Joe Maddon is a fraud. Everyone in Boston knew this because we're intelligent baseball fans; we never bought into this "Joe Maddon is a genius!" crap that's been the autocratic diktat of the all-knowing baseball pundits for years. But after the last two games this week at the ugliest stadium in baseball, the façade is finally crumbling - Maddon's stash of gold has been revealed as a pile of pyrite. Maddon became a parody of himself, and no matter how many more "Dress like a Prep Boy!" clubhouse themed days he hosts, we know for certain now that the Emperor wears no clothes. (Take that figuratively please, because vom.)
The two pillars of Maddon's reign are cheating and outstanding pitching. Maddon has nothing without the Devil Rays' front office drafting well and stocking their farm system with Cy Young-caliber arms; conversely, you could make any monkey Tampa Bay's manager and they could win games with the starting rotations that Maddon has been given over the years. The only thing this says about Maddon's managerial abilities is that he's a grade above Bobby Valentine and your average MLB bench coach. That's not genius, that's just average.
What's brings Maddon to a new level of annoying - what the all-knowing baseball pundits consider to be "genius" - is the shitacular way Maddon plays baseball. Simply put: he cheats. Maddon has his batters call time when the opposing pitcher is about to throw; cheating. Maddon has his infielders physically block baserunners from accessing a base; cheating. I could focus on his incessant pitching changes right now, but first let's look at the second act of cheating that I noted.
In a Red Sox / Devil Rays series at Fenway in 2008, one of Maddon's storm troopers physically blocked Coco Crisp from stealing second base by sticking his foot in front of the bag. Crisp sled head first and almost injured himself because blocking the base is a dick move. Crisp learned his lesson, and the next time he tried stealing second base he went in spikes high. The Devil Rays took offense (disregarding the fact that their action which preceded this event was more egregious) and Maddon ordered Crisp to get plunked. We all know about the brawl that happened next.
Crisp should have been called safe the first time he tried stealing second base because Maddon's storm trooper obstructed him. Maddon has grown used to umpires letting him cheat, which explains why every Tampa Bay fan (the true "162 Strong," since there's only 162 of them) flipped their shit when Quentin Berry was tagged by Zobrist before touching second base on Monday night, yet he was given the steal. Zobrist obstructed Berry and his cheating was called out - finally!
Remove one pillar and the house risks collapsing. With the cheating element of Maddon Baseball crumbling, the only thing this king of nothing has left to stand on is Tampa's spectacular pitching.
So what does the genius do? Instead of starting Matt Moore on short rest or using Chris Archer, he gives the ball to Jeremy Hellickson. This move is an apt metaphor for how empty Maddon's managerial style is. Hellickson was once one of Tampa's prized pitchers, with a deserved Rookie of the Year award to back him up. But this future Cy Young award winner derailed his career this season, posting a 5.17 ERA - and his ERA was above 7.00 during the second half of 2013. Maddon is nothing without the efforts of the pitchers he's been given, yet instead of relying on a better example of those pitchers, Maddon gives Hellickson the ball in one of the most important games in the history of this franchise.
What was Hellickson even doing on Tampa's playoff roster?
Predictably, hilarity ensued as Maddon was forced to use his bullpen in the second inning last night; then he kept making pitching changes last night. The more times Maddon waddled out to the mound, the more he became a parody of himself. Unable to cheat or manage his pitching staff, Maddon didn't know what to do. Here was Maddon the Genius, the second coming of Tony LaRussa, he who is surely headed to Cooperstown, one of the greatest managers in a generation - and he burned all of his options in an elimination game. Actually, let's not pussyfoot by saying Maddon had merely "burned" his options. No, it is more accurate to say that Maddon got a bucket of gasoline, summarily dumped it on all of his options, lit a match and exclaimed to himself: "This will work! It's foolproof!"
Geniuses leave themselves with a viable Plan B. Farrell's genius is yet-to-be-determined, but he limited his moves to later in the game. When Farrell replaced Drew and Salty with Bogaerts and Ross, that move ended up being decisive in the Red Sox victory. Nobody is calling Farrell a genius because of this move, but he left himself with viable options late in the game and won.
Maddon mismanaged his pitching, Maddon got called out on his cheating, and Maddon lost. This man is not a genius - on the contrary, he just proved himself to be a total dipshit. If anyone who gets paid to write about baseball says otherwise, they should be immediately demoted to fucking Burger King.
The Red Sox are moving on because John Farrell is a superior manager. Suck it, Tampa Bay.