Results tagged ‘ Chris Fernandez ’

Half an Inch can be a Huge Difference

 

 

They say that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest thing to do in sports, but I beg to differ. I think the hardest thing to do ever in sports is to thread a breaking pitch within that segmented half inch space with respect to velocity and depth. Think about I here for a second, if a thrown ball by a professional pitcher is even a half an inch high or inside, it can be the catalyst for a 3-run homer, or go the complete opposite and be a routine foul ball out caught by an infielder or catcher.


That is why I think a pitched ball, perfectly thrown to a designated spot with a certain purpose in mind can be one of the most energizing and most stressful actions in sports. Simply put, if you hit the mark with your desired velocity and break, it is a pitch even the MLB’s current legendary slugger Ichiro Suzuki might see his knees buckle as it crosses the keystone of Home Plate.

Over the last two games, the Tampa Bay Rays have seen more than enough of this pitching perfection. Some want to throw the Rays hitters’ under the bus for their lack of confidence or even bravado to swing at a pitch outside of the zone and try and make something happen in these first two games of the American League Divisional Series. But the truth is that both of the Texas Rangers starter ( both lefties) had that formula going spot on for them in those first two contests, and the Rays were left just gasping at the plate.

Time for blunt honesty here. This 2010 Rays team has had seen a great plane of movement between their moments of grand glory and their plummets of utter defeat this season. The 2010 season looks more like a EKG chart than a solidified and unified correlation of consistent patterns or results. The Rays have scored 7-runs in their half of an inning, or gone 27 outs without a single hit.

In both hitting aspects, the solid and visual truth is that their opposing pitchers either were fighting for their velocity and control, or threading the needle with perfection. It could have been lucky guessing or even the intelligence of accumulated statistics and probabilities that aided the Rays, but now they are left naked and vulnerable by their latest fiascos.

Hitting and pitching is a simple process that has been over analyzed over dramatized and in effect taken a huge part of the human element and flushed it completely out of the equation.

But within that de-humanizing effect, the game has gone beyond the simple battle of pitcher and hitter now and transcended to a bigger more elaborate battle. Team now employ Video Coordinators and extra personnel to just label, adjust and formulate pitching charts, tendencies and even a probability chart to show what pitch a certain pitcher might use in the given situation, or with base runners in scoring position. No longer is it all as simple as throwing the ball or hitting it with a bat.

The simple art of pitching has now been transformed into quadrants and formulas that employ pitching to contact or trying get a groundball for defensive play to get out of an inning where in the past, a pitcher would just be un-democratic and just try to strike you out. As our lives have gotten complicated, so has the game we all know and love. Mechanics are videotaped and scrutinized for the smallest advantage or the optimum time for a runner to try and take an extra base.


 

Facial expressions and body language are studied closely hoping to provide keys or tip-offs within the usual body ticks and odd movements to see if you can get a remote advantage, or provide a key indicator of a certain pitch leaving a pitcher’s hand. Science has invaded the game, and it is only going to get worst.


When ALDS Game 1 starter Cliff Lee got 10 strikeouts and shut down the Rays in his 7 innings of work, the press and the accolades went to Lee, not the thousands of man hours evaluating tapes, motions and possible keys. The physical human target got the praise and the applause, but beneath it all science and the ever growing eye of video might have also played a unique role in the end result.

When C J Wilson took the mound on Thursday afternoon and sliced and diced the Rays with fine precision, unseen measures had to have given him a edge, an instant clue as to what the ever patient Rays might do to gain and advantage or put am money wrench in his rhythm. Pitching as evolved in present day from going to the hill every five days to countless hours of studying and dissecting hitters and their tendencies.

Lee has to have studied game tape of his opposition and formulated a plan of attack within his mind and on paper. Both Wilson and Lee used breaking ball hugging the outside corner to entice and get the Rays salivating, but if either had thrown that pitch an inch up or inside, a different outcome could have quickly materialized and Texas would be behind the big black 8-ball right now. Simply put, the Rangers guessed right, and the Rays went back to instinct and not technology to try and rattle the Texas two-some.

The Rangers played their pitching guessing game to perfection over the last two games. They got the usually patient Rays to chase pitches and get out of synch with their commonplace routines at the plate. Breaking pitches with an extra half inch depth or pitches hugging the black of the Home Plate keystone were the keys to this first two games of this ALDS series. Rays Manager Joe Maddon always stresses that “Pitching sets the tone of the game”.

Such has been very true the first two games of this series, and if the Rays even expect to get back into this fight with any vigor and realistic chances of rattling the Rangers pitching foundations, they will have to maybe re-evaluate their present hitting procedures and maybe go “on-the-fly” a bit more and make a few rogue swings. I thought it was humorous the other day when the Rays Evan Longoria called Game 2 a “Must Win” situation for his Rays comrades.

Reality of that quote is that in whether it is a 5-game or 7-game series, getting an early jump on your competition takes the pressure off your pitching staff and puts it firmly in the opposition and adjust, reconfigure and retaliate to get back into the series. Sure the Rays did not go about their usual hitting sprees or even remotely display the talent and abilities we have grown to love out of this Rays machine.

 

Now it is time for the Rays to establish, recognize and attack the Rangers pitching staff starting tomorrow when the Rangers send right-hander Colby Lewis to the hill in Arlington, Texas. They will have to deeply analyze the young rightie hoping to find a clue and subtle giveaway to his pitches, or face a possibility on a early exit in the 2010 post season.


Right now I can see Rays Video Coordinator Chris “Chico” Fernandez deep within a Dallas/Fort Worth hotel room along with Rays Hitting Coach Derek Shelton looking for the answers to some huge Rays hitting question marks. But in the end it will come down to a few precious half inches of depth or velocity. If the Rangers execute their game plan again with precision and efficiency, the Texas triangle could de doing the two-step by 9 pm.

But if the Rays devote themselves and figure out that half inch, that slight deviation at the plate, then they could gain their own valuable inch towards getting back into this ALDS. Funny how a half an inch could either send the Rays home in defeat or give them another chance to change their destiny. The distance between to fingers held together could decide this ALDS either way.

Rays Postseason Rally in St. Petersburg

 

If  you missed the Tampa Bay Rays Rally at Straub Park in St. Petersburg on Monday, you missed a party 10 years in the making. Not that we have a habit in this area of saving our parties for special occasions, but this day was for celebrating baseball in general. I got there about 1 P.M. to meet with a few on the Maddon’s Maniacs and participate in a short promotion video that will grace the Jumbotron this week during the two ALDS games at the Trop.

It is a short little diddy  around our lovable mascot Rayomnd and the “Feel The Heat” theme song that is  a huge success for the Rays. It was not a long shoot, and it was a bit corny for my tastes, but you never know what the video genies will do with a small piece of film. We shall see on Thursday.

 

 

After getting that video situation out of the way, I scoped out my stage right standing position right next to the lous speakers that would be blaring music by the 80′s group Survivior in a few hoiurs. It was about 2:30-ish and I had a bit of time before the activities were to start. Florida Sports Network and Sunshine Network were setting up to broadcast the event and provide some commentary and extra footage from the Rays Television trio of Dewayne Staats, Joe Mcgrane and Todd Kalas.

 

 

As 5 P.M. got closer, Rusty, the Rays usual Tropicana Field game M.C. got us all excited and reminded us that the Chicago White Sox vs. Detroit Tigers game was still in a rain delay. This is important to us Rays fans so we can decide who to email and hassle before Thursday’s game. At 5 P.M., Rusty came out and started the event off by letting us know that national figures had sent a few videos kudos to the team. 

We had the usual ESPN people and members of the TBS broadcasting teams shot during the All-Star game, but there were a few unusal greetings also sent to the Rays. Rob Schneider, of “You can do it” fame sent a bizzare, but really thought out diddy that even included his dog pimping out for the Rays.  Kevin Costner unvealed his new song, “It’s All Up To You” written for the Rays as a show of respect from Costner and his band, Modern West. The video was a montage of the visit by Costner and the band last November to help promote the new uniforms, and included some batting pratice pieces from Progress Energy Field.

Orlando, a popular DJ from 98.7 radio station in town also brought his new song for the Rays to be unveiled today during the Rally. The song was titled, “The Trop. Boys”, and it had a grat beat and was a cool sounding song. I know we will be seeing more of that song here in the playoffs at the Trop.

After that, it was onto the introduction of the players. I am going to post an additional blog with the picture on it to save some space here today.  The Television guys, Staats, Mcgrane and Kalas all started the program off with a video recalling the highs of this magical season for the team. the video played up the Boston, Chicago and Angels series sweeps, and showed the walk-off wins for the team in 2008.

After that, Todd Kalas came out and got into the player and coaches introductions of our 2008 Rays team. The most applause of course went to skipper Joe Maddon and Don Zimmer today. After the coaches took their place on the stage, the players were intorduced one by one, with Akinora Iwamura getting the “Aki” chant from the crowd. the guys were all sporting their Rays white uniforms, and it made a great background for the hundreds of cameras snapping their every move. After getting through  all but one of the players introductions, Kalas introduced B J Upton, who I still believe is the most unsung hero of this season.

 

 

After that,  Kalas introduced a few people I know well, but Tampa Bay should get to know. Bullpen Catcher, Scott “The Enforcer” Cursi is one of the most tireless workers I have ever met, and is a great guy to boot. Chris “Chico” Fernandez does a great job getting game and  scouting video for the team. And last, but not least is the Rays clubhouse manager Chris “Westy” Westmoreland. I have heard fron a number of people that he runs the best clubhouse system in the major leagues. Kudos to him for that.

 

 

After these last 3 important introductions, Kalas turned the mic over to the skipper, Joe Maddon to talk a bit to the crowd. Madden as usual, was uplifting and totally believeable and the crowd showed its energy by clapping and cheering for the boss. After he was done speaking, the mic was turned over to the team’s charismatic Carlos Pena who pumped up the crowd more by urging them to come out and make the Trop deafening with their noise and enthusiasm on Thursday and beyond in the playoffs.

 

 

After the players left the stage, Rusty called up a few local icons who have been true Rays fanatics for years. The first was current WWE Champion John Cena, who confessed he used to live in Boston, but has converted into a true Rays believer now. Cena also provided one of the best moments of the Rally when he informed the crowd he had heard from Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield and first baseman Sean Casey that the Rays had no heart.

 

 

Well, Cena decided to call Sean Casey on his cellphone, but Casey was probably either at the Red Sox Rally held that day before the hit the airport for California, or he was not going to take the call because he knew he would hear a load of crowd noise in the background.  Cena made sure Casey had an interesting voicemail and proclaimed that the Rays did have spirit and heart and you heard the entire crowd roar towards the stage to voice their opinion on Casey’s comments.

Right before Cena was going to leave the stage, he called up the Rays appointed 10th man, Brian “Nasty Boy” Knobs to the stage for some comments.  Knobs came onto the stage in his usual manner blowing smoke and fire from his nostrils and pumping the crowd into a frenzy. Of course, Knobs could not leave the stage before getting the entire crowd to chant, “Let’s Go Rays.”

 

 

After that, the show was winding down and Rusty intoduced the band, Survivior who put on an amazing concert for about 2 hours. During this time I got to go sit in the VIP section in front of the stage courtesy of Trisha Johnson of the Rays and snapped a few hundred pictures. I am thinking I might include  a few of them on the blog.  The band did an amazing show and ended it with “Eye of the Tiger” to push the crowd into a frenzied climax to the event.

At this time we still did not know who was going to be our opponent for Thursday, but the White Sox were up 1-0 at the time. As I was walking to my car in the Pier parking lot, it hit me that this might not the only Rally this year for the Rays. That we have a possibility of 2 more Rallies and a few hundred chances of cheering for the team between now and a possible World Series game.  I am not going to jinx or  put a hoax on anything, but 10 years ago, that was not even in my mindset for this squad.  Wow, how times flies when you are having fun!!!

 

 

 

 

It must be a true rush to be on stage and singing……….that is something I wish I had done in my younger life….totally, totally into music

 

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 277 other followers