Results tagged ‘ Jorge Posada ’

American League East Thoughts

 

 
 


Everyone in America knew that this blog was coming. Everyone who follows my blog and baseball on MLBlogs knows that my team is itching to defend their American League Pennant. We know that 2009 will be the year where the Tampa Bay Rays will be between the crosshairs with everyone gunning to put us out of our misery every night. And you want to know something, that is fine with me. I am that kind of guy. Bring it on, I  think this team reloaded pretty good in the off season. We did not spend almost a half a billion dollars, but with millions we did invest in players went to needs, and that is the name of the game.
 

Most pre-season blogs and predictions have this as a two-team race in 2009. That is fine, they thought the same in 2008, and did not even acknowledge the Rays were a good team until almost the end of August. Everyone spent millions of words and letters chatting on the fall of the team. That the team was propped up by other teams getting caught off guard and the Rays just manipulated the system. Really? manipulated a system where New York and Boston were destined to win  it all, but one sat at home in October for the first time in many years.
 

Can you really think that I was going to post a blog putting a Boston or new york team up in front of us even before the first game?  Seriously people, I am not saying we are winning 162 games, or maybe not even 100, but I do think this team is for real and the race will be close until the last breathe of summer. And why do I think that with the multitudes of Yankees fans breathing down my neck chatting about their outstanding pitching. Well, Yankees fans, pitching only gets you so far, and do you really think that entire top5 will be on the mound the entire year? Seriously here, I can see C C Sabathia dominating the A L East, But A J Burnett might get his 15 wins, or he might be sitting in the dugout after a weird injury.

 


 

You guys have not even thought about if Joba Chamberlain is going to be 100 percent effective in the rotation. Once you begin playing with a guy running him in and out of a rotation, you can do more damage than good to the poor guy. If you have a solid 5 without him, let him stay as a set-up guy. Who is it going to hurt Mariano Rivera?  I am not going to throw any predictions out this year at all in the A L East war, but I will throw out a few challenges to teams. The first challenge is to the Yankees pitching staff. Since you have already been deemed the pitching staff of the century by experts, will it be a downfall if the staff doesn’t get 100 wins?
 

With that in mind, has the Yankee’s new stars sent flowers to A Rod yet thanking him for taking all of the Spring Training pressure off them so they can pitch like normal guys while the media froths over A Rod. Can you seriously think that the cousin/bad trainer/steroid situation will end in April? It will be a wild time in the Trop and other cities in 2009 as the fans show either their support or voice some loud chants about this entire situation. Want to make a bet on what is said? 
 

Also, people have dominated the off season with Yankee talk about the pitching upgrades. Did they do anything beside secure a good first baseman this past off season. Where is the offensive dynamo beside Mark Teixeria? Did the Yankees upgrade by getting Nick Swisher, or just plug in someone for a year in right field until something better comes along. And will Jose Posada come back as a stronger Yankee hitter, or be seeing more time at D H. Question are everywhere about the Yankees, but then again, even when they had a Championship team people had questions about weak spots.
 

Besides on the mound, is this really a strong Yankee team? They had better hope so, or the crowd will be on them soon. The A L East will get a fast idea on if the aggressive will dominate early in the season. The entire month of April will be spent mostly in divisional battles. This is where Boston took that early lead in 2008 before the Rays rose up and past them. So again in 2009, will the pattern remain the same, or will another team push towards the top and stay there.
 

Boston also did not weaken itself in the off season. They added Brad Penny and John Smoltz to their pitching staffs, with Smoltz maybe providing a cushion in the second half of the season.  This staff is the best in the A L East on paper. They have the experience and the stamina to out pace most teams in the division. But there are questions on their staff. They bulked up on set-up and relievers in the off season, but did the rotation really get that much better. I mean is Tim Wakefield still your best number 5 pitcher? Or will someone else step up and take that spot from him and make a decision even tougher about the Bullpen members.
 

I see the Boston pitching as another area where 2009 could make or break them early. Josh Beckett is a great pitcher, but until he get a few starts in we might not know if that lingering injury in 2008 is gone or might pop back up and take him down in 2009.  Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka are just going to come out ans reload after a great 2008. The 2 and 3 spot in this rotation might be the best Boston has seen in a long, long time. But let’s take a short look at the Bullpen. They have upgraded themselves, but with mostly National League pitchers. People forget that the National League is known for finesse and off speed pitches, while the American League is a power pitchers paradise.

 


 

But bright spot in Boston with no signs of disaster yet is their returning offense. The only blimp on the radar might be David Ortiz. Will the big guy be able to respond and get back into his former form and boost the offense in 2009? He is my biggest question mark on the entire Boston roster. Will we see the dominating Ortiz, or a shadow of himself like after his wrist began to hurt in 2008. You know that Boston wanted to upgrade somehow in that area, but with his contract it might have been bad at this moment. But can you see changes if he gets into a rut and stumbles out of the gate?  Will the team make that change and maybe upset the stadium masses, or will any injury make that decision for them? 
 

Can the upgrades in the Boston relief corps be enough to keep them in the game, or will the A L  bat them around for a bit until they settle in and pitch effectively. Questions ,questions. I am not trying to incite a riot online with these question marks. I am only trying to show that the A L
East will be a war that will have to be fought nightly this year. I really do not see Toronto or even Baltimore laying down at all this year. The Rays resurgence has shown small market clubs that anything is possible. One of these two bottom dwellers from the past two years might even rise up and bite one of the top three more than once in 2009.
 

It is not impossible for the eventual A L East division winner to have a .500 record against their  division rivals. I think it is a bit out of this world to think that, but it is possible. No one picked the Rays to even get into the playoffs, much less make it to the World Series. Boston and New York will  not lay down for  anyone in 2009. This division will be a sign that money and talent can battle each other and the best team will win no matter what the payroll. The Rays payroll might be upwards of $ 60 million plus in 2009, but that is pale in comparison to the millions dealt out just for pitching help by both divisional rivals.
 

                   
 

So will the money win out in 2009, or will the confident and determined show up again on top? We have a few days until we again get it started and go to the plate for real.  I have a feeling this spring will also be highly charged as all three teams want to prove some thing even before the season to their rivals. This might be one of the best Spring Trainings to watch in Florida for a long time. All three will be gunning to win, and wanting to put pressure on the others to either step up or shut up before even April. Now the real question might be, Is you team going to be talking or walking come October 1st?

Photo credits for today’s blog: Associated Press Photo Corps, ESPN.com, RRCollections.

 

Dioner Navarro versus the Rays……….Arbitration 2009

 

 

 


With only two members of the 2008 roster still up for Salary Arbitration hearings, it was recently reported that Rays catcher Dioner Navarro will have his hearing in Phoenix , Arizona on February 9th . At that time an arbitrator will decide between the two totals, one submitted by Navarro’s representative, Kendall Americo,and the other from the Rays representative and then the arbitrator will submit their recommendation for the players 2008 salary for the Tampa Bay Rays in a few days. 


With the exception of Willy Aybar and Dioner Navarro’s arbitration award totals, the Rays are sitting at a round $ 60 million dollars in payroll for 2009. That is a great climb in salary for the Rays. In yesterday’s blog I went over the season for Willy Aybar and my prediction of his chances to increase his salary to around $ 1 million a year.  Rays G M Andrew Friedman better have some cards up his sleeves, or he might get his first loss at the Arbitration gaming table when Navarro’s turn comes up.
 


Today it is Dioner Navarro’s turn, and even thought the catcher lead  his pitching staff by example in 2008, it is well known that Navarro has stood up and taken the lead in the clubhouse and behind the plate for the team. His confidence and leadership have skyrocketed since 2007, and he is finally considered a force both at the plate and behind it for the Rays. Navarro has submitted a proposed salary of $ 2.5 million dollars for the year, while the Rays have countered with a $ 2.1 million dollar figure. That is a $ 400,000 difference, or almost his entire 2008 salary ( $ 412,500 ).

 

 

 

 

To begin with, let’s get to know a little bit more about Navarro, the player before I post my opinion on his arbitration hearing. Dioner Navarro was signed by the New York Yankees as a free agent in  2000. As he rose through the Yankees system there was a day they could see him behind the plate in pinstripes. He was suppose to be the heir apparent to Jorge Posada’s spot behind the plate and was to be with the system for a long time. But as we all know, baseball is a fickle mistress and she can change her mind in a matter of seconds about you and your worth to the club. 
 


So in 2005, after only 5 years in the Yankee system, Navarro was given a second chance as he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers to help behind the plate before prospect Russell Martin would man the dish for the men in blue. Navarro did his best in Spring Training in Florida and actually made the decision difficult for the team in choosing him over Martin as the Dodgers Opening Day catcher. But Navarro got an awful start and soon Martin was there breathing down his neck wanting playing time.

 
 

 

 

So after a period of time, the Dodgers decided that he would not be as adequate as a back up catcher and traded him along with pitcher Jae Seo and outfield Justin Ruggiano on June 26, 2006 to the Tampa Bay Rays for catcher Toby Hall and pitcher Mark Hendrickson. Navvaro came into the Rays lineup trying to prove too much too soon to the Rays and almost cost him his chance to start with the team in 2006. The team brought in experienced catcher Josh Paul, who had played with Rays Manager Joe Maddon with the Los Angeles Angels to push Navarro to that next step. 
 

 

Navarro did not hit well in the first half of the season, only posting a .177 average and had the Rays discussing his future with the team. But during the All-Star break, something finally clicked for Navarro and he posted the third best average after the All-Star break in the American League for a catcher ( .285). He also seemed to be able to execute a solid and hard throw to second base on steal attempts. In 2007, he also lead the major leagues in errors by a catcher with 14. Even with his great second half, Navarro was only able to post a modest .227 average for the season.

 

 


 

 

 But good things were on the horizon for Navarro. In a series against Seattle, Navarro gunned down speedster Ichiro twice stealing in consecutive games.  Navarro also upped his ante in slugging at the plate, posting  a .475 Slugging Percentage, which was the third best total in the majors for a catcher after the break. But in September 2007, Navarro began to experience pain in his right throwing wrist and he batted the rest of the season from the right side of the plate, limiting his switch-hitting skills. 2007 ended on a high note for Navarro, and he finally felt that he could lead the Rays behind the plate.



 

 


During the off season, Navarro participated in the Venezuelan Winter League leading his team with a .312 batting average. Navarro came into Spring Training camp in 2008 with a renewed confidence and a slimmer body as he dropped weight while playing in his home country and came into camp in better shape than before for the Rays. He also knew this was the turning point year for him as Maddon and the pitching staff would be taking their keys more from Navarro and he was up to the challenge. 
 


In 2008, Navarro’s batting average was consistently sitting around .300 the entire year. Only during a small slump in August when he hit for a .187 average and allowed his overall average to fall below the .300 mark, before finally settling in at .295 for the year. Still, that average was only 2nd among American League catcher to Minnesota’s Joe Mauer’s  American League batting title .330 average.  Navarro also had personal bests in almost every category but one. He did not steal a single base in 2008, and was caught 5 times during the year and the playoffs. But his 54 RBI’s were 10 more than he posted in 2007, and his timely hitting did produce amazing results for the Rays.  But his greatest hitting moment had to be in Toronto on May 8th, when he came up in the 13th inning with the bases loaded and hit a Grand Slam off ex-Rays Shawn Camp into the right-center field stands to give the Rays a victory over the Blue Jays.




 

 


In September. he batted .317 , including a career best 9-game hitting streak.  And on September 4th, during the night time half of a doubleheader he tied his career best with 4 hits in the game. He continued to produce for the Rays hitting a walk-off game winning single on September 16th against the Red Sox’s Justin Masterson to give the Rays their 11th walk-off win of the year.  And on July 6th, got notice of his selection to the American League All-Star game as a reserve catcher. 
 


In making the All-Star roster, Navarro became the first Rays catcher and the 4th youngest Ray to ever appear in the mid-summer classic. Navarro came in late in the contest and lead the American League to their victory by getting a 15th inning single that was part of the American League’s winning rally.  He caught a total of 8 innings in the game, and threw out 1 of 2 base runners.  But it was his familiarity with pitcher Scott Kazmir that finally got the win for the American League. Kazmir was the last pitcher out of the Bullpen, and because Navarro was his catcher, it created an instant confidence and relaxed atmosphere to take the game away from the National League in the bottom of the 14th inning.



 


 

 

Navarro also paced the Rays during the playoffs in 2008. He hit a robust .293, with 5 RBI’s and made several great plate blocks to get runners during the post season. He truly showed that he was becoming one of the best catcher in the American League and was learning to take control of this young starting pitching staff. But one adventure on April 4th in New York city almost cost him the chance to lead the Rays. While in Yankee Stadium for the game, Navarro cut his throwing hand on the netting in front of the dugout after slipping on the wet stairs leading to the dugout. 
 

 

He missed a total of 16 games for the team as he healed, but stayed alert and active working with the other catchers on the bench. This adventure almost took his season away from him, but after that he helped lead the Rays to a  record of 88-54 after coming off the disabled list on April 22nd. But that would not be the last time that Navarro would face adversity in 2008. During a televised game in Arlington,Texas on June 10th, the audience and his team mate saw the young, quiet catcher become a team leader. 



 


 

 

During the game, Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza got off to a rocky start and beginning to get angry and frustrated on the mound. During one mound conference the television audience could see that Garza was yelling into his glove out of frustration at Navarro and Navarro stood his ground and gave it right back to Garza. After the inning was over, both players had a short tussle in the landing leading from the dugout, but came out for the next inning and performed amazingly as if nothing had happened. That was the day the Rays got a veteran catcher who was going to lead his team to the playoffs.
 

 

Several members of the team expressed amazement that Navarro went after Garza with such confidence, but welcomed the sight as the killer instinct taking hold of him and sparking him to action. I know I felt that the event actually did more good for Navarro than he imagined at the moment. But from that point on, it seemed that Garza and the rest of the young staff followed Navarro’s lead and it got them into the World Series.  Behind the plate, Navarro also had one of his best seasons as a catcher.

 


 

 

In 2008, he carried a 984 fielding average in 2008, a huge improvement over 2007. And in that span, he did not commit his first error until July 1st, in his 428th chance.  He also was ranked 4th in the American League among catcher for the year, and was 2nd in the AL, and 3rd in the majors throwing out runners with a 34.8 percent success rate.  Among A L catcher with at least 100 games player, only Cleveland’s Kelly Shoppach     ( 36 ), also an ex-Yankee, allowed less stolen bases than Navarro’s 42 in 2008.



 


 

 

So as the statistics and the facts show, Navarro stepped forward in 2008 to help both the Rays lead the American League East champs to the World Series, but also step up as a clubhouse leader. He showed that the promise he had in 2000 was still alive and well in him and he brought it out for the entire league to see both during the All-Star game and in the 2008 playoffs. So is it enough for him to garnish a salary of over $ 2 million a year. In comparison with A L catcher, who have gotten arbitration raises in the last two years, he is in the top of the list.

 

 


 I can see the Rays losing this arbitration hearing, but it really is not a loss for them. They will still have the services of the young rising star in 2008, and he is ready to go for the Rays. I can see an award of at least $ 2.5 million dollars coming out of his arbitration hearing, and might see more if they arbitrator feels he low-balled his offer. Either way, the Rays will get  the playoff experience and confidence to go higher in 2009. Navarro might not be the household name anymore in New York, but in Tampa Bay, he is the shining star behind the plate gleaming and beaming with a smile.
 
 
 
 
 

Rangers Beat Rays by a Touchdown

Rangers 12, Rays 6

 

I know the Rangers did not score a TD, please do not write me and tell me I mixed sports metaphors. I know what I did, it was to attract you to the blog only. I played football, I know the difference Yankee dude.

I want to tell you, watching the Rangers take BP today was a wild experience. I saw Josh Hamilton hit a ball so high and far it went BEHIND the towering video screen in rightfield. 

I have seen the NY Met’s old catcher, Mike Piazza put two straight shots into the Beach area. I have seen Barry Bonds hit the back wall, and Jorge Posada lodge a ball in the building’s seam, but that shot mesmerized me for a brief moment.  Damn what we would be with him in our lineup………sends chills down my spine.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Of Babe Ruth’s 714 homers, 10 were inside-the-park shots. 16 were hit in extra innings, and 1 was as a pinch hitter.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly Posters

                                        The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly

 

           

           

                                                 The Good

Cliff Floyd has been hitting the ball better in the last few at-bats. Tonight he hit a clutch 2-run homer in the 2nd inning to begin the scoring for the Rays.

Cliff went 2-2 tonight with 2 RBI’s, and scored 3 runs. Floyd also had 2 walks tonight for the team. Floyd is currently hitting .281 for the Rays. Floyd has a .386 lifetime average at the Trop., the 4th best average lifetime at the stadium (min 75 at bats).

Honorable Mention “Good Guys”:

*** Dioner Navarro continues to carry a hot bat, going 2-4 tonight and upping his average to .374 for the year. Dioner is the best hitting switch hitter in the MLB this season. Dioner has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games, with 8 multi-hit games.

** Evan Longoria went 1-3 tonight and upped his average to .243 for the year. Evan leads the club with 7 homers since his arrival, and is tied with Carl Crawford with 29 RBI’s. Longoria also is ranked 2nd behind Chicago White Sox’s Joe Crede for the AL best thrid baseman. He currently has a slugging percentage of .466 for the Rays.

* Eric Hinske went diving for a dying ball tonight in rightfield and just missed it by inches. This determination and drive is why he is my top star tonight. Eric also hit a 2-run homer to right in the 4th inning to close the gap to 7-4 at the moment. 

Hinske has now hit 10 homers on the year. Thi is the earliest in his career that he has hit that plateau. He currently leads the club with 20 extra base hits, and is 6th in the AL with a .529 Slugging Percentage.

              

          

 

                                             The Bad

Andy Sonnanstine has had two bad outings in a row now. His last start in Oakland was a 9-1 Rays loss on the last game of the road trip. Tonight, Andy lasted 5 innings, gave up 10 hits and 7 runs before shutting down the Rangers for 3 innings.

Rays manager Joe Maddon admitted in his post game interview that the righty was having a control situation and was not “hitting the glove” like he did in his past victories. Sonnanstine did get 7 strikeouts on the night. 

I know some fans are ready to throw Andy under the bus and take this loss in the wrong ways. This was one of those games that can define a team. You know you can not win every night, but the team did not give up and it played aggressive baseball up until the last out in the 9th inning. that is a character ball club. And one you can be proud of for it efforts.

                                      

Just remember, Andy Sonnanstine was pitching in Double-A only two years ago. And this season, he matched a record set by Rolando Arroyo and Scott Kazmir of reaching 6 victories by May 16th.  The guy has the talent, sometime you just have a bad game…..period.

     

                                           The Ugly

Tonight, Josh Hamilton’s Grand Slam was the most ugly thing I have seen this season at the Trop. I am not blaming J P Howell for the pitch.

It was right where the glove was placed, Hamilton did a great job turning on the pitch and sending it into the lower half of the Bigscreen Scoreboard in rightfield.

You heard me, he put it into the scoreboard.  It was a major blast for his team, and a ultimate signal to the Rays that they still had work to do that night.

                              

But what was even more ugly was the Rangers’ starter Vicent Padilla’s personal interpretation of the new “12 second rule.”

MLB insituted a 12 second rule for the pitchers to speed up the game. I asked a memeber of the Rays staff what constitutes a beginning of this timed period. He stated that it was, “when the pitcher touches the rubber with his foot.”

Not when you are in the set position to throw, but when you first rest your foot on the rubber. Padilla was using every second, and borrowing a half dozen on most of his pitches tonight.

Tim Welke, the homeplate umpire did not seem to warn or even go out and discuss this with the pitcher. He let the game drag on and on by the pitcher’s disregard for the rule, and the Rays players also used that to their advantage. If Padilla used up an abnormal bit of time, the Rays used their discretion and moved out of the batter’s box. Hence making the pitcher again setup for the pitch and  beginnig the process all over again. 

The Rays’ tried to use this as a distraction on Padilla’s rhythm and get him in an uncomfortable state. This only seemed to upset the crowd and the batters more than Padilla.

I hope there is a better example of this ruling somewhere online. I am going to look for it and see if I can make any sense of it for everyone.

 

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Rays’ Players Rememberances of Geremi Gonzalez

 

                        

 A moment of silence was observed in memory of former Rays pitcher Geremi Gonzalez prior to Tuesday night’s Rays-Rangers game at Tropicana Field.

Rays players and staff paid tribute to Gonzalez, who died on Sunday at the age of 33 after being struck by lightning.

Crawford smiled when asked to describe Gonzalez.

“Yeah, he was fun,” Crawford said. “Loud, always excited, he just had a lot of energy. He was a character, man.” 

 

Rocco Baldelli called Gonzalez a “Fun-loving guy, and a lot of people here are going to miss him.”

Baldelli remembered how entertaining Gonzalez could be, particularly on a trip back from Japan after the Rays opened their season in Japan in 2004.

“We played cards on the way back from Japan the entire flight,” Baldelli said. “I mean this guy kept me awake for 18 hours or whatever. This guy would do some off-the-wall stuff that kept everybody loose all the time. He’s a guy who makes an impression. When you meet him, you remembered meeting Geremi Gonzalez.”

 

 

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