January 2008

Rays Tidbits

 

The Trivia question for today is for my die hard Red Sox’s Nation fans.

Who’s spirit is said to haunt the stands and press box of Fenway Park?

 

Here is a hint, the current voice of the Sox, Carl Beane, is known to voice a few commonly used  lines from this deceased, and beloved announcer every game . The answer will be at the bottom of the blog.

 

It has just been reported to me from the Rays coconut telegraph that the Rays have inquired about a player from the Atlanta Braves. The player being discussed is third baseman Wily Aybar. Wily was acquired by the Braves in the Dany Baez trade a few years ago from the LA Dodgers’, and has had a few off- field situations for the organization.

Is this might be an insurance policy for the Rays concerning top prospect Evan Longoria. I thought the Rays were set with either Longoria manning the 5-hole or ultra 3b/1b power maven Joel Guzman helping to fill the power gap and base duties until Longoria hit the big time.

Guess the Rays think that they might need another project player who has had situations with the MLB substance abuse system and has left hot-lanta for help from relatives in Boston, without the Braves knowing this beforehand.  Guess we need to have a charitable situation on every roster to remind us why free agents do not flock here to the rain-less confines of the Trop.

 

Granted, Aybar has power and a great glove. He is young( 24), and has a huge upside. But unlike Matt Garza, his upside comes with some baggage that we just traded off to the Washington Nationals. Unlike Dukes, there is no ex-wife or court battles lingering in his future, past or present. Abyar  has tried to show that his wrist injury and situation are behind him.  In Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic, playing for top team Licey, he compiled a .339 average and a .415 OPS in 15 games. 15 games is not the rigors of Spring Training or a 162 game season, but it does give insight to his health and the condition he is in this off season.

Let’s hope the Rays decide to gamble and let Longoria start at third this Spring Training without a upshot prospect looking over his back wanting his position. Let’s hope this team has finally taken the high road and can rely on it’s intuition more about it’s players and their potential. We have a great scouting system that has shown us we have a great knack for talent in our past and in the players coming through the system.

 

I have a few websites on my Bookmarks that show prospects and MLB trade rumors concerning  all baseballs current players. The one I like to visit every day is http://www.MLBTraderumors.com. I am thinking about asking them if they need a correspondent to do the upcoming season from a field-side aspect for the Rays. I have done this before for a newspaper, and during the year for a blob on MLB.com, but never on a daily basis with an emphasis on just one team or segment.

Another writer that has my interest is Eric SanInocencio from Rays Anatomy. He compels me more because he is based out of Birmingham ,Alabama and has a great sense of the Rays and their system. You got to remember that Birmingham is the town that gave you the Michael Jordan experience in the Minor Leagues, and is a hot bed for college and minor league baseball. He is very insightful and genuinely frank about our squad and the upcoming season. Please check it out, and if it is in your type of writing, and you like his style, bookmark him and check in daily, weekly or monthly if that is your thing.

 

I was hitting Rays Anatomy the other day, and saw a article about the Top 20 prospects in baseball. A few are already up in the MLB with short stints in September,2007 , like the Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain.

The Rays had 5 members in that Top 20 list. The second best prospect was, of course, Evan Longoria.  David Price was listed at number 4, but he has not pitched since the NCAA Regional last year and is predicted to make a fast upward move if his stuff is still there this spring. Price has the confidence and the gentle cockiness to know he can survive the MLB hitters and be a great starter for the Rays. I think this kid is the real thing and can be the hidden talent that James Shields showed us a few years ago. He has three pitches that are MLB quality right now.

 

 The thing is, he might need until July to get the rust out and get that command back where he is a threat every time he hits the rubber for the Rays. A lot of news organizations have the Rays contending in 2011 for a AL East crown. If that is the truth, the list of players mentioned in third blog will be the heart and soul of the rotation and lineup in that time period.

Reid Brignac is out future in the SS hole. I have no doubts about this guy after meeting him and seeing a short highlights film on him in the Minors last year. He as slick at the plate as he is in the field. Smooth, rhythmic and poised to be a power hitter in the bottom of the order for the Rays.  He is being nurtured slowly in the minors to develop fully before even hitting the Trop’s infield.

 

I will go on record as saying, that I was hoping B J Upton would get another shot here before Reid was brought up, but he is making a huge  improvement in the off season in Centerfield, and should be an All-Star in the near future with his speed and agility.

Wade Davis and Jacob McGee.

Well, to start, they were impressive at Gulf Coast League,Vero Beach last year before hitting the SW Michigan Rays squad, and have another productive year under their belts  They are currently pitching like a duo not seen since Greg Maddox and Tom Glavine. They have the tools and the abilities to be in the starting rotation in the coming years and be great supporting teammates to the guys they came up with in the Minors. They both have a great head on their collective shoulders and will be great influences in the system for a long time.

The last guy I am going to talk a bit about here is someone who is going to probably get a long look-at this Spring Training. I do not think he is going to be on the 25 man roster this spring, but he is coming up the Rays system fast, and will be pressing on the door this year, maybe as early as June or July.  John Jaso is a great draft pick who is doing everything asked of him the minors, and is going to get his deserved time this Spring.

 

Jaso is not even listed in the Top 10 prospects in the Rays system by some people because he has risen so fast behind the plate. He did something this past year that he has not done in prior Minor league seasons in the Rays system. He was healthy.

There are a few people who think that he will start just below the MLB level this year with the Triple-A Durham Bulls. With Dioner Navarro, and Mike De Felice manning the backstop this year, do not be surprised if Jaso get off to a great start, that he broad jumps a few catchers in the system and is sitting in the Bullpen at the Trop by September.

 

I like Navarro but he has not produced yet to show that high draft pick by the Yankees in the past. This is not to put a curse or hex on the guy. He is a great guy who grew up in the Tampa Bay area, and is a great feel good story for the organization. Dioner will have to keep that great batting streak going that he showed in the second half of the 2007 season to keep the talking to a whisper.

I hope this happens. I like the emotional firestorm that is Mike D, but he does come with some vocal disabilities behind the plate. Now, this is not to mean that he is shy or timid. The exact opposite is true here. Mike has been known to get tossed for his opinions and actions in the past. Just ask the Tigers about his rant a few years ago.  But to be totally frank here, it might be the attitude these young pitchers see from a catcher to give them that extra “umph” to push their game to the next level. An emotional catcher, and a vocal leader can fire up a situation faster than striking out the side.

We shall see.

 

Trivia answer:

It is said that former Red Sox announcer Sherm Feller visits the sox during the home stands and his presence has been felt at the park for a long time. The line that current announcer Carl Beane borrowed from Feller is to say the simple phrase of :”Thank You” after announcing the  teams coaches’. He sees it as a tribute to Feller because for many years, it was Feller’s style to conclude the lineups in that manor. He also does a opening nightly/daily greeting, “Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, Welcome to Fenway Park”, just the way the Sherm Feller did all his years at Fenway Park. This adds a sense of history and continued elegance to this storied franchise.

 

 

With that, I am gone.  It is less than 28 days until Pitchers and Catcher report, and I am giddy as a school kid again.   I love the Spring.



 

Odd Facts and Figures in Rays History

 

I am feeling a bit bored today and decided to write a short blog and list some interesting facts I have acquired over the test of time.

 

First, my trivia question for the blog:

What coach, associated with the Rays minor league system gave up Home Run  number 150 to Barry Bonds? 

 

Answer will be at the end of the blog.

 

I was cruising through a statistics site the other day and was looking for odd facts and figures and decided to see what former Rays helped Barry Bonds get the All[Time Home Run crown. Here is the list of victimized  ex-Rays pitchers I found:

Jason Jennings, Albie Lopez, Hideo Nomo,Cory Lidle,Casey Fossum,Joe Borowski,Steve Trachel,Dan Miceli,Brian Meadows,Dwight Gooden,Mark Guthrie,John Burkett,Brian Rekar,Rheal Cormier,Xavier Hernandez.

Unfortunately, some on this list got hit more than once by the Barry-nator during his romp through the history books. A few even got smacked hard.

 

Hideo Nomo served up 3 to Barry. Dwight Gooden got smacked for 3 during the 80’s, Cory Lidle gave up a multiple homer game to him in 2004,and former Rays and Marlin John Burkett got him another multiple homer game.

But the guy who seemed to be habitually hammered by Barry, was Denny Neagle of the Rockies and Reds. He gave up a total of 6 homers to Bonds, including a Multiple homer game on 7/30/1999.

I found it interesting the other day that the Rays now will not ask for the $60 million dollars from the Florida Legislature to help build the new open air stadium. They were originally slated to ask for the money as start up capital to secure the contractors for the project. It seems that the Pinellas County politicians were polled and were in agreement that the Rays were asking for too much in this close fiscal climate. The politicians said that other needs were more of a  priority than the team.

 

I agree that Child welfare and county services are needed more right now in this budget tightened situation. Just remember, the Marlins tried to get this same tax break last year and were almost laughed out of the capitol building.

I like Mike De Felice as the veteran backstop to Dioner Navarro. Mike was a extremely emotional player when he was last with the Rays, and had a few flareups, in a good way, with the Tigers a few years ago. The emotional firecracker that beats in his chest might be the right medicine to get some emotional strength and power out of both Shawn Riggans and Dioner. Mike has the veteran presence and the spirit to get even the bench fired up during the games. I remember sitting in my seat down by the Bullpen and seeing Mike come down in the late innings and make the entire bench come alive and seem a bit more controlled by his mere presence. This might not seem like the player needed to push either catcher, but it might be more for game control and organization than to put a hole under either guy this Spring. Josh Paul was a student of Joe Maddon’s system with the Angels, and I think he passed a lot of great information and knowledge to both catchers in the last two years.

 

Josh always commented about writing a book on catching. I think it would be a hit from the controversy surrounding him and the White Sox series in the past, and for his great preparation and historic knowledge of the position. I am not a ghost writer, but I would enjoy talking to this practical joker and serious ballplayer about anything concerning catching or the game.  I hope you write it Josh. I know I will line up for a copy.

The Edwin Jackson rumors will not die concerning the Seattle Mariners and the Rays fire baller. I might have a impartial reason for wanting Edwin not to go anywhere. I enjoy talking to him on the sidelines and receiving his 2006 Game worn jersey at the end of the year.

 

But for the purely baseball angle, I feel that the LA Dodgers organization gave up on him too early in his career. It seems that a pitcher needs to have about 200 plus innings in the minor leagues before you can get a grip on their type or need for your MLB squad. I think that Edwin in the second half of 2007 began to relax and take the game for what it is……… a bunch of hits and misses. He relied more an his ability than on his velocity and his game to him in the end. It was thought a year or two ago, that he might be the closer of the future for the Rays.

I think that would not serve him well. At worst, he would be a killer inning eater for long duty in the Bullpen. I would rather see him as a starter, but the squad will have its first year that the first two spots might be settled even before the pitchers and catcher report in Febuary. I hope he can hunker down and finally cement himself in the rotation for 2008.

 

 

Trivia answer:

The current Durham Bulls pitching coach Xavier Hernandez gave up number 150 to Barry in Houston on 5/2/1992 while Bonds was still a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Post Script: 

 Also a member of the Barry
Bonds hit squad is current Rays announcer/ color analyst Joe Magrane who gave up a home to Bonds as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals on 8/11/90 at home.  It doesn’t seem like he has been out of the game that long. Joe still looks like he could throw 6 solid innings a start.

Last but not least, congrats to Goose Gossage for finally getting that great call from the Hall of Fame. He is only the fifth reliever in the Hall of Fame, with a lot of company to come in the upcoming years. Gossage received 85.5 percent of the vote to finally get that beautiful bronze plaque of himself and that signature mustache. Goose was a nine time All-star with 310 MLB saves for nine different team during his career.

 

Here is a truly impressive stat. Gossage got 52 of those saves when he got 7 outs or more. By comparison, today’s specialist relievers usually do not have to go that far in the earlier innings to get a save opportunity. that says a lot for the teams he played with, and the strength of his pitches.

Gossage will be inducted in that small hamlet in New York on  July 27,2008. He will be joined that day by five men selected by the Veterans’ committee: former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn,former Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, managers Billy Southworth and Dick Williams, and ex-Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss.

Congrats again to all the above men and lets all hit the hamlet of Cooperstown sometime in our lives and feel the thrill and chills of that great museum and ball field.

Rays Thoughts and Ramblings………Not For the Weak-Hearted

 

 

I have to start this with a trivia question for the Yankee fans.

What three (3) monuments in the Yankee stadium center field have no relationship to baseball and the Yankees’ players, past or present?

 

 

I will give the answer at the bottom of the blog.

 

 

Rays’ New Stadium Plans:

 

To start out, lets chat about the new stadium situations and recent events.

 

I was reading the local fish wrap today and it is noted that a enviormential group is going to protest the announced stadium plans because of a Manatee situation. Now people not familiar with St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront would not know about the artesian well under the water off the Demen’s Landing site.

 

This warm water well is a constant feeding system that is heated to about 80 degrees. that translates to perfect Sea cow(Manatee) specs. The group is telling people that the well is a constant attraction for the Manatees, and to build near it, or over it would deplete a viable warm spot for the sea cows.

 

First off, I know the site in question. It was originally drilled early in St. Petersburgs’ history to be a tourist attraction because of the proposed “healing” powers of the sulfur-aided water. There was a pier that protruded out into Tampa Bay at that time, and they drilled down to produce a hole in the upper Florida Aquifer. For years, this well was suppose to be Ponce De Leon’s “Fountain of Youth”.

 

Second, the well is currently in about 30 feet of water, still uncapped and  supplying heat and relaxation to Sea cow nation. the exact location of the fill area for the new stadium will take a small channel area off by the Sailing Academy on Demen’s Landing, and might inhibit the St. Petersburg Yacht Club basin more than disturb the Raymond look-a likes. 

 

“Haunted Baseball:

 

I  went on a baseball book hunt the other day in Barnes and Noble, and came away with a few great books about our national pastime. They had a huge selection of autobiographies and collections of stories concerning baseball.

 

One of the book I chose was, “Haunted Baseball,” by Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon. To start with, the authors are Boston and NY fans true and true. The book is a collection of events depicting the ghosts, practical spiritual games, and unexplained phenoms concerning baseball.

 

I have only read the first 100 pages, but the authors have done a lot of research with players, coaches and experts in this field. The first chapter is dedicated to a St. Petersburg Cresent Lake site that was  one of the Spring Training sites for the old Yankees, Mets, Cardinals and Orioles.

 

It is Huggins-Stengel field located in the Southeastern corner of the park near the landmark water tower. It explains about the odd happenings and situation concerning the old clubhouse area currently occupied by the St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation team TASCO.

 

It is a wild tale of ghostly sightings and unexplained sights, sounds and smells concerning the vast history that has graced this cement block building. One of the wildest tales concerns a cigar odor that is strong in the AM when the TASCO workers come in the morning, and the strange and odd happening after dark in the building.

 

I used to deliver Pepsi product to TASCO as a Special Events Coordinator, and I always had an uneasy feeling in that building. If I knew about these events, I would have loved to stay the night or visit the are at night.  

 

The third chapter of the book is about the famous Vinoy hotel that the visiting teams, and newly promoted and signed Rays players stay in for games. It has been a long time since the hotel was a vacant shell on the waterfront, but true natives know how much the hotel transformed the waterfront Vinoy area back to respectability and extreme comfort for the road weary players’.

 

It goes into detail about the haunting and shenanigans of the specters’ in the old wing of the hotel. I know of one death in the hotel from when it was an abandoned shell. It is of a homeless guy who fell into the water-filled elevator shaft and drowned because there was no one there to hear him scream for help, or rescue him. Legend has it that sometimes the walls of the elevators produce a banging sound like someone trying to get in from below or above the unit.

 

I have also stayed in this hotel  a few times in the old wing and have not had a truly restful night because of scratching noises outside my 6th floor window. I took it as a dove or bird trying to find a niche for the night. Never thought about a ghostly apparition or specter causing the chaos.

 

It has a Rays’ twist in the form of a ghostly haunting involving Jon Switzer when he first got promoted up to the big club. You have to read the account to believe it.

 

By the way, other players and coaches have had events happen to them in this spirited hotel. Enough that it was profiled  in an ESPN story involving the Cincinnati Reds reliever Scott Williamson. He was held down in his bed by an unforeseen force in the night and in later research, it was noted that the former landowner of the Vinoy site before the hotel was built was also named Williamson.

 

Dioner Navarro:

 

I am going to comment on a recent article about Dioner Navarro. This Tampa-bred, former Yankee prospect is entering his second year behind the plate for the Rays’.  I think both he and the Rays staff know that it is “now or never” for him to show the ability to handle this young staff and aggressively product at the plate.  Dioner made great strides in the second half last year, and i think that under hitting Coach Steve Henderson, he will improve more this year.

 

He was a great prospect in the Yankee system, and was to be the heir apparent to Posada. When he was traded to the Dodgers, his product was limited by the Dodgers’ own catching prospect finally starting to reach his potential. I think he was the diamond in the rough piece of the trade with the Dodgers. He is a skilled thrower and was a essential part of the first triple play in Rays history starting from the 2-spot.

 

I know that Joe Maddon has great hopes and respect for him. Let’s just wait and see how he reports to the complex this year. I predict a leaner, meaner Dioner ready to show both players and fans he is here to play……….for as long time. By the way, he is only 23, and has a world of chances in his  MLB future.

 

Trivia Answer:

 

I am going to go now, but I need to give you the answer to the Trivia question.  Did you know the answer?  Well, here it is…………..

 

The only three monuments in the Yankee center field area not associated with baseball or the Yankee’s baseball history are: A monument to Sept. 11th 2001, and two papal visits by the pope to  what Vince Scully calls,  “the cathedral that is Yankee Stadium.”

Did you know the answer?

 

I am thinking of doing a Rays’ trivia question on  each blog from now on here..what do you think?

 

Since I did work Tropicana Field for Pepsi for 4 years, I know a lot about the “House that Vince built.”

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