Results tagged ‘ Cliff Floyd ’

Rays Reminiscing…………..A Year Later

 

 

 

 

A little over 13 months ago we took on a new persona here in Tampa Bay. Everyone remembers the limp, win-challenged Tampa Bay Devilrays. Well, we were told to expect changes and get used to winning and maybe keeping a roll of antacids in our pockets for the 2008 season. But little did we know what was about to happen to effect our lives, stomachs and attitude towards our home team.

 

First there was the events st Straub Park that put the entire thing into motion for 2008. Kevin Costner and Modern West came to put on a free concert for the Tampa Bay Masses as we dropped the Devil from our moniker and became to Rays………free and clear. Along with those changes were vibrant logo with a highly accented “R” and the burst of light, which could of been a sunburst, a flashlight, or maybe even a quasar from the futre telling us about 2008.

 

 

 

 

The event brought alot of mixed emotions into the Tampa Bay area, but also brought about a sense of removing the past and being reborn to become what we should always have been…winners.  Not only did the team have a new energy about it, but the player showed the emotion and the anticipation on stage that night to bring about total acceptance of the new look. I only had one problem with all of this change. I still thank that the road jersey should have the “Tampa Bay” naming on the chest instead of the Rays.

 

It might be something simple to most people, but I also have been on teams that accented the away jersey would have a regional flair, and the Rays became only one of a handful of teams that now held the same uniform both home and away. One small patch on the sleeve kept the flying “ray” alive, but for how long. I have a feeling we might see it gone in 2009, replaced by some sort of symbolic gesture of winning, or maybe a “burst” like in the center of the current logo.

 

 

 

 

After the effectiver launching of the new logo and advertising, the team went on a media blitz that saturated the Tampa Bay area with the new attitude and logo. Gone were the green and white shirts off the shelves, and on them now was the burst and the typically blue hats with the white “TB” on them. Also gone were the 5 or 6 variations of the caps during the initial launch. Tampa Bay wanted the entire area to re-unite under one cap scheme before re-launching variations and knock-offs.

 

The Champs Sporting Good store player appearance were extremely popular and some store even ran out of certain team apparel that night. The buzz was all over the Tampa Bay area about the recharged Rays and their plans for the future.  So we got to relax for a short while before the team announced two huge trades of disgruntled or negatively-aligned players. One was a superstar in waiting, while the other may someday be a great powerhitter, but not with the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Delmon Young, who had been in the doghouse of Maddons’ since the last game of the season was jettisoned to the great white dome in Minnesota along with utility guy Brendan Harris and minor league outfielder Jason Pridie. The deal at first looked like the Twins had fleeced the Rays for a potential All-Star and slick-hitter in Young.  But the deal did not take a Tampa Bay turn into late in Spring Training when it looked like two of the players dealt to the Rays might be starters on the team.

 

 

 

 

Jason Bartlett came to the Rays as a much under used appreciated and mis used member of the Twin’s infield. He had good skills at the plate, but his strong point was his defense. The second member of the trade might have come with the most baggage to Tampa Bay. Matt Garza was a great pitcher, but he got into himself too much and might have done himself more damage than good in his time with the Twins. In the end, both guys became valuable members of the team and did not even look back as they moved forward with the Rays. The minute Spring Training started at the Namoli Complex, you could see both guys were relishing in their change of scenery.  Bartlett quickly got into the team’s rhythm and poised to become a valuable member of the squad.

 

 

 

 

Garza tried to become a dominating pitcher early, but his mind got in the way of his pitching and sulking and frustration came to the top alot in the beginning. The truning point for this trade came on that faithful day in Texas where Garza could not longer hide the frustrations and outwardly exploded in the dugout. That day, Garza let it all out and began a transformation that made him into a stellar pitcher.

 

 

 

 

The second trade might not have made much sense at the time, but it was done more out of helping a player who did not think he needed the help at the moment. Elijah Dukes will someday be a trememdous hitter and outfielder, but the local enviorment for him was toxic and he needed to leave before it destroyed him. Duke was traded to the Washington Nationals and did not see a huge amount of action in 2008, but the positive did rear their heads for him during the year.

 

He played inspired ball and did not focus or dwell on the off the field problem he had in Tampa Bay. He showed the Nationals the raw ability and power he had, and made some amazing plays in the field before finally going down in a game against the New York Mets. In that game, Dukes sprinted for a ball near the base of the wall and hit it with such force it should have broken his leg.

 

He did come outy with a knee problem, but came back  quickly and even made more heads turn before the end of the year. He stayed out of trouble and learned that the change of scenery made the trade a blessing in disguise. Tampa Bay might not have gotten alot in return for Dukes, but they did give him his life back, and he repaid them by doing it the right way.

 

 

 

 

After these two trades, the team went about signing two members of the 2008 team that made contributions in different ways. Troy Percival was chasing a top 10 spot in the All-Time save list when he signed a 2-year contract with the Rays. Because of his knowledge of Maddon’s gameplan, he was the perfect candidate for closing out Rays games. He came with veteran experience and postseason muscle, which could come in handy for the young Bullpen.

 

His work ethic and chats with the young guys could serve a dual purpose as having another pitching coach out there in the Bullpen to educate and relate to the other players. Percival came into the year  wanting to secuire the back end of the Rays Bullpen and give them some stability in the position.  Little did we know at the time what would happen, but in 2007, it was heralded as a major upgrade and a certain intimidation factor.

 

 

                              

 

 

The second signing was for a former outfielder who had won a World Series ring just like Percival. Cliff Floyd came to the team with a dual mission. He came to the team to provide ammunition and experience to help educate and emotionally charge the young bench. Floyd came here with great credentials, but his on-field mobility was in question from the start. Gone were the legs who could produce a run from a single, but the power and the stroke were still there in force.

 

He became an instant leader in the clubhouse and lead by example. Always the professional, Floyd took young players like B J Upton and Carl Crawford under his wing and taught both of them the art of the game. That half the battle in this psort was fought between their ears and in their words and comments to others. You could see the change in both players’ early in the year, and it set the tone for the team.

 

                                

 

 

 

So with these 4 episodes early in the off season for the Rays, the team set about  a series of changes like never before in their history. They had a change of uniforms, attitude and a veteran experience level they had not witnessed in their short history. The sky was the limit for the young team before the Feb. reporting day, and from there they just kept making history. 

 

2008 Arbitration Predictions and Results

 

 

So here we are…………..Arbitration Day. During the next 7 days teams will really show just how much they want certain members of their 2008 roster. Not lost in all of this is the Type “A” or “B” eligible arbitration candidates. Luckly for the Tampa Bay Rays, they do not have any of these candidates and can either offer arbitration to their players’, or not and not risk losing anything.

 

Because we do not have any classified arbitration candidates, the Rays would not recieve any type of compensation from other teams for them signing their players past December 7th.  Today is the first day that teams will be contacting their players and their agents and let all of the above know their desires for 2009.  With the Rays, there will be a few really important decisions on personell and the make-up of the Rays roster in 2009.

 

With the Rule 5 Draft also on the horizon, the team might elect to not offer arbitration to certain memebers of the team knowing they would like to remian with the Rays, and can use their roster spot for the Rule 5 draft until they are resigned by the team. Just because a player is cut loose from the Rays does not always mean they do not want him on their roster or in the minor league system.

 

It is a bit of a mind game to try and disguise your true interest in some players and hope that the work with the mirrors and shadows protects these players. Back to the arbitration game, I will try and make a few predictions here today on who might, or might not be offered Arbitration by their 2008 clubs.

 

As predicted, the Tampa Bay Rays did not offer any arbitration to any of it’s 4 free agents on Monday night. Rocco Badelli and Trever Miller were actively seeking another team for 2009 on Monday and did not expect the Rays to offer arbitration.

 

Eric Hinske and Cliff Floyd are the other two free agents for the Rays and both are currently going through offers from other teams. Floyd is also rehabbing a shoulder surgery to help repair some damage suffered during the 2008 World Series during Game 2 at Tropicana Field against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

 

Arbitration Predictions:

 

 

               

 

I am going to start off with Raul Ibanez of the Seattle Mariners. Ibanez  will be offered arbitration by the team, but he will refuse the offer and end up signing with another club. The guy is a power left-handed bat that will be needed in a few National League outfields in 2009. He will also have his pick of Designated hitter spots in the American League by at least a half dozen clubs before finally signing in Toronto.

 

 RESULTS:

The Mariners did offer Arbitration to Ibanez on December 1, 2008 at 2:32 PM CST  . 

 

 The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a few decisions to make in regards to the arbitration of power-hitting first baseman Mark Teixiera and hard throwing closer Francisco Rodriquez. Both players are considered in the top tier of Type “A” candidates for arbitration, and the Angels might use this to offer them arbitration with the hopes they will decline and sign with another team.  Another part of the equation would be the draft picks acquired for either of them to leave the team to re-stock the Angels minor league system.

 

Two other Angels also will have a go at arbitration today with mixed results for them both. Starting pitcher Jon Garland might not be offered arbitration bascially because he is not the dominating pitcher he was before coming to LA from the Chicago White Sox. Darrin Oliver, a reliever, might be a Monday decision becuase he would make the same amount if he was with the club or turned down for arbitration. I think that both might be offered arbitration, with Oliver a last second yes or no decision. Another Angel in jeopardy of not getting offered arbitration is Garrett Anderson. He  is another bubble player who might be offered arbitration due to the loyalty to the club, but the hearing might bring him a lower salary than as a free agent. 

 

RESULTS:

  The Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem  announced at 7:31 pm CST that they have decided to offer arbitration to  Mark Teixiera, Jon Garland, Darren Oliver and K-Rod for 2009. Garrett Anderson was not granted arbitration by the club.

 

 

The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies will not be offering arbitration to relievers Tom Gordon and Rudy Seanez. Gordon makes total sense since his ceiling and salary were high in 2008, and he was out with an injury the entire year. The Phillies invested in Brad Ledge for their closer, and he responded in producing a fantastic season and a solid spot on the roster as the Phillies 2009 closer. Seanez is a left-handed reliever and might be one of the next relievers to sign a contract, maybe for the Rangers.

 

Also up for consideration will be starter Jamie Moyer and right-fielder Pat Burrell. Moyer has been a linch pin in the Phillies rotation since coming over from the Seattle Mariners. His pitching stabilized a Phillies rotation that was a mess before his arrival. Burrell is a home-grown Phillies star who might have just made himself too expensive for the Phillies taste. I think the team will offer arbitration to Moyer. The team will still work to cut a deal with Moyer, but will certainly decline an offer to Burrell for 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The team has decided to not offer arbitration to all four of their eligible candidates for 2009. Tom Gordon was the only player not mentioned, but is still injured and will not be offered a contract for 2009.

 

 

The San Diego Padres will not be offering arbitration to  former closer Trevor Hoffman. This is actually a sad event. More so by the way the team kind of dumped him after giving him a contract offer and then rescinding it and not giving him a reason why before announcing the decision. This act might come back to haunt the Padres since Hoffman is thinking seriously about maybe closing for the division foe, L A Dodgers.

 

RESULTS:

The San Diego Padres confirmed at 7:41 pm CST that they are not going to offer arbitration to Trevor Hoffman.

 

 

Former All-Star and Atlanta Brave closer/starter John Smoltz will not be offered arbitration by the team.  This is not to mean that he doesn’t still have any fire and gas in the tank, but the Braves did get rocked in 2002 by Greg Maddux accepting arbitration and getting a huge increase in salary. He might still be in the Braves jersey on Opening Day, but not at a arbitration sized increase in pay.

 

RESULTS:

The Atlanta Braves confirmed at 8:09 pm CST that they are declining to offer arbitration to pitcher John Smoltz.

 

 

                     

 

The Toronto Blue Jays will offer Arbitration to pitcher A J Burnett. There are signals in the Jays system that they want to put an end to the uphill climb in payroll without results in 2009. But to let Burnett go would send the wrong message to Roy Halliday and the staff about the intentions of the team. I think the team will make a few runs at players to try and compete with the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees in 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The Toronto Blue Jays have offered arbitration to pitcher A J Burnett, but have denied arbitration to his battery mate Gregg Zaun. The decision on the pair hit the Internet about 6:56 pm CST tonight.

 

The Texas Rangers have a huge decision to make as to the future of current DH, Milton Bradley for 2009. Bradley had a breakout year for the team and would again be a great cornerstone with Josh Hamilton in the middle of the Rangers’ lineup for 2009. For that reason, I think the Rangers will offer arbitration to Bradley for the 2009 season, and then at trade deadline time, trade him for more pitching.

 

RESULTS:

The Texas Rangers announced at 11:55 pm CST that they will offer arbitration to Milton Bradley for 2009.

 

 

                                      

 

With the Brewers, I think we will see one given arbitration and one let go for obvious reasons. C C Sabathia will definitely be offered arbitration. Sabathia made such an impact on this team after his trade from Cleveland in 2008. To say they would also let this guy go with out a fight would be a huge PR mistake and also a roster busting move. Public sentiment is high that the team needs to retain their big train and let him roll another year in Miller Park.

 

On the other hand, the Brewers felt they got robbed in the closer department by the injuries and the inconsistant pitching of Eric Gagne in his Brewers stay. For that reason, the Brewers will not be offering arbitration to Gagne. Even the recent retirement of closer Solomon Torres can’t keep Gagne on the Brewers’ roster.

 

Another set of Brewers’ racing for arbitration hearing and raises are pitchers’ Ben Sheets and Brian Shouse. Sheets will be offered arbitration as a goodwill gesture that the team wants to be competitive in 2009. The showe of faith might be enough to retain Sabathia. Sheets recent injury problems might weigh heavy in this process, and the team might not offer at the last minute. This is seriously one that is on the fence right now.

 

Brewers reliever Brian Shouse will not be offered arbitration. The minor league system of the Brewers’ actually have a pretty godd supply of relievers in their minor league system that are itching for a chance at the major league level. This might be the deciding factor in Shouses’ future with the team.

 

   RESULTS:

The Brewers have offered arbitration to C C Sabathia, Brian Shouse and Ben Sheets. They did decline to offer Eric Gagne an arbitration hearing on December 1, 2008 at 3:08 PM CST.

 

  

                           

 

 

In the Yankees camp, both Bobby Abreu and Mike Mussina will be offered arbitration. Abreu will be offered it more as a afterthought to any team thinking of signing him for 2009. Since he is a Type “A” candidate, the signing club will lose a draft pick in June, and the Yankees will also get a compensation pick for him.

 

Mussina is semi-retired and not thought of seeking a contract with any team in 2009. This might be a pre-emptive strike set up to divert any team from trying to get him under contract in 2009. The Yankees feel he might be going through a “Troy Percival” stage and might not want to play now, but as soon as the teams report, might consider a contract for 2009.

 

                   

 

Also speaking of the Yankees, they will not hand an arbitration offer to Andy Pettitte for 2009. The thinking in the Yankees camp is that Pettitte is already emotionally out of the Yankees staff and might not be a totally positive member of the young pitching staff in 2009. It is a shame since Pettitte is a dominating leftie when he is on his game.

 

The Yankees also will not offer arbitration to Jason Giambi. This one kind of puzzles me a bit in the fact that Giambi might end up in the A L East again in 2009, and wouldn’t you like the fact that you took 2 draft picks for that team to even sign the “Gambino”. His defense has gone downward fast in the last few years, but after some eye situation early in 2008, he hit the ball as well as anyone in baseball.

 

 

                     

 

Also in the Yankees camp is  Ivan Rodriguez. As you might remember, the Yankees basically borrowed him for a few months trying to make a stretch run and catch either the Rays or Red Sox before the playoffs. He was a major upgrade at the catching position. But his increase in salary with Jorge Posada still on the roster might be enough for the Yankees to not offer arbitration to Rodriguez.

 

   RESULTS: 

 At 4:48 pm CST, the New York Yankees have declined to offer arbitration to pitchers’ Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and Right-filder Bobby Abreu.

 

Staying in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox will offer arbitration to veteran catcher Jason Varitek. Considering what he has played for in the last few years, he might be one of the big winners in average change in salary in 2009. Varitek’s agent . Scott Boras tried to play up Varitek’s “stats” by comparing him to a far superior catcher in Jorge Posada to the Red Sox earler in the Hot Stove season.

 

RESULTS:

The Boston Red Sox have decided to offer arbitration to both Jason Varitek and pitcher Paul Byrd.  Word came in at 8:14 pm CST, with Byrd’s offer a bit baffling with the recent news about the signing of Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa.

 

The Colorado Rockies will offer arbitration to closer Brian Fuentes. This might also be a smokescreen by the rockies to gain posession of a teams draft pick for signing Fuentes.  He was been contacted by several clubs that have already interested in the closer, even with the compensation issues.  Fuentes might turn down the offer and seek his spot somewhere else in the MLB in 2009.

 

 RESULTS:

The Colorado Rockies have decided to offer arbitration to closer Brian Fuentes.  The offer hit the wires at 6:59 pm CST tonight.

 

Frank Thomas of the Oakland A’s will not be offered arbitration by the team. This is not for lack of desire or offensive firepower, but the team already has it on good authority that he wants to stay with Oakland and might be willing to negotiate a discount to remain with the club.

 

RESULTS:

The Oakland A’s confirmed at 9:07 pm CST that they are not offering arbitration to Frank Thomas for 2009.

 

         

 

Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs is an interesting player to consider for arbitration. The team would like to offer him arbitration, but only on the premise that he will turn it down and they can reap 2 draft picks for him. But the flip-side is that they offer it and he accepts it and give the team a secere situation both in salary and in the Bullpen. If there is any movement to show he would accept the arbitration offer, the team would refuse to offer him arbitration for 2009. This one truly might be decided on a written agreement and not on a handshake. Reliever Bob Howry is also up for arbitration and might not be extended an offer for arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS: 

 The Chicago Cubs announced at 11:03 pm CST that they have decided to not offer arbitration to Kerry Wood and Bob Howry for 2009.

 

On the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox will not be offering arbitration to both Ken Griffey Jr., or Juan Uribe. With the recent trade talks concerning Jermaine Dye and Nick Swishers trade to the Yankees, you might think the team would retain Griffey for one season as insurance. On the up-side, he is also on pace to hit a few milestones that would be a PR masterpeiece for the White Sox to promote in 2009.

 

Juan Uribe is an easier piece to replace either with minor leaguer Josh Fields, or by a trade. Uribe has been an adequate player for the team , but his arbitration increase in salary would not sit well with the White Sox payroll issues for 2009. Also under consideration is shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who has gotten alot of talk lately as trade bait for the White Sox. Cabrera might be offered arbitration based on his recent reade rumblings.

 

RESULTS:

The Chicago White Sox announced at 12:35 pm CST that they are offering arbitration to Orlando Cabrera for 2009. No word yet on the status of arbitration for Griffey Jr, or Juan Uribe at this time.

 

 

             

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks might take a few days to consider if the offer arbitration to Adam Dunn, or set him free. He has not been one of the big names thrown around in any circles this off season and might not be worth the compensation picks for another team to consider him in 2009. I think the D-back do end up offering him arbitration as a gesutre he has a place if he wants it in 2009. But I also think in the back of their minds, he turns it down and takes the play out of their hands.

 

Also up for consideration by the D-backs is starter Randy Johnson and relievers’ Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz. Both players had an adequate 2008, and it might come down to what place they will have in the future of the team as to their status for arbitration. Cruz might be a decison based on the want and need out there for relievers who can set-up or close with the least amount of baggage. Cruz will come down to a last minure discussion before he is offered arbitration.   Lyons and Johnson might be the two guys’  not be offered arbitration for 2009. Another D-back who is sought after by many teams is second baseman Orlando Hudson who will certainly be offered arbitration to try and retain at least some draft picks when he declines the D-backs offer.

 

RESULTS:

The Arizona Diamondbacks have announced at 9:26 pm CST that they are not offering arbitration to both Randy Johnson and Adam Dunn. Being offered arbitration will be Juan Cruz, Orlando Hudson and Brandon Lyon. 

 

The Florida Marlins had an amazing run at the National League East title early in the season before falling by the wayside. At the forefront of that action was Luis Gonzalez . Gonzalez was the veteran presence on the club, and with catcher Paul Lo Duca might both be victims of payroll cutting for 2009. Also up for arbitration is veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes, who I think might have done enough to merit the team offering arbitration to him to hold onto this valuable commodity at least until the 2009 trade deadline. I have a feeling that Gonzalez and Lo Duca played their last ball for the Marlins and will not be offered arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The Floridas Marlins announced at 11:08 pm CST that they will not offer arbitration to  Arthur Rhodes, Luis Gonzalez, and Paul Lo Duca for 2009.

 

Several other veterans have arbitration issues to contend with in the majors this off season. Moise Alou is considering retirement, and that might be the total basis that the New York Mets do not offer him arbitration. His injury might not have been severe to end his career, but he might just consider it time while he can still function naturally.

 

Also up for arbitration on the Mets are Luis Ayala and Oliver Perez. Ayala might be the odd man out as the Mets have high hopes for the inning eater Perez and they might not offer arbitration to both Alou and Ayala, but offer arbitration to Perez.

 

RESULTS:

Out of the New York Mets offices at  8:22 pm CST is the announcement that they are declining to offer arbitration to Moises Alou and Luis Ayala. The team is however offering arbitration to pitcher Oliver Perez.

 

 

Alan Embree has been a tough competitor for years in the American League. He has been a “go-to” reliever for years and might be starting down that road of decline finally. For that reason, I see the Oakland A’s considering this for a bit of time then not offering him arbitration, but extending a Spring Training Invite to him to see if he is still a dominating reliever.

 

RESULTS:

At 9:07 pm CST tonight, the Oakland A’s have denied arbitration to Alan Embree and Frank Thomas.

 

 Edgar Renteria is considered to be on the way out and the  Detroit Tigers also must make an educated guess as to if they offer him arbitration, will he accept it or turn it donw and move onto another team in 2009. This is another team that will have to feel out its veteran before it either commits or turns down arbitration to him. I have a feeling they will not offer him arbitration.

 

   RESULTS:

The Detroit Tigers did not offer arbitration to Renteria on Monday, December 1,2008 at 2:42 PM  CST.

 

 

The Minnesota Twins had a remarkable 2008 season, and also included in that was the work of reliver Dennys Reyes of the Twins Bullpen unit. Reyes had one of his best seasons in the majors and added a veteran persence to the staff. I have a feeling that it was enough to merit an offer of arbitration for Reyes to continue in Minnesota for 2009.

 

 RESULTS:  

The Minnesota Twins just offered arbitration to reliever Dennys Reyes for 2009 at 4:20 pm CST .

 

The St Louis Cardinals Bullpen was a mess in 2008. The closer role ended up being a closer-by committee assignment during the season and no one truly stepped up and took over a veteran role in the Bullpen. For this reason I feel that  former closer Jason Isringhausen  and Branden Looper will not be offered arbitration by the team. I do feel that reliever Russ Spring might be a bubble guy and also might be offered arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS: 

At 6:19 pm CST, The St. Louis Cardinals have denied arbitration to three of their pitchers from the 2008 staff. Jason Isringhausen, Branden Looper and  Russ Springer all were not offered arbitration by the Cardinals. 

 

Since coming to the Kansas City Royals, Mark Grudzienlanek has been a clutch player in the middle for the Royals. He has been a solid defender and an above average guy at the plate for a team fighting for an idenity in the A L Central divisionI have a feeling that the Royals might reward that loyalty and service by offering arbitration to Grudzienlanek for 2009.

 

RESULTS: The Kansas City Royals just offered arbitration to infielder Mark Grudzielanek  at  8:17 pm CST for the 2009 season. 

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers had another fantastic run at the National League pennant in 2008. The team was sitting near the .500 mark most of the year and finally took over the division late in the season, and overtake the Arizona D-backs for the Western division. On the forefront of that move was the acquiring of Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox, and Casey Blake from the  Cleveland Indians. Both of these players have done everything asked of them by the Dodgers and will be offered arbitration today.

 

Another twist of fate for the Dodgers saw their Bullpen and starting pitching come togewther at the right time and take over the game for the team. Starters’ Brad Penny and Derek Lowe hunkered down and played playoof type ball the last month of the season to propel LA into position for the title.  For that reason, these two starters might be offered arbitration for the 2009 season.Reliever Joe Biemel helped anchor the leftie side of the Bullpen. Infielder Jeff Kent was up and down all year long due to injuries and did not participate fully in 2008. For that reason, I think that the Dodgers will not offer arbitration to Biemel and Kent for 2009

 

Also up for,arbitration is future Hall-of-Famer, Gregg Maddux. He did not have an explosive  end of the year for the Dodgers after being picked up from the San Diego Padres, and might not be offered arbitration by Los Angeles.

 

 RESULTS:

The Los Angeles Dodgers have just offered arbitration to Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake and Derek Lowe.  In a second announcement, the team has decided to deny arbitration to pitchers’ Joe Biemel, Greg Maddux, Brad Penny and infielder Jeff Kent. Final word came out from the Dodgers office at  7:20 pm CST tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Thoughts Hitting on my Noggin’

  

                  

 

The Tampa Bay Rays management have announced that they will hear from Troy Percival next week on if he will elect for surgery on his back and bad knee during the off season, or try and rehab it by the Rays reporting date. The report came from Percival’s agent, Paul Cohen. Cohen said Percival is going through his normal rehab at the moment, although he isn’t throwing because it’s too early in the offseason, and the pitcher will see more doctors before making a final decision.

 

What? Percival was suppoose to come see Rays Manager Joe Maddon duing the American League Championship Series and never even came to the Trop. Now we hear that he is doing “normal” rehab before deciding if he wants to have surgery. I would think the medical staff of the Rays would be involved in this venture since Percival is still under contract with the team.

 

Maybe there is something else here that is being hidden from the Rays medical staff by Percival. He is a very proud individual, and maybe the problem is that things have healed in the past by rehab, but at 38-ish I know personally, you body has a mind of its own. Hopefully the Rays will get total disclosure into the doctors’ reports and their evaluation before Percival even hit the knife, or the treadmill.

 

If he misses any amount of time in 2009, should the Rays discard him like Al Reyes.  You remember Reyes, out 2007 closer who developed arm problems maybe by throwing himself ragged ledd than a year after arm surgery. A guy who is injured can sometime  hide an injury with careful delivery mechanics. I think the team needs to get an insurance policy, like a Kyle Farnsworth, or even Kerry Woods in case Percival can not make it out of May this upcoming season.

 

          

 

Thank you B J ! Thank you for thinking of the team and getting your surgery in enough time to rehab and come in for Spring Training in good shape and ready to rock and roll in 2009.  There have been people who have questioned your committment and your integrity last year to the team. Little do they know that in 2009, you will explode out of the box and be totally healthy for the Rays.

 

Considering that is your non-throwing shoulder, I also think your throws to the plate will have a better velocity and accuracy since you will not have a twinge of pain from your left shoulder on the follow-through. And considering that in the playoffs you were feeling better than ay other time during the season, and hitting for power and average, it shows you have the ability.

 

So take your time and get 100 percent healthy and we will see you real soon in Port Charlotte hitting bombs and stealing a whole bushel of bases again this year.

 

 

 

Cliff Floyd is another player who has been granted his free agency, and also is considering surgery on his bad shoulder.  Floyd was quoted as saying last week that even if the Rays do not want to resign him, he will get his shoulder repaired and be ready for anything.

 

I was a little upset that Floyd hurt himself in Game 2 of the Wrold Series at the Trop., but hopefully it was not on that play where Floyd broke his maple bat into three pieces.

 

Floyd had as much value in the clubhouse as in the batter’s box for the Rays last year. He showed alot of the young guys a different veteran attitude and approach to the game. He took a few guys under his wing last year and they grew and matured during the season. Even if he is not retained even for a modest contract by the Rays in 2009, he has laid some fantastic ground work with this team and should be proud of it.

 

Floyd  should be offered a nice incentive contract and a chance to again lead these guys towards finishing the gola set by them during the playoff run. It will be a hard road to the World Series in 2009, but I would follow “Big Cliff” to the promised land.

 

Hot Stove Report

                         

There have been a few rumblings that the Rays are looking towards the Florida Marlins for our new right-fielder. Jeremy Hermida is a great player, but I truly feel he is a better fit for the National League than for the power pitching of the Americna League.  Hermida has been up with the Marlins first in 2005, then has bounced back and forth between the majoras and the minor leagues in 2007 and 2008.  In 2007, he had a banner year for the Marlins hitting .296, with 18 home runs. 

 

I think this guy can play great for the Rays, I am just not sold on him yet. He basically walked 10 percent of the time in 2008, but struck out 138 times. I think his bat is not the right fit for the Rays. We need power, but not at the expense of swinging for outisde pitches and gopherballs in the dirt.

 

He also swung at 43.2 percent of the pitches he saw in 2007.  a saving grace is the point that he made some kind of contact in 78.7 percent of the pitches he saw.  That normally translates into running the count and getting on base via a walk. But as we noted before, he is not a great contact hitter. He hit only 46.7 percent of those pitches somewhere on the field into fair territory. Oh, and by the way………..he is a left-handed batter.

 

He is a young guy who I feel needs another year in the majors, and in the National League to be effective. I could be wrong, because the guy has hit 35 homers with over 243 RBI’s in the last 2 years. Whoever the Rays pick to be the right-handed bat for the team had better have a thick skin. I have a bad feeling that if he comes here and doesn’t light up the board a bit, the Cowbell Kid might come down and heckle him before the games in the outfield.

Rays Hot Stove Pot Beginning to Simmer

 

When the World series ended with the upstart  Tampa Bay Rays losing to the Philadelphia Phillies, it was the first bit of heat to the offseason’s Hot Stove predicitions and rumors. The Rays quickly made announcements on declining options and granting free agency to 4 of this years Rays’ players that helped the team land in the Fall classic.

First to hit the free agent market was Tampa Bay Rays’ mainstay Rocco Baldelli, who had his 2009 option actually turned down in the early atages of 2008 after he was diagnoised with fatigue syndrome. Baldelli still might sign back with the only club he has ever played for maybe more out of loyalty for all the years and times they took to secure his health and might even give a nice “hometown” discount to the Rays.

 

 

Baldelli has had a series of injuuries from Tommy Johns’ surgery, knee surgery, and his latest set back that the Rays stood behind him and kept him on their roster. Some other teams might have cut loose years ago, but the Rays felt they needed to get Baldelli and themselves on steady ground before committing to a future deal. Both sides will probable settle on an incentive laced agreement with playing time and offensive statistics playing heavy on the deal.

 

 

Eric Hinske came to the Rays and provided ample protction on the offensive side for the club while they searched for a right-handed bat for rightfield. With the renewed health of Baldelli, it gave Hinske less time in the field, and he was primarily a bench player after the trading deadline. Hinske will probably noy be with the club in 2009, and will seek more playing time either in the outfield or at third base on another squad.

 

 

 

One of the fee agent signees’ of 2008 that will not be back with the club might be Cliff Floyd. It was discovered during the World Series during Game 3 that Floyd had injured his shoulder in that contest while batting. He tried and rehab the shoulder before Game 4, but the Rays decided to de-activate Floyd and put Hinske on the 25-man World Series roster.

This injury was first thought to be career ending for Floyd, but recent reports have come out that if he opts for surgery, he might be ready in time for 2009 Spring Training. By refusing his $ 2.75 million dollar 2009 club option, it frees up money for the club to pursue another DH candidate for the Rays in 2009. Floyd has not stated if he intends to pursue the Rays as a free agent again in 2009, but he will have the surgery to repair his Labium tear in the coming weeks.

 

                                 

A club option that was turned down for Rays reliever Trever Miller might have more than a few heads turing or scratching this week. The team had a 2009 club option that would have paid him $ 2 million in salary for the season. The move might be a financial one, or it might be a sign that the Rays might want to look elsewhere for their lefty specialist. There have been rumors that the Rays still like miller and might resign him to a reduced contract before Spring Training.

Another rumor flying across the Internet is that the Rays are going to make a run at Atlanta Braves’ left-handed reliever Will Ohman, who the Rays tried to trade for duting the trade deadline in August of 2008. Because of the Rays intense involvement in trying to get Ohman earlier in the season, this might be a precursor to signing him.

 

 

 

Then there is the rumor starting to gain steam that the Rays might part with leftfielder, and 2-time All Star, Carl Crawford in a trade with the Colorado Rockies for Matt Holliday. Crawford is about to hit the high dollar marks for the Rays, and by trading him and maybe a  major league ready pitching prospect, the team might be able to free enough salary space to afford the power bat of Holliday in rightfield for the Rays.

Alot of this depends on what the Rockies will ask for in return for Holliday. I think that a package with Crawford and maybe even a Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine might be attractive to the Rockies. They would get a replacement for Holliday, and get an upgrade in their starting rotation immediately.

I will keep my ear to the ground and see what happens with this rumor. Do not forget that the Rays saved up to 2.5 million by refusing their two club options for 2009, and relieving themselves of Crawford’s 2009 salary of $ 8.25 million dollars would free up about $ 10.75 million. Hollidays 2009 salary is set at about $ 13.5 million dollars.

 

 

Ray’s Executive is Tops in the MLB

 

 

Accolades are beginning to flow into the Tampa Bay Rays after their magical season. Tonight, during a dinner at the Major League Baseball General Managers’ meeting, TheTampa Bay Rays GM, Andrew Friedman was selected as The Sporting News Executive of the Year. This is a high honor for the young gun who has assembled a greatly improved ballclub in such a short time.

He started out  the 2008 year by sending disgruntled outfielder Delmon Young, utility star Brendan Harris, and Minor league outfielder, Jason Pridie to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop Jason Bartlett, starter Matt Garza, and minor league reliever Eddie Morlan.

 

                            

 

Jason Bartlett came to the Rays and immediately gave them a veteran and defensive presence at short. He eventually went on to win the local Tampa Bay press award as the teams’ 2008 Most Valuable Player for his defense and leadership to the team.  Matt Garza grew by leaps and bounds this season, both in the public’s eye and in the clubhouse. He began the year with frustrations and an early injury, but in the second half of the season showed that he the stuff to be a top pitcher for many years in the American League.

His improvement accumulated with his Game 7 victory over the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. It was one of his most impressive performances of 2008. Eddie Morlan is currently at the Double-AA Montgomery  working on a variety of new weapons coming out of the Bullen for the Bsicuits.

These players are not the only positives trades or pickups for Frienman in 2008. He traded  MLB-ready reliever Jeff Ridgeway to the Atlanta Braves for utility player Willy Aybar. This trade did not look like a positive until near the end of Spring Training where Aybar showed that his injury had healed and he was motivated and mentally prepared to play daily in the MLB. His output during the early part of the season, and when thrid baseman Evan Longoria went down have been a true asset to the Rays during the season and the playoffs.

Friedman also picked up Eric Hinske off the Free Agent market and made him the Rays rightfielder with power. Hinske, a former Rookie of the Year winner with the Toronto Blue Jays helped provide leadership by example early in the year for the Rays.

 

                           

 

But not lost in the year was the free agent signing of Cliff Floyd as the team’s primary Designated Hitter this year. Floyd came to the Rays having been in the MLB playoffs the last several years with the Chicago Cubs, ansd the New York Mets. Added to that impressive resume was a World Series title with the Florida Marlins in 2003. He brought a calming and leadership role to the young team and took the challenge on head first with players like B J Upton and Evan Longoria.

The trades and the free agents signings in 2008, made the team a better squad by bringing in a catalyst of strong winning personalities and winning attitudes. These changes in the clubhouse mended and bonded the players into a “family” type unit that played as a whole and not as individuals in 2008.

 

 

Not lost in all of this is the fact that Friedman does have a baseball background. People forget he actually attended Tulane University in Louisianna on a baseball scholarship and palyed until and injury to his shoulder led him to more academic adventures.  With the Hot Stove action beginning to simmer for the Tampa Bay Rays, do not be suprised if Friedman doesn’t steal another great player, or work out a free agent signing that will futher propel the Rays in 2009. 

 

 

Red Sox Force a Game 7 Showdown

 

 

I got a text about 2 minutes before the first pitch that TBS had some sort of malfunction in Atlanta and most of the country got to watch an old Dick Clark America’s Funniest Videos for a while. I guess some one either for got to plug in one plug, or Atlanta decided that the “Heidi Game” needed a 2008 twist.

I was told that the channel got it corrected about the middle of the 1st inning and all was well in TV-land. I even heard that they were kind enough to recap the inning and show B J Upton’s catwalk homer to the home audience. Well, TBS (Totaled Botched Signal) I guess we can forgive you if you can lay off the pro-Boston comments for at least one more day. I am sorry we are ruining the networks plans of a Boston vs. LA series, but another team also is at fault………..blame Philly, they throw snowballs at Santa Claus.

 

Red Sox 4, Rays 2

 

 

 

Umpire Goes Down

It was a night for the weird and unusal at the Trop. I was told by a friend in the St. Petersburg Police Department that only about 7 people had to be escorted out of the building tonight. That is a major improvement over the 32 or more that had a bad night about a week ago for Games 1 and 2. But that was not even the wildest thing to happen in the game.

In the top of the 4th inning, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek finally hit something tonight. He actually got his first hit off the home plate umpire, Derryl Cousins. It saeems that when Varitek fouled off  his 0-2 pitch, it hit the mask of Cousins and traveled down towards the shoulder and chest area.

At the top of the 5th inning, Cousins conferred with Umpire Crew Chief  Tim McCelland ans they decided that he had to be removed from the game and transported to a local hospital. McCelland came out in his gear and officiated the rest of the game as the home plate umpire.

The rest of the umpires then did the Harlem Shuffle and they left the leftfield outfield area vacant becuase they did not have an additional umpire on hand to take Cousins’ position. Word finally came back that Cousins had suffered a bruised Clavicle and would possibily return for Sunday’s contest.

 

 

B J Upton’s En Fuego

To say that B J Upton is hot is an understatement in the ALCS. His 1st inning shot off the “C” ring at the Trop. would have cleared the Green Monster tonight again. It was a grand high shot that would have maybe reached the Beach if the ring was not there. That give Upton now 7 homers in this playoff season, which tied him with Former Angel Troy Glaus, who hit 7 in 2003. It might only be 4 homers in the ALCS, but Upton is putting on a show at the plate during this series.

 

 

James Big Game Shields

The Rays were questioned when they decided to swap their starters for Games 5 and 6. I really do not see the hassle since tonight’s starter was a combined 9-2 at home this year and it would also have put him back in line to pitch the first game if we clinched tonight. Shields has been one of those guys this year who wants the pressure cooker situations and has come out smelling like a rose on most nights.

Tonight, tho, he did get into trouble early, when Red Sox lead-off man Coco Crisp laid down a bunt towards Evan Longoria, but it was moving so slow there was no play. Shields did make amends as he picked Crisp off  of first after the thrid pitch to Dustin Pedroia.

 

 

Shields then got into trouble early in the 2nd when lead-off batter, Kevin Youkilis hit a 1-2 count hanging fastball overe the left-centerfield wall to tie the score at 1-all. He then gave up 2 hits to the nest three batters before getting control of the inning and getting the last 2 bstters to fly out to strand 2 Boston baserunners.

In the 3rd inning, he walked Pedoia, who advance to third on David Ortiz’s double down the rightfield line. Youkilis then hit a ball to Jason Bartlett and Pedroia waltzed in to put Boston up 2-1.  In the 3rd inning, Shields threw 31 pitches and issued 3 walks to the Red Sox.

Shields was cruising along until in the 5th inning, J D Drew hit a liner just over the glove of Gabe Gross in rightfield for a double. Drew ended up getting stranded on base.  In the 6th, Shield gave Jason Varitek his first hit in the ALCS, and his first homer that went into the first row of Section 146 in the Trop. That did not end the scoring in the inning.

Crisp then came up and hit a single off Shields that deflected to Akinora Iwamura, but he could not get a throw off in time.  Shields exited the game after Crisp’s hit and went 5.2 innings and gave up 9-hits and 4 runs on the night.

 

                   

 

Rays Bullpen Troubles

Rays reliever J P Howell then came on to try and get the last out of the 6th inning for the Rays. This brought up Pedroia again, who hit a ball to Bartlett, but the throw went high and wide of Pena and the Red Sox had runners at the corners with 2-outs.

David Ortiz then hit an RBI-single to center to score Crisp and put the Red sox up for good 4-2.  Howell threw 1 inning tonight and got 1 strikeout and gave up a single hit for the night. His ERA is sitting at 3.60 for the Rays. He also hit Jason Bay in the 7th inning to put a Red Sox runner on with 1-out.

Grant Balfour then came on in the 7th inning and walked the first batter, Jed Lowries before settling down and getting Varitek to fly out to Gross for the last out of the inning.

 

 

Chad Bradford then came on in the 8th inning and Pedroia hit a ball back up the middle that hit Bradfors in his leg and he completed a high but good throw for the first out of the inning. The Rays then Intentionally walked Ortiz. The plan worked out great for the Rays as Youkilis hit into a perfect 5-4-3 around-the-horn double play to end the inning.

Bradford then came out for a quick fly out by Drew to left, and a grounder to Bartlett for an easy 2nd out before leaving the game. Trever Miller then came in and got Mark Kotsday to hit a pop up to Longoria to end the top of the 9th inning.

 

                

 

Jason Bartlett

The mighty shortstop is not known for his power, but tonight hit a slowly curving ball that evaded the leftfield foulpole for his first postseason homer of his career. It was also the 2nd homer this year for Bartlett. They Rays did not have alot of offensive power tonight as both their runs came off homers by Bartlett and Upton.

 

 

Unusual Offensive Night

The Rays had a few plays that made you just sit and wonder tonight.  With the Red Sox up 2-1 Bartlett got hit on the elbow by a pitch and the Rays could not capitalize on the play. The Rays usually could and would have gotten somehting out of that play in recent games.

In the 4th inning, Carl Crawford reached out for an outsdie pitch and sent a dying quail into left for a single. He then stole second base and with Cliff Floyd at the plate, the Rays looked like they were about to do something in this game. But Floyd hit a hard ball down the rightfield line that was stopped by Kotsay, who barely got the throw to Beckett in time to get Floyd.

 

 

Then in the 5th inning, Dioner Navarro hit a nice single to center to start off the inning. Then he tried to steal second base, and was gunned down by Varitek.  After Zobrist hit a long fly to center for the 2nd out, Bartlett hit his homer to left. If Navarro had not tried to steal the base, it would have been a 2-run shot for Bartlett. Longoria walked in the 6th inning, but a Crawford double play ball ended the inning for the Rays.

 

In the 7th inning, the Rays went down 1-2-3 on 12 pitches. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Bartlett was again hit by a pitch and was stranded on base by a quick strikeout and 2 pop ups to second base. In the 9th inning, the Rays went down 1-2-3-, with Willy Aybar hitting a strong liner down the third baseline that Youkilis grabbed to end the game.

 

                  

 

Gabe Gross in Rightfield

I mentioned the play in the 5th inning before, but above is the picture of that liner hit by Drew. Gross started to go back on the ball, and either it changed flight, or he lost it for a second in the lights as the ball went about  6 inches to his right before falling to the turf.

In the bottom of the inning, Gross was pinch-hit by Ben Zobrist, who remained in the game in rightfield for the Rays. For the ALCS, Gross has gone 0-10 and had a few mis-guided play in right. Some poele say he had a chance for the ball on Thursday night, but we will never know as the ball skirted over the wall for the game winning single.

Weird thing there, since Drew did not go past first base, he was credited with a single only and not a ground rule double on the game ending play. Some say that Gross had a straight shot at the ball if he left his feet and dove at the ball. But that is hind-sight at this point.

 

 

 

In the 9th inning of tonight’s game, the Rays bench did not have that electric look it has had all season long. It seemed a bit subdued and emotion-less for the first time in a long time. If the Rays are to win tomorrow’s Game 7 showdown with the Red Sox, they need to regain that fire tonight.

There is no time to sulk or pity anything tonight. They have to get that motivation back and recharge themselves to take the Red Sox on by the throat and throttle them tomorrow night. It is a due or die situation, with the winner getting to play again on Weds. against the Phiadelphia Phillies. With a Rays loss, not only is their season over, but they will give the Home Field Advantage gaunlet to the Red Sox.

They have to come out like gangbuster and take this series back, or head to the golf course. I personally want to see a little more baseball this year guys, so let’s go out and kick some bean-town booty tomorrow night. This town has been crazy the last month or so, more than it has in a long, long time. And you guys are the reason for it. Treat yourself, treat the fans, and treat the nation to a little more Rays-ball this Fall.

 

See you at the Champagne bin.

Rays Stumble Against Red Sox 8-7

 

 

             

 

Have the media not guessed by now that Rays Manager, Joe Maddon is the Nutty Professor. Yes, he does do something that are not by the book for major league baseball managers’. He jokes with his players’, does not chew them out in public, and has some very unusual tactics for playing this great game.  He has given an Intentional Base on Balls to one of the game new power hitter( Josh Hamilton). He has a persoanl winecellar in his office for post game tasting. And he is the guy who convinced his “lefites” to go “righties” against Tim Wakefield in three games this year, and they won all three of them.

Logic is not just math to Maddon. He truly believes that the game should be played at an advantage, not to an unwritten rule book. If he wants his team to wear garter belts on their uniforms, don’t you think he has earned the respect that the team would do it without question? Then why are people questioning his move of putting his 4 plus years of major league service ace on the mound in place of James Shields.

There is method to the maddness people. One has a horrid record in the confines of Fenway Park, the other has handcuffed the Red Sox on numerous occasions over his career. I think it was a great move, and one that worked out to show he has a bit of mad genius to him. you either see genius or insanity in his moves. But if his moves are insane, you can committ me right now becuase he has us one game away from  a date with the Holy Grail.    Amen Joe, Amen.

 

Red Sox 8, Rays 7

 

 

 

 

Scott Kazmir

People seem to forget that Scott Kazmir has been in the majors now over 4 seasons. They  seem to forget that for years he has been the driving force behind the pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays. He is the guy who has been responsible for making it attractive to pitch in Tampa Bay again.

People talk about the big three pitchers and he is not listed first, but should be. He was the young prince who has started that revolution, yet the public gives him the backseat.  Kazmir has done anything and everything for this franchise, why not give him a chance to drive us to the big party against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

 

 

 

Kazmir only came out last night and pitched a superb game in which he threw 6 innings of 3-hit, shutout baseball. Let me repeat that again, 2-hit, shutout baseball. And people have questioned his big game mentality. I think he answered them with a huge response in this game. He held this Red Sox team to almost noghting in 6 innings, and they were in a severe chokehold when he left the game.

He also got 7 strikeouts on the night, but then you expect him throwing thunder from the guy who won the 2007 strikeout crown. He was the old Kazmir, darting the fastball and sneaking in the slider to make you look foolish at the plate. I was marveling at the way he was again playing the game with Boston, making them think and try and outwit him at the plate.

 

 

 

 

He is one of this teams young studs, all under 26 years of age. And guess what, you will see him for another 5 years pushing the ball past batters every year and getting better.  And people were questioning why he was getting the start. Look at the boxscore, the answer is clear in black and white.

 

 

 

 

Bullpen Meltdown

When was the last time the Ray’s could say they had a Bullpen sitiation on their hands, last season?  This is not to say that the Rays have to refurbish or remodel the way the Bullpen is used in the series, this was an isolated implosion of unsual proportions. The Rays have been proud and secure in their relievers’ all season long, and tonight they had not reason to doubt them.

Coming into the 7th inning, the Rays had no idea of the meltdown that was to occur in this contest. Grant Balfour entered the game with a modest ERA, he left the game after 2/3rds of an innig last night with a postseason mark of 22.50 ERA. In the 7th inning, Balfour came on and gave up a huge double to Jed Lowrie on the 2nd pitch of the inning. This was one of the first time tonight Boston had a man in scoring position.

Balfour then got two quick fly balls outs to B J Upton before giving up a single to Coco Crisp and putting men on the corners for the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia then cam up with men in scoring position for only the 2nd time this series. He made the Rays pay by slapping the ball to right and scoring Lowrie to give Boston it’s first run of the game. David Ortiz then  came up and hit the 2nd pitch he saw deep into the rightfield stands for a 3-run homer, and pull Boston to within 3 runs, 7-4.

Balfour was replaced by Dan Wheeler, and he got Youkilis to fly out to Gabe Gross in right to end the inning. In the 8th, with Wheeler still on the mound, Jasob Bay walked to lead off the inning.  J D Drew the came up and drilled a 0-1 pitch to right for a 2-run homer to pull Boston within 1 of the Rays. 

 

 

             

 

 

Wheeler then got Lowrie and pinch-hitter Sean Casey for wuick outs before Mark Kotsay hit a ball that changed direction in the air and was within an few inches of Upton pulling it in for the 3rd out. The ball hit the outside of his glove and just popped to the left of his outstretched mitt. This put Kotsay on second with 2-outs, and Coco Crisp at the plate. He hit a liner to right that skipped around on Gross and his throw into the infield looked like a 6 year olds.

 The ball was taken by Carlos Pena who saw that Crisp was trying to advance on the play and got him at second when Akinora Iwamura tagged him out for the 3rd out.  But Kotsay had scored before the 3rd out, and the score was now tied 7-7.

 

        

 

In the 9th inning, J P Howell came on to pitch for the Rays with the score still tied at 7. The Red Sox quickly gave up two outs and the game seemed to be in control, then Kenvin Youkilis came to the plate. Youkilis hit a screamer to Evan Longoria at third that Longoria knocked down, but his throw was a weird one-hopper to Pena that he could not scoop before the ball careened into the stands for an error and Youkilis standing on second with 2-outs.

Jason Bay then came up and was Intentionally walked by the Rays and set up a Howell versus J D Drew matchup.  Howell quickly got behind, and with a 3-1 count, Drew hit a one-hopper over the rightfield wall for a ground rule double and the winning run scored for the Red Sox. Howell took the loss for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Game 5 Tidbits

The Rays have now hit a homer in 4 straight games, which set a new ALCS record.

The Rays 1-4 hitters accounted for 7 out of the Rays’ 8 hits, and  scored  6 of the 7 runs scored tonight.

Evan Longoria is the fourth player in major-league history to hit home runs in each of four or more consecutive games in one postseason. Carlos Beltran holds the record with a five-game streak for the Astros in 2004. Jeffrey Leonard had a four-game streak for the Giants in 1987  and Juan Gonzalez had a four-game streak for the Rangers in 1996 vs. the Yankees.

Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria hit consecutive home runs in the first inning in Game 4 of the ALCS and they did it again in the third inning of Game 5. Pena and Longoria are the first pair of teammates in major-league history to hit back-to-back home runs twice in one postseason series.

The Red Sox’ starting pitchers allowed 11 home runs in 16 2/3 innings in Games 2 through 5 of the ALCS. During the regular season, Boston’s starters had the fifth-lowest home run rate in the American League, averaging one home run allowed every 9.4 innings.
Boston Red Sox.

It’s small consolation for the Rays, but with their three homers in Game 5 they set a major-league postseason record for the most home runs by a team over a four-game span (13, Games 2-5), breaking the old mark of 12 set by the Astros in 2004.

 

 

 

 

Rays 1-4 Batters’

The Rays first 4 batters’ went a combined 7 out of the Ray’s 8 hits in the game, and also scored 6 of the 7 runs in the contest. It was the best offensive outbreak by the front of the lineup in the last two games. Akinora Iwamura lead off the lineup going 1-3, with 2 runs scored and 2 walks in the game.

 

 

 

 

He lead off the game with  single to right to end the speculation of another no-hit bid by Red Sox starter, Daisuke Matzusaka. Iwamura came around to score on Upton’s homer three pitches later.  He later walked in the 5th inning and moved to seond on Carlos Pena’s bunt down the third baseline.

He then stole third on Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. He then walked again in the 7th inning and committed a double steal with Jason Bartlett to get into scoring position before Upton’s 2-RBI double off the Green Monster. Iwamura stole 2 of the Rays total 4 stolen bases’ in the game. 

 

 

       

 

B J Upton had another career night as he went 3 for 4 with 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored for the Rays. He began his night by hitting a slow breaking ball from Matzusaka into the first row of the stands above the Green Monster in the first inning to put the Rays up 2-0 early in the game. He then singled in the 3rd inning to center before Pena’s 2-run blast put the Rays up 4-0.

 

 

 

 

Upton then came up in the 7th inning and put a blast high off the upper facing of the Green monster for a 2-RBI double to put the last runs on the board for the Rays. Upton did get on base with a walk in the top of the 9th inning, but was erased on Carlos Pena’s double play ball to Pedroia.

 

 

 

 

Carlos Pena had another great night as he homer for the thrid time in three games to give the Rays a chance to win tonight. Carlos started the night off by hitting a 2-run shot in the 3rd inning. He then put a great bunt down the third baseline in the 5th inning. The Red Sox were in a shift and Pena put the ball down to the left of the pitcher and beyond the reach of Youkilis, who was manning the shortstop position in the shift.

He was Intentinally walked in the 7th inning, but was erased from the basepaths on Longoria’s double play ball. Carlos ended the game by hitting into only hid 3rd double play of the night to end the 9th inning for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

And batting clean-up for the Rays was Evan Longoria. He went 1-4 on the night, but it was his back-to-back homer after Pena that sparked the Red Sox faithful into their seats early in this game.  Matzusaka left up a slider to Longoria, and he put it into the seat in the Green Monster to stake the Rays to a 5-0 lead.

 

 

 

Home Sweet Home

With the Rays in the driver’s seat for the rest of the series, all the pressure is on the Red Sox to snap the Rays winning ways at the Trop. The Red Sox have only won twice at the stadium this season, and the Rays are a combined 24-3 with crowds over 30,000 at the games.

With Game 6 and 7 already sold out, it will be at maximum capacity as the Rays unfolded the tarps and opened an additional 5,700 seats for Rays fans. The Rays will  have the advantge only having to win one game to advance to the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Put Extra Effort into Win

 

 

 

The worst part of that victory tonight is that a host of the well-wishers who wanted to toast to the Rays victory had to drive over to Hillsborough county to do it. Becuase the game ended after 1:30 a.m. local taverns and lounges had already put the tills to bed and were doing the final prep work to leave and re-open in the morning for the football crowds. I heard people upset that they should suspend the county ordinance stopping the flow of beer and alcohol as a show of support for the Rays.

Really, the show of support for the team is based on a bubbly beverage with a frothy head? I thought the team was about confidience and energy and emotional willpower, not of it was cold-aged, or comes in a green bottle. I know the game went too long for most people to enjoy a post game beverage, but sometimes that happens in the world of sports. But the straw that stirs the drink is the amount of people who stayed in their seats until that last out.

But for you people who stayed until B J Upton hit that 160 foot fly ball to right…Thank You. To the people who worried more about the team going 0-2 than when “last call” was that night………..Thank You too. But the people I really want to thank are the multitudes of Red Sox fans who came down here and had class during the game and actually cheered both teams after the effort.

They did not only cheer as the Red Sox left the field, but gave the Rays their due in the marathon match.I am not afraid to clap or cheer for maximum effort by a team. Sweat, blood and the energy expelled last night hit an all time high in both dugouts.  Rays’ fans showed their exuberance and passion by clapping and banging their cowbells all night long. But it was the Boston fans applauding the Rays effort that showed the true class of the night.  Baseball has been blessed with great fans for a long time, but when another team shows their repsect for the efforts of their opponents…………………..priceless, truly priceless.

 

Rays 9, Red Sox 8

 

Records Everywhere

Everywhere you looked last night a record was about to fall, be tied, or broken like a pane of glass. 435 pitches is amazing enough, but the 19 strikeouts and 13 walks played a major role the win and loss last night. For 5 hours and 27 minutes both team fought, clawed and scraped to put together enough to win this match.

Both teams hit enough long balls to tie a longstanding home runs per game record that should stand for a long time. 17 runs is amazing in the game between these 2 teams, considering this waqs suppose to be a pitchers’ duel. Red Sox starter Josh Beckett lost the lead 3 times in the contest  for the first time in his great career.

4 Boston players had 3 hits in the game, but no other Boston hitter had a single hit. It is the first time in postseason history that a team had more than 1 player with at least 3 hits in a game, and those 4 players accounted for ALL of the Red Sox’s hits.

Dustin Peroia tied  ex-Red Sox Todd Walker’s 2 homer night in last night game. Walker hit his dual homers in the 2003 ALCS serie against the Oakland A’s. It was only the 3rd time in the ALCS history that at leats two homers were hit in a game. Adam Kennedy of the Angels hold the all-time mark with 3 homers during the 2002 series against the Minnesota Twins.

 

 

Scott Kazmir

One of the big questions on Rays fans this season is, “Which Scott Kazmir will show up tp pitch tonight?” On a night when both starters’ were suppose to be the duel of the night, it’s became the bats from both teams that took the spotlight and shine bright into the night for both teams. Kazmir went to the mound with his 21st career start against the Red Sox.  He is 6-7 lifetime against them with a 3.62 ERA.

In 2 starts against Boston this year, Kazmir is 0-2, with a 9.00 ERA. In his last home start against the Red Sox, he endured his worst home start by giving up 9 earned runs and 4 home runs , and allowed only his 2nd homer of the year to a leftie when David Ortiz homered to right in the game.

 

              

Kazmir got into early trouble in the game walking David Ortiz, then giving up a single to Kevin Youkilis to put 2 on base with 2-outs. Jason Bay hit a ball off the leftfield wall to score both runners and put the Red Sox up 2-0 early in the game.  In this 1st inning, Kazmir threw 38 pitches.

In the 3rd inning, Kazmir gave up a lead-off homer to Dustin Pedroia to put Boston up 3-2. Coming into the at bat, Pedroia was 15-27 against Kazmir this year.   Kazmir got through the inning and did not have another bad inning until the 5th inning.

 

 

This inning would be the longest of the night, and featured Kazmir giving up 2 homers in 3 at bats. Both Pedroia and Youkilis hit the 2nd pitches they saw from Kazmir for solo homers and  Youkilis’s shot tied the game at 5-all in the inning. After that, Kazmir left the game after throwing 98 pitches over 4.1 innings.  On the night, Kazmir also got  only 2 strikeouts and issued 3 walks in the contest.

 

              

 

B J Upton

For a guy who has been playing hurt since a shoulder injury in May of this year against Baltimore, you could not tell that B J Upton’s power has been diminshed at all at the plate. With the game on the line, and the Rays almost exhausting all their relievers out of the Bullpen , Upton hit a 160 foot fly down the rightfield line that was the mightiesy hit of the night. His sacrifice fly to J D Drew was far enough away from home plate to score speedster  Fernando Perez from third base and end the marathon game for the Rays.

But that was not the only contribution from Upton tonight. He went 1-4 in the game, but his one hit was a solo homer in the 3rd inning off Red Sox starter Josh Beckett to tie the game at 3-all. He also got on base in the  twice on a walk in the 5th inning and stole second base. He then came home on a single to right by Carlos Pena to bring the Rays within 1 run, 6-5.

 

 

Evan Longoria

Tampa Bay’s rookie third baseman went a combined 3-5 last night with 3-runs and 3 RBI’s on the night. But it was his 2-run homer on a change-up up in the strikezone that tied the game for the Rays in the 1st inning. Longoria hit a drive deep into rightfield and scored Pena on the play to tie the game 2-all. Longoria was not done as he came up in the 3rd inning and hit a ball to the base of the leftfield wall for a double.

 

 

              

 

He ended up scoring on Carl Crawford’s  rightfield gap shot from second base to put the Rays up 4-3. Then in the 5th inning Longoria again hit a liner down the leftfield line and scored Pena. Longoria was again driven in by a Crawford single to put the Rays up 8-6 in the game.  With his homer and 2 doubles, Longoria became only the 3rd rookie to ever have 3 extra base hits in a playoff game

 

           

 

The 3 C’s Have a Big Night

The three members of the Tampa Bay Rays with “C”s in their names went a combined 5-12 on the night , with 4 RBI’s and scored 3 runs for the Rays.  Cliff Floyd made a statement early in the  4th inning by hitting a blast 400 feet over the  dead centerfield fence to put the Rays up 5-3. Floyd’s blast had Red Sox centerfielder Coco Crsips climbing the wall trying to get the ball before it went over the green wall.

 

 

Carlos Pena went 2-5 on the night, with 2 RBI’s and a run scored in the game. Pena hit a double into deep left center to start the Rays’ rally in the 1st inning. He then scored on Longoria’s homer to left. Pena then moved Upton over with a single to right in the 5th inning, and both players scored on Longoria’s double to left.  Pena then hit a hard liner to Mark Kotsay at first that was destined for the rightfield corner in the7th inning.

 

 

Carl Crawford got into the game in the 3rd inning with an RBI single to the gap in rightfield to score Longoria and put the Rays up 4-3 at the time. Crawford then was picked off even before the next pitch when he was glancing away from  the pitcher Beckett, and was tagged easily for the 3rd out in the inning. It was an unusual play for Crawford to not even be looking at the pitcher when he stepped off the base.

Crawford then faced Javier Lopez in the 5th inning in the middle of the Rays huge rally. Lopez was brought in just to face Crawford, and Crawford got a RBI single to score Longoria and send Lopez to the dugout.  In the 10th inning, Crawford hit a drive back into the middle that struck Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon right below his right arm, near his side that deflected straight to Pedroia who completed the play for an out at first base.

 

 

 

Dan Wheeler

The Rays had great success from their Bullpen in the regular season and during the ALDS. But during this ALCS with Boston, the Rays Bullpen has run into some trouble and was again put to the test tonight. Grant Balfour came in and replaced Kazmir in the 5th inning and promptly gave up a solo shot to Jason Bay. Balfour then gave up 2 quick walks before being replaced by J P Howell with 2 men on base.

Howell got the last 2 batters’ of the inning to close out the Red Sox threat.  In the 6th inning, Howell got Jacoby Elssbury to fly out to Pena before issuing a walk to Pedroia. He the struck out Ortiz before leaving the game. For their time tonight Balfour went 0.0 innings and gave up a run on 1-hit and also gave up a walk. Howell was credited with 1-run on 1-hit and got 2 strikeouts.

Chad Bradford then came on to relieve Howell and gave up two straight hits to Youkilis and Bay before getting Jed Lowrie to fly out to center to end the inning. Bradford threw for 1.1 innings and gave up 1-run on 4-hits before Trever Miller came on to face Pedroia in the 8th inning. Miller gave up a single to Perdroia and was replaced by Dan Wheeler.

Wheeler ended up throwing 38 pitches last night in his 3.1 innings of work. It was one of the longest relief appearances of his career. Wheeler quickly got Youkilis to ground into a double play, but Pedroia moved over to third on the play. With 2-outs in the inning, the Rays looked like they might get out of the inning without a hitch.

 

 

Bay came up to bat and Wheeler threw 3 straight pitches outside for balls, before sailing a pitch over Dioner Navarro’s head to the backstop. Navarro sprinted to the backstop and tossed a errant ball towards Wheeler covering home. The ball did not get within Wheeler’s glove in time and skipped away from him, letting Pedroia score and tie the game at 8-all in the 8th inning.

It was only the 2nd Wild Pitch given up by Wheeler all year long. Wheeler then got the next 3 Red Sox batters in order before Coco Crisp put a ball in the air in centerfield that shifted on Upton in the air and he watched as it skipped over the centerfield wall for a Ground Rule Double.

Wheeler then got Ellsbury to strikeout to end the 9th inning. He then came out again in the 10th inning and got 3 quick outs on 10 pitches to set the Red Sox down in order. Wheeler then came out in the 11th inning and got a quick strikeout of Bay before issuing a walk to Lowrie and giving the Red Sox a baserunner.

Rays rookie David Price then came on to pitch and quickly issued a walk to Drew before getting Kotsay on a strikeout and making Crisp hit into a 5-4 ground out to finish the inning. By being the pitcher of  record in the 11th inning, Price earned his first postseason victory in the game.  It was his first major league victory, and marked only the 3rd time a play earned either a win or loss for his first in the postseason.

 

11th inning

The 11th inning started with Navarro walking on 3 straight balls after getting a 1-2 count in the at bat. Boston’s Pitching Coach John Farrell was ejected right after the at bat when he was arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Sam Holbrook. Speedster Fernando Prez then came on to run for Navarro and gave the Rays a dose of speed on the basepaths. 

Ben Zobrist then walked on 5 pitches to give the Rays another baserunner with no outs in the inning.  Perez was stealing 3rd when Jason Bartlett hit a hard grounder to Youkilis who could not get Perez in time and had to go to first base for the 1st out in the inning.  Akinora Iwamura was then Intentionally Walked to load the bases for the Rays. 

Then Upton came up and quickly got an 0-2 count on him before hitting his 160 foot fly into  shallow right to Drew.  He quickly threw the ball into the infield, but the throw was off line and was about 5 feet up the line towards third as Perez slapped his hand on the plate for the winning run.  

 

 

Please Come to Boston

The Rays will board a charter to bean-town on Sunday morning  because of a late work-out schedule in Boston on Sunday. They will have a 6:30 p.m. work out before retiring for the good nights sleep in Boston before Monday’s 4 p.m. start.   

Here are a few facts heading into the 3-games in Boston:

This is only the 19th time in 39 American League Championships that the series was tied 1-1 at this point.

37 players who were used in last night’s game, tied the American League record for the most ever used in a playoff game of any length.

 

Dice-K Rolls a Winner in Game 1 of ALCS

 

 

 

Why is it that people have doubted this team from the beginning of the year, but now they are coming out of the woods saying they knew they were for real. I can say with total honesty I thought it might be a year away and that this year we would break .500 for sure. But now there are people, beside Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir who said they predicted this all along.

Local TV station, channel 10 anchor Reginald Roundtree did make a prediction the Rays would be superior this year, but even he must be surprised at the total upward climb of this franchise. Scott Kazmir came out during Spring Training that this team was good enough to go into the Playoffs. It was laughed upon then, but now Kazmir can make the first move towards fulfilling the total fantasy tonight in his start against the Red Sox.

Why is it people have to be overly flamboyant and uber chic when they claim their year long love for the Rays.  You have the kids with the multicolor and etched mohawk hairs this season that might have not even seen a game last year. And you have the bandwagon fans who jumped on the Bucs, Storm and Lightning wagons during their Post season adventures. 

I can say with total confidience I have never been on the Buc bandwagon, and even if they do sweak out a magical season of their own, you will not see a Bucs blog on this page……………….ever. But can you say that about other fans. I know that on MLBlogs.com, there has been a huge upswing of Rays blogs since August.  Are you telling me that fans did not have a dream of writing about this team until they were winning?

Just a question fans, if the Rays go 62-100 next season, will you still be wearing the colors, or will you be looking for the team du Jour? Just a thought as I sit on my Opening Night seat cushion on the computer chair. looking at a picture of Wilson Alvarez throwing the first pitch in 1998.

 

Red Sox 2, Rays 0

 

              

 

James Shields

You have to admit that “Big Game” James Shields did have an awesome night on the mound last night. It is rare that a guy can get a loss in a game where he only gives up 2-runs on 6 total hits by the opposition. Shields has been money for so long this eason that alot of people seemed in shock when it was the 7th inning and he was stil out there pitching for the Rays.

You have to know that he went into that dugout and got totally political and talked Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and Rays Manager Joe Maddon into letting him get this game for the team. He did everything in his power to secure a win for the Rays and start the Red Sox in a hole in the ALCS. But his 8-2 mark since the All-Star break, and his great ERA at home did not make the difference in the ballgame. The Red sox used their hits and walks to their advantage and played the Rays’ game and stole this first game .

Shields went 7.1 innings and had 6 strikeouts in the contest. He also  had 25 pitches in th first inning, but got out of the inning without any scorinbg by the Red Sox, a major plus at the time.  But the Ground Rule Double into the rightfield corner in the 2st inning by Kevin Youkilis ended a 0-17 streak by Shields in conquering one of the Red Sox bashers. It made a huge exclamation point in this game and set the tone for the later innings.

 

                

 

Sheilds was in total control from the 2nd inning until the 5th, setting down the Red Sox 1-2-3 until the 5th inning. In that inning, the lead-off walk to Jason Bay would come back to haunt Shields as he quicly moved from first to third base on a first pitch check swing blooper to left by Mark Kotsay, and scored  3 pitches later on a Sacrifice Fly by Jed Lowrie to put the Red Sox up 1-0 at the time.

Shield got back under control in the 6th inning setting the Red Sox down on order and came out in the 7th wanting more. But J D Drew led off the inning with a double up the middle on 2nd pitch, and Bay connected on a single tthrough the hole at short to out 2 men on base in a total of 5 pitches.

 

                     

 

Akinora Iwamura made a excellient grab of Kotsays’ diving fly ball to prevent any scoring in the inning. After that 1st out, the Red Sox ended up stranding both baserunners.  Shields came out to the delight of the crowd in the 8th inning and quickly got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out to him as he took a weak grounder and threw low to CArlos Pena at first to gert the first out in the inning. Then he gave up a single to left to Dustin Pedroia and that was the end of Shields night. He had thrown 115 pitches on the night and had given the Rays a chance to take the lead in the entire game.

 

              

 

Unfortunately, Perdroia was on 2nd base when Kevin Yuokilis got his 3rd hit of the night off J P Howell and scored and his run was credited to Shields. He did everything he could to post the win for the Rays, but his best was not good enough tonight. It was not a wasted effort as the Red Sox did comment after the game that he was on tonight, but that another pitcher was hotter and suppressed the Rays’ bats.

 

                    

 

Rays at the Plate

Tampa Bay last night started out in the 1st inning like this was going to be a totally different ballgame. They had Aki lead off the game with a walk and after a well struck fly out by B J Upton looked like they might be posting a nice little rally. After Upton, Carlos Pena also walked on 5 pitches to put 2 men on base for the Rays with 1-out.  Evan Longoria then went down via a strikeout on 4 pitches and Carl crawford walked on 7 pitches to load the basaes for the Rays. Cliff Floyd then came up with 2-outs and grounded out to second base to prevent a Rays score and shut down the inning.

From that 1st inning on, the Rays only had a Pena walk in the 3rd inng as the only Rays baerunner until the 6th inning. In the 3rd to the beginnig of the bottom of the 7th inning, the Rays went down in order and looked perplexed by Red Sox starter Diasuke Matsuzaka. Not until the 7th inning did the Rays even manage a hit against the Red Sox.

 

 

In that 7th inning, Carl Crawford lead off the inning with a single to right, and Floyd hit a beauty into the leftfield-center gap to put Crawford at 3rd with no outs in the inning. It looked like the Rays had Matsuzaka on the ropes ands might be getting to him, but a short leftfield fly ball to Bay that Crawford could not score on put the pressure on the Rays.

Gabe Gross struck out on a mean looking breaking ball, and Jasob Bartlett hit into the Rays’ only double play of the night to ens the Rays threat in the 7th inning. At that point, the Rays were 0-5  on the night with runners in scoring position.

 

In the 8th inning, Aki lead-off with a single to left field for the Rays. Upton then came up and Aki went to second on a Wild Pitch by Matsuzaka. Upton then smashed the 3rd pitch he saw towards third base and Youkilis could not handle the shot and Upton was on base with a single with men at the corners ans no outs.

Matsuzaka was then removed and Red Sox leftie reliever ,Hideki Okajima came on to pitch Pena. He got Pena to hit a soft fly ball to right to get the first out in the inning. He was then removed for  Justin Masterson, who got Longoria to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.  

 

 

Rays Confidience Level

After tonight’s game you have to think that the Rays confidience level might be at an all-time low for the season. They fought long and hard tonight, but did not take advantage of Boston’s gifts and loss a close game by every standard. Hopefully they will do the same thing they have done all years and let go of this loss within 15 minutes and recharge for a re-match tommorrow night at 8:07 p.m.

I do not doubt the Rays’ energy level or their offense, but sometimes a game like this can take you down a notch and it takes longer to rebound. In a best-of-7 series, you have to automatically rebound or you could find yourself down 0-3 faster than you can imagine. The Rays need to shake this off and get back to business and take it to Red Sox starter Josh Beckett tomorrow early and often in the game.

 

                  

 

To split the series at home is not in the origianl plans of the Rays, but reality has them now maybe playing 5 or more games in this series. You had to believe that the Rays would be playing at least 6 games even before tonight’s loss. Reality is that this might be the series that could make or break the World Series for the team. Either one of these clubs match up great with the National League clubs still in the hunt, and either of them can knock them out of the World Series.

Tomorrow night’s game will set the tone for the rest of this series as to if the Rays are up to the challenge of beating the current World Champs and taking on all commers in the next round.

 

 

Rays Bullpen

You have to go back into the regular season to find a time that the Rays’ Bullpen has not been stellar this season. Coming into the game the Bullpen has been the shining star of the Rays’ pitching performances. I think this is just a hiccup, but  J P Howell did not look his usual stop=gap self tonight. His pitches did hit the zone hard and break great, but he did not have to constant pressure we have gotten to expect from the gifted leftie. He went only 12 pitches tonight and gave up a hit and a walk to put pressure on the Rays defense.

That is not the usual case for Howell this season.  To give Howell some slack, the ball hit to Carwford in left that he missed with his glove by a micro of inches is usually a solid fly out and not even a factor, but the walk to Ortiz did put him on 3rd after the odd play and almost put the game out of the Rays reach at that point.

Grant Balfour came on and threw 1.1 innigs of shutout ball to put the Rays into a solid place to try and get this game.  He did however hit the first batter, Drew in the right shoulder and it alsmost looked like an intentional shot until you look at the video replay and you actually see his release point was beyond it’s usual spot. It was an accidental throw, but got both benches up on the rail to watch the rest of the inning.

Balfour then calmed down and threw strikes to get Bay to strikeout and Kotsay to pop out to Longoria to end the inning.  In the 9th, he got 2 quick fly outs to Upton in center before David Price came on to pitch to Ellsbury to end the inning. It might seem odd that the Rays broyught Price in for one batter, but Maddon wanted  to use Price in another situation besides a long-relief role to give him extra experience this post season.

 

Crowd Noise

Worst part of last night is the fact that the Rays faithful kept their noise up for 5 inning, then became part of the background unless the Rays got a runner on base. There did not seem to be that constant echo or noise factor that was there in previous games, and it seemed that the Rays fans were doubting the team for the first time in a long, long time.

 

Buck up Rays faithful, we have come to far and made too much noise to be a wallflower now. In the first 4 innings you could see and hear the crowd vocally and musically getting into the game. But as the score seemed to put itself more concrete in the fan’s memories, the fans took themselves out of the game. By the 8th inning, you heard the first really vivid “let’s Go Red Sox” cheer and no noise to drown them out.

The Rays might have gotten caught up in a shock wave of emotion, but the fans have to be the thermostat and crank up that heat again when the team is seeking an answer. The 10th man is needed more this series than ever before. And how we respond as fans will determine who will come out of all of this as the American Leagues’ rep. in the World Series.

So tune up your vocal chords, and get those arms flexed and loose to ring those cowbells for 9 innings tonight andd get into the Boston players’ heads and get a moral and vocal victory for the Rays. We have done it before, and we can do it again Rays’ fans………..just put hand “A” together with hand “B” and repeat until they become beet red.

 

 

 

 

Rays Clutch History in Their Hands

 

Rays 6, White Sox 4

 

 

Yesterday started a bit early for me, about 4 A.M. as I headed to FErg’s a great watering hole within a baseball throw of Tropicana Field. I was there, with a collection of Maddon’s Maniacs for the WTVT Fox13 Morning show to give an early morning pep rally for the fans coming to the Trop. for our first ever post season game.  Mark Ferguson, a fellow Rays Wall of Famer, was giving us breakfast quich and beverages to soup up our energy for the on-camera shots.

About 25 of the Maniac’s came to the event, and were vocal, visual, and some became less hairy during the boradcasts. 2 of the Maniacs actually got their hair ‘hawked while the cameras were rolling. Alos on hand as the TV station baseball analyst was  former Rays catcher, Mike DeFelice. Mike talked about how everyone 0-0 right now and that nothing that happened during the season matters right now.

That seems kind of phrophetic considering that the Chicago Cubs the night before got hammered by the LA Dodgers. In this case, one of the best records in baseball lost to a team that was sitting at .500 for most of the season befores triking out and winning their division.  Also cavorting around the outside of Ferg’s were a few other TV station circling like sharks looking for tasty morsels left over by the Fox13 crew.

All in all, It was a great day to be a Ray as I was the first person to enter the stadium, and the first in line at 9:57 A.M. I have police visual authentification on that since  a few officers who knew me were joking about me being their so early. I was a bit bummered by the fact that the Rays blocked the public web access for the playoffs and the wireless connection was not working at all at the stadium for the public. I was going to do a game live blog while I was there, but the Rays blew that idea for me.

 

Rays 6, White Sox 4

 

 

Evan Longoria

He became the first player in major league history – rookie or veteran – to go 3-for-3 or better with two home runs in his first career playoff game. At age 22 years old, he is the third-youngest player in major league history to hit more than one home run in a postseason game, behind Andruw Jones  in 1996 (19) and Tony Kubek in 1957 (20). He is only the second player in major league history to hit a home run in each of his first two career postseason plate appearances. Gary Gaetti did it in 1987. He had two home runs and an RBI single in his first three career postseason plate appearances. Only two other players drove in a run in each of his first three career postseason plate appearances: Dusty Rhodes in 1954 (first four) & Ted Kluszewski in 1959. He is the first player since 2004 to hit a home run on the first pitch in his first career postseason plate appearance. Houston’s Jason Lane (Oct. 6) and Raul Chavez (Oct. 7) did it on consecutive days in 2004.

Anyone who was at that game can tell you the sound of the ball off the bat on thst first homer was deafening. It sounded like a small explosion as the ball left Longoria’s bat. I found out after the game that the bat he used during his first two at bats were new Louisville slugger bat’s that had just been delivered to him in the last few days. The bat he used to hit this first homer with had no marks on it before the swing. 

 

 

But the second shot was never in doubt. The minute it left the bat, it was hit so high into the air that you wondered if it might hit a catwalk before getting to the outfield. It was probably hit as high as it was deep. The ball truly seemed to be floating out to the 143 section of the stdium before falling back to earth. After his 2nd blast, the crowd tried to get Longoria back out for a curtain call, but he just flipped the cap for a second and went back down into the dugout.

I understand this, is was minor to him at the time because they had a game to win and at that moment the homer was just a play in the game. But Longo, you have no idea what that simple swing of the bat did to this crowd today. S for the game, Longoria went 3-3, with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI’s. The best part is he is perfect for the series with a 1.000 batting average. What a perfect way to start a Playoff run.

 

 

On TBS After a Foulball

I was told during the game that the foulball hit by B J Upton in the 5th inning to the Bullpen Cafe was on TV during the game. I gave the game used  ball to a friend’s daughter  who was sitting right behind me. I was sitting in the Bullpen Cafe for today’s game because of a friend at Ageon Insurance. I want to again thank him and them for letting me enjoy the game with you yesterday.  

 I am glad she got that ball because their family is a huge supporter of the Rays as Season Ticketholders, and that is a keepsake for the history of this great franchise. I could have been selfish and kept it for my collection, but I think I will get a better catch in the next few weeks during a game.

 

 

Rays Win First Postseason Contest in Franchise History

The Rays beat the White Sox in Game 1 Thursday afternoon. It was the first playoff game in the history of the Rays. Tampa Bay is the third American League expansion team to win its first ever postseason game. The Rangers (formerly the Senators) defeated the Yankees in Game 1 of the 1996 ALDS and the Blue Jays beat Kansas City in the 1968 ALCS opener. The Royals (1976 ALCS), Angels (1979 ALCS), Brewers (1981 AL East Playoffs) and Mariners (1995 ALDS) each lost their first postseason game.

It was a wild day in the Trop., and I only saw a small hanful of seats in certain areas with no one in them. Most likely they are the seat that the scalpers outside were selling for $100 dollars for a seat in the Upper Deck for today’s game.

In contrast, for the World Series, the Upper Deck seat are only going to go for $ 100 dollars  a seat. This is the part of baseball that gets to me sometimes. The greed and utter stupidity of people to feed into these people sense of marking up a ticket over 400 percent for a game. A Upper Deck ticket for face value for this game was only about $ 20.00 a ticket.

The best part of winning the first game of a series is the added pressure it puts on the opposing team for the second game. This is a huge plus for the Rays becuase sometime the other team will now try and do a bit extra or push a bit harder and might make a monumential mistake during the game. It is also a plus having the 30,000 plus fans going completely nuts like yesterday to pump up the volume a bit .

 

                    

 

Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour entered the game in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and one out and promptly struck out Juan Uribe and Orlando Cabrera to preserve the Rays’ three-run lead. Balfour struck out 82 batters in 58 1/3 innings this season, a rate of 12.65 strikeouts per nine innings. That was the highest rate for any of the 318 major league pitchers who logged at least 50 innings this season.

 

 

Home Plate umpire, Joe West had his hands full when Balfour and Orlanod Cabrera decided to have a one and one communication 60 feet 6 inches away from each other. During the at bat, when Cabrera showed a bit of disrepect and was shouting towards Balfour, he had no problem coming a few feet off the mound and curse back at Cabrera. I love this guy more for his spunk and energy in the last few months. But the clincher was him pointing to the dugout after the strikeout and basically telling him to go take a seat.  That was pure classic October baseball.

Here is a guy who was sent to the minor leagues after Spring Training to work on a few things, and when he came back, he made it difficult for him to not be in the Bullpen. He has pitched lights out all year long, and today was no exception. In today’s game Balfour only worked 1 inning, but he got whole days worth of talking and oozed confidience and attitude.

I really like the reference by Rays Manager, Joe Maddon to Balfour being like Al Hrbosky, the Mad Hungarian. I think we might have to have a contest to see what kind of nickname we should attach to Grant. Maybe the “Aussie Express”, no that sounds dumb. But we will think of something by the end of this all.

 

                             

 

All White Sox Runs by Homers

All four White Sox runs scored on home runs: a three-run blast by Dewayne Wise and a solo-shot by Paul Konerko. The White Sox scored 811 runs during the 2008 season, 385 of them scored via the home run (47.5%). That was the highest such percentage, by far, for any major league team this season.

I know the Rays pitchers do not like the fact that they did give up 2 homers to the White Sox. But their offense is geared for the big play and is really kind of expected to score on blasts and extra base hits more than bloopers and baserunning like the Rays. That is what will set this series apart, the Rays can run-and-gun all day long, while the White Sox have to be aggressive and play off big hits and Rays mistakes to score their runs.

 

                              

 

Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford, whose last regular season at-bat came on August 9, was in Tampa Bay’s starting lineup Thursday afternoon. Crawford is the first player in the live-ball era to start in his team’s postseason opener without a regular-season at-bat during the month of September.

Alot of fans around the Trop. were wondering which Carl Crawford was going to show up yesterday. The one who can hit the ball all over the park, or the guy who has had a difficult time hitting certain White Sox pitchers. Crawford has been pretty successful against Javier Vasquez in his career. Crawford is hitting .423 against him, and in today’s game went only 1-4, but thet 1 hit was an RBI single to center that scored Willy Aybar to put the Rays up 6-3.

Early in the game Crawford looked a bit rusty in leftfield letting aball drop that he might have sually made a play on, but he has to shake the rust off in the field because these games matter more than the previous 162 we have played this year. Crawfoird did look relaxed at the plate and his stroke looked clean, so it might just be a short amtter of time until he is totally comfortable at the plate again and hitting like a champ. 

 

 

 

James “Big Game” Shields

James Shields has always asked for the ball in games that mattered for the Rays. This 2nd year starter has made a name for himself in coming through in clutch situations for the Rays this season. Considering he tied with Edwin Jackson for team lead in victories ( 14 ), Shileds has always been a “go-to” guy for the Rays.

And today was no exception. In the franchisie’s first journey into the post season, Shields was the man to lead the team to a new high in the Rays history books. Shields pitched 6.1 innings of 6-hit, 3-run ball, but effectively shut down most of the White Sox big slugger all game long. 

Dewayne Wise took advantage of a hanging breaking ball in the 3rd inning on a 2-2 count and put it into Section 140 in rightfield for a 3-run homer. That gave the White Sox and early 3-1 lead. Shields sent down the White Sox 1-2-3 in 5 of his 6.1 innings of work. He also got 4 strikeout on the day against the White Sox.

 

                          

 

What was great about the start is that Shields was also the Opening Day starter for the Rays this season and it shows the confidience Maddon has in him to get the early win in this  best-of-5 series against the Sox.  Isn’t a bit weird to even fanthom that Shield is the oldest of all the Rays starter on this team. That a guy in his second year in the majors is the number1 guy, and is not even near the age of 30………..we might be seeing alot more of this team in the playoffs in the near future with depth like this.

Shields came into this game 0-1 in 3 starts against them in his career. He faced them once this year, at Tropicana Field and gave up only 1 run in 6 innings of work, but did not get the decision due to a Cliff Floyd 9th inning walk-off homer to seal the win. He faced them twice las season (2007), and got a no decison in a May 25th contest and took the loss at the Trop on June 26th, when he struck out 11, but lost 6-1 to the White Sox.

 

 

 





 

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