Wednesday morning, we all awoke to a media coronation of the 2010 AL East Champion New York Yankees. After all, they had just beaten the Rays twice in a row by a combined score of 16-9. Those two games put the Rays 2.5 games back in the division which, apparently, sealed their fate.
All those stories were written by guys that voted for Thomas Dewey.
Two mornings later, we are reminded once again that the Rays are too young to read their obituary in the paper. Last week, I pointed out that these Rays have seen enough postseason baseball in their professional careers to know that one bad night doesn’t end a season. Then, yesterday morning the Tampa Tribune’s Martin Fennelly wrote a great column describing how loose the reportedly-DOA Rays were in their clubhouse during Wednesday’s rain delay.
Why can’t anyone break this team’s spirit? Because Joe Maddon has created an environment that focuses on the next play. Look no further than the Rays’ losses Monday and Tuesday. Both nights the Yankees jumped out to big leads and both nights the Rays clawed back and forced New York to beat them.
A quick review of the clutch splits compiled by Baseball Reference seems to indicate that there really is a Maddon-effect that keeps this team focused regardless of the current situation. There is no appreciable difference between the way the Rays hitters and pitchers perform when the Rays are trailing an opponent when compared to when the Rays are leading an opponent.
Rays Hitters clutch splits:
Rays pitchers clutch splits:
Maddon’s ability to teach this team to focus on the present, without reference to past success or failure, is likely to be incredibly beneficial during the postseason where short memories are vital to overall performance.