Rays Diary- April 16, 2014

Some things simply don’t change and “repeating the same mistakes again and again while expecting a different result” is still a definition of “insanity.”   This is not to say that “Say It Ain’t So Clueless Joe” is insane, but he’s no field manager either.  The other day in an interview, he referred to “bunting” as a “throwback to the ‘30’s.”  Obviously for “Clueless,” despite his otherwise high IQ, the glorified bench coach obviously believes that “managing” is also a throwback to the 30’s.  “Lucky” hits or not, the Orioles did score runs by bunting and deliberately hitting the ball to the right side behind the runners.  Meanwhile, Rays hitters, for some either esoteric or completely stupid reason, continued to pull fully expected low outside pitches into harmless dribblers to the left side of the infield.  In fact, a few “harmless” grounders to the first base side and the Rays are right in the thick of the game. 

Unfortunately, you can say that for more than half of the games so far this year and last year and the year before, and…  Get the message?  With a very talented, but cowardly vice-president in charge of player personnel (what used to be called a general manager) who is intimidated by Mr. Madden, this team will never reach “The Promised Land,” a World Series Championship.   (Remember Rich McKay, a very talented V.P. in charge of personnel intimidated by a very talented coach, Tony Dungy who knew too little about offense?   That “team” never reached the “Promised Land” for the very same reasons!) For that is something you have to want, a goal that you are willing to do anything within the rules of fair play to achieve!   Early on, dozens of totally statistically inappropriate lefty-lefty and righty-righty pitcher-hitter matchups , over one hundred games in a single season, batting a .360 hitter in the ninth hole and .180 hitters in the leadoff spot in his lineup, Joe proved that his psychological hang-ups were far more important than a World Series Ring or even a playoff spot.

I’ve said many times that Joe Madden is possibly the best clubhouse manager ever, but with the retirement of the venerable Jim Leyland he is the worst field manager currently in baseball.  Part of his problem reminds me of the failed elections of Al Gore and John Kerry.  Both, choosing their friends to run their campaigns instead of the best people available,  lost to a candidate even more inept than they were.  Similarly, Derek Shelton may be the only “Major League” coach who knows less about hitting than “Clueless” Joe.  After firing the far more successful Steve Henderson, apparently he went looking for someone willing to smile and “take the hit” for his boss’s offensive incompetence.

Listening to both Madden and Shelton, it is immediately clear that both are intelligent and articulate.  They probably tell players to hit the outside pitch to the opposite field, to be patient and relaxed at the plate, but there is no way that they can show them how to hit the ball that way because neither of them has ever been able to hit or even think like a hitter.  The other night, late in a scoreless tie, the “brain trust” disdained the bunt with no outs and a man on first with a good bunter up.  “Luckily,” their alternative strategy, desperately praying for a wild pitch ended up winning the game 1-0 ultimately.  Without the wild pitch,  however, the game might still be going on.   Can I tell you how many times that strategy failed last year alone?  Yes, in over fifty games, most of them losses.  It never occurred to either of them the other night that the young opposition pitcher was throwing at least 50% slow curves and that maybe it would be helpful to actually wait for that pitch!   What is the worst thing that can happen?  Why, a few hits and more fast balls to hit, of course!  They almost lost a 2-1 game for David Price as well, passing up the bunt after a leadoff double in the ninth, the runner stranded after a one out grounder had sent him to third instead of to the plate.  A ninth inning homer made that game much closer than it should have been, ending with the bases loaded.

The most frustrating sight of all, however, is watching Shelton turn Ben Zobrist from a power hitter into a ”Punch and Judy” hitter, advising him to employ the “death move” in his swing.  By prematurely breaking his wrists and hands, he not only guarantees to cut his natural homerun production in half, but also insures that he will roll “over the top” of ground balls in an effort to vie for the “hitting into double plays” record every year.  “Say It Ain’t So,” Joe!


Al Finkelstein (O’Finky), April 16, 2014