I found it very amusing when I saw Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon going nuts as home-plate umpire Jim Wolf during Thursday’s 6-0 loss to the Texas Rangers.
It amused me because the reason Maddon was angry was because first-base umpire Jerry Meals did not call Michael Young out on a check-swing appeal. Rays reliever Chad Qualls thought he had Young struck out but Meals ruled no swing.
Of course, Young hit the next pitch for a three-run home run that turned the game from 2-0 to 5-0 and the Rays go on to lose 6-0.
The odd thing about it is Wolf and Meals were not to blame. Not even Young was to blame.
Instead of being angry at the the umpire how about getting angry with the pitcher who served up the home run? If Qualls makes a quality pitch and Young makes an out, does Maddon go out and act like a 8-year-old child in front of a national TV audience?
Yet he waited until the home run is hit to make an issue of the call because it ended up hurting his team. But Qualls hurt the team by serving a fat pitch to a good hitter. Maddon should have vented his wrath against him and not the umpires.
No matter how much you want to believe it is not true, umpires are not perfect. They are human and they make mistakes. Meals did miss the call.
But, so what? It is part of the game and by putting on a uniform and participating in the sport you have signed up to abide by the rules and how the rules are interpreted is up to the umpires.
Are the Rays 0-2 and on the brink of elimination because of one missed call or could it be because David Price was outpitched by Cliff Lee and James Shields was outpitched by C.J. Wilson?
Is it Meals’ fault that the Rays have scored only one run and have only eight hits in two games?
I can’t believe how silly this controversy is all about one second out of 18 innings in which the Rays have played like they have never seen a bat or ball or know what game they are playing.
It really has been a problem with this team all season. Look at the batting averages of their players in the starting lineup. They have been no-hit so many times in the past two years it has become a joke. They have also been a few near no-hitters, too.
That indicates to me a team that has overachieved. The Rays draw walks and get on base anyway they can so they can turn games into track meets. They have to do that or they will lose games.
When they fail to get on base, they end up looking like the team we saw the last two days in St. Petersburg, FL.
Years ago the Oakland Athletics decided to sign world-class sprinter Herb Washington as a pinch-runner. The idea was he would wreak havoc on the bases with his amazing speed. It was another idea from the mind of Charlie O. Finley, the team’s flamboyant owner.
It did not work out to well.. Washington could run alright. But he did not know the nuances of the game: How to read pitchers, how to get a good lead, how to slide properly, etc. The end result of the Washington experiment is that it is impossible to steal first base.
That is why the best base stealers in baseball history had one thing in common. They could get on first base enough to make that speed work.
The Rays have a gifted base stealer in Carl Crawford. No doubt.
However, the rest of the team is severely lacking in players who can consistently get on base to make the running game enough of a weapon.
This may not show itself during a regular season when the Rays are playing the Orioles or Tigers or Mariners.
But it will rear its ugly head when the playoffs start and instead of facing pitchers like Brad Bergesen, Jeremy Bonderman and Jason Vargas, they are facing guys like Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay.
Suddenly those .230 hitters like B.J. Upton and Jason Bartlett are not getting on base. The more the Rays try to get them on base, the more frustrated they get when they don’t.
Then when their pitchers get hit around by the better hitters they are facing like Young, Robinson Cano or Ryan Howard they fall behind. But they do not have the offense to catch up because Carlos Pena is hitting .200 and their speed can’t get out of the starting gate.
It is shame, too.
The Rays do not have the financial resources to keep Crawford and Pena this winter. Both will leave via free agency to teams that actually can afford to pay them what they are worth.
So it makes you wonder if this Rays team and the one from 2008 is going to be it for them. It certainly looks that way. They do not have the money to compete with Boston and New York.
Players are not stupid. Why settle for $5.5 million playing in St. Petersburg when they can make $11.5 million playing in Philadelphia, New York or Chicago.
You can lock up players like Evan Longoria and David Price for only so long. They suddenly come to the realization at age 28, like Sabathia did, that the great promise the early teams may have showed is long gone and they want to win and make more money.
That will be legacy of the Rays going forward. This recent success will pass quickly and the players who signed up for the long-term will get disillusioned and move on to bigger market teams who can pay what they are worth.
Crawford and Pena are just the tip of the Rays’ iceberg.
Tropicana Field is an albatross around the team’s neck, too. Unless ownership can somehow find a way out of that mistake and into an open-air baseball stadium, the fans will never show up in enough numbers to keep the franchise going.
A move to Orlando would make so much sense. A centrally located team that can draw from the eastern, western, northern and southern regions of the state could help ownership build the fanbase that can support the contracts to keep the better players.
But unless and until that happens we have seen the last of the Rays as a contender.
I guess maybe somehow the Rays and their fans can blame that on Meals for missing that call, too.