Results tagged ‘ Don Zimmer ’
During today’s afternoon baseball game the Rays had one of their annual Park and Recreation days. If you are unaware of this special day for Rays fans, it is the time of the year where 5,000 plus youngster from all over the Rays viewing area get to come out to the ballpark for an afternoon contest and get the best gift ever from the Rays………. Rays Thunderstix! Now if you are one of those people who complain about the cowbells and their constant clanging, you would have a field day during the Thunderstix days.
I mean as you leave the game the carnage you see all over the stadium floor of damaged and forgotten Thunderstix can be kind of overwhelming to someone who values collectibles. But to most of these kids they are just props to keep them occupied and happy for at least half the game before they get their hot dogs, cracker jacks and soda. I actually love these days more for the facts it is the one time during the entire year you can sit behind 10 rows of kids and even if they all stand up, you can still see the field. It is not like when adults, who tend to be above 5 feet tall occupy those same seats and become instant black-out elements at any time during the game.
But things did get a bit testy for a few moments when a few of the Trop’s banks of lights flickered and the umpires decided that we needed to wait for 20 minutes until the light came back full force again. You could see up in the Raysvision booth that they were scrambling to find some suitable entertainment for the young crowd and actually brought out a Bugs Bunny classic “Baseball Bugs”, where the frisky rabbit takes on the Gas-House Gorillas in a game of baseball.
But for some reason the Rays forgot they had the best cartoons in the business, and it featured players and people that the kids have seen over and over on television and on the Trop’s big screen. The Rays came up with a cartoon based on the “Defenders of the Game” which featured Carl Crawford, B J Upton, Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Carlos Pena. They even had special places for Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Rays Senior Advisor Don Zimmer. What a special cartoon moment that would have been as even the players were sitting on the dugout steps and near the bullpen grass checking out the action on the screen above rightfield.
Raysvision and the Rays had a captive audience that they could have used to parlay their “Defenders of the Game” scenarios for a long time, but instead went with a old Bugs Bunny cartoon. Now do not get me wrong, I love Bugs, and the cartoon they did show is a sure baseball classic, but at least they did not show that Rockey the Mudhen “Infield Fly Rule” buzz kill video that sometimes pops up late in the games on Sundays. Kudos to the boys in the booth for not subjecting us to that baseball definition video one more time.
And even during his post-game interview Maddon spoke about the Bugs Bunny cartoon about how the guys were enjoying it and that it seemed to go over well with the mostly kid crowd. Maddon did ask via the assembled media in the clubhouse if they can maybe get some Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote videos for the next rain delay/power outage. Because we do not have rain delays, but power outages in Tampa Bay, and we do not have to wait for a tarp or a grounds crew to signal the go ahead to resume play.
So with that recommendation by Maddon I decided to try and find some alternative cartoon if the Raysvision crew could not find a baseball-related Warner Brothers cartoon. I decided to dig into the dusty cartoon vault really deep and into the dark recesses of the bowl to see if they did have any cartoon with the road runner and the coyote that might have a baseball background. I could not come up with a single episode, but I did come up with a few where the coyote had decided that a baseball bat would be a good weapon of choice against that pesky sprinting bird.
The “Defender of the Game” cartoons can be found on Youtube right now from the first episode , to the final one after their second season. They are classic cartoon where the Defenders tackle the evil Umpreror, and then Doctor Stats. They are pretty tongue-in-cheek cartoons, but are fun to watch during a power outage/rain delay. But there are other variation out there like a classic Woody Woodpecker cartoon called, The Screwball” where he tries to get into an outdoor baseball field. Then you have the old 1948 classic cartoon “Baseball Brawl” which featured woodland animals as players in the baseball game.
But the end result is that during the outage, the cartoon did bring about some sense of order to the stands and kept the kids occupied with harmless fun for everyone. And that is the special problem that can surface on a day like today with a crowded house of pre-teens all coming out to watch a baseball game.
But in the end, everyone left with a smile both in regards to a Rays victory, and from the classic baseball cartoon they will be telling their parents about tonight. And who knows, that might transfer into a Family Fun Day this Sunday where the family of four can come to the ballpark with FREE parking and discounted food and tickets. I guess the cartoon could be called a community ticket experience now.
And he has his own sense and realities to his job as a major league manager. He even has a “fine” bowl in his office where guilty players, who are found guilty by the Kangaroo Court have to purchase a bottle of wine for the skipper with the paper divulging their fine. He is one of the only mangers in the major leagues that I know of who has his own wine rack and wine cooler in his office for post game tastings and special occasions. And you know that cooler got plenty of good use with champagne and fine spirits during the 2008 Postseason celebrations.
Held between the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, Maddon along with his Rays Coaches and front office staff have personally shopped, cooked and even served special dinners of spaghetti, sausage, pierogies, past and salad for over 1,000 people in the Salvation Army shelters in Bradenton, St. Petersburg, Tampa and Port Charlotte areas. One of the biggest food hits in this event is the special meatballs Maddon was taught how to make by his mother Beanie back in his home town of Hazelton, Pennsylvania.
The two immediately fostered a great bond emerged during that series between Maddon and Challis. Maddon has since been actively involved in fund raising for the foundation and in November 2008 when he was named winner of the Chuck Tanner Award as major league manager of the year, he had John’s father Scott, accept the award for him in Pittsburgh.
He get to share that honor with four other managers’ who have come one vote shy of perfection. He even gets to share the honor with a personal member of his staff, Rays Senior Advisor Don Zimmer, who in 1989 while managing the Chicago Cubs came up short while winning the award.
After that walk, Maddon replaced Balfour with reliever Dan Wheeler who got the last out to preserve the win for the Rays. The only other time it has happened in baseball history was on May 23, 1901 when Clark Griffin, then a player/manager for the Chicago White Sox intentionally walked future Hall of Fame member Nap Lajoie with no outs in the ninth inning with a 11-7 lead.
Some people forget he is only starting his fourth season with the club in 2009, and already has the most victories of any manager in Rays history. He passed Rays Inaugural manager Larry Rothchild on August 23,2008 with his 206th win in a game against the Chicago White Sox.
People forget he has had a taste of being a major league manager before he got his first full-time stint in the dugout in Tampa Bay. He first got a taste if it in 1998, when the Los Angeles Angels Manager Terry Collins got an 8-game suspension following a bench clearing brawl in Kansas City. He got an additional turn at the skipper post when Collins resigned on September 3, 1999 and he led the team the rest of the season to a 19-10 record.
But the most unique moment might have been when Maddon was called upon to replace John McNamara in 1996, who was replacing Rene Lachmann who resigned that August as skipper. McNamara had developed a deep vein thrombosis( blood clot) in his right calf. Maddon took the helm for 22 games, finishing with a 8-14 record.
Maddon did get another set of circumstances during his tenure as a Angels Bench Coach when current Angels Manager Mike Scioscia had to leave the team for a short period of time. Maddon lead the Angels to a 33-26 record during his stint with the squad.
As for his biking hobby, he is a very dedicated biker who puts in 60-100 miles every week. An unknown fact about Maddon in his youth is that he was recruited as a shortstop and pitcher for Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. He switched positions voluntarily to catcher midway through his freshman year. At Lafayette, he majored in economics and he will also receive an honorary degree this summer from his old Alma Mater.
It will be his second All-Star game. He previously got to attend when Sciocsia was the 2003 AL Manager. Maddon is expected to select two coaches from among the AL Managers, and then bring six of his own coaches, along with Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi to round out his 2009 All-Star coaching staff.
Maddon has only been in Tampa Bay for a short time, but the teams and its fans have united around him to show support for his new ways of thinking about the sport of baseball. Along with the fan base uniting to support the manager with the formulation of the “Maddon’s Maniacs” group three seasons ago.
From speaking engagements to small snippets of chats with fans and media members the Tampa Bay community has gotten to know Maddon deeper and closer than he ever imagined. With the 2008 success and the renewed interest in the team during their recent seven game winning streak, the Rays might be the team to watch in the second half of the season.
Steve Nesius / AP
No Re-joycing in Rightfield
With the activation of Tamp Bay Rays Designated Hitter Pat Burrell right after the game last night, the team made the corresponding roster move of sending young rightfielder Matt Joyce back down to the Triple-A Durham Bulls. The press release was still hot and wet when the Rays Radio Network broke the news right after the game in their post-game segment. At first this news hit me kind of like a ton of bricks because I truly thought the kid was going to make the transition up here the rest of the season.
Sure he started out like he was going to take names and change minds after hitting two quick hoe runs to make people, think it was “Re-Joyce Time” in rightfield. Even the fact he got two hits off a left-handed pitcher spoke volumes that he had done a bit of the work the Rays asked him to do when he went down first to Durham after spending the first five game up with the Rays while B J Upton was rehabbing after his off-season shoulder surgery. Upon the start of the Sunday game in Baltimore on April 12th he was on his way back to the Triple-A squad ready to work on things and make his way back to Tampa Bay in 2009. Joyce was upset but understood the situation perfectly and vowed to again be patrolling the outfield in the Trop sometime in 2009.
So when the Rays went to Durham and again brought up Joyce on May 30th, it was a sign to the fans that maybe the team was finally considering giving the kid a fair shake in winning the rightfield job during the season. And he did come on like gangbusters hitting the ball his first few games before finally going through a 0 for 15 slide before he was sent out to the Bulls. He was upset about the news, but took it in stride as he told the St. Petersburg Times last night.”"Any time you get sent down, it’s not a good feeling. So you just go back to the drawing board, go back down and scratch and claw your way back up.” Coming into the Angels series, Joyce was 0 for 20 lifetime against the team.
Joyce is heading back to the Durham squad with the intention of “tear it up again” in Durham, and “force them to bring you back up.” And that is the kind of reaction you really want to hear from a young star who knows he will again shine bright among the lights of Tropicana field. This is not the last time we will see him in 2009, and you can bet the next time he is up here he will try and make it an extremely difficult decision to send him back down again. Joyce was given some advice and things to work on by Rays Manager Joe Maddon before he left the Rays Clubhouse following their series win against the Los Angels Angels last night.
Joyce will go down to the minors and work a bit on his overall game, including his defense and hopes to again get a chance to make a huge impression this season. During a few games in the Trop., he seemed to have a problem identifying the ball off the roof in the dome and that might have led to a few defensive problems during his time up here. He did not read the ball well off the bat a few times and the ball made it into the Right-Centerfield gap for extra bases.
That is a simple adjustment and recognition program that can be completed easily in the minors. But Joyce has been totally supportive of the decision and is looking forward to more playing time and to prove he belongs here with the Rays. Before he was promoted at the end of May, he was hitting .315 with 5 HR and 27 RBI for the Bulls. He had compiled a 1.000 OPS against right-handed pitching, and a .727 against left-handers.
Pedro Martinez as a Ray?
Oh how Gerald Williams must be all tied up in knots knowing that the Rays might be watching former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez throwing in the Dominican Republic yesterday. How it must be burning in his stomach that the guy who caused such a ruckus with the Rays back in 200 might even be considered for a pitching option. There are numerous reports that not only have the Rays checked out the aging pitcher, but some monetary figures have been exchanged between the two parties.
According to Nick Carfardo of The Boston Globe, Martinez had both the Chicago Cubs and the Rays both exploring what it might take to sign the aging pitcher to their rosters. During his workout the former fireballer was throwing about 94 MPH, which is a nice increase in velocity compared to his pre-surgery speed. Mark Lancaster of the Tampa Tribune said,”I’ve heard that one of the Rays’ officials in the Dominican who has known Pedro for a while just watched him work out, but it doesn’t sound like the team expects anything to come of it.”
A local Tampa Bay television station even commented on their Twitter page that someone was checking out Martinez. And a pretty credible Rays blog,www.RaysIndex.com was reporting that the team did schedule a second workout for Martinez, which is usually a sign of interest. When the World Baseball classic tenure of the Dominican Republic team was over during MLB’s Spring Training, it was reported that Martinez was basically seeking a single year deal in the $5 million range. With the MLB season nearing the 62nd game, that request might have been cut in half to about the $ 2.5 million dollar figure.
Some might say that the aging pitcher would be a great fit in the Rays Bullpen in some capacity. But considering he would supplant someone currently in that unit, it might be a difficult sell to Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey right now. But even if the Rays have always kept things like this close to their vest pocket, the history with Martinez might not sit well with long standing Rays fans. For the same reason most fans were skeptical of Curt Shilling basically saying he would play for the Rays years ago, Martinez might not be a great fit here. Martinez and Don Zimmer also have their own history, but Zim contends that it is ” by the wayside and ancient history.”
The guys still has the desire and the spunk to pitch in the majors, which is great for him. But the guy might not be a great fit into the Rays bullpen, and definitely can not be seen as a starter right now. Things could happen fast and he will be out of the Rays sights and this all will be dust in the wind. But the idea of adding him to our team kind of upsets my stomach. I admire the girt and the determination, but seeing him brawl on our home field, and throw Zim to the ground is enough for me to print a “VOTE NO FOR PEDRO” t-shirt. Somethings even time can not heal.
Boot Scootin’ Nelson
*** With the Rays getting ready soon to head on out for another road trip, Maddon has picked a “western theme” for the trip out to Colorado to begin their 6-game Inter-League road trip. I am not sure what most of the guys are going to be outfitted in before they board the plane, but hopefully they know that six shooters are not allowed on the plane.
Seriously though, I spoke with Rays reliever Joe Nelson yesterday on what style he was going to pull off for the western theme. He said he was going with the “Yul Brenner circa The Magnificent Seven look”. Nelson already has the hairstyle, and I can see him in the black shirt and maybe even black leather pants, but I am really going to be surprised if he can find a great back cowboy hat to pull it all together. Maybe he can call Keith Millar, who is with the Toronto Blue Jays for a primer on how to “Cowboy Up” before the trip. I personally thought Nelson might go for the Yul Brenner look from Westworld where he played a gunslinging robot, but after the picture, I can see him in a black hat for some reason.Season Ticket Gate Upgrade
The Rays instituted a new Season Ticket holder entrance near Gate 3 earlier this season. There is great news that an awning has been purchased that will expand out from the current gate to shelter fans waiting in that line for enter the stadium hopefully around the All-Star break. This new entrance brings you in right at the service desk at Gate 3 for easy access for signing up for the many contests, or getting with a Season Ticket Representative within a few feet of the doors.
I have used the entrance a few times in the past few months and it is quicker and faster than the present system at Gate 1 where most of the current Season Ticket holders enter the Trop. This also might be a great alternative during the Boston or Yankee series later this year when the general standing area outside Gate 1 gets so crowded and heated at times. It is also a great alternative for the “giveaway” days as the lines will be smaller and less confusion.
RRCollections Familiar Faces in the Videos
If you are in Tropicana Field before the game and look up at the Jumbotron before the game and think you might have seen me on the big screen during the opening minute of the “Ground Rules”, you are correct. As a member of the “Maddon’s Maniacs”, I was invited for a taping before opening day this year to complete a fan version of the typical baseball rules explanation played 81 times a year in Tropicana Field. I got lucky enough to be in the first segments of the new video both in the first clip where you see me banging my over sized black cowbell ( which is now broken almost in half) and during the first two rules of the video.
I have to give props to the Rays vision crew who did most of the stand-in spots in the video and also had the changes and segmented video shoots done fast and professional at all times. Also have to give some acknowledgments to Eric Weisberg, Darcy Raymond and Sean Liston from the Rays Fan Experience department for their ideas to include the Maniacs in this years action. It was a great time, and I did get in a bit of a pickle about two pictures, but all is good in Rays-land. I hope you see a few of your friends in the video and be sure to stop us and say hello. We will be more than happy to chat with you about the “Maddon’s Maniacs” club or just about our hometown Rays.
Why is it I hear the BB Thomas song “Raindrops Are Falling on my Head” right now in the background on the stadiums speakers. Can’t we find a better rain song than that for the 21st Century? I am without words right now during this rain delay today in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Cleveland Indians again in front of the Tampa Bay Rays by only a 1-0 score.
My loss of verbiage is not due to the fact we have not had a glorious win in this park since Seth “Big Red” McClung matched pitch-for-pitch with a younger Cliff Lee to take a 1-0 win from the Tribe for the Rays last victory in then Jacobs Field. In that September 28, 2005 contest. Carl Crawford is the only Rays player still on the active Rays roster to be in the lineup for that game.
He went 0-0 on that day and played a limited left field. Even on that day in September it was 74 degrees and cloudy, but there was not rain in the forecast. There are other still with the Rays who were in the dugout on that day in Cleveland, like Third Base Coach Tom Foley, Pitcher Scott Kazmir, and Senior Advisor Don Zimmer. That day also gave Lou Pinella his last win as the Rays Manager. It was the last sense of normalcy for the Rays in this park. Who would have ever guessed that this streak of doom would stretch to its current 16-game spot. Heck, lifetime the Rays have only seemed to taste victory. Today is our 918th road game of our young history. During that time we have only won 333 times, but only
My first trip to Jacobs Field on May 14, 2004 (There is that date again) was the first time I stepped into your glorious stadium during its 10 year anniversary season. The Sat. game was a rain delayed game, my first time sitting in the rain enjoying the drops hitting my skin. Even during that three game series we left the city of Cleveland wanting more as the home team took all three games from the Rays, with only that Friday night contest being close at all with a 8-7 Rays loss in the bottom of the 10th inning.
But there were some reasons for Rays joy before that 2005 game. I mean we did win 3-in-a-row from August 12-14, 2005. That is right, the Rays wept the Indians that weekday series. But we also did it again in 2005 when from September 27-29th, we took two out of three to sweep the away series for the year from the Indians.
It was at that time the curse began. For on that September 29th game, the Rays started their unfortunate streak with a 6-0 loss to the Indians who were lead by a large guy by the name of C.C. Sabathia that day. No one on the current Rays roster was in the lineup for that first pinnacle game to start this streak of disappointment for the Rays. But there were a few familiar faces in the Cleveland lineup. Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez and reliever Rafael Bentancourt were in the line score for the first Tribe victory in the long line of embarrassing losses. But even before the 2005 last win by the Rays, they had only won a total of 12 games before McClung’s last hurrah for the Rays in the Jake. Think about it here, the Rays had a slim winning margin 12-11 before this string of disappointing results by the Cuyahoga River.
So just how bad has the 2009 season been here for the Rays during this four game slide? Well, they are hitting a nice .252 for the season series here (not counting today’s contest), but only scoring only 18 runs on 3 home runs and 5 doubles. But why is it that this stadium has a mystical offensive reversal on the Rays hitters. Well, it might not be a total setting of lack of offense as they have scored 18 runs in 3 games this season.
But theRays defense and the pitching have just seemed to implode and erode faster than some of the old steel infrastructure on the mills down by the riverside here. I mean Carlos Pena hit his American League leading 16th homer in the first game here on Monday. Evan Longoria has extended his RBI total to 51 during this series, and Carl Crawford has stolen his 30th base during the series.
Offense has been online here in Cleveland, but the Rays usual stingy defense has taken a short vacation during the series this year. Cleveland has 6 players hitting over .333 in this series, including the main pest this season Ben Francisco, who has gone 5 of 11, with 5 RBI this season at home. But the real menace has been Ryan Garko who is 6 for 12 with 3 homers and 7 RBI. Both of those guys have made a significant dent into the Rays pitching staff this season in this series. They have scored 28 runs and walked 15 times in the three games. Will today be any different? Can we maybe get some relief and comfort in today’s game to take into 2010 to know we can win in this stadium.
First thing we need to do is maybe get Sports Psychologist Ken Ravizza to hypnotize the Rays starters into thinking this is Fenway Park in 2010. Maybe an additional session will be needed for Andy Sonnanstine to see Ben Francisco as Shin-Soo Choo who was 0-5 against Sonnanstine in 2009. The fact that two of their three biggest blown leads have come in the last three games of this series is not an indication of a solid pitching staff right now. We all know about the Rays being up 10-0 on Monday, then finally falling 11-10 after suffering through their worst blown lead in team history. So today is the Rays 50th game of the season. the only better record at this juncture in the season was in 2008, when they had a 30-20 record and were fighting for their first AL East title nightly.
The Rays do not currently have the worst consecutive loss record against an opponent yet. That record is still entrenched in a 18-game losing steak by the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Milwaukee Brewers in Miller Park. But with a loss today, they are closing in on that feat by only needing a single loss in 2010 to tie the record. Let’s hope that after this rain delay we can finish this game with a “W” and throw all of this out the window and start a new streak in 2010. I mean 3-times this season the Rays have scored seven runs on the Tribe and lost the game. They are a combined 15-0 against all other teams in the majors after scoring 7 plus runs. They are a combined 12-37 lifetime (.245) in Progressive/Jacobs Field. This the Rays worst record against any of their opponents in their short history.
We always thought in the past that divisional foes Toronto or maybe Baltimore had our number during the year, but wi
th the limited amount of games against the Tribe every year, they have owned us the minute we landed at Cleveland Hopkins airport. The Tribe has also been the worst foe in the Rays history in their own house. The combined overall mark of 31-63 is also the Rays worst record against any AL opponent. The Rays might have taken 3 wins recently from the Indians at Tropicana Field, but from 2006-2008, they have only 5 wins against Cleveland at home. To add insult to injury here, they have not won a seasonal series against the Indians since 2005, thanks to that 5-1 mark against them that season.
Well, it is getting near 2:45, and looking on the Weather Channel radar for the Cleveland area, there is a patch of clear sky coming up after 3:30 pm today. There is another round of showers heading towards the stadium area set to hit about 4:45 pm, so hopefully we can get the allotted innings in today, or at least maybe get a lead and hold it before heading for the plane back to St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport and a snug, comfortable night at home. I am hoping for a Rays win today to keep the plane ride back from seeming like a funeral wake, but with the history of the Indians versus Rays series.
But if we do not get this game in today and the umpires make the decision to call it a day, it is still not an official game. Both of these teams will have to decide on an alternative date to make up this one game. Both the Indians and the Rays have an open date teams have a open date on June 22. But that would have the Rays coming straight from their Inter League series against the New York Mets to Cleveland, then fly home to open a 3-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Indians would be just completing their weekend series against the Chicago Cubs, and could make a one-night stay in Cleveland before they again have to be on the road to Pittsburgh for a three game series. Right now, that is looking like the most logical spot to get this seasonal series over with for both teams.
Another alternative is to play on July 2nd, when the Rays would have an off day coming from a three game series against Toronto, and then fly onto Arlington, Texas to take on the Texas Rangers for three games. And that date might actually favor the Cleveland team the most as they will be at home for a 9-game home stand. So adding another contest in their off day on July 2nd might fit into their planning perfectly. But we still have not heard an official word from the umpires or anyone in MLB, so the Rays might be there for quite a bit still until an official alternative can be agreed upon by both teams.
I am putting my money on the July 2nd date only because it would give an advantage to the Indians as they can add on another date in the middle of a home stand featuring the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and the Oakland A’s, plus add one possible Rays game to that mix.
Never have the Rays had an opponent just reach down and take them by the throat than the Indians during this short history. Hopefully we can get this game completed and maybe take one and fly out quickly today knowing we can win in Progressive /Jacobs Field. But the skies have not lightened yet, and the rain is tapering off, but still puddles are forming on the tarp on the field. And Drew Carey is somewhere doing a little didy dancing to some Tom Tom Club dance music just hoping for another Indian massacre.
There is celebration in the air again. That is right, there is champagne, BBQ ribs and select adult beverages going all around the room today as the Rays Renegade is posting his 500th blog today. It really doesn’t feel like it was only September 7, 2007 when I posted my first blog to the Internet entitled ” D no longer stands for Devilrays.“ Seriously here, it has been so much fun to gather stats and information and just put it down here for others to enjoy reading in the past few years. But you know what, it is far from over here. Heck, it might just be less than another year and I will be posting number 1,000.
And it was not long ago, only October 22, 2008, when I even posted number 250, which was titled, “World Series Matchups…. Starting Pitchers and Bullpens.” Has it been that long since the World Series? It truly feels like just the other day, but after 12 years of seeing the team end up cleaning out their lockers and shuffle on back home after the last Rays contest, 2008 was a bit of an oddity, but one I can get used to every year. I have been praised and razzed in the last year for blogs and articles written with the best intentions. But that is the price of posting and putting your views up there for the rest of the world to see online.
Heck, I even get slighted by the Rays bloggers online because I believe in the team and will not resort to using the “D” word again on my blogs like some of them. I understand their reasons and applaud their actions, but I am a fan who will not go back to the days of old, even when we play like it. I have written some thing I am proud of, and some thing I consider “fluff”.
Recently I even decided to stop doing the daily recaps and going more into events before, during and after the games have ended. I is fun to speculate where I will be in 6 months. I hope I am still writing on MLBlogs.com and my sister website and producing some quality work for everyone to enjoy. I mean I have gone from an unknown on here to staying within the top 20 tier of the blog writers in the last 6 months.
Some say that is because I am the only Rays blogger who is consistently posting and writing daily. That is true, beside maybe Bill Chastain of Rays Plays, who also is the MLB.com writer for the Tampa Bay Rays, I might be the only outside voice heard daily. And I am fine with that. I even want others to begin to post and put their actions and reactions down on the cyberspace writing forum. I enjoy responding to the comments good and bad, and see them as a way to gauge the way my writings are received by the general MLB readers. So I decided to post some of my favorite blogs here, with links in case some of you would enjoy going back and maybe reading some of them again. These are 10 of my favorites, and they do contain a few Photo Blogs. So without further ado, let’s get right to the action:
My Top 10 Blog Selections ( in random order)
“Joe Kennedy, We were lucky to have Known You” (November 23, 2007).
I really loved talking to Kennedy when he was with the Rays. He had a great sense of the game, and his love for it was always on display for everyone to see. It was not the first remembrance pieces I have done online, but it is the first I had done on MLBlogs and is still one of my early favorites.
” Letter to Commissioner Bud Selig “ ( February 20, 2009).
This letter was in response to some of the situations in the Dominican Republic, and the way that players have been basically heavy-handed in the past by buscones in that country. I actually sent this to the Commissioner Office in New York City and got a great response from the office, but I know it was just filed away and forgotten like so many others.
“Rays Cancel the Gabe & Gabe Show “ ( April 1, 2009).
This was my first attempt at an April Fools joke, and I am not sure if it had the intent I really wanted, but you always remember your first time at anything. But I did get some interesting emails from the people I know with the Rays organization, and they ended up chuckling when they saw the date on the blog.
“Why are Bloggers the Rodney Dangerfields of Journalism?” ( January 29, 2009).
This entry caused a bit of a stir among the Rays bloggers online along with a few established bloggers on legitimates sites throughout the Internet. But that is what a good entry can do, it can make noise and make you see some thing that can be viewed as controversial. I do not regret writing it at all, I actually liked the comments from others and it has changed the way I view certain people now.
”Rays Banner Celebration Photo Blog” (April 14, 2009 )
This might end up being one of my favorite Photo Blogs because of the significance of the day. It was a very emotional night for me having been here since the first pitch (ball) during the Rays first contest against the Detroit Tigers to today. The amount of pure energy and emotion in the building that night was amazing. I hope every one supporting their teams in the MLB can some day feel the prestige and the pride of seeing their banners raised to the rafters too.
” R.I.P…… Downtown Stadium. “ ( May 22, 2009 ).
I loved the fact that a few local sports Twitters linked this blog to some of their updates. I have to say this situation has been coming for a long time. I admired the Rays trails and tribulations in trying to convince the general public and the St. Petersburg community to re-use the Progress Energy/Al Lang Field location for a potential stadium site. The group started by the city and the Rays called, A Baseball Community ( ABC ) will be making their recommendations in the future. And when they do, I will again approach the issue.
“Don Zimmer…..True Baseball Royalty ( January 17, 2009 ).
I think the world of Don Zimmer. I idolized him as a young kid putting gas in his car from my dad’s gas station, to getting to know him with the Rays as their Senior Advisor. The man is a huge treasure of stories and information, and if you sat there non-stop with him for two months, I still think he will have another two weeks of stories to tell you.
“All Christmas Squad” (December 16, 2008).
I really enjoyed doing this blog. I love Christmas, and trying to select the top nine cartoon characters that symbolize the holiday to us was a bit of a long winded effort. But I enjoyed doing the blog and hope it can become a yearly addition for me again in 2009. I still think Buddie, from the movie “Elf” is the best selection for my Christmas third baseman. He reminds me of Longo.
“Mumm’s the Word………..In Celebration Champagne ” ( October 8, 2008 ).
I really got to find out a lot more about bubbly than I ever knew when I started to do some research for this blog. I had to go to a number of site to even find the brand the team was using for their 2008 celebrations, and I could not get the name of the type used during the American League East celebration in Detroit the Friday night they clinched while away from home. But the blog did get me more acquainted with Champagne and gave me a new respect for the celebration concoction.
” Josh Hamilton is my Hero “ ( December 6, 2008 ).
This is my favorite ex-Rays player. And for everything he has gone through in his life both good and bad, the guy has always seemed to smile. I have been lucky enough to know him from the beginning, and every time I see him during his yearly visits to the Trop., I still wonder what it would be like for him to play here for 81 games. He is a likable guy who has found a way to combat demons most of us will never know in life. I admire and respect the guy with total knowledge that the best is yet to come for him.
There are tons of other blogs I could have picked for my top 10, like the Maple Bat series, or the celebration blogs of both the Rays playoff and ALCS and ALDS celebrations. But I tried to pick the ones I would want to read again some day. The Photo Blogs like the airport celebration when the team came back from Detroit as the American League East Champs, or the Rays Rallies down at Straub Park could have also been contenders for the list. The great part is that there are more to come, and hopefully I will be able to write for a long,long time. I enjoy writing and leaving these memories online for others to check out and comment on daily.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my little muses and ramblings since September 7, 2007. I miss writing daily for a newspaper, and this is as close as I am ever going to get again. And with that in mind, I hope you check out the first blog entry and see just how far the postings have come in such a short amount of time. Back then I was writing more for me than anything else. But today I like to think I am writing for an ever increasing group of people both who are Rays fans, and who enjoy the Rays news and events. Number 500 is a huge number. In baseball, if you hit 500 homers you can be almost assured a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But in blogging, it is only a step towards writing more and more until you hit another milestone. I write because I enjoy it, and hopefully you do too.
I have been known to say in the past that a championship is not official until you have that ring on your finger. I unfortunately know the good and the bad out of that statement. I was with a team in college that won a conference championship to only have it taken away by NCAA violations. I was not a pretty moment, but the fact that we still got rings, but they stated “Number 1 in SEC” not champions still stings some days. But on Tuesday night, there was no taking anything away from the accomplishments of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. This was the night they got to put that finishing touch on their magical season by getting their own set of hardware. Proud Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg, President Matt Silverman and Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman presented the rings to over 23 players, eight coaches and 14 executive members of the Rays front office yesterday.
The ring is 14 carat white gold featuring a raised Rays logo among a sea of clustered diamond and shimmering light prisms that seem to dazzle and confuse you. The idea of putting the Rays logo above a outline of a baseball diamond was a classic piece and adds to the glamor of this fantastic ring. But then you look into the center of the Rays logo and you see a unique sight. The Rays decided to add their own special touch to the ring by setting a specialty cut yellow diamond into the logo’s 18 carat gold star/sun burst. But the sparkle doesn’t end there as 48 individual sparkle factories seems to shimmer and shine off the lights to create a magical light display. If you ever want a disco light show at your next party, placing one of these rings within a line of light would produce quite a light show for everyone to enjoy. But that is one of the perks of winning, you get awesome pieces of jewelry to keep for life.
Today’s match up bring to the mound the oldest rotation members of their respective teams. For the Phillies, they will send iron man Jamie Moyer to the mound. When he first came over from Seattle, I was sure how he would fit into this team’s make-up. But to no surprise, the veteran made a place for himself and excelled in his new city. I really loved watching him after Game 5.5 of the World Series as he was kneeling down getting that pitching rubber out of the mound clay. I am a bit puzzled as to where he might have put that awesome reminder of the series. Do you dig a spot in your backyard for it, or maybe just put it on a shelf and walk past it ans pat it on the top for luck. Whatever he did with it, you can bet he will cherish that piece of history.
The Rays send their old man James Shields to the mound today. It is kind of odd to still consider him the oldest member of the rotation with Scott Kazmir already been on the mound for a few years before Shields came up. But by age, he is the eldest statesman of the group. But how good does it make you feel as a Rays fan that you have this guy and the rest of your staff under control for another three years and can watch their development and wins just move higher and higher.
Shields first faced former Rays infielder Miguel Cairo in the game. He quickly got Cairo on a fastball on the outside corner for his first strikeout of the game. Jason Ellison then came up and got caught looking at a Shield’s change-up on the outside corner for a second out. Raul Ibanez then hit a sharp fly to Carl Crawford in left field for the third out and the Phillies went down 1-2-3. Shields was putting the ball on the lower outside corner of the plate with great control in the inning.
Ryan Howard was the first batter to face Shields in the second inning. He took a nice inside curveball for a called third strike for the first out of the inning. Geoff Jenkins then was pitched inside and gave up a short popper in front of the plate that Rays catcher Dioner Navarro quickly got to and tagged Jenkins for the out. Jenkins did not leave the batter’s box saying the ball went off his foot. The Home Plate umpire appealed to the first base umpire who signaled the out…….end of discussion. With two quick out, Shields again pitched inside on Greg Dobbs and got him to hit a bouncer down the first base line that Pena took for an unassisted third out.
Former Phillie Pat Burrell lead off the inning for the Rays and singled to left field. Gabe Kapler then hit another single to give the Rays base runners early in the inning. Navarro then came out and hit a sharp dying hit to center field that Ellison just barely got to in time for the first out. Burrell quickly had to regroup and get back to second base before Ellison could double him off the base. Gabe Gross then hit a double to center field that bounced to the warning track. Burrell scored on the play and Kapler also was coming in to try and score on the play. But a great throw from Ellision to Jason Donald to Phillies catcher Ronny Paulino got Kapler in stride to tag him out at the plate for the second out. Adam Kennedy then hit a ball to Donald who easily threw to Howard at first to end the Rays rally.
Shields came out again in the third inning after two straight 1-2-3 innings against the Phillies. He quickly got Mayberry Jr to hit a ball to Longoria that he completed to Pena for the first out. Shields then walked Donald to give the Phillies their first real base runner of the game. He then got Paulino to hit a grounder to Bartlett for a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. It was not technically another 1-2-3 inning for Shields because of the walk, but he only faced three batters and a total of 9 in the first three innings.
Moyer came on in the third and quickly got Bartlett to hit a grounder to Donald that he converted to Howard for the first out of the inning. Crawford then hit a ball to the same spot for a quick second out on a 4-3 play. Longoria then hit a sharp liner to Dobbs at third base that he did not have to move to field in the air to end the inning. Except for a little trouble in the second inning, Moyer also looked sharp today with two 1-2-3 innings himself today.
Shields came out in the fourth inning and gave up a lead-off single to Cairo, but he tried to stretch the play out to a double and was gunned down by Gross from right field. It will go down as the first hit for the Phillies, but also was the first out of the inning on the tag out at second by Bartlett. Ellison then hit a long fly to Kapler in center field for the second out. And Ibanez hit his second fly ball out of the game to Crawford in left field to go down 1-2-3 again. Moyer came out and quickly gave up a lead-off walk to Pena. Burrell then hit a fly ball to Ibanez for the first out. Kapler then hit another hard liner at Dobbs at third base for the second out of the inning. Navarro struck out to keep the Rays from expanding on their 2-0 lead.
Troy Percival then came out for the Rays. It would be his first game action since late in 2008 for the team. He was also trying to show the Rays Coaching staff that he is going to be ready by Opening Day and would like to be on the 25-man roster come that first game in Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. Percival had been a question mark until recently because of his off season back surgery. He quickly took control of the inning by pitching inside and getting Howard to hit a short bouncer in front of the plate. Navarro quickly scooped up the ball then threw to Pena to get the first out.
Still pitching inside, Percival also took the bat out of Jenkins hands by throwing up and inside and also getting him to chop a ball in front of the plate, which Navarro also scooped and threw to first to complete the out. Jenkins thought the ball went off his right front foot and did not leave the batters box on the play. He voiced his displeasure on the call and it was appealed to the first base umpire who signaled the out. Dobbs then hit another short grounder to Percival that he quickly threw to Pena to get out of the inning with no base runners and showed his control by throwing inside to all three batters.
Moyer, who is being stretch out early by the Phillies came back out for the fifth inning. He got Gross to hit a fly ball to Ellison for the first out. Kennedy then hit a single to give the Rays a base runner. Bartlett then hit a single to left field, but Kennedy did not stray beyond second base. Crawford then hit the first pitch from Moyer to Ibanez for the second out of the inning. Longoria then hit a grounder to Donald, who quickly threw to Howard to get out of the inning with no damage by the Rays. But they still led 2-0 at that point.
Dan Wheeler than took the mound in the sixth inning. It was kind of wild to see Wheeler come out after Percival. It was unusual to see the closer relieved by the set-up man, but it is the spring. Wheeler first faced Mayberry Jr and threw a wild pitch to the backstop before finally getting him to strikeout. Donald then comes to the plate and pops it up to Pena for the second out of the inning. Paulino then got the count to 3-2 before striking out to end the inning.
J A Happ then came out again for the Phillies and got Pena to strikeout for the first out of the inning. Burrell then hit a long fly out to right field for the second Rays out. Kapler then hit a towering shot to left field that easily was a solo home run for Kapler. With two hits today, Kapler has now gone 3-20 this spring for the Rays. Navarro then hit another single off Happ. Gross hit a sharp grounder to second, but it was quickly tossed to second for a 4-6 force out to end the Rays inning. But the Rays are still up 3-0 at the time.
Grant Balfour came out for the Rays in his first appearance since being hit in the bicep/triceps region during his last outing. Balfour ended up giving up a lead-off single to right to Cairo. Ellison then walked to give the Phillies the first two guys on base. Then tries to get Ibanez to ground out, but he he walks him to load the bases for the Phillies. Howard then came up with the bases juiced and hits a sacrifice fly to center field to score Cairo for their first run of the game. Jenkins then struck out to record the second out of the inning. Dobbs then walks to load the bases again. With that, Rays Manager Joe Maddon goes out and gets Balfour and brings in Randy Choate to face the Phillies with two outs. Mayberry hit a high popper to Longoria, who caught the ball for the third out of the inning.
Happ came out again for the Phillies and gave up a infield single to Ray Sadler. Happ then caught Sadler leaning a bit at first and he threw to Howard who then threw to second for the tag out on the pick-off attempt. Reid Brignac then hit a fly ball to left field for the second out. Morgan Ensberg then walked to put another runner on base for the Rays. Rays Olmedo then came out and hit another shot to left field to end the inning for the Rays.
Choate again came out for the Rays in the top of the eighth inning. He quickly got Donald to hit a fly ball to right field for the first out. Chris Coate then came up and hit a long fly ball to the warning track in center field, but Justin Ruggiano caught the ball before the wall. Mike Cervenak then hit another fly out to Sadler in right field to end the inning. Happ again comes out in the bottom of the eighth inning and gives up a lead-off single to Ruggiano. Michel Hernandez then hit a sharp grounder to Cervenak, who tosses it to second to start a 4-6-3 double play and erase Ruggiano from the base paths. John Jaso then hit a ball in between Happ and first that he picks up and tosses to first to end the inning.
The Rays replace Choate and send out Joe Nelson for the top of the ninth inning. This is Nelson’s second outing this spring. Ellison comes up first and hit a fly ball to left field for the first out. Pablo Ozuna then lined a ball to left field for the second out. So Andy Tracy came up with two outs for the Phillies in the inning. He then took a hanging pitch by Nelson down the right field line for a solo home run. the entire time the ball was in the air, it was fighting the wind down the line. Lou Marson then struck out to end the Phillies rally and the final score will ne 3-2 Rays victory.
Today we saw a question mark answered for the Rays. With Percival having his dominating inning, he showed that he is on pace to be ready by Opening Day. His inside pitching took the bat out of the Phillies hands and he got three quick and concise outs in his first appearance this spring. Also a good sign is the pitching of Shields who also seemed to be able to throw every one of his pitches for strikes and kept the Phillies guessing during his outing. This was the second Spring Training game against these two squads. the next time they meet will be the scene of the Game 5.5 last out as they will play a two-game series in Citizen Bank Park April 3rd and 4th in Philadelphia.
Photo credits go to: 1) RRCollection
2) Associated Press ( Charles Krupa )
3) The Enquirer.com
4) Associated Press ( Charles Krupa )
It was learned earlier today that Tampa Bay almost lost one of their baseball icons over the holiday season. Rays Senior Advisor Don Zimmer was said to have suffered a small stroke during the holidays and is resting and recovering now with a great chance for total recovery. For this to be kept under the covers for this long is an amazement to me. Maybe it is because I view Zimmer as a living treasure trove of information, stories and is just plain fun to talk to about baseball, fishing and life in this area when the streetcars went down Central Avenue and the Vinoy was an abandoned building rotting away with time and not a 5-star resort nestled on the waterfront in St Petersburg.
That last statement might be interesting to some people in St Petersburg, but Zimmer has lived here, and most of the time in Treasure Island, Florida. Zimmer first fell in love with the area when he was a player with the New York Mets. He is as much an institution to this area and to the Rays as the Don Cesar Hotel, and even the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Of the people who have been associated with this franchise, he has to be one of the top 5 people listed on almost everyone’s list. The only other people in my top list with him are Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff, who might have a chance for the Hall of Fame starting in 2010.
I am here today to write a living tribute to the man also known as “Popeye” who has meant so much to the game of baseball and to fans of the American League East. Every team in this division has a Don Zimmer story or event. And it is for that reason that we should celebrate this amazing life and career on January 17th, which is also the date of his 78th birthday. So please feel free to remember and also visualize the times and career of this player and manager that has had a incredible life both on and off the diamond. Something you might not know about Zimmer, he wed his beautiful wife Soot ( Jean ) in Elmira, New York during a baseball game. Zimmer first began dating her in 10th grade.
Zimmer is as famous as a player as he is a manager in his years in baseball. Most people remember him as the feisty and skilled shortstop of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who broke into the majors in 1954. For the next 12 years he played in the majors, and found his first taste of success in 1955 with the World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers. But he also has dealt with adversity playing shortstop for the New York Mets in 1962 when they lost 120 games.
His time in baseball was almost cut short by a in 1953 while with the St Paul minor league squad. In a game, Zimmer was struck in the temple and did not regain consciousness for 13 days. With pressure building on his brain, he had hole drilled into his skull to relieve the building pressure and suffered from blurred vision and went from 170 to 124 pound while trying to regain his motors skills to walk and talk. He was only 22 years old when he was told his baseball career might be over for good.
But Zimmer rose above the complications to regain his motor skills and again play the game he loved for a living. He was again hit by a Cincinnati fastball in the cheek in 1956 and broke his cheekbone. Again he rose from the ashes and after a steel plate was inserted into his head, again trained to begin playing baseball. If nothing else, Zimmer was a test to the art of positive thinking and determination in this point in his career. Most people would have called it quits and went about a life after baseball. But not Zimmer, he still loved the game, and the people in it.
In 1958, Zimmer followed the Dodgers to their new home in Los Angeles, then moved from the Chicago Cubs to the New York Mets and the Cincinnati Reds in 1962. He then returned to the Dodgers in 1963 before finally moving onto the Washington Senators where he played his last game on the field on October 2, 1965. In his 12 years in the majors leagues, Zimmer appeared in 1095 games, compiled over 773 hits,79 homers, with 352 RBI’s and a lifetime .235 batting average.
During his playing career he got to go to the fall classic with the Dodgers in 1955 and 1959, and was selected for the National League squad of the 1961. Although his hitting was not his best aspect of the game, his fielding was never called into question, He was versatile enough to play third base, second base, shortstop , and even caught 33 games in his final season in Washington in 1965. Zimmer also had the honor of playing in 1966 in Japan with the Toei Flyers.
But it was in the dugout where the feisty ex-player gained the respect of everyone in baseball. He started out as most do, in the minor leagues until he first stood on the field as the Third Base Coach for the Montreal Expos in 1971. He did the same in 1972 with the San Diego Padres, but 11 games into the season, he was called upon to replace Preston Gomez as manager. Zimmer remained with the Padres until the close of the 1973 season when he was fired and he moved on to the Boston Red Sox for the next 2 1/2 seasons.
Zimmer was then a key figure in the 1975 World Series with the Red Sox when in Game 6 a ball was hit into shallow left field and Zimmer coaching at third base yelled to base runner Denny Doyle, ” No, No No” upon the catch in shallow left. Doyle misunderstood Zimmer and tried to score and was thrown out at the plate. The play helped set up one of the most memorable moments in Red Sox history as Carlton Fisk hit his memorable game winning home run later in the contest.
In 1976, the Red Sox did not come out confident and playing up to par, and Johnson was fired and Zimmer was given the reigns of the young Boston team. From 1977-79, the Red Sox won at least 90 games for Zimmer. His 1978 squad won 99 game, still the 4th best record by a Red Sox team in their hallowed history. But that same season, he was remembered more for the collapse after leading the A L East by as many as 14 games. Zimmer was the unfortunate skipper at the helm when the New York Yankees finally caught the Red Sox in a series dubbed, “The Boston Massacre.” That year the team went back and forth with the Yankees before Bucky Dent sent a stake through their hearts in a one-game playoff on October 2, 1978.
During that span Zimmer made a few questionable moves that were played out in the newspapers and in the stands. He did not get along with popular pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee and further stuck the dagger in their feud when he gave the last game start during the “Boston Massacre” series to a triple-A pitcher Bobby Sprowl instead of Lee. Zimmer also might have overused Carlton Fisk during that season starting him in 154 of 162 games. Fisk would begin to have sore knee problems and missed a bunch of time in 1979 due to arm problems.
Zimmer also kept a suspect Butch Hobson at third base even as elbow problems began to surface with the players throws to first base. Zimmer held firm to the belief Hobson could play until after a series of bad errors he was forced to call up Jack Brohamer to replace Hobson. The Boston debacle was not the last stage for Zimmer as he moved on to mange the Texas Rangers in 1981, then moved onto three stints with the Yankees and also the San Francisco giants between 1982 until 1989 when he took over the Chicago Cubs.
In that season, Zimmer won a divisional title for the Cubs, and was named the Manager of the Year by major league baseball. Zimmer returned to Boston in 1992 to help one of his former players, Butch Hodson with the club. Zimmer went onto coach on the first expansion staff of the Colorado Rockies in 1993, and in 1996 began a long tenure as the Bench Coach of the New York Yankees. He was on the bench for 4 of their World Series Championships. He also took over the Manager’s position when Joe Torre was recuperating from prostate cancer in 1999. Zimmer went 21-15 in Torre’s absence, then returned to his usual spot in the dugout again. Those game were never officially credited to Zimmer, who won over 906 games as a manager in the major leagues.
But the event that further made him into a legend was the game between the Boston Red Sox and his New York Yankees during the 2003 ALCS. When a brawl began on the field, Zimmer went out onto the Fenway field and was face to face with Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez who threw the nimble Zimmer to the turf by his warm up jacket. The scene became world famous and made Martinez an instant enemy to Yankee fans throughout the nation.
In another game, Zimmer was sitting on the bench when Chuck Knoblach hit a screaming foul ball into the dugout and got Zimmer flush on the head. Zimmer used the event to evike some humor as he came out the next day wearing an army helmet with “ZIM” written in it in white. Since his time with the Yankees, Zimmer has been the Tampa Bay Rays Senior Advisor helping the squad with expertise during Spring Training and he can often be seen down on the field in his Rays uniform during Batting Practice chatting with coaches’ and players’ daily.
Zimmer currently wears number “60″, for 2008 was his 60th year in professional baseball. Every season, Zimmer moves up one more uniform number. In 2009, Zimmer will be issued the number “61″ jersey. During 2008, Zimmer was the last member of the Brooklyn dodger organization still serving in some capacity in baseball. Along with living in Seminole, Florida now with his wife, he is a proud author of 2 books, “The Zen of Zim” and ” Zim: A Baseball Life.”
Thank goodness that this past holiday season did not take this great warrior away from us. The guy truly believes he has more baseball to enjoy in life, and if you have ever had the pleasure to speak to this man about baseball, you can see the twinkle in his eye as he remembers some of the greatest moments in the game. Zimmer is recovering and is slowly getting back to his normal lifestyle.
With less than 30 days until the Rays head to Port Charlotte, Florida for the first time away from their old St. Petersburg training complex, Zimmer might not be at this years site for the first time in a long while. but the accent should be on him regaining his strength and his stamina so he can sit in the seat behind home plate again in 2009 and see his Rays again contend for the American League East title.
I can not imagine a year without Zimmer in the organization, but you know that it will come to and end at some moment in time. Hopefully we did not see the last of this great warrior as he threw out that first pitch before Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS. I truly think we have not seen the last of this great titan of the sport. He has risen before from worse odds to again smile and enjoy this great game. Hopefully his next seat will be within range of yelling at Rays Manager Joe Maddon and his players in 2009.
Sorry for the delay in getting this “Wish List” out for my personal Rays 2009 Closer shopping list. For the past couple of days there has been a few rumblings at the Trop. concerning ticket prices and the firing of Raymond’s alter ego, the departure of Joe Magrane, and I decided it all took a front seat to my little wish list.
So I am getting down to business again by checking out the Free Agents and some guys currently thought to be on the trading block, who are considered closers in the MLB. I am also going to do my list on the assumption that current Ray’s closer Troy Percival will either be out still rehabbing his back and knee problems at the beginning of the season, or will not be with the team at all.
This is not to be considered a positive or a negative at this time. Percival has not informed the Rays of his intentions either to rehab or have surgery on his two problem areas. I am going to remain neutral in my opinions on that for the moment, but will consider all options on the table for the position in the Bullpen.
There are several people who have peaked my interest lately in the closer category. Chad Cordero ( Nationals) is a proven closer, but the situation in Washington last season make me think he might not be as healthy as he claims to be physically is on the mound. I still think a healthy Cordero would be a plus to any orgainzation, the Rays included.
But there are a few guys who I think can be taken off this list because of past injuries. These guys I think still have situations that are just smoke screens to bigger problems. People like Eric Gagne ( Brewers) and Jason Isringhausen ( Cardinals) might still have the stuff, but I think they need to go to another club and post some impressive numbers if they want to seek the big money again. Gagne has dropped about 6 mph off his best pitch, his fastball since the steroid policy kicked in a few years ago.
This is not a obsevation that was missed by people in baseball who have also noticed he has not developed or worked on another pitch since his dominant days in LA.
Jason Isringhausen tried to develop a changeup to go along with his other two pitches, and some of the ballooning ERA might be explained in his trying to force the changeup over the plate and it just rolled and stayed in the strike zone too long and got hammered by hitters’. Both their numbers over the last season would indicate that they might be heading for that fast slope downward as closers’.
Brian Fuentes and Francisco Rodriquez will be the most visiableand powerful options this season for the position. The Rays will probably not have the money or the resources to go after a guy of K-Rod’s caliber right now. He would be a plus-plus addition to the young and improving Bullpen, but the high ceiling money aspect takes him out of the running fast in Tampa Bay.
Fuentes is another story. I think he has the same stuff that John Rocker had with the Braves. He is a leftie closer, which is a rare find, and a huge advantage to matching up the lineup with your reliever. But the Colorado Rockies have been very hesistant about even putting him visibly on the market.
Fuentes does offer that unusual low delivery angle which works well with his fastball and changeup in the Rockies home ballpark. His sweeping slider is an out pitch to lefites and can be very devastating to righties at times. He has been on the display shelf for everyone to see since the 2008 Trade Deadline, and I think the Rays underbid for him then, and might not consider him a great asset to their organization.
There are a few guys who have been under the radar, but trade interest has been shown in them this off season. Brandon Lyon (Diamondbacks) is a young guy who could be effective, but I am not sure he is cut out right now to be your close out guy. He has great stuff, but might not have the killer instinct yet and might be the better setup man for a few more seasons.
One guy who I admire a helluva lot as a closer, but got shafted totally by his club was Trevor Hoffman ( Padres). He was sitting there with an offer on the table and thinking about all the pros and cons and the team pulls it and tells him basically to hit the road. Do I think it was classless……….Do you have to ask? I lost alot of respect and think that this move will come back to haunt the Padres in 2009. Hoffman will go on to hit the top spot as the best closer all-time in the MLB, and the Padres missed the boat on it all.
My top three guys might seem a bit odd considering 2 are not even free agents, but I think the Rays have the pitching and the prospects to pull off these trades without a hitch if they want to pull the tigger on them.
I think that the third guy on my list would be Bobby Jenks ( White Sox). People have been remarking about his decrease in strikeouts and his fumbling around the strike zone in 2008. Scott Kazmir had the same problem due to the fact that the team wanted him to throw to spots in the strike zone instead of just fire the ball into the mitt. Jenks is also a leftie and has a unusual cut to his pitches as they near the plate.
He does have an unsual forte of having 4 pitches to throw at hitters, where most closer have 3 or less to work with on the mound. I think Jenks is another victim of progress and is caught up in that same mold of being reigned in and taught to hit the outside corners and throw away from batters instead of just rockin’ and rolling the ball in there. He would be a huge plur upgrade for the Rays and would be a impact player from his first pitch with the organization.
My second guy is also still on another team’s roster, but the Rays have been hot on him for the past year. Huston Street ( Rockies) lost a huge dose of confidence in Oakland last season. At times it seemed that his own Pitching Coach gave up on him for awhile before finally giving him a chance to redeem himself on the mound. Street is another guy who has a 3/4 and almost side-arm delivery that can make it harder for batters’ to see the ball early on him. His slider is short and tight, not like most of them that tend to sweep around and catch you unaware at times.
During the 2008 trade deadline, the Rays were talking alot to the A’s about him and seriously wanted him to help the back-end of the Rays bullpen. At that time , Percival was a hot and cold closer for the team battling injuries and a unwillingness to speak up about potential injuries or problems. Street could be had also for the right mixture of prospects and pitching and would be a valuable addition to the staff.
My top guy on my wish list has been a guy I wanted to get 2 years ago when he was struggling with his old team. He had been a starter and had a few injuries that basically forced the power- that- be with his team to consider him damaged goods at the time.
He struggled and fought and earned a right to go to the Bullpen and became a huge factor in his team’s Bullpen plans. He progressed to become one of the hidden gems in the closers’ role and is out as a free agent for the first time as a closer.
The guy who I would love to see take the mound in the 9th inning for the Rays in 2009 is Kerry Wood. The guys knows competition and how to prepare now. It took him a bit to get used to being the last guy out there every night, but I truly think he will have a banner 2009 season. With the obvious need by the Rays for a closer past 2009, this guy could fill the role and give you a guy who might even put a bit of fear in people on the mound.
Because he is not just a fastball pitcher, his breaking pitches, basically a huge 12-6 curveball would be a great out pitch to the batters seeking a big fat fastball over the plate. With the Rays, Wood could develop a slider that could be a great addition to his arsenal. One thing I have always like about the up and coming Rays pitchers’. The Rays minor leaguers’ have some of the nicest sliders you will find in baseball.
So with the addition of this pitch and Wood on the Rays roster for 2009, I think the closer position will be filled for 3 years with no problems. For the team to continue this closer-by-committee BS is totally out of line with normal thinking. Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour have designated positions in the late innings of the game. To keep playing with the formula will instill a bad karma for the team and place some instability to their game preparations.
When you are in the back end of a Bullpen, you best friend is repetition and the fact of security in your role. To keep throwing the names in a hat and picking my matchups and not by strengths the team is sending the wrong message to it’s Bullpen veterans.
Tomorrow I will hit the trail and throw a few names out for Bullpen upgrades via the free agent market. There is a good amount of quality arms out there who could be a huge factor in the 2009 pen. Both lefties and righties will be thrown out in tomorrow’s blog.
Until later, have fun, stay warm and do not catch one on the outside corner for that thrid called strike.
If you missed the Tampa Bay Rays Rally at Straub Park in St. Petersburg on Monday, you missed a party 10 years in the making. Not that we have a habit in this area of saving our parties for special occasions, but this day was for celebrating baseball in general. I got there about 1 P.M. to meet with a few on the Maddon’s Maniacs and participate in a short promotion video that will grace the Jumbotron this week during the two ALDS games at the Trop.
It is a short little diddy around our lovable mascot Rayomnd and the “Feel The Heat” theme song that is a huge success for the Rays. It was not a long shoot, and it was a bit corny for my tastes, but you never know what the video genies will do with a small piece of film. We shall see on Thursday.
After getting that video situation out of the way, I scoped out my stage right standing position right next to the lous speakers that would be blaring music by the 80′s group Survivior in a few hoiurs. It was about 2:30-ish and I had a bit of time before the activities were to start. Florida Sports Network and Sunshine Network were setting up to broadcast the event and provide some commentary and extra footage from the Rays Television trio of Dewayne Staats, Joe Mcgrane and Todd Kalas.
As 5 P.M. got closer, Rusty, the Rays usual Tropicana Field game M.C. got us all excited and reminded us that the Chicago White Sox vs. Detroit Tigers game was still in a rain delay. This is important to us Rays fans so we can decide who to email and hassle before Thursday’s game. At 5 P.M., Rusty came out and started the event off by letting us know that national figures had sent a few videos kudos to the team.
We had the usual ESPN people and members of the TBS broadcasting teams shot during the All-Star game, but there were a few unusal greetings also sent to the Rays. Rob Schneider, of “You can do it” fame sent a bizzare, but really thought out diddy that even included his dog pimping out for the Rays. Kevin Costner unvealed his new song, “It’s All Up To You” written for the Rays as a show of respect from Costner and his band, Modern West. The video was a montage of the visit by Costner and the band last November to help promote the new uniforms, and included some batting pratice pieces from Progress Energy Field.
Orlando, a popular DJ from 98.7 radio station in town also brought his new song for the Rays to be unveiled today during the Rally. The song was titled, “The Trop. Boys”, and it had a grat beat and was a cool sounding song. I know we will be seeing more of that song here in the playoffs at the Trop.
After that, it was onto the introduction of the players. I am going to post an additional blog with the picture on it to save some space here today. The Television guys, Staats, Mcgrane and Kalas all started the program off with a video recalling the highs of this magical season for the team. the video played up the Boston, Chicago and Angels series sweeps, and showed the walk-off wins for the team in 2008.
After that, Todd Kalas came out and got into the player and coaches introductions of our 2008 Rays team. The most applause of course went to skipper Joe Maddon and Don Zimmer today. After the coaches took their place on the stage, the players were intorduced one by one, with Akinora Iwamura getting the “Aki” chant from the crowd. the guys were all sporting their Rays white uniforms, and it made a great background for the hundreds of cameras snapping their every move. After getting through all but one of the players introductions, Kalas introduced B J Upton, who I still believe is the most unsung hero of this season.
After that, Kalas introduced a few people I know well, but Tampa Bay should get to know. Bullpen Catcher, Scott “The Enforcer” Cursi is one of the most tireless workers I have ever met, and is a great guy to boot. Chris “Chico” Fernandez does a great job getting game and scouting video for the team. And last, but not least is the Rays clubhouse manager Chris “Westy” Westmoreland. I have heard fron a number of people that he runs the best clubhouse system in the major leagues. Kudos to him for that.
After these last 3 important introductions, Kalas turned the mic over to the skipper, Joe Maddon to talk a bit to the crowd. Madden as usual, was uplifting and totally believeable and the crowd showed its energy by clapping and cheering for the boss. After he was done speaking, the mic was turned over to the team’s charismatic Carlos Pena who pumped up the crowd more by urging them to come out and make the Trop deafening with their noise and enthusiasm on Thursday and beyond in the playoffs.
After the players left the stage, Rusty called up a few local icons who have been true Rays fanatics for years. The first was current WWE Champion John Cena, who confessed he used to live in Boston, but has converted into a true Rays believer now. Cena also provided one of the best moments of the Rally when he informed the crowd he had heard from Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield and first baseman Sean Casey that the Rays had no heart.
Well, Cena decided to call Sean Casey on his cellphone, but Casey was probably either at the Red Sox Rally held that day before the hit the airport for California, or he was not going to take the call because he knew he would hear a load of crowd noise in the background. Cena made sure Casey had an interesting voicemail and proclaimed that the Rays did have spirit and heart and you heard the entire crowd roar towards the stage to voice their opinion on Casey’s comments.
Right before Cena was going to leave the stage, he called up the Rays appointed 10th man, Brian “Nasty Boy” Knobs to the stage for some comments. Knobs came onto the stage in his usual manner blowing smoke and fire from his nostrils and pumping the crowd into a frenzy. Of course, Knobs could not leave the stage before getting the entire crowd to chant, “Let’s Go Rays.”
After that, the show was winding down and Rusty intoduced the band, Survivior who put on an amazing concert for about 2 hours. During this time I got to go sit in the VIP section in front of the stage courtesy of Trisha Johnson of the Rays and snapped a few hundred pictures. I am thinking I might include a few of them on the blog. The band did an amazing show and ended it with “Eye of the Tiger” to push the crowd into a frenzied climax to the event.
At this time we still did not know who was going to be our opponent for Thursday, but the White Sox were up 1-0 at the time. As I was walking to my car in the Pier parking lot, it hit me that this might not the only Rally this year for the Rays. That we have a possibility of 2 more Rallies and a few hundred chances of cheering for the team between now and a possible World Series game. I am not going to jinx or put a hoax on anything, but 10 years ago, that was not even in my mindset for this squad. Wow, how times flies when you are having fun!!!
It must be a true rush to be on stage and singing……….that is something I wish I had done in my younger life….totally, totally into music