Results tagged ‘ Eduardo Perez ’

Puerto Rico and Winter Baseball

I was sitting here at the computer on Sunday morning after the  late night news that the Tampa Bay Rays decided to non-tender former catcher Shawn Riggans, who was at that moment was playing Winter Baseball in Puerto Rico. And now that Riggans was a MLB Free Agent and still playing in the Puerto Rico Winter League, who else from among the other MLB squads could be playing or even rehabbing amongst the  League’s five rosters.

Could there be some of the well known players from around Major League Baseball using this Winter League as an extra workout primer to get into early game shape, or is this the “in” spot for MLB Free Agents  to using the league as a visual point for scouts and MLB teams interested in their services for the 2010 season.

I have to be totally honest here, before this season I really did not even think twice about the Liga de Beisbol Professional de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League) when it came to the yearly Winter Leagues around the Carribean. 

I guess I have been a bit shortsighted and naive to think that great players are not playing on teams in these Winter months. I mean, the PRPBL does have a great history and respectability around Major League circles. And their League Champion does get a berth in the Carribean World Series. But why is it that as soon as the World Series is over most of us who follow baseball just seem to forget about the game until the pitchers and catchers report in the middle of February?

I mean as of December 14th, there are currently around 37 members of an MLB clubs 40-man roster playing in the League. And some of those players are household names around baseball like catcher Ivan Rodriguez (Wash), and outfielders Lou Montanez (Balt) and Alex Rios (CWS) who play for Crillios (Creoles) de Cagua. Or maybe you are looking for pitchers like Ian Snell (Sea), Javier Vasquez (ATL) or Jake Westbrook(Clev) who are currently on the Leones (Lions) de Ponce squad.

And they are just a small smattering of the current members of MLB team’s 40-man rosters that are participating in this Winter’s season. Other squads include pitcher Rick VandenHurk (FL) or outfielder Nate Schierholtz (SF) and infielder Ivan DeJesus (LAD) who play on the same Gigantes de Carolina team with Riggans. 

Or maybe you are more interested in the Indios (Indians) de Mayaguez roster that boasts players like pitcher Johnathan Albaladego (NYY) or Carlos Beltran (NYM) who is getting extra work in before Spring Training, or Randy Ruiz (Tor) who is using the league to get more time at first base so he can secure a 25-man roster spot.

But the League is not only full of current guys on a teams 40-man roster, but you have a bevy of Free Agents down here playing right now in front of scouts and teams looking for a contract and a possible Spring Training Invite. Players such as Joel Pinero (P), outfielder Reggie Abercrombie (OF),Luis Mateo (OF),Jose Molina (C), Jose Vidro (INF) and Alex Cora (INF) are all down here basically playing for exposure and a possible 2010 MLB contract.

And there are other names of MLB prospects and guys needing some extra fine tuning before reporting in a few months to Spring Training. But it is kind of weird that MLB and the PRPBL suspended play for one season back in 2007-2008 to reorganize and institute a marketing plan, but none of us everyday MLB fans really knew anything about this league.

Maybe MLB needs to better educate the public as to the time tables for these Winter League’s so that we can also follow some of our hometown MLB and farm system players as they playing in these leagues. This season is the first time I have been remotely interested in checking up on Rays farm system players in the league. At first it was to see how Riggans was doing in his rehab. But now it is to see the performance of reliever Eduardo Morlan or even to check on how former Rays player Eduardo Perez is doing as the Manager of Leones de Ponce.

And I think other people will also be excited to check up on their players and their progress in the future. This League never crossed my mind before this season, but now I am coming back every few days to see the progress and check to see if Lobos de Arecibo is still in front in the League, and if their winning streak is over. I have discovered Winter League baseball in Puerto Rico, and have also discovered that well known players and MLB prospects are both playing great ball late into December.

 

Can Cheating be Acceptable?

 

        


When we were younger most of us knew kids who used to sneak a glance or look  directly at classmates tests for a quick word recognition for a test question. We did expose them as “cheating” but  we did remain silent and for some reason accepted their actions. It did not dawn on us the moral consequences of getting caught because in our minds we just thought it was a one time thing by them. But how can we not have the same mindset when it comes to cheating in baseball. Some people see it for what it really is, a well rehearsed and orchestrated event that goes on nightly in our ballparks, while other cry out at the first sign of an improper move.

I am not condoning cheating here, but it is a bit more widespread than we give it credit for most days. Some people believe in he old saying, “If you are not cheating, you are not trying.” But then again, it is not cheating unless you get caught.  So why is it that we show such huge amount of emotion and outcry when one of our athletes gets caught in a sport that wants you to steal, and sometimes you even get caught in the act. I know the general belief is that cheaters never prosper, but in reality they do get away with it more than you will ever imagine in baseball.

I mean is the sport of baseball actually harboring a belief that the act f cheating is somehow part of the under fiber of the game and is accepted as a mode of behavior by its players and teams. You only have to look at some of the rituals and action within the game itself to see that cheating, in some form is right in front of your eyes all the time.  I mean if a player does a slide outside the base path to break up a double play and either rolls into a infielder or brings his spikes up, is that an accepted form of cheating? Or maybe the simple act of leaving some saliva on your finger or even putting a small slip of sandpaper attached to the back of your belt giving you a huge advantage in the game.

Steroids have become a huge polarizing point in the sport in recent years, and while I do not condone them because of the lasting  side effects they will have on the human body, I can understand the need and want to be the best in the sport. And is that really some of the reason most people do get caught using an illegal substance. They are trying to find the top of the limit they can use something to give them an edge without it becoming an obvious part of their game. Trying to be the best at what they do can sometime make a aging veteran make a bad decision, or a rookie fighting for survival above the minor leagues.

People forget that even in the cool and groovy 1970’s teams used to have amphetamines as general drugs in the MLB clubhouses before they were finally outlawed by the league for their damaging effects on the body.  People have used everything in the pharmacy to find an edge or an advantage in this game, so why is today’s generation any different. Mostly they are different because they are getting caught and maybe going above and beyond the accepted levels and usage of any drugs or cheating device.

I would love to be able to have a packet of those red dots people use on files to walk through the Baseball Hall of Fame to just put on the plagues and the displays of people enshrined or even their gear in the walls and galleries of the famed building of people who have either cheated, or have a huge public perception of some kind of non-conducive act in the game. I think that most of the early day pitchers had their moments. We know of plenty who have been known to doctor the ball, or even outright do it in front of the crowds without their knowledge.

         

The biggest pitching name to admit to some sort of doctoring is Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.  I mean a simple wipe of the brow of his cap, or even adjusting his pants by grabbing the belt could produce a small quantity of vasoline that could be used to send the ball in a different flight pattern to the plate.  We all know he has been suspended in his career for his antics on the mound, but one of his best might be the act of seeming to doctor the ball and it be as clean as a whistle. Then we have Phil Niekro, the knuckleballer who was caught once and suspended for 10 games for his acts of cheating.

Niekro’s weapon of choice was an emery board which could be used to put a indentation in the ball to get a better flight pattern for his butterfly ball. Considering he already threw a pitch that had its own mind, the added aerodynamic of the scuffed ball just gave him an additional edge in the game. Even greats like Whitey Ford and Don Sutton have come under the microscope, but still enjoy huge fan support. Most pitchers of that era had their own ways of adding some sort of substance to the ball to get some more action on it, but was it considered a part of the game, or was it a rationalization on cheating by saying “everybody does it”‘

The biggest form of cheating is the action done by Coaching staff and players in the dugout during games by watching the Third Base Coach and the opposing dugout especially during the games. Act of stealing signs is an accepted form of cheating in the rules of the game. It is hard to prove that another team is doing it, but it is also an accepted norm of the game at the same time. Former major leaguer Eduardo Perez was one of the best at doing recon work on stealing sign from the opposing team.

When he was with the Tampa Bay Rays he used to sit in the dugout and call out a play or pitch right before the play happened. Of course he might be wrong more time than right, the action of even trying to interpret the signals could be viewed as a form of cheating.  But what about if a team is doing it with audio signals to their bench in hopes to get an advantage to the game. This happened during the 1951 baseball season when the New York Giants were able to get some revenge against the Brooklyn Dodgers.


Wallyg@Flickr.com

Recent discoveries and accounts have linked the actions to be true, but Bobby Thompson, who hit the “Shot Heard Around the World” has never admitted he got a tip-off on the pitch he hit for immortality. It is said that
Giants coach Herman Franks would sit in the dugout, just out of view of the Polo Grounds in the centerfield clubhouse and relay the catcher’s signals and send via a bell/buzzer signal to the dugout, then the dugout would relay the signal to the hitter at the plate.

And baseball accepted this practice at the time because if one team went down for the action, all of them would have to cease their own forms of cheating to get pitching signs and signals from the base Coaches. But there is another form of this signal cheating that is more out in the open for everyone to see. It is when your teams has a man on second base. They are direct contact with the catcher’s signals to the pitcher and can relay the pitch with a body signal or gesture during the game. But a new form of cheating I am beginning to pick up on is the altering of the radar guns in the stadiums.

Do you really think some of these guys are throwing 98 mph, or maybe the slight alteration to the gun prior to a certain reliever coming into the game could change a hitter outlook on them after seeing multiple 90+ reading most of the year, then an 89 mph heater take them out for a critical out.  I could go on for days on the other types of accepted cheating and alterations and redefinition of the rules of the game. I have not even gotten into the groundskeepers role in all of this magic yet. We all know that the home field advantage is significant to the team getting some runs ans hits on their own turf during games.

I also stayed away from the topic of corked bats and illegal dimensions like shaved handles to add a slight hint of bat speed to the hitters.  But now we have a new foe hitting the cheating format of the game and it is a silent weapon until drug testing or even a eye contact with the product can make a player’s life miserable, and a team searching for answers. The new addition of the anabolic steroid to the annuals of cheating in baseball is accepted by some as the evolution of the game. But then others see it for what it really is, personal cheating done on an individual basis to get an edge in the game.

For some reason you want to admit you like that a player wants to be the best they can be in their sport, but you also find it disturbing they will put a chemical in their own bodies that might hurt themselves in the long run for short term gain.  I think that is one of the reason some guys do it, not for greed or for money, but for the adulation of the fans and to get that extra step up on the competition.  But for all the good it does to that player and his team, the long range effects on the young fans and the essence of the game take a huge hit on the purity and quality of some of the game’s best and greatest.

Everyday players find a new way to cheat the edges of the game with new found techniques and actions that stay within the rules of the game, but flirt with the gray areas of rules and regulations.  And most of these actions are accepted by fans and player alike as individual adjustments or improvements to their game. One issue I have skirted today is the action of using illegal substances in the body as a form of accepted cheating. You could do a 5-part series on the chemical uses and advantages of players actions both today and in the past and still not get down to the root of it all.

Cheating within the game is an accepted mode of playing it to the fullest. Finding advantages and sidesteps to the rules and bending them to the point of breaking them is an accepted action by every team.  Teams do seek out advantages against their opposition for every game. If we did not want to get the upper hand on our opponent there would not be a need for advanced scouting or even a scouting report on the opposing pitcher. Knowledge can be the best form of delving into the truth and falsehood of the game. But do we also reward the act of cheating in baseball?

Let’s say tomorrow we find out a MLB team has doctored their “mudd” application to game balls with a new dry chemical that when mixed with a special resin mixture used on the mound  would produce a slippery substance on the ball that will aid the pitching staff and will be entirely absorbed and all traces removed from the surface of the ball in its flight to the plate. Would we be amazed at the development, or ashamed that our team got the edge on the competition?

That is a personal decision for each of us to consider the next time a infraction to the code of the game is revealed. Is it a competitive edge or an act of cheating if a team gets the upperhand on another team? I guess that depends on who is winning the game at the time!

Rays Homer past Yankees

 

UPDATE:

 

Sorry I have not posted in a few days. There has been a bit of a rodent-related sucide here at my house, and he decided to take our electrical box with him. I am not one to ever try and figure out the suicidal or normal tendencies of the squirrel family, but this guy had a death wish and took about 5 breakers with him. The result was a $ 2,000 bill for the repair of the rodent-related suicide attempt. I never did ask if he fried, or was just tail-less now running amonst the many oka tree surround the house. Be case scenario, he is basking in the tree with a breeze upon his hairy chest snickering about how he got the humans to feel the heat.

 

It is fun to be pushed back into pre-electricity Florida lifestyle for three days and forget how lovely the hot water heater, air conditioning, and the televised games from Yankee Stadium can be an everyday luxury. I have been told to remember what it was like to go camping as a kid as the electricians were fixing the problem for the last three days. Finally at 3:45 pm I felt the cool breeze come out of the vents and could again vast in the daily writing of my blog, and also take a great shower for 20 minutes. 

    Rays 8, Yankees 6


Bill Kostroun / AP

Wild Night in the Old Bronx

When you first turned on this game last night you might be hearing all the negative how Yankee starter Andy Pettitte owns the third best record against the Rays lifetime with 15 wins, and that he once had a consecutive streak of 12- wins in 17 starts against the old Rays from 9/25/98 to 7/22/2007. And according to Elias Bureau, that is Pettittes longest streak, and it tied the Rays opponents streak he would share with Boston pitcher Tim Wakefield. So it almost was a forecast of doom and gloom even before the first pitch landed in Jose Molina’s glove.

But there is a strange thing about baseball. It never judges what you have done in the past to anything in the future. Just because you were the king one day doesn’t mean you can not play the pauper tonight. And that would be a great way to segway into this game. Before the first pitch of the game, the Rays hit a iffy .230 against Pettitte in their first meeting of the year in Tropicana Field. And that contest ended up becoming a 4-3 Yankees win and got them the series. But a lot has happened to both team since that day, and tonight would be a fair evaluation of the direction of both teams right now.

The Rays took an early lead off of Pettitte when Jason Bartlett lead-off with a solo shot to right-center field to start the contest. That might have been a great indication of the type of night that Pettitte was about to experience off the Rays. In the game, the Rays hit a combined .333 against Pettitte and hit 4 home runs off him in the game. The only previous home run this year was hit by Carlos Pena in the Rays 4-3 loss to the Yankees at Tropicana Field in April. But in this contest, the game would go back and forth until finally the Rays would take advantage of a guy they usually have a bad game against in the ninth inning. 

The game went back and forth in classic fashion until the Rays took the final stand in the top of the ninth inning and chased Mariano Rivera from the contest. Coming into tonight’s game, Revira is 51 of 52 lifetime in save opportunities against the Rays, including a 20-for-20 mark at the original Yankee Stadium. He had converted his last 18 saves against them since his last blown save on 8/16/2005 at Tropicana Field. In that contest, Eduardo Perez hit the only home run given up by Rivera in 82.1 innings pitched against the Rays.

So how big was the ninth inning to the Rays? It made them post their biggest surge against the future Hall-of-Famer by stroking back-to-back homers against the closer. Carl Crawford even took a 9-pitch selection before finally hitting his next offering to rightfield. Evan Longoria then took his fifth pitch and deposited in in the left field stands for the final run of the ballgame.


Bill Kostroun / AP

Longo Love the Long Ball

I was chatting with a few Rays fans during the last game of the home stand about if we had seen the best of Longoria yet this year. It seems like the guy is sometimes just putting on a hitting clinic during games. Even if he is hitting too many double plays balls for my taste (7 this season), he is hitting with a style and grace that is way beyond his young age. I mean he is hitting like a 5-to7 year player picking up the adjustments of the pitcher and drilling them for hits. His current pace has him leading the American League in doubles ( 14), RBI ( 38) and Slugging Percentage ( .754).

But what is especially amazing is his .358 batting average after a short mini slump to end April. He is currently on a 11-game hitting streak into tonight’s Boston game. Carlos Pena has the Rays highest streak last year with 12-games. Longoria is hitting .382 during the streak with RBIs in 9 of the 11 games. He also has 20 RBI in the last 9 games. He is currently only one of five players since 1954 to have 38+ RBI in the first 30 games ( he missed two game dues to a family emergency in April). With numbers like this, it might be a good indicator that he might be in the top tier when the All-Star balloting position are announced for third base.

       
       
Bill Kostroun / AP

Niemann is Becoming an Enigma

This is the game you wanted the right-hander to come out and just be explosive on the mound for the Rays. To show that he is ready for all challenges and can be the man if needed for the team.  But sometimes you just look at the guy and you see just a tall giraffe of a pitcher who is tossing the ball into a spot instead of trusting his tuff and launching into the catcher’s mitt.  He did hold his own deep into the bottom of the fourth inning before getting into trouble with the Yankee hitters.  But I do have a question on why he was taken out with the only trouble-some situation of the night for him?

Seriously here, did anyone else question the reasoning to take the big guy out after two Yankee base runners. I mean Melky Cabrera did walk on five pitches, and Ramiro Pena did hit a nice single after battling back from an 0-2 count against Niemann. But up to that point, he had  only given up 3 hits all night long to go with a hit batsman and a wild pitch. I do not think he would have done any worse that Rays Reliever Lance Cormier, who let Jose Molina double on the second pitch and then after striking out Derek Jeter, give up another RBI-double to Johnny Damon to plate the first two Yankee runs. 

But I do think the big guy could and should have been given the opportunity to get out of the inning on his own since he was only at 78 pitches at that moment. To pull him this early with the threat of a scoring chance can be damaging to Niemann. I know he is viewed more as a rental player right now by some on the Rays, but you do not ruin a kid’s confidence like that. If you let him face those three batters and the same thing happens to him, then it is a building opportunity for him. He was going to get hit with those two runs anyways, you might as let him earn them instead of sit on the bench and watch them score from the dugout.

But that is where maybe myself and the Rays pitching conglomerate differ at times. I remember past years and game where they have let the guy take a few licks and then get him out of there before he destroys himself. But this year they seem to be babying the big guy a bit too much. I know he can handle it, he is by and far the becoming a better pitcher each ti
me out this year, and he had adjusted pretty well considering he is thrown into the mix.  I mean coming into this game, he has won his last two road starts, which is a big thing for a Rays pitcher. Plus he his 16 strikeouts coming into this game are tied for fourth among rookies. 

The guy has been tasked with manning the fifth spot in this rotation, but it seems at times that the Rays have put more emphasis in their controlling of his progress than in letting him take the highs and lows of being a major league pitcher. The guy got lite up in his first start and rebounded to retire the next 15 out of sixteen in that Orioles contest.  Niemann actually threw a no-no for the first four innings against the Seattle Mariners on the road for his first win of the season.. His ERA has come down from a lofty 10.13 ERA to a more respectable 5.65 ERA after tonight game. 

The guy is showing massive improvement and a few steps back every outing, but the Rays seem to be more concerned with their own endeavors than in Niemann’s right now. By not letting this guy grow on the mound, they are going to need him in a game and he will not be in tune with the music the Rays want to hear. He already has people calling for him to be replaced along with Andy Sonnanstine, and the Rays have not come out hard in his defense. I think that is a crime. As long as he is in a Rays uniform, the Rays coaching staff should be defending this guy to the hill and back. But instead we get mumble jumble about looking tired or showing anxiety. Give me a break, every batter would make me a bit anxious on the mound. To be Niemann is standing tall among the rubble at times.


Bill Kostroun / AP

Friday’s Factoids

*** Do not forget that the Rays Radio network will be holding a Rays Watch party at the Hooter’s Restaurant on West Hillsborough Avenue tomorrow starting at 3 pm. The afternoon contest will be featured on Fox Television, but the Rays will have Rich Herrera out there for the pre game and post game show and they will feature drink and food specials during the game. 

*** During last night’s game, Carl Crawford’s consecutive stolen base streak ended at 9 games. But do not fret, since 1954, he is one of four players to accomplish that feat. With his major league leading 20 steals, CC also is in royal company as he is tied with Neon Deion Sanders for the most stolen bases after 29 games since Sanders did it in 1997 with the Cincinnati Reds. 


***
The Rays also currently have the major league lead in steals with 45, that is the most since the Florida Marlins started off with 48 steals in the 2003. It is also the most by an AL team since the Yankees stole 46 bases in 29 games to begin the 1998 season. 


*** 
The Rays are currently in a stretch where they will play 9 games against the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in 11 days. They are 5-1 so far in that endeavor. By the end of the weekend, they would have played them both 15 times so far this season ( out of 34 games) The Rays are 8-4 so far this season against the pair.

*** Pena and Longoria are the first teammates to reach 30 RBI in 30 games since Alex Rodriguez (31) and Edgar Martinez (30) with Seattle in 2000. They are also the fifth set of teammmate to hit that feat since 1954. They are also the first set of team mate to have 10+ home runs since Eric Chavez and Nick Swisher for the Oakland A’s in 2006.

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