Results tagged ‘ Delmon Young ’

4 Former Rays in the Fight for a A L C S Ring

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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.

By966ImCYAAkoPbWith 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.

images (5)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.

download (1)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.

images (1)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. 

downloadYoung however did not only get a chance to shine in Game 2 himself, but his pinch-hit 3-RBI double into deep left field for Ryan Flaherty  plated the games winning run in the Orioles 7-6 victory.

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.

By9r9YVCcAAYjttNo 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

 

 

 

Rays Left to Fester in a Potential Weak 2013 DH Crop

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Maybe the Tampa Bay Rays waited a tad bit too long this time in looking for their 2013 Designated Hitter. Looking on various websites at potential “fits”, I found 7 names that seem to be listed on each of these sites as basically only “DH” candidates, and 3 of those names are former Rays players. I’m not even talking here about guys who might be right-handed and could pose a secondary First Base option and switch off as a DH or late inning power producer, for this post I’m hitting just the viable Free Agent DH candidates.

Delmon-YoungAs I mentioned before, 3 former Rays made the list on 3 different Free Agent DH websites lists. One of the listed Delmon Young can be automatically eliminated from this discussion because of his past temperament issues. Adding some more spice onto this is the fact I do not think Rays Manager Joe Maddon has Young on his annual Christmas Card list. Sure he still has youth and a crafty bat, but his attitude and demeanor probably will prevent any serious Rays discussion unless someone want to pull a prank on Maddon or Friedman.

BASEBALL/Then you get a second name that might merit a return, but at what cost. Johnny Damon did a lot in the Rays Clubhouse building upon the team’s strong leadership foundation, brought his hustle and bustle nightly, even if it was at a reduced speed due to his age. I loved his want to produce “big plays” and scoring opportunities with every swat of the bat, but he has digressed into a slap hitter, mostly producing RBI opportunities for others than being that DH who can drive the runs in and bring home the victory by himself. For that and possibly $5 or 6 million other reasons, Damon would be a role player at best for the Rays in 2013.

Luke+Scott+Minnesota+Twins+v+Tampa+Bay+Rays+1OS9HZRTwWllThe one guy who I think might merit a second chance is the “Wolverine”. Sure Luke Scott had that dreadful hit-less streak that might stand for a decade, but the guy when he is focused, healthy and combined with the energy of this team seems to not only produce, but finds ways to motivate and get this team in the right mood to win games. But this Rays squad doesn’t need another cheerleader or bench attitude booster, it needs a guy who is healthy, hits the plate knowing his hit can score runs, and provide protection for the Rays middle of the lineup hitters by provoking a little stress when his name is announced. Scott might deserve a second try, but he would have to come in at the right cost and be willing to produce from day 1.

thCACOMU9OThere are other names out there that at least pique my interest like Jim Thome or maybe even Travis (Pronk) Hafner, but my honest gut tells me these guys have another great year left in them, but my head is telling me it might not be 2013. That leaves 2 names, Nick Johnson and one time D-Ray (for a NY minute) Bobby Abreu. Just like Thome above, Johnson has had enough injury time in his career to warrant any deal to be heavily laced with performance and appearance incentives rather than a solid seasonal paycheck. Abreu in my opinion last played an honest season of baseball as an Angel and that was some time ago.

So out of the stable of guys who might only be “DH” options for the Rays, only their 2012 edition Scott might make sense for the team again in 2013. That doesn’t mean Thome or Hafner are lesser players, but their potential for injury might be greater than their bang for the buck. Still, I think of the 7 names prevalently listed on a few of these websites lists for DH possibilities, Scott, Thome and Hafner might be the cream of the crop, but it is not a bumper crop and might be one more devastated with question marks than answers.

Whatever happens, the player selected has to bring power, stability and a core value of producing runs and getting those additional wins that might be needed in a more competitive American League East race in 2013. Each and every one of these DH selections besides Young (27 yrs old) are above 34 years of age, and each have injury concerns as well as if their power will be there for another seasons of swinging the bat.

As Spring Report Date draws nearer, it is looking more and more like the Rays might find their 2013 DH on another teams roster. I do not envy Rays Executive VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman in finding some luster in this crop, or possibly even picking one of my three as potential fixtures for the Rays roster.

Post Script: Sorry it has been a short while since a post but I underwent an off-season surgery myself recently and have only felt like popping the keyboard today. All is well and I will have glove in hand again, possibly by the Rays Pitchers and Catcher Report date.

Tampa Bay’s Favorite Scapegoat is Hot-lanta Bound

People in Tampa Bay are going to have to anoint a new scapegoat in the Trop. for 2013 because their old target, BJ Upton train is heading to Hotlanta. We already knew the odds of Upton returning to the Tampa Bay Rays were slimmer than his waist size, but now armed with a 5-year $75 million dollar lunch pail, Upton will be meandering along with his family up I-75 a tad to the N L east contender.

All that stands in the way of Upton securing his treasure is passing a Brave’s physical exam, but we all know that is a formality as Upton was in the best shape of his career at the end of 2012, and possibly knowing his payday was on the horizon, might have tweaked himself a bit to excite just such a ample and multi-year deal.

It is kind of sad that some will be left with the image of Upton possibly not being a team player, someone who might actually understand the word “lolly gagging”, and lastly that his concentration on game day has been mistaken for indifference. Ask anyone within the confines of the Rays clubhouse and they will tell you how much this guy has matured since the 2007 days when veteran Cliff Floyd mentored the oldest of the MLB Upton clan.

Even before he stepped foot again in the Trop. after his first venture into the majors at 17, people held Upton’s past and associations with others against him, even as far back as his DUI in North Carolina and as a member of the Terrible trio from Durham along with ex-Rays malcontents Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes. I seriously think that he had a black mark against him that so many would not/could not shake off him that he was doomed to be either loved or hated during his Rays tenure.

I do not want this to seem like a conspiracy theory, but it was almost like Upton didn’t have a chance with some fans in St. Pete even though he created “Upton’s Bunch” to help local south side St. Peterburg kids, or that he held his charity events to help organizations. Even after his positive on-field and off-field affirmations, Upton still heard the murmurs and cackles from the fan base about his long stride looking like he was moving at half speed.

Some even had the audacity to mock his Center field play as mediocre when considering Upton was projected as a speedy, well-tooled infielder and offered to test the CF waters as a challenge to his talents, in my opinion Upton nailed the transition, possibly transforming into one of the best Center fielder to ever grace a Rays uniform.

Upton’s game day demeanor also struck a chord with a segment of the Trop. crowd as he would become a bit quieter and sometimes over transfixed on game day that Upton made unthinkable mental errors both in the field and on the base paths with regularity erasing possible scoring opportunities because of him taking his eye off a slick pitcher or a catcher with a rocket arm. Suddenly he was badgered as being aloof on the field when in reality he was too concentrated on the small things and some major mistakes reared their ugly heads.

Upton even gave more fuel to the crowd’s smoldering embers when he would give long glares and a bit of sass to the home Plate Umpires, possibly branding himself with the guys in blue as someone you can get rattled with a borderline call or be caught wide-eyed with his bat on his shoulder with a hard breaking slider. Upton didn’t help himself with his batting swing mechanics and his prolific high strikeout totals every season.

Upton played in 966 Rays contests and leaves St. Petersburg with 8 seasons as a Rays that included 118 HR, 447 RBI, 232 stolen bases, a lifetime .255 average. But the stats so many will remember are his 69 times caught stealing, his 1,020 K’s and a total of 58 errors. Missing from even those facts was the shoulder pains, nagging hamstring and ankle injuries he played through for the sake of his squad. People have loved to downplay his outfield skill level, but out of his 71 career fielding errors, only 24 came when he was stationed in the outfield. Over the past 2 MLB seasons Upton has had back-to-back 3 error seasons proving his skill set has not only improved, but he is a capable Center fielder.

One of the things that personally rattled me coming from the fan base was the fact they all thought Upton was not “in-tune” or a leader in the Rays clubhouse. I guess they all have somehow forgotten Carl Crawford’s tussle with Pat Burrell in the Rays locker room when Burrell questioned Upton’s team commitment. For another player to want to physically as well as verbally stand up for you even in the clubhouse setting shows he had his team’s respect and confidence.

Personally I have known Upton since his first venture into the MLB a long time ago. He was a bit shorter, weighted maybe 160 pounds then soaking wet. Through his 8 seasons with the Rays I have seen him grow taller, confident and show the traits needed to not only be a leader, but also someone who can lead by example. I will miss Upton. Always made sure when I saw him to ask how his Dad and Mom were and he would cock a smile and a head nod.

It has been fun watching Upton mature on the field and off the field as a dad himself. I can sometimes shrug off a player leaving by using and analogy “it is all part of the game”, but with Upton it is different. I think he was wise to refuse the Rays offer of $13.3 million to stay another year. Even though some will say his new vista is just an 8-hour drive up I-75 from his old Trop. home, Upton needed a change of scenery, to re-energize his career and himself. Upton needed to go away to finally be missed…… by all of us. 

Blalock is the Bandage, not the Rays Answer

 J Meric / Getty Images
 
Anyone who has known me for any amount of time know that I have very well cemented opinions about this whole enchilada concerning Pat “The DFA” Burrell and Rays new poster problem child Hank Blalock. I do agree with the Rays Front Office that it was time to make some sort of residual personnel change and find a feasible offensive option at Durham for the Rays woes at the Designated Hitter spot.

But what concerns me is not the haste of the fond farewell to the Burrell Era, but the Rays reasoning for accepting Blalocks “convoluted” threats and letting him get what he wanted in the long run instead of flushing him out of the Rays organization. This recent action goes a bit against the grain of the Rays usual mentality to purge those negative influences instead of enhance them through promotion in their farm system.


There was already a viable Ray solution currently on the Rays 25-man roster named Willy Aybar who was more than capable of taking over and having instant success at the DH position. Why did the Rays Front Office bring in their resident angry child Blalock who might end up doing more harm than good in the character of this cohesive Rays clubhouse. Why wasn’t Aybar, who has seen his name erased from duty at First Base lately not given a chance to “own” the D H spot for himself before letting Blalock and his agent Scott Boras  deafening verbal barrages force the Rays hands on give in to their temper tantrum problem child.

In essence, the Rays did not have to play any part in Blalocks  tug and pull game, but there might be some sort of dark reasoning to all this madness that will expose itself in time. Sure there have been acknowledgments from the Rays camp that those verbal barrages did not play into the recent decision that could have ultimately exploded on them on May 15th if the Rays did not make a corresponding move to entice Blalocks happiness. My twisted point here is that this is second moment of Blalock misery that has descended upon the Rays Front Office ears in less than 60 days that Blalock has thrown his blatant opinions and close-ended options to the media instead of hashing them out in private with the Rays Front Office like a true professional.

I hate to say it like this, but I have more respect for the two snitches in the Mariner’s locker room right now than a player who whines through the media to hasten his departure from the minor leagues. But sometimes things are done in a business like baseball to hastly dampen outward disruptions while a viable alternative solution or destination can be fully figured out from stem to stern.

If you consider baseball a normal business, then why did the Rays let an “employee” manipulate their cherished positive value system and give him a promotion to the Major Leagues instead of sending Blalock on the same sharp rail that disgruntled former Rays employees Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes took on their treks out of town and to their MLB squads. And we all know how well that move went for the Rays organization. Well, at least the Young trade netted us key Rays contributors Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. 

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But this time for some odd reason, the Rays decided to let the playground bully get his way and stroll into the Rays locker room with his chest extended far and wide. I can tell you I will be one of those Rays fans sitting on their hands until good old # 9 gives me a legitimate and constant reason to raise them and pop them together. And the main reason for my defiance to Blalock comes from his numerous rants and raves that I felt was not needed if he truly did have the stats and the ability to help instead of hinder this squad. But there were other options at Durham who might have also fit the bill for the Rays. Cue the Dan Johnson promotional video.


Seriously, let’s look at both Aybar and Johnson for a moment before I make a final statements on Mr. Blalock. Coming into Sunday’s game, Aybar has been a great offensive addition to the Rays with the constant flux concerning Burrell before his final Designated For Assignment verdict on Saturday. Considering Aybar went a combined 5 for 21 with a HR and 6 RBI on the Rays recent 9-game road trip, Aybar has shown a knack for getting the right hit at the right moment to spark the Rays offense. And his exclamation point just Saturday afternoon of hitting a walk-off Home Run in the bottom of the ninth inning off former Rays reliever Jesus Colume shows he has the gumption and the ability to fill the D H position in-house without Blalock in the fold.

So let’s turn our attention to my subtle reasoning for a Dan Johnson promotion, who like Blalock can play most of the Rays infield positions. Johnson has also been on a bit of a tear in the minor leagues with Durham to start the season. And if you stack them side-by-side, they might make the Rays decision a bit more…well “convoluted” to me. Johnson has appeared in 31 games and has hit .325 while Blalock was maintaining a .349 batting average. Close enough to maybe throw a tie into that mixture of facts. 

If you look at their collective OPS so far in 2010 at Durham, Johnson has a 1.047 OPS as opposed to Blalocks .910 mark. During their Bulls tenure, Blalock has played mostly Third Base while Johnson has manned the First Base bag for the Bulls. But I really think that Johnson’s 11 HR compared to Blalocks 4 HR gives Johnson a distinctive edge as an offensive weapon for the Rays. But maybe the Rays saw Johnson’s 25 strikeouts compared to Blalocks 19 and considered that stat another tie or wash. But then two stats that should of made Johnson a “shoe-in for promotion might be his .651 Slugging Percentage and 15 walks. It shows shows Johnson is more selective at the plate compared to Blalocks 10 walks and .505 Slugging Percentage.

One of the explanations for Blalocks promotion was his overall versatility to play both corner positions, plus add a Designated Hitting option from the left-side of the plate. But Johnson also has that same level of distinction. I hope the Rays did some serious soul searching before they arrived at this final decision to bring Blalock to this Rays clubhouse. Considering the combined abundance of extensive Scouting and player development intelligence within the Top floor offices at Tropicana Field, you got to think there is a secret black ops plan or some sort of alternative universe thought process in rewarding Blalock for his convoluted comments and threats.

And I expect to get hammered by some people who will try and tell me to give Blalock a chance because he was so great for this team this Spring. That was true for the two weeks Blalock played until the last week of Spring Training when Blalock seemed to veer from his “Rays Way” of thinking. That moment provided our first look into the Darkness of the Blalock world. After the Rays announced that Blalock did not have a coveted slot on the Rays final 25-man roster, his first wave of frustration or disbelief hit his brain stem hard and without thinking of possible recourse, he rebounded with an instant call for the Rays to find a team that would “respect his services” or send him packing.

Some will say that the Rays worked with him and gave him assurances and possible scenarios for promotion at certain moments in the Rays season, but Blalock began to get antsy and wanted fruition to the primal Rays song and dance. And there might be a Rays crafty ulterior motive here to let Blalock showcase his talents until possibly the Trade Deadline in the end of July when the Rays could discuss his final visa papers to leave the Rays-land for another location in return for some added minor league talent.

Maybe even back in March the Rays had a plan to maybe hold onto Blalock when he would become a “premium” player and use the market to their advantage to get some needed resources heading in their quest for a 2010 Playoff berth. And if that is the intention of the Rays in the long run, then Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman would have been wise to swallow his tongue and take the verbal abuses when it might net some key member(s) to a future Rays squad.

But in the end, this should have been Aybar time to shine for the Rays. Even if he is only hitting .239 in his limited appearances, he was riding a wave of increasing offensive firepower and could reward the Rays greatly in their ultimate faith in him. But then again, Aybar was batting .308 in his past 13 games prior to Saturday afternoon’s contest after starting the season 1 for 12. If that is not the sign of a positive turnaround, then I am as dumb as a box of rocks So with Blalock here, it is a no-brainer that Aybar might get the multitude of appearances against left-handed hitters while Blalock might get his moments against a right-hander.

 Mike Carlson / AP

It seems to me that the Rays made the choice of bringing up Blalock with a more than ultimate chance to showcase Blalock to other team’s who might be in the market for either power hitting options in their corner infield spots or possibly DH. It might end up being the Rays real ruse to use Blalocks talents to win some key ballgames and propel them within sight of their goal, then jettison him before the fire in his belly begins to burn again…..possibly in late July.

So I will sit silent until Blalock makes me a believer that the verbal assault were just his ploy to show he has the talent and ability to be here. But until then, my hands are folded for him, but cheering wildly and loudly for Aybar to take the position firmly in his hands and keep Blalock on the Rays bench. Oh, and hopefully during his tour in the minor leagues, Blalock finally learned how to hit a breaking ball on the outside corner. If not, it is going to be a long Summer for Blalock.

 

Dear B J ,


Steve Nesius / AP

Hey there B J,

Got to tell you dude, lately you have doing some everlasting damage to your professional credibility here with your present boss, the Rays. Now we have known each other since  you first got called up in September 2001, when you were 17 and a few of us hit a local nightspot after a Yankees/Rays game and danced, chatted and got to know each other. I hope I can write to you as someone who has seen you grow as a ballplayer and offer some advice on your current problems. So take what I am about to say as a buddy just speaking to another buddy from heading towards a dangerous place.

No, it is not like you are attempting to go out on a building ledge and we need to talk you down, but you are in a very critical stage in your professional life where anything said from you right now is taken as gospel.  Now to even speak out of turn until your Batting Average and your fan approval  begins to again go north would be a very critical detour in your career. Seriously dude, when all that garbage came down a few years ago  from the local Durham fishwrap about the “Three Amigos” (Delmon Young, Elijah Dukes and moi) while with the Bulls, I was the guy fighting with Rays fans to see the words did not come from the “true” BJ, but from an “off the record”  BBQ conversation.

You rebuilt those bridges within the organization and showed you were a team player and you rebuilt your image to be sturdy and capable of taking on almost anything. But I have to level with you guy, right now the glaring games with the Umpires and the jawing after called third strikes along with the half efforts at flailing at balls outside the zone are making you look like a shadow of your former self.

E-man, I got to tell you this honestly, for a while there it looked like you were finally crawling out of that deep hole and were again showing that you loved hitting in the lead-off spot, but something suddenly died within your swing. Something zapped that energy and that strong will to strike that small white ball around like a toy.

Why is it that you got so upset about going down in the order? Dude, Joe Maddon has stood by and deflected the daily pot shots at you for so long that maybe he finally decided you needed to show some spunk and intestinal fortitude, and the 7-spot was a chance to sort it all out and still play every day.

Instead we got an entitlement attitude and a sense of lost focus at the plate. Dude, I know you still got it in you. Going down in the order sucks, but you are still living the dream and patroling the center fields of the MLB. And this latest bruhaha about you being moody about going to number 9 spot, Well stop it. I have to go with Maddon on this one dude. You forgot who B J Upton was there for a bit. You forgot the guy who the the opposition  nervous and sweaty while on base.
 

But If you truly want to know something……. Jason Bartlett did not like or want that lower spot in the either, but he smacked that ball and produced the hits and  drove in those guys in scoring position when you forgot how to play the game for a bit. Through him focusing  all his negative emotions onto his hitting, he got the desired spot he wanted. But he also thought of the nine hole as a “second lead-off” guy. And maybe that is where your mental state should sir right now. You get on base, you got guys coming up right behind you who have your back……everytime.


Chris O’Meara / AP

Understanding that was a move made for the team, not to punish you. It gives you an honest chance to readjust and refocus yourself to become the fiesty outfielder the fans have gotten to know and love. The actions that need to be taken were simple. You just need to now just chill a bit and accept things at the plate. Let Maddon go ot there and argue the balls and strikes.

Right now the more you whine to the guys in blue, the wider the strikezone might get before the end of this season. Smile, walk away and surpise everyone. Right now you are hiding within the shadow of a emerging star. You have not snuffed out the limelight, but it is growing dimmer. By showing maturity at plate, and towards the umpire crews, you will gain back that simple strikezone. Right now, I do not believe the umpires consider you a model citzen of the kingdom of MLB.

Secondly, get over all the chatter and ramblings about C C . I understand he is your sidekick, or vice versa. You guys will always be friends no matter if he plays here for in China. Look at the way CC is handling it, like a professional. He knows baseball is a business and he is hitting and playing like a fiend right now. He knows that the team could re-load the farm system with a trade for him. He is not happy about it, but both of you have seen enough guys come and go from the Ray to know it is not in your hands.

Come on guy, you are better than this B S. you truly know you got the stuff, or you would not be getting the chatter about your  “Web Gem” plays in Centerfield. You are within a whisper of getting your name mentioned with some of the best right now, and you might ruin it by sulking at the plate. Dude, they do not consider guys for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award who whine and sink at the plate. They do not give that beautiful Rawling trophy to guys who hits under .250 and does not look like they are leaders. That award is more than a defensive award, it recognizes the best of the best.

So the decision is yours dude. You know what this team needs right now is another bat to spring out and take control. Pat “the Bat” is beginning to find a small groove. The team has made a trade to get more production, and you now have got to carry your outfield weight. I am not asking you to hit .600 the next two months, but I am asking you go get on base, make pitchers nervous and be the B J we all came to watch play the game.

I got your back no matter what. I know how far you have sunk, and I know it is a tough road. But you got the goods to beat it and go forward from here. So why not take tonight’s game as a “coming out. part 2″ party and prove to some of the grumbling factions around the Rays Republic that you might be down, but you are not out.


Gail Burton / AP

Dude, just like the team, you are in a “must win” situation to garner  back the respect and the accolades you have sweated and labored for since that first call-up in 2001. It is time to take the Junior off your name is spirit and play like a man, take it like a man, and if defeated take your licks like a man. You know me, I will fight with words or fists to proclaim you are not a bum.
 

You have got to show these people the fire is still lit inside you. They think the flame is gone. It is time E-man. Time for you to show why we have been behind you for so long. It can be done with something as simple as a little more concentration and effort. So just think about what I am saying here. Think of what you are tossing to the side with those comments and outward anger. The number 9 slot is still in the lineup, you are not sitting on the bench watching Gabe Kapler or someone from the minor leagues play your spot.

Time to put childish things away like pity parties and temper tantrums and play like a professional again. You wanted this kind of attention and admiration since you were a young kid. Do not throw it all away on an attitude problem that will label you for the rest of your career. Tampa Bay has had this situation before, and his name was Jose Guillen.  Like you, he could play a fantastic outfield, could get the ball anywhere on the field. But he lacked plate discipline and focus. And that is the issue with you right now.

Not a lack of class, but of attitude and disbelief they would drop you down in the order. Remeber BJ, Guillen was here until his contract was up. After that he was free to go and became someone elses worry. I do not want to see you go down the same road. He was a great defender and could play the RF corner better than anyone who has ever put on a Rays jersey, but the drama with him on the team finally got to much. Young and Dukes are also gone because of their internal and external issues and frustrations surfacing at the wrong times.

Dude, all I am asking you to do it be that old BJ. The kid who could not wait to go to the ballpark and play baseball again. I am asking for that guy who used to grin when he got on base, smirk when he stole a base, and pump his fist when he scored a run.  want to see the guy who smiled before, during and after the game again. If not, then all I can say is I told you so.

Introducing Levon Washington to Rays fans

 



AP file photo

Maybe I do not get it. Maybe I am missing the entire idea of the draft when you take a player who is rehabbing an injury in the First Round of the draft.  And the funny part is that the Rays have known about the injury the entire time having had the kid here a few weeks ago with his parents to do some ground work on even considering him for the Rays. He has even told the University of Florida coaching staff that he is going to try and get signed as soon as possible so he can get right to playing for the Rays.

Oh, and did I mention he is a distant cousin to Rays former slugger Fred McGriff who was sitting at the Rays Draft table in Secaucus, New Jersey and probably was the one to telephone his relative and give him the great news. But there is some unusual things to go along with the announcement of Gainesville native Levon Washington as the first pick for the Rays in 2009. Did I mention he is coming off an  shoulder injury? The kid does have a pedigree that puts him just inside the top 30 prospects in baseball according to Baseball America, but even with his athleticism and speed, there is a huge amount of danger involved signing him as damaged property.

He is rehabbing nicely right now, with a total prognosis for no sustained problems after the injury heals, but the thought is to get him signed and maybe used as a Designated Hitter in the Gulf Coast League for the rest of the year so he can be ready in February 2010 for a full season team. Really?  Is that too soon, or is the injury maybe a slight smokescreen that kept some teams away from the guy before the Rays took him with the 30th pick. And even if they did get a steal at 30th, does he have Carl Crawford speed, or maybe more like Gabe Kapler speed.

These things are major considerations for the Rays to think about before signing Washington sometime this week. Oh, the kid is above eager to get down to the Trop and talk money and get into playing for the team, That is a great thing to hear, that a player wants to play for the Rays. For years it was more like a disappointment to even be considered by the team, but after 2008, players are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and wondering if they might be the key to the next emergence of the team towards the playoffs in the future. 

Oh, did I forget to mention that MLB.com did not even have a scouting report on the kid to place under his name on the website right after his selection. But that is not the curious thing to me. That is the fact that MLB.com had him listed as an infielder, while ESPN.com had him listed as an outfielder when the listing hit the Internet about 8 :30 last night. Now that is fine if the team pulled the rug out from under a few teams and selected a kid that flew under the radar due to his injury, but even high schooler Todd Glaseman, who was picked in the third round with the 108th pick had a small scouting report  on him listed at MLB.com.


Doug Finger / Gainesville Sun.com

Okay maybe I am a bit bitter that two great catching prospects were still on the board and the thought of an injured player being picked in the First Round sounded more like  a Dewon Brazelton than Tim Beckham type pick. But the fact that R J Harrison is so psyched that this kid was still on the board might be a better indicator of his possible potential for the Rays. ” There’s a lot of things we like,” scouting director R.J. Harrison said told the St. Petersburg Times. “First of all, he’s a premium athlete and y’all that have been around here for a while know we like that kind of athlete. He fits right in with the kind of players that we’ve signed in the past. He’s a well above average runner and we really like his bat. We think he’s going to hit, and hit for a high average. … We saw an advanced young hitter.”

Granted the Rays might have seen a pile of unclaimed gold at the bottom of the First Round, but could his rehab after tearing his labium and spending most of his high school senior season as a DH and not in the field been a deterrent to his high selection in this draft.  “We didn’t go into this blind,” Harrison said. “It’s just a matter of time, and getting him back to full strength. He’s made good progress already on his rehab, and when he gets with us and gets with our people that will only make it that much better.” Okay, I understand personally that Ron Porterfield and the Rays medical team are the best in the game, but did we have to take this kid in the money round?

But with that aside, he might not have been there at the 78th pick in the second round, so I am going to reserve 3/4 of my judgment on here right now and wish the guy a speedy recovery and hoping he does sign fast and furious so we can get him into the “Rays Way” as soon as possible. But why is it that Andrew Friedman, the Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations just learned of the six degrees of separation concerning McGriff on draft night? If we had done our so-called background and knew everything about the kid, we would have also seen the correlation of the McGriff family bloodlines. 

Of course this made no matter to the Rays. They were not selecting him for his bloodline, which Friedman confessed he did not know about prior to Tuesday night pick.  When the St. Petersburg Times asked Friedman about the six degrees of separation he stated, “I learned it on the way over here (to address the media),” Friedman said. “R.J. said he heard it the other day. Fred told him again when R.J. called him to tell him the pick. Certainly can’t hurt and hopefully it can help us in the recruiting process.”  And this was a kid the scouting department has said the Rays have been watching for two years ( according to the Times). 

They had even had him at their homefield to do a short impromptu workout and nothing about the Rays-Washington correlation relationship came to light. They talked with his parents, and they did not divulge the family ties. Come on here, you mean a proud parent did not boast about their kid to a scout, in their home MLB stadium. It is a miracle people!  Even though the kid is eager to get signed and maybe even get into a Rays uniform as soon as possible there are two words that might hinder a quick and sure-fire signing for the kid. Does the name Scott Boras send chills down Friedman or Matt Silverman’s spine right now. The kid is represented by the anti-christ of agents.

This is not to say that the client will not get a speedy and quick resolution to the situation. The client( Washington) is eager and anxious to get his professional career underway and has not hinted of going to even enroll at the University of Florida, even if he does have a scholarship waiting for him right now. He is not posturing for a prolonged stalemate, or even
giving out any negative vibes that you got when the Rays selected Delmon Young a few years ago. Hopefully everything will go peachy keen in Rays-land and we can get this kid to the GCL within a month or so to begin rehab and his playing career.

http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/player.swf?mediaId=4065422

I am not against the Rays getting a bargain, or even a steal in the First Round by finding a talent that people are overlooking due to a circumstance like a shoulder injury. It is just the fact that it is like trying to roll a “7” and the odds are against the player most of the time. I hope he heals and becomes a great player for the Rays, but I am going into this First Round signing with a bit of hesitation people. I mentioned Dewon Brazleton before in this blog.

There was a guy who was a project pitcher from the get-go and did finally make it to the major leagues before finally falling from grace and out of baseball by 2008. The last place I saw Brazleton was at the 2008 Little League regionals in Gulfport, Florida helping to coach the All-Star team from Tennesse.  Here was a guy selected by the Rays with the First Round with the third pick in 2001 Draft and he is now out of baseball looking in at the game.
 

That kind of puts the baseball draft into true perspective for me.  Of the Rays First Round selections prior to Brazleton’s pick, only Rocco Baldelli and Josh Hamilton are still playing baseball at the major league level. Paul Wilder, Jason Standridge, and Josh Presley ( third Round) are out of the game. Presley was selected in the third round after the Rays lost picks to compensation for the signings of Wilson Alvarez, Dave Martinez and closer Roberto Hernandez. Day One is over for the 2009 Draft, but the murmur and the hum still can be heard amongst the Rays fans as to the selection of Washington.

This is the first true draft that will have Friedman and the Rays new Scouting staff’s fingerprints all over them. With their successes of the past, and their eye for detail, you have to take a “wait and see” premise right now with their first three selections. But there is a long way to still go here with the later round continuing today with more possible surprises in hand for the Rays and other teams in the MLB. Oh, and there are still a few great catching prospects out there guys……….just a short hint there.

2008 Rule 5 Pre-Draft Scribbles and Current MLB Phase Final Rule 5 Draft Results

 

 

 

 

                

 

 

Who would have thought you could find a Hall of Famer in the Major League Baseball Rule 5 draft? You usually associate this draft with the marginal player who is not good enough for the 40-man roster, but still performing for his team. You would never think a player like Roberto Clemente would be subject to the Rule 5 Draft, but he was, as were notable players like former Oriole Paul Blair, current Met Johan Santana and Royals closer Joakim Soria. And can you even imagine that current Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino went through the Rule 5 Draft twice befores ticking with the Phillies and going on to win his first World Series ring this Fall.

 

 

But besides Clemente, the most recent addition to the Rule 5 Draft All- Dumb Move team was former Rays Josh Hamilton. He was left unprotected by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006 and was selected 3rd by the Chicago Cubs, who then sold his rights to the Cincinnati Reds where he played in 2006 all season long at the major league level. The Rays were trying to hide Hamilton off their 40-man roster because of recent re-instatement to baseball after 2 years of drug problems. But that did not deterr the Cubs, who quickly snatched Hamilton up before the Rays knew what had happened.

  

 

Will there be another ” Josh Hamilton or Johan Santana” in the 2008 Rule 5 draft being held on Thursday in Las Vegas?  The answer is not that simple this year. This years draft might be the hardest to predict in the last several years. No one is a clear favorite in any of the three phases ( MLB, Triple-A, Double-A) to be selected this time around.

 

 

Alot of basbeball officials call this year’s Rule 5  Draft a bit of a bust. There is not a huge buzz about any one player, or the potential as in years past. The rules changes prior to last year, adding an extra year of protection for teams to keep players. Under the old rules, 2005 high school draft picks and 2006 college picks would have had to be protected (and most international players signed in ’04 as well).

 

Prep pitchers such as Sean West (Marlins), Chaz Roe (Rockies), Brandon Erbe (Orioles) and Will Inman (Padres) would have to be protected ,but are not on 40-man rosters. That leaves more room to protect fringy players who otherwise might not have made the cut. Some borderline players will get an extra reprieve this year thanks to the new rules, but will have to earn that spot come Spring time.

 

 

                     

 

 

Similarly, the Pirates don’t have to make a 40-man call on 2006 first-rounder Brad Lincoln, who has missed a year with Tommy John surgery, and the Indians can wait on corner infielder Wes Hodges, who can hit but hasn’t shown he can handle third base.

 

That has left a thinner talent pool to choose from. The ’06 Rule 5 yielded stars such as Josh Hamilton and Joakim Soria, but the top talents in the ’07 class were players such as outfielder Brian Barton, who stuck all year with the Cardinals; knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, whom the Mariners swung a trade to keep; and lefthander Wesley Wright, who stuck as a reliever with the Astros.

 

 

                     

 

 

Draft analysts agree there are few position players with Barton’s upside in this Rule 5 class, and and the quality and talent of players and pitchers has dipped accordingly with the rule changes. Big names such as Donald Veal (Cubs) and Eduardo Morlan (Rays) have attracted interest, but Veal pitched poorly all year and again in the Arizona Fall League, while Morlan’s velocity was back in the 89-92 mph range in Puerto Rico but not in the mid-90s he showed earlier in his minor league career. Morlan was the third player garnished by the Rays in the Matt Garza, Jason Barlett trade last November with the Minnesota Twins for ex-Rays badboy Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie.

 

The best comparisons to Barton are several prospects with injury questions, such as pitchers Alan Horne (Yankees), coming off rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder, and Pedro Strop (Rangers), a former Rockies farmhand coming off his own arm injury; and catcher Donny Lucy (White Sox), who is athletic and plays a premium position but has never quite performed.

 

What buzz there is has centered on Class A pitchers with stuff rather than track records. Among the names bandied about:

 

 

                           

 

 RHP Jordan Pratt, Dodgers ( above ) : The 2003 fifth-round pick out of an Oregon high school has yet to progress past Class A. He spent 2008 in high Class A Inland Empire and walked 67 (while striking out 80) in 69 innings. However, Pratt has premium stuff, with a fastball that consistently reaches 94 mph, and an inconsistent curveball and a premium cutter that helps him handle lefthanded hitters. They went 2-for-35 off him in Hawaii Winter Baseball, where Pratt showed off some smoother mechanics that helped him throw more strikes. Lefty David Pfeiffer of the Dodgers, a sidearmer, also was getting some attention.

 

 

 

 

LHP Jordan Norberto, Diamondbacks ( above ) : Norberto has upside, as he’s just 22 and has reached 96 mph with his fastball. He’s also spent the last two years in the low Class A Midwest League, striking out 220 in 204 innings while walking 102.

 

 

 

 

IF Corey Wimberly, Rockies ( above ) : No one in the class fits the utility profile better than Wimberly, a 5-foot-8 switch-hitter with plus speed and defensive versatility. Wimberly played second base, third base, shortstop and the outfield in ’08 at Double-A Tulsa while posting a .370 on-base percentage. He lacks strength but has a solid track record as a hitter.

 

 

RHP Loek Van Mil, Twins: The 7-foot-1 righthander has shown a fastball up to 97 mph in the past but has a partial ligament tear due after injuring his elbow just prior to the Beijing Olympics. Fellow Dutch national teamer Hainley Statia (Angels) remains the top middle-infield possibility in a thin group of players there.

 

Post Rule 5 Update:

 

Here is the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft  with final results posted below. Check out the list and see if your favorite might have picked up a young player, or left someone unprotected and they were selected from your squad.

 

In the Rule 5 Draft, the Tampa Bay Rays lost the rights to Double-A closer Eduardo Morlan, who was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 15th pick of the draft. The Rays then selected starter-turned reliever  Derek Rodriguez with the 19 th pick to swap pitchers with different aspects of the game.

 

 

 

Major League Phase

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Pick
Player
Position
Drafted By
Drafted From
2008 Club
1 Terrell Young RHP Washington Cincinnati Sarasota
2 Reegie Corona INF Seattle New York (AL) Trenton
3 Everth Cabrera SS San Diego Colorado Asheville
4 Donald Veal LHP Pittsburgh Chicago (NL) Tennessee
5 Lou Palmisano C Baltimore Milwaukee Brevard County
6 Luis Perdomo RHP San Francisco St. Louis Springfield
7 David Patton RHP Cincinnati* Colorado Modesto
8 Kyle Bloom LHP Detroit Pittsburgh Altoona
9 Jose Lugo LHP Kansas City** Minnesota Ft. Myers
10 Benjamin Copeland CF Oakland San Francisco Fresno
11 James Skelton C Arizona Detroit Erie
12 Zachary Kroenke LHP Florida New York (AL) Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
8 Los Angeles (NL)
13 Gilbert De La Vara LHP Houston Kansas City Northwest Arkansas
14 Jason Jones RHP Minnesota New York (AL) Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
15 Darren O’Day RHP New York (NL) Los Angeles (AL) Salt Lake
16 Eddie Morlan RHP Milwaukee Tampa Bay Montgomery
17 Robert Mosebach RHP Philadelphia Los Angeles (AL) Arkansas
18 Miguel Gonzalez RHP Boston Los Angeles (AL) DNP
19 Derek Rodriguez RHP Tampa Bay Chicago (AL) Charlotte
20 Ivan Nova RHP San Diego New York (AL) Tampa
21 Rocky Cherry RHP New York (NL) Baltimore Norfolk

* Acquired by Chicago (NL) in exchange for cash considerations
** Acquired by Seattle in exchange for cash considerations

 

 

Rays Reminiscing…………..A Year Later

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

                              

 

 

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

 

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

 

                                

 

 

 

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

 

Ray’s Executive is Tops in the MLB

 

 

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

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

 

                            

 

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

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

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

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

 

                           

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

The Empire Strikes Back…..Again

 

Yankees 5, Rays 3

 

                                Click Image to Enlarge



I give credit where credit is due.  The Evil Empire came in and played two great game against us. Now back to the blog.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

The Brooklyn Dodgers were the first team to purchase their own airplane in January 1957.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) 11 x 17 Masterprint Poster - Foreign - Style C           The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) 11 x 17 Masterprint Poster - Foreign - Style C         The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) 11 x 17 Masterprint Poster - Foreign - Style C      The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) 11 x 17 Masterprint Poster - Foreign - Style C

                                  

                                         The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly.

 

                                           The Ageless Good  

 

I have to admit, when the Rays
announced earlier in the Spring that they signed Mike DeFelice to a
minor league contract, I thought it might be as a coach. As many of you
know, Mike was one of the original  catchers with the 1997 team.
DeFelice has been around the block a few times and has had his shares
of ups and downs.


But, this season when Dioner
Navarro went down with his freak accident in New York, it was a godsend
that Mike was there to fill the spot. Since he has come on, De Felice
has hit .429 in his short time up with the Rays this season. In that time, Mike has collected 4
RBI’s in his 10 at bats. That is right, Mike has only batted 14 times
this season and has driven in 4 runs as a backup to Shawn Riggans.
DeFelice is also carrying a .929 OPS with him this time up with the
Rays.

Mike is a superb game caller and
is an instant coach for these young pitchers. He has the insight and
the ability to see the trouble brewing and try and squash it before it
festers and get nasty.


For that reason, Mike is my main “Good” guy of the night. I do have a few other who needs some press as Honorable Mentions:


***       Rays First baseman Carlos Pena
saved a few runs with his great glove work at first tonight. First he
stopped a rocket off the bat of  the Yankees’  Robinson Cano.  Pena
snuffed the play diving to his left just shy of the line and stepped on
the bag to squash the Yankees efforts in the Top of the 6th Inning.


**       Designated Hitter Jonny Gomes
continues to be on a RBI tear as he had another tonight and went 2-4 to
raise his average to .296.


*       The first star goes to the team
for their display of spirit and team unity by all wearing Jackie
Robinson’s number “42” this season. Last year only Carl Crawford wore
the retired number of the first African-American to play in the MLB.


Robinson played his first Major League game at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.



“It’s an honor the way certain clubs are wearing 42 — the whole
team, like our team,” Zimmer said. “I just look back and just think of
how lucky I am to play on the same team with him.

“I wasn’t there in the early days, when he really had to go
through hell, as they say; it had lessened by the time I got there, but
it was still tough. He had to be a very strong man, to go through the
whole ordeal that he went through, no doubt.”

                                         

                                                        The Bad


Tonight’s game showed a few spots
in the Rays armor that need to improve if this team is to tackle the
upward climb in the American League East. The Rays knocked out 10 hits
tonight, but left 9 men stranded on the base paths.


In order for this team to win “the
close ones”, like the last two games, they will need to figure out that
formula that is missing when the pressure is on for runs.  I am not
demeaning the coaching staff or the players here, I just see a glaring
issue that might just be a simple adjustment in mindset or thinking on
the field at times.



I have all the confidence in the world that this problem will be solved soon, and with great results.

                                    The Ugly

 


I never saw our team lay down and
quit tonight, or even show signs of let down, but the faces on the
Bullpen bench were speaking volumes from my sight line. It was a face
like, “Here we go again.” That mental clog can fester into a
bad attitude and confidence for our relievers. I know they are not the
kind of guys to quit, or even not make the ultimate performance for
their squad.


I just know from playing on
borderline losing teams in High School and College, that the mindset
can destroy even the best of intentions. I know who;s faces had that
look, and one was inserted in the game tonight.


This team is so much better than
our record. And we better start believing that, or we will be looking
up at four teams the rest of the season. I believe in this team. I have 100
percent confidence in their abilities and skills. And I want to be here
to celebrate the highs with them in September or beyond. 

                            


Let’s Go Rays  (Banging my cowbell)

 


Former Rays Player of the Night:

 

Julio Lugo of the Boston Red Sox is my former Rays
player of the night for going 3-4 tonight in the Sox’s 5-3 victory over
the Cleveland Indians. Lugo is currently batting .280 for the season and has 14 hits already for the year.

 

The Rays are leaving town tonight for the cool confines of the Metro dome for two games against the Minnesota Twins. This is the first regular season series for the teams,
and the first time these teams have played since their big trade this
past off season that sent Brendan Harris and Delmon Young to the North
country.


Both games will be on television, so check your local lisitngs or MLB TV.


See you at the Trop. on Friday to welcome Ozzie Guillen
and his Chicago White Sox into town for a weekend series. This weekend,
former Ray Toby Hall should see action behind the plate.



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