Knology Cable is a piece of _____
I just got off the telephone with my current cable provider, who has decided to not carry the Sunshine Networks broadcasts of the Tampa Bay Rays games this season. They said they decided that since Sunshine Network does most of the Florida Marlins games, they would not appeal to South Florida fans. First off, I do not live in South Florida, and I have been watching Tampa Bay Lightning games on the network for about 10 years. I did not get into the particulars about the cancellation of the broadcasts because this woman did not deserve my anger. But I did find it funny that Fox Sports Net, which owns Sunshine Network, is to broadcast 150 Tampa Bay Rays games this season.
So what is the real deal? Are they going to try and extort a few extra dollars per month and put Sun Sports on a Sports package so we can watch our games. I know I am about to throw their DVR out in the road and do not give a damn about their equipment right now. So the change will effect at least 75 games this season. And guess which game was the first to be blacked out? If you said last nights 7-2 Rays win in Fenway, you win a stuffed animal. Not that I am screaming about having to go to the sports bars and actually watch sports, but the beer is colder and the wings cheaper in my house. So I am going to have to find suitable bar stool for the next 74 games in a lounge that caries MLB.TV.
I know I might be able to watch the game son MLB.TV, but at night my room mates kids use the computer between 6-8 to finish homework or do their research papers. I am a second class citizen in my home because of this cable fiasco. But this might be the last straw. Both Bright House and Verzion Fios is looking pretty attractive right now. I already called them and they confirmed that all 150 Rays games will be presented on their networks. but that is not the kicker people. Knology also has backed out of even considering adding the MLB Network to their system. Okay, I was calm until they told me that, then I am now doing the math to get them out of this house, and some respectable cable into my television.
I am past upset at this point, until I browse over both Bright House and Verzion’s websites and see not only that the games will be on their system, but way down there in the bottom of the listing is three holy words: “The MLB Network”. I know MLB is not one word, but you can see my excitement that they are carrying the programming, and now I can enjoy it with the rest of you. I have been feeling like the guy typing on an old IBM 386 computer with AOL 3.0 since January. Now, in less than 2 days ( they are quick) I will have HD quality MLB Network, and the last 148 Rays games at my disposal. Plus if I am a good boy, I am getting $ 150 back…….someday.
Rays Doing it “The Rays Way”
When Rays Manager Joe Maddon took the Rays coaching position a few years ago he stated he wanted to change the way of thinking in the Rays clubhouse. With his years in baseball, Maddon had seen that attitude and confidence can sometime overcome the biggest obstacles. He instilled a new way of even playing on the field. And his 2009 team is so primed into that frame of mind that the unusual plays are beginning to look simple and planned out. Maddon loves to run, he is also a huge fan of “opportunity hitting.” Basically, he is a huge fan of the way most National League teams win in the major leagues.
The acts of bunting, pressuring the opponents defense, and also taking advantage of what they give you are key components to the Maddon machine. Let’s take a look at a few pays in last night’s game to illustrate that fact. In the third inning, Carl Crawford hit a ball down the first base line that might have been a sure fire double play a few years ago. But running towards second base at that time was Jason Bartlett, who got a good jump on the ball and forced Kevin Youkilis to throw above him as he was sliding into second base. The ball ended up rolling into center field and both Crawford and Bartlett were safe on base with no outs.
That ended up being a key moment in the game for two reasons. It gave the Rays a bases loaded situation with young slugger Evan Longoria coming up, plus it opened the Red Sox eyes to the fact the Rays are going to play aggressive baseball this year. That style of run-and-gun actually fits the young team. they have very speedy guys who can contribute amazingly on base, and even some of the veterans have been known to throw their body into steals and even bunting so far this year. The second big thing about this play was the fact they got into Youkilis’s head. He committed a rare error on the play, and it stayed with him the entire game.
But the best example of this new style inaction came in the Rays big fifth inning. With Gabe Kapler on third base after Akinora Iwamura completed a perfect hit-and-run to put both men on the corners with no outs. Jason Bartlett, who was hitting in the lead-off spot tonight, then put down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to score Kapler. Bartlett put the ball down towa
rds the first base side of the plate, and Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester picked the ball up and hesitated for a moment before tossing it to Jason Varitek, who was upright in front of the plate. The play was doomed from the start for Boston. It was a perfect bunt on a situational hitting style that is very popular in that “other’ League.
But that is the way Maddon wants his Rays to play in 2009. Aggressive play will be tolerated and encouraged. Take last night’s double steal by Bartlett and Gabe Gross, that is the style of play that puts huge pressure on the opponent’s defense to then make plays. It is also the style the team played in 2008, but this year they seem more at ease and more determined to make the system work for them this year. The Rays have the potential on their roster to again lead the major leagues in steals. But I know there has to be a statistic out there somewhere to show the effectiveness of using this style of play both in 2008 and this year. Somewhere there is a fact and figure that will tell you that the Rays also lead the MLB in those situational plays. And if there is not, they might as well invent it…….this type of play is not going away in the Rays games.
Kazmir is Grounded
Scott Kazmir ( 1-0 ) seems to be having fun on the mound again. And that is not a good sign for the rest of the American League. But he did have a few unusual thing happen to him last night. First thing is that he actually got through more than 5 innings of work by actually throwing his unusal 111 pitches in 6.0 innings. But that is where the similarities ended for a usual Kazmir night. Last night also had a weird twist of its own, he posted 4 strikeouts on the night. Two of those strikeouts cam early in the first inning. He got Kevin Youkilis on a nice change-up for his first strikeout of the night, then took out former Rays Rocco Baldelli for the second strikeout to end the Red Sox rally with two men stranded on base.
He peppered two more strikeouts throughout the appearance, while also not having a ground ball out recorded until the fifth inning. And that out was a nice grounder to Evan Longoria at third base that he easily converted for the third out of the inning. you heard me right here, he did not record a defensive putout on the ground until the Red Sox’s 15th out of the game. This is a new wrinkle in the Kazmir arsenal, but it might not happen every night. His fastball and cheange-up are still his primary pitches, but his slider is coming along great and will add to him becoming a more complete pitcher. No longer does Kazmir have to throw total heat to get outs. His strikeout totals might suffer, but his win totals might balance that out for him.
Wild Facts That Made Me Go Hummmmmmmmm
Before last night’s 2-run homer to true center field in Fenway Park, Carlos Pena has connected on 77 homers in the last two full Rays seasons. It might have been his first hit of the season, but it is also his statement that he has found his swing again, which is trouble for everyone else in the AL.
Also on the Home Run front was Evan Longoria poking a ball over the Green Monster and reminding the Boston faithful that he is also ready to go this year for the Rays. Longoria, who went 2-5 last night is feeling more comfortable in his three slot in the lineup. Longoria could have increased his RBI total last night, but instead hit into a double play in the third inning. Iwamura scored on the play to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
The Rays will have to become early Road Warriors this season as they will play 22 of their first 35 games on the road. Also a little known fact is that the Rays have now started the season on the road consistently since 2005. the Rays have petitioned MLB to start their season at home in 2010. In the past the team has requested the road first and gotten it without a hitch. But in 2008 they originally asked to start 2009 at home and the request was not granted to them.
It is sometime hard to believe that Rays starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, who already owns several Rays lifetime pitching records is only 25 years old. He is still the youngest member of the Rays starting rotation, even though he now has 47 major league wins. It is still amazing that we consider him the old veteran on the rotation, and he is the youngest one of them all. When David Price come up this season, depending on the date, he will be the youngest on the rotation, but will be either 23-24 years old depending on the date ( August 26th birthday).
The Rays have again partnered with the Boston-based pastry power for 2009. “When the Rays win, You Win” promotion will again be held in 2009, but there will be a catch. Unlike 2008, when you could go into any Dunkin’ Donuts and tell the cashier, “The Rays Win” to get a free sugary donut. This season the franchise has added that you must purchase a beverage to get your free doughnut. The added beverage addition probably will not stop most Rays faithful from getting a free sugary snack in the morning. Maybe it was those 280,000 plus free doughnuts in 2008 that paced this change in the policy. Yummmmmmm.
Photo Credits: All Photos were taken by the Associated Press by photographer Elsie Amendola