Results tagged ‘ Josh Hamilton ’

2008 Rule 5 Pre-Draft Scribbles and Current MLB Phase Final Rule 5 Draft Results

 

 

 

 

                

 

 

Who would have thought you could find a Hall of Famer in the Major League Baseball Rule 5 draft? You usually associate this draft with the marginal player who is not good enough for the 40-man roster, but still performing for his team. You would never think a player like Roberto Clemente would be subject to the Rule 5 Draft, but he was, as were notable players like former Oriole Paul Blair, current Met Johan Santana and Royals closer Joakim Soria. And can you even imagine that current Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino went through the Rule 5 Draft twice befores ticking with the Phillies and going on to win his first World Series ring this Fall.

 

 

But besides Clemente, the most recent addition to the Rule 5 Draft All- Dumb Move team was former Rays Josh Hamilton. He was left unprotected by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006 and was selected 3rd by the Chicago Cubs, who then sold his rights to the Cincinnati Reds where he played in 2006 all season long at the major league level. The Rays were trying to hide Hamilton off their 40-man roster because of recent re-instatement to baseball after 2 years of drug problems. But that did not deterr the Cubs, who quickly snatched Hamilton up before the Rays knew what had happened.

  

 

Will there be another ” Josh Hamilton or Johan Santana” in the 2008 Rule 5 draft being held on Thursday in Las Vegas?  The answer is not that simple this year. This years draft might be the hardest to predict in the last several years. No one is a clear favorite in any of the three phases ( MLB, Triple-A, Double-A) to be selected this time around.

 

 

Alot of basbeball officials call this year’s Rule 5  Draft a bit of a bust. There is not a huge buzz about any one player, or the potential as in years past. The rules changes prior to last year, adding an extra year of protection for teams to keep players. Under the old rules, 2005 high school draft picks and 2006 college picks would have had to be protected (and most international players signed in ’04 as well).

 

Prep pitchers such as Sean West (Marlins), Chaz Roe (Rockies), Brandon Erbe (Orioles) and Will Inman (Padres) would have to be protected ,but are not on 40-man rosters. That leaves more room to protect fringy players who otherwise might not have made the cut. Some borderline players will get an extra reprieve this year thanks to the new rules, but will have to earn that spot come Spring time.

 

 

                     

 

 

Similarly, the Pirates don’t have to make a 40-man call on 2006 first-rounder Brad Lincoln, who has missed a year with Tommy John surgery, and the Indians can wait on corner infielder Wes Hodges, who can hit but hasn’t shown he can handle third base.

 

That has left a thinner talent pool to choose from. The ’06 Rule 5 yielded stars such as Josh Hamilton and Joakim Soria, but the top talents in the ’07 class were players such as outfielder Brian Barton, who stuck all year with the Cardinals; knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, whom the Mariners swung a trade to keep; and lefthander Wesley Wright, who stuck as a reliever with the Astros.

 

 

                     

 

 

Draft analysts agree there are few position players with Barton’s upside in this Rule 5 class, and and the quality and talent of players and pitchers has dipped accordingly with the rule changes. Big names such as Donald Veal (Cubs) and Eduardo Morlan (Rays) have attracted interest, but Veal pitched poorly all year and again in the Arizona Fall League, while Morlan’s velocity was back in the 89-92 mph range in Puerto Rico but not in the mid-90s he showed earlier in his minor league career. Morlan was the third player garnished by the Rays in the Matt Garza, Jason Barlett trade last November with the Minnesota Twins for ex-Rays badboy Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie.

 

The best comparisons to Barton are several prospects with injury questions, such as pitchers Alan Horne (Yankees), coming off rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder, and Pedro Strop (Rangers), a former Rockies farmhand coming off his own arm injury; and catcher Donny Lucy (White Sox), who is athletic and plays a premium position but has never quite performed.

 

What buzz there is has centered on Class A pitchers with stuff rather than track records. Among the names bandied about:

 

 

                           

 

 RHP Jordan Pratt, Dodgers ( above ) : The 2003 fifth-round pick out of an Oregon high school has yet to progress past Class A. He spent 2008 in high Class A Inland Empire and walked 67 (while striking out 80) in 69 innings. However, Pratt has premium stuff, with a fastball that consistently reaches 94 mph, and an inconsistent curveball and a premium cutter that helps him handle lefthanded hitters. They went 2-for-35 off him in Hawaii Winter Baseball, where Pratt showed off some smoother mechanics that helped him throw more strikes. Lefty David Pfeiffer of the Dodgers, a sidearmer, also was getting some attention.

 

 

 

 

LHP Jordan Norberto, Diamondbacks ( above ) : Norberto has upside, as he’s just 22 and has reached 96 mph with his fastball. He’s also spent the last two years in the low Class A Midwest League, striking out 220 in 204 innings while walking 102.

 

 

 

 

IF Corey Wimberly, Rockies ( above ) : No one in the class fits the utility profile better than Wimberly, a 5-foot-8 switch-hitter with plus speed and defensive versatility. Wimberly played second base, third base, shortstop and the outfield in ’08 at Double-A Tulsa while posting a .370 on-base percentage. He lacks strength but has a solid track record as a hitter.

 

 

RHP Loek Van Mil, Twins: The 7-foot-1 righthander has shown a fastball up to 97 mph in the past but has a partial ligament tear due after injuring his elbow just prior to the Beijing Olympics. Fellow Dutch national teamer Hainley Statia (Angels) remains the top middle-infield possibility in a thin group of players there.

 

Post Rule 5 Update:

 

Here is the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft  with final results posted below. Check out the list and see if your favorite might have picked up a young player, or left someone unprotected and they were selected from your squad.

 

In the Rule 5 Draft, the Tampa Bay Rays lost the rights to Double-A closer Eduardo Morlan, who was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 15th pick of the draft. The Rays then selected starter-turned reliever  Derek Rodriguez with the 19 th pick to swap pitchers with different aspects of the game.

 

 

 

Major League Phase

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Pick
Player
Position
Drafted By
Drafted From
2008 Club
1 Terrell Young RHP Washington Cincinnati Sarasota
2 Reegie Corona INF Seattle New York (AL) Trenton
3 Everth Cabrera SS San Diego Colorado Asheville
4 Donald Veal LHP Pittsburgh Chicago (NL) Tennessee
5 Lou Palmisano C Baltimore Milwaukee Brevard County
6 Luis Perdomo RHP San Francisco St. Louis Springfield
7 David Patton RHP Cincinnati* Colorado Modesto
8 Kyle Bloom LHP Detroit Pittsburgh Altoona
9 Jose Lugo LHP Kansas City** Minnesota Ft. Myers
10 Benjamin Copeland CF Oakland San Francisco Fresno
11 James Skelton C Arizona Detroit Erie
12 Zachary Kroenke LHP Florida New York (AL) Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
8 Los Angeles (NL)
13 Gilbert De La Vara LHP Houston Kansas City Northwest Arkansas
14 Jason Jones RHP Minnesota New York (AL) Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
15 Darren O’Day RHP New York (NL) Los Angeles (AL) Salt Lake
16 Eddie Morlan RHP Milwaukee Tampa Bay Montgomery
17 Robert Mosebach RHP Philadelphia Los Angeles (AL) Arkansas
18 Miguel Gonzalez RHP Boston Los Angeles (AL) DNP
19 Derek Rodriguez RHP Tampa Bay Chicago (AL) Charlotte
20 Ivan Nova RHP San Diego New York (AL) Tampa
21 Rocky Cherry RHP New York (NL) Baltimore Norfolk

* Acquired by Chicago (NL) in exchange for cash considerations
** Acquired by Seattle in exchange for cash considerations

 

 

Josh Hamilton Is My Hero

 

 

 

                                      

 

 

When the American League 2008 All Stars were officially announced, every one in baseball took notice that Josh Hamilton had finally  come full circle and achieved the dream of his lifetime. The fact that  the event would be a total  180 degree swapping of the horrors and the misguided attempts of Hamilton to finally right the ship and cruise to the ultimate harbor.  There have been numerous human interest stories before in connection with the All Star game, but none would even hit the zenith that Hamilton took us during the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium.

 

 

From just how far Hamilton had to come was not the issue at hand, but how far he had come, and to where he would take us next.  From the day he was selected in 1999 with the First Round overall pick, he has been fighting the demons and the wrath of promise and expectations. When the then Tampa Bay Devilrays took Hamilton, he was considered one of this generations blue-chip, 5-tool players straight out of high school. The sky was the limit then as Hamilton could do just about anything in the outfield and at the plate. 

 

 

He was a highly decorated high school player, twice being named North Carolina Gatorade High School Player of the Year. Following his senior season, he was named High School Player of the Year by Baseball America and Amateur Player of the Year by USA Baseball. Hamilton played outfield and also pitched during his high school career. As a left-handed high school pitcher, Hamilton sometimes hit 96 MPH. He was touted as a rare talent, who was almost equally skilled as a pitcher and a position player (outfield).

 

Dan Jennings,  then a Tampa Bay scout said “He has every tool we look for in a position player.” His high school coach at Athens Drive, John Thomas said “He’s better at this game than anyone else I’ve seen in high school or college.”

 

 

                    

 

 

I remember first seeing Josh at the Namoli Complex in St. Petersburg, Florida. Your first focus was on his strong forearms and his professional demeanor. I know from my work involvement with the Spring Training staff that Hamilton was eager and willing to do anything to show his worth to the team at that stage of his career. On the training field facing SE of the center coaching towers,Josh used to routinely put balls into the players’ parking lot during Batting Practice. It became a running joke that the clubhouse staff used to sit out there and shag balls to keep them from hitting the players’ cars

 


After this successful debut in professional baseball, he spent the 2000 season with the Charleston RiverDogs in the South Atlantic League. Prior to the 2001 season, Hamilton was involved in an accident in his truck coming back from a Spring Training game in Sarasota,Florida. His mother was also injured in the accident, and she went home to North Carolina to be  with her husband to recuperate from her injuries. For the first time in his professional career, Hamilton was on his own, without a parental voice to reel him in when he overindulged or misbehaved off the field.

                                      


The 2001 season was the first time Hamilton began going to the Ybor City section of Tampa with teammates and became involved in the local bar scene and began experimenting with drugs, after a few months he made his first attempt at rehab. Several former Rays players routinely went to the Tampa entertainment zone to let off steam from the days work and enjoy the nightlife. It was at this time that Josh also began his obsession with tattoo’s and the local parlors in Ybor City. Long nights and missed curfews were only the tip of the iceberg for Hamilton, the demons were getting to his soul and he was about to plunge deep into the abyss.

 


Hamilton only played 27 games in the 2001 season, split between Charleston (  Class-A ) and the Orlando Rays ( Class -AA ). Hamilton began the 2002 season with the Bakersfield Blaze ( Class -AA ), batting .303 with 9 home runs and 44 RBI in 56 games before his season came to an end due to lingering back and shoulder injuries. At this time he also began experimenting with pain medication and the effects took a huge part out of his game. He had loss the will to play at the highest level by then, just trying to survive another day on pain medications and other drugs of choice.

 

 

 

 

At the start of the 2003 season, Hamilton started showing up late during the Rays’ Spring Training and was reassigned to the team’s minor league camp as a warning to shape up. Hamilton was not happy about the demotion and left the team and disappeared for several weeks, resurfacing several times, but eventually took the rest of the season off for personal reasons. Hamilton was hoping to return to Spring Training with the Devil Rays in 2004, but he was suspended 30 days and fined for violating the drug policy put in place by MLB.

 

 

Because of the length of his suspension, and the terms of the drug policy, Hamilton must have failed two or more drug tests after being put into the program. A ‘failed’ test is a positive result for a drug more severe than marijuana. Hamilton was known to frequent  local tattoo parlors and clubs where cocaine and other drugs could be found easily and without problems. Alcohol also became a secondary  drug of choice while doing the club scene in Ybor City.

 

 

The  suspension was increased several times after repeated violations of the terms of the program. From 2002 until 2006, Hamilton did not play any baseball at all.  He was starting to hit the downward spiral that would take him into situation he could never imagine in his life. He made several attempts at rehab, and started off the 2005 season with hopes of being reinstated by MLB.  During his time away from baseball, Hamilton had escalated to using heroin and shed almost 35 pounds off his frame from the drug use. One time during a brief stay in a drug house in North Carolina, Hamilton let a known drug dealer use his truck to go get more narcotics for the people in the house, but the drug dealer never returned with his truck or the drugs.


 


Hamilton’s struggles with drugs and alcohol are well documented. He finally got clean after being confronted by his grandmother, Mary Holt. Hamilton says he hasn’t used drugs or alcohol since October 6, 2005. When giving a brief summary of his recovery Hamilton says simply “It’s a God thing.” He does not shy away from telling his story, speaking to community groups and fans at many different functions. He frequently and publicly tells stories of how Christianity has brought him back from the brink and that faith is what keeps him going.

 

 

                                                

 

 

Hamilton finally put down the struggle and the redemption in a book entitled, ” Beyond Belief: Finding The Strength To Come Back”.  The book  details the events that led up to the derailment. Josh explains how a young man destined for fame and wealth could allow his life to be taken over by drugs and alcohol. But it is also the memoir of a spiritual journey that breaks through pain and heartbreak and leads to the rebirth of his major-league career.

Josh Hamilton makes no excuses and places no blame on anyone other than himself. He takes responsibility for his poor decisions and believes his story can help millions who battle the same demons. “I have been given a platform to tell my story” he says. “I pray every night I am a good messenger.”


 

His wife Katie sometimes accompanies him on road games and during personal appearances, offering her perspective on his struggles as well.  To go along with the provisions of MLB’s drug policy, Hamilton provides urine samples for drug testing at least three times per week. Rangers’ coach Jerry Narron says of the frequent testing: “I think he looks forward to the tests. He knows he’s an addict. He knows he has to be accountable. He looks at those tests as a way to reassure people around him who had faith.” Hamilton approaches the plate at Texas Rangers home games to the song “Saved The Day” by Christian group Phillips, Craig & Dean

 

One of the biggest opponents of helping Hamilton get back to the major leagues was Clearwater Baseball Academy owner Ron Silver. After hearing about Hamilton’s desire to return to baseball, Silver offered the use of his facility if Hamilton agreed to work helping area kids and also fine-tuning his swing and follow through after lessons and events.


After several months there, Hamilton attempted to play with an independent minor league team,the Broxton Roxs, but MLB stepped in and disallowed it.  After reviewing his case, and hearing from doctors that being around baseball might speed his recovery, Hamilton was allowed to work out with the Devil Rays minor league players starting on June 2, 2006. Throughout this endeavor, the Rays management let Hamilton know that they would do anything possible to ensure his protection and his health while fighting to get back into shape for baseball and beyond.

 


I remember I had to deliver some Aquafina water and Pepsi products to the Rays Minor League complex the morning Hamilton officially could go back onto the field for the Rays.  Hamilton has no idea of the media circus waiting for him outside when I pulled up to the doors. Sitting outside the doors to the practice fields were almost 10 TV cameras’ and crews waiting for Hamilton to emerge to start his MLB career over again. He was inside talking to Tim M, who runs the complex for the Rays when I first saw him. Hamilton looked bigger and stronger than when he was with the Rays before, and had a aura about him now. As he turned and smiled at me, I saw that he also had a renewed vigor and swagger about him. A positive light that truly would guide him through this endeavor. 

 


Josh had found religion was the key to his core. That by believing in the Lord, he had a co-pilot on his journey this time. That he could trust himself and his faith that things would be right this time. He turned, shook my hand after I told him it was glad to see him back again with a smile on his face again and  he slowly step towards the door. I warned him of the media storm outside the door, and he just smiled and said, ” I have been waiting for this all my life, I am past the hurricane, this is just a sun-soaked rain shower now.”

 By the end of the month, he was allowed to participate in minor league games. He played 15 games with the  short-season Hudson Valley Renegades near the end of the 2006 season. In addition to returning to baseball, Hamilton also served as a cautionary tale for his young teammates with the Renegades. Rick Zolzer, the Renegades’ director of special events said of Hamilton: “”He pointed (the other players) in the right direction. He said, Don’t make the mistakes I made.’ He was so good with all of the young kids.”

 

 

Hamilton was  then selected third overall in the MLB portion of the 2006 Rule 5 Draft by the Chicago Cubs in the off season. The Rays had not placed him on their 40-man roster and left him unprotected to be selected by any of the MLB clubs.  The Rays were hoping that with his sorted past and a career in jeopardy, teams would not select him and he would remain with the Rays while reconstructing his career. The Cubs took a gamble on Hamilton, and he was later traded to the Cincinnati Reds for $100,000 ($50,000 for his rights, and $50,000 to cover the cost of the Rule 5 selection). In their coverage of the draft, Chris Kline and John Manuel of Baseball America called Hamilton “the biggest name in the Rule 5 Draft.”  

              

                                  

                  

 

 

In order to retain the rights to Hamilton, the Reds had to keep him on their Major League 25-man roster for the entire 2007 season. He was one of the Reds’ best hitters in spring training, leaving camp with a .403 batting average. As a result, he won a spot on the Reds’ Opening Day roster; the Reds planned to use him as a fourth outfielder. Hamilton started most of the time in center field after an injury to former-Ray Ryan Freel. He also received starts due to injuries to Chris Denorfia and Norris Hopper.

 

 

Hamilton made his long-awaited Major League debut on April 2 against the Chicago Cubs in a pinch-hit appearance,and received a 22-second standing ovation from the Reds’ faithful. He lined out to left fielder Matt Murton, who made a sliding catch. Hamilton stayed in the game to play left field. As he was waiting to bat, Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said “‘You deserve it, Josh. Take it all in, brother. I’m happy for you.”

 


He made his first start on April 10 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, batting lead off. In that game, he recorded his first Major League hit, a home run off Édgar González. The next night, he hit another. Hamilton was named the National League Rookie of the Month for April. On May 22, the Reds placed Hamilton on the 15-day DL with gastroenteritis; they activated him on June 5 after he batted .333 (8-for-24) with four home runs and six RBI in a six-game Minor League rehabilitation assignment. Hamilton went back on the DL on July 12 with a sprained wrist.

 


Among all NL rookies, Hamilton placed second behind the  Brewers’ Ryan Braun in slugging percentage (.554), and fourth in home runs (19); behind Braun, Arizona’s Chris Young, and the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki. He was shut out in the voting for the Rookie of the Year, which was won by Braun.

 


On December 21, 2007, the Reds traded Hamilton to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera.

 

 

 

 

 In 2008, Hamilton locked up the Rangers starting center fielder job with a stellar spring training in which he batted .556 and drove in 13 RBIs in 14 games. His spring training performance proceeded to follow into the regular season. Hamilton, usually slotted third in the Texas batting order, appears to be finally fulfilling his great potential. Hamilton led all Major League players in RBI for the month of April. He was named American League Player of the Month after hitting .330 with 32 RBI during the month. Hamilton then went on to win player of the month for the second straight month in May, becoming the first American League player in baseball history to be awarded Player of the Month for the first two months of the season.

 

 

Hamilton was featured on the cover of the June 2, 2008 issue of Sports Illustrated, in a story chronicling his comeback. On July 9, 2008 Josh Hamilton hit the first walk-off home run of his career against Angels’ closer, Francisco Rodriguez. Fans selected Hamilton as one of the starting outfielders for the American League at the 2008 MLB All Star Game at Yankee Stadium. He finished first in voting among the outfielders to clinch his spot. He will be one of seven first-time starters in the game.

 


Along with Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto,Ryan Braun,and the Rays’ Evan Longoria, he will be one of four who made their MLB debut 2007 or 2008. He was selected to participate in the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby the evening before the game. Hamilton selected 71-year old Clay Counsil to throw to him during the Derby. Counsil was a  local volunteer who threw batting practice for him as an American Legion player  in Cary, NC. Counsil threw picture perfect pitches for Hamilton to hit that night in Yankee Stadium. At one point it was rumored he had thrown over 90 pitches before Josh had finished his First Round.

 

 

                     

 

 

In the first round of the event Hamilton hit 28 home runs, to break the single round record of 24 set by Bobby Abreu in 2005. Several of those homers were to the only place in Yankee Stadium where a ball could be hit out of the complex, deep right center field next to the upper decks. Hamilton, who had 28 homers after the first round, came out and took only a small amount of pitches to extend his total to 32, before retiring for the final round. Hamilton ended up hitting the most total home runs in the contest with 35, but lost in the final round to Justin Morneau, as the scores were reset. His record setting first round included 13 straight home runs at one point, and three that went further than 500 feet. His longest home run was 518 feet.

 


In 2006, when Hamilton was trying to get back into baseball, he had a dream where he participated in a Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, but he could not remember how many home runs he had hit. After the Derby Hamilton said: “This, was like living the dream out, because like I’ve said, I didn’t know the ending to that dream.” The next night, Josh started in center field for the American League, and went 1-3 on the night and was greeted by a huge cheer from the mostly Yankee crowd on his first at-bat.

 


Hamilton has been an inspiration to both young and old to rise to this level of achievement in such a short frame of time. The season is still young, and Hamilton is currently leading Major League Baseball in RBI’s with 95. He is currently hitting .310 for the year and is ranked 18th in the MLB, and 9th in the AL. Hamilton also has 21 homers at the break to rank 12th in the MLB and 3rd in the AL, two behind the leader.

 

 

                                  

 


Hamilton has a chance to made a bid for the Triple Crown this season. He was also touted as a early favorite for the AL MVP award. But in the end, the only category that Hamilton lead in the American League was the RBI crown with 130 RBI’s on the year. He ended up with a .304 batting average, good enough for 11th in the Al. He also ended up hitting 32 home runs to tie for 8th in the AL in that category. Some say the pressure of carrying the Rangers and the long season put Hamilton behind the 8-ball early in the second half of the season.

 



In the AL MVP race, he ended up coming in 7th place, and was the last participant to top 100 points in the race, he ended up with 113 points in the MVP voting.

 


We have a lot of great baseball to play, and Josh still has some unfinished business to attend to in the upcoming seasons. He has so much promise in 1999 when he signed with the Rays, and so much time was lost and will never be retained again. But with determination and a will to succeed, we all will see Hamilton rise from the ashes and become the man and player we always knew he would be in baseball.

 


We should all be grateful this fantastic athlete found the courage and commitment to  raise himself above life’s struggles and tragedies. He is a perfect example of mind over matter, and that the power of your own will can defeat any and all demons if you just believe.   And with that, I think I will hit the TIVO again and watch the State Farm Home Run Derby all over again tonight.

 

   

State Farm Memories and Morsels

 

I know that everyone and their brothers are gioing to write some kind of blog or opinion on the State Farm Home Run Derby.

I am just going to give my views opinions, and maybe a few qoutes from people in the Derby. Hopefully you will be entertained for a short moment in time and not hit the delete or exit the blog.

With that in mind, here we go……….

The Rays Evan Longoria is one of 4 first-time Rookies to the All-Star festivities this year. Add the pressure of the State Farm Home Run Derby on top of all the other stuff, and you got a pressure cooker the size of Yankee Stadium. Not only does Longoria get to visit the site of the beginning of his teams’ 6-game road losing streak, but he gets to be a part of the media circus that is the All-Star Game. 

Longoria became the sixth rookie to compete in a Home Run Derby, and the first since Nomar Garciaparra — who hit zero home runs — in 1997. He earned an invitation only after drawing more than nine million votes in the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote competition, securing the last opening on the American League roster.

He didn’t know any of this, of course, until two days before the All-Star break, when he received a phone invitation to the Derby.  Naturally, he accepted. And naturally, he would accept it again.

And that, for Longoria, was the whole point. He didn’t expect to win, but he was still quite anxious to hit … nervous, even.

That makes sense, because Longoria is only 22 years old. He wasn’t even on the Rays’ Opening Day roster, and he has only 16 career homers to his credit. Longoria just purchased his first house, and he’s spent the better part of this All-star break trolling for items to put in the memorabilia room.

Though a Home Run Derby trophy would have been a nice centerpiece, it will have to wait.

Uggla, who led off the competition, did just that — and he managed to avoid going homerless. What he didn’t do was advance to the second round after hitting six.

It felt good,” Uggla said. “It was a lot of fun, a lot of fun. I definitely would have liked to have hit again, but those guys are pretty good.”

 

Grady Sizemore arrived in New York City downplaying his participation in the State Farm Home Run Derby from the get-go. He’d leave doing the same. Sizemore was the first of four American League representatives to take a swing at clearing the Yankee Stadium fences. He followed Florida’s Dan Uggla, who set the starting standard at six home runs.

Halfway through the eight-player first round, Sizemore looked to be in good position to be one of the four players to advance to the second round of the three-round event. 

 The Rays Evan Longoria led off the second group and his problems in this Derby came early, when, after hitting an opposite-field home run on the second pitch he saw, he sent a series of pops, liners and grounders toward the left side of the field. The outs piled up in a hurry, before Longoria took a few pitches to slow the pace.

It worked. With three outs remaining, Longoria launched back-to-back home runs to the upper deck in left field, the longest of which landed 446 feet away. His 3 home runs averaged 419 feet, but placed him third among the competition’s first three hitters.

 Chase Utley’s left-handed swing appeared to be a perfect fit for the State Farm Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately for the Phillies’ MVP candidate, his line-drive stroke betrayed him.

Utley jacked five home runs, including an upper deck shot and another that clanged off the facade of the second deck in right field at “The Stadium,” but he left too many balls just short, on or near the right-field warning track. Unlike mashers such as Lance Berkmanand Josh Hamilton, his homers and his outs tended to be low liners rather than majestic moonshots.

Chase Utley of the Philles concluded the second pairing by hitting 5 homers, 2 of which were Gold Balls to eliminate Longoria from the Second Round of the contest.

Then the Astros’Lance Berkman and the Twins’ Justin Morneau hitting 8 homers each. Berkman hit the Yankees Stadium upper decks with 5 homers, while Morneau spread out 3 in the upper seating area. Next came up the Brewers’ Ryan Braun, who posted 7 homers, and was in contention for the Second Round with only Josh Hamilton left to hit.

Seriously, what did you expect from someone called The Natural who swings a black bat inscribed The Dream? Josh Hamilton did not disappoint in the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby.

As Hamilton quickly and dramatically aired out all the suspense from the early competition in Yankee Stadium on Monday night, only one question lingered: When does he launch a baseball off a light tower and scatter a section of fans with glass?

That didn’t happen, but virtually everything else imaginable, or even not, did.

Hamilton’s 28 opening-round homers shattered the record of 24 by Bobby Abreu. But after electing for an abridged Round 2, he couldn’t regain the feeling and opened the door for Morneau’s triumph.

Despite stopping at four outs in Round 2, Hamilton racked up a total of 32 homers (on 14 outs) in the first two rounds; Morneau’s 17 (on the full complement of 20 outs) was runner-up.

“I said after the first round, ‘If I don’t hit another, I’m satisfied,'” Hamilton said. “Just for being able to generate the crowd like that, and looking up in the stands and seeing my family there.”

But with the slate wiped clean for the finals, Morneau led off with five homers and Hamilton and his 71-year-old pitcher dead-ended at 3.

Yet, the impression of Hamilton’s majestic Round 1 display won’t soon fade. Even Morneau admitted, “We were all in awe. You want to see that story end in a good way.”

With a new Yankee Stadium rising across the street, this one will be razed after the season. Hamilton just gave the demolition a start by blasting home runs off a pitcher for whom he made room in his fantasy.

Clay Counsil, the gentleman batting-practice pitcher from North Carolina, left the field beaming as brightly as had Hamilton. “It was a thrill, sure,” said Counsil. “Nothing like this ever happened to me in North Carolina.”

Confirming that his only prior visit to Yankee Stadium had been on Oct. 8, 1956, for Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Counsil said, “Whenever I come here, something special happens.”

“I’m really proud of Josh,” added Counsil, who made plenty of new friends among the AL All-Stars

“I was in here [before the Finals] and David Ortiz came by saying, ‘Don’t sit. Got to go out there and keep the blood moving.’ You just don’t realize how tired you are,” Hamilton said. “You feel like you can still muscle out the ball, but it just doesn’t go.”

He looked over his left shoulder, where Counsil was preparing to get out of his long johns and back into his civvies.

“It was Clay’s fault,” Hamilton said loudly, making sure he was heard a few lockers down. “He stopped throwing the ball in the same spot.”

 

Last year, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau participated in the State Farm Home Run Derby in San Francisco and was eliminated in the first round after hitting just four home runs.

This time, Morneau had a better showing in this year’s event at Yankee Stadium on Monday night and won the trophy in a stunning upset. He became the first member of the Twins, and first Canadian, to win the Home Run Derby.

Morneau may have won the trophy, but he realizes the story was Hamilton, who won the 56,716 fans over with his Mickey Mantle-type power. In the first round alone, Hamilton hit a record-setting 28 home runs and hit three homers measured at more than 500 feet apiece.

“[Hamilton is] the story of this year,” Morneau said. “I mean, the year he’s having, for him to come in and put on a show like that, I mean, it was something impressive. We were over there in awe of what he was doing.

I was kind of cheering for him because, you know, the whole crowd’s behind him, everybody’s cheering him on. You want to see that story end in a good way, but, you know, at the same time, it’s something I always dreamed of. I played home run derby in my backyard all the time. … It was something that I always wanted to do. To be able to do it here, be a part of that performance Josh put on, it was something special.”

You know, he hit so many in a row,” Morneau said. “I mean, that’s hard to do in itself. Then to have to get back out there and swing a couple more times, you know, I mean, he was the one that put on the show tonight. I think everyone will remember Josh Hamilton’s 28 home runs more than they’ll remember I won the thing. I’m just glad I was a part of the whole thing.”

 

Josh Hamilton Bio and Tdibits

 

 

When else in history have we had a story like Josh Hamilton.  First off, he was the  First overall pick in the 1999 Amateur Draft for the then Tampa Bay Devilrays.  He was a blue-chip or 5-tool player out of high school who could do almost anything in the field and at the plate.

He was a highly decorated high school player, twice being named North Carolina’s Gatorade High School Player of the Year. Following his senior season, he was named High School Player of the Year by Baseball America and Amateur Player of the Year by USA Baseball.

 Hamilton played outfield and also pitched during his high school career. As a left-handed high school pitcher, Hamilton sometimes hit 96 MPH. He was touted as a rare talent, who was almost equally skilled as a pitcher and a position player (outfield).

Dan Jennings, a Tampa Bay scout said “He has every tool we look for in a position player.” His high school coach at Athens Drive, John Thomas said “He’s better at this game than anyone else I’ve seen in high school or college.”

Hamilton signed with the Devil Rays receiving a $3.96 million signing bonus, and joined their minor league system. His first stop in the minors was the  short-season rookie level Princeton Devil Rays, where he played 56 games. He also joined the Hudson Valley Renegades, and helped lead them to their first New York-Penn League championship.

  

I remember first seeing Josh at the Namoli Complex in St. Petersburg, Florida, you first focus was on his strong forearms and his professional demeanor. I know from my involvement with the Spring Training staff that Hamilton was eager and willing to do anything to show his worth to the team at that stage of his career.

On the training field facing SE of the center  coaching towers at the complex,Josh used to routinely put balls into the players’ parking lot during BP. It became a running joke that the clubhouse staff used to sit out there and shag balls to keep them from hitting the veteran’s cars

 

After this successful debut in professional baseball, he spent the 2000 season with the Charleston RiverDogs in the South Atlantic League. Prior to the 2001 season, Hamilton was involved in an accident in his truck coming back from a Spring Training game in Sarasota,Florida. His mother was also injured in the accident, and she went home with her husband to recuperate from her injuries.

                                      

The 2001 season was the first time Hamilton began going to Ybor City with teammates and became involved in the local bar scene and began experimenting with drugs, and made his first attempt at rehab. Several former Rays players routinely went to the Tampa entertainment zone to let off steam from the days work and enjoy the nightlife. It was at this time that Josh also began his obsession with tattoo’s and the local parlors in Ybor City.

Hamilton only played 27 games in the 2001 season, split between Charleston (A-Ball) and the Orlando Rays. Hamilton began the 2002 season with the Bakersfield Blaze, batting .303 with 9 home runs and 44 RBIin 56 games before his season came to an end due to lingering back and shoulder injuries.At the start of the 2003 season, Hamilton started showing up late during the Rays’ Spring Training and was reassigned to the team’s minor league camp. He left the team and disappeared for several weeks, resurfaced several times, but eventually took the rest of the season off for personal reasons.

 

 

 

Hamilton was hoping to return to spring training with the Devil Rays in 2004, but he was suspended 30 days and fined for violating the drug policy put in place by MLB. Because of the length of his suspension, and the terms of the drug policy, Hamilton must have failed two or more drug tests after being put into the program. A ‘failed’ test is a positive result for a drug more severe than marijuana. Hamilton was known to frequent known nightspots where cocaine and other drugs could be bought easily and without problems.

The  suspension was increased several times after repeated violations of the terms of the program.

From 2002 until 2006, Hamilton did not play baseball at all. He made several attempts at rehab, and started off the 2005 season with hopes of being reinstated by MLB. 

During his time away from baseball, Hamilton had escalated to using heroin and shed almost 35 pounds off his frame from the drug use. One time during a breif stay in a drug house in North Carolina, Hamilton let a known drug dealer use his truck to go get more product for the people in the house to use. The drug dealer never returned with his truck or the drugs.

Hamilton’s struggles with drugs and alcohol are well documented. He finally got clean after being confronted by his grandmother, Mary Holt. Hamilton says he hasn’t used drugs or alcohol since October 6, 2005. When giving a brief summary of his recovery Hamilton says simply “It’s a God thing.”

 He does not shy away from telling his story, speaking to community groups and fans at many different functions. He frequently and publicly tells stories of how Christianity has brought him back from the brink and that faith is what keeps him going.

 His wife Katie sometimes accompanies him, offering her perspective on his struggles as well.  To go along with the provisions of MLB’s drug policy, Hamilton provides urine samples for drug testing at least three times per week.

 Rangers’ coach Johnny Narron says of the frequent testing: “I think he looks forward to the tests. He knows he’s an addict. He knows he has to be accountable. He looks at those tests as a way to reassure people around him who had faith.”

 Hamilton approaches the plate at Texas Rangers home games to the song “Saved The Day” by Christian group Phillips, Craig & Dean.


 His return to baseball was helped along by Roy Silver who owns a baseball academy in Clearwater,Florida. After hearing about Hamilton’s desire to return to baseball, Silver offered the use of his facility if Hamilton agreed to work there. After several months there, Hamilton attempted to play with an independent minor league team, but MLB stepped in and disallowed it.

After reviewing his case, and hearing from doctors that being around baseball might speed his recovery, Hamilton was allowed to work out with the Devil Rays minor league players starting on June 2, 2006.

 

I remember I had to deliver some product to the Rays complex that morning, and did not know of the media circus when I pulled up to the doors. Sit outside the field doors were almost 10 TV cameras’ and crews waiting for Hamilton to remerge from the doors to start his MLB career over again. He was inside talking to Tim M, who runs the complex for the Rays when I first saw him. 

Hamilton looked bigger and stronger than when he was with the Rays before, and had a aura about him now. As he turned and smiled at me, I saw that he also had a renewed vigor about him. A positive light that truly would guide him through this endeavor. 

Josh had found religion was the key to his core. That by believing in the Lord, he had a co-pilot on his journey this time. That he could trust himself and his faith that things would be right this time. He turned, shook my hand after I told him it was glad to see a smile on his face again and slowly step towards the door. I warned him of the media storm outside the door, and he just smiled and said, ” I have been waiting for this all my life, I am past the storm, this is just a sun-soaked rainshower now.”

 

 By the end of the month, he was allowed to participate in minor league games.

 He played 15 games with the Hudson Valley Renegadesat the end of the 2006 season. In addition to returning to baseball, Hamilton also served as a cautionary tale for his young teammates with the Renegades.

Rick Zolzer, the Renegades’ director of special events said of Hamilton: “”He pointed (the other players) in the right direction. He said, Don’t make the mistakes I made.’ He was so good with all of the young kids.”

 

Hamilton was selected third overall in the MLB portion of the 2006 Rule 5 Draft by the Chicago Cubs, as the Rays had not placed him on their 40-man roster. The Rays were hoping that with his sorted past, teams would not select him and he would remain with the Rays while resurecting his career.

 The Cubs then sold Hamilton to the Cincinnati Reds for $100,000 ($50,000 for his rights, and $50,000 to cover the cost of the Rule 5 selection). In their coverage of the draft, Chris Kline and John Manuel of Baseball America called Hamilton “the biggest name in the Rule 5 Draft.”                

                                  

In order to retain the rights to Hamilton, the Reds had to keep him on their Major League 25-man roster for the entire 2007 season. He was one of the Reds’ best hitters in spring training, leaving camp with a .403 batting average. As a result, he won a spot on the Reds’ Opening Day roster; the Reds planned to use him as a fourth outfielder.

Hamilton started most of the time in centerfield after an injury to former-Ray Ryan Freel. He also received starts due to injuries to Chris Denorfia and Norris Hopper.

Hamilton made his long-awaited Major League debut on April 2 against the Chicago Cubs in a pinch-hit appearance,and received a 22-second standing ovation from the Reds’ faithful. He lined out to left fielder Matt Murton, who made a sliding catch. Hamilton stayed in the game to play left field. As he was waiting to bat, Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said “‘You deserve it, Josh. Take it all in, brother. I’m happy for you.”

He made his first start on April 10 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, batting lead off. In that game, he recorded his first Major League hit, a home run off Édgar González. The next night, he hit another. Hamilton was named the National League Rookie of the Month for April.

On May 22, the Reds placed Hamilton on the 15-day DL with gastroenteritis; they activated him on June 5 after he batted .333 (8-for-24) with four home runs and six RBI in a six-game Minor League rehabilitation assignment. Hamilton went back on the DL on July 12 with a sprained wrist.

Among all NL rookies, Hamilton placed second behind the  Brewers’Ryan Braun in slugging percentage (.554), and fourth in home runs (19); behind Braun, Arizonza’s Chris Young, and the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki. He was shut out in the voting for the Rookie of the Year, which was won by Braun.

On December 21, 2007, the Reds traded Hamilton to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera.

 

 

 In 2008, Hamilton locked up the Rangers starting centerfielder job with a stellar spring training in which he batted .556 and drove in 13 RBIs in 14 games. His spring training performance proceeded to follow into the regular season. Hamilton, usually slotted third in the Texas batting order, appears to be finally fulfilling his great potential.

Hamilton led all Major League players in RBI for the month of April. He was named American League Player of the Month after hitting .330 with 32 RBI during the month. Hamilton then went on to win player of the month for the second straight month in May, becoming the first American League player in baseball history to be awarded Player of the Month for the first two months of the season.

 Hamilton was featured on the cover of the June 2, 2008 issue of Sports Illustrated, in a story chronicling his comeback.

 On July 9, 2008 Josh Hamilton hit the first walk-off home run of his career against Angels’ closer, Francisco Rodriguez.

Fans selected Hamilton as one of the starting outfielders for the American League at the 2008 MLB All Star Game at Yankee Stadium. He finished first in voting among the outfielders to clinch his spot. He will be one of seven first-time starters in the game.

 

Along with Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto,Ryan Braun,and the Rays’ Evan Longoria, he will be one of four who made their MLB debut 2007 or 2008.

 He was selected to participate in the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby the evening before the game. 

Hamilton selected 71-year old Clay Counsil to throw to him during the Derby. Counsil was a  local volunteer who threw batting practice for him as an American Legion player  in Cary, NC. Counsil threw picture perfect pitches for Hamilton to hit that night in Yankee Stadium. At one point it was rumored he had thrown over 90 pitches before Josh had finished his First Round.

In the first round of the event Hamilton hit 28 home runs, to break the single round record of 24 set by Bobby Abreu in 2005. Several of those homers were to the only place in Yankee Stadium where a ball could be hit out of the complex, deep right centerfield next to the upper decks. Hamilton, who had 28 homers after the first round, came out and took only a small amount of pitches to extend his total to 32, before retiring for the final round.

 Hamilton ended up hitting the most total home runs in the contest with 35, but lost in the final round to Justin Morneau, as the scores were reset. His record setting first round included 13 straight home runs at one point, and three that went further than 500 feet. His longest home run was 518 feet.

 In 2006, when Hamilton was trying to get back into baseball, he had a dream where he participated in a Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, but he could not remember how many home runs he had hit. After the Derby Hamilton said: “This, was like living the dream out, because like I’ve said, I didn’t know the ending to that dream.”

 Last night, Josh started in centerfield for the American League, and went 1-3 on the night and was greeted by a huge cheer from the mostly Yankee crowd on his first at-bat.

Hamilton has been an ispiration to both young and old to rise to this level of achievement in such a short frame of time. The season is still young, and Hamilton is currently leading Major League Baseball in RBI’s with 95. He is currently hitting .310 for the year and is ranked 18th in the MLB, and 9th in the AL. Hamilton also has 21 homers at the break to rank 12th in the MLB and 3rd in the AL, two behind the leader.

Hamilton has a chance to make a bid for the Triple Crown this season. That is top spot on average, homers and RBI’s in the American League. He is also being touted as a eraly favorite for the AL MVP award.  We have alot of great baseball to play, and Josh still has some unfinished business to attend to this season.

We should all be grateful this fantastic athlete found the courage and commitment to self and his religion to rise from the ashes and make us all feel great about life.  

Rays Continue Losing in Cleveland

 

 

Indians 5, Rays 2

 

 

Should I be proud that the Rays “fought the good fight” Sunday, or be more concerned with the silent bats in the lineup. Should I be looking at the starters who imploded at the worst time for the Rays and showed a huge weakspot on our team.

Should I be concerned that we seem to be a bad hitting team against right-handers’ right now. I am going to pick…………. none of the above.

Every team goes though a slump or struggles during the season. We just did it as a team this year compared to other years where we could just do it anytime, and anywhere. It does bother me that Carl Crawford is 0-24 during the last few games. But it is a great sight to also see Eric Hinske go 3-4 with some power. It was even great to see Jonny Gomes hustle around the bases and show that he wants it again.  He must have read this blog Sat. night.

This team has risen so far from the ashes, and been so dominating this year that a dip in the road was foreseen and actually predicted by everyone. Most thought it might be a season-ending slump like the New York Mets, or a resurgance like the Houston Astros a few years ago by someone below us right now.  Both could still happen, but my money is still on this team fighting to the last day to show they belong at the top.

 

 

 

I was sitting on the couch wathcing Friday night’s game and my girlffriend told me to be nice to Jonny when I wrote about the game. She knew I held a spot for Jonny in my top players mindset and would blast him about his play.

 Well, I did blast him, but he also did come out on Sunday and show me he still has that fire and ability to produce and succeed on this squad. For that I am glad he got the message, that he is again fighting for his right to be here. We all know that the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline is closing in on this team. Decisions will be made about players and only the strong will survive the purge.

If Jonny keeps showing that “Pete Rose” hustle, he deserves to still wear the starburst and blue.

 

                             

               

 

Scott Kazmir blasted his teammates the other day about their drive and focus on the team duing this horrible roadtrip. For the record, the Rays went 0-6 on this trip and went from being 5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, to looking up at them in the standing.

The losing streak took them out of first place in the AL East. It is a spot they have held for 14 straight days after sweeping the Red Sox at home. During that time, the Rays bats went silient to the tone of hitting .187 during the Cleveland series.

The Rays starting pitching showed holes and breaks in their delivery that had not been seen this season. The Rays starter have been the backbone of this resurgance in the standings. The maturity of the young staff showed the rest of the league that you did not have to have a wily veteran to have a staff fulfill promise and succeed. This  starting staff is all under 26 years of age  and was playing like a veteran staff before this last road trip.

 

                              

 

Getting back to Scott Kazmir. Scott started this game like a man possessed. He seemed to have the weight of the team on his back to end this 6-game losing streak. For such a young age, Kazmir has been the rock on this staff for years.

This season he seemed to have the chance to relax and just pitch instead of have to end losing streaks or put a “W’ on the board for the Rays.  Kazmir looked out of place early on in the fatc he might have changed his pitching make-up to finally be a pitcher instead of a hurler. It showed in several instances in the game where the old Kazmir might have just blew it by a guy instead of trying to put a pitch in a certain spot.

This got Kazmir in trouble early in the game on a ball hit to B J Upton. Upton misread the break on the ball in the air and tried to catch it over the wrong shoulder. Casey Blake hit a over the plate change-up out to Upton on the play. In the past, Kazmir would not have tried to force that pitch into his routine. Instead he would have fired a knee high fastball just over the edge of the plate for a strikeout.

Kazmir went 6 innings and collected 7 strikeouts on the night. He seemed to go back to the “old” Kaz and fire them in there after his slider was not breaking well for him. Kazmir threw 104 pitches, and probably took himself out of any pitching in the All Star game on Tuesday.

The AL skipper. Terry Francona will probably only use Kazmir now if he needs a late inning guy after all his other troops have hit the mound. 

 

                              

 

 

The Rays only managed  3 hits on Sunday against the Indians.  The Rays were rewarded in the 2nd inning by Cleveland for their patient manner at the plate. In the 2nd inning, Indian starter Jeremy Sowers had some critical control problems. 

The problems included a balk to move Gomes into scoring position. Gomes stealing 3rd a few plays later, and then 4 straight walks to put the Rays up 1-0 in the game. Sowers continued to struggle in the 3rd with Carlos Pena lining a single to rightfield, then  Gomes again walking for the Rays.

Shawn Riggans came on and popped a single to put the Rays up 2-0 and collect his 16th RBI of the year. That would be the last of the scoing for the Rays on Sunday as the Indians normally inept reliever shut the Rays down from the 3rd inning on in the contest.

 

The Rays had 14 strikeouts on Sunday giving them 694 strikeouts for the year. That ranks them first in the AL, but 8th in the majors this year.

 

On Wed and Thursday of this week, I will be reviewing the preseason blogs listing the “Top 10 ” things I thought the Rays needed to do to be successful in 2008.  Since they are travel days and no games are scheduled, it just felt like thr gith time to see how the Rays have faired on my preseason list.

I look forward to giving the positive stats and results of the first half, and also reporting the pitfalls that might still be in front of this squad.

Have a great time watching the Home Run Derby tonight. I am personally picking the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton to win it all tonight. I think he is just having that kind of year you just want to sit back and watch, knowing he deserves it all.  

If I had to take a dark-horse, or someone who might surprise us all, I am going to go with the Philles’ Chase Utley to take afew into the dark night and maybe be the upset in this contest. 

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.”

 

 

Kazmir Strikes a Blow to the Rangers

Rays 7, Rangers 3

 

 

I got to the ballpark a little early today and was sitting at a small bench near the Team store when I had a upsetting story hit my screen.

Former Rays pitcher, Geremi Gonzalez had died from a lightning strike at the beach in his native Venezuela on Sunday. Gonzalez had only pitched for the Rays from 2003-2004, but had struck out 121 batters in that span and had a Rays record of 6-16 while appearing in 36 games. Mostly a starter for the team, he was in the bullpen  in late 2004.

I want to send along my prayers to his family and friends in MLB. Geremi was a bit of a prankster on the team, but was well liked and respected by fans and players alike in the league.  He will be truly missed by all.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Of the 84 teams leading their divisions at Memorial Day, 46 went on to capture their division pennants at the end of the season. (The Rays are leading their division on this date).

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                        The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly  

 

 

                    

 

                                                  The Good

There are a lot of great stories to be told tonight, but the best is the stellar pitching performance put in by number 19, Scott Kazmir( 4-1). Since he came off the DL, Scott has been a force to be reckoned with in the league.  Tonight he pitched goose eggs until the top of the 5th inning.

How good was Kazmir tonight, he retired his first 7 of 9 batters with strikeouts, and finished with 10 strikeouts for the night. Scott pitched  7 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball, and lowered his ERA to 1.50.

 

Honorable Mention “Good Guys”:

 

***  Rays catcher Dioner Navarro would be leading the AL in average if he had more at bats this season. Navarro is currently hitting .369. The current AL leader is Twins’ catcher Joe Mauer with a .338. Because his time on the DL cost him valuable at bats, Dioner might be the best hitter in the league by numbers, but not in the offical tallys.

Dioner hit a RBI double to deep center tonight to score Evan Longoria in the bottom of the 6th inning. Navarro legged it out to third on a throwing error.

                       

** Carlos Pena is continuing to show that he is about to breakout again this season. In the bottom of the 3rd inning Carlos hit a long and high shot that lodged itself in the “B” ring over the turf. Such a shoit is proof that Pena is seeing the ball well and is warming up this year. He is currently hitting .238 after going 3-4 tonight and had another walk.

                   

*  As with the trend the last few nights, this would be the top guy, if the pitcher of record had not been amazing.

Eric Hinske knows that a decision is lurking on who might be going to make room for infielder Wily Aybar who is currently on the DL. Aybar is scheduled to come off the DL any day now, and a decison must be made on a roster cut.  Hinske might have made Rays’ manager Joe Maddon’s mind a bit harder tonight with a 3-run shoit that sealed the vicotry for the Rays.

The homer was Hinske’s 9th of the season, and in limited play, he now has 25 RBI’s for the season. Hinske also went into the wall in the rightfield foulpole area hard tonight going after a foul ball.

                         

                                              The Bad

I am beginning to sound like a broken record on this, but I know it will spring back and bite this team soon. We left 29 guys on base tonight. Before the Rays broke this game open in the 5th inning, it was still either teams ballgame. Rangers’ starter Sidney Ponson was not great, but he kept the score close until Eric Hinske hit his 3-run shot to right.

This team plays very aggressive baseball, which I do not have a single problem with, but this LOB situation will come back to haunt us on a night when we are in a pitcher’s duel.

8 of those men were left in scoring position, a cardinal baseball sin.

                           

                                               The Ugly

I am a huge pro-Josh Hamilton fan. I am not going to hide it, and I am not going to sit there and hear boos’ for a guy who did nothing wrong in this franchise’s history.

He did not mouth off badly about the Rays, like a certain Baltimore guy. He did not leave alot of baggage at the clubhouse and front office doors like a guy in Washington. (By the way, the guy in Wash. is doing great iand is a model player right now).

Josh was a guy who made a mistake off the field. He did  cost himnself a chance to be in this outfield years ago, but I respect the journey it took to get him back on the field. I also commend and think he is a prime example that even at the bottom of the well, you can see the light.

I read in a recent article that his Grandmother was the reckoning force to get him to the right path. Good for you Granny!  At the time his grandmother saw him, Josh was a reported 185 pounds.

Now, if you look at him, you will know that he would have been mostly skin and bones at that weight. To get back to a normal life is amazing, to get back on the field and start for a team is inspiring and, to me, a godsend to sports fans everywhere.  We might be seeing another true hero in the sports coming up later, better than never.

Do not “boo” this guy. He should be the guy you point to and tell your kids to remember his name. I was there the day he stepped back onto the Rays fields at the Minor League complex. I saw him in the locker room talking to Tim M., and I saw the look in his eyes that told me he was there for real this time.

I stood up and applauded when he first came to bat, and I was not the only one in the stadium to do that. I will do it again tommorrow, becuase I think he needs to see that we have not forgotten him, or want to forget what he could have been for the Rays.

Sonnanstine Helps Himself to Victory Over the Cards

 

Rays 3, Cardinals 1

 

Because of a rainout at Fenway, the Rays are now 2 games up on Boston for the night. I was watching the Rays and the Cards and was really wanting to be at Busch stadium tonight. It looked like a great night, and the Cowbell Kidd was there. Damn it, he loves to steal thunder.  I  was all but packed to go, then my IRS Stimulus check did not get put in my account by Friday like their voucher said it would.  Federal Gov’t coverup to keep me in Florida, just kidding Secret Service guys.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Guy Hecker of the 1886 American Association is the only pitcher to win a batting title, playing the field when he was not pitching. He won 26 games as a starter, and hit .341 for Louisville.

 

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I have decided to let the “Good,The Bad,andThe Ugly” segment rest while we are on our Inter-league schedule. It will be back in force on Monday when we visit the Oakland A’s in “O-town”.

            

Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine ( 6-1) went  8 innings tonight and gave up 1 run on 8 hits. More impressive still is the fact he also did it at the plate tonight.  Sonnanstine went 2-3 tonight with a run scored and posted a .667 average for the Rays pitchers to shoot for this series. Andy was in command on the field and in the batter’s box hitting two really professional hits to show he can hit the ball. Before tonight, Andy was 2-4 lifetime as a hitter with a RBI and a run scored.

 

 

This was the Rays first visit ever to new Busch Stadium. Before tonight, the Rays had never beaten the Cardinals in a game. Tonight, only the Cincinatti Reds stand as the only team the Rays have not beaten once in the regular season. The only other ballparks that the Rays have never played in are: Dodger Stadium( LA) and Miller Park (Milwaukee).

        

Akinora Iwamura is continuing to improve at the plate. He just finished a 11-game hitting streak and is already laoding for another run at his personal best streak. Aki went 3-5 tonight, with a double and an RBI. He also scored a run in the top of the third after Carlos Pena singled to center.

Aki now has 6 multi-hit games in his last 7 starts. He is hitting .367 since May 2, 2008. He has also not grounded into a double play this season in 166 at-bats, and was the hardest to double-up last year in the AL.

                                

Some times Eric Hinske looks so relaxed and at ease in Rightfield that you know he will be okay out there. The he goes and misses a easy out like this and the Cardinals Troy Glaus geta a triple on the play. Hinske was not playing the hitter correctly and did not get a great jump to catch this ball.

 I thought he had adjusted right, but then we see the ball on the turf and Glaus motoring for third base.  Thank goodness the Rays got Gabe Gross as a late inning defensive replacement. I could see Hinske cost us a game with an “iffy” hit to right in the 9th.

 

Rays first baseman Carlos Pena has been hitting better the last few games, and his offensive average is starting to go upwards finally. Pena still had a strike out tonight and left  two men in scoring position.  Carlos is now hitting .212, which is alot better than the .200 with no RBI’s and homers of a week ago.

He has been hitting the ball with power and  has gotten better elevation on his hits. It is a matter of time until he connects again for the fences( maybe tomorrow’s early game).

 

On the other side of the ball, Eric Hinske and Dioner Navarro were the only two Rays to not get a hit tonight both went a combined 0-7 tonight.

The Rays did get three doubles tonight one each from Aki, Evan Longoria, and B J Upton.  Carl Crawford got his 25th RBI of the year, and Andy Sonnanstine also had a sacrifice.

The Rays also had another double play tonight going 4-6-3 in the bottom of the third inning. Andy Sonnanstine’s omly run came on a homer by Cardinal Chris Duncan in the bottom of the 8th inning. Andy is tied for 5th in winning percentage this season (857) in the majors.

 

 

Tomorrow is an early contest, starting at 1:10 P.M. EST. The game will feature  Matt Garza (2-1) versus Adam Wainwright (3-2).

 

 

 

                       Hamilton should be grinning after going 5 for 5 with two homers and five RBI.  (AP)

 

Just want to give a shout out to a former Rays who had a “killer” day game today. The Texas Ranger’s Josh Hamilton went 5-5, with 4 runs scored and 5 RBI’s. That raises his MLB leading RBI total to an impressive 49 RBIs.

Hamilton had a triple and two homers in the game. His second homer was a two-run shot of the facade off the second deck of seats in rightfield.

 

 

Rays Quiet Yankees With Their Bats

 

Rays 7, Yankees 1

 

I thought I would not see the day when the Rays fans would out cheer the Yankee faithful who came to the Trop tonight. But it did happen, and the Yankees fans were heading for the exits after the last out in the 6th inning.

I know the team is without it’s usual plethra of superstars, but this Rays squad is pretty impressive on its own here.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Last year at this juncture in the season, the Rays were in last place and were 7 games under .500. This season, the team is 6 games over .500 and a half a game out of first in the AL East.

Now that is a turn-around season.

 

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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

Rays DH, Jonny Gomes had another “coming out” party tonight. Gomes has been the forgotten soul when the ?Rays DH’s have been mentioned in articles and Jonny made sure people knew he still had the heart and desire to play this game.

Gomes went 2-4 with 3 runs scored tonight and stole two bases. Jonny stole second in the 2nd inning off Yankee starter Andy Pettitte, one of the best pick-off artists in the league. He then repeated it by stealing third in the 4th inning.

 

Honorable Mention “Good” guys:

 

*** Evan Longoria played a superb defensive third base tonight. He robbed several Yankee batters of sure extra base hits down the line. Longoria also contributed with his bat, going 2-4 with 2 runs scored tonight. Evan is currently leading the AL rookies with 4 homers this season.

** Aki Iwamura is playing outstanding second base this year. He is one of two players at that position to yet make an error for the year. Iwamura is also in the middle of a 10 game hitting streak where he is hitting .391 during the streak. Aki tonight went 2-5 with 1 RBI.

 

* The nunber one star tonight goes to Dioner Navarro, who went 3-3 tonigt and is in the midst of his own hitting barrage. Dioner is currently batting .362 for the year. This is a mass improvement if you remember that at the All-Star break last year he was batting .177 for the team. Navarro also had 2 RBI’s tonight to raise his yearly total to 12.

 

                                          The Bad

 

In the middle of a great homestand, and a great surge in offensive and defensive “wins”. It is sometimes hard to see a bad thing on the surface. I do see a problem on the horizon, and I know it will hamper the Rays in the future.

The Rays left 10 men stranded on the base paths tonight. Carlos Pena(twice), Jason Bartlett and  Evan Longoria all left men in scoring position tonight. This is not a big stat right now, but in the close games, it can be the key to a victory, or a defeat. Coming through in the clutch, or raising the bar should be the ultimate goal of this team right now.

They are showing the hearts of champions, and the true grit of old-time players. They now need to commit to getting these guys around the bases and establish a rhythm for the offense.

                                 

                                                The Bad

 

I saw a blog title the other night that stated, “This is not your Daddy’s Rays team.” And that is totally true. This is a new era for our organization, and a true beginning in the fashion of winning games.

In comparision, the New York Yankees are having a down year due to injuries and unforseen problems with their pitching staff.

Has this put a damper on the rivalry between these teams. It has not been a problem keeping the morale up on either bench in this rivalry, but in the stands, that might be a different matter.

You see, the Yankees are hampered in this series by having their entire yearly visit to the Trop. scheduled during the weekdays. No weekend for the NY boys here. Just a few weeknights and a few scattered afternoon contests to showcase the kids and the Golden Rays to the new Rays team.

Is this showing up in the stands? I think it has so far this season. The Rays management can not be happy with the Yankees/Rays attendance so far this year. Tonight’s matchup only filled the Trop to 33.7 percent of its seats. And a major starting pitcher was on the mound tonight. A guy who might even be in the Hall of Fame someday. The announced attendance tonight was…………..13,932.

Does that sound like a Yankee crowd to you????

 

 

Former Rays player of the Night:

 

 

My Former Rays player of the Night is a personal favorite of mine. I knew this guy could play baseball the first time I saw him take BP at the Trop. He had magic in his bat, but personal things kept him from our outfield.

Josh Hamilton went 2-5 tonight against the Seattle Mariners in a game that lasted 10 innings. Josh had 4 RBI’s tonight to up his AL leading RBI total to 43 for the year. Hamilton is also hitting .306 for the year.

Josh also hit his 8th homer of the year to put him in a four-way tie for second in the AL.

 

 

 

Rays Beat Back Birds 6-2

Orioles 2, Rays 6

You know, earlier in the year going .500 so early in the season
would be a upsetting situation. But with nine (9) current Rays players
on the disabled list, and a few hurting but gutting their way through
the games, it is totally satisfying at this moment. If we can go .500
without the big guns, what could happen when the firepower is back to
normal and the trigger is set……………..think about that for a
moment here.

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Trivia fact for the day


Tony Cloninger is the only pitcher to hit two grand slams in the same game. He did it for the Atlanta Braves on July 3,1966.

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                                       The Good,the Bad,and the Ugly

                             

B J Upton is starting to come into his own
at the plate.  Today he hit a monumental 3-run homer in the bottom of
the 5th inning. Upton also raised his average to .302 today, its
highest point in over a week. B J’s home run came in the 5th inning
where the Rays ignited and scored all of their 6 runs of the game.

 

Honorable mentions for “Good” today: 



                                                      



*          Jeff Niemann tossed  93 pitches today, in which the Orioles only scored  a lone run and scattered 6 hits against him.


This help Niemann collect his first MLB win.  At 6’9″, Niemann  got the ball down
consistantly during the game, and never got himself into a bad jam. The
lone run he gave up was to Baltimores’ Nick Markakis, who homered to
left field in the top of the 6th inning.

**        Rays outfielder Carl Crawford collected
two RBI’s today also in the 5th when he singled to center field and
Justin Ruggiano and Mike DeFelice scored to make it 3-0 before B J
Upton’s at bat. B J also currently has 11 RBI’s for the year and is in
the top 10 in the American League in that category.


***        Third baseman Evan Longoria (E-Love)
also collected another
hit today and walked and eventually scored a run
in the Rays big 5th innning today.

                                             The Bad

I know I have written about this
before, and I was chatting with a Rays broadcast guy and I have come
upon the conclusion that B J Upton has a “green light” when he is on the
bases. For those not knowing the phrase, a player having a “green
light” can make decisions for himself about base running and advancing
on plays after a ball is hit.  That is becoming more and more apparent
with each of his base running blunders.


Today it was a stagger step that cost him an extra base.  He was not caught stealing today, so I will be kind to him.



Another “Bad” that is starting to
rear its ugly head is the fact that Dan Wheeler is in a weird funk. I
saw a ball kinda float today and it did not get hit a ton, but it was a
great contact out, and could have been trouble for us.  I am not saying
there is a mechanics situation here, I am not a pitching coach. But,
with that said, I know it was a ball that could have been crushed if
the player got good wood on it. Last night a change-up that stayed in
the zone was crushed for the winning run.

                                              The Ugly

Not a lot of Ugly here except in
the starting shortstops batting average, and his wild throws at times.
Jason Bartlett should count his stars that he has a world class first
baseman like Carlos Pena. Pena had dug out a few balls that past first
baseman would have watched  the ball skirt to the wall or beyond.

That combined with his .158
average at this moment is cause for early worry. This is the guy we
were counting on for solid play and a good bat in the field.

 Ben Zobrist is still out for a
period of time after they inserted a pin in his broken finger to help
it heal better and faster. Until that time, we are limited to Bartlett
and Johnson at short, with neither player showing offensive numbers at
this time.


Former Rays Player of the Day:


I know it is early in the afternoon, but I am going to pick my former Rays player of the game for today.

It has to be Josh Hamilton of the Texas
Rangers. All of us Rays fans remember Josh as the hier apparent to
Right field before Delmon Young entered the picture.  Josh has been
hitting good this year and he is showing the talent we all knew he had
in prior Spring Training and minor league games.

During this afternoons’ game against the
Toronto Blue Jays, Hamilton has two RBI’s and hit a homer run to right
in the bottom of the 4th inning. He also singled and drove in Ian
Kinsler in the bottom of the first.

Hamilton is currently tied with the Rays Carlos Pena for first with 13 RBIs    

 



The forecast for tomorrow game is:

Ugly with a change for a smashing good time.  With that said, come
on out to the Trop. and watch your .500 Rays take on the “Evil Empire”
from the Bronx in a 7:10 PM Monday night game.


 

 


You know the Cowbell kid will be there to send kisses and wishes to his pal Joe Giardi and Shelly Duncan.



Post Script:

I want to thank Edwin Jackson, JP
Howell, Scott Dohmann and Andy Sonnastine for taking the all that time
today to sign for the 12 Little Leagues and their  players that were at
the ballgame.


Each of these Rays players stayed
out there a long time and signed everything put in front of them. I
even got a few autographs I was missing for my Rays collection. I even
saw Evan Longoria out there after stretching on the wall signing and
jawing with the Rays hopefuls.



So, as a Season Ticket holder and
a great Rays follower, Thank you gentleman for showing class and
community love by taking your time to show the kids of all ages
in Tampa Bay you are there for them……….

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