October 2008

Using Sims to Win the ALCS

 

 

The following is an article posted to ESPN.com  that goes over the chances and probabilities of the Tampa Bay Rays moving onto their FIRST ever World Series.

 

Last week, we ran our Diamond Mind simulation and predicted the Tampa Bay Rays would easily defeat the Chicago White Sox, most likely in three or four games, and the Los Angeles Angels would upend the defending world champion Boston Red Sox … although that prediction came with the stipulation that the odds would swing in favor of Boston if it pulled off a Game 1 victory. In fact, the simulations showed the Red Sox’s odds of winning the series increased from 42.6 percent to 67 percent if they won the opening game — and that Jon Lester would be a factor in whether they did. Sure enough, the Rays did polish off the White Sox in short order, and the Red Sox rode Lester’s stellar pitching to a Game 1 victory and went on to take the series from the Angels.

 

About the simulation

The simulations were done using the Diamond Mind Baseball software, which was developed by renowned baseball statistics expert Tom Tippett. Diamond Mind is widely regarded as the most sophisticated and realistic baseball simulation software.

 
Diamond Mind is owned by Imagine Sports, a Silicon Valley-based Internet company that develops multiplayer online sports games, including Diamond Mind Online, an online baseball management game licensed and promoted by MLB Advanced Media. 

 

So what does our Diamond Mind simulation project for the American League Championship Series? Before revealing our projected results for the ALCS, here is a brief recap of our methodology:

 

    • We updated our projections and ratings for each player based on his 2008 regular-season performance.

      • Although playoff rosters were not yet finalized, we used our best judgment about whom would be selected, the starting rotations, the batting orders and the bullpen and bench roles.

      • We made judgments about players carrying injuries into the postseason. Beyond deciding, for purposes of setting roles, whether or not a player would play, we did not attempt to simulate how such an injury might hamper the player, except to the extent already reflected in his regular-season performance.

      • We then simulated the series 2,000 times.

     

    As unpredictable as the outcome of the regular season can be, luck can play an even greater role in a short series. Nevertheless, the results of our Diamond Mind software showed Tampa Bay winning 1,107 of the 2,000 simulations, a 55.4 percent probability that the Ray will be the new AL champions. This series looks to be higher scoring than we’ve projected for the National League Championship Series — the Rays averaged 4.7 runs per game in our simulations, while the Red Sox averaged 4.3 runs per game. The table below shows the number of times out of the 2,000 simulations that each team could win the series.

    ..TR> ..TR>

     

    Interestingly, the most likely scenario is that the series will go six games, not seven, regardless of which team wins.

     

    The difference? The Rays look like they’ll have a slight edge on the mound. While Boston’s bullpen generally outperformed Tampa’s in our simulations, the Rays’ young starters did much better than the Red Sox’s rotation. Tampa projected to get overall strong performances from Scott Kazmir, James Shields, and Matt Garza. With the exception of Lester, however, the Red Sox starters struggled: Josh Beckett, recently hampered by injury, posted an ERA of 4.50 for the simulation runs, and it got worse from there. Daisuke Matsuzaka had an ERA of 5.06, and he’s the starting pitcher for the critical first game.

     

    As for the hitters, Boston actually out-hit Tampa, posting a slightly better batting average and hitting significantly more home runs. Tampa’s edge, however, came from getting more baserunners — the Rays walked more, and on-base percentage is a big key to scoring runs. Tampa’s lineup also projected to share the load more evenly. Upton and Longoria led the Rays in getting on base (each averaged a .346 OBP in the simulations) and scored the most runs, while Cliff Floyd provided the most power (.500 slugging average) and led the team in RBIs along with Carlos Pena, who provided a high number of clutch hits.

     

    Boston was paced by Dustin Pedroia and Youkilis, who posted the best overall numbers of either team. Pedroia, who had been slumping before a big hit in Game 4 of the ALDS, led both teams in hits while posting an OPS of .846, showing he’s ready to break out of the slump. Youkilis, who also had a rough ALDS, led Boston in RBIs and runs scored and posted an OPS of .860, best of either team. Drew also chipped in with an OPS of .789 and some clutch home runs in some of the simulations. Other than some decent but unspectacular numbers from Bay, however, the rest of the Boston lineup did not contribute much, although Ortiz projected to contribute a bit more than he did in the ALDS.

    Looking for a surprise star … another David Eckstein, perhaps? The simulations say you might want to keep an eye on the catchers. Boston’s Jason Varitek, who mustered only three singles over the course of the ALDS, hit a surprising number of big home runs in the simulations, and Dioner Navarro stayed hot and led the Tampa starters in batting average and had a fair number of clutch hits in the 2,000 simulation runs, usually doubles. And if you really want a rabbit pulled out of the hat, the simulations showed surprising contributions from Alex Cora for Boston and Gabe Gross for Tampa, both coming off the bench.

     

    However, before you go putting your money on the Rays, there’s one huge caveat …

     

    As we noted in our division series previews, the odds can swing dramatically in favor of the winner of Game 1 of a short series. In fact, the winner of the first game went on to win every series in the 2007 playoffs, and the same is true so far in 2008. If the Red Sox win Game 1, watch out — the odds swing heavily in their favor, as was true of their series with the Angels. When the Red Sox won Game 1 in the simulations, they went on to win the series 1,220 times, or 61 percent. And this points to a key leverage point — if the Boston starting pitchers, particularly Matsuzaka and Beckett, perform better than the simulations projected, Boston is likely to take Game 1 and the series. That’s more likely to happen if the Red Sox can keep the Tampa hitters off the base paths. So key indicators of this series will be Tampa’s team on-base percentage and the control of the Boston pitchers.

    Another key leverage point you might want to watch are the home runs; our simulations show Boston might need to out-homer the Rays to win. That said, we still see the upstart Rays continuing their Cinderella season and advancing to their first World Series … but they’d better win that first game.

     

     

     

     

    TAM in 4 TAM in 5 TAM in 6 TAM in 7 BOS in 4 BOS in 5 BOS in 6 BOS in 7 Overall
    145 263 371 328 282 291 226 94 1,107-893 TAM

    What They are Saying About the ALCS

     

     

    I have a habit of traveling through the Internet seeking the truth and wisdom of the old school journalists and what they think of our upstart ballclub.  I hit the web based sports sections of the major newspaper of the city and also some of the lesser known blogs and fan-based websites looking for some good and bad press about the Tampa Bay Rays 2008 success. Here are a few thing I found on Saturday about our beloved ballclub:

    Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe

    On Friday and Saturday:

     “Now they call it Tropicana Field and it is truly hideous. Catwalks above. FieldTurf below. All-dirt base paths. Foul poles hanging from the ceiling like sleeping vampire bats. It’s baseball’s Big Top.”

     “Somebody’s got to stand up to the Red Sox and right now it doesn’t feel like the Rays can do it. They had everything going for them last night and they came up short time and again.”

    On Sunday:

      Watching the Red Sox strand 13 runners and waste four homers, Boston fans were left asking one vital question: What’s up with Josh Beckett? He was Bob Gibson in October 2007. Now he is John Wasdin in October 2008.

     

    Sean McAdam, Boston Herald

    On Saturday: 

    “In blanking the Rays, 2-0, the Red Sox did more than take a lead in the ALCS; they effectively won back home-field advantage. Thanks to their shutout victory, the Sox could conceivably win the pennant without worrying about another win at Tropicana Field.”

    On Sunday:

      The Red Sox already knew they would have to defend their World Series crown without Mike Lowell. Come to find out, they’re going to have to do it without Josh Beckett, too. Or at least the Josh Beckett to which they’ve become accustomed. Because this Josh Beckett is not that Josh Beckett. Not even close.

     

     

    Jack Curry, The New York Times

    On Saturday:

    “With the suddenly captivated fans of the Rays ringing cowbells and trying to implore their worst-to-first team, [Daisuke] Matsuzaka’s precise pitching acted as the ultimate silencer.”

    On Sunday:

    The Red Sox pushed, but the Rays shoved back. The Red Sox slapped the Rays, but they smacked back. It was a game the Red Sox wanted to win but one the Rays desperately needed to win. The game dragged and dragged, past midnight, past bedtimes and past last call. This was playoff baseball, at its longest.

     

    You got to love October baseball. This might be our first entrance into the fraternity guys, but we will have a seat at this table for a few more years. So you better set a place for us and  climb on and enjoy the ride.

     

    Rays Put Extra Effort into Win

     

     

     

    The worst part of that victory tonight is that a host of the well-wishers who wanted to toast to the Rays victory had to drive over to Hillsborough county to do it. Becuase the game ended after 1:30 a.m. local taverns and lounges had already put the tills to bed and were doing the final prep work to leave and re-open in the morning for the football crowds. I heard people upset that they should suspend the county ordinance stopping the flow of beer and alcohol as a show of support for the Rays.

    Really, the show of support for the team is based on a bubbly beverage with a frothy head? I thought the team was about confidience and energy and emotional willpower, not of it was cold-aged, or comes in a green bottle. I know the game went too long for most people to enjoy a post game beverage, but sometimes that happens in the world of sports. But the straw that stirs the drink is the amount of people who stayed in their seats until that last out.

    But for you people who stayed until B J Upton hit that 160 foot fly ball to right…Thank You. To the people who worried more about the team going 0-2 than when “last call” was that night………..Thank You too. But the people I really want to thank are the multitudes of Red Sox fans who came down here and had class during the game and actually cheered both teams after the effort.

    They did not only cheer as the Red Sox left the field, but gave the Rays their due in the marathon match.I am not afraid to clap or cheer for maximum effort by a team. Sweat, blood and the energy expelled last night hit an all time high in both dugouts.  Rays’ fans showed their exuberance and passion by clapping and banging their cowbells all night long. But it was the Boston fans applauding the Rays effort that showed the true class of the night.  Baseball has been blessed with great fans for a long time, but when another team shows their repsect for the efforts of their opponents…………………..priceless, truly priceless.

     

    Rays 9, Red Sox 8

     

    Records Everywhere

    Everywhere you looked last night a record was about to fall, be tied, or broken like a pane of glass. 435 pitches is amazing enough, but the 19 strikeouts and 13 walks played a major role the win and loss last night. For 5 hours and 27 minutes both team fought, clawed and scraped to put together enough to win this match.

    Both teams hit enough long balls to tie a longstanding home runs per game record that should stand for a long time. 17 runs is amazing in the game between these 2 teams, considering this waqs suppose to be a pitchers’ duel. Red Sox starter Josh Beckett lost the lead 3 times in the contest  for the first time in his great career.

    4 Boston players had 3 hits in the game, but no other Boston hitter had a single hit. It is the first time in postseason history that a team had more than 1 player with at least 3 hits in a game, and those 4 players accounted for ALL of the Red Sox’s hits.

    Dustin Peroia tied  ex-Red Sox Todd Walker’s 2 homer night in last night game. Walker hit his dual homers in the 2003 ALCS serie against the Oakland A’s. It was only the 3rd time in the ALCS history that at leats two homers were hit in a game. Adam Kennedy of the Angels hold the all-time mark with 3 homers during the 2002 series against the Minnesota Twins.

     

     

    Scott Kazmir

    One of the big questions on Rays fans this season is, “Which Scott Kazmir will show up tp pitch tonight?” On a night when both starters’ were suppose to be the duel of the night, it’s became the bats from both teams that took the spotlight and shine bright into the night for both teams. Kazmir went to the mound with his 21st career start against the Red Sox.  He is 6-7 lifetime against them with a 3.62 ERA.

    In 2 starts against Boston this year, Kazmir is 0-2, with a 9.00 ERA. In his last home start against the Red Sox, he endured his worst home start by giving up 9 earned runs and 4 home runs , and allowed only his 2nd homer of the year to a leftie when David Ortiz homered to right in the game.

     

                  

    Kazmir got into early trouble in the game walking David Ortiz, then giving up a single to Kevin Youkilis to put 2 on base with 2-outs. Jason Bay hit a ball off the leftfield wall to score both runners and put the Red Sox up 2-0 early in the game.  In this 1st inning, Kazmir threw 38 pitches.

    In the 3rd inning, Kazmir gave up a lead-off homer to Dustin Pedroia to put Boston up 3-2. Coming into the at bat, Pedroia was 15-27 against Kazmir this year.   Kazmir got through the inning and did not have another bad inning until the 5th inning.

     

     

    This inning would be the longest of the night, and featured Kazmir giving up 2 homers in 3 at bats. Both Pedroia and Youkilis hit the 2nd pitches they saw from Kazmir for solo homers and  Youkilis’s shot tied the game at 5-all in the inning. After that, Kazmir left the game after throwing 98 pitches over 4.1 innings.  On the night, Kazmir also got  only 2 strikeouts and issued 3 walks in the contest.

     

                  

     

    B J Upton

    For a guy who has been playing hurt since a shoulder injury in May of this year against Baltimore, you could not tell that B J Upton’s power has been diminshed at all at the plate. With the game on the line, and the Rays almost exhausting all their relievers out of the Bullpen , Upton hit a 160 foot fly down the rightfield line that was the mightiesy hit of the night. His sacrifice fly to J D Drew was far enough away from home plate to score speedster  Fernando Perez from third base and end the marathon game for the Rays.

    But that was not the only contribution from Upton tonight. He went 1-4 in the game, but his one hit was a solo homer in the 3rd inning off Red Sox starter Josh Beckett to tie the game at 3-all. He also got on base in the  twice on a walk in the 5th inning and stole second base. He then came home on a single to right by Carlos Pena to bring the Rays within 1 run, 6-5.

     

     

    Evan Longoria

    Tampa Bay’s rookie third baseman went a combined 3-5 last night with 3-runs and 3 RBI’s on the night. But it was his 2-run homer on a change-up up in the strikezone that tied the game for the Rays in the 1st inning. Longoria hit a drive deep into rightfield and scored Pena on the play to tie the game 2-all. Longoria was not done as he came up in the 3rd inning and hit a ball to the base of the leftfield wall for a double.

     

     

                  

     

    He ended up scoring on Carl Crawford’s  rightfield gap shot from second base to put the Rays up 4-3. Then in the 5th inning Longoria again hit a liner down the leftfield line and scored Pena. Longoria was again driven in by a Crawford single to put the Rays up 8-6 in the game.  With his homer and 2 doubles, Longoria became only the 3rd rookie to ever have 3 extra base hits in a playoff game

     

               

     

    The 3 C’s Have a Big Night

    The three members of the Tampa Bay Rays with “C”s in their names went a combined 5-12 on the night , with 4 RBI’s and scored 3 runs for the Rays.  Cliff Floyd made a statement early in the  4th inning by hitting a blast 400 feet over the  dead centerfield fence to put the Rays up 5-3. Floyd’s blast had Red Sox centerfielder Coco Crsips climbing the wall trying to get the ball before it went over the green wall.

     

     

    Carlos Pena went 2-5 on the night, with 2 RBI’s and a run scored in the game. Pena hit a double into deep left center to start the Rays’ rally in the 1st inning. He then scored on Longoria’s homer to left. Pena then moved Upton over with a single to right in the 5th inning, and both players scored on Longoria’s double to left.  Pena then hit a hard liner to Mark Kotsay at first that was destined for the rightfield corner in the7th inning.

     

     

    Carl Crawford got into the game in the 3rd inning with an RBI single to the gap in rightfield to score Longoria and put the Rays up 4-3 at the time. Crawford then was picked off even before the next pitch when he was glancing away from  the pitcher Beckett, and was tagged easily for the 3rd out in the inning. It was an unusual play for Crawford to not even be looking at the pitcher when he stepped off the base.

    Crawford then faced Javier Lopez in the 5th inning in the middle of the Rays huge rally. Lopez was brought in just to face Crawford, and Crawford got a RBI single to score Longoria and send Lopez to the dugout.  In the 10th inning, Crawford hit a drive back into the middle that struck Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon right below his right arm, near his side that deflected straight to Pedroia who completed the play for an out at first base.

     

     

     

    Dan Wheeler

    The Rays had great success from their Bullpen in the regular season and during the ALDS. But during this ALCS with Boston, the Rays Bullpen has run into some trouble and was again put to the test tonight. Grant Balfour came in and replaced Kazmir in the 5th inning and promptly gave up a solo shot to Jason Bay. Balfour then gave up 2 quick walks before being replaced by J P Howell with 2 men on base.

    Howell got the last 2 batters’ of the inning to close out the Red Sox threat.  In the 6th inning, Howell got Jacoby Elssbury to fly out to Pena before issuing a walk to Pedroia. He the struck out Ortiz before leaving the game. For their time tonight Balfour went 0.0 innings and gave up a run on 1-hit and also gave up a walk. Howell was credited with 1-run on 1-hit and got 2 strikeouts.

    Chad Bradford then came on to relieve Howell and gave up two straight hits to Youkilis and Bay before getting Jed Lowrie to fly out to center to end the inning. Bradford threw for 1.1 innings and gave up 1-run on 4-hits before Trever Miller came on to face Pedroia in the 8th inning. Miller gave up a single to Perdroia and was replaced by Dan Wheeler.

    Wheeler ended up throwing 38 pitches last night in his 3.1 innings of work. It was one of the longest relief appearances of his career. Wheeler quickly got Youkilis to ground into a double play, but Pedroia moved over to third on the play. With 2-outs in the inning, the Rays looked like they might get out of the inning without a hitch.

     

     

    Bay came up to bat and Wheeler threw 3 straight pitches outside for balls, before sailing a pitch over Dioner Navarro’s head to the backstop. Navarro sprinted to the backstop and tossed a errant ball towards Wheeler covering home. The ball did not get within Wheeler’s glove in time and skipped away from him, letting Pedroia score and tie the game at 8-all in the 8th inning.

    It was only the 2nd Wild Pitch given up by Wheeler all year long. Wheeler then got the next 3 Red Sox batters in order before Coco Crisp put a ball in the air in centerfield that shifted on Upton in the air and he watched as it skipped over the centerfield wall for a Ground Rule Double.

    Wheeler then got Ellsbury to strikeout to end the 9th inning. He then came out again in the 10th inning and got 3 quick outs on 10 pitches to set the Red Sox down in order. Wheeler then came out in the 11th inning and got a quick strikeout of Bay before issuing a walk to Lowrie and giving the Red Sox a baserunner.

    Rays rookie David Price then came on to pitch and quickly issued a walk to Drew before getting Kotsay on a strikeout and making Crisp hit into a 5-4 ground out to finish the inning. By being the pitcher of  record in the 11th inning, Price earned his first postseason victory in the game.  It was his first major league victory, and marked only the 3rd time a play earned either a win or loss for his first in the postseason.

     

    11th inning

    The 11th inning started with Navarro walking on 3 straight balls after getting a 1-2 count in the at bat. Boston’s Pitching Coach John Farrell was ejected right after the at bat when he was arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Sam Holbrook. Speedster Fernando Prez then came on to run for Navarro and gave the Rays a dose of speed on the basepaths. 

    Ben Zobrist then walked on 5 pitches to give the Rays another baserunner with no outs in the inning.  Perez was stealing 3rd when Jason Bartlett hit a hard grounder to Youkilis who could not get Perez in time and had to go to first base for the 1st out in the inning.  Akinora Iwamura was then Intentionally Walked to load the bases for the Rays. 

    Then Upton came up and quickly got an 0-2 count on him before hitting his 160 foot fly into  shallow right to Drew.  He quickly threw the ball into the infield, but the throw was off line and was about 5 feet up the line towards third as Perez slapped his hand on the plate for the winning run.  

     

     

    Please Come to Boston

    The Rays will board a charter to bean-town on Sunday morning  because of a late work-out schedule in Boston on Sunday. They will have a 6:30 p.m. work out before retiring for the good nights sleep in Boston before Monday’s 4 p.m. start.   

    Here are a few facts heading into the 3-games in Boston:

    This is only the 19th time in 39 American League Championships that the series was tied 1-1 at this point.

    37 players who were used in last night’s game, tied the American League record for the most ever used in a playoff game of any length.

     

    Dice-K Rolls a Winner in Game 1 of ALCS

     

     

     

    Why is it that people have doubted this team from the beginning of the year, but now they are coming out of the woods saying they knew they were for real. I can say with total honesty I thought it might be a year away and that this year we would break .500 for sure. But now there are people, beside Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir who said they predicted this all along.

    Local TV station, channel 10 anchor Reginald Roundtree did make a prediction the Rays would be superior this year, but even he must be surprised at the total upward climb of this franchise. Scott Kazmir came out during Spring Training that this team was good enough to go into the Playoffs. It was laughed upon then, but now Kazmir can make the first move towards fulfilling the total fantasy tonight in his start against the Red Sox.

    Why is it people have to be overly flamboyant and uber chic when they claim their year long love for the Rays.  You have the kids with the multicolor and etched mohawk hairs this season that might have not even seen a game last year. And you have the bandwagon fans who jumped on the Bucs, Storm and Lightning wagons during their Post season adventures. 

    I can say with total confidience I have never been on the Buc bandwagon, and even if they do sweak out a magical season of their own, you will not see a Bucs blog on this page……………….ever. But can you say that about other fans. I know that on MLBlogs.com, there has been a huge upswing of Rays blogs since August.  Are you telling me that fans did not have a dream of writing about this team until they were winning?

    Just a question fans, if the Rays go 62-100 next season, will you still be wearing the colors, or will you be looking for the team du Jour? Just a thought as I sit on my Opening Night seat cushion on the computer chair. looking at a picture of Wilson Alvarez throwing the first pitch in 1998.

     

    Red Sox 2, Rays 0

     

                  

     

    James Shields

    You have to admit that “Big Game” James Shields did have an awesome night on the mound last night. It is rare that a guy can get a loss in a game where he only gives up 2-runs on 6 total hits by the opposition. Shields has been money for so long this eason that alot of people seemed in shock when it was the 7th inning and he was stil out there pitching for the Rays.

    You have to know that he went into that dugout and got totally political and talked Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and Rays Manager Joe Maddon into letting him get this game for the team. He did everything in his power to secure a win for the Rays and start the Red Sox in a hole in the ALCS. But his 8-2 mark since the All-Star break, and his great ERA at home did not make the difference in the ballgame. The Red sox used their hits and walks to their advantage and played the Rays’ game and stole this first game .

    Shields went 7.1 innings and had 6 strikeouts in the contest. He also  had 25 pitches in th first inning, but got out of the inning without any scorinbg by the Red Sox, a major plus at the time.  But the Ground Rule Double into the rightfield corner in the 2st inning by Kevin Youkilis ended a 0-17 streak by Shields in conquering one of the Red Sox bashers. It made a huge exclamation point in this game and set the tone for the later innings.

     

                    

     

    Sheilds was in total control from the 2nd inning until the 5th, setting down the Red Sox 1-2-3 until the 5th inning. In that inning, the lead-off walk to Jason Bay would come back to haunt Shields as he quicly moved from first to third base on a first pitch check swing blooper to left by Mark Kotsay, and scored  3 pitches later on a Sacrifice Fly by Jed Lowrie to put the Red Sox up 1-0 at the time.

    Shield got back under control in the 6th inning setting the Red Sox down on order and came out in the 7th wanting more. But J D Drew led off the inning with a double up the middle on 2nd pitch, and Bay connected on a single tthrough the hole at short to out 2 men on base in a total of 5 pitches.

     

                         

     

    Akinora Iwamura made a excellient grab of Kotsays’ diving fly ball to prevent any scoring in the inning. After that 1st out, the Red Sox ended up stranding both baserunners.  Shields came out to the delight of the crowd in the 8th inning and quickly got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out to him as he took a weak grounder and threw low to CArlos Pena at first to gert the first out in the inning. Then he gave up a single to left to Dustin Pedroia and that was the end of Shields night. He had thrown 115 pitches on the night and had given the Rays a chance to take the lead in the entire game.

     

                  

     

    Unfortunately, Perdroia was on 2nd base when Kevin Yuokilis got his 3rd hit of the night off J P Howell and scored and his run was credited to Shields. He did everything he could to post the win for the Rays, but his best was not good enough tonight. It was not a wasted effort as the Red Sox did comment after the game that he was on tonight, but that another pitcher was hotter and suppressed the Rays’ bats.

     

                        

     

    Rays at the Plate

    Tampa Bay last night started out in the 1st inning like this was going to be a totally different ballgame. They had Aki lead off the game with a walk and after a well struck fly out by B J Upton looked like they might be posting a nice little rally. After Upton, Carlos Pena also walked on 5 pitches to put 2 men on base for the Rays with 1-out.  Evan Longoria then went down via a strikeout on 4 pitches and Carl crawford walked on 7 pitches to load the basaes for the Rays. Cliff Floyd then came up with 2-outs and grounded out to second base to prevent a Rays score and shut down the inning.

    From that 1st inning on, the Rays only had a Pena walk in the 3rd inng as the only Rays baerunner until the 6th inning. In the 3rd to the beginnig of the bottom of the 7th inning, the Rays went down in order and looked perplexed by Red Sox starter Diasuke Matsuzaka. Not until the 7th inning did the Rays even manage a hit against the Red Sox.

     

     

    In that 7th inning, Carl Crawford lead off the inning with a single to right, and Floyd hit a beauty into the leftfield-center gap to put Crawford at 3rd with no outs in the inning. It looked like the Rays had Matsuzaka on the ropes ands might be getting to him, but a short leftfield fly ball to Bay that Crawford could not score on put the pressure on the Rays.

    Gabe Gross struck out on a mean looking breaking ball, and Jasob Bartlett hit into the Rays’ only double play of the night to ens the Rays threat in the 7th inning. At that point, the Rays were 0-5  on the night with runners in scoring position.

     

    In the 8th inning, Aki lead-off with a single to left field for the Rays. Upton then came up and Aki went to second on a Wild Pitch by Matsuzaka. Upton then smashed the 3rd pitch he saw towards third base and Youkilis could not handle the shot and Upton was on base with a single with men at the corners ans no outs.

    Matsuzaka was then removed and Red Sox leftie reliever ,Hideki Okajima came on to pitch Pena. He got Pena to hit a soft fly ball to right to get the first out in the inning. He was then removed for  Justin Masterson, who got Longoria to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.  

     

     

    Rays Confidience Level

    After tonight’s game you have to think that the Rays confidience level might be at an all-time low for the season. They fought long and hard tonight, but did not take advantage of Boston’s gifts and loss a close game by every standard. Hopefully they will do the same thing they have done all years and let go of this loss within 15 minutes and recharge for a re-match tommorrow night at 8:07 p.m.

    I do not doubt the Rays’ energy level or their offense, but sometimes a game like this can take you down a notch and it takes longer to rebound. In a best-of-7 series, you have to automatically rebound or you could find yourself down 0-3 faster than you can imagine. The Rays need to shake this off and get back to business and take it to Red Sox starter Josh Beckett tomorrow early and often in the game.

     

                      

     

    To split the series at home is not in the origianl plans of the Rays, but reality has them now maybe playing 5 or more games in this series. You had to believe that the Rays would be playing at least 6 games even before tonight’s loss. Reality is that this might be the series that could make or break the World Series for the team. Either one of these clubs match up great with the National League clubs still in the hunt, and either of them can knock them out of the World Series.

    Tomorrow night’s game will set the tone for the rest of this series as to if the Rays are up to the challenge of beating the current World Champs and taking on all commers in the next round.

     

     

    Rays Bullpen

    You have to go back into the regular season to find a time that the Rays’ Bullpen has not been stellar this season. Coming into the game the Bullpen has been the shining star of the Rays’ pitching performances. I think this is just a hiccup, but  J P Howell did not look his usual stop=gap self tonight. His pitches did hit the zone hard and break great, but he did not have to constant pressure we have gotten to expect from the gifted leftie. He went only 12 pitches tonight and gave up a hit and a walk to put pressure on the Rays defense.

    That is not the usual case for Howell this season.  To give Howell some slack, the ball hit to Carwford in left that he missed with his glove by a micro of inches is usually a solid fly out and not even a factor, but the walk to Ortiz did put him on 3rd after the odd play and almost put the game out of the Rays reach at that point.

    Grant Balfour came on and threw 1.1 innigs of shutout ball to put the Rays into a solid place to try and get this game.  He did however hit the first batter, Drew in the right shoulder and it alsmost looked like an intentional shot until you look at the video replay and you actually see his release point was beyond it’s usual spot. It was an accidental throw, but got both benches up on the rail to watch the rest of the inning.

    Balfour then calmed down and threw strikes to get Bay to strikeout and Kotsay to pop out to Longoria to end the inning.  In the 9th, he got 2 quick fly outs to Upton in center before David Price came on to pitch to Ellsbury to end the inning. It might seem odd that the Rays broyught Price in for one batter, but Maddon wanted  to use Price in another situation besides a long-relief role to give him extra experience this post season.

     

    Crowd Noise

    Worst part of last night is the fact that the Rays faithful kept their noise up for 5 inning, then became part of the background unless the Rays got a runner on base. There did not seem to be that constant echo or noise factor that was there in previous games, and it seemed that the Rays fans were doubting the team for the first time in a long, long time.

     

    Buck up Rays faithful, we have come to far and made too much noise to be a wallflower now. In the first 4 innings you could see and hear the crowd vocally and musically getting into the game. But as the score seemed to put itself more concrete in the fan’s memories, the fans took themselves out of the game. By the 8th inning, you heard the first really vivid “let’s Go Red Sox” cheer and no noise to drown them out.

    The Rays might have gotten caught up in a shock wave of emotion, but the fans have to be the thermostat and crank up that heat again when the team is seeking an answer. The 10th man is needed more this series than ever before. And how we respond as fans will determine who will come out of all of this as the American Leagues’ rep. in the World Series.

    So tune up your vocal chords, and get those arms flexed and loose to ring those cowbells for 9 innings tonight andd get into the Boston players’ heads and get a moral and vocal victory for the Rays. We have done it before, and we can do it again Rays’ fans………..just put hand “A” together with hand “B” and repeat until they become beet red.

     

     

     

     

    What They are Saying About the ALCS

     

    One of the greatest things about being successful is that you can create a buzz about your team from sea to shining sea in the United States. After we disposed of the Chicago White Sox in 4 games, the Tampa Bay Rays have set their sights on an old nemesis, the Boston Red Sox.

     

    In years past this was not a rivalry, much less a lamb to the slaughter type of series. But with the Rays having claim to the American League East as the only team NOT from the Northeast to hold it since 1997, it will be sweet and delightful on the palate.

     

    I am not saying this will be a one-sided, you lay down now type pf series. Both teams have alot of pride and their character will be tested early on in this matchup. Boston has to bring its Chowderheads into the sunshine and deposit their faithful in the new horror of the American League. There have been hundreds of comments on the cowbells and either you love them, or you hate them.

     

    I am a card carrying, latin percussion cowbell guy, and I got the broken cowbells and bell-beatened cowbells to prove it. I am one of the first of the Maddon’s Maniacs group and I stand tall in the use of this musicial phenomenon to pulsate and deafen the Boston cheers. You can say you still hear them from time to time in the Trop. Well, we might let them have a little to make them think they can do more, then shut the door on them with the clanging and the slapping of our little noisemakers of choice.

     

    We do not have the 7th inning staple of singing Neil Diamond yet, but I would not sing Neil Diamond for World Series tickets …………sorry.  We have had a few rap and local bands produce theme songs this year, and you know we will have a musical mentor by the end of the series. It will not be Journey and their classic “Don’t Stop Believing”, it is already been done and is a bit cheesy at best to me.

     

    But then  again, we will not go totally retro or even modern by pronouncing a rap or hard rock act as our mentors in this series. Just becuase we adopted the cowbell from a Blue Oyster Cult track does not mean we will play “Don’t Fear the Reaper” 2 million times over the next few games. We will also not be a Loverboy mark and over play “Working for the Weekend” until your ears bleed.

     

    We are a team that is still searching for it’s musical voice. But you can be sure that if we hit the big stage at the World Series, we will have a song and a prayer in our corner to hop aboard the big train and ride baby ride.

     

    I have ebbn curious about what the local and national media hounds think about the series starting tonight at Tropicana Field. I have gathered a few snippets and really odd predictions from the media masses from coast to coast. Enjoy as you see local and Boston journalists’ pick the locals and the visitors’ as victors in this war  for the right to represent the American League in the World Series:

     

  • Boston Globe: Dan Shaughnessy, Nick Cafardo, and Amalie Benjamin pick the Sox in seven, while Adam Kilgore and Tony Massarotti like the Rays in six.

  • St. Petersburg Times staff: Marc Topkin and Gary Shelton pick the Rays in six. Joe Smith and Dave Scheiber go with Rays in seven. Brent James and John Romano both like the Sox in a series to go the distance.

  • Joe Capozzi, Palm Beach Post: Red Sox in seven. “There’s been no stopping the Rays, but Boston takes it up a notch in October.”

  • ESPN.com staff: Jason Stark and Jerry Crasnick pick the Sox in six, while Steve Phillips goes with Boston in seven. Rob Neyer and Buster Olney both pick the Rays in six.

  • Tim Kurkijan, ESPN: Red Sox in seven “The Rays averaged only 3.7 runs per game in the 18 games against the Red Sox this year. Boston did a really good job on B.J. Upton, who went 5-for-39 (.128). Lester was dominant against the Rays, as were Boston’s two primary left-handed relievers, Hideki Okajima and Javier Lopez, who did not allow a run in 15 1/3 innings. The two pitchers the Rays did hit hard were reliever Justin Masterson and starter Tim Wakefield, who combined for four losses and 19 runs allowed in 29 2/3 innings.”
  • CNNSI.com staff: Jon Heyman and Ben Reiter pick the Red Sox, while Tom Verducci, John Donovan, Ted Keith, Albert Chen, Lee Jenkins, and Gennaro Filice all toss their support Tampa Bay’s way.

  • Ken Rosenthal, FOXsports.com: Rays in six.” The Rays are more athletic, and their offense is at full strength now that Carl Crawford is back from his finger injury. The Sox’s vast edge in experience cannot be dismissed, but the Rays are a more complete team. By the end of this series, Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton could be major stars. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but everything adds up.”

  • Danny Knobler, CBS Sports: Red Sox. “They won’t back down against Boston, either, and they won’t be intimidated by Fenway Park. They’ll run on Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek when they can, and they’ll keep coming at the Red Sox all the way through. Still, the prediction here is that they’ll fall just short. The young Rays are good enough to win, but the Red Sox are just a little bit more prepared to come out on top when it really counts.”

  • Dan Connolly, Baltimore Sun: Rays in six.

  • Jose Mota, Yahoo! sports: Rays.” The Rays seem like the Team of Destiny, circa 2008, and with the young and talented weapons they possess, the baseball culture is already changed in Florida.”

  • Yahoo! sports staff: Steve Henson and Gordon Edes pick the Red Sox in seven, while Tim Brown likes Boston in six. Jeff Passan goes with the Rays in six.

  • Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News: Red Sox in seven. “Tampa Bay has played excellent baseball since the start of the season and stared down the Red Sox and Yankees to win the AL East. They have home-field advantage and won the season series 10-8. But it’s impossible to argue against the Red Sox’ postseason experience. The bullpen is in better shape. And there is no telling what kind of madness the Rays are going to experience at Fenway Park in October.”

  • Ron Shandler, BaseballHQ.com in USA Today: Red Sox in seven. “The Red Sox need a healthy Beckett, or Lester to pitch every game, to guarantee their third trip to the World Series in five years. Failing that, this is going to be a very close, possibly high scoring series, and may simply come down to experience.”

  • Ryan Fagan, The Sporting News: Red Sox in seven. “Francona’s postseason resume with the Red Sox is impressive (two World Series titles), as is his ability to keep his team on an even keel when trouble arises. He kept his team focused when down three games to none to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, and again last year when the Sox trailed the Indians 3-1 in the ALCS. Even against the Angels, when Lowell was hurting and Beckett and Matsuzaka delivered subpar efforts, the Red Sox still lost only one game.”

  • My pick: Rays in seven. 

                                                                               

  • Say what you want about the rotation being set up the way it is, but ultimately, it’s a game that is won and loss most night in the first 6 innings of the game.  I think that the Rays, if they get ahead early and establish a consistant pitching performance from their big 4, it will be lights out for the Sox. The Sox do not want any part of our Bullpen streaming the game along after 7 with setting down the batters one by one until the Rays celebrate the win.

     
  • We Still Get No Respect

     

    Somewtimes it is just hard to get respect when you had a losing team for so long. I know the Buc and Lightning fans understand this bad aura that hangs over your team like a huge albatross. But with the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays to the top of the American League East Championship, and on the doorstep of leaning in for the big prize, how could this happen to our local paper.

    I opened the local fishwrap, the St. Petersburg Times the other day and found a reamrkable sight. It was not a huge picture of the Rays celebrating a win, or a local politician with a mohawk. It was a simple crossword puzzle enjoyed by millions each day that is supplied to the paper by a publishing syndicate. Well, upon gazing at this great puzzle of black and white, I noticed one line that read “Home of the Rays” on  16 Across.

    And what do you think I thought when the word “St Pete” would not fin into that space. I pondered and wondered what other city could be used in that spot. “Trop. City” was too big. “Title town” had the righr feel, but was also too bog. So I filled in lines 9 down and found that the town had to have a “T” in it.

    Can you believe that the copy clerks at the St. Petersburg Times, or even at the original publication let this error fly all the way into our little nest. Imagine the embarrassment and the humiliation that the Mayor of St. Petersburg must be feeling. You see “St. Petersburg, Home of the Tampa Bay Rays” on a rolling banner behind home plate every game, yet this error is in out hometown newspaper.

    Rodney Dangerfield has made a career and a living out of trying to get respect. I find it a bit funny that now the city that started the commercial airlines business and the air postal idea is being bookended with the town to our East again. Even though the town that is now St. Petersburg was once a part of Hillsbough county in the past, it was actually called Hillsbough Point until John Williams established the city of St. Petersburg among the orange groves and sandy beaches.

    Maybe we have to win it all to get that respect and have people remember who we are in St. Petersburg. I know I was born here and always have showed alot of pride to be from Florida and St. Petersburg. I never said I was from Tampa Bay because that is a regional name and not a city name in the region. Guess we just have to hoist a World Series parade on ESPN with a huge marching band from St. Petersburg High School with the huge word blazoned on their lead banner “St. Petersburg, Florida” on it. But then again, the announcers will just say it is a city in Tampa Bay.

     

     

    I have had a few people ask me for a prediction on the ALCS this year. I know that the Boston faithful who have read this have commented and been a bit one-sided, but then again I understand civic pride. So for me to comment would be kind of anti-climatic. You know who I am rooting for, and what I hope will be the end result.

    To put a finite number on a game______ ending would just ruin the focal point of the whole thing. We might have been Playoff virgins in the beginning, but we are 4-1, just like you in the playoffs so far this year. We might not be the reigning “World Champions”, but that is okay. They always say that time brings about change. To put it lightly, did you really expect me to post that the Red Sox were a better team. I only see a few spots where they might have an edge outside of Fenway Park.

    But to be totally honest with you, does it matter what the homefield would be right now. Based on the 2008 statistics, we went 8-1 against you at home, and might have only went 2-7 at Fenway, but who won the last @ game there this year? Base the ideal on who has the better Bullpen and it is very one-sided. You might have a dominant closer, but we have a reliever triade that has stopped powerful team in their tracks all year long.

    Tell me your Red Sox guys will pop back at Grant Balfour when he gets into his four-letter word fiasco on the mound. I could see a 98 m.p.h. earmuff if that happen too much in this series. Remember, this team is not scared of the Red abd White anymore. They have their own dish of confidience and they are not afraid of anything or anyone at this moment.

    I am expecting a huge amount of ticket scalping to go on for this game and the Boston faithful will be the ones helping the local economy this weekend. I know of a few people who are selling their $ 55.00 tickets in the Baseline Box area for over $200 dollars. The one thing Rays fans loved about ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush is he gave the little guy the voice to sell tickets above their face value again. Now, the Rays vs Red Sox matchup might not get the prices the Superbowl will get in a few months, but wait until the World Series, you might see a new high in Rays demand.

    So, Boston fan, if you can’t get a seat in the Upper Deck for the ALCS, come on down to Ferg’s and enjoy the game with the locals. Or you can just retrats to your hotel’s cozy little fern bar and hope they will let you watch the game. Whereever you are at 8:37 p.m. tonight, you will hear a loud scream for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox have been a great team for the last 6 years, maybe it is time for the new world order to take over for a while………….It’s okay Boston, it will only hurt a little while……………Rays in 6 games 

    Rays Minor League Awards 2008

     

     

    I know it has been a few weeks since the team announced their award winners for the Minor Leagues during the last homestand. I was actually saving this for one of the off days of the ALDS, but I never got around to posting the results before today. So I apologize for the late posting of all the winners, and hope to find a few picture of them online to supplement the winners names.

     

    In the recent years, the Rays have established and upgraded their presence in the Dominican Republic and in Venezulan Winter Leagues. These outposts will be a far reaching arm of the Rays instructional and scouting mission into the baseball rich countries of Venezula and the Dominican Republic.

     

    Dominican Player of the Year                                Cesar Guillen

    Dominican Pitcher of the Year                               Juan Wilsino

     

    Venezulian  Player of the Year                               Alejandro Torres

    Venezulian Pitcher of the Year                              Devivis Manares

     

    The Appalachcian League  Princeton Devil Rays ended their season  at 24-38 this year. The team is the first step for players to get a feel for the rigors and the responsibilities of playing professional baseball. The team is a great first stepping stone in the Rays organization at the Short Season level.

     

     

    Princeton Player of the Year                                      Elias Ostero

    Osteros lead  Princeton in hitting with a .332 average.

     

    Princeton Pitcher of the Year                                    Matt Moore

    Moore had 1.66 ERA and 77 strikeouts for Princeton this season.

     

     

    The Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League is a short season Class-A stop for the Tampa Bay Rays. The team ended their season 9 games back of the Staten Island Yankees in their division. But the Renegade are expecting big things in 2009 with their strong finish to the 2008 season.

     

    Hudson Valley Player of the Year                         Kyeong Kang

    Kang split time between left and rightfield in 2008 for the Renegades, and hit .279, with 15 doubles and 7 triples on the year.

     

    Hudson Valley Pitcher of the Year                       Nick Barnese

    Barnese appeared in 13 games this season , going 5-3 for the team. He also had 2.45 ERA, and struck out 84 batters in 66 innings, and allowed only 1 home run this season.

     

    This is the last season in Columbus for the Catfish. They will be relocating to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the 2009 season.  The Catfish finished their last season in the Southern Atlantic League with a record of 40-26, and finished 5.5 game out in the Southern Division. Columbus is a lo Class-A destination for the Rays minor league players.

     

    Columbus Player of the Year                                      Reid Fronk

    Fronk hit .287 , with 29 doubles and 17 homers for the Catfish. Fronk also had 83 RBI’s and 74 walks to lead the Southern Athletic League.

     

    Columbus Pitcher of the Year                                   Jesse Darcy

    Darcy threw 133 innings for the Catfish, and was 7th in the league in with a 3.05 ERA. He alsotied for 3rd in the league in WHIP at 1.05.

     

    The Vero Beach Devil Rays will also be moving in 2009. Theyw ill move to the Tampa Bay Rays’ new Spring Training home in Port Charlotte and will be under run mutually between the Rays and the Cal Ripken baseball group. The name of the team has not been decided at this time. This team is a high Class-A farm team for the Rays. Vero Beach ended up at the bottom of the Florida State League’s Eastern Division with a 20-46 record for 2008.

     

    Vero Beach Player of the Year                                  Ryan Royster

    Royster ended up with a .265 average for the D-Rays, and 58 RBI for the season.

     

    Vero Beach Pitcher of the Year                               Jeremy Hellickson

    This is Hellickson’s 2nd award as the Minor League pitcher of the Year for a team in the Rays minor leagues. Hellickson  went 7-1, with a 2.00 ERA. He also had 83 strikeouts and a .90 WHIP for the Devil Rays.

     

    The Montgomery Biscuits were the Southern Leagues Champs in 2006 and 2007. The Biscuite were eliminated from the post season  byt eh West Tenn, Diamond Jaxxs. The Biscuite are the Class-AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished their season 2nd in the South Division with a 35-33 record for the year. 

     

    Montgomery Player of the Year                                 Chris Nowak

    Nowak lead the Biscuite with a .295 average, with 80 runs and 35 doubles on the year. He also had 15 homers and 77 RBI’s for the Biscuits.

     

    Montgomery Pitcher of the Year                               Wade Davis

    Davis had a record of 9-6 , with 107.1 inning pitched for the Biscuits. He also had  81 strikeouts and  3.85 ERA for Montgomery before being promoted to Triple-AAA.

     

    The Durham Bulls won the Southern Division title with a 74-70 record and made it to the International League’s Governor’s Cup final before losing to  the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. The Bulls are the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

     

    Durham Player of the Year                                          Dan Johnson

    Johnson hit for a .307 average to rank 6th in the International League. He also had 25 home runs and 83 RBI’s on the year. Johnson also lead the International League in walks with 84 this season.

     

    Durham Pitcher of the Year                                       Mitch Talbot

    Talbot ended up with a 13-9, with a 3.86 ERA for the Bulls. Talbot was 4th in the league with 141 strikeouts and had a 1.24 WHIP.

     

    The Rays Minor League  players of the year was really no suprise to the Rays faithful in the stands that day. Both of these players had remarkable years in which they made huge strides to make impressions on the Tampa Bay Rays Coaching staff.

     

    Minor League Pitcher of the Year                            David Price

    Price was selected by Baseball America as the Mnior League Pitcher of the Year before the event at Tropicana Field. Price went from Class-A Vero Beach through the Rays Minor League system to become a September call-up for the Rays after Durham was eliminated from the International League playoffs.

     

    Minor League Player of the Year                            Fernando Perez

    From the first day Perez took the field at Tropicana Field for the Rays he has done nothing but impress the Coaching staff and might have made a good reflection to get a long look in the outfield for the Rays in 2009. Perez hit .288, with 107 hits at Durham this year. He also was 3rd in the International League with 43 stolen bases this year. He has been considered the fastest man in the minors by Baseball America.

     

    The final award of the night is the Erik Walker Community Champion Award. the award is given to the Rays’ minor leaguer who shows teamwork,sportsmanship and communit involvement. The award was created in honr of Erik Walker who perished in a canoe accident in October 2006. 

     

    Erik Walker Community Champion Award                  Matt Springs

     

    Springs was a catcher with the Montgomery Biscuits in 2008, and is heavily involved in the Montgomery community. He is volunteer in the Alabama Summer Reading Program at the Community Center in Prattville, Ala.  He was also involved in the Biscuits’ Junior Press conference twice this season letting school age kids 10-13 get a chance to ask questions and write a story about the Biscuits and Springs’ during the year.

     

     

     

    Boston Fans Hate the Cowbells……….Really Now?

     

    My wish for the ALCS at the Trop – “A little less cowbell!”

    The following is a reprint of a blog on www.SoxandPinstripes.com from October 8th, 2008. It was a submission by Jeff Louderback to the site.

    I will giv e a bit of commentary here before the piece and let you know that some of the comment by him are just a Boston fans looking for negative in a hostile enviorment, but I understand that since I ahve been to Fenway Park wearing a Rays jersey in the last 2 years. The atmosphere has changed in Boston too, so do not throw stones at our glass house when yours also has some pretty picture window in front.

     

    Gone from this October’s post-season excitement are the Thundersticks and the Rally Monkey. Taking their place in the ALCS are cowbells. Yes, cowbells, which clang amid the worst venue in Major League Baseball – Tropicana Field. It’s bad enough that the first two games and, if necessary, the last two games of the series will be played in a roach-infested, odd-shaped dome where balls bounce off catwalks in fair territory and the game is played on artificial turf. Now, the cowbells will be louder than ever as the Rays step onto the national stage Friday night.

     

    (Roach infested, have you not been to a game at either Yankees Stadium or Shea in the last year. Since they are tearing the structures down, the stadium crews have done the minimum to keep these structure working before the wrecking ball takes it first on deck swings.)

     

    Legend has it that the Rays introduced cowbells to Tropicana Field to drown out the boisterous chants of “Let’s go Red Sox!” during Red Sox-Rays series. One of my favorite modern-day Saturday Night Live skits involves Will Ferrell and a parody of Blue Oyster Cult in the studio recording “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” For those of you who appreciate classic rock, the clattering of the cowbell plays a significant role in the actual song. In the SNL skit, Christopher Walken’s character, a music producer implores, “A little more cowbell” and Ferrell’s character obliges.

     

    (one of the reason for the addition of your worst nightmare aka cowbells was for the drowning out of the opposition. It was not only a process for the Boston faithful, but for Chicago, New York, and the Florida Marlin. You can be egotistical enough to think it was all for the Wrold Champs, but it did serve it purpose. You have been a bit quieter this year, or did the scoreboard bring on some hoarse moments.)

     

    Believe me, if Walken was watching a baseball game at the Trop, those words would not leave his mouth. Cowbells, Thundersticks, Rally Monkeys and white towels may be appropriate at an NBA arena or an NFL stadium, but can’t we experience a baseball game without cheesy gimmicks to induce noise. Can’t fans work themselves into a frenzy on their own?

     

    (I agree with you about the white towels, but considering that Major League Baseball and TBS handed out over 60,000 at the Trop last week, and even during today’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers, all fans will be presented with a towel upon entering the building. Some call these towels collectibles, others call them just annoying tools of the fan trade.)

     

    Fenway Park has traditions that some consider corny, such as the singing of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning. That, I admit, is a little embarrassing, though I love hearing “Dirty Water” after a Red Sox victory. However, Red Sox fans don’t need noise pollution and novelty items like cowbells to become immersed in the game. Can you imagine a cowbell or a Thunderstick at Fenway Park? Just walking into the hallowed baseball sanctuary is inspiration enough to make some noise when the game begins.

     

    ( I guess when we have been around as long as the Boston faithful fans, we can resort to other means of making noise. But since we are still in our first 25 years, we are growing the young following by small baby steps. I think the fans in Tampa Bay are really educated on the game, but some have not seen how to watch and be active participants yet in the great game. You do not have to paint your body blue, or wear Marge Simpson’s faux wig to get attention if you are a true fan….but then again, those are also the people they first interview after a tornado in the Midwest.)

     

    Maybe, just maybe, if Tampa Bay maintains its winning ways for a few more seasons, the cowbell will disappear and the noise level from Rays fans alone will drown out Red Sox fans and Yankees fans who crowd the dome. For now, since many Tampa Bay residents don’t even know there is a Major League Baseball team that calls St. Petersburg home, we will have to tolerate the clattering of cowbells from the 5,000 Rays fans who actually bother to show up. At least that number has increased in recent months. There was a time earlier this season when Tampa Bay was lucky to get 1,000 people at the Trop rooting for the Rays when the Red Sox and Yankees were in town.

     

    (For you information, we have had more sellouts this season than at any other point in our franchsie history, and that is only in it’s 11th year. When we have been around as long as you, we will have inherited seats and lotteries to get unspoken for season ticketholder seats. But, right now this team is also in an area of the country where there are a million things to so in the sun for fun some days and nights. For that reason, the fan base is not great yet, but winning does breed the possible addition of 5,000 or more for even the Seattle series every night next year.)

     

    My suggestion to Rays supporters who attend the ALCS this weekend – yell yourself hoarse if you must, that is part of the baseball experience, but a little less cowbell, PLEASE!

     

    (By the way, please take this as a compliment that I am writing about your blog. It should not be viewed as a Rays fan dogging you, but I respect you position and offer my counterpoint to it. No matter what happens in this series, remember this. Of these 2 teams, the best will rise to the top and face the National League. And after the battles that will take place on the field in the coming days, remember that these guys area laying it all out on that field for the fans and for pride. Hopefully both teams fans will show the same class in the stands during this ALCS both here and at Fenway.     Let’s enjoy the sights and sounds and relish that a new rivalry is established this year in the A L East.

    Rays Final End of the Year Statistics for 2008

     

     

    Worst part of this list the the fact that  Rays starter Scott Kazmir did not end up with enough innings to post on the final tally sheets for some of the pitching categories for the years based on his  total innings pitched.

    Kazmir missed making the list by  a small margin, but you know baseball, it is all about the statistics. I am going to take the next couple of paragraphs to show you where he would have ranked among the league’s leaders if his innings were on par with them.

    Kazmir would have been the American League’s number 2 pitcher with the lowest opponent’s batting average, at .220 for the year. The only pitcher to have a lower average is Boston’s ALCS starter, Diasuke Matsuzaka. 

     Kazmir would have also been the American League leader in strikeout/ 9 innings at 9.81 for the year, but Toronto’s A J Burnett holds down that spot with 9.39 Strikeouts /9 innings.  They were the only 2 AL pitchers to top 9 strikeouts per 9 innings. Kazmir also would have been  2nd in the AL leader in hits per 9 innings at 7.27, and was again topped by only Matzusaka.

    So as you can see, Kazmir actually had a better year than we have given him credit for at times. He is just trying to find a healthy medium from being a pure power pitcher to becoming a better pitching artist to use deceotion along with his speed to beat the opposition. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s list the Rays leaders, and their ranking in the American League for 2008.

     

                                Rays Offensive Number for 2008

    Category______________Player_______   __Statistic____AL Ranking

    Batting Average         Akinora Iwamura             .274                 40th      

    Home Runs                 Carlos Pena                      31                  11th

    RBI’s                           Carlos Pena                     102                  10th

    Runs                           Akinora Iwamura             91                    22nd

    Hits                            Akinora Iwamura             172                   19th

    Stolen Bases              B J Upton                         44                     2nd

    Doubles                     B J Upton                         37                     17th

    Caught Stealing       B J Upton                          14                      1st     

    Triples                      Carl Crawford**                10                       2nd

                                      Akinora Iwamura              9                       3rd

    Slugging %              Evan Longoria                .531                      8th

     

     

    ** Carl Crawford missed almost the final 2 months of the season and still ended up 2nd in the American League in triples.

     

                              Rays Pitching  Honors for 2008

     

    Category__________Pitcher_____________Statistic______________AL Ranking

    Wins                          Edwin Jackson                 14 wins                    11th

                                      James Shields                  14 wins                    11th

    ERA                          James Shields                     3.56                       12th

    Complete Games      James Shields                       3                          5th      

                                      Matt Garza                           3                          5th

    Shutouts                   Matt Garza                            2                          3rd

                                      James Shields                     2                          3rd

    Strikeouts                 Scott Kazmir                       166                        10th

    Opp. Average           Matt Garza                          .245                        9th

    K/9 innings             James Shields                      6.70                        18th

    Game App.              Dan Wheeler                         70                         11th

    Games Starts           James Shields                       33                         5th 

    Innings Pitched      James Shields                      215.0                       6th

    Saves                       Troy Percival                        28                         9th

    Pick-offs                  Scott Kazmir                          4                          8th

     

    So as you can see, the Rays did have some people up in the top slots for the  American League’s 2008 Final Statistics of the season. The Rays success this year was based on their renewed starting rotation and the rebirth of the Rays’ Bullpen. Combine that with timely hitting and a great game on the basepaths, and you have a recipe for success in the season and in the shortened Playoff format.

    We do not know how far the Rays will go in this years Post Season, but you can bet that where ever and what ever position they end up in this year, it will be a year to remember in Tampa Bay. 

     

     

     

    Mumm’s the Word………………In Celebration Champagne

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

                                          G.H Mumm Cordon rouge

     

     

    G H Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Brut , The Celebration Champagne of the Tampa Bay Rays circa 2008.

     

    When the Tampa Bay Rays first got to Baltimore on September 22, 2008, one of the first thing Chris Westmoreland of the Tampa Bay Rays did was try and locate a local wine distributor and get his 20-some cases of the fine bubbly.  He was able to find the cork-firing concoction and have it delivered to the Visitor’s Clubhouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

     

    The Rays unfortunately did not get to pop any corks or use their newly minted goggles in the Charm City, so Westy had to manuver to have the bubbly on hand again in Detroit for the series against the Tigers. The Rays left Baltimore on September 24th having swept all 4 games of the series, and that might have been a beer shower moment for the team, becuase the prize was on the horizon.

     

    When they got into Mo-town, the team quickly got on the phone and even called a few distributors’ in Winsor before getting the needed beverage delivered to Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon, a few hours after the  early day game  had started. It is a good thing the team did not win that day, because the bubbly was not super cold and might not have the same effect on the skin and project as well into the air if warm or slightly cooled.

     

    The team then had to endure another loss to the Tigers on Friday night, but a few players mingled behind their team mates and took in the Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees game in the clubhouse. About 12 p.m. the mad dash to get all the players back to the Visitors’ Clubhouse at Comerica Park was on. Some people went to the MGM Grand and watched the game in a sports bar in the lobby, others went to the team hotel or to restaurants, but were constantly checking their emails and web updates on ESPN.

     

    At about 1 a.m. the entire team was again assembled in the small platici lined room and the party was on. The corks were flying a mile a minute and no one was safe from the barrage of cold champagne or warm Patron tequila being consumed and tossed around by all. I have now done 3 photo blogs about the celebrations, but the best ones are still to come. We do not know if they will happen this year, or in the future, but the Rays are certainly the talk of the MLB right now.

     

    Nothing is better than to have a great bottle of champagne to  pour on your friends and team mates after 10 seasons of futility.  And the Rays have their personal favorite this year in G. H. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Champagne. I am going to give you some insight into this great beverage and provide you with some expert advice on the Rays bubbly of choice here.

     

    One review tells us that:

     

    G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne is a complex blend of the best citrus and grape varieties that offer pungent, earthy aromas and creamy flavors that linger with richness on the finish. A bold expression of prestige and style, the Cordon Rouge with its distinctive red sash of the French Legion of Honor, is one of the world’s most popular champagnes. Try G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne, it makes any occasion even more special.

     

    Still another wine review tells us about the Mumm’s Cordon Rouge:

     

    G.H. Mumms Champagne Cordon Rouge Brut NV, 12%.: This bottle was quite likely two years old or more, from what the distributor rep who sold it to my predecessor tells me. I brought this one home to check out the condition of the wine, due to water damage to the labels that made it impossible to sell, and I was happy to find that what is in the bottle is doing just fine.

     

    Medium straw in color, with an active bead and plenty of froth in the mouth; the nose is all flint and unbuttered popcorn, with more of the same on the palate, anchored with a solid core of under-ripe apple and a hint of bread dough underneath it all. It shows good intensity on every level, with plenty of nervosity and good length on the finish. It’s somewhat ironic that I brought this home when I did, because I read some rather unkind remarks directed towards Cordon Rouge on some internet wine forums with regard to being in the Tigers’ clubhouse for both of their playoff celebrations, but we found it to be just fine, and even if it’s not the best Champagne around for the money, it still kicks Veuve Clicquot’s yellow *** every day of the year. But then, I suppose that’s not saying much…

     

    And what would a baseball game be without at least 3 pitches at the plate:

     

    A worthy exemplar of G.H. Mumm’s quest for excellence, Mumm Cordon Rouge is a distinctively fresh, full-bodied champagne with impeccable consistency of taste. Emblematic of the richness and finesse that characterise the company’s own vineyards, Cordon Rouge has worn its famous red ribbon since 1876, now synonymous with house’s credo of superlative quality.
    Mumm Cordon Rouge has become an icon of the champagne category and epitomises Georges Hermann de Mumm’s maxim of “Only the best”.

     

    Wow, that last review was from the Mumm’s.com website and was a slam right out of the old ballpark. So as you can see, the champagne picked by the Rays to the beverage of the moment is actually a great vintage and could be just as great on a upcoming Anniversary, wedding or even a World Series celebration. You can purchase the Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne at most wine stores in the area, and can also get a bottle online if you do not want to travel the city looking for your own bottle of celebration.

     

    I have one hidden that no one knows about in the house just in case we have a reason to celebrate in the next 7 games. And just like the Rays, it will taste sweet and worth every penny, even if most of it will never reach my lips.

     

    Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                   

    G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge
    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 279 other followers