Results tagged ‘ Jesus Colome ’

Rays Finally Sporting Green Again on St. Patrick’s Day

 

 
                    MISC2010 | www.RaysRenegade.com

I love this day. On St. Patrick’s Day everyone among the entire baseball rank and file is of Irish decent for at least 24 hours. And along with the Rays, every other Major League Baseball team seems to embrace this day with zeal and enthusiasm along with a fine bit of the green somewhere upon their uniforms.
 
But for some odd reason, since the Tampa Bay Rays changed their basic game day Batting Practice jersey tops and overall team color scheme away from the Forest Green shade in November 2007, the team had not played a single game on March 17th. That’s right, for two straight Grapefruit seasons the normally blue-hued Rays have had this ultimate green day off for the last two Spring Training seasons.

And it is really wild that a team that used to boast on their backs everyday Forest Green uniforms throughout their Spring Training schedule from 2001-2007, lost their way on this day of consuming corned beef and cabbage and a few adult malted beverages.
 

Ever since the Rays public presentation in St. Petersburg’s Straub Park in November 2007, when the Rays revealed to the Rays Republic their new trend to dismantle the past Rays green and become a new with the Rays blue, we have been absent from the Grapefruit schedule on this one date.
 

But alas ( I always wanted to say that ) with a new decade sprung upon us, hopefully a new Rays tradition has blossomed as I foretold to the Rays Republic 10 days ago on Twitter, about the anticipated Rays headgear for this glorious day. For on that great day, Rays Clubhouse Manager Chris Westmoreland confirmed the wee scuttlebutt I had heard from Irish lad in the Rays Front Office that the Rays would embrace the green again this fine date.
 

 
www.TBO.com

And the tradition would return again in the glorious addition of a Rays Kelly Green cap with a white shamrock upon it nestled just to the bottom left of the Rays “TB” symbol on their cap.

 

And the Luck of the Rays on this fine day in 2010 would be better than the last time the Rays adorned the green back in 2007 when the last Green clad Rays squad lost 5-3 to the Cleveland Indians at Progress Energy Field . On that day, fine Irish names ( at least for 1 day) like Casey Fossum, Gary Glover, Tim Corcoran and Greg Norton graced the Rays Spring roster but could not bring home the victory.
 

But there was another time, and not so long ago that the Rays wore this same shade of Kelly Green, and it was amazing. The entire Rays staff and players donned Kelly Green uniforms on this date in 2002, and they did it both to celebrate the day, and to also support their local in-house charity, The Rays of Hope Foundation.

But during that special 2002 St Patrick’s Day game during the Namoli days, the Rays of Hope Foundation used this day to celebrate and entice the Rays faithful into giving from their hearts. On March 17,2002, every single member of the Rays organization from the Rays players and Coaches down wore a Kelly Green cap and jersey top especially fashioned for the occasion.
 

The uniform top and cap made a bold statement that day, and also was an instant collector’s item for the Rays fan base. But there was a catch. For the chance to own a piece of this special Rays history, you had to go on line at the team’s website and participate in a silent Rays auction bidding on the autographed cap and jersey you wanted from your favorite Rays player or Coach.

 

 
RRCollections

I know I did my part during the next week constantly submitting bids on three different jerseys and caps, finally winning two jerseys for my Rays collection. I ended up owning a jersey signed by Rays reliever Jesus Colome and Aubrey Huff jerseys to my budding Rays collection. It was a great item to add to my collection, and I was helping the Rays charity in their work around the Tampa Bay community with my purchase.

I have even worn them to Rays games the last several years and people are surprised that the team wore that bold green shade even once during their “green” days.

 

But I have a burning question today. Why didn’t the Rays current charity arm, The Rays Foundation not even think of reestablishing this 2002 Rays tradition when the Rays would be playing at home in Port Charlotte, Florida for the first time on St. Patrick’s Day?

Before the Rays two-year absence on this date, the team last played the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater on St. Patrick’s Day, and you know the Phillies were sporting their green uniforms proudly that day. And how nostalgic it would have been if the team again donned the green uniforms against the same Twins team they faced in 2002 wearing Kelly green uniforms.

 

I truly think it was a lost opportunity for the Rays Foundation to gather additional charitable funds and establish a secondary yearly auction idea with the team again poised to wear green upon their heads today. And the Rays Foundation could have easily gotten a substantial payday to put towards those 2010 charity goals, and maybe even surpass their 2010 expectations with such a event.

Back in 2002, both Majestic and New Era caps were on board when the Rays last held a St. Patrick’s Day auction, why could it have not worked again in 2010? It is not like The Rays Foundation has not done this type of charity autographed uniform auction fundraising.

The Rays Foundation has the experience in focusing on this same type of event since they are an active participant in the Rays online “Throwback Jersey” auctions held the last several years when the Rays wore either their own past Rays past colors, or those of former Tampa Bay area teams like the St. Petersburg Saints.

 

I am not going to say the Rays Foundation dropped the ball here because they might never have even picked it up in the first place. But I would have thought someone roaming around up on the Rays third floor offices would have approached such an idea, or even attempted to duplicate this extremely popular past event and also make some great coinage to support other charitable Rays Foundation endeavors.
 

When I was calling around trying to get confirmation on the Rays green cap for St. Patrick’s Day way back in February, I asked someone who works up in the Rays Front Office about if the Rays had a plan to again play wearing an all-green uniforms on St. Patrick’s Day, and they had no idea why the Rays organization did not fall all over this idea, and institute again an all green Rays 2010 moment on St. Patrick’s Day.
 

Sometimes it truly amazes me that the Rays for some reason do not embrace their old not so distant history. but then again, the current Rays ownership has been trying to move from the “Rays” basic team concept from the image of the swimming docile creature, to a more omnificent “Rays of light” concept.

Funny, I even went in the archives of my Rays Renegade blog and found that one of my 2010 New Years predictions was hoping the Rays would embrace this past great event with gusto again.

 

 

There are plenty of Major League Baseball teams sporting green today. Some like the Oakland A’s still have it as their primary color in their jerseys. But the Rays abandoned that part of their past, and on a special day like St. Patrick’s Day, I would hope that the team again embrace their “green” past, plus provide a special moment for everyone, especially their fans. The special edition cap can be purchased at the Rays Team Store in 2010, and online for $19.99, but it doesn’t sport the shamrock on it in the online photo.

 

I am glad the Rays have taken the first steps to again bringing the “green” back to the Rays at least for St. Patrick’s Day this year. I am actually happy that the organization made this move, and I hope that I might have put an brainstorming future idea into the Rays Foundation for another future St. Patrick’s Day uniform auction.
 

And I kind of find it a bit of poetic justice that the team the Rays last wore Kelly Green against, the Minnesota Twins are again in town today to play the Rays. Hopefully this time with the added shamrock the luck of the Rays will come through. In 2002, the Rays lost to the Twins at home on this date 7-5.

 

Well, it is game time here in Port Charlotte and I have to go catch some Rays baseball. But I will be sure to raise my cold and frothy glass high today at the Rays Tiki Deck bar and salute the past, present and future Rays health, glory and bevy of wins on a day when we all should be proud to be truly Green Rays fans.
 

Nationals Player Should Only get Part of the Blame

With the recent revelation that the Washington Nationals got bamboozled by a young Dominican player in such an elaborate scheme that the player received a $ 1.4 million dollar signing bonus in July 2006.
What is more surprising is the fact that his age was not the only falsehood that escaped the Nationals security background check on the player. His name was also misrepresented to the team, they thought they had signed a 16-year old prospect named Esmailyn ” Smiley” Gonzalez when in fact he materialized into a 23-year old player who real name was Carlos David Alvarez Lugo.

This has not been the first time when a Dominican player has been found out, or even admitted to an advanced age than has been reported on birth certificates given when they signed their first contracts. In the Dominican Republic one need not ask its children what they want to be when they grow up- the answer is always pelotero.

The relationship between  young Dominican boys and baseball is one that transcends simple sentences and abstract thoughts, it can be traced back to simple life changing moments and making a family more secure in their lives.  Yet  the basics of life in the Dominican Republic can be altered forever if a player can get that first shot at baseball, and the professional teams are not wary at first glance when they see a promising prospect on the clay fields.

Dominicans love and pursue baseball with the passion and yearnings of an adolescent boy dreaming of being at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, with the scored tied in the 7th game of the World Series. Young Dominicans boys do not “play” baseball because is not a game, but is something on which their livelihoods often depend on.
Can it be true that there is a tropical island of palms and warm tides that revolves around  America’s favorite pastime that has made me happy and sad in ways no other thing or person has in life?  But that’s not quite the whole story, is it? There is passion, but there is poverty. There is triumph and fortune to be had for the few, but there is failure and a per capital income of $1,600 a year for most of this impoverished country.

I have to think about that for a moment. That would not even equal the cost of my Tampa Bay Rays Season Ticket seat in the Lower Box area of Tropicana Field for a year. And yet, there are people living and eating on that amount every day in the Dominican.
I can not even fathom that thought process of living on so little, but hoping to produce so much out of an amount most of us make in a month in the United States. And we wonder why these players go to any length to fabricate a living and a dream in the same motion. I do not agree with the falsehoods, but I can respect the action to make their families lives more secure and financial matter disappear for their parents and siblings.

Ever since the early 1950’s, the United States have traveled to see the Dominican players that have embraced the American sport and they have been rewarded by it in return. In 1987 there were approximately fifty Dominicans playing in the major leagues, as of today over 1,443 Dominican players are signed to professional contracts.

In addition, as Latinos obtain more ownership and management positions within Major League Baseball, issues regarding the treatment of Latin players will likely become a greater priority for the League. Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno, baseball’s first Latino majority owner is a prime example of this as his team was built around Dominican powerhouses like Bartolo Colon, Jose Guillen and the 2004 recipient of the American League Most Valuable Player Award, Vladimir Guerrero. 

It is easy to see how the system can be manipulated and certain deficiencies of the process evolve simply by the way in which Dominican recruits come to play for Major League Baseball.  There is a huge contrast to the process in which American players become part of the League. In the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, teams may not sign high school players, making the effective minimum signing age 18 years.
If an amateur athlete enters the Draft from college he is afforded additional protections by various rules and regulations of the National Collegiate Athletic Association ( NCAA ) that prevent professional teams and agents from taking advantage of him.

Once a player enters the Draft by asking that his name be placed on the Draft List, he is protected by the provisions of the current Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement. Upon signing with a Major League team the player is bound to that franchise for a term of six years and guaranteed a minimum salary.

These protections are guaranteed by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, also known as the Players’ Union,  and they believe these rules needed to be enacted for a fair playing field between teams and players in labor relations.

These devices and rulings are in place to guarantees the rights of players and draftees have earned through negotiations with the League. These rules are considered vital in maintaining  a stable balance to teams and athletes during the process of signing American, Canadian and Puerto Rican players to fill Major League rosters. Drafting guidelines  currently apply only to the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

But can these same ruling be adopted or even expanded to include the Caribbean countries and maybe even spawn as far south as South America?   But getting back to the Dominican situation, Dominican recruits are not sheltered by the same protections and the process by which they come to play for Major League teams. 
There is a huge gap in the same rules and protections that are currently afforded to their American counterparts, despite the close geographical locations of the two nations. These differences in the treatment of Dominican versus American athletes by Major League Baseball has raised two main identifiable issues in the past:

1)  Is the signing of a 16-year old from one of these Caribbean countries also a violation of the MLB ruling that players must be at least 17 before they can enter into a contract with the MLB or any of its team?

2)Is the presence of buscones and the out-of-sight, out-of-mind policing of existing  MLB regulations by the buscones in the Dominican Republic bring into the foresight  the simple birth certificate forgeries or even alterations to benefit the only those who scout select individual  Dominican players.
According to Major League Rule 3(a)(1)(B), a player not subject to the Draft may be signed at age seventeen, or at age sixteen, providing he will turn seventeen prior to either the end of the baseball season in which he is signed or September first of the year in which he is signed. If the national medias coverage of underage signings is a reflection of widespread practice, then over the past seven years such deceptions have become almost passe. 
The Los Angeles Dodgers  have been rocked by this practice in the past when it was learned that Adrian Beltre was signed illegally and knowingly at age fifteen when a Dodgers scout altered Beltre’s birth certificate with white-out to make him of signing age.  

A similar indiscretion in 1997, plagued the Florida Marlins  when they signed a Dominican pitcher Ricardo Aramboles for $5,500.

However, a disgruntled US agent leaked information to the Commissioner’s office and it was proven Aramboles was only fourteen years of age. Aramboles was  immediately released from his contract. But teams centered in areas of high Latin populations are not the only culprits in this type of 3-card Monte.

The Cleveland Indians also violated Major League Rules by signing fifteen-year-old Laumin Bessa, dating relevant documents in advance so as to appear that they were signed after Bessa’s sixteenth birthday. 

In addition to the signing of underage players, teams have been known to hide prospects as young as fourteen years old at remote Dominican training facilities to prevent the children from signing with another team.  

And although Major League Rules prohibit the signing of a player under the age of sixteen, there is no prohibition against academies hosting children between the ages of twelve and sixteen for Instructional purposes.

It has been suggested by past media coverage that the practice of signing underage players is widespread. This assumption is based on the belief that the player’s incentive to lie and the team’s incentive to accept that lie are too great for either party to avoid.

It is important that while this could be an accurate description of the widespread practice, there is to my knowledge, no empirical data or research of any other kind that suggests this is so.  

While the problem of signing or dealing with children under the age of sixteen is perhaps the most vital age-related issue for the Dominican Republic and Major League Baseball, there also exists the problem of players presenting fraudulent documentation to appear younger than their true age in order to avoid seeming “past their prime” and less attractive to Major League scouts.

The enormous rampant practice of this tinkering was exposed during an immigration crack-down that followed the attacks of September 11, 2001. While deception regarding one’s age is recognized as a survival tactic for impoverished Dominican players anxious to make a living, it is also a clear violation of United States immigration law and persistent violations by Dominican citizens could cause strife between the two nations.

Have you ever noticed the difficulty of some players getting out of the Dominican Republic for Spring Training in recent years. Forced to stay behind  in the country while their Visa is analyzed and finally granted permission to travel to the United States to perform their jobs.

A second major difference between the way in which domestic, Canadian and Puerto Rican prospects are signed, as opposed to Dominican prospects, is that while draftees are protected by state laws and NCAA regulations regarding the acquisition of agents, Dominican players are offered no such protection and thus find themselves at the mercy of buscones, or “finders” who take large portions of their signing bonuses as fee for getting them into the major leagues.  

In fact, a Dominican player can expect to part with as much as fifty percent of his signing bonus, in contrast to the three to five percent commissions that sports agents in the United States receive.  

While there is no written accounts of the misguidance by buscones is rampant in the Dominican, the story of  current Ray infielder Willy Aybar bring out into the light the problems of informal representation. Enrique Soto, one of the most famous Dominican “finders”, discovered Aybar at age thirteen and molded his development as a player.

Upon signing with the Dodgers, the team released the first half of Aybar’s bonus, $490,000, to Soto, who deposited the check in his personal bank account. Soto then paid the American agent, Rob Plummer, who negotiated the contract, $35,000, and finally awarded Aybar’s family a lump sum of $6,250 and a stipend of roughly $ 2,000 a month.

Although Soto returned roughly $185,000 to the Aybars it is believed he is still in possession of over $200,000 of Aybar’s signing bonus. While Aybar received a signing bonus of $1.4 million, most Dominican players receive substantially less. Because non-draftees are treated and signed as free agents the player may go to the team with the highest bid for his services.

There are also no guidelines or even a unwritten rule for what a team may offer, and signing bonuses for Dominican and Latin players are small in comparison to those draftees receive. For instance, in 2000 the Cleveland Indians signed forty Latin American players for approximately $700,000.

Their first draft pick, an eighteen-year-old pitcher from the United States, was paid more than one million dollars above that price. So do not be too quick to judge in this case of the falsehood of this player signed by the Nationals. He was scouted and recommended by a member of the Nationals  staff, Jose Rijos to be the “real deal.” 

Because of the financial collapse of world wide currencies, Latin players, and also Dominicans will be quick to move towards falsifying and altering documents to get a shot at the big times. But that is just the world we set up for them.

MLB  set up an office in the city of Santo Domingo in 2000 to try and stop the practice of doctoring documents for players seeking to play in the US.  In the last crackdown on the Latin players in the major leagues in the early 2000’s , the MLB  found at least 550 players had altered their documents to gain access to the baseball league.

In one case, the player was actually one year younger than was stated on his documents. That player was Jesus Colome, currently a Spring Training invitee to the Nationals camp. So as you can see, a majority of Latin players might have a hidden agenda for getting to the majors and enjoy the lifestyle they could only dream about in their country.

What we need to do is try and develop a  player draft system that will also incorporate the Latin countries and other nations not covered currently by the CBA. This will not this influx of mystery and misguided intentions completely dormant, but at least we might be able to celebrate a real birthday with a player, instead of always wondering just how old he really is……….or if that is his real name.

Love Me Non-Tender Candidates 2008…Part Two

 

 

As they leave the bright lights and glitter of Las Vegas tonight, the decisions and the problems of the 30 MLB General Managers and their respective departments are not over.  Even if they are flying in luxury accomodations, the GM’s and their staff know that the next 24 hours can also make or break a season by selecting the right players to help the squad in 2009. For tomorrow bring more sticky situations to try and either keep or jettison players who might make a difference in 2009.

 

So in the morning on this Friday, December 12th, every team in the major leagues must decide to either tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, or set them free as more glut in the 2009 free agent market. And while in past years the non-tendered players weren’t considered to be difference-makers, the list could be more interesting this year.  There are several players on this list who either had bad situation on their teams or might have been fighting back from injuries in 2008.

 

Players who are “tendered” on Friday are considered signed for 2009 at a salary to be determined, not less than 80 percent of his salary the previous season, and both sides continue negotiating. If a deal cannot be struck, the team and the player will each file a proposed 2009 salary in early January. Those figures are exchanged on Jan. 19, and a date for a salary arbitration hearing is then set for Feb. 1-21. 

 

If the sides still cannot come to terms before the date of the hearing, a representative for the team and one for the player present a case before a panel of arbiters, which chooses one salary or the other.  On the other hand, if a player is not tendered a contract before Friday’s deadline, he becomes a free agent.

 

A nationwide economic downturn has affected how Major League Baseball teams are conducting business, and in an effort to cut corners, the number of non-tendered players could increase, based solely on the market’s projected rise in their salaries based on arbitration data and past results.. The same can be said for the quality of those players. Some of the guys being considered for non-tender have been great contributors to their teams in the past, but not during the 2008 season.

 

Past  players non-tendered include David Ortiz, Rick Ankiel, Ryan Franklin, David Eckstein, and Chad Durbin.  Usually at least a few useful guys are unearthed. I am going to submit a few names that are being considered to be non-tendered starting at midnight tonight. Some of these names might sign free agent contracts with their old teams, but usually if a player is released from that team, they tend to float to another organization instead of resign with their old clubs.

 

                   

 

 The Toronto Blue Jays will have to make decision on four of their players on Friday as to if they are being considered as future pieces to the Blue Jays  picture in 2009. General manager J.P. Ricciardi said this week that Jason Frasor, Brian Tallet, Brandon League and Jose Bautista are all likely to receive an offer.  Ricciardi noted that Frasor, Tallet and League are all in the plans to rejoin Toronto’s bullpen, which led baseball with a 2.94 ERA this past season.

 

Of the three relievers, Frasor is the most likely to not receive an offer, considering he’s due for a raise after making $1.125 million in 2008 and the Jays are strapped for cash this winter.  Last season, the 31-year-old Frasor posted a 4.18 ERA in 49 games for the Blue Jays, serving as a middle reliever. Across 47 1/3 innings, the right hander struck out 42 batters and issued 32 walks. Frasor limited hitters to a .208 batting average, including a .174 mark against right-handed batters.

 

The 31-year-old Tallet, who earned $640,000 in his first year of arbitration in 2008, established a career best with a 2.88 ERA last season. The left hander appeared in 51 games and registered 47 strikeouts against 22 walks over 56 1/3 innings. Tallet was especially tough on right-handed hitters, holding them to a .230 average. 

 

 

League, 25, is eligible for arbitration for the first time this off season after making $400,000 in 2008. Last season, the hard-throwing right hander posted a career-best 2.18 ERA out of the bullpen, with 23 strikeouts and 15 walks in 31 appearances. In his 33 innings, League had a 3.71 groundball to flyball ratio and limited right-handed hitters to a .200 average.  The Blue Jays acquired the 28-year-old Bautista in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates in late August and the utility man appeared in 21 games for Toronto down the stretch. Overall, Bautista hit .238 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 128 games with the Pirates and Jays in ’08, when he earned $1.8 million.

 

 

 

Another ex-Rays has popped up on the non-tender candidates list coming into Friday night’s deadline to offer contracts to arbitration eligible players. The Braves aren’t sure exactly how Matt Diaz fits into their plans for the 2009 season, but the veteran outfielder can at least feel good about the fact that he seemingly fits into these plans. 

 

Among the group of Braves who are eligible for arbitration, Diaz, who missed most of this past season because of a torn ligament in his right knee, was seemingly the only candidate to be non-tendered by Friday’s midnight ET deadline. But all indications are that the Braves are looking forward to having a healthy Diaz on their roster. He could platoon in left field or simply provided a reliable right-handed bat off the bench. Diaz, Mike Gonzalez, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Francoeur, Kelly Johnson and Omar Infante are the arbitration-eligible players expected to be tendered contracts by the Braves on Friday.

 

 

The Dodgers face a handful of non-tender decisions by Friday night’s deadline, with the focus . Takashi Saito. He is arbitration eligible, but only if the Dodgers tender him a contract. And even though he’s the highest-rated reliever in the National League over the past two years, the club might effectively release Saito, who missed two months with an elbow injury.

 

 

 

 

Money isn’t the burning issue for the Marlins as they approach the non-tender deadline. If they want, they have the allocation to sign all 10 of their remaining arbitration-eligible players. The team must decide if it wants to retain everyone, or pursue other options. 


 

In all, Florida has 10 arbitration-eligible players who must be either tendered a contract or not. The list includes much of the team’s nucleus: Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, Cody Ross, Jeremy Hermida, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Alfredo Amezaga, Logan Kensing, Joe Nelson and Dallas McPherson. Of the group, the possible non-tenders appear to be Nelson and McPherson.

 

Uggla, Cantu, Ross, Hermida and Amezaga are position players who will be tendered. Now, the Marlins are continuing to explore possible trades for Hermida. Johnson and Nolasco are the leading candidates to be the Opening Day starter. Kensing and Nelson are right hander relievers.

 


 

Baseball’s non-tender deadline should come and go on Friday night without consequence for the Mets, whose arbitration-eligible players will play significant roles on the team in 2009.  But the Mets have little reason not to retain their eligible players: Ryan Church, John Maine, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez and Jeremy Reed.

 

Church, 30, hit .276 with 12 home runs in 90 games last season, his first with the Mets. He was the team’s most productive hitter until a concussion sidelined him in May and created a series of lingering effects that plagued him for the rest of the season. Church, who agreed to a $2 million contract to avoid arbitration last off season, will enter Spring Training as the starting right fielder.

 

Maine, 27, is expected to be the third pitcher in a starting rotation that also includes Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey. Coming off right shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his season, Maine will be arbitration-eligible for the first time. Feliciano, 32, produced a 4.05 ERA and two saves last season as one of the Mets’ two primary left-handed relievers. He also avoided arbitration last season by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.025 million.

 

Reed, 27, is the outfielder the Mets received as part of the 12-player trade Wednesday that also landed them Putz. He is expected to assume Endy Chavez’s role as a fourth outfielder.

Sanchez, 29, will begin his second full season since missing a year and a half after two surgeries on his pitching shoulder. General manager Omar Minaya has said publicly that he expects Sanchez to be more successful this season, especially now that the presence of Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz will allow him to pitch earlier in games.

 

 

 

 

Pitchers Shawn Hill, Scott Olsen and Tim Redding, outfielders Willie Harris and Josh Willingham and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman must be offered contracts by Washington or they will become free agents. Entering the Winter Meetings, the Nationals had to make decisions on seven players, but the club released reliever Jesus Colome on Wednesday.

 

He appeared in 61 games and had a 4.31 ERA while being used as a setup man last season.  As for the rest of the players, Olsen, Redding, Harris, Willingham and Zimmerman most likely will be offered contracts. However, Hill will be a tough decision. He has had elbow problems the past four years in Washington and has pitched in a combined 34 games.

 

 

The White Sox are expected to tender contracts to Bobby Jenks and DeWayne Wise prior to Friday night’s 11 p.m. CT deadline for all arbitration-eligible players. This duo stands as the only two arbitration-eligible players on the team’s 40-man roster.

 

 

                        

 

Jenks, 27, could earn 10 times more than his $550,000 salary for 2008 if he goes through the arbitration process, having emerged as one of the game’s steadiest closers. Despite being attached to a great deal of Hot Stove trade talk deemed by general manager Ken Williams as “just rumor and innuendo,” the burly right hander enters the 2009 season as the second-fastest pitcher to reach 100 saves in Major League history. Jenks accomplished this feat in just 187 games, trailing only Kazuhiro Sasaki’s total of 160.

 

Wise had a rags-to-riches story in 2008. Independent baseball in New Jersey looked to be his season-long vocation, until Minor League director Buddy Bell, who knew Wise from their days together with the Reds, encouraged the White Sox to bring the 30-year-old veteran into Minor League Spring Training.

 

Wise ended up becoming an outfield starter against primarily right-handed pitchers during the final two weeks of the season, replacing the injured Carlos Quentin, and hit .248 with six home runs, 18 RBIs and nine stolen bases over 57 games. Wise also hit the White Sox first postseason home run in the American League Division Series against the Rays.

 

 


 

Rays Tidbits and Views for 2008

 

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



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

 


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

 


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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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


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

 

 

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

 


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


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


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



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

 

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

 


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

 


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

 

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


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


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

 

 

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


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


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

 

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

 

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

 


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

 

 

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


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


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

 

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

 


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

 

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

 

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


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


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