Results tagged ‘ A L East ’
I began my stroll through the doors of the far terminal of St. Petersburg /Clearwater Airport just at the same time that dinner was delivered to a few of the Tampa Bay Rays interns and staffers who had gotten their early to erect the skeleton of the maze that the Rays player would waltz through on their way to their buses. I was the first fans (same as 2008) to wander into the concourse a few minutes after the Rays clinched their second American League East title in three seasons.
Immediately there were a bucket load of high-5’s and even a few screams of “Go Rays!” from a few of the assembled Rays employees as I got into a prime spot with a direct shot at the door the Rays players and staff would bust through on their way back into Tampa Bay’s hearts. This moment was definitely the calm before the storm as the Rays plane would not land for another 4 ½ hours, giving me more than enough time to catch up with some people I had not seen in a while.
People like my old Pepsi boss, who along with her new Special Events coordinator (my old job) were starting to set up free Aquafina water and natural Sierra Mist soda stations all over the concourse to keep the Rays fans hydrated in the upcoming close quarters celebration commemorating the Rays first thrust in the 2010 post season. I had come early to get a bit of fodder for a future post, but within the next half hour small strands of Rays faithful were slowly assembling and in high spirits to see :their boys ” one more time.
Even had an insider (Rays ex-charter flight attendant) who kept me informed of the charter flight’s status and a few funny text messages she got from some of the people still celebrating in Kansas City. It wasn’t until 10:30-ish that the Rays plane finally touched the tarmac at St. Pete/Clearwater Airport, and by that time the crowd had multiplied 20-fold. But in that down time before the Rays plane landed, the Rays kept the crowd energized and excited with the antics of our favorite sea dog Raymond, game day emcee Rusty Kath and the Rays (dance) Team.
But what really got people fired up was the hundreds of balloons that were blown up hours earlier and then pushed into the crowd to form a balloon volleyball match that lasted for a half hour or more. It kept our minds off the wait, and on our toes as blue and yellow balloons constantly were pushed towards the white gating and needed to be pushed back into the ever increasing mass of Rays Republicans’ who turned out to welcome the team back home.
Trivia questions for bobbleheads and kid’s batting helmets, Raymond dance-off contests, and even some great mixes by D J Fresh, who is an ex-Rays bat boy turned DJ, provided easy ways for the crowd to forget the time on their feet and stuffed like sardines. But suddenly it was time. You saw the Rays stadium staff go out to the tarmac quickly followed by the Rays team photographers, and you knew the moment had arrived. You knew it was time to scream, yell, thrust signs skyward and cheer for your champion Rays.
Immediately the tarmac door opened and in came Rays Manager Joe Maddon in his customized Brayser suit quickly followed by players and staff in their own Braysers. Never had the Brayser been so fashionable than at that moment, The team had coaxed MLB during the last home stand to let the team hit the field wearing the plaid billon their game day caps, and now during the celebration, the Braysers had made St. Petersburg mad for plaid.
Instantly the assembled Rays crowd went into a frenzy of emotions and verbal cheers along with screaming and yelling for select players as they filtered in from the plane. Evan Longoria was decked out in his Brayser complete with a white belt and white patent leather loafers in a look that would have made Pat Boone proud. And you could tell by their faces that the sounds of this enclosed terminal area kind of put a few of them back on their heels, but they quickly adjusted and got into the flow of the moment.
It was officially celebration time in Tampa Bay, the mighty Rays had landed home safe and sound. Maddon made a short speech then turned the microphone over to Longoria and then David Price before the team quickly made their way to the buses stopping to shake hands with the fans, read a few of the signs and look totally overwhelmed ( in a good way) by all of this Rays attention.
The veterans of the 2008 airport celebration knew what to expect, but playoff rookies like Matt Joyce and Dan Johnson just looked like deer in the headlights, but were into the moment as they went through the maze on their way to the exits. It was another example of the great support and admiration this club has by some of it deepest and most passionate fans. Rays players did not take a lot of time to greet fans and friends they knew along the winding white gate path.
Glances and finger pointing were the signals of the day as the players quickly got to the busses possibly for an extended round of celebration on tap later in the evening. As quickly as the emotions and sound has risen, it was suddenly silent and the crowd moved for the many exits, hoping to get a glimpse or wave from the Rays players on the busses before they disembarked for Tropicana Field. The Rays were finally home.
They had finally completed one of their seasonal goal by winning on the road, and in achieving that goal, they had won an A L East crown. It was an evening of renewed friendships, honest emotion and a buzz that seemed to stay within your body for a few hours. As the large crowd began to filter out of the terminal, local media news crews were summarizing the action and events, trying to collect the balls of energy of these great celebratory moments for those Rays fans at home.
As quickly as it began, it was now over. Time to go back home and personally access the moment, collect our thoughts and begin to focus on the goal at hand. The Rays had secured another A L East title. Another banner would be raised to the rafters in April, but two more still had to be fought for in the coming weeks, with the journey beginning in 3 days as the Rays kick off the playoff punch with a 1:30 start on Wednesday afternoon against the Texas Rangers.
Even this morning, the buzz and effect of that crowd scene last night still hums in my head, and is alive on my camera. And all of it will collect again soon as the Rays Republic ( and me) assemble again on Weds. To begin our quest for another ring, another victory, and another great moment to celebrate in our Rays brief, but fantastic history.
See you at the ballpark.
All over the place there have been discussions and dialogue on the Internet as to what the Major League Baseball selected committee’s should do to combat the out-of-balance competitive edges that some teams have had over the other in their own divisional fights throughout the Major League Baseball season. There is the cry of “small-market” and “limited resources”, plus the omnipotent teams bellowing that “they pay luxury taxes so that team can be competitive”.
But the reality of the whole situation is that baseball has changed by leaps and bounds from the entire scope of the game when I was a child and they first went to the present set of three American League divisions. Before 1969 the MLB really consisted of only two rosters of team city names within either the National League or American League Pennant races. But of course in that time period before 1969, there were only 8 National League squads, and a minimal total of 16 total baseball franchises in both Leagues.
It was a balanced league playing a balanced schedule and life seemed to be good before circa 1969. Then all of a sudden there was dramatic and interesting news that the MLB should expand its fan base to other locales. And with that vocal decree came the increasing sound of baseball’s internal owners’ chatter and different twisted on the senses of logic that were devised to give their own teams distinctive advantages. But out of all that rubble came the simple fact of maybe separating the American League teams within a simple and logical region-based geographical division that might make travel between the cities and team revenues both rise to unseen heights.
At the time in 1968, there were 10 American League squads spread out from Boston to California, and the possibilities of fans enjoying the game from coast-to-coast simultaneously was a burden. California, which was hours behind the Atlantic Coast franchises due to Pacific Time Zone, would have to scramble to hear a 7:05 pm start at approximately 4:05 pm in the afternoon on the radio. Heavens forbid there was a doubleheader, or even the weekly possibility of Sunday games starting at 1 pm, which would translate into listening to the game on the radio before church or while eating breakfast.
So there were an abundance of realistic logic and well-thought out theories thrown around from shore-to-shore before finally there was a simple logical compromise and an agreement put into place to suffice both Leagues place in the growing National baseball market, and it put in the possibilities for future expansion and MLB National growth. But today I am only going to focus on the changes of the AL East circa 1969 to the present day model we have in 2010. This is just a post to show from where we have come, without getting into the fight of where we should proceed from here.
We began in 1969 with 6 American League East division members which included such teams as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Senators. This first draft and finalization of the AL East is extremely different from the revised and devised current AL East picture, but at the time of its conception, it was a convenient alternative for the AL East teams to travel within only two Time Zones for their divisional games and kept their eager fans anxious to hear games on the radio or viewed on television during the weekends.
There were still bountiful road trips out to the AL West division teams in California, Texas, Ohio and Georgia, but the revised “Eastern Industrial town” slant to the division produced instant city rivalries and boosted geographical bragging rights and a thumping of the chest from the Atlantic to the tip of the Great Lakes. And at this time, the MLB schedule was still balanced with every team playing each other a certain numbers of times, with divisional foes getting a few additional games each to promote the rivalries.
All the AL East teams in that 1969 version of the division had both direct train and airline flights directly to those cities daily to promote out-of-town travelers to follow their favorite teams on the road. But the magic only lasted until 1972 when the Washington Senators ceased their operations in the Nation’s capital, and moved their franchise to the American League West division as the Texas Rangers. To produce a natural balance again in the American League, two expansion teams were awarded to Kansas City, Missouri and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers franchise actually grew out of the move from Seattle of the old Pilots franchise to a more centralized baseball city location.
And with the Senators moving so far below the Mason-Dixon line to Texas, it was only logical geographically to bring the new Brewers franchise into the AL East fold. And the AL East stayed on their course for another five years until in 1977 the MLB decided to again promote expansion and awarded a new franchise to be placed in each of their two divisions. The first was a revisiting of Major League Baseball to Seattle region as the present day Mariner’s franchise. The American League then made some International news as they awarded their second franchise in Canada to the city of Toronto., and quickly moved them into the American League East family.
That also brought the total number of 14 teams currently in the American League roster. And the MLB American League format stayed the same until in 1994 the American League again expanded within itself promoting a Central Division that would only help to build more regional rivalries and also bring about increased revenues to their member teams by eliminating some excessive travel measures while bringing their three division tighter together for a close cohesive bond of their divisions. And with that move, the Brewers and Indians made their initial move to their new division along with Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.
The team that took the journey out of the AL East was the Detroit Tigers, leaving the AL East division now ranging from the West coast of Florida all the way to the Canadian border Buffalo, but all the AL East teams were now on Eastern Standard Time, which made the move of Detroit more feasible because of the inclusion of the budding regional television markets broadcast schedules.
The American League East has come a long ways since its slicing and dicing into divisions in 1969. And there is no clear-cut present way to establish or change any of the localized divisional alliances without damaging some credibility along the way. But I find it quite interesting, but not in a collusion kind of way that every expansion team except for the 1977 Seattle Mariners began their run as an AL East divisional member. I have said before maybe the MLB should follow the NFL’s venture into producing a Southern Division which would include a few National League teams to balance out the whole cheesy enchilada.
It is coming people. Change is coming and we know that somewhere deep within the New York cityscape there are people looking at multiple eraser boards with viable and reasonable options and transfers of power within the whole system that will take MLB to the next level. Some people think these divisional realignments or re-distribution of talent and proximity is going to be based no moving teams like the Royals and Rays to more competitive grounds and leave the rivalries of the Boston-New York teams alone while maybe holding the Blue Jays and Orioles to this division for a long time.
The answer can not be quick, and we know it will not be easy. But can we realistically see the Boston and New York rivalry split up, or even changed by their League placements? Neither is logical or financially feasible for either team to discontinue their intense and geographically charged feeding frenzy. But will MLB have to readjust regional divisions and teams to hope to fuel the fires for teams like Tampa Bay and Atlanta or Texas to establish their own set of stomping ground bragging rights and leave the Northeast to the current giants.
The AL East is in route to change. To what extent is still up in the air, on the drawing board, or within someone’s mind right now. It is going to happen, and it will come with a certain hailstorm of vocal and written responses before the masses see the logic and accept it for what it is all about…. Renewing the fever and the lust for competitive edges and more parity-based teams…Without a salary cap, this might be the only option…for now.
I was thinking the other day about all these signings by the New York Yankees for their pitching staff, will these moves guarantee that the team will be better in 2009. On the surface, it looks like the team has made a huge upgrade in talent in their pitching staff, but does that always commute to a championship, or even a playoff berth. You only need to go a less than 500 or so miles to the west to get your answer here. Just because you took the Hot Stove season by surprise doesn’t put you in the playoffs in December.
In 2008, oddsmakers, fans and legions of experts ( including the talking heads in Bristol ) declared the Detroit Tigers the early favorite to win the whole enchilada after their blockbuster 7-player deal with the Florida Marlins. That deal was completed a little over a year ago at last season’s Winter Meetings when they pickjed up vital cogs , pitcher Dontrelle Willis and power hitter Miquel Cabrera. Along with the other upstart pitching they had, the Tigers looked like the runaway favorite to crush the American League Central enroute to a playoff berth.
In fact, it was a player outside of that 7-player merry-go-round who made the most impact in 2008. In a little thought of deal with the Teaxas Rangers, the Tigers picked up a young thrower, Armando Galarraga. During the season, Galarraga went 13-7, with a 3.73 ERA to be the standout pitcher, not the veteran Willis, who spent most of the year fighting control and delivery problems.
At one point in the season, Willis was pitching in the Class-A Florida State League for the Lakeland Flying Tigers before coming back up to the majors late in the season for the Tigers. When he did come back up, he had a poor performance in his 9 appearances, going 0-2, with a 9.38 ERA. Cabrera also got off to a rocky start , was playing musical chairs in the infield, and finally ended up at first base before righting his ship in 2008.
Cabrera did get the offensive side of his game going, and ended up strongly in 2008, but it a example of a little too much too late as the team was by then buried in the cellars of the American League Central division. By the time the entire team rebounded and played solid ball, it was too late and the dream was shattered as the team ended the season in the cellar of the division.
The 2008 Tigers are a prime example of the fact that big splashes do not always guarantee wins in this league. Some times the act of acquiring great players doesn’t add up in the wins column. They got a bit blindsided in a deal for Edgar Renteria where they gave up a promising righthanded starter, Jair Jurrjens, who went an unexpected 13-10, with a 3.68 ERA over 188.1 innings for the Atlanta Braves. Jurrjens ended up 2008, being a consistant pitcher for the Braves, and exceeded the teams expectations for him at his young age.
Tigers starter Kenny Rogers got old quick during the season. Reliable inning-eater Jeremy Bonderman got hurt, and Nate Robertson and Justin Verlander did not have the expected seasons, actually showing decreasing numbers and suspect pitching at times during the year. With the season seemingly going down the tubes, the team even traded away power-hitting catcher Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez to the New York Yankees at the Trading Deadline. Rodriguez at the time was in a offensive decline, which added to the Tigers; frustrations during the season.
So we come down to now, a year later, and the New York squad hit the neon-clad Vegas strip for the Winter Meetings with their purse strings wide open seeking the ‘ miracle fix’ for their upcoming season that showed the Yankees struggled all season long to even stay out of 4th place in the Americna League East. The team came into the Winter Meetings with an aggressive plan to upgrade and take the best players on the board back to their new shiny and sparkling cathedral to start the rebirth of promise in the Big Apple and reclaim the legend that is the Yankees.
The Yankees did seem to hit the jackpot early this off-season and made the biggest splash in the pool so far in the league, but will it be enough to even guarantee a playoff berth for the Bronx team. Two days after the Yankees signed C.C. Sabathia to a seven-year $ 161 million dollar deal, they agreed to give A.J. Burnett a five-year, $ 82.5 million dollar payday. With the Yankees still having their purse strings open, they might even still bring in another ace like Derek Lowe, or even solid leftie Andy Pettitte might come back to his old locker and play again for the Bronx bombers in the new digs.
There is still speculation that sluggers Mark Teixiera and even Manny Ramirez might even pack their respective West Coast bags and head to the City that never sleeps. With targets like that, can the Yankees even still claim a divisional title or even a Wild Card berth in their own division.
Most would these deals put the Yankees on the front burner in the A L East, or will they struggle against the up and coming Rays and Blue Jays, and the always offensive-minded Boston Red Sox. Both of the teams that the Yankees looked up at in the standings in 2008 come back for more with consistant squads both in the offensive and pitching departments. And the Blue Jays and Orioles can battle with the best of them when the matchups are equal.
Both Burnett and Sabathia had remarkable seasons in 2008, and should warrant a upgrade in their salaries and a better chance to claim a World Series ring, but will 2009 be that season, or will it just be the first year building up steam for future runs at the trophy. The once powerful Yankees offense still still seems to be churning on 7 cylinders in the off-season, with both Abreu and Rodriguez not in the fold any longer, can the pitching upgrade bring the team’s sudden offensive holes to a small diameter.
Hank Steinbrenner must now channel his best imitation of his father and figure out a fast fix for the offensive lineup of the Yankees. Two mainstays, A-Rod and Derek Jeter are back for another season, and should have consisitant years, but first base has a hole, rightfield is an issue, and catching must find an offensive leader to carry the team. Jorge Posada might finally move from behind the plate and be the upgrade the team needs at first base, or Designated Hitter. But that still leaves a huge hole to fill in rightfield.
Do the Yankees throw a bushel of money at Ramirez and move Xavier Nady to right and camp Ramirez in the left-field corner of the new Yankees Stadium. That answer might be forth coming in the next few weeks, but the issue of Teixeira maybe coming to the Bronx will be resolved in the next few days. He wants to have a solid playing location and residence area by the end of the 2008 year. With the clock ticking and money again being thrown at the top guys, can the pinstripes again be on a roll to the championship?
2009 is on the horizon for the Yankees, and with sure issues still going on in-house as to a payroll or even a roster, the team will plug and fill from now until Febuary. But can this upgrade on both sides of the ball even guarantee anything for them next year. Will the team go strong out of the gate and then suffer the curse of the Tigers in 2009. Or will an unsuspecting injury or injuries take the wind of out of the 2009 sails by May. This is the game of baseball, nothing is a sure thing, and no one player can take this team on their backs and lead them to glory.
The Yankees do look like the team to strive to beat every game in 2009, but all the Yankees have to do is look to the west and remember the pre-season expectations of the Detroit Tigers to remember that nothing is guaranteed in this game…………Not even the price of a hot dog and a beer.
The Hot Stove season is not over yet, and either slugger could make a huge offensive weak spot strong again. But the Yankees need to be smart and not just try and fill a hole, but fill them with the right players who will be productive for the next 4 years. The A L East has become a battleground, with the Yankees finally showing age and weak spots in 2008. Can they totally hide those spots, or will there be more signings and better numbers to follow in 2009.
Speculation is that the team is not done firing up the pen and signing a few more checks before all is said and done. By the time the team hits Tampa for Spring Training, the entire middle of the lineup might have a new feel. But this by no means is an indication that Yankees will need ‘ Hi, I’m_______ badges for the first few days after pitchers’ and catchers’ report .