Results tagged ‘ Joe Kennedy ’

Hellboy Might Need a Handyman

I can imagine that Tampa Bay Rays rookie Jeremy Hellickson will have a special carpentry project to complete in the near future. I can definitely imagine a particular DIY (do-it-yourself) project to be penciled in bold letters on the Hellboy’s off-season “Honey-Do” list.

I can visualize him now peering over expansive pile of timber with the same intensity and commitment he showed 29 times during 2011 as he took the mound. Bet he is even wearing a Rays game day cap on his head, with a pencil fashioned behind his ear. Just like sheriff Brody needed a “Bigger boat”, Hellboy is definitely going to be in the market for a trophy case addition soon.

Recently Tampa Bay Rays rookie starter Jeremy Hellickson got the fantastic news back home in Des Moines, Iowa that he had been selected as the 2011 Baseball America M L B Rookie of the Year. Joining the ranks of Baseball America past R O Y winners such as Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols (2001), Diamondbacks SP Brandon Webb (2003), Tigers SP Justin Verlander (2006), Brewers OF Ryan Braun (2007), Tigers, Cubs C Geovany Soto (2008) and Giants C Buster Posey (2010).

Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writers Association of America (B B W A A) will not officially announce their respective National League or American League Rookie of the Year Award winners until November 14th but history is definitely tilted Hellboy’s way as 8 out of the last 11 M L B seasons, the Baseball America R O Y selection also heard his name announced as their respective league’s R O Y award winner in mid-November.

Hellboy also ended the National League’s 4-year grip on the award and Hellickson became not only the first pitcher to stake claim to the award, but also the first American League player to win the honor since Detroit Tigers rookie SP Justin Verlander back in 2006. This same Baseball America MLB Rookie of the Year honor eluded former Rays standouts Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Joe Kennedy, Rolando Arroyo, plus current stars 3B Evan Longoria and SP David Price. Interesting enough, former Rays 3B/DH Eric Hinske (2002) and SP Hideo Nomo (1995) won the same award, but not as Rays.

Amazing that Hellickson in his first full MLB season posted a .210 opponents batting average, which ranked 3rd in the MLB behind possible Cy Young candidates Verlander and Los Angeles Dodger hurler Clayton Kershaw. Didn’t hurt that the young Rays starter saved his best for later in the 2011 season as Hellboy bolstered a 2.64 ERA from the All-Star break to the end of the 2011 season, plus garnered a coveted American League Divisional Series pitching assignment.

Hellickson is definitely another reason to feel optimistic coming into the Spring of 2012 when he will not only have another year under his belt, but possibly possess even a few more tweaks to his pitching arsenal. With that in mind, maybe there should be a tweak to Hellickson’s DIY project plans, possibly re-configuring his carpentry plans to include an addition to his home. Got a feeling this is the first wave of many shiny pieces of MLB acknowledgment that Hellboy will receive in his career.

If you need help Jeremy, I am pretty good with a tape measure and a circular saw.

Could the Shields Era be Coming to an End Soon in Tampa Bay?

 

 
Chris O’Meara/AP

The number 55 can be symbolic to a number of people. We all know it is in the title of the song by musician Sammy Hager, “I Can’t Drive 55!”. We all know it was the posted National speed limit designated by huge signs along the nation’s Turnpikes and Interstates for a huge portion of our lives. Some gaming enthusiasts also know the number is associated with an astute “Call of Duty” clan of seasoned perfectionists who fight their battles on television screens everywhere.


The number “55″ within the realm of the Tampa Bay Rays history books holds a very unique place, but it is also a dangerous place. Going into Monday’s night game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, the Rays would collectively bear witness to seeing the current Rays All-Time leader in victories, and Angels Starter, Scott Kazmir battle to preserve Kazmir’s weakening hold on the Rays All-Time career mark currently set at, you guessed it…55.

Kazmir will oppse the Rays in that contest against his former Rays teammate and friend, James Shields, and with a Shields win, Kazmir will have to acknowledge another part of his short legacy with the Rays will fall. It is extremely unusual for a pair of young guns like Kazmir and Shields to be fighting for the right to hold the Rays All-Time career mark. It does seems like such a low, low number, this “55″, but the solid reality is that life as a Rays pitcher does not always have a solid foundation or expanding future.

There can be several reasons for this, but the biggest is simply that the dollar signs sometimes makes a Rays pitcher a trade commodity way before his pitching expiration date. Recently, Shields has begun to hear the increasing mumbles and ground level grumbles around the Rays ballpark that he might be nearing the ultimate end of his long reign as the Rays King atop the Rays rotation. We soon forget as Rays fans, just how fast and short the escalation of the pitching exiting process here in Tampa Bay.

For a firm illustration of past quick exodus of the Rays winning pitchers’, you only have to look at the next four slots within the Rays career victories list to see former names of Rays pitchers like Victor Zambrano (35) Esteban Yan (26), and Albie Lopez (26) to show the Rays have not held onto their pitching stars for very long. Zambrano was traded for Kazmir, but when Zambrano left the Rays, he was the team’s career leader in victories.

Funniest part is that Shields is not even the highest paid pitcher currently on the Rays roster. That designation goes to teammates Rafael Soriano ($7.25 million), Dan Wheeler ($ 3.5 million) and fellow starter Matt Garza ($3.35 million). Shields will jump to $ 4.5 million for the 2011 and be in the current Top four of the returning members of the Rays roster. That high salary by itself could become Shields downfall. Sonnanstine (29 wins) who trails Shields in the Rays active victory tour will only see his salary rise to possibly $ 1.5 million due to his first stint at salary arbitration.

 

But it might be another Rays teammate that makes Shields expendable. Garza’s estimated salary arbitration has him garnering a possible $ 5.25 million salary for 2011, and that total could send the Rays searching high and low for a team willing to take on Shield’s and his 2011 salary. In 2011, Shields could find himself just like Kazmir, on the outside looking in at the next wave of Rays pitchers who will strive to take his name off the Rays pitching mantle. Shields has also not done himself any favors recently with some of his erratic pitching, and clouds of doubt have begun to fly all around the stands as to Shield’s effectiveness.


Surely the pitcher who has logged over 200+innings over the last two years and has been one of the only Rays pitchers’ not to go down for the count on the DL will be spared from this worry. But can the Rays gamble that same level of consistent return again in 2011? On the positive side of the equation right now is two solid performances where Shields won twice, plus he logged 7+ innings for just the second time this season. Maybe Shields had a bit of a dead arm and instead of complaining he fought through it and has gone 5-2 now over his last 7 starts. The signs are there that Shields might have found his second wind in 2010 and that we should not count him out…just yet.

Still stuck firmly in the back of my mind was that horrendous day in Toronto when Shields surrendered 6 Home Runs, becoming only the third pitcher to produce this type of hurling disaster in the last 70 years. Even though Shields did push some of the blame on himself for the debacle, Shields also tossed his young catcher, John Jaso firmly under the buses’ wheels and pushed a mountain load of the blame firmly towards his catcher and his play calling. That was uncharacteristic of Shields, and might have been a defense mechanism, but it was still an ugly side of Shields the Rays had never seen surface before. If Shields felt that way on the mound on that horrendous day, why didn’t he shake off Jaso’s signs?

 
Elaine Thompson/AP

That one instance doesn’t make Shields expendable, but the rubber arm and his consistency will come to a crashing end in the future. Will the Rays take the gamble and roll the dice with Shields, or will another starter who is waiting in the Rays system like Jeremy Hellickson take his turn in the Rays merry-go-round. If the Rays moved Shields this off season, it would save up to $ 4.5 million the Rays could use to entice another offensive weapon to join the Rays for 2011. With Garza also getting a substantial pay raise through arbitration, the Rays (after Garza’s salary) could effectively only have to spend around $2.525 million for their other four possible starters (David Price, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson) in 2011.


That makes Shields very expendable, even with only the second highest starter’s salary on the team. We might be seeing the everlasting glow before the sunset of Shield’s time with the Rays. Considering Shields has already been here about 5 years, maybe his time has come for him to seek another opportunity elsewhere. Another interesting sidebar to last night’s game, Shields and Kazmir became only the second pair of former Rays Opening Day starters to meet in a Rays game.

Ironically, the first time this happened was when Kazmir met Oakland starter and former Ray Joe Kennedy back on May 5,2007 at Tropicana Field. Maybe it is time for Kazmir to pass that Rays torch to Shields and let him shine brightly before his Rays tenure begins to dim. But then again, that is what we have come to expect out of “Big Game”.
 

 

It Doesn’t Feel like 15 Years

 

 
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It is still hard to believe just what has conspired over the last 15 years. It seems like just yesterday we were hearing the Major League Baseball “Acting” Commissioner Bud Selig announce to the Tampa Bay region’s fans that the Major League Baseball owners had rejected the relocation request of the St. Petersburg Baseball Group to move the San Francisco Giants to Tampa Bay. That same news was so heartbreaking to a region that blindly constructed a baseball venue and was relying on a hope that “If you build it, they will come.”
 
 
How many of us remember hearing that same quote being tossed out on our portable FM radio’s by the Q Morning Zoo and DJ Mason Dixon that the building of the Florida Suncoast Dome would show MLB that the Tampa Bay area means business. But we did get a second announcement from Selig not too long after that in the Spring of 1995, and this time, the news would be a bit more enlightening to Tampa Bay’s quest for a Major League level baseball team.
 
 
On March 9,1995 in the Breakers resort situated on the East Coast of Florida, right between most of our lunch time activities at 12:54 pm, Selig emotion-less face was again thrown up on our local television sets with another message to the Tampa Bay area. This time, by a 28-0 vote by the other current Major League owners, the St. Petersburg Baseball Group led by Vince Namoli was finally going to pop the cork on that celebration champagne bottle. Yes, finally we had Major League Baseball coming to the Tampa Bay area past their usual Spring Training dates.
 
 
And a small side note to all of this is that the Breakers is a resort that tends to bring good omens and news to this region of Florida. For in 1991, in this same resort, the Tampa Bay region also was awarded their National League Hockey franchise from this same Conference Room. And so began the franchise that would evolve within those 15 years from the Devil Rays, that were printed on the first T-shirts and Uniforms presented to the media at that announcement, to our present day Rays.
 

And these word spoken by then Rays Team Owner Vince Namoli to the Tampa Tribune might sum up the great celebration and also the knowledge that we still had a long journey ahead of us before that First Pitch in 1998. “It’s been a path of 10,000 steps, 10,000 phone calls, 10,000 frustrations. Now we’re at the end of the path, but we start a new path,” Naimoli said. “We start to focus on hiring a general manager, on the Dome, on the development of the franchise, on the minor-league system, on Opening Day 1998. We’re into the fun path.”

 
 
What a huge rollercoaster ride it has been over the last 15 years. From completely setting up a professional complex in the existing Spring Complex that the New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals had used in the past in western St. Petersburg, to finalizing the lease agreement with the City of St. Petersburg so that the then D-Rays could pursue their initial changes needed within their new domed home. And the $ 150 million that Namoli and his group first paid to finally become the first owners of this franchise seems pale now considering all the great moments and events that have transpired since that announcement.
 

I still remember both announcements as if it was yesterday and still have that memory of finally hearing we had our dream of a professional baseball team in our sights and had a hard road ahead of us, but one that always has been a pleasure. From our first pick (Paul Wilder) in the 1996 First Year Players Draft, to the recent announcement of two-time All Star Hank Blalock being signed by the Rays, to paraphrase an old television commercial, this team has come a long way baby!
 

And today I hope all Tampa Bay fans take a moment after 12 pm to again try and remember and enjoy this moment. Sure we might have had a few rough years starting out before our Rays farm system began to churn out players like outfielder Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, or pitcher Joe Kennedy who showed us that building through our minor leagues was our path to the top. And less than 7 years after Crawford first played on the turf of Tropicana Field, we envisioned a rise to Playoff status, and an eventual ride to the World Series.
 

 

And as we near that special moment in time today, it is actually fun for me to go back in time and remember I was sitting in a local gym when the announcement hit the airwaves that sent the room into an instant celebration. Because around me also working out were minor league players from the Orioles system and also a few University of Florida football players getting ready for Spring drills. Instantly the mood went from working out to celebrating, and I know we were not alone in wanting to paint the town red that night.

 
 
15 years can be a long time. Heck, when I was 10 years old I always dreamed of being 15, which gave you more responsibilities like playing Senior League baseball, or driving the car with your parents with you. But year 15 for the Rays might be a benchmark season. Already there is a air that this season might assemble the best team overall to ever man a Rays jersey. This season the possibilities are there for the Rays to again claw there way past division rivals Boston and New York to fight for their October rights to play for that shiny gold trophy. The announcement on March 9,1995 was the Tampa Bay area’s eight chance at trying to secure a Major League team.
 

I think the best way to celebrate this blog today is to remember a story posted by the Rays team writer for MLB.com, Bill Chastain, who at the time of the announcement was an employee of the Tampa Tribune. In that story, his last paragraph was a quote by Namoli on the day’s events. And I can think of no better way to end this blog than remembering those same words spoken by a man who somehow saw into our team future and made such a prophetic statement 15 years ago.
 
“Some fans and media will shorten our last name to Rays,” Naimoli said. “And, so, I will leave you with that: Hip, hip hoo-Ray.”
 

Sunday Rewind: Joe Kennedy…We were Lucky to have known You…. Truly Lucky!

 



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Intro:

I have decided that one Sundays I am going to pop back into the archives of the 625 blogs I have posted on MLBlogs.com and select a weekly “blast from the past” to let some of the people who did not read me before the 2009 season to get a  glance at either how far the writing has progressed, or regressed depending on your views. So I hope you enjoy reading my little submission that I first posted back on November 23,2007 about a guy I really enjoyed talking with when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays

I had just gotten home from work and  decided to go online and pop onto the Yahoo sports page to see what was has transpired while I was working Today. It being a day after the stuffed mushroom and pecan pie debauchery of the holiday, I was looking for the lighter side of sports for some comfort to my still overflowing belly of good food morsels and treats.


 

Maybe I was hoping to find out that my favorite target, A-Rod was crying poverty over the Yanks’ latest contract offer to Mario Riviera, but I had no such luck this day. Instead w
hat I found made me sink into my chair and put a huge twisting knot in my already overfilled stomach. 

It quickly made me rethink  my personal life for the ump-teenth time this year and brought up a tragic event featuring another ex- Tampa Bay Rays player in Oct 2006. That first event took another of my favorite players in Devilrays history to an untimely death, but this one really brought me to my knees.

 
 
I truly hate it when a young ball player dies when he is about to fulfill his potential, or even rediscover the magic that first got him to the Major Leagues. No matter if they have hit their prime, or had to reinvent themselves to further their careers, it was a special moment.

Some players hit that invisible wall of physical and mental points of no return and are not able to endure the rigors and challenges of baseball anymore.  And sometimes their bodies just can’t take it anymore,even at such a young age.

 

Some have had past abuses either with steroids or muscle enhancements that have robbed them of moments in their current or post career lives. Some just hit a mental road block that can not be corrected by human means.

The tragic tales that really hit home and destroy me inside is the way I found out about the untimely death of  ex-Ray Joe Darley Kennedy. There has been a wide spread rumors and thoughts among the Media that Kennedy might have suffered a brain aneurysm or heart attack during the night. Kennedy and his family were in town to visit  his wifes family and enjoy the holidays with them before this tragedy struck him down. 

 

 
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Kennedy was making strides to regain some of his old magic and had announced his free agency after the 2006 World Series. And all indications were that his 2006 squad, the Toronto Blue Jays’ and especially the Blue Jays Team President  Paul Godfrey wanted  Joe Kennedy back as a member of their 2008 staff. 
 

As I mentioned before,Kennedy was in town for the holidays at his wife’s parents home in the Brandon, Florida area, and was to be the best man at a wedding sometime during his stay here in the area.  But for some reason, Kennedy had gotten up in the middle of the night and was discovered collapsed on the floor of his in-laws home.  Paramedics were summoned and an ambulance quickly rushed  him to Brandon Medical Center,but it was too late, and Kennedy was pronounced dead  when the ambulance reached the Emergency Room.

 

This is the second ex-Oakland Athletic to suffer a tragic ending and unexpected death since October 2006. Ex-Rays and A’s teammate, Cory Lidle tragically perished in a plane accident after the Yankees exit from the playoffs in 2006. 

 

One of my first blogs on here was a tribute to Cory Lidle. He was another player who befriended me during his tenure with the Rays, and I looked for him every year when his team would make a visit to the Trop. I did the same for Joe Kennedy every time he came here for a series. You do not forget the “good guys”. They are those players who greet you with a smile and by your first name and make you feel like you are family, even if it is just to say “hello.”

 

Joe was only 28 years young, but had already established himself as a front end starting pitcher with our Rays.  He had  thrown for over 908 innings in the Majors, and had 558  career K’s.

 
Kennedy was selected in the 1998 Amateur player draft in the 8th round, out of Grossmont (Calif.) J C by the Rays and went immediately into the minor leagues organization. He quickly rose through the Rays’ farm system organization. Kennedy had made quick work of moving up the ladder in the farm system, and was a combined 6-0, with a .099 ERA with Orlando and Durham before getting called up to the big club ( Devilrays ) on June 2, 2001.
 

Kennedy made his Major League debut on June 6th against the Blue Jays in Toronto and won 6-2 . He appeared in 20 games that season. During that Rookie season, Joe had 12 quality starts, only CC Sabathia of the Indians had a better stats( 13). Joe was also 3rd in among the American League Rookies with a 4.44 ERA.

 
                      

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Kennedy also established himself in the MLB’s record books as the first  Major League player since Kip Wells of the Pirates to win both his first two  career starts. Joe was also the first Devilrays in franchise history to perform this feat. He was on his way to producing an amazing season and establish himself among the left-handers in the American League.

 

In 2001, Kennedy pitched in 196 innings and struck out 109 hitters. These numbers would be his  best as a member of the Devilrays, but only his second best career totals  of his brief  Major League career.

 

In 2003, Kennedy progressed to the point of being announced by Rays Manager Hal McRae as the Opening Day starter. I found Kennedy to be the kind of pitcher who would not be  afraid to go inside on a batter or ” buzz the tower” if needed.  Every good pro pitcher seems to have a mean streak in them.

 


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I can attest to personally knowing that the guy was a true professional and enjoyed his time here with the Rays. I spoke to Kennedy on occasions during BP and always found him to be funny and very intelligent.

 

I guess I was one of those people who knew that the Devilrays would probably trade Kennedy at some point in his career, but I had hope it was after he had garnished that 10-win plateau with the Devilrays. And maybe after he had secured his play in Devilray lore.

 

Kennedy was very soft spoken and reserved  when he was among the crowds at the Trop. But he was a fierce competitor and was always going to the mound  with the belief he could to win every game. That was a quality that I greatly admired in him. Going out with the idea you are going to win every time you take the rubber.

 

I know you are going to say that every pitcher tries to keep that fire within them, but in truth, they might in their words, but in their minds there might not be that total commitment. Kennedy always felt he could win, no matter what the odds or the situation that that is the basic mindset of a great pitcher.

 


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After Kennedy left the Rays and pitched for the Colorado Rockies, he got close to that 10-win plateau. Kennedy only got 9 wins in 2004, but produced an amazing 117 strikeouts that year. He was traded to the Oakland A’s  during the All Star break where he was again considered a valuable member of the pitching rotation.

He garnered a 2.31 ERA in 2006, a career best for Kennedy.  In 2006, he was rewarded with the number five slot in the Athletics starting rotation. It was a far cry from the number one slot with the Devilrays in 2004, but he was again pitching every five days. 

 

In 2007, Kennedy found himself as  number 5 man in the rotation, and fell upon bad times and was moved into the A’s bullpen and working only late inning and was used in “leftie” opportunities. He got another opportunity with the Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games), and the Toronto Blue Jays (9 games) during the past 2007 season.

 

Kennedy  produced 43 victories in his short career, but his last one was fitting. He received his 43rd win versus his old Devilrays team on September 29, 2007.  But it was the next performace that made Kennedy the proudest in his life.

Kennedy had the awesome pleasure of becoming a Father for the first time this past year and was looking forward to time with Kaige and his wife before the upcoming seasons Feb. mandatory reporting date for pitchers’ and catchers.

 

I will miss seeing Joe Kennedy pitch. More for the fact that he was a true professional and was always in the game both mentally and physically. I know he was just beginning to again hit his stride in his career, and could have produced some great numbers as a member of that Blue Jays staff in 2008.

 

Kennedy is survived by his wife and new son Kaige and currently lived in the Denver area.

 

I truly hope that there is an afterlife.  Because then I can see players like Cory and Kennedy pitching and  again see both of their ear to ear smiles or grins, knowing they  are again doing something they truly loved to do.

 

God Bless you Joe Kennedy, ………………I hope to someday be in that heavenly Right Field watching you play in that league up there someday myself….. And I will always cheer for you as a truly great person and pitcher, and as someone who left the game before he was ready to go.
 

Play Ball!
 
 
 

My 500th Submission……..What a Ride !!

 


www.tbo.com

There is celebration in the air again. That is right, there is champagne, BBQ ribs and select adult beverages going all around the room today as the Rays Renegade is posting his 500th blog today. It really doesn’t feel like it was only September 7, 2007 when I posted my first blog to the Internet entitled ” D no longer stands for Devilrays. Seriously here, it has been so much fun to gather stats and information and just put it down here for others to enjoy reading in the past few years. But you know what, it is far from over here. Heck, it might just be less than another year and I will be posting number 1,000.

And it was not long ago, only October 22, 2008, when I even posted number 250, which was titled, “World Series Matchups…. Starting Pitchers and Bullpens.” Has it been that long since the World Series?  It truly feels like just the other day, but after 12 years of seeing the team end up cleaning out their lockers and shuffle on back home after the last Rays contest, 2008 was a bit of an oddity, but one I can get used to every year.  I have been praised and razzed in the last year for blogs and articles written with the best intentions. But that is the price of posting and putting your views up there for the rest of the world to see online.

Heck, I even get slighted by the Rays bloggers online because I believe in the team and will not resort to using the “D” word again on my blogs like some of them. I understand their reasons and applaud their actions, but I am a fan who will not go back to the days of old, even when we play like it.  I have written some thing I am proud of, and some thing I consider “fluff”.

Recently I even decided to stop doing the daily recaps and going more into events  before, during and after the games have ended. I is fun to speculate where I will be in 6 months. I hope I am still writing on MLBlogs.com and my sister website and producing some quality work for everyone to enjoy. I mean I have gone from an unknown on here to staying within the top 20 tier of the blog writers in the last 6 months. 

Some say that is because I am the only Rays blogger who is consistently posting and writing daily. That is true, beside maybe Bill Chastain of Rays Plays, who also is the MLB.com writer for the Tampa Bay Rays, I might be the only outside voice heard daily. And I am fine with that. I even want others to begin to post and put their actions and reactions down on the cyberspace writing forum.  I enjoy responding to the comments good and bad, and see them as a way to gauge the way my writings are received by the general MLB readers.  So I decided to post some of my favorite blogs here, with links in case some of you would enjoy going back and maybe reading some of them again. These are 10 of my favorites, and they do contain a few Photo Blogs. So without further ado, let’s get right to the action:



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      My Top 10 Blog Selections ( in random order)

 

 “Joe Kennedy, We were lucky to have Known You”  (November 23, 2007).

I really loved talking to Kennedy when he was with the Rays. He had a great sense of the game, and his love for it was always on display for everyone to see.  It was not the first remembrance pieces I have done online, but it is the first I had done on MLBlogs and is still one of my early favorites.

 


” Letter to Commissioner Bud Selig “
 
( February 20, 2009). 

This letter was in response to some of the situations in the Dominican Republic, and the way that players have been basically heavy-handed in the past by buscones in that country. I actually sent this to the Commissioner Office in New York City and got a great response from the office, but I know it was just filed away and forgotten like so many others.

 

 

“Rays Cancel the Gabe & Gabe Show “  ( April 1, 2009).

 


This was my first attempt at an April Fools joke, and I am not sure if it had the intent I really wanted, but you always remember your first time at anything. But I did get some interesting emails from the people I know with the Rays organization, and they ended up chuckling when they saw the date on the blog.

 

 

“Why are Bloggers the Rodney Dangerfields of Journalism?”  ( January 29, 2009).

 


This entry caused a bit of a stir among the Rays bloggers online along with a few established bloggers on legitimates sites throughout the Internet. But that is what a good entry can do, it can make noise and make you see some thing that can be viewed as controversial. I do not regret writing it at all, I actually liked the comments from others and it has changed the way I view certain people now.

 

 “Rays Banner Celebration Photo Blog”   (April 14, 2009 )

This might end up being one of my favorite Photo Blogs because of the significance of the day. It was a very emotional night for me having been here since the first pitch (ball) during the Rays first contest against the Detroit Tigers to today. The amount of pure energy and emotion in the building that night was amazing. I hope every one supporting their teams in the MLB can some day feel the prestige and the pride of seeing their banners raised to the rafters too.

 


” R.I.P…… Downtown Stadium. “  ( May 22, 2009 ).

 

I loved the fact that a few local sports Twitters linked this blog to some of their updates. I have to say this situation has been coming for a long time. I admired the Rays trails and tribulations in trying to convince the general public and the St. Petersburg community to re-use the Progress Energy/Al Lang Field location for a potential stadium site. The group started by the city and the Rays called,  A Baseball Community ( ABC ) will be making their recommendations in the future. And when they do, I will again approach the issue.

 



“Don Zimmer…..True Baseball Royalty
  ( January 17, 2009 ). 

  

 

I think the world of Don Zimmer. I idolized him as a young kid putting gas in his car from my dad’s gas station, to getting to know him with the Rays as their Senior Advisor. The man is a huge treasure of stories and information, and if you sat there non-stop with him for two months, I still think he will have another two weeks of stories to tell you.

 

“All Christmas Squad”  (December 16, 2008). 

I really enjoyed doing this blog. I love Christmas, and trying to select the top nine cartoon characters that symbolize the holiday to us was a bit of a long winded effort. But I enjoyed doing the blog and hope it can become a yearly addition for me again in 2009. I still think Buddie, from the movie “Elf” is the best selection for my Christmas third baseman. He reminds me of Longo.


 


“Mumm’s the Word………..In Celebration Champagne ” ( October 8, 2008 ).

 

I really got to find out a lot more about bubbly than I ever knew when I started to do some research for this blog. I had to go to a number of site to even find the brand the team was using for their 2008 celebrations, and I could not get the name of the type used during the American League East celebration in Detroit the Friday night they clinched while away from home. But the blog did get me more acquainted with Champagne and gave me a new respect for the celebration concoction.

 
 

 ” Josh Hamilton is my Hero “  ( December 6, 2008 ).

This is my favorite ex-Rays player. And for everything he has gone through in his life both good and bad, the guy has always seemed to smile. I have been lucky enough to know him from the beginning, and every time I see him during his yearly visits to the Trop., I still wonder what it would be like for him to play here for 81 games. He is a likable guy who has found a way to combat demons most of us will never know in life. I admire and respect the guy with total knowledge that the best is yet to come for him.

 

 


There are tons of other blogs I could have picked for my top 10, like the Maple Bat series, or the celebration blogs of both the Rays playoff and ALCS and ALDS celebrations. But I tried to pick the ones I would want to read again some day.  The Photo Blogs like the airport celebration when the team came back from Detroit as the American League East Champs, or the Rays Rallies down at Straub Park could have also been contenders for the list. The great part is that there are more to come, and hopefully I will be able to write for a long,long time. I enjoy writing and leaving these memories online for others to check out and comment on daily.

 

 

I hope you have enjoyed reading my little muses and ramblings since September 7, 2007. I miss writing daily for a newspaper, and this is as close as I am ever going to get again. And with that in mind, I hope you check out the first blog entry and see just how far the postings have come in such a short amount of time.  Back then I was writing more for me than anything else. But today I like to think I am writing for an ever increasing group of people both who are Rays fans, and who enjoy the Rays news and events.  Number 500 is a huge number. In baseball, if you hit 500 homers you can be almost assured a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But in blogging, it is only a step towards writing more and more until you hit another milestone. I write because I enjoy it, and hopefully you do too.

 

 


 

Do You Still Cheer for your Ex-Players?

 
 



I decided to venture over to Myspace the other day to check my
mail and maybe tweak my profile a bit when I noticed that I had a message. I
clicked on it and lo and behold had an email from the Cowbell Kid. Now anyone
who knows me will tell you I had a few small run ins with him, but nothing
serious about respect for the game and some behavior I heard about in the past. 
But I do have to throw this compliment out there to him, he has made efforts to
clean and polish his act up a bit since late last year, and for that I sit back
and say thank you.

 



Everyone
who has ever taken in a game at the Trop will know that he was famous, or
infamous for yelling at players during Batting Practice about certain
inconsistent behaviors in their past or in their playing styles. It is no secret
that he got more than one player a bit upset. I personally know of one incident
last year that got one player almost to the point of jumping into the stands and
taking him on during a weekend series against the Astros. I am not going to name
the player, but if you were at the Trop that Saturday night, you know who he is
by the yelling and screaming go to and from the
field.

 



But that
was part of his game psyche, to try and get into the head of mostly the
relievers or right fielder in the league. Now there have been a few moments
where personal stuff might have popped down between himself and another player
that were not above board, but that is in the past, and that play is no longer
on the New York Yankees, so it is in the vault with the rest of the deeds. But
since that has been one of his focal points over the year, he emailed me with a
problem he is just now starting to develop because of some recent trades or
actions by the Rays to change their
roster.

 



I am
going to take the quote directly from his email so you can see that I am not
making this up, or trying to embarrass him. He said, “Here’s where it gets
tricky I have grown fond of some of the players that will no longer be a part of
our team, usually I will abuse any opposing players just because they are not on
the Rays team! But because of the respect some of these guys have gained in my
eyes I am going to have to be selective about my targets. ( never thought that
would ever be a problem for me ) oh well .”

 



And I
know that will be a problem for him in 2009 and the season that will go on for
the Rays. I know he has a fond friendship and a game day type of bond with
former Rays players like Jonny Gomes, who is now with the Cincinnati Reds, and
Rocco Baldelli, who is now a dreaded Boston Red Sox. Because he is one of the
most vocal fans about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, it is going to be
interesting what will happen during B P in 2009. But then again, he will also
see Gomes during Spring Training games, and it might be a tense moment for him
to see Jonny in red and white for the first
time.



 


 


I know I
have had the same situation since the Rays began play. I would begin to talk
with a player and develop a bit of dialogue and when they were in the Bullpen or
out in right field I used to chat it up with them a bit, but when they left, I
did not stop trying to chat with them. My reasoning for this is that we are both
in love with the same thing………Baseball, and that common ground has a huge
amount of conversational pieces. A great example is former Rays right fielder
Jose Guillen. I used to yell out to him every game and even try and tell him if
a player was taking a wild turn at this if the ball came into the corner near
my seat.

 



It was
not to confuse or to even play coach, but to be his eyes when he had his back to
the field. I got to know him better and every time he comes back into the Trop.,
he comes over and say hello. Other players like Shawn Camp, who is now with the
Toronto Blue Jays have come over and shook hands and then got to their business.
But the best at keeping his old Tampa Bay baseball friendships up was former
Rays catcher Toby Hall. Every time the Chicago White Sox came into town, he would
stroll down to the corner and we would talk about his time in Chi-town and how
his kids were growing. Hall and I never went out fishing or even for more than
beers at Ferg’s, but we always seemed to have time to talk even during games
when he was in the Bullpen.

 

It is a
fine line and a personal choice if you want to remain friends or just change it
to a buddy who plays for the enemy. I was talking with former Rays player Joey
Gathright about that last year after a game and he said that it was tough
sometimes to come back here and see the people who cheered for him now booing
some of his actions. But he also knows that he can not pull punches or even
slack off a moment in front of his former home crowd or it would give them
another reason to boo louder to him. And there lies the problem. Can we as fans
of our team separate the player from the team, or are they a whole not matter
what?

 



Everyone
takes that problem and decides for themselves.  I stood up and cheered for Texas
Ranger outfielder and former Rays Josh Hamilton the first time he came up to bat
at the Trop., and I am not ashamed of it at all. Some things happen in life that
you need to celebrate or show your appreciation to a player. The first time
Rocco Baldelli comes to bat I will also stand and clap. It is my way to salute a
great player that we will miss not only in the lineup, but talking with
field-side before the games. But then  again, I have also mourned the loss of
two great former Rays players who I think were stand up guys and died way before
their times.



 

 

 



I am
speaking of former Rays pitchers Joe Kennedy and Cory Lidle. I am not going to
go into the moments or the reason for their deaths, but they were moments that
made me question baseball and life in general for a moment in time. I was not a
close friend of either guy, but we did have conversations and used to talk down
in the Checkers Bullpen area any time they came into the Trop. It was a baseball
buddy kind of bonding that you just wanted them to be successful and have a
great life. I have written blogs about each of them, and my blog to Lidle was my
first sports entry in years on my old Myspace page. I have since removed the
posting and it is sitting in my blog scrapbook where only I can read it
now.

 



So it is
now my place to celebrate baseball, and when it comes to our former players, I
try and keep in touch with them when they come into the Trop. Be is chatting
with Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch, who last year told me about his new
home purchase in a great area west of Pinellas Park, Florida, or Brandon Backe
standing there talking with a group of Rays fans talking about nothing in
general, but loving every minute of it. So do we as fans, try and keep these
small friendships or baseball buddy situation alive and well, or do we let them
die because they are playing for another
team?

 
I choose
to decide on a individual basis. There are players who I do not chat with that I
used to laugh at jokes with and see outside the stadium all the time. Even if
the player did not leave here without throwing insults or comments at the team’s
management, I do not hold them accountable because they spoke their minds and
the issue is closed. But it is hard to gain some face time with a player and get
to know them and then they get traded or sign as a free agent somewhere else.




 
But my
best example might be Rays relievers Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller. I was not
close to either of these guys the last time they were here. We would exchange
comments and glances as they passed my seat, but it was not until they came back
to Tampa Bay after stints with the Houston Astros that the respect and the bond
grew. Every day they would pass my seat area and we would chat with them for a
few moments, and during the year, if I missed a game , they noticed and asked me
where I was, like friends sometimes do. And that meant a lot to me. But it was
the day after the Rays clinched their first playoff berth that really set the
tone for me with my Bullpen guys.

 
 


 



I was
given one of the champagne bottles used in the celebration by a member of the team, and I asked Wheeler
if he would mind signing it for me. He took the bottle back in its bag and it
stayed back there for about 4 innings. He ended up having everyone in the Rays
Bullpen sign that bottle and then brought it back to me. I stood there and just
stared at the bottle for a bit then remembered why I like to talk to these guys.
They are good people, and even the short times we chat with them are remembered.
Guess sometimes there can be bonds outside the foul lines in baseball. So with
that, here is a question for you. Do you maintain your friendships and
conversation with your ex-players, even if they are playing for a division
rival?



All pictures used in this blog were obtained from the RRCollections.





 
 

Repost of Joe Kennedy Blog from November 2007



Recently, Buster Onley of ESPN wrote a very touching story about the passing
of Rays/A’s/Bluejays pitcher Joe Kennedy. I originally wrote this blog the day
after his passing.  I hope you all enjoy it.


Trivia Question:


1.) Abner Doubleday, credited (erroneously) with the invention of baseball
was also credit with what feat in the Civil War?


2.) What city is the only city in MLB to produce two Triple Crown winners in
the same season?

 


I had just gotten home from work and  decided to pop on Yahoo sports to see
what was going on Today. It being a day after the stuffed mushroom and pecan
pie debauchery, I was looking for the lighter side of sports for some
comfort. Was hoping to find out that A-rod was crying poverty over the Yanks’ latest
contract offer to Mario Riviera.


What I found sunk me in my chair and put a huge knot in my stomach.  It also
 made me rethink  my personal life for the ump-teenth time this year since a
similar tragedy in Oct 2006 took another of my favorite players in Devilrays
history to an untimely death.


 


I hate it when a young ball player dies when he is about to hit the prime,
or redefine himself in their career. Some hit that  invisible wall of physical and
mental parts not able to endure  the rigors and challenges of Professional
sports. Sometimes  their body just can’t take anymore, even at a young age. Some have had past abuses either with steroids or muscle enhancements rob
them of their  current and post career lives. Some just hit a mental roadblock
that can not be corrected by human means. The ones that really hit home and destroy me inside is the way that life
ended  the life of ex-Ray Joe Darley Kennedy.  Media thoughts are running  that
Joe might have suffered an aneurysm or heart attack during the night. We will
have to wait for the final results.



Joe had announced his free agency after this years’ World Series, and all
indications were that the Toronto Blue Jays’ and their team president  Paul
Godfrey wanted  Joe Kennedy for their 2008 staff.  Joe Kennedy was in town for the holidays at his wife’s parents home, and was
to be the best man at a wedding sometime during his stay here in the Tampa
area. He had gotten up in the middle of the night and had collasped to the floor. 
An ambulance rushed to Brandon Medical Center, but Kennedy was pronounced  dead
at the E R. This is the second Oakland Athletic  to suffer a tragic and unexpected death
since October 2006. Ex-Rays and A’s teammate Cory Lidle, had tragically perished
in a plane accident after the Yankees exit from the playoffs in 2006


One of my first blogs on here was a tribute to Cory Lidle. He was another
player who  befriended me during his tenure with the Rays, and I looked for him
every year when his team would make a visit to the Trop. I did the same for Joe
Kennedy every time he came here for a series. Joe was only 28 years old, but had already been a front end starting pitcher
with our Rays.  He had  thrown for over 908 innings in the Majors, and had 558 
career K’s.


He was selected in the 1998 Amateur player draft in the 8th round, out of
Grossmont (Calif.) J C and went immediately to the minor leagues for the
Devilrays. He quickly rose through the Rays’ minor league organization. Joe was a combined 6-0, with a .099 ERA with Orlando and Durham before
getting called up to the big club (Devilrays) on June 2, 2001. He made his Major League debut on June 6th against the Blue Jays in Toronto
and won 6-2 . He appeared in 20 games that season. During that Rookie season,
Joe had 12 quality starts, only CC Sabathia of the Indians had a better stats(
13). Joe was also 3rd in Rookies with a 4.44 ERA.




He was also the first  Major League player since Kip Wells of the Pirates to
win both his first two  career starts. Joe was also the first Devilrays in
franchise history to perform this feat. In 2001, Joe pitched in 196 innings and struck out 109 opponents.  These
numbers would be his Devilrays best, but only his second best career totals  of
his brief  Major League career.

I

n 2003,  Joe progressed to the point of being announced as the Opening Day
starter. I found Kennedy to be the kind of pitcher who would not be  afraid to
go inside on a batter or ” buzz the tower” if needed.  Every good pro has a mean
streak in them. I can attest to personally knowing that the guy was a true professional and
enjoyed his time here with the Rays. I spoke to Joe on occasions during BP and
always found him to be funny and very intelligent.I guess I was one of those people who knew that Joe would be traded at some
point in his career, but had hope it was after he had garnished that 10-win
plateau with the Devilrays


.

Joe might have seemed soft spoken and reserved to the crowds at the Trop.,
but he was a fierce competitor and was always going to the mound  with the
belief he could to win every game.  That was a quality that I greatly admired in
him. Going out with the idea you are going to win every time you take the
rubber. I know you are going to say that every pitcher does that, but in truth, they
might in their words, but in their minds there might not be that total
commitment. Joe always felt he could win, that that is the basic mindset of a
great pitcher.



After Joe left the Rays and pitched for the Colorado Rockies, he got close to
that  10-win plateau. Joe only got 9 wins in 2004, but produced 117 strikeouts
for the year. He was traded to the Oakland A’s  during the All Star break where
he was again considered a valuable member of the pitching rotation. He garnered
a 2.31 ERA in 2006, a career best for Joe.  In 2006, he was rewarded with the
number five slot in the starting rotation. In 2007, Joe found himself as  number 5 man in the rotation, and fell upon
bad times and was  put in the A’s bullpen and working only late inning and
situational opportunites.   He got another opportunity with the Arizona
Diamondbacks (3 games), and the Toronto Blue Jays (9 games) during the past
2007 season.


Joe  produced 43 victories in his short career, but his last one was fitting.
He received his 43rd win versus his old Rays team on September 29, 2007. Joe had the  fantastic pleasure of becoming a Dad this past year and was
looking forward to time with Kaige and his wife before the February mandatory
reporting date for pitchers’ and catchers. I will miss seeing Joe Kennedy pitch. More for the fact that he was a ture
professional and was always in the game both mentally and physically. I know he
was just hitting the stride in his career and could have produced some great
numbers as a member of that Blue Jays staff in 2008.


Joe is survived by his wife and new son Kaige and currently lived in the
Denver area.


I hope that there is an afterlife. I can then again see people like Cory and

Joe pitch and have that  pure vision of seeing their ear to ear smile or
grin knowing they were doing something they truly loved to do in life.


God Bless you Joe Kennedy, ………………I will be in Right Field
watching you play in that league someday myself….. And I will always cheer
for you as a truly great person and pitcher

Play Ball!


Joe Kennedy…..We Were Lucky to Have Known You…..Truly Lucky

 

I had just gotten home from work and  decided to pop on Yahoo sports to see what was going on Today. It being a day after the stuffed mushroom and pecan pie debauchery, I was looking for the lighter side of sports for some comfort.

 

Was hoping to find out that A-rod was crying poverty over the Yanks’ latest contract offer to Mario Riviera.

 

What I found sunk me in my chair and put a huge knot in my stomach.  It also  made me rethink  my personal life for the ump-teenth time this year since a similar tragedy in Oct 2006 took another of my favorite players in Devilrays history to an untimely death.

 

 

I hate it when a young ball player dies when he is about to hit the prime, or reinvent  himself in their career. Some hit that  invisible wall of physical and mental parts not able to endure  the rigors and challenges of Professional sports. Sometimes  their body just can’t take anymore, even at a young age.

 

 Some have had past abuses either with steroids or muscle enhancements rob them of their  current and post career lives. Some just hit a mental roadblock that can not be corrected by human means.

 

The ones that really hit home and destroy me inside is the way that life ended  the life of ex-Ray Joe Darley Kennedy.  Media thoughts are running  that Joe might have suffered an aneurysm or heart attack during the night. We will have to wait for the final results.

 

                                              

 

Joe had announced his free agency after this years’ World Series, and all indications were that the Toronto Blue Jays’ and their team president  Paul Godfrey wanted  Joe Kennedy for their 2008 staff. 

 

 Kennedy was in town for the holidays at his wife’s parents home, and was to be the best man at a wedding sometime during his stay here in the Tampa area. He had gotten up in the middle of the night and had collapsed to the floor.  An ambulance rushed to Brandon Medical Center, but Kennedy was pronounced  dead at the ER..

 

This is the second Oakland Athletic  to suffer a tragic and unexpected death since October 2006. Ex-Rays and A’s teammate Cory Lidle, had tragically perished in a plane accident after the Yankees exit from the playoffs in 2006

 

One of my first blogs on here was a tribute to Cory Lidle. He was another player who  befriended me during his tenure with the Rays, and I looked for him every year when his team would make a visit to the Trop. I did the same for Joe Kennedy every time he came here for a series.

 

Joe was only 28 years old, but had already been a front end starting pitcher with our Rays.  He had  thrown for over 908 innings in the Majors, and had 558  career K’s.

 

He was selected in the 1998 Amateur player draft in the 8th round, out of Grossmont (Calif.) J C and went immediately to the minor leagues for the Devilrays. He quickly rose through the Rays’ minor league organization. Joe was a combined 6-0, with a .099 ERA with Orlando and Durham before getting called up to the big club ( Devilrays ) on June 2, 2001.

 

 He made his Major League debut on June 6th against the Blue Jays in Toronto and won 6-2 . He appeared in 20 games that season. During that Rookie season, Joe had 12 quality starts, only CC Sabathia of the Indians had a better stats( 13). Joe was also 3rd in Rookies with a 4.44 ERA.

 

                      

 

He was also the first  Major League player since Kip Wells of the Pirates to win both his first two  career starts. Joe was also the first Devilrays in franchise history to perform this feat.

 

In 2001, Joe pitched in 196 innings and struck out 109 opponents.  These numbers would be his Devilrays best, but only his second best career totals  of his brief  Major League career.

 

In 2003,  Joe progressed to the point of being announced as the Opening Day starter. I found Kennedy to be the kind of pitcher who would not be  afraid to go inside on a batter or ” buzz the tower” if needed.  Every good pro has a mean streak in them.

 

I can attest to personally knowing that the guy was a true professional and enjoyed his time here with the Rays. I spoke to Joe on occasions during BP and always found him to be funny and very intelligent.

 

I guess I was one of those people who knew that Joe would be traded at some point in his career, but had hope it was after he had garnished that 10-win plateau with the Devilrays.

 

Joe might have seemed soft spoken and reserved to the crowds at the Trop., but he was a fierce competitor and was always going to the mound  with the belief he could to win every game.  That was a quality that I greatly admired in him. Going out with the idea you are going to win every time you take the rubber.

 

I know you are going to say that every pitcher does that, but in truth, they might in their words, but in their minds there might not be that total commitment. Joe always felt he could win, that that is the basic mindset of a great pitcher.

 

After Joe left the Rays and pitched for the Colorado Rockies, he got close to that  10-win plateau. Joe only got 9 wins in 2004, but produced 117 strikeouts for the year. He was traded to the Oakland A’s  during the All Star break where he was again considered a valuable member of the pitching rotation. He garnered a 2.31 ERA in 2006, a career best for Joe.  In 2006, he was rewarded with the number five slot in the starting rotation. 

 

 In 2007, Joe found himself as  number 5 man in the rotation, and fell upon bad times and was  put in the A’s bullpen and working only late inning and situational opportunities.   He got another opportunity with the Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games), and the Toronto Blue Jays (9 games) during the past 2007 season.

 

Joe  produced 43 victories in his short career, but his last one was fitting. He received his 43rd win versus his old Rays team on September 29, 2007. Joe had the  fantastic pleasure of becoming a Dad this past year and was looking forward to time with Kaige and his wife before the Feb. mandatory reporting date for pitchers’ and catchers.

 

I will miss seeing Joe Kennedy pitch. More for the fact that he was a true professional and was always in the game both mentally and physically. I know he was just hitting the stride in his career and could have produced some great numbers as a member of that Blue Jays staff in 2008.

 

Joe is survived by his wife and new son Kaige and currently lived in the Denver area.

 

I hope that there is an afterlife. I can then again see people like Cory and
Joe pitch and have that  pure vision of seeing their ear to ear smile or grin knowing they were doing something they truly loved to do in life.

 

God Bless you Joe Kennedy, ………………I will be in Right Field watching you play in that league someday myself….. And I will always cheer for you as a truly great person and pitcher

 

Play Ball!

 

 

 

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