Rays Diary 6/6/14                       Rays Win!

Congratulations!  Rays Win!  Hopefully this will lead to a long winning streak.  I do not think so.  The Rays will not be able to overcome the absence of a professional hitting coach and the burden of a lazy sometimes brilliant, often irrational manager.  The real question is: how long will the Rays survive with absolutely no offensive leadership or training? The trouble is, tonight, for the first time in many moons Joe couldn’t wait to implement Zim’s safety squeeze play.  Of course he used it in honor of Don Zimmer, not because he believes in the strategy, but in honor of Zim’s death!  Despite the potentially extremely high rate of success, Joe has done his best not to use any bunting plays or any balls to the right side of the diamond to score runs.  It is part of his “philosophy,” the one he shares with Peter Principle Shelton and certain lesser lights in the Rays front office.   New research has shown that “The Philosophy,” mistakenly attributed to Aristotle and Plato and even Sigmund Freud, actually was born in another solar system on the planet Ignoramus where they don’t play any baseball.  Instead, they study the game of “obsessive compulsion.”

The way the game is played, one has to take about five years before he is allowed to pitch a right handed relief pitcher with an ERA of 1.5 versus a left hand batter.  Until then a “lefty-lefty” matchup is mandatory or a nervous breakdown ensues.  No matter how many games are lost, the “lefty-lefty” as well as “righty-righty” matchups must be kept sacred.  This is to be done over the initial five year period even if the mandatory pitcher has an ERA of 5.0 or even 6.0 or 7.0 against the hitter.  Bunting, hitting behind the runner, advancing runners by sacrificing an out, hitting the ball where it is pitched or trying for a base hit instead of a homerun without a two strike count are all strictly forbidden.  In addition, certain pitchers are designated as “seventh,” “eighth’” and “ninth inning” pitchers.  Until one loses at least two games in a row because of his failure to put the “seventh inning” pitcher in earlier than the seventh inning, only then can one start to put him in earlier when needed.

Also, in the first five years of the game, one must have “two leadoff hitters whenever possible.”  The .360 hitter is to be the “second” leadoff hitter and bat in the ninth position in the lineup.  His job is to get on base so that the “first” leadoff hitter, the one hitting .180, can drive him in.  This is to continue for at least one hundred games until the “second” leadoff hitter is finally allowed to become the “first” leadoff hitter.  The cost for this mandatory exercise in futility is at least twelve to fifteen victories and eventually missing the playoffs.

In case of injuries, the game’s “expert” must blame as many losses as possible on the injuries.  If ones biggest homerun producer is on the disabled list and he is replaced by a speedster who does not hit homeruns, the substitute is still supposed to hit homeruns.  His speed and batting skills i.e. bunting, hitting to the opposite field, advancing runners, getting an RBI with an infield out, all of those shameful things that put enormous pressure on the opposing defense, are to be abandoned in honor of the holy act of trying to hit a homerun.  The most important rule of the “obsessive compulsion” game is that the homerun is more important than anything, even more important than winning!  Instead of learning lesser batting skills, players are instructed in the proper way to pray for their teammates to hit homeruns.  The manager is not allowed to have any offensive strategy except one called “hit away.”  Any other “plan” for scoring runs might overtax the brain and interrupt the intense concentration necessary to properly manage the game of “obsessive compulsion.”

There are only two concessions to the homerun.  In fact, there is the First Commandment: “Thou shalt work the count!”  “Working the count” means that one’s best sluggers are to “take” the first pitch in most cases even though it is usually a belt high fastball over the middle of the plate.  Generally, if the next pitch is another hittable fastball, that pitch is also taken for a strike.  Now the batter is finally allowed to swing at the breaking ball in the dirt because he has “worked the count.”  Of course, the batter is not supposed to hit the “breaking pitch.”  To ensure that he will miss it, the batter is instructed to stand as far back in the batter’s box as the rules permit, so far back that the late breaking pitch is beyond his recognition and reach before he can possibly hit it.  Some players do not mind this because as youngsters, they originally stood as far back as possible because they were afraid of the hard ball.  Many of them, even with a two strike count apparently, still are so afraid of being hit that they even try to obliterate the back line of the batter’s box, standing even further back, ensuring that they are virtually unable to hit “breaking balls.”  The Second Commandment is:  “With no outs and a man on first or first and second or a man at third and less than two outs, thou shalt not hit the ball toward first base to either advance a runner or score a run, but thou shalt hit the ball toward a fielder who can successfully turn something called a “double play.”  This must be done even if the opposing pitcher is foolish enough to throw a pitch on the first base side part of the plate.”

Interestingly, the game of “obsessive compulsion” employs a peculiar computer technique called “psychometrics.”  It takes a highly trained “expert” to feed the wrong information into the computer in order to obtain the wrong information back almost every time.  One “expert,” and his entire organization have been regularly victimized by this peculiar computer error and, ironically, by their own superior intelligence.  It seemed for a time that they had virtually mastered the art of “the shift,” moving their infielders and outfielders into unusual positions  based on the computer’s statistical probability of the areas into which batters would hit the ball most of the time.  Unfortunately, two problems arose.  It seems that against some pitchers, especially those throwing nearly one hundred miles an hour, it doesn’t matter what the hitter usually does, because almost every batter just tries to hit the ball up the middle!  Thus the “experts,” by not asking where the vast majority of all hitters hit the ball off of a given pitcher, began to lose many games by refusing to play their defense “up the middle.”  Just two days ago, the opposition hit five of six hits in a row “up the middle,” without the “psychometric” computer “experts” realizing that they needed to change their defense.  The second problem, of course, is that other teams with more competent batting coaches have taught players “to hit the ball where it is pitched” and the field “expert” often fails to have his pitchers pitch “into the shift.”  Thus game after game is lost as other teams’ pull- hitters smile and “hit the ball the opposite way” for victories.  Meanwhile the “expert’s” hitters continue to pull the same pitches into double play after double play. Unfortunately, the “obsessive compulsion” game does seem to demand that anyone in the organization who points out this embarrassing fact must be fired.  The Peter Principle must be respected!

Another of the most interesting features of the “obsessive compulsion” game is that the supervisor of all of the activities in the game, called a “manager,” is judged by how well he can avoid responsibility for anything that goes wrong.  After a loss, he must never take responsibility for any of his blunders.  On the other hand he must not “throw his players under the bus.”  This does not mean that when the player, especially a rookie publicly takes the blame for the “manager,” that his “manager” should ever shift it to himself even if that is where it belongs.  In fact, to protect himself, the “manager” must fire anyone who may know more about “the basics” of the game than he himself knows.”  Thus he might fire a hitting coach, no matter how successful or energetic he might be, in favor of someone who knows very little about hitting, who, like the “manager,” could never hit and could never even think like a hitter.  That way, the coach must be willing to “take the heat,” not only for his own shortcomings but for the “manager’s” as well.  Raising a coach “to his level of incompetence,” is known as the previously referenced “Peter Principle” after Professor Peter who first coined the phrase. According to the professor, almost everyone reaches his or her level of incompetence sooner or later, in one way or another.

Last but not least, some degree of success can be achieved with something called “good pitching.”  “Good defense” and “speed” can help immensely as well.  In fact, with sufficiently “good pitching,” an “obsessive compulsion” game “manager” can hide almost all of his managerial inadequacies for many years except when he faces a competent team “managed” by a rival supervisor who does not possess those inadequacies.  If the team’s pitching cannot overshadow almost all of the inadequacies, then those inadequacies are almost always exploited and the hopes of the team’s advancement in something called “The Playoffs,” are dashed.

I hope that Rays Diary readers are not offended by the time I have taken to describe a disturbing game developed on a planet as far away as Ignoramus.  I am sorry that I did not have a chance to interview one of the “managers” of this strange game.  I did try, but I was told that he was “out to lunch.”

Al Finkelstein (O’finky) 6/6/14