May 2009

Rays Concert Hit first Sour Note

 



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I was going to originally write this blog about 10 minutes after getting home from the Rays Sat. night game and post-game concert by 3 Doors down. But at the moment I was a bitterly upset and decided to instead watch Bad Boys 2 on DVD and try and learn via the video the aspect of “Woo Saaa”. You might remember the part in the movie where Will Smith turned Martin Lawrence’s life upside down again and he used this oriental figment of some scam artists rendition of meditation exercises to get rid of stress and anger in the movie.

But at that moment in my house, the dog was hiding and the kid did not enter the  television room. The voodoo vibe was all over the house………….Stay away or the monster might get you. I was snarling and growling like a pit bull on crank, but the movie did take my focus to another place and ease the situation. Now I am not a person who erupts at all in anger or issues spiteful words about things, but last night I had a fuse the size of a gnat. I have to apologize to Eric Weisberg, who is the Senior Manager of Customer Service for the Rays. I know I was spiting some fire from my seat towards him last night, and unfortunately he wandered by at the wrong time. Now I was all set to burn up his ears and the Internet with tales of woes and some personal gripes of my own, but thankful for everyone involved the music was too loud, and the bass was drowning out my voice to him.


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So I went around the stadium and did some investigating and seeking some answers to some disturbing things happening around me that night. But after a night sleeping, or trying to calm down and rest is more like it. When I did get up after 9 am, I went online and clicked on the St. Petersburg Times entertainment section and got their take on the entire concert, and it seemed to me that they must have been at another concert, or maybe stayed for 15 minutes of the show.

But then again, I have come to find that certain papers in this region have gone from the Fifth Ward fearless bravado I learned in Journalism classes in college in the early 1980’s to the subtle, “Can I print this?” questionable media membership today. Am I wrong to think they are now printing the “happy, Happy Joy Joy” editions too often in Tampa Bay? But that is just my opinion, or at least this lead into their story on the concert might tell you something:

Here is the beginning of the concert review posted in their entertainment section for May 31st Sunday edition:

” Listening to live music at Tropicana Field is like sticking your head in an aquarium while your next-door neighbor blares his radio at full volume.
I mean no offense to the Tampa Bay Rays when I say this, of course. Their postgame concert series is the bomb, for three reasons:
1. Baseball.
2. It’s free.
3. If you still need a third reason, you’re insane. “

And people, that was the lead into the  events story about the Trop’s concert. There were other things that were playing behind the scenes that got me into my tizzy in the first place. Now granted, I am not one of the “worthy” high-priced full Season Ticket holder who got a wrist band last night either, but that was for a logical reason. I was not in the pre-determined section(s) before the season to be granted them this year. But the people between the Rays Bullpen and the Visitor’s Bullpen area who had full season tickets did get their wristbands.

The wristband cut-off point was based on the estimations of the St. Petersburg Fire Marshall and the Rays to the total amount of people who might venture on down to the turf for a closer view of the concert. That is fine, understandable, and totally within logic and safety. Kudos for thinking of the fans safety and any emergency situations. I actually acknowledge that was a great idea to keep some of the pushing and shoving to a minimum that happened in 2008.  They could enter through two access points in the outfield and sprint to their spot among the masses on the turf in front of the stage.

What I found kind of counter productive was the fact this section was the area where the stage faced for the concert. The Rays basically let those sections come down and enjoy a up close and personal concert experience and opened their seat to General Admission seating for the concert. That is where the first problems seemed to crop up quick on Sat. night.


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I heard from four different Season Ticket holders who did not want to venture to the turf, but wanted to sit in their seats and were asked to move by other Rays fans. They had gotten up to go to the rest room or to get something to eat or drink since the vendors were no longer in the sections with beverages while the concert stage was being set up. They returned to find they had lost their seat and their stuff was moved without their consent from their seats.

All under the guise of “General Admission seating”. Now that is something that might have to be addressed on a individual basis with the Rays Fan Host in that section in the future, but you would think if you paid big dollars for your seat for the game, the event afterwards would also entitle you to stay in your seat and enjoy it too. This is a minor thing to fix, and I can bet it will be addressed before the next event in two weeks featuring Ludacris.

Another thing I brought up to two Rays third floor employees I saw early on Sunday was the discovery that someone had bought a large amount of the same color wristbands and were selling them in the Trop before and during the concert. Not only is that a bit upsetting, but it makes the safety precautions made by the team and the city of St. Petersburg seem a bit useless at the time.

I can attest to two people trying to sell me wristbands for only $5 to get onto the field. And another promised me he could get me them for future events. Now I might seem like I am trying to ruin it for other people by telling the team about this, but I feel it might put someone out there who might cause a problem, or even cause an injury and ruin it for everyone else. I know a few of the people working the Rays Security have also learned of this, and any counterfeit or illegal wristbands will be addressed within the next two weeks.

I mean I am not happy to sit in my section and listen to a concert where the bass was so pounding you could not even hear the lead singer sing a few of the songs. I did record a short portion of one of the song on my digital camera, which is the short clip posted at the beginning of  the blog tonight. It did record a bit better than it sounded at the time. But I did decide to try and see if my area was the only one with the sound problem last night. I eventually wandered over to the Home Plate Club and sat for a song and tried to get a good view of the stage, but the bands lighting system made it difficult to see them while they were performing.
 

I can tell you that the astronauts in the International Space Station could have seen the drummer in his high and mighty drum stand last night. The music also was reverbing all over the back walls of the Trop and made general announcements and voices over the microphone just run all over each syllable and rendered them mute to your ears.

I also decided to take a stroll up into the 200 and 300 sections of the upper decks of the Trop both towards the home plate regions of the stadium and got the same responses to the music. More bass than vocals were coming through, plus the reverb off the back wall in the 300 sections almost made the songs sound like gibberish than musical. But that is possible because of the general acoustics of the dome and not something based solely on this night’s concert. I have to be honest with you, I have never sat in the upper decks of the Trop and watched a game in my life. I might have to do that soon to understand some of the dynamics of sitting up there.


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As I was heading out of the stadium at 8:10 pm, which was a good time before the concert was over, I decided to go sit in section 147 behind the stage and see what it sounded like in that region of the stadium. I am so glad I was in Section 138 in front of the event after sitting back there for a spell. Not only did you get the reverbed music coming off the back wall, but it seemed a bit modulated by the time it got to you and was not enjoyable at all. But the idea of moving into the other sections vacated by the wristband army is a great idea since the acoustics last night were equal to a cave, or like the Times said, “An Aquarium.”

I was told that things were going to be under advisement from some reliable people within the Rays organization. I mean I could see a bit of hesitation when I came down before Sunday’s Kid Autograph session and spoke to them on the rails. I kind was looking for  future answers without upsetting the slim balance I have with the Rays. I mean I am not a trouble maker, but I do hear a few rumors and situations that most people never hear about during my short walks through the stadium.


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You know, as I am writing this I am feeling better already about the events planned for the rest of the year. I know the Rays were probably experimenting and have alternative solutions already in their minds as to ho
w to make it better in 2009. I love the band featured last night, and that might have played a big factor in my mood. But after some smiles and reassurances “off the record” that things were going to get better from numerous people within the third floor regime, I am positive things will only get better for the Saturday Concert series.

I hope so, I am looking forward to Pat Benatar, Daughtry and Big and Rich in the upcoming concerts. Hopefully in two weeks I am writing about the Ludacris concert, which will be very bass involved with glowing reviews and positive feedback.

I have faith in the Rays organization turning some screws and fixing some leaky pipes and this concert series getting better every time. But the best line of the day from a Rays employee might be the fact we are 9-0 now when over 30,000 fans are in the house for these concert series events. His comment had me laughing the rest of the day in my seat. “Maybe we should have 81 concerts next season.” I  like that idea, 81 wins at home would be an awesome feat. I would really love that much music too, but it would drive all of you upstairs nuts, and drive the stadium workers off the deep end. But it was a great thought!

Will the Fans still Flock to the Trop?

 

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Sometimes people forget that here in Tampa Bay, the Rays fans are a bit new at this winning tradition and support thing. Our fellow brethren in the American League East, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have established these traditions over the 100 years histories. On the surface, it seems as though the Tampa Bay Rays  might be striving for after a successful 2008 campaign.

I can admire the courage and the determination it takes to follow a team with such traditions, but how is a team only around for 11 years to fight such a monster wall of expectations. First they have to strart with the general premise of just believing that the magic can happen a second time. Heck before 2008, the Rays faithful had only one season where we  could cheer and find success, and even that was only a 70 game winning season.

And because of that lack of solid confidence at times, I am tempted to remind people that there might be a short lived backlash into the past ways for general support by the fans if the Rays do not get off to nice winning streak to accent what transpired here in 2008. This area has always craved a winner. And with it hight numbers of transplanted fans, it can be murder to get a stadium filled with Rays fans when teams from the northest come to town. 

It is not like we have not had any sort of winning tradition in thsi area, but it has been a bit of time since the region embraced a team like the Rays in 2008. We have won Super Bowl trophies and Stanley Cups, but that World Series trophy was being salivated over by the millions who live in the Tampa Bay area.

 
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So are we to believe that the hysteria and the mass explosion of excitement will  still be high in the air in October, or will the fans abandon the team if they struggle to expectations of a successful NFL season. As fickle as it might sound, the team has only had that one brief practice into the realm of respectability. And because of that, there might be a slide or two late in 2009 due to the increased awareness that this team is coming to play every night or day now.

 

No more are teams being surprised or caught unaware of this teams potential and offensive firepower. The fact that the Rays have solid performers in the top categories of the offensive spots in the league shows they can produce at any moment.  Teams around the American League will not be resting players or even expect to sweep a series against the Rays any time soon. The air of uncertainty is gone from the Rays sails and they are on course to come into each contest as a stepping stone back to the promised playoff lands.

The Rays came out extremely hungry in 2009, but gotten beaten back by teams now that have extensive scouting reports and film on the squad. Because they have been in the classic, and they want to get back there as soon as possible. No longer is a series against the Rays considered a time to get healthy, or even take lightly. This team can handle anyone offensively, and that might be the telling tale of how far they end up going this season. If the offense stays hot, the pitching will find a way to come to close the gap and some of those games will fall into the Rays favor based on brute firepower and consistent pitching.

 

 
That sense of responsibility comes with the success of winning a  A L Pennant. You get a  huge target set straight on your back and you either back up your claims, or fall by the wayside and let the winners’ pass by waving at you. In the past, the Rays fans and the team have done a lot of waving at losing streaks and misplays in games.

But with a decimated defense and the Rays Bullpen comin9 together right now to find a way to win every night, it made for a more interesting 7-9th inning in games in 2009. Can they  still grow and build upon the past experiences and step it up a notch or two and finally contend nightly with everyone at anytime, or will 2009 just be a case of catching some teams napping and the Rays feasting on their opponents lack of aggressive motives.

 
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But what if the Rays do not  continue on improving and posting victories in 2009 ?  Will the “boo” birds be ringing in the papers and from the stands even if we  start off near .500 in June. Will the once vocal and energetic fans still come in bunches to every game, or  will they save their enegies and money only for the “Prime” games against the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees. 

Will another losing streak silence the cowbells and hide the home made signs for the blue and white clad Rays, or will the fan base again convert  back to whoever is winning more games at the moment. It is sad that the fans of the sport can change their allegiance so quickly when things hit a sour note. No team can win every series or even every game, but even a two-game losing streak can send some bandwagon fans scurrying for the exits.

 

That is the problem with living in a region that boasts only 10 percent population over 30 years of age who were born in the area. Everyone is from somewhere else in the country, or the northeast. And with that move came a sense of tradition in following your old team no matter what. But just because you have a relative or even a parent who is entrusted to another team, do you feel obligated to support your new local team.
 


I have always wanted to ask any of the Boston or New York faithful who come here if they support any of the other local NFL or NHL teams. Do they still hold a traditional place in their hearts for the Rangers or Giants. Or maybe even the Jets and the Islanders if you are from the Gotham city. And do all Boston fans still cheer for the Bruins and Patriots even if they might have down seasons or get eliminated early in the playoff races.

 

The pitiful thing here is I think the region is still polarized  and not committed to the Rays even after posting one of the best turnarounds in the annuals of baseball period. I hate to say it, but after years of other sports teams in the area not living up to expectations, could the Rays be bunched into that bushel of apathy after just a short time again. I think it is the Rays responsibility to keep a good product on the field and in the stands.

 

Fans will come for the games, but they also come for the entertainment before and after the contests in Tampa Bay. Some of the best attendance marks in 2008 came during the Concert Series on Sat night ( 8-0 ), when the team regularly sold out the entire Trop. so people could sing and dance in the aisle after the games. But do we have to be as gimmicky in 2009? I hate to say it, but we still have about a year before the rest of the Tampa Bay area can trust that the Rays are on the right path here. So let the music ring loud and proud in the dome.

 
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I think a good barometer of the support factor for the rest of the season might come in the next few weeks when the Los Angels Angels and the Philadelphia Phillies come to town during June. That is usually a good sign of the type of support and the excitement about the season.  

I know, I know, what else does the team have to do to show it wants to be winners, well it does go beyond the field. In the next few months the Rays marketing department will have ample chances to remind and entice the area’s fan to again come and support the team. Now you that the Sunday game will highlight most of the team’s giveaways in 2009, and that they are based towards the younger fans under 14.

The good part about this kind of giveaway is that it can boost the attendance based solely on the fact the kids are not coming to the game alone. A family of four can get tickets and a small meal for around $ 100, which is not bad for a MLB team. And with the Sunday events, the stadium is basically set up for the kids to have fun all day long. From face-painting to running the bases after the game, kids have the priority on those dates.

 
 

Fans in this area may have to make a firm choice in 2009. They might have to decide if the bandwagon effect no longer works for them, or they might just want to hop on board and be a full time supporter of the local team. Who knows what is going to happen inthe rest of 2009, but you can bet the team will fight until the last out in October in the 2009 season. I  not expecting a huge turnaround in 1 AP (After Playoffs) season after our sluggish start on the field to translate into huge rise in attendance numbers. But it is still early in the season, and the kids will be getting out of school for the summer soon, and that could drastically change the plan.

 

 

The team might be expecting a large increase during this time, but that will come with the team winning consistently again. I hate to say this, but this region is like a lot of small market teams, there is a lot to do besides baseball on any given weekend day or even weeknight. But if the support is truly there for the Rays, the team will again do everything in it’s power to showcase themselves again as the team to beat in the A L East.

But the crowd as a 10th man has been instrumental in the past in making the difference late in a contest.

So as I am again getting ready to go cowbell shopping for the second time in 2009, I am beginning to feel a tide turning in the Trop in regards to the hope and aspirations of the team.  I truly think that in the end in 2009 , there will be a closer contested divisional series than ever before in the A L East. There are three team poised to fight for the title, and 1 sitting back and might jump over the heap if we forget about them. I am looking forward to the first game, and cheering for my hometown team again.
 
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The boys’  have tried nightly to give the region something to be proud of, and might still be a bit shell shocked at the result in Cleveland. But the last few games at home have shown again that offensive might and  a team confidence can booast a team towards a win  The Tampa Bay area is proud of them and want to again show their spirit and energy to the team. 40-some days until the All-Star break and the  real guessing game starts all over again.

It seemed like just yesterday I was writing about the World Series match ups and the rain delays.  And the Rays and the Phillies get to relive it all again this month in a 3-game series at the Trop.  Hopefully World Series rematch number 2 will be a lot more exciting, and we know there will not be a single rain delay.

Let’s Go Rays!!!


Jason Bartlett = All Star

 


Gail Burton / AP

People have always looked to New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter as the symbol of what it takes to be a American League All-Star selection at that position. I mean the guy has the looks, the slick glove and the bat that always seems to hum at or above the .300 clip every season. For what seems like his entire career Jeter has had his name stenciled on the All-Star ballot, and been selected for the team based mostly on “what he can do for you in a pinch.” 

And that is a great quality for your shortstop aka field general to have because  consistent clutch performances earn you the big bucks and the true fans notice  these moments. So can we honestly say that maybe the Yankees famed number 2 is going to have a bit of competition this season for that coveted  All-Star nod?  I think this year he might still make the All-Star roster, but I am hoping he is not the starting shortstop in the game. I have another name in mind, and I think the statistics not only back up my selection, but also convince you he is the man for the job this season, and maybe a few more in the near future.

When the Tampa Bay Rays traded for Jason Bartlett in late 2007 with the Minnesota Twins they knew what he could do on the field with a glove and a sharply hit missile to the hole. They coveted this player who could be the stop-gap in the middle of the left side of their defense. That he could be the energy cell needed to shore up a team that has never had such a highly skilled infielder in the 6-slot. So when he finally got on the field in Spring Training 2008, people were still a bit curious about this guy who made his Major League debut in 2004 and only hit .083 in eight games.

But soon they could see the slick skills and the fluid movement he had with the ball. He had a new second baseman, Akinora Iwamura, who was coming over from third base, and Bartlett made sure to make time every day to spend some quality time with Iwamura to get a better feeling for each other and get an internal bond and thought process going that would eventually click for the Rays.  That is the mark of a truly professional shortstop. He made sure he had the bond with the one guy who could make or break this Rays defense for the team.

The names Bartlett and Iwamura were heard and seen a lot in boxscores and by radio and television announcers while completing double plays for the Rays.
The guy has been poetry in motion to Rays fans. Sure we had gotten shortstops before, heck we even had one standing behind Bartlett in centerfield  in B J Upton, who was drafted out of High School as the Rays shortstop of the future. But the year progressed and Bartlett seemed to get stronger and stronger in the position.

His skill set has always been strong, but with a renewed confidence and a determination to help the Rays first hit the .500 mark, then get their first post season berth, Bartlett led the way by example. The fact that the Tampa Bay Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) gave Bartlett the 2008 Team MVP award shocked some people, but if you really look at the feats and accomplishments of this first year Ray, you would see the game flowed through the 6-hole.

After the Rays were defeated in the World series by the Philadelphia Phillies, Bartlett went back home and began to make a transformation in his life. He got married, was blessed with his first kid ( a girl) and he also went through his first arbitration with the Rays getting a significant raise in pay ( $ 1.9 million) for the first time in his career. It seemed through all of this he had become more relaxed and focused when you saw or even spoke to him at the Rays Fan Fest in February 2009.
 

And that bode well for the team. Coming into Spring Training he had more security with Iwamura, and felt that he belonged here in Tampa Bay. He used that positive vibe to hit at a .327 clip for the spring. Showing leadership and  more confidence he appeared in only 19 games, but left an impression upon fans of some upcoming power and offensive fireworks for 2009.


Steve Nesius / AP


He started the season pretty much under the radar  as Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena were leading the majors in their categories as he slowly slid higher and higher in the Batting Average ranks during April. He had kept his focus to be above the .300 mark most of the month and then had an explosive first part of may that skyrocketed him to his present .373 mark. That mark is currently leading the Major Leagues in hitting. Not bad for a guy who was a secondary piece of a trade.

But there is another part of his game that is starting to show significant improvement this season in Tampa Bay. Last season, Bartlett did not hit a home run until the last regular series of the year against his old team, the Minnesota Twins. In that series he only had one solo shot, but it did make an impression on Rays fans. Some of us wondered if he had the power we needed out of that spot, or if he was just hiding it right now. He hit another during the playoff run, but settled for only two moon shots during 2008.

 

But that was a curious stat to people who did check out his former statistics before the season started in 2008. Because in 2007, he had 5 homers and 43 RBI, both career highs at the time. We started to wonder if maybe he had peaked a year before he got here. But with the start of 2009, there was a feeling of renewed vigor in Bartlett. He quickly started his average skyward, and his home run power seemed to come out of no where. The guy currently has 7 home runs, most of them great shots and is on the way to having the best season of his career.

So why should Bartlett, who is showing offensive savvy get a All-Star nod? Well, offense has always been a key indicator for the voting people in who they might consider for the All-Star team. Hopefully Bartlett can move up from the fourth spot currently behind Toronto’s Marco Scutaro, who is having a banner year himself in 2009, and new comer Texas rookie Elvis Andrus. But Bartlett’s current vote tally of 233,482 is considerably behind the American League vote leader right now, Derek Jeter with 664,630.

So we know Bartlett has the offensive skills to merit the spot. Is his defense really that good for the Rays? Considering the team went from a middle of the pack defensive unit to one of the best in the game in 2oo8, what do you think?  He has appeared in 44 games this season for the Rays and has help convert 19 double plays. Bartlett has 180 times so far in 2009 and has made 4 errors.  His .978 Fielding Average is on par with his peers in the league right now.  In close comparison, Jeter has 179 total chances and 2 errors and 21 double plays for a .987 Fielding Average.


Reinhold Matay / AP

So is Bartlett now a guy to be considered in the top tier of shortstops in the American League?  I truly believe he is in the top 4 in the league. I also think he has not even begun to show his top potential yet in the field. Some of the plays he tries to make deep in the hole, or over near the second base bag are ones that most infielders watch go through to the outfield without an sign of remorse. Bartlett now seems to grimace each time a ball goes up the middle or is hit above him towards leftfield. He is shoeing that primary killer instinct right now that is key among the league’s best players.

The only killer to this right now is his injury he suffered last Sunday during the tenth inning against the Florida Marlins. In that inning Dan Ugglas was attempting to steal second base and Bartlett put his foot on the bag to make Uggla go towards the outside the bag, and Uggla came in and clipped him with his spikes on the ankle. After an MRI and the medical staff calling for him to sit a few days, Bartlett finally was open to sitting the letting it heal instead of trying to play on it and risk further damage.

But with him out of the lineup, you have seen a completely different feel to the Rays defense right now. It doesn’t seem to flow with grace and ease, but is rushed and seems a bit timid at times. It misses its field general, the guy to pump up the infielders and make the assignments for the infield. They miss that main cog in their machine. Bartlett recently told the St. Petersburg Times, “Part of me wants to be selfish and just get out there and keep playing,” Bartlett said. “But if I do that I could make it worse and be out two-to-three months as opposed to a week or so. “

But believe me, the effort and the want to play and help his team has not missed the eyesight of Rays Manager Joe Maddon. He knows that Bartlett wants to play and contribute to the team. His finishing out the game that Sunday was enough to attest to the toughness and spunk of his shortstop. But after a ankle sprain was diagnosed, the decision was easy for Maddon. Risk losing a key piece of your puzzle for a week or so, or maybe lose him along with Iwamura for the season. The decision was easy for Maddon.

“It’s really unfortunate because this young man is having an All-Star season right now,” Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times. “There’s no getting around that, and that’s not made up by his manager, that’s pretty much what’s going on. All facets of his game have been spectacular. And we need him back quickly. … He was voted our team MVP last season for a reason, and he’s playing even better this year than last year, on all fronts.”  So you have to wonder after all that, does Bartlett have a chance to impress upon the American League All-Star Manager that he has what it takes to make the squad in 2009?


Gail Burton /AP

I am hoping that the fans and the players see his involvement and his accomplishments both in the second half of 2008 and so far in 2009 and get him voted into the All-Star game. He has the ability to shine brightly for the Rays in that game, and he would represent the Rays with great flair and confidence. But if he is not in the upper tier of voting and is not selected by the fans votes, he still has a great shot of getting to his first All-Star game. I think the AL All-Star Manager will see that the game needs a guy like Bartlett in it.

That his selection would help put the best talent in the AL against the finest the NL has to offer in a great contest. For this year’s game in St. Louis, I am predicting a shot for Bartlett on the AL All-Star team. Based on the early results he will not be the only Rays rep on the field that day. Evan Longoria is getting the top votes for the third base spot, and also pushing Jeter right now for the top vote getter in the early returns.
 

But most of all, Bartlett will not have to go far to show his skills to be selected to the All-Star team. That is because this season’s AL skipper gets to watch him 162 games a year and has seen just how far this young player had come in a short time with the Rays. Oh, did you forget, Maddon is the AL skipper this season, but if he picks Bartlett it will be on merit, not on fondness or an impartial vote.

Indian Raindance Ramblings

 
UPDATE:
 
 
Rays Television Network guru Todd Kalas just had Indians Ballpark Operations head honcho Jerry Crabb on the air telling us there is a rain cell heading towards the stadium, then we have some smooth sailing for a period of time. they are hoping to get this game in today and not have to think about alternative dates. The Rays have Lance Cormier throwing in the Bullpen. He will replace Jeff Niemann when play resumes today. Let’s all think dry thoughts.  Johnny Peralta will be on first for the Indians when we resume the game.
 
 


Kensaviation@Flickr.com

 Why is it I hear the BB Thomas song “Raindrops Are Falling on my Head” right now in the background on the stadiums speakers. Can’t we find a better rain song than that for the 21st Century? I am without words right now during this rain delay today in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Cleveland Indians again in front of the Tampa Bay Rays by only a 1-0 score.

My loss of verbiage is not due to the fact we have not had a glorious win in this park since Seth “Big Red” McClung matched pitch-for-pitch with a younger Cliff Lee to take a 1-0 win from the Tribe for the Rays last victory in then Jacobs Field. In that September 28, 2005 contest. Carl Crawford is the only Rays player still on the active Rays roster to be in the lineup for that game. 

He went 0-0 on that day and played a limited left field. Even on that day in September it was 74 degrees and cloudy, but there was not rain in the forecast. There are other still with the Rays who were in the dugout on that day in Cleveland, like Third Base Coach Tom Foley, Pitcher Scott Kazmir, and Senior Advisor Don Zimmer. That day also gave Lou Pinella his last win as the Rays Manager. It was the last sense of normalcy for the Rays in this park. Who would have ever guessed that this streak of doom would stretch to its current 16-game spot. Heck, lifetime the Rays have only seemed to taste victory. Today is our 918th road game of our young history. During that time we have only won 333 times, but only

My first trip to Jacobs Field on May 14, 2004 (There is that date again) was the first time I stepped into your glorious stadium during its 10 year anniversary season. The Sat. game was a rain delayed game, my first time sitting in the rain enjoying the drops hitting my skin. Even during that three game series we left the city of Cleveland wanting more as the home team took all three games from the Rays, with only that Friday night contest being close at all with a 8-7 Rays loss in the bottom of the 10th inning. 


Skurdrafan1@Flickr.com

But there were some reasons for Rays joy before that 2005 game. I mean we did win 3-in-a-row from August 12-14, 2005. That is right, the Rays wept the Indians that weekday series. But we also did it again in 2005 when from September 27-29th, we took two out of three to sweep the away series for the year from the Indians.

It was at that time the curse began. For on that September 29th game, the Rays started their unfortunate streak with a 6-0 loss to the Indians who were lead by a large guy by the name of C.C. Sabathia that day. No one on the current Rays roster was in the lineup for that first pinnacle game to start this streak of disappointment for the Rays. But there were a few familiar faces in the Cleveland lineup. Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez and reliever Rafael Bentancourt were in the line score for the first Tribe victory in the long line of embarrassing losses. But even before the 2005 last win by the Rays, they had only won a total of 12 games before McClung’s last hurrah for the Rays in the Jake. Think about it here, the Rays had a slim winning margin 12-11 before this string of disappointing results by the Cuyahoga River.

So just how bad has the 2009 season been here for the Rays during this four game slide? Well, they are hitting a nice .252 for the season series here (not counting today’s contest), but only scoring only 18 runs on 3 home runs and 5 doubles. But why is it that this stadium has a mystical offensive reversal on the Rays hitters. Well, it might not be a total setting of lack of offense as they have scored 18 runs in 3 games this season.
 

But theRays defense and the pitching have just seemed to implode and erode faster than some of the old steel infrastructure on the mills down by the riverside here.  I mean Carlos Pena hit his American League leading 16th homer in the first game here on Monday. Evan Longoria has extended his RBI total to 51 during this series, and Carl Crawford has stolen his 30th base during the series.

Offense has been online here in Cleveland, but the Rays usual stingy defense has taken a  short vacation during the series this year.  Cleveland has 6 players hitting over .333 in this series, including the main pest this season Ben Francisco, who has gone  5 of 11, with 5 RBI this season at home. But the real menace has been Ryan Garko who is 6 for 12 with 3 homers and 7 RBI. Both of those guys have made a significant dent into the Rays pitching staff this season in this series.  They have scored 28 runs and walked 15 times in the three games. Will today be any different? Can we maybe get some relief and comfort in today’s game to take into 2010 to know we can win in this stadium.

First thing we need to do is maybe get Sports Psychologist Ken Ravizza to hypnotize the Rays starters into thinking this is Fenway Park in 2010. Maybe an additional session will be needed for Andy Sonnanstine to see Ben Francisco as Shin-Soo Choo who was 0-5 against Sonnanstine in 2009. The fact that two of their three biggest blown leads have come in the last three games of this series is not an indication of a solid pitching staff right now.  We all know about the Rays being up 10-0 on Monday, then finally falling 11-10 after suffering through their worst blown lead in team history. So today is the Rays 50th game of the season. the only better record at this juncture in the season was in 2008, when they had a 30-20 record and were fighting for their first AL East title nightly.


RRCollections

The Rays do not currently have the worst consecutive loss record against an opponent yet. That record is still entrenched in a 18-game losing steak by the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Milwaukee Brewers in Miller Park. But with a loss today, they are closing in on that feat by only needing a single loss in 2010 to tie the record. Let’s hope that after this rain delay we can finish this game with a “W” and throw all of this out the window and start a new streak in 2010.  I mean 3-times this season the Rays have scored seven runs on the Tribe and lost the game. They are a combined 15-0 against all other teams in the majors after scoring 7 plus runs.  They are a combined 12-37 lifetime (.245) in Progressive/Jacobs Field. This the Rays worst record against any of their opponents in their short history.

We always thought in the past that divisional foes Toronto or maybe Baltimore had our number during the year, but wi
th the limited amount of games against the Tribe every year, they have owned us the minute we landed at Cleveland Hopkins airport. The Tribe has also been the worst foe in the Rays history in their own house. The combined overall mark of 31-63 is also the Rays worst record against any AL opponent. The Rays might have taken 3 wins recently from the Indians at Tropicana Field, but from 2006-2008, they have only 5 wins against Cleveland at home.  To add insult to injury here, they have not won a seasonal series against the Indians since 2005, thanks to that 5-1 mark against them that season.

          
           Cynthia1091@Flickr.com

Well, it is getting near 2:45, and looking on the Weather Channel radar for the Cleveland area, there is a patch of clear sky coming up after 3:30 pm today.  There is another round of showers heading towards the stadium area set to hit about 4:45 pm, so hopefully we can get the allotted innings in today, or at least maybe get a lead and hold it before heading for the plane back to St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport and a snug, comfortable night at home. I am hoping for a Rays win today to keep the plane ride back from seeming like a funeral wake, but with the history of the Indians versus Rays series.

But if we do not get this game in today and the umpires make the decision to call it a day, it is still not an official game. Both of these teams will have to decide on an alternative date to make up this one game. Both the Indians and the Rays have an open date teams have a open date on June 22. But that would have the Rays coming straight from their Inter League series against the New York Mets to Cleveland, then fly home to open a 3-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Indians would be just completing their weekend series against the Chicago Cubs, and could make a one-night stay in Cleveland before they again have to be on the road to Pittsburgh for a three game series. Right now, that is looking like the most logical spot to get this seasonal series over with for both teams.


Mark Duncan / AP

Another alternative is to play on July 2nd, when the Rays would have an off day coming from a three game series against Toronto, and then fly onto Arlington, Texas to take on the Texas Rangers for three games.  And that date might actually favor the Cleveland team the most as they will be at home for a 9-game home stand. So adding another contest in their off day on July 2nd might fit into their planning perfectly. But we still have not heard an official word from the umpires or anyone in MLB, so the Rays might be there for quite a bit still until an official alternative can be agreed upon by both teams.

I am putting my money on the July 2nd date only because it would give an advantage to the Indians as they can add on another date in the middle of a home stand featuring the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and the Oakland A’s, plus add one possible Rays game to that mix.

Never have the Rays had an opponent just reach down and take them by the throat than the Indians during this short history. Hopefully we can get this game completed and maybe take one and fly out quickly today knowing we can win in Progressive /Jacobs Field. But the skies have not lightened yet, and the rain is tapering off, but still puddles are forming on the tarp on the field.  And Drew Carey is somewhere doing a little didy dancing to some Tom Tom Club dance music just hoping for another Indian massacre.

M*A*S*H* 33701 Staff

 


Lynn Sladsky / AP

The roster of the Tampa Bay Rays is beginning to represent a television episode of M*A*S*H* 4077th right now. The recent flurry of injuries, both serious and treated with kindness have made this roster change shape in recent weeks. But behind the scenes, the sight in the Rays training room right now might not be as bloody or surgically fixated as the television show, but the drama and the extent of the injuries have made their medical staff one of the true treasures right now in the Rays organization.

Most fans have never heard the names Ron Porterfield, Paul Harker or Kevin Barr before during most of the Rays telecasts. They are a group of guys who try and stay beyond the cameras and beyond the eye sight of most people in the stands before, during and after most of the Rays games. But their contribution to the Tampa Bay Rays will now have a huge significance on what is going to happen on the field. You see, this trio is the conglomerate that is responsible for the well being and health of the players on our roster. Each one of them is considered the best in their field, and have served the Rays for several season in their respective positions.

With their state-of-the-art training complex and new and proven methods being employed daily, the medical staff is beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s take Rays reliever Brian Shouse’s injury first. After his first MRI, it was concluded that he might have a slight tear in his left flexor muscle right off the elbow. This would put the reliever essentially out for some time. But under further diagnosis and further testing, it was ruled that Shouse might have just a slight strain to the region and not need surgery at all. That diligence in finding the correct diagnosis might have cost the Rays the use of Shouse later in the season. Now after rehab and some carefully watched exercise and throwing sessions, he might again be back with the club a lot soon than originally expected. And that is huge as the Rays try and regain their core and take on the task of repeating their AL East title.

As we speak several players are also trying to get off the training tables and rehab assignments to bring some help to the slumping Rays. Designated Hitter Pat Burrell has missed 15 games now due to his neck stiffness. The team has been able to tread water to a 8-7 record since he went down, but his bat is needed to protect Carlos Pena in the lineup. Yesterday in Cleveland, Burrell was suppose to take some special individualized batting practice to see just how far he has progressed in his fight to get his neck situation under control.  The session was canceled after he was experiencing more neck stiffness. The team is tentatively expecting another try at Burrell going to the plate on Friday when they return to Tropicana field for their latest home stand. Hopefully on that day the Rays will have some good news on their ailing DH.

But then you have guys like Rays reliever Chad Bradford, who is right now on loan to the Rays Class-A squad, the Charlotte Stone Crabs for a rehab assignment. So far the prognosis is great for Bradford, and with the Bullpen right now a bit tired and weathered, he just might be ready soon to give some relief to his Bullpen mates.  His last appearance was on May 24th, and he went 1-inning and only gave up 1-hit in the appearance. The Stone Crabs have been victimized lately by weather as their last two game have been canceled due to the elements. But this week they are in Clearwater to play the Threshers, and the medical staff left behind on this road trip will be keeping a close eye on Bradford if he gets into any of these contests.

Another guy who is suffering from bad timing is Shawn Riggans. Earlier on in the season, Riggans went down with a bout of shoulder tendinitis and was set down for a few weeks before he was again allowed to participate in a throwing program. He went through the  throwing program set up by Barr and was ready to again try and hit a rehab assignment with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits.  Riggans went on up to Alabama and joined the team, but was quickly taken back off the roster after a sudden pain in his shoulder after throwing a pick-off attempt to first base during a game. He was sent to renowned doctor James Andrews in neighboring Birmingham, Alabama. After son consultation and recommendations from Andrews, Riggans was on his way back to St. Petersburg, Florida to again try all over again with the rest and relaxation program for a while. He is hoping to again be ready for a throwing program by the first week of June.


Lynn Sladsky / AP

Ron Porterfield probably had one of his worst days recently during Sunday’s Florida Marlins versus the Rays game. In the ninth inning of that contest, the Marlins Chris Coghlan came into second base to break up a double play opportunity and struck Akinora Iwamura in the left leg while it was still planted firmly on the infield clay. The result of the moving Coghlan into the rigid Iwamura made for one force taking damage on the other. Iwamura instantly went down and was in obvious pain on the infield. Porterfield rushed out their immediately and tried to ease the pain of Iwamura. The hardest part of this job might be the instant recognition of a bad situation and remaining cool and calm during this time is extremely difficult.

You could see on the replays during the injury time-out that Porterfield was not trying to stretch the area out or even attempt to have Iwamura stand based on the visual extent of the injury. He immediately asked for the crash cart to be brought out onto the turf and Iwamura was transported off the field to the rear of the Visitor’s Clubhouse area. At this time it is Porterfield’s job to ease the suffering and pain of Iwamura and give reassurance.  You have to guess he already had a opinion on the extent of the injury and was doing everything he could to mask the emotions and the conversation more towards positive elements. 

Iwamura was on crutches by the end of the game putting no pressure or force on his left knee region. He was then put in a car en route to St. Petersburg where a MRI was to be conducted this past Monday morning. He was not there when the results came in from the MRI in St. Petersburg as he was with the team in Cleveland for their four game series there before finally coming back to Tropicana Field. The results of Iwamura’s MRI showed that surgery will be needed to repair the ACL and a slight bit of damage to his MCL ligaments.

This will put him out for the rest of the 2008 season, and some speculate it might be his last time to put on a Rays uniform. But a planned surgery in the next two weeks after the swelling goes down and it is optimal to operate, Iwamura will get fixed up locally by Dr. Koko Eaton.

Later in that same ballgame, they again got called back onto the field after Dan
Uggla’s stolen base attempt. On that play, the Rays starting shortstop Jason Bartlett put his left leg in front of the base to attempt to make Uggla go to the outside of the base. Instead, Ugglas came in spikes first and clipped Bartlett on the top of the ankle, which resulted in him going down fast to the clay surface.  Again the medical staff went out there and performed some quick aid to relieve Bartlett of his obvious pain at the time. Bartlett did refuse to come out of the game and finished the contest and was getting more treatment as the team was packing up for their plane ride to Cleveland for the next series.

In Cleveland, it was decided because of the conversation with the medical staff that Bartlett should rest the ankle for a few days. Some say he could have played through the pain, but considering that Bartlett is a key element of the team again playing for that divisional title, precautionary measures were decided by Rays Manager Joe Maddon and the medical staff. Bartlett sat out the Monday game against the Indians and was set to have an MRI to check for further damage in the region. 

Because the MRI revealed a sprain, it was advised by the medical staff that rest and staying off the ankle would further the healing process. We all know that Bartlett would want to play, and might just do a good job even with a gimpy ankle. But the consideration of his total health was in order. A healthy Bartlett could help the team pick up the needed wins to regain some places within the division. If he re-injured it, or made the injury more severe, his participation might be hindered significantly the rest of the season.

Then you have people like Barr, who have designed the rehab programs for players like Fernando Perez while he is on the DL to increase his mobility and keep him in shape while he waits for further word on when he can begin a throwing program of his own designed by Barr. With his baby blue cast off his wrist you would think that the injury might be over and he can again take full baseball activities. But the wrist area is a delicate region that can be injured again quickly if the injury is not fully healed before a top workout begins. Perez was recently transferred to the 60-day DL, and it is thought he might not be on either a rehab assignment or playing before August 2009.


Lynn Sladsky / AP

The training/medical staff of the Rays is considered one of the best in baseball.  So who are these guys, and why should we be glad we have them on the Rays. Well, let me see if I can give you some insight to why we are lucky to have this trio in Tampa Bay.

First let’s start with the team’s Strength and conditioning Coach, Kevin Barr. In 2009, Barr will be presented with the Nolan Ryan Award, sponsored by Life Fitness. The award named after the Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, honors an outstanding strength and conditioning coach in professional baseball. The Nolan Ryan Award recognizes the coach whose accomplishments, in the opinion of fellow members of the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society (PBSCCS), reflects an exemplary dedication to strength training and conditioning. The award also recognizes the recipient’s professional and personal accomplishments as well as his integrity as a strength and conditioning coach.

You might recognize him more for his time spent out on the field during Batting Practice in the right field corner with the pitchers’ helping them both do stretching exercises and running drills. He also can be seen on the first baseline just before the game when the players come out to stretch before Rays games. He is one of the only people out there at that time not in a Rays uniform, and can be easy to spot. He is a key element to the consistent health and rebuilding of the Rays roster after an injury has been sustained by a player.

Most people confuse Paul Harker with a player since he is tall and built like a player. But it is his duty to assist Porterfield in any needs before after and during the game to prepare the Rays field players and pitchers for that days game. Harker joined the major league staff after serving for three seasons as the Rays Minor League head trainer.  He  first joined the organization in November 1996 as the trainer for the Class- A St. Petersburg Devil Rays before serving as Triple-A Durham’s trainer from 1998-2002. Prior to joining the Rays organization, Harker worked in the Seattle Mariners organization for six seasons. He is a graduate of Florida State University and is certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association.

But the guy most people know by his smile and his personality is Ron Portfield, the head honcho in the Rays medical corps. Porterfield is afraid to put a glove on and catch a bit with rehabbing players, or to just be a sounding board for a player trying out a new pitch or delivery. He is on one of the busiest people before the game for the Rays, and his training table area is also a hot spot for conversation and group conversations before the Rays games. Porterfield, spent his time as the team’s Major League assistant trainer before finally getting the top spot in December 2005. He joined the Rays organization in 1997, serving as the Minor League medical and rehabilitation coordinator for six years. Porterfield originally came to the Rays from the Houston Astros, an organization he joined in 1987 after he graduated from New Mexico State University.

In 2004, Porterfield was a member of the medical staff that received the Dick Martin Medical Staff of the Year Award from Baseball Prospectus. Porterfield’s intense computer research and commitment to helping Rocco Baldelli in 2008 get back to the field last August helped earn Porterfield the 2008 American Sports Medicine Institute Career Service Award.


So as you can see, the Rays have a well educated and knowledgeable staff to prevent and treat any aliments that might come up during the Rays contests. With new technologies and treatment systems being discovered daily, it is also their job to wade through the  published  treatment paperwork and computer postings to find the best injury solutions for the Rays players.  The commitment and the stamina displayed by these three guys should be commended.

They are the first line of defense to keeping these players on the field, and the last ones to insure they are ready again to play for the Rays. It is a tough job, and one that doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, but it is what they love, and what they are extremely good at doing. And we are lucky to have them here in Tampa Bay.

 

Explosion, Implosion, Devotion

 


Tony Dejak / AP

EXPLOSION


Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word explosion as: ” To burst or cause to burst violently and noisy.” Another definition shows it as:” To give forth a sudden and noisy outburst of emotions. ” Now that did sound like the last few days for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Since their Friday night game against the Florida Marlins here on the road, the Tampa Bay Rays have scored an amazing 39 runs in 4 games. 

That is just below a 10 run a game clip, which is unheard of for a team battling for the fourth spot in their division. But these Rays have always been about surprises and sudden bursts of emotion both this season and in 2008.
Coming into this game the Rays have scored a total of 273 runs. That is over 12 runs more than their closest rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

And with that  kind of explosion of runs  the Rays have won 7 out of their last 11 games and a rise towards the .500 mark for the first time since the team was 4-3 in April 2009. But the team is not just relying totally on their hits, no this squad also has a beady eye at the plate and  currently have 200 walks this season, which trails those same Dodgers by 8, but they are the leader in the American League right now.

The team has used a good formula of strong base running along with a keen eye at the plate to turn their walks into legitimate scoring chances almost every inning. The Rays are also seeing more pitches per at bat than any other team in the MLB right now. But they are still trolling dangerously at the sub .500 or .500 mark for most of this explosive time. Why would the team leading the majors in RBI with 259 this year be struggling to hold onto wins? Can the explanation be simple, or is there a underlying problem here we do not see yet.

Heck this Rays team has gotten 44 free passes (walks) in the last 4 games. They have tied the season high mark of 9 strolls to first three times during this road trip. Carlos Pena has even walked in 11 consecutive games now, a new Rays record. Pena now has 35 walks this season and is only one shy of Toronto’s Marc Scutaro who is tops in the AL right now.

And worst part of it all is that this is the Rays second best record after 47 games in their young history. There has to be a reason for the fall from grace of this team. Can you really throw all the blame on the pitching staff, or are there team effort mistakes that are making this a season to remember with mixed emotions right now?


Tony Dejak / AP

Implosion

The same dictionary shows the meaning of Implosion to mean: ” To burst or collapse inward.” Is that the problem with the Rays right now? Are the competition bursting some bubbles and exposing some of the weaknesses we have currently in our pitching staff. The Rays pitching staff after the fourth inning is going through a state of internal implosion in their minds and on the mound right now. You have to admit in last night’s game, both teams did their own special takes on the word implosion. 

Combined we saw over 19 walks in this game. Granted, these are the top two squads in the AL with walks, but it was downright annoying at times to see the strike zone get smaller at times during the contest. Not to be outdone by the walk total, both teams also combined to throw 422 pitches last night, which is tops in the majors this season by two squads. The Rays had their own share of 230 tosses in the game, which is the third highest total in team history. 

The game was an abnormality for both teams, but you can not let the history of this ballpark come up and snag you either.The Rays have now lost 14 consecutive games in this ballpark. The steak is the longest consecutive streak in any ballpark for the Rays.You have to go back to the days of ex-Rays pitcher Seth McClung as a starter to find the last win in Progressive/Jacobs Field. That was back on September 28, 2005, when McClung beat Cliff Lee.

But the implosion, for the second game in a row by the Rays Bullpen is starting to signal a  weakness in the Rays Way of relief pitching. I am not going to throw the Bullpen under the bus here totally, but someone has to take some of the past  two games failures under their skin and boast this Bullpen back up again. Is the way they are being used the culprit, or is this Bullpen right now not as good as the 2008 model? I mean we did lose another cog in Brian Shouse to injury in Sundays game, but can one guy be the key to the implosion experienced during last night’s game. Some sort of change might be needed, but where do you look first?

But if you look at the players who have been inserted in both the 5-4 walk-off loss to the Marlins, and in this contest, they are the regular guys mixed with a few of the “newbies”.  There is not a consistent plus or minus from any of the pitchers in either game to instill or conduct a massive witch hunt for a scapegoat here.  At least in Sunday’s loss the team was battling back and forth throughout the game until the Marlins plated the winning run in the 11th inning. In that contest, the word implosion is not fitting to use. The Marlins only came back from a single run down to tie the game, not 9 runs like the Indians did to the Rays last night. 

The implosion started with three quick singles to load the bases in the eight inning. The Rays defense did their part by getting a 6-4-3 double play and get two quick outs on the board. Considering the Indians got 4 hits in that inning and only scored 2 runs, it can be a minor “atta boy” for getting out without surrendering more. But the ninth inning is going to be the poster boy of implosive actions for this Bullpen for quite awhile.

Not only did the Rays use 4 pitchers to try and get three outs, but they used some of the tried and true veterans along with recent call-up Randy Choate. But then again, you had Choate and Thayer, the newbies in the Rays system as the first two guys on the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning.  As a bookmark for both of these guys to separate what the rookies did and the veterans accomplished was a nice high,wide and not very handsome throw by Ried Brignac at short to make the inning drag on more for the Rays.

Willy Aybar could have been LeBron James and he could not have had enough reach to get that ball from Brignac. Funny we are in the town of LeBron this week, and more people have seen Cavaliers’ basketball this year than an Indians game, and their complexes are right next to each other. Anyways, The Rays bring on the first of two vets in Grant Balfour with one out and a 10-5 Rays lead.  Hearing the Indians faithful beating the tom tom drum in the background Balfour get Mark DeRosa to line out to Evan Longoria.

Two outs and a 10-5 lead is still intact for the Rays.  Tom tom gets louder and Ryan Garko cracks a 3-run shot to left field that clears the high wall with ea
se. Now the stream of runs are beginning to flow for the Indians. They have gotten to within two runs at this point, 10-8, but have only one out left to play with here. From that point on, Balfour gives up a walk to Asdrubal Cabrerra to start the run carousel all over again.

He is replaced by former St Louis Cardinals’ closer Jason Isringhausen who the Rays signed as protection in case of some Percival problems this season. Izzy comes to the mound with the determination of Job, but issues three straight walks to score another Indians run and get the lead to within one run 10-9. Then the Indians protagonist for the Rays, Victor Martinez is up to the plate for the second time in this inning. His first at bat ended with the first out of the inning on a pop out to Longoria.  Izzy gets him to a 2-2 count before he hits a ball  on the ground between B J Upton and Ben Zobrist, and neither player can get the ball before the two runs score and the Rays go down again in Cleveland.


Lynn Sladsky / AP

DEVOTION

This is a word that can have many meaning to many people. It will depend on the way you have been brought up what this word means to you. Different religions and cultures have many interpretations of this word. But I like the fourth definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary : ” The fact or state of being dedicated or loyal “. I also think a great parallel word is fandom here.

I truly think this is the time we either go for gusto supporting this team, or you abandon the bandwagon and go about your life until football starts in August. Seriously here people, this is the time we can send a message to other fans around baseball. The Rays are having their second best season in team history after the 47 game mark, and people want this team to be comparable to 2008 (27-20). Look at that record. 27-20 last season is only  4 more wins than this season currently. Is that a good enough reason to bring out the “D(evil)” word again in referring to this team?

I hope not. Devotion and support of this team will be the hidden treasure in 2009. They told us last season if we had a winning season the fans will show up. Well, so far this season they have shown up in moderate numbers, but we still have huge teams coming in future home series that will spike the attendance marks higher and higher.  This is not the time to even think of digging out those other jerseys to wear, or caps to adorn your head. That famous phrase, “When the going get tough, the tough get going” really needs to shine right now in Rays-land.

The last two game have been disappointing and miserable during our Memorial Day weekend, but it is only the cusp of the season to come for the Rays. People use this as a benchmark for if you will be successful the rest of the season. Well, Toronto has finally fallen from the top of the grid, and the Rays are sitting only one game below .500 right now. Just to give you some insight, at this point in the season in 2007, we were 19-28, or 4 games worse than 2009. This is the time to rally and show we can beat those Indians in their stadium.

We will send the most consistent of our pitchers to the mound tonight to try and spark the Rays and demolish the Indians hold on the Rays.  With a win tonight, we will still be 4 games off the 2008 pace, but baby steps will get us back in line soon enough to again take on the top of the division.  I will leave you with a few words from the modern baseball philosopher Bruce Springsteen who said, : “Some guys they just give up living, others start dying little by little piece by piece, some guys come home from work and wash up, and go racing in the streets.”

Play Ball!

My 500th Submission……..What a Ride !!

 


www.tbo.com

There is celebration in the air again. That is right, there is champagne, BBQ ribs and select adult beverages going all around the room today as the Rays Renegade is posting his 500th blog today. It really doesn’t feel like it was only September 7, 2007 when I posted my first blog to the Internet entitled ” D no longer stands for Devilrays. Seriously here, it has been so much fun to gather stats and information and just put it down here for others to enjoy reading in the past few years. But you know what, it is far from over here. Heck, it might just be less than another year and I will be posting number 1,000.

And it was not long ago, only October 22, 2008, when I even posted number 250, which was titled, “World Series Matchups…. Starting Pitchers and Bullpens.” Has it been that long since the World Series?  It truly feels like just the other day, but after 12 years of seeing the team end up cleaning out their lockers and shuffle on back home after the last Rays contest, 2008 was a bit of an oddity, but one I can get used to every year.  I have been praised and razzed in the last year for blogs and articles written with the best intentions. But that is the price of posting and putting your views up there for the rest of the world to see online.

Heck, I even get slighted by the Rays bloggers online because I believe in the team and will not resort to using the “D” word again on my blogs like some of them. I understand their reasons and applaud their actions, but I am a fan who will not go back to the days of old, even when we play like it.  I have written some thing I am proud of, and some thing I consider “fluff”.

Recently I even decided to stop doing the daily recaps and going more into events  before, during and after the games have ended. I is fun to speculate where I will be in 6 months. I hope I am still writing on MLBlogs.com and my sister website and producing some quality work for everyone to enjoy. I mean I have gone from an unknown on here to staying within the top 20 tier of the blog writers in the last 6 months. 

Some say that is because I am the only Rays blogger who is consistently posting and writing daily. That is true, beside maybe Bill Chastain of Rays Plays, who also is the MLB.com writer for the Tampa Bay Rays, I might be the only outside voice heard daily. And I am fine with that. I even want others to begin to post and put their actions and reactions down on the cyberspace writing forum.  I enjoy responding to the comments good and bad, and see them as a way to gauge the way my writings are received by the general MLB readers.  So I decided to post some of my favorite blogs here, with links in case some of you would enjoy going back and maybe reading some of them again. These are 10 of my favorites, and they do contain a few Photo Blogs. So without further ado, let’s get right to the action:



RRCollections

      My Top 10 Blog Selections ( in random order)

 

 “Joe Kennedy, We were lucky to have Known You”  (November 23, 2007).

I really loved talking to Kennedy when he was with the Rays. He had a great sense of the game, and his love for it was always on display for everyone to see.  It was not the first remembrance pieces I have done online, but it is the first I had done on MLBlogs and is still one of my early favorites.

 


” Letter to Commissioner Bud Selig “
 
( February 20, 2009). 

This letter was in response to some of the situations in the Dominican Republic, and the way that players have been basically heavy-handed in the past by buscones in that country. I actually sent this to the Commissioner Office in New York City and got a great response from the office, but I know it was just filed away and forgotten like so many others.

 

 

“Rays Cancel the Gabe & Gabe Show “  ( April 1, 2009).

 


This was my first attempt at an April Fools joke, and I am not sure if it had the intent I really wanted, but you always remember your first time at anything. But I did get some interesting emails from the people I know with the Rays organization, and they ended up chuckling when they saw the date on the blog.

 

 

“Why are Bloggers the Rodney Dangerfields of Journalism?”  ( January 29, 2009).

 


This entry caused a bit of a stir among the Rays bloggers online along with a few established bloggers on legitimates sites throughout the Internet. But that is what a good entry can do, it can make noise and make you see some thing that can be viewed as controversial. I do not regret writing it at all, I actually liked the comments from others and it has changed the way I view certain people now.

 

 “Rays Banner Celebration Photo Blog”   (April 14, 2009 )

This might end up being one of my favorite Photo Blogs because of the significance of the day. It was a very emotional night for me having been here since the first pitch (ball) during the Rays first contest against the Detroit Tigers to today. The amount of pure energy and emotion in the building that night was amazing. I hope every one supporting their teams in the MLB can some day feel the prestige and the pride of seeing their banners raised to the rafters too.

 


” R.I.P…… Downtown Stadium. “  ( May 22, 2009 ).

 

I loved the fact that a few local sports Twitters linked this blog to some of their updates. I have to say this situation has been coming for a long time. I admired the Rays trails and tribulations in trying to convince the general public and the St. Petersburg community to re-use the Progress Energy/Al Lang Field location for a potential stadium site. The group started by the city and the Rays called,  A Baseball Community ( ABC ) will be making their recommendations in the future. And when they do, I will again approach the issue.

 



“Don Zimmer…..True Baseball Royalty
  ( January 17, 2009 ). 

  

 

I think the world of Don Zimmer. I idolized him as a young kid putting gas in his car from my dad’s gas station, to getting to know him with the Rays as their Senior Advisor. The man is a huge treasure of stories and information, and if you sat there non-stop with him for two months, I still think he will have another two weeks of stories to tell you.

 

“All Christmas Squad”  (December 16, 2008). 

I really enjoyed doing this blog. I love Christmas, and trying to select the top nine cartoon characters that symbolize the holiday to us was a bit of a long winded effort. But I enjoyed doing the blog and hope it can become a yearly addition for me again in 2009. I still think Buddie, from the movie “Elf” is the best selection for my Christmas third baseman. He reminds me of Longo.


 


“Mumm’s the Word………..In Celebration Champagne ” ( October 8, 2008 ).

 

I really got to find out a lot more about bubbly than I ever knew when I started to do some research for this blog. I had to go to a number of site to even find the brand the team was using for their 2008 celebrations, and I could not get the name of the type used during the American League East celebration in Detroit the Friday night they clinched while away from home. But the blog did get me more acquainted with Champagne and gave me a new respect for the celebration concoction.

 
 

 ” Josh Hamilton is my Hero “  ( December 6, 2008 ).

This is my favorite ex-Rays player. And for everything he has gone through in his life both good and bad, the guy has always seemed to smile. I have been lucky enough to know him from the beginning, and every time I see him during his yearly visits to the Trop., I still wonder what it would be like for him to play here for 81 games. He is a likable guy who has found a way to combat demons most of us will never know in life. I admire and respect the guy with total knowledge that the best is yet to come for him.

 

 


There are tons of other blogs I could have picked for my top 10, like the Maple Bat series, or the celebration blogs of both the Rays playoff and ALCS and ALDS celebrations. But I tried to pick the ones I would want to read again some day.  The Photo Blogs like the airport celebration when the team came back from Detroit as the American League East Champs, or the Rays Rallies down at Straub Park could have also been contenders for the list. The great part is that there are more to come, and hopefully I will be able to write for a long,long time. I enjoy writing and leaving these memories online for others to check out and comment on daily.

 

 

I hope you have enjoyed reading my little muses and ramblings since September 7, 2007. I miss writing daily for a newspaper, and this is as close as I am ever going to get again. And with that in mind, I hope you check out the first blog entry and see just how far the postings have come in such a short amount of time.  Back then I was writing more for me than anything else. But today I like to think I am writing for an ever increasing group of people both who are Rays fans, and who enjoy the Rays news and events.  Number 500 is a huge number. In baseball, if you hit 500 homers you can be almost assured a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But in blogging, it is only a step towards writing more and more until you hit another milestone. I write because I enjoy it, and hopefully you do too.

 

 


 

Mercy, Mercy, Percy!

 
 


RRCollections


If you have been watching Tampa Bay Rays baseball for any length of time, you will know that we have always had one big hole in our roster, and we have tried valiantly to find the right pieces to fit that puzzle. But it is not like we have not seen some success in the closer role, but the majority of the time we have been sunk by lofty or inadequate expectations of players either too young and inexperienced, or guys on their way out the door. We have had successful closers in our young history,like Roberto Hernandez, Danys Baez and Lance Carter. It is considered the hardest situational pitching position in baseball to master and keep under control. You either have the muscle and mind to handle the stress and pressures, or you fold quickly when pitching flaws come to the surface.

So with the announcement today that the Rays and Troy Percival are going to take a “vacation” from each other for awhile, you could hear the air sigh inside Tropicana Field. For the mighty Percy has finally struck out in his chances with the Rays. I mean I was not totally on board with the  ex-Angels connection signing in the first place, but I was willing to give the guy a chance based on his past accolades, and what he could bring to this team in the way of leadership and teaching to the up and coming ballplayers. But, you have to admit that he has been here on borrowed time for some time, and if not for the genuine respect both Rays Manager Joe Maddon had for him, and Percival’s “never say die” attitude, it did make for a volatile  and some time effective relationship while it lasted.

Troy Percival has been a giant in the closer’s role for so long in the MLB, that maybe a bit of it moved past him and he did not adapt. But you have to give the guy some credit for the past. He is eighth in All-Times saves with 358. That is only 9 away from the next guy, Jeff Reardon. He was the fourth highest closer actively throwing in the MLB, but I truly think his days are over.  Even though he was 6 for 6 in save this season for the Rays, a few past decisions are going to haunt him for a long time.  He has shown signs of being a great closer still, like before his May 13th appearance, he had not allowed a run in 10 straight appearances dating back to April 17th.

In 2008-2009, the Rays were 40-1 when he entered the game for a save opportunity ( He was 34-38 in those save opportunities).  Percy has held opposing batters to a .188 batting average against him, which is the lowest average of any MLB pitcher with over 400 appearances. Oh, and before he started to show a slow decline in 2008, he had 28 saves for the Rays, his highest total since he left the Angels in 2004. But his decline started to take place before he got here, but the Rays also saw him take to the DL three times in 2008 and miss a total of 42 games. But you have to admire his the fight within him before you can condemn him here. He was truly one of the most  fiery guys to ever grace our roster. But that also might have led to his disfavor with fans. But in the end the mighty Percy struck out.


RRCollections

You might ask how he struck out with the fans and maybe even his own team. I know of a few guys in the Bullpen who used to cringe when he warmed up, but kept up the team unity face for morale. Rich Herrera, who does post game and pre game for the Rays Radio Network once said, ” You can’t applaud the guy one day, then boo him the next day. Either you like what he is doing, or you don’t . Take a side.” Okay Rich, I will here. I think that he struck out with the fans based on three incidents, but there were more that could have merited the same outlook. 

First off, his injury near the end of 2008 was for back stiffness and a possible knee injury. That being said, he was a ghost around the clubhouse at the time the team needed him most. I know it might be personally painful for you to sit there on a bench and watch the game like a fan instead of play, but to show support for your team mates at that playoff juncture of the year was a huge flaw in his character to me. Jonny Gomes and Chad Orvella were not on the team’s rosters for the playoffs, but they were there for them with emotional and vocal signals that “they had the team’s back”. Percy was not on the bench, and not even in the clubhouse for the first game of the 2008 World Series.  To me, that was STRIKE ONE. 

A couple of weeks ago there was an incident in a Sunday afternoon game where Evan Longoria went for a ball in the third base stands in section 121. This section pokes out a bit beyond the Visitor’s Dugout and always sees it fair share of foul balls and hard hit smashes during games. The ball is hit high into the air and the ball is heading for that section of the stadium, we all know that the fan did not see or hear Longoria coming until the last moment, or he might have given way for the fleet footed third baseman. Instead he misplays the ball and both he and Longoria miss the ball. Longo throws some choice words for the guy and also so steely glances the rest of the game.

Well, Percy comes in for the save in that contest and immediately after the third out begin to throw a few comments of his own towards the guy. This was about 15 minutes after the incident, but Percy was jawing the wagging a finger towards the guy. The language was not acceptable for a “Family Day” at the ballpark first off, but the badgering of the fan was not only insulting, but should have warranted a suspension or a public apology from Percival to the guy. It was another out-of-control moment probably brought on by emotion, but to me, It was purely STRIKE TWO.

Then we have a nice tight game going on in May in Oriole Park in Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles on May 13th. Percival came in with the score in favor of the Rays 8-2 and proceeded to do something I found so insulting to the baseball gods I wanted to just jack him up and beat him down for it in a blog, but felt it was better to leave him alone at the time. He was going to bite the hand that fed him soon enough in the contest. In 1/3rd of an inning, Percival had given up 4-runs on 4-hits, including two home run pitches that looked more like some one throwing Batting Practice. The first thought in my mind was that he wanted to get the score close so it was going to be a save opportunity for him. Giving another team an opportunity to come back for your own personal gain is against the grain of the unwritten rules Percy. The score was 8-6 when in the bottom of that ninth inning  Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out to chat with Percy.

                   RRCollections

We all know that Maddon had already made his decision to take Percy out, maybe for disrespecting the game, but more for his awful pitching performance. This was the last game of the most recent road trip, and the Rays wanted this game badly. But what we ended up with was Percy behaving badly. He began to vocally challenge and argue with the skipper to the point you could see spittle trailing from his mouth. He fought long and hard to stay in the game, but some of the words lipped from his mouth were not entirely in the rules of respect for your Manager. I admire the fire and spunk, but I also detest the disrespect and his blatant disregard for the team Manager.  For me, this was STRIKE THREE.

So when the Rays came home, I was clam and cool in the stands, but I did not address Troy anymore as he walked past me to the bathrooms and Bullpen lounge area. I would not even look at the man. I was pissed and I did not want to see an ounce of this guy on the mound for the team again unless he showed a bit more respect for his longest supporters, Joe Maddon.  He did enter the game on May 15th in the 7th inning, one of his earliest appearances of his Rays career. As he slunk off the Bullpen Mound and the stadium Jumbotron announced his music I turned my back to the field. That was my show of not honoring the fact this guy was still out there on the mound. I was firmly going to show my distaste for his treatment of this team, and his Manager.

Percival did not have the opportunity in these next two night to get either the win or the save as Dan Wheeler and Joe Nelson took the mounds in the ninth inning for the Rays. That Sunday, Percival did hit the mound in the ninth and got two strikeouts en route to his sixth save of the year ( At the time, that placed him 9th in the AL in saves).  The performance was one of his best in the season, but I again stood towards the back wall as he entered the ballgame. Then the last straw might have been during a save opportunity that almost got away, but this time Maddon was not going to let the closer take this one away from his young team.

Percival entered the game in the top of the ninth, and while I was looking at the back wall I was admiring the new huge sign by the Florida Sports Network and Sunsports that looked like a game day roster. I had looked back there dozens of times this season and did not really see how great it was before today. Well, Percival lived up to his usual expectations and gave up two quick hits and runs before Maddon made a move to bring in Nelson again for the the game. At that time, the score was tied, and Percival this time did not totally try and even voice any fight or vinegar at Maddon, but strolled off the mound to the dugout.


Chris O’Meara / AP

That was the last time we saw him. Strolling off the mound after giving up two runs to tie a contest the Rays would eventually win. You want to say something poetic here, that will be admired for years as sage advice or even a recollection, but I was glad it was his last outing for the team. I truly do not care if he ever comes back. He has options available to him. He can either rehab as long as the team deems he should and not fight it, or he can walk away from the game for the last time.  My feelings are he still has some fire in his beer belly for the game, but it might not fit well here anymore. If he does ever some back into a Rays uniform, he will probably have to take a reduced role with the team. More of a set-up role than a closer.

It is actually kind of odd, but curiously wild that Percival was all rah-rah about Jason Isringhausen signing with the team this spring, and he might be the guy who gets eventually slotted into the closer role. I wish Percy the best as he takes his time and contemplates and make decisions about his future on the mound. Maybe he is again ready for that role of managing like he did in 2007 in the Angels minor league system. Time will tell. But I think the time of the scruffy, pear-shaped closer going to the mound for the Rays is over.

He fought the sands of time as long as he could, but maybe he is finally starting to realize the door is shutting behind him. I have glad for what he has done for this club in the last two seasons, but I will not miss him. And Rays, do not forget to lock the door, or he will find a way back into this clubhouse. But for me personally, he has not only struck a chord in me with his actions, he might have finally struck out with other fans too.

UMPS CARE Visits Tampa Bay

 


http://www.msplinks.com/http://www.umpscare.com/ / Ricky Roberts

I have to be the first guy to admit this today. Sometimes I have a habit during the game of not thinking about those guys in blue being anything other than sadistic holders of my emotions during Tampa Bay Rays baseball games. For some reason, the umpiring crews are the easiest people to not feel any pleasure for in the entire scope of MLB baseball.

We all yell and scream and question their every moves. But we as fans, do not get to see that other side of them after they take their rough exterior beyond the Home Plate club area back into their little room under the stands at Tropicana Field.

But recently the guys in blue came to Tampa, Florida to bring smiles for miles to some deserving youngster through the Umps Care charities. This is a non-profit foundation supported by the MLB umpires. With a new arrival of the men in blue coming in for the Oakland A’s versus Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field, the visiting Umpire crew of Lance Barksdale, Alphonso Marquez, Randy Marsh,and Mike Winters took some time out to visit with local children at St. Joseph’s Childrens Hospital of Tampa this last Tuesday. They were also accompanied by our own “Rays” blue man in the form of the ever loving mascot Raymond.


www.umpscare.com / Ricky Roberts


During their visit to the cancer and blood disorder areas of the hospital, the umpires went from room to room with pre-stuffed bears and  a huge collection of clothing for them provided by the Build-A-Bear Workshop Experience.  They spent their first part of the visit going to the rooms in encourage the youngsters to come out and help build their own personal bear,rabbit or puppy and were allowed to get one additional outfit for their animal.   

Lance Barksdale, set to work home plate in the Rays game later Tuesday evening, told Samuel Dearth in a Special to MLB.com article, “This is a wonderful way for our umpires to give back in Major League cities across the country.”  After visiting in the wards, the umpires set-up shop outside in the lobby area of the hospital and also provided additional stuffed smile producing animals for other children in the hospital that day.

The Umps Care program was founded in 2006, and the Build-A-Bear Workshop experience is called BLUE for Kids.  In the past 3 seasons, the umpires have conducted 31 special visits to hospitals and care units like St. Josephs. 


www.umpscare.com / Ricky Roberts


In those past events, the umpires have distributed over 2,500 huggable bears to community children. The events have a firm backing of such awesome companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gerry Davis Sports, MLB.com and The World Umpire Association.  We all know that umpires are not the cold-blooded individuals they display on the turf at our stadiums every night. These events instill that sense of community bond and also a reality of life that is important to all of us……….even umpires. 

If you would like to know more about this organization, please got to www.umpscare.com where you can find additional photos and programs supported by this fantastic organization.

Just remember the next time you  see an umpire near the sideline to just thank them for what they do in this great program. We might not show our love for them once the words “Play Ball” sound throughout the stadium, but it is great to know that these guys also have a release for the pressures and the stresses of this position within the MLB.


www.umpscare.com / Ricky Roberts

So by thanking them you might not get that close call at first base, or maybe that strike called on the black, but you might instill a sense of warmth in their minds that people do appreciate them outside of the uniforms, and beyond the chalk lines on the field.

R.I.P. Rays Downtown Stadium

 


http://www.msplinks.com/http://www.raysbaseball.com/

The Tampa Bay Rays today pretty much officially announced that their endeavor to try and refocus the old Al Lang Stadium property into a pristine multi-million dollar baseball configuration has met its timely death. It’s death was officially deemed  to a lack of sufficient life support based on certain community groups setting fires and probable law suits to stop even the surveying of the land.

Even though the POWW (Protect Our Wallets and Waterfront) group basically got their way in the matter, the issue is not over, but might just be refocused to an area just a bit north up the I-275 corridor to the Roosevelt Blvd/ Ulmerton Road area. I have to say that the original site of the new Rays stadium would have made a picture postcard scenic view, but with the St. Petersburg Pier maybe going bye-bye in the next several years due to city financial considerations and cut-backs, the background would have changed dramatically before the building was even half completed.

The St. Petersburg City Council is said to be preparing a re-zoning ordinance with a 75-foot height restriction to re-designate the Florida Progress/ Al Lang property for park use only. I am still maybe in the minority, but the American Playhouse Company, which is located in the downtown area has a yearly festival outdoors every May, and maybe just taking down the outfield fences and leaving the grandstands and berms would be a revitalization of the park as a outdoor concert venue for under 4,000 people. Of course this park venture is a long ways away, the council have not even had a formal public hearing on the matter yet.

The Tampa Bay Rays have concluded that the downtown site might just have been a huge oversight for the ballclub. And also words and conversations have been leaked that the current site of the stadium maybe being refitted or even constructing a completely different  multi-purpose stadium on the adjacent parking area might also be put to rest in the downtown area. More and more there is whispers that the preferred site is farther up into the mid-county area where the bulk of the area’s population can have a 30-minute commute to the games. 

That is the unseen basis of the decision to maybe move the team’s concentration out of downtown, and not the influence or badgering of the POWW group to the downtown site. What is that old business adage “Location, location, location”.

Best case scenario for any future talks about downtown ventures would be if the Albert Whitted airport property comes up in the next 10 years for a vote again and the citizens of St. Petersburg decide that the millionaries private toy parking lot might be better suited for other ventures. but that is wishing too far into the future right now, and might even be defeated by the same reasoning that Al Lang is now being dumped.


St.Petersburg Times archives


But the reality of it all is that the city of St. Petersburg in the 1970’s made a huge push to clean up and beautify the waterfront corridor beyond 1st Street, and any massive building, or thoughts of construction would be a detriment to that plan and ruin the eyesights of the high priced skyscraper currently under construction just beyond the Progress Energy Field walls.
 

Why now?  Is there a reason the Rays are throwing this out today and not maybe waiting for a time when the team is winning impressively again to garner more public sentiment? With the team now leaving on a 6-game road trip to an area that recent granted the funds and future dreams of a multi-use facility in South Florida, could this be a nice political and financial diversion to show the reasoning for a roof in Florida. We might just see two of the game with a possible rain-out situation because of the current Low Pressure systems pounding the state with rain daily.

It might also be the best time to bring up the  stadium change of venue while the team is away to cut down on distractions by fans, or even the local business community complaining within an audible range with the team at home. Now any calls would be directed to the  spin doctors working on the project, and not have the field personnel or event employees trying to decipher the Rays thoughts in the matter.

“It’s pretty clear people did not want a ballpark down there,” Rays senior vice president Michael Kalt said in a St. Petersburg Times article Friday. “From what we’re seeing, we’re probably in that camp, too. 

Really Michael? I enjoy reading about a 180 degree turn from the posturing of less than 6 months ago to this swift pursuit of pushing another area of Pinellas county because of the massive displeasure shown by a select group in downtown St. Petersburg.  I mean I was all for the downtown project because it would make another significant landmark for the region that would get play almost 365 days a year either in sports reports or news articles mentioning the stadium in the sleepy hallow of St. Petersburg, Florida.

But in the process of the selection of a new proposed stadium site, you are moving to the original area most people in Tampa Bay first thought would be the site of the first stadium. I have to say I was almost convinced it was going to be in the Gateway region just beyond the city of St. Petersburg city limits back in the 1980’s, but pressure and infrastructure might have pushed it to downtown St. Petersburg.  But today’s announcement that even a restructured facility next to the present stadium might also be a doomed project is another slap in the face to St. Petersburg. 

          
         Peter Masa/ news channel 8


“We think there are big issues with downtown St. Petersburg as a site,” Kalt said recently in the St. Petersburg Times.  With the focus group A Baseball Community not yet sending out their recommendations for a future stadium site, could the Rays have a bit of inside information and be planning a positive strategic move to show favoritism for another site? We sometimes forget that baseball is a business first and foremost.

It is a venture to make money and also promote the community. But the reality of it all is that the team will focus and construct on the best area to get their investment dollars turned quickly and with a good profit margin.

The area now being floated out seductively and undercover by the Rays does have an huge positive factor to the Tampa commuters’ concerns voiced over the last several years. But the surrounding roads and by-ways will have to be addressed as well as the possible parking situation. I know where I park, I have not paid for parking at the stadium or a parking area near the stadium for 12 years.

But that is based more on my familiarity of the city, and not the region known area of parking “freebie” zones. In the mid-county area, those considerations would be out the window unless you worked at a neighboring company.

The announcement today was not a total shocker to me at all. In a way, it was a sigh of relief. I had the feeling of pushing that huge rock up the hill and having it fall daily with the idea of a downtown stadium. Too many variables were working against the Rays from the first words, but the dissing of even the present site being reconfigured kind of caught me by surprise.

We have seen in the last year the side-by-side building of two stadiums in New York City, so we know it can be done without huge side issues. But the fact remains that this is still in the infancy stages, and not even been put down on formal publicized plans yet. It might be speculation right now, but it is solid gut reactions that the mid-county sites will get a lot of press and consideration during the rest of 2009.

I personally think it is going to put an extra burden on those people coming up from the Sarasota and Manatee county areas for game. Plus put extra drive time and pressure on the Brandon and Southeastern Tampa Bay area fans. But in the pursuit of a better facility and a better revenue responsive stadium, the decision will be made by the guy in the suits on the third floor of the Trop.

We will get our voice, and we will get our time to throw out alternatives, but the decision is right in their hands and will ring with dollar signs first. But then after all, Baseball is fun for the entire family, a great way to show community support, and above all…………a business.

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