Maddon Is A Learning Computer
- Rays 3-Red Sox 1:
I’d like to get my hands on the guy who bet on the Rays to make it to the World Series before the season started, but I doubt there are any in existence. (That reminds me that the real “Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein” from Casino died last week; he was a handicapper named Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal—-he gambled, chain-smoked, chased women, did business with the mob and lived to 79.)
Say this for Joe Maddon: he doesn’t make the same mistakes twice. As irritating as it was to see him make all those pitching changes in the eighth inning, he didn’t do the same thing he did in game five and cost his team the game by not making the percentage maneuvers. Had he been so adherent to the realities of the situation his team was in, the series would have ended on Thursday and there wouldn’t have been the need for the crapshoot that is a game seven.
With all of that under the bridge, Maddon does deserve credit for keeping his team’s emotions in check and finally making the correct decisions including his gutty usage of David Price to close the game. There are two schools of thought with the way Price was used: A) Maddon didn’t have any other choice; or B) this is the way the Rays have played all year; Price was the top pick in the draft last year; and the lofty status of such a high draftee implies that he’s got to be able to handle these situations. I think it was a combination of both. Without an established closer and Price throwing such wicked stuff, it was the right move (before and after the fact) to use the unknown star-in-waiting. Many times teams sabotage themselves by altering the way they got to their current situations and Maddon didn’t do that when he rolled the dice with Price.
Matt Garza looked ominously close to imploding a couple of times, but bottled his emotions and was masterful. It makes you wonder about his behavior with the Twins because there had to be ancillary reasons that they traded him for a player like Delmon Young, who’s never going to be a star, while Garza basically already is.
This was an amazing job by the Rays who played a bit tightly at times as young teams are wont to do, but managed to keep control of themselves; from the top of the organization on down, they learned their lessons and now find themselves in the World Series about three years earlier than anyone could have thought possible no matter how many bright young stars they’ve accumulated with all those years of cellar-dwelling and the high draft picks that are one of the perks of ineptitude. Speaking of which…
- Can we calm down with the implications of prescience on the part of Joe Maddon?
Never mind that Maddon is one of those guys who tries to shed the best possible light on any situation (an admirable, if occasionally annoying attribute also shared by Joe Girardi and Bobby Valentine), but to suddenly hear the broadcasters lavish credit on him for saying things in March like (I’m paraphrasing): “We like our team; we can compete with anyone; we’re gonna surprise people…” is silly.
Find me one manager in baseball who doesn’t say things like that to endorse his team in spring training and I’ll find you a manager at war with his front office and very likely to lose his job in short order. You can shut your eyes and walk into any spring training complex to hear the same song-and-dance over and over again whether it’s accurate or not and whether the manager actually believes it or not. It’s straight out of Dealing With The Media 101 in the Manager’s Handbook and it deserves neither to be credited nor to be taken seriously before, during nor after the fact. Maddon deserves credit for many things, but I doubt even he believed that the Rays were going to come so far, so fast.
- Changes in store for the Red Sox:
Before anything else, I don’t want to hear any maudlin whimpering from the Red Sox or their fans because if they’re going to whine about losing in the seventh game of the ALCS after winning two championships in the past five years, then they’re just getting greedy and forgetting what it’s like to be suffering for so long (sort of like the nouveau riche who helped dismantle the country’s banking systems by not knowing when enough’s enough).
It’s amazing, given how injury-riddled and flawed the Red Sox were by season’s end, that they made it as far as they did; that shines a light on how important Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon (homegrown talents all) were to keeping the team afloat. Provided there’s nothing serious wrong with Josh Beckett (I’m waiting for full disclosure of his mysterious “upper-body” injury), their starting rotation is going to be fine next season. I think they’ll keep tabs on the C.C. Sabathia situation, but not get involved, letting the Yankees throw the $$$$$ at him; and I don’t think it’s completely absurd to think that Derek Lowe might want to return at a price agreeable to both sides. Their bullpen is okay; the lineup is a different story.
The Red Sox survived without Manny Ramirez because Jason Bay performed well and Youkilis and Pedroia picked up the slack. I doubt there’s any way that Jason Varitek returns in anything other than a part-time role on a short-term
, reasonably priced contract. There are teams out there that could use Varitek, carry his weakening bat and maximize his leadership skills (the Tigers for example), but my guess is that the Red Sox are going to find a younger catcher like either one of the Pirates duo of Ryan Doumit or Ronny Paulino and relegate Varitek to 80-100 games; it depends on how much he wants to stay; how important it is for him to be the captain of the Red Sox over the opportunity to play more and possibly make more money. One thing about Theo Epstein and the Red Sox front office—-they’ll think nothing of thanking Varitek for his contributions to the organization and then let him leave without remorse.
Center field may be a place where they’re going to upgrade offensively. For all of the hype surrounding him, there’s a question of exactly what Jacoby Ellsbury is going to be. 38 of his 155 hits were for extra bases and that’s not going to cut it no matter how fast or solid defensively he is. This is especially important without Manny. Ellsbury has a sweet swing, but so did names from the past like Mike Aldrete and Gregg Jefferies and neither developed as they were expected to; is he ever going to develop any power is the question the Red Sox have to ask and I think if they can package him in a trade to upgrade the position, they’ll do it. The problem is that there aren’t many center fielders who would be available unless the Mets make a bold move and start shopping Carlos Beltran. It would take a lot more than Ellsbury to get that done.
With everything that happened to them this year, it’s a tribute to the Red Sox that they made it this far and if I were their fans, I’d cut my losses, be happy and look toward the future.
- They teach you to proofread in high school:
There is nobody in America who isn’t rooting for Andrew Friedman.
I clicked on the link thinking, I ain’t rootin’ for no Andrew Friedman; some rich guy whose buddy bought a big league team and installed him as the GM. And when I got to the linked page, the story is actually about Rocco Baldelli, who of course everyone’s rooting for considering his circumstances. PROOFREAD!!! PROOFREAD!!!