Rays Diary 5/30/14

No entries for several weeks.  Didn’t want to pile on a team when it’s down.  No trouble, however, picking on cowardly apologists and sports media morons.  Except for the media “kiss asses,” most fans that I have talked to seem to be fed up with the Rays amateur offensive coaching.  Many fans can no longer bear to watch a team so obviously incompetent in the performance of simple basics that the fans themselves were taught in their youth. 

A few days ago, Joyce does his job, poking an outside pitch to the opposite field for a “lazy” leadoff double.  No attempt whatsoever is made by the next batter to move Matt to third and the third batter of the inning’s “sacrifice fly” is instead a meaningless second out.  Clueless Joe’s obsessive compulsive philosophy dictates that the third, fourth and fifth batters in the lineup are not allowed to try to simply advance the runner.  Rather their assignment is to hit away like complete idiots until they have two strikes.  Then they are finally permitted to again become the professional hitters that they were taught to be before they became Rays.  Apparently Clueless Joe and his personal choice for pseudo ”batting coach, “ Peter Principle Shelton learned all they know about hitting from Aristotle, Plato, Sigmund Freud, and other brilliant scholars who did not play or coach baseball.

A few years ago, Joe, whose only logical lineups seem to be those suggested by the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, in desperation, put the slumping .160 hitting Hideki Matsui in as cleanup hitter.  Needing one run to win the game with no outs, nonetheless, Joe had his man hit away into a double play instead of trying to advance the runners to second and third.  When asked why he did not have him bunt in so obvious a bunting situation, Joe replied: “You don’t have your cleanup hitter bunting!”  To make matters worse, of course, there seem to be only a few Rays players who know how to bunt and apparently no coaches to teach them how it is done.  Molina laid down a perfect bunt tonight, but Joyce jabs at the ball like a Little Leaguer and Escobar almost killed himself a few weeks ago while trying (and succeeding) in laying down a bunt.  By the way, Joe, a fact that most obsessive compulsives cannot understand is that it is easier for a right handed hitter to hit the ball to the right side of the infield to score a man from third or advance a runner than it is for a left handed hitter to pull the ball, even off of a right handed pitcher.

If any of you cowardly and a few moronic apologists would like to review the last thirty or forty games and count how many times the Rays have hit into double plays in bunting situations, I can assure you that even with this year’s substandard pitching, they would be well over .500 in the standings if they had just attempted to bunt the ball or at least hit it to the right side of the infield to advance the runner(s) in those situations.  Even more embarrassing for “Clueless Joe” and his amateur offense is that the opposing teams have figured out that most of the Rays uncoached hitters will pull outside pitches into double plays instead of hitting the ball where it is pitched, even though there are no fielders in that direction.  Even more sad is the fact that the opposition’s coached hitters continue to hit the ball to the opposite, unguarded area of the “shift.”  Ted Williams put it something like this: “When they put the shift on, they always pitched inside or I’d simply hit the ball the other way.  These pitchers today forget to pitch inside to make sure the guy hits it where there are guys to  field it.”  Unfortunately, Rays have lost several games pitching outside to pull hitters because they must think that they are as foolish and unprepared as the Rays hitters seem to be.  The opponents simply smile and hit the ball “the other way” and high five each other while the Rays look on, bewildered and confused, their manager searching for “the bright side.”

Steve Henderson may not have been the Ted Williams of batting coaches, but B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena and a host of other mediocre hitters certainly seemed to have had their only career years under him.  Most players seem to deteriorate under the current regime.  Let’s face it. Neither Joe nor Derek Shelton has the credentials to verify which part of a bat is the handle and which part is the barrel.  Both hit for the same batting average as you and I did in the Major Leagues. No one on the Rays is going to reach his potential under the current circumstances.  Myers and Longoria, both afraid of the baseball as little kids, still stand so far in the back of the batter’s box that they will never be able to hit any halfway decent breaking ball until they step up further in the box, at least with two strikes.  I wonder if the two brave “sluggers” are still afraid of the itty bitty ball hitting them?  Shelton seems to have taught another “slugger,” Ben Zobrist the secret of how to be a “Punch and Judy” hitter by encouraging him to swing with his hands and wrists instead of his legs, torso and shoulders.

Again, I dare any of the wannabee morons out there to watch successful hit after hit after hit in slow motion, something the Rays apparently do not have the guts to do.  I guarantee that 99% of the time you will not see the hitters wrists and hands become involved until well after the ball is struck!!!! As professional golfers, like Steve Duehmig realize, the premature breaking of the wrists and hands is called “the death move” resulting in enormous loss of power in both the golf and baseball swing.  Watching Myers, Longoria, Joyce and Rodriguez, you can see that when they swing too hard, they “break” their hands and wrists too soon.  It’s another reason they go into frequent slumps.  Chris Davis hit three towering homeruns last week in one game and didn’t swing hard at any of the three pitches!

Last, but not least, every year Matt Joyce hits .370 when he hits the ball where it is pitched and under .200 when he tries to pull outside pitches.  A professional batting coach would have him practice hour after hour simply pulling “middle in” pitches and hitting “outside” pitches to the opposite field.  It has to be second nature, pulling inside pitches, to the point of hardly ever whiffing at one and never having to think about them.  That way you can look for the inevitable “fat” outside pitch and drive it the other way.  Eventually, I believe you will find that most other hitting drills will seem worthless by comparison.

Year after year Andrew Friedman will be forced by economic constraints to put together a “smallballl” team.  Hopefully he will be able to maintain the excellence of his pitching staff and defense and add more of the speed the Rays have had in the past.  It makes no sense to have a manager who, because of his own psychological hang ups, cannot coach “smallball” and who does not seem to have a burning desire to win a World Series.”  A few years ago, with Longoria injured, but with the baseball’s best pitching staff in the last fifty years and speed to burn, Joe gave up.  He asked “hit and run” players to hit homeruns and good bunters to “hit away” in bunting situations, refusing to “scratch out” single runs.  This was despite the fact that the team needed only two or three runs to win the vast majority of their games!  Needless to say, probably the best team in baseball did not reach the playoffs that year, but a much less talented team, statistically and in every other way, the San Francisco Giants “smallballed” their way to a World Series championship.  Andrew Friedman, unless you want to be the next Rich McKay, intimidated by a very intelligent and charming, but psychologically flawed (like the rest of us) head coach, never reaching your ultimate goal, it’s time to have that heart to heart with Joe.  Like Mr. Dungy, he hasn’t a clue about offense in his sport, but it’s not too late to wake him up!

Al Finkelstein (O’finky) 5/30/14