In tropical regions like Florida, the Caribbean or the Dominican Republic, outdoor activities are anticipated and welcomed with each rising of the Sun. Doing things in our yards, beaches and even in our neighboring parks and backyards is a godsend of living in the splendor of this tropical oasis.
Even among our slices of paradise here within the Dominican Republic or in Tampa Bay where one of the smallest creatures, airborne by design could have possibly placed one of our own Tampa Bay Rays in harm’s way of possibly contracting a virus that could forecast months and possibly a lifetime of pain to Rays reliever Joel Peralta.
It is still simply amazing to me how something as small as a skitter (mosquito everywhere else in the World) could take down something 1,000 times larger than itself like a human. Even more amazing is the sheer minute possibility that a lone mosquito found Peralta during his stint back home in the Dominican during the recent All-Star break.
Peralta has been sent back to St. Petersburg, Fl to undergo a few more blood tests under the guidance of Rays Team Physician Dr. Michael Reilly to confirm that a lone mosquito might have given Peralta the infamous Chikungunya virus. Peralta’s blood work will also be reviewed and double-checked by the CDC and other governmental agencies tasked with investigating the virus within the United States.
Chikungunya was first discovered in the Caribbean back in late 2013. With the Dominican Republic being within that prime location within the tropical Americas island chains, it has been listed as a possible nesting point for the painful virus. Peralta believes he was either bitten once or twice while visiting his home back in the Dominican, but could he have possibly contacted the virus even before heading back to his home in Bonaro?
Florida where there have been 82 confirmed cases, including 2 victims locally who might have contracted the virus on their travels.
The virus is not considered initially life-threatening, but even if Peralta gets through the incubation period and gets through the symptoms with minor effects, it could saddle Peralta with arthritic joint pain that can be extremely painful, possibly lasting for weeks, or for a long time period.
The Rays did the right thing by erring on the side of caution and placed Peralta on the 15-day disabled list as he seeks treatment and a firm diagnosis of his fever, headache and joint pain. There was no mention of if Peralta was in the possible febrile or elevated body temp (possibly as high as 104 degrees) format of the virus, but this phase can last typically from 2-3 days before the onset of other symptoms.
Other symptoms can be a rash on the extremities or trunk region of the body and severe or nagging joint pains comparable to those felt by arthritis sufferers. Headaches, nausea, possible “pink eye”, eye sensitivity to light or even experiencing a loss of taste which could last as long as 5-7 days.
But until Peralta completes a battery of blood tests that will expose certain cell lines to samples of whole blood. He will also have his blood analyzed via RT-PCR can confirm a definite diagnosis of Peralta contracting the Chikungunya virus.
If Peralta did become infected, there are no approved vaccines available at this moment to fight the virus, but there is a phase II vaccine trial currently being tested that has provided a virus resistance in 98% of those tested after 28 days and 85% showing resistance after 1 years’ time. But the doctors could prescribe napoxen, paracetamol and fluids to his regiment.
Even if Peralta comes out of this with minimal time and effects there is a chance he could experience a extended bouts of joint pain. In some past cases, people who have contracted Chikungunya had joint pain symptoms as long as 2 years after their initial diagnosis.
The worst thing that could happen within all of this is the fact that any prolonged arthritic or joint stiffness after completion of his required rehab could possibly derail Peralta’s baseball career.
I’m personally hoping that a simple bite from a mosquito cannot and will not ultimately change Peralta’s physical gifts and allow him to further fulfill his baseball dreams .
“I’m sure it can, but talk to Stu Sternberg.”
Quite a statement made by out-going Major League Baseball Czar Bud Selig today to the media masses assembled during the Baseball Writers of America Association(BBWAA) briefing.
I’m not used to hearing a civil tone concerning our region in regards to Selig, and it kinds of scared me at first. Most of the rhetoric pointed towards this region be it Spring or Fall has been pointed disapproval or admonishment towards the are not embracing baseball with both hands, but Selig today in his oracle seemed calm almost to the point of finding his point of Zen towards the whole Rays stadium situation.
Selig acknowledged the viability of baseball within the Tampa Bay market, but he also seemed to show more serenity towards the enduring saga than in the past.
The quotes uttered by Selig today seemed a more transitional than omnipotent outbursts displaying his discontent and disappointment of the region’s snail-like pace towards clearing at least one achievable hurdle in the race for the Tampa Bay Rays to find a new profitable hacienda.
It almost seemed as if we were not talking to the same man who 364 days ago during the 2013 All-Star break seemed to be plotting the ultimate revival or hostile removal of any baseball hopes or dreams within the Tampa Bay area.
This was the same M L B icon who in 2013 profoundly voiced his displeasure and loss of patience with this region of Florida stating: ”You cannot ask a franchise to continue, when they have been so competitive and really, really done a marvelous job, in a situation that is economically not tolerable.”
What a difference a year makes……or does it?
In 2013 Selig seemed to be bringing a double-edged message to the Tampa Bay community on the one sharp edge by voicing the stern narrative addressing the Rays dismal home game attendance numbers while at the same time using the dull edge of his blade to stroke the Rays leadership’s excellent job of putting a competitive product on the field within their limited revenue streams.
The 2013 edition of Selig sounded off like a disapproving leader who was about to summon Rays owner Sternberg to his chambers and lock the doors until a viable and achievable plan could be at least penned to paper.
The 2014 edition…..not so much.
Today Selig expressed some faith in the Tampa Bay market and seemed to be giving the reins solely at this moment to Sternberg. Selig also threw out a curve ball morsel today in that there could be a breakthrough in the Rays slowly-moving stadium evolution before he leaves office in January.
Some logic might point to the change in St Petersburg’s leadership within the Mayor’s office to being more open to letting the team at least chat region-wide about another locale, but it might come at a cost. But no matter what, you can bet any announcement will be made after the Rays finish playing in 2014, that has been the “Rays Way” stadium-wise since Sternberg took the helm.
And for one of the first times in my memory, Selig threw out an unforced compliment to the region that the “demographics in the market are good”. But when asked later if his comment was possibly an endorsement that baseball in the region could work, the baseball czar just as quickly slammed the lid on the Tampa Bay Pandora’s box added, “I’m sure it can, but talk to Stuart Stenberg.”
Selig is set to leave his baseball throne this January, and with the recent reversal of the Oakland A’s stadium situation, the Rays remain one of his only projects that might not see fruition before he leaves his M L B post.
Possibly Sternberg has a master plan that has been viewed by Selig and has gotten a head-tilt to move in that direction with no current intimidation or threats from the top tier of baseball. At least not until a successor has gotten a feel for M L B’s top job, then all bets might be off.
So maybe Selig is letting Sternberg have the chance during the second half and into the Winter of 2014 to make some headway. Possibly Selig is providing a little distance between himself and the Rays stadium situation to afford the illusion of trust and respect the job will be done by Sternberg and his team without interference of the outgoing czar.
Guess only time will tell if this distance remains and if the confidence doesn’t cease come October.
But maybe Selig did take one last parting shot over the Tampa Bay bow when he spoke highly of the Montreal market as a possibly being revisited as an M L B franchise. “I wish them well. And I think they would be an excellent candidate in the future, no question about it.”
But Selig, the 2014-edition, remained steady and on point when asked repeatedly about his concerns with the Rays stadium debacle. “Stu Sternberg is working hard on that, and that should be his problem. I’m here to help him and he knows that. But it is a judgment call he has to make.”
Yep, what a difference a year makes.
I want to vote for one of the American League All-Star Final Vote candidates, but I’m not.
Some might say my reasoning is selfish as baseball is viewed as a team sport played by individuals and we should vote and select the finest talents in the land to represent our AL squad.
But this season, I disagree with that train of thought.
Call me a horse’s caboose if you want, but I’m boycotting this year’s selection because I can, as my vote matters (Or that is what every politician says). The main reason I’m not voting for any of the 5 qualified candidates is that I believe there should have been another Rays horse in the running for an A L All-Star slot.
I firmly would have voted as many times as possible on my many email addresses (work and personal) for Tampa Bay Rays RP Jake McGee to be added to the A L squad.
Most will bring me the argument that the A L already have enough talent on the left side of the rubber with the likes of A’s RP Sean Doolittle, Twins Glenn Perkins and 2008 All-Star game late inning reliever and game winner Scott Kazmir (who will represent the A’s) on their roster.
Add the additional lefty names of Boston’s Jon Lester and the Jays Mark Buehrle , plus the Rays lone selection David Price, and the A L team currently has 6 left-handed selections and the Final Vote could bring another.
I had a feeling Farrell was going to call the name of a southpaw from the Rays, but I did not think it would have been Price even though he has also put up some stellar stats considering his team’s hot and cold running offense at times this season. Maybe it was wishful thinking that Farrell might call on the soft-spoken McGee instead of Price, but I had hopes.
But it seems the All-Star game anymore is about the “hero factor”, or the guy who has that role model persona loud and proud and not the guy who has honed his craft and finally has all the pieces gathered to complete his M L B puzzle.
I truly thought this All-Star game would be McGee’s “coming out” party to show why the Rays have let him go from a great minor league starter to pulling the final strings at times in the Rays current closer-by-committee framework.
But as they say, let’s let the numbers (as of 7/9/14) speak for themselves.
*** McGee sports a 3-0 record with 6 saves this season, including a nail-biting, 4-out save last night.
*** Sports a 1.58 ERA in 42 appearances this season and surrendered a 14 straight scoreless appearance streak in last nights (7/8) Rays win over the Kansas City Royals.
***He allowed a run for only the 2nd time in his last 31 appearances, plus 39 of his 43 trips to the hill in 2014 have been scoreless appearances.
*** His fastball velocity, which averages 96.5 mph is the highest among leftie AL relievers.
*** His total appearances (42) ranks 2nd in the A L, and his stingy Opponents Slugging Percentage of .214 has him ranked 3rd in the AL.
*** He has pitched 49 consecutive homerless inning, the 3rd longest streak in the entire M L B. His last HR was on Sept 4, 2013 to LA Angel C Chris Iannetta.
***20 of his total 25 hits this season have been singles, and the other 5 have been doubles.
***McGee has stranded 24 of his 27 inherited base runners (88.9 %) this season and if his current formula runs true, should eclipse the Rays record of 88.6% set by former Rays Southpaw J P Howell in 2008.
So the numbers show McGee has the talents and the numbers to be considered a 2014 All-Star.
Others have commented that Price could attend the All-Star game festivities in Minnesota and consult with Farrell possibly Sunday morning to recommend McGee as a viable option since Price would have a little more than 2-2 1/2 days rest before the contest. Some say Price passing the Rays All-Star game cap to McGee would be one of the most unselfish and deserving moves Price would ever do as a Ray. uniform
The move also could be viewed as a team-first move as not pitching in the All-Star game would put Price in line to pitch in the Rays first post All-Star game contest against the Twins on Friday, July 18th.
The players selected by M L B are deserving and merit consideration, but I got to stick with my gut on this and keep the home fires burning that McGee gets a call from Farrell before Tuesday’s All-Star game.
Sometimes you got to stick to your hometown convictions even if it doesn’t always jive with the majority.
I have a feeling we do not have to worry about Tampa Bay Rays 3B Evan Longoria’s post-baseball life. Sure we know he will have a vast empire of little Ducky’s to protect, but after this recent M L B Fan Cave video, could Telemundo or a matinee or twilight Soap Opera also be in the cards?
Sure Longo dressed in his Rays whites and a blue Rays undergarment did an okay job of posting up his lines, hitting his marks and possibly bringing to light a want to be a thespian as well as a culinary artist when he hangs his cleats up.
Sure we do not see Rachel McAdams on screen with Longo, but you have to wonder if maybe his own inspiration Jaime Edmondson ( his own real life Allie) might have been in the shadows bringing a authentic love struck look to Longo’s monologue.
Plus if you squint your eyes and in the right light, Longo is definitely more athletic than Ryan Gosling, and his current blond faux hawk does bring him in closer to the film’s leading man persona.
Now I have seen the film, not by choice, but by necessity. What guy in their right mind would refuse to watch a film that gets their girls sentimental, in a romantic nature and can defuse even the worst argument or dumb action perpetrated by us males’.
In the long run, Longo has plenty of time to trim and sculpture his post baseball artistic craft. Possibly we could see another Longo dramatic adventure when his current contract ends after club options around 2023.
But for me his best dramatic role will always be Game 162, but then again I’m a hopeless baseball romantic who loves a great walk-off role.
This type of cluster-frack occasionally happens during this trade whisper time of the season when someone want to get that elusive scoop and be the primary media source as we go screaming towards the July 31st M L B non-waiver Trade Deadline.
It caught me totally off-guard in reference to an early Sunday rumor that the Cincinnati Reds were in some sort of discussions with the Tampa Bay Rays about possibly acquiring Rays hurler David Price.
A supposedly eagle-eyed individual saw something they felt dictated a informed and accurate Tweet/status update about a certain Reds slugger’s clean locker and they seemed to take a gambler’s chance that his hunch was a “solid fact”.
He was oh so wrong.
I quickly had 3 facts come into my own mind that struck down this trade rumor concerning Price and Votto. But around the M L B the rumor gained speedy legs and sprinted around the web not unlike Reds speedster Billy Hamilton around the G A B P diamond.
“Strike 1”: Votto is not entirely recovered from his early season quad situation. It might not be a daily occurrence or mild bother to him, but because of it any trade partner would want a 100% healthy player evaluation from their team medical staff before signing off on a player of Votto’s stature becoming their concern.
“Strike 2”: Votto has a ironclad no-trade clause in his contract and even if he was to change team colors, you might expect he would entertain a possible contract extension or fiscal reward from his new team to waive his no-trade, even if he was going to a contender for a possible 2014 World Series title.
“Strike 3”: This style of trade is not within the Rays usual wheelhouse of trade notions and baring the fact the team in January signed their current 1B James Loney to a 3-yr, $21 million contract, it lacks feasible plausibility unless Loney also was a trade piece heading to Cincy along with Price.
What should have been an honest visual to all is someone forgot the pure fact that Reds First Baseman Joey Votto is a minimalist and keeps a neat and tidy “work space”, especially during days when his Reds Manager Dusty Baker gives the Cincy mainstay the “day off”.
I know for a fact playing sports up into my mid-20’s, a fair amount of athletes do not have the “neat and tidy” gene within their game day clubhouse rituals.
In the end both “clean facts” were just a pair of trash trade rumors. How fast do you think they hit “delete” on their social media sites, then pulled down their Reds cap a little closer to their brow today.
Moral of this story: “Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy is your best friend when wanting to print anything, especially the truth”.
That and possibly thinking twice before hitting the “send” button.
Editorial Note: I could of posted all the Twitter posts that brought about this debacle, but decided they were already possibly being punished enough by other bloggers smelling their blood in the water.
I love this new idea that has surfaced from the promotional minds of the Tampa Bay Rays. Bringing out one of a kind, Limited Edition bobbles to commemorate these hot and humid Florida months was a genius plan because we, as Rays fans crave special and unique items for our home collections.And the first offering of this special Rays bobblehead collection starts off with one truly hip and purrfect cat…DJ Kitty. That’s right, the Rays have started their collection with a bang and brought out a DJ Kitty 4th July bobble to begin all the collectors salivating and reaching for the unique item.
The Rays only produced 222 individual bobble for each month and they can only be purchased at the Tropicana Field Team Store or the downtown Tampa Team Store location while supplies last.
I bought 2 of the D J Kitty offering today via phone from the Tampa Team Store location and they will ship my little furry/sculptured creations to my home. Sure I did incur a shipping charge, but considering the cost of gas, my time and finding a parking space in downtown Tampa during business hours, the charge was not only reasonable, but the perfect option.
I did hear back from the Tampa Team Store as DJ Kitty will be a little bit different than the attached rendering as he will not be sporting a red and white striped cap as the manufacturer left the white stars option on the cap, but the whole top hat is red.
No biggie, that just makes them more of a collector’s item just like the Rays Jason Tyner bobble that was an instant collectible hit. Plus, the American League All-Star caps during the Home Run Derby will be red so DJ Kitty is showing some extra spirit for the AL squad in the Mid-Summer Classic.
As I mentioned before, the Rays will also offer 222 more Limited Edition bobble in August and September. Taking a wild guess by the outlines on the advert, I’m guessing August will be a water or surfing bobble possibly featuring our favorite hot dog eating mascot Raymond.
As soon as my fine feline statues get to my humble abode, I will post an additional photo of the DJ Kitty 4th of July bobble along with some updated information as to their size…….Hurry up Mr. parcel guy…I need my DJ Kitty fix.
Hurry only 220 DJ Kitty Limited Edition bobbles left….I got my bookend set!
I swear it seemed like Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price didn’t even get his TB cap down upon his head after saluting the home crowd today when the annual M L B Trade Deadline circus circus began its carny barking as to the future vista of Price.
Hopefully these ministers of the media keep their whispers and speculation banter somewhere between the tattered chalk lines of truth and facts and only the confirmed facts will eventually rise to our collective ears.
For we are again at that fateful time of the season when the critic’s Circus again pulls back its tattered curtain and all 3 rings are anxious with tales flowing in all imaginary directions set to whet our baseball whistles.
One local Tampa Bay media talking head boasted the headline “Price delivers in potential final home start for Rays”.
I understand everyone and every body wanting to be the first voice to pop out a possible true scenario and bring to light or put to bed an issue, but with 12 Rays home contests between July 7-30th, I have a feeling unless the Rays get a golden offer around the All-Star break, we should be able to witness at least 1 more “Price, Price baby” moment in Tropicana Field before the Trade clock hits zero..
With the first high octane voice bellowing the half-truths, Price has now officially embarked on a unwanted and unflattering 65 possible team destinations in 65 days trip with the potential for no return flight to TPA or PIE this season.
I know many in the media will lead their stories with Price’s stupendous double-digit K feats and not be direct links to the circus.
They will adamantly state that Price is again got a firm grip on his game, but I am not naive enough to no worry that some trade darkness might creep into these same reports thanks to that one negative ” last home start” concerning Price.
I was hoping not to get caught up in the fiasco and stand on the sideline a bit until July 30th, but this unexpected Rays riptide has taken a hold of me and I’m now along for the whole nasty ride….sink or swim style.
Maybe I’m in the minority that believe whole heatedly that the Rays still have an iota of a post-season chance and go decide ultimately to go “All In” with Price knowing he can muster some vital late season dividends.
It is the fiscal reality of being a Rays player….If you have success, someone will pay a premium to possess your skills for their own zip code and fan base. I know deep down into my cavernous baseball soul this dark day will happen and Price will someday pull on another team’s jersey, but hopefully after November 1, 2014.
I heard Los Angeles, Toronto, Seattle and even Texas, and this was just in the stands. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had him as the new Manager of Manchester United knowing Price’s Soccer prowess.
One ounce of misquoted speculation, rancid rumor or well-placed slight of tongue can bring your own baseball swirling faster than the seams on a Price fastball.
But even if that is what I truly want as a fan of Price and the Rays, the total opposite can happen with one single phone call or text and the healing process within this community will have to begin for all parties involved.
I plan thinking it is all lies unless Rays VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman, Rays Manager Joe Maddon or Price tell me otherwise. Sorry I plan on being that obnoxious little kid in church who pops his fingers in his ears and warbles “nana boo, boo” noises ‘til the cow-nose rays or Price again comes home.
Oh gosh, I gotta end this now I can hear the Calliope comin’ around the Clubhouse bend…..
It is a sound and a quickly approaching spinning blur that every pitcher know will happen at some point in their careers. Sure the ball might have been traveling to the plate at over 90 mph, but as bat meets ball the return boomerang of the white sphere can reach easily into the triple speed digits.At those moment the 60 feet 60 inches from plate to mound can be traveled before the blink of an eye. At that moment an extra inch of protection can be the difference between being a future part of the game or experiencing a career defining moment.
Reaction times are critical and even the most inopportune blink or body movement can be the difference between being tattooed with a Rawlings stitch line, missed completely, or crumble to the turf in a heap. Tampa Bay Rays fans knew this feeling well back in 2013 as they witnessed firsthand Toronto Blue Jays starter J. A. Happ then Rays hurler Alex Cobb take pitches back through the box to their head regions.
Over the last several years there has been an increase in batted balls vent on human destruction coming back through the pitcher’s mound area with speeds in excess of 100 mph. Doesn’t matter if you threw a curve, change-up or even an high and inside fastball…..If it was your time, your next move was critical.M L B consulted a few manufacturers to devise and invent a protective cap that could or at least would eliminate some of that explosive interaction of ball meeting noggin, and selected IsoBlox’s version for distribution around 2014 M L B spring training camps.
I wrote a post how the new caps were AWOL on the head of members of the Rays starting or relief corps this spring, but someone with at least a former lineage to the Rays has been the first to wear the modified “Charlie Brown” front crown and brimmed cap to a M L B mound.
Torres might be the first to sport the cap as a possible new piece of M L B pitching attire, but I doubt he will be the last. And some time has expired since Torres had his own head injury scare this past spring on a ball batted back through the middle.
Torres did quickly or automatically order a protective cap after that incident, but decided his health was first and foremost and ordered the cap last month and IsoBlox had it in his locker within a week’s time.
I mean I knew former Ray, now San Diego Padres reliever Alex Torres was a smart guy, but possibly his action of wearing the cap to the hill in Saturday night’s match-up against the Los Angeles Dodgers might just be the motion needed for other pitchers, both starters and relievers to possibly don the new cap for themselves possibly later in the 2014 season.
Sure the cap seems a bit bulky and possibly cumbersome on first glance, but what that overshadows is the extra element of safety it might create especially for a leftie who leans down through his delivery and has his head exposed towards the plate before coming back into a more upright position.
I could see the rest of the M L B hurlers not even thinking of wearing this style cap if they had to thrust into their own pockets for this extra padded brim, but IsoBlox has made the cap FREE to the M L B and believe me, Torres seemed to be not only smart enough, but possibly has the bulk of the new caps sporting the Padres logo at his disposal.
Torres added post-game, “It doesn’t feel bad. The difference between the regular cap and this cap is not really that big.”
And Torres after the game did share that he did have a few quips and possible giggles directed his way from teammates as to his odd-shaped mound attire, but Torres might end up having the last laugh as he will now be a lifetime baseball trivia answer for taking the first steps to don the front-heavy head gear.
“It could save our lives if someone hits a ball to your head. I get it for free, so I’m just gonna use it to see how it feels.”
People always talk about players being pioneers, doing something incredible during a game that will be remembered for eons. Will baseball history remember, or celebrate the fact Torres embraced the protective cap and proudly wore it on his head when he strolled to the mound in the top of the 8th inning in front of 43,474 fans seated in Petco Park Saturday night?
Torres threw 25 pitches during his appearance against the Dodgers and not once did ball meet cap, or cap meet turf.
I applaud Torre’ effort for not only being the first to don the new protective cap, but for being the first to experience it under an actual M L B game time situation. Hopefully because of what Torres did a few other bulky “Charlie Brown” caps with other M L B team logos will make their own game day appearances.
I tip my non-bulky cap to Torres for leading the way with an IsoBlox cap upon his head.
It is the World’s game. Only in our country does the sport heard ‘round the World take second, third or maybe not even a fifth fiddle. The globe embraces the sport of football, or as we Americans have dubbed it, Soccer.
With our own United States men soccer team showing their grit and glory by winning their first matchup against Ghana in this year’s World Cup last night, I thought it might be fun to pencil in my own Rays World Cup squad based on the current members of the Rays 25-Man roster.
Instantly most of you would wonder why a Baseball blogger would want to write and create a Soccer squad. From the age of 10 to 21 I played either as a Sweeper or on the left-side of the turf on local Men’s leagues (FSSL), on the All-South select U-17 travel teams and spent my 16th summer in Malmo, Sweden working out with that vistas reserves team.
Heck if you look over at the blog photo on right you will see a photo of me playing indoor soccer, so I have the knowledge and know what it takes to play the game.
Of course the Club Rays team’s Managers slot is already taken as you cannot discount the philosophical and game day rhetoric of Joe Maddon. Heck in a lot of ways he might even be a better communicator and guru to young minds than the current USA Manager Jurgen Kilinsman.
I decided this Rays Club needs to play a 4-3-3 alignment which is 4 defenders, 3 midfielders and 3 forwards. We all know the Rays claim to fame in the last few years have been defense, so a line with a left, center, right fullbacks and a sweeper manning the gaps seems as a perfect lineup to help keep games close and with minimal scoring (hopefully).
So let’s start at the last line of defense, the goalkeeper position first. I am going to pick Ryan Hanigan as he has shown he has the ability to block balls in the dirt, move around with grace under pressure and will come out of goal and sacrifice his body for the team. Most people would think I might pick Jose Molina as a back-up, but I chose Alex Cobb as much for his leadership as for his attention to the little things and would be a great communicator back there.
That being said, my defense will also have a few wily Rays vets manning key spots, and even a few surprises to some people. My left fullback has to be someone committed to defense as well as have good sprinting speed to defend an opposing winger who is usually the fastest guy on the team with the ball.
For some reason Jake McGee fits that spot for me. He is a big body guy who should be able to keep his shoulder square to the ball and ride a winger off the ball if he wants to proceed towards the touchlines or the goal box. On the right side I’m going with a gut feeling that Yunel Escobar will be a mirror image of McGee and keep the crosses from getting to the goal mouth and has the closing speed to thwart long passes into the box.
Center fullback is a tough one. I want to get a big body in there, but more in height than in weight. For that reason I chose Grant Balfour who at 6’2” has a bit of a nasty streak, highly competitive and if he chats to the ball, that might scare a few opposing forwards from going up the middle of the pitch. As long as he keeps his back to the goal, I think the snarling Aussie should shut down any middle of the field dribbling and long range shots.
As for the sweeper position I wanted to give that slot to someone who can be both an offensive and defensive weapon. Someone who can be that 4th utility defender as well as crash up into the offensive zone for corner kicks, help take free kicks and set a few boomers toward the goal. Perfect weapon for this Rays Club squad would be Sean Rodriguez.
Now onto midfield, or the engine room of this team. We already know Evan Longoria will wear the Captain’s band and has the grit and stamina to man the center midfield slot and his ability to give out orders and command respect will have opposing defenders marking him tight, so I want my outside midfielders to have a burst of speed and great ball skills.
My selection for left mid will be James Loney. I picked him as much for consistency as for his bursts of power which on free kicks or fouls way outside the box his kicks could free Longoria and the forwards to jockey for inside position on the opposing defense. My right midfielder would have to be Ben Zobrist. I do not know if Zorilla is ambidextrous on the soccer field, but if he was he would be a great fit to the usual attacking side of the field and could center passes or do flanking moves or U-runs down the line for crosses into box.
That leaves the forwards line. Here I’m going for the tall man in the box and shifty runners down the outsides or who can change directions and do crafty diagonals into the box for short chips, passes or provide ball in the air for headers.
So with me wanting to capitalize on speed, it is no secret the left wing has to be Kevin Kiermaier who seems to have a sixth sense to getting into position for the right play and who is one of those players who brings a new level of excitement to the team.
Right wing has to be another speedster as I pencil in Desmond Jennings for this slot and will call upon his quick first burst for great offensive moves and set plays. Add to the fact Jennings did play in that other brand of football, I think he will be a great target in the air for headers and taking a defender out of his position for scoring opportunities at the top of the goal box.
That only leaves the center spot. I had to go with someone here who has leadership, respect and plays on a different level at times. The obvious and clear choice for this spot was David Price. One of the glaring reasons is his 6’6” frame can rise a good 3-4 inches above most defenders for headers and I think he has the foot skills and dexterity to pull off picture perfect passes and provide 110% throughout the contest.
Of course this Rays team will have great and skilled substitutes on the bench like Chris Archer, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Joel Peralta, and I might add Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi to the mix as we all need a true “enforcer” on our soccer team.
I know there will be debate about my choices, but I think this squad could do some real damage on the pitch, provide some spectacular scoring chances and picture perfect goals as well as keep the score low and within reach of the Rays offensive unit. Well it’s time for me to set the ball on the middle dot and get this Rays Club team going. Besides, you can always vent your thought at Rays Soccer Night Friday, June 20th.
What? I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and watch this team, I would make the perfect Referee plus I want to see this match at ground zero, not in the stands. And besides, St. Petersburg,Florida like the Rays is home to the 2-time North American Soccer League Champions, the Tampa Bay Rowdies who play on the Rays old Spring home. Florida Progress/Al Lang Field.
Now if I can just get the linesmen to keep Jonny Gomes from running onto the turf, we would be golden.