I was sitting in a downtown Central Avenue wing and brew establishment with a view of Tropicana Field when the local news hounds blared the news the Rays future stadium site impasse between the City of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays had finally been resolved.
People around me were clinking glasses, hoisting glassware full of adult beverages while saluting the efforts and powers that be that there would finally be sun light at the end of this stadium tunnel.
Not so fast friends, this announcement should not be time to openly celebrate. There will be stormy days ahead before all the fuss and bothered are cleaned away like a city street after an afternoon downpour.
Hidden from view to most of those here was the simple fact that even though Rays President Brian Auld and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman stood on stage ceremonially hand-in-hand on this day, the agreement, is simply words and totally moot until the “St. Pete 8” also known as the St. Petersburg City Council give their blessing or denials of the document.
Per the St. Petersburg City Charter, the City Council during their meeting cannot change the agreement’s parameters, alter the language or even suggest subtle or economic changes. The recent decision by Mayor Kriseman to postpone the planned Dec 11th vote on the agreement and rescheduling the vote for Dec 18th has merit.
The delay in the City Council vote will give Mayor Kriseman him and his staff 7 more days to educate and answer any stumbling blocks in regard to the financial or binding aspects of letting the Rays explore Hillsborough County for a possible Rays stadium site, and the city’s financial rewards if the Rays do chose another locale for their stadium.
Some might view this as a simple delay tactic, but the Dec 11th City Council meeting’s agenda was already stuffed to the gills with awards and presentations from the city and quite possibly this agreement vote would overshadow some of the deeds and accomplishment of others.
Also, the Dec 11th City Council meeting would not have on their agenda a time set for public comment or interaction. The Dec 18th meeting will adhere to Florida state law that requires the public to have a say( voice) in an item that hasn’t and will not receive any public vetting.
Auld when asked by the Tampa Bay Times about the voting delay stated, “We don’t mind waiting another week. We’ve been working on this for a very long time. We hope to get to yes when the time comes.”
To the Rays credit, they have reached out to St. Pete City Council member Karl Nurse who was a member of the Protect Our Wallets and Waterfront (POWW) group that was a thorn in the Rays side when the team wanted to put a stadium on the St. Petersburg waterfront area where historic Progress Energy /Al Lang Field is located.
For until the St. Petersburg City Council give tally their respective votes and a resolution is announced, the Mayor’s agreement with the Rays right now is simply “written in the sand” and the whole positive step by the Rays and Mayor Kriseman could still be washed away thanks to an unforeseen public tidal wave, or the St. Petersburg 8 voting against the present agreement.
Say what you want about Tampa Bay Rays reliever Grant Balfour. Some comments center on his spiral anger issues, while other wonder why during years with even numbers his stats tend to go a bit south.
So it is no surprise to me that Balfour along with Chicago Cubs P Andre Rienzo and Milwaukee Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke will make up an extremely diverse Major League Baseball trio of Ambassadors during their trek to Balfour’s homeland of Australia from Dec 12-21st.
Some people say the “Angry Aussie” has easily compiled the best career mark ever in the M L B among those bearing Aussie roots, and so many around the baseball world and in his home country view him as a bit of a cult hero because of his tirades with those white Rawlings baseballs, and has ruffled quite a few feathers among M L N hitters.
Few players display their passion on their sleeves like Balfour in the game today and his outward pouring of high energy emotions and a few choice words can polarize some baseball fans opinions of the pitcher.
But that persona of anger and disdain for baseballs of aspects of the game is not the true essence of Balfour, or the Balfour I have known during his times with the Rays. He has always been cordial to fans, stopping to talk with them, hold endearing conversations and offering friendship to many who sit around the area of the Rays Bullpen.
During my time in that same area of Tropicana Field, I have not seen Balfour refuse an autograph, not stop to at least acknowledge a fan calling out his name and for the most part being a great ambassador of the Rays.
So it must be thrilling for Balfour to get the chance to visit his homeland and I imagine a stop in his hometown of Kings Langley which is a suburb of Sydney.
But the fact is Balfour has done some amazing things over his 11 years playing professional baseball in the U.S. with visits to the World Series with the Rays, plus being selected to the American League All-Star squad during his tenure with the Oakland Athletics back in 2013.
Balfour and crew are expected to arrive in Sydney on Thursday, Dec 11th and enjoy a free day before commencing on the 8-day M L B Ambassador Tour.
Here is a tentative sampling of the events and activities that Balfour will attend and participate in during the 8-day MLB Ambassadors Tour:
On Friday, Dec 12th, Balfour will be present at a Welcome Home Press Conference in Sydney and then to Blue Sox Stadium and will meet fans before throwing out the First Pitch at the Sydney Blue Sox and Adelaide Bite game.
On Saturday, Dec 13th , Balfour and his fellow Ambassadors will hold a MLB Training with the Pros session at Sydney’s Blue Sox’s stadium for local junior players. If you have not heard about the Training with the Pros sessions, it is a long standing MLB program in partnership with Baseball Australia and the teams of the Australian Baseball League which provides hands on skill-training from Australian and foreign-born professional baseball players.
Balfour and the group will then travel to meet fans who attend the Canberra Cavalry and Melbourne Aces match later in the day.
On Sunday, Dec. 14th, Balfour will be in attendance in Sydney and also take part in what should be an emotionally-charged tribute to his father, David Balfour, acknowledging his contributions to Australian baseball. Balfour will also be on hand to meet fans pre-game who came to watch that days Sydney Blue Sox versus Adelaide Bite game.
The group will take Monday off as a travel day and land in Melbourne.
On Tuesday, Dec. 16th, Balfour and his fellow Ambassadors will hold a press conference at Melbourne Ballpark and meet with the Australian Baseball All-Stars team members.
On Weds., Dec 17th, Balfour will serve as an honorary Team Australian Captain during the Australian All-Baseball League All-Star game that pits the best home grown Aussie talents against the best of the imported players in the league.
On Thursday, Dec 18th, the group will travel to the Gold Coast and hold a special Training with the Pros session in Coomera with local junior players.
On Friday, Dec 19th the Ambassadors will travel to Brisbane and hold a MLB Training with the Pros session at AFA Stadium at Holloway Field. The group will then meet fans and attend the Brisbane Bandits versus Canberra Cavalry game.
It is great to see Balfour and his MLB colleagues hit Australia this off season and give back. You have to believe it will be especially satisfying for Balfour to see how the game has grown in his home country and the heights it has reached in each of these vistas he and the MLB Ambassadors will visit during their trip.
I have no worries Balfour and his MLB crew will not only make a difference, but I know Balfour will bring back so many grand stories of how much the game has changed and how it has further impacted his life.
Can’t wait to hear a few of them while leaning on the Right Field rail this spring.
So now the Tampa Bay Rays choices for their new Manager are down to the dynamic duo of Don Wakamatsu and Kevin Cash. Both former MLB catchers have their positives and distractions and we wind down the last hours before the Rays front office makes their official announcement.
Will the Rays follow the current MLB trend of hiring a Manager who will develop and mature on the job, or will they select the candidate who has taken a few knocks and has learned from his bumps and bruises as a Manager.
Will age play a factor and the Rays decide that quite possibly Wakamatsu, who is 51 as the leader of their next generation of stars or will the team go with youthful route and select Kevin Cash who will turn 37 on December 6th and who is only several years removed from his own MLB days.
Could the fact Cash has 2 World Series rings as a member of the New York Yankees (2009) and Boston Red Sox (2007) show he knows what it takes to play within the highly competitive American League East.
Will the differences between the 2 candidates go even deeper taking into account their MLB careers that might benefit young Mr. Cash as Wakamatsu only played with Chicago White Sox (1991) while Cash played for 5 different clubs, 4 of which played in the AL East (Jays, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays).
Can the true aspect of game day experience on the dugout stoop be the deciding virtue on whether Cash or Wakamatsu get a chance to manage the Rays?
Would the Rays be more inclined to check mark Wakamatsu’s obvious game day experience as he has had stints in coaching with the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, and the current AL Champion Kansas City Royals as well as a year and a half at the helm of the Seattle Mariners.
Or can Cash in his limited 2 years coaching window show his skill set is larger than his resume and that his time in advance scouting as well as his tenure in the Cleveland Indians Bullpen and around Terry Francona will merit brownie points from the Rays.
Neither candidate has huge black marks against them as players or coaches, but Wakamatsu’s only dent in his resume might be his past inability to keep control and respect of his clubhouse in Seattle.
Will Wakamatsu’s undoing be his lack of keeping his clubhouse in check and losing the respect and confidence of his players and upper management, or will he address this frankly with the Rays and provide a different recourse and path if it ever happens again.
Could Cash’s limited tenure as a Coach be a defining line in the sand that the Rays will not cross, wanting more dugout time in hand than the game day views from down in the Bullpen area.
I must admit, I really would have loved to be the fly-on-the-wall during both their recent in-depth interviews to learn each candidate’s personals views, goals and aspirations for the Rays over the next 3-5 years. How Cash or Wakamatsu would implement or bring in changes that would elevate the Rays both on and off the field.
Would they both utilize advance scouting reports in-depth and embrace the art form that is sabermetrics to enhance their team’s successes, while also playing to their intuitions and game experience to play the odds to turn defeat into victory.
Can they educate, inspire and build on team interaction as well as provide moral support and understanding as needed. Can they build upon the foundation left by Joe Maddon in St. Petersburg and grow the Rays Way into a tweaked and refined version of their own that will be embraced by the team, organization and fan base?
You wonder if either of them have hidden in their arsenal a new innovation cohesion or program that could be utilized from Day 1 by the Rays franchise-wide and bring the next generation of outside the box thinking to the Rays.
It is going to be interesting to see who is finally selected as the Rays next skipper as each has merit and the ability and where the Rays drew their line in regards to experience over room to grow.
Whoever is announced and subsequently featured prominently in the Rays Press Room on Friday or Saturday, let’s hope Tampa Bay fans quickly get behind this choice, find a common ground and ready ourselves for their tenure as the Rays Manager.
So, who you got making their Rays Managerial debut on the stage?
When Sean Rodriguez was designated last week by the Tampa Bay Rays, then dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the move left a huge question mark on who might man the Rays First Base bag if something happens to James Loney?
This is not to suggest Loney will be hampered by injury or fall off his current offensive groove in 2015, but weirder things have happened under the tilted cap.
Early thoughts suggest that current Rays INF Logan Forsythe might be carrying an extra glove in his bag this spring, or quite possibly will be doing some additional reps this winter and during Spring Training learning the 1B nuances.
If you were wondering, Forsythe has lined-up at 1B once in his career and mans a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage on 1 career putout.
So with that small career sampling by Forsythe you might think the Rays would be better vested if they found another option at 1B, or at least someone with a little more experience scooping bad throws into outs.
First Base is not a spot you can master as you have to basically multi-task constantly throughout a game to keep runners, guard the line while also being a stop gap on the right side of the infield.
And I have not even ventured into the mental and physical bumps and bruises associated with those high throws, balls in the dirt that somehow bounce up and leave welts, bruises and nasty tell tales signs.
So I wonder if Ben Zobrist might be asked to take additional training and reps at 1B where he could bring another facet to his game and he does have a .983 career fielding percentage playing 1B 17 times in the past for the Rays.
There also could be a few guys outside the Rays system who could be viable candidate too.
Maybe recently non-tendered guys like Justin Smoak (Jays) or Gaby Sanchez (Pirates) who come into the fold with viable game experience, but might cost the Rays upwards of around $ 2 million plus a season.
Smoak might be in the Rays wheelhouse as a player who has experience at the position and has been a DH Smoak has had an up and down career since he was drafted in the First Round (11th pick) of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. He was then traded to the Seattle Mariners, then after the 2014 season the M’s became disenchanted with him and he was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays on October 28, 2014.
Seattle paid Smoak $ 2.6 million in 2015 during his first venture through the arbitration process. Even though Smoak’s career batting average of .224 and 74 career Hrs might not set your mind ablaze, his .995 career fielding average in 5 MLB seasons as a First Baseman plus the added bonus he could be a great bat off the bench (DH in 21 career games).
This current bit of fall from grace might benefit the Rays as well as offer Smoak a chance to re-establish himself as a MLB First Baseman.
Gaby Sanchez was a surprise non-tender by the Pirates, but you have to wonder if his 2014 offensive numbers were a fluke or a sign of aging. With the Pirates wanting to put versatile Josh Harrison at 3B bag, and move power hitter Pedro Alvarez to 1B for the 2015 season, Sanchez quickly found himself a man without a contract and team at the Arbitration Deadline
Like Smoak, Sanchez definitely has skills at First Base, but his offensive pedigree has taken a hit since he was dealt to the Pirates by the Miami Marlins 3 seasons ago. In his 5 years with the fish, Sanchez maintained a .243 average and showed power with 74 HR and 184 RBIs, but his 3 years with Pittsburgh he has maintained only a .241 mark with 18 HRs and 82 RBIs.
Sanchez main attribute might be his consistent glove and has a .995 fielding percentage mark.
There is also an outside chance that the Rays could just take a wait and see posture as the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby winner, Allan Dykstra (no relation to Lenny) could come in an further impress the Rays and quite possibly garner a utility and bench spot on the Rays 25-Man roster.
Darkening Dykstra’s chances might be his less than marvelous .981 fielding overage in 2014, and his career .986 mark might be fodder that he needs more seasoning before breaking the ceiling and making his MLB debut.
Even if the Rays do not have a clear leader in who might tag-in during the regular season for Loney at First base, there are many viable options and the off season is still young.
There is more than enough time for another name to surface, a trade to be formulated and quite possibly someone come to the Rays before the report to Port Charlotte, Fl in February.
Who knows, maybe Smoak or Sanchez could be there, or Dykstra could improve his glove skills and hit the cover off the ball.
It is the time that you truly find out what your club thinks you are worth.
First and foremost baseball is a business. And as such an arbitrary dollar amount is invisibly attached to each player, especially during the arbitration process.
On Tuesday, when the Tampa Bay Rays offer their first salary exchange in the arbitration process to their 6 eligible players, some will be within reason, a few might be on par to their tenure and abilities, and quite possibly one player might not see any figure exchanged and be non-tendered, thus becoming a Free Agent.
Ever since the 2007 off season, when the franchise abandoned the “Devil” in the woodshed, the Rays Front Office has been downright fickle when it comes to negotiating past a certain point in the whole arbitration process, and they have a very high arbitration winning percentage on their side of the table.
The Rays front office maintains an exceptional winning percentage, well over the .750 mark during the arbitrator’s segment of the process, and that can be very intimidating and has surely led to some players in the past just accepting what the club is willing to give them rather than possibly face defeat and a lesser seasonal salary amount.
And immediately you have to wonder if the Rays whole process might change in the organization since the departure of Andrew Friedman and the Rays could possibly morph into a more negotiations friendly or monetary complimentary Rays regime?
Don’t count on it.
Sure Friedman was the focal figure everyone looked upon when the arbitration process rears its ugly head each off season, but you have to remember new Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman was quite possibly always right next to Friedman offering up his own statistical research, calculations while safeguarding the Rays coffers.
And even if one cog of the Rays past arbitration machine is gone, there were plenty of folks in 3-piece suits and lambskins on their wall providing behind the scenes fortified data and scenarios thrusting out in all directions of any counter proposal of possible negotiation ploys that could be submitted to the Rays for consideration.
Current 6 Rays players who are under the arbitration umbrella this off season are: Matt Joyce, Alex Cobb, Desmond Jennings, Logan Forsythe, Drew Symly and Jake McGee. Each will be privy to an amount the team feels is fair and competitive for their services in 2015.
Several websites have their calculated guesses as to the Rays possibly offerings, but none of these website salary numbers are connected to the team’s first offering, or might be just arbitrary numbers of their own.
Currently most sites have the Rays offering a combined $20.9 million in possible 2015 salary for their 6 arbitration eligible players.
So let’s list the Rays 6 eligible players starting with the players we know will most certainly be offered salary arbitration and end with a few who might be on the fiscal bubble.
Heading the Rays arbitration salary list is RHP Alex Cobb, who is a key cog in the Rays pitching machine and has just over 3 years of MLB service and could be submitted at least a $4.5 million arbitration 2015 salary figure.
LHP Jake McGee who most have penciled in as the Rays closer in 2015 and has over 3 years of MLB service time quite possibly will be offered a team-friendly $3.8 million 2015 salary.
LHP Drew Symly has been a pure trade deadline delight since the Rays traded David Price to the Tigers and got this soft-spoken southpaw into their rotation. Symly, who has just over 2 years of MLB service time stepped up his game and could see his arbitration salary starting at a team-friendly $3 million for 2015.
CF Desmond Jennings who seems to have been here forever, but only has a little over 3 years of MLB service might see an arbitration figure of possibly $3.2 million offered on Tuesday.
INF Logan Forsythe, who was traded to the Rays in 2014 and is a part of the Rays crowded infield could get an arbitration salary offer of at least $1.2 million for 2015.
OF Matt Joyce who has had some great successes, but also some hitting flaws over 5 years of MLB service is expected to get a $4.9 million figure.
I personally feel there is a clear separation here of the players who the Rays might value as key to their success past 2015, and a few who might be walking more on eggshells than a firm footing with the team past this first exchange of arbitration salary figures.
Do not see any of these 6 remaining Rays players not being offered an arbitration salary amount tomorrow, but I believe the bottom 3 players listed above might be dealt a reality check and might find themselves a bit wanting in the salary department for 2015.
There was just a blot on Twitter that Tampa Bay Rays former jack-of-a-trades Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” that the Rays would designate him for assignment today.
Well, personally, I kind of saw the writing on the proverbial wall.
Main reason not being that S-Rod was to possibly garner $2 million in salary through arbitration, it was clearly a fact he is one of the last “pets” of former Rays Manager Joe Maddon that was left on the Rays 40-Man roster.
This is not to downplay the timely hits and run scoring escapades Rodriguez brought to the forefront during his Rays tenure, it is just we have more than a few multiple minor league and M L B caliber guys currently on the roster who can do it for less, possibly play more and do not have a lingering Maddon tie.
Some have whispered over the last few off seasons and during the extremely stressful Trade Deadline periods that S-Rod could be send a-packing. Of course those moments never reared their ugly heads until today.
Rodriquez is a capable M L B player who could like so many others on the Rays be plugged in wherever he was needed or take a bat and hit the batting circle with visions of RBIs dancing through his head.
With Brandon Guyer, Logan Forsythe able bodies who can handle S-Rod’s old tasks at a considerable lower salary, the choice surely was made easier when the Rays aw they could save around $2 million in salary with this one swift move.
Sure his .211 batting average last season left a lot to be desired, but his career-best .443 slugging percentage in 2014 showed he could be a great versatile position guy and his career-high 12 Hrs in 2014 might just make him a wanted man off the bench possibly well suited for a National League squad as a fill-in situational # 9 guy.
Joel Peralta was the first of Maddon’s preferential guys to get the Rays heave ho when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers not so long ago.
Wanna bet a certain someone will call and at least check in on what the Rays want for Rodriquez, and I bet they call from a 847 area code.
For the last 4 All Star Games we have watched during the State Farm Home Run Derby telecasts as multicolored spheres of white and gold take flight leaving the hurler’s fingers on it path to the plate before their final destination in a surprised and elated fan’s glove or hand.
Each year Rawlings and the Fielding Bible bring together their collective expertise to produce the Golden Glove Awards which include a spectacular display piece featuring an actual Rawlings glove as the centerpiece.
Ever wonder how they get the gold to adhere to the leather glove or even those Home Run Derby balls? Watch the video below for just a taste of the process.
These events showcase the special and unique masterpieces made possible by getting an atom of gold bullion to adhere to cowhide leather utilizing a proprietary method known as the Magnetron Sputtering System.
That is real 24-carat gold emblazoned on the leather and is each piece produced by this process is certified by Swiss Company SGS and includes their own certificate of authenticity guaranteeing that 24-carat gold was used in its manufacture.
Gold Sports Collectibles, which has patented and own the rights to this awesome and brilliant process first approached Rawlings about making their products “golden” several years ago.
They wanted to produce keepsakes and special collectible mementos by utilizing their innovative technology of getting gold atoms to bond successfully within the leather pores of the figure-8 cowhide cover of an actual Major League Baseball without reducing its weight, speed , circumference or diameter.
After Rawlings was satisfied with the results, it was on to more tests by M L B at Yankee Stadium where the test flight of the new “gold balls” showed no flight diversions, no fluttering and kept their unique integrity intact, even after a monster shot over the fences.
So what if I told you that you can buy these special commemorative balls for yourself or someone else this holiday season? Be it a State Farm Home Run Derby ball from the 2011 All Star Game, a special Derek Jeter commemorative ball or even a golden keepsake ball from any of the World Series matches since 2008.
And they can be sent to you this holiday season at really competitive price points that start at $99 to $179 and will produce endless smiles and special bragging moments for years to come centered on your mantel in their included acrylic display case.
You can pick from team-themed baseballs, to special moments in baseball lore as well as ball commemorating historic stadium plus personal player milestones anniversaries, which include Gold Glove and Hall of Fame golden baseballs.
Or maybe you want to make you own unique golden masterpiece. Well, you can do that too by sending your request to put your own personal mark on the ball you want designed. Maybe you want to emblazon your company’s logo on it and give it as an achievement award, or celebrate a special event like a graduation or remembering a special baseball memory.
If you might want to partake in a custom baseball you can contact GSC at email@example.com and they can see if they can make your dream a golden reality.
When I first got an email from GSC I was not sure if the process was durable or if the ball’s claims were true and accurate. Well the company sent me a ball with a Rays logo attached to it and I decided to try it out for myself.
I have a neighbor whose son’s plays for a local high school squad and I asked him if he wanted to help test out the ball to see if the diameter and flight were compromised at all by the attached gold material.
We threw the ball back and forth for a few minutes and the sheen on the ball did not tarnish, it did not show any developing cracking or show any critical signs of wear and tear. I did not go into the Batter’s Box and try out its durability after a few swings. I might be crazy, but I’m not nuts to possibly lose the golden ball over a fence in deep grass and have it destroyed by someone’s lawn mower.
But seriously, I love this item and it is a great way to show your fan love either for your home team, as a present with the recipient’s home squad or to gather signatures of All Star or World Series players and showcase as a one of a kind baseball.
And if you are on the fence about possibly purchasing one of the GSC unique logoed baseballs, what if I had a special 15% off you could use from now until the end of the year (Dec 31st) to buy one or more of these products as holiday special gifts for your favorite baseball fan or even for your own budding collection.
Of course you will have to use this code: GSC15 during the checkout process of your order and the company will send the ball to you as soon as possible with its unique certificate of authenticity as well as enclosed in its own box and acrylic case.
Here is a link to the Gold Sports Collectibles website so you can begin browsing and possibly purchasing your own piece of baseball history, to showcase your love for the game and to provide another lifetime and lasting memory for the baseball fans in your life.
Excuse me while I go polish up my golden baseball and put it back in its display case along with my 2013 Home Run Derby ball.
Oh did I forget to tell you, they shine in the light and pull the attention of even the most oblivious baseball fan towards them.
I decided not to write a blog post about the Tampa Bay Rays whittling of their respective managerial candidates from 10 to 3 until some of the heat and rage had died down. I felt I needed to let the anger pass that some great candidates were eliminated from this list like it was just a simple qualifying heat and they wanted the top 3 to aspire to greatness possibly being their gold, silver and bronze medal candidates for the Rays open manager’s slot.
If the Rays Front Office was trying to bring some sense of normalcy towards their selection process, they failed miserably as the process now seems to have been reduced to a comical 3-ring circus vibe with only the main act being a credible choice for their open post.
Bronze Medal- Raul Ibanez
I’m still not sure why he is even on this list. Sure Ibanez represents a quick 180 degree switch from the norm that was the Rays Way. Sure he played against this team as a player as recently as last season as a member of the Kansas City Royals, but the TEAM won the American League Championship, not Ibanez.
I understand and celebrate that he is a meticulous, charismatic and has his personal ducks all lined up, but his inexperience in managing a team is still in its infancy stage and to push a unproven game day novice into the Manager’s slot might have worked in the M L B of the 1900-1920’s, but today’s game is a statistical animal that needs to be fed the calculations, tendencies and proven tactical assessments and does not rely favorably on pure gut feelings and spur of the moment recollections.
I think Ibanez will mature into a great asset to baseball I just feel he is here 2-3 years too early for him to be considered for the Rays top dog. I also know Ibanez has not officially retired from playing yet and I do not see him as a player/manager hybrid for the Ray.
If Ibanez were to be given the Rays reigns, there might be more problems within the Rays organization than just a inexperienced Manager at the helm.
Silver Medal- Kevin Cash
I liked Cash as a player. Local Tampa guy who fought his way up the ladder to actually playing for this franchise and was behind the Tropicana Field dish. I also think his time spent as a scout and on the job of Bullpen Coach for the Cleveland Indians makes him a viable candidate, but like Ibanez, it is just a tad bit too early for him to slide into a M L B managerial post.
But I do like the aspect of a Bullpen Coach getting a chance at the top spot. A Bullpen Coach sees the game at a different angle. From the beginning when he assesses if the starter’s focus is sharp, his pitches crisp and if there are any “tells” being displayed he is an important cog of the game day machine.
I think Cash can do the job, but in the end, on the job training makes for a more game savvy Manager who already has it within his wheel house to make those lightning quick hard decisions, try risky tactics and rely on both his past successes and failures to adjust and formulate an on the fly judgment that could lead to a victory.
Gold Medal- Don Wakamatsu
Personally I think that failure makes him the best candidate. Sure that tenure gave him a huge managerial black eye, but Wakamatsu also gained valuable insight to become a more respectable player’s coach, but also gaining the wisdom to know when to pull the reins and reel in a trouble player or evolving negative situation.
Wakamatsu was at the Mariner’s helm during the last playing days of Ken Griffey Jr and Milton Bradley’s careers. One was adjusting to his reduced on the field role while the other just seemed mad at the world. Because of his soft hand approach towards both players and some others within the Seattle Clubhouse, he lost some vital respect and eventual control over Griffey Jr and Bradley as well as some of the young leaders in his M’s Clubhouse.
But Wakamatsu did not walk away from the game with his head down, he found a gig more suitable to his evolving talents and was a vital coaching and leadership cog in the Royals 2014 World Series machine.
If you look at a list of the Royals best in-game decisions/tactics in 2014, I know you will find more than a few of Wakamatsu’s fingerprints among them.
The Rays next Manager needs to further the evolution of the Rays into that next realm or dimension of their development. He has to bring his new eyes into the system and quickly fix it’s errors or faults. Every Manager the Rays have ever had left their mark on the team’s development, I think Wakamatsu would make a great fit as the Rays next skipper.
Ibanez and Cash might have the heart and hustle to provide that, but Wakamatsu has the other intangible items needed to take this team possibly finally towards hoisting that golden trophy in November.
I truly think and believe Wakamatsu is the answer to the Rays problem at this time. He not only deserves a second chance at managing, he is the most qualified of the 3 left and the Rays would be lucky to have him at their helm.
Plus having experience coaching in the American League plus having a stint in coaching in the American League East is a great thing to pop high on your Rays Manager Resume.
I am to give #TeamWakaWaka the gold.
Gosh, that did not take long.
We all knew that one day the possibility would rear its ugly head that the Tampa Bay Rays recently anointed President of Baseball Ops Matt Silverman would have to one day deal mano-on-mano with the analytical and crafty Andrew Friedman, who fled the Rays and landed with the Dodgers wearing a more historic shade of blue.
During the last minute prep before the Rays were to submit their names for their 40-Man roster by including a few prospects names to guarantee their omission from being plucked during the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, the Rays had conversations with several teams like the San Diego Padres, Houston Astros plus the Texas Rangers before Silverman was left with just one option……Friedman.
So before the strike of midnight the deal was sealed that sent veteran reliever Joel Peralta and Triple-A reliever Adam Liberatore westward to the dodgers in exchange for right-handers Jose Dominquez and prospect Greg Harris.
The trade on the surface between the 2 former 4th Floor Rays officemates seemed to ultimately compliment the Dodgers as they got a low salary Bullpen option in Peralta and a player who could be on the cusp of earning a spot in the L A Bullpen this spring.
Sure this trade helped the Rays solve some of their payroll concerns as well as make it easier for the Rays to complete their 40-man roster moves while getting some of value for Liberatore who quite possibly would have been left off the Rays final 40-Man roster.
Without question, Liberatore would have been plucked quite possibly in the 1st Round of the upcoming Rule 5 Draft if left unprotected by the Rays and all the Rays would have garnered was the $50,000 fee.
Ultimately Friedman knew the stats and abilities of each of these garnered trade pieces and knew of their inherent risks and liabilities firsthand because he scouted and watch them play when he was the Rays VP of Baseball Ops.
But let’s not be naïve here to think Friedman might have gotten one over on his former team, this trade has its own high points for the Rays with one significant power option that might bring the Rays dividends as early as when Pitchers and Catchers report in February 2015.
Dominquez could quite easily be the early great return on this trade. Sure he did have some stumbles and rumbles while in the lower levels of the Dodger system, but his stock has risen greatly in the last few seasons, even getting tastes of life at the MLB level in both 2013 and 2014.
Some might say he still has some control concerns after allowing 10 runs in 14 2/3rds innings over the past 2 MLB seasons, but his 12/6 K/BB ratio shows he has strikeout abilities that will be needed by the Rays with Peralta now gone from the Rays Bullpen. Dominiquez, who has been clocked throwing as hard as 103 mph might be a piece honed and sculptured this spring to be a cog in the Rays 7th or 8th inning playbook.
Also playing into his favor is the fact even with his not so stellar MLB stat line, he has averaged 10 strikeouts per 9 innings at the minor league level and if the Rays can fine tune his natural power talents, he could be one to watch even on the first day this spring. He mainly throws heat with a slider that is more known for its velocity than movement, but you know the Rays will show him a few new grips or pitches and expand his arsenal before he makes his Rays regular season debut.
And maybe Dominquez’s power is hereditary as he is a cousin to Rays prospect Alex Colome and former Rays RP Jesus Colome. For now I’m going to call him Smiley #3 (some people will get that reference). Both Harris and Dominquez also are from San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic.
Harris was drafted by the Dodgers in 2013 and posted a good season in 2014 during his stint in Class-A ball in the Midwest League and has solid strikeout numbers and throws in the mid-to-low 90’s. He is still 2-4 years away from possibly being near the MLB level and Harris should develop a few secondary pitches before he gets nearer to a possible stint with the Rays.
He also has a really interesting historic Rays tie-in as his father Greg, who was a former MLB pitcher (75-90 record) as well as a D-Rays minor league pitching coach with Rookie-Level Hudson Valley Renegades back in 1996-97.
Sure some will instantly put a check mark next to Friedman’s name with this trade as he garners a low cost Bullpen arm, and possibly 2 for 2015, but Silverman got an explosive arm that could be an impact as soon as 2015 as well as shed $ 2.5 million off his payroll.
But the real benefactor at the end of this might be Rays 2B prospect Ryan Brett who was a late addition to the Rays 40-Man roster right after the trade was completed. If Liberatore had not been traded, quite possibly Brett would have been left off the Rays 40-Man roster and subject to the Rule 5 Draft.
Conclusion: Everybody won in this trade. Now and in the future.
It is great news hearing that the City of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays might finally be seeing eye-to-eye in regards to a new home for the Rays. But unfortunately for the Rays, a few of the sites they coveted just 2 seasons ago are now either out of their price range, or set for a different type of development.
The Channelside District down near the epicenter of Tampa has been plucked by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s owner and his plans for that area do not include letting another sports team share in the wealth.
With both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties over the past few years both seeing their light-rail system ideas abolished by the public’s vote, a stadium in or around the West Shore Blvd area might also be past its expiration date.
Still, the Rays deserve to at least look, explore and quite possibly then remember that tract of land just off the southern end of the Howard Franklin might still have yearning for a possible multi-use facility that could include a stadium, a hotel/convention center and dining and shopping center open year round.
Next time you rush down on I-275 on your way home from Tampa, just past the Ulmerton Road exit look towards the northwest and check out this spectacular parcel of unused land and see if you can see what I see in my imagination:
A beautiful state-of-the-art retractable roof baseball stadium and hotel/convention center with the stadium’s roof opening towards the east to take in the flickering lights of Tampa from the angles within the stadium to provide a postcard backdrop.
That facility would become a shining jewel in baseball’s crown. Would set the standard in green technology while embracing its ecological habitat proving that man and nature can harmoniously co-exist, even with some of Tampa Bay’s tide pools just a Home Runs length away.
For the sake of honest here, this is the same parcel of soil was my personal choice for the building of a baseball stadium site back in the late 1980’s when the discussion first came up for the site of the then Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field.
This parcel of land sits smack dab in the middle of an ever growing section of Pinellas County that can support such a complex being built on this site, and should flourish beyond present expectations as both an entertainment center and transportation hub.
It is situated within a critical epicenter of the cross-county area to give more access to Tampa residents and upper Pinellas and Pasco-Hernando county citizens, but will be a bit of an added burden for people traveling from Sarasota or Manatee Counties.
If a stadium was proposed for this spot, this parcel would need a bit more tweaking and upgrading, to take on the extra burden of game day traffic, but it is at the threshold of two existing multi-lane infrastructures with I-275 providing north and south travel ease and Ulmerton Road, which is Pinellas County’s longest east-to-west travel road a gateway to several beach communities.
Alternative transportation is already in place because of the neighboring businesses surrounding Carillion Parkway. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) already has several bus routes that service the surrounding neighborhood office complex/condo community to the west of this parcel of land and services could be expanded to ease the transportation burdens of fans and visitors staying downtown or visitors who are staying out on the beaches.
Maybe PSTA and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority (HARTA) could combine or share resources and create an additional Express Route from Hillsborough County (west Shore or International Plaza) and bring fans to games from satellite parking lots or pre-destined pick-up locations throughout the Tampa Bay area.
This location (to me) is perfectly suited for the Rays needs.
So let the Rays take their gander around the other sites within Tampa Bay, and in the end they will probably drive right by this parcel of land and hopefully it will scream to them “Baseball Stadium”.
Sometimes the answer to things in life is right in front of your nose. For the Rays, it could be this great tract of land just off a few main thoroughfares that has a great bay view.