Results tagged ‘ David Price ’
This weekend as teams in the American League made their final pushed to secure a American League Divisional Series crown, several former Tampa Bay Rays had their own imprints on who and how these ALDS series would end.
With regards to hurlers, we saw 2 American League Central division rivals who on Sunday took to their pitching mounds on opposite sides of our nation’s shores battle it out to either extinguish or extend their team’s post season dream.
We all sat and witnessed early on Sunday as Detroit Tigers southpaw David Price provided his team an ample chance to extend their A L D S series, their once potent bats went suddenly silent and with it the Tigers were swept by the Baltimore Orioles.
Price only made one untimely judgment during his 8 inning, 5-hit, 2-run appearance on a lone pitch that Baltimore DH Nelson Cruz sent to right field for a 2-run Home Run that also secured all the runs the Orioles would need to sweep their A L D S series against the Tigers in away confines of Comerica Field.
And as Price and his team gathered their packed their gear for the last time in 2014 , another former Rays pitcher was to write himself into the M L B history books.
Just a time zone away as the Orioles celebrated their A L D S conclusion with their home fans, James Shields and his Royals teammates were in the midst of securing their own ticket to the ALCS and provided yet another unique story line to the Royals ever-expanding Cinderella storybook postseason.
Shields might have given up an early Home Run to Mike Trout to spot the Angels a 1-0 lead, but his teammates had his back on this day. The Royals provided their own 3-run barrage in the bottom of the 1st to give Shields some much needed run support and with additional 2-run bursts in the bottom of the 3rd and 4th innings, provided all the offensive firepower needed for the Royals.
The Royals did not only defeat the heavily favored Angels on Sunday, but finished off their A L D S sweep of the Angels in front of their home fans.
Shields provided an adequate 6 inning, 6-hit, 2-run outing that were only tarnished by Home Runs by Trout and Albert Pujols. The Angels 2 most powerful hitters could of changed the series landscape , but their solo HRs were the only runs given up by Shields.
Interesting side note, the only other Angels run was given up by former Rays RP Wade Davis who came on in the top of the 8th inning when former Rays farm hand Josh Hamilton scored Howie Kendrick from Third Base to plate the last run of the contest for the visiting Angels.
The Orioles also boast two other former Rays in INF Kelly Johnson and DH/OF Delmon Young. Now I’m really happy to see Johnson get a chance at the post season and especially as he has been on the roster of almost everyone in the American League East at some point in the last 2 seasons.
Johnson deserves this kind of celebratory goodness as the guy is a team player who just enjoys the game and still gets excited when he sees his name on the line-up card.
My personal feelings aside about Delmon Young, I’m glad he got to see his former team, the Tigers, leave the field as he enjoyed celebrating a A L D S title with his new O’s squad.
Johnson was an intricate pick-up for the O’s near the end of the season bringing in the versatile Johnson to play wherever needed, and providing a stop-gap at Third Base that was left vulnerable by Manny Machado’s late season ending injury.
Johnson’s only appearance in the A L D S was as a pinch-hitter for Caleb Joseph in Game 2 in the 8th inning and he flied out to center field.
Young’s heroic pinch hit during game 2 got him a start in left field for Game 3, but he was lifted for David Lough in the top of the 9th inning after going 0-3 on the day.
Still, Young and Johnson should be on the Baltimore A L D S roster when the A L C S contests begin Friday, October 10th in Camden Yards with the Royals sending Shields to the hill to try and give the Orioles their first defeat of the 2014 post seeason.
Going to be interesting to see if Shields or Davis get a chance (or two) to face their former teammate Young, or Johnson during the A L C S.
No matter who’s squad ends up winning the 2013 American League crown, I am proud as heck of Shields, Davis, Johnson and even Young for being parts of their team want and hope to raise not only banners, but champagne on their quest for a World Series journey.
And lest we forget, because the American League defeated the National League in the 2014 All-Star Game, the World Series will ultimately begin soon enough in either Baltimore or Kansas City.
Never would have envisioned these two teams fighting for the right to represent their league in the World Series. Proves once again there is no such thing as a “sure thing” in regards to baseball, and I would not have it any other way.P
Some say that is the first phrase uttered by those in denial or left wanting for an answer. Two words shouted to the heavens asking for some divine or intelligent intervention into how their beloved team could have fallen this far from their past grace and the lofty expectations transposed on this team even before they began play in April.
No one who follows, plays for or works with the Tampa Bay Rays could of possibly imagined this stark reality that would be evident about this team’s 2014 campaign 5 months later. No matter the Rays rise or fall during these terse 6 months, no one envisioned the team not playing for anything in the last 10-odd games of their season.
So maybe it is time to possibly throw out some opinions, rely on some facts and maybe come to terms with a season that sent us on a pure emotional rollercoaster ride to the greatest heavens and at time tumbling right back down to Earth with the stark realization that sweat, talent and confidence are not the sole catalysts to winning games.
Remember as you read this, it is only my personal guesswork and not a certification of the direction the team will take, should of taken or will entertain this winter….It is just my humble words thrown out for everyone to dissect into a million characters. Enjoy.
What if the Rays had signed free agent Nelson Cruz as their Designated Hitter? Would he have duplicated his 2014 season in Carolina Blue?
This was actually a question someone asked me on Sunday and it does have merit, but I think besides the steroid residue that would have followed Cruz here to Tampa Bay, the $8 million the Orioles paid Cruz might have been a bit steep for the Rays to handle financially. Plus the Rays Clubhouse culture might not have been a good fit for Cruz, but we also will never know if he could of adjusted and been a key component of this year’s squad.
Who knows, Cruz should be a free agent after the season, and with him showing he can still power the ball as well as be steroid free, the Rays would kick the tires, but even with Cruz’s current ‘14 resume of 39 HR and 106 RBI (as of 9/22) it might not be enough as a ‘15 salary seeking $ 9-10 million and someone wearing his favorite #23 jersey (Jake Odorizzi should quickly end the Rays interest.
What if Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore had stayed injury free?
Wow! Without a shadow of a doubt this team would have been different. Would it have been enough change to possibly change the end of the season outcome…..Without a doubt, but I’m a card carrying optimist.
But that doesn’t mean I would be calling out another revival of rising to the Rays 2008 level, or anticipated the backward tumble of 2009. I hate to admit it, but a few good things did happen for the Rays rotation because of those setbacks.
We found out the true fire and nature of Chris Archer, Cobb when he got healthy took the reins and never let go possibly posting one of the 6 best ERA (with possibly 2 starts to go) in the American League….And we saw the maturation process that beset Jake Ordorizzi from rookie nerves and indecision to transforming into a true 5th starter for this team.
What if we had held onto David Price instead of trading him to Detroit?
This is a question that will take a few more seasons before we know the true essence of this trade. I am also one of those anxious to see how young prospect Willy Adames advances in the Rays farm system. Also a post Trade Deadline Price has produced a 3-4 record and a 4.09 ERA (possibly 2 more starts) since the trade, the Southpaw sent as a left-handed option for the Rays rotation has been pretty Price-like. Drew Smyly posted a 3-1 record with a 1.70 ERA while also putting up 44 K’s on 47.2 innings.
I think this trade worked in the Rays future favor as Smyly is a salary friendly option and Adames is already viewed by some as a future Rays SS and he is still at the Class-A level.
What if Wil Myers had not missed 81 games with his wrist injury?
My ESPN Fantasy League stats predictions for Myers showed him posting numbers like: 81 runs, 25 HR, 91 RBI and a .267 average. At the beginning of 2014 he was owned by a majority of the teams in the leagues, but today only 35.3% of people have stuck with Myers.
His offensive output was missed extremely by the Rays, but his absence also got us a great introduction to some future Rays “Outlaw” ways. If you had to find any shining moment out of Myers pain it was the pure fact we got to see over 103+ games with Kevin Kiermaier on the squad. With them both playing together here in the latter days of the season, we might be witnessing transformation of the Rays outfield to a bit more speed and aggression in 2015.
What if Grant Balfour had retained that same fire and not lost some of his edge?
When Balfour signed that 2-year contract everyone was on his bandwagon. After a few stellar years showing his stuff on the West Coast with the A’s, the Rays envisioned Balfour taking the back end of the Bullpen and stabilizing it while Jake McGee slowly moved his way to that spot.
Balfour’s falling from grace and possibly a bit of “dead arm” for a spell pushed McGee into the spotlight and for a guy doing the closer’s role for the first time, his game was more hit than miss. With Balfour taking a step back into a set-up role now I can see the Rays using him as bait to a team that might need a proven closer and potent rally killer. This is not to mean the Rays will accept small fish for Balfour, but he could easily be in another uniform if the right return can be found for him.
Okay, that is just a few of the “what If” trains of thought that were thrown my way during the last home stand. After these final 6 away games the Rays will conclude their season, return to the Trop and pack for home.
At that moment the questions will immediately change from “What if” to “What can we expect” as we begin another off season with question galore and many 2015 answers to ponder.
What direction can we expect the Rays to go?….T B D.
We all knew this moment was coming. When the Tampa Bay Rays would begin a process of removing David Price themed items. It is sad, but unfortunately a way of life that people come and go sometimes in our baseball lives and the Rays have begun auctioning off some Price memorabilia with a larger more tuned-in auction process beginning on August 11,2014 at 1:30 pm EST and running until August 18,2014 at 1:00 pm EST.
Funny side note, as of the time I am producing this post, the Rays somehow decided to use the abbreviation EDT to designate Eastern Daylight Time instead of the traditional EST that symbolizes the more known Eastern Standard Time we older folks all learned in school. Both are correct, it is just odd to see it posted in that manner (I suspect it might be changed by Monday).
Several premier items will be featured in the almost 7-day Price auction including a unworn one–of-a-kind David Price away retro 80’s jersey. This is the same mostly yellow-hued style uniform top the Rays will sport this weekend during the Chicago Cub series. This item is a must have for the Price collectors out there and will begin the bidding at $300. on August 11th.
Another one-of-a-kind and historically unique auction offerings is the game-used home jersey from Price’s last start as a Ray that also features the “ZIM” patch on the right sleeve. Bidding for this one-of-a-kind prize will begin at $400.
The team will also be offering such items as Price’s old Rays Clubhouse locker chair back. Bidding for this personal Price heirloom will begin at $40.
The Rays will also be auctioning off 1 each of the over-sized Price and Astro head cutouts that became iconic collection pieces that became the mainstays of the now defunct District K-9 outings that always corresponded with Price’s game day starts.
I mean who in their right mind would not want an oversized Price face and Astro’s adorable mug both complete with an MLB authentication. Bidding will begin for the cutouts at $10 and each will have their own separate auction listing featuring these special close-out of Price themed memorabilia items.
Also on the auction block of Price eradication items will be the awesome 27 foot by 2 foot “Welcome to Tropicana Field” featuring Price on the left corner and Evan Longoria on the right side of the huge banner. Bidding for this grand item will start at $20. I suspect someone with a sports bar or possibly an over-sized great/trophy room might jump all over this item.
Price’s 6 foot by 8 foot Player Profile Banner will begin its bidding at $100. Or possibly you would enjoy having Price’s team-issued blue Rays batting helmet which will begin this items bidding frenzy at $150.
Also on the auction block will be Game-Used baseballs hit by the likes of Brewer Ryan Braun (reached on an error) or possibly baseballs hit against Price by Red Sox teammates Dustin Pedroia (single) or David Ortiz (single) during a home contest in 2014. Bidding for these baseball will be in separate auction listings and begin at $40.
Possibly you are just one of those many statistic driven Rays souls who would love to possess the game day line-up card from Price’s last start as a Ray. The bidding for this special item will begin at $100.
There are also current auctions going on the Rays auction site providing “BUY NOW” options.
Also being offered are 2 different Price jersey swatch plague for $15 each. One is a Price game day jersey swatch framed plague (auction runs until bought or November 1, 2014) while the other commemorates Price’s 2012 Cy Young Award with a specially themed jersey swatch plague (auction runs until bought or Dec 31, 2014).
All items in this auction will benefit the Rays Baseball Foundation, the official charity of the Tampa Bay Rays. The organization focuses primarily on youth and educational programs within the Tampa Bay region that make a measurable difference in the community.
Please use this link to visit the Rays Auction site and bid on these great pieces of Price memorabilia today.
I know it is sometimes hard to close the book on players as they move from one team to another. Price leaving the Rays did produce a bit of pain for fans of this franchise. But you have to let him go, and quite possibly win some of this great Price memorabilia that you can look at and remember him forever. I know I will be nodding on more than a few of these Price items.
I have to admit, when I first heard some of the Spring comment from then Tampa Bay Rays prospect David Price’s mouth back in 2008 I wonder if he arrogant or just knew something we all somehow could not see at that moment in time.
How wrong was my thought process on that day because Price did not only deliver on his statement way back in 2008, he has backed it up every contest since up until his eventual trade today not a half hour short of the Trade Deadline finish line.
Going to be weird thinking of Price as a Detroit Tiger. He always seemed at ease in the Rays Carolina Blue unis, never seeming to delight in donning the darker Rays home or away jerseys, just bathing as much as possible in the team’s blues and whites.
Price was even on the turf of the old Tilted Cap that is Tropicana Field today throwing on his off-day with fellow Rays hurler Jeremy Hellickson just 200 yards away from the Rays War Room that eventually cast a different end of his 2014 tale.
But so not fret Rays Republic for Price will be back sooner than you think.
Because the Rays and Tigers still have to play a mid-week, 3-game series under the Teflon dome from Tuesday, August 19 to Thursday, August 21. It could be the last chance for any of us in 2014 to see see Price on the AstroTurf, and I think we can almost guarantee Price will be out working the sidelines chatting with old and new friends.
But there could be an additional huge cherry on the top of this series if the Tigers arrange their pitching matchups in a way that Price could take the hill during that 3-game stint and get a righteous standing ovation from the fans he has thrilled ever since his promotion to the “Show” back in September 2008.
From Astro to Zorilla Price has truly been a class act showing leadership, relieved team stress through humor and has ( to myself personally) exceeded every expectation, every social engagement, and certainly been a prime example of the true essence that makes up the “Rays Way” of baseball.
I even shagged a baseball during that day with the old Yankee Stadium logo attached and Price signed it for me without pausing for a second. I still cherish that ball sandwiched between the signed MLB debut balls of Evan Longoria and James Shields
I was also lucky enough to see his hands go skyward after finishing off the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and sip some of that sweet nectar as he and the team paraded down the First Base line post game.
Was even lucky enough in 2011 as Price wearing that Carolina Blue tartan-themed post season shirt took a swig of bubbly supplied by one of my Bullpen friends.
I was also lucky enough to get to know Price on many occasions on and off the turf at charity events, Season Ticket holder events and just chilling by the Bullpen seats after a bullpen session. Taken numerous images and videos of the daily defacing of his bobble head cartoon image on the Right field wall, and seen him become a well respected and admired figure among his adopted community.
I know there is a lot of “I’s” here, but truly what Price brought to not only me, but the entire Rays Republic is knowing hard work, believing in yourself and your teammates brought historic memories to this franchise and their fan base.
Was simply a pleasure knowing this guy who might have irked me for a moment, but rose to the occasion so many times I lost count. Even though he only pitched once every 5 days, he always took this team on his back doing whatever needed to be done.
He was the Rays biggest cheerleader, their clubhouse voice of reason and a guy who grew into a leadership role for the pitching staff and accepted it with grace, confidence and a hint of calculated indifference.
If there was an All-Star designation for value to his team, Price would have been a 7 time All-Star.
I’m personally looking forward to that mid-August mid-week series with the Tigers. Because I want to find Price on the sidelines, catch his eye and shake his hand and truly thank him for not only the memories, but the role model and man he became while a Ray.
Thank you David…..Truly THANK YOU.
I want to vote for one of the American League All-Star Final Vote candidates, but I’m not.
Some might say my reasoning is selfish as baseball is viewed as a team sport played by individuals and we should vote and select the finest talents in the land to represent our AL squad.
But this season, I disagree with that train of thought.
Call me a horse’s caboose if you want, but I’m boycotting this year’s selection because I can, as my vote matters (Or that is what every politician says). The main reason I’m not voting for any of the 5 qualified candidates is that I believe there should have been another Rays horse in the running for an A L All-Star slot.
I firmly would have voted as many times as possible on my many email addresses (work and personal) for Tampa Bay Rays RP Jake McGee to be added to the A L squad.
Most will bring me the argument that the A L already have enough talent on the left side of the rubber with the likes of A’s RP Sean Doolittle, Twins Glenn Perkins and 2008 All-Star game late inning reliever and game winner Scott Kazmir (who will represent the A’s) on their roster.
Add the additional lefty names of Boston’s Jon Lester and the Jays Mark Buehrle , plus the Rays lone selection David Price, and the A L team currently has 6 left-handed selections and the Final Vote could bring another.
I had a feeling Farrell was going to call the name of a southpaw from the Rays, but I did not think it would have been Price even though he has also put up some stellar stats considering his team’s hot and cold running offense at times this season. Maybe it was wishful thinking that Farrell might call on the soft-spoken McGee instead of Price, but I had hopes.
But it seems the All-Star game anymore is about the “hero factor”, or the guy who has that role model persona loud and proud and not the guy who has honed his craft and finally has all the pieces gathered to complete his M L B puzzle.
I truly thought this All-Star game would be McGee’s “coming out” party to show why the Rays have let him go from a great minor league starter to pulling the final strings at times in the Rays current closer-by-committee framework.
But as they say, let’s let the numbers (as of 7/9/14) speak for themselves.
*** McGee sports a 3-0 record with 6 saves this season, including a nail-biting, 4-out save last night.
*** Sports a 1.58 ERA in 42 appearances this season and surrendered a 14 straight scoreless appearance streak in last nights (7/8) Rays win over the Kansas City Royals.
***He allowed a run for only the 2nd time in his last 31 appearances, plus 39 of his 43 trips to the hill in 2014 have been scoreless appearances.
*** His fastball velocity, which averages 96.5 mph is the highest among leftie AL relievers.
*** His total appearances (42) ranks 2nd in the A L, and his stingy Opponents Slugging Percentage of .214 has him ranked 3rd in the AL.
*** He has pitched 49 consecutive homerless inning, the 3rd longest streak in the entire M L B. His last HR was on Sept 4, 2013 to LA Angel C Chris Iannetta.
***20 of his total 25 hits this season have been singles, and the other 5 have been doubles.
***McGee has stranded 24 of his 27 inherited base runners (88.9 %) this season and if his current formula runs true, should eclipse the Rays record of 88.6% set by former Rays Southpaw J P Howell in 2008.
So the numbers show McGee has the talents and the numbers to be considered a 2014 All-Star.
Others have commented that Price could attend the All-Star game festivities in Minnesota and consult with Farrell possibly Sunday morning to recommend McGee as a viable option since Price would have a little more than 2-2 1/2 days rest before the contest. Some say Price passing the Rays All-Star game cap to McGee would be one of the most unselfish and deserving moves Price would ever do as a Ray. uniform
The move also could be viewed as a team-first move as not pitching in the All-Star game would put Price in line to pitch in the Rays first post All-Star game contest against the Twins on Friday, July 18th.
The players selected by M L B are deserving and merit consideration, but I got to stick with my gut on this and keep the home fires burning that McGee gets a call from Farrell before Tuesday’s All-Star game.
Sometimes you got to stick to your hometown convictions even if it doesn’t always jive with the majority.
This type of cluster-frack occasionally happens during this trade whisper time of the season when someone want to get that elusive scoop and be the primary media source as we go screaming towards the July 31st M L B non-waiver Trade Deadline.
It caught me totally off-guard in reference to an early Sunday rumor that the Cincinnati Reds were in some sort of discussions with the Tampa Bay Rays about possibly acquiring Rays hurler David Price.
A supposedly eagle-eyed individual saw something they felt dictated a informed and accurate Tweet/status update about a certain Reds slugger’s clean locker and they seemed to take a gambler’s chance that his hunch was a “solid fact”.
He was oh so wrong.
I quickly had 3 facts come into my own mind that struck down this trade rumor concerning Price and Votto. But around the M L B the rumor gained speedy legs and sprinted around the web not unlike Reds speedster Billy Hamilton around the G A B P diamond.
“Strike 1″: Votto is not entirely recovered from his early season quad situation. It might not be a daily occurrence or mild bother to him, but because of it any trade partner would want a 100% healthy player evaluation from their team medical staff before signing off on a player of Votto’s stature becoming their concern.
“Strike 2″: Votto has a ironclad no-trade clause in his contract and even if he was to change team colors, you might expect he would entertain a possible contract extension or fiscal reward from his new team to waive his no-trade, even if he was going to a contender for a possible 2014 World Series title.
“Strike 3″: This style of trade is not within the Rays usual wheelhouse of trade notions and baring the fact the team in January signed their current 1B James Loney to a 3-yr, $21 million contract, it lacks feasible plausibility unless Loney also was a trade piece heading to Cincy along with Price.
What should have been an honest visual to all is someone forgot the pure fact that Reds First Baseman Joey Votto is a minimalist and keeps a neat and tidy “work space”, especially during days when his Reds Manager Dusty Baker gives the Cincy mainstay the “day off”.
I know for a fact playing sports up into my mid-20’s, a fair amount of athletes do not have the “neat and tidy” gene within their game day clubhouse rituals.
In the end both “clean facts” were just a pair of trash trade rumors. How fast do you think they hit “delete” on their social media sites, then pulled down their Reds cap a little closer to their brow today.
Moral of this story: “Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy is your best friend when wanting to print anything, especially the truth”.
That and possibly thinking twice before hitting the “send” button.
Editorial Note: I could of posted all the Twitter posts that brought about this debacle, but decided they were already possibly being punished enough by other bloggers smelling their blood in the water.
I swear it seemed like Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price didn’t even get his TB cap down upon his head after saluting the home crowd today when the annual M L B Trade Deadline circus circus began its carny barking as to the future vista of Price.
Hopefully these ministers of the media keep their whispers and speculation banter somewhere between the tattered chalk lines of truth and facts and only the confirmed facts will eventually rise to our collective ears.
For we are again at that fateful time of the season when the critic’s Circus again pulls back its tattered curtain and all 3 rings are anxious with tales flowing in all imaginary directions set to whet our baseball whistles.
One local Tampa Bay media talking head boasted the headline “Price delivers in potential final home start for Rays”.
I understand everyone and every body wanting to be the first voice to pop out a possible true scenario and bring to light or put to bed an issue, but with 12 Rays home contests between July 7-30th, I have a feeling unless the Rays get a golden offer around the All-Star break, we should be able to witness at least 1 more “Price, Price baby” moment in Tropicana Field before the Trade clock hits zero..
With the first high octane voice bellowing the half-truths, Price has now officially embarked on a unwanted and unflattering 65 possible team destinations in 65 days trip with the potential for no return flight to TPA or PIE this season.
I know many in the media will lead their stories with Price’s stupendous double-digit K feats and not be direct links to the circus.
They will adamantly state that Price is again got a firm grip on his game, but I am not naive enough to no worry that some trade darkness might creep into these same reports thanks to that one negative ” last home start” concerning Price.
I was hoping not to get caught up in the fiasco and stand on the sideline a bit until July 30th, but this unexpected Rays riptide has taken a hold of me and I’m now along for the whole nasty ride….sink or swim style.
Maybe I’m in the minority that believe whole heatedly that the Rays still have an iota of a post-season chance and go decide ultimately to go “All In” with Price knowing he can muster some vital late season dividends.
It is the fiscal reality of being a Rays player….If you have success, someone will pay a premium to possess your skills for their own zip code and fan base. I know deep down into my cavernous baseball soul this dark day will happen and Price will someday pull on another team’s jersey, but hopefully after November 1, 2014.
I heard Los Angeles, Toronto, Seattle and even Texas, and this was just in the stands. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had him as the new Manager of Manchester United knowing Price’s Soccer prowess.
One ounce of misquoted speculation, rancid rumor or well-placed slight of tongue can bring your own baseball swirling faster than the seams on a Price fastball.
But even if that is what I truly want as a fan of Price and the Rays, the total opposite can happen with one single phone call or text and the healing process within this community will have to begin for all parties involved.
I plan thinking it is all lies unless Rays VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman, Rays Manager Joe Maddon or Price tell me otherwise. Sorry I plan on being that obnoxious little kid in church who pops his fingers in his ears and warbles “nana boo, boo” noises ‘til the cow-nose rays or Price again comes home.
Oh gosh, I gotta end this now I can hear the Calliope comin’ around the Clubhouse bend…..
It is the World’s game. Only in our country does the sport heard ‘round the World take second, third or maybe not even a fifth fiddle. The globe embraces the sport of football, or as we Americans have dubbed it, Soccer.
With our own United States men soccer team showing their grit and glory by winning their first matchup against Ghana in this year’s World Cup last night, I thought it might be fun to pencil in my own Rays World Cup squad based on the current members of the Rays 25-Man roster.
Instantly most of you would wonder why a Baseball blogger would want to write and create a Soccer squad. From the age of 10 to 21 I played either as a Sweeper or on the left-side of the turf on local Men’s leagues (FSSL), on the All-South select U-17 travel teams and spent my 16th summer in Malmo, Sweden working out with that vistas reserves team.
Heck if you look over at the blog photo on right you will see a photo of me playing indoor soccer, so I have the knowledge and know what it takes to play the game.
Of course the Club Rays team’s Managers slot is already taken as you cannot discount the philosophical and game day rhetoric of Joe Maddon. Heck in a lot of ways he might even be a better communicator and guru to young minds than the current USA Manager Jurgen Kilinsman.
I decided this Rays Club needs to play a 4-3-3 alignment which is 4 defenders, 3 midfielders and 3 forwards. We all know the Rays claim to fame in the last few years have been defense, so a line with a left, center, right fullbacks and a sweeper manning the gaps seems as a perfect lineup to help keep games close and with minimal scoring (hopefully).
So let’s start at the last line of defense, the goalkeeper position first. I am going to pick Ryan Hanigan as he has shown he has the ability to block balls in the dirt, move around with grace under pressure and will come out of goal and sacrifice his body for the team. Most people would think I might pick Jose Molina as a back-up, but I chose Alex Cobb as much for his leadership as for his attention to the little things and would be a great communicator back there.
That being said, my defense will also have a few wily Rays vets manning key spots, and even a few surprises to some people. My left fullback has to be someone committed to defense as well as have good sprinting speed to defend an opposing winger who is usually the fastest guy on the team with the ball.
For some reason Jake McGee fits that spot for me. He is a big body guy who should be able to keep his shoulder square to the ball and ride a winger off the ball if he wants to proceed towards the touchlines or the goal box. On the right side I’m going with a gut feeling that Yunel Escobar will be a mirror image of McGee and keep the crosses from getting to the goal mouth and has the closing speed to thwart long passes into the box.
Center fullback is a tough one. I want to get a big body in there, but more in height than in weight. For that reason I chose Grant Balfour who at 6’2” has a bit of a nasty streak, highly competitive and if he chats to the ball, that might scare a few opposing forwards from going up the middle of the pitch. As long as he keeps his back to the goal, I think the snarling Aussie should shut down any middle of the field dribbling and long range shots.
As for the sweeper position I wanted to give that slot to someone who can be both an offensive and defensive weapon. Someone who can be that 4th utility defender as well as crash up into the offensive zone for corner kicks, help take free kicks and set a few boomers toward the goal. Perfect weapon for this Rays Club squad would be Sean Rodriguez.
Now onto midfield, or the engine room of this team. We already know Evan Longoria will wear the Captain’s band and has the grit and stamina to man the center midfield slot and his ability to give out orders and command respect will have opposing defenders marking him tight, so I want my outside midfielders to have a burst of speed and great ball skills.
My selection for left mid will be James Loney. I picked him as much for consistency as for his bursts of power which on free kicks or fouls way outside the box his kicks could free Longoria and the forwards to jockey for inside position on the opposing defense. My right midfielder would have to be Ben Zobrist. I do not know if Zorilla is ambidextrous on the soccer field, but if he was he would be a great fit to the usual attacking side of the field and could center passes or do flanking moves or U-runs down the line for crosses into box.
That leaves the forwards line. Here I’m going for the tall man in the box and shifty runners down the outsides or who can change directions and do crafty diagonals into the box for short chips, passes or provide ball in the air for headers.
So with me wanting to capitalize on speed, it is no secret the left wing has to be Kevin Kiermaier who seems to have a sixth sense to getting into position for the right play and who is one of those players who brings a new level of excitement to the team.
Right wing has to be another speedster as I pencil in Desmond Jennings for this slot and will call upon his quick first burst for great offensive moves and set plays. Add to the fact Jennings did play in that other brand of football, I think he will be a great target in the air for headers and taking a defender out of his position for scoring opportunities at the top of the goal box.
That only leaves the center spot. I had to go with someone here who has leadership, respect and plays on a different level at times. The obvious and clear choice for this spot was David Price. One of the glaring reasons is his 6’6” frame can rise a good 3-4 inches above most defenders for headers and I think he has the foot skills and dexterity to pull off picture perfect passes and provide 110% throughout the contest.
Of course this Rays team will have great and skilled substitutes on the bench like Chris Archer, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Joel Peralta, and I might add Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi to the mix as we all need a true “enforcer” on our soccer team.
I know there will be debate about my choices, but I think this squad could do some real damage on the pitch, provide some spectacular scoring chances and picture perfect goals as well as keep the score low and within reach of the Rays offensive unit. Well it’s time for me to set the ball on the middle dot and get this Rays Club team going. Besides, you can always vent your thought at Rays Soccer Night Friday, June 20th.
What? I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and watch this team, I would make the perfect Referee plus I want to see this match at ground zero, not in the stands. And besides, St. Petersburg,Florida like the Rays is home to the 2-time North American Soccer League Champions, the Tampa Bay Rowdies who play on the Rays old Spring home. Florida Progress/Al Lang Field.
Now if I can just get the linesmen to keep Jonny Gomes from running onto the turf, we would be golden.
I have never let someone else take the helm of my blog before, even on a one-time basis, but there is but one Haley Smilow. So maybe it is time for me to do some “paying it forward” and provide a forum for a budding M L B beat reporter/ interview guru. I know Haley doesn’t need a lot of help as her accolades and accomplishments already at a young age simply blow my mind.
I always try and encourage writers both young and mature to find their own groove and take their time writing what they enjoy, or what might inform or entertain people. To paraphrase a old saying, “If you enjoy what you do, it will never be work”. I have a feeling Haley will never have to work a day in her life, only enjoy what she does with passion and joy.
So please welcome my first ever guest blogger the aspiring journalist Miss Haley as she gives us an inspiring and in-depth interview she did with Tampa Bay Rays southpaw extraordinaire David Price in one of the that holiest place within Tropicana Field, the Rays dugout:
Do you have a favorite ballpark other than Tropicana and why? And is there a ballpark where you feel you always play well in?
DP: I like Target Field. We usually stay close to the stadium, so we can walk there. They have great food and I like the self-serve ice cream machine. I feel like I play well at Fenway. It is a good park for lefty pitching especially when facing a heavily stacked right handed team.
Do you have any nicknames that teammates call you?
DP: The Latin guys call me “Precio” Spanish for Price, and Homeright.
Do you have any superstitions or rituals?
DP: I would say more like routines. I always wear the same green Tampa Bay shirt and cap to the stadium. When we are on the road, I take guys out to eat and pay for lunch and cabs. I feel like its good karma and that will come back to me.
Better Inning? 3 Pitches – 3 Outs or 9 Pitches – 3 Strike Outs?
DP: Good question!! I used to be really focused on getting the strike outs, but now I think 3 pitches/3 outs. First pitch outs are the way to keep the pitch count down and to go deep in games.
Is there a batter you really don’t like to face?
DP: Yes, Danny Valencia. Lifetime he is 9 for 12 against me. No matter what team he’s been on, he always hits me hard. The last time we played the Orioles he went 2 for 3 with an RBI double, a single and a walk against me.
How did you prepare yourself for games and facing hitters?
DP: I prepare by trying to execute my pitches. I like to stick to my style of pitching and my strengths instead of trying to pitch to batter’s weaknesses.
First Round draft pick in 2007, starting pitcher for the 2010 All – Star game, winning the 2012 Cy Young and of course the cover of MLB 2K 13 what are some of your other accomplishments you are proud of?
DP: I would have to say winning left handed pitcher of the year award in 2010 and Player’s Choice in 2012. Player’s Choice in my opinion is more important than Cy Young because it is voted on by your peers. It means a lot that my teammates and opponents think that highly of me and my pitching.
Where does your love of baseball come from?
DP: My parents. We always watched baseball together as a family. I would come home from school, play baseball, eat dinner and then watch a game on TV. It has been a part of my life always.
If you could go back in time who would you want to play baseball with?
DP: Would have to say Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente. I would also love to play with Dwight Gooden he was an incredible pitcher. I think it would be fun to compete against them.
If I could change one thing about baseball it would be?
DP: After a batter has two strikes, a foul should be strike three. It would keep the game moving faster.
If you weren’t playing baseball what could you see yourself doing?
DP: I would be a teacher and coach. I love kids.
Favorite baseball movie?
DP: “Sandlot”. I have seen it so many times that if I just hear one line, I know its Sandlot.
5 songs on your I pod that are on repeat?
DP: Oh man, I just got asked that question the other day and it took me like 20 minutes to come up with three!! I would have to say Young Jeezy “Hustler’s Ambition” and “Go Hard”, Lindsey Stirling and Coldplay.
What is your favorite thing to cook?
DP: Spaghetti, it’s hard to mess up. I don’t make my own sauce I just get the Prego.
Have you ever been Pranked?
DP: Yes, Sean Rodriguez pranked James Shields and me on M L B Fan Cave. Sean Rodriguez planned it and we had to do a couple “fake” promos. For one segment I was supposed to scream in a high pitched voice and jump in Sean’s arms like a girl because of a shark. They got me to do it like five times before they told me. That was a good one.
One-thing fans don’t know about you?
DP: I do not run my dog Astro’s twitter account.
What do you do for fun other then baseball?
DP: Normal everyday things. I play with my dog, hang out with my girlfriend Tiffany, and video games. I like to do many things that kids like to do. I don’t like to take extreme chances like skydiving or bungee jumping, just like to be as normal as possible.
What wouldn’t you leave your home without? DP: My cell phone. It’s how I keep in touch with friends and family. I also run my twitter account through it.
Do you have any other favorite sports besides Baseball?
DP: I love basketball and golf. I would like to play professional golf because you get to go to beautiful locals and the weather is always nice. Not like pitching in 45 degrees in the rain.
What are some of your biggest challenges and how did you over come them?
DP: Just staying focused and staying positive when you are struggling in a game. I try to execute my pitches and keep my mentality positive.
What advice would you give to young players?
DP: Have fun it’s a game.
Renegade: That was an awesome and insightful interview Haley! I know we all learned a bit more about the Rays premier southpaw.
I want to thank Junior Baseball Magazine and Haley Smilow for this fantastic contribution. If you wish you read more of Haley’s posts please click on this link and it will redirect you to her MLBlogs.com . If you want to be one of the army of Twitter followers, feel free to click here and it will take you to her Twitter feed.
I truly look forward to Haley’s future M L B adventures and her budding M L B beat reporter or columnist gig in the future. Thank you again Haley!
Recently when asked why he chose to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays instead of the Cleveland Indians, P Mark Lowe said it was the Rays “laid back environment” that made him take their minor league offer this winter. It is a environment that has been cultivated, nursed and pretty well resembles a Fraternity at time than a professional sports team, but in that is also the charm that has materialized into the Rays being the B.M.O.C.’s or Big Men on Campus right now among the Major League Baseball ranks.
I know that feeling well having been in 2 Fraternities (Delta Theta Chi and Sigma Chi) in my college hazy days. I mean think about it logically here for a second and you too can see the similarities between the two types of organizations and it will come to you that no matter how you slice it, the Rays are a brotherhood that goes beyond the boundaries of the chalk lines, clay and grass.
A lot of these guys bond together as teammates and their friendships go outside the comforts of the game to include golf tournaments, dinners, fishing or hunting expeditions and activities involving Xbox or PS 3 consoles. From the moment these guys first roll into the Rays Spring Training clubhouse to the moment they pack and get ready for time away from the game in the Fall, unity, respect and creating a firm bond on and off the field is paramount.
Another indication that the Rays could be a great fraternal order is they have an insanely creative Advisor/Manager in Joe Maddon (former Zeta Psi frat boy) . Who else could of come up with penguins named Cliff, a python that is longer than the Rays Bullpen bench, or could get every single person, including his own game day staff and the PR Dept. to coordinate and participate in some wildly creative and highly photographed road trip ensembles.
From the classic All-White event to their awesome Nerd renditions to dressing in PJ’s, this team laughs at itself and is proud of the sum of their parts from starters, reserves to staffers. All are embraced and celebrated during these road trip ideas, and we have the photos to prove it. I mean seriously, anyone who has been to college has walked by those hallowed buildings and wondered what really goes on inside, well with the Rays all the hype and magic are open for the eyes to see or look away.
Another similarity is the Rays annual Rookie initiation (I will not call it hazing). There have been some pretty wild costumes ideas over the past from other teams within the M L B Clubhouse halls, but we here in Tampa Bay always search and want to see that year’s edition of rookies and new players parade out to the bus in their selected gear that sometimes you wish you could be unseen, but for some odd reason you can’t seem to look away.
But one of the greatest part of being within the fraternal system is service, and the Rays do that in spades. Every player within the Rays M L B Clubhouse has their special interests, pinpointed cause or a foundation to support the Tampa Bay community.
Some thought that when B J Upton left for ATL only fellow Rays David Price would be left to carry on with the S. St. Petersburg Dugout Club group that instills the great characteristics of staying healthy, positive, and being involved in life while also striving to be role models would crumble. But it didn’t Price got other players like Matt Moore and Desmond Jennings to come on board and keep the spirit of the project alive and striving.
Evan Longoria will donate more than $1 million a season over the life of his contract to the Rays Baseball Foundation, and almost every player on the Rays has written into their contracts or offered voluntarily great contributions that will benefit the Rays charitable arm of the Rays that give out grants and sponsorship’s to those Tampa Bay organizations that need a “help up”, not a hand out. “Paying it forward”, showing civility and acts of service adorn every member of the squad and even to their spouses (Rays Wives organization).
You can ask almost any player who has worn the Rays uniform since Maddon took the torch and they have great and glowing comments on the Rays clubhouse character and the way they play the game of baseball and life.
Some of that light can be attributed to Maddon, but other beams of that sunburst has to be shone on the Rays Front Office and their staff for bringing in great men who can contribute to the Rays ideals as well as expand on their foundations and establish new traditions, visual and physical tests to unite and inspire. Remember the gladiator masks, or even Chewy or the Gene Simmons masks of 2013.
Fraternities build a person up inside and out and those values might fade a bit, but they are with you for life after you experience them. I still see 2 of my former Frat brothers at Rays games. Larry is with security, and Clevin is with the St. Petersburg Police Dept. presence at Rays games. We are always glad to see each other and even today talk of some of the past monumental events that formed our Frat lives.
Say what you want about Fraternities. Some people have had bad events, maybe even wanting to forget that portion of their lives, but I relished it. I mean I think all of us can imagine Longoria adorned in a Grand Puba water buffalo helmet after dark on the Charlotte Sports Park boardwalk asking the assembled brood to “Recite after me….I, state your name, do hereby pledge allegiance to the Rays….”
Yep. If I had to give this band of baseball brothers a fraternity name it would have to be Gamma Alpha Upsilon Zeta, or RAYZ (no “S” in Greek Alphabet).
I swear I hear that old Isley Brothers song “Shout” in the swirling wind here in Port Charlotte.