....Why Carlos Pena had the night off Sunday.
There are some decisions Joe Maddon makes that are second guessed on a daily basis. The defensive shifts, the over-aggressive running, and the lack of bunting are standard topics on talk radio. I will never second guess a manager for being over-aggressive. When Joe Maddon played the numbers by bringing the outfield in and Brett Gardner got lucky and hit the ball over Carl Crawford’s head, then I praised Gardner for doing a good job at the plate rather than blame Maddon for making a mistake. Gardner exceeded his expectations, God bless him. In this case, the manager is doing his best to win the game and this move will work out more often than not in the long run.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why Carlos Pena had the night off Sunday night. I know his numbers against Beckett aren’t stellar. I know that the Rays are coming onto a stretch of 20 games in 20 days. Quite frankly, I don’t care. The Rays are a better team and have a better chance to win with Carlos Pena in the lineup.
Carlos Pena was coming into the game hitting .136 against Beckett, striking out 13 times in 22 at bats. However, Pena’s presence in the lineup means more than just his bat. Pena provides protection for Evan Longoria. Evan has been scary-good this year, and a very substantial reason is that the major league homerun leader is batting right behind him. Pitchers have to try to let Evan put the ball in play and create outs, rather than let another man on base for Pena to hit a bomb. Also, Pena is an everyday player because of his (gold) glove. He is one of the best first basemen in the American League. He is a very solid decision maker, and having him in the field saves runs. That was clearly shown by the mental lapses and the mediocre defense played by Willy Aybar at first Sunday night.
The Rays are coming upon a streak of 20 straight games. Before that streak starts, the Rays had a day off yesterday. In my mind, one of the most maddening and confusing things that Joe Maddon does is give starting players a day off on the day before a day off. These are professional baseball players, athletes who train on a daily basis throughout the year to be in the best shape possible. Why do they need 2 days off in a row? If Maddon wants to give players a scheduled day off in the middle of these 20 games, I agree with that. We all know he is going to do this anyway. I know the players get tired and sore playing that many games in a row, so give them a day off and let them rest up for the back end of the streak. I cannot fathom why on Earth Joe Maddon would give players a day off on the day before a day off. I have seen him do this a number of times with Jason Bartlett. Ask Cal Ripken Jr., the owner of the Charlotte Stone Crabs (Rays Class A minor league affiliate) how often he needed to rest during his streak of 2632 consecutive games.
It is Joe Maddon’s job to give the Rays the best possible chance to win. By putting Carlos Pena on the bench in a national TV game against the Red Sox, he failed. The Rays are a much better team with Carlos Pena in the lineup, rather than in the whirlpool. Anyone can figure that out, it’s not rocket science.
-The Rocket Scientist