Posted by Steve
National baseball media personalities never cease to amaze me with the dumb things they say. The TBS Crew was out in full force last night. Chip Caray was insufferable. I kept thinking, “Boy he is really getting excited at this Red Sox comeback,” which was totally understandable. The thing that bothered me, though, was how disappointed he sounded when the Rays did something well. Monotone calls of Jason Bartlett’s lead-off single in the ninth, his stolen base etc. were very noticeable. But of course when Masterson induced a double play ball I think he suffered a sports hernia.
Move ahead to the bottom of the ninth. J.P. Howell retired the first two Red Sox in order, and when the second out was recorded Caray sounded like someone beat him up and stole his lunch money. “…And there’s two away.” Dan said he couldn’t even imagine being a Rays fan and having to listen to that. If I was, I’d still be too angry to be posting about it.
That perceived bias sure was annoying, but what happened after two outs in the ninth was worse. After Longoria’s error that allowed Youkilis to reach second base, Joe Maddon made the obvious move with the left-handed Howell on the mound. He walked right-handed slugger Jason Bay to pitch to left-handed J.D. Drew. Caray called the move “unconventional” and was acting like Joe Maddon was using curious strategy. I’d love to know what the hell was unconventional about that move. It’s the bottom of the ninth. The game is tied, so any run loses the game for you. You have first base open, and a very good right-handed hitter at the plate. Your pitcher is left-handed, and the guy on deck is a left-handed hitter. Any manager in baseball would have walked Bay in this scenario. In fact, I’d call it the most conventional move that was made in that game. Caray wouldn’t let it go either. After Drew’s game-winning hit, he referred to the “unconventional” decision a second time. ????
Oh, but the senselessness did not stop there. Let’s go to the TBS post-game show. All of a sudden we are faced with the question of “Can the Rays overcome this?” Not if you ask Dennis Eckersly (again, paraphrasing). “Man, the only thing Tampa Bay has going for them is they’re going back home!” What? Sure, the loss was brutal, but they lead the series 3-2 and they’re going home. I’d like to repeat that: THEY LEAD THE SERIES! They also have James Shields pitching, who’s been very good lately. The Red Sox are the ones who need to overcome something (the 3-2 deficit on the road).
They later brought in SI’s Tom Verducci, who was saying how much Joe Maddon would be questioned after blowing a 7-0 lead. One of Verducci’s criticisms was that Maddon “Brough J.P. Howell in for the ninth inning, and he’s not a ninth inning guy.” My reaction, in numbered list form:
1. What is a “ninth inning guy”? I think this goes along with “big-game pitcher” and “closer’s mentality.” It’s all vague nonsense that isn’t even defined, and therefore can’t really be wrong.
2. Why is J.P. Howell not a ninth inning guy? By all accounts, Howell has been anywhere from good to outstanding all season. 2.22 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 197 ERA+, 92 strikeouts and 32 walks in 89 1/3 innings. Not that this should matter at all because of the glaring small sample size, but he has even done well so far this post-season.
3. Using Howell in the ninth is such an odd thing to criticize. Balfour and Wheeler had already pitched (and each given up two-run homers). Who else was Maddon supposed to throw there?
4. Finally and most importantly, Howell should have been out of the inning! He retired Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz before Kevin Youkilis reached second on an error. J.P. Howell, how dare you get Dustin Pedroia on a weak ground out, strike out David Ortiz and then induce a weak grounder from Kevin Youkilis?! A real ninth inning guy would have had Youk hit the ball slightly harder so it was an easier play!