Rays Diary:  6/30/18

    After a long hiatus it’s time for a few comments on the Rays.  With all the injuries to the pitching staff and the lack of power on the current roster, a great deal of credit needs to be given to manager  Kevin Cash, his coaching staff and even the beleaguered general management and front office. They have used maximum ingenuity, employing bunting, hit and run, base stealing and even hitting to the opposite field when appropriate, finally reaching .500 after a miserable start to the season.  And, they have done all of this with one of the youngest teams in the league after the sad but necessary departure of a number of popular veterans. In fact, the idea of using short and long relievers respectively to start and carry them deep into games as well as their success with the scheme is truly remarkable.  Meanwhile, despite the inordinate spate of recent injuries to members of their “rag-tag” pitching staff they never seem to give up as Kevin Cash and his pitching coaches become more and more astute in their handling of pitchers in game situations. Kudos to the staff for buying into the scheme.

    Meanwhile, hitting coach Chad Mottola seems to have extracted as much he could from his promising but inexperienced group of rookies and young veterans, many of whom were prematurely cut by their previous teams.  He still has considerable work to do with Carlos Gomez and C.J. Cron, both of whom seem to have considerable untapped potential. And then there is his biggest challenge, the stubborn but unbelievably talented Kevin Kiermaier.  Observing the short stride of Alex Bregman, with his matching enormously powerful short swing, I could not help imagining K.K. abandoning his huge, lengthy “step in the bucket” stride which is so totally out of sync with his short powerful swing.  This could easily result in 10-15 additional home runs and a 10-20 point increase in batting average each year.  It would certainly help him avoid pulling off of most pitches as he swings, something he has done his whole career.  Stepping in such a huge bucket is a habit usually developed in Little League by weak hitters in an attempt to become power hitters.  K.K. is no longer a “little guy,” but still seems to think of himself as one. Believe me, any pitch met with the fat of his bat will clear the fences as long as it has the right trajectory

    I can still remember a certain third baseman, one of the ten most naturally talented hitters and fielders I have ever seen at any position who, to this day, still falls on his keister every time he swings and misses and half the time even when he hits the ball.  From the time he was a kid, he has had an off balance, unathletic stance which causes him to hit the ball with his weight on his front leg, robbing him of numerous home runs and several points in his batting average. The previous incompetent Rays hitting coach was always afraid to approach him about his stance if he even realized it was a problem.  Hopefully this wonderful athlete, who was always the consummate team player, can still reach the Hall of Fame someday despite never having reached his ultimate potential as a hitter.

    Thanks to Kevin Cash, his coaching staff, general management and a gung-ho cast of players, win or lose, the Rays are again exciting to watch!   


Rays Diary 7/4/18  

     Agree with Dewayne and Brian, last night was the strangest game I’ve ever seen Rays play.  Some great plays, lot of incompetent plays. Luckily, plenty of opportunity available to improve the skills of young players as Cash is not afraid to let them grow and try things.  Really love the job the young manager is doing. Took Joe Maddon years to learn how to become an ace manager, finally overcoming his somewhat obsessive compulsive habits. Sometimes felt that even he needed a consultation by a “neuro proctologist” for treatment of occasional brainfart similar to the one suffered by Kevin Cash in the premature hours of today’s Fourth of July holiday.  When he put Sucre in to pitch, I wasn’t the only one to think about “a bird in the hand worth two in the bush” as we came within a homerun of blowing a 16th inning 5 run lead.

    I read Marc Topkin’s insightful article, “Hitting groove eludes Kiermaier,” in today’s Tampa Bay Times regarding KK’s slow start.  I feel that KK’s numbers and offensive impact will always be stunted until somebody (hopefully Coach Mottola) convinces him to abandon his huge, slow step in the bucket.  Not only is it completely out of rhythm with his powerful compact swing and the main reason he pulls off of the ball, but he will never have confidence in his swing until he gets rid of the bucket!  Even when he’s hitting well, he usually looks hesitant. I certainly agree with Kevin Cash that a .262 batting average and a dozen homers a year is OK for most hitters, but is never even trying to reach one’s potential really acceptable to such a hard worker with so much natural talent?

Al Finkelstein July 4th, 2018