Results tagged ‘ Steve Henderson ’

2011 Toby Hall Celebrity Golf Classic

 

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Day 2 of the Charity Week experience. This charity event actually took place last Thursday, but somehow I lost my little camera video card in the movement from the camera to the computer. Now that the day’s photos are safely within the computer, it is time to give you some of the highlights and tales from the 2011 Toby Hall Celebrity Golf Classic.

 

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This is my second year volunteering for this golfing event that first started out as a bowling event in Tampa so many years ago. Arrived at the Bayou Club gold clubhouse about 9:45-ish and immediately came face-to face with three off-duty members of the St. Petersburg Police Department. 

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 They were there as special guests of Hall to participate in a fundraising event through their memorial T-shirt benefiting the families of two recently slain SPPD officers. During the charity event, the SPPD representatives set up a tent at the turning point or Hole 9.5 of the course and as the golfing pairs came up to do the putting challenge, they could also purchase T-shirts and speak to the officers( including a K-9 officer) that knew the two officers.

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 When Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder B J Upton’s 5-member pairing came up for the putting contest, Upton took a moment to go over to the SPPD tent and purchased not one, but over a dozen T-shirts, including one for everyone in his pairing group.

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Fellow Rays Fans Wall of Fame member George Stone was on the scene again that day spreading the word about the featured charity of the event, The Miracle League. Some might not know that the Miracle League is a baseball league formed so that children of all ages with special needs and abilities can also enjoy the greatest game on dirt. At one point later in the evening, Stone actually got a verbal commitment from St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster to attend the 2011 Opening Day event in St. Petersburg.

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There were plenty of Rays, plus ex-Rays on hand this day helping Hall in his quest to help this great organization. I remember a few years ago when they completely re-constructed the Miracle League field in the Azalea region of St. Petersburg, just down the street from the old Rays Spring Training facility.

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On hand that day supporting Hall’s charity event was Dan Wheeler (Red Sox), Jesse Litsch (Jays), Brian Stokes (Jays).Boof Bonser ( NY Mets), Jason Michaels (Astros), Trever Miller (Cardinals),Ryan Webb (Marlins), Gregg Zaun (Padres), Miguel Cairo (Reds). Bobby Wilson (Angels) and Jorge Cantu (Padres), plus former NBA star Matt Gieger and retired Bucs running back Mike Alstott.

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Representing the Rays was Upton, starter James Shields, RP Andy Sonnanstine, and new RP Adam Russell. Also on hand were a few other well known Rays faces either from the Coaching ranks, or from their on-the-field reporting. Broadcaster Todd Kalas was joined on this day by current Rays Third Base Coach Tom Foley and former Rays Coaches Bill Evers ( Durham Bulls), Ozzie Timmons (Columbus Catfish) and former Hitting Coach Steve Henderson. Rays shortstop Reid Brignac was also scheduled to attend, but had an emergency.

 

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I was stationed to begin the day in the registration area handing out specially made Toby Hall caps, visors and rain slickers. But just as it seemed I might have an early end to my day, I volunteered to run the putting contest. It was a great time in which each pairing member got a chance to hit one golf ball into a sectioned off squared area for multiples of points with a maximum of 10 points if you sunk your putt..

 

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You could cut the air with a knife as to the early competitive nature of the event as Cairo was the closest to the hole for most of the day until 5 pairings from the end, the cream began to rise to the putting top of the pot. Local attorney David Papa, who was in the Wilson pairing found the center of the hole to become the first to thrust his team to a sizeable lead. ( total 14 points).

 

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That total seemed safe until one of the last groups, which included LPGA star Brittney Linicome, had their first putting contestant Tim Nalls of American Marketing put in square in the hole. With an immediate 10 points, this team was quickly putting (bad pun) itself into contention for the Putting contest crown.

 

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But suddenly we all noticed that Linicome, who had an early flight out of Orlando in the morning for a LPGA event had left before taking her putting chance. I made an executive putting contest decision to let Nalls put his way to either team victory, or a second place finish. The climatic moment was short lived as Nalls pulled his second try to the right and did not even register a single additional point. I wonder if Linicome would have gotten them that needed 5 points for their victory by putting her golf ball in the inner square within a foot of the hole? We will never know.

 

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But the solace of placing second was definitely short lived by the Linicome pairing as they finished the event with a 52, good enough for the eventual top finish in the tournament and bragging right for the entire year. As the teammates from the Linicome pairing basked in the afterglow and celebrated at the after party at Courtside Grille minus Brittney. The real winner here was the Miracle League.

 

 


I have been proud the last two years of volunteering in this event, and also made a commitment that day to help another event that will be held this Friday. On that day I will be helping out the Jesse Litsch & Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournament in Oldsmar, Florida. How can I possibly complain, another great day in the Sun with athletes supporting their local charities and spreading the news of this great charitable golfing event.

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I want to remind the Rays Republic that the memorial T-shirts that benefit the families of the two slain SPPD officers will be ongoing in the Tampa Bay community. You can contact, or visit the St. Petersburg Police Department’s lobby to purchase a T-shirt, or contact them about ongoing outside T-shirt opportunities within the community. Please support this worthy charity and remembrance of these Tampa Bay heroes.

 
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Again I want to thank Tracey and her staff plus Toby for the adventures and memories. Believe me, I have more than a few moments to tell people about that would not fit on this post today. But that is the great thing about charity events like this that happen so close to Spring Training. The excitement levels in seeing past friends and the approaching report dates just adds to the zeal and essence of the tournament.

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I am already looking forward to the 2012 event. I want to post a link here for the Miracle League of the Gulf Beaches and hope that all of us can contribute in some way to a great organization that brings the love of the game to some that might not be able to run, hit or even pitch like everyone, but the smile and joy on their faces as they move around the bases makes it so worthwhile.

 

All photos taken at the 2011 Toby Hall Celebrity Golf Classic can be found in a photo set on Flickr.com

 

 

 

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Rays Show Confidence in Pitching Coach Jim Hickey……….Really?


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Sometimes I truly think that the Rays Front Office loves to use subliminal and subversive messages to gather information on the public perception of an event or something that makes them go…..hmmmmmmm?  But I have to admit, this one move, this 180 degree change of heart that shows something towards Rays Pitching coach Jim Hickey keeps him here for another Rays season. And for the life of me, I do not see a solid reason while he is still employed by the Rays. And you know the local kool-ade drinking media will not voice their dismay over this action………..nope, they will remain wihin the party lines.

But I do not have Press Credentials, or even an inside information mole to give me things like them. I get my information from watching 80 games a year at the Trop., and every game that MLB.com shows on the air. What could be their logical reasoning to let go of Hitting Coach, Steve Henderson today who’s Rays hitters only set new Team Records in homers, runs scored, RBI and stolen bases this season, but keep a Pitching Coach who’s starters and Bullpen relievers took a definite two steps backwards in 2009. I mean Hickey does have some Houston roots, so he might understand this next scenario without him having to have flash cards or pictures.

What has seemed to happen this season to the Rays pitching staff is akin to a guy doing the Texas two-step in a deep foxhole. You can go forward, you can go back, but only two step no matter what. And that is what his Rays staff has done most of the season. they have made slight improvements and altered their course in games, but the end result is always the same……..sometimes the “pitch to contact” system delivers up a long ball instead of a ground out or a double play ball for the defense. 

And if that system doesn’t work do you blame Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, or Rays Manager Joe Maddon? In reality you can put the check mark next to both names, because Friedman keeps Hickey and Maddon keeps believing in him. But in my mind, the only culprit here is the mechanic who tunes the system and makes it run smooth, clean and with a minimum of problems. And this season, Hickey looked more like an apprentice than a master craftsman.

Sure he got dealt a bad deal two years in a row when Troy Percival took his glove and went home to rehab, but at no time in the season did the team try and promote from within or try and isolate anyone to take over that role for the season. Other teams call on the veterans, or even a hot shot prospect with a cannon on his arm. At one point, the Rays signed Jorge Julio to a minor league contract maybe hoping he still has some gasoline in his tank. But the team instead adapted a much discussed and faulty plan of using pitching match-ups as a basis for the later innings.


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This works well when you base your Spring Training team on to this formula, and not adopt it in the middle of trying to stop a losing month, or keep a string of wins alive. The match-up system has to be nurtured and fcoused on totally, not just based on situational 8th, or 9th innings hitters. And with this team bascially only having three reliever that can be trusted with hitters from both sides of the plate, it makes your options a bit tighter in the games.

And who has to be the craftsman behind all of this, well the Pitching Coach. Sure Maddon and Hickey can go over situational devices and plan accordingly, but life doesn’t always go by the book, and Hickey doesn’t always give the same sage advice as Maddon. I actually can not see the correlation between these two at times. Maddon is the always thinking, mind turning a million miles a minute, and Hickey is just, well Hickey. I know Maddon does scribble a few hints and stats on his personal score sheet to check on later in the games, but I really do not see the collective brain trust in Hickey by his side.

Sure Hickey does the Rays pitchers Side Sessions and the Bullpen Session with his pitching staff, but I sometimes see more vocal words coming out of Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi’s mouth than Hickeys in relation to the pitches. I might not see the video work he does with “Chico” Fernandez to get these guys ready for a ballgame, and I do not know his personal preparation routine for game days. But what I do see is a guy who sometimes goes by the book more than his instinct and wisdom. The black statistics on that white printer paper might have a few highlighted marks on it, but i do not see him as a strategist in the least…………sorry.

So if a guys starters leave and do better in other locales, can you give credit to a guy that used to be their Pitching Coach, or do you question why they prospered away from the “pitch-to-contact” scheme of Hickey’s gameplan. How can Jason Hammel go from a hot and controled environment like the Trop and have a lower ERA in of all places, Coors Field in 2009.  Edwin Jackson was a stud in the making as a pitcher even before he went to Detroit in a trade. I mean the Rays considered him for the closer role before, and with the recent plight of Percival, why did they not consult E J  and see if he would take on the task?

And you know I am going to bring up Scott Kazmir and his seeking advice outside the organization from the man who was his first Pitching Coach in New York, Rick Peterson. Oh how that must have burned deep inside Hickey that he was not visually equiped to notice a small step adjustment for maximum velocity. I bet if they let him, he would have drove Kazmir to the airport that next morning and kicked him out of the rental car haflway there………..(just kidding, maybe).


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So if the Rays Bullpen gets rebuilt in Hickey’s mold with the financial restrictions in mind, it might only be a tweaking of the current system. Even if Chad Bradford and Percivals money comes off the books, there might still not be enough to achieve a maximum upgrade, but it can be done.  But is Hickey the guy you want to entrust with that job, or is there someone within the Rays system like Xavier Hernandez, who has been fine-tuning the Rays Triple-A guys for several years.

I actually have more faith in Hernandez than I do Hickey based on what Hernandez did as the Rays snatched starters from the Bulls throughout the year and he still had the arms to take the Triple-A Championship. Gone by that time was David Price, and Hernandez manipulated the system when injuries to Mitch Talbot and other hit the Bulls staff. But still Hickey will be manning the pitching charts and books for the Rays in 2010. But how long will his luck go before he finally runs out of gas or chances with the Rays?

You know they took a big PR gamble a few years ago after the Rays last game of the season when he hit a Rays batboys truck at an intersection, and drove around the car and proceeded home. He was stopped by the St. Petersburg Police Department several miles dow
n the Interstate and did not act in all in the manners of the “Rays Way”.  

But Hickey showed remorse to the Rays Front Office and recieved a year contratc to show he was to change his ways.  And considering at that same time the Rays were going through a slew of “problem chld” situations with Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes, they could have just sent him on his merry way and not looked back.  I hope that the Rays made thew right decision and that Hickey does make me regret this posting, but I do not think that is going to happen.


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Maddon will not be able to sheild him again if the Rays starters or even the Bullpen falls on hard times. He will be directly in the crosshairs, and I think he knows it now. During the last home stand there was a guy in Section 136 that had a sign that read” All I want for Christmas is a Pitching Coach”.  Well, the Rays decided to retain their present Pitching guru, and the hot seat begins right now. Hickey needs to not only get this team to totally believe in his system now, but also the fans so he doesn’t hear the chants and the catcalls before the next All-Star break.

Maddon can not protect him now. I remember seeing a comment that he called Hickey “one of the best pitching coaches” Maddon has has in his career. Hickey is a bit younger than most of the sage PC in the league, but if his ‘pitch-to-contact” system doesn’t gel right in Tampa Bay in 2010, the contact he will feel is the swift kick in the behind as he leaves the clubhouse door.

  

Joyce is making a Play for Roster Spot

 

 
 
Matt Joyce came into this Spring Training knowing that he would be playing in front of a home town crowd this spring. Added to that mix was the excitement and anticipation of fighting for a roster spot as either the right fielder, or as an outfield option for the team in the 2009 season. But the first couple of weeks were not kind to Joyce as he was fighting off some tendinitis and a severe ankle sprain suffered during the first weeks of camp.  But he fought long and hard to get back on the field for the Rays, and so far he has impressed the right people to get a late spring look-see from the Rays coaching staff.

Last Sunday against the New York Yankees, he came up and ripped a ball long and deep into the teeth of the wind that did not have enough to sail out of the ballpark, but the sound off his bat made an impression on Rays Manager Joe Maddon, and he wanted to see more of the young outfielder the Rays traded  14-game winner Edwin Jackson for during the off season.  Joyce did not disappoint in his second at bat either. Well, he did strike out, but not before leveling the bat on a hanging breaking ball and sending it almost into the Rays clubhouse and offices off of right field. the unfortunate thing is he pulled it just foul before finally swinging at a third strike.
 

But it showed the promise and the power that the scouting report had documented on the young player, who is still developing his power game. But with this weeks announcement that fellow outfielder Justin Ruggiano was optioned to the minor league camp, it might signal a different viewpoint on the Rays upcoming problem with B J Upton missing the first road trip of the year while he rehabs from his off season shoulder surgery. Could the Rays now be thinking of maybe using Joyce instead of Ruggiano and give him some more time to stake his claim to a 25-man active roster spot after Upton’s return?
 
 
 

Well the Rays quickly let him show his stuff as he was the starting center fielder for the Rays versus the Detroit Tigers match up this week in Lakeland. It was the first time he has faced his former team since his trade, and he was excited to just be back on the field again.  Maddon made a comment before the game to the St. Petersburg Times that Joyce “realistically, still has time” to prove he’s healthy enough to  maybe change some minds and even break Spring Training as the extra outfielder.  One reason why Joyce is in center
field tonight this is a great opportunity to test him out there a little bit.

 

 
 

“He does, realistically, he still has time (to make the team),” Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times, “Being healthy and getting him out  there enough, and us feeling comfortable that he is beyond the risk of injuring himself more. So we have to test him a little bit and get him out there, play and get some at-bats. I’ve really enjoyed his at bats, and I think he has a special swing.” As of Friday’s afternoon game against the Twins Joyce was batting only .182, with only 2 hits in 11 at bats. But he did hit a RBI single in the fifth inning of that game, and also walked on 7 pitches in another at bat against the Tigers. He also showed some speed on the bases getting his first steal of the season during the same game.

 
 
 

Maddon, for one, wants to see Joyce field. He’s never seen him do so in a game, other than a few stray innings last year when Joyce played for the Tigers. Maddon has heard the stories about his  rocket arm, and saw him play in bits and pieces earlier this spring. “We want to try him at different spots,”  Maddon added, ” We know how we feel about his arm, so all these things are there…And yes, he is still in the running for at the end of camp.”  He started at Designated Hitter on Friday’s game against the Minnesota Twins and went 1-2, with his second single of the spring. But he did not remain in the lineup long after James Shields got shelled by the Twins for 12 runs on 11 hits in that contest.

 
 
                  
 
 
Joyce made only one appearance in Saturday’s contest against the Cincinnati Reds coming in to pinch hit for Designated Hitter Pat Burrell in the eighth inning. Unfortunately, he  struck out in that at bat to lower his spring batting average to .167. No plans have been announced yet as to his next appearance, but it could be during Sunday’s contest against the Reds in another one of the Rays multiple home-and-home series this Spring.  Time is running out for Joyce to make his bat stick in the minds of Rays coaching staff memebers and front office personnel.



Even though the Rays offcial roster does not have to be set before next Sunday, you can be sure they will make a decision on Joyce before they leave for Philadelphia for their last two games at Citizens Bank Park on April 3rd and 4th. I have a feeling that the Rays are going to give Joyce every opportunity to make them change their minds and keep him up with the club this season. Now the decision is up to Joyce to see if he up to the challenge.
 
 

Photo credits:  1) www.detroittigers.com
                       2) www.tbo.com ( Brian Cassella )
                       3) www.raysbaseball.com
 

Rays First 3 Arbitration Eligible Players…Infield and Bench Positions.

 

      

 

The Tampa Bay Rays did not have a single Type “A” or “B” free agent to offer or turn down arbitration on December 1st, but that does not mean the road will be paved with gold for the Rays in 2009. They might have some of the toughest decisions yet as a franchise as they currently have 6 members of the 40-man roster  up for arbitration before the beginning of the 2009 season. 

 

But next year will be even worse,  with a total of  7 Rays going into arbitration for the first time. The current 2009 class includes a crowd favorite, an developing  outfielder turned pitcher, a foreign-born ironman and a couple of huge pieces of the upgraded Rays infield. I will try and explore the 2008 season for pluses and minuses only based on statistics and facts pertaining to the regular season.

 

 I try and put myself within Rays General Manager Andrew Friedman’s head and look at statistics and possible risks for these players based on results compiled during the 2008 regular season.  I will attempt to seperate the postseason from the regular season and not use them as a primary evaluation, but as bonus materials to decide and make a prediction on the outcome of the Rays choices, and paths during the 2009 arbitration process.

 

I am going to evaluate the first 3 guys that compose key parts of the infield and a current bench player and slightly used outfielder who plays better when he is in the flow of the game. So without further ado:

 

 

Jonny Gomes:

 

Here is  a tough one for me. I can see the positive  of this new team role model  and how he has become more of a fan favorite in the last few years. And the fans’  respond to his home-spun Rays energy like a bug to a lightbulb. But this is ultimately a baseball decision, and sometimes good players have to be dragged under the carpet when they are not pulling their collective weight on the team. Gomes has done as much as he can with what he has been presented in 2008, but will it be enough to satify the new Rays urges and wants for their offense?

 

The worst part of determining  if Gomes is the player the Rays need right now is that he is like the proverbial rolling stone, and he gather energy and motivation from activity, not from just sitting on the bench.  Some People may also call upon the fact that he has had a swinging door between Durham, North Carolina and St. Petersburg, Florida the last 2 years. This is not a positive and good thing for such a powerful young player to develop  into a hitting  rut so deep he has to go down to the minors to correct himself.

 

It is a little more than a swing adjustment, it is mostly pitch recognition. Gomes seems to have a difficuly time reading some cutters and sinkers coming into his body before they expolde and tip over the outside of the plate for a strike. Professional baseball is based on the fact that you usually get a hit at least 3 times in every 10 at bats. To even hit a solid .300 nowadays you have to study the leagues pitchers’ and their collective release points and angle variables even before stepping to the plate. To some players this is a formality and they tend to be able to hit anything thrown their direction. Others have to make in-game adjustments to fit the changes, and Gomes has been slow, but actively trying to play catchup and learn to adjust on the fly more in 2008.

 

Gomes has to develop a little more give and take in his set strike zone to be an  effective hitter for the team in 2009.  In 2008, Gomes only had a paltry  178 plate appearances for the Rays. Not a huge amount, but was he being sat down more for plate discipline, or for a lack of consistant ability to hit with men in scoring position and producing scoring situations  when he did get his chance at the plate.

 

His .183 batting average speaks volumes to me about the type of pitching he saw in 2008. Gomes has never been really strong at recognizing the breaking points late on a pitch. This has put him in alot of 2-strike situations during the season, which lead to costly and unnecessary outs. His On-Base Plus Scoring average was a dismal  .670, not the perfect prerequisite for a power hitter off the bench. 

 

For a guy who had been pretty hot with his bat to begin the season, Gomes became an offensive liability by the end of the season. He was swining at more pitches outside the strike zone trying to get something going, or maybe jump-starting himself out of a slump as deep as a ravine in the Grand Canyon.

 

  In comparision to 2007, Gomes had a total of  393 plate appearances  that season and still struck out 126 times for the Rays. That is a high number, but his .244 average and .620 OPS were indications he was seeing the ball more and hitting better pitches in 2007 than 2008.

 

 

So you have to ask yourself if Gomes got  more pitches to hit in 2008, what would he have done with them?  The statistics show that Gomes saw at least 676 pitches in 2008, and he swung at 48.1 percent of them.  He did have a good contact rate of  76.3 percent, including foul balls. This shows that the bat was getting to the ball, but not into the field of play for him. In 2008, he got pitches to hit, but only had 44 percent chance of the ball going between the foul lines.

 

Based on all information, do you take into account his community and local fan base as a reason to keep him or  even offer him arbitration in 2009? The decision ultimately has to come from an evaluation of Gomes by Rays Hitting Coach Steve Henderson. If Henderson sees a viable way to increase his productivity and think he is an under-used, but key piece to the Rays’  2009 machine, you have to offer him arbitration.

 

 

 

 Based on his 2008 numbers, Gomes might not get a huge jump in salary, but it will be a significant increase from his 2007 salalry. Gomes might come away from a hearing with a salary in the $ 1.2-1.3 million dollar range based on service time and hearing guidelines.  Such an amount would keep a valuable member of the Rays team here, and also give  him time to further study his craft, and then decide on his fate with his maple bat.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro:

 

Here we have a guy who I truly feel had a banner year in 2008. Do I expect him to have the same year, or even build on it in 2009?  I hope so for his sake, every season Navarro has been here, the Rays have thrown a veteran catcher at him to see if he buckles or falters. He  never seems to falter far from his true self.  Navarro did an amazing job in 2008 by taking control of the Rays young staff and showing a veteran leadership role in every aspect of the game

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This did not go unnoticed by his peers or the Rays’ faithful as Navarro was rewarded with a selection to the American League All-Star staff by Boston skipper Terry Francona. Navarro rewarded Francona with 7 innings of solid catching, great throws to nab baserunners’ and timely hits for the All-Star squad in New York. At the time of the All-Star game, Navarro was hitting over .300 and was in an  impressive groove both behind and at the plate for the Rays.

 

He ended up hitting .295 for the year, but had only 470 plate appearances after an early season injury took away valuable plate appearances from him.  Navarro ended up hitting above the league average for hits, and set a personal hit total of 126 for the season. He came up with 7 home runs and lowered his strikeout rate during the season. A true test to him finally having confidience to follow his personal strike zone and sticking to it.

 

 

He was in control of his staff and commanded the respect from all of them. A well publicized blow-up with starter, Matt Garza showed that Navarro was no longer just playing catch back there, but was there to win and established him as a valuable commodity behind the plate for the Rays.

 

Based on his 2008 numbers, Navarro was only out-hit by Minnesota’s Joe Mauer in the AL for catchers, and his average lead the  entire Rays lineup for 2008.  His 54 RBI’s were  10 more than his previous best 44 RBI’s set in 2007 with the team.  He got hot at the right time for the Rays, hitting .317 for September during the Rays playoff push. 

 

He also  excelled in throwing behind the plate, and increased his caught stealing ratio to 34.8 percent this season. That total was ranked third in the MLB, and second in the AL.  When compared against all catchers in the AL with at least 100 games, he was second only to Cleveland’s Kelly Shoppach in the fewest bases allowed this season.  He also had a .944 fielding average for the season,  which put him 4th in the AL.

 

 

 

Based on the upswing of both his statistics and his thrust to become a on-field leader for the Rays, I think that the team will reward Navarro with an arbitration hearing and he can expect to increase his salary to around the $ 2.3 million dollars in salary for 2009. If the young catcher can regain and establish himself behind the plate again in 2009, he will cement himself in the Rays lineup for a long time.

 

 

 

Jason Bartlett:

 

Who would have thought that a year ago that Jason Bartlett would have such an effect on the 2008 season for the Rays. Last November, when he was traded to the Rays from the Twins, most people thought he was a throw in candidate and did not see the unlimited amount of potential in his game. How much different a year can make, as Bartlett became the middle gunner in a well-tuned and aligned Rays defensive infield.

 

Bartlett improved the Rays defense so much by just playing shortstop that the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers of America gave him the  Team MVP honors for 2008.  But he also did it with his bat when Bartlett hit  an impressive . 286 for the Rays, and made contact on 86 percent of the pitches he saw in 2008.

 

Like Navarro, Bartlett hit .371 in the final 39 games of 2008 and provided excellent hitting with runners in scoring position ,and  provided countless extra base hits.  He led the AL in hitting against left-handers, hitting a brisk .379 for the year. That mark was also 4th best in the MLB in 2008.  He was a combined 20-28 on the base paths, but  was an impressive 9 out of 11 with steals of third base in 2008. Any time he was on base, he was a threat to steal or take an extra base on a hit or a run.

 

 

Bartlett slugged out an .386 average in August, the highest average for that month in Rays history, and the second best ever for a Rays player. He hit .297 for the year with Runners In Scoring Position.  The one  bitter downside to his play  in 2008 was the time he missed due to injuries. This showed a big  gaping hole in the Rays’ defense and the team did win and play tough without Bartlett, but struggled at times. The team went a combined 78-47 with Bartlett in the lineup in 2008.

 

 Another  very visible downside was his .970 fielding average and 16 errors this season.  Bartlett made a few mis-guided efforts during the season, but his outstanding defensive plays at other times during the season can surely cancel out the errors and miscues. His defense stance was outstanding and truly made the trade for him an huge plus for the Rays. If he could get to the ball, he made a valiant effort to record the out for the team. 

 

 

Based on the  ability of Bartlett to secure for the Rays a defensive decrease in costly errors and a huge upgrade at his position, I think the team should award Bartlett with an arbitration hearing for 2009.  Based on the arbitration process, he might garnish a 2009 salary in the range of $ 2 million dollars a season, and  that will be a great value at that amount for the team. I also hear a rumor that the Twins might want him back. If the Rays sign him to a 2-year deal at a great price, he would be an extra value to the Twins…………you never know……… 

 

 

Please be advised that at anytime the Rays could swoop in and sign any of these 3 players to a contract before their arbitration hearing dates. I am only using the amounts as a feeder for the possible increase and financial rewards for the teams extrordinary  2008 season. It is not to be taken as a set  award amount or even a pre-determined hearing reward, but as a calculated guess based on past arbitration hearings and  my own personal opinion.

 

Both Bartlett and Navarro might even be entertaining an offer at this time from the Rays for multiple years, or even a longer extension. This is just a “guess-timate” on the 2009 salary if the team does not offer or entertain a multi year contract, and decides to go for a one-year contract for the players. At any time the team can either trade or even release any of these players and the arbitration would be a moot point.

 

 

Tomorrow I will take on the last 3 arbitration eligible players on the Rays 2008 roster and give the same evaluations of their 2008 seasons and the expected financial results of a possible arbitration award.

 

 

The final 3 candidates are: Right-fielder Gabe Gross, Number-5 Starter Edwin Jackson, and Relief Pitcher Grant Balfour.  All 3 have interesting numbers for the season and multiple reasons to consider or deny arbitration for 2009. Be it the World Baseball Classic, an ever increasing confidence in their game, or potential finally getting a chance to rear it’s head, Major League Baseball players know that their last season is always a tell-tale sign to their futures.

 

 

 

 

Rays Thoughts and Ramblings………Not For the Weak-Hearted

 

 

I have to start this with a trivia question for the Yankee fans.

What three (3) monuments in the Yankee stadium center field have no relationship to baseball and the Yankees’ players, past or present?

 

 

I will give the answer at the bottom of the blog.

 

 

Rays’ New Stadium Plans:

 

To start out, lets chat about the new stadium situations and recent events.

 

I was reading the local fish wrap today and it is noted that a enviormential group is going to protest the announced stadium plans because of a Manatee situation. Now people not familiar with St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront would not know about the artesian well under the water off the Demen’s Landing site.

 

This warm water well is a constant feeding system that is heated to about 80 degrees. that translates to perfect Sea cow(Manatee) specs. The group is telling people that the well is a constant attraction for the Manatees, and to build near it, or over it would deplete a viable warm spot for the sea cows.

 

First off, I know the site in question. It was originally drilled early in St. Petersburgs’ history to be a tourist attraction because of the proposed “healing” powers of the sulfur-aided water. There was a pier that protruded out into Tampa Bay at that time, and they drilled down to produce a hole in the upper Florida Aquifer. For years, this well was suppose to be Ponce De Leon’s “Fountain of Youth”.

 

Second, the well is currently in about 30 feet of water, still uncapped and  supplying heat and relaxation to Sea cow nation. the exact location of the fill area for the new stadium will take a small channel area off by the Sailing Academy on Demen’s Landing, and might inhibit the St. Petersburg Yacht Club basin more than disturb the Raymond look-a likes. 

 

“Haunted Baseball:

 

I  went on a baseball book hunt the other day in Barnes and Noble, and came away with a few great books about our national pastime. They had a huge selection of autobiographies and collections of stories concerning baseball.

 

One of the book I chose was, “Haunted Baseball,” by Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon. To start with, the authors are Boston and NY fans true and true. The book is a collection of events depicting the ghosts, practical spiritual games, and unexplained phenoms concerning baseball.

 

I have only read the first 100 pages, but the authors have done a lot of research with players, coaches and experts in this field. The first chapter is dedicated to a St. Petersburg Cresent Lake site that was  one of the Spring Training sites for the old Yankees, Mets, Cardinals and Orioles.

 

It is Huggins-Stengel field located in the Southeastern corner of the park near the landmark water tower. It explains about the odd happenings and situation concerning the old clubhouse area currently occupied by the St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation team TASCO.

 

It is a wild tale of ghostly sightings and unexplained sights, sounds and smells concerning the vast history that has graced this cement block building. One of the wildest tales concerns a cigar odor that is strong in the AM when the TASCO workers come in the morning, and the strange and odd happening after dark in the building.

 

I used to deliver Pepsi product to TASCO as a Special Events Coordinator, and I always had an uneasy feeling in that building. If I knew about these events, I would have loved to stay the night or visit the are at night.  

 

The third chapter of the book is about the famous Vinoy hotel that the visiting teams, and newly promoted and signed Rays players stay in for games. It has been a long time since the hotel was a vacant shell on the waterfront, but true natives know how much the hotel transformed the waterfront Vinoy area back to respectability and extreme comfort for the road weary players’.

 

It goes into detail about the haunting and shenanigans of the specters’ in the old wing of the hotel. I know of one death in the hotel from when it was an abandoned shell. It is of a homeless guy who fell into the water-filled elevator shaft and drowned because there was no one there to hear him scream for help, or rescue him. Legend has it that sometimes the walls of the elevators produce a banging sound like someone trying to get in from below or above the unit.

 

I have also stayed in this hotel  a few times in the old wing and have not had a truly restful night because of scratching noises outside my 6th floor window. I took it as a dove or bird trying to find a niche for the night. Never thought about a ghostly apparition or specter causing the chaos.

 

It has a Rays’ twist in the form of a ghostly haunting involving Jon Switzer when he first got promoted up to the big club. You have to read the account to believe it.

 

By the way, other players and coaches have had events happen to them in this spirited hotel. Enough that it was profiled  in an ESPN story involving the Cincinnati Reds reliever Scott Williamson. He was held down in his bed by an unforeseen force in the night and in later research, it was noted that the former landowner of the Vinoy site before the hotel was built was also named Williamson.

 

Dioner Navarro:

 

I am going to comment on a recent article about Dioner Navarro. This Tampa-bred, former Yankee prospect is entering his second year behind the plate for the Rays’.  I think both he and the Rays staff know that it is “now or never” for him to show the ability to handle this young staff and aggressively product at the plate.  Dioner made great strides in the second half last year, and i think that under hitting Coach Steve Henderson, he will improve more this year.

 

He was a great prospect in the Yankee system, and was to be the heir apparent to Posada. When he was traded to the Dodgers, his product was limited by the Dodgers’ own catching prospect finally starting to reach his potential. I think he was the diamond in the rough piece of the trade with the Dodgers. He is a skilled thrower and was a essential part of the first triple play in Rays history starting from the 2-spot.

 

I know that Joe Maddon has great hopes and respect for him. Let’s just wait and see how he reports to the complex this year. I predict a leaner, meaner Dioner ready to show both players and fans he is here to play……….for as long time. By the way, he is only 23, and has a world of chances in his  MLB future.

 

Trivia Answer:

 

I am going to go now, but I need to give you the answer to the Trivia question.  Did you know the answer?  Well, here it is…………..

 

The only three monuments in the Yankee center field area not associated with baseball or the Yankee’s baseball history are: A monument to Sept. 11th 2001, and two papal visits by the pope to  what Vince Scully calls,  “the cathedral that is Yankee Stadium.”

Did you know the answer?

 

I am thinking of doing a Rays’ trivia question on  each blog from now on here..what do you think?

 

Since I did work Tropicana Field for Pepsi for 4 years, I know a lot about the “House that Vince built.”

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