Dynamic Duo Make Their Rays Debut

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RaysRenegade

Got to admit to all of the Rays Republic, in the beginning I had a few doubts and even reservations about a Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez duo signing. Maybe it was the aspect that they have been associated with the 2004 Red Sox “Cast of Idiots“, or maybe I was afraid they might not be able to “Cowboy Up!” one last time.

After witnessing the magic and pure adrenaline rush permeating through that Tampa Bay Rays Press Conference media room, my doubts and worry suddenly melted off like Ramirez’s pounds during his workouts in Arizona. From the moment their agent Scott Boras led them into the room until Rays Vice President of Communications Rick Vaughn yelled “Is that all?” This was a glorious ride to see in person.

I was not suppose to be in this room nestled near the darkness with my little camera, but the entire Rays office was poised at noon today to see the next chapter unfold and I tagged along for the ride. From the media buzz to the clicking of camera’s and live video feed both locally and from MLB, this quickly became a love fest, not just for Tampa Bay, but for the two men seated in the middle of the large table.

Instantly you knew both guys were on the same page, had the same intentions and wanted to the guys to help usher in a repeat American League East title. Like Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein so eloquently said recently, “The demise of the Rays is greatly exaggerated.” I am not climbing the flagpole just yet, or marching fully to that beat of triumph again, but this duo instantly make me hunger for that chance.

Both said the right things too. Ramirez flexed his right arm to show his muscle when asked if he was “fit” ,and Damon said insistently this was not the “last chapter” of his baseball career. Instantly the void that grew immense when former clubhouse guru Carlos Pena vacated for Chi-town became smaller. Suddenly I could see the Rays clubhouse leader ship not come from one speaker, but act in stereo with their actions and observations going to make this team competitive every game.

Suddenly I remembered why I hated these two so much. Their competitive nature just seems to ooze from their confidence levels, and that used to scare the death out of me. But there were comments from both that instantly brought me back to why they were signed, Damon called the Rays his “Dream Team” or Ramirez saying while putting on his number 24 Rays jersey that he ” looks good in white“.

Integrity, confidence and ability all joined hands in that room today. Manny was his usual joking self, but did not shy away from questions on if “Manny might be Manny” in Tampa Bay, but a guy who has hit almost .300 lifetime in this dome knows what is expected of him. Possibly Manny even threw out a nugget for the Rays to consider in 2011 that he thinks he can play “five more years”. Not making any predictions, but if Manny is right he has already made his money….maybe a Tampa Bay discount knowing this team can compete might be in the future.

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 The love fest we saw between these two today was incredible. You can tell they are more than happy to be playing with each other again, and the respect level is very high between them. Several times during the Press Conference I expected both to rise and do an Ari Gold (Entourage) “hug out“. Not since Baseball Hall of Fame member Wade Boggs and HOF hopeful Fred McGriff put on a Rays uniform have I been excited about such a veteran duo. Some in the assembled crowd made predictions of a possible 70 Home Runs between the pair while other were optimistic of a great meshing of the duo with the young Rays corps.I left that room running for my laptop in the car wanting to write this. Eager to let this feeling flow from me today of this incredible moment. Some say defining moments in a franchise’s history never reveal themselves until later, but today the moment just felt perfectly right for a half hour. So the signings are official, the jerseys have pressed their backs for the first time and the media got to shake their verbal hands with Damon and Ramirez. For some reason the comment from Ramirez to Damon of “You play 100 games, I’ll play 62” (referring to LF) is still ringing in my ears…in a good way. 

I snuck in to see this magical moment mush like a kid who sneaks under the canvas at the circus. I expected to see a sideshow event. Once that propped both of them up in a definite light. What I got was two men who had extreme confidence and respect for each other pass compliment after compliment not just to themselves, but to the young team they will embrace in 2011.

I really do hope that Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce and the rest of the Rays budding hitter pick the brains of these two baseball icons. I hope the competitive nature and confidence level showed by Damon and Ramirez today fills that Rays Spring Training clubhouse. But most of all I am just glad I got to see the magic happen….firsthand.

16 Comments

Cliff,
I am excited for the Rays! I can’t speak for Damon, but Manny was a good influence on the team. I kept hearing what a hard worker he is and how early he would show up at the ballpark. He was the nicest guy when my friend Lorena, Erik and I ran into him in the parking lot away from cameras.
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

Emma,
I throw a lot of the bad press outside of his antics inside the clubhouse to people just not getting the vibe that is Manny.
From what I heard today from both Manny and Rays Manager Joe Maddon on their dinner last night, it is going to be a great fit.
I agree wholeheartedly that the addition of Manny to this team will help them possibly finally take that next step again. When Theo Epstein makes a statement like that about the 2011 Rays….it begs for deeper thought.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I think alot of people are sleeping on the rays this year especially with all the moves boston made including taking carl crawford. I think if the pitching comes through they definitely with the additions of manny and damon are gonna be legitiment contenders
-johnny

http://onegoodinning.mlblogs.com/

3-J’s,
Great to see you too my advice to get out there and minglein the MLBlogs World.
I think in December there was more than enough reasons to worry about a possible Rays free fall. In February, the tone is definitely different and cause for some teams to worry.
With both Damon and Manny saying this 2011 Rays team can win the A L East again….That is a vote of confidence I am willing to bet on…..heavily.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Initially, I thought this signing confirmed the demise of the Rays, but they both seem genuinely happy to be in TB and ready to play. I was surprised to see that neither seems to consider this the final chapter in their careers. The Yanks and Red Sox are going to be tough, but maybe this new veteran leadership can keep the Rays in the mix.
Catherine
http://chisoxblog.mlblogs.com/

Catherine,
I also had a bit of pessimistic clouds brewing above me before I saw the way these two played upon each other in a “love fest” of sorts. The genuine respect and admiration between these two World Series ring bearers combined with their love for the direction of this franchise could be a submarine signing of the off season.
Sure there will be moments of heartache and even remorse, but it will not be a “Burrell” moment in any of them.
I truly think these two have winning set firmly in their sights and will accept nothing less…..This is going to be pure fun in 2011.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Should make for an entertaining season, if nothing else. I think it was a smart move for that little money.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Cliff, just exactly where were you? I was all over the room and didn’t see you.

Ted, I was in the right corner over by two of the Rays sales guys. I had been upstairs earlier interviewing for something and sneaked in wearing a suit and tie.
That is not the usual garb you would see me wearing to a Rayts function.
Probably why I didn’t stand out so much. Also was not wearing a cap, which most people have never seen me without…ever at a Rays function…including when I photograph the concerts.
Did not see you either Ted, you know if I had I would have said hello. Was standing for a bit near Dave Wirth near the beginning, but moved back away from the Channel 10 camera area.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

All due respect Cliff, I stick out like a sore thumb and every media member as well as Rays PR and Marketing person saw me and we exchanged greetings. Additionally, I was in back as well – right when Rick Vaughn said, not yelled, “Is that all” because I was waiting for the presser to end so I could disconnect my recorder (I have the entire PC audio on my website and a photo slideshow on Examiner.com). I think I know you well enough to recognize you with or without a cap or with a shirt and tie (sneaked in?). Just have to wonder why I saw everyone else and not you. Whatever.

Ted, I took two quick photos then tried to blend into the background.
If you are not suppose to be somewhere, then why would I try to stick out like a sore thumb? Ted, unlike yourself, a Rays credentialed media member, I have to fight for every photo, quote or facts I get.Some forget at times (not you) that I do this for nothing but the experience and fun of it. Would love be able to ask a question or be “seen” but I have not earned that right, and possibly never will as a non main stream blogger.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
It is going to be one to watch closely.
Personally I have the feeling we might see a bit of drama, but not sure if Manny will have a hand in it.
I agree it is a cheapprice for a powerful bat. I think Manny is playing for a 2012 contract or a trade deadline deal more than just for 2011….But I am okay with that as long as he protects Longo’s bat… and possibly helps him find his cap.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I hope it works out for the Rays, but it’s hard to believe it will. I think Damon will be okay, but truly, last season showed he’s really close to the end. And I think Manny will be a circus by mid-season. Here’s why. The Rays are okay offensively – just – but it’s going to be interesting to see if anyone steps up enough to protect Evan. Manny can, if he’s motivated. But the Rays are going to be doomed to play a lot of 9-8 games if they’re going to win, because that bullpen has been gutted (which is my biggest 2011 concern for the Rays), and I don’t think they have enough offense to play those kind of games in this division. Honestly – every other team in the division is either already loaded on offense (New York and Toronto) or has substantially reloaded (Boston and Baltimore). My gut tells me that the losses will pile up and by June, Manny will be the negative Manny, and he’ll make a so-so team worse. Signing Damon might have saved them from last, but signing Manny might sink them into the basement.

MacBurn,
I really do not see the cellar in the Rays future for 2011 unless some major injuries hit the team. Teams can bring in all the talent they want, but until they play the games…they do not get wins or losses. With that in mind, I seriously think that with the combined over 70 games each AL East division foes has to play against their peers….That will decide the division.
I actually see the Rays winning anywhere from 81-89 games, but key injuries and even a pitching default by someone at the top in the clutch could make September really interesting. But then again, what am I suppose to be…pessimistic?

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

At least the price was right for Manny, and that makes the risk of having him on the team minimal. It’s hard to say how he will preform, but he was a total stiff last fall for the CWS.

I think Damon still has some skills, as long as Rays fans don’t don’t think they are getting the Damon of ’04 or ’08
http://wrigleyregular.mlblogs.com/

Russel,
I know Manny did not produce a heck of a lot for Ozzie, but did they start off with a bang or a whimper?
As for Johnny D, I can only hope the Rays Republic is levelheaded in their potential for Damon, but sometimes winning again put the blinders on for failure.
Still think the duo will pull of some amazing things, plus give all of us a reason to watch the dugout and post game interviews.

Rays Renegade
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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