Results tagged ‘ Edwin Jackson ’
So there I was yesterday staring at the ball field beyond my laptop screen and wondering what the day will bring. I am I know I will see some great Rays baseball, but I also had a 3 pm “live draft on ESPN.com for the newly formed MLBloggers League. I man in the last week people in the league have been sending up all sorts of smoke signals that they ” did not know how to play”, or that they ” Were there just for fun. Well, I am not sure about the first and last part having much reality considering the first few draft rounds of the draft.
I mean I do have a few teams on ESPN.com, and I do play Fantasy games on there year round, but this is the first time I have participated in a “live” draft and a league setting. I usually go it alone, except for Fantasy Football, which I won my division for the fifth year in a row. But I was note if I was up for the unsettling reality that the guy on my board might be picked right before me, and I would have less than 2 minutes to regroup and find another way to get it done. So as I was sipping a cold Dr Pepper at the Rays complex in Port Charlotte, Florida waiting for the league’s time to come up, I watched the Rays versus the Pittsburgh Pirates game from a shady area near the Rays offices in right field.
I wanted to sit at the Miller Lite Tiki Bar, but decided that I might have too many armchair managers if I tried to even involve one person in my decision process. So I sat out by the Kid’s area among the young moms and their kids rambling around me like the Indians to Custer. I even had a few Rays officials strolling back to the office and locker rooms come on over and tell me a few sleepers picks they had on their minds. I have to be honest, I am using one of them tomorrow when the players come off waivers. I will explain it more a bit later in the blog.
So I wander on into the chat room segment of the draft and do my usual run around the room and see what the climate was like. Believe me, these people were set for a winner takes all poker challenge and no one really let their hand be known ahead of time. I mean I had two different lists of the top 4 guys for my selection next to me ready for the first pick. I was going for power ans steals in my offense, and wins and strikeouts on my pitching staff. I was getting more and more anxious as people were beginnig to bluff who they might want…or might be willing to trade for in the daily doings of the draft.
I mean we had the youngest member of our league picking first in Elizabeth of “The Future Sox Blog“. And considering we had 14 members in our two divisions of the league, I was too upset getting the eighth slot to start my draft. So as it gets hit the 3 pm hour, Elizabeth of course takes the top player on the board, Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins. But then we had the first pick of the day that mystified me, not because of the pick, but it was only the second pick of the draft. “Mets Main Man“ decided to take Phillies starter Cole Hamels with the first selection. I am not sure if that was a wise decision, but if he goes and wins 20 games………..I will be the first to admire that pick. Julia of “Julia’s Rants” picked Red Sox Kevin Youkilis with her pick, but that was not a huge shocker to anyone in the room. the only thing that worried me was why she did not get Dustin Pedroia, who by far the best second baseman on the board.
My first selection was all power. Ryan Braun of the Brewers had a great second half, and I have the feeling he is now feeling more secure in his MLB skin. He is also having a great World Baseball Classic tourney, so he was a no brainer for me. The we had the first controversy of the day. “Braves World” decided to mess with “Team Clemson” by drafting Grady Sizemore. I could feel the tension through the computer screen knowing that “Team Clemson” missed it by one draft spot of getting her man. But Melissa of “Team Clemson” rebounded nicely and acquired Dustin Pedroia with her first pick. That was actually one of the guys that I thought would never fall beyond the first 8 picks. Maybe people are believing that MLB2009 commercial.
The next two draftees went toward their team alliances when Jen, from “Team Diatribe” stayed true to her White Sox roots and took Alexi Ramirez, who will be getting a bulk of the time at shortstop in 2009. Then “How Bout Them Orangebirds” took his hometown hero, Nick Markakis with his first round pick. Was is interesting about Orangebird is the fact he dad was helping him in the selection process. I only mention this because he proudly admitted it in the chat room that he dad was awesome at Fantasy Baseball. So he might be the guy to watch today.
I ponder back and forth if I should pick Cleveland ace Cliff Lee or Peavy. But considering the power that is coming to light in the American League Central, I decided that the National League West might be more compatible for wins this year. That being said, two picks later team alliance again came to light as “Team Clemson” took Cliff Lee, and “Team Diatribe” put her faith in a full recovery for Carlos Quentin of the White Sox. Both are solid picks and should do great for them. The last pick of the third round did make me scratch my head. Joe Mauer of the Twins is going for a second opinion now about his back pain after having his off season operation on his kidneys. I am not seeing this as a positive reinforcement to take him so early in the draft. But, if he comes back soon ” The Metsblog of Raleigh” might have a beautiful sleeper pick.
Power pitcher who also gets a lot of strikeouts and limited walks
Fifth Round: Tampa Bay Rays Left Fielder Carl Crawford
Increasing power and steals and triples are a bonus
Sixth Round: Seattle Mariner Starting Pitcher Felix Hernandez
He is power all day long, and his walks are decreasing finally.
Seventh Round: Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol
I am banking on him getting it done with a low Opponents B.A.
Eighth Round: Baltimore Orioles 1B/3B/DH Aubrey Huff
I think this one might have upset Orangebird a bit. Power and great numbers throughout his MLB career.
Ninth Round: Los Angeles Angels closer Brian Fuentes
First he is a leftie, plus a closer……….double whammy on hitters.
Tenth Round: Chicago White Sox DH Jim Thome
I always see power number from Thome, plus he is in a good lineup to see pitches every at bat. You can not walk him to get past any good hitters.
11th Round: Tampa Bay Rays Left Fielder/ DH Pat Burrell
I just think he is the real deal. I also got a Trade Request to give him up for Josh Willingham…….Please…………
12th Round: Colorado Rockies Outfielder Brad Hawpe
25 Homers, 85 RBI, .283 average
13th Round: Florida Marlins Starting Pitcher Ricky Nolasco
15 wins, 182 strikeouts, 1.10 WHIP
14th Round: Cleveland Indians Shortstop Jhonny Peralta
23 homers, 83 RBIs and 104 runs scored last year
15th Round: Detroit Tigers catcher Brandon Inge
I consider this one of my sleepers. He is due for another breakout year.
16th Round: Colorado Rockies 1st Baseman Todd Helton
He might be hitting the twilight of his career, but he can still hit the ball.
17th Round: Milwaukee Brewer 2nd Baseman Rickie Weeks
I always thought the Rays should have drafted him. He is about to have a breakout year in 2009…………..Sleeper.
18th Round: Tampa Bay Rays Set-up Man Jason Isringhausen
The guy has 283 saves and he fell to the 18th round. He pitched great in front of me why I was drafting him yesterday. Nydol Sleeper Pick.
19th Round: Tampa Bay Rays Reliever J P Howell
I love watching this guy pitch. He also got plugged by a Curtis Granderson B P ball and has not pitched since in the WBC.
20th Round: Detroit Tigers Starting Pitcher Armando Gallerraga
Another sleeper. Had 13 wins and 126 strikeouts last year.
Kahili Greene, SS, St Louis Cardinals. Change a scenery will do him good also at the plate. Could ne a light SLEEPER.
Jason Giambi, DH Oakland A’s. I got him in the 22nd round. He might not a great fielder, but 32 homer and 96 RBI’s for the 22nd round is a STEAL.
Jeff Niemann, SP Tampa Bay Rays. I might be going out on a limb, but I am picking him to be the winner of the fifth rotation spot for the Rays in 2009.
Bronson Arroyo, SP, Cincinnati Reds. I am still shaking my head as to why he fell to the 24th round, but I am predicting a come back year.
Willy Aybar, Utility Guru, Tampa Bay Rays. To me he is the best super utility guy in the league. He hit 10 homers and 33 RBI in less than 330 at bats.
Frankiln Gutierrez, OF, Seattle Mariners. Another great young outfielder that was traded in the off season and maybe people forgot where he went.
Aaron Heilman, RP, Chicago Cubs. I have had this guy on my teams for three years and he has always given me good numbers. Stabilizing career, no big highs or lows.
Ryan Church, OF ,Washington Nationals. He was the best available player, but 12 homers and 49 RBI’s was during an injury plagued season.
Edwin Jackson, SP, Detroit Tigers. I have made no secret I am a “Action Jackson” fan. His 14 wins in 2009 was not a fluke… Mild SLEEPER.
David Purcey, SP, Toronto Blue Jays. With the flux in the Blue Jay rotation this guy will be the number 3 guy, and no one knows him. The Rays faced him twice last year and he held them to a .196 batting average…MAJOR SLEEPER.
My last eight picks after that were to fill my roster and most will not even start the season on my team. When the waiver period ends tomorrow I am going to go on a hunt for a few hidden gems. I know of a few that were not picked, including one pitcher who is coming off an injury-filled 2009, but rumors are he is throwing harder than he did in 2007 when he was totally healthy. I am not going to tell you his name, because you will then just go out and scam him for yourselves. But he was a starting 5 pitcher for a division leading team. That is all I will give you.
Now come the time where people are going to evaluate and re-evaluate their teams in the next few days and trades will be passed along by the league members. I only have three concerns, and they are not huge ones with my squad. I have gotten a few trade requests, but I have declined both of them so far. I have designated my three “keepers“, or players I want to retain again in 2010. If you really must know, they are pitcher Jake Peavy , outfielder Josh Hamilton, and Carl Crawford. I did get a bit of a surprise today when I went into the message boards on the league site. So far I have 3 votes as the Draft Champion. The total votes are only up to 6 right now, and that could change, but I am happy with my draft and only missed out on maybe 4 guys I wanted.
I do have to admit, sitting in the shade with the Rays baseball game going on right beyond me made me a bit flustered and nervous at time, but I was able to track the outs and also do my draft without only one incident. My last two picks were fast picks because my touch pad on my laptop began to act funny and did not work correctly. So I just drafted whoever was up on my draft board in the left side of the page. They are drops anyways, so it was no biggie. Well, I hope everyone else had fun. Now it is time to read just and fine tune all our rosters and look forward to the 22 match ups during the season. In advance, everyone I wish you luck, great waiver pick-ups and no crying in baseball. It is almost time to PLAY BALL!!!!
Photo credits for today’s blog: 1) WelcometotheWitze’sWorld@Flickr.com
Earlier today, the St. Petersburg Times ran a story telling who the Tampa Bay Rays are going to be very aggressive in their push to increase their Season Tickets throughout Spring Training. The Rays are currently on the bottom of the list in the American League when it comes to Season Tickets, and the plan is to make the benefits more attractive and showcase what myself and over 10,000 Rays fans already know, that Season Tickets give you options. Television ads will be showing up and TV’s around the Tampa Bay area beginning today showcasing Rays players and narrated by Rays Manager Joe Maddon.
Most people look at Season Tickets as an expensive investment, but you do not have to buy two seats in the Home Plate Club for $ 12,400. a season. There are as many options as their are Rays jerseys right now. And just because you select a seat in the Upper Deck or the T B T Party Deck, you are still considered a prime member of the exclusive Season Ticket membership. Now I have sat in my section of the Trop in the same seat for the last 8 years, and I can not even imagine sitting anywhere else. but some people might not have the time or money to invest in the team to that level.
Take for example that a full ( 81 games ) Season Ticket in the Upper Deck area of the Trop is about $ 754. a season, which will come in at a savings of $ 215 over the entire season. But the Rays have thought about you fans that can not make 81 games, or have kids who play sports in the early spring and summer. They have a huge list of options that could fit into anyone’s budget. There are half season Season Tickets that will let you pick from two great options” weekdays and weekends. You weekday plan which will cost you $ 727.50 for an outfield seat and includes the Opening Day game and every game played from Monday to Thursday during the season, including games against the Boston Red Sox, Philladelphia Phillies and New York Yankees.
Also back will be the popular 20-game package, which will cost you about $ 550. for a Baseline Box seat. The package will be configured around the weekend games at the Trop. There are three options here, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games. The most popular option might be the Saturday night games to secure a spot for the Rays Concert Series, and also get you an wristband to be able to go down to field level to watch the concert. But this package can also offer you games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies.
Then there is the Weekend plan which for a Outfield seat will cost you about $ 678.50 and will consist of games played on Friday through Sunday, and will include the always popular Concert Series nights in the package. This package will also include Opening Day and games against the Chicago White Sox, Red Sox, and Yankees. All of the half season and limited game packages have a reduced level of Season Ticket benefits, but include such great items as postseason ticket purchases before the general public, 10 percent discount for merchandise at the Tropicana Field Team Store, and your own personal Season Ticket representative from the Rays.
But there are other goodies like you can use the same Season Ticket door at Gate 1 for faster entry to the games, and also can purchase discounted parking in Lots 2 and 6 for games. I used this option a few years ago, and I could actually park within 35 yards of the back door of the Trop and get to my car in less than 2 minutes after leaving the confines of the stadium. This comes in handy during those wild rain showers we tend to have in the summertime here in Florida. You also have priority if at any time you decide you might want to either upgrade your seat, or even decide in the off season you want to move closer to the rail or aisle end, you can contact your Season Ticket Representative and he will work with you to get that desired location or seat for you.
If Season Tickets for the Rays were to increase from the level they are today to about 15,000, the team would have a guaranteed attendance of 1.8 million fans in 2009. That is one of the reasons for the big push to increase the season Ticket base. Another is that the team has increased their budgeted payroll for 2009 to a level that is 2 1/2 times the 2007 payroll for the team. With the estimated payroll exceeding $ 60 million this year, it will be the most talented and expensive team in Rays history. And as a Season Ticket holder you can get in on the action.
A Full Season Ticket gets you a lot of great benefits besides the ones listed above. Full season patrons also get a guarantee of your seat every game, a personalized nameplate on your seat, and an opportunity to purchase extra tickets to games during the Spring Training and Regular season before the public. Another great benefits is the exclusive events and parties that the Rays provide every year for the Full season crowd. One of the best events every year is the Team Photo day held usually right before the end of the regular season on a Sunday.
In the past we have had events during the All-Star game where the Rays have invited the Season Ticket folks to places like Game Works in Ybor City for a party and gaming with players and other fans. That event last year attracted numerous Rays players like Grant Balfour, Jonny Gomes, Edwin Jackson and Rays Manager Joe Maddon. Players played video games and raced simulated car races against fans and Raymond during the event, which included free food and drinks and numerous prizes given out during the event. And yes, that is me doing the chocolate fountain in the photo at last years event.
Another one of the pluses of having a Season Ticket is the fact that the Rays will give you an additional item from selected giveaways two times every year. They are equally divided between before the All-Star break and before the last home stand of the season for the team. I can tell you as a Full Season Ticket holder since 2000, and a half season ticket holder since 1998, that it is one of the best investment I have ever made in baseball. Along with the tickets, you can get to develop dialogue and personal face time with players and staff that is beneficial to having the true baseball experience. And with this, it gives you a deeper understanding and knowledge of what Rays baseball is really all about.
Another Season Ticket plus that people might find pleasing this year is the fact that non Season Ticket holder over the age of 14, will have to purchase a wristband with a $ 10 donation to the Rays Foundation to get autographs this year. Along with your free wristband, you will get early admission to the Fan Fest an full hour before other fans. Not only that, but throughout the season you get birthday and holiday cards from the team, and also develop friendships and a common bond with your fellow Season Ticket buddies.
Another great item that the Rays give to their Season Ticket fans is the option of going down on the field during the Concert Series events. I know I took full advantage of this even though my seat was just a little to the right of the center of the concert stage. So be sure to check out some of the great options being offered by the team this year in their Season Ticket packages. As with most things in life, the more expensive the seat, the more extended benefits you can get with your Rays experience.
Not having the money to get the plush spots in the Trop should not keep you from wanting to come enjoy this team as they defend their 2008 American League East title and the American League pennant. Exciting things are in store for 2009, and if you decide to join the Rays train you can be on the ground floor with the rest of the 10,000 excited Rays faithful Season Ticket fanatics. Even if you can not afford to put out extra money right now because of the economic situation, please come out and support the team when you can. 2009 will be another year of expectations and surprises from the Rays, and it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on the excitement.
Think if we all could afford the Home Plate seats like The Heckler. We could eat and drink every night for free, and also have a parking pass in the Lot 1 right outside the 16th Street entrance to the Trop. But this group also get an outstanding benefit that the rest of us would die for……..they get a batting practice attended by Rays personnel every year. What a treat it would be to hit the cages and hit one out in left field and maybe have the video camera on. It would be totally worth the price.
All the photos in this blog were provided from the private collection of RRProductions.
It is only a matter of time before Dioner Navarro is again celebrating. But this time it will be for a arbitration hearing settlement against his team, the Tampa Bay Rays. But he might not be alone that night celebrating as utility player Willy Aybar is also scheduled to go to arbitration with the Rays in 2009. Since Andrew Friedman took over the player contract reigns 3 seasons ago, he has only been to two hearing for the team. What is surprising is the fact that both of those hearing were for former Rays catcher Josh Paul, and the Rays won both hearings. So for the next 2 days, lets dig into the background and the career numbers for the Rays still arbitration eligible players. Both Navarro and Aybar are seeking substantial raises in 2009, and will go before an arbitrator for the first time to secure their 2009 contracts with the Rays.
But this year will be different for the Rays. Navarro, who is also a catcher posted personal bests in several offensive and defensive categories, and when compared to recent catchers in the MLB, is considered a bargain even at 2 plus million dollars a year. Navarro also went to his first All-Star game in 2008, and that just might be a nice piece of hardware to push him over that $ 2 million dollar plateau with ease.. The Rays started the off season with 6 members eligible for arbitration, but 2 were eliminated by trades, and 2 signed a contract with the team before the team’s 12 p.m. deadline on January 20, 2009.
Former Rays starter Edwin Jackson was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Matt Joyce and finally agreed to a $ 2.2 million dollar contract wit the Tigers, with a chance to earn an additional $200,000 dollars through innings pitched incentives. The Rays were not as kind to emotional and energetic cheerleader Jonny Gomes as the team cut ties with the fan favorite and he eventually decided on a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds for $ 600,000, with production incentives of $ 200,000 possible in the deal. Gomes also will have a chance during spring training to secure a left field spot in the Red’s outfield.
Rays 2008 Team MVP Jason Bartlett signed a contract with the Rays at 10:50 a.m. on January 20th, to just get under the wire of the Rays set deadline to discuss contracts with arbitration eligible players. Bartlett signed for $ 1,981,250 dollars on a 1-year deal, but the Rays control him until 2011. Rays platoon right fielder Gabe Gross avoided arbitration by signing a 1.255 million dollar contract on January 14, 2008 for a1 year deal. Gross will compete with Joyce and Rays new comer Gabe Kapler for playing time in 2009.
So that leaves the Rays with 2 very important members of their 2008 American League Pennant winning squad still on the outside without a contract. Both Navarro and Aybar can take a huge amount of credit for the surge of the Rays in 2008 based on their newly set career bests. Aybar can also put on a tag of “always ready” on his resume by coming in and taking charge several times in 2008 due to injuries of star players Bartlett, and Evan Longoria. So let’s begin with the Rays utility man, who played above and beyond his expectations in 2008.
Willy Aybar came to the Rays in a trade with the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2008 season. He had been a handful for the braves in both injuries and personal situations that almost got him a bad label in the league. Aybar had been obtained in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006 and went straight into the Braves minor league system. When the Rays considered Aybar for a trade prior to the beginning of the 2008 spring training season, they had a lot of information and problems to sift through before finally completing the deal.
After consulting with their scouts and members of their new Dominican Republic complex staff, Tampa Bay began to really talk with the Atlanta Braves about a trade involving 24-year-old infielder. Aybar’s off-the-field issues, most notably a stint in a substance-abuse rehabilitation program that wiped out most of his 2007 season, could be an impediment.
The Braves had suspended Aybar indefinitely in April 2007 after he left the team without permission. He was supposed to report for treatment on a sore wrist that had him on the disabled list to open the season but instead drove from Atlanta to Boston to see his older brother for help dealing with drinking and drug issues. Aybar finally completed his rehab program in August 2007, but a broken hamate bone in his right hand kept him from making it back to the majors.
He underwent season-ending surgery and didn’t take the field again until October, when he began the winter-ball season playing for Licey in the Dominican Republic. He has had a strong season in his home country,hitting .339 and posting a .415 on-base percentage in 15 games during Licey’s run to first place in the league’s January semifinal series. So the Rays decided that Triple-A pitcher Jeff Ridgeway would be good enough bait to obtain the troubled infielder. But the Rays could not have anticipated the trouble in the off season prior to reporting for the Rays.
Aybar was arrested in February 2008 for suspicion of Domestic Abuse in the Dominican Republic and was initially held without bond. Even though Aybar’s lawyers have told a local magistrate that Aybar’s wife is dropping all of the charges, the infielder was still incarcerated in the Dominican for several days. After finally getting the situation solved Aybar went about getting ready to report to the Rays Spring Training complex in St. Petersburg, Florida for the 2008 season.
Then on February 20th it is learned that Aybar, Joel Guzman and Juan Salas are still being detained in the Dominican Republic on visa issues. The Rays consulted MLB about providing help to get their three players out of the country in time for Spring Training. Aybar and Guzman were both finally granted their visas and reported to camp in late February. But that was not the end of the frustration for the young infielder. During Spring Training he suffered a pulled or strained hamstring and it put him under suspicion that he might not be ready for the regular season.
When camp finally broke in April, Aybar had been given a spot on the 25-man roster and a starting gig at third base as the Rays sent their budding superstar, Evan Longoria down for more seasoning in the minors. With a regular spot in the lineup it looked like it would be Aybar’s year to shine in the major leagues. But 10 games into the season, Aybar was put on the disabled list because of the same hamstring injury and lost his starting shot at third base for the Rays as they finally brought up Longoria to stay for the season.
During 2008, Aybar started 79 games for the Rays. 40 of those were at third base during the early season and Longoria’s stint on the disabled list after the Seattle series. On September 17, 2008, against Boston’s Tim Wakefield, Aybar and Fernando Perez set a record by both switch hitters hitting a home run off Wakefield from the right side of the plate. That was the first time since 1969 that two switch hitters hit a homer against the same pitcher in a division play.
But it was during his stint at third base after Longoria injured his wrist in Seattle that he showed his versatility and power to the Rays. Starting all 30 games while Longoria was out, Aybar hit .308, with 5 homers and 18 RBI’s. During that span he hit 14 extra base hits and also walked 11 times for the team. But it was as a third baseman that Aybar made his number for 2008. Playing those 40 games at third, he hit .297 , with 6 homers and 20 RBI’s for the year. Elsewhere in the field or at Designated Hitter, he only batted .206, with 4 homers and 12 RBI’s. He had made a statement that third base was home for him.
But Aybar also played shortstop on occasion during one of Jason Bartlett’s disabled list ventures and performed a great job in the middle for the Rays. But he did go through a streaky pattern at the plate in 2008, hitting .309 on June 9th, before going 22-188, or a .186 average from June 10th to August 6th. He dropped his average all the way to .222 before taking over for Longoria after his injury. In his first game at third after the Longoria injury, he hit a career best 2 homers in a game against the Mariners’ and had a career high 4 RBI’s on the day. His 10 homers in 2008 are 5 more than he has ever gotten in his career.
But on the dark side, he did miss a total of 45 games due to his hamstring injury, but later in the season did go without incident or injury for the rest of the year. So his 2008 average of .288 against left-handers was one of the best averages on the Rays against southpaws during the season. Buy Aybar did save his best for last in 2008 as he went 3 -4 against the Red Sox at home on September 17, 2008 to help the Rays defeat the Red Sox.
The unfortunate side of Aybar in 2008, is that 8 of his 10 homers were solo shots and did not help get extra runs for the Rays during the season. But Aybar was the middle hitter in the June 9th game against the Los Angeles Angels at Anahiem where Longoria, Aybar and Navarro all homer in sequence for the Rays. Aybar did have 13 game-tying or go-ahead runs in the year, and also had 3 infield hits for the Rays. He also put down 3 bunt singles for the team, and was picked 6 times for “Web Gems” by the Rays PR staff during the year for his defensive plays.
On defense, Aybar had a total of 118 total chances on defense in 2008, with 29 putouts and 84 chances. He however committed 5 errors on the season to put his fielding percentage at .958. that is pretty average for a guy trying to fight to get playing time every day. I do not have a total breakdown of if must of these errors came from other positions besides third base in 2008. That total would put him in the middle of the pack with respect to utility men in the league, most of which make over $ 1 million a year.
So is this enough for Aybar to get rewarded with an arbitration figure higher that the Rays suggested contract of $ 900,000 dollars for 2009. Aybar did counter with an offer of $ 1,050,000 for the season, a difference of only $ 150,000 dollars. The proof might actually be in Aybars’ post season numbers as he went 9 for 23 during the playoffs, posting a .417 average, with 2 home runs and 6 RBI’s in 10 games. the fact that he hit for 16 total bases and only struck out 4 times in the playoffs might be enough to get him that extra $ 150,000 dollars in arbitration money.
Aybar has been one of the American Leagues hidden gems in 2008. He can hit, play defense and is a great clutch player for the Rays. I was actually surprised not to hear his name mentioned throughout the off season as trade bait for a big time hitter or reliever. Who knows if Aybar will even make it past the trade deadline in 2009 with the team. His stock has been going up all throughout 2008, and 2009 might be the year he can finally break through that utility player mold and become a starter with someone else during the stretch run.
Time will tell, but I am thankful that we have Aybar as a reliable and constructive member of the Rays bench. With a new contract in hand, and a chance to retain his psot on the Rays 25-man roster for 2009, Aybar might just be the happiest guy to report to the new training complex in Port Charlotte. But then again, maybe Navarro will spring for dinner that first night.
Everyone remembers the magic of your first time. The first time you had a bubbly ice cold soda, or maybe even tried that ride at the fair that scared you to death a year earlier. But the fascination and the excitement of trying something, or achieving something for the first time can be a rush that can not be beat.
It is for that reason that my Top Moment for 2008 for the Tampa Bay Rays includes a new “first” for the franchise. As I said before, we always remember our first time entering the ballpark, checking out the sounds, smells and the atmosphere of this new electric-charged dome. You still think about the first Batting Practice or your first foul ball catch, or even the first autograph you ever got at the game. And who could ever forget the taste of that first stadium hot dog. I know all of these are still fresh in my mind, and it has been over 40 years since my first game at Al Lang Field watching the St. Petersburg Cardinals.
So it is with great pleasure that I introduce my number one memory of 2008. It occurred on September 20, 2008 with 36,048 other believers in the stands and jumping up and down like madmen. It was a time for rejoicing and for remembering all the things we loved about the Rays. Not only did the team play a hard fought 7-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins, but the team secured its first EVER playoff berth.
Considering this team had never won more than 71 games a year, and for most of the year fought hard to keep its top spot in the American League East race, this was the moment for the home fans and the players to salute a great season, and the celebrate together. I know a lot of people might consider one of the many I picked as a number 2 moment for this top spot. This was personal to me. I got to celebrate with a few friends as they wandered and cheered around the stadium,
I got to remind a few of them that the journey has just began and they made sure I knew that it was us, the fans that drove this bus to the playoffs as much as the players. And I got to drink from the champagne bottles and taste that sweet nectar that went down like cool rainwater and tasted like spun honey. It was one of the biggest moments for me as a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays…………….and hopefully you got to enjoy it too that day…………….
Basking in the Moment………..1st Playoff Berth
It might have looked like a mob scene out of your favorite sports movie, but believe me, the energy in that place yesterday was so severe that it sometimes seemed to choke you from the intensity in the air. From the energy and the explosion of emotion in the stadium atmosphere yesterday, this game was won by the time they even first stepped on the turf.
Seriously folks, I have never felt so drained emotionally and mentally in my life. I was literally crawling out of the Trop at 9 P.M. after celebrating in the stands, near the clubhouse with a few friends, and in the Budweiser Brew house having a few brews with the old crew from the last 10 years. This was a night were everyone in Tampa Bay would have a peaceful nights sleep.
This is a day/night/weekend that will sit up there with the best memories I have involving sports in my life. I have been to a few wild celebrations, like the Baltimore Ravens victory party in Ybor City after they won the Super Bowl in Tampa, or even a late night cocktail party at Reign after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup with a few ex-Rays players. I am so spent right now and I have not come down from this yet. And I have a Season Ticket holder Picture Day in 6 hours with the players. Well, the ones who are awake at 10 am.
All I can say is this is going down in my memory banks as one of the greatest day in my fan life. How can it get any better………….oh, wait WE could have THREE more of these great celebrations before the playoffs are all over with this year! And then the real party will begin! But let’s not get too far in front of ourselves here, there is a long road to go to even think of that situation right now.
THREE more chances where these guys pay as much attention to their team partying as they do out with us, the fans. From interview to interview last night, the guys to a “T”, talked about the Tampa Bay Rays fans. They included the fans in their celebrations. Getting up on the dugout and spraying the masses with champagne and beer. Throwing 9=8 playoff hats and T-shirts to them all, and relishing a moment that will live in this franchises history books and memory forever.
You always remember your first time. You remember where you were, Who you were standing with, and what you were doing at that exact moment. When the guys came running down into the Bull Pen Cafe area and I was standing on the railing, I can not remember how many of those guys came up there and slapped my hand and gave me a fist bump. But the ones that were special were the Hugs from J P Howell, Jonny Gomes, Chad Orvella and Scott Kazmir. I have chatted almost daily with a lot of these guys on their way to the Bullpen, or back in the right field area, and they are some of the best guys you will ever want to meet.
Howell for instance used to be one of the quietest guys on this team when he was a starter. He was moody and never seemed to want to talk. Now since he has found his calling in the bullpen, he is one of the friendliest people I have ever encountered on the Rays. Dan Wheeler is not known to smile a lot, but he does when we chat back and forth during the games. There is a unique bond there between the Bullpen and the fan here that I have never seen before in my life. But then again, they are living the dream this year.
From the first champagne bottle out of the clubhouse, to the two bottles that Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos had ordered for himself and the close fans down there, it was a magical night. The parade around the Trop outer perimeter was a show of the love and respect these guys have for the fan base. I have been lucky enough to know a few of these guys off the turf in private. And I have to tell you this in total confidence, not one time this year did any of these guys take this responsibility to the fans or to the community as a job or work.
This group actually enjoys interacting with the fans. From the time they walked out at the Spring Training complex in mid-Feb. to now has been a long and rewarding journey. There have been player injuries and players have come and gone from the roster, but the core of this team have been strong, mentally tough and been an inspiration to the fans. Not many groups have a tie to the fans that these guys have. The Rays community can honestly say the have the team’s back at any moment.
The funny thing about this celebration is that about 25 percent of it was outside the locker room in the field where these guys have toiled and struggled and left themselves bleeding and wounded some nights. To say this battle did not end with a fairy tale ending is totally accurate. This season has now almost come to a close at home, but in the next wek they might have a Divisional Crown celebration either in Detroit or Baltimore, then sprint home and get ready for the First of many October games in the Trop.
I really need to hit the sack for a few hours before I fall down, but the adrenaline is still pumping hard in me right now and I have tossed and turned for about 5 hours since I got home. I am a emotional wreck right now, but I would do it again in a New York moment. If you have never been to one of these defining moments, you know how the Rays Republic is now feeling. If you have not, I truly wish it upon yourself and your team sometime in the future. It is a roller coaster ride fitted with some great ups and downs that is not even over yet.
I just want to repurchase my “E” ticket so I can climb aboard the coaster again and roll through another three of these celebrations with the Rays and this truly spectacular group of guys. I actually now know what other team’s fans have talked about when the y remark about the feelings and the intensity of the moment. I can see why New York Yankee and Boston Red Sox fan yearn and seek thin moment in their lives yearly. But I have to almost admit, I do not want to share it with them anytime soon.
So As I finally slink out of the stadium, and check out that bright orange roof, I am reminded of all the glory and the sweat and tears that have blanketed this great dome in the past 10 years. But tonight they all seem like a distant memory as we have a new found tradition of winning and are celebrating the success of our boys’ tonight. I can’t wait to get back into my seat tomorrow and see how much of the energy is still trapped in this building…………….9 am is coming fast to me tonight.
I was sitting at the computer this morning trying to pick out a second possible winning moment in 2008 for the Rays when it dawned on me that there are too many to even count. So I have decided to instead list all the important events, as per my opinion, that have made 2008 so great for Rays fans. I mean I truly sat there after deciding on number 3 yesterday, and decided that one was the easiest pick of the bunch.
If you get to go to the big show, it has to be a top 3 moment in your team’s flight that season. There are a huge bunch of moments that helped define 2008 for the Rays. Be it a event in 2007 at shaped the look and feel of the franchise again, or the elimination of a curse in another stadium that served as a mental block to the team. 2008 was the Year of the Ray, and it is one I am glad I got a front row seat for all year long.
I decided to run this in chronological order from the first event in 2007, up until the final out in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series.
So let’s begin with the first order of business way back in November 2007, when the Rays held a rally in Straub Park near the waterfront in St. Petersburg, Florida. The event was the unveiling of the teams new logo and colors. The Uniforms were fashioned to represent the old style of baseball with a new Rays logo on both the home and away jerseys. The “R” on the uniform front posed a new sweeping motion for the bottom of the letter, plus the sunburst between the lettering also brought about a new look and feel to the organization.
The ray of light was a new focal point of the team, which abandoned the former Ray on the cap and also on the team’s official logo. But the Rays did get to stay for 2008 on the sleeve of the jersey, but might be retired in 2009. The event was to showcase the new look and feel of the team. And with it came a new spirit of winning and posting new attitudes for the team. And one of baseball’s biggest supporters came out and celebrated with us. Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West came out and entertained the masses after the unveiling and rocked the house all the way up to the fireworks display.
Then came the last Spring Training reporting for the pitchers’ and catchers’ to the Ray Namoli Complex in Northwest St Petersburg. The team came out onto the field and Rays Manager Joe Maddon had a small speech in which he wanted to stress fundamentals and team work and chemistry in 2008. That was the day he unveiled his famous “9 =8 ” formula for the world to decipher for the rest of the season.
Then came the first event that molded and formed this band of players into friends and bonded them for the rest of the year. In the day prior to this event, the Rays Elliott Johnson had made a hard charge into Yankees’ minor league catcher, Francisco Cervelli a few days earlier. The event did not sit well with the Yankees’ staff and during the March 12th rematch at Progress Energy Field, Yankees enforcer Shelly Duncan decided to take matters into his own hands.
Duncan was hustling on a hit into the outfield when he turned and made a move towards second base. It was apparent to almost everyone but Duncan that he would not be able to make it to the base in time to beat the throw. During his slide, Duncan brought his cleats up towards Akinora Iwamura and struck him mid-thigh with his metal cleats. Duncan came up immediately and contested the action before right fielder Jonny Gomes came into the action and leveled Duncan to the ground. It was an event that brought the team together for the first time in 2008.
Then two weeks later, the Rays said farewell to their present Spring Training home when the team played it’s last game at Progress Energy Field ( Al Lang Field, Waterfront Park). The game was met with sadness and joy because of the memories of teams playing on these grounds since the 1940′s in this present stadium. The event also was a visual point for the team to showcase the new proposed stadium that might some day rise on the same grounds.
Or could moments like Eric Hinske missing a cycle by a single. It is amazing to me that he went 3-4 on the night and got his triple and homer early in the contest at the Walt Disney complex, but could not get that elusive single. Hinske ended up being one of the true bright spots for the Rays in the Free Agent market. He signed for a low number, but produced high energy and some pretty impressive offensive displays during the 2008 season.
Then we have the first sweep of the Boston Red Sox at home this season. That would only be the icing on the cake as the Rays would send the Red Sox faithful home as losers in 8 of the 9 games at the Trop this year. The first series at the Trop. would end with a hard fought 3-0 shutout by James Shields.
Then comes the moment where Rays Manager Joe Maddon thinks the Rays season began to turn into its championship run. It was during a road trip up to Toronto when the Rays battled back from a possible loss. Edwin Jackson left the 8th inning with a Ray lead before Troy Percival gave up 4 straight singles to let the Jays tie the game at 3-all. The teams battled back and forth before Dioner Navarro, who went 3-6 on the day hit a screamer into the stands for a Grand Slam homer and sealed the victory for the Rays.
On May 13th the Rays got to celebrate for the first time in club history as the team officially took over first place in the American League East. It was the latest point in any Rays season that the team had enjoyed the top spot. The game produced one of the first moments in the Rays 2008 history for celebrations when pinch runner Jonny Gomes came on for Cliff Floyd after he singled in the bottom of the 11th inning. Gomes stole second, then sprinted home to seal the victory for the Rays 2-1.
Then came the L A Angels first visit to Tropicana Field, and the Rays shut them down to also sweep that series. Then came in the mighty Chicago Cubs for a three game Inter-League series that was deemed by many to be a possible World Series matchup. During this series, the Rays finally began to get some national exposure for maybe being a true team that could win it all in 2008.
But not until after the June 19th game, in which Carl Crawford hit a grand slam to propel the Rays. The team had officially beat the best team in baseball all three games did the national media begin to get on the Rays bandwagon. Cub’s Manager Lou Pinella commended the Rays on their young squad, and you could see a small twinkle in his eye that he approved of the young team getting the best of his team that series.
On June 27th, Rays starter Matt Garza was on the mound in a game against the Florida Marlins and gave up a blast to Hanley Ramirez in the 7th inning to produce the only hit and run in the contest. Garza went on to shut down the Marlins’ offense the rest of the game.
According to the Elias Baseball Bureau, It was the first complete-game no-hitter or one-hitter with a double-digit strikeout total in the majors this season. There was only one such pitching performance in each of the last three seasons: by Chris Carpenter in 2005, John Lackey in 2006 and Justin Verlander in 2007.
On July 19th, the Rays won their first game back after the All Star break to break the team’s longest losing streak of the season. With the Blue Jays in town for a weekend series, the Rays went on to break up a perfectly good pitchers’ duel on a Ben Zobrist homer on the first pitch he saw tonight. Toronto starter A J Burnett was on tonight, but the Rays caught a huge break on a hanging breaking pitch to Zobrist for the victory.
While the Rays were at home on August 30th they got to celebrate a first in Rays history. With the 14-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays posted their 82nd win of the season. Marking the first time in franchise history they were guaranteed a winning season. It also marked the night of Scott Kazmir’s 10th victory of the year.
The mystic of Fenway Park was beginning to get the better of the Rays in 2008 before Scott Kazmir took the mound on September 10th in a series the team needed to keep their lead on the Boston Red Sox. It also began one of the most storied moments in Rays history. During the contest the Rays batters went a combined 1-15 with men in scoring position and almost gave the game to the Red Sox several times. As the team fought back and forth before the Rays sent up a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning.
Dan Johnson had been summed from the Durham Bulls earlier in the day and would have started in left field if he had gotten to the ball park a little earlier in the night. But because of flight problems and transportation to Fenway Park, he arrived just moments before the game. In the 9th inning, Rays Manager Joe Maddon inserted Johnson into the game to pinch hit against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Johnson worked the count to 3-2 before he hit a monster shot that cleared the right center field wall to give the Rays a 5-4 lead in the game. Jason Hammel ended up coming out in the bottom of the 9th and secured the win for the Rays. It was Hammel’s first save of his career.
With the team away for their last series, it was actually the next day when most Rays fans learned that we had secured the American League East title the previous night in Detroit. With the Rays in Motown for the last series, many players came back to the clubhouse to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning. It was a wild fact, but players and staff went to area hotels sports bars to do a bit of scoreboard watching as the New York Yankees needed to lose for the Rays to be awarded their first title in team history.
After the hard fought season, the Rays staged a airport greeting for the team at St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport on September 29th. The event was attended by almost 5,000 people who flocked into the baggage area and loading zones to greet and cheer the team as they got off their chartered flight from Detroit. People filled the airport and also the outer traffic lanes of the airport to see their new champions come in from their road trip.
On October 6th, the Rays were in Chicago facing the White Sox when they secured their first series win in the American League Divisional series. The Rays won the series 3-1, and established that they were the team to beat to get to the World Series in the American League. In that series, the Rays battled back time and time again against the tough White Sox pitching staff before finally breaking through and getting right breaks.
When the Rays faced the Philadelphia Phillies on October 23rd, they sent James “Big Game” Shields to the mound. The game showed the waking up of B J Upton and Carlos Pena at the plate as both help produce much needed offense for the Rays. In a play featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Rocco Baldelli came across the plate for an apparent Rays run, but Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz held onto the ball.
The game came down to great situational hitting by the Rays. B J Upton scored Akinora Iwamura from third to plate the first run for the Rays. In the 4th inning, the Rays took a hold of the game after Cliff Floyd hit a single and Dioner Navarro hit a nice liner up the middle to put two men on base for the Rays. Baldelli then hit a nice shot down the third baseline, but it was gloved by Feliz and the Rays had men on the corners. Jason Bartlett then came up and executed a safety squeeze perfectly in front of Phillies starter Brett Myers to put the Rays up 4-0. It would be the Rays first victory in the Fall classic.
Last, but not least is the Game 5.5 as I call it of the 2008 World Series. No matter what happened in this game, the historical significance was more pressing at the moment. The contest was a hard fought contest and each team traded runs and hits before the Phillies finally walked away with their second World Series Championship.
The game was a true test of everything that got the Rays here in 2008. The Bullpen, which was the team’s focal point in 2008 had finally given up a run at the most critical moment in the contest. And the Rays offense could not close the gap when needed during their last at bats. with Eric Hinske striking out for the last out of the game.
All of these events made a different focal point for the Rays in 2008. I hope a few of your fond memories have graced the blog. If I forgot a moment that you found remarkable in 2008, please feel free to comment on the blog and I will check into it and might even make it my number 1 choice tomorrow. Again thank you to all the readers of Rays Renegade for their insights, comments ans readership in 2008.
Hopefully in 2009, I will have more outstanding Rays moments to record for you.
I was sitting there in my favorite sports bar the other day when it came to my mind that in the last few years there have been a multitude of adaptations and abbreviations transformed and formulated to even decipher the amount of chew spits a player makes during a plate appearance. It was at this time that I had a brainstorm thought about the Tampa Bay Rays and decided to pull out the old laptop and try and do some fast research while he went to did some business.
I jotted down a few fast pages of statistics from the bevy of sites like www.Fangraphs.com, who have developed a whole new language within baseball and speak about phrases and even notations that most sports fans have not even heard of before. I mean, until I ventured online looking for their explanation I could not tell you what bRAA, or even Tra stood for in baseball statistics talk. So let me try and decipher the first two here for you then get back to my conversation. BRAA is actually an abbreviation for batting runs above average. It is computed by taking a hitters RV/PA ( Runs valued per Pitches attempted above average) and multiplying the number of plate appearances he has had that season.
Okay now that I have you maybe totally confused, or I am talking Esperanto to you, let me use the first research abbreviation noted above with the American League MVP, Dustin Pedroia, and the 2008 American League Rookie of the Year, Evan Longoria. So using the formula of bRAA, I have calculated that Pedroia’s was 24.1 in 2008.
If you consider that his bRAA has risen from -7.8 in 2006, to a respectable 10.1 last season during his own ROY season, you can see the progression of this young hitting star. If you take the current ROY, Longoria, this is his first true season in the big leagues, so he doesn’t have even 1 at bat to put into account to show the fast progression of his hitting in the AL. But then again, when you come into the league for the first time, and have a projection of 16.4, the sky is the limit.
So unlike Pedroia, Longoria is showing immediate plus plate appearances and making his presence know in the MLB. That bodes well for the league and for his team in the coming seasons as his bRAA will increase a bit, and might spark another strong run at the playoffs for the young Rays. So as you can see, the SABR guys have taken a huge hold of baseball, and that is not a bad thing. As Kevin Costner said in the movie, “For the Love of the Game” when asked if baseball counts everything, he said ” We count everything, it is what we do.”
Odd stats and projections have become the backbone of fantasy leagues and professional betters and has been absorbed into everyday life now. 5 years ago, who would have known what OPS stood for, and what offensive production number were accumulated in that statistic. Now it is a commonly used graphic on most every ballpark in America when a hitter comes to bat.
I know there have been a few time this past season that I took out my laptop at games and tried to update a certain stat, or even produce a stat to supplement a comment I was making to a seat mate or even another fan in the section. It is almost as if very soon there will be a second language spoken only by statistics mongrels and the cyber republic to express our actions and reactions in abbreviations and commas. But that is not always a bad thing.
Since baseball is a game where statistics are law, and the amount of statistical firepower can make a drunk fan sit down and ponder even a simple fact, it is the reality of baseball in the modern days. I know my Dad used to say the only stats that matter are the ones under the “H”, “R” and “E” spots on the scoreboard. Now that is not to mean he did not know the batting averages or a the pitching selections of his favorite players’, but the love of the game was more physical to them.
Today, the game is taking on more power beyond just the batted ball or the nice 12-6 break on a curve ball. It is becoming a game where science and logic and even that math class we all hated in college statistics is coming to the forefront of information. I mean who was the top pitcher in 2008?
Was it C C Sabathia, or even Derek Lee? Or could someone like Randy Johnson or Ervin Santana sneak into the Top 10 without us even noticing it. To be totally truthful here, Sabathia was listed twice in the Top 10 performances of 2008. He was the top selection and also the 10th for his time with the Milwaukee Brewers, and Cleveland Indians. And how did Lee sneak all the way up to number 3 without anyone noticing him until late in the season, and during the playoffs. Sometimes the statistics as a whole show better productivity and more stable references to a players’ true nature at the plate or on the mound in baseball.
Okay, let’s head the other direction, who was the best in the batter’s box in 2008, was it the MVP’s of both leagues, Dustin Pedroia, or Albert Pujols? Or did someone else have a banner year and got lost in the shuffle? If you guessed Pujols, you win a huge prize. He had the best season of anyone is baseball at the plate in 2008. But if you picked Pedroias, you might be disappointed to know he did not even rank in the top 20 in offense in 2008.
He did have an amazing post season, but the season only produced him a slot at number 23, and that was not even the best showing on the Boston Red Sox. That slot went to Kevin Youkilis, who came in at number 9. And Pedroia did not come even second on his own team. So you to wonder, just how great a season did he have if he was ranked 4th on his own squad in total offensive numbers in 2008.
Well, if you consider the fact that Youkilis probably had his best season as a professional this season, his selection at number 9 might be realistic for him. But the two guys in front of Pedroia also had injury concerns in 2008, but when they were able to hit the plate, they were effective for their team. Both J D Drew ( 13) and Pre-Trade Deadline Manny Ramirez (12) had better statistics than the American League Most Valuable Player.
So since I am a Rays fan, I also took the liberty of seeing how my guys did on both lists. Well, even though we did have an amazing run towards that beautiful trophy in October, we missed out and will have to repeat to have another shot to hoist that beauty in the air. I scanned over the sheets and saw that pitching wise, we did not fare really bad on the list.
James Shields actually coming out 18th in the top 20 of the 2008 listing. Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir came in at 54th and 61st respectfully, and that is a great showing that the Rays had 3 guys in the top 60-ish of baseball. The one guy who really got me excited was the fact that number 4 starter, Andy Sonnanstine blew past Garza and Kazmir and came out a impressive 31st on the final list. He had some great statistics behind the front numbers and has shown some remarkable consistent numbers in 2008.
So the next time you want to wonder why Sonnanstine is still here and Jackson is gone, you can look at the 2008 numbers and they tell a very clear story. Jackson was listed at 114th best in baseball, while Sonnanstine was in the 31st slot. Consistency wins ball games, and with the Rays being a truly statistic friendly team, you know that Rays Manager Joe Maddon sees the potential of Sonnanstine even growing in 2009 for the team.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Rays did have a few guys who did better at the plate then imagined early on in the season. The team actually placed 3 guys in the top 100 hitters in 2008. As you might expect, Carlos Pena was the highest Rays with a ranking of 29th for the year. That was followed by a 55th spot by Longoria, and a 92nd slot for center fielder B J Upton.
On the surface, people thought the Upton was having a down season, which he actually was due to a shoulder injury, but with him adjusting his swing and even placing into the top 100, the sky is the limit when he is fit and healthy in 2009. And with Longoria placing so high as a rookie, it also sets a high expectation level for him in 2009. Hopefully the sophomore jinx will not hit him and he can remain in pace to become a new star at third base for the MLB.
But the category that really had my eyes popping was in the relief pitching listings. The Rays were consistently being praised for their upgrades in their Bullpen, and with the huge developments in their relievers, but just how great was this change for the team? The squad actually placed two guys high on the list.
Considering the guy who came in at number 10 on the list was not even on the Rays Opening Day roster is a amazement in itself, but he did not get any reputation, or even recognition until he came back with a fire in his belly to prove the world wrong about him. Grant Balfour came back to St. Petersburg to fulfill a potential of being a top 10 reliever in the MLB, not just the AL. If I took the top 10 and split them by leagues, Balfour would rank 7th in the American League.
But as great as the story is on the emergence of Balfour, the productivity of J P Howell can not be measured by just the statistics. During the season I saw the guy who used to slunk by the Bullpen area come alive this season and become a fan favorite for his personality and his spunk. As Howell gained strength and great numbers, he also opened up to the fans and showed that great inner champion to him. Howell just missed the top 50 in baseball by 2 slots, but he is a top guy based on his upswing in 2008.
So as we can see, the basic statistics in baseball sites and on leader boards can not always show you the total package of a player. Be it a MVP winner who is not even the 4th best player on his team, or a 5th starter who is actually statistically better than 3 other starting pitchers on his squad, the number can be deceiving at time. But we already knew that didn’t we?
The Greatest thing a player can learn on a day like today is how much his club loves what he does on the field for them. But sometimes even that get a bit blurred and the images seems to fade a bit before the reality comes that you either have a new start somewhere else, or you contact your old team and see if they just wanted you at a cheaper price.
Every December 12th, the MLB goes through this sadistic tactic of non-tendering and tendering contracts to the arbitration eligible players on their rosters. Some people are shoe-ins to get picked up because of talent or maybe even a low cost towards the next year budget. Others are looked at under a microscope and the decisions might come down to dollar signs and not talent or ability.
That is the sad reality of this date. You could be an up and coming talent, or a veteran that just had an off year and you could be looking for a job in a heartbeat after midnight tonight. Also, just because they decided to offer you a contract doesn’t mean that the wheels stop turning and you might still be dealt to another team and they will make the decision on your fate again, and maybe at a financial disadvantages.
So on and on tonight I will be adding to this blog until I have a final idea of who, what where, when and why might pop up and bite some unsuspecting player on the buttock. Seriously here, there will be some surprises tonight. Some players might be getting held ransom for a financial sacrifice, while other might be rewarded for unforeseen changes in their game or ability. Which ever come about, it is not the end of the world or a career with any of the players tonight.
Everyone will find a place to play in 2009, it might not be the town you are currently playing in, but it also might turn into the best decision of your life. Just because you came up with a certain club does not mean that there are not other staffs or coaches’ salivating that your name is on the list tonight. People always have choices in life. The path we take is not predestined as many believe, but they are earmarked with signs and signals we either adhere to or avoid.
The players on this list still have had the honor to play at a level that few people ever achieve in life, on or off the ball field. And with that in mind, you have to remember the sacrifices and the sweat and tears that got you to this level will be rewarded again.
So as we embark on this night when some believe a dream has ended, you have to remember that through every closed door there is another opportunity maybe even down the hall. Here is the list of the guys who got the love and admiration of their clubs tonight. This list will be in no certain order, but will be update throughout the night.
Tampa Bay Rays:
Gabe Gross ( OF )
Dioner Navarro ( C )
Jason Barlett ( SS )
Willy Aybar ( INF )
Grant Balfour ( RP )
Kansas City Royals:
Esteban German ( INF ) 1-year contract
John Buck ( C )
Mike Jacobs ( INF )
Mark Teahen ( OF )
Brian Bannister ( SP )
Kyle Davies ( RP )
Jimmy Gobble ( SP )
Zack Greinke ( SP )
Joel Peralta ( RP )
Jorge Cantu ( 3 B )
Dan Uggla ( 2 B )
Cody Ross ( OF )
Jeremy Hermida ( OF )
Rick Nolasco ( SP )
Josh Johnson ( RP )
Alfredo Amezaga ( RP )
Logan Kensing ( RP )
Dallas McPherson ( INF )
Shane Victorino ( OF )
Ryan Howard ( 1 B )
Ryan Madson ( RP )
Jayson Werth ( OF )
Eric Bruntlett ( INF ) 1-year contract
Clay Condrey ( RP ) 1-year contract
Joe Blanton ( SP )
Cole Hamels ( SP )
Greg Dobbs ( INF )
Chad Durbin ( RP )
Eric Bedard ( SP )
Aaron Heilman (SP, RP )
Felix Hernandez ( SP )
San Diego Padres:
Scott Hairston ( OF )
Luis Rodriguez ( INF )
Jody Gerut ( OF )
Heath Bell ( RP )
Kelly Johnson ( INF )
Matt Diaz ( OF )
Jeff Francoeur ( OF )
Mike Gonzalez ( RP )
Omar Infante ( INF )
Casey Kotchman ( 1 B )
Boston Red Sox:
Kevin Youkilis ( 1B )
Jonathan Papelbon ( RP )
Javier Lopez ( RP )
Jason Kubel ( D H )
Matt Guerrier ( RP )
Los Angeles Dodgers:
Russell Martin ( C )
Andre Ethier ( OF )
Johnathan Broxton ( RP )
Rob Bowen ( C ) $ 535,000 1-year contract
Justin Duchscherer ( SP )
Jack Cust ( OF )
Chicago White Sox:
Dewayne Wise ( OF ) 1-year, $ 550,000 contract
Wilson Betemit ( INF ) 1-year $ 1.3 Million contract
Ramon Santiago ( INF ) 1-year $ 825,000 contract
Marcus Thames ( OF )
Fernando Rodney ( RP )
Bobby Seay ( RP )
Joel Zumaya ( RP )
Justin Verlander ( SP )
Edwin Jackson ( SP,RP )
Kelly Shoppach ( C )
Chad Gaudin ( RP ) 1-year $ 2 million contract
Ronny Cedeno ( INF )
Reed Johnson ( OF )
Neal Cotts ( RP ) 1-year $ 1.1 million contract
Mike Wuertz ( RP )
Kevin Gregg ( RP )
San Francisco Giants:
Jack Taschner ( RP )
Toronto Blue Jays:
Jason Frasor ( RP )
Brian Tallet ( RP )
Brandon League ( RP )
Jose Batista ( INF )
Nate McLouth ( OF )
Adam LaRoche ( 1 B )
Ryan Doumit ( C )
Zack Duke ( SP )
John Grabow ( RP )
Tyler Yates ( RP )
Paul Maholm ( SP )
St Louis Cardinals:
Rick Ankiel ( OF )
Chris Duncan ( OF )
Todd Wellemeyer ( RP )
Garrett Atkins ( 3 B )
Clint Barmes ( 2 B )
Jorge De La Rosa ( SP )
Taylor Buchholz ( RP )
Jason Grilli ( RP )
Huston Street ( RP )
Edwin Encarnacion ( INF )
Seth McClung ( SP, RP )
Prince Fielder ( 1 B )
Rickie Weeks ( 2 B )
J J Hardy ( S S )
Corey Hart ( OF )
Dave Bush ( SP )
Ryan Zimmerman ( 3B )
Josh Willingham ( OF )
Scott Olsen ( SP )
Shawn Hill ( RP )
Willy Harris ( SS ) 2-year $ 3 million
Brandon Backe ( SP )
Geoff Geary ( RP )
Wandy Rodriguez ( SP )
Tim Byrdak ( RP )
Jose Valverde ( RP )
Humberto Quintero ( C )
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
Chone Figgins ( 3 B )
Robb Quinlan ( INF )
Maicer Ituris ( INF )
Ervin Santana ( SP )
Mike Napoli ( C )
As tonight comes to a close at midnight, the name will still be pouring in and this liost might not be totally complete by tomorrow afternoon. But I will do my best to be sure that you all have the latest listing of all players tendered contracts on December 12th.
I will also so a listing of the players who are deemed free agents now that their respective teams have put them on the open market. That listing might be a bit different as I want to block everyone into their respective positions, instead of teams for the non-tender list.
I will have that listing working by tomorrow afternoon and I have not decided yet if I might make prediction on what might happen to those players. As the night grows and the list gets longer, I will determine if that would be entertaining and informative to all of you.
To say that this trade took me by surprise would be a total understatement. I did expect to see Rays number 4 starter, Edwin Jackson maybe traded closer to the reporting date, but sometime baseball can sneak up and trick you sometimes. To say I will miss chatting with Edwin on the sidelines down by the Bullpen Cafe on Sundays.
When he first got traded to the Rays I made sure to chat with him while he was in his street clothes about this team and it might be the best thing to happen to your career to come here. He has grown alot as a pitcher, and I wish him nothing but the best in Detroit. And you know you better come over and shake my hand during Spring Training dude.
But what really amazed me was the sly and calculated measures that Rays General Manager Andrew Friedman pulled off this caper. No one is baseball can say they saw this one coming at all. What Friedman did was trade away a sure thing starting pitcher, who is under arbitration this season, for a young defensive right-fielder we will control for 6 years.
Holy Cow! You mean we actually traded for a guy who will be fighting for a roster spot this spring and if he still needs some seasoning, we can send him to Durham without recourse. That is simply amazing and well outside the usual Rays thinking of the past. It is a pretty calculated mis-match that we got a guy who will only get better, while giving up the same in Jackson.
The only problem is, Jackson would hate to be the long reliever in the Bullpen and the trade was a blessing for him. Considering how far Edwin Jackson has come in 2008, you have to admit, the Rays could have asked for more and been well within their rights. But the trade answered questions and provides key answers to situations that would be difficult to achieve in March or April of 2009.
By doing this trade now, it actually benefited both teams even before decisions are being made for 2009. Jackson will move into the Tigers’ rotation with a good spring and will continue to grow as a starter in this league. People forget he posted 14 wins this season, which was a personal high for him, plus he had some of the best command of the season on his pitches late in the year.
The bad thing for Jackson is that the Tigers ex-Pitching Coach was Chuck Hernandez, who worked alot with Jackson when he was here with the Rays. Jackson has been developing and inproving on his off-speed pitches and we will see him again early in 2009 when the two teams meet on March 26th in Lakeland during Spring Training. It will be the only time these two teams meet in the spring this season.
On the other side, we get a player who is also a Tampa-born and raised player. He attended Armwood High, just outside of Tampa and then moved over to Florida Southern University in Lakeland for college. Joyce was selected by the Tigers in the 12th round of the 2005 Amateur Draft. Following the 2007 season, he was selected as the 7th best prospect in the Detroit farm system.
In 6 games against the Tampa Bay Rays this season, Joyce played left-field and went 3-18 against the team during late season series as the Trop and at Comerica Park. He batted .167 against the Rays, with a .286 On-Base Percentage. He played extremely confident outfield for the Tigers, and actuallyt gunned down Jonny Gomes at second base in the last game of the season in Detroit.
For the year, Joyce batted .252, with 16 doubles and 12 home runs and 33 RBI’s in only 92 games. Joyce ended up 6th among AL rookie with 12 homers. He hit a career best 2 homers in a game against Texas on August 19th in Arlington, Texas. He had a career high 4 hits on July 3rd against the Mariners at Safeco Field. Also of note, he drove in a career high 5 RBI’s on July 21st against the Royals in Kansas City.
On paper this trade looks like one done to actually minimize the confusion and the stress in the spring of having to find a destination for a starter to make a spot for rookie sensation David Price. With Jackson now out of the mix for a spot, that will leave Jeff Niemann, Andy Sonnanstine, Wade Davis, Mitch Talbot and Jason Hammel to fight for the 5th rotation position.
But the true measure of this trade is in the advantage the Rays now have with a young and improving outfielder under their control for 6 more seasons. This will give them stability and confidence to maybe evn use Gabe Gross as trade bait to get a right-hand bat for rightfield before the reporting date. It is a win-win for both the players and the team for a change. Both get a change of scenery and a chance to fight for a top spot right out of spring.
I will raise my bottle to you Edwin this weekend, and hope that you find success and happiness in Motown. And I will be seeing you on the visitors’ side when the Tigers visit the Trop on September 4-6th, 2009. You can count on it!!
One of the hardest jobs in all of baseball is not the Managers’ position, but the title of General Manager. I think that more GM’s have taken a bullet for the failures of their teams than any of baseball field mangers. It is said that the stream of blood runs downhill after a slaughter and usually that blood starts at the scalp of the GM, who is the first sacrificial lamb for the public and the media.
The position has a bit of give and take from the bottom to the top, but for all intentions, can be the lonliest post when things are going bad for your team . You have to dictate and slice through all of the BS coming out of the clubhouse and the publics mouths, plus select the most rightious information and sage advice from scouting to make a calculated and educated gamble on a player or a team situation.
For Rays General Manager aka Boy Wonder of 1 Tropicana Drive, Andrew Friedman, so far in his tenure in the position, the scale has been weighed heavily in his favor. Considering that less than 3 years ago he was not even involved with the Tampa Bay Rays, and his name was no more known in public circles than my name. But in three years with help from wily old veteran G.M. Gary “Obi Wan” Hunsicker he has built upon a solid core of players and eager staff members to reign alone on top of the G.M. mountaintop.
Decision after decision went wrong for him in the beginning. He stayed silent and towed the line on trade talks that could have meant the world to the team, and moved on ones that might have dealt them a death blow in the past.pile But with a few years of plus and minues calculations, the Rays G.M. has eliminated the risk management portion of his position and is seeing only sunny skies and rainbows right now.
Well, on today’s front page, MLBlogs asked a simple question that will either rock the nether worlds or simply go down as more Internet babble and ramblings by people who love to play God behind a keyboard. I am one of those ramblers, but I can atest to countless hours of thinking about this ( 2 hours) and entered debate after debate during the morning to strengthen my fortitude and latitude to accept this challenge. I am to become the G.M. of the American League champions for a short time and plot the course for the Rays cruiseliner. Hopefully I will not need a toll for the river Styx after I am done with my opinions and raw mental brainfarts. But in the office of the G.M., even ordering coffee can be met with critcism and second-guessing.
I am not sure if I want to play a higher power, but I would like a crack at a few situations I would consider if I was the Rays GM for the next few days in Las Vegas. With that in mind, I am going to put myself in WWAD ( What Would Andrew Do ) mode and trya and make a few educated guesses as to the betterment of the Rays roster and their minor league system. I even have a play that should be added to their 40-man roster before Friday, or lose him to another team is a sure bet.
So, here we go, I am acting GM of the Tampa Bay Rays for about an hour. My first round of business will be to get minor leaguer Rhyne Hughes on the 40-man roster. Hughes had a monster Arizona Fall League and might be going the route that current Rays pitcher James Shields took a few years back. Hughes made the All- AFL selection squad and hit the cover off the ball in Arizona.
He has been at the Double-A level in 2008, but might start there then move up to Triple-A depending on the Bulls need for a power first baseman. But getting this kid hidden on the 40-man roster is a vital cog that has to be done ASAP. The Rays took care of a roster spot on Monday evening by assigning pitcher Chad Orvella, who is coming off of shoulder surgery outright to the Durham Bulls.
The Rays might not have as many holes as usual this coming year, which actually plays well into their hands during negotiations with players. There are several key guys up for arbitration like Dioner Navarro, Jason Bartlett, Edwin Jackson and Jonny Gomes. In the next several weeks a few of those guys might not be here by trade or being released by the team. I would put more money on the trade situation than losing all value for the players. Even a guy like Gomes, who had a miserible 2008, has value to a team looking for a 4th outfielder or even a DH for hire.
I am going to cut to the chase in this blog and attack the two main needs for the team in 2009. The right-field slot and the DH position are highly publicized and ’must need’ positions on the team. I have a few ideas about each and will explore them in two ways. First to list the free agent solutions, and then by trade.
First off, let’s tackle the need for a DH or bench player for the Rays via the free agent market. With the recent lunch date with Milton Bradley going so well for the Rays, the only thing standing in the way besides a contract is if the guy is worth losing your first round pick for him. With Bradley being considered a top tier free agent, the team would have to forfeit a draft pick to secure his signing.
Another plus about Bradley that the Rays can build on is his ability to protect hitters in front of him bcause of his .324 average last season. To add onto that is the fact he also hit 22 home runs and struck out only 112 times last season. He is also an on-base guy, posting .439 On-Base Percentage, largely because of his 80 walks. His sttitude and personality quirks have also mellowed with age and he has become a calm force in the locker room. He might not be Cliff Floyd, but the guy commands respect and leads by example.
The second alternative to a DH via the free agent wire is also a very attractive one for the Rays. Mostly because this player can still contribute in the field at some lengths and could be a valuable asset to the club. Also considering some of the milestones he is approaching, he could be a great PR tool for the team to attract fans. If you have no figured it out yet, it is Ken Griffey Junior. I have been a huge Griffey fans since his Mariner days and would consider him in a second for the DH position.
Junior might have slipped a bit in production in the last few seasons, but he also has been playing the field almost every day while in the National League, and took over center for the Chicago White Sox after being traded at the trading deadline in 2008. If he was to be a DH, with an occasional stroll into the outfield, he could protect his knees and still hit daily for the team. Griffey hit only a combined .248 between both leagues in 2008, but his low amount of strikeouts ( 25 ) shows that the plate discipline is still there and he can rebound off a bad 2008.
The Rays might be able to get Griffey at a Florida discount becuase of his home being in Orlando, but still might command about $ 4-6 million a year. Griffeys’ 2008 salary was set at about $ 8.2 million, which would put him out of Tampa Bay puse strings if he commands the same salary in 2009.
Bradley made about $ 5.25 million last season. If Bradley wants to play on a competitive team for 2009, he also might be into giving the Rays a discount on base salary with some incentive bonuses tied to production. I would think a $ 4 million dollar salary with up to 2 million in incentives might do the trick for Bradley.
Let’s now consider the right-field slot. I honestly feel that the team can find a suitable player who is right-handed without breaking the bank in 2009. Alot of names have been tossed around lately, but there is aslo one that has not come to the surface yet in refference to the Rays. Brad Wilkerson has been playing right-field in the majors for a long time. He started 2008 with the Seattle Mariners, then moved onto the Toronto Blue Jays and provided great relief and power from the right-side of the plate.
Most of baseball has not even considered him after a sub-par 2008 while both rehabbing and trying to fit into a tight outfield situation in Toronto. But he might be a low cost alternative to the high priced guys seeking positions through the MLB. His sub .250 average for 2008 was mostly covered by his injury that he tried to play through before going down and finally getting healthy.
This is the one position on the Rays that I think they can make a great trade that can help both ballclubs. In the past, the Rays have been linked as the third team with the Chicago Cubs for Jake Peavy. But the real factor is that they do not need the Cubs to make a trade with San Diego. The Padres are seeking a shortstopn and a pitcher to replace two players currently either treaded or deep into discussion to part the Padres.
Tampa Bay was eager to pout in a claim for Brian Giles on the waiver wire in 2008, but got one-upped by the Boston Red Sox. The Sox blocked the attempt to claim Giles to keep him off the Rays roster and maybe get him for themselves. Giles did not want to go to the Red Sox, but might be open to a Rays attempt at a trade because they have a true opening for him in right-field.
One problem with this trade off the bat is the amount of salary owed to Giles in 2009. The Rays might not be willing to take on the entire amount of the 2009 salary and would want to offset some of it by having the Padres eat a bit of the contract. The players’ that the Padres could get for Giles could be a nice smorgasboard of up-and-coming pitchers and a infielder.
The Rays have a abundance of pitchers who are log-jammed at the minor league level and might be willing to part with a MLB level pitcher and a Triple-A starter. The pitchers in question could range from Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel to Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot. All have been at the major league level and have proven to be quality pitchers.
The Rays also have a few infielders who could be packaged in the deal, which includes Reid Brignac, Elliott Johnson, who have limited major league experience to Ben Zobrist or even Jason Bartlett who have MLB experience. Zobrist is actually a player who could play any role for the Padres and is still under contract for 2009. Bartlett is arbitration-eligible, but might only cost about $ 2 million a year fater the hearing.
Giles is my trade target for the team in 2009. I think if the team packaged Jeff Neimann, Jason Bartlett and maybe another reliever, Dale Thayer or a Double-A player, plus take on $ 2 million dollars of Giles salary, we could have a great deal for both teams. But that is just my opinion here.
So here we go, I have taken on two trouble spots for the Rays in 2009 and tackled them my way. How do I think I did as GM for the Day for the Rays? That depends on if I can get these guys signed sealed and delivered for Rays Manager Joe Maddon and the boys by Febuary 2009.
The huge celebrations has died down to the point that now we remember them only by using the glossy pictures and video to remind us of the time, place and who we were with when the Rays climbed the postseason mountain in 2008. Little remains of the celebrations at the vacant Trop. But the stadium is full of activity as the crews are rapidly moving to transform the Dome into a viable football arena, The pitching mound is missing, base paths are gone, and the field is being fitted and lined for the St. Petersburg Bowl, which will debut this year in the stadium. It will be odd to sit there and watch a college football game at the Trop., knowing that in less than 90 days after the game, baseball will be back at the Tropicana Field.
But not gone is the fact that the team was in line for huge shares of the playoff booty from MLB, and they got the fantastic news about their bounty on Tuesday. According to MLB, the Rays will distribute over $ 12,278238.61 in a 43-way pile to players and other Rays personnel. You have to hope that Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi got a nice chunk of change from the playoff pie and will not have to umpire as much this off season. The Rays split was about $ 223,390.05 per share, a nice chunk of change for a months worth of sweat and tears. To put that into consideration for players playing under a minimum MLB salary, they will receive almost half their yearly salary for a month of playoff baseball.
It is totally amazing to me the amount of money flowing out of the baseball coffers after the complaints being thrown throughout the newspapers and blogs during the 2008 playoffs. MLB was huffing and puffing about the lack of viewership on Television and the weather situations surrounding the World Series, but in the end, even the first ones eliminated in the AL, the Chicago White Sox, who lost to the A L Champion Rays in the ALDS, got to take away over $ 27,828.33 each in players’ shares. Not a bad gig if you can get it. That is more than I made in 2008 so far.
Okay, back to the main issue here. Today I am going to highlight the last 3 Rays players’ who are eligible for non-tendered arbitration for the Tampa Bay Rays. They are as pretty diverse group. You have a devoted church-goer and all-around good guy, an aggressive extrovert Aussie who moonlights in the World Baseball Classic, and a guy struggling to get respect for his talent, but is a better pitcher than advertised.
Each has a place on this team that was exciting and unique. All three helped set the tone in positively different ways for the team in 2008. But I am again going to put myself into Andrew Friedman’s head and try and divulge and dissect the players into rationale pieces. Will these three guys be the foundation of another great Rays team, or do they need to be jettisoned to make the team better in 2009. By my evaluations I will decide if I would grant or deny any of these three an opportunity to upgrade their salary and continue playing for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009.
And now, on with the show:
Gabe Gross had one of the best seasons of his major league career after he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. He hit personal highs in hits, home runs and RBI’s as well as getting 5 outfield assists for the team, second only to B J Upton’s 12 assists. But beyond that, Gross also became Mr “Big Time” for the Rays. Not only could he be the defensive player they needed down the first baseline for the Rays, but his bat had magic in 2008.
Even on the night he was acquired by the Rays, the former Brewer scored his teams go-ahead run to win that game before heading to Orlando to meet up with his new team. Since he has gotten here, he has lit up the clubhouse with positive comments and actions, and totally won over the crowd in right-field with his play. But his bat is the thing that set him apart in 2008.
He was one of the only guys on the roster who was money with guys in scoring position in 2008. And because of that, a lot of his RBI’s came in the later innings in games when he was put in as a defensive specialist for the Rays. He had only one walk-off homer against the Chicago White Sox on June 1, 2008, but 4 times he teamed up with team mates for back-to-back homers.
That went a long way for the Rays establishing leads and putting the game out of reach. Gross also hit 7 solo homers and 6 2-run shots during 2008. To say he was clutch would be an understatement. He played in only 78 games in 2008 since being acquired for a minor league pitcher, Billy Butler. But along the way he hit a tape measure 437 foot homer against the Cleveland Indians to tie that game on August 6th.
14 of his 38 RBI’s were either game-winning or game tying in 2008. He has 3 walk-off RBI’s, matching the Rays team record. One of those was a walk-off homers against White Sox reliever Matt Thorton, which was his first career homer off a left-handed pitcher.
Gross has been a model Rays from start to finish and the team would be truly rewarded if they granted arbitration to Gross for the 2009 season. With the flux of not having a designated right-fielder in house, Gross is also a huge advantage for the Rays in that they do not have to be desperate seeking a outfielder, and would be totally confident to give the position to Gross for 2009. His 2009 salary could bump up to $ 1.3 million dollars, which is well within the range of a competent 4th outfielder who can hit and play defense with the best of them.
Anyone who knows me knows that this one will be personal. I am a huge fan of the guy ever since I first met him at a Spring Training game a few years ago and told him he will love it here. Funny how people can be attracted to certain types of ballplayers. Jackson is the type of player I enjoy watching pitch and learn the game of baseball.
He was a former sixth round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers as an outfielder, but was converted to a pitcher by the Dodgers’ staff. This is only his 4th season as a pitcher and I have seen improvement every year he has been in our system. He is also one of those guys who is humble enough to chat and sign for fans as long as he can for the joy of it, not because it is his duty.
Now that Jackson has turned 25, we can finally cal, him a veteran on the rotation. But did you know that he has now made 77 career starts as a pitcher, 63 of them for the Rays. This season he tied the Rays record for wins with James Shields and Rolando Arroyo with his 14th win. His previous best was his 7 wins in 2007. He also posted only his 2nd winning season as a professional. He was 2-1 in 2004.
He threw a total of 183.1 innings in 2008, which was over 22 innings more than any other time in his career. He ended the month of August with a 2.27 ERA, the best on the staff and 4th best in the American League. He also tied a Rays record for 4 wins in August. He had a 4- straight game win streak earlier in the season from July 25- August 10th.
He also won 6 out of 7 starts up to August 10th posting a 2.59 ERA during the streak. He had a streak of 20 straight scoreless innings over the span of 3 starts from May 8-18th. That set a record for a Rays starter, and was only 1 inning off the all-time Rays record of 21 set by Joe Borowski in 2005.
Jackson is known for his high-powered fastball that can reach the top 90′s with a slight dip, but his curve and slider can sometimes just rumble through the strike zone and has been his problem pitches this season. Jackson was also involved and suspended for the Boston-Tampa Bay fiasco in Fenway Park because of his run towards the mound during the scuffle. It was said he was punching and hitting Coco Crisp at the bottom of the pile, but photos show he lost his shoe on the way to the mound and did not arrive until late in the event. He served a 5-game suspension from June 22-27th.
If I were Andrew Friedman, I would first sit down with Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and see what the Rays have in store for Jackson in the near future. With the aspect of David Price coming into the rotation, the Rays must make some adjustments to either Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine in the starting rotation.
If the Rays think that Jackson would be valuable in either the rotation or the Bullpen, then they should offer him arbitration and get him settled for 2009. Also on the horizon is interest by several clubs in Jackson over the past 2 seasons. The New York Mets, Seattle Mariners have expressed interest in the developing right hander.
Remember, that this guy is still learning the art of pitching, and 2008 was his best season to date, with unlimited potential and growth in the next few seasons. Jackson could look forward to a salary in the $ 2.5 Million dollar range after an arbitration hearing.
I did not know what to expect in 2007 when the Rays sent my buddy Seth McClung to the Brewers’ for the Aussie reliever. He came into the Rays Bullpen and was average at best in 2007. He lacked a certain intensity and velocity to his pitching, but all that changed after Spring Training in 2008. Balfour was not selected to the Rays Bullpen losing out to Scott Dohmann for the last spot in the Bullpen.
Balfour did not stress it and went down to the Durham Bulls with a chip on his shoulder and fire in his belly. When he came back up to the Rays Bullpen, he made it very difficult for the team to even consider sending him back to the minor leagues. Down the stretch, Balfour and J P Howell were the core of a Bullpen unit that shut down some of the best hitter in the entire league.
Balfour down the stretch pitched in 17 of the team’s last 34 games. In 15 of those outing he pitched scoreless frames for the Rays. Overall in 2008, the Rays went 32-19 in ballgames he came into from the Bullpen. He also tied for tops in wins in 2008 in the Bullpen with 6 wins, tied with J P Howell. He leads all MLB relievers with a 12.66 strikeout per 9 innings ratio, pitching 58.1 innings and recording 82 strikeouts on the year.
Balfour also was tops in the majors by fanning 36 percent of the batters he faced, and his 1.54 ERA was also the 4th best ERA posted by a reliever in the majors this season. His .143 opponents batting average was best in the AL, and second in the MLB to the Cub’s Carlos Marmol. He also allowed only 3 homers and 11 extra base hits all season long.
He also had a .230 slugging Percentage against him, second lowest in the majors. Balfour also provided support as the Rays closer during Troy Percivals’ many DL trips in 2008. During this time he preserved 3 out of the 4 save opportunities for the Rays.
Put all these statistics along with a on-mound intensity not seen in the past by the Rays and you have the total package for the Bullpen. It is a sure bet that to invest in Balfour would be a great investment for the Rays. So to offer him arbitration might be a moot point. If anyone deserved a raise in 2009, it would be the members of the Bullpen who kept the teams in games all year long. With an arbitration hearing, Balfour could increase his salary to about $ 1.2 million dollars. Every penny of it will come with emotion and energy, just what they Rays need in 2009 to defend their A L East crown.
Next Class of Arbitration for the Rays:
The next group to hit the arbitration ranks for the Rays will boost the payroll in a major way. Players like infielders Ben Zobrist, Willy Aybar will have their first go at the process. Catcher Shawn Riggans will be eligible. And B J Upton will also be presented with his first arbitration decision as a professional.
In the pitching department, we have people like J P Howell and starter Matt Garza. You can see several of the above players maybe being offered long term or even extension to combat the arbitration process. It was said that in 2006, the Rays wanted to make a long-term deal with B J Upton, but the deal was not formulated or completed in time.
I could see Matt Garza and maybe even Ben Zobrist getting an extension to cover a few of their arbitration years. and maybe even a year or two of their free agency like the deals given to James Shields, Scott Kazmir and Evan Longoria in the last several seasons. So we have that to look forward to in 12 months time.