Sunday, 25 May 2008

The sports fan's mentality

Why is it that. despite an excellent win last night over the Orioles, its still the negatives that are annoying me more than the positives are pleasing me? Now, I know from experience at football that I am a far more positive person than most sports fans, but even I am frustrated at many of the little things from last night.

Baltimore Orioles 4 - Tampa Bay Rays 11

Now don't get me wrong, the hitting was great. Absolutely brilliant. Carl Crawford went 2-4 with 3 runs scored. BJ Upton went 4-4 with 2 doubles, a walk, 2 RBI and 3 runs. Evan Longoria went 2-4, hitting a 3-run homerun in the first, a 2-run homerun in the second, and later adding a sacrifice fly to round off an outstanding 6 RBI day. And Carlos Pena went 3-3 with a walk, 3 RBI and 2 runs. But it is with Carlos that my frustration starts. His first three at-bats resulted in a double, a triple and a single. He walked his fourth time up, and was due up third in the eighth, needing a homer to complete what would have been a first-ever Rays cycle.

But he never got the chance. Why? Because for some reason Joe Maddon brought in Gabe Gross as a defensive replacement in right, moving Hinske into first base. Now, even if it was a relatively close game, and all other things were equal, that is still a move that I would be unhappy about. But when you consider that it was a blowout, that Carlos was swinging so well and has had such a difficult start to the year, and that Carlos is the best defensive first baseman on the club, maybe in the league, and it is a move that defies belief. Maybe Joe didn't realise that he had the shot at the cycle. That is the only acceptable reason that I can think off for lifting him, but I don't for a second think that it was the case.

It wasn't the only Joe decision that confused me yesterday. While I was pleased that he gave Edwin Jackson the chance of the win (leaving him in through five sometimes tortuous innings), how he used the pitchers after that was confusing to say the least. JP Howell came in and very quickly worked through the sixth and seventh. Great. Its a blowout, he's a former starter and can easily stretch his arm out a little, lets save the bullpen and have him finish the game off. But no, Maddon brought in Gary Glover to pitch the eighth. Glover, who I do like as a pitcher, had a 'mare, getting only two outs, while giving up a hit, two walks and a run. That meant Al Reyes was brought in to get the final four outs (which he did very well). As it was, there was no real harm done - except that rather than using one pitcher, and having a completely fresh 'pen for whatever the next game may bring, we have three pitchers who have put in some hard work in a blowout. To me, that's not sensible managing of the bullpen.

Of course, it would have been nice if E-Jax had pitched some of those innings. He had one of his days yesterday, where he just couldn't throw it over the plate. He needed a beautiful double play turned by Pena to get out of the first, and perhaps the biggest surprise of his outing is that he only walked 5. The Baltimore hitters certainly helped him out by swinging at some stuff that was way out of the strikezone. I hope the irony is not lost that his first win in a month came on what was just about his worst performance of the season.

Anyway, a win's a win, and the reason I'm frustrated is that so often this year Joe and the players have been getting the little things right. Maddon is a great manager, though unorthadox at times, and despite the frustration that he brings at times, I'm certainly happy to have him in the big chair. This evening he sends James Shields to the hill, as we look to get the sweep of the Orioles. We're up against Daniel Cabrera, who we are pretty rubbish against, so it could be a challenge.

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