March 2013

Obi-Joe, Pick Wisely For Your DH Woes

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What is it about the Tampa Bay Rays Designated Hitter position? It is almost like this slot in the Rays roster has some sort of curse attached to it. Sure we have seen a few guys show their stuff and produce in this position, but over the last several years, especially since 2009, there has been no real sense of consistency, production or even a iota of promise that the name of that game’s DH presents any terror or worry for our opposition.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays, Game 7With our own resident Yoda, Rays Senior Advisor Don Zimmer popping the ball to the dish during the Rays home opener, Rays Manager Joe Maddon might have to go into his alter ego Obi-Joe and use his internal force to find the right and most productive weapon either in his current roster or the farm system arsenal to seal and eliminate the dark forces, or was it the alkaline water, that took his Jedi Wolverine to the mat with an apparent calf injury.

Maddon and the Rays Front Office Council do not only have to make the right fit for this proposed 30-day window that Scott could be confined to the sidelines, but possibly bring in a new cog in the Rays offensive machine that might have to grind it out for the entire 180 day MLB season. 

0430827723_10548034_8colIt is a poor tragedy that the Rays have already shown a little wobble in their bobble even before the first game has been played of the 2013 MLB season. The Rays will need to make a bold statement, a show of trust within their ranks that they have an in-house solution to their woes instead of possibly shop around for a discount DH who might not make another MLB team’s roster.

Maddon has to keep the force instilled within his ranks that options are within their grasp and his choice will bring about a seamless transition to an already struggling offensive arsenal. That his choice will hammer out any thought of chinks in the Rays armor and provide the needed sense of protection for Evan Longoria in the Rays lineup over that time period. This has to be done swiftly and without hesitation as his window of opportunity is vanishing quickly as Rays famr hands embark on their journeys to their respective spots for 2013.

0430827606_10547939_8colThis is one of those moments where the Rays need to make not only a intelligent decision, but one that would merit an up-grade and possibly some more lineup flexibility for Rays Manager Joe Maddon to produce some sort of revolving swapping of players out for a rest while not downgrading his offensive ability to produce and bring must needed wins to a Rays team playing in a very competitive and upgraded American League East division. The first 30 days of the Rays season could definitely define where they will end up come October, and if all the predictions and projections about this season come to light, or go down like a burning Deathstar.

The Rays have many viable options including bringing up their Spring Training Al Lopez winning option of multi-positional and talented Triple-A tour du force Leslie Anderson, or maybe even the short term options of Stephen Vogt, Shelly Duncan or Brandon Guyer who might foreshadow an obvious decline in the Rays offensive firepower out of the DH position. Whoever ObiJoe  and the Rays Council decides is worthy must come into the Rays fold with confidence and know this is not only a time to show the team what they can do, but how they can adjust and flex to meet the team’s needs on a daily basis. 

201303281730630462854-p2Sure each of these name also can play multiple positions in the field at any time, but can the Rays survive any sort of nosedive in their offensive scheme even for 30 days and still be competitive in this tight division? Scott being out even for more than a few series bring about some serious problems and might warrant some gambling on the Rays part in terms of if and when Scott returns do they keep the player who they will feature at the Rays DH position on Opening Day as an insurance policy to possible future Scott frailties, or do they send them possibly to Triple-A with the idea of them working more out of a DH slot in the Durham Bulls lineup as a precursor option just a plane ride away.

I have faith that Obi-Joe already has the right combination in mind that will eliminate any doubts or  negative thoughts among those in the Rays Republic as to our 2013 seasonal future. All Maddon has to do is think long and hard who can give him the most flexibility along with predictable production and the answer should come to him in a nano-second.  Use your internal good force vibrations Obi-Joe and pick the one who will explode out of the gate and provide wins and grins from all of us. 

Rays New Decal Shows Tampa Skyline, Not St. Petersburg..Oops!

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Everyone who knows me knows I’m proud of the city of my birth. Been boasting and thumping my chest about this hamlet that catches the Gulf breezes at night, and seems to celebrate Hurricanes instead of fear them. I’m one of those people who get a bit irritated and spit vinegar when the National Media forgets that the home of the Tampa Bay Rays is St. Petersburg, Florida and not Tampa, which is 16-20-odd miles to the NorthEast of Tropicana Field.

TamponBut I also understand that this region has always labeled their sports team as “Tampa Bay”, and many of them started or make their home across the Howard Franklin bridge in that 3rd largest city in the state of Florida. Sure I’m unhappy and down right spiteful towards people who have not gotten the memo that this team is situated in a borough that has been separated by government rule by the Tampians for over 100 years and we are considered their redheaded step-children at times.

So what do you think was my reaction when I opened a MLB Opening Day display for one of my Wal-Mart store deep in the heart of St. Petersburg, Florida and my gaze came upon the same decal centered in the photo at the beginning of this post. At first I thought it was a great decal until I begin to take a closer look and noticed it was not the St. Petersburg, Florida waterfront skyline I was looking at, but the Tampa skyline just a bit South of the Platt Street Bridge.

BSWas this a virtual mistake by either the graphic gurus at Major League Baseball home office in New York City, or maybe someone within the Rays fold accidentally put their John Hancock and approval on this photo to be used as the showcase skyline for this Rays decal. Either way, it will be a collector’s item since it is a mistake, or at least it is in my mind.

Sure it could be a subliminal visual message from someone hidden behind the MLB cloak as to where the Rays need to call home, but for now it is just a major cluster-boo boo and one I’m going to have nestled away in my Rays collection as another example of the haphazard way that most people outside of Tampa Bay still sees St. Petersburg as a town with those green benches, a Salvador Dali museum and a stadium that looks more like a tilted ball cap than a long-term homestead.

VinoyI’m sorry if I’m locale sensitive to the plight of this side of Tampa Bay always getting the short end of the stick when announcers and even ballplayers can not fathom with any intellect the city that they are staying in during their series with the Rays. Heck, ever since 1998 the only hotel to even house any MLB team that visited Tropicana Field has been the Renaissance Vinoy right on the waterfront of St. Petersburg with a firm view of the real Tampa Bay just outside their hotel or bus window.

I mean would any other MLB fan sit lightly on their fingers if someone called the vista that is their team’s home incorrect in the media or over the radio waves. I would severely doubt anyone would get the location of any other ballpark in the major leagues wrong for the pure fact that journalism is based on the simple fact of accuracy, accuracy, and an additional dose of accuracy. Would a Atlanta Braves fan be upset if someone voiced a suburb of the city as their stadium’s locale instead of Fulton County?

san_jose_athletics_2Would the Oakland A’s faithful be a bit harsh and up in someone’s face if an announcer already had them in San Jose or even mistake them for the cross bay Giants? Most would think I’m being a bit oversensitive right now, but if you look at the third photo on the bottom of the first photo in this post you will see a daylight shot of the Tampa skyline that matches up perfectly almost to the building of the Rays decal that was included in the Opening Day pallet.

Sure there are more than a few whispers and thoughts that the Rays could move their entire organization somewhere over the Howard Franklin within the next 5-10 years, but with not even a simple dialog currently being communicated, a future home possibly in Tampa is just words in the wind at this moment.

253750_10151395672823429_1707979118_nI do not expect too many people within the Rays organization to take heed or even investigate this for themselves, but as someone who supports this team, and as one of those fans who do reside in the hometown that encircles the Trop., I would hope someone would at least acknowledge the error even if it was a possible subliminal message to the rest of the Nation. Guess 100 years of Spring baseball in this region doesn’t get you respect, and it definitely doesn’t get any glimmer of accuracy.

Baseball Should Have an April Holiday

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Maybe it is time.

Maybe we are at a pivotal point in our gallant sports consciousness that we can finally take a firm first step in this journey. Make that initial swing towards the process of immortalizing this one special day ever year….. forever.

opening_day_2009_1280x1024-thumb-250x200-2776151Maybe this is the perfect time to get a few important political allies in line to push for possible binding legal legislation to make Major League Baseball’s Opening Day a Nationally recognized holiday.

I know a majority of us already use it as a stealth day of fun, even possibly at the expense of taking a sick day or calling into work with excuses with gapping holes like Swiss cheese. Maybe by making it an “official” day we can come out of the closet and profess our baseball love to the world without riddicule or penalty. Viva la Beisbol!

Is the want to make this day a more than just a symbolic holiday lost on the fact most of us take measures already to cease production, fake sickness or family matter to rush to the ballpark to see that first glorious pitch of the season in person. If it was a defined day on our yearly calendar, then possibly Human Resources Departments or Sales team could coordinate group outings to the ballpark in support of this great day. More fans celebrating this day means more excitement, more revenues, and more special memories

OD2009With a key “fan” of the game currently residing in the White House right now, who shares in our love/hate relationship with the game of our youth, possibly now is the perfect time to consider such an sports-oriented endeavor. Not only does our President, our Commander-in-Chief boldly salute his own deeply-rooted White Sox love, but his yearly invitation to meet the eventual World Champions is a symbol that the highest office in the land has a genuine sense of ultimate baseball respectability.

Now if we can just corral a minimum of 26 United States Senators who also possess the same passion and admiration for the game, we will be well on the way to securing historic legislation. As Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston) so adamently screamed in “For The Love of the Game” when Billy Chapel (Kevin Coster) was lying on an ER gurney after cutting his pitching hand profusely, “Is baseball not America’s game!”.

Congress needs to acknowledge officially that the American image is firmly planted with roots on the clay and grass baseball field of this Nation, not just subject to apple pie, hot dogs and Chevrolet.

Flag2009As a baseball community and as a Nation, we should embrace the active thought of a celebrated day solely devoted to “America’s favorite pastime” A sport that doesn’t discriminate on ability, sex, race or even physical limitations. From T-ball, Miracle Leagues all the way to “The Show”, the escalation of the game only breeds warmth and admiration along with the true essence of the American spirit.

We could then outwardly celebrate on this day and support a game that has taught so many of us the rules of teamwork and of binding and bonding together for a common goal. We could celebrate our finest youthful moments again on a yearly basis with a sea of new baseball friends.

Baseball already brings out their own brand of ceremonial pomp and circumstance on this day, but why not include the rest of the sports nation into the fold for a National celebratory moment.

Sure there is still NBA and NHL games on tap, but the first week of April is about the bat and the ball. Of a Spring season of change and possibilities closing with the anticipation of 162 games played between defined chalk lines on pristine grass and immaculately turned clay infields. A game fought with distinctive individual skills, But defined within the team concept. A perfect storm of sports competition.

It deserves a day all its own, red lettered and circled on every calendar in this Country.

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay RaysFor this country to celebrate a day dedicated to the sport we know has a long and historic alliance with the United States both at home and abroad, it is a testament to aspect of fair competition and the essence of the American dream. Sure it may be a child’s game played by adults making a boatload of cash, but the childlike expressions on the faces of the players show daily it is not only about the competition, the pride and the admiration of this simple but complex game of chance.

Starting tomorrow maybe we can all collectively voice our opinions on possibly immortalizing forever as a country, baseball’s Opening Day. The time is right for such a couragious venture. We have a President who adores the game. Members of the United States Congress who have either played the game as children, young adults or at the MLB level.

Ground level support is definitely there for all of us to individually and as a Nation showcase our own passion and respect we have for this game that celebrates strength, integrity and unity on the field. Be it Major League Baseball, minor league affiliate or even Independent Baseball, this glorious day should have the added spice of being officially announcing our continous love for this game to the World.

The game has been exported around the World with leagues springing up during every imaginable season of the year devoted to this great game. It is time now to give a big chuck back to the game by getting it the recognition it should have had previously.

BDD_BO_allstar_71409_gett.jpgWe have the chance now with a President who flaunts his long distance alligence, even wearing his South Side Chicago squad’s colors at his current Washington DC address. In President Obama we have a firm example of loving the game from afar, keeping tradition strong no matter the miles or trails and tribulations, of supporting your “hometown” team openly and proudly, even in a polarizing town like Washington DC.

No matter if you are in the Northeast,Florida, Pacific Northwest or SoCal the passion for your team travels with you and you are open to express that love, even in enemy territory like a Yankee fan in Boston, or a Dodger fan expressing their love in San Francisco. The game transpires all kind of boundaries and deserves a day all its own.

Aubrey was right when she shouted that in “For The Love of the Game“. Baseball is America’s game and now it is time to put it firmly up on it’s pedestal where it belongs, as a National Treasure.

Rays to Hold Second Tweet Up

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If you are an avid Twitter fan and also have a passion for the Tampa Bay Rays, then you will be more than glad that the Rays have decided to resurrect a special night again at Tropicana Field just for the Rays Republic’s Twitter branch, or just those souls who love using their finger dexterity as well as enjoy a great baseball game. I  hope the rest of the Rays Republic are as excited as I am that the Rays again embraced the social media segment of their fan base and again brought a LIVE Tweet in to Tropicana Field.

 016I’m personally as excited as watching a walk-off victory ( which happened during the Rays 1st tweet Up), complete game shutout or possibly seeing another Rays player hit for the cycle. Who wouldn’t be excited about sitting just above the Rays Bullpen area tweeting our fingers to the bone while cheering on our Rays both on the web, and in person. 

Coming up on Tuesday, May 7th as the Rays take on their divisional rivals the Toronto Blue Jays, the Twitterverse will be completely congested again with Tweets and Photos from the Trop. It is truly fantastic that the Rays front office and their marketing department have again embraced the Rays huge social media  presence and again provide a chance for the Rays Republic to take another stab at possibly trending not only in Tampa Bay, but possibly Worldwide.

That is what I’m hoping happens that the Rays  Republic’s own Tweet Nation comes alive and provides a trending  experience we can all be proud of. Even if we just hold that sacred spot for a minute, the work, hustle and bustle would be a complete success. So that is a goal within our reach, one we can touch or type, to provide a Rays moment Worldwide. I love the sound of that personally.

035It is actually kind of ironic the Rays announced this recently as I was about to compose a blog posting asking them to again have just such an event during the upcoming season. I felt the first one back in 2011 went off without a hitch and the speech by guest speaker Emmy award winning  CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) was entertaining and informative.

hiUnlike the 2011 Tweet Up, the May 7th contest will take place with a First Pitch at 7:10 pm and not in the afternoon. The early evening and night scheduling of this Tweet Up should help to boost the Rays chances of getting that trending acknowledgment as well as show the true size of the Rays Republic’s social media segment. There will be a future announcement possibly via Twitter about a Guest Speaker that will also be on-hand with us Tweeting the night away.

028Just as the Rays did back in 2011, the team will furnish all participants who purchase tickets in the Rays Tweet Up special section a blue T-shirt sporting the event logo and your Twitter handle/name. On the evening of the event the Rays will distribute these shirts to the assembled masses, but you have to purchase your ticket by April 21, 2013 for you to have your shirt silk-screened and ready for the event. If you miss the deadline, you can still get a T-shirt, but it will have the @RaysBaseball handle on it instead of your own personal Twitter handle.

Also during this grand night of digital dexterity there will be drawings for autographed baseballs, game tickets and even a chance to possibly throw out the First Pitch that evening. I was a participant during the Rays first event that was held during an afternoon game and there was a great response and constant Tweets before, during and even after the game. I can attest to the fact that the Rays offer a great quality T-shirt, and you do have a chance to win prizes ( I won a Matt Joyce autographed baseball). I truly expect this second edition of the event to have even more rabid Rays fans using their fingers all game long, possibly even taking photos of other participants and driving up their follower base during this event.

065I have already bought my seat (Sect 128), and hope to see a huge turnout from the Tweeter branch of the Rays Republic. I’m looking forward to see so many of the Twitter followers that gaze at the Tweets from @RaysRenegade or @TheRaysRenegade during the season and 365 days a year. I fully expect the event to sell-out as the Rays Twitterverse has expanded so much since our first event back in 2011. If you still need to purchase a ticket and get into this grand night of Tweeting and supporting the Rays, here is the Tweet Up At The Trop page on RaysBaseball.com ro secure your T-shirt and spot within the Rats Tweeters area for the contest.

023Just as last time, any Tweet using the special event hashtag will have a chance to be displayed on the Rays Jumbotron during the Game and the entire group will be recognized by the Public Address announcer probably more than once that evening. This is one of those events where you can not only meet some of the people who pop up those funny and great Tweets during the year, but also a chance for you to bring in new followers, find possibly a few new friends to attend games with, and promote yourself and the Rays while watching a fantastic baseball game.

I got to warn you, I’ve gotten better since the last time at doing my Tweet in 140-characters or less…….See you there Rays Twitter Nation!

Gimenez Has Sung and Played His Way to a Possible Roster Spot

More and more Tampa Bay Rays C Chris Gimenez is making himself more attractive to the Rays as both a player, and a personality. Everyone has seen his singing renditions by now on Youtube or MLB’s Cut4, but he is quickly making himself a little less expendable especially after his “passed ball” like save of a certain single down the First Base line in yesterday’s contest against the Detroit Tigers. Heck, he looked more like a hockey goalie trying to divert a puck around the pipes than someone doing anything and everything to make it hard for the Rays to send him anywhere but St. Petersburg, Florida this April.

 20130319_ajw_af6_110-9ce8e9370d14a9389fb1c08c7aa2d2eaGimenez is showing the same energy and determination that endeared me to him during the Rays 2012 season this Spring. It is still kind of ironic to me that we might not have every gotten a chance at having Gimenez even within the Rays system if not for the Rays 2012 Winter trade of the  staring catcher to the Seattle Mariners and their counter-move of designating Gimenez for assignment and the Rays plucking him for their own farm system. All Gimenez has done since his arrival in the Rays system was put the Rays at ease with his positive and energetic on and off the field entertainment.

And the Rays have a tough decision to make in the next 11-odd days as to if Gimenez has done enough to even nudge fellow backstop Jose Lobaton from the Rays back-up position, but no matter what happens, I do not envy Rays Manager Joe Maddon or VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman one bit on this decision. Sure you can automatically pop out the reasoning that if the Rays try to even attempt to send Lobaton to the minors, he would have to go through the waiver system, and more than a few teams are seeking catching help or at least depth in their own farm systems.

thEven the pure fact Gimenez is flexible and can man an infield spot when not behind the dish should give him extra brownie points, but he also has no more minor league options and the pure fact he can give Maddon some thought into playing the field possibly in an unforeseen day-night doubleheader or a spot start should make him a bit more valuable in the long run. And you know if Gimenez himself hit the waiver wire he will be plucked up quickly and never have another at bat in the Rays system.

That being said, maybe another great indicator the Rays are taking a hard look at Gimenez as an option is the fact he has 34 plate appearances so far this Spring, double the current plate appearances of Lobaton (17). If you want to get really statistically honest, Gimenez’s line of a .382 Batting Average, .529 Slugging Percentage and a .935 OPS might be a solid indicator Gimenez might be ripe and ready for a 180 day MLB spot.

We all know that Gimenez has appeared in 18 games this Spring, and usually that can be a solid indicator if the team is taking a deep and concise evaluation of a player, but Lobaton has also appeared in 14 games, so this line of thought might be moot at best. Even if you look towards the Fielding stats of each player this Spring you will only see part of the picture as Lobaton has not been out in the field and Gimenez has had multiple chances on the clay to try and influence the Rays thought process he would be the right piece of the 2013 regular season puzzle both behind the plate or as a side dish in the field.

20130310_jla_an4_249-9566596bb7a8d386dfaee4e2aaec5dd7Even if you throw in the arbitrary stats of what each player has done behind the plate to stop base runners, each has had limited steal attempts against themselves, and Lobaton wins this battle with a .500 stolen base percentage to Gimenez’s .333 mark. Adding a second stat into this mix, with Rays proposed starter Jose Molina just now about to return to Port Charlotte, Florida after his Puerto Rican team experience in the WBC, a majority of the starts behind the plate over the next 11 days will probably be Molina’s as he get into his groove for the 2013 MLB campaign.

I have a feeling even over this 11 day last chance for either of them to get that back-up slot, the Rays will not tip their hand as to who will be designated, or traded before the Rays first Home series of the season. My tip of the cap goes to Gimenez for not only what he does on the field, but the excitement and energy he also generates off the field especially in his new found Twitter presence that has more than a few of us following or finding his quips amusing as well as insightful. But teams do not pick their final player based on personality or off the field quirks of brilliance, they base their reactions on statistics, whether a certain player can play beyond their potential and if they are a fit to the over scheme the team will employ for the regular season. Who knows, the Rays could also dangle either of them as trade bait for further depth knowing the loser of this battle will have to leave not only the Rays, but their system via a trade or possibly the waiver wire.

Believe me, I do not dislike Lobaton or think he has played himself out of a spot on the 25-man Rays Opening Day roster, but in my humble opinion he has had his time to try and show his growth potential during the 2012 regular season and did not produce enough for me to even remotely think he is a sure thing or consistent part of the Rays catching corps. Both players kind of canceled each other out during the Rays 2012 season in regards to Stolen Base Percentages as both were above the .800 percentage mark with in itself is considered a superior mark. Gimenez appeared in 42 contests and posting a superior average (.260) to Lobaton’s .222 in 69 games and displayed a sure fire upside of potential in power.

astro_zbog0rpi_y78eueroHey, David Price’s dog Astro must think Gimenez is the right fit, he already marked his territory on Gimenez’s bag, so you got to think he has the Astro sign of approval. No matter what I ( or Astro) think,  the Rays will have a hard decision on their hands in regards to these two talented backstops. Someone has to go whether it is by trade or lost with no return via the waiver wire. Might money is firmly on Gimenez contributing to the bitter end and getting the nod, even by the smallest of margins to find himself introduced to the Rays Republic on the First Baseline come Opening Day. Maybe I’m trying to sing Gimenez’s praises because we already know he can sing them himself if asked….this time possibly during the Rays 2013 season while standing in the Rays Clubhouse after a thrilling walk-off victory.  

Roberto Hernandez Could be the Linchpin to Several Rays Spring Decisions

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So we can already guess upon the top 2 slots in the Tampa Bay Rays rotation without much debate. But number 3 through 5 will definitely bring about a few thoughts, opinions and possible destinations for the one hurler who loses out a slot with the team. It truly seems that SP/RP Roberto Hernandez will have a say on who might take the third slot, then the rest will hopefully fall into place with possibly one odd man out, and he might just find himself in an ironic footnote.

RobHernWhen the Rays first signed Roberto Hernandez I was not sure which pitcher we might see this Spring. We could have seen the guy who was “lights out” as the Opening Day starter for the Indians, or the pitcher who seemed in a daze last season putting up sub-par numbers and maybe battling a bit of a confidence issue due to his “name game”. Instead we have seen Hernandez throwing some interesting innings, and he could possibly push his way up to number 3 if SP Matt Moore has some more control and questionable decision while on the hill.

And I do not mean this as a demotion to Moore, but the Rays could have a guy in Hernandez who could be throwing at a #2 level right now and with Moore fighting a few issues, pushing him back to the 4th slot could give him extra time with Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey or to work on his mechanics and be ready to start off the Rays second home series of the season against the Cleveland Indians. This short reversal in the rotation order could be beneficial to Moore in fixing his small flaws and also get him going against a foe that seems to hate left-handers.

201303051306471744340-p2Moore could in all likelihood after a few good starts reclaim his 3rd position, possibly as soon as April 16th in Baltimore due to a Rays off-day on April 11th in the middle of the Rays first road trip of the season. Of course that would push SP Alex Cobb into the final slot for the rotation baring an injury or the Rays decided SP Jeff Niemann would be a better fifth starter. But that is the biggest question mark of the Spring, and that decision might be delayed all the way into the Rays final contest in Tropicana Field against the Detroit Tigers on March 30th.

It seems more than likely at this moment even with a stellar Spring Niemann might be the odd man out and ironically, the Tall Texan could be possibly headed to the MLB team the last guy who fought him for a fifth slot found himself on Opening Day. You might remember the Spring 2008 battle between fellow right-hander and hurler out of options Jason Hammel and Niemann came down to the last possible inning before Hammel got shipped off to Colorado.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red SoxIronically, Niemann could also be heading to Coors Field because just as that moment, he is still out of options and would never pass through the waiver wire without someone hitching his name to their roster. The Rockies have checked in on Niemann already this Spring, and with a trade that might include a few prospects and maybe a fringe MLB player at best, Niemann could be staring at the Centerfield waterfall on the Rockies Opening Day.

So a few things seem to hinge in where the Rays truly see Hernandez in their rotation, either as high as third until Moore clears out a few cobwebs, or possibly as far down as fifth if the team think Cobb has the goods to secure that spot for the season. But with Moore having a few hiccups, using a proven MLB starter at the third slot until he clears his hurdle would be beneficial to him and the Rays especially since they have Hernandez on their roster.

sp_cobb030713_10351535_8colSome might say put Cobb in the 3-slot and let him learn on the job, but with an early seasonal tilt with a playoff and American League East divisional rivals slant, not putting the extra pressure on Cobb could turn out to be a blessing especially if it means he gets to mature at his pace and might get some extremely favorable match ups in the fifth slot that would favor the Rays right-hander.

Niemann seems to be the odd man out, but if the Rays see him as a long reliever, then he might not have to worry about any trade rumors and could find himself seated down where his old teammate Wade Davis sat in 2012…the Rays Bullpen.

JameyWThis is where another decision might have to be made. If the Rays think long time journeyman Jamey Wright might push Niemann firmly towards the door. If the Rays think Wright could be a right-handed option out of the Bullpen and stay healthy throughout the season, he could find himself taking Niemann’s slot in the Rays 25-man roster.

So it might be a bit of trickle-down right now with the Rays as they decide where to position Hernandez, and if Wright is a viable option for the Bullpen. Either way you seem to slice it right now, Niemann is firmly on the razor’s edge, and any slight wavering by the Rays in the coming week could either bring him back to safety, or mark his trail onward and outside the Rays roster.  

 

 

Baseball World Gets an Introduction to the Z-Factor

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I guess the secret is finally out on a global scale. Everyone who watched last night’s Team USA victory over our friends from the Great White North truly saw what everyone in Tampa Bay has known for a long time. Ben Zobrist is a heck of a ball player both at the dish and in the field and provides an unseen element to the game I have come to know as the “Z-Factor”.

AP_AZMD111_US_WHITE_SOX_BAS_10393916_8colMaybe it is a slice of karma that Joe Torre is the Manager of the Team USA World Baseball classic squad because he got to see firsthand that MLB maturation process of a young Tampa Bay Ray named Ben Zobrist as he cut his teeth on the most competitive division in Major League Baseball. And we all know the respect and admiration Rays Manager Joe Maddon has for the player he affectionately calls “Zorilla” for his monster plays in the field and at the plate for the Rays. Zobrist firmly is a player who has embraced Maddon’s “Rays Way” and is a firm Rays and MLB symbol of a player playing his life right on and off the field.

We all know Torre got a front row seat as the Manager of one of the Rays biggest rivals, the New York Yankees just as Zorilla was beginning to show his potential to everyone in baseball. Maybe a few of those vibes and moments stuck in Torre’s mind and he knew possibly tossing Zobrist’s name on the lineup could muster a few more special moments and possibly turn the Team USA tide onto the Second Round of the World Baseball Classic. 

usa-v-canada-world-baseball-20130310-162421-382You got to think there are many reasons Zobrist got a spot on the Team USA roster, not only because of his versatility to play anywhere at anytime, but also the fact his offensive game is also filled with that same unbridled versatility and variables. From Zobrist’s fine display and precision in the use of small ball tactics to move runners over or score runs to his potential to produce power from either side of the plate making him one of Team USA’s most versatile secret weapons, and one any Manager would drool over to have hidden on his roster.

It did bother me a bit that Zobrist did not get a chance until the third game in the Team USA World Baseball Classic, but if you really wanted to see Zorilla come alive and show his potential to everyone throughout the World, Sunday night’s contest showed why he is one of Team USA’s secret weapons and why Zobrist is a true asset no matter what game plan you envision for your squad. It was evidently apparent to Torre that Zobrist, who sometimes has as many as 5 gloves in his bag, was ready willing and able to do whatever it took to help Team USA fight off elimination last night.

Zobrist responded by showing the rest of the baseball World last night both at the plate and in the field why he is a vital cog in the Rays machine and could translate that same magic for Team USA in their “must have” contest. Zorilla showed his small ball proficiency with his bunting early on in the game and ended up gathering 3 hits in 5 trips to the plate including scoring a run for the victorious Team USA squad that sealed their trip into the Second Round meeting with Puerto Rico on Tuesday evening in the big MIA.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red SoxZobrist could have possibly had a 4th hit last night if not for his bat being a bit under an attempted bunt and watching as the Canadian backstop clutched the ball in his glove for an out. But last night the rest of the baseball world got to see the type of player we have enjoyed here in Tampa Bay ever since he came here along with former P Mitch Talbot from Houston in exchange for Aubrey Huff.

Not only was it a great night for Zorilla at the dish, but he also gunned down Canada First Baseman Joey Votto at Second Base with a precision throw that nailed him, but also prevented a Canadian rally with his outfield assist. Most people in the American League do not run on Zobrist when he is stationed out in the Rays RF, but Votto took a chance and Zobrist made him pay. I have a link on my blog of just how determined Zobrist is when tracking a fly ball as he hit the low retaining wall in RF just to the left of my usual seat and tumbled into the area after a huge thud. That is the kind of play and player that can act as a vat of emotional glue that can help tie together wins and brings the confidence of a team to a zenith.

Hopefully Torre has seen enough of Zobrist in this critical game to warrant another shot in the lineup as Zobrist responded to the Team USA challenge with flying colors and hopefully he did enough against Canada to warrant another right field start, or at least a late inning appearance against Puerto Rico. 

486489_539880946056093_234018978_nZobrist also has that special gift off the field and in the Clubhouse that inspires and gets people motivated not only by his style of play, but by his exuberance for the game and his passion to succeed. 

Zorilla is that type of guy you must have on your team, that motivator through his style of play that brings everyone’s level of play to the top, and boosts not only morale but the belief the game and a victory is firmly within their grasp. The Z-Factor has been rampant in Tampa Bay for years, maybe it was just time for the rest of the planet to also admire this truly gifted ballplayer as we do. 

Hele komo la kaua Rays Fans!

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Hele  komo la kaua Rays fans! 

(Come join us)

 Warning! This blog will have loosely translated words that most of us Florida haoles will not understand…at all.

T34716_1212_mainFinally the Tampa Bay Rays come up with a charity event that I can showcase the one style of clothes I wear every day at work, and is the perfect attire for a beautiful Spring day in the Florida sunshine. Over the last 5 years I have amassed a truly gifted and hideous collection of shirts that illustrate our beautiful 50th state, and now I can wear one of my unique colorful floral linen treasures to a Rays event with pride and possibly not stick out like a sore thumb.

thCAKYACSIThat’s right, after the Rays take the hakaka (fight) to the visiting Minnesota Twins at 1:05 pm on Po ‘aono (Saturday), Malaki (March) 23, 2013, the team will host an amazing Rays Spring Luau charity event that will have our own Rays players, coaches and on-air personalities serving us kaukau (food) and beverages as well as showing us that great Rays ho`okipa (hospitality) that always makes us feel like true mo`i (King or Queen) as well as cherished member of the Rays ohana (family).

 Not only will this event be a great way to talk and be around other Rays fans and players, but it is also a chance for you to bid on any of the 25  special Rays inspired items such as game used merchandise or entertainment. There will be no autographs given out by the Rays during the event, but you can bid on unique as well as autograph opportunities that will be raffled off during the event. possibly take home some additional keepsakes as well as memories and photos while enjoying a great Spring Florida `auinala (afternoon) with other members of the Rays Republic.

Tiki barThe event will be held via a ticket on the Boardwalk section of the Charlotte Sports Park following the Rays game. Added bonus is the already built and sublime Tiki Bar situated in the Baseball Boardwalk section of the stadium to help create that perfect Hawaiian vibe needed for just such an awesome event.

and there will be two distinctively different ticket packages offered by Raysbaseball.com. The first event package is priced starting at $76.60 (which and includes a seat in a shaded area of the ballpark including service fees as well as the festivities afterwards). The second event package is a $50 donation for those of you who might already have a ticket to the game and just need an passage into this unique event.

Who knows, maybe the Rays will have a halau (hula Troupe), but I can bet there will be no Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Picasso triggerfish /Hawaiian state fish) on the ahi (fire) that day. But we can all inu (drink) and eat in the Rays own unique version of a traditional makahiki, which was a Ancient Hawaiian celebration held annually with sports festivities.

luauThe event is being held to support the Charlotte County Family YMCA, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity and the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition. All worthy charities in and around the Rays Spring home location that need support to keep their fight alive in this SouthWest Florida community.

And who knows, maybe we will also get a glimpse of the mo`o (reptile spirit) that some times take a watery stroll in the small retention lakes beyond the ballparks fences. Who know, we might even see a few festive Rays lei’s, a mu’umu’u (Long,loose fitting dress) and possibly a photo op with the Rays own kama`aina (Hawaiian native son) Todd Kalas who will surely be dapper and maybe even kama’a ‘ole (barefoot) by the end of the afternoon.

 But seriously, whether you are a malihini (newcomer) to these kinds of intimate and very hu’i hu’i (cool) close encounters with the Rays players, coaches and on-air gurus, you will definitely feel at home and almost like Rays hoaloha (beloved friend) by the end of the event.

T33860_tampa_backIt is a great time for one and all to hoohiwahiwa (celebrate) the upcoming season while having a `aka`aka (laugh) or two with new and old hoapili’s (close friends).

So be sure to mark the date of Po ‘aono (Saturday), Malaki (March) 23, 2013 on your calendar or in your cellphone as well as buy a ticket to a special luau and time with the Rays. Hopefully I will see you there and maybe by that time I can say this phrase “Mahalo nui loa na ho’olaule’a me la kaua” or “Thank you for celebrating with us” without my usual Southern drawl ruining the diction.

Fortune Favors the Bald, Part Deux

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The sounds of buzzing razors will again adorn the wooden boardwalk of Charlotte Sports Park on March 15th prior to the Rays taking on those longer haired rascals, the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. But this time there is even a chance you or I could also sit in those barber chairs along side Rays players, Coaches and front office gurus and also feel the hair nestle along our shoulder blades while supporting the Pediatric Cancer Foundation at the second annual Rays fandango to bring about awareness and donation to this worthy cause.

 152148_laThat’s right, this year for a $100 donation you too could be draped in a barber’s cape and feel the experience firsthand while alongside you others are seeing their Winter hair growth trimmed, cut and dropped to the Boardwalk in support of this great organization. And at the end of it all besides having a authentic Rays infused new haircut to flaunt during the Spring Training game, you will also part the barber’s chair with one of those yellow “Fortune Favors the Bald” T-shirts the Rays so proudly displayed after their 2012 event.

And if you do not think you can part with any of your own hair follicles this Spring, you can still be a part of the fun with a $ 10 donation every time you use your grand texting talents by inserting the word “Cut” to 50555, or you can go wireless and do a donation via pcfcutforacure.org as many times as you desire even after the event concludes on March 15th.

sternbergLast season the Rays had over 70 people involved in the Rays organization from players, Coaches and even principal owner Stuart Sternberg sat in these respective chairs and watched as follicle after follicle fell in support of this great event. Last season we saw so many of the Rays from players to front office staff make their pledge and show support for this great organization and I truly expect the numbers to hit 3 digits this time around with the addition of fans also getting an opportunity to show their own support.

 And if you did not know, the Cut For a Cure Challenge in Tampa Bay has raised over 35,805 as of 8 am

this morning (March 5th). Also on April 3rd , a bevy of local sporting teams, civic and community businesses both men, women and children will be manning the chairs in the Bright House Networks Cure Charity Challenge in support of the efforts of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s many programs and efforts. Again in 2013, Team Warhola will return for a second clipping and this team includes Mickey Warhola, the first woman to go under the shears in this event last year.

 6985308645_09d3a46c7d_zI was amazed to learn this stat when I was on the Cut for a Cure website recently that over 160,000 are diagnosed with Pediatric Cancer each year and that the simple action of donations and watching your locks fall to the wooden floor will help provide funds for research, programming and pediatric care for children and their families who are fighting the grand fight to beat pediatric cancer and blood disorders.

 Not sure yet if my head will be one for the hair artists canvas this year at this great event. No matter what I decide, I know I will definitely be making a few donations possibly in the name of my favorite Rays players or staffers who again felt the passion and want to give back to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

Full_medium I just hope this year someone remembers to bring a Value Club sized bucket of sunblock. Do not want any of these brave souls worried about a burn while feeling the warming effect of the Florida Sun upon their newly minted hairless cap holders.

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