Yesterday before work I wasted my time after class, it was not used wisely. I spent time patting myself on the back for fixing my wife’s car (and yeah, its still running great) and I spent time opening up a bunch of cool trade packages. Then I spent a little while posting a 20-card salute to my man, Jonny Gomes. The tribute was rushed, not proofread, the scans weren’t great and I am pretty sure no one read it, so… The things that I didn’t do which I should have included: Every single thing on my list of things of to do (yes, I actually make a list every Sunday night of 21 things I want to do that week), buy dog food (this animal is eating 40 lbs of food each week!), mail out trade packages or log into my work e-mail account. I also didn’t take the time to crack open a newspaper or visit Raysbaseball dot com. Had I done any of the latter three things I would have known that the Rays fired their hitting coach of 5 years, Steve Henderson. As part of the AL Champions, Henderson was an All Star coach this year and his team, the Rays, set team records in home runs, runs scored, walks and on base percentage. Those, I would think, are good things to do. Had I been aware of this yesterday, I would not have been a happy Troll, despite all of the cool mail that I received. The move just doesn’t make any sense at all to me. When your team has its best year at the plate in team history, you don’t celebrate by firing the guy responsible-the hitting coach. Henderson has been a part of the (Devil) Rays staff since day one and has spent the last 5 years as their batting coach. I haven’t done many, but I have read a number of interviews with Rays hitters and when their success at the plate is brought up, generally they attribute much of their success to their coach, Steve Henderson. Up until this year, Ben Zobrist was a light hitting, back up utility infielder, but this season he blossomed (erupted) into Zorilla, a power hitting monster, a full time player and an All Star. Last year Jason Bartlett was known for his glove, not his bat. This season, he too was an All Star, and he finished 6th in the American League with a .320 batting average while setting career marks in hits, extra base hits, home runs and runs batted in. When asked about their success at the plate this year, both Zobrist and Bartlett give Henderson all the credit. According to both of them, Henderson helped them with their approach, their swing and showed them how to find their power and use their size and athletic ability to become better hitters. Before coming to Tampa Bay, Carlos Pena was not one of the league’s elite power hitters, he is now and he credits Steve Henderson with helping him find his swing. Henderson seems to make everyone on the team better and I have yet to read a negative word about him. So why fire the guy?
I know that the Rays failed to meet expectations this year by not making the playoffs. I am pretty disappointed myself, but I don’t blame their bats, if I had to start pointing fingers the bullpen would be where I would start. The Rays have been an offensive power house this year. They have been shut out very few times and have scored 10 runs or more on many occasions. They were on the wrong side of a historical evening when they were the victims of Mark Buerhle’s perfect game, but that was just one game. Carlos Pena led the league in home runs and Evan Longoria wasn’t too far behind. They had two players finish with over 100 runs batted in and two guys bat over .300. They had five different guys on the All Star team and they were all there because of their hitting. To me hitting is the one area that they don’t need a ton of work on. This move, the firing, doesn’t make one bit of sense to me and it is really pissing me off. Todd Greene, the Rays 1st year Quality Assurance Coach was also fired and his position eliminated. The rest of the Rays staff is under contract for 2010. I will love and support this team no matter what and I will support Henderson’s replacement, too, but damn, this really pisses me off! This just seems such an off the wall thing to do, there has to be a reason and I need to know it. If there isn’t a reason, then what the hell are you guys doing Tampa Bay?
I think of all of the foolish moves that the team after going to the World Series last year. They fired their mascot, the original Raymond. That wasn’t wise. They also cut (or neglected to try and sign) Jonny Gomes, Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske, Dan Johnson and Rocco Baldelli. They also traded away two great starting pitchers and got very little in return. I am speaking of All Star Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel who is in the playoffs with the Rockies this year. Of course in more recent stupid moves there was the trading of Scott Kazmir, another pitcher who is in the playoffs this year in another team’s uniform. It has been said that the Kazmir trade was done simply to save money. He was slated to make a lot of money next season, more than they wanted to pay him. Why was he going to make so much money? Because he signed the freaking contract that the team offered him! Why offer to pay someone a sum of money that you either can’t afford or don’t want to pay, why bother? As it turns out, the trade worked out great for Kazmir. Since being shipped away his ERA is 1.73 in 6 starts and he is going to be in the starting rotation for the Angels in the POSTSEASON! And what does the trade do for the Rays? Well, it saves them money. That is what baseball is all about, right? That’s what the fans come to the ballpark to see, right? A team that is really good at saving money. That packs them in like nothing else. You hear the clichés “You’ve got to spend money to make money” and “you’ve got to pay to win”, but I think the Rays need to coin a new one. “Saving money is the best method to guarantee to not field a competitive ballclub”. Its not that catchy is it? I loved what the Rays accomplished last year, they made it to the World Series with one of the lower payrolls in baseball. That was awesome and I did take pride in the fact that they didn’t buy their way in, ala the New York Yankees. But as soon as the series was over, what did they do? They got rid of 7 of their lowest paid players (and 4 of those guys are in the playoffs now) and they replaced them with a useless, White Elephant, Designated Hitter who can’t hit and they rewarded him with a gigantic contract. With that huge contract, there is no other team in baseball that would be willing to touch Burrell and because of that front-office flub-up, we lose one of our top starters. I don’t think that Pat likes playing in Tampa Bay, either. I know I don’t like watching him strike out (I mean play), but my complaint is that his signing doesn’t follow the Rays money-saving mantra. Okay, I am off track a bit now. This tirade began with me being pissed beyond belief that the Rays would fire their awesome hitting coach, Steve Henderson and now I am dredging up old news, Pat Burrell stuff. Maybe that is how Henderson failed. He couldn’t teach a 7 million dollar man to hit a baseball. Maybe its just that all roads lead to the dead end signing of Pat the Bat. When I finally did check my work e-mail I saw quite a few rumor mill, insider info type messages that say the Rays aren’t planning on picking up Akinori Iwamura’s option for this year. That would be mother f-ing stupid. Signing Pat Burrell was f-ing stupid. Firing Steve Henderson was really f-ing stupid, but letting Aki walk would be really, really mother f-ing stupid. Do the right thing Tampa Bay. Think of your fans, think of your team and think about winning. Troll out.