Results tagged ‘ Rays Renegade ’

Familiarity Made Both Sides Winners in This Trade

kjhgf

Gosh, that did not take long.

We all knew that one day the possibility would rear its ugly head that the Tampa Bay Rays recently anointed President of Baseball Ops Matt Silverman would have to one day deal mano-on-mano with the analytical and crafty Andrew Friedman, who fled the Rays and landed with the Dodgers wearing a more historic shade of blue.

download (1)Personally, I felt it might last at least until possibly December 7-11th when “America’s Finest City” , San Diego played host to the 2014 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.

During the last minute prep before the Rays were to submit their names for their 40-Man roster by including a few prospects names to guarantee their omission from being plucked during the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, the Rays had conversations with several teams like the San Diego Padres, Houston Astros plus the Texas Rangers before Silverman was left with just one option……Friedman.

images (2)So before the strike of midnight the deal was sealed that sent veteran reliever Joel Peralta and Triple-A reliever Adam Liberatore westward to the dodgers in exchange for right-handers Jose Dominquez and prospect Greg Harris.

The trade on the surface between the 2 former 4th Floor Rays officemates seemed to ultimately compliment the Dodgers as they got a low salary Bullpen option in Peralta and a player who could be on the cusp of earning a spot in the L A Bullpen this spring.

Sure this trade helped the Rays solve some of their payroll concerns as well as make it easier for the Rays to complete their 40-man roster moves while getting some of value for Liberatore who quite possibly would have been left off the Rays final 40-Man roster.

download (2)Without question, Liberatore would have been plucked quite possibly in the 1st Round of the upcoming Rule 5 Draft if left unprotected by the Rays and all the Rays would have garnered was the $50,000 fee.

Ultimately Friedman knew the stats and abilities of each of these garnered trade pieces and knew of their inherent risks and liabilities firsthand because he scouted and watch them play when he was the Rays VP of Baseball Ops.

But let’s not be naïve here to think Friedman might have gotten one over on his former team, this trade has its own high points for the Rays with one significant power option that might bring the Rays dividends as early as when Pitchers and Catchers report in February 2015.

Dominquez could quite easily be the early great return on this trade. Sure he did have some stumbles and rumbles while in the lower levels of the Dodger system, but his stock has risen greatly in the last few seasons, even getting tastes of life at the MLB level in both 2013 and 2014.

Dominguez-pitches-4Some might say he still has some control concerns after allowing 10 runs in 14 2/3rds innings over the past 2 MLB seasons, but his 12/6 K/BB ratio shows he has strikeout abilities that will be needed by the Rays with Peralta now gone from the Rays Bullpen. Dominiquez, who has been clocked throwing as hard as 103 mph might be a piece honed and sculptured this spring to be a cog in the Rays 7th or 8th inning playbook.

Also playing into his favor is the fact even with his not so stellar MLB stat line, he has averaged 10 strikeouts per 9 innings at the minor league level and if the Rays can fine tune his natural power talents, he could be one to watch even on the first day this spring.  He mainly throws heat with a slider that is more known for its velocity than movement, but you know the Rays will show him a few new grips or pitches and expand his arsenal before he makes his Rays regular season debut.

And maybe Dominquez’s power is hereditary as he is a cousin to Rays prospect Alex Colome and former Rays RP Jesus Colome.  For now I’m going to call him Smiley #3 (some people will get that reference). Both Harris and Dominquez also are from San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic.

Kyle-Farmer-SigningHarris was drafted by the Dodgers in 2013 and posted a good season in 2014 during his stint in Class-A ball in the Midwest League and has solid strikeout numbers and throws in the mid-to-low 90’s.  He is still 2-4 years away from possibly being near the MLB level and Harris should develop a few secondary pitches before he gets nearer to a possible stint with the Rays.

He also has a really interesting historic Rays tie-in as his father Greg, who was a former MLB pitcher (75-90 record) as well as a D-Rays minor league pitching coach with Rookie-Level Hudson Valley Renegades back in 1996-97.

images (3)Sure some will instantly put a check mark next to Friedman’s name with this trade as he garners a low cost Bullpen arm, and possibly 2 for 2015, but Silverman got an explosive arm that could be an impact as soon as 2015 as well as shed $ 2.5 million off his payroll.

But the real benefactor at the end of this might be Rays 2B prospect Ryan Brett who was a late addition to the Rays 40-Man roster right after the trade was completed. If Liberatore had not been traded, quite possibly Brett would have been left off the Rays 40-Man roster and subject to the Rule 5 Draft.

Conclusion: Everybody won in this trade. Now and in the future.

Best Rays Stadium Option Might Still Have a St Pete Address

275SBWestward

It is great news hearing that the City of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays might finally be seeing eye-to-eye in regards to a new home for the Rays. But unfortunately for the Rays, a few of the sites they coveted just 2 seasons ago are now either out of their price range, or set for a different type of development.

275sb5The Channelside District down near the epicenter of Tampa has been plucked by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s owner and his plans for that area do not include letting another sports team share in the wealth.

With both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties over the past few years both seeing their light-rail system ideas abolished by the public’s vote, a stadium in or around the West Shore Blvd area might also be past its expiration date.

Still, the Rays deserve to at least look, explore and quite possibly then remember that tract of land just off the southern end of the Howard Franklin might still have yearning for a possible multi-use facility that could include a stadium, a hotel/convention center and dining and shopping center open year round.

275SB2Next time you rush down on I-275 on your way home from Tampa, just past the Ulmerton Road exit look towards the northwest and check out this spectacular parcel of unused land and see if you can see what I see in my imagination:

A beautiful state-of-the-art retractable roof baseball stadium and hotel/convention center with the stadium’s roof opening towards the east to take in the flickering lights of Tampa from the angles within the stadium to provide a postcard backdrop.

That facility would become a shining jewel in baseball’s crown. Would set the standard in green technology while embracing its ecological habitat proving that man and nature can harmoniously co-exist, even with some of Tampa Bay’s tide pools just a Home Runs length away.

9stwestFor the sake of honest here, this is the same parcel of soil was my personal choice for the building of a baseball stadium site back in the late 1980′s when the discussion first came up for the site of the then Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field. 

This parcel of land sits smack dab in the middle of an ever growing section of Pinellas County that can support such a complex being built on this site, and should flourish beyond present expectations as both an entertainment center and transportation hub.

It is situated within a critical epicenter of the cross-county area to give more access to Tampa residents and upper Pinellas and Pasco-Hernando county citizens, but will be a bit of an added burden for people traveling from Sarasota or Manatee Counties.

275sb3If a stadium was proposed for this spot, this parcel would need a bit more tweaking and upgrading, to take on the extra burden of game day traffic, but it is at the threshold of two existing multi-lane infrastructures with I-275 providing north and south travel ease and Ulmerton Road, which is Pinellas County’s longest east-to-west travel road a gateway to several beach communities.

Alternative transportation is already in place because of the neighboring businesses surrounding Carillion Parkway. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) already has several bus routes that service the surrounding neighborhood office complex/condo community to the west of this parcel of land and services could be expanded to ease the transportation burdens of fans and visitors staying downtown or visitors who are staying out on the beaches.

Maybe PSTA and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority (HARTA) could combine or share resources and create an additional Express Route from Hillsborough County (west Shore or International Plaza) and bring fans to games from satellite parking lots or pre-destined pick-up locations throughout the Tampa Bay area.

275NB1This could help traffic congestion around the stadium site, while also being a great alternative to rush hour stress on the Howard Franklin westbound after 5 pm.

This location (to me) is perfectly suited for the Rays needs.

So let the Rays take their gander around the other sites within Tampa Bay, and in the end they will probably drive right by this parcel of land and hopefully it will scream to them “Baseball Stadium”.

Sometimes the answer to things in life is right in front of your nose. For the Rays, it could be this great tract of land just off a few main thoroughfares that has a great bay view.

Odorizzi Gets No Local Love in Rookie of the Year Voting

nbvc

 

Tampa Bay Rays rookie pitcher Jake Odorizzi deserved better…..He truly did.

thQ1XPIRDBI will never be a voting member of the Baseball Writers of America Association (BBWAA), and I never will be. I’m a blogger of an independent blog that is featured upon a MLB owned and supervised blogging community.

The closest I will ever get to being a voting member concerning anything M L B-related will be the online voting process of the GIBBY’s or the internet and in-stadium ballot process for the All-Star Game participants every summer.

Some of you no doubt will brand me a “homer” for the critical commentary I am about to unfold. But I find it personally a bit upsetting and inexcusable for a local media member of our Tampa Bay Rays to not even give one of our own solid rookies at least a solo 3rd place or 1 vote for the 2014 Rookie of the Year award.

thLD57424UBut I do want to take a moment out of this rambling to thank Sports Illustrated’s Mel Antonen for his lone show of support for the great 2014 rookie campaign by Rays starter Jake Odorizzi.

He was the only person among the voting panel for the 2014 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award to tip his cap to Odorizzi’s efforts this past season. To make this even more special for Odorizzi is that fact Antonen is a part of the Baltimore Orioles voting bloc and did not have to show any sort of acknowledgment to Odorizzi.

That is a man who voted with clarity and no biased integrity (in my opinion).

I have a mountain of respect for Antonen now, but lost what little I had for Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, and that is my “Two Cent’s” worth of commentary. And believe me, Smith will not lose a single ounce of sleep worried about some blogger calling him out for his ROY voting.

I can understand Smith’s votes for 1st (Jose Abreu/Chicago White Sox) and 2nd (Matt Shoemaker/ Los Angeles Angels), but I am calling bull hockey sticks on his 3rd vote which went to New York Yankee hurler Dellin Betances.

downloadSure Betances had no chance of winning with Abreu’s  garnering all 30 1st Place votes or 150 points, but you would have thought a writer, who is based in the Tampa Bay market would somehow vote for their local guy as a sign of respect for a job well done.

Instead, Smith’s 3rd selection went to a guy who possibly played in Tampa no more than 2-3 seasons ago as a member of the Florida State League (high Class-A) Tampa Yankees.  I guess NY Yankees star got a cap tilt vote from Smith to show his community support for the farm team.

Maybe it is the possibly outdated thought process of rooting and voting for the home team guy that has me so worked up here. That a local media member of the BBWAA doesn’t vote for a guy on his local baseball team, but for one who plays on our biggest rival.

imagesBut Smith was not the only Tampa Bay based sportswriter to include a Yankee and not a Rays with their 3rd place selection. Dick Scanlon of the (Lakeland) Ledger also did not show any Odorizzi love as he voted for Betances Yankee teammate Mashahiro Tanaka who was on the disabled list for an extended period of time in 2014 but did make a few appearances in September.

So that make 2, count ‘em 2 local Tampa Bay writers who showed their 3rd place love for guys wearing pinstripes instead of possibly gaining some integrity points with the Rays fan base by selecting Odorizzi.

Heck, it would have been amazing and great if at least one of them would of casted a vote for Odorizzi.

I know there are tons of Yankee transplants right now who are going to argue with me and spit back their own logical points, but in the end, the local guy got no love from not 1, but 2 local BBWAA writer……Plain and simple.

I mean if you take a gander at the individual voting ballots of the 30 participating voters in the 2014 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year voting, some did show some love for a home town rookie after voting for Abreu and Shoemaker in the top 2 slots.

images (1)Detroit Free Press writer Lynn Henning showed local love to Detroit Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post showed a hometown salute and a 3rd place vote to Yankees pitcher Mashahiro Tanaka.

And I do not have an issue with Takanao Ishii of the Sports Nippon Newspaper selecting Tanaka for his 3rd place choice. It is an honorable show of respect for the Japanese pitcher that one of his countrymen selected him.

In the end, this is my opinion plain and simple and I can rant and rave all night long and into the orange sunrise and this omission of Odorizzi from the local writer’s ballots will not change.

thE82THDSGMaybe it is naïve of me to think that local guys will take their last vote and show some local love and admiration to a hometown player after they have made their first 2 selections. 

But then again what was I to expect from a group of local media members who didn’t even vote Odorizzi the unanimous 2014 Rays Rookie of the Year.

You deserved better Jake…in my non-voting opinion.

 

 

Could Hellboy & Gattis be Primary Rays and Braves Trade Pieces?

lkjhgfds

The Atlanta Braves have not been shy or silent they need to find a trade partner for Evan Gattis this winter. The Braves current C/OF needs to find a new home so the ATL squad can give the catching reigns fully to young defensive wunderkind Christian Bethancourt this spring.

imagesThe Braves also found out recently their qualifying offer to starter Ervin Santana is going to be rejected and that put a definite hole in their starting 5 heading into the spring of 2015.

A team that could dangle a veteran starter with some team control could become the ideal trade partner that could help the team seal their rotation hole and help them give Bethancourt control behind the plate heading into 2015.

And the Tampa Bay Rays could quite possibly be the team that helps facilitate this for the Braves.

As we head into the M L B G M Meeting in Arizona, both teams have a need to subtract personnel this winter with the Rays wanting to find a trade ally for starter Jeremy Hellickson.

images (5)The first glaring point that most Braves might bring to the forefront is the fact Hellickson only pitched 63 2/3rds innings in 2014 after a pre-spring surgery to remove some loose fragments in his pitching elbow. Since his return, Hellickson was a valued Rays starter proving he was healthy and suffering no setbacks from his prior injury.

The addition of a versatile player like Gattis would be a great addition for the Rays who need some offensive firepower heading into 2015. Even though Gattis himself had some health concerns in 2014 with a bulging disc in his back.

Combine Gattis’s back issue with Hellickson’s elbow you would think each team would do their due diligence via their respective medical staffs before any conversation escalates past the preliminary stage.

Even if both players did have darkened clouds surrounding their health in 2014, but each finished the season on high notes providing a brighter outlook for either player being considered in a possible trade package.

images (6)Hopefully the Brave realize even with a small statistical model in 2014, the pure fact over the last 2 seasons Hellboy’s has increased his strikeout rate (7.9 K/9 innings) while also lowering his walks issued (2.7 per 9 innings pitched) should show the veteran hurler has overcome some past control issues and  would be a solid contributor to the Braves rotation.

Adding another nugget of goodness to the Braves trading for Hellickson is the fact he was the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year as well as a Gold Glover. Players like that usually do not come up as trade pieces when there is still team control in play. The fact Hellboy is even up on the block is a testament to the younger hurlers on the Rays current staff of developing faster than expected and might be pushing a player of Hellickson’s caliber towards another team. 

download (2)Gattis would come to the Rays as a firm offensive upgrade especially at the Rays catching position and finished the 2014 season while maintaining a .263 average in 401 plate appearances. Even more glaring is the fact Gattis’s 22 HRs easily outpaced all 5 players who caught for the team and hit only 6 HRs in total with Ryan Hanigan garnering 5 of those HRs.

Helping Gattis in his case as a possible Rays trade target is the fact he has fielding versatility. Not only could he provide at bats as a catcher, but also at Designated Hitter and as a possible corner outfielder during InterLeague play.

It is not often that you could possibly trade for a single player who could help adjust or eliminate so many glaring holes in your roster. Both with a bat and glove Gattis is an instant Rays upgrade at DH and catcher (Sorry Ryan).

images (8)Another get selling point for Hellickson is the fact he is under team control until the end of 2016 and his projected arbitration salary is an affordable $3.5-3.9 million for 2015. That would give the Braves a bit of salary relief as well as bring on a starter with a proven M L B track record that would solidify the middle to back-end of the Braves rotation for at least the next 2 seasons. Of course this also works great for the Rays who have to cut a significant amount of payroll heading into 2015.

Gattis would also bring the Rays some salary relief as well as he is under team control for another 4 seasons. But one glaring point that might come with any trade chats about Gattis is that those 4 seasons of possible salary stability for a team like the fiscally-challenged Rays might come at the cost of another player at or near the M L B level.

images (7)The Braves will certainly want to up the ante because of Gattis’s 4 years of control, and it might be a hidden godsend as the Rays could include some like Brandon Guyer, Tim Beckham (Georgia native) or another player who might find their career path blocked as they near the M L B level.

A straight-up trade of Gattis for Hellickson will not happen oir be entertained by the Braves or Rays, but these two M L B caliber players should be a great starting point for both front offices to facilitate some chatter towards a possible Rays and Braves swap of talent.  

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.

 

Say It Ain’t So Joe!

JMad

 

I so want to pop on one of those hipster caps, clutch a bundle of newspapers and wander outside Ava’s in South Tampa right now and mimic that great cinematic scene and scream: “Say it ain’t so Joe, say it ain’t so!

imagesI wasn’t a firm believer in Maddon when he was announced as the Tampa Bay Rays Manager almost a decade ago. But then I did not want that other “Joe” either who wears pinstripes to manage my then D-Rays.

I was uninformed of his love of computerized stats, reports, graphs and believing in the numbers as much as a hunch, feeling or a spur of the moment stroke of genius.

But I quickly became a follower.

images (7)So yeah, it irks me a bit today when I heard the Rays will lose their in-house musical and entertainment savant who decided his tenure with the Rays will cease now rather than extend his stay or do a “farewell” year as a lame duck Rays skipper.

I was on pins and needles the first few times I heard Maddon during interviews and as my resistance to his style of baseball waned, I began to march to the beat of his drum and began to stand solid behind this new essence of the Rays with this Mad Man with his black-rimmed glasses at the helm.

images (3)From his want to “give back” to his adopted Tampa Bay community with his “ThanksMas” innovative program that fed and let struggling and homeless individuals around this region know that the Rays, their employees and Maddon believed in them through their culinary show of love.

Maddon quickly won my heart by his charity, intelligence and want to make his Rays teams not only successful, but a benchmark of how to evolve and transform players and veteran into a victorious hodge-podge of inspiring and aspiring Tampa Bay sports icons.

20141024_140329I was one of the first to pop my name and money down for the inaugural first rendition of the  “Maddon’s Mad Men” that quickly reformed as the “Maddon’s Maniacs” and became a spirited group of Rays fans who voiced and showed their support for the Rays main guy.

Maddon  grew on me. From his courage to bench a disgruntled Delmon Young, then sending the ROY candidate to Minnesota. It showed courage, but it also showed that he was not above jettisoning a promising player if he felt it might poison the Rays clubhouse, or provide unneeded drama.

images (24)What was really amazing was how when Delmon returned 6 years later in the final month of the 2013 season there was a level of respect shown towards Maddon that was not there in 2007. It was never said aloud, but you got to know Maddon was pleased Young had matured, developed and could again help the Rays cause, now as a veteran.

a3I was amazed at the way the “Magical Summer of Baseball” transpired this franchise and energize not only the Rays, but the whole Tampa Bay community. That process started with Maddon chatting with the guys on the turf of the Namoli Complex in St. Petersburg, transformed during the season peaking as he accepted the American League Championship Trophy from his former boss’s wife and ended among the rain puddles in Citizen Bank Park.

But that 2008 success only made you want to root for him more, want to again see him on the post season stage ready to pull a wily play out of his notepad, or pop up his palm for a enthusiastic high-five as a Ray returned to the dugout.

images (23)It saddens me we will not see Joe hoist a World Series trophy here in Tampa Bay. Bothers me that this happens now when the sting and bite of Andrew Friedman leaving for western pastures in Chavez Ravine and his team maybe again on the verge of something special.

PajamaI’m going to miss the team head cheerleader who brought fun back to road trips via planned events, the manning of T-shirts, jerseys or even PJ’s to bring some comic relief and energy into leaving the confines of home for 7-10 day ventures around the country.

I mean Maddon was a man who embraced our region for its positives and negatives, became a R V owner, a local restaurateur and somehow during all of this got some of us (even me) back on a bike wandering this great area on trails and back road rediscovering our region.

images (4)He helped transform the Rays culture on the field, in the stands and even might have instilled the first healthy clubhouse in the MLB when fresh food, healthy options and smoothies intertwined into the Rays pre and postgame lifestyle.

But most of all I’m going to miss the guy who truly had become the Captain of our Rays ship. Taking us to places no one else had, be it post season, managing an All-Star team or even giving us all cause to further embrace our community be it through humanitarian or even social efforts.

images (18)While some are going to have to take some time to come to terms with this, get over their confusion and angry moments, we all knew this day was going to come. We all knew that one day you would take that Rays hoodie off for the last time. Hang up the Elmer Fudd winter Rays cap and venture on with your life somewhere else, but we had envisioned that years away.

But even if the time was only 9 season, it was a true pleasure knowing you Skipper. Was a treat to hear you take, to see what antic or item might show up at a press conference or be presented to your players in the Club house (my favorite was Cliff, the penguin).

images (25)Joe, where ever you go, whatever your next destination I want you to know I still cherish, relish and embrace all the “Maddon Maniacs” knickknacks, T-shirts and photos taken with you over your Rays tenure.

But seriously Joe……..”Say it ain’t so!”

Big Game James Adorns the Big Stage Again

B0BuYIECIAIBLov

I swear I wish I could have been a bug in Kansas City Royals P James Shields ear when he was handed the American League Trophy tonight because I would have had him scream, “Hello Gorgeous, Did you miss me?  I sure missed you?”

images (8)Has it really been 6 years since Shields last grasped this golden lady as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.  It seems like oh so long ago that Shields and one of his team again ventured into the Fall Classic.

But this is one of the reasons Shields plays this game. To be a part of the team that elevates their game to the highest level of style and play to showcase their young and veteran talents on the World Series stage.

Sure this time around Shields might have a few more miles on his arm, but with his added bonus of being on this stage before, he can inspire and show some of his younger teammates how to harness the energy and bottle it up for game time.

download (1)For a long time some within the Rays Republic knew Shields would get back to the World Series and were truly stunned when the Rays traded him and RP Wade Davis to their small market brethren.

Some have even wondered recently which team got the better end of that deal, and at this moment if you ask anyone….You might imagine the scale is tipped in the Royals favor. How ironic was it that the main player in that Rays and Royals deal was one of the first people to take to Twitter and show his enthusiasm and joy for the Royals team that drafted him not so long ago.

Wil Myers ‏@wilmyers  2h2 hours ago

“Congrats to the #Royals! Happy for everyone in that organization.”

images (7)I am so happy for Shields. He is one of the former Rays players I hoped would again grace the biggest stage in baseball. I wanted see “Big Game” again get a chance at collecting another bit of baseball immortality by winning a World Series.

I know his 2008 Tampa Bay Rays teammate Jonny Gomes got his piece of bling first, but you know Shields will cherish it, caress it, possibly design some sort of epic new fashion statement around it. (I’m wearing his 1st Rays T-shirt creation as I write this post).

download (2)Seriously, how awesome is it that Big Game James get to once again toe the rubber in Game 1 of a World Series and possibly set an early tone in who could possibly be the last team standing in 2014.

images (3)I can see it now with my 162 stitch crystal baseball as Royals ace Big Game James taking the hill on 3 days rest in Game 7, all tied at 3, winner takes all.

And you know who I want to win….and thrust skyward the World Series MVP Trophy.

Now it’s up to Shields and the Royals to finish the season on a grand scale on a year that can never be tarnished.  

 

I Love That Guthrie Ruffled a Few O’s Feathers

c443df20-5440-11e4-b14b-d726e9cc9fd0_Bz9TlzBCMAAbq-L

 

Come on Orioles faithful, I always thought you had a thicker skin.

I mean seriously, you are going to get all hot and bothered about a T-shirt won by a starter that beat you in a competitive fight for who gets to host the first 2014 World Series game? 

downloadAre these the same O’s squad that thumped their chest mightily upon the Camden Yard grass after sweeping the mighty, mighty Tigers and proclaiming the “ best was yet to come”.

Doesn’t sound like the same team, or the same confident fan base right now. I should not matter one iota if the O’s are not royalty outside the friendly confines of the Charm City, you knew there were  going to be peril ahead, but letting a cotton blend T-shirt be your albatross……Did not see that coming.

I mean this is a city that boasts such nicknames as Mobtown, Monument City, The City of Firsts and my personal favorite, The Land of Pleasant Living.  Hate to say it, but being down 0-3 in a 7 game series doesn’t project pleasant images or optimism to me at this critical juncture.

imagesSeriously, you got to give it to the imagination of your mid-West foes to come up with something like this that got so deep under your fan base’s feathers that it bothers you to this extent. I always thought the Balti crew had thick feathers, but now maybe we have seen someone show a crack in your 2014 armor.

Just chalk this one episode up to the creative juices possibly flowing from the fountains of Kauffman Stadium and hope your team doesn’t see a raven, but an oriole perched upon their visiting dugout during your 4th chance at trying to break the Royal’s ever tightening grip and choke out your 2014 black and orange hopes and dreams of getting to the World Series.

I actually applaud wearing the T-shirt to a winning post-game presser. I was not done to directly humiliate the Baltimore team, your squad has humiliated themselves quite nicely being down 3-0 and currently losing Game 4, which would be a bit Poe-etic.

2663963Heck, I would have made a celebratory Royals tongue-in-cheek T-shirt for your possible elimination featuring a Royal with a mason’s trowel in hand placing bricks with a bound and sweating Oriole within the wall……My own twisted ALCS head tilt to your homegrown macabre master Edgar Allan Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado”.

Jeremy Guthrie was just having fun in the moment. Chill out, or this series will be quickly over and we might not be able to “Quote the Oriole…nevermore…nevermore!”

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 273 other followers