Rays Diary 8/28/12


Well, Mr. Maddon, somehow you managed to repeat the impossible, not in losing another one run ballgame, but by duplicating the same degree of incompetence it took to lose almost all of the other one run losses this year.  It takes an especially deep seated ignorance of baseball to repeatedly put up a .189 batter with men on second and third or even first and second in a tied or one run ballgame and no outs, praying so hard for the unlikely hit instead of bunting or trying to hit the ball slowly to first base to score or at least advance the runners.  In fact you’ve prayed for .100 hitters to come through with an actually unnecessary base hit on scores of occasions when any grounder to the right side would do.  Your philosophy of multiple runs or none has cost your team at least ten to fifteen games this year.  Yes, I have kept track and my estimate is very conservative, I assure you, sir.

That a manager as educated and clearly intelligent as you are , Joe, can exhibit such a lack of understanding of the basic principles of baseball is truly an enigma.  While you have proven to be the most adept and gifted clubhouse manager that I have seen in over sixty years of following major league baseball, you also seem to be, by far, the worst baseball field general that I have ever seen at any level.  While you have come a long way in the managing of pitchers, no longer yielding to the obsessive compulsion to create inappropriate righty-righty and lefty-lefty matchups, to this day you still haven’t mastered the simple art of the hitting lineup.  You are the poor challenged soul who batted his league leading .360 base stealing hitter ninth in the lineup for the first 106 games one season, are you not?  You did bat your under .220 hitter first did you not?  You did waste  nearly one hundred extra at-bats for both your .360 hitter and thirty or forty for your proper second batter in the lineup, didn’t you?  How many one run games do you think you might have won with thirty or forty extra hits?

Tonight, disdaining the bunt or any attempt to advance runners in the second and fourth innings you did a great disservice, not only to your team, but to your pitcher.  You've done the same to David Price and Jeremy Hellickson at least two or three times each, robbing them of the chance to win a close games by deliberate mismanagement.  Whether it is your idea to place some ignoramus’s amateur philosophy of hitting above the success of the team or you are forced by that ignoramus to play by his rules, it is not fair to the team and it is not fair to the fans!  The vapid idea that it is inappropriate to sacrifice an out for a base is foreign to baseball, especially to a team batting around .230 collectively.

The disconnect between personnel and management is glaring and totally incongruous.  The team, by necessity, is built on pitching, defense and speed, but the offensive philosophy, except for an occasional stolen base, disdains the manufacture of runs for “the timely hit” that rarely occurs.  This is not Earl Weaver's Orioles or the World Champion Red Sox of a few years ago.  With the best team pitching that I have ever seen, Walt Alston would have had this team in first place by more than half a dozen games.  Instead, we see batters , position players,  non pitchers, bunting foul with two strikes when a slapped ball down either baseline would do as well, an inning or two after not attempting to bunt in a clear bunting situation!

Perhaps even more insulting to players and fans was the firing of a legitimate batting coach, under whom many players improved their hitting.  I would imagine that Joe Maddon looked long and hard to find a hitting coach who knew less about hitting than he, himself, did.  For once, I have to give you all the credit, Joe.  You seem to have found him!  Whether Derek Shelton is as ignorant about hitting as his record reflects or players simply don’t listen is academic.  The experiment is a failure.  The team actually boasts the two most dysfunctional hitters in all of organized baseball!  Carlos Pena still refuses to drop his left elbow “into the slot” as every other hitter in the entire history of baseball has done.  He and his “coach” refuse to pay attention to “game films” that easily reveal how much better he hits when he tucks the elbow in. 

Sean Rodriguez’s completely unathletic and obviously dysfunctional batting stance is a total tribute to poor coaching at all levels.  Even a quick look at those elusive “game films” shows how, if and when he has that extra split second, Sean transitions into his natural, athletic stance before crushing the ball.  Otherwise he is relegated to arm swinging with one of the quickest pair of hands I have ever seen.  B.J. Upton managed to stop swaying and John Jaso narrowed his ugly stance and is batting sixty points higher for another team   It’s not impossible to change, Joe.  If a player doesn’t listen, Joe, bench  him for as long as it takes!

As the season progresses, without a swift kick in management’s derriere, even if the Rays make the playoffs, sooner or later, they will lose to a team with a better field manager, just as  they have done every previous time.  Please consider this entry a well meaning “kick in the pants.”

Al Finkelstein, Rays Fan