No place for Brenly to hide this timePosted: Sunday October 06, 2002 1:17 AM
Updated: Sunday October 06, 2002 2:56 AM
By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated
If you are an Arizona Diamondback, how do you ever respect your manager again?
How do you sit there in spring training as he lays down the law ... and believe it? How do you know that he’s telling the truth? How do you know that he’s lying? How do you know that when he says, "It's my way or the highway!" you have even the slightest reason to cower?
How do you play for Bob Brenly?
Last year, during the D'Backs' seven-game World Series triumph over the Yankees, Brenly managed one of the poorer postseason series in modern history. Arizona won in spite of their skipper, and many players on the roster knew it.
This time, there is no place for Brenly to hide.
At the beginning of the D'Backs' Division Series against St. Louis, 27-year-old slugger Erubiel Durazo informed Arizona’s coaching staff that he would not play the outfield. As in, 'If you tell me to, I'll refuse.' It was pure, 100% garbage from -- at best -- a slightly above average major league hitter; one who hit .261 with 16 homers and 48 RBIs in 76 games this season.
Now, to be frank, Durazo is a sound first baseman but a terrible, terrible outfielder. Think Roger Cedeno, then throw in Stevie Wonder's vision and Dan Quayle's instincts. He makes easy plays look tough, tough plays look impossible and impossible plays look comical. Again, bad.
This, however, was not the time to play prima dona. With outfielders Luis Gonzalez and Danny Bautista sidelined with injuries, Brenly was playing with a 17-card deck. He needed oomph, and he needed it badly. For the first two games of the series, his leftfielder was Mark Little, he of the three career homers. His rightfielder, Quinton McCracken, is a sound slap hitter but equally power-less.
With Durazo in left or right, the middle of the Diamondbacks’ lineup is actually, well, not terrible. Brenly could then play either Mark Grace or Greg Colbrunn at first, and you’re looking at Grace/Colbrunn-Finley-Matt Williams-Durazo.
Based on his 748 career at-bats, Durazo deemed himself powerful enough to issue demands. And here's the crapper -- Brenly (egads) listened!
It is truly unbelievable. For a moment, imagine we are in Philadelphia, and Durazo is telling Larry Bowa that he won’t play the outfield. The dialogue:
Durazo: "I no play outfield."
Bowa: "Come again?"
Durazo: "I no play outfield. Only first."
Bowa: "I'm counting to 20. When I get there, I will take out my rifle, hunt you down and mount your $#^$$%, #$^$%$#, $##&*@ head above my mantle."
Durazo: "I no understand?"
Bowa: "One ..."
Durazo: "Maybe I ..."
Bowa: "Two ..."
Bowa would kill Durazo (and imagine if Davey Lopes were still in Milwaukee). He would take his hat, set it aflame and shove it down Durazo's throat. Even the pacifists of the world -- Joe Torre, Art Howe, Joel Skinner -- would make sure Durazo would never, ever appear in the team’s uniform again.
Brenly? Not only did he not kill, maim or berate Durazo, but, in Saturday’s 6-3 Game 3 loss, he actually started him ... at first base!? (Durazo went a well-deserved 0-for-4). It was a slap in the face, both to the respect a manager deserves, and to Grace and Colbrunn, two hard-nosed, do-whatever-it-takes veterans who would’ve donated their left kidneys to play.
It’s not that Brenly is a bad guy -- he isn’t. But he’s a soft guy. And sometimes, that’s 100-times worse.
Next year, when Durazo is hitting 30 homers as Florida's starting first baseman (Odds of him returning to Phoenix: slim), he will look around empty Pro Player Stadium and ponder what might have been.
He was an up-and-coming Arizona star. He threw it all away for pride. Stupid, stubborn pride.