November 2008

Middle Reliever “Wish List ” for Rays Hot Stove Simmerings

 

 

 

Just wanted to let my fellow MLB bloggers and the rest of the world know about a huge soda promotion happening only this Sunday.  Dr. Pepper, one of the biggest producers of soft drinks in the world will be giving everyone in America one 20 oz Dr Pepper product FREE on Sunday.

 

This is because of a promise the company made during 2008 that if the band Guns & Roses were to release an album in 2008, Free soda for everyone. So starting at midnight on Sunday, you can go to the Dr Pepper website at www.drpepper.com and get a printable coupon for your FREE soda.  The only bad thing is that it is limited to  1 soda per household………….bummer.

 

 

 I seriously feel that one of the owrst jobs in the majors is to be a relief pitcher.  Think about it, you have to ready within a minutes notice and have to be abreast of the entire lineup and how they are hitting a certain pitch at all times during every game. And above all of that you have to be able to get loose fast and go in when you might not be totally loose and ready to throw.

 

It is a thankless job, but one that the Rays have proved in 2008 can be inproved in just one year. The Rays went from haviong one of the worst Bullpen ever in the majors, to posting a huge improvement and a great ranking in 2008. One of the reason the team got to the post season was based on their improvements in the Bullpen and the versatility fo everyone in the Bullpen to swap roles without problems.

 

So my “Wish List for 2009″  for our Bullpen might be  a bit small, but it could always get better. Every year you have to do some form of upgrade to your pen, or batters’ will figure out the pitchers and then you have problems.

 

There are 10 former Rays in the mix as free agents in 2009 in the major leagues. Guys from former starters Tanyon Strutze ( Dodgers), Casey Fossum ( Tigers) and Doug Waechter (Marlins). All 3 of these guys have positives that could land them again with the team, but I thiunk that the Rays Bullpen have moved beyond just filling positions now and can compete every year with some of the best Bullpens in baseball.

 

                    

 

We also have such guys as 2008 Rays, Gary Glover ( Tigers), Al Reyes ( Mets), and Scott Dohmann( Durham Bulls) looking for teams in 2009. I really do not see any of these guys getting another stay in Tampa Bay. I think that Glover is just a bandaid type of guy you can use with injuires on your staff, and Dohmann is just not the right guy for the Rays anymore.  

 

Dohmann made the 2008 roster and we sent Grant Balfour to the minor leagues. Where Balfour made the adjustments and did the work on his pitches, Dohmann did outstanding for the Bulls, but is not the sort of guy we need in 2009. Al Reyes, well he simply has not gotten the giddy-up back on his fastball since his first injury and might not even be healthy now.

 

The you got guys that have been gone from the franchise for a bit like Lee Gardner ( Marlins), who had a huge upsdie a few years ago and fought to be the team’s clsoer, but did not have the killer instinct needed to pull the trigger for the Rays. Or you guys like Todd Jones ( Tigers) who have retired, but might try to come back for a last paycheck. Jones was only here for a Spring Training run, but he did go on to produce for the Marlins and the Tigers after leaving the Rays.

 

                     

 

Then you have the enigma that is Jorge Sosa. He left the Rays and had a few great seasons rolling with the Braves, Nationals and Mets before inploding and becoming a liablity to your staff. He was released by the Mets and signed by the Mariners’ to a minor league contract only to get hit with a 50-game suspension for a drug related offense. He had a great future in the game, but might have resorted to help to get back to the majors. I wish him luck and more if he can get himself straight.

 

 

Okay, the only ex-Ray I want for my staff is also one of the guys that is hot right now in the MLB. Joe Biemel (Dodgers) is a great pitcher who has gotten better since we traded him to the L A Dodgers a few seasons ago. The guy is a leftie (plus) and he hit his marks in the strike zone ( plus).  His stuff is not overpowering, but his hard slider can do in the best hitters in the league at times.

 

Other guys that have hit my “Wish List” have a bit of an imtimidation factor to them. Doug Brocail ( Astros) is a huge leftie that can a hard fastball and a really hard breaking curveball. He can also sometime bring an amazing slider and a nice changeup and has been one of the most consisitant relief pitchers for years in the MLB.

 

 Ron Villone ( Cardinals) has a unique sliders that can cripple a right-hander at the plate. Mix that with his fastball and changeup and you have a effective reliever. He does sometime show his fastball by a head-jeck motion to the plate, but he can be unhittable at times.

 

                          

 

But the 2 lefties that I would “wish” for the Rays are actually guys that we have looked at and wanted to trade for in 2008 during the trade dealine. Will Ohmann ( Braves) is my number one choice as a leftie addition to the Rays Bullpen in 2009. The guy is a baller and can get the job done period.

He brings to the Rays a slider that he throws often, and for good reason. His slider breaks bats, and that is a great guy to have on your staff.  He can either be your leftie specialist or get a few innings for you. That type of versatility could means alot to the Rays in the late innings in 2009.

 

My other leftie of choice is a guy who has bounced a bit around the league and is no stranger to Rays batters’ Darren Oliver ( Angels) has imporved yearly on his pitches and might just be hitting the peak of his potential in the next year or two. He has found most of his success recently as a long reliver, but is also poised to go head-to-head with the big boys in the American League.

 

Oliver has been a pest to the Rays in the past with the Angels. Oliver has improved to the point that sometimes his moving fastball can miss bats at times. It has a great last second drop to it that confuses hitters and can be a great out pitch for him. He also has an above average slider, curveball and changeup to round out his selections.

 

When you think of righthander relivers, you think of guys who can pull the trigger and bring the heat to the plate. The Rays already have one guy like that in Grant Balfour, but to add at least one more pitcher who can throw heat would be a huge plus to the Bullpen. 

 

                         

 

One guy who comes to mind is the mind master, Julian Tarvarez ( Braves). He has a a great sinking splitter and a lurking slider that doesn’t have the bit it did in recent years, but is still a plus pitch when it is on. His mound antics can get you a bit upset at him, but he is a professional who can get you the outs and the innings along with the drama.

 

Another rightie that peaks my intrest is young Jamey Wright (Rangers). He is still learning at the plate, but has a up side to him that could be huge in the next year. He does get a few too many walks, but his moving fastball and biting curveball have shown mass improvement in 2008. He is also showing a great changeup that looks more like his fastball before it tails away from hitters. Mix in a daily improving cutter and you got a great reliever in the making just looking for the right team.

 

Juan Rincon ( Indians) has always had great stuff, but off the field situation in the past years have made a few clubs doubt he might be a 162-game guy. But to his credit, he does have still have three quality pitches to throw at guys, but he might be losing velocity on them.

 

Another guy who has peaked my intrest is Russ Springer ( Cardinals). He has been around a long time and can still bring it to the plate.  His cutter can bore in on righthander hard and leave them thinking it is outside the strike zone. He has a nice 12-6 curveball that he likes to use to get guys to swing and miss on alot at the plate.

 

He would be more of a temporary fit for the team. More for his experience and his knowledge than to be there long term, but the guys did improve under the watchful eyes of Trever Miller and Troy Percival last season. Maybe another veteran is the key to the lock for the Rays Bullpen.

 

                                

 

But the prize that I want as a rightie for the Rays Bullpen is a guy who has rattled the Rays cages a few times and is a great clubhouse guy. I think that the addition of Kyle Farnsworth ( Tigers) wouls send a rattle through the MLB about the Rays having2 of the best competitors on the mound in Balfour and Farnsworth.

 

Farnsworth is not shy and will throw up and in if you are crowding him at the plate. That is something the Rays did not have last year, a guy who can throw 97 plus to “buzz the tower” on guys leaning in on the plate. He would be a great tool to use against the Red Sox and Yankees batters’ who like to stick their heads and arms over the outside corner of the plate and dare you to pitch them inside.

 

Farnsworth brings to the table a  a really nasty slider and a knack for lack of control, that I think is more an act than a huge part of his game.  He also has a 4-seam fastball that can dart away from batters and his fastball is his trademark, sometimes hitting the upper 90′s without a problem. 

 

My second “Wish List” reliever with a right hand that has gotten better and better in recent years is Jorge Julio (Braves). Something I am finding alot this off season is the huge amount of ex-Braves out on the free agent market. Julio first caught my eye years ago when he was a young Orioles reliever. He has the fastball and the mound persona to make yo take notice of his pitches.

 

Because he has been on 7 teams since 2005, most people think it is for lack of effort. I think this guy is just a high powered pitcher that gets lost in his fastball sometimes. I think Jim Hickey, the Rays Pitching Coach can control this guy and show the league he is a quality pitcher.

 

His high 90′s moving fastball has gotten alot of baseball GM’s to take a chance on him, and time might be running out on him. But, his slider can be altered by his delivery point, and I think it has been a problem spot for him because of the change in delivery points. He might seem like a project guy, but he has a huge upside and might be worht at least a Spring Training Invite to check him out.

 

Well, there you go with my list of lfrt and right-handed relievers for my “Wish List” for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays need only a few select guys to put into place to secure a solid Bullpen unit. An additional two or maybe three pitchers could make another huge impact on the team’s success in 2009.

 

 

A Trio of Tidbits: Miller, Baldelli and MLB Network

 

 

                                  

 

It is being reported that former Rays reliever Trever Miller will complete his signing with the St Louis Cardinals today. The former lefty specialist for the Rays will have to complete a physical before the deal can be deemed official. Miller, who was in his second stint with the Rays was the  reliever on the mound when the Rays  clinched their first postseason berth in franchise history. Miller, along with team mate J P Howell were the top 2  lefties in the  MLB in preventing inherited runners’ from scoring.

 

Howell and Miller were the top two left-handers in this category in the Majors. On Aug. 3 against Detroit, Miller recorded his first win and first decision since Sept. 30, 2006 at Atlanta, snapping a Major League-record streak of 121 straight appearances without receiving a decision.

 

The Cardinals would be Miller’s seventh team. He made his Major League debut with the Tigers in 1996.  Miller has been a great tool against left-handed batters in his career and posted an overall ERa of 4.15 last year for the Rays, but was used mostly as a late inning lefty situational pitcher for the team. He got left-handers to hit only .235 against him.

 

Miller will not have to be follicle challenged with the Cardinals. As you might remember, Trever used his think hair to support one of the better Rayhawks on the team. His hair was sculpted by his wife Para, who also did a similar model on their young son to imitate Dad’s hairdo.

 

Miller was very active in the community for the Rays, participating in numerous hispital visits and always chatting with fans before the games. He was a slightly introverted guy who had a soft spot for kids and enjoyed talking about baseball.  Miller will be missed in the Rays Bullpen in 2009.

 

Miller is the first of the Rays 4 free agents who has resigned with another club beside the Rays. The deal is for 2 year.  I wish him luck and hope that his 2009 goes well for him and his family. He will be missed down the right-field line by us in Section 138.

 

 

 

  

The Hot Stove action is starting to heat up for another one of the free agents from the 2008 Rays roster. Rocco Baldelli’s name has been mentioned alot in the Boston newspapers as one of the options for the 4th outfielder for the team. It would be a bit of a homecoming for Baldelli, who is from Rhode Island.

 

One of the obstacles standing in the way of his signing might be the amount of time between starts he may need to recover from his fatigue syndrome that he has suffered since the beginning of  Spring Training in 2008. It was thought early in the season that Baldelli might have played his last baseball because of the ailment, but medication and a change in his daily lifestyle has made Baldelli at least a part-time player.

 

 

                         

 

 

If Rocco were to sign outside of the Rays’ organization, it would be an end to a bitter-sweet relationship with the team that drafted him in trhe first round in 2000. It would also be bitter-sweet to lose one of the most popular players in the Rays short history to another team, hopefully outside of the American League East division.

 

His year did not begin until a series against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in August. In that first game, Baldelli made an impressive play in right-field coming in for a low floundering fly ball to make a great shoe-lace catch for the Rays. He also exploded at the plate hitting his first hit since May 2007 in the Rays win over the Seattle Mariners.

 

        

 

Baldelli was instrumental in the Rays success in the post season. He came on in countless games and got needed hits, and some times even hit a home run to secure a win for the Rays. But one of his memorible moments might be in Game 2 of the World Series when Rocco sprinted all the way from first base and went home on the play.

 

Baldelli was out at the plate, but the collision with Phillies catcher, Carlos Ruiz made the front cover of Sports Illustrated for the effort. If this was one of your last momments in the sun Rocco, let me tell you, it was shining bright and clear that night at the Trop.

 

 

                                Logo for the MLB Network

 

MLB Network is set to begin its operation on January 1, 2009 ,and will be a television specialty channel, primarily owned by Major League Baseball,  The Network is se to begin broadcast into over 50 million homes in the United States.  Cable Providers, which include ,Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner and Cox Communications have minority ownership of the new network, with MLB retaining a controlling two-thirds share.

 

The channel is building its state-of-the-art headquarters in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood and moving into MSNBC’s old studios in nearby Secaucus, New Jersey. Profitability is expected by the end of 2009, according to industry sources. And by 2015, revenue from cable subscriber fees and advertising is projected to soar beyond $210 million, with a net value easily exceeding $1 billion.

 

Major League Baseball is the last major North American professional sports league and major professional sport overall to launch its own network. NBA TV dates back to 1999, the NFL Network to 2003, and the US version of the NHL Network to 2007, However, MLBN will have the most households of these four networks when it launches, largely because of the financial participation of the cable systems.

 

MLB Network expects to carry 26 live baseball games in 2009 and Saturday night is the most likely time slot these games will air in. Other early programming will include portions of the 2009 World Baseball Classic as well as highlights, studio programming, international and development league games, and archival material. Also in the works is a nightly news and highlight show patterned after ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.

 

The Network has already begun hiring background reporters and announcers for the new programming. Trenni Kusnierek, who was the Brewers’ former sideline reporter will serve as a network reporter in 2009.  He was previously employed by the Fox Sports Network in Wisconsin in 2008. Hazel Mae will also join the  MLB reporting ranks for the new network, coming from the studio as the host of Sportsdesk on NESN.

 

Matt Vasgersian, who is the former San Diego Padres’ announcer  in another of the well known baseball voices to grace the new network. Vasgersian will be the voice of the MLB Network, and well as the lead host of both the MLB Tonight show and the off season Hot Stove show for the network.  Joining Vasgersian in the sutdio will be former YES Network announcer and former MLB player, Al Leiter on both programs.

 

Coming on as a Network analyst will be former player and ex-ESPN staffer Harold Reynolds, to also participate on the MLB Tonight  show and help sort out the trades and signings on the Hot Stove program for viewers.

 

Ex-Tampa Bay Rays analyst and player, Joe Magrane has also been signed by the network. His position has not been defined yet by MLB, but might be in consideration for the analyst position on the 26 broadcasts by the network in 2009.

 

Magrane is a funny and very colorful commentator and could lend a nice twist to the usual bland broadcasting by television networks.  He has been doing Fox Sports Network and Rays Television Network since 1998. Magrane recently did the studio color commentary for NBC Sports of  the Olympics baseball tournament in China.

 

This season, he was nomintaed for the Ford Frick award, which decides the boradcasters eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for his work with the Rays.

 

 

 

 

 

My Ray’s 2009 Closer Christmas Wish List

 

               

 

Sorry for the delay in getting this “Wish List” out for  my personal Rays 2009 Closer shopping list. For the past couple of days there has been a few rumblings at the Trop. concerning ticket prices and the firing of  Raymond’s alter ego, the departure of Joe Magrane,  and I decided it all took a front seat to my little wish list.

 

So I am getting down to business again by checking out the Free Agents and some guys currently thought to be on the trading block, who are considered closers in the MLB. I am also going to do my list on the assumption that current Ray’s closer Troy Percival will either be out still rehabbing his back and knee problems at the beginning of the season, or will not be with the team at all.

 

 

This is not to be considered  a positive or a negative at this time. Percival has not informed the Rays of his intentions either to rehab or have surgery on his two problem areas. I am going to remain neutral in my opinions on that for the moment, but will consider all options on the table for the position in the Bullpen.

 

There are several people who have peaked my interest lately in the closer category. Chad Cordero ( Nationals) is a proven closer, but the situation in Washington last season make me think he might not be as healthy as he claims to be  physically is on the mound. I still think a healthy Cordero would be a plus to any orgainzation, the Rays included.

 

                  

 

But there are a few guys who I think can be taken off this list because of past injuries. These guys I think still have situations that are just smoke screens to bigger problems. People like Eric Gagne ( Brewers) and Jason Isringhausen ( Cardinals) might still have the stuff, but I think they need to go to another club and post some impressive numbers if they want to seek the big money again.  Gagne has dropped about 6 mph off his best pitch, his fastball since the steroid policy kicked in a few years ago.

 

This is not a obsevation that was missed by people in baseball who have also noticed he has not developed or worked on another pitch since his dominant days in LA.

 

Jason Isringhausen tried to develop a changeup to go along with his other two pitches, and some of the ballooning ERA might be explained  in his trying to force the changeup over the plate and it just rolled and stayed in the strike zone too long and got hammered by hitters’. Both their numbers over the last season would indicate that they might be heading for that fast slope downward as closers’.

 

Brian Fuentes and Francisco Rodriquez will be the most visiableand powerful options this season for the position. The Rays will probably not have the money or the resources to go after a guy of K-Rod’s caliber right now. He would be a plus-plus addition to the young and improving Bullpen, but the high ceiling money aspect takes him out of the running fast in Tampa Bay.

 

Fuentes is another story. I think he has the same stuff that John Rocker had with the Braves. He is a leftie closer, which is a rare find, and a huge advantage to matching up the lineup with your reliever. But the Colorado Rockies have been very hesistant about even putting him visibly on the market.

 

Fuentes does offer that unusual low delivery angle which works well with his fastball and changeup in the Rockies home ballpark. His sweeping slider is an out pitch to lefites and can be very devastating to righties at times.  He has been on the  display shelf for everyone to see since the 2008 Trade Deadline, and I think the Rays underbid for him then, and might not consider him a great asset to their organization.

 

                    

 

There are a few guys who have been under the radar, but trade interest has been shown in them this off season. Brandon Lyon (Diamondbacks) is a  young guy who could be effective, but I am not sure he is cut out right now to be your close out guy. He has great stuff, but might not have the killer instinct yet and might be the better setup man for a few more seasons.

 

One guy who I admire a helluva lot as a closer, but got shafted totally by his club was Trevor Hoffman ( Padres). He was sitting there with an offer on the table and thinking about all the pros and cons and the team pulls it and tells him basically to hit the road. Do I think it was classless……….Do you have to ask?  I lost alot of respect and think that this move will come back to haunt the Padres in 2009. Hoffman will go on to hit the top spot as the best closer all-time in the MLB, and the Padres missed the boat on it all.

 

 

My top three guys might seem a bit odd considering 2 are not even free agents, but I think the Rays have the pitching and the prospects to pull off these trades without a hitch if they want to pull the tigger on them.

 

                          

                        

 

I think that the third guy on my list would be Bobby Jenks ( White Sox). People have been remarking about his decrease in strikeouts and his fumbling around the strike zone in 2008. Scott Kazmir had the same problem due to the fact that the team wanted him to throw to spots in the strike zone instead of just fire the ball into the mitt. Jenks is also a leftie and has a unusual cut to his pitches as they near the plate. 

 

He does have an unsual forte of having 4 pitches to throw at hitters, where most closer have 3 or less to work with on the mound. I think Jenks is another victim of progress and is caught up in that same mold of being reigned in and taught to hit the outside corners and throw away from batters instead of just rockin’ and rolling the ball in there. He would be a huge plur upgrade for the Rays and would be a impact player from his first pitch with the organization.

 

                

 

My second guy is also still on another team’s roster, but the Rays have been hot on him for the past year. Huston Street ( Rockies) lost a huge dose of confidence in Oakland last season.  At times it seemed that his own Pitching Coach gave up on him for awhile before finally giving him a chance to redeem himself on the mound. Street is another guy who has a 3/4 and almost side-arm delivery that can make it harder for batters’ to see the ball early on him.  His slider is short and tight, not like most of them that tend to sweep around and catch you unaware at times.  

 

During the 2008 trade deadline, the Rays were talking alot to the A’s about him and seriously wanted him to help the back-end of the Rays bullpen.  At that time , Percival was a hot and cold closer for the team battling injuries and a unwillingness to speak up about potential injuries or problems. Street could be had also for the right mixture of prospects and pitching and would be a valuable addition to the staff.

 

 

My top guy on my wish list has been a guy I wanted to get 2 years ago when he was struggling with his old team. He had been a starter and had a few injuries that basically forced the power- that- be with his team to consider him damaged goods at the time.

He struggled and fought and earned a right to go to the Bullpen and became a huge factor in his team’s Bullpen plans. He progressed to become one of the hidden gems in the closers’ role and is out as a free agent for the first time as a closer.

 

         

 

The guy who I would love to see take the mound in the 9th inning for the Rays in 2009 is Kerry Wood. The guys knows competition and how to prepare now. It took him a bit to get used to being the last guy out there every night, but I truly think he will have a banner 2009 season. With the obvious need by the Rays for a closer past 2009, this guy could fill the role and give you a guy who might even put a bit of fear in people on the mound.

 

Because he is not just a fastball pitcher, his breaking pitches, basically a huge 12-6 curveball would be a great out pitch to the batters seeking a big fat fastball over the plate. With the Rays, Wood could develop a slider that could be a great addition to his arsenal.  One thing I have always like about the up and coming Rays pitchers’. The Rays minor leaguers’ have some of the nicest sliders you will find in baseball.

 

 

So with the addition of this pitch and Wood on the Rays roster for 2009, I think the closer position will be filled for 3 years with no problems. For the team to continue this closer-by-committee BS is totally out of line with normal thinking. Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour have designated positions in the late innings of the game. To keep playing with the formula will instill a bad karma for the team and place some instability to their game preparations.

 

When you are in the back end of a Bullpen, you best friend is repetition and the fact of security in your role. To keep throwing the names in a hat and picking my matchups and not by strengths the team is sending the wrong message to it’s Bullpen veterans.

 

 

Tomorrow I will hit the trail and throw a few names out for Bullpen upgrades via the free agent market. There is a good amount of quality arms out there who could be a huge factor in the 2009 pen. Both lefties and righties will be  thrown out in tomorrow’s blog. 

 

Until later,  have fun, stay warm and do not catch one on the outside corner for that thrid called strike.

 

 

 

Raymond’s Game Day Gal Let Go by Rays

 

 

 I have learned from a very reliable source that Kelly Frank, who has been with the Tampa Bay Rays in the capacity of Raymond, or  Raymond D Ray has been let go by the Rays after 5 years with the club.

 

Frank has been instrumental in the last few years in making the fuzzy  mascot, Raymond more fan friendly and less aggressive in nature. Frank has been working in the Rays office for several years doing some marketing planning,  repairing her costume and  doing all the daily operations of running the local mascot icon.

 

Rays fans have witnessed Frank’s inventive side in the costume and clothing options of Raymond over the last few years. Frank was the head designer and creative sources of such classics as the Super Raymond,  the Spidy-Ray costume and the  special game day attire or outer wear that Raymond has worn over the years. 

 

Frank said she was praised as recently as three weeks ago, when her supervisors told her she out-enthused the Philadelphia Phillies mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, during the World Series. But on Monday, she was told she would no longer be Raymond.  

 

                         

 

Frank has also been responsible for the number of Youtube videos using Raymond as a key figure. It was an inventive and highly popular series of videos using mascots from throughtout the major sports of the United States. I particularly love the one with Wally the Green Monster of the Boston Red Sox with the background music, ” Why Can’t We Be Friends.” It was an instant classic.

 

“Peanut Butter Jelly Time” was also a very popular video featuring the oversized Banana and a Blow-up Gorilla duirng the 7th inning stretches at Rays games. Over the years, Raymond’s birthday party was another event that attracted other team’s mascots from all over the country to the Trop. to celebrate with the highly popular mascot.

 

Please go to www.Youtube.com and check out some of the original videos featuring the Rays versatile mascot.

 

 

This year’s promotion entitled, “Mascot Mania” attracted team mascots from as far as San Francisco,Arlington Texas, Denver and Toronto to the Trop to celebrate with Raymond.  Frequent visitors throughout the year have been the mascots of the Orioles, Blue Jays and the Florida Panthers.

 

It is a great loss to lose a valuable member of the Rays organization. If you feel this dismissal is not in the best interest of the ballclub, you can email Matt Silverman, the Rays President at msilverman@raysbaseball.com , or you can place a call to the organization at (727) 825-3137.

 

Or maybe you might want to take it all the way to the top of the organization and send an email to the primary owner, Stuart Sternberg. He can be reached at: ssternberg@raysbaseball.com.

 

 

 I am trying to get an interview with Frank, after the situation has died down and  things sort themselves out on both sides.  The popular Raymond webpage on Myspace.com will be removed in a few days because of the situation. Frank was the author of the page and submitted the great  Youtube videos and blog postings on the page. I am not sure if the Raymond subscribtion page will still be accessible on www.Youtube.com after this week.

 

The Rays have lost a true icon to the image of the team in this dismissal. Frank was the third person to don the Raymond costume. Frank said she will continue her side business making mascots for professional sports teams, including the University of Florida Gators and the Denver Nuggets.

 

 I wish Kelly Frank a bright and energetic future, and hope to see her again in the role of support and promotion of a mascot in the MLB or beyond.  Break a leg Kelly.

 

 

Rays Raise Ticket Prices for 2009

 

 

The Tampa Bay Rays, coming off their first-ever playoff appearance (and World Series berth), have slightly raised individual ticket prices for the 2009 season. I know I have not gotten my packet for my 2009 Season Ticket yet from the Rays, but I have been advised of an increase in my yearly price.  Full Season Ticketholders usually get a discount on their selected seats for the entire 81 games played at Tropicana Field.

Rays president Matt Silverman said Monday that about 70-percent of the single-game tickets will increase by $1 (for example, upper deck goes from $9 to $10 for regular game, from $14-16 for prime pricing). But in an effort to bolster their season-ticket base – the “lifeblood” of any baseball team – Silverman said the club is also increasing the discount for season ticket holders (up to 35 percent).

Silverman said the club is cognizant of the struggling national economy, but felt – especially with the continued free parking for cars with four or more, and the ability to bring in food and drink – it still makes the Rays tickets one of the most affordable in major league baseball.

“In order to continue fielding a team that makes the entire Tampa Bay region proud, our family of season ticket holders has to grow,” Silverman said. “The pitch to a season ticket holder is an easy one; sit in the best seats, support your home team, and enjoy considerable savings off individual ticket prices.”

 

 

Most everything else at Tropicana Field will remain the same; vehicles with four or more passengers can park for free, you can still bring in your food and drink, the upper-deck tarp will remain.

But here are some of the changes:

*The club added a “marquee” pricing category for the 11 Saturday night games (which will either feature a post-game concert or premium giveaway). The pricing for those is between the regular and “prime” pricing (games with Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies).

*Vehicles with less than four passengers will be charged $15 to park in the main Trop lot, $10 for the remote lots.

*There will be an increase in the surcharge for those tickets bought within five hours of game time (now $3-$5).

When Silverman was asked last week about the potential for higher ticket costs, he pointed to how even with a price bump, the Rays still offer one of the most affordable experiences in baseball.

“We could have increased ticket (prices) the last couple years, but we haven’t,” Silverman said. “And if you benchmark our seats against others in baseball, we’re at or near the bottom in almost every pricing category.”

The Rays posted losing seasons in their first 10 years of baseball (never winning more than 70 games), but made a huge turnaround in 2008, racking up 97 victories and winning the American League East. They advanced to the World Series and lost in five games to the Phillies, but Silverman said the sellout crowds at the Trop throughout the playoff run learned the value of the tickets.

 

 

“The experience our fans had, especially during the pennant run and post season shows the value of their tickets and their investment,” Silverman said. ” They enjoyed it, and a number of ticket holders actually benefited financially – they were actually a lot who covered some of their costs by selling tickets.”

The Rays sold out eight home playoff games within minutes this year, and attendance this season increased 30 percent, the largest spike in the majors. But while the Rays shared baseball’s second best record, they finished 26th out of 30 teams in tickets sold.

REGULAR GAMES
TBT Party Deck – $10
Upper Deck – $10
Outfield – $17
Loge box – $22
Press Level – $27
Baseline Box – $22
Lower box – $44
Lower infield box – $55
Fieldside box – $85
Whitney Bank Club – $115
Home Plate Club – $210

MARQUEE GAMES (11 Saturday night games)
TBT Party Deck – $13
Upper Deck – $13
Outfield – $20
Loge box – $31
Press Level – $38
Baseline Box – $31
Lower box – $52
Lower infield box – $65
Fieldside box – $95
Whitney Bank Club – $130
Home Plate Club – $240

PRIME GAMES (vs Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies)
TBT Party Deck – $16
Upper Deck – $16
Outfield – $24
Loge box – $38
Press Level – $47
Baseline Box – $38
Lower box – $60
Lower infield box – $75
Fieldside box – $120
Whitney Bank Club – $150
Home Plate Club – $270

 

 

 

 

 

The World is Loving Baseball

 
 Baseball has always had a International flair to it even before the World Baseball Classic made it’s first pitch in 2006. And with the Olympics dropping  baseball from it’s medal sports again, it is a time in the world where the sport needs to grow and to show the rest of the IOC that it is a world wide sports loved and adored and should be again in the Olympics. 
 
In 2009, the Major League Baseball bigshots and the world association will again embark on another World Baseball Classic. With a new administration in Washington for the United Sates, maybe a panel will be developed to again petition and reinstate the great game of baseball to the Olympic experience. With that in mind, I decided to look at a few other places in the world  that play this great game, and a few that are just getting their first taste of baseball.
 
 
First Stop:  Japan

 

             

 

Japan has been one of the coutry of the world to slowly recommend and recognize that women can sometimes be as beneficial to business and sports as their male counterparts. There are not many female athletes outsdies of the tennis and golfing ranks who have captured the attention of the world.

But today in Tokyo, a sixteen year-old schoolgirl with a mean and wicked knuckleball has been selected as the first woman ever to play alongside the men in Japanese professional baseball. More amazing is the fact she is not only competing at a professional level, but that she is using the old school pitch as her primary weapon on the mound.

Eri Yoshida was drafted for a new independent league that will launch in April, drawing attention for a side-armed knuckler that her future manager Yoshihiro Nakata said was a marvel. She will play for the Kobe 9 Cruise team in the league. The new independent league will be used as a feeder system to the upper echelon of team currently playing in Japan.

Yoshida, who only stands about five foot and weighing in at a elfish 114 pounds, says she wants to follow in the footsteps of the great Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. As many know in the MLB, Wakefield was an average ballplayer until he experimented with the pitch abd it began a second coming of his career. By using the knuckleball as his primary pitch, Wakefield has been able to further extend his career beyond his playing days in the infield.

A female professional baseball federation existed for a few years in the 1950s, but Yoshida will become Japan‘s first-ever woman to play alongside professional male players.

 

Second Stop:  India

 

 

Most people in India  have never heard of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron or Jackie Robinson. They can tell you about Sachin Tendulkar, one of India’s greatest cricket players, but would tell you Michael Jordan is a clothes designerand underwear model, not a former professional basketball great.

Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, two 19-year-olds from small villages in India, desperately want to live the American dream. Their shot at it is a decidedly improbable one. They had never picked up a baseball until a year ago. Thursday, they will pitch in front of major league scouts in Tempe, Ariz., in hopes of landing a professional baseball contract.

Singh and Patel threw the javelin in India, and Singh played some cricket. When they came to the USA in May, Singh and Patel had no idea how to play catch, let alone use a water fountain. The first time they played catch, they threw the ball, and when it came back, they dropped their gloves and caught barehanded.

Singh came to the United States with Patel after being declared winner of the Million Dollar Arm contest in India, run by promoter Jeff Bernstein, Barry Bonds’ marketing agent. The contest — the second edition is scheduled to begin this month and targets India because of its population of 1.1 billion even though the country has never produced a major leaguer — was based on those who could throw the most pitches 85 mph or faster for strikes. Singh consistently hit 87 mph and earned $100,000.

When veteran major league scout Ray Poitevint went to India to see whether he had potential, he also recommended Patel, who threw harder but wasn’t as accurate.  Singh, who resides in Bhadohi, became the richest person he had known with his contest winnings. He was a month away from joining the Army. His entire family — he is the youngest of eight children — worked in agriculture, where his dad earned $25 a month to drive a vegetable truck. Now, Singh says, his father pays someone else to drive the truck while he stays home.

Patel, who lived in Varanasi, isn’t sure whether his family — he has two brothers and one sister — quite understands what’s happening. He received $2,500 with an all-expenses trip to the USA. All they know for sure is that he’s an awful long way from home. Patel and Singh are scheduled to travel to India on Nov. 11. They plan to stay for three weeks, and then return to the United States, where they hope to begin their professional baseball careers.

The letters and phone calls to major league general managers went out weeks ago, and judging by the early responses, agent Jeff Borris says, there could be a large turnout Thursday.  There will be at least 20 major league teams represented at the workout, Borris says; at least a half-dozen teams, including the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, confirmed  they will attend.

House believes it’s no different from visualizing young Dominican pitchers in the major leagues. Simply, he says, every team must project the future in these two raw pitchers.

Singh, a 6-2, 195-pound left-hander, throws 89-90 mph with a split-fingered changeup. He continually tinkers with different breaking balls. Patel, a 5-11, 185-pound right-hander, throws 91-92 mph with a circle changeup. Patel says he’s the conservative one of the two, leaving the experimenting to Singh.

No matter what transpires, Singh and Patel say, they have had no regrets.

 

Final Destination:     Italy

 

 

Italian officials accepted their bid to the2009 World Baseball Classicthe other day. Even though it featured MLB players of Italian heritage like Mike Piazza and Jason Grilli, the Italian team went only 1-2 in the 2006 tournament. Hey, at least they beat the Aussies.

But judging by the way these three are handling these baseballs, I don’t give them much of a chance in the ’09 edition, either. 

To most people, “Italian baseball” probably sounds like a sports oxymoron, something akin to “Jamaican bobsled team.” Italian art, food, fashion, film — sure. But Italian baseball?

Yet Italy, with a proven track record in international competition, was one of only two European teams — along with the Netherlands — to be invited to the  original 16-team World Baseball Classic.  A major goal of the Classic was to foster the development of the sport in countries such as Italy, where, at its highest level, baseball currently operates as a semi-professional league relying on the generosity of sponsors who invest heavily and make no profit.

 

              

 

Wishing to field a competitive team in a tournament that featured many of the best players in the world, the Italian federation chose a roster that included both Italian players and Americans of Italian descent with minor or major league experience, including as its marquee player future Hall of Famer, Mike Piazza.

To qualify for the team, American players had to prove they were eligible for Italian citizenship based on their ancestry. That decision stirred some controversy in Italy. As expected, Italy did not advance past the first round, losing to the talent-laden teams from Venezuela (6-0) and the Dominican Republic (8-3) after beating Australia in the opening game (10-0). But everyone associated with the team came away feeling pleased with their performance and proud to have represented Italy on the big stage.

Rays Lose Another First Rounder to Injury

 

It was announced today that another one of the powerful pitchers from the ex-Rice National Championship squad will go down with an injury that will keep him off the mound in 2009. Tampa Bay Rays RHP prospect Wade Townsend, the first-round pick in 2005, underwent surgery on his right shoulderin Alabama, and it is really doubtful he’ll pitch in the 2009 season, according to Mitch Lukevics, the Rays’ director of minor league operations.

Townsend, 25, has done his share of rehabbing during his professional career. The former Rice standout spent the 2006 season working his way back from Tommy John Surgery, and was shut down in August 2007 due to arm soreness.

Townsend went a combined 1-6 with a 6.08 ERA with both Class-A Vero and Class-AA Montgomery in 2008. He made three starts in the Arizona Fall League, going 2-0 with an 8.44 ERA before getting shut down.

It’s A Regional Thing

 

I have been upset during the following year that the Tampa Bay Rays have rised to  such heights in the Major League Baseball world, and the world still see Tampa Bay as a single city. It can get a bit unnerving to always have to defend the City of St. Petersburg as the town where the Rays plays, but the Tampa Bay community is it’s resident home.

All of the major sports team who have graced this region have used the regional name. None have been pinpointed to be named the Tampa Bucs, or Tampa Lightning. The old North American Soccer League Champs were called the Tampa Bay Rowdies, not the Tampa Rowdies.  The Rowdies were also the first professional team in our area to use the regional name on a championship trophy when they won the NASL’s title in their 2nd season.

 

     

 

The Lightning is a great example of why using the Tampa Bay motif has worked well for a team. They first began play at the Florida State Fairgrounds, then moved to the Thunderdome (Tropicana Field) before moving to their current home, the St. Petersburg Times Forum in Tampa.  If the team had kept the name based on their location city only, it would have had to change at least 3 times to designate a correct locale.

The Rays went on board with the respect for the region and decided to use the region as their entire demographic for baseball. Just becuase this area is a “hot bed” for Spring Training baseball, before the team was awarded, it was only a Class A destination for ballplayers on their way up the minor league scale.

The Tampa Bay region all have a personality of their own. Tampa Bay  is considered the second largest hispanic community in the state of Florida, and it’s pride is revealed bautifully in Ybor City. The region has a bridge system that is considered a masterpeice on the world’s stage in the Skyway Bridge. Communities like Sarasota, with the Ringling Museum, and Clearwater where the Philadelphia Philles hold their Spring Training all add to the melting pot of the region.

 

                                   

 

For newspapers, radio and television to constantly pull the region down by calling them the “Tampa Rays”, or that we play in “Tampa” is an insult to everything we have tried to complish with all these other sports. Is it because these other teams are actually located in Tampa and if they mess up, it is still within the guidelines of a locale and not a geographic nightmare.

The Rays and the City of St. Petersburg have a huge  rolling backdrop showing the team plays in St. Petersburg. The team has it well defined in the 2008 Media Guide and also in the promotional materials given out to fans during the years. The tickets  do not have the city stated on the, but is that the next step to getting that respectability from the country.

Or can the City of St. Petersburg keep taking this hits by the media by not correcting themselves or obtaining the first credo of journalism..Accuracy.  Is the action oif a few going to effect the works of many. You bet they do. The 3 second sound byte by Tim McCraver or Joe Buck can destroy an entire year of  city promotion or community identity becuase they did not convey the correct town name.

 

 

If the media can tell you that the New England Patriots play in Foxboro, Mass., why can they not tell you that we play in St. Petersburg. It is not all about “little brother”, St Petersburg feeling totally inferior, it is about the civic pride I know I have for my town. Have you ever heard the Detroit Lions referred to as the Pontiac , Michigan Lions when they played there. No, but you knew the city they played in and also had the respect to call it correctly.

Maybe Matt Silverman needs to make up a secondary letter to the media. This time to instill a $ 1 dollar penalty anytime the city is not correctly identified on any kind of mideia from 2009 on. I think he could easily pay a few salaries with the money derived from that venture. Local DJ’s can’t even still get the name right, or will not even call them just the Rays.

People forget that before a few years ago, the largest crowd to ever watch a NHL playoff game was in the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Thunderdome was their home for many years, and I saw that contest against the Phildelphia Flyers.  The commentators of that game on television got the locale correct, and that was over 15 years ago.

But during the MLB playoffs, the announcers selected to broadcast the post season on TBS and Fox could not be counted on to correctly name the community they were staying in for the series.  Why is it that the world can not remember a simple name like St. Petersburg. Do we need to move to our sisiter city in Russia to get total recognition? 

 Nyet, we do not have to travel half the world to get respect. We just have to pound it into the media subconscious. But you would think a winning season and an incredible push to the World Series would tranform the city’s name onto the tips of their tongues.

I even have a friend, Jeff, who is also on the Rays Fan Wall of Fame with me who is a dynamic supporter of this team. He is known as the “sign guy” by many at the Trop., and he mentioned to me he thought of making up T-shirts during the years stating that fact we are the Tampa Bay Rays ” and not the “Tampa Rays”.

We have had personalities like Kool and the Gang, and M  C HAmmer make those mistakes during concerts this year and you heard the crowd correct them immediately. But as Jeff  was going to put on his T-shirts, “It’s a Regional Thing” either you get it, or you are clueless……….Which one are you? 

 

 

Rays Thoughts Hitting on my Noggin’

  

                  

 

The Tampa Bay Rays management have announced that they will hear from Troy Percival next week on if he will elect for surgery on his back and bad knee during the off season, or try and rehab it by the Rays reporting date. The report came from Percival’s agent, Paul Cohen. Cohen said Percival is going through his normal rehab at the moment, although he isn’t throwing because it’s too early in the offseason, and the pitcher will see more doctors before making a final decision.

 

What? Percival was suppoose to come see Rays Manager Joe Maddon duing the American League Championship Series and never even came to the Trop. Now we hear that he is doing “normal” rehab before deciding if he wants to have surgery. I would think the medical staff of the Rays would be involved in this venture since Percival is still under contract with the team.

 

Maybe there is something else here that is being hidden from the Rays medical staff by Percival. He is a very proud individual, and maybe the problem is that things have healed in the past by rehab, but at 38-ish I know personally, you body has a mind of its own. Hopefully the Rays will get total disclosure into the doctors’ reports and their evaluation before Percival even hit the knife, or the treadmill.

 

If he misses any amount of time in 2009, should the Rays discard him like Al Reyes.  You remember Reyes, out 2007 closer who developed arm problems maybe by throwing himself ragged ledd than a year after arm surgery. A guy who is injured can sometime  hide an injury with careful delivery mechanics. I think the team needs to get an insurance policy, like a Kyle Farnsworth, or even Kerry Woods in case Percival can not make it out of May this upcoming season.

 

          

 

Thank you B J ! Thank you for thinking of the team and getting your surgery in enough time to rehab and come in for Spring Training in good shape and ready to rock and roll in 2009.  There have been people who have questioned your committment and your integrity last year to the team. Little do they know that in 2009, you will explode out of the box and be totally healthy for the Rays.

 

Considering that is your non-throwing shoulder, I also think your throws to the plate will have a better velocity and accuracy since you will not have a twinge of pain from your left shoulder on the follow-through. And considering that in the playoffs you were feeling better than ay other time during the season, and hitting for power and average, it shows you have the ability.

 

So take your time and get 100 percent healthy and we will see you real soon in Port Charlotte hitting bombs and stealing a whole bushel of bases again this year.

 

 

 

Cliff Floyd is another player who has been granted his free agency, and also is considering surgery on his bad shoulder.  Floyd was quoted as saying last week that even if the Rays do not want to resign him, he will get his shoulder repaired and be ready for anything.

 

I was a little upset that Floyd hurt himself in Game 2 of the Wrold Series at the Trop., but hopefully it was not on that play where Floyd broke his maple bat into three pieces.

 

Floyd had as much value in the clubhouse as in the batter’s box for the Rays last year. He showed alot of the young guys a different veteran attitude and approach to the game. He took a few guys under his wing last year and they grew and matured during the season. Even if he is not retained even for a modest contract by the Rays in 2009, he has laid some fantastic ground work with this team and should be proud of it.

 

Floyd  should be offered a nice incentive contract and a chance to again lead these guys towards finishing the gola set by them during the playoff run. It will be a hard road to the World Series in 2009, but I would follow “Big Cliff” to the promised land.

 

Hot Stove Report

                         

There have been a few rumblings that the Rays are looking towards the Florida Marlins for our new right-fielder. Jeremy Hermida is a great player, but I truly feel he is a better fit for the National League than for the power pitching of the Americna League.  Hermida has been up with the Marlins first in 2005, then has bounced back and forth between the majoras and the minor leagues in 2007 and 2008.  In 2007, he had a banner year for the Marlins hitting .296, with 18 home runs. 

 

I think this guy can play great for the Rays, I am just not sold on him yet. He basically walked 10 percent of the time in 2008, but struck out 138 times. I think his bat is not the right fit for the Rays. We need power, but not at the expense of swinging for outisde pitches and gopherballs in the dirt.

 

He also swung at 43.2 percent of the pitches he saw in 2007.  a saving grace is the point that he made some kind of contact in 78.7 percent of the pitches he saw.  That normally translates into running the count and getting on base via a walk. But as we noted before, he is not a great contact hitter. He hit only 46.7 percent of those pitches somewhere on the field into fair territory. Oh, and by the way………..he is a left-handed batter.

 

He is a young guy who I feel needs another year in the majors, and in the National League to be effective. I could be wrong, because the guy has hit 35 homers with over 243 RBI’s in the last 2 years. Whoever the Rays pick to be the right-handed bat for the team had better have a thick skin. I have a bad feeling that if he comes here and doesn’t light up the board a bit, the Cowbell Kid might come down and heckle him before the games in the outfield.

Rays Right-field Wish List

 

 

Starting today, Free Agents all over Major League Baseball will begin to show their wares and try to entice teams to take a chance on them in 2009…………or beyond. I decided to do a blog today about my wish list for a right-fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. Now take into consideration that most of these players will not be traded by their teams to us, or might not even be on the block at the Trade Deadline in August, but I just want to think outside the box here for a bit.


Some of the guys on my list are former players that we have tried to pry from their ex-teams like Jason Bay ( Red Sox ), Xaivier Nady ( Yankees ), and Jermaine Dye ( White Sox). All of these players were being considered by the Rays in the last 2 years as possible options to our right-field problem. Jermaine Dye was also being courted by the Rays before he signed with the Chicago While Sox on his multi-year deal. Bay and Nady were under heavy consideration during last season’s Trade Deadline and they slipped out of the Ray’s hands and into the pocket of American League East rival teams.

There are several ex-Rays also being considered more for their past glory than for what they might still have in their tanks. Players such as Jose Guillen (Royals) is considered off limits right now, but might be available again in August. Ex-Rays farmhands like Emil Brown (A’s) and Ryan Freel ( Reds) could become available for the right collection of trade options. The Atlanta Braves even have 2 ex-Rays that might be in consideration since both have shown that they do have power and are healthy now. Matt Diaz and Greg Norton did not leave the Rays on their own terms, but that was also before the present front office was in control and it might not have been for money reasons at the time.

Randy Winn ( Giants) has always intrigued me as a guy who would come back and play here, with the right conditions. He loved hitting here and could be a great asset in the right-field corner with his arm. He can also still play a mean center-field in case of an injury. I have even thought of a fantasy trade where B J’s brother Justin comes here and plays right-field to make a really broadcasters’ nightmare outfield tandem of Upton and Upton, side by side.

But there is a huge amount of great athletes out there who could come here and be a contributing part of this squad. I even though about a few ex-Rays troublemakers who made the Rays’ lives a living hell when they played against them. Players like Reed Johnson (Cubs), Gabe Kapler ( Brewers), Brandon Boggs ( Rangers), and Ben Francisco ( Indians). These guys would be like Jose Cruz Junior and be taken out of the loop to terrorize our pitchers’ and become a threat for out opposition.

Then I thought about some wily veterans who might be going for their last contract, or major move. People like Ken Griffey Jr ( White Sox), or maybe even Garrett Anderson ( Angels). Both have talent still in the tank and could be a great leadership role model as well as great player for the team. Then I thought about players who hurt the Rays in 2008 that might be a great fit on this team, like Ryan Ludwick ( Cards), Matt Murton, who when he was with the Cubs almost cost us a sweep at the home (A’s). And how can you forget Hunter Pence who had a cannon in right-field and a rocket-launcher on his shoulder to help the Astros take 2 from the Rays at home in Inter-league play.

But then you got some of the up-and coming guys like Chris Young ( Diamondbacks), Reggie Willits ( Angels), and Reggie Abercrombie ( Astros), who are starting to make a name for themselves and still have potential to burn in their tanks. Power bats like Cory Hart ( Brewers) and Matt Kemp ( Dodgers) who can change a game on 1 swing of their bats. Most of these players ares till under team control for a period of time and will take a good selection of players to even be considered, but this is my dream sequence……………so let’s press on.

 

 

The you have to old veterans like Bobby Abreu, the first Rays; field player  taken in the Expansion Draft. Daily I try and think of what this guy could have done in right-field for the Rays in the early years. Would he be here today, probably not, but it is a fantasy that would have been a pure joy to have one night.

Then I think about the little scrappers that a running throughout the outfields now. Sprinters like Lastings Milledge ( Nationals), Cory Ross ( Marlins ),Nyje Morgan ( Pirates) who are never out of range of balls hit into the gaps. Even guys like Delwyn Young ( Dodgers) and Lou Montanez ( Orioles) come to mind when I think of deceptive speed and power at the plate.

But there are still other big names that I have not even mentioned yet because of the cost of obtaining them for years to come. Guys like Pat Burrell ( Phillies), who would be a monster in right at the Trop., but is looking for his last contract and it will have big numbers on it.

 

Or guys still under contract with their teams like Jason Michaels ( Pirates), who are great hitters and fielders, but might not have a price on them right now that is obtainable for the Rays. Or even players who have a mystery about them because they play so well at times, then disappear for a while.

Guys like Jay Payton ( Orioles ), who have such promise and never seem to get over that hump when it counts. Or even Juan Rivera ( Angels) a guy who plays his heart out, but is not a top caliber player anymore. But you reward his heart and determination knowing that you will get 110 percent daily. Now I am going to list my personal 3 outfielders I would really consider trading for hard and heavy in 2008 for the 2009 right-field vacancy:

  1. Jayon Werth ( Phillies). It will never play out, but this guy is as clutch as they come right now in baseball. In the 2nd half of the season he has been on fire and in the playoffs he just re-loaded and kept firing bullets to the outfield seats.

  2. Marcus Thames ( Tigers). I do not know what it is about this guy, but I think he has a cannon for an arm and is truly one of the better breaking ball hitters in the American League. Considering he can also go on home run tears, that is not a bad problem to have with your right-fielder.

  3. Ryan Spilborghs ( Rockies). Here is another guy who I think is about to hit the potential meter in a big way. He is adjusting great and will be a All-Star caliber player in the next year or so for whoever he plays for…………..he is a true gamer.

 

So here are just some of the guys and their teams that are on my fantasy list for right-field for the Rays. You never know with this team. They could just rely on rookie Fernando Perez and Gabe Gross to supplement the outfield until later in Spring Training and someone might pop off a roster and play right into the Rays hands. But nothing is in stone in baseball. Remember a few years ago when we signed Danny Bautista to play right-field and he retired before even playing 1 regular season game for the team.


You also forget that starting today, Rocco Baldelli will get his first look at what is out there and what extent people want him to play on their teams. He is still not out of the Rays’ plans, and you could still see him back again with a incentive-laden contract and a possible platoon position in right-field. The next 10 or so weeks should be fun for everyone. I know I am going to be dreaming of a repeat in 2009 all Winter long.

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