Results tagged ‘ Albie Lopez ’
This date, May 14th, has always held a small special place within me. It has been a day of honest reflection and undefined possibilities. It has been the Alpha and Omega of my entire life, not only as a person, but as an athlete. In High School, this date usually corresponded with either the Florida State Class 5-A Track and Field championships, or the State Decathalon event held every year at the University of Florida. But since that time has long passed in my life, it has come to signify other things. But with regards to my Rays baseball, this date can be murder on me and the entire Rays team.
For the last 11 out of 13 years, the Tampa Bay Rays franchise has been unable to win a single game on this May 14th date on the calendar. In 8 of the past 11 years, they have gone down in defeat and it has brought my joy and happiness on that day to a sudden standstill. The only blemishes on that dubious record is the fact of two “Off Days” thrown on the schedule in 2001 and 2007 to break up the streak a bit. But in reality, this is one date that the Rays have a huge wall in front of them, and I am beginning to blame myself.
Since 1999, I have circled this date on my calendar hoping to see the roof turned orange after a Rays victory. But again this year we came close, but it was no celebratory cigar again to be lit on this date. It has been my epicenter of baseball for the last 10 years. Since 1999, I have either traveled to Tropicana Field or another city or sat idle on this day in response to where the Tampa Bay Rays were playing baseball.
That is right people, I use this date as my personal symbol of my commitment to my level of fandom to the Rays. It is my own form of special celebration to the team that descended on my home town to make me have more remarkable summer nights than just cruising the beaches with the windows open, or sitting in a sports bar watching the NHL playoffs.
So here I go doing a 11-year recap of those games and their results. Even if it brings up bad memories or provide a bit of funk, this is a date I truly wished would change in their 13th season (My lucky number). Most people will probably not give a big deal about all of this, but on this day…….It is what I say that goes….Got it.
1999: Tampa Bay D-Rays vs Anaheim Angels. (AWAY)That is right, the Anaheim Angels. The Halos had not gotten politically correct yet to include the “LA” region back onto their name. But in this contest the D-Rays starter Bobby Witt did not get any signs of offensive support and the then D-Rays fell to the Halos 8-3. A total of 5 hits were dished out by the D-Rays during this contest. The bottom of the Rays order did most of the damage with catcher John Flaherty hitting a homer in the game. But the Rays did show some defensive signs of life, converting three double plays in the game.
2000: Tampa Bay versus Toronto Blue Jays (AWAY)
This was my first trip outside of the country since my Army National Guard Tour almost 10 years earlier, and it was my venture to this awesome Canadian town. I got a wild distaste for customs on this trip, but that is a story for another time. In this game, the D-Rays sent starter Esteban Yan to the hill. Yes, the same Yan who would become the Rays closer later in his career and provide massive puddles of sweat on the pitching rubber. But the game belonged to Blue Jays starter David Wells, who just seemed to have the D-Rays at bay all night in this contest.
Wells threw a 7-hit 2-run game against the D-Rays, but the Rays Bullpen let the game get away from them in the end. In the bottom of the ninth inning, D-Rays reliever Albie Lopez gave up 2 runs to hand the Jays a 3-2 win. After the game, I got my first taste of feeling a bit out of place when a French speaking woman was trying to have a conversation with me in a neighboring pub, but I could only understand every fifth word. I only took French 1 in college. Guess that day ended up as a total disaster for me, both on and off the turf.
2001: Off Day
I decided on this day to just go on out and hit a local James Beard recommended eater that boasts its steaks and fine conversation during an intimate dinner. It was the first time I had ever ventured into this South side of Tampa, and I made my Visa credit card pay dearly for it. I had heard the praise of the food and atmosphere around Bern’s Steakhouse for years, but this was my first entrance into the wine and steak primo emporium. If you have not heard of this fine dining experience, then you have missed out on some of the best foodie tales to ever tell at a cocktail party.
The interior is done in a classic French chateau style complete with the red velvet wall coverings and an over abundance of photos of people no one seems to know on the wall. But the real attraction is the telephone book wine list that has the World’s largest and most opulent collection of wines. An added bonus to all of this is an extended aging process on all of their beef offerings, which translates into a bit of ambrosia on your plate. I am going to stop here before I drool and ruin another computer keyboard.
2002: Tampa Bay Rays vs New York Yankees ( AWAY)
This was my first baseball venture into the Ballpark in the Bronx. And I did wear my Rays gear into Yankee Stadium and had a minimal stint of problems. I had secured a seat right above the Rays dugout using a Yankee insider friend I knew while playing football for a great ticket. This game was over rea
l early as Rays starter Travis Harper did not last 3.2 innings before Rays reliever Steve Kent came on in long relief. It was my third game on this date, and I was beginning to think I was the cause for the losing on this date.
But in reality, the team was up against Yankees starter Roger Clemens, and he threw a 3-hit, 1-run outing on that night. Rays Leftfielder Steve Cox did have a good night, getting two of the hits in the game. My old buddy Greg Vaughn did get a hit as the DH also during that night. But in the end, the Rays fell by a 10-3 score because of a pair of Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada home runs.
2003 : Tampa Bay vs. Toronto Blue Jays (AWAY)
Here I am again venturing across the open borders on my trip to Canada, but this time I decided to bring a French phrase book (just in case). I decided to stay at Rogers Centre hotel this time, but it did not help in securing a win for the Rays. In this contest, my old Rays friend and current Jays starter Cory Lidle was throwing against the Rays. The Rays sent young starter Dewon Brazleton to the mound, who reminds me of Jeff Niemann sometimes, and he quickly got roasted with 7-hits and 5-runs in the outing. This was also during the time when the Rays had John Rocker on their roster, and after the game I chatted with him a bit in the hotel lounge.
But the Rays were beginning in this 2003 to show signs of the emergence of one of their key players in the Rays future. This was Rays rookie Carl Crawford’s first full year in the MLB, and he had mixed results in this May 14th game. He did go 1 for 5 in the game, but Aubrey Huff was the star of this game, but even his bat was not enough as the Rays lost the contest 7-6. the Rays did try and mount a offensive counterattack by scoring 4 runs in the top of the eighth, but Jaye reliever Cliff Politte (Ironic a “Cliff” did me in) secured his fourth save of the season by shutting down the Rays offense.
2004: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Cleveland Indians (AWAY)
This was my first venture to ”The Jake”, and it was the first time I have ever been mesmerized by an “away” stadium. They were celebrating the 10th anniversary of “The Jake”, and it did not even look a few years old at that point. This was the night that my flight got delayed in Atlanta and I was still sitting on the tarmac at 5 pm EST, but got on a alternate flight and the plane began its descent towards Cleveland-Hopkins Airport at about 20 minutes before game time. The plane banked just perfect so I could get a great shot of the stadium beaming with excitement.
I did not get into the stadium until the fourth inning, and it was “Ladies Night” at the ballpark. I have to say it was the best present I ever got seeing this stadium and going down to the Warehouse District and dancing until near dawn. I even got to catch a home run ball by Indians Casey Blake in the 10th inning of the game. Unfortunately, it was the game winner and I still have that ball in a special place in my collection. We lost that contest 8-7, and it was another friend, Rays reliever Lance Carter who gave up the home run to Blake that night.
2005: Tampa Bay Rays vs, Kansas City Royals (AWAY)
This was my first post-football visit to Kansas City. I did my usual old habit of hitting a few BBQ joints before the game, but the contest was the real treat of the night. I had always loved to see that night starter, Hideo Nomo pitch in his younger years in LA. Now the Rays had this aging Japanese superstar on their team, and I was anxious to see him pitch tonight. But the Rays offense ended up coming up a bit short during the 6-5 loss. Rays hitters Chris Singleton and Nick Green did their best to try and finally pull out a May 14th win for me, but it was not in the cards again tonight.
2006: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays (HOME)
Yes, that is right. This is the only time I have seen the Rays play at home so far in their existence. But the home cooking was not enough this night as the Blue Jays took final control of the game in the top of the ninth to send the Rays faithful home miserable after a 8-3 beating. In the contest, the Rays gave up 3 additional runs in the top of the ninth to put the game out of reach for the Rays.
Jays starter Josh Towers took the mound and was not overpowering, but the Jays defense kept them in the game and the Jays produced just enough offense to pull the game out in the end. The Rays sent starter Casey Fossum to the mound and he had some success against the Jays, but could not keep the big inning from getting to him in the fifth. Rays reliever Chad Orvella gave up 3 doubles and a triple to Alex Rios that was the deathblow of the contest.
2007: Off Day
Since we were going to begin a 3-game series at the Walt Disney starting this morning, I decided to head on out to O-town and do some wandering of the region. I have to admit I am a bad Floridian. I have never been to Sea World, and have only been to Walt Disney World (before this series) twice in my life. I have not even been there since 1984, but was looking forward to hitting both downtown Orlando and the Disney adult complex after the game that night.
Instead, after the contest I headed over to the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal Studios and had a celebration dinner and then just hit the multitudes of clubs in the Orlando area. I did order an outstanding steak and lobster dish at the Hard Rock that gave me boundless amounts of energy for the night. I just wanted to have a great night before the Rays started their series the next day. I heard a rumor that Pop star Justin Timberlake was in the VIP area after doing some Nick show that afternoon. That is as close to getting “Sexy Back” as I have gotten in my life.
Back to old New York, New York. This would be my last trip into the old Yankee Stadium&nb
sp;haunts, and I tried to make the best of it. I did the usual Papaya King hot dog salute, and went down to Ground Zero, but I decided to sit in the Rightfield bleachers for this game. I do have to tell you I did get some wrath from the Bleacher Creatures at first, but by the end they were telling me a few places to have a post-game brew and maybe meet a Mets girl.
I think what went down better in their minds is the fact we lost a squeaker 2-1 to the Bronx Boys tonight. Yankee starter Mike Mussina kept his dominance over the Rays intact and tight in this contest only giving up one run in the top of the sixth inning. This was also my first sighting of Joba Chamberlain, who did come into the game, but was gone just as quickly after walking 3 batters. James Shields also gave up all of the Yankee runs, but still pitched a great outing.
It was my last time to stroll amongst this hallowed baseball shrine, and I did take a stroll through Memorial Garden before the game. I even stayed a half hour after the game and was whisked out by security guards as I did not want to leave. But I did, still wearing my Rays gear and getting a few Bronx cheers, but nothing too bad to get me put into Fort Apache. But tonight was different from the other May 14th dates to me. I was at the last Rays game I would attend in this old iconic ballpark. I ended up sitting outside the front of the stadium for another half hour before finally heading to JFK to sleep before my 10 am flight back to Tampa International Airport.
2009: Tampa Bay Rays vs Cleveland Indians (HOME)
On this night I had the feeling we might finally break the streak of not winning. Something in the air just felt different to me, and that gave me a immediate omen of a possible win. The Rays sent starter James Shields to the mound, but the Tribe quickly scalped him for 5 runs in the middle innings. It was a hole that the team would not come back from, even with 6-run effort to pull closer, the score was still 9-6 at the bottom of the sixth inning.
Just as quickly as we all began to sense a chance at victory in the stands after blanking the Tribe’s hitters in the top of the seventh inning, Rays reliever Grant Balfour gave up two runs and the Rays had to settle for a 11-7 loss. Even the ninth inning run by Ben Zorbrist on a Dioner Navarro double play, it brought the Rays only one more out and a chance to seal a final victory on May 14th. But B J Upton struck out to toss all those percentages down the drain.
I hope I did not bore you too much with a special recollection on the date of May 14th through the Rays baseball times. I am lucky enough to have a home game again this season, and hopefully the team can break my curse of not getting a single victory on this date with me in attendance. You might notice that I had not included the date of May 14th 1998 on this blog. Well, that year I was here in St. Petersburg by my old dog’s side before he was to put to sleep. He had been my close ally for 15 years and had recently suffered a stroke and could not hold his balance well.
So I was not in Kansas City where the team fell 10-3 that night. As you can see, this can either be a day of rejoicing or pain depending on how you look at it. I see it as a beautiful day for baseball. I feel a bit older every day on this date (hint, hint), but what has not aged is the enthusiasm and joy I feel inside my soul on this date in relation to baseball.
I truly have baseball in my heart of hearts, and I hope that shows most of the time. As I have gotten steadily older (about to enter another decade) I have been given the gift of remembrance of this date in time. And these past Rays games where I have either traveled or seen my favorite team take on the rest of the MLB from the comfort of my seat in Section 138 have all been classic birthday moments in my life.
I have never been one of those Gabe Kapler lovers that dot the Trop from Section to Section. I am for some reason still holding out any love for the guy because of his Boston Red Sox roots, but a home run like the one he hit last night into the first row of the Left Field seats will go far to get me to open my mind to his effectiveness on the Rays. But then again, I was one of those people who questioned his name on the 25-man roster back on April 1st thinking the Rays might be playing an April Fools joke on the fans.
I mean the guy went 9 for 60 in Spring Training for a dismal .150 average that might have gotten most players either a Greyhound bus ticket to the minor leagues, or an outright release from his contract. But the Rays front office and Rays Manager Joe Maddon saw something in the former minor league manager. Granted the guy has heart and an ability to keep motivation strong and focused on the bench, but I questioned the keeping of him over Matt Joyce even a few days ago. Now Kapler has given me a few reasons to even think he might just be another hidden gem that is about to unfold for the Rays.
He has been flirting below the Mendoza line for a bit of time with the Rays, and his defense has been great at times. But the true fact is in the last two games he has done his best ”Zorilla” imitation and has produced at an amazing pace. Sure he has gone 2 for 5 in the last two game with 2 HR and 3 RBI to boost his awesome scale to about a 4 based on the rest of his year.
He had not had even a trickle of a hit or a RBI since he posted 2 RBI and went 1 for 3 against the Cleveland Indians back on May 27th. So you can honestly say he has gone 0 for 11 in 6 games between his RBI chances. But for how long can you overlook a 4 for 42 stint that dropped your average from .235 to its present .183 mark.
But the thing that also endeared me to him was the poise he had last night in the post-game interview with Rich Hererra after Dioner Navarro got him square with his mouth open with a shaving cream pie. I mean he got the teeth, tongue and maybe even a few nose hairs deep and dirty in shaving cream.
The flustered Kapler did end his interview because of the incident but gave another one a few minutes later in the Rays clubhouse where he made sure to thank the Coaching staff for their support and belief in him this year. The guy is a class act from head-to-toe and that gained some more style and bonus points from me last night about him on this team.
And that might not be the best of averages, but the guy is here to maintain more than just a bat in his hand. Kapler is like a player/manager on the bench sometimes. He sits there and chats about the game with the other guys on the bench showing them some of the small nuances they might have missed on the field.
It is a great asset to have to show some of the Ray pitchers and reserve players how small things can blossom into great opportunities for the Rays. But he is on this team as much for his defense as he is for his mental and physical make ups.
He is tied with B J Upton with 3 outfield assists this season, and has been involved in 3 game-winning or go-ahead RBI this year. Could he just be that type of player who wills himself a good game when he is counted on, or are we seeing a shell of the former Kapler that spooked us when he took the field for the Red Sox in the Trop. The guy is a classic example of the type of player you want in your locker room. He is always up beat, personable and totally into helping another player with his game.
And that might be one of the reasons he is still here. He is a great bridge between the Coaches and the players since he did a one year stint at Class-A Greenville for the Red Sox in their minor leagues as a manager. And that experience might be a huge plus for him to convey and influence another guy to see a different viewpoint or idea.
But for the longest time, it was Kapler who had the world by his fingers. Few people remember back in the 1998 when Kapler was the Minor League Player of the Year. He was selected for that honor after killing the ball in the Southern League where he hit a staggering 80 extra base hits while maintaining a .320 average.
Because of this honor he got a chance to appear in a K-Swiss shoe print ad as a emerging baseball star for the up-and coming shoe manufacturer. Also of importance is the fact he shattered the Southern League RBI record by driving in 148 that year. But could it just be that we are seeing the worse of Kapler here at home at Tropicana Field and he is excelling more on the road?
And wild as that statement might seem in your mind, it has merit people. He is hitting .163 on turf this season, and combine that with his current .150 average at home and you get a generally miserable .118 in the last 30 days for him.
But there might just be a shade of light flickering in the distance showing he can be the producer the Rays sought when they signed him to his $1,000,018 contract this Spring. That odd two digit anomaly at the back end of his contract financial numbers is actually Kapler’s good luck number. But then again, the number “18″ in Judaism means “life”. Go figure. In June we are starting to see a trend where his numbers are starting to rise as he is currently hitting at a .222 clip, better that the overall .080 he has against right-handed pitchers this year.
Kapler might not the first person you think of when you think power, or even scoring ability this season for the Rays, but he has been productive wherever he has played in the past. Last season he did post a overall .301 average while playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, and we have gotten some good players in the last few years from the Brewers rosters ( Grant Balfour, Gabe Gross). Kapler might not be the best option for the Rays right now in right field based on his average, but he is the kind of guy you want out there to catch that difficult fly ball.
I am opening my eye a bit to the fact he might be a better player than I give him credit for most of the time. Kapler might just end up in a Eric Hinske( 2008) or even a Carlos Pena( 2007) role of being the surprise signing of the spring of 2009. I am going to keep my mind open here for awhile and see what the big guy shows me. But I can guarantee you one thing, you will not see me going against him in a poise down anytime soon.
Gabe Kapler Mini Facts
*** Did you know his middle name was Stefan. Some how that makes sense.
*** If Kapler was not a baseball player he might have dabbled in the culinary arts as a chef. He is very nutrition oriented and might just be on par with Pat Burrell with his cooking skills.
*** He has appeared on several magazine covers including Men’s Workout and Natural Development in the past.
*** He hit his first home run of his career at Tropicana Field while in a Tigers uniform against Albie Lopez on April 30, 1999.
*** Kapler broke up Chris Youngs perfect game with a 8th inning 2-run home run on September 7, 2008.
*** In 2005, he returned to the Red Sox after playing 38 games for the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese League.
*** He was put on the DL in 2005 after suffering a season ending injury after rounding second base after Tony Graffanino’s homer and injuring his Achilles’ tendon.
*** In 2004, the Red Sox went 92-44 when he appeared in games for the team and they went 6-20 when he did not play for them.
*** In a game against the Rays in 2000, while with the Texas Rangers, Kapler tore his right quadricep in the game on May 2nd and went on the DL until June 9th of that season.
I am feeling a bit bored today and decided to write a short blog and list some interesting facts I have acquired over the test of time.
First, my trivia question for the blog:
What coach, associated with the Rays minor league system gave up Home Run number 150 to Barry Bonds?
Answer will be at the end of the blog.
I was cruising through a statistics site the other day and was looking for odd facts and figures and decided to see what former Rays helped Barry Bonds get the All[Time Home Run crown. Here is the list of victimized ex-Rays pitchers I found:
Jason Jennings, Albie Lopez, Hideo Nomo,Cory Lidle,Casey Fossum,Joe Borowski,Steve Trachel,Dan Miceli,Brian Meadows,Dwight Gooden,Mark Guthrie,John Burkett,Brian Rekar,Rheal Cormier,Xavier Hernandez.
Unfortunately, some on this list got hit more than once by the Barry-nator during his romp through the history books. A few even got smacked hard.
Hideo Nomo served up 3 to Barry. Dwight Gooden got smacked for 3 during the 80′s, Cory Lidle gave up a multiple homer game to him in 2004,and former Rays and Marlin John Burkett got him another multiple homer game.
But the guy who seemed to be habitually hammered by Barry, was Denny Neagle of the Rockies and Reds. He gave up a total of 6 homers to Bonds, including a Multiple homer game on 7/30/1999.
I found it interesting the other day that the Rays now will not ask for the $60 million dollars from the Florida Legislature to help build the new open air stadium. They were originally slated to ask for the money as start up capital to secure the contractors for the project. It seems that the Pinellas County politicians were polled and were in agreement that the Rays were asking for too much in this close fiscal climate. The politicians said that other needs were more of a priority than the team.
I agree that Child welfare and county services are needed more right now in this budget tightened situation. Just remember, the Marlins tried to get this same tax break last year and were almost laughed out of the capitol building.
I like Mike De Felice as the veteran backstop to Dioner Navarro. Mike was a extremely emotional player when he was last with the Rays, and had a few flareups, in a good way, with the Tigers a few years ago. The emotional firecracker that beats in his chest might be the right medicine to get some emotional strength and power out of both Shawn Riggans and Dioner. Mike has the veteran presence and the spirit to get even the bench fired up during the games. I remember sitting in my seat down by the Bullpen and seeing Mike come down in the late innings and make the entire bench come alive and seem a bit more controlled by his mere presence. This might not seem like the player needed to push either catcher, but it might be more for game control and organization than to put a hole under either guy this Spring. Josh Paul was a student of Joe Maddon’s system with the Angels, and I think he passed a lot of great information and knowledge to both catchers in the last two years.
Josh always commented about writing a book on catching. I think it would be a hit from the controversy surrounding him and the White Sox series in the past, and for his great preparation and historic knowledge of the position. I am not a ghost writer, but I would enjoy talking to this practical joker and serious ballplayer about anything concerning catching or the game. I hope you write it Josh. I know I will line up for a copy.
The Edwin Jackson rumors will not die concerning the Seattle Mariners and the Rays fire baller. I might have a impartial reason for wanting Edwin not to go anywhere. I enjoy talking to him on the sidelines and receiving his 2006 Game worn jersey at the end of the year.
But for the purely baseball angle, I feel that the LA Dodgers organization gave up on him too early in his career. It seems that a pitcher needs to have about 200 plus innings in the minor leagues before you can get a grip on their type or need for your MLB squad. I think that Edwin in the second half of 2007 began to relax and take the game for what it is……… a bunch of hits and misses. He relied more an his ability than on his velocity and his game to him in the end. It was thought a year or two ago, that he might be the closer of the future for the Rays.
I think that would not serve him well. At worst, he would be a killer inning eater for long duty in the Bullpen. I would rather see him as a starter, but the squad will have its first year that the first two spots might be settled even before the pitchers and catcher report in Febuary. I hope he can hunker down and finally cement himself in the rotation for 2008.
The current Durham Bulls pitching coach Xavier Hernandez gave up number 150 to Barry in Houston on 5/2/1992 while Bonds was still a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Also a member of the Barry
Bonds hit squad is current Rays announcer/ color analyst Joe Magrane who gave up a home to Bonds as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals on 8/11/90 at home. It doesn’t seem like he has been out of the game that long. Joe still looks like he could throw 6 solid innings a start.
Last but not least, congrats to Goose Gossage for finally getting that great call from the Hall of Fame. He is only the fifth reliever in the Hall of Fame, with a lot of company to come in the upcoming years. Gossage received 85.5 percent of the vote to finally get that beautiful bronze plaque of himself and that signature mustache. Goose was a nine time All-star with 310 MLB saves for nine different team during his career.
Here is a truly impressive stat. Gossage got 52 of those saves when he got 7 outs or more. By comparison, today’s specialist relievers usually do not have to go that far in the earlier innings to get a save opportunity. that says a lot for the teams he played with, and the strength of his pitches.
Gossage will be inducted in that small hamlet in New York on July 27,2008. He will be joined that day by five men selected by the Veterans’ committee: former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn,former Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, managers Billy Southworth and Dick Williams, and ex-Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss.
Congrats again to all the above men and lets all hit the hamlet of Cooperstown sometime in our lives and feel the thrill and chills of that great museum and ball field.