Results tagged ‘ B J Upton ’

Your Day at the Trop To Drop 140-Characters

So how excited is the Rays Republic heading into the Tampa Bay Rays first Tweet Up? I would say as excited as a walk-off homer, complete game shutout and hitting for the cycle. Who wouldn’t be excited about sitting just beyond the shoulder of Rays Bullpen legends Scott Cursi and Bobby Ramos.

We could have a possible dancing brown bear moment, or maybe even a Kyle Farnsworth sighting. Seriously, it has been a great thing that the Rays front office and their marketing department embrace the social media phenomenon and provide a chance for the Rays Republic to possible hi the Worldwide trending board with such an effort.

That is where I am predicting this event will fall in the ranks of the Tweet Nation. Even if we just hold that sacred spot for a minute, the work, hustle and bustle would be a complete success. So that is a goal within our reach, one we can touch or type, to provide a Rays moment Worldwide. I love the sound of that personally.

We know @RaysRepubilc, the Rays official word smiths of the social media universe, will be providing interesting incentive, prizes and possible inclusion of witty banter posted during the event. Did you know the creative brainiacs behind @RaysRepublic now have over 100,000 Twitter followers? Who knows, maybe we can even get a up close and personal moment with the @RaysRepublic crew, a picture would be perfect (hint, hint).

I have heard that each person buying a special Tweet Up ticket will not only enjoy the company of other 140- character Rays fans, but will have the chance to sit in the exclusive Papa John’s Bullpen Cafe nestled just beyond the Rightfield line a stone throw away from the Rays Bullpen. Heck, it is just a soda cup away from my own old roosting spot.

Being offered even before the event in Twitter contests by @RaysRepublic will be a chance to win tickets to the event, a chance to throw out that night’s Ceremonial First Pitch that, plus a unique chance to hand the Rays line-up card to the Umpires before the game. Of course the crafty minds within the Rays Promotions department are not done there.

Also on tap is a chance to be the personal (game day) assistant of Emmy award winning  CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) who like the @RaysRepublic crew sports more than 100,00 followers. Another special treat at this game will be hearing Rovell perform the National Anthem, plus have a chance to view his tweets as he moves about Tropicana Field.

The ticket package is still being finalized, but you can go to www.raysbaseball.com for updates and hopefully a official announcement and begin of ticket packages for this unique Rays Twitter experience. Who knows, you might have a chance to sit by the spirited and spunky @Lovebees, or maybe even meet the Rays twins @TBRaysTwins, or possibly get a glimpse of the lovely@Sportschix1.

Seriously now, the Rays are sporting a impressive Twitter collection of MLB player based accounts with the likes of @DAVIDprice14, @Evan3Longoria, @BJUpton2, @SamFuld5, @TheZobrists , @ShopHouse10 plus @Acobb53, @TheRuggianos, and @d_jennings15. The Rays even have a Bullpen presence with @ceez_27, @robdelaney55  and @CheckwitEck tweeting out of the Bullpen (not during games).

Even the medical staff is Twitter bound. Rays Strength and Conditioning guru Kevin Barr has a Twitter home, @TheBBRcom. You can even follow Rays In-Game host Rusty at @RustyKath if you need post game banter. Rays Manager Joe Maddon can also be found making sporadic quips, and witty banter from @RaysJoeMaddon. Last, but never least, Rays post and pre-game savant Rich Herrera can be found @richatthetrop

Going to be a wild and exciting night where the Rays Republic far and wide can contribute and expand the Rays Way all over the World. And added bonus is tweeters who use the hashtag #RaysTweetUp will get a chance to have their tweet posted on the Rays jumbotron during the contest. How’s that for expanded media! Also heard a few whispers that each ticket holder might have future bragging rights with a special edition T-shirt just for holders of a Rays Tweet Up ticket.

Purchase your Rays 2011 TweetUp tickets at this link (Special code word is TWEET) which will also entitle you to a personalized Rays TweetUp T-shirt, some light food and beverages while you relax and tweet from the Pappa John’s Bullpen Cafe, plus a special invite to a post-game Q and A session with Guest Darrell Rovell on the Social Media ( If he survives the scavenger hunt).

I already know you can count me in for the event, plus will have the laptop primed and ready to go before the game, and ( hopefully) well after the final pitch. Personally I am hoping to get some time with the fellow Rays Twitter Nation and talk, chat and maybe even watch the Rays take on the Toronto Blue Jays who also sport their own legion of MLB Twitter foes.

Hope to see you there (I will be sitting by Bobby and Scott)…..or just tweet me @TheRaysRenegade. I will come see you…I promise.


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. 

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.

2011 State Farm Home Run Derby: 1 Wild Swing, then a Golden Blast

From spinning golden orbs to a basic “pick me” format for the participants of the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby, Major League Baseball has tried to bring a few more entertaining and exciting ideas to the forefront for their showcase Mid-Season Classic. But like a sharply hit ball down into hardened clay, M L B has committed at least one error on the play.

Buddy System” Team Format is Kaput

By deciding to appoint two League Captains, Brewers Price Fielder and Red Sox David Ortiz, it was thought the process might instill some added excitement. Instead it is ended up looking more like those dreaded “pick-Me” games we all experienced as kids on the Nation’s sandlots. Cliche’s do form within Leagues, and that apparently has made it way into the hallowed H R Derby.

Sure the team’s picked have power, resilience and even a bit of history competing in this event, but some elements are missing, like a hometown guy getting a chance to impress the home folks.

Several years ago when the game was in St. Louis, Albert Pujols held court and brought the entire Nation into his love fest. Why didn’t Fielder possibly pick Diamondback Justin Upton as a Home Run participant, he does have the swagger and swing to line up against this bunch of competitors. Shouldn’t D-backs star Upton get the same  hometown privilege?

 If you look at the scheduled teams, from each League, more than a few “friendships” seem to creep into the selection process. For the American League, Ortiz picked Boston teammate Adrian Gonzalez. That by itself doesn’t seem harmless, but is well within the scope of powerful swings that could send more than a few balls spinning high into the night sky.

Ortiz then selected two fellow Dominican Republic stars from American League East divisional rivals, New York Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano, and Toronto’s Jose Bautista. The selection of Bautista is warranted considering his slam-tastic 2010 season, and his 31 Home Runs in 2010 make him a viable threat of launching one towards the Moon with every swing.

But the selection of the charismatic Dominican Cano might be reaching a bit here. Sure Cano has hit 14 round tippers, but that total is easily shadowed by his own pinstripe teammates Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixera who each have 25 dingers coming into Sunday’s final games before the break.

The “Buddy” system seems alive and well in the A L East thanks to Ortiz for the Home Run Derby. Possibly mixing it up a bit and including Texas Nelson Cruz ( 20 HR) or maybe even Final Vote winner White Sox’s Paul Korneko (22 HR) would make a more well-rounded squad.

 But Fielder also made a few visible faux pas of his own by looking past Upton who might only have the same number of Home Runs (15) as his older brother B J at this moment. But this All Star Game is Arizona’s time to shine, and omitting Upton to the Home Run Derby party just seems wrong in so many ways.

Fielder also included his Brewers teammate Rickie Weeks in the pot along with Cardinals OF Matt Holiday to making a 3-man NL Central core to his squad. Only Dodger Matt Kemp has kept this from also being an exclusive squad within both Fielder’s and Ortiz’s divisions. Missing from Fielder’s choices are guys like Lance Bergman (24 HR) or even perennial Home Run Derby stallion Phillies First Baseman Ryan Howard.

The change was meant to possibly include some names not usually associated with this event, but has been turned into a admiration society between the 8 competitors. That is not a bad thing to do if you are hosting a celebrity charity Home Run event, or even a golf tourney. But it doesn’t belong within the structure of the Home Run Derby. Home Run Derby contestants should be a cross-section of your League, not your friends/teammates.


Golden Orbs Will Fall from the AZ sky

How interesting that the upper echelon within the M L B office has decided to part with a bit of their Mid-Season Classic gold. More compelling is that now more M L B inspired ballhawks will be descending upon Arizona with hopes of plucking the “golden goose” from the outfield confines. I want to know who the genius was the devised dipping a panel of the M L B regulated Rawlings leather panel in a bath of 24 karat gold.

Think of the proud thrusting up of each arm as a $ 149.99 gift from the baseball Gods is delivered into their leather, nachos or even baseball cap during the “Golden” rounds of the Home Run Derby. Think of the possibility of someone swimming or snorkeling adventure within the Chase Field outdoor pool be supplemented by a possible golden orb sinking to the pool depths. Hope the lifeguard is packing a glove that night.


But in the end, the Boys and Girl’s Club will be the winners in the Golden Ball segment of the final out of each hitter’s appearance. Even as each outfield/stadium fan throws up their prize, the Boys and Girl’s Club will see their account upgraded by $ 18,000 with each Golden orb traveling beyond the walls. Make me wish I had the extra cash and time to zip right on over to hot and humid Arizona and partake in a quest for a golden orb of my own.

Only downside to the event might be the fighting and struggling for each golden missile that transcends into the stands, and hopefully at least one kid will get the treat of a lifetime with a great snag. Wonder if MLBlogs own Zack Hample has figured out the right spot, or the right angle to possibly get one of the prized Home Run Derby balls.

M L B tried two news changes to the State Farm Home Run Derby, possibly striking out with the first. The Golden Ball will go over great with the fans and the assembled army of ballhawks. They still need to work on the Home Run Derby selection process, and I will address my idea for the future selection process tomorrow. So M L B has a current 1-ball 1-strike count of them……Hopefully no fighting in the stands or goose eggs by the selected players put this event into a controversial spotlight for negative web fodder. Hopefully the event will turn out simply…….Golden. 

C-Town Suggestions for Upton’s Upcoming Mini-Vacation

DamUp.jpg


By now everyone around the Rays
Republic has learned of the $1,500 smackaroos fine and a 2 day
vacation that will be imposed on Tampa Bay Rays CF B J Upton. Sure
Upton could of started his suspension during this current Baltimore
series, but why take a few days off when you are smacking the ball at
a .281 average in the confines of Camden Yards.


Whispers are getting louder that with
capable OF Brandon Guyer now up with the Rays, Upton might actually
begin his ” days off” in a bargain “Take 2 off, get one Day off
free
” promotion courtesy of the MLB schedule.


With the Rays flying into Cleveland
after Sunday’s game for a 2-game series, it seems more appropriate
for Upton to take a few days off then since he has hit a dismal .180
against the Indians in Progressive Field.


So what will Upton do with his MLB
mandated “time off” while sequestered in C-town? I decided today
while watching the game on Fox to find him a few choice things for
him to do in his ” down time”. I am actually going to send this
list of activities to Upton tonight and see if he banks one or two of
the suggestions.


Thumbnail image for 1255011152-picture_184.png

Upton is someone who enjoys a fine meal
and a great restaurant, so I am thinking one of the things he has to
do is hit up Iron Chef Michael Symon’s B-Spot burger joints to send
his taste buds into the stratosphere. Symon’s new burger concept
bistro has been awarded 2 straight “Best Burger in America”
awards from the annual Sobe Wine and Food Fest.


I really want to suggest the B-Spot’s
Fat Doug burger which has been a crowd favorite since its inception.
The Fat Doug is a monstrosity with cole slaw, pastrami, Swiss cheese
and mustard for about $ 9. It is a burger Upton will never forget,
and should include some Porky Fries on the side. Seriously, who could
not want to have a plate of fries topped with pulled pork, Cheese
Whiz and pickled chilies. I am salivating just thinking of it.


Another possibility for Upton might be
to try and seek out one of the best Progressive Field food staples
and hit the Cleveland warehouses of Bertman’s and possibly get a
behind-the-scenes tour of the famous Stadium Mustard plant. I would
eagerly venture to see the condiment that has ” cut the mustard”
as a Cleveland necessity for generations. Heck, this is the same
mustard requested for 3 Space Shuttle missions. Call me B J , I have
an “in” at the plant.


Three days off in a town like Cleveland
can be torture to some people, but I am going to try and give Upton
more than a few other options besides condiments and delicious food
decisions. There are also some unique cultural, or artsy fartsy
events being held why the Rays are in town.


U23d.jpg

Upton could bring along clubhouse
rockers Evan Longoria and John Jaso and check out a screening of the
U2 3D live action digital film at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that
puts each viewer in the middle of a U2 concert’s craziness. Included
in this special film just for the Hall of Fame is a performance in
South Africa that has not been seen in other U2 video productions.


Maybe Upton is more inclined to want to
take in something different during his time off during the Cleveland
series. He could always hit the Cleveland Public Theatre and start
his own treasure hunting adventure at the Someplace Special Gem Mine
exhibit. What could be more fun than panning for gold, silver,
emeralds and sapphires. Upton could mine enough to offset the $1,500
fine imposed on him by Major League Baseball.


thumbnailCAQ5UC2V.jpg

Or maybe Upton could hit the “Get
Motivated
” Mega event taking place on Wednesday in Cleveland at
Music Hall Cleveland. This 1-day event touts that “this is your
chance to truly Get Motivated!” their website enthusiastically
states, “From the minute you walk in the doors until you leave you
are going to hear from the most successful leaders around.”


Might even be a great event for the
always positive Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Upton to attend since it
begins at 8 am. Could be a real bonding moment for Upton and his
cerebral sensei Baseball guru. I mean do you think Maddon would not
want to hear people like Bill Cosby, former US Secretary of State
Colin Powell, Terry Bradshaw or Goldie Hawn.


Crab_Nebula_visible_xray_opt576x576_hubblesite_org.jpg

Last, but not least, Upton could head
on over to the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center for an 11am
matinée of “Stellar Stars“. What could be more relaxing
than a quite moment when you can grab your passport and visit one of
the billion of tourist attractions within out solar system. Each
week a different star is selected as lasers move to music and you
could take home a photo of your visited destination.


Or maybe Upton will begin a 3-day
battle on line playing FIFA 2011, or possibly come out and do
play-by-play on Twitter while his teammates take on the Indians on
Tuesday and Wednesday night. Upton could be back in his usual
on-field position for the Rays and Indians day time ( 12:40 am)
finale before the team heads back to Tampa Bay. 


Hope Upton takes me
up on a few of these suggestions, and BJ, take pictures…I want
proof this time.



Should Upton Start Shopping for Luggage?

4ab710ffce01b19d8fbb2460f464000c-getty-109235343jm035_baltimore_or.jpg

Coming into the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays
season, I knew it was a make or break season for the future of Rays
CF B J Upton. The way he performed in the field and at the plate
early on in this 2011 season could ultimately decide if he stayed or
left the Rays via a trade either at the Trade Deadline, or if the
Rays fell out of post season contention.


Ultimately the Rays did not feel
overwhelmed coming into Spring Training by Upton’s salary of $ 4.825
million while also subtracting the high salaries of SP Matt Garza and
SS Jason Bartlett instead of the wishy-washy tendencies both at the
plate and on base of Upton.


Some say the Rays were holding onto
Upton for 2011 hoping his trade stock would rise so they could
package him in the same way they did Garza with the Cubs this Spring,
or for additional possible Bullpen pieces for 2012. With Upton
entering his last and final arbitration this off season.


If Upton does hit his stride finally
providing ample hitting and smarter base running to go with his solid
defense, it could solidify his sport on the Rays 2012 roster. But
then again, who would have thought Bartlett and Garza would be
wearing National League jerseys in 2011 when the 2010 post season
ended.


049aeabacccdc88fc205e2749fb387e3-getty-109235816jm009_minnesota_tw.jpg

You have to also wonder what the Rays
brass is thinking right now with LF Sam Fuld, who has been a career
CF in the minors leading the AL in stolen bases ( 10 )and 4th
in hitting ( .365) heading into Sunday’s finale in Toronto. The
emergence of Fuld could hasten the potential of an Upton deal knowing
Fuld would makes only $ 418,300 for the 2011 season compared to
Upton’s escalating salary.


Do not forget the Rays have another
budding OF star currently hidden down in Triple-A Durham in Desmond
Jennings who most thought had a more than moderate chance to crack
the Rays roster this Spring before Fuld began his legendary run.
Jennings is currently hitting .241 with the Bulls with 5 SB and 2
Home Runs.


Having spare parts in their farm system
to interchange with Upton if the Rays want to unload another possible
$5 million plus salary for 2012 is just another intriguing part of
the whole Upton equation. With Fuld and Jennings showing they can
play CF, it has to put a bit of pressure on the organization to
possibly make some sort of ” fishing expedition” to see what
Upton could net the Rays in terms of players or prospects.


With the Washington Nationals currently
scouting Upton, they are one of a few teams sending team officials
out watching Upton on the road or at home. As the season unfolds,
Upton will either show his value, or the Rays might finally cut their
ties with their former First Round pick. But people fail to remember
Upton is still only in his mid-20’s, even younger than Fuld.


ap-0d455d02092b4c0f98b1f1517418063b.jpg

Upton is currently sitting about normal
for him at a .219 average with 2 HR and 7 RBI, but his base running
in the early games of the season tended to push the needle closer to
a trade than the Rays retaining Upton for the full season.


But Upton is one of the Rays leaders in
the clubhouse even if he is not currently a intimate part of the Rays
marketing plan for this season. If you take the Rays marketing
direction in consideration, besides the Sunday, June 19th
bobblehead promotion, Upton’s name has seen limited exposure. The
fact the promotion is just a couple of weeks before the Trade
Deadline has it’s own interesting twist.


All in all you are either a Upton
supporter or a critical vocal partner. Sure the guy has not been the
most model MLB outfielder in respect to power and hitting potential
for the Rays, but people forget he has also been more than willing to
change from his original SS position to wander around the Rays
infield before finally landing at home in CF.


You either believe Upton still has
further MLB potential, or that he has peaked as a player. With Carl
Crawford heading to the confines of Fenway Park for 2011 you had the
realization that this might be Upton’s year to shine and show he has
matured and taken the next step in his development.


72367240ffb7ecd7672d82dbb5e116ba-getty-_.jpg

But Fuld’s sudden cult following has
overshadowed Upton and possible given him another chance to lay low
and not be held totally accountable at times at the plate. For this
Rays team to get another chance to hit the post season party, Upton
has to be a vital part of the team, a contributor of the highest
order and a bright light in the clubhouse.


If not, the decision is made easier by
the Rays brass and Upton possibly could be wearing something other
than a Rays jersey by August 1st. I have posted before
that it is Upton’s time to “put up or shut up”, now it is time
for Upton to sprint out from under the Fuld media umbrella and show
again he is the veteran here. Either that or Upton has better buy
some good luggage for his journey somewhere else.


Maddon: Mad Man or Crazy as a Fox


Maddon_20100714190959_320_240.jpg


I really do kind of understand how
difficult it can be in the final methods of deciding who plays or who
get the pine for the night. Scrolling over a mountain of facts and
figures and calculations can drive a normal person insane.


But sometimes, just sometimes I truly
think Rays Manager Joe Maddon is just toying with our minds. Some
days I think he is more apt to throw 9 darts at a board featuring his
picking his final 9 for the line-up or ask the Magic 8-Ball for game
day guidance. Seriously sometimes I think he diverts the obvious
choice in the line-up to test our tolerance….or ignorance.


From Maddon posturing to let a recent
Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon audience decide to insert Tampa
native RF Matt Joyce into the 3-spot, to posting tonight’s line-up to
include a slightly more 2010 Triple-A line-up with his young Rays
“Ace” David Price on the mound borders on simply criminally
insane, or crafty like a fox.


joe-maddon-sign.jpg

Got to admit, like the recent Barry
Bond’s grand jury of his peers, I am not sure what is the whole truth
and what is truly fictional anymore about Maddon’s line-up choices.
And that is sad for me.


I stand wholeheartedly in unison with
most of the Rays Republic united behind Maddon’s maddening mantras
and his sometimes diverse ways of pushing his team towards the next
level without physically jamming it down their throats.


Sometimes though I still find myself
puzzled and bewildered from what rationale place some of Maddon’s
diverse decision originate from, and why? Heading into tonight’s
Chicago White Sox 4-game series, I really expect to see 4 different
line-ups over the next 4 games with more than a few head scratches or
questions from the Rays Republic. Maybe bring on RP Andy Sonnanstine
as a pinch-hitter late in a game.


I understand “Rock Star” Johnny
Damon took one on the ring finger in Sunday’s contest and can’t even
hold a bat today, but to take one of your best hitters, even if it is
B J Upton, and sit him against a free-wheeling hurler like White Sox
starter Edwin Jackson tonight just makes me go back to the above
questions…slightly insane or crafty like a fox.


Moving Sam Fuld into Centerfield might
seem a bit crazy to some, but if you read any of Fuld’s 2010 minor
league scouting reports, you will notice Fuld has played mostly
Centerfield in the minor leagues. This idea shows more of the “fox”
tendencies to get Fuld in the line-up, plus possibly exploit another
fielding talent area the Rays Republic has not seen from Fuld outside
of Spring Training.


devile-rays-manager-joe-maddon-ap.jpg

But seriously, Joe. You really expect
me and the Rays Republic to not take a gander at Felipe Lopez who is
hitting .265 this season to be the right choice at Designated Hitter
and hitting clean-up and not go find a binding white coat for you to
wear?


Just because Lopez has a career .286
average against “Action” Jackson, did you fail to see that was
only a limited 2-for-7 slice lifetime against tonight’s starter. I am
starting think we might have to watch the exits of the Hard Rock Cafe
and see if you might have a hidden gambler tendency to you…or maybe
you are asking the valets’ for their opinions too. Don’t get mad Joe,
we are just worried about you.


I bet Jackson quickly ran looking for a
calendar in the Visitor’s Clubhouse thinking it was his birthday (
his B-day is actually Sept 9th). How can you possibly
think you are fielding a competitive squad when you send your first 3
players in your line-up tonight who spent most of their 2010 season
at the Triple-A level. Hopefully you have written in the line-up
card in crayon so we have a key defense item against an insanity plea
in the near future.


Seriously, this Rays game can go two
directions tonight. Either it can be another solid outing by Jackson
with another possibility of a “No-No” in the air , or could
implode into a brilliantly conceived Maddon master plan that awakens
a few bats that have laid in mostly silence so far in 2011. Brilliant
or baffling, less than three hours to go to fully divulge the answer.


I still think the real loser here is
Rays starter David Price. He either gets a re-energized solid defense
behind him and is on his game tonight, or it will snowball into
another questionable loss that Price doesn’t deserve. It is almost as
if Price has to hit the mound thinking of a perfectly pitched game
for him to even have a sliver of a chance of celebrating a victory
tonight.


joe-maddon_3.jpg

But that is the thing about this Rays
staff and players. They have been portrayed as AL East second class
citizens in pre-season predictions, butchered by a 0-8 start, but
have quickly risen like a Phoenix from the ashes. Only 9 innings and
27 outs tonight will show if Maddon played his hunches right, rubbed
the rabbit’s foot in the right motion or read his morning tea leaves
with any hint of clarity.


Usually you want to have you most
consistent 9 on the field for a contest against a team who is coming
in for the last 4 games you will play against them in 2011 (baring
the playoffs).


By midnight tonight we are either going
to think Maddon is a pure baseball genius, or Maddon will have most
of us muttering a few choice four-letter words unprintable on here to
describe the performance of his line-up as we exit Tropicana Field.


Whether Maddon is clever as a fox, or
insane in the membrane, you got to love the fact he is not afraid to
tinker, tamper or stir the pot. Hopefully tonight he got his
tendencies right and the dome will be lit up in an orange hue. Just heard a tidbit that
 Maddon is battling a cold…..Could cold medicine have been the true culprit in deciding today’s line-up?  Can’t wait for the post game conversation now…….




Time to Turn the Upton Jeers to Cheers

 
44a52550350f4a552948d20afb24300b-getty-109235389jm008_baltimore_or.jpg

 

Isn’t it funny when a guy is underachieving, and making some questionable moves people dog him like a convicted felon. There has been more than one chorus of boos issued to the direction of Tampa Bay Rays Centerfielder B J Upton in his Rays career. Some deserved, some just raining down because of past deeds.

Why is there no sign of people within the Rays Republic giving Upton any symbol of praise or acknowledgment that Upton has answered Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s call. That Upton and Rays rookie Sam Fuld seem to be the only field players adhering to Maddon’s “find another way” 2011 mantra. Finally we are seeing the Upton we have been anticipating for 3 MLB seasons, and the cheers are still a bit muted.

ap-7dbb5253f8ee4b03a87098637c97bdc3.jpgCould it be so many of you are waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop”? That you see this recent bit of timely hitting and defensive play as a mirage instead of someone taking responsibility for his game. Sure Upton is still a bit of a train wreck waiting to happen on the base paths, but he is still churning, trying to find that “other way” to produce and get the momentum headed in a different position.

When Evan Longoria went down with his oblique injury, people looked more to Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon for leadership and providing that extra zip, bam and explosion. Instead it has been the guy so many of you have trampled on, downgraded to average, and basically forgot is team first too.

Consider for a moment that Upton currently leads the Rays in Batting Average (.364), Slugging Percentage (.727) and Total Bases (16) during this Rays offensive drought. The closest Rays to Upton in hitting right now is Rays rookie LF Sam Fuld who sports a .455 OBP and 4 stolen bases. But still the Rays Republic is unmoved by Upton’s stats.

Maybe these Rays statistics will sway your mind a bit more towards seeing that Upton is trying to find “another way” to help this team on the field. Upton also currently leads the Rays in hits (8), Home Runs (2) and RBIs (3) on a squad that is collectively hitting .145 going into tonight’s White Sox contest. Even former Rays/current Cubs 1B Carlos Pena is shaking his head over that stat.

BJ1.JPGStill, the multitudes want to go back to Upton’s base running blunders which include being caught stealing twice in three chances this season. His bonehead play against the Orioles ultimately should have been an obstruction call on O’s SS J J Hardy, but we know what happened there. In his second caught stealing play also against the Orioles, Upton tried to pick the pocket of Baltimore catcher Matt Weiters, but a perfect throw down to third caught Upton fair and square.

Why are we beating up on the guy who is doing everything in his power to try and eliminate the pressure and get the Rays their first lead in a game this season. That’s right, over 50+ innings of play already in 2011, and the Rays have never been in front. Last time I looked there were 9 men in the line-up, and 9 in the field, but the crowd has had Upton square in their sights.

It is time to admit Upton is showing a great bit of maturity and want to again taste champagne in September and October. He took full responsibility for his base running mistake against the Orioles, which is a far departure than in his past. He has led by example on and off the field this season and has taken on the additional responsibility of being a team leader, which he shied away from in the past.

But still people are chattering that he is lolly gagging to the ball in the outfield. Not providing run production by making mistakes on the base paths, thus still not the player so many want to see this season. 6 games into a new season and already the Upton “boo-birds” have tweeted their cackling refrain.

What else does Upton have to do besides lead this team on offense. Did you know Upton has a lifetime .315 average at U S Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox and might be key in this series? Upton also hit .316 against this same White Sox team in 2010.

 

f9e7ae7970f8ea137f9c26a5bb41a004-getty-109235400jm013_los_angeles_.jpgWhat else does the guy have to do to earn your respect back. Get your jeers to return to cheers. Become someone not always immediately placed in the Rays doghouse by the Rays Republic.

Why can’t we all celebrate the fact Upton is perfect in the field in all 6 games. Has provided countless Rays hits, plus hit two incredible line drive Home Runs and enjoy the positives concerning Upton. Maybe the Rays Republic also needs to adopt Maddon’s philosophy of forgetting that day/night’s game after 30 minutes and focusing on the next one.

Oh, that’s right, if we did just that by admitting to ourselves that Upton is doing good and applaud his recent actions, then who will take the role of the Rays daily scapegoat?

 

 

Batter’s Eye Restaurant to evolve into Everglades BBQ Smokehouse

 

 

batters_eye_450_25286a.jpg

Since the opening of Tropicana Field, it has been an iconic part of the landscape of this unique domed stadium. It’s dark tinted windows concealing plenty of zealous Rays and visiting fans perched just above dead Centerfield.

It was one of the only a few restaurants options right off the playing field that I know of in Major League Baseball that seems to be so perfectly placed for dining fans to get that “up close and personal feel”, almost like they are just hovering above Tampa Bay Rays CF B J Upton’s left shoulder. I know the San Diego Padres havea their own Batter’s Eye Pavilion, but it is not a sit-down restaurant concept. 

Sure every MLB stadium has it’s own special type of dining experience for game day fans, but none were perched within feet of the playing surface, or who give you a chance to hear the bang of a long Home Run bouncing on or down its roof during a MLB game. I still remember the first time I ate in the restaurant during Batting Practice and watched the action from above the playing surface.


9745.jpgThe Batter’s Eye Restaurant has been for years one of the most unique dining experiences inside Tropicana Field where you could dine before, or during a Rays game in the luxurious setting of a tasty and gourmet ballpark inspired menu. The restaurant was a famous stop for Rays fans before the games also for their ala carte menu and their free Wine Tasting gatherings during 2010.

The Rays and their concessionaire Centerplate tried during 2010 to revive the old dining glory by offering unique Diamond and Platinum game buffets when the concession lines used to overflow with hungry fans. They event tried to get the casual Friday night fans into the CF icon with $ 19 buffets with everything a ballpark menu should be. And Saturday nights the Restaurant offered a dining experience at $34 dollars per person which bordered on a gastronomical ballpark menagerie.

 

Heck their Sunday brunch buffet (my favorite) even offered made to order omelette’s, entrees, salads great pasties at a affordable $26 a head. It was one of the great meet and greet places before the Sunday matinée games with seating available the moment the gates opened at 11 am. But all that is going into the Rays history book this April. A big change is about to happen to that huge Batting Practice target as the Rays open their 2011 season.

Thumbnail image for steaknfire.jpgGone will be some of the posh and exclusive dining atmosphere as the Rays and Centerplate have remodeled the location and turned it into the Everglades BBQ Steakhouse.


The new Rays BBQ experience will again offer an external simplified Everglades BBQ menu that can be purchased ala carte at select concession stands in the First Base Food Court and the Right Field Street area for an BBQ-insipred moments for attendees of Rays games.

But you can bet this step back towards a more casual “family-style” dining experience will be an instant hit with the Rays Republic as the menu will feature such Southern classics as pork, ribs, chicken and wings smoked fresh daily on site at Tropicana Field by the Rays/Centerplate culinary team. There will also be barbecue favorites like corn on the cob, potato wedges and a few unique dessert options.

The Batter’s Eye held it’s last “official” function during the Rays Fan Fest as the site of Joe Maddon’s “Thanksmas” celebration and Q&A session. It is a bit sad to see the old concept go, but it might have outlived its Rays usefulness. In its place will be a vibrant, new and exciting concept that will offer its food creation both inside and outside the restaurant for Rays fans to enjoy.

URyaTo3S.jpgI am actually looking forward to the new BBQ concept that will bring back a few of the great food items lost when the American Plate and Chef Enzo did not return to bring buckets of BBQ ribs and Southern inspired creations to my taste buds on a nightly basis.

Got to give the Rays and Centerplate a huge round of applause for again providing that missing Southern food element back into my game day experience. Hopefully it will explode into one of those “must have” food selections for visitors and fans to the Trop that will entice, entertain and become a new Rays ballpark tradition…just like those old Batter’s Eye Sunday brunch buffets…. only this time it will be finger licking good.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 288 other followers