April 2011

Rain Out Bring an Encore Performance of: “The Legend of the Garfoose”

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Since the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red
Sox did not get to take the field today for their third game because
of liquid sunshine. The contest got postponed early enough (3 pm) for
the Rays to get on their charter flight, and possibly get in their
own beds in time for the later night news.


Because of the Rays/ Red Sox
cancellation, the good folks at the Sunsports/FSN Florida had to dig
into their massive vault to come up with instant programming to take
over the 3 hour segment originally slated for the Rays third game
against the Red Sox.


I decided also to bring a secondary bit
of blogging programming today to commemorate the Triple-A Charlotte
Knights and MLB rehabber Jake Peavy taking on the Rays Triple-A club,
the Durham Bulls and their “Garfoose” creator Dirk Hayhurst. You
can never get tired of “The Garfoose“.


I was introduced to a wild and new
character in the annuals of minor league baseball this week by a
couple of my Rays friends. I had heard that such a mythic character
existed around the darkened boundaries of baseball, especially within
the confines of that maddening place, the Bullpen.




The origin of this mystical character
first graced the pages of Baseball America back in August 2008, and
tells of the origin of one of the most colorful characters since Rays
reliever J P Howell to come out of the sometimes misunderstood
Bullpen region.


There is no historical reference of
when the “Garfoose” first entered the legends of baseball,
nothing in Wikipedia, MLB annuals do not even recognize its
existence, much like Bigfoot . But in Tampa Bay, we know the Garfoose
lives and breathes.


Dirk Hayhurst, the originator and
creator of all thing “‘Foose” was originally drafted by the San
Diego Padres back in 2003 and made his Major League Debut 17 days
after his tale of a particular Bullpen creature first appeared in
Baseball America. The following is the tale of the infamous
“Garfoose”.


Be warned, small children, people with
vivid imaginations and farm animals should not read this passage as
it will incite nightmares and possible sightings of this interesting
creature during both day and night games where ever Hayhurst hangs
his glove.

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Do not say I did not warn you in
advance about “The Garfoose”. Without further ado,…..The Legend
of the Garfoose:

The
ball rolled all the way to the pen. Struck foul with no one to give
chase, it made it’s way to us, the lazy pack of minute men sitting
down the left field line. Nonchalantly, I stepped on it to catch
it. 

Immediately cheers erupted. Fans know fouls go into
the stands and so they began petitioning for it.

Unfazed by
their urgent, desperate pleas, I leisurely reached down to pluck the
new ball from under foot.  It dawned on me, as I turned the ball
in my hand, the balls in the catch bag were not as nice as this
freshly foul pearl. I decided I would switch it out with a tarnished
ball so we could extend the life of this good one.


I
started to walk away from ball suitors to make the exchange. The
crowd let me have it. I expected as much, they assumed I wasn’t going
to sacrifice to them, but they were wrong. I made my way back with a
downgraded ball and tossed it into the maw of hungry hands.


182258_10150145667485850_613525849_8103263_5632004_n.jpgBefore
I could return to my seat a teenage boy in extra baggy clothes with
choppy hair shooting out under a hat turned at that annoying
half-cocked angle, bellowed at me with voice of rude expectation
indicative of little punk,  “
hey,
why choo didn’t gib-me-dat ball? Gib-me da other one, the good one. I
saw you switch it! You gotta whole bag dawg!”

“Are
you really asking me why I switched it or why I didn’t give it to
you?” I asked, in a slow, tired draw. 

Both,
man. I come to like every game and stuff, like all the time. I
deserve a ball
.”

Your
a big fan then huh?”

Yeah
bro, I love da Beavers (insert your team name here). I’m like the
number one fan yo, you should give me a ball
.”

“Ok,
well, what’s my name then?” It was on my jersey, but my back was
turned.

I,
uh…”

“Right.
Biggest fan.”

Still,
I seen you had a bag full a dem, hook me up man?”

“I
can’t do that. Sorry.”

Yo,
you suck then man, why you can’t? I mean, seriously, y’all be
millionaires and stuff.

“Oh,
If only that were the truth…”

I
had a buddy tell me you get those balls for free.

“That’s
not true at all. These balls are expensive. More expensive then
you’ll ever know.”

Whatchoo
mean?”

“Well,
it’s a long story, but since your such a big fan, I’ll tell
you…”

thumbnail.jpg“Every year, in the spring time, hopeful
monks wishing to enter the sacred order of the Stitched Moon make a
pilgrimage to a land deep in the Tibetan mountains. They take very
few supplies with them, barely enough to make the journey, resting
upon faith they will accomplish the task before them.

They
travel night and day, rarely stopping to eat or rest. Some are over
come with fatigue, others by starvation. Some are carried of by
predators. Still, a select few fulfill the journey and find
themselves in a paradise untouched by the poison of the modern
world.

You see my friend, legend speaks of a valley in those
mountains, a second Eden if you will, where beauty blossoms with out
limit. It is a land of magic and fantasy.

They sky of this
paradise is arrayed with exotic birds. The ground littered with
precious gems. There is a sapphire blue lake where mermaids live, the
water as sweet as ambrosia. There are fields of flowers, each bud
more magnificent then the next, where unicorns frolic. Sometimes,
when not singing to the sounds of their lutes and harps, the native
elves ride the unicorns, though that may just be an old wives
tale.

The journey is full of temptation, yet there is none
greater then call of this paradise. “Stay,” it bades,
“forget about the order of the Stitched Moon.” Many monks
are seduced, and in their careless self indulgence, they fall victim
to the lands only guardian, the dreaded Garfoose, a fire breathing
half giraffe, half moose, whose only known prey is man.

Stealthily,
so as not to alert the Garfoose, the monks travel into the heart of
the paradise to an enchanted grove. It is within in this grove they
find the treasure they so desperately seek. For the trees of this
grove are baseball trees with limbs bursting with perfectly formed
baseballs. The monks collect these baseballs and carry as many as
they can back to their villages.

Upon return, the monks are
met with celebration. Weeks of feasting are held in their honor
before they are warmly excepted into the order of the Stitched Moon.
The baseballs are proof of their commitment but they also serve
another purpose. The collected baseball are sold to Major League
baseball for a healthy profit to the monks. The money is then used to
buy new initiates their robs and Sacred Moon text books.

Major
League Baseball then takes the baseballs and sorts them. The best
balls going to the major leagues, the next best to triple A, and so
on. Over the years science has tried to replicate the the perfect
harmony of a naturally created baseball from the enchanted, Garfoose
guarded, groves of the legendary mountain paradise. But a real
baseball player knows the difference. Don’t ask me how, but there is
just something special that you can feel when you hold it…”

distance, my hand extended as
if pointing to some heavenly  paradise. 

thumbnailCAC1O9XH.jpg“That,
my friend, is why these balls are so special, and why I can’t give
them out to just anyone.”

Man
shut up, quit playing
.”
Said the boy. 

“It’s all real man, I’m not playing.”
I was stark serious, staring at him like it was all true, like he was
a crazy person for doubting me.

He paused, looked left and
right then leaned toward me and with a small, timid voice whispered,
You
being
for real about that?

“Of
course not, what kind of idiot would believe that story? The balls
all say made in China on right on them! I’m not giving you a ball
because your a lying little punk in need of a grammar lesson. Now get
a hair cut and fix your freaking hat, you look like a two year old
trying to wear his dads clothes.”

He made that
tongue-tisk sound, and threw his chest out at me, “
Man,
you suck! Dat’s why you be in da

minors,
you ain’t never gonna make it, loser!

“Thats
alright, at least I’m not going to have nightmares about the Garfoose
coming to get me.”

 By the way, Dirk Hayhurst, who started tonight for the Bulls went 6 innings and gave up 3 hits one earned run and 7 strikeouts to post his first victory as a Bull. Hayhurst is sporting a 1.64 ERA for the Bulls early in the 2011 International League season.  


 
 
 


The Universe is Expanding, Just Like the Legend of Sam Fuld

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You got to give it up to the creative
minds and tongue-in-cheek crafty devils that migrate towards the many
social media channels all over this big blue marble. Give them a
little leeway and the quick-witted mongrels could/should/would rule
the World.


Even before the conclusion of last
night’s Rays versus Red Sox contest, the always expanding “Legend”
of Rays outfielder Sam Fuld was further reaching into the
Twitterverse and beyond to make Fuld now an eternal part of the Web,
and Fantasy baseball owners scrambling to gain the services of the
feisty left-handed hitter for their squads.


Some of the 140-letter spurts about the
5’10” new MLB sensation has made him a giant overnight. So it is
only right that I post a few of the comments/Tweets?blips and we can
all enjoy them. The following is from just one account @RaysRepublic,
which is the “official” Rays Twitter feed manned by a few
creative Rays employees:


More proof Sam Fuld is a budding folk
hero: his Wikipedia page ( 5,029 words) is longer than HOF’er Hank
Aaron’s ( 4,868).


Sam Fuld once allowed a fly ball to
drop in the outfield just to see what it was like…He was not a fan.


Sam once threw an A’s player out at
home from the warning track…at Yankee Stadium


The movie “Eight Men Out” is
actually based on Sam Fuld’s first unassisted octupal play.


5 Hour Energy is Sam Fuld’s blood
watered down. Straight up, it’s 5 Month Energy.


The highest point value you can achieve
in Scrabble is spelling SAMFULD.


Thanks to Mr. Fuld, Costco is now a
member of Sam’s Club.


Sam Fuld Can touch MCHammer


Instead of saying “Winning”,
Charlie Sheen is now claiming he is “Fulding”


These are just a few of the Tweets
hitting the kiddie pool under the hashtag #LegendofSamFuld. It is
currently the 3rd highest topic in Tampa Bay. I would not
be surprised if it is a US wide topic by midnight. But then again,
when the President dials the red phone, Sam Fuld’s cellphone plays
the Batman theme.


Interesting Tidbits on the Rays Offensive Feast


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I knew it still resided within the
Tampa Bay Rays. That fighting spirit and competitive nature than
churns your stomach and makes you want another chance to show the
forward momentum instead of their early 2011 offensive backpedaling.
Even a 2010 seasonal overall record of 11-7, their best ever against
the Red Sox did not parlay a positive vibe going into last night’s
contest.


You knew somehow the Rays would soon
find their fingers on the offensive triggers, but early indications,
plus an 1-8 record only showed an abysmal effort and frustrations
rising. Suddenly Rays DH/LF Johnny Damon took the first pitch from
Daisuke Matsuzaka and deposited it into the Rightfield stands and the
Rays had only their lead.


In the end, the Rays would score 44
percent of their 2001 runs in this one contest (16/36 runs), produce
a .500 average with runners in scoring position, and raise their
overall team batting average from .163 to just over the Mendoza Line
( .201). Suddenly there was a bright ray of light at the end of the
once darkened Rays tunnel.


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The Rays 16 runs last night is the
fourth largest total in team history and the most since they tacked
on 17 against the Orioles on September 5, 2007. Want to hear another
interesting fact, the Rays have scored 25 runs in their 2 “W’s”
and 11 runs in their 8 losses. The Rays also raised their average
against right-handed pitching from a bargain basement .138 to a more
dismal .189.


The Rays have also now won 7 of their
last 10 games in Fenway Park, in which the Rays have outscored the
Red Sox 78-53 over that span. In 2010 the Rays went 6-3 in Fenway,
eliminating 10 straight losing campaigns in the Boston ballpark.


More remarkable, the Rays have now
scored 35 runs in their last 3 games in Boston, and have mustered 9
extra base hits in their last 2 contests. Not surprising, the Rays
have a .318 batting average in their last 7 games at Fenway ( since
April 19,2010).


Then you have tonight’s Southpaw
match-up of 2010 AL Cy Young runner-up David Price, and the always
elusive Jon Lester. Interesting side note, tonight’s game is the
first between a pair of 2-8 teams since April 30, 1918 when the
Brooklyn Robins (1-9) played host to the Boston Braves (2-8) at
Ebbets Field.


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Since divisional play started in 1969,
this is only the second time two teams from the American League East
are 2-8 ( or worse). The only other time was in 1980 when both the
Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers were sporting 2-8 records.
Right now the Rays are the first team since the 2003 Arizona
Diamondbacks to be 2-8 the season after going to the postseason.


All in all it was a dynamic display by
the Rays to finally cast the chains off their offensive power and
turn in a stellar performance against one of their biggest divisional
rivals. It set the tone for tonight’s battle between the two dynamic
lefties, with tonight a better than average probability of a low
scoring pitcher’s duel.


Fuld is Making the Numbers Work for Him

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Since the Tampa Bay Rays assembled
their full squad back in mid-February, Rays outfielder Sam Fuld has
been on my “watch list”. Brought into the Rays fold via a trade
from the Chicago Cubs for Rays fire baller Matt Garza can be pressure
enough just to make the squad, but Fuld has seemed to be on some sort
of mission early on in this young 2011 season, or maybe it is just
part of his family linage.


Fuld comes from a family of high
achievers. His mother is a state Senator in the tiny state of New
Hampshire, his father a well respected member of academia as the Dean
of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of New Hampshire.
Fuld himself attended the brainiac Stanford University and interned
at Stats, Inc, which covers 85 International sports leagues
(including MLB) after his 2005 season with Peoria in the Midwest
League .

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Number have always seemed to follow
Fuld, who graduated with a degree in Economics and always seemed to
have calculations ans statistics with him, even at a young age. His
mother, Senator Amanda Merrill proudly said,


He didn’t carry
around the typical teddy bear or worn-down baby blanket when he was
young. He carried a book of numbers. He had a baseball stats book
with him all of the time, like a security blanket. He kept the
history of the game and numbers. That’s what he loved.”

Before Opening Day in 2011, Fuld has
spent only 140 days on a Major League Baseball roster, but this
Spring and in the early stages of the 2011 season, Sam Fuld is
showing everyone around the MLB why this spunky 5’10 ( yeah right)
spark plug has been watched with such anticipation. His determination
and strive to achieve well above his vertical stature has him right
now on a mantel with the Rays Republic.


Not even 8 games into the 2011 season
and Fuld has constantly shown defensive plays that astonish and
amaze. His “superman” leap towards a dying liner hit by Chicago
White Sox outfielder Juan Pierre with the bases loaded as a firm
example of the lengths Fuld will go to give his Rays a chance to
celebrate nightly.

Pierre, hit the ball into the perfect
spot for not only extra bases, but a possible inside-the-park Grand
Slam, but the breakneck speed of Fuld, and a perfectly timed leap
instead left most fans at home and the assembled masses in U S
Cellular Field bewildered. You know you have done something truly
amazing when the home team fans stand up and cheer your play.


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Statistically, Fuld should not of had
even a glove on that ball, but possibly being a fan of those same
numbers, Fuld knew the possibilities and still thrust himself
sideways on the Rightfield warning track region to bring in that
small white sphere.


Even after heading to the Rays dugout
after the conclusion of the bottom of the inning with Rays trainer
Paul Harker attending to his multiple scrapes and abrasions, the
magnitude of the moment probably had not hit Fuld yet. The play was
probably going to be the best defensive play not only for the Rays
but in the MLB so far in 2011, or until Fuld pulls off another daring
display of man versus gravity.

The wild part is so far in 2011, Fuld
has thrust himself also into the fold of the Rays Republic by making
defensive play after play early on this season, showing why Rays
Manager Joe Maddon and the staff selected him as the 25th
member of the Rays roster. I have a feeling Fuld never fretted about
the numbers game, he already knew his odds were good if he played “
his game”.

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Fuld’s incredible run at the numbers
continues as he has already stolen his fifth base, which leads the
American League and is tied with Diamondback Willie Bloomquist and LA
Dodger Matt Kemp for the MLB lead. With 5 steals in his first 8
games, Fuld has done something only 2 other Rays have ever done:
Former Rays OF Carl Crawford had an MLB leading 6 SB after 8 games in
2004, and SS Julio Lugo had an MLB high 5 SB after 8 games back in
2005. While Fuld has had 3 20 SB seasons in the minors, he had only 2
total steals in 98 games over 3 seasons for the Cubs.

Fuld has already hit three times in the
revered Rays lead-off spot, garnered 2 outfield assists, ans is
wearing the past uniform number of another swift Rays outfielder who
retired from his playing days this past Spring. Only negatives you
can find right now is early on his usual BB/K ratio has taken a hit
as Fuld currently has 3 BB and 3 K’s to his credit.


Over 5 of his past 6 professional
seasons, Fuld has usually totaled more walks than strikeouts. His
ratio of 66 Walks to 37 K’s last season at Triple-A Iowa was the
second best in all of Triple-A baseball. Fuld has only struck out
more than once in 7 of his 301 games.

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This might be the only part of his game
right now that begs for improvement, but considering Fuld is on his
first run through the American League, some adjustments might be in
order. Fuld has already provided some extreme bright spots for the
Rays so far in the 2011 season. Most might think his offensive game
needs tweaking, but his defensive format is perfect for the Rays.


Even during this White Sox series, Fuld
has seemed to be at precisely the right outfield position at the
right time to make a hard play seem simple, or even an amazing play
just jump off the page at you. Much like former Rays OF Rocco
Baldelli who did the same thing for so long in a Rays uniform wearing
the same number 5. Maybe Fuld does understand the numbers……Hmmm?

Superman Would Have Been Impressed

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This image just speaks for itself. The mire thought of a Major League Baseball player getting to a ball finely threaded into the Rightfield corner, just a inch upon the warning track and it being caught by a rookie player just in his 8th game for his new franchise. The words “Cosmic fate” blaze into my mind. 
Heck, we are 8 games into the 2011 Major League Baseball 162-game season and for some reason the cosmic energy within U S Cellular Field might have already served up the best defensive play of 2011. Ironically, this is the same site of the 2010 Best Defensive play when White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle tossed a ball backwards in foul territory between his legs to nab a speeding base runner.

Could this once parking lot, now amazing baseball palace be built upon a unexpected fold of the Universe that seems to produce plays that defy the laws of physics and gravity, to produce moments we will talk about forever. Could Ozzie have secretly brought Criss Angel in to help magically transform this place into a haven for the unexpected?

Could Soxman be channeling his inner Jobu to bring a karma and destiny to this place that celebrates white sox and a Manager with more personality than Monte Hall. Whatever the conclusion, yesterday’s play by Rays outfielder Sam Fuld, who himself defied the laws of averages to just get a 25 man roster spot has to have some paranormal or celestial origin.  Maybe we should call the Ghost Adventures crew?
 

Time to Turn the Upton Jeers to Cheers

 
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Isn’t it funny when a guy is underachieving, and making some questionable moves people dog him like a convicted felon. There has been more than one chorus of boos issued to the direction of Tampa Bay Rays Centerfielder B J Upton in his Rays career. Some deserved, some just raining down because of past deeds.

Why is there no sign of people within the Rays Republic giving Upton any symbol of praise or acknowledgment that Upton has answered Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s call. That Upton and Rays rookie Sam Fuld seem to be the only field players adhering to Maddon’s “find another way” 2011 mantra. Finally we are seeing the Upton we have been anticipating for 3 MLB seasons, and the cheers are still a bit muted.

ap-7dbb5253f8ee4b03a87098637c97bdc3.jpgCould it be so many of you are waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop”? That you see this recent bit of timely hitting and defensive play as a mirage instead of someone taking responsibility for his game. Sure Upton is still a bit of a train wreck waiting to happen on the base paths, but he is still churning, trying to find that “other way” to produce and get the momentum headed in a different position.

When Evan Longoria went down with his oblique injury, people looked more to Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon for leadership and providing that extra zip, bam and explosion. Instead it has been the guy so many of you have trampled on, downgraded to average, and basically forgot is team first too.

Consider for a moment that Upton currently leads the Rays in Batting Average (.364), Slugging Percentage (.727) and Total Bases (16) during this Rays offensive drought. The closest Rays to Upton in hitting right now is Rays rookie LF Sam Fuld who sports a .455 OBP and 4 stolen bases. But still the Rays Republic is unmoved by Upton’s stats.

Maybe these Rays statistics will sway your mind a bit more towards seeing that Upton is trying to find “another way” to help this team on the field. Upton also currently leads the Rays in hits (8), Home Runs (2) and RBIs (3) on a squad that is collectively hitting .145 going into tonight’s White Sox contest. Even former Rays/current Cubs 1B Carlos Pena is shaking his head over that stat.

BJ1.JPGStill, the multitudes want to go back to Upton’s base running blunders which include being caught stealing twice in three chances this season. His bonehead play against the Orioles ultimately should have been an obstruction call on O’s SS J J Hardy, but we know what happened there. In his second caught stealing play also against the Orioles, Upton tried to pick the pocket of Baltimore catcher Matt Weiters, but a perfect throw down to third caught Upton fair and square.

Why are we beating up on the guy who is doing everything in his power to try and eliminate the pressure and get the Rays their first lead in a game this season. That’s right, over 50+ innings of play already in 2011, and the Rays have never been in front. Last time I looked there were 9 men in the line-up, and 9 in the field, but the crowd has had Upton square in their sights.

It is time to admit Upton is showing a great bit of maturity and want to again taste champagne in September and October. He took full responsibility for his base running mistake against the Orioles, which is a far departure than in his past. He has led by example on and off the field this season and has taken on the additional responsibility of being a team leader, which he shied away from in the past.

But still people are chattering that he is lolly gagging to the ball in the outfield. Not providing run production by making mistakes on the base paths, thus still not the player so many want to see this season. 6 games into a new season and already the Upton “boo-birds” have tweeted their cackling refrain.

What else does Upton have to do besides lead this team on offense. Did you know Upton has a lifetime .315 average at U S Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox and might be key in this series? Upton also hit .316 against this same White Sox team in 2010.

 

f9e7ae7970f8ea137f9c26a5bb41a004-getty-109235400jm013_los_angeles_.jpgWhat else does the guy have to do to earn your respect back. Get your jeers to return to cheers. Become someone not always immediately placed in the Rays doghouse by the Rays Republic.

Why can’t we all celebrate the fact Upton is perfect in the field in all 6 games. Has provided countless Rays hits, plus hit two incredible line drive Home Runs and enjoy the positives concerning Upton. Maybe the Rays Republic also needs to adopt Maddon’s philosophy of forgetting that day/night’s game after 30 minutes and focusing on the next one.

Oh, that’s right, if we did just that by admitting to ourselves that Upton is doing good and applaud his recent actions, then who will take the role of the Rays daily scapegoat?

 

 

Bonds 2, Feds 0, Bottom of the Ninth Inning

 

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When his 15 Federal indictments first came down, it seemed like Barry Bonds would spend at least a few Summers in the confines of a Federally mandated corrections facility. Magically, or by a lack of solid witness to evidence match-ups, the indictment numbers suddenly began to lessen until 5 indictment remained when the case first went to trial.


It seemed like the U S District Attorney’s office decided to trim their previous indictment list to the best case scenario charges that could get a conviction to stick to MLB’s All Time Home Run leader like pine tar. The prosecutor seemed to have a solid game plan, sending 25 different witnesses to the witness over the last 2 ½ weeks to try and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, the intention and deception by Bonds.


In another interesting twist of fate, the Federal prosecutor today asked U S District Judge Susan Illston to dismiss another one of the Government’s once concrete charges. Within a minutes time, Bond’s total indictment had been trimmed to 4 now with the prosecution resting it case, and his defensive team about to take their whacks in the box.


The charge dropped today concerned Bond’s testimony back in 2003 when he was accused of lying to a Grand Jury in regards to his testimony he took nothing but vitamins from former Giants trainer Greg Anderson. At no time during the trial did the government prove with any clarity that Bond’s was given Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) in either injectable or “Clear” or “Creme” form.


Swing and a miss by the government. It was a pure back-door slider that exploded through the box and they missed it big time.


STRIKE ONE!


ap-cde43e93f0f1444e9651bddfb4605c55.jpgThe 8 women, 4 men jury did not even get comfortable in their chairs before Bond’s defense attorney strutted to the front of the courtroom and announced the defense was going to rest, without calling a single witness.


A very brazen and confident move considering Bonds, if found guilty could be ultimately facing up to 10 years in prison for each charge. Reality is that according to Federal sentencing guidelines, Bonds could actually face only possible 15-21 months of Federal confinement if convicted.


 

 

The four charges still remaining  against Bonds are:

 

  1. Bonds lying about receiving performance enhancing steroids from Anderson.

  2. Bonds lying about receiving growth hormones from Anderson.

  3. Bonds making a false statements that only a “doctor” injected him.

  4. Bonds is accused of obstructing justice.


But even with these 4 charges still remaining on the board, the Federal prosecutor definitely had more than one “swing and miss” during this trial. Take Day 11 when the defense attorney Cristina Arguedas quickly brought up a contradiction in Bond’s former girlfriend Kimberly Bell’s Grand Jury testimony that she ” wrote her own diary”. Suddenly Arguedas threw another breaking ball that Bell testified during this recent trial that she and her “ghost writer” Aphrodite Jones collaborated on her diary.


STRIKE TWO!


Then in a great show of promotional skill, Bond’s defense attorney Allen Ruby had the entire courtroom on the edges of their seats as he proclaimed he was going to call 6 witnesses, including Bonds to the witness chair. But in a great P T Barnum moment, Ruby did not have to call Bond’s or nay of his witnesses to the stand as the defense team felt confident the government failed to prove its charges beyond a reasonable doubt.


In the entire trial, only one eyewitness account was given to show any intent or verification of any of the charges against Bonds. With Anderson still sitting in a jail cell on a contempt charge for refusing to testify, only this one singular eyewitness was called to the stand, and they did not know the substance injected into Bonds on that occasion.


ap-e7a0a5b99da14e80b9dc48a09c06200b.jpgThe jury could ultimately get their say in the case as early as Thursday afternoon as closing arguments will commence in the morning. In all likelihood the jury could come back with their decision, barring a split vote, as early as Friday afternoon just in time for the 1:35 pm PT home opener for the San Francisco Giants.


Ultimately the Federal government doesn’t seem to have given a solid and viable reason for the jury to ultimately convict Bond’s on all 4 counts. If Ruby or Arguedas can provide a solid, fact-filled closing argument with pinpoint accuracy, with Ruby possibly throwing one hard and tight in on the prosecutor’s hands.


With a current 0-2 count against the Federal government, a persuasive last pitch effort by the defense could provide a distinctive “called Third Strike” on the Federal prosecutor’s case. Might be the most important save opportunity in San Francisco since Giants closer Brian Wilson blew his last pitch by Ranger’s slugger Nelson Cruz, not 3 miles away.

 

 

Kazmir Needs to Rediscover Himself Quickly…..Or Might Be Gone

 

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Hearing more than a few whispers from the West Coast that former Rays southpaw hurler Scott Kazmir might get one more chance to save his Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim roster spot. It is incredible that the one Rays pitcher who once lead the American League in strikeouts is considered on the ropes at the ripe age of 27.

I then decided to hit the website 60ft60in.com and found out that the old “Rays Kazmir who used to toss in a fastball between 92-95 mph has been MIA on the mound recently. The website had Kazmir listed between 88-92 mph now with his heater that used to put players on their heels and set up his slider and change-up to be exclamation points to his strikeout totals.

l3olpk-b78649734z_120100607225144000gefoomnu_2.jpgGone is the “hair on fire” Kazmir that used to post a bushel of first pitch strikes, then toy a bit with hitters hoping to get them guessing wrong on his secondary pitching arsenal. I truly thought the 2009 Trade Deadline deal that sent him to the Angels and his former Rays, now Angels Pitching Coach Mike Butler would be the new epicenter of a transformation again of Kaz back into a mound terror.

Now the only terror is in the eyes of Angels fans, and some of us old Rays fans who still think he has something left in the tank. It is incredible to think that the Rays saw this fall from grace coming with Kazmir, instead focusing on dumping his extreme salary instead of a pitcher on the decline.

At the time of the trade I had mixed feelings on the move not knowing if an infielder who was the “Player To Be Named Later” INF Sean Rodriguez would amount to anything in a Rays uniform. Funny how life sometimes reshuffles the cards and tonight you will see S-Rod in his most demanding and important start of the season, subbing for Evan Longoria again at Third while Longo’s tummy muscle heals.

You know Kaz will enjoy this visit back not only to a place where his Ferrari is still parked, but to have a few late night I-Hop reunions with buddies Longoria and B J Upton to try and remember a better moment in Kaz’s career. I do not know what it is like for a baseball player to stand at the edge of the abyss and see their career possibly at a critical crossroad, but I have stood at that point before.

New+York+Yankees+v+Tampa+Bay+Rays+z_eU0oWiEG8l.jpgHopefully Kazmir can reach down within himself and pull out that fiesty competitor who once was brazen enough during a rehab assignment in the Spring of 2008 to predict a Rays playoff push plus was the man on the hill during their last World Series game start.

I want Kaz to dins again that guy who used to breathe fire and intimidate and have hitters second guessing at the plate. I would love to see the velocity increase and his pitching arsenal possibly be extended with a cutter or knuckle-curve. I just want to see the old Kaz that used to stride to the mound begging teams to find a way to beat. Now he is just beating up himself on the mound by inconsistency and frustrations that stem from his location and power not clicking in unison.

In the end, if his next start is his last Angels appearance and the team decides to eat his huge contract, let’s hope he stays in the game, possibly as a reliever. Years ago I toyed with the idea of asking why the Rays never considered Kazmir as a possible closer or Bullpen guy when his velocity and shoulder were bothering him back in 2008.

Back then Kazmir was needed extremely in a budding Rays young rotation and the idea would have either been met with laughter or a possible ribbing by everyone around me. But today maybe that same option can be revisited. If the Angels do not see Kazmir as a long term alternative in their rotation, can he be adjusted with any degree of assurance into a relief option that would not only possibly re-energize his career, but give him a MLB pitching option that could prolong his career.

You only have to look at former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz to see that sometimes a step back can be productive and bring you back into the fold not only as a competitive piece of your team, but let you adjust and possibly re-channel your energies until you can again find that niche for you in baseball.

Believe me, if I had a chance to sit with Kaz for a few moments in an I-Hop somewhere in Tampa Bay over the next two days, I would try and pick his brain and see where he is mentally and physically in regards to the game right now.

200809152014728632633-pf_standard.jpgA step back is always better than a step outside the comfort level of the team. You have to ask yourself if the Angels are in an “all or nothing” decision point with Kazmir, or if they too would entertain a relief option with the possibilities of Kazmir earning his millions as a key component of the Angels Bullpen.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Kazmir has turned his pitching around before, done the almost impossible and made believers out of critics before. The problem is this time it might be for all the marbles, and I wonder Kazmir has the “Devils Eyes, Aggies or Bumblebees marbles in his bag of tricks.

I guess we shall see on Saturday, April 9th in Anaheim when Kazmir squares off against the Toronto Blue Jays. Kazmir has come a long way since his Major League debut against the Seattle Mariners on August 23, 2004. By the way, he won that debut going 5 innings with a 4-hitter and 4 K’s in a Rays 9-0 victory. Hope a little bit of his past rubs off on Kazmir that day…or else…………..


Time for a Little Pep Talk!



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I am not going to get into the nitty gritty about the Tampa Bay Rays last 3 games just yet. I think I have a bit more important duty to fulfill at this key moment that will could be of vital importance to some of within the Rays Republic.

Right now, some members of the Republic are seeing the skies darkening a bit and positive notions going from sunshine to party cloudy to stormy in an instant concerning this Rays team’s direction so early in this season.

It is at key moments like this 0-3 start, which has happened for the first time in Rays franchise history, that either you stand up and rally behind your guys, or you look for the exits like some of the so-called fans when we are losing in the 8th inning on Sunday afternoon.

For in the next few games, let’s pretend the fate of this Rays squad is totally in the fan’s hands. Humor me here for a moment.

The Rays players really do feed off of the assembled Rays Republic’s energy. They can sometime use that extra jolt to find that extra gear, that adreneline pulsation that produces a spectacular game moment that will excite, motivate and encourage more of the same…It all starts with the crowd.

The fact that Home Plate is bouncing around pretty good right now for some of our hitters only gives us us another solid reason to take a bit of the pressure off them. Show them our undying support, the never-ending energy, plus the unadulterated fact the Rays Republic is firmly behind this team no matter what.

The mental aspect of the game of baseball can take you quickly to the road to ruin faster than a David Price fastball. The mental elements that need to be rebuilt, or tweaked right now on and off the field is faith, confidence, resilience and spirit.

Some will say that all 4 words have the same basic foundation in their mental framework, but I think they all play a different role in the whole scheme of things, but join together as a unit towards a mutual road to reason.

It is for that reason that I decided to write an a inspiration blog to those fans who are thinking about turning their backs on the Rays right now.

I want to turn their frown upside down on the casual Rays fan who sees the current standing ( 0-3) and is frustrated or filling themselves with doubt. 


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” It ain’t suppose to make sense; it’s faith. Faith is something that you believe that nobody in their right mind would believe” – Archie Bunker 

If we lose one Rays fan right now because of a loss of faith, we lose the fight to convince his friends, his extended family and others to the pure fact that this team is on the way up, and not stuck in the mud at the bottom of the division.  

“Faith sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”

That last quote was from an anonymous source, but it is so true in the Rays fight for recognition and a place in baseball last year, and again in 2011. Faith in the abilities of this young Rays squad is the foundation of this journey. For if the team is to again take to the mountain top, it must first feel the pain and struggle of the climb and this time relish in it’s joy from the first step. Faith makes you believe in miracles.

” My theory,is that if you look confident you can pull off anything- even if you have no clue what you are doing. – Jessica Alba 

 The confidence of the Rays Republic’s fan base has to make an appearance in this upcoming 2-game home series against the Angels through our voices and even cowbells. By the Rays Republic showing that the Trop is still “Our House”, even if we are not entirely on our game right now, we are showing extreme team confidence in a reversal of fortunes and records.

What better time to take on those fortunes than against Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s ex-ballclub. We will not have to hype up the players too much for the excitement and drama of this rivarly.

If we slack off at all, and let the Angels bats and pitching silence our voices, in our home environment, it might be some time before we again reign supreme in our own house.

” There is a big difference in confidence and conceit” – Johnny Unitas.

I heard those words from Johnny Unitas himself on the sidelines back in 1987 when the Indianapolis Colts were about to take on the Cleveland Browns in an NFL playoff game.

It is so true that sometimes a team can get so caught up in all the hype and fake confidence reigning down on them from outside sources that they can not play to their superior level, or even compete as a whole team unit. We had that problem as a team in 1987 and ended up getting slaughtered 38-21.

There is a limit to the confidence and conceit level that both fans and a team can aspire to iat this early stage in an MLB 162-game season. Lofty goals and a over abundance of self confidence can ruin even the best of intentions.

      

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” Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” – Confucius 

How great a quote is that. It is really a motto that can be adopted by this 2011 squad to lead them towards that common goal again.

When Maddon was hired by the Rays in 2006, he wanted to make the Trop. a place where other teams feared coming into and playing, like the New Mexico University Lobo’s Den, which was the first known as “The Pit”.

In 2008, the Rays fans and the team established the Trop as a place where opposing team’s wins came to die.

 “The Bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists” – Japanese Proverb

Through the use of the cowbell and the horns, the Rays Republic has annoyed, and frustrated opposing fans in “Our House”. I have seen some bad behavior from Rays fans, and that will not be tolerated. I will be the first to get in your face if you forget your fan manners.

There is nothing wrong with getting vocal and loud, but stay within respectful boundaries,  and we can again make the Trop a haven where a rival’s defeat is a definite game day option. First the crowd has to believe, then like a river it flows towards the field.


www.tampabay.com

While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die- whether it is our spirit, our creativity, or our glorious uniqueness” – Gilda Radner.

That is the essence of this blog today. I do not want the spirit of everything accomplished last season to die a slow death on the heels of this bad seasonal start. By redefining our belief in the end goal, by achieving beyond our own expectations, and by yearning to again hear the cheers of gladness from the multitudes, that should be the goal of this short homestand.

We have to re-energize the Rays spirit’s. Reset their barometers to heat up their tempos on the field and in the dugout. This is the type of moments when I truly miss someone like ex Ray OF/DH Jonny Gomes. He was one of the best unoffical cheerleaders on this Rays team. But it was from his personal belief in the abilities of the 24 other guys besides him that he gained that momentum and energy to take on all comers.

That same spirit is not evident in the play and actions of this team so fgar in 2011. I know it still resides within them. By getting loud on both Tuesday and Wednesday, we can again awaken the dormant competitive juices that make even our own bodies quiver and your brain ache from pure joy and the dramtic excitement of this game .

We need to again boost the decibel level to 150 decibels on the noise meter to awaken the Rays Republic’s spirit. But most of all, we need the Rays faithful who have been here during the lean years, during the 100 loss seasons, to join with the newbies and support our winners’ to with an increased volume of noise.

We need the noise coming from within the Trop to be heard as far away as Ferg’s. For this team to rebound and get back on track, it will take more than just the team’s efforts.  

I, for one will not give up until the end of game number 162. Some are already starting to waiver in their beliefs and desires to follow this team into the darkness not knowing if that tunnel will end in an abundance of Rays of sunshine and light or deepening darkness.

The 2011 Rays are not one and dones. They are not a 1 trick ponies, and they are certainly not just “lucky” to have gotten what they secured in 2008 and 2010. 

“The spirit,the will to win and the will to excell are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.” -Vince Lombardi

The stakes are higher, and the teams around us have rebuilt stronger because of us
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But it has to also start with us, the Rays Republic.  

I do not know about you, but I would rather lose my voice this week cheering than let the Trop lose its “home field advantage”.

So the question is now up to you Rays fans……….It is put up or shut up time? What is your decision, mine is to stand united and voice my support to the heavens for a team that deserves a chance at the ultimate prize.

“If people do not want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.” – Yogi Berra.

 

(I promise, no more BLUE lettering after today).

Longoria Falls Victim to the Dreaded Oblique Monster

 

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Tampa Bay Rays Third Baseman Evan Longoria said he felt “it” become sore and begin to tighten a bit during the Rays Batting Practice before Saturday night’s contest. Longoria pushed it off like it was a cramp, player play with aches and pains every night. He truly felt this same discomfort would somehow ease and just go away like so many before it.

Suddenly in the bottom of the 4th inning in only the second Tampa Bay Rays game of the season, Longoria felt the pain deepening during his plate appearance where he hit a line drive directly to Centerfield. Upon returning to the Rays dugout he sought out the Rays Medical staff who then delivered the bad news to Rays Manager Joe Maddon.

Instantly gone from the game was a key linchpin who had just received his second Rawlings Gold Glove Award prior to the game, and was a key emotional leader of this young Rays club. All because Longoria could not effectively decipher the origin of the pain in his midsection. It is not arrogance that makes you feel like something this small can not sideline you, it is an overabundance of confidence, and smattering of a simple lack of knowledge in understanding your own body.


16longoriaBENC__1223690601_7053.jpgWho could imagine something as small as a sore midsection muscle group could sideline a budding Major League Baseball superstar? Much less eventually have the power to possibly cost him the first month of this new season while riding the pine.

Players play in pain for a variety of reasons. Some do not want to let down their teammates and will go until the pain is too much, or the injury zaps them into submission. Others try and discard the pain and temporary thinking improper stretching or that the pain will work itself out as the body heats up and you begin to move. It is a problem formed the player’s own youth as much as it is Longoria’s want to compete.

I remember when I was in my mid-20’s and feeling adamantly on the field that I was definitely what Travis Tritt calls ” Six Feet Tall and Bulletproof”. I played through pain, subjected myself to increasingly harmful pivots and shooting bouts of pain from stem to stern because I felt this could not sap me of my energy and fight. Longoria found out firsthand, the body wins the fight every time.

I do give some credit to Longoria finally confessing to the pain before trying to get through the entire game and possibly making the injury worse and deepen his time away from the field. Best prognosis could have Longoria back in up to 15 days, but the oblique has a mind of its own sometimes and that could be extended to almost 30 days before Longoria sees game action again.


104388813_crop_358x243.jpgIn hindsight, I fell Longoria would have pulled himself from the Saturday night line-up knowing an early detection and treatment might have only kept him off the turf for a few days. Now Longoria will be reduced to “cheer leading” duty, trying to keep the positive vibe alive for the other 24 of his teammates.


Longoria most definitely learned a unique and timeless lesson last night as he sat frustrated on the bench after being replaced by Sean Rodriguez at his Third Base post to start the 5th inning. It is a simple philosophy that MLB veterans have known for a long time, that you constantly have to listen to your body talk to you.

It signals and barks warning signs to you all the time, but the hard difference to decipher is when it is an alarm being sounded within you, and when it is just plain soreness. The daily grind can produce false indicators, or even brief moments of discomfort with no lasting results. Learning to read the body’s complex signals is a hard job, especially when you are young. The game of baseball using a concentrated and bizarre bit of torque points and stress manipulation of your body constantly during an athlete’s performance.


longoria-evan-392-cp-080807.jpgUsing your Medical Staff to educate you and advise you sometimes can be a hard thing for a young player. You do not want to throw up the image of hypochondria, or being overcautious to the point of trying to find reasons for every ache, pain or muscle soreness. Then again, you do not want to play and agitate and injury into a prolonged bout of trying to get healthy again.

 

Longoria tried to play the odds with his body by hoping it was just a muscle stiffness that would fade away after a few innings of sweat, manipulation and further stretching of his muscles. It is a ticking time bomb of unexpected results that was defused before it became a threating injury.

The mind can sometimes “will” the body to do things beyond its own boundaries. In this case, Longoria was smart enough to notice the pain increasing and stopping before his machine was further damaged.


0811rays425.jpgThe Rays staff decided before Sunday’s game that Longoria will have a stay on the 15-day Disabled List and could possibly have a longer stint off the playing field.  The Rays immediately recalled INF Felipe LopezI, who was just 80 miles away at the Port Charlotte,Florida complex with the Triple-A Durham Bulls  and will be in the Rays dugout for the 1:40 pm start time.

 

It is a good sign that Longoria, the Rays outspoken clubhouse leader heeded his body’s signals when he did, possibly saving not only time on the bench but providing a sigh of relief for his team. Now we just have to send out positive vibes, hoping for a short time off instead of a lengthy rehab or reoccuring injury.

15 possible days without the services of Longoria will seem like a eternity to some fans, but it is a short time considering if he has torn that muscle, or even ripped a bit of its strands, he would have a permanent spot on the bench watching his teammates perform and wish he had listen to his internal “machine”.




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