Results tagged ‘ Florida Marlins ’

Further Downward Spiral of the Marlins

I am not sure if it is politically correct yet to call them the “Miami Marlins” or do we still have to introduce them as the Florida Marlins until April? No matter which name is appropriate for the moment, the air in South Florida is becoming a bit foul recently, especially since the leaking of the Marlins newly proposed uniform and logo designs. They look and smell more like a forgotten pail of fish than the christening of a new Marlins era.

I commend the franchise for their want to change their public image and bare footprint in the Miami as the club nears their new stadium unveiling ceremony this April. Some would warrant the passing of the famed fish logo into the deep Atlantic abyss.

This redesign, the team’s transition from the famed Fish has so far gone from a fresh and vibrant transformation into something more mundane and muddled. It has begun to smell more like a forgotten and rotting Marlins carcasse. Why would the Marlins ownership and front office leave the pleasantries of the comforting Florida pastels and color palette and dive deep into this proposed logo and uniform monstrosity.

Bits and pieces of the Marlins intended 2012 changes to the franchise’s “look” and “feel” have leaked out into the cooling Florida air. Some have been greeted with consumer disdain and utter confusion on why the team took a 180 degree turn and sprint from their original aquamarine and grey undertones which typically were more “Miami” in concept than their present proposed Marlins re-creation.

The Marlins surely decided with great excitement and anticipation that their upcoming name change which would facilitate them dropping the “Florida” moniker and embrace their “Miami” community would become an enormous merchandising opportunity. But in my opinion the team went from heroes to zeros in nanoseconds when they lost their touch with their locale’s vibrant color scheme.

I know the Merchandising arm of the Marlins wanted to capitalize on their budding new look and surge forward in the MLB merchandising ranks just like the Tampa Bay Rays franchise experienced when they redesigned their uniform and logo back in November 2007. Possibly the huge success in merchandising sales combined with the Rays vibrant new logo and club colors warranted the Marlins wanting to ride this same merchandising and imagery wave.

This new Marlins concept is right up there with the Chicago White Sox old shorts and radically modernistic logo back in the 1980’s. Both quickly found themselves in the collectible piles, never to see the light of day again on a MLB field.

This new color scheme seems to solidly embrace more the hues experienced during those dreaded January-February Florida cold spells that try to yearly ruin our early Spring citrus/strawberry harvests. The Marlins uniforms remind me of color combinations from their “home” uniform which has the complexion of an orange on the tree as soot slightly covers the citrus and their “away” jersey reminds me of the accompanying blackening clouds that hang close to the crops perpetuated by the hundreds of smut pots littering Florida groves.

This uniform color combination looks great upon the Baltimore Orioles players because of their storied bird’s own color palette, but this color doesn’t seem to embrace or celebrate the magic that is the highly Hispanic region of South Florida.

The scaling back of the team cap logo into a more futuristic “M” doesn’t do this highly vibrant region any pure justice. It is just doesn’t convey the Florida region with any clarity or gusto. The design needs more Mojito and less dismal. Why in the name of Bud Selig did the club have to go and look more like the San Francisco Giants than the “Fun in the warm Florida Sun” Marlins?

I embraced the initial prototype Marlins logo when it was first introduced. It seemed to fully comprehend the Miami vibe with it’s art deco style lettering and that majestic Marlin making its jump along side the classic “F”. The new cap design doesn’t speak to the Florida mystic like the first version. It is a pity a franchise that has celebrated 2 World Championships has to feel this kind of ridicule or embarrassment, but it is definitely warranted.

I understand change has to happen and the Marlins uniform and logo will change with their surrounding environment, but how in the heck did this color pattern realistically emerge as a possible alternative? I just want to know if Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen is re-thinking his invlovement with the club not wanting to look like a Grim Reaper or the Great Pumpkin in the dugout. I can’t wait to hear Ozzie speak on this topic.

From Little Havana to Coconut Grove you know the Marlins faithful will feel the urge to revolt, throw their opinions skyward hoping someone in the Marlin’s lofty tower will heed their concerns. Calling this design hideous is too lean a word. The Marlins hopefully have a back-up plan, a proposal that might unite and reconnect their community with the team. If not, the Marlins franchise might not see their vision of an increase in attendance or a resurgence in merchandising come to fruition in 2012.

The Marlins have to own up to their error now or face the possibility of a further disconnection with the South Florida communities that make up the Marlin’s fan pool. This is not to suggest the team needs to go over-the-top in their color analysis, but the present compilation will make an immediate disassociation between the ball club and their community.

I wish the Marlins fans luck. If this uniform change stays on track, you are going to need more than your I-pod earplugs to mute the laughs being heard in the stands around the National League. Possibly the worst MLB uniforms ever imagined. There is still time to tweak and change the prototypes, but that window is quickly closing. Maybe they are changing their name to the Miami Mundanes….It would fit the uniform changes.

Rays Casting a Keen Eye on Marlins Ballpark

Ever since the Florida Marlins proudly announced their plans to build and relocate the team into the heart of the Miami metro area, you know the Tampa Bay Rays have been a bit envious of their Citrus Series rival.

 It has not been an easy road for the Marlins, but in the end it will be a prized locale and a stadium worthy of the lofty investment. With their new abode also comes a name change to the Miami Marlins, finally bringing their community name to the front of the Marlins jerseys.

 Already their have been rave reviews on the shell configuration of the complex, and even a recent  Marlins batting practice “ showcase” in which more than a few pitches thundered off the bat into the current vacant spaces in deep Centerfield. The retractable roof would save the suspect of rain-outs, which had happened 191 times since the team first took the field 16 mile north.

 Now the Marlins could open or close the roof at will, forever banishing the elements to the exterior.

 You know the Rays are really jealous of the fact the Marlins got their financing and approval intact before the economic downfall that might thrust the Rays into more privately invested waters instead of tapping the public side of the equation.

 With the Marlins Ballpark’s current operations running on budget and on-time for the 2012 completion mark, the Rays still sit in total limbo in their own stadium dreams.

 As if the Rays needed to be strung anymore by the Marlin’s success, people within the “Marlins inner circle” have been “ unofficially” whispering enthusiastically around the community that Marlins Ballpark will host the New York Yankees in the team’s last 2012 Spring Training contest as a rehearsal for their April 4th M L B home opener against their Spring Training roommates in Jupiter, Florida, the St. Louis Cardinals.

 I still think one of the surface smart decisions of this stadium configuration has been the future Marlins cutting back their official capacity to 37,000 which will make the stadium capable of possibly dishing out a few sell-out contests in 2012….a rarity in South Florida right now.

 The reduced capacity does come with a glaring possibly Catch-22 situation that their stadium will have the smallest actual capacity within Major League Baseball. That could dampen and drown possible chances for the Marlins getting overall M L B approval for such events as the 2015 All-Star game.

 This mid-season celebration is a coveted prize, but one that could slip through the Marlins fins as a result of a reduced chance for M L B  to cash in totally on a huge crowd. If the Marlins do get their All-Star game, it solidifies the Rays also wanting to have a possible reduced seating capacity facility. If the Marlins are trumped, it will show the Rays that possibly a 40,000 seat stadium in a must to get such events.

 As the stadium has risen on the Miami horizon, there has always been doubt or speculation that the Marlins could bring the masses into their new home. The inclusion of a Metro rail line and increased public transit will also be closely watched by the Rays. It has been envisioned by so many in the past that the Rays future stadium and their success might also hinge on transit and the ability to bring people to the ballpark without huge traffic concerns.

 The Rays organization has to be monitoring this Marlins Ballpark  transformation with eager hearts and minds. So many of the same unforeseen variables the Marlins face, the Rays currently share the same anxiety and stumbling blocks. Odd that once again as in the initial M L B expansion into the fertile Florida market the Marlins will be the first to dive in and see what floats.

 The Rays front office has to be frustrated and perplexed that their own community could not harness the same lighting bolt energy that got the Marlins their dream stadium. Political unrest, posturing on both sides of the Tampa Bay estuary has brought rough waters even to beginning honest discussion and proposals.  As public funds are being drained like the Florida aquifer, the chances of a highly public funded stadium are sinking into the quicksand.

 Suddenly it seems the Rays stadium situation might be on the agenda soon within the closed confines of the M L B ownership. M L B Commissioner Bud Selig has postured in the past, even during a reception under the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field that the Rays need a better facility, but the Commissioner’s voice went silent to  many movers and shakers within the community Soon the words will end and some harsh realities will resurface for all to see and judge. Time has past for this Rays stadium chatter to begin, the Florida sands of time ate quickly falling from the top of the hourglass.

 I plan on buying a ticket for the Marlins home opener. I might not attend it, but it is a valuable piece of Florida baseball history. If the Tampa Bay community leaders do not quickly put their community pride and judgment in check, it might be the last M L B stadium built in Florida for a long, long time. Most people forget, baseball is a business and when the book begin to show more red than black…changes happen quickly…..even in the slow moving South.

 

 

With Possible M L B Realignment on the Horizon…..Some Renegade Thoughts

There has been more than a few whispers and discussion lately about the possibility of forming a “mega- payroll” division staking the big money payroll of mega competitors’ Boston and New York and maybe infuse them with 3 other high threshold salary ceiling squads to form a prestigious “diamond” division.

Sure putting the high dollar darlings in a central division will make it more difficult for them to realistically step over the carcasses of low payroll squads, or teams that rely on their farm systems instead of the Free Agent market. But that also opens a second concern. Could such a maneuver bring about a reversal of the recent parity within the M L B and again pay homage to the league’s “elite”.

We all know that within the upcoming MLB/MLBPA Labor Pow Wow there will be chatter about expanding the post season, but there will be more heated discussion about a more balanced schedule and a possible realignment of the whole enchilada.

Football fans were enraged and bewildered the N F L decided to conjure up another division situated almost exclusively within the Southeastern region of the country. From the moment this region was considered for realignment, people began to refer to it as the “NASCAR Division“.

Some might think with my high Southern posturing I might take offense to this connotation, but I really do not have a problem with it at all. Even though that statement was further stereotyping this region, NASCAR is a symbol of the South.

So it was a bit of a backhanded compliment to Southerner’s like myself. And, yes, I have been known to attend the Daytona or even Talladega NASCAR races, and I do glance at the television sometimes on Sunday to glance at the boys going around with constant left turns.

The formation of this Southeastern division helped the NFL get closer to a level of league-wide parity, which baseball will need to comprehend and address if it expects every M L B team to flourish and grow fiscally as well as physically. This action by another of America’s premier sports might be the successful course of action if MLB brass do not want to see a revolving door of top money payroll teams sprinting towards the Playoffs finish line every October in the near future.

Sure there have been odd twist of fate in the last few years, including the match-up of the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants making it to the World Series after eliminating 2 of those payroll bastions (Philly/NY) . The usual M L B pattern has been that spent dollars have bought more Championships instead of heart, homegrown talent and determination.

Maybe a fourth division in the American or National League would seem to throw the whole globe off its axis and we go wobbling through our orbits tumbling like a deflated ball among the Milk Way. I think we have already started that dizzying journey and have not recognized it yet.

So what did I have in mind to maybe change this?

First off, I would like to introduce the idea of taking one team from every division in both the AL and NL, excluding the AL West, which is already lopsided with 4 teams. You might ask why I would want to dissect a team from each division? To be completely honest, it would then make most of the other divisions a four-team division, with the NL Central lowered to five teams.

You had to already gandered that I would like the Tampa Bay Rays to be included in this new division, and with this new collection in the AL, we hold on tightly to the Designated Hitter rule. The Rays are prefect for this new division because the new division will be rooted in the SE, and only the new abode to open in 2012 in Miami,Florida is further South than St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Rays are already well versed in the ways and means of being a small market team, this division’s formulation can effectively give them the payroll flexibility of knowing that they will not have to adjust and implode their own cash box every year to keep up with the Epstein’s and Cashman’s upgrades via the money pot to survive.

The second team in this division would come out of the National League East and could instantly establish a great Southern rivalry like the annual Florida-Georgia Football game in Jacksonville. I would enjoy seeing the famous Atlanta Brave’s Tomahawk Chop going on right next to the deafening sound of the Rays Republic’s Cowbells.

This expected rivalry could replace some of the expected lost revenues of Boston or New York based on previous sell out crowds during the last time these 2 teams faced off in InterLeague at Tropicana Field. Flights are affordable between the 2 cities, and could muster up a second caravan of road trips for Rays fans to see away games. The Braveswould be the perfect new nemesis of the Rays.

You might question why I did not take the Florida (Miami) Marlins place them in this division instead of Atlanta. I consider the Fish to be perfect InterLeague foes for the Rays, and did not want to split up a AL and NL presence in the state of Florida. I think this state is better for a presence in both the A L and N L , and want to preserve that Citrus Series relationship as it is right now.

Third squad to be added would come out of the AL Central. I did not have to take long to think about this because it came to me the moment I looked at the division. The Kansas City Royals would be my choice based on the simple fact they are a small market squad and would benefit extremely by being in the same division as the Rays.

The relationship between these two AL teams is already formed, and the cities are close enough within the geographical region of the Southern part of the country to make same day flights and televised games a viable options for both teams.

Fourth team to be added would come out of the NL Central division and take their division down to four teams. I thought long and hard as to if I wanted to realign the entire MLB a bit, or just select this one team and end the debate fast and furious on which Texas teams would get an invite to the NASCAR division.

I thought the team that would get the most out of the move would be the Houston Astros. Not only would they be able to convert to the D H system easily, they have the talent in-house already to pop a great DH in the line-up as early as 2012.

I think that the teams on this division “wish list” have great stadiums with a awesome home team presence, and would be totally conducive to building a rivalry and expanding their team concepts without minimal changes.

Realignment is on the horizon. It will be talked, debated, then instituted. This is just my idea of what could effectively comprise a movement towards giving the high dollar and low budget teams a breather and a chance to compete yearly in the post season.

I like the concept and potential of this NASCAR division. It will have great speed, solid defense and a ton of raw young talent circulating throughout the years. Several of the teams that would comprise this division have been hotbeds of minor league talent. That new talent would bring excitement along with value to these teams.

It is a division I not only would pay money to see at Tropicana Field, but would definitely travel to other cities to see play against our Rays. In turn, that would help these small market teams keep their coffers filled to pay their young players to stay with their teams past their arbitration years….It is a “win-win” proposition.

Is Las Vegas Sniffing Around the Tampa Bay Rays?

 

 

 

 

After a  oustanding season like 2008, cities like Las Vegas, who have hungered for a baseball team going on 15 years still have the taste for the game. With Major League Baseball heading to Las Vegas for their  2008 Winter Meetings this weekend and next week, it is not wonder that Las Vegas will roll out the red carpet for the baseball elite and  will again troll the hallways and side passages hoping to talk to ballclubs secretly fighting for stadiums and more  revenues to keep up with the Steinbrenners’ of the world.

 

Stu Sternberg, the Rays principal owner, has stated time and time again that 2008 will be a barometer as to what the fan base pulse of the Tampa Bay area. Would Stu and crew maybe be looking for a way out of town? or maybe could be seduced by the Sin City charm and the aspect of over 39 million travelers to the fair city. Or could a FREE stadium built for his pleasure and  his team’s future financial well-being be beyond just a nibble or taste of future goodness.

 

 

                                                                            

 

We will not know the answer to these questions anytime  in the near future, but with the Rays’ executive team heading to Las Vegas and the Bellagio resort for a week of meetings and backroom trade banter, you can be sure Las Vegas Mayor  Oscar Goodman will be close in hand with a towel, drink or even a ticket to an exclusive show to chat, converse or even entice any team’s officials about  baseball some day coming to the desert.

 

The mayor of Las Vegas sure seems to know a lot about the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. He knows about their young pitching and the offense that can tack on runs like rain when the floodgates let loose, but he also know the payroll limits set by the limited local support of the Tampa Bay community.  He knows that the team has an outstanding infield, where opponents’ line drives and ground balls go to die.  He even think they might have a  future dynasty of sorts if the payroll can equal the win totals of last season ( $97 million would make a great roster even better).

 

                           

 

 

But will the dynasty be forged in  St. Petersburg, or maybe somewhere westerdly beyond the hustle and bustle of Tampa Bay? As MLB offcials and team management head to Vegas for their annula Winter Meetings,  Goodman plans to be there with showgirls on each arm, pressureing baseball’s  high and mighty to listen to his sales pitch.

 

Much like that guy who sold your parents’ that time-share years and years ago, Goodman is great with a small group, but even better when he holds the right cards. And the team that has him salavating is our Rays.  Most people would think that Las Vegas is not far along in the process of even imagining a franchise in their town. If you believe that, please do not play poker with the man. He is alot farther along than even you and me think he is in trying to secure a team for his neon community.

And he’s not the only one eyeing the Rays.

 

                                                  

 

 

Oscar Goodman would probably have a hard time getting elected to the St. Petersburg City Council. Take St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker and times him by 5 and you will get the intensity of this guy. He is a maverick at making a deal, and he has a mission to secure an MLB, NHL, NBA and maybe even a NFL team before he leaves office in 2011. It would be a legend as big as Bugsy Segal if he could pull off that miracle for the town that money built.

 

 

In Nevada, the 69-year-old Goodman may wind up governor. That would put him in position to even pester the MLB brass for years and years until either thry buckle or a team sashshays toward the neon lights and big times. The third-term mayor is a  former high profile lawyer for the mob, once suggested  to the town’s folks that people caught spraypainting graffiti  should lose a thumb on public television. That would take the old western standard of hangings and discipline in the town square to new meaning in the 21st Century

 

 

In 2004, when Las Vegas was  being considered as a  possible future home for the Florida Marlins, Goodman showed up at baseball’s winter meetings with two showgirls and an Elvis impersonator seeking the attention and the votes of the onwership groups of the league.

 

Most of the the baseball owners ran away from him, but then friend and former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda came over, hugged Goodman and said hello to the girls. Next came  current Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Then former Cincinnati Red Tony Perez, an executive with the Marlins.

 

 

Past the glitz and the off-color comments, Goodman is serious about his quest for a major league franchise. Las Vegas is one of the 10 fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country, with its population increasing almost 30 percent between 2000 and 2006. It’s within driving distance of San Diego, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Has a diverse demographic that probably has a minority of Red Sox and Yankee fans to fill the stadium on game days.

 

And, perhaps most importantly, it saw 39-million visitors in 2007. But will people go to Vegas to do their usual ventures and also come out to a baseball game. Why not, you can not gamble 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, you will need down time. And baseball could be the perfect answer to the stress and pressure of Las Vagas from April to October every year.

 

Movement already is happening. The sports research division of Pricewaterhouse Coopers says it is studying the Las Vegas market for an unnamed client. And while Major League Baseball asked Goodman to stop talking to the  Florida Marlins about relocation after ecent stadium set-backs and high budget restraints, baseball executives recognize Las Vegas’ potential.

 

 

               

 

One high ranking MLB executive called Las Vegas “one of the most attractive markets in the U.S. for a pro sports franchise,” and said it was a serious candidate to attract the Montreal Expos when they were moving. As you might remember, the Expos former owner bought the Marlins, while his old team became the basis for the Washington Nationals. So Vegas as an eye and an ear tuck deep into the sand listeningh to everything going on in baseball.

 

 

          

 

Building a stadium would not be an issue, Goodman says. Neither would a public vote, which would not be required. And you know that they could have the ultimate in in-game entertainment with the local flair for the over-done and the obscene, but tasteful local traditions.  A retractable roof or even a full-time roof because of the high heat could be contructed and manitained with ease in the town that is Las Vegas.

 

 

 

And on sports betting, a sticky issue for professional sports, a compromise likely could be reached that would prevent gamblers from betting on Las Vegas home games, Goodman said. Goodman would not specifically talk about the Rays — he doesn’t want to be used as leverage for the stadium pursuit in St. Petersburg, nor does he want to upset big league executives.

 

But with the current stadium concept now in a grass-roots, fact finding mode, the team might be willing to wait out their results, but what if the findings come out to be negative and non-responsive to the St. Petersburg, or even Tampa Bay area fan base. So could the future be pointing towards the neon and glitter of Sin City, or the breezes and palm trees of Tampa Bay?

 

                      

 

 

But from afar, Goodman has noticed the thousands of empty seats at Tropicana Field during the past season. He wants to nail down a baseball, basketball or hockey franchise before he leaves office in 2011. Rays officals have called the next few years critical to the team’s foundation, but could that just be wordspeak to a possible move or even re-evaluation of baseball on the West Coast of Florida? 

 

 

The Rays still hope to build a new ballpark in the Tampa Bay area, and likely are prepared to continue pressing local officials for public funding. That back-and-forth could take years. At the same time, while Las Vegas might be motivated to attract a team, the citiy is far from a panacea for Major League Baseball. Both come with questions as a market. Just like Tampa Bay.

 

 

The Rays themselves dismiss any talk of relocation. Sterberg has also gone on record  that the Rays are singularly focused on making baseball work in the Tampa Bay area. In any event, the move would not be as easy as the Colts midnight move from Baltimore to Indianapolis. The Rays have a tight and iron-clad lease to play in Tropicana Field through the 2027 season.

 

At a minimum, the Rays would be forced to pay off the outstanding debt on Tropicana Field if it left town before 2016, which now stands at $80-million. The debt total drops to $47-million in 2012 and $24.6-million in 2014. And besides that, fans based lawsuits and anyone with a contract with the team could step up and get a local judge to rule on the team staying in the area.

 

 

 

But it’s not out of the question the Rays could leave if a new ballpark isn’t eventually built, said Rob Canton, director of the sports, convention and tourism division of researcher Pricewater­houseCoopers. “The long-term viability of the Rays is in question if there isn’t a new ballpark,” Canton said.

 

Las Vegas could offer to build the Rays a stadium for free. And the Rays could then use the $150-million they would have contributed to a ballpark in St. Petersburg to negotiate their way out of the city’s lease. The moves are highly speculative, but it’s not impossible.

 

In the end, maybe posturing by Las Vegas is what it takes to get a new ballpark built in the Tampa Bay area. Like the leverage St. Petersburg created for the Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants. Tampa Bay also made people take up and notice in Seattle and Oakland, where the community had to take measures to keep their franchsies.

 

Seattle quickly approved a stadium plan for what is now Safeco Field. That moved turned the Mariners’ facility into one of the best ballparks in the country and scrapped the out-of-date domed Kingdome. Tampa Bay’s first baseball group had a signed contract with the old Oakland A’s ownership group, Levi’s Strauss, and MLB stepped in and found local ownership that could support and control the team before the Tampa Bay group could even move a muscle.

 

 

So there are alot of possible senarios and endeavors to take place beofre any true discussion can enter about relocation, or even removing the Rays from Florida. The stadium committee might have a major say in the future of the team.  They are currently seeking and looking for area to locate the proposed stadium, financial considerations, and the  most feasible way for transportation and the fan base to enjoy baseball for centruies in Tampa Bay. If all the work and the issues point to a dead end, then you never know yet about the eams’ true future here in Tampa Bay.

 

Or maybe it means the team find its new ballpark — 2,500 miles away.

 

I would not want to bet on this one, but for now……………I am going to let it all ride baby!!

 

 

Rays Tidbits and Views for 2008

 

I used to cover a lot of sports in this area for a afternoon paper that ceased publication in the late 80’s. I also have played both in high school and college baseball for many years. It is with great local pride that I have followed my hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays since their inception. I was lucky enough to be one of the first group of local people to put down an initial $ 20.00 as a deposit for Season Tickets.



In this vein, I feel I have ample experience to comment on the sport and my team. The Tampa Bay Rays recently began their second decade with an transformed logo, and an eager emphasis on a new outdoor stadium proposal(which I support, and will get deeper into in another blog).

 


Their is an air of positive energy starting with coaching staff, and spreading to the first-time Spring Training rookies. I have been out to the complex a few times in the last week, and have seen a more relaxed group with an intense attitude to succeed this year. Everyone seems to have a confident stride, and a renewed vigor and vitality this year. Prior Spring Training squads did not displayed this trait. We have players talking about positive moves within the organization, critical steps and moves that will set the stage for success this season.  Off-season moves that were viewed as ” filling the holes” on the roster, and bold statements of a new clubhouse leader-in-training.

 


The new Rays logo has been viewed as a reconstruction of a franchise, a signal and symbol  that this franchise wants to go upward this year and remain in that sphere for a long time.

 

Gone is the playful swimming “Ray” on the uniforms, to will still be included this tear as a sleeve patch, but  might not survive after this year. Gone is his likeness on the caps, and in the main uniform design.  You have to know where you have been to understand where you are going. A common misconception or oversight  is the fact that the “Devil” has been removed from the uniforms for about 4 years.

 

 

In 2004, the vest jersey sported the simple word, “Rays” blazoned over the chest with our friendly “Ray” character confined to the green undershirt sleeve. Not since the 2004, has the word “Devilray” adorned a uniform for this team. the original 1970-disco induced  acid-trip jerseys did have the word “Devilrays” adorning the rainbow hued uniforms.

 

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I will hit a real fast misconception on the proposed stadium plans. The big negative voiced by  this plan has been that the proposed stadium and monies from the selling of the current stadium’s property would better suit the city’s budget cutbacks and be used to retain and train new law enforcement and firefighters. I understand that this might be seen as the “city’s” money to be distributed in any manner it sees fit, but the tax situation concerning the stadium,  and its property is under the city Parks and Recreation Department, and its monetary windfalls  can not be used for capital or central city government improvements.


If any money is made from this sale,or lease of the property, it can only be used in certain areas, like the Pier, Mahaffey Theatre, or any park renewals and upgrades. The tax situation in the current stadiums’ future redevelopment/sale can not help the general budget demise that the city will feel in the near distant future.

 

 

I actually see the idea of the Rays giving $ 150 million upfront, instead of 10 years of rent payments, as a general promise by the ownership group to see this proposal and construction succeeds from day one.

 


There will be a few surprises this Spring that you had better be ready for here.


We currently have a top three pitching rotation that is  all under 27 years of age, and under team control for at least 3 or more years. The trio of Scott Kazmir (last years’ AL K leader), James Shields( getting better and better every outing in 2007), and newly acquired Ray, Matt Garza ( former Twins first rounder ), will be the envy of ownership groups around the league.


Even the guys fighting for positions, like Edwin Jackson, Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot. David Price and host of minor league All-Stars, will make this the most competitive and hotly contested  rotation slot battle in our  short history.



Never before in our franchise, have we had three slots filled by reporting date. David Price( LHP), out top pick from Vanderbuilt tossed his first 33 pitches in the live batting practice today. Pitching coach Jim Hickey did not show too much excitement about it, but I saw them sitting there talking the entire time. And I do not think they were discussing tee times. Coach Joe Madden said earlier in the week that he felt we could see Price sometime this year up with the big club. I agree with him in what I saw today, but it is only his first time out with the big boys, and a few months at Triple-A might actually prime him better for the future call-up.

 

My opinion is, that if Edwin Jackson does not win a starting rotation slot, he will be dealt to Seattle. The Mariners’ have been high on him for the entire off season, and with no minor league options left, might fetch something instead of a possible loss on the waiver wire. Now, I love watching Edwin “Action” Jackson pitch, I even have one of his Game-worn jerseys in my collection. So, to see him leave would not be good for my soul. In the second half of the season, I think that Edwin transformed his pitching style and saw positive steps to grow on this year.

 


Newly signed Outfielder Cliff Floyd told a local reporter the other day that he has not been in this great of shape and not hurting since his time with the Florida Marlins. By the way, that is where Cliff earned his World Series ring.

 


Troy Percival is already getting the clubhouse rolling. Ask any of the Clubbies about his water cooler next to his locker. Success has its rewards. It is actually a prank played by the Clubhouse staff when he yelled about water the first day. Welcome to the Rays, Troy, buckle up. it is going to be a wild ride this year.

 

The St. Petersburg Times also had a recent article where they asked All-Star LF Carl Crawford about the Delmon Young Elijah Dukes trades and situations. Carl commented, and the world took it wrong, that Delmon and Elijah were distractions and problems for the team last year. Carl is growing daily into the team clubhouse leader by example.


Carl is a pretty quiet guy. Those who have met him, know he is reserved guy, who has the passion of a warrior. In the past, I think he could have stepped up and been more of a force in the clubhouse, but probably did not feel it was his job to be “the Man” for people to look towards for inspiration or mire words. Carl reported in the best shape of his career to the complex, which going to mean trouble for the every AL pitching staff.


He built a gym and installed a pitching machine in his home in Arizona to get pumped and primed before the reporting date. Dedication like that will make him “the Man” this year. I think that second All Star nod also got him thinking that he has a chance to change the past of this team, and lead the guys towards respectability and new found glory. Go for it Carl, you are just the guy to be the face of this team. Smile, and let America see those dimples.

 

 

Let me get more into that trade smack talk here. Granted, Dukes had a mess of situations off the playing field that greatly diminished those pretty Home Runs in Yankee Stadium. He was given a bit too much leash to run and subsequently hung himself.


Another article in the Times, the the next day quoted Dukes as looking forward to his time with the Washington Nationals. You know, the team did him right from the start by having a staff member, James Williams tag along with Dukes daily to observe and keep and eye out on the 23 year old Outfielder.


We forget he is 23, and he is still learning who he is in life. His past is checkered and his future is as bright as the sun. Dukes was sitting in the Nationals locker room with his 3 year old son in tow, and looking forward to the adventure at hand. Here are a few quotes from Dukes in that article by the St. Petersburg Times:

 

“I was a real hard headed guy,” Dukes said. “It was at times hard for me to listen. I needed to be able to admit that I do things wrong and it’s okay to do things wrong, but to make good after that.” “I have tests in my life every day, trying to raise my son and stuff like that,” Dukes said. “I had my issues, but I overcame them without being on the front page or behind bars or something. So, obviously I kind of dealt with my things the right way.”

 

Dukes agreed with Rays All Star outfielder Carl Crawford, who told the Times on Tuesday that he didn’t think the “maturing part would have happened here,” for Dukes and Delmon Young. Crawford said that Dukes and Young had “too much free range to do whatever they wanted to do.” “You’re gonna need that veteran guy there sometimes to be able to stick it to you hard,” Dukes said. ” And we didn’t really have that many older guys that been through too much to experience things with. (But) not all people need that type of thing, so its not expected.” Before Dukes left, he offered one more – if not his last – promise, “From now on, everyone will get a chance to see the real Elijah Dukes.”

 


Let’s hope he becomes that big bat that he was destined to be in his career. Say Hello to Jesus Colome for me Dukes.

 

 

 Now on the Delmon Young tip, I have never been a big fan of him since he pulled that “he said/she said”, about not being called up in September. Now this is not the Durham Bulls area story touting Delmon and Elijah Dukes and B J Upton were bad-mouthing the Rays management, this was the 2006 season where it could not be confirmed if he ( Delmon ), or his brother ( Dimitri ) said the nasty comments.


Building the fire internally, was the actions while with the Bulls in 2007,  on that,  where he threw a bat at the umpire and got a major suspension and fine, did not put him in better company, or in my good graces. If you saw the video, the opponents catcher knew something was going to happen, because he went out of the crouch and to the mound. He knew a war was about to blow….hard that night.


It all came to head this past September when Young decided to “lollygag” his way to first. Joe Madden told Delmon he was going to sit him for the final game. Delmon spouted back he might not even show up to the stadium that day.

 

 I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for him. I had heard he was a bit abrasive in the Rays clubhouse, and looked extremely bored during the Fan Autograph session a few days earlier. His time had come, and he is going to be better for it. You got to remember, this is not the first time we have drafted a member of his family into the Rays organization.

 


Dimitri Young was an original expansion pick of our team, but we did not want him, so we shipped him to an NL team. Delmon might have started to get a “older brother” mentality and feel he deserved more than a “rookies” status on this team. My personal opinion and view of him is that he is not happy here and should of gotten out at the trade deadline, but he showed a late splurge in productivity in September, and that might have helped his case.

 

His attitude cost him the AL Rookie of the Year award. His little base running blunder blew up in his face.

 

The Twins are a better team with him, and we are a better team without him. I would not be surprised if he is a 10-time All Star somewhere else…as long as it is not here.


See you at the ballpark soon. Remember, we might only have 4 more years to enjoy our 70 degree weather inside before the elements get us on Opening Day 2012. Anyone who is ever at the Trop., come down to Section 138, near the bottom. I love talking baseball with everyone,even Yank and Sox fans.


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