Results tagged ‘ Lou Pinella ’
I decided not to write a blog post about the Tampa Bay Rays whittling of their respective managerial candidates from 10 to 3 until some of the heat and rage had died down. I felt I needed to let the anger pass that some great candidates were eliminated from this list like it was just a simple qualifying heat and they wanted the top 3 to aspire to greatness possibly being their gold, silver and bronze medal candidates for the Rays open manager’s slot.
If the Rays Front Office was trying to bring some sense of normalcy towards their selection process, they failed miserably as the process now seems to have been reduced to a comical 3-ring circus vibe with only the main act being a credible choice for their open post.
Bronze Medal- Raul Ibanez
I’m still not sure why he is even on this list. Sure Ibanez represents a quick 180 degree switch from the norm that was the Rays Way. Sure he played against this team as a player as recently as last season as a member of the Kansas City Royals, but the TEAM won the American League Championship, not Ibanez.
I understand and celebrate that he is a meticulous, charismatic and has his personal ducks all lined up, but his inexperience in managing a team is still in its infancy stage and to push a unproven game day novice into the Manager’s slot might have worked in the M L B of the 1900-1920’s, but today’s game is a statistical animal that needs to be fed the calculations, tendencies and proven tactical assessments and does not rely favorably on pure gut feelings and spur of the moment recollections.
I think Ibanez will mature into a great asset to baseball I just feel he is here 2-3 years too early for him to be considered for the Rays top dog. I also know Ibanez has not officially retired from playing yet and I do not see him as a player/manager hybrid for the Ray.
If Ibanez were to be given the Rays reigns, there might be more problems within the Rays organization than just a inexperienced Manager at the helm.
Silver Medal- Kevin Cash
I liked Cash as a player. Local Tampa guy who fought his way up the ladder to actually playing for this franchise and was behind the Tropicana Field dish. I also think his time spent as a scout and on the job of Bullpen Coach for the Cleveland Indians makes him a viable candidate, but like Ibanez, it is just a tad bit too early for him to slide into a M L B managerial post.
But I do like the aspect of a Bullpen Coach getting a chance at the top spot. A Bullpen Coach sees the game at a different angle. From the beginning when he assesses if the starter’s focus is sharp, his pitches crisp and if there are any “tells” being displayed he is an important cog of the game day machine.
I think Cash can do the job, but in the end, on the job training makes for a more game savvy Manager who already has it within his wheel house to make those lightning quick hard decisions, try risky tactics and rely on both his past successes and failures to adjust and formulate an on the fly judgment that could lead to a victory.
Gold Medal- Don Wakamatsu
Personally I think that failure makes him the best candidate. Sure that tenure gave him a huge managerial black eye, but Wakamatsu also gained valuable insight to become a more respectable player’s coach, but also gaining the wisdom to know when to pull the reins and reel in a trouble player or evolving negative situation.
Wakamatsu was at the Mariner’s helm during the last playing days of Ken Griffey Jr and Milton Bradley’s careers. One was adjusting to his reduced on the field role while the other just seemed mad at the world. Because of his soft hand approach towards both players and some others within the Seattle Clubhouse, he lost some vital respect and eventual control over Griffey Jr and Bradley as well as some of the young leaders in his M’s Clubhouse.
But Wakamatsu did not walk away from the game with his head down, he found a gig more suitable to his evolving talents and was a vital coaching and leadership cog in the Royals 2014 World Series machine.
If you look at a list of the Royals best in-game decisions/tactics in 2014, I know you will find more than a few of Wakamatsu’s fingerprints among them.
The Rays next Manager needs to further the evolution of the Rays into that next realm or dimension of their development. He has to bring his new eyes into the system and quickly fix it’s errors or faults. Every Manager the Rays have ever had left their mark on the team’s development, I think Wakamatsu would make a great fit as the Rays next skipper.
Ibanez and Cash might have the heart and hustle to provide that, but Wakamatsu has the other intangible items needed to take this team possibly finally towards hoisting that golden trophy in November.
I truly think and believe Wakamatsu is the answer to the Rays problem at this time. He not only deserves a second chance at managing, he is the most qualified of the 3 left and the Rays would be lucky to have him at their helm.
Plus having experience coaching in the American League plus having a stint in coaching in the American League East is a great thing to pop high on your Rays Manager Resume.
I am to give #TeamWakaWaka the gold.
I have had a mountain of respect for Tampa Bay Rays Third Base Coach Tom Foley over the years. He is a funny guy who loves his craft, is eager to teach and mentor young players and swings a mean golf club.
But when he recent came out to his usual spot manning an extra “6” on his jersey ( Foley normally wear just a lone “6” ) and emblazoned with the name “Zimmer” on his shoulders, that sealed him permanently among my all-time favorite list of M L B personalities.
The moment I realized it was emotional for me with my memories of Zim, and amplified this team’s love, admiration and want for the Rays Senior Advisor to recouporate and return to his usual spot on the field during the Rays Batting Practice sessions before games .
“I’m going to wear it until they (M L B ) tell me, ‘Don’t wear it,’ ” Foley said Saturday. “We are 1-0 9 (now 3-0, all Walk-off wins ) with it.” Personally I’m hoping M L B let’s Foley wear it as long as Zimmer is recovering and away from the field.
With Foley being “Zimmer for a day”, the action personally pushed the level of admiration and respect I had for him to an astronomical level. It was the ultimate homage by one of the senior members of the Rays franchise displaying his own kinship and affection for the Rays iconic Senior Advisor. The Zen that is Zim is such a vital piece of this team’s chemistry and spirit.
He is the longest tenured Coach in Rays history. Foley first stepped into the Rays Third Base Coaching box back on October 25, 2001 and has survived the turmoil and change of 3 different Rays Managers from Hal McRae, Lou Pinella and Joe Maddon.
That a magical 13 years giving signals and signs to hundreds of Rays players who have passed him during that time. Only St Louis Cardinals Third Base Coach Jose Oquendo, who has manned the same spot for 14 years has patrolled the box longer.
How important is Foley to the Rays game plan? Former Rays Coaches’ Greg Riddoch (1998-1999), Billy Hatcher (2000-2001) and current NY Mets Manager Terry Collins (2001). All have manned that same strategic spot for the Rays, but only Foley has stood there since.
Only 3 other members of the Rays organization’s uniformed corps have pulled on a Rays tunic longer. Field Coordinator and Durham Bulls iconic Manager Bill Evers, current Bulls Manager Charlie Montoyo and long-time Hitting Coordinator Steve Livesey.
Coming into the 2014 season Foley had done his patterned windmill signal and watched 76% of the Rays franchise’s runs cross Home Plate. I do not think there are many if any other Coaches’ in the entire history of M L B baseball besides possibly Oquendo who could boast such an achievement.
I was proud and exhilarated watching Foley’s game day homage to Zimmer. It is not often we see one Rays icon pay homage to another eternal Rays icon. My one hope is that sometime in the future, whoever takes over that sacred Rays Third Base spot after Foley puts away his spikes will someday display the same honor and be “Foley for a day”..
You knew it was coming up and you had an odd feeling someone was going to do a wild antic to celebrate the next road trip,which had been dubbed the “Ring of Fire” Johnny Cash tribute tour by Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon. When they boarded that plane this Sunday it was to be an all-black extravaganza, no blues, reds or even whites, just plain, simple black-on-black. But you would have never expected the silver fox himself would be the one to trump everyone in the locker room with his actions.
Or should we say the new “Clark Kent” of the Rays clubhouse went to the dark side. I really think Maddon went above and beyond the call of duty on the Rays day off and took an extreme turn with his silver locks and transported his folicles to a place that they had not been since his 20’s. He went totally black. Yes,black as the night in a tunnel. As dark as the black letters being typed on this blog.
And some outside of the Rays fandom might think this might be too much of an extreme measure to be taken at such an important and critical segment in the Rays season,but if you are questioning it at all,then you have not been paying attention to the savant skipper. The guy is a walking encyclopedia of witty sayings, optimistic quotes. Maddon recently told the St Petersburg Times:
“I was going to wait until Sunday night to do it, then I thought why not in advance just to get it out there, loosen things up a bit. I think we’ve been playing hard, we definitely care, I’ve been looking for an avenue to lighten things up a bit. So I went with darker hair to lighten things up a bit.”
Chris O’Meara / AP
The Rays have never had such a thinker as a player or manager before Maddon stepped into this clubhouse. Sure former Manager Lou Pinella did sport blond locks on the side of his head for a while after the team fulfilled a promise of a 3-game winning streak in 2003,but if this little experiment works,if those 25 guys in that clubhouse follow the lead and continue onward and upward in the Wild Card standings then maybe the Mensa society of Tampa Bay should have a chat with the Rays skipper.
And to really think beyond the box here,this could be this season’s “Rayshawk”. Think about it for a moment,most of the current Rays already sports dark hair,but there are a few holdouts with the golden locks or reddish tints to their hair follicles. But could it only be a matter of time before they to, follow the skipper and make it a massive statement or show their pride in the “2009 Rays Way” of thinking.
Maddon did it to drum up confidence and excitement in the clubhouse. B J Upton did his initial mohawk in 2008 as a change of pace to pump up the energy level a notch and show his support for the team heading towards the playoffs last season. Others quickly followed on the team and soon we had an army of finely sculptured hair challenged fans and players who sported the “Rayshawk” look all the way into the World Series. This darkend hair statement could be the 2009 version.
For some it might take a bit more commitment than others. Rays reliever/closer J P Howell might be one of the guys to next take the ultimate “Sharpie” inspired coloring to his head along with uber-infielder Ben Zobrist. Maddon has chatted with both of them, and knowing the commitment to this team of both of them, I am expecting darker beards and hair by tonight’s game. If Howell did go “dark” he might look more like a cast member of “Grease” than a baseball player,but it would be an outward statement to the team and the fans.
For Zobrist, it would just be another evolution in the “Zorilla” persona and might bring him back to his earlier season glory at the plate. The one guy who the look might fit perfectly would be catcher Gregg Zaun. It would transform him into an instant band member of ‘Seether” or “Metallica” if he took his reddish-brown locks and went into the dark with the tint. But the one true test on the team, the one that would stand out the most might be with the guy you would never expect it from……..Gabe Gross.
Gross is that All-American,apple pie and Chevrolet kind of guy. Back home Americana reeks off of him. For Gross to go the “Goth way” would not only send shock waves through rural Alabama, but send a rush of excitement and energy into the crowd at Tropicana Field. There is no doubt tha
t the mental image of Maddon taking a chance like this with his hair, and the Rays trying to boost themselves back into a tight Wild Card race do notseem to have parallel paths.
But Maddon is a genius with motivation and leading by example and by showing his own personal level of commitment by altering his hair, it might be the perfect visual key to unlack the Rays potential right now. It is the motivational process in its simpliest forms. Maybe it took only a smattering of hair dye by Maddon’s new blushing bride Jaye, but it was a huge outplaying of total commitment by the skipper to his team, and to their goals in 2009. In the end, it would be a fitting tribute to Johnny Cash who wrote a song entitled “Man in Black” in 1971. In the song is the following line that just might fit the reason Maddon took this chance:
Why is it I hear the BB Thomas song “Raindrops Are Falling on my Head” right now in the background on the stadiums speakers. Can’t we find a better rain song than that for the 21st Century? I am without words right now during this rain delay today in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Cleveland Indians again in front of the Tampa Bay Rays by only a 1-0 score.
My loss of verbiage is not due to the fact we have not had a glorious win in this park since Seth “Big Red” McClung matched pitch-for-pitch with a younger Cliff Lee to take a 1-0 win from the Tribe for the Rays last victory in then Jacobs Field. In that September 28, 2005 contest. Carl Crawford is the only Rays player still on the active Rays roster to be in the lineup for that game.
He went 0-0 on that day and played a limited left field. Even on that day in September it was 74 degrees and cloudy, but there was not rain in the forecast. There are other still with the Rays who were in the dugout on that day in Cleveland, like Third Base Coach Tom Foley, Pitcher Scott Kazmir, and Senior Advisor Don Zimmer. That day also gave Lou Pinella his last win as the Rays Manager. It was the last sense of normalcy for the Rays in this park. Who would have ever guessed that this streak of doom would stretch to its current 16-game spot. Heck, lifetime the Rays have only seemed to taste victory. Today is our 918th road game of our young history. During that time we have only won 333 times, but only
My first trip to Jacobs Field on May 14, 2004 (There is that date again) was the first time I stepped into your glorious stadium during its 10 year anniversary season. The Sat. game was a rain delayed game, my first time sitting in the rain enjoying the drops hitting my skin. Even during that three game series we left the city of Cleveland wanting more as the home team took all three games from the Rays, with only that Friday night contest being close at all with a 8-7 Rays loss in the bottom of the 10th inning.
But there were some reasons for Rays joy before that 2005 game. I mean we did win 3-in-a-row from August 12-14, 2005. That is right, the Rays wept the Indians that weekday series. But we also did it again in 2005 when from September 27-29th, we took two out of three to sweep the away series for the year from the Indians.
It was at that time the curse began. For on that September 29th game, the Rays started their unfortunate streak with a 6-0 loss to the Indians who were lead by a large guy by the name of C.C. Sabathia that day. No one on the current Rays roster was in the lineup for that first pinnacle game to start this streak of disappointment for the Rays. But there were a few familiar faces in the Cleveland lineup. Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez and reliever Rafael Bentancourt were in the line score for the first Tribe victory in the long line of embarrassing losses. But even before the 2005 last win by the Rays, they had only won a total of 12 games before McClung’s last hurrah for the Rays in the Jake. Think about it here, the Rays had a slim winning margin 12-11 before this string of disappointing results by the Cuyahoga River.
So just how bad has the 2009 season been here for the Rays during this four game slide? Well, they are hitting a nice .252 for the season series here (not counting today’s contest), but only scoring only 18 runs on 3 home runs and 5 doubles. But why is it that this stadium has a mystical offensive reversal on the Rays hitters. Well, it might not be a total setting of lack of offense as they have scored 18 runs in 3 games this season.
But theRays defense and the pitching have just seemed to implode and erode faster than some of the old steel infrastructure on the mills down by the riverside here. I mean Carlos Pena hit his American League leading 16th homer in the first game here on Monday. Evan Longoria has extended his RBI total to 51 during this series, and Carl Crawford has stolen his 30th base during the series.
Offense has been online here in Cleveland, but the Rays usual stingy defense has taken a short vacation during the series this year. Cleveland has 6 players hitting over .333 in this series, including the main pest this season Ben Francisco, who has gone 5 of 11, with 5 RBI this season at home. But the real menace has been Ryan Garko who is 6 for 12 with 3 homers and 7 RBI. Both of those guys have made a significant dent into the Rays pitching staff this season in this series. They have scored 28 runs and walked 15 times in the three games. Will today be any different? Can we maybe get some relief and comfort in today’s game to take into 2010 to know we can win in this stadium.
First thing we need to do is maybe get Sports Psychologist Ken Ravizza to hypnotize the Rays starters into thinking this is Fenway Park in 2010. Maybe an additional session will be needed for Andy Sonnanstine to see Ben Francisco as Shin-Soo Choo who was 0-5 against Sonnanstine in 2009. The fact that two of their three biggest blown leads have come in the last three games of this series is not an indication of a solid pitching staff right now. We all know about the Rays being up 10-0 on Monday, then finally falling 11-10 after suffering through their worst blown lead in team history. So today is the Rays 50th game of the season. the only better record at this juncture in the season was in 2008, when they had a 30-20 record and were fighting for their first AL East title nightly.
The Rays do not currently have the worst consecutive loss record against an opponent yet. That record is still entrenched in a 18-game losing steak by the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Milwaukee Brewers in Miller Park. But with a loss today, they are closing in on that feat by only needing a single loss in 2010 to tie the record. Let’s hope that after this rain delay we can finish this game with a “W” and throw all of this out the window and start a new streak in 2010. I mean 3-times this season the Rays have scored seven runs on the Tribe and lost the game. They are a combined 15-0 against all other teams in the majors after scoring 7 plus runs. They are a combined 12-37 lifetime (.245) in Progressive/Jacobs Field. This the Rays worst record against any of their opponents in their short history.
We always thought in the past that divisional foes Toronto or maybe Baltimore had our number during the year, but wi
th the limited amount of games against the Tribe every year, they have owned us the minute we landed at Cleveland Hopkins airport. The Tribe has also been the worst foe in the Rays history in their own house. The combined overall mark of 31-63 is also the Rays worst record against any AL opponent. The Rays might have taken 3 wins recently from the Indians at Tropicana Field, but from 2006-2008, they have only 5 wins against Cleveland at home. To add insult to injury here, they have not won a seasonal series against the Indians since 2005, thanks to that 5-1 mark against them that season.
Well, it is getting near 2:45, and looking on the Weather Channel radar for the Cleveland area, there is a patch of clear sky coming up after 3:30 pm today. There is another round of showers heading towards the stadium area set to hit about 4:45 pm, so hopefully we can get the allotted innings in today, or at least maybe get a lead and hold it before heading for the plane back to St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport and a snug, comfortable night at home. I am hoping for a Rays win today to keep the plane ride back from seeming like a funeral wake, but with the history of the Indians versus Rays series.
But if we do not get this game in today and the umpires make the decision to call it a day, it is still not an official game. Both of these teams will have to decide on an alternative date to make up this one game. Both the Indians and the Rays have an open date teams have a open date on June 22. But that would have the Rays coming straight from their Inter League series against the New York Mets to Cleveland, then fly home to open a 3-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Indians would be just completing their weekend series against the Chicago Cubs, and could make a one-night stay in Cleveland before they again have to be on the road to Pittsburgh for a three game series. Right now, that is looking like the most logical spot to get this seasonal series over with for both teams.
Another alternative is to play on July 2nd, when the Rays would have an off day coming from a three game series against Toronto, and then fly onto Arlington, Texas to take on the Texas Rangers for three games. And that date might actually favor the Cleveland team the most as they will be at home for a 9-game home stand. So adding another contest in their off day on July 2nd might fit into their planning perfectly. But we still have not heard an official word from the umpires or anyone in MLB, so the Rays might be there for quite a bit still until an official alternative can be agreed upon by both teams.
I am putting my money on the July 2nd date only because it would give an advantage to the Indians as they can add on another date in the middle of a home stand featuring the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and the Oakland A’s, plus add one possible Rays game to that mix.
Never have the Rays had an opponent just reach down and take them by the throat than the Indians during this short history. Hopefully we can get this game completed and maybe take one and fly out quickly today knowing we can win in Progressive /Jacobs Field. But the skies have not lightened yet, and the rain is tapering off, but still puddles are forming on the tarp on the field. And Drew Carey is somewhere doing a little didy dancing to some Tom Tom Club dance music just hoping for another Indian massacre.
Curt Schilling had been known to toss a few baseballs in his long career. He has also not been shy when it comes to spiking controversy or even dabbling a bit in fantasy. So it was only fitting that he throw out the idea that he wants to play again maybe for the Chicago Cubs, or the Tampa Bay Rays when he again starts throwing in 2009. Fitting that Walt Disney World, where dreams come true, is the place where he made his plans known to the rest of the baseball world. The Cubs might be more of a team that needs to believe in a dream right now than the Rays. Chicago needs to believe that the past will not come up and bite the Cubs again in 2009. The Rays will be fine without the former Red Sox hurler.
The only problem with his logic is that he thinks he can make the Rays rotation after being out of the game for almost an entire year. First off, he is not even throwing yet, but is throwing out situations and even notions that he can even make either of these teams rosters. I under stand the competitive mindset of thinking positively, but shouldn’t you first get clearance to throw, then show you still have the right stuff before vocally auditioning for a job? He is not a 21-year old prospect, and even if the Rays listen, he might have to wait another 3 years in their system before they can slip him in….and even that is not concrete.
We all know about the urban legends that he applied Hunt’s tomato catsup or even red modelers’ paint to his white sock during the World Series with the Red Sox. I think the ankle really did have sutures put into it in 2004. I hope it is a just one of those legends that opponents throw out conjecture to hide the fact the guy has guts. Even if those legends are true or false, is this the kind of drama and actions we want out of one of the mentors for our current Rays starters? But with even that out of the way, do we need a guy who sometimes needs a muzzle to control his vocal lashings. We all know about his rants and raves on his website, http://www.38pitches.com in the past. And he has not been too timid on his weekly radio show when he was with the Red Sox. They can be both entertaining and also controversial at the same times. But do a team like the Rays really need a guy who has been out of the game for a few years when they have a few young pitchers who can throw as well, if not better than him right now.
The 42-year old Schilling missed the entire 2008 season with a shoulder injury discovered in February 2008. But with the bickering back and forth about treatment concerns between Schilling and the Red Sox, The Red Sox Team Doctor Thomas Gill diagnosed Schilling a tendon injury and recommended to him a course of action. But Schilling did not agree with the team’s approach and went for a second opinion by Doctor Craig Morgan, who recommended surgery for the ailment. But Schilling chose to follow the Red Sox non surgical method and had hopes of pitching by the All-Star break in 2008. On June 18, 2008, Schilling left the mound feeling pain and was again examined by Dr. Gill. Two days later he announced to WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan Show that he was going to have surgery and might have thrown the last pitch of his career.
On June 23, 2008 during the bicep tenodesis surgery on the effected area, a small under surface tear on the rotator cup was discovered and a separation of the labrum was also repaired. the prognosis was the he might be throwing within four months. During the American League Championship Series in 2008, Schilling again took the mound for the Red Sox. But this time it was as a ceremonial first pitch candidate, and during that throw he one-bounced a ball to the plate. He filed for free agency at the end of the 2008 season. Now where has Schilling been since he threw that pitch? Has he regained the velocity and the control of his pitches to even consider such a move, or is it just a premonition of his impending good fortune?
Schilling has basically come out and considers himself a blessing to both teams if they can get him on their roster. Is Schilling really a “curse-killer” or is he just a guy who was in the right place and the right time. I truly think he was a dominating pitcher years ago, to the point where in 2007 when he talked about joining the Rays, I listened to the babble. But now I think it is more commercial advertising than product. As Janet Jackson once said, “What have you done for me lately?” Schilling has been out of the limelight for a bit, and might just be wondering if the twilight of his career went by without him noticing.
But we do not want or need him on the Rays. Where would we put him? Should we sign him to a John Smoltz kind of incentive-based contract that will only give him riches if he preforms to his 2006 level, or give him nothing but dead air if he flounders by the foul lines. I like the guy’s moxy, but not in Tampa Bay. He used to curs
e and whine and smack talk about the Rays like they had the bubonic plague, but all is forgiven because he needs a job? Sorry, Rays pride runs deep in some of the faithful, and if he was signed it might not sit well.
Does anyone still remember his August 2005 comment about then Rays Manager Lou Pinella, calling him an “idiot”. If you need a reminder of the comments by Schilling, let me print them for you again: “The problem is when you’re playing a team with a manager who somehow forgot how the game is played, there’s problems,” Schilling said on a Boston radio station. “This should have been over a little bit ago. Lou’s trying to make his team be a bunch of tough guys, and the telling sign is when the players on that team are saying, ‘This is why we lose 100 games a year, because this idiot makes us do stuff like this.’ They [Rays players] said that on the field.”
Karma can be a mean woman. Pinella said back in 2005 days after the comments that he lost respect for Schilling because of his comments. Does he really think that Pinellas will have a short term memory and forget all about the incident, or even chalk it up to competitive nature? And what do you think Pinellas is saying now, as the Cub Manager about a possible Schilling and Pinellas reunion. I would not bank on that happening either. Lou has a great baseball mind, but even today, he still knows more baseball than Schilling could ever forget.
I was sitting at the computer this morning trying to pick out a second possible winning moment in 2008 for the Rays when it dawned on me that there are too many to even count. So I have decided to instead list all the important events, as per my opinion, that have made 2008 so great for Rays fans. I mean I truly sat there after deciding on number 3 yesterday, and decided that one was the easiest pick of the bunch.
If you get to go to the big show, it has to be a top 3 moment in your team’s flight that season. There are a huge bunch of moments that helped define 2008 for the Rays. Be it a event in 2007 at shaped the look and feel of the franchise again, or the elimination of a curse in another stadium that served as a mental block to the team. 2008 was the Year of the Ray, and it is one I am glad I got a front row seat for all year long.
I decided to run this in chronological order from the first event in 2007, up until the final out in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series.
So let’s begin with the first order of business way back in November 2007, when the Rays held a rally in Straub Park near the waterfront in St. Petersburg, Florida. The event was the unveiling of the teams new logo and colors. The Uniforms were fashioned to represent the old style of baseball with a new Rays logo on both the home and away jerseys. The “R” on the uniform front posed a new sweeping motion for the bottom of the letter, plus the sunburst between the lettering also brought about a new look and feel to the organization.
The ray of light was a new focal point of the team, which abandoned the former Ray on the cap and also on the team’s official logo. But the Rays did get to stay for 2008 on the sleeve of the jersey, but might be retired in 2009. The event was to showcase the new look and feel of the team. And with it came a new spirit of winning and posting new attitudes for the team. And one of baseball’s biggest supporters came out and celebrated with us. Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West came out and entertained the masses after the unveiling and rocked the house all the way up to the fireworks display.
Then came the last Spring Training reporting for the pitchers’ and catchers’ to the Ray Namoli Complex in Northwest St Petersburg. The team came out onto the field and Rays Manager Joe Maddon had a small speech in which he wanted to stress fundamentals and team work and chemistry in 2008. That was the day he unveiled his famous “9 =8 ” formula for the world to decipher for the rest of the season.
Then came the first event that molded and formed this band of players into friends and bonded them for the rest of the year. In the day prior to this event, the Rays Elliott Johnson had made a hard charge into Yankees’ minor league catcher, Francisco Cervelli a few days earlier. The event did not sit well with the Yankees’ staff and during the March 12th rematch at Progress Energy Field, Yankees enforcer Shelly Duncan decided to take matters into his own hands.
Duncan was hustling on a hit into the outfield when he turned and made a move towards second base. It was apparent to almost everyone but Duncan that he would not be able to make it to the base in time to beat the throw. During his slide, Duncan brought his cleats up towards Akinora Iwamura and struck him mid-thigh with his metal cleats. Duncan came up immediately and contested the action before right fielder Jonny Gomes came into the action and leveled Duncan to the ground. It was an event that brought the team together for the first time in 2008.
Then two weeks later, the Rays said farewell to their present Spring Training home when the team played it’s last game at Progress Energy Field ( Al Lang Field, Waterfront Park). The game was met with sadness and joy because of the memories of teams playing on these grounds since the 1940’s in this present stadium. The event also was a visual point for the team to showcase the new proposed stadium that might some day rise on the same grounds.
Or could moments like Eric Hinske missing a cycle by a single. It is amazing to me that he went 3-4 on the night and got his triple and homer early in the contest at the Walt Disney complex, but could not get that elusive single. Hinske ended up being one of the true bright spots for the Rays in the Free Agent market. He signed for a low number, but produced high energy and some pretty impressive offensive displays during the 2008 season.
Then we have the first sweep of the Boston Red Sox at home this season. That would only be the icing on the cake as the Rays would send the Red Sox faithful home as losers in 8 of the 9 games at the Trop this year. The first series at the Trop. would end with a hard fought 3-0 shutout by James Shields.
Then comes the moment where Rays Manager Joe Maddon thinks the Rays season began to turn into its championship run. It was during a road trip up to Toronto when the Rays battled back from a possible loss. Edwin Jackson left the 8th inning with a Ray lead before Troy Percival gave up 4 straight singles to let the Jays tie the game at 3-all. The teams battled back and forth before Dioner Navarro, who went 3-6 on the day hit a screamer into the stands for a Grand Slam homer and sealed the victory for the Rays.
On May 13th the Rays got to celebrate for the first time in club history as the team officially took over first place in the American League East. It was the latest point in any Rays season that the team had enjoyed the top spot. The game produced one of the first moments in the Rays 2008 history for celebrations when pinch runner Jonny Gomes came on for Cliff Floyd after he singled in the bottom of the 11th inning. Gomes stole second, then sprinted home to seal the victory for the Rays 2-1.
Then came the L A Angels first visit to Tropicana Field, and the Rays shut them down to also sweep that series. Then came in the mighty Chicago Cubs for a three game Inter-League series that was deemed by many to be a possible World Series matchup. During this series, the Rays finally began to get some national exposure for maybe being a true team that could win it all in 2008.
But not until after the June 19th game, in which Carl Crawford hit a grand slam to propel the Rays. The team had officially beat the best team in baseball all three games did the national media begin to get on the Rays bandwagon. Cub’s Manager Lou Pinella commended the Rays on their young squad, and you could see a small twinkle in his eye that he approved of the young team getting the best of his team that series.
On June 27th, Rays starter Matt Garza was on the mound in a game against the Florida Marlins and gave up a blast to Hanley Ramirez in the 7th inning to produce the only hit and run in the contest. Garza went on to shut down the Marlins’ offense the rest of the game.
According to the Elias Baseball Bureau, It was the first complete-game no-hitter or one-hitter with a double-digit strikeout total in the majors this season. There was only one such pitching performance in each of the last three seasons: by Chris Carpenter in 2005, John Lackey in 2006 and Justin Verlander in 2007.
On July 19th, the Rays won their first game back after the All Star break to break the team’s longest losing streak of the season. With the Blue Jays in town for a weekend series, the Rays went on to break up a perfectly good pitchers’ duel on a Ben Zobrist homer on the first pitch he saw tonight. Toronto starter A J Burnett was on tonight, but the Rays caught a huge break on a hanging breaking pitch to Zobrist for the victory.
While the Rays were at home on August 30th they got to celebrate a first in Rays history. With the 14-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays posted their 82nd win of the season. Marking the first time in franchise history they were guaranteed a winning season. It also marked the night of Scott Kazmir’s 10th victory of the year.
The mystic of Fenway Park was beginning to get the better of the Rays in 2008 before Scott Kazmir took the mound on September 10th in a series the team needed to keep their lead on the Boston Red Sox. It also began one of the most storied moments in Rays history. During the contest the Rays batters went a combined 1-15 with men in scoring position and almost gave the game to the Red Sox several times. As the team fought back and forth before the Rays sent up a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning.
Dan Johnson had been summed from the Durham Bulls earlier in the day and would have started in left field if he had gotten to the ball park a little earlier in the night. But because of flight problems and transportation to Fenway Park, he arrived just moments before the game. In the 9th inning, Rays Manager Joe Maddon inserted Johnson into the game to pinch hit against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Johnson worked the count to 3-2 before he hit a monster shot that cleared the right center field wall to give the Rays a 5-4 lead in the game. Jason Hammel ended up coming out in the bottom of the 9th and secured the win for the Rays. It was Hammel’s first save of his career.
With the team away for their last series, it was actually the next day when most Rays fans learned that we had secured the American League East title the previous night in Detroit. With the Rays in Motown for the last series, many players came back to the clubhouse to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning. It was a wild fact, but players and staff went to area hotels sports bars to do a bit of scoreboard watching as the New York Yankees needed to lose for the Rays to be awarded their first title in team history.
After the hard fought season, the Rays staged a airport greeting for the team at St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport on September 29th. The event was attended by almost 5,000 people who flocked into the baggage area and loading zones to greet and cheer the team as they got off their chartered flight from Detroit. People filled the airport and also the outer traffic lanes of the airport to see their new champions come in from their road trip.
On October 6th, the Rays were in Chicago facing the White Sox when they secured their first series win in the American League Divisional series. The Rays won the series 3-1, and established that they were the team to beat to get to the World Series in the American League. In that series, the Rays battled back time and time again against the tough White Sox pitching staff before finally breaking through and getting right breaks.
When the Rays faced the Philadelphia Phillies on October 23rd, they sent James “Big Game” Shields to the mound. The game showed the waking up of B J Upton and Carlos Pena at the plate as both help produce much needed offense for the Rays. In a play featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Rocco Baldelli came across the plate for an apparent Rays run, but Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz held onto the ball.
The game came down to great situational hitting by the Rays. B J Upton scored Akinora Iwamura from third to plate the first run for the Rays. In the 4th inning, the Rays took a hold of the game after Cliff Floyd hit a single and Dioner Navarro hit a nice liner up the middle to put two men on base for the Rays. Baldelli then hit a nice shot down the third baseline, but it was gloved by Feliz and the Rays had men on the corners. Jason Bartlett then came up and executed a safety squeeze perfectly in front of Phillies starter Brett Myers to put the Rays up 4-0. It would be the Rays first victory in the Fall classic.
Last, but not least is the Game 5.5 as I call it of the 2008 World Series. No matter what happened in this game, the historical significance was more pressing at the moment. The contest was a hard fought contest and each team traded runs and hits before the Phillies finally walked away with their second World Series Championship.
The game was a true test of everything that got the Rays here in 2008. The Bullpen, which was the team’s focal point in 2008 had finally given up a run at the most critical moment in the contest. And the Rays offense could not close the gap when needed during their last at bats. with Eric Hinske striking out for the last out of the game.
All of these events made a different focal point for the Rays in 2008. I hope a few of your fond memories have graced the blog. If I forgot a moment that you found remarkable in 2008, please feel free to comment on the blog and I will check into it and might even make it my number 1 choice tomorrow. Again thank you to all the readers of Rays Renegade for their insights, comments ans readership in 2008.
Hopefully in 2009, I will have more outstanding Rays moments to record for you.