Results tagged ‘ Brandon Backe ’

Digging the Rays Past (1996)

 


Raysbaseball.com/MLB.com

Every once in a while I get into one of these research kicks where I want to find out once and for all if something could of, did not, or should of happen concerning the Tampa Bay Rays or any other team. The object of my well, obsession last night was to see if any of the 30 Major League Baseball squads ever attempted to draft current NFL hero and New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees in 1996, when he lettered in baseball at Westlake High School in Dallas,Texas.

So I went on a long and detailed journey checking out every name for almost 100 rounds of the 1996 MLB First Year Draft online, and actually did not find a single mention of the Brees name. Some people might consider this then a waste of time and energy, but I did find a few very interesting secondary targets, and even a score of former Rays players I did not know were initially drafted in 1996.

 
 

The 1996 MLB First YearDraft was actually the starting point for first year player selections ever by the then Tampa Bay Devilrays and it set into motion the initial formation of their minor league ranks in their farm minor league system, which today is considered by many to be the best in baseball. And along the way, I found 24 names listed on that year’s draft board that one day would don the Rays emblem across their chests during a Rays game. 

Most of the Rays faithful know that the D-Rays picked Raleigh, North Carolina native Paul Wilder with the 29th pick in the First Round of that initial draft. But did you know that the last Rays selection in that year’s Draft was High School outfielder Michael Rose from Dayton, Ohio with the 1,736th pick?

 

It was a wild night remembering names and also associating them with past great Rays moments. Out of that first 1996 draft, the highest selected pick from 1996 to don a Rays jersey was outfielder Alex Sanchez from Miami-Dade CC, but most of us might remember him better for the April 3,2005  MLB press release that he would be the first MLB player ever suspended for violating the MLB’s newly instituted drug policy.

Not a great way to be remembered, but Sanchez did not last long with the Rays despite an early 2005 .346 batting average. His wishy-washy defensive play and the suspension might have hastened the Rays to designate him for assignment on June 13th 2005.

 
 

Besides Wilder, there was another name drafted in associated with the D-Rays during that first draft when they selected then, Florida Gators quarterback Doug Johnson in the second round. Even though Johnson did sign and report to a minor league team, he never seems to gather enough mustard to rise through the D-Rays farm system, and finally concentrated his efforts more on staying healthy behind the NFL’s Atlanta Falcon’s offensive line. It was a calculated gamble by the Rays Front Office to try and get Johnson to fit into their system, but the young player always seemed to be more comfortable with a football helmet on his head than the baseball batting helmet.

But what is even more surprising is the large number of other players selected in that season’s draft who would end up one day playing in Rays gear. During the 1996 MLB Draft, other teams ended up selecting a total of 17 players who ended up sporting Rays gear during their playing careers. The highest profile player might be 1B Travis Lee, who was the second pick of the First Round by the Twins that season. Also former Rays players LHP Bobby Seay(CWS), INF/OF Damian Rolls(LAD) and P Nick Bierbrodt(AZ) were all First Round selections that at one point wore Rays colors.

 


AP file Photo 

But down the draft line there were also players like P Chad Bradford(CWS), LP Mark Hendrickson(TEX), P Joe Biemel(TEX), INF Brent Abernathy(TOR),3B/C Eric Munson(ATL) P Joe Nelson(ATL) C Robert Fick(DET),LP Casey Fossum(AZ), DH/1B Josh Phelps(TOR),OF Jason Conti(AZ), P Brandon Backe(MIL), P Ryan Rupe(KC) and P Tim Corcoran(NYM). It is a bit unusual for so many budding players to find their way onto one team and prosper during their careers, but at that time, Tampa Bay was a good starting place to establish yourself within Major League Baseball by showing a good foundation, then moving onto another team with experience under your belt.

 
 

It is funny now to also gather the names of other great players who also debuted  as professionals from that 1996 draft.  Later Round selected Players like Astros P Roy Oswalt(23rd Rd), Cubs P Ted Lilly(23rd Rd),current Free Agent reliever Kiko Calero(27th Rd) just among the top 30 rounds of the draft. The you have guys like Yankee OF Marcus Thames(30th Rd), Indians DH Travis Hafner(31st Rd), Twins 2B Orlando Hudson(33rd Rd), rehabbing P Chris Capuano(45th Rd) and Nats INF Eric Bruntlett(72nd Rd).
 
 

But if you like to win odd baseball Trivia Questions, then I have one for you. You can win some major food or drink concessions (I have) by remembering that the D-Rays reliever Travis Phelps, who was drafted in the 89th Round , and the 1,720th player selected that season is the latest draft pick to ever don a Major League Baseball uniform. And because MLB restructured the Draft since his selection, he will be the answer to that Trivia Question forever. Easy pickings unless you are at a SABR Convention.

But he is not the only D-Rays player selected from that initial 1996 Draft to make it to the professional level and put on the jersey of the team that selected him. He shares that honor with current Rays reliever P Dan Wheeler( 34th Rd), P Mickey Callaway(7th Rd), P Delvin James(14th Rd), and last, but not least, 3B Jared Sandberg(16th Rd). Sandberg also went on to coach in the Rays farm system, and will be the head man with the Hudson Valley Renegades (oh yeah!). This will be Sandberg’s third season coaching in the Rays farm system.

 


 TBO.com file Photo

So last night’s scavenger search brought up some interesting surprises, and also a few great Rays moments for me to envision again within my imagination. It is kind of wild that Rays reliever Wheeler is the lone Rays representative from that initial farm system class of then D-Rays left within the Rays roster. And what it must feel like for him to be here during the lean times, then go away and experience a World Series berth(Astros), then come back and see this Rays organization that drafted him also feel that rush of emotions in securing their first Playoff berth and run towards the 2008 World Series with Wheeler in the Bullpen enjoying the view from field level.

 
 

And there was one more name that was hidden among the mass quantity of names in that 1996 Draft that totally shock and awed me. Hidden way back in the 59th Round, and selected by the Seattle Mariners was a young pitcher named Barry Zito. Some people say that if you fall under the 20th Round in any year’s MLB Draft, your odds greatly swing downward to ever see the light of day as an MLB player at a Major League ballpark. So many of the above mentioned MLB players fell below that invisible line and are living proof that will, determination and great talent can not always get you to the show. Sometimes you need a lucky rabbit’s foot too…….Right Barry?

Rays Score 10 runs in Fourth Inning to Crush Astros

 

 
 
If you have noticed, I do a inning-by inning rundown on my blogs during the Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training games this year. The reason I am doing this is because the majority of these games are not online, or even on television, and you might not get the full effect of how the innings were progressing by the written newspaper articles. So I have decided to go batter-by batter to give both Rays fans and others an opportunity to see how the games progressed from the first pitch to the last out. I will not be doing the same during the season since the television and the many broadcast sports shows that are geared towards  mostlyhighlights will show these plays again in their broadcasts. So this is the style I am only using in the Spring Training phase of the 2009 Rays season. During the regular season I will be providing a different approach to the games.
 
  

 

 
 
So here we are at Charlotte Sports Park taking in a windy and chilly day at the ball park.  MLB Network is setting up and will be doing interviews throughout the game with fans and players down the right field line.  I do not get MLB Network on my cable provider ( even though I have offered to play more), so if you see my mug on the television, leave me a comment. I did go down and chat a bit with Harold Reynolds before the game, and really like the way he is thinking about this team for 2009. But I do agree wholeheartedly that we will not sneak up on anyone this year, and that might be a good thing.
 

 
But while I am sitting here freezing a bit, I decided to go to www.houstonchronicles.com and see what kind of action they might be portraying for this game. What I found was a website poll asking people to vote for their top 10 All-Time Rice University players. Well, the Rays had one representative in their pre-selected 10 for you to choose from online. Jeff Niemann, the starter in today’s game was pre-ranked by the newspaper as the 6th best player out of Rice. What I found interesting is that team mate Wade Townsend was not even on the list, but third member of that great NCAA Championship squad, Philip Humber was listed. Also missing from the list was former Ray Norm Charlton, who I hear had a monster time as a Rice pitcher.

 
 
                          


So here we are at Charlotte Sports Park getting ready for our only game against the Houston Astros this spring. The breeze has picked up a bit in the last 10 minutes, and might make for some interesting catches on fly ball hit deep into the outfield today. Starting for the howe town Rays will be Jeff Niemann, who has been pretty tough this spring on the mound for the team. He is fighting for that number 5 slot in the rotation that seems to be boiling down to him and maybe Jason Hammel at this time. But another great game by Carlos Hernandez could boost him name back into the thought process of the Rays staff before April.

 

 
 
Even after impressive outings by Wade Davis against the New York Yankees in Tampa, and yesterday in Jupiter against the St. Louis Cardinals might not keep his ticket from being punched for Triple-A Durham for the beginning of the season. But one thing is clear about Davis. He is a better pitcher this time around than a year ago. He has better control of his breaking balls and is getting pretty confident with that new change-up. He might not see the majors until September 1st, but after this year he might be another Rays that will be hard to keep down on the farm in 2010. Mitch Talbot had done a good job this year, but is not ready for the daily grind of the majors either in the Bullpen or the rotation. That should put those three guys in the mix for that last coveted rotation position.
 

Niemann took the mound today and gave up a lead-off single to Michael Bourn. The single was a slow roller to Jason Bartlett at shortstop that he could not get into his hand in time to get the speedy Bourn at first base.  Bourn then decided to test Niemann’s arm and stole second base to put himself in scoring position early in the inning.  Niemann settled down a bit and got Edwin Maysonett to strikeout. Darin Erstad then came up and hit a high towering fly ball to right field that Gabe Kapler took off the wall for the second out of the inning. Jason Michaels came up and Niemann quickly put him away by striking him out finish the inning.
 

Brandon Backe, the ex-Ray took the mound for Houston today and gave up a double to Bartlett to lead-off the game. Bartlett kept strolling farther and farther off the bag and finally Backe tried to pick him off at second, but the throw was a bit off and rolled into center field. Bartlett advanced to third and Backe received an error on the throw. Carl Crawford and Ben Zobrist quickly both struck out to give Backe control of the inning. Pat Burrell came up with Bartlett only 90 feet away for the early lead and walk to put men on the corners for Kapler. He could not capitalize and the Rays let two men on base, and let Backe get out of the first inning with no runs scored against him.

 
In the top of the second inning,  Niemann went back to work and got  Designated Hitter David Newhan for a fast out before setting down both Chris Johnson and Jason Smith with two straight strikeouts.  With the 1-2-3 inning, it seemed that Neimann was in control of the game for the Rays.  The team sent up Dioner Navarro to face Backe first in the second inning. Backe quickly got Navarro out on strikes and was setting a fast tone for the contest. Adam Kennedy, who was playing third for the first time in the majors, hit into a 4-3 out. Ray Sadler then came on and hit a rocket at about shoe level towards Maysonett who snagged the ball for the third out and send the Rays down 1-2-3 in their half of the inning.
 

The third inning saw Niemann take the mound again and  he got Mark Saccomanno to hit a deep ball to center that was easily caught by Sadler. J P Towles, who will be counted on to win the catchers battle got fooled on a split finger fastball for an easy strikeout. Bourn then came up and walked to put a man on base with two outs. He again stole second base off Niemann and Navarro. The steal was his fourth of the spring. Maysonette hit a low liner down the third baseline that Kennedy had a bit of the glove on, but could not squeeze it in and it rolled down to left field. Bourn scored on the play and gave Houston an early 1-0 lead. Erstad then hit a fly ball to Sadler in center to end the inning.
 

In the Rays b
ottom of the third, Backe took the mound again and gave up a towering home run to Reid Brignac on the first pitch of the inning. Brignac broke an 0-11 mark this spring with the round tripper. Bartlett then hit the first pitch he saw to get on base for the Rays.  Backe then walked both Crawford and Zobrist before leaving the game. Samuel Gervacio came in with the bases loaded and no outs. He walked Burrell, Kapler and Navarro to put the Rays in front 7-1 at the moment. Astros Manager Cecil Cooper had seen enough and replaced him with Polin Trinidad. He started out the same as the other two Houston pitchers, walking Kennedy and then giving up a 2-RBI double to Sadler down the left field line.

 

Brignac then came back up in the inning, and got struck out to stop the Rays merry-go-round. Bartlett, who finished the day going 3-3, then hit a single to right field to score another run for the Rays. Trinidad then got Crawford to strikeout for the second out of the inning. Zobrist then came up and hit a ball that split the Houston outfielders for a 2-run double. Cooper again came out to the mound and took the ball from Trinidad. He put in Jeff Fulchino who got Burrell on a called third strike to end the Rays rally. In that inning, the Rays sent 14 men to the plate and scored 10 runs on 5 hits and 6 walks.

 

        
 

The Rays sent Brian Shouse out for the fourth inning with a 9 run lead. Michaels started the inning of with a single and David Newhan hit a liner to right field that Kapler quickly came up firing towards third and got Michaels before he could touch the bag. It was a screaming throw that easily got the runner at third base. With Kapler fighting for the position in right field, this will show Rays Manager Joe Maddon that he has two great arms to platoon with in right field this year.  Shouse got Chris Johnson to strikeout and got Smith to hit a fly to left to end the Houston scoring chances.
 

The Astros sent Fulchino back out in the bottom of the 4th inning. He quickly got an out on Kapler. Navarro then came up and hit a double to get himself into scoring position for the Rays. Kennedy then hit a squib hit down to first that Saccomanno took himself, but the play moved Navarro to third base. Sadler then came on and hit a RBI double to score Navarro and put the Rays up 11-1 in the game. Brignac came on and struck out to end the Rays fourth inning.

 
Saccomanno came out first in the inning and hit a ball back to Randy Choate, who had come on for the Rays. Choate got the ball and threw to first to Zobrist to get Saccomanno in time. Towles  then walked to give Houston a base runner in the inning. Bourn then hit another short ball to Choate, who turned and fired to Brignac at second to force out Towles. Maysonette then commited the third out to get Chaote out of the inning clean for the Rays.  Fulchino again came out for Houston and  got Rays Olmedo on a grounder to second, Crawford on a grounder to shortstop for two quick outs. Zobrist then hit a hard grounder to short, but was also out at first in time to send the Rays down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning.

 


 

The Rays sent Dewon Day out to the mound for the sixth inning and he quickly got Erstad to hit a grounder to Zobrist that he stepped on the bag to complete an unassisted play at first base. Michaels then quickly converted a second out and Newhan struck out to send the Astros down 1-2-3 for only the second time today.  Promising non-roster invitee Bud Norris then came out for Houston and dominated the bottom of the sixth inning. He got Burrell to hit a soft fly ball to left field for the first out. He then got Kapler inside to hit a foul pop-up that Towles got without problems. He then struck out Fernando Perez, who is hitting only .167 this spring for the third out and another 1-2-3 inning for Houston pitching.
 

Jason Childers then  took the mound for the Rays and Johnson led off the inning with a single to center field. Smith then struck out for the first out. John Gall then came up and hit a single to left field to move Johnson to second and put two Astros on base in the inning.  Humberto Quintero then came up and hit  a ball down to third that Chris Nowak stepped on the bag to force out Johnson, then fired the ball to Brignac to complete a double play and get Childers out of the inning.  Norris came out again for the Astros and got Tim Beckham to hit a grounder to short that was quickly converted into the first out of the inning. Sadler then came out and hit another ball that was quickly thrown to first. John Jaso then came up and hit another ball towards short that was converted to give the Astros now 3 straight 1-2-3 innings against the Rays since their blow out inning.
 

Childer again took the mound for the Rays and gave up a lead-off single to Reggie Abecrombie. Maysonette then got another single to put two men on with no outs. Brian Bogusevic then came up and hit  a short grounder to Childer who turned and fired to Richard at first for the first out.  Matt Kata then came up and struck out. that was the end of the day for Childers as Maddon brought in 2008 Rule-5 pitcher Derek Rodriguez to finish out the inning. Rodriguez needed to have a good outing to keep himself in camp. He got Brain Esposito to ground back to him and he quickly got the ball to Richard to get the Rays out of the inning with no runs scored against them.
 

Danny Graves took the mound in the bottom of the eight inning for the Astros. Graves is the only Vietnamese-born player to every play in the MLB.  He quickly got Olmedo to fly out to third base. Elliot Johnson then came up and hit a long fly to center field that Abecrombie got with no problems for the second out. Richard then came up and hit a deep ball to center that it seemed that Abecrombie has in his glove, but it was seen dropping to the grass for an error on the play. Matt Spring the
n came up as a pinch hitter and hit a RBI double down the third baseline to score Richard.  Grave got Nowak to hit a ball to short that Maysonette quickly converted to stop the Rays rally. At this point, the score was 12-1 Rays.

 

In the top of the ninth inning, the Rays sent out Rodriguez again. He got Esposito to hit a soft grounder to Beckham at short, who quickly threw to get him for the first out.  Smith then walked on 5 pitches and the Astros had man on for the third inning in a row. Gall then hit a single to right field to put two men on the in the last inning. Abecrombie then hit a single that scored Smith. But Rodriguez got out of the inning when Maysonette hit a ball towards Beckham, who tossed the ball to E. Johnson at second to force out C. Johnson for the last out of the game.

 


 

A couple of Rays players were working in unfamiliar position today, but none committed errors. Adam Kennedy was playing third base for only the first time in his major league career. He did have one ball squirt by him today, but he did man the hot corner today for the Rays. Zobrist was manning first today for the first time this spring and also did a great job defensively for the Rays. Brignac was again at second base and this might be a sign of things to come for the Rays. With Bartlett manning a secure shortstop position, Brignac might have to adjust to playing second in Triple-A to get a shot again in 2009 with the Rays.
 

Tomorrow the Rays do not play a Grapefruit League team. Instead they will have their only World Baseball classic tune-up game against Team Puerto Rican at Charlotte Sports Park.  the team is expected to send Mitch Talbot ( RH ) to the mound tomorrow with  Lance Cormier ( LH ), Winston Abreu ( RH ), and Chad Orvella ( RH ) scheduled to pitch in the Rays first night game, which will start at 7:05 pm.
 

The Puerto Rican team has a wealth of big name hitter and pitchers coming to Port Charlotte, tomorrow. They will be led by three  excellent MLB level catchers in St Louis Cardinals starter Yadier Molina, National League Rookie of the Year, Geovany Soto of the Chicago Cubs and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. they will be catching pitches from the likes of  Frenando Cabrera, Javier Lopez, J C Romero, Ian Snell and Javier Vazquez.

Some of the heavy hitter in the infield for Team Puerto Rico will be Carlos Delgado, Alex Cora, Andy Gonzalez and Felipe Lopez. In the outfield they will have Carlos Beltran, Alex Rios and Bernie Williams.  this will be the first game type action for Williams since he left the New York Yankees in at the end of 2007. the team should have great hitting matched with good starting and relief pitching. They will play their first contest on March 7, 2009 against Team Panama in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

 
Photo Credits today got to:  Dirk Shadd of the St. Petersburg Times, and the Rice University Archives
 

Do You Still Cheer for your Ex-Players?

 
 



I decided to venture over to Myspace the other day to check my
mail and maybe tweak my profile a bit when I noticed that I had a message. I
clicked on it and lo and behold had an email from the Cowbell Kid. Now anyone
who knows me will tell you I had a few small run ins with him, but nothing
serious about respect for the game and some behavior I heard about in the past. 
But I do have to throw this compliment out there to him, he has made efforts to
clean and polish his act up a bit since late last year, and for that I sit back
and say thank you.

 



Everyone
who has ever taken in a game at the Trop will know that he was famous, or
infamous for yelling at players during Batting Practice about certain
inconsistent behaviors in their past or in their playing styles. It is no secret
that he got more than one player a bit upset. I personally know of one incident
last year that got one player almost to the point of jumping into the stands and
taking him on during a weekend series against the Astros. I am not going to name
the player, but if you were at the Trop that Saturday night, you know who he is
by the yelling and screaming go to and from the
field.

 



But that
was part of his game psyche, to try and get into the head of mostly the
relievers or right fielder in the league. Now there have been a few moments
where personal stuff might have popped down between himself and another player
that were not above board, but that is in the past, and that play is no longer
on the New York Yankees, so it is in the vault with the rest of the deeds. But
since that has been one of his focal points over the year, he emailed me with a
problem he is just now starting to develop because of some recent trades or
actions by the Rays to change their
roster.

 



I am
going to take the quote directly from his email so you can see that I am not
making this up, or trying to embarrass him. He said, “Here’s where it gets
tricky I have grown fond of some of the players that will no longer be a part of
our team, usually I will abuse any opposing players just because they are not on
the Rays team! But because of the respect some of these guys have gained in my
eyes I am going to have to be selective about my targets. ( never thought that
would ever be a problem for me ) oh well .”

 



And I
know that will be a problem for him in 2009 and the season that will go on for
the Rays. I know he has a fond friendship and a game day type of bond with
former Rays players like Jonny Gomes, who is now with the Cincinnati Reds, and
Rocco Baldelli, who is now a dreaded Boston Red Sox. Because he is one of the
most vocal fans about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, it is going to be
interesting what will happen during B P in 2009. But then again, he will also
see Gomes during Spring Training games, and it might be a tense moment for him
to see Jonny in red and white for the first
time.



 


 


I know I
have had the same situation since the Rays began play. I would begin to talk
with a player and develop a bit of dialogue and when they were in the Bullpen or
out in right field I used to chat it up with them a bit, but when they left, I
did not stop trying to chat with them. My reasoning for this is that we are both
in love with the same thing………Baseball, and that common ground has a huge
amount of conversational pieces. A great example is former Rays right fielder
Jose Guillen. I used to yell out to him every game and even try and tell him if
a player was taking a wild turn at this if the ball came into the corner near
my seat.

 



It was
not to confuse or to even play coach, but to be his eyes when he had his back to
the field. I got to know him better and every time he comes back into the Trop.,
he comes over and say hello. Other players like Shawn Camp, who is now with the
Toronto Blue Jays have come over and shook hands and then got to their business.
But the best at keeping his old Tampa Bay baseball friendships up was former
Rays catcher Toby Hall. Every time the Chicago White Sox came into town, he would
stroll down to the corner and we would talk about his time in Chi-town and how
his kids were growing. Hall and I never went out fishing or even for more than
beers at Ferg’s, but we always seemed to have time to talk even during games
when he was in the Bullpen.

 

It is a
fine line and a personal choice if you want to remain friends or just change it
to a buddy who plays for the enemy. I was talking with former Rays player Joey
Gathright about that last year after a game and he said that it was tough
sometimes to come back here and see the people who cheered for him now booing
some of his actions. But he also knows that he can not pull punches or even
slack off a moment in front of his former home crowd or it would give them
another reason to boo louder to him. And there lies the problem. Can we as fans
of our team separate the player from the team, or are they a whole not matter
what?

 



Everyone
takes that problem and decides for themselves.  I stood up and cheered for Texas
Ranger outfielder and former Rays Josh Hamilton the first time he came up to bat
at the Trop., and I am not ashamed of it at all. Some things happen in life that
you need to celebrate or show your appreciation to a player. The first time
Rocco Baldelli comes to bat I will also stand and clap. It is my way to salute a
great player that we will miss not only in the lineup, but talking with
field-side before the games. But then  again, I have also mourned the loss of
two great former Rays players who I think were stand up guys and died way before
their times.



 

 

 



I am
speaking of former Rays pitchers Joe Kennedy and Cory Lidle. I am not going to
go into the moments or the reason for their deaths, but they were moments that
made me question baseball and life in general for a moment in time. I was not a
close friend of either guy, but we did have conversations and used to talk down
in the Checkers Bullpen area any time they came into the Trop. It was a baseball
buddy kind of bonding that you just wanted them to be successful and have a
great life. I have written blogs about each of them, and my blog to Lidle was my
first sports entry in years on my old Myspace page. I have since removed the
posting and it is sitting in my blog scrapbook where only I can read it
now.

 



So it is
now my place to celebrate baseball, and when it comes to our former players, I
try and keep in touch with them when they come into the Trop. Be is chatting
with Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch, who last year told me about his new
home purchase in a great area west of Pinellas Park, Florida, or Brandon Backe
standing there talking with a group of Rays fans talking about nothing in
general, but loving every minute of it. So do we as fans, try and keep these
small friendships or baseball buddy situation alive and well, or do we let them
die because they are playing for another
team?

 
I choose
to decide on a individual basis. There are players who I do not chat with that I
used to laugh at jokes with and see outside the stadium all the time. Even if
the player did not leave here without throwing insults or comments at the team’s
management, I do not hold them accountable because they spoke their minds and
the issue is closed. But it is hard to gain some face time with a player and get
to know them and then they get traded or sign as a free agent somewhere else.




 
But my
best example might be Rays relievers Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller. I was not
close to either of these guys the last time they were here. We would exchange
comments and glances as they passed my seat, but it was not until they came back
to Tampa Bay after stints with the Houston Astros that the respect and the bond
grew. Every day they would pass my seat area and we would chat with them for a
few moments, and during the year, if I missed a game , they noticed and asked me
where I was, like friends sometimes do. And that meant a lot to me. But it was
the day after the Rays clinched their first playoff berth that really set the
tone for me with my Bullpen guys.

 
 


 



I was
given one of the champagne bottles used in the celebration by a member of the team, and I asked Wheeler
if he would mind signing it for me. He took the bottle back in its bag and it
stayed back there for about 4 innings. He ended up having everyone in the Rays
Bullpen sign that bottle and then brought it back to me. I stood there and just
stared at the bottle for a bit then remembered why I like to talk to these guys.
They are good people, and even the short times we chat with them are remembered.
Guess sometimes there can be bonds outside the foul lines in baseball. So with
that, here is a question for you. Do you maintain your friendships and
conversation with your ex-players, even if they are playing for a division
rival?



All pictures used in this blog were obtained from the RRCollections.





 
 

Tendering Some Love to the Players…….Tendered Players 2008

 

 

The Greatest thing a player can learn on a day like today is how much his club loves what he does on the field for them. But sometimes even that get a bit blurred and the images seems to fade a bit before the reality comes that you either have a new start somewhere else, or you contact your old team and see if they just wanted you at a cheaper price.

 

Every December 12th, the MLB goes through this  sadistic tactic of non-tendering and tendering contracts to the arbitration eligible players on their rosters. Some people are shoe-ins to get picked up because of talent or maybe even a low cost towards the next year budget. Others are looked at under a microscope and the decisions might come down to dollar signs and not talent or ability.

 

 

                  

 

 

That is the sad reality of this date. You could be an up and coming talent, or a veteran that just had an off year and you could be looking for a job in a heartbeat after midnight tonight.  Also, just because they decided to offer you a contract doesn’t mean that the wheels stop turning and you might still be dealt to another team and they will make the decision on your fate again, and maybe at a financial disadvantages.

 

So on and on tonight I will be adding to this blog until I have a final idea of who, what where, when and why might pop up and bite some unsuspecting player on the buttock. Seriously here, there will be some surprises tonight. Some players might be getting held ransom for a financial sacrifice, while other might be rewarded for unforeseen changes in their game or ability. Which ever come about, it is not the end of the world or a career with any of the players tonight.

 

 

                                     

 

Everyone will find a place to play in 2009, it might not be the town you are currently playing in, but it also might turn into the best decision of your life. Just because you came up with a certain club does not mean that there are not other staffs or coaches’ salivating that your name is on the list tonight. People always have choices in life. The path we take is not predestined as many believe, but they are earmarked with signs and signals we either adhere to or avoid.

 

The players on this list still have had the honor to play at a level that few people ever achieve in life, on or off the ball field. And with that in mind, you have to remember the sacrifices and the sweat and tears that got you to this level will be rewarded again.

 

So as we embark on this night when some believe a dream has ended, you have to remember that through every closed door there is another opportunity maybe even down the hall. Here is the list of the guys who got the love and admiration of their clubs tonight. This list will be in no certain order, but will be update throughout the night.

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays:

Gabe Gross                                        ( OF )

Dioner Navarro                                  ( C )

Jason Barlett                                     ( SS )

Willy Aybar                                       ( INF )

Grant Balfour                                    ( RP )

 

 

Kansas City Royals:

Esteban German                              ( INF )             1-year contract

John Buck                                       ( C )

Mike Jacobs                                    ( INF )

Mark Teahen                                   ( OF )

Brian Bannister                                ( SP )

Kyle Davies                                      ( RP )

Jimmy Gobble                                 ( SP )

Zack Greinke                                   ( SP )

Joel Peralta                                      ( RP )

       

 

 

Florida Marlins:

Jorge Cantu                                      ( 3 B )

Dan Uggla                                        ( 2 B )

Cody Ross                                        ( OF )

Jeremy Hermida                               ( OF )

Rick Nolasco                                    ( SP )

Josh Johnson                                   ( RP )

Alfredo Amezaga                             ( RP )

Logan Kensing                                 ( RP )

Dallas McPherson                             ( INF )

 

 

Philadelphia Phillies:

Shane Victorino                               ( OF )

Ryan Howard                                    ( 1 B )

Ryan Madson                                   ( RP )

Jayson Werth                                   ( OF )

Eric Bruntlett                                   ( INF )                   1-year contract

Clay Condrey                                   (  RP )                  1-year contract

Joe Blanton                                      ( SP )

Cole Hamels                                      ( SP )

Greg Dobbs                                      ( INF )

Chad Durbin                                    ( RP ) 

 

 

Seattle Mariners:

Eric Bedard                                     ( SP )

Aaron Heilman                                (SP, RP ) 

Felix Hernandez                              ( SP )

 

 

San Diego Padres:

Scott Hairston                                  ( OF )

Luis Rodriguez                                ( INF )

Jody Gerut                                       ( OF )

Heath Bell                                        ( RP )

 

 

Atlanta Braves:

Kelly Johnson                                   ( INF )

Matt Diaz                                          ( OF )

Jeff Francoeur                                  ( OF )

Mike Gonzalez                                 ( RP )

Omar Infante                                    ( INF )

Casey Kotchman                              ( 1 B )

 

 

Boston Red Sox:

Kevin Youkilis                                ( 1B )

Jonathan Papelbon                        ( RP )

Javier Lopez                                  ( RP )

 

 

Minnesota Twins:

Jason Kubel                                   ( D H )

Matt Guerrier                                 ( RP )

 

 

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Russell Martin                                ( C )

Andre Ethier                                  ( OF )

Johnathan Broxton                        ( RP )

 

 

Oakland Athletics:

 Rob Bowen                                   ( C )          $ 535,000    1-year contract

Justin Duchscherer                        ( SP )

Jack Cust                                      ( OF )

 

 

Chicago White Sox:

Dewayne Wise                              ( OF )              1-year,  $ 550,000 contract

Wilson Betemit                            ( INF )              1-year    $ 1.3 Million contract

 

 

Detroit Tigers: 

Ramon Santiago                           ( INF )           1-year  $ 825,000 contract

Marcus Thames                             ( OF )

Fernando Rodney                          ( RP )

Bobby Seay                                   ( RP )

Joel Zumaya                                 ( RP ) 

Justin Verlander                            ( SP )

Edwin Jackson                              ( SP,RP )

 

 

Cleveland Indians:

Kelly Shoppach                              ( C )

 

 

Chicago Cubs:

Chad Gaudin                                  ( RP )               1-year  $ 2 million contract

Ronny Cedeno                               ( INF )

Reed Johnson                                ( OF )

Neal Cotts                                      ( RP )                1-year  $ 1.1 million contract 

Mike Wuertz                                  ( RP ) 

Kevin Gregg                                  ( RP )

 

 

San Francisco Giants:

Jack Taschner                                ( RP )

 

 

Toronto Blue Jays:  

Jason Frasor                                  ( RP )

Brian Tallet                                    ( RP )

Brandon League                            ( RP )

Jose Batista                                   ( INF )

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Nate McLouth                                ( OF )

Adam LaRoche                             ( 1 B )

Ryan Doumit                                 ( C )

Zack Duke                                    ( SP )

John Grabow                                ( RP )

Tyler Yates                                    ( RP )

Paul Maholm                                ( SP )

 

 

St Louis Cardinals:

Rick Ankiel                                  ( OF )

Chris Duncan                               ( OF )

Todd Wellemeyer                        ( RP )

 

 

Colorado Rockies:

Garrett Atkins                               ( 3 B )

Clint Barmes                                 ( 2 B )

Jorge De La Rosa                          ( SP )

Taylor Buchholz                           ( RP )

Jason Grilli                                   ( RP )

Huston Street                                ( RP )

 

 

Cincinnati Reds:

Edwin Encarnacion                       ( INF )

 

 

Milwaukee Brewers:

Seth McClung                                  ( SP, RP )

Prince Fielder                                  ( 1 B )

Rickie Weeks                                  ( 2 B )

J J Hardy                                        ( S S )

Corey Hart                                       ( OF )

Dave Bush                                       ( SP )

 

 

Washington Nationals:

Ryan Zimmerman                         ( 3B )

Josh Willingham                          ( OF )

Scott Olsen                                   ( SP )

Shawn Hill                                    ( RP )

Willy Harris                                  ( SS )                           2-year  $ 3 million 

 

 

Houston Astros:

Brandon Backe                              ( SP )

Geoff Geary                                   ( RP )

Wandy Rodriguez                          ( SP )

Tim Byrdak                                   ( RP )

Jose Valverde                                ( RP )

Humberto Quintero                        ( C )

  

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Chone Figgins                              ( 3 B )

Robb Quinlan                               ( INF )

Maicer Ituris                                 ( INF )

Ervin Santana                              ( SP )

Mike Napoli                                 ( C ) 

 

 

 

As tonight comes to a close at midnight, the name will still be pouring in and this liost might not be totally complete by tomorrow afternoon. But I will do my best to be sure that you all have the latest listing of all players tendered contracts on December 12th.

 

I will also so a listing of the players who are deemed free agents now that their respective teams have put them on the open market. That listing might be a bit different as I want to block everyone into their respective positions, instead of teams for the non-tender list.

 

I will have that listing working by tomorrow afternoon and I have not decided yet if I might make prediction on what might happen to those players. As the night grows and the list gets longer, I will determine if that would be entertaining and informative to all of you.

 

 

 

Love Me Non-Tender Candidates 2008…Part One

 

 

 

After all the Post season celebration have muffled to a silent roar, we embark on a journey that no player wants to roam. That journey down the road of arbitration. Where the road is lined with pitfalls and traps, one of tendering offers or letting the players kneel by the wayside to gather themselves after being cast off by their clubs. It is a time to reflect and expose the best and worst of this time of year for baseball. It becomes the time when you really know what your team GM and your coaching staff think of you as a productive member of their franchise. And the journey starts now……………….

 

 On this date, Friday, December 12th, every team in the major leagues must decide to either tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, or set them free as more glut in the 2009 free agent market. And while in past years the non-tendered players weren’t considered to be difference-makers, the list could be more interesting this year.  There are several players on this list who either had bad situation on their teams or might have been fighting back from injuries in 2008.

 

Players who are “tendered” on Friday are considered signed for 2009 at a salary to be determined, not less than 80 percent of his salary the previous season, and both sides continue negotiating. If a deal cannot be struck, the team and the player will each file a proposed 2009 salary in early January. Those figures are exchanged on Jan. 19, and a date for a salary arbitration hearing is then set for Feb. 1-21. 

 

If the sides still cannot come to terms before the date of the hearing, a representative for the team and one for the player present a case before a panel of arbiters, which chooses one salary or the other.  On the other hand, if a player is not tendered a contract before Friday’s deadline, he becomes a free agent.

 

A nationwide economic downturn has affected how Major League Baseball teams are conducting business, and in an effort to cut corners, the number of non-tendered players could increase, based solely on the market’s projected rise in their salaries based on arbitration data and past results.. The same can be said for the quality of those players. Some of the guys being considered for non-tender have been great contributors to their teams in the past, but not during the 2008 season.

 

Past  players non-tendered include David Ortiz, Rick Ankiel, Ryan Franklin, David Eckstein, and Chad Durbin.  Usually at least a few useful guys are unearthed. I am going to submit a few names that are being considered to be non-tendered starting at midnight tonight. Some of these names might sign free agent contracts with their old teams, but usually if a player is released from that team, they tend to float to another organization instead of resign with their old clubs.

 

Coming into the deadline are a few names that might mean somehting to several Tampa Bay Rays fans. A few names from the past are being considered to be non-tendered tonight. One of them is currently on the Rays roster and might have been pre-destined for this list during the season with the acquiring of Gabe Gross during the season.

 

 

                          

 

 

Designated Hitter/ Right-fielder Jonny Gomes has been the emotional sparkplug of this Rays young team for several seasons. But in 2008, after some spotty play in the outfield, both in left-field and right-field. Posting a ugly .167 batting average during the season might not bode well for Gomes to even be considered a contract in 2009. But one of the great facts of arbitration is that Gomes made $ 1.25 million in 2008, and the arbitration might not even give him a substancial increase.

 

He might skate by and be offered a contract based on his loyalty and the teams’ need for at least some kind of right-handed bat in the rightfield corner. Situations could change in the next few months, but the Rays could “rent” Gomes for now and get a trade return on him later in the Spring if needed.

 

The Rays have other players who will be on the bubble on Friday, like right-fielder and left-handed bat, Gabe Gross. He might be the best cltch hitter the Rays had in 2008, but he also might be caught in the numbers games as the team just traded for the young and undercontract for 6 more years Matt Joyce. Both players have a defensive pedigree, and it all might come down to if the Rays think that Gross will win the spot and be worh the money to keep, or set Joyce up in right and let Gross go, hoping he remains to be put under a free agent contract at a reduced price.

 

This might be the tricky one for the Rays. Gross did everything asked of him in 2008. He also is a great clubhouse guy who is never in trouble and always helping the younger outfielders. His ceiling might be higher than Joyces’ right now after a banner year where he set career numbers in almost every offensive category. It was a year where he was used more, and saw more plate appearances than any other time in his career.  Gross might join Gomes on the free agent market where there is a glut right now for corner outfielders. If not for that trade during the Winter Meetings, Gross would have been offered a contract without question.

 

 

 

 

An ex-Rays who might be getting considerable consideration from his current team is the Houston Astro’s Brandon Backe. However, with the current state of the Astros’ rotation — they have little Major League-ready depth in their farm system and few backup options to protect themselves from injury and inconsistency — they may decide to hold on to the right-hander. And with a salary of only $ 800,000 for 2008, he might come in at a considerable discount compared to the free agents on the current starting pitching market.

 

Astros General Manager Ed Wade sounded like he’s willing to give Backe another look but at the same time noted the right-hander’s 2008 season was a disappointment and he’ll have to prove a few things in 2009.  But the Astros have very little pitching depth, and the three top prospects — Brad James, Sergio Perez and Bud Norris — likely won’t be ready for the big leagues come Opening Day. That alone may ensure Backe is tendered a contract on Friday.

 

 

                        

 

Another ex-Rays who has had to basically live out of his suitcase this past season is reliever Chad Gaudin. Two years ago it seemed that the Toronto Blue Jays were serious about the young pitcher and staked him a claim in their Bullpen. But during the off-season he was traded to the Oakland A’s where he started and relieved for the Athletics. He was then sent packing to the Chicago Cubs in the deal for Rick Harden as a key plug for the Cub’s Bullpen problems.

 

Since arriving in Chicago, Gaudin went 4-2, with a 4.26 ERA and got 27 strikeouts in 27.1 innings of work in 2008 for the Cubbies. Gaudin is known for his slider and his sinker, which both have above average movement to both sides of the plate. Also in his arsenal is a sinking change-up that can come in on left-handers. Gaudin might be a casualty of expectations in 2009, and might be non-tendered as rendered a free agent by the Cubs.

 

 

                       

 

 

Another possible casulty to the non-tender pile might be a National League pitcher who has been fighting to get into game shape for over a year after having 2 injuries in the past 2 seasons. Milwaukee Brewers’ starter Chris Capuano came to the team with high expectations. He was considered one of the top 5 pitchers in 2007 before a labrum injury forced him to have surgery on 10/11/2008.  Capuano rehabbed and was struggling to get into game shape when another injury hit him during 2008 Spring Training. This time a torn ligament in his left pitching elbow basically shelved him for the entire 2008 season. He was retroactively posted to the 15-day DL on March 27th.

 

 

He was twice transferred on the DL lists in 2008, going from the 15-day disabled list again on September 1st, then subsequently put back  on the 60-day DL on October 31, 2008.  Capuano’s case is complicated because he earned $3.75 million last season but did not pitch because of the injury. If the Brewers tender him a contract, they could not cut his salary by more than 20 percent, and it seems unlikely they would commit such an expense to a pitcher still rehabilitating.  If the Brewers in fact decide to non-tender Capuano, they would try to re-sign him to a new, less expensive contract for 2009. He’s eligible for free agency after next season.

 

 

There are other “big names” being considered during the non-tender phase of arbitration. A few might have seemed like promising rising stars in the MLB a few years ago, but might have had tough times and might be in consideration for being released by their clubs.  One of the most visible name on this list might be former 2003 Rookie of the Year winner Angel Berroa of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

 

           

 

Another name sure to be heard on Friday will be Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Daniel Cabrera. The club has to decide whether to offer a contract to Cabrera. If Baltimore doesn’t, the hulking right-hander will become a free agent one year ahead of schedule. If the O’s do, they may wind up going to arbitration. Andy MacPhail, Baltimore’s president of baseball operations, said Thursday that he’s still trying to make a decision. Cabrera, although erratic, remains one of the most experienced starters in the Orioles’ organization .

 

Baltimore has just one starter penciled into next year’s rotation and is trying to add at least two veterans by trade or free agency this offseason. Jeremy Guthrie remains the only surefire member of the starting staff, and Baltimore must decide whether Cabrera is a replaceable asset or one that’s worth one last shot at trying to salvage his potential.  Cabrera has made at least 26 starts in each of the past five seasons, and he’s logged at least 140 innings in each of those campaigns. The 27-year-old started relatively strong in 2008, jumping out of the gates to a 6-5 record and a 4.33 ERA in the first half of the season. After the All-Star break, however, he was 2-5 with a 7.59 mark.

 

And still, the overall numbers represented an improvement on his previous season. Cabrera went 8-10 with a 5.25 ERA in 2008 and snapped a two-year streak of leading the league in walks. One year earlier, he went 9-18 with a 5.55 ERA.  I think the Birds will take a gamble on Cabrera for one more years and help place at least one more piece into the pitching puzzle for 2009. But I do think he will have a short leash in 2009 with the Orioles, and might be  a trade deadline casualty if he is again wild and uncontrolable next year. 

 

 

                      

 

Pittsburgh management has still not made a determination to whether or not they plan to offer a contract to right-handed reliever Denny Bautista before the midnight on Friday for teams to tender contracts to all arbitration-eligible players.  Bautista is the only one of the team’s eight arbitration-eligible players whose status is in question. The Pirates’ management team has had internal debates this week about whether or not to keep Bautista, though no resolution has yet been made.

 

The Pirates acquired Bautista late last June in a minor trade with the Tigers, and the control problems that Bautista had in Detroit and other previous stops resurfaced again with the Pirates. He allowed 28 earned runs and 28 walks in 41 1/3 innings of relief for Pittsburgh. He struck out 34.  Bautista earned $395,000 in 2008, just over the Major League minimum. He would be in line for a significant pay raise should he go through the arbitration process with the Pirates.

 

The Pirates will tender contracts to their seven arbitration-eligible players — Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke, John Grabow, Adam LaRoche, Paul Maholm, Nate McLouth and Tyler Yates. Of that group, Doumit, Duke, Maholm and McLouth are all arbitration eligible for the first time.

 

 

 

The Red Sox must tender 2009 contracts to all unsigned players on their 40-man roster by Friday at midnight ET. The only players this truly impacts are those eligible for arbitration. For the Red Sox, that list includes first baseman Kevin Youkilis, closer Jonathan Papelbon, backup catcher Kevin Cash and lefty specialist Javier Lopez.

 

Reliever Manny Delcarmen was seven days short of enough service time to qualify for arbitration, so the Red Sox can simply renew his contract in Spring Training. Cash is the most likely candidate to be non-tendered on Friday. The Red Sox’s catching situation is in a state of flux, as the team continues to negotiate with Jason Varitek and scour the market for trade possibilities.

 

Even if Varitek returns, the club might seek a young player with more offensive potential than Cash to be the backup. The Red Sox like Cash defensively, and he does a nice job of handling Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball. However, there’s a chance he simply doesn’t fit into the plans for 2009. Even if the Red Sox non-tender Cash, they are still free to negotiate with him or re-sign him at some point. The same goes for any non-tendered player.

 

 

                      

 

The Royals need to find some room on their 40-man roster and that could be accomplished on Friday, the deadline for clubs to offer contracts to players. When the Winter Meetings closed, the Royals had 39 players on the winter roster but had signed pitchers Doug Waechter and Horacio Ramirez. They’d also reached an agreement with pitcher Kyle Farnsworth, and when that contract is approved another body will be added.

 

Adding Waechter filled the roster and, by Friday, a spot will be needed for Ramirez. The Royals could designate a player for assignment or non-tender a player, in short, not offer him a contract. The only way a club can keep an unsigned player is to tender a contract. If a player is non-tendered, he goes off the roster and becomes a free agent. Then he can sign with any club, including the Royals.

 

 

One possible option for the Royals would be to non-tender pitcher Jairo Cuevas and sign him to a Minor League contract. Cuevas has been the subject of a tug-of-war between the Royals and the Braves, each team claiming him on waivers from each other in the last two months. One writer speculated that, in order to save money in an effort to sign shortstop Rafael Furcal, the Royals might non-tender such players as catcher John Buck and outfielder Mark Teahen who both figure to do well in salary arbitration.

 

 

 

 

 

Backe Hands Ex-Team a loss, and wake-up Call

 

  

Astros 3, Rays 2

 

 

I want to start tonight’s blog by thankng the Rays and their staff for a fantastic evening at Gameworks in Ybor City on Sunday night.

 

I know all the Rays’ Season Ticketholders’ will agree it was a great night with prizes, games and outstanding foods galore.

 

The chocolate fountains decked in the Rays’ light blue,yellow and white color scheme was a true hit both to the tastebuds and the eyes. 

 

Players’ like Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Justin Ruggiano, Gary Glover, Grant Balfour, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine came and spent time with the Fans.  Oh, and Jonny Gomes was stationed at the front bar and was buzy with photo ops the entire night.

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon was also there to hold court with the Rays faithful about the game and his views.

 

Thank you again to all the Rays staffers and the front office for offering such a great time at the halfway mark in our home 2008 schedule.

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

Trivia Fact of the Night:

Tony Cloninger is the only pitcher to ever hit 2 grand slams in the same game. He did it with the Atlanta Braves on July 3, 1966.

 

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

               

 

The Rays let a good pitching performance by Scott Kazmir get away by not getting the usual timely hits and runs and ended up losing to the Astros on Sunday. Kazmir pitched 5.2 innings, and gave up 4 hits for 3 runs against the Astros. He also got 7 strikeouts to move up to 18th plce on th AL strikeout list with 68 K’s. Considering Kazmir missed about 4 starts due to his elbow strain, he might be on track to defend his A L Strikeout crown from last season.

 

 

 

I heard a Ray’s fan before the game on Sunday call Rays rookie Evan Longoria ,”The Natural.”  If he keeps hitting like this, and fielding like it is routine plays as usual, I can see him getting that moniker for  a long time with the team.

 

Longoria hit his 12th homer of the season to leftcenter in the 2nd inning off Astro’s starter, Brandon Backe.

 

Longoria had worked the count to 3-1 before Backe threw a soft curve over the plate, and Evan deposited it in Section 145 for a 2-run homer. Eric Hinske, who has walked on 4 pitches also scored on the play for the Rays. The blast tied Evan with Hinske for the team lead in homers, and also tied him for the MLB rookie lead with the Red’s Joey Votto, and Geovany Soto of the Cubs.

              

                             

 

B J Upton has some of the most misleading staistics on the Rays this season. This is a guy who some publications had thought might be the Rays first “30-30″ guy this season. That has not materialized yet, but some of his stats do show an aggressive nature and some play discipline at times. But his numbers are all over the place and did not show the consistant nature needed for the Rays right now in their 3 or 4 hitter.

 

B J  is first in the AL in being caught stealing with 9, but is also 3rd in steals with 22 for the year. He is also currently ranked 8th in the AL in On-Base Percentage (OPS) at .399, and is tied with Eric Hinske for top RBI’s on he Rays with 38 this year. Upton is also  not in the top 30 in extra base hits this year.

 

His outfield play has been remarkable going to the ball on a run, or over his head and running to the ball. But, his play with the ball in front of him, or communicating from his centerfield position have led to a few errors and hits for the opposition.  B J  is currently ted foir 1st with 8 outfield asists this year.

 

Upton is still learning the ways of playing center in the big leagues, and he is getting better every game, but at some point you have to take the gloves off and tell him to be aggressive coming in on the ball and demanding the ball with his voice if he has a play on it on the gaps. He will get better with time, and might just be one of the leagues best in a few seasons.

 

 

I really hate it when a bad play by the opposition gets turned 180 degrees and becomes a positive for them. Case in point on Sunday, Dioner Navarro reached base in the 4th inning with a double to center. Gabe Gross comes up next and lines a ball to right that trickles a bit to righfielder Hunter Pence.

 

Pence not known for his throwing arm , get an ugly and lazy throw to home redirected inflight about a quarter of the way up the line towards third base. Navarro is trying to score from second, and is way ahead of the throw to the plate, but as he rounds third, the ball comes up the line and meets him in stride to be tagged out by Astros’ catcher Humberto Quintero for an out.

 

In a perfect world, Navarro would have the wheels to beat the throw, but a bad throw turned into an out by pure luck, not by skill. So Pence ended up with an outfield assist on the play and should consider it a gift from the Rays.

 

 

After Sunday’s contest, the Rays made a roster move in an effort to bring in some infield help for the Marlins series. Starting shortstop Jason Bartlett will miss a few games to be with his wife for the birth of their child. 

The Rays sent Justin Ruggiano back to the Durham Bulls and brought up Ben Zobrist as an insurance policy if and when Bartlett leaves the team. Zobrist will play in place of Bartlett until his return during the Pittsburgh Pirates series this weekend. 

 

 

During the homestand, I met a few fans who were Chicago Cubs fans becuase they could notet the Rays telecasts all the time in the Fort Meyers, Naples area of the state.

 

Well, as of  June 29th, the Rays will be WXCW-TV. CW-6 will be te latest member in the growing Rays Network broadcast team.  The station canbe viewed on Cable Channel 6 in Ft. Meyers, Cape Coral and Naples.  In Port Charlotte, it is located on channel 11 as well as on the over-the-air antenna station 46. 

 

Both these stations will have a select number of Rays games for the rest of the season.  Check yourlocal listings for te games to be broadcast in this new Rays region.

 

 

Kazmir Sends Yankees Out of Town With a Frown

 

Rays 5, Yankees 2

 

You know what is so weird about an afternoon game, you are not hungry when you get there. But when you leave, you are screaming for the nearest drive-thru window.

I did the next best thing today and did the $5 Subway Sub to honor the “dive” the Yankees have done so far this year. I am sorry we beat you three times and sent you to the AL East cellar. Check out the dunegeon bar and grill, they have fine chicken wings, but are hot as hell.

 

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

Trivia Fact of the Night:

On July 4th 1939,
Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees, was the first man to have his number(4) retired.

 

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

 

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

 

                                         The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly

 

                                               The Good

 

Rays starter Scott Kazmir(2-1), who just inked a serious contract extention pitched a gem to show not onl,y good faith in the signing, but a sign of things to come for the power lefty. Scott pitched 6 innings of 3-hit shutout ball before leaving after throwing 100 pitches exactly today. At the time he left the game,  the Rays had a 5-0 lead for Kazmir.  Scott also struck out only three today, while walking three. It seemed he was in control of his primary pitches, but was having a bit of trouble with his slider today.

 

Honorable Mention “Good Guys”:

 

*** Aki Iwamura, who just finished a 11-game hitting streak got the scoring started with a  solo blast to right in the first innig to get the scoring started for the Rays. Aki also went 2-3 and scored two runs today. Aki has lifted his average to .265. That is 55 point better than a week ago, and he is getting better at bats and pitches right now.

 

** Rays closer extrodinare Troy Percival put hid own personal stamp on tonight’s win. Troy entered the game in the top of the 9th and retired the first two batters with strikeouts before Johnny Damon hit a fly ball to Carl crawford to end the game, and give Percival his 10th save of the year. Percival is slowly gaining on Rollie Fingers, who is next in line on the All-Time saves list for Percival.

 

* I call this guy the “Brad Pitt” of the minors. He is so devil-may-care, and totally likeable you wanrt him to succeed. With the success of Dioner Navarro lately, Shawn Riggans has seen his playing time go to a crawl. But after today, 2-3 performance, Rays manager Joe Maddon might have two options at catcher in the coming weeks. Riggans helped his cause with a two-run homer in the bottom of the 4th, that also scored Eric Hinske. Riggans is now hitting .250, but also scored two runs to go along with his two RBI’s.

 

                                                 The Bad

 

Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett was a late scratch today  to take care of a family matter. Rays super sub, Ben Zobrist saw his first action of the year since coming off the DL this week. Zobrist looked a bit aprehensive at the plate and went 0-2 today. Ben is a great defensive shortstop, and  made several key plays today.

Carlos Pena is still having trouble getting the men in scoring position home today. Carlos had two opportunites today and struck out twice today. Pena is leading the AL in strikeouts with 50.

 

                                             The Ugly

 

I know the flight from Tampa to New York is usually about 3 hours long, but I can feel the tension that this one will feel like an allnighter for the Yankee team. Yankee honco Hank Steinbrenner the other day called out the players by saying “They should play like the Rays”.

I do not know where he is getting that, but I hope he means that the Rays are playing hustle, no-quit baseball with a agressive batting style.

I know that several key Yankees are hurt or rehabbing and will be aback soon, but the lack of adequate replacemtns shows the team’s farm system woes right now. The Yankees promoted two minor relievers this week from their lower  minor league squads to hasten their learning curve and hope to be a help come Summer time.

 It is going to be a long couple of months in NY until all players are healthy and their pitching situation is stabilized to suit the owner’s box.

I expect to see a few heads roll in the mean time, and I would not be putting my neck out to say, Jose Molina might not be the back-up catcher for long.  Before todays game, the Yankees sent reliever Kei Igawa to the minors to bring Ian Kennedy in for today’s game.

 

Former Rays Players’ of the Night:

Being that this is a early blog post, since it was a day game today, I have not gotten the finishing totals of all players in the MLB tonight.

So, with that in mind, I was thinking of just listing 10 former Rays’ players tonight and their respective teams for 2008:

 

Marlon Anderson                                                New York Mets

Chad Gaudin                                                     Oakland A’s starter

Doug Waechter                                                  Florida Marlins reliever

Mark Hendrickson                                            Florida Marlins  starter

Geoff Blum                                                       Houston Astros utility guy

Ty Wiggington                                            Houston Astros third baseman

Brandon Backe                                                Houston Astros starter

Damion Easley                                                New York Mets infielder

Shawn Camp                                                   Toronto Blue Jays reliever

Seth McClung                                                 Milwaukee Brewers reliever

An Afternoon Celebration

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


Daily Trivia fact.

On August 23,1953, Phil Paine became the
first ex-major-leaguer to play baseball professionally in
Japan.

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


Now onto today’s edition of The Good,the Bad,and the Ugly


.

   The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Framed Art Print               The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Framed Art Print            The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Framed Art Print

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

                                        



                                                 The
Really, Really Good     



Edwin Jackson has been feeling more at ease
on the mound in recent outings, and today he turned in a gem of a pitching
performance for the Rays.   Jackson pitched 8 innings of two-hit ball and with
the help of   lefty reliever Trevor Miller closed out a 7-0 shutout of the
Seattle Mariners.


The Mariners accounted for  only three hits
all day, with   Mariners’ third baseman, Adrian Beltre getting two hits. In the effort, Jackson lower his ERA to an
impressive .064, and had 6 strikeouts for the day.  He was effectively getting
his pitches over and was in cool command of the mound today. The small afternoon crowd even boo-ed Rays
Manager Joe Maddon’s decision to not let Edwin get the complete game. In the
post game interview, Jackson looked relaxed and  showed a renewed air of
confidence.

                                                Way to go “Action!!!!”     



Honorable Mentions
Kudos
:

 

*** Jonny Gome went 2-2 with 2 runs scored,
and upped his average to .294 for the year.



** Carl Crawford made a diving backhand catch
on a dying ball hit to left center field in the Top of the 4th to end the Seattle
inning.



* Rays backup catcher, Mike DeFelice went
2-4, with both hits being broken bat singles.  He also had 3 RBIs for the day.
And to top it off, he called a great game behind the plate giving Edwin a great
target to pitch to all day.


                                         
The Bad

                        

For a change, the bad will be short and hopefully to the
point here.  The first four batters in the Rays order today did some damage,
but  we still have two of our prime hitters under the Mendoza line for the
season.  Akinora Iwamura had two hits today to
raise his average to .222, which is
tops for the first four hitters.


A hopeful sign for a positive weekend series, is the
sheer fact all four scored at least one run today. This might be a sign that the
sleeping giant is awaking again. The only other Bad thing U have to add, is the fact that
Hillsborough County kids have this week off for Spring Break, and the Trop. was
only 28.8 percent full. That worked out to 11,898 souls if you were wondering.
That is better than a week night game, but I would have expected a bit more
people to trot over and do an afternoon under the dome.


                                         The Really Ugly



I was hoping I might not have an “ugly” after such a
great game today, but such is life. It is a recycled event that has plagued this
team for almost a week now.


Another player has been in the Training room today with
Ron Porterfield and is showing signs of pain. After his great game last night,
Rays third baseman Willy Aybar was scratched from the game with soreness in the
hamstring area. Aybar has been fighting a hamstring situation since the
beginning of Spring Training and might have reinjured his leg during  his slide
into home plate last night.

“He’s been getting all the treatments, doing all the right things, he’s
been working his butt off to stay out there,” Maddon said. “It’s just that play
took a little bit out of him.” Those are the kind of things that really mess you up,” Maddon said. “He’s
been sore the last couple days and he’s been playing through the cold weather
… just extended on that play and he just felt it a little bit.” Maddon, always the wordsmith, even put a
positive spin on the latest injury.


“Right now we are way up there on ice — ice and injections,” Maddon said.

In the meantime, Eric Hinske will probably
get most of the reps at third until Aybar return. Hinske broke in at third base with the
Toronto Blue Jays and has ample experience for the
position.



Former Rays spotlight of the
night:


The former Ray who is in the spotlight is Astros starting pitcher
Brandon Backe. He was seen during last night’s batting practice jawing with
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. It seems that Backe to exception the 8th
inning play the previous night during a home plate situation where Pujols roughed up rookie
catcher J R Towles .

Pujols collided with Towles hard that inning and while first
looking like a clean play,not everyone took it that way. We can bet Brandon was in the “not clean” group about the hard
slide.



Tomorrow  The Baltimore Orioles and former
Ray Aubrey Huff brings their merry band of closet Karaoke men to the Trop for a
three game series.  This should be an interesting series for both
teams.

      

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 278 other followers