I could have sworn that 30 mph wind gust out of nowhere that just blew through the St. Petersburg, Florida might have been the accumulated sigh of relief given off by so many of the Tampa Bay Rays fan base with the news of Rays ace David Price and the team avoiding arbitration. How many of us within the Rays ranks since the team’s last 2013 game in Boston have been holding our own breathes pondering the many scenarios and possible destination for Price outside of the Tampa Bay region.
This 1-year, $14 million contract signed by Price did beat the arbitration clock and is the highest current or past contract for a Ray’s player in a single season. But do not stop hyperventilating yet Rays fans, the Price rumor mill for 2014 might be just beginning to gather some serious wind and steam heading into Spring Training.
Right now I think is the time we as a fan base need to worry the most about Price.
Things tend to happen fast within that 30-days window of MLB team’s reporting to Spring Training. The Rays might be giving Price upwards to 20% of their 2014 salary (based on a projected $70 million payroll), but with his salary written in black now, teams have definite number to contend with and could make an estimated risk to procure the southpaw by Opening Day.
Now that teams around the MLB can see a finite salary in place for Price in 2014 it might make him a bit more attractive as some current Free Agent hurlers want mega money to -5 years a solid contracts.
All this in essence guarantees to us in the Rays fan base that the teams that will eventually lose out on possibly signing Masahiro Tanaka might instantly see Price’s stable salary as a huge selling point and be a more reliable return on their investment than a few other names lingering on the MLB free agent pitching market. With current rumors (1/16/2013) surrounding Tanaka possibly seeing the Chicago Cubs going in hard on the Japanese ace’s services.
Such a victory by the underdog Cubbies could leave a large hole statistically between the talents of Tanaka and the current MLB free agent pitchers seeking employment for 2014…or beyond. Price with a set salary for 2014 and time to discuss any future salary discussions before his free agency could make that gap lessen considerably now and the right franchise might be willing to gamble Price’s 2013 campaign as a mire career toe-stub.
Even though Price did fire an early Winter warning shot across an earlier winter rumored trade to Seattle, before today’s announcement, all has been quiet on the southpaw’s social media front about any other possible alternative 2014 venue…or apprehension.
The Rays fan base cannot be overly secure in the fact Price will be here after Price’s signing today. Sure it does give us a bit of solid ground heading into the last moments of the off season, but nothing is set in stone yet and the Rays front office has yet to voice any solidarity that Price is here to stay…at least for beginning months of the season.
Brrr, I just felt another cold chill and wind gust blow right through me. Wonder if that was the Rays faithful all taking a collective gasp knowing the Price saga is far from over. Then again, maybe this move will warm all of us up a bit before the next wave of reality hits us like another cold and bitter trade wind.
Music has always had a great foothold in our National pastime and been a great instrument to excite, motivate to and inspire fans attending games. Players from the minors to the major league level use music as small glances into their personalities as each bar of music you hear as they stroll to the mound or batter’s box has a special meaning to them or emotional trigger. Music blares from every speaker in our MLB cathedrals between innings or stoppage in player to keep us entranced and involved in the game.
Every single clubhouse around the MLB boasts its own unique of pre and post-game ritual or celebratory sound bites that seem to be heard non-stop in the background of Clubhouse interview videos helping to soothe and let the players wind down from that day’s game. Be it an in-house team-appointed DJ who is in charge of the music tastes, or even a simple I-pod/I-phone set-up with a docking unit, music is as much a part of the game as rosin and pine tar.
Those beats and measures mean so much to the game that a simple verse or beat and rhythm can blend perfectly within game time moments within the game and act somewhat like a pulse or heartbeat of the contest. As we get closer to the day again our teams head to warmer climates and begin their initiation into another baseball season, it only seems perfectly aligned that music, charity and possibly a few awkward notes for a great cause help usher in the upcoming spring sprint towards another season.
“Strike A Chord” is an great event headlined by current Tampa Bay Rays and former Cub fan favorite and outfielder David DeJesus and his wife Kim that will combine the smooth transition of music along with charity and hit the high notes of having some of the current and past friends and family of the Cubs sing their hearts away for a variety of causes and charities supported by the DeJesus Family Foundation and the Cubs Charities.
Who wouldn’t want to see DeJesus and many of the players who have graced the chalk lines of Wrigley belt out a few tunes, have a few laughs and show their love for not only music, but the charities within their community. It is great to me to see a player who now plays in another baseball haven not only return, but show such devotion for his former “home” that resonates so beautifully as this event with untold great moments to play out upon the stage not matter if they be a solo, group or possible audience participation sing-along with the exhilarating crescendo of everyone no matter their singing experience meet in perfect harmony.
The only thing that stinks at least for us here in Tampa Bay is the blunt fact the event will be held too many miles away from the fun and Sun (and warmth) of the West Coast of Florida. That’s right, this Thursday evening at American Junkie located at 15 West Illinois Street in Chicago, Illinois, DeJesus and his wife Kim will host a grand night of singing and instant memories when they hold their fantastic Celebrity Karaoke Event with current and past members of the Cubs ever-expanding team family.
Things will start off with a VIP and Cocktail reception at 6:30 pm with the main event starting around 8 pm as the celebrity guests will begin to rock out and help raise funds for the ALS research and support. The night will have numerous karaoke duets as well as a raffle and silent auction and appetizers will be furnished by such great eateries as American Junkie, Chicago q, GT Fish and Oyster, Siena Tavern and Wow Bao. Individual event tickets start at $ 125.00 or you can reserve a table of 4 for the event for $1,000,
Current and former Cubs Players like Anthony Rizzo, Edwin Jackson, Nate Schierholtz, Travis Wood,Darwin Barney, Donnie Murphy and Ryan Sweeney have already stepped up to the plate for the event this Thursday evening. Who knows what other celebrity surprises will greet fans and participants that night….?
Sounds like the perfect event, and I’m jealous of my friends in the Windy City right now as they can witness this event while I’m seated here at my laptop in St. Petersburg, Florida. Who knows, maybe the Rays Baseball Foundation (nudge, nudge) can take a musical cue from the Chicago event and possibly get DeJesus and his wife to co-host another possibly a Southern version of the event some time during the 2014 season, or maybe during baseball’s short vacation time next winter.
I mean I know personally Karaoke has been a bar and entertainment option in the Tampa Bay region since the mid-80’s and where else can you truly “rock it like a hurricane”. But one suggestion…..next time David and Kim and you are on video signing (on WGN-Chicago with Hoover), please do not play that song by one of our AL East foes that makes my ears bleed (Sweet Caroline)……Besides that, still love ya David.
We as a collective baseball world knew under no uncertain terms this cleat was to fall. That Alex Rodriguez would definitely pay some sort of penance for defying Major League Baseball, but none of us if it was to be an abbreviated sentence or seasonal exile. Now that we know the price ($25,000,000) and length (162 games + any possible 2014 post-season visit) such defiance will cost A-Rod, only time will tell if we have seen the last of the defiant one on any MLB diamond.
You can speculate anything you want right now, but when A Rod finishes his “sentence”, he would have been off any regular season diamond within the MLB for almost 2 years. He has already flaunted the idea to the masses he will try and roll into the New York Yankees Spring Training site in Tampa, Florida this February hoping to put some mind at ease on his entire shenanigans, but the reality is the Yankees and most importantly MLB has time between now and mid-February to not only forbid such an arrival, but possibly shut A Rod out of an y rehab, conditioning or even a slight eye glance towards their Tampa facilities.
Right now with A Rod saying he will strut into Spring Training, the ball is in the Yankees court firsthand to either welcome him with open arms, or a clenched fist. It is actually a bit of a double-edged swords for the Pinstripes. The Yankees brass already know that the upholding of A Rod’ suspension by the arbitrator in essence saved them $ 25 million this season and some might view A Rod’s arrival as him accepting that final verdict and wanting to get his legal, and professional ducks in a row for a possibly re-birth in the Spring of 2015.
Honestly I do not see a lot of olive branches and love being shown at this moment for Rodriguez, but there is almost 4 weeks between now and their report date for pitchers and catchers, so anything can happen…….and MLB could ultimately take any harmonious union between the team and A Rod firmly out of Rodriguez’s and the Yankees hands.
One serious roadblock besides the shunning of MLB upon any out-stretched hands to Rodriguez might be the simple fact A Rod will head to Tampa, Fl in about a month’s time with so much baggage you have wonder if the franchise really wants the spotlight off the 2014 team that will cross the chalk lines this April, or corral daily and with hesitation the impending the media circus that would definitely surround such an activity with the focus upon everything A Rod being in the crosshairs.
Such a move could be a blow to the formulation of a cohesive Spring chemistry of the Yankees squad as the focus would be squarely upon who mans the “hot corner” in any or all spring training games and if there is not a solid and viable candidate who can do so with defensive and offensive finesse, the media could end up baiting the Yankees to internally question someone or everyone above their pay grade.
In the end you have to wonder if any spring arrival by A Rod will be to boost team morale or be a last plea to stroke his ego and importance until he has to fade into the background and possibly find play outside the MLB norms. Right now would be a great time for the Minor League Baseball governing unit to stand behind the MLB and the arbitrator’s decision by not letting any Yankee affiliate use A Rod on any of their rosters, effectively showing a sense of solidarity from Rookie ball to the MLB-level.
Personally, I would not want a play who is facing such a negative circumstance aside me in the dugout. Rodriguez has no one to blame in this situation but himself and his legal commando squad. He could of admitted something, possibly gotten a reduced expulsion from the game, but right now him even showing up in Tampa, he would be a viable pariah and whose action could further burn both himself and the Yankees brass with any actions or unfounded counteractions. Best case scenario is either A Rod fades into the background for the 2014 season, licks his wounds and get physically in the best shape possible and make a return in 2015….or not at all. What Rodriguez ultimately decides over the next 4 weeks will say as much about his ego and not his lost paycheck.
But then again, the Yankees could release him and he would be someone else’s problem come spring 2015……Hopefully Rodriguez does what is best for himself, what’s left of his reputation and possibly hopes and prays the Yankees dump him sometime this season. I mean everyone loves an underdog situation, and if A Rod is team-less and free to roam to whoever needs his services, a change of attitude and scenery might be the best thing ever to happen to him.
Hope A Rod makes the right moves for everyone involved.
Versatility in baseball can make you a solid career. Being able to play a multitude of position both in the infield and outfield can get you shots other players do not get. Even though INF/OF Jayson Nix has not put up substantial numbers during his trek across the MLB landscape his bag of many different gloves might just possibly keep him with the Tampa Bay Rays.
I was glancing at comments on the Rays signing of Nix to a Minor League deal which by all normal purposes has a major league invitation to Spring Training in Port Charlotte,Fl and one stuck out at me as if it was highlighted. “Smart move. Another Zobrist type except Nix has better wheels.”- MrSativa. Certainly will not hurt Nix’s chances of staying past March that he has been exclusively in the AL East over the past 3 years with the New York Yankees (2012-13 seasons) and the Toronto Blue Jays (2011 season). Even more enticing possibly to the Rays is the simple fact that over parts of Nix’s 6 year Major league adventure he has only spent 1 season outside the American League (Colorado Rockies-2008).
Combine his versatility along with familiarity with American League pitchers and their arsenals, and you might see Nix as a possible plug-in player into a multitude of spots on Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s Chess board. You can definitely bet if Nix can secure a utility spot on the Rays 25-man roster his versatility around the diamond might be overshadowed a bit by Nix’s 19 stolen bases in 23 attempts over the last 2 seasons. Having a guy like Nix on your bench in a close game, which the Rays seem to have more than most MLB teams, a pinch-runner like Nix can be a great weapon to have especially in the late innings or with a slow-running body nestled 60 feet from a lead.
Not to say Nix’s only asset to this team might be the fact you can plug him in almost anywhere but First Base or Catcher, but having a speed guy to replace the departed Sam Fuld, Nix would give Maddon a great option when the time might call for a swift change in the game’s flow. Of course Nix doesn’t bring a huge amount of offensive prowess to the Rays evident by his career .218 average with 37 HRs and 127 RBIs over 6 seasons.
But hidden inside that same bit of career stats is the fact over the past 2 season in which Nix has had 505 plate appearances, he has also produced his highest consecutive career batting averages (.243 and .236). If Nix can again find the power stroke he had back in 2009 with the Chicago White Sox (12 HR) or 2010 with the Cleveland Indians (13 HR), he might a bit more of an offensive pop off the bench or in a utility role.
Worst thing is, this is January and every player looks like a gem in the rough right now and could be a missing piece or nice addition. By his last 2 seasons in the Bronx, Nix has shown he can be a vital cog in the overall 162 game season as he appeared in over 74 games both seasons. That kind of stat could become a vital and substantial machine cog if someone in the infield or a corner outfield spot goes down with an injury in 2014.
So maybe MrSativa is right, Nix might be a great addition to the Rays . I mean a multi-faceted speedy player who also has ample experience playing in the toughest division in baseball can definitely be a great tool to have in your game day toolbox….Sounds kind of like the same description giving about Zobrist when he arrived in St. Petersburg.
Welcome aboard Jayson, it’s going to be a fun year!
This has not happened since 1996 that this large an induction class (6 members) consisting of great former Baseball heroes of the clay and grass get their names forever struck in bronze and will hear their stores and accolades echoed upon the summer air in Cooperstown on July 27, 3014. Even more amazing is the fact every inductee is currently drawing breathe and would make this the largest living class induction since 1941.
I think I can safely predict that on that great summer day in Cooperstown, New York this baseball hamlet might hold a 24 hour distinction of being dubbed ATL-North. It is amazing that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Joe Torres (played in Atlanta) and Frank Thomas will forever be aside the bronzed likenesses of such baseball icons as Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle as well as newer members Ripken, Boggs and Brett. 571 voters cast their votes for the induction class.
For the record, Maddux topped the list with 97.2% followed in order by Glavine (91.9), and Thomas (83.7%). Interesting enough, if Craig Biggio had been placed on 2 more ballots he would had beaten the requirement of at least 75 percent and made this the largest first year player ballot since 1955.
Biggio’s 74.8 percent tally might make him a heavy favorite for 2015 induction, but as we have seen in this year’s results, not until they are cast can the bronze plaque design begin. Lest we forget such dominating past baseball names like Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez will be newbies on next year’s Hall of Fame ballot and some would predict early favorites to be inducted next January.
One of the biggest question that was being pondered and debated before the official announcement was if Maddux could top Tom Seaver’s historic Hall of Fame induction percentage mark of You can bet more than a few comments and profanity-laced communications will be directed at the 16 BBWAA voters who decided to not to name Maddux on their ballot sealing his demise of not gaining the most percentage point ever for Hall of Fame induction. That will be a small side story told cross the country today, but one we all hoped might happen just for the sake anointing a new standard for voting excellence. But with 3 Braves caps heading into the Hall of Fame corridors, the South at least for today has risen high and can thump its chest out proud once again.
It is simply amazing that Braves icons pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and their always positive Manager Bobby Cox will share that grand day all receiving yellow jackets, bronze plaques. The Atlanta duo was expected to join Cox on the stage in 2014, but not until their names were bellowed loud and proud could the ATL faithful begin to search venues and hovels for their pilgrimage to Cooperstown
Joining these 3 Braves into induction in his first year of eligibility will be the “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas who not only showed the grace of hitting for average, but could punish any pitch with a swing that was the envy of so many other MLB masters. Thomas who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada was one of those guys you could bet with certainty even before the New Year began would be “bronzed”. Thomas played the game with integrity, honor and I do not think even a whisper ever was heard about him abusing PEDs or altering the scope of the game in any way. That in itself is a true testament of why Thomas deserves his plaque in an era where voices carried untruths and soured even the best of honest intentions within the game.
Even more amazing is Thomas’s selection might have opened wide the further discussions on a Designated Hitter getting the call for the Hall of Fame. Thomas did not play the DH spot all his career as such Hall hopefuls as Edgar Martinez. But what Thomas’s selection has grooved is the ideal that being a DH will not in the future possibly dismiss you from Hall consideration or have your stats discounted because of your spot on the lineup card, but not on the field. This could speak to many within the game finally giving credo to the DH evolution of the game and possibly we could see someone like Martinez garner more future Hall consideration and votes as well as open the Hall of Fame doors wider for future eligible Hall of Fame candidates like current Boston DH David Ortiz to becoming a more acceptable chance at garnering a Hall selection after he hangs up his well-used spikes.
Today’s Hall of Fame announcements did have a darker side as some players saw their chances become bleaker and darken with another year passed and no movement up the proverbial hill in voting percentages. The biggest name to see a slide due to his last year of eligibility on this ballot was former Tiger pitcher “Black” Jack Morris who now will have to go the Expansion Era committee route to gain induction after only garnering 61.5 percent of the vote. Morris also received 6.2 percent less support this year than in 2013.
Amazingly the only 2 players to garner more voting percentage point this year in their second year of eligibility were Biggio (6.2%) and Mike Piazza saw his own increase in his voting numbers to 62.2 percent, a 4.2 % increase over last year’s ballot. 4 players saw double digit decreases in their voting percentages as former closer Lee Smith garnered 17.9 % less votes this year. The other 3 losing ground towards the Hall summer stage were Alan Trammell (12.8%), Larry Walker (11.4%) and Edgar Martinez (10.7%).
Names you will not see on the 2015 ballot based on low percentages or no votes cast besides Morris will be: Rafael Palmero (4.4%), Moises Alou (1.1%), Hideo Nomo (1.1%), Luis Gonzalez (0.9%), Eric Gagne (0.4%), J T Snow (0.4%), Armando Benitez (0.2%), Jacque Jones (0.2%), Kenny Rogers (0.2%). The following names did not garner a single vote and will also be excluded from consideration for the Hall of Fame next winter. They are: Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Richie Sexon and Mike Timlin.
I want to again congratulate Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and the Veteran’s Committee inductees Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre into the Cooperstown Hall and salute the BBWAA for their insight and votes in completing and enshrining each of these great men into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
With the names of those selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2014 is now official and complete it is time to focus upon another long awaited moment……Pitchers and Catchers report in 37 DAYS!!!!!
I have to say I’m glad I’m not one of those 600+ members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) who have put in the mandatory 10 plus years of service covering own slivers of the Major League Baseball fishbowl who have to parlay their thoughts along with slicing and dicing their own set in clay adverse and varied opinions about the nominated few and somehow find a cohesive way to whittle down their list of potential former MLB players for possible selection and immortalized in bronze forever within the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
But wouldn’t it a hoot if I did have a envelope to send into Cooperstown. That my own personal baseball opinions could be voiced upon that black and white card of my 10 selected baseball heroes from the past that I personally would LOVE to see in bronze for eternity. The reality is I will never have that opportunity. I wasted my chance at being within that brotherhood long ago when I left my Sports Correspondent slot soooo long ago. But I would cherish and relish a chance to send just such an envelope into the mail and then sit back and see how many of my picks could/would get a phone call and the prestigious yellow jacket this summer.
I would consider such an envelope a huge responsibility both as a life-time baseball spectator as well take into account morally that I not only follow my gut reaction for such voting, but also toil and weather such stormy matters as if a finalist had used or ever abused the pre-PEDs mandates (McGwire) and testing regulations (Clemens/Bonds), whether a career-long DH (Martinez) merits a hearty Hall nod. Or maybe I might wrestle on a solid and concise benchmark for statistic considerations of both starters and relievers. I would hope I can show empathy with finalists who might have suffered in their careers by playing on mediocre teams (Morris/Raines) that did not parlay their own bits of success into playoff berths or shot in the World Series. Does getting a World Series ring (or 2) trump a player with a den full of MLB hardware?
And even if I did produce 10 ducks in my selection row, that the moment the selection process is finalized I could end up with a whittled down list maybe into the single digits and as low as 3 of my selections receiving that prestigious phone call on Wednesday, January 8th. But no matter the results, I know there will be chatter, both realistic and convoluted as some inductees and finalists will miss the cut and not meet both the required minimal votes for this summer’s Hall induction and possibly fall off the 2015 ballot due to lack of support or future consideration by the growing group of 600+BBWAA voters.
My first 5 selections will bode well with most voters, but my other 4 might ruffle some PED feathers or be called into question because of their non-God like stats, plus I added 1 Hometown hero to my selection list but that is what this voting blog post is all about……my personal Hall of Fame choices.
Without further ado, this would have been my ballot for the Hall of Fame Class of 2014:
1) Greg Maddux 355 W’s, 17 seasons of > 15 W‘s, 4 Cy Youngs. Could garner over 98.84% of votes
2) Tom Glavine 305 W’s, 14 seasons with >200 innings, 5- 20 W seasons, 2 Cy Youngs
3) Frank Thomas 7 straight seasons with .300 AVG,20+ HR,100 RBIs, 100 Walks, + 521 career HR
4) Craig Biggio 3,060 hits, 668 doubles are most by any right-handed hitter
5) Jeff Bagwell 7 100R/100 RBI seasons, NL ROY, Gold Glove, MVP, .408 OBP.
6) Mike Piazza 427 HRs, 12 X All-Star
7) Barry Bonds 762 HRs, 1,996 RBIs, 2,935 hits, 7 MVP, 8 Gold Gloves, 14 All-Star selections.
8) Jack Morris 15th (Last) year on ballot. His 3.90 ERA would be the Hall’s highest.
9) Lee Smith Was MLB Saves (478) leader when he retired. Great pressure guy.
10) Fred McGriff 493 HR were done clean and legal. 200+ HR in both AL and NL
Rays Trivia: What other Hall of Fame finalist besides Fred McGriff played for the Rays during his career?
Answer: Hideo Nomo who wore # 11 while going 5-8 in 100.2 innings in 2005.
When it was first announced about the possible “sissification” of the classic Home Plate collision I have to admit, I was emotionally disturbed by it. I’m one of those closet purists who see it as a emotional, physical and mental harbinger of the game. Somehow I’m now caught on the spiny spindles of the fence teeter-toddling between that purist regard and utmost safe for both players involved. The winds of change seem to have me bobbing and weaving with each passing moment searching for that perfect thrust of rhetoric for which I can finally land on a side of this issue.
I mean it is truly a thrilling sight to behold in a game no matter the score as you see one inert persona dressed in the MLB catching armor with the indescribable strength of a human brick wall about to line-up toe-to-toe with an unforgiving swirling dervish of speed, power and explosive inertia easily resembling being nailed by an incoming human bullet.
I tend to have a roller coaster state of mind and varying opinions about this right now, holding due court with merit-able opinions both “for” or “against” bringing this most animalistic segment of the game into a tamer and safer variation played out upon our own sacred 30 MLB baseball cathedrals’. Should I stand proud and echo it has been a part of the game since the beginning and we shall not tinker with the finer essences of the game? Or do we caution on the side of possibly ending a gallant career or life with an accidental shift left or right that delivers a body blow for which someone doesn’t recover?
I felt as if I might seem a bit soft in letting myself edit out an intricate tool within baseballs time-honored feats of determination and brute savage moments. Would I be considered weak and timid if I voiced out loud that the Home Plate play should be reduced from that violent basic lion’s “roar” moment to be tragically maligned and trans-versed offerings that would make this type of game day excitement suddenly a sublime shadow of its old former glorified self.
Sure I have empathy for guys like Ray Fosse and even current San Francisco Giant backstop Buster Posey who have solidly tried to stand their ground as human locomotives plowed into them , quickly exposing their own unforeseen physical limitations that resulted into visual “oh my” moments as they laid there in pain, disoriented and in some ways, a shell of their former gladiator selves even if only for that brief moment.
I have never played the Catcher spot on a diamond even though at 10 I was almost 5 foot tall and a bit bulky. I do not have a hint of what it takes to bodily stand there in a upright completely vulnerable stance or even s more defensive half-kneeling position as a whirlwind of spikes and sweat come rumbling, tumbling down the chalk line destined to dislodge myself and possibly the ball from the Home Plate keystone. I cannot tell you the first or last thought that does through a catcher’s subconscious right before his own stationary mass meets that incoming accelerated mass, and in a way, I’m glad I never had to face that impending explosion on the defensive side of the game.
I was against the folding of this baseball institutional human element of the Home Plate battle of the wills until I got up one morning in May, quickly becoming dizzy, dis-oriented and finally paying the price for the violent damage of misguided head-leading tackles, multiple player accelerated dog pile tackles and collisions that felt like a human car crash at times. Possibly my body was now too fragile and weary to hide the pure fact this action and reaction causes lasting effects of my own years of inflicting “punishment” and now the penance for that bravado was due in full.
So as I return to post again on this forum, I’ve decided it is not only prudent but responsible of myself to sit back here upon these fence spindles right now and relax and truly ponder this issue until I can definitely see the black and white refined honest answers needed that might and will ultimately effect this powerful segment of our beloved game. I must in this thought process take into account the invisible and delayed potential ultimate physical body count of players both on the “incoming” and the “receiving” side of this explosive sometimes game changing moment within the game.
I mentioned I was going to write this topic to a baseball friend over a cold glass a few days ago and his machismo answer was “No one has died yet, so why change it”. Funny thing is the moment he said that I pondered my own flashback montage of my own on-field collisions. I somehow got a jolt of unforeseen haze upon my thoughts. Not from a conscious or unconscious blanking of the mind, but an intense mental imagery of the physical nature and cause and effect lingerings of what brute force against immovable force can leave physically on you many years later.
The simple fact that this possible injury-plagued part of the glorious game might have to evolve, make either subtle or extreme changes to keep just that thought of as possible or ultimate fatality unveiling itself makes it even more of a moral imperative to bring about a realm of responsible measures and factual rules that even if we treasure our baseball heritage like fiends, the game has to evolve to protect those playing it now and in the future.
Maybe today I’m swaying in the breeze happy to be on the fence about Home Plate collisions and rules pertaining to its “taming” or its possible subtle nuances being changed forever. But I would rather be on the uncomfortable fence here and now, and open to possibility of maybe needed changes than visually witness a career-ending car crash at the plate, or ultimately scream to the heavens if a truly horrific action occurs. I am not blind to the pure fact that I may value and want that purity of the game, bit it cannot and should not overshadow any future considerations to hinder or exclude safety measures be enacted of all involved in such a violent aspect of our National pastime.
Definitely something for me and the rest of you to also ponder and to think about before our respective squads take to the fields this Spring.
I now call him the “Silent Avenger”. On a Tampa Bay Rays team already filled with persona’s like “Tatman”, “Super Sam” and even “Wolverine”, Rays First Baseman James Loney has been one of those great players who comes out of nowhere and makes this team better immediately.
Playing a position that embodies power and defensive responsibility, Loney has become not that iconic 1B that smashes the ball into an oblong shape on its way to the cheap seats, but has become a hitting machine producing needed single and run producing opportunities that also have brought the Rays back to the .500 mark for the first time since April 7th. Sure Loney is not the only reason this team has rebounded from their April funk, but he is one of those shining examples of a player brought in with question marks and wonder as to what role he will ultimately play on this team’s rise towards a post season berth.
All Loney has done is be a stopgap defender at the corner who has committed only a solo error in 259 total chances this season. But lost in that vital fact is the number of errors his glove has erased due to his versatility and flexibility at the First Base bag. But that is only 1 dimension of the Loney story as he has again found his hitting stroke since coming to the Rays at one point this week reaching the summit of the American League Batting Average pile along side Detroit Tiger Miguel Cabrera.
Loney currently heading into Sunday’s contest is 3rd among all MLB players in batting average (.371) behind Cabrera (.376) and Brewers OF Carlos Gomez (.374). He also shares another very vital distinction in the A L with Oakland A’s INF Jed Lowrie of 7 3-hit games this season which all transpired within 11 starts between April 17th and May 5th. Loney has not only shown the potential to produce for the Rays, he is doing it on a club once thought of as weak and full of holes offensively but has been one of those key linchpins to the Rays recent run explosions that has seen them creep from the bottom of the AL Team hitting stats.
Sure Loney (.959) might not have the Rays top OPS ranking which currently belongs to long-ball artist Evan Longoria (1.009), but he does have 39 hits in his 35 games as well as leading the Rays in doubles (11, tied for 7th in the AL). OBP (.426 which is 4th in the AL) and is second to Longo (.609) in Slugging Percentage (.533). Loney has been one of those pleasant surprises on a team that most thought would be hard pressed to produce runs much less victories this season after their horrific April start.
Want to know why the recent hitting surge of Loney is so impressive? Over his last 23 contests (17 starts) Loney leads the MLB with a .453 average with 2 HR,15 RBI and 9 doubles. But what is extremely impressive is his stat of only 4 strikeouts during this span that saw his average rise to over 200 points from its .167 spot on April 16th. Fangraphs also produced a fun fact that 33% of Loney’s hits this season have been line drives, the highest percentage in the MLB where the MLB average is 20.2 percent.
Amazingly enough Loney who is a left-handed hitter has produced a .529 average against Southpaws this season which should bode well for him as the Rays will be facing a lot of left-handed hurlers over the next week. Add on the nice stat of Loney sparking a .424 average with runners in scoring position and you get a player who is helping the team tremendously by slicing and dicing up hitting from both side of the pitching rubber. Loney is also boasting an impressive .337 average against right-handers so far this season.
And how rare was that Home Run by Loney last night against the San Diego Padres? The last time Loney deposited an offering in the his home stadium cheaps seats was September 17, 2011 in Dodger Stadium.
Loney has hit 8 HR on the road between those dates. Loney on May 9th also became only the 4th Rays player ever to be on the top tier of the AL in hitting with teammate Matt Joyce last doing it in 2011. Combine that with the pure fact Loney has produced back-to-back 3-hit performances on multiple occasions this season and you can see how he has transformed into a much needed silent avenger for the Rays.
Want one last reason to think Loney is having one of those dream seasons so many seem to have when they pull on a Rays jersey. Consider Loney has hit left-handed pitchers at a career .248 average heading into his Rays tenure. This season after Loney’s impressive outing against southpaw pitching during 3 starts against Toronto (May 6-9th) at the Trop produced a stellar 10-19 (.526) showcase. But the cherry on top of this is the fact during 2013 Loney has only struck out 11 times so far in 116 plate appearances which leads all MLB 1B qualifiers and had a streak of 39 at bats without a whiff this season.
Loney is definitely the silent avenger the Rays needed at First Base and has more than proven his worth.
Toronto Blue Jays Pitcher J A Happ is one lucky guy. Considering the sound I heard the moment the ball struck him on the left side of his face, just a hair to the outside of his orbital socket, he is lucky to be standing now much less have his facilities intact.
Sure the ball’s stitches caused a bit of bloody damage as it ricocheted off his ear and then down the First Base line towards the Rays Bullpen, when he went down into a lump in front of the pitcher’s mound, you had a assume the worst because of the sound the ball produced as it made contact with Happ. I watched the video of the event a few hours later and saw Happ try and make a valiant attempt to spear the ball, but he was both a few inches shy, and a few nanoseconds too late.
It also reminded me of the video from late in 2012 of then Oakland A’s starter Brandon McCarthy getting plucked by a batted ball in which he suffered some concussion related symptoms and missed some valuable time during the last month of the season. Twice now we have seen events that not only shocked the audience in attendance, but also left those watching on the television or the radio in a state of limbo as to the condition and injury status of a pitcher who did not have ample time to assimilate or react to a ball coming back at him at maximum velocity, definitely faster than it got to the plate.
The Happ incident will again bring out a few critics who debated the merits of a supported cap or quasi-batting helmet design to protect the skull and side temples of pitchers from just such a ball bouncing off their noggin. In Happ’s case, this would not have been an effective deterrent, and might have even made the situation worse if the ball had caught the underneath of such a cap and bounced down towards his eye socket region.
Then there is that mode of thought of possibly moving the current pitcher’s mound back from its present 60 ft 6 inches to possibly 70 inches to give a little extra reaction time in just such an event as a batted ball coming in at full velocity at a pitcher’s head or other regions. Sure both suggestions have merit, but are they the answer or just a solution to a problem that will be debated and talked about every time a hurler gets plucked by either a broken bat or a batted ball.
Last night I do not think a mound 10 feet backwards would of made a huge difference as Happ might not have had adequate time to react to attempt to either spear the ball, or duck and cover. The great part is Happ received care immediately and if you look at the photo of Tampa Bay Rays Desmond Jennings a few moments after he struck the ball and before he began to run the bases, he immediately knew it was a severe moment and one that might haunt him for a few contests.
McCarthy who now plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks was also on the hill last night going against the Los Angeles Dodgers hours after Happ’s injury and I wonder if his own event flashed back through his mind before he hit the hill for his late night start. Pitchers’ all know the inherent threat of balls coming back at over 100 mph at them glancing off body parts or taking shots to their body that will leave more than physical marks. One of the best moments of last night was as Happ was being wheeled out the Rays Home Plate opening he did a small wave to the assembled crowd in that area showing he was awake.
I think we will hear a few debates and proposed moves or solutions to this every happening again, but in the end it is a part of the game, something every hurler knows could happen at any given moment and with each swing of the bat. Happ got his medical clearance today from Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida and should be on the Jays dugout rail or possibly sitting deep in the dugout away from any stray baseballs.
It is just great both Rays and Jays fans can be Happ…Happ..Happy today knowing J A will be working through his injuries with courage after knowing he danced with the Devil a bit last night and lived to speak about it.
When former Major League Baseball star (?) Vinny Castilla came out to the mound yesterday to throw out the First Pitch accompanied by his 2 sons here at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado, I was not sure how I was going to react. As a failed asset of the old Rays “Hit Show” promotion, I still had some bitterness towards the way he ended his Tampa Bay Rays playing venture as well as some of the comments I heard personally outside the hallowed Trop. walls. Oh how I had held that burning aggression and brewing displeasure for Vinny within my gut for the last 12-odd years.
I had talked over the last 2 days here in Colorado about Castilla to fellow baseball fans wearing the black and purple accents of the hometown Rockies. It almost seemed like Castilla was a different person in St. Petersburg, almost like the devil might have ripped out his baseball soul while wearing the D-Rays colors and inserted some demonic servant to do his bidding while manning Third Base for the team.
I was told about his charity efforts, how he embraced the Rockies fans and their culture and was a model teammate when he wore the Colorado colors. This confused me as it was so different from his D-Rays persona, as if he was more eager to leave the ballpark then stroll into it on game days. MY icy demeanor about Castilla was beginning to slowly melt away as I saw a different person described to me, almost like someone I could of admired and respected for his play on the field.
I was truly perplexed, not knowing either to stand and clap or sit and just ignore the player who I personally felt “gave up” on his D-Rays teammates and who’s own comments definitely divided himself from his peers. It seemed to me that Castilla had a complete 180 degree difference in personality and playing style high above the desert plains here at Coors Field.
I was completely in flux as to what I wanted to do having still deep seeded feelings about Castilla, but felt each player deserved his time in the Sun both during and after his career, so I stood along with the other 39,220 souls who knew Castilla from his true “Hit Show” days as a Rockies player. I was beginning to see that “Tampa Bay” might have been a bad chapter in the life story of Castilla with downfalls and strife I could only imagine.
Castilla may not have made a lot of positive memories for me inside the Trop., except for his blast into the old TBT Deck, but the man had history and was almost a cult hero here in Denver. Maybe in my old age I grew up a bit more here in the cheaps seats knowing you can not hold grasps of negative moments against a person as we all are constantly evolving and changing especially as people. I can say today I was proud to clap for him today as he beamed from ear-to-ear with a smile I did not regularly see during his Rays times.
With each clap I seemed to also lose a bit of the resentment and hostile sealed up emotions I held deep in my Rays soul for a guy I felt let his team down. I can say the crowd showing their love and respect for Castilla both in their comments earlier and their loud ovation made me change my stance about Castilla.
Maybe the moment that truly clarified I should forgive and forget Castilla’s Rays past was when I met a young Rockies fan who cheered, shouted and was truly a 1-man cheering section for the Rockies that day. He wore a Castilla black T-shirt with white numbers and when I asked him if he ever saw Castilla play he responded, “No, I was too young to see his Home Runs”. Without thought, I reached into my camera bag and pulled out my (lil) Vinny bobblehead and thrust it into the young guy’s glove.
It was the right thing to do, true fan-dom should be rewarded, and with that gesture I also forgave Vinny for his past Rays ways.