Posted by: mdegeorge | October 12, 2010

Don’t Blame Brooks: Conrad an undeserving scapegoat in land of the Braves

To err is human; to overemphasize, apparently, divine.

That’s been the consensus over the last 24 hours that has elevated (perhaps denigrated) Braves stand-in second baseman Brooks Conrad to enshrinement in Major League Baseball’s all-time hall of shame.

Sure, Conrad’s mistakes were egregious, and his “Ole!” on Buster Posey’s ninth-inning grounder in Game 3 was one that should have been handled, or at the very least knocked down to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring.

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While it’s hardly an excuse, it’s hard to fathom why Conrad was out there in the first place. The 30-year-old journeyman and career minor leaguer was pressed into regular duty after a rash of injuries (Chipper Jones and Martin Prado) and ineffectiveness (Troy Glaus).

In the ninth inning of a one-run game, you could argue that Conrad should have made way for a defensive replacement—especially after two errors already—perhaps the more sure-handed though younger Diory Hernandez. But that’s a debate for another day.

Conrad will remain an emblem for the Braves failure for a great many years, a label quite unfair (especially given that they’ve managed to lose their previous five playoff series without his help.) Those, such as ESPN’s Jorge Arangure, Jr., who believe Conrad “will now be lumped among the losers, the Ralph Brancas, the Bill Buckners, the Leon Durhams” are engaging in an almost galling level of hyperbole.

First, let’s not forget that even a year ago, it was highly unlikely Conrad the baseball player would be remembered for anything, famous or infamous. Whether or not he would trade his ill-fated notoriety for the anonymity afforded by Lawrenceville, Georgia or Round Rock, Texas is something only he can answer.

Second—as seems to be the case with so many great pariahs like Bill Buckner and Steve Bartman—Conrad far from handed the series (neither he nor the two aforementioned disgraced men were responsible for either all of his team’s losses or the clincher) to his opposition. Yes, he was single-handedly responsible for two runs in a one-run game; his culpability in Game 3’s squandering is beyond mathematical debate.

But his team had the opportunity at redemption in Game 4 at home to extend the series and failed to come through…with Conrad benched and limited to a strikeout to lead off the ninth inning in a pinch hitting role. And for a team that hit a paltry .165 over four games, compiling a mere nine runs and 24 hits, affixing the blame for a series to a single player posits him as the scapegoat more than anything else. Those who can’t hit their way out of glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

To the Braves’ credit, they stood behind their embattled teammate.

“There’s not one play he made that cost us the game,” backup catcher David Ross told the AP after Game 3. “If a pitcher makes a better pitch, if we don’t walk a guy, if we do better earlier in the game, we don’t get to that position. We would not have been in this position without him. Brooks Conrad didn’t lose us this game.”

Silly Ross! Clearly he doesn’t know that such logical and even-headed thinking has no place in describing an error of such historic proportions (I mean, it is the NLDS!). Maybe in the future Ross will learn that the foibles of his teammates are really just an excuse to haphazardly bandy about names of yesteryear.

Maybe it’s my fascination with a guy named Brooks Conrad, a name straight out of The Natural or The Shawshank Redemption, who spent a decade toiling in the minors and plays with that no-batting-gloves grit and Kevin Youkilis-like batting stance. Or maybe it’s the empathy years of baseball played with too many hot-shot grounders taken to the side or allowed to pass unmolested through the wickets.

Or maybe it’s a sense of fairness in believing that just as any victory is a team effort, so too is any loss.



  1. Don?t Blame Brooks: Conrad an undeserving scapegoat in land of the Braves…

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