The small-market Tampa Bay Rays have become renowned within baseball circles for seeking advantages in unlikely places and exploiting them to their benefit.
They're really not kidding with that approach, either. On Friday afternoon, manager Joe Maddon allowed those who attended Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce luncheon to pick the Rays' lineup for the game against the Minnesota Twins later that night.
And whaddya know? The unconventional crowd sourcing worked! With the help of all those amateur Earl Weavers in that Marriott ballroom, the Rays beat the Twins 5-2 as they notched 13 hits and moved closer toward .500 after a slow start.
That's not to say the group got all Tony La Russa-style crazy with its American League lineup card. But one bold move it did make — moving Matt Joyce(notes) into the No. 3 spot for only the second time this season — really paid off. The right fielder went 3 for 4 with a double after inhabiting the bottom of the lineup for the first two weeks of the season.
"Today he really politicked his table … to get into the three-hole, and it worked and really paid dividends for us tonight," Maddon said of Joyce, who was among three players at lunch.
"I'm going to have to find another club to consult about (Saturday's) lineup. I'll get up early tomorrow morning and go up and down Bayshore (Boulevard) and find somebody to choose tomorrow's lineup for us."
Joyce may have lobbied for the promotion on his own behalf, but the crowd knew what it was doing in granting him his wish. The only other time that the Rays listed Sam Fuld(notes), Johnny Damon(notes) and Joyce at the top of the order was in Monday's 16-5 win over the Boston Red Sox. (Yeah, Joyce went 1 for 6 in that game, but who's counting?)
Maddon's munch bunch also wasn't shy in penalizing struggling Rays' players. Ben Zobrist(notes) (.178) didn't start the game and Dan Johnson(notes) (.149) was kept in the seventh hole after his unsuccessful run in the No. 4 spot after the departure of Manny Ramirez(notes). They also got an unpleasant taste of the limited offensive resources Maddon will have to deal with the rest of the season, settling on Felipe Lopez(notes) to bat cleanup. (The third baseman did go 2 for 4, though).
Only Maddon knows whether that lineup was truly the Chamber of Commerce's creation or if it was just close enough to what he was planning on going with that he decided to collect an easy bit of goodwill.
Given the results, though, I'm guessing he's only happy to let the luncheon bask in the glory of Friday night's win.