Aubrey Bruce: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

 

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