Results tagged ‘ Matt Silverman ’

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. 


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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
 
 

Are the Rays Finished Adding Pieces for 2009?

 

 

 

So after the latest signing of former Phillie Pat Burrell to the roster, are the Tampa Bay Rays going to stand pat for the 2009 season, or is now when the real magic is going to happen for the team. You want to believe that the Rays holy trinity of Stuart Sternberg, Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman have not closed the coffers and still might have a few tricks up their sleeves for 2009.

 


You have to believe that the recent activity by the team is not the total resetting of the roster. That there are still a few deals sitting in the corners gathering a bit of dust, but not without merit here. I see the roster as 75 percent complete, with some Spring training signing recently maybe pushing it to 80 percent done for the season.

 

 


With the signing of former Marlin Joe Nelson before the New Year, the Rays did more than just get a qualified reliever for their Bullpen. They got an upgrade to the Trever Miller or even Gary Glover or Scott Dohmann additions in 2008.  Nelson can carry a bit more of the load than either of those three guys by actually closing games if called upon to do so for the Rays. And with the health of Troy Percival basically being that only he knows EVER if he is healthy, and even then still wants to pitch in games.

 



There is a time when being a  strong competitor can actually weaken you ball club. If you need any examples of that, just look to the mound conversations that Rays Manager Joe Maddon had with Percival during the season in Boston, Oakland, and even at Tropicana Field. You have to admire the bravery and the commitment to your team, but the sacrifice has to be mutual. You do not give up yourself if you also upset the balance and the strength of your Bullpen, which Percival did for a short period of time twice in 2008.

 

 


Some people have already called out the  signing as Pat Burrell as mediocre at best for the Rays. I do not understand how you can even signal such a sign to the nation when the guy has been consistent with his bat almost his entire career. And also has been a key member of his last squad and not a replacement or second tier player. The signing of Burrell will help protect Evan Longoria, and it is a role that Burrell knows well from doing the same job with the Phillie’s for years.

That is right, Burrell’s numbers might be a bit weaker than you might want, but after years of sitting in the order behind Ryan Howard and giving teams the option of who to pitch to in games, he might actually see more of those meatball pitches this season because of the two guys in front of him. With Longoria and Carlos Pena penciled into the lineup in front of Burrell, he will see more pitches, and considerably more fastballs than he has seen in recent years. And to top that off with the fact that Stat guru Bill James thinks that with Burrell added to the power grid in Tampa Bay, the Rays “Big 3 ” might top 100 homer in 2009.

 

 


But what about the other holes in the Tampa Bay armor that need to be addressed. The two mentioned above are upgrades on the 2008 model without a doubt. But people are still pointing to right field and saying that the team did not get better there in any shape or form. Again, that is your own perception, and to forget about either outfielders’ Gabe Gross or even new Rays Matt Joyce is an insult. Both of these guys could be great parts of the Rays puzzle in 2009. Both are great professionals who work hard and hit the ball with power.

 


You never know, Joyce could surprise everyone on the Rays coaching staff and come away with the starting nod in Boston for the first game. I actually loved the trade for it’s youthful side, plus the added feature of Joyce played well against the Rays in 2008, so there is a track record of the guy rising to the occasion. If this was to happen, then you have someone like Gross who could fetch a good level player in return in a trade, or even maybe two if a team is desperate for a great outfield addition.

 

 


2009 will have more surprises before the guys clean out their Spring Training lockers in Port Charlotte. I actually think that there is about 2 more trades that need to be addressed even before the beginning of the season.  Another guy who might not be a member of the Rays when they head to Boston is reliever Chad Bradford. He did exceptionally well in 2008, but his over $ 3 million dollar salary might be a problem more than a solution in 2009.

 


Bradford is a extremely unusual pitcher in his style of pitching and also his way of inducing those ground ball outs for the Rays. I remember when he played for the Baltimore Orioles, I could not imagine watching his pitches come in and actually rise towards you instead of break away from you. The adjustment and the concentration needed to hit that kind of pitch is extreme indeed. So Bradford might not have a different home in 2009, but it is not like the Rays do not have options in the matter.

 

 


We actually have a guy invited to Spring Training who might equal Bradfords ground ball numbers, and if the both make the roster, it could be a two-fold gift for the Rays. Randy Choate has played in the American League before, and is another guy who throws sidearm with gusto. Most of the Rays fans might remember him as a member of the New York Yankees, who was a leftie specialist, and also a great ground ball pitcher. With both of these guys on the Rays roster, the Rays defense will see more possible plays in the infield, which translates into more possible outs by that stellar group.

 

 


So the Rays might need to hope that Choate makes the squad to boost that percentage up to 90 percent prior to the 2009 Opening Day. One piece that I still fell might be missing from the Rays actually might be their own device right now. Rocco Baldelli has been approached and swooned by a few clubs this past off season, but they have not gotten him to sign. I think the Rays need to open the coffers just a small bit and sign him as soon as possible. You know he will give the team a bit of a discount because of everything the team has done the last few seasons.

 

 


Truly, do you think if you matched an offer from Cincinnati or even Boston, Rocco would not sign with the Rays?  You have to know that the team must have been thrilled to learn the news that the first prognosis of his illness was incorrect. The Rays must have been jumping for joy in the aspect that Rocco maybe could become an everyday player again in the league. And if that happened, doesn’t that also open the door to him taking right field as his own and truly pushing the naysayers away with gusto that the Rays upgraded themselves in every position that was weak in 2008.

 


The Rocco possibility is just that right now, a possibility, but it gives a new light and a new direction to the team that was not there a few months ago. The only weaknesses on this team to the eye was at Designated Hitter, Right Field, and another possible “lights out” reliever. With the past two signings, and the possible addition of Choate as a left-hander to the Bullpen, the team might have improved  even more than in 2008.


 

 


And it is what the Rays will need to do in 2009. They must improve in a few areas to even try and make a run at a post season bid again in 2009. The Yankees have loaded up and will have a few kinks during the season as always, but then Boston is retooled in their pitching to stop people in their tracks in 2009. The AL East will be a battleground in 2009, with maybe the winner of the division only winning 90 games this coming season. 

 

 

 

Also do not forget that Toronto and Baltimore will have a lot to say about who gets the crown in 2009 for the American League East.  All 5 of the squads in this division know that it is “put up, or shut up” time in the division. Teams are beginning to look at the Rays method of success and will try and build their team in a shadow of that image in 2009.  It is not a question of “Who will be the Rays of 2009″. It is more a question of, “Are the Rays batter in 2009?”  If the answers come out right, there will be more champagne celebration in our future. And a lot of second guessing by other teams.

 

 

 

Raymond’s Game Day Gal Let Go by Rays

 

 

 I have learned from a very reliable source that Kelly Frank, who has been with the Tampa Bay Rays in the capacity of Raymond, or  Raymond D Ray has been let go by the Rays after 5 years with the club.

 

Frank has been instrumental in the last few years in making the fuzzy  mascot, Raymond more fan friendly and less aggressive in nature. Frank has been working in the Rays office for several years doing some marketing planning,  repairing her costume and  doing all the daily operations of running the local mascot icon.

 

Rays fans have witnessed Frank’s inventive side in the costume and clothing options of Raymond over the last few years. Frank was the head designer and creative sources of such classics as the Super Raymond,  the Spidy-Ray costume and the  special game day attire or outer wear that Raymond has worn over the years. 

 

Frank said she was praised as recently as three weeks ago, when her supervisors told her she out-enthused the Philadelphia Phillies mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, during the World Series. But on Monday, she was told she would no longer be Raymond.  

 

                         

 

Frank has also been responsible for the number of Youtube videos using Raymond as a key figure. It was an inventive and highly popular series of videos using mascots from throughtout the major sports of the United States. I particularly love the one with Wally the Green Monster of the Boston Red Sox with the background music, ” Why Can’t We Be Friends.” It was an instant classic.

 

“Peanut Butter Jelly Time” was also a very popular video featuring the oversized Banana and a Blow-up Gorilla duirng the 7th inning stretches at Rays games. Over the years, Raymond’s birthday party was another event that attracted other team’s mascots from all over the country to the Trop. to celebrate with the highly popular mascot.

 

Please go to www.Youtube.com and check out some of the original videos featuring the Rays versatile mascot.

 

 

This year’s promotion entitled, “Mascot Mania” attracted team mascots from as far as San Francisco,Arlington Texas, Denver and Toronto to the Trop to celebrate with Raymond.  Frequent visitors throughout the year have been the mascots of the Orioles, Blue Jays and the Florida Panthers.

 

It is a great loss to lose a valuable member of the Rays organization. If you feel this dismissal is not in the best interest of the ballclub, you can email Matt Silverman, the Rays President at msilverman@raysbaseball.com , or you can place a call to the organization at (727) 825-3137.

 

Or maybe you might want to take it all the way to the top of the organization and send an email to the primary owner, Stuart Sternberg. He can be reached at: ssternberg@raysbaseball.com.

 

 

 I am trying to get an interview with Frank, after the situation has died down and  things sort themselves out on both sides.  The popular Raymond webpage on Myspace.com will be removed in a few days because of the situation. Frank was the author of the page and submitted the great  Youtube videos and blog postings on the page. I am not sure if the Raymond subscribtion page will still be accessible on www.Youtube.com after this week.

 

The Rays have lost a true icon to the image of the team in this dismissal. Frank was the third person to don the Raymond costume. Frank said she will continue her side business making mascots for professional sports teams, including the University of Florida Gators and the Denver Nuggets.

 

 I wish Kelly Frank a bright and energetic future, and hope to see her again in the role of support and promotion of a mascot in the MLB or beyond.  Break a leg Kelly.

 

 

Rays Raise Ticket Prices for 2009

 

 

The Tampa Bay Rays, coming off their first-ever playoff appearance (and World Series berth), have slightly raised individual ticket prices for the 2009 season. I know I have not gotten my packet for my 2009 Season Ticket yet from the Rays, but I have been advised of an increase in my yearly price.  Full Season Ticketholders usually get a discount on their selected seats for the entire 81 games played at Tropicana Field.

Rays president Matt Silverman said Monday that about 70-percent of the single-game tickets will increase by $1 (for example, upper deck goes from $9 to $10 for regular game, from $14-16 for prime pricing). But in an effort to bolster their season-ticket base – the “lifeblood” of any baseball team – Silverman said the club is also increasing the discount for season ticket holders (up to 35 percent).

Silverman said the club is cognizant of the struggling national economy, but felt – especially with the continued free parking for cars with four or more, and the ability to bring in food and drink – it still makes the Rays tickets one of the most affordable in major league baseball.

“In order to continue fielding a team that makes the entire Tampa Bay region proud, our family of season ticket holders has to grow,” Silverman said. “The pitch to a season ticket holder is an easy one; sit in the best seats, support your home team, and enjoy considerable savings off individual ticket prices.”

 

 

Most everything else at Tropicana Field will remain the same; vehicles with four or more passengers can park for free, you can still bring in your food and drink, the upper-deck tarp will remain.

But here are some of the changes:

*The club added a “marquee” pricing category for the 11 Saturday night games (which will either feature a post-game concert or premium giveaway). The pricing for those is between the regular and “prime” pricing (games with Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies).

*Vehicles with less than four passengers will be charged $15 to park in the main Trop lot, $10 for the remote lots.

*There will be an increase in the surcharge for those tickets bought within five hours of game time (now $3-$5).

When Silverman was asked last week about the potential for higher ticket costs, he pointed to how even with a price bump, the Rays still offer one of the most affordable experiences in baseball.

“We could have increased ticket (prices) the last couple years, but we haven’t,” Silverman said. “And if you benchmark our seats against others in baseball, we’re at or near the bottom in almost every pricing category.”

The Rays posted losing seasons in their first 10 years of baseball (never winning more than 70 games), but made a huge turnaround in 2008, racking up 97 victories and winning the American League East. They advanced to the World Series and lost in five games to the Phillies, but Silverman said the sellout crowds at the Trop throughout the playoff run learned the value of the tickets.

 

 

“The experience our fans had, especially during the pennant run and post season shows the value of their tickets and their investment,” Silverman said. ” They enjoyed it, and a number of ticket holders actually benefited financially – they were actually a lot who covered some of their costs by selling tickets.”

The Rays sold out eight home playoff games within minutes this year, and attendance this season increased 30 percent, the largest spike in the majors. But while the Rays shared baseball’s second best record, they finished 26th out of 30 teams in tickets sold.

REGULAR GAMES
TBT Party Deck – $10
Upper Deck – $10
Outfield – $17
Loge box – $22
Press Level – $27
Baseline Box – $22
Lower box – $44
Lower infield box – $55
Fieldside box – $85
Whitney Bank Club – $115
Home Plate Club – $210

MARQUEE GAMES (11 Saturday night games)
TBT Party Deck – $13
Upper Deck – $13
Outfield – $20
Loge box – $31
Press Level – $38
Baseline Box – $31
Lower box – $52
Lower infield box – $65
Fieldside box – $95
Whitney Bank Club – $130
Home Plate Club – $240

PRIME GAMES (vs Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies)
TBT Party Deck – $16
Upper Deck – $16
Outfield – $24
Loge box – $38
Press Level – $47
Baseline Box – $38
Lower box – $60
Lower infield box – $75
Fieldside box – $120
Whitney Bank Club – $150
Home Plate Club – $270

 

 

 

 

 

It’s A Regional Thing

 

I have been upset during the following year that the Tampa Bay Rays have rised to  such heights in the Major League Baseball world, and the world still see Tampa Bay as a single city. It can get a bit unnerving to always have to defend the City of St. Petersburg as the town where the Rays plays, but the Tampa Bay community is it’s resident home.

All of the major sports team who have graced this region have used the regional name. None have been pinpointed to be named the Tampa Bucs, or Tampa Lightning. The old North American Soccer League Champs were called the Tampa Bay Rowdies, not the Tampa Rowdies.  The Rowdies were also the first professional team in our area to use the regional name on a championship trophy when they won the NASL’s title in their 2nd season.

 

     

 

The Lightning is a great example of why using the Tampa Bay motif has worked well for a team. They first began play at the Florida State Fairgrounds, then moved to the Thunderdome (Tropicana Field) before moving to their current home, the St. Petersburg Times Forum in Tampa.  If the team had kept the name based on their location city only, it would have had to change at least 3 times to designate a correct locale.

The Rays went on board with the respect for the region and decided to use the region as their entire demographic for baseball. Just becuase this area is a “hot bed” for Spring Training baseball, before the team was awarded, it was only a Class A destination for ballplayers on their way up the minor league scale.

The Tampa Bay region all have a personality of their own. Tampa Bay  is considered the second largest hispanic community in the state of Florida, and it’s pride is revealed bautifully in Ybor City. The region has a bridge system that is considered a masterpeice on the world’s stage in the Skyway Bridge. Communities like Sarasota, with the Ringling Museum, and Clearwater where the Philadelphia Philles hold their Spring Training all add to the melting pot of the region.

 

                                   

 

For newspapers, radio and television to constantly pull the region down by calling them the “Tampa Rays”, or that we play in “Tampa” is an insult to everything we have tried to complish with all these other sports. Is it because these other teams are actually located in Tampa and if they mess up, it is still within the guidelines of a locale and not a geographic nightmare.

The Rays and the City of St. Petersburg have a huge  rolling backdrop showing the team plays in St. Petersburg. The team has it well defined in the 2008 Media Guide and also in the promotional materials given out to fans during the years. The tickets  do not have the city stated on the, but is that the next step to getting that respectability from the country.

Or can the City of St. Petersburg keep taking this hits by the media by not correcting themselves or obtaining the first credo of journalism..Accuracy.  Is the action oif a few going to effect the works of many. You bet they do. The 3 second sound byte by Tim McCraver or Joe Buck can destroy an entire year of  city promotion or community identity becuase they did not convey the correct town name.

 

 

If the media can tell you that the New England Patriots play in Foxboro, Mass., why can they not tell you that we play in St. Petersburg. It is not all about “little brother”, St Petersburg feeling totally inferior, it is about the civic pride I know I have for my town. Have you ever heard the Detroit Lions referred to as the Pontiac , Michigan Lions when they played there. No, but you knew the city they played in and also had the respect to call it correctly.

Maybe Matt Silverman needs to make up a secondary letter to the media. This time to instill a $ 1 dollar penalty anytime the city is not correctly identified on any kind of mideia from 2009 on. I think he could easily pay a few salaries with the money derived from that venture. Local DJ’s can’t even still get the name right, or will not even call them just the Rays.

People forget that before a few years ago, the largest crowd to ever watch a NHL playoff game was in the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Thunderdome was their home for many years, and I saw that contest against the Phildelphia Flyers.  The commentators of that game on television got the locale correct, and that was over 15 years ago.

But during the MLB playoffs, the announcers selected to broadcast the post season on TBS and Fox could not be counted on to correctly name the community they were staying in for the series.  Why is it that the world can not remember a simple name like St. Petersburg. Do we need to move to our sisiter city in Russia to get total recognition? 

 Nyet, we do not have to travel half the world to get respect. We just have to pound it into the media subconscious. But you would think a winning season and an incredible push to the World Series would tranform the city’s name onto the tips of their tongues.

I even have a friend, Jeff, who is also on the Rays Fan Wall of Fame with me who is a dynamic supporter of this team. He is known as the “sign guy” by many at the Trop., and he mentioned to me he thought of making up T-shirts during the years stating that fact we are the Tampa Bay Rays ” and not the “Tampa Rays”.

We have had personalities like Kool and the Gang, and M  C HAmmer make those mistakes during concerts this year and you heard the crowd correct them immediately. But as Jeff  was going to put on his T-shirts, “It’s a Regional Thing” either you get it, or you are clueless……….Which one are you? 

 

 

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