Rays Diary  12/22/17

    I’m starting my Ray’s Diary early this year in honor of Evan Longoria, the smooth fielding, often clutch hitting third baseman and truly “gentle-man” who has come to be known as the face of the Tampa Bay Rays.  San Francisco is not only adding another “Giant” to their clubhouse, but a giant to their community.  As Tom Jones pointed out in today’s Tampa Bay Times article “Longo and Far Away Isn’t Awful,” it’s a good thing that he’ll seldom play against us because it’s awfully hard to root against him even if he is on the opposing team.

    Now I’ve read stories claiming that Evan is on the back side of his career, reduced to a yeoman third baseman with warning track power.  Considering that many sports writers consider 2016 Evan’s career season and 2017 a down year with respect to hitting and power, I can see their point.  However there are two potential reasons why Evan may surprise those of little faith next season.  The first reason is that he is still so smooth in the field, still a gold glove, a consummate professional with the ability to divorce any hitting woes from affecting performance in the field.  The second reason is that I believe that Evan has the ability to equal or improve on his batting stats from the 2016 season.

    In the past I have not hesitated to criticize the hitches and excessively long swings of so many of today’s hitters including Evan.  Given the overwhelming prevalence of these quirks in so many successful hitters’ swings, I surrender on this point.  Besides, in the last few years, Evan has gone out of his way to drive the ball to the opposite field, to “give himself up” on a ground ball to advance a runner or drive in a run, anything to help his team win.  In fact, after a somewhat “salty” twitter exchange in which I advised Evan to change his awkward stance and move up in the box in order to better hit breaking balls on the outside part of the plate, he advised me to “get a day job!”  Longoria being Longoria, however, he did eventually modify the awkward stance to some degree in 2016 as well as moving up slightly in the box with some benefit.

    Well, one might ask, why do I believe Evan is capable of having a really successful season at bat in San Francisco, perhaps his best ever?  It’s simple.  The man trains constantly, keeps himself in top shape and has yet to reach his full potential as a hitter.  Anyone who can perform as well as Evan has, still burdened with such  a relatively unbalanced and unathletic stance ought to be able to improve really dramatically with the most minor of changes.  Hopefully San Francisco will be the place where he goes from being a “good” hitter to a “great” hitter.  All that has to be done is to “study the films” as the old saying goes. Study the films!!!

    Evan, your stance is too narrow, limiting your balance and delaying your swing.  It also requires you to lunge at the ball, even if it is over the middle of the plate.  You end up with almost all of your weight on your front side when you hit the ball.  You are basically hitting off of one leg.  It’s why you almost fall on your keister whenever you swing and miss and even when you make contact with the ball.  Most important, it is probably the sole reason that you’ve been reduced to a warning track power hitter!!!  As a physician, I can tell you that at your age you lose some of your quickness, but you are probably stronger now than at any time in your career.  Please, “study the films!”  I’m sure I speak for all of your fans in wishing you Good Luck and many thanks for being a Tampa Bay Ray.

Al Finkelstein, 12/22/17