I'm unhappy with Crawford and the way his plate discipline, never very good in the first place, seems to have gotten worse. Jay pointed out that five of his six walks came leading off the game when he started off 2-0 (he generally takes pitches until the first strike when leading off the game). He's not as bad as he was in 2003 but he's still swinging at a lot of pitches, even one he obviously can't do much with. He's trying to put everything in play with little regard for whether or not it's a good idea.
I'm slightly unhappy with Lugo. At times he shows patience and intelligence at the plate but other times he's as hack happy as the others on the team team, trying to get something done instead of letting it come to him.
I'm unhappy with Phelps, he has degenerated into a hacker half the time. This is a guy that could have been the next big thing but met some adversity and has tried to adapt to it by swinging at everything. He has a great batting eye when he's willing to use it but he tries to hit the ball way too often, hitting into easy outs and getting too easily fooled because pitchers have little difficulty setting him up for their pitch.
I'm unhappy with Cantu, he hasn't reverted to the extreme hacker he was the first time he came up, swinging at everything with no regard to it being a strike or not but he hasn't shown any progress at being patient when he is thrown strikes. He has a wicked power stroke but won't wait for a pitch he can hit hard. As Jake said, he's looking more like Toby Hall these days, hitting a bunch of ground balls and medium flies. What happened to those wicked line drives he used to smash to the walls for doubles?
I'm unhappy with Gomes somewhat, he's trying too hard to impress and not going by what got him here. He had very good plate discipline in the minors, taking pitches and drawing walks. Too often I've seen him trying to power the ball somewhere even if it's a bad pitch or early in the count. Can you really blame him though? All he has to do is look around, see all the hackers on the team trying to put the ball in play immediately, put that together with the knowledge that he has to produce some results quickly to have any chance at staying, and he must think that the only way he'll impress Lou and the front office is to put the ball in play quickly and get hits instead of using the measured and patient approach he had in the minors.
I'm unhappy with McClung, putting him into an important situation in the game is like throwing gasoline on the fire at this point. His control isn't there, his stuff isn't working like it should, and he's not getting anything done. DeWayne Staats may well be correct, his confidence might be shot. From what we know of Lou and his staff it wouldn't be surprising if McClung was being ridden and pressured to succeed now with Lou getting on him when he fails instead of being encouraging and attempting to help. That approach worked real well when Joe Kennedy was struggling in 2003, didn't it?
All these things come back to the coaching staff and it shouldn't be surprising. Lou and Elia have never said anything or shown an interest in getting disciplined hitters, the Rays have been hacking like mad during their tenure and they appear to be just fine with that. Even those that have supported Lou much more than me have suggested that this really isn't the right place for him because he's not the kind of guy that does well nurturing a bunch of young players.
Lou wants to get results and win now, not develop players. What good is plate discipline if players have to go through adjustment periods, maybe not producing batting average quite like they did before because they're hitting pitches they can drive for extra-bases and taking walks when they don't get much instead of hacking and dropping singles in. What good is letting McClung, who obviously has the arm and pitches to succeed, develop in the minors where he can't help the major league team now?
We all know that Lou hasn't been given a lot to work with and I sympathize with that, I know he can't be expected to work a miracle. But he was sold to the fans as The Guy, a manager that would be great for developing these young players and guiding this team to success in the future. What happened to that? Even the media seems to have gotten away from that some, they're on the "spend money and sign some free agents" bandwagon with Lou. Yes, the Rays need to do that, but don't forget about developing the players you already have. Frankly, that's not something that is happening right now at the major league level.
I know to some of you it probably appears that I get on Piniella an awful lot and don't have much to talk about except criticize what he does. I really don't want to be like this but it keeps coming up again. We all know about the problems with Naimoli and Lamar and they are indeed the biggest weights on this franchise as it attempts to rise to success. Whatever we think of Lamar, most of it negative, he does generally seem to be trying to stick to the young player development plan. Sure, he makes some dumb moves, but he hasn't sold off the future for immediate help and has done a solid job putting together a farm system that is beginning to get results. There's more to it than that though, these players need to develop properly and be used the right way in the majors. That's something I'm really not seeing happen and more examples of it keep coming up. I'd like to be able to talk about different things, and I promise in the future I'll try to get on Piniella less and talk about other stuff but sometimes I get really fed up with him.