Results tagged ‘ Rays Renegade ’

I Hope I Left a Slice of Baseball Love in Kuwait

Be2UwstCEAAgLIH

 Even in a hostile country thousands of miles away back in 1991, baseball was my link to salvation on those desert afternoons and down times. Those games have left an indelible imprint on my heart and soul. Baseball has journeyed to many American held battle lines all over the World. Seems only natural a team-oriented sport would follow the men and women who make up the many squadrons, platoons and units involved in military actions.

I hope you enjoy my Kuwaiti tale .

I remember one night  back in 1970 when my father and grandfather were sitting on the back porch and their voices began to rise a few hundred decibels while discussing the game of baseball. My maternal Grandpa was born near Pittsburgh and my Father called Philadelphia his home before enlisting in the Merchant Marines, then the Navy. My Grandfathers path was to Europe in World War I and WW II while my Father was shipped off to the South Pacific aboard the USS Denver and USS John W Weeks during WW II.

Each of them had a deep and genuine respect plus admiration for the fortitude and courage displayed by so many of this Nation’s best baseball players who put down their bats and picked up a rifle or wrench or flew combat missions when American soles and manpower were needed to defend this country’s mindset and innate dream of freedom.

I would sit there entranced in their dialogue intrigued by their tales and memories not knowing yet I would one day have a tale or two of my own to spin to my children. Even if my time in the military was short compared to both of these men, I always seemed to make time to let the nuances of baseball intertwine into my daily deployment routine. I was attached to a small unit that made it ashore during some of the first waves of amphibian approaches to Kuwait and hidden within my gear that I took abroad was my old glove and a scuffed ball.

baseball2jx1It was my personal form of stress and daily grind relief to try and toss the ball back and forth daily even as the penetrating sun and swirling sands scraped at my skin like sandpaper. I seemed to throw for hours just to bring some form of home into my mind and heart, not only to break the slow ticks of time in the desert. Even though the majority of the soldiers of my unit had deep cravings for football, there was always someone who shared my baseball passion, or possibly someone boasting that their curveball was unhitable or slick, or that they possessed their own form of rocket launcher attached to their arm.

The game of baseball was an instant bonding agent no matter if we were from St. Petersburg, Florida, Rock City, North Carolina or Portland, Maine. 

To me it always seemed that baseball transcended different ideologies and the languages. Poked past the cultural differences and the social unrest of the region. I even invited some of the local Kuwaiti kids to join us in our games. It felt great to spread this great sport to another region just as my father did in ports in the South Pacific, and my grandfather in England and Denmark.

During my time in the Middle East I found a new respect and admiration for the game, just as my father and grandfather had before me. I began to experience what they meant about how the passion and the pulling power of the game brings not only a group of soldiers together, but is a starting point for interact with the locals introducing them to baseball. This game that could start with two people and then suddenly blossom into 20 or more souls playing their hearts out sometimes blew my mind when the locals, both young and old eagerly began cheering and watching intently during the games.

I can still remember like it was yesterday when we were about to pulling out from our post near the Northern border of Kuwait that I needed to leave of piece of me here. Something had to stay here for this to seem real to me. So as we were motoring through the city of Abdari I saw a few kids throwing what looked like a make-shift baseball around the town’s central square.

I called for one of them to come over to my Humvee. I had a guy in our unit with me who was a translator and he asked the boy for me if he knew how to play baseball. The young kid, maybe 10 told my friend he was being taught the game before the local Marines pulled out and he was left with only the baseball.

I went to the back of our Humvee and I pulled my duffel out and searched for a few moments before bringing out my old college baseball glove, two of my wooden Louisville Sluggers and about 12 more baseballs sent to me from home. Even though I knew soccer was the prominent sport in this country, I wanted to leave  my own piece of my love for baseball in Kuwait.

I gave the items to the boy and through the translator made him promise to use them for sport and not as weapons or as bargaining pieces with his friends. I wanted him and his friends to want the items to play the game, not to sell or even trade for something else. He nodded his head in agreement and he ran yelling and screaming with excitement from our Humvee with his new-found sporting equipment. His small group of friends all encircled him like he had found a golden coins in the sand.

As I got back into the Humvee to drive away, he and his assembled baseball posse all waved to us and I was glad deep down inside to leave a small part of me in this small Kuwaiti town. But more, I was glad to leave a part of the game. We pulled out a few days later in that region and I never got a chance to revisit and see if they played any sort of organized game with the equipment but I want to believe that baseball is still being played in that Kuwati village and that the young boy who I gave that baseball equipment to that day has grown and taught his own children to play baseball just as my Father and Grandfather probably did in their own tours. 

Long Live the Zim!

pageitrfitr

What do you get the guy who has witnessed over 66 years of baseball in his 83 years upon this great planet? Does he still have an unfulfilled bucket list?  This bit of baseball royalty has shaken hands with more than a few generations of ball players, celebrities and political dignitaries. A special baseball icon whose life we all should celebrate every year when January 17th, hits the calendar.

zinmmmmmmmmmmmmmOf course I’m speaking of the great Tampa Bay Rays Senior Advisor Don Zimmer who this past Friday celebrated his 83rd birthday and even as age takes some of his physical tools, his mind is still a steel trap and he seems to remember more than most of us forget about this grand game. I mean who else in MLB history has had a bear made of his likeness…and been a giveaway twice in a season!

We all know Zimmer has made the Pinellas county area his home for most of his baseball life and was a citizen of the beach community of Treasure Island as far back as when they had a toll booth, when the old Jolly Roger figurine stood mighty on Gulf Blvd., and the streetcars made their route reversals at Park Street and Central Avenue before cruising on back down Central towards the then Million Dollar Pier.

I bet Zimmer remembers the old Renaissance Vinoy Hotel in the 70’s when it was an abandoned building rotting away with time, and then got to witness the spectacular rebirth of the hotel into a premier 5-star resort nestled on the St. Petersburg, Florida waterfront and is every MLB team’s visiting oasis when they venture into the hamlet to play the Rays during the MLB season. 
 
Zimmer first fell in love with the Pinellas county region back when he was a player with the New York Mets. He is as much a “native” and local institution to the Rays Republic as the Don Cesar Hotel, or even the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Of all the people who have been associated with this Rays franchise since its infancy.

For that reason, I feel the only gift I can truly give to Zimmer at this moment doesn’t involve anything monetary or even crafted. It is something I feel strongly about and something. I’m going to write tribute to my personal favorite hometown guy and a man generations have affectionately known as “Popeye”.

I’m going to start off with something you might not know about Zimmer, he first began dating his lovely wife Soot (Jean) in 10th grade, and eventually married her upon a baseball diamond in Elmira, New York during a game. 

dfgtreZimmer is as famous as a ball player as he was as a Manager during his years in baseball. Most people remember him as the feisty and skilled shortstop of the Brooklyn Dodgers when Zim broke into the majors back in 1954. For the next 12 seasons he played in the majors, and found his first taste of success in 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series.

Some people might not know that Zimmer also dealt with adversity while playing shortstop for the New York Mets in 1962 when the team lost 120 games.  And a lot of younger baseball fans might be shocked to learn his time in organized baseball was almost cut short in 1953 while Zimmer with the St Paul minor league squad.

During a game while with St Paul, Zimmer was struck in the temple and did not regain consciousness for 13 days.  With pressure building on his brain, Zim had holes drilled into his skull to relieve the building pressure and subsequently suffered from blurred vision and went from 170 to 124 pound while trying to regain his motors skills to walk and talk. He was only 22 years old at the time of the incident and was told by his doctors his baseball career might be over. 

But Zimmer rose above the complications to regain his motor skills and again play the game he loved. Zimmer again was hit by a Cincinnati fastball in the cheek in 1956, which broke his cheekbone. Again Zim rose from the ashes and after a steel plate was inserted into his head, trained tirelessly so he could begin playing baseball once again. If nothing else, Zimmer is the true example of the art of positive thinking and determination. Most people would have called it quits possibly after the second incident, and went onto a life after baseball. But Zimmer loved the game, and the people on and off the diamond encompassing it.

dtfyguhijo;l.,kIn 1958, Zimmer moved westward with the Dodgers in 1958 as the team relocated to their new vista in Los Angeles, California. Zimmer then moved from the Chicago Cubs to the New York Mets and then to the Cincinnati Reds in 1962. He then returned to the Dodgers in 1963 before finally moving onto the Washington Senators where he played his last game on the field on October 2, 1965.

In his 12 years in the majors leagues, Zimmer appeared in 1,095 games, compiled over 773 hits,79 homers, with 352 RBI’s and a lifetime .235 batting average. During his playing career he got to go to the Fall Classic with the Dodgers in 1955 and 1959.  Although hitting was not his forte, his fielding was never called into question over his career. Zim was a versatile player who could line up at third, second base, shortstop, and he even caught 33 games in 1965, his final MLB season in Washington. Zimmer pulled on a uniform one last time in 1966 playing for the Toei Flyers in Japan.

But it was in the dugout where the feisty ex-player gained even more respect around the baseball world. Zimmer started out alike most young aspiring Coaches do, in the minor leagues, and he finally got to step upon a MLB field again as the Third Base Coach for the Montreal Expos in 1971.  He again got to patrol the chalk lines in 1972 with the San Diego Padres, but 11 games into the season, Zim was called upon to replace Preston Gomez as the Padres Manager.  Zimmer remained with the Padres until the close of the 1973 season when he was fired and he moved onto the Boston Red Sox for the next 2 1/2 seasons.

tyrjhegaszxZimmer was a key figure for the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series when in Game 6 a ball was hit into shallow left field and Zimmer coaching at third base yelled to Denny Doyle to not run on the play, but Doyle misunderstood Zimmer’s barking and tried to score and was thrown out at the plate. The result of that Home Plate play helped to set up one of the most memorable moments in Red Sox history as Carlton Fisk hit his iconic game winning Home Run later in the contest.

In 1976, the Red Sox did not come out confident or playing up to par, so current Manager Johnson was fired and Zimmer was given the reigns of the young Boston team.  From 1977-79, the Red Sox won at least 90 games for Zimmer. His 1978 squad won 99 game, at the time the 4th best record by a Red Sox team in their hallowed history. But that same season, Zim was remembered more for the collapse of the Red Sox after the squad lead the A L East by as many as 14 games.

 Zimmer was the skipper at the helm of the Boston ship when the New York Yankees finally caught the Red Sox in a series dubbed, “The Boston Massacre.” That year the team went back and forth with the Yankees before Bucky Dent sent a stake through the Red Sox Nation’s heart during a one-game playoff on October 2, 1978.

re6t70pf8tyolDuring that period Zimmer made a few questionable moves that were played out in the newspapers and in the stands. Some also speculate Zimmer might have overused Carlton Fisk during that season starting him in 154 of 162 games. Fisk would begin to have sore knee problems and missed a bunch of time in 1979 due to arm problems. 

Zim also did not get along with popular Red Sox pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee and further infuriated their feud when he gave the start during the last contest of the “Boston Massacre” to a Triple-A pitcher named Bobby Sprowl instead of Lee.

Zimmer also kept Butch Hobson at third base even as elbow problems began to surface, especially with ineffective throws to first base. Zimmer held firm to the belief Hobson could play until after a series of bad errors when Zim was forced to call up Jack Brohamer to replace Hobson.

sdfffffvbnThe Boston debacle was not the last stage for Zimmer as he moved on to manage the Texas Rangers in 1981, then moved onto three stints with the Yankees and also the San Francisco Giants between 1982 until 1989 when he took over the Chicago Cubs. In that season, Zimmer won a divisional title for the Cubs, and was named the Manager of the Year by Major League Baseball. 

Zimmer returned to Boston in 1992 to help one of his former players, Butch Hodson with the Red Sox.  Zimmer was then on the 1993 expansion staff of the Colorado Rockies, and in 1996 began a tenure as the Bench Coach of the New York Yankees. He was on the bench for 4 of the Yankees World Championships.

Zimmer also took over the Yankees Manager’s position when Joe Torre was recuperating from prostate cancer in 1999. Zimmer went 21-15 in Torre’s absence, then returned to his usual spot in the dugout again.  Those game were never officially credited to Zimmer, who won over 906 games as a Manager. 

xfhhjhThe event that further pushed Zimmer into another level of legend status was the 2003 ALCS game between the Boston Red Sox and his New York Yankees. When an on-field brawl began, Zimmer went out onto the Fenway grass and found himself face-to-face with Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez who then tossed the nimble Zimmer to the turf. The scene made Martinez an instant enemy to Yankee fans and empathically endeared Zimmer to baseball fans who did not wear pinstripes.

In another contest, Zimmer was sitting on the bench when the Yankees Chuck Knoblach hit a screaming foul ball into the dugout and got Zimmer flush on the head. Zimmer used the event to use some tongue-in-cheek Zim-style humor as he came out the next day wearing an army helmet with “ZIM” written on it in white. 

thSince his time with the Yankees, Zimmer has been the Tampa Bay Rays Senior Advisor helping the squad with expertise during Spring Training and he can often be seen down on the field during the Rays regular season home contests in his Rays white or blue Rays jacket uniform during Batting Practice chatting with both team’s Coaches’ and players. 

Every season, Zimmer moves up his uniform number one more. In 2014, Zimmer will be issued the number “66″ jersey. Zimmer is the last member of the long gone Brooklyn Dodgers organization still serving in some capacity in baseball. 

Zim is a proud author of 2 books, “The Zen of Zim” and” Zim: A Baseball Life.” 

If you have ever had the pleasure to speak with Zimmer about baseball, you will instantly see the twinkle in his eye as he remembers some of the greatest moments in the game.

sdfghjkl,mWith less than 4 weeks until the Rays head to Port Charlotte, Florida, Zimmer should be again manning his customized golf cart greeting fans and players alike and spinning great tales of the game.  Thank you Zim for everything you have done for my hometown team and for this great game. Looking forward to see you at the Spring Training complex and I hope this post is a fitting birthday gift to a icon I feel blessed to see still giving of himself for the sake of the game.

Long live the Zim!

 

Price’s Signing Doesn’t Guarantee Anything…..Yet

pricepricebaby

I could have sworn that 30 mph wind gust out of nowhere that just blew through the St. Petersburg, Florida might have been the accumulated sigh of relief given off by so many of the Tampa Bay Rays fan base with the news of Rays ace David Price and the team avoiding arbitration. How many of us within the Rays ranks since the team’s last 2013 game in Boston have been holding our own breathes pondering the many scenarios and possible destination for Price outside of the Tampa Bay region.

th3YRYYPQLThis 1-year, $14 million contract signed by Price did beat the arbitration clock and is the highest current or past contract for a Ray’s player in a single season. But do not stop hyperventilating yet Rays fans, the Price rumor mill for 2014 might be just beginning to gather some serious wind and steam heading into Spring Training.

Right now I think is the time we as a fan base need to worry the most about Price.

Things tend to happen fast within that 30-days window of MLB team’s reporting to Spring Training. The Rays might be giving Price upwards to 20% of their 2014 salary (based on a projected $70 million payroll), but with his salary written in black now, teams have definite number to contend with and could make an estimated risk to procure the southpaw by Opening Day.

Now that teams around the MLB can see a finite salary in place for Price in 2014 it might make him a bit more attractive as some current Free Agent hurlers want mega money to -5 years a solid contracts.

All this in essence guarantees to us in the Rays fan base that the teams that will eventually lose out on possibly signing Masahiro Tanaka might instantly see Price’s stable salary as a huge selling point and be a more reliable return on their investment than a few other names lingering on the MLB free agent pitching market. With current rumors (1/16/2013) surrounding Tanaka possibly seeing the Chicago Cubs going in hard on the Japanese ace’s services.

092512-al-cySuch a victory by the underdog Cubbies could leave a large hole statistically between the talents of Tanaka and the current MLB free agent pitchers seeking employment for 2014…or beyond. Price with a set salary for 2014 and time to discuss any future salary discussions before his free agency could make that gap lessen considerably now and the right franchise might be willing to gamble Price’s 2013 campaign as a mire career toe-stub.

Even though Price did fire an early Winter warning shot across an earlier winter rumored trade to Seattle, before today’s announcement, all has been quiet on the southpaw’s social media front about any other possible alternative 2014 venue…or apprehension.

thZH6S2KP3The Rays fan base cannot be overly secure in the fact Price will be here after Price’s signing today. Sure it does give us a bit of solid ground heading into the last moments of the off season, but nothing is set in stone yet and the Rays front office has yet to voice any solidarity that Price is here to stay…at least for beginning months of the season.

Brrr, I just felt another cold chill and wind gust blow right through me. Wonder if that was the Rays faithful all taking a collective gasp knowing the Price saga is far from over. Then again, maybe this move will warm all of us up a bit before the next wave of reality hits us like another cold and bitter trade wind. 

Taking a Whack at 2014 Hall of Fame Voting

HOF2014

I have to say I’m glad I’m not one of those 600+ members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) who have put in the mandatory 10 plus years of service covering own slivers of the Major League Baseball fishbowl who have to parlay their thoughts along with slicing and dicing their own set in clay adverse and varied opinions about the nominated few and somehow find a cohesive way to whittle down their list of potential former MLB players for possible selection and immortalized in bronze forever within the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
20140102-161419But wouldn’t it a hoot if I did have a envelope to send into Cooperstown. That my own personal baseball opinions could be voiced upon that black and white card of my 10 selected baseball heroes from the past that I personally would LOVE to see in bronze for eternity. The reality is I will never have that opportunity. I wasted my chance at being within that brotherhood long ago when I left my Sports Correspondent slot soooo long ago. But I would cherish and relish a chance to send just such an envelope into the mail and then sit back and see how many of my picks could/would get a phone call and the prestigious yellow jacket this summer.

I would consider such an envelope a huge responsibility both as a life-time baseball spectator as well take into account morally that I not only follow my gut reaction for such voting, but also toil and weather such stormy matters as if a finalist had used or ever abused the pre-PEDs mandates (McGwire) and testing regulations (Clemens/Bonds), whether a career-long DH (Martinez) merits a hearty Hall nod. Or maybe I might wrestle on a solid and concise benchmark for statistic considerations of both starters and relievers. I would hope I can show empathy with finalists who might have suffered in their careers by playing on mediocre teams (Morris/Raines) that did not parlay their own bits of success into playoff berths or shot in the World Series. Does getting a World Series ring (or 2) trump a player with a den full of MLB hardware?

And even if I did produce 10 ducks in my selection row, that the moment the selection process is finalized I could end up with a whittled down list maybe into the single digits and as low as 3 of my selections receiving that prestigious phone call on Wednesday, January 8th. But no matter the results, I know there will be chatter, both realistic and convoluted as some inductees and finalists will miss the cut and not meet both the required minimal votes for this summer’s Hall induction and possibly fall off the 2015 ballot due to lack of support or future consideration by the growing group of 600+BBWAA voters.

My first 5 selections will bode well with most voters, but my other 4 might ruffle some PED feathers or be called into question because of their non-God like stats, plus I added 1 Hometown hero to my selection list but that is what this voting blog post is all about……my personal Hall of Fame choices.

Without further ado, this would have been my ballot for the Hall of Fame Class of 2014:

1) Greg Maddux 355 W’s, 17 seasons of > 15 W‘s, 4 Cy Youngs. Could garner over 98.84% of votes
 2) Tom Glavine 305 W’s, 14 seasons with >200 innings, 5- 20 W seasons, 2 Cy Youngs
 3) Frank Thomas 7 straight seasons with .300 AVG,20+ HR,100 RBIs, 100 Walks, + 521 career HR
4) Craig Biggio 3,060 hits, 668 doubles are most by any right-handed hitter
5) Jeff Bagwell 7 100R/100 RBI seasons, NL ROY, Gold Glove, MVP, .408 OBP.

6) Mike Piazza 427 HRs, 12 X All-Star
7) Barry Bonds 762 HRs, 1,996 RBIs, 2,935 hits, 7 MVP, 8 Gold Gloves, 14 All-Star selections.
8) Jack Morris 15th (Last) year on ballot. His 3.90 ERA would be the Hall’s highest.
9) Lee Smith Was MLB Saves (478) leader when he retired. Great pressure guy.
10) Fred McGriff 493 HR were done clean and legal. 200+ HR in both AL and NL

Rays Trivia: What other Hall of Fame finalist besides Fred McGriff played for the Rays during his career?

Answer: Hideo Nomo who wore # 11 while going 5-8 in 100.2 innings in 2005.

Silent Avenger Becoming a Pleasant Offensive Surprise

James Loney

I now call him the “Silent Avenger”. On a Tampa Bay Rays team already filled with persona’s like “Tatman”, “Super Sam” and even “Wolverine”, Rays First Baseman James Loney has been one of those great players who comes out of nowhere and makes this team better immediately.

toronto-blue-jays-v-tampa-20130506-180616-029Playing a position that embodies power and defensive responsibility, Loney has become not that iconic 1B that smashes the ball into an oblong shape on its way to the cheap seats, but has become a hitting machine producing needed single and run producing opportunities that also have brought the Rays back to the .500 mark for the first time since April 7th. Sure Loney is not the only reason this team has rebounded from their April funk, but he is one of those shining examples of a player brought in with question marks and wonder as to what role he will ultimately play on this team’s rise towards a post season berth.

All Loney has done is be a stopgap defender at the corner who has committed only a solo error in 259 total chances this season. But lost in that vital fact is the number of errors his glove has erased due to his versatility and flexibility at the First Base bag. But that is only 1 dimension of the Loney story as he has again found his hitting stroke since coming to the Rays at one point this week reaching the summit of the American League Batting Average pile along side Detroit Tiger Miguel Cabrera.

James LoneyLoney currently heading into Sunday’s contest is 3rd among all MLB players in batting average (.371) behind Cabrera (.376) and Brewers OF Carlos Gomez (.374). He also shares another very vital distinction in the A L with Oakland A’s INF Jed Lowrie of 7 3-hit games this season which all transpired within 11 starts between April 17th and May 5th. Loney has not only shown the potential to produce for the Rays, he is doing it on a club once thought of as weak and full of holes offensively but has been one of those key linchpins to the Rays recent run explosions that has seen them creep from the bottom of the AL Team hitting stats.

Sure Loney (.959) might not have the Rays top OPS ranking which currently belongs to long-ball artist Evan Longoria (1.009), but he does have 39 hits in his 35 games as well as leading the Rays in doubles (11, tied for 7th in the AL). OBP (.426 which is 4th in the AL) and is second to Longo (.609) in Slugging Percentage (.533). Loney has been one of those pleasant surprises on a team that most thought would be hard pressed to produce runs much less victories this season after their horrific April start.

201304062129773759188-p2Want to know why the recent hitting surge of Loney is so impressive? Over his last 23 contests (17 starts) Loney leads the MLB with a .453 average with 2 HR,15 RBI and 9 doubles. But what is extremely impressive is his stat of only 4 strikeouts during this span that saw his average rise to over 200 points from its .167 spot on April 16th. Fangraphs also produced a fun fact that 33% of Loney’s hits this season have been line drives, the highest percentage in the MLB where the MLB average is 20.2 percent.

Amazingly enough Loney who is a left-handed hitter has produced a .529 average against Southpaws this season which should bode well for him as the Rays will be facing a lot of left-handed hurlers over the next week. Add on the nice stat of Loney sparking a .424 average with runners in scoring position and you get a player who is helping the team tremendously by slicing and dicing up hitting from both side of the pitching rubber. Loney is also boasting an impressive .337 average against right-handers so far this season.

And how rare was that Home Run by Loney last night against the San Diego Padres? The last time Loney deposited an offering in the his home stadium cheaps seats was September 17, 2011 in Dodger Stadium.

James Loney, Joe MaddonLoney has hit 8 HR on the road between those dates. Loney on May 9th also became only the 4th Rays player ever to be on the top tier of the AL in hitting with teammate Matt Joyce last doing it in 2011. Combine that with the pure fact Loney has produced back-to-back 3-hit performances on multiple occasions this season and you can see how he has transformed into a much needed silent avenger for the Rays.

Want one last reason to think Loney is having one of those dream seasons so many seem to have when they pull on a Rays jersey. Consider Loney has hit left-handed pitchers at a career .248 average heading into his Rays tenure. This season after Loney’s impressive outing against southpaw pitching during 3 starts against Toronto (May 6-9th) at the Trop produced a stellar 10-19 (.526) showcase. But the cherry on top of this is the fact during 2013 Loney has only struck out 11 times so far in 116 plate appearances which leads all MLB 1B qualifiers and had a streak of 39 at bats without a whiff this season.

Loney is definitely the silent avenger the Rays needed at First Base and has more than proven his worth.

Happ..Happ..Happy He is Okay

Desmond Jennings

Toronto Blue Jays Pitcher J A Happ is one lucky guy. Considering the sound I heard the moment the ball struck him on the left side of his face, just a hair to the outside of his orbital socket, he is lucky to be standing now much less have his facilities intact.

J.A. HappSure the ball’s stitches caused a bit of bloody damage as it ricocheted off his ear and then down the First Base line towards the Rays Bullpen, when he went down into a lump in front of the pitcher’s mound, you had a assume the worst because of the sound the ball produced as it made contact with Happ. I watched the video of the event a few hours later and saw Happ try and make a valiant attempt to spear the ball, but he was both a few inches shy, and a few nanoseconds too late.

It also reminded me of the video from late in 2012 of then Oakland A’s starter Brandon McCarthy getting plucked by a batted ball in which he suffered some concussion related symptoms and missed some valuable time during the last month of the season. Twice now we have seen events that not only shocked the audience in attendance, but also left those watching on the television or the radio in a state of limbo as to the condition and injury status of a pitcher who did not have ample time to assimilate or react to a ball coming back at him at maximum velocity, definitely faster than it got to the plate.

J.A. HappThe Happ incident will again bring out a few critics who debated the merits of a supported cap or quasi-batting helmet design to protect the skull and side temples of pitchers from just such a ball bouncing off their noggin. In Happ’s case, this would not have been an effective deterrent, and might have even made the situation worse if the ball had caught the underneath of such a cap and bounced down towards his eye socket region.

Then there is that mode of thought of possibly moving the current pitcher’s mound back from its present 60 ft 6 inches to possibly 70 inches to give a little extra reaction time in just such an event as a batted ball coming in at full velocity at a pitcher’s head or other regions. Sure both suggestions have merit, but are they the answer or just a solution to a problem that will be debated and talked about every time a hurler gets plucked by either a broken bat or a batted ball.

Desmond JenningsLast night I do not think a mound 10 feet backwards would of made a huge difference as Happ might not have had adequate time to react to attempt to either spear the ball, or duck and cover. The great part is Happ received care immediately and if you look at the photo of Tampa Bay Rays Desmond Jennings a few moments after he struck the ball and before he began to run the bases, he immediately knew it was a severe moment and one that might haunt him for a few contests.

BMcCMcCarthy who now plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks was also on the hill last night going against the Los Angeles Dodgers hours after Happ’s injury and I wonder if his own event flashed back through his mind before he hit the hill for his late night start. Pitchers’ all know the inherent threat of balls coming back at over 100 mph at them glancing off body parts or taking shots to their body that will leave more than physical marks. One of the best moments of last night was as Happ was being wheeled out the Rays Home Plate opening he did a small wave to the assembled crowd in that area showing he was awake.

J.A. HappBut it was a moment where the entire crowd within the Trop., plus the entire viewing audience was hoping and praying was not a moment that would produce a substantial injury or worse.

I think we will hear a few debates and proposed moves or solutions to this every happening again, but in the end it is a part of the game, something every hurler knows could happen at any given moment and with each swing of the bat. Happ got his medical clearance today from Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida and should be on the Jays dugout rail or possibly sitting deep in the dugout away from any stray baseballs.

It is just great both Rays and Jays fans can be Happ…Happ..Happy today knowing J A will be working through his injuries with courage after knowing he danced with the Devil a bit last night and lived to speak about it. 

I Finally Forgave Vinny on Cinco de Mayo

Vinny Castilla

When former Major League Baseball star (?) Vinny Castilla came out to the mound yesterday to throw out the First Pitch accompanied by his 2 sons here at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado, I was not sure how I was going to react. As a failed asset of the old Rays “Hit Show” promotion, I still had some bitterness towards the way he ended his Tampa Bay Rays playing venture as well as some of the comments I heard personally outside the hallowed Trop. walls. Oh how I had held that burning aggression and brewing displeasure for Vinny within my gut for the last 12-odd years.

1482452_jpg_3587_0_display_imageI had talked over the last 2 days here in Colorado about Castilla to fellow baseball fans wearing the black and purple accents of the hometown Rockies. It almost seemed like Castilla was a different person in St. Petersburg, almost like the devil might have ripped out his baseball soul while wearing the D-Rays colors and inserted some demonic servant to do his bidding while manning Third Base for the team.

I was told about his charity efforts, how he embraced the Rockies fans and their culture and was a model teammate when he wore the Colorado colors. This confused me as it was so different from his D-Rays persona, as if he was more eager to leave the ballpark then stroll into it on game days. MY icy demeanor about Castilla was beginning to slowly melt away as I saw a different person described to me, almost like someone I could of admired and respected for his play on the field.

3426633817_16af4fa5d6_zI was truly perplexed, not knowing either to stand and clap or sit and just ignore the player who I personally felt “gave up” on his D-Rays teammates and who’s own comments definitely divided himself from his peers. It seemed to me that Castilla had a complete 180 degree difference in personality and playing style high above the desert plains here at Coors Field.

I was completely in flux as to what I wanted to do having still deep seeded feelings about Castilla, but felt each player deserved his time in the Sun both during and after his career, so I stood along with the other 39,220 souls who knew Castilla from his true “Hit Show” days as a Rockies player. I was beginning to see that “Tampa Bay” might have been a bad chapter in the life story of Castilla with downfalls and strife I could only imagine.

050909132214Castilla may not have made a lot of positive memories for me inside the Trop., except for his blast into the old TBT Deck, but the man had history and was almost a cult hero here in Denver. Maybe in my old age I grew up a bit more here in the cheaps seats knowing you can not hold grasps of negative moments against a person as we all are constantly evolving and changing especially as people. I can say today I was proud to clap for him today as he beamed from ear-to-ear with a smile I did not regularly see during his Rays times.

With each clap I seemed to also lose a bit of the resentment and hostile sealed up emotions I held deep in my Rays soul for a guy I felt let his team down. I can say the crowd showing their love and respect for Castilla both in their comments earlier and their loud ovation made me change my stance about Castilla.

Lilvinnyskyline_v1gme7czMaybe the moment that truly clarified I should forgive and forget Castilla’s Rays past was when I met a young Rockies fan who cheered, shouted and was truly a 1-man cheering section for the Rockies that day. He wore a Castilla black T-shirt with white numbers and when I asked him if he ever saw Castilla play he responded, “No, I was too young to see his Home Runs”. Without thought, I reached into my camera bag and pulled out my (lil) Vinny bobblehead and thrust it into the young guy’s glove.

It was the right thing to do, true fan-dom should be rewarded, and with that gesture I also forgave Vinny for his past Rays ways. 

Even MLB Fans Could Mask a Drug Test

 

Future-Drug-Testing-in-MLB

Take you or I, trying to do our best at our job and we get a bit of insomnia, possibly want to rid ourself of some water weight or even grow some hair where it is thinning or showing trails of age. Those are everyday problems that plague some of us male baseball fans, but did you know those same medications can help mask steroids or keep any of us from producing a positive MLB drug test.

ytjtyjtfcjjEach of the usually prescribed medications for those 3 situations could be blockers or masking agents to help you not test positive in a MLB drug test. That’s right, some of our own personal every day medications we as fans are prescribed or receive over-the-counter with or without a doctor’s script could make anyone of us potentially become invisible if we were to take a MiLB or MLB mandatory drug test.

With so many knock-offs of well-known medications, or off-brands on store shelves and register counter-tops, you could purchase a single medicine that could effectively help keep you from triggering a positive test without you honestly knowing the “banned” substance or potential masking agent was inside your purchase.

And to make matters worse, some National chains, on-line mail order houses and vitamin warehouses that can supply have supplements also contain borderline or active substances that would help you mask a positive result, and their products inert properties can sometimes takes days or week to leave the body heightening your time span to post good results.

The reality is that most of us, on a daily basis take medication or use medicines that can mask any form of a positive MLB mandated drug test. We all know the high paced culture of life today doesn’t mandate any form of abstinence from our daily needed products, or warns us of their extraordinary properties.

mlb_logo_syringeHow many of us have truly read through any of those medicine pamphlets our pharmacists gives us we get a new medication? I know I usually only read the dosage and the possible side effects section then chuck it into the trash can. A majority of the drugs I will mention today can be obtained via a doctor’s script at any pharmacies throughout the world, and are especially easy to obtain on-line….for a price.

If these drugs were prescribed to you personally and you discovered their innate athletic performance advantages, would you still use them?

I am not implying here that you or anyone within the MiLB or MLB would use a scientific loophole provided by an over-the-counter medication to get an advantage, but if it can help give you an extra zip or punch without causing a bevy of red flags in a possible urine or blood tests, would you use it?

Let’s dive right into this hidden OTC medicine that might be hiding in your own home’s bathroom cabinet.

thCAVYXJYHThe first one up is the literally hair raising drug known as Finasteride or known by its brand name Propecia. Testosterone has a vital part in helping the body produce muscle mass, and this pill actually helps the body produce an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

The pill is commonly used as a treatment for prostate cancer but has a hidden medical kicker of helping eliminate hair loss and start new hair growth. But Propecia also contains a chemical that can be used to mask the use and effects of anabolic steroids in the body because of the overproduction of DHT.

For some reason, this medication was removed from the World Doping Agency list in 2009 and is not considered a banned substance anymore. Curious? Or does that explain why most Olympic athletes have a fine head of hair?

thCA5C2IWIThe second medicine under the heat lamp is Sidenafil Citrate or better known as Viagra. Most men might use this mentioned medicine to help the ill effects of certain body function which helps dilate the body’s blood vessels to expand and take in more oxygen and rid the muscles of dangerous toxins.

Viagra is really helpful in participating in games at higher elevations as it will dilate the blood vessels for the duration of the drug and make it easier for the body to adjust to the higher altitudes and the decrease oxygen intake associated with these altitudes. It can give a short term advantage to athletes playing games in the Mountain time zone, then resort back to their normal breathing habits after the pill is gone from their system. I think we can almost rename this medication the Colorado Cocktail, or am I being too glib.

thCAIZ7B9XThe third drug I will expose/introduce today was developed to help the aging male population find relief from the ill effects of male pattern baldness. This drug also has been known to hide traces of steroids by masking the symptoms within it’s own chemical molecular bonds. Minoxidil or better known as Rogaine, is one of those drugs that is available right on our grocer’s shelf, and can be purchased with total anonymity.

Rogaine was first developed as a potential cure for hypertension, but its side advantages came to light when suffers began to see renewed growth in their hair follicles. It is important here to note that a common side effect of steroid use is hypertension, or a renewed state of anxiousness.

So it is easy to imagine that Rogaine can be used as a chemical mask to offset the hypertension as well as keep the hair follicles intact on the user during the duration of using the medication. This is also a drug that can be used in plain sight within any MLB Clubhouse and most people around you will not give it a second thought.

thCAR73OMINow onto a medication that was initially developed to help combat weight loss without throwing your body into a severe crash diet scenario. This Drug is Liothronine also known as Cytomel. The medication is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone needed by the body to controls our metabolism. Cytomel can be used by a sly trainer/user to get fast results via a six-week cycle to help get body fat down quicker.

It also helps its regain muscle mass so they can effectively hide any transformation by not gaining excess or bulky weight distinguished by an adverse gain in size and weight. This drug has also been known to be mixed with HGH as a cocktail to help induce massive changes within a small period of time. This medication can also be taken before a game to bring about a instant rush of energy without the side effects of a positive drug test.

thCAIVJ8TVAnd last, but not least today will be the medication Dutasteride or better known as Avodart. This is a true masking agent because it is highly effective in hiding some of the side effects of using anabolic steroids like the unsightly bacne. This medication can be taken in a cocktail also with Propecia which helps regulate the production of DHT, which is the main contributor to the formation of bacne.

Avodart acts as a masking agent to dilute the DHT enzyme and creates a buffer to eliminate this tell-tale sign of steroid usage or coming off a steroid cycle. But this is also two-fold as the medication also has a nice side effect of making certain body parts, well shrink in transition to its usage. And because of that, it can give a secondary sight recognition to the possible steroid usage.

thCALLQF80But there are also other medicines that are used by drug/steroid users to mask intent like Methylphenidate or Ritalin, which gives the user more focus and puts them “in-the-zone” quicker. It was amazing the when MLB banned the stimulant in 2006, the MLB’s drug exemption paperwork for usage therapeutically skyrocketed among players.

I did not post this to have people second guess or even try and investigate any MiLB or MLB player’s medicine cabinet, then announce its content to the World. I wanted to show that even a person outside the game of baseball can effectively hide or even produce a positive MLB drug test without actively knowing it. I know I do not have to worry about failing a MLB drug test, but would some of you have cause to worry?

 

We May Never Know the True Exchange

baseball-umpire-tom-hallion

I want to believe that the game of baseball doesn’t get itself caught up or snagged on those petty little things that can not only drag the integrity of the game down from all angles, but can sometime balloon out of control and eventually label a player or pitcher as “loose-lipped” or belligerent. I want to believe that baseball is above such drama, but with human interaction, anything is possible.

David PriceI personally think whatever was said between Home Plate Umpire Tom Hallion and Rays starter David Price on Sunday will ultimately come down to a “he said, they said” kind of scenario for the MLB disciplinarians. Now I’m not on either adversaries side here. I do feel that Hallion errored when he made a move in Price’s direction as the Rays ace was strolling towards the Rays dugout at the end of the 7th inning. With Hallion beginning the aggression by speaking with an already frustrated Price, even a sane and rational statement would have ignited Price and the Rays bench.

I expect the Umpires to have a sense of decorum which somehow was not evident in Hallion’s movements or comments even if it was more G-rated than the PG-13 opinion heard by Price and the Rays bench. What makes this volleying of comments between Price and Hallion especially dangerous is the fact Price is stating Hallion used a “no-no” adult phrase towards him after his last pitch of the 7th inning contest, and Hallion with a square-jaw is calling Price “a liar”. The fact the two parties even got into each other remote space after Price retired Dewayne Wise with a come-backer to end the inning then strolled to the Rays dugout was made worse by Hallion aggressive steps towards Price when decorum and tight-lips would have been advised by both sides.

David PriceYou can see on the replay that they did bark back and forth a few times, and here is where the “he said,they said” come full circle. Price says Hallion snipped at him, “throw the ball over the f#@^&in’ plate”, while Hallion told a pool reporter after the game that he said, “just throw the ball”. Someone either heard extra words and vowels, or someone didn’t hear their own verbage in the exchange. Some say MLB should dig deeper into the fandango, but in all honesty, unless the conversation was caught by the Home Plate audio mic, it is every man’s words for themselves, even Hellickson’s commentary.

I wonder just what was heard by fellow Rays hurlers Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore who were barking like bulldogs towards Hallion and Hallion advised the Rays duo to stop the barrage, but Hallion decided Hellboy was the aggressor of the pair and immediately ejected Hellboy while Moore was given a reprieve. This type of exchange happens nightly upon a baseball diamond, but what set this situation into a total nuclear meltdown might just be the frustrations of Price overflowing at the wrong moment when Hallion decided he had to make his opinion known as well as a level of disrespect felt by Price’s peers who were camped out on the Rays dugout rail and got a front row seat to the entire exchange.

tampa-bay-rays-v-boston-20130413-123341-228There is a huge danger here for Price to consider first and foremost. If he begins to show emotions, make ill-advised comments towards anyone in blue, his reputation with the Umpires and their previous strike calls when Price’s pitches just seem to nip the corners may fade away. No one wins in this exchange. Sure Price has been frustrated this April and maybe one certain word from Hallion, possibly the phrase “then get it over the plate” to Price might have set this all in motion, or just poked the already angry bear hidden within Price.

In the end the game of baseball is filled with high and low emotional moments when frustrations, excitement and even dismay can turn on a dime and take you from the top of the mountain to the darkest depths. In all honesty, both parties have fault here, but Price has more to lose in the long run than Hallion. Respect on the diamond is paramount especially for a pitcher who makes his living painting the corners of the strike zone. Let’s hope there are no repercussions from this for Price, and that Hallion get whats coming to him…..I think a 98 mph fastball somehow missed by a Ray catcher into Hallion’s thigh would make more than a few people smile…including me. 

Could the Rise of Moore and Cobb Make Price Late July Trade Bait?

3-hurls

You have to think the recent deep valley that Tampa Bay Race ace David Price has found himself so far in April is an unfortunate blip in his otherwise stellar Rays career marks. That fact Price is still winless after his 5th start of the season has some wondering if Price might indeed have more to worry about in late July than how much water to give super pooch Astro.

baltimore-orioles-v-tampa-bay-20130402-151626-443With his recent slide backwards some chirps have been growing louder that Price could find himself on the opposite end of more than a few trade rumors come July, and possibly find himself throwing his late season starts in a National League park. Of course it is too early to fully dive deep into such a move, but with his recent struggles and the younger members of the Rays rotation posting wins and numbers that have the Rays Front Office giddy for the future, the proposed arbitration salary mark for Price might make him expendable a lot earlier than any of us truly imagined.

201304062105759248969-p2Because the Rays 4 and 5 starters Matt Moore and Alex Cobb have stepped up considerably during the time of Price’s unfortunate pitching streak and have miraculously contributed to 7 of the Rays total 10 victories. In all, the Rays starting staff has notched 9 of the Rays 10 wins, with Rays closer Fernando Rodney getting the other victory. But with Moore and Cobb escalating their game, it kind of makes Price a little bit of extra weight especially since he is projected to be the Rays highest paid pitcher EVER possibly this Winter.

I truly expect that sooner rather than later the Rays will swap Moore into the 3 slot currently held by free agent signee Roberto Hernandez, and I would not be surprised if the Rays might also have Cobb tag-along right behind Moore and possibly take over the 4 spot with Hernandez descending to the 5th spot in the rotation. This is nothing personal to Hernandez, it is the pure fact Moore and Cobb have adjusted and matured to the point they would be solid at the 3 or 4 slots in the rotation for the rest of the season.

CarchCombine all of this with the success a few of the Rays top hurlers have had at Triple-A Durham, and you could see a considerably young explosion of talent rising up in September to claim attention and possible spot for 2014. Chris Archer who most thought might push possibly push Hernandez to the Bullpen this Spring has a healthy 3-1 record after 5 starts and has struck out 25 hitters. Jake Odorizzi might sport only a 1-0 record, but he also has sent 30 International League hitters back to the bench in his 25 innings.

It is not like I want to see or propose the Rays look for alternatives to Price come late July, but more and more the quick maturation process displayed already by Jeremy Hellickson, Moore and Cobb might hasten the Rays Front Office’s conversation to possibly find a suitor for Price who could possibly bring in a slew of great prospects, possibly a top catching prospect and maybe even a young Third Baseman currently at the High-A level who could mature in the Rays system and be a fit if and when Evan Longoria possibly becomes a Designated Hitter or possibly a First Baseman as he grows into the gray parts of his recent Rays “lifetime” deal.

price032713_8colThis is hard to write and even fathom since Price is such a likeable guy and has been more than generous with his time on and off the field to the Rays Republic. But as we all know, sometimes you have to make adjustments, let go of real talent to bring your own club’s level of competition to a higher level and bring in the right pieces to run the machine for several seasons.

This scenario of Price possibly leaving the Rays earlier than anyone expected might have its origins in the pure fact the Rays young pitching talent has shown reason for the team to possibly even think the unthinkable and imagine this team without Price leading the rotation come August 1st. But sometimes when the talent level rises as high as it has in 2013, no one is guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster, sometimes not even a proud and fan popular Ace.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 272 other followers