Farnsworth Brings Intimidation Back to the Rays Game

 

Farns1.jpg

StPeteTimes.com (unknown Photographer)

Sometimes I think in pretty abstract ideals and put together some really “out there” suggestions that might take most people a bottle of Mezcal to comprehend or embrace my sometimes obscure reference points. And I am fine with that. I mean, I am a lifetime Pepper for gosh sakes (Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too!). Last night I was in one of those usual states of odd combinational thinking while watching the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning (they won 3-0) take on the potent Washington Capitals squad.

While sitting at the game bundled up in my pre-2008 Rays Winter outerwear jacket, I began a quick cold climate aided thought process emerging wondering why Major League Baseball team’s have never selected or signed a player just for his physical intimidation factor?

Sure there have been guys like former MLB players Ty Cobb and LHP Randy Johnson that have made more than a few of their MLB peers quake when they hit the rubber, or was getting a sizable lead off First Base. This type of intimidation is a primal human instinct and sometimes needed to have success at this level. I am talking about a singular player who can be labeled as an “enforcer”, a guy who will take no backtalk and will prove his measure and means with his fists if needed.

The reason I bring this idea even up is that in their recent past, the Rays have had two distinctive mano-on-mano moments (during 2008) where just this type of rugged barbaric presence was not only needed, but could have quelled the on-field bravado in advance knowing this one lone figure could emerge from the dugout or Bullpen to go headhunting.

We all remember the Cobb-style thigh spiking of Rays Second Baseman Akinora Iwamura by then Yankees First Baseman Shelly Duncan back in the Spring of 2008 after Rays INF Elliot Johnson plowed into Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and sent him to the hospital and the DL. During that Rays moment, the immediate enforcer role was taken on by Rightfielder Jonny Gomes. He was a student and admirer of the professional wrestling circuit, and Gomes took his run-in role seriously tackling Duncan from behind as both benches and Bullpens cleared.

Then again on June 5, 2008, during a Rays versus Red Sox game in Fenway Park, Boston outfielder Coco Crisp took exception after a pitch from Rays starter James Shields plopped him and charged the mound. Again it was Gomes who got there after a missed haymaker punch was thrown by Shields at Crisp, but the boxing savvy Crisp ducked the punch before Gomes again took him down like a linebacker to the green grass.

But with Gomes leaving the Rays fold and doing his thing now with the Cincinnati Reds, the on-field antics and bench clearing brawls over the last two years have resembled line dances like the Hustle or the Electric Slide more than standing up for your teammates. The 2009 tussle between the Rays and Cleveland after Indians catcher insulted Rays Manager Joe Maddon seemed more choreographed than spur of the moment. Something seemed to be missing in this Rays clubhouse. Something intimidating seemed to have packed its bags and wandered away, and was not to be refilled by another soul.

Who knows, maybe that past Rays intimidation factor instantly returned yesterday when the Rays signed RHP Kyle Farnsworth to a two year contract. Maybe a little more physical heart and intimidation was in order since it clearly has been missing since Gome’s departure. Can Farnsworth’s intimidating presence firmly prove fruitful to the Rays psychological bag of tricks

This entire realm of pugilistic or barbaric thinking was escalated by a ESPN,The Magazine poll that asked MLB players who was the one man you would not like to see clench his fight and head your direction in a bench-clearing incident? Farnsworth was the clear winner in the poll, and that could definitely play into the Rays advantage in the late innings of a game. Farnsworth could be utilized in the 8th inning set-up role vacated by departed Dan Wheeler, or possibly be posted up as a Rays closer to cement and increase the intimidating pulse.

Farnsworth threw around 94.5 mph in his tours in Kansas City and Atlanta in 2010,and there is no sign of him slowing down any time soon. But his overall 27 saves in 12 seasons might point more towards him taking Wheeler’s spot and letting Joel Peralta man the closer role. Still, the image of the “Rick Vaughn” look-a-like with his wide rimmed glasses perched on his face adds to his character on the mound. This will be Farnsworth’s 6th team in 12 seasons, but could easily escalate into a career defining moment as Farnsworth will be looked upon to provide a veteran stalwart point to help maintain and stabilize a evolving Rays Bullpen mix.

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RSBS.mlblogs.com

Most people might not know that the ray is actually closely related to the shark family, but they only have their lone barbed stinger as their source of self defense. Being the human counterparts of this fierce combative familia, possibly the Rays have finally solidified a member into their fold who can teach some of the other Rays more timid relievers or starters a thing or two about on the mound intimidation and how to use that wisdom to their advantage on the hill.

In 2010 the only person feared on the Rays roster might have been Rays starter Matt Garza, and his facial hair might have provided most of that notion. With Garza gone to the Windy City, the Rays might have picked someone they feared in the past to become an ally to their team and provide a bit of his on-the-mound presence knowledge to help the Rays future.

At first I did not like this signing because of what Farnsworth had done to us in the past on the mound. On April 29, Farnsworth came on in the bottom of the 6th inning with his team down by 10 runs and threw 2 complete innings while striking out 4 of 8 Rays hitters in the Rays 11-1 blowout. It was the only time in 2010 he would face the Rays.

Intimidation plays a great psychological role in the game of baseball. At any moment a team or their players play coy mental games against their opponent both in the field and at the plate. This Farnsworth deal might be one of those signings that do not add up on paper, but in regards to what he can produce both mentally and physically for this rebuilding Rays team, Farnsworth has heavyweight potential…even before he clenches his fists.

 

 

16 Comments

I hope the Rays have better luck with Farnsy than the Yankees did. But no matter how he pitches, he does give you that intimidator factor – from the speed of his fastball to the fists that’ll come flying!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
The Yankees do not have that intimidating factor besides their legacy and uniforms. No player on that team besides possibly Mo and Tex bring about chills and impending thoughts of doom.
Not since the pinstriped era of Goose Gossage and company has their been outright fear of the Yankees. Nothing personal, but Mo might ve the only figure in my mind who’s presence can intimidate. Sorry A-Rod, I just think you are not in Farnsworth’s league.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Soriano-Rivera…can it be as effective as Benoit-Soriano? Time will tell, but I am very pleased tonight! Now if the team just had a starting pitcher besides CC and Phil! ;) Goose Gossage entering the game was an intimidating sight! Mo is deceiving because he doesn’t “look” intimidating until he throws a pitch. My personal fave growing up was Cardinals closer Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky. There is no one that could get me as charged up as he did when he did that little spin around between second base and the pitching mound before taking the hill.

Scott
http://fotr.mlblogs.com

Scott,
I also loved watching current St Louis broadcaster Al Hrabosky do his antics on the mound. It was like a hot dog and a show.
I am not all about seeing fights on the field within the concept of a baseball game, but sometimes you have to send a message. In hockey an enforcer will board or high stick the pest hoping he will drop his gloves and get a penalty.
Like Nolan Ryan proved on Robin Ventura’s face, if you step out of that box, it better be after you hit the ball..or pay the price.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

When Farnsworth was with the Cubs at the beginning of his career he was throwing the ball at 98+, yet he was still getting hit. Why? Because this guy the the straightest fastball in the world.

I hope he works out for Tampa, but don’t count on it.
http://wrigleyregular.mlblogs.com/

He brings intimidation… a knack for yackin’ big games… and crying. I don’t understand how this man gets multi million dollar contracts. Seriously.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/
http://mtrredstatebluestate.com

Russel,
I have heard that same statement before about his fastball.
He possibly has some of the best arm strength in the MLB, but is as wild as Rick Vaughn at times. Maybe the black rimmed glasses got Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s attention?
I know since he left the Cubs he has experiemented with a 2-seamer, a change-up and a cutter, but had limited success.
Maybe the Rays can dial those pitches in a bit and get him in a groove. But he will not be considered for the starting rotation like the Royals had in their mind in 2010 before shipping him off to ATL.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

RR,
I have no problem having a shot of Mezcal while reading your post. Not that I am having one now! I am at work after all and is before noon.
I wiish I could have seen Don Drysdale intimidating hitters especially Giant hitters. Like Scott, I used to love to watch the mad Hungarian.
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
I even used one of your photo and gave you photo credit…..
I used to hate to see Farnsworth come into a Rays game. Guy might have a straight fastball, but at 97+ ( for most of his career), that is one screaming baseball coming in hot and heavy.
You never know, Farnsworth could turn out to be the 2011 version of Joaquin Benoit and provide some leadership and focus….If not, then he become another memebr of the Troy Percival Fan Club.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Emma,
Sandy Koufax was another Dodger Blue that had that tntimidation factor as did Nolan Ryan.
You never knew when he was going to “buzz the tower” and get your toes off the chalkline of the batter’s box.
But those guys do it because it is “their” plate when they pitch. If you take it personally, they are in your head and have already won half the battle.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I do wish I seen the good bad old days when players were more overtly intimidating – chin music, spikes flying and umpires largely looking the other way. I’m not saying I like to see the players get in fights – any unnecessary delay of the game is bad in my book – but if you’re going to fight, fight. Most “brawls” nowadays look like badly choreographed stage fights or a bunch of slightly peeved cattle milling about. If you’re not actually mad enough to take a swing at a guy, why stall the game by walking out there in the first place? Anyway, back on topic. Hope Farnsorth brings the swagger you’re hoping he will.
- Kristen
http://blithescribe.mlblogs.com/

Kristen,
It seems that fans take a more darker view of guys signed or picked up after January 1st for some reason. But the reality is there are tons of good players still seeking a job for 2011.
Heck, Jim Thome only signed yesterday, and he is no scrub. I mean Manny Johnny D and Vlad, the baseball impaler also are still looking for their 2011 team colors.
Farnsworth might not be my first choice, but the guy has good history along with a mean mound demeanor, and that might play well with the treash-talking and strut of a few of our rivals.
I suspect a few brush-backs from Farnsy, and I got his back when the dugout clears.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Good ole Farnsworth, the Farns (pronounced like “The Fonz”), Farny and Farnsy. Just a few names I have heard him called since his days with the Cubs. My favorite moment of his was him spear tackling a Reds pitcher, I think it was Paul Wilson. I cannot remember what year that was and am too lazy to google it. Anyway, I think he’s a good setup man when he isn’t staying out too late partying. When he was with the Cubs he was known for doing that a lot.

Ron

http://strictlycubsbaseball.mlblogs.com/

Ron,
Good memory.
It was ex-Rays SP Paul Wilson who took exception to a high and inside pitch. Farnsworth popped him so hard he bled all over his red jersey vest in small puddles.
That was the moment the intimidation hit a new level.
I know he ismarried now so the late night might be confinded to the road.
But those black-rimmed glasses do make him take on another psycho personality trait. All he needs now is a white hockey mask (lol).

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Rays Renegade – I’m certainly not one of the fans who take a dim view on players signed after January 1st. There are usually a lot of good players still waiting to be signed, as you say, especially in years where the market tends to focus entirely on the most elite handful of free agents leading up to January. Heck, I’m hoping the Angels make a good signing not…there are still a few options left and January signings have worked well for us in the past :)
- Kristen
http://blithescribe.mlblogs.com/

Kristen,
We all know that MLB executives like to bunch their signings before the holidays, but this is not a perfect World.
In recent years, the guys who have been signed after January 1st have ended up being the pleasant surprises for ball clubs.
Also some players seem to let the market dictate what they might get with some earlier signings, and thatlet’s them have a feel for if their demands or wants are warranted or considered out of fiscal line.
Who knows, Farnsworth will either be a beacon or a bust….Hopefully he shines the way.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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