Maybe the key moment in the Rays game three loss was the two-out, two-run single by Josh Hamilton off of JP Howell in the seventh inning. The hit made the score 4-1 and the Rays would eventually lose the game by one run, 4-3.
At the time, a lot of fans questioned the move by Joe Maddon to Howell, who had struggled this season with a 6.16 ERA. However, Howell was better in the final two months of the season, allowing just three runs in 12 innings (2.25 ERA).
And whether it was anger towards Howell, or annoyance with Maddon, or just frustration with the situation, some fans booed as Howell was removed from the game. Whatever the reason, Maddon made it clear that booing Howell is completely unacceptable.
“It’s really wrong. I don’t understand why the folks would have gone there on him…It’s inappropriate. Here’s a guy who was a big part of our World Series run, is coming off a severe injury and has done some really good work this year, particularly against left-handers. He’s given up a couple of homers. That’s why the numbers are so high. He’s not been as bad as it seems. But that was the right moment for him, that was the right situation, him versus Hamilton. I felt good about it.”
Yes, Howell’s home run rate was higher this year. And that could be a sign of just plain ol bad luck. But he also went from an arsenal of 4-5 pitches in 2009 to a two-pitch pitcher in 2011. That may have allowed batters to sit on his fastball. And if a batter is sitting on an 86 mph fastball, they can do a lot of damage. But that is another discussion for another time.
Maddon went on to say that blaming the loss on Howell “is absolutely insane as far as [he is] concerned.”
Hey, we know Maddon will always have his players’ backs. And we have no problem with him defending Howell, or his own use of Howell. But from what we have seen and heard, most people are blaming Maddon for using Howell, more than actually blaming Howell.
And even if some fans were booing Howell, Maddon can’t attack paying customers and call them “insane.” The Rays already have an attendance problem. They don’t need Maddon driving more away.