I realize that the World Series has been over for a while now, but life has been quite hectic, so I just wanted to post a little recap of my thoughts. Nothing that will take up too much of your time, and if you read other baseball sites it very well could just be rehashing what others have said.
The obvious thing about this 3.5 inning game was that it was terribly mismanaged by Rays manager Joe Maddon. I had previously complimented Maddon on his ability to learn from his mistakes in the ALCS, but the problem this time was that he made enough mistakes that there wasn't another game to apply everything he learned. As I predicted before the game, David Price did not come in to start as many people had thought, presumably because of the pitcher spot coming up 4th the next inning. Maddon began with Balfour, but then brought in J.P. Howell to face the Phillies lefties. Howell was able to get out of the inning with minimal damage, and everyone and their mother assumed that if someone got on base, then Howell would be done for the evening, especially with Pat Burrell coming up first in the next half inning.
Well everyone and their mother was wrong, because Rocco Baldelli tied the game up, and the Jason Bartlett actually pulled off a basehit, which meant the pitcher's spot coming up with a man on and one out. Now, at this point, I am screaming at the television for Eric Hinske to come up. The man was unwisely left off the postseason roster until Cliff Floyd went down with an injury in the World Series, and then went out and hit a homer in his first at-bat. Or even Willy Aybar, a switch hitter who had a pretty nice series so far. But what does Maddon do? He leaves Howell in to bunt Bartlett over to second, so that there's a man on second with 2 outs. Then when the Rays inevitably failed to convert the runner, he leaves Howell in to face Burrell, who promptly smashed a double that was a few feet from being a home run. THEN he removes Howell.
How this made any sense is completely beyond me. I mean, even if the manager wanted to make all of this happen, doesn't he have a staff around him to tell him "Joe, this is a bad idea." What is the pitching coach doing this whole time? Why does the bench coach have a job if not to prevent things like this? Are the players not thinking about the correct move in this situation? I know it's not always wise to question the manager, but making someone defend their position isn't a bad thing. It generally leads to the correct move being made, or at least a move with thought put into it.
Well we all know what happened after that, with the Phillies taking the lead, and going on to win the whole thing. It was a great performance by a Phillies team that I continually underestimated, although I still think the Rays win 6/10 times in that series.
I would like to note 2 last things- amazingly, the Rays almost bailed Maddon out in the ninth against Brad Lidge. Ben Zobrist of all people, hit a pitch right on the money, but unfortunately right at Jayson Werth. That hit would have easily brought home Fernando Perez. And lastly, Chase Utley just made an incredible play to throw out Jason Bartlett at the plate on Akinori Iwamura's groundball in the top of the 7th. I'm not sure any other second baseman could make that play. There are a few who have the range to get to that ball, but to make the heads up play of faking the throw to first, and then a one hop strike to the catcher...I am in awe. This guy is head and shoulders above any other second baseman in baseball right now in terms of overall package. I think he's the best defender and best hitter of the bunch.
Anyway, congrats to the Phillies on being 2008 World Series champions! And thanks for getting us to what should be an exciting offseason. The hot stove period very well might be my favorite time of year.