Could Rodney’s Arrow Pierce the All Star Game Sky?
I think it is kind of apropos that Tampa Bay Rays President Emeritus of the Rays Archery Club (RAC) Bullseye buster Fernando Rodney can possibly get his moment in the moonlight this Tuesday night and get a gladiator’s chance to make a difference in the 2012 All Star Game in Kansas City, Missouri.
Who knows, with any luck and the right stars aligning for both Rodney and fellow hurler David Price, the Rays duo might have the chance to possibly throw the first and last pitches of that celebrated game. The announced starters for the game will probably not be revealed until later this weekend, but you got to think AL Manager Ron Washington might be leaning a tad towards a southpaw starting it all off.
Even sweeter for Rodney is that pure fact he got the nod for his first All Star chance via the American League player’s ballots, so we know his AL peers not only applaud his 2012 accomplishments, they are hoping some of that bowmen’s magic hones in on the strike zone with Rodney possibly having a stellar late inning chance to bring an All Star victory and World Series Home advantage to the American League.
How amazing is it that for the 3rd consecutive season the Rays will send at least 2 hurlers to the All Star game. 2012 also marks only the second time a Rays starter and reliever have both made the same All Star team. The first time a Rays starter and closer donned All Star garb was back in 2010 during Price’s first All Star gig when he was joined by Rays closer Rafael Soriano. In all, the Rays have now sent 5 different relief pitchers to the All Star game, but Rodney might have a chance to finally have a Rays reliever be the last man standing on the hill. Sure Scott Kazmir made a relief All Star appearance, but it was out of necessity not an ordained relief effort.
How great a comeback or revitalization story will it make for the networks covering this global event that baseball gurus and pseudo-GM’s around the MLB basically all threw clumps of dirt on Rodney’s chance this season after an abysmal 2011 season in Halo-land where he posted a 3-5 record with a 4.50 ERA and just a handful (3) of saves. More than a few MLB scouts possibly thought the Rays needed an intervention taking on a guy like Rodney who only threw 32 inconsistent innings in 2011, and chalked up only 26 strikeouts. You have to honestly have to hold up a votive candle to the Rays front office again going to the dark passages, taking a chance on an aging veteran who responded by posting some Lazarus type number, showing not only resurrection of their careers, but high points in the process.
The Rays could have bypassed Rodney based solely on his inflated ERA, but the Rays saw something within him, a fire that still churned and burned and let Rodney loose to again dominate and dictate the game ending. Rodney only responded by posting 24 saves, and has a chance to eclipse the Rays pre-All Star saves record if he can get two chances in these last 4 pre-All Star break games against the Indians. Want to see how much Rodney has personally turned his game around in 2012? In 2011, Rodney entered 39 game total for the season. Going into the Thursday night contest in Cleveland, Rodney has already taken/finished 35 games for the Rays while keeping a sub 1.0 ERA ( 0.96 ERA).
Going into this point in the MLB season, only 6 other pitchers in MLB history have boasted or matched Rodney’s 2012 totals. Rodney might have to extend invitations to fellow and past relievers JJ Putz (Seattle, 2007), Jonathan Papelbon (Boston,2006), Mariano Rivera (N Y Yankees, 2004), Dan Kolb (Milwaukee, 2004), John Smoltz (Atlanta, 2003), Rob Nen (San Francisco, 1998) and Dennis Eckersley (Oakland 1980). Impressive bunch to be associated with, wonder if Rodney will pass along free memberships into the Rays Archery Club for each of them.
To further put the remarkable change of Rodney into more prospective, he has a chance to be the 8th pitcher in 8 seasons to lead the Rays in saves. Among the other Rays closers’ who have led the team in saves prior to Rodney, the list features 2 former All Stars, Soriano and Danys Baez who represented the Rays in the 2005 All Star game in Detroit. Rodney will also be the oldest first time Rays All Star at 35 years young.
Rodney has done the almost impossible by taking his career 4.9 BB/9 IP and 1.69 SO/BB ratio and turning it on its head by posting a 1.19 BB/9 IP rate and 7.6 SO/BB ration this year. Even when opposing hitter are ahead of the count against Rodney, they are hitting only .111 against him. I want to throw one more remarkable number at you in regards to Rodney. He has only allowed 1 Earned Run at Tropicana Field all season, and has an ungodly 0.40 ERA on his home turf. Even more exciting, Rodney has thrown his change-up 158 times so far with 113 strikes and opponents have swung at it 83 times and missed on 39 (46.9 % swing-and-miss ratio.
How exciting will it be not only for the Rays Republic, but for all baseball fans if they can get a chance to see the magic of Rodney as he closes out a win, then ceremonially bring the bow-string back on his celestial bow and send an arrow skyward.
For me it is thrilling to see a rebirth of an MLB veteran like Rodney as he weave his way into the team’s fabric, posting stellar numbers that dwarf his prior MLB stats and provide a catalyst moment like his post game long bowing. Hopefully Tuesday night not only will Rodney “Shoot the Moon”, he will get the chance of a lifetime in front of millions of new admirers (and future RAC members).