June 2009

Bryce Harper might be the next “Natural.”

 


Here is a great Trivia question for the Day:

 Question: Who currently owns the record for the longest Home Run in Tropicana Field?

In January 2009 I attended the Power Showcase International High School Home Run Derby exhibition in Tropicana Field where the top 70 players came from 10 countries to participate in the event. You could tell how many professional baseball scouts were there by the laptops and the portable Juggs guns looking for that next star to step out of the High School ranks and make their mark. But under their breath several were there to check out the phenom some people have called “Baseball’s LeBron.”

Bryce Harper has been getting notice for about a year now for his tremendous hitting (2008 Nevada Batting Champion) and skills behind the plate (All-State catching selection for Nevada), but here he was up against some of the best of the High School players in the world. Oh, did I fail to mention the guy is only 16-years old and only a Sophomore in High School playing amongst the big boys here. I included the video above to illustrate that this kid might have outgrow his present level of competition.

During this free event in Tropicana Field I saw the 16-year old hit some balls that would have made both Jonny Gomes and Carlos Pena stand up on the top steps of the dugout and clap for the kid. During the event there were several players who hit monster shots to rightfield and centerfield, Harper even hit one ball right above the Tropicana Field big screen for a 461 foot shot early in his first round. But the kid also did something no other hitter did in this tourney when he hit an opposite field HR in the event. 

And that was only the beginning as he also hit a 477 foot and 485 foot rocket to the left of the Bright House sign in rightfield. And he was just getting started in the event. But this kid is no stranger to playing against better competition and making himself better. He was in the 2008 Area Code Games in California usually reserved for High School juniors and seniors and while hitting with a wooden bat, he still outpaced and outhit players two years his senior in the event.

Some people are calling him a hitter for the next generation already because of his tremendous bat speed, which is already quicker than slugger Mark McGwire in his prime, plus his speed and agility on the field. But the real problem here is not that the kid can play, or that maybe the next level is the right move for him, but his current age of 16 might make him a desired prospect in Latin America or other ports in the World, but in the United States, it keeps you from even being considered for the MLB First Year Player draft.

So what do you do if you have the talent and the ability to light up a scoreboard and get the crowd on your feet, do you wait your two years knowing you will go in the First Round, or do you look for other options. Well, Harper and his parents are looking at option “B” right now.

For the young star to even be considered even for the 2010 draft he would have to complete his GED studies and then be admitted into a Junior College this fall. Another option could have been to move outside the boundaries of the United States to some Carribean hot spot like the Dominican Republic and then be considered without question for the 2010 draft.

I personally view that as a quick fix by him to get his eligibility for the draft and a better level of competition to further showcase or improve his skill levels. Sure by bypassing his last two years of High School he will get a shot at playing at another level and seeing if he is really ready to take that huge step up into considering the major leagues in 2010.

The JUCO ranks have many fantastic institutions that have very esteemed baseball programs. Who knows, maybe even the Howard College Hawks ,the2009 JUCO World Series Champion might have a spot on their roster for the young phenom.

But something seems to be missing here. Something that I know most of us cherish and treasured out of our last two years in High School. They are fundamental things that those two years will take from his life and personal development. I mean, I know that multi-millions could be on his doorstep in June 2010, but you just can’t replace some things in your life with money or a professional contract.

I am not saying that missing a Senior Prom or a Homecoming dance will tarnish him, but they are major social steps in a young person’s life. Those last two years in that environment does set you up better for some of life’s pratfalls.

I had talent in school both at the college and High School level, but I would never have thought of such a thing because of my family commitment to a college education. That made even the fantasy thought of an action like Harper’s not just suicidal because my Father would have buried me in the clay infield, but socially it would have been a culture shock of mammoth proportions for me to go from a rowdy Marine Biology class to a minor league locker room in less than one year.

I know his parents have vowed to be there every step of the way to keep him out of trouble and even steer him towards the right direction if needed. But I remember another young player who’s parents were so into his baseball life and one tragic event in his career almost ruined him for life.

People in and around baseball thought the same thing about Josh Hamilton before a simple truck accident coming back from a Spring Training game derailed his career via drugs, seedy friends and a travel down one of the darkest roads of his life.


Boston.com


I am not predetermining the same or any variation of it for Harper, but the reality is there for all to see. Hamilton finally got his path righted and began to transform himself back into a model MLB player. But he lost valuable playing time and career numbers battling something most people did not see in the light of day by him.

You can also point towards Robin Yount, Ken Griffey Junior as examples of the opposite, but they finished their High School careers even if the prize was out there for them to pick off the tree at 16-years of age.

One mistake can ruin your high flying goals and aspirations. I am not here to question his parents motives or even the influence they might have on Bryce, but Hamilton used to rely heavily on his parent’s influence and advice, and when it was not there, he started towards the darkness. 

16-years of age is a wild time in a young man’s life. Not only does your body get to go through more changes, you get to piece yourself together to become the kind of person you want to be in your life. I know if you asked Harper right now his answer would be a professional baseball player.

But do the thrills and rewards outweigh the development of this guy into even a more prolific hitting machine, or will he be the next Paul Wilder, who was a 1998 First Round pick of the Rays and never rose above the Class-A level of baseball. It is going to be a slippery next 12 months for the young phenom with pitfa
lls and college courses maybe derailing some of his plans.

But in the end, I still see him maybe getting a shot to being only the second person since 1967 to hit a home run before his 19th birthday. The other phenom who got that homer was Yount, who hits his shot in 1974 with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Harper has all the tools and the ability to strive and prosper in the game of baseball. But as I mentioned before, the core support system for him is his family and his religion, which he might be calling on both a lot in the next 12 months to get him through the rough spots. He might just be on the board when the teams pick again in 2010, and he just might be the first guy to step to the podium with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

The event at Tropicana Field in 2008 had several great names in High School baseball including a former MLB player son, Dante Bichette Jr. from the Orlando area. But most of all, I am going to remember the phrase he told to Babe Ruth’s granddaughter  the first night of the tourney at a banquet at the Hilton in St. Petersburg, Florida.  “I am going to win that bat” Harper told her before the event. He went on to hit 6 consecutive homers in  section of the event that averaged over 469 feet.

The Answer to the  Trivia Question is: Bryce Harper, who hit a 502 foot shot to rightfield that hit above the big screen metal facing just below the Tropicana roof.  It is currently the longest hit ball by any hitter in Tropicana Field history. It got him that  special bat, the Inaugural Babe Ruth Award for the longest home run in the event. The future is bright for this 16-year old phenom to make his mark in 2009.
 

All I want to do is watch him hit another round of B P  one day in the Trop. Hopefully on that day he will be donning a uniform in the MLB and putting on a show like Mike Piazza did for the home crowd back in 2001 when the New York Mets came here and he put two straight up into the “beach” area of Tropicana Field.

Who will get the Rays first Cycle?

 


David Zalubowski / AP

I remember back on March 31, 1998 a friend of mine and I were chatting up in the Beach area about our new Rays team and he asked me  who I thought would be the first Rays player to ever hit for a “cycle” for the team. I had to really think about that one for a few minutes since this first Rays squad had a few burners on the base paths and they could make the difference quickly in a game.

I thought for about three innings and came up with a list of three guys I truly thought had a chance to hit that magical segment of a single, double, triple and then a homer.  I came up with the trio of Dave Martinez (who got the Rays first hit ever), Quentin McCracken and Miguel Cairo.

But what is so amazing is that we have played 1,845 games as a franchise and we still have not had any player hit for that elusive prize. I mean we have had plenty come close, including 5 in 2008, but no one has gotten to that golden moment yet for the Rays. So it kind of caught me by surprise last night after the game checking out the box score and seeing that both Ben Zobrist and Gabe Kapler only missed the magical moment by not getting a double in last night’s 12-4 Rays victory.

What was truly amazing to me is that both guys had the worst part of the cycle out of the way by the start of the 7th inning with Kapler getting the early nod by getting both his triple and home run by the end of the third inning.  Another outstanding statistic is that Zobrist and Kapler each got hit in the same inning three times in that contest. 

They started their scoring in the top of the second inning when Zobrist got on with a infield single to third, then Kapler scored Zobrist on his triple to deep left-centerfield. The in the top of the third inning, Zobrist hit the first pitch he sees for a triple to deep centerfield to lead-off the inning. Kapler then comes up and homers to leftfield to again score Zobrist in the game. 

Then again in the seventh inning, Zobrist comes up with two outs and hits a 2-1 pitch out of the ballpark in leftfield. Kapler then comes up and get a single to rightfield.  Zobrist had another chance to get his cycle, but he hit a ball back to Rockies reliever Matt Daley that he easy converted for the third out of the inning. The night was a huge explosion for the entire Rays offense as they won their sixth game in a row and ended the Rockies own 11-game winning streak.

But was last night’s attempt by two Rays players a good indicator of the type of offense this team can post at anytime in 2009. Gabe Kapler is currently on a 4-game home run  and RBI streak, plus he has gone 7 for 11, with 10 RBI in his last four games. Could we finally be seeing the hitter the Rays envisioned when they signed Kapler on January 12, 2009. Then you have Zobrist, who has emerged as the Rays secret weapon after injuries have made the club utilize him everyday instead of as a platoon or late inning replacement/pinch-hitter. 


David Zalubowski / AP

Zobrist has also been on quite a tear recently going hitless in only two of his last ten games. He has gone 14 for 35 (.400) with 4 homers and 7 RBI, but it is his 14 runs scored that have been the biggest indicator of his surge for the Rays.  He has also walked 7 times in those 10 games and stolen 2 bases to become an all-around player for the team. And this is not the first time in 2009 that Zobrist has gotten near the cycle.

And to just show how explosive the entire team can be this year, including last night, the Rays have had 11 players just this season who have had chances to get the cycle for the Rays. Starting with Evan Longoria on April 9th needing just a triple to complete his during the Rays 4-3 win in Fenway Park. Longoria again almost got the cycle in another game against the Red Sox on April 30th at Tropicana Field during a 13-0 win over the Red Sox. He missed with only a triple again. But he was not the only Rays to have a shot at the cycle that day. Back-up catcher Miguel Hernandez had a career day going 4 for 5 and also missed the cycle with a triple that day. 

In a 7-3 loss to the Red Sox in their second trip to Fenway on May 8th, the usual suspect for the cycle, Carl Crawford only missed with a home run from getting the feat. He did have a ball bounce into the stands in deep centerfield that could have been a close inside-the-park home run if it had not gone into the stands.  Then on May 15th with the Cleveland Indians at home, B J Upton had a chance to put his mark on Rays history, but also missed out with a triple. Two days later Jason Bartlett got a chance at the mark, but he too came up short needing a home run to complete the feat.

Then someone you would not expect, Gabe Gross who has seen limited duty this year as a platoon member in rightfield got a chance to set the mark on May 22nd in the Rays 15-2 win over the Florida Marlins. Gross also missed the mark with only getting a single, double and a homer in the game.  And so far in June, the Rays have had four players now who have attempted to get a cycle for the squad. Before last night’s heroics, Matt Joyce, who was only up for a limited time also had a chance for a cycle on June 2nd in a 6-2 win over the Kansas City Royals. Joyce also came up a triple short of getting the first cycle in Rays history.


Jeff Zelevansky / AP


But the wildest part of it all is that Zobrist now has had two chances, just in June 2009 to get a cycle. Besides last night’s attempt, he had another on June 7th in Yankee Stadium against the New York Yankees, but he again fell just a double short of the cycle.  What is even more amazing is that he has now had three chances since September 27, 2008 to get the Rays cycle record. On the September 27th game against the Detroit Tigers in Comerica Park, Zobrist again came up short, but this time he could not get a triple to complete the cycle.

The Rays have had a chance 11 times in 2009. For the entire 2008 season they only had 5 players even get close to trying for  a shot at Rays history. It began with the Disney World series when the Rays took on the Toronto Blue Jays on April 22nd. Ex-Rays bat boy Jesse Litsch was on the mound and Eric Hinske hit three extra-base hits to fall only a single short of the cycle for the Rays. In that contest, in the only other at bat for Hinske in the game, he struck out swinging to end his quest in the eighth inning. One of the guys you might least expect to have a shot at a cycle actually got pretty close in 2008. Dioner Navarro was having a great first half to the season and picked a May 8th game against the Toronto Blue Jays to try and make a claim for the cycle record. 

In that game, Navarro hit a Grand Slam to win the game for the Rays in the 13th inning, but he missed the cycle by a triple that night. But the event was considered a turning point for the young Rays team, so missing the re
cord might not have been a bad thing that night. It was three months before anyone else had a shot at a cycle for the Rays when on August 2nd, Evan Longoria tried to make his mark, but he also came up a triple short in the Rays 9-3 win over the Tigers at Tropicana Field.

A wild statistic is that in the last three attempts by Rays players to hit for the cycle in 2008, they all came against the same team, the Detroit Tigers. First we had Longoria on August 2nd come up short. The next player to have a chance at Rays immortality was Upton on the same night( September 26, 2008) that the Rays clinched their first American League East title. Upton’s chance at the cycle was overshadowed by the big event as he only fell a triple short of the cycle after beating out a throw for an infield single to even have a shot at the historic mark. And of course, the next day, Zobrist had his chance to also add his name to Rays history. 

All in all since the beginning of the 2998 season, 16 Rays players have had a chance to finally put their name on the Rays history book as completing a cycle during a game. The Rays might have gone 0-16 in that time, but in 2008, they went 4-1 when a player was attempting to go for the record. And so far in 2009, the team has gone 8-1 when a Rays batter has been attempting to go for the cycle. And also of note, for the first time in two seasons, two player have been just short of cycles in two different games only 46 days apart.

With the Rays offense cranking on all 8 cylinders right now there will be more chances for the team to flex its muscle and give more guys chances to finally put their name into the Rays record books as the first player to hit a cycle for the Rays. I can not even guess who the first one will be anymore. Almost everyone in the lineup can have an outstanding game and transform a simple game into a historic event.

But I would not bet against Crawford and Zobrist right now, both players have the ability and the speed to finally give us an answer to that question asked back in 1998. Who do you think will get the first Rays cycle?

Do Phiten products really Work?


Alan Sung/ Scienceline.org

 

For years we have seen some of our favorite Major League Baseball players wearing that  colorful and decorative necklace on the mound or in the field. Little did we know that the product is based on scientific evidence that it helps heals the body and is not just a selective MLB fashion statement.

For years the multi-colored titanium bands have adorned either on our favorite players wrists or neck and that has been a huge selling point for kids and adults to try out the products for themselves. There is a huge group of current MLB players who have tested the product and still wear them on the field or on the mound for games during the season.  In recent years, the Boston Red Sox have two players who have visually been pro-titanium necklaces.

Both starting pitcher Josh Beckett, and current American League Most Valuable Player Dustin Pedroia can be seen with multiple necklaces on their body daily for games. The Rays also sport the stylish necklaces with Rays starter Scott Kazmir and Bullpen pitcher Dan Wheeler wearing their necklaces daily.

The biggest drawing point to these titanium bands being worn by both players and the general public is the manufacturers claims that they can decrease muscle discomfort, help increase blood circulation, promote a sense of relaxation stabilize energy flows, and sooth stress and tension. Each of these reasons would be a great reason for any athlete trying to stay at their top levels and physical best for 162 games during the regular season.

The company responsible for this new baseball fashion plate concerning the titanium-filled bands is Japanese-based Phiten.  The companies website even boasts a the necklaces and wrist bands as “energy transport systems”, and the company maintains that the product “amplifies the energy management system increasing the efficiency of each and every cell.”

        
         Tom Mihalek / AP
But even with great endorsements from players like Beckett and the New York Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain, the product has scientific research done overseas, but no credited United States laboratory has done significant research into the product yet.

The Phiten corporation was founded by Japanese chiropractor Yoshihiro Hirata back in 1983.  The products distributed by the company currently are titanium discs, a wrist band, and the often observed necklaces.  Most of the items shipped have been purchased online at http://www.phiten.com, but some area sporting good stores have begun to distribute the products in the United States. Locally, the best known store to have them in stock is the Sports Authority sporting goods stores. 

The titanium-infused necklaces first gained prominence in Japan, where they are still popular with athletes. According to the company, the necklaces and bracelets work by stabilizing the electric flow that nerves use to communicate actions to the body. “All of the messages in your body travel through electricity, so if you’re tired or just pitched nine innings, the electricity isn’t flowing as smoothly as it can,” said Joe Furuhata, a Phiten spokesman. “Our products smooth out those signals.”

With athletes harboring great superstitions and wanting to keep up with good luck charms, could the Phiten products just been on their bodies when they had great games and not have a significant level of enhancement over their physical being. The psychological effects of believing something is good for you has been proven time and time again. If I told you Cod Liver Oil would prevent a type of cancer in people aged 25-35 years of age, you know that within a months time there would be numerous products on the grocery shelf to combat the problem.

I have owned a pair of them for several and I suffer from some neck discomfort from a former injury. I have worn them for about three years and finally took them off about 6 months ago and have not put them back on my neck. I did feel some relief at first from the product, but then the same symptoms came back after three months. Do the bands have a limited shelf life I did not know about, or could I have mentally convinced myself they were the reason for the neck pain numbing down a bit for that period of time.

I can attest to more of a feeling of relaxation and comfort in my mental being that totally physical at that time. There currently is no study or conclusion drawn by scientists that the product either works or is a farce. I guess the basic belief that it works might be the best medicine here. But just like the human body can convince itself to lift up a 2-ton car off a person trapped by sheer adrenaline or mental power, this product does not make claims of enhancing your physical power or performance.

It’s pure claim to fame is the fact it can do wonders in relieving stress, anxiety, and for the most part muscle discomfort. And for a professional athlete, sometimes the hardest thing to do is believe in something you can not see. There is currently no scientific evidence to support Phiten’s claims. “There’s no science and physiology,” said Dr. Orrin Sherman, chief of sports medicine at the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases said in an blog posting on http://www.Scienceline.org. “There’s just no way the chemical structure of the body can be influenced by magnets that small. It’s all superstitions with no scientific basis.”

 So if the product does put Pedroia, Beckett or even Kazmir into a better place mentally, why should we worry about it all.  I remember in college during a Psychology class the fact that sometimes a “placebo” can have the same effect mentally on the body as the same dose of the correct medicine for pain or discomfort. Could the Phiten necklaces also have that same effect as a pain reliever pill or medicine to the body.

But with most of today’s baseball players also believing in the act of the streak and the formation of good luck in odd places, maybe the advent of the Phiten necklaces is a small part of the overall mental preparation for Beckett and Pedroia. If you think the necklace is doing some good and is creating a more positive performance out of you, why would you even think of discarding the product until you find another “lucky charm.”

 

Team Unity goes Western

 


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(Sorry my camera is having major focus issues right now)

The Tampa Bay Rays have been described as a huge brotherhood for their closeness and their ability to stand up for each other in the bad times. I went to a Rays speaking engagement earlier this year where Rick Vaughn,the Rays PR guru told the group about a story following the conclusion of the World Series Game 5 plane trip back to the Tampa Bay area. Vaughn and his wife were seated in the same aisle as Rays reliever J P Howell and his girlfriend and Vaughn  was awestruck by the fact that everyone on the plane made sure to come by and comfort Howell about taking the loss for that final game in 2008.  

And the mood on that late night plane ride was sad and muted, but it also had the unique feeling that everyone was also upset that they would not be hanging out with each other  every day after that loss. That is the  wild and special bond and closeness of this ball club that other teams would envy. If you ever really watch them during Batting Practice and even before a game, you see the connection factor that this team has with everyone on the roster. So it is only fitting that they would also plan events and road trips with themes and costumes or wardrobes to fit the occasion.

And that also has a great effect on this club. For to come out for a farewell to family and friends before a road trip dressed to the theme of the trip shows a great bond of unity and togetherness on this team. The team has conducted their own version of “American Idol” during Spring Training inviting anyone within the Rays organization to step up to the mic and sing. They have held BBQ’s and impromptu events throughout the year that is attended by almost everyone on the roster.

And the team also showed up in force for Carlos Pena’s 30th birthday celebration out on Madeira Beach earlier this season. But that is the magical bond that this team forged in 2008 and is still growing more and more this year. Rays Manager  Joe Maddon has even instilled a theme to every road trip this year, with the last one to start off in South Florida to have an all-white theme. The players all showed up in their best dressed whites, which included some very stylish head gear by Gabe Kapler, Carlos Pena and Joe Nelson.


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So it is only fitting that during their road trip starting today to the Western town of Denver Colorado they promote a “Western” look. I am not privy to the fact if anyone is going to dress up like a gunslinger, but hopefully if the do, airport security will also have a bit of a sense of humor when they go through the security check near the plane on the tarmac of St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport.  I can only imagine what some of these guys are going to pull out for such an event. With a few true Texans on the team like Jeff Neimann (Houston), Carl Crawford (Houston) and Randy Choate (San Antonio).

With a majority of this team actually coming out of the western state of California, it might be a wild sight of all these guys decked out in their country western best  for the trip to Denver. Now I have done a blog recently where I mentioned that Rays reliever Joe Nelson is going to do a personal rendition of the Yul Brenner character from “The Magnificent Seven” with a complete head-to-toe black on black ensemble.

I really wish I could be there to even get a glimpse even without a camera of this outlandish event. But hopefully some one within the Rays organization (Skip Milos) will be on hand to record the event for prosperity. I did however get a few other members of the Rays to tell me how they were going to promote the event. Both are members of the Rays Bullpen and have been great enough to furnish me with their renditions of their scheduled outfits for the flight.

Scott Cursi (Bullpen Catcher) is a very businessman like guy. He is very upfront and doesn’t partake in the designer label game that some of the fashion plates on the Rays team might use for this trip. He is going to wear a black shirt with jeans and a pair of black Ostrich boots he picked up on a past road trip. He is also going to go with a mesh straw-like cowboy hat because of the heat in the Denver area. Very practical, realistic, totally Scott Cursi is going as the every day man.

Bobby Ramos is one of the best people you could ever meet and chat with about anything, even baseball. He is also one of the teams hidden fashion plates evidenced by his outfit he gave me for the trip out to Colorado. Most people might know about Ramos love for Salsa dancing and music, but the guy is also a man who enjoys the finer things in clothes. From head-to-toe Ramos might just be the best dressed Rays Coach on this plane trip. He is going to top his head with a Jack Daniels black cowboy hat.

He plans on showing off his Ely white shirt with the black piping. He is planning on wearing black Levis jeans to celebrate the western look, and will be wearing a cowboy “bling bling” buckle around his midsection. He did not tell me if it was one of those bronco-busting Texas sized buckles, but you can only imagine. He will put his feet in a fine set of black Justin boots with silver toe caps for that special “Uptown Cowboy” look.


polishedtwo@Flickr.com

Doing things like this themed road trip traveling party can help bring together everyone on the team. Players like Pat Burrell and Gabe Kapler did not get to mesh with these guys in 2008, but they have also come together with the Rays players to form a close knit bond on this team. The one guy who might feel a bit left out on this trip might be Winston Abreu, who comes from the island of the Dominican Republic and might not have gotten a heads up on the festivities today for the plane (Hopefully they will drink Coors Light).

But you can bet maybe Willy Aybar or Carlos Pena will get the recent addition to the Rays roster ready and in style by the time they head to the Trop tonight.  Team bonding is a special time for these guys, and events like this can show outwardly their own commitments to the “Rays Way.”

Are we seeing the True Elijah Dukes?

 


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I  wanted to believe that  former Rays bad boy Elijah Dukes has changed. Based on his actions this weekend in Tropicana fielkd you thought the guy might have finally gotten the idea on how to act upon a major league field, and off it. He did have a great series against his fomer tm as he went 4-12 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored.
 

The Washington Nationals did however kind of place him in a plastic bubble and not let him give any statements or interviews while he was here, but he did perform like you had hoped a good ballplayer would after confrontation and controversy follow you. But then we also did not know alot about Dukes since he left the team. We did not know about incidents and confrontations with players and opposition fans around the National League.

I really was going to give him a mountain of respect from me for the way he kept his composure in rightfield on Friday night when the hecklers really got into prime spirits about his family matters and past screw ups. I do not know who the group of guys were, but they sure knew a lot of things about Dukes personal life. The guys heckling him in Section 140 sure knew a lot about his personal life and made sure he heard every word of it. But I was going to give him props on the way he took the chant “That baby don’t look like me” from the crowd and seemed to bounce on the field in perfect cadence with the taunt. But then I did not know anything else about his action this season with the Nationals. 
 

But it is not like he has totally been without sin or problems even this season for the Nationals. There was an incident in the Nationals dugout earlier in the week where Nationals Manager Manny Acta and Dukes got into a verbal argument in plain sight of the television cameras after a pretty animated home run celebration. It was not Dukes who hit the bomb, but team mate Lasting Milledge, who is also a guy from the Tampa Bay area with a checkered past.

Worst of all, Dukes showed up his manager by faking the high-five and dropping his hand as he approached Acta in the post-game celebration on the field. Ugly. According to the Washington Times, “As Dukes and Milledge crossed the plate, Dukes looked back at Capps (who blew his first save in 16 tries this season) in a move that could have been perceived as taunting the opposing pitcher. ”  It was the top of the ninth inning, so Pittsburgh Pirate closer Matt Capps did not get a chance to maybe show his own emotions by maybe drilling Dukes in the back in his next at bat.  So I guess Dukes still has the competitive bad boy lurking in his huge frame.

Anyone who has lived in Tampa Bay for awhile knows the adventures of Dukes and his children’s mothers. I even know of a website host who was thinking of making up 25 t-shirts with the words, “Elijah is my Daddy” and sit them within sight of the  outfield rail for the game. But he had a bit of conscience knowing it was not in the best interest of him or Dukes to prey on the subject. But I do have to say, I would have laughed for a while if I saw those shirts on some kids under 10 years old.

I mean I must have been so involved in the Rays 2008 playoff run that I missed this entire incident in Shea Stadium between the fans and pitcher Mike Pelfrey during September 2008.  Dukes barked at  New York Mets starter Mike Pelfrey following an inside pitch in the fourth inning – one at-bat after he belted a mammoth home run. Dukes also incited already-booing fans behind the Nationals dugout in the ninth with a series of arm gestures. And of course, after the game a Washington PR staffer stood guard to keep away the media as Dukes did not comment after the game.

Actions and reactions by him are going to be judged the rest of his career and how he responds to them will be key for him. Positive actions and comments will help bury his past and have him feeling more secure about playing in places like Tropicana Field in the future. It had to be rough for him this weekend. This is his home turf, the place where he made memories both as a Rays and as a high school star.

But right now everything he has done good in the world is overshadowed by comments and actions in his past. Hopefully the personal assistant that is always by his side has been a huge influence on him to promote a better image and man to the fans. So far I am seeing a different Dukes, but that could maybe be a mirror reflection of what I want to see in him too. You want misguided souls to find their ways, maybe Dukes has finally been able to come home and feel relaxed, even with the chants in the stands.

Izzy goes on DL after arm/elbow Injury

 

       
        Brian Blanco / AP

It was the top of the ninth inning when Jason Isringhausen took the mound in a game where he was going to get some extra work and did not figure to get a save or even a hold in the short appearance. It might have been one of those moments where a pitcher knows he just needs to do some fine tuning and use the appearance to his advantage.

But when Isringhausen let go of that pitch even from my rightfield seats you could see his elbow go towards the visitors’ dugout, which it is not suppose to do, you knew something bad had happen to the Rays reliever. As the ball sail wide right of the pinch hitter Corey Patterson, most of the crowd were stunned that the ball went that far beyond and to the right of the glove of Rays catcher Michel Hernandez and the plate and did not notice the quickness that Isringhausen moved off the mound and motioned for the Rays medical staff to get there as soon as possible. But if you watched the video of him throwing, right after his right arm gets near the front of his body he seems to winch a bit in pain and then let the arm dangle next to his side while the Rays Manager Joe Maddon and the medical staff came out to the mound.


 

                                      Isringhausen Injury Video
 
 
Rays medical trainer Paul Harker was out there first and  did a primary  examination of Isringhausen on the mound  before quickly taking him out of the game for further examination. You can see in the video that his right elbow area was already getting reddened and looks to be puffing up a bit. Within seconds he knew he was hurt and called for immediate attention. I give the veteran credit here. Some pitcher might have tried to work out the kink and think it was not as serious as it lead on to be at the moment, but Isringhausen showed no hesitation to move off the pitching mound and get quick relief. A stunned Tropicana Field crowd stood on their feet and gasped as Isringhausen left the mound.

This is the same arm region that Isringhausen has his surgery on just months before and might have either re-injured that elbow, or he might have caused an additional new tear in the elbow region to further put his  great comeback with the Rays to a  sudden close. If the injury is anything like the one he suffered with the St. Louis Cardinals last season it might be the end of his tenure right now with the Rays. As a precaution, the Rays put Isringhausen immediately on the Disabled List, which is not a good sign of a slight injury or a strain.


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With his placement on the DL, the team bought out the contract of Winston Abreu from Triple-A Durham and he might make it to the Trop in time for the 1:38 pm game tomorrow. I have to say I was so interested and enthusiastic about the signing of Izzy this spring as a total “win-win” for the Rays. He was a talented closer who was coming off an injury and could be a great veteran presence on this young Bullpen.

Along with Troy Percival they amassed a huge chunk of saves and could have been a huge force come playoff time. But now with both of them shut down for awhile, the Rays might have to look elsewhere for a definite closing candidate for the next 99 games. But could this now also open an opportunity for the Rays to maybe find a viable reason to take a second look at Pedro Martinez when he throws his second time this week in the Dominican?

You do not want to ever think about someone finding a positive for an injury especially to a veteran like Isringhausen, and bringing up Abreu might be a great opportunity for him to make another impression on the Rays staff. He looked real good this spring when he posted a 4.26 ERA in his 6.1 innings of work. But it was his  5 strikeouts in that short stint in Spring Training that might have left an impression on the Rays.


Tony Dejak / AP

So he went down to Triple-A and compiled a 3-0 record with a 1.41 ERA in 23 appearances. He also 49 strikeouts in 32 total innings of work to go along with his 10 saves. He might not get an opportunity to close at this level early, but with his success at Triple-A you know Rays Manager Joe Maddon will seek him out if the match-ups deem it so during his time with the club. He should be on a plane sometime tonight or in the early am, and might be here in time for the 1:38 pm start to the last game of the series against the Washington Nationals.

Hopefully this is not the last time we see Isringhausen on the mound for the Rays. He is currently in the training room at Tropicana Field and will be reevaluated in the morning by the Rays staff and doctors. I has the same body shudder tonight as when I saw former Rays pitcher Tony Saunders break his arm twice on the mound at the Trop. Hopefully that is not the last pitch he will ever throw in professional baseball. Isringhausen has done so much for this game, and hopefully he can go out on his terms and not the terms of an injury.

Kapler is growing on Me

 


Gail Burton/ AP

I have never been one of those Gabe Kapler lovers that dot the Trop from Section to Section. I am for some reason still holding out any love for the guy because of his Boston Red Sox roots, but a home run like the one he hit last night into the first row of the Left Field seats will go far to get me to open my mind to his effectiveness on the Rays. But then again, I was one of those people who questioned his name on the 25-man roster back on April 1st thinking the Rays might be playing an April Fools joke on the fans.

I mean the guy went 9 for 60 in Spring Training for a dismal .150 average that might have gotten most players either a Greyhound bus ticket to the minor leagues, or an outright release from his contract. But the Rays front office and Rays Manager Joe Maddon saw something in the former minor league manager. Granted the guy has heart and an ability to keep motivation strong and focused on the bench, but I questioned the keeping of him over Matt Joyce even a few days ago. Now Kapler has given me a few reasons to even think he might just be another hidden gem that is about to unfold for the Rays. 

He has been flirting below the Mendoza line for a bit of time with the Rays, and his defense has been great at times. But the true fact is in the last two games he has done his best “Zorilla” imitation and has produced at an amazing pace. Sure he has gone 2 for 5 in the last two game with 2 HR and 3 RBI to boost his awesome scale to about a 4 based on the rest of his year.

He had not had even a trickle of a hit or a RBI since he posted 2 RBI and went 1 for 3 against the Cleveland Indians back on May 27th. So you can honestly say he has gone 0 for 11 in 6 games between his RBI chances. But for how long can you overlook a 4 for 42 stint that dropped your average from .235 to its present .183 mark.

But the thing that also endeared me to him was the poise he had last night in the post-game interview with Rich Hererra after Dioner Navarro got him square with his mouth open with a shaving cream pie. I mean he got the teeth, tongue and maybe even a few nose hairs deep and dirty in shaving cream.


Brian Blanco / AP

The flustered Kapler did end his interview because of the incident but gave another one a few minutes later in the Rays clubhouse where he made sure to thank the Coaching staff for their support and belief in him this year.  The guy is a class act from head-to-toe and that gained some more style and bonus points from me last night about him on this team.

And that might not be the best of averages, but the guy is here to maintain more than just a bat in his hand. Kapler is like a player/manager on the bench sometimes. He sits there and chats about the game with the other guys on the bench showing them some of the small nuances they might have missed on the field.

It is a great asset to have to show some of the Ray pitchers and reserve players how small things can blossom into great opportunities for the Rays. But he is on this team as much for his defense as he is for his mental and physical make ups. 

He is tied with B J Upton with 3 outfield assists this season, and has been involved in 3 game-winning or go-ahead RBI this year. Could he just be that type of player who wills himself a good game when he is counted on, or are we seeing a shell of the former Kapler that spooked us when he took the field for the Red Sox in the Trop.  The guy is a classic example of the type of player you want in your locker room. He is always up beat, personable and totally into helping another player with his game.

And that might be one of the reasons he is still here. He is a great bridge between the Coaches and the players since he did a one year stint at Class-A Greenville for the Red Sox in their minor leagues as a manager. And that experience might be a huge plus for him to convey and influence another guy to see a different viewpoint or idea.

But for the longest time, it was Kapler who had the world by his fingers. Few people remember back in the 1998 when Kapler was the Minor League Player of the Year. He was selected for that honor after killing the ball in the Southern League where he hit a staggering 80 extra base hits while maintaining a .320 average.

Because of this honor he got a chance to appear in a K-Swiss shoe print ad as a emerging baseball star for the up-and coming shoe manufacturer. Also of importance is the fact he shattered the Southern League RBI record by driving in 148 that year.  But could it just be that we are seeing the worse of Kapler here at home at Tropicana Field and he is excelling more on the road?

And wild as that statement might seem in your mind, it has merit people. He is hitting  .163 on turf this season, and combine that with his current .150 average at home and you get a generally miserable .118 in the last 30 days for him.

But there might just be a shade of light flickering in the distance showing he can be the producer the Rays sought when they signed him to his $1,000,018 contract this Spring. That odd two digit anomaly at the back end of his contract financial numbers is actually Kapler’s good luck number. But then again, the number “18” in Judaism means “life”. Go figure.  In June we are starting to see a trend where his numbers are starting to rise as he is currently hitting at a .222 clip, better that the overall .080 he has against right-handed pitchers this year.
 

Kapler might not the first person you think of when you think power, or even scoring ability this season for the Rays, but he has been productive wherever he has played in the past. Last season he did post a overall .301 average while playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, and we have gotten some good players in the last few years from the Brewers rosters ( Grant Balfour, Gabe Gross). Kapler might not be the best option for the Rays right now in right field based on his average, but he is the kind of guy you want out there to catch that difficult fly ball.

I am opening my eye a bit to the fact he might be a better player than I give him credit for most of the time. Kapler might just end up in a Eric Hinske( 2008) or even a Carlos Pena( 2007) role of being the surprise signing of the spring of 2009. I am going to keep my mind open here for awhile and see what the big guy shows me. But I can guarantee you one thing, you will not see me going against him in a poise down anytime soon.

          
           male-model-agency@Flickr.com


Gabe Kapler Mini Facts

***  Did you know his middle name was Stefan. Some how that makes sense.

*** If Kapler was not a baseball player he might have dabbled in the culinary arts as a chef. He is very nutrition oriented and might just be on par with Pat Burrell with his cooking skills.

*** He has appeared on several magazine covers including Men’s Workout and Natural Development in the past.

*** He hit his first home run of his career at Tropicana Field while in a Tigers uniform against Albie Lopez on April 30, 1999.

 *** Kapler broke up Chris Youngs perfect game with a 8th inning 2-run home run on September 7, 2008.

*** In 2005, he returned to the Red Sox after playing  38 games for the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese League.

*** He was put on the DL in 2005 after suffering a season ending injury after rounding second base  after Tony Graffanino’s homer and injuring his Achilles’ tendon.

*** In 2004, the Red Sox went 92-44 when he appeared in games for the team and they went 6-20 when he did not play for them.

*** In a game against the Rays in 2000, while with the Texas Rangers, Kapler tore his right quadricep in the game on May 2nd and went on the DL until June 9th of that season.

 

Fridays Fabulous Fragmented Thoughts

 



Steve Nesius / AP

No Re-joycing in Rightfield


With the activation of Tamp Bay Rays Designated Hitter Pat Burrell right after the game last night, the team made the corresponding roster move of sending young rightfielder Matt Joyce back down to the Triple-A Durham Bulls. The press release was still hot and wet when the Rays Radio Network broke the news right after the game in their post-game segment. At first this news hit me kind of like a ton of bricks because I truly thought the kid was going to make the transition up here the rest of the season.

Sure he started out like he was going to take names and change minds after hitting two quick hoe runs to make people, think it was “Re-Joyce Time” in rightfield. Even the fact he got two hits off a left-handed pitcher spoke volumes that he had done a bit of the work the Rays asked him to do when he went down first to Durham after spending the first five game up with the Rays while B J Upton was rehabbing after his off-season shoulder surgery. Upon the start of the Sunday game in Baltimore on April 12th he was on his way back to the Triple-A squad ready to work on things and make his way back to Tampa Bay in 2009.  Joyce was upset but understood the situation perfectly and vowed to again be patrolling the outfield in the Trop sometime in 2009.

So when the Rays went to Durham and again brought up Joyce on May 30th, it was a sign to the fans that maybe the team was finally considering giving the kid a fair shake in winning the rightfield job during the season. And he did come on like gangbusters hitting the ball his first few games before finally going through a 0 for 15 slide before he was sent out to the Bulls. He was upset about the news, but took it in stride as he told the St. Petersburg Times last night.””Any time you get sent down, it’s not a good feeling. So you just go back to the drawing board, go back down and scratch and claw your way back up.” Coming into the Angels series, Joyce was 0 for 20 lifetime against the team.

Joyce is heading back to the Durham squad with the intention of “tear it up again” in Durham, and “force them to bring you back up.”  And that is the kind of reaction you really want to hear from a young star who knows he will again shine bright among the lights of Tropicana field. This is not the last time we will see him in 2009, and you can bet the next time he is up here he will try and make it an extremely difficult decision to send him back down again.  Joyce was given some advice and things to work on by Rays Manager Joe Maddon before he left the Rays Clubhouse following their series win against the Los Angels Angels last night.

Joyce will go down to the minors and work a bit on his overall game, including his defense and hopes to again get a chance to make a huge impression this season.  During a few games in the Trop., he seemed to have a problem identifying the ball off the roof in the dome and that might have led to a few defensive problems during his time up here. He did not read the ball well off the bat a few times and the ball made it into the Right-Centerfield gap for extra bases.

That is a simple adjustment and recognition program that can be completed easily in the minors.  But Joyce has been totally supportive of the decision and is looking forward to more playing time and to prove he belongs here with the Rays. Before he was promoted at the end of May, he was hitting .315 with 5 HR and 27 RBI for the Bulls.  He had compiled a 1.000 OPS against right-handed pitching, and a .727 against left-handers. 


AP File Photo

Pedro  Martinez as a Ray?

Oh how Gerald Williams must be all tied up in knots knowing that the Rays might be watching former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez throwing in the Dominican Republic yesterday. How it must be burning in his stomach that the guy who caused such a ruckus with the Rays back in 200 might even be considered for a pitching option. There are numerous reports that not only have the Rays checked out the aging pitcher, but some monetary figures have been exchanged between the two parties. 

According to Nick Carfardo of The Boston Globe, Martinez had both the Chicago Cubs and the Rays both exploring what it might take to sign the aging pitcher to their rosters. During his workout the former fireballer was throwing about 94 MPH, which is a nice increase in velocity compared to his pre-surgery speed.  Mark Lancaster of the Tampa Tribune said,”I’ve heard that one of the Rays’ officials in the Dominican who has known Pedro for a while just watched him work out, but it doesn’t sound like the team expects anything to come of it.” 

A local Tampa Bay television station even commented on their Twitter page that someone was checking out Martinez. And a pretty credible Rays blog, www.RaysIndex.com was reporting that the team did schedule a second workout for Martinez, which is usually a sign of interest.  When the World Baseball classic tenure of the Dominican Republic team was over during MLB’s Spring Training, it was reported that Martinez was basically seeking a single year deal in the $5 million range. With the MLB season  nearing the 62nd game, that request might have been cut in half to about the $ 2.5 million dollar figure. 

Some might say that the aging pitcher would be a great fit in the Rays Bullpen in some capacity. But considering he would supplant someone currently in that unit, it might be a difficult sell to Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey right now. But even if the Rays have always kept things like this close to their vest pocket, the history with Martinez might not sit well with long standing Rays fans.  For the same reason most fans were skeptical of Curt Shilling basically saying he would play for the Rays years ago, Martinez might not be a great fit here. Martinez and Don Zimmer also have their own history, but Zim contends that it is ” by the wayside and ancient history.”

The guys still has the desire and the spunk to pitch in the majors, which is great for him. But the guy might not be a great fit into the Rays bullpen, and definitely can not be seen as a starter right now. Things could happen fast and he will be out of the Rays sights and this all will be dust in the wind. But the idea of adding him to our team kind of upsets my stomach. I admire the girt and the determination, but seeing him brawl on our home field, and throw Zim to the ground is enough for me to  print a “VOTE NO FOR PEDRO” t-shirt. Somethings even time can not heal.

             
              smh.com au

Boot Scootin’ Nelson

***  With the Rays getting ready soon to head on out for another road trip, Maddon has picked a “western theme” for the trip out to Colorado to begin their 6-game Inter-League road trip. I am not sure what most of the guys are going to be outfitted in before they board the plane, but hopefully they know that six shooters are not allowed on the plane.

Seriously though, I spoke with Rays reliever Joe Nelson yesterday on what style he was going to pull off for the western theme. He said he was going with the “Yul Brenner circa The Magnificent Seven look”.  Nelson already has the hairstyle, and I can see him in the black shirt and maybe even black leather pants, but I am really going to be surprised if he can find a great back cowboy hat to pull it all together. Maybe he can call Keith Millar, who is with the Toronto Blue Jays for a primer on how to “Cowboy Up” before the trip. I personally thought Nelson might go for the Yul Brenner look from Westworld where he played a gunslinging robot, but after the picture, I can see him in a black hat for some reason.

Season Ticket Gate Upgrade


The Rays instituted a new Season Ticket holder entrance near Gate 3 earlier this season. There is great news that an awning has been purchased that will expand out from the current gate to shelter fans waiting in that line for enter the stadium hopefully around the All-Star break. This new entrance brings you in right at the service desk at Gate 3 for easy access for signing up for the many contests, or getting with a Season Ticket Representative within a few feet of the doors. 

I have used the entrance a few times in the past few months and it is quicker and faster than the present system at Gate 1 where most of the current Season Ticket holders enter the Trop. This also might be a great alternative during the Boston or Yankee series later this year when the general standing area outside Gate 1 gets so crowded and heated at times. It is also a great alternative for the “giveaway” days as the lines will be smaller and less confusion.
 


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Familiar Faces in the Videos

If you are in Tropicana Field before the game and look up at the Jumbotron before the game and think you might have seen me on the big screen during the opening minute of the “Ground Rules”, you are correct. As a member of the “Maddon’s Maniacs”, I was invited for a taping before opening day this year to complete a fan version of the typical baseball rules explanation played 81 times a year in Tropicana Field. I got lucky enough to be in the first segments of the new video both in the first clip where you see me banging my over sized black cowbell ( which is now broken almost in half) and during the first two rules of the video.

I have to give props to the Rays vision crew who did most of the stand-in spots in the video and also had the changes and segmented video shoots done fast and professional at all times. Also have to give some acknowledgments to Eric Weisberg, Darcy Raymond and Sean Liston from the Rays Fan Experience department for their ideas to include the Maniacs in this years action. It was a great time, and I did get in a bit of a pickle about two pictures, but all is good in Rays-land. I hope you see a few of your friends in the video and be sure to stop us and say hello. We will be more than happy to chat with you about the “Maddon’s Maniacs” club or just about our hometown Rays.

Blogging Outcry….My Response

 

When I first heard the story about Jared Morris, who posted a blog on www.midwestsportsfan.com recently that brought up the “speculation” of the Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez may be indulging in some specially energized vitamin compound outside the rules of the game, I had a eerie recollection of a blog I wrote a few months back about the bloggers being the “Rodney Dangerfields of Journalism”. 

In that blog I was wondering if we did not get the respect for what we did as an underlying check and balance system within the Internet community. I gained a lot more valuable insight on both sides of the issue after posting that article from both websites and media members. Both these entities will be here from now on, the collective joining of the two segments might be the key to everyone seeing and following the same guidelines and beliefs in the new media format.

We (bloggers) have been deemed the  new storytellers of our generation. The way our grandparents used to take us aside and tell us wild tales of the Great Depression. We got a sense of the times that they lived through based on their stories.  Today our recollections and thoughts that are typed onto the Information Highway can be taken with a grain of salt, or taken full bore as the truth or a lie depending on your own personal beliefs and opinions.

I always had the notion that a blogger being basically a buzzing horsefly bothering the cows (media) in the pasture. The cow swats us away at times, but knows we also serve some sort of purpose in the whole scheme of things and basically tolerates us because of it.

I also have to contend with the fact I acknowledge and view the blogging community format a bit different after reading the response blog posting and comments on www.midwestsportsfan.com recently. I see where both side can get a bit animated on the issue posted in the blog. But the fact is the guy was not outright accusing him in any of the chosen words or phases, but the idea of some type of improper conduct seemed to condemn the blog before you even read it. But that is the essence of life in this era that sometimes fast information and recognition along with the lead into a blog posting can be the only thing read nowadays before opinions are based in our minds.

I have come upon the belief that sometimes your true words and thoughts do not fully seem to gel and mesh with your thoughts on paper/net until you hit that “Post” button, then it is too late to edit it.  Once you click on it, the entry is out there for any level of interpretation or dissection it merits. I am not one of those people who posts a blog then re-write it 20 minutes later after second thoughts. The before mentioned blog did cause a bit of a hassle for me for  about one day, then like most online entries, it was yesterday’s news. Since that time, not one comment or even a glance has been made towards that blog. It was now out of sight, out of mind.

I made sure I read the so-called “offending blog” today again before viewing the video about the incident from a recent ” Outside the Lines” show, I can see the views of both sides a bit clearer on the issue at hand. I really do believe as Ken Rosenthal of ESPN and John Gonzalez of the Philadelphia Inquirer hinted that 5 years ago, this type of “speculation” blog article would have fallen by the wayside and not gotten more than a quick read or even a glance from anyone on the Internet. 

It is the new found responsibility and unwritten status now from all of us to maybe rethink  some of our own boundary lines when we write  accusation or speculation blog entries. In the last few years, most of the countries newspapers, and even blog sites like ESPN.com have made their feature blogs and articles a reading mainstay of their reporting outside of the televised or printed editions of the news. Newspapers are going digital every day. It is for this reason that even a blogger can now be held more responsible, as a kind of “uncarded media member” for their thoughts and comments. Which has its own set of pitfalls and future problems.

Twitter,Facebook, Myspace, and even MLBlogs.com do have people who read your blogs daily. You might be doing it as an added entertainment factor for your love of the game, but “Joe Yankee” fan might take offense to your personal rendition and responses to their heroes Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez being used as fodder for your ever growing blog popularity. I have to admit that I take a bit of a relaxed approach at times to blogging more for the fact that this is not sourced journalism where I have access to players,coaches and team personnel to get added information. 

Most of what I find out is on written media sources or face-to-face conversations with players or team officials. Even my simple sidebar postings of the Rays injury updates daily comes from either the local media members, or from personal comment from players or staff about their injury status. I recently talked to two injured Rays players who told me they are starting their throwing programs this Friday. I am not paid,compensated so to find a nice gem of a comment or can make it all worth it at times.

Sometimes the lines get foggy and muted and to cross them can be as simple as that first step. Accountability and accuracy is the keystone of writing in a journalistic format. To check and double-check is a part of the lifeblood you are taught in that first Journalism class. And to think no one is watching or even reading your stuff is a recipe for disaster. But when a person blogs, most of us know usually only a group of 10-20 people who tend to read our stuff, but every once in a while, someone or some site stumbles upon your writing and either takes offense, or sees your point of view and advertises it to the rest of the world too.

The basic premise is a blog is suppose to be the format for personal thoughts, ideas and opinions. The true nature of the beast here is that the bloggers and their readers have grown tremendously in size and importance to be a unwritten focal point of life today. Perez Hilton and other gossip bloggers like him now have a millions of followers because of their outlandish and sometimes erroneous thoughts online. But they still do the basic sweat equity to find out if there is merit to their posting before throwing someone under the bus.

The odd part of all of this is not words or phrases accused Ibanez of wrongdoing, just a questioning of the state of the sport right now after recent finding of some of our heroes abusing the system, and some getting caught red-handed in unfortunate surrounding and actions. I think it is part of the unchained responsibility of blogging to not always trust everything you read and see, but to research and bring your own side of the story too. I know some media sources have agendas that tend to make them more “homers” when they write blogs or articles about our teams and their players.

Should we get the same treatments that mainstream journalists get if they mess up and write something unsourced and ambiguous. I am more and more  insight into this
subject after erroneous posting and comments. But then again, the “He said, She said” mentality of most blogging communities tends to bring to light the honest facts that personal opinions are fine spoken verbally within a small group of people, but voice it online and you can attract more than just a comment. In the blog written by Jared Morris, it doesn’t scream either libel or slander because the intention here was to voice a concern or speculation and not establish fact or circumstances to even thrust Ibanez into the light for further examination by anyone within or outside of the sport.

But I can see where established journalists can come out and condemn and accost him for his efforts. They might  agree with his logic or opinions in their minds, but their journalistic integrity questions the way it was presented to the public via the Internet. But that is the fine line that we cross sometimes without noticing it until we hit that “Post” button.

What looks great to us on the initial posting can turn into a firestorm just as quickly as this blog’s speculation of adverse numbers because of a suspected PED abuse.  His blog actually reads more to me as a true “tongue-in-cheek” action-reaction to Ibanez’s extreme upward trend in his statistics. But it is also being anointed as the key piece of evidence to why there needs to be change in the blogging world in accordance to unsourced or opinion-based blog postings.

I think the comment by Rosenthal near the end of the video puts it all into better prospective here. “It is the power of the written word. That is what we are all taught. You have to be careful, you have to be clear, you have to be responsible,” Rosenthal stated in the OTL segment. In response to the idea that the blog was written without due thought process he added, “I am sorry, as well intended as he (Morris) might have been, you can’t tell me he met these standards in this case.”

People who write online do have to use a bit more consideration and thought before hitting the “Post” button. I am guilty of it myself. But that is also one of the things that sometimes drives us to the Internet. It is like the reason people slow down to watch a traffic accident, or watch video of celebrities becoming moving train wrecks for their actions.  The basic facts is that opposing viewpoints bring about discussion, which can be great for enlightenment and understanding on certain subjects. But they also open you to huge avenues of opinion and commentary either positive or negative towards your own views. 

This controversy  can be food for thought. Either you are going to see merits, or you will go about your business as usual. Me, I am still riding the fence here, but I also know that this will not be the last time we read or hear about an outburst in the blogging world. But hopefully we can all learn a bit from the experience…or not.

Introducing Levon Washington to Rays fans

 



AP file photo

Maybe I do not get it. Maybe I am missing the entire idea of the draft when you take a player who is rehabbing an injury in the First Round of the draft.  And the funny part is that the Rays have known about the injury the entire time having had the kid here a few weeks ago with his parents to do some ground work on even considering him for the Rays. He has even told the University of Florida coaching staff that he is going to try and get signed as soon as possible so he can get right to playing for the Rays.

Oh, and did I mention he is a distant cousin to Rays former slugger Fred McGriff who was sitting at the Rays Draft table in Secaucus, New Jersey and probably was the one to telephone his relative and give him the great news. But there is some unusual things to go along with the announcement of Gainesville native Levon Washington as the first pick for the Rays in 2009. Did I mention he is coming off an  shoulder injury? The kid does have a pedigree that puts him just inside the top 30 prospects in baseball according to Baseball America, but even with his athleticism and speed, there is a huge amount of danger involved signing him as damaged property.

He is rehabbing nicely right now, with a total prognosis for no sustained problems after the injury heals, but the thought is to get him signed and maybe used as a Designated Hitter in the Gulf Coast League for the rest of the year so he can be ready in February 2010 for a full season team. Really?  Is that too soon, or is the injury maybe a slight smokescreen that kept some teams away from the guy before the Rays took him with the 30th pick. And even if they did get a steal at 30th, does he have Carl Crawford speed, or maybe more like Gabe Kapler speed.

These things are major considerations for the Rays to think about before signing Washington sometime this week. Oh, the kid is above eager to get down to the Trop and talk money and get into playing for the team, That is a great thing to hear, that a player wants to play for the Rays. For years it was more like a disappointment to even be considered by the team, but after 2008, players are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and wondering if they might be the key to the next emergence of the team towards the playoffs in the future. 

Oh, did I forget to mention that MLB.com did not even have a scouting report on the kid to place under his name on the website right after his selection. But that is not the curious thing to me. That is the fact that MLB.com had him listed as an infielder, while ESPN.com had him listed as an outfielder when the listing hit the Internet about 8 :30 last night. Now that is fine if the team pulled the rug out from under a few teams and selected a kid that flew under the radar due to his injury, but even high schooler Todd Glaseman, who was picked in the third round with the 108th pick had a small scouting report  on him listed at MLB.com.


Doug Finger / Gainesville Sun.com

Okay maybe I am a bit bitter that two great catching prospects were still on the board and the thought of an injured player being picked in the First Round sounded more like  a Dewon Brazelton than Tim Beckham type pick. But the fact that R J Harrison is so psyched that this kid was still on the board might be a better indicator of his possible potential for the Rays. ” There’s a lot of things we like,” scouting director R.J. Harrison said told the St. Petersburg Times. “First of all, he’s a premium athlete and y’all that have been around here for a while know we like that kind of athlete. He fits right in with the kind of players that we’ve signed in the past. He’s a well above average runner and we really like his bat. We think he’s going to hit, and hit for a high average. … We saw an advanced young hitter.”

Granted the Rays might have seen a pile of unclaimed gold at the bottom of the First Round, but could his rehab after tearing his labium and spending most of his high school senior season as a DH and not in the field been a deterrent to his high selection in this draft.  “We didn’t go into this blind,” Harrison said. “It’s just a matter of time, and getting him back to full strength. He’s made good progress already on his rehab, and when he gets with us and gets with our people that will only make it that much better.” Okay, I understand personally that Ron Porterfield and the Rays medical team are the best in the game, but did we have to take this kid in the money round?

But with that aside, he might not have been there at the 78th pick in the second round, so I am going to reserve 3/4 of my judgment on here right now and wish the guy a speedy recovery and hoping he does sign fast and furious so we can get him into the “Rays Way” as soon as possible. But why is it that Andrew Friedman, the Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations just learned of the six degrees of separation concerning McGriff on draft night? If we had done our so-called background and knew everything about the kid, we would have also seen the correlation of the McGriff family bloodlines. 

Of course this made no matter to the Rays. They were not selecting him for his bloodline, which Friedman confessed he did not know about prior to Tuesday night pick.  When the St. Petersburg Times asked Friedman about the six degrees of separation he stated, “I learned it on the way over here (to address the media),” Friedman said. “R.J. said he heard it the other day. Fred told him again when R.J. called him to tell him the pick. Certainly can’t hurt and hopefully it can help us in the recruiting process.”  And this was a kid the scouting department has said the Rays have been watching for two years ( according to the Times). 

They had even had him at their homefield to do a short impromptu workout and nothing about the Rays-Washington correlation relationship came to light. They talked with his parents, and they did not divulge the family ties. Come on here, you mean a proud parent did not boast about their kid to a scout, in their home MLB stadium. It is a miracle people!  Even though the kid is eager to get signed and maybe even get into a Rays uniform as soon as possible there are two words that might hinder a quick and sure-fire signing for the kid. Does the name Scott Boras send chills down Friedman or Matt Silverman’s spine right now. The kid is represented by the anti-christ of agents.

This is not to say that the client will not get a speedy and quick resolution to the situation. The client( Washington) is eager and anxious to get his professional career underway and has not hinted of going to even enroll at the University of Florida, even if he does have a scholarship waiting for him right now. He is not posturing for a prolonged stalemate, or even
giving out any negative vibes that you got when the Rays selected Delmon Young a few years ago. Hopefully everything will go peachy keen in Rays-land and we can get this kid to the GCL within a month or so to begin rehab and his playing career.

http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/player.swf?mediaId=4065422

I am not against the Rays getting a bargain, or even a steal in the First Round by finding a talent that people are overlooking due to a circumstance like a shoulder injury. It is just the fact that it is like trying to roll a “7” and the odds are against the player most of the time. I hope he heals and becomes a great player for the Rays, but I am going into this First Round signing with a bit of hesitation people. I mentioned Dewon Brazleton before in this blog.

There was a guy who was a project pitcher from the get-go and did finally make it to the major leagues before finally falling from grace and out of baseball by 2008. The last place I saw Brazleton was at the 2008 Little League regionals in Gulfport, Florida helping to coach the All-Star team from Tennesse.  Here was a guy selected by the Rays with the First Round with the third pick in 2001 Draft and he is now out of baseball looking in at the game.
 

That kind of puts the baseball draft into true perspective for me.  Of the Rays First Round selections prior to Brazleton’s pick, only Rocco Baldelli and Josh Hamilton are still playing baseball at the major league level. Paul Wilder, Jason Standridge, and Josh Presley ( third Round) are out of the game. Presley was selected in the third round after the Rays lost picks to compensation for the signings of Wilson Alvarez, Dave Martinez and closer Roberto Hernandez. Day One is over for the 2009 Draft, but the murmur and the hum still can be heard amongst the Rays fans as to the selection of Washington.

This is the first true draft that will have Friedman and the Rays new Scouting staff’s fingerprints all over them. With their successes of the past, and their eye for detail, you have to take a “wait and see” premise right now with their first three selections. But there is a long way to still go here with the later round continuing today with more possible surprises in hand for the Rays and other teams in the MLB. Oh, and there are still a few great catching prospects out there guys……….just a short hint there.

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