Results tagged ‘ Andrew Friedman ’

Friedman Would Be a Coveted Cubs Acquisition

Most of the Rays Republic remembers when Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Winn was traded basically so the team could sign former Mariner’s Manager Lou Piniella. Could we be possibly heading towards the same scenario with Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman?

It is way to early in the Chicago Cubs General Manager outreach process to venture solely into this scenario, but it does warrant at least a peek. The Cubs did get an up front and personal shot at the cunning and creative thinking of Friedman and his construction of a trade in the 2011 Winter Matt Garza deal.

What is amazing is the perception still lies in the hearts of some on the North side of Chicago that the Cubs got the best end of that deal. Others, like the Rays Republic know that Friedman pulled another beautiful rabbit out of his hat and has already gotten a great return on his swap.

Think about it for a moment. Sure Chi-town got the ever scowling Garza and his bag of tricks, but Friedman got a newfound Legend (Fuld). Friedman only has to look at the box score of his Triple-A team, the Durham Bulls to see OF Fernando Perez, another component of the Cubs trade back in the Rays system after being released by Chicago.

People around Tampa Bay are getting a bit worried that if Friedman does take a meeting with the deep-pocketed Ricketts clan. Amazing enough he only has to sit down next to his own Senior Advisor Don Zimmer who took command in Cubs stripes to hear about the advantages and struggles he would have with such a move Northward. But don’t fret yet Rays Republic, Friedman seems to love the challenge of the Rays opportunity.

But there is also a once in a lifetime challenge of helping structure and realize another World Series title in a town that yearns, begs, pleads for another chance at glory. Knowing Friedman he would have the Cubs institute a “Goat Day” where goats got in FREE just as a humorous and innovative way to ease the burden of the long held curse of Wrigley.

You know the Rays and Friedman are going to be confronted with this situation. Even Garza, who was traded by Friedman is shouting his name to the Heavens as a key component of the Rays climb from the cellar to contenders in such a short time span.

We know the Boston Red Sox will do everything in their power to block a chance of Theo Epstein even texting the Cubs organization. With a tongue-in-cheek comment a few days ago from someone that the Cubs want to build a Red Sox Nation in the West, battle lines and formations both by the Boston fans and front office went up fast to secure any chance of a Epstein defection or seduction.

Friedman has one of the most innovative minds since Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane. The “Rays Way” has been a perfect model of how to build a competitive unit with a minimalistic budget. Friedman’s team is responsible for one of the best scouting units and farm systems in baseball. Even if Friedman isn’t submerged in the day-to-day heartbeat of this system, he gets the glowing comments by association.

How ironic would it be if Friedman did get a chance to go to the friendly ivy-lined confines of Wrigley Field. Would he be treated like a King, possibly warbling a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” from that heralded spot in the booth? Would he be given the key to the city? Possibly get a sandwich named after him at one of the area’s best bistros?  Or maybe he could get a coveted cameo in the “Ferris Bueller” remake? That is what happens to those who fall into the arms of the Cubs faithful, they feel the warmth.

What would be more of a challenge than to resurrect a team that has not won a World Series in a Century. Take a team steeped in such deep tradition and in-bred into the town’s psyche and provide a vibe, a final piece of the puzzle to finally eliminate that faithful Cub phrase, “Maybe next year”.

But do not fret Rays Republic, Friedman is only being mesmerized by the snake charmer. There is no apparent movement of feet or mind to the Chi-town skyline, but it will happen. The city will open itself to Friedman, throw on it’s Sunday best to try and persuade the Rays boy genius to take up stakes and move to this vista.

But even as the traditions and advantages of a Chicago move are flowing in his mind as soul, Friedman also knows he has a little unfinished business back here in Tampa Bay. You know he wants to be a part of the legacy of this franchise. His footprints already dot the landscape, but there is one prize still missing.

It is not a stadium deal, or even a full stadium for 25 % of the home games, it is hoisting that last trophy into the air with a franchise he helped get off life support and finally get to the threshold of that dream. Friedman has done so much here that possibly he could realistically say he has done is job and ready to move on to another project.

Many here in Tampa Bay know that one day this scenario will play out, that Friedman will leave, retire or find a new rebuilding project that he finds intriguing. But if it did materialize that Friedman is to pick up stakes and take his show on the road to Chicago, you know he will leave with a bang, possibly in one of those trademark Friedman trades to the Cubs. Hey Friedman has done more in the past with far less…It could happen.

Does the “Legend” Have a Rays Future?

I swear if I dig enough into his genealogy somewhere I will find a past circus performer hidden in the gene pool of Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Sam Fuld. There has to be a secondary reason for him flinging himself without regard to life and limb around the Major League Baseball outfield. Some call these people “kamikazes”, I just call them “one with the ball”.

Some have anointed Fuld a true life “legend”, some have seen him as a breath of fresh air in the 2011 M L B season, but no one anywhere has doubted his talent or ability to make us all wonder if he is blessed with an ALPHA ability. Some of us television zombies have possibly seen the new show “Alphas” on the SyFy Channel that deals directly with people who inhibit that extra special ability to perform a simple normal human task to the 10th degree, or pulls off something insanely difficult with ease and grace. But ultimately being an “Alpha” has its own drawbacks.

Such may be the case in the Spring of 2012 as whispers are beginning to ring louder that the Rays could keep centerfielder B J Upton through to his impending free agency date after the 2012 season.

Fuld has hit the optimal media spotlight point of his career, even before he has a daily spot to call his own. Indirectly the focus around his vertical talent and his sporadic appearances in the Rays line-up as of late could end up being his Rays downfall.

You see, the Rays already have a budding outfield prodigy named Desmond Jennings who has come out of the rookie gate like his nightly numbers at the plate will decide more than his future. Jennings may have seen the ESPN web gems and National media cooing about Fuld and felt anxious that his future spot might be gone if he did not produce now.

On the opposite side of the outfield from Jennings is rightfielder Matt Joyce who has also risen high above the early seasonal goals set by his Rays Manager Joe Maddon and is only being saddled now by Maddon’s inability to let go of his reins and let Joyce pounce and show his worth against left-handed pitching.

This squad does need a lead-off hitter and basestealer, but Jennings fills that bill right now. It needs a special player that pulls you out of your seat as you watch him hit, but Joyce fills that bill too. It might come down to one of those “mixed blessings” scenarios. Would the Rays trade Upton and his track record to go with the skill set of what Fuld could do for this team?

With these two bookends to Upton, plus the addition of Ben Zobrist as an ample and reliable 4th outfielder, Fuld’s best chance to rise again in the MLB might be to leave the Rays coop.

I really did not think the versatile 5′ 8” outfielder had a chance this Spring to compete and win a chance to play in the April 1st home opener at Tropicana Field. Then again, I did not know he secretly injected the blood of Rocky the Flying Squirrel into his body to produce so many early season defensive highlights, almost on a nightly scale. It was as if the “legend” was channeling “the little engine that could” by astounding us and making all of us believers in his abilities.

Fuld is super. Fuld is an aspiring “legend”, and Fuld might be a guy who will be constantly fighting for a job for the rest of his Rays days. Not a bad thing, but something that could ultimately drain the “Legend” of some of his magical powers and make him more of a Rays folk hero than a budding M L B career mainstay. I would hate for Fuld to go the way of former Rays OF Jason Tyner, from bobble head to oblivion in the blink of an eye.

Believe me, I am one of those who wish only the best for the often vertically prone magician, but with the prospect of Upton staying until 2012, and the double J’s, Jennings and Joyce manning the corners, Fuld may be a man without a position. And that sucks big time.

Fuld has the ability to play daily along with the support and admiration of people from 5-65. He makes each and every one of us wonder if we would do the same….defy gravity, bring in the ball and then pop back up off the ground like it was a dive into the swimming pool. That kind of play excited the crowd, makes people buy shirts and jerseys, even wear giveaway capes to bed with their name on them.

We have seen others here in Tampa Bay get the fan support, the admiration of all of us then find their place on the bench instead of the field. I felt this same way about Jonny Gomes. Here was a guy who would do anything short of a crime to get a win, an magical moment or produce a bit of history all for his team. Fuld might be smaller than Jonny, but he fits that mold to a “T”.

Fuld may never get a chance here in Tampa Bay to become a bona fide M L B or All-Star. He does however possesses that special ingredient we all find appealing and wonderful to watch. Fuld truly does channel the energy and spirit of a child when he plays.


Not worrying about the impending damage or possible injuries, but producing the out. Not trying to be a showboat, but a motivational punch in the gut to the other team’s offense. Fuld is someone every team needs, but the Rays already have an over abundance of this same type of talented individuals.

Maybe I am saying my piece now because I have grown to like the guy from speaking to him, to getting his S P P D cap at the Spring Opener in Port Charlotte and wearing it on my head in my car when coming back from San Francisco to Tampa Bay. Fuld reminds me of me as an athlete just as he reminds all of us of our youth and own bouts with vertical mortality.

Be given another chance to take that next step, to spread his wings farther and stronger with another club. It is a thought I really do not want to have in my head, but one I know is the right thing for him professionally. I truly hope the Rays find a way to bring Fuld more into the Rays future game, letting his special light shine bright.

Maybe that is why I am writing this today. In a hope that if the Rays do not see a future place for Fuld. Possibly this off season we might see the “flighted one” leave Tampa Bay for a greener pasture. 

Stay Classy Tampa Bay

Tell me another Major League Baseball team that embraces their community with such abandon and vigor that the Tampa Bay Rays do on a daily basis. It seems like almost every day now a player, Coach or even members of the Rays front office are out and about trying to make a difference in our Tampa Bay community.

From building playgrounds, to charity events, this team has always had a solid focal point towards giving back, giving of themselves, and this community has taken them also into their own arms. Other communities around MLB also get a glowing show the faith, love and respect from their athletes Tampa Bay does, I personally think it is just glowing brighter right now in Tampa Bay.

The Rays have been blessed as a franchise to have a minimum of off-the-field” distractions and behavioral problem players in their brief existence. I want to attribute it to the low key and socially class-less South code of life, but Rays Manager Joe Maddon is from blue-collar Pennsylvania and VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman is from Texas.

Still, it has been remarkable how this community embraces and give the up most levels of respect when they venture beyond the gates of Tropicana Field and head out into the Tampa Bay community. From the ever increasing band of “BJ’s Bunch” or the newly formed “Joyce’s Juniors”, young and old have embraced these players and come emblazoned with their Rays gear as a show of community solidarity.

I kind of like how the Rays players have been able to live in a bit of seclusion and security instead of the bustle and fast pace of those other regions. This is not a condemnation of large city fans like Philadelphia, Chicago or New York, it is just a different vibe down here.

It simply amazes me how the general public around Tampa Bay has not smothered or scared our Rays into hiding with idiotic banter or heckling as they serve our communities and visit with fans. I guess the fans in this region understand that these players are performing a job, and we give them space to do their work, even out in the community.

Think about it for a moment, where else in this country do you think a professional baseball player can go out with such abandon to local phone stores, supermarkets or even banks and fans do not get out of sorts, rowdy or even testy at the mire mention of someone running late, or having to leave. This region seems to get it. But then again, Tampa Bay is a mostly service-oriented community.

From Rays outfielder Sam Fuld visiting USF Diabetic Center this week visiting with kids and their families who go through the same daily struggles from type 1 Diabetics just like Fuld daily. Or seeing Matt Joyce returning to a local supermarket chain where he once bagged groceries to help the Tampa Bay chapter of Feeding America by tossing in throw after throw of food and goods into a cart like he was picking off runners at second base.

This community is lucky to have such great and budding Tampa Bay community leaders. In a time when so many people speak of and yearn for role models for our youth, this Rays team from top to bottom spawns so many choices. From James Shields and his work with foster children centers, to even the Rays wives teaming up recently for a backpack and school supplies drive to support the PACE Center for Girls.

From stem to stern, there are plenty of heroes and inspirations to go around both on this Rays roster and within their own front offices. It is one of the reasons I always open my hands to help at any Rays event possible to volunteer or support this team and their many causes. This is truly a team that “ gets it” as is open to embracing their seasonal community with open arms.

If you have ever attended an outside Rays event whether it is a autograph signing or a appearance at a hospital or McDill Air Force Base, this team is greeted with smiles, cheers and loads of positive vibes. To this day I have never heard of a Rays heckler, arrogant fan or disturbance at any of their outside charity or community events.

As a former athlete, giving back was always something I wanted to do, felt I needed to do for my community. With this Tampa Bay community embracing the players as they perform these duties and tasks, and also respecting their place in this community, the sky is the limit to the further outpouring of the Rays involvement and outside endeavors to helping those in need in our community.

Next time you go to a Rays community event, look them in the eyes and tell them “thank you”, it is that type of comment that fuels many more community efforts and events for these players. Events where we can also walk in the footsteps of role models for our own growing sons and daughters. 

” Friedman’s Anatomy”

Not sure why, but the moment I heard that Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman was heading for a Seattle hospital with stomach pains, the fictional Seattle Grace/Mercy West Hospital instantly came to mind. Maybe one too many lattes in this cool and rainy town turned my brain into mush.

Maybe it was too many episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” with my ex-fiancée’ that somehow perpetrated that image of Meridith Grey and Doctor McDreamy standing over Friedman just in time for MLB prime time, poised and ready to deliver another Emmy winning episode, complete with more singing and dancing as the Rays kid wonder was wheeled out of the operating room to his semi-private suite.

You could see feisty redhead/dirty blond/hair color du jour Doctor Lexi Grey using a nifty curving circular move with a disposable ER scalpel to cut the cellphone and blue tooth expertly away from Friedman’s hand and ear in one swift motion, watching it fall in slow motion to the floor with a MLB GM on the end end screaming “Hello?”

Somehow I could easily see one of the Rays most brilliant minds centered with one of ABC’s greatest fictional hospital drama……Oh, and did I leave out, it is based in Seattle. This medical emergency of Friedmans’ only deserved the best medical staff, and this fictional staff never seems to lose the focus, their determination or their patients….well, most of the time.

Seriously folks, how could you not see this kind of drama and action play out when the MLB Trade Deadline and a medical emergency both rear their ugly heads…It is a perfect ABC Movie of the Week in training…easy.

I know the whole enchilada with Friedman was not packed in a 41 minute segment like on the television series, but considering the time of the year, and the stakes that could have been at stake….it would be ratings gold…Even in NYC.

You know then even though Cristina Yang is a talented cardio-thoracic blades-woman, she would be extra assertive to get a chance to possibly slice, dice and julienne Friedman’s nasty appendix out with the skill of a medical Zorro. That is just the way she rolls baby. How perfect would it be if this really happened with husband Owen Hunt stands behind her doing that classic Macaulay Caulking “Home Alone” face.

But you know the always crafty and smug Alex Karev would find a way to either be in the surgery, or playing a key second fiddle position, possibly manning Friedman’s phone hitting ignore every time the Washington Nationals number flashed on the screen. Heck bring back a montage of George, Izzy and maybe even some Denny Duquette for good measures. All flashing through Friedman’s subconscious.

I could easily see Chief of Staff Richard Webber on the bat phone with Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and conferencing in Rays President Matt Silverman making sure all is calm in the Rays camp at this critical evening and juncture of the Trade Deadline countdown.

I wonder if the Rays really do have a plan in place for just this sort of emergency? Maybe it was placed in a hermetically sealed crystal box just for this kind of occasion. More likely a “Doomsday Draft” scenario then a Trade Deadline dissection/appendectomy.

Sometimes they say timing is everything, and with Friedman buckled over in pain and going under the knife, it surely will bode well with Sternberg in hopefully keeping Friedman in Tampa Bay once those Houston rumors hit the fan after their new ownership group is approved this month. Fair warning Stu, if this guy will sacrifice his body and life for this team…long term deal…or a blank check.

Rays Senior Advisor Gerry Hunsicker must have been in his old Astros days battle mode at this moment not only fielding calls about players, prospects and trade scenarios, but also well wishes and “get well soon” texts, emails and You tube quality videos from the vast Rays Republic. Sometime being behind the main target is the safest place to be…even in sports.

Friedman did not have his surgery at Seattle Grace, the hospital isn’t located near the Space Needle, or even anywhere situated near Broadway or the old P & I building. Friedman was armed again on that sunny Sunday morning armed with the utility belt of technology used to hone the deal and squeak an extra player out of a team.

Somehow MLB took it easy on Friedman that day. No deals were finalized, no players changed hands, no harm, no foul, except for that dang appendix in the jar on his bed stand. Somehow just like an episode of “Grey’s”, in the end, all becomes one, and all the madness turned into perfection in the Emerald City of coffee and dramatic moments. I think even Amanda Bailey would have smiled.

Rays on Cusp of Going From “Buyers” to Possible Trade Deadline “Sellers”

So when is too much, too much? What is that final tipping point where the Tampa Bay Rays consider themselves “ sellers” instead of “buyers”. Originally I was firm in my opinion that the team will hold tight on OF B J Upton and SP James Shields.

But as the team falls towards that double digit mark trailing the current American League Wild Card holder, the New York Yankees, at what point will the Rays throw up their hands and either give in, or buckle down and hope for another “Miracle of Summer”.

At this point the Rays are 9 ½ games behind the American League East division leading Boston Red Sox and 7 ½ games behind the Yankees. With an unexpected late loss last night in Oakland, the Rays are on a slippery slope. This was suppose to be the time between series with Boston and New York for the Rays to pack on some victories, and possibly sneak back into the race before this Sunday’s 

Trade Deadline.

If the Rays do not take bot this series against the Athletics, plus their 3-game set against the Seattle Mariners in the Emerald City, they could be past that double digit comfort level. But when is it too late? When are the Rays past the point of no return in regards to a post season berth? In any other division this would not be an issue at this time, but in the strong A L East, being 10 games behind the A L Wild Card is a pretty steep rock to climb.

At some point between the West Coast trip destinations this team has to decide their path. Presently it seems that all engines are churning towards trying to catch the Yankees and pull off another super road trip. These next 5 games could produce either the selling of talent, or the revival the Rays need to thrust themselves back into this playoff race.

Personally, I am of the mind that if this team does stumble in their next 2 contests and go under 10 games back of the Yankees, Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman will accept a few more phone calls, listen intently and possibly sell high on a few guys.

I was hoping the season would come down to a key series in September. If the Rays go through an abnormal road trip free fall and come back home with a losing road trip record, they might be minus a few key players due to trades and deals made before the Sunday final bell.

If the Rays do begin plucking off a few of their player assets, it is great that these players would have played their last game in Tropicana Field against the rival Yankees, and took a victory with them on the road. But it also brings up a touchy subject that again, just like when the Rays traded SP Scott Kazmir while on the road (in Detroit), the home fans might never get a realistic chance to thank them for their past efforts. That is one of the really awful parts of the Trade Deadline coming on the heels of a road trip.

Hopefully this doesn’t happen, but the possibility is still there for a last minute change, a up-grade, or possibly just the right time in the Rays eyes and minds. This is that time of the year that players and teams can not control, but right now, the Rays have the choice to be the “buyers or the sellers”. 

Intriguing Assortment of Rays Choices for Trade Deadline Shoppers

Always a great guessing game trying to decipher correctly the needs, wants and desire of any of the 29 other MLB squads for anyone on the Tampa Bay Rays roster. Sure there might be a few GM’s just coming by doing some future window shopping or prod and nudge a bit of the merchandise, but is there really any top shelf Rays that will exit before the end of the Trade Deadline?

Can’t be easy time span for a player either with a large contract or even a “ walk” season under their belt until the clock strikes midnight on August 1st. Sure even then deals can still be hashed out, but the large majority of the transactions will be at least attempted in the next few working days. But even the best deal can be stricken down by the might pen of the M L B Commissioner Bud Selig if it seems unfair or has too much cash considerations.

So who among the 25 currently rostered Rays players do you think will garner the most attention? Who do you feel will be showcased now for departure in the off season? There are plenty of options, including a few that could either make or break the Rays post season surge. Then again, if the Rays do go into a tailspin over the next few series( Kansas City/Oakland/Toronto), they could instead purge before the last moments in July?

Even the Great Kreskin would have a difficult time trying to summarize some of the gossip and whispers currently doing the rounds in the MLB circle. With the emergence of SP Alex Cobb and Rays Manager Joe Maddon staying with a 6-man rotation. Could this be a precursor to a starter leaving town?

James Shields has reconstructed his delivery and career to a point some teams are eager to get a guy who can push out innings and provide strikeouts. Shields might have de-valued himself a tad during his recent 4-game tailspin.  With a team friendly $ 7 million dollar salary for 2012, Shields is still affordable and could be in the plastic bubble until this time in 2012.

Do the Rays instead sell high on SP Jeff Niemann while he is on his own hot streak? The Tall Texan might not garner a top tier return, but a few teams do have veterans who might walk after this season, and if they fit into the Rays mold….Niemann could be on a flight by August 1st.

With that in mind, why not put SP/RP Andy Sonnanstine on the top shelf to see who wanders by for a long look. Sonny has all the qualities a good team needs with MLB experience, stability and is a solid “company man”. He can be used in a variety of ways, and his tenure with the Rays might be on unstable ground with the emergence of Cobb and others pushing hard to break through the Triple-A ceiling to the majors. Sonny, like Niemann will not collect a bevy of returns, but his shelf life with the Rays might be getting near its expiration point.

Cesar Ramos is a southpaw, and with the Rays currently having 3 in their Bullpen, excess might not be the keys to the Rays Bullpen success. He might bring in a better haul than Sonny, but knowing the Rays and their love of the crafty lefties, he might stick. Still, the Rays would not offer up fellow relievers Jake McGee or J P Howell unless the return was something they could not refuse.

That brings us to the Rays field players. A few names possibly jump out at you, but one that I truly think is “off limits” is First Baseman Casey Kotchman. The job he has done since he cemented himself at First has been incredible. With only 1 error this season, Kotchman might be tied to this Rays team soon for the next 3 years. I have heard a few whispers in the hallways.

In the infield, with the thoughts also swirling that SS Reid Brignac is taking backward steps, this effectively closes any possible discussions on Elliot Johnson or Sean Rodriguez. Their stability will be needed now more than ever, and cutting loose even one of the pair would be disastrous unless an infield MLB caliber upgrade is received.

With the recent injuries surrounding the catching position, it might be a hidden blessing for C Kelly Shoppach. Still, the Rays could deal the often offensively maligned backstop for prospects, or maybe even a little cash. The market is not seeking Shoppach with gusto, but a back-up with experience heading into the stressful last months of the season and beyond can be a blessing to a young team.

That leaves the outfield has one of the biggest question marks with at least 4 possible Rays players getting a few glances and maybe trade discussions. Still think Desmond Jennings is here to be looked at by not only the Rays, but by 29 other teams. I really think the Rays have a lot of questions about Jennings, and he could be traded for the right package.

You might have thought I would thrust B J Upton in the top spot for trade discussion, but I truly think the Rays will keep Upton until the end of the 2011 season, then listen intently to offers. Upton might not be the most attentive player on the bases, but he plays solid defense and has trimmed his swing a bit to be more productive. Who in their right mind thought he would get over 15 Hrs in 2011?

Still, with the Washington Nationals eager for Upton, and with names like INF Ian Desmond or RP Drew Storen being put on the end of the pole, the Rays could bite and fill a future hole in their team with young replacements who are starting to show their MLB potentials. Still it is a long shot these names are included with Upton’s’. Then again, Friedman can deliver brilliance with Bull-hockey pucks.

The guy who might garner the most outfield attention doesn’t actually play there on a daily basis. Johnny Damon could bring a nice haul in return from a team on the cusp of contention, or wanting to stay hard in the race until the end. But is he worth the gamble of leaving with the type of offense and ability to help charge up this team with a single swing?

You can’t buy that kind of massive production on and off the field this time of year. But if the Rays are truly in a mood to upgrade now, Damon might be the perfect carrot to dangle in front of the MLB herd. There is another player who has emerged to a point his status might be at its zenith, and a downward spiral is definitely in the cards.

I think the world of the abilities and freestyle aerial moves of Sam Fuld, but I also know MLB is treating him more like a novelty act right now than a budding star or long producing commodity. Here is another Rays player who might be at the peak of his trade value right now. Combine his on-field heroics with his solid base running and you get a nice threat either off the bench or in the field heading into the post season.

There is still the possibilities the Rays just bluff and stay with their current format, but the more realistic approach is someone will go, changes will be made. Upton should be planted in CF until the off season, Shields even though he turns 30 in December is a great anchor for this Rays rotation.

That being said, Sonny and Niemann could be on the “watch list” and be the two pitchers most likely to exit stage left. Shoppach could still be dealt even with the Rays catching corp down to their bare knuckles. This is one part of the Rays farm system that seems loaded for bear, and could endure a spell without remorse.

Jennings is the Rays top field prospect, and I have a sneaking feeling his up-coming promotion to “The Show” has a hidden agenda. Exposing Jennings to MLB caliber pitching with 10 days left could persuade someone to take a risk or gamble on a guy who might not be considered the best outfielder even on his Triple-A squad. But if the Rays do keep Jennings, Upton better look over his shoulder later in the season.

Fuld might be safe, but if his average goes South along with his “Legend”, his time and days will be numbered. Damon is the best Rays commodity right now and might be plucked. But Friedman will not trade him for a “rental” player or even a marginal player or prospects. When you have a guy who is putting up consistent numbers like Damon, the price tag has a few zeros in it, even for the short term.

This is the time of the year where guessing, predictions and even off-the-cuff remarks come with a glance from the baseball world. Teams want to chuck, acquire and sometimes streamline for different reasons. The only reasons any of these players might be plucked off the Rays roster is if this team truly thinks they have the horses for a playoff run.

Upgrading by trading would be the only reason right now the Rays would open their doors for change. 

This Time of Year………..Fear the Friedman

The hands of time are moving quicker, the sands in the hourglass falling at an alarming rate….Yes, it is that special juncture in the Major League Baseball season when the days finally fall towards single digit working towards the July 31st M L B Non-Waiver Trade Deadline that the anxiety and impatience leads to lopsided deals.

The unpredictability of this entire trade charade keeps all of us wondering until the final period is typed on that Press Release, or the official “Approval” stamp slams upon the trade document in the New York M L B offices in Manhattan. You can never be sure just what is actually going on, especially within the Tampa Bay Rays camp.

I swear to anything and everything holy that the Rays conduct a stealth boot camp ever season to prepare for just these final fleeting moments. The Rays organization has effectively mastered the art of the Samurai “air of silence”. Still, I would think if you are a MLB GM, you kind of even a courtesy call by Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman a call to action.

How effective has he been on trimming and honing this Rays roster and farm system towards the Rays lean and mean standards? Heck, I consider our farm system to be the “Minka Kelly” of farm systems. Red hot top prospects with a side order of 3,000 hits. Friedman has taken a system that was not in shambles but uncoordinated at times and turned it into a fine tuned concerto.


When was the last time you heard about a Rays trade before the rest of the baseball World knew about it? Still think each Rays desk has a cyanide capsule or dome of silence to keep idle chatter from hitting the mainstream. Kind of proud of that fact actually. It is so easy for one tongue to wag and then the World hears the vibrations.

Take 2010 for example. If you would have told me the Rays would trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the last days before the Trade Deadline for RP Chad Qualls, I would have reserved you an ample living quarters in the fluffy padded room at Windemere.

Somehow this deal got sign, sealed and delivered without fanfare, media knowledge or even a single cricket chirping before its announcement. Sure the trade was about eliminating a pricey Bullpen piece while the Rays added another veteran, even if it was a higher than normal risk for the Rays.

That is what is so intriguing about this time of the baseball season. Sometimes I wish I could be that “fly on the wall” just to see the process. Get to understand the Rays parameters and guides to the deal….Heck, we could market it and sell at least 100 copies to just baseball top tier guys. Seriously, if the Rays could bottle their trade success and finesse, it would be award winning.

Even if the Rays go into pure “buying” mode, you could see them still effectively shift a few attractive assets towards another roster while stockpiling more potential trade bait and appetizers for another day.

In a “buyer’s” mode the Rays could still bring in a few future commodities that will eventually mature and provide stability and increased productivity. I know it sounds a lot like I am reciting a insurance binder, but the reality is the Trade deadline is about insurance.

No matter if you are in “Buyer” or “Seller” mode, you want to assure your top tier management figures, your roster and farm system, plus your fan base that a move of this caliber at this time of the season will reap benefits towards your team’s goals, or help reduce future overhead limitations like a heavy salary so the Rays would have the cha-ching to go get that valued replacement part.

The art of the deal is a highly skilled and honed system that should bring results. You do not have to be a car salesman to get a great bargain this time of the year. Dangle a pitcher who is having a breakout season, finally burst through the wall of productivity or has a attractive present or future salary structure and you just have to sit back and take the phone calls.

Mix a great potential deal with the likes of Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman with his senior counsel of Gerry Hunsicker, and these two could take an average deal and make it shine for years. All you have to do is look at the Rays and Chicago Cubs deal for emotional roller coaster Matt Garza.

Sure the Cubs got a guy who potential is as tall as the Sears Tower, but in my opinion, Friedman got a King’s ransom in return. One of the pieces of this puzzle that was sent to Chi-town, OF Fernando Perez has already been released and is on another team’s roster. In return the Rays got a new urban and M L B “Legend” ( Sam Fuld), an outfielder (Brandon Guyer) previously not in the Rays 2011 major league roster framework who made Fantasy owners giddy with his first game stats (10 points).

Add to that mix a shortstop who is only playing at the Class-A level, but who scouts and baseball gurus have gushed and gone all flustered with that has risen up the prospect charts like a rocket (Hak-Ju Lee). Suddenly it seems like Friedman and Hunsicker sold Garza when his talent and potential both reached their ceiling.

Wondering if the same magic will fall in the Rays hands before the final seconds of the 2011 Trade Deadline. Will it be a monster player haul, a salary dump or even the Rays taking on a player in their “ walk” season who could help them waltz into the post season.

Still think the biggest horror I would face if I were to ever become a M L B GM is hearing Friedman’s voice on the other end of the phone……Hopefully it will be a congratulation call, not a trademark Friedman “kick the tires” conversation….Those have ended badly lately.

Sternberg Still “Staying the Course” of the Rays Ship

The assembled Media mob down by the Rays dugout before this game merited a quick look. You usually do not see this many assembled media talking heads without reason. Then I saw the trademark sweater, the smile that radiates towards the Trop roof and immediately knew Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg was holding court with the media minions.

On tap this day was a bucketful of concerns within the Press Box about subjects like the possibilities of Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations heading to his Houston hometown to head up the new Astros future. Also on the minds of the media was if the Rays would be “buyers or sellers” before the Trade Deadline at the end of the month.

Sternberg just showed his pearly whites, tap-danced a bit for the assembled crowd and really again made the masses fall in love with him all over again. That is the mark of a great salesman. Using his charm, personality and a bevy of great information and background materials, Sternberg tames the Media beasts once again.

Sure he might not have stabbed an issue in the heart like the attendance concerns or about Friedman, but he also did not skirt the issues at all. Some of the things that came out of Sternberg’s mouth did follow the Rays “ party lines” and did not surprise me in the least. But others comments did pose a slight concern, not in their rhetoric or presentation, but what was not said by Sternberg.

Still it is always refreshing to get the words straight from the “horse’s mouth”. Sternberg was asked about items like the Rays downward trend in attendance figures, if the Rays have the fiscal resources to “upgrade” their team before the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline.

His comments on the Rays struggling attendance was refreshing since one local media source seems to want to force-feed the public the attendance figures every night. Sternberg’s statement actually instilled a bit more confidence in me that the Rays owners is really here for the long haul, not a possibility of selling the team and moving onto more fiscally “greener pastures”.

To be frank as I can about it, I’m really not focused on the attendance. I’m tired of thinking about it, talking about it, and I know you’re tired of asking me the question and most importantly, everybody is tired of hearing about it. It’s really all about what’s going to be is going to be and what it is what it is. The numbers coming through what they are and I don’t anticipate talking about it or focusing on it at all this season or any time in the near future after that.”

Refreshing to hear an owner talk straight from the hip and not sugarcoat, project pessimistic intentions or evoke a sense of entitlement that fans flock to his stadium. Sternberg has always remembered that this town is a tourist-based locale, and with that comes fluctuation in the fan base, community monetary flows. There is a presence of support, a foundation to build on that is solid, plus his focal group, the youngsters growing the Rays tradition are maturing.

But so many are focused on the end of the month Trade Deadline, and Sternberg had a few great sound bytes on that upcoming event in the season:

 “There’s resources in money and resources in players. A lot of that depends on what player you’re willing to give up and how much money you’re willing to spend. Sometimes you can spend less and give up more players. So we are always willing to expand resources, but it’s a question of what we get back and where that puts us. It’s certainly difficult doing that in our division more so than some of the other divisions and competing with the teams that we can compete with and have to beat.”

This comment by Sternberg might seem more versed in risk management assessments and terms than baseball, but you get the jest completely. The Rays are focused on getting a good return on any investment, trade or salary dump. With high profile Rays players like B J Upton, James Shields and possibly even Andy Sonnanstine on several M L B team’s radar, the return has to justify the decision.

Here is where Sternberg and his henchmen Rays President Matt Silverman and Friedman have excelled in recent seasons. They understand the power of the trade, and use it to their advantage. You only have to look at the trade of Rays starter Matt Garza before the Spring of 2011 to see the team is committed to getting a return that develops into a positive flow.

In that transaction the Rays got their “legend” Sam Fuld, outfielder Brandon Guyer and a future starting shortstop who has seen his stock as a top prospect rise repeatedly this season towards a Top 10 spot. Interesting enough, one of the players the Rays trade to the Cubs, outfield speedster Fernando Perez has already been cut from the Cubs system.

Then someone in the Media addressed the elephant in the room, the Rays stagnant stadium situation. This is where Sternberg really shined and provided a beautiful oratory on his thoughts, direction and true feeling as both an owner and fan of this frustrating issue:

We’re not changing anything at this point. I’ve tried everything. People know that. We hear it all the time, we’re winning on the field, we’re putting a good product out there, the place is inviting, we’ve got concerts, we’ve got the second most affordable team. There’s not much else to be done at this point. It’s baseball here. I believe in the game, I love the game. And just like (Tampa Bay Lightning owner) Jeff Vinik loves hockey, or the (Tampa Bay Buccaneers owners) Glazers might love football, you follow your passion and you put everything into it that you possibly can.”

But I think his last comments of the day after almost 20 minutes speaking to the media speaks volumes on his intentions and his focus surrounding the Tampa Bay region and baseball:

 “There’s nothing more perfect than having it all work here right now. This isn’t about putting up Sternberg’s palace, or my idea of a perfect ballfield. The concept when we first came here was that we were extraordinarily confident we were going to make it work. Winning the American League East twice out of 3 years, no, not necessarily. But be competitive. So I went in with this mindset and said Okay, great, we’re going to be friendly, prices are going to be great, we’re going to fix the place up, put all the dough in here and you know what, were also going to win. So I think it surprised each and every person here, but this is what it is. And we’re still going to keep going at it day after day and doing the best we can.”

Touch e` Stu. Spoken like a man, a confident business owner and beyond all of that a honest baseball fan. We are lucky to have someone like this pulling the reins on this organization. Sure he wants to make a profit, show a positive gain both in resources and even fan commitment, but he also know the product will sell itself.

Baseball fans around the country know the Tampa Bay franchise is a hidden gem with boatloads of potential and possible moments. Sternberg is the man at the top of the heap, the guy who ultimately decides the direction of this franchise…He is the perfect person to help guide this currently turbulent Rays ship through the shallow Tampa Bay shoals and sandbars unharmed before emerging into the crystal blue waters where smooth sailing will be par for the course. Oh Captain, my Captain.

Rays Reject Yankees Doubleheader Game Request

Before 2007, there might have been minimal discussions before the Tampa Bay Rays buckled down and ultimately decided to partake in a day/night doubleheader this Saturday with their bitter rival, the New York Yankees. In a move that shocked some within the Yankees organization, the Rays did an about face and rejected every intention and submission to “play two” for any reason on Saturday.

People forget that the Stuart Sternberg and Rays Vice-President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman have evolved this same Rays laughingstock into a more refined and calculated risk management based organization that does due diligence on every single minute detail. Such a double dose of baseball taxes an already tired and walking wounded Rays club heading into the All-Star break. It also put into play a few sinister and equally positive scenarios that could favor the Rays.

By vetoing a doubleheader, even in the traditional sense, the Rays can by-pass young hurler Jeremy Hellickson and instead position top pitchers David Price and James Shields to take the hill in the last 2 contests before the break. By sending their best arms into the fray, the Rays can possibly with 2 victories pull close to the Yankees, plus give themselves a great emotional cushion heading into the second half of the season.

Evan Longoria, one of the Rays who has seen more than his share of nagging pains this first half summed it up to the New York Times : “ As for as both teams go, it’s not real smart for us to play a doubleheader. It stretches guys out. It doesn’t give an opportunity for a couple of teams to rest those who are banged up and just play one game, and then another one.”

Sure the departure from usual Major League Baseball fiscal logic to get the games done might seemed a bit biased to the Rays side at this moment, but it actually might play into the Yankees court come September. With a proposed make-up date of Thursday, September 22, 2011, the Rays will already be in town after completing a 2-game set against the Bronx Bombers.

Lost in all the impending current drama plus pomp and circumstance surrounding Yankee Captain Derek Jeter’s “Quest for 3,000” is the fact the Yankees right now have their own “walking wounded situations. We all know of the recent plight of Jeter, but the Yankees Bullpen is currently not up to snuff with the revolving injury bug hitting from set-up guys to their closer.

The Rays might actually be giving the Yankees a hidden break by letting them “get healthy” instead of pushing their Bullpen through multiple game situations. With their late inning executioner Mariano Rivera watching from the bench, it would be the perfect time for the Rays to possibly “steal one” from the Yankees, but that is also not this new Rays regime’s style.

So as you Yankee fans are cursing out Rays Manager Joe Maddon and the Rays organization this weekend over possibly ruining the Jeter parade, remember it was the Rays who also used their pitching to delay Alex Rodriguez’s march to 500.

With the Rays refusing a day/night doubleheader, it ups the ante that Jeter will have to get his cherished hits in the next 2 contests against the Rays best pitchers. In hindsight, Jeter would possibly want to get it against 2 of the better hurlers in his division than wait until going into Rogers Centre against the Toronto Blue Jays after the break. By the way, after the Jays, the Yankees come into Tropicana Field.

This Rays franchise has grown a lot since the days of being the AL East doormat, and possibly this is another firm example of the type of team/organization this has become since former owner/founder Vince Namoli and ousted G M Chuck LaMar left the building. I actually think it was a stroke of subtle brilliance, and I give credit to Maddon and Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman.

Most M L B Clubs might have accepted the day/night duo of games without incident, but the Rays challenged the process and rejected the norm. Soon enough we will find out if the cards played in the Rays favor, or the Yankees.

But possibly the always thinking Maddon hit the real situation square on the head when he told the New York Times : “Where we are at right now, if I had my druthers about it, we would choose later. At this point in the first half guys are run down. I like the idea you have expanded rosters in September.

Spoken like a true rebel to the norm….and I like it!

“The Animal” is Making a Lot of Noise in the Rays Outfield

 

ChrisCarter2011.jpg

 

I love it when a guy comes out of nowhere and makes a play for a spot on the final 25-man roster. It is especially exciting if that guy is one of the Spring Training non-roster invitees who is beginning to make a whole lot of noise with his play in the field, and at the plate, possibly pushing a young Rays farm system player to the side as he tries to stake a claim on a potential roster spot with the Rays for Opening Day.

Most fans who follow the Rays probably did not do a double-take or even bat an eyelash when outfielder Chris Carter signed a minor league deal with a Spring invite back on January 21st. But I took notice. Here was a guy who former New York Mets Manager Jerry Manuel called “The Animal” for his work ethic and who played 100 games for the Mets last season.

He was another of those under the radar signing by Rays VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman that could pay huge dividends either at the beginning of the season, or if an injury bug nips the Rays. Carter is one of those guys you want on your roster. His bat speaks loud, hitting .263 with 4 HR and 24 RBIs in his limited time up in “The Show” in 2010.


alg_mets_carter2.jpgBut if you look at his history, then you get a real view of what potential he could have as another left-handed bat for the Rays. Oh, did I fail to mention as a pinch-hitter for the Mets in 2010, he batted .328 with a solo HR and 10 RBIs. Sure he might miss the final cut due to numbers, go to Triple-A Durham and fortify a chance for a recall sometime in 2011, but this is a guy who gets hot in the early stages of the season and keeps the fires burning for the entire year.

Carter only hit .336 with 6 HR and 22 RBI before the Mets recalled him after 29 games at Triple-A Buffalo. Heck in 2009, while still in the Red Sox system, Carter had 37 multi-hit games (25 2-hit games) while leading Triple-A Pawtucket in batting average, homers,RBI,runs, hits and doubles.

Carter even had a chance to make his MLB debut against the Rays back on June 5,2009 coming in as a pinch-runner, then getting his first MLB hit off Rays reliever Grant Balfour later in that contest. Carter even has the unique distinction of hitting a 4th inning RBI double to bring home J D Drew with the first run to come across the new Home Plate in the first-ever exhibition game (4/9/2009) at Citi Field.

But this is a guy who has always hit well in the minors, and is showing this Spring that he deserves a long,hard look by the Rays as a viable candidate for an outfield position. Carter is currently hitting .412 with 3 RBI, 7 hits, and only one extra base hit ( double) and a .892 OPS. Carter even had a chance to complete a double play from the outfield in his 16 Put Out opportunities and a 11.25 RF rating, which is tied for third best on the Rays this Spring.

All the numbers point to Carter getting an extended “look-see” by the Rays this Spring, but he is currently trying to push the issue by providing spirited play and a hot bat. The problem is there is already a logjam at the outfield position with both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon expected to get a large slice of the Left Field opportunities.

B J Upton is probably cemented in Center and Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist with an occasional Sean Rodriguez start should solidify the Right Field platoon unit. It might come down to the numbers the Rays will carry on their bench as to if Carter gets a realistic chance to gain a Opening Day roster spot.

091408_7224.jpgSo far he has done everything right, and provided some offense while former Stanford and current Rays teammate Sam Fuld has suffered at the plate. I am anxious to see if Carter can keep up his offensive number through the rest of the Spring and possibly force the Rays into a long and hard decision concerning his immediate future with the Rays. He possesses the hitting and fielding the Rays desire, but also hits from the left side of the plate like Joyce.

As you can see by the photo to the left, Carter can take the pressure. Here he was dressed up for the Red Sox Rookie Hazing as a buxom quasi-blonde, and he seems to be having fun with it all.

 

 The ultimate decision might come down after the Rays last Grapefruit League  game held on March 31st at Tropicana Field. Maybe by then Carter will know where to store his gear for 2011. Even if the answer is a ticket to Triple-A, if Carter gets off to a quick start, the noise from Durham might be deafening, and a return should be in the cards.

 

But what else would you expect from a guy named “The Animal”?

 

 




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