Results tagged ‘ Cliff Wittig ’
I have to admit something to all of you. I really hate this time of the year, and not for the weather. And it is also not because of the family gatherings or social interacting amongst the family members who have traveled to enjoy this meal with us. I have developed a mild distaste for the “redefined” Thanksgiving meal.
It is not the fault of the holiday itself, but the constant commercial pushing of “new” twists on holiday foods,and the subtle interjection of “bold” ideas from high profile cable channels like the Food Network has transformed this traditional family meal into a eating event I would rather skip than be a test dummy to new ideas and unique tastes.
These networks have taken some of the simple pleasures of my childhood Thanksgivings and made them almost unrecognizable today. Some of the changes are welcome. But honestly, just how many different ways can you really spice up sweet potatoes or yams without going overboard? Some of these tantalizing twists have made me take test bites and develop weird smelling rituals for almost every single morsel of food instead of just enjoying the meal.
And who in their right mind would even consider a Brussels sprout cole slaw with basalmic dressing as a condiment to their dinners if not for the pushing of such items by these networks. I guess there are millions of Brussels sprouts all over the world sitting idle on the shelf just rotting way, and someone at a place like the International Brussels Sprouts Board decided that they had to come up with a recipe for them and increase sale two-fold.
My simple holiday meal with extended family has evolved into a culinary tasting menu that might rival a four star restaurant. Because of my significant others wanting to put some “spice” into holiday meals with more unique spices and sassy sauces to produce a visual as well as tasty meal experience that hopefully have even Chef Bobby Flay green with envy.
The advent of these holiday food shows have turned this holiday into a personal eating nightmare for me. It has not been ruined by the foods per se, but by the addition of some of these spices and novel ideas. There is a reason every one of these food networks has a test kitchen. And for some reason, every woman I have been involved with has not made the ”new” dish in advance to see if there are possible pratfalls or newbie mistakes that can ruin the dish, or make me sick as a dog. Instead I am left to smile and make nice sounding noises before spitting it into my napkin or hoping the dog will like it and not also get sick and die on me.
And there is not one of you reading this who has not done that before. Be it the new yams or sweet potato recipe or the whole wheat muffins or rolls that could kill someone if you hit them even from 100 yards away. We have all been there, and we have stories. Oh, how we have stories.
Now I do not have food allergies or even a hint of distaste for most foods, but some dishes are better left with the sauces and the methods we grew up with, and throwing a new twist on a dish is a plus, but sometimes even the most subtle change can become a train wreck. Let’s take the turkey last year at my friend’s house.
She has alway envisioned cooking a turkey outside in a scalding vat of peanut oil because it is said it produces one of the most moist bird you have ever had in your entire life. But what the chefs’ on these shows forget to tell you is that you have to fully thaw out the bird and wipe them down like a newborn before you dunk them in that hot oil. That was strike number one last year.
I was not there yet, so I could not interject my opinion into the mess before I pulled up and saw her 10-year old spraying down the side of the house that had caught fire after the still mildly frozen turkey spurting hot oil onto her clinging green vines on the garage wall. The fire did not harm anything but vegetation, but the smell of that burnt peanut oil was worse than any motor oil or gasoline smell I ever encountered at my father’s gas station.
My friend is one of those chefs loves to bark orders to her four kitchen staffers (kids), who do some of the stirring and watching of the pots on the stove. It is her way of getting everyone involved and make them a intricate part of the holiday. She even has the youngest performing the vital job of watching the timer to let her know when the turkey is done.
Might be a meaningless job to us, but he stares at that timer like his life depended on it. Only problem with this is that he tends to lose interest fast and can soon be seen wandering around the yard a bit,or getting involved with the neighborhood kids playing football and will forget the turkey. Hence the fire. But with that minor glitch in the system taken care of, he is again sitting there watching the turkey bubble and spit grease all over the sloped driveway.
What he doesn’t notice is that ever so often this molten pot is taking a small movement down the driveway to make its exit from the party. So when the turkey finally decides to makes its exit by the boiling pot tipping over and tumbling down the driveway with the hot oil, spices and a slightly tanned bird in the lead heading for the curb and its supposed freedom.
The young child is smart enough to not try and stop the bird, but yells for mom, who instinctively comes running, but with no handy utensils in her vicinity to stops its flight towards the gutter. So she watches as the bird begins its trip to the curb picking up grass clippings, the odd soda bottle plastic top and finally resting in a puddle of burnt oil and dirt at the bottom of the driveway. The pot is halfway up the driveway with the propane burner still churning out flames and leaving saturated oil and burn marks on the white concrete driveway.
She scoops up the bird and then take him inside for a quick sink rubdown and a quick glance into his middle cavity to see just how cooked the bird might be at this moment. With the inside of the bird still pink like a baby’s bottom, she knows it is still going to be hours before dinner. So she hits every knob on the stove and reduces the heat on everything to try and bring the days food prep to a standstill while she reviews what needs to be done.
She decides to call in a favor with a nearby neighbor, who has also drowned his turkey into a vat of oil today, and has already converted his bird from a pale flesh mess to a golden brown herb encrusted masterpiece. He is more than willing to help her out, and with the bird at least started, it will take almost no time to finish the bird to also resemble a Florida native out on the beach in August.
But her third strike of the day is a simple mistake in simple culinary judgment. But one that almost produced a small army mutiny at the celebrated meal. She is that consummate cook who idolizes people like Rachel Ray and Paula Deen. And her leadership abilities rival any dictator or despot because she likes to have her fingers in every dish even before it hits the table for consumption. But unlike a real chef, she doe
sn’t taste her dishes as she is making them, and tonight that will be her downfall.
She knows I like Cajun spices and extreme hot sauces, so she found a Jalapeno and Habanero pickling spice mixture for the inside of the turkey mixed within the stuffing to compliment the sausage and rye breading she added to produce a different tasting stuffing this year. Well, I have to admit it did not look too inedible when it hit the table, but she had forgotten to take the veins and some of the seeds out of the chopped up spicy peppers, and once the dish was upon my plate, my eyes instantly began to water.
Of course her 10-year old, who is a bit hefty and the food hoarder of the family began to shovel it into his mouth even as I warned him to taste a spoonful first. The next reaction was instant projectile vomiting into his sister’s lap. Made me almost glad I did not take the first bite, but I felt bad for the kid. I quickly got some milk for him along with some white bread and told him to dunk the bread in the milk and eat in immediately.
Well, after the turkey attempted escape, the oil fire upon her well-greened garage wall, and the pepper stuffing fiasco, the rest of the meal was perfect and only had a few hints of change. Sometimes it is great to establish new ideas and traditions during the holidays, but it should be done with prior experiences and also tried recipes and handed down instructions to make the dishes their best from the first bite.
I actually am looking forward to today’s meal. We have a years experience dunking the turkey, and she has experimented with the stuffing to a point she is confident we will not have the events of last year. But the highlight of the event is always seeing the friends and family sitting there eating, laughing and telling the stories of the past year. Foods can be changed, menus can evolve, but the best thing about the holiday is that the people are the reason for the season.
So with that, I want to wish and pray that everyone of you reading this today gets to have a fully belly and a great Thanksgiving with the people who make up your circle in life. So as I close this blog today, I want to raise a glass to the people busy in our kitchens, to our the kids and relatives in the yard playing football or other games, and the men and woman serving. throughout this big ball of blue. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
And with that, it is time for to go steal my first stuffed mushroom caps from the serving dish and get this holiday officially underway.
During the off season I am going to go back into the Rays Renegade annuals and pull out some of the stuff I treasured during the last two seasons. It could be a game moment, or one like tonight, a concert event held after a Saturday night Rays game. I am going to use every Sunday as a day to reflect and remember classic moments and events that I have posted blogs about during the last two seasons. This blog entry originally was posted on August 2,2009 and is being re-posted today as my weekly Rays memory selection.
This photo was actually given to me by a member of the Rays front office after the concert a few days later for some of the blogging and things I have done for the organization over the past few seasons. It was an unexpected surprise and one that is currently adorning the hallway along with the other 8×10 photos of Rays players and band I have met over the past 12 years. Aagin, I am so honored and proud to be a member of the Rays Republic and never expected such a great item to fall into my hands. To the person on the 3rd Floor who got me this gift, you know I am there for the team and your department if you ever need a volunteer… or anything else. Thank you again!
Okay, anyone who knows me in any personal way knows I have a soft spot for rockers. It might be the lifestyle I grew up with,or it might be the lifestyle I always wanted in life, but a good hard rocking song can get me fired up everytime. So last night in the latest edition of the Rays Concert Series they invited former America Idol fan favorite Chris Daughtry and his band, Daughtry to the Trop. for a FREE after the game concert. Also the idea that the two bars I go to after games always seems to drag me up to the Karaoke mic and for some reason they all want to hear me sing “Home” by Daughtry at some point in the night.
What was really special about this Rays show is that this post-game concert will be the first “official” concert stop on their 2009 concert tour. The group has been in Hamilton, Ontario for the last two days ironing out a few kinks and bugs in the set list and was still doing their final prep work right before they got on a tour bus and headed to St. Petersburg, Florida for this initial concert of their tour. This is the third time they have been on tour after their original tour made an appearance in the smaller venue of the State Theatre in St. Petersburg, just about a mile from Tropicana Field just down Central Avenue.
During their second tour in 2008, the group were truly blessed to be the opening act for Bon Jovi on their World-wide tour that happened to be held during the Boston Red Sox series. I had a centerstage club level seat for that concert and a backstage pass thanks to some old friends at Pepsi who got me to meet Chris after his set. I actually found out we used to hang out in some of the same places when I lived in North Carolina, but as fate always has it, I never heard his band or met him while in N.C.
The band spent the first part of the Rays game against the Kansas City Royals up in a suite just above the Maddon’s Maniac logo above Section 136 in the right field section of the Trop. Chris Daughtry and his bandmates would occasionally come out to the rail and smile and wave to the fans below. A young Rays fan even threw up a blue cowbell for the band drummer Joey at one point during the game.
They also took in some of the rituals of the Trop such as the blue cotton candy that Joey had purchased during the game. It was especially funny to see the Trop vendor trying to get the blue cotton candy up into the suite since it was a good 20 feet straight up shot. Finally the candy made it to Joey and he gave the thumbs up before going into the suite to get a quick sugar fix.
During last night’s set list the band did a mixture of their second album’s material and some of the great hits off their debut “Daughtry” album. The song “Crashed” had a different feel to it during last night performance, and wasa softer version of the previously recorded hit. The band did end the night with the song that has come to identify the band with its fans for the last two years. “Home” also had a great vibe to it and he did throw some extra octaves and vocal scales into it and it instantly thrilled the crowd both on the stadium floor and in the stands.
Some of the members of Daughtry did hang out after the concert and mingled with Rays fans before finally being whisked away to the Vinoy. The band will make their second appearance tonight at the House of Blues in Orlando. The only negative to the entire night, and I am going to give him a Mulligan on this is the fact he called St. Petersburg by the wrong name. He called out to the fans of the to the “city of Tampa” in his Twitter video last night.
But that might also be connected to the fact he was on the tour bus heading to O-town after the ahow and might have seen a “Tampa” sign along I-275 before he made the video. So let me end this short photo blog with the two Twitter videos sent out by the band before and after the concert last night. Hopefully the band will again hit Florida before they end this tour, and you know I will be there again. Hoping to maybe hear “Call My Name” done again in person. Rock on Chris, you guys did an awesome job and I wish you the best during your tour dates!
I was going to begin my end of the season series of blogs on my personal “Top 5 Moments in the 2009 Rays Season” until I looked at the calendar on the kitchen wall this morning. And there it stood. In huge bold RED letters October 27, 2009. To most people this date is only a reminder that in only 4 days, the hordes of sugar-seeking pint-sized ghouls and gobblins trick or treaters would invade the neighborhoods, and the air would be alive with the screams and laughter of children everywhere.
To the Rays faithful, this date is the One Year Anniversary of a baseball moment that will live in Rays lore as the “Big One that Got Away”. It was one year ago on this day that Game 5 of the 2008 World Series was to be played, and completed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
But it really does not feel like it has been an entire year since I was sitting in Section 101 in centerfield right by both teams Bullpen Areas at Citizen Bank Park watching some pieces of errant uneaten hot dogs, sandwich wrappers and soda cups raining down from the stands when the Major League Baseball head honcos and Home Plate Umpire Jeff Kellogg decided to suspend play during Game 5 of the 2008 World Series in Philadelphia to protect the players.
And about this moment the Philly weather was starting to pick up an extra special blast of chilling wind gust, and the present temperature in the stadium seemed to be dipping extremely fast towards a point of freezing. But still we sat there hoping we might be able to complete this game and get our toes and noses defrosted with a cup of steaming hot coffee in between innings.
It did not matter that the cold made our fingers a bit numb and ached when we clapped or even tried to loosen them up by flexing them during the game. For I was from Florida, and this bit of weather is not a usual element for us to endure during games, but my two batting gloves did help a little bit in the cold. Both teams tried to play this game, but were fighting increasingly slippery surfaces on the basepaths and at the home plate.
The game was beginning to resemble a old neighborhood kids baseball game where we played in the muck and mud and sloshed around as best you could because we loved to play the game. But the guys out on that field were professionals, and the elements were not giving them ample footing or even visibility to see the ball in the air. And it was a good call in hindsight to stop the game before some got hurt, or a play occurred that would change the course of the game.
I can still see the three Phillies fans who sat a few rows back who had traveled over one hundred miles to attend that night’s game, and would not be able to stay over for even one more night to see a possible ending to this game. The saddness on their faces as they rose after the announcement and almost tore their tickets up showed the common air of disappointment circling the stadium that night.
All I can easily recall sitting in my seat drinking a soda and watching the Rays players become more like human popsicles with every inning. The “Elmer Fudd” Rays hats with the ear flaps were in great demand down on the Rays dugout, and you could see the after glow of the bench heaters from my outfield seats. It is a wonder nothing caught fire that night as the flames seemed to kiss the back of the players heels and they relished the warmth and endured the slight discomfort of the heat.
And when the announcement officially came from the public address system that the game would not be continued, you understood the instant wrath and barrage of garbage being thrown in the air. We wanted to see the end of that classic game that would later be known as Game 5.0 and Game 5.5, but the safety and welfare of the member of both squads and the fan took center stage.
We all know how this game ended up two days later. And maybe if the game had been played to it conclusion a different result might have occurred. But it was the right call by MLB in an extreme situation that not only made history, but also showed some immense courage considering what town the game was being held in at the time.
I even made sure to try and spot my seat from that night and sure enough, he was sitting there with a beer in one hand, and a big Brat in the other cheering on his Phillies. Today is painful, but not as biting as a year ago as I wandered outside the stadium walking down Broad Street with the rest of the fans. There were shouts of disgust, shows of violent tendencies, but the crowd was pretty subdued compared to a few hours ago in the stadium during the game.
I ended up with a few friends of mine from my days in Philly back in the early 1990′s and went to one of the neighborhood bars for a few drinks to get my blood flowing again to my limbs. There I met a guy who was so upset he had to work that night, but was glad he might get a chance to see a World Series game now that the game was postponed a few days.
I sat there listening to his stories for a bit, and he heard a few of my Rays tales before I offered my ticket to him. I had a flight out of Philly the next evening and could not stay an additional night to see the conclusion of the game. I took no money from him, but told him to get down to Clearwater, Florida during Spring Training and we will settle the score. He did make it down and invited me to a game. With him he brought a Game Program from the game, a Beep Cup signifying the World Series, and the ticket stub.
I told him he could have the ticket stub since his team won the World Series at the conclusion to that game. He told me he took it to a Kinko’s store and had it enlarged to a huge size, and it is now hanging in his game room. So this day has some mixed emotions to me. I got to see history a year ago today, and also got to provide a lifetime moment to someone who would have missed it if the game did not get postponed. So even with all the pain of this date, some good did come of it all.
I went and visited an old friend today for lunch who runs a small take-out joint called the “A Taste of Philly” in Largo, Florida. He has the reputation of some of the finest selections of tasty morsels south of Broad Street in Philadelphia. The guy imports all of his bakery goods straight from the City of Brotherly Love daily, and you can’t fight the quality of his fare. They are all three napkins worthy!
So I came upon the idea that maybe we need to vent the Philly fans attention another direction for a few days and give them something to debate before the beginning of the World Series on Wednesday night. I decided maybe we need to try the virtues of two of Philly’s biggest sandwich icons and decide once and for all………
Who is KING of the Cheesesteaks according to people around the country and not just from Philly. So I decided to just throw my personal opinions and comments out here along with a little history about each place and let the ball fall and see who picks it up and runs with it. Seriously, everyone knows that people in the town have an opinion on their particular favorite cheesesteak hangout. So without further ado, Let’s Get it on!
In the Orange corner wearing multi-colored neon boxing shorts and fighting for his creation firmly mounted on the corner of 9th and Passyunk, we have Joey Vento’s and his monster creation….GENO’s. There is a really funny story on how Vento came up with the name for his place back in 1966. With a Joe’s Steak Place already situated within the city limits of South Philly, Vento was perplexed on a name for his new place.
Well, some local kid named Gino had spray painted his name on the back door of the new place and Vento saw it and knowing that there was a local well-to-do chain store with the same name, just put a couple lines on the “GINO” painted on his back door and “GENO’s was born. the biggest thing you need to get used to if you ever order at Geno’s is to have your order ready at the first window before you even utter a word. There is actually an art to ordering what kind of cheese,or onions you want on your thin-cut steaming ribeye cheesesteak.
If you fail to order within a certain time limit, you can be sure the people in line behind you will give you a shout or two to let you know what they think. And that is something this town was built on Freedom of speech. And let me tell you, this is one of the places in town you will talk about for years just for the ordering experience. And considering all of this was started back in 1966 with only two boxes of ribeyes, some hot dogs, and a total of $6 in Vento’s pockets. Simply fantastic.
And the fact the counter is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and fills the air with the awesome aromas of onions,and sizzling steak just makes you wander towards the counter. I am not going to give a review of Geno’s right now before I introduce our second challenger to the fray. And he is another heavyweight in the fight to fill Philly fans bellies late into the night, and early mornings.
In the Blue corner fighting from the opposite corner of the intersection is Pat’s, King of Steaks, which is not as brightly set in neon lights as Geno’s, but still is the rave for cheesesteaks in the city. Between the two establishments there is always a line at certain times of the day. Pat’s actually was founded about 36 years before Geno’s back in 1930. Back then it was a modest hot dog emporium at the base of the famous Italian Market in South Philly.
One day Pat decided to try something different for that days lunch crowd. So he had some one go get some chopped meat at the local butcher shop and grilled it up on his flat top where he usually cooked his hot dogs. He went next door to the Italian Market and got some fresh sandwich rolls and placed the steamed meat on the bun along with some onions.
Just as Pat was about to sample his new invention, a Philly cabbie on his usual lunch break asked what Pat was eating. After a short bit of chatter, Pat decided to make one of the new creations for his cabbie friend. Pat cooked him up one of the sandwiches and after the first bite the cabbie proclaimed to Pat, “Hey, forget ’bout those hot dogs, you should sell these.” And a momentary change in his lunch option, and the World Famous South Philly steak sandwich was born.
Over the years, people wanted a bit of change, hence the addition of cheese to the sandwich. At both locations there is a huge amount of history and celebrity that focus attention to both eateries, but one of the great adventures of ordering your sandwich at Pat’s can be the highlight of your pre-sandwich meal.
It is not uncommon for the counter person to ask someone to go to the end of the line if they stutter or can not get the order done in a timely fashion. Returning patrons can be picked out of the crowd easy by their ease at throwing out what they want on their cheesesteaks in a micro of seconds. There is even a sign posted before the counter window to help ease you into the “Pat’s Way” of ordering and getting you food as quick as possible.
I have to say, the first time I went there I did not have to go to the back of the line, but they knew I was from the South. Maybe my Tampa Bay cap gave me away. Anyways I have to give a slight nod even before tasting either sandwich to Pat’s because they serve Pepsi products. See even in my time away from the job I still value my sodas. But both places did serve Dr. Pepper, so the scale went even again.
Another tipping point that might have pushed me in a certain direction might be the fact that at Pat’s you can eat on premises. But this was not a deciding factor if you like people watching and also enjoy the crisp, chill in the October air in Philly. Eating al fresco at Geno’s is not like sitting at a street side Cafe’ in Paris, but you can see and hear everything that is happening around you at both steak institutions.
No matter which of the two competing places you savor when you come to Philly, the leading factor to coming down to Passyunk has to be to eat one of the creations that has be associated with this city for so long. Doesn’t matter if you like your cheesesteak loaded with Cheez Wiz like at Pat’s or can choose your artery clogging cheese selection like Geno’s. The basic fact that you enjoy a well made sandwich should be enough right?
Okay. I get it, you want a winner. That is so American of you (lol). I am actually going to break this down into points of yummy to consider a winner here.
***** Geno’s might be the only restaurant in South Philly you can see from Space. Pat’s is sometimes blurred by the amount of people standing outside still at 2 am.
]***** Pat’s counter people make even ordering a sandwich an experience. With the helpful signage and some of the crowd helping you so you can also have a fast experience without going to the back of the line. Geno’s can be testy too, but part of the Pat’s experience is just their ordering process.
***** Because of their extra selections of types of cheese (Cheez Wiz,American, Provolone Cheese) plus the condiments like ketchup,mustard,relish and Geno’s own hot sauce, it give you extra options for your food.
Pat’s offers the same outside condiments, but for some reason, the cheese selection just let everyone have it their way.
***** And last, but not least is the atmosphere around both places. I have to say I have been to both at different times of the season, and this one might come down to what makes you personally comfortable at the time. Geno’s does have that neighborhood joint feel to the place and with everyone outside eating and talking it creates a buzz in the air. Pat’s was my haven last October when the chilling rain and the wild breezes swept through the Philly streets and eating facing the wind was not a pleasant option. Thank you south side tables.
ADVANTAGE: Geno’s & Pat’s
So, based on the about yummy points you might think it is solely Geno’s to lose for my ultimate winner. Well, if you think that, then you do not know me very well. I actually found both places to have their own signature differences that could have taken me towards either side of the street for a winner.
But in the end, it is ultimately a personal decision, and one I can not make for you. But I do have to add that both places have a huge bit of history and personality to them from ordering to sampling either of their fares. The true winner of this is the citizens of Philadelphia. Not just do they have multiple choices around the city, but every large city in the US has a Philly-branded eatery in which they offer their own take on the classic steak sandwich.
It doesn’t matter if you like it with Whiz, onions or just with cooked peppers, the choice is all yours. Even take it Italian and add a bit of marinara sauce to explode the taste buds another direction. We are all thankful to the City of Brotherly Love, and especially to two well-known and loved steak emporiums within cheesesteak tossing distance of each other.
Another experience you must have in Philly is just to walk down the street towards these two stands and smell the heavy air full of steak, onions and peppers that wander through the neighborhood. As I sit here eating the rest of my cheesesteak from “A Taste of Philly” I am reminded to save space for another great city creation, a big hot soft pretzel to take home and enjoy. Oh, and another cheesesteak for later!
I can still remember back when I was oh so young, getting my weekly allowance then racing full bore on my bike with my friends in tow down to the local 7-11 to throw my weeks earnings of two dollars on the store counter and ask for packs of those foil wrapped baseball cards. I am not sure even now why those cards seemed to instantly transform my little world into a state if euphoria and let my imagination run totally rampant while glancing at that Cincinnati Reds Ken Griffey high color and foil card.
And after a quick evaluation of the cards in the deck, the losing players card from that bunch always ended up between a clothespin in the spokes of my bike for the trek home to produce a mimic motorcycle sound that let the neighborhood know the “Baseball Gang” was roaring down the alleyways. Then when we finally hit my garage, we would all circle and argue for hours trading our new cards with ones in our back pockets and never agreeing totally on their worth or importance, but remembering their stats and their teams.
And even while we sat there boasting about our treasured bounty from the store, we made sure to chew that starchy piece of bubble gum until it could not longer handle a single bubble or our jaws ached from the constant state of chewing. But to us, the cards were as close as we could get to our sports heroes. For the smiling faces of the professional ballplayers looking back either posed at the plate or on the mound sent us into hours to recalling their heroic moments. It sent us into a realm of fantasy where we would duplicate or even top their previous years statistics if we got the chance on the field.
So it was sad moment for me when I read in August 2009 that Major League Baseball was ending their 30-year relationship with the Upper Deck Company LLC and signed an exclusive multi-year trading card pact with The Topps Company Inc. It always seemed like there had been more than a dozen companies springing up and then dissolving into thin air selling and marketing baseball cards to the masses. But on January 1, 2010, the Topps Company will have exclusive use of any of the MLB’s 30 team logos and trademarks.
And this is a huge blow to the small cottage industry that first thrust itself upon my generation with their multi-card sets and that historic piece of rectangular hard bubble gum. Upper Deck, which still has an agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association, might have something to say about all of this before the beginning of 2010. This season, Upper Deck produced over 16 different sets of cards just for 2009 alone. But will the streamlining of this iconic piece of cardboard be easy, or will it be pushed back into the darkness by the isolation of its true player and game images only being available by one lone manufacturer?
In 1991, the sale of these little cardboard masterpieces reached over $ 1.2 billion in sales. Which at that time, was a huge chunk of change for the industry. I know that about that time I was pumping in a huge amount of excess cash to get some of the collectible cards and “game-used” cards that were beginning to float around the country. Who would not want a small piece of a Roger Maris bat, or even a small swatch of a Sandy Koufax jersey.
Most of these cards consisted of a small patch of a MLB sanctioned baseball, or a sliver of a players personal bat that was then dissected into a million pieces and sandwiched onto a card. And we were all eager to find those cards and put them into our collections at that time as an investment into our futures. Every season, the trading card companies made sure to advertise that there were “special cards” hidden within the hundreds and hundreds of decks for us to find. But after the trading card industry hit its top spot in 1991, it then began a slow decent towards the bottom.
By 2000, the industry was seeing only $400 million in sales annually and was seeking other avenues to promote and increase the sales of their products. Trading card companies used this down period to began its inversion into other sports besides baseball and football for their new revenues sources. And in 2008, the sale of these once wanted cards fell to an all time low in sales of just over $200 million, including the new card sources like NASCAR and NHL editions.
My romance with these special cards started about 2001 when I got my first “Game-Used” card from a pack I purchased in a 5-pack set in a small hobby store in St. Petersburg,Florida. The card was a 2001 Ken Griffey Junior “Game-Used” jersey card from his first stint with the Seattle Mariners.
The card was issued by Upper Deck, and it was a piece of his home blue jersey sandwiched between two pieces of plastic. Along with the holograms on the item and the photo of him on both sides of the card, it became a cherished piece of my card collection. More for the way he played the game then for the piece of fabric inside the plastic.
But it should come as no surprise that MLB decided to side with Topps in the exclusive rights for the trading cards marketing. Because the head honcho at Topps now had a visual presence with MLB in the form of ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Most people might remember he was also at the helm after Disney purchased the then Anaheim Angels back in the 1980′s, and he was front and center on the podium to thrust skyward the first World Series trophy won by the team in 2002.
I am not calling foul here in any way, but it just goes to show you that sometimes it really is “who you know” and not “what you know” that can get you that one special meeting with MLB to even propose such an arrangement. Since Topps now has the exclusive rights to the teams logos and images, does this mean that the other companies will have to cease any contact with MLB players who might already be under contract for companies other than Topps? And can these companies, who have an exclusive signing contract with certain players block their signatures on cards in the future?
You would think that both of these questions will be percolating in more than a few boardrooms around the country in response to the announcement of a single entity taking over the MLB’s marketing of the trading cards. I have heard whispers that Upper Deck might consider litigation or a simple injunction, but at this time nothing has been submitted to the courts. And you can imagine that individual players will be reviewing their current contracts with the trading card companies and align themse
lves to be in compliance with the MLB new agreement.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig told MLB.com in August that the deal is suppose to “restore baseball cards as the games premier collectible.” The multi-year deal will give Topps exclusive use of MLB,Jewel Events and club trademarks, logos, and other intellectual properties for use on baseball cards, stickers and other product categories featuring MLB players. Such a monopoly in properties surrounding baseball is a huge kudos for Topps.
It is funny how these little pieces of cardboard have produced and induced millions of people over the years to buy, sell and trade these cards both on avenues like E Bay or at your local Flea Markets. Just for giggles, I popped my hand into a box of older cards in my closet that I have not split up and alphabetized. So picked out a total of 10 cards to see which company dominated the cards in my box.
Well, Topps did end up coming out on top with 4 cards in that pile,with Bowman having three cards. Also within the pile were companies like Fleer, Score and Donruss90, which had the final 3 cards in the deck. And you could see quickly which company had the money and power to get major MLB players to sign deals with them, even back in the 1990 season. The bottom three companies did not have a superstar or starter on any of the MLB roster at that time. Bowman did get the likes of the Phillies Dave Hollins and Athletic pitcher Mike Gallego in my small selection.
But even back 20 years ago, Topps got the premier players for their set of cards. In those 4 Topps cards were players like Oakland’s Shortstop Walt Weiss, Royal Second baseman Frank White, Tiger Shortstop Alan Trammel and Orioles starting pitcher Ben McDonald. But what was really wild during that brief time I put my hand back into that box was the nostalgia and the blast from the past seeing some of those names pop into my eyes again after so long. Some might go to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but all of them held different memories to me both as players and as cards in my collection.
I remember almost coming to blows with my friend Steve Haas back in 5th grade over my Cincinnati Reds Cesar Geronimo card, or how I felt like I was a really shrewd dealer to trade three non-marque players cards for a hologram 1989 Cleveland Indians card. Now all my trading cards are sectioned out by alphabetical order into small plastic containers, each with rubber banded players duplicate cards all together. To think of all the time and money I invested into these cards now seems so funny that someone like Cardinal Andy Van Slykes 1985 card could have graced the spokes of my motocross bike for weeks and I was not the wiser.
But as the baseball card market has gone into the shallows, so has the Sports Card shops that used to number over 5,000 strong all over the country but has now dwindled down to under 500 shops specializing in these pieces of our baseball youth. But people have always told me that “all good things have to come to an end.”
Maybe that is true even with those little cards we used to buy for the glory and charm of trading with our friends for hours at a time. That some cards were valued so high by us back then to be placed in our school books as bookmarks to show our exclusive pride towards our baseball heroes. And maybe, just maybe a few of us, like me…looked forward to that starchy piece of thin bubble gum when I opened the package…even today.
Mark Carlson / AP
On September 30,2009 Carl Crawford, the veteran player of the Tampa Bay Rays made it be known through the Tampa Tribune in an interview with writer Marc Lancaster that he would be open to discussions of an contract extension past the 2010 season. The news was viewed with excitement in the stands of Tropicana Field as it was made known by one of the Rays most popular players that he basically sees an upward change in the franchise and would love to further explore where this team is heading in the coming years.
“We are very pleased to hear C.C.’s comments,” Tampa Bay Rays Executive Vice President Andrew Friedman told the St. Petersburg Times on September 30th when Crawford announced he would be willing to discuss a possible extension to stay with the Rays. “Consistent with our policy, we do not speak publicly about contract negotiations but obviously we have a tremendous amount of respect for Carl both on and off the field. He has been a big part of our past success and I expect he will be a big part of our future success as well.”
Andrew, you bet your sweet booty you want to keep one of the most exciting players in baseball right where he is right now. Considering the Rays have a $10-11.5 million club option to consider before the beginning of the 2010 season, you can bet they will exercise that option and possibly make amends to keep C C well beyond the 2010 season. And if for some reason the deal does go sour in any way, you can expect an endless bulk of boos and article written until the cows come home about the Rays biggest PR blunder of your administration.
But first off, most Rays fans have to heed a bit from getting overexcited by the comments knowing that the pace at which Crawford performed in 2009 hitting both personal and club record in several categories during the season, he might have to give the Rays a bit of a ” local discount” to have the Rays retain him past the 2010 season. And right now, without knowing the expected payroll amount set by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, Crawford might be the biggest question mark right now.
Granted he has made comment showing an olive branch out to the Rays organization, and wants to stay here and hopefully be a part of another winning team that thrust hard into the playoffs, but can the Rays retain him without damaging their payroll expectations and fit him perfectly into the team plans all the way through to maybe 2014?
Because of his upward mobility daily in the Major League Baseball All-Time charts, he is quickly establishing himself as a potential Hall of Fame caliber player, with a long career still in front of him. And if you were to compare him with the best active players at his position, he would surely command a $15 million plus a year salary in the big cities like Chicago or New York. So would Crawford be willing to give the team that deep of a discount to play for a potential winner, while also adding to his own reputation in the American League.
Crawford finally got to experience that winning feeling with the Rays in 2008, and it just might be in the Rays best interest to surround him with the best talent they can afford to again hit that plateau before the team hits a wall and might have to cut back, maybe as soon as 2014. I know that is a long time away, but it is micro-seconds in baseball years. The career of a Major League player is long in comparison to some sports, but the risk factors are extremely higher considering the daily grind of 162 games a season.
But would the Rays use his “leg fatigue” as a bargaining tool, when in reality he has appeared in 150+ game for his fifth season of his career. And if you consider what he can do once he hits the base paths, well Crawford might leave this game as one of the best who ever laced up a pair of Nike’s by the time he calls it a career.
Crawford is only the third American League player in this decade to reach the 60+ steals mark joining Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury ( 69/2009) and the Angels Chone Figgins (62/2005). To further illustrate what he can do on the base paths, you only have to look at the May 3,2009 game against the Boston Red Sox to see how he can command a game all by himself. His 81.9 percent stolen base attempts rank first among active MLB players. He also became one of only 25 players since 1900 to steal 60 bases and get 60 RBI in the same season. And he is 1 of 6 to accomplish that in the last 20 years.
Crawford currently has the 6 highest stolen base totals in Rays history, and has hit the 50+ steals mark a record 5 times, which is the best among active players. And he is only the 16th player since 1900 with 5-50+ steal seasons. And he has been clocked going from first to second in 3.1 seconds, which is a bit faster than recent Hall of Fame member Rickey Henderson in his prime.
But Crawford is not a one-dimensional player. He has also made some incredible plays on defense and might be one of the most under rated outfielder in the game since the Golden Glove are not awarded by just his field position( leftfield) but by the outfield in general. The best example of how Crawford can turn a game around might be in the May 6th contest against the Boston Red sox where he stole a total of 6 bases, and became only the fourth player to ever accomplish that feat. He was even the first to do it since June 30, 1996, when Eric Young of the Colorado Rockies was the last to hit that plateau.
These statistics might even make the Rays job harder to consider that he has just turned 28 this August 5th, and his 353 stolen bases rank 7th best since 1900. His 92 triples ranks him 12th since 1900, and the most since Cardinal Stan Musial. His 1,244 hits rank him 8th best since 1900. Such feats have seemed to come easy to the young outfielder who played in his 1,000 Major League game on June 27, 2009 against the Florida Marlins.
Hard to believe that the Rays All Time leader in runs, runs scored, hits, at bats, stolen bases, doubles and triples, games played and RBI has only played in 1,000 contests. And let’s take a look at his triples for a moment, he is currently third among active players with only Yankee outfielder Johnny Damon (95) and Philly shortstop Jimmy Rollins (94) having more than Crawford’s 92 triples. But he was also 4th in the American League with 41 infield hits in 2009.
And if all of the above information was not mind boggling enough for Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations and Silverman to consider, here are another few facts that point to the special place Crawford is heading in the coming years. He has now hit above .300 for the fourth time in the last five seasons for the Rays. This season he had a career high 51 walks and his 2009 On-Base Percentage of .364 is 34 points high than any other time in his career.
Add onto that package the fact he hit his 500th RBI on September 20th against Toronto’s Roy Halladay with a 2-run homer. At the end of the 20
09 season, Crawford was 10ht in hits (185), 9th in multi-hit games with 54 this season, and 5th in triples with 8 in 2009. Crawford has become the quintessential Rays player, and a good foundation for the club both in character and in his on-field behavior.
The 3-time American League All Star even took fans and players breath away in this season’s All Star game in St. Louis with his catch high above the AL Bullpen fence to rob the National League’s Brad Hawpe of a potential go-ahead home run in the 7th inning of that game. As Crawford stood there with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig that night, you saw the boyish charm of Crawford, and so did the rest of the MLB community.
I guess the best thing right now is to let Crawford’s comments to Lancaster om September 30th begin to close out this blog:
“I don’t like worrying about it,” Crawford said to the Tampa Tribune, “and you can sit there and say you’re not worried about it, but to not know what your future’s going to be in the next five or six years or so is definitely … it makes you scared at times.”
“I just hope we can do something. It’s uncomfortable worrying about it. I don’t like playing cautious. You’d be a liar if you say you didn’t play cautious when you have to go through contracts and stuff like that. I want to just be able to play baseball, don’t worry about nothing else.”
So it is your court now Rays front office. This is your time to shine and to make this contract extension a show of good faith and prosperity you hope this team embodies for the next 5 or 6 years. Crawford should be the backbone of the Rays squads in that time period, and if he is not, it might be a clear indication of the team desire to scale back and let the next generation of Rays players get their shots.
It is so hard to for someone like me to adequately decipher and assess a monetary value to Crawford since his stock has risen every season since 2003, and he just might be hitting his prime right now in his career. But if you look at the numbers he has obtained in a period of 5 full seasons now, the numbers are staggering, even without the addition of dollar signs to his name. And if the Rays can get his at a reduced price and regain that winning feeling, it is a huge plus for the Rays franchise to have a player like Crawford at the forefront leading these Rays onto the field.
Last Sunday was the final Tampa Bay Rays game of the 2009 season. It is funny, but for some reason this years just seemed to fly by, and was over way to soon for some of us sitting in the stands. Not sure why it felt that way unless the extra time last season marching onto the World Series just made 2008 seem almost three months longer. But unfortunately, we are at that time where bags are packed and boxes are sent to other locations so members of the team can get some needed R&R before starting it all over again in 2010.
And because of that extra time playing the game they love, some of the Rays had an abbreviated off season in 2009 because of other activities, such as participation in the World Baseball Classic, or several Rays players went to Winter Ball in 2008 and had only about 3 1/2 months to themselves and to individually train before they had to reporting to Port Charlotte, Florida for their first Spring Training away from St. Petersburg.
So on that last day of the season, I decided to ask a few of the Rays if they had any special plans or goals for this off season. And I have to admit, that one of the “vacation” suggestions makes me hunger to maybe hide somewhere in their luggage, just pop a few air holes in the bag for me please! But there also seemed to be another angle coming up in a lot of their conversations. The talk of just total rest and relaxation without the stress or pressure of the white round ball.
It seemed that so many of them just wanted to just “chill and relax” after the rush and the extent of the 2008 playoff season. And still others have a few life changing moments coming fast on the horizon and needed to make some last minute adjustments before getting on with their lives. Then there was a small group who might be facing that decision about their careers, and if they still want to don a uniform in 2010 for any team.
A total of three members of the Rays Bullpen will be getting married this off season, two players and Scott Cursi, the Rays Bullpen catcher who will finally marry his sweetheart of five years in November 2009. It is funny, it is just like yesterday that I met Cursi and his bride-to-be, who used to work for the Rays and is now working in partnership with Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s wife, Jaye in a concierge service for people on the go, like the Rays players and their families.
I pulled it out of Cursi that they are going to have their romantic and exotic honeymoon on St Lucie’s Island at the all inclusive Sandals resort, and both should come back with a beautiful Fall tan. But then we also have a former members of the Rays Bullpen crew going down the aisle soon in ex-Ray Jason Hammel, who will be getting married this off season in St. Petersburg, Florida in the striking Renaissance Vinoy resort right on the waters of Tampa Bay.
Rays reliever Grant Balfour will be the first to be strolling down the aisle this off season, and the Aussie is not planning any additional triathlete competitions this off season, but is just going to enjoy the time off this year. Rays closer Du Jour J P Howell will also be closing the deal with his bride-to-be also this Fall, and then plans to just be “The Dude” until it is time again to report to Spring Training camp. Congratulations to both guys and their brides, and I wish all of you all the luck in the world and a total boat of happiness as you begin your lives together.
Neither of them would tell me where they plan to honeymoon, but that is okay, because one veteran member of the Rays Bullpen might have them beat totally just on the romance factor anyways. Rays reliever Dan Wheeler and his wife will be taking a beautiful European adventure to Italy, with stops in Rome, Florence and Venice on the agenda. Hopefully while he is on his Italian adventure, Wheeler might see the lone Rays cap that Rays Manager Joe Maddon saw in 2008 in an Italian train station.
I have to say, this might be the one I want to see pictures of when he gets home (I wish!). Just the idea of getting out of the country like Cursi and Wheeler sounds like the perfect way to get some isolation and some peace to again get ready for another 6 months plus grind in 2010. And that is one of the great advantages of having a job that is not 9-5, for 12 months out of the year. Plans can be made, and special events planned without a hitch. Wish some days we could all live like that.
But several members of the Rays roster will not have that luxury of world travel and no commitments. Some of the Rays are committed to going to play Winter ball in exotic locales. This additional work should show the Rays brass that they are vital pieces needed by the team, and also get some great prep and conditioning work before they report to Spring Training in February. Justin Ruggiano, who was at Durham Bulls for all of the 2009 season will be heading to Venezuela, while Shawn Riggans will be heading to Puerto Rico for Winter ball.
Also scheduled to go to Winter ball, but he doesn’t know his location yet is outfielder Fernando Perez, who was out most of the season with a bum wrist. This actually might be a great thing for Perez to not only get some work in at the plate, but to get some flexibility in his wrist so he is not a question mark in the Spring. This upcoming season might be his time to shine, or he might find himself somewhere else soon manning the outfield for another team. There might be others from the Rays roster also going to Winter ball, but that list has not be released to the public yet.
But then there are guys like reliever Randy Choate who participated in Winter ball last season and will just wants to sit back and relax this season. Jeff Bennett, who came to the Rays late in the season, is planning to remain in the Tampa Bay area for a while this off season to work on his conditioning before going back to Tennessee and working out and gaining more strength and endurance after his injury in 2009 while he was with the Atlanta Braves..
While Bennett might be sweating and working out, two members of the Rays might be hanging up their cleats for good this off season. Veteran Russ Springer has been playing baseball for a long time, and made his Major League debut back in 1992. Springer has been considering retiring this off season to spend more time with his family and to pursue some of his other interests in life.
Springer is also looking forward with more time playing and enjoying his young son, who has autism and just be there to spend quality time with him. But you can bet that there will be more than one opportunity for him to put his coondog in the truck and maybe meet up with fellow Rays teammate Chad Bradford and go duck or deer hunting this off season. Both men value their country roots, and they both developed a great kinship this season around outdoor sports.
You could see that this bond should hold firm as both men live in the off season back in the Alabama-Louisiana area. But Bradford, who is also considering retiring to spend more time with his newborn, and the rest of his family, might have a Hollywood role in his future. And his addition to the silver screen might be delayed right now due to some script re-writes, but because of his time with the Oakland Athletic earlier in his career, the role would be a new adventure for Bradford.
There were rumors earlier in 2008 that when the movie “Moneyball” finally goes into full scale production, Bradford might be able to play himself in the movie. At that time it was not known if he would have the time during the season for such an adventure. It would be a great opportunity for Bradford, who reminds me of actor John Ashton, who played Sergeant Taggert in the “Beverly Hills Cop” trio to get some quality time on the silver screen.
But Bullpen guys like Brain Shouse and Lance Cormier are just going to take it day-by-day and just enjoy the time to relax, spend time with family and to heal up before reporting again in February. But there is one member of the Rays family group who might be going a hundred miles-an-hour during this off-season. Todd Kalas, who does the Rays television broadcast in various positions, will be working hard this off season involving himself with University of South Florida basketball and helping to host some of the Tampa Bay Lightning pre and post game shows.
Also heavy on Kalas agenda will be working with FSN Florida to do the Sunbelt Conference “Games of the Week” during the football and basketball seasons. So as you can see, there will be plenty of great stories and awesome pictures to be passed around when the Rays report after the second Saturday in February 2010.
But this year there will be no precursors of World Baseball Classic or even the usual smatterings of International games for players to have to report early this season to their teams. It might be one of the first years in the last several seasons that everyone on the Rays roster will come into the season with a vigor and vitality to again make some noise in the American League East. And maybe this off season is the time for the team to regroup and intensify their energies to again challenge for the top spot in the American League.
And a few of you asked what I might be doing this off-season at the last game. Well, hopefully I will be going out to Seattle, Washington and completing the inside of my old retirement abode out on Whitbney Island near the city of Coupville that I originally started work on in 2007. Then after it is completed, let my cousins live in it until I am ready to “Go West old man” maybe in about 5 seasons.
So hopefully you also have something exciting planned this off-season. Maybe a snow skiing trip, a quest to go back to school, or maybe even a jaunt down into the Carribean to watch baseball this Winter. Whatever it is, stay safe and remember, if you have a great adventure, this is the place to tell all of us about it……….I know I would love to read about it!
I have decided that one Sundays I am going to pop back into the archives of the 625 blogs I have posted on MLBlogs.com and select a weekly “blast from the past” to let some of the people who did not read me before the 2009 season to get a glance at either how far the writing has progressed, or regressed depending on your views. So I hope you enjoy reading my little submission that I first posted back on November 23,2007 about a guy I really enjoyed talking with when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays
I had just gotten home from work and decided to go online and pop onto the Yahoo sports page to see what was has transpired while I was working Today. It being a day after the stuffed mushroom and pecan pie debauchery of the holiday, I was looking for the lighter side of sports for some comfort to my still overflowing belly of good food morsels and treats.
Maybe I was hoping to find out that my favorite target, A-Rod was crying poverty over the Yanks’ latest contract offer to Mario Riviera, but I had no such luck this day. Instead what I found made me sink into my chair and put a huge twisting knot in my already overfilled stomach.
It quickly made me rethink my personal life for the ump-teenth time this year and brought up a tragic event featuring another ex- Tampa Bay Rays player in Oct 2006. That first event took another of my favorite players in Devilrays history to an untimely death, but this one really brought me to my knees.
Some players hit that invisible wall of physical and mental points of no return and are not able to endure the rigors and challenges of baseball anymore. And sometimes their bodies just can’t take it anymore,even at such a young age.
Some have had past abuses either with steroids or muscle enhancements that have robbed them of moments in their current or post career lives. Some just hit a mental road block that can not be corrected by human means.The tragic tales that really hit home and destroy me inside is the way I found out about the untimely death of ex-Ray Joe Darley Kennedy. There has been a wide spread rumors and thoughts among the Media that Kennedy might have suffered a brain aneurysm or heart attack during the night. Kennedy and his family were in town to visit his wifes family and enjoy the holidays with them before this tragedy struck him down.
Kennedy was making strides to regain some of his old magic and had announced his free agency after the 2006 World Series. And all indications were that his 2006 squad, the Toronto Blue Jays’ and especially the Blue Jays Team President Paul Godfrey wanted Joe Kennedy back as a member of their 2008 staff.
As I mentioned before,Kennedy was in town for the holidays at his wife’s parents home in the Brandon, Florida area, and was to be the best man at a wedding sometime during his stay here in the area. But for some reason, Kennedy had gotten up in the middle of the night and was discovered collapsed on the floor of his in-laws home. Paramedics were summoned and an ambulance quickly rushed him to Brandon Medical Center,but it was too late, and Kennedy was pronounced dead when the ambulance reached the Emergency Room.
This is the second ex-Oakland Athletic to suffer a tragic ending and unexpected death since October 2006. Ex-Rays and A’s teammate, Cory Lidle tragically perished in a plane accident after the Yankees exit from the playoffs in 2006.
One of my first blogs on here was a tribute to Cory Lidle. He was another player who befriended me during his tenure with the Rays, and I looked for him every year when his team would make a visit to the Trop. I did the same for Joe Kennedy every time he came here for a series. You do not forget the “good guys”. They are those players who greet you with a smile and by your first name and make you feel like you are family, even if it is just to say “hello.”
Kennedy made his Major League debut on June 6th against the Blue Jays in Toronto and won 6-2 . He appeared in 20 games that season. During that Rookie season, Joe had 12 quality starts, only CC Sabathia of the Indians had a better stats( 13). Joe was also 3rd in among the American League Rookies with a 4.44 ERA.
Kennedy also established himself in the MLB’s record books as the first Major League player since Kip Wells of the Pirates to win both his first two career starts. Joe was also the first Devilrays in franchise history to perform this feat. He was on his way to producing an amazing season and establish himself among the left-handers in the American League.
In 2001, Kennedy pitched in 196 innings and struck out 109 hitters. These numbers would be his best as a member of the Devilrays, but only his second best career totals of his brief Major League career.
In 2003, Kennedy progressed to the point of being announced by Rays Manager Hal McRae as the Opening Day starter. I found Kennedy to be the kind of pitcher who would not be afraid to go inside on a batter or ” buzz the tower” if needed. Every good pro pitcher seems to have a mean streak in them.
I can attest to personally knowing that the guy was a true professional and enjoyed his time here with the Rays. I spoke to Kennedy on occasions during BP and always found him to be funny and very intelligent.
I guess I was one of those people who knew that the Devilrays would probably trade Kennedy at some point in his career, but I had hope it was after he had garnished that 10-win plateau with the Devilrays. And maybe after he had secured his play in Devilray lore.
Kennedy was very soft spoken and reserved when he was among the crowds at the Trop. But he was a fierce competitor and was always going to the mound with the belief he could to win every game. That was a quality that I greatly admired in him. Going out with the idea you are going to win every time you take the rubber.
I know you are going to say that every pitcher tries to keep that fire within them, but in truth, they might in their words, but in their minds there might not be that total commitment. Kennedy always felt he could win, no matter what the odds or the situation that that is the basic mindset of a great pitcher.
After Kennedy left the Rays and pitched for the Colorado Rockies, he got close to that 10-win plateau. Kennedy only got 9 wins in 2004, but produced an amazing 117 strikeouts that year. He was traded to the Oakland A’s during the All Star break where he was again considered a valuable member of the pitching rotation.
He garnered a 2.31 ERA in 2006, a career best for Kennedy. In 2006, he was rewarded with the number five slot in the Athletics starting rotation. It was a far cry from the number one slot with the Devilrays in 2004, but he was again pitching every five days.
In 2007, Kennedy found himself as number 5 man in the rotation, and fell upon bad times and was moved into the A’s bullpen and working only late inning and was used in “leftie” opportunities. He got another opportunity with the Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games), and the Toronto Blue Jays (9 games) during the past 2007 season.
Kennedy produced 43 victories in his short career, but his last one was fitting. He received his 43rd win versus his old Devilrays team on September 29, 2007. But it was the next performace that made Kennedy the proudest in his life.
Kennedy had the awesome pleasure of becoming a Father for the first time this past year and was looking forward to time with Kaige and his wife before the upcoming seasons Feb. mandatory reporting date for pitchers’ and catchers.
I will miss seeing Joe Kennedy pitch. More for the fact that he was a true professional and was always in the game both mentally and physically. I know he was just beginning to again hit his stride in his career, and could have produced some great numbers as a member of that Blue Jays staff in 2008.
Kennedy is survived by his wife and new son Kaige and currently lived in the Denver area.
I truly hope that there is an afterlife. Because then I can see players like Cory and Kennedy pitching and again see both of their ear to ear smiles or grins, knowing they are again doing something they truly loved to do.
I been hearing this slight buzz in the air all day, and it is not dimming in its intensity one bit. This mind numbing grumble that has started to fester after another game play situation in which some fans and media are now calling for a change in the protectors of the rules of the game we have all come to love in one way or another.
Hidden behind the premise that it would reverse the tyranny of the omnipotent ones who now make split second decisions and ill-advised judgment calls that tend to effect thousands of people immediately need a rules revival to “save the game.” That for some reason in the last 50 years of evolving technologies and the more the fan is interwoven into the fabric of the sport with more information and more knowledge on the sport that we are now short-changing ourselves with antiqued rules systems.
Even the slightest notion of play calling imperfection is now instantly blared far and wide for all to consider, and judged via instant replay or even slow-motion camera work that the human eye can not comprehend or even imagine before its invention. And not this behemoth of innovation might finally be beckoning at the clubhouse doors of this sport. Is the game that far removed from simple reality that we need to institute a check and balance system to challenge or even reverse a decision that has been made by someone within a few feet of the play in question, but not fashioned with this technology at their disposal?
Does the world really need to see this technology enter the game at a inhuman pace and embrace a new revolution of red flags or booth reviews that could damage the integrity of the game and men who officiate it forever. I am like everyone else and get frazzled and upset when a complete call is missed or even an angle unseen by an umpire leads to a bad decision. But will this really restore the game to its glory, or will the umpires always be peeking over their shoulders at the dugouts wondering if a challenge or even a heated discussion will be evoked by his decision.
Here is where I might either fall into line with some people, or be called out for my innocence, but I actually like the way the game is slowly revolving and evolving right now. Surely the game on the field is not going slower than our instant replays show us. But what solutions can be developed that protect the simplicity of the game without damaging integrity in the end. I can envision a system that could be rationally fair to test the validity of bringing up a challenge in reference to a hard hit ball down the baselines, or a missed tag-up before advancing on the base paths.
But to think we can totally mesh and stitch the game into a few more camera angles and reference points and try and divulge the real truth on base stealing calls and other currently off limits nuances of the game is going totally ballistic toward over involving the game with technology. there has to be a limit. There has to be a subtle change to the rules or anarchy will reign down on the game. Sure I have seen the blown calls in two games this week, but the MLB Umpires still get the calls right more than any other organized sport in the world..period.
Because of our present technologies, we can cut down, isolate players, and even slow down the motion in a play to milliseconds and totally transform a reaction that takes a flash memory of instant recognition and human response to make a correct hand signal to conclude the play. I do foresee a system, like the current home run and fan interference review program might be able to be included to showcase calls down the line. Some say it will bring out a sense of distrust in the umpires if a call is mis-called, but in my opinion, I would have more respect for the men in blue to acknowledge a potential error and correct it.
But that takes the potential bang-bang out of the game, and also opens the door for more outlandish interpretations by the media and fans. Let’s take the play last night that was clearly a blown calls as an example in a new review situation. Twins catcher Joe Mauer hits a blistering ball down the leftfield line towards Yankee outfielder Melky Cabrera. The Umpire in his quest to get the call correct might have missed the ball smacking the glove and instead saw the ball bouncing on the line and called it a foul ball by the correct interpretation of the rules on the play ” he saw”.
Let’s move forward with a potential review system and that the leftfield line umpire would make a preliminary call, but immediately call time and consult with the Umpire Crew Chief and the other members of the crew and they can make a group decision to review the play to gather the correct information to make a conclusive call. At that point it can either be reviewed, or his call will stand as called on the field. And even if they do go to the review booth and see the same play from a few different angles and a slowed down video to get it correct the first time.
Even if they employ a system like this to get the call right the first time, they open another Pandora’s box that might not go over so well with the fans. Say Mauer’s play was considered a error on Cabrera and he was awarded the base. Who is to say it would not have been a double, or that he would have been out trying to stretch the play into a double. By getting the play correct by the visual evidence, you have taken away some of the special traits of the game by instant decision making by the players. Will we also have to induce a new set of rewards for the overturning or even correct interpretation of a call.
If base runners are involved, and might have scored on the play in question, doesn’t that bring about another set of questions and searches for solutions to make the first decision correspond correctly with the flow of the game. Would we award an additional base only, or will that also be reviewable to see if the runner had passed third before the fielder touched the ball, which would mean he could have scored without a throw to the plate. Pandora is giggling profusely somewhere in the notion of all the turmoil this could cause the game.
I would love to see something developed, but it will have to be done with a precision thought process and an astute sense of impending justice towards the protecting the integrity of the game. I know I am qualified to make opinions and rational suggestions, but that revising of the rules is not my thing. And no matter how it is corrected, or even developed, someone will find a fault line in it after time. And then we will have to deduce a process all over again to correct the new flaws and cracks in the rulebook. Or maybe we can just accept the fact that the game is flawed and has a huge hole within itself that might never be sealed to please all of us.
Maybe the best solution is to just love and view the game as we did in our younger days. That if you saw Johnny miss the hubcap that was second base, you tagged him out and you kept playing after a minute or two of arguing. The simplicity of this game is the main reason so many of us loved it in the first place. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Maybe the problem really is as we grow older and learn better ways to do even the simple things, we want to change things. Me, I still want to just pitch the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball……..then go for a soda and pizza and talk about the game.
I have to admit, that I have been a bad, bad baseball fan the last couple of days. I have only seen a few innings of a few post season games and have not been as intensely into the playoffs the way I have been in the past. Some might consider since my team was eliminated early from any contention that I have lost the zeal to watch baseball, but that is not the issue. So what if the Tampa Bay Rays will not be making beautiful memories for my lifetime in 2009, I will survive.
And it is not matter that my second favorite team (Seattle) also did not make any head ways into the 2009 playoff picture after the Rays canceled their own ticket with a rough start in September. So with neither of my top two in the post season, it is time to adapt temporary arrangements to throw my support towards another team on their ride through the 2009 post season.
With that in mind, I might not make any new friends with my announcement that the teams, one in each league that I plan to follow in the 2009 playoffs, will consist of teams that are situated in the American League East. And the fact I am about to shun the Red Sox and Yankees is not due to any internal forces or even extreme pain against either of these teams that our season quickly dissolved in September. The Rays lost the chance to cash in their ticket to the postseason with their respective series against these two teams. the better teams won in 2009.
So I am going to have to develop a new set of criteria to decide who will get my cheers and jeers in 2009. Maybe I will use a formulated plan of attack based on offense, defense and pitching statistics. Or I could go the way of visiting a Psychic and see what team she sees in the aura around me, or what the Tarot cards have in store for any of the teams in the playoffs. Or maybe I can just go the simple route and decide the team by looking at the post season rosters and deciding it all based on the ex-Rays currently on their rosters.
And for some reason, I like the way that last suggestion looks on the computer, it just seems to jump out off the page and tells me to “pick me! pick me”. So I think that will be my measure of calculating and deciding the one AL and NL teams I will root for in this post season carnival. And as I take this road, there are two clear choices that I will lean towards and follow until the last out of their last game in this playoff season.
But my decision on the team I am going to follow in 2009 will be based on a few criteria that most people might not have considered before now. Way back in 1991, when the team was first awarded to the Denver area, I did not want to follow anyone else but the black and purple of the Rockies. But there was a solid reason behind this selection that still to this day makes me not want to root or even hope for any prosperity for the Florida (Miami) Marlins. And it was a simple case of money over community want that sealed the deal for my fish vendetta.
You see, the Tampa Bay community was in a fight with local cities Orlando and Miami for a chance to be the first expansion team in the state and might of had a better chance at securing that first Florida team if not for the deep, deep pockets of former Blockbuster Entertainment head honcho Wayne Huizenga. So my instant alliance went to the team that would play almost one mile above sea level and far from the sandy beaches of Tampa Bay.
But there is a secondary reason why this team is being considered as my “team ” for the 2009 playoffs. Since the Rockies sacked their old manager, they have played more inspired ball and have come a long way both in their record and in their team concept. For that reason, they give me a slight feel of the atmosphere and the thrill that I felt with the rays in 2008. But more of the reasoning might have come via ESPN’s talking heads. You see, when the Rays were making their run last season, the announcers kept reminding people they were that season’s ‘Rockies”.
As much as that was funny at the time, now I hope the Rays can be next season’s “Rockies” for the second time in a row and follow the same path (minus the manager firing) and get back on the playoff train in 2010. So I will be following the Phillies and Rockies series with extra motivation. But the fact that the Rockies have been there before, and have gotten as far as the Rays did in 2008 boast a weird similarity that entices my support. The Rockies fought back the doom and gloom disillusion of so many around the league this season to secure a playoff berth and then go on and challenge to overtake the mighty Dodgers in the last series of the season shows the heart of a champion again.
It brings up a lot of the same emotion I felt in 2008, and so this is the team I have decided to follow in this season’s playoffs. Granted, they have been labeled a long shot, but I remember so many who said that the Rays would not go far either in 2008. And the added bonus that former Rays Jason Hammel is on the post season roster gives me more of a reason to want to see “Hambone” take the mound and throws laser beams. And Hammel will get a chance to leave his impression on the NLDS when he gets the start Friday night because of the unexpected injury to Jorge De La Rosa late in the season.
So that is it, that is my team for the playoffs. No wishy washy wavering between teams, this is my solid choice and one that I will live by even if they do not get out of the first round of the playoffs. I am not a bandwagon fan. If I make you a pick of mine, I stick by you even in defeat. but that is not the case in so many sports fans in this country. So no matter what happens from today on, the Rockies will have my attention, and my support to try and again get back to the World Series this season. And it would again be a great surprise, or even a great honor in 2010 to have the Rays be considered “this seasons Rockies”…..again.