It’s the fifth inning and I’m already writing this. Partly due to having to study for a final and to just get some things said before I lose my mind. Let’s throw our usual format out the window tonight and just talk about the Devil Rays. Yes I said it, the Devil Rays because that is currently who is playing right now. It’s not only the level of play that is poor, but it’s the mentality right now that the players possess. I haven’t seen this many poor plate approaches since the 2006 season. None of these guys have a clue right now about what they want to do. Yes Longoria, Bartlett and a few others have been swinging the bat well, but much of it hasn’t been in meaningful situations or when they are down.
There is a large sense of complacency right now among the hitters and some of the pitchers. For the third consecutive series, and four out of the last five, the Rays have won the first game convincingly only to hand the rest of the series to whomever they’re playing. It’s as if they get that big win and feel the rest of the series will go their way. That’s not showing the hunger they talked about so much this past offseason. They are all waiting around for someone else to get the big hit like last season. There are no ballplayers right now on this team.
What do I mean by that? There’s a fundamental difference between baseball players and ballplayers. Ballplayers are your hard nose guys that come to the plate with a clue. They’re aware of their situation and have a goal in mind. That means not taking 2-1 fastballs for strikes which has been a reoccurring theme. It means playing fundamental baseball like they did last season. Moving runners over. Productive outs. There is none of that going on. I know that it was an issue last year as well but last year’s team at least had an idea of what to do which is why they would get those big hits every now and then. Let’s take a look at an example from tonight’s pitiful showing.
Burrell leads off the second inning with a double. Then he goes to third on a Ben Zobrist groundout which was a terrible idea because Brendan Harris could of easily had him but went to first due to the four-run lead. Dioner Navarro steps in with a man on third and the infield at normal depth. He has one job and one job only: drive the run in. Since there’s only one out in the inning, Navarro is in a prime position to exchange an out for a run. All he has to do is hit a deep fly ball, or better yet, a ground ball to the right side (especially since the Twins already showed they’ll surrender the run). How hard is it to pull a ball on the ground to the right side? There are drills in batting practice that hitters take before each game that works on that exact situation. Even if it’s outside, roll it over to second. A Major League hitter should have the coordination and bat control to do such a thing. Instead, Navi flies out to shallow left field.
It’s little instances like that, that is hindering this team. They’ve had so much smoke blown up their rear ends that it’s like they expect to just step on the field and win without any effort. The Rays need to go back to that mentality of them against the world and back to the basics. Now I know it’s early, but April is coming to an end and they need to turn it around in a hurry if they don’t want to get embarrassed at home this weekend against the Red Sox. Do I think they can turn it around? Absolutely, the pieces are in place for the most part and the hole is not insurmountable yet. I really hope Joe Maddon sees this and drives these points home. Let’s hope the Rays team we know and love shows up this weekend and stays for good.