Results tagged ‘ Matt Silverman ’

Finally Some Good News: Rays Zorilla Retained for 2015

Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays

I was just about to start reading Chapter 16 of Ben and Julianna Zobrist’s book “Double Play” today when the Tampa Bay Rays announced that the team was picking up Benzo’s $7.5 million Club Option securing his services as a Ray for 2015.

downloadThe title of Chapter 16 is “A New Lineup Card”, and with the Rays recent juggling of upper level positions and internal desk swapping, a positive bit of press coming out of One Tropicana Field felt like a cool sea breeze on a hot September night.

After the weeks the Rays front office has had seeing their VP of Baseball Ops and their Manager both pack their bags and head for distant pastures, the announcement of Zobrist coming back again next season brought a well needed hint of normalcy to the Rays as well as kept one of their most consistent offensive weapon in the Rays lineup.

imagesBut you also have to think the decision on whether to bring Zobrist back for 2015 will be the easiest decision new Rays VP of Baseball Ops Matt Silverman will make this off season.

Seriously, Zorilla is the type of player that every M L B team yearns for or hopes at least once in a decade to develop within their farm system and see established long-term on their major league 25-Man rosters.

But you also hope the Rays front office did not have to think more than 15 minutes, or every even ponder the conclusion that this team might benefit more with that $7.5 million and set Zorilla free onto the M L B landscape.

Zobrist’s $7.5 million salary might be considered expensive by Rays standards, but if you collected players with similar fielding and offensive stats from around the M L B, the Rays are getting a great bargain for his services in 2015.

I shudder to think that declining Benzo’s Club Option was ever on the table, or seriously considered even for a nanosecond.

images (1)With the Rays losing two top tier pieces of their management puzzle, letting a player of Benzo’s caliber go would have sent a clear message that the 2015 edition of the Rays were either going into a deep re-development and roster structuring mode, or were willing to further frustrate and agitate their bewildered  Season Ticket base.

Believe me, if Zorilla would have been turned loose I would of been one of the first to hurdle a fine chunk of limestone.

But now is a time to rejoice and thank our lucky stars Silverman and company made the right move and selected the Club Option that will keep #18 in our Rays lineup and again in our hearts during the 2015 season.

 

Davey Baseball is Rays Baseball

DMart

 

So here we are Day 1 A J (After Joe).

The sky is still that beautiful shade of blue, the Sun still an amazing orange mass in the sky and not a dark cloud to be seen.

20141025_134855The Zombies did not attack, the Trop is still a tilted cap, and for now, the Tampa Bay Rays might want to retrofit and possibly introduce once again their 2007 “Under Construction” motif. For the Rays will most definitely be in a bit of a rebuilding mode both in talent and confidence heading into the Spring of 2015.

Sure some of that once solid Rays Way foundation that Maddon created so elegantly during his tenure is going to show some cracks with his unexpected exit stage right, but they can and will be fixed.

Problem is while most of the Tampa Bay fan base are still in a bit of shock and bewilderment, the Rays front office has to be swift and plug the Rays current void in leadership as fast as a well-placed 2-seamer. 

Matt Silverman, who some says might have hastened Maddon’s exit when he advised him of his opt-out option after Andrew Friedman’s departure for the pastures of Los Angeles needs to now fill this managerial void while the wound is still fresh.

download (7)He needs to strap on those “big boy” pants, take the lead with authority in finding Maddon’s replacement and pop him into place before the wound has time to fester and the fan base loses anymore confidence in the Rays want to stay here in Tampa Bay at all.

Names are already swirling around the circular roof of Tropicana Field. Some have a MLB pedigree while others might be unknown to us, but the MLB establishment know their talents and are eager to add their expertise to their franchises.

I mean yesterday on a local Tampa Bay radio station it even seemed for a moment like the Rays current Pitching Coach Jim Hickey was throwing his hat in the ring, but he might have the talent and the respect of the Rays pitching staff, but he is not who the Rays should be focused on if they truly want to seek an internal choice for their next Manager.

Honestly right now a lot of the Rays Republic is feeling a bit vulnerable with 2 key elements of their past success peeling rubber out of the Trop parking lot for more financial vistas.  Right now this whole scenario has to be Silverman’s to fix, and if he does due diligence and a dash of due diligence he will notice the right fit is already located under the Teflon roof of the Trop.

Screw the extended interview process.

download (1)Dave Martinez, who began his Coaching ascent as an unpaid outfield consultant and rose to be mentored and molded by Maddon to be his right-hand Lt is the guy who should be given the keys to the Rays Clubhouse.

The same Martinez that stood on the Tropicana Field Firs Base chalk line on March 31, 1998 during the first D-Rays player introductions and was a mainstay in Right Field until his departure in 2000. The same Davey Baseball who has worn #4 both as a player and Coach of the Rays.

An interesting trivia note is not only did Martinez start the Rays first contest ever, but he also recorded the Rays first hit, a 3rd inning single off Tigers starter Justin Thompson that also during its flight, struck the First Base bag.

images (7)Martinez, like Maddon is a baseball lifer. 2015 will be Martinez’s 30th year in professional baseball with all 7 of his years coaching under the tutelage and guidance of Maddon. 

That by itself should be a perfect pedigree for a team to hire Martinez as he has training in the modernization of baseball tactics and strategies spent alongside the true professor who challenged the old school thought processes of the game and initiated innovation and strategic upgrades in thought and situational decision-making during contests.

Sure Martinez doesn’t have a lot of resume material as the head honcho of the Rays, but has been near Maddon’s side since the spring of 2006 has been responsible for the Rays base running and bunting strategies which were responsible for more than a few Rays victories.

Has post season experience having been to the post season 4 times in the last 7 years as a Rays Coach after only going to the playoffs once as a player in 16 years.

images (9)At any moment during a Rays game you could of glanced into the Rays dugout and seen Martinez and Maddon locked into their statistical matchups, situational probabilities and voicing their valid opinions or preferred preferences. That by itself is a hard thing for two people to coordinate on a regular basis, Maddon and Martinez proceeded in their conversations like they were second nature.

I mean look at the fairy tale storyline that could emulate with Martinez as the Rays skipper. He played in and provided the first hit ever for this franchise, became a consultant with the team and rose through the ranks to become Maddon’s confidante and trusted ally.

images (6)Heck, the players, staff and the Rays front office already know he is personable, is a Rays fan favorite and if we could elect a new Manager, Martinez could possibly win the post in a landslide. He has been a positive Rays fixture, a mentor, an M L B Draft day participant and always willing and able to speak, listen or help anyone within the organization at a moment’s notice.

He has roots in this area and even had his son drafted by the Rays in the MLB Draft (31st Round) back in 2013. If anyone not only deserved a shot at the Rays helm, but seemed destined for the spot, it is Martinez.  

I understand fully that the Rays truly need to do now is find the right fit, the right guy to not only move upward again, but truly mange the Rays ship with integrity and command instant respect from bow to stern.

images (3)In my opinion the right guy has been standing next to Maddon and not only has the respect of this team already, but the confidence in them and himself that he can take this team to another level, and quite possibly further than they have ventured before.

Come on Matt, you know he has the league cred and knows the Rays inherently infectious team philosophy and has all the qualities to be the Rays main guy.

Now all Martinez needs is the chance to show all those other teams why they should of hired him, or why he quite possibly waited in the wings for just this perfect hometown opportunity.

Davey Baseball is Rays baseball.

 

From Bait to Predatory…Friedman Leaves a Grand Rays Legacy.

AFre

 

I’m going to miss Andrew Friedman.

I think we all kind of saw this coming whether you wanted to admit it or not. Friedman was truly that proverbial fish thrown into the deep end of the Major League Baseball pond where money ruled and stockpiling talent and expecting grand results was but a pipedream.

images (2)He was a part of a franchise where other teams fan bases flooded Tropicana Field and branded it such names as “Fenway South”. He inherited a job that had broken more experienced men and because of the Rays formidable financial restrictions, a team payroll that basically tied his fins together until he found his own unique way to swim alongside and eventually surpass the once omnipotent MLB sharks.

images (1)I mean the guy started out as a optimistic minnow learning to swim in infested waters that could have easily made the Rays into consistent seasonal fodder for the large market sharks, but Friedman brought his experience and innovative tactics he honed as a rising star in the financial field and evolved it into a solid and marketable foundation for a small market franchise to find success in these infested waters.

Friedman used the essence of risk management combined with largely successful algorithms and processes that turned a franchise once mired in a losing persona that emerged within a few years into the 2008 American League Champions.

And that my friends is one glorious legacy to pen onto your baseball resume.

download (1)Sure Friedman was but one sharp point of the Rays successful trident during his tenure that also contained Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg and then Team President Matt Silverman, but Friedman was the  man out front of it all taking the good and bad hits, being the confident and consistent soldier.

Silverman will now man Friedman’s old VP of Baseball Operations chair and Brain Auld will take a step up and become the Rays new Team President, but do not expect too much of a backslide as Friedman, Sternberg and Silverman it is said could finish each other’s sentences.

Some will be quick to point out that Friedman is vacating his seat as the Rays saw their 6 consecutive winning seasons and 4 post season appearances since 2008 come to an unexpected end.

images (2)It is easy to point to another’s person’s faults as they leave to embark on another challenge especially with a large market franchise that is the total opposite of the Rays organization. But no matter your personal opinion on Friedman’s departure, ponder for a moment where this franchise might of ended up without his ideas, guidance and up-tempo perseverance.

ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian once said of Friedman: “ His emphasis on scouting and player development, his ability to piece together a contending team each year despite limited financial resources and his astute use of sabermetrics have made the Rays an organization that others try to emulate, though usually without nearly as much success”.  

Say what you want about Friedman’s departure, but realize he has grown so much from that small minnow in the pond surrounded by hungry predators that commanded the other 20-odd M L B franchises.

imagesFriedman has definitely matured within the game in his years with the Rays, brought targeted innovations as blueprints for other small market teams successes as well as brought the Rays out of the deep darkness within the MLB pond to become a consistent antagonist to the rest of the MLB fishery.

Guess it is time to admit for one last time the once defensive minded minnow that was Friedman has now fully evolved into a species of the same predatory animal that commanded the MLB for years.

Maturing from a minnow to a shark, now that’s the Rays Way.

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!

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