Looking Back on my 2009 Rays Resolutions

 


FSNFlorida.com

Sorry I have been able to post anything since New Year’s Eve, but things have been a little upside down in my little slice of the world. Not going to get into it, but if you know me, you know the restricted economical parameters of my lone wolf existence.

I was thinking last night about turning the pages back to my post back on January 1,2009 where I listed my  2009 New Year’s Rays Resolutions blog and see if my quarter-tossing guesses and totally dillusional dreams for the Tampa Bay Rays had either mysteriously evaporated or suddenly materialized for the team.

We all know just how difficult it is sometimes to partition our post-baseball lives  to readjust back into our normal lifestyles with the absence of games nightly. And with my 2009 resolutions coming just a few months off the heels of the Rays first playoff push in team history, I am more than a bit curious to see if now those resolutions might have been a bit over zealous, or might have struck true center and be totally in line with the team’s seasonal performance.

But even if I did get a bit over excited and tranform my hopes and dreams into slight misguided illusions, isn’t that within the vein of the competitive spirit of the fan, who always  wants to see the birght side of life in regards to their team?  We all want to trust and believe that bigger and better things are always on the horizon for our squads, even as the skies turn suddenly dark and the wind begins to howl.  You want to believe in solidarity of the true existence of the team dream. 

You have to actively possess that unrelentless faith that the “much needed” team weapons will somehow materialize like that weird frost upon your car windshield in the morning, or that the Bullpen will again be a brickwall to your team’s lofty and ever-rising ride of success. So lets take a short jaunt back about 365 days and formally check out my bubble-headed prognostications to see if any of my 2009 resolutions for the Rays might have actually had some merit to them, or the whole thing was just dust in the wind.


Mike Carlson / AP 

2009 Resolution 1:

Find a right-handed bat that can help the offense take it to the next level.

Wow! This resolution could go a few different directions at the same time. But the true fact is that it might all actually depend on if you want to throw Pat Burrell’s 2009 fiasco into the pot here. I have thrown Burrell under the bus enough times during 2009 for this resolution to actually take on water and headed for the briny deep waters near Egmont Key.

But lost in the shuffle was  the fact to totally look at the last two prior Rays season performances at the Designated Hitter spot and seeing that Burrell’s stats were really about average for the Rays. But that pure instance doesn’t get him out of Elvis’s locker room doghouse because Burrell was brought onto this squad to boost a sagging offense and  was paid hansomely for his efforts.

I am willing to give him a slight partial pass here due to his neck situation that might have thrown a confidence and concentration monkey wrench into his “game shape” for 2009. Burrell did show some offensive firepower, but we are starving to see it on a more consistent basis, and it will be demanded of him in 2010.  Not lost in all of this negativity is the fact he did produce 14 homers in the season, but they were all hit against right-handers, so Burrell definitely needs to readjust and refocus this off season to come in and conquer in 2010, or he will be considered a huge bust maybe in the company of Vinny Castilla.

Resolution 2:

Find a southpaw reliever to compliment the Bullpen.

This simple resolution might have actually been achieved by the Rays stockpiling a few left-handed  experienced relievers at the Triple-A level prior to the team’s 2009 Opening Day. We did have southpaw lefty-specialist Brian Shouse primarily on the 25-man roster as a leftie specialist, but like Burrell, Shouse had his own series of ups and down via the injury bug in 2009  amd might not be considered a totally successful signing by the team.

And because the Rays hide a few options in their minor league system, when Shouse was put on the diasabled list on May 25th with a left elbow strain, it opened the door for a former Yankee reliever to come up and dramatically change the late inning game from the left-side of the mound. Randy Choate seemed at times to be a man on a mission and gained more and more confidence as the Rays 2009 season progressed. You can not discount his  stellar .141 batting average against left-handers, or even his 5-for-5 perfect mark in save possibilities for the Rays this past season. 

Just when the Rays  were craving a clutch performer after a few unforeseen blown save situations, and a quickly downward spiraling in relief performances, Choate came up to appear in 61 of the Rays final 114 games. To throw a huge exclamation point on Choate’s 2009 performances, before  his call-up by the team in 2009, Choate had appeared in 196 games and had never produced a save. Choate definitely did not choke for the Rays in 2009.


Mike Carlson/ AP

Resolution 3:


Get 1 of the 2 best young players on your team a contract extension.

This was one of the 2009 resolutions that I thought would  definitely get some extreme attention by the Rays front office at some moment in the 2009 season. With the team stressing they are “borrowing on tomorrow” right now with their increasing payroll demands, you thought Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman might chart a clear map on this one as a top priority to supplant a possible unforeseen huge arbitration dollar figure, or a series of multiple arbitration seasons by a number of players to substancially see a rise of ever increasing salary demands without a solid prediction for the Rays future payrolls.

I thought for sure the Rays first comfirmed target here would be to entice Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza  to a contract extension for “services rendered”, and to reward him now for the huge upside he could provide the Rays in the next three years. Sure everyone wants to bring up moments with his emotional and temper situations as fodder to not extend him, but lost in that mumbo jumbo shuffle might be the pure fact he has the ability to be the first pitcher to post a no-hitter for the Rays.

As of today, there is no sign of this evolving into a multi-year scenario before he goes for his 2010 arbitration hearing. Garza’s abilities on the mound in 2009 could easily boost his salary from his $ 433,300. in 2009, to an estimation of $ 3.5 million through arbitration. And you would have thought it prudent and responsible of a money conscious Rays to maybe nip this escalation in the bud and give him a deal comparible to the contract James Shields signed in 2008, but there are no clear signs of that happening any time soon for Garza. And Garza is only the first in a ever increasing line that includes centerfielder B J Upton and reliever J P Howell to secure some financial stability over the next three seasons for the team.

Resolution 4:

Sign Jason Giambi already.

I actually thought Giambi might have been a great addition to the Rays, and we know this whole scenario never materialized, so this might be a short resolution explanation. Even though Giambi did go on to play over 102 games in Oakland before heading onto the Rockies post season roster, the “Giambino” had a subpar season and actually did not even hit the low average plateau achieved  by Burrell with the Rays in 2009.

It is actually funny to think Giambi hit worse than Pat “The Bat” Burrell, but then again, both did do a few mis-timed stints on the disabled list this season and neither seemed to get into a solid flow at the plate. In hindsight, 2009 might actually turn out to be Giambi’s last chance to play full-time with a potential off-the-bench position staring him in the face for 2010 and beyond.



RRCollections

Resolution 5: 


Keep the team chemistry up high and the success will come again.

Here is another resolution that might totally be up to your own personal interpretation on the Rays 2009 season. We all know the stories of Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s great inspirational speeches and motivational quotes that are meant to boost and inflate confidence like a balloon, but this Rays team did seem to miss a huge chunk of clubhouse chemistry in 2009.

Some say it was the departure of type-A personalities like Eric Hinske, Cliff Floyd and Johnny Gomes took a huge presence and electric feel out of the clubhouse. But even with the two bigger than life cartoon characters of Gomes and Hinske gone, there still was the increasing confidence and emotional moment stature of “El Presidente” Carlos Pena. And  you have to admire the guy for trying to step it up a few notches trying to fill those big shoes left by the trio, but Pena was only one guy, and could only beat the drum so loud in 2009.

Most of Pena’s teammates seemed to be relying on themselves and their close knit groups formed within the team to boost their confidence and act as support systems throughout the season. The Bullpen definitely had their own “vibe” in the clubhouse, and the Rays starters seemed to have their own “inside jokes” throughout the season. Dioner Navarro took the role of the “shaving cream pie” bandit in 2009, and even got Madddon during one post-game interview on television.

And the Rays did try and promote their road trips like a Carnival cruise night with events like the “White Party” and “Cowboy Up” during roadtrips.  Some had great success, and a few might have been better left in the closet. One idea did seem to backfire a bit on the Rays. Maddon, being a huge Johnny Cash fan, had the inspirational idea of the “Ring of Fire” all-black traveling party during the Rays push towards the playoff in 2009. But from the first moment Maddon came out of his Manager’s office in the Rays clubhouse sporting that jet black hair, the idea seemed headed quickly like lemmings to the cliff.

Not sure why the idea ended up backfiring to produce a loss spiral that quickly deflated the Rays playoff hopes like a lead balloon. The Rays ended up losing 11 out of their first 13 games in September. Adding insult to injury was the disasterious timing of imploding against their American League East foes for the rest of the season. From the first dark-haired moment on August 19th by Maddon,the Rays posted only 3 wins against Boston and New York in their 13 games during September/October.
 

I actually think I went 1-4 in my quest to throw some early logical explanation into 2009 prior to the season. Sure we all want to think that  as fans, we truly have such an underlying persona that we can make people hit the ball or even throw a bit harder, but in reality, we can only encourage and become louder in the stands hoping that more positive results take root on the field.


Chris O’Meara / AP

Even if my 2009 resolutions did fall on hard times, the Rays season was filled with great unexpected moments and showed  more than a few times those glimpses of unforeseen promise that makes you proud to follow the team. Even the best at “predicting” seem to get it wrong most of the time, so my first dive into the resolution pool did not produce a total failure, but did produce a few questions. For we got to see baseball played again in the Tampa Bay area during 2009. We got to again gather as an extended family to root, boo and even console each other after some great games in 2009. 

I have always been one of those firm believers in that you “win some, and you lose some” mentality both inside and outside of the sporting world. I mean if I really believed everything that has been written about teams just in our own division, then I would pack it up after April 1st and throw out that immortal Chicago Cubs line, “We will get ‘em next year!” But I go into day like this first one in 2010 thinking we have as good a chance as the other 30 Major League Baseball teams to hoist that golden trophy to the heavens this October. And who knows……….

 

 

25 Comments

Joe Maddon is one heckuva a manager. I wish John Russell had the fire and rive Maddon has. He has been a key to the team’s success over the past two years. It is great how he keeps the team’s spirits high and creates a fun clubhouse atomsphere.

I wasn’t aware Seth McClung was a WV native. He’s definitely gonna be one of my favorites now. I’m pretty sure he is still a free agent. The Pirates really do need help in the pen. I’d love for us to extend him an invite

http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

cool blog well the rays had a good/great season even though there in the toughest division hope to see ur 2010 resolutions
tmas805 PS blog i have

This is why I don’t make resolutions. LOL. All of yours were reasonable propositions. But – I know it’s a cliche – you can’t predict baseball.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Matt,
I know for a fact the differences each person can bring to a coaching position. In college, my first coach was a strong tyrant named Charlie Pell. He left and we got a soft-hearted soul named Galen Hall as our coach.
Both men stressed fundamentals and open field tackling. Each had a 180 degree different attitude towards the game, but we played until we dropped for each man.
If you want to play for someone, you will..no other excuse matters.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

T,
I did my 2010 resolutions/predictions in the blog on New Year’s Eve.
Decided to do them before I went out that night knowing I might not be online for a few days.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jane,
I am in that club most of the time too.
I hate predicting, but I usually do a halfway decent job at it.
The 2009 ideals really was not to be so outlandish to say something like “Troy Percival will not be with the club by the end of the All-Star break”. If I had said that, it would not have been a real hard thing to figure or predict considering his injury record with the Rays.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Hope your 2010 Rays Resolutions go well… in the meantime, I just wanna point out that Joe Maddon looks like Kim Jong Il in that picture above there. LOL.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
I never thought to look to the /far East to find Joe’s Twin, but I will have to check some file photos soon (lol).
But I guess it could be worse. He could look like Cloris Leachman, or maybe the old guy in the movie “Cocoon “.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

True that! You win some, you lose some, and considering how good the Yankees and the Red Sox were the Rays would have had to be nearly perfect to win the division. They seem to be at least trying to retain some of that winningness from 08, and they can hopefully start this decade fresh with a restock.

Nice resolutions and great entry! Your Rays have already surprised so many doubters in the past 2 years, and I am confident that they can accomplish much more in the coming season. I wish the entire team good luck and I hope the season is not too painful for a huge fan like you. Happy new year!

-AL
http://fryingpan.mlblogs.com/

I was sad to see Burrell struggle like he did all year. I really hoped he would stay on his feet after the move. But, as he did often in Philly, he’d have a bad year followed by a good one so maybe that will be the case for the Rays too.

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

Well here’s to a great year for the Rays in 2010! East is Beast and its such a hard division :( So its going to be hard! Rays are a good team and I love Joe Maddon. He was great with the Angels and I’m glad he’s successful as a manager in tampa bay. Best of luck to you and your team as well in 2010!

http://mimi.mlblogs

Best of luck to your Rays in 2010! East is Beast for sure, its such a hard division! I admit I do like the Rays quite a bit. Y’all got yourselves a good team with young guys. What a great all star game last year! I’m glad JOe Maddon is doing well for y’all too. He’s a good guy and he was great when he was bench coach for us (Angels). Here’s to a good year for you as well as your team

http://mimi.mlblogs.com

are the Rays still considering those stadium plans I saw a year ago?

Great read as usual!
As a small market team, that window of winning doesn’t always stay open. Very hard to do it every year, but the Rays are set up to win. They have young talent ready to explode onto the scene. It is esp hard when your in the AL East..lol
http://clevelandbaseball.mlblogs.com/

After making it all the way to the Series, the Rays took a big step backwards last season. They weren’t nearly as good, Kazmir was traded, and Upton declined. I hope they add a few challenges to the A.L. East this season.
http://bronx-awesome.mlblogs.com/

Xcicix,
I have come up with the conclusion that the Rays are just going to have to be that “little Engine That Could” in this division. Using their deep talent and the right choices in personnel to pop one of the two big spenders in this devision to the may every year or so.
But, all 5 teams in this division could be striving for a top 3 space real soon.
Small market teams are starting to stockpile and get the talent for multiple years at manageable salaries, something the big spenders have not been able to do lately.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Frying pan,
The worst thing for a fan like me is actually not seeing the grass roots suport I thought might be in place by the team’s 13th season.
But some have said that we have to get the younger fan’s hearts now while they are growing into the money makers, which might be the key in 2012 and beyond.
I am foreseeing some rough seas the next two years in revenues, but the fans have economic probelms of their own in this region of the country.
Lokk at me, I am almost living in a box to pay for my Season Tickets, and I will do that to secure a great eye-level veiw of the growth of this team.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jenn,
The more I dig deeper, the more I think like the rest of the Rays Repubilc, we had hoped he might be a nice answer to the DH problem.
But if he gets off to a great start in 2010, who knows what could happen.
Hopefully he will bring about a great year and strive to fulfill his role on this team.
Who knows, if he has an outstanding year, they might try and resign him for another season.
Weirder things have happened for the Rays.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Mimi,
Joe Maddon has been a great manager for the Rays, but I think he might hear a few boos’ if the team struggles in 2010.
I personally think he has done a lot to turn this team into contenders instead of pretenders.
Every manager we have had in our history has gotten the team up another rung of the ladder.
Hopefully Maddon will be the one to enjoy the Rays first view from on top of the entire sha-bang some day.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Brooklyn,
Actually the old waterfront baseball proposal is dead.
But the ABC (A Baseball Community) group are finalizing their proposals to the Rays on their recommendations for the future stadium.
There have been about 3-4 sites in contention, but only one that makes total sense to me right off the Howard Franklin Bridge region in the site where the original stadium should have been built back in the 1980’s.
When they “officially” make their report known, you can bet you will know my opinion on the issues at hand.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cleveland,
Small market anxiety is a special thing.
Something the Yankees, Mets, Phillies and Los Angeles teams will never understand.
But, teams with small payroll from Florida have won World Series titles, but not on my side of the state.
Good example of talent meeting veteran ability is the Florida Marlin squads that peaked at the right moment and went all the way.
We had our chance in 2008, but we let it slip away like water off the back of a duck.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cat,
Thanks for that.
Hopes Rihanna hanging with Matt Kemp.
Got a feeling she might be a good luck charm as opposed to Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Babu,
I think a lot will depend on the 3-5 pitchers’ for the Rays this year. We know that James Shields and Matt Garza will be 1 and 2, but Price, Neimann and either Davis or Hellickson will have to take a lofty step forward just like Joba Chamberlain did a few years ago for the Yankees.
No matter what happens, we all know the race will come down to September, and that is when the teams play their rivals………

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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