Joe Maddon improves to .500 as Rays manager

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The Rays defeated the Orioles 4-1 on Friday night and remain 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East and seven games up on the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card. While the playoffs look like a virtual-lock, there was some extra significance to Friday’s win. As Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times points out, Joe Maddon improved to 391-391 (.500) as manager of the Rays.

“Five hundred — that’s like the old days when 70 wins was considered
high. C’mon, give me a break,” Maddon said. “Who want to be .500?”

Maddon was speaking in jest, but consider for a minute that the Rays were 127-197 (.391) over his first two seasons. This includes a 101-loss season in 2006. Since the start of the 2008 season, the Rays are 264-194 (.576) under his watch.

“We’ve
just grown as an organization, talent-wise, depth-wise. It really
speaks to the job the front office has done and the scouting and
development departments. That’s really where this transition’s come
from. I happen to be the manager.”

If the Rays defeat the Orioles tonight, Maddon will have his first winning record as Rays manager since the team was 7-6 over the first 13 games of the 2006 season. It might not happen tonight, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’ll get there eventually.

Yoenis Cespedes blames a lack of golf for his early season slump

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Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.

It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.

Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:

He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.

“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”

The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.