Results tagged ‘ Jason Giambi ’

Looking Back on my 2009 Rays Resolutions

 


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Sorry I have been able to post anything since New Year’s Eve, but things have been a little upside down in my little slice of the world. Not going to get into it, but if you know me, you know the restricted economical parameters of my lone wolf existence.

I was thinking last night about turning the pages back to my post back on January 1,2009 where I listed my  2009 New Year’s Rays Resolutions blog and see if my quarter-tossing guesses and totally dillusional dreams for the Tampa Bay Rays had either mysteriously evaporated or suddenly materialized for the team.

We all know just how difficult it is sometimes to partition our post-baseball lives  to readjust back into our normal lifestyles with the absence of games nightly. And with my 2009 resolutions coming just a few months off the heels of the Rays first playoff push in team history, I am more than a bit curious to see if now those resolutions might have been a bit over zealous, or might have struck true center and be totally in line with the team’s seasonal performance.

But even if I did get a bit over excited and tranform my hopes and dreams into slight misguided illusions, isn’t that within the vein of the competitive spirit of the fan, who always  wants to see the birght side of life in regards to their team?  We all want to trust and believe that bigger and better things are always on the horizon for our squads, even as the skies turn suddenly dark and the wind begins to howl.  You want to believe in solidarity of the true existence of the team dream. 

You have to actively possess that unrelentless faith that the “much needed” team weapons will somehow materialize like that weird frost upon your car windshield in the morning, or that the Bullpen will again be a brickwall to your team’s lofty and ever-rising ride of success. So lets take a short jaunt back about 365 days and formally check out my bubble-headed prognostications to see if any of my 2009 resolutions for the Rays might have actually had some merit to them, or the whole thing was just dust in the wind.


Mike Carlson / AP 

2009 Resolution 1:

Find a right-handed bat that can help the offense take it to the next level.

Wow! This resolution could go a few different directions at the same time. But the true fact is that it might all actually depend on if you want to throw Pat Burrell’s 2009 fiasco into the pot here. I have thrown Burrell under the bus enough times during 2009 for this resolution to actually take on water and headed for the briny deep waters near Egmont Key.

But lost in the shuffle was  the fact to totally look at the last two prior Rays season performances at the Designated Hitter spot and seeing that Burrell’s stats were really about average for the Rays. But that pure instance doesn’t get him out of Elvis’s locker room doghouse because Burrell was brought onto this squad to boost a sagging offense and  was paid hansomely for his efforts.

I am willing to give him a slight partial pass here due to his neck situation that might have thrown a confidence and concentration monkey wrench into his “game shape” for 2009. Burrell did show some offensive firepower, but we are starving to see it on a more consistent basis, and it will be demanded of him in 2010.  Not lost in all of this negativity is the fact he did produce 14 homers in the season, but they were all hit against right-handers, so Burrell definitely needs to readjust and refocus this off season to come in and conquer in 2010, or he will be considered a huge bust maybe in the company of Vinny Castilla.

Resolution 2:

Find a southpaw reliever to compliment the Bullpen.

This simple resolution might have actually been achieved by the Rays stockpiling a few left-handed  experienced relievers at the Triple-A level prior to the team’s 2009 Opening Day. We did have southpaw lefty-specialist Brian Shouse primarily on the 25-man roster as a leftie specialist, but like Burrell, Shouse had his own series of ups and down via the injury bug in 2009  amd might not be considered a totally successful signing by the team.

And because the Rays hide a few options in their minor league system, when Shouse was put on the diasabled list on May 25th with a left elbow strain, it opened the door for a former Yankee reliever to come up and dramatically change the late inning game from the left-side of the mound. Randy Choate seemed at times to be a man on a mission and gained more and more confidence as the Rays 2009 season progressed. You can not discount his  stellar .141 batting average against left-handers, or even his 5-for-5 perfect mark in save possibilities for the Rays this past season. 

Just when the Rays  were craving a clutch performer after a few unforeseen blown save situations, and a quickly downward spiraling in relief performances, Choate came up to appear in 61 of the Rays final 114 games. To throw a huge exclamation point on Choate’s 2009 performances, before  his call-up by the team in 2009, Choate had appeared in 196 games and had never produced a save. Choate definitely did not choke for the Rays in 2009.


Mike Carlson/ AP

Resolution 3:


Get 1 of the 2 best young players on your team a contract extension.

This was one of the 2009 resolutions that I thought would  definitely get some extreme attention by the Rays front office at some moment in the 2009 season. With the team stressing they are “borrowing on tomorrow” right now with their increasing payroll demands, you thought Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman might chart a clear map on this one as a top priority to supplant a possible unforeseen huge arbitration dollar figure, or a series of multiple arbitration seasons by a number of players to substancially see a rise of ever increasing salary demands without a solid prediction for the Rays future payrolls.

I thought for sure the Rays first comfirmed target here would be to entice Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza  to a contract extension for “services rendered”, and to reward him now for the huge upside he could provide the Rays in the next three years. Sure everyone wants to bring up moments with his emotional and temper situations as fodder to not extend him, but lost in that mumbo jumbo shuffle might be the pure fact he has the ability to be the first pitcher to post a no-hitter for the Rays.

As of today, there is no sign of this evolving into a multi-year scenario before he goes for his 2010 arbitration hearing. Garza’s abilities on the mound in 2009 could easily boost his salary from his $ 433,300. in 2009, to an estimation of $ 3.5 million through arbitration. And you would have thought it prudent and responsible of a money conscious Rays to maybe nip this escalation in the bud and give him a deal comparible to the contract James Shields signed in 2008, but there are no clear signs of that happening any time soon for Garza. And Garza is only the first in a ever increasing line that includes centerfielder B J Upton and reliever J P Howell to secure some financial stability over the next three seasons for the team.

Resolution 4:

Sign Jason Giambi already.

I actually thought Giambi might have been a great addition to the Rays, and we know this whole scenario never materialized, so this might be a short resolution explanation. Even though Giambi did go on to play over 102 games in Oakland before heading onto the Rockies post season roster, the “Giambino” had a subpar season and actually did not even hit the low average plateau achieved  by Burrell with the Rays in 2009.

It is actually funny to think Giambi hit worse than Pat “The Bat” Burrell, but then again, both did do a few mis-timed stints on the disabled list this season and neither seemed to get into a solid flow at the plate. In hindsight, 2009 might actually turn out to be Giambi’s last chance to play full-time with a potential off-the-bench position staring him in the face for 2010 and beyond.



RRCollections

Resolution 5: 


Keep the team chemistry up high and the success will come again.

Here is another resolution that might totally be up to your own personal interpretation on the Rays 2009 season. We all know the stories of Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s great inspirational speeches and motivational quotes that are meant to boost and inflate confidence like a balloon, but this Rays team did seem to miss a huge chunk of clubhouse chemistry in 2009.

Some say it was the departure of type-A personalities like Eric Hinske, Cliff Floyd and Johnny Gomes took a huge presence and electric feel out of the clubhouse. But even with the two bigger than life cartoon characters of Gomes and Hinske gone, there still was the increasing confidence and emotional moment stature of “El Presidente” Carlos Pena. And  you have to admire the guy for trying to step it up a few notches trying to fill those big shoes left by the trio, but Pena was only one guy, and could only beat the drum so loud in 2009.

Most of Pena’s teammates seemed to be relying on themselves and their close knit groups formed within the team to boost their confidence and act as support systems throughout the season. The Bullpen definitely had their own “vibe” in the clubhouse, and the Rays starters seemed to have their own “inside jokes” throughout the season. Dioner Navarro took the role of the “shaving cream pie” bandit in 2009, and even got Madddon during one post-game interview on television.

And the Rays did try and promote their road trips like a Carnival cruise night with events like the “White Party” and “Cowboy Up” during roadtrips.  Some had great success, and a few might have been better left in the closet. One idea did seem to backfire a bit on the Rays. Maddon, being a huge Johnny Cash fan, had the inspirational idea of the “Ring of Fire” all-black traveling party during the Rays push towards the playoff in 2009. But from the first moment Maddon came out of his Manager’s office in the Rays clubhouse sporting that jet black hair, the idea seemed headed quickly like lemmings to the cliff.

Not sure why the idea ended up backfiring to produce a loss spiral that quickly deflated the Rays playoff hopes like a lead balloon. The Rays ended up losing 11 out of their first 13 games in September. Adding insult to injury was the disasterious timing of imploding against their American League East foes for the rest of the season. From the first dark-haired moment on August 19th by Maddon,the Rays posted only 3 wins against Boston and New York in their 13 games during September/October.
 

I actually think I went 1-4 in my quest to throw some early logical explanation into 2009 prior to the season. Sure we all want to think that  as fans, we truly have such an underlying persona that we can make people hit the ball or even throw a bit harder, but in reality, we can only encourage and become louder in the stands hoping that more positive results take root on the field.


Chris O’Meara / AP

Even if my 2009 resolutions did fall on hard times, the Rays season was filled with great unexpected moments and showed  more than a few times those glimpses of unforeseen promise that makes you proud to follow the team. Even the best at “predicting” seem to get it wrong most of the time, so my first dive into the resolution pool did not produce a total failure, but did produce a few questions. For we got to see baseball played again in the Tampa Bay area during 2009. We got to again gather as an extended family to root, boo and even console each other after some great games in 2009. 

I have always been one of those firm believers in that you “win some, and you lose some” mentality both inside and outside of the sporting world. I mean if I really believed everything that has been written about teams just in our own division, then I would pack it up after April 1st and throw out that immortal Chicago Cubs line, “We will get ‘em next year!” But I go into day like this first one in 2010 thinking we have as good a chance as the other 30 Major League Baseball teams to hoist that golden trophy to the heavens this October. And who knows……….

 

 

Hooray for the Rays…We got Pat the Bat !!

 


The last time Tampa Bay Rays fans saw Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell was right after his double off J P Howell to put himself in scoring position to score the Phillie’s winning run in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series. But Burrell did not get to have that honor as Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel sent out pinch runner Eric Bruntlett, who slide into home after a few spotty hits to produce the winning run, and the World Series title for the Phillie’s. This plays upon a well known fact that Burrell loves the pressure of a situation, and is usually the first person to act upon it for the betterment of the team.

 


So you can imagine the turn of events that have brought this consistent and powerful bat to the lineup for the Rays. Burrell was thinking that the Phillies might offer him arbitration in 2009, or at least make an attempt to try and sign him to a small deal. He had played his entire career in the Phillies system and was loved and adored by many of the Philly faithful. But in his spot in the lineup pretty much helping protect Ryan Howard the last few seasons, he has seen his number pretty much decrease, but not below acceptable levels.

 

 

 

Now, with a new ring on his finger, and a future bright in the Florida sunshine, Burrell is happy to be a Ray. Considering he still owns a home in Clearwater was not a factor in the negotiations, but it did not hurt matters at all. Speculation has been brewing for months that he was the target out of the corner of the Rays managements’ eye. Because remember, he was also the guy in the 2008 World Series who was fighting a monster slump,  and like Evan Longoria and  Carlos Pena, came alive in that last contest. He has earned the reputation in Philly as a guy who can get you that timely hit or run to set you up to win a game all by himself.

 

 


Burrell was a combined 0-13 before hitting that monster off the wall in center field to set himself up at second base. I can guess without a doubt that he wanted to pull a ” Roger Dorn” and refuse to come off the base because of the significance of that hit. Burrell had to know that the next run would win it for the Phillies, and he wanted to be the guy to cross that plate. But instead, he got the front float for the World Series parade. So there he was perched on the Budweiser/ Clydesdale wagon with his dog, Elvis waving to the millions of adoring fans…………for the last time.

 

 


Now this signing by the Rays pushed the estimated payroll for 2009 to about  $ 60 million dollars. This is the highest payroll of the Rays in their short existence, but will it be enough to get them back to the playoffs and beyond in 2009.  Considering Statistic guru Bill James had predicted that the 3-pronged attack combination of  Longoria, Pena and himself is projected to hit a staggering 100 homers between them in 2009.  And also considering that James also has put current New York Yankee Mark Teixeira’s home run total at 36 for the season, Burrell’s  2009 numbers of 32 home runs look like a huge investment in power for the Rays.

 


Considering that Teixeira’s 180 million dollar contract comes out to about $ 22.5 million per season, the 2 years at $ 16 million dollars that Burrell signed for look like a major bargain for the Rays. Tex’s will have to make those 4 additional homers in 2009 a spectacular event to even equal Burrells possible damage in the Rays lineup. This signing also effectively gives the Rays a huge right-handed bat that actually hits lefties well.  But considering that Burrell has been called slow and prone to slumps during the season, is this a wise move for the Rays?

 

 


Burrell was once pictured in a poster by the Phillies players with the caption, ” Man or Machine”.  That brings to mind the physical presence and powerful ability of Burrell to work to extremes to perfect his craft. With the Rays, Burrell will not have to have his glove handy to go out and play right field for the Rays, except maybe in the Inter league games in a National League park. But the one trademark of Burrell during his entire Phillie’s career has been consistency.

 


The guy is pretty predictable at the plate, with a few surprises, but mostly you can pencil him in for a .250 average for the year with about 100 RBI’s. With that, you can also estimate about 31 homers and a huge bunch of strikeouts.  The Rays might be putting Burrell in the number 5 slot right behind Pena, who is also prone to the strikeout during the past few seasons. But on the plus side, Burrell has been up in the top of the pile in walks the past few seasons in the National League. In 2008, he was 3rd in the NL with 102 walks.

 

 


But another plus for Burrell, which has become a staple of the Rays type of players is his involvement in the community. Burrell will again be one of the Rays players’ who will be giving to the Rays Foundation with a slice of his contract, but that is a minor set back to him. He is a well recognized team chef in the Phillies clubhouse and has been known to volunteer his efforts to charity to cook or even entertain at cooking events while in Philly.  This will be very useful as the Rays faithful are just beginning to truly understand the art of baseball tailgating. Hey Rays Foundation, maybe a Pat Burrell cookout after a Spring Training game might be a great Fan Fest auction item………just trying to help here.

 

 

 


Most people view this signing as a guy who fell into the Rays hands via their first and second most desired selections coming off the board with other teams. I actually had him up in the top 2 for the Rays to even consider for 2009. I had Jason Giambi at the top slot, while Burrell was slotted number 2 based on his consistent number’s. Either player would be a huge plus for the ever evolving Rays franchise. But Burrell is a guy you can pencil in every night knowing that he will bring his “A” game every night.

 


The Phillie’s fan will get their first look at Burrell in the Rays jersey during their Spring Training game at Brighthouse Networks Field in Clearwater on March 12. It is also a “Thristy Thursday” game and will have an extra factor of being one of  only 3 games played by the Rays in Pinellas county before the season begins in April. The other two will be played against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin on March 1st and 10th. And with the Rays not retaining Rocco Baldelli, the number 5 jersey is currently available for Burrell if he wants to keep the same uniform number he has had for years with the Phillies.

 

 


But do not fret Phillies fans if you can not make the afternoon game on March 12th, because you can again cheer or jeer at Burrell in your home ballpark in Philly as the Rays usher in the last two Spring Training games up in Philadelphia on April 1 and 2 in Citizen’s Bank Ballpark.  So, the signing of Pat Burrell will be felt in the Rays clubhouse for the next two seasons. This is a great signing of a guy who can bring some consistent hitting to the Designated Hitter spot in the Rays’ lineup. But, best of all, we got a guy who has shown he already has the Rays mentality of getting hits and runs when the team needs them in a game…….and you can not put a price on that kind of consistent action.

  

Possible Rays 2009 Resolutions

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions can be the best or worst thing in your life for that short period of time where you are truly planning to follow them like a life changing moment.  They can either benefit you in the long run, or might be a  short term fix to a enduring problem. But whatever the reason, or the matter, a resolution can find a solution to a nagging situation or problem.

 


But when you resolution pertains to 25-guys sitting on a major league roster, it might take on a whole different set of rules and expectations. So here we are on the first day of the new year, and I am thinking about a few simple resolution for my hometown Tampa Bay Rays. They are simple resolutions that will help the ball club and also maybe send them back into the playoffs in 2009.

 


Now I know some of these might not have a chance to happen at all, but that is the beauty of a resolution. Sometimes we pick things so wild and out there that they have a marginal chance at best to even succeed.  These resolutions will give the team a better sense of what is needed to now compete in the competitive American League East. The division has gotten a lot more pitcher friendly in the last few weeks, and the Rays have stayed a bit pat on the past roster and need to make a few moves to combat the increase in pitching prowess in the division.



 

Resolution 1:

Find a right-handed bat that can help the offense take it to the next level.


There are a few bats still out there in the Free Agent pile that could come in here and help the team right from the “get go”, but they might want a small fortune in cash and a contract that might last a few seasons.  With the Rays, A’s and Jays pretty much going to be fighting over the last few big bats in the marketplace, the Rays need to step up and take the first one off the board.

 


Now if he is a big bat that can also play right field, that would be a plus- plus for the squad. With that in mind, I am thinking that former Angel Garrett Anderson might be perfect for the spot. He has a consistent bat, and also a fantastic work ethic, that Rays Manager Joe Maddon has seen from his past years as the Angel’s bench coach. He is also a pretty slick outfielder, who has a above average arm, and can still run the outfield real well.

 


Sure there are still guys like Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu out there who could also get the job done for the Rays, but they will come with multi-year contracts and a huge amount of baggage. Burrell had been considered to be heading into a slow downward spiral in his career. The last two seasons have shown modest offensive outputs compared to early 2000-2005 seasons for the big right-hander. 

 


Bobby Abreu would come to this squad over 12 years after we selected him as our first field player back in the Expansion Draft. I would love to see the prodigal son play for the Rays, but watching him the last few seasons in right field just a few steps from my seat, I have seen that his speed and also his quickness to the ball in the outfield have suffered. His bat is still mighty, but  a multiple year contract might include a year of decline at the plate and in the field for him.

 

 

 

Resolution 2:

Find a southpaw reliever to compliment the Bullpen:

 

Ever since Trever Miller left for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Rays have been down to only J P Howell in the relieving corp as a southpaw. The team might be able to get away with only one leftie in the Bullpen, but I think it is an oversight if they try this out in 2009. Balance on a squad is essential to its survival. And having a second southpaw might be enough to sway a contest in their favor in 2009 either by situational pitching, or even my middle relief to give Howell some breathing room.



The number of left-handed relievers still sitting out there on the Free Agent shelf is getting smaller ever day. I know the Rays have the mentality that the longer they wait, the more value they will get for a player in 2009. But isn’t it about time we think of quality and not quantity in 2009. For years the team has gotten low priced players who are just that..below the market  on both value in talent and they are expected to extend themselves to greatness.

 


Even with the numbers of lefties dropping like flies, there are still guys like  former Atlanta Brave, Will Ohman. Now during the 2008 trade deadline, the Rays were very interested in Ohman as a left-handed addition to their staff late in the season to help them through the playoffs. I can see no reason to just let someone else come on out and take him off the pile now that he is free and clear and will not cost a single player or multiple players to acquire for the Rays.

 


There are still guys out there like Joe Biemel, but he has been here with the Rays before, just like Trever Miller, and he will have to want to come back.which I do not think he wants at this point in his career. Then you have guys like former Rays Casey Fossum, who played for the Detroit Tigers in 2008. I like Fossum, but not for this squad, they have evolved way past his pitching style and we would not mesh well into this mix of guys. Then you have guys like former Cub Scott Elarton and former Cardinal Ron Villone. Both who are in their declining velocity years and might just be an older version of J P Howell circa 2007.

 

 

 


Resolution 3:

Get 1 of the 2 best young players on your team a contract extension:

 


This one might be tricky for the Rays, but something they truly must do if they are wanting to be as successful in 2012 as they are today. Now in the past few seasons they have locked up pitchers’ James Shields and Scott Kazmir for multi-year deals, and are about to hit the big money plateau with former All Star Carl Crawford. But is it in the team’s best interest to maybe lock down a young star with a multiple year deal when they are just budding in their craft?

 


Heck yes, you can seek and get that security from players like B J Upton and maybe even Matt Garza. Upton might be the easier of the two because the Rays have dealt with trying to get him an extension a few years ago, and might already know the parameters of the discussions. I also think that to get him under a long term deal this off season might be a shrewd deal considering he is about to have a breakout season in 2009, and it would be cheaper to get him now, while he is recovering from shoulder surgery than after he explodes at the plate.

 

 


Upton played most of the season with his banged up shoulder suffered in an early season series against the Baltimore Orioles. Almost everyone in the stadium saw a change in his batting style, but we had no reason to believe anything was wrong at the time. When it finally came out about the injury, it made a huge amount of sense considering his front shoulder was not striding into the ball, so his power was decreased considerably in 2008. When his shoulder felt better towards the end of 2008, you saw the result as the ball was flying off his bat, and his swing looked more fluid and compact again.

 


Matt Garza, now here is a guy who did a complete 180 degree turn into possible stardom in 2008. He had an early wrist nerve situation that could have hampered him all season, but it subdued and he went on to have a great season for the Rays. The young star had a highly publicized meltdown in the Texas heat, and came out the next time and showed no ill effects from the fallout, and a renewed vigor on the mound.


 

 


Towards the end of 2008, he was consistent as any pitcher in the A L and the team’s confidence was high in him as he took the mound twice in the ALCS and won both games to garner to MVP trophy for the series. His transformation was huge, and if he even steps up gradually in his career, his ceiling has now been set high and he should achieve that plateau in the next 2 seasons.

 

 


Resolution 4:

Sign Jason Giambi already:


Now I am one of the people who do not like old serial killer eyes a lot. I think that Giambi might come with some baggage, but we are not getting him to play first base for the Rays. As long as we hide his fielding glove after Batting Practice, he will be a solid choice for the Designated Hitter position. The guy is a true hitting machine when he is motivated. And how could you not be motivated when you get to play 17 games each against your two worst enemies, the Yankees and the Red Sox. Not only that, but with 3 squads currently seeking his services, it might be prudent that the Rays be a the aggressor here before Giambi feels neglected and signs with another team.

 


I think that it might take a 2 year deal, but it will be well worth the money and the pain to have this guy on your roster. He is a huge community service guy, which the Rays value a lot in their players the last few years. He is also a great clubhouse guy and can just build on the work that Cliff Floyd did for the Rays last year.  The deal might bog down the Rays for about $ 20-25 million dollars, but Giambi also is worth ever cent if he strokes the ball the way he did at Tropicana Field last  few seasons.

 

 

 


Resolution 5: 

Keep the team chemistry up high and the success will come again:


You have to admit that Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s slogan for 2008, “9=8″ went a long long way into pulling the team towards their playoff goal. The mental workup of the Rays was high from day one, and the team continued to compete and succeed towards that goal in 2008. Because of this, I ma actually looking forward to the new motto or credo that Maddon brings out in 2009.

 


Maddon is an avid reader, and you know that during his travels to Europe in the off season, might have picked up a few new quotes and stories to translate and morph into baseball related folly for the team. He is one of the best motivators I have seen in baseball due to his low key approach to players and the media. But if you have seen him behind the scenes, you know he has true intensity and the drive to excellence in everything he does in life.

 

 


By keeping up that same credo and positive energy in 2009, he will again give the team a support to lean on when they get down or begin to doubt themselves or the system. With his coaching staff, Maddon can affirm and display this mantra for everyone to see, and to believe in again in 2009.

 


So here we go with 5 simple resolutions for the Rays in 2009. Some of them might involve a little money, but then again with the increased Season Ticket holders, and the new interest in our team, the Rays will have a new revenue stream that had been nothing more than a trickle from the facet in 2008. Hard work and also strict contractual situations are ahead for the team in the next 40-some days.

 


With Arbitration hearing coming soon, and the young stars getting healthy raises in their salaries only a few years away for the team. The future is bright for the Rays, but only if they also secure the past with success and the formulation of a winning attitude and tradition. And it all begins on this first day in January, 2009.

Where is the ” Gambino? “

 

 

 

When I was younger, there were several television and  picture puzzle shows that questioned the location of its characters. “Wheres Waldo? ” and “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? ” were institutions for kids to want to discover geography and hopefully, develop a love for other countries cultures and it hoped to cultivate a yearning to read about other nations around the globe.

 

Well, in the vein of such great shows and pictorial institutions, I think that the Tampa Bay community should create its own version called,” Where Is the Gambino? “. Seriously folks, since he has let it be known that he would love to play for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009, I have seen multitudes of Giambi sightings in Las Vegas and in venues beyond the neon lights. The tabloids and the Internet are full of “Gambino” photos of him posing with the rich and famous, and with the fans of the blue-eyed slugger.

 

 

 

 

Here we have a nice keepsake photo of Rays Manager, Joe Maddon in the kitchen with culinary master chef Barry Dakake at his swanky Las Vegas bistro with the “G-man” at their side.  To say that Giambi is a social animal is an understatement. He truly enjoys the social side of baseball as much as the hitting and running. And he also pulls both off well. But be advised, he is great on the diamond as long as you hide his glove after Batting Practice.

 

So the guy with the steel-blue serial killer eyes wants to be a Ray?  He is currently campaigning to be a Ray, an Athletic and even a Blue Jay. All three need a highly potent bat at Designated Hitter for 2009. So where will Giambi park his Escalade in 2009? Most people think that the next sighting of the “Giambino” might be at a contract signing at Tropicana Field some time in the next few weeks. According to local gurus, the slugger is adamate about the area and wants to play for a winner next year. That combined with the aspect of putting it to his former team might be a great motivator for Giambi.

 

I can give you an honest opinion here that I like the idea of him playing here. I love it more for the fact it will drive Yankees Manager Joe Girardi absolutely nuts 17 times a year, and I like that idea a whole lot. And I am fine with that proposition, since I personally think that Girardi is not the right fit for the manager of the Yankees. Even as a player he was never the “go-to” guy on his Yankee squads. I can see him as a bench coach, or even a catching coordinator in someones’ minor league system, but not the head honcho of the Yankees. He was very lucky with the Florida Marlins, they were a good team before he got there and got better with him in the dugout, in spite of his managing skills.

 

 

 

 

But I do know that Giambi loves the Tampa Bay area. You got to remember, he spent every Spring Training here with the Yankees, and his rehab assignments have all started in Tampa, at the neighboring Yankees complex on North Dale Mabry by Raymond James Stadium. He has been known to stand out in the crowd at local hangouts during the spring, or when the Yankees were in town to play the Rays. I saw him a few times at Push Lounge during the Yankees series last year. And you know he was there for the music, not the fine assets that wear skimpy outfits in Tampa Bay. The nightlife in St. Petersburg and Ybor City would appeal to him, and we all know that he is not your typical baseball hound, he is usually seen mingling and chatting up with the locals either on the main floor or by the rails at the VIP lounge area.

 

 

                       

 

 

Can you imagine the St Peterburg Times section called “The Juice” blowing up in popularity by posting a “Giambino” photo essay weekely on the places to go, and be if you are an up and coming guy like Giambi. I can only imagine the rise in readership and webviews if such a section would be included in the publication. It would surely help the circulation woes of the paper and maybe even produce a cottage industry of people going to places to be Giambi watchers.

 

Might even spawn a club or two of faithful Rays fans who would be affectionately called the “Giam-Bros” who would be a outer perimeter posse for the big D H. Wow, could this area even support such a player who could transform a fan base into loving an ex-Yankee. Well, it might actually bring in a few Yankees fans to more games to just try and get Giambi’s signature. People in the Bronx had a hard time getting up close and persona with the giant, but now could get right next to him in the fan-friendy confines of the Trop.

 

 

 

 

And we already know that we will be able to find Giambi after Rays game somewhere in the community enjying life and the night life. Think of the crowds that would assemble for signing outside the stadium. And try and even imagine a Giambino sighting at a Lightning game or a USF football game. The crowd would go wild to know that he is supporting the local community.

 

 

 

 

And we do not have to worry about a posse or entourage for him. He is a personal friend of any celebrity that wants to meet him. Seriously, just becuase he took a photo with ?Rays crazy man Brian Knobs, doesn’t mean they do not have each others number on speed dial. Think of the entourage he could obtain of just the current Rays fans. He could have Hulk Hogan, Bill Goldberg, Knobs and John Cena in his corner as muscle while other locals celebs would flock to chat and mingle with the new Rays.

 

I have a personal “Giambino: story I know about that is quite halarious and think you might find it funny too. Back in the days when Jason and his brother, Jeremy played for the Oaklans A’s, they used to love to mingle in the crowds at Fergs’. This is true story, one time I was there with a friend and the two brothers were there with team mate Jason Isringhausen having a few brews and enjoying the sights. Well, come time to leave, a friend of mine decided to give them a ride back to the Vinoy, which is on the waterfront here in St. Petersburg. Well, somehow she got the Mercedes Benz pointed in the wrong direction and after driving for a spell, found them selves in Tampa, a good 20 miles norht of the hotel.  True story, and one that Giambi might still remember.

 

 

 

 

But beyond that, think of the crowds and the publicity this guy can bring to charity events and community outreach programs. While he was with the Yankees he was a vaulable pitch man and a community magnet for anything to do with the kids. That is the part of this guy that I admire greatly, and wish we had more of on the team. We do have the guys who give their all for the community, but sometimes the lack of name recognition right now gets the better of the Rays.

 

After this past post season, I truly feel that is a thing of the past, but we shall see on that front. Anyways, the guy would be an instant hit and a instant attraction at events. Tell me you would not stand in line for his autograph or a chance of a photo with Giambi. I can tell you I enjoy meeting these guys and taking a photo more for the sake of talking about it when I am old and gray.

 

Baseball players can make a huge impact on younger kids since the baseball seasons in Florida can run 12 months a year of the weather is good. With that kind of potential for new fans and interest in the team, a guy like Giambi might be a perfect fit. A local newspaper also has listed the odds of getting the big slugger at 3-1, and I will take those odds.

 

Heck, I have forgotten all about the Mitchell Report and everything else before 3 years ago with this guy. If you saw a photo of him in the minors, you know that he either took a huge responsibility to get bigger, or had some help. Since I played a bit of football at every level we have in the US, I know what he did and how he got that big. 

 

 But I also know it is the culture of sports and not the athlete that sometimes condones and expects such actions.  For that reason, I will never shout the “Steroid” word at him, or even riddicule him for something he did to make him better suited for his craft.  It is a fact of life that people love the long ball, and some players have to adjudt their body mass to get the same result as natural hitters like Ken Griffey Jr.

 

                            

 

But what has endeared me to the guy is what he did during the Spring Opener at Yankee Stadium in 2007.  Jason Giambi has known Cory Lidle during his days both as an Athletic and as a Yankee. You have to assume and know that the guys were friends. And when Lidle has that fatal airplane collision in 2006, you know Giambi was one of the first Yankees to break down and cry.

 

But the action he took with Cory’s widow Melanie and her son, Christopher that day truly touched me alot. Here is guy as big as a horse who was there foir the family of a fallen  team mate, kneeling with his son before the ceremonial first pitch of the 2007 season. I was a touching sight and one I have had signed by him on a 8 X 10. I know what I saw in his eyes when he signed it, and I let him know he was a baseball friend of mine form his short time with the Rays.

 

Giambi just patted me on the shoulder and asked how close were we, I told him not as close as team mate, but as close as you can get with a guy without violating that fan-player trust. He just smiled and told me to catch him anothe time when we could chat more…………That is why I like this guy as more thna  ball player. His personality and charm is just what the Rays need to convey that next level of greatness. I hope we sign the guy, but even if we do not, I am a “Giambino” fan for life now.

 

So what do you thinki, can we get a localized version of “Where’s the Giambino?” going if we sign this gentle giant, or will the polarized fan base of the Rays again make a great baseball player think twice about signing with a small market club. One of the huge advantages of playing here that is missed by so many players is tha fact you are no longer in that fishbowl, you can live your life with a bit more freedom and enjoy your time with the team.  And Jason, if you need an inside source for your entourage, call me..I am in the book.

 

 

Rays Rumors: Giambi, Dye and Sonnanstine

 

                          

There has been alot of chatter and speculation that the Tampa Bay Rays might be talking to former Yankee Jason Giambi about a possible Designated Hitters’ position with the club.  I have always been a defender and distractor of the “Giambino”  because his past behavior and his hitting prowness .

To say that the Rays would not listen to his agent would be obsurb. We will listen to anyone talk about their client or even tap dance on the top of the dugout, but the price has to be right for the Rays to bite on Giambi. He would have to be willing to give the team a “AL East” discount.

By this I mean he will have to give them a discount to be able to face his former team at least 17 times in 2009 and rub their noses in their refusal to even consider him for the team. He would be an upgrade to the DH position without a doubt, but he will also have to come with the stipulation that fater BP he throws his gloves into his locker and doesn’t look at them again until the next day.

To say he would be a defensive downgrade would be a joke. He has gone from being an ample first baseman, to being a liability with a glove. He no longer has the range or the motion to adequately play the position for an extended time. And considering the Rays have one of the best at the position in house, He will need to stow the gloves after BP.

 

                  

 

For the Rays sake, that might have to be written into the contract. For intimidation factor, Giambi gets a “10”. I always say when I see him on the big screen that he has serial killer eyes. Those baby blues seem to stare right through you even from 50 yeards away. I can only imagine what they look like when he sees a hanging curveball or breaking pitch and is about to thrust it over the wall in one long swing.

 

                             

 

Jermaine Dye is another guy who has been getting a lot of Rays trade talk in recent weeks. He is a powerful hitter who is also right-handed. that plays right into the Rays plans looking for a above average bat who can also play a great defensive outfield position.

But what might not play into the Chicago White Sox plans is the fact that the team is asking for a proven starter and a fielder player at the triple-A level for Dye. He is still under contract for the 2009 season, and will certainly be considered a prime free agent next season.

He has been pretty injury free and has taken his batting game up a notch the last 2 seasons. In the recent American League Divisional Series, the Rays got a lot of first hand looks at Dye as he hit and drove in runs for the White Sox in the series against the Rays.

 

                              

What is also known around baseball is that White Sox GM, Ken Williams wants to lower his payroll a bit before filling his holes on his squad. He will have to start to make deal soon to be able to capitalize on the top tier players before the market goes thin and he will have to trade for his desired postions.

Also of consideration is if the Rays are on the list of 6 potential trade destinations that Dye will veto any trades. The Rays might have been on that list in 2007, but would Dye either void the list or are the Rays a desination that suits Dye………..We shall see in the coming weeks.

 

 

                   

 

The New York Mets have been actively asking and looking for information on the Rays 4 and 5 starters this off-season. Edwin Jackson had early interest from the team, but based on his career numbers and his consistant pitching, they have moved onto inquiring about Andy Sonnanstine.

Sonnanstine has been a fierce competitor for a long time. He was not an orignal target of the Rays in the amatuer draft, but former owner Vince Namoli was interested in Sonnanstine after a win against his alma mater, the Norte Dame Fighting Irish. The Kent State pitcher had always fought the Irish hard and Namoli liked the young pitcher’s style.

So the team drafted him and Sonnanstine displayed this same knack for consistancy all the way through the minor leagues. When he got to the majors, he had already been selected as the Rays “minor League Pitcher of the Year” twice during his tour in the Rays farm system.

 

                    

 

He came to the majors and set a presence of consitant pitching and low run and walks totals, which have kept him into games deep last year and this season for the Rays. He was the first pitcher to hit the 11 win plateau this season, but got mired at that number before finally posting his 12th win. He is one of those inning eater pitchers who can make a staff better by pitching his game and staying on top of the opposition.

I really do not think the Mets have the fair trade prospects in their farm system to make a ideal trade with the Rays. If they were to get Sonnanstine, it would have to be a 3-team deal that would bring in a few pieces that would be heading Tampa Bay’s way.

That is not say that the wheels are not already at work trying to locate pieces that would entice the Rays to give up their young pitcher. The Rays are still under control of Sonnanstine until 2010, when he will be up for his first taste of arbitration.

 

 

 

 

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