Do the Rays have another Hit Show on their hands?

by Gary Shelton on May 12, 2016 · 0 comments

in general

Kiermaier has been solid in the field, but he's struggled at the plate./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Kiermaier has been solid in the field, but he's struggled at the plate./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Thursday, 5:50 a.m.

Collectively, they are the big kid from your neighborhood, the one who was shaving at 10 and who was tested for steroids at 12.

You remember him. He was the first kid on your block to hit a home run (and later, to get a tattoo). He stood a head taller than the rest of the players, so tall that he looked like a coach in the team picture. He hit the ball impossible distances to places no one else could reach, beyond the fence and beyond the imagination.

And he could do absolutely nothing else on a baseball field. He couldn't catch it with both hands, and when he slid, he looked as if he was digging a tunnel. But he could hit home runs. He had that.

In a way, he was the Tampa Bay Rays.

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If nothing else, this baseball season has taught us two things. One: The Rays can hit home runs. Two: They can't do much of anything else. If Dave Kingman was a team, he would be the Rays.

Yeah, chicks may dig the long ball. But at 15-17, will any of them have time for the Rays?

It is one of the strangest things you have seen. The Rays are third in the American League in home runs. They are 15th in hits. They do not drive runs home. They do not manufacture. They homer, or they strike out. Simple as that.

And it occurs to me: For goodness sake, the Hit Show has returned.

You remember the Hit Show, don't you? Way back in the third season of the Rays, general manager Chuck LaMar decided that home runs were going to be the reason that fans fell in love with the Rays. So he brought in Vinny Castilla and Greg Vaughn. He signed Jose Canseco, the guy in the tin-foil hat. They imported Fred McGriff. They posed them for posters and key chains, and they gave them a fuzzy nickname, and they got ready to catch home run balls.

This just in: oops.

Wow, did that Hit Show fail in a hurry. They hit 162 homers in 162 games, but they scored a league-last 733 runs. Vaughn lasted 339 games. Canseco lasted 174. Castilla lasted 109. Only McGriff, with 577 games, hung around.

In particular, I was kind of hard on Castilla, who thought his fingernails had to be trimmed just right before he decided to play. Castilla didn't care much for me, either. Later, he ran into a co-worker of mine in the playoffs. “Where's your fat friend?'' Castilla said. “He buried me.” Well, I had to. He was dead.

That was that Hit (Miss) Show.

But what about this one? The Ray are last in the league in hitting with runners in scoring position. They're next to last in runs scored. They're hitting .223, which is 12 points worse than the most dreadful hitting team the Rays have ever had. At their current rate, the Rays would miss setting a record for strikeouts by four.

Where does it stop? Consider Wednesday's lineup. Brad Miller was hitting second at .213. Corey Dickerson was hitting cleanup at .182. Logan Morrison was hitting sixth at .127. Kevin Kiermaier was hitting eighth at .208. Curt Casali was hitting ninth at .191, but he was replaced by Hank Conger at .189.

Yikes.

Look, I think some of the players will hit better. Miller. Morrison. Dickerson.

But, remember, this was supposed to be a better hitting Rays team. And it's not as early in the season as it was.

And one more thing: Are we sure Vinny Castilla did it this way?

 

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