March 30, 2012; Bradenton, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3), left fielder Luke Scott (30) and batting coach Derek Shelton (17) prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Pre-Game Rays Notes: Derek Shelton, Rays Interact With Fans


Your hitting coach always looks better after your team scores 13 runs. But prior to yesterday’s game, here’s what Joe Maddon had to say about Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton.

“I don’t believe [the offense] is a reflection [of Shelton], I really don’t,” Maddon said. “I know what he does, I know how he does it. You watch the games being played, and the thing about coaches, it’s about how diligent you are and the time you put in — that you care. You can only give a player so much information.

“I believe when guys are successful consistently, a coach might be able to tweak you a little bit here or there and remind you about something, but what goes on internally is what really controls your success. And so, it’s hard to pin that on a coach, and I really believe that.”

What is Joe Maddon saying here? Is he quietly blaming his own players and Andrew Friedman and the front office for acquiring them? That would make a great story, but I’ll say no. The Rays thought they were going to have a good, if not great offense this year. But considering how injuries have hampered the offense, Shelton’s job has been awfully tough. What Maddon is specifically alluding to as how players like Carlos Pena, Matthew Joyce, and Luke Scott have gotten completely lost after strong starts, and when formerly solid players suddenly stop producing, there’s only so much the hitting coach can do. Should Rays fans blame Shelton? Well, he’s the obvious scapegoat if the Rays fail to make the postseason, but everyone has to share the blame. Several Rays have severely underperformed and if they had been playing anywhere near their career averages, the Rays would be in better shape right now. At the same time, the Rays’ front office put a lot of faith in older players like Pena, Scott, and Hideki Matsui, who we have seen utterly implode. The Rays’ offense is a real problem right now and will only get worse when B.J. Upton leaves. The Rays have to find some way to generate more consistent offense in coming seasons.

In better news, Evan Longoria spent an entire day with a young Rays fan unfortunately afflicted with cancer and then Elliot Johnson did something you never hear anyone doing- having a catch with Rays fans in the Tropicana Field parking lot as he showed appreciation for the Rays fans who come out to the Trop so many times a year. Always amazing to give a once-in-a-lifetime experience to someone who really needs it, but giving fans a little bit of gratitude every once in a while for ordinary things like coming out to the game is something really cool as well.

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