Results tagged ‘ Tampa Bay Rays ’
There was just a blot on Twitter that Tampa Bay Rays former jack-of-a-trades Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” that the Rays would designate him for assignment today.
Well, personally, I kind of saw the writing on the proverbial wall.
Main reason not being that S-Rod was to possibly garner $2 million in salary through arbitration, it was clearly a fact he is one of the last “pets” of former Rays Manager Joe Maddon that was left on the Rays 40-Man roster.
This is not to downplay the timely hits and run scoring escapades Rodriguez brought to the forefront during his Rays tenure, it is just we have more than a few multiple minor league and M L B caliber guys currently on the roster who can do it for less, possibly play more and do not have a lingering Maddon tie.
Some have whispered over the last few off seasons and during the extremely stressful Trade Deadline periods that S-Rod could be send a-packing. Of course those moments never reared their ugly heads until today.
Rodriquez is a capable M L B player who could like so many others on the Rays be plugged in wherever he was needed or take a bat and hit the batting circle with visions of RBIs dancing through his head.
With Brandon Guyer, Logan Forsythe able bodies who can handle S-Rod’s old tasks at a considerable lower salary, the choice surely was made easier when the Rays aw they could save around $2 million in salary with this one swift move.
Sure his .211 batting average last season left a lot to be desired, but his career-best .443 slugging percentage in 2014 showed he could be a great versatile position guy and his career-high 12 Hrs in 2014 might just make him a wanted man off the bench possibly well suited for a National League squad as a fill-in situational # 9 guy.
Joel Peralta was the first of Maddon’s preferential guys to get the Rays heave ho when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers not so long ago.
Wanna bet a certain someone will call and at least check in on what the Rays want for Rodriquez, and I bet they call from a 847 area code.
For the last 4 All Star Games we have watched during the State Farm Home Run Derby telecasts as multicolored spheres of white and gold take flight leaving the hurler’s fingers on it path to the plate before their final destination in a surprised and elated fan’s glove or hand.
Each year Rawlings and the Fielding Bible bring together their collective expertise to produce the Golden Glove Awards which include a spectacular display piece featuring an actual Rawlings glove as the centerpiece.
Ever wonder how they get the gold to adhere to the leather glove or even those Home Run Derby balls? Watch the video below for just a taste of the process.
These events showcase the special and unique masterpieces made possible by getting an atom of gold bullion to adhere to cowhide leather utilizing a proprietary method known as the Magnetron Sputtering System.
That is real 24-carat gold emblazoned on the leather and is each piece produced by this process is certified by Swiss Company SGS and includes their own certificate of authenticity guaranteeing that 24-carat gold was used in its manufacture.
Gold Sports Collectibles, which has patented and own the rights to this awesome and brilliant process first approached Rawlings about making their products “golden” several years ago.
They wanted to produce keepsakes and special collectible mementos by utilizing their innovative technology of getting gold atoms to bond successfully within the leather pores of the figure-8 cowhide cover of an actual Major League Baseball without reducing its weight, speed , circumference or diameter.
After Rawlings was satisfied with the results, it was on to more tests by M L B at Yankee Stadium where the test flight of the new “gold balls” showed no flight diversions, no fluttering and kept their unique integrity intact, even after a monster shot over the fences.
So what if I told you that you can buy these special commemorative balls for yourself or someone else this holiday season? Be it a State Farm Home Run Derby ball from the 2011 All Star Game, a special Derek Jeter commemorative ball or even a golden keepsake ball from any of the World Series matches since 2008.
And they can be sent to you this holiday season at really competitive price points that start at $99 to $179 and will produce endless smiles and special bragging moments for years to come centered on your mantel in their included acrylic display case.
You can pick from team-themed baseballs, to special moments in baseball lore as well as ball commemorating historic stadium plus personal player milestones anniversaries, which include Gold Glove and Hall of Fame golden baseballs.
Or maybe you want to make you own unique golden masterpiece. Well, you can do that too by sending your request to put your own personal mark on the ball you want designed. Maybe you want to emblazon your company’s logo on it and give it as an achievement award, or celebrate a special event like a graduation or remembering a special baseball memory.
If you might want to partake in a custom baseball you can contact GSC at firstname.lastname@example.org and they can see if they can make your dream a golden reality.
When I first got an email from GSC I was not sure if the process was durable or if the ball’s claims were true and accurate. Well the company sent me a ball with a Rays logo attached to it and I decided to try it out for myself.
I have a neighbor whose son’s plays for a local high school squad and I asked him if he wanted to help test out the ball to see if the diameter and flight were compromised at all by the attached gold material.
We threw the ball back and forth for a few minutes and the sheen on the ball did not tarnish, it did not show any developing cracking or show any critical signs of wear and tear. I did not go into the Batter’s Box and try out its durability after a few swings. I might be crazy, but I’m not nuts to possibly lose the golden ball over a fence in deep grass and have it destroyed by someone’s lawn mower.
But seriously, I love this item and it is a great way to show your fan love either for your home team, as a present with the recipient’s home squad or to gather signatures of All Star or World Series players and showcase as a one of a kind baseball.
And if you are on the fence about possibly purchasing one of the GSC unique logoed baseballs, what if I had a special 15% off you could use from now until the end of the year (Dec 31st) to buy one or more of these products as holiday special gifts for your favorite baseball fan or even for your own budding collection.
Of course you will have to use this code: GSC15 during the checkout process of your order and the company will send the ball to you as soon as possible with its unique certificate of authenticity as well as enclosed in its own box and acrylic case.
Here is a link to the Gold Sports Collectibles website so you can begin browsing and possibly purchasing your own piece of baseball history, to showcase your love for the game and to provide another lifetime and lasting memory for the baseball fans in your life.
Excuse me while I go polish up my golden baseball and put it back in its display case along with my 2013 Home Run Derby ball.
Oh did I forget to tell you, they shine in the light and pull the attention of even the most oblivious baseball fan towards them.
Gosh, that did not take long.
We all knew that one day the possibility would rear its ugly head that the Tampa Bay Rays recently anointed President of Baseball Ops Matt Silverman would have to one day deal mano-on-mano with the analytical and crafty Andrew Friedman, who fled the Rays and landed with the Dodgers wearing a more historic shade of blue.
During the last minute prep before the Rays were to submit their names for their 40-Man roster by including a few prospects names to guarantee their omission from being plucked during the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, the Rays had conversations with several teams like the San Diego Padres, Houston Astros plus the Texas Rangers before Silverman was left with just one option……Friedman.
So before the strike of midnight the deal was sealed that sent veteran reliever Joel Peralta and Triple-A reliever Adam Liberatore westward to the dodgers in exchange for right-handers Jose Dominquez and prospect Greg Harris.
The trade on the surface between the 2 former 4th Floor Rays officemates seemed to ultimately compliment the Dodgers as they got a low salary Bullpen option in Peralta and a player who could be on the cusp of earning a spot in the L A Bullpen this spring.
Sure this trade helped the Rays solve some of their payroll concerns as well as make it easier for the Rays to complete their 40-man roster moves while getting some of value for Liberatore who quite possibly would have been left off the Rays final 40-Man roster.
Without question, Liberatore would have been plucked quite possibly in the 1st Round of the upcoming Rule 5 Draft if left unprotected by the Rays and all the Rays would have garnered was the $50,000 fee.
Ultimately Friedman knew the stats and abilities of each of these garnered trade pieces and knew of their inherent risks and liabilities firsthand because he scouted and watch them play when he was the Rays VP of Baseball Ops.
But let’s not be naïve here to think Friedman might have gotten one over on his former team, this trade has its own high points for the Rays with one significant power option that might bring the Rays dividends as early as when Pitchers and Catchers report in February 2015.
Dominquez could quite easily be the early great return on this trade. Sure he did have some stumbles and rumbles while in the lower levels of the Dodger system, but his stock has risen greatly in the last few seasons, even getting tastes of life at the MLB level in both 2013 and 2014.
Some might say he still has some control concerns after allowing 10 runs in 14 2/3rds innings over the past 2 MLB seasons, but his 12/6 K/BB ratio shows he has strikeout abilities that will be needed by the Rays with Peralta now gone from the Rays Bullpen. Dominiquez, who has been clocked throwing as hard as 103 mph might be a piece honed and sculptured this spring to be a cog in the Rays 7th or 8th inning playbook.
Also playing into his favor is the fact even with his not so stellar MLB stat line, he has averaged 10 strikeouts per 9 innings at the minor league level and if the Rays can fine tune his natural power talents, he could be one to watch even on the first day this spring. He mainly throws heat with a slider that is more known for its velocity than movement, but you know the Rays will show him a few new grips or pitches and expand his arsenal before he makes his Rays regular season debut.
And maybe Dominquez’s power is hereditary as he is a cousin to Rays prospect Alex Colome and former Rays RP Jesus Colome. For now I’m going to call him Smiley #3 (some people will get that reference). Both Harris and Dominquez also are from San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic.
Harris was drafted by the Dodgers in 2013 and posted a good season in 2014 during his stint in Class-A ball in the Midwest League and has solid strikeout numbers and throws in the mid-to-low 90’s. He is still 2-4 years away from possibly being near the MLB level and Harris should develop a few secondary pitches before he gets nearer to a possible stint with the Rays.
He also has a really interesting historic Rays tie-in as his father Greg, who was a former MLB pitcher (75-90 record) as well as a D-Rays minor league pitching coach with Rookie-Level Hudson Valley Renegades back in 1996-97.
Sure some will instantly put a check mark next to Friedman’s name with this trade as he garners a low cost Bullpen arm, and possibly 2 for 2015, but Silverman got an explosive arm that could be an impact as soon as 2015 as well as shed $ 2.5 million off his payroll.
But the real benefactor at the end of this might be Rays 2B prospect Ryan Brett who was a late addition to the Rays 40-Man roster right after the trade was completed. If Liberatore had not been traded, quite possibly Brett would have been left off the Rays 40-Man roster and subject to the Rule 5 Draft.
Conclusion: Everybody won in this trade. Now and in the future.
It is great news hearing that the City of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays might finally be seeing eye-to-eye in regards to a new home for the Rays. But unfortunately for the Rays, a few of the sites they coveted just 2 seasons ago are now either out of their price range, or set for a different type of development.
The Channelside District down near the epicenter of Tampa has been plucked by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s owner and his plans for that area do not include letting another sports team share in the wealth.
With both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties over the past few years both seeing their light-rail system ideas abolished by the public’s vote, a stadium in or around the West Shore Blvd area might also be past its expiration date.
Still, the Rays deserve to at least look, explore and quite possibly then remember that tract of land just off the southern end of the Howard Franklin might still have yearning for a possible multi-use facility that could include a stadium, a hotel/convention center and dining and shopping center open year round.
Next time you rush down on I-275 on your way home from Tampa, just past the Ulmerton Road exit look towards the northwest and check out this spectacular parcel of unused land and see if you can see what I see in my imagination:
A beautiful state-of-the-art retractable roof baseball stadium and hotel/convention center with the stadium’s roof opening towards the east to take in the flickering lights of Tampa from the angles within the stadium to provide a postcard backdrop.
That facility would become a shining jewel in baseball’s crown. Would set the standard in green technology while embracing its ecological habitat proving that man and nature can harmoniously co-exist, even with some of Tampa Bay’s tide pools just a Home Runs length away.
For the sake of honest here, this is the same parcel of soil was my personal choice for the building of a baseball stadium site back in the late 1980’s when the discussion first came up for the site of the then Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field.
This parcel of land sits smack dab in the middle of an ever growing section of Pinellas County that can support such a complex being built on this site, and should flourish beyond present expectations as both an entertainment center and transportation hub.
It is situated within a critical epicenter of the cross-county area to give more access to Tampa residents and upper Pinellas and Pasco-Hernando county citizens, but will be a bit of an added burden for people traveling from Sarasota or Manatee Counties.
If a stadium was proposed for this spot, this parcel would need a bit more tweaking and upgrading, to take on the extra burden of game day traffic, but it is at the threshold of two existing multi-lane infrastructures with I-275 providing north and south travel ease and Ulmerton Road, which is Pinellas County’s longest east-to-west travel road a gateway to several beach communities.
Alternative transportation is already in place because of the neighboring businesses surrounding Carillion Parkway. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) already has several bus routes that service the surrounding neighborhood office complex/condo community to the west of this parcel of land and services could be expanded to ease the transportation burdens of fans and visitors staying downtown or visitors who are staying out on the beaches.
Maybe PSTA and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority (HARTA) could combine or share resources and create an additional Express Route from Hillsborough County (west Shore or International Plaza) and bring fans to games from satellite parking lots or pre-destined pick-up locations throughout the Tampa Bay area.
This location (to me) is perfectly suited for the Rays needs.
So let the Rays take their gander around the other sites within Tampa Bay, and in the end they will probably drive right by this parcel of land and hopefully it will scream to them “Baseball Stadium”.
Sometimes the answer to things in life is right in front of your nose. For the Rays, it could be this great tract of land just off a few main thoroughfares that has a great bay view.
Tampa Bay Rays rookie pitcher Jake Odorizzi deserved better…..He truly did.
I will never be a voting member of the Baseball Writers of America Association (BBWAA), and I never will be. I’m a blogger of an independent blog that is featured upon a MLB owned and supervised blogging community.
The closest I will ever get to being a voting member concerning anything M L B-related will be the online voting process of the GIBBY’s or the internet and in-stadium ballot process for the All-Star Game participants every summer.
Some of you no doubt will brand me a “homer” for the critical commentary I am about to unfold. But I find it personally a bit upsetting and inexcusable for a local media member of our Tampa Bay Rays to not even give one of our own solid rookies at least a solo 3rd place or 1 vote for the 2014 Rookie of the Year award.
He was the only person among the voting panel for the 2014 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award to tip his cap to Odorizzi’s efforts this past season. To make this even more special for Odorizzi is that fact Antonen is a part of the Baltimore Orioles voting bloc and did not have to show any sort of acknowledgment to Odorizzi.
That is a man who voted with clarity and no biased integrity (in my opinion).
I have a mountain of respect for Antonen now, but lost what little I had for Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, and that is my “Two Cent’s” worth of commentary. And believe me, Smith will not lose a single ounce of sleep worried about some blogger calling him out for his ROY voting.
I can understand Smith’s votes for 1st (Jose Abreu/Chicago White Sox) and 2nd (Matt Shoemaker/ Los Angeles Angels), but I am calling bull hockey sticks on his 3rd vote which went to New York Yankee hurler Dellin Betances.
Sure Betances had no chance of winning with Abreu’s garnering all 30 1st Place votes or 150 points, but you would have thought a writer, who is based in the Tampa Bay market would somehow vote for their local guy as a sign of respect for a job well done.
Instead, Smith’s 3rd selection went to a guy who possibly played in Tampa no more than 2-3 seasons ago as a member of the Florida State League (high Class-A) Tampa Yankees. I guess NY Yankees star got a cap tilt vote from Smith to show his community support for the farm team.
Maybe it is the possibly outdated thought process of rooting and voting for the home team guy that has me so worked up here. That a local media member of the BBWAA doesn’t vote for a guy on his local baseball team, but for one who plays on our biggest rival.
But Smith was not the only Tampa Bay based sportswriter to include a Yankee and not a Rays with their 3rd place selection. Dick Scanlon of the (Lakeland) Ledger also did not show any Odorizzi love as he voted for Betances Yankee teammate Mashahiro Tanaka who was on the disabled list for an extended period of time in 2014 but did make a few appearances in September.
So that make 2, count ‘em 2 local Tampa Bay writers who showed their 3rd place love for guys wearing pinstripes instead of possibly gaining some integrity points with the Rays fan base by selecting Odorizzi.
Heck, it would have been amazing and great if at least one of them would of casted a vote for Odorizzi.
I know there are tons of Yankee transplants right now who are going to argue with me and spit back their own logical points, but in the end, the local guy got no love from not 1, but 2 local BBWAA writer……Plain and simple.
I mean if you take a gander at the individual voting ballots of the 30 participating voters in the 2014 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year voting, some did show some love for a home town rookie after voting for Abreu and Shoemaker in the top 2 slots.
Detroit Free Press writer Lynn Henning showed local love to Detroit Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post showed a hometown salute and a 3rd place vote to Yankees pitcher Mashahiro Tanaka.
And I do not have an issue with Takanao Ishii of the Sports Nippon Newspaper selecting Tanaka for his 3rd place choice. It is an honorable show of respect for the Japanese pitcher that one of his countrymen selected him.
In the end, this is my opinion plain and simple and I can rant and rave all night long and into the orange sunrise and this omission of Odorizzi from the local writer’s ballots will not change.
But then again what was I to expect from a group of local media members who didn’t even vote Odorizzi the unanimous 2014 Rays Rookie of the Year.
You deserved better Jake…in my non-voting opinion.
The Atlanta Braves have not been shy or silent they need to find a trade partner for Evan Gattis this winter. The Braves current C/OF needs to find a new home so the ATL squad can give the catching reigns fully to young defensive wunderkind Christian Bethancourt this spring.
A team that could dangle a veteran starter with some team control could become the ideal trade partner that could help the team seal their rotation hole and help them give Bethancourt control behind the plate heading into 2015.
And the Tampa Bay Rays could quite possibly be the team that helps facilitate this for the Braves.
As we head into the M L B G M Meeting in Arizona, both teams have a need to subtract personnel this winter with the Rays wanting to find a trade ally for starter Jeremy Hellickson.
The first glaring point that most Braves might bring to the forefront is the fact Hellickson only pitched 63 2/3rds innings in 2014 after a pre-spring surgery to remove some loose fragments in his pitching elbow. Since his return, Hellickson was a valued Rays starter proving he was healthy and suffering no setbacks from his prior injury.
The addition of a versatile player like Gattis would be a great addition for the Rays who need some offensive firepower heading into 2015. Even though Gattis himself had some health concerns in 2014 with a bulging disc in his back.
Combine Gattis’s back issue with Hellickson’s elbow you would think each team would do their due diligence via their respective medical staffs before any conversation escalates past the preliminary stage.
Even if both players did have darkened clouds surrounding their health in 2014, but each finished the season on high notes providing a brighter outlook for either player being considered in a possible trade package.
Hopefully the Brave realize even with a small statistical model in 2014, the pure fact over the last 2 seasons Hellboy’s has increased his strikeout rate (7.9 K/9 innings) while also lowering his walks issued (2.7 per 9 innings pitched) should show the veteran hurler has overcome some past control issues and would be a solid contributor to the Braves rotation.
Adding another nugget of goodness to the Braves trading for Hellickson is the fact he was the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year as well as a Gold Glover. Players like that usually do not come up as trade pieces when there is still team control in play. The fact Hellboy is even up on the block is a testament to the younger hurlers on the Rays current staff of developing faster than expected and might be pushing a player of Hellickson’s caliber towards another team.
Gattis would come to the Rays as a firm offensive upgrade especially at the Rays catching position and finished the 2014 season while maintaining a .263 average in 401 plate appearances. Even more glaring is the fact Gattis’s 22 HRs easily outpaced all 5 players who caught for the team and hit only 6 HRs in total with Ryan Hanigan garnering 5 of those HRs.
Helping Gattis in his case as a possible Rays trade target is the fact he has fielding versatility. Not only could he provide at bats as a catcher, but also at Designated Hitter and as a possible corner outfielder during InterLeague play.
It is not often that you could possibly trade for a single player who could help adjust or eliminate so many glaring holes in your roster. Both with a bat and glove Gattis is an instant Rays upgrade at DH and catcher (Sorry Ryan).
Another get selling point for Hellickson is the fact he is under team control until the end of 2016 and his projected arbitration salary is an affordable $3.5-3.9 million for 2015. That would give the Braves a bit of salary relief as well as bring on a starter with a proven M L B track record that would solidify the middle to back-end of the Braves rotation for at least the next 2 seasons. Of course this also works great for the Rays who have to cut a significant amount of payroll heading into 2015.
Gattis would also bring the Rays some salary relief as well as he is under team control for another 4 seasons. But one glaring point that might come with any trade chats about Gattis is that those 4 seasons of possible salary stability for a team like the fiscally-challenged Rays might come at the cost of another player at or near the M L B level.
The Braves will certainly want to up the ante because of Gattis’s 4 years of control, and it might be a hidden godsend as the Rays could include some like Brandon Guyer, Tim Beckham (Georgia native) or another player who might find their career path blocked as they near the M L B level.
A straight-up trade of Gattis for Hellickson will not happen oir be entertained by the Braves or Rays, but these two M L B caliber players should be a great starting point for both front offices to facilitate some chatter towards a possible Rays and Braves swap of talent.
I get upset every time I read something about sports fans in the Tampa Bay area being “bandwagon fans”. Such article never take into consideration only 35 percent of fans in the state of Florida were actually born here.
Florida is currently grouped with 4 other states that have between 24.3 and 44.5 of their population born in their state. Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado are the only other states in that group, and only Colorado has a M L B franchise.
But none of these articles or bash blogs take into account that since the 1980’s the number grew from the mid 20’s to 35 percent at the time of the 2010 U. S. Census. 15% increase may not seem to be a lot to most, but to us natives, it is more and more people who share in this region as their birthplace and should establish local sports alliances as we grow older.
But the local teams also have to embrace this fact that less than 40 percent of their fan base is locally born and take measures to ensure these fans attach themselves to their local teams before family long-time allegiance plays havoc and they lose a fan based on their parent’s sports loyalties.
Only 10 states of 1/5th of our Nation have seen over 70 percent of their population born in their state. M L B stronghold states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan are within that top tier native-born group that also include Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky.
If you look at the 2014 M L B attendance numbers, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were in the Top 15 for this past season. Each of these states double the native population of the southernmost state in our country.
Just for giggles, let’s double the Rays 2014 attendance figures and see where they might have ranked in the overall 2014 if our Sunshine State had at least 70 percent of our residents born here.
The Rays had 1,446,464 fans cross their gates in 2014. Multiply that by 2 and we get 2,892,928 fans which would have vaulted them up to the 7th spot just above the Milwaukee Brewers who drew 2,797,384 through their turnstiles in 2014.
Now I’m only using this as an example, if the Rays grew their attendance numbers 1.5 times in 2014, the Rays ( 2,169,696 ) would of cracked the M L B’s top 20 instead of being in 29th in attendance this season.
Now it might start to make some sense to the Rays Republic who have been arguing over the past several seasons that the Rays fan group under 14 get the best giveaways from the team.
Combine that with the fact those collectibles mostly happen during promotional days like Family Fun Days and you get a nice uptick in attendance, plus hopefully gather more loyalty and future franchise admiration for their hometown team.
That is why the Rays roll out the carpet for the younger generation, they will be the ticket buyers who takes the Rays back to 2 million plus fans through the gates. It is not the older crowd like myself who might be loyal fans, but with our age comes some limitations both physically and economically hamper us from attending as we have in the past.
That is why the kids get the great Evan Longoria drum sets, the Summer Camps and the opportunity on Sunday home games to get the autographs of Rays players. It is a subtle but insightful way for the Rays to embrace their young fans who will turn into adult fans and then hopefully stay in the region and produce another generation of Rays fans.
Who knows, by the time we get to the 2020 U.S. Census the Florida native number might rise to 45 percent which would put Florida on the lower end of the next level of native children currently being born in M L B states which includes Georgia, Washington, Maryland and California.
Teams like the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and even the Baltimore Orioles have over 100 years or at least 3 generations of native fans who grew up and adopted their teams based on their locality. Tampa Bay has not even been in the M L B 20 years are surely does have a transient fans who still have or pull out their home town jerseys when their old team comes to Tropicana Field.
My only hope is that the younger Rays fan who enjoy these great promotions and events stay within the Rays fold and help establish a lasting Rays tradition within their future families or relationships.
The Rays have planted the seeds for the younger members of our regions to embrace their local teams. Now we just have to wait until those seeds mature here in Tampa Bay and hopefully we will still have a team to call our own and to introduce to their kids and eventually their grand kids.
If you were wondering, the Colorado Rockies ( 2,680,329 ) ranked 10th in overall M L B attendance this season. The Rockies have been an M L B franchise since 1993 and the 2nd generation of Rockies fans seemed to have embraced the team.
That shows even in Tampa Bay, there is hope as long as the native sons and daughters support their local sports roots.
I was just about to start reading Chapter 16 of Ben and Julianna Zobrist’s book “Double Play” today when the Tampa Bay Rays announced that the team was picking up Benzo’s $7.5 million Club Option securing his services as a Ray for 2015.
The title of Chapter 16 is “A New Lineup Card”, and with the Rays recent juggling of upper level positions and internal desk swapping, a positive bit of press coming out of One Tropicana Field felt like a cool sea breeze on a hot September night.
After the weeks the Rays front office has had seeing their VP of Baseball Ops and their Manager both pack their bags and head for distant pastures, the announcement of Zobrist coming back again next season brought a well needed hint of normalcy to the Rays as well as kept one of their most consistent offensive weapon in the Rays lineup.
Seriously, Zorilla is the type of player that every M L B team yearns for or hopes at least once in a decade to develop within their farm system and see established long-term on their major league 25-Man rosters.
But you also hope the Rays front office did not have to think more than 15 minutes, or every even ponder the conclusion that this team might benefit more with that $7.5 million and set Zorilla free onto the M L B landscape.
Zobrist’s $7.5 million salary might be considered expensive by Rays standards, but if you collected players with similar fielding and offensive stats from around the M L B, the Rays are getting a great bargain for his services in 2015.
I shudder to think that declining Benzo’s Club Option was ever on the table, or seriously considered even for a nanosecond.
With the Rays losing two top tier pieces of their management puzzle, letting a player of Benzo’s caliber go would have sent a clear message that the 2015 edition of the Rays were either going into a deep re-development and roster structuring mode, or were willing to further frustrate and agitate their bewildered Season Ticket base.
Believe me, if Zorilla would have been turned loose I would of been one of the first to hurdle a fine chunk of limestone.
But now is a time to rejoice and thank our lucky stars Silverman and company made the right move and selected the Club Option that will keep #18 in our Rays lineup and again in our hearts during the 2015 season.
I so want to pop on one of those hipster caps, clutch a bundle of newspapers and wander outside Ava’s in South Tampa right now and mimic that great cinematic scene and scream: “Say it ain’t so Joe, say it ain’t so!”
I wasn’t a firm believer in Maddon when he was announced as the Tampa Bay Rays Manager almost a decade ago. But then I did not want that other “Joe” either who wears pinstripes to manage my then D-Rays.
I was uninformed of his love of computerized stats, reports, graphs and believing in the numbers as much as a hunch, feeling or a spur of the moment stroke of genius.
But I quickly became a follower.
So yeah, it irks me a bit today when I heard the Rays will lose their in-house musical and entertainment savant who decided his tenure with the Rays will cease now rather than extend his stay or do a “farewell” year as a lame duck Rays skipper.
I was on pins and needles the first few times I heard Maddon during interviews and as my resistance to his style of baseball waned, I began to march to the beat of his drum and began to stand solid behind this new essence of the Rays with this Mad Man with his black-rimmed glasses at the helm.
From his want to “give back” to his adopted Tampa Bay community with his “ThanksMas” innovative program that fed and let struggling and homeless individuals around this region know that the Rays, their employees and Maddon believed in them through their culinary show of love.
Maddon quickly won my heart by his charity, intelligence and want to make his Rays teams not only successful, but a benchmark of how to evolve and transform players and veteran into a victorious hodge-podge of inspiring and aspiring Tampa Bay sports icons.
I was one of the first to pop my name and money down for the inaugural first rendition of the “Maddon’s Mad Men” that quickly reformed as the “Maddon’s Maniacs” and became a spirited group of Rays fans who voiced and showed their support for the Rays main guy.
Maddon grew on me. From his courage to bench a disgruntled Delmon Young, then sending the ROY candidate to Minnesota. It showed courage, but it also showed that he was not above jettisoning a promising player if he felt it might poison the Rays clubhouse, or provide unneeded drama.
What was really amazing was how when Delmon returned 6 years later in the final month of the 2013 season there was a level of respect shown towards Maddon that was not there in 2007. It was never said aloud, but you got to know Maddon was pleased Young had matured, developed and could again help the Rays cause, now as a veteran.
I was amazed at the way the “Magical Summer of Baseball” transpired this franchise and energize not only the Rays, but the whole Tampa Bay community. That process started with Maddon chatting with the guys on the turf of the Namoli Complex in St. Petersburg, transformed during the season peaking as he accepted the American League Championship Trophy from his former boss’s wife and ended among the rain puddles in Citizen Bank Park.
But that 2008 success only made you want to root for him more, want to again see him on the post season stage ready to pull a wily play out of his notepad, or pop up his palm for a enthusiastic high-five as a Ray returned to the dugout.
It saddens me we will not see Joe hoist a World Series trophy here in Tampa Bay. Bothers me that this happens now when the sting and bite of Andrew Friedman leaving for western pastures in Chavez Ravine and his team maybe again on the verge of something special.
I’m going to miss the team head cheerleader who brought fun back to road trips via planned events, the manning of T-shirts, jerseys or even PJ’s to bring some comic relief and energy into leaving the confines of home for 7-10 day ventures around the country.
I mean Maddon was a man who embraced our region for its positives and negatives, became a R V owner, a local restaurateur and somehow during all of this got some of us (even me) back on a bike wandering this great area on trails and back road rediscovering our region.
He helped transform the Rays culture on the field, in the stands and even might have instilled the first healthy clubhouse in the MLB when fresh food, healthy options and smoothies intertwined into the Rays pre and postgame lifestyle.
But most of all I’m going to miss the guy who truly had become the Captain of our Rays ship. Taking us to places no one else had, be it post season, managing an All-Star team or even giving us all cause to further embrace our community be it through humanitarian or even social efforts.
While some are going to have to take some time to come to terms with this, get over their confusion and angry moments, we all knew this day was going to come. We all knew that one day you would take that Rays hoodie off for the last time. Hang up the Elmer Fudd winter Rays cap and venture on with your life somewhere else, but we had envisioned that years away.
But even if the time was only 9 season, it was a true pleasure knowing you Skipper. Was a treat to hear you take, to see what antic or item might show up at a press conference or be presented to your players in the Club house (my favorite was Cliff, the penguin).
Joe, where ever you go, whatever your next destination I want you to know I still cherish, relish and embrace all the “Maddon Maniacs” knickknacks, T-shirts and photos taken with you over your Rays tenure.
But seriously Joe……..”Say it ain’t so!”
I’m going to miss Andrew Friedman.
I think we all kind of saw this coming whether you wanted to admit it or not. Friedman was truly that proverbial fish thrown into the deep end of the Major League Baseball pond where money ruled and stockpiling talent and expecting grand results was but a pipedream.
He was a part of a franchise where other teams fan bases flooded Tropicana Field and branded it such names as “Fenway South”. He inherited a job that had broken more experienced men and because of the Rays formidable financial restrictions, a team payroll that basically tied his fins together until he found his own unique way to swim alongside and eventually surpass the once omnipotent MLB sharks.
I mean the guy started out as a optimistic minnow learning to swim in infested waters that could have easily made the Rays into consistent seasonal fodder for the large market sharks, but Friedman brought his experience and innovative tactics he honed as a rising star in the financial field and evolved it into a solid and marketable foundation for a small market franchise to find success in these infested waters.
Friedman used the essence of risk management combined with largely successful algorithms and processes that turned a franchise once mired in a losing persona that emerged within a few years into the 2008 American League Champions.
And that my friends is one glorious legacy to pen onto your baseball resume.
Sure Friedman was but one sharp point of the Rays successful trident during his tenure that also contained Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg and then Team President Matt Silverman, but Friedman was the man out front of it all taking the good and bad hits, being the confident and consistent soldier.
Silverman will now man Friedman’s old VP of Baseball Operations chair and Brain Auld will take a step up and become the Rays new Team President, but do not expect too much of a backslide as Friedman, Sternberg and Silverman it is said could finish each other’s sentences.
Some will be quick to point out that Friedman is vacating his seat as the Rays saw their 6 consecutive winning seasons and 4 post season appearances since 2008 come to an unexpected end.
It is easy to point to another’s person’s faults as they leave to embark on another challenge especially with a large market franchise that is the total opposite of the Rays organization. But no matter your personal opinion on Friedman’s departure, ponder for a moment where this franchise might of ended up without his ideas, guidance and up-tempo perseverance.
ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian once said of Friedman: “ His emphasis on scouting and player development, his ability to piece together a contending team each year despite limited financial resources and his astute use of sabermetrics have made the Rays an organization that others try to emulate, though usually without nearly as much success”.
Say what you want about Friedman’s departure, but realize he has grown so much from that small minnow in the pond surrounded by hungry predators that commanded the other 20-odd M L B franchises.
Friedman has definitely matured within the game in his years with the Rays, brought targeted innovations as blueprints for other small market teams successes as well as brought the Rays out of the deep darkness within the MLB pond to become a consistent antagonist to the rest of the MLB fishery.
Guess it is time to admit for one last time the once defensive minded minnow that was Friedman has now fully evolved into a species of the same predatory animal that commanded the MLB for years.
Maturing from a minnow to a shark, now that’s the Rays Way.