Everyone remembers the magic of your first time. The first time you had a bubbly ice cold soda, or maybe even tried that ride at the fair that scared you to death a year earlier. But the fascination and the excitement of trying something, or achieving something for the first time can be a rush that can not be beat.
It is for that reason that my Top Moment for 2008 for the Tampa Bay Rays includes a new “first” for the franchise. As I said before, we always remember our first time entering the ballpark, checking out the sounds, smells and the atmosphere of this new electric-charged dome. You still think about the first Batting Practice or your first foul ball catch, or even the first autograph you ever got at the game. And who could ever forget the taste of that first stadium hot dog. I know all of these are still fresh in my mind, and it has been over 40 years since my first game at Al Lang Field watching the St. Petersburg Cardinals.
So it is with great pleasure that I introduce my number one memory of 2008. It occurred on September 20, 2008 with 36,048 other believers in the stands and jumping up and down like madmen. It was a time for rejoicing and for remembering all the things we loved about the Rays. Not only did the team play a hard fought 7-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins, but the team secured its first EVER playoff berth.
Considering this team had never won more than 71 games a year, and for most of the year fought hard to keep its top spot in the American League East race, this was the moment for the home fans and the players to salute a great season, and the celebrate together. I know a lot of people might consider one of the many I picked as a number 2 moment for this top spot. This was personal to me. I got to celebrate with a few friends as they wandered and cheered around the stadium,
I got to remind a few of them that the journey has just began and they made sure I knew that it was us, the fans that drove this bus to the playoffs as much as the players. And I got to drink from the champagne bottles and taste that sweet nectar that went down like cool rainwater and tasted like spun honey. It was one of the biggest moments for me as a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays…………….and hopefully you got to enjoy it too that day…………….
Basking in the Moment………..1st Playoff Berth
It might have looked like a mob scene out of your favorite sports movie, but believe me, the energy in that place yesterday was so severe that it sometimes seemed to choke you from the intensity in the air. From the energy and the explosion of emotion in the stadium atmosphere yesterday, this game was won by the time they even first stepped on the turf.
Seriously folks, I have never felt so drained emotionally and mentally in my life. I was literally crawling out of the Trop at 9 P.M. after celebrating in the stands, near the clubhouse with a few friends, and in the Budweiser Brew house having a few brews with the old crew from the last 10 years. This was a night were everyone in Tampa Bay would have a peaceful nights sleep.
This is a day/night/weekend that will sit up there with the best memories I have involving sports in my life. I have been to a few wild celebrations, like the Baltimore Ravens victory party in Ybor City after they won the Super Bowl in Tampa, or even a late night cocktail party at Reign after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup with a few ex-Rays players. I am so spent right now and I have not come down from this yet. And I have a Season Ticket holder Picture Day in 6 hours with the players. Well, the ones who are awake at 10 am.
All I can say is this is going down in my memory banks as one of the greatest day in my fan life. How can it get any better………….oh, wait WE could have THREE more of these great celebrations before the playoffs are all over with this year! And then the real party will begin! But let’s not get too far in front of ourselves here, there is a long road to go to even think of that situation right now.
THREE more chances where these guys pay as much attention to their team partying as they do out with us, the fans. From interview to interview last night, the guys to a “T”, talked about the Tampa Bay Rays fans. They included the fans in their celebrations. Getting up on the dugout and spraying the masses with champagne and beer. Throwing 9=8 playoff hats and T-shirts to them all, and relishing a moment that will live in this franchises history books and memory forever.
You always remember your first time. You remember where you were, Who you were standing with, and what you were doing at that exact moment. When the guys came running down into the Bull Pen Cafe area and I was standing on the railing, I can not remember how many of those guys came up there and slapped my hand and gave me a fist bump. But the ones that were special were the Hugs from J P Howell, Jonny Gomes, Chad Orvella and Scott Kazmir. I have chatted almost daily with a lot of these guys on their way to the Bullpen, or back in the right field area, and they are some of the best guys you will ever want to meet.
Howell for instance used to be one of the quietest guys on this team when he was a starter. He was moody and never seemed to want to talk. Now since he has found his calling in the bullpen, he is one of the friendliest people I have ever encountered on the Rays. Dan Wheeler is not known to smile a lot, but he does when we chat back and forth during the games. There is a unique bond there between the Bullpen and the fan here that I have never seen before in my life. But then again, they are living the dream this year.
From the first champagne bottle out of the clubhouse, to the two bottles that Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos had ordered for himself and the close fans down there, it was a magical night. The parade around the Trop outer perimeter was a show of the love and respect these guys have for the fan base. I have been lucky enough to know a few of these guys off the turf in private. And I have to tell you this in total confidence, not one time this year did any of these guys take this responsibility to the fans or to the community as a job or work.
This group actually enjoys interacting with the fans. From the time they walked out at the Spring Training complex in mid-Feb. to now has been a long and rewarding journey. There have been player injuries and players have come and gone from the roster, but the core of this team have been strong, mentally tough and been an inspiration to the fans. Not many groups have a tie to the fans that these guys have. The Rays community can honestly say the have the team’s back at any moment.
The funny thing about this celebration is that about 25 percent of it was outside the locker room in the field where these guys have toiled and struggled and left themselves bleeding and wounded some nights. To say this battle did not end with a fairy tale ending is totally accurate. This season has now almost come to a close at home, but in the next wek they might have a Divisional Crown celebration either in Detroit or Baltimore, then sprint home and get ready for the First of many October games in the Trop.
I really need to hit the sack for a few hours before I fall down, but the adrenaline is still pumping hard in me right now and I have tossed and turned for about 5 hours since I got home. I am a emotional wreck right now, but I would do it again in a New York moment. If you have never been to one of these defining moments, you know how the Rays Republic is now feeling. If you have not, I truly wish it upon yourself and your team sometime in the future. It is a roller coaster ride fitted with some great ups and downs that is not even over yet.
I just want to repurchase my “E” ticket so I can climb aboard the coaster again and roll through another three of these celebrations with the Rays and this truly spectacular group of guys. I actually now know what other team’s fans have talked about when the y remark about the feelings and the intensity of the moment. I can see why New York Yankee and Boston Red Sox fan yearn and seek thin moment in their lives yearly. But I have to almost admit, I do not want to share it with them anytime soon.
So As I finally slink out of the stadium, and check out that bright orange roof, I am reminded of all the glory and the sweat and tears that have blanketed this great dome in the past 10 years. But tonight they all seem like a distant memory as we have a new found tradition of winning and are celebrating the success of our boys’ tonight. I can’t wait to get back into my seat tomorrow and see how much of the energy is still trapped in this building…………….9 am is coming fast to me tonight.
I was sitting at the computer this morning trying to pick out a second possible winning moment in 2008 for the Rays when it dawned on me that there are too many to even count. So I have decided to instead list all the important events, as per my opinion, that have made 2008 so great for Rays fans. I mean I truly sat there after deciding on number 3 yesterday, and decided that one was the easiest pick of the bunch.
If you get to go to the big show, it has to be a top 3 moment in your team’s flight that season. There are a huge bunch of moments that helped define 2008 for the Rays. Be it a event in 2007 at shaped the look and feel of the franchise again, or the elimination of a curse in another stadium that served as a mental block to the team. 2008 was the Year of the Ray, and it is one I am glad I got a front row seat for all year long.
I decided to run this in chronological order from the first event in 2007, up until the final out in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series.
So let’s begin with the first order of business way back in November 2007, when the Rays held a rally in Straub Park near the waterfront in St. Petersburg, Florida. The event was the unveiling of the teams new logo and colors. The Uniforms were fashioned to represent the old style of baseball with a new Rays logo on both the home and away jerseys. The “R” on the uniform front posed a new sweeping motion for the bottom of the letter, plus the sunburst between the lettering also brought about a new look and feel to the organization.
The ray of light was a new focal point of the team, which abandoned the former Ray on the cap and also on the team’s official logo. But the Rays did get to stay for 2008 on the sleeve of the jersey, but might be retired in 2009. The event was to showcase the new look and feel of the team. And with it came a new spirit of winning and posting new attitudes for the team. And one of baseball’s biggest supporters came out and celebrated with us. Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West came out and entertained the masses after the unveiling and rocked the house all the way up to the fireworks display.
Then came the last Spring Training reporting for the pitchers’ and catchers’ to the Ray Namoli Complex in Northwest St Petersburg. The team came out onto the field and Rays Manager Joe Maddon had a small speech in which he wanted to stress fundamentals and team work and chemistry in 2008. That was the day he unveiled his famous “9 =8 ” formula for the world to decipher for the rest of the season.
Then came the first event that molded and formed this band of players into friends and bonded them for the rest of the year. In the day prior to this event, the Rays Elliott Johnson had made a hard charge into Yankees’ minor league catcher, Francisco Cervelli a few days earlier. The event did not sit well with the Yankees’ staff and during the March 12th rematch at Progress Energy Field, Yankees enforcer Shelly Duncan decided to take matters into his own hands.
Duncan was hustling on a hit into the outfield when he turned and made a move towards second base. It was apparent to almost everyone but Duncan that he would not be able to make it to the base in time to beat the throw. During his slide, Duncan brought his cleats up towards Akinora Iwamura and struck him mid-thigh with his metal cleats. Duncan came up immediately and contested the action before right fielder Jonny Gomes came into the action and leveled Duncan to the ground. It was an event that brought the team together for the first time in 2008.
Then two weeks later, the Rays said farewell to their present Spring Training home when the team played it’s last game at Progress Energy Field ( Al Lang Field, Waterfront Park). The game was met with sadness and joy because of the memories of teams playing on these grounds since the 1940′s in this present stadium. The event also was a visual point for the team to showcase the new proposed stadium that might some day rise on the same grounds.
Or could moments like Eric Hinske missing a cycle by a single. It is amazing to me that he went 3-4 on the night and got his triple and homer early in the contest at the Walt Disney complex, but could not get that elusive single. Hinske ended up being one of the true bright spots for the Rays in the Free Agent market. He signed for a low number, but produced high energy and some pretty impressive offensive displays during the 2008 season.
Then we have the first sweep of the Boston Red Sox at home this season. That would only be the icing on the cake as the Rays would send the Red Sox faithful home as losers in 8 of the 9 games at the Trop this year. The first series at the Trop. would end with a hard fought 3-0 shutout by James Shields.
Then comes the moment where Rays Manager Joe Maddon thinks the Rays season began to turn into its championship run. It was during a road trip up to Toronto when the Rays battled back from a possible loss. Edwin Jackson left the 8th inning with a Ray lead before Troy Percival gave up 4 straight singles to let the Jays tie the game at 3-all. The teams battled back and forth before Dioner Navarro, who went 3-6 on the day hit a screamer into the stands for a Grand Slam homer and sealed the victory for the Rays.
On May 13th the Rays got to celebrate for the first time in club history as the team officially took over first place in the American League East. It was the latest point in any Rays season that the team had enjoyed the top spot. The game produced one of the first moments in the Rays 2008 history for celebrations when pinch runner Jonny Gomes came on for Cliff Floyd after he singled in the bottom of the 11th inning. Gomes stole second, then sprinted home to seal the victory for the Rays 2-1.
Then came the L A Angels first visit to Tropicana Field, and the Rays shut them down to also sweep that series. Then came in the mighty Chicago Cubs for a three game Inter-League series that was deemed by many to be a possible World Series matchup. During this series, the Rays finally began to get some national exposure for maybe being a true team that could win it all in 2008.
But not until after the June 19th game, in which Carl Crawford hit a grand slam to propel the Rays. The team had officially beat the best team in baseball all three games did the national media begin to get on the Rays bandwagon. Cub’s Manager Lou Pinella commended the Rays on their young squad, and you could see a small twinkle in his eye that he approved of the young team getting the best of his team that series.
On June 27th, Rays starter Matt Garza was on the mound in a game against the Florida Marlins and gave up a blast to Hanley Ramirez in the 7th inning to produce the only hit and run in the contest. Garza went on to shut down the Marlins’ offense the rest of the game.
According to the Elias Baseball Bureau, It was the first complete-game no-hitter or one-hitter with a double-digit strikeout total in the majors this season. There was only one such pitching performance in each of the last three seasons: by Chris Carpenter in 2005, John Lackey in 2006 and Justin Verlander in 2007.
On July 19th, the Rays won their first game back after the All Star break to break the team’s longest losing streak of the season. With the Blue Jays in town for a weekend series, the Rays went on to break up a perfectly good pitchers’ duel on a Ben Zobrist homer on the first pitch he saw tonight. Toronto starter A J Burnett was on tonight, but the Rays caught a huge break on a hanging breaking pitch to Zobrist for the victory.
While the Rays were at home on August 30th they got to celebrate a first in Rays history. With the 14-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays posted their 82nd win of the season. Marking the first time in franchise history they were guaranteed a winning season. It also marked the night of Scott Kazmir’s 10th victory of the year.
The mystic of Fenway Park was beginning to get the better of the Rays in 2008 before Scott Kazmir took the mound on September 10th in a series the team needed to keep their lead on the Boston Red Sox. It also began one of the most storied moments in Rays history. During the contest the Rays batters went a combined 1-15 with men in scoring position and almost gave the game to the Red Sox several times. As the team fought back and forth before the Rays sent up a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning.
Dan Johnson had been summed from the Durham Bulls earlier in the day and would have started in left field if he had gotten to the ball park a little earlier in the night. But because of flight problems and transportation to Fenway Park, he arrived just moments before the game. In the 9th inning, Rays Manager Joe Maddon inserted Johnson into the game to pinch hit against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Johnson worked the count to 3-2 before he hit a monster shot that cleared the right center field wall to give the Rays a 5-4 lead in the game. Jason Hammel ended up coming out in the bottom of the 9th and secured the win for the Rays. It was Hammel’s first save of his career.
With the team away for their last series, it was actually the next day when most Rays fans learned that we had secured the American League East title the previous night in Detroit. With the Rays in Motown for the last series, many players came back to the clubhouse to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning. It was a wild fact, but players and staff went to area hotels sports bars to do a bit of scoreboard watching as the New York Yankees needed to lose for the Rays to be awarded their first title in team history.
After the hard fought season, the Rays staged a airport greeting for the team at St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport on September 29th. The event was attended by almost 5,000 people who flocked into the baggage area and loading zones to greet and cheer the team as they got off their chartered flight from Detroit. People filled the airport and also the outer traffic lanes of the airport to see their new champions come in from their road trip.
On October 6th, the Rays were in Chicago facing the White Sox when they secured their first series win in the American League Divisional series. The Rays won the series 3-1, and established that they were the team to beat to get to the World Series in the American League. In that series, the Rays battled back time and time again against the tough White Sox pitching staff before finally breaking through and getting right breaks.
When the Rays faced the Philadelphia Phillies on October 23rd, they sent James “Big Game” Shields to the mound. The game showed the waking up of B J Upton and Carlos Pena at the plate as both help produce much needed offense for the Rays. In a play featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Rocco Baldelli came across the plate for an apparent Rays run, but Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz held onto the ball.
The game came down to great situational hitting by the Rays. B J Upton scored Akinora Iwamura from third to plate the first run for the Rays. In the 4th inning, the Rays took a hold of the game after Cliff Floyd hit a single and Dioner Navarro hit a nice liner up the middle to put two men on base for the Rays. Baldelli then hit a nice shot down the third baseline, but it was gloved by Feliz and the Rays had men on the corners. Jason Bartlett then came up and executed a safety squeeze perfectly in front of Phillies starter Brett Myers to put the Rays up 4-0. It would be the Rays first victory in the Fall classic.
Last, but not least is the Game 5.5 as I call it of the 2008 World Series. No matter what happened in this game, the historical significance was more pressing at the moment. The contest was a hard fought contest and each team traded runs and hits before the Phillies finally walked away with their second World Series Championship.
The game was a true test of everything that got the Rays here in 2008. The Bullpen, which was the team’s focal point in 2008 had finally given up a run at the most critical moment in the contest. And the Rays offense could not close the gap when needed during their last at bats. with Eric Hinske striking out for the last out of the game.
All of these events made a different focal point for the Rays in 2008. I hope a few of your fond memories have graced the blog. If I forgot a moment that you found remarkable in 2008, please feel free to comment on the blog and I will check into it and might even make it my number 1 choice tomorrow. Again thank you to all the readers of Rays Renegade for their insights, comments ans readership in 2008.
Hopefully in 2009, I will have more outstanding Rays moments to record for you.
I was sitting here today trying to figure out which one of the over 320 blogs that I have done in 2008 might even be in the top 3 when it finally occurred to me that it is rather simple. I guess i am going to use the next three days to select a few of the blogs that meant the world to me in 2008. From the moment I saw the guys come out of the Spring Training complex field house for the last time, to the meeting of the buses’ at Tropicana Field after the last game in Philadelphia, it has been a wild and truly unforgettable ride for the Rays in 2008.
For me to even try and fathom 3 moments that could be included in a listing is beyond my comprehension for a bit here. But I have decided that the third one has to be the wild and crazy celebration right after the Tampa Bay Rays clinched their first ever American League East title. It was one of two picture blog entries I popped online that night, but it was the one I also felt a part of while the rest of the team celebrate a few feet away from me. It was a night of believing in yourself and your team. Of realizing that miracles and faith can have a huge push towards achieving and obtaining your goals.
It was also a night for the long time fans of the Rays to point to as the reason we sat in those stands for the past 11 seasons and took the abuse and the catcalls from Boston and Yankees fans. It showed why we cheered and clanged those pesky cowbells to show the team we were behind them late in the game, or even when those other team’s chants began to ring through the stands. It was a night where the past and the future meshed so well. Gone was the loser moniker that the Rays had fought so hard to overcome. In front of them was a frontier of new beginnings and unlimited potential to strive for the best and the highest goals obtainable in the sport.
It was a night of redemption. A moment of clarity in a sea of doubt for a lot of people in the Tampa Bay area. It showed that even a small market team like the Rays could upend the status quo of the league and strive to be great for that one moment. So I hope you enjoy this first look back into what I think was a huge point in the Tampa Bay Rays 2008 historical run and clinch of current dreams and future aspirations.
I swear this is the last Photo
blog of the American League Championship Series I am doing this year. I
had too much fun last night and still can not find my car keys. But
anyhow, here are the last few photos that I have gotten since I got
home from a vastly unprepared road trip to Tampa with some people who
felt like it was 1999.
I am glad there is not a Game 8,
because I know a few people who will not be awake until almost 6 p.m.
tonight. This is something that will change this town forever. Some
people have called my hometown a “Sleepy little hamlet”, “God’s waiting
room”, and my new personal favorite, “Where Bums and Benches meet in
But to be a part of a World Series
against a fellow Spring Training site-mate is spectacular and will
make the area more energized than usual. So enjoy my little photo fest
and I will see you all on Wed. night when the champagne stains should
be out of my new ALCS Champs cap, and my brain is ready for another
exciting series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Akinora Iwamura and “Big” Cliff
Floyd. Cliff has been here before, but you can tell it never gets old
for the veterans either. I saw people like Dan Wheeler and Floyd, and
even Trever Miller acting like kids in the candy store
tonight……………and I like it. It was the leadership of such players like Floyd and Carlos Pena that the Rays clubhouse began to gel early in the season and reached its boiling point tonight on the turf at Tropicana Field.
I am starting to believe that Rays
Rookie David Price is starting to like all the celebrating in the
clubhouse this postseason. He deserves the save tonight, and he will
surely be on the World Series roster when it comes out in a few days. Price became the first rookie pitcher in MLB history to get a win and a save in his first post season action. Amazing how far this guy has risen in one season. He began the season down in low Class-A ball, and rose through the system to get to the major league level at the September mark in the season.
I can tell by the broad shoulders
that this is Rays Bullpen catcher Scott Cursi getting the crowd into
the celebration tonight at the Trop. Scott is a huge reason these guys
are psyched and ready to go every night coming out of the Bullpen. He
is the Enforcer. Cursi surely got either a share or a monetary bonus from the Rays for his work this season, and he rightly deserves it and more from the team.
James “Big Game” Shields is also
known as the true master of champagne bursts and celebrations. Shields
is one of the big 4 starters that will try and bring home the Rays
first World Series title. Sheilds will end the season ranked as one of the top 20 pitchers in baseball. He made great strides in 2008, and further cemented his cahnge up as one of the best in the league.
Scott Kazmir is becoming an old
professional at this celebration stuff. He is now known as one of
the true cork popping experts in the Rays clubhouse. Kazmir is also one the
premier lefties in the game today. Kazmir might have had a down season of you lokk at his statistics, but he was there when the team needed him and was always up for the challenge for the team. Even at his young age, Kazmir showed why he is the most experienced on this staff, and the “go-to” guy in the future for the team.
Edwin Jackson is cooling down the
“Old Man” on the Rays, Carl Crawford. He was here during the lean years
in Tampa Bay, and to see a winning team and a playoff berth was a dream
to Carl before this season. Now the Rays can go beyond any of their
wildest dreams and contend for a World Series title starting on Wed.
night. Edwin Jackson has been maligned and beaten up in the press this year as not being the great pitcher for the Rays. But in the end result, he tied for the team lead in victories, and inproved throughout the entire season. He still hit rough patches, but he fought through them and became a extremely aggressive pitcher in 2008.
One last photo of Rookie David
Price getting a cold shower to go with his first professional save
tonight in the game against the Boston Red Sox. Price has a huge future in front of him in baseball. The guy was one of the final picks in the “Next competition for ESPN in 2008. No matter what the magazine decides, you can truly see that he is one of the bright spots for baseball, and not just the Rays in 2009. We saw just a small bit of the talent and the ability of this young pitcher late in the season ans during the playoffs. In 2009, he will get a change to claim a spot on the Rays rotation as a starter, and from there…..the sky is truly the limit for him.
Okay, that is the end of all three
blogs, I swear. But I truly hoped you enjoyed going into the picture
world of the Rays celebrating their first American League Championship
tonight. Be sure to tune into FOX starting this Wed night at 8 p.m.
when the Rays take on the National League Champs, the Philadelphia
Phillies in the best-of-seven series for the World Championship.
Also, if either team steals a base
during a World Series game, Taco Bell will be rewarding every American
a spicy beef crunchy taco for FREE the next day. Considering that the
Rays stole 10 bases in the ALCS, we all might be eating tacos for a few
days. Go to www.stealabasestealataco.com for more information.
How cool is that, a rookie like
David Price comes in and set down one of the best lineups in the
American League and now he gets to hold the AL Championship Trophy.
Aki again among the Rays faithful
who stayed beyond 1 a.m. to help celebrate another Tampa Bay Rays
victory and their first run at the World Series. Something I found truly remarkable about this guy in 2008, is his interaction with the fans and his love for both this area and our style of baseball. I do not even remember what time I got home that night because I did not sleep a wink as I got into traveling mode after Game 2 of the World Series.
I had to add one more photo of
that world class dog pile that David Price and Dioner Navarro are on
the bottom of here. I know it hurts, but it also feels so good guys.
Congrats again to a great team, and a great set of human beings. You
are our heroes and our inspirations guys. By the time that the Rays had won the ALCS, they had celebrating on the field down to an artform. So many times this year the team had late innings rallies and walk-off victories that just added up to the final prize of winning the American League Pennant tonight.
I have not even left the ballpark
yet and they are almost out of the Rays American League merchandise
sent in the first wave by MLB. How crazy is that. I am so glad the
fans are excited about the World Series. I hope at least 25 percent of
them come back to the ballpark in 2009 and fill the stadium. Oh, news
flash here people………..We play the Phillies in Philly next season
as part of the Inter-League schedule. How cool is that!!!!!
The entire team getting some personal personal time with
the AL Championship trophy. Do they pass it around and can keep it for
one day like the Stanley Cup? I hope at some point either in the off season or during 2009, the Rays Season Ticket holders and Maddon’s Maniacs can pose for photos with our first real trophy in franchise history. It was all a total effort of the Rays Republic and the team and staff to secure our place in history tonight.
This Photo is going to be firmly
planted in my mind for a long, long time. This is the final out of the
game…………a force out of Jason Bay by Akinora Iwamura to seal the
deal for the Rays. If there was one photo to show the joy and the celebration of winning the pennant, it has got to be this picture right here.
Carlos Pena getting ready to do
that dance he loves to do at celebration. Maybe Carlos can teach the
entire Tampa Bay area that dance some time.
Tell me that is not one proud
owner. He promised us a winner and he delivered ahead of
schedule…………he could run for President right now and get
elected on the Rays ticket.
Carlos and Ben Zobrist a few
minutes after the final out of the game. This team is more like a
family than the Pittsburgh Pirates teams in the
1970′s……………..We Are One Team!!!!! Tell me the marketing
department is not proud of that slogan now!
This is what the Trop. looked like
2 minutes after the last out. Rays players running everywhere looking
for a teammates to hug and slap some fist bumps on them.
The American League East has gotten a bit crowded lately. There is a huge amount of new money flowing in and out of the coffers of the New York Yankees, but should this have the rest of the A L East up in arms, or even worried at all over the talent and financial windfalls of the boy’s in pinstripes? for one am not worried at all by the recent additions by the old school teams in the east to rebuild from outward signings and additions. That is what mega corporations do, they bring in the best and hope for massive production and results.
I actually think that this season is just par for the course in that the Yankees are rebuilding from within the free agent market instead of through a minor league system. We all know that their minor league system leaves a lot to be desired, so they have to take option number 2 to get the type of bat ,or pitcher they need to compete year in and year out. But you know what I find funny here is the fact that the Yankees actually have reduced their payroll for 2009, and have not ballooned it out of site.
Yeah, can you believe that you spend a total of almost half a billion dollars and you have actually reduced your salary for the coming year. As wild as it might sound, the Yankees actually shed $ 88 million in payroll while only adding $ 62 million. So even in the economical crisis the Yankees have save close to $ 29 million dollars for this coming season’s squad. But that is contingent on the fact that they will not be adding any more parts to the equation between now and Opening Day.
But you can not guarantee anything in the AL East anymore. With teams like Toronto Blue Jay having one of the best pitching staff in baseball, they will be constantly up there based on their arms while the bats begin to stretch out and then come alive for the team. They will again be a team that might be on the outside looking in, but is still a giant slumbering, waiting for his chance to pounce and show his true power to the world.
Former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay will reload and get ready to do combat with everyone and anyone on a 5- day basis in 2009. And just because they lost A J Burnett doesn’t mean there is not another cog waiting to be put into the machine and perform for the Jays. They might have a sleeper starter in Matt Clement, who has signed a minor league deal with the club, and might impress enough to even get a slot in the rotation in 2009
But this is a team you do not take lightly even in the offensive side of the ball. They might be a bit light right now, but that doesn’t mean they will not make a late signing of a bat that can produce for the Jays. They have always been like a pack of wild dogs. One doesn’t do the total damage on you, but little by little they can wear you down until they have you right where they want you in a game.
Then you have the almighty Boston Red Sox. Who would have spent the same for Teixiera if he let them for his serves in beantown. But it was discovered that Tex’s better half did not like the old New England vibe, and you already know that the wife of a player has a true measure of the decisions in these manners. Seriously though, Boston is also under a financial burden to reload almost yearly to keep up with the Steinbrenners’ of the world.
They recently added another member of the old World Champion Florida Marlins when they signed Brad Penny to come aboard and actually make it feasible for Justin Masterson to stay in a setup role for closer Jonathan Papelbon. the arrival of Penny is actually a head scratcher since he has never been a good pitcher against the American League in his career. During the Inter-league series in the past he has gotten a bot rocked, to the tune of 7-11 in the past, and might not be a perfect fit for the Boston rotation.
But that was the Red Sox answer to Tex, bring in more pitchers’ who might put more holes in bats in the A L East. Beside that move, the team did make a minor signing, that might end up being a major one of they do not come to terms with former backstop Jason Varitek soon. Josh Bard might end up as the starter if the old captain can’t come to terms with the team in time for the season. It would be a huge change for the Red Sox, but would also put offense back behind the plate for the Red Sox, which they have not had in the last few years.
Then you take the Tampa Bay Rays philosophy that you do not add wins by adding huge money. So far the team had made two trades that have gone under the radar a bit, but might have fantastic dividends for the team sooner than you think in 2009. the signings will not be the last ones, as the team is negotiating and poking and prodding a number of free agent bats looking for the right fit to the Rays mold in 2009.
Because of the obvious team chemistry, you do not want to just pop a hitter in there without regards to the dynamics the team has established in 2008. To bring in a player who can build on the fundamentals put into place in 2008 would be huge for this organization. The right bat could just gel up the middle of that offensive lineup and explode out of the gate. But the wrong bat could also clog the life’s blood out of the team and they will be then set for a nasty downfall from grace.
The trade of Edwin Jackson for Matt Joyce is actually a great acquisition on both paper and payroll. the team will have the options on the player for the next 6 years, which give them a great player coming into his own during that period. Joyce might come back as one of the best trades in 2008′s off season if he grows in potential and wins the right field job out of Spring Training.
But the signing of Joe Nelson is actually a sign that the Rays are being shrewd, but smart in their Bullpen additions for 2009. They have the right idea of not wanting to rock the boat too much, and will show that the signing is not just for obvious reasons. This signing is also a insurance policy on Troy Percival this coming season. Nelson will come aboard the Rays’ ship knowing that Percival has had a checkered past in 2008 for the Rays.
With Dan Wheeler and J P Howell and Grant Balfour in great roles in setting up the staff, the addition of Nelson is actually a situational one where he can either be inserted into that mix of pitchers’, or be the closer until Percival is fully healthy, or even down for the count again for the Rays. It is a smart signing based on 2008 statistics of a 2.0 ERA as a reliever, but also shows the foresight of knowing that a healthy Percival is only one misstep away from having a 2008 relapse.
So every team in the American League East should be better in 2009, but one will again be the bottom feeder for at least the 2009 season. The Baltimore Orioles have again been deemed the team that will strive to get out of the cellar of the A L East. But you can be sure that they are developing guys in the minors to come up fast that can contribute for years to come and might be building a cheaper edition of a dynasty for a few years.
It is currently hard to fathom such and adventure since they only have 1 true starter in Jeremy Guthrie currently on their roster, but they have a huge ton of raw talent that could develop fast and make a play for the 4th slot late in the season. The Orioles are one team that always have me worried in the AL East. You never know which one will show up and either lay down or kick your butt in a game. Because of this, you always have to be on your guard with them and not lollygag in a game. And they still have the bats like, Aubrey Huff to compete with the big boys in the division.
So here we are a few days away from 2009, and we have a huge season on the horizon. I think that the race from Day 1 in the A L East will one of the best contested races in the league in 2009. you will have to two powers of the “old” East fighting with the two young upstarts the entire season trying to redefine the pecking order of the division. It will be a fight to the finish with one of the best teams maybe looking in on the playoff picture after losing out in the finals weeks of the season.
It is again time for the A L East to make the rest of baseball take a look at their standing every night and wonder who is going to have the staying power to successfully survive the 162-game season without major strife and damage. I might be inclined to put the top three from last season back into the race for the title, but with Toronto nipping at their heels, you never know anymore. But one thing is for sure in 2009, it is a year I will not want to miss for the world. It could even be a year where a .500 club wins the division, and a chance to win the World Series.
I was sitting there in my favorite sports bar the other day when it came to my mind that in the last few years there have been a multitude of adaptations and abbreviations transformed and formulated to even decipher the amount of chew spits a player makes during a plate appearance. It was at this time that I had a brainstorm thought about the Tampa Bay Rays and decided to pull out the old laptop and try and do some fast research while he went to did some business.
I jotted down a few fast pages of statistics from the bevy of sites like www.Fangraphs.com, who have developed a whole new language within baseball and speak about phrases and even notations that most sports fans have not even heard of before. I mean, until I ventured online looking for their explanation I could not tell you what bRAA, or even Tra stood for in baseball statistics talk. So let me try and decipher the first two here for you then get back to my conversation. BRAA is actually an abbreviation for batting runs above average. It is computed by taking a hitters RV/PA ( Runs valued per Pitches attempted above average) and multiplying the number of plate appearances he has had that season.
Okay now that I have you maybe totally confused, or I am talking Esperanto to you, let me use the first research abbreviation noted above with the American League MVP, Dustin Pedroia, and the 2008 American League Rookie of the Year, Evan Longoria. So using the formula of bRAA, I have calculated that Pedroia’s was 24.1 in 2008.
If you consider that his bRAA has risen from -7.8 in 2006, to a respectable 10.1 last season during his own ROY season, you can see the progression of this young hitting star. If you take the current ROY, Longoria, this is his first true season in the big leagues, so he doesn’t have even 1 at bat to put into account to show the fast progression of his hitting in the AL. But then again, when you come into the league for the first time, and have a projection of 16.4, the sky is the limit.
So unlike Pedroia, Longoria is showing immediate plus plate appearances and making his presence know in the MLB. That bodes well for the league and for his team in the coming seasons as his bRAA will increase a bit, and might spark another strong run at the playoffs for the young Rays. So as you can see, the SABR guys have taken a huge hold of baseball, and that is not a bad thing. As Kevin Costner said in the movie, “For the Love of the Game” when asked if baseball counts everything, he said ” We count everything, it is what we do.”
Odd stats and projections have become the backbone of fantasy leagues and professional betters and has been absorbed into everyday life now. 5 years ago, who would have known what OPS stood for, and what offensive production number were accumulated in that statistic. Now it is a commonly used graphic on most every ballpark in America when a hitter comes to bat.
I know there have been a few time this past season that I took out my laptop at games and tried to update a certain stat, or even produce a stat to supplement a comment I was making to a seat mate or even another fan in the section. It is almost as if very soon there will be a second language spoken only by statistics mongrels and the cyber republic to express our actions and reactions in abbreviations and commas. But that is not always a bad thing.
Since baseball is a game where statistics are law, and the amount of statistical firepower can make a drunk fan sit down and ponder even a simple fact, it is the reality of baseball in the modern days. I know my Dad used to say the only stats that matter are the ones under the “H”, “R” and “E” spots on the scoreboard. Now that is not to mean he did not know the batting averages or a the pitching selections of his favorite players’, but the love of the game was more physical to them.
Today, the game is taking on more power beyond just the batted ball or the nice 12-6 break on a curve ball. It is becoming a game where science and logic and even that math class we all hated in college statistics is coming to the forefront of information. I mean who was the top pitcher in 2008?
Was it C C Sabathia, or even Derek Lee? Or could someone like Randy Johnson or Ervin Santana sneak into the Top 10 without us even noticing it. To be totally truthful here, Sabathia was listed twice in the Top 10 performances of 2008. He was the top selection and also the 10th for his time with the Milwaukee Brewers, and Cleveland Indians. And how did Lee sneak all the way up to number 3 without anyone noticing him until late in the season, and during the playoffs. Sometimes the statistics as a whole show better productivity and more stable references to a players’ true nature at the plate or on the mound in baseball.
Okay, let’s head the other direction, who was the best in the batter’s box in 2008, was it the MVP’s of both leagues, Dustin Pedroia, or Albert Pujols? Or did someone else have a banner year and got lost in the shuffle? If you guessed Pujols, you win a huge prize. He had the best season of anyone is baseball at the plate in 2008. But if you picked Pedroias, you might be disappointed to know he did not even rank in the top 20 in offense in 2008.
He did have an amazing post season, but the season only produced him a slot at number 23, and that was not even the best showing on the Boston Red Sox. That slot went to Kevin Youkilis, who came in at number 9. And Pedroia did not come even second on his own team. So you to wonder, just how great a season did he have if he was ranked 4th on his own squad in total offensive numbers in 2008.
Well, if you consider the fact that Youkilis probably had his best season as a professional this season, his selection at number 9 might be realistic for him. But the two guys in front of Pedroia also had injury concerns in 2008, but when they were able to hit the plate, they were effective for their team. Both J D Drew ( 13) and Pre-Trade Deadline Manny Ramirez (12) had better statistics than the American League Most Valuable Player.
So since I am a Rays fan, I also took the liberty of seeing how my guys did on both lists. Well, even though we did have an amazing run towards that beautiful trophy in October, we missed out and will have to repeat to have another shot to hoist that beauty in the air. I scanned over the sheets and saw that pitching wise, we did not fare really bad on the list.
James Shields actually coming out 18th in the top 20 of the 2008 listing. Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir came in at 54th and 61st respectfully, and that is a great showing that the Rays had 3 guys in the top 60-ish of baseball. The one guy who really got me excited was the fact that number 4 starter, Andy Sonnanstine blew past Garza and Kazmir and came out a impressive 31st on the final list. He had some great statistics behind the front numbers and has shown some remarkable consistent numbers in 2008.
So the next time you want to wonder why Sonnanstine is still here and Jackson is gone, you can look at the 2008 numbers and they tell a very clear story. Jackson was listed at 114th best in baseball, while Sonnanstine was in the 31st slot. Consistency wins ball games, and with the Rays being a truly statistic friendly team, you know that Rays Manager Joe Maddon sees the potential of Sonnanstine even growing in 2009 for the team.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Rays did have a few guys who did better at the plate then imagined early on in the season. The team actually placed 3 guys in the top 100 hitters in 2008. As you might expect, Carlos Pena was the highest Rays with a ranking of 29th for the year. That was followed by a 55th spot by Longoria, and a 92nd slot for center fielder B J Upton.
On the surface, people thought the Upton was having a down season, which he actually was due to a shoulder injury, but with him adjusting his swing and even placing into the top 100, the sky is the limit when he is fit and healthy in 2009. And with Longoria placing so high as a rookie, it also sets a high expectation level for him in 2009. Hopefully the sophomore jinx will not hit him and he can remain in pace to become a new star at third base for the MLB.
But the category that really had my eyes popping was in the relief pitching listings. The Rays were consistently being praised for their upgrades in their Bullpen, and with the huge developments in their relievers, but just how great was this change for the team? The squad actually placed two guys high on the list.
Considering the guy who came in at number 10 on the list was not even on the Rays Opening Day roster is a amazement in itself, but he did not get any reputation, or even recognition until he came back with a fire in his belly to prove the world wrong about him. Grant Balfour came back to St. Petersburg to fulfill a potential of being a top 10 reliever in the MLB, not just the AL. If I took the top 10 and split them by leagues, Balfour would rank 7th in the American League.
But as great as the story is on the emergence of Balfour, the productivity of J P Howell can not be measured by just the statistics. During the season I saw the guy who used to slunk by the Bullpen area come alive this season and become a fan favorite for his personality and his spunk. As Howell gained strength and great numbers, he also opened up to the fans and showed that great inner champion to him. Howell just missed the top 50 in baseball by 2 slots, but he is a top guy based on his upswing in 2008.
So as we can see, the basic statistics in baseball sites and on leader boards can not always show you the total package of a player. Be it a MVP winner who is not even the 4th best player on his team, or a 5th starter who is actually statistically better than 3 other starting pitchers on his squad, the number can be deceiving at time. But we already knew that didn’t we?
I remember many a Christmas as a kid running out into the living room to gaze under the tree at 5 am before anyone else had gotten up in the house, It was a cardinal rule in our house that no one gets woken up before 6 am on Christmas Day. Not until I got a lot older, and had to put multiple bikes together did I truly understand that ruling by my Dad.
It was always a great time, because I was living in the budding gaming infancy. We had just gotten bombarded by commercials on the television the entire Christmas season about this new Atari system and the game Pong had kinda gotten boring after the first few hundred plays. Seriously, back then those two long slots and that crazy bouncing line was the total dimension of video games. Sure the video arcades had the real games and the pinball machines, but for the kids at home, we had the ever repressive Pong game.
Now as soon as I saw that Atari system mentioned on TV, you know what got embedded into my parent’s ears for the next month. So when I found it under my tree with some of the newest and most advanced games at that time in the console package, you knew my rainy days and early nights would be filled with multiple colored 2-dimensional fun.
Yeah, that was the real drawback of it all is that height and vertical challenges were the extent of the magic back then, but we still played those suckers like there was no tomorrow. They did have a baseball game, but it was so prehistoric, I traded it for a Donkey Kong cartridge. Now there was a game of skill and magic. You had your ape fighting the massive barrels searching for the top and his redemption.
It is funny now to think I got so worked up by the controller sometimes that I had to walk away from the game for a bit to calm my nerves and get back into focus. But I also remember that I did not play it for hours, or have memory card save points on that machine. You got as high as you could, then turned off the machine and started all over again in the a. m. But I did have friends who discovered cheating methods to boast high levels completed, and also new adventures I had not gotten to yet on my boards. But I loved the thrill of achieving each one by myself without help or using cheat codes or leaving the machine on pause all night long to save your position on the game.
So I have an understanding of today’s youth and their playing of video games. I just do not understand the frustration and the level of self absorption to a screen and a cartoon character. But then again, I was an athlete at a young age and had other interests besides my games and what life had to offer. I guess I was lucky to play baseball and basketball and hit the pool during the summer, while my room mates kids sit in front of the TV for 6 hours and fight Sonic or Megatron.
I did buy a newer game system a few years ago and used to play only baseball games on the unit. When Sony came out with the Playstation 2, I won a unit as a sales incentive for work. It had a sports bundle and I got hooked on the MLB2004 as soon as it hit my big screen. I used to play it any time I was bored with computer work or nothing was on cable to my liking that night.
I got pretty good with the aspect of taking the lower ranked teams and kicking butt against any of the to tier or even All Star teams. It took a while to get some sort of feel for the strike zone and to know the nuances of the game. So when I went to Game Stop recently to buy a few games for a Playstation 3 system the kids’ were going to inherit from their uncle, I decided to buy MLB2004 for myself. I had a yearning to see if that game could still bring out the competitor in me and make me insane with wanting to beat the top teams.
So on Christmas Day, as the kids were bored with their new system, I went into my room and got my used copy of MLB2004 and put it in the player. On came that familiar screen and I decided to see if I still had it by going into the Home Run mode for a bit to get my timing back. After about 5 minutes, it was time to see if the old dog could still play this puppy. I decided to play my old team, the Tampa Bay Devilrays against the Florida Marlins.
Now at that time, the Marlins had a young Josh Beckett, A J Burnett, Dontrell Willis and Brad Penny on their pitching staff. I always played against Beckett and Burnett. I liked playing against the young arms that had deceptive pitches and made the game more fun to play. So I selected that team and decided to also put the DH in for both teams. That would make it more offensive, but also give me a chance to experiment with my lineup.
Of course this was not the team of 2008 for the Devilrays. They still had the old name, the roster was spotted with young talent like Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford, but they also had old Rays mainstays at the time like Jose Cruz Jr., and Aubrey Huff. Now I always liked Huff Daddy as a Ray. He had power and could still play with some gusto back then. But the team was spotted with guys that were not even in a supporting role in 2004.
They had Devi Cruz at shortstop, and he never even took an inning in a Rays uniform at that position, but then again, Julio Lugo was not even on the Houston roster for me to pluck, and Rey Sanchez was not even considered a Ray at that time. But the catching position got me a bit perplexed at time. They had Brook Fordyce as my starting catcher. Now he might have been a great catcher for the Baltimore Orioles, but he was not my catcher…………..sorry Brook.
So I used to dig down into the minor league system for players and adjust my lineup accordingly. I used to put Jared Sandberg at third base because of his awesome power and his quick hands. I would insert Damian Rolls at short only because I trusted his bat and loved chatting with him back then, and put John Flaherty behind the dish for the D-Rays.
I started out as the home team, playing in the Trop., and forgot that down the right field line, they did not have my section in the game. That still pisses me off to this day that the location of my seat for 10 years is not even listed on a video game. Anyways, here I go starting Victor Zambrano for the game and using his slider and change up to confuse the Marlins. I can honestly say that it is a touchy situation to have one of the worst pitching staffs and strike out a side. The next inning you could make 3 mistakes and it is 3-0 without a bat of an eye.
I get through 4 innings and the kids come in and begin to watch the old guy take it to the Marlins. The youngest has never seen me use a controller and is a bit impressed I even know where the buttons are on the unit. I have a guy warming up in my Bullpen and have a 21-3 lead at that moment when Zambrano begins to get rocked by the Marlins. Before I can catch my breath and realize it, the score is 21-13 and I have inserted Jorge Sosa to relieve Zambrano.
With an increasing audience, I am a bit nervous and make a huge series of errors to get the game closer in the next frame. It is now 25-18, and I am letting the Marlins creep back into the contest. I decided to have some fun, or maybe it was a bout of madness, and let one of the kid play the 8th inning. After he got rocked and his pitcher was exhausted, it was 29-27. I did not fret, I did not worry, I knew who I had in my Bullpen warming up for the 9th inning. I also knew that I had a good bench and could pull this game out without a problem.
I inserted D-rays closer Dany Baez into the game in the top of the 9th and he got the Marlins down quickly, but not without surrendering a 2-run shot by Luis Gonzalez to right field. With the game tied, I got two quick strikeouts to end the inning. In the bottom of the 9th, I got things started by having Carl Crawford put down a bunt, but on this game, Crawford is not as fast as in real life.
Pity, in the real game, he was safe by a country mile. I then had Rolls put a ball down the third baseline that was grabbed behind the bag, but threw him out. Again in reality, that is also a base hit. So I am down to my last at bat and decide to use a pinch hitter. I select my old buddy Greg Vaughn. Now Vaughn was beginning to see the end with the D-Rays this season, and that was a shame.
He was seeing his speed and his bat become less of a weapon than ever in his career. But I have always had trust in the man, and I also knew he would not let me down. So here is my plan, to have him put a ball into play and hope for a miracle. I get two quick strikes off sliders from the Marlins reliever. I am battling off the next two pitches high and outside that could have gone for strikes against me. Finally, I get a hanging curve ball and put it into the gap for a double.
At this time, the score is tied, and I have two outs. I am running on anything that Huff puts into play. Huff gets two balls low and outside. He then get schooled on a nice curve ball for a 2-1 count. Then I get a lucky break and they try and pitch him outside and about waist high. Boom a nice liner to deep right field. I start Vaughn off from second base and do not even look up to see if the ball is getting relayed into the infield by the Marlin’s right fielder. I round third streaking for home and hear the room begin to groan.
But they do not know what I know. I can slide in this primitive addition of the Sony game. But I decide to take on the catcher mano-on-mano and thrust up into him as he gets the throw from second base. I somehow get the ball loose and the umpire yells “safe” over the surround sound to the gathered crowd in the room. So here I am victorious with a walk-off victory and everyone is saying I cheated.
What! I played heads up baseball, that resulted a a winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat an Inter-state rival. The 2008 Rays would be climbing all over themselves and the plate to celebrate such a win. But in this house, they all consider it a freak and a bit of user luck to beat the game. Damn, and to think I used to play that rectangular moving brick for hours chasing a moving pong ball and never heard the words cheating, or even a word of disappointment. Guess that is the problem with games in 3-D, it also comes with the interpretation of the crowd around you. I wonder if the 2004 Boston Red Sox are up for a rematch of my fantasy World Series win in 7 games tonight?
I have been known to be a holiday Grinch to some people because they try and force the holiday on me like a certain religious sect located here in Clearwater, Florida. I have always been, and will always be a true believer in the spirit of the holidays and of everything involved with them. As a kid , I was the house decorator, both inside and out. It was my job to put up the lights and also do the tree setup after we brought it home. The family as a whole did the final Christmas tree trimmings, but I put the lights in the branches and made sure the tree was very secure and would not fall on us when we began decorating it. I took great pride in doing this, because I had the Christmas spirit, not because it was a job to me.
And even though the last several days, some people might give me a mulligan for thinking like this during this holiday season. But I am not built like that, if I make a commitment, I am there by any means possible, but this year it took a bit more than just desire and will power. I do not show weakness very often, and when I do my friends know it is real and not put on for their enjoyment or my own self amusement.
As some of you might know, I was at a friend’s house last weekend and was playing football on the soft white sands of Clearwater Beach, when I went in for a open field tackle on a friend’s son and got him in stride, but on the way down got plucked in the right ear with a thud. I got right up with no blood or even any small aches, but of course, being a Christmas party, I did have a few medicating rum concoctions running through my veins.
Well, as a old football guy, I did not show any weakness the rest of the night and went home and slept until maybe 8 pm the following day. Since I did not anticipate any job interview requests on that day, I put my cellphone to silent. About 9 pm, I had three people at the door while I was watching reruns of a “Real Chance at Love” on VH-1. Well they saw me do a little wobble at the door and they stayed a bit to be sure the old guy was okay.
That is when you know you have a true friend, when they see through the BS and call you on it like a ref with that little yellow hankie. Well, they saw my ear was blossoming up like a nice floret of cauliflower and tried to talk me into going to the ER to be cautious. Well, the last time I hit that ER near me, I did not see the light of day, and missed the entire home series against the New York Yankees in April 2007.
All I had then was three small brown recluse spider bites that bloomed up into huge bulbs the minute I took some antibiotics I had around the house. Well, after sitting there that night on my stomach for three hours while they cut the dying skin off my back of the knee, waistline spot, and my right index finger, I was set alone in a ER extra room and they tried to let me sleep off the medications while I was waiting for a bed upstairs.
Long story short…………5 days per-longed hospital visit…………$ 2,000 dollar headache after wards. I was not discharged on time because the doctor forgot to come see me on a Monday, and almost missed another home series because of him. Poor guy is not a Rays fan because of me.
Well, here we are that night sitting here still in the ER at 5 am and I have been seen by 4 different physician assistants that all concur, I have a blown eardrum. And so I sit until and attending can come in and give the final heave ho to launch my happy butt upstairs for a consultation with a ear, nose and throat guy in 5 hours. So my friends finally leave because they have real jobs, and I am, unemployed, but happily blogger happy on MLBlog.com.
I am sitting up there with my computer and finally finish my part 2 of my MLB Network blog and hit the button to send it via WiFi. Well, if I wanted to use that service in the hospital, it would cost me $ 25 dollars for the connection password. I wonder if that is how the nurses’ party funds get stocked? Just kidding, that was a rule instituted because too many people brought computers in the hospitals and their servers were getting overloaded by just hospital work.
So I just sat there and put things in notepads and typed away until the battery life left the laptop. Well, about an hour after that, the doctor finally got there and prodded me for about 2 minutes before noticing he was in the wrong ear…….got to love our medical system some days. Well he began to try and stretch out my ear, but the pain maxed to 12.5 and he decided to give me a local to knock out my ear area.
That went fine, and after about 30 minutes of staring and thinking and writing in his little report form, he told me lay back and they wanted to give me a full X-ray head scan. I told him the mouse in my head left a month ago, but the rubber bands are working fine. He did not see the humor in that, but the nurse was snickering. So I was pushed and left to be claimed the hallway for an orderly to take me to the Radiology section for naked pictures without my skin.
Well, I came to fins out the local was not a local, but was an IV hit of morphine and I was seeing flashbacks of “Apocalypse Now” scenes in my head. And that damn song “Flight of the Valkyries” kept rewinding in my head. Thank goodness the nurse was of Swedish decent, I might of had to frag because of the effects of the drug, I was smelling napalm in the morning. So there I am having naked pictures of my hollow head, while a Swedish nurse props me up like a rag doll on crack. Even though she was 5 foot and 250 pounds, the Don Juan in me went wild.
After I came to an few hours later, the doctor told me he wanted to be sure I did not suffer a concussion since I stated I had 10 previous concussions from football from 1976-1985. He told me that the ear membrane was torn a bit, but would recover in 5-10 days. I would not need to downgrade all my stereo equipment to monotone, and could watch 5.1 surround sound when the hearing came back in a few days. He told me if the sound did not come back by Sunday, come in Monday morning and he will drill a hole in my head and stick a cup with some string to my eardrum.
After he said that, I wondered how long it took him to come up with those one-liners. My flow off the tongue, but his delivery needed work. I did compliment him on his new found humor and he told me I could leave after 2 prescriptions got up there. He did tell me I needed to put ear drops in my ear, but the first few batches would be difficult until the swelling went down. He also sent me home with some antibiotics.
So I flopped on the couch and did not wake up until today about 7 am. I discovered that I left the laptop at the hospital, but they dropped it by a neighbors’ since I did not answer the door. I hope it was not that Swedish nurse looking for a massage buddy, and forgot to write my Christmas Eve blog. I usually like to put my 5 favorite Christmas videos on there, but could not muster the time and effort until tonight/ last night.
So here I am now, asking for everyone at MLBlogs.com, from Mark on down to the newest arrivals to the site to have a safe and glorious Christmas. And since I do not want to be considered religiously biased, Happy Kwanza, which starts today, and Happy Hanukah. I really hope that your day was filled with magic, warmth and the noise of friends and family. I had a house full of people because my roommates 4 kids stooped by to pester me to death and flick my ear a few million times.
So, hopefully starting today I can get caught up and get back into my swing of writing my daily blogs for you all. So without further ado, I am heading back to bed to have visions of sugarplum dance through my head again tonight/today. And since it is Black Friday, I am not going out of the house for fear of Wal-mart and K-Mart shoppers a few blocks away running into each other in the parking lots.
Now where did I put that eggnog and sugar cookies?
If you missed the first part of this small installment, I am going over the launch and conceptual beginning of the new MLB Network set to debut on New Years’ Day all over the cable industry. I want o tell you that you should make a point of trying to view a show with former Rays broadcaster, Joe Magrane, I can guarantee you it will be a fun time to hear this great former player and tongue-in-cheek broadcaster. So, let’s pick up where I left off before hitting the confines of a small room with the smell of anxiety and bad oxygen in the air:
With the cable industry agreeing to allow access to the MLB of the previously contracted out-of-market concept, Extra Innings package to drive channel carriage. They used other professional leagues as a starting point for their transformation. The NHL has tied carriage deals to its channel with access to Center Ice. And the NBA is planning to use League Pass to try to persuade cable operators to move NBA TV off sports tiers and into the mind of their subscribers as a optional network.
Its contracts are up at the end of this season. The NFL also is rumored to be considering making Sunday Ticket available to cable operators, in exchange for NFL Network carriage when that contract ends in 2011. It’s uncertain whether this strategy will work for other leagues, but it is clear that other leagues are trying to use MLB’s strategy on their own properties.
“When we were putting the Oxygen Network together, we thought getting to 30 million homes was a big deal, but now getting to 50 million with the MLB Network, you have a real viable product,” said Tom Werner, Boston Red Sox chairman, a board member of MLB Network and longtime TV producer.
After MLB owners approved distribution contracts with DirecTV and cable operators last May, Brosnan and Chris Tully, senior vice president of broadcasting, immediately got to work on finding a home for the network. The process quickly turned from daunting to seemingly impossible, even with the commercial real estate market in the New York market softening and available inventories rising. The key issue was finding something that had high ceilings, open floor plans and modern infrastructure to accommodate a high-end studio set design MLB wants that will rival elaborate build-outs at ESPN and NFL Network, while at the same time was not prohibitively expensive.
Brosnan and Tully looked for months all over the five boroughs of New York City, as well as portions of suburban New Jersey and Connecticut, continuing to run into dead ends. Network partners such as DirecTV Chief Executive Chase Carey, however, continued to press MLB to focus on Manhattan. Not only is the island the country’s media focus, but a suburban or outer borough location would all but kill much-discussed plans to have players regularly come on set to appear on the network.
Common thinking was that New York is considered the center of the world to a lot of people in the country and the world. And for this new network to be more than a typical league network, you have to devise multiple ways to create excitement. You really need to be in Manhattan to make it accessible to everyone.
MLB then became connected with Vornado, which needed an anchor tenant to help push forward its plans for the modern, 21-story office tower in Harlem, using the former site of a hotel and retail development that never materialized. Within a matter of weeks, negotiations were well along for the MLB Network to occupy two lower floors for its studio and production operations, two upper floors for administration and sales, and place elaborate electronic signage and video boards facing the high-traffic, adjacent areas along Park Avenue.
Financial terms of the real estate venture have not been disclosed. But industry sources suggest that MLB, even after contributing up front to some of the tower’s development costs, will do far better than other city properties investigated that lease for more than $70 per square foot. Further sweetening the situation is that the space will be completely build-to-suit. In the meantime, the MLB Network will operate out of Secaucus, N.J., using the recently vacated MSNBC studios. The tenancy will be temporary, with the move to Harlem projected to occur in mid-2010.
The MLB-Vornado deal has not nearly been the end of the story. The project has sparked another feisty debate on the merits of gentrification and whether Harlem truly wants or needs an upscale commercial development such as this. Complicating that debate is roughly $20 million in city tax breaks that Vornado and MLB are believed to be seeking as part of the project. The pair of entities have received city planning approval for needed zoning variances to build the full 21 stories as intended, with city council authorization still pending.
While its distribution and headquarters location are under control, the network was pretty slow to find an executive to run the channel, especially when compared with other network launches. The NFL, for example, hired Steve Bornstein about 15 months before NFL Network launched in November 2003. Similarly, Jon Litner came over to work on SportsNet New York’s launch 13 months before that RSN launched in March 2006.
The list includes top media executives from various broadcast and cable channels, sources say. The new CEO will report to a board made up of five owners, two MLB executives and representatives from strategic partners DirecTV and Comcast. Tully has been tabbed as a likely COO candidate. The CEO also will “collaborate on a day-to-day basis with Brosnan,” according to a document Spencer Stuart sent to prospective candidates.
The Spenser Stuart group finally came down with recommendations for the top spot at MLB Network, and the job was offered to Tony Pettit in April 2008. This gave the highly motivated executive a mire 8 months before signing on for the first time for the network. Pettit’s position to manage the daily operations of the MLB Network came with very high references from his former employer, and a key allies in baseball front office.
Petitti resume showed outstanding points of interest for MLB, and a firm background in media. Pettit attended Haverford where he majored in economics before attending Harvard Law. He worked for two years at the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft before joining ABC Sports in 1988 as general attorney. After being named Vice President of Programming, where he was responsible for acquiring and scheduling ABC Sports programming, he was hired by CBS in 1997 as Senior Vice President of Business Affairs and Programming. In December 2005, Pettiti was named Executive Vice President, CBS Sports and was responsible for all day-to-day operations of CBS Sports, where he was largely responsible for the network’s NFL coverage. He basically, was held responsible for everything you see on the Sunday telecasts nationally.
It was announced on January 3, 2008, that Mr. Petitti would be placed in charge of day-to-day operations of CSTV , the college sports network that is being absorbed into CBS sports, effectively replacing network co-founder Brian Bedol , who had been serving as president of CSTV since the network was purchased by CBS Corporation in 2005. CSTV was renamed the CBS College Sports Network on March 16, 2008. Pettit a few weeks later decided to venture into the new frontier with MLB and lead the new network.
So with a high profile CEO now in place of the new network, MLB executives started planning to approach top-tier corporate sponsors such as Chevrolet, Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi to pitch presenting sponsorships that will integrate the company identities deeply into network content.
As for MLB Advanced Media, baseball’s interactive arm is barely mentioned in the Spencer Stuart prospectus, and the operation is not expected to be involved significantly in the network. The strategy differs sharply from those at the other major leagues, and in part, is designed to maximize the economic value of both assets.
Also at play is that both MLBAM and the MLB headquarters see the respective media product as very different, with the lean-back and lean-in fan experiences quite separate and distinct. Similarly, there is currently no set deal for MLBAM to operate the network’s Web site once it launches.But asked if MLB Network, already on a faster growth curve than even the triumphant MLBAM, will ultimately overtake its Web counterpart in size and scope, Selig demurred. stating, ” Only time will tell.”
It is said that the MLB Network actually might have begun about 4 years ago somewhere in the current World Series hamlet of Philadelphia. Now you never know, but it could have been conceived at that religious corner of Geno’s and Pat’s over a modest cheese steak, or a simple order of fries. How the meeting came to be is not as important as the first few months of the new network.
In August 2004, the head cheeses of all 30 MLB clubs ownership approved funding to start the all-baseball media channel that has evolved and transformed in the past months from a wide idea and concept to a cleaner product here mire days before debut on January 1, 2009. The owners’ were originally willing to accept carriage on cable and satellite’s sports tiers, and would feature a programming lineup without the the help of live games during the debut of the network.
MLB ownership did not think the network could see a profit, or even generate any income until maybe the 6th season on the air. The idea that the MLB Network would not use live games came under quick scrutiny and was open by a broadside of critiques from all sides of the fence. Media outlets wonder if the venture was necessary given the abundance of televised games and already established contracts within the 30 team circles.
Not lost on the medias’ critique wagon was the fact that this same concept had been brought up for the last 20 years, and why would 2009 be any different for baseball or televised sports in the United States. So why was it not that the traction developed for baseball to push forward with this venture and seek its own new revenue stream. The Network vote was not even the big news emerging out of those owners meetings in Philly, with Commissioner Bud Selig’s extension drawing most of the events attention.
Let’s fast forward to the anticipated New Years Day introduction of the new network and you will find out that most of the “planned programming and events” posted in memos’ or paperwork back in 2004 has gone the way of the trash heap. Rather than launching with roughly 15 million subscribers on the various sports tiers in both outlets current programming options, the MLB Network will now begin their programming on January 1st with over 50 million possible on digital or expanded basic programming. Making it a event worthy of even the MTV initial broadcast, and might blossom into the biggest successful network launch in cable TV history.
Early programming will include portions of MLB’s current project, the World Baseball Classic set to resume in Spring 2009, and a nonexclusive Saturday night, regular season game package that will rivals ESPN College Football Pay-Per-View program. Complimenting this will be a high energy mixing of highlights,studio programming, and more depth into development leagues and international baseball news.
Also currently evolving is the networks first strike at the “ESPN Baseball Tonight” current dominance in the industries inside sources and programming perks to viewers. Does this mean that MLB might censor some material for their network only and make it available to the public after airing on the new channel?
The channel will develop all these interesting moves from their new digs in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood, with MLB partnering with Vornado Realty Trust to build a dramatic new structure at 125th street and Park Avenue. The building will be high end from the get-go, and will be the first top-tier office complex to be developed in the neighborhood in decades. As we grow nearer to the debut date, the network will being constantly changing and adapting to the current baseball climate and on going formation of the network should be the talk of baseball until pitchers’ and catchers’ report in Feb. 2009.
With the current MLB labor peace well at hand, the onset of possible new revenues and attendance records all but certain this season, and the Mitchell Report finally fading into the night, the MLB Network should be the thing to watch in 2009. MLB officials are quietly reveling at their 20-year brainchild finally coming to the forefront and seeing the light of day. Profitability is now expected by the end of 2009, according to industry sources.
And by 2015, revenues from cable subscriber fees and advertising is projected to soar beyond $ 210 million dollars, with a net value easily exceeding $ 1 billion dollars. Thanks to the hard up sale from cable, the massive distribution for a vertically oriented outlet like MLB Network, will become the league’s key marketing and promotional outlet. With initial start-up costs put at the md-eight figures, the channels quick return on investment and high asset value will mark some of the easiest money MLB owners have ever made in baseball.
Media Industry spokesman say that Selig saw the potential for MLB Network at last season’s battles with the cable industry around the league’s out-of-market package, Extra Innings. But there were a lot of heated exchanges and questions raised about the upstart MLB Network as it fought cable television operators over carriage of the channel, plus keeping the out-of-market Extra Innings package intact.
In late 2006, it looked like a satellite provider, Direc TV might get the winning nod from baseball. It would have given the satellite provider exclusive access to Extra Innings, and an ownership stake in the new network. In exchange, Direc TV planned to launch the network to about 15 million viewers. MLB benefited from Direc TV’s strategy of trying to corner the out-of-market sports marketplace. Direc TV already had exclusive rights to the NFL’s Sunday Ticket and NASCAR’s Hot Pass. But once cable operators found out that Direc TV was to get exclusive access to Extra Innings as well, they revolted big time.
I am going to have to break our little blog up into two parts because it is about 1 am, and I have to get off here right now because some friends want me to hit the Emergency Room after a friendly game of Beach Football during a Christmas Party last night at a friend’s home on Clearwater Beach. I have to admit, me head is buzzing, and not from the alcohol anymore. So it might be a great idea to go get it check out before the holidays. Not that my hard head would damage anything, but I do like to remember things at times.
I will try and write part two while I am waiting to be seen ( you know it takes at least an hour ). I will then try and post it in the morning after I wake up. Hopefully, the hospital will have WiFi and I can get this done tonight before I forget all my facts. Anyways, I did not think I needed to go to the hospital since I made that bone crushing tackle in the open field and then got his knee into my right ear. But I guess the 48-year old corner can no longer put a helmet on it and not get injured. And by the way, my ear does look like a floret of cauliflower in the mirror……cool.
Baseball as always had a weird mindset in regards to a players’ weight. Certain players have been known to be able to gain tons of weight, and nothing has ever been said to them. A Designated Hitter could put on a few pounds of non muscle and people will value it as extra “hitting weight” or even leverage. It would be regarded as a upgrade in the power behind the bat at the plate, not as a designated seat at the suspect Chinese All-U-Can Eat buffet down the street. When it comes to weight, the power guys are the ones who can get away with it. But why can’t a pitcher?
If you are in a skilled position in the infield, it could be the kiss of death for you to gain a huge amount of weight. It would be viewed by these same people as a lack of focus and commitment to the team concept.That maybe your self control is anissue and you do not have the will power to push yourself away from the plate. If a second baseman should come in 15 pounds heavier, it better be in his arms and chest region, and not near the waist. For the skilled positions between the lines need to have their deer-like reflexes and players are expected to be jumping, leaping and scraping the clay to get to balls. Anything else would be a disaster.
So why is it that the odd call is coming from the media to bashing and badgering the fact that C C Sabathia is a big man. Granted, at 6 foot 9 inches he will have to have some weight to just survive. But since he is about to hit the scales at a easy 300 pounds, do you think the Yankees might consider him for a Jenny Craig model, or even institute a eating program to help him maintain his weight in the 24/7 city like New York. Is this subject even coming up because of the amount of the pitcher’s contract, and New Yorkers are questioning something they all know can kill them, much less a pitcher on the stadium mound. Can the hounds of braodway really be so concerned with Sabathia’s figure even before he officially reports to Spring, or are they looking for a svior for the city to all lose weight?
But why is weight being thrown out so early in the guy’s New York tenure. It is not like he came into the first Press Conference at 220 pounds and he was seen at Serendipity III scarfing down a $ 1,000 dollars worth of fudge sundaes. He has not even hit a scale, or even thrown a pitch, and the city is obsessing about a fact of life for him since he was a child. He is big and he always has been big, and he is proud of it all. But why now are people condemning or even questioning a wide girth in the Big Apple, it is not like he is the first big guy to hit the field for the Yankees. Just because you have a few extra pounds on your bones doesn’t mean you will be open to injury or even performance problems with the size. Or is there a stigma to weight and the pitching performance in pinstripes. I always thought stripes made you look thinner and taller?
Come on people, Mickey Lolich, Rick Reuschel,Sid Fernandez and old Yankee “big boy” himself, David Wells, all carried a few extra pounds and performed pretty well for themselves and their teams. None of these guys would ever be considered role models for the obesity challenge for our youth today, but they are defintely performance role models in the way they played the game and competed in this league day in and day out on the diamond.
If you want to add another large guy to the fire, how about Fernando Valenzuela. You have a list above that did pretty well in the annuals of baseball. You have a heavyweight group that produced 17 All-Star pitching selections, a perfect game, a no-hitter, and a few top 5 votes for the Cy Young award. But then you might also forget about a guy who was dominating as a big guy pitcher early in his career. A pitcher who had a 2.28 ERA before deciding that his bat had more power than his arm. Consider what Babe Ruth could have done if he stayed on the mound instead of want to hit every day. If he had continued to play both positions, would there be any debate as to if he was the best player to ever play baseball?
So why is it that a 28-year old pitcher, just maturing in his career, getting the ” what if..” treatment lately. Is it just the fact that he just signed a monster contract that might even dwarf the post-game meal table in the Yankees’clubhouse, or is it a precursor to how he is going to be treated in the Bronx. Is this just a sample of the treatment he will get if he goes even .500 this season, or misses time due to injury? C C Sabathia is coming to the Yankees with a pretty solid set of career numbers for a guy his age. He entered the majors for the first time in 2001, and since that time he has accumulated statistics to put him in the top 10 in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins since his first professional pitch. But as Janet Jackson once sang, “What have you done for me lately?”.
So why is it that the media is now putting up a high weight issue so far into the off season. Can they at least wait until the pitchers’ and catchers’ report to Tampa, Florida for the Yankees before throwing out a cautionary yellow flag. Who is to say that Sabathia is not at home right now in California doing some crunches or even a few miles on a treadmill getting into shape to impress the Yankees faithful. He has been called a fitness fanatic when it comes to training, or is the media just taking that as word speak and not even trusting anything right now.
Who are these media guys who run for the Press Box buffet area and drink free sodas and coffee until it comes out their eyes. Seriously here people, can we give the guy the next 55 or so days to relax before you throw him under the microscope for the next 7 odd years. And with that in mind, do we expect him to go 11-2 with the Yankees, with a 1.65 ERA just as he did when he left Cleveland Indians for the Milwaukee Brewers in the middle of 2008. Will there be a lynchmob mentality if he even stmbles out of the gate and has a few bad outings. Will the media start to bring up names like Carl Pavano, or even Mike Hampton if a simple injury hits him early in the contract.
People forget it takes a bit of watching tapes and even facing a guy until you can get his timing and see his mannerisms on the mound. That might be one of the reasons he dominated so early in the National League. They are not used to a power pitcher like him barreling the ball in there. For years, the National League has been the finesse league, where a breaking ball pitcher can reign supreme. Most of the hitters’ in the American League still have scouting reports and even huge amounts of tape on Sabathia. We forgetr that he has only been out of the AL for a short period of time. Hitters have faced the big man before, and know what to expect out of his left arm. So why is it that people are questioning this guy because of his girth without even throwing a pitch in 2009. He has done great since 2001, think about that, that is almost 8 years up in the show, and they still treat him like a unknown at times.
Are they really expecting this guy to go into the New York summer without being in great shape. Come on people, this guy is a professional athlete, and if he struggles because of conditioning, are we going to blame him, of course you will. Or is the Yankees strength and conditioning coach going to get a royal smack down for not keeping tabs on his players. Could we have a sweat-gate conspiracy because of a little heat fatigue. Do you really think this guy doesn’t already know what it is like to pitch in the 98 degree heat in New York or Boston. Seriously folks, he did pitch in it last season against the New York Mets, and he is still not a blob of sweating jelly on the mound. Give the guy some credit, he has been here before.
But then you also get the self-fitness sportswriters’ who themselves have not lost a pound since their 20′s, who think that a slimmed down Sabathia would be a huge upgrade for the Yankees in 2009. So what you are telling me sports gurus is that weight can be a factor for injury considerations? You mean that you are willing to state your reputations and jobs on correlating size with injury? Really now, and where are you going to dig up this information. Will you devise a secret, totally unknown source in the fitness world who will swear a slimmed down Sabathia will prevail in pinstripes.
Do you forget that it is not just your size, but the extreme measures of lean body mass, training, conditioning, power, endurance and above all strength that can be the cornerstones of a great fitness program. Just because you might have a spare tire around your waist doesn’t mean you can’t run a mile, or even dunk the ball through the hoop, people do that every day in their respective leagues. Former NBA star Charles Barkley comes to mind real fast here. Don’t you think that mass might just be a part of the puzzle, but not the sum of all the parts here. So you are telling me that a well trained athlete, even if he is a pitcher of wide girth, can not control his mass and properly coordinate his muscles to maximum effort. I thought that was what off season conditioning was all about for baseball players. But for you to even suggest a slim down, or even a change in body proportions, it comes with some warnings.
Who are we to even question Sabathia’s off season training yet. He had probably been doing the same routine for years and he has done just fine so far. Or is it because he is about to hit the major microscope center of the free world that it is even being questioned now? And even if the team and Sabathia wanted to maybe drop about 30 pounds, could that effect his performance, or enhance it.
If you go by a past big guys results, you might want to even rethink having Sabathis even look at a Slim Fast shake. If you remember, Fernando Valenzuela was pressured while with the Los Angeles Dodgers to lose a few pounds because his waistline seemed to be growing. Valenzuela lsot the weight and could not seem to get anyone out at the plate.
It is said that sometimes losing weight after you have systematically gotten your body used to throwing within a certain mass can effect the pitching sytle, and might even ruin your old natural throwing style. So would you want your newest millionaire pitcher to lose 30 pounds, then become another batting practice dummy up there throwing gopher balls to the masses. I am not aying that will happen to Sabathia, but the situation is totally not out of context.
By losing weight, a pitcher can lose vital mental spots in their delivery. You might not have the same follow through to the plate, or might seem to be rushing your pitches when in fact it is the same delivery you have done for years. So is it an advantage to be a slimmer pitcher after you have had a paunch in your middle? The answer is no. Now that is not to mean that a gradual slim down could not benefit you, but then you have to adjust your mechanics to fit your new body or risk injury.
So when Sabathia hit the scales in Tampa in a few months and might show a few pounds off, should you worry. I do not think you need to worry, he will always be a big guy. And you got to remember, that he has gotten bigger since his debut in 2001, and he has made some pretty good adjustments in his game.
Even if he did lose 20 pounds, you have to be happy that he is taking this huge contract on with conditioning, power and endurance. So as we get close to the beginning of the 2009 season, are you really worried C C will not be able to take a huge bit out of the Big Apple?