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Players and managers can throw out all the cliches they want about how a game is a game is a game is a game. Go ahead. We know it’s coming.
It’s no different than any other game.
We’re treating this game like we’d treat any other game.
Blah blah blah blah blah blah…any other game.
But the reality is that post-season games are managed differently. Thus, in that sense, it isn’t any other game.
I applaud Jeff Banister for breaking from his regular season success formula and opting to use Sam Dyson in Thursday’s 9th inning. It isn’t often that a closer who was charged with the fewest blown saves in the league gets supplanted from his standard role in the post-season without faltering. Then again, Jeff Banister has proven that his methods are far from standard.
Shawn Tolleson has been outstanding at getting three outs this year, but Sam Dyson has been better. Dyson’s done so with more dominance, more consistently. To some, that screams CLOSER. Not to me, and not to Jeff Banister either.
Dyson’s value is in his versatility. In the regular season, he was used to face the tougher batch of hitters, whether in the seventh or eighth. The heart of a team’s order is due in the seventh? Bam. Dyson time. Maybe those mashers are due up in the eighth. Bam. Dyson time.
Based on one playoff game, it appears that his realm now includes the ninth inning. So, if the big boppers are due up then, they’re his. If not, they’re likely Tolleson’s.
Jeff Banister has kind of gone back to a “no roles” approach to his bullpen, even more so than in the regular season. He deserves credit for doing something other manager’s reject for no reason other than, “You just don’t do that.”
This doesn’t happen without Banister’s forward-thinking, but, more importantly, this doesn’t happen without Banister creating a team-first culture. That sounds corny, but it’s real. If it wasn’t, Prince Fielder would have played first base all year.
Sure, Prince deserves credit for agreeing to move to a DH role, but let’s not forget he resisted that while with Detroit. Banister has developed a culture that almost guilts players into making the selfless decision. And don’t think they resent it. Prince told me earlier in the year that Banister is, “a real man…a real-life John Wayne or Clint Eastwood.”
That culture is why Dyson in the ninth works. Now is not the time to spark controversy, but the team dynamic squashes one before it starts. Tolleson’s selfless approach comes complete without anger. Competitiveness? Sure. I bet he wanted that ninth. But he wasn’t bitter, either.
Credit Dyson, too. He has fit right into the Rangers’ bullpen, which has become a tight-knit group. If Dyson didn’t fit in, I’m sure Tolleson, who is loved by teammates, would receive support in what would become a Tolleson vs. Dyson discussion.
That’s how fine the line is sometimes. You can’t make these decisions without dealing with distraction if you have even one slightly bad apple in the equation. So credit Banister, and credit Dyson, too, but don’t forget to credit Tolleson as well.