Results tagged ‘ Cliff Wittig ’

Team to Exchange Arbitration Salaries with 6 Eligible Rays on Tuesday

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It is the time that you truly find out what your club thinks you are worth.

First and foremost baseball is a business. And as such an arbitrary dollar amount is invisibly attached to each player, especially during the arbitration process.

On Tuesday, when the Tampa Bay Rays offer their first salary exchange in the arbitration process to their 6 eligible players, some will be within reason, a few might be on par to their tenure and abilities, and quite possibly one player might not see any figure exchanged and be non-tendered, thus becoming a Free Agent.

Ever since the 2007 off season, when the franchise abandoned the “Devil” in the woodshed, the Rays Front Office has been downright fickle when it comes to negotiating past a certain point in the whole arbitration process, and they have a very high arbitration winning percentage on their side of the table.

The Rays front office maintains an exceptional winning percentage, well over the .750 mark during the arbitrator’s segment of the process, and that can be very intimidating and has surely led to some players in the past just accepting what the club is willing to give them rather than possibly face defeat and a lesser seasonal salary amount.

And immediately you have to wonder if the Rays whole process might change in the organization since the departure of Andrew Friedman and the Rays could possibly morph into a more negotiations friendly or monetary complimentary Rays regime?

Don’t count on it.

Sure Friedman was the focal figure everyone looked upon when the arbitration process rears its ugly head each off season, but you have to remember new Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman was quite possibly always right next to Friedman offering up his own statistical research, calculations while safeguarding the Rays coffers.

And even if one cog of the Rays past arbitration machine is gone, there were plenty of folks in 3-piece suits and lambskins on their wall providing behind the scenes fortified data and scenarios thrusting out in all directions of any counter proposal of possible negotiation ploys that could be submitted to the Rays for consideration.

Current 6 Rays players who are under the arbitration umbrella this off season are: Matt Joyce, Alex Cobb, Desmond Jennings, Logan Forsythe, Drew Symly and Jake McGee. Each will be privy to an amount the team feels is fair and competitive for their services in 2015.

Several websites have their calculated guesses as to the Rays possibly offerings, but none of these website salary numbers are connected to the team’s first offering, or might be just arbitrary numbers of their own.

Currently most sites have the Rays offering a combined $20.9 million in possible 2015 salary for their 6 arbitration eligible players.

So let’s list the Rays 6 eligible players starting with the players we know will most certainly be offered salary arbitration and end with a few who might be on the fiscal bubble.

Heading the Rays arbitration salary list is RHP Alex Cobb, who is a key cog in the Rays pitching machine and has just over 3 years of MLB service and could be submitted at least a $4.5 million arbitration 2015 salary figure.

LHP Jake McGee who most have penciled in as the Rays closer in 2015 and has over 3 years of MLB service time quite possibly will be offered a team-friendly $3.8 million 2015 salary.

LHP Drew Symly has been a pure trade deadline delight since the Rays traded David Price to the Tigers and got this soft-spoken southpaw into their rotation. Symly, who has just over 2 years of MLB service time stepped up his game and could see his arbitration salary starting at a team-friendly $3 million for 2015.

CF Desmond Jennings who seems to have been here forever, but only has a little over 3 years of MLB service might see an arbitration figure of possibly $3.2 million offered on Tuesday.

INF Logan Forsythe, who was traded to the Rays in 2014 and is a part of the Rays crowded infield could get an arbitration salary offer of at least $1.2 million for 2015.

OF Matt Joyce who has had some great successes, but also some hitting flaws over 5 years of MLB service is expected to get a $4.9 million figure.

I personally feel there is a clear separation here of the players who the Rays might value as key to their success past 2015, and a few who might be walking more on eggshells than a firm footing with the team past this first exchange of arbitration salary figures.

Do not see any of these 6 remaining Rays players not being offered an arbitration salary amount tomorrow, but I believe the bottom 3 players listed above might be dealt a reality check and might find themselves a bit wanting in the salary department for 2015.

 

 

 

S-Rod Designated for Assignment by Rays

 

 

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There was just a blot on Twitter that Tampa Bay Rays former jack-of-a-trades Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” that the Rays would designate him for assignment today.

Well, personally, I kind of saw the writing on the proverbial wall.

imagesMain reason not being that S-Rod was to possibly garner $2 million in salary through arbitration, it was clearly a fact he is one of the last “pets” of former Rays Manager Joe Maddon that was left on the Rays 40-Man roster.

This is not to downplay the timely hits and run scoring escapades Rodriguez brought to the forefront during his Rays tenure, it is just we have more than a few multiple minor league and  M L B caliber guys currently on the roster who can do it for less, possibly play more and do not have a lingering Maddon tie.

images (12)Some have whispered over the last few off seasons and during the extremely stressful Trade Deadline periods that S-Rod could be send a-packing. Of course those moments never reared their ugly heads until today.

Rodriquez is a capable M L B player who could like so many others on the Rays be plugged in wherever he was needed or take a bat and hit the batting circle with visions of RBIs dancing through his head.

images (10)Of course all of this came about as the Rays signed veteran reliever Ernesto Frieri to a 800 K contract with performance bonuses, someone had to be removed from the Rays roster.

With Brandon Guyer, Logan Forsythe able bodies who can handle S-Rod’s old tasks at a considerable lower salary, the choice surely was made easier when the Rays aw they could save around $2 million in salary with this one swift move.

images (11)Sure his .211 batting average last season left a lot to be desired, but his career-best .443 slugging percentage in 2014 showed he could be a great versatile position guy and his career-high 12 Hrs in 2014 might just make him a wanted man off the bench possibly well suited for a National League squad as a fill-in situational # 9 guy.

Joel Peralta was the first of Maddon’s preferential guys to get the Rays heave ho when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers not so long ago.

images (13)Now with Rodriguez set to hit the open market, or possibly being traded to another team, it is going to be interesting to see who among the other 29 M L B teams will call and ask about S-Rod.

Wanna bet a certain someone will call and at least check in on what the Rays want for Rodriquez, and I bet they call from a 847 area code.

 

The Perfect Golden Gift for Any Baseball Fan

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For the last 4 All Star Games we have watched during the State Farm Home Run Derby telecasts as multicolored spheres of white and gold take flight leaving the hurler’s fingers on it path to the plate before their final destination in a surprised and elated fan’s glove or hand.

13Each year Rawlings and the Fielding Bible bring together their collective expertise to produce the Golden Glove Awards which include a spectacular display piece featuring an actual Rawlings glove as the centerpiece.  

Ever wonder how they get the gold to adhere to the leather glove or even those Home Run Derby balls? Watch the video below for just a taste of the process.

These events showcase the special and unique masterpieces made possible by getting an atom of gold bullion to adhere to cowhide leather utilizing a proprietary method known as the Magnetron Sputtering System.

That is real 24-carat gold emblazoned on the leather and is each piece produced by this process is certified by Swiss Company SGS and includes their own certificate of authenticity guaranteeing that 24-carat gold was used in its manufacture.

 

Gold Sports Collectibles, which has patented and own the rights to this awesome and brilliant process first approached Rawlings about making their products “golden” several years ago. 

p6-705x470They wanted to produce keepsakes and special collectible mementos by utilizing their innovative technology of getting gold atoms to bond successfully within the leather pores of the figure-8 cowhide cover of an actual Major League Baseball without reducing its weight, speed , circumference or diameter.

After Rawlings was satisfied with the results, it was on to more tests by M L B at Yankee Stadium where the test flight of the new “gold balls” showed no flight diversions, no fluttering and kept their unique integrity intact, even after a monster shot over the fences.

2011.derek_.jeter_-450x450 (1)So what if I told you that you can buy these special commemorative balls for yourself or someone else this holiday season? Be it a State Farm Home Run Derby ball from the 2011 All Star Game, a special Derek Jeter commemorative ball or even a golden keepsake ball from any of the World Series matches since 2008.

And they can be sent to you this holiday season at really competitive price points that start at $99 to $179 and will produce endless smiles and special bragging moments for years to come centered on your mantel in their included acrylic display case.

national.hall_.of_.fame_-450x450You can pick from team-themed baseballs, to special moments in baseball lore as well as ball commemorating historic stadium plus personal player milestones anniversaries, which include Gold Glove and Hall of Fame golden baseballs.

Or maybe you want to make you own unique golden masterpiece. Well, you can do that too by sending your request to put your own personal mark on the ball you want designed. Maybe you want to emblazon your company’s logo on it and give it as an achievement award, or celebrate a special event like a graduation or remembering a special baseball memory.

If you might want to partake in a custom baseball you can contact GSC at info@goldsportscollectible.com and they can see if they can make your dream a golden reality.  

p.9-705x440When I first got an email from GSC I was not sure if the process was durable or if the ball’s claims were true and accurate. Well the company sent me a ball with a Rays logo attached to it and I decided to try it out for myself.

I have a neighbor whose son’s plays for a local high school squad and I asked him if he wanted to help test out the ball to see if the diameter and flight were compromised at all by the attached gold material.

We threw the ball back and forth for a few minutes and the sheen on the ball did not tarnish, it did not show any developing cracking or show any critical signs of wear and tear. I did not go into the Batter’s Box and try out its durability after a few swings. I might be crazy, but I’m not nuts to possibly lose the golden ball over a fence in deep grass and have it destroyed by someone’s lawn mower.

ghghBut seriously, I love this item and it is a great way to show your fan love either for your home team, as a present with the recipient’s home squad or to gather signatures of All Star or World Series players and showcase as a one of a kind baseball.

And if you are on the fence about possibly purchasing one of the GSC unique logoed baseballs, what if I had a special 15% off you could use from now until the end of the year (Dec 31st) to buy one or more of these products as holiday special gifts for your favorite baseball fan or even for your own budding collection.

Of course you will have to use this code: GSC15 during the checkout process of your order and the company will send the ball to you as soon as possible with its unique certificate of authenticity as well as enclosed in its own box and acrylic case.

20141029_163920Here is a link to the Gold Sports Collectibles website so you can begin browsing and possibly purchasing your own  piece of baseball history, to showcase your love for the game and to provide another lifetime and lasting memory for the baseball fans in your life.

Excuse me while I go polish up my golden baseball and put it back in its display case along with my 2013 Home Run Derby ball.

Oh did I forget to tell you, they shine in the light and pull the attention of even the most oblivious baseball fan towards them.

 

I am a Firm #TeamWakaWaka Supporter

 

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I decided not to write a blog post about the Tampa Bay Rays whittling of their respective managerial candidates from 10 to 3 until some of the heat and rage had died down. I felt I needed to let the anger pass that some great candidates were eliminated from this list like it was just a simple qualifying heat and they wanted the top 3 to aspire to greatness possibly being their gold, silver and bronze medal candidates for the Rays open manager’s slot.

kjhgfrthgbgvfrhnbSo as you might have surmised from my medals reference earlier, I’m going to list my personal winner, consolation choice and the one who I felt at this time does not belong on this list.

If the Rays Front Office was trying to bring some sense of normalcy towards their selection process, they failed miserably as the process now seems to have been reduced to a comical 3-ring circus vibe with only the main act being a credible choice for their open post.

Bronze Medal- Raul Ibanez

images (7)I’m still not sure why he is even on this list. Sure Ibanez represents a quick 180 degree switch from the norm that was the Rays Way. Sure he played against this team as a player as recently as last season as a member of the Kansas City Royals, but the TEAM won the American League Championship, not Ibanez.

I understand and celebrate that he is a meticulous, charismatic and has his personal ducks all lined up, but his inexperience in managing a team is still in its infancy stage and to push a unproven game day novice into the Manager’s slot might have worked in the M L B of the 1900-1920’s, but today’s game is a statistical animal that needs to be fed the calculations, tendencies and proven tactical assessments and does not rely favorably on pure gut feelings and spur of the moment recollections.

images (5)I think Ibanez will mature into a great asset to baseball I just feel he is here 2-3 years too early for him to be considered for the Rays top dog. I also know Ibanez has not officially retired from playing yet and I do not see him as a player/manager hybrid for the Ray.

If Ibanez were to be given the Rays reigns, there might be more problems within the Rays organization than just a inexperienced Manager at the helm.

Silver Medal- Kevin Cash

cash_ygufmdit_6ij6mk9nOnto the silver medal, or onto at least an individual who has begun putting some valuable coaching time under his belt.

I liked Cash as a player. Local Tampa guy who fought his way up the ladder to actually playing for this franchise and was behind the Tropicana Field dish. I also think his time spent as a scout and on the job of Bullpen Coach for the Cleveland Indians makes him a viable candidate, but like Ibanez, it is just a tad bit too early for him to slide into a M L B managerial post.

But I do like the aspect of a Bullpen Coach getting a chance at the top spot. A Bullpen Coach sees the game at a different angle. From the beginning when he assesses if the starter’s focus is sharp, his pitches crisp and if there are any “tells” being displayed he is an important cog of the game day machine.

images (8)They also have a front row seat to any outfield and infield tendencies, shifts and see possible hitting holes from a different angle that the players and coaches on the dugout rail cannot visualize.

I think Cash can do the job, but in the end, on the job training makes for a more game savvy Manager who already has it within his wheel house to make those lightning quick hard decisions, try risky tactics and rely on both his past successes and failures to adjust and formulate an on the fly judgment that could lead to a victory.

Gold Medal- Don Wakamatsu

images (9)People wonder why Wakamatsu lost his gig in Seattle and if that failure should have not even gotten him a second interview with the Rays.

Personally I think that failure makes him the best candidate. Sure that tenure gave him a huge managerial black eye, but Wakamatsu also gained valuable insight to become a more respectable player’s coach, but also gaining the wisdom to know when to pull the reins and reel in a trouble player or evolving negative situation.

Wakamatsu was at the Mariner’s helm during the last playing days of Ken Griffey Jr and Milton Bradley’s careers.  One was adjusting to his reduced on the field role while the other just seemed mad at the world. Because of his soft hand approach towards both players and some others within the Seattle Clubhouse, he lost some vital respect and eventual control over Griffey Jr and Bradley as well as some of the young leaders in his M’s Clubhouse.

download (4)The M’s front office needing to find a reason for the team’s failure and with Wakamatsu losing his Clubhouse and some of the team’s admiration, the M’s organization pulled the plug.

But Wakamatsu did not walk away from the game with his head down, he found a gig more suitable to his evolving talents and was a vital coaching and leadership cog in the Royals 2014 World Series machine.

If you look at a list of the Royals best in-game decisions/tactics in 2014, I know you will find more than a few of Wakamatsu’s fingerprints among them.

The Rays next Manager needs to further the evolution of the Rays into that next realm or dimension of their development. He has to bring his new eyes into the system and quickly fix it’s errors or faults. Every Manager the Rays have ever had left their mark on the team’s development, I think Wakamatsu would make a great fit as the Rays next skipper.

Ibanez and Cash might have the heart and hustle to provide that, but Wakamatsu has the other intangible items needed to take this team possibly finally towards hoisting that golden trophy in November.

I truly think and believe Wakamatsu is the answer to the Rays problem at this time. He not only deserves a second chance at managing, he is the most qualified of the 3 left and the Rays would be lucky to have him at their helm.

 

Plus having experience coaching in the American League plus having a stint in coaching in the American League East is a great thing to pop high on your Rays Manager Resume.

I am to give #TeamWakaWaka the gold.

Best Rays Stadium Option Might Still Have a St Pete Address

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It is great news hearing that the City of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays might finally be seeing eye-to-eye in regards to a new home for the Rays. But unfortunately for the Rays, a few of the sites they coveted just 2 seasons ago are now either out of their price range, or set for a different type of development.

275sb5The Channelside District down near the epicenter of Tampa has been plucked by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s owner and his plans for that area do not include letting another sports team share in the wealth.

With both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties over the past few years both seeing their light-rail system ideas abolished by the public’s vote, a stadium in or around the West Shore Blvd area might also be past its expiration date.

Still, the Rays deserve to at least look, explore and quite possibly then remember that tract of land just off the southern end of the Howard Franklin might still have yearning for a possible multi-use facility that could include a stadium, a hotel/convention center and dining and shopping center open year round.

275SB2Next time you rush down on I-275 on your way home from Tampa, just past the Ulmerton Road exit look towards the northwest and check out this spectacular parcel of unused land and see if you can see what I see in my imagination:

A beautiful state-of-the-art retractable roof baseball stadium and hotel/convention center with the stadium’s roof opening towards the east to take in the flickering lights of Tampa from the angles within the stadium to provide a postcard backdrop.

That facility would become a shining jewel in baseball’s crown. Would set the standard in green technology while embracing its ecological habitat proving that man and nature can harmoniously co-exist, even with some of Tampa Bay’s tide pools just a Home Runs length away.

9stwestFor the sake of honest here, this is the same parcel of soil was my personal choice for the building of a baseball stadium site back in the late 1980’s when the discussion first came up for the site of the then Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field. 

This parcel of land sits smack dab in the middle of an ever growing section of Pinellas County that can support such a complex being built on this site, and should flourish beyond present expectations as both an entertainment center and transportation hub.

It is situated within a critical epicenter of the cross-county area to give more access to Tampa residents and upper Pinellas and Pasco-Hernando county citizens, but will be a bit of an added burden for people traveling from Sarasota or Manatee Counties.

275sb3If a stadium was proposed for this spot, this parcel would need a bit more tweaking and upgrading, to take on the extra burden of game day traffic, but it is at the threshold of two existing multi-lane infrastructures with I-275 providing north and south travel ease and Ulmerton Road, which is Pinellas County’s longest east-to-west travel road a gateway to several beach communities.

Alternative transportation is already in place because of the neighboring businesses surrounding Carillion Parkway. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) already has several bus routes that service the surrounding neighborhood office complex/condo community to the west of this parcel of land and services could be expanded to ease the transportation burdens of fans and visitors staying downtown or visitors who are staying out on the beaches.

Maybe PSTA and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority (HARTA) could combine or share resources and create an additional Express Route from Hillsborough County (west Shore or International Plaza) and bring fans to games from satellite parking lots or pre-destined pick-up locations throughout the Tampa Bay area.

275NB1This could help traffic congestion around the stadium site, while also being a great alternative to rush hour stress on the Howard Franklin westbound after 5 pm.

This location (to me) is perfectly suited for the Rays needs.

So let the Rays take their gander around the other sites within Tampa Bay, and in the end they will probably drive right by this parcel of land and hopefully it will scream to them “Baseball Stadium”.

Sometimes the answer to things in life is right in front of your nose. For the Rays, it could be this great tract of land just off a few main thoroughfares that has a great bay view.

Odorizzi Gets No Local Love in Rookie of the Year Voting

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Tampa Bay Rays rookie pitcher Jake Odorizzi deserved better…..He truly did.

thQ1XPIRDBI will never be a voting member of the Baseball Writers of America Association (BBWAA), and I never will be. I’m a blogger of an independent blog that is featured upon a MLB owned and supervised blogging community.

The closest I will ever get to being a voting member concerning anything M L B-related will be the online voting process of the GIBBY’s or the internet and in-stadium ballot process for the All-Star Game participants every summer.

Some of you no doubt will brand me a “homer” for the critical commentary I am about to unfold. But I find it personally a bit upsetting and inexcusable for a local media member of our Tampa Bay Rays to not even give one of our own solid rookies at least a solo 3rd place or 1 vote for the 2014 Rookie of the Year award.

thLD57424UBut I do want to take a moment out of this rambling to thank Sports Illustrated’s Mel Antonen for his lone show of support for the great 2014 rookie campaign by Rays starter Jake Odorizzi.

He was the only person among the voting panel for the 2014 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award to tip his cap to Odorizzi’s efforts this past season. To make this even more special for Odorizzi is that fact Antonen is a part of the Baltimore Orioles voting bloc and did not have to show any sort of acknowledgment to Odorizzi.

That is a man who voted with clarity and no biased integrity (in my opinion).

I have a mountain of respect for Antonen now, but lost what little I had for Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, and that is my “Two Cent’s” worth of commentary. And believe me, Smith will not lose a single ounce of sleep worried about some blogger calling him out for his ROY voting.

I can understand Smith’s votes for 1st (Jose Abreu/Chicago White Sox) and 2nd (Matt Shoemaker/ Los Angeles Angels), but I am calling bull hockey sticks on his 3rd vote which went to New York Yankee hurler Dellin Betances.

downloadSure Betances had no chance of winning with Abreu’s  garnering all 30 1st Place votes or 150 points, but you would have thought a writer, who is based in the Tampa Bay market would somehow vote for their local guy as a sign of respect for a job well done.

Instead, Smith’s 3rd selection went to a guy who possibly played in Tampa no more than 2-3 seasons ago as a member of the Florida State League (high Class-A) Tampa Yankees.  I guess NY Yankees star got a cap tilt vote from Smith to show his community support for the farm team.

Maybe it is the possibly outdated thought process of rooting and voting for the home team guy that has me so worked up here. That a local media member of the BBWAA doesn’t vote for a guy on his local baseball team, but for one who plays on our biggest rival.

imagesBut Smith was not the only Tampa Bay based sportswriter to include a Yankee and not a Rays with their 3rd place selection. Dick Scanlon of the (Lakeland) Ledger also did not show any Odorizzi love as he voted for Betances Yankee teammate Mashahiro Tanaka who was on the disabled list for an extended period of time in 2014 but did make a few appearances in September.

So that make 2, count ‘em 2 local Tampa Bay writers who showed their 3rd place love for guys wearing pinstripes instead of possibly gaining some integrity points with the Rays fan base by selecting Odorizzi.

Heck, it would have been amazing and great if at least one of them would of casted a vote for Odorizzi.

I know there are tons of Yankee transplants right now who are going to argue with me and spit back their own logical points, but in the end, the local guy got no love from not 1, but 2 local BBWAA writer……Plain and simple.

I mean if you take a gander at the individual voting ballots of the 30 participating voters in the 2014 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year voting, some did show some love for a home town rookie after voting for Abreu and Shoemaker in the top 2 slots.

images (1)Detroit Free Press writer Lynn Henning showed local love to Detroit Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post showed a hometown salute and a 3rd place vote to Yankees pitcher Mashahiro Tanaka.

And I do not have an issue with Takanao Ishii of the Sports Nippon Newspaper selecting Tanaka for his 3rd place choice. It is an honorable show of respect for the Japanese pitcher that one of his countrymen selected him.

In the end, this is my opinion plain and simple and I can rant and rave all night long and into the orange sunrise and this omission of Odorizzi from the local writer’s ballots will not change.

thE82THDSGMaybe it is naïve of me to think that local guys will take their last vote and show some local love and admiration to a hometown player after they have made their first 2 selections. 

But then again what was I to expect from a group of local media members who didn’t even vote Odorizzi the unanimous 2014 Rays Rookie of the Year.

You deserved better Jake…in my non-voting opinion.

 

 

Could Hellboy & Gattis be Primary Rays and Braves Trade Pieces?

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The Atlanta Braves have not been shy or silent they need to find a trade partner for Evan Gattis this winter. The Braves current C/OF needs to find a new home so the ATL squad can give the catching reigns fully to young defensive wunderkind Christian Bethancourt this spring.

imagesThe Braves also found out recently their qualifying offer to starter Ervin Santana is going to be rejected and that put a definite hole in their starting 5 heading into the spring of 2015.

A team that could dangle a veteran starter with some team control could become the ideal trade partner that could help the team seal their rotation hole and help them give Bethancourt control behind the plate heading into 2015.

And the Tampa Bay Rays could quite possibly be the team that helps facilitate this for the Braves.

As we head into the M L B G M Meeting in Arizona, both teams have a need to subtract personnel this winter with the Rays wanting to find a trade ally for starter Jeremy Hellickson.

images (5)The first glaring point that most Braves might bring to the forefront is the fact Hellickson only pitched 63 2/3rds innings in 2014 after a pre-spring surgery to remove some loose fragments in his pitching elbow. Since his return, Hellickson was a valued Rays starter proving he was healthy and suffering no setbacks from his prior injury.

The addition of a versatile player like Gattis would be a great addition for the Rays who need some offensive firepower heading into 2015. Even though Gattis himself had some health concerns in 2014 with a bulging disc in his back.

Combine Gattis’s back issue with Hellickson’s elbow you would think each team would do their due diligence via their respective medical staffs before any conversation escalates past the preliminary stage.

Even if both players did have darkened clouds surrounding their health in 2014, but each finished the season on high notes providing a brighter outlook for either player being considered in a possible trade package.

images (6)Hopefully the Brave realize even with a small statistical model in 2014, the pure fact over the last 2 seasons Hellboy’s has increased his strikeout rate (7.9 K/9 innings) while also lowering his walks issued (2.7 per 9 innings pitched) should show the veteran hurler has overcome some past control issues and  would be a solid contributor to the Braves rotation.

Adding another nugget of goodness to the Braves trading for Hellickson is the fact he was the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year as well as a Gold Glover. Players like that usually do not come up as trade pieces when there is still team control in play. The fact Hellboy is even up on the block is a testament to the younger hurlers on the Rays current staff of developing faster than expected and might be pushing a player of Hellickson’s caliber towards another team. 

download (2)Gattis would come to the Rays as a firm offensive upgrade especially at the Rays catching position and finished the 2014 season while maintaining a .263 average in 401 plate appearances. Even more glaring is the fact Gattis’s 22 HRs easily outpaced all 5 players who caught for the team and hit only 6 HRs in total with Ryan Hanigan garnering 5 of those HRs.

Helping Gattis in his case as a possible Rays trade target is the fact he has fielding versatility. Not only could he provide at bats as a catcher, but also at Designated Hitter and as a possible corner outfielder during InterLeague play.

It is not often that you could possibly trade for a single player who could help adjust or eliminate so many glaring holes in your roster. Both with a bat and glove Gattis is an instant Rays upgrade at DH and catcher (Sorry Ryan).

images (8)Another get selling point for Hellickson is the fact he is under team control until the end of 2016 and his projected arbitration salary is an affordable $3.5-3.9 million for 2015. That would give the Braves a bit of salary relief as well as bring on a starter with a proven M L B track record that would solidify the middle to back-end of the Braves rotation for at least the next 2 seasons. Of course this also works great for the Rays who have to cut a significant amount of payroll heading into 2015.

Gattis would also bring the Rays some salary relief as well as he is under team control for another 4 seasons. But one glaring point that might come with any trade chats about Gattis is that those 4 seasons of possible salary stability for a team like the fiscally-challenged Rays might come at the cost of another player at or near the M L B level.

images (7)The Braves will certainly want to up the ante because of Gattis’s 4 years of control, and it might be a hidden godsend as the Rays could include some like Brandon Guyer, Tim Beckham (Georgia native) or another player who might find their career path blocked as they near the M L B level.

A straight-up trade of Gattis for Hellickson will not happen oir be entertained by the Braves or Rays, but these two M L B caliber players should be a great starting point for both front offices to facilitate some chatter towards a possible Rays and Braves swap of talent.  

If Florida Native Fans Embrace the Rays, Attendance Will Begin an Upswing

 

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I get upset every time I read something about sports fans in the Tampa Bay area being “bandwagon fans”.  Such article never take into consideration only 35 percent of fans in the state of Florida were actually born here.

Florida is currently grouped with 4 other states that have between 24.3 and 44.5 of their population born in their state. Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado are the only other states in that group, and only Colorado has a M L B franchise.

downloadBut none of these articles or bash blogs take into account that since the 1980’s the number grew from the mid 20’s to 35 percent at the time of the 2010 U. S. Census. 15% increase may not seem to be a lot to most, but to us natives, it is more and more people who share in this region as their birthplace and should establish local sports alliances as we grow older.

But the local teams also have to embrace this fact that less than 40 percent of their fan base is locally born and take measures to ensure these fans attach themselves to their local teams before family long-time allegiance plays havoc and they lose a fan based on their parent’s sports loyalties.

Only 10 states of 1/5th of our Nation have seen over 70 percent of their population born in their state.  M L B stronghold states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan are within that top tier native-born group that also include Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky.

download (1)If you look at the 2014 M L B attendance numbers, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were in the Top 15 for this past season.  Each of these states double the native population of the southernmost state in our country.

Just for giggles, let’s double the Rays 2014 attendance figures and see where they might have ranked in the overall 2014 if our Sunshine State had at least 70 percent of our residents born here.

The Rays had 1,446,464 fans cross their gates in 2014. Multiply that by 2 and we get 2,892,928 fans which would have vaulted them up to the 7th spot just above the Milwaukee Brewers who drew 2,797,384 through their turnstiles in 2014.

images (5)Now I’m only using this as an example, if the Rays  grew their attendance numbers 1.5 times in 2014, the Rays ( 2,169,696 ) would of cracked the M L B’s top 20 instead of being in 29th in attendance this season.

Now it might start to make some sense to the Rays Republic who have been arguing over the past several seasons that the Rays fan group under 14 get the best giveaways from the team.

Combine that with the fact those collectibles mostly happen during promotional days like Family Fun Days and you get a nice uptick in attendance, plus hopefully gather more loyalty and future franchise admiration for their hometown team.

That is why the Rays roll out the carpet for the younger generation, they will be the ticket buyers who takes the Rays back to 2 million plus fans through the gates. It is not the older crowd like myself who might be loyal fans, but with our age comes some limitations both physically and economically hamper us from attending as we have in the past.

images (4)That is why the kids get the great Evan Longoria drum sets, the Summer Camps and the opportunity on Sunday home games to get the autographs of Rays players. It is a subtle but insightful way for the Rays to embrace their young fans who will turn into adult fans and then hopefully stay in the region and produce another generation of Rays fans.

Who knows, by the time we get to the 2020 U.S. Census the Florida native number might rise to 45 percent which would put Florida on the lower end of the next level of native children currently being born in M L B states which includes Georgia, Washington, Maryland and California.

download (3)Teams like the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and even the Baltimore Orioles have over 100 years or at least 3 generations of native fans who grew up and adopted their teams based on their locality. Tampa Bay has not even been in the M L B 20 years are surely does have a transient fans who still have or pull out their home town jerseys when their old team comes to Tropicana Field.

My only hope is that the younger Rays fan who enjoy these great promotions and events stay within the Rays fold and help establish a lasting Rays tradition within their future families or relationships.

The Rays have planted the seeds for the younger members of our regions to embrace their local teams. Now we just have to wait until those seeds mature here in Tampa Bay and hopefully we will still have a team to call our own and to introduce to their kids and eventually their grand kids.

images (3)Baseball may be a business, but sometimes even in business you have to embrace the family approach and hope it expands and makes even the youngest fan want to grow up to be devote Rays fan.

 If you were wondering, the Colorado Rockies ( 2,680,329 ) ranked 10th in overall  M L B attendance this season.  The Rockies have been an M L B franchise since 1993 and the 2nd generation of Rockies fans seemed to have embraced the team.

That shows even in Tampa Bay, there is hope as long as the native sons and daughters support their local sports roots.

Say It Ain’t So Joe!

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I so want to pop on one of those hipster caps, clutch a bundle of newspapers and wander outside Ava’s in South Tampa right now and mimic that great cinematic scene and scream: “Say it ain’t so Joe, say it ain’t so!

imagesI wasn’t a firm believer in Maddon when he was announced as the Tampa Bay Rays Manager almost a decade ago. But then I did not want that other “Joe” either who wears pinstripes to manage my then D-Rays.

I was uninformed of his love of computerized stats, reports, graphs and believing in the numbers as much as a hunch, feeling or a spur of the moment stroke of genius.

But I quickly became a follower.

images (7)So yeah, it irks me a bit today when I heard the Rays will lose their in-house musical and entertainment savant who decided his tenure with the Rays will cease now rather than extend his stay or do a “farewell” year as a lame duck Rays skipper.

I was on pins and needles the first few times I heard Maddon during interviews and as my resistance to his style of baseball waned, I began to march to the beat of his drum and began to stand solid behind this new essence of the Rays with this Mad Man with his black-rimmed glasses at the helm.

images (3)From his want to “give back” to his adopted Tampa Bay community with his “ThanksMas” innovative program that fed and let struggling and homeless individuals around this region know that the Rays, their employees and Maddon believed in them through their culinary show of love.

Maddon quickly won my heart by his charity, intelligence and want to make his Rays teams not only successful, but a benchmark of how to evolve and transform players and veteran into a victorious hodge-podge of inspiring and aspiring Tampa Bay sports icons.

20141024_140329I was one of the first to pop my name and money down for the inaugural first rendition of the  “Maddon’s Mad Men” that quickly reformed as the “Maddon’s Maniacs” and became a spirited group of Rays fans who voiced and showed their support for the Rays main guy.

Maddon  grew on me. From his courage to bench a disgruntled Delmon Young, then sending the ROY candidate to Minnesota. It showed courage, but it also showed that he was not above jettisoning a promising player if he felt it might poison the Rays clubhouse, or provide unneeded drama.

images (24)What was really amazing was how when Delmon returned 6 years later in the final month of the 2013 season there was a level of respect shown towards Maddon that was not there in 2007. It was never said aloud, but you got to know Maddon was pleased Young had matured, developed and could again help the Rays cause, now as a veteran.

a3I was amazed at the way the “Magical Summer of Baseball” transpired this franchise and energize not only the Rays, but the whole Tampa Bay community. That process started with Maddon chatting with the guys on the turf of the Namoli Complex in St. Petersburg, transformed during the season peaking as he accepted the American League Championship Trophy from his former boss’s wife and ended among the rain puddles in Citizen Bank Park.

But that 2008 success only made you want to root for him more, want to again see him on the post season stage ready to pull a wily play out of his notepad, or pop up his palm for a enthusiastic high-five as a Ray returned to the dugout.

images (23)It saddens me we will not see Joe hoist a World Series trophy here in Tampa Bay. Bothers me that this happens now when the sting and bite of Andrew Friedman leaving for western pastures in Chavez Ravine and his team maybe again on the verge of something special.

PajamaI’m going to miss the team head cheerleader who brought fun back to road trips via planned events, the manning of T-shirts, jerseys or even PJ’s to bring some comic relief and energy into leaving the confines of home for 7-10 day ventures around the country.

I mean Maddon was a man who embraced our region for its positives and negatives, became a R V owner, a local restaurateur and somehow during all of this got some of us (even me) back on a bike wandering this great area on trails and back road rediscovering our region.

images (4)He helped transform the Rays culture on the field, in the stands and even might have instilled the first healthy clubhouse in the MLB when fresh food, healthy options and smoothies intertwined into the Rays pre and postgame lifestyle.

But most of all I’m going to miss the guy who truly had become the Captain of our Rays ship. Taking us to places no one else had, be it post season, managing an All-Star team or even giving us all cause to further embrace our community be it through humanitarian or even social efforts.

images (18)While some are going to have to take some time to come to terms with this, get over their confusion and angry moments, we all knew this day was going to come. We all knew that one day you would take that Rays hoodie off for the last time. Hang up the Elmer Fudd winter Rays cap and venture on with your life somewhere else, but we had envisioned that years away.

But even if the time was only 9 season, it was a true pleasure knowing you Skipper. Was a treat to hear you take, to see what antic or item might show up at a press conference or be presented to your players in the Club house (my favorite was Cliff, the penguin).

images (25)Joe, where ever you go, whatever your next destination I want you to know I still cherish, relish and embrace all the “Maddon Maniacs” knickknacks, T-shirts and photos taken with you over your Rays tenure.

But seriously Joe……..”Say it ain’t so!”

Big Game James Adorns the Big Stage Again

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I swear I wish I could have been a bug in Kansas City Royals P James Shields ear when he was handed the American League Trophy tonight because I would have had him scream, “Hello Gorgeous, Did you miss me?  I sure missed you?”

images (8)Has it really been 6 years since Shields last grasped this golden lady as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.  It seems like oh so long ago that Shields and one of his team again ventured into the Fall Classic.

But this is one of the reasons Shields plays this game. To be a part of the team that elevates their game to the highest level of style and play to showcase their young and veteran talents on the World Series stage.

Sure this time around Shields might have a few more miles on his arm, but with his added bonus of being on this stage before, he can inspire and show some of his younger teammates how to harness the energy and bottle it up for game time.

download (1)For a long time some within the Rays Republic knew Shields would get back to the World Series and were truly stunned when the Rays traded him and RP Wade Davis to their small market brethren.

Some have even wondered recently which team got the better end of that deal, and at this moment if you ask anyone….You might imagine the scale is tipped in the Royals favor. How ironic was it that the main player in that Rays and Royals deal was one of the first people to take to Twitter and show his enthusiasm and joy for the Royals team that drafted him not so long ago.

Wil Myers ‏@wilmyers  2h2 hours ago

“Congrats to the #Royals! Happy for everyone in that organization.”

images (7)I am so happy for Shields. He is one of the former Rays players I hoped would again grace the biggest stage in baseball. I wanted see “Big Game” again get a chance at collecting another bit of baseball immortality by winning a World Series.

I know his 2008 Tampa Bay Rays teammate Jonny Gomes got his piece of bling first, but you know Shields will cherish it, caress it, possibly design some sort of epic new fashion statement around it. (I’m wearing his 1st Rays T-shirt creation as I write this post).

download (2)Seriously, how awesome is it that Big Game James get to once again toe the rubber in Game 1 of a World Series and possibly set an early tone in who could possibly be the last team standing in 2014.

images (3)I can see it now with my 162 stitch crystal baseball as Royals ace Big Game James taking the hill on 3 days rest in Game 7, all tied at 3, winner takes all.

And you know who I want to win….and thrust skyward the World Series MVP Trophy.

Now it’s up to Shields and the Royals to finish the season on a grand scale on a year that can never be tarnished.  

 

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