Yesterday the Rays lost their sixth straight game to begin the season and afterward Johnny Damon led “a brief players-only meeting,” according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.
Topkin reports that “Damon didn’t talk for long, and he wasn’t the only one, as Felipe Lopez also spoke up, in stressing to the others to stay positive.”
If a team goes on a big winning streak following a players-only meeting it tends to become a big story, as people assume it turned things around, but short of that they’re mostly forgotten within a few days. That’ll probably happen here as well, but I do find it interesting that the two guys leading the meeting, Damon and Lopez, are new to the team this season. In fact, Lopez wasn’t even on the Opening Day roster.
They’re both veterans, but I’m guessing the whole concept loses a little something when the rah-rah speeches are coming from two guys everyone else on the team met six weeks ago. Neither player has actually won a game as a member of the Rays yet and Damon is hitting .053 through six games.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: