Rays Diary: July 23, 2011

At mid-season the Rays seem to living up to pre-season projections of eighty five or eighty six wins.  We don’t seem to have the lineup necessary to compete with the elite teams in our division, nor the coaching and management to eke out a few extra victories.  Damon, Zobrist, Longoria, Joyce, and Kotchman are major league hitters.  They are joined by Upton who is virtually uncoached and therefore “borderline.”  Rodriguez, minimally coached, could be called a borderline major leaguer as well as Ruggiano, who has not yet had time to “unlearn” all of the fundamentals of hittting that he was taught at Durham.  Otherwise, all of the other bats are clearly “minor league.”

Thanks to the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Joe Maddon has finally formalized the best lineup that he can, occasionally screwing it up by putting a catcher in the second spot.  After an early attempt to hit the ball where it’s pitched, driving the ball to the right side with men on third, and employing the squeeze bunt, things are back to normal, that is praying for the rare hit or a useless walk with men in scoring position.  Tonight, with bases loaded and no outs, pious philosophers Maddon and Shelton could be found in the dugout, praying for the likes of Joyce (fifth strikeout in a row)and Upton (weak popup with Zobrist foolishly tagging up for a sure out at the plate), to come up with the unlikely hit.  No squeeze bunt, no hit to the right side or second squeeze, no third batter and no runs, as usual, with bases loaded and no outs.  Typical Maddon, typical Shelton.  Can’t blame the computer this time because even the computer dictated “small ball.”  Instead, Maddon and Shelton’s philosophy dictates “no ball!”

Under the incompetent tutelage of Maddon and Shelton, I don’t see any of our young hitters improving.  In fact, Longoria will still remain entrenched in the very back of the batters box even with two strikes to ensure that he will not only whiff at the third strike breaking ball in the dirt, but he will continue to tear hamstrings and oblique muscles in a useless superhuman stretch toward the worthless pitch.  Joyce will continue to swing for the bleachers even when a routine grounder will bring in the tying or winning run.  Upton will continue to sway far backward before he swings and move his head off the ball, producing the large and obvious hole in his swing.  Jaso, who belongs in the outfield, will lose fifteen or twenty homeruns per season with his ridiculously widened stance as he continues to hit the ball with his powerful forearms instead of his legs and torso.

If Mr. Maddon wanted a  professional “philosopher” to coach his poor batters, he would have been better off with Plato or Aristotle.  They could not possibly have understood less about hitting a baseball than manager Maddon or his confused disciple, Derek Shelton.  Besides, like Plato and Aristotle, “hitting” is certainly “Greek” to Maddon and Shelton.  Worse yet, I’m not sure who the idiots are who feed all the useless information into Mr. Maddon’s mindless computer.  As the old saying goes: “garbage in, garbage out.”  Any manager unable to process baseball information in his head belongs at a lower level.  In 2009, by batting Jason Bartlett in the 9th position for more than 102 games while he was hitting .360 and Upton in the leadoff position where he was hitting .110, scores of extra at bats were lost and at least five to ten games sacrificed to either abject stupidity or the ravages of obsessive compulsive disorder.  General Manager Andrew Friedman, despite his brilliant and efficient player recruitment must share the blame for permitting this exercise in unmitigated stupidity.  He also needs to share the responsibility for starting Shelton protege, Dan Johnson over Casey Kotchman early in the season.  Unrequited love of the homerun has buried far better teams than the Rays.

Jim Hickey, meanwhile, continues to develop into a legitimate pitching coach.  Like Joe Maddon, his strength is in being able to identify with his pupils.  Young pitchers on the Rays struggle, but unlike young hitters, they seem to gradually improve.  Hickey seems to be working on a virtual Ph.D. in psychology.  Dealing with delicate pitching egos, he has so far kept a rag tag assortment of young relievers together despite his manager’s constant attempts to destroy their effectiveness.  By rarely leaving in a “hot” reliever for more than a few batters, by attempting to use as many pitchers as possible in each game, Mr. Maddon continues to tire his relievers by incessantly having them “wam up.”  He did the same thing in 2008 and by the time we hit the playoffs, David Price represented the only live arm in the bullpen.

Speaking of David Price, the smooth throwing fireballer, hopefully he and Jim Hickey will finally find time to review films or videos of his pitching performances.  They will find that almost every homerun or extra base hit has followed a pitch in which his arm took too wide an angle toward the plate.  The pitch Granderson hit for a two run homer the other night was almost sidearm and Granderson could be seen easily tracking it as the pitch never moved downward at all.  Especially out of the stretch, this is the major flaw in Price’s motion.  Wade Davis’ flaw is similar as he sometimes slides toward first base in an effort to correct his wide arm angle instead of rotating around his left side.

Well, as the trade deadline nears, Upton, who should be the right handed Junior Griffey, but remains uncoached and Shields, the best junkball pitcher in baseball may be on the trading block.  I hope not.  By the way, a first class Little League batting instructor is far less expensive than another “bat” and could be of valuable assistance in teaching Maddon and Shelton the fundamentals of hitting that are so conspicuously lacking in their bumbling hitting philosophy.

Go Rays!

Al Finkelstein, D.O.  7/23/11

Rays Diary: 7/25/11

As Ronald Reagan used to say: “There you go again.”  For the third game in the last four, miserable managing has cost the Rays another game.  Under Manager Maddon’s dopey  coaching “philosophy” and his equally dopey disciple, Rays failed to put the ball in play, failed to bunt, failed to hit and run with bases loaded and no outs.  Instead, the Maddon/Shelton prayer meeting failed to move the Lord and to produce the “big hit.”  The other team’s coaches could be seen in their dugout, praying just as hard.  Apparently there was a stalemate as G-d refused to take sides and left to their own devices, without proper coaching, Rays hitters either pulled outside pitches into double plays or mercifully struck out.  As the bullpen again succumbed to its manager’s philosophy of never leaving a hot reliever in the game, the team managed to squander multiple chances to score insurance runs, disdaining ”small ball” for the now all too famous “no ball.”  

The uncoached B.J. Upton could still be seen deciding to either swing or not swing before the first pitch no matter what pitch was thrown, taking fast balls over the middle of the plate and swinging at wild pitches two feet off the plate or bouncing at his feet.  Obviously there is no coach to teach him how to think up at the plate.  There is noone to remind him that he is”ahead” in the count as he steps up, that he can sit on his pitch and take it if it’s not he one he’s looking for or that it might be better to look for the fastball when ahead in the count, because you probably don’t want to swing at the breaking ball.

Now Joyce, after hitting the ball to the opposite field and up the middle earning himself an All-Star berth, is returning to the established “just swing away” Shelton batting style that had marooned poor career minor leaguer Dan Johnson in Durham, the future home of Kelly Shoppach, another Shelton victim.  Meanwhile, it is good to see Ben Zobrist, actually the most talented hitter overall on the Rays, emerging from the influence of his batting coach, hitting the ball to all fields and not trying “to turn” on every pitch.  Keep hitting doubles.  The homeruns will follow, which holds for Longoria, Ruggiano, Rodriguez, and now Jennings.

Go Rays!

Al Finkelstein, D.O.  7/26/11