Ever since their breakthrough season of 2008, the Rays have been renowned throughout baseball for two things: their pitching and their defense. Then last season, the defense disappeared, playing a big role in the Rays missing the postseason despite a pitching staff among the best in baseball. It was frustrating and bizarre to see that happen last season. But rest assured, the Rays’ defense is back. For evidence, you have to look no further than Sunday’s game.
Sam Fuld‘s catch was exactly what we’re used to seeing from him. He covered a ton of ground in centerfield and then a perfectly-timed leap to make a remarkable grab. Fuld described his grab after the game.
"“It was fun,” Fuld said. “I knew it was going to be close right off the bat. I knew I had a long way to go. … It’s nice to get a good (catch), probably, the first really good one I’ve had all year.”"
Teammates were left impressed by yet another incredible play by “The Legend of Sam Fuld,” with Matt Joyce describing the play as “unbelievable.” Speaking of Joyce, his catch was…interesting. It’s always cool to see a basket catch, but his grab was as much of a product of misreading the ball off the bat as it was a great play. Joyce admitted as much.
"“I think that’s, for me, my favorite play,” Joyce said. “It’s fun. It kind of reminds you of a football player catching a touchdown in the end zone. The crowd gets into it and enjoys it. Obviously I don’t plan to catch it that way, but it just worked out that way.”"
Great to see Fuld deliver again and Joyce get into the act (albeit accidentally), and hopefully more incredible plays are on the way for this Rays defense.
From defense to the other half of the Rays’ gameplan, pitching, much has been made of protecting pitchers recently, especially after what happened to Brandon McCarthy and then J.A. Happ just the other day against the Rays. How should Major League Baseball protect its pitchers? Matt Moore has an idea.
"Matt Moore suggested a sensor inside the baseball and one inside the pitcher’s cap that would cause the ball to explode when it came within a certain distance of the pitcher’s head."
That sounds interesting–best way to prevent injuries from the comebackers is to make sure they never get to the mound. However, there are a series of problems with that idea–what would you do if the ball blows up? Automatic single, pickup game style? What if the ball goes over the pitcher’s head and still blows up? Most importantly, wouldn’t that prevent pitchers from raising their hands too far above their shoulders in fear that the ball would blow up? Maybe the sensor in the ball could be triggered by a certain velocity off the bat–but then it might be triggered by just being pitched as well. Sorry Professor Moore, but you’re going to have to keep trying.
In terms of other suggestions, Rays pitchers couldn’t find one that they really liked–helmets were quickly dismissed–but Moore, David Price, and Alex Cobb all said that they would be willing to try something that would make them safer on the mound. From catcher’s equipment to batting helmets, baseball has progressed significantly over the years in terms of safety. Protecting pitchers is the next step, and we’ll have to see exactly how that will happen.