Rays Diary: Post Season 2016   (10/7/16)


     The  Rays’ 2016 season is finally over.  More than anything else the otherwise forgettable 2016 campaign sets up the 2017 season as a watershed moment in Rays baseball.  Of all the obvious faults with the design of the organization, none stands out as obviously as the fact that there are so many competent business professionals in the Rays organization that are not competent baseball professionals.  Mr. Sternberg and Mr. Silverman need to realize that the fact that they are “superfans” of the Rays and of baseball is not an advantage.  Instead, it is probably their biggest liability.  Naive baseball fans love homeruns, dominant elevated-fastball pitchers and batters taking murderous cuts at the baseball.  Unfortunately, all that is mostly for show and speed, defense, keeping pitches at the bottom of the strike zone as well as pinpoint accuracy have always been the secret to the success of low to medium budget teams year after year.

     I doubt that Rays management has learned its lesson after a year of record numbers of Rays homeruns, errors, baserunning gaffes, strikeouts and low run production by the offense.  Nor do I think that they understand that Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan could throw elevated “high heaters” all day into an “elevated” strike zone without giving up dozens upon dozens of homeruns.  None of our pitchers can afford to throw that pitch with the enormous frequency that they did this past season.  The Rays have always been ahead of the curve in attempting to play the shift and to set up patterns for the relief staff, putting the computer to good use much of the time, but they have also fallen victim to fads that come and go.  Last year, the bullpen was decimated by the All Star break by the stupid notion that starters should be taken out extra early in games to limit their exposure to high pressure situations.  This amateur idea may well have been concocted either by a deranged patient masquerading as a sports psychologist or more likely by a calculating Boston computer hacker planting the idea in the Rays overused computer system.

     I guess the big lesson to be learned from the past few seasons is the famous line: “Watch out what you wish for because you might get it.”  After years of surprisingly good success with the currently almost defunct “speed, pitching and defense,” the Rays have plenty of the power, uh... power... and power that amateurs in the organization have lusted after all these years.  Unfortunately, they can’t bunt, hit and run, field, or even put the ball on the ground when they have to in order to move a runner or score from third base.  Whose responsibility this is remains a mystery. Mr. Silverman has not yet shown any significant understanding of organizing player personnel, but one has to ask how much that has to do with poor player development and at what level.

     Surely, no one can seriously argue that our coaches have made many players into better hitters.  In fact, they seem to hit better after only a few weeks back in the minors where they can quickly dispose of the bad habits they seem to pick up on the parent club.  Watching Rays coaches employ a batting tee to get players to hit the ball in front of the plate is only a good idea if the player is not hiding so far back in the batter’s box that he can’t even reach the front of the plate!  Evan Longoria took how many years to figure this out?  If you have a hitch and a loop in your swing, you have to move up a little in the box to reach outside and breaking pitches without falling on your butt.  Will Meyers apparently was told this as soon as he was traded to another team.  After finally moving up a half step in the box, both he and Evan had their best seasons.  Kevin Kiermaier spent his entire Major League career bailing out on every single swing until shortly after the All Star break without any of his coaches telling him about it.  That probably cost him about fifty or sixty points in his batting average, half a dozen homeruns and a score of RBI’s.  Apparently his coaches were too worried about homeruns and batting tees.

     It’s troubling that I can’t tell if Kevin Cash is a competent manager or if his troubles stem mostly from amateurs in the business office dictating managerial philosophy.  I suspect that without the brave help of Davy Martinez and Don Zimmer, Joe Maddon’s  composite conscience, Cash is at a distinct disadvantage.  I don’t know if the team is run by humans asking computers the wrong questions to “assist” in their decisions or if the computers are actually on their own???


Al Finkelstein, Rays Fan