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A solution for the Rays “getting thrown out at home” problem

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Totally serious.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

By now, even if you didn’t see the game itself, you’ve likely seen the debacle of Johnny Field being thrown out at home plate by 20 feet thanks in large part to an unfortunate send by Rays third base coach Matt Quatraro.

And while this is only anecdotal – because there are zero metrics, advanced or otherwise, on third base coaches – it does seem like there have been more than the usual number of strange decisions over there this season.

We’ve also seen some Mallex-ness that hasn’t been entirely Mallex’s fault. A host of players running through stop signs, yet making it home safely without so much as a throw. Stop signs that sure seem like they should have been sends.

Now, I don’t know if this an actual problem. I’m not here to bury Q. Because I don’t have any actual, you know, data. But what I do have, is a theory.

The Nerd-Base Coach

Ever since Stu Sternberg bought the Rays, the team has looked for “market inefficiencies” to help them compete. It’s smart business that has paid off. Few teams can match the Rays analytics department, and they have been among the leaders in putting non-baseball people into front office roles. Tampa Bay is a case study in how far the nerd revolution can take a baseball team.

Yet for a team that coined the term “the extra 2%,” the Rays have been remarkable staid in hiring only baseball people to perform baseball uniform roles. And there are obvious reasons for this. Generally speaking, you want your hitters to be able to hit baseballs, your throwers to be able to be throw baseballs, your catchers to be able to catch baseballs, and your runners to be able to run baseballs. Also, it likely helps for a hitting or a throwing coach to have some hitting or throwing experience of his own. Not always, sure, but as a general rule.

But I ask you: What actual baseball skill or knowledge is required of a third base coach? The ability to windmill his arm? Any kid who has been in a rock band – or even played Rock Band – can do that.

The best as I can tell, the skills required of a third base coach are: good eyesight and depth perception; advanced knowledge of geometry and physics; ability to retain information on footspeed of various players; the ability to rapidly process computations utilizing the above factors. Oh, and of course, the ability to say “GOGOGO!”

The Who Kicks Off Las Vegas Residency At Caesars Palace
More like Pete TownSEND, amirite???
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

That’s it.

We don’t need third base coaches; we need nerd base coaches. Little freestanding processors capable of executing in real time the baserunning algorithms our upstairs nerds write after crunching the numbers all off season on when it is appropriate to send a guy and when it isn’t.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Where do you propose we get these little automatons? Do you really think that sharp-eyed, quick thinking, analytical computer brains grow on trees???

Well, no. Of course not. I didn’t say filling this niche role would be easy. Nothing worth doing ever is. But! As it happens, there is an untapped talent pool that utilizes each of these skills and abilities to perform her or his current job function on a daily basis. And not only is the pool untapped, it is very close by. Right off Interbay Drive, in fact.

Have I piqued your interest?

Are you sitting down?

Because I am about to blow your mind.

Fighter pilots.

Come on! It’s so obvious! What do you need to be a fighter pilot? An understanding of math and physics. Excellent spatial awareness and coordination. Good communication skills. Team-working skills. The ability to think quickly and make decisions in difficult situations.

It’s all there! Almost like the entire purpose of having fighter pilots is as a training ground for third base coaches.

**turns to face the camera**

Erik, this is your one chance to step out of Friedman’s shadow and be a true visionary. Get on the horn to Colonel Vogel and Make. It. Happen. You’ll be a legend.

Then, after this third base thing is all ironed out, you can move on the easier stuff. First base coach is some low hanging fruit. I mean, what actual skills are required to do that job? Standup comedy? Therapist? Tap dancer? That can’t be too hard.

Look, this isn’t rocket surgery. If Friedman could get a team with Andy freaking Sonnanstine in the rotation to the World Series, you can do this. We can beat our baserunning gaffes into plowshares WITH FIGHTER PILOTS.

MacDill is right down the street.