Results tagged ‘ Cliff Wittig ’

2010 All Holiday Squad

 

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Every Christmas Eve it has become customary over the last several years for me to wander through the pages of MLBlogs and take a journey into the Christmas minds of some of our great bloggers. This year my adventures turned up several great redux renditions of the Christmas classic poem “T’was The Night Before Christmas“, and I even found a few Holiday “Wish Lists” searching for wins, the postseason and an eventual ring for 2011.

As I was traveling through MLBlogs, I thought to myself, “Self, what would be the ultimate Christmas All Holiday baseball squad?”

I somehow answered my own question immediately in my mind and began to seek the right combination of Christmas-based characters both human and cartoon to field such a Holiday squad. I ventured back into the cobwebbed recesses of my past favorite memories on film and television.

Let me tell you that sometimes even Wikipedia can’t help as I entered into a vision quest to determine the right pairing of 10 players and coaches for the Polar Express. Being that we will be playing in the North American Winter League, I have instituted the Designated Santa on my team. I think this squad has the right hint of animation and human elements to make this team a winner.

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Starting Pitcher:

I decided that the only person who could be the starting pitcher for the Polar Express had to be Charlie Brown. His classic Christmas TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” first hit the CBS airwaves way back in 1965 and was an instant hit with kids of all ages. I thought Brown was my perfect holiday pitcher because of his vast past experiences pitching.

Of course I did balk at the chance that Brown could somehow be suddenly de-clothed by a sharp liner up the middle after he hangs one of his patented mid-80’s curve balls. Brown has the uncanny fortitude to throw hard and long into games for the Express.


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Catcher:

I did not have to think long and hard about the right guy to catch for this team. I did however need someone who had some brawn and might be dumb enough to sit back there and be ready for anything coming off the fingertips of Charlie Brown. I considering all the positive and negative variables and kept with my first impression that Cousin Eddie from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” was the man for the job. “Christmas Vacation” first hit movie houses back in 1989 and became an instant classic for it’s off beat humor and odd but familiar family gathering situations. Eddie is a pretty big guy, and he looks like he could block the plate like an ice sheet.

Now that you have seen my pitcher/catcher battery, I decided that this team will not need any relief pitchers since it might have the 10-run rule in effect going into the 5th inning knowing the way Charlie Brown pitches to batters’. So let’s get you now acquainted with the 5 infielder I selected for my All Holiday team.

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First Baseman:

I wanted to get a guy who has some solid baseball experience to man the First Base bag. We needed a solid guy to protect the line and can post up correctly on the bag if the ball gets hit into the infield. I chose a guy who owns a few minor league ball clubs in real life as my first bagger. I think he can do the job with a flair, and if not, provide a comedic relief maneuver or two while out hugging the bag.

I decided to with Francis Xavier Cross from the film “Scrooged“. I have always thought this was a awesome Nuevo take on the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.” The film originally hit theatres back in 1988, and is still one of my favorite comedy movies for the holidays. I think that Bill Murray captured the perfect sarcastic essence of a socially detached Scrooge, and his comic genius shows brilliantly through in this adaptation.

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Second Baseman:

I wanted a Second Baseman who could be as quick as a rabbit (or bunny). He needed to have that rifle arm and accuracy to get the double play, or to cover the bag when Cousin Eddie launches a rocket to tag out a rambling polar bear trying to steal a base to get into scoring position. I with smart Ralphie Parker from “A Christmas Story” to play second base for me. The movie has been another holiday appetizer since its original screening date in 1983. Wonder if I can talk Ralphie into asking his Dad if he wants to sell that lamp yet?

In the film, Ralphie showed the type of moxie I want on Second Base who is smart enough to think on the fly to either talk about the notorious leg lamp, or just be quiet as a mouse. He also has the determination and spunk to keep pestering his parents for that Red Ryder BB gun. Hopefully the ball coming in hard and fast from Cousin Eddie from behind the plate will not put his eye out.

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Shortstop:

My Shortstop has to be extra agile and have smarts to think on his feet at the same time. He has to be able to use his internally cold instincts to decide if the throw should be made, or possibly cover second as the pivot man on a ball hit to the first base side of the bag.

I think, that Hermie, the dentist elf from “Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer” would be the perfect guy to man the hole position for the Express. He showed remarkable smart judgment during the TV special, which first hit the networks in 1964. And with over 46 years of intelligent moves, Hermie should be a valuable addition to the squad.

Third Baseman:

Playing third, I had to find a big guy who could move laterally and go blindly into foul territory for pop-ups. He also had to have some horizontal versatility towards the chalk on the left-field line. He had to be a power hitter to help produce runs and add some protection for our little squad. It had to be a movie character from the couple of years to add some youthful vitality and vigor.

My Third Baseman had to have the energy and the motivation to add to this teams awesome charismatic chemistry. The personality that fit like a glove perfectly to me was Buddy from the movie “Elf.” He has the comedic chops to take one for the team and would sacrifice his body. His quick wit and glove along with his power stroke should provide more than a few Kodak moments as his long high drives make it over the high walled snow fences.

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Left Fielder:

My choice for Left Field could not have two-left feet. He has to have the agility and the coordination of an athlete, plus run like a deer. He had to be sure footed and be able to dance in the outfield while chasing down flares and dying quails. The guy who I think would be a model Left-Fielder for this squad was George Bailey of “It’s A Wonderful Life“. I just hope George remembers to put some extra Zuzu petals in his uniform pants pockets before he takes the field. We know they are magical.

 

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Center fielder:

I needed to find a shrewd and sometimes calculating Center fielder. Someone who could snipe a base runner who made a mistake, or tried to score on his arm. I needed someone with a huge heart who would run and run all over the field and get the ball where ever it was on the field.

I needed someone who could exhibit some sense of emotion even if he is a problem-child at times, but plays the game on the team’s level too. For that reason, I picked Grinch from the movie “The Grinch“. I wanted someone who could go from bad to good in a heartbeat. If he did make a bad play, or a questionable action on or off the field, I could just say it was the “Grinch just being the Grinch”.

 

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Right-Fielder:

I wanted to find a Right-Fielder who was not be afraid of the snow wall, or of sprinting towards a pop-up down the icy foul line. I wanted to see a nice combination of horizontal or vertical movement towards the failing sphere. He needed to have a rifle arm and a uncanny wit about him to keep base runners honest on the base paths.

I chose Ernest from “Ernest Saves Christmas“. This 1988 sequel, to a sequel, to a sequel kept a long line of profitable movies going for over a decade. We needed that kind of staying power in our Right Field. A streak like that can be contagious on a team. If the team has that kind of confidence, they will go above expectations and strive to be the best in the Winter League.

 

 

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Designated Santa:

I needed a huge lovable character who could also slam the tar out of the ball for this spot in the lineup. Someone who evokes the bit of charm and the joy of the big guy himself. He had to be able to belly up to the plate and hit it a mile, or at least to the South Pole with his swing.

The guy I picked for this position has been cranking out several installments of his own movie franchise. I picked Scott Calvin as my Designated Santa from the movie, “The Santa Clause“. That kind of confidence and staying power will be needed in the clutch for this team. It also helps protect the younger hitters on the team by showing the power and the possible results of pitching to this Christmas giant.

First and Third Base Coaches’

Now that we have finished with the fielding and Designated Santa position, let’s meet the two extraordinary base coaches’ selected for the Polar Express. Both come with their own sets of particular unique in-game behaviors, and both can help base runners and hitters alike in the game situations.

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First Base Coach:

Over in the First Base box we have a guy who can make the ball seem to “freeze” in mid-air. He was instrumental in teaching players how to hit frozen ropes down the line for extra bases hit for the 2010 Express. This Coach has been described as a cold hearted soul, who can always melt you with just his smile.

His cunning direction and cool nature makes him the perfect First Base Coach for this team. I am talking about the always cool cat known as the Snow Miser. He was in the 1974 classic movie ” A Year Without Santa Claus“, and has been giving icy banter to opposing players for years. His cold demeanor is legendary. He uses his cold hard facts to make the opposition freeze in their tracks while trying to diving for low balls or foul pop-ups hit by the Polar Express. He is the kind of guy you do not want nipping at your nose, and the perfect Coach for this team.

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Third Base Coach:

Our Third Base Coach is a Christmas Hall of Fame legend. He had been blazing the trail like a beacon in the night for years pioneering the use of unique signals and well placed lighting to facilitate the proper transfer of anticipated moves and pre-arranged actions to Polar Express base runners’ and batters’.

His expert knowledge of reindeer games and his leadership expertise is unparallel in the Winter League. I am talking about the brilliant Rudolf. Since his first sighting on televisions in 1964, he has been leading a lighted path for children and players alike to the real spirit of Christmas.

His classic “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” TV special is a holiday necessity that is even today without an equal. It is for that reason that he should be the perfect choice as the Third Base Coach for this high-powered squad of Christmas icons. Without Rudolf showing us the way on Christmas, we would be blinded by the darkness and might end up losing our way around the base paths.

It has been a great pleasure today giving you some of my All Time Christmas iconic players that had to take the field for this special squad.

There certainly will be your own thoughts and rationale for extra additions and subtractions of certain characters to this team, but unless these selected All Holiday baseball players moving on, or are retiring to the celluloid and video vaults, the true essence and the spirit of this team will live on forever in our hearts and minds……………………..

Merry Christmas to everyone in the MLBlogs.com community and beyond!!

 

            

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Sliders of Joy

 

 

Last night I decided to do some channel surfing and came upon a movie on TNT making it’s network debut. The movie was “The Bucket List” starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson as two aging gentlemen who were given only months to live. As I watched this film, it got me eagerly thinking about my own Tampa Bay Rays “Bucket List” and some still unsatisfied opportunistic goals I still want to achieve before I wander away from the Rays community for the last time.

I found one moment in the film kind of poetic in nature when Freeman told the tale of the two questions that what ancient Egyptians were said to encounter upon their deaths as they got closer to the gates of the great beyond. Freeman stated that the first question was, ” Have you had JOY in your life? “. Let’s all Ponder that question in regards to our own baseball lives for a few moments before I continue with the story.

Freeman then told Nicholson the second part of the Egyptian equation, “Did you give JOY in your life? ” Now I am going to answer those two questions in relationship with my Rays lifetime experiences, and hopefully I can some day be admitted past the turnstiles some day in a celestial Rays game. In returning to these events, even within my mind I am hoping the emotions and excitement of those activities do not get the better of me and I begin to wax to poetic like a babbling moron.

 

 
 Did you have JOY in your (Rays) life?
I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that every single game I have attended since the Rays first pitch on March, 31,1998 to this moment in November , 2010 have brought me a mountain of emotional responses and joy. But there have been a few moments that have definitely been highlighted, or even shine brightly through out that journey. From watching a former Rays baseball friend (Edwin Jackson) throw a No-Hitter against the Rays at home, to seeing a Rays starter (Matt Garza) also enter the No-Hitter club this season with both games viewed from my seat in Tropicana Field is a sparkling moment.

But the true joy I have had in the last 13 years following this team has come from the people I have gotten to know over that period. From the Rays Fan Host who took my ticket on the first day, and who still works with the Rays, to a duo of Rays facility employees who stopped on Roosevelt Blvd and picked me up, then gave me a ride home after the Rays airport experience in October, it has been one glorious rollercoaster ride.

I gotten the chance to watch a single player (Carl Crawford) develop as a Rays prospect, then be promoted to the Major League level and achieve All Star status, before sadly also witnessing his last at bat and time pulling on his Rays uniform during Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series. Been privy to amazing stories and discussion with a host of Rays players past and present who I consider baseball friends. Once even asked Rays Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi to be my best man, but then found out my fiancée was a closet pinstripe fan.

Have experienced the joy of catching foul balls during the game. Be granted the opportunity to share precious moments on and off the field with players, coaches and other Rays fans that will always be high on my list of accomplishments of my Rays life. Always been blessed to be around the great Rays fans and friends who made the time and games more memorable and special. Have gained friendships within the Rays front office and with former Rays staffers that will last a lifetime, even if the Rays dreams ends.


 

Can definitely say I have had more than a bucketful of joy in my life when it comes to following, covering and enjoying the Rays. And it might seem funny to write this right now with so much other adventures and events still to unfold that I have not seen, but one moment the 2010 Rays season is definitely shining brighter than the rest right now. It was right after the Rays clinched their 2010 postseason berth that the players began to walk down the First Base line thanking the fans that the moment presented itself.

Again, it was my longest tenured baseball friend with the Rays who again brought an untold amount of joy to me as Cursi appeared between the handshakes with a few Rays players to present me with a full bottle of Domaine ste Michelle champagne for me to enjoy the moment. It is not that Cursi brought me a bottle of adult beverage, but the pure fact that he remembered me with all of this celebration and joyous occasions going on all around us that he thought of me. I then spread the joy of the moment by letting a few of my surrounding Rays friends also taste the nectar of the Gods and also become a part of this joyous moment.


Did you give JOY in your (Rays) life?

I truly hope I did. This is one aspect of that total ancient Egyptian formula that could be more subject to my own stern interpretations of my actions . Hopefully the moments I have taken to field Batting Practice balls and hide them in my backpack to give to kids attending their first baseball game adheres to this provision. That by my relationship with a few of the Rays players, I have given some young Rays fan joy when I stopped them and asked them to either ay “hello” or sign for them as their eye grew bigger.

That the way I have produced facts, figures and vocalized untold stories about this team or even a singled out player has provided an ounce of joy for another fan or even a opponent’s fan who became delighted by the fight and desire of this Rays squad. Sure I have seen the bright smiles and awestruck looks of children when I present them with a ball. Have also seen the same facial expression of people my own age who were attending their first baseball game and I somehow magically procured a game used baseball for them to clutch and remember in the privacy of their own homes and joyous lives.

Or maybe it was the moment I gave a young Rays fan who’s family was moving to Alabama a special going away gift that she would not forget. She was an avid B J Upton fan, so I gave her a game used Rays road jersey autographed by Upton which featured the old “Tampa Bay” emblazoned on the front of the jersey. That way she can never forget where her baseball heart lies… in Tampa Bay.

Hopefully there has been people who have read my passages since September 2007 that has awaken their baseball love, or provided them with a way to relive a moment in words and paragraphs when they could not attend or see the events themselves. And I really hope that a few of the photos taken over the last few years of Rays concerts and game day photos has provided some extra spots of joy or appreciation to someone online who lives far away, or wishes they could have attended the events themselves.

 

Do I truly think I have achieved the two aspects of the Egyptian equation to be considered for entry into the afterlife based on my Rays life? I honestly do not see it as my place to set that bar or even approach that level right now in my Rays life. There is still so much to see and do that could have the scales weighing to and from for a long time until I have to consider this in person before those gates.

 

During a mid-February day back in 2004 I sat nervous and anxious before the voice of the Rays, Dick Crippen announced my name as a inductee to the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame during the Rays Fan Fest. Crippen called out my name and I walked over to be presented my Wall of Fame jersey and trophy and instantly Rays moments began flashing through my head at lightning speed almost making me too dizzy.

They say that karma always is a never ending circle fo events and moments that enter and exit each of our lives. Forver we are in an endless game of flux with the scles always rising or lowering with our actions and reactions. The aspect of having or even giving joy has always had a centerline somewhere within my life, but never as tranfixedand focused as in my Rays life. I guess the Rays knew what they were doing when they named my persona for the Wall of Fame plague. Because even before that Wall of Fame induction moment I always imagined myself as “Mr. Lucky” when it comes to this Rays team.  

 
 

Rays Longoria is Simply……Golden Again

 
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His defensive instincts and cat-like reflexes have more than a few folks around the game of baseball comparing him to the first “human vacuum” and Baseball Hall of Fame member Brooks Robinson. Even more remark how his bat is still young and could develop into am modern day Mike Schmidt at the plate in less than a few years. With such high praise as this surrounding his name, it is no wonder we are celebrating him this afternoon.


For about two minutes ago the official announcement came forth that Tampa Bay Rays Third Baseman Evan Longoria has won his second Rawlings Gold Glove Award in two seasons….and rightfully so. The young Rays corner infielder might just be starting a trend of dominating at the “Hot Corner” for a long, long time.


Amazing how three years ago this same former “Dirtbag” came up after an injury to Willy Aybar and since that moment has been the most solid member of the Rays revamped defensive core. All that while still learning his craft at the plate and beginning to show a level of play much needed within the confines of his small marketplace. Today Longoria doesn’t have to worry anymore about who stole his cap, a fans will rightfully take his own off his head and offer it to the Rays slugger.


It really doesn’t seem like only three years when Longoria posted up just in front of the Field Turf of Tropicana Field for his first professional start against on Saturday, April 12,2008 against the Baltimore Orioles. Ironically Longoria went 1 for 3 during his Major League debut with a RBI. That was the start of the long awaited Longo phenomenon in Tampa Bay. He did not win a Gold Glove in his rookie season, but he did show the signs of brilliance and agility needed that has blossomed over his past two Rays season at the corner.
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In his second season with the Rays in 2009, Longoria only committed 13 errors in 427 total chances and contributed in 43 double play opportunities for the Rays. Remarkably, Longoria has fewer errors in his rookie season (12) but only helped produce 26 double play chances in his 119 games at Third base and one lone start at shortstop for the team. But the firm foundation established by Longoria during his rookie season only helped ferment and illustrate his value to the Rays overall cloak of defense in 2009.

Amazingly in 2010, Longoria hit a career high in errors with 13, but also provided more than a few web gem defensive moment on attempted bunts down the Third Baseline. It became almost trademark in 2010 for Longoria to take a ball barehanded and get the runner with a step or two to spare. His defensive game had elevated itself, and the rest of the baseball world noticed.


In 2010 Longoria set personal highs in innings played (1330.2), putouts (127) and watched his double play number soar even higher (46). I see no stopping or diminishing of Longoria’s defensive abilities for a long time. Longoria might even have a legitimate chance to one day try and match the totals number of Rawlings Gold Gloves by Schmidt (10 ) and Robinson (16)


As the musical group Timbuktu once said in a song lyric “Futures so bright I have to wear shades”. Only problem with that is the image of Longoria behind a pair of mirror shades just hoping you hit it down the line at him so he can rob you of that extra base hit and just give you a smile as you jog back to the bench. I got Longoria to sign a ball for me the day of his MLB debut, and ever since then not only has the ball gained in value, but Longoria’s defensive game has just been…well, Golden.

Pitching Strategy..The Rays Renegade Way

 

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If you are anything like me at Tampa Bay Rays home games, I can sometimes described as a rabid fan who’s game knowledge sometimes rivals the thought processes of the professionals sitting in the dugout.  I have a tendency to think outside-the-box sometimes, then re-think the game from the comfort of my blue plastic chair out in the Baseline Box seats. Sometimes the fact that our Rays Pitching Coach is still sitting there contemplating a move with his backside firmly on the bench while letting our Rays pitcher get lit up  sometimes drives me beyond the realms of insanity. You want to see something positive happen at that moment, but usually you are rewarded with more questions than answers about a move.

And if you are at home watching in the confines of your own home, there is the added dimension of the broadcasters own opinions and hearing the amplified cheers and jeers in surround sound that can drive you simple batty. So today I decided to maybe just give you a few situational pitching ideals and beliefs I have gathered in my dust-covered memories since I first picked up a ball over 40-some years ago.

Now I am not professing to be a professional pitcher or expert. My ideas might be as ill concieved as some of the MLB Pitching Coaches currently employed around the league. As fans, we always seem to be open to second-guessing pitching decision with every game and every late game scenario, but hopefully some of these “life” accumulated facts and ideas might enlighten some of us with  an extra added supply of pitching information before we yell, scream for the Rays Bullpen to “get someone up” next time. The job is not as clear cut as we all might think it is at times.

I know it is an extremely hard position to be one of the 30 MLB Pitching Coaches. I know I could never do it for a living, but sometimes, even the best of them need to be questioned for their actions, or non-actions in a game. Most post-game interviews are with the team’s Manager, not the Pitching Coach who might have errored in leaving someone to bake on the mound, or pulled someone early. And Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey’s “pitch to contact” style is either viewed as a success or a failure depending on your pitching viewpoint, and if the team is on a winning streak.

But Hickey is actually a “no-win” situation when it comes to the Rays fans. If a Rays pitcher goes out there and performs fantastic, you never hear a question towards the Rays Pitching Coach, just the Rays Manager, Joe Maddon. But either way, as Rays fans, we always have a few unanswered questions in our minds concerning the parameters of why or how a certain pitch or situational pitching scenario unfolds within a Rays game.  Keep totally in mind here I am not trying to portray myself as a pitching guru or saint here,I am trying to give one Rays fan-based Pitching tutorial.

I  still have foggy recollections and vivid memories of situational strategies that I was taught when I was much younger, and could throw a lot harder. So lets begin my little  journey into the simple basics of some pitching strategies. Former Chicago Cubs closer Steven Ellis uses to say that the best way to pitch was to “keep the batter uncomfortable at the plate.” Sounds like a simple method, but isn’t pitching suppose to be more than just about throwing a baseball across a keystone-shaped plate?


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Well to most baseball fans, that is the basic aspects of the pitching game. It sometimes seems like the ultimate pitchers’ have a tendency to want to place their offerings all over parts the plate and not just biting the corners or high and tight on the hitters. Most fans want to see the power-versus-power battle at the plate like the Roman gladiators, with the player quessing right coming out on top. But that is not always the way  an at bat ends in the major leagues. Sometimes plain old luck can ruin the perfect pitch, or a shattered bat can deliver an infield hit that can easily be converted into an out.

We always wonder what game day thoughts or basic fundamentals might go through a pitcher’s mind when he is out there on the mound.  Some of the simple ideals of  finesse and power pitching can become complicated and diluted if mixed up and turned sideways by a Pitching Coach trying to impliment too much on a young player.

Baseball is a very simple game, but it is the so called ‘experts” in the stands that can make it more difficult. So here are a few of my personal pitching ideals on how to be effective on the pitching  mound. These ideas have come from  the Coaches and Instructors I have known since my first days of Little League at Northwest Youth Center in St. Petersburg, Florida to my college days basking in the sun.

Every baseball fan has a different spin on their own school of pitching philosophy. The below ideals are just a slight hodge podge of the pitching instructions that have stayed within my mind in regard to pitching over the years. Some are very simple, but just like KISS, keeping It Simple Stupid, I can not guarantee toyou that any of these thoughts will transform you into a 20-game winner on the mound. But they are simple ideas taught to me by legions of Coaches who experimented and analyzed their own players over the years. Hopefully some of these suggestions hit home and do not seem to trive and trivial in nature.
 

1) You always want to make the inside of the plate your own. You have to make the hitter at the plate anticipate a possible inside pitch, so you begin by attacking him inside and make him respect the speed on your fastball or the vertical drop on your breaking ball.

2)
Show some of your off-speed stuff early in the game to keep the hitter guessing throughout the contest. You do not get in there and throw a massive amount of breaking stuff because the hitters will quickly get an accurate gauge on your pitch’s timing. But your curveball, change-up, slider and cutter can help you dictate the pace of the game from the mound.

3) Be careful with your change-up. Just because you might think it is the right pitch, you have to mentally adjust to the fact the hitter might be guessing right too. Just because it has worked for you all day doesn’t mean he is not sitting there waiting for it again. The slower it comes in, the faster it will go out if he guesses right.
4)
I was personally partial when I was younger (over 14) to throw a nasty curve ball during 0-2, 1-2, and 2-2 counts. The only reason I did this was that the hitter was usually waiting on a fastball to strike him out. Not that I did not mix it up at times, but it was just my own personal pattern. But it is important for you to develop your own pitching style that synchs with your team’s strong points.

5)
With runners in scoring position, I tried to not let the batter get a good read on my fast ball. A badly placed fastball can unload the bases just as quick as a well placed ball for a third strike for an out. You are not the only one playing this “guessing game”, the batter is also trying to get the right answers to get his guys’ home. Never think you are smarter than the hitter, you might have just been lucky to that point in the game.

6)
Changing the eye level or height of your pitches can be more effective than changing your overall pitch speed. A fastball low and inside followed by a curve up by the chest changes the batter’s depth perspective on your incoming pitches. It can also open up the outside corner for a nice breaking ball to get that hitter walking from the plate shaking his head. Always leave him guessing, Always leave him questioning himself on that long walk to the bench.

7)
I personally loved to throw a 2-seam fastball on either the first pitch, or during counts like 1-0,2-0,2-2, or 3-2. It might seem predictable, but if placed right, it should be an effective pitch. To me, a breaking ball on 3-2 is too risky unless you have no one on base at the time or someone prone to taking a wild swing at times. But it is better to go down in flames with your best stuff than gamble on a breaking ball hitting the plane outside on a full count.

8) One of the worst thing a pitcher can do on the mound is get predictable, even with his first pitch every at bat. By changing the eye height of the pitch and hitting the corners of the plate you can put doubt in the hitter’s mind, and that is your best weapon to defeat him. If you have him guessing or confused, you have already won half the battle.

9)
Everyone always hear the phrase “throw up a zero”, but it is important for team confidence to shut down an opponent after they either score, or you have scored in the game.  The confidence of the guys behind you will make them more relaxed and want to make plays for you. A confident defense is ready to make outs.

10)
This might be the most important one to me. Throughout the game, always remember to adjust, re-focus and make the hitter remember the pitches they saw in previous at bats. When you are facing them the second time, or even third time through the batting order, you still have to out-think them every time. Just because you threw a slider for a first strike last time up doesn’t mean you should do it again. Pitch the game wisely, make the hitter guess right to get anything off you. Do not reward his short-term memory by giving him the same pitch twice at the same part of the count in a game. Make him earn every swing, and every contact.


Chris O’Meara /AP

Those are just my own personal 10 simple ways to develop a simple pitching strategy for a game. I am not a Pitching Coach, or even a Little League Coach, just a fan who played baseball into his mid-20’s and still develops more knowledge about the game s I ge each year. I am simply a Rays fan who has loved the game since I unwrapped my first glove at athe gae of three during Christmas.
 
Even if I am not an amateur or professional Pitching Coach, I can visually focus on good and bad pitching patterns and fundemental delivery errors. With teams in the Major Leagues now actively downloading video and deeply analyzing opposing pitchers’ charts on every probale starter in an upcoming series, it is getting harder and harder to surprise MLB teams.

If your team does employ these basic and simple pitching ideals, it can make the rest of your day at the ballpark flow a bit better. Worst thing about pitching, you can hit all your spots during that day, could be hitting the glove perfectly every time and still lose the contest on one simple mistake or miscalculation. But that is why we play the game.

If it was so simple to play the game professionally, then we would have people like you and me out there hitting and playing the game until we were too old to pick up a bat or field a ball. Some of us evolve to become those “off-the-field” coaches who can ruin even the best games of some of our Rays players in our own minds. I enjoy reading blogs where people question a pitching situation, or even a pitch selection at a certain point in a game. I just hope this short list can give some people a hint of more insight into pitching.

Sometimes even a 10-year veteran pitcher can forget the basics and gets drilled in the process. I do not know who said it, but baseball is a game where we reward people for hitting a batted ball coming in at a high rate of speed a third of the time. And that is so true. Baseball is simple, but it is the fans and sometimes the coaches and players who can make it seem more difficult by muttling up the clear waters.

 
 
 
Post Note: This is my 850th post on MLBlogs.com today. Funny how a refreshing activity to remember why I love to write has transformed into such a great adeventure, and meeting such great baseball friends and fans. I feel blessed every day as I write these blogs.

Vote in Junior for the 2010 All-Star Game



Not sure how to really take the news yet. Might be a bit difficult for the next few days, but time and the countless video and tributes popping up on the Web from his countless legions of Nation-wide Baseball buddies and true fans of the game might ease the pain some what by the end of this weekend. For there is no more joy in SoDo, for the mighty enigma that was Junior has taken off his baseball uniform for the last time.

And as a Rays fan, I should hate Ken Griffey Junior and his Seattle Mariners, but they hold a special place in my heart. Seattle is not the city of my birth, but it was the city of my early youth, and a time when Tampa Bay was only a Spring baseball haven. I should hate Griffey Junior and what his Mariners’ team mate accomplished in the mid-1990’s , their insurmountable wins, the playoff fever, and even the final betray.

How many people outside of this two locales remember the bitter in-fighting for control for their lovable Mariners. How many remember the strife and quick search for a corporation to buy this cherished local icon and keep it in the Emerald City. And how incredible it was that a Japanese company that was based on the video game craze came to their rescue, along with emotional pleas from this great giant Junior who wanted the team to stay in this other “city by the bay”.

I could go on for pages and paragraphs for days on the heroics and the accomplishments of this icon of my generation. Be it his diplomatic mission for the United States, or maybe his ventures back to the city of his birth (Cincinnati) that formulated his middle years. It was this region of teal waters and blue skies that he made his mark. It was here in the Pacific Northwest that Griffey Junior moved out of his father’s giant shadow and brought his own flavor and panache to the game of baseball.


Always playing the game like he was still in his teens, even with countless injuries for reasons to slow down and take it easy. But he did not rest, he did not pout, he just threw out that million dollar smile and that splendid swing to take our breath away when we least expected it. Junior always seemed to keep that little boy in him, and that made him respect and honor the game.

I remember seeing him on the Visitor’s bench at Tropicana Field on May 14th and I called to him for an autograph. He looked tired, a bit drained but I told him it was my 50th birthday and the only thing I wanted was the signature of my generational hero. He chuckled and a friend who works in the Visitor’s clubhouse told him I was alright and he came over bouncing like a kid, smiling and happy at the praise that was raining down on him from the stands.

He did me a square solid, and now it is my turn to return the favor of him taking his time out for me. I propose that we, as a MLBlogs.com community unite and cast numerous ballots between now and the end of the voting period for Ken Griffey Junior for the 2010 All-Star game in Anaheim, California. What better way to show the National respect and honor he has shown us than to get him elected to the 2010 American League All-Star game squad.

And this action might not take much more than being a bit more consistent with our voting power between now and the end of the voting period. Junior is already in second place in the American League Designated Hitters spot for the All-Star game, and our critical votes might just boost him into that coveted slot. Some people say that since he has “retired” he cannot be considered for the position, but I have it on great authority that he can still be selected, and accepted onto the squad.

Can you think of another player in the last 10 years who at the end of his career was still not a pleasure to see on a baseball field than Griffey Junior. The guy is a classic example oft he word “sports icon”. He has been graceful, spirited and totally a true ambassador of the game from Day One to the End. I should have a level of hatred or solid reasoning for not liking Junior because of what he did to ruin a chance for us to field a baseball team before 1998.


But I can’t hate a single bone in his body. Can’t find the reasoning or the seasoning to push him into the dark without wanting to see him again on top and get to say a formal goodbye to 30,000+ of my friends in Anaheim during All-Star week. In an era where cheating took a chemical advantage, his name was never mentioned or spoken about. In a time when distrust and hurt feeling centered all out hearts after the baseball strike, he just stepped to the plate and hit.

Junior is my Michael Jordan, he is my Tim Tebow, he has been that force in the game of baseball that seemed to remain pure and rightious for the sake of the game. Griffey Junior to me for so many years was the game of baseball, but the games will still go on without him.

And the American League pitchers’ no longer have to fear him standing in the On-Deck circle. But I think he needs to put that baseball uniform on one more time, just to see how it feels….during the 2010 All-Star game….Batter up!
 

Mantra of the Game..Renegade style

 

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I am beginning to see what fans from cities like New York, St. Louis and Boston have been talking about now. When your team is sitting on the top of the heap in Major League Baseball, everyone and anyone will take any swipe or swing at your team, especially when you are winning. I am beginning to understand the premise that following one of the top teams in baseball can become a unforeseen double-edged sword.

Members of the Baseball community finally seem to be throwing some deserved praise and admiration towards the Tampa Bay Rays, but you wonder what ulterior motives lies just beneath the surface of their accolades. Are they hoping or praying for a collapse and fall from grace so that they can rake your squad over the hot coals with delight.


In 2008, when the Tampa Bay Rays were making their first venture into the National baseball spotlight after years of suffering in the basement of the American League East, I saw most of this action through a set of horse blinders that kept me focused on the long-term goal. I really did not venture into the side views of scuttlebutt going on just outside the realms of the team’s success. It was a new found Tampa Bay air of success that we had not thought in regards to the Rays before that “Magical Summer of Baseball”.

We had finally seen our Rays climb out of their MLB infancy cocoon and were trying to thrust out their outstretched wings and fly high towards the daylight.


And because of that, I might have kept my unusual sense of naivety, an unknown optimism towards the ultimate possibilities of the Rays squad. But during the 2009 MLB season, the horse blinders came off and opened the scopes of reality to show me that sweat, dirty uniforms and even a “Rays-hawk” might not be enough to post up wins against the monsters in the MLB. Maybe I was being a bit naïve even now to think a Rays team that sports a record like 30-12 could finally get a little slack after just coming out of the Bronx with a few “W’s” to their credit.

And here is where my undying sense of optimism can be tricky, and even prove a bit cumbersome at times.


I can admit that I am riding this recent crest of the Rays wave like a body surfer right now, but then something unexpected comes in and sends you crashing into the depths of the surf. You find yourself fighting the impeding forces against you as endlessly tumble and struggle to get to the surface to catch your breath. Something invisible to your eyes can hit you broadside and force you downward towards the jagged rocks below the waves……

Maybe sometimes I need to remove my Southern sensibilities that taught me to respect and use manners even in difficult circumstances because it defuses the angry and hostility quicker. I was brought up with the old saying that “you get more bees with honey than vinegar”, and to poke a sleeping bobcat is a bad thing.

Maybe not becoming a violent or obscene combatant in a battle of words by not getting right back into someone’s face, or tossing venomous comments at my opponent like a spiting Cobra makes me a weaker adversary.

I do not try to be a stealthy ninja who will sneak in my words or opinions quietly and take out my enemy with a well constructed attack in prose, or a violent commotion with a phrase or passage. It is not in my personality to character assassinate someone, but more in my spirit to dismantle and reassemble some sense of logic ultimately to the conversation. But then again, if you raise your hands to me and never take my kindness for weakness for I am more than capable to go from 0-60 in a nanosecond and thrust you back into your bounds of darkness.

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I am happy being a carefree Southerner, who has an undying intensive love for the greatest game on dirt. I am not happy about team’s losses, but I will not let my subconscious fall unbounded within the unseen darkness to dwell and possibly obsess about an early Fall collapse, or a Rays internal combustion situation in mid-May. Like the surfing analogy, I am riding the Rays wave right now eagerly taking in the positive vibes and energy for as long as this wave takes me. Hoping to somehow provide some solace and sage advice along the way, and not get bashed in the head too many times by pessimistic parasites for being an optimistic old fool.


But that is the thing about this great game of baseball. It can go on for hours and hours forever instantly changing your game day prospective several times during the course of a contest before ultimately handing you either failure or success in the end. But like the proverbial Gulf of Mexico surfer, I do not stress the bad moments, or hinge my ultimate life existence on the extreme possibility of the Rays crashing on the waves, or the jagged rock beneath.

This great game of baseball has ever changing moments that keep your mind and heart coming and going with a continuous ebb and flow experiencing both the Ying and Yang while watching the games, taking black and white images and colorizing themselves in front of our eyes. I will not be that silent samurai who attempts to slays or tries to change public opinion.

I am a baseball fan who keeps my own prospective, understands the limitations of negativity, but ultimately understands the game doesn’t expose its plans to us mortals. My life maybe very intertwined into the expanding fabric of the game of baseball, but ultimately I will dip, slide, glide and do everything possible to stay on top of that surfboard and continue to keep the faith……Hang Loose Dudes!

Rays Photo Homage to Past Celebrity and Musical Guests

 
 
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It is one of those photo collages that takes your breathe away when you first see it. Basically the magnitude of the talent and faces that have crossed within the confines of Tropicana Field is amazing. Sure we might not have Kate Hudson in our stands every night, but she was here when the New York Yankees touched down within Tampa Bay for a few games. And people like John Cusack and author Stephen King have also been known to try and sneak in a Rays game without a lot of attention.

 
But the photo collage on the concourse wall right behind the Home Plate 102-104 sections of seating in Tropicana Field shows just how much music, motion picture stars and great moments we have endured over the last few seasons. From the moment the Rays concluded their November 2007 unveiling of their new logo and uniforms, to the upcoming Hess Express/Rays Saturday Night Concert Series featuring John Fogerty, the team has shown both talent on the field, as well as on the Concert stage. And the list of artists featured on the wall collage is impressive indeed.

 
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There are currently 28 photo cut and pasted upon this collage section featuring the artists and actors who have made the Rays part of their baseball family. And it all began in November 2007 with the free concert to Rays fans who attended the Rays logo and uniform fashion extravaganza as actor/musician Kevin Costner and his band Modern West brought their own special spin to the festivities. But he was only the beginning. Since that time fellow actors/comedian Paul Rieser ( Mad About You), Chris Rock, Former SNL star/ Impressionist Darrell Hammond, Barry Williams (Greg Brady) last but definitely not least, Bill Murray who we all loved as Carl the Groundskeeper in “Caddyshack” and is a minor league baseball part owner.
 

 
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But there are also local Florida athletes or players who have trained in St. Petersburg in the past who are immortalized on the concourse wall such as former Tampa Bay Buc running back Mike Alstott, Baseball Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie “The Wizard of Oz” Smith and another Oriole great Jim Palmer. The collage also includes NFL Hall of Famer and Tampa Bay Buc legend Lee Roy Selmon , WWE past Champion John Cena and Orlando Magic Center/Power Forward Dwight Howard. Broadcasting and announcing legends both National and Internationally also grace the collage with the addition of ESPN Basketball Guru and 2004 Inductee to the Pepsi Rays Fan Wall of Fame Dick Vitale and the immortal Boxing/Wrestling announcer Michael ” Let’s get ready to Rumble” Buffer.


But also several members of this new display in Tropicana Field either performed the National Anthem or “God Bless America” such as former American Idol David Archuletta, the Backstreet Boys, and Green Day. But most of the rest of the artists posted upon the wall have performed in the Rays popular Saturday Night Concert Series over the last few seasons. Groups such as 3-Doors Down, Pat Benatar, Daughtry, L L Cool J, Flo Rida, Ludacris, and legendary groups the B-52’s and M C Hammer. Who reminded us “When the Devil went out ( of the team name), the Wins came in!”.


 
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Country artists Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy and Trace Adkins also have provided hours of great entertainment to the crowds of Rays fans attending the game, plus who danced in the aisles and landing around Tropicana Field during their music sets. And do not forget there is still some space upon that wall collage that might include this year’s artists, John Fogerty (April 24th), ZZ Top (May 1st), Nelly (May 15th), Hall & Oates (May 29th), the Go-Go’s /Farewell Tour (July 10th), Train (August 14th), Adam Lambert and Orianthi (Sept. 18th), Country Star Dierks Bentley (Sept. 25th) and two other concerts artists not yet announced on June 12th and June 26th.

 
Talent galore has graced both the field and the stages of Tropicana Field in the past, and the future looks even brighter as the Rays thrust again towards the top of the American League East. This photo collage is just a small sampling of the stars and the people within the entertainment field who have either sat within the main bowl of Tropicana Field, or in the Suites and attended Rays games in the past.

 
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The collage is just a great way for the Rays fans to gather and remember and relive these great acts and people as they became members of the Rays lore. So sometimes in the future be sure to wander up the main concourse just to the east of the Rays main elevator system and have your own great flashbacks into these performances or sightings of the great people who also have adorn Rays jerseys and attended games. Some times it is great to look at the past so that we can see just how far we really have traveled since the ultimate changes made in 2007 to the Rays legend, and the way we will remember our moments within Tropicana Field.

 
 
 

Right Game…Wrong Spelling, Wrong Player..Sigh!

 

 
ScottAudette/Reuters

Some people have said that sometimes I can be a bit hard on the National Media. That I am trying to find the problems and the blemishes in their stories and then ripe them wide open from stem to stern by exposing their “problems” throughout the Internet. And to this I respond, “You bet I do!” But I am not trying to be a watchdog or even and advocate for the old school of journalistic integrity I studied in High School and College. I guess it is simple what I desire from the National and local media…..Just a little legwork into your facts, figures and even facial recognition on Tampa Bay Rays players would be greatly appreciated.
 
Take the initial photo description (see below) I found recently on Yahoo.com following last Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees. The first thing that stood out to me honestly is that there are two consecutive spelling errors in the photo explanation, and each concerns the same English word…”pitcher”. I know the agency providing the photographer might be Reuters, which has a more English-based as in the actual country, but here or there I suspect the word is actually spelled the same. I have no idea what a “pticher” is, and according to my handy little Merriam-Webster Dictionary there is no such word presently within the scope of the English language.

And some people will adamantly say I am being a bit overly picky since grammatical and spelling errors happen all the time, even in our own posts. And with that I will agree, but isn’t it a bit odd that it happened twice within the same paragraph and nobody noticed it….maybe until I posted this right now. So here it is for the entire world to chuckle and turn their heads side-to-side that a large Media agency like Reuters, and even Yahoo did not catch this spelling blemish before a little Rays blogger who seems to find these things online.

Sure, being unemployed has given me a plethora of available time to watch out and read numerous postings about the Rays from all over this big blue marble, and even more than enough time to gaze upon endless episodes of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” or catch up on every episode ever of “Scrubs” or “Grey’s Anatomy“. But the pure fact that these agencies pay their people good money and someone who is economically poor, but has some form of education gets to be greeted with obvious 3rd Grade spelling mishaps. And I do take pride in throwing these little tidbits out to everyone to see because it is an industry I consider my “Great White Buffalo”.

And if you are unaware of that phrase, it is basically saying it is the “one (job profession) I let get away”. It is the one regret I have found in my life career-wise that I would jump into a Hot Tub Time Machine and go back to the early 1980’s in less than a heartbeat to change and stay with it, sweat it out, and maybe had actually found a niche before my return in early 2008 to writing again on this Rays Renegade blog. But you know what really got me the most on this Yahoo posting by Reuters? Here is the actual photo description listed on Yahoo.com as of 12:15 today:
 
 

Tampa Bay Rays pticher Randy Choate wipes his …

 
Tampa Bay Rays pticher Randy Choate wipes his head after giving up a run to the New York Yankees during the sixth inning of their MLB American League baseball game in St. Petersburg, Florida April 11, 2010.

REUTERS/Scott Audette (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

The main thing that is eating at me was not the initial spelling error, or even the fact it happened a second time only four words into the photo explanation ….The thing that is eating me inside to a point of decay is the plain fact they did not get even the correct Rays player in the photo. The fact that the photo is suppose to have left-hander Randy Choate in the picture “wiping his head after giving up a run to the New York Yankees” is actually Rays right-hand reliever Lance Cormier.


Not only is their hair color and thickness a big error, which to me is a great big tell-tale sign, but Cormier is a right-handed pitcher, while Choate is a Left-handed reliever. Accuracy has always been one of my pet peeves in life. I understand making mistakes, omitting facts and even misquoting someone is one of the perils of reporting sports. But the actual photos of Major League Baseball players should at least get their rightful namesakes. Now I am not going to blame Scott Audette who supplied Reuters with the photo because he might have made a note of the correct pitcher and the brief description was added by a Copy Clerk or even a post photo Editor somewhere along the lines before it was posted to Yahoo.com here.
 
But in the instant oatmeal environment of the Internet with lightning fast speeds and accessibility, double-checks of even the simple things have to be done to keep from people like me posting your embarrassing mistakes. Maybe it is still that respect and drive I still have for Sports and writing that gets me to expose these hash marks against the National Media giants. I respect and admire so much of the job people do online, but I also hold these same people to a higher standard to get our players names right, their images correct, and most of all…..Show these professional  Rays athletes a level of respect they have earned with sweat, blood and determination..They deserve that…Boy, do they deserve that! 
 
 

Riding the Rays Rollercoast with no Seat Belts

 
 
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Man, we are only two whole games into the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays 13th Major League Baseball season and I am already extremely tired from the massive rollercoaster journey we have taken just in the last two days. And believe me, I do not mind the twists, drops and even the unsuspecting high steeping emotional climbs, but I am still a bit wary of that stomach shifting towards the Adam’s Apple intense drop that takes not only your breathe away, but does something to your overall mode of team confidence and inner soul that can not be repaired by just a few spotty wins.

 
And already there are those dark D-Rays souls who have warned the “pumped-up” people like me about the possible side effects of believing in the hype before there is a foundation to support it. And believe me here, there is no “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey in my I-Pod music mix. But then again I am reminded in the back of my mind that these same dark dwelling remnants of D-Rays people have not attended a single Rays Spring Training game since the Rays left St. Petersburg for Port Charlotte, Florida in March 2008, and they are still stuck in the muck and mire of their season-ending Rays emotions pertaining to the 2009 season.
 

Maybe I am getting myself in a serious state of heart break and toeing the edge of the jagged path on the high cliff to a possible let down of massive enthusiasm proportions, but then again, maybe I am going to do what I feel is the right thing for myself and this team and throw my caution to the wind and hope the monkey on the loose doesn’t throw a steaming pile of poo at me from the Rightfield foul pole during the game.
 

But if you have been amongst the tidal waves of emotions surrounding Tropicana Field the last two night and really felt that pulse of energy cascading throughout the stadium with even the 15,000+ on Wednesday night, then you know that something special is happening in front of us again. And maybe since St. Petersburg is the “Lightning Capital of the World”, it is about to strike hard for a second time in 2010. And maybe Rays fans like me are all riding that huge wave of off season pent-up emotions right now, but that is what fans do, they act and react and counter move to the ebb and flow of the rhythm of the game hoping that the last big wave of the night will produce that moment you remember for a long, long time and provide you with that rush of adrenaline we all seek as we drive home with smiles from ear-to-ear .
 

And that is what is happening right now. From Tuesday nights bottom of the ninth inning extravaganza when the longest tenured Ray, Carl Crawford provided the 90th Walk-off moment in Rays history, to the thunderous crack from the bat of Rays legend-in-the-making Evan Longoria, the last two nights have been sprinkled with classic Rays moments where a huge cloud of magical pixie dust has fallen from the rafters of Tropicana Field and coated all of us with amazement and wonder.
 

 
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If you would have told me the Rays would win a game in Walk-off fashion in either of these nights, I could have believed you. But if you would have told me Longoria would make his first two blasts of the year pale in epic proportions by going into the TBT Deck/Beach/ way-the-heck-up-there, I might have taken that bet and thought it was a sucker bet by you. But more amazing was the shot last night into Section 149, which had a plastic poster hanging at the top of that same section of Tropicana field asking Longoria to hit it here with a massive Bulls-Eye of red and white.

 

Two games into the 2010 season and we already have a few moments that will be talked about even after the All-Star break, and maybe in the 2010 off season. Seriously here, I could imagine Carl Crawford lacing a ball for a 2-run double to produce a Walk-off win way before a blast 473 feet that just missing the Second slot on the Rays All-Time Home Run Distance list by a tiny foot compared to the Centerfield blast of Jonny Gomes that bounced like a golf ball on the roof of the Batter’s Eye Restaurant. But the amazing fact might still be that Longoria has 4 RBI on his only 3 hits this season, and all three of them have been for extra bases.
 
 
But what might be more amazing about the last few nights is the show of support this crowd has shown this Rays team especially after a bad invisible swinging strike call by Home Plate Umpire Kerwin Danley, who never even asked Third Base Umpire Dana DeMuth for a ruling on the invisible phantom swing by Crawford that brought out the Trop. boo-bird for the rest of the game. I have always thought that when the true meaning of baseball and the intelligence level of our area fans ever matured, this Rays “Pit” environment would be a huge vocal point towards pushing the momentum into the Rays favor in extreme moments.
 

 
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I was extremely proud of the 15,000+ who were screaming and yelling for an appeal to the Third Base Umpire, and their fats reaction to booing and questioning the call immediately instead of looking around for an exclamation from someone wearing headphone listening to the game on the Rays Radio network in the stands. I actually had a nice photo of Crawford at that moment and he was hunched down in his stance and could not have even thrown out a half-hazard swing to fend off the ball if it was a true strike. But the pure fact this crowd has matured as a whole and gathered the mustard to question and show immediate recourse towards Danley reminds me a lot of the baseball savvy crowds you see in other MLB stadiums that have been around for over 100 years.

 

But I am also aware and poised to remember that these same Orioles have beaten us into the ground before when our guard has been down a bit, or the confidence level made a few Rays fan’s heads rise an inch or two and not remember that a streaky Baltimore Second Baseman Brian Roberts can change the entire game all by himself with his legs and bat. But maybe his bad start to the season is our reward right now. To be 2-0, and maybe blossom to 3-0 before the Evil Empire valet parks their Deathstar at the Vinoy for the upcoming weekend series, it might be a nice emotional and confident momentary foundation before we partake in the renewed rivalry for the first time in 2010.
 

And some people have already brought out that attendance trump card after just two Rays games, but they also forget that these mid-week games have always been the Achilles’ Heel of this Rays clubs attendance marks as far back as 1998. They are a work-in-progress, and with 15,000+ in the stands last night, that is a nice bump up from the last time the Orioles were in the Trop from September 29-October 1,2009 when an average of just over 10,492 fans packed the Trop for the season ending series of these same two teams.
 

 
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5,000 extra bodies in the seats might not seem like much to those viewing the empty blue seats in other locales. But those same 5,000+ extra Rays bodies have also been sporting more of the home team’s Columbia Blue or Rays Blue this season and that in its own small way might show the Tampa Bay community trickling in little by little to see if the Rays can renew that spirit and drive that possessed this region in 2008. And I guess I can revel in the fact that the “greatest game played on dirt” is living up to that moniker in the first two fun-filled energy-draining contests of 2010.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet as the New York Yankees will be unpacking their equipment in the Rays Visitor’s Clubhouse soon enough, then the first true test of 2010 is full on………Game on people….Game On!

 

 

Talbot was the Perfect Choice for Cleveland


AWinner@Flickr.com

Every once in a while a trade is consummated that  instantly makes you see that it might be the best thing to happen to that minor leaguer. You do not want to see him leave your system, but you know that he might be legitimately stalled within your farm system by a logjam within your system. And it is a shame to see a player stand still instead of moving forward in their  maturation process to becoming a Major Leaguer.
 

So when the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they had made a trade with the Cleveland Indians for catcher Kelly Shoppach in early December, you had the immediate feeling that the “Player To Be Named Later” would be plucked from the Rays 25-man roster, or be a top prospect from a Rays farm squad. So it was no real shock to me that the Rays took their time finalizing and whittling down the choices with the Indians and finally deciding “officially” late Monday night to send pitcher Mitch Talbot to the Indians.

And the final decision on Talbot was a very intelligent and completely necessary move for the Rays. But it was also a great pitching pick-up for the rebuilding Indians who  will be using young pitching talent in 2010 to build a strong foundation for the Indians future. And this decision actually saved the Rays from having to make a difficult decision this Spring for the second season in a row.
 

Talbot, who was out of minor league options, might not have even been considered for a 25-man roster spot for the Rays and in all likelihood would of had to change the mindset of the Rays Coaching staff  to make the team reconsider a spot for fellow pitchers like Andy Sonnanstine or Wade Davis in 2010.  And it is not unheard of in recent Rays Spring Training history for a pitcher to  come into Spring Training Camp in mid-February and sweat and battle his way the entire Spring, and the team ends up not having him on their final 25-man roster.


CBC-Raleigh.com

But with Talbot going down in 2009 with injuries while with Triple-A Durham Bulls, he ended up throwing only 54.1 innings, which could of had the Rays losing a bit of confidence in one of their top pitcher prospects. How soon it slipped the minds of the Rays to forget that in 2008 Talbot posted his second consecutive 13-9 record for the Bulls. 

Talbot even had to endure a brief 24-hour call-up with the Rays on July 2,2008.  All this from a guy that Baseball America  selected in 2008 as having the best change-up in the International League. How soon  a player could fall from grace with an organization, and they forget you were their selection as Triple-A Pitcher of the Year in 2008, and had the best change-up in the Rays system for the fourth year in a row. Throw on top of that being a member of the Bull 2009 Triple-A Championship team, and you get a pitching prospect who’s future should be bright in the eyes of his organization, and not  shaded by clouds of doubt.


Rob Carr / AP

But with the Indians selecting Talbot as the final piece in this deal, it actually opens up a different career path to the Majors for Talbot. He will report  with the other Indians pitchers’ to Arizona this Spring, and could be firmly in the mix to secure a spot in their 2010 rotation. This should give Talbot a early dose of confidence that he can get his name muttered by the Cleveland Coaching staff this Spring. And because the Rays included his name for consideration in this trade,Talbot will be given a fair chance to make his first Opening Day roster in the Major Leagues.

They say that sometimes things happen for reason. Well, this trade actually might be just the extra push forward Talbot needs to secure a spot on a Major League bench. He is a hard worker and deserves this chance, and hopefully we will see his name listed on the roster on 2010’s Opening Day. And  with the added experience of serving in the Rays Bullpen in the past, Talbot could also bring a nice secondary piece of the puzzle for the Indians. Talbot  in his personal life enjoys flying during his off times from baseball. Hopefully his  renewed chance in Cleveland will finally give him a chance to fly high and secure a spot in the Major Leagues. And I am think he is the right guy to have at the controls.

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