Results tagged ‘ Jorge Cantu ’

Filling the First Base Hole is Crucial for Success


It is no secret among anyone in Major League Baseball right now that the Tampa Bay Rays are in need of a First Baseman. Be it from a trade, a free agent or maybe even a budding star caught between a rock and a potential All-Star, the Rays will find their man, but at what price?

Heck just for conversation and a few giggles, can Andy Sonnanstine play First Base? Seriously I am not applying Sonny name to the 1B fodder list, it is just he has done everything else for the Rays, plus he will finally get a gig where he can hit daily.

You can immediately take names like Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Jorge Posada and Derrek Lee out of the think tank mostly because of the fear it would cause instantly to the Rays payroll situation. Even past Rays familiar names like Russell Branyan, Eric Hinske, Brad Hawpe, Jorge Cantu, Adam Kennedy, and Carlos Pena might give each of us a wonder if they can again be monster at the plate and huge pillows in the field, but their tenures have come and gone for this team.

Dan Johnson, the Rays 2011 Opening Day starter refused a assignment and is also within the free agent wading pool. His exploits, especially in the latter weeks of the season have made him a folk hero in Tampa Bay, but his dismal early season slump in 2011 made in more than expendable. Johnson has unfortunately had a yo-yo existence with the Rays from his plucking off the waiver wire, to a year in Japan courtesy of the Rays, to being a part of this team by proxy in Triple-A Durham then emerging with memorable Home Runs and spontaneous eruptions of power. If only he could get that power spurt to last 180 days during the regular season.

Interesting name do pop out at you from the list of potential young free agents like the powerful ex-Yankee Juan Miranda. The former Cuban baseball star signed a reasonable $2 million contract with the Yankees in 2006, and like former team Cuba team mate and current Rays farm hand Leslie Anderson, Miranda has not shown the verbosity yet to possibly warrant more than a casual look by the Rays. That and a limited MLB experience which mired Miranda with a .226 career average, this might take him out of any Rays consideration.

 Michael Cuddyer might be an interesting name to associate with the Rays in their 1B quest, but his Type A status, which could cost the Rays draft pick might be a huge stop sign to any advancement towards his name. We all know how the Rays value their draft picks, and accumulate them like canned goods to weather any impending payroll storm. I actually would love to see what Cuddyer would do with his photographic talents if given a few extra months of Trop photography….but that is not a reason to sign him (bummer).

There might be a few young tradeable names to ponder for the Rays, but then again it might come down to the “want “ list by the other franchise, possibly killing the deal in the initial chatter phase. If the Miami Marlins do indeed get Price or King Albert to guard their First Base bag, it will be interesting to see how the team positions Gaby Sanchez for relocation. With the Marlins pretty set with at least 3 starters on the books, there is room for rotation adjustments and improvement, but would someone like Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann or an Rays prospect on the cusp plus a young catcher like Jose Lobaton or Nevin Ashley be enough to land the powerful Marlin?

Or could the dangling of Cincinnati Reds young hitter Yonder Alonso be the morsel that tempts the Rays into digging into their roster and farm system possibly bringing Alonso to Tampa Bay where he will have a free range position in front of him unlike in Cincy where Joey Votto is cemented at 1B for the immediate future. The problem with Alonso is not his value, but the deal it would take to possibly separate him from his Reds jersey and into a Rays uniform.

Would Rays VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman be willing to possibly delete SP James Shields from his roster even before Spring Training, or can be package a deal possibly including some middle infield talent, plus a budding pitcher and possibly another player to get this deal done and put a solid body with a few years of flexibility at the corner position for the Rays? Alonso might be a power upgrade over the Rays 2011 First Base corps, but will he be the fielding gem the Rays need to keep their defensive fielding advantage intact?

Even though other First Baseman names out there like Lyle Overbay and Jason Giambi might tweak a bit of Rays interest as potential platoon members, their salaries definitely might be out of the Rays comfort zone, immediately dissecting their name from the 1B Carousel.

In my honest opinion, I am still hopeful the Rays can plug in Rays 2011 First Baseman Casey Kotchman as a exclamation point into this pondering question. Still there are questions within this easy solution to the Rays First Base dilemma. Kotchman’s biggest stumbling block to him possibly getting a multi-year deal might be his ponderance for low power numbers. Still, if the guy can get the needed hits, place himself up near .300 and produce scoring opportunities and drive in runs, does that vault him over a guy who might hit 20+ HR and have a average glove?

This decision on the immediate horizon for the Rays has to have their direct and undivided attention. This current opening that the Rays need to fill this off season is the keystone of their defensive alignment. Get the right glove and bat into this slot, and the Rays could see their offense suddenly pull a Rasputin and emerge from their slumber with their lumber. Whatever happens, this one move will send immediate signals on the way the Rays want to do business in 2012.

Sure you would love to possibly see someone like Cantu come back, or possibly entertain a Pena reunion, but those scenarios might not be in the compromised deck of cards the Rays have for 2012. Possibly a Alonso or Sanchez could fall into the Rays hands, but at what cost, and is Rays pitching really such a high point that losing a Shields, Davis or even a emerging Cobb or Torres not produce a few shock waves?

This one movement by the Rays front office this Winter will be watched closely by the Rays Republic because First Base is just that critical a spot for the Rays, and only a solid corner man will fit nicely with the square peg shape of First Base.

2011 Toby Hall Celebrity Golf Classic

 

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Day 2 of the Charity Week experience. This charity event actually took place last Thursday, but somehow I lost my little camera video card in the movement from the camera to the computer. Now that the day’s photos are safely within the computer, it is time to give you some of the highlights and tales from the 2011 Toby Hall Celebrity Golf Classic.

 

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This is my second year volunteering for this golfing event that first started out as a bowling event in Tampa so many years ago. Arrived at the Bayou Club gold clubhouse about 9:45-ish and immediately came face-to face with three off-duty members of the St. Petersburg Police Department. 

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 They were there as special guests of Hall to participate in a fundraising event through their memorial T-shirt benefiting the families of two recently slain SPPD officers. During the charity event, the SPPD representatives set up a tent at the turning point or Hole 9.5 of the course and as the golfing pairs came up to do the putting challenge, they could also purchase T-shirts and speak to the officers( including a K-9 officer) that knew the two officers.

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 When Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder B J Upton’s 5-member pairing came up for the putting contest, Upton took a moment to go over to the SPPD tent and purchased not one, but over a dozen T-shirts, including one for everyone in his pairing group.

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Fellow Rays Fans Wall of Fame member George Stone was on the scene again that day spreading the word about the featured charity of the event, The Miracle League. Some might not know that the Miracle League is a baseball league formed so that children of all ages with special needs and abilities can also enjoy the greatest game on dirt. At one point later in the evening, Stone actually got a verbal commitment from St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster to attend the 2011 Opening Day event in St. Petersburg.

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There were plenty of Rays, plus ex-Rays on hand this day helping Hall in his quest to help this great organization. I remember a few years ago when they completely re-constructed the Miracle League field in the Azalea region of St. Petersburg, just down the street from the old Rays Spring Training facility.

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On hand that day supporting Hall’s charity event was Dan Wheeler (Red Sox), Jesse Litsch (Jays), Brian Stokes (Jays).Boof Bonser ( NY Mets), Jason Michaels (Astros), Trever Miller (Cardinals),Ryan Webb (Marlins), Gregg Zaun (Padres), Miguel Cairo (Reds). Bobby Wilson (Angels) and Jorge Cantu (Padres), plus former NBA star Matt Gieger and retired Bucs running back Mike Alstott.

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Representing the Rays was Upton, starter James Shields, RP Andy Sonnanstine, and new RP Adam Russell. Also on hand were a few other well known Rays faces either from the Coaching ranks, or from their on-the-field reporting. Broadcaster Todd Kalas was joined on this day by current Rays Third Base Coach Tom Foley and former Rays Coaches Bill Evers ( Durham Bulls), Ozzie Timmons (Columbus Catfish) and former Hitting Coach Steve Henderson. Rays shortstop Reid Brignac was also scheduled to attend, but had an emergency.

 

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I was stationed to begin the day in the registration area handing out specially made Toby Hall caps, visors and rain slickers. But just as it seemed I might have an early end to my day, I volunteered to run the putting contest. It was a great time in which each pairing member got a chance to hit one golf ball into a sectioned off squared area for multiples of points with a maximum of 10 points if you sunk your putt..

 

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You could cut the air with a knife as to the early competitive nature of the event as Cairo was the closest to the hole for most of the day until 5 pairings from the end, the cream began to rise to the putting top of the pot. Local attorney David Papa, who was in the Wilson pairing found the center of the hole to become the first to thrust his team to a sizeable lead. ( total 14 points).

 

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That total seemed safe until one of the last groups, which included LPGA star Brittney Linicome, had their first putting contestant Tim Nalls of American Marketing put in square in the hole. With an immediate 10 points, this team was quickly putting (bad pun) itself into contention for the Putting contest crown.

 

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But suddenly we all noticed that Linicome, who had an early flight out of Orlando in the morning for a LPGA event had left before taking her putting chance. I made an executive putting contest decision to let Nalls put his way to either team victory, or a second place finish. The climatic moment was short lived as Nalls pulled his second try to the right and did not even register a single additional point. I wonder if Linicome would have gotten them that needed 5 points for their victory by putting her golf ball in the inner square within a foot of the hole? We will never know.

 

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But the solace of placing second was definitely short lived by the Linicome pairing as they finished the event with a 52, good enough for the eventual top finish in the tournament and bragging right for the entire year. As the teammates from the Linicome pairing basked in the afterglow and celebrated at the after party at Courtside Grille minus Brittney. The real winner here was the Miracle League.

 

 


I have been proud the last two years of volunteering in this event, and also made a commitment that day to help another event that will be held this Friday. On that day I will be helping out the Jesse Litsch & Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournament in Oldsmar, Florida. How can I possibly complain, another great day in the Sun with athletes supporting their local charities and spreading the news of this great charitable golfing event.

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I want to remind the Rays Republic that the memorial T-shirts that benefit the families of the two slain SPPD officers will be ongoing in the Tampa Bay community. You can contact, or visit the St. Petersburg Police Department’s lobby to purchase a T-shirt, or contact them about ongoing outside T-shirt opportunities within the community. Please support this worthy charity and remembrance of these Tampa Bay heroes.

 
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Again I want to thank Tracey and her staff plus Toby for the adventures and memories. Believe me, I have more than a few moments to tell people about that would not fit on this post today. But that is the great thing about charity events like this that happen so close to Spring Training. The excitement levels in seeing past friends and the approaching report dates just adds to the zeal and essence of the tournament.

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I am already looking forward to the 2012 event. I want to post a link here for the Miracle League of the Gulf Beaches and hope that all of us can contribute in some way to a great organization that brings the love of the game to some that might not be able to run, hit or even pitch like everyone, but the smile and joy on their faces as they move around the bases makes it so worthwhile.

 

All photos taken at the 2011 Toby Hall Celebrity Golf Classic can be found in a photo set on Flickr.com

 

 

 

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Post Golf Classic Times at the Courtside Grille


               
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I stood there at 6 pm just chuckling while viewing one of the wildest sights of my life just coming into focus from the golf course. I had just gotten back  to the Bayou Club clubhouse area after going over to the post-celebration hot spot, the Courtside Grille, to help set-up some of the preparations for that nights Toby Hall & Friends Golf Classic awards presentation and silent auction event. And coming into focus was the wild pack of fastly approaching golf carts screaming at full speed towards our tiny segment of concrete at the final Check-In point.

It looked  more like a massive invasion of dark polo shirted special ops guys, minus the face paint, who had taken off just six hours earlier from this very spot. Between that moment there were chances to win a 2-year FREE lease on a brand new Range Rover with a Hole-in-One on the 16th hole, or a prize by winning the Closest To The Pin ball placement on Hole # 3.

And there was the extra bonus holes of beverage offerings and samples to mix with great conversation and tales of mishaps and great shots upon the golf course that afternoon.

But now just around the bend from the putting green, I could see a few golf carts playing an impromptu game of cart tag, but the mad adventure ended up with laughs and fond memories and no injuries or carts accidently finding the water or a sandtraps during a great day of golf.

I heard a great tale about how Murph, who most Rays fans know as one of the head security guys at Rays games trying to hit a ball off the edge of a sandtrap and ending up rolling head over heels into the sandtrap with the ball a few feet away.

Or of Classic golfer who had a set of furry golf club tops that looked exactly like the gopher from “Caddyshack” and also carried with him on the course an animated plastic Carl the Greenskeeper statue that played snippets and lines from the movie. And during this Scramble event, he was known to hit the red button and send a loud vocal message like “It in the hole!” just as his fellow pairing members were beginning their backswing or even putting.

I heard about a multitude of shots slicing or hooking with the impromptu wind gusts, but was glad to learn that there were no broken windows or extreme shots near pools or trees lining the golf course.

Instead I heard the echoes of plans and pleas to their fellow golfers’ to come out to the Courtside Grille for some 19th hole post-event fun and relive the great golf stories told by the other pairings in the tourney. I was standing at the epicenter of the conclusion of the physical part of the Toby Hall & Friend Golf Classic, and within thirty minutes, this same group of golfers would again converge and reconnect with a celebration of the day, and a fond rememberance of the windy drives, missed shots or unexpected birdie putts.
 

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There were pleads to some golfers to come out and have fun for a few hours, and others who eventually caved in and put on the red wristband and showed up to actually enjoy themselves laughing and conversing with the crowds at Courtside Grille. And for me it was another amazing chapter to this ever unfolding day.

I talked a bit with Matt Gieger, the former NBA star and one of the owners of the Courtside Grille, and he even remembered meeting me a long time ago when I was a Evening Independent Sports Correspondent doing High School Basketball games, including interviewing him  after a game at Countryside High School.

This golf classic provided me with an opportunity to reconnect with an old friend who I used to sit with in the Checker’s Bullpen Cafe for years shagging B P foul balls and actual Rays game balls. Keith and his girlfriend Rose actually introduced me to Tovy Hall for the first time. Keith was even featured as a caddy during a Rays commercial segment featuring Rocco Baldelli and the Happy Heckler a few years ago.

I learned that night that Rose’s son, Tommy will be working with Guy Gallagher in the Visitor’s Clubhouse at the Trop. during 2010, which should be an amazing opportunity for him to gain some valuable experience as he goes on to pursue a possible career in Sports Medicine.


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We reconnected while waiting for the Golf Classic to begin in the clubhouse, and he called another mutual friend of ours, Rays Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi, who was now sporting some new chin hairs up to Courtside Grille for some of the post event fun. Cursi told me about his recent wedding and honeymoon down in the Carribean and how amazingly warm and a perfect setting to get away from baseball and the cold streak Florida was hit with back in early December 2009.

Got a chance to talk with Rays reliever Dan Wheeler about his 2-week vacation to Italy this off season and how it was an experience beyond words and the ultimate trip of his life. Got another opportunity to chat with ex-Rays fan favorite Jorge Cantu, who just got a nice raise from the Marlins about his excitement over his team’s chances and that he should be with the then Miami Marlins when they play their first game in that new retractable roof stadium and finally put an end to those dastardly rain delays that had become commonplace in past Marlins contests.

I talked a bit about the city of Seattle with new Mariner’s First Baseman Casey Kotchman who was traded to Seattle this off season and is really looking forward to playing in Safeco Field because of his past success playing in that stadium. We also chatted about his time in Boston and playing in historic Fenway Park before getting back to the wide variety of dining options in Seattle like the Metropolitan Grille, the great abundance of fresh seafood,or a simple late night breakfast adventure at Beth’s Cafe.

And with our talk, I began to miss these types of events and the great times associated with them that I  sometimes used to frown upon in my football past.

I had a few years of doing a lot of charity fundraising activities when I was playing football, but I was not an avid golfer beyond a little putt-putt, and that put a crimp in the  social fabric of spending times like these with some of my fellow players back in the late 80′s and 90′s.

But I still contributed to events and went to other events featuring billards or bowling tourneys. But now I really regret becoming distant and unattached over the last several years and missing the great times playing or even attending fundraising tournaments set-up by fellow players for their charities or foundations.

The night was filled with great moments like the announcement that boxer Winky Wright and Jorge Cantu’s pairings won First Place in their respective golf flights at the days event. With both groups hooping and hollering for a re-match between the two pairings for total supermacy. 

After the presentation, it was onto the fun business of an vocal auction for a pair of celebrity-signed Cornhole boards made just for the Golf Classic. I got to admit, I had never seen these types of boards up close before today, but I am going to figure out how to construct a pair of my own very soon.

If you have not seen them, they are a set of two wooden  rectangles with a circle cut out in them for a beanbag to fall through. I had seen them on television at Ohio State and Gator tailgating parties before games, but had never been brought into “the culture”  of the Cornboard before that night.


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 Toby Hall served as the Master of Ceremonies and Auctioneer, and he began first by thanking everyone involved in the Golf classic and gave out the plaques to the Golf Classic winners. Then began the bidding auction of a Cornhole board set. Each board piece had the identical signature of every celebrity participants of the golfing event in black Sharpie upon its flat surface. The bidding started at $ 250., but quickly rose higher and higher as the adrenaline began to build in the room.

There was one guy, who was a member of one of the pairings basically bidding against one athlete on the other side of the bar wanting that signed Cornhole treasure. Back and forth they both went until finally at that golden $ 500. threshold, the bidding quickly ended, and the excited winner bounced triumphantly up to claim his new prize.

The funniest part of it all is that his wife was more excited than he was to win it, and was screaming and jumping up and down kissing the board and him simultaniously as he paid for the item. I actually did bid on one of the silent auction items, a set of GH Mumm’s champagne glasses that would go great with my signed 2008 Rays Playoff signed champagne bottle. Sure I got something that will add to my  ever-expanding clutter of Rays stuff, but I also wanted to somehow give something back after spending such a great day with some great athletes.

The true winner of the night was the Miracle League of Florida who got the proceeds of this Golf Classic to help build a state-of-the-art field in Hillsborough County. I learned that night that there are currently 100 Miracle League fields completed in the United States, and another 100 are currently under construction and the league now serves over 80,000 chldren and young adults with disabilities a chance to enjoy the game of baseball.

And the Miracle League has a awesome overall goal of establishing 500 fields and expanding to help over 1.3 million  league members around the world enjoy  the thrill of baseball and some physical interaction with fellow players. I love their organization’s motto: “Every Child Derseves A Chance to Play Baseball”.


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As the night drew to a close, the same wild man who had been such a whirlwind of activity on the golf course had some how commandeered the use of a digital camera and was taking expose’ photos of the crowd of guests lining the bar area and the surrounding tables. With his vocal pleas of “Work it girl” or “Show me sassy” he brought the event back to an instant state of reality that we were celebrating a fantastic day and forming some great memories to tell again and again during the season.

But it will be moments like this being told in clubhouses all over MLB that will garner extra exposure and attention to the Toby Hall & Friends Golf Classic and hopefully lead to expanding the field in the coming years. The players going back to their respective teams talking about this event will bring it to gain more prestige in the coming years.

I want to thank Toby Hall and Tracey Ringstaff for letting me get close with some old friends and helping out during this great event. I truly forged some great memories that day/night. I  learned after I got home about Hall’s deal with Texas, but I know he would rather remember that night as a celebration for the Miracle League, and not about his Rangers signing.

Showing local support for the charities/foundations of our athletes is very important in this time of economic struggles. The usual revenue resources have begun to stretch extremely thin and the numbers and amounts of contributions some times trickle down slower and prolong the goals of these events. but events like this Golf Classic help re-establish a network of helping other organizations and leagues within our local communities. 

                              
                                   
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I ask only of you that the next time you come to a baseball game and a group of anxious kids in baseball jerseys asks for a single dollar donation, please give to them so they can enjoy playing this great game. So you might have to drink a medium instead of a large drink…It is no biggie, but to that group of kids, it could be the difference in going to an out-of-state baseball tournament or staying home and missing out on a lifetime adventure, or a character building moment…..

I guess the Toby Hall Golf Classic got me to remember that even a small amount of time volunteering, or even change from my car ashtray can build to fulfilling dreams and goals…. and that might be the best treasured moment from this event for me.

2010 Toby Hall & Friends Golf Classic

 

                                      
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Have to say I had a more than a fantastic time yesterday during the 2010 Toby Hall Golf Classic. Saw a lot of old baseball friends, and met a few new ones during the event and the social times later at the awards presntation and silent auction at the Courtside Grille. It is funny how I was just standing there helping both the participants and the celebrities get their correct size Addias shoes for the event, and so many people just seemed so glad to see me at the event. And that what makes that day an instant classic memory.
People were fast to extend their hand for a handshake or do a little chatting with me about a multitude of subjects before heading out for a round of golf. I felt like I belonged yesterday in that environment, and I thank everyone for that. But then again, I never been known to be a isolated hermit and I do tend to be a bit too outgoing at times.

But there were also some people missing that I had hoped to check up on and see how things were going with them, but they had to take a “rain check” on the event because of some great news and unexpected events. Within the first few minutes I learned that ex-Rays slugger Jonny Gomes was going to miss the classic because he had just joined the exclusive “Dad’s Club” after having a baby girl. And that former Ray Rocco Baldelli was going to to miss the event after some travel fatigue following his recent trip to Europe.

And  that Rays centerfielder B J Upton, who also has his own golf event this week was actually  currently up in New York filming a segment on the MLB Network that is  making the video rounds on the Internet today. But also former WWE wrestler and Rays fanatic Brian Knobs was also AWOL for the event because of scheduling conflicts. But the classic also had some very familiar faces to local Tampa Bay fans such as World Champion boxer Winky Wright and former players of the Tampa Bay Bucs like Mike Alstott, Anthony Becht,Matt Bryant, and Matt O’Dwyer. 

           
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Current Bucs players Clinton Smith, Kevin Carter and Sheldon Quarles also came out to support the classic which was working closely with the Miracle League of Florida to raise $ 250,000 to help construct a state of the art facility in Hillsborough County(Tampa area) for physically challenged kids to get the opportunity to enjoy the game of baseball. But mostly it was the Major League Baseball contingency, that included a lot of local home grown MLB talent coming out to support the cause and to have a great round of golf with their fellow MLB players. 

And the Rays had several players come out and show support like Dan Wheeler,Andy Sonnanstine(who was late, but got into speed mode and completed the course),and James Shields. The Rays Coaching staff also had golfing fanatic (Third Base Coach) Tom Foley out representing the Rays staff. Former Rays players showed up and support their former Rays catcher in his foundation’s drive to help the Miracle League of Florida reach their goal.

Former Rays players like Trever Miller (Cards),Miguel Cairo, Jorge Cantu (Marlins) Chuck Hernandez (Coach), and retired Rays players like Doug Creek, Roberto Henandez and Jason Romano were all on hand to play in the Scramble format classic. Local baseball talents like pitcher Jesse Litsche (Toronto),Casey Kotchman (Seattle),Boof Bonser ( Boston), Gavin Floyd (Chicago White Sox), Denard Span (Minnesota). Also in attendance was a excited and totally gung ho Yankee prospect pitcher Christian Garcia that was loving the day on the Bayou Club Golf Course even with it wild conditions. 

       
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The media was also not forgotten as local radio host Fisher and the Rays own Todd Kalas were on-hand to show that the Rays voices in the poressbox and on the air waves were also represented in the classic. Former MLB players Darnell Coles and Casey Cox  were also playing for the great cause. And during the event I found out that Romano had actually retired and was now working closely with Speed Gel, which is a cream that can help reduce inflamation, help heal injuries and relieve  common musle pain.

But Span, who doesn’t play golf, actually stayed in the clubhouse and we spoke on a always expanding round of subjects, some not baseball related. Span actually chuckled when I mentioned where I sat and remembered me and how persistent I was to get his autograph. Always a compliment if a fan can leave an impression on a player. Well, I think so. 

I asked Span about the new Twins digs set to open up this Spring, and we both were in agreement that the turf might be rough until May before it has some give and take while playing on it. He also acknowledged that the Twins might lose some homefield advantage for a few homestands until they also got to know all the nooks and crannies of playing this new stadium. But I also found out he also played football as a wide reciever before he was drafted into the MLB. Span actually laughed when I told him I took the football route and should have picked baseball.  

And it was a great day on the links and in the clubhouse getting to know Span and other golfers’ in between holes chatting about the game and  things outside the game. And even if the day did stay a bit blustery with huge wind gusts, it was  a great event I will never forget. From the  game of cart tag near the end of the event, to the congestion of golf carts at the check-in point where everyone seemed more than happy to stay around  and talk or make post-classic plans at Courtside Grille, the day just seems to fly by in no time and the classic was over
on the links for 2010.

And I have to say I have not volunteered for  a golfing event since I used to help out with the Emerald Coast Golf Classic (Senior PGA) up in Milton, Florida. But I would be more than willing to give time and my energies to events like this anytime and anywhere. Sure I might have started out just being the guy who help get everyone in their Addias golf shoes, but by the end of the day, I was part of the great day and wild times that will live on inpictures and conversations. 

                  
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And that is what these events are really all about. Letting go and just enjoying the day and the wide variety of athletes chasing a small white ball and bringing a possible life changing moment to children of the Miracle Leagues of Florida to experience teamwork and being teammates while enjoying playing baseball themselves.

Several times that day Hall made sure to come by and thank me for my time, but in reality I did not need thanks, I was more than happy to give what I could to this former Rays that I  will always consider a “baseball buddy”. Hall is the type of player I would give up almost anything to help him achieve his goal, or get that dollar amount for his cause.

 
So hopefully in 2011, I can again get a call or email from his foundation, and I will be more than eager to help out a “buddy” reach the ultimate goal for his foundation. Oh, and Toby, I am the one who needs to thank you for such a great off the field memory that I will cherish forever.

Tendering Some Love to the Players…….Tendered Players 2008

 

 

The Greatest thing a player can learn on a day like today is how much his club loves what he does on the field for them. But sometimes even that get a bit blurred and the images seems to fade a bit before the reality comes that you either have a new start somewhere else, or you contact your old team and see if they just wanted you at a cheaper price.

 

Every December 12th, the MLB goes through this  sadistic tactic of non-tendering and tendering contracts to the arbitration eligible players on their rosters. Some people are shoe-ins to get picked up because of talent or maybe even a low cost towards the next year budget. Others are looked at under a microscope and the decisions might come down to dollar signs and not talent or ability.

 

 

                  

 

 

That is the sad reality of this date. You could be an up and coming talent, or a veteran that just had an off year and you could be looking for a job in a heartbeat after midnight tonight.  Also, just because they decided to offer you a contract doesn’t mean that the wheels stop turning and you might still be dealt to another team and they will make the decision on your fate again, and maybe at a financial disadvantages.

 

So on and on tonight I will be adding to this blog until I have a final idea of who, what where, when and why might pop up and bite some unsuspecting player on the buttock. Seriously here, there will be some surprises tonight. Some players might be getting held ransom for a financial sacrifice, while other might be rewarded for unforeseen changes in their game or ability. Which ever come about, it is not the end of the world or a career with any of the players tonight.

 

 

                                     

 

Everyone will find a place to play in 2009, it might not be the town you are currently playing in, but it also might turn into the best decision of your life. Just because you came up with a certain club does not mean that there are not other staffs or coaches’ salivating that your name is on the list tonight. People always have choices in life. The path we take is not predestined as many believe, but they are earmarked with signs and signals we either adhere to or avoid.

 

The players on this list still have had the honor to play at a level that few people ever achieve in life, on or off the ball field. And with that in mind, you have to remember the sacrifices and the sweat and tears that got you to this level will be rewarded again.

 

So as we embark on this night when some believe a dream has ended, you have to remember that through every closed door there is another opportunity maybe even down the hall. Here is the list of the guys who got the love and admiration of their clubs tonight. This list will be in no certain order, but will be update throughout the night.

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays:

Gabe Gross                                        ( OF )

Dioner Navarro                                  ( C )

Jason Barlett                                     ( SS )

Willy Aybar                                       ( INF )

Grant Balfour                                    ( RP )

 

 

Kansas City Royals:

Esteban German                              ( INF )             1-year contract

John Buck                                       ( C )

Mike Jacobs                                    ( INF )

Mark Teahen                                   ( OF )

Brian Bannister                                ( SP )

Kyle Davies                                      ( RP )

Jimmy Gobble                                 ( SP )

Zack Greinke                                   ( SP )

Joel Peralta                                      ( RP )

       

 

 

Florida Marlins:

Jorge Cantu                                      ( 3 B )

Dan Uggla                                        ( 2 B )

Cody Ross                                        ( OF )

Jeremy Hermida                               ( OF )

Rick Nolasco                                    ( SP )

Josh Johnson                                   ( RP )

Alfredo Amezaga                             ( RP )

Logan Kensing                                 ( RP )

Dallas McPherson                             ( INF )

 

 

Philadelphia Phillies:

Shane Victorino                               ( OF )

Ryan Howard                                    ( 1 B )

Ryan Madson                                   ( RP )

Jayson Werth                                   ( OF )

Eric Bruntlett                                   ( INF )                   1-year contract

Clay Condrey                                   (  RP )                  1-year contract

Joe Blanton                                      ( SP )

Cole Hamels                                      ( SP )

Greg Dobbs                                      ( INF )

Chad Durbin                                    ( RP ) 

 

 

Seattle Mariners:

Eric Bedard                                     ( SP )

Aaron Heilman                                (SP, RP ) 

Felix Hernandez                              ( SP )

 

 

San Diego Padres:

Scott Hairston                                  ( OF )

Luis Rodriguez                                ( INF )

Jody Gerut                                       ( OF )

Heath Bell                                        ( RP )

 

 

Atlanta Braves:

Kelly Johnson                                   ( INF )

Matt Diaz                                          ( OF )

Jeff Francoeur                                  ( OF )

Mike Gonzalez                                 ( RP )

Omar Infante                                    ( INF )

Casey Kotchman                              ( 1 B )

 

 

Boston Red Sox:

Kevin Youkilis                                ( 1B )

Jonathan Papelbon                        ( RP )

Javier Lopez                                  ( RP )

 

 

Minnesota Twins:

Jason Kubel                                   ( D H )

Matt Guerrier                                 ( RP )

 

 

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Russell Martin                                ( C )

Andre Ethier                                  ( OF )

Johnathan Broxton                        ( RP )

 

 

Oakland Athletics:

 Rob Bowen                                   ( C )          $ 535,000    1-year contract

Justin Duchscherer                        ( SP )

Jack Cust                                      ( OF )

 

 

Chicago White Sox:

Dewayne Wise                              ( OF )              1-year,  $ 550,000 contract

Wilson Betemit                            ( INF )              1-year    $ 1.3 Million contract

 

 

Detroit Tigers: 

Ramon Santiago                           ( INF )           1-year  $ 825,000 contract

Marcus Thames                             ( OF )

Fernando Rodney                          ( RP )

Bobby Seay                                   ( RP )

Joel Zumaya                                 ( RP ) 

Justin Verlander                            ( SP )

Edwin Jackson                              ( SP,RP )

 

 

Cleveland Indians:

Kelly Shoppach                              ( C )

 

 

Chicago Cubs:

Chad Gaudin                                  ( RP )               1-year  $ 2 million contract

Ronny Cedeno                               ( INF )

Reed Johnson                                ( OF )

Neal Cotts                                      ( RP )                1-year  $ 1.1 million contract 

Mike Wuertz                                  ( RP ) 

Kevin Gregg                                  ( RP )

 

 

San Francisco Giants:

Jack Taschner                                ( RP )

 

 

Toronto Blue Jays:  

Jason Frasor                                  ( RP )

Brian Tallet                                    ( RP )

Brandon League                            ( RP )

Jose Batista                                   ( INF )

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Nate McLouth                                ( OF )

Adam LaRoche                             ( 1 B )

Ryan Doumit                                 ( C )

Zack Duke                                    ( SP )

John Grabow                                ( RP )

Tyler Yates                                    ( RP )

Paul Maholm                                ( SP )

 

 

St Louis Cardinals:

Rick Ankiel                                  ( OF )

Chris Duncan                               ( OF )

Todd Wellemeyer                        ( RP )

 

 

Colorado Rockies:

Garrett Atkins                               ( 3 B )

Clint Barmes                                 ( 2 B )

Jorge De La Rosa                          ( SP )

Taylor Buchholz                           ( RP )

Jason Grilli                                   ( RP )

Huston Street                                ( RP )

 

 

Cincinnati Reds:

Edwin Encarnacion                       ( INF )

 

 

Milwaukee Brewers:

Seth McClung                                  ( SP, RP )

Prince Fielder                                  ( 1 B )

Rickie Weeks                                  ( 2 B )

J J Hardy                                        ( S S )

Corey Hart                                       ( OF )

Dave Bush                                       ( SP )

 

 

Washington Nationals:

Ryan Zimmerman                         ( 3B )

Josh Willingham                          ( OF )

Scott Olsen                                   ( SP )

Shawn Hill                                    ( RP )

Willy Harris                                  ( SS )                           2-year  $ 3 million 

 

 

Houston Astros:

Brandon Backe                              ( SP )

Geoff Geary                                   ( RP )

Wandy Rodriguez                          ( SP )

Tim Byrdak                                   ( RP )

Jose Valverde                                ( RP )

Humberto Quintero                        ( C )

  

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Chone Figgins                              ( 3 B )

Robb Quinlan                               ( INF )

Maicer Ituris                                 ( INF )

Ervin Santana                              ( SP )

Mike Napoli                                 ( C ) 

 

 

 

As tonight comes to a close at midnight, the name will still be pouring in and this liost might not be totally complete by tomorrow afternoon. But I will do my best to be sure that you all have the latest listing of all players tendered contracts on December 12th.

 

I will also so a listing of the players who are deemed free agents now that their respective teams have put them on the open market. That listing might be a bit different as I want to block everyone into their respective positions, instead of teams for the non-tender list.

 

I will have that listing working by tomorrow afternoon and I have not decided yet if I might make prediction on what might happen to those players. As the night grows and the list gets longer, I will determine if that would be entertaining and informative to all of you.

 

 

 

Love Me Non-Tender Candidates 2008…Part Two

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

                   

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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


 

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

 

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

 


 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

                        

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 


 

Sonnanstine gets lucky 7th Win against Fish

 

 

Rays 7, Marlins 3

 

I have been invited to attend the Rays Wive’s Fashion Show after the game on Sunday. The event will be held at the Nordstrom’s Department store in International Plaza in Tampa. This event is a yearly adventure on the “fashionista” side for the diamond darlings. 

 Everyone from players, to announcers participate in this charity event for the Children’s Dream Fund, and the Rays Foundation. The doors will open for the event at 7 P.M., and the event will start at 8 P.M.  If you need tickets, call 727-896-6390 for more information.

*************************************************************************************************************

Trivia Fact of the Night:

The first “Million Dollar” Ballplayer was Nolan Ryan. Fernando Valenezula was the fiurst arbitration eligible millionaire.  Mike Schmidt was the first 2 Million Dollar Man.

*************************************************************************************************************

                            

 

Andy Sonnanstine had a really rough first inning against the Florida Marlins before finally settling down and blanking the fish until the 5th inning.  Sonnanstine was throwing  consistant fastballs, and the Marlins seemed to be keying on them in the first inning. The Marlin almost got a cycle off him in the first 3 batters.

In the 2nd inning, Andy settled down by throwing more off speed pitches and confusing the Marlins batters better. For the night, Sonnanstine pitched 5.1 innings and gave up 6 hits for 3 runs. Andy earned his 7th victory after going winless in his last 4 starts of the season. Andy got his first Interleague win against Marlins last June in his 2nd major league start.

 

 

Both teams got the scoring started in the first inning. The Fish plated 2 runs,then the Rays got their turn to score twice in the next two innings to secure the win over the Marlins. Aki Iwamura got the game off with a single  to rightfield and moved to second on B J Upton’s walk.

Eric Hinske came up with two men in scoring position, and doubled to deep center to score Iwamura and Upton.  Hinske was thrown out trying to steal third two plays later.

    

 

DH Cliff Floyd walked in the second inning and then stole second base on Ryan Tucker. It was Floyd’s first stolen base since June 14, 2006. Almost 2 years to the date that Cliff had been sliding into second. the ball skidded into centerfield, and Floyd went to third on the throwing error.

It was a sight to be seen last night. It almost looked like Cliff was moving in slow motion, the stadium at a silenced hush that the crowd was more in awe than frightened by the action. But, good prevailed and Cliff’s grin spoke volumes about the steal.

 

Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett went 3-3 last night with 2 runs scored and 2 stolen bases from the 9th spot.  Enetering tonight’s game, the number 9 slot in the Rays order had comboned to bat .220 this season. This total is the second lowest in the AL behind the Kansas City Royals ( .194).

 

The Rays lead the majors with 75 stolen bases. Under Rays Manager Joe Maddon, they Rays have stolen 340 bases. Only the Mets (411) and Angels ( 341) have more in the majors since the start of the 2006 season.

 

Willy Aybar scored on Jason Bartlett’s sacrifice fly in the 6th inning. Aybar had a mild collision at home with Marlin’s catcher Matt Treanor, who did not get the tag in on Aybar in time. Willy had singled to right to begin the inning and advanced on Cliff Floyd’s infield hit.

 

The Rays got 13 hits off Marlin’s pitching last night, with Hinske, Iwamura, Upton and Floyd all getting multi-hit games.  The only Rays to got hitless was Evan Longoria, who went 0-5, with 1 strikeout last night.

 

 

Dioner Navarro  got Jorge Cantu stealing second last night in the 1st inning. A trivia question on Navarro. He had 110 starts behind the plate in 2007 at age 23, In the last 25 years, only 5 catchers have caught more games in a single season at a younger age. Joe Mauer(Minn), Bernito Santiago(SD), Jason Kendall(Pitt), Brian McCann (Atl) ,and Ivan Rodriguez (Texas).

 

                       

 

The Rays reinstated closer Troy Percival before the game and put Al Reyes on the 15 day DL for shoulder tendonitis.  Percival came out in the 9th innig and almost got the home crowd a feww Pappa John;s pizza by striking out the side. He got two strikeouts and was working on his third when the Marlins Cory Ross hit a ball to Bartlett to end the game.

Percival had two strikes on Ross when he hit the ball to Bartlett. Both striked had Ross looking and he did not attempt a swing until the hit to Bartlett.  Percival did not earn a save for the night, but had 10 strikes on 14 pitches in the inning.

That is great news for Rays fan who might have any worry about Troy’s pitches coming off the DL.

 

****************************************************************************************************************

Remember, Sat game is a 6:10 start because of the concert after the game. It is expected to be a huge crowd for the Salsa King Gilberto Santa Rosa. Come on out and enjoy a night of dancing in the aisles and outfield at the Trop.

The Rays will be going for their 40th win of the season, and hope to take the series against the Marlins with Matt Garza on the mound for the Rays.

The Marlins will counter with former Rays Mark Hendrickson on the mound for the Marlins.

 

Blown Chances and a Lopsided Score

Here is my Trivia nugget before I get to my Good,the Bad,and the Ugly for tonight’s
game.


Richie Ashburn hit the same fan twice with foul balls in the same at bat on
August 17, 1957
.


Eastwood Clint - The Good the Bad and the Ugly          Eastwood Clint - The Good the Bad and the Ugly           Eastwood Clint - The Good the Bad and the Ugly       Eastwood Clint - The Good the Bad and the Ugly           Eastwood Clint - The Good the Bad and the Ugly



Here is tonight’s Good,the Bad and the Ugly following the Rays 7-1
shellacking by the Seattle Mariners.

                                         The
Good

Actually, this is going to be another two-fold “good”
tonight. I want to give kudos to the best offensive,and defensive people
tonight. O
ffense was not
at a  premium tonight as the Rays’ only collected  8 hits.  Tonight’s  two
offensive stars were  third baseman Willy Aybar,and  shortstop Jason
Bartlett. Aybar went 3-4 tonight with two doubles to improve
his average to .292 for the year.  He also made some great diving grabs for
outs and started a pretty 5-4-3 double play for the team. This was also Aybar’s
first three hit game since Sept 26,2006 when he was with the Atlanta
Braves. Bartlett also gets game kudos for going 2 for 2 and
raising his average to a modest .222. The left side of the infield produced 5 of
the Rays 8 hits.



Getting an honorary mention is newly arrived
Right fielder Justin Ruggiano, who was brought up from Durham today when  DH
Cliff Floyd went on the disabled list. Justin got a nice double over the head of
Ichiro in his first at bat of the night. Getting a ball out of Ichiro’s range is
a feat all it’s own.


                                         The Bad

 

The bad was the Rays  hitters combining for
two errors on wild plays. The first was a fly ball misplayed by Ruggiano in
Right field that flew several feet over his head and produced runs for the
Mariners. J P Howell was on the mound and had a ball hit
back to him. He collected the ball and threw to Pena.


Only problem was Howell threw a 55 foot throw
53 feet and the ball had to be scooped out of the dirt by Pena, who could not
finish the play for the out. Luckily, the ball did not get by Carlos and roll
into the Bullpen area for extra bases.

                                      
The Ugly

                       Cliff Floyd doubles in the Rays' 6-2 win over the Orioles last week in Baltimore.



The ugly part is knowing growing for the
second day in a row.  The injuries to starting roster players is beginning to
take a toll on both the teams record and the mindset of the
team.


The Rays, who did not lose a series before
coming home to Tropicana field are now in danger of being swept by the Seattle
club. The team has lost another starting pitcher in Matt Garza, and Cliff Floyd
will be having knee surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus that will sideline
him for 4-6 weeks.  Floyd will have surgery on Friday. This new injury is a
fresh wound and an MRI conducted during Spring Training came up clean a few
weeks ago for him. 


With staff ace Scott Kazmir still a few days
or weeks away from rejoining the team, and Dioner Navarro still recovering from
a freak accident, the injury bug is hitting the team hard early this
season.Before Batting Pratice on Weds., Rays manager
Joe Maddon took the squad into the outfiled and preached the essence of positive
thinking and renewing the vow of upward mobility in the standing and in his
troops morale.


“I felt it was important,” Maddon said. “We’ve got so many major items going
on at the same time. A tough loss Tuesday night, and then you find out you lose
two of your better players in one fell swoop. Plus, Kaz is still not here yet,
and Navi’s down, too. They’re starting to pile up a bit. So, I just thought it
would be wise to bring everybody together and have everybody understand that
this is somebody’s opportunity now to shine.” **


If there ever was a skipper who could right
the Rays ship, it is the always positive Maddon.

“We’ve got some key people out of the lineup, so everybody’s trying to do
more, that kind of a thing,” Maddon said. “Just go back to what we had been
doing, working good at-bats, using the whole field, that kind of stuff. We’re a
whole-field team, more of a line drive team. We have some power, but we just
have to get back in the middle of the field on a more consistent basis.” **


Another “ugly” that Maddon does not want to
bring up is the fact the first four hitters in his order are battling for hits
so far this season. Lead-off hitter Akinora Iwamura is hitting .182,
and went 0-3 Weds. night.


Carl Crawford



Left fielder Carl Crawford is struggling at
the plate hitting .167 and had a single in the game. 2007 Silver Slugger winner
Carlos Pena is handcuffed with a .200 average, but leads the team in home runs
and RBI at this moment. Pena also had two of the Rays 4 strikeouts during the
game and has a team leading 12 for the season. Center fielder B J Upton is mired with a .222
average. a bright spot for Upton is he is leading the team in walks with 7, 
which shows he is seeing the ball well, so maybe he is just in a  batters’ funk
right now.


 

B.J. Upton

 


Former Rays’ players’ of the night is Boston Red Sox starting Shortstop Julio
Lugo, who went 2-3 tonight to bring his average up to .321 for the season. You
might remember that Lugo got in a batting funk in the beginning of 2007, and it
took him most of the season to right his ship. It is great to see that he is
hitting the ball well and doing it on the diamond for the Red Sox.

Another guy who is just hitting the cover off the ball is former Ray, current
Twin Brendan Harris. He went 3-4, with 3 runs scored in the Twins 12-5 win over
the Chicago White Sox. Harris is hitting at a .348 clip so far this season.


Also want to send a few cheers to former Rays Jorge Cantu who hit his first
HR tonight for the Florida Marlins.



Tomorrow is an afternoon affair, and I might have to mail that games recap in
during the evening hours. I will get with all you fine readers and let you know
how Rays pitcher Edwin Jackson does tomorrow.

 

** Quotes from Interviews were obtained by Marc Topkin of the St.
Petersburg
Times.                                             

 

Recent Rays Moves………….My View from Rightfield

 

 

Wow!

Here it is a few days from the Winter MLB meetings in Opry-ville and we made a few needed moves that will help define our current and future goals for our squad.

 

First off, let me get that off my chest right now. I am not a Delmon Young hater in anyway, but, from my seat in Right Field, I could read some of his body language and tell  he was just buying time before the poisoned axe or his actions  dictated a move to new Fieldturf pastures.

 

 Have fun in the pillow-dome Delmon. You complained about not being able to clearly see balls at the Trop. Wait until you look up in that sea of lights and  true white roof at the Metrodome………..you will wish for the grey white roof of the Trop. I do wish him alot of luck in his future and success with that “Young” brothers curse of having a small attitude adjustment problem. His brother seemed to have finally gotten his attitude to shine with the Nats, let’s hope it doesn’t take Delmon as long to fine the right basepath to being the great teammate. Delmon’s departure will come back to haunt us at times,…………..but only for 6 or 7 games a year.

 

Now the players we got for Delmon are quality guys. Matt Garza is a young player that can br dialed into this rotation for years and will be a positive and needed upgrade to our constantly inproving and maturing pitching staff. Garza has not even hit the stride in his career yet, so the sky is the limit right now with him.

By the way, in Garza’s last 2007 start in, he pitched 6.2 innings with 4 hits and 1 ER against the Royals and Lost the game. We will take 6.2 inning outting any day with only 1 ER…….with the offensive power we have on our roster right now, it should always  be a “W” with the Rays.

 

The additon of Garza is great because this staff can grow into a huge AL East  pitching monster. Scott “The K” Kazmir is just getting started. James Shields was perfecting a few of his pitches last year, and gaining a boatload of knowledge about American League hitters.

 

 Those two will hold down the front of the rotation for a long time. Matt Garza is a great addition to help get those extra ( hopefully) 10-15 wins a year to get close to that hallowed 82-82 mark.

 

They only curious point to this trade is Jason Barlett,the second player involved in this trade.  He is destined to be just a stop-gap fill-in until protege’ Reid Brignac is ready to man the 5 hole for years to come. Bartlett  hit .265 last year, but only has 10 HR’s in his career and only 1,079 AB’s in his career.  He has primarily been a utility man during his career in the bigs, and this is his first extended playing time in the shortstop position.

 

Now he knows the role he will play here in Tampa Bay, but who knows, someone could come to camp to even replace him ( maybe Ben Zobrist ). Worst things have happened to our team.  Remember Danny Batista and Roberto Alomar retiring from our squad with only days to go in Spring Training. Losing these ex- All-Stars was viewed at the time as a failure by the team. It turned into the emmergance of Jorge Cantu and Jonny Gomes as “go-to” guys for the Rays for  that year.  So, sometimes a bad look can turn into a solid gold treasure when you only look at the surface of a situation. But that is why we play the games and do not award a trophy for roster potential, but game results.

 

With that in mind, let me wander a bit. and fantasize here.

 

 Can you go back home again in baseball? Not to a home per se, but to an old team that left you unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, and you selected to a good NL team that did not even know if you could play an entire season because of health and personal concerns.

 

Josh, I have always wanted success for you and knew that you could and would pull yourself together and show the world what a ture 5-tool player looks like up here. You went on to  prove you can play at the highest level and even make their opening day lineup in Right Field. the start of the season offensive expolsion you provided made everyone’s jaws dropped in awe. You finally had an entire country knowing you had it in you, and you proved it to everyone.

 

Hey Josh, I was there the day you came back after your off field problems that took you from baseball and the Rays. I was the Pepsi  guy in the locker room talking to Tim M. right before you went out the door of the training complex and first met the media.

 

I knew then that you had it again. That your head and attitude felt right to me, and I wanted the sky for you. Can you forgive the powers from beyond the Trop’s D-rings and just listen to them if they want to trade and include you on our squad.  I would cheer and enjoy watching you in Right Field again. And a huge plus that people forget, you can be the left-handed bat that Joe has been searching for in the lineup. Could be a sea of pluses for both the team, and yourself.

 

Okay, fantasy time is over……… Trade number two might not seem big on paper or even in reality, but it can be the jump start for each player. Elijah Dukes and Glen Gibson both needed a team that wanted them and believed in them. Now I do not think the Rays ever disliked or wanted harm for Elijah. His off-field and on-field distractions just took their toll on himself and the front office. Both parties knew that a change of scenery can work wonders for you, as a  person and a player.

 

 I wish you a cartload of homers in that new park Elijah. And we will not see you for  about 6 years. It take a few years for the schedule to again list the Nats’ as a interleague opponent again.So this trade might be a hidden blessing for you.

 

 Now Glen Gibson is  daily becoming a more polished pitcher.  Baseball America rated Gibson’s changeup and curve the best in the Nats’s farm system. Now we  know he has inherited talent and a great barometer a phone call away from him. Not every guy has a father that pitched in the majors. That could end up being a hidden blessing for him and the Rays.

 

Fantasy time again…………this time Minor edition.  The Rays’ top draft pick last year, David Price has set high expectations of himself and his progression in the Rays farm system this year. Now I will never argue with a Vandy grad, but I just want him to have a shot to know the systems and not rush his progress. When he gets called up to the Big club, he may  get hit like a pinball for a few weeks, but being a Southeastern Conference pitcher is a bit of a farm system in its own right. The best have had a rough beginning until they adapt and conquer the unique strike zones and brutal power potential of a MLB batters’ box.

 

I love to hear bravado and throwing caution to the wind, but I think a year in triple-A and a call up down the line could be his best medicine. There are a great amount of talent in Double-A and Triple-A right now biting at the bit to get that Spring Reporting date here and start to show their stuff. Jeff Neimann, Jeff Ridgeway, JP Howell,Mitch Talbot, and ex-big club guys like Chad Orvella, Jae Kuk Ryu want another shot up here as well. And that does not include the future power pitchers scattered in the Montgomery, Columbus, and Vero Beach teams. The future looks really bright for this team in the pitching department.

 

Having a prospective rotation of………Scott Kazmir, James Shields,Matt Garza, and add any of these  current teammates names,………Andy Sonnanstine, Jason Hammel and my favorite, Edwin Jackson to the mix, make for an exciting rotation problem  that could win anytime they hit the rubber.

 

Back to reality.  The addition of  closer extrodinaire, Troy Percival only makes the 6th through 9th inning  a more secure spot for the Rays.

 

What I am talking about is the fact that  Gary Glover,Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler are proven MLB relievers who can make it a challenge for any team to try and score after the starter leaves the game.  We have had great relievers before, but never in the middle roles.

 

 I think Reyes showed a huge amount of class in knowing that what is right for the team is great for the future of this squad. I think that is why they picked up his option. There is no doubts or questions he is a plus everytime he hits the mound for us.

 

 He might be the last guy to get the ball on most nights, but he is the first to know that this team has  within reach lofty goals, and they are within reach most nights, even in Fenway Park.

 

Now I have heard a bushel basket of rumors about additons and subtractions to this team. I want to address my views on a few subtractions here.

 

 Delmon might have been a player with a career that will bury his older brothers, but he also has the Young family cancer of that hidden danger and aggression that could ruin all that is good with……..a simple, casual walk to first.  Rays’ fans know what I am talking about here. I enjoyed watching Aubrey Huff hit for years here, but when he started to jog down to first is when he got that dreaded “Ben Grieve” epidemic. Maybe it is in the aura of Right Field that our players get that attitude and begin to falter right in front of us. 

 

Brendan Harris and Josh Wilson were the “blue collar” guys last year. Each guy experienced  a banner year. they got to play ball almost every night and did it the right way. Both got rewarded in different ways.

 

 Brendan got to play in another Dome, but has a great chance to be the everyday guy in the 5 hole up in Minn. Josh Wilson was put on the daily MLB waiver wire with the hopes he could pass through without a hitch. One big hitch, some people actually read those waiver wires daily.  The Pirates took a gamble, and got another quality infielder for their rebuilding ballclub. We wish you a ton of success Josh……you did a great job for the short time you were a Rays. Just a reminder, we did get Josh on waivers from the Nationals last year.  Karma?  you never know.

 

The last two trades I want to discuss did not happen as of the writing of this blog. That does not mean that the teams are not on their cellphone right now mending the deal or twisting the pieces to fit both teams.

 

 The First is the rumor of Edwin Jackson shipping off to Seattle for  1b/DH Ben Broussard. Now I am a huge “Action” Jackson fan, just ask him (lol). I liked Ben Broussard when he was an Indian, but I think his production has slowly seem a downward spiral. We could have done better even in a rumor than this one.  Another rumor had the Mets again this year coveting Jackson.  I do not know what the Mets’ still have left in their farm system. They have been active the last few years adding the missing pieces to their squad. But I am not sure their farm system is as strong as when we plucked Scott Kazmir from their clutches.

 

The second  non trade is a two-parter.It is the “non” trading of Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli.

 

I know that Carl would love to be a part of the first winning team in this franchises’ short history.  He should be a part of this celebration……front and center. Rocco I believe will come out of Spring Training in better shape, and better condition than any other time in his short Rays tenure.

 

 I used to be out at the Rays complex delivering alot, and when Rocco was mending from his surgeries and bumps and bruises, he was  always eagerly training and building himself up for his return. If you remember, Joe used to like to have Rocco in the dugout at home games and selected road series because of his great attitude and zest for success.

 

 I think this time it is totally personal for Rocco. I feel he knows that the team took a gamble and signed him to a long term deal. He is a proud guy, and he is probably the most excited about reporting in  Feb. 2008. Rocco stated in a news article he will relax this off season for a change. I believe that like I believe the “Clear” was a muscle relaxing ointment.  FDA approved too………right? He is probably getting in the best condition both mentally and physically for this team.

 

Right Field has been a concern for the big wigs upstairs since Delmon hit the road for the Great White north.  I think Jonny Gomes, Rocco, or even the tandem of Triple-A studs Fernando Perez or Jason Ruggiano can man it better than Cliff Floyd, Geoff Jenkins, or Darin Erstad. No disrespect to Darin, Luis Gonzalez, or Cliff. I even recently heard a rumor of my old baseball buddy Trot Nixon maybe being a good fit for us. He did hit great here against us, But remember fans,so did Jose Cruz Jr. when he was with the Jays and then got suddenly an average hitter at the Trop.

 

I think the Rays can have a perfect “wait and see” attitude here, unless Josh Hamilton is truly availiable….hint hint Andrew and Matt.

 

In conclusion, the non-tendered list of players will be announced in the coming weeks. This is a huge announcement that always has a few jaw dropping names on it. Things can change dramatically if a huge or unexpected name is released.  There always seem to be a  a few  high dollar drops, or a player with  health questions when  these names hit a wire……………We shall see.

 

 Kick the tires and look  real close under the hoods  there guys. This team is finally in a position to take quality over quantity in a players signing.

 

This team will have Carlos Pena back with a projected one year deal.  Pena has two years until he is a Free Agent, but both sides are working towards a agreement in place before the Spring Training report date.

 

I think this might happen to both prove both sides points.  His agent,Scott Boras says that “Carlos is just heating up”, and the Rays are hoping it was not  just a fluke year offensively for Pena. Either way, Carlos will be a rich guy come Feb. 2008.

 

 And we are a richer team both in knowing the talent is the best this team has fielded in its 11 years in the MLB. Sorry Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs and Jose Canseco. I wanted the “Hit Show” to be the thing that we measure our successes by, but that is not the case.

 

I will end this with a note about the hardest working Rays I have nkown in my years watching and following this team.  Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi  is always working with the pitchers and providing BP pitching and foul pole comments and analysis. I have known Scott for years and truly feel blessed to have ever met him. We have had a routine of him coming to give me some grief before every game down the Right field line after he tosses with the Rightfielders.

 

 We have a habit of tipping our caps after the last out before he heads into the locker room for the night. Scott is a guy who has invited me out a few times when I have gone on road trips to celebrate with himself and a few people on the team. I have cherished these moments in Seattle and Cleveland. I look forward to 2008 for both the Rays sucesses, and seeing my baseball buddy again manning the Bullpen with Bobby Ramos. As always Scott, I tip my hat to you for what you do for the Rays, and our  Section 138 fans group.

 

Only ( as of Dec 7th, 2008) 77 days until Pitchers’ and Catchers’ report ……..and I can’t wait until 8 am that day.

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