My Grandmother

August 18, 2009

What if my grandmother, an elderly European immigrant, were appointed pitching coatch of the Tampa Bay Rays? Knowing nothing about pitching, she would be forced to look at films of each pitcher! On one side, a screen showing successful outings, next to it a screen showing poor outings. My resourceful grandmother would be searching for the difference between the two performances and, sooner or later, guess what, she would find it!

She might find that Kazmir and Price and Sonnanstine and even Shields let their pitching arms fall slightly to the side, fingers slipping from on top of the ball, completely negating not only their sliders, but their fastballs as well. In fact, if she had been hired last year, she could have watched Edwin Jackson do the same thing. Mr. Hicke, it is definitely time to start watching films again.

What if my grandmother had been appointed manager of the Rays? She would have to read “Baseball 101,” or “Little League Guide to Baseball,” or any number of basic baseball texts. It would never have occurred to her to put a .340 hitter in the ninth spot in the lineup for over a year. It would have occurred to her that it is best to play her outfielders deeper at the end of the game with her team ahead or to protect the 1st and 3rd baselines against extra base hits late in the game, something Mr. Maddon has figured out only lately.

My grandmother, a fast learner, might have tried to advance runners, maybe by hitting the ball down the first base line with men on 2nd and 3rd and no outs, or bunting. Maybe she would advise a batter not to swing at ball four, especially after the pitcher has just thrown 9 balls in a row and walked the bases loaded?

She might tell Longoria to move up in the box with two strikes to avoid swinging at the ball in the dirt that was a strike as it crossed the plate. She might tell Pena to shorten up his grip and stand a few inches closer to the plate with a two strike count so he could actually hit the ball “the other way.” She might not have waited all year before acquiring a veteran catcher to teach both catchers and pitchers how to call a game.

She might have spiked her 1st and 3rd base coaches’ Gatorade with caffeine to keep them awake late in the game to help hitters out and prevent the myriad of base running gaffs that we have painfully watched this year.

Perhaps Mr. Maddon, a very intelligent bench coach, should ask himself why he cost his team at least 10 games earlier in the year through stubborn mismanagement? Perhaps he should ask himself in tough situations: “What would Mike Soscia do?” Then, do it!

It is not too late for the Rays to capture a wild card spot. However, if management, coaches and players are complacent and feel that they can simply repeat all of the same mistakes they made last year, they will fall far short. Go Rays!

Allen Finkelstein, D.O.