I have three small children so, Sunday nights are generally to peace and quiet in my house (at least until Mad Men starts). Because of that, I don’t often watch Sunday Night Baseball.
So, last night was my first chance to hear Tito and Orel work a game together. I have to say, I really enjoyed it. (I know, I know, to keep my status as a “blogger” I am supposed to complain about everyone on TV. But I liked them.)
When I was working for the club, I would often earn a little extra cash by sitting in the booth with a visiting TV crew or a national TV crew to feed them notes. I always enjoyed the experience because, it was interesting to hear the opinions of analysts who don’t see the Rays every night. Last night was a chance to re-live that a bit.
I noticed three major themes in the analysis:
1) We have the best scouts in baseball;
Last night was a good night to be a Rays’ scout. It seemed like the broadcast dedicated 80% of the air time to the success of our scouting staff. It got so crazy, I think Hershiser just started making stuff up to keep the discussion going. (He said something like ‘the Rays care what kind of person they are getting, and dedicate resources to make sure everyone they acquire is going to be a good person that fits into the Rays’ clubhouse.’ Apparently, Orel hadn’t googled ‘Bush, Matt’ in a while.)
Best I can tell, this is new. Prior to last night, every national compliment I heard about the Rays focused either on the draft (‘they were lucky to have so many high picks’), the GM (‘Friedman keeps pulling rabbits out of hats’), or player development (‘Joe gets the best out of players others gave up on.’) But scouting is so important in our game. And the Rays new crop of scouts deserved some national run. We have apparently come a long way from Benny Latino leaking information about Toe Nash to Peter Gammons.
2) Joe is so smart he is going to achieve world peace, cure cancer, and, in his spare time, win a few World Series;
Anyone else think Francona and Hershiser have a poster of Joe over their beds? They obsessed over everything he did. It was almost uncomfortable. This was most pronounced when the boys spent 2-3 innings talking about the Rays shifts. They broke the shift down from the high-home camera a couple of different times and, by the end, were talking themselves into things that may or may not exist. (at some point, they showed a shift, and concluded, based on the alignment, that ‘Murphy has power to right center in the air but shows no tendency on the ground. More importantly, this shift is based on Joel Peralta’s changeup.’ I don’t know if the Rays have pitcher-by-pitcher shifts, but I suppose nothing would surprise me at this point.)
3) We have totally freaked out everyone in Boston’s clubhouse.
There were a couple of different moments in the game where Tito gave us a glimpse into the 2011 Boston clubhouse. It was most pronounced when he was discussing playing the Rays at the Trop. An experience I think he described as a ‘nightmare.’ There was something about the way Tito talked about the Rays last night – it was off the cuff and unrehearsed – that made me think he had said the exact same things in Coaches meetings last summer. And if the Red Sox coaches were freaked out to play us, so were (are?) the players. Honestly, I don’t blame them.