- Phillies 3-Rays 2:
Maddon’s screw ups:
This game wasn’t exactly a case study for Managing 101 unless it’s part of the “what not to do” lesson plan. First for the Rays: Is there anyone, anywhere in the organization that even asks Joe Maddon why he does the things he does? I understand that Chase Utley homered off of lefty Scott Kazmir in the first inning and that Ryan Howard has been struggling lately, specifically against lefties, but with two lefties remaining in the bullpen in the top of the ninth inning and a one-run deficit, why walk Utley? There was already one out and even if they pitched carefully to Utley with the lefty, they still had a great chance of getting him out. As badly as Howard’s been lately, there’s going to come a time in this series against a lefty that he’s going to run into a bad pitch and hit it out of the park. Maddon was lucky it wasn’t last night or the Rays would’ve been down by four runs instead of one, but it’s going to happen which begs the question of whether he’s allowed to do whatever he wants strategically without question.
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has been a frequent guest on Mike Francesa’s show here in New York throughout the playoffs and he said in he latest appearance that he was surprised that Maddon didn’t bunt in a particular situation against the Red Sox. I don’t remember the exact series of plays he’s referring to, but this is symptomatic of some sort of reverence that Maddon—-a baseball lifer—-is receiving by the young ownership group of the Rays. Sternberg is paying Maddon’s salary; he’s his boss; he has every right to ask any question—-no matter how condescending—-he wants to ask, especially since that same manager was lucky to be retained after losing almost an average of 100 games in his first two years at the helm.
There’s nothing wrong with a little closed door Q&A between manager, general manager and owner as to what was going through the manager’s head in certain circumstances. That appears to be missing in Tampa and if Maddon continues making these similar bizarre and unexplainable decisions as he did in the ALCS (and almost cost them the series), the Phillies are going to take advantage in a way that the Red Sox couldn’t.
In baseball, there are managers who have earned the right to respond to queries regarding strategy the way Billy Martin used to with his voice quivering, fists shaking and teeth clenched: “Because I’m the <bleeping> manager, that’s why!” While they’d probably have more tact in doing it, Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox among a few others could say to the press and even to their bosses that they did what they did and that’s that. (Joe Girardi seems to think he’s one as well, but isn’t.) Joe Maddon is not one of those managers.
And why was Ben Zobrist suddenly inserted into the lineup instead of Rocco Baldelli? Was is just some epiphany that Maddon had to start Zobrist in a position with which he has only a vague familiarity? 97 wins or not; ALDS win or not; ALCS win or not; I don’t like the way Maddon manages and I don’t care if he wins this series. I want reasons for the decisions that are made and “I felt it in my gut” isn’t a reason that flies with me.
Manuel’s (and the Phillies’) screw ups:
Shane Victorino getting thrown out at the plate on that shallow fly ball was an absurd decision by whomever made it. Whether the third base coach Steve Smith sent Victorino or Victorino decided to go on his own, here’s the question: How do you get thrown out at the plate with the middle of the lineup coming up, the bases loaded and two outs? The fly ball hit by Jimmy Rollins was far too shallow to test B.J. Utpon’s arm. Jayson Werth is good at working the count and Utley (who’d already homered) and Howard were behind him; why not let them get a few swings at Kazmir instead of taking such a risky chance that didn’t work?
This is a standard second guess, but in retrospect starting Chris Coste was a mistake at DH since Coste looked clueless at the plate. It’s not going to be an issue again because Kazmir won’t start games six or seven if they’re necessary, but as the game wore on and it was close, they would’ve been better off with Eric Bruntlett in left field and Pat Burrell as DH. It was made even worse when with a one-run lead, they yanked Burrell for Bruntlett’s defense. If the Rays had tied the game, the Phillies would’ve gone into extra innings with Bruntlett and Coste instead of Bruntlett and Burrell. Which would you rather have in a tie game?
Obviously, he’s not going to do it, but I wonder if Manuel has even considered splitting up Utley and Howard from batting back-to-back? My guess is that if asked, he’d mutter something about “this is what got us here”, but the Dodgers had three lefties in their bullpen and Manuel kept the lineup the same, so it shouldn’t be expected that he’ll change now. It worked then and Utley homered last night, so maybe Manuel’s right.
I forgot to mention it in my prediction yesterday, but my pick is Brad Lidge.