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From Bait to Predatory…Friedman Leaves a Grand Rays Legacy.

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I’m going to miss Andrew Friedman.

I think we all kind of saw this coming whether you wanted to admit it or not. Friedman was truly that proverbial fish thrown into the deep end of the Major League Baseball pond where money ruled and stockpiling talent and expecting grand results was but a pipedream.

images (2)He was a part of a franchise where other teams fan bases flooded Tropicana Field and branded it such names as “Fenway South”. He inherited a job that had broken more experienced men and because of the Rays formidable financial restrictions, a team payroll that basically tied his fins together until he found his own unique way to swim alongside and eventually surpass the once omnipotent MLB sharks.

images (1)I mean the guy started out as a optimistic minnow learning to swim in infested waters that could have easily made the Rays into consistent seasonal fodder for the large market sharks, but Friedman brought his experience and innovative tactics he honed as a rising star in the financial field and evolved it into a solid and marketable foundation for a small market franchise to find success in these infested waters.

Friedman used the essence of risk management combined with largely successful algorithms and processes that turned a franchise once mired in a losing persona that emerged within a few years into the 2008 American League Champions.

And that my friends is one glorious legacy to pen onto your baseball resume.

download (1)Sure Friedman was but one sharp point of the Rays successful trident during his tenure that also contained Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg and then Team President Matt Silverman, but Friedman was the  man out front of it all taking the good and bad hits, being the confident and consistent soldier.

Silverman will now man Friedman’s old VP of Baseball Operations chair and Brain Auld will take a step up and become the Rays new Team President, but do not expect too much of a backslide as Friedman, Sternberg and Silverman it is said could finish each other’s sentences.

Some will be quick to point out that Friedman is vacating his seat as the Rays saw their 6 consecutive winning seasons and 4 post season appearances since 2008 come to an unexpected end.

images (2)It is easy to point to another’s person’s faults as they leave to embark on another challenge especially with a large market franchise that is the total opposite of the Rays organization. But no matter your personal opinion on Friedman’s departure, ponder for a moment where this franchise might of ended up without his ideas, guidance and up-tempo perseverance.

ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian once said of Friedman: “ His emphasis on scouting and player development, his ability to piece together a contending team each year despite limited financial resources and his astute use of sabermetrics have made the Rays an organization that others try to emulate, though usually without nearly as much success”.  

Say what you want about Friedman’s departure, but realize he has grown so much from that small minnow in the pond surrounded by hungry predators that commanded the other 20-odd M L B franchises.

imagesFriedman has definitely matured within the game in his years with the Rays, brought targeted innovations as blueprints for other small market teams successes as well as brought the Rays out of the deep darkness within the MLB pond to become a consistent antagonist to the rest of the MLB fishery.

Guess it is time to admit for one last time the once defensive minded minnow that was Friedman has now fully evolved into a species of the same predatory animal that commanded the MLB for years.

Maturing from a minnow to a shark, now that’s the Rays Way.

Would Any of the Rays be Heroes or Zeroes During a Zombie Apocalypse? ?

 

Ever wonder who among your friends, family or even those you might not care for too much would be victims, victors or conscientious observers if there was a Zombie Apocalypse?

The Tampa Bay Rays media zombinos’, who really do not have much Rays baseball right now to produce or edit right now came up with a great little Q&A clip asking some of the current Rays how they thought might be the first tasty nugget, be oblivious or might even volunteer to partake in the Zombie lifestyle.

Zombies-In-FLSome of the answers were quite interesting, and a few of them unfortunately were a bit obvious.

But seriously, if something were to transpire, would anyone on the Rays squad or staff have the supplies, courage or gumption to stave off a possible invasion of pinstriped or zombies speaking a crazy New England accent?

You bet there are a few I think might have thought this out ahead, possibly using the University of Florida Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide devised by the college a few years ago.

The thing that might worry me most is if it would happen during the season or during the team’s time off? I mean if the team were spread all over the country without their Rays resources, I suspect it would raise the percentages of players like Chris Archer, Wil Myers or maybe even Drew Smyly being devoured as they would not have the support and resources of the Rays as they both like to be outside supporting their causes with the masses.

downloadI know for sure Rays Travel Sec/Clubhouse Zombie Survivalist Chris Westmoreland (a Gator lover) would have supplies and maybe even a few nifty tricks of his own hidden among the many storerooms and darkened spaces underneath Tropicana Field.  I mean the guy goes everywhere prepared for the best and worst scenarios, so you know he has something planned out, even if it never happens (or so they say).

And we all know Rays Manager Joe Maddon, Third Base Coach Tom Foley will organize a eat-in possibility for the zombies featuring a buffet meal made by the Rays skipper and Rays staffers serving brains, entrails and other delicacies every zombie craves along with a T-shirt so they can show others they were at the “Zom Nom Nom” event.

As for guys on the squad, I agree Jeremy Hellickson would surrender, possibly offer himself as an autograph signer and early appetizer for Maddon’s Zom Nom Nom as the guy already has the perfect zombie nickname ”Hellboy”.

images-cropI know Rays Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi, Video Coordinator aka “Wichita” or “Chico” Fernandez will have Cursi’s back as they seem to always be a team effort off the field. Seriously, with the gear Cursi wears for games and Chico’s cunning and skill set, these two might be the guys to be around if it ever hit the fan.

But there are a few other who might not go down so easy such as Grant Balfour who might just scare the zombies away with his blue-streaked verbal altercation followed by a nice stiff fastball to the cranium. If I was a zombie I do not think I would mess with the “Agitated Aussie”, or wear the 162 stitch reminder of the encounter on my forehead forever.

images (1)Kevin Kiermaier and Vince Belnome who love the outdoors and are avid hunters and fisherman might just crack back their crossbows and let a few fly long and hard into an unsuspecting zombie hoard.

Along that same line you might see  Rays VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman transform his inner want to not be a part of the “walking dead” , but give the Rays every opportunity on the battlefield to be successful. Possibly get a few players from the Las Vegas Area 51 minor league squad or the Albuquerque Isotopes for a few Bowling Green Hot Rods prospects.

Seriously here folks with shows on the air like “The Walking Dead”, “The Last Ship”, “The Strain” and possibly many more in production, are the people in the entertainment world trying to tell and warn us  of something currently just beyond our horizon?

maxresdefaultWho knows what the answer is, but if there is just such an event and you see that Rays players James Loney, Jose Molina and Jeremy Hellickson are signing for fans……Be wary, be very wary of them being used as bait for that always hungry pinstriped mob.

Wonder if Luke Scott would be willing to sign a Zombie incentive-laced contract? We know that guy can shoot, plus he has the right mental aptitude, but he has to wear the Chewy mask….That would be a moral imperative.

Who do you think among the Rays squad would survive, be devoured or just plain go bonkers on some undead rival fans?

 

 

 

4 Former Rays in the Fight for a A L C S Ring

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This weekend  as teams in the American League made their final pushed to secure a American League Divisional Series crown, several former Tampa Bay Rays had their own imprints on who and how these ALDS series would end.

By966ImCYAAkoPbWith regards to hurlers, we saw 2 American League Central division rivals who on Sunday took to their pitching mounds on opposite sides of our nation’s shores battle it out to either extinguish or extend their team’s post season dream.

We all sat and witnessed early on Sunday as Detroit Tigers southpaw David Price provided his team an ample chance to extend their A L D S series, their once potent bats went suddenly silent and with it the Tigers were swept by the Baltimore Orioles.

images (5)Price only made one untimely judgment during his 8 inning, 5-hit, 2-run appearance on a lone pitch that Baltimore DH Nelson Cruz sent to right field for a 2-run Home Run that also secured all the runs the Orioles would need to sweep their A L D S series against the Tigers in away confines of Comerica Field.

And as Price and his team gathered their packed their gear for the last time in 2014 , another former Rays pitcher was to write himself into the M L B history books.  

Just a time zone away as the Orioles celebrated their A L D S conclusion with their home fans, James Shields and his Royals teammates were in the midst of securing their own ticket to the ALCS and provided yet another unique story line to the Royals ever-expanding Cinderella storybook postseason.

download (1)Shields might have given up an early Home Run to Mike Trout to spot the Angels a 1-0 lead, but his teammates had his back on this day.  The Royals provided their own 3-run barrage in the bottom of the 1st to give Shields some much needed run support and with additional 2-run bursts in the bottom of the 3rd and 4th innings, provided all the offensive firepower needed for the Royals.

The Royals did not only defeat the heavily favored Angels on Sunday, but finished off their A L D S sweep of the Angels in front of their home fans.

Shields provided an adequate 6 inning,  6-hit, 2-run outing that were only tarnished by Home Runs by Trout and Albert Pujols. The Angels 2 most powerful hitters could of changed the series landscape , but their solo HRs were the only runs given up by Shields.

Interesting side note, the only other Angels run was given up by former Rays RP Wade Davis who came on in the top of the 8th inning when former Rays farm hand Josh Hamilton scored Howie Kendrick from Third Base to plate the last run of the contest for the visiting Angels.

images (1)The Orioles also boast two other former Rays in INF Kelly Johnson and DH/OF Delmon Young. Now I’m really happy to see Johnson get a chance at the post season and especially as he has been on the roster of almost everyone in the American League East at some point in the last 2 seasons.

Johnson deserves this kind of celebratory goodness as the guy is a team player who just enjoys the game and still gets excited when he sees his name on the line-up card.  

My personal feelings aside about Delmon Young, I’m glad he got to see his former team, the Tigers, leave the field as he enjoyed celebrating a A L D S title with his new O’s squad.

Johnson was an intricate pick-up for the O’s near the end of the season bringing in the versatile Johnson to play wherever needed, and providing a stop-gap at Third Base that was left vulnerable by Manny Machado’s late season ending injury.

Johnson’s only appearance in the A L D S was as a pinch-hitter for Caleb Joseph in Game 2 in the 8th inning and he flied out to center field. 

downloadYoung however did not only get a chance to shine in Game 2 himself, but his pinch-hit 3-RBI double into deep left field for Ryan Flaherty  plated the games winning run in the Orioles 7-6 victory.

Young’s heroic pinch hit during game 2 got him a start in left field for Game 3, but he was lifted for David Lough in the top of the 9th inning after going 0-3 on the day.

Still, Young and Johnson should be on the Baltimore A L D S roster when the A L C S contests begin Friday, October 10th in Camden Yards with the Royals sending Shields to the hill to try and give the Orioles their first defeat of the 2014 post seeason.

Going to be interesting to see if Shields or Davis get a chance (or two) to face their former teammate Young, or Johnson during the A L C S.

By9r9YVCcAAYjttNo matter who’s squad ends up winning the 2013 American League crown,  I am proud as heck of Shields, Davis, Johnson and even Young for being parts of their team want and hope to raise not only banners, but champagne on their quest for a World Series journey.  

And lest we forget, because the American League defeated the National League in the 2014 All-Star Game, the World Series will ultimately begin soon enough in either Baltimore or Kansas City.

Never would have envisioned these two teams fighting for the right to represent their league in the World Series. Proves once again there is no such thing as a “sure thing” in regards to baseball, and I would not have it any other way.P

 

 

 

Tampa Fires First Rays Stadium Volley

 

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Boom!

First savoy concerning the Tampa Bay Rays future home has now been ceremonially sent over the city of  St. Petersburg’s bow.

No warning shot, no cautionary parlay, just plain old pirate warfare at its finest.

The cannon ball pierced the daytime sky and cut to the chase the St. Pete rivals wants and desires for the Rays franchise. Sure this first volley was not a direct hit by the larger metropolitan city who seems to have money to burn, and a populous eager to fill the seat of a still invisible stadium somewhere among their vast and ever expanding city limits.

download (1)It is the first move by our rival city to steal yet another sports franchise from St. Petersburg. I know some of you who have not lived here all your life might not know the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and Arena Football’s Tampa Bay Storm used to play under the tiled roof of Tropicana Field known back then as “the Thunderdome”.

Sure those two teams might have envisioned their stay in the Trop. as “layovers”, but Tampa has never really gotten over the fact St. Petersburg, before John C Williams and Peter Demens bought their tracts of land and laid their tracks was part of Hillsborough County.

In fact, before Demens won his bet to name the city after his own birthplace, St. Petersburg, Russia, this little oasis bordered by water on 3-sides was called Hillsboro Point.  Sometimes I truly feel the reason for such hostility among the residents of these two cities is such a childish case of peninsula envy.

imagesSo the Hillsborough County Commission (HCC) voted on Weds to let the region’s top sports management icon, the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) to act as their proxy in initiating a up front assault on poaching the Tampa Bay Rays from the clutches of St. Petersburg.

Come on, that is right in line with the thought processes of a quasi-pirate city to evoke a cannon fodder attack, send in the mercenaries from the riggings and let them take the pure frontal attack and counter measures themselves without the Hillsborough County Commission getting any blood or grime on their Sunday best.

And in a way it is smart. The TSA is a regional sports heavy hitter who has the monetary coffers to rebuff financial penalties that could be imposed by the city of St. Pete as well as a slew of Barbary lawyer types who have fought this type of battle before within the scope of sports relocation and providing adequate advance piles of legal paper that would choke even the most enthusiastic St. Pete counter attack.

download (2)Since TSA is only acting as an agent of the HCC, they are not a city trying to poach or do a classic snatch and grab of the Rays, they are a proxy agent of St. Petersburg’s neighbor to the west trying to entice and entertain the Rays voluntarily packing their suitcases and making a move knowing they have a legal ammo and financial booty in their treasure chests to stave off a St. Petersburg cloak and dagger move of their own.

With one of the Rays biggest early supporters, former St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster now job-less and bobbing in the briny Tampa Bay deep, his Mayoral predecessor, Rick Kriseman has recently approached the Rays to sit and institute a mutual parlay of sorts and with that, the H C C and  Tampa saw their chance to evoke their will and appoint the T S A as their own envoy to parlay on their behalf in regards to a future Rays home in their vista, not in the haven of St. Petersburg.

download (3)The H C C also on Weds. Appointed a small group to scout out stadium locations, seek out viable ways of funding such a venture as well as possibly begin working out some sort of agreement between the Rays and the HCC and Tampa.

Believe me the Tampa group has the population, corporate numbers as well as the financial ingenuity to evoke the Rays gaze from the St. Petersburg or Pinellas  County possible stadium sites. On their side also was the well-known opinions of Major League Baseball that the region would never be host to World Baseball Classic contests or a potential All-Star game as long as the area’s only baseball vista was Tropicana Field.

Within the volley over St. Petersburg’s bow was this comment by H C C Commissioner Ken Hagan: ” I’am cautiously optimistic that the time is very near. The message that we want to send today to Major League Baseball and the Rays is that Hillsborough County is ready, and we’re ready to hit the ground running when that time comes and I am hopefully it is imminent.”

images (1)It is going to be interesting to see what St. Petersburg, or for that matter, the St. Pete. City Attorney and City Council decide in a counter attack to this sly but well executed verbal volley by their regional rivals.

Will St. Pete send a legal counter, a frontal attack showing Tampa and Hillsborough will have to raise their funds via a tax hike or possibly legal referendums, to fight back that any region wanting this team will not only have to pay the Rays lease amounts through 2027, but will pay mightily if they want to steal this gem from the clutches of St. Pete’s hand.

And do not think for a moment the Rays fans in Sarasota, Manatee, Pasco and the rest of Pinellas County are not watching this battle with some concern. If the team went East, some of most of these fans would not be Season Ticket holders as their commute would double in some cases and their Rays ventures might be limited to weekend packs or limited visits.

images (2)This battle is not only about St. Pete versus Tampa, this whole region and the scattered Rays fan base all have to be both worried and happy someone has finally thought to beginning the discussion again for a Rays future home and that the first volleys have been fired.

Believe me, this is going to get really nasty and downright costly to one party before it is all sign, sealed and delivered.

May be best city win (as long as it’s St. Pete/Pinellas County).

What If………..

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What if……..

Some say that is the first phrase uttered by those in denial or left wanting for an answer. Two words shouted to the heavens asking for some divine or intelligent intervention into how their beloved team could have fallen this far from their past grace and the lofty expectations transposed on this team even before they began play in April.

imagesNo one who follows, plays for or works with the Tampa Bay Rays could of possibly imagined this stark reality that would be evident about this team’s 2014 campaign 5 months later. No matter the Rays rise or fall during these terse 6 months, no one envisioned the team not playing for anything in the last 10-odd games of their season.

So maybe it is time to possibly throw out some opinions, rely on some facts and maybe come to terms with a season that sent us on a pure emotional rollercoaster ride to the greatest heavens and at time tumbling right back down to Earth with the stark realization that sweat, talent and confidence are not the sole catalysts to winning games.

Remember as you read this, it is only my personal guesswork and not a certification of the direction the team will take, should of taken or will entertain this winter….It is just my humble words thrown out for everyone to dissect into a million characters. Enjoy.

What if the Rays had signed free agent Nelson Cruz as their Designated Hitter? Would he have duplicated his 2014 season in Carolina Blue?

images (2)This was actually a question someone asked me on Sunday and it does have merit, but I think besides the steroid residue that would have followed Cruz here to Tampa Bay, the $8 million the Orioles paid Cruz might have been a bit steep for the Rays to handle financially. Plus the Rays Clubhouse culture might not have been a good fit for Cruz, but we also will never know if he could of adjusted and been a key component of this year’s squad.

Who knows, Cruz should be a free agent after the season, and with him showing he can still power the ball as well as be steroid free, the Rays would kick the tires, but even with Cruz’s current ‘14 resume of 39 HR and 106 RBI (as of 9/22) it might not be enough as a ‘15 salary seeking $ 9-10 million and someone wearing his favorite #23 jersey (Jake Odorizzi should quickly end the Rays interest.  

What if Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore had stayed injury free?

images (3)Wow! Without a shadow of a doubt this team would have been different. Would it have been enough change to possibly change the end of the season outcome…..Without a doubt, but I’m a card carrying optimist.

But that doesn’t mean I would be calling out another revival of rising to the Rays 2008 level, or anticipated the backward tumble of 2009. I hate to admit it, but a few good things did happen for the Rays rotation because of those setbacks.

We found out the true fire and nature of Chris Archer, Cobb when he got healthy took the reins and never let go possibly posting one of the 6 best ERA (with possibly 2 starts to go) in the American League….And we saw the maturation process that beset Jake Ordorizzi from rookie nerves and indecision to transforming into a true 5th starter for this team.

What if we had held onto David Price instead of trading him to Detroit?

downloadThis is a question that will take a few more seasons before we know the true essence of this trade. I am also one of those anxious to see how young prospect Willy Adames advances in the Rays farm system. Also a post Trade Deadline Price has produced a 3-4 record and a 4.09 ERA (possibly 2 more starts) since the trade, the Southpaw sent as a left-handed option for the Rays rotation has been pretty Price-like. Drew Smyly posted a 3-1 record with a 1.70 ERA while also putting up 44 K’s on 47.2 innings.

I think this trade worked in the Rays future favor as Smyly is a salary friendly option and Adames is already viewed by some as a future Rays SS and he is still at the Class-A level.

What if Wil Myers had not missed 81 games with his wrist injury?  

images (4)My ESPN Fantasy League stats predictions for Myers showed him posting numbers like: 81 runs, 25 HR, 91 RBI and a .267 average. At the beginning of 2014 he was owned by a majority of the teams in the leagues, but today only 35.3% of people have stuck with Myers.

His offensive output was missed extremely by the Rays, but his absence also got us a great introduction to some future Rays “Outlaw” ways. If you had to find any shining moment out of Myers pain it was the pure fact we got to see over 103+ games with Kevin Kiermaier on the squad. With them both playing together here in the latter days of the season, we might be witnessing transformation of the Rays outfield to a bit more speed and aggression in 2015.  

What if Grant Balfour had retained that same fire and not lost some of his edge?

download (1)When Balfour signed that 2-year contract everyone was on his bandwagon. After a few stellar years showing his stuff on the West Coast with the A’s, the Rays envisioned Balfour taking the back end of the Bullpen and stabilizing it while Jake McGee slowly moved his way to that spot.

Balfour’s falling from grace and possibly a bit of “dead arm” for a spell pushed McGee into the spotlight and for a guy doing the closer’s role for the first time, his game was more hit than miss. With Balfour taking a step back into a set-up role now I can see the Rays using him as bait to a team that might need a proven closer and potent rally killer. This is not to mean the Rays will accept small fish for Balfour, but he could easily be in another uniform if the right return can be found for him.

images (1)Okay, that is just a few of the “what If” trains of thought that were thrown my way during the last home stand.  After these final 6 away games the Rays will conclude their season, return to the Trop and pack for home.

At that moment the questions will immediately change from “What if” to “What can we expect” as we begin another off season with question galore and many 2015 answers to ponder.

What direction can we expect the Rays to go?….T B D.

 

 

Peering Through the Rays Looking Glass- Hurlers

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Rays “Man about the Stands” Todd Kalas has informed us all that with a Kansas City or Oakland win tonight (9/19/14), the Rays will be mathematically eliminated from any more post season banter in 2014.

With that in mind, it is time for the second installment of “Peering through the Rays Looking Glass” and focus today on the Rays pitching corps for 2015.

057Going into the spring of 2015 this has to be one of the most secure spots within the Rays organization, but there are some changes that could, should or will happen before the boys again unpack their gear in Port Charlotte in February 2015.

So let’s start with the obvious first here. The Rays rotation might need a few tweaks, but there also might be an omission or deletion before the team again assembles for that yearly pre-Spring pep talk by Joe Ma on the green grass.

I definitely have been hearing great things on the progress of Matt Moore in his rehab and come spring, I consider him 1-L on the Rays starting rotation chart. Sure that might seem funny to some, but has been the case here in Tampa Bay for some time, there are 2 starters who deserve that # 1 position heading into 2015.

thI1Y37WIMOf course I have already assigned one half of that equation to Moore, and it only seem appropriate and totally earned that Alex Cobb will be the Rays 1-R or top right-handed option heading into next season. I’m not going to attach either to a #1 or #2 slot basically because I’m not sure yet which kind of order the Rays Front Office and Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey envision to be the best fit.

That being said, these two names will be at the top of the chart no matter the decision, and that decision will also fully decide the 3-5 slots also.

Just as the Rays #1 and #2  Rays pitching matchups are probably months away from being in some sort of concrete mode, the Rays # 3 and #4 spots might also be a total guess work right now and are totally interchangeable at this moment.

But even with that in mind, Rays left-hander Drew Smyly and Chris Archer should definitely be more than penciled in as the Rays middle rotation guys with either taking the #3 or #4 slot possibly based on a L-R-L-R rotation mix or Maddon could go L-R-R-L giving the Rays possibly a southpaw in every series being blanketed by a tough right-hander.

thILL9QYITEven though Jake Odorizzi produced a very respectable 2014 season and popped out great starts throughout 2004, I suspect he will face a nice dose of competition this spring to hold onto the Rays 5th rotation spot.  I can easily imagine Merrill Kelly, Alex Colome and possibly a veteran being signed by the Rays on the cheap to battle it out in spring training for this last rotation slot.

As Maddon always says, “Pitching sets the tone” again in 2015 on just how far or how low the Rays end up early or late in the American League East standings.

You might notice I did not include Jeremy Hellickson this rotation list. I think that this winter the Rays will definitely offer him up as a trade piece not only because he seems a bit injury prone, but because his salary is only going to rise and he might not be the solid investment for the Rays he was just 2 seasons ago. I would not be surprised if a change of scenery sparks Hellboy back into a frenzy quite possibly to the heights experienced by former Rays P Scott Kazmir this year in Oakland.

thG080DJ9VUnlike Price, Hellboy has not seen his stock rise in value the last few years and it might be time for the Rays to let Hellickson try another vista and re-establish himself.

Some have labeled 2014 a disaster year for the Rays because of their less than .500 overall record and their lack of offensive excellence, but the Rays found out in 2014 that this young staff will step up, will compete and will produce wins even with a less than desired run support by the field players.

But there is also another set of hurlers who will have a say in 2015 and just how far and fast the Rays can rebound again to regain their winning ways.

Leftie Jake McGee has more than shown us in 2014 that he has the right stuff to be our last line of defense, but some of the other pieces of the Rays Bullpen puzzle might have bigger question marks after lackluster 2014 seasons.

Bruce Boxberger’s pitching arm definitely will get him another shot in 2015 to stay at the M L B level, and if he can stay consistent, his spot on the Rays roster can only grow more secure with each great outing.

th02DTSMX8Even though Grant Balfour has another year on his contract with the Rays, he might be a nice piece of bait to wiggle out there for a team that needs a veteran closer who never lets his baseball fires burn out. I like Balfour and his fire, but the money spent on him could be used to bring in 2 relief pieces and with a team that will be pinching pennies ‘til they scream, Balfour is  a cautiously expendable commodity that could be in high demand somewhere else this winter.

You might think the Rays might have an easy decision to make this winter on Joel Peralta, who has been a fine set-up piece for the team. Starting this winter, the Rays hold 3 different club options on Joel in 2015-17. I do not see Peralta going anywhere, but depending on the size of cuts the team will have to make on payroll heading into 2015, his worth to the Rays teeters more on the good side than bad.

thXVN39TTLAlex Colome, who is now out of minor league options could be key pieces to any 2015 realignment of the Rays bullpen. Colome could easily be either the Rays 5th starter, spot starter or just inherit the long reliever slot in the bullpen. Colome has at least 2 more starts in the Rays rotation in 2014, but an impressive 2015 spring could hoist his name easily as a 5th slot contender.

With young relievers like Steve Getz, Brandon Gomes, Jeff Beliveau, Cesar Ramos, Kirby Yate and even C J Riefenhauser getting time this year to impress the Rays in extended looks and chances in 2015, one of the Rays next waves of players being selected from the minors might have a definite reliever flavor.

Some might think the name of the Rays Reliever of the Year and current Durham Bulls closer Adam Liberatore should be pushed onto this list. Sure he will get a spring major league camp invite, but the Rays still  have a hand full of minor league options on him and could bring him in more for seasoning and extended work with the M L B staff than promote him before quite possibly September 2015 or a more realistically during  2016.

248An extended injury to McGee before 2016 could escalate his chances to gain a quicker M L B chance to impress during the regular season.

Sure the Rays will sign a few veteran and even productive name to spring camp, but I do see the Rays current young and hungry relievers fighting them off tooth and nail to be a part of the Rays machine come late March 2015.

Each of the above relievers should get a chance in the latter stages of 2014 to make impressions and even get a longer look this upcoming spring in the major league camp and it would not surprise me if more than 3 of them break camp with a 25-man secured spot.

The pure unadulterated strength of the Rays heading into 2015 is their great pitching and the depth of said commodity in their farm system.

th37PB61VFThis is a time where the Rays could find more than a few intricate pieces of their 2015 puzzle with very affordable and team controlled contracts that could help the team survive and thrive through the lower payroll expectation of 2015.

It is possible the team might look to shave $20-30 million this winter and if that does come to reality, Hellickson, Balfour and quite possibly Peralta might be the viable and most costly options that get more than a few long and hard looks as to their worth in the Rays pitching corps.

 

 

Peering Into My Rays 2015 Looking Glass-Position Players

2015

 

Well, Dandy Don has sung and the large but svelte woman in that Viking cap has vocally acknowledged the Tampa Bay Rays have lost that final grasp on any chance at an October date with destiny. So the chase is now over, but a few games still remain.

Over the next 2 weeks I think we will see a few slices of what might and could happen this winter in regards to our hometown Rays.

th3JODA4XGWe already know we will not see any fashion of a  $80 million payroll in 2015, but the Rays have a lot of pieces to consider this winter, some expendable, and some they have to keep at all costs. Might be a interesting winter as the Rays have a chance to push out another cycle of truly young pitching talent, might dangle a few names on their hook, and possibly be seeking a consistent power bat that could awaken an offense that rises and falls more than the tides in Tampa Bay.

From behind the plate to down the First Base line in the Bullpen, the Rays have some important work to do to not only up their offensive firepower, but also to shore up a reliever corps that did not have that secure level of consistency we have grown accustom to here.

I truly suspect the Rays will not only dangle but seek out a possible trade partner to take on veteran backstop Jose Molina’s 2015 salary. With the solid emergence of Curt Casali behind the dish in 2014, it makes Molina not only an extra body behind the plate, but a large salary that could be used to possibly secure a power bat for the Rays lineup.

thAWBZUW96In Casali’s favor right now is that he is showing great command of the Rays pitching corps and currently hold the best catcher’s ERA of 2.0 in the majors. He has caught Alex Cobb 6 times this season and sports a 1.09 ERA with Cobbster on the hill, including framing pitches during Cobb’s recent no-hitter adventure.

I think Ryan Hanigan is on solid ground, but people in Cincinnati probably thought the same before the 2013 offseason. Helping his cause for 2015 is definitely his current .306 average in 11 starts since coming back off the DL on August 26th.

Now in regards to the Rays infield. It would seem that 3 of the 4 slots are already occupied by players who should be rubber stamped in as starters for 2015.  Sure anything can happen, but these 3 players also have contracts inked with the team, some long-term, some with quicker expiration dates.

James Loney seems secure at First Base especially since he signed that 3-year #21 million contract in 2014 and should man the Rays 1B bag possibly until someone on the way up in the Rays farm system pushes him off it.  But also making Loney an easy name to pencil in is his superb bat skills and being great at GTMI (Get The Man In). Heading into Sunday’s contest Loney has 66 RBIs, second only to Evan Longoria.

thEFVI841BDo not be surprised if the Rays possibly show Sean Rodriguez a bit more at First Base in 2015. There is no guarantee the Rays will keep S-Rod, but he has been one of the most consistent pieces of the Rays utility corps right alongside Ben Zobrist.

Speaking of Zorilla, could this offseason be the first one where the Rays ask Zobrist to possibly take a few more turns at First as a possible fill-in should the team not re-sign Rodriguez? We all know Rays Manager Joe Maddon is S-Rod’s biggest supporter, but his salary is climbing and with less dollars in the till, could Rodriguez be one of the Rays biggest question marks going into the winter.

Third Base is all Evan Longoria’s until health or just plain age ripe him off the hot corner. People forget Longo is itching close to that big 3-0 that sometimes robs a player of agility and quickness needed to prevent screamers down the line. I do not see 2015 as the season Father Time begins to creep up on Longoria, but if he does we could possible see Tim Beckham or Logan Forsythe as guys to pencil in with spot starts.

th2I88KN6BLongoria did have what many consider a sub-par season in 2014, but he still leads the team in most offensive categories and is still the Rays Clubhouse figurehead, and that will not change for some time. His tear in offense since the All-Star break might just be to him finally finding that mechanics groove we have been waiting for all this season.

Shortstop is also a spot that seems secure, but has also been a spot of ups and downs in 2014. Now I like the spirited play of Yunel Escobar, but I think a healthy Hak-Ju Lee could press Escobar with a outstanding spring. You know subconsciously the Rays Front Office would love this kind of competition considering one would command a MLB minimal salary (Lee), and the other $5 million.

You might wonder why the Rays did not bring up Lee or Beckham in September or after Durham finished their postseason run. Both have 2 minor league options left and if neither fights nor gains a 25-man roster slot in 2015, that gives the Rays some flexibility to hold onto them at least in Durham.

thNYXYJESCSecond Base might again be a “insert here” space in the Rays infield. With names like Nick Franklin, Forsythe, Lee and Beckham possibly fighting for a chance to line up at 2B, this might be one of the most contested spots during the spring of 2015.

Sure you could put Zobrist firmly in black ink in this spot, but I think Maddon still loves to tinker and place Zobrist and his many gloves wherever he sees a possible weakness. I truly think we will see Zobrist either swapping gloves a lot again in 2015, or he will be gone. I think a lot depends on the Rays evaluation of what they could obtain via a winter trade for Zorilla while he still has ample value to a team looking for a players who has a command of his offensive and defensive skills.

The Rays might end up coming out of 2015 spring training with their youngest outfield trio since their inception. I have an odd feeling this might be the other place where competition will be strong and possibly we see a name or possibly 2 change uniforms in direct response to possible 2015 salary as opposed to their overall value to the team.

thNOJJ6HYGOutfielders Matt Joyce and possibly Desmond Jennings might also see their names in print a bit more during the Rays off season. Not because they are not valued or important Rays pieces, but there is a younger crew of Rays outfielders led by Wil Myers and Kevin Keirmaier who can provide the same offense and defensive excellence at a more modest price.

The Rays also need to make a valued judgment on Brandon Guyer who doesn’t have any minor league options remaining. This whole Guyer situation might come down to a mirror image evaluation that the Rays had to make on Sam Fuld before the 2014 season. Believe me, if the Rays find value in keeping Guyer, he could definitely slot in as the team’s 4th or 5th outfield option without a problem.

I will no discuss the DH position since I think that will be a hired bat or possibly more Longoria and Zobrist in 2015 if the team can not find an adequate stick that can elevate the Rays offense.

In addition Maddon could use any variety of bench selections to insert or delete at his leisure. Designated Hitter might be a revolving door for the Rays if a valued bat is not found before the spring of 2015. 

thVSZNTP0FI have a feeling we will see a leaner and more stat-infused Rays team over the next 2 years. The Rays will again possibly show a “youth movement” as most positions will be secured by vets, but the younger corps of the team could mature into the offensive pieces the Rays lacked in 2014.

With a slimmed down payroll and some veterans nearing the cusp of free agency, the Rays might call upon their striving younger core to provide a cohesive and focused 2015 nucleus.

 

Largest Sea Evacuation in History – Sept 11, 2001

 

“I Thought I was watching a movie, “Towering Inferno” at first. And then I looked real close and I noticed it was the World Trade Center. I was compelled because I am the kind of person who can’t stand by and watch other people suffer. And to me they were suffering as they wanted to get off the island. And there was no way for them to get off the island other than the water. And I noticed when I was watching the television I saw a lot of you know the the ferries going up into the slips to take people off . I said, fine we can do the same thing.  I can take people on my boat. Get in there, take them where they have to go. And that’s what I did. 

- Vincent Ardolino, Captain of the Amberjack V

download (1)September 11th has a different meaning to each of us. Some watched stunned while others vented anger and hostility towards an enemy we could not point to with clarity. Others wanted immediate answers to questions even today we still ponder.

We all have our thoughts and memories of this day when lives were lost and a majestic icon crumbled to the hardened soils of lower Manhattan. Moments of silence, work stoppages and tears will fall on this day as our generation of Americans each revisits, remembers and salute those who we never saw again, those souls living and gone who rescued hundreds on that morning.

download (2)September 11, 2001 as a nation watched in horror and disbelief that such suffering reached our shores another band of men bounded together to pull off the largest maritime rescue mission in the history of the world.

The video above is a reminder that if nothing else can be attributed to September 11, 2001, we can definitely see it as the day our nation’s humanity embraced us all, and unlikely heroes rose all around us….even on the waterways bordering that grit encrusted island.

On that day, 500,000 people wanted a way off that island. The transit system had been shut down, bridges and tunnels on lockdown and movement off that bustling borough was erratic and pedestrian at best. Hundreds began to line the seawalls and docks along the river wanting safe passage away from the expanding madness that had become Manhattan.

imagesIt might have started off as simple as 1 boat or even several craft offering a chance for the gathering masses sometimes 10 people deep to make way to New Jersey and a sense of normality that was in slim supply at the moment upon the shores of this New York peninsula.

It was estimated that over 2,000 people who were injured during the tragedy made their way to safe havens via the ever-expanding floatilla.

Before September 11th, the largest sea mission of this type had been the Dunkirk rescue mission in which 339,000 troops had been transferred off the beaches and brought back to the shores of England. That mission took a total of 9 days.

downloadThe evacuation shown in the video above where half a million people were transported to a safer haven was completed in 9 hours.

So the next time you are in NYC, or maybe even taking a ferry from New Jersey, Staten Island or even a pleasure cruise in the region, the man at the helm might have been involved in this heroic adventure that so many never even knew had happened.

Thankfully in a day that will forever be engulfed in terror and loss of life the sense of humanity shown by these souls who traverse the waterways of New York City also rose to the occasion and brought comfort and a small slice of normalcy to the chaos.

More Rays Decisions on the Horizon

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With just 20 days left in the 2014 season for the Tampa Bay Rays, you can expect an abundance of decision, changes and shifts in their usual format in regard to pitching, fielding assignments and possibly the last shuffle of players after the Durham Bulls complete their drive to try and retain the Governor’s Cup.

thYXLXH91BWe have saw one decision rear its ugly head on Tuesday as the Rays decided they would shut down starter Drew Smyly. The Rays only leftie currently in their rotation will be replaced by right-hander Nathan Karns who was to pitch on Thursday in Game 4 of the Governor’s Cup series, but will now toe the rubber for the Rays in Yankee Stadium for their last contest against the Yankee in 2014.

Even though the Rays have not been formally declared out of the post season, the shutting down of Smyly who has been a bright spot in the latter stages of the season signals the Rays looking ahead to 2015.

Now that doesn’t mean the Rays will re-invent themselves over the next 3 weeks, but the usual line-ups and match ups might go a little left and right and the Rays experiment and try out some new combos or fielding assignment to test their current corps of rostered players.

The first of these movements towards the future might be in feeling out the limitations or flexibility of Brandon Guyer. We all know Guyer has the heart and soul to play with this team, but if he shows a little more flexibility and resourceful use, possibly in Center Field, the Rays might extend their hands and provide Guyer with ample opportunity before the last contest in Cleveland.

thS5U101GFOver the next few weeks I suspect we might see a few tinkers with the lineup seeing if other players can adapt, convert and possibly excel at other spots in the 1-9 slot of the Rays lineup card. We could see a few new names attached to Third Base giving Evan Longoria a few more reps at DH.

Quite possibly we could also see if the Rays value certain player who have been established as 2015 options, or possible trade fodder this winter. One name I think you might want to watch close is the ways the Rays use Matt Joyce over the final games.

Joyce is still under team control in 2015, but I truly thought 2014 was his year to shine or submerge and quite possibly the Rays might be on that same wave length. It is kind of a pity Joyce seemed to have drawn the long straw when Wil Myers went down. I thought the team would try and expand on Joyce’s worthiness through more at bats against lefties, but instead the team went to the minor league system and have made Kevin Kiermaier a new Tampa Bay household name.

The emergence of Kiermaier might makes Joyce expendable this winter, and an affordable name for another team to scoop up at a bargain. And with the Rays possibly experimenting with different outfield setups, names like Ben Zobrist, David DeJesus and Desmond Jennings might find a few teams calling about their availability this winter too.

thC0O2Q3OAAnother decision much like Smyly is on the horizon for the Rays as starters Jake Odorizzi has thrown for 154.2 innings and Chris Archer has 173.2 innings. Taking two fixtures out of the rotation might not happen, but seeing as current Durham starters Alex Colome has only 86 innings on the book before his next Governor’s Cup start, he could be a viable option for the Rays after Durham finishes their playoff run.

But not in Colome’s favor might be the pure fact that would give the Rays 5 starters who all throw from the right side of the rubber. The Rays could go with the option of bringing up 2 different lefties after the Durham playoff run, or promote another right-hander, Merrill Kelly as he only has 114 innings on his arm this season.

If the Rays did want to go the duo lefty option, Mike Montgomery and Enny Romero both have about 126 innings on their stats this year and could possibly be an option for 1-2 starts each to finish off 2014 plus give the team a real time evaluation on if they might be MLB ready in 2015.

th7BV3QC8DInfield wise I could see the Rays possibly bring up Hak-Ju Lee or maybe even Tim Beckham and throw them in Longoria’s spot at Third and test them on being viable future options or possible add-ons to a winter trade.

Who knows, maybe Rays can bring up a Ray…Olmedo to see if he could be a piece of the depth puzzle again next season either in Triple-A or with the Rays.

Everything is just speculation until certain things fall or are decided by the Rays. With the season winding down and the team all but .01% eliminated from any contention the Rays now only fear the calendar.

As soon as the Bulls complete their post season series I truly suspect a few of these name to appear quickly on the transaction wire.

Now if only the Bulls would hurry up and win the Governor’s Cup so we can really see what the Rays are thinking……for 2015.

 

Extreme Pressure on Rays as Post Season Chances Near Bursting Point

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Offensively we’ve been challenged this year, but today their guy was that good. We have to be the 2007 Rockies the rest of the way”.

This pressure-filled quote was uttered by Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon after his squad let an extremely important win pop out of their grasp today against the Boston Red Sox.

Inflate the bicycle tyreAnd to mention the ’07 Rockies in a quote with less than 25 games to go is like trying to add 5 extra pounds to that bicycle tire. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it blows right up in your face.

I am all for pumping up the guys in the Rays Clubhouse right now, getting their juices flowing and honing their focus, but bringing up a team that won 21 of their final 22 games to clinch a post season slot.

With 25 games to go in the 2014 season and the Rays currently being 14 games back in their division, the fight for another American League East championship has sailed.

So with that seasonal goal firmly off the table, the team can realign their focus on gaining one of the two American League Wild Card slots. Another good trading point for Maddon is the ’07 Rockies captured the National League Wild Card slot that season, then magic began to happen.

But I know one thing Maddon will not remind the Rays players is the pure fact that Colorado finished the 2007 season a ½ game behind N L West Division winner, the Arizona Diamondbacks and won 90 games that season.

20131002_ajl_ar7_003-f024b9fbbed4c733df86918e9cd1a78fSo possibly in comparing the Rays chances to the last season magic of that inspiring Colorado squad might be cutting the Rays odds a bit close to the razor’s edge, but if Maddon could pull this off in the same fashion as the Rockies, it might also be a slice of pure brilliance from the Rays skipper.

So that leaves a viable chance still for the Rays to make a few waves towards securing a AL Wild Card slot and the Rays are currently 8.5 games out in that race. To makes the waves even a bit harder to tame is the fact 2 AL East teams are in front of the Rays as well as a fired-up Seattle squad that is less than ½ game out of pushing Oakland behind them.

downloadEven more interesting is the fact that the Cleveland Indians are also firmly in the hunt for October and they play the Rays in a season ending 3-games series in C-Town that could have more even more significance if the Rays surge, or the Indians stay tightly gripped to the Wild Card race and the Rays could play spoilers.

But let me throw a little more honesty out while I’m at it here. That same 2007 Colorado squad after winning 21 of those 22 games kept the winning charm alive by popping off 7 straight victories to eliminate the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS and their NL West rival D-Backs to claim the National League Championship.

And in the end, winning 28 of those 29 games didn’t help as they met a swirling buzz saw in the World Series. Boston didn’t want any part of the Rockies “Purple Haze” form of winning and quickly eliminated any Rockies revival by beating them in 4 straight to take the 2007 World Series.

6a00d834515ddf69e20133ec9c59a0970b-500wiIronically, Boston has a hand in eliminating any Rockies-Rays comparisons by beating the Rays on Monday.

As long as this Rays team still have even a 0.01 percent chance of garnering a post season dream, I’ll believe in the magic because the alternative is something I do not wish to imagine until it slaps me hard in the face.

But then again, Maddon is a bike guy and may just know how much pressure he can put on his Rays bike tire before it blows Guess we shall find out.

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