Results tagged ‘ Matt Silverman ’

Could a Forced Payroll Ruin the Competitive Rays?

You know Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, Rays President Matt Silverman and Vice-President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman are anxiously awaiting the end to the 2011 post season. Possibly even before the fizzle leaves the last champagne bottle, and the last tinsel of ticker tape hits the pavement, there could be an announcement by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig about baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Unlike the NFL and NBA, MLB and the MLBPA have been working themselves into a fever trying to get their own deal finalize, in place and ready to implement as soon as the curtain is drawn on the 2011 Fall Classic. For some clubs around the MLB, this upcoming announcement could be met with both joy and sadness as elements of the overall agreement are opened to the public. Some teams could face hardships, other revisions of their anointed Winter of 2011 scenarios, but all will eagerly be awaiting the final draft of the document.

Even with all this positive energy surrounding some of the preliminary items already leaked to the public, there could be a potential dark side to the new CBA, one that could instantly help or hinder the Rays 2012 season blueprint. Potentially there have been talk of a minimal salary or “competitive balance” ceiling that every club will have to maintain within the season, possibly setting into motion 180 degree changes or implementations of a different roster formulation.

Not only will some of the smaller market clubs feel some pain, but it could stifle the first few weeks of free agency as teams readjust their expectations, circumvent their initial plans in place, and possibly even abandon some potential deals currently in the works behind the scenes.

Ever since MLB Commissioner Bud Selig spanked the Florida/Miami Marlins both verbally and in writing for their blatant funneling of luxury tax funds from the upper echelon MLB teams, there have been more than whispers about a reverse luxury tax, possibly taking money from clubs that do not do their due diligence to stay competitive or hide the money for another rainy payroll day. Teams like the Marlins, Rays, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates fit this bill with payroll all coming in under $ 60 million dollars.

Amazingly the Marlins  led that small segment of the lower echelon of the MLB salary ladder with over $ 57 million in player salaries, while the Rays ($ 42.1 million) and Pirates ($ 42.04 million) were not the bargain basement dwellers when it comes to their club’s 2011 payroll. That honor ( if you call it that) went to the Royals who had a 2011 club payroll of just under $ 40 million.

Interesting enough, the Chicago Cubs ($ 134 million), Los Angeles Angels ($ 141.7 million), New York Mets ($142.7 million), Boston Red Sox ($163.8 million), Philadelphia Phillies ($165.9 million), and of course the New York Yankees ($ 207 million) all had the payrolls and revenues to have individually paid the salaries of all 3 of the MLB’s bottom 3 all by themselves. Some say that with the new CBA there will be a salary revolution, and teams from Tampa Bay north to Cleveland and west to San Diego will feel the fiscal vibrations first.

Winter payroll prep and roster plans are already formulated and signed, sealed and delivered for most of the MLB, but for clubs near the bottom of the fiscal food chain, the CBA announcement could be their blessing or curse for their preconceived forecasts for their roster makeup for the Spring of 2012.

If MLB does impose a mandatory $65 million dollar payroll bottom end for their franchises, this could both hurt or help the Rays. It would force a rethinking of the overall progress of the franchise as they reload as a competitive unit. With a slew of rookies and second years players possibly dotting the roster again in 2012, their collective salaries would be minimal compared to the high dollar salary of wily veterans or potential free agents. Sternberg has hinted in previous interviews that the low intake of revenues by the Rays during the 2011 season would be felt in the team’s player personnel makeup.

If MLB mandates a set bottom for payroll for the Rays would it help the likes of Johnny Damon or Casey Kotchman in getting a longer tenure with the Rays, or could it open avenues for the Rays to circumvent the system a hair and offer long-term deals to David Price, Matt Joyce and possibly B J Upton to put their 2012 mandated dollars to work without a huge influx of new personnel or expectations? If the Rays did fund a payroll of $65 million, would it have to take funds from other sections of the team like their development and scouting, or possibly from their promotional budget?

When Selig begins to speak at the microphone about the new CBA, the Rays Republic should be eager to read behind the words. MLB is set to transform into a new generation, and teams staying near the bottom rung of the MLB salary ladder could greatly be effected by the new agreement, and it provisions and expectations.

But right now the conversation might seem moot. Trite because the writing is not in front of us, the proverbial pen has not left the paper and things could change dramatically before the final document is sent to the printer. A salary cap might seem like a blessing to some within the Rays Republic to make Sternberg and his crew bring in vital cogs to the Rays machine for 2012, potentially circumventing our own farm system and clogging up the lanes again to the Major Leagues for so many of the Rays budding players.

I hope I am worrying about nothing, that a salary cap will not even be broached and voiced by Selig or the MLBPA. Then again, Selig’s 2012 rants towards the Marlins shows that MLB wants the bottom rung to move up farther away from the ooze of the muck. Problem is, will that cause a baseball evolution or slice into an already streamlined Rays payroll forecast for 2012….I can already hear the darkened clouds rumbling.

Tick Tock Mayor Foster, Tick Tock!

I was reading an editorial today posted in the St. Petersburg Times website about the ongoing stalemate or strong arm maneuvers that have begun to permeate, and not with a great aroma from the St. Petersburg Mayor’s office.

I originally voted for Bill Foster as the Mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida because of his background working within the city structure even as the Florida Suncoast Dome was just a blueprint of the baseball future of this region. I really felt he had the heart and the soul figured out of the Tampa Bay Rays and their pursuit of a more feasible and fiscal future abode.

In his campaigning I thought I saw a Mayor who would embrace the Rays and each would walk a path towards enlightenment and harmony. Instead I’m now beginning to visualize more ands more daily an increasing sense of that regrettable small town insecurity that St. Petersburg, Florida has always fought with their cousins across the bay…Tampa.

Somehow Mayor Foster has embraced this insecurity like someone trying to steal his only child, refusing even a remote thought or a single word enter his ears of a possibility of the Rays moving from their home. For some reason Mayor Foster has been mute and vampant to even discussing the whole situation, and the ?Rays are growing tired of the silent treatment.

Some say the city of St. Pete has a lot to lose if the team explores outside its city limits, but in the Nation-wide scheme of things, St. Petersburg is looking selfish, arrogant and showing itself like a unbridled horses backside. This is the politician I elected into office, if he persists, his reign will be short and sweet.

There are other who are of the opinion that Mayor Foster is hedging his bets that the Rays finally drive across the city limits and violate his sacred trust. Litigation, bold judicial actions and even a bit of the old Florida back room politics of the past have reared their ugly head. This is not the progression or the tactics I expected from Foster. This is the work of a man with nothing to lose but his entire political career.

If he stops the Rays from crossing that imaginary line he will be toasted and held in high esteem by some in this community, but that same group is not the one flocking to Tropicana Field. The corporations in St. Petersburg have kept a low profile knowing a war is on the horizon, and will pick their battle mates after the first volley. I have a sneaking suspicion Mayor Foster will get the full Custer effect when his deep pocket allies finally fall on their own swords.

People are forgetting this Rays stadium fiasco is making our region look small time. It is making some within Major League Baseball wince and shutter at the possibility they even discussed a team in this region. It is making Mayor Foster MLB Public Enemy Number 1 without vocalizing it.

The city of St. Petersburg’s leverage on the Rays decreases with every tick of the clock, but why would the city bank on the fact the Rays would have to pay a penalty or even forgo some extra monetary damages if they trek across the bay. Don’t you think the Rays have not already got that same ideal prioritized, itemized and realized?

You think the team is going to wait until 2027 before hopping in a car and crossing the Howard Franklin? Really? You think the Rays have no done their homework already on any possible Hillsborough sites, and the fiscal collateral damage it could commit with even a public comment?

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg has been kind. He has not put a line in the sand, a proverbial “this needs to happen” speech out for all to hear, but it’s coming. Even the recent comments by his second in command, Rays President Matt Silverman and his First Sergeant Rays Manager Joe Maddon have not fallen on deaf ears outside the Mayor’s office.

The St. Petersburg City Council have heard enough to become worried, have heard enough to become banded and united in trying to stop the bleeding before the Rays amputate St. Petersburg from their stadium site list. The City Council have finally been made aware of the stalemate and chess match Mayor Foster is playing is becoming closer and closer to a “checkmate”.

The Rays are putting a great product on the field this season with their limited financial resources. The money pit, known as Tropicana Field, has seen millions of dollars poured into its inner core trying to revitalize a dying stadium. The structure is seeping into the Florida landscape, the building is starting to gasp and wheeze, it is beginning it final stages of sustaining MLB life.

I love Tropicana Field for what it has brought me personally over it lifetime. I enjoy games still sitting under its Teflon roof. I understand the need for more viable control over expenses and a possible freedom to re-invent the baseball stadium as we know it. By utilizing the newest technology trapping and possibly including a convention center to keep the money flow constant.

Mayor Foster can be commended for his due diligence in not bending or breaking to public opinions or scrutiny in this situation, but it is time to let a little civic pride go and try and work this out like a civilized community. Maybe it is a time for a unified “Kumbaya” moment, a civic awakening that if we falter here, the team is already headed for greener pastures.

I remember watching the video in college of the Mayflower moving vans backing up to old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, packing all the equipment, taking every last memory and ounce of civic pride with them before their trek to a town in the bowels of Indiana.

St. Petersburg doesn’t deserve that kind of legacy. Mayor Foster doesn’t want to be remembered as the man with too much civic pride to even dance with the Rays on this stadium situation before the clock runs out. The St. Petersburg City Council finally awoke from their hibernation concerning this issue, hopefully not too late to stop a journey over the bridge. Tick Tock Mayor Foster, Tick Tock!

” Friedman’s Anatomy”

Not sure why, but the moment I heard that Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman was heading for a Seattle hospital with stomach pains, the fictional Seattle Grace/Mercy West Hospital instantly came to mind. Maybe one too many lattes in this cool and rainy town turned my brain into mush.

Maybe it was too many episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” with my ex-fiancée’ that somehow perpetrated that image of Meridith Grey and Doctor McDreamy standing over Friedman just in time for MLB prime time, poised and ready to deliver another Emmy winning episode, complete with more singing and dancing as the Rays kid wonder was wheeled out of the operating room to his semi-private suite.

You could see feisty redhead/dirty blond/hair color du jour Doctor Lexi Grey using a nifty curving circular move with a disposable ER scalpel to cut the cellphone and blue tooth expertly away from Friedman’s hand and ear in one swift motion, watching it fall in slow motion to the floor with a MLB GM on the end end screaming “Hello?”

Somehow I could easily see one of the Rays most brilliant minds centered with one of ABC’s greatest fictional hospital drama……Oh, and did I leave out, it is based in Seattle. This medical emergency of Friedmans’ only deserved the best medical staff, and this fictional staff never seems to lose the focus, their determination or their patients….well, most of the time.

Seriously folks, how could you not see this kind of drama and action play out when the MLB Trade Deadline and a medical emergency both rear their ugly heads…It is a perfect ABC Movie of the Week in training…easy.

I know the whole enchilada with Friedman was not packed in a 41 minute segment like on the television series, but considering the time of the year, and the stakes that could have been at stake….it would be ratings gold…Even in NYC.

You know then even though Cristina Yang is a talented cardio-thoracic blades-woman, she would be extra assertive to get a chance to possibly slice, dice and julienne Friedman’s nasty appendix out with the skill of a medical Zorro. That is just the way she rolls baby. How perfect would it be if this really happened with husband Owen Hunt stands behind her doing that classic Macaulay Caulking “Home Alone” face.

But you know the always crafty and smug Alex Karev would find a way to either be in the surgery, or playing a key second fiddle position, possibly manning Friedman’s phone hitting ignore every time the Washington Nationals number flashed on the screen. Heck bring back a montage of George, Izzy and maybe even some Denny Duquette for good measures. All flashing through Friedman’s subconscious.

I could easily see Chief of Staff Richard Webber on the bat phone with Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and conferencing in Rays President Matt Silverman making sure all is calm in the Rays camp at this critical evening and juncture of the Trade Deadline countdown.

I wonder if the Rays really do have a plan in place for just this sort of emergency? Maybe it was placed in a hermetically sealed crystal box just for this kind of occasion. More likely a “Doomsday Draft” scenario then a Trade Deadline dissection/appendectomy.

Sometimes they say timing is everything, and with Friedman buckled over in pain and going under the knife, it surely will bode well with Sternberg in hopefully keeping Friedman in Tampa Bay once those Houston rumors hit the fan after their new ownership group is approved this month. Fair warning Stu, if this guy will sacrifice his body and life for this team…long term deal…or a blank check.

Rays Senior Advisor Gerry Hunsicker must have been in his old Astros days battle mode at this moment not only fielding calls about players, prospects and trade scenarios, but also well wishes and “get well soon” texts, emails and You tube quality videos from the vast Rays Republic. Sometime being behind the main target is the safest place to be…even in sports.

Friedman did not have his surgery at Seattle Grace, the hospital isn’t located near the Space Needle, or even anywhere situated near Broadway or the old P & I building. Friedman was armed again on that sunny Sunday morning armed with the utility belt of technology used to hone the deal and squeak an extra player out of a team.

Somehow MLB took it easy on Friedman that day. No deals were finalized, no players changed hands, no harm, no foul, except for that dang appendix in the jar on his bed stand. Somehow just like an episode of “Grey’s”, in the end, all becomes one, and all the madness turned into perfection in the Emerald City of coffee and dramatic moments. I think even Amanda Bailey would have smiled.

Rays and Kaboom! Build Another Safe Tampa Bay Playground

 

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Photo by TBO.com 

It has been almost a month since I put down my flat-head screwdriver and my open-ended 5/8 wrench after the completion of another great playground in South St. Petersburg, just a few miles from Tropicana Field. Does it really feel like a month since the Tampa Bay Rays staff, players and even their owner Stuart Sternberg spent a blustery afternoon back on December 18,2010 building another Kaboom! inspired safe playground from drawings and designs submitted by local children back in October, 2010.

It was really inspiring to the tenth degree to see employees of the Rays ECOT organization again bring their tool belts and construct not the first, but the second Tampa Bay regional playground in the last year and a half. But even more impressive is the common fact that the Rays are the only current Major League Baseball team to construct a Kaboom! Playground……….. so far.

Over 200 volunteers from the 2010 American League East Champion Rays along with members of the James B. Sanderlin Family Center and a large assortment of local community volunteers. Everyone was eager, with hammer in hand to began the construction after the short Kick-off ceremony and volunteer deployment. But this was an event I did not take my camera to as it was for the kids.

This new playground that we lifted, nailed, bolted and sweat into place will replace an older aging playground that will give over 300 community kids a safe place to play. More exciting is that the playground’s design was taken from drawings and designs submitted by the same local children who attend events at the James Sanderlin Center on a daily basis.

It was great to see the Rays “Three Amigos”, Sternberg, Rays VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and Rays President Matt Silverman hoisting lumber and plastic pieces into place along with their fellow employees and staff. Says a lot about the Rays internal community within the Trop that so many Rays employees devoted their time and efforts to such a great cause.

And for some of the Rays ECOT organization, it was a second step into the playground storm as their initial hammer time was back in 2009 when the Rays built another Kaboom! System in Riverview, Florida, about 25 miles to the East. That day’s build was one of the over 180 Kaboom! playgrounds that will be built in the United States in 2011. Simply put, Kaboom! Hopes that in the future it can put a great place to play within walking distances of every child in America.

It was a great experience seeing over 43,740 square feet of safety surfacing moving in unison by the volunteers and Rays that day. The bright colors of the equipment meshed in well with the mission of providing a safe and sturdy for every child in this South St. Petersburg community to enjoy this park for a long, long time. I want to again commend the Rays and their employees who took the time out of their busy off season to come out and help this region of St. Pete become safer and a new area of fun for kids of all ages.

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Photo by TBO.com

Sometimes we focus too much on what is happening within the confines of our favorite teams to not always look at some of the great things done in the off season and during the regular season by our MLB team. From the top to the bottom, on this day Rays fans, employees and hundreds of tired volunteers stood and watched the ribbon-cutting and the onslaught of kids personally checking out our work. Even Rays Manager Joe Maddon got into the fray picking up a drill and hammer to help build a better playing environment.

Makes me smile inside to see this team give like this to their local communities. With so much being written about the dark-side of sports or even an ensuing firestorm going back and forth about a future home for the Rays. It was great to see everyone involved come together and mesh under a common goal.

The sore muscles and aches seemed to melt away instantly after seeing the first kid’s laughter and smile while exploring his new and exciting playground kingdom.

If you want to know more about Kaboom! And their mission, feel free to click the link and see for yourself what you can do to help bring a safer playground environment for children in your own community. Can’t wait to help with the next one!

 

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Rays Renegade and The Pitch-Outs Wish You a Merry Christmas

 

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As we gander closer to the Holiest nights of the year, I want to take a moment out and thank the many viewers, commenter’s and baseball friends who have made this year of 2010 so…well glorious. I might not be sporting 5 Golden Rings, but another A L East banner for the Tropicana Field rafters was an expensive present, but more than enough to send 4 Lords a-leaping in my book.


I thought it was only right to honor and pay a holiday tribute to guys who made a lot of what happened for the Tampa Bay Rays possible in 2010. No, I am not talking about the Rays 3 Wise Men, Stuart Sternberg (Owner), Matt Silverman (President) or Andrew Friedman (VP of Baseball Ops), even though their leadership and vision, along with over $ 70 million little helpers did play a significant role.

I am talking about the quintuplets of quality, the Rays starting 5 rotation. These five hurlers rocked both the Trop and everywhere else in the MLB this season to produce 96 wins ( only 1 win short of their 2008 record). The Rays rambunctious five even tried to produce 5 separate 200+ innings producers, and only got derailed by a late season road bump by Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis and still came within 37.2 innings of the feat.

So it was only right that the Ray Clubhouse new Rock, Rap and Reggae band, The Pitch-Outs should bring you a little holiday cheer. The band is lead by the dramatic and charismatic vocal soundings of Matt Garza, who gets to those classic Rock falsetto high notes just as quickly as his 95+ high and tight fastball screams over the plate. His physical nature as the Punch-Outs front man is showcased by him toying with the crowd before delivering a solid move that is more crippling than his backdoor slider.

Behind him we have the always rock solid lead guitar work of the Ace of the quint, James Shields, who sometimes wears a gray beard off stage as a disguise to keep his many fans at bay. But on stage there is no disputing the talents and ability of this emerging rock legend as his fingers take to the Stratocaster and take you on a melody ride on his crazy train.
 
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On the left side of the stage we have the southpaw David Price who is very noticeable in his blond flowing locks and seems to be the shy guy of the bunch until he get his guitar strap over his shoulder, then he turns into a modern day Bootsy Collins just up there trying to seduce, embrace and groove to the music. His rhythm guitar is one of the solid reasons this Rays band of hurlers is going places, and might just eventually challenge Garza for some of the band’s spotlight in 2011.
 
On the bass guitar is country born and bred Wade Davis, who has taken to the music the same way he takes the mound…with authority and has produced one of the best Rays rookie campaigns in the team’s short history. In his first extended time at the MLB level, Davis has shown he can step to the mound and deliver and be a consistent part of the future of this amazing band. Sky is the limit as Davis enters his Sophomore tour with no signs of letting up or moving into the background.

Last, but definitely not least we have the Tall Texan, Jeff Niemann who was put behind the drum set only because he kept hitting the band’s stage lighting with his head during their earlier sets. But the big man can definitely hit the skins and showed in 2010 that his beats are as good as anyone out there, and that you can never count him out. With his patented move of jumping up from the drums set and leaping into the air with the band’s last number, the 6′ 8″ Niemann suddenly produces one of the band’s great moments of the night.

So this holiday season it just seemed only fitting to let the band successful CD’s like “Buckled your Knees” , ” KO Blues” or even “Pitching My Heart Away” should be in the stocking of the ones you love. The band optimizes the energy and gusto that is the frankincense and spice that encircles the Rays Republic universe. So be sure to watch and listen to the holiday styling’s of The Pitch-outs and look for another CD to drop in April 2011.

From everyone, even the mice at the Rays Renegade abode, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that all of life’s gifts are delivered to you under your glistening Christmas tree or in your stocking this holiday season.

Rays Should give Crawford an Extension

 


Mark Carlson / AP

On September 30,2009 Carl Crawford, the veteran player of the Tampa Bay Rays made it be known through the Tampa Tribune in an interview with writer Marc Lancaster that he would be open to discussions of an contract extension past the 2010 season. The news was viewed with excitement in the stands of Tropicana Field as it was made known by one of the Rays most popular players that he basically sees an upward change in the franchise and would love to further explore where this team is heading in the coming years.

We are very pleased to hear C.C.’s comments,” Tampa Bay Rays Executive Vice President Andrew Friedman told the St. Petersburg Times  on September 30th when Crawford announced he would be willing to discuss a possible extension to stay with the Rays. “Consistent with our policy, we do not speak publicly about contract negotiations but obviously we have a tremendous amount of respect for Carl both on and off the field.  He has been a big part of our past success and I expect he will be a big part of our future success as well.”

Andrew, you bet your sweet booty you want to keep one of the most exciting players in baseball right  where he is right now. Considering the Rays have a $10-11.5 million club option to consider before the beginning of the 2010 season, you can bet they will exercise that option and possibly make amends to keep C C well beyond the 2010 season. And if for some reason the deal does go sour in any way, you can expect an endless bulk of boos and article written until the cows come home about the Rays biggest PR blunder of your administration.

But first off, most Rays fans have to heed a bit from getting overexcited by the comments knowing that the pace at which Crawford performed in 2009 hitting both personal and club record in several categories during the season, he might have to give the Rays a bit of a ” local discount” to have the Rays retain him past the 2010 season. And right now, without knowing the expected payroll amount set by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, Crawford might be the biggest question mark right now.


Gail Burton / AP

Granted he has made comment showing an olive branch out to the Rays organization, and wants to stay here and hopefully be a part of another winning team that thrust hard into the playoffs, but can the Rays retain him without damaging their payroll expectations and  fit him perfectly into the team plans all the way through to maybe 2014?

Because of his upward mobility daily in the Major League Baseball All-Time charts, he is quickly establishing himself as a potential Hall of Fame caliber player, with a long career still in front of him. And if you were to compare him with the best active players at his position, he would surely command a $15 million plus a year salary in the big cities like Chicago or New York. So would Crawford be willing to give the team that deep of a discount to play for a potential winner, while also adding to his own reputation in the American League.

Crawford finally got to experience that winning feeling with the Rays in 2008, and it just might be in the Rays best interest to surround him with the  best talent they can afford to again hit that plateau before the team hits a wall and might have to cut back, maybe as soon as 2014. I know that is a long time away, but it is micro-seconds in baseball years. The career of a Major League player is long in comparison to some sports, but the risk factors are extremely higher considering the daily grind of 162 games a season.

But would the Rays use his “leg fatigue” as a bargaining tool, when in reality he has appeared in 150+ game for his fifth season of his career.  And if you consider what he can do once he hits the base paths, well Crawford might leave this game as one of the best who ever laced up a pair of Nike’s by the time he calls it a career.

Crawford is only the third American League player in this decade to reach the 60+ steals mark joining Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury ( 69/2009) and the Angels Chone Figgins (62/2005).  To further illustrate what he can do on the base paths, you only have to look at the May 3,2009 game against the Boston Red Sox to see how he can command a game all by himself. His 81.9 percent stolen base attempts rank first among active MLB players. He also became one of only 25 players since 1900 to steal 60 bases and get 60 RBI in the same season. And he is 1 of 6 to accomplish that in the last 20 years.

Crawford currently has the 6 highest stolen base totals in Rays history, and has hit the 50+ steals mark a record 5 times, which is the best among active players.  And he is only the 16th player since 1900 with 5-50+ steal seasons. And he has been clocked going from first to second in 3.1 seconds, which is a bit faster than recent Hall of Fame member Rickey Henderson in his prime.


Jeff Roberson / AP

But Crawford is not a one-dimensional player. He has also made some incredible plays on defense and might be one of the most under rated outfielder in the game since the Golden Glove are not awarded by  just his field position( leftfield) but by the outfield in general. The best example of how Crawford can turn a game around might be in the May 6th contest against the Boston Red sox where he stole  a total of 6 bases, and became only the fourth player to ever accomplish that feat. He was even the first to do it since June 30, 1996, when Eric Young of the Colorado Rockies was the last to hit that plateau.

These statistics might even make the Rays job harder to consider that he has just turned 28 this August 5th, and his 353 stolen bases rank 7th best since 1900. His 92 triples ranks him 12th since 1900, and the most since Cardinal Stan Musial. His 1,244 hits rank him 8th best since 1900. Such feats have seemed to come easy to the young outfielder who played in his 1,000 Major League game on June 27, 2009 against the Florida Marlins.

Hard to believe that the Rays All Time leader in runs, runs scored, hits, at bats, stolen bases, doubles and triples, games played and RBI has only played in 1,000 contests.  And let’s take a look at his triples for a moment, he is currently third among active players with only Yankee outfielder Johnny Damon (95) and Philly shortstop Jimmy Rollins (94) having more than Crawford’s 92 triples. But he was also 4th in the American League with 41 infield hits in 2009.

And if all of the above information was not mind boggling enough for Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations and Silverman to consider, here  are another few facts that point to the special place Crawford is heading in the coming years. He has now hit above .300 for the fourth time in the last five seasons for the Rays. This season he had a career high 51 walks and his 2009 On-Base Percentage of .364 is 34 points high than any other time in his career.

Add onto that package the fact he hit his 500th RBI on September 20th against Toronto’s Roy Halladay with a 2-run homer.  At the end of the 20
09 season, Crawford was 10ht in hits (185), 9th in multi-hit games with 54 this season, and 5th in triples with 8 in 2009.  Crawford has become the quintessential Rays player, and a good foundation for the club both in character and in his on-field behavior.

The 3-time American League All Star even took fans and players breath away in this season’s All Star game in St. Louis with his catch high above the AL Bullpen fence to rob the National League’s Brad Hawpe of a potential go-ahead home run in the 7th inning of that game. As Crawford stood there with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig that night, you  saw the boyish charm of Crawford, and so did the rest of the MLB community.


Jeff  /  Tom Gannam /AP

I guess the best thing right now is to let Crawford’s comments to Lancaster om September 30th  begin to close out this blog:
I don’t like worrying about it,” Crawford said to the Tampa Tribune, “
and you can sit there and say you’re not worried about it, but to not know what your future’s going to be in the next five or six years or so is definitely … it makes you scared at times.”

“I just hope we can do something. It’s uncomfortable worrying about it. I don’t like playing cautious. You’d be a liar if you say you didn’t play cautious when you have to go through contracts and stuff like that. I want to just be able to play baseball, don’t worry about nothing else.”


So it is your court now Rays front office. This is your time to shine and to make this contract extension a show of good faith and prosperity you hope this team embodies for the next 5 or 6 years. Crawford should be the backbone of  the Rays squads in that time period, and if he is not, it might be a clear indication of the team desire to scale back and let the next generation of Rays players get their shots. 

It is so hard to  for someone like me to adequately decipher and assess a monetary value to Crawford since his stock has risen every season since 2003, and he just might be hitting his prime right now in his career. But if you look at the numbers he has obtained in a period of 5 full seasons now, the numbers are staggering, even without the addition of dollar signs to his name. And if the Rays can get his at a reduced price and regain that winning feeling, it is a huge plus for the Rays franchise to have a player like Crawford at the forefront leading these Rays onto the field.


Trade Rumors Already circling the Rays

 


Brian Blanco / AP

I really did not anticipate having to judge,investigate or even remotely consider any possible Tampa Bay Rays trade rumors until at least the dense cloud of dust settles after the end of this season. But a few shallow whispers have begun their funneling effects into  that increasing in sound funnel to produce some media-based thunderous voices screaming among the MLB masses. The exploding thought turbulence has produced such a level of bravado from these so-called “expert voices”  that the Rays are deaf right now from being in the cross hairs right now.

And that is the comedic part of all of this right now. With the season still running, I doubt Rays President Matt Silverman, or even Boy Genius Andrew Friedman have even remotely consider the thought of the possibility of any salary of roster changes before the beginning of the Hot Stove season. I mean the firepower prognosticators usually wait until after the World Series to spew the fire and brimstone that player “A” and player “B” might need to have a Realtor on speed dial.

And there has been one rumor trying to grow legs and walk on its own. The  jumbled facts and  increasing rumors surrounding this player have made him the new “it-guy” for the upcoming postseason. And the hot news has been circulating hard and heavy around the Tampa Bay area recently, and this rumor needs to be shot down and destroyed now before it truly becomes an animal amongst the usual chatter in the stadium during our upcoming season ending home stand.

Because if this constantly revolving rumors becomes truth without a great bit of clarity by either party, it could destroy three years work by the Rays front office to bring this collective talent pool to mesh as one. Just like that simple Baby Ruth candy bar in the pool in Caddyshack, sometimes the publics  narrow perception of something can cause chaos when it is simply our own minds running rampant. And do we need a symbol of  the illness “Me-dom” within the Rays clubhouse? We have already seen what a mouthpiece and constant attention hound like Keyshawn Johnson could do to a football team, do we really need a baseball example of that on the Rays?

And this gentleman has been heavily debated pros and cons in the  hallowed Sports programs so heavily lately it might be a sin if he is not mentioned to be headed to Tampa Bay,San Diego, or even in the refined halls of your MLB team. Milton Bradley has done some incredible things with his wooden bat in his career. He was such a terror to American League pitching in 2008 as a member of the Texas Rangers, but that was then, this is now. 

And yes, the Rays did chat and discuss the open DH position on this very 2009 team with him. Who really knows just how close that negotiation actually got before he decided to take the multi-millions laying in front of him on the table in Chi-town. But, the Rays can say with great wisdom that they avoided a PR hurricane of category 5 velocity by passing on him. Imagine the hailstorm of comments and signs if he tried to consider our Rightfield to be “racist” and prejudiced against his abilities and opinions. I shudder to think what vocals and signage would be rained down upon him nightly.

I guess you would not get that rainstorm of commentary if you did not  produce bonehead plays like throwing the baseball up into the Rightfield crowd during a game after only TWO outs. But that is another issue entirely. And the fact that these rumors are catching fire in Chicago of all towns is amazing to me. But the fact that the Chicago Cubs, even after an apology by Mr. Bradley will do everything within their powers to rid their franchise of this guy tells you he has overstayed his welcome amongst the ivy walls.

And the Cubs new management has already awoken to the facts they might have to eat an enormous chunk of Bradley’s 2010 salary, with no dressing, to even get  a team to  begin discussions on him. And wasn’t it nice of Bradley to saddle the new owners of the Cubs  as their first order of business after the season to be the expulsion of Bradley out of Wrigley Field. They finally get control of the team, and they have to deal with an out-of-control manipulator of the system………Irony in its simplest form.

And Bradley himself might be the trigger point to several deals considered outside of Chi-town. Names around the league might not even be mentioned until the baseball world knows the destination of the newest spoiled child of baseball. Could Bradley be the link piece for the second year in a row to the final destinations and possibilities for players this off season? And is he really that good to take such  great bargaining power away from some of the games power hitters?


Brule Laker @Flickr.com

Well, the ways the Rays have wandered into this puzzle is based on a rumor that they might consider a straight swapping of Pat Burrell for Bradley, with the Cubs maybe picking up most of MB’s 2010 salary. On paper, that could look really appealing to a team that could shed a $9 million contract and get a player for basically FREE in 2010.  It could free up revenues to maybe get a closer or some solid Bullpen help for the coming season, but do all of the possible negatives still outweigh the positives in this deal? Sure they can both hit, and they both might be in the wrong league right now, but does a swap like this really make sense? Or even have any serious foundation to even begin a dialog?

I am of the mindset that Burrell is a “National League” guy, with a swing that is adapted to the Senior Circuit. He has looked like a fish out of water this season, and if we can unload, I mean, get him back into familiar grounds, then he can strive again at the plate. Now I have not given up on “The Bat”, just think that he might be a perfect fit for the MLB player relocation program. But would sending the mild-mannered Burrell, who only caused one trickle in the wading pool with a guy who would be constantly doing Cannonballs and Preacher’s Seats into the shallow end of the pool be worth the risk? 

And if we did consider it, would their be an adapted clause added to Bradley’s contract that envisions penalties and possible financial slaps in the booty if he becomes a destructive force with the Rays? You would have to think that such a provision would have to be in place within the confines of Bradley’s contract before the Rays would even pick up the phone a second time. Friedman has always made it a policy to not discuss any trade possibilities or even the remote chance that the Cubs have already started a discussion towards unloading Bradley.

But you hope that in this once instance, if the Rays are considering a guy like Bradley we might at least get a “press warning shot” fired by Friedman over the Rays bow. I know players can change, and sometimes a change of scenery can be a boost to morale and production, but does it all equal a discussion, or is this more wind just gusting through our sails at a time when we are feeling low about our season? Consider this Rays fans, this team has divorced itself repeatedly from association with negative-based personalities before, and they have the mindset that a negative force can destroy a positive move in a heartbeat.


Zcreative@Flickr.com

So is a Bradley for Burrell trade even remotely possible if you  do not take the following into consideration. Would the Rays be a better team with Bradley in their line-up?  Can he be the force behind either Carlos Pena or Evan Longoria that will make AL pitching staffs throw to them instead of trying to work around them? The honest answer is Burrell right now is not feared by any staff. Sure there have been smatterings of great games and an occasional long boom boom, but they have not shown any consistent pace or motion, and that is counter productive to trying to keep pitching staff honest with the Rays line-up. Some day I think we should send up Burrell’s bulldog Elvis to the plate, at least he might run out there and bite a few ankles.

If you are seeking a huge bat with power, then you might have to stick with Burrell and take your chances he rebounds in 2010. Since 2000, Bradley has only hit 115 home runs. In comparison, Burrell has done almost that in less than 4 years.  And the fact that Burrell has only been on two teams, but Bradley, if added to the Rays roster, would be on his 8th team in 10 years.  I see a huge red flag flying on that situation.

People point to Bradley’s two straight seasons of over .900 in OPS as an i
ndicator of his increasing power and ability to get the job done, but in reality, they seem like a smokescreen to me. Sure in 2008 Bradley had his best season as a professional, but he also had a line-up that dictated he had to be pitched to, with sluggers like Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and a slugger-in-training Ian Kinsler in the Rangers line-ups. Pitching staffs had to pick their poison, and he might have been the least likely to hit a grand slam or winning run.

So the basis of any talk about a trade of these two players might have to be rooted in if the Rays want to truly dump Burrell and are willing to “rent” Bradley  for at least 6 months. You can easily see Bradley dealt at the Trading Deadline at the end of July 2010 no matter if he is the second coming, or becomes dead weight in the Rays line-up. If you had to push me into the “big chair” for the day and consider this option for the Rays, I would immediately delete any Emails and put the phone on “ignore” for any calls from the Cubbies. Burrell might have been a pain in the booty for the Rays Republic in 2009, but he has a higher threshold of possibilities for 2010.


Chris O’Meara / AP

If the Rays even did decide to consider Bradley, will they need a psychiatrist or sports psychologist on-call for him? Or maybe we can send him to one of those leadership camps that the Japanese executives go to like in the movie Gung Ho.  So with all the turmoil and the stress that Bradley could produce on the opposition, just how much might actually be turned back onto the fans and the team during down times? This looks to me like a total lose-lose scenario, and the Rays like betting on sure things more than projects. So I am going to hit that special “Mute” button within myself right now and not even consider any more rumors or even revolving chatter about these two players. Burrell is a Rays, Bradley is not, and hopefully we will never see him in a “21” jersey for this team. not matter what the cost….period!

Gameworks Shindig was a Total Blast!


RRCollections

What better way to celebrate a series ending victory than take a group of 10,000+ of the Rays biggest supporters to a place in Ybor City that celebrates the kid in all of us. And boy, did we all have a great time and also get a few great moments playing game with and against some of those same guys who took the field that very same afternoon. It is an event I have been looking forward to every since the invitation hit my mailbox, and the Rays Email system must have gone nuts with how fast I responded to the RSVP.

Yesterday was the Second Annual ( hopefully more) Season Ticketholder event at Gameworks in Ybor City. Now if you have never been in a Gameworks, think Dave and Busters on PED’s with a gleaming polished metallic finish that would send anyone into “Kid Mode”. Now I have been to both of these events, and let me tell you this season’s events kicked some royal booty. Missing were some of the Rays stars, but the entire rotation of James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, David Price and Jeff Niemann hit the event to show their support to the fans.

But they were not the only ones to come on out and see the masses in this crowded but truly spectacular event put on by the Group Sales Department of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bullpen was also very heavily represented with Randy Choate, Lance Cormier, Grant Balfour, Brian Shouse and J P Howell holding court near the racing games and near the “Dance, Dance Revolution” platform. But not to be forgotten was some of the guys who also play out in the field for the Rays who made the journey over to Ybor City. Ben Zobrist and Dioner Navarro came on out to represent the guys who play in the infield, and Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler also made the event along with B J Upton last night to show the love from the Rays outfield. 


RRCollections

But even with people clammering (myself included) to get personal pictures and autographs from the fans, I could see that the guys truly enjoyed their time out with the fans last night. Shouse and Choate were even able to blend in and play a few games before some people noticed they were there last night. But some of the true hits of the night were delivered by the Group Sales Department as they again put on a first class event. From the photo opportunity area where you could be put into a Rays photo, to the awesome stuff given away as door prizes, the event sparkled from the first fan entering the building. And it was great seeing these guys out and about not in uniform and enjoying themselves.

And some lucky fans even got to race or play against some of the players during the night festivities. I remember seeing Kazmir in the back of the Game Room playing an NBA game against a fan and it was a highly contested game with a lot of great plays by both until someone had to lose. But the true hit of the night for me was the fact that 6 foot 9 inch Jeff Neimann got up on the “Dance, Dance Revolution” stage and strutted his stuff. I was in such awe of the event I forgot to pop my camera into video mode and film the entire wild and crazy event. But I have to tell you, once he got the hang of it all, the guy held his own on the dance floor, or platform.

I did not see Rays Manager Joe Maddon, but Rusty, the Rays game day host was remarking (joking) that he was holding a wine tasting seminar in the corner of the bar area. From seeing people like Matt Silverman, the numero uno of the Rays, to Andrew Friedman, the Vice President of Baseball Operations out in the crowd was fantastic. Oh, and Andrew, I truly loved the photo of the top of your head in my picture with Ben Zobrist, but I laughed out loud when I saw it. Some days I have wanted to pick your brain about the team, but never thought I would get a photo of the “brains” of the Baseball Operations group.


RRCollections

But what makes this such a great events is the milling of the Front Office guys and the players and the fans themselves just discussing everything from baseball to the chocolate fountain that is always the highlight of the event. I got lucky enough to be photographed last season at the fountain, but this year I kept an eye out for the camera. Just to see that light blue, dark blue and yellow chocolate flowing out of the top of the fountains crowned with a triangle of baseballs was tremendous.

And again, the food was one of the true stars of the evening. From the beautiful ladies handing me pot stickers or small wrapped tasty morsels, to the cute and personable bartenders, this was a night to celebrate everything Rays. From the hot stations in the front area of the party, to the temporary apps station piled upon the ticket counters, it was a feast made for a king. And if you did not try the roast beef, you missed out on some fantastic meat with a juicy and succulent au jus.

But the evening had to end sometime, and even as it neared 10:30 pm Garza was still laughing and holding court near the back game room. Gabe Kapler had left by then with his two boys, but he was the perfect doting Dad last night. By the time I left, or my card read only 100 minutes left on it, there was a light rain falling outside, but it felt great on the skin after all the sweating I did beating some unnamed pitcher on “Dance, Dance Revolution” score 1 for the old jock. I know I had a tremendous time, and the Group Sales guys and gals have to feel great about this event.


RRCollections

The sheer fact that so many people fit into that small place and left with smiles should be a great indicator of the event. And my ticket rep, Craig Champagne was there from start to finish. I have to tell you a wild story about that night concerning Craig. My game card did not work and I asked him if anyone else had that problem. Well, instead of making me plow my way back to the front, he took the card and return within minutes with a
new one for me to use.

A small minor flaw that night was quickly fixed and repaired like new by one of the Group Sales best guys. Seriously, me not playing shooting and alien-killing games might have put a damper on my night. Then I would have had to sample a few more intoxicating beverages, and enjoy the view. But in the end, I was physically exhausted and sore, was full of great food and spirits and did not want to leave. But as I walked to my car parked in the Centro Ybor Parking Garage I was already flipping through the memories and the sights of the night in my mind.


RRCollections

This season there have been some changes in the Season Ticket realms. Some things have been scaled back,some things have changed,but all in all,this event is still a benchmark of the dedication and the commitment of the Rays to the fans who attend so many baseball games. It was a great environment to see so many people you knew, and would get to know have a great time by themselves and with their kids. I know I am already with a red marker ready to circle the 2010 date to do it all again.

Trader’s, Here’s Your Sign!

 

Comedian Bill Engvall has made a long career noting the usual and unusual that myself and our neighbors here in th South do every day in his classic comedy routine and song “Here’s Your Sign”. But I think it would be so much better if we could all 30 MLB clubs right now to even post some kind of sign somewhere in the ballpark where the fans and the other teams can see it to even have a faint idea of what is going on as we come into turn 4 of the Trading Deadline. Yes, I just made a NASCAR reference………….Here’s your sign!

I mean this is the time of the year where we want to know if our team is “Closed” for business and basically set for the last run of the season, and that other teams should not even waste their AT&T rollover minutes, because we do not want to wheel and deal to ruin the chemistry of the team. Who is truly to say who is a “Buyer” or even a “Seller” right now without a For Sale or even a Closed sign dangling off the GM’s desk or mounted somewhere near the owner’s box of a stadium. If need be, we can always go down to the stadium receiving dock and get some cardboard, a sharpie and make the sign for you………..Here’s Your Sign!

But then there are teams that acting like they are game meister Monte Hall and have options from behind the curtain in a suspected trade. They are not being totally upfront and showing their true cards right now. I think that is the option being handed out in Toronto right now.  They want a King’s Ransom for a “Doc”. Is it worth it? Can it be done without crippling my farm system for 4 seasons? And will they throw in a parting fit if we leave the sweepstakes as losers? If you think they will offer minor league pieces as consolation prizes………Here’s Your Sign!

But how can we tell if a team is just teasing the market or just might be testing the waters?  Maybe a sign in glitter and gold leaf made on a sheet of pewter would indicate it is going to take a blockbuster deal. Or maybe just a simple Lowe’s/Home Depot bought “Clearance” sign if you are just shaving some dollar signs off your budget and want to look frugal doing it. Or maybe you are in the running right now for quality,not quantity. This type of team could sport a “In Search of…” sign with a big enough space for other teams to fill in the blank with their guys names who are on the block. But then again, you could be upfront and just list your shopping list and make it easier for team to showcase talent for you. And for those teams……………Here’s Your Sign!


And that is the hard thing to read at this juncture in the Trade Deadline. You hear multiple arrangements with several teams for the same guy. It is not like the guy is a slaughtered steer that can be portioned off and deliver to prospective buyers without anyone knowing the difference. Teams have poked and checked out the “meat” to be sure they are getting their dollars worth. Some teams have even been bold enough to say they are on the fence right now as to their indication to be on the buying or selling end of the market. Well, you better decide quick Mr Man before the market flies by you and you are stuck with that $ 3.5 million reliever you wanted to sell so bad this summer. If you get stuck holding onto him because you are shy……….Here’s Your Sign!

Okay,let’s take the Player du Jour, Cleveland Indian pitcher Cliff Lee as an example here. And I did not pick him because I like his first name. He currently has about 5 teams that are kicking his tires trying to find the right combination of talent and maybe even money to pick him off the “For Sale” rack in the Indians Team Store. And there is a standing line of teams that are eager and willing to fork over a bevy of prospects, and maybe a MLB ready guy to get the  former AL Cy Young winner. But what if this is a ploy by the Indians front office to pick and choose their trade partners for the Fall, and not  at this moment. If that is the true actions, then I have no problem saying to you…………Here’s Your Sign!

And just the fact that Lee makes every staff in the league, even Boston’s better by just walking into the clubhouse should be an indication of the power that this guy can have on the last two months of the season. But don’t you think there should be a sign around his neck like the  options sticker on the back window of a car telling you what it is going to take for you to drive him off the lot and into your rotation? I seem to think that the requirements and the needed players to complete a deal anymore depend on how many times an hour the phone is going to ring in the GM’s office. If the interest is heavy, the price goes up. If it is light, well then he becomes a bargain basement piece.
Since when should a baseball player or even a car be subject to the amount of calls or responses via the Internet to the price. Well, that kind of dealing did make the guys who started E Bay millionaires……………..Here’s Your Sign!

We know certain teams that are in the “Buyers” market right now. Anyone within 5 to 6 games of the division top spot or Wild Card is clamering to find the pieces to boost their squad towards the champagne wishes and Skoal dreams. And I am totally fine with that. Hitting the playoff is a financial windfall for some teams, while others it is just a rite of passage. We know that the Red Sox, New York Yankees and the Rays in the AL East are looking for pieces to twist the standings in their favor over the next two months.  But why is there not a sign somewhere on either Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, Yankee used car salesman Brian Cashman, or the quiet, silent guy in the corner, Rays VP Andrew Friedman’s neck? Why is there not a neon sign, or even a message board imprinted on their shirts to broadcast their intentions this week.  Wait a minute, GM’s showing their intentions to the public. Oh heck, I deserve  a sign for that last idea…………..Here’s My Sign!

But come on people, do we not want to know if our team is seriously going for the gusto, or just doing a Public Relation posturing move. We all know someone has to lose, but sometimes a team will thrust its nose in there with no intention of giving up the top choice cuts for a player who might just be a rental for the rest of the season, or who might financially ruin the upcoming year’s payroll. Perception might be the biggest winner or loser this week.  We all know that Boston and New York are 100 percent buyers with an intention to put distance between themselves and their two biggest rivals.  If they did not want to push towards the top……….You guessed it, there fans would hand deliver their signs…….Here’s Your Sign!

Maybe in the past teams in the AL East top spots might stay pat if they felt the chemistry of their teams were strong, but there is a huge bucket of cash sitting there come playoff time from concessions to ticket sales that motivate moves that two years ago might be viewed as unsound. So you buy into a player/pitcher that will help you gain 3 to 5 games. But unlike the past, those games might be the difference between a Wild Card and a Divisional title. So you nibble some from column A and maybe steal a sliver from column B to keep those players out of the competition’s fold. Some call it a shrewd business strategy, others call it raiding the cookie jar…………Here’s Your Sign!

So if you are a team like Tampa Bay who is looking for a Filet Mignon on a meatloaf budget, or maybe even a Boston or New York who will do anything to keep a guy off your foes rosters, this is the time of year to be a salesman. Sometimes these guys need to dress up in those loud suits with the bold ties and come straight at use and tell us what we need. You know the type. The guy in the used car lot that come up to you telling you “I think you would look great in this car”, and you wonder what he said to the other 30 people who looked into the windows at the interior. This is the time for deals and disappointment. Someone has to win, someone has to lose. But thank goodness they do not have a sign for that yet……….or do they?   Here’s Your Sign!

The Ring is the Thing

 

 
               
 
 

 

 
I have been known to say in the past that a championship is not official until you have that ring on your finger. I unfortunately know the good and the bad out of that statement. I was with a team in college that won a conference championship to only have it taken away by NCAA violations. I was not a pretty moment, but the fact that we still got rings, but they stated “Number 1 in SEC” not champions still stings some days. But on Tuesday night, there was no taking anything away from the accomplishments of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. This was the night they got to put that finishing touch on their magical season by getting their own set of hardware. Proud Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg, President Matt Silverman and Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman presented the rings to over 23 players, eight coaches and 14 executive members of the Rays front office yesterday.

 
 
 
 
The two biggest cheers from the crowd seemed to come for Senior Baseball Advisor Don Zimmer, and current Rays Manager Joe Maddon. It was a thunderous crowd that also cheered as the Rays players came out in seniority to receive their rings last night. Last, but not least to step out in front of the pitcher’s mound and receive his sparkling ring was Carl Crawford, the longest tenured Ray. I got to check out the ring first hand after the game at a local water hole with a member of the 2008 American League Championship. I have to tell you, this ring had me at hello.  It has an awesome “wow” factor the moment you first look even into the fine wooden box with it sitting under that etched glass. It looks more like a museum piece than something you might ever put on for cocktail parties or team events. Seriously, the ring had me in awe the moment he opened that box. I expected something this glorious from the team, but it went over my expectations. 
 
 
 
 
The ring is 14 carat white gold featuring a raised Rays logo among a sea of clustered diamond and shimmering light prisms that seem to dazzle and confuse you.  The idea of putting the Rays logo above a outline of a baseball diamond was a classic piece and adds to the glamor of this fantastic ring.  But then you look into the center of the Rays logo and you see a unique sight. The Rays decided to add their own special touch to the ring by setting a specialty cut yellow diamond into the logo’s 18 carat gold star/sun burst.  But the sparkle doesn’t end there as 48 individual sparkle factories seems to shimmer and shine off the lights to create a magical  light display. If you ever want a disco light show at your next party, placing one of these rings within a line of light would produce quite a light show for everyone to enjoy. But that is one of the perks of winning, you get awesome pieces of jewelry to keep for life.
 

 
But this ring is beside awesome in my opinion. I mean one side of the ring has such a great polished look with the bold faced A L East Champs on it with an American League logo with the words added “1st Pennant”. I truly love the fact they added those words to the ring. It shows the positive attitude and reinforcement that this is just the first step towards multiple or even numerous chances at obtaining a drawer full of these rings in the future.  As always the name of the player is added in this space, which adds an air of pride to me seeing my friend’s name listed on the side, which is an honor that no one can ever take from him. 
 
 
 
But the added touch of the team record in this area, just seeing that ” 97-65″ on the side of the ring brings back vivid memories of the 2008 season. The Walk-off homers and runs, the 7-run inning to secure a win, the pitching battles and the suicide squeeze bunt by Jason Bartlett, it is magic that you can wear on your finger. I can not imagine the flow of emotions and churning of feelings that this ring will bring up in members of this team after they finally put it on their fingers. It seems to pulsate on my finger and it feels like a long lost dream to even envision such a event finally coming to a close.
 
 
 

 
 
This ring is just the first in a long line of hardware that members of the Rays will wear in the future. I am not predicting anything here, but this team has had a taste of the playoffs, and that is a bitter pill to swallow every season after you have been to the big party in October. I think it was fitting that the New York Yankees were here to see this tonight. Not for the fact that we punched them out of a possible playoff berth by playing the “Rays Way” of baseball, but because of all their storied past and their own collections of these awesome piece of jewelry. 
 
 
 
Derek Jeter knows the emotions and the sense of accomplishment that goes with collecting these rings. But he also knows the feeling that eluded the Rays in 2008. He has held a World Series ring, and has enjoyed the accolades and the honor that goes with that final piece of the puzzle. The Rays just missed that pinnacle of excellence. But all they have to do is look into that visitor’s dugout and they will see what class and hard work can do for a franchise. The Rays will again get their chance to fight for the ultimate hardware. It might not be this year,  but it will not come soon enough for these guys.  I have to tell you, just putting this ring on for a few seconds sent chills through my spine. For 162 games last year I saw the sweat, blood and the emotions of this team gel and produce a extreme chemistry that accumulated into a Championship. And I am craving more!
 
 
 
Photo credits:         Both photos are from RRCollections
 
 
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