Results tagged ‘ MLBlogs ’

Take Me Out to the Ballgame-Renegade Style

 

I really love it when Mark Newman, our MLBlogs Professor gives us a ” homework assignment” when most of Major League Baseball has an “off day”. I have used this same JibJab system before to do videos during the season. So when the Professor asked the MLBlogs.com community to make up their own MLB-based  collage of personalities, you knew right off the cuff mine had to include the Rays Players Du Jour. I really love doing this kind of creative assembly, and hope to one day have enough skill and creative juices to mesh it into the perfect storm of stapled together videos.

Heck, I was a little disappointed when I first completed this video that I arranged the facial features where Rays ace David Price actually had a bat in his hand. But considering the video out there in YouTube-ville of him rounding the bases and doing cartwheels and somersaults, maybe it was the right decision in the end.  But there were a few dead on moments in this video. Watch carefully and you will see Ben Zobrist/Zorilla smash into the side walls and land with his body into the stands. Who can forget in 2009 when Zorilla actually came on over to the Renegade’s section and paid an impromptu visit on a foul ball. It was like Deja Vu all over again.

Who in their right mind will forget the the 2010 Christmas card sent by those adorable Starting five of the Tampa Bay Rays by the clubhouse band The Pitch-Outs. I mean the video even included a happy Matt Garza before his trade to Chi-town. Always felt I should have included “Hellboy” (2011 5th starter Jeremy Hellickson) in it, but the Rookie had to earn some stripes first.

Little by little I am gathering more expertise and a bit more flair with my cut, paste and assembly, but we always know it can be better.Had to include my new found Fantasy pick Matt Joyce who is slugging the ball with authority, with confidence, and with increasing distance every night. Seriously expecting Joyce to either put one in the Rays Tank, or bounce it off the Everglades BBQ Smokehouse roof before the 2011 season is completed. With Joyce presently leading the Majors in batting average (.377) which saw him advance his overall league lead by 27 points.

Cruising behind Joyce right now is a pair of Cardinals, Lance Berkman ( .350) and Matt Holliday (.349). With the Cardinals coming into Tropicana Field from July 1-3, that series could shape up into a showdown for Batting Average bragging rights before the All Star break.  And if you had to include an outfielder, how could I have omitted the man, the “Legend”, Sam Fuld. Made sure he was the guy holding the glove at the beginning of the video since his catch of a screamer by Juan Pierre of the Chicago White Sox is going to be a discussion point for “best play” throughout the 2011 season. Only thing can could have made that video untouchable, if it resulted in a triple play.

What video featuring the ever unfolding cosmos of Rays rising stars would be complete with out a Longo (Evan Longoria) sighting. Ever since his Gillette video produced about 20 miles South of Tropicana Field at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, YouTube and blogger throughout the word want to debate, relate and investigate the video’s truth, flaws and eventual controversy. Not since that guy in the Channelside District in Tampa, Florida stole his hat has Longo been such a media darling. Maybe that is why he had the AK-47…to protect from another cap theft.

Seriously, I had a blast popping this short video together that embodies even a slight slice of Americana of  our beloved baseball classic “Take Me Out to the Ballgame“. Truly loved how Jibjab used so many funny and interesting configurations to pull of a pleasant visual presentation, and the addition of the 2011 Rays Fab Five of  Joyce, Longo, Fuld, Zorilla and last, but not least the heatseeker Price. Hope we can do this again some time this season, possibly around the All Star break when we can again all compile our favorite photos, maybe even a few of ourselves and put all of our great talents to work in a MLBlogs.com unison project. Do not know about you, but I got to hit replay and watch this video again….and again…..I think I am addicted to it now……Cool Beans!

From 1-1,000, the MLBlogs Journey Has Been Superb

 

 

CHAMP 001.JPG 

1,000.

Those 5 numerals just seem so daunting and huge finally up there in print for me to gaze upon. Never in my wildest daydreams or nightmares did I ever think I would be celebrating a number like this online, much less writing about the sport that takes my breath away even today. So I hope you do not mind today, but I am going to get caught up in the flow and totally just bask in a unfathomed achievement to me.
Here I am posting my 1,000th baseball blog post today here upon MLBlogs.com. I know it is a bit anti-climatic, but it really does seem like yesterday that I popped up my first post. I was a bit apprehensive back on September 7, 2007 when I decided to submit my first blog.

I had been out of the journalism game since my early twenties, but I missed it every day. I started this blog as a daily distraction while trying to find a second career after leaving the ” job of my lifetime”. I prodded and poked and edited that first post like a painter meticulously fiddles with his artwork. It was not a great piece, but it was mine…all mine.

My then fiancée had read some of my short story material I had posted to an old Myspace account and had somehow convinced me to again plant the sportswriter seed that had flourished when I was a Sports Correspondent for a local newspaper. I knew that day when I had to walk away from that green IBM display screen and leave my expanding sports clip file behind it was a huge career mistake.

 


438.JPGNow was my chance to see if the talent was real. If I could find the passion again to resurrect the glimmer of that career I left slip away so long ago. Baseball had always consumed my life from mid-February to late October, but the floodgates were thrown wide open as my mind expanded around the concept of the entire spectrum of MLB, not just my hometown Tampa Bay Rays.

Along this journey I have often revised, re-set or even tried to re-energized my blog from its first reincarnation to a more fan-based perspective with a slice or two of inside information and photos that you will see nowhere else. With it I also rediscovered a lost passion for photography. 

All you have to do is click on my dirt post, “D No Longer Stands For Devil Rays” to see that my first MLBlogs.com post corresponds pretty close chronologically with the time period that the Rays changed their MLB identity with an explosion of new uniforms, team colors and a complete logo redesign. It was a total coincidence that both the Rays and myself were re-defining our mojo at the same time.

Since that first day back in 2007, I have seen almost a half a million web page hits,( currently at 488,250 ) plus over 6,152 comments. The consistent feedback and comments made by the MLBlogs.com community, and the Internet have inspired changes and a wider spectrum of subject matter over the years. Who remembers the 3-post blog expose` on Maple Bats?

My 1,000th blog post is not the only thing I am celebrating today. recently I received an e-mail from Mark Newman, who is our “professor” here at MLBlogs.com informing me that I hit the top spot of the blogging site’s Fan segment. I am thrilled to reach the top spot, and I know so many of you will also have the experience of claiming this same spot at some point in your blog’s existence.


039.JPGSo on this day of (now) multiple celebrations, I have decided to give back to some within MLBlogs.com. I am going to throw a few pearls of wisdom I collected over the past few years that I hope will help more of our aspiring writers to achieve greater results, and increased page views.
I hope MLB doesn’t put out a “hit” on me for giving up some secrets.

More than a few people have asked me how I achieve my high rankings every month, or if there is a trick to it all. The honest answer is: I am just another in a long line of writers on MLBlogs.com. There are so many different points-of-view, a varied wide range of opinions and even blog styles on MLBlogs.com. But that is also one of the keys to getting noticed in a sea of blogs.

Use Your Imagination….Be Creative

I think the first suggestion is to be creative in your writing and your overall thinking as you comment and explore the MLBlogosphere. With that in mind, your name is the first indication to people of who you are. I decided on Rays Renegade because I have always been the guy in life who bucks some of the antiquated traditions and questions things.

Explore Your Surroundings

One of the most important things to do is to get yourself known by your MLB blog name by your peers both on MLBlogs and beyond. The “Recent Activity” box on the MLBlogs.com homepage is a great tool that can be an instrumental ally in getting your blog both noticed and for you to interact with other writers.

The “Recent Activity”  box actually serves a duo purpose for me.  First, I get chance to see who is writing or commenting, plus I can get a chance to read their latest post just by clicking on their name.

The simple action of networking, getting to know your fellow MLBloggers on a consistent level should help create a bond that will have them hopefully following your writing. This familiarity or bond should breeds an increase in your exposure on MLBlogs.com, which in turn should dramatically increases your page views.

Know Your Fellow Bloggers

I made a resolution in late January to visit each and every blog listed in the Top 50 Fan blogs in the “Latest Leader List” during that calendar month. I am currently past the number 35 spot and working my way down to number 50. I do not have to do this, but it is a personal commitment I made to get to know some of the budding writers on this site.  I actually seek out those new blogs and try and see the new talent that is on the horizon and show them people read their posts. I enjoy reading the new blogs and posting a comment.  

No matter who you are, there is an internal ego that wants people to give you feedback on your writing. By getting yourself out there exploring other blogs, you get new post ideas, refresh your own streams of imagination plus provide feedback to your peers who want to produce a well received blog post.

Encourage. not Deflate

There have been more than a few young blogger’s who because of school or other activities felt they were neglected their writing duties and wanted to cease posting. This is a site for all of us to express, project and explore the great far reaching corners of fandom that surround the great game of baseball. If you are writing to gain some acceptance, or win some monthly popularity contest, you better transfer your work elsewhere.

Writing should be about the passion. That passion doesn’t stamp a time clock or has a definite schedule. Life happens, and if you are young, that outside MLBlogs life take priority. Write when the spirit moves you. Write when you have a great event to tell us. Write because you want to, not because you have posted only once this week.

I write for the pure joy of writing. If that passion ever falters, I may fade to black and write a “-30-” on my last post. Journalism students know that simple writing symbol represents “the end” to your story.

Positive Ions Rule the World

Another thing I find tremendously helpful is staying positive. I am a glass half full kind of guy. Sure I have written a few negative or even disparaging posts in my time, but I keep my head in the positive cloud. I leave the insults and injury mentality to others. If I wanted negativity, I would write a police blotter.

Everyone can write. It just takes a passion. a commitment and even a little luck to stay with it long enough for people to look forward or seek out your posts. Do your writing at your own pace. You do not have to write every day like I do during the season, or 3-4 times a week in the off season. Stay within your guidelines of time management that enables you to write something consistent and great.

Your writing should flow out of you like a fine Dr Pepper into a glass of ice. Most of all, have fun. We all have the joy of baseball within us or we would not be writing here. Keep that joy close and within your grasp and everything you write will shine from a focused light.


l_1e25076a3ec649ae81ed2355881750ce.jpgI am so proud to write on this site. I have turned down offers of writing elsewhere and even dissolved my own website to write exclusively here. I could entertain and possibly get some financial rewards from other websites, but I enjoy the MLBlogs.com community and want to see it grow even larger in the near future.

The MLBlogs.com site has let me rediscover a love I pushed away years ago. It has granted me the chance to again write about something I am soooo passionate about. But most of all, it has let me get to know each and every one of you in some way through your comments or posts. I can not put a price tag on that….ever.

Upton Finds his Groove

 


Steve Nesius / AP

About a week ago I was trying to trade for B J Upton on my MLBlogs Fantasy team on ESPN’s site. I had a rough feeling from what I had heard and seen lately out of his batting appearances he was about to break out of his hitting funk and take some extreme measures to boost his average over .200 for the season.  I am not going to mention my trading partner in this transaction, because after he reads this he might know I would have given up almost anyone on my staff not named Crawford to get Upton.

I have known this guy since he came the first time at 17 in a September call-up for the Rays. He has always been honest and forthright with people and the media, and I respect him for that. So when I saw him right after he finished his BP and he said to another hitter on the team he was “seeing beach balls up there”, I had to do anything to get him on my roster. I might have given up one category for good this season in swapping Angels closer Brian Fuentes for him, but I know I have a chance to lead in all 5 offensive categories with his addition to the roster.

As a matter of fact, since his induction into my roster he has been on a tear at the plate. Upton is currently riding a 8-game hitting streak and is hitting even his fly out for power. Let’s take the first pitch he saw on Tuesday night game when he drilled a ball towards the 370 marker in right-centerfield that was caught by David DeJesus a few feet from the wall. For a short period of time now people have seen that he is more relaxed and controlled at the plate, but when he gets on base, he is getting more attention than even in 2008 for the damage he can do at any moment in the game.

That is one of the reason I was glad that Rays Manager Joe Maddon stuck with Upton as his lead-off guy for so long until his bat woke up and he is now inching upward with his average. He can be a classic lead-off guy, but that also is another hard position to learn because sometimes you have to do what you do not want to do at the plate to promote the team concept. Some times I think this was hard for Upton early on since he did moist of his damage from the second spot in the lineup in 2008. 

Ask guys like Derek Jeter or Johnny Damon, or maybe new Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, that spot in the lineup not only get more appearances at the plate throughout the year, but is also within the crosshairs nightly for your performance. It might have taken Upton longer to feel “normal” in that part of the lineup because of the extra responsibilities and extreme confidence it takes to succeed in that pressure cooker spot. But people also forget the guy never got a true Spring Training like the rest of the team as he was rehabbing that shoulder of his this spring.

        
         Steve Nesius / AP

He did not make the Opening Day roster, instead he was stuck in the Tampa Bay area hitting in the Trop and working on getting himself in great shape to start when the team came off their first road trip of the year. Because of this lack of timing and basic game experience that you get in a new position in the spring, he was behind the Rays bell curve early on. But he did not fret or even sulk, but instead went out there every day and took his hacks until it began to all come together for him.  Everyone in the Tampa Bay area seemed to have an opinion on the guy when he was struggling. That is right he was struggling, not slumping.

There is a huge difference in those two words. When you slump, you on-field performance also suffers and you seem to just be behind a few steps in the game at all times.  But when you are struggling, like Upton was, you still have the ultimate defensive nature and the rest of your game is intact, it is just one facet of your game that is suffering. Son now that we got that out of the way, why was he suffering. Well, a common occurence in shoulder surgery guys is the struggle to “let go” to swing with everything you got because of fear of scar tissue or even re-injuring yourself right away. But with time the confidence and the sense of your body responding correctly with every swing can make those fears ease with time.

So how did I know that I needed to get Upton on my MLBlogs Fantasy team?  Well, I guess it is the sense I got chatting with him about things and that smile, even if the tobacco was in the way gave me a sense of urgency to get him on my squad. I might have given up a good player in Fuentes to get him, but I was willing to part with even Jake Peavy or even Ryan Braun for him. Of course the aspect of him playing for my team did factor highly in the motives, but even if I was a fan of another team, his up-side is amazing when he is clicking on all cylinders.

Any team would want him for his base running abilities and his skill in the outfield, but the power that should emerge in his game soon will be the true prize. People have always projected him as a 30 (Homers)-30 ( steals) guy, and he just might begin to fulfill that projection this season. Since his outburst in the post season in 2008, a huge amount of pressure has been thrust on the guy to be the man for the Rays. Maybe now he is ready to take that title on and with Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford transform the 1-4 hitters of the Rays into the 2009 edition of the Rays infamous “Hit Show.”

      
       Elaine Thompson / AP

Maybe for the first time in Rays franchise history we got the “Hit Show” without the fanfare and the huge salaries. Maybe this group of four hitters can transform the record book for not only the Rays, but the American League in 2009.  The Rays have scored a total of 312 runs, but the Yankees are closing in on them fast with 300 runs as of today. But in that time, even if he has struggled, Upton has been involved in a total of scoring 34 runs, which is fourth best on the team right now. Upton, even while struggling has been a force for the Rays.

He has a .219 average right now for the Rays, but considering he has been badgered and beaten down by catcalls and media and fan message boards asking for his removal from the top spot, he has performed to the best of his abilities, and now we will see the fruits of his labors again. But while he as struggled at the plate, his walk totals have been consistent and remain a second advantage of his game.

His 28 walks is second on the team behind Pena’s 41 so far in 2009.  He is second on the team , and fourth in the Americ
an League in steals with 17 this season. His ability to read pitchers is getting better, but he is still guilty of the occasional base running gaffe due to the Rays aggressive nature on the base paths.

Upton has been caught stealing three times in 2009 to lead the team again. And for most of 2008, he lead the major leagues in caught stealing for most of the season. It is his aggressive nature that also get the wrath of fans, but if he did not test the boundaries and stress the opponents pitching staffs’ Crawford would not get so many juicy fastballs to hit into the outfield.  He is a quiet guy who is among the best at what he does, and really doesn’t get the credit for his success at times. He is only hitting .219 this year, but his Slugging Percentage is .325, which shows he is getting wood on the ball almost a third of the time.

So let’s get to what Upton has done lately to end this blog. In yesterday’s game he hit a 8th inning 2-run blast to secure the win for the Rays. Combined with Weds. nights game, it is the first time in 2009 that he has recorded multiple RBI in consecutive games. That is right, in the Rays first 49 game with Upton, he has not recorded back-to-back multiple RBI games. 

During his current 8-game hitting streak he has gone 11 for 28, for a .328 average ans has driven his batting average from .189 to .218 in that span. He also went 9 for 20 for a .450 average on the recent homestand. And to put some bright spots on the upcoming four game stand with the Yankees, Upton has hit 8 homers against the New York boys, the most against any team.


Chris O’Meara / AP

But if you want to still think he is not the answer for the Rays at the top of the order, please bear in mind that Crawford doesn’t want it, and Jason Bartlett is thriving in his current spot in the lineup. It is still his to lose, and based on the current level of hitting, base stealing and consistent walk totals, Upton might just get comfortable in that position finally. You have to think that his batting spree actually started during that dismal Cleveland series on May 15th and 16th when he ended a 28-game, 120 at-bat homer drought to begin the season. Considering the power the fans saw in last season’s playoff run, they expected homers left and right to begin the year.

 

But Upton is again secure in his “Rays skin”. He is more relaxed and hitting the ball with power again for the Rays. And that is bad news for the rest of the league, because when this kid gets hot, even the water cooler turns to steam. So am I upset I would have given up the farm for Upton?  No, but I can tell you that with 4 members of the Rays on my Fantasy roster, the leading run producing team in the major leagues is just getting started. And with Upton at the top of that lineup, the sky is the limit this season.

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