Results tagged ‘ Ichiro ’

Defense Bends, but the Rays break in Loss

 

 

Mariners 4, Rays 2

 

Ted S Warren / AP

 

Joe’s 500th Moment

 

It did not feel like a celebration, but come on, does it really feel like we have seen Rays Manager Joe Maddon out there 500 times in a Rays uniform? It feels like it was just yesterday that we were introduced to this guy who looked more like your Logic or Statistics class professor than a baseball manager. But little did we know that the “statistics” label would still seem fresh today. It is so refreshing to see him still have the same type of managerial style that he displayed on the first day. When the Rays first manager, Larry Rothschild hit his third year, you could not even recognize his style, much less his smile.

 

But here we have the bold glasses of Maddon still gracing the dugout steps with grace and confidence in his team and their chances. How refreshing is it to know that the guy who took the Rays reins in 2006 made his debut on April 3rd in Baltimore. It took him two more days to celebrate his first win, a 2-0 victory thrown by Mark Hendrickson. But who would have guessed this guy would still be here when he first was introduced. We have seen it before in Tampa Bay, first Larry Rothschild the mastermind behind the Florida Marlins pitching staff during their first World Series victory was hired to build the franchise in the image of the Marlins.  This team has chewed up and spit out managers like a guy eating conch fritters at Frenchy’s on Clearwater Beach, Florida.

 

But why is it that Maddon has lasted so long? Could it be that he actually has a master plan, and has been able to implement it without stress and the front office blocking his thoughts and ideas. That is the great thing about his hiring and the team getting a new ownership at the same time. Both came in as blank pages to the Rays fans. Both had huge upside and confidence in them was sky high. I think even with the recent downward offensive woes, the energy and the chemistry on this team is high this season. You can see in the game that certain breaks have not gone our way that fell into our laps in 2008.

 

But I believe Maddon has the ability to steer the team’s thoughts towards recognizing these game changing moments and will turn them into positive events soon. But who would have guessed it when he got his 125th victory on  September 23rd against the Boston Red Sox at home. Here he was 25 percent of the way to his 500th game and he had been pushed by defeat and success.  He missed hitting the .500 mark in 2006 in his first season by one win. But even with the 61 victories, you could feel the tide changing in Tropicana Field. You knew this guy understood what was needed to hit the next level.

 

So here we are today at Safeco Field in Seattle with the Rays playing a late game start against the Mariners. Funny how last year these teams were headed in different directions, but now they have reverse mirror-image records, with the Rays fighting to get out of the American League East basement with a 5-9 record and the Mariners on top of the American League West division with a 9-5 mark. But there was Maddon like  a proud general leaning on the rail and watching his team go to battle against the Mariners. He has currently posted 229 wins in those 500 contests. That is amazing considering this is a franchise that did not win before he stepped into the head job. 

 

Who would remember that in his first year he finished 36 games back of the AL East winner, and in two years he would be the one on top looking down at everyone else. I was checking out some old Maddon quotes, and this one from the Tampa Tribune caught my eyes,” “The fourth manager in ( Devil ) Rays history is a book you can’t put down. A concert you rock to, a story that begins in a mining town and ends in a baseball dugout, sometimes cruising with the girlfriend to an L.A. beach, Springsteen blasting from the convertible, for a glass of red wine at sunset. Something for everyone.”  Wow, that was written the day he was hired by the Rays on November 14, 2005. People forget, we could have lost him to the Boston Red Sox in 2004, but they decided to hire Terry Francona for their managers position.  We need to celebrate Maddon. Not for what he has done for this franchise, but for what is going to do this year and in the future. I look forward to again celebrate his 1000th game on the 28th game of the 2012 season.

 

               

                Ted S Warren / AP 

 
Same Bat Channel, Same Bat Station

 

Watching the first inning of last night;s game I got excited that maybe this road trip might be the right thing to get our bats again stroking the ball and producing a few more runs than the opponent. Little did I know that the walk and those two hits in the first inning would be the highlight of the Rays night. There was excitement knowing that lead-off man Jason Bartlett was 5-8 lifetime against Seattle starter Jarrod Washburn. And when he lead off the game with a walk, you knew something was about to happen. After Carl Crawford hit a flutter ball to short for a quick out, the Rays began to flex a little muscle.

 

 Evan Longoria kept his bat going by stroking a nice RBI-double into the left field corner that Endy Chavez had trouble with as it bounced oddly off the wall.  Pat Burrell, who had been hitting at a .357 clip in his last 4 starts, hit a ball up the middle to score Longoria and put the Rays up early 2-0.  But after that, the Rays again fell into their recent funk of going down 1-2-3 both in the second and third innings. Burrell did again try and get something started in the fourth inning when he hit another ball up the middle for a single, but after a Ben Zobrist hard blast that landed just at the bottom of the left field wall, both men ended up stranded on base for the Rays. 

 

It is not frustrating that Zobrist hit that laser beam to left, but it did get there too fast, or the Rays might have had a chance to get Burrell home. It was one of those moments where a great hit hindered the end result. And that has been one of the foundation points to the Rays not getting some of their needed runs this year. Either we are popping the ball with mustard, or we are not stringing them along to make a sustainable rally to win. Scattered hits and walks will not win games, but they are showing that the ability is there and the formula can work. That is what is so unnerving about the slow start to the 2009 season. The team is doing the right things and getting hits, but not in a consistent manner by stringing them together and posting rallies of any duration.

 

Feast or fathom is the word for their offense so far in 2009. And Maddon is confident that the team will shake this and be fine this year. It is early, and we know this is a better team in 2009 than the AL Pennant-winning club of 2008, but getting into the AL East cellar early might not play well in the long run. From that fourth inning on, the Rays had 4 base runners the rest of the night.  Longoria walked in the fifth inning, Gabe Kapler hit a awesome double, his fourth of the year in the seventh inning, and Carlos Pena finally got on base with a walk after three straight strikeouts. And in a last ditch effort to get a victory, Dioner Navarro lead-off the ninth inning with a single to center field, but was left stranded after two quick fly outs and Bartlett being called out on strikes to end the game.

 

Ted S. Warren / AP

The Best Offense is a Good Defense

 

You know that quote had to come from a military leader, because a baseball manager would love the essence of that quote, but hate the result. But the Rays again showed some tremendous defensive effort, which included some nifty and classic Longoria moments. At least three times in the game, the Mariners were testing the Rays third baseman. This included two times just by Ichiro, but he completed the outs all three times gunning down even the speedy Ichiro.

 

But one bunt did go a bit  wrong in the first inning. Ken Griffey Jr., who has been known for knee problems put a ball down in front of the mound and was speeding to first as Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine picked the ball up and threw off line a bit to give the Mariner’s their second base runner of the game. Sonnanstine did get an error on the throw, but the play did not end up coming back to haunt him tonight.  But in the third inning, Akinora Iwamura made one of the best plays of the night when he took a ball hit by Adrian Beltre up the middle and went deep into the hole just on the outfield grass and gloved the ball and threw blindly to first to just get Beltre and retired the Mariners 1-2-3 for the first time tonight.

 

But the play of the night came from the outfield. Gabe Kapler got the start tonight in place of B J Upton, who is still rehabbing a slight quad pull. Kapler did not begin his fourth inning in a great way, but he did end it in classic style. After Mike Sweeney started off the inning on base after Sonny got him with a breaking pitch in the back hand, Jose Lopez hit a single to left to give the Mariners two quick base runners. But Seattle catcher Rob Johnson had a surprise for Kapler as he hit a long fly ball over Kapler’s head and to the wall for a RBI-triple. 

 

But a testament to the Rays defense was shown  when Johnson did not try and score off of Franklin Guttierrez’s fly ball to right field. Seattle Third Base Coach Bruce Hines held up Johnson not wanting to test Zobrist’s arm. Zobrist did end up throwing the ball into the plate with a strong straight throw that  surely would have pegged Johnson. Yuniesky Bentancourt then hit another drive over Kapler’s head that one-hopped to the wall and gave the Mariners a 4-2 lead in the game. After Ichiro tried to again test Longoria for the second time tonight, Endy Chavez hit a long and curving ball to left-center field. On the play, Kapler had a great read on the ball and got to it just as it was about to dip away from him. Leaving his feet he caught the ball in stride going horizontal for the final out of the inning. The play ended up being the number 1 Web Gems last night on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.

 

           

            Ted S. Warren / AP

 

Tuesday Tidbits

 

I found it kind of interesting that the Mariner’s adjusted their rotation to get Rays-killer Jerrod Washburn on the mound last night. For his career, he was 11-3 against the Rays, with a 2.60 ERA coming into the game. It was a bold move by the Seattle coaching staff, but it did work out for them as they got their 9th win of the year. Washburn was in control of the game from the second inning on, and posted 9 strikeouts on the night.  He mixed his fastball and his breaking pitches well last night.  The victory put him at 3-0 on the season. The loss was only the second in the last 8 games against Seattle at Safeco Field.

 

Todd Kalas is the Man

 
I have always had a lot of respect for Todd Kalas and his broadcasting abilities. Last night was the first time we have seen the strapping-young lad since his father passed away last week. Todd came on before the game and thanked the many fans, players and broadcasters who have expressed their feeling to him in the previous week. He spoke of the great memories of working with his dad in the past, made sure everyone know how sincere he firmly felt their notes and messages to him and his family. But, the last comment by him really got to me. In his last words he expressed, ” Dad, pop the top on a cold one, it is time for the game!”  Classic moment from a classy guy.

 

Happy  Early B’day Safeco Field

 

We already know how I feel about this monument to baseball in the Pacific Northwest, but I forgot that it was entering it tenth year this season. I might have to go out for a series this year because I remember being at Jacob’s Field during their tenth year also and it was quite a environment. It doesn’t seem like July  15,1999 when they  played the first game in this stadium.  From its ground-breaking in March 1994, to the first pitch by former Mariner Jamie Moyer at 7:15 pm ( called strike), this stadium has been a centerpiece of the Seattle skyline.

 

From the time in September 1996, when they decided on this location just south of the old Kingdome, this stadium had been on the forefront to be a regional landmark. The first plans for the stadium did not include the retractable roof. But after a study showed that over 50 percent of the ballpark visitors came from beyond local King county, the commission formed to watch over and also manage the project asked local architect’s NBBJ about the roof options.  More than 30,000 fans came out on March 8, 1997 as fan favorite Ken Griffey Jr. shoveled out the first dirt on the stadium project.  Then on July 15, 1999 over 47,000 fans greeted the new digs during the Inaugural game against the San Diego Padres.

 

Bites and Nibbles

 

Carlos Pena ended his 12-game hitting steak just two shy of his personal best 14 games by going 0-3, with three strikeouts.  Pena is currently tied for second in the AL in strikeouts with  the Indians Grady Sizemore with 17 for the season. Dioner Navarro and Akinora Iwamura are tied for 13th with 13 strikeouts each so far in 2009.

 

Evan Longoria slipped to 11th in hits in the American League. He has 19 so far this year. He is however still tied for the second spot with 6 other AL batters in doubles with 6 this year. Longoria is also in a 5-way tie with 5 homers this season, and is in a 4-way tie with 13 RBI’s so far this year for the Rays. He is also second in Slugging Percentage hitting for a .816 average, only .090 below the Ranger’s Ian Kinsler who leads the AL. So far in 2009, a sophomore slump has not been bothering the young third baseman.

 

Jason Bartlett is currently rocking to fifth spot in overall AL batting average with a .391 this season. He is also currently 20th in the AL in runs with 20 for the Rays. He is also tied with Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury for fourth place in stolen bases in the AL with 5 so far in 2009. Carl Crawford also is tied for second in triples with twenty-seven other hitters in the AL right now.

 

David Price had his best performance of 2009 in his latest game for the Durham Bulls. Last night Price threw 71 pitches and gave up 2 hits and two earned runs in the 7-3 Bulls win. Two of those runs were given up on a homer by the Gwinnett Brave’s Reid Gorecki in the third inning. After Gorecki’s homer, Price did not give up another hit in his five innings.  It was his first victory in 2009. The Rays still have the future star on a 75-pitch count at Triple-A to conserve his arm.

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro versus the Rays……….Arbitration 2009

 

 

 


With only two members of the 2008 roster still up for Salary Arbitration hearings, it was recently reported that Rays catcher Dioner Navarro will have his hearing in Phoenix , Arizona on February 9th . At that time an arbitrator will decide between the two totals, one submitted by Navarro’s representative, Kendall Americo,and the other from the Rays representative and then the arbitrator will submit their recommendation for the players 2008 salary for the Tampa Bay Rays in a few days. 


With the exception of Willy Aybar and Dioner Navarro’s arbitration award totals, the Rays are sitting at a round $ 60 million dollars in payroll for 2009. That is a great climb in salary for the Rays. In yesterday’s blog I went over the season for Willy Aybar and my prediction of his chances to increase his salary to around $ 1 million a year.  Rays G M Andrew Friedman better have some cards up his sleeves, or he might get his first loss at the Arbitration gaming table when Navarro’s turn comes up.
 


Today it is Dioner Navarro’s turn, and even thought the catcher lead  his pitching staff by example in 2008, it is well known that Navarro has stood up and taken the lead in the clubhouse and behind the plate for the team. His confidence and leadership have skyrocketed since 2007, and he is finally considered a force both at the plate and behind it for the Rays. Navarro has submitted a proposed salary of $ 2.5 million dollars for the year, while the Rays have countered with a $ 2.1 million dollar figure. That is a $ 400,000 difference, or almost his entire 2008 salary ( $ 412,500 ).

 

 

 

 

To begin with, let’s get to know a little bit more about Navarro, the player before I post my opinion on his arbitration hearing. Dioner Navarro was signed by the New York Yankees as a free agent in  2000. As he rose through the Yankees system there was a day they could see him behind the plate in pinstripes. He was suppose to be the heir apparent to Jorge Posada’s spot behind the plate and was to be with the system for a long time. But as we all know, baseball is a fickle mistress and she can change her mind in a matter of seconds about you and your worth to the club. 
 


So in 2005, after only 5 years in the Yankee system, Navarro was given a second chance as he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers to help behind the plate before prospect Russell Martin would man the dish for the men in blue. Navarro did his best in Spring Training in Florida and actually made the decision difficult for the team in choosing him over Martin as the Dodgers Opening Day catcher. But Navarro got an awful start and soon Martin was there breathing down his neck wanting playing time.

 
 

 

 

So after a period of time, the Dodgers decided that he would not be as adequate as a back up catcher and traded him along with pitcher Jae Seo and outfield Justin Ruggiano on June 26, 2006 to the Tampa Bay Rays for catcher Toby Hall and pitcher Mark Hendrickson. Navvaro came into the Rays lineup trying to prove too much too soon to the Rays and almost cost him his chance to start with the team in 2006. The team brought in experienced catcher Josh Paul, who had played with Rays Manager Joe Maddon with the Los Angeles Angels to push Navarro to that next step. 
 

 

Navarro did not hit well in the first half of the season, only posting a .177 average and had the Rays discussing his future with the team. But during the All-Star break, something finally clicked for Navarro and he posted the third best average after the All-Star break in the American League for a catcher ( .285). He also seemed to be able to execute a solid and hard throw to second base on steal attempts. In 2007, he also lead the major leagues in errors by a catcher with 14. Even with his great second half, Navarro was only able to post a modest .227 average for the season.

 

 


 

 

 But good things were on the horizon for Navarro. In a series against Seattle, Navarro gunned down speedster Ichiro twice stealing in consecutive games.  Navarro also upped his ante in slugging at the plate, posting  a .475 Slugging Percentage, which was the third best total in the majors for a catcher after the break. But in September 2007, Navarro began to experience pain in his right throwing wrist and he batted the rest of the season from the right side of the plate, limiting his switch-hitting skills. 2007 ended on a high note for Navarro, and he finally felt that he could lead the Rays behind the plate.



 

 


During the off season, Navarro participated in the Venezuelan Winter League leading his team with a .312 batting average. Navarro came into Spring Training camp in 2008 with a renewed confidence and a slimmer body as he dropped weight while playing in his home country and came into camp in better shape than before for the Rays. He also knew this was the turning point year for him as Maddon and the pitching staff would be taking their keys more from Navarro and he was up to the challenge. 
 


In 2008, Navarro’s batting average was consistently sitting around .300 the entire year. Only during a small slump in August when he hit for a .187 average and allowed his overall average to fall below the .300 mark, before finally settling in at .295 for the year. Still, that average was only 2nd among American League catcher to Minnesota’s Joe Mauer’s  American League batting title .330 average.  Navarro also had personal bests in almost every category but one. He did not steal a single base in 2008, and was caught 5 times during the year and the playoffs. But his 54 RBI’s were 10 more than he posted in 2007, and his timely hitting did produce amazing results for the Rays.  But his greatest hitting moment had to be in Toronto on May 8th, when he came up in the 13th inning with the bases loaded and hit a Grand Slam off ex-Rays Shawn Camp into the right-center field stands to give the Rays a victory over the Blue Jays.




 

 


In September. he batted .317 , including a career best 9-game hitting streak.  And on September 4th, during the night time half of a doubleheader he tied his career best with 4 hits in the game. He continued to produce for the Rays hitting a walk-off game winning single on September 16th against the Red Sox’s Justin Masterson to give the Rays their 11th walk-off win of the year.  And on July 6th, got notice of his selection to the American League All-Star game as a reserve catcher. 
 


In making the All-Star roster, Navarro became the first Rays catcher and the 4th youngest Ray to ever appear in the mid-summer classic. Navarro came in late in the contest and lead the American League to their victory by getting a 15th inning single that was part of the American League’s winning rally.  He caught a total of 8 innings in the game, and threw out 1 of 2 base runners.  But it was his familiarity with pitcher Scott Kazmir that finally got the win for the American League. Kazmir was the last pitcher out of the Bullpen, and because Navarro was his catcher, it created an instant confidence and relaxed atmosphere to take the game away from the National League in the bottom of the 14th inning.



 


 

 

Navarro also paced the Rays during the playoffs in 2008. He hit a robust .293, with 5 RBI’s and made several great plate blocks to get runners during the post season. He truly showed that he was becoming one of the best catcher in the American League and was learning to take control of this young starting pitching staff. But one adventure on April 4th in New York city almost cost him the chance to lead the Rays. While in Yankee Stadium for the game, Navarro cut his throwing hand on the netting in front of the dugout after slipping on the wet stairs leading to the dugout. 
 

 

He missed a total of 16 games for the team as he healed, but stayed alert and active working with the other catchers on the bench. This adventure almost took his season away from him, but after that he helped lead the Rays to a  record of 88-54 after coming off the disabled list on April 22nd. But that would not be the last time that Navarro would face adversity in 2008. During a televised game in Arlington,Texas on June 10th, the audience and his team mate saw the young, quiet catcher become a team leader. 



 


 

 

During the game, Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza got off to a rocky start and beginning to get angry and frustrated on the mound. During one mound conference the television audience could see that Garza was yelling into his glove out of frustration at Navarro and Navarro stood his ground and gave it right back to Garza. After the inning was over, both players had a short tussle in the landing leading from the dugout, but came out for the next inning and performed amazingly as if nothing had happened. That was the day the Rays got a veteran catcher who was going to lead his team to the playoffs.
 

 

Several members of the team expressed amazement that Navarro went after Garza with such confidence, but welcomed the sight as the killer instinct taking hold of him and sparking him to action. I know I felt that the event actually did more good for Navarro than he imagined at the moment. But from that point on, it seemed that Garza and the rest of the young staff followed Navarro’s lead and it got them into the World Series.  Behind the plate, Navarro also had one of his best seasons as a catcher.

 


 

 

In 2008, he carried a 984 fielding average in 2008, a huge improvement over 2007. And in that span, he did not commit his first error until July 1st, in his 428th chance.  He also was ranked 4th in the American League among catcher for the year, and was 2nd in the AL, and 3rd in the majors throwing out runners with a 34.8 percent success rate.  Among A L catcher with at least 100 games player, only Cleveland’s Kelly Shoppach     ( 36 ), also an ex-Yankee, allowed less stolen bases than Navarro’s 42 in 2008.



 


 

 

So as the statistics and the facts show, Navarro stepped forward in 2008 to help both the Rays lead the American League East champs to the World Series, but also step up as a clubhouse leader. He showed that the promise he had in 2000 was still alive and well in him and he brought it out for the entire league to see both during the All-Star game and in the 2008 playoffs. So is it enough for him to garnish a salary of over $ 2 million a year. In comparison with A L catcher, who have gotten arbitration raises in the last two years, he is in the top of the list.

 

 


 I can see the Rays losing this arbitration hearing, but it really is not a loss for them. They will still have the services of the young rising star in 2008, and he is ready to go for the Rays. I can see an award of at least $ 2.5 million dollars coming out of his arbitration hearing, and might see more if they arbitrator feels he low-balled his offer. Either way, the Rays will get  the playoff experience and confidence to go higher in 2009. Navarro might not be the household name anymore in New York, but in Tampa Bay, he is the shining star behind the plate gleaming and beaming with a smile.
 
 
 
 
 

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?

 

Blown Chances and a Lopsided Score

Here is my Trivia nugget before I get to my Good,the Bad,and the Ugly for tonight’s
game.


Richie Ashburn hit the same fan twice with foul balls in the same at bat on
August 17, 1957
.


Eastwood Clint - The Good the Bad and the Ugly          Eastwood Clint - The Good the Bad and the Ugly           Eastwood Clint - The Good the Bad and the Ugly       Eastwood Clint - The Good the Bad and the Ugly           Eastwood Clint - The Good the Bad and the Ugly



Here is tonight’s Good,the Bad and the Ugly following the Rays 7-1
shellacking by the Seattle Mariners.

                                         The
Good

Actually, this is going to be another two-fold “good”
tonight. I want to give kudos to the best offensive,and defensive people
tonight. O
ffense was not
at a  premium tonight as the Rays’ only collected  8 hits.  Tonight’s  two
offensive stars were  third baseman Willy Aybar,and  shortstop Jason
Bartlett. Aybar went 3-4 tonight with two doubles to improve
his average to .292 for the year.  He also made some great diving grabs for
outs and started a pretty 5-4-3 double play for the team. This was also Aybar’s
first three hit game since Sept 26,2006 when he was with the Atlanta
Braves. Bartlett also gets game kudos for going 2 for 2 and
raising his average to a modest .222. The left side of the infield produced 5 of
the Rays 8 hits.



Getting an honorary mention is newly arrived
Right fielder Justin Ruggiano, who was brought up from Durham today when  DH
Cliff Floyd went on the disabled list. Justin got a nice double over the head of
Ichiro in his first at bat of the night. Getting a ball out of Ichiro’s range is
a feat all it’s own.


                                         The Bad

 

The bad was the Rays  hitters combining for
two errors on wild plays. The first was a fly ball misplayed by Ruggiano in
Right field that flew several feet over his head and produced runs for the
Mariners. J P Howell was on the mound and had a ball hit
back to him. He collected the ball and threw to Pena.


Only problem was Howell threw a 55 foot throw
53 feet and the ball had to be scooped out of the dirt by Pena, who could not
finish the play for the out. Luckily, the ball did not get by Carlos and roll
into the Bullpen area for extra bases.

                                      
The Ugly

                       Cliff Floyd doubles in the Rays' 6-2 win over the Orioles last week in Baltimore.



The ugly part is knowing growing for the
second day in a row.  The injuries to starting roster players is beginning to
take a toll on both the teams record and the mindset of the
team.


The Rays, who did not lose a series before
coming home to Tropicana field are now in danger of being swept by the Seattle
club. The team has lost another starting pitcher in Matt Garza, and Cliff Floyd
will be having knee surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus that will sideline
him for 4-6 weeks.  Floyd will have surgery on Friday. This new injury is a
fresh wound and an MRI conducted during Spring Training came up clean a few
weeks ago for him. 


With staff ace Scott Kazmir still a few days
or weeks away from rejoining the team, and Dioner Navarro still recovering from
a freak accident, the injury bug is hitting the team hard early this
season.Before Batting Pratice on Weds., Rays manager
Joe Maddon took the squad into the outfiled and preached the essence of positive
thinking and renewing the vow of upward mobility in the standing and in his
troops morale.


“I felt it was important,” Maddon said. “We’ve got so many major items going
on at the same time. A tough loss Tuesday night, and then you find out you lose
two of your better players in one fell swoop. Plus, Kaz is still not here yet,
and Navi’s down, too. They’re starting to pile up a bit. So, I just thought it
would be wise to bring everybody together and have everybody understand that
this is somebody’s opportunity now to shine.” **


If there ever was a skipper who could right
the Rays ship, it is the always positive Maddon.

“We’ve got some key people out of the lineup, so everybody’s trying to do
more, that kind of a thing,” Maddon said. “Just go back to what we had been
doing, working good at-bats, using the whole field, that kind of stuff. We’re a
whole-field team, more of a line drive team. We have some power, but we just
have to get back in the middle of the field on a more consistent basis.” **


Another “ugly” that Maddon does not want to
bring up is the fact the first four hitters in his order are battling for hits
so far this season. Lead-off hitter Akinora Iwamura is hitting .182,
and went 0-3 Weds. night.


Carl Crawford



Left fielder Carl Crawford is struggling at
the plate hitting .167 and had a single in the game. 2007 Silver Slugger winner
Carlos Pena is handcuffed with a .200 average, but leads the team in home runs
and RBI at this moment. Pena also had two of the Rays 4 strikeouts during the
game and has a team leading 12 for the season. Center fielder B J Upton is mired with a .222
average. a bright spot for Upton is he is leading the team in walks with 7, 
which shows he is seeing the ball well, so maybe he is just in a  batters’ funk
right now.


 

B.J. Upton

 


Former Rays’ players’ of the night is Boston Red Sox starting Shortstop Julio
Lugo, who went 2-3 tonight to bring his average up to .321 for the season. You
might remember that Lugo got in a batting funk in the beginning of 2007, and it
took him most of the season to right his ship. It is great to see that he is
hitting the ball well and doing it on the diamond for the Red Sox.

Another guy who is just hitting the cover off the ball is former Ray, current
Twin Brendan Harris. He went 3-4, with 3 runs scored in the Twins 12-5 win over
the Chicago White Sox. Harris is hitting at a .348 clip so far this season.


Also want to send a few cheers to former Rays Jorge Cantu who hit his first
HR tonight for the Florida Marlins.



Tomorrow is an afternoon affair, and I might have to mail that games recap in
during the evening hours. I will get with all you fine readers and let you know
how Rays pitcher Edwin Jackson does tomorrow.

 

** Quotes from Interviews were obtained by Marc Topkin of the St.
Petersburg
Times.                                             

 

Garza Goes Down

Instead of a Trivia question during the daily recaps, I will give you a wild
fact to soak in your baseball-filled minds are evolve with your
subconscious fluids to use at any SABRE convention,or for a possible free
beverage at your local pub/wing joint.

During a double header on May 2,1954,  St. Louis Cardinal, Stan Musial became
the first player to hit five (5) Home runs in the same day.


I  have been thinking for about a week on what to use this season to
illustrate the positives, negatives and so forth that happen in every game this
season.

                                              

I decided to use my favorite spaghetti western as a basis for my daily look
at the prior night’s contest. I have always been a huge Clint Eastwood fan. My
Dad used to take us on the Sunday night Drive-In movie experience as a kid. This
generation has no idea of the great times, and wild weather, kids and antics
that can happen at an outdoor movie.

                                            

The best was sitting on the swings underneath the huge  three story screen
and watching the actors as 100 foot action figures. Anyways, this is the
premiere of the Rays’ “Good, the Bad and the Ugly”

 

 

                                                The
Good

   

 

The good is a two-fold version today. Major
kudos  for the Rays’ backup catcher Shawn Riggans. Riggs is hitting the cover
off the ball, and connected last night for a beautiful second row left-center
shot into the seats. Shawn also called a great game behind the plate and is
showing the potential we all knew he had to be our starting catcher. Shawn might
have only 14 at bats this season, but he has a .333 batting average at this
moment and is showing power by having 4 RBI’s and two extra base hits in his 4
hits this season.  Way to go Shawn.


Second is a no-brainer to me. Carlos Pena
might not be picking up where he left off last year, but he is surely hitting
the cover off the ball. Early in the game he hit one of the longest Sacrifice
fly in the Trop in a long time to Ichiro. The ball was only a few feet from the
warning track and was hit on a frozen rope. Of course, later the game he
hit his third homer of the young season to Right field to ignite the crowd.
Carlos now has 6 RBIs to go with his 3 H Rs.

 

                                                             The
Bad

Matt Garza leaves with head trainer Ron Porterfield after a nerve injury in the third.



Matt Garza has had a situation with  a radial
nerve irritation for a long time. He has said he usually can fight the pain and
pitch, but tonight the pain hit a new threshold and he could not control the
ball correctly anymore. He had thrown 4 straight balls to Mariners’ DH Jose
Vidro, and did not seem to be able to hit the edges of the
plate. He immediately called for Rays trainer Ron
Porterfield and after a short discussion with Ron and Joe Maddon, was replaced
by Scott Dohmann. Matt has been placed on the 15 day disabled list at the time
of this posting.


This is bad, since it opens another hole in
the rotation early in the season. What was once a solid top three rotation is
now becoming more patchwork as the days roll by here. The Rays subsequently
recalled pitcher  Jae Kuk Ryu from Durham, but his job will be in t Bullpen, not
to start any of the future games.

                                


                                                And the
Ugly….really Ugly



The Umpire crew was not having a great
night.  Rays catcher Shawn Riggans had  asked for a “timeout” after catching a
foul ball behind the plate off the bat of Adrian Beltre. But the home plate umpire did not register
or grant the timeout. So in a bizzare, but heads up play, Seattles Jose Lopez
tagged up and moved to second to put the Mariners in scoring
position

.

Riggans “thought he called timeout,” Maddon said. “That’s a good base running
play by them. You can’t call timeout if the runner’s actually moving,” Maddon said. “The
umpires did the right thing by not permitting time out. There was nothing to
argue right there, but I did want to appeal it. Once I found out specifically
what [home-plate umpire] Marvin [Hudson] thought, I wanted to appeal to see if
the other umpires saw what he saw.”



But that was only the start of the wild and
weird on this opening night. Later in the night, B J Upton laced a beauty
down the rightfield line into the corner where it hit the wall and bounced out
in a wild angle. Upton, who lost his right shoe after leaving the batter’s box,
did not stop at second, but proceeded to slide into third
base. Post game photos and video showed after the
game that B J was safe and did not hit Beltre’s foot blocking the base. He had
snuck in the backdoor on him and was coming up safe when  the third base umpire
called B J out. After a short animated  look at the umpire, BJ headed to the
dugout as manager Joe Maddon was heading to third to debate the
call.


After that, there was a close play at first
that went against the Rays. Throughout the rest of the night, the umpire crew
took a huge vocal response from the home crowd that made me proud. The crowd had
gotten into the game and were very vocal on the Upton play and on any close play
the rest of the night. After the game, as the umpiring crew was
leaving the field, they were met by another chorus of the “boo-birds” until
finally disappearing into the tunnel.

 

O's 'fun' continues vs. Texas


Ex Ray,and current Baltimore Oriole, Aubrey Huff went 4-4
last night with 4 RBI’s.  Huff’s night did not totally go without controversy.
In the sixth inning, he hit a  long fly ball that hit the yellow line on the top
of the Right field  outfield fence. The play was initially called a three-run
homer, but was overturned by the on field umpiring crew and changed to a two-run
double off the wall. “I initially thought it hit the red part behind the yellow line,” said Huff.
“That’s the way I saw it. I was giving [second-base umpire Sam Holbrook] the
business out there at second. After I came in and looked at the tape and saw
they were right, I was fortunate to get back on second and I said, ‘Sam, I’m
sorry.’ He said, ‘I know, I got it right.’ He knew.”


Huff was blasted by the Orioles fans during the Rays opening series for
comments he made about the town on the nationally syndicated “Bubba the Love
Sponge Show” in the off season. Huff , who is also batting .333 this season,
 might be finally back in the good graces of the Baltimore faithful since his 11
RBI’s is leading the M L B at this posting. By the Way, Aubrey brings his karaoke Krew into the Trop this weekend for a
three game series. Maybe we can have “Huffapaloosa II this weekend at a local
watering hole?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 278 other followers