Results tagged ‘ Rocco Baldelli ’

A Hodge Podge of Number 2 Ray’s Moments in 2008

 

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I was sitting at the computer this morning trying to pick out a second possible winning moment in 2008 for the Rays when it dawned on me that there are too many to even count. So I have decided to instead list all the important events, as per my opinion, that have made 2008 so great for Rays fans. I mean I truly sat there after deciding on number 3 yesterday, and decided that one was the easiest pick of the bunch.

 

If you get to go to the big show, it has to be a top 3 moment in your team’s flight that season.  There are a huge bunch of moments that helped define 2008 for the Rays. Be it a event in 2007 at shaped the look and feel of the franchise again, or the elimination of a curse in another stadium that served as a mental block to the team. 2008 was the Year of the Ray, and it is one I am glad I got a front row seat for all year long.

 

 


I decided to run this in chronological order from the first event in 2007, up until the final out in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series.


So let’s begin with the first order of business way back in November 2007, when the Rays held a rally in Straub Park near the waterfront in St. Petersburg, Florida. The event was the unveiling of the teams new logo and colors. The Uniforms were fashioned to represent the old style of baseball with a new Rays logo on both the home and away jerseys. The “R” on the uniform front posed a new sweeping motion for the bottom of the letter, plus the sunburst between the lettering also brought about a new look and feel to the organization.

 

 

The ray of light was a new focal point of the team, which abandoned the former Ray on the cap and also on the team’s official logo. But the Rays did get to stay for 2008 on the sleeve of the jersey, but might be retired in 2009. The event was to showcase the new look and feel of the team. And with it came a new spirit of winning and posting new attitudes for the team. And one of baseball’s biggest supporters came out and celebrated with us. Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West came out and entertained the masses after the unveiling and rocked the house all the way up to the fireworks display.

 


Then came the last Spring Training reporting for the pitchers’ and catchers’ to the Ray Namoli Complex in Northwest St Petersburg. The team came out onto the field and Rays Manager Joe Maddon had a small speech in which he wanted to stress fundamentals and team work and chemistry in 2008. That was the day he unveiled his famous “9 =8 ” formula for the world to decipher for the rest of the season.

 

 


Then came the first event that molded and formed this band of players into friends and bonded them for the rest of the year. In the day prior to this event, the Rays Elliott Johnson had made a hard charge into Yankees’ minor league catcher, Francisco Cervelli a few days earlier. The event did not sit well with the Yankees’ staff and during the March 12th rematch at Progress Energy Field, Yankees enforcer Shelly Duncan decided to take matters into his own hands.



Duncan was hustling on a hit into the outfield when he turned and made a move towards second base. It was apparent to almost everyone but Duncan that he would not be able to make it to the base in time to beat the throw. During his slide, Duncan brought his cleats up towards Akinora Iwamura and struck him mid-thigh with his metal cleats.  Duncan came up immediately and contested the action before right fielder Jonny Gomes came into the action and leveled Duncan to the ground. It was an event that brought the team together for the first time in 2008.

 

 


Then two weeks later, the Rays said farewell to their present Spring Training home when the team played it’s last game at Progress Energy Field ( Al Lang Field, Waterfront Park). The game was met with sadness and joy because of the memories of teams playing on these grounds since the 1940′s in this present stadium. The event also was a visual point for the team to showcase the new proposed stadium that might some day rise on the same grounds.

 

Eric Hinske hits a one-out double during the Rays' two-run second inning. He tripled in the fourth and homered in the sixth.

 


Or could moments like Eric Hinske missing a cycle by a single. It is amazing to me that he went 3-4 on the night and got his triple and homer early in the contest at the Walt Disney complex, but could not get that elusive single.  Hinske ended up being one of the true bright spots for the Rays in the Free Agent market. He signed for a low number, but produced high energy and some pretty impressive offensive displays during the 2008 season.

 


Then we have the first sweep of the Boston Red Sox at home this season. That would only be the icing on the cake as the Rays would send the Red Sox faithful home as losers in 8 of the 9 games at the Trop this year. The  first series at the Trop. would end with a hard fought 3-0 shutout by James Shields.

 

Then comes the moment where Rays Manager Joe Maddon thinks the Rays season began to turn into its championship run. It was during a road trip up to Toronto when the Rays battled back from a possible loss. Edwin Jackson left the 8th inning with a Ray lead before Troy Percival gave up 4 straight singles to let the Jays tie the game at 3-all. The teams battled back and forth before Dioner Navarro, who went 3-6 on the day hit a screamer into the stands for a Grand Slam homer and sealed the victory for the Rays.

 

 


On May 13th the Rays got to celebrate for the first time in club history as the team officially took over first place in the American League East. It was the latest point in any Rays season that the team had enjoyed the top spot.  The game produced one of the first moments in the Rays 2008 history for celebrations when  pinch runner Jonny Gomes came on for Cliff Floyd after he singled in the bottom of the 11th inning. Gomes stole second, then sprinted  home to seal the victory for the Rays 2-1.

 

 


Then came the L A Angels first visit to Tropicana Field, and the Rays shut them down to also sweep that series. Then came in the mighty Chicago Cubs for a three game Inter-League series that was deemed by many to be a possible World Series matchup. During this series, the Rays finally began to get some national exposure for maybe being a true team that could win it all in 2008.


But not until after the June 19th game, in which Carl Crawford hit a grand slam to propel the Rays. The team had officially beat the best team in baseball all three games did the national media begin to get on the Rays bandwagon. Cub’s Manager Lou Pinella commended the Rays on their young squad, and you could see a small twinkle in his eye that he approved of the young team getting the best of his team that series.


 

 


On June 27th, Rays starter Matt Garza was on the mound in a game against the Florida Marlins and gave up a blast to Hanley Ramirez in the 7th inning to produce the only hit and run in the contest. Garza went on to shut down the Marlins’ offense the rest of the game.

 


According to the Elias Baseball Bureau, It was the first complete-game no-hitter or one-hitter with a double-digit strikeout total in the majors this season. There was only one such pitching performance in each of the last three seasons: by Chris Carpenter in 2005, John Lackey in 2006 and Justin Verlander in 2007.

 


On July 19th, the Rays won their first game back after the All Star break to break the team’s longest losing streak of the season. With the Blue Jays in town for a weekend series, the Rays went on to break up a perfectly good pitchers’ duel on a Ben Zobrist homer on the first pitch he saw tonight. Toronto starter A J Burnett was on tonight, but the Rays caught a huge break on a hanging breaking pitch to Zobrist for the victory.

 

Rocco Baldelli gets the shaving cream pie treatment after driving in the winning run in the ninth.  (AP)

 


While the Rays were at home on August 30th they got to celebrate a first in Rays history. With the 14-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays posted their 82nd win of the season. Marking the first time in franchise history they were guaranteed a winning season.  It also marked the night of Scott Kazmir’s 10th victory of the year.

 

The mystic of Fenway Park was beginning to get the better of the Rays in 2008 before Scott Kazmir took the mound on September 10th in a series the team needed to keep their lead on the Boston Red Sox.  It also began one of the most storied moments in Rays history. During the contest the Rays batters went a combined 1-15 with men in scoring position and almost gave the game to the Red Sox several times. As the team fought back and forth before the Rays sent up a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning.  

 

 

Dan Johnson had been summed from the Durham Bulls earlier in the day and would have started in left field if he had gotten to the ball park a little earlier in the night. But because of flight problems and transportation to Fenway Park, he arrived just moments before the game. In the 9th inning, Rays Manager Joe Maddon inserted Johnson into the game to pinch hit against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Johnson worked the count to 3-2 before he hit a monster shot that cleared the right center field wall to give the Rays a 5-4 lead in the game. Jason Hammel ended up coming out in the bottom of the 9th and secured the win for the Rays. It was Hammel’s first save of his career.

 

 


With the team away for their last series, it was actually the next day when most Rays fans learned that we had secured the American League East title the previous night in Detroit. With the Rays in Motown for the last series, many players came back to the clubhouse to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning. It was a wild fact, but players and staff went to area hotels sports bars to do a bit of  scoreboard watching as the New York Yankees needed to lose for the Rays to be awarded their first title in team history.

 

 


After the hard fought season, the Rays staged a airport greeting for the team at St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport on September 29th. The event was attended by almost 5,000 people who flocked into the baggage area and loading zones to greet and cheer the team as they got off their chartered flight from Detroit. People filled the airport and also the outer traffic lanes of the airport to see their new champions come in from their road trip.


 

 


On October 6th, the Rays were in Chicago facing the White Sox when they secured their first series win in the American League Divisional series. The Rays won the series 3-1, and established that they were the team to beat to get to the World Series in the American League. In that series, the Rays battled back time and time again against the tough White Sox pitching staff before finally breaking through and getting right breaks.

 

 

When the Rays faced the Philadelphia Phillies on October 23rd, they sent James “Big Game” Shields to the mound. The game  showed the waking up of B J Upton and Carlos Pena at the plate as both help produce much needed offense for the Rays. In a play featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Rocco Baldelli came across the plate for an apparent Rays run, but Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz held onto the ball.

 

 


The game came down to great situational hitting by the Rays. B J Upton scored Akinora Iwamura from third to plate the first run for the Rays.  In the 4th inning, the Rays took a hold of the game after Cliff Floyd hit a single and Dioner Navarro hit a nice liner up the middle to put two men on base for the Rays. Baldelli then hit a nice shot down the third baseline, but it was gloved by Feliz and the Rays had men on the corners. Jason Bartlett then came up and executed a safety squeeze perfectly  in front of Phillies starter Brett Myers to put the Rays up 4-0. It would be the Rays first victory in the Fall classic.


 

 


Last, but not least is the Game 5.5 as I call it of the 2008 World Series. No matter what happened in this game, the historical significance was more pressing at the moment. The contest was a hard fought contest and each team traded runs and hits before the Phillies finally walked away with their second World Series Championship.

 


The game was a true test of everything that got the Rays here in 2008. The Bullpen, which was the team’s focal point in 2008 had finally given up a run at the most critical moment in the contest. And the Rays offense could not close the gap when needed during their last at bats. with Eric Hinske striking out for the last out of the game.

 

 


All of these events made a different focal point for the Rays in 2008. I hope a few of your fond memories have graced the blog. If I forgot a moment that you found remarkable in 2008, please feel free to comment on the blog and I will check into it and might even make it my number 1 choice tomorrow.  Again thank you to all the readers of Rays Renegade for their insights, comments ans readership in 2008.

 

Hopefully in 2009, I will have more outstanding Rays moments to record for you.

2008 Arbitration Predictions and Results

 

 

So here we are…………..Arbitration Day. During the next 7 days teams will really show just how much they want certain members of their 2008 roster. Not lost in all of this is the Type “A” or “B” eligible arbitration candidates. Luckly for the Tampa Bay Rays, they do not have any of these candidates and can either offer arbitration to their players’, or not and not risk losing anything.

 

Because we do not have any classified arbitration candidates, the Rays would not recieve any type of compensation from other teams for them signing their players past December 7th.  Today is the first day that teams will be contacting their players and their agents and let all of the above know their desires for 2009.  With the Rays, there will be a few really important decisions on personell and the make-up of the Rays roster in 2009.

 

With the Rule 5 Draft also on the horizon, the team might elect to not offer arbitration to certain memebers of the team knowing they would like to remian with the Rays, and can use their roster spot for the Rule 5 draft until they are resigned by the team. Just because a player is cut loose from the Rays does not always mean they do not want him on their roster or in the minor league system.

 

It is a bit of a mind game to try and disguise your true interest in some players and hope that the work with the mirrors and shadows protects these players. Back to the arbitration game, I will try and make a few predictions here today on who might, or might not be offered Arbitration by their 2008 clubs.

 

As predicted, the Tampa Bay Rays did not offer any arbitration to any of it’s 4 free agents on Monday night. Rocco Badelli and Trever Miller were actively seeking another team for 2009 on Monday and did not expect the Rays to offer arbitration.

 

Eric Hinske and Cliff Floyd are the other two free agents for the Rays and both are currently going through offers from other teams. Floyd is also rehabbing a shoulder surgery to help repair some damage suffered during the 2008 World Series during Game 2 at Tropicana Field against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

 

Arbitration Predictions:

 

 

               

 

I am going to start off with Raul Ibanez of the Seattle Mariners. Ibanez  will be offered arbitration by the team, but he will refuse the offer and end up signing with another club. The guy is a power left-handed bat that will be needed in a few National League outfields in 2009. He will also have his pick of Designated hitter spots in the American League by at least a half dozen clubs before finally signing in Toronto.

 

 RESULTS:

The Mariners did offer Arbitration to Ibanez on December 1, 2008 at 2:32 PM CST  . 

 

 The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a few decisions to make in regards to the arbitration of power-hitting first baseman Mark Teixiera and hard throwing closer Francisco Rodriquez. Both players are considered in the top tier of Type “A” candidates for arbitration, and the Angels might use this to offer them arbitration with the hopes they will decline and sign with another team.  Another part of the equation would be the draft picks acquired for either of them to leave the team to re-stock the Angels minor league system.

 

Two other Angels also will have a go at arbitration today with mixed results for them both. Starting pitcher Jon Garland might not be offered arbitration bascially because he is not the dominating pitcher he was before coming to LA from the Chicago White Sox. Darrin Oliver, a reliever, might be a Monday decision becuase he would make the same amount if he was with the club or turned down for arbitration. I think that both might be offered arbitration, with Oliver a last second yes or no decision. Another Angel in jeopardy of not getting offered arbitration is Garrett Anderson. He  is another bubble player who might be offered arbitration due to the loyalty to the club, but the hearing might bring him a lower salary than as a free agent. 

 

RESULTS:

  The Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem  announced at 7:31 pm CST that they have decided to offer arbitration to  Mark Teixiera, Jon Garland, Darren Oliver and K-Rod for 2009. Garrett Anderson was not granted arbitration by the club.

 

 

The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies will not be offering arbitration to relievers Tom Gordon and Rudy Seanez. Gordon makes total sense since his ceiling and salary were high in 2008, and he was out with an injury the entire year. The Phillies invested in Brad Ledge for their closer, and he responded in producing a fantastic season and a solid spot on the roster as the Phillies 2009 closer. Seanez is a left-handed reliever and might be one of the next relievers to sign a contract, maybe for the Rangers.

 

Also up for consideration will be starter Jamie Moyer and right-fielder Pat Burrell. Moyer has been a linch pin in the Phillies rotation since coming over from the Seattle Mariners. His pitching stabilized a Phillies rotation that was a mess before his arrival. Burrell is a home-grown Phillies star who might have just made himself too expensive for the Phillies taste. I think the team will offer arbitration to Moyer. The team will still work to cut a deal with Moyer, but will certainly decline an offer to Burrell for 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The team has decided to not offer arbitration to all four of their eligible candidates for 2009. Tom Gordon was the only player not mentioned, but is still injured and will not be offered a contract for 2009.

 

 

The San Diego Padres will not be offering arbitration to  former closer Trevor Hoffman. This is actually a sad event. More so by the way the team kind of dumped him after giving him a contract offer and then rescinding it and not giving him a reason why before announcing the decision. This act might come back to haunt the Padres since Hoffman is thinking seriously about maybe closing for the division foe, L A Dodgers.

 

RESULTS:

The San Diego Padres confirmed at 7:41 pm CST that they are not going to offer arbitration to Trevor Hoffman.

 

 

Former All-Star and Atlanta Brave closer/starter John Smoltz will not be offered arbitration by the team.  This is not to mean that he doesn’t still have any fire and gas in the tank, but the Braves did get rocked in 2002 by Greg Maddux accepting arbitration and getting a huge increase in salary. He might still be in the Braves jersey on Opening Day, but not at a arbitration sized increase in pay.

 

RESULTS:

The Atlanta Braves confirmed at 8:09 pm CST that they are declining to offer arbitration to pitcher John Smoltz.

 

 

                     

 

The Toronto Blue Jays will offer Arbitration to pitcher A J Burnett. There are signals in the Jays system that they want to put an end to the uphill climb in payroll without results in 2009. But to let Burnett go would send the wrong message to Roy Halliday and the staff about the intentions of the team. I think the team will make a few runs at players to try and compete with the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees in 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The Toronto Blue Jays have offered arbitration to pitcher A J Burnett, but have denied arbitration to his battery mate Gregg Zaun. The decision on the pair hit the Internet about 6:56 pm CST tonight.

 

The Texas Rangers have a huge decision to make as to the future of current DH, Milton Bradley for 2009. Bradley had a breakout year for the team and would again be a great cornerstone with Josh Hamilton in the middle of the Rangers’ lineup for 2009. For that reason, I think the Rangers will offer arbitration to Bradley for the 2009 season, and then at trade deadline time, trade him for more pitching.

 

RESULTS:

The Texas Rangers announced at 11:55 pm CST that they will offer arbitration to Milton Bradley for 2009.

 

 

                                      

 

With the Brewers, I think we will see one given arbitration and one let go for obvious reasons. C C Sabathia will definitely be offered arbitration. Sabathia made such an impact on this team after his trade from Cleveland in 2008. To say they would also let this guy go with out a fight would be a huge PR mistake and also a roster busting move. Public sentiment is high that the team needs to retain their big train and let him roll another year in Miller Park.

 

On the other hand, the Brewers felt they got robbed in the closer department by the injuries and the inconsistant pitching of Eric Gagne in his Brewers stay. For that reason, the Brewers will not be offering arbitration to Gagne. Even the recent retirement of closer Solomon Torres can’t keep Gagne on the Brewers’ roster.

 

Another set of Brewers’ racing for arbitration hearing and raises are pitchers’ Ben Sheets and Brian Shouse. Sheets will be offered arbitration as a goodwill gesture that the team wants to be competitive in 2009. The showe of faith might be enough to retain Sabathia. Sheets recent injury problems might weigh heavy in this process, and the team might not offer at the last minute. This is seriously one that is on the fence right now.

 

Brewers reliever Brian Shouse will not be offered arbitration. The minor league system of the Brewers’ actually have a pretty godd supply of relievers in their minor league system that are itching for a chance at the major league level. This might be the deciding factor in Shouses’ future with the team.

 

   RESULTS:

The Brewers have offered arbitration to C C Sabathia, Brian Shouse and Ben Sheets. They did decline to offer Eric Gagne an arbitration hearing on December 1, 2008 at 3:08 PM CST.

 

  

                           

 

 

In the Yankees camp, both Bobby Abreu and Mike Mussina will be offered arbitration. Abreu will be offered it more as a afterthought to any team thinking of signing him for 2009. Since he is a Type “A” candidate, the signing club will lose a draft pick in June, and the Yankees will also get a compensation pick for him.

 

Mussina is semi-retired and not thought of seeking a contract with any team in 2009. This might be a pre-emptive strike set up to divert any team from trying to get him under contract in 2009. The Yankees feel he might be going through a “Troy Percival” stage and might not want to play now, but as soon as the teams report, might consider a contract for 2009.

 

                   

 

Also speaking of the Yankees, they will not hand an arbitration offer to Andy Pettitte for 2009. The thinking in the Yankees camp is that Pettitte is already emotionally out of the Yankees staff and might not be a totally positive member of the young pitching staff in 2009. It is a shame since Pettitte is a dominating leftie when he is on his game.

 

The Yankees also will not offer arbitration to Jason Giambi. This one kind of puzzles me a bit in the fact that Giambi might end up in the A L East again in 2009, and wouldn’t you like the fact that you took 2 draft picks for that team to even sign the “Gambino”. His defense has gone downward fast in the last few years, but after some eye situation early in 2008, he hit the ball as well as anyone in baseball.

 

 

                     

 

Also in the Yankees camp is  Ivan Rodriguez. As you might remember, the Yankees basically borrowed him for a few months trying to make a stretch run and catch either the Rays or Red Sox before the playoffs. He was a major upgrade at the catching position. But his increase in salary with Jorge Posada still on the roster might be enough for the Yankees to not offer arbitration to Rodriguez.

 

   RESULTS: 

 At 4:48 pm CST, the New York Yankees have declined to offer arbitration to pitchers’ Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and Right-filder Bobby Abreu.

 

Staying in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox will offer arbitration to veteran catcher Jason Varitek. Considering what he has played for in the last few years, he might be one of the big winners in average change in salary in 2009. Varitek’s agent . Scott Boras tried to play up Varitek’s “stats” by comparing him to a far superior catcher in Jorge Posada to the Red Sox earler in the Hot Stove season.

 

RESULTS:

The Boston Red Sox have decided to offer arbitration to both Jason Varitek and pitcher Paul Byrd.  Word came in at 8:14 pm CST, with Byrd’s offer a bit baffling with the recent news about the signing of Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa.

 

The Colorado Rockies will offer arbitration to closer Brian Fuentes. This might also be a smokescreen by the rockies to gain posession of a teams draft pick for signing Fuentes.  He was been contacted by several clubs that have already interested in the closer, even with the compensation issues.  Fuentes might turn down the offer and seek his spot somewhere else in the MLB in 2009.

 

 RESULTS:

The Colorado Rockies have decided to offer arbitration to closer Brian Fuentes.  The offer hit the wires at 6:59 pm CST tonight.

 

Frank Thomas of the Oakland A’s will not be offered arbitration by the team. This is not for lack of desire or offensive firepower, but the team already has it on good authority that he wants to stay with Oakland and might be willing to negotiate a discount to remain with the club.

 

RESULTS:

The Oakland A’s confirmed at 9:07 pm CST that they are not offering arbitration to Frank Thomas for 2009.

 

         

 

Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs is an interesting player to consider for arbitration. The team would like to offer him arbitration, but only on the premise that he will turn it down and they can reap 2 draft picks for him. But the flip-side is that they offer it and he accepts it and give the team a secere situation both in salary and in the Bullpen. If there is any movement to show he would accept the arbitration offer, the team would refuse to offer him arbitration for 2009. This one truly might be decided on a written agreement and not on a handshake. Reliever Bob Howry is also up for arbitration and might not be extended an offer for arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS: 

 The Chicago Cubs announced at 11:03 pm CST that they have decided to not offer arbitration to Kerry Wood and Bob Howry for 2009.

 

On the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox will not be offering arbitration to both Ken Griffey Jr., or Juan Uribe. With the recent trade talks concerning Jermaine Dye and Nick Swishers trade to the Yankees, you might think the team would retain Griffey for one season as insurance. On the up-side, he is also on pace to hit a few milestones that would be a PR masterpeiece for the White Sox to promote in 2009.

 

Juan Uribe is an easier piece to replace either with minor leaguer Josh Fields, or by a trade. Uribe has been an adequate player for the team , but his arbitration increase in salary would not sit well with the White Sox payroll issues for 2009. Also under consideration is shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who has gotten alot of talk lately as trade bait for the White Sox. Cabrera might be offered arbitration based on his recent reade rumblings.

 

RESULTS:

The Chicago White Sox announced at 12:35 pm CST that they are offering arbitration to Orlando Cabrera for 2009. No word yet on the status of arbitration for Griffey Jr, or Juan Uribe at this time.

 

 

             

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks might take a few days to consider if the offer arbitration to Adam Dunn, or set him free. He has not been one of the big names thrown around in any circles this off season and might not be worth the compensation picks for another team to consider him in 2009. I think the D-back do end up offering him arbitration as a gesutre he has a place if he wants it in 2009. But I also think in the back of their minds, he turns it down and takes the play out of their hands.

 

Also up for consideration by the D-backs is starter Randy Johnson and relievers’ Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz. Both players had an adequate 2008, and it might come down to what place they will have in the future of the team as to their status for arbitration. Cruz might be a decison based on the want and need out there for relievers who can set-up or close with the least amount of baggage. Cruz will come down to a last minure discussion before he is offered arbitration.   Lyons and Johnson might be the two guys’  not be offered arbitration for 2009. Another D-back who is sought after by many teams is second baseman Orlando Hudson who will certainly be offered arbitration to try and retain at least some draft picks when he declines the D-backs offer.

 

RESULTS:

The Arizona Diamondbacks have announced at 9:26 pm CST that they are not offering arbitration to both Randy Johnson and Adam Dunn. Being offered arbitration will be Juan Cruz, Orlando Hudson and Brandon Lyon. 

 

The Florida Marlins had an amazing run at the National League East title early in the season before falling by the wayside. At the forefront of that action was Luis Gonzalez . Gonzalez was the veteran presence on the club, and with catcher Paul Lo Duca might both be victims of payroll cutting for 2009. Also up for arbitration is veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes, who I think might have done enough to merit the team offering arbitration to him to hold onto this valuable commodity at least until the 2009 trade deadline. I have a feeling that Gonzalez and Lo Duca played their last ball for the Marlins and will not be offered arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The Floridas Marlins announced at 11:08 pm CST that they will not offer arbitration to  Arthur Rhodes, Luis Gonzalez, and Paul Lo Duca for 2009.

 

Several other veterans have arbitration issues to contend with in the majors this off season. Moise Alou is considering retirement, and that might be the total basis that the New York Mets do not offer him arbitration. His injury might not have been severe to end his career, but he might just consider it time while he can still function naturally.

 

Also up for arbitration on the Mets are Luis Ayala and Oliver Perez. Ayala might be the odd man out as the Mets have high hopes for the inning eater Perez and they might not offer arbitration to both Alou and Ayala, but offer arbitration to Perez.

 

RESULTS:

Out of the New York Mets offices at  8:22 pm CST is the announcement that they are declining to offer arbitration to Moises Alou and Luis Ayala. The team is however offering arbitration to pitcher Oliver Perez.

 

 

Alan Embree has been a tough competitor for years in the American League. He has been a “go-to” reliever for years and might be starting down that road of decline finally. For that reason, I see the Oakland A’s considering this for a bit of time then not offering him arbitration, but extending a Spring Training Invite to him to see if he is still a dominating reliever.

 

RESULTS:

At 9:07 pm CST tonight, the Oakland A’s have denied arbitration to Alan Embree and Frank Thomas.

 

 Edgar Renteria is considered to be on the way out and the  Detroit Tigers also must make an educated guess as to if they offer him arbitration, will he accept it or turn it donw and move onto another team in 2009. This is another team that will have to feel out its veteran before it either commits or turns down arbitration to him. I have a feeling they will not offer him arbitration.

 

   RESULTS:

The Detroit Tigers did not offer arbitration to Renteria on Monday, December 1,2008 at 2:42 PM  CST.

 

 

The Minnesota Twins had a remarkable 2008 season, and also included in that was the work of reliver Dennys Reyes of the Twins Bullpen unit. Reyes had one of his best seasons in the majors and added a veteran persence to the staff. I have a feeling that it was enough to merit an offer of arbitration for Reyes to continue in Minnesota for 2009.

 

 RESULTS:  

The Minnesota Twins just offered arbitration to reliever Dennys Reyes for 2009 at 4:20 pm CST .

 

The St Louis Cardinals Bullpen was a mess in 2008. The closer role ended up being a closer-by committee assignment during the season and no one truly stepped up and took over a veteran role in the Bullpen. For this reason I feel that  former closer Jason Isringhausen  and Branden Looper will not be offered arbitration by the team. I do feel that reliever Russ Spring might be a bubble guy and also might be offered arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS: 

At 6:19 pm CST, The St. Louis Cardinals have denied arbitration to three of their pitchers from the 2008 staff. Jason Isringhausen, Branden Looper and  Russ Springer all were not offered arbitration by the Cardinals. 

 

Since coming to the Kansas City Royals, Mark Grudzienlanek has been a clutch player in the middle for the Royals. He has been a solid defender and an above average guy at the plate for a team fighting for an idenity in the A L Central divisionI have a feeling that the Royals might reward that loyalty and service by offering arbitration to Grudzienlanek for 2009.

 

RESULTS: The Kansas City Royals just offered arbitration to infielder Mark Grudzielanek  at  8:17 pm CST for the 2009 season. 

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers had another fantastic run at the National League pennant in 2008. The team was sitting near the .500 mark most of the year and finally took over the division late in the season, and overtake the Arizona D-backs for the Western division. On the forefront of that move was the acquiring of Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox, and Casey Blake from the  Cleveland Indians. Both of these players have done everything asked of them by the Dodgers and will be offered arbitration today.

 

Another twist of fate for the Dodgers saw their Bullpen and starting pitching come togewther at the right time and take over the game for the team. Starters’ Brad Penny and Derek Lowe hunkered down and played playoof type ball the last month of the season to propel LA into position for the title.  For that reason, these two starters might be offered arbitration for the 2009 season.Reliever Joe Biemel helped anchor the leftie side of the Bullpen. Infielder Jeff Kent was up and down all year long due to injuries and did not participate fully in 2008. For that reason, I think that the Dodgers will not offer arbitration to Biemel and Kent for 2009

 

Also up for,arbitration is future Hall-of-Famer, Gregg Maddux. He did not have an explosive  end of the year for the Dodgers after being picked up from the San Diego Padres, and might not be offered arbitration by Los Angeles.

 

 RESULTS:

The Los Angeles Dodgers have just offered arbitration to Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake and Derek Lowe.  In a second announcement, the team has decided to deny arbitration to pitchers’ Joe Biemel, Greg Maddux, Brad Penny and infielder Jeff Kent. Final word came out from the Dodgers office at  7:20 pm CST tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baldelli is Honored for his Perseverance

 

 

 

It seems like I have been talking about this guy for a long time this week. He has been a linch-pin of the Tampa Bay Rays organization since he was selected in the 2000 Amatuer Draft number 1 for the team. He was a anchor in centerfield for the Rays until a off-season injury began a run of over 3 years of on and off again Disabled List visits.

 

He has been a model athlete and  aggressive competitor. He has beaten not only the odds to make to the major league level, but also taken on a ailment that was poised to take it all away from him for good this Spring. It was a sad day in March2008 when Rocco Baldelli met the media under the bleachers at Progress Energy Field and relayed the news that his ailment might have just cost him the game he loved.

 

But through the teams’ positive efforts and the numerous flights across America to seek out doctoras and remedies Baldelli never faltered from confidence. It was written that one one such flight Rocco told his father that he might not be able to win this fight, but he carried on until he was finally assured that he could again play the game with grace and agility again.

 

 

So it is with great pride and a test of mind over matter that the Tampa Bay Rays’ own Rocco Baldelli was voted the winner of the 19th annual Tony Conigliaro Award. This award is presented annually to a Major League player who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of the late Major Leaguer.  Baldelli is the third Rays player to recieve the award. Former Rays pitchers’ Tony Saunders ( 2000) and Dewon Brazelton ( 2004) have also recieved the pretigious award.

 

Tony’s brothers, Billy and Richie, will make the official presentation of the award at the 70th annual Boston Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s dinner on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009, at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in South Boston.

 

The Rays placed Baldelli, 26, on the 60-day disabled list on March 28 with a mitochondrial disorder, a condition that slows muscle recovery and causes fatigue, costing him the first 116 games of the season; he also missed the final 124 games of 2007 due to a hamstring injury.

 

 

 

Baldelli fought his way back to the Major Leagues and returned in August to hit .263 in 28 games with four home runs and 13 RBIs for the Rays in 2008, playing a key role during the team’s postseason drive. The Rhode Island native contributed to Tampa Bay’s World Series berth and AL Championship by hitting .333 with one home run and four RBIs in the ALCS against the Red Sox. Overall, Baldelli hit .200 (4-for-20) during the postseason with two home runs and six RBIs. 

 

In the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Baldelli went 1-6 during the series, but made an timely solo homer in Game 5.5 in the 7th inning off Ryan Madson to even the score at 4-all. The Rays eventually lost that game, and the series, but the determination and the spunk of Baldelli was apparent to everyone in the ballpark that night.

 

In 1990, the Red Sox began the award to perpetuate the memory of Conigliaro, who died that February after an eight-year struggle to come back from a massive heart attack that left him severely handicapped. Major League teams submit nominations and an independent 12-person panel does the voting.

 

Baldelli came in first with 43 points followed by Arizona’s Doug Davis with 27 and Oakland’s Brad Ziegler with 26. Cleveland’s Cliff Lee, Cincinnati’s Mike Lincoln and Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox also received votes.

 

Past winners of the award are: Jim Eisenreich (1990), Dickie Thon (1991), Jim Abbott (1992), Bo Jackson (1993), Mark Leiter (1994), Scott Radinsky (1995), Curtis Pride (1996), Eric Davis (1997), Bret Saberhagen (1998), Mike Lowell (1999), Kent Mercker and Tony Saunders (2000), Graeme Lloyd & Jason Johnson (2001), Jose Rijo (2002), Jim Mecir (2003), Dewon Brazelton (2004), Aaron Cook (2005), Freddy Sanchez (2006) and Jon Lester (2007).

 

Conigliaro became the youngest player at age 20 to lead a league in home runs when he hit 32 in 1965, and the youngest in AL history to reach 100 homers (22 years, 197 days). His promising career was tragically shortened when he was hit in the face by a pitch at Fenway Park on Aug. 18, 1967. He missed all of 1968, made a dramatic comeback in 1969 and was traded to the California Angels after the 1970 season. Conigliaro played two years with the Angels and then made another comeback with the Red Sox in 1975, his final season in the Major Leagues.

Baldelli Considering a Ray’s Bitter Rival

 

 

 

 

In a move not anticipated this early in the free agent signing period, the Tampa Bay Rays might be losing one of its most popular players to put on a Rays uniform to a American League East rival, the Boston Red Sox. Baldelli, who had his 2009 club option declined by the Rays is hitting the free agent market for the first time in his career. The team ended up paying Baldelli about $ 4 million dollars to opt out of his long-term contract, which made him a free agent this  offseason. 

 

At the end of Spring Training in 2008, the Rays had to begin discussing the future of the Rhode Island star.  They had to make a firm and financial decision on his 2009 option on April 1st,  and if he fit into the team’s future plans with his large salary kicking in during 2009. Baldelii had signed a 6-year  $ 32 million dollar contract in 2005 that rivaled teammate Carl Crawford’s deal to solidify the Rays outfield until 2012.

 

According to professional baseball scouts, Baldelli shared many similarities to Hall of Famer and former Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio ever since his days as a prep star. This can be attributed to Baldelli’s athletic ability, their shared position (center field), wearing the same uniform number (5), and their Italian-American heritage. Al LaMacchia, a professional scout for over 50 years, went so far as to call Rocco “Joe’s twin”

 

 

But because of medical complications after that season, the progress of Baldelli in the field for the Rays was dwarfed by the off the field situation with him. Baldelli  was viewed as one of the keys to the Rays bright future.  But things did not come up roses for Baldelli.

 

 

Baldelli started the 2005 season on the disabled list because he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while playing baseball with his brother in the offseason. He was initially expected to be back by the All-Star break, but while rehabilitating he injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss the entire 2005 season.

 

After missing almost a full season and a half, Baldelli returned to the Rays lineup against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on June 7, 2006. Baldelli played frequently for the rest of the 2006 campaign and hit .302 with 16 home runs, 57 runs batted in, 57 runs scored and 10 stolen bases in only 364 at bats.

 

In Spring Training before the 2007 season, however, Rocco pulled his hamstring. This injury would linger. After appearing in only 35 games early in the season, Baldelli was placed on the DL again. He reaggravated the injury while on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues and remained inactive for the remainder of the baseball season.

 

 

In the following offseason, Baldelli underwent extensive medical testing to determine the reasons for his muscle problems and extreme fatigue after even brief workouts. Doctors discovered some “metabolic and/or mitochondrial abnormalities” but were unable to provide an exact diagnosis.

 

Baldelli attempted to return to game action during spring training in 2008 but was unable to do so. On March 12, he held an emotional press conference in which he announced that he would be once again placed on the disabled list in an attempt to overcome his mysterious medical issues. Though he did not retire, the future of his baseball career was in doubt. 

 

After more medical consultations, Baldelli began taking a combination of medications and nutritional supplements that seemed to improve his condition. On May 29, 2008, he began playing in extended spring training games, and in mid-June was sent to play in the Rays’ minor league system for further rehabilitation and conditioning in the hope that he might return to the majors during the 2008 season.

 

Finally, on August 10th, 2008, Rocco was activated and started in right field for the Rays in a game against the Seattle Mariners. Baldelli had been growing a beard for months as a “symbol of his rehabilitation” and shaved it off before playing. In the contest, he had an RBI single as well as a diving catch before coming out of the game after the 5th inning.

 

 

Baldelli ended up appearing in 28 games for the Rays in 2008, mainly as a DH and pinch hitter but occasionally playing in right or left field.  He hit .263 with 4 home runs and 13 RBI, and was deemed valuable enough to be included in the Rays’ postseason roster as they made the playoffs for the first time.

 

 

Baldelli negotiated terms of his huge extension contract without help from an agent, meeting several times with executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman to get the contract done. He had agent Casey Close review the language being signing. Baldelli said he wasn’t as interested in maximizing his earning potential as he was remaining in Tampa Bay.

 

Unknown to most fans is the true origins of their former centerfielder. Many do not know that Baldelli attended the PEGASUS Gifted and Talented middle-school program at Lasalle Academy in Providence before switching to Bishop Hendricken in Warwick, Rhode Island, for high school. There he posted a 4.25 grade point average and often tutored other students in physics.

 

 

He was also a three sport star, excelling at baseball, basketball, and volleyball and was selected in the first round of the 2000 amateur draft. He has said that if he had not signed with Tampa Bay, he would have attended Wake Forest University, rather than Princeton. Baldelli made his Major League debut on March 31, 2003

 

Now in the aftermath of the Rays first trip into the postseason, ending in a short World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Boston Red Sox are doing due diligence on free agent Rocco Baldelli, who could be in the mix as a fourth outfielder after the team dealt Coco Crisp to the Kansas City Royals last week for reliever Ramon Ramírez. According to major league sources, Baldelli, from Cumberland, R.I., met with the Red Sox at Fenway late last week to discuss his future and the effects of the mitochondrial disorder that limited him to 80 at-bats with the Rays last season.

 

 

Baldelli, who has toured the country visiting doctors trying to learn the cause of his premature muscle fatigue, hit .263 for Tampa Bay but never played back-to-back games in the field during the regular season. He appeared in 22 games as DH, five in right field, and one in left field. In the postseason, Baldelli batted .200 over eight games.

 

Baldelli said during the World Series that he didn’t want to talk about his future because he was trying to soak in the moment with the Rays, the team he’d struggled with for so long, playing in just 155 games the past three years because of various ailments. Tampa Bay elected not to pick up the $6 million option on his contract for 2009 and bought him out for $4 million.

 

If Baldelli does sign with the division rivals, it would be a shame to lose the guy who was an inspiration to kids and fans alike for some many years for his determination to overcome all obstacles. But because Baldelli is from the Northeast, there has to be a regional pride to go along with playing with the team that was his favorite for years growing up in Rhode Island.

 

 

If Baldelli does sign with the Red Sox, do we cheer or yeer at him now like the Toronto Blue Jays do for Eric Hinske. Do we look at him as a traitor because the team declined his option and made him a free agent, or do we celebrate the time he was a Ray?

 

This of course, is a personal decision to be made on a one-to-one basis with what you think about the former Ray. I call him a former Ray right now becuase since he is not under contract we can not call him one of our own right now.  Things could change in the next few weeks either for or against the Rays in trying to discuss and sign him to a smaller contract.

 

But we all know that Rocco will not think lightly about the deal if the Rays do offer anything to him. The team has sttod by him through all of the medical situations and consider him a clubhouse leader for his inspiration and devotion to getting back to the majors. I think no matter what Baldelli decides for 2009, it will be a year where he will be striving to finally prove that the years have given him the experience and the drive to compete at whatever level is permissible for him.

 

In regards to the past, I thank you Rocco for all the memories you have given us as a Ray. Hopefully it is not over for you in that number 5 jersey just yet. But the lure of Fenway Park and playing in front of friends and family 81 times a year might be too strong. And for that I understand and will still stand and clap for you to do good, whatever uniform you are wearing….

Rays Goals 6-10 for 2008 Exceed Expectations

 

          

 

In the beginning of the season I set 10 goals or written items that I hoped the Tampa Bay Rays would complete to become a more productive and successful team. At the time we all did not know the type of franchise success we would see in 2008.

Also stuffed into that list was a few personal obsevations ands wants for the team in 2008. I did a middle of the year evaluation of the list on July 18, 2008 and saw that the team was focused and moving forward in achieving outstanding success on the field.

I am again going to go over the high and lowpoints now after the season is over. I am no longer going to assign a letter grade to the options because this has been a totally “A” year in all aspects. There is no way I could see this coming, and the team took the region by storm in 2008. 

 

The blog today will focus on the items 6-10, and the logo unveiling last November in St. Petersburg, Florida at Straub Park.

 

 

 

As everyone might remember, 12 months ago we set out changing the basic style of the team with a logo change and a uniform retro-fitting. Gone was the old “TB” on the hat that had a ray centered beneath the “TB” symbol. In came a clean looking “TB” in a great marine blue color. Then you get to the uniforms that were streamlined into a more uniform design without the old “Rays” on the chest area of the uniform.

The uniforms went from a white and green basic jersey with blue pinstriping on the sleeves to a retro looking White and Blue model with a logo that popped with the odd shaped “R”, and the sunburst in the center of the logo blasting out for all to see. The team held a fantastic outdoor event to unveil the new look with most of the players coming in for the event.

The new design was met with some crtics wanting the old Rays look becuase it had a modern flair without being boring. Others were upset that the away jerseys would not have the “Tampa Bay” moniker blazen across the chest of the players anymore. It was replaced with the new logo “Rays” across the chest.

          

 

Other were debating why to let go of the entire past for the new look. One thing the Rays did leave “old” on their jerseys was the flying ray patch on the sleeve. The team decided to continue that tradition and  replaced the dark black and colorful ray with one that matched the teams new blue and white jerseys. All in all, the new look showed the team was trying to move beyond the loveable losers’ of the past and were hoping for a new attitude in Tampa Bay.

 

 

                

 

Starting with the bottom of the list at number 10, was the Akinora Iwamura must feel at home at second base.  To sya he did not do a superb job this year would be an insult. the guy went from a position where he has won Gold Gloves in Japan to a new position for the betterment of the team. Not only did he do it with grace and style, but he made himself a front runner for years at the position.

Iwamura was one of the people nominated for a Gold Glove this year at second in the AL. He only committed a handful errors all year long and ended up ranked 4th among AL second baseman in his first year ever at the position. He became a vital cog in the Rays double play combination working with Jason Bartlett like he has been playing to position all his life.

The hardwork and the determination of Iwamura to make his transition flawless was carried out to a “T”. Aki stood tall and in the pivot long to make sure the team got a chance to complete every double play in 2008. He was also instrumental in the field making countless great plays behind second and relaying the ball into home. Iwamura has found a new home at second base, and will be even better in 2009.

 

 

 

 Number 9 stated that catching had to hit a new high this year. Well, that will be an easy one. Dioner Navarro started the year off on fire and got hurt. When he returned, he stayed above the .300 mark well into the second half of the season before falling below that mark for the only time in 2008. Behind the plate he took more control and exercised his own playcalling alot this season.

But the action with Matt Garza in Texas in the ruffle on the mound and in the dugout finally put him on top. It showed that he had the heart and the determination to lead this team behind the dish and put his stamp on the team. With his new confidence at the plate translated perfectly to his time behind the mask.

For the season, His batting average for the year was only behind Minnesota’s Joe Mauer at the position in the AL. That is a huge change from the guy battling to stay above .191 during the first half of 2007. Navarro continued during the first half of 2008 getting better and better every game. He was rewarded with his first All-Star invite and was key to the tying and winning run for the AL in the game. He caught 8 innigs in that game and solidified his place among AL catchers with is performance.

 

         

 

Number 8  was about the 1-2-3 setup guys securing the game. Well, this one is a bit tricky. the Rays Bullpen showed a huge upswing in 2008, but the closer role was up in the air alot more than expected in the year. Troy Percival was signed to make a solid end to the Bullpen but went down numerous times during the season.

His back and knee did show the wear and tear of all his MLB years, and by the end of the season he was on the DL and did not even get posted to any of the Rays post season rosters. His health situation put the pressure on the young Rays and they responded brilliantly in most cases.

From J P Howell and Grant Balfour securing the 7th inning for the Rays nightly, to Dan Wheeler or even Jason Hammel being called on to put out the fires in late innings, the young squad held together and mixed and matched nightly to get the Rays the victory.

It was not your picture perfect way to run a Bullpen, but the Rays did make it happen and post one of the best turnaround years ever for a Bullpen. The young guys matured and got valuable experience, and the veterans stood tall and made the plays when they were needed in 2008.

 

                           

 

Number 7  was that the right-field guy has to be consisitant and kick butt.  You would have to define that a bit more to really decide if it was a successful year or a failure. I have it more at a banner year for finding the right guys finally, but it could have been a lot better organized.

Jonny Gomes and Eric Hinske got most of the early reps in right during the beginning of the year. With the trade for Gabe Gross, the Rays brought in a guy who had never been counted on like this to raise the bar for the team. Gross came in and put his defensive and offensive stamp on the position early.

Gross made countless great play in the field and became a electric guy at the plate. He hit a 436 foot homer on August 6th that just showed the improvements he had made with the Rays. Gross made a massive improvement to the position to the Rays before the trade dedeadline.

After the return of Rocco Baldelli, the right-field platooning took on a more effective mode. You had the defensive skills of both guys as  a plus in the field and had bats fron both sides of the plate to balle pitchers’. The Rays had a solid core in the last half of the season, and the addition of Baldelli proved amazing at the plate during the rest of the year and in the playoffs.

 

     

Number 6  was our prospects need to improve. This became a double-edged sword to the Rays in 2008. We saw guys like Elliot Johnson, Reid Brignac and Ben Zobrist come up and solidify the infield when needed, but the additon of these prospects did not make the difference for the Rays. Zobrist was the most consistant of the guys from the minors in coming in and making the job his in 2008.

Zobrist was being counted on to be the “go-to” guy in the Ray’s lineup in 2008. An early injury set him down and it took some time before he came back up and made his mark offensively this year for the team. He developed a offensive style that was not seen in his game before 2008.

Pitching saw Grant Balfour come back up and not back down an inch the rest of the season. Balfour came on and argued and grunted on the mound and held batter at bay most of the year. His willingness to not back away from heavy hitters made him a valued player in the Bullpen this year.  But the guy who made the entire minor league system tremble this season came up in September, and will not have to even think about the minors in 2009.

 

 

David Price was the Rays first selection in 2006. He had been annointed by many even before stepping on a MLB mound to be a phenom. Price did nothing to set that rumor to expectation down after his stint against the New York Yankees in New York. Price got better and better every time he hit the mound and became a inspiration to the team.

To out this into prospective, the Rays had enough confidence in this rookie in the ALCS to put him on the mound to finish off  Game 7 against the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox. Price performed brilliantly and helped paced the Rays during the playoffs.

The rest of the prospect system got a bit muddled in 2008. Desmond Jennings went down with an injury and saw limited time this season in the minors. Jake McGee went down with an arm injury and had to have Tommy John surgery. But even with these high ceiling guys going down, players like Fernando Perez came out of no where and made you know that the Rays prospect system is alive and well.

 

 

So here is the first of 2 end of the year goal realization blogs.  Goals 6-10 were finalized today and I will write about 1-5 tomorrow. All in all you have to admit that the Rays saw a increase in every aspect of the game in 2008. Every player on the team stepped up in the season and made it magical in their own ways. 

 2009 will be a year of expectations and the either success or failure to improve over 2008. It will be a harder road for the Rays in 2009. People will be gunning for the team and will not be broadsided anymore. That in itself might be the biggest challenge for the team next year. Living up to the expectations of the local fans and media after a darling season.

 

A Trio of Tidbits: Miller, Baldelli and MLB Network

 

 

                                  

 

It is being reported that former Rays reliever Trever Miller will complete his signing with the St Louis Cardinals today. The former lefty specialist for the Rays will have to complete a physical before the deal can be deemed official. Miller, who was in his second stint with the Rays was the  reliever on the mound when the Rays  clinched their first postseason berth in franchise history. Miller, along with team mate J P Howell were the top 2  lefties in the  MLB in preventing inherited runners’ from scoring.

 

Howell and Miller were the top two left-handers in this category in the Majors. On Aug. 3 against Detroit, Miller recorded his first win and first decision since Sept. 30, 2006 at Atlanta, snapping a Major League-record streak of 121 straight appearances without receiving a decision.

 

The Cardinals would be Miller’s seventh team. He made his Major League debut with the Tigers in 1996.  Miller has been a great tool against left-handed batters in his career and posted an overall ERa of 4.15 last year for the Rays, but was used mostly as a late inning lefty situational pitcher for the team. He got left-handers to hit only .235 against him.

 

Miller will not have to be follicle challenged with the Cardinals. As you might remember, Trever used his think hair to support one of the better Rayhawks on the team. His hair was sculpted by his wife Para, who also did a similar model on their young son to imitate Dad’s hairdo.

 

Miller was very active in the community for the Rays, participating in numerous hispital visits and always chatting with fans before the games. He was a slightly introverted guy who had a soft spot for kids and enjoyed talking about baseball.  Miller will be missed in the Rays Bullpen in 2009.

 

Miller is the first of the Rays 4 free agents who has resigned with another club beside the Rays. The deal is for 2 year.  I wish him luck and hope that his 2009 goes well for him and his family. He will be missed down the right-field line by us in Section 138.

 

 

 

  

The Hot Stove action is starting to heat up for another one of the free agents from the 2008 Rays roster. Rocco Baldelli’s name has been mentioned alot in the Boston newspapers as one of the options for the 4th outfielder for the team. It would be a bit of a homecoming for Baldelli, who is from Rhode Island.

 

One of the obstacles standing in the way of his signing might be the amount of time between starts he may need to recover from his fatigue syndrome that he has suffered since the beginning of  Spring Training in 2008. It was thought early in the season that Baldelli might have played his last baseball because of the ailment, but medication and a change in his daily lifestyle has made Baldelli at least a part-time player.

 

 

                         

 

 

If Rocco were to sign outside of the Rays’ organization, it would be an end to a bitter-sweet relationship with the team that drafted him in trhe first round in 2000. It would also be bitter-sweet to lose one of the most popular players in the Rays short history to another team, hopefully outside of the American League East division.

 

His year did not begin until a series against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in August. In that first game, Baldelli made an impressive play in right-field coming in for a low floundering fly ball to make a great shoe-lace catch for the Rays. He also exploded at the plate hitting his first hit since May 2007 in the Rays win over the Seattle Mariners.

 

        

 

Baldelli was instrumental in the Rays success in the post season. He came on in countless games and got needed hits, and some times even hit a home run to secure a win for the Rays. But one of his memorible moments might be in Game 2 of the World Series when Rocco sprinted all the way from first base and went home on the play.

 

Baldelli was out at the plate, but the collision with Phillies catcher, Carlos Ruiz made the front cover of Sports Illustrated for the effort. If this was one of your last momments in the sun Rocco, let me tell you, it was shining bright and clear that night at the Trop.

 

 

                                Logo for the MLB Network

 

MLB Network is set to begin its operation on January 1, 2009 ,and will be a television specialty channel, primarily owned by Major League Baseball,  The Network is se to begin broadcast into over 50 million homes in the United States.  Cable Providers, which include ,Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner and Cox Communications have minority ownership of the new network, with MLB retaining a controlling two-thirds share.

 

The channel is building its state-of-the-art headquarters in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood and moving into MSNBC’s old studios in nearby Secaucus, New Jersey. Profitability is expected by the end of 2009, according to industry sources. And by 2015, revenue from cable subscriber fees and advertising is projected to soar beyond $210 million, with a net value easily exceeding $1 billion.

 

Major League Baseball is the last major North American professional sports league and major professional sport overall to launch its own network. NBA TV dates back to 1999, the NFL Network to 2003, and the US version of the NHL Network to 2007, However, MLBN will have the most households of these four networks when it launches, largely because of the financial participation of the cable systems.

 

MLB Network expects to carry 26 live baseball games in 2009 and Saturday night is the most likely time slot these games will air in. Other early programming will include portions of the 2009 World Baseball Classic as well as highlights, studio programming, international and development league games, and archival material. Also in the works is a nightly news and highlight show patterned after ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.

 

The Network has already begun hiring background reporters and announcers for the new programming. Trenni Kusnierek, who was the Brewers’ former sideline reporter will serve as a network reporter in 2009.  He was previously employed by the Fox Sports Network in Wisconsin in 2008. Hazel Mae will also join the  MLB reporting ranks for the new network, coming from the studio as the host of Sportsdesk on NESN.

 

Matt Vasgersian, who is the former San Diego Padres’ announcer  in another of the well known baseball voices to grace the new network. Vasgersian will be the voice of the MLB Network, and well as the lead host of both the MLB Tonight show and the off season Hot Stove show for the network.  Joining Vasgersian in the sutdio will be former YES Network announcer and former MLB player, Al Leiter on both programs.

 

Coming on as a Network analyst will be former player and ex-ESPN staffer Harold Reynolds, to also participate on the MLB Tonight  show and help sort out the trades and signings on the Hot Stove program for viewers.

 

Ex-Tampa Bay Rays analyst and player, Joe Magrane has also been signed by the network. His position has not been defined yet by MLB, but might be in consideration for the analyst position on the 26 broadcasts by the network in 2009.

 

Magrane is a funny and very colorful commentator and could lend a nice twist to the usual bland broadcasting by television networks.  He has been doing Fox Sports Network and Rays Television Network since 1998. Magrane recently did the studio color commentary for NBC Sports of  the Olympics baseball tournament in China.

 

This season, he was nomintaed for the Ford Frick award, which decides the boradcasters eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for his work with the Rays.

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Right-field Wish List

 

 

Starting today, Free Agents all over Major League Baseball will begin to show their wares and try to entice teams to take a chance on them in 2009…………or beyond. I decided to do a blog today about my wish list for a right-fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. Now take into consideration that most of these players will not be traded by their teams to us, or might not even be on the block at the Trade Deadline in August, but I just want to think outside the box here for a bit.


Some of the guys on my list are former players that we have tried to pry from their ex-teams like Jason Bay ( Red Sox ), Xaivier Nady ( Yankees ), and Jermaine Dye ( White Sox). All of these players were being considered by the Rays in the last 2 years as possible options to our right-field problem. Jermaine Dye was also being courted by the Rays before he signed with the Chicago While Sox on his multi-year deal. Bay and Nady were under heavy consideration during last season’s Trade Deadline and they slipped out of the Ray’s hands and into the pocket of American League East rival teams.

There are several ex-Rays also being considered more for their past glory than for what they might still have in their tanks. Players such as Jose Guillen (Royals) is considered off limits right now, but might be available again in August. Ex-Rays farmhands like Emil Brown (A’s) and Ryan Freel ( Reds) could become available for the right collection of trade options. The Atlanta Braves even have 2 ex-Rays that might be in consideration since both have shown that they do have power and are healthy now. Matt Diaz and Greg Norton did not leave the Rays on their own terms, but that was also before the present front office was in control and it might not have been for money reasons at the time.

Randy Winn ( Giants) has always intrigued me as a guy who would come back and play here, with the right conditions. He loved hitting here and could be a great asset in the right-field corner with his arm. He can also still play a mean center-field in case of an injury. I have even thought of a fantasy trade where B J’s brother Justin comes here and plays right-field to make a really broadcasters’ nightmare outfield tandem of Upton and Upton, side by side.

But there is a huge amount of great athletes out there who could come here and be a contributing part of this squad. I even though about a few ex-Rays troublemakers who made the Rays’ lives a living hell when they played against them. Players like Reed Johnson (Cubs), Gabe Kapler ( Brewers), Brandon Boggs ( Rangers), and Ben Francisco ( Indians). These guys would be like Jose Cruz Junior and be taken out of the loop to terrorize our pitchers’ and become a threat for out opposition.

Then I thought about some wily veterans who might be going for their last contract, or major move. People like Ken Griffey Jr ( White Sox), or maybe even Garrett Anderson ( Angels). Both have talent still in the tank and could be a great leadership role model as well as great player for the team. Then I thought about players who hurt the Rays in 2008 that might be a great fit on this team, like Ryan Ludwick ( Cards), Matt Murton, who when he was with the Cubs almost cost us a sweep at the home (A’s). And how can you forget Hunter Pence who had a cannon in right-field and a rocket-launcher on his shoulder to help the Astros take 2 from the Rays at home in Inter-league play.

But then you got some of the up-and coming guys like Chris Young ( Diamondbacks), Reggie Willits ( Angels), and Reggie Abercrombie ( Astros), who are starting to make a name for themselves and still have potential to burn in their tanks. Power bats like Cory Hart ( Brewers) and Matt Kemp ( Dodgers) who can change a game on 1 swing of their bats. Most of these players ares till under team control for a period of time and will take a good selection of players to even be considered, but this is my dream sequence……………so let’s press on.

 

 

The you have to old veterans like Bobby Abreu, the first Rays; field player  taken in the Expansion Draft. Daily I try and think of what this guy could have done in right-field for the Rays in the early years. Would he be here today, probably not, but it is a fantasy that would have been a pure joy to have one night.

Then I think about the little scrappers that a running throughout the outfields now. Sprinters like Lastings Milledge ( Nationals), Cory Ross ( Marlins ),Nyje Morgan ( Pirates) who are never out of range of balls hit into the gaps. Even guys like Delwyn Young ( Dodgers) and Lou Montanez ( Orioles) come to mind when I think of deceptive speed and power at the plate.

But there are still other big names that I have not even mentioned yet because of the cost of obtaining them for years to come. Guys like Pat Burrell ( Phillies), who would be a monster in right at the Trop., but is looking for his last contract and it will have big numbers on it.

 

Or guys still under contract with their teams like Jason Michaels ( Pirates), who are great hitters and fielders, but might not have a price on them right now that is obtainable for the Rays. Or even players who have a mystery about them because they play so well at times, then disappear for a while.

Guys like Jay Payton ( Orioles ), who have such promise and never seem to get over that hump when it counts. Or even Juan Rivera ( Angels) a guy who plays his heart out, but is not a top caliber player anymore. But you reward his heart and determination knowing that you will get 110 percent daily. Now I am going to list my personal 3 outfielders I would really consider trading for hard and heavy in 2008 for the 2009 right-field vacancy:

  1. Jayon Werth ( Phillies). It will never play out, but this guy is as clutch as they come right now in baseball. In the 2nd half of the season he has been on fire and in the playoffs he just re-loaded and kept firing bullets to the outfield seats.

  2. Marcus Thames ( Tigers). I do not know what it is about this guy, but I think he has a cannon for an arm and is truly one of the better breaking ball hitters in the American League. Considering he can also go on home run tears, that is not a bad problem to have with your right-fielder.

  3. Ryan Spilborghs ( Rockies). Here is another guy who I think is about to hit the potential meter in a big way. He is adjusting great and will be a All-Star caliber player in the next year or so for whoever he plays for…………..he is a true gamer.

 

So here are just some of the guys and their teams that are on my fantasy list for right-field for the Rays. You never know with this team. They could just rely on rookie Fernando Perez and Gabe Gross to supplement the outfield until later in Spring Training and someone might pop off a roster and play right into the Rays hands. But nothing is in stone in baseball. Remember a few years ago when we signed Danny Bautista to play right-field and he retired before even playing 1 regular season game for the team.


You also forget that starting today, Rocco Baldelli will get his first look at what is out there and what extent people want him to play on their teams. He is still not out of the Rays’ plans, and you could still see him back again with a incentive-laden contract and a possible platoon position in right-field. The next 10 or so weeks should be fun for everyone. I know I am going to be dreaming of a repeat in 2009 all Winter long.

2008 Rays Team Photo……..No Where Else but Here

 

 

Finally I got my picture from theTampa Bay Rays today from the day that I took my  Team Photo with the 2008 American League Pennant winning Tampa Bay Rays.

 

All year long I had this weird feeling about this years team, but  not until the Rays Radio Pre-game host Rich Hererra started calling it a “Miracle Summer”  did it dawn on me how special it could become in 2008. It seemed different, but I could not place the vibe in the air at the time.

 

I have been wanting to work in the Rays clubhouse for about 3 years. I missed the fun and the charades that went along with being in a loose locker room. Some of my fondest moments happened in locker rooms on teams I played with in high school, college and beyond.  It is that feeling when you step into the room that this was your peaceful and energetic focuepoint. That this locker room was the beginnig of the whole sha-bang. There is truly nothing like the spirit and the bond  that pulls together by a team on a streak, or a winning season.

 

                                      

 

Sitting there watching them come out in Feb. 2008 at the St. Petersburg  Namoli complex for the first workout of the Spring, I had a gut feeling it was going to be one to remember. I yelled over to Chris Westmoreland, the Rays Clubhouse Manager and shook his hand and just chatted a bit about the upcoming year. The guys as they came out to the fresh mowed grass had a different air about them. Something felt different about this workout, and about 2008 in general.

 

A few days earlier, the Rays had their annual Fan Fest at the Trop., and as ususal I was there bright and early and checking out all the auctions and the items up for sale around the stadium. One thing caught my eye. “A photo opportunity with the 2008 team during the Team Photo Day.”

 

I jumped at the opportunity to jot down my name and have a chance to be positioned in a keepsake between these great baseball players.  I went about my day and came back a few times before putting down my final bid and heading home for the day. I got a call the following Monday that I had won the auction and they would call me when the team had a opportunity to all get together and take the picture. That day turned out to be May 10, 2008.

 

 

I got out there around 3 pm on that day to get down to field level and get a  white Rays jersey and chat a with a few of the guys I knew before everyone got into place for the pictures. I took these pictures as we were getting set into position for the photo.  As the guys came out to the field, a few saw me sitting there and were laughing and wondering how I could of wrangled this opportunity. I had been the Pepsi rep for the team for several years and had worked around the clubhouse in the spring and during the year. Everyone who knew me knows how much this baseball team means to me personally. 

 

Chris Westmoreland and Dave Barr, the Rays  Strength and Conditioning guru came over and shook my hand before PR Direcotr Rick Vaugh started arranging everyone for  the photo. By that time the guys were all chatting amongst themselves and just enjoying the moment. But little did all we know just how special this photo would end up meaning not just to me, but to each and every one of the team on that stage.

 

 

I was a bit nervous before getting out there and getting into position. Not because of the guys around me, I knew enough of them to know that they are a great group of guys and would make this picture a true treasure for my collection.  I had seen alot of these guys come up as rookies ans now they were taking on verteran leadership roles for the first time and truly leading this club by example.

 

But what I truly found amazing was a few facts surrounding the picture that if you did not know the team well, or the players, you might miss the subtle differences in the picture.

 

 

So I had a few minutes to just take in all the surrounding before getting into the photo and saw some of these funny situations:

 

1) Usually in a team photo you try and put the tall trees in the back row or above the height-challenged members of your roster. In the back row today were Rays’ back-up catcher, Shawn Riggans and Reliever Al Reyes. Both are over 6 feet, but seem a bit short compared to the height of  Reliever Gary Glover on their left and Outfielder Rocco Baldelli on their right. So becuase of this height ripple, it looked like a wave going across the front row and rolling up and down.

 

                    

 

2)  One of my favorites, Rocco Baldelli was in this picture on May 10th with a full on Grizzly Adams look-alike beard. The beard was a wild look for Rocco. But since he was the disabled list at this time, he used it as his own measure of coping with his situation. Little did wqe know at the time to what extent Rocco would play in this teams playoff push.

 

3) If you notice the two groups on the left and right of the players, you have the Clubhouse crew to the left, and the teams’ trainers and physical staff to rhe right. And among the characters to the right is Kevin Barr. He is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the team, and refused to wear the  dark carolina blue polo tops that the rest of the staff wore that day. He stands out real good in his white top and black long pants, while the medical staff wore their dark blue tops and tan shorts.

 

Kevin is not a fan of the University of North Carolina, and it would be a personal insult to wear those colors.  Kevin, I understand, you could never get me to ever wear any FSU colors even on a threat of death. You sometime have to make a moral decision on things. He stands out real good in his white top and black long pants, while the medical staff wore their dark blue tops and tan shorts in the picture,

 

4) in the  official Team Photo, but not with the team much longer after the photo were: Rays reliever Kurt Birken and Elliot Johnson.

 

 

So then it is my time to get situated in the photo somewhere in the middle of everyone. You can definitely tell where I am in the picture, because I did something that intially looked a bit dumb at the time, but it makes it easier to find me because of it.

I have heard in the final picture that I am making into a 11X16 photo with a lettering spelling out “2008 American League Champions”  I will look the same as everyone else.

What I did was cross my hands in front of me instead of behind me in the picture. Yes, that is me right behind Rays Manager Joe Maddon, who was laughing that I  must have paid someone off  to get that close to him. But he knows me from the “Maddons’ Maniac” group and we have chatted many times in rightfield during BP.

 

They decided to put me between Akinora Iwamura and Willy Aybar for the photo. Great choice considering we are all three about 5 10-ish and would make a better height blend for the photo. To get into that spot I had to cross over the feet of Jason Bartlett, Evan Longoria and Gabe Gross. The chairs in front of the risers were right on the shins of the guys in the second row and it was a tight space to get in there for the picture.

 

As I was passing by them, my Bullpen buddies Scott Cursi and Bobby Ramos were giving me a bad time as to not step on their toes since the guys had to play that night.

 

As if to curse me, I then stepped on Evan Longoria’s right big toe. I did not hurt him, but went gentle into position for the photo. Skip, the team photo guy then took about 3 picture before I pulled myself out of the picture for the official team photo in the media guide.

 

I did not get in that photo, but I do have a wall photo that is as orignal as the guys in the picture. We might never have a team like this in Tampa Bay again. Not because of talent or event ability, but the personalities from the Coaching staff up to our closer was one of the best I have ever seen on a field.

 

This team not only were impressive on the field, they were even more impressive as to how they reacted to each other off the field.  This photo might have cost me a bit in money, but the experience was priceless.

 

And I know it took some time to get this photo finally up and posted, but Tricia Johnson, who works in the Community Relations department for the Rays did a great job hunting down the photo and getting it to me. She tried to get it to me by e-mail, snail mail, and finally we just put it on a disc and I came and got it after the World Series. I love the photo and the memory will be one that will be told over barstools for a long long time.

 

It is a memory not only of spending time with a team of champions, but watching friends mingle as they took a photo that would be priceless in the annuals of our team’s history.

 

 

 

Is Baldelli Waiting on Rays?

 

 

 

The Tampa Bay Rays hope to start talks soon on a new contract with right fielder-designated hitter Rocco Baldelli. Recent trade rumors have surfaced that Baldelli, a free agent has been linked to several teams. These teams includes the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, who defeated the Tampa Bay Rays for their first World series since 1980.

Baldelli, who was selected by the Rays in the 1st round of the 2002 draft, hit a solo homer in Game 5 of the World Series, and was one of this season’s  MLB’s most inspirational stories.The 27-year old returned to play part time on Aug. 10 after missing 240 games due to mitochondrial disorder, which slows muscle recovery and causes extreme fatigue. For the regular season, Baldelli hit  only .200 during the 2008 playoffs, but in the postseason he posted 2 homers and 6 RBI’s for the Rays, and had a slugging percentage of .500 for the entire playoff series for the Rays.

During his limited time with the Rays in 2008, Baldelli hit .263 in 80 at bats, and hit 4 homers and 13 RBI while posting a .475 slugging percentage during his limited  appearances in 2008. 

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Rocco on and off the field,” Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Thursday.

 

        

 

“We do have a special relationship. To be a part of what he’s gone through, and see him at the lowest of moments, I think, has created that personal relationship. I’m sure we’ll talk in the next few days.” In March, Baldelli thought his career might be over because of his physical problems. He went on two minor league rehab assignments before rejoining the team.

Rather than exercise an option for 2009, the Rays bought out the final three years of Baldelli’s contract for $4 million at the end of spring training.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Baldelli said. “This is the only place that I’ve ever played in. I’m very comfortable here. Everyone’s been very supportive through all this stuff that I’ve been dealing with. I’m thankful for it.

 

        

 

“(Some) teams would have probably turned their back on me when I was going through a lot of these troubles. It is a business. I love playing here, and I’m just going to wait and see what happens.”

 

If you would like to see a blog I wrote earlier in the month about the Rocco Baldelli Press Conference, and the complications of his fatigue syndrome. Please consult the archives on my blog site and read about the syndrome and the huge change that medication and his personal aggressiveness for change made him a MLB caliber player again for the Tampa Bay Rays.

 

 

Rays Hot Stove Pot Beginning to Simmer

 

When the World series ended with the upstart  Tampa Bay Rays losing to the Philadelphia Phillies, it was the first bit of heat to the offseason’s Hot Stove predicitions and rumors. The Rays quickly made announcements on declining options and granting free agency to 4 of this years Rays’ players that helped the team land in the Fall classic.

First to hit the free agent market was Tampa Bay Rays’ mainstay Rocco Baldelli, who had his 2009 option actually turned down in the early atages of 2008 after he was diagnoised with fatigue syndrome. Baldelli still might sign back with the only club he has ever played for maybe more out of loyalty for all the years and times they took to secure his health and might even give a nice “hometown” discount to the Rays.

 

 

Baldelli has had a series of injuuries from Tommy Johns’ surgery, knee surgery, and his latest set back that the Rays stood behind him and kept him on their roster. Some other teams might have cut loose years ago, but the Rays felt they needed to get Baldelli and themselves on steady ground before committing to a future deal. Both sides will probable settle on an incentive laced agreement with playing time and offensive statistics playing heavy on the deal.

 

 

Eric Hinske came to the Rays and provided ample protction on the offensive side for the club while they searched for a right-handed bat for rightfield. With the renewed health of Baldelli, it gave Hinske less time in the field, and he was primarily a bench player after the trading deadline. Hinske will probably noy be with the club in 2009, and will seek more playing time either in the outfield or at third base on another squad.

 

 

 

One of the fee agent signees’ of 2008 that will not be back with the club might be Cliff Floyd. It was discovered during the World Series during Game 3 that Floyd had injured his shoulder in that contest while batting. He tried and rehab the shoulder before Game 4, but the Rays decided to de-activate Floyd and put Hinske on the 25-man World Series roster.

This injury was first thought to be career ending for Floyd, but recent reports have come out that if he opts for surgery, he might be ready in time for 2009 Spring Training. By refusing his $ 2.75 million dollar 2009 club option, it frees up money for the club to pursue another DH candidate for the Rays in 2009. Floyd has not stated if he intends to pursue the Rays as a free agent again in 2009, but he will have the surgery to repair his Labium tear in the coming weeks.

 

                                 

A club option that was turned down for Rays reliever Trever Miller might have more than a few heads turing or scratching this week. The team had a 2009 club option that would have paid him $ 2 million in salary for the season. The move might be a financial one, or it might be a sign that the Rays might want to look elsewhere for their lefty specialist. There have been rumors that the Rays still like miller and might resign him to a reduced contract before Spring Training.

Another rumor flying across the Internet is that the Rays are going to make a run at Atlanta Braves’ left-handed reliever Will Ohman, who the Rays tried to trade for duting the trade deadline in August of 2008. Because of the Rays intense involvement in trying to get Ohman earlier in the season, this might be a precursor to signing him.

 

 

 

Then there is the rumor starting to gain steam that the Rays might part with leftfielder, and 2-time All Star, Carl Crawford in a trade with the Colorado Rockies for Matt Holliday. Crawford is about to hit the high dollar marks for the Rays, and by trading him and maybe a  major league ready pitching prospect, the team might be able to free enough salary space to afford the power bat of Holliday in rightfield for the Rays.

Alot of this depends on what the Rockies will ask for in return for Holliday. I think that a package with Crawford and maybe even a Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine might be attractive to the Rockies. They would get a replacement for Holliday, and get an upgrade in their starting rotation immediately.

I will keep my ear to the ground and see what happens with this rumor. Do not forget that the Rays saved up to 2.5 million by refusing their two club options for 2009, and relieving themselves of Crawford’s 2009 salary of $ 8.25 million dollars would free up about $ 10.75 million. Hollidays 2009 salary is set at about $ 13.5 million dollars.

 

 

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