Thoughts after the World Series Hype Has Died Down
Congraulations to the Tampa Bay Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford for winning the 2008 Fielding Bible award for hsi position. Crawford also won the award in 2006. He is the only two-time winner for the Tampa Bay Rays, despite missing an entire month due to index finger injury.
He’s baaack! And he didn’t even have to play a full season to win it. Carl Crawford missed most of the month of September but still wins the Fielding Bible Award in left field for 2008 with 87 points. It’s his second award, having won it in 2006. In 2007, he finished second to Eric Byrnes by a mere three points. Despite the missed time, Crawford held off Willie Harris’ late run for the highest Plus/Minus total in left field (+23 to +22).
One important distinction that differentiates THE FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS from most other baseball awards, such as the Gold Gloves, is that there is only one winner at each position, instead of separate winners for each league. The goal of THE FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS is to stand up and say: “Here is the best fielder at this position in Major League Baseball last season.” Another key feature of the system is that it also recognizes the runners-up for each position, instead of just focusing on the winners.
Also in the running for a Fielding Bible Award on the Rays were Carlos Pena, who ended up 4th in the voting for first basemen. The Rays rookie third baseman, Evan Longoria ended up second to eventual winner Adrian Beltre of the Seattle Mariners. Dioner Navarro ended up 7th for catchers in the 2008 voting. And former Rays’ batboy and current Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher, Jesse Litsch ended up 3rd in the pitchers’ category for the award.
There have been more than a few newspaper accounts calling into question the events that unfolded in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series. One of the biggest “What If’s” seems to stem from Rays third base coach Tom Foley sending Jason Bartlett to the plate to try and tie to score up at 4-all.
I personally do not have a problem with him sending Bartlett in that situation. The fact that Chase Utley pumped and faked to first made the point kind of moot. If Utley had thrown the ball to first to get the streaking Iwamura, Bartlett would have scored easily and we would not be having this conversation.
But the true fact is that the pump fake by Utley actually had nothing to do with it at all. Bartlett had his back to Utley before he even decided to throw the ball to Carlos Ruiz for the easy tag-out at the plate. I do not even think Bartlett would have stopped if Foley has thrown up the stop signal to him in time. It was a heads up move by Utley that might have changed the entire make-up of thst game and sent the momentium to the Phillies.
It is one of the reason that Utley is considers one of premier second basemen in baseball right now. He made a nano second decision to try and bait Bartlett or Foley, and decided basically in mid-air to not throw to Howard for the easy out at first base. He instead decided to try and nail the sprinting Bartlett and make a statement in the World series. I think it was a bold move by both teams that just speaks volumes to the competitive nature and agrressiveness of these World Class teams.
Another decision by Rays Manager Joe Maddon has been played out in the media as to the pitching matchups in Game 5. did the wrong pitchers’ get chances in this game instead of the rookie phenom David Price to save the game for the Rays?
I am with Maddon on this one totally. You started Grant Balfour fresh and with a strong hand to take down the pinch-hitter and take on the top 2 spots in the batting order in the bottom of the 6th inning. It was not in the plans that a former team mate of Balfours’ in Milwaukee, Geoff Jenkins get a monster hit off him to set off the inning.
Balfour actually threw a great pitch that Jenkins had to go up and get high in the strikezone. Jenkins has been listed in the scouting report as a primary low-ball hitter, and Dioner Navarro asked for a high and tight fastball. the ball came in high, but might not have been as tight as they both wanted before Jenkins hit it for a double off the scoreboard in right-centerfield.
The real miracle in all of this is the fact that the Phillies used 5 total pitches to get Jenkins from second to the plate to score the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 6th inning. Maddon could dictate that Rollins would put down the sacrifice bunt to push Jenkins to third base, but Jayson Werth hit a good outside pitch to score Jenkins in the inning.
After that play, Maddon removed Balfour becuase he wanted a leftie to face the next two lefties in the Phillies lineup, Utley and Ryan Howard. Here is where the real drama come out people. Maddon brought in J P Howell, one of his best relievers during the season to face the 2 Phillie power men. He got Utley on three pitches to strike him out for the second out in the inning. Then he got Howard to hit a high pop-up to Longoria at thrid to get out of the inning.
Now what happened in the top of the 7th inning might be a reason to grumble if you were a Rays fan. Navarro came up and struck out to start the inning off for the Rays. Rocco Baldelli then came up and slapped a high Ryan Madson pitch to right to tie the score up again for the Rays. Baldelli has been a high fastball hitter his entire career, and he got a juicy one from Madson over the heart of the plate.
Then it gets interesting for the Rays. Jason Bartlett comes up and slaps the 2nd pitch from Madson into leftfield for a single. With the go-ahead run at first with 1-out, Maddon decided to let J P Howell put down a sacrifice bunt to move Bartlett to second base. Howell took the second pitch and put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Bartlett over to second base.
The play on paper and in action was perfect, but could he have used Fernando Perez instead and maybe gotten a baserunner out of all of this? That is the question I have. Why not use your speed demon to maybe get you a errant throw to first, or maybe even get a base hit and put more pressure on the Philly defense. Instead you have a pitcher who will not be booking down the line too fast.
The play worked out to the Rays advantage by moving over Bartlett, but could they have gotten more out of the play? Howard had been pretty reliable at making at least one error at first during the World Series, and a ball missed by him at that juncture would have been huge to the Rays confidence.
Then with Akinora Iwamura slow bouncing ball over the pitching mound and heading for the outfield, Chase Utley makes the play of the day for the Phillies. Could this have been the big difference in the game, and not even been a factor if Fernando Perez was streaking into second base in front of Utley. We wil never know if it might have been a game turning play for either team. In stead it became a defensive gem that might have sealed the Phillies victory over the Rays and ended the series.
If Maddon had replaced Howell with a pinch-hitter, would that maybe have prevented Pat Burrell from hitting that monster off the side of the stands in left-center for a double? We will never know that either. But considering the way Burrell was chasing the fastballs of most of the Rays pitchers’ this series, Howell’s slow rollers must have looked like a softball to him at the plate. These all are great points of interest in this suspended game that took over 51-some hours to finish.
The Phillie still might have won a game in St. Petersburg and still gotten their first title since 1980. But would it have been more fun to see them have to scramble and win one in the hostile home of the Rays. Considering that the Spring Training home of the Phillies is stationed only 20 miles north on US 19, it might have been a surprisingly more even crowd if they pulled off the series win in Florida.
Either way, it was a great learning tool for the young Rays who are built to get here again. For the Phillies, it could happen again, but alot of the media think the Phillies just pounced on Rays’ miscommings and took this one by default. I do not want to detract anything from the Philly awesome run at the title. They were a great opponent and kept the game fair and within control during the World Series.
I only have one huge problem with the World Series. I know Cole Hamels had a fantastic 2 games in the World Series, but I think the MVP was actually playing rightfield for the Philadelphia Phillies. Every year for the past 3 years, someone different has come forward and lead the Phillies to vidtory during the season.
First it was the bat of Ryan Howard pounding the National League pitching. Then last year it was the fleet feet of Jimmy Rollins and his run at a hitting streak. And this season it was Chase Utley showing power and grace as he was the early favorite to win the Home run crown in the National League.
The Phillies’ Jayson Werth hit .444 in the World Series with 8 hits and 3 doubles for the series. He also scored 4 runs and had 6 walks while posting 3 RBI’s for the eventaul series winners. I do not know what the tally sheet looked like for the final voting for the MVP of the World Series, but I hope that Hamels only got the trophy by a single vote, because without Werth, the Phillies would not have won the series at all this year.