Results tagged ‘ Josh Luekes ’

“Closer by Committee” to Rise From the Ashes Again

I admit, when Tampa Bay Rays reliever/closer du Jour Kyle Farnsworth gives you that patented stare down…the intimidation factor leaps from 0-100 in a microsecond. And now that Farnsy will be on the shelf to begin the season, it takes a huge chunk of the visible confidence you might have in the back-end of the Rays Bullpen.

Now we just have to visualize Maddon going back to his old trusted and proven method of “closer by committee”, or the guessing game of stats and probabilities…Rays style. Even with Farnsworth’s absence to begin the 2012 season, the fall-off is not as extreme because the Rays have the right guys already in position ready, eager and willing to face the challenge.

We know “Goat Boy 2.0” or better known as Joel Peralta has the internal fortitude to be the last guy standing on the hill. Heck with his impromptu “Matt Garza-ish” adult billy-goat chin follicle formation, he could possibly channel a bit of the hardcore style of Garza. Who knows if Maddon will go to a match-up based 9th inning mash-up, or hand the reins to someone “qualified” without giving them the stamp “closer”.

Fernando Rodney used to be the guy who hit the hill after Farnsworth in Detroit, and maybe Rodney will get a chance to again show he can dominate that last frame of the game, effectively silencing critics instantly, possibly getting his first moment to shine in the Opening Game this Friday against the dreaded pinstripes. Peralta could easily be mixed into the last frame soup of relievers with his velocity and breaking stuff up there on par with both Farnsworth and Rodney, but I consider Peralta a “closer-in-training”, possibly getting the gig himself for good with the Rays in 2013…if he wants it.

The again, you can go the southpaw route also into the 9th inning with former leftie closer J P Howell looking healthier and more confident since his blow-out season in 2008. Of course surgery and an off-season should not hinder Howell possibly getting at least a handful of chances, especially if Maddon go by his mathematical equations instead of just giving the job to someone until Farnsworth can try to reclaim the slot.

But this was also something the bothered me at the end of 2011. We knew Farnsworth had elbow situations after throwing career numbers both in saves and pressure situations, but the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” might have crept into all our minds, especially Farnsworth thinking a little rest might do his elbow more good than surgery or even intense off-season rehab and check-ups to validate no lingering problems rise up like his DL move to start the 20121 seasons.

Farnsworth going on the shelf to mend even before the season begins does showcase a crack in the Rays late inning armor, but Peralta, Howell, Rodney and just called-up RP Josh Lueke should have the same grimacing facial expression and inside pitches to bring to life the Rays usual intimidation factor. Some have stated this feels like “Troy Percival 2.0”, and I get it. Believe me, I had a distrust for Percival you would not believe, but I do not get the same vibe from Farnsworth.

Maybe this is a perfect time for Maddon to thrust out his 2012 mantra: “Fortune Favors the Bold”. This is where the Rays depth and off-season positioning to sign Rodney, trade for Lueke and hope for a full recovery of Howell will pay dividends. The level of experience in the Rays 7-8-9th inning options should eliminate a lot of worry and lack of confidence outside the clubhouse.

These 4 guys can convert, they can stymie the opposition, and they will bring their own levels of intimidation to the Rays late innings along with a huge bushel of saves and wins. Heck we might even see a smile from Farnsworth knowing the Rays are stocked and ready in the late innings, even with him on the mend.

I am Hoping For Good Lueke

You want to toss it into the barrel that in our own youth some of us have our own incidents or times that things went terribly wrong. That some situation in our own personal lives had gone so sideways you felt you might fall off the face of the Earth. For new Tampa Bay Rays RHP Josh Luekes, I am hoping wisdom definitely was garnered with his past ugliness.

Episodes like this either defines a person or changes them in such a way that similar behaviors never darken their door again. Then there are other who denote that behaviors like this induce a pattern, a way of thinking outside the game, and that they might be damaged good forever. I am hoping the gray area in Lueke’s past is now set in primal black and white with no shades of darkness.

When I heard the Tampa Bay Rays traded their former lead-off catcher, double-J, John Jaso, I hoped it was for a player of caliber. Heck, when Lueke was included in the Texas Rangers tally sheet in their 2009 mid-season acquisition of Cliff Lee, I thought maybe there was hidden pitching pedigree or dominance not seen on the scouting report, but back then in mid 2009 neither I, or the M’s knew the full extent of the horrendous incident.

To paraphrase TV serial killer Dexter Morgan, Lueke has his own dark passenger, a past incident that will haunt and proceed him where ever he ventures for the rest of his life. This past transgression of Lueke is not as simple as a minor traffic accident or can be tossed under the carpet. This horrific incident happened, and Lueke was brought to justice and judged.

Back in May 2008. Lueke was charged with rape and sodomy after an incident at his Bakersfield, California apartment. After his arrest and several weeks in jail, Lueke plead no contest to the charge of unlawful imprisonment with violence and was sentenced to 40 days in prison. Lueke was released with time served since he had already served more than that time period awaiting his fate on the more severe charges. The woman passed out in an apartment shared by Lueke and another Texas minor league prospect, and DNA was discovered on the woman after she awoke and found a few pieces of her clothing removed.

What bothers me most here is that the Rays as an organization are now in that vicarious spot of bringing in a player of questionable past exploits,  and who’s past could/could not have that focus attached to him for his entire Rays tenure effecting him both on and off the field. This incident is not like former Ray OF Elijah Dukes and his Baby’s Mama drama, this was a crime of violence against a woman who entered Lueke’s Bakersfield, California apartment back in May 2008 and left battered and emotionally scarred.

Lueke has possibly stayed the right course of actions, including the counseling route since the incident. Walked the right path since that episode, but this kind of action follows you even on the field. This kind of man-handling tends to make some of us nervous (myself included) and cautious even if Lueke could throw a devastating 98+ heater. It makes me overly protective of any young fan or female who might venture Lueke’s way before, during or after a game.

I want to be open-minded and think with the rationale of religious forgiveness, but being the father of 2 girls Lueke’s past actions have me skeptical right now. Sure there was talk of the woman in question in this incident possibly making the matter moot by partying and cavorting with Lueke and other players at a local watering hole that fateful night, but that thinking died in my mind the moment things turned ugly. Lest we forget, pleading no contest in a court of law is just another verbage of pleading guilty, only in this manner you do not have to admit guilt. Some say this  reduction in the charge was made to offset a possible civil matter which would have ballooned had Lueke been found guilty by a jury of his peers.

I am perplexed to say the least with this move. This is a 180 degree twist of the usual Rays logic of propriety and responsible behavior. It goes against all of the usual risk management nuances of this franchise by taking on a player who has a high degree of risk with high potential for backlash and criticism. The Rays in their past dealings have set  a high-caliber  example with regards to character and chemistry with players entering the sacred Rays fold. In that manner this trade has me feeling a bit odd, possibly wondering if Lueke’s upside outweighed the flexing controversy. Maybe it is my veiled belief that sometimes people do not change, they just find better hiding places for their transgressions.

I want to believe in Lueke as a ballplayer, but for some reason his dark blemish within his life inhibits that total hue of optimism for me right now. Lueke said during a recent conference call he hopes “that eventually ( the incident) just goes away and people quit judging on what their hearing and actually get to know him and they can make their own opinion”.

I want to believe he might recite the Serenity Prayer daily, open doors for every women in Tampa Bay and has embraced a total vow of renewed respect for the fairer sex. Hopefully Lueke has figured out the Rays are banking their reputation on him, and he doesn’t let them or us down ever again…..on or off the field.


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