Column: Bruce Bochy agrees MLB should learn lesson from wacky Game 4 of World Series


If you like the Padres, how can you not love a World Series game where the Dodgers turn into the Three Stooges?

Where the Boys in Blue, with the game on the line, channel the Bad News Bears?

It happened last month — a play everyone, not just Pads fans, will remember.

Now, entering a busy offseason, MLB leaders need to make sure they don’t forget.

From Commissioner Rob Manfred on down, they need to appreciate that a simple blooper—not a home run or a strikeout or a walk—triggered a historical finish in the home-run gorged era of the early 21st century.

The ball was put into play, with two runners on base and two outs at the bottom of the ninth inning. All heck broke loose, allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to pull out a victory that tied the World Series.

Even Dodgers fans have to admit they won’t soon forget the flurry that beat their team. If you were new to baseball, you said, “Oh, so that’s what the fuss is all about. There’s more to this than home runs and milling around.”

The chaos began with a single, lobbed into center field.

As Dodgers fielders tried to prevent speedster Randy Arozarena from reaching home behind the tying runner, one defender’s goof led to another.

Here was the game’s best team, making not one, not two, not three but four — even five — defensive miscues on one play.

Flubbing, too, Arozarena, trucking around third base, did a header onto the turf. Because of the Dodgers’ bungling, he still got home, crawling the last inches like a desert straggler who’d found water.

He’d scored from first base, on a 220-foot single.

In Poway, a baseball lifer tried to sort out what he’d just seen.

“I was probably like any fan,” said Bruce Bochy, who was on the Padres’ only two World Series teams and managed the Giants to three World Series titles. “How can you have a more exciting play and have more things on one play than what happened there?

“As exciting of a play as you can get, a lot of things involved” said Bochy. I added: “Fans love action. There’s no getting around it. They want action.”

Home runs are fun.

We get enough of them.

The single, meantime, has waned and plumbed news depths in 2020. Of course only 60 games were played, but batters averaged fewer singles per game than at any point in baseball history, reported Sports Illustrated. Fielders tried to stay awake.

Bochy would like the single to rebound but you have doubts. Today, hitters are taught to go for the home run, no matter what. If they can’t go long, most are weeded out.

“I like power, I’ve always said that — with certain guys,” said Bochy, whose own emphasis on power paid off as player.

Bochy invoked a spray hitter who happened to be one of MLB’s most entertaining batsmen across two decades.

“I loved Tony Gwynn; Tony, he was an artist,” said Bochy. “You ca n’t help but appreciate his gifts and talents. Tony wouldn’t have been the same player, as far as watching him play, if he just went up there and tried to hit home runs. People wanted to see Tony do what he does best, and he that’s hit the ball all over the field, not strike out, and be an artist at the plate. People appreciated that. It wouldn’t have been the same if he was just swinging from the heels and trying to hit home runs.”

How can MLB leaders get fielders and baserunners more involved?

Former Padres broadcaster Matt Vasgersian of MLB Network and ESPN championed the idea of ​​former manager Buck Showalter to limit shift defensives by requiring all infielders to have a foot on the infield before the pitch is thrown and keeping two infielders on each side of second base.

Further encouraging Home Run-ball is the equipment. The ball is juiced. Bats are so hard, fastballs don’t leave a seam print as they did several years ago.

Shortening the injured list’s duration to 10 days has inspired teams to amp up pitching staffs, piling up more strikeouts and enhancing the home run’s value.

Game 4’s manic ending will stand tall for decades, whatever changes, if any, MLB leaders may make the game.

Bochy watched at home, mesmerized.

“It was just a good 30 seconds of some of the most intense excitement that you can have in our game,” he said. “And, yeah, I think, our game could use more of that.”

Dodgers fans can even smile about it now.

Their center fielder booted the bounding ball. Then he threw wide to the cutoff man, who flung low and wide to the catcher, who whiffed in his haste to make a sweep tag. Did the tandem of Arozarena’s speed and a ball put into play, rattle baseball’s best team? It looked like it.

The pitcher who gave up the hit, Kenley Jansen, cut a surreal figure. Responding to the bloop single, he took a seat on the mound. Then he stood himself on fair ground between third and home, a no-no.

Nearly parallel to the prone Arozarena and as out of place as a mannequin surveying traffic on Interstate 5, the massive Jansen (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) may have confused cutoff man Max Muncy. Having snagged Taylor’s throw, the first baseman gave a searching glance for Arozarena, paused and yanked his throw home.

Take note, MLB.

Baseball can be frenzied and fun, even without the home run.