Results tagged ‘ Don Zimmer ’

My Ray’s 2009 Closer Christmas Wish List

 

               

 

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.

 

 

 

Rays Postseason Rally in St. Petersburg

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.



Rays vs Yankees Controversy………..or Just Hustle in the Yard

 

I have been reluctant to include my trivia questions in the past few blogs because no one seems to want to comment,or even try and figure them out.
Here is a Yankee/Red Sox teaser for your pleasure:


Who has the best lifetime win percentage as a starting pitcher against the New York Yankees?


Answer at the end of the Blog.


I have to weigh in my two pennies on the recent Rays/Yankees debate concerning new Yanks skipper Joe Girardi and a recent home plate collision. If you are wondering what I am referring to, it is the home plate car wreck between Yankees’ catcher, Francisco Cervelli and the Rays’, Elliot Johnson. I understand that most players are not up to par yet with the speed of the game in the early stages of Spring Training.


That the “rookies” or select Minor League players’ invited to the MLB camp, are seeking to open eyes or even earn a coveted roster spot with the big club. Because of this situation,they ( Minor Leaguers’ )might hustle or take a few risks with base running decisions.  They also want to show a willingness to do what is needed to win.
It is in that vein, that I personally feel that Elliott Johnson did what was needed at the moment of the collision. He went into home plate trying to jar the ball out of the catchers mitt to score another run, not with intent to harm,dismember, or cause such a ruckus out of the Yankee camp.


A few days earlier, All-Star Left Fielder,Carl Crawford bulldozed a catcher in a Spring Training game and there was not even a hint of controversy or bad decision making put towards his actions. Of course, in that collision,Crawford was able to jar the ball from the catcher, no one was injured or taken from the game,and the Rays earned a much needed run against their opponent.


Hustle and willingness to do what is needed is what secures these “invitees” a roster spot,or at least another weeks with the big squad before going to the Ray Namoli complex, which is the site of the Minor League camp.
Now Carl did not have to drive himself into the catcher and dislodge the ball on spec, but it showed he is ready to do whatever is needed to win this year. That is a veteran sign that he is here to play and take no prisoners.
And that, gets both the Rays’ fan base and Joe Maddon’s attention.


Earlier in the Yankee game, New York invitee, Bernie Castro was rounding third with Rays’ catcher Shawn Riggans squared up on the dish. Castro could have easily dusted Riggans off the plate, but Shawn left a nice hole for Castro to hook slide around his tag. Base running decisions have to be made in a split second. Both players had to assess the situation and do what was needed to score, or pervent a run. Castro, by sliding in under Riggans, scored the only Yankee run of that game.


He did not need to remove Riggans and ball to score. Question is, did Johnson have the same options?  Answer, No, the relay throw was going to beat him to the plate by a stride, and in a Pete Rose-Ray Fosse moment he buried his shoulder into Cervelli.
He could have slide and maybe gotten in there( doubtful),or he could become a Mike Alstott A-train clone and bulldoze the Yankees minor league catcher. We know what his decision was, and I am totally in his corner for what he did.I was an aggressive base runner also in college, and used to not look back when i had to come in rough on a second baseman or a catcher. I did it when I felt it was needed to help the team. Either as a enthusiastic moment, or a game-changing play, it was done in a split second and no regrets could stop the momentum.

 

I can see why new Yankees skipper Joe Girardi would be a bit flustered or upset about such a play involving two Minor Leaguer’s doing their all to make an impression on their managers.


But, Joe, this part of Spring Training is a time for these guys to show you what they got, and make you remember their names in your nightly meetings with your coaching staff. And all the Minor League guys know that the decision time is nearing for each of them. Johnson will probably not make the Rays’ final 25 man roster, but he made a huge impression on both teams.


Either you are for or against his actions, there is no middle ground here. In his playing days, Joe Girardi was a feisty and gutsy catcher with the Yankees.  He knows what it takes to hold onto the ball in a train wreck situation. That is what I find kind of “whiny” here about the Yankee skipper.  


Remember, this is the manager who told his Florida Marlins’ team owner to, “Shut up!”, when the owner was heckling a umpire during a game. Does that sound like the same guy who whined to the press about the event, and did not even consult or send a message to Rays skipper, Joe Maddon about the collision before the newspapers were printed and on his doorstep.


How many Yankee fans are thinking WWTD right now. (What Would Torre’ Do?).


I know that Girardi is in the infant stage of his managerial career, but is this the thing he wants to be remembered for this Spring?
He has a few holes in his team, and questions that needed to be addressed on personnel and setting his starting rotation.
And he pick this play to spouts off about this?



Both Joes’ have different opinions about the event. Joe Maddon,the Rays’ manager sees it as a rite of Spring basically.  Hard nosed baseball that unfortunately ended in a Yankee injury. (Francisco Cervelli could be out 8-10 weeks with an injury). What would either manager have said if the events was reversed. Johnson was hurt in that play, or Riggans in a prior home plate play.  If Cervelli had dropped the ball and the Rays scored another run to make it a 5-1 win, would it have been different or still have the same effect on Girardi.


I personally think Joe Maddon would not be crying to the heavens wanting the baseball gods to rain displeasure down on anyone. He would have applauded the effort and give kudos for the hard nosed-style of play of Johnson. I am including a video from that game,shot by a Yankee fan. It shows both home plate plays and you can make up your own mind on the issue of the collision.


In closing, I think the comments of Yankee savant and yoda, Don Zimmer speak volumes here: “Of all people – Joe Girardi’s a tough guy, a tough catcher. I don’t know what spring training’s got to do with it,” Zimmer said. “I think he was out of line. That’s the best way I can put it, whether he likes that or not. That’s the way I feel.”


Amen Yankee Yoda, Amen.

 

I am all for hard play and hustle on the diamond.  If Delmon Young had more hustle than his mouth, he would still be patrolling right field in the Trop for the Rays.

 

The answer to the Trivia Question is:

Former Yankee great, Babe Ruth. When he was first with the Boston Red Sox, he owned the New York Yankees on the mound.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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