July 2010

Vanilla Ice Worked the Trop.

 

 

“So pump up the crowd and give ‘em something’ to step to

My D J’s at his max to enhance what I bring you
The concepts hittin’ so follow along like a cookbook
Acknowledge the pros from all the titles I took, yeah
The crowd’s at ease when I breath though the mic end
As I whip up a dance better move all the mic stands
I go to work on the floor like a wet mop
If you’ve ever been moved, check it out when I rock”

(6th verse from “Ice is Workin’ It”)

As the above lyrics definitely state, Vanilla Ice definitely still knows how to “work a crowd”. The Rays Friday Fest Concert might not have been as long as ZZ Top, or as laid back as Dierks Bentley, but the man who rocked the mic like a vandal can still get the crowd going, and the head bopping. Especially entertaining was the fact that Vanilla Ice was doing a game on the photographers in the front well, and some of us caught onto it, while others got mad and frustrated. Me, I relished in the fact Vanilla Ice thought enough of me as a green-tagged photographer to get me square between the lens cover …once.

 

 

But I had a blast. Not just dodging the Aquafina onrushing sprays from all angles, but the sense from the crowd of the enveloping energy spikes and rush of raw emotion and power that emulated from the stage to the crowd and back, several times during the concert. Vanilla Ice might not have a huge anthology of hits through his musical era, but he definitely made his influence know on Friday night, and he is one of my favorite acts so far in 2010. I have to say without a doubt, from the moment he hit the stage, until he exited stage right, Vanilla Ice definitely had this joint rocking.


 

 

Sure the bass was pumping like a heart, and the drummer was amazing back on the skins, but the intensity and the energy coming from the stage on Friday night was something you truly had to see with your own eyes and soul to fully appreciate. It might not be some people version of music, or even lyrical symmetry, but the guy can work a stage and bring the crowd with him at will. That is the mark of a good entertainer. They can take the ebb and flow of the crowd mood and work it either into a frenzy, or into a solid performance you will be talking about for a long time.


 

 

Both seemed to materialized on that small Rays Friday Fest stage. Vanilla Ice was working it with everything he had that night. From his sheepishly wild stage set-up with a inflatable Grim Reaper and assorted camo netting and insane clown figurines, to his ” water show” that kept going throughout the entire show, and had the assembled crowd yelling for me to kick the water bottles to them after they had been doused with pure liquid refreshment. The visual show on stage by itself warranted a video camera catching each morsel as it unfolded on stage that night.

 

 

From Vanilla Ice trying to get me personally four times with water blasts ( he got me squarely once), to some of the assembled crowd (mostly women) brought on stage during the last portion of the show to dance, prance and simply be in the “Vanilla Ice moment”.

From the always constantly moving water bombing clown in the Santa suit, to the drums beats of Clint Eastwood ( seriously, that was his name), the night always seemed to be flowing out of the turntables and beats to push the blood pressure higher, and peak out the adrenaline.

 

 

In the long run, Vanilla Ice did what he wanted on stage, and made no apologies for the sake of his music. At some points it was like watching a performance art piece going on behind musical lyrics. Sure so many came to hear “Ninja Rap“, which also had a remembers of the Rays game day staff onstage dressed to the nines in Teenage Ninja Turtle outfits rocking with Vanilla Ice to the end.

 

 

As the concert ended, Vanilla Ice’s turntable maestro, DJ Dirty Chopsticks began to play other hip hop classics to keep the party going as the crowd slowly began to exit Tropicana Field. But in the end, just as his lyrics had predicted, Vanilla Ice definitely “working it” and for that, he all left with tunes and beats still ringing in our ears…..Word to your Mother!

 

 

New Tampa Bay Tradition Forming


 

I am someone who believes a lot in solid and confidence building game day traditions. It must have materialized in my mindset during my sports days. But all through my adult life, I have also had my own little traditions or superstitious Rays game day moments.

I still twill my Rays cap after the daily singing of the “National Anthem” ( even at home), and throw a post-game salute to Rays Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi as he leaves the bench area. Been doing both of these Rays game day actions for years, and for some reason I do not want to test patience of the Baseball Gods.


It was really great to see that the Rays Bullpen members also began to establish another great Rays tradition or superstition during this recent home stand. I am not talking about the daily landscaping of David Price’s bobblehead on the Rightfield wall by Rays reliever Andy Sonnanstine. I am talking about the new inclusion of a Rays “T B ” logo symbol in the back of the Rays Bullpen mound.

 

For the past few days, different members of the Rays crew in the Bullpen have been experimenting with the shape of the Rays ” T B ” symbol and finally last night, Rays reliever Lance Cormier brought out an actual instrument to help bring perfect uniformity and consistency to the daily design. By having someone simply manufacture an outline of the “T B ” symbol in plywood, the Rays Bullpen can now reproduce the “T B” with a constant flair and consistent design daily.


The new wooden frame will provide a accurate sense of uniformity to the symbol every game, plus I would not be surprised if we see the same symbol materialize soon on the Rays actual pitching mound. Rays Ground Guru Dan Moeller was over at the Rays Bullpen mound following Thursday night’s contest taking a few digital shots of the Rays Bullpen’s artistic endeavors. Other Major League Baseball teams imprint their team’s logos into soft clay surrounding the back ends of the pitching mound, and soon maybe the Rays be the next team to also use this great visual symbol to their advantage.

 

It is just another great example of the Rays establishing another Rays tradition by possibly using the symbol for all home games in their pitching mound preparation, both on the field, and in the Bullpen. But I suspect that the “T B ” symbol is far from being perfected yet. Last night, Cormier added a little water to the clay surface to bring out a darker tone to the clay and emphasize the “T B ” symbol in a darker tone to off set the reddish-brown color of the clay.


It did tend to pop out a bit more, but I suspect they might do a bit of experimentation. There could be a small dab of rosin or maybe even chalk added to the design to bring out a more robust and instantly recognizable symbol on the pitching mounds. Symbolism on our sports fields have been around for a long time. And with other MLB teams also expanding the envelope of including their own team’s logo impressions on their field surfaces, it is reasonable to think the Rays might be the next to tackle this manner on their own pitching surfaces.

 

Symbolism has long been used in the past to denote pride, courage and ownership. Soon, with the inclusion of this same ” T B “symbol on the Rays mounds, the Rays can take another step in showing their dominance and intensity on their home grounds too.

 

 

Trespassing is Ill-Advised at the Trop.

 
How much do you love this game of baseball? Can you imagine someone telling you that you are not allowed to attend your favorite team’s home games? Would you then imagine concocting a devious scheme, or even a blatant show of defiance in showing up to a game after you have been warned you might be prosecuted? Well, the following post will bring up just that baseball issue, and will follow a recent event where a Tampa Bay Rays fan decided his fulfillment of his baseball “Jones” was more important than something like a Florida Statute. This story is totally real, and can be easily verified by his arrest report on the Pinellas County Sherriff’s website.

I decided to omit his whole name, the names of any involved Rays game day staffers/security for the sake of hoping that this instant dose of reality might swing his life into a better direction. Also the plain fact that he is under 21 years of age and might still have a chance to see the errors of his ways deems that I try and give the guy a fighting chance to redeem himself outside of Tropicana Field. But the post is being left today to show other people that you do not have to step upon the actual green Field Turf of Tropicana Field to receive a Trespassing warning, or be detained and transported to the Pinellas County Jail complex.

If you violate this action. Florida Statute 8.10.08 (2) (A) is classified as a Misdemeanor in the Second Degree, but it can be a very costly mistake if taken lightly. The Florida State guidelines show that you can net a personal cot in a State Corrections facility for a period not to exceed 60 days. If attending a Rays game after such a possibility of incarceration is to your liking, you might have more problems than just “Rays fever”. Compound on top of this the obvious fact that you might have to expose this childish action in future job interviews or applications for a governmental job, and you see that a lone chance at snubbing your nose at ” the establishment” might net you a ton of lifetime regret and embarrassment.

During the recent Rays versus Red Sox series, a known past violator of some of the Rays fans rules had somehow gotten past the first point of entry into Tropicana Field. This can easily happen as game day employees, such as Rays Fan Hosts, might not be informed or given photos of every culprit or law breaker who has been escorted from the property. And when the violator enters Tropicana Field, he was using a “Gene Wilder” type curly haired wig which instantly might have made it more difficult to get an accurate facial recognition.

You might ask why he was even first given a Trespass warning, and why would someone even take a chance on discovery when you knew the next time you would leave Tropicana Field would be in handcuffs, and in a St. Petersburg Police squad car. Let’s take a small step backwards and see why our dastardly criminal was even wearing a disguise, hoping to go unnoticed within the seating bowl.

He was first detained by Rays security and escorted out of Tropicana Field about a month ago when he was found to have jumped a railing just above the “100′s” sections of Tropicana Field and entered the exclusive Whitney Bank Club for a short evening of enjoying some beverages and free buffet. His first bad move was being in a restricted club within Tropicana Field. His second, and most costly error was he was under 21 years of age and doing another criminal act at the time.


That ill-advised action got him only a 1-year ban from Tropicana Field and early exit from the game. You would think a rational person might take their punishment and do his 1-year without incident, then get a realistic chance to revel with other Rays fans again in 2011. But we forget we are talking about a young man ( under 21) who might think he is still above the law, and thinks he is smarter than the average bear ( sorry for the Yogi Bear logic).

Our accused on that evening decided to mosey on down towards the Visiting dugout during a recent Rays game and try and hide within the frenzied actions that happen during Red Sox series. But he was instantly discovered by a Rays Season Ticket holder, who knew of his expulsion. But he also called unneeded attention to himself by his odd-fitting wig and his nervous chatter and constant glances to see if he might be discovered. The Rays Season Ticket holder asked one of the Rays Beer Vendor to go to a Rays Fan Host, who quickly assessed the situation and followed procedures and contacted a Rays security supervisor.

As his whole discovery quickly unfolding, the young man began to notice his impending doom and tried to make a hasty escape from the Trop from Section 119 towards the outer doors of the Trop. He quickly dodged numerous Rays and Red Sox fans entering the Trop seating bowl and swiftly made his way to an exit near the Mountain Dew Extreme Zone near the Northwest corner of Tropicana Field. There he instantly discovered he was being tailed by a onrushing Rays security member and quickly made a hasty mistake move and went towards the Gate 6 outer doors and his ” alleged” run for freedom.

During his quick movement through Tropicana Field, he had created a Rays security buzz. As our tall, purple-shirted violator exited the Gate 6 doors, he immediately got the attention of other Rays security personnel who were working the bag check table at that location and his planned escape route instantly blew up in front of him. He tried another ill-advised effort to escape his pending doom, but was tackled and went down in a flurry near the Gate 6 barriers.

It was soon found out via verification through his Florida Driver’s License that he was indeed given a verbal trespass warning and his new punishment awaited him. His efforts to try and pull the wool over the Rays game day staff’s eyes was met with a set of handcuffs and a free ride to the Pinellas County Jail complex. He subsequently was booked in at 9:26 pm that evening, while the Rays and the Red Sox were still fighting it out on the Trop’s field. He spent the night within the confines of the local jail and was released on his own recognizance at 12;28 pm the following day. But along with a pending court appearance and plea, he is also now facing a LIFETIME ban from attending ANY function at Tropicana Field.

I did not post this to show just the plight of one person. It was posted to show that violating the rules at a professional sporting event can have lasting effects, and are not worth testing even in jest. You do not have to step upon the Rays Field Turf, or run around the infield/outfield to get extreme punishments enforced upon you.

If you follow the basic and reasonable fan ground rules set forth for all of us to enjoy our Rays experience, this would have never materialized for this young man. Instead, he will have to tell his son or daughter 10-15 years from now why he can not take them to a Rays game. And again, the blunt stupidity of his youthful deception will live on. If he had just waited his time out, maybe spending the rest of the 2010 season watching on television, not tried to violate his trespass warning by venturing inside Tropicana Field.

He might have relived his joy of baseball next season. Instead now he will have the obvious punishment of knowing if the Rays venture into the Playoffs, and get to a World Series again, he will not be able to see it firsthand EVER ….The closest he might get to hearing the cheers and roar of the crowd might be on a barstool at Ferg’s…far away from the game he loved. In closing I really want to know…. “So was it really worth it?”

I Need to Reaffirm my Rays Persona

 
RRC

I come from one of those stereotypical Southern families that has those ancient embroidered saying stitched up on our abode walls like “Home is where the Heart is”, or the every present “Home Sweet Home” knit one, pearl two generic slogans knitted by my grandmother for the family to post above the kitchen table. But for some reason, that same home cooking mentality, that same home spun similarities in daily routine that tend to make teams play better at home than on the road have been some how reversed this season.

For one of the first times in a long, long time, the Tampa Bay Rays look more like the visiting team when they come home to play at Tropicana Field. And maybe I am to blame for it, or at least I feel a reason brewing within me to feel I have let this team down a bit.

And that raises an alarming level of concern for me personally. Most people will instantly fire back that the last two games might be an indication that the Rays are fighting that melodramatic dogma and finally find that stamina and energy to play better at home, than on the road. You want to believe it is finally happening. That the Rays have finally gotten comfortable with their “home skins” this year and raise their home record from its current 22-19 mark.

But could my own past game day persona that changed from “loud, proud and sometimes bordering on obnoxious” to a common spectator again be a critical part of this backwards slide? Could my silence and introverted current Rays personality be contagious and flourishing amongst the Rays seating bowl. Could I really have morphed into being the “silent clapping Rays fan” and not my usual ” Rays Renegade” style of motivation.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon used to talk personally on a nightly basis with local media reporters about the intense fan involvement during the Rays home games. But recently, it has been a mute subject out of Maddon’s mouth at best. And I am not going to climb up on the soapbox and cry “attendance” at the top of my lungs like the “fat cats” in the Press Box. I am not going to try and cause a sense of hysteria or false insistence that a dark cloud envelopes Tropicana Field. I am also not going to talk curses or even past graveyard sites that used to rest below some of our feet within the confines of this white dome.

But I am going to talk about a malady, a disease that has plagued me this season. I think I got bit by the complacency bug and did not remedy the aliment before it took my game down to a level I now do not even recognize. No longer do it seem that visiting teams fear this stadium like in the past. No longer it is referred to as a “pit” or a sensory deprivation noise explosion on your ears and other senses. The instrument of choice, the cowbell is still here, but in some sections around the Trop., it has become silent, where once it rang loud and true every game. And one of those silent sections seems to resonate directly from my seat now.

For some odd reason this season, at visit to the Rays stadium are no longer greeted with intense opposing team’s eye rolls or even a over abundance of earplugs in supply. But the Rays recent struggles in a home setting where the Rays used to dominate their opposition has now given a renewed glimmer of hope, and a possible 50/50 chance of winning in a stadium where the opposition’s winning chances used to go to die. I would rather point the blame with the decrease in the “W” column on impending stadium issues, the economy, and whatever else is considered the excuse of the day. But for me, the true reason the Rays just are not getting their energy levels up at homelike in the past might be because fans like myself somehow changed without really noticing it until now.

 
RRC

Could the more mellow and less vocal Rays fan base be to blame? Not completely sure on this overall prognosis yet, but I know the vibe in my seat at the Trop. has shifted a bit from noisy to a more subdued atmosphere. Gone little by little is my constant game day chatter and impulsive cowbell mania that encompassed my little domain within the stadium like a death grip in from 1998-2009. Could the rest of the Rays Republic have also mellowed out a bit this year, or is there a serious overall Rays crowd mood change sweeping the internal seats of the stadium that needs to be nipped before it festers and ruins a great home field advantage element of Tropicana Field?.


Are we reverting back into that pre-2008 “wait and see” Rays crowd like during the rollercoaster 2001-2007 Rays years when we sat on our hands until a rally developed, or the first run was scored by the Rays. Could we have just adapted or evolved into a more subtle Rays Republic and expect constant winning now without rewarding effort and substance on the field? Could we have morphed into a fan base that truly believes losing at home now is a viable option at a Rays home game, and have accepted this without fighting that the urge to purge that losing rationalization from our minds?

I know last night I looked at my Rays game day behavior and have seen a swift shift towards a more subtle game day persona. Gone from sight is my always present large Latin Percussion cowbell with the weathered drumsticks. Disappearing without warning was my annoying and streams of banter with the opposing Rightfielders during the home games that used to border on insanity.

I fully acknowledge I do not banter with the Umpires like I did before 2008, or throw facts and figure with furious voracity at opposing fans like I have in the past Rays seasons. I might be a prime example of that “Rays fan” who somehow turned it down a notch, and the team might have noticed.

So maybe if I begin to cheer a little louder, become a vocal presence again to my immediate Rays fandom surroundings and portray even a remote slice of my former fan self, then the fans around me might also re-embrace their own sense of banter and Rays encouragement again. Maybe by setting the example again, some Rays fans will return to their former ways too.

 
RRC
 
In turn, by my change in my game day behavior, maybe it can filter down to the dugout and again the players will get to feed off our energy levels and increased noise to evoke a instant release of dugout endorphins that used to engulf the dugout constantly in the past.
Maybe my simple change in attitude and not latitude, I can again resemble that Rays fan I embodied when I was selected for the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame. For some reason I lost that sharp edge I used to be so darn proud of, some how I disguised it as media sensibility and basically choked that enthusiastic spirit out of myself. I had somehow become the fan I used to not understand and tried to motivate.

I regressed back into the typical Rays game day fan again. It is time to make a radical readjustment here. To reconstitute my love and passion for my home team. To again address the sins of my ignorance and open my head and heart again to loving this team like I did for so many prior years. Maybe I just need to again follow a simple baseball saying.


Maybe it is time again for me to “Root ,root, root for the home team”, but this time keep the level of passion and my love for this team at a constant pulse and not resort to stereotypes that do not fit my character. Maybe it is just simply time for myself and the Rays to come out of our dormant tranquil home sensibilities cocoon and again make Tropicana Field a place other teams dread, and not view as a vacation stop on the MLB schedule .

Maybe it is simply time for me to be a kid again at the games. Now where did I pack that Latin Percussion cowbell again?

Rays All-Star Mickey Mouse

 

 
       

Why wouldn’t Disney and Major League Baseball partner in duo-advertising for the 2010 MLB All-Star game held in Disneyland’s back yard in Anaheim, California. It only made sense that a former owner of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim would also be able to offer a unique experience for MLB fans all over the country.
 
It might end up as one of the better business decisions of MLB in the last few years as their 2010 statutes feature the most recognized cartoon mouse in the world. Mickey Mouse was unveiled on June 2, in 36 located throughout Southern California to celebrate the All-Star game.

These 36 specially decorated Mickey statues were commissioned in conjunction with Forever Collectibles are each designed with each of the MLB’s 30 teams unique team logo characteristics and are 7.5 feet in height and weigh 989 pounds. What was even greater is the fact that MLB and Disney Consumer Products also launched a Scavenger Hunt on June 11th for So Cal MLB fans to be the first to find a Mickey Mouse statue and get photographic proof, then submit their photos .

The first person to take a photo in front of all 36 statues and tweet ( via Twitter) a link to their photo gallery would win the Grand Prize of two tickets to the All-Star game on July 13th.

 
MLB.com

So I decided to do a little Renegade search mission of my own and found the Tampa Bay Rays statue sitting nice and pretty among the foyer gallery region of the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, California. Interesting that the Rays version has a distinctive multi blue hued design with the radiant Rays logo, plus a special feature hidden within the right front ear flap of Mickey Mouse.

Within that section of Mickey was a rendition of our mascot, Raymond done up in all his cartoon glory. What is amazing about our Rays Mickey Mouse is that it is not roped off and in a heavily secured area, but is right in the plain sight with no revolving security forces.
 
I mention this is that the Boston Red Sox Mickey Mouse sustained an arm injury to the statue, but it since been fixed and repositioned at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, California in the outside the main entry area. For those wondering, I was home in St. Petersburg and was no where near Santa Anna, or the Red Sox Mickey Mouse. This is my story, and I am sticking to it! 

Since I have mentioned the Red Sox statue, I might as well also give you the rest of the American League East locations for fans who might be heading to So Cal next week.


The New York Yankees Mickey is located at L.A. Live within the ESPN Zone restaurant lobby in Los Angeles.

The Toronto Blue Jays statue is located at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, California just within the main entrance.

And last, but not least, The Baltimore Orioles Mickey Mouse is located at the Newport Sports Museum in their main entrance.

If you need to know the location of any other All- Star Mickey Mouse,
just leave me a comment and I will post the statue’s location for you as soon as possible. See you all in the funny papers.

Soriano Got Snubbed, Plain and Simple

 
 
Getty Images
Today as we sit with our families or in a baseball stadium celebrating our Nation’s birth date, I am going to use my right to freedom of speech to it fullest. I am going to use a right afforded to me by my forefathers to insure my opinion and my personal stance on a subject will not fall to persecution or alienation by my peers. That the written virtue of my prose is guaranteed, and can also be challenged by any other person with a differing opinion. It is one of the greatest rights afforded to us, and one each of us use daily, maybe without knowing it.

I do not know why, but I had the resounding feeling before today’s announcement of the 2010 All-Star rosters that someone on the Tampa Bay Rays, who deserved a roster spot for the 2010 All-Star game would get the shaft. It really shocked me that New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, who has personally seen Rays closer Rafael Soriano up close and personal this season, would leave the Rays closer off his initial list of pitchers for the All-Star nod. Considering Girardi manages in the same division as the Rays, and saw Soriano in action against his Yankees (May 20th), you would have thought he would see the solidarity and the security Soriano has brought to the back end of the Rays Bullpen.

Maybe this is one of those tongue-in-cheek All-Star snubs that was made to make an obscure point. I might be in the minority here, but how can you argue with Soriano’s in-your-face statistics as being the reason for his obvious omission. Who can argue with a pitcher who has 20 saves, and is currently only two off the league lead not being on the A L All-Star roster. Could it be Soriano’s one lone blown save opportunity as the deciding factor in his name missing from this roster?

Soriano’s 95.2 percent save percentage is tops in the Major Leagues, and should have been a nicely highlighted stat to the level of consistency that Soriano has been nothing short of spectacular for the Rays since being acquired on Dec 11. Not since former Rays closer Roberto Hernandez last put on a Rays uniform has this team had a solid reliever who can close the door and secure the game with undying confidence for the Rays. Soriano has shown his consistent nature by posting his second 20-save campaign of his career.
A great illustration of the new Rays confidence that Soriano has brought the Rays can best be shown in the recent June 19th game against the Florida Marlins when Soriano came into the contest in the eighth inning, the first time he had entered the game before the ninth inning for the Rays. Soriano did end up this appearance with his first blown save, even though he did not let a single runner reach base. Soriano’s inherited runners on third and first base with a one run lead , and the tying run did scored on a fielder’s choice.

 
Chris O’Meara/AP
Also remarkable is the fact Soriano converted his first 16 straight save opportunities, of the season to tie a Rays club record held by Al Reyes. If you look further back, it was Soriano’s 21st save in a row. You would think that with a set of impressive statistics like this on paper it would be an easy choice to pick Soriano as a reliever for the American League All-Star roster. How could Girardi forget that Soriano is currently 2-0 with a impressive 1.52 ERA and has allowed only 2 earned runs in his last 21 appearances, and has not issued a walk in his last 15 time on the mound. During this period, Soriano has held hitters to a .168 batting average, which is the 8th best mark in the Major Leagues.

It has only been a short period of time since Soriano was picked as the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month (May) after not allowing a run in his 12 appearances while converting all 9 of his save situations. During May 2010, Soriano only allowed just three hits and 3 walks while posting nine strikeouts while holding opposing hitters to a .086 average. All the above statistics and information should be good enough to at least getting a secondary glance to securing an All-Star nod. But for some reason, Soriano’s name was omitted from the first list of pitchers selected for the American League squad.

How soon Girardi has forgotten that Soriano pulled off a major coup of saving both halves of the Boston doubleheader on April 17th. Soriano came into the resumed contest that afternoon and got the initial save in the duo games. Soriano then came on again in the ninth inning of the regularly scheduled game and got his second save of the day. Soriano became the first Rays pitcher to ever record two saves in one day.

Maybe it was a miscalculation by Girardi. Maybe there is a viable excuse for Soriano’s omission like having to place one member (Joakim Soria, Matt Thorton) of each of the American League teams on the All-Star roster. The Rays Republic knows there has to be some great excuse, some insurmountable tale of the stats that pushed Girardi’s eyes away from Soriano glaring statistics. I do not see it for the life of me what averted his eyes from seriously considering Soriano.
I might be a bit prejudiced here, but I also can see the solidarity and the difference that Soriano has made to this Rays team.

From his Rays game introduction complete with a raging flurry of flames and hard bass beats, you get the feeling the Rays truly got a value when they acquired the $ 9.5 million dollar man. I honestly expected Girardi to include his own closer, Yankee Mariano Rivera, and his secondary selection of Detroit closer Jose Valverde is a solid pick. My only question is why there are only two closer type candidates when past rosters have been stacked with them?


 

Could there be a darker reason why Soriano is not on this year’s A L roster? Could Girardi be pushing his own pinstripe pride a little too far. The very visual and apparent deletion by Girardi of Soriano could be fixed in the coming days because of pitching injuries. The idea of not including Soriano came as a complete shock to me I can understand Girardi’s confidence in his own closer Rivera, but when a closer dominates his league ,shows the ability to get the job done day in and day out, he should be on the short list for an opportunity like the All-Star game.

Hopefully it was a close decision with at least a few minutes of deliberation and chatter, and one that had to be made even without regard to Soriano’s bold and brash dominating performances to date. Hopefully Girardi’s decision of leaving Soriano has more to do with the roster make-up, and less to do with him being a Ray.
 
 

 

Thinking Through One Trade Deadline Rumor

 

                                   
                                   
Sports.Yahoo.com

I am not sure why I am listening to the Major League Baseball rumors and innuendo that is starting to gain steam and filtering out of the 30 MLB front offices and being propelled out at every angle with the MLB Trade Deadline coming quickly. Many of the MLB’s Clubs have already made their July Christmas Lists and are searching to pull off a deal that might make a few heads snap to the side, or defy the odds and gad a sure thing.

This time of the year seems to work deals fast and furious, but unlike the MLB First Year Player Draft, this time of the year has more safeguards, more security, and even more intrigue. And the Tampa Bay Rays are not exception to this looking forward to this time of the year. With the Rays win-loss record in June portraying more of an inverted triangle with their hitting and pitching finally coming down from the heavens to show some sense of normalcy. It is their job now to again separate themselves from the rest of the MLB mortals with a deal out of nowhere.

You can be sure Rays whiz kid Andrew Friedman has a few hidden face cards up his long sleeves and might make a popular trade, or an unexpected one by the end of this month. But this year the Rays could find themselves looking more towards their immediate needs, where in the past, they have tried to stock the Rays farm system with names like minor league pitcher Alexander Torres or slugging third baseman Matt Sweeney. A recent spread MLB rumor that has hit my ears is that the Rays might be willing to part with someone in their outfield mix for a “Fall rental” pitcher who could be that missing piece of the Rays puzzle in 2010.

At no other time in their short existence have the Rays “rented “a player to make a sure handed push towards a Playoff berth, but with the way 2010 is shaking out, maybe the Rays need a tweak or two to legitimize their chances. And the two names being thrown around do have me a bit lusting after the “player to be received” in this rumored trade. But it is not the fact that the rumored player and I share the same first name, but more the fact I have salivated about this guy pitching in the confines of the Trop and in the Rays Carolina blue ever since his old Cleveland squad put him in the pet shop window.

By now you might have guessed that I am talking about Mariners pitcher Cliff Lee, who is currently the guy pushing in Rays pitcher David Price’s back to gain the American League lead in ERA. But what really excited me about his name mentioned is the fact he is an innings eater and a suitable pitcher that would fir the Rays clubhouse persona, plus bring the pitching back up a notch or two instantly.

And the Rays name to possibly be sent towards the Emerald City in exchange for Lee might not be the logical choice, but it would be one that would solidify their outfield situation plus show their superstar Ichiro that the team is serious about rebuilding now with an eye on contending in 2011.

Most would think Carl Crawford’s name would get pushed into this trade by the Rays, but if the Rays are in contention for the A L East title, then why get rid of a guy who will provide adequate and ample scoring chances and pressure on other team’s defenses. I can be happy with a possible MLB Draft double dose of picks if he walks as a type-A Free Agent


The name to be slotted into the other spot is also not Gabe Kapler, who has shown the heart of a lion in the field, but has the bat of a pitcher so far in 2010. He would have been a great addition to this deal three years ago, but the twilight of Kapler’s career is close. That leaves only a few names…Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist or B J Upton. The first name might be a good choice, but he has not shown any consistent action in the field or at the plate since leaving Detroit in 2008. Zobrist could have been a addition to this deal if it was for a pitcher that still had a few years of team control, but Lee will be a Free Agent at the end of the World Series.

All fingers will then point to the man that has been a constant Rays scapegoat for the woes and sub sequential bad happenings of the Rays over the last two years. I think the world of Upton, but I am thinking that he would benefit tremendously with a change of scenery. Unlike the Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes trades, this trade would not be made due to attitude or a sense that Upton has already peaked as a hitter. It is being done to provide Upton with a chance to let him reinvent and recharge his confidence in a place that will want him, need him, can embrace his challenges and help him collegian in the Major Leagues.


Sure, this trade might never materialize. It could possible never even see the light of day after this post, but a Upton for Lee trade would help two squads heading in seemingly opposite directions find another firm foundation to step above their current levels of play. The Rays need to stop their ship from sinking right now. Rays fifth starter Wade Davis has been hammered in June ( 0-5). With the consistent pitching of Price and Jeff Niemann, it makes Davis the easy choice for either long relief or a one month stint in the minors before the rosters expand on September 1st.

I like Upton as a player and as a person, but from a business point of view where winning is everything….It is a simple choice. And the addition of pitcher of Lee’s caliber should provide those 3-5 extra wins that might be the deciding factor to a possible Playoff berth or a chance to secure another A L East title. Sometimes hard decision have to be made. Worst thing to happen, Upton comes back and hits multiple Home Runs when the Mariners and Rays meet again in 2010. Best case scenario, Lee helps the Rays win a few more games and secure another Playoff berth. Then we all get to drink some Mumm’s champagne again. Sounds mighty sweet to me.

Special Edition Longoria Gold Glove Figurine

 
                    
                             Raysbaseball.com

You really do not need any extra incentive and reason to want to be at Tropicana Field on Monday when the Rays return home and begin their 7-game last home stand before the 2010 All Star break. The fact we are hosting our divisional rivals, the Boston Red Sox should be more than enough to fill the Trop and help the Rays push past the Red Sox on their quest to again sit a top the American League east standings. But what if you need an additional push towards attending the Monday contest?

Really? You want extra incentive. You want something else for your attendance, then I got just the thing for you. On Monday, the Rays will also be giving out to the first 10,000 fans in Rays gear a Special Limited Edition Evan Longoria Gold Glove figurine. You heard me right, the Rays will award you for you attendance this Monday by giving you and your Rays gear a figurine commemorating Longo’s 2009 Gold Glove Award.

And with an expected announcement on Sunday that Longoria will also have a starting spot at Third Base for the American League All-Stars, this is just extra sugary icing on the cake for Rays fans. It is like one of those special 2-for1 deals we see at the supermarket. We get a great baseball game that could decide a spot in the standings, plus get a chance to help celebrate Longoria’s 2009 Gold Glove Award at the same time. Can you say a double dose of cowbell for this one!

The Special Edition MLB All-Star Game Bottle

 


 

I sometimes still get the odd merchandising mailings and a package containing some of the promotional items from Pepsico, even though I left their employment over three years ago. I have been told, I still have a friend within the company’s headquarters in Purchase, New York, and sometimes still get some interesting trinkets and tidbits from the “home office”. But I opened a box sitting by my mailbox last night and might have gotten one of the best gifts from my former employer.


There sitting amongst a bushel of Styrofoam peanuts was a treasure I would surely keep close to me. Nestled in that soft carpet of Mr. Peanut head -shaped packing material was a gift only a true baseball love could enjoy. For someone in that office up in New York remembered I was a active and enthusiastic baseball fan, and I got a great thrill after seeing the collectible item stuffed within that box.

Every year Pepsi Cola does some kind of remarkable collectible bottles to celebrate professional sporting events throughout this great Nation, and today…I got a small piece of history stuffed within that box.


I had gotten both 16 ounce aluminum Pepsi bottles of the collectible set that had been distributed within the California market to celebrate the upcoming All-Star Game to be held at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California on July 13th. Glistening among those white peanuts was two different styled bottles to immortalize this great event. And each bottle have their own unique patterns and interesting points.

The first bottle I picked up and pulled out of the box was a full bottle that had six different past All-Stars listed on the round bottle.

There was Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Yankee starter C C Sabathia, Angels Centerfielder Torii Hunter, St. Louis Cardinals First Baseman Albert Pujols, Dodger Outfielder Andre Ethier and last, but not least Mariner’s fireballer Felix  “King” Hernandez.

All had action shots that were etched and printed on the bottles with their past All-Star appearances. It was kind of odd to me that Pepsi did not include Ken Griffey Jur. In this promotion since he has been a focal point of past MLB promotions along with Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriquez and shortstop Derek Jeter. But the pinstripes did get a nod with the big man Sabathia, so they did not get shut out.

The second bottle had a basic great California background with palm trees and the mountains on it, and is printed in the Pepsi trademark blue and had a distinctive centerpiece of the 2010 MLB All-Star Game logo. On the bottle within the sweet spot regions on the baseballs were street signs designating “Hollywood” “Interstate 5″ , ” OC”, and “Santa Monica” . These items again are only being sold in the Southern California Pepsi marketplace, and should be going fast off the shelves as collectors and Pepsi fans alike begin to notice this great item to celebrate the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

But it was great that someone who used to be my Pepsi upper level contacts remembered that I was an avid baseball fan again this year, and sent me this fantastic gift that is available in a limited edition only in one section of the country. But then this person was also on hand when I used to build and try and construct the unique and exclusive Pepsi displays during the past Rays Fan Fest for the annual Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame ceremonies.

 

Still it was great to get something special from Pepsi, and it will (hopefully) be in my collection for a long, long time. By the way, they are filled with bubbly Pepsi, and will remain full until……

 
 
 
 

A Public Crime, or a Bad Publicity Stunt?

 
 
Deadspin/ M J Morning Show

Got to say, the recent story on Deadspin about the kid being offered a (alleged) beer during a Tampa Bay Rays game had me thinking the worst until I noticed a  glitch in the second picture from the next seating section. If this photographer had taken both pictures (not) of a child holding the (alleged) beer in his hand with no photos of any motion towards his mouth in any of the photos.

There has been more than one mention in a local circle that a local Morning Show from a Tampa-based radio station first posted and provided these photos, are probably the culprits in this whole sham episode. How many Rays fans remember a few years back when M J and a show cohort pulled off a possible marriage photo in the local fish wrap, The St. Petersburg Times weekly Wedding section. No one was any the wiser before the Morning Show came out and confessed that it was a staged stunt and that it was done to attract listeners.


I suspect this is another dysfunctional adventure in the ever-changing escapades of M J and his bunch of co-hosts. There are too many holes and inconsistent actions by the photographer (Gabriels wife) who took these photos to be anything but either a staged event, or one where the cooperation and participation of the two subjects (one a minor, the other an adult) might have netted them a bit of notoriety, but not Internet stardom…sorry.

First, it was stated that Gabriel (if that is your real name) saw the young Rays fan during last Saturday night’s game with a golden-colored beverage in his hand after the adult in attendance with him at the game came back with two beverages. The first thing that puzzles me is the positioning of “Gabriel” to the two subjects in question ( 1 row behind them). If you are that close, wouldn’t you as an adult question the other adult for making such a blatant mistake in judgment as to giving a child a beverage he can not have for possibly another 11 years?

According to “Gabriel”, the adult told the child “Here is yours”. That in itself doesn’t bring  a huge amount of credibility to it being an alcoholic beverage at all. And gold-colored drinks are not always what you might expect. If you really take a sharp look at the photos, there is not presence of beer bubbles lining the sides or bottom of the cup at all, which as all adults know, is the fun additive of CO2 to perk up our favorite concoctions.

The St. Petersburg Times article states that “Gabriel” did not confront the adult in question even though the action itself is considered  a crime called “Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor”. But another neighboring Rays concerned fan contacted a member of Rays Security, probably after some prodding and chatter from “Gabriel”.


Secondly, Rays Security did look into the situation and probably found that the beverage was not what it appeared to be, and left it at that. If it had been a alcoholic beverage, you can be sure there are Rays game day procedures in place for a Rays Security Supervisor to investigate the situation, then make his recommendation to either discard the issue, or consult with the multitudes of St. Petersburg Police Department personnel at every Rays game.
 

Deadspin/M J Morning Show

If the beverage in question was (allegedly) beer, the proper authorities, like the St. Petersburg Police and Rays Fan Host personnel would have escorted both the adult and child to another location to conclude their evaluation of the event.


Third, as a former Pepsi Special Events Coordinator who had Tropicana Field as one of my major accounts for many years, I know that the bar areas of Tropicana Field do not put Ginger Ale, Club Soda or Tonic Water in regular Pepsi paper cups that are used primarily for  Pepsi carbonated soda beverages. The Trop. does however use a clear plastic 16 oz cup for beverages purchased in the bar locations in conjunction with a fountain gun system connected to either to a 5-gallon post-mix Bag-in-the-Box, or a 5-gallon pre-mix tank located somewhere in that bar area.
Lastly, if it was truly an adult beverage, surely the Rays fan to the right of the child in question would have at least mentioned the fact or accosted the adult for their inappropriate actions. The fact that Rays Security decided not to press the issue shows that it was investigated, and deemed to be a beverage other than a cold Coors Light or Miller Lite.

I sometimes personally buy a cranberry and pineapple juice from one of the bar locations in Tropicana Field. It doesn’t have a lick of alcohol, but does have a indication of being a mixed drink. But if I was to let me daughter or a small child drink from that beverage, I can see it being misidentified as an adult beverage and the level of concern would rise accordingly.

Centerplate
also used to buy from my Pepsi location Ginger Ale, Tonic and Club Soda by the case in 10 oz glass bottles for use mainly in their party areas as mixers for adult beverages. But they have also been put into cups and given to children who might have upset stomach or ate too much cotton candy. 
This could be a secondary origin of the (alleged) adult beverage in question.

 
Deadspin/ M J Morning Show

Glass bottles are not permitted in the seating bowl of Tropicana Field, so it could have been poured into that size cup by a stadium concession stand worker or a Rays bartender. In stadium beer vendor in the stands do not carry that size cups with them, or have access to that size cups for beverages. Either way, it is highly unlikely that with more than one adult near this child that a (alleged(beer) would have been given and consumed within plain sight at a Rays game.


Also, we are forgetting that it might have been a beverage, like apple juice brought in by the adult since sealed juice items can be brought into Tropicana Field for consumption by the Rays young fans. The adult could have gotten the cup from a bar stand vendor after purchasing his own adult beverage. My personal opinion, it is another promotional sham/scam by M J and his cronies, and this one is not funny at all.

Under age drinking is a crime, and carries some heavy penalties and future restrictions for adults violating such restrictions. No one in their right mind would give a full cup, or even a sip of their beer to a minor in a controlled environment like A Rays game unless they either wanted to be caught, or were trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes. Sorry M J, the sober Rays fans see right through you……clearly.

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