Results tagged ‘ Francisco Cervelli ’

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.

Rays vs Yankees Controversy………..or Just Hustle in the Yard

 

I have been reluctant to include my trivia questions in the past few blogs because no one seems to want to comment,or even try and figure them out.
Here is a Yankee/Red Sox teaser for your pleasure:


Who has the best lifetime win percentage as a starting pitcher against the New York Yankees?


Answer at the end of the Blog.


I have to weigh in my two pennies on the recent Rays/Yankees debate concerning new Yanks skipper Joe Girardi and a recent home plate collision. If you are wondering what I am referring to, it is the home plate car wreck between Yankees’ catcher, Francisco Cervelli and the Rays’, Elliot Johnson. I understand that most players are not up to par yet with the speed of the game in the early stages of Spring Training.


That the “rookies” or select Minor League players’ invited to the MLB camp, are seeking to open eyes or even earn a coveted roster spot with the big club. Because of this situation,they ( Minor Leaguers’ )might hustle or take a few risks with base running decisions.  They also want to show a willingness to do what is needed to win.
It is in that vein, that I personally feel that Elliott Johnson did what was needed at the moment of the collision. He went into home plate trying to jar the ball out of the catchers mitt to score another run, not with intent to harm,dismember, or cause such a ruckus out of the Yankee camp.


A few days earlier, All-Star Left Fielder,Carl Crawford bulldozed a catcher in a Spring Training game and there was not even a hint of controversy or bad decision making put towards his actions. Of course, in that collision,Crawford was able to jar the ball from the catcher, no one was injured or taken from the game,and the Rays earned a much needed run against their opponent.


Hustle and willingness to do what is needed is what secures these “invitees” a roster spot,or at least another weeks with the big squad before going to the Ray Namoli complex, which is the site of the Minor League camp.
Now Carl did not have to drive himself into the catcher and dislodge the ball on spec, but it showed he is ready to do whatever is needed to win this year. That is a veteran sign that he is here to play and take no prisoners.
And that, gets both the Rays’ fan base and Joe Maddon’s attention.


Earlier in the Yankee game, New York invitee, Bernie Castro was rounding third with Rays’ catcher Shawn Riggans squared up on the dish. Castro could have easily dusted Riggans off the plate, but Shawn left a nice hole for Castro to hook slide around his tag. Base running decisions have to be made in a split second. Both players had to assess the situation and do what was needed to score, or pervent a run. Castro, by sliding in under Riggans, scored the only Yankee run of that game.


He did not need to remove Riggans and ball to score. Question is, did Johnson have the same options?  Answer, No, the relay throw was going to beat him to the plate by a stride, and in a Pete Rose-Ray Fosse moment he buried his shoulder into Cervelli.
He could have slide and maybe gotten in there( doubtful),or he could become a Mike Alstott A-train clone and bulldoze the Yankees minor league catcher. We know what his decision was, and I am totally in his corner for what he did.I was an aggressive base runner also in college, and used to not look back when i had to come in rough on a second baseman or a catcher. I did it when I felt it was needed to help the team. Either as a enthusiastic moment, or a game-changing play, it was done in a split second and no regrets could stop the momentum.

 

I can see why new Yankees skipper Joe Girardi would be a bit flustered or upset about such a play involving two Minor Leaguer’s doing their all to make an impression on their managers.


But, Joe, this part of Spring Training is a time for these guys to show you what they got, and make you remember their names in your nightly meetings with your coaching staff. And all the Minor League guys know that the decision time is nearing for each of them. Johnson will probably not make the Rays’ final 25 man roster, but he made a huge impression on both teams.


Either you are for or against his actions, there is no middle ground here. In his playing days, Joe Girardi was a feisty and gutsy catcher with the Yankees.  He knows what it takes to hold onto the ball in a train wreck situation. That is what I find kind of “whiny” here about the Yankee skipper.  


Remember, this is the manager who told his Florida Marlins’ team owner to, “Shut up!”, when the owner was heckling a umpire during a game. Does that sound like the same guy who whined to the press about the event, and did not even consult or send a message to Rays skipper, Joe Maddon about the collision before the newspapers were printed and on his doorstep.


How many Yankee fans are thinking WWTD right now. (What Would Torre’ Do?).


I know that Girardi is in the infant stage of his managerial career, but is this the thing he wants to be remembered for this Spring?
He has a few holes in his team, and questions that needed to be addressed on personnel and setting his starting rotation.
And he pick this play to spouts off about this?



Both Joes’ have different opinions about the event. Joe Maddon,the Rays’ manager sees it as a rite of Spring basically.  Hard nosed baseball that unfortunately ended in a Yankee injury. (Francisco Cervelli could be out 8-10 weeks with an injury). What would either manager have said if the events was reversed. Johnson was hurt in that play, or Riggans in a prior home plate play.  If Cervelli had dropped the ball and the Rays scored another run to make it a 5-1 win, would it have been different or still have the same effect on Girardi.


I personally think Joe Maddon would not be crying to the heavens wanting the baseball gods to rain displeasure down on anyone. He would have applauded the effort and give kudos for the hard nosed-style of play of Johnson. I am including a video from that game,shot by a Yankee fan. It shows both home plate plays and you can make up your own mind on the issue of the collision.


In closing, I think the comments of Yankee savant and yoda, Don Zimmer speak volumes here: “Of all people – Joe Girardi’s a tough guy, a tough catcher. I don’t know what spring training’s got to do with it,” Zimmer said. “I think he was out of line. That’s the best way I can put it, whether he likes that or not. That’s the way I feel.”


Amen Yankee Yoda, Amen.

 

I am all for hard play and hustle on the diamond.  If Delmon Young had more hustle than his mouth, he would still be patrolling right field in the Trop for the Rays.

 

The answer to the Trivia Question is:

Former Yankee great, Babe Ruth. When he was first with the Boston Red Sox, he owned the New York Yankees on the mound.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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