Results tagged ‘ Seth McClung ’

Rays Hope to Rock, Not get Rolled by the Indians

 
 
Mark Duncan/AP
What is it about Cleveland that turns the Tampa Bay Rays sunny side-up optimism into an instant shade of of impending dread and doom? That somehow this “City by the Lake” can twist any form of Rays positive momentum and watch it simultaneously flush itself into the neighboring Cuyahoga river. That is rusting former manufacturing center  can crush a Rays winning streak instantly  like an aluminum can just by having the Rays set their feet on the tarmac at Cleveland-Hopkins Airport.

This town has a Indian curse on the Rays. For some reason, Cleveland puts the Rays instantly on your heels. In recent years, the Rays have known Progressive Field/Jacobs Field to be the place where Rays wins go to die.
Somehow this scenic downtown stadium has given the Rays multiple chances to come out on the winning end, but just as quickly, the grey omnipresent urban landscape seems to rapidly impose its civic and emotional will upon the game.

This is a town where not only the two-legged creatures who walks its heavily constructed streets cheer for the Indians, but Mother Nature surely has an Indians hat on her armoire. It is a town that has seen known the Cuyahoga river aflame back in 1969, to the baseball Fall infestation of the midgets( insects, not little people)  that has borne more imposing urban legends towards the unique mystic of this ballpark. Combine the above items with the defensive gems by a partisan legion of Indian faithful seagulls who play havoc with the opposing outfield players, and both a human and animal home field advantage.

This locale pulls at your sense of reality by the macabre and unexplained happens that dwell within this stadium. Teams seem to come here with hearty winning expectations, but leave scratching their heads wondering how events unfolded to enhance their demise. But this Blue collar town just seems to find a way to win, especially when the Rays venture into town.


How many of us Rays fans remember the enthusiasm and the excitement we all shared going into the 2008 All Star break with the Rays riding high in the American League East. A simple 4-game stop in Cleveland seemed to be a mire stepping stone towards the Playoffs. But immediately, the Cleveland curse immersed the Rays and they lost all four games by a combined score of 31-8.

Funny how the Rays come into tonight with a 57-37 mark, almost identical to the 2008 mark( 55-39 ) after they left the “Sixth City” at the All-Star break that season.


This is the same ballpark that saw Rays starter David Price back on May 25,2009 last only 3.1 innings after his Rays team built a 10-run lead. But in the bottom of the fourth inning that night, the Indians lead by the tom-tom beats silently took this “assumed” Rays victory away. The Rays went down in defeat after the Indians scored the last 11 runs of the game to post a 11-10 victory. Interesting enough, the Rays scored more runs (10 ) in this first game of the 4-game series than they would in the next three games combined ( 9 ).

Can any Rays fan tell me the starting pitcher of the last Rays win in the stadium nestled near the Cuyahoga? You have to go back a bit into Rays history for that special nugget. Back to a time when the team wore more green and white than Carolina blue or Rays blue.

 
Ron Schwane/AP

It was suring the era of “Big Red” Seth McClung who started the 158th game of the 2005 season for the Rays on Sunday, September 28, and threw a 4-hitter for his 7th win of the season, with Rays closer Danys Baez getting his 41st save during that 1-0 win.


The win by McClung also secured the last time the Rays have won both a series (3-1), and the seasonal series ( 5-1 ) within an earshot sounds of the rumbling tom-tom drum. During a previous 2005 visit from August 12-15,2005, the Rays posted their last 3-game sweep of the Indians on their home hunting grounds. In their 13 Major League Baseball seasons, the Rays are a combined 12-38 when they enter the city limits of Cleveland.

Even though the Indians have ambushed and defeated the Rays in their home hunting grounds in 17-straight home games since “Big Red’s” last stand on the Cleveland mound, there has always been a chance to change history and post a Rays victory. Tonight is the first time since last season’s shameful outing that Price takes the Cleveland mound again.

Redemption and revenge might be in the back of his mind, but giving his team a chance to win is firmly implanted in his psyche. Both Price and the Rays have come a long way since that game.


 

Does the Rays Republic again collectively have to remember that inspirational comedic speech by Bluto in “Animal House” to firmly reminds each and every one of us that “when the going get tough, the tough get going”. Do we have to play that usual ninth inning Raysvision inspirational video segment in our own minds subconsciously before the game to get us in the right mood to again take to the Indians home grounds and produce a winning outcome?


Or maybe we have to remember that streaks come to an end, and that this season’s Rays squad holds a 4-1 advantage already this season against Cleveland, and with a victory we can guarantee the Rays first seasonal series win against the Indians since 2005. In a few hours, we find out if history within Progressive Field will repeat itself, or of the Rays are ready to write a new chapter to book of winning in this Cleveland home field saga. Can’t wait to read the ending.

Remembering the Rays and Gameworks Events

 
Gameworks2009 | www.RaysRenegade.com
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Over the past couple of Tampa Bay Rays seasons that Rays Season Ticket holders have seen some of their past ” advantages” going by the wayside. We used to get one of every promotional item, plus had an end-of-the-season Team Photo Day with the Rays players to get memorable photos to put on our face book pages or computer screensavers. We were a bit spoiled at times and got used to getting the “star” treatment from the Season Ticket Sales Department at every turn.

 
But in the last several years the goodies have gotten pushed into bag “A” or Bag “B”, with limited promotional items, plus the omission of most of the kid’s items tend to make a few of my nephews and distant cousins sad that they could not get special Rays toys for their Christmas stockings. But with the recent closure of a Centro Ybor institution, another Rays budding tradition is left by the wayside…never to happen again.

 
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When the Gameworks family-friendly arcade closed their doors after spending 10 years upon the landscape of the small cultural center of Ybor City. So I want to take today’s blog posting to remember some of the events and times I remember at the Centro Ybor landmark that I will miss more for the faint echoes of young Rays fans and their familes taking a night out with Rays teammates and celebrating as a true Rays Republic.

I can still remember attending a long ago Rays Christmas party for local youth from the Boys and Girls Club at Gameworks where ex-Rays Toby Hall and Seth McClung spent most of the afternoon playing carnival type games and race simulation events with the kids laughing, smiling and giggling at the big players trying to keep up with them both on the screen and running around the arcade area. With presents and food and games galore, I do not think anyone, including the Rays players went home without an ear-to-ear smile on their faces.
 
The Gameworks arcade became a Rays Season Ticket holder staple during the Rays “magical” 2008 season when the Rays Sales department tried out the distant East Tampa arcade as a way to have both fans and players celebrate the Rays season by attending an invitation-only party. I still remember during the August 2008 get-together when Rays outfielder Justin Ruggiano came out to the special event even though an hour earlier he was informed by Rays Manager Joe Maddon that he was being shipped out to Triple-A Durham in the next morning. But Ruggiano and Rays pitcher Edwin Jackson both played pool with me in the back pool room and fan and players both meshed together for one night through fun, laughter and a little bit of slick pool stick work
 

 
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But the scene that still stays deep within my mind is not the photo of me helping myself to the yellow chocolate sauce fountain, but of Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes holding court at the end of the bar just to the left as you entered the arcade. Gomes was in hid element that night, shaking hands and hugging friends, plus raising a toast or two to the Rays success. And hidden just a few feet behind Gomes was Maddon who was sitting there with several fans discussing all kinds of things besides baseball and seeming to really enjoy himself. But the best part was seeing Rays players like Scott Kazmir playing an NBA video game with a younger Rays fans and getting his booty kicked, but loving every minute of it.

 

And the 2009 event was a standing room only affair with almost double the crowd, and double the fun as most of the Rays players from that day came out including every member of the Rays rotation. From Matt Garza trying to be slick and getting beaten time after time on the Dance, Dance Revolution machine, to Grant Balfour’s fiancee’ kicking all comers’ brains-in on the Dance, Dance Revolution machine, including reliever Randy Choate. It was a great time where fans and players got to mingle and bring some of that special chemistry that Rays have with their fans.
 

And maybe it is true that all good things come to an end sometimes, and that you got to truly treasure your moments within the game of baseball for the future telling of great tales and adventures. And you can bet Gomes, Kazmir and Jackson have taken these memories of Gameworks with them as they left for other Major League Baseball venues, and hoped that their new teams would also embark on these same types of great inter-mingling player/fan activities.

 
Raysbaseball.com

It is a time I that is near and dear to my heart, because as an ex-football player, I always cherished these special times with the team’s fans to not only take photos and talk about other things outside of baseball, but to show the “human” side of ourselves to those same fans.

Sometimes the lines get muddled between the green outer wall of the Trop and fans and player develop misconceptions on themselves and their interaction with the fans.

But this Rays team is certainly one of the most open and fan-friendly teams I have ever seen around baseball. They respect the way the fans support and try and use noise either by cowbells or their voices to show audible support for the team. And the many home-made or professionally-made signs by Rays fans show they have their players back.

 
Some say that the Gameworks staff could not update and bring new technologies and gaming machines into the establishment fast enough with the recent gaming explosion brought on my X-Box, PS-3 and Wii systems. That the gaming community could play just as sophisticated games at home and did not need to venture out into the video arcades anymore for their gaming fix. But with the locked doors at the Gameworks location came the end of another Rays era.
 

Who can forget the Rays mascot Raymond sitting in a race car simulator racing against younger fans, or seeing Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler with his two boys enjoying the multiple games and interacting with young Rays fans . Something you wish could stay the same forever. Something you just do not want to see change, but that is life. And you can bet the Rays Sales staff is eagerly trying to piece together another great event in the not-to-distant future where the Rays and their fans can also cheer, laugh and enjoy each other away from the field of play.
 
 
 
BTW, This is my 750th MLBlogs.com posting. Can you tell I really do love writing (lol).

 
 
 

Lefties are Right for the Rays

 


Ed Zurga / AP

After tonight’s game Dewayne Staats of the Rays Television Network informed us that Rays leftie J P Howell tied a Tampa Bay Rays record by saving all three games in the three game series against the Kansas City Royals.  Add onto this the fact he tied that record with the Rays ex-closer Troy Percival and you see just how unusual and special this was for both Howell and the Rays. Add another layer of awesomeness to the record is the fact it is the first time a Rays Bullpen member had ever done it in the Major League park.

Not the Rays past relievers like Roberto Hernandez, Danys Baez, Seth McClung or even Esteban Yan had the chance to take three from an opponent in a major league park. Percival made his mark back in 200 in a series against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Disney complex, not an approved MLB park. Sure the series was moved there for a three game series to promote the Rays culture into the center of the state, but how many people remember before we took our balls and bats and went to Montgomery, Orlando was our Double-A home.

But here I go rambling off the page. What I want to stress here is that before Howell and Randy Choate made their marks saving  14 total games so far in 2009, the Rays Bullpen has not has such a distinctive “leftie” feel to it. That is not to mean that in 2010 the Rays will feature a “rightie” specialist instead of the usual leftie guy. Heck, I think 2009 is thew first time in team history that we have some legitimate left-handers not named Miller who can toss the ball effectively for the Rays.

To illustrate this, right before the All Star break Howell surrendered his first earned run since April 23, 2009.  And even during that slight moment of vulnerability, the Rays lefties both had a bit of trouble for the first time this season.  Overall, the entire Rays bullpen has thrown to 2.34 ERA since their implosion for 9 runs during that must forget game in Cleveland on May 25th. Even with their moments of normalcy this season, the Rays relievers are currently tied  for the best Bullpen ERA with the Boston Red Sox Bullpen with a 3.35 ERA in the American League.  And not too shabby is the fact that places them within the top 3 Bullpen ERA in baseball right now.

But this blog is about the guy who seem to not get the right levels of respect for what they do. I understand this totally being a leftie in everything but throwing myself. Society tries to change you the minute you pick up a pencil or ball and throw with the southpaw grip. But within time, if the teachers and coaches nurture the leftie, he can become a wanted man at the higher levels of baseball. And right now the Rays have two of the better examples of the leftie revolution in Howell and Choate. Both of them have been magical this season, and Choate has done it at the time the Rays needed a viable option when Brian Shouse got injured.

But at the forefront of all of this is Howell, who could have given up after having a disastrous career as a starter and gone onto other things in his life. But he took a chance and became one of those valued leftie relievers as has grown into one of the most confident and effective of that often ridiculed bunch. Coming into todays game, Howell holds onto a 2.01 ERA and has now converted his last 7 save opportunities.  Before he took the mound again today against his former team, he had only surrendered one earned run to them in his last 16.2 innings.



Chris O’Meara / AP

Except for an unusual Howell outing on July 8th against the Oakland A’s where he let 3 earned runs score against him, before that contest he had a 17 appearance scoreless streak from May 31st until July 8, 2009.  But the real key to all of this is that it came right before the All Star break in which on July 12th against those same A’s Howell gave up only his second home run of the season to Mark Ellis late in the game. That could have played hard on most relievers going into a 4 day lay-off for the All Star game, but Howell used it as fuel to the fire and came out ready to go in Kansas City. Howell had been a pleasant surprise in 2008 elevating his game and his usefulness to the Rays.

So when Troy Percival went down with another injury and Rays Manager Joe Maddon decided to go to a closer-by-committee approach you hoped he would give the California leftie a shot. That came early in the season, but Howell had not adjusted his game yet to get those last 3 outs. He talked with teammates Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour about the pressures of the job and their pluses and minuses before it finally clicked for him. Now he might be the most feared leftie closer not named Fuentes in the AL. His slow curving breaking ball and the movement on his upper 80’s fastball teases hitters until he gets them with his change-up that dips severely before it hits the heart of the plate.

And he is the former leftie specialist for the team when Trever Miller decided to take an offer from the St. Louis Cardinals this winter. He did not look comfortable in the role, but the Rays did bring in another leftie for the first time to help Howell out. Brian Shouse was initially brought in to be the total leftie specialist, but got rocked a bit early in the year, He adjusted and then began to dominate on the mound before he went down with a left elbow following a stint on the mound on May 24th where he gave up the game winning hit to Ross Gload in the Marlins 11th inning victory over the Rays.

Before that injury, Shouse had held left-handed hitters to a .235 average against him.  This was a little elevated from the usual .210 mark he had maintained during his career against left-handers. But before his injury 15 out of his 19 appearances had been scoreless, and he had become the oldest Rays to win a game when he threw 2/3rds of a scoreless inning against the New York Yankees. Shouse (40) also one of only three Rays players to ever take the field for the team over the age of 40. The other two were Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff.

But even if this is his 19th year of professional baseball, Shouse will again get a chance when he returns off his rehab assignment. The Rays want to see him again take the mound on consecutive days before they make a solid decision on the leftie. But currently he is just down the road a spell in Port Charlotte playing for the Class-A Charlotte Stone Crabs. He is scheduled to make his second rehab appearance tonight when the Stone Crabs  visit the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Maddon had said before today’s game in Kansas City they might be making a decision on Shouse by the next home stand.


Steve Nesius / AP


That would make the team look long, hard and deep into the prospects of either trading current leftie number 2, Randy Choate or hoping he gets through waivers.  I truly can not see the leftie getting through waivers and get sent back to the Durham Bulls. So the logical scenario is a trade to a team seeking some leftie action for possible prospects. And Choate has made a great case for staying with the Rays too, but the Bullpen is a bit overcrowded right now. For the Rays to even entertain the option of three lefties, someone would have to go on the Rays bench.

And Choate has put up some great numbers since being called up on May 25th. During that time he has appeared in 28 of the Rays last 46 games. He is also tied for first in appearances in the AL since his call-up.  Like Howell, up until the last series against the A’s at home he had not surrendered many runs. In the July 11th contest he gave up a 2-run homer to ex-Rays Adam Kennedy. It was only the third homer ever by a leftie against him in 328 chances and only the seventh total homer given up in his career.

And to add more value to his possible trade market scenarios, he is a non-roster invitee who would not cost and arm and a leg to financially support for any team that might fancy another good left-handed option. Plus he has gone 4for 4 in save opportunities this season, the first time in his career he has ended into the ninth inning to save a game.  Choate has done everything asked of him by the Rays and has been effective from word one for the team.  It would be a total luxury for the team to find a spot for him to stay on the roster, but because of the success he has had while here with the Rays, he would be going to a great opportunity to get more time on the mound in the major leagues.

So within a weeks time the Rays will have to make some decisions on two of their three leftie Bullpen members. Howell is safe and secure and will not be going anywhere, anytime soon. But either Shouse or Choate will have a new uniform on their back maybe by August 1st.  Gut reactions have Shouse staying with the team and Choate getting an opportunity maybe in the National League for a team trying to steady their Bullpen. Maybe even another trip out to the Diamondbacks to reunite with his former teammates.  But no matter what happens, the Rays will have a safe and secure left -handed  presence in their Bullpen.

Right now in the AL, the names of the solid left-handed closers start and finish with the names of George Sherill of Baltimore, Fuentes, and Howell. With the rising stock of Howell, the Rays found an internal option that has been effective to their closer problems. With the combined efforts of Shouse and Choate this season it made it easier for some fans to let go of Miller as he went on with the Cardinals. With this not being a perfect world, the Rays will have to let one of their southpaws fly away to another team. 

The only question now facing the Rays is just how much can each of these guys take this season on the mound. Both Howell and Shouse are headed again for career marks in appearances and innings pitched this season.
Will the young Howell stand in front and lead by example for this team, or will the 40-year old Shouse rise above himself one last time. Either option or a combination of both of them sound great to me.

            
             Brianshousefanclub.com

Also check out this Brian Shouse fan website made up while he was with the Milwaukee Brewers last season. http://www.brianshousefanclub.com.   I am not sure, but I kind of like the Terminator photo over the Santa one. You be the judge…….

 

   

Indian Raindance Ramblings

 
UPDATE:
 
 
Rays Television Network guru Todd Kalas just had Indians Ballpark Operations head honcho Jerry Crabb on the air telling us there is a rain cell heading towards the stadium, then we have some smooth sailing for a period of time. they are hoping to get this game in today and not have to think about alternative dates. The Rays have Lance Cormier throwing in the Bullpen. He will replace Jeff Niemann when play resumes today. Let’s all think dry thoughts.  Johnny Peralta will be on first for the Indians when we resume the game.
 
 


Kensaviation@Flickr.com

 Why is it I hear the BB Thomas song “Raindrops Are Falling on my Head” right now in the background on the stadiums speakers. Can’t we find a better rain song than that for the 21st Century? I am without words right now during this rain delay today in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Cleveland Indians again in front of the Tampa Bay Rays by only a 1-0 score.

My loss of verbiage is not due to the fact we have not had a glorious win in this park since Seth “Big Red” McClung matched pitch-for-pitch with a younger Cliff Lee to take a 1-0 win from the Tribe for the Rays last victory in then Jacobs Field. In that September 28, 2005 contest. Carl Crawford is the only Rays player still on the active Rays roster to be in the lineup for that game. 

He went 0-0 on that day and played a limited left field. Even on that day in September it was 74 degrees and cloudy, but there was not rain in the forecast. There are other still with the Rays who were in the dugout on that day in Cleveland, like Third Base Coach Tom Foley, Pitcher Scott Kazmir, and Senior Advisor Don Zimmer. That day also gave Lou Pinella his last win as the Rays Manager. It was the last sense of normalcy for the Rays in this park. Who would have ever guessed that this streak of doom would stretch to its current 16-game spot. Heck, lifetime the Rays have only seemed to taste victory. Today is our 918th road game of our young history. During that time we have only won 333 times, but only

My first trip to Jacobs Field on May 14, 2004 (There is that date again) was the first time I stepped into your glorious stadium during its 10 year anniversary season. The Sat. game was a rain delayed game, my first time sitting in the rain enjoying the drops hitting my skin. Even during that three game series we left the city of Cleveland wanting more as the home team took all three games from the Rays, with only that Friday night contest being close at all with a 8-7 Rays loss in the bottom of the 10th inning. 


Skurdrafan1@Flickr.com

But there were some reasons for Rays joy before that 2005 game. I mean we did win 3-in-a-row from August 12-14, 2005. That is right, the Rays wept the Indians that weekday series. But we also did it again in 2005 when from September 27-29th, we took two out of three to sweep the away series for the year from the Indians.

It was at that time the curse began. For on that September 29th game, the Rays started their unfortunate streak with a 6-0 loss to the Indians who were lead by a large guy by the name of C.C. Sabathia that day. No one on the current Rays roster was in the lineup for that first pinnacle game to start this streak of disappointment for the Rays. But there were a few familiar faces in the Cleveland lineup. Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez and reliever Rafael Bentancourt were in the line score for the first Tribe victory in the long line of embarrassing losses. But even before the 2005 last win by the Rays, they had only won a total of 12 games before McClung’s last hurrah for the Rays in the Jake. Think about it here, the Rays had a slim winning margin 12-11 before this string of disappointing results by the Cuyahoga River.

So just how bad has the 2009 season been here for the Rays during this four game slide? Well, they are hitting a nice .252 for the season series here (not counting today’s contest), but only scoring only 18 runs on 3 home runs and 5 doubles. But why is it that this stadium has a mystical offensive reversal on the Rays hitters. Well, it might not be a total setting of lack of offense as they have scored 18 runs in 3 games this season.
 

But theRays defense and the pitching have just seemed to implode and erode faster than some of the old steel infrastructure on the mills down by the riverside here.  I mean Carlos Pena hit his American League leading 16th homer in the first game here on Monday. Evan Longoria has extended his RBI total to 51 during this series, and Carl Crawford has stolen his 30th base during the series.

Offense has been online here in Cleveland, but the Rays usual stingy defense has taken a  short vacation during the series this year.  Cleveland has 6 players hitting over .333 in this series, including the main pest this season Ben Francisco, who has gone  5 of 11, with 5 RBI this season at home. But the real menace has been Ryan Garko who is 6 for 12 with 3 homers and 7 RBI. Both of those guys have made a significant dent into the Rays pitching staff this season in this series.  They have scored 28 runs and walked 15 times in the three games. Will today be any different? Can we maybe get some relief and comfort in today’s game to take into 2010 to know we can win in this stadium.

First thing we need to do is maybe get Sports Psychologist Ken Ravizza to hypnotize the Rays starters into thinking this is Fenway Park in 2010. Maybe an additional session will be needed for Andy Sonnanstine to see Ben Francisco as Shin-Soo Choo who was 0-5 against Sonnanstine in 2009. The fact that two of their three biggest blown leads have come in the last three games of this series is not an indication of a solid pitching staff right now.  We all know about the Rays being up 10-0 on Monday, then finally falling 11-10 after suffering through their worst blown lead in team history. So today is the Rays 50th game of the season. the only better record at this juncture in the season was in 2008, when they had a 30-20 record and were fighting for their first AL East title nightly.


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The Rays do not currently have the worst consecutive loss record against an opponent yet. That record is still entrenched in a 18-game losing steak by the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Milwaukee Brewers in Miller Park. But with a loss today, they are closing in on that feat by only needing a single loss in 2010 to tie the record. Let’s hope that after this rain delay we can finish this game with a “W” and throw all of this out the window and start a new streak in 2010.  I mean 3-times this season the Rays have scored seven runs on the Tribe and lost the game. They are a combined 15-0 against all other teams in the majors after scoring 7 plus runs.  They are a combined 12-37 lifetime (.245) in Progressive/Jacobs Field. This the Rays worst record against any of their opponents in their short history.

We always thought in the past that divisional foes Toronto or maybe Baltimore had our number during the year, but wi
th the limited amount of games against the Tribe every year, they have owned us the minute we landed at Cleveland Hopkins airport. The Tribe has also been the worst foe in the Rays history in their own house. The combined overall mark of 31-63 is also the Rays worst record against any AL opponent. The Rays might have taken 3 wins recently from the Indians at Tropicana Field, but from 2006-2008, they have only 5 wins against Cleveland at home.  To add insult to injury here, they have not won a seasonal series against the Indians since 2005, thanks to that 5-1 mark against them that season.

          
           Cynthia1091@Flickr.com

Well, it is getting near 2:45, and looking on the Weather Channel radar for the Cleveland area, there is a patch of clear sky coming up after 3:30 pm today.  There is another round of showers heading towards the stadium area set to hit about 4:45 pm, so hopefully we can get the allotted innings in today, or at least maybe get a lead and hold it before heading for the plane back to St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport and a snug, comfortable night at home. I am hoping for a Rays win today to keep the plane ride back from seeming like a funeral wake, but with the history of the Indians versus Rays series.

But if we do not get this game in today and the umpires make the decision to call it a day, it is still not an official game. Both of these teams will have to decide on an alternative date to make up this one game. Both the Indians and the Rays have an open date teams have a open date on June 22. But that would have the Rays coming straight from their Inter League series against the New York Mets to Cleveland, then fly home to open a 3-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Indians would be just completing their weekend series against the Chicago Cubs, and could make a one-night stay in Cleveland before they again have to be on the road to Pittsburgh for a three game series. Right now, that is looking like the most logical spot to get this seasonal series over with for both teams.


Mark Duncan / AP

Another alternative is to play on July 2nd, when the Rays would have an off day coming from a three game series against Toronto, and then fly onto Arlington, Texas to take on the Texas Rangers for three games.  And that date might actually favor the Cleveland team the most as they will be at home for a 9-game home stand. So adding another contest in their off day on July 2nd might fit into their planning perfectly. But we still have not heard an official word from the umpires or anyone in MLB, so the Rays might be there for quite a bit still until an official alternative can be agreed upon by both teams.

I am putting my money on the July 2nd date only because it would give an advantage to the Indians as they can add on another date in the middle of a home stand featuring the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and the Oakland A’s, plus add one possible Rays game to that mix.

Never have the Rays had an opponent just reach down and take them by the throat than the Indians during this short history. Hopefully we can get this game completed and maybe take one and fly out quickly today knowing we can win in Progressive /Jacobs Field. But the skies have not lightened yet, and the rain is tapering off, but still puddles are forming on the tarp on the field.  And Drew Carey is somewhere doing a little didy dancing to some Tom Tom Club dance music just hoping for another Indian massacre.

Explosion, Implosion, Devotion

 


Tony Dejak / AP

EXPLOSION


Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word explosion as: ” To burst or cause to burst violently and noisy.” Another definition shows it as:” To give forth a sudden and noisy outburst of emotions. ” Now that did sound like the last few days for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Since their Friday night game against the Florida Marlins here on the road, the Tampa Bay Rays have scored an amazing 39 runs in 4 games. 

That is just below a 10 run a game clip, which is unheard of for a team battling for the fourth spot in their division. But these Rays have always been about surprises and sudden bursts of emotion both this season and in 2008.
Coming into this game the Rays have scored a total of 273 runs. That is over 12 runs more than their closest rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

And with that  kind of explosion of runs  the Rays have won 7 out of their last 11 games and a rise towards the .500 mark for the first time since the team was 4-3 in April 2009. But the team is not just relying totally on their hits, no this squad also has a beady eye at the plate and  currently have 200 walks this season, which trails those same Dodgers by 8, but they are the leader in the American League right now.

The team has used a good formula of strong base running along with a keen eye at the plate to turn their walks into legitimate scoring chances almost every inning. The Rays are also seeing more pitches per at bat than any other team in the MLB right now. But they are still trolling dangerously at the sub .500 or .500 mark for most of this explosive time. Why would the team leading the majors in RBI with 259 this year be struggling to hold onto wins? Can the explanation be simple, or is there a underlying problem here we do not see yet.

Heck this Rays team has gotten 44 free passes (walks) in the last 4 games. They have tied the season high mark of 9 strolls to first three times during this road trip. Carlos Pena has even walked in 11 consecutive games now, a new Rays record. Pena now has 35 walks this season and is only one shy of Toronto’s Marc Scutaro who is tops in the AL right now.

And worst part of it all is that this is the Rays second best record after 47 games in their young history. There has to be a reason for the fall from grace of this team. Can you really throw all the blame on the pitching staff, or are there team effort mistakes that are making this a season to remember with mixed emotions right now?


Tony Dejak / AP

Implosion

The same dictionary shows the meaning of Implosion to mean: ” To burst or collapse inward.” Is that the problem with the Rays right now? Are the competition bursting some bubbles and exposing some of the weaknesses we have currently in our pitching staff. The Rays pitching staff after the fourth inning is going through a state of internal implosion in their minds and on the mound right now. You have to admit in last night’s game, both teams did their own special takes on the word implosion. 

Combined we saw over 19 walks in this game. Granted, these are the top two squads in the AL with walks, but it was downright annoying at times to see the strike zone get smaller at times during the contest. Not to be outdone by the walk total, both teams also combined to throw 422 pitches last night, which is tops in the majors this season by two squads. The Rays had their own share of 230 tosses in the game, which is the third highest total in team history. 

The game was an abnormality for both teams, but you can not let the history of this ballpark come up and snag you either.The Rays have now lost 14 consecutive games in this ballpark. The steak is the longest consecutive streak in any ballpark for the Rays.You have to go back to the days of ex-Rays pitcher Seth McClung as a starter to find the last win in Progressive/Jacobs Field. That was back on September 28, 2005, when McClung beat Cliff Lee.

But the implosion, for the second game in a row by the Rays Bullpen is starting to signal a  weakness in the Rays Way of relief pitching. I am not going to throw the Bullpen under the bus here totally, but someone has to take some of the past  two games failures under their skin and boast this Bullpen back up again. Is the way they are being used the culprit, or is this Bullpen right now not as good as the 2008 model? I mean we did lose another cog in Brian Shouse to injury in Sundays game, but can one guy be the key to the implosion experienced during last night’s game. Some sort of change might be needed, but where do you look first?

But if you look at the players who have been inserted in both the 5-4 walk-off loss to the Marlins, and in this contest, they are the regular guys mixed with a few of the “newbies”.  There is not a consistent plus or minus from any of the pitchers in either game to instill or conduct a massive witch hunt for a scapegoat here.  At least in Sunday’s loss the team was battling back and forth throughout the game until the Marlins plated the winning run in the 11th inning. In that contest, the word implosion is not fitting to use. The Marlins only came back from a single run down to tie the game, not 9 runs like the Indians did to the Rays last night. 

The implosion started with three quick singles to load the bases in the eight inning. The Rays defense did their part by getting a 6-4-3 double play and get two quick outs on the board. Considering the Indians got 4 hits in that inning and only scored 2 runs, it can be a minor “atta boy” for getting out without surrendering more. But the ninth inning is going to be the poster boy of implosive actions for this Bullpen for quite awhile.

Not only did the Rays use 4 pitchers to try and get three outs, but they used some of the tried and true veterans along with recent call-up Randy Choate. But then again, you had Choate and Thayer, the newbies in the Rays system as the first two guys on the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning.  As a bookmark for both of these guys to separate what the rookies did and the veterans accomplished was a nice high,wide and not very handsome throw by Ried Brignac at short to make the inning drag on more for the Rays.

Willy Aybar could have been LeBron James and he could not have had enough reach to get that ball from Brignac. Funny we are in the town of LeBron this week, and more people have seen Cavaliers’ basketball this year than an Indians game, and their complexes are right next to each other. Anyways, The Rays bring on the first of two vets in Grant Balfour with one out and a 10-5 Rays lead.  Hearing the Indians faithful beating the tom tom drum in the background Balfour get Mark DeRosa to line out to Evan Longoria.

Two outs and a 10-5 lead is still intact for the Rays.  Tom tom gets louder and Ryan Garko cracks a 3-run shot to left field that clears the high wall with ea
se. Now the stream of runs are beginning to flow for the Indians. They have gotten to within two runs at this point, 10-8, but have only one out left to play with here. From that point on, Balfour gives up a walk to Asdrubal Cabrerra to start the run carousel all over again.

He is replaced by former St Louis Cardinals’ closer Jason Isringhausen who the Rays signed as protection in case of some Percival problems this season. Izzy comes to the mound with the determination of Job, but issues three straight walks to score another Indians run and get the lead to within one run 10-9. Then the Indians protagonist for the Rays, Victor Martinez is up to the plate for the second time in this inning. His first at bat ended with the first out of the inning on a pop out to Longoria.  Izzy gets him to a 2-2 count before he hits a ball  on the ground between B J Upton and Ben Zobrist, and neither player can get the ball before the two runs score and the Rays go down again in Cleveland.


Lynn Sladsky / AP

DEVOTION

This is a word that can have many meaning to many people. It will depend on the way you have been brought up what this word means to you. Different religions and cultures have many interpretations of this word. But I like the fourth definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary : ” The fact or state of being dedicated or loyal “. I also think a great parallel word is fandom here.

I truly think this is the time we either go for gusto supporting this team, or you abandon the bandwagon and go about your life until football starts in August. Seriously here people, this is the time we can send a message to other fans around baseball. The Rays are having their second best season in team history after the 47 game mark, and people want this team to be comparable to 2008 (27-20). Look at that record. 27-20 last season is only  4 more wins than this season currently. Is that a good enough reason to bring out the “D(evil)” word again in referring to this team?

I hope not. Devotion and support of this team will be the hidden treasure in 2009. They told us last season if we had a winning season the fans will show up. Well, so far this season they have shown up in moderate numbers, but we still have huge teams coming in future home series that will spike the attendance marks higher and higher.  This is not the time to even think of digging out those other jerseys to wear, or caps to adorn your head. That famous phrase, “When the going get tough, the tough get going” really needs to shine right now in Rays-land.

The last two game have been disappointing and miserable during our Memorial Day weekend, but it is only the cusp of the season to come for the Rays. People use this as a benchmark for if you will be successful the rest of the season. Well, Toronto has finally fallen from the top of the grid, and the Rays are sitting only one game below .500 right now. Just to give you some insight, at this point in the season in 2007, we were 19-28, or 4 games worse than 2009. This is the time to rally and show we can beat those Indians in their stadium.

We will send the most consistent of our pitchers to the mound tonight to try and spark the Rays and demolish the Indians hold on the Rays.  With a win tonight, we will still be 4 games off the 2008 pace, but baby steps will get us back in line soon enough to again take on the top of the division.  I will leave you with a few words from the modern baseball philosopher Bruce Springsteen who said, : “Some guys they just give up living, others start dying little by little piece by piece, some guys come home from work and wash up, and go racing in the streets.”

Play Ball!

Tendering Some Love to the Players…….Tendered Players 2008

 

 

The Greatest thing a player can learn on a day like today is how much his club loves what he does on the field for them. But sometimes even that get a bit blurred and the images seems to fade a bit before the reality comes that you either have a new start somewhere else, or you contact your old team and see if they just wanted you at a cheaper price.

 

Every December 12th, the MLB goes through this  sadistic tactic of non-tendering and tendering contracts to the arbitration eligible players on their rosters. Some people are shoe-ins to get picked up because of talent or maybe even a low cost towards the next year budget. Others are looked at under a microscope and the decisions might come down to dollar signs and not talent or ability.

 

 

                  

 

 

That is the sad reality of this date. You could be an up and coming talent, or a veteran that just had an off year and you could be looking for a job in a heartbeat after midnight tonight.  Also, just because they decided to offer you a contract doesn’t mean that the wheels stop turning and you might still be dealt to another team and they will make the decision on your fate again, and maybe at a financial disadvantages.

 

So on and on tonight I will be adding to this blog until I have a final idea of who, what where, when and why might pop up and bite some unsuspecting player on the buttock. Seriously here, there will be some surprises tonight. Some players might be getting held ransom for a financial sacrifice, while other might be rewarded for unforeseen changes in their game or ability. Which ever come about, it is not the end of the world or a career with any of the players tonight.

 

 

                                     

 

Everyone will find a place to play in 2009, it might not be the town you are currently playing in, but it also might turn into the best decision of your life. Just because you came up with a certain club does not mean that there are not other staffs or coaches’ salivating that your name is on the list tonight. People always have choices in life. The path we take is not predestined as many believe, but they are earmarked with signs and signals we either adhere to or avoid.

 

The players on this list still have had the honor to play at a level that few people ever achieve in life, on or off the ball field. And with that in mind, you have to remember the sacrifices and the sweat and tears that got you to this level will be rewarded again.

 

So as we embark on this night when some believe a dream has ended, you have to remember that through every closed door there is another opportunity maybe even down the hall. Here is the list of the guys who got the love and admiration of their clubs tonight. This list will be in no certain order, but will be update throughout the night.

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays:

Gabe Gross                                        ( OF )

Dioner Navarro                                  ( C )

Jason Barlett                                     ( SS )

Willy Aybar                                       ( INF )

Grant Balfour                                    ( RP )

 

 

Kansas City Royals:

Esteban German                              ( INF )             1-year contract

John Buck                                       ( C )

Mike Jacobs                                    ( INF )

Mark Teahen                                   ( OF )

Brian Bannister                                ( SP )

Kyle Davies                                      ( RP )

Jimmy Gobble                                 ( SP )

Zack Greinke                                   ( SP )

Joel Peralta                                      ( RP )

       

 

 

Florida Marlins:

Jorge Cantu                                      ( 3 B )

Dan Uggla                                        ( 2 B )

Cody Ross                                        ( OF )

Jeremy Hermida                               ( OF )

Rick Nolasco                                    ( SP )

Josh Johnson                                   ( RP )

Alfredo Amezaga                             ( RP )

Logan Kensing                                 ( RP )

Dallas McPherson                             ( INF )

 

 

Philadelphia Phillies:

Shane Victorino                               ( OF )

Ryan Howard                                    ( 1 B )

Ryan Madson                                   ( RP )

Jayson Werth                                   ( OF )

Eric Bruntlett                                   ( INF )                   1-year contract

Clay Condrey                                   (  RP )                  1-year contract

Joe Blanton                                      ( SP )

Cole Hamels                                      ( SP )

Greg Dobbs                                      ( INF )

Chad Durbin                                    ( RP ) 

 

 

Seattle Mariners:

Eric Bedard                                     ( SP )

Aaron Heilman                                (SP, RP ) 

Felix Hernandez                              ( SP )

 

 

San Diego Padres:

Scott Hairston                                  ( OF )

Luis Rodriguez                                ( INF )

Jody Gerut                                       ( OF )

Heath Bell                                        ( RP )

 

 

Atlanta Braves:

Kelly Johnson                                   ( INF )

Matt Diaz                                          ( OF )

Jeff Francoeur                                  ( OF )

Mike Gonzalez                                 ( RP )

Omar Infante                                    ( INF )

Casey Kotchman                              ( 1 B )

 

 

Boston Red Sox:

Kevin Youkilis                                ( 1B )

Jonathan Papelbon                        ( RP )

Javier Lopez                                  ( RP )

 

 

Minnesota Twins:

Jason Kubel                                   ( D H )

Matt Guerrier                                 ( RP )

 

 

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Russell Martin                                ( C )

Andre Ethier                                  ( OF )

Johnathan Broxton                        ( RP )

 

 

Oakland Athletics:

 Rob Bowen                                   ( C )          $ 535,000    1-year contract

Justin Duchscherer                        ( SP )

Jack Cust                                      ( OF )

 

 

Chicago White Sox:

Dewayne Wise                              ( OF )              1-year,  $ 550,000 contract

Wilson Betemit                            ( INF )              1-year    $ 1.3 Million contract

 

 

Detroit Tigers: 

Ramon Santiago                           ( INF )           1-year  $ 825,000 contract

Marcus Thames                             ( OF )

Fernando Rodney                          ( RP )

Bobby Seay                                   ( RP )

Joel Zumaya                                 ( RP ) 

Justin Verlander                            ( SP )

Edwin Jackson                              ( SP,RP )

 

 

Cleveland Indians:

Kelly Shoppach                              ( C )

 

 

Chicago Cubs:

Chad Gaudin                                  ( RP )               1-year  $ 2 million contract

Ronny Cedeno                               ( INF )

Reed Johnson                                ( OF )

Neal Cotts                                      ( RP )                1-year  $ 1.1 million contract 

Mike Wuertz                                  ( RP ) 

Kevin Gregg                                  ( RP )

 

 

San Francisco Giants:

Jack Taschner                                ( RP )

 

 

Toronto Blue Jays:  

Jason Frasor                                  ( RP )

Brian Tallet                                    ( RP )

Brandon League                            ( RP )

Jose Batista                                   ( INF )

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Nate McLouth                                ( OF )

Adam LaRoche                             ( 1 B )

Ryan Doumit                                 ( C )

Zack Duke                                    ( SP )

John Grabow                                ( RP )

Tyler Yates                                    ( RP )

Paul Maholm                                ( SP )

 

 

St Louis Cardinals:

Rick Ankiel                                  ( OF )

Chris Duncan                               ( OF )

Todd Wellemeyer                        ( RP )

 

 

Colorado Rockies:

Garrett Atkins                               ( 3 B )

Clint Barmes                                 ( 2 B )

Jorge De La Rosa                          ( SP )

Taylor Buchholz                           ( RP )

Jason Grilli                                   ( RP )

Huston Street                                ( RP )

 

 

Cincinnati Reds:

Edwin Encarnacion                       ( INF )

 

 

Milwaukee Brewers:

Seth McClung                                  ( SP, RP )

Prince Fielder                                  ( 1 B )

Rickie Weeks                                  ( 2 B )

J J Hardy                                        ( S S )

Corey Hart                                       ( OF )

Dave Bush                                       ( SP )

 

 

Washington Nationals:

Ryan Zimmerman                         ( 3B )

Josh Willingham                          ( OF )

Scott Olsen                                   ( SP )

Shawn Hill                                    ( RP )

Willy Harris                                  ( SS )                           2-year  $ 3 million 

 

 

Houston Astros:

Brandon Backe                              ( SP )

Geoff Geary                                   ( RP )

Wandy Rodriguez                          ( SP )

Tim Byrdak                                   ( RP )

Jose Valverde                                ( RP )

Humberto Quintero                        ( C )

  

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Chone Figgins                              ( 3 B )

Robb Quinlan                               ( INF )

Maicer Ituris                                 ( INF )

Ervin Santana                              ( SP )

Mike Napoli                                 ( C ) 

 

 

 

As tonight comes to a close at midnight, the name will still be pouring in and this liost might not be totally complete by tomorrow afternoon. But I will do my best to be sure that you all have the latest listing of all players tendered contracts on December 12th.

 

I will also so a listing of the players who are deemed free agents now that their respective teams have put them on the open market. That listing might be a bit different as I want to block everyone into their respective positions, instead of teams for the non-tender list.

 

I will have that listing working by tomorrow afternoon and I have not decided yet if I might make prediction on what might happen to those players. As the night grows and the list gets longer, I will determine if that would be entertaining and informative to all of you.

 

 

 

Rays Last 3 Arbitration Eligible Players…..Outfield and Pitching

 

 

 

The  huge celebrations has died down to the point that now we remember them only by using the glossy pictures and video to remind us of the time, place and who we were with when the Rays climbed the  postseason mountain in 2008. Little remains of the celebrations at the vacant Trop. But the stadium is full of activity as the crews are rapidly moving to transform the Dome into a viable football arena, The pitching mound is missing, base paths are gone, and the field is being fitted and lined for the St. Petersburg Bowl, which will debut this year in the stadium. It will be odd to sit there and watch a  college football game at the Trop., knowing that in less than 90 days after the game, baseball will be back at the Tropicana Field.

 

But not gone is the fact that the team was in line for  huge shares of the playoff booty from MLB, and they got the  fantastic news about their bounty on Tuesday. According to MLB, the Rays will distribute over $ 12,278238.61 in a 43-way pile to players and other Rays personnel. You have to hope that Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi got a nice chunk of change from the playoff pie and will not have to umpire as much this off season. The Rays split was about $ 223,390.05 per share, a nice chunk of change for a months worth of sweat and tears. To put that into consideration for players playing under a minimum MLB salary, they will receive almost half their yearly salary for a month of playoff baseball. 

 

        

 

It is totally amazing to me the amount of money flowing out of the baseball coffers after  the complaints being thrown throughout the newspapers and blogs during the  2008 playoffs.  MLB was huffing and puffing about the lack of viewership on Television and the weather situations surrounding the World Series, but in the end, even the first ones eliminated in the AL, the Chicago White Sox, who lost to the A L Champion Rays in the ALDS, got to take away  over $ 27,828.33  each in players’ shares. Not a bad gig if you can get it. That is more than I made in 2008 so far.

 

 

Okay, back to the  main issue here. Today I am going to highlight the last 3  Rays players’ who are eligible for  non-tendered arbitration for the Tampa Bay Rays. They are as  pretty diverse group. You have a devoted church-goer and all-around good guy, an aggressive extrovert  Aussie who moonlights in the World Baseball Classic, and a guy struggling to get respect for his talent, but is a better pitcher than advertised.

 


Each has a place on this team that was  exciting and unique. All three helped set the tone in positively different ways for the team in 2008. But I am again going to put myself into Andrew Friedman’s head and try and divulge and dissect the players into rationale pieces. Will these three guys be the foundation of another great Rays team, or do they need to be jettisoned to make the team better in 2009. By my evaluations I will decide if I would grant or deny any of these three an opportunity to upgrade their salary and continue playing for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009.

 

 And now, on with the show:

 

 

                            

 

Gabe Gross:

 

Gabe Gross had one of the best seasons of his major league career after he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. He hit personal highs in hits, home runs and RBI’s as well as getting 5 outfield assists for the team, second only to B J Upton’s 12 assists. But beyond that, Gross also became Mr “Big Time” for the Rays.  Not only could he be the defensive player they needed down the first baseline for the Rays, but his bat had magic in 2008.

 

Even on the night he was acquired by the Rays, the former Brewer scored his teams go-ahead run to win that game before heading to Orlando to meet up with his new team. Since he has gotten here, he has lit up the clubhouse with positive comments and actions, and totally won over the crowd in right-field with his play. But his bat is the thing that set him apart in 2008.

 

 He was one of the only guys on the roster who was money with guys in scoring position in 2008. And because of that, a lot of his RBI’s came in the later innings in games when he was put in as a defensive specialist for the Rays.  He had only one walk-off homer against the Chicago White Sox on June 1, 2008, but 4 times he teamed up with team mates for back-to-back homers.

 

 

 

That went a long way for the Rays establishing leads and putting the game out of reach. Gross also hit 7 solo homers and 6 2-run shots during 2008. To say he was clutch would be an understatement.  He played in only 78 games in 2008 since being acquired for a minor league pitcher, Billy Butler. But along the way he hit a tape measure 437 foot homer against the Cleveland Indians to tie that game on August 6th.

 

14 of his 38 RBI’s were either game-winning or game tying in 2008.  He has 3 walk-off  RBI’s, matching the Rays team record. One of those was a walk-off homers against  White Sox reliever Matt Thorton, which was his first career homer off a left-handed pitcher. 

 

 

 

 

Gross has been a model Rays from start to finish and the team would be truly rewarded if they granted arbitration to Gross for the 2009 season. With the flux of not having a designated right-fielder in house, Gross is also a huge advantage for the Rays in that they do not have to be desperate seeking a outfielder, and would be totally confident to give the position to Gross for 2009.  His 2009 salary could bump up to $ 1.3 million dollars, which is well within the range of a competent 4th outfielder who can hit and play defense with the best of them.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson:

 

Anyone who knows me knows that this one will be personal. I am a huge fan of the guy ever since I first met him at a Spring Training game a few years ago and told him he will love it here. Funny how people can be attracted to certain types of ballplayers. Jackson is the type of player I enjoy watching pitch and learn the game of baseball.

 

He was a former sixth round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers as an outfielder, but was converted to a pitcher by the Dodgers’ staff. This is only his 4th season as a pitcher and I have seen improvement every year he has been in our system.  He is also one of those guys who is humble enough to chat and sign for fans as long as he can for the joy of it, not because it is his duty.

 

Now that Jackson has turned 25, we can finally cal, him a veteran on the rotation.  But did you know that he has now made 77 career starts as a pitcher, 63 of them for the Rays.  This season he tied the Rays record for wins with James Shields and Rolando Arroyo with his 14th win. His previous best was his 7 wins in 2007.  He also posted only his 2nd winning season as a professional. He was 2-1 in 2004.

 

 

 

 

He threw a total of 183.1 innings in 2008, which was over 22 innings more than any other time in his career.  He ended the month of August with a 2.27 ERA, the best on the staff and 4th best in the American League. He also tied a Rays record for 4 wins in August.  He had a 4- straight game win streak earlier in the season from July 25- August 10th.

 

He also won 6 out of 7 starts up to August 10th posting a 2.59 ERA during the streak.  He had a streak of 20 straight scoreless innings over the span of 3 starts from May 8-18th.  That set a record for a Rays starter, and was only 1 inning off the all-time Rays record of 21 set by Joe Borowski in 2005. 

 

Jackson is known for his high-powered fastball that can reach the top 90’s with a slight dip, but his curve and slider can sometimes just rumble through the strike zone and has been his problem pitches this season. Jackson was also involved and suspended for the Boston-Tampa Bay fiasco in Fenway Park because of his run towards the mound during the scuffle.  It was said he was punching and hitting  Coco Crisp at the bottom of the pile, but photos show he lost his shoe on the way to the mound and did not arrive until late in the event. He served a 5-game suspension from June 22-27th.

 

 

 

If I were Andrew Friedman, I would first sit down with Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and see what the Rays have in store for Jackson in the near future. With the aspect of David Price coming into the rotation, the Rays must make some adjustments to either Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine in the starting rotation.

 

If the Rays think that Jackson would be valuable in either the rotation or the Bullpen, then they should offer him arbitration and get him settled for 2009. Also on the horizon is interest by several clubs in Jackson over the past 2 seasons. The New York Mets, Seattle Mariners have expressed interest in the developing right hander.

 

Remember, that this guy is still learning the art of pitching, and 2008 was his best season to date, with unlimited potential and growth in the next few seasons.   Jackson could look forward to a salary in the $ 2.5 Million dollar range after an arbitration hearing.

 

 

 

Grant Balfour:

 

I did not know what to expect in 2007 when the Rays sent my buddy Seth McClung to the Brewers’ for the Aussie reliever. He came into the Rays Bullpen and was average at best in 2007. He lacked a certain intensity and velocity to his pitching, but all that changed after Spring Training in 2008. Balfour was not selected to the Rays Bullpen losing out to Scott Dohmann for the last spot in the Bullpen.

 

Balfour did not stress it and went down to the Durham Bulls with a chip on his shoulder and fire in his belly. When he came back up to the Rays Bullpen, he made it very difficult for the team to even consider sending him back to the minor leagues. Down the stretch, Balfour and J P Howell were the core of a Bullpen unit that shut down some of the best hitter in the entire league.

 

Balfour down the stretch pitched in 17 of the team’s last 34 games.  In 15 of those outing he pitched scoreless frames for the Rays.  Overall in 2008, the Rays went 32-19 in ballgames he came into from the Bullpen.  He also tied for tops in wins in 2008 in the Bullpen with 6 wins, tied with J P Howell.  He leads all MLB relievers with a 12.66 strikeout per 9 innings ratio, pitching 58.1 innings and recording 82 strikeouts on the year.

 

 

 

Balfour also was tops in the majors by fanning 36 percent of the batters he faced, and  his 1.54 ERA was also the  4th best ERA posted by a reliever in the majors this season.  His .143 opponents batting average was best in the AL, and second in the MLB to the Cub’s Carlos Marmol.  He also allowed only 3 homers and 11 extra base hits all season long.

 

He also had a .230 slugging Percentage against him, second lowest in the majors. Balfour also provided support as the Rays closer during Troy Percivals’ many DL trips in 2008. During this time he preserved 3 out of the 4 save opportunities for the Rays.

 

 

 

Put all these statistics along with a on-mound intensity not seen in the past by the Rays and you have the total package for the Bullpen. It is a sure bet that to invest in Balfour would be a great investment for the Rays. So to offer him arbitration might be a moot point. If anyone deserved a raise in 2009, it would be the members of the Bullpen who kept the teams in games all year long. With an arbitration hearing, Balfour could increase his salary to about $ 1.2 million dollars. Every penny of it will come with emotion and energy, just what they Rays need in 2009 to defend their A L East crown.

 

Next Class of Arbitration for the Rays:

 

The next group to hit the arbitration ranks for the Rays will boost the payroll in a major way. Players like infielders Ben Zobrist, Willy Aybar will have their first go at the process. Catcher Shawn Riggans will be eligible. And B J Upton will also be presented with his first arbitration decision as a professional.

 

In the pitching department, we have people like J P Howell and starter Matt Garza.  You can see several of the above players maybe being offered long term or even extension to combat the arbitration process. It was said that in 2006, the Rays wanted to make a long-term deal with B J Upton, but the deal was not formulated or completed in time.

 

I could see Matt Garza and maybe even Ben Zobrist getting an extension to cover a few of their arbitration years. and maybe even a year or two of their free agency like the deals given to James Shields, Scott Kazmir and Evan Longoria in the last several seasons.  So we have that to look forward to in 12 months time.

 

 

 

 

Rays Sweep Their Way to 30th Win

 

Rays 5, Orioles 4

 

I have to say, after last night’s Commodore s’ concert, and the excitement of today’s “walk-off” win, I have to take the rest of the day off to just get ready for the next 7 days of Rays baseball.

It is a great time to be a true Rays fan.  A .600 winning percentage, and a offense that gets better every day.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

The Rays are currently tied for the best record in the MLB. They are tied with Arizona at 30-20, or a .600% winning percentage.  GO RAYS!!!!

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly Posters

                               

 

                                         The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly

               

 

                                            The Good

Carlos Pena has now reached base in 8 straight at-bats. He walked three times today and hit his 10th homer in the bottom of the 3rd inning.  Carlos went  1-2 today, with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.

            

In reality, Carlos came to play today and the ball was as big as basketballs to him. His homer to left center was not in doubt a few seconds after he hit it. For the season, Carlos is now in a three way tie for third in homers, and is sitting in 38th in RBI’s with teammate Carl Crawford.

 

Honorable Mention “Good Guys”:

 

*** Rays Catcher Dioner Navarro went 2-4 today and lifted his average to .355 for the season. Dioner is the leader in switch hitters in the majors right now.  Dioner was also instrumential in Gabe Gross’s outfield assist today taking the relay ans throwing to second to get the Orioles Ramon Hernandez at second base.

 

** Rays outfielder B J Upton is again alive with his bat and is currently hitting .303 for the season. B J is making outstanding plays in the field, and running the bases better for the team. He had his 3rd  career 4-hit game last night. B J reached base all 5 times he batted last night, and his .303 average is ranked 9th in the AL.

                                        

          

 

 

*  Usually, when you hit a game winning double in walk-off fashion, I would list you as the top player of the day. But, Evan Longoria is already in a class by himself this year. He went 2-5 today to up his average to .246.

 

In the bottom of the 9th, after Carlos Pena walked, Evan hit a sscreamer into the right centerfield gap and stopped at second. Not that he was out of gas, or tired in the least. It had just hit him that in less than 40 games, he is being put in the same breath as veterans like Carl Crawford, B J Upton, and Carlos Pena. High praise for the guy leading all Roiokies in homers and RBI’s.

                       

But then again, we were told he was special in the Spring.

                                      

 

                                                           The Bad

 

I have been notcing a trend again in Aki Iwamura’s batting swings and hits. He is again hitting the ball more airborne and is taking away that grounder or line drive that was his signature during his hitting streak.

It might just be an adjustment, or a action that is not visible to Aki, but we see it out in the stands.

Another bad I have to address is the fact that we again left 11 guys standing on the bases in scoring position.  We have been lucky to have won most of those games, but we got lucky that Daniel Caberra was not on his control and strikeout binge today.

 

                                            The Ugly

 

Aki was the only Ray not to get at least a hit today. His average is sitting at .262, down the beginning of the week. As I mentioned before, Aki is leaning back a bit and lofting the ball instead of driving the ball through the hitting zone.

I also saw something amazing considering Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez could not seem to get anyone out stealing the last two nights.

He threw a bullet to nail Carl Crawford for his 4th caught stealing attempt today. The throws in earlier situations were high and almost in centerfield. This throw was on the money and Carl was dead to rights out by a good margin.

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I do not do a former Rays player of the night, but I want to throw congrats to Brewers’ starter Seth McClung (2-1) who pitched 5 innings and allowed 4 hits and 2 runs on the night.

All Rays fans remember that McClung ended his Rays career as our closer after being a starter most of his career. In Milwaulkee, he got another chance to start, and is making the most of it.

Kazmir Sends Yankees Out of Town With a Frown

 

Rays 5, Yankees 2

 

You know what is so weird about an afternoon game, you are not hungry when you get there. But when you leave, you are screaming for the nearest drive-thru window.

I did the next best thing today and did the $5 Subway Sub to honor the “dive” the Yankees have done so far this year. I am sorry we beat you three times and sent you to the AL East cellar. Check out the dunegeon bar and grill, they have fine chicken wings, but are hot as hell.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

On July 4th 1939,
Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees, was the first man to have his number(4) retired.

 

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly Posters

 

                                         The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly

 

                                               The Good

 

Rays starter Scott Kazmir(2-1), who just inked a serious contract extention pitched a gem to show not onl,y good faith in the signing, but a sign of things to come for the power lefty. Scott pitched 6 innings of 3-hit shutout ball before leaving after throwing 100 pitches exactly today. At the time he left the game,  the Rays had a 5-0 lead for Kazmir.  Scott also struck out only three today, while walking three. It seemed he was in control of his primary pitches, but was having a bit of trouble with his slider today.

 

Honorable Mention “Good Guys”:

 

*** Aki Iwamura, who just finished a 11-game hitting streak got the scoring started with a  solo blast to right in the first innig to get the scoring started for the Rays. Aki also went 2-3 and scored two runs today. Aki has lifted his average to .265. That is 55 point better than a week ago, and he is getting better at bats and pitches right now.

 

** Rays closer extrodinare Troy Percival put hid own personal stamp on tonight’s win. Troy entered the game in the top of the 9th and retired the first two batters with strikeouts before Johnny Damon hit a fly ball to Carl crawford to end the game, and give Percival his 10th save of the year. Percival is slowly gaining on Rollie Fingers, who is next in line on the All-Time saves list for Percival.

 

* I call this guy the “Brad Pitt” of the minors. He is so devil-may-care, and totally likeable you wanrt him to succeed. With the success of Dioner Navarro lately, Shawn Riggans has seen his playing time go to a crawl. But after today, 2-3 performance, Rays manager Joe Maddon might have two options at catcher in the coming weeks. Riggans helped his cause with a two-run homer in the bottom of the 4th, that also scored Eric Hinske. Riggans is now hitting .250, but also scored two runs to go along with his two RBI’s.

 

                                                 The Bad

 

Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett was a late scratch today  to take care of a family matter. Rays super sub, Ben Zobrist saw his first action of the year since coming off the DL this week. Zobrist looked a bit aprehensive at the plate and went 0-2 today. Ben is a great defensive shortstop, and  made several key plays today.

Carlos Pena is still having trouble getting the men in scoring position home today. Carlos had two opportunites today and struck out twice today. Pena is leading the AL in strikeouts with 50.

 

                                             The Ugly

 

I know the flight from Tampa to New York is usually about 3 hours long, but I can feel the tension that this one will feel like an allnighter for the Yankee team. Yankee honco Hank Steinbrenner the other day called out the players by saying “They should play like the Rays”.

I do not know where he is getting that, but I hope he means that the Rays are playing hustle, no-quit baseball with a agressive batting style.

I know that several key Yankees are hurt or rehabbing and will be aback soon, but the lack of adequate replacemtns shows the team’s farm system woes right now. The Yankees promoted two minor relievers this week from their lower  minor league squads to hasten their learning curve and hope to be a help come Summer time.

 It is going to be a long couple of months in NY until all players are healthy and their pitching situation is stabilized to suit the owner’s box.

I expect to see a few heads roll in the mean time, and I would not be putting my neck out to say, Jose Molina might not be the back-up catcher for long.  Before todays game, the Yankees sent reliever Kei Igawa to the minors to bring Ian Kennedy in for today’s game.

 

Former Rays Players’ of the Night:

Being that this is a early blog post, since it was a day game today, I have not gotten the finishing totals of all players in the MLB tonight.

So, with that in mind, I was thinking of just listing 10 former Rays’ players tonight and their respective teams for 2008:

 

Marlon Anderson                                                New York Mets

Chad Gaudin                                                     Oakland A’s starter

Doug Waechter                                                  Florida Marlins reliever

Mark Hendrickson                                            Florida Marlins  starter

Geoff Blum                                                       Houston Astros utility guy

Ty Wiggington                                            Houston Astros third baseman

Brandon Backe                                                Houston Astros starter

Damion Easley                                                New York Mets infielder

Shawn Camp                                                   Toronto Blue Jays reliever

Seth McClung                                                 Milwaukee Brewers reliever

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