Results tagged ‘ A L East ’

Rays Airport Celebration was Amazing!

 
 

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.

Which Path Will the Rays Follow?

 


How surreal has the last half a day gotten for Tampa Bay Rays fans. How ironic has the plot twists and turns gotten that during the doubleheader in Boston on Saturday, the Rays Republic were pseudo Red Sox viewers just hoping to push an extra wave of emotion and confidence towards the Boston bench to defeat the Evil Empire.

How wild is it that a grinding and crashing carnage of a Yankee loss has given fate another reason to deal with the Rays Republic and provide us with another chance to grasp the title when all that loomed was darkness, gloomy and heart becoming devoid of excitement. Sometimes baseball has a unique way of surprising you.

That in an instant, baseball can drive you to heights you never expected, or give you hope, then just as quickly dash those dreams and leave you shocked and amazed.


Baseball again has shown us that sometimes it is a living, breathing collection of special and heartbreaking moments that can turn in a million directions in a nanosecond before its final destination. But right now, within my mind, baseball has shown its blessing to the Rays. It has given them the ultimate task of deciding their own destiny.

Win and the Rays are in as American League East Champions, lose and it will be up to the Red Sox and Yankees to deal the last card to the Rays. Right now, ironically in the 162nd game of the 2010 season, the Rays still have a chance to hoist the prize. Emotions are so high within me right now that I will need FAA clearance to land my plane of emotions and set a course for a possible “Welcome Home” celebration at St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport this evening.

The Rays Republic kind of had this odd feeling all season long that this A L East race might go down to the wire, but you realistically would imagine it would have been decided and celebrated long before the 162nd game’s conclusion. The Rays Republic definitely would not have fathomed this season’s high or low point coming after the last out of their last regular season game in Kansas City today.

 

But the stark and plain reality of it all is that if the Rays win today in their afternoon matinee against the Kansas City Royals, they hold the defining key to the American League East crown. With that glorious A L East key comes a chance to come back home to begin another chapter in their 2010 season in the 72 degrees of Tropicana Field, with a partisan Rays sell out crowd to begin the ALDS.


With the added kicker of another awesome night of Rays celebration throughout Tampa Bay starting with the team’s arrival at St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport this evening. Considering the team will not probably stay in KC just to celebrate, the plane ride home will be a mixed ball of emotions with it and the players’ exploding the moment the Rays arrive and thrust their way through the tarmac door.
But that is if they win today.

There is still a minute possibility that the Rays could crouch in the corner again and maybe lose this last game of the season, which would open another can of squiggly undesired worms to filter into our noggin’s. With a loss, the Rays would be at the mercy of those pinstriped New York Yankees. But the Yankees do start their game in Boston at 1:35 pm EST and that game could be concluded before the Rays even enter the last few innings.

That will provide an extra incentive of emotion and stress towards this Rays team, but also could be the added spice to thrust them onward and upward to secure their rightful place.


 

In front of the Rays right now is the subtle reality that if they lose or falter, the consolation prize to the A L East is slipping into a plane and jetting to the Twin Cities for a few days of pondering what got away from them before they begin their second season against the Twins in Target Field. I do not know about you, but I would rather celebrate and feel fantastic about an event than have to ponder and sulk about the ” one (A L East title) that got away in the cool Fall weather of Minnesota.


The ultimate reality of the situation is that the Rays and Royals could be entering the latter points of the game when it becomes clear whether or not there will be a celebration in Tampa Bay tonight, or the team jets onto Minnesota to get a early jump on the ALDS.The Yankees are hoping for a Rays loss with their own pinstriped multitudes having an ocean of church candles flickering and dozens of prayers to higher authorities above hoping and wishing for the Rays and starter Wade Davis to somehow falter today, mixed with a Yankee win. 

 

Reality of the situation is that the Rays hold the cards right now in this fight. They have the first tiebreaker in hand, and will be hoisting the crown to the heavens if both teams win or lose together. But wouldn’t you rather seethe Rays win the last game and go out into the post season on a truly positive note than to rely and hope that their competitor falters first and makes their outcome moot.


If the Rays pull off this last second miracle, if they begin the celebrations in K C this afternoon, you can be sure I will be at St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport when that charter flight hit’s the runway tonight. Last time there were 2,000+ of my closest Rays fans with me to welcome and celebrate the Rays stride into the 2008 playoffs. One last step by the Rays towards achieving another one of their seasonal goals. One more step back towards the postseason and another 3 Rays celebrations. All of it can be guaranteed with just a “W”.
 
 

Number Three Holds the Key for the Rays

 


 

Still remember vividly telling people in a blog post back in April that this year’s Tampa Bay Rays team needs to win a couple extra games in April through August that could be stored away for the September crunch time need. I had no idea at that time that the Rays would sprint out of the gate with  such a fantastic start to the season, but the Rays still could have won a few additional contests over their other 159 games. And you might wonder why I bring this up now?


It’s kind of simple, if the Rays would have won just three more contests at various points in this season (including 2 in the recent hone stand), then the Rays would have been celebrating a possible American League East crown late last night instead of sulking over another potential roadblock to that potential goal. A few losing obstacles or stumbling blocks along the line this year might eventually cost the Rays a real chance of hoisting another banner to the Trop’s rafters.

It is kind of frustrating to think that this AL East title is just beyond the Rays clutches right now. A few well placed victories along the way could have sealed the deal. The Rays will instead play a three game season ending elimination race with the New York Yankees with the winner being the team that doesn’t make the first mistake and lose a game (possibly). And the Rays could have provided a little cushion between themselves and the Yankees last night by winning the extra game in the Rays schedule, but a rare Rays defensive stumble saw them sulking instead of celebrating a victory.

 

This is the time of the season where the Rays have to thrust their might upon their enemies as they ready for an undecided playoff opponent. It is the time for this team to go on offensive rampages or pitching masterpieces to create a post season Rays buzz. To provide the media “Talking Heads” around the country with an optimistic reasoning to back this team.

Instead the Rays have suffered a setback that will further illustrate the general conscientious in the media circles that this Rays team might have peaked from April through June, instead of being a strong juggernaut in late September. The Rays came into 2010 as an underdog,and their leatest adventures further put them behind the eight -ball


Weird how three games spread out over 159 other dates could be so illuminating now. Three wins against anyone else all season long and this Rays team could have collectively relaxed and set their focus towards the first round of the playoffs in this last road trip. Instead the Rays have to immediately focus on a three game winning streak to end their 2010 season to potentially claim their second golden ring. Win three games and the title is theirs. Lose even one game, and it is all up to what the Red Sox and Yankees do in Fenway Park this weekend.

It could be the Red Sox, who were eliminated from the 2010 post season earlier this week, who could play a significant role in whether the Rays have a chance to grasp the A L East title. A Red Sox win gives the Rays a chance to step up and take the crown earlier than Sunday evening, but even one Rays loss puts the pressure again back on their own shoulders. All of this drama and suspense could have been avoided by somehow winning three extra games.  

 

 Three has a lot of meaning for us, it is the first prime odd number, every humans perceives color in three primary colors, and it is the numerical character that might seal the Rays 2010 destiny. The number three right now holds the ultimate golden key. Three will decide the Rays championship hopes and dreams.

Wild how three is also the number of Rays Third Baseman Evan Longoria, who has been absent during this Rays stumble through the jungle with a quadricep injury. Could he possibly be the defining moment and numerical savior to the Rays ultimately hoisting the A L East crown? 

Rays Mananger Joe Maddon had Longoria out doing agility drills before Thursday nights game against the Royals, Longoria did not play and that brought on the need for a potential thre game Rays winning streak to start another celebration. 


Ironic how the Rays 2010 mantra of “WIN- What’s Important Now”  established in Spring Training is composed of three letters which stand for three of the most important words of 2010? All this could have been avoided with three simple victories. Three straight wins, or a combination of Rays wins and potential losses by the Yankees and the Rays can claim another three words all for themselves: Eastern Division Champions.
 

Rays need to Find their Evil,Mean and Nasty Gene

 
 
Mike Carlson/AP

It is one of those things you want your team to possess at this late season juncture. There is definitely something to that old warrior’s credo that only the strong survive. That nasty, vile and dog-eat dog mentality can be the fulcrum point that can get players through the pain and suffering that always happens around the 50-games left mark in the season. It is either transform into a meaner version of your team’s former image or you run the insane risk of defeat rather than victory. Plain and simple, it is time for the Tampa Bay Rays to take on a “no more Mr. Nice Guy” persona.


It might sound a bit melodramatic for the Rays to have to abandon their Boy Scout sparkling clean and virtuous image, but the stark reality is that each and every loss can put another dagger in the Rays heart and potentially sabotage all the hard work the team has done to this point. Sure the Rays currently look to be in fine shape only two games out against the New York Yankees, but there are foes hiding in the darkness that want that A L East and Wild Card spot the Rays hold in their pocket.

I am not saying the Rays have to become the “Ty Cobb” reincarnations and go into bases with their spikes up, or look for a fight, The things is right now the Rays do have a “Mayberry RFD” mentality posing as the kinder, gentler version of the Yankees. This has to be squashed right now before the Rays take on the Baltimore Orioles this weekend, and the Texas Rangers next week. The Rays have to instill a mentality that someone stole their lunch money and they are not going to take it anymore!
And today’s game fully illustrates just that pattern of good natured intentions that has to be nipped in the bud before the Rays are making golf tee time reservations than hotel reservations for friends and family during the Playoffs. The Rays had the Detroit Tiger’s right where they wanted them prior to the beginning of Wednesday’s matinee game. They had a chance to make some special Rays all time seasonal series history in this contest. If the Rays would have defeated the Tigers today, it would have been the Rays first ever seasonal series sweep. That’s right, the Rays would have gone undefeated against the Tigers both home and away…A major coup heading into this final stretch of the season.

But instead of the Rays stepping on the Tiger’s necks and twisting, the Rays seemed to go about their usual game plan and made it look interesting, but shot blanks in the end. That is not the way to “man up” at this point in the season and take the opposition for everything they give you. Sure Detroit starter Justin Verlander got into a groove in the middle of the ballgame, but the Rays let him establish that comfort zone. Winning teams that go far in the Playoffs take control of those games and dictates the outcome, not hope or look for a rally or fortunate chances to sustain anything.

 
Bill Koustoun/AP

During the last series, media members said it was going to be the “most important series of the season”. Well I hate to break it to everyone, but every series is important, since April. From that loss in Motown on Wednesday afternoon, to the final game in Kansas City on October 4th, the Rays have to fully integrate a “them or us” attitude. And it all begins when the streaking O-birds try and nest at Tropicana Field this weekend. The Rays have to come out in those three contests like a cat hungry for moist, juicy black and orange Oriole treats. They have to adjust their mentality to leave nothing to chance, that a 1-run lead will not cut it, they have to play as if October depends on the outcome.


The Rays have to take their normal “good guy” routine and toss it off the top span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. With 28 of their final 48 games against their American League East foes, and another 16 against the always tough A L West bunch, the season could pivot right now. You can bet your stars that Baltimore, Seattle, Oakland and Toronto would love to provide some noise and angst for the Rays by dropping them lower in the standings and give someone like Boston, Minnesota or even the Chicago White Sox a chance to push the Rays down for the count.

Now is the time for a Rays uprising. It is time to toughen up and show no mercy in any of the final 48 games. I am not telling the Rays to keep pushing even if they are 5 or 6 runs up on a team, but do not get off their throats, do not let them breathe, do not let them even think they have a remote chance to survive a game. Some people talk about the Yankee persona. That image is boosted by the historic tradition of finishing the job and making the Playoff and beyond., That pinstriped army doesn’t take anything for granted and will step on your neck and twist until you are gone….every time.

 
Steve Nesius/AP

This is not a call to emulate the Yankees own credo of intimidation. But this is a call for the Rays to put away their manners and get after what they deserve this season. I respect this 2010 Rays team for their spunk and bond between all the Rays players in the clubhouse, but it is time to get physically and mentally hungry. For the Rays veteran leadership to make the young guys hungry for another taste of that sparkling champagne. I guess it is time for the Rays to quote the movie “The Program” to “put the women and children to bed and go hunting for dinner.” And if that means eating a few extra Orioles, Blue Jays and even Angels, then so be it, because you never get in the way of the big dog when he is feasting, it is bad for the digits.
 

Are You Ready for a Throwdown?

 

 

Within the next three hours Sports Radio from Manhattan in New York City to 9th Street North in the borough of St. Petersburg will begin their suggestive superlatives surrounding this upcoming weekend in Tampa Bay. Comparisons and similarities will be analyzed, scrutinized and media savvy sanitized to try and drum up any emotions still left dormant among followers of both teams. No matter if you are a card carrying member of the Pinstripe Platoon or the Rays Republic, this weekend will set the stage fully towards what might happen at the end of the 2010 seasonal journey.

This weekend will put one team in a small, but substantial advantage of having a numerical edge on their closest competitor, and the team that wants to take their dream away of October glory. No matter if you side with the Evil Empire , or the Rebel Alliance this weekend, the battle lines have been drawn, and the fun is just about to begin. In less than three hours, when the Rays Fan Hosts open the outer doors of Tropicana Field, a large segment of the baseball viewing World will be focused on this hamlet off the Gulf of Mexico eager not only for the First pitch, but the last.

This series will do more than give a little breathing room to a possible Playoff berth, it could be the difference between the Wild Card and the American League East crown. Each team thinks they are fighting the “good fight”, the fight that will deem them victorious, but the reality is that just as the Highlander, Conor McCloud once said, “There can be only one.” With the home team boasting a winning streak and the visitor’s holding onto the climax runaway game fresh in their minds, both teams approach this game as pivotal and a “must win” situation.

 

With both teams separated by only a small slip of the offense and pitching, this series, even if it is only 3 out of the remaining 10 contests between these two Major League Baseball giants. Those pesky Rays who the Yankees have not been able to get out of their rearview mirrors for most of the season have two 3-game series left in their “Pit” while the Yankees have only a 4-game slate in mid-September to their advantage. You want to give the immediate advantage to the Rays, but these are two titans who will not go down without a messy and bloody fight. No matter if it is a one-run game or a blowout, every inning, every movement, every sound could play a convincing role in the outcome of this series.


You wanted something magnificent Tampa Bay……Well, you got it this weekend. For the first time in the Rays 13 seasons, this series will be sold out, with possibly only Standing Room Only selections still left to buy at the Rays Box Office. The enveloping ticket scalpers that circle Tropicana Field will be eager and willing to project their price upon you if you did not choose wisely and pre-purchase your chance to see these giants collide. Boosted by the fact the Yankee faithful can see one of their own possibly hit a Major League milestone only adds fuel to the inferno already encircling this series. You wanted a showdown of epic proportions…..Well you got that too Tampa Bay.

Out of the loop this weekend will be attendance concerns, stadium issues and even the Trade Deadline may take a backseat to the living and breathing beat this is this American League East collision. Someone will come out of this whole series with bruises, battered emotional scars and maybe even a few less protractors. But there is also a good side. And that side is that for once this season, no matter what team you root for, the Tampa Bay area will be the center of the baseball World…period.

 

Two best teams in the game stroking it out mano-on-mano with the victor getting a leg up on their competition. This series can end only two ways. Someone will win and put a bit of distance or overtake the other, or someone will see their confidence rattled and have to rebound quickly to stay hungry for the home stretch. As always, I have my front row seat to seeing these titans battle it out just feet in front of me with each squad eager and willing to lay down personal sacrifices that go way beyond those committed using a maple bat.


This weekend will either be fulfilling another step towards a destiny, or establishing a dominance needed to secure, insure and procure a chance again to fight for the golden chalice with 30 MLB flags upon it. To say this is for all the marbles is too cliché`. To say this series will define a team is too vague. But to say the winner of this series has an edge….Well, that is just the Rays and Yankees ways of doing things in 2010.

 

Evolution of the A L East

 
RRCollections
 
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.

 
Unknown photographer

This measure left the AL East roster of three teams on the Eastern seaboard of the country, and with both Detroit and Toronto more western partners in this division. The division stayed the same until 1998 when the Tampa Bay regional community was awarded a franchise based in St. Petersburg, Florida. And with the addition of the then Devilrays, the AL East had to make a consolation decision to jetty one of its member towards the newer Central Division.


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.
 
 
 
 

Could the 2009 Yankees be Channeling the 2008 Tigers?

 



 

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 .  

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