June 2012

1979 Defined Who I Became.

People always say certain years pegged for them personally as the “best years of their lives”. For me, 1979 definitely was the first significant turning point and first journey to the top of the see-saw climb when thing began to change fast and furiously as I first embraced life’s challenges and adventures. I was fresh out of school (Class of 1979), had a great job (Evening Independent Sports Correspondent and DJ/Skate Guard at Southland Roller Palace) , the vast horizon in front of me of sports, academics and even a few moments left in the haze of a Fraternity (DTX) house were unfolding from the first celebrations at midnight on January 1st, to the last somber and emotional moments that December 31st as I welcomed not only a new decade, but the final unclothing of myself as a “teen”.

1979 was a virtual time stamp of great developmental and athletic upswing for myself personally filled with escalating life moments that will definitely come rushing back to me like a Tropical Storm Debbie flash flood the moment the Tampa Bay Rays hit the turf with those retro powder blue and royal blue uniforms. “Turn Back the Clock” Night will definitely be an emotional as well as proud moment for me not only because I get to hear a band I treasured and wore out more than a few 8-Track cartridges on my Dynomite 8-track player.

Even the yellow hued stirrups adorning the Rays calves tonight will evoke a bit of my 1979 Northwest LL Senior League baseball moments. It was the year I got to stand to the right of future San Francisco Giant and Los Angeles Dodger shortstop Dave Anderson, plus the highly bright and audacious yellow mustard color scheme of the Rays stirrups tonight also were reminiscent of my own Monahan’s Shell team issued leggings that always seemed to fall down to my ankles by the end of the game.

I wrote a post recently on the Rays retro gear they will adorn tonight and how I felt they kind of copied the 1979 styling s of the 1979 Brew Crew, but in reality maybe I wasn’t fully attached at the moment of that post with the actual realization that this region could of ever been considered “Major League” by the rest of the baseball world in 1979. St. Petersburg, then known for its green benches and FREE newspapers when the Sun did not shine was packed to the brim during the Spring months with loads of MLB potential, but as the calendar always turned from March to April, the caravans and planes took our MLB hopes and our baseball idols away for the seasonal ride.

Might be a great ironic twist to tonight’s events that Earth, Wind and Fire in January of 1979 entranced us all with their hits “September” and Thats the Way of the World” during an NBC Nationally televised a UNICEF Concert. This was also the year the hit that instantly goes into the minds of people “Boogie Wonderland” and “After the Love is Gone” hit the FM airwaves for the first time en route to Billboard Top 10 positions. Who doesn’t remember roller skating to both of these hit at the typical Friday or Saturday night round-de-rounds on the skating floor either as disco dynamos or couple skating with that special someone.

Definitely going to feel weird tonight seeing the Tampa Bay Rays wearing uniforms that pre-date the franchise’s First Pitch, and even their initial selection of their Expansion Draft. With the entire squad donning time inspired duds from 1979, it will evoke a bit of memories, especially of my Senior year at St. Petersburg’s own Dixie Hollins. It will remind me of the year I “fro’d” my hair to honor a fallen comrade Al Bolden who was paralyzed in a football game that season against Lakewood High. It will bring back the sounds of “Rowdie Raccoon” as my favorite High School teacher Mr P used to call me daily because of my constant wardrobe of Rowdies and rugby attire.

The whole night from the moment I hit the Tropicana Gate 4 media entrance to the moment I again wander into the post-concert humid air, tonight will be both a love fest and emotional roller coaster that I hope I can truly stomach. Every one has defining moments in their life, 1979 held more than fist full of them for me. It was the year I finally got recognition as a ballplayer, signing my letter of intent that January. It was the calendar year I got to have a heart-to-heart and 3 hour clinic with the MLB player I idolized for so many years, and my game exploded with confidence.

From the moment of that first handshake with the immortal “Hot Corner” icon Brooks Robinson to today, my love for baseball expanded from a sport to a lifetime obsession as I got dirty that day guarding the line and gaining insight from one of the game’s best defensive masters. 1979 was the year I proudly adorned my head with a cap featuring that pesky Orioles bird, and wore proudly until the first cap went on sale for our then D-Rays. Tonight is definitely going to be emotional, pulling at the old heartstrings with a vengeance.

This was also the year that writing and journalism took me by storm as I wrote for the High School paper (Rebel Rouser) along with Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano, all the while flirting innocently with Diane Spears as Mrs Tucker scolded me. It was the year of my first cover story, my first byline both professionally and academically, it was the birth year of the obsession I still possess with writing that is still prevalent and evolving. 1979 was that catalyst moment not only in my physical sports, but in my life development. I owe a huge debt to 1979 that I can never repay because 1979 for me personally was all about the skating, graduation into adult life, the music of bands like Earth Wind and Fire and the first evolutionary moment of my new found love…baseball.

Getting The Royals Treatment

Sometimes you look at something long enough comparisons and similarities will come rushing back at you with a vengeance. You will recognize the fight and determination, the struggle from trying to banish that “underdog” label, hoping teams take you on your current talent and not your less than glorious recent past. You have to think more than one member of the Tampa Bay Rays looked across the diamond this week and peered into the Kansas City Royals dugout and possibly saw a mirror image of this Rays franchise not 8 years ago, fighting to remove the sub-par label and taking victories that on paper looked like causal defeats.

It was not that long ago teams used to come down to Saint Petersburg, Florida for a series against the Rays and felt it was a bit of a breather, a mini vacation within the 162-game grind in a stadium that seemed to welcome visiting teams with wins and special moments. Tampa Bay used to carry that underdog, under-estimated label around their necks until 2008 proved to finally break the bonds of that level of thinking.

The Royals, who as a small-market franchise had to develop their talent “in-house”, like the Rays and think long and hard about any possible free-agent acquisition or signing are currently hitting that same threshold the Rays faced in 2008. Their home-grown talent in bursting through to the big league level now and are proving some people wrong about this young club, possibly to the point of being late season playoff killers.

For so many seasons from 1998 until their final post-season coronation in 2008, the Rays knew their bags would be packed to go home after the 162-game slate. Their season effectively ended in a way by the turning of the calendar from August to September, with the latter month used to evaluate top talent and possibly give some aging veterans a well deserved rest. September for under-achieving clubs all over the Major Leagues was a chance to possibly upset title contenders, and hopefully staving off the champagne celebrations from your home turf.

It was so eerie over that 3-game dismantling of the Rays as I watched the Royals do the same things to the Rays 2008 squad did so effectively. The Royals pounced on defensive mis-cues, got determined pitching performances and took it to the Rays jugular game after game. It truly was like looking into the mirror and seeing the past 2008 team doing their magic out on that hot and humid field.

Possibly this could be a nice wake-up call for the Rays seeing the Royals take them apart with ease by doing the “little things” and coming out on top in all 3 contests. Maybe a few of the Rays need to take a step back, possibly relax a shade and let their game flow back to them instead of trying to provide “web gems” moments or rush to the aid of their ailing offense, or defense.

I remember hearing Rays Radio Guru Dave Wills today on the “Ron and Ian Show”, and Wills commented to the effect that when Sean Rodriguez plays 2B, he is our best 2B, when he plays 3B, he is our best 3B, and when he is at SS…Well, you get the drift. That is a disturbing revelation to me that whenever S-Rod lines up for a contest, there is a possible defensive shortcoming in our midst.

Maybe the Royals did the Rays a huge favor and slapped them firmly in the chops thus making it obvious to the entire roster and Coaching staff that this 2012 Rays are not the “hunters” right now, but are playing more like the “hunted”. This current situation could be as simple as the Rays finding that “hunger” again.

With the club nearing the .500 mark for the first time since they rose above that distinctive measuring point earlier in the season, maybe adjusting their thought process and just doing fundamentally solid performances with powerful results, this team can again turn the corner and claim a few much needed victories.

Possibly the Rays mindset might need to go back to this team thinking they are again on the verge of being daily “underdogs” ever time out, and again having something to prove not only to themselves, but the rest of the MLB community. Some say the Rays got royally man-handled during that 3-game series. Personally, I think the Rays getting the Royals treatment might be the best thing to happen to them. Can’t wait to see which teams hits the field against Detroit tonight.

Rays to Get Their “Funk On” This Saturday

Oh how I had hope those gaudy and hideous fashion statements unveiled by Major League Baseball teams near the end of the 1970’s would lie in a deep coma somewhere, possibly in an undisclosed cement covered grave, never to see the light of day ever again. But somehow one of those funky patterns and designs did rear its head again in a 70’s inspired Tampa Bay Rays uniform.

The Rays decided to bring their own groovy edge and retro visions to life even though the ball club was not even a gleam in anyone’s eye at that time. I do not even think vision of hit baseballs entered the minds of future Tampa Bay baseball pioneers Frank Morsani or Vince Namoli during the late 70’s especially in this sunny region. So as the team takes the field this Saturday night for their annual 70’s Night, with a post game concert by 70’s icons “Earth, Wind and Fire”, you can bet more than a few people in the stands will “be trippin’ a bit” with flashbacks of some of those other MLB late 70’s unfortunate uniform logos and designs of other franchises.

I had kind of hoped I would never again see some of the fashion mis-steps and funkadelic inspirations that hovered over baseball during the end of the 70’s. From the Stove top caps of the Pittsburgh Pirates to the insane uniform worn by the Chicago White Sox whose short pants inspired uniforms just made he shiver after looking at the mangled knees of catcher Carlton Fisk’s knees. But to be honest, funky lettering fonts and swaying word patterns were popular in those days especially off the diamond.

I commend the Rays for trying to get extra funky and into their 1970’s groove thing and come up with a Rays “Turn Back the Clock” jersey top that would be a 1-of-a-kind and “must have” item. It will be extra special that each Rays field staff members’ jersey will go up for auction on the Rays website after the contests to support the Moffit Cancer Center and the Rays Baseball Foundation.

But there are a few quirks that have caught my untrained fashion eye. The uniform’s primary color (powder blue) seems to mesh consistently with another team that patrolled the American League East during the late 70’s, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew’s road unis of that period seem to boast the same Rays flair as both jersey tops sport a portion of powder blue essence and both team’s utilized the traditional 70’s fashion item, the V-neck collar that seemed to be all the rage in that era.

But the Rays did divorce themselves from the total powder blue explosion on their uniform top by letting the chest and back region of the jersey be more of a royal blue separating these two teams a bit. But both uniforms sported powder blue pants with royal blue stirrups and white socks. Even the Rays retro baseball cap has visions of “Brew Crew” inspirations as both caps featured a yellow V-front panel with royal blue dominating the back and side panels of the cap.

The small bit of yellow trim that will fashion the Rays uniform number also plays nicely with the Brewers 1979 design. Thank goodness the Rays did not decide to use anything close to that hideous glove print design that sported the Brewers cap front. Rays decided on a more funkadelic “tb” on the cap with a Sun logo shining in bright yellow in the lower case “b” on the cap. The lower case “a” in the Rays embellished on their uniform front will also house a Sun design.

With the team having worn most of this area’s professional baseball team’s colors at some point during their previous 9 other “Throw-back” days, this meshing of the hypothetical past does have its own charm. The team will pay a bit of hometown homage to their St. Petersburg roots by having the City seal of St. Petersburg on their left jersey short sleeve.

Since it is a hypothetical design, and one that does seem to mirror a bit an actual AL East power at that time period, I can not only applaud the design, I might even buy a game used and autographed jersey through the auction on raysbaseball.com following the contest. I can’t call this a Home Run by the Rays, but possibly it is a nice sacrifice squeeze in the bottom of the 9th inning against a rival. It could have been worse, the Rays could of adopted the “tux stylings” of the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. Those kinds of tops were the rage at my prom in 1979. 

If you might want to buy one of these interesting conceptual jerseys prior to game time on Saturday, you can call or visit any of the Rays Team Store at the Trop., in Tampa, or you can visit Raysbaseball.com and buy one online.

Is Pine Tar a Demon or an Equalizer?

It’s in every bag in the big leagues. We have it everywhere. If you get rid of it, there are going to be hitters getting plucked left and right. When you have adverse weather games, extremely hot, cold, windy humidity;s crazy, sometimes as a pitcher you can’t feel the ball, that’s no good for the guy (at bat).                      – former Tampa Bay Rays Pitching Coach Chuck Hernandez

I’m being to feel that pine tar is a lot more prevalent and in wide-spread use than any of us can imagine. One of the most important assets to a pitcher no matter if he is a starter or a reliever is feeling a consistent and constant grip on the baseball. There have been no reports or experiments conducted to see if pine tar does give you an extra inch of drop, velocity or even control, but even if it is all in the pitcher’s mind only that he has more consistency because of it, isn’t that a good thing for the game. 

Makes sense that pitcher’s might dabble and spot a few dots of pine tar on their mitts during rain, sleet or snow, and humid and hot temperature do produce more sweat and moisture that could effect not only the grip, but final destination of every pitch. Seems like pine tar ( to me) might have a few helpful benefits to keep batters upright and safer at the plate. Former Rays TV Announcer and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Mcgrane said he has used pine tar before for it’s gripping properties while current Rays TV Announcer and former Rays/ Indians pitcher Brian Anderson says he never touched the stuff.

I remember more than once pitchers reaching into the Rays Bullpen bag for a green leather sleeve with a darkened element on it, but I never associated it with pine tar. Even though there has never been an adequate test or study to show if pine tar or a substance of that nature effects the flight of the ball, it seems more viable and controllable than other elements that can be applied to a baseball and masked without the darkened spots. In earlier baseball history Vaseline and saliva were commonplace, but I wonder if things like suntan lotion. Extra hair gel or possibly even leaving shampoo or conditioner in your hair pre-game could bring about the same results. 

In the same article Hernandez tells of the plight of former Detroit Tiger starter Kenny Rogers and his unfortunate pine tar incident that played out during the 2006 World Series when Rogers had some pine tar on his hands when he took the hill. Hernandez stated the aging hurler did not use the element to produce more sink or doctor the ball, he used it so he could get a better grip on the ball and not lose control of his pitches. 

In this case, rival Manger Tony La Russa handled it a bit more classier than Washington Nationals Manager Davey Johnson did recently. La Russa sent a message through the grapevine (Third Base Coach?) Telling Rogers to clean it up, clean it off. It was never made into the huge issue and polarizing issue it has in this recent Rays and Nationals series. Hernandez made a valid point that since they (Cardinals) beat the (Tigers) the issue was swept away without blossoming into a full blown incident.

You have to think MLB Home Plate Umpires reject a few baseball every game that might have hints or flashes of a substance, but do not call attention to it as pitchers “clean up” their act before it gets overly noticed or goes to extremes. I can tell you I’m going to be a bit more curious when an Umpire rejects a ball from now on as possibly having more than scrape mark or a darkened bat mark on the ball. 

I’m not looking to re-write MLB Rule 8.02, but Peralta did not touch the ball to his glove with the pine tar applied to it, the substance was within the finger area of the glove, thus not in direct contact with the ball. Still it was a violation, and a punishment Peralta might just be in the mood to appeal the punishment, possibly being a last thorn in the side of Nat’s Manager Johnson in this last game of the Rays and Nat’s InterLeague dance.  Wonder if Peralta heads to the mound tonight if the “boo-birds” will become a bit louder and crazier?

Maybe it is time for the hierarchy of Major League Baseball to dig a bit deeper into this situation, possibly poll current MLB roster pitchers with full immunity to discuss the issue and possibly find a viable solution everyone can not only live with, but promote safe usage and rules governing it’s application especially in adverse weather conditions. Just because MLB Umpires know it might be used by pitchers doesn’t mean they “look the other way”, it might not be as prevalent in everyday pitching situations thus a blind eye is given on occasion. 

I guess the use of pine tar will be one of those burning issues for a while some consider it in baseball’s “gray area”, and other see it as blatant cheating or dismissal of the rules of the game. No matter what your opinion, maybe this last statement by Hernandez might open a few eyes that maybe pine tar has an application in the game, but within set limitations or application.

I don’t see anything in pine tar that creates an unfair advantage for a pitcher. You make a big deal of it, and all of a sudden guys are going to start, as we call it in the business, pitching naked. More balls would get away from pitchers, and now you’re going to be fighting. We’re going to have more beanball brawls than ever.” 

Don’t know about you, but I hated getting pelted with a 90+ MPH pitch somewhere on my body while trying to hit that small white sphere. Plus I usually did apply a bit of pine tar to my bat…for a better grip.

 

 

Nats, Rats…Has a Nice Ring to It

I remember watching “Mob Wives” on VH-1 this season and one of the characters, Big Ang said these immortal words, “A rat is a rat is a rat.” But here lies the conundrum. It is up to interpretation as to whether you consider Washington Nationals Manager Davey Johnson the one with the wiry whiskers, or Rays reliever Joel Peralta to be the focal rodent here.

Do you consider a relief pitcher using a product that doesn’t give him a considerable edge the villain, or Peralta who is a former Nat’s pitcher and might have been “outed” by a former colleague, or your old Triple-A Manager who might have felt an obligation to divulge your old glove habit. Here is where the line between good sportsmanship and someone just trying to ruin someone for the sake of it all. To me, the smell permeates more from the Nationals dugout than from the body of Peralta.

Sure Peralta might have used some pine tar hidden within the folds of his black glove on the mound last night, but was there evidence on the ball used during that outing to suggest deception by Peralta, or was the Nationals staff using some long held information from Peralta’s past to discredit and damage his credibility throughout baseball.


I mean you do not have to think long and hard that the Nat’s had to have had this information long in advance as a black colored glove doesn’t give off the air of deception via black pine tar unless you had prior knowledge the event might be unfolding. It is not like any member of the Nat’s roster or staff got a chance to take a intense nasal upload of Peralta’s mitt, or that an odor or remnants of pine tar suggested the element was present before Johnson made Home Plate Umpire Tim Tschida aware of any wrongdoing.

Johnson just played a trump card he had in his back pocket, and got an effective reliever not only out of this game, but possibly the rest of the series between these two clubs. It might be a clever move to isolate one key ingredient that could thwart any late inning heroics by his Nationals club, but was it a rat move by doing it in such a devious and cowardly way. It is not like the pine tar was visible or even someone witnessed the event. Johnson was going on private knowledge he had on a prior Peralta game day tradition/superstition and used it to his advantage, possibly ruining Peralta’s reputation and putting doubt of all of Peralta’s positive career steps in the process.

So is this going to start a bit of a “glove war” in this series? Possibly not, but you can bet Rays Manager Joe Maddon and his squad will use this measure as a energizing polar moment, possibly playing their final 2 games against Washington with a bit more energy and want for victories. Peralta did glide over the MLB lines with his move, but isn’t it common knowledge pitchers use any tools or items at their disposal to get that slight edge?

We have all seen pitchers pick up the resin bag and popped it into their forearms and hands, then do a few hard and suggestive bumps on their uniform leg for possible “future application”. Isn’t this considered a foreign substance since it is not a viable part of either the glove or the uniform and MLB warrants a pitcher rub his hand on his uniform after using the resin bag to extract possible excess materials?

This is one of those unwritten things you know each teams does, but it doesn’t have a direct affect on the game’s integrity or outcome. Players find their own ways to not so much cheat, but get their own slight advantages, but this time Peralta will pay the price through a possible game suspension and unexpected fine and further long glances into his past achievements. Johnson took the “low road” in my opinion here.

It was not a crafty move made on an observation, but on a long held habit of Peralta’s that in evidently got him ejected and under the thumb of the MLB disciplinarians now. Sure some within the Nat’s fan base will stand and applaud Johnson’s move, but I truly wonder how many players in his own clubhouse do not want to be a part of these shenanigans. In the end Johnson pulled his trump card and sent Peralta up the Delaware River without a paddle or a bucket to keep himself from sinking.

I hope whoever divulged that tidbit of information about Peralta on the Nat’s Coaching staff or player roster can sleep well at night now knowing they discredited a former teammate and possible friend. Sad when a former employer has to dig up prior dirt to get you discredited, show doubt and possibly black label you for the rest of your career just to try and develop a scoring opportunity.

I think it is extremely funny that if you go 4 letters to the right in our alphabet, then Johnson is not the Manager of the “Nat’s”, he is the skipper of the “Rat’s”…..I bet none of his 25 man roster would want to put on that jersey….ever. 

Dance Party- Trop Style

I have always been a huge fans of Industrial/Techo/ Electronic or whatever name they are using for this unique and special brand of rhythm and beats. I was a fan of the late night DJ induced music sets on the FM dial in my younger days, pumping the volume as loud as the speakers allowed me sometimes feeling the windows rattle in the car. The intense thumping of the amplified bass seemed to coordinate with my heartbeat. Both pumping, pushing and coursing music and life into my tired body as I listened to it religiously like the Siren’s song.

                                            

That same vibe came back to me and about 5,000 other Rays fans who packed the AstroTurf of Tropicana Field for the Friday Fest Concert featuring International DJ Astrojack. This definitely was one of the loudest concerts held in Tropicana Field since possibly Janet Jackson’s “Black Cat Tour”, but during this performance, it was the crowd that seemed to have the choreographed dances moves. With the first note of bass, the assembled crowd began their rhythmic bouncing and hand raising saluting and following the grooves and pulsations streaming from the huge loud speakers.

Combining the mind-numbing bass from his selected play list with the electronic visual movements and designs flashing upon the stage and DJ platform, DJ Astrojack came to Tampa Bay to impress, and he delivered and then some on Friday night. Sure the Trop’s seating bowl did not have its usual filled lower bowl seats staying to listen and watch the performance, but this style of music is not for everyone. Even today dancing to this type of music has to be a crowd inspired coordinated dance movement complete with hands raised high, extended arms to the heavens and letting your body absorb the pulsations.

I actually enjoyed the night from watching the glow-girl with her lighted hula hoop, to seeing both young and old doing their own versions of the “Night at the Roxbury” head bops and accelerated dance moves. It was definitely a musical event either you understood, or shook your head as you exited the Trop. I ventured outside the Trop to see just how loud it was inside the enclosed stadium, and wandered over to Ferg’s and could still hear clear as a bell the music as it vibrated off the Teflon roof of the Trop.

 The orange glow of the Tropicana Field roof made this inspired impromptu dance party seem more at home, and I swear I saw the roof flex and move to the music at least once. I eventually strolled back into the Trop. and listened to the last beat as it made its way through the Trop., echoing off the roof and finally coming back to my ears still leaving it’s loud impression.

The concert was a success if you consider the people who stayed swayed and moved with the pulsations of the beats like blades of grass. I was exhausted when I finally stepped into the cool air outside the stadium, but the intense pulsations of the sounds tonight still had control of my heart. It was one of those nights you will remember because it was a first within the walls of the Trop., and hopefully it will not be the last.

                                                                                                                                                        Blogger’s Note: Is it just me, or does DJ Astrojack look like a young Carlos Pena?

DJ Astrojack  Flikr photo gallery

I Forecast Moore Moments Like This

Kind of amazing that in the span of less than 3 days, the Tampa Bay Rays have provided their fans with complete opposite results, and even thrown a bit of pitching brilliance into the mix. We all knew Rays rookie Matt Moore had the goods to pull off a miraculous outing,and he delivered more than we all anticipated. Kind of ironic a first inning hit by a speedster ruined a chance at Moore getting his own piece of history.

I mean who does this 5′ 9” Marlin Donovan Solano’s think he is pushing the No-No out of the equation? Did this fellow rookie like Moore have to provide the solo single moment of Miami pride in just the second at-bat of the first inning. Well if you search further and see Solano has only gone to the plate 28 times so far in his rookie campaign and has produced a .393 batting average, we have to be thankful the guy doesn’t have down the alley power.

Interesting that a small adjustment in his game plan against the Marlins tonight might have paid the most dividends for Moore:

A week ago when I faced them, I think I threw 3 or 4 curveballs the entire game, so today was just a little bit of a different look for them. I feel like I had a good feel for it (curveball), especially in the 4th,5th,6th and 7th innings when I was throwing it for strike one. I’m not necessarily looking for a swing right there but I am looking to get ahead in the count; a little get-me-over to start 0-1. It was definitely nice to have another pitch to have them looking out for.

I was talking to a visiting MIA fan in the bottom of the 1st inning and he remarked his team has seem to make it a habit of being “slump-busters” for their opposition this season. If you are having a bad time hitting, you have to hope a visit by the obliging Marlins is on the horizon. I have to be honest here, with their off-season pick-ups and their potential, this team should not be dwelling in the deep waters of their division. Still, the Rays have seemed to de-bone the fish recently, and we still have 2 outings to go in the seasonal Citrus Series.

With the Rays victory last night, they can take claim officially to the 2012 Citrus Series crown. Seems fitting a team whose stadium is sponsored by a citrus juice manufacturer (Tropicana) and based in the Tampa Bay area (Bradenton) hoist the Vitamin C enriched go-go juice. Interesting note, this gives the Rays their 4th title in the last 5 seasons. It’s not a dynasty, but I’ll raise a glass of Rudy Red or Tangerine to this squad.

Moore was on-point tonight, throwing good solid pitches, not conforming his strike zone, and basically showing that he might have finally turned the corner and put his sub-par previous outing to bed. Moore might not have gotten that elusive masterpiece, but it is hard to find fault in almost anything he did tonight. I mean the guy threw the 9th 1-hitter in Rays history, and the 6th under the tilted cap (Trop). Moore became the first Rays hurler to hold a team to 1 hit or less in 7 innings since former Rays P Matt Garza threw the only No-Hitter in Rays history back on July 26, 2010 versus the Detroit Tigers.

To be honest, Moore has been slowly finding his way back to the top of the pitching mountain. He has picked up a win now in all 3 of his last 3 starts after only posting a solo victory in his first 10 attempts in 2012. And Moore has put the work into his 3 wins going at least 6 innings in his last 4 starts after failing to get to that mark in 5 of his 6 previous starts to his pitching victory streak.

To really cement this achievement further as concrete proof Moore might have turned the corner, the Rays offense has scored 28 runs in support of Moore in his last 3 trips to the mound compared to the same total of runs in his first 10 starts of the season. When your team shows that kind of confidence and outpouring of run support, you got to believe the winning spirit is contagious.

Most people focus on the high velocity of Moore’s fastball (averages over 94 mph), but his weapon that probably paved the way for this great moment was his elusive curveball. Rays Manager Joe Maddon put it best when he stated:

“How about the curveball strike? That was a really big difference once he settled in and I loved the fastball. But I like the fact that he commanded his breaking ball without trying to overthrow it, making it too good of a pitch and then it started becoming a strike. Now they (hitters) have to honor the fastball and breaking ball mentally. That makes it difficult. So once he got into the groove with the breaking ball strike it made it a little easier for him”.

Moore tonight showed us all again the brilliance we knew was trapped inside his pitching arm. He showed a sharp mind of using a secondary pitch that was breaking and crossing the plate with accuracy and consistency and put the Marlins in “ thinking “ mode at the plate, wondering if they would be facing Moore’s hard heat, or wait on a mistake curveball that never seemed to materialize tonight. Backed by an impressive offensive explosion, Moore not only got the support he desperately needed to secure a win, he got a combined great defensive effort which had been lacking lately from this squad. All in all a superb night from first pitch to last. Definitely one for Moore, the Rays and their fans to savor for more than Maddon’s usual 30 minute window of celebration.

Wright or Wrong?


I do not know why people are getting so upset about the New York Mets wanting to get a second opinion on whether or not the Rays official scorekeeper might have given a hometown lean towards Tampa Bay Rays speedster B J Upton being given a hit on his bouncing drive on Wednesday evening. Seems to me in the end it will end up further validating the great job Bill Mathews does on a nightly basis for the Rays.

Sure some people wonder aloud and in their minds if the person assigned the duty of reviewing and making this vital decision might try and bring some “pay back” to his old nemesis Tampa Bay, but I believe MLB’s representative Joe Torre has more credibility and honor for the game than to thrust his own agenda into the mix. I understand why Mets Manager Terry Collins went to bat for R A Dickey. You have to have your players’ backs if the lines and replays show their could be a shadow of a doubt.

But in the Rays favor is the particular history that not since 1917 has a scorekeeper’s decision been overturned and a 1-hitter turned into a “No-No”. I mean we can go even closer to today than 1917 to show evidence Torre will reject and stand by Mathew’s decision, or my name is not Armando Galarraga. Of course that is not my name, but if anyone deserved to have their 1-hitter turned into a No-Hitter with a clear mis-guided moment, it was that contest.

But this appeal is different than the Umpire missed call in Detroit, this one involves a field play that routinely is either a “ make or break” momentary decision that usually come with a warning label. A chopper down the Third Base line is always a precarious thing that calls for an instant judgment. It is totally realistic for Collins to take this moment, dissect it down into it’s intricate pieces and want official clarity from someone else.

You have to wonder if Met 3B David Wright who played baseball with Upton in Northern Virgina before his pro days made his momentary decision based on his chances to get Upton out, or was hoping more for a “fling and a prayer”. If you watch the replay of the questionable call, you have to also wonder if former All-Star Wright hesitated for a nano second seeing the ball might hit the precarious lip of the AstroTurf before it became clay. Could that small window of judgment and blink from extreme focus have caused a slight variation in Wright’s decision to hold back a step.

In some ways I think personally the point is moot because of Wright not getting control of the ball and throwing it with velocity towards Ike Davis at First Base. The fact Wright did not get a handle on the ball and it glanced towards his right making any attempt of even hurling the ball a foregone notion, this action only further illustrates he knew Upton had an infield single in his back pocket. If Wright had adequately handled the ball and got it to the bag with some form of making the play look suspicious, then I would of wanted clarity from a higher authority myself.

Who in their right mind would have guessed in the first inning this play would be so paramount to the total night. One solid swing of the bat that produced a bouncing ball that routinely can be either an our or hit was the deciding factor in Dickey’s historic moment. Would I have loved to see another No-Hitter, of course I would have (I have personally been at 3), but not at the expense of a questionable call that had legs to go either way.

If Wright had cleanly caught the ball as it was beginning to move away from him and thrown out Upton, this decision would not be hovering over the Trop. If Wright had caught the ball and held onto it trying to not make the matter worse by possibly overthrowing Davis and Upton advancing to second, this whole episode would be null and void.

But because there is a lingering shadow of doubt, a hint of a possibility and rationale reason for a second opinion, this small segment of Wednesday night game lingers on. Be calm Rays faithful, for before tonight’s series begin with the Marlins, Torre will most assuredly put this whole conspiracy to bed, and then we can go about our lives as the possibility of another No-Hitter being attached to the Rays sinks to the bottom of the Rays Tank.


Tonight I Anticipate Something Special

I don’t care what you are doing tonight, cancel it and get down to Tropical Field. On tap tonight should be a classic pitcher’s match-up between two completely different style of starters who could put on a nice pitching clinic tonight that could be the eventual precursor to either of them getting a possible shot to hit the dirt first at this season’s All Star Game in Kansas City.

If a total of 17 combined wins between New York Mets hurler R A Dickey and Tampa Bay Rays southpaw starter David Price can not get you excited about this contest, you had better go have your pulse checked, because you might be dead. On tap tonight could be the premier InterLeague pitching match-up of not only this week, but the entire InterLeague sliver of the 2012 season, and it all will be played out under the tilted cap in St. Petersburg.

If that is not enough to make you pile into the jalopy and putter on down to 1 Tropicana Drive, in town for this limited engagement is a team that used to hold their annual Spring Training locally here in the ‘Burg, and is making their first trek into their old Spring home turf in 11 years. Member when the Mets used to come here every Spring from 1962 to1987 holding court over in the fields near the Jungle Prada section of the city.


I mean personally, I’m totally curious to see what a “hard knuckleball” looks like coming in at possibly 80 mph in comparison to the butterfly slow velocity knuckler thrown by former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield. I am truly eager to see not only how Dickey can adjust and pitch against this struggling Rays offense, but will keep a keen eye on the Mets catcher to see just how you can keep that fluttering white sphere in your glove. Looking at the opposite side of the spectrum, it should be another chance for Price to again show some of his tricks of the trade via a blazing fastball combined with a newly refined curve and change-up to keep the Mets bats honest.

Surely this contest is billed as a “pitcher’s duel” with the unique possibility of a 1-0 or 2-1 score deciding this contest. But do not forget, these two hurlers have also posted 148 K’s and each sports an impressive ERAs between 2.40 (Price) and 2.44 (Dickey) this season. They also both have held opposing batters to stellar opposition batting average that are just a tick South of .236 mark and both have 1 shutout and complete game to their credit this season.

Heck, the only blip on either pitcher’s radar to show any weakness might be the fact Price only went 5 innings in his last start against the Yankees in New York. You would have to dig all the way back to Price’s start on April 13th in Boston to find any sub 5 inning start by the consistent southpaws this season. Dickey also suffered his only sub 5 inning stint about the same time this season when he only lasted 4.2 innings on April 18th in a contest in Atlanta against the Braves. Both have been consistent in going into the late innings of games, with powerful pitches at their disposal.


Tonight it is a mano-on-mano match-up. Classic hard-nose power pitching against the crafty and frustrating ball that can come in hard, or flutter like a firefly under the dome’s lights. If you like the Chess match that can turn into a baseball game, this is the game for you. So, why aren’t you here already? This game has all the earmarks of possibly turning into an instant classic 2012 baseball moment.

I’ll save you a seat. 

Could the Trop. Pull Off a “Dog Day”?

Earlier this season when I sat down with a departing member of the Rays front office and he let out a juicy morsel that the Rays might be considering a future brand of Rays “Bark at the Park”. For those who have not witnessed or had the fun of this type of event, fans can bring their canine “other-halfs” to the ballpark with them for that days contests and enjoy the sights and sounds along with a few hotdogs with their owners. Teams all around Major League Baseball already hold these sorts of annual canine appreciation days, but here in Tampa Bay, we have seen zero.

Now this is not an official Rays event yet, or even mentioned “officially” by the club, but over the weekend the Miami Marlins had just such an event at their indoor stadium, and by the way the stadium smelled by the end of the 9th inning, the stadium sanitation crew was on the ball scooping the tidbits left by canine Marlins fans.

The reason I bring this up tonight is the success of the Marlins canine event could and should get the wheels turning for a possible future Rays version. We now know that an indoor facility like Tropicana Field could host such an event, and possibly be one of the great moments of an MLB season. I actually was on hand for a “Dog Day Afternoon” event several years ago in Chicago and thought of what a great event this would be for my hometown Rays to hold for their faithful 4-legged fans who only get to see the game on television.

Possibly since our sister MLB franchise has now held a dog day afternoon event in their new home, members of the Rays stadium staff and promotions team could pay a post-event visit to the Miami club and see the way they produced and made this event such a success, even with the roof closed. I would be amazed to see such an event held within the tilted roof of the Trop., complete with the annual Frisbee-catching canines, maybe a booth set up by local animal shelters, and a secondary outlet so fans could buy those adorable calendars that host Rays players and their canine “best friends”.

I mean if the Rays and the local no-kill animal shelter Pet Pal Animal Shelter could come to some promotional agreement, maybe the event could also include a paw-print signing area of the Rays pooches, or pre-game stroll by master and pal along the First or Third baseline. I mean think of the great exposure for the calendar, the Rays would get National exposure for the kinder, gentler side off the competitive Turf, plus would be a great win-win for the Fans, players and this region.

Sure you would have to possibly buy a seat ticket for your dog, but maybe the Rays can also combine it with a Rays brand Dog Bandanna, or maybe even a Jango (Longo’s dog) or Astro (Price’s pal) image upon the item to bring it all together. I know all of this might never materialize or even be on the Rays drawing board, but it should. I know of plenty of Rays fans who have remarked over the years wondering why the team doesn’t do these special canine days like other stadiums.

 Odd thought here, maybe the Rays could find a pet food purveyor who could give away samples or even sponsor the giveaway with their branding somewhere on the new Rays bandanna. Of course all of this might just be in my mind right now, with the Rays not even having such an event on their drawing boards until possibly the 2013 season. Still, for someone like me who does his share of people-watching as well as watching this club play baseball, it would make one more authentic and totally wacky reason to hit the ball park. In other words, Rays, let’s make this happen.  

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