Yesterday, the Rays offense, and their power-hitting DH, bailed out James Shields who was terrible against the Seattle Mariners.
Read that again. Opposite day, right? Up is down, day is night, Seattle can hit, against James Shields, but the Rays can hit more, including their DH.
I was there with my law firm and I noticed something that makes me think I owe the skipper [another] apology. Throughout the game, and especially in the late innings, the Rays dugout was alive. Every time I looked, there were at least 15-20 guys in the dugout, and they were all up on the dugout rail.
That sounds silly but, keeping Major Leaguers in a dugout when they are not participating in the game is no small feat. Many of them will drift between the dugout and the clubhouse and occupy themselves with things other than baseball unless they are needed. (I didn’t think the Ken Griffey, Jr. story from last year was all that remarkable). But, on Sunday at least, the Rays were on the rail.
Team “chemistry” is one of those buzz words in the baseball media that is overblown. Baseball is an individual game. No one has to pass to anyone. No one has to rely on anyone to block. Generally, 25 guys could hate each other and still make a very good baseball team.
But, the 2011 Rays are unique when it comes to “chemistry.” They are young. Really young. And because they are young, they need to draw a little confidence from the group when the going gets tough. Very few of the 2011 Rays can fall back on years of experience when they hit a slump or make a key error. They need the dugout to pick them up with a laugh or distraction to re-focus and move on.
I think Joe recognized that when he canceled BP for this homestand. I thought it was a gimmick. Ballplayers are all about routine. Altering a routine felt like overmanaging. But, in hindsight, perhaps the skipper noticed that his team wasn’t laughing as much. They weren’t smashing enough shaving-cream pies, or dumping enough sunflower seeds on each other, or putting enough bubble gum on Tom Foley’s helmet. The Rays needed to break the monotony so that they would stop pressing and start playing again.
Maybe it worked. So, yet again, I humble myself before you Joe. You knew best.