Rays Diary  8/8/13


Oh Well, so much for trying to look at positive and negative aspects of the Rays.  If one consistent problem outweighs all others, apparently it is the fact that we have possibly the best bench coach in all of baseball!  How you ask is this a problem?  The answer is simple.  As a field manager, Joe Maddon is the best bench coach in baseball, maybe the best of all time.  He can comfort his players after the most crushing defeat, exhorting them, at times, to perform beyond their abilities as he did so many times last season.  Under the most trying circumstances, the Rays players never seemed to give up and undoubtedly they had their bench coach to thank for this.  Unfortunately, their field manager gave up on them last year as soon as Evan Longoria and a few of the Rays other starters were injured.  With a rag-tag bunch of players, many borderline major leaguers, the Rays hit as many or more homeruns as most other teams (far more than the World Series champion Giants) scored plenty of runs, stole plenty of bases, but failed to make the playoffs.

Joe, with a team built for speed and manufacturing runs, decided that it was not worth trying to win unless the players and the computers could do all the work!  Why should the two time “Manager of the Year” or his confused protege, Peter Principle, excuse me, Derek Shelton, bother to actually watch the games from the dugout, when they could pleasantly daydream of “next year” when all their “favorite” players would return.  For now, they could pick their nails, sample cool drinks and look at the dugout wall instead of calling for bunts, hitting behind and advancing runners, hitting the ball where it is pitched and all those other silly things that managers and coaches do to win baseball games.   It’s so much easier to simply tell players to foolishly try for a homerun until they have two strikes on them and then try for a simple base hit that was actually appropriate to begin with.  Just tell everybody to “hit away” even in the ninth inning, down five runs with no one out and no runners aboard.  It’s fun to watch the batter attempt to hit a five run homer with nobody on base!

The truth of the matter is that in all my sixty plus years of following baseball, I have never seen a pitching staff as talented as the Rays’ of last year, not the Dodgers of the sixties or the Orioles of the seventies or the best of the Braves.  The problem is that giving Joe Maddon a gift like that can only be described as “a crime against nature!”  Wasting such a staff on a bench coach whose team needed only two to three runs a game to win, but tried to score ten runs an inning or nothing, whose personal choice as batting coach was perfectly satisfied with being shut out and no-hit more often than a drunk locked out of his house by his wife, should have incensed any legitimate baseball fan.  Unfortunately, most of the so-called sports writers on the Tampa Bay Times and the Tribune, as well as most of the local sports talk show hosts were apparently afraid that Joe, Derek, and the rest of the Rays management would ostracize them if they dared criticize management practices.  They are not baseball fans.  They are cowards whose reporting must be taken with a full pound of salt, whose opinions can hardly be trusted. 

It is one thing for employees of the Rays to withhold legitimate criticism of their employers, quite another for news media personnel to ignore the facts:  Joe Maddon and his lieutenant Peter Principle leave countless runs “on the field” through incompetent coaching and game planning.  Ironically, the Rays excellent radio play by play commentators have raised every issue that I have brought up so far without offending anyone (something I cannot seem to do).  Meanwhile, Brian Anderson, just like Kevin Kennedy before him, is constantly questioning and even criticizing Joe’s decisions and, more often, lack of decision with the ever classy Statz somehow agreeing with him without insulting anyone.

Last night’s 8-7 loss to the D-Backs was not simply a failure of the pitching staff.  Only a bench coach, used to one masterful pitching performance after another, expects to win every game by 2-1 and 3-1 scores day after day.  Only a bench coach would ignore the six double plays, almost all in bunting situations or calling for a ball hit to the right side, almost all the result of not being concerned about where the ball was hit.  No bunt, no hitting behind the runner, no attempt to hit the ball in the hole- inning after inning- at least four easy runs, “unwanted runs,” left on the field, and if last year is any indication, the scenario will be repeated game after game.  It’s how a bench coach manages.  It’s not how a professional baseball manager does it!


Al Finkelstein  8/8/13