Results tagged ‘ Eric Hinske ’

A Hodge Podge of Number 2 Ray’s Moments in 2008

 

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I was sitting at the computer this morning trying to pick out a second possible winning moment in 2008 for the Rays when it dawned on me that there are too many to even count. So I have decided to instead list all the important events, as per my opinion, that have made 2008 so great for Rays fans. I mean I truly sat there after deciding on number 3 yesterday, and decided that one was the easiest pick of the bunch.

 

If you get to go to the big show, it has to be a top 3 moment in your team’s flight that season.  There are a huge bunch of moments that helped define 2008 for the Rays. Be it a event in 2007 at shaped the look and feel of the franchise again, or the elimination of a curse in another stadium that served as a mental block to the team. 2008 was the Year of the Ray, and it is one I am glad I got a front row seat for all year long.

 

 


I decided to run this in chronological order from the first event in 2007, up until the final out in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series.


So let’s begin with the first order of business way back in November 2007, when the Rays held a rally in Straub Park near the waterfront in St. Petersburg, Florida. The event was the unveiling of the teams new logo and colors. The Uniforms were fashioned to represent the old style of baseball with a new Rays logo on both the home and away jerseys. The “R” on the uniform front posed a new sweeping motion for the bottom of the letter, plus the sunburst between the lettering also brought about a new look and feel to the organization.

 

 

The ray of light was a new focal point of the team, which abandoned the former Ray on the cap and also on the team’s official logo. But the Rays did get to stay for 2008 on the sleeve of the jersey, but might be retired in 2009. The event was to showcase the new look and feel of the team. And with it came a new spirit of winning and posting new attitudes for the team. And one of baseball’s biggest supporters came out and celebrated with us. Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West came out and entertained the masses after the unveiling and rocked the house all the way up to the fireworks display.

 


Then came the last Spring Training reporting for the pitchers’ and catchers’ to the Ray Namoli Complex in Northwest St Petersburg. The team came out onto the field and Rays Manager Joe Maddon had a small speech in which he wanted to stress fundamentals and team work and chemistry in 2008. That was the day he unveiled his famous “9 =8 ” formula for the world to decipher for the rest of the season.

 

 


Then came the first event that molded and formed this band of players into friends and bonded them for the rest of the year. In the day prior to this event, the Rays Elliott Johnson had made a hard charge into Yankees’ minor league catcher, Francisco Cervelli a few days earlier. The event did not sit well with the Yankees’ staff and during the March 12th rematch at Progress Energy Field, Yankees enforcer Shelly Duncan decided to take matters into his own hands.



Duncan was hustling on a hit into the outfield when he turned and made a move towards second base. It was apparent to almost everyone but Duncan that he would not be able to make it to the base in time to beat the throw. During his slide, Duncan brought his cleats up towards Akinora Iwamura and struck him mid-thigh with his metal cleats.  Duncan came up immediately and contested the action before right fielder Jonny Gomes came into the action and leveled Duncan to the ground. It was an event that brought the team together for the first time in 2008.

 

 


Then two weeks later, the Rays said farewell to their present Spring Training home when the team played it’s last game at Progress Energy Field ( Al Lang Field, Waterfront Park). The game was met with sadness and joy because of the memories of teams playing on these grounds since the 1940’s in this present stadium. The event also was a visual point for the team to showcase the new proposed stadium that might some day rise on the same grounds.

 

Eric Hinske hits a one-out double during the Rays' two-run second inning. He tripled in the fourth and homered in the sixth.

 


Or could moments like Eric Hinske missing a cycle by a single. It is amazing to me that he went 3-4 on the night and got his triple and homer early in the contest at the Walt Disney complex, but could not get that elusive single.  Hinske ended up being one of the true bright spots for the Rays in the Free Agent market. He signed for a low number, but produced high energy and some pretty impressive offensive displays during the 2008 season.

 


Then we have the first sweep of the Boston Red Sox at home this season. That would only be the icing on the cake as the Rays would send the Red Sox faithful home as losers in 8 of the 9 games at the Trop this year. The  first series at the Trop. would end with a hard fought 3-0 shutout by James Shields.

 

Then comes the moment where Rays Manager Joe Maddon thinks the Rays season began to turn into its championship run. It was during a road trip up to Toronto when the Rays battled back from a possible loss. Edwin Jackson left the 8th inning with a Ray lead before Troy Percival gave up 4 straight singles to let the Jays tie the game at 3-all. The teams battled back and forth before Dioner Navarro, who went 3-6 on the day hit a screamer into the stands for a Grand Slam homer and sealed the victory for the Rays.

 

 


On May 13th the Rays got to celebrate for the first time in club history as the team officially took over first place in the American League East. It was the latest point in any Rays season that the team had enjoyed the top spot.  The game produced one of the first moments in the Rays 2008 history for celebrations when  pinch runner Jonny Gomes came on for Cliff Floyd after he singled in the bottom of the 11th inning. Gomes stole second, then sprinted  home to seal the victory for the Rays 2-1.

 

 


Then came the L A Angels first visit to Tropicana Field, and the Rays shut them down to also sweep that series. Then came in the mighty Chicago Cubs for a three game Inter-League series that was deemed by many to be a possible World Series matchup. During this series, the Rays finally began to get some national exposure for maybe being a true team that could win it all in 2008.


But not until after the June 19th game, in which Carl Crawford hit a grand slam to propel the Rays. The team had officially beat the best team in baseball all three games did the national media begin to get on the Rays bandwagon. Cub’s Manager Lou Pinella commended the Rays on their young squad, and you could see a small twinkle in his eye that he approved of the young team getting the best of his team that series.


 

 


On June 27th, Rays starter Matt Garza was on the mound in a game against the Florida Marlins and gave up a blast to Hanley Ramirez in the 7th inning to produce the only hit and run in the contest. Garza went on to shut down the Marlins’ offense the rest of the game.

 


According to the Elias Baseball Bureau, It was the first complete-game no-hitter or one-hitter with a double-digit strikeout total in the majors this season. There was only one such pitching performance in each of the last three seasons: by Chris Carpenter in 2005, John Lackey in 2006 and Justin Verlander in 2007.

 


On July 19th, the Rays won their first game back after the All Star break to break the team’s longest losing streak of the season. With the Blue Jays in town for a weekend series, the Rays went on to break up a perfectly good pitchers’ duel on a Ben Zobrist homer on the first pitch he saw tonight. Toronto starter A J Burnett was on tonight, but the Rays caught a huge break on a hanging breaking pitch to Zobrist for the victory.

 

Rocco Baldelli gets the shaving cream pie treatment after driving in the winning run in the ninth.  (AP)

 


While the Rays were at home on August 30th they got to celebrate a first in Rays history. With the 14-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays posted their 82nd win of the season. Marking the first time in franchise history they were guaranteed a winning season.  It also marked the night of Scott Kazmir’s 10th victory of the year.

 

The mystic of Fenway Park was beginning to get the better of the Rays in 2008 before Scott Kazmir took the mound on September 10th in a series the team needed to keep their lead on the Boston Red Sox.  It also began one of the most storied moments in Rays history. During the contest the Rays batters went a combined 1-15 with men in scoring position and almost gave the game to the Red Sox several times. As the team fought back and forth before the Rays sent up a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning.  

 

 

Dan Johnson had been summed from the Durham Bulls earlier in the day and would have started in left field if he had gotten to the ball park a little earlier in the night. But because of flight problems and transportation to Fenway Park, he arrived just moments before the game. In the 9th inning, Rays Manager Joe Maddon inserted Johnson into the game to pinch hit against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Johnson worked the count to 3-2 before he hit a monster shot that cleared the right center field wall to give the Rays a 5-4 lead in the game. Jason Hammel ended up coming out in the bottom of the 9th and secured the win for the Rays. It was Hammel’s first save of his career.

 

 


With the team away for their last series, it was actually the next day when most Rays fans learned that we had secured the American League East title the previous night in Detroit. With the Rays in Motown for the last series, many players came back to the clubhouse to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning. It was a wild fact, but players and staff went to area hotels sports bars to do a bit of  scoreboard watching as the New York Yankees needed to lose for the Rays to be awarded their first title in team history.

 

 


After the hard fought season, the Rays staged a airport greeting for the team at St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport on September 29th. The event was attended by almost 5,000 people who flocked into the baggage area and loading zones to greet and cheer the team as they got off their chartered flight from Detroit. People filled the airport and also the outer traffic lanes of the airport to see their new champions come in from their road trip.


 

 


On October 6th, the Rays were in Chicago facing the White Sox when they secured their first series win in the American League Divisional series. The Rays won the series 3-1, and established that they were the team to beat to get to the World Series in the American League. In that series, the Rays battled back time and time again against the tough White Sox pitching staff before finally breaking through and getting right breaks.

 

 

When the Rays faced the Philadelphia Phillies on October 23rd, they sent James “Big Game” Shields to the mound. The game  showed the waking up of B J Upton and Carlos Pena at the plate as both help produce much needed offense for the Rays. In a play featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Rocco Baldelli came across the plate for an apparent Rays run, but Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz held onto the ball.

 

 


The game came down to great situational hitting by the Rays. B J Upton scored Akinora Iwamura from third to plate the first run for the Rays.  In the 4th inning, the Rays took a hold of the game after Cliff Floyd hit a single and Dioner Navarro hit a nice liner up the middle to put two men on base for the Rays. Baldelli then hit a nice shot down the third baseline, but it was gloved by Feliz and the Rays had men on the corners. Jason Bartlett then came up and executed a safety squeeze perfectly  in front of Phillies starter Brett Myers to put the Rays up 4-0. It would be the Rays first victory in the Fall classic.


 

 


Last, but not least is the Game 5.5 as I call it of the 2008 World Series. No matter what happened in this game, the historical significance was more pressing at the moment. The contest was a hard fought contest and each team traded runs and hits before the Phillies finally walked away with their second World Series Championship.

 


The game was a true test of everything that got the Rays here in 2008. The Bullpen, which was the team’s focal point in 2008 had finally given up a run at the most critical moment in the contest. And the Rays offense could not close the gap when needed during their last at bats. with Eric Hinske striking out for the last out of the game.

 

 


All of these events made a different focal point for the Rays in 2008. I hope a few of your fond memories have graced the blog. If I forgot a moment that you found remarkable in 2008, please feel free to comment on the blog and I will check into it and might even make it my number 1 choice tomorrow.  Again thank you to all the readers of Rays Renegade for their insights, comments ans readership in 2008.

 

Hopefully in 2009, I will have more outstanding Rays moments to record for you.

Vegas Baby……Vegas

 

 

If you are one of the many traveling members of the Tampa Bay Rays front office in Las Vegas this week, can you pull off the swagger and the slight attitude of a pennant winner?  After your team pulled off the almost impossible in 2008 of  claiming the American League  East and Pennant, let’s hope you can become as cocky and as vocal as the other counterparts in the AL East offices. At the MLB  Winter Meetings at the  elegant Bellagio, do you finally have people on your speedial that are the movers’ and the shakers’ in baseball?  Again, we hope so. For years the Rays were the typhoid marys of the major leagues. No one gave you the respect, the ablity, or even the confidence to even park your car without hitting the cement pole. But now you have gained that initial push towards respectabilty and you can flaunt it with the big boys this year. Celebrate, let you inner rowdie come out and show the world the Rays are here for good and you better get used to it! 

 

Now we all know that Rays General Manager Andrew Friedman has already been a busy guy this offseason, but does he get more looks and more calls now simply because of his upstart moves and slick manuvers in 2008.  We hope so. And do the Rays even get odd calls now from veterans wanting to play here seeing the positive attitude and the termendous team concept in the clubhouse.We sure hope so too. According to some sources, for the first time in Rays history, people are actually calling the team asking about openings and chatting with team officials. Such a adventure would not have seemed possible a few seasons ago, but now are common place for the A L Pennant winner.

 

 As the Rays continue to search for key ingredients to their 2009 pie,  We have to believe that they are gearing up for are making another run at the World Series in 2009. Vegas currently have then at 16:1 to repeat the playoff senario and win it all this time. That is a huge improvement over the 150:1 shot that was posted before the 2008 season. So we as fans have to believe that the team is being constructed in 2009 to defeat and stay above the division, and not just stay up with the Sox and Yankees and Blue Jays in the AL East in 2009.  Wow, what a difference a little winning can do to your organization, and your Vegas odds for winning the World Series.

 

 

                                  

 

Their division has become a hot bed of activity in the last few years where the winner of the division is an odds on favorite to win it all. With that kind of  mentality only growing and evolving in 2009, do the Rays have what it takes to not only defend the crown, but keep it safe all year long from their divsion foes?  Or is the primary focus of this weeks meeting to gain avenues and portals into the upper working of the MLB to find the hidden gems like Eric Hinske and Willy Aybar again in 2009. The scouting department of the Rays never get enough credit for seeking, searching and finding guys like Andy Sonnanstine and Rhyne Hughes. That department might be the hidden reason for so many of the Rays advancements in the last year.  Finding those diamonds in the rough seems to be a gift for the Rays scouting department.

 

 

The Rays  primary focus in the Hot Stove season so far  seems to be in formulating a trade or signing a free agent to improve the Rays potent offense and increase the stopping power of the bullpen.  But will they be aggressive on their “wants”, or sit back and remain low key and hope everyone picks off one-by-one the weaker guys before the Rays pounce on their guys. You would think that by this years Winter Meeting, Friedman would have the insights and the drive to go after the guys before even matching them up.  This is proably the first Winter Meeting he has had time to venture outside his hotel room and actually communicate face-to-face with a large amount of people. Popularity and a gift for the craft can be a person’s greatest asset in this game of chance.

 

 

But again, Friedman’s focus might be on the free agent market totally and not even consider a trade of any type just yet in the off season. He might hold all his cards until January, then deal them out as he sees fit to the right suitors. Friedman has gone on record as saying he has less players to trade per se this year than in the past. This actually might be a smoke screen set up until the upper echelon of pitchers disappear, then he brings out the names like Hammel, Niemann, and maybe even Jackson or Sonnanstine to wet the interest of teams seeking young talent with upsides. The Rays have the leagues’ quota on young arms plus this year. But then, we have been stockpiling the guys knowing that this day would come some time, some way, to where we could just pick and choose our guys for the first time based on our standards and not the standards set forth by other teams or free agents.

 

                           

 

Friedman has also been blunt to about his trading past and the team has been active heavily in the trade column than in free agents column. But starting in 2009, the team is actually taking a look at free agents and trades at a 50-50 percentage for the first time in franchise history. The Rays have finally built up enough clout and respect in the last year to entice free agents and make the Tampa Bay a perferred destination for veterans who still have alot in the tank.

 

As for the offense, the Rays are flexible with their plan for  further improvements, whether it’s by acquiring a full-time right fielder or a  power-hitting designated hitter. Their focus is firmly in improving their offensive numbers in 2009.
Clear holes are currently flashing in right-field and DH, but could they also get a value later in the Hot Stove season to spell a trade of a secure player right now in the Rays lineup. That question might be better answered around the mid-season mark when they will re-evaluate Carl Crawford and his $ 11.5 million dollar contract for 2010. In the comnig year or so the team will have to face the reality of losing a big name player because of the small market money coming into their coffers. Crawford and Kazmir might be the first 2 players that are within the system to be depatched out of the roster because of future salary or bonuses. And this will set a nasty trend for a few years until the next crop of young studs get established, then rebuilding will happen again and again.

 

 

Friedman is not sure how the current economy will affect baseball in Tampa Bay in 2009. But he does know that he is getting more and more calls from interested parties who want to talk about the team’s openings.  Even though a recent presentation by the Tampa Bay Baseball committee showed that the area’s wealth is down considerably, and that the stadium’s even financial stability might be in play in 2009. Playing within the boundaries of a tight economic circle might be hard for a team fighting to regain it’s edge in 2009. With the general population near the stadium showing double digit unemplyment, it might be a rocky year to start off in 2009, then gradually get into a rhythm and rise upward near the summer months. This is just speculation, but might be a realistic senario for the team. 

 

The conversations with other teams have been just as frequent as they’ve been in years past, but with both agents and teams, we’re  seeing that there aren’t very many people who want to be aggressive and really force things ahead right now. Is it the financial conscience of the league, or just the agents and players feeling out the sagging system before demanding, or putting out their  inflated numbers. Could we see a year of low ball figures to free agents with a vested interest or options, or will we have to wait about 2 years when the economic climate rebounds full force to see super high estimates and salary marks again in baseball.

 

Friedman showed a sense of humor when asked whether he expects activity to pick up during this years Winter Meetings.  He does expect that trade and free agent signings to go wild if something happens early to dictate the market or  something might flex and break trends within the league. But in the end, could we all be just playing the numbers and be left with what is left over on the tables and not get the desired players we need to succeed. The reality is that baseball, like gambling is a crap shoot and anything can happen……………even busting out on a good hand.

 

 

 

 

2008 Arbitration Predictions and Results

 

 

So here we are…………..Arbitration Day. During the next 7 days teams will really show just how much they want certain members of their 2008 roster. Not lost in all of this is the Type “A” or “B” eligible arbitration candidates. Luckly for the Tampa Bay Rays, they do not have any of these candidates and can either offer arbitration to their players’, or not and not risk losing anything.

 

Because we do not have any classified arbitration candidates, the Rays would not recieve any type of compensation from other teams for them signing their players past December 7th.  Today is the first day that teams will be contacting their players and their agents and let all of the above know their desires for 2009.  With the Rays, there will be a few really important decisions on personell and the make-up of the Rays roster in 2009.

 

With the Rule 5 Draft also on the horizon, the team might elect to not offer arbitration to certain memebers of the team knowing they would like to remian with the Rays, and can use their roster spot for the Rule 5 draft until they are resigned by the team. Just because a player is cut loose from the Rays does not always mean they do not want him on their roster or in the minor league system.

 

It is a bit of a mind game to try and disguise your true interest in some players and hope that the work with the mirrors and shadows protects these players. Back to the arbitration game, I will try and make a few predictions here today on who might, or might not be offered Arbitration by their 2008 clubs.

 

As predicted, the Tampa Bay Rays did not offer any arbitration to any of it’s 4 free agents on Monday night. Rocco Badelli and Trever Miller were actively seeking another team for 2009 on Monday and did not expect the Rays to offer arbitration.

 

Eric Hinske and Cliff Floyd are the other two free agents for the Rays and both are currently going through offers from other teams. Floyd is also rehabbing a shoulder surgery to help repair some damage suffered during the 2008 World Series during Game 2 at Tropicana Field against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

 

Arbitration Predictions:

 

 

               

 

I am going to start off with Raul Ibanez of the Seattle Mariners. Ibanez  will be offered arbitration by the team, but he will refuse the offer and end up signing with another club. The guy is a power left-handed bat that will be needed in a few National League outfields in 2009. He will also have his pick of Designated hitter spots in the American League by at least a half dozen clubs before finally signing in Toronto.

 

 RESULTS:

The Mariners did offer Arbitration to Ibanez on December 1, 2008 at 2:32 PM CST  . 

 

 The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a few decisions to make in regards to the arbitration of power-hitting first baseman Mark Teixiera and hard throwing closer Francisco Rodriquez. Both players are considered in the top tier of Type “A” candidates for arbitration, and the Angels might use this to offer them arbitration with the hopes they will decline and sign with another team.  Another part of the equation would be the draft picks acquired for either of them to leave the team to re-stock the Angels minor league system.

 

Two other Angels also will have a go at arbitration today with mixed results for them both. Starting pitcher Jon Garland might not be offered arbitration bascially because he is not the dominating pitcher he was before coming to LA from the Chicago White Sox. Darrin Oliver, a reliever, might be a Monday decision becuase he would make the same amount if he was with the club or turned down for arbitration. I think that both might be offered arbitration, with Oliver a last second yes or no decision. Another Angel in jeopardy of not getting offered arbitration is Garrett Anderson. He  is another bubble player who might be offered arbitration due to the loyalty to the club, but the hearing might bring him a lower salary than as a free agent. 

 

RESULTS:

  The Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem  announced at 7:31 pm CST that they have decided to offer arbitration to  Mark Teixiera, Jon Garland, Darren Oliver and K-Rod for 2009. Garrett Anderson was not granted arbitration by the club.

 

 

The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies will not be offering arbitration to relievers Tom Gordon and Rudy Seanez. Gordon makes total sense since his ceiling and salary were high in 2008, and he was out with an injury the entire year. The Phillies invested in Brad Ledge for their closer, and he responded in producing a fantastic season and a solid spot on the roster as the Phillies 2009 closer. Seanez is a left-handed reliever and might be one of the next relievers to sign a contract, maybe for the Rangers.

 

Also up for consideration will be starter Jamie Moyer and right-fielder Pat Burrell. Moyer has been a linch pin in the Phillies rotation since coming over from the Seattle Mariners. His pitching stabilized a Phillies rotation that was a mess before his arrival. Burrell is a home-grown Phillies star who might have just made himself too expensive for the Phillies taste. I think the team will offer arbitration to Moyer. The team will still work to cut a deal with Moyer, but will certainly decline an offer to Burrell for 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The team has decided to not offer arbitration to all four of their eligible candidates for 2009. Tom Gordon was the only player not mentioned, but is still injured and will not be offered a contract for 2009.

 

 

The San Diego Padres will not be offering arbitration to  former closer Trevor Hoffman. This is actually a sad event. More so by the way the team kind of dumped him after giving him a contract offer and then rescinding it and not giving him a reason why before announcing the decision. This act might come back to haunt the Padres since Hoffman is thinking seriously about maybe closing for the division foe, L A Dodgers.

 

RESULTS:

The San Diego Padres confirmed at 7:41 pm CST that they are not going to offer arbitration to Trevor Hoffman.

 

 

Former All-Star and Atlanta Brave closer/starter John Smoltz will not be offered arbitration by the team.  This is not to mean that he doesn’t still have any fire and gas in the tank, but the Braves did get rocked in 2002 by Greg Maddux accepting arbitration and getting a huge increase in salary. He might still be in the Braves jersey on Opening Day, but not at a arbitration sized increase in pay.

 

RESULTS:

The Atlanta Braves confirmed at 8:09 pm CST that they are declining to offer arbitration to pitcher John Smoltz.

 

 

                     

 

The Toronto Blue Jays will offer Arbitration to pitcher A J Burnett. There are signals in the Jays system that they want to put an end to the uphill climb in payroll without results in 2009. But to let Burnett go would send the wrong message to Roy Halliday and the staff about the intentions of the team. I think the team will make a few runs at players to try and compete with the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees in 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The Toronto Blue Jays have offered arbitration to pitcher A J Burnett, but have denied arbitration to his battery mate Gregg Zaun. The decision on the pair hit the Internet about 6:56 pm CST tonight.

 

The Texas Rangers have a huge decision to make as to the future of current DH, Milton Bradley for 2009. Bradley had a breakout year for the team and would again be a great cornerstone with Josh Hamilton in the middle of the Rangers’ lineup for 2009. For that reason, I think the Rangers will offer arbitration to Bradley for the 2009 season, and then at trade deadline time, trade him for more pitching.

 

RESULTS:

The Texas Rangers announced at 11:55 pm CST that they will offer arbitration to Milton Bradley for 2009.

 

 

                                      

 

With the Brewers, I think we will see one given arbitration and one let go for obvious reasons. C C Sabathia will definitely be offered arbitration. Sabathia made such an impact on this team after his trade from Cleveland in 2008. To say they would also let this guy go with out a fight would be a huge PR mistake and also a roster busting move. Public sentiment is high that the team needs to retain their big train and let him roll another year in Miller Park.

 

On the other hand, the Brewers felt they got robbed in the closer department by the injuries and the inconsistant pitching of Eric Gagne in his Brewers stay. For that reason, the Brewers will not be offering arbitration to Gagne. Even the recent retirement of closer Solomon Torres can’t keep Gagne on the Brewers’ roster.

 

Another set of Brewers’ racing for arbitration hearing and raises are pitchers’ Ben Sheets and Brian Shouse. Sheets will be offered arbitration as a goodwill gesture that the team wants to be competitive in 2009. The showe of faith might be enough to retain Sabathia. Sheets recent injury problems might weigh heavy in this process, and the team might not offer at the last minute. This is seriously one that is on the fence right now.

 

Brewers reliever Brian Shouse will not be offered arbitration. The minor league system of the Brewers’ actually have a pretty godd supply of relievers in their minor league system that are itching for a chance at the major league level. This might be the deciding factor in Shouses’ future with the team.

 

   RESULTS:

The Brewers have offered arbitration to C C Sabathia, Brian Shouse and Ben Sheets. They did decline to offer Eric Gagne an arbitration hearing on December 1, 2008 at 3:08 PM CST.

 

  

                           

 

 

In the Yankees camp, both Bobby Abreu and Mike Mussina will be offered arbitration. Abreu will be offered it more as a afterthought to any team thinking of signing him for 2009. Since he is a Type “A” candidate, the signing club will lose a draft pick in June, and the Yankees will also get a compensation pick for him.

 

Mussina is semi-retired and not thought of seeking a contract with any team in 2009. This might be a pre-emptive strike set up to divert any team from trying to get him under contract in 2009. The Yankees feel he might be going through a “Troy Percival” stage and might not want to play now, but as soon as the teams report, might consider a contract for 2009.

 

                   

 

Also speaking of the Yankees, they will not hand an arbitration offer to Andy Pettitte for 2009. The thinking in the Yankees camp is that Pettitte is already emotionally out of the Yankees staff and might not be a totally positive member of the young pitching staff in 2009. It is a shame since Pettitte is a dominating leftie when he is on his game.

 

The Yankees also will not offer arbitration to Jason Giambi. This one kind of puzzles me a bit in the fact that Giambi might end up in the A L East again in 2009, and wouldn’t you like the fact that you took 2 draft picks for that team to even sign the “Gambino”. His defense has gone downward fast in the last few years, but after some eye situation early in 2008, he hit the ball as well as anyone in baseball.

 

 

                     

 

Also in the Yankees camp is  Ivan Rodriguez. As you might remember, the Yankees basically borrowed him for a few months trying to make a stretch run and catch either the Rays or Red Sox before the playoffs. He was a major upgrade at the catching position. But his increase in salary with Jorge Posada still on the roster might be enough for the Yankees to not offer arbitration to Rodriguez.

 

   RESULTS: 

 At 4:48 pm CST, the New York Yankees have declined to offer arbitration to pitchers’ Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and Right-filder Bobby Abreu.

 

Staying in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox will offer arbitration to veteran catcher Jason Varitek. Considering what he has played for in the last few years, he might be one of the big winners in average change in salary in 2009. Varitek’s agent . Scott Boras tried to play up Varitek’s “stats” by comparing him to a far superior catcher in Jorge Posada to the Red Sox earler in the Hot Stove season.

 

RESULTS:

The Boston Red Sox have decided to offer arbitration to both Jason Varitek and pitcher Paul Byrd.  Word came in at 8:14 pm CST, with Byrd’s offer a bit baffling with the recent news about the signing of Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa.

 

The Colorado Rockies will offer arbitration to closer Brian Fuentes. This might also be a smokescreen by the rockies to gain posession of a teams draft pick for signing Fuentes.  He was been contacted by several clubs that have already interested in the closer, even with the compensation issues.  Fuentes might turn down the offer and seek his spot somewhere else in the MLB in 2009.

 

 RESULTS:

The Colorado Rockies have decided to offer arbitration to closer Brian Fuentes.  The offer hit the wires at 6:59 pm CST tonight.

 

Frank Thomas of the Oakland A’s will not be offered arbitration by the team. This is not for lack of desire or offensive firepower, but the team already has it on good authority that he wants to stay with Oakland and might be willing to negotiate a discount to remain with the club.

 

RESULTS:

The Oakland A’s confirmed at 9:07 pm CST that they are not offering arbitration to Frank Thomas for 2009.

 

         

 

Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs is an interesting player to consider for arbitration. The team would like to offer him arbitration, but only on the premise that he will turn it down and they can reap 2 draft picks for him. But the flip-side is that they offer it and he accepts it and give the team a secere situation both in salary and in the Bullpen. If there is any movement to show he would accept the arbitration offer, the team would refuse to offer him arbitration for 2009. This one truly might be decided on a written agreement and not on a handshake. Reliever Bob Howry is also up for arbitration and might not be extended an offer for arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS: 

 The Chicago Cubs announced at 11:03 pm CST that they have decided to not offer arbitration to Kerry Wood and Bob Howry for 2009.

 

On the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox will not be offering arbitration to both Ken Griffey Jr., or Juan Uribe. With the recent trade talks concerning Jermaine Dye and Nick Swishers trade to the Yankees, you might think the team would retain Griffey for one season as insurance. On the up-side, he is also on pace to hit a few milestones that would be a PR masterpeiece for the White Sox to promote in 2009.

 

Juan Uribe is an easier piece to replace either with minor leaguer Josh Fields, or by a trade. Uribe has been an adequate player for the team , but his arbitration increase in salary would not sit well with the White Sox payroll issues for 2009. Also under consideration is shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who has gotten alot of talk lately as trade bait for the White Sox. Cabrera might be offered arbitration based on his recent reade rumblings.

 

RESULTS:

The Chicago White Sox announced at 12:35 pm CST that they are offering arbitration to Orlando Cabrera for 2009. No word yet on the status of arbitration for Griffey Jr, or Juan Uribe at this time.

 

 

             

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks might take a few days to consider if the offer arbitration to Adam Dunn, or set him free. He has not been one of the big names thrown around in any circles this off season and might not be worth the compensation picks for another team to consider him in 2009. I think the D-back do end up offering him arbitration as a gesutre he has a place if he wants it in 2009. But I also think in the back of their minds, he turns it down and takes the play out of their hands.

 

Also up for consideration by the D-backs is starter Randy Johnson and relievers’ Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz. Both players had an adequate 2008, and it might come down to what place they will have in the future of the team as to their status for arbitration. Cruz might be a decison based on the want and need out there for relievers who can set-up or close with the least amount of baggage. Cruz will come down to a last minure discussion before he is offered arbitration.   Lyons and Johnson might be the two guys’  not be offered arbitration for 2009. Another D-back who is sought after by many teams is second baseman Orlando Hudson who will certainly be offered arbitration to try and retain at least some draft picks when he declines the D-backs offer.

 

RESULTS:

The Arizona Diamondbacks have announced at 9:26 pm CST that they are not offering arbitration to both Randy Johnson and Adam Dunn. Being offered arbitration will be Juan Cruz, Orlando Hudson and Brandon Lyon. 

 

The Florida Marlins had an amazing run at the National League East title early in the season before falling by the wayside. At the forefront of that action was Luis Gonzalez . Gonzalez was the veteran presence on the club, and with catcher Paul Lo Duca might both be victims of payroll cutting for 2009. Also up for arbitration is veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes, who I think might have done enough to merit the team offering arbitration to him to hold onto this valuable commodity at least until the 2009 trade deadline. I have a feeling that Gonzalez and Lo Duca played their last ball for the Marlins and will not be offered arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The Floridas Marlins announced at 11:08 pm CST that they will not offer arbitration to  Arthur Rhodes, Luis Gonzalez, and Paul Lo Duca for 2009.

 

Several other veterans have arbitration issues to contend with in the majors this off season. Moise Alou is considering retirement, and that might be the total basis that the New York Mets do not offer him arbitration. His injury might not have been severe to end his career, but he might just consider it time while he can still function naturally.

 

Also up for arbitration on the Mets are Luis Ayala and Oliver Perez. Ayala might be the odd man out as the Mets have high hopes for the inning eater Perez and they might not offer arbitration to both Alou and Ayala, but offer arbitration to Perez.

 

RESULTS:

Out of the New York Mets offices at  8:22 pm CST is the announcement that they are declining to offer arbitration to Moises Alou and Luis Ayala. The team is however offering arbitration to pitcher Oliver Perez.

 

 

Alan Embree has been a tough competitor for years in the American League. He has been a “go-to” reliever for years and might be starting down that road of decline finally. For that reason, I see the Oakland A’s considering this for a bit of time then not offering him arbitration, but extending a Spring Training Invite to him to see if he is still a dominating reliever.

 

RESULTS:

At 9:07 pm CST tonight, the Oakland A’s have denied arbitration to Alan Embree and Frank Thomas.

 

 Edgar Renteria is considered to be on the way out and the  Detroit Tigers also must make an educated guess as to if they offer him arbitration, will he accept it or turn it donw and move onto another team in 2009. This is another team that will have to feel out its veteran before it either commits or turns down arbitration to him. I have a feeling they will not offer him arbitration.

 

   RESULTS:

The Detroit Tigers did not offer arbitration to Renteria on Monday, December 1,2008 at 2:42 PM  CST.

 

 

The Minnesota Twins had a remarkable 2008 season, and also included in that was the work of reliver Dennys Reyes of the Twins Bullpen unit. Reyes had one of his best seasons in the majors and added a veteran persence to the staff. I have a feeling that it was enough to merit an offer of arbitration for Reyes to continue in Minnesota for 2009.

 

 RESULTS:  

The Minnesota Twins just offered arbitration to reliever Dennys Reyes for 2009 at 4:20 pm CST .

 

The St Louis Cardinals Bullpen was a mess in 2008. The closer role ended up being a closer-by committee assignment during the season and no one truly stepped up and took over a veteran role in the Bullpen. For this reason I feel that  former closer Jason Isringhausen  and Branden Looper will not be offered arbitration by the team. I do feel that reliever Russ Spring might be a bubble guy and also might be offered arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS: 

At 6:19 pm CST, The St. Louis Cardinals have denied arbitration to three of their pitchers from the 2008 staff. Jason Isringhausen, Branden Looper and  Russ Springer all were not offered arbitration by the Cardinals. 

 

Since coming to the Kansas City Royals, Mark Grudzienlanek has been a clutch player in the middle for the Royals. He has been a solid defender and an above average guy at the plate for a team fighting for an idenity in the A L Central divisionI have a feeling that the Royals might reward that loyalty and service by offering arbitration to Grudzienlanek for 2009.

 

RESULTS: The Kansas City Royals just offered arbitration to infielder Mark Grudzielanek  at  8:17 pm CST for the 2009 season. 

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers had another fantastic run at the National League pennant in 2008. The team was sitting near the .500 mark most of the year and finally took over the division late in the season, and overtake the Arizona D-backs for the Western division. On the forefront of that move was the acquiring of Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox, and Casey Blake from the  Cleveland Indians. Both of these players have done everything asked of them by the Dodgers and will be offered arbitration today.

 

Another twist of fate for the Dodgers saw their Bullpen and starting pitching come togewther at the right time and take over the game for the team. Starters’ Brad Penny and Derek Lowe hunkered down and played playoof type ball the last month of the season to propel LA into position for the title.  For that reason, these two starters might be offered arbitration for the 2009 season.Reliever Joe Biemel helped anchor the leftie side of the Bullpen. Infielder Jeff Kent was up and down all year long due to injuries and did not participate fully in 2008. For that reason, I think that the Dodgers will not offer arbitration to Biemel and Kent for 2009

 

Also up for,arbitration is future Hall-of-Famer, Gregg Maddux. He did not have an explosive  end of the year for the Dodgers after being picked up from the San Diego Padres, and might not be offered arbitration by Los Angeles.

 

 RESULTS:

The Los Angeles Dodgers have just offered arbitration to Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake and Derek Lowe.  In a second announcement, the team has decided to deny arbitration to pitchers’ Joe Biemel, Greg Maddux, Brad Penny and infielder Jeff Kent. Final word came out from the Dodgers office at  7:20 pm CST tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Trash Talking in Baseball Out of Hand?

 

 

Is there a climate in baseball where the talking is starting to get out of hand during a game. Does it seem sometimes that the players take liberties with the umpires to try and argue balls and strike when they should be just standing in there and trying to hit the darn balls?

 

I have seen a heard a bit more verbal banter in the last year from both coaches’ and players’ sitting in the bench towards either the mound or the home plate umpire. Is it a bit rude to try and dictate what the umpiring crew is doing, or is it a revolution of the game. I can seriously say that the Rays did have a few really good violators of this process last year.

 

Eric Hinske is notorius for eyeing the umpire or talking back after a subjective call. We have had a few umpires even during the playoff run come from behind the plate and warn managers and bench players about their comments being heard on the field. Unknown to alot of people during the World Series, the Rays bench was active in their plate discussions and made sure they were heard by the umpiring crew.

 

 

 In Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series, the home plate umpire actually came over to Rays Manager Joe Maddon and complained that they would start to throw bench players out if they kept their vigil of barking at the crew.  There is a difference in arguing a close call on the bases, or even arguing a subjective call on a tag or even a force out. Those calls come, but they are getting more intense with replays and slow-mo that benches can see seconds after the play.

 

They are not allowed to show close plays on the Tropicana Field Jumbotron. I am taking this to be a MLB directive not to show up the umpiring crew, but in the halls and in the suites they get an instant replay and slow motion that can be heard at field level sometimes. Can this bring about more verbal warfare and instigation by players and fans.. you bet you life it does.

 

Now I am not trying to downplay the showmanship of guys like Grant Balfour who curses himself on the mound. Guys like Joba Chamberlain or any reliever or starter who get a big out can make a whoop and a holler without a second glance. But the guy who pitches inside and then comments should be reigned in by the umpires. A batter who talks to the pitcher should be disciplined if the intention is to start a beanball rally or incident on the field.

 

         

 

A good example of this is during the Rays White Sox ALDS series at Tropicana Field. Rays reliever Grant Balfour is notorious for talking smack, to himself duirng an at bat. With  Whie Sox shortstop Orlando Caberra at the plate Balfour began his usual pump-up mode by screaming at himself. He threw his first pitch insdie for a strike but close to Caberra. He again began to get louder on the mound. The second pitch came real close inside and Caberra went down to avoid the pitch.

 

Balfour was talking to himself, but Caberra did not know this was intentional for Balfour to curse himself. He took exception to the language and thought it was directed at him. He even motioned to go towards the mound at one point to comfront Balfour. Is this outward display a preamble to problems, or should ?Balfour be pulled back a bit to keep the assumption down that he might be trying to show up the batter.

 

Another thing that gets me is the umpire coming from behind the plate and warning the bench for talking smack towards him during the game. Shouldn’t the Bench Coach get tossed for any infractions like that, it is his responsibilities to get the bench in order. Even if it is the Manager that is spilling the words, shouldn’t the Bench Coach suffer for anything. Pitching Coaches’ are also famous for between inning banter to try and change a strike zone or chat up the umpires.

 

Should this conversations be muted and not even allowed during the game. I know it is all part of the game, but sometimes the conversation is so foul-mouthed that I see parents behind the dugouts shield their kids ears. It is a part of baseball, but can it be a bit toned down at times.

 

Managers will always get tossed, and players will get tossed for arguing calls. That is a given of the sport. I really love the old Aguafina commercial where Lou Pinella goes out and arguing with the third base umpire and is actually having a chatty conversation with him before getting tossed as a favor by the umpire. It is a classic moment that I know might actually happen during games.

 

           

 

You know there are managers who say certain things that annoy certain umpires. You know every team has a book on the umpiring crew that also spells out their no-no’s for that umpire. You can get tossed for anything, but to bring into the conversation a personal mistake that has been highlighted, or a past event can get you an early night quicker than a correct call.

 

 Joe Maddon is great at the art of trying to use the entire crew to get his point across. He always asks if they asked any of the other members of the crew if they saw the play differently.  Of course, unless it is totally blantant, the call will stand, but sometimes it does get you to think about things. Which for an umpire is progress.

 

 

Players at the plate each have their own brand of eyeing up an umpire or arguing their points. Most have subtle non verbal movements like Ichiro just looking the umpire in the eyes and not saying a word. That can be more intimidating that a word at times.

 

 But then you have guys like Boston’s Kevin Youkilis who sometimes looks like you shot his favorite dog if he gets a called third strike close in on the plate. He goes into a act of looking like you shot the darn dog right in front of him before sulking to the bench. Does this action even get any movement or different placement of the umpire’s strikezone. Probably not, but it does get Youkilis  has a reputation in the umpire circles to expect the clowning at the plate.

 

What I am proposing is not to limit or even make a baseball game a morgue at all from the field level. But can we pull back the bench BS and the Coaches’ smart aleck comments and just play ball. When I played Little League, if a coach or even a parent got verbal, they were gone the second they said the second word out of their mouths. It instilled in us the fair play principle and that the umpire is God behind the plate and in the field.

 

 

It also made parents better supporters and better fans of the game as they tried to understand the calls without leashing out a tirad of BS and insults.  Most fights during game have happened after trashtalking during an at bat, or during a play sometimes during that game.  Baseball was fun back then, but we did not have to account for million dollar salaries or even sponsorships beyiond the baseball diamond. Accountability is the only way to truly pull people bakc in after an incident duirng a game.

 

Recently in the NFL, the Cleveland Brown’s tight end, Kellen Winslow was fined $ 235,294 dollars for chatting up a disagreement about his injury rehabilitation. Miami Dolphins corner, Joey Porter was fined $ 20,000 dollars for saying the Houston Texans were getting calls during their game one Sunday in the NFL.

 

 Could the MLB and the MLB Players’ Union agree upon a financial penalty beyond the customary fines to repeat offenders or instigators. Who knows what will happen in the future, but I knowe that if a fan gets rowdy like that he is gone from the game, and might even be banned from the stadium if they keep it up.

 

Baseball will never ban guys from the field or stadiums for verbal warfare, but shouldn’t it get toned down to a level where the on-field actions at leats fit the language spilling out of the dugout?

 

Rays Goals 6-10 for 2008 Exceed Expectations

 

          

 

In the beginning of the season I set 10 goals or written items that I hoped the Tampa Bay Rays would complete to become a more productive and successful team. At the time we all did not know the type of franchise success we would see in 2008.

Also stuffed into that list was a few personal obsevations ands wants for the team in 2008. I did a middle of the year evaluation of the list on July 18, 2008 and saw that the team was focused and moving forward in achieving outstanding success on the field.

I am again going to go over the high and lowpoints now after the season is over. I am no longer going to assign a letter grade to the options because this has been a totally “A” year in all aspects. There is no way I could see this coming, and the team took the region by storm in 2008. 

 

The blog today will focus on the items 6-10, and the logo unveiling last November in St. Petersburg, Florida at Straub Park.

 

 

 

As everyone might remember, 12 months ago we set out changing the basic style of the team with a logo change and a uniform retro-fitting. Gone was the old “TB” on the hat that had a ray centered beneath the “TB” symbol. In came a clean looking “TB” in a great marine blue color. Then you get to the uniforms that were streamlined into a more uniform design without the old “Rays” on the chest area of the uniform.

The uniforms went from a white and green basic jersey with blue pinstriping on the sleeves to a retro looking White and Blue model with a logo that popped with the odd shaped “R”, and the sunburst in the center of the logo blasting out for all to see. The team held a fantastic outdoor event to unveil the new look with most of the players coming in for the event.

The new design was met with some crtics wanting the old Rays look becuase it had a modern flair without being boring. Others were upset that the away jerseys would not have the “Tampa Bay” moniker blazen across the chest of the players anymore. It was replaced with the new logo “Rays” across the chest.

          

 

Other were debating why to let go of the entire past for the new look. One thing the Rays did leave “old” on their jerseys was the flying ray patch on the sleeve. The team decided to continue that tradition and  replaced the dark black and colorful ray with one that matched the teams new blue and white jerseys. All in all, the new look showed the team was trying to move beyond the loveable losers’ of the past and were hoping for a new attitude in Tampa Bay.

 

 

                

 

Starting with the bottom of the list at number 10, was the Akinora Iwamura must feel at home at second base.  To sya he did not do a superb job this year would be an insult. the guy went from a position where he has won Gold Gloves in Japan to a new position for the betterment of the team. Not only did he do it with grace and style, but he made himself a front runner for years at the position.

Iwamura was one of the people nominated for a Gold Glove this year at second in the AL. He only committed a handful errors all year long and ended up ranked 4th among AL second baseman in his first year ever at the position. He became a vital cog in the Rays double play combination working with Jason Bartlett like he has been playing to position all his life.

The hardwork and the determination of Iwamura to make his transition flawless was carried out to a “T”. Aki stood tall and in the pivot long to make sure the team got a chance to complete every double play in 2008. He was also instrumental in the field making countless great plays behind second and relaying the ball into home. Iwamura has found a new home at second base, and will be even better in 2009.

 

 

 

 Number 9 stated that catching had to hit a new high this year. Well, that will be an easy one. Dioner Navarro started the year off on fire and got hurt. When he returned, he stayed above the .300 mark well into the second half of the season before falling below that mark for the only time in 2008. Behind the plate he took more control and exercised his own playcalling alot this season.

But the action with Matt Garza in Texas in the ruffle on the mound and in the dugout finally put him on top. It showed that he had the heart and the determination to lead this team behind the dish and put his stamp on the team. With his new confidence at the plate translated perfectly to his time behind the mask.

For the season, His batting average for the year was only behind Minnesota’s Joe Mauer at the position in the AL. That is a huge change from the guy battling to stay above .191 during the first half of 2007. Navarro continued during the first half of 2008 getting better and better every game. He was rewarded with his first All-Star invite and was key to the tying and winning run for the AL in the game. He caught 8 innigs in that game and solidified his place among AL catchers with is performance.

 

         

 

Number 8  was about the 1-2-3 setup guys securing the game. Well, this one is a bit tricky. the Rays Bullpen showed a huge upswing in 2008, but the closer role was up in the air alot more than expected in the year. Troy Percival was signed to make a solid end to the Bullpen but went down numerous times during the season.

His back and knee did show the wear and tear of all his MLB years, and by the end of the season he was on the DL and did not even get posted to any of the Rays post season rosters. His health situation put the pressure on the young Rays and they responded brilliantly in most cases.

From J P Howell and Grant Balfour securing the 7th inning for the Rays nightly, to Dan Wheeler or even Jason Hammel being called on to put out the fires in late innings, the young squad held together and mixed and matched nightly to get the Rays the victory.

It was not your picture perfect way to run a Bullpen, but the Rays did make it happen and post one of the best turnaround years ever for a Bullpen. The young guys matured and got valuable experience, and the veterans stood tall and made the plays when they were needed in 2008.

 

                           

 

Number 7  was that the right-field guy has to be consisitant and kick butt.  You would have to define that a bit more to really decide if it was a successful year or a failure. I have it more at a banner year for finding the right guys finally, but it could have been a lot better organized.

Jonny Gomes and Eric Hinske got most of the early reps in right during the beginning of the year. With the trade for Gabe Gross, the Rays brought in a guy who had never been counted on like this to raise the bar for the team. Gross came in and put his defensive and offensive stamp on the position early.

Gross made countless great play in the field and became a electric guy at the plate. He hit a 436 foot homer on August 6th that just showed the improvements he had made with the Rays. Gross made a massive improvement to the position to the Rays before the trade dedeadline.

After the return of Rocco Baldelli, the right-field platooning took on a more effective mode. You had the defensive skills of both guys as  a plus in the field and had bats fron both sides of the plate to balle pitchers’. The Rays had a solid core in the last half of the season, and the addition of Baldelli proved amazing at the plate during the rest of the year and in the playoffs.

 

     

Number 6  was our prospects need to improve. This became a double-edged sword to the Rays in 2008. We saw guys like Elliot Johnson, Reid Brignac and Ben Zobrist come up and solidify the infield when needed, but the additon of these prospects did not make the difference for the Rays. Zobrist was the most consistant of the guys from the minors in coming in and making the job his in 2008.

Zobrist was being counted on to be the “go-to” guy in the Ray’s lineup in 2008. An early injury set him down and it took some time before he came back up and made his mark offensively this year for the team. He developed a offensive style that was not seen in his game before 2008.

Pitching saw Grant Balfour come back up and not back down an inch the rest of the season. Balfour came on and argued and grunted on the mound and held batter at bay most of the year. His willingness to not back away from heavy hitters made him a valued player in the Bullpen this year.  But the guy who made the entire minor league system tremble this season came up in September, and will not have to even think about the minors in 2009.

 

 

David Price was the Rays first selection in 2006. He had been annointed by many even before stepping on a MLB mound to be a phenom. Price did nothing to set that rumor to expectation down after his stint against the New York Yankees in New York. Price got better and better every time he hit the mound and became a inspiration to the team.

To out this into prospective, the Rays had enough confidence in this rookie in the ALCS to put him on the mound to finish off  Game 7 against the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox. Price performed brilliantly and helped paced the Rays during the playoffs.

The rest of the prospect system got a bit muddled in 2008. Desmond Jennings went down with an injury and saw limited time this season in the minors. Jake McGee went down with an arm injury and had to have Tommy John surgery. But even with these high ceiling guys going down, players like Fernando Perez came out of no where and made you know that the Rays prospect system is alive and well.

 

 

So here is the first of 2 end of the year goal realization blogs.  Goals 6-10 were finalized today and I will write about 1-5 tomorrow. All in all you have to admit that the Rays saw a increase in every aspect of the game in 2008. Every player on the team stepped up in the season and made it magical in their own ways. 

 2009 will be a year of expectations and the either success or failure to improve over 2008. It will be a harder road for the Rays in 2009. People will be gunning for the team and will not be broadsided anymore. That in itself might be the biggest challenge for the team next year. Living up to the expectations of the local fans and media after a darling season.

 

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.

 

 

Ray’s Executive is Tops in the MLB

 

 

Accolades are beginning to flow into the Tampa Bay Rays after their magical season. Tonight, during a dinner at the Major League Baseball General Managers’ meeting, TheTampa Bay Rays GM, Andrew Friedman was selected as The Sporting News Executive of the Year. This is a high honor for the young gun who has assembled a greatly improved ballclub in such a short time.

He started out  the 2008 year by sending disgruntled outfielder Delmon Young, utility star Brendan Harris, and Minor league outfielder, Jason Pridie to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop Jason Bartlett, starter Matt Garza, and minor league reliever Eddie Morlan.

 

                            

 

Jason Bartlett came to the Rays and immediately gave them a veteran and defensive presence at short. He eventually went on to win the local Tampa Bay press award as the teams’ 2008 Most Valuable Player for his defense and leadership to the team.  Matt Garza grew by leaps and bounds this season, both in the public’s eye and in the clubhouse. He began the year with frustrations and an early injury, but in the second half of the season showed that he the stuff to be a top pitcher for many years in the American League.

His improvement accumulated with his Game 7 victory over the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. It was one of his most impressive performances of 2008. Eddie Morlan is currently at the Double-AA Montgomery  working on a variety of new weapons coming out of the Bullen for the Bsicuits.

These players are not the only positives trades or pickups for Frienman in 2008. He traded  MLB-ready reliever Jeff Ridgeway to the Atlanta Braves for utility player Willy Aybar. This trade did not look like a positive until near the end of Spring Training where Aybar showed that his injury had healed and he was motivated and mentally prepared to play daily in the MLB. His output during the early part of the season, and when thrid baseman Evan Longoria went down have been a true asset to the Rays during the season and the playoffs.

Friedman also picked up Eric Hinske off the Free Agent market and made him the Rays rightfielder with power. Hinske, a former Rookie of the Year winner with the Toronto Blue Jays helped provide leadership by example early in the year for the Rays.

 

                           

 

But not lost in the year was the free agent signing of Cliff Floyd as the team’s primary Designated Hitter this year. Floyd came to the Rays having been in the MLB playoffs the last several years with the Chicago Cubs, ansd the New York Mets. Added to that impressive resume was a World Series title with the Florida Marlins in 2003. He brought a calming and leadership role to the young team and took the challenge on head first with players like B J Upton and Evan Longoria.

The trades and the free agents signings in 2008, made the team a better squad by bringing in a catalyst of strong winning personalities and winning attitudes. These changes in the clubhouse mended and bonded the players into a “family” type unit that played as a whole and not as individuals in 2008.

 

 

Not lost in all of this is the fact that Friedman does have a baseball background. People forget he actually attended Tulane University in Louisianna on a baseball scholarship and palyed until and injury to his shoulder led him to more academic adventures.  With the Hot Stove action beginning to simmer for the Tampa Bay Rays, do not be suprised if Friedman doesn’t steal another great player, or work out a free agent signing that will futher propel the Rays in 2009. 

 

 

Game 5.5 Signals the End of the Rays Run

 

 

Phillies 4, Rays 3

 

I was told that J P Howell was taking the loss pretty hard last night after the Philadelphia Phillies ended the 46 hour lay-over of Game 5 of the World Series. I do not know why he is thinking it is the end of all things right now. You have to remember that this years’ team went above every expectation set by the coaches’ and management. they flew beyond any goal or lofty intention of every and any fan, and last, but not least, they made us proud to be Ray Fans.

I did not go out to the Trop last night at 3 a.m., I wanted to cheer and  applaud for the Rays for a job well done. But this is private time. I know as an ex-athlete that you need a little space right after a collossial event to get your feet back on the ground. It has been an emotional rollercoaster for the team the last 3 days. And no matter what the outcome, there was going to be some backlash mentally and emotionally.

Just remember guys, on Saturday at the City of St. Pete celebration, it will all seem to fade away. We have 107 days until we start it all over again, and I can not wait personally. Not for the goals and aspirations of 2009, but because the Rays deserve another shot at the title. If Rocco can come back off the canvas, why can’t we get another shot at the ring and the dream.

 

 

Congrats to the World Champions

Seriously, it was a great World Series from Game 1-5. The Phillies have been hungry for a title for 28 years in baseball. Heck, Pete Rose was playing third base back then for the Fightin’ Phillies. What was so special was to see 40-something Jamie Moyer go out to the pitching mound and take a pole and wedge that pitching rubber out of the clay and take it home.

It was an exciting series. And do I enjoy the end result………well, no, but I do enjoy the fact that it was settled on the field and not in a boardroom or in a conference call. We got to finish the game, and for that we have to thank Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. He wanted to play these games to their conclusions. He did not want a shortened World Series, or a series that would be questioned. He might still be questioned, but I think it was done with the most respect for both teams and was done as fast and as safe as possible.

Game 5 had to be stopped, and the Rays scoring in the top of the 6th inning on Monday gave him ample cause to suspend it and play it under better circumstances. There were an announced crowd of 44,000 on hand Wed. night. That is about 1,000 less than Monday, but those people might have already been on Broad Street preping for a good time by 8:30 that night. We played out the final 2 1/2 innings and the city got to have a dry and cool celebration after all.

 

 

Bullpen Moments

The Rays Bullpen has been a mainstay of this team for so long this season it amazes me that they are taking this loss so personally. If not for the efforts of everyone down there, especially Grant Balfour and J P Howell, we might not have even hit the playoffs at all this season. If you are looking for true MVP’s of this playoff run, you have to consider the entire Bullpen as a whole. They have gone above and beyond themselves all year long, and do not have anything to be ashamed of at all.

Grant Balfour went to the mound in the bottom of the 6th and Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel sent up Geoff Jenkins to pinch-hit for Cole Hamels, who was still the pitcher of record for the Phillies. Jenkins had played with Balfour with the Milwaukee Brewers’ and probably knows his pitching style better than anyone else on the bench.

 

 

On a 2-2 count, Jenkins hit a long fly ball into the right-center gap that hit off the scoreboard just out of the reach of a sprawling Rocco Baldelli. The ball fell to the turf and B J Upton went and retrived the ball to keep Jenkins to a double.  With Jenkins in scoring position, Jimmy Rollins came up and put doen a sacrifice bunt to move Jenkins less than 90 feet from giving the Phillies the lead in the game.

 

           

 

Jayson Werth then came up and hit a shallow looper to the spot between second base and the outfield. Akinora Iwamura went out to try and pull in the ball, but after trying to catch it via a basket-catch, the ball trickled down from his glove to the turf and Jenkins scored to give the Phillies the lead 3-2. That was the end of the night for Balfour, who went 1.1 innings total in the game, but went 1/3 of an inning tonight, giving up 2-hits and a lone run.

 

 

J P Howell then came on to face Chase Utley and got him to strikeout on 3 pitches. Ryan Howard then came to bat and hit a fly ball to Evan Longoria at third for the final out of the 6th inning. In the 7th inning, Pat Burrell came up to start the 7th inning and was hit-less in this years’ World Series. He was currently 0-13, when he hit hanging curveball into the left-center section of the outfield and clipped the high wall to settle for a double.

Burrell was immediately replaced by pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett at second base. That ended the night for Howell as he went 2/3rds of an inning throwing 7 pitches and giving up 1-hit and 1-run for the Rays. Chad Bradford came on and quickly got Shane Victorino to ground out to Iwamura at second base.  This moved Bruntlett to third with 1-out in the inning. Pedro Feliz then hit a ball up the middle for a RBI single and the Phillies were up 4-3 at that time.

Bradford got Carlos Ruiz to hit into a 4-6 force out at second, with Ruiz on first on a fielder’s choice. Iwamura made an amazing play behind second base to get the force out on Feliz. Phillies reliever J C Romero the came up and hit a ball to Iwamura that he flipped to Bartlett at second base for another force out to end the inning.

David Price then came on in the 8th inning and got a quick fly out from Rollins and a strikeout of Werth. He then gave up a walk to Utley before getting Howard to strikeout to end the inning for the Phillies.

 

 

Rocco Baldelli’s Blast

In the 7th inning, with Ryan Madson on the mound for the Phillies, Dioner Navarro struck out to lead off the inning. Then rocco Baldelli came up and on the first pitch took Madson deep to leftfield on a line drive homer to tie the game at 4-all. The Blast was just the first homer of the World Series for Baldelli, but it put life back into the Rays’ hopes for a Game 6 at Tropicana Field on Thursday night.

 

        

 

Jason Bartlett’s Gamble

You have to be pleased with the effort of Jason Bartlett at shortstop for the Rays this season. He has brought a solid defense and a secure bat to the lineup that the Rays have never had at the position. In the top of the 7th inning tonight, Bartlett hit a single to leftfield to try to keep the rally going after Baldelli’s homer.

J P Howell came up and batted in the inning for the Rays. This was an unsusual play as Rays Manager Joe Maddon could have used a pich hitter to hit for Howell since he had David Price and Chad Bradford warmed up in the Bullpen. But Maddon let Howell take his whacks at the plate for the Rays. Howell put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Bartlett to second and into scoring position for the Rays.

Iwamura then came up and hit a  infield single to  shallow centerfield and Bartlett was rounding third when Utley faked the throw to first and threw to home to get the streaking Bartlett by less than a foot at the plate. Bartlett was tagged out as he was stretching his hand for the plate and it ended the 7th inning for the Rays. It was a gutsy play by the Rays shortstop, and one that almost made a huge difference in the contest.

You have to credit Utley for seeing Bartlett taking a wide turn at third and streaking for home. If Utley has held onto the ball a split second longer, Bartlett would have scored and tied tha game at 4-all for the Rays. So if you have to find a defining moment in this game……..this was the series clincher fo the Phillies…. at the plate.

The Rays did try amd mount another rally in the 8th inning after Carl crawford lead-off with a single to centerfield. B J Upton hit a ball to short that Rollins turned into a 6-4-3 double play to remove the Rays threat in the inning. Pena then hit a weak fly ball to left to end the inning for the Rays.

In the 9th, Evan Longoria lead off the inning by hitting a fly out to second base. Navarro then hit a shattered bat single to right that fell in front of a hard charging Werth. Maddon then sent in Fernando Perez as a pinch-runner for Navarro. With pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist at the plate for the Rays, Perez stole second base on the third pitch to Zobrist and put a runner in scoring position for the Rays.

 

 

Zobrist then hit a shot to right that was caught by Werth for the 2nd out of the inning. With 1-out left in the Rays season, Maddon sent up Eric Hinske to pinch-hit for Bartlett. Hinske went down on three pitches to give the Phillies their first championship since 1980 in the majors.

 

 

Welcome Home  Rays

The Rays were scheduled to be flying into St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport at 3 am on Thursday. The team did not have a planned greeting at the airport and the team was to quickly get on their coaches’ for the trip to the Trop. Several people were at the airport waiting for the team, but they did not come through the baggage area and loaded straight from the plane on the tarmac.

 

 

The Rays then trekked from the airport to the back enterance at the Trop. There they were greeted by a few dozen fans who stood out in the cold to cheer for the hometown Rays. Several members of the team did come out and salute the crowd before heading into the Trop to pack and have some private time with team mates and family.

 

 

I will be getting the information on the City of St. Petersburg celebration sometime today or tomorrow. Stay tuned to your favorite Rays blog and I will be sure to pass on all the info I get as soon as I recieve it. Again, remember that this team exceeded all expectations of it during the season and should be roundly applauded for their hustle and determination to even get into the playoffs this season.

The Saturday event will be to celebrate not only the team;s efforts, but the increased support and bonding of the Tampa Bay area this season behind the Rays “Magical Summer Tour 2008″. The region has grown from just a spotty support group for the team, to an increasing fan base throughout the country and the world. The Rays are no longer the loveable losers of yesteryear. We now have tasted the fruits of winning, and it is sweet to our mouths, and we yearn for more……….

 

             Pitchers’ and Catchers’ Report in 107 DAYS.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

World Series Tidbits……….The Tuesday Edition

 

          Tji_trophysnapshot_420

 

The biggest prize in baseball made a visit to City Hall in St. Petersburg, Florida today so that local fans can see and experience the sight of the Commissioner’s Trophy live and in person.  The beautiful piece designed by Tiffaby & Company, went on display at 11 a.m. today for picture and posing from a short distance.

The only person who has touched the Trophy since it arrived was a DHL employee and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker as they put ot on the podium today for the fans. It will only be on display today, but will probably make an appearance tonight at the Vinoy hotel as  Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig will hold a World Series party near the pool deck tonight for MLB officials and local dignitaries.

When you first look at the trophy you are taken aback a bit by the sheer beauty of the member teams flags on the spool of gold plated flagpoles around the structure. Then you just dream of hoisting it up yourself and parading it around the Trop like a champagne bottle and taking in all the history around it.

 I was lucky enough to see the Stanley Cup trophy after the Tampa Bay Lightning won it several years ago at a fundraiser this season. Just the thought of the stories that Cup could tell if it had a voice would have been worth a lifetime to me.  And this trophy has just as many memories and stories. Hopefully someday someone will try and toss all those mystical tales together and issue a premiere coffee table book about the life of the award.  Hmmmmm, I do have some free time on my hands?

 

 

I just got a text that the Rays World Series roster will probably stay the same except for 2 changes that are a being thrown up in the air right now. The Rays will stay with their infield and starter combos’ from the ALCS, but might insert Rays catcher Shawn Riggans into the 25-man roster.

Riggans is healed from a Bursa Sac incident where an infection took him out of the Rays plans for a bit near the end of the season. He has now healed, and if his jumping during the celebration is any indication, he is feeling fine enough to pop down behind the plate for the Rays.

Another decision being tossed around is the switching of outfielder Gabe Gross for Eric Hinske. Gross is a great defensive player for the Rays, but has hit a patch of unusual doubt and bad timing at the plate.

His defense is superior to Hinske’s, but Hinske does have magic in his bat this year for the Rays. Eric has also not been on the last 2 rosters for the Rays and might be due for a big series with the extra time to get into sync at the plate. I expect Hinske to get the nod more for the offensive power he can bring to the plate. We can always use Ben Zobrist or Fernando Perez in the late innings as a defensive replacement for Hinske.

 

 

The Rays are also doing some soul searching as to how to assign their starting rotation for the World Series. Do you start with Scott Kazmir, the longest running member of the rotation against Cole Hamels, or do you put James Shields up front with a possible Game 5 slate to start in the future in the series. Also in consideration is the way you are going to use number 4. Andy Sonnanstine.

Do you start Andy in Game1 and give the Philadelphia Phillies a  one-time look at Sonnanstine, then put him in the Bullpen as a long reliever from that point on in the series. Or do you adjust the series with Kazmir starting Game 2 so the Bullpen can be totally at the mercy of the game, with an off day for travel on Friday.

Decision, decision, decisons……..I would put the rotation as, Kazmir, Shields, Garza Sonnanstine, then  repeat the big 3 again until the 7th game if needed. But then again, I do not have the flowcharts and the graphs Rays Manager Joe Maddon has at his disposal for analysis.

 

 

Congradulations to Chris Westmoreland and the entire Clubhouse crew for again getting the Rays into another round of the 2008 Playoffs. The locker room scenes are incredible with the shower curtains and the protective gear keeping the lockers and the floors dry and without a huge amount of alcohol absorption. 

I am just wondering if Westy has thought of auctioning off any of those partitions after the Playoffs for the Rays Foundation, or might be willing to part with a section for a personal collection. I know I would bid for one of those great curtains with the Rays logo and the blue background. Not for my shower, but might make a great window treatment or background on a wall in the Rays collection in my spare room………….Call me Westy, you have my card. 

 

I am putting off my predictions and my profile on the series until tonight or tomorrow to get some more data and to think about this series for a bit. I am a bit perplexed by the Las Vegas odds-makers who have the Rays as the victor on the series, but the payout are a bit odd. Coming into the first game on Wed., the betting line is sitting so tha you would have to bet about $ 1.35 to win a $1 dollar on the Rays winning right now.

Considering the Rays were 200-to-1 odds of reaching the World Series in April, you might be thinking that the Vegas gamblers are trying to get some of their change back after taking bets on the Rays in April and noe haivng to break the bank to payout on the wager. I know I comtemplated putting some big money on the Rays in April, but decided we were a year away from anything big……… That is why I live in Clearwater and not in a house on Snell Isle or on the beaches’. I am not lucky when  it come to financial decisions, and I hate the Hard Rock, but they love my money.  lol

 

 

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