Results tagged ‘ Joe Biemel ’

Digging the Rays Past (1996)

 


Raysbaseball.com/MLB.com

Every once in a while I get into one of these research kicks where I want to find out once and for all if something could of, did not, or should of happen concerning the Tampa Bay Rays or any other team. The object of my well, obsession last night was to see if any of the 30 Major League Baseball squads ever attempted to draft current NFL hero and New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees in 1996, when he lettered in baseball at Westlake High School in Dallas,Texas.

So I went on a long and detailed journey checking out every name for almost 100 rounds of the 1996 MLB First Year Draft online, and actually did not find a single mention of the Brees name. Some people might consider this then a waste of time and energy, but I did find a few very interesting secondary targets, and even a score of former Rays players I did not know were initially drafted in 1996.

 
 

The 1996 MLB First YearDraft was actually the starting point for first year player selections ever by the then Tampa Bay Devilrays and it set into motion the initial formation of their minor league ranks in their farm minor league system, which today is considered by many to be the best in baseball. And along the way, I found 24 names listed on that year’s draft board that one day would don the Rays emblem across their chests during a Rays game. 

Most of the Rays faithful know that the D-Rays picked Raleigh, North Carolina native Paul Wilder with the 29th pick in the First Round of that initial draft. But did you know that the last Rays selection in that year’s Draft was High School outfielder Michael Rose from Dayton, Ohio with the 1,736th pick?

 

It was a wild night remembering names and also associating them with past great Rays moments. Out of that first 1996 draft, the highest selected pick from 1996 to don a Rays jersey was outfielder Alex Sanchez from Miami-Dade CC, but most of us might remember him better for the April 3,2005  MLB press release that he would be the first MLB player ever suspended for violating the MLB’s newly instituted drug policy.

Not a great way to be remembered, but Sanchez did not last long with the Rays despite an early 2005 .346 batting average. His wishy-washy defensive play and the suspension might have hastened the Rays to designate him for assignment on June 13th 2005.

 
 

Besides Wilder, there was another name drafted in associated with the D-Rays during that first draft when they selected then, Florida Gators quarterback Doug Johnson in the second round. Even though Johnson did sign and report to a minor league team, he never seems to gather enough mustard to rise through the D-Rays farm system, and finally concentrated his efforts more on staying healthy behind the NFL’s Atlanta Falcon’s offensive line. It was a calculated gamble by the Rays Front Office to try and get Johnson to fit into their system, but the young player always seemed to be more comfortable with a football helmet on his head than the baseball batting helmet.

But what is even more surprising is the large number of other players selected in that season’s draft who would end up one day playing in Rays gear. During the 1996 MLB Draft, other teams ended up selecting a total of 17 players who ended up sporting Rays gear during their playing careers. The highest profile player might be 1B Travis Lee, who was the second pick of the First Round by the Twins that season. Also former Rays players LHP Bobby Seay(CWS), INF/OF Damian Rolls(LAD) and P Nick Bierbrodt(AZ) were all First Round selections that at one point wore Rays colors.

 


AP file Photo 

But down the draft line there were also players like P Chad Bradford(CWS), LP Mark Hendrickson(TEX), P Joe Biemel(TEX), INF Brent Abernathy(TOR),3B/C Eric Munson(ATL) P Joe Nelson(ATL) C Robert Fick(DET),LP Casey Fossum(AZ), DH/1B Josh Phelps(TOR),OF Jason Conti(AZ), P Brandon Backe(MIL), P Ryan Rupe(KC) and P Tim Corcoran(NYM). It is a bit unusual for so many budding players to find their way onto one team and prosper during their careers, but at that time, Tampa Bay was a good starting place to establish yourself within Major League Baseball by showing a good foundation, then moving onto another team with experience under your belt.

 
 

It is funny now to also gather the names of other great players who also debuted  as professionals from that 1996 draft.  Later Round selected Players like Astros P Roy Oswalt(23rd Rd), Cubs P Ted Lilly(23rd Rd),current Free Agent reliever Kiko Calero(27th Rd) just among the top 30 rounds of the draft. The you have guys like Yankee OF Marcus Thames(30th Rd), Indians DH Travis Hafner(31st Rd), Twins 2B Orlando Hudson(33rd Rd), rehabbing P Chris Capuano(45th Rd) and Nats INF Eric Bruntlett(72nd Rd).
 
 

But if you like to win odd baseball Trivia Questions, then I have one for you. You can win some major food or drink concessions (I have) by remembering that the D-Rays reliever Travis Phelps, who was drafted in the 89th Round , and the 1,720th player selected that season is the latest draft pick to ever don a Major League Baseball uniform. And because MLB restructured the Draft since his selection, he will be the answer to that Trivia Question forever. Easy pickings unless you are at a SABR Convention.

But he is not the only D-Rays player selected from that initial 1996 Draft to make it to the professional level and put on the jersey of the team that selected him. He shares that honor with current Rays reliever P Dan Wheeler( 34th Rd), P Mickey Callaway(7th Rd), P Delvin James(14th Rd), and last, but not least, 3B Jared Sandberg(16th Rd). Sandberg also went on to coach in the Rays farm system, and will be the head man with the Hudson Valley Renegades (oh yeah!). This will be Sandberg’s third season coaching in the Rays farm system.

 


 TBO.com file Photo

So last night’s scavenger search brought up some interesting surprises, and also a few great Rays moments for me to envision again within my imagination. It is kind of wild that Rays reliever Wheeler is the lone Rays representative from that initial farm system class of then D-Rays left within the Rays roster. And what it must feel like for him to be here during the lean times, then go away and experience a World Series berth(Astros), then come back and see this Rays organization that drafted him also feel that rush of emotions in securing their first Playoff berth and run towards the 2008 World Series with Wheeler in the Bullpen enjoying the view from field level.

 
 

And there was one more name that was hidden among the mass quantity of names in that 1996 Draft that totally shock and awed me. Hidden way back in the 59th Round, and selected by the Seattle Mariners was a young pitcher named Barry Zito. Some people say that if you fall under the 20th Round in any year’s MLB Draft, your odds greatly swing downward to ever see the light of day as an MLB player at a Major League ballpark. So many of the above mentioned MLB players fell below that invisible line and are living proof that will, determination and great talent can not always get you to the show. Sometimes you need a lucky rabbit’s foot too…….Right Barry?

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.

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