Look on the bright side, Rays fans.
Before you read the next couple of paragraphs, just know that the Rays are going to be OK. They are going to get it going. You can count on it. If you believe!
OK, so what would you say if I were to tell you the Rays were fifth in MLB in runs scored, and Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce both had an OPS above 1.000. Add Carlos Pena at .986 and Luke Scott at .927. You’d probably say that Tampa Bay was well on its way to the World Series, and with their pitching, they were the favorites to win it all.
Then, what would you think if I were to tell you that the Rays’ pitching staff was ranked 28th out of 30 in MLB in ERA, at 5.33. Plus, they were ranked 29th in bases-on-balls. And for dessert, they top things off with a major league worst WHIP of 1.59. You might think they didn’t have a chance in hell of finishing with a .500 record for the season.
While thinking of what I would write about, I took a look at their stats. They are numbers, and they do give you a sense of where a club might be. But they are only numbers. Then, after reading an article by Bill Chastain, I made the mistake of reading the comments below. And there were several comments ripping Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey. Nasty as could be. I decided I had to read a bit more, and thankfully, most fans had a decent, common-sense approach to a 7-7 record at the beginning of a 162 game regular season.
I follow this club regularly. I know their swings from a distance, without my glasses on. I have a pretty good idea of what they’re trying to do pitch-to-pitch when they’re on the mound.
After having watched the team, and coached for over 25 years, I’m just a baseball guy. I don’t know if I’m what you’d call a regular fan. I’m a fan of organizations, managers and coaches and players. I know how hard the game is to play, and that decisions aren’t nearly as easy as they might appear on television or as they stream on the computer.
Tampa Bay has a great organization, and has one of baseball’s best starting rotations. They are very talented, and very young. The offense is definitely improved. Their defense is much better than most in baseball. Please, just forget that Evan Longoria has struggled a bit with the glove. He’s a Gold Glover, and will prove it again this year.
As for the pitching staff as a whole, I’m not really going to worry about things. Hickey knows what he’s doing, and communicates well with the staff – you can see it in the dugout during the game – and Maddon is just coming off a Manager of the Year award that he truly deserved and earned last season.
So, keep up the positive thoughts. Don’t pay much attention to the nay-sayers. They typically hide behind anonymity, and they live through the failures of others more than the successes. I don’t generally consider that sort of individual a fan.
I’ve always said that the dumbest guy at the park is the man who makes out the lineup. The skipper can’t please everyone. I was that guy, thankfully, for many years, although at a much lower level. It beats anything except for actually playing the game. And while I do understand the value of statistics, or as Dizzy Dean called them “statics”, I know there’s much more that goes into putting a team on the field. To quote a former big leaguer on the value of statistics:
“Statistics are like a girl in a fine bikini. It shows a lot, but it doesn’t show everything.”
Before too long, I am going to sit back and enjoy watching James Shields compete on every single pitch he throws. I’m not going to worry about a 7-7 start, which many might have been happy with if they looked at the schedule for the first road trip of the year. I am going to embrace the grind of a 162 game season that lasts that long for a reason.
Remember number 162 last year? Pure magic.