For most of his outing on Saturday, Jeremy Hellickson was locked in, retiring 16 in a row from the final out of the first inning to the final out of the 6th. But his end results left something to be desired once again for the fourth straight start. Hellickson’s start ended on about the lowest note possible as he allowed a grand slam to Jesus Guzman to make a 6-2 Rays lead into a tie game. And this time, Joe Maddon didn’t chock it up to bad luck or one tough pitch, but simply Hellickson failing to execute.
“(Against) Guzman, (Hellickson) should have been able to do something right there. I felt very strongly about that. Not lukewarm, not mediocre, not tepid, but very strongly about it. … I felt really good about that moment, and that’s the moment he’s got to get done right there.”
The Rays won the game and Joe Maddon easily could have dismissed Hellickson’s struggles. Why did he choose this time to call him out? Because enough is enough. Hellickson just keeps struggling, continues to blow big leads, and Maddon has to emphasize that he has to stop that. Joe Maddon is praised as a players’ manager and this seems to go squarely against his usual tendencies. Really, though, Maddon is only doing this because he cares about Hellickson and wants him to turn this around, and hopefully this feeling that Hellickson is feeling right now after blowing this lead and getting called out by his manager is what helps him move forward. Jeremy Hellickson has been great for the Rays the last two years and has the ability to be even better moving forward. Now it’s time for him to start showing that.
Among Rays fans, there has been a common refrain that it seems like every call goes against the Rays. The evidence seems to support that, with everything from the controversial strike three call to the phantom tag on Sean Rodriguez the other day falling the wrong way for the Rays. Is that coincidence or simply bad luck? Is it possible that the Rays are inflicting this on themselves by complaining too much? Kelly Johnson and Joe Maddon think that actually the opposite might be true.
Infielder Kelly Johnson played on a Blue Jays team that was known for going too far and said the Rays’ reactions have been “nothing like that.” He compared Maddon’s rants to those of Atlanta’s Bobby Cox, who complained often and loudly but always had his players’ backs.
Maddon said there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
“You only get a bad reputation if the complaints are not warranted,” he said. “I think if you cry wolf, if you argue at the inappropriate times, if you’re always on the field just to make noise, that’s different. But I think if they’re warranted, I think then you gain even more respect.”
This isn’t a chicken-and-the-egg type of scenario where the Rays are complaining because the calls are going against them and then the umpires are making call against the Rays because they’re complaining. The Rays are only arguing because there has been bad calls, and once that stops, the Rays’ collective temperament will be much more mild. It seems like every game, the Rays are screaming from the benches and driving umpires insane. But you have to hope that the umps’ calls will even out and the Rays will adjust their reactions accordingly.