"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network
When local sports talk show hosts, such that
they are in Philadelphia...and predominantly the drive time voice of WIP in
the City of Brotherly Love, berated Charlie Manuel and the Phillies in general
at the start of the season, others, like yours truly (and when I am wrong I
say so), insisted that this was a team with great potential and both it and
the manager needed some time. Done deal, and they are in the World Series.
Joe Torre took the Dodgers to the playoffs in his first year as skipper.
Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers were not going to displace them. Manny
Ramirez donned his personal Superman garb and it was not enough. A team
cannot usually be carried by its best hitter but it can win when he does not
produce as expected. That is the current case with the Phillies and Ryan
Torre also mismanaged. He would not have won four of seven but he might have
made it closer. He did not. He stuck by his guns of replacing his pitcher(s)
after seven innings. His personal book on managing, adapted by others,
dictates, after that seventh inning stretch, a new pitcher for just about
every batter. It does not work. Players of today are more physically fit
with access to regimens that ensure their endurance, strength, capabilities
and physical fitness but some inane person concocted this notion of the end of
the world after 100 pitches had been thrown, with announcers and color
commentators seizing it like a lost winning lottery ticket.
Pitchers of the past, in the day, reveled over completing a game, pitching
into extra innings after a night on the town and showing up at the ballpark an
hour before the game. Are you kidding me? A set-up pitcher is now paid
millions to come into the game in the eighth inning to face three or four
batters before calling for the closer in the ninth. They throw more pitches
in the bullpen warming up than they do in the game.
It backfired on Torre and the Dodgers. Philadelphia is not a team of destiny.
They are not "on a roll." There is no momentum to seize. Fate does not play
a hand in this and all the pointing of fingers to the heavens does not mean
that some supreme being has either chosen them as the "favored ones" to rise,
like the Phoenix, or said being has wagered a few clouds on the outcome of the
game(s). They are simply the better team when it comes to the National
This brings us to the debacle that might be the dismantling of the team that
was having the most fun of any in this near-final lap towards the finish...the
Tampa Bay Rays. The fat lady had not sung but she was certainly warming up
her vocal chords. Champagne had not been popped but a few cases of bottles
were on ice and have since been sent back to Florida. It was not, although
the phrase belongs to another sport, game...set...match. But it was the final
serve. The crowd awaiting them - both fans in Tampa - had to be sent home.
Tampa Manager Joe Maddon will be questioned about his moves in Game 5 if the Rays lose this series to Boston.
No team that is up 7-0 going into the seventh inning, after scoring runs over
three games at Fenway almost at will and having a grand time doing it, should
lose. That is like lapping the field in a horse race and then lying down to
take a snooze. It matters not what you have to do...not at all. You just do
it! Nine outs and you are in the World Series. Are you kidding me? You
bring in your starters, not your relief pitchers. You watch their faces and
see what we as fans, saw. Fear, consternation, lack of confidence, a need to
groove the ball right down the middle, to throw to the sweet spots of the
batter and then pray. We can see that but Rays manager, Joe Maddon,
perpetually perched on the top steps of the dugout, could not? Then he needs
If Boston wins two more in Tampa, sales of t-shirts and sweatshirts that just
indicate the date, October 16th, and the numbers 8-7 or 7-0 will sell faster
than any others in Beantown.
Game six is Saturday at Tropicana Field and then, if necessary, game seven on
Scott Kazmir, a near-last minute choice, pitched six shutout innings allowing
only two hits, and Maddon took him out. Am I missing something here? Oh, I
forgot. He tossed 111 pitches. I guess the call to 911 went out instantly.
The man was making a mockery of the Red Sox line-up and Maddon decided to be
merciful by calling a halt to it. Boston applauded this move with great
enthusiasm, delighted to see Kazmir leave. It is rumored that they had also
chipped in for two first class airline tickets to the destination of this
choice if he would move on.
Enter Grant Balfour. Two-thirds of an inning later, the Sox had four runs.
They now knew they could win. David Ortiz had not hit a home run in 61 at
bats, in 15 postseason games, but he was not to be denied here
With Dan Wheeler in the game, replacing Balfour, not much changed. He was out
to prove he could be just as bad. He was. J.P. Howell only added to the
disaster, although credit for it certainly has to be shared by Evan Langoria
and Carlos Pena on what should have been an inning ending simple out. It was
not. No surprise there. Fun 'n games for the Rays over.
So, now it is Tampa Bay right-hander James Shields against righty Josh
Beckett Saturday night.
Maddon blew it with the "seventh inning" rule. This is not the Little League.
These guys can actually pitch a full game. The man, Kazmir, had allowed two
hits. Count 'em!!! Two. And Maddon took him out. Screw the 111 pitches,
Get a masseuse in the dugout, take showers between innings, do whatever it
takes to keep him going, if he needs anything at all but taking him out? You
gotta be kidding!
This was the height of mismanagement and could cost the Rays their first and,
maybe, only World Series appearance for a long time. It makes no difference
what the book says...seventh inning, number of pitches, rightie versus lefty
(basic and proven nonsense), or looking up to the heavens for guidance. You
do what you have to do to win and worry about the next game when you get to
it. It will be sad to remember these Rays with just one phrase...You gotta