Results tagged ‘ Edwin Jackson ’

Rays Last 3 Arbitration Eligible Players…..Outfield and Pitching

 

 

 

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:

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson:

 

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.

 

 

 

Grant Balfour:

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Rays First 3 Arbitration Eligible Players…Infield and Bench Positions.

 

      

 

The Tampa Bay Rays did not have a single Type “A” or “B” free agent to offer or turn down arbitration on December 1st, but that does not mean the road will be paved with gold for the Rays in 2009. They might have some of the toughest decisions yet as a franchise as they currently have 6 members of the 40-man roster  up for arbitration before the beginning of the 2009 season. 

 

But next year will be even worse,  with a total of  7 Rays going into arbitration for the first time. The current 2009 class includes a crowd favorite, an developing  outfielder turned pitcher, a foreign-born ironman and a couple of huge pieces of the upgraded Rays infield. I will try and explore the 2008 season for pluses and minuses only based on statistics and facts pertaining to the regular season.

 

 I try and put myself within Rays General Manager Andrew Friedman’s head and look at statistics and possible risks for these players based on results compiled during the 2008 regular season.  I will attempt to seperate the postseason from the regular season and not use them as a primary evaluation, but as bonus materials to decide and make a prediction on the outcome of the Rays choices, and paths during the 2009 arbitration process.

 

I am going to evaluate the first 3 guys that compose key parts of the infield and a current bench player and slightly used outfielder who plays better when he is in the flow of the game. So without further ado:

 

 

Jonny Gomes:

 

Here is  a tough one for me. I can see the positive  of this new team role model  and how he has become more of a fan favorite in the last few years. And the fans’  respond to his home-spun Rays energy like a bug to a lightbulb. But this is ultimately a baseball decision, and sometimes good players have to be dragged under the carpet when they are not pulling their collective weight on the team. Gomes has done as much as he can with what he has been presented in 2008, but will it be enough to satify the new Rays urges and wants for their offense?

 

The worst part of determining  if Gomes is the player the Rays need right now is that he is like the proverbial rolling stone, and he gather energy and motivation from activity, not from just sitting on the bench.  Some People may also call upon the fact that he has had a swinging door between Durham, North Carolina and St. Petersburg, Florida the last 2 years. This is not a positive and good thing for such a powerful young player to develop  into a hitting  rut so deep he has to go down to the minors to correct himself.

 

It is a little more than a swing adjustment, it is mostly pitch recognition. Gomes seems to have a difficuly time reading some cutters and sinkers coming into his body before they expolde and tip over the outside of the plate for a strike. Professional baseball is based on the fact that you usually get a hit at least 3 times in every 10 at bats. To even hit a solid .300 nowadays you have to study the leagues pitchers’ and their collective release points and angle variables even before stepping to the plate. To some players this is a formality and they tend to be able to hit anything thrown their direction. Others have to make in-game adjustments to fit the changes, and Gomes has been slow, but actively trying to play catchup and learn to adjust on the fly more in 2008.

 

Gomes has to develop a little more give and take in his set strike zone to be an  effective hitter for the team in 2009.  In 2008, Gomes only had a paltry  178 plate appearances for the Rays. Not a huge amount, but was he being sat down more for plate discipline, or for a lack of consistant ability to hit with men in scoring position and producing scoring situations  when he did get his chance at the plate.

 

His .183 batting average speaks volumes to me about the type of pitching he saw in 2008. Gomes has never been really strong at recognizing the breaking points late on a pitch. This has put him in alot of 2-strike situations during the season, which lead to costly and unnecessary outs. His On-Base Plus Scoring average was a dismal  .670, not the perfect prerequisite for a power hitter off the bench. 

 

For a guy who had been pretty hot with his bat to begin the season, Gomes became an offensive liability by the end of the season. He was swining at more pitches outside the strike zone trying to get something going, or maybe jump-starting himself out of a slump as deep as a ravine in the Grand Canyon.

 

  In comparision to 2007, Gomes had a total of  393 plate appearances  that season and still struck out 126 times for the Rays. That is a high number, but his .244 average and .620 OPS were indications he was seeing the ball more and hitting better pitches in 2007 than 2008.

 

 

So you have to ask yourself if Gomes got  more pitches to hit in 2008, what would he have done with them?  The statistics show that Gomes saw at least 676 pitches in 2008, and he swung at 48.1 percent of them.  He did have a good contact rate of  76.3 percent, including foul balls. This shows that the bat was getting to the ball, but not into the field of play for him. In 2008, he got pitches to hit, but only had 44 percent chance of the ball going between the foul lines.

 

Based on all information, do you take into account his community and local fan base as a reason to keep him or  even offer him arbitration in 2009? The decision ultimately has to come from an evaluation of Gomes by Rays Hitting Coach Steve Henderson. If Henderson sees a viable way to increase his productivity and think he is an under-used, but key piece to the Rays’  2009 machine, you have to offer him arbitration.

 

 

 

 Based on his 2008 numbers, Gomes might not get a huge jump in salary, but it will be a significant increase from his 2007 salalry. Gomes might come away from a hearing with a salary in the $ 1.2-1.3 million dollar range based on service time and hearing guidelines.  Such an amount would keep a valuable member of the Rays team here, and also give  him time to further study his craft, and then decide on his fate with his maple bat.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro:

 

Here we have a guy who I truly feel had a banner year in 2008. Do I expect him to have the same year, or even build on it in 2009?  I hope so for his sake, every season Navarro has been here, the Rays have thrown a veteran catcher at him to see if he buckles or falters. He  never seems to falter far from his true self.  Navarro did an amazing job in 2008 by taking control of the Rays young staff and showing a veteran leadership role in every aspect of the game

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This did not go unnoticed by his peers or the Rays’ faithful as Navarro was rewarded with a selection to the American League All-Star staff by Boston skipper Terry Francona. Navarro rewarded Francona with 7 innings of solid catching, great throws to nab baserunners’ and timely hits for the All-Star squad in New York. At the time of the All-Star game, Navarro was hitting over .300 and was in an  impressive groove both behind and at the plate for the Rays.

 

He ended up hitting .295 for the year, but had only 470 plate appearances after an early season injury took away valuable plate appearances from him.  Navarro ended up hitting above the league average for hits, and set a personal hit total of 126 for the season. He came up with 7 home runs and lowered his strikeout rate during the season. A true test to him finally having confidience to follow his personal strike zone and sticking to it.

 

 

He was in control of his staff and commanded the respect from all of them. A well publicized blow-up with starter, Matt Garza showed that Navarro was no longer just playing catch back there, but was there to win and established him as a valuable commodity behind the plate for the Rays.

 

Based on his 2008 numbers, Navarro was only out-hit by Minnesota’s Joe Mauer in the AL for catchers, and his average lead the  entire Rays lineup for 2008.  His 54 RBI’s were  10 more than his previous best 44 RBI’s set in 2007 with the team.  He got hot at the right time for the Rays, hitting .317 for September during the Rays playoff push. 

 

He also  excelled in throwing behind the plate, and increased his caught stealing ratio to 34.8 percent this season. That total was ranked third in the MLB, and second in the AL.  When compared against all catchers in the AL with at least 100 games, he was second only to Cleveland’s Kelly Shoppach in the fewest bases allowed this season.  He also had a .944 fielding average for the season,  which put him 4th in the AL.

 

 

 

Based on the upswing of both his statistics and his thrust to become a on-field leader for the Rays, I think that the team will reward Navarro with an arbitration hearing and he can expect to increase his salary to around the $ 2.3 million dollars in salary for 2009. If the young catcher can regain and establish himself behind the plate again in 2009, he will cement himself in the Rays lineup for a long time.

 

 

 

Jason Bartlett:

 

Who would have thought that a year ago that Jason Bartlett would have such an effect on the 2008 season for the Rays. Last November, when he was traded to the Rays from the Twins, most people thought he was a throw in candidate and did not see the unlimited amount of potential in his game. How much different a year can make, as Bartlett became the middle gunner in a well-tuned and aligned Rays defensive infield.

 

Bartlett improved the Rays defense so much by just playing shortstop that the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers of America gave him the  Team MVP honors for 2008.  But he also did it with his bat when Bartlett hit  an impressive . 286 for the Rays, and made contact on 86 percent of the pitches he saw in 2008.

 

Like Navarro, Bartlett hit .371 in the final 39 games of 2008 and provided excellent hitting with runners in scoring position ,and  provided countless extra base hits.  He led the AL in hitting against left-handers, hitting a brisk .379 for the year. That mark was also 4th best in the MLB in 2008.  He was a combined 20-28 on the base paths, but  was an impressive 9 out of 11 with steals of third base in 2008. Any time he was on base, he was a threat to steal or take an extra base on a hit or a run.

 

 

Bartlett slugged out an .386 average in August, the highest average for that month in Rays history, and the second best ever for a Rays player. He hit .297 for the year with Runners In Scoring Position.  The one  bitter downside to his play  in 2008 was the time he missed due to injuries. This showed a big  gaping hole in the Rays’ defense and the team did win and play tough without Bartlett, but struggled at times. The team went a combined 78-47 with Bartlett in the lineup in 2008.

 

 Another  very visible downside was his .970 fielding average and 16 errors this season.  Bartlett made a few mis-guided efforts during the season, but his outstanding defensive plays at other times during the season can surely cancel out the errors and miscues. His defense stance was outstanding and truly made the trade for him an huge plus for the Rays. If he could get to the ball, he made a valiant effort to record the out for the team. 

 

 

Based on the  ability of Bartlett to secure for the Rays a defensive decrease in costly errors and a huge upgrade at his position, I think the team should award Bartlett with an arbitration hearing for 2009.  Based on the arbitration process, he might garnish a 2009 salary in the range of $ 2 million dollars a season, and  that will be a great value at that amount for the team. I also hear a rumor that the Twins might want him back. If the Rays sign him to a 2-year deal at a great price, he would be an extra value to the Twins…………you never know……… 

 

 

Please be advised that at anytime the Rays could swoop in and sign any of these 3 players to a contract before their arbitration hearing dates. I am only using the amounts as a feeder for the possible increase and financial rewards for the teams extrordinary  2008 season. It is not to be taken as a set  award amount or even a pre-determined hearing reward, but as a calculated guess based on past arbitration hearings and  my own personal opinion.

 

Both Bartlett and Navarro might even be entertaining an offer at this time from the Rays for multiple years, or even a longer extension. This is just a “guess-timate” on the 2009 salary if the team does not offer or entertain a multi year contract, and decides to go for a one-year contract for the players. At any time the team can either trade or even release any of these players and the arbitration would be a moot point.

 

 

Tomorrow I will take on the last 3 arbitration eligible players on the Rays 2008 roster and give the same evaluations of their 2008 seasons and the expected financial results of a possible arbitration award.

 

 

The final 3 candidates are: Right-fielder Gabe Gross, Number-5 Starter Edwin Jackson, and Relief Pitcher Grant Balfour.  All 3 have interesting numbers for the season and multiple reasons to consider or deny arbitration for 2009. Be it the World Baseball Classic, an ever increasing confidence in their game, or potential finally getting a chance to rear it’s head, Major League Baseball players know that their last season is always a tell-tale sign to their futures.

 

 

 

 

Rays Top 5 Goals for 2008 Revisited

 

 

The Tampa Bay Rays  went into 2008 wanting to gain respect and admiration in the major leagues from teams and fans. The main objective was to be competitve and to show that the Rays belonged in the rough and tumble AL East. 

 

No one could have imagined that the team would be raising the AL East and AL pennant flags in their home Opener against the New York Yankees in 2009. Most people had the realistic goal of a .500 season and a puch hard towards the playoffs. What transpired was the same majoc and karma that made the 1969 Mets and the Florida Marlins darlings of the baseball world.

 

We had a team that believed in itself to the point of pulling off amazing endings and outstanding feats of sweeping some of the best teams in baseball at home. The Rays proved that if you can believe, you can achieve. The following list is the Top 5 goals that I set for the team in March of 2008. Yesterday I blogged about numbers 6-10, today is the time to see what reality did to the Top 5:

 

 

The 5th goal I put on my list was the idea of starting lineup leading off with  3     “lefties.  In the beginning of the season, the Rays had a  up-and-down bout of     success and failure with their lefties’ by committee lineup arrangement. Akinora Iwamura, Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena had the talent and the ability to take over    the lineup, but the opposition right-handed pitchers’ were stacked against the trio.

 

 

Finally, Rays Manager, Joe Maddon inserted B J Upton into the 3-slot and the cycle was broken. Upton began to see  alot  more  pitches to hit in 2008. He did a  remarkable job both at the plate and on the base paths for the Rays. He did not       have a banner year because of a nagging shoulder injury sustained during an early series in Baltimore in May.

 

 

But Upton did pace the Rays when they needed help and finished 2nd in the stolen base race in the AL. Upton then moved up to the 2nd spot in the lineup to be the meat between the Aki and CC sandwich. It further helped him evolve in the lineup and he became comfortable and relaxed in the position.

 

 

The final success to the banishment of the 3 “leftie” regime came near the end of the season and the playoffs. With the team more balanced in the lineup, the Rays had the flexibility both on the field and on the bench to matchup more effective with any team.

 

 

Upton and Longoria both benefited from the 3 lefties in the lineup with more         right-handers going to the mound against the Rays. The leftie revolution might not have been a success, but the experiment also proved to the Rays that they had  great options up and down the lineup and the bench.

 

 

The fouth goal had to do with extensions for the anchors of the team. Unknown to the general public, during the last week of Spring Training, the Rays and the agent of Evan Longoria were working on a long term deal to contractually secure the budding star for years for the Rays. The deal was suddenly annouced the day   Longoria was called up to the Rays, but was in the works for some time while he was down in the minors at Durham.

 

 

It secured a hole in the infield for the Rays for at least 5 years and also gave both sides a feeling of confidence going into 2008. Scott Kazmir also got a extended  deal right before the season started and it also secured a valuable piece of the starting rotation for years. James Shield was also secured for an extended contract   and gave the Rays a bit of relief that their top 2 pitchers were under contract for several years.

 

 

Carlos Pena has a sealed deal for 2009,  in whole, only Jason Bartlett, the team’s 2008 MVP is the only person not under contract for 2009 who plays in the infield.  He is in his first year of arbitration and the team might be working on a multi-year  deal to keep him in a Ray’s uniform until they can decide about the shortstops they have in their minor league system. 

 

 

Behind the plate, Dioner Navarro is in his first year of arbitration , and he did alot to   be sure he will get a nice raise in 2009. With the improved year he had behind the plate, and at the plate, Navarro has done nothing to diminish the vast upward swing   on his stock with the team. I will go deeper into who is up for arbitration in another blog.

 

 

 

Goal number 3 seemed a bit out of line when I first wrote it in 2008, but it proved to    be a monster move for the team. To say that the team needed a healthy rotation   would be a monster in our division sounded a bit far fetched, but it was a true key to 2008 and its success.  Not counting the early glitches in Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza’s season, the Rays had a fantastic run of luck by having all 5 of their starters’ the entire year.

 

 

Not only is this rare, but it is almost unheard of that a team could go through most of the season with the same 5 day in and day out. There were aches and pains and displays of emotion throughout the year, but  a treu key to this year was the fact they stood on the mound daily and did not give up starts. The consistancy of these 5 guys lead to a flow and a confidence in each other to fulfill their goals everytime they hit the rubber.

 

 

All 5 starters’ went over 10 wins this year, and even the guy who everyone outside     the organization thinks is the weakest link, tied for the team lead with 14 wins. To have that kind of production out of a lineup where the oldest stater is 26 years of       age is outstanding. The future of this franchise is based in the fact that they could    have these same 5, or a variation of the 5 for the next 4 years on the mound for the Rays.

 

 

 

The second goal of the year is really something that all teams hope and wish for………Health, health, health. What is so amazing about 2008, is the fact that      injuries did happen and the team did not miss a step in the field or at the plate.     When Kazmir and Garza went down early both before the season, and in it’s first weeks, the Rays pitchers’ took up the slack and gave it 110 percent. Jason Hammel  and Jeff Neiman came on and threw their best in the absence of the team’s top pitchers.

 

 

In the infield, Willy Aybar came to the Rays with a sorted past, but you would never know it by the way he played in his limited roles all around the infield in 2008. He was one of those true finds that can help a ballclub reach the next level. It did not matter if Carlos Pena went down, or Evan Longoria, Aybar brought his “A” game   every night both at the plate and in the field.

 

 

In the outfield, when Carl Crawford was out nursing his groin and then his operation  on his hand, Eric Hinske and Justin Ruggiano came out and tried to fill the gap as if Crawford had not even left. They played to mix reviews, but did an admirable job and proved the depth of this team’s minor league system. When Fernando Perez came up to fill in for B J Upton after an injury, his athletic ability and his speed did not even make you miss Upton.

 

 

Perez became an instant favorite of Rays Manager Joe Maddon for his work ethic and his willingness to learn and help the team. But he area that sealed and  secured itself even when injury hit was the Bullpen. They saw multiples guys go down this year, from Gary Glover and Al Reyes, to their closer being shut down  several times during the year.

 

 

These guys just bucked up and took it all in stride and closed the wounds and     played their butts off. J P Howell became a fixture in the Bullpen, and became one of the best lefties in the game as a reliever in 2008. Grant Balfour also became a force in the Bullpen and his antics on the mound became legend in the AL. All year long people stepped up and were successful for the team out of  the Bullpen.

 

 

 

The number one goal of the team in 2008, was set in motion early by Maddon.    Mindset can be a effective tool to the confidence and emtion of a ballclub.      Maddon’s formula of 9=8 has been around the globe by now.

 

 

The theory of 9 men in a lineup playing 9 total innings would eqaute into one of the 8 playoff berths in the MLB.  A simple philosophy, but it goes even beyond that theory. It is also expanded by Maddon that if they got 9 more wins from the pitching staff, 9 more wins from the offense, and 9 more wins from the defense and Bullpen, they would be able to secure a playoff spot.

 

 

The combined 27 extra wins along with the 69 the team had in 2007 would add up to 96 wins. Wow, consider that for a moment, Seriously here, going inot their last game against Detroit on Sept 30th, the team had a record of 96-65. Did Maddon really think he would or even could imagine a increase like this in one season.

 

 

In 2008, there were moments where mondset played a huge part in the team’s     success. The All-Star break actually might have come at a perfect time for this team after getting shutdown by the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox in straight road series. The break from playing actually might have played into a positive for the team becuse it gave them all a time frame to forget and forgive the bad results and take on the second half of the season with vigor and vitality.

 

So here we are with the final 5 goals of 2008  examined and I feel that this team is indeed ready and willing to try and make another run at the AL East in 2009. The worst thing the Rays have to adjust to is not being the underdog anymore. Mindset might be the first goal again next year as the Champions are always on the top and people love to knock off the big guys.

 

 

 

Rays Have a Few Pots Bubbling on the Stove

 

 

 

 

Leave BJ Alone

 

Okay, Okay let’s nip this in the bud before it gets a serious life of it’s own on the Internet. You can not have B J Upton. Unless you have a front of the rotation starter and an All-Star in the making to replace him, he is off limits. What does any team in baseball have that will compare to what Upton can bring to this team for the next 4 seasons. He has speed, agility, poise and above all mountains of potential still uncapped in 2008.

 

Sometimes his desire and motivation were questioned in 2008, but he is one of the reasons we went so far in the postseason. Why would you give up a talent like that even before it blossoms. I still think he could play any position on the field besides catcher, or first base. And the Rays control him for 4 more years……………..you better have the winning 6 Lotto number if you want a pry Upton from my dead cold hand.


Is he the future face of the Tampa Bay Rays’ franchise?…………well,  that depends on what you are looking for there. He will be featured in more promotions and advertising in 2009. Remember before 2008, you saw Jonny Gomes in almost every form of advertising in connection with the Rays. In 2008, he was only seen in the dugout  by the railings and in promo shots because of his highly emotional state during games.

 

 

Upton will have the chance in the next 2 years to make himself a “brand” in the major leagues. If he wants to be that popular or significant to the franchise, that might be his personal question right now. We know he has the unlimited talent  to be whatever he wants from today forward for the Rays.


I personally have known the guy since he came up as a 17-year old and have seen a huge amount of change in his lifestyle and his demeanor off and on the field. His stride has also become more refined and at times looks like he is loafing. In reality he does try and save energy at moments, but unfortunately in 2008, he made errors in judgements at the wrong moments. But he is the guy you want on your team based on his attitude and his commitment to winning. He is growing up in the majors, and sometimes you have to give a little to get alot out of a young player.


His shoulder kept him from extending his arms in 2008, but he is either going to have surgery or rehab the daylight out of it before Spring Training. It is similar to the injury that Cliff Floyd suffered during Game 2 of the World Series. Floyd has been told he would be ready by Feb. 2009 if he had the surgery in the off season.

 

To get rid of Upton would be the wrong signal by the Rays front office management. There is no need to extend effort or money to even consider the decision logical at all for the Rays. And there is not a desire by the player for a change of scenery, unlike the subtle demeanor and attitude of Delmon Young……..So leave B J  alone in center field, he is about to break out in 2009 and maybe become the first 30/30 guy for the Rays.

 

      

 

Did you know that the Rays Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations does not have a signed contract for 2009?  Isn’t that amazing that neither Andrew Friedman or Stu Sternberg are afraid of not having a contract in stone before Friedman headed off to the GM meetings in California this week.


Well it was not like he was going out there to interview for another job, but the reality is that Friedman knows he will be retained and will be helping the Rays for many years get back to the World Series. To predict a few years ago that he would be considered one of the best Executives in baseball would have been as far a cry as the Rays in the World Series.


Now that both have happened, Friedman is not going to worry about his future right now, but worry more about upgrading and re-loading this team for the hard fight in 2009. No longer is this team going to be able to sneak up on anyone in baseball. they will have to earn each win in 2009 as the team to beat for the first time in franchise history.


And to think that in the first years as a executive, Friedman looked nervous and not ready to pull the plug or push the buttons for trades and signings. But since that time he has looked smart and downright sinister on some of the deals he did under teams noses in 2007, and 2008.

 

 

Teams have been salivating over Ray’s starter Edwin Jackson for a few years based on the fact that this guy has improved every year since being converted from the outfield to the pitching mound. He has blazing speed on his fastball with limite movement, and has a nice breaking slider that will be an out pitch after the control is fine tuned on it.


That is worth more than a draft pick to most teams. Here is a guy who is improving daily in a position he was not drafted in, and he can either start or relieve for your squad. Last season, the Seattle Mariners’ and the New York Mets’ had a huge interest in Jackson. In 2009, both have expressed again their willingness to acquire the fastballer from the Rays.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of Jackson. I have posted numerous responses to people wanting his head, or doubting his ability. He tied for the team lead in wins, but people have called him the 5th best starter on the team. Granted he comes with a few control problems, but he is working them out at the major league level after being a ping pong ball both here and in the Dodgers organization.

 

 

He has been sent up and down in both organizations to the point he has no options left. Line that up with the fact he is up for a huge pay raise this off season, and the Rays have a nice bargaining chip for either a right fielder, or a DH via a trade. I personally do not think he will be reporting to Port Charlotte in Feb. for the Rays. But then again, he has been relieving late in the games for the Rays, and with his blazing speed, he could get a chance to close in 2009………….This might be interesting to keep your eyes on in the Hot Stove season.

 

                  

 

The Rays are in a very envious spot this off season. Not because they hit the big stage at the World Series, but because their minor league and major league level has a pitching surplus this season. Because of this, it is going to be a wild time this off season for Friedman.  There is a huge desire in the MLB for good starters this coming season. And if you have a few young arms with a few years of control, that is a plus, plus situation for any franchise. The Rays have a backlog of at least 3 good MLB ready pitchers in the Triple-A level, and have 3 guys on their 25-man MLB roster who could be changing uniforms before Feb.

Most people have Jackson heading out of Tampa Bay before the Spring, but I also think we have to give attention to Jason Hammel and Andy Sonnanstine. Both are great pitchers who are coming into their own on the mound. Hammel has not had the starts that Sonnanstine has this year. Because of that, most teams might still think Hammel is a project with potential. Whereas, Sonnanstine, you already have MLB scouting reports formed that show what he can do as a starter.

For the longest time, Sonnanstine was flirting with the team’s win total of 14 games. For at least his last 6 starts, he had a chance to also post at least 14 win in 2008. But he fell one short of that number, but considering the Rays had every one of their starters get at least 11 wins is a victory all in its own. Hammel has shown a lot of guts in the past season. His performance during the 9th inning in Fenway Park to protect the Rays lead and save the game put him in the spotlight of a few teams. But he is also up for a raise  in 2009,and out of minor league options, and might be used as a secondary piece of a trade. He has also gained the eyes of the Seattle organization, and might be flying west by Opening Day.

 

 

But with a basket load of pitchers sitting there waiting for their chance at Durham, you got to think one of them will be plucked in the off season. Jeff Niemann has been a bit of an enigma that last few years, but got a chance to start because of injury early in the year. He also got a September call-up and pitched well for the team. But his potential has not reached the point where teams consider him a front line guy, or even a 4th or 5th starter yet.

 

Injuries have put doubt in team’s minds about him, plus the fact this was the first season he has pitched without injury in his career. During the trade deadline, the Rays submitted Niemann’s name into trade talks and got only lukewarm responses.

 

Hopefully with his better pitching at Durham in August and up with the big club in September, his stock has risen. He needs to either be traded or used at the MLB level soon before he gets labeled as a “lifer” in the minors and is a label that can haunt him the rest of his career.

 

 

 

Rays Hot Stove Pot Beginning to Simmer

 

When the World series ended with the upstart  Tampa Bay Rays losing to the Philadelphia Phillies, it was the first bit of heat to the offseason’s Hot Stove predicitions and rumors. The Rays quickly made announcements on declining options and granting free agency to 4 of this years Rays’ players that helped the team land in the Fall classic.

First to hit the free agent market was Tampa Bay Rays’ mainstay Rocco Baldelli, who had his 2009 option actually turned down in the early atages of 2008 after he was diagnoised with fatigue syndrome. Baldelli still might sign back with the only club he has ever played for maybe more out of loyalty for all the years and times they took to secure his health and might even give a nice “hometown” discount to the Rays.

 

 

Baldelli has had a series of injuuries from Tommy Johns’ surgery, knee surgery, and his latest set back that the Rays stood behind him and kept him on their roster. Some other teams might have cut loose years ago, but the Rays felt they needed to get Baldelli and themselves on steady ground before committing to a future deal. Both sides will probable settle on an incentive laced agreement with playing time and offensive statistics playing heavy on the deal.

 

 

Eric Hinske came to the Rays and provided ample protction on the offensive side for the club while they searched for a right-handed bat for rightfield. With the renewed health of Baldelli, it gave Hinske less time in the field, and he was primarily a bench player after the trading deadline. Hinske will probably noy be with the club in 2009, and will seek more playing time either in the outfield or at third base on another squad.

 

 

 

One of the fee agent signees’ of 2008 that will not be back with the club might be Cliff Floyd. It was discovered during the World Series during Game 3 that Floyd had injured his shoulder in that contest while batting. He tried and rehab the shoulder before Game 4, but the Rays decided to de-activate Floyd and put Hinske on the 25-man World Series roster.

This injury was first thought to be career ending for Floyd, but recent reports have come out that if he opts for surgery, he might be ready in time for 2009 Spring Training. By refusing his $ 2.75 million dollar 2009 club option, it frees up money for the club to pursue another DH candidate for the Rays in 2009. Floyd has not stated if he intends to pursue the Rays as a free agent again in 2009, but he will have the surgery to repair his Labium tear in the coming weeks.

 

                                 

A club option that was turned down for Rays reliever Trever Miller might have more than a few heads turing or scratching this week. The team had a 2009 club option that would have paid him $ 2 million in salary for the season. The move might be a financial one, or it might be a sign that the Rays might want to look elsewhere for their lefty specialist. There have been rumors that the Rays still like miller and might resign him to a reduced contract before Spring Training.

Another rumor flying across the Internet is that the Rays are going to make a run at Atlanta Braves’ left-handed reliever Will Ohman, who the Rays tried to trade for duting the trade deadline in August of 2008. Because of the Rays intense involvement in trying to get Ohman earlier in the season, this might be a precursor to signing him.

 

 

 

Then there is the rumor starting to gain steam that the Rays might part with leftfielder, and 2-time All Star, Carl Crawford in a trade with the Colorado Rockies for Matt Holliday. Crawford is about to hit the high dollar marks for the Rays, and by trading him and maybe a  major league ready pitching prospect, the team might be able to free enough salary space to afford the power bat of Holliday in rightfield for the Rays.

Alot of this depends on what the Rockies will ask for in return for Holliday. I think that a package with Crawford and maybe even a Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine might be attractive to the Rockies. They would get a replacement for Holliday, and get an upgrade in their starting rotation immediately.

I will keep my ear to the ground and see what happens with this rumor. Do not forget that the Rays saved up to 2.5 million by refusing their two club options for 2009, and relieving themselves of Crawford’s 2009 salary of $ 8.25 million dollars would free up about $ 10.75 million. Hollidays 2009 salary is set at about $ 13.5 million dollars.

 

 

World Series Tidbits……….The Sunday Edition

 

 

                  

 

I was reading an article today where the  some of the Philly fans’ were tormenting the families of the Rays and a few members of this elite fraternity of boorish behavior decided to vent their comments on the pages of some of the other blogs.

First off Philly fans, I worked the Chinatown area of your city for 2 years and I do know the type of fans you have after 6 Rolling Rocks. I also know what kind of fans you are after a game in the surrounding parking lots and on the SEPTA buses’ carrying all of you away from the games.

I am not going to sit here and tell you I have probably arrested a few of you near me tonight ( I have), but this doesn’t mean that all Philly fans share your love for the dark side of the sport. Most of the people at the game goe for the entertainment and love of baseball.

But like any sports, there are the small gangs of fans and hooligans who can make a crowd get uptight and angry at a moments notice.  I can honestly say I saw the Philly fans knock the food out of the hands of 2 Rays fans, but Phillies reps came to their rescue before I could get out of my seat. They re-furnished the food for them and walked them to their seats. theye were not hassled the rest of the night as a uniformed police officiers monitored from the top of the stairs.

Nothing the last 2 nights has diminished the way I feel about the brash minority in Philly. Because of the Eagles game earlier in the day, a few fans did double duty, both at the beer carts and at the games. This is a world stage for your city and your fans. How you use it is your own problem.

We have been called soft and lifeless as Rays fans because we have not gotten in your face or tossed food or drink your way in our home stadium. Maybe we know that the best PR is good PR. Make it a great experience to come to a game and you get more fans. Make it a hostile enviorment and you just get more fans with that mentality. By the way, remember, you come down yo OUR house for an Interleague play series next year in the middle of the week…………….See you then, come down to Section 138, I will show you some Southern hospitality, not boorish complaints and behavior.

 

It was pretty cool to see old Terry Bradshaw in a Rays cap on the Fox Football program right before the start of Game 4. Bradshaw has always been a favorite of mine since I played against him in the mid-80′s. I remember hitting him once on a corner blitz and the guy just chuckled and picked me up and said I was like a runaway train coming in on him. Always love it when a  Eastern Penn., icon puts on the cap of a Phillies rival……………….classic move on his behalf

Love the guy, and he has given me another reason to enjoy watching him and respecting him……….He is a Rays fan. 

 

I did not get the pleasure of seeing this myself, so I have to take a fiend’s Email as the proof it did happen last night. As I was sitting there freezing in my Florida Gators’ sweater, I was told that Fox had the Kalas’ read the starting lineup for both teams.

As Philly fans all know about Harry Kalas, their legendary voice for ions, they got their first view of the young straping lad Todd last night. Todd had the honors of introducing his hometown Rays, while Dad did the honors for the Phillies. It was a great moment in television as people got to hear both of their announcing skills and Todd’s dads amazing voice.

I was told that John Buck, broadcasting the game for Fox made a comment, “If I had a voice like that I would talk to myself.” about the elder Kalas’ amazing persona.

 

Elias Sports Moments from Last Night

Joe Blanton‘s fifth-inning home run was the first extra-base hit of his career. Blanton is the first player in major-league history whose first extra-base hit-whether in a regular-season or a postseason game-was a World Series home run.

 

Ryan Howard, whose three-run home run to left field gave the Phillies a 5-1 lead in the fourth inning, has led the majors in opposite-field homers in each of the last three seasons. He hit 22 home runs to the opposite field (left or left-center) this season, six more than the MLB runner-up, Adrian Gonzalez. Only five players, Gonzalez included, hit even half as many opposite field HRs as Howard.

 

Scott Kazmir (24 years old), James Shields (26), Matt Garza (24), and Andy Sonnanstine (25) are the first set of four pitchers, each under the age of 27, to start for a team in a World Series since 1955, when both the Dodgers and Yankees started four pitchers who were not yet 27 years old.

Dodgers: Roger Craig (25), Billy Loes (25), Johnny Podres (23), and Karl Spooner (24).
Yankees: Whitey Ford (26), Bob Grim (25), Don Larsen (26), and Bob Turley (25).

 

Evan Longoria is the second rookie to go hitless in his first 16 at-bats of a World Series. The only other rookie to begin a World Series with an 0-for-16 streak was Flea Clifton of the Tigers in 1935. (Clifton was 0-for-16 for the entire series.)


Phillies Bombard Rays 10-2

Phillies 10, Rays 2

 

 

I thought I might not hear that familiar wail or whine in this series. I was hoping it would be the wind and not some fan shoving doubt into people’s minds, but sure enough I heard the words I have been expecting from bandwagoners’ for about 3 months now. “we are done, stick a fork in us.”

I would love to stick a fork in the bandwagon fans and people about to jimup off the boat becuase things are not going your way. I would really like to be alone in a room with some of them and s cold them like a little chid for being so fake, and so unreal for younger fans to see. This is the time in a series, and in your lives that you stand tall for what you believe and hope, prays, meditate, whatever gives you good karma to send the boys’ some luck.

Some of the guys have been suffering during the season, others have been playing and hustling like it was still Spring Training. But tonight is the night. As the expression goes, “It’s all or nothing.” The White Sox have ebbn in this spot this year, the Red Sox still believe the series is playing in their heads and they are winning, but Tampa Bay fans now have to believe.

Even if the worst happens tonight, we have to be focused and know that the boys’ did their best and that there will be more chances in the future to secure the prize. This season opend alot of doors for the Rays and we will see them in the poststseason again in less than 330 days. The winning spirit is new in this part of the baseball world, but the true fans will be the one still wearing Rays gear tomorrow. And the true fans will be the ones counting down the days until pitchers’ and catchers’ reposrt in the Spring.

But best of all, true fans will be wondering how the boys are doing.

 

               

 

Four Blind Plays

You have to admit, the umpires have been pretty colorful in this years Wotld Series. They have been animated behind the plate and have made some unusual, and down right incredible calls. But, the ones that stick out on our minds are not the calls over the corners of the plate, or even seeing through a play and calling out a baserunner, they are the wild and zany plays that were missed by replays and by fans all over baseball.

 

 

Every game has had its own one play that has defined the game. Take Game 1, when Cole Hamels apparently went towards home, but threw to first base. His foot was not facing the plate, but his momentum was shifted forward, not to the side……….Balk or great play? Or how about the play in Game 2, where the phantom bat did not break the plane for Rocco Baldelli and we strooled to first…………checked swing, or did he break his wrist on the play?

And then you get to the really fun ones up here in Philly. You know, rain on Sat. night blurred the vision a bit just 6 feet from the bag. In Game 3, it must have been the mist that made the umpires miss the pplay where Jamie Moyer was sprawled on the wet turf and uses his glove like another appendage to twirl the ball to a bare-handed Ryan Howard to ctach speedy Carl Crawford a nano second before he hit the bag. I will admit that one got me. I was expecting the hammer to come down for an out, then the umpire just threw the safe signal and the Phillies bench went bananas.

 

 

Then there was the play in the 1st inning of last night’s game. Jimmy Rollins camped at thrid base and a ball gets hit into the infield and taken by the pitcher, Andy Sonnanstine. Everyone in the ballpark thinks the ball is going to 2nd, but he twirls around and catches Rollins mid stride between 3rd and home. The chase is on and Sonnanstine gets him to within about 6 feet of the bag and throws the ball to Evan Longoria.

 

 

Longoria pops Rollins on the booty and leaves a red clay mark on the poor guys butt. We then hear the words that will reverb in our heads for a week……..”safe”.  Are you kidding me, did you not watch the ball, or were you watching the hand go towards the bag and not the ball and the possession and progression of it to the posterior of Mr. Rollins. It has been a small upgrade nightly into the insane and the blind that has led people to wondering about the state of the umpire world.  Last night’s blight was an oversight and an embarassment to umpires everywhere..but maybe there was a raindrop still in his eye from Sat night.

 

             

 

Top of the Lineup

There has been talk this entire series of guys trying to force things to happen for the Rays. That the firsy 4 guys feel it is their duty to carry this team. Some of the top 4 have done a great job getting into position to score or even pop the occasional needed blooper or double to get some action going in the game. Others have just had a slump from which there will be no exit this poststeason.

Carlos Pena was getting into a great groove when the ALCS ended. He seemed to be fianally seeing the ball and finding his storke at the right time for the Rays. It looked as if the series would be his playgorund. But instead it has become his own personal hell into the slight adjustments and overswining of the post injury Pena who’s timing and stride were lacking. He might find his way, but will it be in time to save his young team’s dream of hoisting the Commissioner’s trophy this year.

Evan Longoria is another story. I do not think there has been another rookie who has had so much pressure on him in the poststeason to lead his team into the promised land. I know he has won 2 championships at Double-A, but this is far more pressure and far more talented pitchers’ than he ever saw at Montgomery.

 

                    

 

For the World Series, Longoria has a dunkin Doughnut, a gooseegg, and “o” for offensive. Evan Longoria is the second rookie to go hitless in his first 16 at-bats of a World Series. The only other rookie to begin a World Series with an 0-for-16 streak was Flea Clifton of the Tigers in 1935. (Clifton was 0-for-16 for the entire series.)

I have been watching his at bats the past few games and the kid is pushing his strikezone outward. Players et their own personal strikezones as to what pitches they feel they can smash or take to the oppositie field. Right now, Longoria is searching for that one flare, blooper or even a ground ball with eyes to make his mind free up and play more relaxed. He had better find his spot soon, or not only is he going to have all Winter to profect it, he might be on the bench for Game 5 to relfect and waork in the under the stands cages for a few inning tomorrow.

 

 

C C Has Found the Power Button

When you are known for your speed sometimes you get a gift out over the plate and you just have to jump on it. That has got to be the mindset of Carl Crawford right now. The baseball are becoming bigger and bigger every game, and yet he is hitting the cover off the ball and stealing bases. Last night he might have only gone 1-3, but that one hit sparked a few smiles in the dugout.

In the 4th inning, with 2-outs in the inning, Crawford took an 1-2 count hanging high fastabll into the rightfield stands to put the Rays on the board. The run pulled the Rays to within 1 eun, 2-1 at the time. It was Crawford’s second homer of this series since he hit that game 1 blast off Cole Hamels in Tropicana Field/

 

 

Akinora Iwamura’s Wild Ride

When you only committed a handful of erros all eyar at your new position, and have solidified the position for your team, you never expect a night like this can happen on such a huge scale. Aki has been one of the most consistant infields’ this season for the Rays. You could count on him day and night to make the plays and get the outs without hesitation.

But what happened to him on Sunday night is not suppose to happen to Iwamura. Chase Utley was at the plate to lead off the 3rd inning for the Phillies. Aki was back in his role in the shift used all series long against Utley for the at bat. Utley hit a nasty ball that took  a bad hop on the clay and came up and hit Iwamura’s glove on the heel and rolled into rightfield. Aki was charged with an error, only his 1st of the World Series.

Then in the top of the 4th inning, Jimmy Rollins hit a hard ball up the middle and shaded a bit to right that caught Iwamura flat-footed and popped in and out of his glove wihtout a throw to first. Another error for Iwamura.

 

 

And it did not matter that he made an impressive and outstanding play on a hard liner hit right to him by Carlos Ruiz in the 7th inning. That Iwamura turned and fired to Carlos Pena at first and Pena had to go crosshand style and get the ball to double =up Pedro Feliz at first and end the inning for the Phillies. It was na amazing play, but it was also an inch away from another disaster of heading to the Phillies dugout and another error get charged to Iwamura.

 

 

The Mind of Joe Maddon

You have to admire a guy who can quote and attribute so many lines and sayings in his daily life. Rays Manager Joe Maddon is an intelligent manager to say the least. But what he did Sunday night can not go unnoticed either. He sent up three pinch-hitters on the night, and 2 came away with hits, one of them an exciting moment for Maddon and Hinske.

Eric Hinske was told as few days ago by Cliff Floyd to be ready to play. He was not sure why he was told this, but being the pro he is……he worked hard to get his timing down in the batting cage. On Sunday, the Rays made a move on their 25-man World Series roster taking off Floyd, who had a bad shoulder, and putting on the hard-hitting Hinske.

Hinske saw no action while on the ALCS roster, and he did nor expect anything different for the World Series roster. But in the 5th inning he came on to hit for Sonnanstine and hit a monster deep into centerfield. The ball was hit so far it hit the ivy-covered centerfield wall beyond the playing field. This wall was about 20 feet further than the wall where Shane Victorino stood looking up at the blast. Iy started a upward slow rally for the Rays.

 

                         

 

Then in the 7th inning, Willy Aybar came up to pinch-hit for Edwin Jackson and hit a nice single into rightfield. He was stranded on base for the inning, but it made Maddon 2 for 2 tonight with his pinch-hitters. Maddon pressed his luck in the 9th inning when he sent up Rocco Baldelli to pinch-hit for  Trever Miller, and Rocco struck out to end the game for the Rays.

 

             

 

Andy Was Not Dandy Tonight

Coming on and pitching with alot of pressure can work both ways in a baseball game. Sometimes it worls to your advantage and it pumps you up to the point of giving you some extra speed on your pitches and makes you believe more can happen on the mound.

Then sometimes you have what happened to Andy Sonnanstine on the mound tonight. You can have your stuff tonight and just get rocked by a team that is well scouted and prepared for you that night. you are not pitching any better, or any worse than normal, they just have your number that night.

 

 

Both of the above could be found in Sunday nights game, but the end result is that the Phillies exploited Sonnanstines weaknesses to their advantages. They set him up on a few pitches and the result was the umpire giving Andy a new ball while they made their ways around the bases for homers. Pair that with a reduced strike zone and you have the firm recipe for disaster on your hands.

Sonnanstine started out by giving up the first bases loaded walk of his career in the 1st inning to score Rollins, who should have been sitting on the bench becuase of an earlier blown call by the umpire at thris base, Tim Welke. So he gave the Phillies an early 1-0 lead, and the Rays never got close again. He went pretty smoothly from there until he watched as Utley was on base because of an unsual error by Iwamura behind the first base bag.

Then Ryan Howard got a single to right to put 2 Phillies on with no outs in the inning. Feliz the hit a RBI single to left that scored Utley cleanly and the Phillies had a 2-0 early lead on the Rays. The 4th inning started with Rollins again getting a single to rightfield to lead off the inning. Sonnanstine then walked Jayson Werth, but got a quick out on Utley.

 

                

 

 Howard then stood in the box and smashed a 3-run shot to right to put the game out of the Rays hands at that point.Sonnanstine got through the inning with no more damamge, but his night was ended with the Rays down 5-1 at that point. Sonnanstine went 4 innings and gave up 5-runs on 6 hits and only 1 home run to Howard.

 

Tampa Bay Rays’ Bullpen Blues

For the most part of 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen has been the linch-pin to a majority of their wins. they have ebnt and not broken and have been a consisitant cog in the Rays victory machine. In the Wrold Series, this part of the Rays magic has been tarnished a bit by hitters getting the bestter of the unit.

In tonight’s game, Edwin Jackson came on the in t 5th inning to releieve starter Sonnanstine and threw 2 inning of ball for the Rays. During his time on the mound, Jackson gave up a homer to newly found blaster Phillie starter Joe Blanton to leftfield.  For Blanton, it was his first major league homer and came on his last at bat of the season. Blanton actually bookmarked his season getting a single in his first at bat, and now a homer in his last 2008 at bat for the Phillies.

 

 

Dan Wheeler came on to pitch in the 7th inning and did not fare any better for the Rays. Wheeler was the recipient of the amazing play by Aki at first in doubling up Feliz to get Wheler out of a jam in the inning. In the 8th inning, Rollins hit a double off the rightfield wall to put a man early in the inning in scoring position for the Phillies.

Werth then hit a 3-2 count hanging breaking ball out if the ballpark for a 2-run homer to futher put the Phillies ahaed, 8-2. Trever Miller came in to relieve Wheeler and walked Utley before giving up a colossial shot to left by Howard for a 2-run shot of his own to put the score at 10-2 Phillies

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Shock Red Sox Nation to go 3-1 in ALCS

 

 

                                         

 

I was reading a blog the other day by a Red Sox supporter that was commenting on the huge amount of noise in the Trop. during the game that they could not enjoy watching the game. Well, after watching the crowd in Fenway basically sitting on their hands the last 2 nights, I will take the noise any day.

I always find it odd when people are commenting and grumbling about crowd noise in a baseball game these days. The game has become very interactive with the fans in the videos, the player at bat intor songs, and the small segments, like the Pepsi Race at Tropicana Field. It is not like the usual baseball fan has any bouts with ADD at all.

If they did, that fan would be the one hit by every foul ball in the place. The reason I really love my seats in Rightfield is that I can actually be part of the game sometimes. If a foul ball comes into my section, I usually try and see if I can get it without killing a massive amount of women and children. Seriously, I catch about 7 a season, and maybe 3 end up in my bag for another time.

The people who usually get my booty is the kids or a person at ther first baseball game. I remember last month, during the Orioles series there was a dad and his two sons from Denmark sitting in the Bullpen Cafe. I made sure that Bobby Ramos got them a ball before they left, not to get another Rays fan, but to get another kid to love the game of baseball.

With the appeal of the World Baseball Classic a few years ago, and another in the near future, the popularity of our great sport will rush like the wind into the nooks and crannies of Europe and we might actually have a real World’s Championship before I leave this earth. I can dream can’t I. Think about it, South Africa playing Iraq in a quarterfinal match, or maybe even Israel playing Syria in another match. It could change the way we see crisis in the future……..but I can dream can’t I?

 

 

Rays 13, Red Sox 4

 

 

 

 

Game 4 Facts and Figures

Coming into tonight game, Akinora Iwamura was chasing Darin Erstad’s record of consecutive games with a hit. Iwamura had hit at least once in all 7 of the Rays games until tonight. Iwamura unfortunately went 0-5 on the night and dropped his postseason average to .222 for the playoffs.

The Rays have now scored 9 plus runs in 3 consecutive games. That is the first time in history that a Playoff virgin team has won so many games in a row to start their playoff career. The Rays have also scored 31 runs on 39 hits since the Game 1 loss at home last Friday night.

B.J. Upton is the first player to hit five or more home runs in a single postseason after hitting fewer than 10 home runs during the preceding regular season.  I loved looking at the attendance at Fenway Park tonight. They had a total of 38, 144 people in the building, which rounds out to 104 percent capacity for the Park. Guess it is true you cram everyone and their brother into a building at playoff time.

 

 

 

Andy Sonnanstine

How can you find fault with a guy who has been a thron in the Red Sox side the entire year. Sonnanstine came into this start not giving up a earned run to the Rex Sox in his last 2 starts. He might not be in the Rays top 3 pitchers’ this postseason, but he is almost as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning for the Rays.

Sonnanstine always gives you a chance to win with his off-speed pitching stytle and great control. And tonight was another great example of why he has won Pitcher of the Year awards all throughout the Rays farm system. Consistant strikes and blazing the corners with his slider and curveball.

 

 

 

 

Sonnanstine went 7.1 innings tonight throwing 97 pitches before heading to the showers. He got only 2 strikeouts on the night, and gave up only 4-run on 6-hits to the Red Sox. It is kind of funny that his old Triple-A catcher, Kevin Cash is the guy who took him long tonight. Sonnanstine did his usual job of not beating himself and put together a great game to help the Rays go up 3-1 in this best-of-7 series.

 

 

Unusual Errors on the Night

Coming into this series the Rays have not gotten alot of defensive mistakes and  baserunning errors. But in tonight contest, the Rays committed  3 errors, most after the game was already in the Rays hands.  Evan Longoria committed 2 errors tonight, one on a ground ball, and the other on a throw to first in the 2nd inning on a ball hit down the line by Jason Bay.

Longoria lost concentration on the ball and it stumbled a bit near his feet before he got the ball and threw a bullet to first. Un fortunately Carlos Pena could not get the ball and it rolled into the Red Sox dugout, and put Bay in scoring position for the Red Sox. The Rays ended up getting a 4-6-3 double play and erased Bay from the basepaths to ease Longoria’s mind.

In the 8th inning, with Jed Lowrie on second base, Dusitn Pedroia hit a ball into shallow center that B J upton over ran and had to go retrieve the ball. Lowrie scored and  Pedroia ended up on second on the error. Pedroia did come back to haunt Upton as he scored when Kevin Youkilis hit the first pitch he saw for an RBI- double and Pedroia scored with ease to put the score at 13-4.

Willy Aybar did not get charged with an error, but more of an error in judgement when he was caught leaning towards second on a single in the 5th inning after singling to left. As the ball was coming back towards the plate for a play on Carl Crawford, Aybar leaned a bit too far towards second, and Youkilis intercepted the throw and tossed a bullet to Mark Katsay who tagged out Aybar for the 2nd out of the inning.

 

 

 

Carl Crawford is Back

Coming into this series, everyone was questioning if Carl Crawford was at full strength and could be a factor in this years’ playoff race. After tonight’s performance, I think those skeptics will put that notion away until next season. Crawford went 5-for-5 tonight, with 2 stolen bases and 3 runs scored and 2 RBI’s. It tied the ALCS record with Paul Blair of the 1980′s Orioles, and the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui for a perfect 5 at bat night. Carl is currently hitting 9 for 18 in the series, or a .500 average for the ALCS.

Crawford got the party started early when he smacked a double to right in the 1st inning.  Crawford kept his most controversial hit for the next at bat when he hit a soft grounder towards the area to the right of the pitching mound that Red Sox starter, Tim Wakefield had to come off the mound to handle. Wakefield had to sprawl out on the turf to glove the ball and could not get the ball to first in time to save the infield single to Crawford. He ended stealing second base, then scored on Willy Aybar’s homer in the inning.

 

 

 

 

Crawford then got another double off the Green Monster in left and again scored on Aybar’s single to shallow left. He came up again in the long 6th inning and hit a blooper single into left to score Upton from third base. Carl ended up being stranded on base at the end of the inning.

In the 8th inning, Crawford hit a ball into the gap in rightfield that was barely missed by J D Drew as he claosed in on the ball. The ball went off the outside of his glove and went to the wall. At the end of the play, Crawford was standing on third with an RBI-triple. On the play, Pena had ran from first to home and scored easily on the play.

 

 

        

 

Willy Aybar’s Wild Ride

Another guy that was having a banner night was Willy Aybar for the Rays. He was inserted in the lineup to bat right-handed against Wakefield, and the rolling of the dice again by Rays Manager Joe Maddon came up “7′s” across the board.  Willy came on and got 5 RBI’s on the night, while going 4-5 at the plate. He shares a current .500 ALCS  batting average with Crawford.

 

 

 

 

Aybar got the scoring going with a 2-run homer out of the building and over the Green Monster in the 3rd inning.  He then got an RBI-single in the 5th, but was picked off by being too aggressive on the bases tonight. In the 6th inning he hit an RBI single to left that scored Crawford. And in the 8th inning he hit a single to right to score Crawford again to finish his 5-RBI night.

 

 

 

Evan Longoria

When he came up after the Ray’s first 12 games this season, you knew he was going to have a fantastic season for the team. But you can bet Maddon and Andrew Friedman could not imagine the total domination this rookie has had at the plate during the playoffs this season. Longoria went 1-4 tonight with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s.

 

 

 

 

His first RBI came off his blast into the Green Monster in the 1st inning. the shot went long and deep into the high section and it put the Rays up 3-0 at the time.  With the homer, Longoria became the new holder of the rookie home run record in the playoffs with 5 for the postseason and counting. But that was not the only time Longoria got on base tonight as he walked in the 6th inning and got another RBI off the walk-in of Iwamura on the play.  It was is 6th RBI of the playoff series.

 

 

 

 

Carlos Pena

Because he is hitting between the twenty-something tandem of Upton and Longoria, Carlos Pena has been seeing alot more breaking balls and  off-speed pitches this postseason. But becuase of the recent onslaught of both  players’ hitting more homers for the team, opposing pitchers’ have been picking their poison by pitching to Pena this series.

And with his solo blast in the 9th inning last night, Pena has now homered twice on the last 3 pitches he has seen this series.  His 2-run homer in the 1st inning gave the Rays an early lead 2-0 tonight. For the night, he went 1-3, with 2 RBI’s and 3 runs scored. He also got 2 walks tonight to get on base 60 percent of his chances tonight.

 

 

 

 

Carlos’s shot over the Green Monster tonight gives him 3 unbelievable shots  in the section this season at Fenway Park. Before this year, he had never homered into the Green Monster against the Red Sox. In the 6th inning, his walk loaded the bases for the Rays as they scored  5 runs in the inning.  In the 8th, he walked on 6 pitches and scored on Crawford’s triple to right.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson

Most people already know how I feel about Edwin Jackson as a pitcher for the Rays. It take a certain kind of pitcher to adjust from being a starter to going to the Bullpen, to going back to a starter, to switching into long relief or clean-up roles in the Bullpen. 

I think Jackson has done a great job adjusting to the new role in the ALCS, and I hope if the Rays hit the World Series he is still on the 25-man roster to fulfill the same role in the Rays next step. For the night, Jackson came on and went 1.1 innings and gave up a single walk and got 4 strikeouts on 25 pitches. But his biggest job was to shut down the Red Sox from trying to gain momentum and try and get back into this contest.

Jackson came on toirelieve Trever Miller, who threw 1/3 of an inning and got 1 strikeout on 5 pitches. Jackson quickly got Jason Bay to strikeout to end the 8th inning. He came out in the 9th and got pinch-hitter Sean Casey to strikeout and then walked both Coco Crisp and pinch-hitter Jocoby Ellsbury on 4 pitches each to put a man in scoring position for the Red sox.  Jackson then buckled down and got Jed Lowrie and Kotsay to strikeout to end the rally and the game for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

How much do you think the last few games have taken out of the confidience of the Boston Red Sox.  The fact that in the last 2 games their pitching staff has given up a total of  7 home runs to the Rays.  Tonight’s starter, Tim Wakefield was pitching for the first time in the last 16 days.

The Red Sox pitching staff  has given up a total of  10 home runs in the 4 games so far in this series. The staff has a ERA of 7.17 in the ALCS, and we might have more games to play. They have allowed 43 runs and 17 walks in 37.2 innigs in this series.

Combine that with the Red Sox currently hitting .232 as a team, with Jacoby Ellsbury hitting .000, and David Ortiz is batting .071, with only one extra base hit (triple tonight).  Cather Jason Varitek is also hitting .000, having gone 0-10 so far in the series. Combine that with 1 stolen base by Dustin Pedroia and 5 total homers in the series and you have a team searching for an offensive identity right now.

I am not trying to wake up the Boston bat’s, or throw the pitching staff under the bus here. But without Daisuke Matsuzaka’s great game 1 performance, this series might be over tonight.  The rematch on Thursday night will be a true test to the moxy that is the Boston Red Sox.

Maybe this day off is coming at the right time for this team and they can pull it together enough to give a aggressive and expected effort in the last game at Fenway Park this season against the Rays. But you got to remember, as of tonight, the Rays’ have now won 4 straight games at Fenway, something they could not do earlier in the 2008 season.

 

 

                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Take Homefield Advantage From Red Sox

 

 

What is that old saying, “It felt like deja vu all over again.” You have to feel that way if you are either a Red Sox or Rays fan right now. Homefield advantage is suppose to be worth at least an opening game victory in a short series. But what happened tonight might have set the whole ball rolling down the hill for the Red Sox in the ALCS against the upstart Rays.

These Rays had the gumption to take the American League East title from the Wrold Champions in 2008. And they also showed alot of energy and national spirit in holding off the Red Sox in the last month of the season to claim that prize. But the straw that might have broken the Red Sox Nation’s back might be hitching your wagon to the young sensations’ shooting star.

Who do these Rays think they are coming into the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park and winning the last 3 games in this landmark.  And how dare these upstarts come in and take that fantasy of a secure 2-1 Red Sox series win away by defeating the unstoppable Jon Lester in his domain. Do we think we might have forgotten that homefield advantage did not work for the Rays, then why could we be sure we might be immune to the same ailment in Boston?

Did the Red Sox forget to tell us we are suppose to be belly-up by now and just treading water before we go down for the last count. This series took a major turn tonight. Not just becuase of a loss by the home team, but that the statistics point to a break for the Rays. In 8 of the last 12 ALCS, if the road team won Game 3, they went on to the World Series that season.  Could the Red Sox have put all their eggs in one basket, and their newly annointed superstar just become human for one night……

 

Rays 9, Red Sox 1

 

 

 

 

Matt Garza

Coming into tonight’s game, Rays starter Matt Garza went back to his season superstition of not talking to the media the day before his start. He did that the entire season before balking from that tradition and talking to the media before his first playoff start against the Chicago White Sox . 

He then went out and had a whale of a time not only with the fowl in the stadium, but with the mound and with the White Sox hitters and had one of the most unusual starts of his career. So he went back with some familiarity and went into media black-out before this start.

 

 

 

 

Garza was coming into this start as the underdog, and was being considered inferior to the Red Sox starter, Jon Lester. The enitre week Garza heard all the hype and the drama surrounding Lester before seeing it all implode in front of him, and the stage was set for Garza to make his national debut as a true fireballer.

 

 

 

 

Garza threw his fastball and curve with such control that it made Dioner Navarro’s job east tonight. He had no pressure on himself since the local pundits decided even before the first pitch that the Rays would bow down to Lester by the 5th inning. Garza did nothing more than shut down the powerful offense and leave the game  after 6 innings of work with 116 pitches, and 5 strikeouts while earning his first Postseason win.

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Facts

Coming into this contest, the Rays had won 3 straight in Fenway Park since their last series victory in September. The win tonight took the homefield advantage from the Red Sox and firmly put the emphsis on the Tampa Bay Rays right now.  Coming into this game, when the Rays had at leats 5 runs in a contest, they are a combined 36-0 on the year. In this game, every member of the starting 9 got at least 1 hit in this contest.

Consider that with the fact the Rays also tied the Boston Red Sox for the total homers in a single game in the ALCS series with 4 tonight. The Red Sox set their record last Saturday night at the Trop.

With their 9 homers, B J Uptron and Evan Longoria now have the most homers by teammmates under the age of 25 in ALCS history. They beat the previous record held by Darryl Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra of the 1986 New York Mets.  Longoria is also currently tied with Miguel Cabrera for the most homers by a rookie in the AL Playoffs with 4 homers. Cabrera set his record during the Florida Marlins run at the title in 2003.

Since the advent of the best-of-7 series, the Game 3 winner has gone onto the World Series in 8 of 12 past ALCS series.  In ALCS and NLCS, if the road team won Game 3, they have moved onto the Championship in 8 out of 10 series.

 

 

 

 

The BJ and Longo Show

One thing the Rays have been great at this season is timely hitting out of every member of this team. In tonight’s game, the duo of Upton and Longoria went a combined 3-9 at the plate, but accounted for 3 runs scored, and 4 RBI’s. They are both hitting .308 in the ALCS, and playing inspired defense for the Rays.

Longoria got the scoring going tonight by getting a lead-off walk off Red Sox starter Jon Lester. In this contest, Lester let the lead-off man on in 4 of his 6 inning tonight. Longoria moved to second on Willy Aybar’ single to right, then moved to third base on a passed ball by Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.  Longoria then came into score on Navarro’s grounder to second to put the Rays up 1-0 in the 2nd inning.

In the 3rd inning, Jason Bartlett got his only hit of the night on a single to center to lead off the inning. Akinora Iwamura then hit a ball off the Green Monster for a double and the Rays had men on second and third with no-outs in the inning. Upton then came up and hit a ball out over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Avenue to put the Rays up 4-0.

 

 

 

 

After Carlos Pena struck out, Longoria then came up and hit his solo shot out into the seat in the Green Monster that a Rays fan luckly caught to put the Rays up 5-0, still in the 3rd inning.

 

 

 

 

Upton then hit a ball off Lester’s glove for a single, and moved to second on Pena’s bunt down the third baseline. Upton then tried to gauge Kevin Youkilis’s  position on the field and over ran second and was tagged out on the quick toss by Youkilis to Alex Cora for the first out of the inning.

 

 

 

 

C.C. Express on Track 1

In the 8th inning, with the Rays up 6-1, the Rays might have made their biggest statement to date on their agrressive stayle on this series. Carl Crawford lead off the inning with a blooper single to center to start the inning.  Crawford moved to third on Aybar’s single to leftfield and set up a first and third situation with no one out in the game.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro hit a grounder to Dustin Pedroia that he quickly gloved and threw to home to get the speeding Crawford at the plate. Crawford braced for a collision with Varitek and brought his elbows up to block and hopefully force the ball from Varitek’s glove.

 

 

 

 

Crawford came in and with total force got Varitek just under the mask and his equipment flew a good 6 feet away from the catcher. Varitek took the force of the collision with his upper body and rolled over and then showed the ball to home plate umpire Brian Onora, who signaled Crawford out at the plate. It was a bold move by Crawford, but showed that the speedy leftfielder was back in shape and ready to take on all comers in the Playoffs.

 

 

        

 

 

J P Howell and Edwin Jackson

The Rays Bullpen then took over the game in the 7th inning for Garza. Becuase of the number of relievers used in Saturday’s game, Garza was under the gun to go at least 7 innings tonight to give the Bullpen some time to refresh and he performed perfectly to plan for the Rays.

J P Howell came on and threw 2 scoreless innings on 20 pitches and gor two more strikeouts to raise his total to 10 in the postseason.  Howell had the first earned run charged to him since August 30th against the Orioles, snapping a string of 20 inning (15 game ) regular and postseason without an earned run.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson, the only pitcher in the Bullpen not used on Saturday night, came on in the 9th inning and  closed out the game for the Rays. In his 1 inning of work, Jackson threw 8 strikes in his 14 pitches in the inning.  He got both Mark Kotsay and Varitek to ground out to Iwamura, who easily threw out both men at first base. He then got Cora to hit a fly to Crawford in left to end the chances for the Red Sox in the game.

 

 

 

 

Socco Rocco

Rocco Baldelli grew up about an hoyr from Fenway Park and dreamed of playing in the stadium in the playoffs. Little did he know back then it would be for the Tampa Bay Rays, and that his 3-run shot would hit the Sports Authority sign above the Green Monster and drop back onto the field.  His 3-run blast came right after the play at the plate featuring Crawford and Varitek and Rocco took the 3rd pitch he saw from Red Sox reliever Paul Byrd and popped it into the twilight.

In April, at a news conference in the bowels of Progress Energy Field, Baldelli could not have imagined this day would happen for him this year. At that press conference he announced that he was going on the disabled list to combat his fatigue situation and he began his hard road back to the Rays 25-man roster. 

 Everyone had to admit that Baldelli’s rise from the depths of not even knowing if he might ever play a inning of baseball again, to hitting a 3-run shot over the Green Monster is the thing of movies and fantasies. I can personally say that it could not have happened to a better guy.

He has been a total team mate since his past injuries and excepting his limited role on this team as a specialist against left-handed pitchers in the seond half of the season. I will have to ask him who will play Rocco Baldelli in the movie about his life. They guy who scouts once touted as “Joe DiMaggio’s twin” got to have his childhood fantasy moment after fighting to just get back on the field at all…………..Classic, simply classic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Know you Need Another Celebration Photo Blog

 

 

Chicago White Sox fans have to know you have a very classy manager in Ozzie Guillen. He has been complimentary to the Rays all year long and as a former Rays, he knows just how far this team has gone in a really short time.

And to add another level to Ozzie’s wild times, after the game yesterday, he made sure to stop by the visiting clubhouse ahd chat and hug Rays Manager Joe Maddon and wish him luck against the Boston Red Sox. He did not have to do this, but being a classy player and a manager can get you some levels of respect within the league.

For every thing that Ozzie does to invoke a fine or a temper tantrum, he is just as classin in the “good” areas too. He is a players’ manager, and they love to play for him. Just becuase you question your team’s General Manager, or remind baseball that sometimes you do hit guys on purpose, he is also a kind and  true soul that is rare in this league. You go Ozzie, and we will see you in May dude!!!!!

 

                           

 

Tell me right now that this team was not better after the first 11 games when Evan Longoria came up and played his rookie season. He is one of the offensive stars of the team this year, and has a killer glove at thrid base to remind you of Brooks Robinson of the old classic Orioles.

 

 

James Shields, Jonny Gomes, Scott Kazmir, Edwin Jackson, B J Upton, and a cast of millions toasting to the Rays success with a little Patron tequila right before changing and hitting the bus for the plane home………..priceless.

 

 

Joe Maddon with the first Patron bottle, with either Chris Westmoreland, theRays Home Clubhouse Manager, or Jeff Ziegler the Rays’ Director of Team Travel. I am not good at judging the back of people’s heads.

 

               

 

Akinora Iwamura getting into the American custom of dropping a full Budweiser over Carlos Pena’s head. Cool clean and good for the follicles guys.

 

 

Carlos Pena in the middle of a blast of champagne. But do not worry people champagne is good for the eyes.  Trust me here.

 

                  

 

Tell me Grant Balfour did not deserve to end out this series. The Rays Bullpen had a .088 ERA in the White Sox series. And the Aussie was more than an intimidation factor after the game 1 fiasco with Orlando Cabrera. With his four-letter exercises in First Amendment speech, Balfour gave way to a new era of wild, excitable relievers in the playoffs.

 

 

 

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