Results tagged ‘ Chad Qualls ’

Are the Rays Insane in the membrane?

 

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Right after midnight last night I was praying long and hard to the Baseball Gods that the message I was seeing on my computer screen was the aftereffect of some radically liberal baseball geniuses who had somehow hacked into the central mainframe of my favorite MLB rumors website and posted the lies that now had me sweating like a sacrificial lamb.

That there was a logical explanation for the confusing message. Some form of parabolic and cohesive reasoning as to why the Tampa Bay Rays decided to partake in the ritual of providing a thought of arbitration to such 2010 Rays figures as hitter Brad Hawpe and reliever Chad Qualls. That among those letters and formed words would materialize why you would even attempt to provide a chance of a 2011 salary to a duo of players who definitely were not worthy.

The shock and awe of both Qualls and Hawpe had me hyperventilating for a few moments before it came to me that a calculated plan had to be in effect. For Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman would not effectively curse or even mitigate bringing back two atrocious athletes like Hawpe and Qualls again into the Rays fold, thus risking multitudes of members of the Rays Republic from shunning the “Rays Way.”

After an hour of constant pacing and surreal images of watching inherited runner after inherited runner scoring again on Qualls in 2011,word come to me via a daydream of Hawpe actually having a pre-arbitration agreement with the Rays to decline their arbitration offer and thus become a free and clear Type-B free agent. But there were moments of fear within me that Hawpe would accept the Rays arbitration offer and possibly get a bump in his old Colorado Rockies $ 7.5 million salary for 2011.


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The “gentleman’s agreement” by Hawpe and the Rays front office instantly quelled at least half of my impending stomach convulsions, with only the image of the ineffective Qualls clutching the ball on the Rays mound with the bases loaded and no outs in a 1-run game. That image is constantly churning within my skullcap after the dismal first half of Qualls season that saw him totally implode as the closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I was at first willing to give the sullen-faced Qualls a fighting chance when he walked to the Rays Bullpen on August 1st, but his quick decent down that same slippery slope that condemned him in Arizona quickly began to rear its ugly mug down in the Rays Bullpen. That Qualls combined ERA of 7.45 and .345 opponents batting average were the highest marks achieved by a Major League Baseball reliever in either league this past season.

That since his reprieve to the Rays on July 31st, right-handed hitters had only posted a .179, but left-handers feasted on Qualls to establish a pathetic .425 average since his first Rays pitch.


I instantly felt myself immersed in a putrid bath of sweat thinking about how Qualls only converted 12 saves in 43 games for the Diamondbacks while posting a horrific 8.29 ERA. That Qualls even got the chance for two separate Rays wins is still a mystery to me. That even after surrendering a 2-run Home Run to New York Yankees centerfielder Curtis Granderson on September 15th , thus suffering his third blown save since joining the Rays, a Dan Johnson 2-run shot then got him his 1st Rays victory.

I was instantly scared that Qualls would accept the Rays offer of arbitration with an eye on competing for the Rays closer spot in the Spring 2011, and that thought scared me all the way down to my bones. Not merely for the fact that 7 of 26 inherited runs scored on Qualls with the Rays in his brief 2010 stint, but that he was no longer the confident and prolific reliever who in 2009 converted a career high 24 saves and led all MLB relievers with a 1.21 BB/9 IP ratio and 6.43 SO/BB ratio. The immediate sightlines of his fall from grace over the past season resonated that we might have acquired a aging arm set for a breakdown.

Even at this moment it is not clear yet if Qualls enter into a same arrangement like Hawpe to vacate his chance for a 2011 spot this Spring at the arbitration table opposite the Rays front office headhunters. Hopefully it is a done deal that has not made itself privy to the media yet, or seen the light of day, but any acceptance of Qualls to be a member of the 2011 Rays is an abominable affirmation of an impending apocalypse .

Even the thought that Qualls could venture northward of the figure of his past 2010 amount of $ 4.185 million has me almost throwing up into my own mouth. I do not get too emotionally overcharged by signings or the arbitration shell game too often, but this one really just sickens me down to the core. I have nothing against Qualls personally, but as a baseball player and as a future Rays closer, I hope he never sees the light of the Rays clubhouse again.

Funny, as I write this I am feeling an uneasiness that engulfed me right after the post season when Qualls posted a 10.80 ERA in the ALDS with the thought that the Rays might consider Qualls a leader in the Rays Bullpen for 2011. Hopefully before the quickly approaching November 30th arbitration decline or acceptance deadline word will somehow leak out of the Rays silent black box that Qualls also accepted a similar plan as Hawpe. Only then can I muster even a slight sign of admiration for Qualls as he walks out of my Rays consciousness (hopefully) for the last time.

Rays Have 9 Arbitration Decisions on the Horizon

 

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Should be an interesting 24 hours for the Tampa Bay Rays front office. With 9 pending arbitration decisions to be made during this tedious 24 hour period, it could ultimately show the Rays poker hand. The arbitration list set for immediate discussion by those in the Rays boardroom comprises 6 relief pitchers, 2 former All Stars, and a offensive player picked up off waivers in 2010. Tomorrow’s final decisions at the conclusion of the deadline will show a distinctive and resolute signal by the Rays head honchos of whether any of the nine have any possible future with the Rays.

There is one member of that nine under consideration that doesn’t have to worry at all about an arbitration bid. You can bet with some certainty that former Rays reliever Joaquin Benoit will get an arbitration offer. Benoit, the surprise of the 2010 Rays season will definitely be offered arbitration since Benoit has already signed, sealed and delivered in a 3 year $ 16 million dollar contract with the Detroit Tigers. With the Rays arbitration offer and a sure decline by Benoit, the Rays can then pocket a compensation pick between the first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft for their Detroit bound Type B Free Agent .

But from that one secure arbitration point, it becomes more of a interesting gamble for the Rays to consider offering arbitration to their other Type-A players who might just take the arbitration offer and force the Rays hands to trade them or face some difficult financial decisions considering the Rays will cut their 2011 payroll nearly in half to around $40-59 million dollar range. But does it really seem in their past character that Carl Crawford or Rafael Soriano would accept such an arbitration offer to rejoin the Rays knowing that multi millions are lying out there waiting for their services outside Tampa Bay? Hopefully the dice do not come up “snake eyes” in this situation.

A more possible arbitration offer could be extended to Rays reliever Grant Balfour after another sub 4.00 ERA year with the Rays. This also might not be a “given” knowing the facts that the Rays are searching high and low for low cost Bullpen bodies to replace 2010 members like Balfour, Soriano and Benoit. Balfour seems like one of the two possible Rays arbitration offers ( in my opinion) that might be accepted. Then again, recently Balfour’s name has been mentioned as a top tier relief option that could hit the unrestricted market full bore on Tuesday if he is declined arbitration.

The Rays again have issued their usual code of silence that is not letting out a single whisper or hint as to their final decision or possible direction in terms of these arbitration issues. But the thought of a possible arbitration offer to Choate might actually provide an adequate Rays insurance policy in the event Rays reliever J P Howell has some sort of delay in his return in 2011 from his shoulder surgery. That could instantly open the door wide for Choate or another Free Agent southpaw to join the Rays roster with an eye on a possible departure during the Trade Deadline. Roll the dice again and hope for “Boxcars”.

That leads us to 4 former Rays players who have played their last games in a Rays uniform unless a drastic change of heart by the team. Brad Hawpe, who was picked up by the Rays after his release by the Colorado Rockies, and reliever Chad Qualls, who was traded to the Rays by the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Trade Deadline should be two players who do not get even a thought of arbitration by the Rays. Both had seasons to forget, and did not instill any sense of confidence in their abilities to continue with the Rays for 2011.

Qualls in particular did not seem to embrace his change of scenery and in the end almost duplicated his high dubious ERA that he maintained with the D-backs before his trade. Most people might point to his recent success near the end of 2010 and the postseason as reasons to keep Qualls, but the end result is there are dozens of reliever out there who can get ground ball outs with less extra baggage and worry than Qualls. A 5.57 ERA in a limited amount of appearances does not bode well to promoting confidence or providing an assurance of a relief reprieve.

Hawpe never seemed to get into a solid Rays groove once he came up in August mostly getting chances as a pinch hitter or the Rays Designated Hitter role. Not showing positives and embracing the DH spot might of brought an instant kiss of death for Hawpe. His .179 batting average in 15 games with the Rays did not instill any other emotions of enthusiasm or hope that he could be a possible solution to the DH problem for 2011. Hawpe was brought in to test run for a possible arbitration decision this Winter at DH for the Rays.

Instead it seems that Hawpe just folded his hand and left the table early.

That leaves two former Rays members who the Rays front office might be posturing or hoping that by not offering them arbitration, the Rays can still continue possible future contract discussions in good faith with both parties and their agents. Some people might doubt the importance of Dan Wheeler to the Rays Bullpen in 2010, but I actually think he was the veteran glue that kept the Bullpen together. He might have not had the glowing stats of Soriano or Benoit, but Wheeler again was a constant asset to the Rays appearing in 64 games, the same amount of game appearances as Soriano.

There might have been 4 million little reasons ( his 2011 club option figure) that could have easily factored into the Rays deciding to decline his option for 2011. With Howell also up again for salary arbitration this Winter, it is possible that the Rays did not want to spend around $ 10 million plus just for three pieces of their 2011 Bullpen. The aspect of offering Wheeler arbitration could blow up in the Rays faces considering he posted his third straight season of 60+ appearances, and ended the season with 6 scoreless appearances. Always a gamble to offer someone arbitration as their stock is climbing.

That leaves one more soul that the Rays will not offer arbitration, but hope that he will eventually offer a bit of a “hometown discount”, possibly cutting his 2010 salary up by 25 percent to make him again affordable to the Rays for 2011. Carlos Pena has been very vocal and more than adamant about returning to the Rays again in 2011. The Rays definitely can not discount the loss of offense and defense by the omission of Pena from their roster, but also can not afford another $ 10.5 million salary in 2011 for their former All Star First Baseman. The two parties must somehow find a suitable compromise.

 


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Adding up the accolades of the past few seasons of winning a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and also a spot on the 2009 All Star squad, Pena has made any part of an arbitration offer moot. Even with a sub-par 2010 season Pena is still one of the most prolific Home Runs hitters over the last four seasons since he came to the Rays. With every negative element like his large strikeout totals (158) or low batting average (.196), Pena can basically cancel those lowly feats out with his team high RBI (84) and HR (28) totals. His .325 OBP and 87 walks in 2010 also provides a key element that Pena still has a keen eye at the plate at times.
Rolling the dice and trying to play the odds is always pretty precarious at this stage of the season. The Rays like so many other teams have to make a detailed and solid decision within the next 24 hours as to their 9 arbitration eligible free agents, and their possible continued role with the team in 2011. Possible decision concerning Balfour and Choate might be made even tougher with a fine core of eligible free agents relievers also possibly hitting the books tomorrow after the arbitration deadline.

As of right now, the only sure decision by the Rays is a arbitration offer to Benoit that will net the Rays another pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. The other eight decisions will have to be weighed with possible risks and counter balances to either extend an offer or possibly slamming the door shut to further free agent discussions. Will the Rays put their money firmly on the hopes that Crawford, Soriano will decline arbitration, thus netting the Rays additional draft picks when they do eventually sign with another team? Or could it all suddenly backfire and the duo accept arbitration and handcuff the Rays to finding a suitor for the duo before their arbitration hearings?

Calculated risks will be made in the next 24 hours. Some of the Rays decisions will effect not only their payroll for 2011, but possibly bring about some emotional responses from the Rays Republic, but in the end the Rays have to use their gut instincts in their final decisions. This is the part of the season where the guys in the suits in the front offices around the league make their respective reputations every year. They might not be the most popular decision, but consider the overall fiscal health of their proposed next season’s roster. No matter if it is cards, dice or even arbitration offers. Playing the odds right now are never a sure thing.
 
My Rays Arbitration predictions:

 

Joaquin Benoit                  Yes

Carl Crawford                    Yes

Rafael Soriano                  Yes

Grant Balfour                    Yes

Randy Choate                   Yes

Chad Qualls                       No

Brad Hawpe                       No

Dan Wheeler                     Yes

Carlos Pena                       No 

 

 

Rays Getting their Virtual Hands Dirty on “We Farm”

 

Back when I played sports, the Internet was still in the early infant stages and wireless devices consisted of maybe a walkman or a portable transistor radio. The advent of WiFi technologies and World wide gaming communities had even came into anyone’s mind yet. Mostly we just played a variety of cards games like Poker or Hearts to bid the time before suiting up for warm-ups or during our transport to and from our charter flights.

Laptop were not even in the future thought process yet, and the Apple I Pod and I Pad were possibly just dreams or faint ideas still in computer technology think tanks.


With the advancements of the wireless and computing technologies all around us today, the Internet and games of chance with a side order of obsession are just a small mouse click away. I have a few friends who have plunged deep into the online farming community on Facebook known as “Farmville“, but as of now, I am still virginal and not partaking in that ritual farming industrial community. I
t is intriguing and a bit understandable that the players within the Tampa Bay Rays might have caught onto the growing fever of these downloadable games where compulsive endurance and chance both seem to rule the process.

These games seem just perfectly suited for a bunch of baseball players due to the odd facts that during a 162 game Major League Baseball season, there is a huge amount of “down” time usually spent away from home, waiting for something to happen (pre-game, rain delays) that could entice a person to become entranced into developing and cultivating an online community of their own.


During the 2010 MLB season, I have heard many whispers about an ever growing obsession within the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse of several downloadable games and obsessive-compulsive programming that acted as buffers to the game pressures and simultaneously garnered internal competitions between the players. This rumor encircling the Rays clubhouse did not have to do with any World Poker Tour card playing websites, or even Fantasy leagues.

Somehow the Rays clubhouse, who all seem to have embraced their WiFi friendly Apple I Pads, has developed a budding cultivation within the online farming communities in the “We Farm” game. A game that is FREE to download from I Tunes or Apple, but can be as addictive as a large cup of caffeine if you give it a chance.

Several members of the Rays clubhouse have become a bit addicted and currently spend countless hours tending to their crops or designing the perfect scenario to be awarded a possible Blue Ribbon animal or get picked as the “Farm of the Week”.

 
Most of us who do not cruise an Apple based I Pad system might not have even heard about this downloadable game for I Pads and Apple WiFi devices. This farming community gives game players the tools to make the barnyards of their dreams. Farmers who range from city slickers to real life rural country boys, have taken to this addictive game. As the 2010 progressed, more and more of the Rays roster have been engulfed by this addictive competitive game.

Maybe it is purely the fact that they can be a simulated Roy Oswalt and outfit their personal farms with tractors, hay balers, sprayers and even build produce stands to sell their farming products just beyond their own fields. Maybe it is the majesty of knowing you can surrounding your property with multi-hued outhouses or the great non financial aspect of breeding and raising your own digitally rendered faux horses, pigs, sheep, cows, duck and even ostriches within a online community that has peaked their brainstems.

Maybe it is something as simple as a PG-13 rendition of an activity that everyone, including involving their children into helping on the farming projects that can be developed mutually as a entire family inspired working farm.


The game seemed to have introduced into the Rays clubhouse by Rays starting pitcher James Shields, who used to help tend and tailor his young daughter Ashtyn on her own “We Farm” spread on off days and during a Rays home series. Quickly the competitive fires rushed through the Rays locker room as David Price, B J Upton, Matt Garza, Kelly Shoppach, Matt Joyce, and Shields were suddenly going head-to-head on their own farming communities, trying to be the best in the Rays small kingdom.

When late season addition Chad Qualls came to the Rays via a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Qualls soon fell quickly into the Rays farming community battles. There is even a section of the game where you can have your friends and neighbors take pictures with you and your prize winning animals at the county fair. I wonder if Price has done that feat yet?
This farming community game has become such a web hit that the currently have their own Youtube Channel, and their own social media outposts to keep you updated and in tune with the whole sha-bang of new additions and words from game players all around the globe.

 

Even heard a wild rumor of some “We Farm” trash talking and farm challenges being issued by the Rays farmhands. Maybe if the Rays finish off the Rangers tomorrow in that Game 5 finale, for their next road trip (possibly to New York City for Games 3-5 of the ALCS) the Rays could all dress in blue overalls and straw farmers’ hats as a team homage to the “We Farm” gaming site. .

Heck they would be heading to the big city, the Big Apple, why not dress accordingly with their new found obsession. Think “Green Acres” or Petticoat Junction” if you need any motivation here. There are still plenty outside the city limits of “We Farm“-ville who do not understand the total intrigue and pull of the competitive game…..yet.

But you can bet that those already playing in the community within the Rays clubhouse will take their time converting more than a few other Rays roster members as they pick them off one-by-one and get them interested in the great off season treat of playing this game as a possible team bonding unit for 2011. Could also be a great way to indirectly see how teammates and friends are doing in the off season as everyone goes their separate ways until mid-February.


Wonder how many of the Rays players have unlocked the Diner at Level 23 that come complete with a surly waitress? Or the possibility of owning your own Drive-In that appears on Level 33. What a treat it would be to pull your pick-up backwards into the parking spot and watch the movies from the comfort of an old chair in the bed of your truck. Wonder if any of the Rays players have currently unlocked the farmhouse upgrade in Level 35 of the Outland Chateau?

These games can be great stress relievers and a great way to get your mind off the pressures and bottling emotions that can be constantly churning in your mind and stomach this time of the year. They can be hotel and airplane lag time deviations that can give you an outside visual or a faraway place to recharge, reconnect or just restock your chicken coop.

With the level of intensity all ready churning in the Rays clubhouse over “We Farm“, it will be amazing to see the level numbers and the upgrade or “Gro” options that the Rays involved players will have selected and presented to their colleagues come this Spring. It is a harmless and victimless game of competition that has no victims, no weapons or gore unlike some other obsessive online simulation games.

It is a great way to kill a few hours in-flight, during a rain delay, or possibly just before heading out onto the field for Batting Practice. Leave it to Shields to be the one character with tunnel vision in the Rays clubhouse that doesn’t let his every day actual job slip too far from his mind while playing online.

In Shields perfection on his farm he has constructed a baseball diamond within a surrounding mesh of blueberry bushes. Maybe there isn’t a corn option yet on Shield’s levels, but if there was, it would truly be his own personal slice of a Field of Dreams…Tampa Bay style.

 

What is Your Favorite 2010 Rays Moment?

 


 

As I was waiting for the Tampa Bay Rays plane to arrive Sunday evening at St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport Rays game day emcee Rusty Kath was asking a few smaller Rays fans an important question for possible bobbleheads and assorted prizes. It was a simple question: “What was your biggest Rays moment in 2010?”


The question seemed so simple at first thought, but instantly there became a avalanche of special Rays moments throughout the season, including about 10 Rays moments that kept appearing again and again in my mind based on their place in the Rays scheme of things this season, and their importance to the overall Rays clinching their second American League East title in three seasons. And I guess the best place to start is in April and work our way back towards today.

 

April 6th

This was the Rays home opener against the Baltimore Orioles, and was set with pomp and circumstance normally associated with the first home game, but something felt different this year. It was not the two-colored flaming spirals in the Rays infield before the game, it was something brewing beneath the surface of this contest.

It was Carl Crawford’s eight consecutive Opening Day spot in the line-up, and possibly his last as a member of the Rays. But it was his play on the field that separated this day from any other this season.

Crawford sealed the Rays victory with a 2-run walk-off double that tore the feathers from the Orioles for a 4-3 loss. It was classic Crawford, and instantly this image came to mind as the reason I am going to miss C.C.


 

 April 17th

Was a special moment in Rays history as the day I truly began to believe that Rays closer Rafael Soriano was going to be something special in 2010. Not only did Soriano help save the Rays completion of the prior night’s suspended game, a 3-1 Rays victory. Soriano also got his second save of the day in the Rays 6-5 win in the high cap of the unexpected doubleheader . To win one game in Boston is a great thrill, to win back-to-back within 12 hours of each other is a moment to remember.


 

May 2nd 

This game evolved into a special home moment for the Rays Republic as Rays starter Wade Davis and Royals starter Zack Greinke both threw 7 scoreless innings each with Greinke only making one mistake. But that one mistake ended up being the only run scored in the ballgame when Greinke left up a fastball to Evan Longoria that he deposited in the Leftfield stands for a 1-0 Rays victory.


 

June 8th

This contest displayed the versatility of the Rays as a great offensive and pitching team as Rays starter Jeff Niemann 2-hit the Toronto Blue Jays in a 9-0 shutout of the birds at Tropicana Field. The night was highlighted by 2 Home Runs by Carlos Pena., one a Grand Slam. Niemann has his bid for a No-Hitter broken up in the top of the sixth inning by Toronto shortstop Mike McCoy.



 

June 19th

This road game during the InterLeague schedule will be remembered for a lot of reasons. First it was an away contest against the Florida Marlins in which 15,000 Marlin Air Horns tortured the Rays players eardrums for the entire contest. But it might have been the true signal that the Rays patience at the plate was beginning to return dividends as the Rays got 4 walks in the 11th inning, including 2 with the bases loaded to secure a 9-8 win.


It was also the night that saw the debut of Rays usual starter James Shields as he came in for one scoreless innings of relief and picked up the win on this night. Rays reliever Andy Sonnanstine also got his first Major League Baseball save on this especially extra noisy night (I am bringing my Marlins Air Horn to Game 1 of the ALDS tomorrow).

 

July 26th

This date will probably be set in stone by many among the Rays Republic as the most important night in Rays pitching history. On this night, Rays starter Matt Garza produced the Rays first No-Hitter against the Detroit Tigers. More amazing was the fact Garza and Detroit starter Max Scherzer were trading No-No bids until Rays slugger Matt Joyce hit a Grand Slam to provide the needed punch to seal Graza’s gem.


Garza threw 120 pitches on the night with 6 strikeouts and one lone walk to Tigers Rightfielder Brian Boesch in the second inning to eclipse the chance for a Perfect Game. The entire night Garza seemed on a different plane and was constantly bombarding the strike zone pushing 80 of his 120 pitches across the plate for strikes.

 

August 1st

This extremely exciting Sunday afternoon game against the New York Yankees where Alex Rodriguez was still hunting for his 600th career Home Run. He did not start in the contest, but came on as a pinch hitter and was struck out looking to end the 7th inning by Rays starter James Shields. It also signaled the coming drama between the Yankees and the Rays as the Rays pulled within one game of the Yankees after this 3-0 victory at Tropicana Field.


 

August 10th

During this road game start the Rays Republic got to see some of the immediate future for the Rays on the mound. Rays rookie Jeremy Hellickson took the mound in this contest at Comerica Park against the Detroit Tigers and gave up a lead-off hit to Austin Jackson before he then retired 18 straight Tiger hitters enroute to his second straight Rays win. Hellickson threw 7 inning and got 7 strikeouts and the Rays countered by getting 8 runs on 9 hits, including 4 doubles, to defeat the Tigers 8-0.


 

August 28th

This game was the contest at Tropicana Field against the Boston Red Sox that saw both Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria flirt with a possible cycle in the same game. It was also the game that B J Upton hit a tying Home Run in the 8th inning, then Dan Johnson hit a walk-off Home Run that pushed the visiting Red Sox to 5 ½ games behind the Rays for the American League Wild Card. It signaled the beginning of the end for the Boston club as they never got closer than 5 ½ game again to the Rays in 2010.


 

September 13th

In this premier contest we saw two of the American League’s best left-hander going against each other to try and prop each other up as favorite for the 2010 American League Cy Young candidate. Both Yankee starter C C Sabathia and Rays starter David Price traded zeros for 8 innings each before each left the ballgame.

It wasn’t until the bottom of the 11th inning when pinch hitter Reid Brignac sent a solos shot into the Rightfield stands that either teams blinked in this 1-0 walk-off victory.


So there are 10 possible candidates for my greatest moment in Rays 2010 history. I truly think Garza’s No-Hitter is the top pitching moment of 2010, but as a team, there is still another moment I truly feel has to be added to this list.

October 3rd, might be the biggest team based moment of 2010. As a team the Rays stood solid and would not break after going down early to a 2-0 deficit. With the bases loaded, Rays reliever Chad Qualls got a well deserved double play ball that got the Rays out of the inning without further damage.


The Rays ended up scrapping together an impressive top of the 9th inning rally when pinch hitter Rocco Baldelli single to leftifield, then stole second base ( his 1st SB of 2010). Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach then put down a great ball down the Third Baseline that Royals Third Baseman Wilson Betemit misfired a throw to First Base for an error and Baldelli scampered in to score. Rafael Soriano then converted his 45th save of the season as 8 Rays pitchers combined for the 3-2 victory.

 

The win cemented the Rays clinch of the 2010 American League East title with an exclamation point needed going into the playoffs instead of question marks. The victory solidly put all discussion to bed that the Rays backed into the post season as A L Champs, plus gave the Rays Home field Advantage throughout the American League segment of the post season. 

The gutsy extra inning win completely embodies the Rays mantra of “WIN- What’s Important Now”. It also helped send the Rays homeward so they could host the Texas Rangers instead of travel straight to Minnesota to begin the American League Divisional Series tomorrow afternoon.


Those are my special Rays moments of 2010 so far. With the post season about to get into full swing in 24 hours, possibly more fantastic Rays moments could be added to this list before the Rays take their last at bats, or final place in the field in the 2010 Playoffs.

Hopefully I have 3 more champagne celebrations to cover, and a parade downtown to photograph. The time is upon us for greatness to arrive. It is time to show the rest of the country what Rays Republic fans have known all season long, it is never over against the Rays until that last Umpire’s call.

 
 
 
 
 

Rays do not Need this Type of “Quall-ity”

  

 

When the Tampa Bay Rays first acquired Chad Qualls from the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to the end of the Trade Deadline, I thought a change of scenery might be just the thing for him. You know the drill, a change of venue can bring about a change in attitude and also confidence. Plus Qualls was coming to a team that boasted a former team mate (Dan Wheeler) and a Pitching Coach (Jim Hickey) back from when Qualls used to be a sub 3.50 ERA machine. But for some reason know, I am thinking we got a dose of quantity over quality so far.


Sure it was great for Qualls to exit stage right in a hurry from the Diamondbacks, especially considering Qualls had posted a 8.29 ERA over his 43 appearances and only produced 12 saves in 16 opportunities. But the Rays did not bring Qualls here to be an 8th inning set-up man, they brought him here to establish a bit of groundball dominance on a team whose defense wins them games.

As I mentioned before, Qualls accumulated his high ERA (8.29) in only 38 total innings with the Diamondbacks while also giving up a grand total of 61 hits,41 runs and 5 Homers during his stay in the hot desert Sun. I was curious to see if Qualls had actually gotten better since his departure from the Diamondbacks and actually discovered Qualls really might just be more quantity than quality right now, even for the Rays.

Over his last 10 appearances, Quall has seen his ERA bounce from a 7.43 ERA to a 8.20 ERA, coming extremely close to his pre-D-back days. And these stats come from his last 10 Rays appearances, and could be a clue the Rays might have gotten a bit duped by acquiring Qualls. He has pitched 11.2 innings in his last 10 appearances, which include giving up a total of 13 hits and 8 runs while blowing 2 save opportunities. But that is not the most alarming stat. The fact Qualls has given up 6 walks against 7 strikeouts tends to point to Qualls might not be a better addition to the Rays Bullpen than a guy from Triple-A right now.

 

And that is huge when you are in the stretch run trying to catch back up to the New York Yankees and solidify your Bullpen with a playoff mentality. Even more disheartening for Rays fans might be the pure fact he has been a disaster against left-handed hitters since his trade to the Rays. Qualls has thrown 4.1 innings against lefties this year and has blown his 2 save against them, plus bolstered a 14.54 ERA left-handers and a .421 opponents batting average. An accent mark on the whole scenario is Qualls has given up his only Home Run to a left-hander while with the Rays.


But even with all these negative stats floating over Qualls head, he does have a few positives to build on here. Against right-handers, Qualls has posted an impressive 1.23 ERA ( .208 average) with 6 strikeouts. Tends to make you think he will be only posted against right-handed batters the rest of the way through the season. Another sign that Qualls might be finally adjusting back to his old self is the fact Qualls posted a 5.06 ERA for the month of August, his best month of the 2010 Major League Baseball season.

Even with that little ray of sunshine peeking out with his August stats, his September has gotten off on the really rough footing. Right now in his lone appearance of September, Qualls has given up 4 hits and 2 earned run in his only inning of work against the Orioles on Sunday. Boost another fact clear into the light that Qualls has a 13.50 ERA against Boston in his career (1.1 innings), and you get a little more for the Rays to worry about if Qualls takes the mound in this critical series in Fenway Park.

 

Could yesterdays appearance against the Orioles where Qualls entered the game with a Rays 6-5 lead, but did not register an out, and instantly surrendered 2 hits and walk. Qualls also saw two of the inherited men on base score along with two credited to him in this brief outing. Kind of shovels a level of dirt over his last 6 prior appearances, which were scoreless. His 2010 opponents batting average of .351 is the highest among Major League relievers. Adding more dirt to the pile is the fact his 7.79 combined ERA is also the highest among Major League relievers.


Hopefully we will see a reduced role with Qualls over the rest of the season, and that his name was not on the original post season roster submitted by the Rays to MLB on August 31st. Qualls might have some use between today and October 4th, but he should not be added or even considered for the post season roster. And it is a pity that the pitcher who posted a career high mark of 24 saves and led all Major League relievers with a 1.21 BB/9IP ratio and 6.43 SO/9IP ratio has seen his career this season plunder into the darkness.

But it is time Rays. It is time to admit the trade was not going to pan out and cut our losses before something drastic happens, or we lose another game at the hand of Qualls. And it is a real shame that his pitching “Quall-ity” did not bring more success for the Rays as we saw plenty of quantity runs scored against him.

The Rebirth of Chad Qualls

 
 
People remarks all the time that sometimes, people need or deserve a second chance in life. That a bad situation or event should not taint or stain a reputation, or cause people to shy away from you or not consider you effective. And there is no better time for that period of renewal, or a second chance to set things right during a Major League Baseball season as when the Trade Deadline expires. And believe me fans, if anyone is thankful for the reversal of past deeds, it is new Tampa Bay Rays reliever Chad Qualls.

Qualls will again get to taste this magical potion that will start his reliever redemption and it all came with just changing his locker from a National League team to an American League squad. Instantly and with no regard to what Qualls had in his dark Arizona closet, with a bad April-June start, instantly all that rubbish and doubting is gone with a blink of the eye. And maybe that is the most unique thing about this time of year. Every Major League Baseball teams is searching for their own answers by seeking out players who could make a substantial contribution over the last third of a season, or maybe provide some added defense or a deceptive pitching performance to put their squad in contention down the stretch.

Something as simple as boosting the power of Rays Bullpen can produce a handful of needed wins that can be the difference between playing into late October, or making airline flight plans with the family to begin the long baseball off season. And if there is one guy that understands this totally after an unusual and often dismal start to his 2010 season, it is Chad Qualls. The right-hander leaves behind in the National League a .370 Opponent’s Batting Average, with a .390 average against left-handed hitters. Something any pitcher would give his non-pitching arm to reverse in a heartbeat.

 

Boosting Qualls want for redemption is the fact as late as last Tuesday, Qualls allowed 2 runs on 2 hits (1 HR ) in 2 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. Adding insult to Qualls open wounds, opponents have scored on Qualls in 5 of his last 7 games to produce a preposterous 11.74 ERA. Qualls has been victimized with 10 Earned Runs in his last 7 innings of work prior to his trade to Tampa Bay. More heart wrenching is the fact that since June 10th, Qualls has been scored on in 10 of his last 16 outings, despite a small reprieve from June 29-July 5th when he threw 4 scoreless innings. But there is a bright spot to all the doom and gloom forecasted already about Qualls 2010 season.


Qualls did convert is 50th career save in2010 season, plus he has converted 11 of his past 13 save appearances prior to his trade to the Rays. Amazing enough, since 2005, Qualls is in the Top five among all relievers in the Major Leagues in games and innings pitched. And is also in the Top Ten of all relievers in wins and holds. All categories that show that effectiveness has not eluded Qualls his entire MLB career.

 

So there is some firm foundation to provide Qualls with another change in a different locale, and with the recent Disabled List visit by Rays reliever Grant Balfour, Qualls might be in line to be the secondary “go-to” guy and assume Balfour’s usual set-up role. Balfour will be out until possibly September with an injury to his intercostals muscle group, which runs between the ribs and helps promote the breathing action. The injury was not obtained during a Rays contest, but during a playful “horsing around” session


Balfour sustained his injury as Balfour and Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey were roughhousing around during Batting Practice on Friday night, and both fell suddenly to the Field Turf. Since the Rays were facing a shortage of veteran experience in their minor league system, they decided to give Qualls a chance to erase the horrors of his miserable first half as a member of the Diamondbacks hoping that his latest chance with the Rays will not bring with Qualls any of his D-back nightmarish results that could rear its ugly head again and forsake the Rays for giving him a chance to start all over again in the American League.

 

Qualls has been given the grand opportunity to showcase himself over the rest of the Rays season to give adequate proof that his days as a questionable reliever are long gone. And that his new Rays reliever new image will emerge and show the confidence and productive nature needed for a chance at 2011 employment.

Second chances in sports do come, and if Qualls makes the most of his rebirth with the Rays, he could effectively salvage and possibly erase his horrid start to 2010 with a powerful and confirming last few months. And the magnitude of the overall situation is not lost on Qualls. Prior to Saturday night’s game against the New York Yankees, Qualls told the St. Petersburg Times,


“The majority of my text messages were, ‘Now you’ve got 0.00 ERA.’ That’s a great thing.”

 

Qualls has a clean slate, a chance to redeem himself and provide a solid answer to the Rays Bullpen over the course of the season. And with Qualls undoubtedly becoming a Free Agent at the end of the 2010 season, he could make a compelling case for someone to take another chance on him in 2011,maybe even the Rays But that is one of the glories of this time of year in Major League Baseball. Things can be erased and forgotten within a moment’s notice.

New beginnings can revitalize and reenergize a player to provide a solid performance for his new club. And a career once in peril can again be reborn brand new and full of hope and promise. Who says Christmas doesn’t come at the end of July?
 

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