Monday, May 21, 2007

Radio Ga Ga

Alright folks first off I’m sorry it’s been awhile since I’ve typed some words. I also realized that’s it has been quite some time that I’ve given examples as to why I named the blog the way I did. That is to blast fans in this area. With the Rays being swept by the Marlins I figured that there would be plenty of examples of the kind of fans the TBA has on the radio today.

Lucky for you and me the filters at the No Limits Fun Factory no longer block the streaming feed of the local sports station. If you’re familiar with the TBA you know that there is only one real sports radio station and that the local talent – well it leaves a lot to be desired.

I understand that negativity makes for better radio and that in order to fill 4 hours a day you have to take down some sacred cows. However, the local hosts in Tampa take it to a new level. It seems they revel in the current slide Tampa Bay sports has currently taken. The worst part is that they do it with a smugness and ignorance that is appalling.

For their parts the fans that call in aren’t much better. No matter what the topic of the day is 75% of the callers will state that Mike Alstott needs more playing time, the Lightning should never have let Nikolai Khabibulin get away and that they are Yankee fans, but they go to “a lot” of Rays games.

Any caller that has a strong argument or can point out a flaw in the host’s argument is usually subjected to verbal abuse or quickly hung up on. God forbid a caller point out any past errors on a host’s part or question his “sources”. You may as well curse his mother or kick his dog.

So today the plan was to listen to as much of the program as possible to show the world (or at least the 7 readers I have) what it’s like to listen to local radio. It will show you why I am more than willing to pay for Sirius Satellite radio.

I tuned in at 3.00pm expecting to hear the mindless rantings of the one referred to as “The Big Dog”. As mentioned before the Rays had been swept and a major gambling event, The Preakness, had occurred. Unfortunately today was the day of The Chris Thomas Memorial Golf Tournament. Chris Thomas was truly a one of a kind announcer. Articulate, well informed and slightly eccentric Thomas was the former morning drive time host for the sports station. His death 3 years ago has left a great void that hasn’t been filled to this day.

So the “Big Dog” had the day off and was replaced by a younger host, Justin Pawlowski, who does a weekly Saturday show and usually does a good job – if he focuses on football. I would argue that of the on air talent at the station he knows the most about the game and can talk about it very well. When he hosts a show with open topics it seems he loses a little confidence and bit of credibility.

To sum up today’s show: Joe Maddon has to go and the bullpen is horrible and Shawn Camp and Brian Stokes should be executed immediately. I agree the bullpen is horrible, but I would argue that it has been a known weakness going into the season and it’s being beaten into the ground. It would be like going to a Dane Cook movie and then complaining that it wasn’t Oscar worthy.

One fan chanted, “Joe Must Go!” during his call. Another stated that he was the worst manager in the majors right now. The host implied that he was a puppet for upper management while stating that he would “never call anyone a puppet”. Yet another caller, boosting of his status as a little league coach, stated he won’t go to another game until Maddon was gone. Not one caller defended Maddon while I was listening.

As for my take , I disagree 100% that he should be fired. I don’t agree with all of his moves, but I think he is the perfect manager for this club. He is even keeled and he is dedicated to playing the young players to see what they’re going to develop into.

Case in point from Sunday’s game. In the 9th inning and trailing by 1 run the Rays had Greg Norton on first base and Dioner Navarro at the plate. Navarro is hitting .194 on the season. On the bench was left handed hitting Carl Crawford. Maddon elected to let Navarro hit – the portly catcher promptly struck out to end the game.

Outrage followed on the radio. Pawlowski was the harshest as he accused Maddon of not wanting to win the game. Despite the fact that an injury to Josh Paul had left Ty Wigginton as the back up catcher the host was adamant that a team shouldn’t leave it’s best player on the bench in a close game.

Paulowski’s argument was that you deal with the catching problem if it becomes an issue. However, he was missing the object of this season – it’s to see who can play and who can’t. What if Navarro comes through in the situation? Maybe it turns his season around. What if Crawford pulls a hamstring running out a ground ball?

It was a decision that you could argue either way at the time, it’s not the type of decision that calls for the removal of a manager. I think he still has a lot to learn as a manger and he can be loyal to a fault (see Ben Zorbist and Brian Stokes), but to fire him would be a mistake. The fans to a man seem to want someone along the lines of Lou Pinella back with managing the club.

What good would that do? It might be more entertaining with all of the yelling and screaming and hat throwing, but would it be any better for the club? No. Managers like Sweet Lou have better success with veteran clubs. The noise out of the clubhouse in the last year of his tenure with the Rays suggested that the younger players were scared to make mistakes when they played for him. That’s no way to lead a young club.

Maddon may not win any umpire baiting contests or show up on SportsCenter throwing bases around the infield, but he allows the players to develop in the line up. That’s going to lead to losses, more losses than wins as a matter of fact. It will also lead to a better ball club. My friend Big Mike once used the phrase, “long term good, short term bad”. He used it to describe a doomed relationship I was in, but it also applies here. While short term success looks bleak, the lessons learned in losses this season will lead to wins in the long term.

As far as the bullpen goes – well that’s a matter for a whole different column.

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