September 2010

General Lambert and the Glam Nation Invade Tropicana Field

 
 
It was kind of funny to hear Depeche Mode’sPrecious” being played before the beginning of Saturdays night’s Tampa Bay Rays/Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series event with Glam rocker Adam Lambert. More for the fact it set the pace of the evening where our master of disguises, Mr. Lambert himself showed us why he is going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. And as soon as he came onto the stage tonight it was evident why people see him as a hybrid of so many great legends of music all rolled up into one.  

Lambert has the stage presence of Elton John, the wardrobe changes of Cher, and is boosted by a voice that seems to scream the vocal artistry of Queen’s great front man, the late Freddie Mercury. Boosted by enough glitter on himself and his entourage on stage to make any Mardi Gras float envious and jealous, it was Lambert’s voice tonight that made you forget some of his stage distractions and immediately concentrate upon the lyrics and the songs we have all come to associate with Lambert’s flair for the theatrical. 

And his theatrics on stage both through his stage riser in the center of the stage mixed with a brisk and totally popping choreographed dance segments push the envelope between both an audio and visual extravaganza that makes you take a step back and collect your breath, then begin to sing along with the singer on his tunes that have shocked, awed and also entertained us ever since he broke off the American Idol stage.

And we definitely got the PG-rated show because of the impressionable youth in the crowd, but the diversity of the crowd definitely shows that Lambert is crossing all type of boundaries and stereotypes to entertain and push his Glam Nation prerogatives towards some new listens. And I kind of like his style of thrusting his views and opinions at you with gusto, but keeping his on stage image bordering on the brink of surreal. But just as you are about to pigeon-hole him with simply a meshing of  androgynous music with his tunes like “Strut” and “For Your Entertainment“, Lambert whirls you into a 180 degree turn and pushes your ears and eyes into another defined direction. And that is the reason I can see Lambert being pushed into the mold or direction of the always theatrical Mercury.

That zest and energy to attack the vocals and invite musical accompaniment to throw the eyes and ears into different angles and directions while still tapping your foot or clapping your hands to the beat.  Another section of music that Lambert has seemed to attack with vengeance is acoustic sets of music to his songs like “Whataya Want From Me” and even “Soaked” which has a really familiar Queen feel to it. When Lambert goes into his acoustic sets, you really get a great indication of the unfolding talent and incredible vocal range he is exploring more every day.

Sometimes his musical mannerisms and moves on stage did seem to play more towards Broadway than pop culture. But if you are not entertained at a Lambert show, then you came into it with a closed mind. He reminds me of some of the classic 80’s groups like The Pet Shop Boys or even Depeche Mode in his booming bass lines and rhythms that take you beyond the lyrics. If you are not into club music or have an allergy for glitter, than Lambert will not be your cup of tea. But as someone who has pushed his way through the Punk Rock stereotype and the epic explosion of experimental techno music and electronically enhanced House music’s New York minute, Lambert is a lion pretending to be a kitten. In a way, Lambert reminds me of a splash of David Bowie with a more pronounced sensual sexuality about him, but with lyrics that catch your attention and your mind simultaniously. 

All you have to do is hit up any music site and click on a small snippet of “If I Had You” and you will see that someday, the whole world could be come a Glam Nation colony. Lambert definitely takes you on a sensory explosive adventure with his music, the color hues of his stage lighting with high accents on purple, aquamarine and even a pinkish burst here and there for added dimensions. This color pallatte explosion of lights made it a bit difficult for some photo shots, with the always changing background colors and formatting, but that was also part of the “Glam Nation’s” intention. 

Lambert definitely can put you off by his many wardrobe changes (I lost track at four) during his performances, but we have already concluded, that is Lambert’s ultimate intention. All your sense have to be ready for overload if you are ever going to enjoy Lambert’s theatrical and vocal sideshow. But his costumes were all done in the basic black format of most of the gone, but not forgotten Punk Rock groups. With the splash of hues of aqua, purple and red, the outfits somehow took a life of their own at times.

I was a bit upset that Lambert did not get a chance, or give us an extra bit of magic tonight with his rendition of Foghat‘s “Slow Ride” with Allison Iraheta, who opened the show for Lambert. But even without this tasty morsel, it was a hearty meal of great music and theatrical fun.

 I came into this show expecting to be impressed, and I was quickly blown away by the vocal range and the true artistry of Lambert’s band and dancers. Might have been over the top for a few moments as Lambert had to remind one of his guitarist it was a “PG show”, but well worth staying here until the Witching Hour.  The diversity of the crowd was not even apparent once the music began and everyone began to sway and use their cellphones to record photos or video moments of the concert. Was a great peek into one of the artists that might help shape the future of rock as we know it today.

Still curious as to how the Rays grounds crew are going to get all that silver metallic glitter up before Sunday’s game.

Not to worry, I think we are going to be talking about this show long after the last tinsel or freckle of glitter is gone

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Allison Iraheta’s Raspy Vocals Energize the Trop


 

 

Most people who have known me outside of the baseball park, and usually during the off season know that I used to play and sing in a band for a long time, plus have done my share of hitting the Karaoke microphone both as a KJ and as a performer.

 

 

It is one of those hidden little passions and talent some people know about, and other find out through the grapevine or by accident step into a bar you are playing at the time.


 

 

And that is one of the reason I have always had a liking for the rocker chicks who perform on shows like American Idol. I am a huge closet Alternative and Rock guy who has done everything from Depeche Mode to Journey on stage. I do it not for the chick and ego, nut it is my calming force, the place I head to if life get too hard, or the road too long. And that is why I feel a distant, but connective bond with a singer like Allison Iraheta.


 

 

Most of us know her as the pint size crimson-haired leather-clad singer who can belt out anything from Heart’s Anne Wilson classics, to Aretha Franklin without anyone questioning her vocal range. And believe me, on Saturday night during the Tampa Bay Rays/ Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series as she opened for Glam rocker Adam Lambert, she definitely got the party started right. Even with her limited exposure and only one album under her belt, Iraheta had her vocals bouncing off the Trop’s roof and delighting the crowd.


 

 

The way she hit the stage reminded me of those old red bouncing ball that never seemed to lose energy or slow down at all unless you trapped it under a box or snagged it with your fingers. She was energetic, juiced-up and rocking to all types of vocal heights as she performed a half hour set before Adam Lambert was to hit the stage. Heard the song “Robot Love” for the first time last night and loved the bass pumping and wonder why this is not a good club hit, or maybe I am hitting the wrong clubs.


 

 

But the one tune everyone was waiting for was “Friday I’ll Be Over You” and she nailed it and was prancing across the stage like a veteran rocker instead of someone out on their first tour. Also had not heard “Don’t Waste The Pretty” before and might be headed to Best Buy soon and getting myself a new CD for the old collection. She performed “Still Breathing” and I could almost see a bit of the range and vocal talents of Gwen Stefani hidden inside her ready to unleash its carnage on the World.


 

Iraheta might have been an opening act, but she definitely showed all of us her name will be heard a lot in the future with her rasp voice that reminds me a little of Janis Joplin with a hint of Joni Mitchell for good measures.

 

And that is high praise when you consider Iraheta’s age and that she is growing more and more in talent and abilities every day. And she is also a cross-over star being bi-lingual and could be a budding star in both English and Spanish recording.

 

But I guess the best praise I can give Iraheta right now is for her to Rock On and keep striving for that special place where music and life make their crossroads.
 

Could September Soreness be effecting the Rays?

 
 
Chris O’Meara/AP

“Dead arm” syndrome, “September soreness”, those are just a few of the titles of the turmoil that is beginning to get a tighter grip on the Rays rotation and Bullpen. And it could not come at a worst time. With the Rays magical number now dwindling down to “10”, this is one of the worst times for your pitching staff to be experiencing any symptoms or even effects of the long Major League Baseball season.


The Rays already saw two of their rotation mates, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann go down for a period of time this season to try and rehabilitate the aliments without a long lay-off. So far the rest and relaxation technique seemed to work some wonders with Davis, but Niemann has last a bit of his stuff in the process.

Before his soreness, Niemann was considered one of the most consistent pitchers on the Rays staff, but since his return he looks a bit bewildered and astonished at his lack of control. Since his return, it has also sometimes seemed like Niemann is shot putting the ball to the plate, or even just trying to place the ball in a quadrant instead of his usual throwing motion. Niemann has gone from a consistent member of the Rays to a question mark right now.

And that does not bode well for the Rays, who will need a fourth starter in place before the playoff begin in a few weeks. This doesn’t mean Niemann is out of the running, but if he keeps up his inconsistent starts, he might just be shut down by the Rays and possibly left off the post season first roster for the American League Divisional Series (ALDS). That would give the Rays the option of letting him rest a bit more, do some side work and possibly be activated before the team has to submit their names for the American League Championship Series(ALCS).

Rob Carr/AP

And with Davis coming out of his time on the Disabled List throwing some of the best ball of the year, he might be the beneficiary of possibly getting that fourth slot. And for all the grip and grumbling Davis has taken for not being as consistent as the Rays other four pitchers, Davis is the only qualifying pitcher among the American League rookies with double digit wins (12). Only Baltimore’s rookie Brian Matusz (122) has more strikeouts than Davis (104). For all of Davis’s possible bouts of rollercoaster outings, he has been able to maintain a pretty impressive end result under the radar.

But Davis and Niemann are the only pitchers the Rays have acknowledged are experiencing soreness, while starter Matt Garza has shown signs of definite problems on the mound, but it seems the Rays are willing to let him sort it out on the mound and not on the bench. James Shields frustrations over the past month could also be a small bout of pain caused by a bit of overwork considering he has topped 200+ innings over the past two season, and maybe his arm finally has reached his limit right now.

The lone member not to show any adverse signs of the fatigue and demand of the long season right now is David Price. He has looked consistent and actually seems to have strengthened a bit as the innings pile up this season. But the aliment can come on quickly, and are the Rays throwing the dice right now hoping that Price doesn’t hit his limit before the Rays secure their second post season berth.

To have Price excluded from the playoff roster even for one series could be disastrous. But with the team possibly having to go with their usual starting five up until possibly their last week of the season, when could the Rays rest Price?


 

And suddenly, a few members of the Rays Bullpen have also started to show a bit of signs of fatigue and dead arms of their own. Over his past two appearances Dan Wheeler, who has usually been one of the consistent cogs in the Rays late inning machine has given up Home Runs, and also contributed towards two Rays losses. Could Wheeler have hit the proverbial wall this season after being a consistent piece of the puzzle for so long.

Over the last 7 days Wheeler has appeared in 3 contests, last 1 innings and posted a 18.00 ERA. That is not the signs of a consistent set-up man, but could be an indication Wheeler is feeling some fatigue right now.


You have to also wonder if Joaquin Benoit might be about to hit his own fatigue wall. Benoit made a miraculous comeback this season after surgery to pace this Rays Bullpen along with Wheeler for so long, but could his limits also being coming soon? For most of the season his ERA stayed below the 1.00 mark, but recently it has been pushed up to the 1.46 Era mark. This is not to say he is experiencing any fatigue, and is a key component of the Rays late inning brigade. Should Benoit also maybe be used sparingly over the last 15 games, or throw caution to the wind and hope for the best?

It is admirable that Shields and Garza are trying to fight the good fight on the mound and get through this without causing strife in the Rays rotation. But could their problems on the mound actually be causing a rippling effect through the pitching staff? We know that the minute the Rays secure their post season invitation the fans will see more of Andy Sonnanstine and possibly another pitcher (probably not Jeremy Hellickson) taking a start or two to give some of the usual starters, like Price a short breather.

 

But is it worth rolling the dice right now with the health and well being of your starters to get to that magical number plateau, then sit them down for the post season? And with that in mind, if the Rays do have to go late into the last week of the season with their primary starters, could that have been effected by this plague of “September soreness” and “Dead arm” syndrome? You can’t shut them all down right now, but can a shorter leash be attached for the rest of the season, or possibly we see a quick shutdown of the usual rotation after the Yankee series?

WWJD-What Would Jeter Do?

  
 
J Meric/Getty Images

You want to wax poetic thoughts and bring the brain into the discussion on whether New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter did the right thing by overacting the call of being hit in a recent game against the Tampa Bay Rays instead of just tossing the bat and walking to first base. But was his actions any different than a few of the events that unfold every night upon that very same diamond? And even if his actions can be viewed as deceptive and dishonest, does it really tarnish his reputation, or just become a focal point for change?

Was Jeter’s actions so appalling that the media cyclone is still at full force about it, with most people outside the New York tri-state region condemning the actions. And is this one action going to be the cornerstone of discussions about expanding replay uses, or even taking away some of the human elements of the game from the Umpire crews. Already there are calls and jeers out nightly about the umpiring of game all around the MLB, but will a video replay system really provide instant gratification and change, or will that system be cursed after it “misses” an important play or doesn’t have a definite angle to overturn a decision.

But how was Jeter’s actions at the plate so much different than the phantom tag of a base runner, or a wide slide of the foot on the pivot for a double play? Why is it that a perfect professional acting job is being pushed to such a high level and cause for immediate action? It is actually really simple. People love to bring people down from their ivory towers.


Our society lives for getting the dirt and the low down dirty truth on people who have success in our World. That is why shows like “Access Hollywood”, Inside Edition” , “TMZ” and “Entertainment Tonight” get such high ratings at the 7-8 pm time frame. The average Joe or Jane get a small internal thrill out of seeing people with success being pulled down a level or two, and this is especially no different with sports figures. If Joe Schmoe had done what Mel Gibson has been portrayed to have done, would anyone outside his immediate family and friends even care?

If this had happened with Chicago White Sox catcher A J Pierzenski during a game it would be pegged as “A J being A J” and would be a story for about an hour. But this was the Captain of the 2009 World Champion Yankees who pulled of the ruse of the day. And for that reason, Jeter has been dragged through the coals and burned in effigy by some outside of the American League bubble.


All for doing what every player might have done in the same situation. Why do you think most hitters do not move their feet during breaking pitches? There is a probability that the ball will hit their toes and they get a free pass.

If a rookie on the Kansas City Royals or even San Diego Padres had attempted the same deceptive practice, it might have not even been broadcasted in the highlights more than twice outside of their local team marketplace. Because it was performed by an icon of truth, justice and the Yankee way, the teardown process started even before the Yankee Trainer examined Jeter near the Yankees batting circle.

But the video showed a smile on Jeter’s face which immediately started the Jeter demolition program on his character by what had just transpired on the field. That simple little upward smirking on his lips might have been the epic moment of ignition for the fire storm that is still raging in some circles. But the question still lingers, what did Jeter do differently than any of our own Tampa Bay Rays players would have done?

If Carlos Pena or Evan Longoria had a ball bounce off the knob of their bat and the Home Plate Umpire wanted to give them a base, do you think they would argue and complain they wanted to stand in the box? Even the best form of sportsmanship can sometimes border on trying to upstage the Umpire, which will get you basically earmarked for a while. If Jeter had turned to the Umpire and said it hit his bat after the Umpire had signaled for Jeter to take a walk….would a later inning retaliation from behind the plate have happened?

Gamesmanship and sportsmanship is a double edged sword that can get you undivided attention and unwanted fury thrust at you for a play that is genuinely considered routine by MLB players. I remember watching the movie “Eight Men Out” when they thought the “fix was in”, and both sportswriters kept a different scorecard and marked the plays they thought were “deceptive” or misplayed by the 1919 White Sox. I think if you kept a scorecard even today and marked down any close call or controversial play, you might have at least a half dozen by the end of the game.

Baseball is a human game. It is decided and played by humans with limited interruptions for review. And that is perfect for me. I personally do not have a problem with what Jeter did because I played Collegiate baseball, and I would have taken the base too. It is a bit sad that the episode has gotten so big now that it will not filter out of our consciousness for a few weeks.

But it is a subtle reminder that sometimes things are not as they appear during a game, and slight of hand or foot could produce multiple calls or situations. Some people live by the premise that “it is not cheating unless you get caught”. Well, in Jeter’s case it is all there in a small sampling video produced by the camera’s eye. Gamesmanship or just playing the game by its own rules, that is case before each of us right now. The best part of it is that it did not have a final piece in the games decision, but it did provide a lead for the Yankees.


In the end, you have to go back to that old Yankee saying I heard a few years back that mimicked a religious phrasing. WWJD…..What Would Jeter Do? In this case, we saw what Jeter would do. Now it is time for you to decide if you believe his actions warrant a change, a revocation or even just be considered a part of the fabric of the game. Honestly, I think most of us might have done the same, but that would be admitting we are human.

Gamesmanship,Sportsmanship….Potatos,Potatoes

 
 
J. Meric/Getty Images
Even before the final out in the Tampa Bay Rays game against the New York Yankees last night, the phrases gamesmanship and sportsmanship were called out and questioned by many sitting in the stands. The two phrases seem to have a lot in common, but both have their own special definition and responsive nature, both which were called into play during that game. By now either Sports Talk Radio or even the guys at the coffee machine at your office have all spouted their opinions and explanations as to the effect of that one play had on the course and direction of the game. But I also think it is as simple as wither you wear a Rays or Yankees cap.

The game day analogy of gamesmanship and sportsmanship is a lot more diverse than just the number of letters, or the apparent definition to the common man. Both phrases are taught to us at an early age during our developing stages as young impressionable players. We either develop these phrases into our playing subconscious, or we just throw it back into reality as just a set of letters arranged in a certain pattern. The way you embrace, or even practice these two aspects of sports conduct can define the type of player character you give off on the field or the reputation you will develop among your sporting colleagues.

Each individual player and team can tweak, rearrange or even dismantle these phrases to fit their own personal goals to achieve greatness. No matter if it is considered “good” sportsmanship, or even “bad” gamesmanship, both these phrases will forever be dissected and reexamined when game day conduct comes into question either for you team or against them. But maybe we need to first examine what these phrases mean to each of us before condemning a player or team to purgatory or shouting for reforms to reverse a obvious mistake in judgment to the high Heavens.

Gamesmanship can be simply defined as the use of dubious (although not illegal) methods to bring about a positive result for your own squad to win or gain advantage in a game. It can be further illustrated that this phrase can refer to pushing the rules of the game to their current limits or limitations to achieve a desired end without being caught or manipulating the system. Some say this phrase actually pushes the boundaries of honestly and integrity to their limits as teams and individuals wanting to use this form of deception only have a desire to win (at any cost) instead of playing for the sake of sport.

Some Rays fans can thrust the “poor gamesmanship” label immediately upon Jeter for his action last night of feigning injury to delay the game and achieve a distinctive advantage because of a mistake presented by the Home Plate Umpire’s limited resources to prove deception at the time last night. A skilled gamesman can use the limitations of the game to his advantage within the boundaries of the game, but those beyond the foul lines and playing field have a more defined view of the action via television replays and close camera angles.

This type of behavior and game day action has been going on since the advent of sports, not just last night. A notorious character in this art of deception is Chicago White Sox catcher A J Pierzenski, who has displayed his own version of the aspects of gamesmanship and sportsmanship to the World. And with his actions last night, Jeter will either stand along side Pierzenski in the minds of baseball fans as a skilled
Gamesman, or as lacking in certain sportsmanship qualities. But again, it might be another example of what hat you wear upon your noggin too.

Sportsmanship can sometimes be explained as simple as showing a love for the game in its simplicity while performing with fairness, ethics, respect and a bond of fellowship with one’s competitors. Sometimes the phrase can be defined as simple as being a “good sport” that can be visually displayed as being a “good winner” as well as a “good loser”. Some people thrust their own aspect of “off-the-field” morality into their game day experience without calling into question the always present aspect of skimming the top layer of good and evil within the rules and regulations of the game.

 
Chris O’Meara/AP

I can see clearly both edges of the coin and can see why both sides are calling to arms their own individual show of force that their side is right in this issue. But the one immediate constant of these two phrases is commonly that each of us makes our own instant and reviewable decision in a nanosecond to go with our own flow of the rules in our own version of gamesmanship or sportsmanship. For that reasoning, you are either in the assembled group of people believing that Jeter violated an aspect of sportsmanship by not telling Home Plate Umpire Lance Barksdale the ball hit the nub of his bat.

But then instantly others will condemn him to purgatory for showing gamesmanship by taking the base after implying injury and playing to the event as if the ball did grace his elbow region. The Ying and the Yang of the situation are quite defined, but was it Jeter’s intent to defraud and take a distinctive advantage because of the visual and replay limitations of refuting the call to provide a better conclusion, or was he just adhering to the Umpire’s call and following the flow of the game.


The result of Jeter’s actions can either be viewed as a transgression or playing to the obvious limitations of what is reviewable currently in each night’s Major League Baseball game. Considering it happened in a high profile contest with grave playoff and post season implications, the game’s action have been magnified and dissected beyond its simple clarity. If this had been a low profile game, or even one where the result would effect nothing more than pride and maybe a MLB Draft spot, it might have gone basically unnoticed.

Jeter has been one of the constant classy characters within the Yankees organization for a long, long time. His reputation might take a bit of a hit after this episode from some, but does it diminish his overall respectability and admiration by millions, even outside of the New York and Tampa Bay metropolitan regions?

If you asked me before this incident the one guy on the Yankees roster I felt played the game with class and honesty, my immediate answer would be Jeter. His reputation’s armor might have been a bit tarnished by this event, but then again, it just might have added another chapter to the Yankee mystic and Jeter’s allure within the game. I guess the best way to end this post is with a quote by the Yankee Captain:
If you’re going to play at all, you’re out to win. Baseball, board games, playing Jeopardy, I hate to lose“.

So do you think that quote displays more gamesmanship or sportsmanship? See, told you it was not as simple as black and white. But then, some say Potato, some say Potatoe.

Allison Iraheta to Open for Adam Lambert Saturday Night!

 

Just got confirmation from a really reliable source within the Rays cloak of silence that scheduled artist Orianthi, who was to be the opening act for this Saturdays nights Rays/ Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series event featuring Adam Lambert. Orianthi had to back out of her tour commitment and will be replaced by another American Idol alumni who is on her own course to stardom.


You might remember Allison Iraheta, the spunky Latin California cherub we all got to love during season 8 for her stirring rendition of Heart’s classic “Alone” during that season’s American Idol finals. But even before she bellowed out ” (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the San Francisco American Idol auditions back in 2009.

Most people might remember the look of immediate shock on then American Idol music director Rickey Minor when Iraheta was eliminated and had to settle for a fourth place in the singing competition.


And all through her Idol performances, Iraheta was given astonishing critique about her growth as a budding artist and in an interesting twist, fellow American Idol judge Paula Abdul once compared both Iraheta and Lambert together had a “special sauce”.

Before auditioning for American Idol, the los Angeles based Iraheta won a singing competition on the Telemundo reality show “Quinceanera” back in 2006, which used a format of singing in either English or Spanish songs during the competition. The program had Grand Prizes of a $ 50,000 purse and a recording contract. The Telemundo program did not offer the final prize of a recording contract.

But after her time on American Idol, Iraheta was signed by 19 Entertainment and Jive Records and they collectively released her first album “Just Like You“, which contained her songs “Friday I’ll Be Over You“, “Scars” and “Don’t Waste the Pretty“.


On April 2010, Iraheta was announced as the opening act for Lambert’s “Glam Nation” Tour. The addition of Iraheta actually makes the double billing a bit more of a true entertainment bonus for everyone as some will come to see the flamboyant and vocally entertaining Adam Lambert, and others will come to the Trop Saturday night to hear Iraheta sing some of her tunes off her own first album.

But hopefully they can both come out on Saturday night and do their stirring rendition of their American Idol Finals Week duet of their rendition of Foghat’s “Slow Ride” which was the performance that Iraheta did with Lambert when Iraheta was being considered a “rock goddess” by American Idol judge Kara DioGaurdi, and inspired that weeks musical mentor Slash who thought she ” possessed a better voice than most women “twice her age””.

Should be an amazing night of super vocal scales rolling off the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field. The set is being rumored to be possibly 80-90 minutes long, and will be performed after the conclusion of the Rays versus Angels game that will begin at 7:10 pm. Do not forget the game time has been pushed back from the previously advertised 6:10pm first pitch.

Also if you want to still purchase a wristband for the performance to get on-the-field access ($40.00), please this link to the Rays/Ticketmaster website for more information on getting an up close and more personal sound experience with Allison Iraheta and Adam Lambert this Saturday.
 

See you there!

Moment of Rays and Yankee Clarity


 

When I was young, my Father used to tell me there would be these moments in my life where everything seems clear and clarity will be at its zenith for a time. Last night, in the mass chaos of extra innings, mutual outstanding pitching performances and the hustle and bustle of players clamering on their teammates like 10-year olds celebrating a Little League title, the moon, stars and heaven seemed to align perfectly to enlighten myself and the 26,906 other witnesses to one of the most fabulous baseball games in 2010.
 

I can easily sumize that the collective crowd last night saw just pinch of everything possible in one baseball game unfold at different moments that evening. The advertised pitching match-up not only lived up to its hype and banter, but it quickly expanded to promote the unforgiving fact that the first mistake by either club could possibly turn into the deciding momentum shifter. And no one in their right mind would have selected a true rookie to deliver the final blow in this contest.

What all of us saw before us last night was a barn-burner pitcher’s guessing game to their last pitches between two of the most dominating southpaws in the American League. Both trying to get destiny to give them a wink in deciding who would get a “bump up” in the American League Cy Young race. We saw the wily veteran presence of New York Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia going not only for a knockout blow in the Cy Young race, but trying to hit the 20 win plateau for the first time in his career.

 

On the other side of the coin was this year’s wunderkid, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price who not only got the nod of rival Yankees Manager Joe Girardi over one of his own pitchers for the start of the 81st All-Star Game, but has seen his own stock rising as quickly as the donuts as Price tries to keep the wins comings to (maybe) become the first Rays pitcher EVER to record 20 wins.


This incredible pitching match-up was only the 11th time in the last 10 years that two 17+ win starters squared off in a contest. It was the first time since 1985 that both pitchers had 17+ wins and went 8 scoreless innings each in the same contest. The last time was Sept 11,1985 when ex-Rays, the NY Mets pitcher Doc Gooden went up against St. Louis Cardinals hurler John Tudor, who ended up throwing a 10 inning shutout that night. Gooden threw 9 innings and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth inning. Met reliever Jesse Orosco gave up a solo shot to Cesar Cedeno for the lone Cardinal run.

As if you need to boosting the hype of this match-up any higher, was the fact that both Sabathia (19 wins) and Price (17 wins) were ranked 1 and 2 in the American League in victories at the time. This was also only the second time either had faced the other in a regular season MLB game. The first time was Sunday, Oct. 2, 2009 also at Tropicana Field, when Sabathia was trying to post his 20th win for 2009. Price and the Rays derailed that days chance at Sabathia 20th win mark with a 13-3 final that was highlighted by B J Upton’s cycle of his career.

Tonight’s match-up quickly materialized into a showdown between the uncharacteristic impatient Rays, who were trying to jump on Sabathia pitches early hoping for mistakes across the plate, and Price’s inability to get the Yankee hitters to take tasty swings just outside the zone. The tables oddly turned 180 degrees tonight as the Yankees seemed to be playing the Rays usual game plan of staying patient at the plate and looking for misguided morsels to hit, while the Rays, who struck out 14 times (Sabathia had 9 K’s) just seemed to be hoping for mistakes, but getting odd calls and mismatched pitches to start any type of rallying point.

This contest definitely fits into the category of an instant baseball classic moment as two young hurlers went about their craft chiseling and honing the strike zone all night long with Sabathia turning out a nice piece of furniture for his efforts, while Price fashioned his own great masterpiece himself in the process. But each pitchers path in this pitcher’s duel took different path, but each did not benefit with a chance for a win in the end.

Back and forth the game went as both teams made strides that bordered on the verge of breaking the game wide open, but their counterpart team’s defense simply made the obvious holes smaller and performed their own feats of magic to take this game long into the night. And that was surprising because the game seemed to be going at a record pace, but suddenly hit a bit of molasses patch and instantly went to a baby’s crawl.

 
Chris O’Meara/AP

More amazingly is the fact that if Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford had not gotten thrown out of the game by Home Plate Umpire Tom Hallion for arguing balls and strikes, this game could have conceivably gone on for even longer. When Crawford was ejected in the bottom of the ninth inning, Rays rookie infielder Reid Brignac went into the game and assumed Crawford’s third slot in the line-up.

Brignac waited for his possible chance to make a big difference in this contest, and had to anxiously wait until the bottom of the 11th inning after the Rays squandered a bases loaded opportunity with two outs to end this contest in the bottom of the 10th as pinch hitter Brad Hawpe struck out. That set the stage for Brignac to lead-off the 11th inning with Yankees reliever Sergie Mitre taking the mound.

Brignac worked the count to 3-2 before sending a screamer 383 feet into the Rightfield stands for the Walk-off winner. As the Rays assembled for the “team meeting” at Home Plate for Brignac, certain key facts instantly came out about the blast. Brignac became the first AL player to hit a walk-off homers in extra innings for a 1-0 score since former Rays hitter Aubrey Huff did it against the Rays on May 9, 2007. Brigs was also the first rookie to blast a solo shot to win a 1-0 game since the L A Dodger’s Russell Martin did it on August 13, 2006 against the San Diego Padres.

Most people would think the fact it marked the first time since June 13th that the Rays held onto sole possession of first place in the AL East would be the defining moment in this game. But there were many flashes of brilliance and moments of clarity in this contest. It showed the best two lefties in the AL right now matching pitch-for-pitch in a game with neither getting a chance to capitalize. It saw another Rays bench player come out of the dugout and perform an inspirational moment for all of us to remember deep into the Winter.

 
J Meric/Getty Images

Most of all this contest showed the true essence of the heart, soul and determination that neither of these teams are expecting the other to back down or go quietly into the night for the duration of the 2010 schedule. In the end, the team that their former owner, the late George Steinbrenner once told me that “the pesky Ray keeps his Yankees honest on the field” found a way to cement another solid performance in all of our hearts. If this keeps up, Tampa Bay will go through a boatload of Pepto by Wednesday night by followers of both teams.

MLB Need a Golden Globes-style Awards Show…Seriously!

 


                  
 
After watching the MTV Video Music Awards last night, I am wondering why Major League Baseball doesn’t incorporate all their major end of the year awards into a 1 or 2 hour spectacle like some of the award shows. We have seen some shows begin to flounder (VMA’s) while others have gone sky high ( ESPYs) and it only seems fitting that MLB would head this direction. The main catalyst for such an idea is that sometimes players are their best PR material.

With MLB now hosting a Red Carpet event the day of the All Star game, MLB is already in the infant stages of possibly developing and conceptualizing a one night event that would be held right after the conclusion of the All Star game. Think about an event like this for a moment, you could have the newly crowned World Champions take the stage to a standing ovation from their peers, plus get some huge fan exposure.

You know that ESPN, the MLB Network and maybe even Fox Television would all salivate over such a proposition. And with the advent of the Fashion Police watching these Red Carpets, some of the best dressed players in all of baseball would surely be eager to flaunt the “catwalk. And why not, this is a visual world now unlike the audio and print Worlds of our parents. With the advent of Youtube and social media stalwarts Facebook and Twitter, the foundation is there for immediate fan involvement.

 

I think it would be a great event to see some of the stars that we have heard about in nightly sports clips shows and through the fan grapevine strut their stuff, plus give MLB fans a different prospective of the guys they see toil on the clay and turf for 162 games. You could see them in fresh Armani suits doing walk-up interviews and posing for the cameras on the green carpet. That’s right, green carpet. Since the guys always push their trade upon the green grass, why not institute a green carpet (brought to you by Field Turf or Astroturf II) for the event to give it a pronounced burst of authenticity.


And you know that there are more than willing baseball celebrity fanatics who would be willing to take time out to introduce a category, or even socialize with their favorite baseball player(s). And you know that MLB Network would be more than thrilled to have one of their own possibly be the event’s host or even selected for possibly the main award of the night. And you could push the announcement of the major MLB awards all to one central date to boost and get more immediate exposure for the Rookies of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and Cy Young recipients.

You could delay the usual Roberto Clemente Award presentation for this event, and possibly have the added venture of our favorite stars who won the certain award previously present that season’s prize, just like the Academy Awards. As I saw last night, the usual VMA’s is getting a bit too, well flawed. Not by the artists or even the hosts or presenters’, but by the aspect of no excitement or suspense anymore. But maybe that is because of the Lady Gaga factor that tends to neutralize some of your emotions on that award show.

 

But the same could happen here. Manny could be Manny in an entirely different stage by having him sit next to former teammate David Ortiz, or with new Manager Ozzie Guillen and see how they play off each other outside the ballpark. You would definitely see some of the “Hollywood factor” in the house as young ballplayers would be seeking out starlets and event escorts to push their social cred higher and higher by walking in with some of the countries most desired womenfolk.


But most of all, it will bring the visually stimulated and informed fans into a centralized event to watch, discuss and emulate their favorite baseball stars. If Phillies star Jimmy Rollins showed up to an event like this sporting a new type of Nike suit, or even a certain tie, the public would clamor and search for that new item with glee and abandon until they possessed one for themselves. This might be the next stop in the evolution of MLB outside the ballpark.

And you know there is a huge selection of past and present Hollywood icons and stars who have that passion and zeal for the game of baseball that would be more than willing to present awards, or even entertain. Heck, MLB.com has several bands like Train, Hoobastank, O.A.R. and even newcomers like Wilco and David Nail who are already on the MLB Entertainment route who would love to perform or even showcase their love for the game.

Having an event like this would create a buzz at the end of the season, would bring a new social aspect to seeing players outside the game element, and bring some of them to a better understanding by the fans. It only seems natural to me that an event like this could unfold from MLB to become another one of the sporting worlds crowned jewels in a short time. People love these types of events, and the usual yearly awards could be repositioned in a way to accommodate and facilitate a smooth transition to this new awards format. No longer will awards be stretched out over a 3 weeks period.

 

In our age of instant technology there could be voting done within the scope of the post season before the respective Division Championship Series ends. Hype and award speculation could be cultivated between the AL or NL Championship Series own conclusion. And mixed with the World Series usual pageantry and circumstance, a new level of baseball yearning can be born. It only seems like the next logical step for MLB.

These types of events can be huge marketing tools to introduce a new segment of the MLB experience, or even offer additional ticket sales that would trump the prices of World Series tickets as everyone will want to be there to rub elbows and possibly get a photo op with their sports obsession.


It could be the next evolution of MLB towards focusing their brand into the social aspects of the game, plus bring a new dimension of the players to the fans. Events like the Tampa Bay Rays own Fashion Show and player appearances in the community going for blocks show that fans want to visually see their favorite players in a different hue outside the bright lights of the stadium playing surface.

 

It would be an event players will schedule on their calendars, sponsors would swoop in and capitalize on the last baseball up-swing before the Winter begins, it would be the last huge social event of the MLB season. Anyways, what baseball fans wouldn’t want to know what designer or even what pattern someone like Ichiro Suzuki or Jose Valverde wear off the turf? Might even be the perfect social setting for the Rays BRAYSer…

9-11 and Baseball


 

As the years roll on, the terror and the feeling of uncertainty and remorse do not wane on this day. It was the awakening moment of this Nation to the horrors and the tragic events that unfold daily in other corners of the World. We had taken a direct terrorist attack upon our shores, and the Nation took a step back, then collectively joined their hearts and hands together to initiate a healing process that doesn’t seem completed even today.


Today millions of words of remembrance and prospective of this horrific event will fill the blogs and pages of newspapers and the Internet to again always remember this day, and the way this country rose from the dust and tangled mass of our beloved twin towers to again soar high as an eagle. For this 11th day of September used to be remembered for other Worldly events, but now it will be a day of mutual spirit and sadness as we remember those lost and other who searched and fought to bring a positive moment to this tragic event.

Everyone has their own stories and versions of the visual and audible sights and sounds of this day, including a few of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays players and coaches who were bunked up in their hotel outside of New York City awaiting that evenings game against the New York Yankees. They could see the towering smoke and the increased activity along the streets below, but many did not know the cause and effect of this day until most of their cell phones or hotel phones began to ring with the news from worried loved ones and friends.

Paul Hoover, now a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, will be in uniform during the pre-game ceremonies at Citi Field as the New York City citizens again remember the courage, and the pain of that faithful day. Back in 2001, Hoover was just two games into his 2001 stint with the then Devil Rays when September 11th changed the landscape of not only the World, but baseball. As he stands there by the dugout during the moment of silence followed by the singing of the National Anthem by a FDNY member, emotions and reactionary moments in his mind will instantly bring him back to the chaos and the extreme uncertainty of that day.


“When we came to New York, we didn’t even stay in the city,” Hoover told the Courier Post Online. “We stayed in Jersey cause they didn’t know what could happen with what was all going on. I didn’t feel scared, but you’re definitely on alert.”


 

The events of that day bonded the young Rays as players began to assemble to watch the events of the 9-11 tragedy unfold. They consoled each other as some of the players phoned friends and relative to hear what the reports were outside the city to the cause and effect of that days events. Rumors and innuendo were running rampant in their team hotel with unsubstantiated reports of additional attacks all over the country.


The series against the Yankees was suspended along with the rest of the Major League Baseball schedule as the Nation grieved and collected itself to begin the healing process and begin the enormous task of assessing and reporting the physical damage and begin the healing process for so many around the country. The Rays and the Yankees finally brought a bit of instant normalcy again to the city when they began their delayed series, and the New York populous could make a collective sigh and give thanks for the many who helped build their city again from the ashes of the twin towers.


“There was a lot of emotion,” Hoover said. “I just remember all of us playing, thanking all the policemen and firemen. We were on the line together. When we came down the tunnel, they were all there and then when we lined up it was fireman, policeman, player, fireman, policeman, player. You talked to them the whole time. Some of them were actually down there for 9/11. It was a neat experience, but an unfortunate experience.”


Hoover’s experience was just one of many that day that felt the full emotional tear and angst of seeing his country suffer and also begin rebuilding within the scope of baseball.
Two days after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who had suspended the season to let the Nation gather and mourn, Selig announced:

I believe in the spirit of national recovery and a return to normalcy. Major League Baseball, as a social institution, can best be helpful by resuming play at the most appropriate time.”


That day was September 17th when the Rays and Yankees again be able to bring their talents together to help the New York rebuilding process by getting back to normal life in the city and bringing the fan together to focus and feel joy again in the aftermath of the 9-11 events. The Yankees showed support to the efforts of the NYPD and FDNY brave souls by wearing their collective symbols upon their caps for the rest of the season on their baseball caps.

 

Every MLB club emblazoned on the back of their jerseys an American flag upon the usually prevalent MLB logo to shoe mutual support and respect towards their New York and Washington brethren who had suffered. Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter visited a hospital and armory in New York to be with families awaiting word of missing persons.

When asked about the Yankees returning to play ball again in the sullen city Jeter said:

If anything, playing again will give people an option to watch something else on TV. This (tragedy) is closer to home because it’s New York.”


The seventh inning stretch became a patriotic moment as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was replaced by “God Bless America“. Red, white and blue bunting adorned all MLB ballparks and the American flag made an appearance with great gala in the stands during the completion of the 2001 season. Not only did New York remember and embrace the normalcy, but the rest of this Nation also showed respect, honor and moments of individual remembrance of this event.

 

Nine years later, the images and the sounds heard that day are still fresh in my mind. The hours of watching and digesting those horrific moments and hearing the eventual tumbling of the twin towers to the ground still send chills through me. It was a moment when this country felt insecure, fragile and subject to the World’s ills.

Bringing the grieving American fans into the 30 chapels of the Church of Baseball after the events of 9-11 only seemed right. I still have a D-Rays cap given to me by Rays pitcher Bryan Rekar that shows the symbols of NYPD and FDNY written onto its brow. No matter if you are a Mariner, Rays or even a Yankee, 9-11 will always be honored and remembered.

 
 
 
 
 

A Chance for Remembrance at Your MLB Stadium

 
 

 
Major League Baseball and its Commissioner Bud Selig embraced the aspect of finding a immediate cure to disable a illness that changes families and takes people close to us into the darkness . MLB became the first and most stoic corporate sponsor of Stand Up To Cancer when the program first approached them back in 2008. The startling fact that this dastardly ailment will effect 1 in 3 women in their lifetime pushed on MLB’s heart strings. But more amazing and stirring is the fact that 50% of all men alive today can expect to also fall under its curse or trance at some point in their life.


The leader’s of America’s past time wanted to be forefront of keeping the home hearth’s burning in regard to it’s patron’s health and well being. For the aspect of defying cancer wasn’t anything to play around with, that common fact that this illness can rob you of a lifetime of cherished memories of someone you love and care for with three tragic words

I have seen this curse front and center in my life with the illness attaching itself to my parents and also my daughter’s mother and taking them from my families’ embrace. That is why I am urging my fellow MLB friends to join the Stand Up To Cancer pledge and give what they can to help diminish, destroy and remove this virus from our loved one in our lifetime. Science is getting bolder every day, and with the financial means to harness more equipment, provide depths of research, and get clinical trials done in a timely fashion. We could find dramatic results at any moment.


                
                 
One of the most important parts of the MLB and SUTC united platforms in the formation of MLB.com Stand Up Stadium program where fans can own a virtual part of their favorite stadiums. You can use your donation to remember a loved one who perished under the grasp of the disease, or even rejoice with the name of a cancer survivor to always keep hope alive that belief and strength can be vital in kicking cancer out of your life.


All 30 MLB clubs are involved in the program, and within the Rays home, Tropicana Field, the donations can start for as little as $ 5 for a seat somewhere under the Teflon roof. Seats are only the first option as you can also donate larger amounts to sponsor a suite ($ 100. Minimum), a base ($ 200. Minimum) or maybe even the pitching mound ($ 500. minimum) at Tropicana Field.

100 percent of your donation will go towards groundbreaking cancer research. In return for your donation, you will receive a link to your own personalized page featuring the name, photo, and a dedication message for the person you are honoring. I know I recently bought a seat for a friend who is also on the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame with me who passed away before the beginning of the season as a loyal remembrance to him in a place that sparked his enthusiasm and joy while watching his Rays win or lose.

I hope that before the end of the 2010 season we can sellout our respective stadiums, not with only the names of people who have left our lives, but with those who survived the threat and have prospered beyond their wildest dreams. There is no limit to the amount of bases, suites or pitching mounds. Since this is all taking part in a virtual setting, you can donate a dozen or so seats if you so desire. The one restriction is that you have to individually have to enter your information for each donation.

One of the most important things is that you can raise your donation to any level you desire. The monetary numbers attached to each item is a minimum request for that object, and you can go as high as your heart, and wallet desires. And if you do not have an image or photo of the person you want to honor, that is fine, this is an option and not a requirement for donating money or securing a dedication link for loved one. The only restriction is the 140-character dedication message for each item.

There will also be a Facebook, Twitter and email icon on the bottom of your dedication if you want to send a tweet, message or even send to your other family members a link to your stadium dedication. All you have to do is click on the corresponding icon and input the names or email addresses of those you want to share your dedication with…right away.


As shocking as it is to illustrate just how important it is that we devote and secure a cure for this aliment. If you look upon your favorite team today, you can imagine almost 5 members of that team experiencing some form of this curse sometime in their life. If I have to push the image of your favorite pitcher, hitter or even Coach upfront and center to you to fully give the jest of this disaster, I will.

This is something we can beat, as is evident by the hundreds who daily take the courage and the fortitude to fight this illness face-to-face, and those who go down still swinging at the ever changing face of this cancer monster. I am not try to extort or even buy your sympathy here, but for the cost of a ballpark hot dog we can all honor a special person in our lives who has either batting or lost their fight to cancer.


There are survivors all around us every day in the ballparks, restaurants and even walking by us in the street. MLB and SUTC has given us a virtual remembrance forum to honor and cherish those still with us, and those who fought to the end, but lost their battle. And it all starts with the price of a single ballpark hot dog.

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