Monday, August 31, 2009

Pending Implosion?

If you thought the past few games were rough, get ready. It could get worse.
When a middle reliever starts questioning game strategy after a heart-breaking loss, you can just feel the implosion coming. The comments in question came from Grant Balfour, who gave up the game-winning 3-run homer to Placido Polanco.
Balfour said, "They come out and say can I pitch around him. I don't want to pitch around Granderson to be honest. I feel like I'm pitching on the defense them. I wish I never even got that in my head."

It sounds like the players aren't too happy with management these days. And that's the part of the equation that ownership didn't figure when they decided to trade Scott Kazmir. In order for this team to be successful, the players have to "believe." That was the rallying cry last year. Now, the Rays have put some doubt in their players head. They don't believe. They're not drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid.

John Romano of the St. Pete Times wrote a column this morning about the impact of losing players on the team from last year to this year. He talked to Johnny Gomes, Cliff Floyd, and Eric Hinske.  I think Hinske (who's on his way to another AL East Division crown) had the most telling quote of the piece.

He said, "The one thing that the guys upstairs on the computers can't assess is clubhouse chemistry. They can look at all the numbers they want, but chemistry in the clubhouse is a huge deal."

I think he's right. Chemistry and belief are something that the Rays need to place a premium on if they're going to compete with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.  This year, both are in short supply. Unfortunately, the team could use a little bit before facing the Red Sox this week.
Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 4-3 loss to the Tigers:

  • Niemann still battling. Give credit to the starting pitcher yesterday. He battled like a champ for 7 innings.  Niemann is the one guy who seemingly still believes. He did exactly what he was supposed to, giving the Rays shut down innings and matching Tigers' ace Juster Verlander pitch for pitch. He gets to do it again on Friday.

  • Aki-san homer. I've got to be honest, I didn't realize Akinori Iwamura hadn't hit a homer all year. It was good to see him go opposite field yesterday.

  • Red Sox aren't discounting the Rays. The Red Sox are ready to put the wild card chase to bed this week. They shuffled their rotation so the Rays would get a rotation of Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz. The Red Sox have the chance to pretty much end the Rays wild card chances this week.  Andy Sonnanstine will get the nod on Tuesday.

  • September call-ups. Expect to see some additional faces starting Tuesday.  Sonnanstine, Perez, a catcher, Wade Davis and a couple of others could be joining the team.  This is the depth Andrew Friedman was talking about when he said they could afford to trade Scott Kazmir. We'll see on Tuesday.

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