Just a few quick thoughts about strategy in Game 5 of the World Series.
Admittedly, it's much easier to manage from the couch. Or second-guess the day after.
Still, I can't let it go without bringing up a few managerial tactics by Rays manager Joe Maddon. It seems that no media outlet (including both major papers that cover the Rays) have bothered to second-guess Maddon, who deserves an A+ for getting the Rays this far in the first place.
Still, there are three things I can't help but question in an unprecedented Series game that lasted 48 hours from start to finish.
1). David Price. This is the easy one to take Maddon to task with. And frankly, it's the most subjective. Price has been the wild card all postseason and against the Red Sox, he came in and delivered a World Series berth to the Tampa Bay region. So, who only use Price 1 inning, if he's your best bet out of the bullpen?
Perhaps, Maddon was worried about overusing Price. After all, the Rays had four innings to shut the Phillies down. But the best that I can figure is Maddon badly wanted J.P. Howell to face Pat Burrell. Howell has a nasty curve and Burrell is known for chasing junk in the dirt. Maddon got his matchup, but not the result (Burrell doubled, which led to the winning run).
I don't have a problem not starting with Price, as Grant Balfour has done an admirable job this year. And Price, while dominant, has had control issues, so there's no guarantee he mows down the Phils for 12 straight outs.
Still, bringing out Price in the 7th inning (not the 8th) seems to be the way to go with a tie game in the balance and a season on the line.
2). Carl Crawford not stealing in the 8th? Crawford has been the single best base stealer in the American League over the past five years. Plus, he's one of the most successful base swipers in baseball history at 82.5 percent. Crawford stole 6 bases in the postseason and the Rays stole a postseason record 24.
Crawford led off the 8th inning with a clean single to center. B.J. Upton was up next and instead of taking a pitch or two to let Crawford get into scoring position with nobody out, Upton swings at the first pitch and hits into a double play. Game over.
Why didn't Maddon put the mandatory green light on for Crawford and the red light to Upton? To me, this was the most egregious error of the night. Pressing the issue has been the Rays' M.O. all season, especially in the playoffs. When it counted most, Maddon got conservative.
3). Fernando Perez not stealing 3rd in the 9th. This is my final rant and I'll get off my soap box. Dioner Navarro sawed a broken-bat single off the nearly-unhittable Brad Lidge. Predictably, Perez pinch-ran and easily stole second base. Wasn't close.
Pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist had just one strike on him. There was one out. Lidge has not blown a save all season long. Why not send Perez, one of the fastest guys in baseball, to third. Gutsy? Sure. But what's harder to do? Get a single off a dominant closer or steal a base and get a fly ball. Zobrist accomplished the fly ball a couple pitches later. But Perez ends up stranded at third.
Now, it's your turn. Did you think Maddon could've managed the game any differently? Starting in the bottom of the 6th inning, the strategic moves take on a whole new meaning.
The non-steal attempts by Crawford and Perez weren't awful, and haven't been mentioned, even on the game broadcast, but in my mind, considering the circumstances and Maddon's style, they were both way too conservative. This was a team with the season on the line. They need to manufacture a run somehow, someway.
Still, it's a great story, one of the best in baseball in my lifetime. And Maddon deserves praise for not just getting to the Series, but for winning the A.L. East with a payroll one-fifth as big as the Yankees.
Hopefully, this isn't the last we've seen of the Rays.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Just a few quick thoughts about strategy in Game 5 of the World Series.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Sure, it's easy to second-guess a manager's decision after the fact.
But here's one before hand. Call it 20/20 foresight:
Starting Scott Kazmir is a mistake for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Rays manager decided to roll the dice with Game 2 starter Kazmir in Game 5 against the Red Sox, in a game the Rays could clinch their first World Series berth.
The reasoning is Kazmir's career numbers (4-4 with a 3.02 ) at Fenway have been much better than those of James Sheilds (0-3, 10.13).
But when you look at Kazmir's most recent success against Boston it's a no-brainer to use Shields. Kazmir gave up 5 ER in 4 1/3 innings in Game 2, not to mention the 9 ER in 3 IP he served up to Boston on Sept. 15 show he could be just what the slumping Red Sox need.
Shields has been their rock all year and the Rays should go for the knockout punch while they can.
Thanks to TV, there's a day off between Games 4 and 5, which gives Kazmir the proper rest (four days) that makes this decision appealing.
But Madden shouldn't try to outsmart himself.
This is just the sort of decision that may rally Boston and inspire a Game 5 win. A 3-1 lead seems like a done deal.
Just ask the Cubs how that worked out in 2003.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Manny being Manny is one thing.
But the question has surfaced in bold type recently whether or not Manny Ramirez's actions in Boston, where he appeared to be tanking it to get traded to the Dodgers, went too far.
The controversial quotes were delivered by MLB on Fox analyst Tim McCarver, according to a report in the MLB on FOX analyst Tim McCarver said, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"It's extraordinary — the dichotomy between what he was in Boston and what he is in Los Angeles," McCarver was quoted. "I mean, talk about wearing out your welcome in a town, and it was a long welcome with the Red Sox. But some of the things he did were simply despicable, despicable — like not playing, refusing to play. Forgetting what knee to limp on. And now it's washed, it's gone."
Is "despicable" a little strong for Manny's actions?
Perhaps. But depending on which coast you live on, you see this thing through different glass.
Looking at how Manny rolled out excuse after excuse for why he couldn't play in those final weeks in Boston, then miraculously seemed perfectly healthy in Los Angeles doesn't sit well with most baseball purists.
But how is this different than someone in the final year of his contract, running out every hit, diving for balls, taking the extra base, all for that extra 1-2 million per year on a multi-season deal?
(For example, see Adrian Beltre).
Thursday night, as the NLCS kicked off with a 3-2 Phillies win over the Dodgers, Manny went 2-for-4, including a double in the first that just missed going out.
Manny hit .398 with 53 RBI in the final two months with the Dodgers. These were numbers only a healthy Manny, playing at his absolute peak, could reach. So why could he not even play in a key game against the Yankees, despite looking completely fine taking batting practice?
Perhaps only one thing could put a rest to the whole "despicable" debacle.
Manny and the Dodgers facing the Red Sox in the Series.
Now that's must-see TV.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
People want to know why.