Sometimes, life hits you so hard that the body loses all of its ability to even move from a spot as you stand, transfixed with a thousand-yard stare, wondering how something in the world that could have turned out so good went so terribly, horribly wrong.
After making the last out of the 11th inning in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 7-6 loss to the Miami Marlins on Thursday, pinch runner Jack Flaherty had one of those moments, unable to lift himself out of a crouch even as the fans all went home, the other players hit the showers and the grounds crew came out onto the field at Busch Stadium to start the process of readying the playing surface for the next game.
Jack Flaherty wouldn’t leave the field… pic.twitter.com/SSDuVgTUkg
— Tara Wellman (@tarawellman) June 21, 2019
Flaherty had a reason for his stunned silence; he was the victim of a walk-off pickoff, unceremoniously thrown out at second by the Marlins’ closer, Sergio Romo.
A pitcher with his back to the runner isn’t supposed to be able to easily throw the guy out, but Flaherty, pinch running for Yadier Molina in hopes that his greater speed would allow him to score from second on a single and tie the game, turned to check the defense or got distracted by a squirrel, and the next thing he knew, he was the last guy to figure out that a throw was coming his way and he’d better get back to the bag before Yadiel Rivera got a glove on him.
The throw wasn’t even on target. Flaherty just got caught flat-footed.
In Flaherty’s defense, he had been thrown out at home in a Saturday loss to the New York Mets and it was doubtless on his mind as he wanted to make sure he got a good jump on any hit to the outfield to make sure he didn’t get gunned down at the plate again.
But at the same time, his reaction was so slow in figuring out he was about to be picked off that he managed to put one up for the blooper reel, just a boneheaded mistake on the basepaths.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt seems to have adopted a “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” approach to sending the quick-of-foot but not always quick-of-mind Flaherty out to get hosed twice in a week.
“The reality is, he wasn’t prepped well enough and I take responsibility for that”–Mike Shildt on Jack Flaherty being picked off second to end the game #STLCards
— Brian Stull (@StullySTL) June 21, 2019
“He wasn’t prepped enough” is a nice enough defense if, say, you’re a Little League coach. Flaherty is a big leaguer and should be well past that sort of “preparation” by now. Still, it was a nice gesture from the manager of a 38-36 team that was expected to be a contender and might find himself on the hot seat if things do not improve.
St. Louis is three games back of Chicago for the NL Central lead and a game and a half down to the Brewers for the second wild-card spot. Having the same player give away two games with his baserunning could be the difference between making the playoffs and watching October baseball on television.
So it is perhaps no surprise that a stunned Flaherty just … stayed on the field.
— ???♐️ (@Hec718) June 21, 2019
In point of fact, this hasn’t been Flaherty’s year on the mound either. After a solid 2018 campaign in which he posted a 3.34 ERA and struck out 182 batters in 151 innings, Flaherty has crashed back to Earth in his second full year in the big leagues, posting a 4.24 ERA and striking out 89 in 80.2 innings, a decline from 10.8 K/9 to 9.9 to go with the extra run per full game.
Baseball, rooted as it is in failure with the old maxim that “you can fail 70 percent of the time and still be an All-Star,” is a vicious game on the psyche.
For Jack Flaherty, that has never been truer than it was Thursday night.
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