Ask Gary: Tampa Bay enjoyed Maddon’s victory

by Gary Shelton on November 5, 2016 · 2 comments

in College Sports in Florida, general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Rays, University of Florida

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

Talk about down to the wire. When I was finally able to breathe at the end of the World Series I could not have been happier if the Rays had won. Of course, I have read about the curse and jinxes finally being  banished. For me it was about the win for Maddon.  After all it was he who gave us all the excitement and hope and belief that maybe just maybe we could bring it home. I hated to see him leave us but was happy for the move to Chicago and the legal cleverness that allowed him to do so was amazing.

I  cheered, I cried, I wished for that moment and those moments that would come in the next few days that I was in Chicago. Once again one of ours goes elsewhere for the big celebration.

Veronica Richardson

Maddon gave most of Tampa Bay something to cheer about during the series. So did Ben Zobrist and Brandon Guyer and Mike Montgomery. Rays' fans have long accepted that their big-money players are going to go elsewhere.

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Joe was good to a lot of people around here. He helped turn the culture around. I don't think most people resent him for leaving, I really don't. If you can make a lot more money and have better tools to do your job, I think most of us would have left.

Baseball is a game that invites you to guess along with the manager. So we can debate if he should have used Aroldis Chapman too much in Game Six or if he used Kyle Hendricks too little in Game Seven. That's fair.

I counted the other day. According to baseball reference, the Cubs had 65 managers since winning their last World Series. Want to bet any of them get a statue? I'll bet Joe will.

In 1960 Minnesota played 10 games to become the #1 rated college football team. In 2015 Alabama played 15 games to become the #1 rated college football team.

In 1960 Philadelphia played 13 games to become the NFL champion. In 2015 Denver played 19 games to become the NFL champion.

So do you think college and NFL football is better or worse with the 50% increase in games played?

Scott Myers

I think football is better these days, but it isn't because of the length of the season. That's gotten far too long, hasn't it? You can't convince me that constantly expanding the schedule is good for the game. For the wallet of the programs, yes, but not for the game. Are you telling me that the original Green Bay Packers didn't play enough games to prove themselves? The '72 Dolphins?

I think football is better now because of integration, because athletes are bigger and better, because more teams take it seriously. I like the college playoffs better than the old system of yelling it out.

But were the Steelers of '78-'79 better than those of '74-'75 because they played two more games? That's silly. If they were better, it's because their teams were older and more experienced.

I do think adding more playoff games has made it harder to win in the post-season, but that's merely a matter of attrition.

Again, if Alabama was better than the Minnesota team of 1960, it isn't because they played more games. It's because college football is a bigger business now, and developing players is a science.

Are running backs better than Jim Brown? Are quarterbacks better than Johnny Unitas. Of course not. Bigger isn't always better.

I asked Ron Jaworski once about the evolution of quarterbacks. He said it was child's play even when he played. There were only a few coverages to learn. Now, every play is a Rubik's Cube. Jim Bouton once told me that modern baseball players wouldn't just beat the players of his era; they'd destroy them.

What do you think? Is the season too long?

It's hard not to feel both pride and pain for our Rays' alums who found success on both World Series teams. Speaking of our local farm team:  No WS starting pitcher went past 5 innings and some of that was due to the magnitude of the games but do you think it makes any sense for the Rays to spend more resources developing middle relievers rather than on starting pitchers (which didn't work so well for half of last season)?​ If you're going to burn up the bullpen, why not just carry another middle guy?

Barry McDowell
Barry, I think that playoff baseball is a different animal than regular season baseball. In the regular season, a good team needs a starting pitcher to eat innings to keep the load off the bullpen. In a short series, however, you're going to work your main guys as much as possible.
I don't think the Rays do spend more resources developing middle pitchers. They, and all teams, would rather have a starter, and those guys are the crown jewels of your farm system. But when you break into the bigs, middle relief is where you begin.
The problem with "carrying just another" middle guy is that his role is less defined. You know when a starter is going to throw, and you know when a closer or a setup guy is going to throw. But the middle guys are dependent on what occurs during the game.
Even now, the preferred formula is a starter who can go seven, a setup guy and a reliever. Obviously, when the starter doesn't do his job (a quality start is six innings and three earned runs allowed), then you need help from somewhere. Over the course of a season, five innings or less from a starter is a strain on the bullpen.
Joe Maddon  stated that the Rays could have been a championship team if they had the money to keep the great players they let get away. Tell me something I don't know! All through the playoffs, there were ex-Rays contributing to their teams' successes. Zobrist especially, covered himself with glory for the Chicago Cubs.
 
Howard Powders
The cool thing is that Zobrist is one of the all-time great guys, which fans always appreciated.
To me, Howard, that is the great frustration of being a Rays' fan. Just as the guys are entering their prime, they're gone for bigger contracts, It's one thing to see a Brandon Guyer or a Wade Davis (last year) do well; heck, a team can't keep everybody. But when the Rays constantly trade away guys because they can't afford not to, that sucks the wind out of everyone.
Again, I know, and you know, that there are always players from every team to test free agency. But it isn't those guys that are the most frustrating. It's Zobrist and Matt Joyce and J.P. Howell. It robs a fan of his identity.
Maddon came very close to being the new goat.  What did you think of his pitching moves in the final 2 games?
 
Jim Willson
I thought the decision to use Chapman darned near beat his team. Chapman obviously wasn't the same pitcher in Game Seven.
I can understand pulling Hendricks early when you're in an everyone-on-board situation. And that would have been fine if Chapman had been sharp.
I'd give Maddon an F and a C on those two moves. But you know what? He aced the course.
I don't think that the Gators feel like a 6-1 team, nor did I think they felt like 10-2 last season.   Is McElwain doing a better job than he seems to get credit for?
 
Jim Willson
McElwain is doing to  a fine job. It's just that the strength of the Gators -- the defense -- isn't where fans look first for their excitement.
I know the SEC East has been down the last couple of years. Tennessee hasn't been as good as hyped, and Georgia has taken a back seat. But McElwain has broken in a baby quarterback each of the least two years. The offense always looks like it's going uphill, which you couldn't say when Steve Spurrier was around.
I agree with you. I don't see the Gators, at 6-1, and think "Wow, they could still get into the playoff mix." They don't pass the eyeball test. But nothing is wrong with success.
I do think that we have  yet to see the best of McElwain.
What did you think of the strategy both managers used in the Series of pulling their starters very early to get to their "shut down " bullpen guys? It seemed to backfire as the Series went on as the top relievers became less effective from overuse. The Rays tried that same strategy in the regular season 2 years ago and it failed miserably as their best relievers got worn down from having to cover so many innings. So as a follow-up question is this not further evidence that nobody outside of Tampa Bay is paying any attention to what the Rays do?
Larry Beller
There's a difference when you're doing it with a pitcher like Chapman and when you're doing it for Brad Boxberger, Larry. You know that. I thought the Rays got caught in a situation where they were making changes not because their bullpen was so good but because most of their starters couldn't get them the necessary innings.
No, with a few exceptions, I don't think most people outside of Tampa Bay pay attention to the Rays. From the attendance numbers, not many in Tampa Bay do. There are other teams like that. How much attention do you give to, say, the Brewers? Or the Diamondbacks? This isn't the world we grew up in where we sit around in the morning and dissect box scores. Which, frankly, was a lot of fun.
Joe Madden was quoted as saying he “often lamented” that the Rays were not able to get back to the Series because they couldn’t keep their core group together for financial reasons. Do you think this more than personal financial gain was the primary reason he left the Rays? All the people who say he wasn’t loyal to the organization and jumped for the big pay day really don’t understand the obvious frustration of working for an owner who will always look for the cheapest way to build a winning team.

Larry Beller

Absolutely. I'm sure Joe liked his contract, and he cashed every check. But, to me, going to a job where he could keep his Prices and Zobrists was the ultimate appeal. I think most managers are driven by winning. Now Joe is sitting at a table where money isn't the crying issue.

It had to eat at him to keep trading parts for pieces of the future. Who cares what the team has in 2021 when you compare it to winning now. Look at the Cubs and imagine how many players they wouldn't have had if they operate like the Rays. This guy makes too much money. That guy is wanted on the open market. And so forth.

Where are we finding these running backs?

Seriously: This OL line, how do you grade it overall? On the run? On the pass?

Nick Houllis

I don't know where the Bucs are finding them, but someone has to go back to the store. The Bucs lost their fourth running back in Antone Smith Thursday. Sheesh.

I have a theory. Since the devaluation of running backs, I think there are more of them than ever walking the street. A team keeps a starter and maybe a backup. It keeps a kid and special teamers. That means there are guys like Jacquizz Rodgers walking the streets, believing all they needed was a chance. A lot of times, they're right. The difference between a backup running back and an unemployed one isn't great.

The offensive line? Let's be honest, Nick. Most fans feel about their offensive line the way they feel about their team. There are no stats, so when the team is struggling, it's easy to get frustrated.

That's true of the Bucs' line, too. It still allows too many hits on Winston. It doesn't open enough gaping holes. But I think it battles. I think the guards are better than the tackles.

In the run game? I like Marpet, and Hawley is a tough guy guy. Against the pass? The tackles manage to keep the big names at bay most weeks. Too many penalties, though. And when a tackle is grabbing, it's usually because he's been beat. How about a B in the run game (a lot of backs have had success) and a C in pass protection?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

scott myers November 6, 2016 at 3:45 pm

Hi Gary,

Regarding your question pertaining to college and NFL football:
“What do you think? Is the season too long?”

Thanks for asking. Yes, I think the season is too long. The evidence is now overwhelming that the more football players play, the more likely it is that they will have serious health issues during and after their playing days. But as you point out, it is all about money, so don’t expect a shorter season soon.

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Larry Beller November 5, 2016 at 6:51 am

I just thought both managers pulled their starters too quick on several situations in the Series and the announcers commented on it at the time. The top bullpen guys for both teams had to pitch more innings than they are used too and as a result were not as effective in game 7. In the Rays case they used a sabermetric stat that starting pitchers are less effective after 5 innings so the decision from management was to go to the bullpen early. They did that with starters like Matt Andriese and Ramirez mostly but and even Drew Smyly and Jake Odorizzi were getting pulled early even if they were pitching great. The common sense stat that the Rays management didn’t take into account is the bullpen can’t pitch that many innings and be as effective as they would otherwise. In the World Series the managers want to pitch their top guys all the time because of the importance of each game. I get that but the same principle still applies that even the best relievers can only handle so much work before they become ineffective. But second guessing of the manager is one of the fun parts of the game and all managers know that.

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