Results tagged ‘ Bobby Ramos ’

Rays Sing Flat against the Orioles

 

                     Orioles 8,      Rays 4

      
     
Chris O’Meara / AP

Kazmir Doesn’t Set the Tone

If last nights game would have been an audition for American Idol , the Rays would have been eliminated for lack of harmony and pitchy performance. Simon Cowell would have directed his most venom-filled tirade towards Rays starter Scott Kazmir who did not seem to have any type of rhythm, or a even a sense of direction in the game. Rays Manager Joe Maddon has a favorite saying that” “Pitching sets the tone of the game”. If that is truly the case, then last nights game was played by a group of tone-deaf athletes who seemed to be boring and very karaoke on the field.

I know that seems a bit harsh, but the fact of the matter is that the team just got over a huge emotional series against the Boston Red Sox, and they did not need to take even a one-game vacation now against the team we are fighting to stay out of the American League East cellar. It is not like the Orioles are a bad team. Quite the contrary, they have been our biggest pest for several seasons taking wins that used to fall our way. But last night’s contest was in doubt from the first pitch from the mound.

Kazmir threw the first pitch to lead-off man Brian Roberts behind him, and both Roberts and Home Plate Umpire Tim McClelland looked at each other in utter amazement.  It would have been great if from that moment on we did not have the feeling we were watching “Nuke” Laloosh from “Bull Durham” fame throw balls everywhere but over the plate. But we had the leftie that used to dominate the plate and send a chill down your spine with that great slider of his. Tonight the only thing scary about Kazmir was where the ball was going on every pitch. Control was not in his forte last night.

But then maybe I am being a bit too critical?  Maybe, but if you walk the first two batters in a game on 9 pitches, doesn’t it open the opinion door wide open. Even the fact that the first two guys basically only had to have their bats on their shoulders to enjoy a short stroll down to first was not the major issue here. It was the 1-1 count and the hanging slider that Nick Markakis decided needed to go into the right field stands for a 3-run homer that peaked my concern. That gave the visiting birds a 3-0 lead after only three batters.

But the Rays have been great at digging out of holes this year?  That is true, but usually those holes do not find themselves dug as early or as deep as this one in only the first inning. To Kazmir’s credit, he did get the next three Oriole batters in a row to get out of the inning with only the 3-0 damage inflicted on the Rays. Now we all know that Kazmir has been difficult his entire career early in his outings, and maybe this one is a prime example of his woes. But I know the Rays have tried various solutions to try and combat that early wildness on the mound.

They have tried to get him to throw his pre-game warm-up session like a simulated game to maybe get rid of the cobwebs faster and warm him up to game situations. But that had mixed reviews. They have even tried to get him to do more stretching and mental imaging before the game to stimulate his mind towards the actions of the first three batters. If he did do a pre-game simulation or visualization on the bench, thank goodness someone bothered him before he got down deep into the order yesterday.

In his post game comments, Kazmir eluded to the fact he did not” feel right tonight. Some thing was off mechanically.” I have to agree with you there Scott. Something did look a little off. When you were on the side throwing before the game you looked rushed and a bit flustered. But that has sometimes led to great things, so I do not read too much into it anymore. But you are right, something is off a bit with your delivery. Or maybe you are trying to bite on the plate corners too much and the umpires are not giving it to you based on your lack of control most of the game.

Whatever the reason, we need to get our leftie asset back under control before Kazmir get into his own head and begins to doubt himself or his purpose to this team. People forget that this guy is still only 24, and will not even hit 25 until August. Just because he is the longest tenured pitcher, and hold numerous Tampa Bay Rays records, he is still a guy who is growing as a pitcher every start.  There is no doubt in my mind that he is a star on this team. But his recent problems have casted a shadow on him that might be deserved at times.

But remember, there are a huge amount of pitchers this year who are also having sub-par years in the both leagues. From New York to Los Angeles, young pitchers are getting rocked and having their control situations. I know most people will just say that is the other team’s problem, but maybe we are hitting a mental or mechanic pandemic that is effecting our young pitchers right now. The only cure to such a virus is to study film, check location placement and maybe even do some side work to try and pinpoint the problem. Usually it is something simple that can ruin a pitching outing. Hopefully for Kazmir it is a simple case of maybe his foot placement on the rubber. But then again, I will leave that to the experts.


 
Chris O’Meara / AP 

Navarro is Doing Some Great Things

For the past few days I have heard a few grumbles and rants from the stands about the Rays current option at catcher. Dioner Navarro has had a history of starting slow before, but people still point towards last season as the barometer for his hitting. They do not take into consideration that we might have seen his best season last year, and this is an example of a average season for him. Catching has never been a position that a team look towards for a huge offensive outburst of power and average.

Usually a .240 hitter with power outbursts is what you find in the catching realms. What they are on the roster for is their defensive excellence and their ability to control their pitching staff. But with Rays current back-up Michel Hernandez having a career night this past weekend, it put the grandstand prognosticators on high alert. They are calling for a change, and there is not current Rays solution. The Rays normal back-up catcher, Sha
wn Riggans is getting ready to head out to the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits for his rehab assignment and might not be back for a week to ten days.

But why are people calling for a change when Navarro is still acting like an All-Star catcher behind the plate? The voices seems to bring up the fact he is increasingly getting more and more prone to not putting his glove to the ground for balls that skip before or on the plate. This has lead to numerous passed balls and wild pitches in the last two weeks. Some of them have been costly to the team in moving up runners into scoring position, but some of that also has to be put on the pitcher’s shoulders. Navarro is not the one throwing the ball in the dirt, but is the one chasing them around the backstop.

But I do see the rationale here for that thinking. It does at times seem like he is giving 75 percent, but he might also be looking back runners at the corners and also trying to do too much at one time behind the plate. He has grown by leaps and bounds behind the plate as a team leader and the controller of multi-personalities that hit the mound. You have to think it might be difficult to pull in a emotional pitcher like Grant Balfour at times, or even try and figure out a character like JP Howell when he cool, calm and collected out there with the bases loaded and no outs.

But considering that in the recent games, Navarro has gunned down Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury and  he got the Orioles Adam Jones at third base last night. For the year he is 4 for 19 this year throwing runners out. That 21 percent might not be lights out, but it shows he is trying to get them, and that speaks volumes. When a player is showing up defensively on the field, his hitting is considered a slump, not a lack of confidence. Navarro will be back on track again.  He got to the 2008 All-Star game based on the entire package behind the plate.

He had great coaches who used to catch like Maddon and Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos to guide and watch his mechanics. Navarro will again be stroking the ball hard for the Rays. The entire team has had a few pieces that have been slow to rise to the top this year. That happens some times, but why is it he is single out right now as the problem? Sometimes when you dip below that Mendoza line people doubt your offensive abilities.

He hit .295 last season and set numerous personal highs. The guy can hit, and we have seen it. But let’s give the guy a bit of a break because the Rays do not have huge options to even consider replacing him right now. “Stay the course and the ship will right itself” is an old nautical saying. It is Navarro’s time to sink or swim. Let’s give him the opportunity to rebound before we throw a great talent away for instant success.



Chris O’Meara / AP

Longo and El Presidente


Where would the Rays be this year without these two tearing up the base paths? You have to think of the possibilities of where we would be if not for their offensive thumping so far in 2009.  Based on his past weeks heroics, Evan Longoria again garnished the American League Player of the Week honors. Longo hit .379 with an A L  best 14 RBI during the past 7 days and  21 total bases. His 2 homers and 4 doubles were included in his 9 runs scored and  a .724 Slugging Percentage. This is his third overall Player of the Week honor, and his second this season.

Carlos Pena (28) and Longoria (31) are the first teammates since Duke Snider (31) and Roy Campanella ( 28)  with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955 to have 28+ RBI through the first 26 games of the year.   Longoria and Pena are also the current MLB home run duo with Longoria (8) and Pena ( 11) combining for 19 homers this season.  There 58 combined RBI also have them number one in the MLB right now, 8 RBI ahead of their nearest competitors, Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick of St. Louis who have 50 RBI.


Chris O’Meara / AP 

Tuesday Tidbits

**** As everyone knows, the Cowbell Kid will be making his annual road trip this week up for the New York Yankee two-game series and into Boston and Baltimore during the next road trip. He has even compiled a little didy entitled, ” The Cowbell Kid is coming to Town” that plays upon that Christmas classic, “Santa Claus is Coming to town.” He has even gotten  a few sound bytes from members of the Rays Bullpen that will be included in the video file he intends to sen to the media members in all three cities of the next road trip. Let’s hope the blue-haired one takes heed in Boston and remains calm when things come flying towards his Marge Simpson hair.

**** Again last night a mysterious orange ball came out of the right field stands after the home run by Nick Markakis in the first inning. People know my opinion on this trend. I know of the old tradition started by the 142 Crew where everything but the kitchen sink used to come out of the stands into the small right field corner, but this orange ball incident might bring about an odd group of copycats that will prolong the game.  The 142 Crew did their actions with the Bullpen knowing that the actions would happen and they used to send the ball boy out there to collect the balls and foreign items in a timely manner. To just throw countless balls back onto the field is a time-wasting effort and might be looked upon by the Rays as an insult, not as a fan energy booster.

**** Do not forget that today is Cinco De Mayo. The Rays plan on having their own celebration in the Power Alley Pub above centerfield today before and during the Rays afternoon game. I expect to see a multitude of sombrero’s and festive outerwear throughout the stadium. I will try and get a few photos of the festivities and post them tomorrow.  I am expecting to see at least a few Rays fans in ponchos and selective Corona-based wear in the stadium.

Rays get Blasted by the Long Ball

 

 
 

Boy I can tell you that it was a beautiful day in Clearwater, Florida today for at least one team. But the atmosphere was electric and the Tampa Bay Rays kept looking in the stands during Batting Practice smiling and waving to some of the Tropicana Field faithful who came up to Bright House Networks Field to see the boys on their first trip back to the home county. Most of the team’s starters did not make the trip up, but a few of them were greeted and applauded all the same. Ex-Phillie Pat Burrell made sure that he and Elvis, his English Bulldog/Security Guard made the rounds in the Phillies locker room before the game.
 
 
But to Burrell’s amazement and his astonishment, the loud clap and screaming for him as he came up for his first at bat simply took his breath away. That was a very classy move by the Philly fans, and I loved the he was given the accolades he deserved today. Something I also found amazing was the changes at the old ballpark since I was there last Spring. When I sat in the Tiki Terrace last year, millions of kids could stroll down and snag foul balls and B P  fly balls then scamper up to a player and get them signed. This year it would take a wristband and a bright red stamp on your ticket to get you even into this section.

 
 
I took my little spot at about 10:45 am right on the rail near the Bullpen door and got two quick balls, but I gave them both to people beyond the netting near the Tiki Bar. I get about 5 balls a game at the Trop.,  and I seem to always give two away minimum, so why mess with tradition in some else’s ballpark. I also got to chat with a few people on the Rays about some thing that were going on in the franchise. Usual Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey were traveling together to the game today and did not get there in time to see Mitch Talbot warm-up. But Bullpen catcher Scott Cursi and Assistant Pitching Coach/ TV Announcer Brian Anderson got everything under control and there did not even seem like there was a missing cog in the works.

 
Before I talk about the game, let me tell you that there was an amazing breeze that seems to keep you from sweating or even consider a hint of sweat. I was an amazing breeze coming out if the south and was blowing an easy 10-15 mph during most of the game. Now I am not complaining about it, it kept me nice and cool the entire game and provided a great conversation point later in the day. But before I start I have to say that I had a fantastic time chatting with a Bachelor Party that was attending today’s game. Their ” Down Goes Frazier” T-shirts were amazing, and the guys even talked to a few Rays fans during the game. Except for the odd Pina Colada or Margarita, these guys were having the time of their lives. So I wanted to thank them for being so cool and really making my day feel better after looking at the scoreboard.
 
 

The Philadelphia Phillies sent pitcher Kyle Kendricks to the mound today to stake his claim on their fifth rotation spot for 2009. You might remember that in 2007, he was the subject of an incredible practical joke thought up by the devious mind of pitcher Brett Myers. They had poor Kendricks convinced he was being traded to a Japanese team in exchange for a player named Kobayashi Iwamura. When the practical joke finally fell to it conclusion, you could hear Meyers yelling, “You got traded for a Hot Dog eater!” If you have not seen it, be sure to check it out on www.Youtube.com. I still check it out when I am in a bad mood.  The funny part is both the media and the Phillies front office played along with it until someone could not help but laugh out loud and the gig was up.  Classic Spring Training fun!

 
 

 

So, Kendricks took the mound and had a bit of a rough time in the first inning. Justin Ruggiano, who was playing center field today got on the board in the first inning on a error by Phillie Miguel Cairo at second base.  Ruggiano then tried to steal second, and Phillie catcher Ronny Paulino cut him down for the second out of the inning. A few pitches later, second baseman ( for the day) Willy Aybar hit a ball that one-hopped to the wall in center field for a double. With Aybar is scoring position, Pat Burrell came up for the first time today to an explosive ovation and proceeded to pop out to Cairo to end the inning.  The Rays sent minor league prospect Mitch Talbot to the mound. Talbot, who was making his second appearance of the spring, is still in the running for the Rays fifth rotation spot.

 
 

But after the first inning against the Phillies normal starters, he might have hurt his chances a bit because of the wind. Talbot has a very heavy sinker ball that usually produces some great fly ball outs. But in today’s game, those pitches were added by the up force of the wind and made for an interesting afternoon. Jimmy Rollins came up first today and hit a soft floater that was heading for the third base foul line before falling in between left fielder Ray Sadler and Ray Olmedo. Shane Victorino then came up and stroked a nice ball down the third baseline that Gabe Kapler could not get back into the infield in time to catch the speedy Rollins from scoring. This was an interesting point because Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel wants to use Victorino in the second slot in the lineup. One of the main characteristics of this spot in the lineup is hitting to the opposite field to help get the man in front of him into scoring position. He did a prefect job today of that in his first at bat.
 
 

But that was not the end of the inning. After Raul Ibanez hit a nice long fly to Ruggiano to left-center, the fun was only about to begin for the Phillies. Ryan Howard then came up and hit a 2-run shot into the chair area of the Rays Bullpen for a 3-0 Phillies lead. The opposite field homer was never in doubt once it left his bat. John Mayberry Junior then came up and slapped another ball 5 rows above me in the Tiki Terrace to add another run in the inning. But that was not the end of all the fun yet either. After Greg Dobbs hit a nice fly ball to Kapler in right, Miguel Cairo came up. Cairo was brought into camp to fight for a utility position, and might get added playing time until Chase Utley comes back into the Phillie lineup. Cairo hit a long towering ball that cleared the Tiki Bar for another homer, and staked the Phillies to a 5-0 lead.

 
 

 

Kendricks came out again in the second inning and got Chris Richard to hit a foul pop-up that took third baseman Jason Donald into the stands, but he held on for the first out of the inning. Morgan Ensberg, who is trying to get some exposure hit a grounder to Howard at first and he took care of it unassisted for the second out. The Sadler came up and hit a monster into the Phillies Bullpen to give the Rays their first run of the game. Shawn Riggans then hit into a 4-3 to end the inning with the score 5-1 Phillies.  Talbot might be guilty of not making the correct adjustments during the innings, and because of it, got hit around pretty good.  Talbot did come out with a better mindset in the bottom of the second inning, and he sent down the Phillies 1-2-3 to finish the inning with no more damage.

 
 

In the third inning, Kendricks started the inning by giving up a infield single to Olmedo on a ball hit to Cairo. Olmedo then tried to advance on a hard hit ball by Kapler that was caught by Rollins, and got doubled up on the play to produce two quick outs. Ruggiano then came up and hit a nice dropping ball to center field that eluded Mayberry and ended up with a triple on the play. Kendricks was then replaced by reliever Drew Naylor, who got Aybar to hit a grounder to Cairo, who threw to first to get out of the inning. Rays Manager Joe Maddon let Talbot take the mound for the third inning and he got Ibanez first with a sharp fly to Sadler in right for the first out. Howard then came out and beat out a throw from deep shortstop by Olmedo for an infield single. The Talbot produced two straight ground ball outs from both Mayberry and Dobbs to end his pitching day.
 
 

In the fourth inning, the Rays again has Naylor on the mound and Burrell put a slicing ball down the third baseline to the corner for a lead-off double.  But Burrell got not help this inning as Chris Richards flew out to Ibanez, Ensberg popped out to Howard, and Sadler was caught looking for a called third strike to end the Rays rally. Rays reliever Lance Cormier then came on to replace Talbot and Cairo quickly took advantage of him for a double down the right field line. Donald then hit a nice looper to center that scored Cairo. Cormier then hit Paulino with a pitch, and Rollins put down a nice bunt that Cormier picked up the threw to Richards for the second out. Victorino then struck out, and Ibanez hit a grounder to second to get Cormier out of the inning with no problems.

 
Naylor still remained on the mound for the fifth inning and the first batter, Shawn Riggans hit a sharp liner to Cairo, but he held onto the ball for the first out. Olmedo then hit a single to center field. Naylor tried to pick off Olmedo, but the ball went off Howards glove and he went into second base on the error. Olmedo then stole third base and put himself in scoring position. Ruugiano then produced his second hit of the day to drive in Olmedo for the Rays second run. Adam Kennedy and pinch-hitter Fernando Perez quickly produced the last two outs to get Naylor out if the inning with only one run scored on him.  Cormier again came out and got the Phillies 1-2-3 to finish off the 5th inning. At that point, it was the Phillies leading 6-2
 
 

The Phillies then  sent out non-roster invitee Mike Koplove for the sixth inning. Richards got a walk to lead off the inning, and after  a fly out to center field, Sadler hit into a 6-4-3 double play to make quick work of the Rays in the inning. The Rays countered with sending reliever J P Howell out and he quickly got Donald to hit a grounder to Ensberg at third who threw him out easily at first base. Howell then  tried to sneak a curveball by Paulino, who hit the ball beyond the Tiki Terrace for a solo home run. Ozzie Chavez then struck out to end the inning for the Phillies.

 
 

 

The seventh inning saw reliever Scott Eyre come out and get a quick out from catcher Michel Hernandez. Olmedo then came up and hit a soft grounder to third base that Donald could not handle in time to get the quick runner. Elliot Johnson them got a quick out and give the Rays little hope in the inning. But Jon Weber hit a double down the left field line and scored Olmedo to bring the Rays within 4 runs. Kennedy popped out to third base to end the rally for the Rays. The Rays then sent prospect Dewon Day to the mound and Eric Bruntlett got a quick single off him to lead-off the inning. Bruntlett then stole second base and got into scoring position for the Phillies.  Geoff Jenkins and Andy Tracy both struck out to give the Rays hope with two outs. But Mayberry hit a broken bat single that scored Bruntlett and put the Phillies up 8-3 in the game.

 
 
 

In the 8th inning, the Phillies brought on reliever Clay Condrey. He quickly got Perez to strike out looking, then got Chris Nowak to hit a grounder to third that was easily handled by Donald for an out at first. Ried Brignac then hit a soft grounder to second that was thrown to first to end the Rays inning. Dewon Day stayed on the mound for the Rays after a single by Pablo Ozuna, Donald hit a long fly ball to Nowak in center for the first out. Then Phill
ies catcher Lou Marson hit a sharp grounder to Brignac, who quickly got the throw off to first base.  Chavez then hit another sharply hit grounder to Brignac that handcuffed him and the Phillies quickly had two men on base. Bruntlett then hit a low liner to center field that scored Ozuna. Jenkins then hit a fly ball down the left field line that Sadler took his eye off and it fell to the ground for an error, but both Chavez and Bruntlett scored on the play. Tracy then hit an RBI single that scored Jenkins and gave the Phillies a 12-3 lead.
 


 

 
 

Jake Woods came out for the Phillies in the top of the ninth inning and made quick work of Sadler getting him to hit a high fly ball to center field. Hernandez then hit a hard ball deep and over Bruntlett’s head for a double to start a Rays rally in the inning. Olmedo then struck out to give the Rays only one more out in the game.  With the end in sight, Woods left a breaking ball over the plate and Johnson crushed it for a 2-run homer into the Rays Bullpen. But the Rays rally ended as quickly as it began as Weber struck out to end the game and begin the celebration in the Phillies dugout. It was their first win in the Grapefruit League this spring, and it came against the team they had beaten just a few months ago for the World Series title.

 
 

I was trying to find our MLBlogger Phillies Phollower before the game, but I got mobbed by a few fellow Rays fans that I knew from the “Maddon’s Maniacs” group at Tropicana Field.  Yes, I did hear a few cowbells in the stands, but it was not the loud and vocal group that usually owns the Trop during the season. I know I was not hassled for bring mine in, but I only hit it during the home runs and scoring chances by the Rays and did not abuse the musical instrument.

 
 

 


But I did have to explain the origins of the cowbell and why we use them in games. People know the reasoning that our Owner, Stuart Sternberg is a devote SNL fan, and loves that Christopher Walken skit where he wants “more cowbell”. That is the primary reason, but there are secondary reason that make total sense too. An additional great one is that it tends to frustrate and drive the Boston and New York fans in the Trop. nuts. They can not finish their chants or even do their New York “name roll call” during the game without being interrupted by the blanky blank cowbells. And third, it give the Rays fans a audible image. I am sorry, I really can not see over 25,000 fans blowing on kazoo’s making more noise than those pesky Latin percussion cowbells.

 
I just want to take a second to let local Rays fans know that the Team USA squad that will be reporting to Clearwater, Florida on Monday morning have opened the first practice to the public at Bright House Networks Field at 11:30 am. So if you have nothing planned, and might want to take in some sun and maybe get some autographs or just come cheer for Team USA team before they leave for Toronto. So come on down to the field and show your spirit on Monday. I am thinking of coming on down and seeing Rays reliever J P Howell, who told me he will definitely be here on Monday. Also, the Rays will be without the services of Willy Aybar starting tonight since he will be leaving to report to the camp of the Dominican Republic squad.
 
 

The Team USA will face its first test against Team Canada on March 7, 2009 in the Rogers Centre, in Toronto.  The Dominican Republic team will face the  Netherlands team on the same day, but in Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. But they will not be the first teams to take the field for the 2009 World Baseball Classic. That honor will fall to the squads from China and Japan, who take the field on March 5, 2009 in the Tokyo Dome, in Tokyo, Japan.

Photo credtis today go to: RRCollections and Eric Mencher of the Philadelphia Inquier.

 
 

Top Rays Memory of 2008………………..Playoffs Baby!!!

 

 

 

Everyone remembers the magic of your first time. The first time you had a bubbly ice cold soda, or maybe even tried that ride at the fair that scared you to death a year earlier. But the fascination and the excitement of trying something, or achieving something for the first time can be a rush that can not be beat.

 

 

It is for that reason that my Top Moment for 2008 for the Tampa Bay Rays includes a new “first” for the franchise. As I said before, we always remember our first time entering the ballpark, checking out the sounds, smells and the atmosphere of this new electric-charged dome. You still think about the first Batting  Practice or your first foul ball catch, or even the first autograph you ever got at the game. And who could ever forget the taste of that first stadium hot dog. I know all of these are still fresh in my mind, and it has been over 40 years since my first game at Al Lang Field watching the St. Petersburg Cardinals.

 

 

So it is with great pleasure that I introduce my number one memory of 2008. It occurred on September 20, 2008 with 36,048 other believers in the stands and jumping up and down like madmen. It was a time for rejoicing and for remembering all the things we loved about the Rays. Not only did the team play a hard fought 7-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins, but the team secured its first EVER playoff berth.

 

Considering this team had never won more than 71 games a year, and for most of the year fought hard to keep its top spot in the American League East race, this was the moment for the home fans and the players to salute a great season, and the celebrate together. I know a lot of people might consider one of the many I picked as a number 2 moment for this top spot. This was personal to me. I got to celebrate with a few friends as they wandered and cheered around the stadium,

 

I got to remind a few of them that the journey has just began and they made sure I knew that it was us, the fans that drove this bus to the playoffs as much as the players. And I got to drink from the champagne bottles and taste that sweet nectar that went down like cool rainwater and tasted like spun honey. It was one of the biggest moments for me as a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays…………….and hopefully you got to enjoy it too that day…………….

 

Basking in the Moment………..1st Playoff Berth 

 

 


It might have looked like a mob scene out of your favorite sports movie, but believe me, the energy in that place yesterday was so severe that it sometimes seemed to choke you from the intensity in the air. From the energy and the explosion of emotion in the stadium atmosphere yesterday, this game was won by the time they  even first stepped  on the turf.

 


Seriously folks, I have never felt so drained emotionally and mentally in my life. I was literally crawling out of the Trop at 9 P.M. after celebrating in the stands, near the clubhouse with a few friends, and in the Budweiser Brew house having a few brews with the old crew from the last 10 years. This was a night were everyone in Tampa Bay would have a peaceful nights sleep.

 

 


This is a day/night/weekend that will sit up there with the best memories I have involving sports in my life. I have been to a few wild celebrations, like the Baltimore Ravens victory party in Ybor City after they won the Super Bowl in Tampa, or even a late night cocktail party at Reign after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup with a few ex-Rays players.  I am so spent right now and I have not come down from this yet. And I have a  Season Ticket holder Picture Day in 6 hours with the players. Well, the ones who are awake at 10 am.

 

 

All I can say is this is going down in my memory banks as one of the greatest day in my fan life. How can it get any better………….oh, wait WE could have THREE more of these great celebrations before the playoffs are all over with this year!  And then the real party will begin!  But let’s not get too far in front of ourselves here, there is a long road to go to even think of that situation right now.

 

 


THREE more chances where these guys pay as much attention to their team partying as they do out with us, the fans.  From interview to interview last night, the guys to a “T”, talked about the Tampa Bay Rays fans. They included the fans in their celebrations. Getting up on the dugout and spraying the masses with champagne and beer. Throwing 9=8 playoff hats and T-shirts to them all, and relishing a moment that will live in this franchises history books  and memory forever.

 

 

 


You always remember your first time. You remember where you were, Who you were standing with, and what you were doing at that exact moment. When the guys came running down into the Bull Pen Cafe area and I was standing on the railing, I can not remember how many of those guys came up there and slapped my hand and gave me a fist bump. But the ones that were special were the Hugs from J P Howell, Jonny Gomes, Chad Orvella and Scott Kazmir.  I have chatted almost daily with  a lot of these guys on their way to the Bullpen, or back in the right field area, and they are some of the best guys you will ever want to meet.

 


Howell for instance used to be one of the quietest guys on this team when he was a starter. He was moody and never seemed to want to talk. Now since he has found his calling in the bullpen,  he is one of the friendliest people I have ever encountered on the Rays. Dan Wheeler is not known to smile a lot, but he does when we chat back and forth during the games. There is a unique bond there between the Bullpen and the fan here that I have never seen before in my life. But then again, they are living the dream this year.

 

 

From the first champagne bottle out of the clubhouse, to the two bottles that Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos had ordered for himself and the close fans down there, it was a magical night. The parade around the Trop outer perimeter was a show of the love and respect these guys have for the fan base. I have been lucky enough to know a few of these guys off the turf in private. And I have to tell you this in total confidence, not one time this year did any of these guys take this responsibility to the fans or to the community as a  job or work.


 

                        

 

This group actually enjoys interacting with the fans. From the time they walked out at the Spring Training complex in mid-Feb. to now has been a long and rewarding journey. There have been player injuries and players have come and gone from the roster, but the core of this team have been strong, mentally tough and been an inspiration to the fans. Not many groups have a tie to the fans that these guys have. The Rays community can honestly say the have the team’s back at any moment.

 

 

The funny thing about this celebration is that about 25 percent of it was outside the locker room in the field where these guys have toiled and struggled and left themselves bleeding and wounded some nights. To say this battle did not end with a fairy tale ending is totally accurate. This season has now almost come to a close at home, but in the next wek they might have a Divisional Crown celebration either in Detroit or Baltimore, then sprint home and get ready for the First of many October games in the Trop.

 

 

I really need to hit the sack for a few hours before I fall down, but the adrenaline is still pumping hard in me right now and I have tossed and turned for about 5 hours since I got home. I am a emotional wreck right now, but I would do it again in a New York moment. If you have never been to one of these defining moments, you know how the Rays Republic is now feeling. If you have not, I truly wish it upon yourself and your team sometime in the future. It is a roller coaster ride fitted with some great ups and downs that is not even over yet.

 

                                

 

 

I just want to repurchase my “E” ticket so I can climb aboard the coaster again and roll through another three of these celebrations with the Rays and this truly spectacular group of guys.  I actually now know what other team’s fans have talked about when the y remark about the feelings and the intensity of the moment. I can see why New York Yankee and Boston Red Sox fan yearn and seek thin moment in their lives yearly. But I have to almost admit, I do not want to share it with them anytime soon.

 

 

So As I finally slink out of the stadium, and check out that bright orange roof, I am reminded of all the glory and the sweat and tears that have blanketed this great dome in the past 10 years. But tonight they all seem like a distant memory as we have a new found tradition of winning and are celebrating the success of our boys’ tonight. I can’t wait to get back into my seat tomorrow and see how much of the energy is still trapped in this building…………….9 am is coming fast to me tonight.

 

2008 Rays Team Photo……..No Where Else but Here

 

 

Finally I got my picture from theTampa Bay Rays today from the day that I took my  Team Photo with the 2008 American League Pennant winning Tampa Bay Rays.

 

All year long I had this weird feeling about this years team, but  not until the Rays Radio Pre-game host Rich Hererra started calling it a “Miracle Summer”  did it dawn on me how special it could become in 2008. It seemed different, but I could not place the vibe in the air at the time.

 

I have been wanting to work in the Rays clubhouse for about 3 years. I missed the fun and the charades that went along with being in a loose locker room. Some of my fondest moments happened in locker rooms on teams I played with in high school, college and beyond.  It is that feeling when you step into the room that this was your peaceful and energetic focuepoint. That this locker room was the beginnig of the whole sha-bang. There is truly nothing like the spirit and the bond  that pulls together by a team on a streak, or a winning season.

 

                                      

 

Sitting there watching them come out in Feb. 2008 at the St. Petersburg  Namoli complex for the first workout of the Spring, I had a gut feeling it was going to be one to remember. I yelled over to Chris Westmoreland, the Rays Clubhouse Manager and shook his hand and just chatted a bit about the upcoming year. The guys as they came out to the fresh mowed grass had a different air about them. Something felt different about this workout, and about 2008 in general.

 

A few days earlier, the Rays had their annual Fan Fest at the Trop., and as ususal I was there bright and early and checking out all the auctions and the items up for sale around the stadium. One thing caught my eye. “A photo opportunity with the 2008 team during the Team Photo Day.”

 

I jumped at the opportunity to jot down my name and have a chance to be positioned in a keepsake between these great baseball players.  I went about my day and came back a few times before putting down my final bid and heading home for the day. I got a call the following Monday that I had won the auction and they would call me when the team had a opportunity to all get together and take the picture. That day turned out to be May 10, 2008.

 

 

I got out there around 3 pm on that day to get down to field level and get a  white Rays jersey and chat a with a few of the guys I knew before everyone got into place for the pictures. I took these pictures as we were getting set into position for the photo.  As the guys came out to the field, a few saw me sitting there and were laughing and wondering how I could of wrangled this opportunity. I had been the Pepsi rep for the team for several years and had worked around the clubhouse in the spring and during the year. Everyone who knew me knows how much this baseball team means to me personally. 

 

Chris Westmoreland and Dave Barr, the Rays  Strength and Conditioning guru came over and shook my hand before PR Direcotr Rick Vaugh started arranging everyone for  the photo. By that time the guys were all chatting amongst themselves and just enjoying the moment. But little did all we know just how special this photo would end up meaning not just to me, but to each and every one of the team on that stage.

 

 

I was a bit nervous before getting out there and getting into position. Not because of the guys around me, I knew enough of them to know that they are a great group of guys and would make this picture a true treasure for my collection.  I had seen alot of these guys come up as rookies ans now they were taking on verteran leadership roles for the first time and truly leading this club by example.

 

But what I truly found amazing was a few facts surrounding the picture that if you did not know the team well, or the players, you might miss the subtle differences in the picture.

 

 

So I had a few minutes to just take in all the surrounding before getting into the photo and saw some of these funny situations:

 

1) Usually in a team photo you try and put the tall trees in the back row or above the height-challenged members of your roster. In the back row today were Rays’ back-up catcher, Shawn Riggans and Reliever Al Reyes. Both are over 6 feet, but seem a bit short compared to the height of  Reliever Gary Glover on their left and Outfielder Rocco Baldelli on their right. So becuase of this height ripple, it looked like a wave going across the front row and rolling up and down.

 

                    

 

2)  One of my favorites, Rocco Baldelli was in this picture on May 10th with a full on Grizzly Adams look-alike beard. The beard was a wild look for Rocco. But since he was the disabled list at this time, he used it as his own measure of coping with his situation. Little did wqe know at the time to what extent Rocco would play in this teams playoff push.

 

3) If you notice the two groups on the left and right of the players, you have the Clubhouse crew to the left, and the teams’ trainers and physical staff to rhe right. And among the characters to the right is Kevin Barr. He is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the team, and refused to wear the  dark carolina blue polo tops that the rest of the staff wore that day. He stands out real good in his white top and black long pants, while the medical staff wore their dark blue tops and tan shorts.

 

Kevin is not a fan of the University of North Carolina, and it would be a personal insult to wear those colors.  Kevin, I understand, you could never get me to ever wear any FSU colors even on a threat of death. You sometime have to make a moral decision on things. He stands out real good in his white top and black long pants, while the medical staff wore their dark blue tops and tan shorts in the picture,

 

4) in the  official Team Photo, but not with the team much longer after the photo were: Rays reliever Kurt Birken and Elliot Johnson.

 

 

So then it is my time to get situated in the photo somewhere in the middle of everyone. You can definitely tell where I am in the picture, because I did something that intially looked a bit dumb at the time, but it makes it easier to find me because of it.

I have heard in the final picture that I am making into a 11X16 photo with a lettering spelling out “2008 American League Champions”  I will look the same as everyone else.

What I did was cross my hands in front of me instead of behind me in the picture. Yes, that is me right behind Rays Manager Joe Maddon, who was laughing that I  must have paid someone off  to get that close to him. But he knows me from the “Maddons’ Maniac” group and we have chatted many times in rightfield during BP.

 

They decided to put me between Akinora Iwamura and Willy Aybar for the photo. Great choice considering we are all three about 5 10-ish and would make a better height blend for the photo. To get into that spot I had to cross over the feet of Jason Bartlett, Evan Longoria and Gabe Gross. The chairs in front of the risers were right on the shins of the guys in the second row and it was a tight space to get in there for the picture.

 

As I was passing by them, my Bullpen buddies Scott Cursi and Bobby Ramos were giving me a bad time as to not step on their toes since the guys had to play that night.

 

As if to curse me, I then stepped on Evan Longoria’s right big toe. I did not hurt him, but went gentle into position for the photo. Skip, the team photo guy then took about 3 picture before I pulled myself out of the picture for the official team photo in the media guide.

 

I did not get in that photo, but I do have a wall photo that is as orignal as the guys in the picture. We might never have a team like this in Tampa Bay again. Not because of talent or event ability, but the personalities from the Coaching staff up to our closer was one of the best I have ever seen on a field.

 

This team not only were impressive on the field, they were even more impressive as to how they reacted to each other off the field.  This photo might have cost me a bit in money, but the experience was priceless.

 

And I know it took some time to get this photo finally up and posted, but Tricia Johnson, who works in the Community Relations department for the Rays did a great job hunting down the photo and getting it to me. She tried to get it to me by e-mail, snail mail, and finally we just put it on a disc and I came and got it after the World Series. I love the photo and the memory will be one that will be told over barstools for a long long time.

 

It is a memory not only of spending time with a team of champions, but watching friends mingle as they took a photo that would be priceless in the annuals of our team’s history.

 

 

 

Rays Use Orioles Miscues to Get Win # 93

 

 

Rays 4, Orioles 2

 

Congrats to Carlos Pena for being selected as the American League Player of the Week for last week. Pena batted .368 for the week with 3 home runs and 11 RBI’s for the Rays. Pena was also involved in the history-making process of having the first overturned Instant Replay call on a homer run hit by Pena against Minnesota reliever Boof Bonser.  Pena also boasted a .947 Slugging Percentage and a .500 On-Base Percentage for the week. This is the 2nd Weekly honor that Pena has recieved while with the Rays. He got his first award in October 1, 2007.

 

 

The local media and fans base have gone “hawk wild lately with the new hairstyle of the Tampa Bay Rays. Sports Psychologists say that by uniting with a common denominator, like the hait sytle can foem a closer bond and collective unit going into the playoff games. Just as hockey has it’s playoff beards, the Rays have adopted the Mohawk as their focal point for team unity and committment. I am still waiting for Bullpen mates,  catcher Scott Cursi and Coach Bobby Ramos to board the “Hawk Express” and motor on to the American League Divisional Series.

Starting last night, the people who were selected by the Rays Lottery system got their passwords to select up to 4 seats for the upcoming ALDS game 1 and 2 seats. The password will work on the ticketmaster website until 11:59 P.M. tonight, then tickets will go on sale to the general public tomorrow at 9 A.M.  Stubhub.com also has the Rays post season tickets on sale, but the prices are hugely marked up pertaining to the actual price of the seat in the stadium. It listed a Upper Deck 300-level seat for almost $ 100 dollars today.

 

Rays Magical Number:      4

 

This is the combination of Rays wins and Boston losses to secure the American League East title for the Rays.

 

Just a short note about the “Magical Number” for tommorrow’s double-header. If the Rays win both games of the double-header, the number could effectively go down to 2. But coupled with the result of the Cleveland Indian verus Boston Red Sox game, it could move down to within 1 game with a Boston loss tonight. This is the time of year that the numer could jump as low as one with 2 Rays wins and a Boston Loss, but can also remain at 4 with both games of the double-hearder lost by the Rays and a Boston win. Tonight’s contest should be a great barometer to the extent of the rest of the week for the Rays.

 

                         

 

Jason Bartlett

So how do you follow up a day after you were selected by the local Sportswriters as the Rays 2008 MVP?  Well, you go 2-3 with an RBI and steal a base for the Rays in your close victory over the Orioles.  Bartlett hit two doubles in the game to give him 24 for the year. But it was his double down the leftfield line that made the night interesting for the Rays.

 

                                   

 

On the play, the ball was heading to the corner when an Orioles fan reached into the field of play and took the ball to give Bartlett a ground rule double because of Fan Interference. The guy in the stands definitely reached beyond the seats, actually almost falling on the field before retreiving the ball. The 3rd base umpire, Tim Timmons decided that Fernando Perez was not beyond the bag at third and had to return to third base to take a run off the board for the Rays. But Gabe Gross did score before the fan touched the ball and put the Rays up 3-2 at the time.

 

Bartlett also had his 20th stolen base of the year tonight for the Rays. He is also the team leader in steals of third base this year with 9 bases. He is within the leaders in the league in steals of thrid base this season.

 

 

Evan Longoria

Several times last night the Rays rookie got handcuffed on balls hitting the clay in the Oriole’s infield and had them come up on him fast and furious. On one play, the ball appeared to hit Longoria in the chest after hitting the clay.

Longoria had one play against Luke Scott in the 5th inning that had the ball coming up hard on him and hitting the heel of his glove to give him his 3rd error in two games. Scott ended up coming around to score for the Orioles on a bases loaded walk to Juan Castro in the inning.

 

                                      

 

Orioles Miscues and Rays Hits

The Rays did take advantage of a few Baltimore miscues in the game.  Gross reached on the 8th error of the season by Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts and ended up scoring on Akinora Iwamura’s single in the 5th inning.  The Rays also got 8 walks in the game against Baltimore pitching. They used it to their advantage in the 5th inning when 3 walks in a row were issued to Gross, Hinske and Bartlett. Gross and Hinske ended up scoring in the inningto tie the score at 2-2 at the time. 

 

B J Upton

In the 6th inning, with Aubrey Huff on second base, Luis Salazar hit a ball hard to centerfield that was dropping rapidly. Huff, thinking that B J Upton could not make the play on the ball was on the move and at third base when Upton took the ball in and threw to second to complete a double play on Huff. It was Upton’s 13th outfield assist this season. He is currently in 3rd in that category in the AL.

 

 

                    

 

Rays Hitting

For the night the Rays only managed 3 hits against the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff. Orioles starter  Brian Bass only gave up 2-runs in his 4.2 innings of work last night. But it was the 8 walks issued by the pitchers, and the timely hitting of the Rays that secured this win. In the first 3 innings tonight, the Rays went down in order 1-2-3, before Carlos Pena got a single in the 4th inning.

It was not until the Rays had 2 outs in the 5th inning that the team got on the board first tonight and scored 2 runs in the inning. In the 6th inning the Rays went down on order again. In the 7th inning, the Rays came alive thanks to 2 Oriole walks and a error on Roberts.  But then again in the 8th inning, they Rays went down in order for the 5th time in the game.

 

        

 

David Price

But the rue star of the night has to go to Rays rookie pitcher David Price, who made his Major League first start tonight aginst Baltimore.  The lefty had all three pitches going tonight and was constantly getting the first pitch over for a strike all night long. At times it seemed like the home plate umpire might be crowding Price a bit, but he kept hitting the outer corners of the strike zone and began to get thos calls later in the contest.

Price went 5.1 inning and threw 88 pitches in his debut. Impressive enough with his control in the game, Price put 60 out of 88 balls over for strikes in the game. Price did get 3 strikeouts to go with his 3 walks, but it was a totally impressive performance by the young rookie, and might bode well for him in the coming weeks.

Prices ERA at the start of the game was 3.00 for his relief appearances this year, but after the start, he had lowered it to 2.38 for the Rays.  He got the Orioles in order in the first inning, and only had a bad moment in the 2nd inning during a 10-pitch at bat by Luke Scott before walking him. Price adjusted and got the Orioles again in order in the 4th inning. In the 5th, Price had the only trouble of the night when Scott again got on base after a Longoria error and then Price issued two straight single to Ramon Hernandez and Lou Montanez to load the bases.  Price ended up giving up 2 runs in the start, but was totally impressive from hjis first pitch to the last one.

 

Bullpen Trio

The Bullpen Trio of Grant Balfour, J P Howell and Dan Wheeler closed out the contest for the Rays. Balfour came on in the middle of the 5th inning and worled 1.2 innigs of scoreless relief for his 6th victory of the year. With the win, Balfour is now tied with Howell for the team lead in wins by a reliever. Balfour and Howell are also one win away from tying the Rays reliever victory recod held by Shawn Camp.

J P Howell  leads all MLB relievers with 87.2 innings this season.  He also leads all AL relievers with 92 strikeouts this season, and  got three strikeouts in a row last night against the Orioles. He is still boasting a 0.00 ERA in September for the Rays over 13.1 innings of work. He is currently on pace to throw the most innings by a leftie reliever since the Twin’s Greg Swindell threw 112.o in 1997. 24 of his 63 appearances this season have been over 2 innings.

 

                                   

 

Dan Wheeler came on with one out in the 9th inning and gave up a single to Ramon Hernandez . But he got Montanez to strike out, and had pinch-hitter Kevin Millar fly out to Bartlett to end the game and give the Rays their 93rd win of the season.  It also gave Wheeler his 12th save of the year for the Rays.  Wheeler has 60 plus appearances in a game for the 4th straight season. He currently has 68 appearances for the team, and is on pace to have his   4th straight 70 plus appearances year after his next 2 outings.  Batter’s are hitting .188 against him this season, lowest in the league among relievers.

 

 

 

Basking in the Moment………..1st Playoff Berth

 

 

 

 

It might have looked like a mob scene out oif your favorite sports movie, but believe me, the energy in that place yesterday was so severe that it sometimes seemed to choke you up. From out-to-out yesterday this game was won by the time they got on the field. Seriously folks, I have never felt to drained emotionally and mentally in my life. I was literally crawling out of the Trop at 9 P.M. after celebrating in the stands, near the clubhouse with a few friends, and in the Brewhouse having a few brews with the old crew from the last 10 years.

This is a day/night/weekend that will sit up there with the best memories I have involving sports.  I am so spent right now I have not come down fron this yeat, and I have Season Ticketholder Picture Day in 6 hours. All I can say is this is going down in my memory banks as one of the greatest day in my fan life. How can it get any better………….oh, wait WE could have THREE more before the playoffs are all over with this year!

THREE more chances where these guys pay as much attention to their team partying as they do out with us, the fans.  From interview to interview last night, the guys to a T talked about the fans. They included the fans in their celebrations. Getting up on the dugout and spraying the masses with champagne and beer. Throwing 9=8 playoff hats and T-shirts to them all, and relishing a moment that will live in this franchsies memory forever.

You always remember your first time. You remember where you were, Who you were standing with, and what you were doing at that exaxt moment. When the guys came down into the Bull Pen Cafe area and I was standing on the railing, I can not remember how many of those guys came up there and slapped my hand and gave me a fistbump. But the ones that were special were the Hugs from J P Howell, Jonny Gomes, Chad Orvella and Scott Kazmir.  I have chatted almost daily with these guys on the way to the Bullpen back area and they are some of the best guys you will ever want to meet.

 

 

Howell for instance used to be one of the quietest guys on this team when he was a starter. He was moody and never seemed to want to talk. Now since he has found his calling in the bullpen,  he is one of the friendliest people I have ever encountered on the Rays. Dan Wheeler is not known to smile alot, but he does when we chat back and forth during the games. There is a unique bond there between the Bullpen and the fan here that I have never seen before in my life. But then again, they are living the dream this year.

 

From the first champagne bottle out of the clubhouse, to the two bottles that Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos had ordered for himself and the close fans down there, it was a magical night. The parade around the Trop outter perimeter was a show of the love and respect these guys have for the fanbase. I have been lucky enough to know a few of these guys off the turf in private. And I have to tell you this in total confidience, not one time this year did any of these guys take this responsibility to the fans or to the community as a  job or work.

 

                        

This group actually enjoys interacting with the fans. From the time they walked out at the Spring Training complex in mid-Febuary to now has been a long and rewarding journey. There have been player injuries and players have come and gone from the roster, but the core of this team have been strong, mentally tough and been an inspiration to the fans. Not many groups have a tie to the fans that these guys have. The Rays community can honestly say the have the team’s back at any moment.

The funny thing about this celebration is that about 25 percent of it was outside the lockerroom in the field where these guys have toiled and struggled and left themselves bleeding and wounded some nights. To say this battle did not end with a fairy tale ending is totally accurate. This season has now almost come to a close at home, but in the next wek they might have a Divisional Crown celebration either in Detroit or Baltimore, then sprint home and get ready for the First of many October games in the Trop.

I really need to hit the sack for a few hours before I fall down, but the adreneline is still pumping hard in me right now and I have tossed and turned for about 5 hours since I got home. I am a emotional wrexk right now, but I would do it again in a New York moment. If you have never been to one of these defining moments, you know how the Rays Republic is now feeing. If you have not, I truly wish it upon yourself and your team sometime in the future. It is a rollercoaster ride fitted with some great ups and downs that is not even over yet.

 

                                

 

I just want to repurchase my “E” ticket so I can climb aboard the coaster again and roll through another three of these celebrations with the Rays and this truely spectacular group of guys.

Garza Returns to Form Against the Fish

 

 

Rays 4, Marlins 1

 

I have to tell you, I like Bobby Ramos. The guy can make you laugh in a second with just a simple Salsa step near the Bullpen mound. Put a International Recording Artist who specializes in Salsa music, and you got a night of abstract Rumba and Salsa steps to the Bullpen phone almost all night long.

I have seen Bobby go into the waterfall at the Colorado Rockies stadium, do a bit of chair humping on Youtube, and had the pleasure of talking to him on a multiple amount of times from my chair in rightfield.

He can make my night sometimes with just his flip of the cap towards our section, or a toss of a used BP ball for a young fan.  Bobby is a great example of what is great about this new Rays team. He is real, he is fun and he can be real fun.

**************************************************************************************************************

Trivia Fact of the Night:

In 1979, Bob Watson became the first player to hit for a cycle in both leagues. John Olerud duplicated the feat in 2001.

*************************************************************************************************************

What a difference a week can make to a pitching battery. Last weekend in Texas, Dioner Navarro and Matt Garza ( 5-3) had a few meetings of the minds both on the mound and in the visiting dugout during the game.

 

Both guys came out of the game saying it was just like a family with the Rays, and the frustrations would be settled and cooled within the confines of the Rays’ family.  And on Sat. night, the proof was in the pudding,or the pitching.

                           

 

Matt turned in one of his best pitching performances by using his off speed pitches to dazzle the Marlins batters into his 5th victory of the season. Garza pitched 7 innings of 3-hit one run ball as the fish fell to the Rays 4-1.

 

 

DH Jonny Gomes has not had alot of opportunities the last few weeks to showcase himself. Sat. night, he needed just one swing, his first swing of the night to put the Rays up 1-0 in the 2nd inning. Jonny hit his 5th homer off former Rays Mark Hendrickson and looked to be in for a great night at the plate.

But, in his next 3 appearances at the plate, Jonny struck out 3 times, usually letting the first pitch go by to gauge the pitcher.  Jonny is getting limited at-bats right now, and needs to capitaslize by getting walks, singles and aggressive wood on the bats to show Rays Manager Joe Maddon that he too, can have a hot bat when pressed into service.   Jonny was trying too hard to put the ball into play and it showed in his at bats.

 

 

Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett went 1-2 with 2 RBI’s last night. In the last two nights, Jason has gone 4-5 at the plate bringing offensive power to the number 9 slot in the lineup. Bartlett got the scoring going in the 4th innings by singling to center and scoring B J Upton and Willy Aybar.
Bartlett also made several great plays at short to twarp Marlins scoring drives in the game.

 

 

Justin Ruggiano got a start in leftfield tonight for the suspended Carl Crawford. Justin used this opportunity to show the Rays why he should stay up here at this level. In the first inning he doubled to deep center and stole third base. He went 1-4 on paper, but he did so much more for the Rays in the field.

Justin went for a ball going foul into the Corona Beach bar area duirng the game and came flat onto the tabletops trying to catch the ball. Replays showed he got wiothin a cats’ whisker of getting the ball before it fell into the party area and he collided with the wall and got tossed onto the table top.  It was a valiant effort and just another example that this team will do what it takes to get it done this season.

 

 

BJ Upton made am incredible catch in left center in the game running from dead center to grab a ball backhanded in the gap in the 4th inning. B J  has shown remarkable improvement in his path to the balls hit into the gaps in recent games. Just another example of his willingess to upgrade himself to be a premier centerfielder in the sport.

 

               

 

Troy Percival came on in the 9th inning and shut down the Marlins for the second night in a row to record his 15th save of the year. For the second night in a row, 7 of Troy’s 12 pitches were strikes.

 Last night’s save was number 339, just two saves away from Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers’ totals for 9th place All-Time in saves in the MLB. Batters are hitting .123 against Troy this season, the lowest among relievers in the league.

 

 

Recent Rays Moves………….My View from Rightfield

 

 

Wow!

Here it is a few days from the Winter MLB meetings in Opry-ville and we made a few needed moves that will help define our current and future goals for our squad.

 

First off, let me get that off my chest right now. I am not a Delmon Young hater in anyway, but, from my seat in Right Field, I could read some of his body language and tell  he was just buying time before the poisoned axe or his actions  dictated a move to new Fieldturf pastures.

 

 Have fun in the pillow-dome Delmon. You complained about not being able to clearly see balls at the Trop. Wait until you look up in that sea of lights and  true white roof at the Metrodome………..you will wish for the grey white roof of the Trop. I do wish him alot of luck in his future and success with that “Young” brothers curse of having a small attitude adjustment problem. His brother seemed to have finally gotten his attitude to shine with the Nats, let’s hope it doesn’t take Delmon as long to fine the right basepath to being the great teammate. Delmon’s departure will come back to haunt us at times,…………..but only for 6 or 7 games a year.

 

Now the players we got for Delmon are quality guys. Matt Garza is a young player that can br dialed into this rotation for years and will be a positive and needed upgrade to our constantly inproving and maturing pitching staff. Garza has not even hit the stride in his career yet, so the sky is the limit right now with him.

By the way, in Garza’s last 2007 start in, he pitched 6.2 innings with 4 hits and 1 ER against the Royals and Lost the game. We will take 6.2 inning outting any day with only 1 ER…….with the offensive power we have on our roster right now, it should always  be a “W” with the Rays.

 

The additon of Garza is great because this staff can grow into a huge AL East  pitching monster. Scott “The K” Kazmir is just getting started. James Shields was perfecting a few of his pitches last year, and gaining a boatload of knowledge about American League hitters.

 

 Those two will hold down the front of the rotation for a long time. Matt Garza is a great addition to help get those extra ( hopefully) 10-15 wins a year to get close to that hallowed 82-82 mark.

 

They only curious point to this trade is Jason Barlett,the second player involved in this trade.  He is destined to be just a stop-gap fill-in until protege’ Reid Brignac is ready to man the 5 hole for years to come. Bartlett  hit .265 last year, but only has 10 HR’s in his career and only 1,079 AB’s in his career.  He has primarily been a utility man during his career in the bigs, and this is his first extended playing time in the shortstop position.

 

Now he knows the role he will play here in Tampa Bay, but who knows, someone could come to camp to even replace him ( maybe Ben Zobrist ). Worst things have happened to our team.  Remember Danny Batista and Roberto Alomar retiring from our squad with only days to go in Spring Training. Losing these ex- All-Stars was viewed at the time as a failure by the team. It turned into the emmergance of Jorge Cantu and Jonny Gomes as “go-to” guys for the Rays for  that year.  So, sometimes a bad look can turn into a solid gold treasure when you only look at the surface of a situation. But that is why we play the games and do not award a trophy for roster potential, but game results.

 

With that in mind, let me wander a bit. and fantasize here.

 

 Can you go back home again in baseball? Not to a home per se, but to an old team that left you unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, and you selected to a good NL team that did not even know if you could play an entire season because of health and personal concerns.

 

Josh, I have always wanted success for you and knew that you could and would pull yourself together and show the world what a ture 5-tool player looks like up here. You went on to  prove you can play at the highest level and even make their opening day lineup in Right Field. the start of the season offensive expolsion you provided made everyone’s jaws dropped in awe. You finally had an entire country knowing you had it in you, and you proved it to everyone.

 

Hey Josh, I was there the day you came back after your off field problems that took you from baseball and the Rays. I was the Pepsi  guy in the locker room talking to Tim M. right before you went out the door of the training complex and first met the media.

 

I knew then that you had it again. That your head and attitude felt right to me, and I wanted the sky for you. Can you forgive the powers from beyond the Trop’s D-rings and just listen to them if they want to trade and include you on our squad.  I would cheer and enjoy watching you in Right Field again. And a huge plus that people forget, you can be the left-handed bat that Joe has been searching for in the lineup. Could be a sea of pluses for both the team, and yourself.

 

Okay, fantasy time is over……… Trade number two might not seem big on paper or even in reality, but it can be the jump start for each player. Elijah Dukes and Glen Gibson both needed a team that wanted them and believed in them. Now I do not think the Rays ever disliked or wanted harm for Elijah. His off-field and on-field distractions just took their toll on himself and the front office. Both parties knew that a change of scenery can work wonders for you, as a  person and a player.

 

 I wish you a cartload of homers in that new park Elijah. And we will not see you for  about 6 years. It take a few years for the schedule to again list the Nats’ as a interleague opponent again.So this trade might be a hidden blessing for you.

 

 Now Glen Gibson is  daily becoming a more polished pitcher.  Baseball America rated Gibson’s changeup and curve the best in the Nats’s farm system. Now we  know he has inherited talent and a great barometer a phone call away from him. Not every guy has a father that pitched in the majors. That could end up being a hidden blessing for him and the Rays.

 

Fantasy time again…………this time Minor edition.  The Rays’ top draft pick last year, David Price has set high expectations of himself and his progression in the Rays farm system this year. Now I will never argue with a Vandy grad, but I just want him to have a shot to know the systems and not rush his progress. When he gets called up to the Big club, he may  get hit like a pinball for a few weeks, but being a Southeastern Conference pitcher is a bit of a farm system in its own right. The best have had a rough beginning until they adapt and conquer the unique strike zones and brutal power potential of a MLB batters’ box.

 

I love to hear bravado and throwing caution to the wind, but I think a year in triple-A and a call up down the line could be his best medicine. There are a great amount of talent in Double-A and Triple-A right now biting at the bit to get that Spring Reporting date here and start to show their stuff. Jeff Neimann, Jeff Ridgeway, JP Howell,Mitch Talbot, and ex-big club guys like Chad Orvella, Jae Kuk Ryu want another shot up here as well. And that does not include the future power pitchers scattered in the Montgomery, Columbus, and Vero Beach teams. The future looks really bright for this team in the pitching department.

 

Having a prospective rotation of………Scott Kazmir, James Shields,Matt Garza, and add any of these  current teammates names,………Andy Sonnanstine, Jason Hammel and my favorite, Edwin Jackson to the mix, make for an exciting rotation problem  that could win anytime they hit the rubber.

 

Back to reality.  The addition of  closer extrodinaire, Troy Percival only makes the 6th through 9th inning  a more secure spot for the Rays.

 

What I am talking about is the fact that  Gary Glover,Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler are proven MLB relievers who can make it a challenge for any team to try and score after the starter leaves the game.  We have had great relievers before, but never in the middle roles.

 

 I think Reyes showed a huge amount of class in knowing that what is right for the team is great for the future of this squad. I think that is why they picked up his option. There is no doubts or questions he is a plus everytime he hits the mound for us.

 

 He might be the last guy to get the ball on most nights, but he is the first to know that this team has  within reach lofty goals, and they are within reach most nights, even in Fenway Park.

 

Now I have heard a bushel basket of rumors about additons and subtractions to this team. I want to address my views on a few subtractions here.

 

 Delmon might have been a player with a career that will bury his older brothers, but he also has the Young family cancer of that hidden danger and aggression that could ruin all that is good with……..a simple, casual walk to first.  Rays’ fans know what I am talking about here. I enjoyed watching Aubrey Huff hit for years here, but when he started to jog down to first is when he got that dreaded “Ben Grieve” epidemic. Maybe it is in the aura of Right Field that our players get that attitude and begin to falter right in front of us. 

 

Brendan Harris and Josh Wilson were the “blue collar” guys last year. Each guy experienced  a banner year. they got to play ball almost every night and did it the right way. Both got rewarded in different ways.

 

 Brendan got to play in another Dome, but has a great chance to be the everyday guy in the 5 hole up in Minn. Josh Wilson was put on the daily MLB waiver wire with the hopes he could pass through without a hitch. One big hitch, some people actually read those waiver wires daily.  The Pirates took a gamble, and got another quality infielder for their rebuilding ballclub. We wish you a ton of success Josh……you did a great job for the short time you were a Rays. Just a reminder, we did get Josh on waivers from the Nationals last year.  Karma?  you never know.

 

The last two trades I want to discuss did not happen as of the writing of this blog. That does not mean that the teams are not on their cellphone right now mending the deal or twisting the pieces to fit both teams.

 

 The First is the rumor of Edwin Jackson shipping off to Seattle for  1b/DH Ben Broussard. Now I am a huge “Action” Jackson fan, just ask him (lol). I liked Ben Broussard when he was an Indian, but I think his production has slowly seem a downward spiral. We could have done better even in a rumor than this one.  Another rumor had the Mets again this year coveting Jackson.  I do not know what the Mets’ still have left in their farm system. They have been active the last few years adding the missing pieces to their squad. But I am not sure their farm system is as strong as when we plucked Scott Kazmir from their clutches.

 

The second  non trade is a two-parter.It is the “non” trading of Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli.

 

I know that Carl would love to be a part of the first winning team in this franchises’ short history.  He should be a part of this celebration……front and center. Rocco I believe will come out of Spring Training in better shape, and better condition than any other time in his short Rays tenure.

 

 I used to be out at the Rays complex delivering alot, and when Rocco was mending from his surgeries and bumps and bruises, he was  always eagerly training and building himself up for his return. If you remember, Joe used to like to have Rocco in the dugout at home games and selected road series because of his great attitude and zest for success.

 

 I think this time it is totally personal for Rocco. I feel he knows that the team took a gamble and signed him to a long term deal. He is a proud guy, and he is probably the most excited about reporting in  Feb. 2008. Rocco stated in a news article he will relax this off season for a change. I believe that like I believe the “Clear” was a muscle relaxing ointment.  FDA approved too………right? He is probably getting in the best condition both mentally and physically for this team.

 

Right Field has been a concern for the big wigs upstairs since Delmon hit the road for the Great White north.  I think Jonny Gomes, Rocco, or even the tandem of Triple-A studs Fernando Perez or Jason Ruggiano can man it better than Cliff Floyd, Geoff Jenkins, or Darin Erstad. No disrespect to Darin, Luis Gonzalez, or Cliff. I even recently heard a rumor of my old baseball buddy Trot Nixon maybe being a good fit for us. He did hit great here against us, But remember fans,so did Jose Cruz Jr. when he was with the Jays and then got suddenly an average hitter at the Trop.

 

I think the Rays can have a perfect “wait and see” attitude here, unless Josh Hamilton is truly availiable….hint hint Andrew and Matt.

 

In conclusion, the non-tendered list of players will be announced in the coming weeks. This is a huge announcement that always has a few jaw dropping names on it. Things can change dramatically if a huge or unexpected name is released.  There always seem to be a  a few  high dollar drops, or a player with  health questions when  these names hit a wire……………We shall see.

 

 Kick the tires and look  real close under the hoods  there guys. This team is finally in a position to take quality over quantity in a players signing.

 

This team will have Carlos Pena back with a projected one year deal.  Pena has two years until he is a Free Agent, but both sides are working towards a agreement in place before the Spring Training report date.

 

I think this might happen to both prove both sides points.  His agent,Scott Boras says that “Carlos is just heating up”, and the Rays are hoping it was not  just a fluke year offensively for Pena. Either way, Carlos will be a rich guy come Feb. 2008.

 

 And we are a richer team both in knowing the talent is the best this team has fielded in its 11 years in the MLB. Sorry Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs and Jose Canseco. I wanted the “Hit Show” to be the thing that we measure our successes by, but that is not the case.

 

I will end this with a note about the hardest working Rays I have nkown in my years watching and following this team.  Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi  is always working with the pitchers and providing BP pitching and foul pole comments and analysis. I have known Scott for years and truly feel blessed to have ever met him. We have had a routine of him coming to give me some grief before every game down the Right field line after he tosses with the Rightfielders.

 

 We have a habit of tipping our caps after the last out before he heads into the locker room for the night. Scott is a guy who has invited me out a few times when I have gone on road trips to celebrate with himself and a few people on the team. I have cherished these moments in Seattle and Cleveland. I look forward to 2008 for both the Rays sucesses, and seeing my baseball buddy again manning the Bullpen with Bobby Ramos. As always Scott, I tip my hat to you for what you do for the Rays, and our  Section 138 fans group.

 

Only ( as of Dec 7th, 2008) 77 days until Pitchers’ and Catchers’ report ……..and I can’t wait until 8 am that day.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 275 other followers