Results tagged ‘ Manny Ramirez ’
It still doesn’t feel like we have gone full circle. Doesn’t seem to compute to 365 days, but it was 1 year ago today (January 31, 2010) that the most anticipated and exciting Press junket took off like a rocket. The anticipation and excitement within the room had the walls sweating, and more than a few of the assembled media members jockeying for the perfect photo of this grand Tampa Bay Rays moment.
The signing of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to me personally meant we were taking a giant leap of both faith and ability to get to the next level. Both men came to the Rays with World Series rings, plus a lingering bromance between the two MLB stars that bordered on a love-fest.
After the two traded volleys of compliments and platitudes amongst themselves, it seemed like this duo could be the eventual key to the Rays getting past the American League Divisional Series again and not just contend, but have a legitimate shot at seeing this young squad finally thrust skyward that long anticipated golden chalice. You had the feeling leaving that junket that these two MLB vets were here to win another crown and keep the drama to a minimal.
I still remember watching Manny and his father walking up to the Rays clubhouse in Port Charlotte, Florida on the day Pitchers and Catchers reported excited as Manny looked in great shape and had come in early to camp to talk with the staff, players and I even found my hand in his at some point. But we all know how the duo turned out.
One provided a perfect example of an MLB veteran thing and proved night after night his spunk, drive and a determination that has been previously unseen by a veteran in a Rays uniform. The other found himself suddenly an MLB outsider again after partaking in an illegal substance that took him instantly from the sparkling light of the Trop and into his own personal demon field. I am still dumbfounded Manny did not take the penalty in stride, work to get back into a Rays uniform. Instead he packed-up, shipped out and seemed destined to fail for one of the first times in his career.
As Damon provided a jolt of energized inspiration by his feats on and off the field, Manny found trouble on his own Florida home front. I still want to somehow go back in time and shake Manny to and fro and wonder why he again slipped towards the dark side. Manny signed for a small penance compared to his past contracts, and seemed he had something to show the rest of the league heading into the season.
I still wonder what could have transpired when Manny found his groove and could have been a great asset and weapon to keep American League pitchers’ honest against Evan Longoria. Instead Longo found himself with limited protection in the 5th spot in the batting order. If Manny had only kept himself straight, I shudder to think what each could have accomplished in 2011.
Both are long gone now. Damon pitching his skills and wares outside of his native state of Florida. Hoping to catch on with the Orioles and keep his AL East dream alive. Many have checked in on Manny this Winter, but so far no one has put a possible contract in front of him for 2012. There are rumors the Oakland Athletics might take a chance, but Billy Beane might have a few special provisions in that performance bonus laden contract before Manny has a chance to sign it.
What a difference 365 days have made. Carlos Pena is back in the Rays fold, All 5 2011 starters are still penciled-in for the Spring, and B J Upton is still a Ray. It is a shame the Man-Dam traveling road show could not produce and make the Rays decision harder this off-season to keep or give-up the duo. One showed his class for 180 days, the other was gone even before the blink of an eye. Still, the madness and pretense of that first Man-Dam press conference was one for the ages…..Makes you realize sometimes things can be too good to be true….Sigh!
Last off season we became intrigued by the possibility that two men could hold the fortunes of the Tampa Bay Rays within their veterans hands. One provided a bit of stability to a offense that sometimes tumble, tumbled and fell upon it’s face, the other was a gamble, but not a costly one. Each player had their pros and cons for their addition to this young squad, and each blazed their own path for the season early, one falling from grace while the other was quickly embraced by the Rays Republic.
When Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez emerged for their 2011 Press Conference within the confines of Tropicana Field, the sky seemed the limit for these two aging gladiators of the AL East wars. Both brought a huge chunk of veteran promise towards eradicating and eliminating the offensive woes of this young Rays squad.
The Spring came and went with each providing moments that quickly gathered energy and excitement, with each accomplishment building more confidence within the Rays Republic as to their inclusion on the Rays roster. In the end, it was the stability and leadership of Damon, and the perplexity of “Manny being Manny” that played out their parts and determined each of their roles.
So here we are almost a year later and again both of their free agent names are producing a intriguing hum along the Coconut Telegraph as a potential Rays duo once again. But I have to ask this in advance this time, will the rubber hit the road with either of them in 2012, or could this be a possible “Pat the Bat” moment in waiting?
We all know each player has offensive merits, and their liabilities are well documented, but if the price is comparable to their 2011 salaries, could this be the momentum to include them again in the Rays fold? To what extent do we believe the sincerity of Ramirez, and do we believe Damon’s “youthful” 2011 campaign will play out miraculously again, or fall flat on its face. When veterans are brought in there are risk, but do the risks outweigh the stats when winning has to be archived to stay the course or ramp up wins in 2012?
Damon has hinted he would love to again don the Rays Carolina blue unis and stay within his home state for another Rays tour. But even within Damon’s statement there is a dark looming cloud that could not only wreck such a reunion, but could deflate it instantly. Even in the enthusiastic language displayed by Damon in his want for a return into the Rays fold, his hint of a possible migration to Houston has to bring up some interesting question marks.
Why would Damon want to glide into Minute Maid Park possibly for the 2012 season when that team will be entering it last tour of duty as a National League franchise. Because of Damon’s obvious defensive skill depreciation as a fielder, his optimistic attitude in possibly joining the Houston club at this juncture seems a bit odd. This same oratory would make more sense in the 2012 off season as the Houston club re-evaluates and re-tools for their own migration into the AL West.
Doesn’t it seem more apt and par for the course that Damon would return to the Rays for 2012 with a possibly of a small raise in pay and the same attendance incentives. This kind of move would give Damon a chance to start the 2012 season in Tampa Bay, then if the Rays show a talent/ win digression , he could be a solid Trade Deadline addition for the Maestros emerging as an early candidate for their 2013 Designated Hitter slot. You also have to ask yourself if Damon knows a piece of information or move we are not privy to, or if it is just pure conjecture on his part at this moment.
The double talk of Damon eventually showing his cards to both locales would seem moot to some, but the underlying questions is why is Damon showing his cards so early, and why even mention Rays Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman’s name at all, especially since there is a slim chance of him leaving the Rays and going “home” to Houston. Damon is a smart guy, maybe he is playing the odds in both directions even though it could cost him a bit at the bargaining table in the end.
Then there is Ramirez. A guy who can drive you batty with his bat and dialog as well as his off-the-field distractions. We all know of his transgressions early in the 2011 season, and it is not worth time mentioning it past this sentence. Still, his domestic situation brings about its own red flags, and possibly makes his name quickly disappear from the Rays “Wish List” this off season, even at a huge discount.
Even though Ramirez has paid his supposed penances by removing himself from baseball for the entire 2011 season, will MLB mandate a 50-game sentence still before he can even step upon a MLB diamond. It might be a bit of time before the MLB honchos and the MLBPA sort out his options, eliminating him from the Rays equation by proxy.
I was not upset or even a bit surprised by the announcement of Ramirez’s suspension in 2011, but it still cuts deep into the Rays Republic’s aching heart when this past April, as the Rays floundered at the bottom of the AL East, Manny had to vacate the clubhouse bringing an unneeded and warranted distraction that could of cost the Rays more than just a dismal April.
Because Ramirez was not lighting up the Rays scoreboard or providing moments of clarity or brilliance at the time of his “reveal”, he was able to fade away basically because we let him. But could a Manny return be in the works possibly with Ramirez again giving a bargain basement price so he can again elevate his game and possibly bargaining chip as a trade piece come late July bringing the Rays an addition that could get them again into the October promised land.
I guess the answer all depends on your own opinions as to the ultimate worth of these two players, and if the risk is work the possible rewards, or keeping them out of the hands of divisional foes. These two names might not be heard loudly among the MLB Winter Meeting hallways in Dallas this week, but their presence even outside the comfort level of teams within their division will merit as least a glance in their direction.
So should the Rays even listen to a Manny conversation this off season, or just watch as he aligns himself possibly with the Baltimore Orioles or maybe even the New York Yankees and become a thorn in the Rays rise once again. You almost wish the Rays had the payroll of New York or the Boston Red Sox just so we can take him out of the American League East equation in every aspect. Problem is, if Manny comes back to the AL East in 2012, what penalty will MLB propose, or will he possibly be welcomed back with open arms having stayed away from the game for almost a year.
When Damon and Manny emerged for that Press Conference the room grew suddenly silent. There was an aire of dramatic change of realistic hopes of veterans of this caliber embracing this young team and their quest for another trip deep into the playoffs. Manny had to buy a ticket to see those games, Damon got a front row seat to watch this team mature before his eyes. Both took extremely different paths in 2011, but could a possible 2012 reunion or resolution tour be warranted?
Every once in a while a fan does something so incredible you hope people around the Major Leagues got to see their perfection. Sometimes getting a professional baseball player to notice you, even for a nano second takes a bit of intelligent thinking or genuine costuming.
That is why this San Francisco Giant fan really caught my eye, and hopefully he also got the attention he garnered of the object of his affection, Giants closer Brain Wilson. So much was made of the obvious manipulation of Wilson during the playoff of a ample supple of “Just For Men” or some other male hair product.
We kind of forgot that someone, somewhere possibly under the age of 9 would emulate or even show up in the ultimate homage to Wilson, a full back beard complete with a blackened f aux hawk on their head. It is one of those signs to people like me that sometimes the fans do have the creative juices and abilities to still make these players take a double take and possibly a chuckle or two as they head to or from the field.
But what is so amazing about this young fan is that he made sure he got up front, on the first row and thrust himself in the perfect spot for his idol to see, respond and hopefully grant him the wish of a signed baseball. In this era where some athletes get as bad rap, or even get pushed into a negative label, seeing a young kid emulate a hero, even for a moment just feels right.
I am not sure if the Rays fan will do the same thing, but I hope they do. I truly expect to see more than a few f aux hawks materialize around the Trop. over the course of the season, and maybe even a few full beards to show an homage to Johnny Damon or Rays Bench Coach Dave Martinez.
Sure I am expecting a few “Manny” dreadlocks, or possibly a pompadour or two to show some support for Evan Longoria. But will there be anything shown by the Rays Republic in 2011 that would be considered super out of the ordinary in imagination or creativity. Who can forget the sheet propped up in the Checker’s Bullpen Cafe a few years ago asking if the “Rays Wanna Sign My Sweet Spot”.
That kind of imagination and creativity get someone like me excited for my team. Maybe that is why that move by that young G-men’s fan means so much to me. These guys hears their names or nicknames hollered at them all the time by kids, adults and even a few overly excited female fans.
I am looking forward to seeing some new and original signs, T-shirts and possibly costumes during Rays games this season. So that is your task Rays fans, to one up the great and unique persona presented this Spring by that miniature Brian Wilson in Arizona.
We have some really creative mind wandering throughout the Rays Republic, now it is time to put your thinking caps on and come up with an idea or creation that will make a player or even someone like me do a double take…..So the mission is easy…
Come on out and give us your most creative, most original costume idea, even if it is not for an autograph….Possibly you could end up on this blog…..Or even better on National television so the World can one up you too.
How cool is it that the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays home Opener is going to be on April Fool’s Day….and it’s a Friday! What a way to begin the 2011 season, with a banner raising and a few pranks, jokes and maybe even a Garfoose sighting. Even if all, or none of that happens on that first day of April, the Rays Republic will again have some nifty giveaways and promotions to fill our Fridays and Sundays.Now these are not the only days that giveaways will be dished out to the Rays faithful, but on Wednesday, June 29th and Thursday, August 4th, you know that the masses will be all carrying those famous Rays chertiest as the Rays bring back another great “Park & Recreation Day” environment within Tropicana Field. Too bad Zach Grienke went to Milwaukee. We all know how much he simply loves those banging monstrosities while pitching.
Starting with the traditional schedule magnet given out on that first night, really quickly the Rays promotions machine kicks into high gear, even during that first weekend. On the next day, Sat, April 2, the first 15,000 Rays Fans will receive an Evan Longoria Gold Glove replica presented by DEX Imaging. But the fun doesn’t stop there, on Sunday the Rays will distribute special American League East Banners provided by Rays sponsor Sweetbay Supermarkets.
But back again for another go-round is the popular T-shirt’s given out on Friday night games. In all a total of 12 different designed Rays inspired T-shirts will be given out to the first 10,000 lucky fans thanks to the good people at Captain Morgan’s , who presides over the Friday Fest festivities with glee. The only exception in the T-shirt promotion this season is that on May 13 and August 5, the first 10,000 women will receive the giveaway T-shirts.
Hopefully the Rays have inspired Rays starter James Shields to again design a special T-shirt with Rays fans in mind. The 2010 black T-shirt featuring a downward facing griffin was one of the most sought after T-shirts in the Tampa Bay area schools. Could the Rays have gone to the Shields well twice and come back with another gem? You will have to wait and see.
Kid’s again play a significant part in the Rays promotional items as 12 items will be geared towards the younger Rays fans, with the last promotion on Sunday, September 25th being decided by a vote by the Rays kids. But in between The first week in April and the last weekend in September, there will be a very interesting assortment of promotional items just for those 14 and under. Kids will be able to get a Rays fire hat ( 9/11/11), or possibly a David Price Superhero Action Figure (8/21) or maybe they are more into linens, like a Raymond pillowcase (May15).
Also on tap for the kids will be a Joe Maddon Bank giveaway (5/1), A David Price Arm Sleeve (4/17) and the always popular Raymond’s Back-To-School Set (8/7). But it doesn’t stop there. Kids can also be the envy of their friends on Sunday July 3, when the Rays give out an exclusive DJ Kitty Puppet. But you didn’t think we would stop there did you? Riding on the heels of the best baseball promotion in 2010, the Rays have stepped up their game and will present kids with an Evan Longoria Cereal Bowl and Spoon set on September 4th.
But the hits just keep coming. Back again will be a grand assortment of bobble heads starting with a wobbly-headed doll of new Ray Manny Ramirez on May 29th followed three weeks later by a B J Upton bobble head (6./19). And it wouldn’t be the Rays if they did not also provide a little more, like a Johnny Damon Bobble head on July 17.
Again, the Rays have stepped into the box and cracked the ball over the centerfield wall possibly again having some of the best promotions in baseball. Over the years we come to expect the unexpected from the Rays promotions department. Again they pulled a big white rabbit out of the hat and provided some great incentive for the Rays Republic.
From the T-shirts and bobble heads all the way to their unique variety of trinkets and toys for the younger crowd, the Rays Promotions team have delivered…just like you knew they would. Still patiently waiting for a vuvuzela promotion.
What? something has to freeze over before that is approved….okay I can wait.
Since you are reading this you have probably guessed there will be no photo blog or post describing the Tampa Bay Rays first day of pitcher and catchers’ workouts. That means either I am trapped in the belly of a large whale, I forgot my camera card reader, or I decided to commit an completely spontaneous and insane act of eating way too many hot chicken wings and I decided to stay down in Port Charlotte for another great day of Rays baseball.
I decided to instead “pop up” a “rain delay” bit of Rays Renegade programming by letting you gaze at a few of the comments presented to Rays Manager Joe Maddon at his first Spring Press Conference yesterday (Tuesday). So as I try and figure out why my ears are burning while eating these succulent wings, let’s switch our programming so you can enjoy the smooth and well eloquent styling of the Rays Johnny Cash loving Manager. I hope you enjoy it.
What do the Rays need to do during (Spring) camp, and can they still compete in the American League East?
It’s obvious the biggest loss probably is the Bullpen. That kind of exodus is difficult. A lot of our young players got a lot of experience last season. Whether it is Reid (Brignac) or Sean (Rodriguez), Matt Joyce, John Jaso, etc. All of these guys got a lot of experience, and experience playing in the playoffs. So I’d like to believe that’s going to benefit them.
The starting rotation, you’re returning some really good stars…There are so many good things already in place. That’s where the optimism lies. If there’s one place that you have to have somewhat of a concern, that’s to reestablish and rebuild the best Bullpen in the league. But last year at this time when the Bullpen broke, there was no way you could have told us that it was going to be the best Bullpen in the American League last year.
Andrew (Friedman) has complied some really good arms that we-re going to look at right now and during the course of this camp, try to set them up properly going into the season and see what happens. So I see our biggest obstacle to overcome regarding repeating would be getting this Bullpen back in order quickly.
What timeline do you think it will take to solidify your Bullpen?
You’re going to have your seven guys at the end of this Spring Training, and that’s wonderful…We know we’re going to be sending guys back (to the minors) that we feel as though they can help us here sooner rather than later. But the Bullpen that breaks here is going to earn that opportunity by what they do here. However, we are going to keep an open mind about those going back and keeping a close eye on the whole thing. It’s a bit of a fluid situation right now.
Is there a process of determining who the closer will be, and the candidates involved?
It’s always nice when you have that one guy that pitched the ninth inning and you know he is going to pitch the ninth inning. It makes it so much easier to dole out the other innings. So going into this camp right now, I do not know who that’s going to be. If someone shows that they want that particular job and they are able to do it, I’d be the happiest guy in the World to be able to say ” so and so” is going to be our closer because it makes game planning somewhat easier.
Now having said that, I’m going into the season pretty much expecting to go committee-wise. We have a lot of upside names showing up. Guys we have never seen before that when you look at them on paper, they’re kind of interesting. I’m not a big Spring Training-evaluating kind of guy. However, this is going to be a different Spring for us and we have to be able to be more open-minded.
Do you see also a rebuilding of the Rays team’s chemistry this Spring?
Having a couple of veterans like Johnny (Damon), Manny (Ramirez), Kyle (Farnsworth) and Joel Peralta coming in is great. Of course we have some young guys within the group that definitely know the “Rays Way” of doing things- I’m talking about David (Price), Evan (Longoria) and B J (Upton). These guys know what is expected of them here. I want to believe that there’s going to be a nice blend where there are certain guys who are going to be apt and take more of a responsibility.
Chemistry, I’m big on…We’re not going to go out there and spend an exorbitant amount of money on one or two Free Agents. We get really good athletic young players primarily and mix them with some nice veterans. We have to play our style of baseball, we have to all buy into it, we have to believe in it. I really feel the core group gets it, and I’m really relying on them to spread the word to the newcomers.
This is what I always wanted to see happen since the day I arrived, and I think we’re at that point now where when you walk into our clubhouse from another situation, you realize quickly that this is how we do things here. I’m really comfortable with the ideas of the young bucks right now. I think that they’re going to be able to handle that load and pass the word.
On Maddon’s 2011 new mantra of “Another Way”
Regarding our play for this year, we have to do it in “another way”. We have to get back to the playoffs and its probably going to require another way. The Rays way is another way. When you just look at how we’ve gotten to this particular point over the last couple of years, the creativity with the trading and signing of Free Agents that we’re able to do, the draft things the development, all of that stuff.
The ballpark we play in is kind of different… it’s a little bit funky. And in spite of going to the World Series, it’s still difficult to attract. So there’s all of these little flaws about us, and in spite of it, we’ve still been able to overcome these things to the point that we’ve become rather successful. So this season, why not choose another way to get back to the playoffs.
That speaks to all the little quirkiness about us. I think I wanted our players to understand we’re going to have to do this in another way. The “Rays Way” and “Another Way” are synonymous terms and that kind of smacked me right in the face this past off season. Going into this year, we’re going to have to figure out another way to win, and we’re going to do that.
On the difficult nature of competing in the A L East:
We relish the challenge. In our opinion, there’s no more challenging division in all of professional sports than the American League East. Fortunately, we have had some success in the past few years that confirms a bit of the way we go about our business. But it’s really a survival mechanism. For us, we have to operate the way we do to have a chance to compete in this division Again, it gets back to knowing who you are.
We appreciate who we are, where we are in the landscape of this division in that we have to get creative and problem solve in different ways. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily changed what we knew in 2006 that this was an incredibly difficult division.
If anything, it’s probably gotten more difficult in that the other four teams are extremely well run, which makes it even more challenging. But it also makes it much more rewarding. The success we had in 2008 and 2010 was incredibly meaningful to all of us. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do and it’s something that inspires all of us.
I promise to be back in St. Petersburg on Thursday and will post both a photo blog and a review of some of the day’s activities including my first encounter with ManRam. Was a great day, but I got to go…These wings now have my feet sweating, and I am in an sir conditioned room with flip flops on….arrrg! Pint of milk….stat!!!.
Did you know that some every day medications we as fans can personally purchase ourselves over-the-counter with or without a doctor’s script can mask a potential MLB positive drug result. With so many knock-offs of well-known medications, or off-brands on store shelves and register countertops, you could purchase a single medicine that could trigger a positive test without ever knowing the basic “banded” substance or masking agent was included in the product.
There are so many over-the counter drugs that can mask the elements of a player’s attempted level of drug deceit. The reality is that most of us, on a daily basis, would or could fail a MLB mandated test if we submitted our samples. But the high paced culture of life today doesn’t mandate an abstinence from these types of products, or warns us of their extra ordinary properties.
How many of us have really read through any of those medicine pamphlets the pharmacy gives us when you get a new medication? I know I usually only read the dosage and the possible side effects section then chuck it into the trash can. A majority of the drugs mentioned today can be obtained via a doctor’s script at any pharmacies throughout the world, or even online.
If these drugs were prescribed to you personally and you discovered their innate athletic performance advantages, would you still use them?
I am not implying here that you would use a scientific loophole provided by an over-the-counter medication to get an advantage, but if it can help give you an extra zip or punch without causing a bevy of red flags in a possible urine or blood tests, would you use it? Let’s dive right into this hidden OTC medicine cabinet.
The first one up is the literally hair raising drug known as Finasteride or known better as its brand name Propecia. Testosterone has a vital part in helping the body produce muscle mass, and this pill actually helps the body produce an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
The pill is commonly used as a treatment for prostate cancer but has a hidden medical kicker of helping eliminate hair loss and start new hair growth. But Propecia also contains a chemical that can be used to mask the use and effects of anabolic steroids in the body because of the overproduction of DHT.
For some reason, this medication was removed from the World Doping Agency list in 2009 and is not considered a banned substance anymore. Curious?
The second medicine under the heat lamp is Sidenafil Citrate or better known as Viagra. Most men might use this mentioned medicine to help the ill effects of certain body function which helps dilate the body’s blood vessels to expand and take in more oxygen and rid the muscles of dangerous toxins.
Viagra is really helpful in participating in games at higher elevations as it will dilate the blood vessels for the duration of the drug and make it easier for the body to adjust to the higher altitudes and the decrease oxygen intake associated with these altitudes. It can give a short term advantage to athletes playing games in the Mountain time zone, then resort back to their normal breathing habits after the pill is gone from their system.
The third drug introduced today was developed to help the aging male population find relief from the ill effects of male pattern baldness. This drug also has been known to hide traces of steroids by masking the symptoms within it’s own chemical molecular bonds. Minoxidil or better known as Rogaine, is one of those drugs that is available right on our grocer’s shelf, and can be purchased with total anonymity.
Rogaine was first developed as a potential cure for hypertension, but its side advantages came to light when suffers began to see renewed growth in their hair follicles. It is important here to note that a common side effect of steroid use is hypertension, or a renewed state of anxiousness.
Rogaine can be used as a chemical mask to offset the hypertension as well as keep the hair follicles intact on the user during the duration of using the medication. This is also a drug that can be used in plain sight within the Clubhouse and most people around you will not give it a second thought.
Now onto a medication that was initially developed to help combat weight loss without throwing your body into a severe crash diet scenario. This Drug is Liothronine also known as Cytomel. The medication is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone needed by the body to controls our metabolism. Cytomel can be used by a sly trainer/user to get fast results via a six-week cycle to help get body fat down quicker.
It also helps its regain muscle mass so they can effectively hide any transformation by not gaining excess or bulky weight distinguished by an adverse gain in size and weight. This drug has also been known to be mixed with HGH as a cocktail to help induce massive changes within a small period of time. This medication can also be taken before a game to bring about a instant rush of energy without the side effects of a positive drug test.
And last, but not least today will be the medication Dutasteride or known better as Avodart. This is a true masking agent because it is highly effective in hiding some of the side effects of using anabolic steroids like the unsightly bacne. This medication can be taken in a cocktail also with Propecia which helps regulate the production of DHT, which is the main contributor to the formation of bacne.
Avodart acts as a masking agent to dilute the DHT enzyme and creates a buffer to eliminate this tell-tale sign of steroid usage or coming off a steroid cycle. But this is also two-fold as the medication also has a nice side effect of making certain body parts, well shrink in transition to its usage. And because of that, it can give a secondary sight recognition to the possible steroid usage.
But there are also other medicines that are used by drug/steroid users to mask intent like Methylphenidate or Ritalin, which gives the user more focus and puts them “in-the-zone” quicker. It was amazing the when MLB banned the stimulant in 2006, the MLB’s drug exemption paperwork for usage therapeutically skyrocketed among players.
I did not post this to have people second guess or even try and investigate an MLB player’s medicine cabinet, then announce its content to the World. I wanted to show that even a person outside the game of baseball can produce or even hide a positive MLB drug test without actively knowing it. But they do not ban us from the ballpark…..yet.
I really do not know how Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman keeps doing it. For a long span of this off season it was almost as if the Rays entire front office staff closed their doors until almost January.
It was if the Rays staff wanted to sit there lurking as the MLB Free Agent market set its ceilings and cellars for positional and pitching. Then like a top of the food chain predator, Friedman awoke from his Rip Van Winkle slumber and proceeded to hand pick his replacement fruit from the still bountiful MLB player trees.
Evan as other free agents started getting plucked with vigor from the tree by other teams in haste, Friedman acted more like a customer in the produce aisle thumping the exterior of players like a ripe melon. His first move of the off season Friedman went out and signed promising ex-Nationals right-hand reliever Joel Peralta on December 17,2010 to help fill the first piece of the Rays Bullpen overhaul.
In his now classic under a cloak of secrecy Rays style, Friedman was also concluding one trade deal with the San Diego Padres to ship one of his big ticket arbitration eligible Jason Bartlett on the same day as the Peralta singing. Still lurking in the darkness was a thunderous trade of Rays starter Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs on January 8, 2011. Friedman made out like a bandit on both trades bringing back a bountiful treasure trove of both MLB quality players, plus some high caliber prospects that will help reload the Rays farm system for the next Rays reload.
The trades of his two highest dollar arbitration eligible players helped Friedman free up just over $ 10 million to pursue some big fish for other Rays glaring holes in their Bullpen, plus a big bat to protect Evan Longoria in the Rays line-up. But the Tampa Bay sun was shining bright on Friedman as two of his other arbitration eligible players Centerfielder B J Upton and reliever Andy Sonnanstine both signed one year contracts freeing up Friedman from any possible arbitration hearing duty this Spring.
Just as you thought Friedman might take a deep breath and relax for a brief moment, Friedman went out and got his intimidating back-end of the Bullpen reliever in RHP Kyle Farnsworth on January 15. Friedman then possibly made a few decoy moves in signing complimentary pieces RHP Dirk Hayhurst and 2B Daniel Mayora to minor league deals with a Spring Training Invites.
Then in Friedman style, just when you thought that the MLB cupboard was starting to become mighty bare, Friedman signs Tampa Bay native and defensive First Baseman Casey Kotchman to a minor league deal. The Kotchman deal might have been another Friedman diversion as his next deal had some around the MLB wondering if the Rays were in fact rebuilding or just simply reloading.
One day after Kotchman signed, the Rays announce their biggest off season signing of the season, a duo signing of Lf/DH Manny Ramirez and LF/DH Johnny Damon to one year contracts that are very team friendly. Ramirez and Damon’s combined salaries will cost the Rays around $ 7.25 million (not including Damon’s attendance incentives), which still is only $ 1.75 million LESS than the Rays paid Pat Burrell for his services through mid-May 2010.
If you even include Farnsworth’s $ 3 million base salary (not including games finished incentives), the three signings will sneak just under the projected off season arbitration figures of traded players Bartlett and Garza ( $ 10.5 million). Only Friedman could trade away two important cogs of the Rays roster and get so much back in return, plus prospects who will help keep the Rays payroll in check for a long time.
But that is the magic of Friedman. Somehow he can come into a do-or-die cost-cutting scenario with only a bale of wheat or hay and come out in the end spinning a strand of thin gold into a tight ball. You have to seriously wonder just how savvy and creative Friedman was as an investment banker if he can do all of this with a significantly reduced Rays payroll (proposed ceiling between $40-50 million).
Pull up the Rays 40-man roster going into Spring Training, including their under the radar Spring Training Invites. On February 15, 2011 when Rays pitchers and catchers begin their first 2011 workouts, it will be just over 60 days since Friedman’s first signing of Peralta. Just think about the level of talent already assembled, and we still have over 10 days for Friedman to still daze and confuse us before that first workout.
Not since that first Rays blunder under Friedman’s watch when the Rays tried to sneak Josh Hamilton through the Rule 5 Draft, has Friedman toughened up and taken a firm stand that he will never be surprised like that again. Deal for deal, salary for salary, I truly think Friedman might have gotten the most money back on his entire player investments since taking the Rays reins.
Besides the tarnish of the Burrell debacle, there is nothing but shine to Friedman’s trade and Free Agent moves. Since his emergence on the MLB scene, Friedman has been simply golden. Gifted with a crack Scouting Department, piles and piles of correlated data and visuals, plus an eye for talent, Friedman has made the Rays a role model for team competing on a shoestring budget.
But do not be surprised if in the next 10 days, before February 15th if Friedman doesn’t pull another off-the-cuff deal that seemed to come out of nowhere. But then again, that is okay, Friedman is not rebuilding the Rays, he is just helping them reload
Got to admit to all of the Rays Republic, in the beginning I had a few doubts and even reservations about a Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez duo signing. Maybe it was the aspect that they have been associated with the 2004 Red Sox “Cast of Idiots“, or maybe I was afraid they might not be able to “Cowboy Up!” one last time.
After witnessing the magic and pure adrenaline rush permeating through that Tampa Bay Rays Press Conference media room, my doubts and worry suddenly melted off like Ramirez’s pounds during his workouts in Arizona. From the moment their agent Scott Boras led them into the room until Rays Vice President of Communications Rick Vaughn yelled “Is that all?” This was a glorious ride to see in person.
I was not suppose to be in this room nestled near the darkness with my little camera, but the entire Rays office was poised at noon today to see the next chapter unfold and I tagged along for the ride. From the media buzz to the clicking of camera’s and live video feed both locally and from MLB, this quickly became a love fest, not just for Tampa Bay, but for the two men seated in the middle of the large table.
Instantly you knew both guys were on the same page, had the same intentions and wanted to the guys to help usher in a repeat American League East title. Like Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein so eloquently said recently, “The demise of the Rays is greatly exaggerated.” I am not climbing the flagpole just yet, or marching fully to that beat of triumph again, but this duo instantly make me hunger for that chance.
Both said the right things too. Ramirez flexed his right arm to show his muscle when asked if he was “fit” ,and Damon said insistently this was not the “last chapter” of his baseball career. Instantly the void that grew immense when former clubhouse guru Carlos Pena vacated for Chi-town became smaller. Suddenly I could see the Rays clubhouse leader ship not come from one speaker, but act in stereo with their actions and observations going to make this team competitive every game.
Suddenly I remembered why I hated these two so much. Their competitive nature just seems to ooze from their confidence levels, and that used to scare the death out of me. But there were comments from both that instantly brought me back to why they were signed, Damon called the Rays his “Dream Team” or Ramirez saying while putting on his number 24 Rays jersey that he ” looks good in white“.
Integrity, confidence and ability all joined hands in that room today. Manny was his usual joking self, but did not shy away from questions on if “Manny might be Manny” in Tampa Bay, but a guy who has hit almost .300 lifetime in this dome knows what is expected of him. Possibly Manny even threw out a nugget for the Rays to consider in 2011 that he thinks he can play “five more years”. Not making any predictions, but if Manny is right he has already made his money….maybe a Tampa Bay discount knowing this team can compete might be in the future.
The love fest we saw between these two today was incredible. You can tell they are more than happy to be playing with each other again, and the respect level is very high between them. Several times during the Press Conference I expected both to rise and do an Ari Gold (Entourage) “hug out“. Not since Baseball Hall of Fame member Wade Boggs and HOF hopeful Fred McGriff put on a Rays uniform have I been excited about such a veteran duo. Some in the assembled crowd made predictions of a possible 70 Home Runs between the pair while other were optimistic of a great meshing of the duo with the young Rays corps.I left that room running for my laptop in the car wanting to write this. Eager to let this feeling flow from me today of this incredible moment. Some say defining moments in a franchise’s history never reveal themselves until later, but today the moment just felt perfectly right for a half hour. So the signings are official, the jerseys have pressed their backs for the first time and the media got to shake their verbal hands with Damon and Ramirez. For some reason the comment from Ramirez to Damon of “You play 100 games, I’ll play 62” (referring to LF) is still ringing in my ears…in a good way.
I snuck in to see this magical moment mush like a kid who sneaks under the canvas at the circus. I expected to see a sideshow event. Once that propped both of them up in a definite light. What I got was two men who had extreme confidence and respect for each other pass compliment after compliment not just to themselves, but to the young team they will embrace in 2011.
I really do hope that Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce and the rest of the Rays budding hitter pick the brains of these two baseball icons. I hope the competitive nature and confidence level showed by Damon and Ramirez today fills that Rays Spring Training clubhouse. But most of all I am just glad I got to see the magic happen….firsthand.
Got to tell you, when I first heard the signing rumblings recently about Florida-born Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez possibly signing with the Tampa Bay Rays, it made me ………extremely hungry.Yes, you heard that right, I became famished, and eager to sit down and digest this whole enchilada bite by bite. Not sure why this idea of “food” as an analogy point crept into my mind, but the more I focus in on the Rays Republic’s knowledge on these two iconic aging stars, the more my thoughts seem to melt into an ever expanding culinary direction.
The extremely wild part of it all is tat I instantly imagines a homemade Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich when thinking about these two players signing with the Rays. If you really look deep into this equation, the two of them were brought in to be a cohesive bonding agent for the Rays offense. Both have strengths and abilities that will benefit each other, and with their confidence and leadership, could mesh this unit into the perfect PB & J.
Of course Damon is the Peanut Butter with his smooth stroke at the plate and good running style. Coming to a team like the Rays that use the stolen base as an additional means to produce scoring opportunities, Damon will get more than a few chances to stretch him self from the heel to the crown of the bread loaf, and smother himself. Most might think I would pick Ramirez for the peanut butter since he does have his “nutty” tendencies, but the P B is all Damon.
Not the crunch variety either. I honestly think this was a great move that will actually streamline the Rays running game and produce some great numbers for Damon in 2011. Most people are downplaying the positive aspects of Damon coming here, but remember, the Detroit Tigers were not known for their love of the stolen base last season. Now the big question might be where to insert Damon into this line-up to take advantage of this speed-based offense.
That brings me to another reason why Damon is peanut butter. You see, it is not jelly and peanut butter, but peanut butter and jelly. With that culinary distinction, Damon should hit lead-off. Some might suggest B J Upton there with his speed and power potential, but I see Upton actually hitting second and give Damon chances to not only score runs, but possibly put pressure on the opponent’s defense to make the hard plays.
But you can’t have PB & J without the jelly. Ramirez is still a great hitter. Just because some of his power numbers have taken a spiral downward since his 50-game in-season vacation while with the Los Angeles Dodgers doesn’t mean it was “juice-induced”. Jelly is all about the preservatives, pectin and the ultimate fruit tastes that push this classic sandwich to the next level.
Living in FL, I have gotten to know odd flavor concepts in jelly from orange to guava escalating into my new favorite mango. Ramirez is like a ripen mango, and ready for the picking. He was not happy in La-la Land, and at times his play on the field showed brightly to the fans that if Manny is not happy….Manny takes to playing the game on his own level. Hence the mango jelly.
It is an acquired taste. Some people would be repulsed by it while others savor the exotic nature of it all knowing the difference is what makes it special. Hence, Ramirez is the Manny Mango in my jelly-based opinion. Ramirez was brought here to protect the Rays golden asset, budding MLB hot shot Evan Longoria in the line-up. Ramirez’s ability to hit it long and hard, or just produce period makes him a great protector for Longoria in the Rays line-up.
Playing mostly at DH for the Rays ( except during Inter-League), it is a chance for Manny to show the rest of the American League that he can make the transition from everyday field player to Designated Hitter. This is a chance for the Rays and Ramirez to desperately inject a new tangy and intoxicating bit of favor to the DH position without the bitter aftertaste of the Burrell DH era. In short, it is Ramirez playing for a possible 2012 audition as a AL DH.
I really feel deeply that Damon and Ramirez aka Dam-Manny come as a unique flavor profile package, not unlike the mentioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Heck, the idea that the Rays lost out on signing Andrew Jones is muted instantly by the basic premise of the BOGO (Buy One, Get One Free) situation where the Rays produced a “win-win” situation by getting two prolific scorers for one low price. That kind of grocery savvy reminds me totally of the Rays favorite grocery chain (Sweetbay).
When in your wildest notions would you have ever expected to see these two players EVER in the Rays Carolina blue jerseys. But coming within a month, when they report to Port Charlotte, Florida for Spring Training,. Waiting for them will be a young team with a hearty appetite for winning, and a want to succeed.
Most people expected me to possibly throw this deal under a microscope and find fault, blame or even a dab of sarcasm at the expense of the new duo, But this deals makes me extremely hungry for a pure fact that it feels like the perfect sandwich. Together both Damon and Ramirez give the Rays a two headed approach at American League hitting this season, where if they had signed Jones, it would have been one flavor all season long.
With the addition of these two talents, we will definitely see either Damon or Ramirez at times camped out in the Rays outfield with the NEW AstroTurf II under their tootsies hopefully performing amazing plays. The addition of the two hitters also give the wheeling and dealing line-up machine of Rays Manager Joe Maddon two more weapons in his daily arsenal to take down the Red Sox and Yankees from their predestined podiums.
Damon and Ramirez fit together like peanut butter and jelly. Together they can make a tasty treat that will make you smile and get you excited. But apart, they become two different taste platforms that do not go well on their own merits. I am still feeling a bit hungry, and I think it is time for me to venture into the kitchen for a hearty snack. Maybe I will conjure up a special D&M sandwich, better known to people outside Tampa Bay as a PB&J…..
I was sitting there in my favorite sports bar the other day when it came to my mind that in the last few years there have been a multitude of adaptations and abbreviations transformed and formulated to even decipher the amount of chew spits a player makes during a plate appearance. It was at this time that I had a brainstorm thought about the Tampa Bay Rays and decided to pull out the old laptop and try and do some fast research while he went to did some business.
I jotted down a few fast pages of statistics from the bevy of sites like www.Fangraphs.com, who have developed a whole new language within baseball and speak about phrases and even notations that most sports fans have not even heard of before. I mean, until I ventured online looking for their explanation I could not tell you what bRAA, or even Tra stood for in baseball statistics talk. So let me try and decipher the first two here for you then get back to my conversation. BRAA is actually an abbreviation for batting runs above average. It is computed by taking a hitters RV/PA ( Runs valued per Pitches attempted above average) and multiplying the number of plate appearances he has had that season.
Okay now that I have you maybe totally confused, or I am talking Esperanto to you, let me use the first research abbreviation noted above with the American League MVP, Dustin Pedroia, and the 2008 American League Rookie of the Year, Evan Longoria. So using the formula of bRAA, I have calculated that Pedroia’s was 24.1 in 2008.
If you consider that his bRAA has risen from -7.8 in 2006, to a respectable 10.1 last season during his own ROY season, you can see the progression of this young hitting star. If you take the current ROY, Longoria, this is his first true season in the big leagues, so he doesn’t have even 1 at bat to put into account to show the fast progression of his hitting in the AL. But then again, when you come into the league for the first time, and have a projection of 16.4, the sky is the limit.
So unlike Pedroia, Longoria is showing immediate plus plate appearances and making his presence know in the MLB. That bodes well for the league and for his team in the coming seasons as his bRAA will increase a bit, and might spark another strong run at the playoffs for the young Rays. So as you can see, the SABR guys have taken a huge hold of baseball, and that is not a bad thing. As Kevin Costner said in the movie, “For the Love of the Game” when asked if baseball counts everything, he said ” We count everything, it is what we do.”
Odd stats and projections have become the backbone of fantasy leagues and professional betters and has been absorbed into everyday life now. 5 years ago, who would have known what OPS stood for, and what offensive production number were accumulated in that statistic. Now it is a commonly used graphic on most every ballpark in America when a hitter comes to bat.
I know there have been a few time this past season that I took out my laptop at games and tried to update a certain stat, or even produce a stat to supplement a comment I was making to a seat mate or even another fan in the section. It is almost as if very soon there will be a second language spoken only by statistics mongrels and the cyber republic to express our actions and reactions in abbreviations and commas. But that is not always a bad thing.
Since baseball is a game where statistics are law, and the amount of statistical firepower can make a drunk fan sit down and ponder even a simple fact, it is the reality of baseball in the modern days. I know my Dad used to say the only stats that matter are the ones under the “H”, “R” and “E” spots on the scoreboard. Now that is not to mean he did not know the batting averages or a the pitching selections of his favorite players’, but the love of the game was more physical to them.
Today, the game is taking on more power beyond just the batted ball or the nice 12-6 break on a curve ball. It is becoming a game where science and logic and even that math class we all hated in college statistics is coming to the forefront of information. I mean who was the top pitcher in 2008?
Was it C C Sabathia, or even Derek Lee? Or could someone like Randy Johnson or Ervin Santana sneak into the Top 10 without us even noticing it. To be totally truthful here, Sabathia was listed twice in the Top 10 performances of 2008. He was the top selection and also the 10th for his time with the Milwaukee Brewers, and Cleveland Indians. And how did Lee sneak all the way up to number 3 without anyone noticing him until late in the season, and during the playoffs. Sometimes the statistics as a whole show better productivity and more stable references to a players’ true nature at the plate or on the mound in baseball.
Okay, let’s head the other direction, who was the best in the batter’s box in 2008, was it the MVP’s of both leagues, Dustin Pedroia, or Albert Pujols? Or did someone else have a banner year and got lost in the shuffle? If you guessed Pujols, you win a huge prize. He had the best season of anyone is baseball at the plate in 2008. But if you picked Pedroias, you might be disappointed to know he did not even rank in the top 20 in offense in 2008.
He did have an amazing post season, but the season only produced him a slot at number 23, and that was not even the best showing on the Boston Red Sox. That slot went to Kevin Youkilis, who came in at number 9. And Pedroia did not come even second on his own team. So you to wonder, just how great a season did he have if he was ranked 4th on his own squad in total offensive numbers in 2008.
Well, if you consider the fact that Youkilis probably had his best season as a professional this season, his selection at number 9 might be realistic for him. But the two guys in front of Pedroia also had injury concerns in 2008, but when they were able to hit the plate, they were effective for their team. Both J D Drew ( 13) and Pre-Trade Deadline Manny Ramirez (12) had better statistics than the American League Most Valuable Player.
So since I am a Rays fan, I also took the liberty of seeing how my guys did on both lists. Well, even though we did have an amazing run towards that beautiful trophy in October, we missed out and will have to repeat to have another shot to hoist that beauty in the air. I scanned over the sheets and saw that pitching wise, we did not fare really bad on the list.
James Shields actually coming out 18th in the top 20 of the 2008 listing. Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir came in at 54th and 61st respectfully, and that is a great showing that the Rays had 3 guys in the top 60-ish of baseball. The one guy who really got me excited was the fact that number 4 starter, Andy Sonnanstine blew past Garza and Kazmir and came out a impressive 31st on the final list. He had some great statistics behind the front numbers and has shown some remarkable consistent numbers in 2008.
So the next time you want to wonder why Sonnanstine is still here and Jackson is gone, you can look at the 2008 numbers and they tell a very clear story. Jackson was listed at 114th best in baseball, while Sonnanstine was in the 31st slot. Consistency wins ball games, and with the Rays being a truly statistic friendly team, you know that Rays Manager Joe Maddon sees the potential of Sonnanstine even growing in 2009 for the team.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Rays did have a few guys who did better at the plate then imagined early on in the season. The team actually placed 3 guys in the top 100 hitters in 2008. As you might expect, Carlos Pena was the highest Rays with a ranking of 29th for the year. That was followed by a 55th spot by Longoria, and a 92nd slot for center fielder B J Upton.
On the surface, people thought the Upton was having a down season, which he actually was due to a shoulder injury, but with him adjusting his swing and even placing into the top 100, the sky is the limit when he is fit and healthy in 2009. And with Longoria placing so high as a rookie, it also sets a high expectation level for him in 2009. Hopefully the sophomore jinx will not hit him and he can remain in pace to become a new star at third base for the MLB.
But the category that really had my eyes popping was in the relief pitching listings. The Rays were consistently being praised for their upgrades in their Bullpen, and with the huge developments in their relievers, but just how great was this change for the team? The squad actually placed two guys high on the list.
Considering the guy who came in at number 10 on the list was not even on the Rays Opening Day roster is a amazement in itself, but he did not get any reputation, or even recognition until he came back with a fire in his belly to prove the world wrong about him. Grant Balfour came back to St. Petersburg to fulfill a potential of being a top 10 reliever in the MLB, not just the AL. If I took the top 10 and split them by leagues, Balfour would rank 7th in the American League.
But as great as the story is on the emergence of Balfour, the productivity of J P Howell can not be measured by just the statistics. During the season I saw the guy who used to slunk by the Bullpen area come alive this season and become a fan favorite for his personality and his spunk. As Howell gained strength and great numbers, he also opened up to the fans and showed that great inner champion to him. Howell just missed the top 50 in baseball by 2 slots, but he is a top guy based on his upswing in 2008.
So as we can see, the basic statistics in baseball sites and on leader boards can not always show you the total package of a player. Be it a MVP winner who is not even the 4th best player on his team, or a 5th starter who is actually statistically better than 3 other starting pitchers on his squad, the number can be deceiving at time. But we already knew that didn’t we?