November 2009

“Guess-timations for Jason Grilli for 2010

 


@Grillcheese49/Twitter.com


I am not a true fan of crossword puzzles or games like Chess. But I got to tell you, I am so psyched right now to try and figure out this word puzzle/mystery. You see, Jason Grilli aka Grillcheese49 on Twitter has been leaving small clues and a few hints recently about his pitching destination for 2010.  And I have to admit it here, but trolling the web looking for answers can get my endorphines  kicking it at about 120 mph right now. I forgot how much fun it used to be following a lead, or just a simple photo and finding an aswer within it all.

I have a lot of respect for the insider job that ESPN’s Buster Onley does every day right now during the Hot Stove season. I honestly have not worked this hard to nail down a team or a possible player’s new location since college. And I am not working with a safety net right now, and could basically get it all wrong with a flick of the fingers upon this keyboard. 

I do not possess the savvy insider sources that people like Peter Gammons or Onley have at their disposal daily. I do most of my work down here in the darkest recesses of light, and ever so often a beam shines down and I grab ahold of it tightly. Right now I am going by what Grilli has tweeted to all of us over the last week and using them as definite clues to piece this puzzle with more clarity. But the reality of this dark situation is that this new form of social interweaving like Twitter and Facebook can also work in deflecting people and organizations far away from the truth.

 @Grillcheese49:There were 8 teams interested. One clear choice. Details coming soon. Hope to share by Monday. ( 4:57 PM Nov 27,2009 from UberTwitter)

Well Jason, it is now early Monday, and only a few hours before you “officially” tell the cyber-world of your playing intentions for 2010. I am going to try and piece together some of the previous information given out by you,and try and make an educated guess on where you are going to be playing in 2010. Hope you do not mind, but I might have a lead on your future employer by reading through the lines a bit, and hope

I am at least within the ballpark when you announce it sometime during today. I may end up being totally wrong, and that is okay too because I am a blogger with no real connections who is just using his mind for more than a hatrack right now.

@Grillcheese49: The answer is coming people this week. I promise. Let’s play the Feud. There are 30 teams in MLB. The top 5 answers are on the board.
(9:27 AM Nov 27,2009 from UberTwitter)

I have to admit, I did not take all 30  MLB teams when I was trying to figure out which team you might have scooped you up come Monday. I  did however remove your prior teams like the Colorado Rockies,Texas Rangers,Chicago White Sox,Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers. It was a bit hard to rule out the Marlins completely at first because you still have a home in Florida. But,I figure that  for the most part, when a player leaves the Marlins, they are not too anxious to get back into the aqua blue uniforms.

@Grillcheese49: Longest drum roll ever…..I know. If it were up to me I would tell ya. Don’t want to be banned from Twitter like the NFL players do. Haha
( 3 hours ago from UberTwitter)


Do not worry Grilli, I am pretty sure there is nothing within the MLBPA union contract about social networks  yet, but they probably will add it into the talks in 2011 when the MLBPA  Union contract is up for renewal. I really wish I did have someone within a the MLB front offices that I could bounce this  guess-timate off of at 1 AM on a Monday morning…..But I do not.

So I am out here in “Blog-ville” after 1 AM trying to piece the puzzle together considering you gave me an awesome clue with the Twitpic posted late on Sunday. And the wildest part of it all is going to be my  own personal opinion on if you are seeking to play for a potential playoff team,or just a great opportunity to stay with a team’s Bullpen for a few years. That at first almost lead me to make the mistake of thinking you might be wearing a Tampa Bay Rays jersey in 2010, but something on your Twitpic tonight led me away from that conclusion quickly.

 Someone trying to piece together puzzles like this need to have a keen eye for unobvious observations to sometimes notice things other leave behind as clues or even honest mistakes in their posts or comments. When you posted the picture tonight of your signature already on your 2010 contract, you left the biggest clue of them all. As most people can see now, the MLB authorized Club Representative signature might be the key to this entire puzzle.

                     
                     
Grillcheese49/Twitpic


So if I take that position of “Director of Baseball Administration” as a clue under the Club Reps signature, then I can quickly narrow it down to  a total of six teams that have that position currently listed within their MLB front office. We have 3 clubs each in both the American League and the National League that employ a person in that present job title. But then again,it could just be an ambiguous  job title that is printed on a standardized MLB/MLBPA contract for all I know. But  a gut reaction has me really doubting that.

I could be wrong even about the title of the Club Representative, but I am going to roll the dice here on this one and hope Lady Luck is in my corner tonight/today.  And for that simple reason, I  am putting the following six MLB clubs could be your final destination for the 2010  MLB season:

Oakland Athletics:  The A’s currently have Pam Pitts as the Director of Baseball administration for their club. I think you have more of a inclination right now to be looking for a team that is going to be fighting for a potential playoff spot in 2010. For that reason, I am eliminating the A’s from contention for your services. (75-1 chance)

Kansas City Royals: Jin Wong is posted as the active Director of Baseball Administration for the Royals on their MLB website. This is a team that I feel is more in the rebuilding stage than ready to take center stage right now. They could probably make some no
ise,but might not have the overall staying power in 2010 to get you closer towards a playoff chance. (50-1 chance)


Cleveland Indians:
The Director of Baseball Administration for the Indians is Wendy Hoppel. For some reason I think this is the AL club that might make you salivate the most right now. With the young talent they have accumulated the last two seasons with trades involving CC Sabathia,Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee, the Indians could be a nice dark horse contender in the AL Central as early as 2010. (4-3 chance)


Out of the National League, I am considering these three clubs as your possible destination for the 2010 season:

Chicago Cubs:  The Cubs, even if they are going through a ownership transition,still currently list Scott Nelson as their Director of Baseball Administration. But even with the dust settling in the front office after the final sale approval by MLB owners just recently, this club is a bit more fragile within their 25-man roster. Might not be a great fit, but could be a  dark horse player for your services. (12-1 chance)


Atlanta Braves:
  This is the closest MLB team to your home now in Florida that has a person with the title of Director of Baseball Administration in their club’s front office. John Coppolella currently holds that post. Might be a location favorite, but also has a division you have pitched in before with the Marlins. ( 15-1 chance)

Philadelphia Phillies: This club is the last one to have a club representative with the title of Director of Baseball Administration  in the MLB. With Susan Ingersoll Papaneri at the controls. I am going to go with a wild hunch  that you are seeking a solid position on a team that could grow into an extended contract. With the Phillies, you  may have a spot in their Bullpen renovation. If you do seek a good chance for a possible 2010 playoff scenario, then this just might be a great destination on a possible playoff team. ( 5-1 chance)

This is where the whole shebang of guessing can get a little more difficult for me. I think you can strive for more in both Cleveland and Philly without a major problem. And even if your 2009 salary was only $ 800,000, I can see you going maybe over $1 million with incentives without a real contract problem. Put that all together with the photo above and look at the possible first name lower loop in the signature, and I have to say the name seems to point towards Cleveland (Wendy Hoppel).

But that is the fun with guessing right? I think the perfect 2010 scenario might be with the Phillies to expand your career and get into a possible playoff situation in 2010. But it might also  could be beneficial as a veteran on a young club to be with a team like Cleveland who could shock the AL like the Rays did in 2008 with their developing players leading the way coupled with experienced pitching behind them.

So I am going to guess that the Chief Wahoo will be proud you are with the Cleveland Indians in 2010.  And even if I am wrong about all of this, I think it has been a great chance for me to practice some skills I have not used in a long, long time. It has been  a lot of fun Jason.

I truly wish you the best of luck and hope you stay injury free in 2010. If you play for a team that does head into Tropicana Field, I will look for number 49 and introduce myself to you. And if you do become an Indian on Monday, get your player uniform number negotiation skills ready, because leftie pitcher Tony Sipp currently hold your number 49 on the Indians active roster. But then again, no one on the Phillies 40-man roster currently sports a “49” on their back.

My Lottery Fantasy

 

                        
                         Skindepp2020@Flickr.com

I decided to get out of the house yesterday during the beautiful Saturday afternoon and drive on down to one of my favorite watering holes to watch the Florida State versus Florida rivalry football game. As anyone who knows me,I am a humongous Gator fan even before I completed my college days. I have a mean spot for the Seminoles, and especially FSU Head Coach Bobby Bowden and my college recruiting visit, but that is too huge a tale to tell for right now. 

But a funny thing happen righted after the Gator victory improved their 2009 record to 12-0 on the season. An old friend and I got into a wild discussion on what we might do if we won the Florida Lottery,or Powerball that night. For some weird reason I had an instant idea and a clear definition of where a bulk of my winnings would go, and the Hard Rock Casino never entered my mind.

Now it is not like I do not think about things like this on a daily basis,and I actually fantasize about the possibilities, but hearing the words and ideas that suddenly came out of my mouth actually surprised me. You would honestly think I would  bring up the notion of finally committing to that trip I have always wanted to take to Europe and Asia. Or maybe buy an extreme classic car, like a vintage 1969 Chevy Camaro convertible and cruise Route 66 from coast to coast doing my own rendition of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” by eating at great places. But none of those ideas came to my mind at that time.

For some odd reason the only things that came to my mind at that moment was giving back to baseball. Sure I would pocket a bit of money into a 401-K or Mutual Fund account to systematically give me my Tampa Bay Rays Season Ticket money each November,but the rest of the words at that moment were about giving back to the Tampa Bay baseball-oriented community.  I began to gush on and on about giving money to the Challenger Baseball Leagues in the area that helps kids with physical limitations take steps to break through that physical wall and play the game I love so much. I was talking about smiles and giggles from kids as parents watched or help them play this glorious game.

I boasted about helping the area Little Leagues where I was their Pepsi Cola rep to upgrade fields and scoreboards, and give added money towards hardship scholarships to kids who’s parents want them to play, but do not have the money for equipment or yearly dues. For some reason, for the first time in a long, long time, I only did one solo thing for myself in that conversation.

I envisioned a 20-year payment plan where I could help the Rays Foundation every year with a sponsored event. That I would bid on beautiful baseball memorabilia auctioned off by the Ted Williams Museum during the Rays season and donating each item to baseball-oriented charity raffles and events. I also wanted to get with the Rays and Rays Clubhouse Manager Chris Westmoreland and purchase 5 game and 5 BP jerseys per season with players names on them, get their autographs on the items and then give them to local charities as auction items. I was feeling overly benevolent last night.  

I wanted to buy an entire row of 10 seats in my area and give the tickets away before every game. I wanted to dedicate the area to one of my Rays baseball friends and call it “Cursi’s Corner”. Yes, I envisioned me standing outside before every Rays games and giving either a pair or 4 tickets to a family coming up to buy tickets to the game on game day. Take the ticket price burden off the parents for one day/night so they could make the baseball experience better. I loved going to game with my father up until the time he passed away when I was 16. I wanted others to feel that same love for the game.

I was growing a sentimental heart right in front of my increasingly drunk friend and it kind of freaked him out a bit. You see, I am the guy who always seems to get the “special” stuff.  For some odd reason I have good things happen to when I am around baseball. Yankee starter/reliever Joba Chamberlain came over and chatted with me for a bit towards the end of the 2009 season, and actually signed a ball for me. Sure we sat there chewing the fat about the playoffs, and hoping the best for him, but these kinds of moments happen spontaneous to me. It is not like I can predestine a foul ball coming to me and I catch it….Can I?


Joe-KS.com

While my friend was talking about a possible beach front condo,or even a smooth luxury ride,I was talking the thrills of seeing a kid light up if he gets a foul ball, or gets a wave or autograph from a Rays player. As my friend was talking about buying a round for the entire bar on a busy Friday or Saturday night,I was talking about pizza parties and maybe talking a Rays player into coming to a local school to talk Rays baseball with the kids during the yearly “Teach In” days. Funny, I was sitting there thinking about the next Rays generation loving the game like I have the last 13 years.

I could of had anything in the world at that moment when all 5 numbers of the Lotto were on my little paper ticket. I could reward myself and fly to every Rays away game/series and stay in the Team Hotel, but giving back to baseball was firmly on my mind. Maybe this is why men of power and wealth give to charities and foundation later in life. Maybe I am finally understanding that spirit for which “those that have” give so much to “those that have not” and ask so little in return.

Maybe it finally dawned on me while I was sitting in that dark bar thinking about untold possible wealth and drinking my cold Coors Light that maybe I do not give enough back to this wonderful game for all it has ever given to me. Well, my buddy still sat there discussing his needs and wants if those mystery 5 numbers were dropped into his lap. Around 12 am I popped open my cellphone and hit the web looking for the Lottery results on the state run website. 


Chris Kuppa/SPTimes

Really not wanting to fantasize anymore about the possibility, but wanting the reality to sink in of the whole situation. As I glanced at the numbers quickly, I noticed two numbers pop right out at me, and they were on two of my tickets. As I slowly marked down the rest of the numbers on a bar napkin, I glanced at the Lotto form and noticed those two numbers were the only ones I had that night. Reality had bitten me again, but I w
as not sad at all.

Sure I was a bit bummed, but enlightened by the whole conversation, and I vowed to help more around the local baseball community. I decided to offer the Rays my services to volunteer for anything they might need people for in 2010. And I decided to again every Wed. and Sat. night to purchase Powerball or Lotto tickets, because one day this dream might end up coming true.

For when, and if it ever happens that all 5 numbers gleam back at me from a single ticket, I will repay baseball for everything it has given me in my life by helping others. But in the mean time,I will sweat,get dirty and work towards helping the Tampa Bay baseball community grow every day. They say if you work hard enough, dreams come true.

Will it be “Sonny” in 2010?

 


Chris O’Meara / AP

Coming into Spring Training in 2010, the Tampa Bay Rays might have all five of their rotation spots sewn up before the February 19th reporting date. That would be the first time in franchise history that the team had a solid 5-deep pre-Spring rotation set-up in advance of the reporting date. And that possible starting pitching affirmation, it might not bode well for Rays starter/reliever Andy Sonnanstine to crack that line-up in 2010. Because of his up and down moments since his first MLB appearance in 2007, Sonnanstine could be on the outside looking in this year because of the 2009 seasons posted by the Rays three rookie starters.

As of this moment it seems that the Rays pitching trio of starters’ David Price, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis look pretty secure in their fight to again have a rotation spot with the Rays. But as we all know, an early injury, or a fall from grace could make a  starting spot suddenly available for Sonnanstine to shine and make the late March decision difficult for the Rays.

But there is a large dark cloud hanging over Sonnanstine right now. The basic fact that Sonny has had problems making adequate adjustments on the mound during games doesn’t guarantee him a spot either in the Bullpen or the rotation. And the odd fact that his pitch selection might be deep, but not overpowering like Price or Davis, or having that extreme downward angle of  the 6’9″ Niemann makes him the pitcher on the outside right now.

Since Sonnanstine’s abbreviated 2007 season when he posted a 6-10 record with a 5.85 ERA, Sonnanstine has  seen his game prove  to again be a rollercoaster ride in regard to consistency. After that personally disappointing 2007 season, Sonnanstine did make the needed adjustments to his game and rebounded with a solid 13-9 record in 2008. But a glaring trend was developing where the hitters’ were beginning  to predict his pitch selection, and that hampered his growth as a starter.
 

Since that 2007 season, Sonnanstine has changed his finger grips on the ball slightly and made some break variations to his pitching, but still his arm angles and pitch speed did not change enough to camouflage his pitch selection to the hitters. His evolution as a starting pitcher worked out great in 2008 when he posted 125 K’s during the season, and brought another element to his game. It was his first time Sonnanstine ever posted over 100 strikeouts in a season during his three year Major League career.

Sonnanstine came into the 2009 season with a new level of confidence and a sense that he could pitch at the Major League level. He earned early praise during Spring Training from Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey, and this new confidence helped him secure the fourth spot in the rotation before the end of March 2009. 

But Sonnanstine did not start the season  the way either he or the Rays envisioned it. During his first start in Baltimore on April 5,2009, Sonnanstine was in trouble from the first pitch of the game and lasted only 4.2 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 runs on only 92 pitches. It was not the kind of start of the season that would give him or the Rays, a  dose of confidence in his abilities.


Gail Burton /AP

From that first start, Sonnanstine began a trend of an up and down season where he posted dismal results one outing, and seemed to rebound in the next.  But the fact that he had allowed 18 runs in 19.2 innings during April for the Rays, raised more than a few eyebrows. But the game that seemed to define his 2009 season was the May 27th game on the road against the Indians.

In this contest there were early signs it might be a long night for the Rays. First, they had to endure a two hour rain delay before finally taking the field. Then Sonnanstine immediately got rocked after his squad stakes him an early lead. Sonnanstine got hit hard in the game by the Cleveland hitters’ and lasted only 3 innings while surrendering 8 runs on only 75 pitches.

The Rays stuck by Sonnanstine for another month before finally optioning him to the Durham Bulls (Triple-A) on June 27,2009. At the time of his demotion, Sonnanstine had the highest ERA (6.61) in the American League and the most Earned Runs allowed (60). Sonnanstine’s season total of 7 losses combined with his .305 opponents average put him solidly as the second worst  starter in the American League at the time. He had sunk to rock bottom and needed to go to Durham to regain both his pitching and personal confidence.

And Sonnanstine worked on his pitching and regained his confidence and ability to throw strikes.  He made 9 starts for the Bulls, which included seven quality starts and a 5-3 record with a 4.40 ERA. He had rebuilt himself as a pitcher and was awaiting a chance to again prove himself to the Rays. He got his shot after the trade of Scott Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels and came up on September 1st and took Kazmir’s slot against Boston at Tropicana Field.

During the early days of September, Sonnanstine made  3 starts in his first four appearances back up with the Rays, but did not impress the Rays enough to secure that rotation spot for the rest of the season. But in hindsight, the Rays might have been waiting for the Bulls to complete their Triple-A Championship season before bringing up Davis to take Sonnanstine’s spot. 


Ted S Warren / AP

Sonnanstine was subsequently put into the Rays Bullpen and after a spot start against Baltimore in Camden Yards, he made his last three appearances of the season out of the Bullpen as a long reliever. His demotion to the Rays Bullpen was the first time Sonnanstine had pitched out of the Bullpen in his Major League career. The last time Sonnanstine had pitched in relief during his professional career at all was during his rookie debut season with the Hudson Valley Renegades (Rookie level) and the Charleston Riverdogs ( Class-A) in 2004. As a Rays reliever during his 3 appearances in 2009, Sonnanstine had a 5.79 ERA out of the Rays Bullpen.

And the 2010 season might be the final chance for him to  make an impression on the Rays coaching staff that he can be a starter in the Major Leagues. I personally think that he will either have to make some radical speed adjustments to his arsenal, or he might again face being sent down to the minor leagues. The Rays still have minor league options left on Sonnanstine, and he might just be used as an “insurance policy” against injury for the Rays this upcoming season.

But what is upsetting to me is the pure fact that this is not a pitcher who doesn’t only throw two or three pitches, but has an arsenal of five possible pitches to use at vari
ed points during a game. His cutter can be thrown from two different arm positions, and is an adequate different approach to his 2-seam fastball. Sonnanstine also mixes in a nice slider, and a 12-6 curveball.  And his change-up has developed a nice sinking action to it, but his main problem is that from his fastball (86-90 mph), to his change-up (81-82) there is not a huge amount of velocity difference, which  can easily translate into hitter adjusting on the fly to him during an at bat with ease.

But I love Sonnanstine’s work ethic and the way he approaches the game of baseball.  He never wears his emotions on his sleeves like Matt Garza, but stays cool and calm on the mound. Sonnanstine has the same off-speed abilities to dominate the plate like James Shields. You just do not win 13 games in an MLB season without knowing how to throw the ball for strikes. But for Sonnanstine to again secure a possible spot at the Major League level, he either has to rediscover that mode of consistency,or he might never get another clear shot with the Rays.

I expect to hear his name surface a few times in trade chatter due to the fact he does have a MLB arm and has minor league options that would benefit a team taking him on and maybe using him in a duo role. But I really do not see him in a long reliever role for the Rays unless they intend to not offer Lance Cormier arbitration in the off season. Sonnanstine’s limited relief appearances aside, Sonny is not a reliever yet at the MLB level. If the Rays did decide to go that direction, he will need time in the minors to adjust his pitching approach in that direction.


J Pat Carter / AP

So the Rays brain trust must decide what type of role Sonnanstine will play within the Rays organization in 2010. Could he be that MLB experienced insurance policy against possible injury for the team? Or could the Rays consider him expendable with the pitching depth in the minors and trade him away for some catching or possible relief help?

We have around 128 days before the 2010 Rays team reports to Port Charlotte, Florida for Spring Training. As Rays fans have discovered over the past year,anything can happen between that period of time. Rays fans never even anticipated the Edwin Jackson trade coming before it was completed and announced to the media. Could the same happen to Sonnanstine this off season? 

Maybe he will be a nice addition to a package deal that could land the team a experienced reliever or catcher? Or maybe the clock has finally stopped ticking and it is his time to possible leave the Rays? 128 days is a long time. But within that time we hope to discover and learn the possible avenues that the Rays could use Sonnanstine in 2010. What do you think the team should do with Sonny?

Renegade Turkey Day Memories

 

I have to admit something to all of you. I really hate this time of the year, and not for the weather. And it is also not because of the family gatherings or social interacting amongst the family members who have traveled to enjoy this meal with us. I have developed a mild distaste for the “redefined” Thanksgiving meal.

It is not the fault of the holiday itself, but the constant commercial pushing of “new” twists on holiday foods,and the subtle interjection of “bold” ideas from high profile cable channels like the Food Network has transformed this traditional family meal into a eating event I would rather skip than be a test dummy to new ideas and unique tastes.

 These networks have taken some of the simple pleasures of my childhood Thanksgivings and made them almost unrecognizable today. Some of the changes are welcome. But honestly, just how many different ways can you really spice up sweet potatoes or yams without going overboard? Some of these tantalizing twists have made me take test bites and  develop weird smelling rituals for almost every single morsel of food instead of just enjoying the meal.

And who in their right mind would even consider a Brussels sprout cole slaw with basalmic dressing as a condiment to their dinners if not for the pushing of such items by these networks. I guess there are millions of Brussels sprouts all over the world sitting idle on the shelf just rotting way, and someone at a place like the International Brussels Sprouts Board decided that they had to come up with a recipe for them and increase sale two-fold.

My simple holiday meal with extended family has evolved into a culinary tasting menu that might rival a four star restaurant. Because of my significant others wanting to put some “spice” into holiday meals with more unique spices and sassy sauces to produce a visual as well as tasty meal experience that hopefully have even Chef Bobby Flay green with envy. 

The advent of these holiday food shows have turned this holiday into a personal eating nightmare for me. It has not been ruined by the foods per se, but by the addition of some of these spices and novel ideas. There is a reason every one of these food networks has a test kitchen. And for some reason, every woman I have been involved with has not made the “new” dish in advance to see if there are possible pratfalls or newbie mistakes that can ruin the dish, or make me sick as a dog. Instead I am left to smile and make nice sounding noises before spitting it into my napkin or hoping the dog will like it and not also get sick and die on me.

And there is not one of you reading this who has not done that before. Be it the new yams or sweet potato recipe or the whole wheat muffins or rolls that could kill someone if you hit them even from 100 yards away. We have all been there, and we have stories. Oh, how we have stories.

Now I do not have food allergies or even a hint of distaste for most foods, but some dishes are better left with the sauces and the methods we grew up with, and throwing a new twist on a dish is a plus, but sometimes even the most subtle change can become a train wreck. Let’s take the turkey last year at my friend’s house.

She has alway envisioned cooking a turkey outside in a scalding vat of peanut oil because it is said it produces one of the most moist bird you have ever had in your entire life. But what the chefs’ on these shows forget to tell you is that you have to fully thaw out the bird and wipe them down like a newborn before you dunk them in that hot oil. That was strike number one last year.

I was not there yet, so I could not interject my opinion into the mess before I pulled up and saw her 10-year old spraying down the side of the house that had caught fire after the still mildly frozen turkey spurting hot oil onto her clinging green vines on the garage wall. The fire did not harm anything but vegetation, but the smell of that burnt peanut oil was worse than any motor oil or gasoline smell I ever encountered at my father’s gas station.

My friend is one of those chefs loves to bark orders to her four kitchen staffers (kids), who do some of the stirring and watching of the pots on the stove. It is her way of getting everyone involved and make them a intricate part of the holiday. She even has the youngest performing the vital job of watching the timer to let her know when the turkey is done.

Might be a meaningless job to us, but he stares at that timer like his life depended on it. Only problem with this is that he tends to lose interest fast and can soon be seen wandering around the yard a bit,or getting involved with the neighborhood kids playing football and will forget the turkey. Hence the fire. But with that minor glitch in the system taken care of, he is again sitting there watching the turkey bubble and spit grease all over the sloped driveway.

What he doesn’t notice is that ever so often this molten pot is taking a small movement down the driveway to make its exit from the party. So when the turkey finally decides to makes its exit by the boiling pot tipping over and tumbling down the driveway with the hot oil, spices and a slightly tanned bird in the lead heading for the curb and its supposed freedom.

The young child is smart enough to not try and stop the bird, but yells for mom, who instinctively comes running, but with no handy utensils in her vicinity to stops its flight towards the gutter. So she watches as the bird begins its trip to the curb picking up grass clippings, the odd soda bottle plastic top and finally resting in a puddle of burnt oil and dirt at the bottom of the driveway. The pot is halfway up the driveway with the propane burner still churning out flames and leaving saturated oil and burn marks on the white concrete driveway. 

She scoops up the bird and then take him inside for a quick sink rubdown and a quick glance into his middle cavity to see just how cooked the bird might be at this moment. With the inside of the bird still pink like a baby’s bottom, she knows it is still going to be hours before dinner. So she hits every knob on the stove and reduces the heat on everything to try and bring the days food prep to a standstill while she reviews what needs to be done.

She decides to call in a favor with a nearby neighbor, who has also drowned his turkey into a vat of oil today, and has already converted his bird from a pale flesh mess to a golden brown herb encrusted masterpiece. He is more than willing to help her out, and with the bird at least started, it will take almost no time to finish the bird to also resemble a Florida native out on the beach in August.

 

But her third strike of the day is a simple mistake in simple culinary judgment. But one that almost produced a small army mutiny at the celebrated meal. She is that consummate cook who idolizes people like Rachel Ray and Paula Deen. And her leadership abilities rival any dictator or despot because she likes to have her fingers in every dish even before it hits the table for consumption.  But unlike a real chef, she doe
sn’t taste her dishes as she is making them, and tonight that will be her downfall.

She knows I like Cajun spices and extreme hot sauces, so she found a Jalapeno and Habanero pickling spice mixture for the inside of the turkey mixed within the stuffing to compliment the sausage and rye breading she added to produce a different tasting stuffing this year. Well, I have to admit it did not look too inedible when it hit the table, but she had forgotten to take the veins and some of the seeds out of the chopped up spicy peppers, and once the dish was upon my plate, my eyes instantly began to water.

Of course her 10-year old, who is a bit hefty and the food hoarder of the family began to shovel it into his mouth even as I warned him to taste a spoonful first.  The next reaction was instant projectile vomiting into his sister’s lap.  Made me almost glad I did not take the first bite, but I felt bad for the kid. I quickly got some milk for him along with some white bread and told him to dunk the bread in the milk and eat in immediately.

Well, after the turkey attempted escape, the oil fire upon her well-greened garage wall, and the pepper stuffing fiasco, the rest of the meal was perfect and only had a few hints of change. Sometimes it is great to establish new ideas and traditions during the holidays, but it should be done with prior experiences and also tried recipes and handed down instructions to make the dishes their best from the first bite.

I actually am looking forward to today’s meal. We have a years experience dunking the turkey, and she has experimented with the stuffing to a point she is confident we will not have the events of last year. But the highlight of the event is always seeing the friends and family sitting there eating, laughing and telling the stories of the past year. Foods can be changed, menus can evolve, but the best thing about the holiday is that the people are the reason for the season.

So with that, I want to wish and pray that everyone of you reading this today gets to have a fully belly and a great Thanksgiving with the people who make up your circle in life. So as I close this blog today, I want to raise a glass to the people busy in our kitchens,  to our the kids and relatives in the yard playing football or other games, and the men and woman serving. throughout this big ball of blue. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And with that, it is time for to go steal my first stuffed mushroom caps from the serving dish and get this holiday officially underway. 

Zobrist is the Rays MVZ (Most Valuable Zorilla)

 


Chris O’Meara /AP

Before the 2008 season, Benjamin Thomas Zobrist was considered a possible “Super Utility” player for the Tampa Bay Rays future. He was one of the players the team acquired back in July 2006 when the Rays sent disgruntled rightfielder Aubrey Huff to the Houston Astros near the MLB Trade Deadline. When the Rays made that deal, Zobrist was being sought after as a back-up and not a starter, even though he had the talent to start in the Major Leagues.

And even if the Rays did throw that “utility” moniker on Zobrist  when he arrived, at that point the Rays had not given him a fair amount of time to shine at the Major League level until  the end of 2008. But then again, Zobrist has always seemed to be in that different group of player who’s game beats to a different drummer, but is in unison with the team’s goals and aspirations.

But Zobrist has always been strong silent type who used his glove and bat to do his talking. And even then he still got pigeon-holed into a small finite group in the MLB. Zobrist is only the ninth player in MLB history to ever appear in the regular game at the shortstop position, joining Rays Senior Advisor Don Zimmer in that exclusive club.

Zobrist is only the second Rays player to have a “Z” at the beginning of his name, joining Victor Zambrano in that club. And only Tiger’s pitcher Joel Zumaya is lower in the alphabetical listing in the MLB entire active roster than Zobrist. So as you can see, Zobrist has always seemed to be at the back of the class by alphabet, but on the field, well that is a different story.

But how valuable is a guy who in 2008 played 6 different positions for your squad? During the Rays 2008 season he jumped back and forth from the minors to the major leagues four times before finally sticking with the Rays on August 5,2008 and played every field position but pitcher, catcher and first base during the season. And this season, he added first base to his playing resume’ when he started playing the position after a late season injury to All-Star first baseman Carlos Pena.
 

And who knows, after  the Rays let go of Joe Dillon, maybe Zobrist was the Rays designated “third catcher” option  in case of a unfortunate injury to Dioner Navarro and Gregg Zaun during a contest. But that is the reason Rays Manager Joe Maddon think so highly of his fielding handyman who brings four different types of fielding gloves into the dugout during Rays games. I can still remember a game during the 2009 season where he started the game in rightfield, moved to second base in the middle innings of the contest, then finished out the game at third base subbing for Evan Longoria.

I know there are only a handful of players on any roster in the Major Leagues who can hop, skip and jump from position to position like Zobrist. And that is one of the reasons I keep looking at players like Mark DeRosa and new White Sox journeyman Mark Teahen and can ultimately see Zobrist developing into that same mold of player who will do whatever the team needs to win every game.

So am I upset that Zobrist did not end up in the top 5 in the MVP voting? I am a little surprised, but I also know that it sometimes take more than a splash on the scene to convince the tunnel visioned BBWAA guys in the press box who never played the game that you are a special breed. And that is  honest truth to why I feel he did not post any higher vote totals in the American League MVP race because the BBWAA voters are more geared towards their own teams player selections and other regional and divisional guys they see all the time.

But I can understand some of the BBWAA voters for not getting so excited about Zobrist this season. But if he still puts up the same numbers in 2010, and even posts higher numbers, will they still see him as a reliable utility player or as a full-time field player?  

And the fact the Zobrist began this statistic campaign actually during the last 4 games of the 2008 season when he hit four home runs and won co-AL Player of the Week honors after the Rays season ending series in Detroit. Sure in 2008 he might have only appeared in 62 games ( 49 starts), but people forget Zobrist might have actually made the Rays 2008 Opening Day roster if he had not gone down with a left thumb break. So you have to wonder, if Zobrist had gotten more playing time in 2008, would this season’s MVP total have been different.


Steve Nesisus / AP

And of course, this has to be speculation, but sure, his number would have been dramatically different, and considering he lead all Major League middle infielders with a 16.5 At Bat per Home Run ratio finishing ahead of players like Marlin Dan Uggla (16.6), Hanley Ramirez (17.9) and Phillie infielder Chase Utley (18.4). Considering each of these players is an All Star caliber player, doesn’t that make you think the potential might have always been bubbling under the surface in Zobrist.

And also in 2008, he hit is second Gram Slam of his career during a September 13th game against the New York Yankees and was the last visiting player to hit a Grand Slam in the old Yankee Stadium off starter Sidney Ponson in the nightcap of a doubleheader.  So as you can see, his 2008 numbers gave Rays fans something to look forward to in 2009.

And if you have even looked towards the outfield grass beyond first base before a Rays game, Zobrist is always out there stretching with the starters even if he is not in the lineup. That is part of his game day prep, and one of the reason I truly feel he is a player to watch over the next few seasons.


Steve Nesius / AP

And considering he is not even arbitration eligible yet, Zobrist becomes a huge double-edged value to the Rays both in payroll and in his playing ability. Zobrist’s projected 2010 salary might only be around $450,000 before he hits arbitration for the first time after the 2010 season. And how valuable is that right now with the Rays looking to stabilize their payroll and find needed money for possible Bullpen help. Zobrist is not only helping the Rays on the field already, he is heaping them in their fiscal bottom line too.

So even if Zobrist did not get an additional votes in the MVP race to post his name up there with the American League heavyweights, his day might still come in the future. People always love to root for the underdog, and you know Zobrist definitely fits the bill for that title, even in 2010. And you can be sure that in 2010 there will be more than a few Fantasy Baseball team owners who will take Zobrist onto their rosters. I have to admit, I took him in the 10th round last year because I have seen his potential over the last two years and have always liked what he brings to the game both on and off the field.

So Benjamin  Zobrist, we are proud of what you have done in 2009. And we salute you and hope and pray that the off season keeps you safe and ready for Spring Training in 2010
. Starting this spring, when your name appears in the lineup people will begin to check your stats and watch your development to see if you are a flash-in-the-pan or the real deal. We already know the answer here in Tampa Bay. We already know you are our MVP.


Chris O’Meara / AP

So what if the American League’s other BBWAA voters do not give you the respect yet, or even the courtesy of a 10th place vote on every ballot. You can be our little secret for another year. You can be the guy that opposing fans look at each other and wonder who you are after you launch one into the stands. Sure we might hide you around the outfield and infield again, but getting you on the field is the main thing, because a lineup with Zobrist in it is a ticking time bomb ready to launch an offensive explosion.

So as we begin to go towards the bulk of the off season, it is okay if the rest of the countries media want to forget about Zobrist. It is fine if they do not want to honor a year to remember from a guy who stepped up and accepted the challenge and propelled his team. We know your value and we know your potential. Tick,tock…..tick, tock. Spend the off season resting, relaxing and playing with your son Zion. For in the Spring of 2010, you can again get your determination and intensity scale set to “10”, because some people forgot who you were. They forgot you were “Zorilla”, but that is fine. Even Godzilla had more than one film, and he did pretty well for himself.   

Sunday Rewind: “Felt like ‘Home’ with Daughtry Last Night”

 

Sunday Rewind:

During the off season I am going to go back into the Rays Renegade annuals and pull out some of the stuff I treasured during the last two seasons. It could be a game moment, or one like tonight, a concert event held after a Saturday night Rays game. I am going to use every Sunday as a day to reflect and remember classic moments and events that I have posted blogs about during the last two seasons. This blog entry originally was posted on August 2,2009 and is being re-posted today as my weekly  Rays memory selection.


This photo was actually given to me by a member of the Rays front office after the concert a few days later for some of the blogging and things I have done for the organization over the past few seasons. It was an unexpected surprise and one that is currently adorning the hallway along with the other 8×10 photos of Rays players and band I have met over the past 12 years. Aagin, I am so honored and proud to be a member of the Rays Republic and never expected such a great item to fall into my hands. To the person on the 3rd Floor who got me this gift, you know I am there for the team and your department if you ever need a volunteer… or anything else.  Thank you again!


RRCollections

Okay, anyone who knows me  in any personal way knows I have a soft spot for rockers. It might be the lifestyle I grew up with,or it might be the lifestyle I always wanted in life, but a good hard rocking song can get me fired up everytime. So last night in the latest edition of the Rays Concert Series they invited former America Idol fan favorite Chris Daughtry and his band, Daughtry to the Trop. for  a FREE after the game concert. Also the idea that the two bars I go to after games always seems to drag me up to the Karaoke mic and for some reason they all want to hear me sing “Home” by Daughtry at some point in the night. 


RRCollections

What was really  special about this Rays show is that this post-game concert will be the first “official” concert stop on their 2009 concert tour. The group has been in Hamilton, Ontario for the last two days ironing out a few kinks and bugs in the set list and was still doing their final prep work right before they got on a tour bus and headed to St. Petersburg, Florida for this initial concert of their tour. This is the third time they have been on tour after their original tour made an appearance in the smaller venue of the State Theatre in St. Petersburg, just about a mile from Tropicana Field just down Central Avenue.

During their second tour in 2008, the group were truly blessed to be the opening act for Bon Jovi on their World-wide tour that happened to be held during the Boston Red Sox series. I had a centerstage club level seat for that concert and a backstage pass thanks to some old friends at Pepsi who got me to meet Chris after his set. I actually found out we used to hang out in some of the same places when I lived in North Carolina, but as fate always has it, I never heard his band or met him while in N.C.


RRCollections

The band spent the first part of the Rays game against the Kansas City Royals up in a suite just above the Maddon’s Maniac logo above Section 136 in the right field section of the Trop. Chris Daughtry and his bandmates would occasionally come out to the rail and smile and wave to the fans below. A young Rays fan even threw up a blue cowbell for the band drummer Joey at one point during the game.

They also took in some of the rituals of the Trop such as the blue cotton candy that Joey had purchased during the game. It was especially funny to see the Trop vendor trying to get the blue cotton candy up into the suite since it was a good 20 feet straight up shot. Finally the candy made it to Joey and he gave the thumbs up before going into the suite to get a quick sugar fix.


RRCollections

During last night’s set list the band did a mixture of their second album’s material and some of the great hits off their debut “Daughtry” album. The song “Crashed” had a different feel to it during last night performance, and wasa softer version of the previously recorded hit.  The band did end the night with the song that has come to identify the band with its fans for the last two years. “Home” also had a great vibe to it and he did throw some extra octaves and vocal scales into it and it instantly thrilled the crowd both on the stadium floor and in the stands.


RRCollections

Some of the members of Daughtry did hang out after the concert and mingled with Rays fans before finally being whisked away to the Vinoy. The band will make their second appearance tonight at the House of Blues in Orlando. The only negative to the entire night, and I am going to give him a Mulligan on this is the fact he called St. Petersburg by the wrong name. He called out to the fans of the to the “city of Tampa” in his Twitter video last night.

But that might also be connected to the fact he was on the tour bus heading to O-town after the ahow and might have seen a “Tampa” sign along I-275 before he made the video. So let me end this short photo blog with the two Twitter videos sent out by the band before and after the concert last night. Hopefully the band will again hit Florida before they end this tour, and you know I will be there again. Hoping to maybe hear “Call My Name” done again in person. Rock on Chris, you guys did an awesome job and I wish you the best during your tour dates!

http://www.twitvid.com/player/16FD1

http://www.twitvid.com/player/ABD70

Rays need a Chant Tradition

Some people within the Internet ranks have stated recently that the Tampa Bay Rays fan base has a extreme case of inferiority complex compared to the fans of the New York region. I have to admit, that definitely was true back before 2006 when New York Yankee fans used to refer to Tropicana Field as “Yankee Stadium South” because of the over flow of pinstripes and “Jeter” jerseys patrolling the hallways before a Rays versus Yankees contest. But that is not been true since 2008.

During 2005, a typical Yankee versus Rays game had more opposition crowd noise to almost make it sound like a home game for the Yankees. But slowly and surely the Rays hometown crowd has begun to get behind their team and even began to turn the crowd towards wearing Rays gear, with a smattering of Red Sox jerseys for color. And that is  huge loyalty adjustment for this region based on its fickle transient ways. There is such a large geographic-based cultural divide in the Tampa Bay area that  most of the Northern transplants hail from somewhere within the Northeast sections of the United States.

And with that number of transplants increasing yearly, this merry band of baseball fanatics have brought with them a clash of baseball traditions and team loyalties. I have no problems with a person who was born even within an hour or so of New York City wearing Yankee stripes. I also can totally honor and respect the idea of someone from Maine following the Red Sox even if they had never even been to Boston. That regional love fest is a gimme and totally acceptable in my book.  Regional pride is a good thing.

Personally, I feel that this inferiority garbage is totally in the past. I am serious. if you have attended either a Red Sox or a Yankees series at Tropicana Field since the start of the 2007 season, you will have noticed a slow reversal of the crowd noise depicting a mostly Yankee/Red Sox vibe in the stands. I am not trying to evoke that Rays fans have started to outnumber their pinstripe or brethren with with the red “B” on their caps, but they have definitely gotten into the vocal chimes and crowd actions to silence the opposition in recent years.

And you have to also throw in that winning has brought out more people to exhibit Rays pride, and even some of the rival crowd has been converted. I know personally a few fans who used to flaunt their Northern colors, but now only do it when their home team is in town. The rest of the season they fly Rays colors to support the local team. And that reaction took years, not just two winning seasons for them to show loyalties to both teams.

I am not implying that there is a Rays revival meeting going on  somewhere around the Trop. during every home game, but the passion for this team can be infectious sometimes. As the Rays also establish winning traditions on the field, the crowd will also develop and transform their own sense upon the game from the stands. But until that revolution happens, the Rays front office (Fan Experience) has given the Rays fans the perfect tool to irritate and bring some rival chants to a complete halt.

Most visiting fans throw the main culprit of this Rays noise revolution onto the innocent cowbell. Yes, that  shiny metal object that that can produce a sound found so revolting to rival fans they sometimes cringe when people pull them out of their bags. This small musical weapon has been their instrument of choice to helping the Rays gain back their home stadium edge.

I know most people will insist that it is the large Latin Percussion cowbell ( I used to bang one prior to 2009) wielding fans have drown out most of the opposing noise, but 8,000 little cowbells still make a heck of a racket when they are used during games.  And you would be surprised how fast the Rays Team Store sells out of any type of specially insignia cowbell. This one item has been instrumental in recent years of squashing noise and chants within the walls of the Trop.

And how many times have you heard a rival fan, MLB blogger, or even a network sports announcer curse and admonish the Rays fans because  of those little noisemakers. The simple cowbell has become the weapon of choice for Rays fans who do not have the time honored traditions and ceremonial cheers  established for decades by our rivals. Give the Rays fans time, and you know they will develop another set of cheers, then the  mighty cowbells will slowly die down as the new Rays noise makers takes control of the stadium.

Last season, the Raysvision crew and the Rays Fan Experience department made a short animated video showing the Maddon’s Maniac symbol Screamer mouthing the words and rhythms to the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”. This  song has been a traditional crowd favorite used all throughout the U.S. and Europe during soccer games and  seems to have caught on at Rays games in 2009. 

Not to say this will  translate into anything like the “official” Rays chant, but it is a starting point beyond swinging metal cowbells for 9 innings. But I have to admit, hearing the Rays crowd do the “Seven Nations Army” chant does make a perfectly awesome sound when you get at least 4,000 people voicing it over and over again during  the opposing pitching changes. Traditions take time to get  a foundation and to get firmly implanted in our minds and routinely followed by a team’s faithful fans.

I totally respect the Yankee Bleacher Creatures for their “Roll Call” chants during Yankee home games. It is a way for the fans and the players to interact without interfering directly with the game action. And that custom was developed over time. Sure one guy or a group of fans started it the first time, but with time it has grown into an honored Yankee tradition. And the Rays need to establish their own signature chant or cheer.  And with time, and trail and error, the Rays fans will find that perfect vocal response during games. And with that perfection will spawn more traditions.

Over the last few years the Rays have used a number of ways for the fans to react during games, and the one that seems to have gained some  ground floor sentiment is the “Feel the Heat” campaign. During Rays big plays . the Raysvision crew has popped up the short and concise chant and Rays fans have adopted and even added a twist to it. People have begun to throw up  the classic surfer “Hang 10″ sign and turned it horizontal to look like a ray swimming. Sure it might be a bit quirky, and some say “totally ripped off”, but it is an honest start to establishing a lasting Rays tradition. 

So the Rays really do not have an inferiority complex, but a lack of a solid tradition and team personality that other teams have evolved and change for more than 100 years. This is not to say that within a year or maybe two the Rays will have an overpowering chant,cheer or even a stadium crowd event that will overwhelm rival teams fans.  But the machine is in motion, and with the off season comes a chance to experiment and maybe redefine Rays traditions.

When Stuart Sternberg and his crew took over the team they changes the logo, uniform colors and the general feel of the franchise from the ground up. This quick transition in November 2007 might have also stunted the growth of solid traditions for the team, but the newly established Rays franchise was evoking winning and a change of attitude from within the organization outward to the fans. It has been a success so far, and the future looks bright to see more exciting changes with the Rays fan base.

The first person who ever did “The Wave” must have had the people in the seating section next to him thinking he was an escaped mental patient, but slowly the crowd action caught on and it is now an International crowd event. When was the last time you went to any sporting event and someone did not try and start a “Wave”?

Oh, and for those people in the northeast regions of this country who hate those pesky cowbells. How soon you forget that the tradition started in the state of New York at Brooklyn Dodger baseball games by a little old lady who sat in the outfield used to ring her cowbell to show support for her team. Some traditions fall, some traditions linger. But the best traditions are the ones that get people excited and eager to participate every time someone starts them.

Could Pena be gone in 2010?

 


Mike Carlson / AP

It is kind of weird to think of this Tampa Bay Rays squad without a few of its veteran players gone before the 2010 season. It is not like with the Free Agent market ready to heat up on Friday the Rays are looking to unload or even sign someone of extreme value to replace a current Rays player, but would you see the Tampa Bay Rays in the same powerful light if they were missing a player like Carlos Pena? 

When I remember back over the last two seasons for memorable Rays moments, or game changing plays, Pena’s name seems to be one of the first ones to pop into my mind every time. His style of cool,calm and collected attitude during the game has taken both himself and this team to new heights since the Rays signed him to a minor league deal several years ago. And Pena’s  laid-back style both at the plate and in the field has risen  his game to extreme heights while he has been here. 

He has been the upbeat and soft-spoken leader of this Rays clubhouse ever since he stepped into it back in 2007. Who can forget his finest moment of upbeat personality  when even after he was told by Rays Manager Joe Maddon that he was being optioned to the minor leagues before the end of Spring Training in 2007, Pena remained focused and clear that he would soon see his Rays teammates. And who can ever forget when Pena disclosed his revelation of a premonition during a night time dream of him being on that charter flight with his Rays teammates to New York to start the 2007 season.

That in itself tells me that this Rays team might have been his squad all along, and we were just passengers on his ride to the top. From the beginning of his rebirth in the MLB by winning the 2007 Comeback Player of the Year award, to his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award, the Rays GQ-styled first baseman has gained not only the respect of the fans, but of MLB players throughout the league. And I have a feeling his 2009 All Star selection is not the last time we will see Pena accepting an award…..not by a long shot.

So when a fellow Rays blog mentioned that maybe it was time for the Rays to consider trading Pena before his contract is up at the end of 2010, it kind of shocked me that we might be seeing the end to another era here in Tampa Bay. That after all the growth we have seen by Pena and this team, we might end up seeing him traded away late in the 2010 season, or maybe even packing up and saying goodbye at this time next season.


Bill Kostroun/ AP

And right now both those notions do not seem like a logical, rationale thing to happen, but the reality is that Pena is in the last year of his contract ( $10.125 million), and his agent is Scott Boras who is renowned to being hard pressed to seeing even a dollar squeeze past his clients. That at some point from today on we might have to consider that Pena might not start, or even finish the 2010 season wearing a Rays jersey.

It is an unfortunate fact of baseball life that players leave or get traded at points in their careers. But you got the feeling here that maybe Pena might have finally found a comfortable spot to place his glove and bat every day, and maybe selfishly I wanted him to retire a Ray. But the stark reality is that Pena has a few years left in his tank, and maybe he will not be within the Rays budget restrictions in 2011. Just like Crawford, it might be an instant reality check that the team will have to find options and create fluid change if Pena were to leave the squad.

But is this the right time to be considering such a drastic change like this? I mean the guy is about to finally get that cast and those pins pulled from his hand and begin some initial hitting drills. Can he have any real high-side trade value before he reports to Spring Training? And even if a team did consider him before the 2010 season, isn’t his $ 10 million contract a monetary distraction to most teams?

But considering the offensive awards and the defensive accolades Pena has received the last few seasons, his contract might be considerably an extreme value right now in comparison with his colleagues around the Major Leagues. I would think Boras for one thinks Pena’s current worth is “out of whack” when considering his talent level and potential.

Pena rebuilt his baseball career when he signed with the Rays in 2007. He came to us as a player who was released by the Yankees and Boston farm systems as a secondary player, and maybe both of those franchises at the time felt Pena might not reach his potential again. But the stark reality is the correlation of Pena and the Rays up-surge happened at the same time. Both the player and the team began to excel and blast past expectations.  Ahh, what a difference a year can make in a players career.

I do not want to consider a 2010 season without Pena’s solid defense at first base. No disrespect to Rays players Willy Aybar or Ben Zobrist, but it is hard to replace a diamond with cubic zurconia and feel the same sparkle off the ring. Zorilla could be a solution, and could grow into the position in 2010, but why test fate now? Why would you consider trading the top offensive weapon on your team the last few years when the corner has finally been taken by the Rays.

And hasn’t Pena been a great piece of the puzzle to put in the lineup behind Evan Longoria and make teams pitch to the young star. If Pena was not in the Rays lineup, would Longoria get the same pitches if Zobrist or even Burrell followed him in the lineup? I would think Pena was the perfect piece to put in that spot because of his potential to turn on any pitch and send it deep.


Mike Carlson / AP

I really hope that at some point in the 2010 season I do not have to write a blog telling people why I am going to miss Pena. But we all know with the realities of this baseball business, anyone can be replaced in a moments notice. 2010 is not even here yet and I can feel the winds of change in the air. This coming season is an important one in the Rays development. Changes is in the air, but hopefully it will be later and not earlier in the season.

But in this ever changing business of baseball these days, you never know what will happen. And with the completion of the fast and furious trade of Rays veteran starting pitcher Scott Kazmir right before the end of August 2009, we know that no one is safe, not even an offensive/defensive weapon like Pena. But hopefully we will be able to say goodbye this time. Hopefully if something was to happen and Pena was to leave the Rays before the end of 2010, we will get to see that smile and maybe even see Pena do that dance one more time.

Credible Blogging begins with Leg Work

 

I remember back during my Mass Communication class in High School when my school newspaper advisor told us during a class lecture that at some time in our writing future, the subject of naming or not naming your “sources” for stories would turn our journalistic integrity into a slippery slope towards the negative, and the background work of our judgments to name or not name a source would play directly on our credibility as writers. Journalist have gone to prison and even been banished as if they had the Black Plague for misinformation and dishonesty in their writings.

And that simple premise of “watching your back” seems to make a lot of sense in today’s fast paced, electronic world of libel and slander where even a tongue-in-cheek reference can land you deep within a mountain of litigation, and then quickly, you and your writing integrity  could be sent sliding down the dark side like a mudslide even if you are totally right. Because that is essence of the culture today.  Injury someone emotionally or physically and some of the first words out of the mouth of the general public is “I will sue you!”. 

So dotting your “i’s” and crossing your “t’s” takes on a bigger role in the 5-second media world we have today. This weekend I was reading a very sordid and tangled web of “sources” and “unnamed sources” in a small series of blog postings by the New York Baseball Digest blog posting by Mike Silva. And while I was reading this account out of the New York area, that class discussion over 32 years ago  about sources came quickly to mind.

I was brought up on the old A P style book of journalism. Heck, back then it was the bible every Evening Independent Sports Correspondent and staffers used as a foundation for our story stylings.  And it suddenly came to my mind the old teaching of where if you make a statement associated with a source without credible sources or information, your stories foundation might crumble and not withstand a storm of controversy. 

One of the first thing I remember being taught was the fact that when you name sources or people with knowledge of an event, it is in your best interest to have two solid forms of evidence or information before even quoting one of them in your story. The reasoning for this method is to give your information a solid foundation so if you are questioned or receive a nice little legal writ, you have a secondary source that adds to your credibility on the subject matter.

Accuracy and credibility are the two of the founding cornerstones of retaining a loyal band of readers online. If they can get a sense of trusting your writings as the truth, then you gain readers and hopefully more web views of your postings. And maybe that is why it is so upsetting when I see a blog with half-baked writing principles and mis-guided information you know are half-truths at best.

Most of this simple misguided energy can be corrected with a simple credible source for your information. Some guy named “Joe Schmoe” who tended bar in such and such a club and overheard a conversation by player “A” and “B” about an event or something in regards to the Rays is considered “hearsay” at best unless you have a second person who heard or saw the same event.


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An great example of the right way to document and solidify your sources was with the rumor I heard from a Rays player about the Tampa Bay Rays using their old 1998-99 Devilrays multi-colored logo jerseys during the Sunday July 12th afternoon game against the Oakland Athletics. I first heard a hint of this rumor back in late May 2009 by a player after a game, and I decided to dig a bit deeper into it before bringing it out into the light. Just because I now had one source doesn’t make the rumor a “truth” yet.

I first got a confirmation from a member of the Rays  field staff and another player as an additional source, but decided it might not be good to use them as my source. I do not like to use players as sources of information because they could decide to “clam up” and I might not ever hear another good morsel of information to track down. So I contacted someone within the Rays front office who deals directly with marketing and promotions and asked them to simply confirm or deny the spreading rumor. As soon as he  got back to me, that rumor quickly transformed into a fact, and I posted a Tweet about the upcoming event.


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And because I had more than two sources to verify the possibility of the old “Rainbow Devilrays” uniforms were going to make an appearance again in that July contest. This in-depth  fact checking into the rumor gave me credibility about the event. And that is the one thing most people forget when they write online. Sure I can say almost anything about anyone on the team and maybe no one will call BS on me, but that is not the issue. Staying within the truths and admonishing the lies is the job of publications like the National Enquirer or Star Magazine, not the general blogging public.

If NYBD want to idolize those publications and style themselves in that realm of journalism, then go for it. But they have to be reminded that there are hundreds of websites like that all jockeying for the same morsels of media fodder. With every slight of hand missed fact and negative comment posted, the negative mountain is building around them. I know I would rather be the guy who will give his honest opinion and facts about an event, and I do shy from some of the “hot topic” stories around the league at time because I do not want to be 1 of the 2,000 people writing about the same thing day in, and day out.

We hear almost daily about some blogger somewhere who has given “fake” or mis-guided information and it in turn tends to affect all of our credibilities. But that doesn’t mean the “mainstream media” always follows the Golden Rule either. With the advent of sites like Twitter and the other social networks, fans can get  a snippet of information in the flash of a camera bulb and minutes before the “paid” media.

And that can be a slap in their faces at times. I posted a Twitpic of Pat Burrell’s new 70’s butch mustache during the 2009 season and also few “first” pictures of new Rays reliever, Jeff Bennett before the local media even reported it online. Here I am an unpaid and unsolicited fan got the scoop.


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NYBD  made some critical errors when they did not get secondary sources checks on their quotes and information before posting it. Sometimes it is difficult to get that information, but if you can not prove it is 100
% true
, then it is a rumor. Blogs take a beating every day from the Media sources throughout the country as being slanderous and libel within an inch of their collective lives. For us to gain the credibility and the trust of the readers, we sometimes have to take it a notch above and sweat a little more for our information.
Anyone can write a rumor.

Anyone can create a mis-truth and start to perpetuate a lie. But if you really want to be known for your writings, do the leg work, strain the eyes to see beyond the words and ask the simple questions. Some times, the answers you get from a source can make your day. Other times it can disappoint and frustrate you. But every once in a while you get a tasty morsel and you do the work and build it into a credible masterpiece and then you can bask in the limelight and know you did it right……..the first time.

Sunday Rewind: “Rocco Baldelli Press Conference 2008″

 

Blogger’s Note:

When I first stood there in that open hallway underneath the old Progress Energy Field, I had no idea what this quickly generated Press Conference was going to bring  to us. What ended up happening was seeing one of my Rays idols at his worst moment in life,not just baseball. But on this day (March 13,2008), you could see in Baldelli’s eyes that he believed he had possibily played his last game EVER as a baseball player.

 

This is another weekly Sunday Rewind back into my blog’s past to re-post some of the moments and events that shaped my memories and the Rays seasons. Every Sunday I will pick my personal favorites and bring them back for other to also either see for the first time, or revisit again. The writing style was different before the 2009 season.

Originally posted on March 13,2008.

Trivia Question:

When was the first match up between a deaf pitcher and a hitter in baseball, and who were the participants?
 
Answer at the bottom of the Blog.
 

Rocco Baldelli was once called “Joe’s twin,” by MLB Professional Scout Al LaMacchia. This of course, was referring to the great ex-Yankee Joe DiMaggio. Rocco had been compared to the Yankee legend ever since his prep days at Bishop Hendricken H.S. in Warwick, Rhode Island.



 
Baldelli began his 2007 Spring Training season on the Disabled List after pulling his hamstring. But the injury was healing slowly and while on a Minor League rehab assignment, Baldelli’s injury became worse. Baldelli spent the rest of the year with the Rays inactive,but  was a very important part of the team. He could be seen on the bench either taking down the pitching stats,or purposely watching the opposing pitcher for signs of him tipping off his pitches or pitch outs to first base.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon felt that Baldelli had an special energy and an always positive attitude that was beneficial to his young squad and took him on away games for the rest of the season. During this time, Rays Head Trainer Ron Porterfield and the medical staff did multiple tests on Baldelli to try and pinpoint the situation and maybe finally get some positive results to reoccurring injuries.


During Spring Training in 2008, Baldelli was an early arrival to camp in St. Petersburg. He was out on the complex fields every day trying to get his body to function correctly so he could get back on the field with his comrades. He was used sparingly this
Spring until on March12, 2008, Rocco released the following statement to the press:
 
 
This off season, because of the physical problems I’ve been having, I started along with the team’s help to search them out and go see some doctors and try to find out what’s going on.


I was having a lot of problems the last couple years with my muscles and muscle strains. I think a good way to describe it is literally muscle fatigue and cramping, way before my body should be feeling these things. I would go out there and I was pretty much incapable of doing basic baseball activities as far as running and hitting and throwing.


These were things that I had done my whole life pretty easily and at some point in the last two years – we’re not exactly sure why – these things started to change. It was tough for me to deal with, but with the team’s help, they sent me to specialists, basically flying me around all over the country to try to figure out what was going on.


What the doctors eventually found through all of this was I have some type of metabolic and/or mitochondrial abnormalities. Basically, somewhere along the line in my body – I don’t want to get too deep into the medicine because it’s not really my expertise, but either my body isn’t making or producing or storing ATP the right way and therefore not allowing, apparently, my muscles to work as they should and, especially, recover on a day-to-day basis. So it becomes very difficult to get on the field every day and play.

When I say fatigue, I go out there and my body is literally spent after a very short amount of time out on the field, which makes it extremely frustrating and difficult, but it’s something that’s kind of a reality right now and something we’re dealing with the best that we can.


As far as my baseball career, I’m not here to stand in front of you telling you I’m retiring. We’re still going to pursue every avenue that we can to try to figure out what is going on, have a better understanding of what is going on. But at this time, throughout all of the extensive testing that we’ve done, we don’t have a concrete answer.

The doctors’ consensus is that these are the problems that I’m experiencing and there’s a lot of medical proof of these things, but they’ve been unable to specifically identify an exact reason or an exact problem down to a specific name. That’s kind of frustrating, but that’s why we’re going to continue along with the team’s help to find out what’s going on.


I feel comfortable about this because the team has been so good to me and supported me in every possible way I could imagine. Without that, I don’t know really where I’d be right now, because this is as probably as difficult and frustrating a thing as I’ve ever had to deal with as a person. Like I said, we’re going to do everything we can to fix and hopefully solve this problem, and that’s pretty much where I’m at right now.


 
Rocco Baldelli announced that he has a mitochondrial metabolic abnormality during a press conference on Wednesday.
 

I put his  Baldelli’s entire statement to the media here to reflect and hope that a possible solution or cure can be found for this promising player. I have personally chatted with Rocco on occasion, and I can tell you there is no better guy in the clubhouse than him. He knows what was expected of him on Day 1, and he will do whatever is needed to make it back onto the diamond.


The Rays’ are in a bit of a pickle here tho. They were looking for Baldelli to be  the possible Centerfield back-up this season to give B J Upton some needed rest during the season. Maybe the Rays will look at their Minor leaguer’s,or sign a veteran like Kenny Lofton to relieve B J, and Jonny Gomes through the year.


Here is a guy who could have rewritten a few passages in the Rays record books, and now might be done with his playing career because of a metabolic nightmare churning within his body. I hope the Rays Doctors’ can find a solution soon, and we can report a positive prognosis soon so we can get this great talent back on the field.

I will miss not seeing Baldelli out there on the Rays Opening Day in Baltimore on March 31,2008 ,but his health is more important than the game right now.


The following is a short synapsis of the ailment that has effected the metabolism of Baldelli. This is a non-scientific guy writing about a medical condition, and I hope I can make it so everyone can understand it with some clarity and severity to the possible effects this will have on Baldelli’s body.

 
For your muscles, in fact, for every cell in your body — the source of energy that keeps everything going is called ATP. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the biochemical way to store and use energy.

The entire reaction that turns ATP into energy is a bit complicated, but here is a good summary:
    Chemically, ATP is an adenine nucleotide bound to three phosphates.

    There is a lot of energy stored in the bond between the second and third phosphate groups that can be used to fuel chemical reactions.

    When a cell needs energy, it breaks this bond to form adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and a free phosphate molecule.

    In some instances, the second phosphate group can also be broken to form adenosine monophosphate (AMP).

    When the cell has excess energy, it stores this energy by forming ATP from ADP and phosphate.

ATP is required for the biochemical reactions involved in any muscle contraction. As the work of the muscle increases, more and more ATP gets consumed and must be replaced in order for the muscle to keep moving.


Because ATP is so important, the body has several different systems to create ATP. These systems work together in phases. The interesting thing is that different forms of exercise use different systems, so a sprinter is getting ATP in a completely different way from a marathon runner
!
 
 

Trivia Question Answer:
 
It happened on may 16, 1902, featuring William Ellsworth “Dummy” Hoy of the Washington Nationals in the batters box, against New York Giant pitcher Luther “Dummy” Taylor.   the opponents greeted each other in sign language, then hoy knocked out a single against Taylor.

The wording in quotes above is the listing in the Baseball reference material I used for the Trivia question. I, in no manner, used the phrasing, “dummy” as a cruel reference or in a demeaning nature here concerning these fine ballplayers. 
 
 
 
 

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