Playing “Devil’s” Advocate

After communing with some friends in the Tampa Bay area, I’ve formulated these thoughts about Thursday’s historic game from the Rays perspective…

– Gabe Gross should be taken out for defensive purposes EVERY TIME. I could have caught Pedroia’s single and on Crisp’s hit, nailed Kotsay at the plate. He wasn’t even around third when Gross got the ball. That throw was embarassing. Plus, he mysteriously pulled his glove down from J.D. Drew’s game-winning line drive (why was his first step in?). It looked like a catchable ball, as did the Kotsay double misplayed by B.J. Upton. The hottest player in baseball appeared to loaf just a bit after that one… does anyone doubt that Carlos Beltran, Torii Hunter, Mike Cameron, Coco Crisp, or Willie Mays Hayes would have caught that?

– Dan Wheeler choked big time, but Joe Maddon shouldn’t have left him out there. Howell should have come on to face Ortiz after seeing how Wheeler had started. But even then, once it was apparent he didn’t have anything, why not at least bring in Chad Bradford, who was seemingly warming up for four innings? That crazy submarine motion would have at least made the Red Sox hitters a bit uncomfortable.

– I guarantee you see Maddon “think out of the box” and bring in flamethrowing rookie phenom David Price if tonight’s game is close. If rookie Justin Masterson can develop ice in his veins in a crucial playoff game, this kid should be able to as well. Besides, Balfour, Wheeler, and Howell are probably heavily sedated after that game.

But remember this good point brought up by Peter Gammons. All anyone remembers from the 1975 World Series is Carlton Fisk’s improbable home run to win Game 6 and “crush the hearts” of the Cincinnati Reds. And yet who won the Series? And what about 2001, when Byung-Hung Kim blew back to back games at Yankee Stadium for the Diamondbacks… who came back to win that series?

Sometimes these “crushing” defeats aren’t as crushing as they seem. We’ll see how the young Rays (and the “experienced” Red Sox) respond tonight. This will be fun.

–SI

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