Results tagged ‘ Lou Piniella ’

Immersed in the Zen that is Maddon

 

Clubhouse3.jpg

 

When you walk into the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse, the quote jumps out at you. In English, Spanish, Korean and Japanese, the words embody the man in the office at the opposite side of the room. Some have called Rays Manager Joe Maddon a “modern day wisdomist of the first order”.

His frequent quotes from famous philosophers, modern day thinkers and even a few song lyrics project an image of a mind always at work. That last one might be the best description of the Rays top dog. He is always thinking, reading, mentally playing out scenarios, match-ups and situation, and it is not always on the ball field.

Maddon is a devote cyclist  who has favorite treks in every American League city, and should add a new National League trail when the Rays travel to Milwaukee in late June. This is a guy who can chew gum, manage and tweak a line plus think about future situations all at the same time.

Clubhouse2.jpgI am starting to think maybe it has something to do with being a catcher? Some of the best, and most entertaining quotes ever to come out of a baseball players’ mouth have been uttered by those blocking, trapping and positioning the glove behind the dish. From Yogi Berra to Johnny Bench, great thoughts, saying and even a few ramblings have come out of the bruised and battered fraternal position.

 

I have been a member of the Rays group, “Maddon’s Maniacs” since the first meeting, and always look forward when the skipper is coming down to talk to us. His cool and intelligent candor along with his poise and grace in speaking about his young stable of baseball ponies shows he respects effort, and rewards guys who think intelligently while playing the game as well as show hustle and effort.

Maddon’s mantras and exclusive saying have been posted on T-shirts, spoken about in countless ballparks and has shown that the game has evolved from just going by your gut feelings and hoping for a chance. By using his encyclopedia sided binders full of stats, situational results and even a few penciled in side notes, he has taken the Rays from being those lonesome losers of the American League East to the penthouse in two of the last three seasons.


Jostu.jpgJoeMa1.jpgWhen Maddon was first hired by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, some people within the Rays Republic did not see a direct correlation of how Maddon was going to effectively build on what former Rays Manager Lou Piniella instilled and drilled into the Rays clubhouse. But Maddon used his brain, he used his instincts and he bonded with his players out of respect and the admiration for the hustle and mind.

Maddon became the perfect mental and physical architect to rebuild the Rays foundation. He did it by employing a attitude that 30 minutes after a game whether they won or lost, it is pushed away and time to prepare for the next day. That is a huge departure from the old Rays thinking, and one that possibly got this young team to focus, play the game at a different level and finally mesh together as a team.

Thanksm.jpgEven with the possibility of a step backwards in 2011, Maddon remains focused, firmly planted in his baseball foundation of playing all the game, then sorting it all out. That approach is new in this region for sports. In a community of mostly transfers and transients from other regions, Maddon has instilled some “Namath”, some ” Lombardi”, and even some “Casey Stengel” into his game philosophy.

Not too many fans root for their Managers, but I do. As much as Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena brought glory and rings to this team, it was Maddon and his mantras that provided the cement, the glue the mud that held this team together. Always wanting to play upon his team’s playful nature, he provided road trip themes like the All-Black and All-White traveling parties.

l_9b2aa898a5f24f8ca6ec7e35c99b3a43.jpgAdd to that the Cowboy/Western style, BRAYSers, Soccer jerseys and Chicago Blackhawks gear and you get a Manager who wants to build on his team unity from within. Kind of remarkable how fast the Rays have gone from hovering below the .500 mark to posting three impressive seasonal records in a row.

It all started when the Rays did not go after the popular Bobby Valentine, pushed away the possibilities of Joe Girardi or Mike Schmidt to take a computer spreadsheet loving statistician who made his best decision while perched on the dugout rail.

No matter if you like his mantras, philosophies or even his witty post-game banter, you got to love the winning spirit, the spirit of exceeding expectations and pondering the gray areas of the game for answers. He is a perfect example to show that the era of volumes of sports information at your disposal plus the fast pace of the game can be correlated into one solid package.

Maddon was donning the binders and notebooks back in the 1990’s before most Managers even knew of the extensive factoids collected on anything baseball related. He is not the pioneer of mixing hitting and pitching match-ups to his advantage, but he is coming closer to perfecting it one game at a time.


Maddon is a mind musician, and he is playing the game of baseball at his own rhythm, grace and speed while producing awesome results and a new Rays legacy. Someday Maddon will possibly put all his knowledge and methods together in some form of written material, and it would instantly be the hottest commodity to own in baseball.

All this from a Manager that most thought might be a lifetime Bench Coach who eventually made the with with a bang and even made one of his early critics a true Maddon fan….me.


Goodbye Sweet Lou

 
 
I like Lou Piniella, I truly do. I got to know the former Tampa Bay Rays Manager when he first came aboard with the Rays when I came into the Rays Spring Training Clubhouse at Progress Energy Park and could hear his laughter from two rooms away. He had all the gruff and lines of a Manager that you should fear with every inch of your being, but also had that calming effect you wish your friends possessed.

And he truly loved this game. And at times it seemed that he not only loved it like a secret mistress, but he relish the excitement, agony and also the drama that makes this game special in every moment of every game. I never got a chance to sit there and chew the fat with the Manager that some Rays players avoided at any cost, but I did share a joke or two with him on occasion when performing my old Pepsi duties for the Rays clubhouse Manager, Chris Westmoreland.

Lou wanted a nice cooler unit for my office, and I had come into the Rays clubhouse to show “Westy” some of the selections of coolers when Piniella came roaring around the corner with a new special idea he wanted to illustrate to his players as to commitment to the game. This was the moment Piniella had come up with the hair dye moment to commemorate a winning streak, and the glow in his eye showed the fire was still deep and glowing within him.

 

But most people remember the Manager who would rant and rave at his players, even from his perch in the dugout for a jaunt instead of a gallop towards a base. Giving his troops a rant after their telltale moment of a lapse of any baseball intelligence, or simply not giving the game the respect it deserves…always. For deep down below that angry guy persona was a former player turned Manager who’s respect and adulation for the game far outweighed his sense at times.


Piniella never seemed totally at ease being the skipper of the Rays warship. He always seemed to want one more power weapon, one more viable option, but the team was strapped to it’s fiscal responsibilities and could not always give Piniella the weapons he so deserved or demanded to fight within the American League East. But Piniella tried to be the model Manager and leader and absorb some of the punches from the mistakes and faltering pitching or offense that always seemed to doom his Rays teams.

But in the end, it was not Piniella being tired of teaching the young how to play the game right, or even the weigh of all the Rays losses that killed his passion, it seemed to be he did all he could with the Rays resources he was given and had finally seen that it was not going to change anytime soon. I did not see him the day he finally decided to put his Rays cap on the last time, but I know even with the end in sight, Piniella fought the game as if it was his first contest as a rookie in Kansas City.

Piniella was always a fighter, a scrapper and was ultimately the right man at that moment in this Rays development as a franchise. People always say that the winning attitude was defined with the beginning of the Joe Maddon Era. Well, the fires were lit, and the embers never dies under Piniella’s watch. And that passion sprung to life again after a short hiatus as a broadcaster and he took his last grasp at the job that has consumed and entertained him for much of his adult life.

 

Piniella might have finally take his last stroll onto the Wrigley Field turf today, and hopefully he took in the blue sky and the green grass and memories flooded his mind of being able to play coach and manage this great kid’s game for such a long time in his adult life. I always thought Piniella might become this generation’s Don Zimmer, the guy who will always have his fingers somewhere in the baseball cookie jar and take an occasional big bite until he takes his last breath.


But this is not a truly sad day because we all know that Piniella has lived, breathed and been so consumed within the fabric of this game for so long it will always be a part of him. And he will be somehow just beyond the shadows talking, instructing or possibly building a dream team of his own after he finishes wearing the Manager’s uniform. Tampa Bay has been blessed to have a Manager like Piniella when he was here to push the team and the franchise into another spot in it’s development.

I know family matters brought this action to fruition before the end of the Cub’s season, but I hope I have the same sentiments as the rest of the Rays Republic and hope that Piniella finds that next rhythm, that essence of solitude and finally a time for loving life after the diamond. Mostly I am glad he was a part of our Rays history and brought this franchise through its teenage years with patience, counseling and a bit of tough love to give it the firm foundation of respect for the game that the Rays possess today.

 

They say special people help make and shape our lives. Hopefully the integrity, virility and a passion formed by Piniella here in Tampa Bay always flows through this franchise. I know I will miss your gruff triads and comments, all boosted up by the love you have for this great game.

Let’s add a Player to the Burrell/Bradley sweepstakes

 


Jim Prisching / AP

Blogger’s and commenter’s both around Tampa Bay and Chicago baseball communities have been writing and speculating about the teams trading their two “bad contracts” some time during this off season. Each squad currently has a current roster member set to make at least $ 9 million for the 2010 season, and both squads want to unload that contract for a variety of reasons.

And with the Winter Meeting set to start in Indianapolis soon, this potential deal seeming to be at a stalemate. Maybe it is time to add another piece into the whole trade scenario. Maybe it is time for one of these teams to buckle down and offer a second piece to the puzzle that makes it appetizing to either squad to complete this deal before the end of 2009.

Last night during a massive lightning show from thunderstorms racing through Florida, the answer struck me like lightning in my wet hammock. What if the Rays added a player from their overflowing catcher position to the mix as an tasty add-on to the trade? This would bring  the addition of experience and potential veteran presence to the Cubs currently young catching corps.

With the Rays recently getting veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach as another catching option for the team, the Rays currently have an overflow of catching talent. And this potential problem could be addressed quickly with the addition of one of the Rays rostered catchers being added to the Burrell/Bradley trade. It could be a spicy addition to the deal to entice the Cubs take the deal, as well as remove a catching decision by the Rays.

Flashing into my mind last night was the addition of Rays catcher Dioner Navarro to become a valuable veteran for the Cubs roster. Having Navarro’s presence as a back-up behind the plate should take pressure off Cubs starter Geovany Soto in 2010, and help him rebound after a bad 2009 season. Adding to this possible trade equation the fact that the Cubs current back-up catcher is also arbitration eligible, maybe the Rays and Cubs can include the arbitration eligible Navarro as a  clear upgrade to the position.

The Cubs currently have Koyie Hill as their back-up catcher, and he did appear in 83 Cubs games in 2009. That is over half of the Cubs  162 games where the back-up catcher was needed by the team to provide offense and stability.  With Hill entering his third season with the Cubs in 2010 and a total combined 179 games during his Major League career, he pales in comparison to veteran Navarro.

Navarro has appeared in 490 games during his Major League career and has a career .253 average with 33 HR and 173 RBI over that span.  And in the wind-aided confines of Wrigley Field, those numbers are sure to increase dramatically. Hill in comparison has a MLB career .213 average with 5 HR and 49 RBI.

The potential additional piece of Navarro to the trade brings an instant upgrade in power at the catching position, which is currently missing in the Cubs line-up. And considering that Soto did miss 26 games from July to August in 2009 with a left oblique strain,then came back to hit on .128 in August 2009,. His 0198 average in his 32 games since his return from the Disabled List might be of concern for the Cubs heading into 2010. This might be a clear indicator that a veteran offensive back-up catcher is a clear need for the team.

And with the Cubs adding up to a estimated $6 million to the Rays as salary relief in the deal, maybe the Rays can trim that amount to say, $5 million if the Cubs let Navarro’s name be added to the deal. It can be a great potential arbitration dowry or money chip for the Cubs to consider Navarro in the deal. With Hill making only $ 475,000 in 2009, it is estimated that he could get close to $1 million in arbitration.


Steve Nesius / AP

Navarro, who made $ 2.1 million in 2009, is estimated to maybe increasing to $2.5 million for 2010. With a saving of a $1 million salary chip in the Cubs hands after the Bradley trade, the team could add a valuable piece to their 2010 arsenal in catching power and experience.
And with Soto having a sub-par 2009 after a stellar 2008 National League All Star and Rookie of the Year season, Navarro would provide an instant answer for Cubs Manager Lou Piniella if Soto dramatically regresses or begins the year in another slump. 

The playoff experience and leadership of Navarro can provide instant credibility to the Cubs catching corps. With the Rays having three potential Major League catchers stuck at the minor league level in Shawn Riggans, John Jaso, and Joe Lobaton, the trading of Navarro would provide a chance for one of them to excel and possibly gain a spot on the Rays 25-man roster in 2010.

There will be a trade of Burrell and Bradley sometime this off season. The trade result might not include both the Rays and Cubs unless something is done to make the deal sweeter for the Cubs. This new trade idea gives relief to both franchises of their potential “bad contracts” while also adding another nice trade piece to the Cubs that will strengthen their roster.  For both Burrell and Navarro this trade would/could be a fresh start for both of them.

With the Rays potentially getting Bradley, they will have to make some concessions somewhere down the line to get this deal completed. By adding Navarro, they could bring this trade to a fast conclusion if the Cubs look at the potential of both  Soto and Navarro hitting above their 2009 averages and giving no offensive or defensive slack if either is inserted into the lineup.

Bradley currently has a provision in his Cubs contract where he gets a suite for every road series. And Burrell would get a possible $200,000 if he is traded during the duration of his contract. But those are minor pieces with the big picture of this deal getting completed by either team. In the long run,the Rays could get another shot to see if Bradley, the player the Rays pursued hard during the 2009 free agent season is the missing piece to their playoff formula.


Brian Blanco / AP

If I stand back and look at the possible idea of including Navarro as a trade piece to this puzzle. It really looks like a great solution to this deal happening before the end of the 2009. I know I am not privy to the inter working of the Rays front office, but in my mindset, this addition to the Burrell/Bradley scenario would make the Cubs a potential big winner in the overall scheme of this deal while also helping the Rays subtract a possible problem within their own roster.

And how rare is it for two teams to both come out as winner in a potential trade. In this scenario, both could come away smiling from ear-to-ear.
 

Rays Win Series Against Cubbies

 

 

Rays 5, Cubs 4

 

I saw a wild trio on the field on Tuesday night that brings back the saying “You Can’t Go Home Again”.

Well, you can go home, just do not expect a huge bucket of victories from this crappy Rays bunch. On the turf were current Manager Joe Maddon, departed chief Lou Piniella, and innaugural whipping boy Larry Rothechild.  Each manager was responsible for a different era of growth for this team.

Larry got the “younger years”. the time where veterans were hired to get the franchise through the lean years before the farm system could restock the team. He never got to see that dream.

Lou, sweet Lou, came here to teach more the aspects of being a Professional and how to carry your team on you back. He did that. He might not have gotten the end result he envisioned when he signed on, but a few of these guys are great players because Lou rode them hard and let them play their game. His era of the Era of development and toughness.

Last, but not least, is the Era of Joe-ism.  I can’t put a finger on the accomplishments yet in a nutshell, but this team blossomed under his letting go of the righs a bit with the guys. Letting them develop, but guide them in the same voice. Joe is a wise guy, with a theasarus for a mind. If you can’t play for Joe ( Delmon), you can’t play anywhere before adjusting yourself accordingly.

3 Masters of the Rays Universe all standing there looking at a team the two Chicago visitors only recognize in name and cetain players. The rest is the crown jewel of Joe Maddon. It is his team to lead upward and onward now. Larry Rothchild must love seeing smiles on the players’ faces, they were never contenders in the lean years. And I think in Lou’s mindset, this is the team he dreamed of for those many years. Joe, I think either of these guys would swap places with you in a heaetbeat and still know it was your baby all along here.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Since 1876, there have been only 2 years that a triple play did not occur in the major leagues: 1961 and 1974.

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Thank You Mark DeRosa for getting the scoring started on Wed night in front of a ESPN audience. It must be hell to be you today with the cellphone messages, and the email bloopers, blunders and Cubbie jokes segment on the TV. But, we here in Rays-town know that feeling all too well.

 Even after a great vicotry over your team, most of the talking heads from Bristol still do not get it. The Rays just won their 9th Consecutive home series of the year.. NINE, never before have we gotten to this point before the All-Star break, but still we are considered the “Also-Rans” of the AL East.  I heard a comment recently on “Baseball Tonight” that the Rays will fade in time. I also read and heard that we are “playing above our heads”.

Both might be true, but I think this team is in for a “Miraculous Summer”. It is alreafy one of the best on  record for us, but might just surprise the nation real soon. You know, in the next homestand, the Red Sox come back to the A/C refines of the Trop.

 If we sweep them again, what will be the talk, that neither team can play in the opponents park, or Bosotn is not playing with “playoff intensity” right now.   Give credit where credit is due guys. This sqaud will make believers of you, but I guess winning two straight from the team with the BEST record in baseball is not a big thing to you guys.

 

 

Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine has the right stuff again. He mixed his pitches well last night and earned his 8th victory of the season. Sonnanstine pitched 5 innings of  7-hit, 3-run ball to help the Rays take the first 2 games against the Cubs.   Andy only threw 94 pitches tonight, but got 57 strikes out of his performance. Sonnanstine coming into the game has not given up a homer since Mat 21st in Oakland, and is curently 6th in the AL in runs allowed.

 

 

Eric Hinske has been so valuable to the Rays this season he should maybe be the next guy to see a renewed contract and a raise for his efforts. Anywhere you put him, he has come through this season for the team.

Eric was hitting in the clean-up spot for the first time this year and went 1-3 on the night with a RBI and a run scored for the Rays. Eric event got his 6th stolen base of the season last night in the 7th inning.

 Hinske came to this team in the spring just looking for a job, not even gauranteed a spot on the roster, and has produced more ans more for the upstart Rays.  The Rays are 19-3 when he homers, and 34-17 when he is in the lineup for the Rays.

 

 

Four different Rays got RBI’s last night in a total team effort to beat the Chicago Cubs. B J Upton, Evan Longoria, Hinske and Willy Aybar each got a single RBI for the team.

 

 

Speaking of teamwork, let me tell you a few stats on our Rays:

The Rays matched their season and franchsie record highwater mark at 13 games over .500. Before this season, the team had never been more than 4 games over .500 at any point in their history.

The Rays tied their record for most wins before the All-Star break with a victory last night. In 2004, under Lou Piniella, the Ray were 42-45 at the break.  The Rays have now won 24 of their last 28 at home, and the Ray have pitched to a 2.38 ERA at home, best in the majors this year.

According to “Elias Sports Bureau”, the last team with 9 straight  home series  won within a single season was the Colorado Rockies in 2007. The last AL squad was the Oakland A’s in 2005 ( 12 straight).  The Rays have won 13 series overall for the year, one shy of their entire amount in 2007.

 

 

I put this last guy in the end of the blog becuase that is where we all know he is the strongest member of the Bullpen crew. Troy Percival can be a monster most nights on the mound, he has only allowed 19 baserunners in 26 appearances, two of them last night. Of his 26 opportunities, 17 have been perfect innings. 19 of them have been scoreless innings for the Rays.

For his career, Troy has converted 340 out of 395 save opportunities, for a 89.1 percent save rate. Since saves became an official stat. in 1969, only 6 pitchers have bettered that mark.

And on Wed. night, without any hoopla or fanfare, Troy tied with the Hall-of Famer Rollie Fingers for 9th place on the All-Time saves list.  All this from a guy who at this point last year was considered retired by major league baseball.  Next up for Percival on the list is…………Randy Meyers in 8th, with 347 saves.

With success and a continued Rays winning attitude, Troy could be nearing Jeff Reardon in 7th with 367 by the end of the season, or pass him in 2009(?)

 

 

Rays Bounce to Win over the Cubbies

 

Rays 3, Cubs 2

 

Most people who go to Rays game would be upset with the chant, “Let’s Go Cubbies!”, in the top of the 9th inning last night. To me, it was a sweet melody to savor and enjoy. For the world’s loveable losers were in town for three games, and brought a few thousand of her friends.

I saw people who are normally Rays supporters in Cubbie colors, I saw thousands stand and cheer with Chicago wear on for the Rays after the game. Why don’t Boston and New York fans act like Cubbies?  Because Cub fans relish  winning just like we do.

They do not throw World Series B S in our faces with every at-bat. They know that a simple play or a hot batter can ruin even a Red Sox’s wet dream.

Come again Cubbies, it was fun to chat and bark back and forth with you. You actually have an intelligent way to argue.  You spoke facts and truths, not notions and myths.  Come Back Cubbies, we enjoy a large town fan who can also respect their opponent, plus give credit where credit is due………..And you also got Lou.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson are the only 2 pitchers to ever win the 4 consecutive Cy Young awards.

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Evan Longoria must be blessed by the baseball Gods. This rookie has handled more pressure than a tea kettle this season, and responded like an old pro. In the bottom of the 9th inning last night, with the tying run on third, the young Brooks Robinson clone threw a 1-hop throw to first that will live in my mind as a “play to remember” in Rays lore.

Cubbie Reed Johnson, always a true thron in the Rays side, took it upon himself to try and put down a suicide squeeze bunt down the 3rd base side. Longoria was playing a bit deep and had to hustle and bare-hand the ball. He threw a wobbly one-bounce throw to Willy Aybar at first that just got Johnson by a 1/4 of a step to secure the Rays win over the Cubs.

 

 

Drama, Drama, Drama.  This team is beginning to believe it can win every night it steps on the turf. Plays like this one can motivate and perculate a team to explode into contenders.  Every year, a team can point to a handful of plays that  turned their seasons upward. I think Longoria, a rookie, even showed a few veterans what it takes last night.

“We were trying to get Longoria to move in, but we’re having this new problem: We can’t hear,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Our players aren’t used to not being able to hear from the dugout, so we have to do some things signal-wise. He was playing too deep.”

 

 

Cliff Floyd quickly ruined our pitcher’s duel by slamming a ball into the rightfield stands in the 2nd inning. It was Floyd’s 6th homer of the season and came against his former team, the Cubs. Floyd also has a 3-game hitting streak going for the Rays.

 

                

 

Scott Kazmir did not start out like our ace tonight. His fastball command and placement was off a bit and he was not getting the plate calls he usually gets from the umpires. 

 Could some of that be backlash for comments made in LA about the umpiring there?  I am not sure that an umpire would purposely blow calls against another pitchers, but some of the calls did smell a little fishy at times. If the ball hits the black it should be called, not rejected by a player’s opinions.

Kazmir did have great movement and placement on his slider and curve and he used those pitches well to set up his fastball. Coming into the game Kazmir was the third most dificult  MLB pitcher to hit off of in the majors. His .187 opposition batting average was only .002 points off the average of Chicago starter Ryan Dempster.

 

Scott pitched 4.2 innings tonight and was lifted after making 110 pitches.  Kazmir gave up 3-hits and 1-run in that time and got 7 strikeouts before leaving for the night.

 

 

Evan Longoria seemed to be in all the right places last night. Be it at the plate or in the field. In the 6th inning, Longoria hit a ball to rightcenter that went off the Rays Tank facing. ( No Rays were hurt in the play. )

It was Evan’s 11th homer of the season, tying him with Carlos Pena for second on the team.  Longoria also currently is 4th in the majors and second in the AL in RBI’s with 33.  Longoria has not hit safely in 38 of his 59 games with the Rays this season. The homer also tied him with Cincy’s Joey Votto and Cubbie Genvany Soto for the lead in the Rookie’s standings.

 

 

Rich Herrera, who does the Rays’ post and pre-game shows for the Rays Radio Network walked by me last night and said that, “Troy Percival has really big ones.”

Troy had not one, but two Wild Pitches to the backstop that could have tied up this game last night. Big shiny Balls of steel that clang like a cowbells when he walks from the Bullpen.

In the past, if a team had started to unravel our game like the Cubs did in the 9th inning, Esteban Yan would be sweating up a thunderstorm on the mound. Roberto Henandez would be looking for someone to hit with the ball, and Seth McClung would be talking to himself a mile a minute on the mound.

But then  again, these guys are not first ballot Hall-of -Famers either.

Troy reached back last night and had a consistant low 90’s pumping to the plate. I do not see alot of 94’s and above from him this season, but last night he was pumped up and knew the game was an important one for this young squad.

Percival threw 23 pitches last night, 15 for strikes and really earned his 16th save of the year. The save also puts him within 1 save of  tying Rollie Fingers for 9th All-Time.

Troy is the perfect veteran to have on this squad. He is all business on the field, and is a great example of iced confidience and cold stares in a sea of boiling water. 

This is a huge piece of our puzzle this season. To have Troy and the Bullpen pull up the bootstrings and keep the Rays in the game every night. But Troy, can we make it alittle less Dramatic..my young heart will implode with much more of this every night.

                      

 

Okay, we had 31,607 fans in the seats last night, that puts the Trop at 76.5 percent full.  Tonight’s game is a another great pitching matchup with Carlos Zambrano going against Andy Sonnanstine. It should be another great barnburner tonight with both teams smelling a win.  A Rays win would give them their 9th straight series win at home this season.

Also of importance, is that this contest will be the featured game on ESPN tonight. For that reason, it is important that as many Rays fans as possible get to the game and show these talking heads in Bristol, Conn., that the Rays do have fans, and that they are for real this season.

Hopefully we can get John Kruk to stumble and stammer on his words after another Rays win………………See you at the Trop!!!!!

Marlins Win with new “Fishy” pitch

 

Marlins 9, Rays 3

 

Pitchers usually do not have new pitches during the season that are effective, and can win them, ballgames. they sometimes fiddle with a delivery, or mess with the basics of a cutter, or a slurve. But rarely does a pitch make it past a  teams’ scouting report, and show up unannounced on a MLB diamond.

On Sunday, Florida Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco used the unannoiuced cutter that he had been working on for a few months into his game day pitch package. It had the Rays a bit dazed and confused at the plate becuase of its great late tailing action.  Nolasco came within 1 out of a complete game, which would have been the 1st one for Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

At the age of 20, Detroit Tiger Al Kaline became the youngest player to win a Batting Title by hitting .340 in 1955.

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Open Letter to BJ Upton:

Dear B J,

I understand that you are still learning how to play centerfield for our team. I also understand that you will make mistakes and bloopers during this time. But, the play with you and Gabe Gross in the 8th inning was even beyond grade school baseball basics. I can still hear my Little League coach yell the basic outfield call-off play.

Gross heard you call for the ball, and being the seasoned outfielder, he pulled off the play, since the centerfielder aka “the on field QB”, called for the ball. 

You then did not hesistate but pull up yourself and help award Cody Ross a  2-run triple for your efforts. Gross did you the same honor almost a week ago and it cost him an error in the play.

I hope Gabe has the idea now that even a called ball might fall to the turf until you understand how to run a good route to the ball. I rip into you here because I know you are better than this, not because you made a huge miscalculation here.

I hate to tell you B J , but missing the plays like this might setup an accidental meeting of the minds some night on the field, and someone might get hurt in the process. Please think smart and follow through on your actions for everyone’s sake.

In closing, B J , please think before calling the ball ( We all heard you call it in rightfield ) and then pull away from the falling sphere.

 

   

 

Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco owned the Rays on Sunday. His new pitch, the cutter played a bit of havoc on the guys. Nolasco got 12 strikeouts against the Rays, a season high for the team while also giving up 6 hits and 3 runs.  The Rays now have 503 strikeouts for the season, which ranks them 5th in the MLB.

                  

               

 

Rays starter, Edwin Jackson gave up two huge  homeruns on his best pitches on Sunday.

Jackson’s fateful pitches were a slider and a changeup. Wes Helms swung at the slider, Mike Jacobs swung at the change and each swing produced a three-run homer.  Edwin never looked to be completely comfortable or confidient in his delivery on Sunday.

 

 

It’s simple facts once you know the chances of people scoring once you walk them,” Jackson said. “It’s nothing to be frustrated about. You know the situation, and once it happens all you can do is try and get out of it without any damage being done. And tonight, I couldn’t do that.”

Jackson fell back into his past recipe for frustration by now going 2-6 in his last 12 starts, and has not produced a quality start in his last 5 outings for the Rays. Jackson seems to be all over the plate with his fastball, which was his primary pitch most of the season.

 

 

When that pitch has problems, the rest of your selection also suffers. Edwin has to get his stuff over the plate to be successful, right now the plate is moving all over the place on him and he is lacking the consistant strike that could get him out of many of his problem situations for the Rays.

Just remember fans, last year Edwin was 0-8 with a 8.02 ERA at thie point in the season. An improvement, but not enough of one for this years contending team.

 

DH Cliff Floyd has been having a really successful weekend at the plate. Floyd went 2-4 Sunday with a single and a double. The double could have been a triple, but you could see Cliff flinch a bit as he motored into second base in the 2nd inning. Floyd is a lifetime .365 hitter at the Trop., 3rd best all-time.

 

Eric Hinske hit his 12th homer with a shot to right in the 6th inning. Hinske snapped a 0-11 streak last night  with a 2-run double in the 1st inning. He has batted .292  over his last 7 games for the Rays. 

With his 12th homer last night, Hinske took over the team lead from Carlos Pena. Only in 2002, when he was with Toronto has Hinske hit this homer plateau before now ( 55 games).

 

Jason Bartlett and Gabe Gross helped bring in the final two runs for the Rays Sunday. Bartlett hit a RBI-single that scored Dioner Navarro. Navarro had reached prior to the at-bat with a double to deep center field in the 5th inning.

Gabe Gross hit a single to center that scored Evan Longoria in the 9th inning. Longoria had walked previously and was on third when Gross hit the low liner to centerfield.

 

 

Akinora Iwamura started off the game with a single to rightfield and then stole second base. He was the only player on either team to attempt a steal on Sunday.

Edwin Jackson did have one impressive statistic from Sunday, he showed a really quick and accurate pick-off move to get Jeremy Hermida at first in the first inning. Jackson had walked him in the at-bat

 

Jason Bartlett got another throwing error from short today with a wild throw that eluded Willy Aybar at first base in the 9th inning. Bartlett was trying to get speedster Hanley Ramirez at first and overthrew the ball into the 1st base wall.

 

Last Night’s victory gave the Rays their 8th straight series win since losing 2 of 3 to the Chicago White Sox in April. That is the longest str..eak in the majors this season.

Tha Rays are 32-17 (.653) since April 22, which is the best record in the majors since then.  45 of the Rays 68 games have been against teams over .500 this season.

 

 

Starting Tuesday, the Rays will entertain the Chicago Cubs for the first time in the Trop. It is also the homecoming for fomer Rays’ manager Lou Piniella, now at the helm for the Cubs.

As you might remember, the last series that these teams played at Wrigley Field was in imfamous Sammy Sosa corked bat incident in the first game of that series.

 Former Ray Toby Hall was catching when Sosa’s bat broke on a play and showed a cork-like substance in the barrell.

Current Rays Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli are the only Rays  still with the team and to have  played in that series.

Angels get to Rays early for Win

 

 

Angels 6, Rays 1

 

There has been speculation in the baseball web sites that Rays number 1 pick last season, David Price is in Vero Beach, Florida as a tune up for a fast promotion through the minors starting in July 2008. Price did state before the season that his personal goal is to be at the Tampa Bay level by September.

In  a recent game, Price did battle against veteran Pedro Martinez, down doing a rehab assignment and both teams got a good look at the futre of both pitchers. Pedro is again loving baseball, which could be trouble for the NL East very soon. When Pedro is happy playing baseball, he is at his best on the mound.

Price recently got his first taste of defeat in the pros when he got rocked in Fort Meyers, Florida. The Rays are watching closely to see how hr rebounds after his first taste of normalcy in the minors. The next step for him would be the Double-A  Montgomery Biscuits.

This might be a great team for Price to be on the same roster as alot of the pitchers’ who will be the Rays backbone in 3-5 years at the major league level. It might be the best barometer to see just how far he has progressed this season, hitting in the batter friendly Southern League.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

On July 14,1946, Lou Boudreau of the Cleveland Indians set a major-league mark as the first player with 5 exta-base hits in a ballgame.

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Gabe Gross’s  5th homer in the 8th inning became the only run to cross the plate for the Rays aginst the Angels last night.  In his last 8 games, Gross is 9-31 ( .290) with 3 doubles, 2 homers and 7 RBI’s for the Rays.

B J Upton again got caught stealing last night against the Anglels. B J was trying to steal second base off Jered Weaver in the 4th innig by Angels’ catcher Jeff Mathis. It was Upton’s 8th caught stealing of the season, making him Tied for first with Chris Gomez of the Twins.

 

 

Rays starter James Shields  was a bit over hyped last night in his start against the Angels. Shields first three fastball were clocked up around the 94 MPH range, a bit high for him. This might also be a slight cuase to the Angels rocking him in the first inning for 4 runs.

 

                         

 

After the game, Rays Manager Joe Maddon remarked about how he also saw the Shields was a bit high on the gun in the beginnig of the game, and his off-speed pitches did not run over like they usually do for him.

The first inning barrage basically was the scoring for the Angels until they got two more insurance runs in the 5th inning off a Vladimir Guererro homer.  Shields pitched the entire game for the Rays, going 8 innings of 10-hit, 6-run ball to take his 5th loss of the season.

                            

                               

 

After the game, Shields announced he would be beginning his 6 game suspension stemming from the Boston fight earler in the roadtrip. Sheilds waited until after this game to get one start against a team he has had great success against in the past.

In other suspension news, DH/Rightfielder Jonny Gomes has now served his time and will be able to play in the Florida Marlins series beginning on Friday night. Gomes served his time during the Texas and LA Angels series and is ready to help the Rays pull back into first place in the AL East.

 

                                  

 

Evan Longoria continued his hot streak against the Angels by getting 2 doubles in the game. Longoria now has 14 doubles for the season.  In his first series in his hometown against the Angels, Evan was 5-7 (All extra-base hits), 3 doubles and 2 homers and 3 RBI’s.

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Anyone wanting to purchase tickets to the Chicago Cubs series during the next week at the Trop., had better hit ticketmaster or the Rays box office soon before the games are reduced to single seats and onstructed views seating. The series has shown brisk sales the last few days as this will be the return of Lou Pinella to the Trop.

Also of importance, is the fact that these two teams have been the hottest teams of late in the MLB, and it should be an excellient series for both teams. This series will show both managers’ what kind of ball clubs they have on their hands. The Cubs have a few playoff vets on their roster, and the Rays are trying to join that exclusive club by making the playoff for the first time in their history.

 

Last, but not least, the Saturday night game against the Florida Marlins is a 6:10 P.M. start because of the concert after the game. The game will also be blackedout for local television, so the only way to see the game is in person, or  by listening to the Rays radio broadcast.

Every Saturday night that the Rays have a concert series event, will not be telecasted, and will be an early start time this year.  Just a reminder for the fans. 

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