Results tagged ‘ American League East ’

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.
 
 
 
 

Rays Banner Ceremony Photo Blog

 

 

 

Prior to the beginning of tonight’s game against the New York Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays had a bit of business to resolve with their decor in their domed stadium. It seems that a few articles that were needed to spruce up the joint were not in place yet, and they wanted to get this business finished before the game began. So about 6:45 pm tonight, the Rays began a much needed and truly memorable ceremony where the team was to finally going to place those two fine banners in their respective place over left field just under the “D” ring.

 

 

The ceremony began with the Raysvision crew showing a tribute video to the team from their humble beginnings in April 2008, until the final out in the World Series in Philadelphia . It was a long, long road, and it was great to see the pride and the attention each players and coach gave to this short video before the ceremony on the field officially began.  There were flame throwers that doused the air inside the Trop with a heat unknown to us before today. the video and the players reaction made even the wily vets seem to tear up a bit in remembering how we got there in 2008. But when Fernando Perez first poked his head out of the Rays dugout with the rolled up American League East Championship banner on his shoulders emotions ran high throughout the stadium.

 

 

 


As every player and coach on the Rays walked from the dugout around the clay infield of the Trop., upon the Field Turf II that was the site of the American League Championship clinching game, Every fan in the entire stadium, even  some of the Yankees faithful stood and cheered for the accomplishment of 2008.   For us to be able to hoist these banners in the presence of the team that has multitudes of World Championships, Divisional and A L Pennants to their credits might have seemed a bit pointed to some, but the evolution of the Rays turned the corner in 2008, and the Yankees had a front row seat at their upward climb.

 





 

Upon reaching the 370 sign on the left-center field wall, the team gathered and help roll out the first banner to be hoisted into the air tonight. After the banner was attached to eye clips, the paratroopers representing the Central Command at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, began their down ward fall, which also keyed the hoisting of the American League East Championship banner to the rafters of Tropicana Field. Players just stood in awe of the massive banner going upward and onward and several were huddled towards the wall getting a view of the raising from a complete underneath angle.  After this first banner took its rightful place in the rafters of the Trop., the team made their way to the second banner and began to repeat the same procedures.





 
 

Next to be lifted for eternity into the rafters among the “D” ring at Tropicana Field was the American League Championship banner. Most of the players by then were huddled together under this banner also and were talking amongst themselves probably trying to remember moments and situation that took place only a few months ago. You could see emotion on some of their faces as to the effort and the struggle they under took to get this championship for the Rays.  The fans remained standing the entire time clapping and screaming and whistling during the entire time the banner was slowly lifted into place again by the Special Forces members from McDill AFB.  Upon the completion of the two banners being immortalized among the heavens in Tropicana Field, hundreds of flash bulbs and  a huge rush of emotions and pride surfaced in the entire stadium as the roars and cheers got louder and louder . It was a tremendous sight, and a blessing to witness tonight. As the first picture stated, ” The Magic continues Tonight.”

 
 
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

As much as the Yankees and Boston Red Sox fans want to take this moment from us, we stand proud tonight in the triumphs and the sweat produced by our 2008 ban of players and staff. From the Team Owner on down to the Clubhouse Attendants, this is a ceremony for everyone on the field, and in the stands. Hundreds of people in the offices and the cubbyholes of the Trop tonight are celebrating this crowning achievement. We are on the path to try and duplicate our journey, but we also know that the path will be riddled with more holes and traps than in 2008. But hopefully, we can make the journey again, and be proud in what ever course the season takes us in 2009.
 
 

But for tonight, we are the reigning American League Pennant winners, and the current divisional winners of one of the toughest divisions in baseball. It is going to be a long and hard season, but with an event like this that was witnessed by a sellout crowd, the pressure to win and to repeat is growing stronger every day. It was fun the first time we did it, think of the deja vu of even attempting it again.  I would be willing to go through it all again, how about you?

 
All Photos are from RRCollections tonight.

American League East Thoughts

 

 
 


Everyone in America knew that this blog was coming. Everyone who follows my blog and baseball on MLBlogs knows that my team is itching to defend their American League Pennant. We know that 2009 will be the year where the Tampa Bay Rays will be between the crosshairs with everyone gunning to put us out of our misery every night. And you want to know something, that is fine with me. I am that kind of guy. Bring it on, I  think this team reloaded pretty good in the off season. We did not spend almost a half a billion dollars, but with millions we did invest in players went to needs, and that is the name of the game.
 

Most pre-season blogs and predictions have this as a two-team race in 2009. That is fine, they thought the same in 2008, and did not even acknowledge the Rays were a good team until almost the end of August. Everyone spent millions of words and letters chatting on the fall of the team. That the team was propped up by other teams getting caught off guard and the Rays just manipulated the system. Really? manipulated a system where New York and Boston were destined to win  it all, but one sat at home in October for the first time in many years.
 

Can you really think that I was going to post a blog putting a Boston or new york team up in front of us even before the first game?  Seriously people, I am not saying we are winning 162 games, or maybe not even 100, but I do think this team is for real and the race will be close until the last breathe of summer. And why do I think that with the multitudes of Yankees fans breathing down my neck chatting about their outstanding pitching. Well, Yankees fans, pitching only gets you so far, and do you really think that entire top5 will be on the mound the entire year? Seriously here, I can see C C Sabathia dominating the A L East, But A J Burnett might get his 15 wins, or he might be sitting in the dugout after a weird injury.

 


 

You guys have not even thought about if Joba Chamberlain is going to be 100 percent effective in the rotation. Once you begin playing with a guy running him in and out of a rotation, you can do more damage than good to the poor guy. If you have a solid 5 without him, let him stay as a set-up guy. Who is it going to hurt Mariano Rivera?  I am not going to throw any predictions out this year at all in the A L East war, but I will throw out a few challenges to teams. The first challenge is to the Yankees pitching staff. Since you have already been deemed the pitching staff of the century by experts, will it be a downfall if the staff doesn’t get 100 wins?
 

With that in mind, has the Yankee’s new stars sent flowers to A Rod yet thanking him for taking all of the Spring Training pressure off them so they can pitch like normal guys while the media froths over A Rod. Can you seriously think that the cousin/bad trainer/steroid situation will end in April? It will be a wild time in the Trop and other cities in 2009 as the fans show either their support or voice some loud chants about this entire situation. Want to make a bet on what is said? 
 

Also, people have dominated the off season with Yankee talk about the pitching upgrades. Did they do anything beside secure a good first baseman this past off season. Where is the offensive dynamo beside Mark Teixeria? Did the Yankees upgrade by getting Nick Swisher, or just plug in someone for a year in right field until something better comes along. And will Jose Posada come back as a stronger Yankee hitter, or be seeing more time at D H. Question are everywhere about the Yankees, but then again, even when they had a Championship team people had questions about weak spots.
 

Besides on the mound, is this really a strong Yankee team? They had better hope so, or the crowd will be on them soon. The A L East will get a fast idea on if the aggressive will dominate early in the season. The entire month of April will be spent mostly in divisional battles. This is where Boston took that early lead in 2008 before the Rays rose up and past them. So again in 2009, will the pattern remain the same, or will another team push towards the top and stay there.
 

Boston also did not weaken itself in the off season. They added Brad Penny and John Smoltz to their pitching staffs, with Smoltz maybe providing a cushion in the second half of the season.  This staff is the best in the A L East on paper. They have the experience and the stamina to out pace most teams in the division. But there are questions on their staff. They bulked up on set-up and relievers in the off season, but did the rotation really get that much better. I mean is Tim Wakefield still your best number 5 pitcher? Or will someone else step up and take that spot from him and make a decision even tougher about the Bullpen members.
 

I see the Boston pitching as another area where 2009 could make or break them early. Josh Beckett is a great pitcher, but until he get a few starts in we might not know if that lingering injury in 2008 is gone or might pop back up and take him down in 2009.  Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka are just going to come out ans reload after a great 2008. The 2 and 3 spot in this rotation might be the best Boston has seen in a long, long time. But let’s take a short look at the Bullpen. They have upgraded themselves, but with mostly National League pitchers. People forget that the National League is known for finesse and off speed pitches, while the American League is a power pitchers paradise.

 


 

But bright spot in Boston with no signs of disaster yet is their returning offense. The only blimp on the radar might be David Ortiz. Will the big guy be able to respond and get back into his former form and boost the offense in 2009? He is my biggest question mark on the entire Boston roster. Will we see the dominating Ortiz, or a shadow of himself like after his wrist began to hurt in 2008. You know that Boston wanted to upgrade somehow in that area, but with his contract it might have been bad at this moment. But can you see changes if he gets into a rut and stumbles out of the gate?  Will the team make that change and maybe upset the stadium masses, or will any injury make that decision for them? 
 

Can the upgrades in the Boston relief corps be enough to keep them in the game, or will the A L  bat them around for a bit until they settle in and pitch effectively. Questions ,questions. I am not trying to incite a riot online with these question marks. I am only trying to show that the A L
East will be a war that will have to be fought nightly this year. I really do not see Toronto or even Baltimore laying down at all this year. The Rays resurgence has shown small market clubs that anything is possible. One of these two bottom dwellers from the past two years might even rise up and bite one of the top three more than once in 2009.
 

It is not impossible for the eventual A L East division winner to have a .500 record against their  division rivals. I think it is a bit out of this world to think that, but it is possible. No one picked the Rays to even get into the playoffs, much less make it to the World Series. Boston and New York will  not lay down for  anyone in 2009. This division will be a sign that money and talent can battle each other and the best team will win no matter what the payroll. The Rays payroll might be upwards of $ 60 million plus in 2009, but that is pale in comparison to the millions dealt out just for pitching help by both divisional rivals.
 

                   
 

So will the money win out in 2009, or will the confident and determined show up again on top? We have a few days until we again get it started and go to the plate for real.  I have a feeling this spring will also be highly charged as all three teams want to prove some thing even before the season to their rivals. This might be one of the best Spring Trainings to watch in Florida for a long time. All three will be gunning to win, and wanting to put pressure on the others to either step up or shut up before even April. Now the real question might be, Is you team going to be talking or walking come October 1st?

Photo credits for today’s blog: Associated Press Photo Corps, ESPN.com, RRCollections.

 

Are the Rays Finished Adding Pieces for 2009?

 

 

 

So after the latest signing of former Phillie Pat Burrell to the roster, are the Tampa Bay Rays going to stand pat for the 2009 season, or is now when the real magic is going to happen for the team. You want to believe that the Rays holy trinity of Stuart Sternberg, Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman have not closed the coffers and still might have a few tricks up their sleeves for 2009.

 


You have to believe that the recent activity by the team is not the total resetting of the roster. That there are still a few deals sitting in the corners gathering a bit of dust, but not without merit here. I see the roster as 75 percent complete, with some Spring training signing recently maybe pushing it to 80 percent done for the season.

 

 


With the signing of former Marlin Joe Nelson before the New Year, the Rays did more than just get a qualified reliever for their Bullpen. They got an upgrade to the Trever Miller or even Gary Glover or Scott Dohmann additions in 2008.  Nelson can carry a bit more of the load than either of those three guys by actually closing games if called upon to do so for the Rays. And with the health of Troy Percival basically being that only he knows EVER if he is healthy, and even then still wants to pitch in games.

 



There is a time when being a  strong competitor can actually weaken you ball club. If you need any examples of that, just look to the mound conversations that Rays Manager Joe Maddon had with Percival during the season in Boston, Oakland, and even at Tropicana Field. You have to admire the bravery and the commitment to your team, but the sacrifice has to be mutual. You do not give up yourself if you also upset the balance and the strength of your Bullpen, which Percival did for a short period of time twice in 2008.

 

 


Some people have already called out the  signing as Pat Burrell as mediocre at best for the Rays. I do not understand how you can even signal such a sign to the nation when the guy has been consistent with his bat almost his entire career. And also has been a key member of his last squad and not a replacement or second tier player. The signing of Burrell will help protect Evan Longoria, and it is a role that Burrell knows well from doing the same job with the Phillie’s for years.

That is right, Burrell’s numbers might be a bit weaker than you might want, but after years of sitting in the order behind Ryan Howard and giving teams the option of who to pitch to in games, he might actually see more of those meatball pitches this season because of the two guys in front of him. With Longoria and Carlos Pena penciled into the lineup in front of Burrell, he will see more pitches, and considerably more fastballs than he has seen in recent years. And to top that off with the fact that Stat guru Bill James thinks that with Burrell added to the power grid in Tampa Bay, the Rays “Big 3 ” might top 100 homer in 2009.

 

 


But what about the other holes in the Tampa Bay armor that need to be addressed. The two mentioned above are upgrades on the 2008 model without a doubt. But people are still pointing to right field and saying that the team did not get better there in any shape or form. Again, that is your own perception, and to forget about either outfielders’ Gabe Gross or even new Rays Matt Joyce is an insult. Both of these guys could be great parts of the Rays puzzle in 2009. Both are great professionals who work hard and hit the ball with power.

 


You never know, Joyce could surprise everyone on the Rays coaching staff and come away with the starting nod in Boston for the first game. I actually loved the trade for it’s youthful side, plus the added feature of Joyce played well against the Rays in 2008, so there is a track record of the guy rising to the occasion. If this was to happen, then you have someone like Gross who could fetch a good level player in return in a trade, or even maybe two if a team is desperate for a great outfield addition.

 

 


2009 will have more surprises before the guys clean out their Spring Training lockers in Port Charlotte. I actually think that there is about 2 more trades that need to be addressed even before the beginning of the season.  Another guy who might not be a member of the Rays when they head to Boston is reliever Chad Bradford. He did exceptionally well in 2008, but his over $ 3 million dollar salary might be a problem more than a solution in 2009.

 


Bradford is a extremely unusual pitcher in his style of pitching and also his way of inducing those ground ball outs for the Rays. I remember when he played for the Baltimore Orioles, I could not imagine watching his pitches come in and actually rise towards you instead of break away from you. The adjustment and the concentration needed to hit that kind of pitch is extreme indeed. So Bradford might not have a different home in 2009, but it is not like the Rays do not have options in the matter.

 

 


We actually have a guy invited to Spring Training who might equal Bradfords ground ball numbers, and if the both make the roster, it could be a two-fold gift for the Rays. Randy Choate has played in the American League before, and is another guy who throws sidearm with gusto. Most of the Rays fans might remember him as a member of the New York Yankees, who was a leftie specialist, and also a great ground ball pitcher. With both of these guys on the Rays roster, the Rays defense will see more possible plays in the infield, which translates into more possible outs by that stellar group.

 

 


So the Rays might need to hope that Choate makes the squad to boost that percentage up to 90 percent prior to the 2009 Opening Day. One piece that I still fell might be missing from the Rays actually might be their own device right now. Rocco Baldelli has been approached and swooned by a few clubs this past off season, but they have not gotten him to sign. I think the Rays need to open the coffers just a small bit and sign him as soon as possible. You know he will give the team a bit of a discount because of everything the team has done the last few seasons.

 

 


Truly, do you think if you matched an offer from Cincinnati or even Boston, Rocco would not sign with the Rays?  You have to know that the team must have been thrilled to learn the news that the first prognosis of his illness was incorrect. The Rays must have been jumping for joy in the aspect that Rocco maybe could become an everyday player again in the league. And if that happened, doesn’t that also open the door to him taking right field as his own and truly pushing the naysayers away with gusto that the Rays upgraded themselves in every position that was weak in 2008.

 


The Rocco possibility is just that right now, a possibility, but it gives a new light and a new direction to the team that was not there a few months ago. The only weaknesses on this team to the eye was at Designated Hitter, Right Field, and another possible “lights out” reliever. With the past two signings, and the possible addition of Choate as a left-hander to the Bullpen, the team might have improved  even more than in 2008.


 

 


And it is what the Rays will need to do in 2009. They must improve in a few areas to even try and make a run at a post season bid again in 2009. The Yankees have loaded up and will have a few kinks during the season as always, but then Boston is retooled in their pitching to stop people in their tracks in 2009. The AL East will be a battleground in 2009, with maybe the winner of the division only winning 90 games this coming season. 

 

 

 

Also do not forget that Toronto and Baltimore will have a lot to say about who gets the crown in 2009 for the American League East.  All 5 of the squads in this division know that it is “put up, or shut up” time in the division. Teams are beginning to look at the Rays method of success and will try and build their team in a shadow of that image in 2009.  It is not a question of “Who will be the Rays of 2009″. It is more a question of, “Are the Rays batter in 2009?”  If the answers come out right, there will be more champagne celebration in our future. And a lot of second guessing by other teams.

 

 

 

My Selections for Proposed Stadium Giveaways in 2009

 


Well, one of the great perks in being a Tampa Bay Rays Season Ticket holder is the fact that we are guaranteed some of the promotional items that the team gives out during the year. So if I do not want to wait in the long lines for a B J Upton figurine, I always know I will get one with my Season Ticket bag before the All Star break. It was even better years ago when we used to get everything that was offered during the year, even the kids items for our collections.

 



I have every lunchbox that the team has issued now for 10 years, except one that was recently damaged by my room mates 8 year old when he was throwing the basketball back in my office area. But that is fine, because I have them because of my love for the team, and as a retirement fall back plan. Now I am not thinking that it will fetch even $30 dollars in 15 years, but it might be a nice collectible for Ebay someday for me to post and sell to an avid buyer.


 

But that is what a lot of Rays season ticket holder do with their stashes. After our bi-yearly cache of promotional items are given out, I have seen a influx of items posted on Ebay and selective sites for collectibles. Considering the rise in people wanting to collect these both as keepsakes and as assets for the future, the market is growing for Rays merchandise. But not everyone buys them to sell them. You have people like myself and a friend, Jeff McKinney, who has one of the biggest  Rays collections of signed players baseball  and collectibles in the entire Rays kingdom.

 


Some people collect because of their obsession and their love of the game. That is why I collect them and the autographs. Heck, I even have a used 2000- 2004 Rays on-deck circle in my house that I was given right after the 2004 season ended by a Rays employee. I also have a B J Upton figurine that says “Bossman Junior”, instead of  “B J Upton” on the base. I do not know how many of those are in circulation, but I do know it is rare and I plan on keeping that until my death.then someone can sell it.

 


So with this new crop of 2009 promotional items still up in the air for the Rays, they sent out our yearly survey to the Season Ticket mongrels and asked what promotional items we might desire to see in 2009. I decided to give the public an insight into the items that the team is considering for 2009. The items that I voted for will be put onto the list in RED type  so you can see where my mind is on these items. So let’s check out the types of things that the Rays marketing arm is considering for the fans in 2009.

 


I actually believe that this presentation, or turnkey survey I completed was a tool of the MLB Advanced Media section of MLB, and not the front office survey of the Tampa Bay Rays. But it really doesn’t matter who did it, or why, it is important that we get a chance to decide what we might see at stadium giveaways in 2009.

 

 

Here is the first grouping of items that the team has asked us to pick from in 2009:


Replica Championship ring

Commemorative DVD of 2008 season

World Series Cowbell

Replica of Championship Flag ( smaller version of AL Pennant flag to be hoisted on 4/13/2009.)

License Plate holder

Championship Scroll.

 


Quite an interesting list here. I can imagine buying the license plate holder on my own, and what is with the idea of a championship scroll? Are we now competing in the ancient Greek division of baseball?  The Replica flag of the Championship Banner is a close second for me, and I got a free World Series cowbell during the playoffs thank you very much. But the Replica Championship ring is something I would love to see. I have seen several other items like this that other teams have done in the past, and it would be a nice collectible, and maybe even a great party conversational item to have, even if it is a knock-off of the original ring.

 



The team then asked about children related items containing the likeness of our favorite overgrown smurf/ seadog Raymond. Here are the items for consideration for Raymond related giveaways for 2009:

Raymond Mr. Potatohead Doll

Raymond Hand Puppet

Stuffed Raymond Doll

Kid’s size T-shirt

Nesting Doll ( 3 egg shaped inner sections to complete one large sized doll)

Raymond small Pillow

Raymond Cereal Bowl

 

Wow, another fine mess of items for us to think long and hard about for 2009. I think the team had their hand enough up in Raymond this year and we do not need a hand puppet. The stuffed Raymond might be a great idea, but there are still 1,000′s of them in the Rays Team Store for sale and might corner the market on them.

 

 

A T-shirt is usually a easy way out of anything. People make T-shirts for simple and cheap advertising of their products ans services.  Even Raymond is worth more than a simple T-shirt. The pillow is an interesting item, but might be a bad item if you get a kid who might have allergies because of the stuffing or materials. Unless the pillow is 100 percent hypo-allergenic, it might pose a small public relations night mare on the backside of it.



The cereal bowl is another close tie for second here. Who would not want to eat a bowl of cereal and see Raymond’s big nose poking out after you eat all the Raisin Bran in the morning. But the one item that truly caught my interest is the nesting doll. I got one a few years ago of Ichiro when I was in Seattle for a Rays series. It has been a great conversation starter because no one has even seen one before in Tampa Bay. It is mostly a Far Eastern influenced item, but I love my Ichiro one to death. 

 


But the Raymond Mr Potato Head is by and far the best item for the kids. I can see someone’s kid playing with it in the stands during the game, or even in the car on the way to the ballpark and it take s a huge amount of stress off the parent at the time. I have attended the game with a group of 4 kids ranging in ages from 5 to 12 , and the attention span of those kids is about less than 1 full inning of play. Thank God for Nintendo DS.

 

 


The next section that they wanted us to consider was “Rays” branded items. This would include anything that would have the “Rays” logo or symbol on it, or be realted to any MLB award or property. Here is the list of items that were presented to us:


Carlos Pena Gold Glove

Dioner Navarro Mini Catcher’s Mask

Evan Longoria Rookie of the Year figurine

James Shields Magic Set

Carlos Pena Catwalk Pinball Machine

Carl Crawford Wind-up Toy

 


Talk about a wild set of items. Just look at this list and you will see a total gambit of items that might amaze and confuse you.  Now the Carlos Pena Gold Glove item was an instant hit in my book because of the significance of it being the team’s first Gold Glove ever awarded to a player. This is one section where I thought two items should be picked, with the Gold Glove item tying for my selection.

 


The Dioner Navarro mini catcher’s mask was a wild item, but mostly a secondary item to me. It might be a better item in 2010, after he has established himself a bit more in the minds and eyes of the MLB and the Rays faithful. The Carl Crawford wind-up toy is just not right. Seriously here, I would be ashamed if I had to present that toy to a kid. It would be broken in 5 minutes and then you have a crying kid in the stands and an upset parent……..Bad choice from top to bottom here.

 

Carlos Pena Catwalk pinball machine certainly sounds like a wild game, but how can you configure the Trop’s catwalks into a game and still have some sort of motion and flippers in the game?  This might be a wild item to see firsthand, then a better decision can be reached about it. Now when did James Shields become a magic guy? This is another one that puzzles me. Is Shields a closet magic guy who has a top hat and a rabbit at home?  I actually think this won would be better to make itself disappear before we even see it for the first time.


But the Evan Longoria Rookie of the Year figurine should be on the list of 2009 promotional items period. This is a no-brainer. The guy might be our first “Rays” home grown Hall of Famer by the time he is done playing baseball. This is a fantastic item for a super guy who exceeded expectations and rode the victory train all the way to the World Series with the team. To say this team should not be on the list of giveaways would be a true crime.

 



The next section is probably the most popular items given out during the year by the Rays. The figurines are considered the holy grail of stadium giveaways, and the team has a great set of names to consider for 2009.

 

Evan Longoria  

Jason Bartlett

Joe Maddon                     ( 2 ) 

Matt Garza                       ( 3 )

David Price                      ( 1 )

Dioner Navarro               ( 4 )

 

Considering the team usually gives out 4 of these a year, I picked my top 4 choices above. The selection of these is not too hard considering the type of year each of the selections had in 2008. But some of the selections might also be a bit premature for 2009. I truly think that Jason Bartlett did an amazing job helping us upgrade our defense in 2008, but I also feel he is not the main reason, and by posting more errors than any other time in his career doesn’t give a guy a bobble head.

 

Dioner Navarro would be a great choice. He had grown a lot in 2008 to become the type of catcher the team can count on for years down the line. He is also becoming a team leader in the clubhouse and behind the plate and is fulfilling his destiny when he was drafted in the 1st round by the New York Yankees.

 


Matt Garza as a bobble head would be a great and fitting salute to his confidence and his strength in the playoffs for the Rays.  Garza rose above and beyond in 2008 after having a few bumps in the road to become a superstar pitcher in the making for the Rays. Maybe a bobble head with him clutching the ALCS MVP award would be perfect.

 


Both Joe Maddon and David Price deserve a bobble head/figurine. When Maddon was first selected as the Rays Manager, I was not in the group who was totally happy with the selection. But in the first few months of the season, I got to see how the guy worked and how he ran his team and he got my respect and I have been a true believer in his system.  His low key approach has worked for him because his players’ and his staff have total confidence and respect in the way he runs his ship.

 

David Price, what can you say about this guy. He said in the Spring of 2008, that he expected to be with the team by the end of the year. He also said he was going to work hard and make the decision hard for them not to bring him up sometime during the season. He also stated he loves the pressure and strives on it. All three  statement became what came to believe was David Price.

He went above and beyond on the diamond, and was a pleasure to talk with and see interact with fans on the sidelines during the 2008 season. He is going to be a the pre-season favorite for the 2009 Rookie of the Year award, and it just might be his to lose during the season. But the former Vanderbilt star is also smart enough to know that anything can happen a a 162 game schedule……but he should have his own figurine late in 2009.

You notice I did not even consider Evan Longoria for this figurine section because I am confident the Rays will do a Rookie of the Year bobble head/ figurine. If for some reason, the team doesn’t take into consideration that Longoria is our first representative to win the ROY, then maybe they are missing the entire boat here on any of these items for 2009.  If the Rays do not include a Longoria figure somewhere in the 2009 promotional schedule, it will be a error of judgment by the team’s front office and marketing department in a big way.


 

 


The last selection section that the survey asked us to consider was the Rays brand items.  This has always been a selection of flags, caps and even coozies in the past. But the selections offered for 2009 ran a wide variety of items from the usual to the unusual. Here is the final list we were asked to pick from in 2009:

 

Rays logo License Plate Holder

Remote Control holder

Welcome Mat

Retro Team Card

Animal House  style College T-shirt

2009 Team Card Set

Fan Designed T-shirt

Rays Calendar

 

I have to say that was another wild selection  process. The first item, the Rays license plat holder was just a plain item that we could pick up anywhere during 2009. I think we need a bit more imagination in 2009.  With that in mind, the remote control holder was a new idea and just might be a great item. I guess you have to see it first to consider it for the list. Is it a slip on “Rays-themed” holder, or something a bit more elegant.

 


I can’t believe I used the word elegant with the Rays.  The welcome mat also seemed like a great idea, but might be a secondary item to be given out during the Boston series. I know, that would be cruel, but hey, We did sweep them 2 times in out house for the first time ever in 2008. The retro card set might be a great kid’s item, but not in this category.

 


The Animal House style T-shirt is a great idea. I would wear it, but then again I am a DTX fraternity brother.  It would all depend on the design of the T-shirt as to if it would be a hit or miss in 2009. With hit or miss in mind here, the team card set and the calendar would either be a plus or a minus depending on the individual fan.  Some people would love the idea, while others would see it as a lame excuse for a stadium giveaway and toss it in the trash or leave it in the stands after the game. It is a gamble either way on these items.

 


But the idea of letting fan submit a design for a T-shirt is actually a bit of a great P R  move. Think about it, you would have both professional designers and even kids doing double time to present a prototype of the shirt to be distributed to the masses in the stands. How proud would a fan be that his print was selected either by the team or the fans as the item to be given out during the “Fandemonium” celebration during the last home stand of the season.

 


You could make the selection process for the design to be done online or even an in-stadium display maybe by Gate 3 with voting and balloting done during 3 home stands in the season. You could also then let the winning fan not only get credit for producing the work of art, but maybe do a Ceremonial First Pitch or an autograph signing during the day it is distributed to the Rays fans. You could make someone life by showing their talents and their abilities for everyone in the stadium to enjoy.

 


Well, here you go. the above was all the items that the Rays and MLB Advanced Media asked the Rays season Ticket holder to  consider for promotional item for stadium giveaways in 2009.  What is really amazing is the way that these items have changed over the seasons. Most Rays fans will remember the small 4 inch tall bobble heads given out years ago, or the floppy hats and trucker hats extended to the Rays’ mass population in the past.

 

 


Such stadium giveaways are special, and should be treated as such by the Rays management. Not only is it free advertising for the sponsor of the event, but for the team in the Tampa Bay area. Must we forget that when Rays Manager Joe Maddon was on his honeymoon in Italy, he actually saw and took a picture of a Rays fan overseas from the bay area. The team might never hit the plateau of some of our American League East brethren in total uniform and promotional sales, but we can start a trend where the Rays are no longer the bottom feeders in merchandise in the MLB.

Rays Are In First Place Dude !!!!!

Rays 2, Yankees 1

 

Let me start by humbly Thanking the Rays for letting  me enjoy my birthday,which is the 14th in a  very regal style fitting for a true fan of a FIRST PLACE team.

 

 I was sitting in my little seat behind the Bullpen area when Gabe Gross hit that shot into Rightcenter, I have never seen Jonny  Gomes run so fast in my entire life. And his batting helmet is in orbit over the Trop right now. The mood was electric, and the Yankee fans were in total disbelief at the loss.

 

Thank you Stu Sternberg for building us this dream team. Thank you Joe Maddon for believing in your vision for the last two years.

 

And to the Rays players’, you have undying respect, admiration, and total committment to my team( like there was any doubt about that here).

 

Enjoy tonight, I know I am a ball of fire inside and I can’t wait for 5:30 tomorrow to do it all over again!!!!!

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

11-consecutive Home victories, tops in the major so far this year. Houston and Minnesota each  had 8 straight wins earlier in the season.

 

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly Posters

 

                                     The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly

 

                                            The Good

 

Sometimes it seems that you can do anything wrong on the field. Rays reliever J P Howell must be feeling pretty blessed right now.  Howell has been on the winning end three time this season for his clutch pitching in the late innings. Howell tonight worked 2 innings tonight and his only blemish was a base on balls to Bobby Abreu in the top of the 11th inning. There is an old saying, “It is better to be lucky than good sometimes .” This Rays squad is both lucky…….and good.

 

Honorable Mention “Good guys”:

 

 

*** Jonny Gomes came on as a pinch runner for Cliff Floyd after Cliff singled into rightcenter in the bottom of the 11th inning. Jonny then proceeded to steal second on Mariano Riveria and get into scoring position. Because a righty(Wang) was starting tonight, Gomes had the night off until the 11th inning. Jonny was already past thrid when Melky Cabrera was throwing the ball into catcher Jose Molina.

 

** Rays starter Edwin Jackson held the Yankees scoreless during his 7 innings of work tonight. Jackson allowed 5 hits and struck out 5 yankee batters before leaving the game.  Jackson threw 111 pitches tonight.

 

* Gabe Gross is another guy who is sitting under a magical star right now. When he first got here from the Brewers’, he was having a hard time adjusting at the plate. But in recent games, he has been getting better contact and more aggressive at the plate. Tonight he was a late inning defensive replacement and only got 2 at-bats. We all know that he made his second at-bat count in the “win” column.

 

                                               The Bad

 

To be a closer in the MLB, you have to have a heart of stone sometimes, and a bit of an absent mind. Things happen that would destroy most people. But it is your job to secure  a victory for your team.

 

Tonight is a night Troy Percival will hope to forget when he goes to sleep. His offspeed pitch to Hideki Matsui was wrapped around the righfield foul pole to tie the game at 1 in the bottom of the 9th innig tonight.

 

 It was Percival’s second blown save of the week.

 

Carlos Pena is looking like he is starting to try to hard to make something happen at the plate. He did not look relaxed or at ease at all in his at bats tonight.

 

Carlos has been hovering at the low 200′s now since about April 14th, and has shown positive signs of coming back to his power stroke. But, tonight was not one of those night.

 

                                               The Ugly

 

Rich Herrera is the Rays radio pre and post game announcer for the Rays. He has stressed that the Rays fans need to “act like we have been there before.”

 

What he is referring to, is winning.

 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but a small segment of our fans have been taunting and acting like peacocks the last few games.  I know there have been years of hearing the same from Boston and New York fans alike, but a Southern man and woman should have more class than to pull their shorts down and tell a rival to kiss a big hairy wet spot on your &@.

 

Come on people, I am the first to be more than proud, but I also know we need to gain respect before we are treated with it in return. We have not been to the playoffs, like our rivals, we have not entertained a World Series event at the Trop.

 

We have to be humble and know that this roller coaster could come crashing down on us, or we could enjoy the ride and know that better things are in store for us in the future.

 

So, here is my plight, We, the fans of the Rays need to use self control and watch our mouths and antics. The world is watching us, and we can either be viewed as a “redneck franchise”, or as a class of fans who know what sportsmanship is all about……………..the choice is yours……choose wisely.

 

In closing, to all Rays fans, enjoy tonight. We will have the same results and more first place standings in our future. Relish the night we started to turn our franchise and our town into winners the entire country could love too.

 

 

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