Results tagged ‘ Joe Maddon ’

Will the Rays Thanksmas Evolve Post Maddon?

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It was an event that made spaghetti, pierogies and hand-formed meatballs fashionable at holiday time. Served meals to many who would not have a holiday meal in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Sarasota/Manatee counties. Thanksmas had become more than just a symbol of the season here in Tampa Bay.

B47s7BlCAAATUIyIt was a time for the Rays staff, front office and the community to celebrate after another great season as well as see old familiar faces and new smiles while dining on Hazelton, Pa classics. Sure 4 seasons ago Rays former Manager Joe Maddon inspired and perspired in the first carnation of this event, but as it grew so did the locations, participants and the joyous goodwill and harmony this embodies the holiday season.

But now that Maddon has traded his Carolina blue Rays jersey for Chicago Cubs pinstripes, what is the future of the event?

imagesMaddon is adamant that the holiday event will continue in some form for years to come, but you have to wonder if the Rays might want to have their own face front and center starting with the 2015 event, or maybe even embrace a pairing of Maddon and Cash in a compassionate solidarity towards promoting a holiday harmonious event of giving back to Tampa Bay.

Maddon, who is also a part of Ava’s ownership stake spoke with his Ava partners and they were onboard with the Cub’s new skipper’s idea of bringing hot food and maybe some cold cash into the hands of the area’s homeless and unfortunate as sometimes a little extra money can transform a life on the streets into something amazing and uplifting.

B47pTHYCIAEkrXPLast night former Rays and Tampa native Tino Martinez and current Ray Kevin Kiermaier joined in with Maddon at South Tampa bistro Ava, to help collect $22,000 in donation to this year’s event which also will have some cash assistance and donation to its participants.

Maddon was proud to tell participants at last night’s fundraising gala: “This is the message I wanted to get out to the shelters and people connected with this…This is not going away.”

So we know that Maddon is committed to continuing the seasonal event, but you have to wonder if the Rays might also fashion their own version of “Thanksmas” in the future with Cash holding the golden spatula.

B47ji1ACQAA-P-lThe 2014 Thank-Mas schedule has been announced and Rays front office and team personnel will once again come together to embrace the essence and wonder that is the Thanksmas experience.

Thanks-Mas was a brilliant brainchild of Maddon’s to help the Tampa Bay community. It got people from all walks of life involved and wanting to give back to our community during the holiday season as well as be a great inspirational story for everyone involved.

We truly do not know what will happen in the future for Thanksmas, but we can dream.

B47ji1DCAAAcEGvSalvation Army Tampa area commander Major James Chip Hall probably summed it up best regarding Thankmas when he stated: “It’s important for people here to know they matter. That was the one thing Joe was good at. He told them that they’re not invisible. That they’re not forgotten.”

images (3)Maybe we should tinker the recipe of the event to include a dash of Cash to go along with the present ingredients of a cup of the Rays, an ounce of Maddon combined with a pinch of compassion and pound of giving that has made this event flourish.

That sounds like a perfect recipe for future success of the holiday event not matter what its future name might become.

                                            Here is the 2014 Thanksmas Schedule:

Monday, December 15          Sallie House

Tuesday, December 16          St. Petersburg Salvation Army, Tampa Salvation Army

Wednesday, December 17    Homeless Emergency Project

Thursday, December 18        Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida

Friday, December 19              Bradenton Salvation Army

And Then There Were Two……..

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So now the Tampa Bay Rays choices for their new Manager are down to the dynamic duo of Don Wakamatsu and Kevin Cash. Both former MLB catchers have their positives and distractions and we wind down the last hours before the Rays front office makes their official announcement.

Will the Rays follow the current MLB trend of hiring a Manager who will develop and mature on the job, or will they select the candidate who has taken a few knocks and has learned from his bumps and bruises as a Manager.

imagesWill age play a factor and the Rays decide that quite possibly Wakamatsu, who is 51 as the leader of their next generation of stars or will the team go with youthful route and select Kevin Cash who will turn 37 on December 6th   and who is only several years removed from his own MLB days.

Could the fact Cash has 2 World Series rings as a member of the New York Yankees (2009) and Boston Red Sox (2007) show he knows what it takes to play within the highly competitive American League East. 

images (1)Will the differences between the 2 candidates go even deeper taking into account their MLB careers that might benefit young Mr. Cash as Wakamatsu only played with Chicago White Sox (1991) while Cash played for 5 different clubs, 4 of which played in the AL East (Jays, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays).

Can the true aspect of game day experience on the dugout stoop be the deciding virtue on whether Cash or Wakamatsu get a chance to manage the Rays?

Would the Rays be more inclined to check mark Wakamatsu’s obvious game day experience as he has had stints in coaching with the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, and the current AL Champion Kansas City Royals as well as a year and a half at the helm of the Seattle Mariners.

download (1)Or can Cash in his limited 2 years coaching window show his skill set is larger than his resume and that his time in advance scouting as well as his tenure in the Cleveland Indians Bullpen and around Terry Francona will merit brownie points from the Rays.

Neither candidate has huge black marks against them as players or coaches, but Wakamatsu’s only dent in his resume might be his past inability to keep control and respect of his clubhouse in Seattle.

Will Wakamatsu’s undoing be his lack of keeping his clubhouse in check and losing the respect and confidence of his players and upper management, or will he address this frankly with the Rays and provide a different recourse and path if it ever happens again.

Could Cash’s limited tenure as a Coach be a defining line in the sand that the Rays will not cross, wanting more dugout time in hand than the game day views from down in the Bullpen area.

download (2)Can Wakamatsu’s recent trip with the Royals into the World Series show he has the tools and hunger to again want to play deep into October and this time claim the trophy?

I must admit, I really would have loved to be the fly-on-the-wall during both their recent in-depth interviews to learn each candidate’s personals views, goals and aspirations for the Rays over the next 3-5 years. How Cash or Wakamatsu would implement or bring in changes that would elevate the Rays both on and off the field.

Would they both utilize advance scouting reports in-depth and embrace the art form that is sabermetrics to enhance their team’s successes, while also playing to their intuitions and game experience to play the odds to turn defeat into victory.

download (3)Can they educate, inspire and build on team interaction as well as provide moral support and understanding as needed. Can they build upon the foundation left by Joe Maddon in St. Petersburg and grow the Rays Way into a tweaked and refined version of their own that will be embraced by the team, organization and fan base?

 You wonder if either of them have hidden in their arsenal a new innovation cohesion or program that could be utilized from Day 1 by the Rays franchise-wide and bring the next generation of outside the box thinking to the Rays.

It is going to be interesting to see who is finally selected as the Rays next skipper as each has merit and the ability and where the Rays drew their line in regards to experience over room to grow.

Whoever is announced and subsequently featured prominently in the Rays Press Room on Friday or Saturday, let’s hope Tampa Bay fans quickly get behind this choice, find a common ground and ready ourselves for their tenure as the Rays Manager.

So, who you got making their Rays Managerial debut on the stage?

 

 

 

S-Rod Designated for Assignment by Rays

 

 

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There was just a blot on Twitter that Tampa Bay Rays former jack-of-a-trades Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” that the Rays would designate him for assignment today.

Well, personally, I kind of saw the writing on the proverbial wall.

imagesMain reason not being that S-Rod was to possibly garner $2 million in salary through arbitration, it was clearly a fact he is one of the last “pets” of former Rays Manager Joe Maddon that was left on the Rays 40-Man roster.

This is not to downplay the timely hits and run scoring escapades Rodriguez brought to the forefront during his Rays tenure, it is just we have more than a few multiple minor league and  M L B caliber guys currently on the roster who can do it for less, possibly play more and do not have a lingering Maddon tie.

images (12)Some have whispered over the last few off seasons and during the extremely stressful Trade Deadline periods that S-Rod could be send a-packing. Of course those moments never reared their ugly heads until today.

Rodriquez is a capable M L B player who could like so many others on the Rays be plugged in wherever he was needed or take a bat and hit the batting circle with visions of RBIs dancing through his head.

images (10)Of course all of this came about as the Rays signed veteran reliever Ernesto Frieri to a 800 K contract with performance bonuses, someone had to be removed from the Rays roster.

With Brandon Guyer, Logan Forsythe able bodies who can handle S-Rod’s old tasks at a considerable lower salary, the choice surely was made easier when the Rays aw they could save around $2 million in salary with this one swift move.

images (11)Sure his .211 batting average last season left a lot to be desired, but his career-best .443 slugging percentage in 2014 showed he could be a great versatile position guy and his career-high 12 Hrs in 2014 might just make him a wanted man off the bench possibly well suited for a National League squad as a fill-in situational # 9 guy.

Joel Peralta was the first of Maddon’s preferential guys to get the Rays heave ho when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers not so long ago.

images (13)Now with Rodriguez set to hit the open market, or possibly being traded to another team, it is going to be interesting to see who among the other 29 M L B teams will call and ask about S-Rod.

Wanna bet a certain someone will call and at least check in on what the Rays want for Rodriquez, and I bet they call from a 847 area code.

 

I am a Firm #TeamWakaWaka Supporter

 

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I decided not to write a blog post about the Tampa Bay Rays whittling of their respective managerial candidates from 10 to 3 until some of the heat and rage had died down. I felt I needed to let the anger pass that some great candidates were eliminated from this list like it was just a simple qualifying heat and they wanted the top 3 to aspire to greatness possibly being their gold, silver and bronze medal candidates for the Rays open manager’s slot.

kjhgfrthgbgvfrhnbSo as you might have surmised from my medals reference earlier, I’m going to list my personal winner, consolation choice and the one who I felt at this time does not belong on this list.

If the Rays Front Office was trying to bring some sense of normalcy towards their selection process, they failed miserably as the process now seems to have been reduced to a comical 3-ring circus vibe with only the main act being a credible choice for their open post.

Bronze Medal- Raul Ibanez

images (7)I’m still not sure why he is even on this list. Sure Ibanez represents a quick 180 degree switch from the norm that was the Rays Way. Sure he played against this team as a player as recently as last season as a member of the Kansas City Royals, but the TEAM won the American League Championship, not Ibanez.

I understand and celebrate that he is a meticulous, charismatic and has his personal ducks all lined up, but his inexperience in managing a team is still in its infancy stage and to push a unproven game day novice into the Manager’s slot might have worked in the M L B of the 1900-1920’s, but today’s game is a statistical animal that needs to be fed the calculations, tendencies and proven tactical assessments and does not rely favorably on pure gut feelings and spur of the moment recollections.

images (5)I think Ibanez will mature into a great asset to baseball I just feel he is here 2-3 years too early for him to be considered for the Rays top dog. I also know Ibanez has not officially retired from playing yet and I do not see him as a player/manager hybrid for the Ray.

If Ibanez were to be given the Rays reigns, there might be more problems within the Rays organization than just a inexperienced Manager at the helm.

Silver Medal- Kevin Cash

cash_ygufmdit_6ij6mk9nOnto the silver medal, or onto at least an individual who has begun putting some valuable coaching time under his belt.

I liked Cash as a player. Local Tampa guy who fought his way up the ladder to actually playing for this franchise and was behind the Tropicana Field dish. I also think his time spent as a scout and on the job of Bullpen Coach for the Cleveland Indians makes him a viable candidate, but like Ibanez, it is just a tad bit too early for him to slide into a M L B managerial post.

But I do like the aspect of a Bullpen Coach getting a chance at the top spot. A Bullpen Coach sees the game at a different angle. From the beginning when he assesses if the starter’s focus is sharp, his pitches crisp and if there are any “tells” being displayed he is an important cog of the game day machine.

images (8)They also have a front row seat to any outfield and infield tendencies, shifts and see possible hitting holes from a different angle that the players and coaches on the dugout rail cannot visualize.

I think Cash can do the job, but in the end, on the job training makes for a more game savvy Manager who already has it within his wheel house to make those lightning quick hard decisions, try risky tactics and rely on both his past successes and failures to adjust and formulate an on the fly judgment that could lead to a victory.

Gold Medal- Don Wakamatsu

images (9)People wonder why Wakamatsu lost his gig in Seattle and if that failure should have not even gotten him a second interview with the Rays.

Personally I think that failure makes him the best candidate. Sure that tenure gave him a huge managerial black eye, but Wakamatsu also gained valuable insight to become a more respectable player’s coach, but also gaining the wisdom to know when to pull the reins and reel in a trouble player or evolving negative situation.

Wakamatsu was at the Mariner’s helm during the last playing days of Ken Griffey Jr and Milton Bradley’s careers.  One was adjusting to his reduced on the field role while the other just seemed mad at the world. Because of his soft hand approach towards both players and some others within the Seattle Clubhouse, he lost some vital respect and eventual control over Griffey Jr and Bradley as well as some of the young leaders in his M’s Clubhouse.

download (4)The M’s front office needing to find a reason for the team’s failure and with Wakamatsu losing his Clubhouse and some of the team’s admiration, the M’s organization pulled the plug.

But Wakamatsu did not walk away from the game with his head down, he found a gig more suitable to his evolving talents and was a vital coaching and leadership cog in the Royals 2014 World Series machine.

If you look at a list of the Royals best in-game decisions/tactics in 2014, I know you will find more than a few of Wakamatsu’s fingerprints among them.

The Rays next Manager needs to further the evolution of the Rays into that next realm or dimension of their development. He has to bring his new eyes into the system and quickly fix it’s errors or faults. Every Manager the Rays have ever had left their mark on the team’s development, I think Wakamatsu would make a great fit as the Rays next skipper.

Ibanez and Cash might have the heart and hustle to provide that, but Wakamatsu has the other intangible items needed to take this team possibly finally towards hoisting that golden trophy in November.

I truly think and believe Wakamatsu is the answer to the Rays problem at this time. He not only deserves a second chance at managing, he is the most qualified of the 3 left and the Rays would be lucky to have him at their helm.

 

Plus having experience coaching in the American League plus having a stint in coaching in the American League East is a great thing to pop high on your Rays Manager Resume.

I am to give #TeamWakaWaka the gold.

Finally Some Good News: Rays Zorilla Retained for 2015

Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays

I was just about to start reading Chapter 16 of Ben and Julianna Zobrist’s book “Double Play” today when the Tampa Bay Rays announced that the team was picking up Benzo’s $7.5 million Club Option securing his services as a Ray for 2015.

downloadThe title of Chapter 16 is “A New Lineup Card”, and with the Rays recent juggling of upper level positions and internal desk swapping, a positive bit of press coming out of One Tropicana Field felt like a cool sea breeze on a hot September night.

After the weeks the Rays front office has had seeing their VP of Baseball Ops and their Manager both pack their bags and head for distant pastures, the announcement of Zobrist coming back again next season brought a well needed hint of normalcy to the Rays as well as kept one of their most consistent offensive weapon in the Rays lineup.

imagesBut you also have to think the decision on whether to bring Zobrist back for 2015 will be the easiest decision new Rays VP of Baseball Ops Matt Silverman will make this off season.

Seriously, Zorilla is the type of player that every M L B team yearns for or hopes at least once in a decade to develop within their farm system and see established long-term on their major league 25-Man rosters.

But you also hope the Rays front office did not have to think more than 15 minutes, or every even ponder the conclusion that this team might benefit more with that $7.5 million and set Zorilla free onto the M L B landscape.

Zobrist’s $7.5 million salary might be considered expensive by Rays standards, but if you collected players with similar fielding and offensive stats from around the M L B, the Rays are getting a great bargain for his services in 2015.

I shudder to think that declining Benzo’s Club Option was ever on the table, or seriously considered even for a nanosecond.

images (1)With the Rays losing two top tier pieces of their management puzzle, letting a player of Benzo’s caliber go would have sent a clear message that the 2015 edition of the Rays were either going into a deep re-development and roster structuring mode, or were willing to further frustrate and agitate their bewildered  Season Ticket base.

Believe me, if Zorilla would have been turned loose I would of been one of the first to hurdle a fine chunk of limestone.

But now is a time to rejoice and thank our lucky stars Silverman and company made the right move and selected the Club Option that will keep #18 in our Rays lineup and again in our hearts during the 2015 season.

 

Davey Baseball is Rays Baseball

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So here we are Day 1 A J (After Joe).

The sky is still that beautiful shade of blue, the Sun still an amazing orange mass in the sky and not a dark cloud to be seen.

20141025_134855The Zombies did not attack, the Trop is still a tilted cap, and for now, the Tampa Bay Rays might want to retrofit and possibly introduce once again their 2007 “Under Construction” motif. For the Rays will most definitely be in a bit of a rebuilding mode both in talent and confidence heading into the Spring of 2015.

Sure some of that once solid Rays Way foundation that Maddon created so elegantly during his tenure is going to show some cracks with his unexpected exit stage right, but they can and will be fixed.

Problem is while most of the Tampa Bay fan base are still in a bit of shock and bewilderment, the Rays front office has to be swift and plug the Rays current void in leadership as fast as a well-placed 2-seamer. 

Matt Silverman, who some says might have hastened Maddon’s exit when he advised him of his opt-out option after Andrew Friedman’s departure for the pastures of Los Angeles needs to now fill this managerial void while the wound is still fresh.

download (7)He needs to strap on those “big boy” pants, take the lead with authority in finding Maddon’s replacement and pop him into place before the wound has time to fester and the fan base loses anymore confidence in the Rays want to stay here in Tampa Bay at all.

Names are already swirling around the circular roof of Tropicana Field. Some have a MLB pedigree while others might be unknown to us, but the MLB establishment know their talents and are eager to add their expertise to their franchises.

I mean yesterday on a local Tampa Bay radio station it even seemed for a moment like the Rays current Pitching Coach Jim Hickey was throwing his hat in the ring, but he might have the talent and the respect of the Rays pitching staff, but he is not who the Rays should be focused on if they truly want to seek an internal choice for their next Manager.

Honestly right now a lot of the Rays Republic is feeling a bit vulnerable with 2 key elements of their past success peeling rubber out of the Trop parking lot for more financial vistas.  Right now this whole scenario has to be Silverman’s to fix, and if he does due diligence and a dash of due diligence he will notice the right fit is already located under the Teflon roof of the Trop.

Screw the extended interview process.

download (1)Dave Martinez, who began his Coaching ascent as an unpaid outfield consultant and rose to be mentored and molded by Maddon to be his right-hand Lt is the guy who should be given the keys to the Rays Clubhouse.

The same Martinez that stood on the Tropicana Field Firs Base chalk line on March 31, 1998 during the first D-Rays player introductions and was a mainstay in Right Field until his departure in 2000. The same Davey Baseball who has worn #4 both as a player and Coach of the Rays.

An interesting trivia note is not only did Martinez start the Rays first contest ever, but he also recorded the Rays first hit, a 3rd inning single off Tigers starter Justin Thompson that also during its flight, struck the First Base bag.

images (7)Martinez, like Maddon is a baseball lifer. 2015 will be Martinez’s 30th year in professional baseball with all 7 of his years coaching under the tutelage and guidance of Maddon. 

That by itself should be a perfect pedigree for a team to hire Martinez as he has training in the modernization of baseball tactics and strategies spent alongside the true professor who challenged the old school thought processes of the game and initiated innovation and strategic upgrades in thought and situational decision-making during contests.

Sure Martinez doesn’t have a lot of resume material as the head honcho of the Rays, but has been near Maddon’s side since the spring of 2006 has been responsible for the Rays base running and bunting strategies which were responsible for more than a few Rays victories.

Has post season experience having been to the post season 4 times in the last 7 years as a Rays Coach after only going to the playoffs once as a player in 16 years.

images (9)At any moment during a Rays game you could of glanced into the Rays dugout and seen Martinez and Maddon locked into their statistical matchups, situational probabilities and voicing their valid opinions or preferred preferences. That by itself is a hard thing for two people to coordinate on a regular basis, Maddon and Martinez proceeded in their conversations like they were second nature.

I mean look at the fairy tale storyline that could emulate with Martinez as the Rays skipper. He played in and provided the first hit ever for this franchise, became a consultant with the team and rose through the ranks to become Maddon’s confidante and trusted ally.

images (6)Heck, the players, staff and the Rays front office already know he is personable, is a Rays fan favorite and if we could elect a new Manager, Martinez could possibly win the post in a landslide. He has been a positive Rays fixture, a mentor, an M L B Draft day participant and always willing and able to speak, listen or help anyone within the organization at a moment’s notice.

He has roots in this area and even had his son drafted by the Rays in the MLB Draft (31st Round) back in 2013. If anyone not only deserved a shot at the Rays helm, but seemed destined for the spot, it is Martinez.  

I understand fully that the Rays truly need to do now is find the right fit, the right guy to not only move upward again, but truly mange the Rays ship with integrity and command instant respect from bow to stern.

images (3)In my opinion the right guy has been standing next to Maddon and not only has the respect of this team already, but the confidence in them and himself that he can take this team to another level, and quite possibly further than they have ventured before.

Come on Matt, you know he has the league cred and knows the Rays inherently infectious team philosophy and has all the qualities to be the Rays main guy.

Now all Martinez needs is the chance to show all those other teams why they should of hired him, or why he quite possibly waited in the wings for just this perfect hometown opportunity.

Davey Baseball is Rays baseball.

 

Say It Ain’t So Joe!

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I so want to pop on one of those hipster caps, clutch a bundle of newspapers and wander outside Ava’s in South Tampa right now and mimic that great cinematic scene and scream: “Say it ain’t so Joe, say it ain’t so!

imagesI wasn’t a firm believer in Maddon when he was announced as the Tampa Bay Rays Manager almost a decade ago. But then I did not want that other “Joe” either who wears pinstripes to manage my then D-Rays.

I was uninformed of his love of computerized stats, reports, graphs and believing in the numbers as much as a hunch, feeling or a spur of the moment stroke of genius.

But I quickly became a follower.

images (7)So yeah, it irks me a bit today when I heard the Rays will lose their in-house musical and entertainment savant who decided his tenure with the Rays will cease now rather than extend his stay or do a “farewell” year as a lame duck Rays skipper.

I was on pins and needles the first few times I heard Maddon during interviews and as my resistance to his style of baseball waned, I began to march to the beat of his drum and began to stand solid behind this new essence of the Rays with this Mad Man with his black-rimmed glasses at the helm.

images (3)From his want to “give back” to his adopted Tampa Bay community with his “ThanksMas” innovative program that fed and let struggling and homeless individuals around this region know that the Rays, their employees and Maddon believed in them through their culinary show of love.

Maddon quickly won my heart by his charity, intelligence and want to make his Rays teams not only successful, but a benchmark of how to evolve and transform players and veteran into a victorious hodge-podge of inspiring and aspiring Tampa Bay sports icons.

20141024_140329I was one of the first to pop my name and money down for the inaugural first rendition of the  “Maddon’s Mad Men” that quickly reformed as the “Maddon’s Maniacs” and became a spirited group of Rays fans who voiced and showed their support for the Rays main guy.

Maddon  grew on me. From his courage to bench a disgruntled Delmon Young, then sending the ROY candidate to Minnesota. It showed courage, but it also showed that he was not above jettisoning a promising player if he felt it might poison the Rays clubhouse, or provide unneeded drama.

images (24)What was really amazing was how when Delmon returned 6 years later in the final month of the 2013 season there was a level of respect shown towards Maddon that was not there in 2007. It was never said aloud, but you got to know Maddon was pleased Young had matured, developed and could again help the Rays cause, now as a veteran.

a3I was amazed at the way the “Magical Summer of Baseball” transpired this franchise and energize not only the Rays, but the whole Tampa Bay community. That process started with Maddon chatting with the guys on the turf of the Namoli Complex in St. Petersburg, transformed during the season peaking as he accepted the American League Championship Trophy from his former boss’s wife and ended among the rain puddles in Citizen Bank Park.

But that 2008 success only made you want to root for him more, want to again see him on the post season stage ready to pull a wily play out of his notepad, or pop up his palm for a enthusiastic high-five as a Ray returned to the dugout.

images (23)It saddens me we will not see Joe hoist a World Series trophy here in Tampa Bay. Bothers me that this happens now when the sting and bite of Andrew Friedman leaving for western pastures in Chavez Ravine and his team maybe again on the verge of something special.

PajamaI’m going to miss the team head cheerleader who brought fun back to road trips via planned events, the manning of T-shirts, jerseys or even PJ’s to bring some comic relief and energy into leaving the confines of home for 7-10 day ventures around the country.

I mean Maddon was a man who embraced our region for its positives and negatives, became a R V owner, a local restaurateur and somehow during all of this got some of us (even me) back on a bike wandering this great area on trails and back road rediscovering our region.

images (4)He helped transform the Rays culture on the field, in the stands and even might have instilled the first healthy clubhouse in the MLB when fresh food, healthy options and smoothies intertwined into the Rays pre and postgame lifestyle.

But most of all I’m going to miss the guy who truly had become the Captain of our Rays ship. Taking us to places no one else had, be it post season, managing an All-Star team or even giving us all cause to further embrace our community be it through humanitarian or even social efforts.

images (18)While some are going to have to take some time to come to terms with this, get over their confusion and angry moments, we all knew this day was going to come. We all knew that one day you would take that Rays hoodie off for the last time. Hang up the Elmer Fudd winter Rays cap and venture on with your life somewhere else, but we had envisioned that years away.

But even if the time was only 9 season, it was a true pleasure knowing you Skipper. Was a treat to hear you take, to see what antic or item might show up at a press conference or be presented to your players in the Club house (my favorite was Cliff, the penguin).

images (25)Joe, where ever you go, whatever your next destination I want you to know I still cherish, relish and embrace all the “Maddon Maniacs” knickknacks, T-shirts and photos taken with you over your Rays tenure.

But seriously Joe……..”Say it ain’t so!”

Would Any of the Rays be Heroes or Zeroes During a Zombie Apocalypse? ?

 

Ever wonder who among your friends, family or even those you might not care for too much would be victims, victors or conscientious observers if there was a Zombie Apocalypse?

The Tampa Bay Rays media zombinos’, who really do not have much Rays baseball right now to produce or edit right now came up with a great little Q&A clip asking some of the current Rays how they thought might be the first tasty nugget, be oblivious or might even volunteer to partake in the Zombie lifestyle.

Zombies-In-FLSome of the answers were quite interesting, and a few of them unfortunately were a bit obvious.

But seriously, if something were to transpire, would anyone on the Rays squad or staff have the supplies, courage or gumption to stave off a possible invasion of pinstriped or zombies speaking a crazy New England accent?

You bet there are a few I think might have thought this out ahead, possibly using the University of Florida Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide devised by the college a few years ago.

The thing that might worry me most is if it would happen during the season or during the team’s time off? I mean if the team were spread all over the country without their Rays resources, I suspect it would raise the percentages of players like Chris Archer, Wil Myers or maybe even Drew Smyly being devoured as they would not have the support and resources of the Rays as they both like to be outside supporting their causes with the masses.

downloadI know for sure Rays Travel Sec/Clubhouse Zombie Survivalist Chris Westmoreland (a Gator lover) would have supplies and maybe even a few nifty tricks of his own hidden among the many storerooms and darkened spaces underneath Tropicana Field.  I mean the guy goes everywhere prepared for the best and worst scenarios, so you know he has something planned out, even if it never happens (or so they say).

And we all know Rays Manager Joe Maddon, Third Base Coach Tom Foley will organize a eat-in possibility for the zombies featuring a buffet meal made by the Rays skipper and Rays staffers serving brains, entrails and other delicacies every zombie craves along with a T-shirt so they can show others they were at the “Zom Nom Nom” event.

As for guys on the squad, I agree Jeremy Hellickson would surrender, possibly offer himself as an autograph signer and early appetizer for Maddon’s Zom Nom Nom as the guy already has the perfect zombie nickname ”Hellboy”.

images-cropI know Rays Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi, Video Coordinator aka “Wichita” or “Chico” Fernandez will have Cursi’s back as they seem to always be a team effort off the field. Seriously, with the gear Cursi wears for games and Chico’s cunning and skill set, these two might be the guys to be around if it ever hit the fan.

But there are a few other who might not go down so easy such as Grant Balfour who might just scare the zombies away with his blue-streaked verbal altercation followed by a nice stiff fastball to the cranium. If I was a zombie I do not think I would mess with the “Agitated Aussie”, or wear the 162 stitch reminder of the encounter on my forehead forever.

images (1)Kevin Kiermaier and Vince Belnome who love the outdoors and are avid hunters and fisherman might just crack back their crossbows and let a few fly long and hard into an unsuspecting zombie hoard.

Along that same line you might see  Rays VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman transform his inner want to not be a part of the “walking dead” , but give the Rays every opportunity on the battlefield to be successful. Possibly get a few players from the Las Vegas Area 51 minor league squad or the Albuquerque Isotopes for a few Bowling Green Hot Rods prospects.

Seriously here folks with shows on the air like “The Walking Dead”, “The Last Ship”, “The Strain” and possibly many more in production, are the people in the entertainment world trying to tell and warn us  of something currently just beyond our horizon?

maxresdefaultWho knows what the answer is, but if there is just such an event and you see that Rays players James Loney, Jose Molina and Jeremy Hellickson are signing for fans……Be wary, be very wary of them being used as bait for that always hungry pinstriped mob.

Wonder if Luke Scott would be willing to sign a Zombie incentive-laced contract? We know that guy can shoot, plus he has the right mental aptitude, but he has to wear the Chewy mask….That would be a moral imperative.

Who do you think among the Rays squad would survive, be devoured or just plain go bonkers on some undead rival fans?

 

 

 

Peering Through the Rays Looking Glass- Hurlers

15Rays

 

Rays “Man about the Stands” Todd Kalas has informed us all that with a Kansas City or Oakland win tonight (9/19/14), the Rays will be mathematically eliminated from any more post season banter in 2014.

With that in mind, it is time for the second installment of “Peering through the Rays Looking Glass” and focus today on the Rays pitching corps for 2015.

057Going into the spring of 2015 this has to be one of the most secure spots within the Rays organization, but there are some changes that could, should or will happen before the boys again unpack their gear in Port Charlotte in February 2015.

So let’s start with the obvious first here. The Rays rotation might need a few tweaks, but there also might be an omission or deletion before the team again assembles for that yearly pre-Spring pep talk by Joe Ma on the green grass.

I definitely have been hearing great things on the progress of Matt Moore in his rehab and come spring, I consider him 1-L on the Rays starting rotation chart. Sure that might seem funny to some, but has been the case here in Tampa Bay for some time, there are 2 starters who deserve that # 1 position heading into 2015.

thI1Y37WIMOf course I have already assigned one half of that equation to Moore, and it only seem appropriate and totally earned that Alex Cobb will be the Rays 1-R or top right-handed option heading into next season. I’m not going to attach either to a #1 or #2 slot basically because I’m not sure yet which kind of order the Rays Front Office and Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey envision to be the best fit.

That being said, these two names will be at the top of the chart no matter the decision, and that decision will also fully decide the 3-5 slots also.

Just as the Rays #1 and #2  Rays pitching matchups are probably months away from being in some sort of concrete mode, the Rays # 3 and #4 spots might also be a total guess work right now and are totally interchangeable at this moment.

But even with that in mind, Rays left-hander Drew Smyly and Chris Archer should definitely be more than penciled in as the Rays middle rotation guys with either taking the #3 or #4 slot possibly based on a L-R-L-R rotation mix or Maddon could go L-R-R-L giving the Rays possibly a southpaw in every series being blanketed by a tough right-hander.

thILL9QYITEven though Jake Odorizzi produced a very respectable 2014 season and popped out great starts throughout 2004, I suspect he will face a nice dose of competition this spring to hold onto the Rays 5th rotation spot.  I can easily imagine Merrill Kelly, Alex Colome and possibly a veteran being signed by the Rays on the cheap to battle it out in spring training for this last rotation slot.

As Maddon always says, “Pitching sets the tone” again in 2015 on just how far or how low the Rays end up early or late in the American League East standings.

You might notice I did not include Jeremy Hellickson this rotation list. I think that this winter the Rays will definitely offer him up as a trade piece not only because he seems a bit injury prone, but because his salary is only going to rise and he might not be the solid investment for the Rays he was just 2 seasons ago. I would not be surprised if a change of scenery sparks Hellboy back into a frenzy quite possibly to the heights experienced by former Rays P Scott Kazmir this year in Oakland.

thG080DJ9VUnlike Price, Hellboy has not seen his stock rise in value the last few years and it might be time for the Rays to let Hellickson try another vista and re-establish himself.

Some have labeled 2014 a disaster year for the Rays because of their less than .500 overall record and their lack of offensive excellence, but the Rays found out in 2014 that this young staff will step up, will compete and will produce wins even with a less than desired run support by the field players.

But there is also another set of hurlers who will have a say in 2015 and just how far and fast the Rays can rebound again to regain their winning ways.

Leftie Jake McGee has more than shown us in 2014 that he has the right stuff to be our last line of defense, but some of the other pieces of the Rays Bullpen puzzle might have bigger question marks after lackluster 2014 seasons.

Bruce Boxberger’s pitching arm definitely will get him another shot in 2015 to stay at the M L B level, and if he can stay consistent, his spot on the Rays roster can only grow more secure with each great outing.

th02DTSMX8Even though Grant Balfour has another year on his contract with the Rays, he might be a nice piece of bait to wiggle out there for a team that needs a veteran closer who never lets his baseball fires burn out. I like Balfour and his fire, but the money spent on him could be used to bring in 2 relief pieces and with a team that will be pinching pennies ‘til they scream, Balfour is  a cautiously expendable commodity that could be in high demand somewhere else this winter.

You might think the Rays might have an easy decision to make this winter on Joel Peralta, who has been a fine set-up piece for the team. Starting this winter, the Rays hold 3 different club options on Joel in 2015-17. I do not see Peralta going anywhere, but depending on the size of cuts the team will have to make on payroll heading into 2015, his worth to the Rays teeters more on the good side than bad.

thXVN39TTLAlex Colome, who is now out of minor league options could be key pieces to any 2015 realignment of the Rays bullpen. Colome could easily be either the Rays 5th starter, spot starter or just inherit the long reliever slot in the bullpen. Colome has at least 2 more starts in the Rays rotation in 2014, but an impressive 2015 spring could hoist his name easily as a 5th slot contender.

With young relievers like Steve Getz, Brandon Gomes, Jeff Beliveau, Cesar Ramos, Kirby Yate and even C J Riefenhauser getting time this year to impress the Rays in extended looks and chances in 2015, one of the Rays next waves of players being selected from the minors might have a definite reliever flavor.

Some might think the name of the Rays Reliever of the Year and current Durham Bulls closer Adam Liberatore should be pushed onto this list. Sure he will get a spring major league camp invite, but the Rays still  have a hand full of minor league options on him and could bring him in more for seasoning and extended work with the M L B staff than promote him before quite possibly September 2015 or a more realistically during  2016.

248An extended injury to McGee before 2016 could escalate his chances to gain a quicker M L B chance to impress during the regular season.

Sure the Rays will sign a few veteran and even productive name to spring camp, but I do see the Rays current young and hungry relievers fighting them off tooth and nail to be a part of the Rays machine come late March 2015.

Each of the above relievers should get a chance in the latter stages of 2014 to make impressions and even get a longer look this upcoming spring in the major league camp and it would not surprise me if more than 3 of them break camp with a 25-man secured spot.

The pure unadulterated strength of the Rays heading into 2015 is their great pitching and the depth of said commodity in their farm system.

th37PB61VFThis is a time where the Rays could find more than a few intricate pieces of their 2015 puzzle with very affordable and team controlled contracts that could help the team survive and thrive through the lower payroll expectation of 2015.

It is possible the team might look to shave $20-30 million this winter and if that does come to reality, Hellickson, Balfour and quite possibly Peralta might be the viable and most costly options that get more than a few long and hard looks as to their worth in the Rays pitching corps.

 

 

Peering Into My Rays 2015 Looking Glass-Position Players

2015

 

Well, Dandy Don has sung and the large but svelte woman in that Viking cap has vocally acknowledged the Tampa Bay Rays have lost that final grasp on any chance at an October date with destiny. So the chase is now over, but a few games still remain.

Over the next 2 weeks I think we will see a few slices of what might and could happen this winter in regards to our hometown Rays.

th3JODA4XGWe already know we will not see any fashion of a  $80 million payroll in 2015, but the Rays have a lot of pieces to consider this winter, some expendable, and some they have to keep at all costs. Might be a interesting winter as the Rays have a chance to push out another cycle of truly young pitching talent, might dangle a few names on their hook, and possibly be seeking a consistent power bat that could awaken an offense that rises and falls more than the tides in Tampa Bay.

From behind the plate to down the First Base line in the Bullpen, the Rays have some important work to do to not only up their offensive firepower, but also to shore up a reliever corps that did not have that secure level of consistency we have grown accustom to here.

I truly suspect the Rays will not only dangle but seek out a possible trade partner to take on veteran backstop Jose Molina’s 2015 salary. With the solid emergence of Curt Casali behind the dish in 2014, it makes Molina not only an extra body behind the plate, but a large salary that could be used to possibly secure a power bat for the Rays lineup.

thAWBZUW96In Casali’s favor right now is that he is showing great command of the Rays pitching corps and currently hold the best catcher’s ERA of 2.0 in the majors. He has caught Alex Cobb 6 times this season and sports a 1.09 ERA with Cobbster on the hill, including framing pitches during Cobb’s recent no-hitter adventure.

I think Ryan Hanigan is on solid ground, but people in Cincinnati probably thought the same before the 2013 offseason. Helping his cause for 2015 is definitely his current .306 average in 11 starts since coming back off the DL on August 26th.

Now in regards to the Rays infield. It would seem that 3 of the 4 slots are already occupied by players who should be rubber stamped in as starters for 2015.  Sure anything can happen, but these 3 players also have contracts inked with the team, some long-term, some with quicker expiration dates.

James Loney seems secure at First Base especially since he signed that 3-year #21 million contract in 2014 and should man the Rays 1B bag possibly until someone on the way up in the Rays farm system pushes him off it.  But also making Loney an easy name to pencil in is his superb bat skills and being great at GTMI (Get The Man In). Heading into Sunday’s contest Loney has 66 RBIs, second only to Evan Longoria.

thEFVI841BDo not be surprised if the Rays possibly show Sean Rodriguez a bit more at First Base in 2015. There is no guarantee the Rays will keep S-Rod, but he has been one of the most consistent pieces of the Rays utility corps right alongside Ben Zobrist.

Speaking of Zorilla, could this offseason be the first one where the Rays ask Zobrist to possibly take a few more turns at First as a possible fill-in should the team not re-sign Rodriguez? We all know Rays Manager Joe Maddon is S-Rod’s biggest supporter, but his salary is climbing and with less dollars in the till, could Rodriguez be one of the Rays biggest question marks going into the winter.

Third Base is all Evan Longoria’s until health or just plain age ripe him off the hot corner. People forget Longo is itching close to that big 3-0 that sometimes robs a player of agility and quickness needed to prevent screamers down the line. I do not see 2015 as the season Father Time begins to creep up on Longoria, but if he does we could possible see Tim Beckham or Logan Forsythe as guys to pencil in with spot starts.

th2I88KN6BLongoria did have what many consider a sub-par season in 2014, but he still leads the team in most offensive categories and is still the Rays Clubhouse figurehead, and that will not change for some time. His tear in offense since the All-Star break might just be to him finally finding that mechanics groove we have been waiting for all this season.

Shortstop is also a spot that seems secure, but has also been a spot of ups and downs in 2014. Now I like the spirited play of Yunel Escobar, but I think a healthy Hak-Ju Lee could press Escobar with a outstanding spring. You know subconsciously the Rays Front Office would love this kind of competition considering one would command a MLB minimal salary (Lee), and the other $5 million.

You might wonder why the Rays did not bring up Lee or Beckham in September or after Durham finished their postseason run. Both have 2 minor league options left and if neither fights nor gains a 25-man roster slot in 2015, that gives the Rays some flexibility to hold onto them at least in Durham.

thNYXYJESCSecond Base might again be a “insert here” space in the Rays infield. With names like Nick Franklin, Forsythe, Lee and Beckham possibly fighting for a chance to line up at 2B, this might be one of the most contested spots during the spring of 2015.

Sure you could put Zobrist firmly in black ink in this spot, but I think Maddon still loves to tinker and place Zobrist and his many gloves wherever he sees a possible weakness. I truly think we will see Zobrist either swapping gloves a lot again in 2015, or he will be gone. I think a lot depends on the Rays evaluation of what they could obtain via a winter trade for Zorilla while he still has ample value to a team looking for a players who has a command of his offensive and defensive skills.

The Rays might end up coming out of 2015 spring training with their youngest outfield trio since their inception. I have an odd feeling this might be the other place where competition will be strong and possibly we see a name or possibly 2 change uniforms in direct response to possible 2015 salary as opposed to their overall value to the team.

thNOJJ6HYGOutfielders Matt Joyce and possibly Desmond Jennings might also see their names in print a bit more during the Rays off season. Not because they are not valued or important Rays pieces, but there is a younger crew of Rays outfielders led by Wil Myers and Kevin Keirmaier who can provide the same offense and defensive excellence at a more modest price.

The Rays also need to make a valued judgment on Brandon Guyer who doesn’t have any minor league options remaining. This whole Guyer situation might come down to a mirror image evaluation that the Rays had to make on Sam Fuld before the 2014 season. Believe me, if the Rays find value in keeping Guyer, he could definitely slot in as the team’s 4th or 5th outfield option without a problem.

I will no discuss the DH position since I think that will be a hired bat or possibly more Longoria and Zobrist in 2015 if the team can not find an adequate stick that can elevate the Rays offense.

In addition Maddon could use any variety of bench selections to insert or delete at his leisure. Designated Hitter might be a revolving door for the Rays if a valued bat is not found before the spring of 2015. 

thVSZNTP0FI have a feeling we will see a leaner and more stat-infused Rays team over the next 2 years. The Rays will again possibly show a “youth movement” as most positions will be secured by vets, but the younger corps of the team could mature into the offensive pieces the Rays lacked in 2014.

With a slimmed down payroll and some veterans nearing the cusp of free agency, the Rays might call upon their striving younger core to provide a cohesive and focused 2015 nucleus.

 

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