Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
Never Play Cards with Friedman
Remind me in the future to never attend a poker game hosted by Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman. If he has any talent at the 5-card stud game, or even slightest hint of talent with a deck of cards and chips, I will leave a huge loser every time….Guaranteed. And that might have a lot to do with the way he has been totally aloof at times, and has exhibited a perfect poker face when confronted with comments on upcoming trades or even roster moves.
You can bet in Atlanta last night, either during the rain delay or after that early morning contests ended after the witching hour, he stayed stoic and unmoved by the rush for information on the Rays possible moves when they brought shortstop Jason Bartlett back into the Rays fold for Wednesday night’s game against the Braves. But that has been par for the course with Friedman because he has seemed to have mastered the art of deflection and emotional cues on his face or in his voice when speaking on these issues…Sun Tzu would be a proud master.
With Gabe Kapler going on the disabled list just a few days ago, then the Rays bringing down outfielder Justin Ruggiano, you might have placed your cards and bets on Ruggiano maybe taking Kapler’s place as the right-handed bat specialist on the Rays…maybe for the rest of the season. But that was not the case at all. For as quickly as Ruggiano got to Tampa Bay, he was sent packing after last night’s late game onto the local roadways to catch up with the Rays Triple-A squad, the Durham Bulls who were in Gwinnett, Georgia for a 3-game series. And after a rain out of their Tuesday night game, the Bulls could probably use another bat if there is indeed a doubleheader in the Bulls future.
But this switch did come as a bit of surprise to me since Kapler will not be eligible to come off the DL for about another week…..if ever. Most of my money would have been on one of the three catchers currently on the Rays roster to get cab fare to the Durham hotel site and a pat on the back as they exited Turner Field. But instead of the logical move, Friedman and Rays Manager Joe Maddon again stumped the panel by sending out Ruggiano instead of Dioner Navarro, Kelly Shoppach or John Jaso. Again the Rays card shark kept his cards close to his vest and beat the house….again.
Of course there will be people who will say they saw this action/reaction coming a mile away, but those are also the few people who keep an extra Ace up their sleeve, or short-shuffle the deck so they can predict a game. Friedman has learned from one of the best here in having an old Texas 7-card master by his side named Gerry Hunsicker. He was brought in to give Friedman a few pointers, and maybe a few slight of hand tricks, but the student now might be outperforming the ex-Astros head honcho.
Friedman has grown huge since his first season when he tried to bluff his way in the Rule 5 Draft by exposing ex-Rays prospect Josh Hamilton and hoping Hamilton’s past exploits might shy away some suitors, but the Chicago Cubs called his bluff and left Friedman red in the face. Friedman emerged from that debacle more prepared and more eager to run the table and be the winner on all sides of the Rays future deals.
So far, Friedman has become one of those guys that gamblers fear. He is lucky, but he is also prepared and had studied from all angles before stepping to the table or computer to comprise any of the Rays transactions since his Hamilton fiasco. Friedman has become a huge player among the elite of the Major League Baseball’s hierarchy and he deserves that credit. Friedman is subtle and composed where Rays former G.M. Chuck LaMar was anxious and nervous. Friedman is prepare for all scenarios where a minute change could fluster and ruin LaMar’s day.
In the end, Friedman has an exterior that shows a cool and calm demeanor that Paul Newman would envy. Friedman has truly developed into another one of the Rays treasures, but this one will never put on a Rays uniform and stroll onto the field. And for that, if Friedman ever asked me to play cards, or even play a simple game of Blackjack, you will see me running for the exits pronto. I truly think the guy and Lady Luck are really good friends, and you never bet against a man who oozes confidence like Friedman….unless you are not attached to winning it back.
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