Could Maddon have planned this Mistake?

 


RRCollections

I have to say that the lineup card fiasco yesterday stirred up its own pot of controversy as we sat there in the stands for almost 15 minutes not knowing what was going on at home plate. We could see Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge constantly bickering and arguing a fact from just beyond Dick Vitale’s seat, but even the loud and proud Vitale probably could not have figured this fiasco out in less time. It is not the intention of the Tampa Bay Rays to try and shore up their defense by putting both Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist at the same position.

But you do have to give it to the Cleveland bench for not saying a thing before the Rays took their first time out in the field to solidify Wedge’s argument that Longoria should be tossed off the lineup card in the 3-hole.  It was a measure of stealth that they let the Rays get their 3 outs then protest the line-up card to basically make this an old school National League versus American League game. By showing the error to the umpire crew the Indians did in fact get Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine put into that third spot for the ballgame. But little did they know that Sonnanstine was a .400 hitter and could stroke the ball with authority. Because the Rays play basically a NL-type game with a designated hitter most nights, the loss of Longoria did not take a huge bite out of the Rays scoring machine.

You would have thought it would cause all kinds of havoc and make for a very one-sided contest, but in reality, it boosted the Rays bench confidence in their team, and also got the other Rays pitchers to want to also take a few hacks at the plate. One television camera even caught Rays starter Scott Kazmir taping up his bat on the bench maybe hoping for a pinch-hitter role in the game. But what soon seemed like a huge injustice to the Rays turned into a plus as Sonnanstine put down an incredible bunt to get a fielder’s choice when the Indians instead went to second with the throw to get the speedy Carl Crawford. But later in the contest, Sonnanstine would make the Indians pay with a nice stroke to leftfield that had Ryan Garko doing circles out there in left field.

But for some reason, the post-game interview with Rays Manager Joe Maddon saw him take complete blame for the line-up blunder. He said it was basically his signature and that he was responsible for the error and that no one else’s fingerprints are on the decision to submit the wrong lineup card before the game. Okay, I am not a huge fan of conspiracy theories or even the mixture of intelligence and character building in reference to his team. But if I was, then Maddon is a true genius. For some odd reason I see his smiling face not at all too upset on the reversal of losing Longoria, who even got up off the bench and penciled in Sonnanstine’s name himself before putting on a sweat top and sitting on the bench.


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How much of a true warrior statistician would you be if you pulled the wool over the eyes of not only your team, but the opposition.  I truly think that Sun Tzu would be proud of Maddon right now. I think he meant to do that yesterday. For some odd reason it makes sense that starting on Friday, his pitchers would again be taking the plate in Inter League contests against the Florida Marlins. Here we had the best hitting pitcher on the Rays having to take hacks today against a guy making his MLB debut.  It doesn’t take a wise man to see that the simple fact of Sonnanstine hitting can give the Indians a false set of confidence in at least one quick out in an inning.

It also doesn’t seem too far fetched to think of Maddon as using this “error” as a tool to motivate his pitchers who are now chomping at the bit to get time at the plate. That makes for more focused Batting Practice swings by the pitching staff, plus a bit of covert action by showing the pitchers’ one of their own going 1 for 3 with an RBI in Sundays win. I can see Maddon sitting in his office trying to devise his own “Trojan Horse” situation to boost not only the confidence of his pitching staff, but for his players to believe again in 2009. After the rough start to the season, and the last two nights emotional and building confidence levels, this move could make them take on a army of Transformers.

I sat down near the Bullpen and even joked about Joe Nelson and Dan Wheeler getting some hacks today at the plate. But in the back of my mind, I knew that Sonnanstine might get three chances, and by then it would be the seventh inning or beyond and the bench could be put into action. The last few days I have seen several members of this pitching staff take to the batting cages, and some of them have more focus than last season. So if Maddon did indeed do this to instill a sense of magic and power to his pitchers’ they got the message loud and clear. For the pure fact that he is the last one to see that lineup card before he gives it to either Dave Martinez or Tom Foley to submit, you have to think they also check it out while walking out there.

But for the fact that no one questioned it before the middle of the first inning is in itself a bold move by both benches. It could have been decided that Longoria’s name not being put under the “DH” moniker was just a clerical error and he would have been inserted anyway. But the umpire crew did its job and made the right decision. With a bit of luck, and skill it worked perfectly into the Rays favor. This is not to mean that Pat Burrell has been replaced by a pitcher, but it is a great thing to know that the pitchers want to contribute at the plate too now. That can lead to all sorts of plays and chances for this team to get additional bats in the lineup in the coming Inter League games.

I can truly see the mind of Joe Maddon cooking up this scenario and even making alternative plans in his head if it did not work well. That is why I like Maddon. He is one of those managers that actually manages during the game. Situational hitting, double steals and also watching for routine flaws in the other team is his style of play. Maddon is a great lover of the strategies and moves of the game. I am really thinking he just played the best joke on all of us, and only himself and maybe his Coaching staff know the truth in this matter.


Rienhold Matay / AP

So for now, the Rays as a “NL” team are 1-0 in the season. We will find out just how good this play of events evolves when on Friday night the pitchers again take to the plate in Miami.  Not to truly say that the Rays skipper did do it on purpose, but if he did, it would be one of the best coaching moves to motivate a sector of your team since the bat sc
ene in “Bull Durham”. Sonnanstine is now in the history books, and the Rays turned a visual mistake into a confidence-boosting exercise. Sounds just like something Maddon would cook up in the kitchen too.

 

 

 

12 Comments

Very impressive of Sonnastine rising to the occasion like that. Glad that it ended in a Tampa win, because I’m not a fan of those cheeky managirial tactics. Interesting idea, an AL vs. NL game. I don’t think the NL would go for it though, lol.
http://homerfoodandhistory.mlblogs.com/

Hard to imagine Maddon did this on purpose, and fortunately the Rays won. I’m sure had they lost, everyone would be saying what a bonehead move it was.
Sue
Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts

I agree with Sue, I can’t see Maddon doing it on purpose. I’m glad it worked out in your favor.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Is this the first time something like this has happened, Renegade? I’m not much of a baseball historian, so I was wondering.

- http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jeremy,
You never know.
Some pitcher are hitting better than some DH’s in the AL this year.
I still think it was a gutsy move, but also showed the confidence Maddon had in Sonny to even take 3 at bats and get that RBI-single.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

It was a tongue-in-cheek comment, but who knows what lurks in the mind of a manager smarter than the average bear.
I truly think it had an ulterior motive feel to it all, but karma always loves the birthday boy (Carlos Pena).

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Julia,
He wasn’t good enough to be the Boston manager, so why is it so far fetched he could be doing it as a motivational tool.
I have seen worst plays on the players that have been disasters, but Sonnanstine was also his best hitting pitcher ( 5 for 13 now).

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

He actually had it happen to his team before years ago.
It seems he had two players named Davis, and both got inserted into the DH role for their game.
If you really think about it, win or lose, Maddon tokk responsibility for the bad ink.
I still like the idea it was a ploy…………….and I am sticking to it!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Wow, I like your take on this!!! You should ask him when you get a chance. Also, very impressive team pic with you in it.

Ken

Ya, maybe if I were the Cubs or Reds and I knew that the game would fall on a Carlos Zambrano or Micah Owings start?
http://homerfoodandhistory.mlblogs.com/

Ken,
I honestly think if he did do it on purpose he is the only one besides a handful of coaches to know for real.
I just know that it had happened to him before when he had two players named “Davis” when he was in the minor leagues.
If it was made to make the pitchers motiviated, it was a huge success.
If it was an honest mistake and they lost, he already took responsiblity for the mistake.
He had a win-win situation with the victory.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

That is a great observation Jeremy.
Like I have said before, it might be fiction, but I would love to think his mind works in that realm of mystery that we all take for granted some times.
He has pulled a dozen rabbits out of his hat before, why not another one to motivate his pitching staff for the InterLeague schedule this weekend.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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