Results tagged ‘ Rays Republic ’

First Sign Price Might Not Want to be a “Rays Lifer”

 David Price

What a great and grand New Years day present to hear the Tampa Bay Rays and their ace, David Price have come to an agreement for his 2013 salary. Sure a 1-year, $10.1 million dollar payday for the upcoming 2013 season is nothing to sneeze at (or if you are Astro..snort at), but the reality is so many of us had hoped the recent decision of Evan Longoria to basically announce he wants to be a “Ray for Life” might rub off a bit on his condo-sharing neighbor Price. Realistically you had hoped the Rays would have pushed harder for at least a 2-year deal to hedge their own “fiscal cliff” and keeping Price at least in a Rays jersey until late July 2014.

David PriceBut the blatant fact here is Price knows his stock will soar yearly as he meanders towards his Free Agency years, that if he stays consistent and produces number that are in the higher echelon of the MLB hurlers, the dollar signs and length of contract will increase tremendously. That by itself would surely dictate a 1-year deal for 2013.

I think I’m not the only one hoping somewhere within the Rays 4th floor there is someone trying to not only persuade Price and his agent to think long-term, but that the new Rays pitching leadership figure might want to stay with the thoughts of teaming along side Longo for at least the next 5 seasons possibly pushing the Rays past their present post season darkness. You want to think someone who has not only embraced the region, but its fan base with such smiles and up-lifting comments would make a visual or fiscal move to show confidence in the system and the Rays composition.

Price1Maybe I’m a bit naive in thinking Price would make a gesture towards this community showing his want and eagerness to stay beyond his proposed 2015 payday. Possibly my sugarplum and sunshine daydreams are all well and good, but Price’s own agent has basically let it slip out Price want to be the best, and that might not only pertain to the playing field. If that rhetoric stands, new Dodger SP Zack Grienke and his MLB record 6-year, $147 million dollar acquisition might be pushed to the #2 slot when Price hit the Free Agent market.

Price himself has let out little sound feelings that suggest he wants to be the best, and by the way he has produced on the field and stayed clean off it during his career, teams would be crazy not to line up and try to get him signed on the dotted line. So maybe I’m throwing some rain water on the pure sunshine that Price is signed, sealed and delivered for 2013, but behind all that glitter that is Price’s new gold is the common fact this might be the first step towards the final parting of Price and the Rays.

David PriceI want to be just like so many other and be naive to the fact Price will command a possible $13-14 million dollar payday as he goes through salary arbitration again next Winter. This kind of financial burden would not cripple so many other ball clubs, but with the Rays coffers not lined in silver and gold, anything over his present $10.1 million salary could stagnant the Rays chance at improvement at other positions, especially the devoid Designated Hitter slot.

With just a 1-season contract at this moment, could Price realistically be entering the twilight of his Rays adventure? Could this type of thinking snowball and take on such momentum this season that by the Trade Deadline, Price’s name goes from a whisper to a deafening shout as a trade piece?

377261244You want to thrust such thoughts deep down into your gut and not make them even public, but the truth is unless there is some form of futuristic commitment over the next 7 months as to his financial and physical standing with this team, He could be gone.

Price has been a great Ray since his relief efforts during their World Series run back in 2008, and his star has risen to such heights even over the past 2 seasons that the Rays may not be able to hitch their wagon to him anymore as Price might have finally entered that red zone of outgrowing the Rays fiscal comfort area.

Price is that one pitcher who come but once a generation for a team struggling with their payroll like the Rays. He has produced above and beyond expectations, shown his All-Star savvy and even garnered a few pieces of lifetime hardware for his efforts. He has made his dog Astro one of the best known MLB canine groupies ever and have even brought him to cult status in Tampa Bay and around the MLB. Price has had his bumps and bruises along the way, but has shown with class and confidence his style both on and off the hill are of the top order.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red SoxSome might say his $10.1 million salary was at the high-end of what the Rays would want to pay for Price, but the figure is in line with estimates and media speculations. You want to be optimistic at a moment like this and applaud and commend Price for a job well done during his career and embrace his achievements as we become anxiously awaiting his 2013 return to the playing fields of Port Charlotte, Florida for Spring Training.

Maybe by then we will have heard more out of the Price camp about the future, the present situation and his own opinions on him possibly being a “Ray” long-term. But as always, there is some darkness under this ultimate floating cloud’s silver lining, especially in the hopes of tying Price to a long-term deal or extension. Some would say I’m trying to pry open the Rays Carolina Blue curtain and further exposing the approaching danger on the horizon, but maybe it is more I’m finally coming to the conclusion Price might not be the type of player who wants to be a “lifetime” Ray. Hopefully he will prove me wrong….sooner rather than later.

Rays “Golden Arms” Were the Highlight of 2012

120

As we begin our final countdown days towards the end of 2012, I want to take a moment to look back and remember both fondly and shudder at what was the Tampa Bay Rays 15th full season. This team showed us so much in their 180 day 2012 campaign both on the turf and off as this team bonded like never before where we all were witnessed to watch segments of their battle plan both explode and implode.

m3f5403-retouchIt was a season where human action figures named “Batman” (Wil Rhymes), “Godzilla” (Hidecki Matsui) and even “Wolverine” (Luke Scott) intertwined with “Zorilla” (Ben Zobrist), “HellBoy” (Jeremy Hellickson) and the “Archer” (Fernando Rodney). Even with such heroic character names, this team could not ultimately find a way into the October post season party, but their travel from game 1-162 was never boring, or devoid of heart and soul. We also got to see this team’s “nerdy”-side as team road trips again showed imagination and chemistry.

york-yankees-v-tampa-bay-20120702-193721-7552012 was also the season we saw a few players take their game to the next level with authority. B J Upton missed the coveted “30-30” spot by 2 HR, but in his failed attempt we finally saw glimmers of the potential we have always envisioned for him. Hellickson, fresh off his AL Rookie of the Year platform again garnered new hardware as he earned a special honor of garnering a co-ownership spot in the form of a glistening Gold Glove taking his pitching education to another dimension. We got to see the pitching promise that is Chris Archer, the resounding clarity that was Fernando Rodney brilliance, but also felt the pain and anguish of Rhymes as he collapsed into the arms of Rays First Base coach George Hendricks.

d2We all got to bear witness to one of those once-in-a-generation moments as Rays southpaw David Price and New York Mets knuckleballer R A Dickey both squared off in an early Inter League showdown on their journey towards their eventual Cy Young moments. Price in particular showed his stamina and determination throughout the 2012 campaign being one of the true linchpins of the Rays rotation providing the type of consistency and fortitude needed of your number 1 hurler.

In an ironic twist, the Rays home city of St. Petersburg, Florida somehow dropped the celebration ball with Price, possibly committing a ultimate publicity faux pas by getting “one-upped” by their “neighboring community” of Tampa presenting Price the key to the city with Astro, his trusty sidekick getting the opening cue on ESPN’s “Sportcenter” that evening. As is Price’s personality, he rolled with the moment possibly producing the best dog sound byte since Lassie’s first bark on television.

tumblr_m3fqj3gHF31qekndso3_12802012 was definitely a “Dog’s year” for the Rays as early on in the Spring they revealed their true love for the canine when players from the team teamed up with local no-kill animal shelter/clinic Pet Pals to produce a calendar that showcased the likes of RP Wade Davis’s German Shepherd pal Charlie, Evan Longoria’s “Spuds McKenzie” look-alike Bull Terrier Jango and Longo’s other canine condo bunk mate Boerboel Mastiff Tatum. We all even got to meet Maddon’s stoic English Bulldog furry friend Winston who like Astro has his own twitter account. Even behind the camera lens there was a Rays presence as James Shields wife Ryane did all of the shutterbug duties as the team embraced this community animal haven.

6985308645_09d3a46c7d_zalso saw bald again become beautiful as both Rays players, Coaches and even front office personnel let their curly and straight locks of hair fall to the wooden decks of the Charlotte Sports Park this Spring. From Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, Maddon to even Rays clubhouse staffers, all sat in the barber’s chairs to show community support and love for the “Cut for a Cause” campaign started by another fellow Tampa Bay sports icon, Tampa Bay Lightning star Vinny LeCavalier to bring about awareness to local pediatric cancer organizations and promote one of the Spring most heart-felt moments.

Even with all this animal love bounding through the Tampa Bay region, 2012 was also produced another stalemate check mark as the team and the surrounding communities wage verbal and visual battles trying to loosen the Rays lips and get some sort of loose translation sound byte of their own in the Rays quest to find their next home on either side of the bay.

carillon-new-rays-stadiumWith proposals surfacing that went as far East as the Florida Fairgrounds region, to a patch of dirt just off the Howard Franklin bridge in the Carrilon region, the entire community awaits with baited breath for some sign of the Rays want to stay or leave this community. Hopefully 2013 the silence will be broken and at least some parameters set into the community as to the Rays visions and dreams of a new state-of-the-art stadium hopefully somewhere in the Tampa Bay region.

Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta2012 started off with a few displays of fireworks with walk-off victories and the revelation that would become the foundation of the Rays Archery Club as we all bared witness to re-emergence of the shut-down abilities of Rodney who pushed post game arrows higher and farther with even his teammates watching as his quivers and stats reached levels not seen in the MLB for some time. Just watching Rodney pull back the imaginary string and release into the sky a Rays record 48 times was reason enough to be a Rays fan. 2012 was also filled with “Gladiator” moments as the team embraced the Roman warrior culture with some of it making its way onto television screen across America.

Evan LongoriaUnfortunately 2012 also revealed a few flaws in the Rays machine, especially after Longoria went down with a hamstring injury and the Rays began a roller coaster ride that did not straighten out until Longo again adorned a Rays uniform and returned to the lineup. Even with the Rays pitching staff producing incredible numbers in strikeouts, saves and ERA during 2012, the elimination of the Rays most potent weapon for such a long stretch showed their Achilles heel to all, and their opposition attacked the Rays at the core of their weakness with vengeance.

201208221343494136596-p2Even though Upton, Zobrist and even new Ray Jeff Keppinger tried to fill the void, their own production was muted by the struggles and slumps of Carlos Pena, Scott and the merry-go-round that was the Rays Third Base and Shortstop position for most of the season. The Rays once strong point of defense sprung leaks, showed faults and ultimately produced moments that reminded all of us of those pre-2008 Rays squads. 

It is hard to find a true title to the Rays 15th campaign. For all the highs and lows, the moments of exhilaration as we witnessed walk-offs and lost opportunities, nothing really stood out except the 5 souls who made up the Rays rotation.

Seattle Mariners v Tampa Bay RaysTheir arms truly becoming “golden” during the season as the team set an AL leading marks of 1,385 K’s , a incredible combined team ERA of 3.19, and saw Shields and Price eclipse the 200+ inning mark again. 2012 also saw mirror image inning production from young Rays Moore (177.1 innings pitched) and Hellickson (177.0 innings pitched) as they gained another strong year on the mound.

In the end, 2012 began and ended on the mound for the Rays. No matter what offensive highlight moment or defensive mis-step behind them, the Rays hurlers both starting and in relief set the tone this season and brought this team within a few victories of again hitting October moments. Their consistency, going deep into contests combined with stellar relief marks by everyone down in the Rays Bullpen gave us hope and want that the playoffs and October glory was still within our reach.

thYou can say 2012 was a lot of things from “Fortune Favoring the Bold”, to arrows piercing the night sky, but in the end it truly was the Rays “Golden Arms” who kept us spirited and showed us determination, heart and even a little hustle can produce moments to remember. As a homage to 2012, I am definitely tilting my cap to the right on New Years Eve as an homage to what was so fantastic about 2012.

On 12/12/12 Let’s Remember the Only Ray to Wear # 12

019

Depending on where you might live on this big blue marble, the number “12” might have a completely different meaning. Most people who take the easy road and say it is a unit of measure, with 12 doughnuts or other items making a dozen. Other would probably be starting to feel the coolness of the approaching holiday season and immediately start humming the “12 Days of Christmas”. In Tampa Bay, if you are a member of the Rays Republic, 12-12-12 can only mean one thing……3 times the Boggs.

018Wade Anthony Boggs is a hometown Tampa Bay product who did his thing in Boston, New York before finally coming home and being a part of the first rendering of the Tampa Bay franchise. Currently over right-center outfield seats on the blue back wall of Tropicana Field sit the number “12” emblazoned on that wall to commemorate the only Rays player ever to see his jersey number retired from the Rays uniform ranks.

One section over and below his enshrined uniform number are the two yellow colored seats in the outfield that also mark the Rays first franchise HR hit by Boggs in the bottom of the 6th inning during the then DevilRays inaugural game on March 31, 1998. A second seat just a few rows up is also where is 3,000th hit, a Home Run landed putting him squarely in the record books at the time as 1 of only 2 MLB player ever to see his 3,000 hit ascend into the crowd for a round-tripper (NYY Derek Jeter did it also for his 3,000th on 6/9/2009).

017Sure Boggs may have only played 2 seasons (1/9th of his career) in the Rays uniform and retired after a knee injury in 1999, before pulling on the Rays uniform one last season as their Hitting Coach. Most would view the Rays deciding to retire his number being based more on his past accolades than his Rays tenure, but here was a guy who played at Tampa Plant HS (1976 grad), and still lives in the Tampa Palms section of Tampa, Florida who gave an early generation of young baseball fans someone to idolize and admire as much for his past as his game preparation.

In the spirit of 12-12-12, maybe I should post 12 interesting facts about Boggs you might not have known:

1) Boggs actually played in the longest game in professional baseball history back with the Red Sox Triple-A squad Pawtucket in 1981 that lasted 33 innings and over 8 hours and 25 minutes. Cal Ripken Jr then a SS for the Rochester Red Wings and another Baseball Hall of Fame member also played in this endurance contest.

2) Boggs ranked 95th in 1999 in The Sporting News list of 100 Greatest Baseball Players and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All Century Team.

3) Did you know Boggs was 121 plate appearances short of the required 502 at bats needed to possibly secure a 1982 American League Batting title during his rookie season ( hit.349). Boggs made sure to secure his first title the following season (1983).

4) Did you know Boggs was a member of the 1986 Red Sox squad that saw their World Series title hopes trickle down towards left field against the New York Mets. Boggs did get redemption in 1996 as a member of the New York Yankees when they hoisted their first World Series title in 18 years.

41KPrMe+XgL__SL500_AA300_5) Everyone remembers Boggs jumping on the back of that NYPD mounted police saddle after Game 6 of that series, and strolling around the Yankee Stadium turf proclaiming who was #1 while on horseback, but did you know Boggs was weary of horses before his famous jaunt.

6) Boggs also had a pretty good knuckleball that he used 15 times (plus 1 fastball) in shutout inning back in a 1997 game against the Anaheim Angels when he wore pinstripes.

7) Boggs was voted the 5th Most Superstitious Athletes by Men’s Fitness magazine.

8) Boggs once owned a fish camp called “Finway” up off 301 South in Hawthorne, Florida

9) Boggs would take the same route into the dugout basically running from Third to Home Plate and the end of every defensive inning. Boggs drew the Hebrew word “Chai” meaning “life” into the batter’s box before each at bat, which was interesting since Boggs was not Jewish.

01610)Every day Boggs took 117 ground balls, took BP at exactly 5:17, and ran pre-game sprints at 7:17. Boggs during his Rays career used to tap his bat head on the shin of his son Brett who was a Rays Bat Boy at the time.

11)Boggs once ventured into the WWF where he did a vignette with WWE icon Mr. Perfect in which Mr. Perfect played baseball. He remained friends with the wrestler and in 2007 Boggs inducted the late Mr. Perfect into the WWE Hall of Fame. Boggs recounted a hunting accident once with Perfect when he carried Boggs after he cut his leg badly on some barbed wire.

02312) Everyone knows Boggs did a guest appearance in the “Bar Wars” episode of Cheers where he was sent by a rival bar as an apology, but the Cheers regulars thought he was a fake Boggs. He also appeared in a 2011 episode of Psych entitled “Dead Man’s Cruveball”.

Wade Boggs might not have amassed a long and storied career as a Ray, but he is still and will always be the only man who will have ever won the team’s # 12 jersey. Bogg’s played for 3 different teams during his 18 season career each time sporting his trademark number. If you put them all together doesn’t it spell out 12-12-12?

Rays Million Dollar Question Mark

Sean Rodriguez

He was a Tampa Bay Rays player I truly thought had figured out his role and was about to ascend into stardom. Posting positive seasonal marks over the last 2 years, I felt he had approached the point of becoming more than Sean Rodriguez, he would be anointed with the nickname S-Rod, for he seemed to have everything going for him heading into the Rays 2012 season.

052712-5-MLB-Tampa-Bay-Rays-OB-PI_20120527194352739_660_320But even with the joyous noise of the Rays and Rodriguez today avoiding the arbitration process by agreeing on a 2013 salary of $1 million, the million dollar question still stands as to if S-Rod will be with the team on April 2,2013 when the Rays have their official Opening Day at Tropicana Field against the Baltimore Orioles. Will Rodriguez again prove himself in the Spring, or will he somehow again find holes in his bat and watch his field play dissolve into missed opportunities that could send him again into the Triple-A penalty box, possibly bringing a unfortunate end to his Rays fairy tale existence.

CB Bucknor, Sean RodriguezI mean I for one did not, could not of seen the debacle that was Rodriguez’s 2012 season coming because ever since his arrival he has shaken off injuries, sting ray barbs and slumps before without any downward spiral to his career. Ever since his arrival into the Rays system as a player to be named later in the Scott Kazmir deal, Rodriguez had seen his talents and abilities rise like a Tampa Bay high tide. Adapting to every position the team penciled his name into from 3rd option catcher to outfielder and finally a significant cog in the Rays infield alignment.

The Rays 2012 season was suppose to be Rodriguez’s MLB coming out party with him entrenched as the Rays Opening Day shortstop with plenty of rainbows and pixey dust on the horizon finally for him. But as quickly as he could pick up a grounder and underhanded it for the start of a routine double play, Rodriguez saw his season take on more twists and turns than an episode of “American Horror Story”. Who in their right mind could have seen or predicted the beginning of the slippery slope that Rodriguez had to endure in 2012 with finally accumulated with him spending time at Triple-A Durham.

Sean RodriguezBut Rodriguez has always seemed to have a lucky star, a brightness to him that seemed to take his troubles and whisk them away with ease, but 2012 definitely brought about numerous questions, and a shortness on possible answers as to if he would again reign supreme at the major league level. Still through all this tossing and turning of fortunes throughout the 2012 Rays season, Rodriguez somehow remained “rubberized” and bounced back from his demotion and subsequent fight with a locker in Durham to again grace a Rays jersey in September when the Rays roster expanded.

Who would of guessed the same guy who appeared in 112 games (87 starts) for the Rays have to endure such hills and valley throughout the season. I mean this is the same guy who hit .248 over his first 42 games in 2012, then went into a unforeseen tailspin that saw him hit .185 in his 70 games after May 22nd. Was this the same guy who was a huge catalyst when Evan Longoria went down by pushing out a .300 average with 3 HR and 9 RBI over his first 22 games in May, including 11 starts at Longo’s Third Base slot.

Sean+Rodriguez+Texas+Rangers+v+Tampa+Bay+Rays+VwZiev5f-d3lMaybe the pressure and added momentum to be “the guy” during the injury absence of Longoria stifled Rodriguez a bit, but who would of guessed that from May 23rd to August 7th when Longoria returned, Rodriguez would be mired only hitting .164 with 35 K’s in 53 contests. When Longo returned to the Rays lineup, Rodriguez had a short period where he hit .300 from August 7-20th, but it was too little too late and he found himself optioned to Durham when the Rays activated DH Luke Scott from the 15-Day DL.

You would have thought Rodriguez would dig deep into himself and bring out a thirst and hunger to get back to the MLB level ASAP, but after playing in only 2 games for the Bulls, Rodriguez and a Durham locker had some issues. Rodriguez only went 3-6 with a HR and 2 doubles in his short stint with the Bulls, and when rosters expanded, he was immediately put on the 15-day DL and appeared in only 6 games over the rest of the Rays 2012 campaign. Rodriguez had somehow during his 2012 season struggles lost his luster against southpaw hitters as he watched his career .260 average against left-hander produce a 2012 total of only .228 with no homers.

uspw_6551916But Rodriguez’s 2012 struggles did not only happen at the plate, for the first time in his career, Rodriguez committed 2 errors in 2 consecutive games (Sept 17-18th) after his reinstatement from the disabled list becoming the first AL player with multiple errors in consecutive games since Detroit Tiger Carlos Guillen back in 2006. Even the thrill of his 10-game hitting streak from May 2-12th could not dilute the pure fact question marks were beginning to surround Rodriguez and his tenure with the Rays.

So I guess the true million dollar question is not if 2012 is going to be an isolated event or the beginning of a trend, but more if the usual up-beat and positive personality and mindset of Rodriguez will return this Spring making him again someone to watch closely in those pivotal Spring games as he again solidify s his Rays foothold on the Port Charlotte, Florida clay infield. If Spring 2012 is an indicator, Rodriguez will again try to lay claim to an infield spot, possibly making the Rays again think long and hard about their shortstop position.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Tampa Bay RaysRight now there are meandering questions surrounding Rodriguez and his upcoming plans in Spring 2013 of turning his 2012 negatives into immediate positives and shine again in any and every capacity for the team. With his salary now out of the way, it could also clear the way for the team to possibly use him as filler for a trade, or if the Rays front office still has high hopes and knows his 2012 was a unfortunate blip on his career radar, Rodriguez should again climb out of this hole and be better for the adventure.

Seriously, if Rodriguez again shows not only the fans, but his teammates and the team’s front office his head and heart are again aligned perfectly with “the Rays Way”, the all the proverbial mini-Raymonds will somehow again line up in a row on the chalk lines as Rodriguez again shows his renewed vigor, vitality, brilliance and resilience that could erase every one of those current swirling million question marks surrounding him and his Rays future.

 

Tampa Bay’s Favorite Scapegoat is Hot-lanta Bound

People in Tampa Bay are going to have to anoint a new scapegoat in the Trop. for 2013 because their old target, BJ Upton train is heading to Hotlanta. We already knew the odds of Upton returning to the Tampa Bay Rays were slimmer than his waist size, but now armed with a 5-year $75 million dollar lunch pail, Upton will be meandering along with his family up I-75 a tad to the N L east contender.

All that stands in the way of Upton securing his treasure is passing a Brave’s physical exam, but we all know that is a formality as Upton was in the best shape of his career at the end of 2012, and possibly knowing his payday was on the horizon, might have tweaked himself a bit to excite just such a ample and multi-year deal.

It is kind of sad that some will be left with the image of Upton possibly not being a team player, someone who might actually understand the word “lolly gagging”, and lastly that his concentration on game day has been mistaken for indifference. Ask anyone within the confines of the Rays clubhouse and they will tell you how much this guy has matured since the 2007 days when veteran Cliff Floyd mentored the oldest of the MLB Upton clan.

Even before he stepped foot again in the Trop. after his first venture into the majors at 17, people held Upton’s past and associations with others against him, even as far back as his DUI in North Carolina and as a member of the Terrible trio from Durham along with ex-Rays malcontents Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes. I seriously think that he had a black mark against him that so many would not/could not shake off him that he was doomed to be either loved or hated during his Rays tenure.

I do not want this to seem like a conspiracy theory, but it was almost like Upton didn’t have a chance with some fans in St. Pete even though he created “Upton’s Bunch” to help local south side St. Peterburg kids, or that he held his charity events to help organizations. Even after his positive on-field and off-field affirmations, Upton still heard the murmurs and cackles from the fan base about his long stride looking like he was moving at half speed.

Some even had the audacity to mock his Center field play as mediocre when considering Upton was projected as a speedy, well-tooled infielder and offered to test the CF waters as a challenge to his talents, in my opinion Upton nailed the transition, possibly transforming into one of the best Center fielder to ever grace a Rays uniform.

Upton’s game day demeanor also struck a chord with a segment of the Trop. crowd as he would become a bit quieter and sometimes over transfixed on game day that Upton made unthinkable mental errors both in the field and on the base paths with regularity erasing possible scoring opportunities because of him taking his eye off a slick pitcher or a catcher with a rocket arm. Suddenly he was badgered as being aloof on the field when in reality he was too concentrated on the small things and some major mistakes reared their ugly heads.

Upton even gave more fuel to the crowd’s smoldering embers when he would give long glares and a bit of sass to the home Plate Umpires, possibly branding himself with the guys in blue as someone you can get rattled with a borderline call or be caught wide-eyed with his bat on his shoulder with a hard breaking slider. Upton didn’t help himself with his batting swing mechanics and his prolific high strikeout totals every season.

Upton played in 966 Rays contests and leaves St. Petersburg with 8 seasons as a Rays that included 118 HR, 447 RBI, 232 stolen bases, a lifetime .255 average. But the stats so many will remember are his 69 times caught stealing, his 1,020 K’s and a total of 58 errors. Missing from even those facts was the shoulder pains, nagging hamstring and ankle injuries he played through for the sake of his squad. People have loved to downplay his outfield skill level, but out of his 71 career fielding errors, only 24 came when he was stationed in the outfield. Over the past 2 MLB seasons Upton has had back-to-back 3 error seasons proving his skill set has not only improved, but he is a capable Center fielder.

One of the things that personally rattled me coming from the fan base was the fact they all thought Upton was not “in-tune” or a leader in the Rays clubhouse. I guess they all have somehow forgotten Carl Crawford’s tussle with Pat Burrell in the Rays locker room when Burrell questioned Upton’s team commitment. For another player to want to physically as well as verbally stand up for you even in the clubhouse setting shows he had his team’s respect and confidence.

Personally I have known Upton since his first venture into the MLB a long time ago. He was a bit shorter, weighted maybe 160 pounds then soaking wet. Through his 8 seasons with the Rays I have seen him grow taller, confident and show the traits needed to not only be a leader, but also someone who can lead by example. I will miss Upton. Always made sure when I saw him to ask how his Dad and Mom were and he would cock a smile and a head nod.

It has been fun watching Upton mature on the field and off the field as a dad himself. I can sometimes shrug off a player leaving by using and analogy “it is all part of the game”, but with Upton it is different. I think he was wise to refuse the Rays offer of $13.3 million to stay another year. Even though some will say his new vista is just an 8-hour drive up I-75 from his old Trop. home, Upton needed a change of scenery, to re-energize his career and himself. Upton needed to go away to finally be missed…… by all of us. 

Longo Plans to Be a Ray for the Long haul

I wasn’t surprised at the fact the Tampa Bay Rays wanted to get their perennial All-Star  candidate Evan Longoria signed for as long as humanly possible. Here is a player who openly wants to be in a Rays uniform until his possible retirement date. That and of itself makes me respect Longo more and more as the years pass.

And the Rays did not have to go about this evolution this season, they could of waited until the Winter of 2014 to possibly go about just this sort of extension, but in it Longoria has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt why he will be here longer than Jeremy Hellickson, Desmond Jennings and even David Price. Longoria is the face of the Rays. He has taken to that mantel since 2008, and every season either you love him or want him to stay longer.

It is kind of amazing that this exceptional Rays financial commitment was made by both parties in an era where your Rays tenure is vastly connected to your upcoming or predicted fiscal numbers. Old # 3 has shown again he can be the defensive master possibly now robbing himself of a few million, but having the solidarity and stability of a possible entire career in one MLB jersey. Sure the timing of this move could have been more towards a future date, but this action fully vests both parties interest in securing a top tier player who is becoming an MLB icon and will be the face of Tampa Bay for many more seasons.

It might seem a bit weird that Longo, who already had a hugely attractive team friendly contract extension he signed not 2 years ago would make such a solid career movement at least until the Rays Club Options were on the horizon. The extension firmly shows where Long’s heart is, and where he wants to play out his career. Even though today’s extension could/will net Longo $136 million through the 2022 MLB slate, this was a personal show by Longoria that he is behind the “Rays Way” and wants to be a keystone of this team yearly battles for the American League East title.

Mixing together the previous extension that still owes Longo about $36 million through 2016, the current contract will net him $100 million from 2017-2022. This deal also negates the Rays Club Options originally on the books for 2014-2016 and might end up being one of the best bargains in baseball if Longoria stays healthy and sees his game mature both on the field and at the plate.

Considering Longoria inked his first Rays extension just 6 contests into his rookie season, the Rays solid defensive and offensive weapon will not see his salary hit the 8-figure mark until 2015 when he will make $11 million and $11.5 million for 2016. The Rays also tagged on a nice Club Option for 2023 just in case Longoria still has his feet underneath him, possibly as a Rays DH at that point in his career. When Longo hit the $11 million mark in 2016, when he will turn 31 on October 7th, about the time of the year the Rays would be trying to get back to the World Series (fingers crossed).

You have to think by that 2022 MLB season Longoria will have secured all or most of the Rays defensive and offensive records, along with the “Graybeard” title that is bestowed upon the longest tenured player in club history. By 2023, Longoria will be around 38 years of age. On paper the contract looks like a no-brainer complete with a signed,sealed and delivered commitment by one of the Rays flagship players. Everyone seems to win in this deal from the Rays front office, to the Rays charity, the Rays Baseball Foundation to kids who are beginning to idolize Longoria for his play and community involvement. This contract looks like a sure fire “win-win” barring anything or anything derailing Longoria.

If all goes according to his plan, Longoria just might get that elusive gift of playing for one team in his entire career. I wish him luck, health and most of all longevity to fulfill that dream. And making some primo bank during the stretch does hurt either. Way to go Longo! 

Remembering Some of the Fabric that Made the Rays 2012 Quilt

I sometimes think of the Rays unique ability to find players n the hidden recesses as a seamstress taking a piece of unused material and finding the right spot to be sewn it into their quilt pattern that will show promise to the overall Tampa Bay Rays team fabric. Sure there have been many patterns sewn and then discarded by Rays, but each addition had their purpose and conception in the Rays ever-changing roster design. From their inaugural line-up to their 2012 final game in October the Rays front office has found bits and pieces that have either been compliments or mute points in their want to again be a top the American League East.

Some have worked brilliantly and brought intense value to the Rays fold while a few seemed to be just parcels the team needed to fill voids due to injury or even production and then they were cut back out of the Rays pattern and set free again. The Rays in 2012 took a lot of these player patchwork pieces and again some fit nicely while others just served a short-term purpose and were discarded into the wind. 

Players like Brandon Allen, Brooks Conrad, Hideki Matsui,Will Rhymes, Drew Sutton,and last but not least, Rich Thompson. all had moments in the Rays fabric that either played to the Sun or escalated into darker moments. From stem to stern, this group of add-ons were key components of the Rays quest to find a cohesive offensive unit that somehow seemed to tear a hole into the team’s fabric at the worst possible moments. Some were brought in as stop-gaps to keep the fabric whole while other player’s mended their injuries or to plug gaping holes in the Rays defensive alignment.

Each member had their Rays sunburst highlight moments with some being at the plate (Allen, Matsui), while others were remembered for action on the field. 2012 was not the first time the Rays searched the MLB waiver wire or brought in players from the scrap heap who found ways to produce. Some had small bursts in the sunlight like Allen, Matsui and Thompson, but even the magic produced by Sutton and Conrad at Third Base as Evan Longoria healed could not save their spot in the Rays 2012 blanket. Rhymes showed the consistency the Rays desired at Second Base, but the Trade Deadline acquisition of Ryan Roberts made him also obsolete to their future plans.

Each had their own colorful blend into the Rays 2012 quilt and each should still be considered huge parts of the Rays 2012 fabric. Each of these players has seen his bit of material taken out of the Rays fabric with some finding other vistas while other await someone else wanting to add their pattern to their MLB team’s own clothe. None of these players might ever again don a Rays uniform, but their brief tenure with the team will be remembered by the Rays Republic as interwoven and special parts that were instrumental to the Rays success in 2012.

 

Bergman Should Not be a Rays Option

This is one slugging Free Agent I had hoped the Tampa Bay Rays would avoid like a plaque. Not that his lifetime .296 average and 360 Home Runs do not make you salivate a bit, but Lance Bergman to me is “Pat Burrell Part 2” if the team did sign him. This is not to say Berkman could fill the gaping First Base hole and possibly the Designated Hitter slot in the Rays anemic line-up, but I truly feel he is just 1 injury away from tossing his glove into the bag for good. 

I would hate to see Bergman come here with the Rays Republic’s high expectation that he can make us forget the Burrell, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Luke Scott DH fiasco’s from the past. Sure his defensive skills at first base might be light-years above anyone the Rays currently have in their system, but when a guy goes through 2 knee surgeries in a season (2012), you have to enter into any discussions with an air of caution. Seriously, hasn’t the Rays Medical staff had to tape, bandage and use ointments on enough players over the last 2 seasons to warrant someone coming in healthy this Spring and beyond. 

You also have to be a bit weary when Berkman tells the media in an interview he “wants to be paid like a 3-hole hitter”. That in itself might and should be the red flag the Rays need to turn their attentions towards another target. Can this team afford even thinking about a player who might want to command a 8 figure salary who also has shown bouts of injury time sprinkled into his great career numbers. Considering the St. Louis Cardinals paid Bergman $8 million for 2012 and he only played in around 32 game during that season and was out significantly early on in the Cards. This Rays franchise can not handle another “Burrell” moment with tight payroll that should again be near the $ 70-million dollar threshold. 

This is a guy who many teams are doing the old “kicking the tires” mode on Bergman right now, and hopefully the Rays are just being diligent and checking in on Bergman without any serious want for his services. Sure Bergman could be the Rays answer to a few holes in their field or line-up alignment, but not at a time when his health and season long durability has question marks all over them. I truly hope the Rays did just do the diligent thing and just check in on Bergman with no real want for him because even a 15-day Disabled List stint with no clear back-up plan in the mix could become a huge personnel thorn in the Rays side as this team again tires to establish some dominance in the American League East.

Some might take the notion I’m a bit shell-shocked still by the whole “Burrell Era”, and they might be right. I know this team can not have another player who goes down even short-term with nagging injuries like Burrell did in his Rays tenure. This team of course can not guarantee their player’s health will stay at an optimum at any time, but taking on a health risk like Bergman is not in the Rays best financial interest. Leave Bergman for someone else, this team can and will find better.

 

 

Remembering the Cy Young Winners 2012 Face-to-Face Meeting

Does it really feel like it has only been just over 5 months since the Rays Republic got to witness something that doesn’t happen very often. Even more precious than a cycle, more compelling than a walk-off victory, on that June 13,2012 night all 18,496 of the Rays faithful and a huge television audience got to see the 2012 Cy Young winners do their stuff under the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field.

That’s right, in a Inter-League middle of a three-fer mid-week series Rays starter and now 2012 American League Cy Young winner David Price went up against New York Mets starter R A Dickey, the 2012 National League Cy Young winner. Who could have known history would again assemble their names together and my mind instantly goes to this past game with such fond memories. I remember it like it was just yesterday as Dickey brought a 9-1 record into the Trop while Price stood at 8-3 and wanted to check another notch in his “win” column.

Each hurler got to toss over 100 pitches( Dickey 106, Price 109) in this contest, as each took the hill wanting a piece of this moment not knowing it would or even could turn into a historic event so many months later. As we now know, it pitted right-handed Cy (Dickey) versus Southpaw Cy (Price) with the Rays (35-27) and Mets (34-29) both sitting with about the same record at the time. On this night it was not the slicing fastball or shifty change-up of Price that glided a path for victory, but instead it was the fierce high velocity butterfly pitch from Dickey that made 12 Rays leave the Batter’s Box wondering how to get to Dickey’s dancing knuckler.

Only one Rays got to put solid wood upon a Dickey offering, with B J Upton finally stroking a soft ground ball to Third Baseman David Wright and beating the throw by no more than a gnat’s eyelash. Immediately whispers and shouts came out with different opinions from either side of the field. Rays fans cheering for Upton hustling down the line and beating the throw from a fellow North Virgina baseball teammate. Met’s faithful in the stands wanted a review, but the play did not call for one, and their moans and groans could be heard loud and clear all over the blue-hued Trop.

How could we have know that ticket stub would be a slice of awesome baseball history. A moment when 2 Cy Young players took to the hill threw their arms out and the visitor got the final cap nod and victory. Upton’s hit came in the Rays first chance in the bottom of the 1st inning against Dickey, but no other Rays hitter from that moment on seemed to have a viable way to beat Dickey. Even Rays INF Elliot Johnson turning around and hitting right-handed against Dickey did not produce a cure or show a hint of damage.

On the night Dickey set a new Met’s scoreless streak of 32 2/3 innings just pushing past former P Jerry Koosman’s old mark of 31 2/3rds innings did Dickey show a sign of mortality in the bottom of the 9th watching Johnson reach on a throwing error by Wright, then Dickey showed his human side by helping produce 2-straight pass balls that got Johnson to Third Base and finally on a ground out by Desmond Jennings the lone Rays run on the board.

So here we are Nov 14, 2012 and I’m about to hit MLB.com and pull up this contests again and watch these two artists paint their pitching portraits again on the big screen. Sure Price did not come out on the winning side that night, but this contest showed us the resolve and composure of the guy who would end up with his own piece of Cy Young hardware.

Congrats again to Dickey who fought long ans hard to perfect that knuckleball and to our own Astro’s Dad, Price on an Cy Young award that possibly began on that June 13th evening, under the Teflon roof of the Trop. This just goes to prove, special moments can and do happen in the Rays hamlet of St. Petersburg, Florida under that tilted cap we call Tropicana Field.

 A link if you might want to venture back to my original MLBlogs posts for June 13th when I had a special feeling about this contest, and my June 14th game result posting.

Could the Rays Hook Their Own Marlin Prize?

Just when you thought the Miami Marlins aka the MLB version of Save-a-Lot food stores might have exhausted their goodwill gesture to the rest of the MLB I have heard loud and clear that there might be another nice and tantalizing ballplayer the Tampa Bay Rays might want to kick the tires on and possibly bring into their fold for 2013.

Sure most of the potent 2012 version of the Marlins has vacated the South Beach region, but there is one unique player with some MLB credo that could be had for the right asking price. And an added bonus that should not only tweak but excite the Rays is the fact he is a young player who can play both an outfield corner position and First Base. If you asked the Marlins brass about this player you might be a mixed bag of opinions from him having an attitude problem to possibly not being “MLB material during the 2012 campaign, but this is the same franchise who sent him down a few times in 2012 and eagerly also promoted him as if neither of those situations had materialized.

This was the player chastised by the Marlins top tier who themselves are not even Double-A material after he did not attend a Miami Season Ticket event because he has done a previous event that same Sunday morning for the team and was told by his MLBPA Rep he did not have to make an appearance. He was then ripped inside out by the Marlins upper management then sent packing to Triple-A New Orleans, but seriously, if you are being disciplined doesn’t getting a ticket to the Big Easy seem more like a present than a punishment?

I found it kind if ironic Marlins owner Jeff Loria is more carpetbagger than baseball businessman called Morrison “an embarrassment” when what King Loria is currently doing to this South Florida franchise and their fan base is by itself humiliating and totally disrespectful. So if the Marlins top echelon really feels about Morrison like this, you would think a inter-state rival like the Rays could get Morrison for a song.

I can personally vouches for Morrison’s character having been around him for half a season doing some part-time gigs with the franchise. The guy was always accommodating, open to suggestion and fan friendly to a “T”. He would definitely not only fit into the Rays clubhouse, he could evolve and become a great addition with his zeal and gamesmanship.
LoMo” as some in the Miami zip code have come to call Morrison is actually an even-tempered, basically good ol’ boy who has some pop in his lumber posting 11 Home Runs and 36 RBI during his back-and-forth stints to Triple-A or the Disabled List in 2012. Morrison also could be another left-handed option for Maddon with Carlos Pena possibly not being in the financial cards for the team in 2013. And the Rays truly should look at LoMo’s 2012 numbers as a anomaly and instead look at his 2011 numbers that shows his true power (23 Hrs & 73 RBI) over a span of 123 games that season at the MLB level.

If the Marlins front office has such a distaste for the personality of Morrison, you would think their cross-state rival would not being asking for an arm or a leg, but possibly the Rays could offer them just that to secure Morrison. With the Rays having a bit of a logjam in pitching right now, possibly Rays Executive VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman could suggest a nicely packaged offer of a Rays MLB caliber like SP/RP Wade Davis or maybe even SP Jeff Neimann. But if the recent change are any suggestion, the Marlins might want someone more like SP Alex Cobb or maybe bring in some Miami homegrown talent like INF Sean Rodriguez and possibly LHP Alexander Torres to part with Morrison.

I would like to think the Rays will call the Marlins GM Larry Beinfest and find a mutual ground the evolve and transpire some dialog that could end up with Logan possibly wearing a Rays uniform this Spring. All it takes is a first bit of conversation, possibly suggest the package above or another well-suited present the Marlins would salivate over and LoMo might find his way North to Tampa Bay. This situation could solve 2 roster holes currently vacant and needing filled in the Rays 25-man roster. Morrison can either man First Base, play a corner outfield position or be a strong and willing hammer off the bench. I see it as a ++ opportunity for the team, but then again, I have met the guy and know the ruse from 2012 is totally baloney and full of Marlins cheese.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 278 other followers