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What happened to Dustin Ackley? Sabermetrics, of course!

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Otto Greule Jr

So it's the bottom of the seventh inning and the Braves are trying to protect a one-run lead over the Blue Jays, and Anthony Varvaro gives up a frozen rope to Jose Bautista. Which leads to this one-sided exchange between Braves broadcasters Joe Simpson and Chip Caray ...

Simpson: The Braves' setup men, though, whether it's Avilan, Gearrin, Varvaro, right now there's a ton of inexperience there with those roles. They haven't been placed there. The high spotlight. The hot spotlight. The pressure of one- or two-run leads late. They've been very good coming in middle of innings, getting ground balls, getting double plays, finishing innings in the sixth, sometimes into the seventh. But it's a whole different ball game, in the seventh and eighth with a one-run lead like the Braves have right now.

Buck: ... So you're of a mind that the ninth inning is different from the eighth inning, which is different from the seventh, which is different from the sixth.

Simpson: Oh, absolutely. I mean, whatever that, whatever that ummm, I'm not sure which computer-ese it is that says that the ninth inning's no different than the eighth or seventh is nonsense to begin with. Or else everybody could do it. And not that many guys are very good at it.

On cue, Varvaro quickly gave up the lead. So he must be right. I suppose you can't blame computer-ese for this one; it's really the fault of the gremlins who tore up Jonny Venters' elbow. Well, except even if Venters were healthy, he probably would have been saved for the eighth inning. Varvaro, as it happens, has been pitching in plenty of situations this season, including when the Braves had small leads in the seventh or even (gasp!) the eighth inning.

But, whatever. Simpson's screed wasn't about facts; it was about scoring points with his fellow Luddites. Also, it seems like Tuesday is Throw Sabermetrics Under the Bus Day, except nobody told us beforehand.

As you probably heard, Dustin Ackley, not so long ago a shining jewel of the Mariners' farm system and a pretty good Rookie of the Year candidate, just got sent back to the minors. Nobody seems to have any idea what's wrong with him. Well, except that Eric Wedge does have one really strange theory. Really, really strange:

Wedge was talking about Ackley's demotion to Triple-A and his mental approach, and he intimated that Ackley might have been too concerned with pitch selectivity and high on-base percentage, leading to a one-liner that hit on one of baseball's most intriguing ongoing philosophical battles.

"It's the new generation. It's all this sabermetrics stuff, for lack of a better term, you know what I mean?" Wedge said. "People who haven't played since they were 9 years old think they have it figured out. It gets in these kids' heads."

Well, at least now we know. And at least one of us seems sincerely contrite:

Seriously, if Eric Wedge were a good manager -- and hell, maybe he's a great manager -- he wouldn't be the first good manager to blame someone else for his problems. Leo Durocher's in the Hall of Fame, and he never made a mistake he couldn't blame on someone else. But this is sort of pathetic, isn't it? If Dustin Ackley's not developing like everybody expected, here are the first two places I would look for someone to blame:

1. Dustin Ackley
2. Eric Wedge

Hey, maybe Ackley really did let all those pesky sabermetricians -- some of whom, by the way, actually played baseball until they were 10 or 11, I'll bet -- into his head, doesn't that speak poorly about his ability to thrive as a professional baseball player? When I think about Jackie Robinson, and the things that might have gotten into his head if he'd let them, I wonder just how dangerous sabermetricians really are.

Let us assume, further, that Ackley really did let sabermetrics get into his head. Aren't Eric Wedge and his staff paid a good deal of money to get all those terrible things out of Dustin Ackley's head?

Again, none of this makes Eric Wedge a lousy manager. But it does seem that he's out of ideas and frustrated by his inability to help Ackley or Jesus Montero or Justin Smoak. Maybe it's just time to give somebody else a shot.