Results tagged ‘ Boston Red Sox ’

Say It Ain’t So Carl!

 

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 Bill Koustroun/AP

Why is it that last night I had to have this mind numbing but incredibly visual dream where I was transformed back 2 scores into the image of a young boy standing on the stoop outside of Carl Crawford’s downtown St. Petersburg condo just waiting anxiously for him to appear into the crisp cold December morning air.

Why is it that in this poetically surreal dream, the moment my eyes catch a glimpse of Crawford strolling towards a waiting car, all that seemed to come out of my mouth was a paraphrase of the classic line voiced towards “Shoeless” Joe Jackson as he stepped out of the Cook County Courthouse back in 1919.

Why is it at this very moment this the encompassing sounds of that dream or nightmare somehow still echoes vibrantly within my eardrums. Pounding out those classic words back and forth, upwards and downwards seeming to fill every conceivable crevice and alcove within my heart and soul and masking me shudder with despair.

Say it ain’t so Carl. Tell me now that you did it for your young son’s future. That he will never have to go through the trials and tribulations you experienced as a young child in worn down sections of Houston, Texas. Tell me this contract is your life long aspiration of prosperity for your family built upon the sweat and punishment of you playing on an artificial field that you despised, but endured knowing that the final payment would be that you and your family enter into a realm of security and stability you often dreamed of as a teen.

Say it ain’t so Carl I understood when Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli signed with these same Red Sox knowing his lifetime dream of wearing the red Boston jersey and playing upon the wet grass at Fenway Park. For this was the team that Rocco idolized as a child, wishing wanting and hoping to get a chance to achieve that dream before he hung his cleats up for the last time. Maybe that is why this is so difficult for me Carl.

 


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Chris O’Meara/AP

 

Say it ain’t so Carl that you have now traded your sunburst and blue uniforms for the grays and reds of a mortal enemy of your former team and that some will brand you a traitor or worse before the pain subsides and booing of the crowd for you at Tropicana Field falls into silence. Tell me how I am suppose to explain this to my teenage daughter who is an avid young Rays fan who idolized you for much of her life and still sees baseball as a game and not as a cold hearted business.

 

Say it ain’t so Carl that I have to now have to somehow turn away when you come to bat at least 8 times a year in Tropicana Field and somehow remove the moments and memories that you helped create with this Rays team. How do I stop the seeping wound within my chest that bled true blue for you, and defended you in every argument or unfortunate moment. Am I going to shake your hand this Spring and honestly be able to look you in the eyes?

Say it ain’t So Carl that the money made you take that bloated contract that will diminish your overall defensive reputation by playing in a position where you have to learn the angles and idiosyncrasies of a huge green wall that will take away your inherent speed and closing ability that got you that first Golden Glove in 2010. That by playing in that park, with that monstrosity just over your turned shoulder will make you a better player and get the chance to possess another Gold Glove.

Say it ain’t so Carl that you expect to be greeted with open arms today by the city of Boston with visions of stolen bases dancing through your head. That by working in tandem with new teammate Jacoby Ellsbury you want to annilate the old stolen base record by a duo in the American League. That somehow you see this Boston club as the team to beat, much like you have the Rays for the last 5 odd seasons. That somehow all the negatives you heard so close to your heart about this same Boston franchise mysteriously vanished from your mind and you welcome the “new beginning”.

 

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Unknown Photographer 

Say it ain’t so Carl that I have to somehow endure your physical existence in a possible 126 Red Sox versus Rays contests over that 7 span without cursing or wish ill will or injury to you. That with time this transgression will leave my mind and I will find some sort of vital peace a Franciscan monk must partake in accepting what I can not change, and having the wisdom to know the difference.

What you are asking me to do here Carl is go against my long standing judgment and set in stone opinions and accept you as a rival American League East player without any epic animosity or derogatory heckling. Right now, what you might ask of me Carl can not be fathomed as my heart and soul are awash in a sea of churning disillusion and astonishment. It will take some time for me to adequately embrace and digest this change.

Hopefully before the end of your 7 year sentence, I mean contract, I can again envision you for what you truly are Carl. A great player that once provided endless streams of memories and moments for myself and the Rays Republic and holding the fantasy that this was all an illusion and tomorrow you will still be a free agent.

I accepted within myself that you were gone from the Rays fold forever back in April 2010. It has taken me 8 months to filter, digest and acknowledge this, and last night’s adventure will take even more time.


At least today I can still achieve a small sheepish smile upon my bewildered face for the plain fact that at the end of this huge Red Sox contract you could have possibly played in as many games as a member of the Red Sox as you did wearing the Rays colors. Even with all those future depressing game moments with you wearing the enemy’s cloth,  I know that one day in the future you will wear the Tampa Bay Rays cap once again. Possibly upon the bronze plaque you hoist at your Baseball Hall of Fame introduction.

I do not wish injury or pain upon you Carl, just want you to “Say it ain’t so!”.

Ye Tale is Spun from the Yarn of Yawley

 


 

It has all the makings of a dramatic made-for-Television movie. The type of highly emotional and civic minded chest thumping cinematic presentation that always seems to surface just as the Major League Baseball begins to close down its regular season. Then like a flash of lightning, this same media power promotes their post season edition of grandeur on the grass with their localized Northern kinfolk firmly established at the forefront edge of post season glory. The type of urban metropolis superiority cinematic piece that pieced together in haste as the two Northern giants begin to assemble their courageous troops for playoff supremacy.


But there is a problem with that usual Northern homage to greatness in 2010. The usual two titans of the Northeast are not the centerpieces of this year’s playoff drama, but their distant cousin, that poor Southern band of souls are again trying to rob their post seasonal exclusive party by winning when they should be cowering in the corner paying homage to their Northern big brothers. Again these bonded cousins from another Mother have again risen (like the South) to again fluster and bewitch the very media networks that pray and plea each April that metro giants like Boston and New York can survive into late October.

In their last three contests, the younger brothers to the South have fallen upon dark moments, besieged by the uncharacteristic dismantling of their hurlers galore to give their Northern cousins located in the town of the Beans, a glimpse at redemption and a viable reason to again bestow hope amongst the discarded hot dog wrappers and beer cups, that an epic collapse might befallen their Southern cousins and again put fate within their grasp.

Now there is a glimmer of faith and reprisal that if they can corral and tame their Southern cousin in the last two meetings between the two this week, the boys from Beantown can again be in the thick of the hunt and pounce upon and beyond their Southern brethren to again seek their baseball destiny. And with the unevenly successful outing of their southpaw du Jour, and even with the plethora of ducks on the pond that night, they used the winds and the long deep ball to again thrust their Southern cousins into the barrels of molasses and send them to bed dreaming of disaster instead of delight.

Right now the awakening soul of this proud city is again thumping their chest and proving the encouraging wordage and crowd carnage needed to bring hope, faith and last gasps of rejoice to those who gaze upon the last ditch effort of hope for this great Red Sox Nation. Patrons who threw off their oxygen masks after the final ground out and proclaimed their team fully back in high spirits and seeking another combustible shot of redemption tonight.

As their Southern cousins recoiled and reexamined their own plan of attack of sending their own southpaw to the mound tonight to crush the rebellion and ease the noise, the patrons of this borough of the baked bean rejoiced and celebrated upon Yawley Way late into the morning seeing that their forth nights are not pitch black and darkened, but that a faint shimmer of pale light has beamed upon the every changing darkness because of the burly bats of their might Red Sox crew. For the once blind patrons of the Red Sox have now seen the dim flashes of a percentage of a chance, and grasp that morsel as if it was Russian caviar.

 

Even though the hard fought road to the playoffs has been reopened by the defeat of the Southern cousins, the Red Sox must again counter again and again in two more contests before they can fully proclaim their right to journey towards a glimpse of a final playoff destination. For now the curtain has been opened, and the bean town faithful have seen the inner workings of the magician and know what it will take to pounce upon and beyond this young Southern cousin’s own journey.


Once again the Southern cousins have found themselves sandwiched between the irritable giants with little chance of extra breathing room on either side of them. Any extended slip, unexpected slide backwards will surely evoke more celebration and anxious moments for either of their Northern kinfolk. The proud Southern brethren have to reconstruct their modus operandi and commit again to what got them to this point in their season, or surrender to the increasing sound of sox upon the ground coming closer and closer.

Four weeks, 28 days is the length of time they need to fend off and survive within the two titans grip. 26 games worth of sweat, strains and moral imperative has to be weighed, measured and precisely calculated before the final tally is seen on October 4th‘s eve.

The impending contests of these three amigos separated by their will, luck and courage will battle to the last out, all hoping that when the dust finally settles, they are firmly situated in a seat towards their playoff destiny. Many have begun to count out the second Northern brother, because injuries has ravished their roster and depleted their confidence. But a new generation of Beantown bombers have resurfaced and shown that this is far from over, far from concluded. Even now.

 

A Vital Dose of Redemption and Realization

 
 
Reinhold Matay/AP

By now the whole baseball World knows that the Tampa Bay Rays lost twice last night. They lost the chance to push themselves past the New York Yankees and visualize the 2010 team dream, but that revelation is mute right now. They lost the whole bag of marbles last night against the dreaded Red Sox and their Southpaw boy wonder Jon Lester. The Rays further lost within their own misguided intention and advances than by simple game action.

But that is what this series is all about. It is either going to be a time of redemption (for the Red Sox) or realization (for the Rays). Redemption in the fact that some of the walking wounded among the Boston roster are seeing that odd shaped roster beginning to cement itself and play as a define and articulate unit, much to the chagrin of the home town Rays. Redemption that a Wild Card reclamation is as close as 6 simple games, and made closer with the knowledge both the Rays and New York Yankees are not playing at their highest levels.

Redemption that as their own newspapers and bloggers have not screamed out the battle cry yet that this 3-game vacation into the sunshine can make or break their 2010 season, even with 32-odd games to follow. Forget that the Rays have 24 more games against the American League East over the course of the rest of the season, including another foray at Fenway in the near future. Tonight’s win showed the Rays hopefuls that the Red Sox machine might seemed broken and battered, but it can still rev its engines at full RPM’s when needed.

 
J. Meric/Getty

Realization by the Rays that this team is sometimes too slow to adjust and submit to changes at the plate as pitch after pitch goes by outside the zone and gets called for a strike. The Rays managed to suffice in the “Rays Way” for almost 6 innings before adjusting their game and swinging at those borderline calls that had been called by Home Plate Umpire Gary Darling all night long. It took too long for the Rays to up their game and swing at those pitches 6 inches off the plate that got the arm action of Darling and saw countless Rays rallies die an instant death with a still cocked bat at the plate.

 
J. Meric/Getty

Forget the double plays by Evan Longoria and B J Upton in the first and third inning that equalized any sense of control issues with Lester by giving the Rays freebie base runners than have them dissolved instantly by a solid ground ball hit to either Marco Scutaro or Adrian Beltre, who quickly dished the ball off to second and first to squash any Rays rally like a bug. A brief realization by the Rays that Lester and Boston catcher Victor Martinez were not always on the same page, but not utilizing it to their advantage to get more than one solo run in the stressful bottom of the fourth inning.


Here was the Rays trying to produce runs via the “small ball” approach, but Lester was pitching outside to try and eliminate a bunt down the line, or even a solid contact with the ball. By the time the Rays realized and circumvented their approach, it was already the bottom of the fifth inning, then base running malfunctions became the letter of the day. First it was Sean Rodriguez being completely hung out to dry by Lester on a steal attempt of third base with two outs that further complicated the Rays game plan.

But the huge exclamation point on the “missed it by that much” game performance of the Rays is best illustrated in the base running of Upton , who began the bottom of the sixth inning by walking, then getting a smooth and clean steal of second base off of leftie Lester before committing the ultimate game faux pas on a single to centerfield that former Rays farmhand Darnell McDonald scooped in shallow centerfield then tossed a grenade to Martinez who got Upton at mid-body on his feet first slide into home. Aggressive base running is one thing, and hustling and seeking the plate in an instance where the ball was maybe 40 yards above the top clay of the infield is suicidal at best.

 
Reinhold Matay/AP

Love the aggression, hated the result. But that is just another realization that night that maybe they were playing this game a click slower than the Red Sox. But this series already is showing high signs of a epic struggle for redemption by the Red Sox and the Rays did not have the ammo to fight back tonight. Six times in this contest the Rays either tried to get a man to third, or he advanced to either score or get thrown out. Six times the Rays had a honest and realistic chance to post more runs, but something jammed the Rays own engine every time, but once.

So I guess it is only right to tip your cap towards the players and fans wearing the big “B” on the cap tonight for playing the hands that were dealt to them and capitalizing on Rays mistakes or offerings. It was not as if either pitcher was brilliant, even though they both combined for 18 of the 24 strikeouts in the game. Fitting still was the last out, a called strike on pinch-hitter John Jaso that looked a few inches below and outside the strike zone to most in the stands.

An instant realization by the Rays that they let this game get away from them. But it also gave the Red Sox a realization that this series, and this season might just be beginning to heat up. I think I am going to bring a tube of sun block to the game tomorrow night because I some burning to be done, hopefully it will be the realization that the Red Sox might have woken a sleeping Rays giant. Or maybe it is the Rays this time who will seek a redemption for their play on Friday night.
 

The Red Sox are Coming, The Red Sox are Coming!

 
 
Chris O’Meara/AP
You could just sense that something was coming. Your ears would begin to burn and vibrate with increasing velocity, and you could just feel the barometric pressure beginning to rise the minute the Red Sox plane landed. This was going to be the series where the Red Sox laid it all out on the Trop’s turf and by heck or high water would make their ultimate 2010 stand to reclaim a spot in the 2010 playoffs.

At first you were not sure if it their first attack was an ambush at you from the Northeast, or maybe a flanking move from their Spring home in the South (Fort Myers), but you knew that the Red Sox Nation’s spirits were going to be flying sky high the minute they opened the doors for this decisive 3-game series. And you know every swing and every pitch will have viewers in the seats in at home pulsing towards the television feeling every ebb and tide of this series this weekend.

With the Red Sox sitting just beyond the Rays grasp right now in their own divisional fight, it is imperative that they gain ground this weekend, or finally face the horrific truth that they will need allies to get back into either the American League East race, or get a helpful nudge into the American League Wild Card top spot. With word spreading like wildfire that Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who has been a thorn in the Rays side all year pretty much done for the year, another viable weapon is taken out of the Red Sox arsenal.

And with around 35 games to go before the end of this season, the Red Sox will have to start an incredible push of possibly going on a unheard of 20+ winning streak, combined with some timely Rays losses to again be in a visible position to fight another day after October 4th. So what are a few key situations to keep in mind during this weekend series?

Chris O’Meara/AP

Red Sox Starters versus Rays Offense.

Rays have hit the combined Red Sox pitching staff with some consistency this season. But hold only a .226 opponents batting average against Boston this season. The key elements will be how the Boston starters hold the top of the Rays line-up plus adjust their pitching throughout the game. B J Upton is the only Rays hitter to hit more than one Home Run against Red Sox pitching this season, but the Rays have been patient and posted 53 walks.

Evan Longoria is not having a tremendous year versus Boston pitching this season, but has been on a bit of an offensive tear lately, which could work into his favor. With Carlos Pena now back behind Longoria, teams will have to pitch to Longoria more “straight-up” than pound his wrists and outer zones with the ball. Carl Crawford is definitely someone the Red Sox will want to keep off the base paths, but he has gone 8-23 (.348) at Tropicana Field this season against Boston with 13 total bases.

But in Boston’s favor is their first strategic move of the series, even before they landed in Tampa Bay when they scratched Daisuke Matsuzaka who was experiencing “back stiffness” on Wednesday and instead penciled in Jon Lester to start Friday night’s game. Granted, if you want someone with more spine, I would go to Lester too. The move might seem a bit hasty to some, but Lester holds a seasonal .182 opponents batting average over the Rays head, and a .052 ( 1-19) mark hitting in his only start in the Trop this season.

With a more solid chance to take a win in the first game, the Red Sox have pitcher Clay Buhholz ready to go Saturday night and holds a .261 average against the Rays this season. Combine that with 8 Rays strikeouts in their 23 plate appearances and you get a pretty provocative one-two punch to begin this series. But the problem is that this is a three game series, and John Lackey has not performed all that well within the roof of Tropicana Field this season. Lackey might be the Wild Card entry in this weekends games as the Rays hit him for a .308 average with 4 walks in his only Trop. Appearance.

 
Chris O’Meara/AP

Rays runners against Red Sox catchers

With the Red Sox catching crew decimated by wild injuries right now with former Texas backstop Jarrod Saltalamacchia out with a leg infection and Jason Varitek not able to run effectively yet on his injured right foot they are down to Victor Martinez and ex-Ray Kevin Cash. The Rays have stolen 22 bases off the Red Sox in 2010, and have only been nailed once by a Red Sox catcher. With the Rays possibly amping up their usual small ball offense this weekend, being a catcher on this Boston team right now might be one of the most stressful spots outside of their Bullpen. But the Red Sox also can not forget Ben Zobrist (6 SB) or Carl Crawford (7 SB) at any moment this weekend.

Another unknown factor for the Red Sox to consider is that the Rays have garnered 53 walks off the Red Sox in prior games, and the Rays now have more patient hitters like Dan Johnson and Matt Joyce in the line-up to bolster the Rays chances of base runners. This segment of the weekend series might play out the biggest in the end. If the Red Sox can stagnate the Rays running game along with their small ball tendencies, it could be a huge blow to the Rays usual game plan.


 
Chris O’Meara/AP

Rays starters versus Boston Hitters

This is another area where the Red Sox might have a bit of the surprise factor as they started three outfielders in their game on Tuesday night who have limited at bats against the Rays this season. Former Rays prospect Darnell McDonald has appeared in only 5 contests between the two teams, but sports a .455 average in 3 games at Tropicana Field this season. Daniel Nava has played in four Rays vs. Red Sox games and is hitting for a .333 average with a triple. The third member of their unknown outfield from that night, Ryan Kalish has not faced the Rays this year.

But even with weapons like Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis sidelined until 2011, this Rays pitching staff will have to be cautious. The Red Sox still have their power options in their line-up with both Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz, who both have 2 Home Runs in the Trop this season healthy and ready to go Friday night. But the Rays are also sending their best weapon to the hill on Friday night to combat the Red Sox bats.

 

Rays Pitching will have to “Set the Tone”

American League Cy Young hopeful David Price, who has held the Red Sox to a .258 average in his only 2010 start against Boston on July 7th at home before the All-Star break. Working in Price’s favor is that in that lone start against Boston this season, he posted 10 strikeouts in the game. But Price has been more impressive since the All-Star break and this Lester versus Price match-up might be a pitcher’s duel until someone blinks.


Buchholz against Garza will have the same effect as the Lester vs. Price match-up in that two very selective pitcher will be wheeling and dealing until someone leaves a ball up and over the plate. And that was the case in Garza’s only start against Boston this season. He got rocked with 4 Home Runs in the outing and gave up 13 hits and 11 runs in the Red Sox’s 11-3 spanking of the Rays back on May 26th. But Garza has seemed more in control of his pitches in recent outings and better equipped for this pressure filled match-up.
Last, but not least will be James Shields coming in on the Nationally televised ESPN Sunday Night Baseball telecast against Lackey.

Shields has had his up and down moments recently, but he always seems to have a special 6th gear for Boston games. Shield has only faced the Red Sox three times in 2010, but held them to 4 hits and 2 runs and a .143 average in his only start against them at Tropicana Field on May 26th. Working in Shields favor is he is 2-1 against Boston this season and has held Boston to no Home Runs at home.


This series is going to be a bit of a :do or die” scenario for the Red Sox. They do not want to have to rely on any of the other American League East rivals to help their cause. This series might be all about the pride and the resolve of the Red Sox to show they can overcome and set the Rays down to get back into the Wild Card race.

If the Rays were to slip past Boston and sweep them in this home series, it could effectively put Boston near the double digit mark behind the Rays. This is going to be a great series, and one worth watching on ESPN on Sunday night.

Odd Thoughts with 30 Days Until Reporting Date


 

 
Holy Moly, in the last few days a lot of things have been coming up and out of the Tampa Bay Rays camp, But best of all, as of today, we have LESS than 30 days now until the boys’ hit the clay again in Port Charlotte, Florida for the first time. With this new Spring Training Complex comes new problems for the Rays players for the first time in their careers. This was the last team to report to their Spring Training home in the same town that they call home during the regular season. With the new complex a good hour and a half away from the St. Petersburg, Florida area, the guys might have to adjust to being away from the confines of their soft, warm beds for a month.

That can be a make or break moment for some teams. The aspect of not training locally has a double meaning for the Rays. First they are training this season south of their usual demographic area, and that will invite new fans from the reaches of the Port Charlotte, Naples and Fort Meyers areas to embrace the team and get more comfortable with the Rays. Considering that the Rays are establishing their Florida State League class A team here in the city will also help promote a hometown feel every year for the team as the local citizens get to know and watch their local guys move through the Rays system.



 


 


A baseball team to call you own can be a major thing for a city’s pride. It gives a town an outward appearance to the rest of the world as a destination and not just a name on a map. With the Rays playing in the sunny and beach-filled west coast of Florida, it will give people up north and in other regions of the country the chance to vacation during the cold spells and still have all the luxuries of Florida that the Tampa Bay area held for the Rays for over a decade in St Petersburg, Florida.  But the best thing it can do is help the local economy and boost a city’s morale and visual focus to the world.

 
 


Do not take that lightly, a lot of teams play their regular season games in town that have huge reputations, like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Detroit. Not only do these towns have long history with baseball and middle class America, but they have also trained in Florida for a long, long time. The aspect of escaping the snow, wind and sleet and have a month of warm sun and cool breezes can have a  rejuvenating effect on the mind and soul. Sometime you think that teams did it to get their minds set right and with the warm weather you tend to relax and want to work out and your worries tend to drift with the winds.



 


So here we are within sight of the guys stretching and throwing some long toss, and with that we will probably see some changes in  a few of the players physical states, and as always someone will have a different hairstyle or facial hair to show to the fans. It used to be Rocco Baldelli who has gone from baby faced peach fuzz, to a mustache on season, to a full grown Grizzly Adams rendition before finally shaving it in Seattle before his first start in 2008.

 

But the guy that will probably  command the most attention upfront will be Rays starting pitcher Scott Kazmir. As we know, Kazmir suffered from some elbow problem early in Spring Training in 2007, and in this off season decided to do a bit of working out and building himself up to a point where he was no longer going to be carded every time he went into a new place for dinner or a beverage. Kazmir has put on about 20 odd pounds on his frame, and his arms are showing the bulk of the change.


 

This can be a double-edged sword for a pitcher. With some added on muscle and weight, sometimes your old release points will seem a bit off and might even bring about a change in your delivery that can either hamper or help you velocity. Now this not to say that he will look like a Blue hulk, but even to consider Kazmir with a little extra muscle means we might be seeing him finally take that last step to wanting to be an elite pitcher in this league.

 

 


No one  has ever doubted his determination or his desire to be a great pitcher, but in the last few seasons, he has shown a bit of a vulnerable side due to arm situations, that thank goodness have not had lasting effects or brought up conditions that would limit his pitching beyond simple rest and flexibility training. This is a season where the youngest current member of the Rays rotation, and also the most experienced gets to lead by example and maybe finally take that last hurdle to become a household name in places besides Texas and Florida.

 

Kazmir has the likability and the up front bold and confident nature to speak his mind and back it up. Don not forget people, this is the guy who boldly said during last years Spring that the team would make the playoffs and go beyond. Such a statement at the time was met with snickers and belly chuckles. How could this young pitcher know more than the mass of sportswriters’ and columnists situated all over the green grasses. How could this pitcher, who was limited in his workouts make such a statement when he had to stand by and watch for a short period of time.
 


The boldness and the bravado of Kazmir was only a glimmer of the teams total personality in 2008, he portrayed and possessed the true spirit of this team in 2008, he was the young gun fighting for respect and nation-wide attention for the first time. Kazmir might not have been the poster boy for the Rays revolution, but he surely held one of it’s best weapon in his left shoulder. So is he the only one showing  off season commitment and possible advancements in his career in 2009?  He has another young player right there next to him that has been labeled a slacker and will transform to change his 2008 persona into a budding All Star.



 


 

 

People commented a lot last year that B J Upton looked like he was slacking off at the plate by not striding in and using his front shoulder to hit the ball for power. But these are the same people who maybe did not see that game in Baltimore when Upton went down in a heap and was in obvious pain due to his shoulder popping out of joint. It is a problem he has had his entire life, but in 2008, it became front and center to the world.  He played the entire 2008 season with a tear in his shoulder and did not make a big deal out of it to the media or the fans. 
 


When it finally came out that his power numbers were absent mostly due to that injury, people looked back and then remembered the incident and cut the guy some slack. It began to feel better about October of 2008, and Upton then went on a bit of a power tear showing that a healthy Upton is a productive Upton. In the off season, Upton underwent surgery to hopefully prevent the same injury from happening again. There are no 100 percent surgeries in life, but this one will help him develop that power stroke again that we saw in the playoffs. It will also help him relax a bit more at the plate and be able to take more pitches, which will make him more of a threat to walk and then steal bases in 2009.



 


 
 

But his progress has hit a bit of a snag, and he might not be able to swing as much as he would like in Spring Training. It is thought that he will be ready a week into the season, maybe after the team comes back from its first road trip through Boston and Baltimore. The prognosis is bad if you want a healthy Upton from game1, but isn’t it better that we have a 100 percent, ready to go Upton a week later than to maybe make him adjust and maybe even re-injure himself before he is ready.

 
 

Players’ make sacrifices all the time for the sake of the game and their teams. One week will not cost the Rays anymore than using another player in his spot for a few games, then they will have him back in center field patrolling the outfield for the rest of the season. I can wait for a healthy Upton. I also think this is the year he will awaken and raise a few eyes towards him finally taking steps to the All Star game and becoming that great player we all have seen in him since he first came up in September at the age of 17 with the Rays.



 


 

 

Life will be exciting in Tampa Bay in 2009. The team will strive nightly to bring home wins and also bring back the excitement of 2008. They will try and establish a winning baseball tradition in this area. Along with the joys and sorrows of 2009, we hope to see a few more of these guys take their games to the next level and establish themselves as players and competitors. 2009 is only 30 days away from starting its infancy, but in Tampa Bay, our team is all grown up and ready to take on the world………again.

 

 

“Rickey” Sprints into the Hall of Fame

 

 
 

 

For the next few days people all over the country, including sportswriters will be writing about their favorite Rickey Henderson moments either in stories or in his wild quotes.  Henderson along with former Red Sox Jim Rice were selected today for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Now I will not be there, but you can bet I will as close to a television set as possible during the Induction Ceremonies to hear the speech that might either shock or amuse baseball for the rest of the year. the biggest surprise to me is the fact that he did not garner more than 94.8 percent of the vote. Now I did not think he was going to challenge Tom Seavers 98.8 percent, but thought he might hit the 96 plateau without a hitch.
 

 
So why did some people not put him on their ballot? didn’t this guy change the way we look at fast hitters and basestealers in the MLB? Come on people the guy who is the career leader in runs scored and stolen bases by a huge margin is nothing more than a scrub to some BBWAA voters. Maybe some of the voices are right, maybe we need to tweak this system a bit and weed out some of the naysayers who look more at off the field actions than on the highlights accomplished on the field.

 



 

 
Is there any argument that Henderson  because of his power and ability to get on base ,could change a games complexity with a  single hit or a walk? Do you think that this one guy could be responsible for the induction of speed demons in the lead-off spot and not buried down in the 7,8, or 9 slots in a lineup? And do you think that Henderson might have viewed himself like a cartoon character to actually not be bothered by the critics and naysayers who thought he was a destroyer of the game?
 

The answer to all three questions is  a huge YES.


Henderson did change a pitchers’ mind when he was on base. It brought  into the pitchers’ mind that he could steal a base on any pitch. I did not matter if it was a 100 mph Fastball, change-up, curve, it made no difference to Henderson, any pitch was a good pitch to steal a base.  His power made you respect his plate discipline enough to not try and finesse a pitch up there, or you would be getting a fresh ball from the umpire.   Henderson went to the plate 10,961 times in his career. 

 

 

 


During his career from 1979 to 2003, Henderson had 3,055 hits, which in its own right should be a good consideration for the Hall of Fame. He hit 510 doubles and  66 triples. I think those numbers might have been a lot higher if he did not have a great thrill in running and stealing bases on any pitcher that took the mound. I could see him pull up at first or second base just so he could play that cat and mouse game with a pitcher then steal the base on him and give him that grin from the bag.

 
In his career he got 4,588 total bases.  He stole a grand total of 1,406 bases, and only got caught 335 times during his career. That seems like a low mark to be caught stealing, but Henderson made the act of stealing a base into an art form during his career. Think of the totals he would have left with if he had been active in the MLB, even at his advanced age. 
 

 

 


From 2000 on, he only appeared in over 100 games with one club. While he was with the San Diego Padres in 2000, he appeared in 123 and still stole 25 bases. But during his last year in the MLB, Henderson was mostly a bench player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and only made it into the game 30 times during the season. He did however steal 3 bases that year in his limited role.  But have to remember, not just did he have a few gray hairs by then, but defenses were setting up for him knowing he was in the game to get into scoring position and maybe score the winning run for his team.

 


 

 

I truly feel that the arrogance of stealing a base, along with is knack for sliding around the tags is the reason players like current Tampa Bay Rays speed demons Carl Crawford owe their careers to Henderson. Before Henderson made it an offensive weapon to truly steal a base with gusto, Lou Brock was the only other base stealer to command as much attention when on base.  But Henderson did something none of the other base stealers ever did, he tried to bait pitchers into balks and mis-throws to the plate based on his ability to steal and to take an edge off the team’s pitching game.

 

Henderson changed the lead-off position. Here was a guy who had 2,190 base on balls during his career, and could bring a new dimension to the game with four pitched balls. Every walk he was ever issued looked more like a doubler to him because he could steal a base and get into scoring position at any moment. Henderson also could hit the long ball. Lost in a lot of the translation into his base stealing is the fact he did hit 297 home runs in his career, mostly from the lead-off position. So as you can see, New York Met’s shortstop, Jose Reyes also owes a big round of applause to Henderson in making it fashionable to get dirty stealing bases in the MLB.




 

 

Now for why Henderson always talked about himself in the third-person. Some people have commented that it was a defense mechanism devised by someone for Henderson because it made his character on the field different than the man in the clubhouse after the game. It left him into a secondary world to rant, rave and just be “Rickey” while he wore the team’s colors. This might or might not be true, but if you really think about the image of being able to put your work suit on and take the punishments and the abuse while you are working, then shed those insults, opinions and wild lies when you toss them in the clothes hamper to be washed, it make a bit of sense.
 


Who among us would not relish a secondary personality or a persona that we could use at work and toss aside and forget the troubles and strife in a moments notice. This might not be the true reason for his third-person antics, but it does make good conversation for the next few months. But the antics and the stories concerning Henderson are many and both base in legend and in folly. 
 


But one of the best ones I ever heard was from a Oakland area sports story that told the story about the Oakland A’s front office finding a financial mistake in their bookkeeping. It was  showing that the team had a million dollars more than it was suppose to have in it’s coffers. After a series of check and double checks, it was concluded that they had only one conclusion to this error. A member of the Athletics management went down into the locker room and found Henderson and asked what he did with the $ 1 million dollar check the team had issued to him. Henderson remarked that he put the check under glass. Never cashed it, never even thought of the down the road consequences of the actions, just did what “Rickey” would do. 

 


 

 

I have a story of my own about Henderson based in 1984. I was a newly drafted snot nosed kid who came out to see a friend, Scott Hemond who was catching for the Oakland A’s at the time. I was in the locker room after a game and saw Henderson right before he left for the night. He was dressed to the nines, and I strolled up and introduced myself as a friend of Hemond’s and just wanted to tell him what a joy it was to watch him play baseball. 
 


He remarked how ” Rickey was happy he liked his personal style of play, but that Rickey did not like  to associate with friends of catchers’.”  It took me a second before I started to laugh and then remarked that was why I like “Ricky”, he was wihtout a doubt not predictable or even in the same league as the rest of us.   I saw him a few hours later when we went out to dinner, and Henderson came over and finally shook my hand and sat for a few moments talking to Hemond and some other players’ at the table. 
 


He finally got up and remarked to me, ” I hear you are fast?” I told him I could hold my own between the hash marks and on a  440 yard track. And then Henderson remarked,  ” Guess you never tried to push the bases around.” I only remarked that I played baseball from about 6 years old to college, but was never a demon on the base paths like him. Henderson in perfect “Rickey” form just muttered, ” There is only one Rickey, and he is leaving the building.”  I let out a huge belly laugh and pointed to him acknowledging his comment.

 


 


He was right, there is only one “Rickey.” No matter if you loved the way he played, or hated him for the flamboyant personality. The ability of this guy to get into a team’s head mentally made for a really exclusive career.  Thank goodness he is not the only one getting inducted on that Summer day. After his speech we will all need time to collect ourselves and get serious again. I do not know who will introduce him at the podium, but maybe he should research his stolen bases and find the pitcher he stole the most bases off of in his career.
 


The moment that guy steps to the mic, I will be glued to the television set watching him. Not since Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr gave their speeches when inducted have I waited for such a moment to happen. Those two men gave memorable speeches for different reasons. But you know that the world, and the entire baseball community are awaiting the final appearance of “Rickey” in all his glory and gruff. It will be an historical event that you do not want to miss.  Got to remember to TIVO that introduction.



 

We Still Get No Respect

 

Somewtimes it is just hard to get respect when you had a losing team for so long. I know the Buc and Lightning fans understand this bad aura that hangs over your team like a huge albatross. But with the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays to the top of the American League East Championship, and on the doorstep of leaning in for the big prize, how could this happen to our local paper.

I opened the local fishwrap, the St. Petersburg Times the other day and found a reamrkable sight. It was not a huge picture of the Rays celebrating a win, or a local politician with a mohawk. It was a simple crossword puzzle enjoyed by millions each day that is supplied to the paper by a publishing syndicate. Well, upon gazing at this great puzzle of black and white, I noticed one line that read “Home of the Rays” on  16 Across.

And what do you think I thought when the word “St Pete” would not fin into that space. I pondered and wondered what other city could be used in that spot. “Trop. City” was too big. “Title town” had the righr feel, but was also too bog. So I filled in lines 9 down and found that the town had to have a “T” in it.

Can you believe that the copy clerks at the St. Petersburg Times, or even at the original publication let this error fly all the way into our little nest. Imagine the embarrassment and the humiliation that the Mayor of St. Petersburg must be feeling. You see “St. Petersburg, Home of the Tampa Bay Rays” on a rolling banner behind home plate every game, yet this error is in out hometown newspaper.

Rodney Dangerfield has made a career and a living out of trying to get respect. I find it a bit funny that now the city that started the commercial airlines business and the air postal idea is being bookended with the town to our East again. Even though the town that is now St. Petersburg was once a part of Hillsbough county in the past, it was actually called Hillsbough Point until John Williams established the city of St. Petersburg among the orange groves and sandy beaches.

Maybe we have to win it all to get that respect and have people remember who we are in St. Petersburg. I know I was born here and always have showed alot of pride to be from Florida and St. Petersburg. I never said I was from Tampa Bay because that is a regional name and not a city name in the region. Guess we just have to hoist a World Series parade on ESPN with a huge marching band from St. Petersburg High School with the huge word blazoned on their lead banner “St. Petersburg, Florida” on it. But then again, the announcers will just say it is a city in Tampa Bay.

 

 

I have had a few people ask me for a prediction on the ALCS this year. I know that the Boston faithful who have read this have commented and been a bit one-sided, but then again I understand civic pride. So for me to comment would be kind of anti-climatic. You know who I am rooting for, and what I hope will be the end result.

To put a finite number on a game______ ending would just ruin the focal point of the whole thing. We might have been Playoff virgins in the beginning, but we are 4-1, just like you in the playoffs so far this year. We might not be the reigning “World Champions”, but that is okay. They always say that time brings about change. To put it lightly, did you really expect me to post that the Red Sox were a better team. I only see a few spots where they might have an edge outside of Fenway Park.

But to be totally honest with you, does it matter what the homefield would be right now. Based on the 2008 statistics, we went 8-1 against you at home, and might have only went 2-7 at Fenway, but who won the last @ game there this year? Base the ideal on who has the better Bullpen and it is very one-sided. You might have a dominant closer, but we have a reliever triade that has stopped powerful team in their tracks all year long.

Tell me your Red Sox guys will pop back at Grant Balfour when he gets into his four-letter word fiasco on the mound. I could see a 98 m.p.h. earmuff if that happen too much in this series. Remember, this team is not scared of the Red abd White anymore. They have their own dish of confidience and they are not afraid of anything or anyone at this moment.

I am expecting a huge amount of ticket scalping to go on for this game and the Boston faithful will be the ones helping the local economy this weekend. I know of a few people who are selling their $ 55.00 tickets in the Baseline Box area for over $200 dollars. The one thing Rays fans loved about ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush is he gave the little guy the voice to sell tickets above their face value again. Now, the Rays vs Red Sox matchup might not get the prices the Superbowl will get in a few months, but wait until the World Series, you might see a new high in Rays demand.

So, Boston fan, if you can’t get a seat in the Upper Deck for the ALCS, come on down to Ferg’s and enjoy the game with the locals. Or you can just retrats to your hotel’s cozy little fern bar and hope they will let you watch the game. Whereever you are at 8:37 p.m. tonight, you will hear a loud scream for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox have been a great team for the last 6 years, maybe it is time for the new world order to take over for a while………….It’s okay Boston, it will only hurt a little while……………Rays in 6 games 

Boston versus Rays Pregame Statistics for Game 1

Rays Versus Boston………..Game 1 statistics

 
 
This is not to say that this Boston series will be the most important series thae Rays will play the rest of the season. But, this series can set the tone for the rest of the year, and for the next re-match at the Trop in 10 days time. This series have a huge amount of weight on the side of Boston and Fenway Park, but the Rays have won in a few hostile enviorments this year.
 
Coming into tonight’s game, the Red Sox have a chance to set a new MLB consecutive sell-out mark with their 456 sold out event since May 15th, 2003. They will pass the previous record held by the Cleveland Indians at 7:05 P.M. tonight. The overall major sports sellout record is still a distance off for the Red Sox. The Portland Trailblazers of the NBA sold out 744 straight games from 1977-1995.
 
To say that Rays starter Edwin Jackson will be pitching in the game of his life is a true understatement here. Jackson, who is  11-9 is pitching in one of the most important games of the Rays season tonight.  Right now the seasonal series is deadlocked at 6-6, with each team winning the homestand games coming into tonight’s contest. The Rays have not played the Red Sox since they swept them at the Trop from June 29th-July 2, 2008.
 
The Rays come into Fenway having lost their last 8 stright games since September 10th, 2007. On that night, Scott Kazmir defeated Curt Shilling 1-0 for the last Rays win in Fenway Park. The 8 game losing streak matched the Rays prevoius record at Fenway set from July 19, 2005 to April 19, 2006. The Rays have been outscored 45-16 in their 6 losses at Fenway this season. This is also the 30th series against Boston at Fenway, and the Rays have only won 2 series in that time period, both in 1999. The Rays are currently on a 25 series losing streak against the Red Sox at home (0-21-4).
 
 
             Jon Lester is currently 13-5, with a 3.35 ERA for the Red Sox. Against the Rays this season, he is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA. He has allowed only 2 earned runs in the last 12.1 innings against the Rays.  And in his carreer, Lester is 3-0 with a 4.11 ERA with 16 ER in 35 innings against Tampa Bay. He is undefeated in his last 6 starts against the Rays, and had won the last 2 straight starts against them. In his last 4 starts against Tampa Bay, Lester is 3-0 with a 4.64 ERA and 11 ER in 21.1 innings.
 
Akinora Iwamura has gone 3-14 against Lester with 1 homer this season.
B J Upton has gone 4-16 against him with 1 homer.
Carlos Pena is batting .333 against Lester with 2 homers and 2 strikeouts.
Cliff Floyd is 0-2 against him, with 2 strikeouts.
Willy Aybar is 2-3 against Lester, with 2 doubles and a run scored against him.
Eric Hinske is 0-3 against him this season.
Dioner Navarro is 1-3 with 1 strikeout against him this year.
Jason Bartlett is batting .400 against him this season, with 1 strikeout.
 
 
 
                  Edwin Jackson is currently 11-9, with a 4.07 ERA for the Rays. In his 3 starts against the Red Sox this season, Jackson is 0-2, with a 6.19 ERA. Red Sox opponents are hitting .308 against him this year. He is 0-3 lifetime at Fenway Park with a 8.18 ERA in 5 (4 starts) career appearances. The Last time faced the Red Sox was on June 4, 2008 in Fenway and lost a 5-1 decision to John Beckett.
 
But recently Jackson has been pitching better than he has his entire career for the Rays. His road 3.16 ERA is the 9th best in the AL this season, and he is 6-3 on the road this year for the Rays.  In fact, he has pitched to a 2.99 ERA since July 1st, the 2nd best road ERA in the AL, just behind Cleveland’s Cliff Lee.  And he has allowed 1 Earned Runs or less in 11 starts this season.
 
Coco Crisp  has hit .357 against Jackson, with 1 RBI.
Jacob Ellsbury has hit .429, with 3 RBI’s ans 2 runs scored.
Mike Lowell has batted .278, with a double and a strikeout against Jackson.
David Ortiz has hit .455, with an RBI against Jackson.
Dustin Pedroria is hitting .364, with 3 RBI’s and a double and a strikeout.
Jason Varitek is hitting .154 with 2 strikeouts against Jackson.
Kevin Youkilis is hitting .143, with 2 strikeouts and a run scored against Jackson.
Jason Bay is  hitting .200 against Jackson.
Sean Casey is hitting .142 against Jackson.
 
 
This is a “MUST WIN” situation for the Rays to keep Boston at least 2 back in the standings. If the Rays can take this series, they can leave Boston with a minimum of a 2 1/2 game lead going into the Bronx against the Yankees. But I truly think the division will be decided in the Trop. with the 3 game there next Mon-Wed. But this series could take alot of the excitement out of that homestand if the Red Sox again sweep the Rays at home.
 
 
 
 
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