Archive for the ‘ Tampa Bay Rays ’ Category

With Cabrera Now a Ray, Who in the Infield is Expendable?

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Sure he still has a physical to pass, but we might as well get used to pronouncing and saying Asdurbal Cabrera’s name here in Tampa Bay. His $8 Million 1-year deal will eat some of that fat cabbage the Rays have saved on a few deals already completed this off season, but his addition also means someone will surely be dealt in the coming weeks. 

The only real question remaining is when the Rays make a move to shed another high profile player.

images (7)You have to think the signing of Cabrera a shuffling of the Rays infield as the Rays would not have signed him as an everyday DH, or keep his defensive skills on the bench.

Now the question is which part of the Rays prolific 2014 double play tandem could be packing their gear? Do they entertain offers only for Ben Zobrist, or does the team also put Yunel Escobar on the trade block as a second viable option?

While most people would immediately point to 2B/INF Zobrist as being the odd man out, I am not so sure. Even though Zobrist is entering his walk season in 2015, the former AL All-Star might just be more valuable to the Rays.

images (4)Zobrist does have huge trade value in his “plug-him-in-anywhere” versatility that every team covets.

Of course this is just my opinion, but I think the Rays should keep a firm grip on Zorilla and possibly look a little more towards the Shortstop position for a guy who is expendable, especially with the Cabrera signing.

People tend to forget Cabrera was the Cleveland Indians starting SS in 2015 before his late season trade to the Washington Nationals who used him primarily as a Second Baseman.

With the Rays currently having Logan Forsythe and Nick Franklin on their roster, 2B is becoming a mighty crowded space and quite possibly the Rays could look a bit west of the pivot for some roster reevaluation.

So let’s take a gander at both Zobrists and Escobar’s number from 2014 and see who might be offensively expendable:

images (2)Zobrist played in 146 games in 2014 posting a .272 average with 10 HR and 52 RBis while maintaining a sparky .749 OPS. He also posted a .983 Fielding average with 8 errors, 224 assists and 44 double plays.

Stats might be viewed by some as close, but the reality is that Zobrist can be plugged into more offensive scenarios like hit and runs, suicide squeezes and running the base paths.

downloadIn comparison, Escobar played in 137 games, posted a .258 average with 7 HRs and 39 RBis and .664 OPS. Yunel posted a .965 Fielding average with 16 errors, 267 assists and 50 Double plays.

One last glaring stat about the pair: Zobrist had 10 stolen bases in 2014…..Escobar had 1 SB.

Escobar to me has been a great Rays player, but the switch-hitting Zobrist give the Rays more options both in the field and at the plate.  And Cabrera is a step better than the Rays current SS option of Escobar both on the field and with his bat and that combo could spell Escobar’s name being shopped harder than Zobrist right now.

images (8)So let’s compare Cabrera’s combined 2014 stats at the plate and in the field to further show Escobar might be a name to watch closely in the coming weeks.

Defensively Cabrera posted a .964 Fielding percentage with both the Nats and Indians in 2014, but he also posted a .995 Fielding percentage in 48 games with Washington as a Second Baseman.

Cabrera had a total of 15 errors in 2014, 14 with Cleveland, and 1 with Washington. If you combine his two teams, he posted 255 assists and 57 double plays.

images (6)These stats might conclude a dead heat for Escobar and Cabrera defensively, but when you look at their offensive numbers Cabrera might be the better offensive weapon for the Rays than Escobar.

Cabrera posted a combined .241 average, which might not be as appealing, but his 4 Triples and 14 HR show he still has some pop in his bat. Cabrera also had 61 RBIs and posted a .694 OPS.

Cabrera’s offensive totals might not get you jumping for joy, but put his name into the bottom half of the Rays lineup and the team instantly gets a second burst of potential power to drive in runs and provide stability for the bottom of the lineup.

images (9)Let’s not even remind ourselves Cabrera as a member of the Tribe was the AL All-Star in 2011-12, a Top 20 vote getter in the AL MVP Award, plus a Silver Slugger winner in 2011.

Escobar also was a Top 20 NL MVP vote getter in 2009 while with the Braves, but has never appeared in an All-Star game in while at the MLB level.

Ultimately you and I will not be making this decision, but you have to think that a offensively-challenged team like the Rays would keep their best power option not matter the salary.

Cabrera and _______ seems like a better double play tandem option in 2015. Now the Rays just have to decide if they pencil in Escobar’s name or Zobrist’s in that sentence heading into 2015.

Revisiting my 2009 All-Star Christmas Baseball Squad

 

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Every Christmas Eve it has become customary over the last several years for me to wander through the pages of MLBlogs and take a journey into the Christmas minds of some of our great bloggers.

This year my adventures turned up several great redux renditions of the Christmas classic poem “T’was The Night Before Christmas“, and I even found a few Holiday “Wish Lists” searching for wins, the postseason and an eventual ring for 2011.

As I was traveling through MLBlogs, I thought to myself, “Self, what would be the ultimate Christmas All Holiday baseball squad?”

I somehow answered my own question immediately in my mind and began to seek the right combination of Christmas-based characters both human and cartoon to field such a Holiday squad. I ventured back into the cobwebbed recesses of my past favorite memories on film and television.

Let me tell you that sometimes even Wikipedia can’t help as I entered into a vision quest to determine the right pairing of 10 players and coaches for the Polar Express. Being that we will be playing in the North American Winter League, I have instituted the Designated Santa on my team. I think this squad has the right hint of animation and human elements to make this team a winner.

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Starting Pitcher:

I decided that the only person who could be the starting pitcher for the Polar Express had to be Charlie Brown. His classic Christmas TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” first hit the CBS airwaves way back in 1965 and was an instant hit with kids of all ages.

I thought Brown was my perfect holiday pitcher because of his vast past experiences pitching.

Of course I did balk at the chance that Brown could somehow be suddenly de-clothed by a sharp liner up the middle after he hangs one of his patented mid-80’s curve balls. Brown has the uncanny fortitude to throw hard and long into games for the Express.

l_ba6928a902e743e3aa4411c4fc189fe3.jpgCatcher:

I did not have to think long and hard about the right guy to catch for this team. I did however need someone who had some brawn and might be dumb enough to sit back there and be ready for anything coming off the fingertips of Charlie Brown.

I considering all the positive and negative variables and kept with my first impression that Cousin Eddie from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” was the man for the job. “Christmas Vacation” first hit movie houses back in 1989 and became an instant classic for it’s off beat humor and odd but familiar family gathering situations. Eddie is a pretty big guy, and he looks like he could block the plate like an ice sheet.

Now that you have seen my pitcher/catcher battery, I decided that this team will not need any relief pitchers since it might have the 10-run rule in effect going into the 5th inning knowing the way Charlie Brown pitches to batters’. So let’s get you now acquainted with the 5 infielder I selected for my All Holiday team.

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First Baseman:

I wanted to get a guy who has some solid baseball experience to man the First Base bag. We needed a solid guy to protect the line and can post up correctly on the bag if the ball gets hit into the infield.

I chose a guy who owns a few minor league ball clubs in real life as my first bagger. I think he can do the job with a flair, and if not, provide a comedic relief maneuver or two while out hugging the bag.

I decided to with Francis Xavier Cross from the film “Scrooged“. I have always thought this was a awesome Nuevo take on the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.”

The film originally hit theatres back in 1988, and is still one of my favorite comedy movies for the holidays. I think that Bill Murray captured the perfect sarcastic essence of a socially detached Scrooge, and his comic genius shows brilliantly through in this adaptation.

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Second Baseman:

I wanted a Second Baseman who could be as quick as a rabbit (or bunny). He needed to have that rifle arm and accuracy to get the double play, or to cover the bag when Cousin Eddie launches a rocket to tag out a rambling polar bear trying to steal a base to get into scoring position. I with smart Ralphie Parker from “A Christmas Story” to play second base for me. 

The movie has been another holiday appetizer since its original screening date in 1983. Wonder if I can talk Ralphie into asking his Dad if he wants to sell that lamp yet?

In the film, Ralphie showed the type of moxie I want on Second Base who is smart enough to think on the fly to either talk about the notorious leg lamp, or just be quiet as a mouse.

Ralphie also has the determination and spunk to keep pestering his parents for that Red Ryder BB gun. Hopefully the ball coming in hard and fast from Cousin Eddie from behind the plate will not put his eye out.

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Shortstop:

My Shortstop has to be extra agile and have smarts to think on his feet at the same time. He has to be able to use his internally cold instincts to decide if the throw should be made, or possibly cover second as the pivot man on a ball hit to the first base side of the bag.

I think, that Hermie, the dentist elf from “Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer” would be the perfect guy to man the hole position for the Express. He showed remarkable smart judgment during the TV special, which first hit the networks in 1964. And with over 46 years of intelligent moves, Hermie should be a valuable addition to the squad.

will-ferrell-stars-buddy-new-line-cinemas-elf-499141Third Baseman:

Playing third, I had to find a big guy who could move laterally and go blindly into foul territory for pop-ups. He also had to have some horizontal versatility towards the chalk on the left-field line.

He had to be a power hitter to help produce runs and add some protection for our little squad. It had to be a movie character from the couple of years to add some youthful vitality and vigor.

My Third Baseman had to have the energy and the motivation to add to this teams awesome charismatic chemistry. The personality that fit like a glove perfectly to me was Buddy from the movie “Elf.”

He has the comedic chops to take one for the team and would sacrifice his body. His quick wit and glove along with his power stroke should provide more than a few Kodak moments as his long high drives make it over the high walled snow fences.

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Left Fielder:

My choice for Left Field could not have two-left feet. He has to have the agility and the coordination of an athlete, plus run like a deer.

He had to be sure footed and be able to dance in the outfield while chasing down flares and dying quails. The guy who I think would be a model Left-Fielder for this squad was George Bailey of “It’s A Wonderful Life“.

just hope George remembers to put some extra Zuzu petals in his uniform pants pockets before he takes the field. We know they are magical.

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Center fielder:

I needed to find a shrewd and sometimes calculating Center fielder. Someone who could snipe a base runner who made a mistake, or tried to score on his arm. I needed someone with a huge heart who would run and run all over the field and get the ball where ever it was on the field.

I needed someone who could exhibit some sense of emotion even if he is a problem-child at times, but plays the game on the team’s level too.

For that reason, I picked Grinch from the movie “The Grinch“. I wanted someone who could go from bad to good in a heartbeat. If he did make a bad play, or a questionable action on or off the field, I could just say it was the “Grinch just being the Grinch”.

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Right-Fielder:

I wanted to find a Right-Fielder who was not be afraid of the snow wall, or of sprinting towards a pop-up down the icy foul line. I wanted to see a nice combination of horizontal or vertical movement towards the failing sphere.

He needed to have a rifle arm and a uncanny wit about him to keep base runners honest on the base paths.

I chose Ernest from “Ernest Saves Christmas“. This 1988 sequel, to a sequel, to a sequel kept a long line of profitable movies going for over a decade.

We needed that kind of staying power in our Right Field. A streak like that can be contagious on a team. If the team has that kind of confidence, they will go above expectations and strive to be the best in the Winter League.

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Designated Santa:

I needed a huge lovable character who could also slam the tar out of the ball for this spot in the lineup. Someone who evokes the bit of charm and the joy of the big guy himself.

He had to be able to belly up to the plate and hit it a mile, or at least to the South Pole with his swing.

The guy I picked for this position has been cranking out several installments of his own movie franchise. I picked Scott Calvin as my Designated Santa from the movie, “The Santa Clause“.

That kind of confidence and staying power will be needed in the clutch for this team. It also helps protect the younger hitters on the team by showing the power and the possible results of pitching to this Christmas giant.

First and Third Base Coaches’

Now that we have finished with the fielding and Designated Santa position, let’s meet the two extraordinary base coaches’ selected for the Polar Express. Both come with their own sets of particular unique in-game behaviors, and both can help base runners and hitters alike in the game situations.

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First Base Coach:

Over in the First Base box we have a guy who can make the ball seem to “freeze” in mid-air. He was instrumental in teaching players how to hit frozen ropes down the line for extra bases hit for the 2010 Express.

This Coach has been described as a cold hearted soul, who can always melt you with just his smile.

His cunning direction and cool nature makes him the perfect First Base Coach for this team. I am talking about the always cool cat known as the Snow Miser.

He was in the 1974 classic movie ” A Year Without Santa Claus“, and has been giving icy banter to opposing players for years. His cold demeanor is legendary. He uses his cold hard facts to make the opposition freeze in their tracks while trying to diving for low balls or foul pop-ups hit by the Polar Express.

He is the kind of guy you do not want nipping at your nose, and the perfect Coach for this team.

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Third Base Coach:

Our Third Base Coach is a Christmas Hall of Fame legend. He had been blazing the trail like a beacon in the night for years pioneering the use of unique signals and well placed lighting to facilitate the proper transfer of anticipated moves and pre-arranged actions to Polar Express base runners’ and batters’.

His expert knowledge of reindeer games and his leadership expertise is unparallel in the Winter League. I am talking about the brilliant Rudolf. Since his first sighting on televisions in 1964, he has been leading a lighted path for children and players alike to the real spirit of Christmas.

His classic “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” TV special is a holiday necessity that is even today without an equal. It is for that reason that he should be the perfect choice as the Third Base Coach for this high-powered squad of Christmas icons.

Without Rudolf showing us the way on Christmas, we would be blinded by the darkness and might end up losing our way around the base paths.

It has been a great pleasure today giving you some of my All Time Christmas iconic players that had to take the field for this special squad.

There certainly will be your own thoughts and rationale for extra additions and subtractions of certain characters to this team, but unless these selected All Holiday baseball players moving on, or are retiring to the celluloid and video vaults, the true essence and the spirit of this team will live on forever in our hearts and minds……………………..

Merry Christmas to everyone in the MLBlogs.com community and beyond!!

            Rays Renegade

  

 

 

 

 

Rays Renegade & The Pitchouts (2010 edition) Wish You Happy Holidays

 

 

As we gander closer to the Holiest nights of the year, I want to take a moment out and thank the many viewers, commentator’s and baseball friends who have made this year of 2010 so…well glorious.

I might not be sporting 5 Golden Rings, but another A L East banner for the Tropicana Field rafters was an expensive present, but more than enough to send 4 Lords a-leaping in my book.

I thought it was only right to honor and pay a holiday tribute to guys who made a lot of what happened for the Tampa Bay Rays possible in 2010.

No, I am not talking about the Rays 3 Wise Men, Stuart Sternberg (Owner), Matt Silverman (President) or Andrew Friedman (VP of Baseball Ops), even though their leadership and vision, along with over $ 70 million little helpers did play a significant role.

I am talking about the quintuplets of quality, the Rays starting 5 rotation. These five hurlers rocked both the Trop. and everywhere else in the MLB this season to produce 96 wins (only 1 win short of their 2008 record).

The Rays rambunctious five even tried to produce 5 separate 200+ innings producers, and only got derailed by a late season road bump by Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis and still came within 37.2 innings of the feat.

So it was only right that the Ray Clubhouse new Rock, Rap and Reggae band, The Pitch-Outs should bring you a little holiday cheer.

The band is led by the dramatic and charismatic vocal soundings of Matt Garza, who gets to those classic Rock falsetto high notes just as quickly as his 95+ high and tight fastball screams over the plate.

His physical nature as the Punch-Outs front man is showcased by him toying with the crowd before delivering a solid move that is more crippling than his backdoor slider.

Behind him we have the always rock solid lead guitar work of the Ace of the quint, James Shields, who sometimes wears a gray beard off stage as a disguise to keep his many fans at bay.

But on stage there is no disputing the talents and ability of this emerging rock legend as his fingers take to the Stratocaster and take you on a melody ride on his crazy train. 

On the left side of the stage we have the southpaw David Price who is very noticeable in his blond flowing locks and seems to be the shy guy of the bunch until he get his guitar strap over his shoulder, then he turns into a modern day Bootsy Collins just up there trying to seduce, embrace and groove to the music.

His rhythm guitar is one of the solid reasons this Rays band of hurlers is going places, and might just eventually challenge Garza for some of the band’s spotlight in 2011. 

On the bass guitar is country born and bred Wade Davis, who has taken to the music the same way he takes the mound…with authority and has produced one of the best Rays rookie campaigns in the team’s short history.

In his first extended time at the MLB level, Davis has shown he can step to the mound and deliver and be a consistent part of the future of this amazing band. Sky is the limit as Davis enters his Sophomore tour with no signs of letting up or moving into the background.

Last, but definitely not least we have the Tall Texan, Jeff Niemann who was put behind the drum set only because he kept hitting the band’s stage lighting with his head during their earlier sets.

But the big man can definitely hit the skins and showed in 2010 that his beats are as good as anyone out there, and that you can never count him out. With his patented move of jumping up from the drums set and leaping into the air with the band’s last number, the 6′ 8″ Niemann suddenly produces one of the band’s great moments of the night.

So this holiday season it just seemed only fitting to let the band successful CD’s like “Buckled your Knees” ,”Backdoor Slider Blues“, ” KO Blues” or even the emotional passion of “Pitching My Heart Away” should be in the stocking of the ones you love.

The band optimizes the energy and gusto that is the frankincense and spice that encircles the Rays Republicuniverse. So be sure to watch and listen to the holiday styling’s of The Pitch-outs and look for another CD to drop in April 2011.

From everyone, even the mice at the Rays Renegade abode, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that all of life’s gifts are delivered to you under your glistening Christmas tree or in your stocking this holiday season.

 

2014 All-Hero Holiday Baseball Team

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Several years ago I started a MLBlogs.com Holiday tradition by posting about my personal character selections for that season’s All-Holiday squad. The first squad selected back in 2008 was composed of characters we all know and love from our favorite holiday movies and shows.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Los Angeles DodgersThe usual suspects were invited on the team like George Bailey and little Ralphie, and of course Rudolph. But I knew I had to bring about a more super human strength factor this Holiday Season if we were to beat the current League Champions and their stormtroopers.

Since the “Evil Empire” took the trophy in 2009, I could always hit the “Stars Wars” human and machine memory banks  and find more than enough characters and antics to post a pretty good line-up. This holiday season’s roster will be based on Super Heroes. So let’s get on with the formal introductions of my All-Holiday squad for 2011.

So with no further ado, let me introduce to you the 11 players of the newly formed   N’oreastern  Blizzard, the second franchise of the  North American League

download (9)Starting Pitcher:

This was a tough decision knowing that so many great super heroes could throw a baseball not only through a strike zone, but through the stadium backstop and wall. I decided to take it in a bit of a different direction. He might be the youngest of the Fantastic Four, but the Human Torch was an easy choice for my starting pitcher. This decision did come with some possible side effects with the baseball actually vaporizing before it gets near the plate. But I have a plan.

With the definite possibility that the other team could chart his flame path to try to steal his pitch locations, I asked Jonathan Lowell SpencerStorm  to throw an extra puff of trailing  smoke  along with  the ball to cover its path to the plate. I also dipped all 13 dozen game balls (the same number as the MLB uses per game) in a flame retardant liquid that would not leave a residue, but would leave the ball intact for numerous flights  to the plate.

download (7)First Baseman:

I decided to go with my gut instinct here and put 
Mr. Fantastic aka Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four at first base bag as much for his intelligence in the arts of alien biology and physics as for his vertical and horizontal dexterity. Because he could conveniently stretch out far and wide, it made him another clear choice because of his flexibility get errant throws and also provide superb dives and lunges for balls hit either to his left or right.

download (6)Second Baseman: 

Here is the position where I am thinking I will get the biggest feedback in the form of the player I picked for this spot. I decided to give this spot to Super Sentai, who was actually the basis for the popular Power Rangers characters. Unknown to most of us in the United States, this Super Hero series has been translated and brought to other cultures around the world from Brazil, Italy, Spain and Portugal to even the US where they were transformed into the Power Rangers. Super Sentai is my only super hero that has come from overseas to play America’s game, and has found his  rightful place among my team.

download (5)Short stop:

Spiderman aka Peter Parker was one of the only super heroes to not be a protegé at one point in his development. Parker seemed a natural and true choice for this position if you consider his web-shooting ability along with his uncanny spidey-sense. That essence of instinct and range makes him a natural for the spot. And with the mantra, “With great power comes great responsibility” spoken to him by his late Uncle Bob, Spiderman could actually maybe be a nice clone of a certain “Evil Empire” shortstop with his remarkable range and throwing accuracy.

download (4)Third Baseman:

I decided the Hot Corner should be patrolled by 
Spawn.  Because most 3B’s are viewed as baseball mercenaries, this former CIA agent fits perfectly into the mold of a MLB 3-bagger. Considering his character has been known to morph and change during the course of his adventures, this might transform perfectly for him at third base where I though his uncanny ability to transform and stand tall and firm while guarding the line might be the perfect trait for this position. And knowing that games can be won and lost down the Right field line, his ever-expanding bag of tricks from  sprinting in for bunted ball to making odd angle throws or even making full-body dives over the bag to snag balls screaming down the line at the speed of light makes him the perfect choice.

images (4)Catcher:

This line-up spot was actually very easy for me. The character taking this spot has to dive, block and basically be a human wall to the 
Human Torch’s hot tamale pitches. That is why Thing from the Fantastic Four was the perfect pick.  As the founding member of the Fantastic Four, Thing also can be the field general that every team needs behind the plate. Born Benjamin Jacob Grimm, he was an avid football player, which will make him a perfect wall when he stands in front of the plate and blocks a runner from trying to score on him. And with his orange-colored skin, he will be an easy target for any member of the Blizzard’s pitching staff. Add on his comical tag line of: “It’s clobbering Time”, and you get one of my team’s pure power hitters.

images (3)Left field:
I wanted to use one member from the Batman franchise here. For that reason I selected the Batman (Christian Bale version) who could be the most productive and intimidating based on the uncanny ability to leer into the infield might keep guys from trying to stretch singles into doubles. Just a glare from his eyes might freeze a runner between bases and hesitate just enough for him to get a quick throw in and nail him for an outfield assist. Added on the fact he has enough pieces of equipment on his utility belt to scale any wall, even the Green Monster and bring the ball back into play. Plus the caped crusader has some pretty cool rides which translates nicely into the MLB lifestyle.

download (8)Right field:

Here is another spot that I thought demanded that I have one of the fastest super heroes in the corner outfield to cover the Centerfield-Right field gap. For that reason, 
Flash seemed to be the perfect fit. I decided that the Scarlett Speedster would be a nice deterrent to teams trying to not only run on his arm, but test his abilities to get to almost any ball hit his way. One of the greats attributes a Rightfielder can have is teams’ fearing what he will do once he has the ball in his glove or hand. Flash gives me that extra jolt of confidence that if a runner is trying to score from third base, the throw will be at the plate with authority.

images (1)Center field:

This one was actually another one of the easiest positions to fill on this roster. Who else but 
Superman (Christopher Reeves version) could patrol the gaps and distances to the centerfield wall. Partner that with a great ability to keep the ball in the park hit at any height, and you get a solid defensive outfielder who also can bring some super power to the plate.He could take a bit of pressure off Batman in Left field, but it would be on a purely speed basis to secure the out and not be an ego thing. Mark that with his solid personal makeup and you got a guy that the fans would also enjoy having him autograph a ball with his eyes, or even pose for pictures strutting his muscles.

imagesCloser:
Here is a spot I did not include my initial 2008 squad, and I felt terrible about it. Every team needs a guy who can button down those close games and give them that needed push to hold a team scoreless and then win in walk-off fashion. For that reason, I think the Punisher is the perfect man for the job.

Not only does the Punisher have those human flaw trademarks we all know and love in our closers, he has that anti-hero trait that most MLB closer possess and use to their advantage. As Frank Castle, the Punisher will use whatever methods are needed to get a positive end result. That, is the ultimate goal of every closer, to have the game come down to his abilities and he conquer them single-handedly.

download (3)Designated Hitter:

I think there is only one choice considering it has to be a position of power and great energy. Without a doubt, the prefect DH would have to be the Incredible Hulk. Just on his pure ability to hit the cover off the ball. Hulk has the ability to change, so he could be his green imposing self at the plate, and transform into his human form and become a speed merchant on the base paths. But, for the sake of argument, I think he will try to maintain his angered state throughout the baseball game just for team confidence.

So there you go. This is my player selections for my Christmas 2011 roster of the newly formed second team in the North America League. Unlike the AFL or even the USFL, this baseball league will continue to expand with at least one team forming every Christmas season until we have enough teams to play every day of the holiday season.

This is my own little personal Winter League experiment, and with three teams already in the books, it will be fun to watch both the N’oreastern Blizzards, Evil Empire and the Polar Express playing on a cool and sunny Florida baseball diamond near you. Admission is free and remember, a hot dog always tastes better at the ballpark!

Happy Holidays to everyone from Rays Renegade.

 

St. Pete. City Council Puts Steamy Piles of Coal in Rays Stocking

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I’m dumbfounded and disgusted right now.

Not simply by the obscure comment I heard during today’s St. Petersburg City Council meeting made about the “arrogance of the Rays” in regard to this issue and if that is not the pot calling the kettle black then we seriously are in trouble as a city.

This Rays ongoing stadium stalemate is beginning to feel like a modern rendition of the tale regarding Sysphus.

I guess the best way to illustrate this point is if the Rays  mascot Raymond on in this case Rays-phus  begins pushing a boulder towards the tilted top of Tropicana Field and as he nears the cupola it  begins to rolling back and Raymond must again repeat the process again…and again…to infinity. 

3d2ce810-9185-4fff-b3fd-d2779e89c381_500I think the St. Pete. City Council has unknowingly finally jumped the proverbial shark and truly are not thinking about a lasting baseball presence in the city. But then again, what do you expect from a city that can’t decide on a Pier design and wants a modern masterpiece that will stick out like a sore thumb with the surrounding Mediterranean-Spanish influenced structures

Without a doubt this was a called Strike 2 on any baseball’s future in St. Petersburg, maybe even Tampa Bay.

Plain and simple, the St. Pete. City Council tonight might have finally made it morally and ethically for the Tampa Bay Rays to call the city’s lawsuit bluff and they might finally venture outside of St. Petersburg…. no matter the financial or legal repercussions.

l_72a6a5ac70604d8d88c220bbdd57d1f7I truly thought that St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Rays President of Operations Brian Auld produced a fair and just starting pointof cooperation for the team to regain or provide some positive movement towards finding a new stadium for the team.

The St. Pete. City Council really had nothing financially to lose by approving this mutually arranged agreement with the Rays. Instead they might have caused the wheels to begin turning on the Rays exit strategy.

By them voting against this agreement the City Council might collectively risk St. Pete’s baseball future and force the hand of Major League Baseball who can without recourse oe worry pluck this team out of the region in a heartbeat and pay the Rays stadium contract out of their petty cash box.

901b1b4d-1deb-488c-9f54-7a2e14365d74_500So by a 5-3 vote to not approve the reached agreement by Mayor Kriseman and the Rays on a stadium exploration agreement outside the city limits of St. Pete, they must now accept the present and future consequences of this action.

First off, to St. Petersburg City Council members Karl Nurse, Charlie Gerdes (my Councilman) and City Council Vice- Chairman Daren Rice.. Thank you for your insight, confidence  and trust that by voting in the affirmative we can find a viable solution to the Rays stadium issue whether within out city limits or outside them.

To St. Petersburg City Council members from Chairman Bill Dudley, Steve Kornell, Jim Kennedy, Amy Foster, and finally Wengay Newton…..Shame on you for letting this stalemate continue and not bring some sunshine back into the darkness that has been the Rays stadium saga with our fair city.

Some will say I have not right saying this, but I was born in St. Anthony’s Hospital, educated in St. Petersburg and I have given my heart and soul defending it in the past to disapproving souls, but tonight I’m embarrassed by the tunnel vision and negative energy created by this vote for the city and its citizens. 

081Without a shadow of a doubt right now I understand some of the logic for the rejection, but to slam the door on the Rays like this hastens the team’s ownership’s want to leave this region in the dust and fall into the welcoming embrace of a city like Nashville or Montreal.

I expect a terse and very firm worded response from Major League Baseball to hit the wires proclaiming their frustration that the team’s host city wants to play “hard ball”, but in essence MLB and the Rays truly hold all the important cards.

fd4bab8d-0425-436c-9090-62f3fc61fad0_500By negating this agreement fashioned by your own Mayor it not only proves he doesn’t have true support on the City Council, he has a band of talking heads who vote with their perceived notions, not the true intention of their voting public.

I do not only worry about this decision for my own St. Pete Rays fans and residents, but I feel like I need to apologize to every other city and country within Tampa Bay region for the audacious antics of my hometown’s City Council.

But I shouldn’t have to do that. The Rays are one of our largest spring to fall assets within St. Petersburg. They employ so many of our citizens, pay taxes, support the local economy plus give endless amount of time , money and energy to causes outside the Trop’s walls within this St. Petersburg community.

Instead out elected City Council decides they know the opinions of their represented people and basically tell one of our greatest tourism tool to “go to their room” like they did something wrong.

17a635f7-ef96-48c7-914f-91c449a12624_500Seriously, if I was the Rays, I would not wait patiently with their bat on their shoulders awaiting the next St. Pete curveball.  I applaud Mayor Kriseman for his due diligence in trying to keep this matter from escalating, but you have to think the Rays have the advantage now

And I guess the St Pete City Council doesn’t understand basic baseball realities. The Rays now have a full count 3-2 against them and believe me they will not give the city of St. Pete. The satisfaction of a strike out.

They could simply stand there and take the pitch calling the cities bluff …and walking…never giving St. Pete a second glance.

 

Post Script:

If you want to read the Rays and Mayor’s mutually agreed upon document put before the St. Petersburg City Council today, here is a link to the file (thanks to the Tampa Bay Times).

Silverman Restoring Faith in the Rays, One Trade at a Time

 

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Matt Silverman, my cap is tilted to you.

Got to admit, I thought the Tampa Bay Rays might make a few moves to fill holes and bring competition into Spring Training, but I never imagined we would see the bodies fly this winter.

And that’s a good thing.

Sure I will miss the likes of outfield duo of Wil Myers, Matt Joyce and several of the Rays pieces that have left this team via trades this off season, but what you have brought back to the Rays with these trades will immediately make an impact on the Rays offensive and defensive alignments for many seasons to come.

images (2)That is what a true leader does. They go out and make a team better without a dollar spent or a moment of sleep lost. Right now the new President of Baseball Operations is healing the Rays Republic’s gaping mental and emotional wounds left by Andrew Friedman leaving for Chavez Ravine and bringing up morale and cohesion among the Tampa Bay fan base.

It took a lot of internal guts and fortitude to hire a first time Manager like Kevin Cash, but the guy has the energy, passion and baseball smarts to not only do the job, but have the rest of us want success for him right out of the gate.

An oversight most people are not connecting with is Cash will be an instrumental piece of the puzzle for the Rays young catchers as they come up and develop in the system or at the MLB level.

635542469625690263-Still1215-00001 (1)With Cash only a handful of seasons away from wearing the backstop gear, his insight and knowledge of the needed skill set of an MLB starting catcher cannot be taught or duplicated. It might not have been the most popular choice, but it will be one that works cohesively with the Rays style of play and should bring immediate results to this team.

For that, I want to say “Thank you”.

So many times when a team has the type of high level personnel changes the Rays have had since October, there is a shock and awe period where things stay the same and change is not aggressively embraced or executed. So far this off season, that has not been your game plan.

Instead you have shed several bulky salaries like Jeremy Hellickson and Joel Peralta and gotten enough in return to satisfy not only your bottom line, but let the system restock itself and possibly build a few more trade assets heading into the not so distant future.

SBJ200703121901-32Even more impressive has been you commitment that no one on the roster or system is safe from trade, and by not only making that statement, but showing it by trading Joyce and Myers, you have made a great statement to the rest of Major League Baseball that the Rays might not have the biggest payroll in baseball, but they will have the talent to stack up against their AL East foes.

As Boston, New York, Baltimore and Toronto re-stock and re-focus for 2015, the Rays have aggressively looked for stop-gaps and talented individuals to fill holes, provide added strength and stay competitive without rewarding a single player with a contract that could cripple the Rays chances of being the Beasts from the East again.

images (3)I have said for a while that the Rays are at a proverbial tipping point in regards to talent, payroll and their fan base. Moves and trades like the ones completed by Silverman and crew will go a long way into enticing the Tampa Bay community to embrace the Rays and show the rest of the baseball nation that Tampa Bay is a place where baseball can survive after the spring thaw.

Again, thank you Matt for taking positive steps so early in the off season to bring back so many and so much to the Rays fold.

Myself, as a long-time Rays fan am extremely grateful for the job you have done so far this offseason.

Where There’s A Wil….There’s a Way

 

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There are so many ways you can look at this 11-player trade that will be finalized between the Tampa Bay Rays, San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals.

images (1)Some will point out that this deal might center on 2 young outfielders, one getting a fresh start (Wil Myers) while the other (Steven Souza) finally can fight for a MLB Opening Day roster spot.

Myers who had a wrist injury setback in his second season never seemed to be at ease at the plate after he returned from injury and quite possibly the Rays are playing the risk management odds and trading Myers now while he is a viable trade commodity.

images (5)Souza (#5 Nats prospect) unfortunately would have seen little or no play as the Nats outfield trio of Span, Werth and Harper would get the lion’s share of starts and even a great spring might not secure him a 25-Man roster spot. In Tampa Bay he will not only get a chance to compete for a possibly 25-Man slot, but quite possibly have an opportunity to see ample playing time possibly platooning with David DeJesus in left field.

Oh, and Souza is a part of MLB history. His acrobatic catch with 2-outs in the 9th inning secured Jordan Zimmerman’s No-Hitter…….Impressive indeed.

images (4)Others will see the two catchers involved in this deal as critical parts of the whole thing. One (Ryan Hanigan) will  give his team some much needed financial room, saving his team close to $8 million over the next 3 seasons. While the other (Rene Rivera) will get a second chance for success and has a willing and able ex-MLB catcher (Kevin Cash) at the helm of his new team.

Hanigan is a master at framing pitches behind the plate. This in itself could pay huge dividends this spring as Hanigan could mentor Padres C and #1 prospect Austin Hedges about the art of framing.

downloadRene Rivera will immediately come to the Rays as their main backstop as the only other catcher on the Rays roster with any MLB experience will be Curt Casali who only caught 29 games in 2014. In Rivera’s early favor will be his arm as he caught 33 out of 58 base runners in 2014. Rivera also seems to have a bit more offensive firepower than Hanigan putting up a line of .252 average, 11HR and 44 RBI that easily overshadows Hanigan’s 2014 marks of .218 average, 5 HR, 34 RBI.

Sure only 4 MLB caliber players were included in this 11-player soiree, but do not discount any of the minor league pieces as each has the potential to make a mark in their new franchise’s farm systems.

The Padres will receive 2 pitchers from the Rays low level to complete their end of the trade.  LHP Jose Castillo and Gerardo Reyes are still young,18 & 20 yrs. old respectfully, and have more than a few seasons in front of them before they will begin their path towards the MLB.

download (1)Most Rays fans might remember Castillo’s as the young 16-year old Venezuelan left-hander who was signed by the team back in 2012 for $ 1.55 million.

He was considered the 6th best prospect on the International market that summer.  Castillo might be one of the dark horses of this trade as he has appeared in only 15 games the past 2 seasons all for the Rays Gulf Coast League (Rookies) squad.

download (3)Reyes spent his first professional season with the Rays Rookie short season team, the Hudson Valley Renegades and appeared in 20 games throwing 33 innings with a 2-1 record to go along with a 4.09 ERA and 39 strikeouts.

As you can see, both Reyes and Castillo will be in the Padres farm system for a few years before they even get a glimpse of the major leagues.

download (4)LHP Travis Ott was the second player sent by Washington to the Rays and has played a little over a season and a 1/3 for the Nats.

He started 13 games in the lower A levels in 2014 producing a 1-4 record over 44.1 innings while amassing a 3.93 ERA with 45 K’s. Ott will also have a get more than a few seasons under his belt before he reaches anywhere near the Rays AAA level.

The Rays will also receive from the Padres 2 players who might make a difference for the Rays in the next few seasons. One had a dark cloud over him during 2014 while the other advanced and could be a great addition to the Rays roister possibly in 2-3 seasons.

images (6)RHP Burch Smith (#16 prospect) is the player who had a dark cloud over him in 2014. He was shutdown with forearm tendinitis in April after only 2 starts at AAA El Paso. But before this setback he was streaming through the Padres system and even made his MLB debut during the 2013 season. He has a great fastball that can reach 97 mph with late cutting action that makes it extremely difficult for hitters to square-up on in the box. He has great secondary weapon in a clean change-up and curve, but the Rays might have him start in AAA to let him prove he is healthy and back on his game.

Jake Bauers might be  a guy who could rise through the Rays system and make a late 2015, possible 2016 appearance at the MLB level.  Sure the left-handed hitting 1B only rose to full-season Class A in 2014, but the Rays have a First Baseman weak system and if he has any success could find himself at Double-A easily in 2015.

download (5)Bauer played in 112 games for the Ft Wayne TinCaps of the Mid-West League last season with a .296 average with 5 HR and 64 RBI. plus 5 stolen bases. Recently Bauer drew comparisons to Blue Jays 1B Daric Barton, which could be a great thing for the Rays.

Scouts say he has a compact swing right now that as it expands will provide more power to go along with his great defensive skills at First Base. The key for Bauer now is to improve his hitting at each level and he could within 2-3 seasons fight for a Rays roster spot.

The last 2 pieces of this trade puzzle would have made their way to Tampa Bay if the Rays did not spin them on to the Nationals for Souza. Both RHP Joe Ross (#8 prospect) and SS Trea Turner (#5 prospect) might not make an MLB impression for 3-4 years with Ross being possibly the first of the pair to make his MLB Debut.

images (7)Ross, who is the younger brother of Padres hurler Tyson Ross advancing to the Double-A level in 2014 and posting an overall 10-6 mark in 22 starts with a 3.92 ERA and 106 K’s over 121.2 innings.

Turner is listed on the trade as the “Player To Be Named Later” only because he was drafted in 2014 with the 13th pick but has already played in 69 games at the Class A full season level.

images (8)He has blazing speed, a few years extra experience having played baseball at North Carolina State and could develop into a great top of the lineup hitter posted 23 stolen bases in 69 games in the minors this past season. He also put up a .323 average with 5HR, 2 Triples and 24 RBI splitting time between Eugene and Ft Wayne.

Still, the trade is in the books, physicals arranged and soon this trade will not only be put to bed, but be firmly in the Rays rearview mirror.

Let’s hope this one doesn’t end up stinging the Rays in the end….Only time will tell.

Joyce for Jepsen Trade Immediately Makes Rays Better

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It was written in the Florida sands that the Tampa Bay Rays might trade their left-handed outfielder Matt Joyce before spring training. 

Some would say it was out of the Rays usual character to trade 2 player’s straight-up for one another. But then again, until this afternoon we did not know of the Rays heightened want to find an immediate stop-gap to fill an early 2015 seasonal void left by an unforeseen pitching injury and subsequent surgery.

imagesSo the swapping of Joyce and reliever Kevin Jepsen takes on a far different hue than the usual off season trade of two players as Jepsen will be called upon immediately fill a late inning void left by the injury of Rays closer Jake McGee.

McGee who had been previously diagnosed with loose foreign bodies in his left pitching elbow and has undergone surgery and should not return to the team until possibly late May or early June. This leaves the Rays with two players, McGee and SP Matt Moore who both might not hit the mound until a third of the 2015 season is complete.

c2s_joyce092811_193072a_8colAn interesting side note to this trade by the Rays and Angels is that both players will be leaving their hometown teams and journey across the country to play in 2015. Matt Joyce of course was born in Tampa , Florida and Kevin Jepsen was born in Anaheim, California.

Another similarity between the two players in this trade is Matt Joyce (May 5th  with the Tigers) and Jepsen (September 8th ) both made their MLB Debuts in 2008.

So what kind of reliever did the Rays get when they traded for Jepsen?

If his stats are any true indication, the Rays will get a solid competitor who could be slotted in the Rays late inning 7th, 8th inning roles without hesitation. The injury to McGee and the previous trade of Joel Peralta would already redefine the late inning roles of the Rays Bullpen, but this injury takes one more talented and experienced arm out of the equation and demanded a direct sub sequential move to eliminate this hole in the Rays reliever corps.

A little background on Jepsen’s career with the Angels:

images (1)He come to the Rays after appearing in 315 games with the Halos, which ranked him 5th All-Time on their Career Appearance list.

Jepsen is only 1 of 4 relievers ever to play at least 7 seasons with the club. Interesting factoid, former Angel and Rays closer Troy Percival leads that list overall with 10 seasons playing for Angels.

He ended his Angels career in 10th  place on the Angels All-Time list with an career mark of 8.69/K’s per 9 innings.

Jepsen is currently under salary arbitration this off season with him projected to receive a salary of possibly $2.6 million and Jepsen will also be under team control for another season.

images (3)The trade could also have some financial relief for the Rays as the swap could save the Rays $2.4 million as Joyce was estimated to receive possibly $5 million for 2015 through salary arbitration.

2014 was Jepsen’s best season in the MLB appearing in 74 games with a 2.63 ERA with 75 strikeouts and .05 HR per 9 innings mark.

His 74 game appearances in 2014 ranked 4th in the American League and was bettered only by fellow Angel Joe Smith (76) and the Indians duo of Cody Allen (76) and Bryan Shaw (80).

Jepsen also ranked 8th in the AL in Holds with 22 and he earned 2 saves in 2014.

He throws a 4-seam fastball(95-99 mph), a 2-seam fastball (94-97) a cutter (89-93) and a curveball (83-86 mph). His cutter is usually reserved for right-handers while his 2-seam fastball is used primarily against left-handers. Jepsen also uses his curve in 2-strike counts on hitters.

images (2)Oh, and he is not related to former Rays Concert performer Carly Rae Jepsen  who was born in Mission, British Columbia. That is a good thing, remember Carly’s First Pitch.

With the injury to McGee the Rays had to act quickly to find an experienced relief option to plug right in fill the relief corps void. Jepsen has the statistics and experience to come right in this spring and compete for a Bullpen spot as well as be a viable and consistent option to place in the late inning role previously held by Peralta.

Rays were swift, did their due diligence and quite possibly got the guy who could be an extremely valuable asset to the Rays late inning machine for the next 2 seasons.

Perfect Holiday Glove to Step Up Your Baseball Game

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Some people say breaking in a new glove is one of the hardest tasks in baseball. You can spend what feels like an eternity getting that cowhide to conform and evolve into a perfectly forgiving pocket for that spherical rocket to settle in.

No matter what level you are currently playing at, or even if you want a glove for ball hawking or even as a method of protection when a line drive come swirling into your section, breaking in a glove can be the difference between it popping out, a stinging palm and sometimes even that embarrassing miss-cue or as I like to call it, a E-10…Error on the fan.

images (2)What if I told you there was now a glove out on the market, made by one of the most premier athletic gears providers, and you will never have to break your glove in.

That’s right…Never, ever will you have to sit a 1-ton car on your glove overnight, pop anymore rubber bands trying to get a pre-formed pocket in your mitt or ever again spend hours rubbing oil into the leather.

Of course this glove will not be cheap (it retails about $400), but you will never have to spend valuable time worrying about getting the rigidity out of your new leather glove, and with its neon green and black coloring, people will see your glove coming even in the most shaded parts of the ballpark.

download (3)The Vapor 360 glove by Nike uses a new glove construction method called hyperfuse to bring to reality baseball’s first ultra-responsive, lightweight mitt with the  time-saving aspect of being the only fielder’s mitt on the market that can be immediately on the field without the hassle or time drain of the usual glove breaking in process.

Seriously, this glove can be snagging fly balls and be used in long or short toss the moment it comes out of its shipping box.

And Nike did get professional advice on the product as Colorado Rockies All-Star and 3-time Gold Glove winning outfielder Carlos Gonzalez was a hands-on consultant during the gloves developmental stages.

Nike stands by their claim of the glove needing no break-in time, and its ready to use application makes it an ideal glove option for everyday use by both professional as well as amateur players and for that fan who wants the gear the players use.

downloadNike Baseball senior designer Matthew Hudson told online website Stack that: “Traditional leather baseball gloves can take up to 3 months of break in. We’ve taken a traditional leather for the palm and perforated it to remove some of the structure so it forms more quickly.

That means less sweat and toil oiling the heck out of the cowhide, putting it under your mattress and sleeping on it, or using your car as a machine press to quicken the breaking in process.

Gonzalez used the Nike Vapor 360 on the field during the last season (of course in a more neutral and approved MLB color scheme) and raves about the product.

images (1)Once I put it on and played catch…everything clicked.” Gonzalez also added: “This is what I was looking for. I wear this glove and I feel like I can catch any ball.”

So even if you do not have a professional baseball fan on your Holiday gift list this season, even the most dedicated and savvy baseball fan would cherish a glove like the Vapor 360 the next time they line up on the field, or reach out with their glove for that screaming foul or Home Run ball into the stands.

The Vapor 360 is available now on Nike.com

Will the Rays Thanksmas Evolve Post Maddon?

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It was an event that made spaghetti, pierogies and hand-formed meatballs fashionable at holiday time. Served meals to many who would not have a holiday meal in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Sarasota/Manatee counties. Thanksmas had become more than just a symbol of the season here in Tampa Bay.

B47s7BlCAAATUIyIt was a time for the Rays staff, front office and the community to celebrate after another great season as well as see old familiar faces and new smiles while dining on Hazelton, Pa classics. Sure 4 seasons ago Rays former Manager Joe Maddon inspired and perspired in the first carnation of this event, but as it grew so did the locations, participants and the joyous goodwill and harmony this embodies the holiday season.

But now that Maddon has traded his Carolina blue Rays jersey for Chicago Cubs pinstripes, what is the future of the event?

imagesMaddon is adamant that the holiday event will continue in some form for years to come, but you have to wonder if the Rays might want to have their own face front and center starting with the 2015 event, or maybe even embrace a pairing of Maddon and Cash in a compassionate solidarity towards promoting a holiday harmonious event of giving back to Tampa Bay.

Maddon, who is also a part of Ava’s ownership stake spoke with his Ava partners and they were onboard with the Cub’s new skipper’s idea of bringing hot food and maybe some cold cash into the hands of the area’s homeless and unfortunate as sometimes a little extra money can transform a life on the streets into something amazing and uplifting.

B47pTHYCIAEkrXPLast night former Rays and Tampa native Tino Martinez and current Ray Kevin Kiermaier joined in with Maddon at South Tampa bistro Ava, to help collect $22,000 in donation to this year’s event which also will have some cash assistance and donation to its participants.

Maddon was proud to tell participants at last night’s fundraising gala: “This is the message I wanted to get out to the shelters and people connected with this…This is not going away.”

So we know that Maddon is committed to continuing the seasonal event, but you have to wonder if the Rays might also fashion their own version of “Thanksmas” in the future with Cash holding the golden spatula.

B47ji1ACQAA-P-lThe 2014 Thank-Mas schedule has been announced and Rays front office and team personnel will once again come together to embrace the essence and wonder that is the Thanksmas experience.

Thanks-Mas was a brilliant brainchild of Maddon’s to help the Tampa Bay community. It got people from all walks of life involved and wanting to give back to our community during the holiday season as well as be a great inspirational story for everyone involved.

We truly do not know what will happen in the future for Thanksmas, but we can dream.

B47ji1DCAAAcEGvSalvation Army Tampa area commander Major James Chip Hall probably summed it up best regarding Thankmas when he stated: “It’s important for people here to know they matter. That was the one thing Joe was good at. He told them that they’re not invisible. That they’re not forgotten.”

images (3)Maybe we should tinker the recipe of the event to include a dash of Cash to go along with the present ingredients of a cup of the Rays, an ounce of Maddon combined with a pinch of compassion and pound of giving that has made this event flourish.

That sounds like a perfect recipe for future success of the holiday event not matter what its future name might become.

                                            Here is the 2014 Thanksmas Schedule:

Monday, December 15          Sallie House

Tuesday, December 16          St. Petersburg Salvation Army, Tampa Salvation Army

Wednesday, December 17    Homeless Emergency Project

Thursday, December 18        Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida

Friday, December 19              Bradenton Salvation Army

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