Results tagged ‘ Tampa Bay ’

Rays Casting a Keen Eye on Marlins Ballpark

Ever since the Florida Marlins proudly announced their plans to build and relocate the team into the heart of the Miami metro area, you know the Tampa Bay Rays have been a bit envious of their Citrus Series rival.

 It has not been an easy road for the Marlins, but in the end it will be a prized locale and a stadium worthy of the lofty investment. With their new abode also comes a name change to the Miami Marlins, finally bringing their community name to the front of the Marlins jerseys.

 Already their have been rave reviews on the shell configuration of the complex, and even a recent  Marlins batting practice “ showcase” in which more than a few pitches thundered off the bat into the current vacant spaces in deep Centerfield. The retractable roof would save the suspect of rain-outs, which had happened 191 times since the team first took the field 16 mile north.

 Now the Marlins could open or close the roof at will, forever banishing the elements to the exterior.

 You know the Rays are really jealous of the fact the Marlins got their financing and approval intact before the economic downfall that might thrust the Rays into more privately invested waters instead of tapping the public side of the equation.

 With the Marlins Ballpark’s current operations running on budget and on-time for the 2012 completion mark, the Rays still sit in total limbo in their own stadium dreams.

 As if the Rays needed to be strung anymore by the Marlin’s success, people within the “Marlins inner circle” have been “ unofficially” whispering enthusiastically around the community that Marlins Ballpark will host the New York Yankees in the team’s last 2012 Spring Training contest as a rehearsal for their April 4th M L B home opener against their Spring Training roommates in Jupiter, Florida, the St. Louis Cardinals.

 I still think one of the surface smart decisions of this stadium configuration has been the future Marlins cutting back their official capacity to 37,000 which will make the stadium capable of possibly dishing out a few sell-out contests in 2012….a rarity in South Florida right now.

 The reduced capacity does come with a glaring possibly Catch-22 situation that their stadium will have the smallest actual capacity within Major League Baseball. That could dampen and drown possible chances for the Marlins getting overall M L B approval for such events as the 2015 All-Star game.

 This mid-season celebration is a coveted prize, but one that could slip through the Marlins fins as a result of a reduced chance for M L B  to cash in totally on a huge crowd. If the Marlins do get their All-Star game, it solidifies the Rays also wanting to have a possible reduced seating capacity facility. If the Marlins are trumped, it will show the Rays that possibly a 40,000 seat stadium in a must to get such events.

 As the stadium has risen on the Miami horizon, there has always been doubt or speculation that the Marlins could bring the masses into their new home. The inclusion of a Metro rail line and increased public transit will also be closely watched by the Rays. It has been envisioned by so many in the past that the Rays future stadium and their success might also hinge on transit and the ability to bring people to the ballpark without huge traffic concerns.

 The Rays organization has to be monitoring this Marlins Ballpark  transformation with eager hearts and minds. So many of the same unforeseen variables the Marlins face, the Rays currently share the same anxiety and stumbling blocks. Odd that once again as in the initial M L B expansion into the fertile Florida market the Marlins will be the first to dive in and see what floats.

 The Rays front office has to be frustrated and perplexed that their own community could not harness the same lighting bolt energy that got the Marlins their dream stadium. Political unrest, posturing on both sides of the Tampa Bay estuary has brought rough waters even to beginning honest discussion and proposals.  As public funds are being drained like the Florida aquifer, the chances of a highly public funded stadium are sinking into the quicksand.

 Suddenly it seems the Rays stadium situation might be on the agenda soon within the closed confines of the M L B ownership. M L B Commissioner Bud Selig has postured in the past, even during a reception under the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field that the Rays need a better facility, but the Commissioner’s voice went silent to  many movers and shakers within the community Soon the words will end and some harsh realities will resurface for all to see and judge. Time has past for this Rays stadium chatter to begin, the Florida sands of time ate quickly falling from the top of the hourglass.

 I plan on buying a ticket for the Marlins home opener. I might not attend it, but it is a valuable piece of Florida baseball history. If the Tampa Bay community leaders do not quickly put their community pride and judgment in check, it might be the last M L B stadium built in Florida for a long, long time. Most people forget, baseball is a business and when the book begin to show more red than black…changes happen quickly…..even in the slow moving South.

 

 

Pfister Hotel…..Brewers Haunted Home Field Advantage?

It is said that the Pfister Hotel is one of the last “Grand Dame” hotels of its kind in this region of the country. A opulent palace of gold-leaf and legend that makes it one of the most coveted beds in Milwaukee, Wisconsin both for its charm and elegance as for it’s ghost sightings in the lobby or balcony regions..

This motel mecca is as famous for its grandeur decor and service as it is for its…former residents who sometimes still make late night visits to check up on the staff and guests. But make no mistake, even Major League Baseball and NBA guests have roamed the Pfister’s hall late into the night, sometimes getting their own chances to experience things that go “ bump in the night”.

This is the kind of “ home field advantage” you can not put a price on…..and hopefully can live through the night to spin more tales of chains, manifestations and odd happenings after the lights go out. Who you gonna call……Sam Fuld? Baseball players are some of the most superstitious people in the world with their rituals and behaviors that border on psychotic.

But mix in a little paranormal or unexplained and you got a chance for some reason psychological mischief to be played within the mind. Already there have been legions of players from National League teams who sense or even experienced their own “Pfister Phenomenon”, even checking out of the hotel and refusing to stay in the structure.

Then again, the hotel is over 100 years old, which can bring about an abundance of creaks and settling noises. Toss in the paranormal theory that the hotels recent renovation can stir up residual and intelligent entities, and you get a prime and fertile paranormal environment for the Rays visit. There is even one Los Angeles Dodger who refuses to sleep in the hotel without a bat in the bed with him.

Some Florida Marlins players have been known to ask to share room when the team makes their treks to play a Brewers series. More than one M L B player in the past has felt that these ornate and narrow halls seem to close in on you, making the hotel feel even creepy in the sunlight. I am expecting to hear a few late night ghost stories when the Rays return home from this adventure.

Maybe it is a bit of karma for the Rays to hit a traveler’s haunted oasis that could possibly produce as many sleepless nights as their own “home haunted hotel”, the Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg, Florida.

All you have to do is troll the pages of the book “Haunted Baseball” to hear tales from Rays and visiting players as to the Vinoy’s past life guest visits. Who knows, maybe a few of the Vinoy spirits also took the charter flight up to Milwaukee….

Maybe a late night dinner return by a few of the Rays personnel might feats their eyes on the figure of Charles Pfister, the hotel’s founder who is said to sometimes oversee his palace from the grand staircase at night.

Another common binder that brings the aspect paranormal activities into existence is the fact the original 8-story hotel was constructed of limestone and is within blocks of a large body of water (Lake Michigan) which are both said to be conducive to bringing increased activity from visitors the “other side”. I truly envy the Rays players right now. I would give my non-throwing arm for a visit to a place like this.

Then again, maybe some of the Rays should heed the 2008 experiences of Minnesota Twins OF Carlos Gomez, who first heard voices. Then his iPod mysteriously began going nuts after he stepped out of the bathroom sending him into the hallway and down to the lobby without his shoes and pants. During the 2009 InterLeague series with the Brewers, Gomez stayed at the Pfister, but came armed with teammate SP Francisco Liriano and his trusty Bible.

What is it again they say about haunted hotels? Oh yeah, some guests check-in, but they never check-out. I would love to be a fly-on-the-wall during this series as Brewers Visitor’s Clubhouse Manager Phil Rozewicz asks if the Rays had a restful night in the Pfister. Even if something happened in the hotel, you can bet no one will want to give credence to the myths and legends.

Still, even though the team did not exist when the hotel was originally built, I wonder if Charles Pfister is a Brewers fan?

Rays and Yankees, Playing For All the Marbles

 
 
Bill Koustroun/AP

You want to throw last night’s performance under the heading of “gutsy and determined” but it lacked the finishing blows needed to give the Tampa Bay Rays another shot at the top spot. The game did go back and forth playing like a simple kid’s yo-yo for innings before the New York Yankees took advantage of unusual Rays Manager Joe Maddon miscue and put the finishing touches on a solid victory.

Some sitting inside Yankee Stadium last night were wondering why these Rays would not go away and give in to the obvious conclusion. They wondered to themselves why this young team took it on the chin hard in the opening innings and still came out and answered the bell every inning by clawing and scratching their way back before being pushed back into the darkness by one simple mistake.

This game had all the nuances and dramatic plot twists of a post season contest, except for one key element. It was still September. If this is the way these two teams are going to play in a few weeks, heaven help the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins fans, and the makers of Pepto Bismol. Games like the last four between these two opposite ends of the spectrum teams is what will propel this new rivalry to astronomical heights min the coming years. These two team will have played 7 of their last 10 against each other, and the tally is tied at 2-2 going into tonight’s battle.

This is no longer your Father’s Rays., who were the lonesome losers and bottom dweller of the American League East. This Rays team has matured over the years and gathered a wealth of useful Yankee knowledge and experience and is now ready to dethrone the Kings of Baseball. The Rays franchise has come a long way in their yearly series against the Bronx Bombers since those lonely Rays days of the late 1990’s. New York fans still embrace and speak about their team’s dismantling of those pesky D-Rays back in 1998 when the D-Rays won only one game (at home) against the Yankees at home, and had to settle for a 1-11 dismal seasonal series mark against the Bombers.

 
Kathy Willens/AP

The 2010 yearly series mark is now set at 8-7, with the Yankees having a chance to better their Southern rivals and post another winning edge in this seasonal series. With the game pressures increasing, and the number of games decreasing, this final series of 4 games will decide more than just the yearly series. At stake is a possible American League East title, plus a nice high position in the cat-bird’s seat as we both enter the playoffs.

This is the way pre-playoff baseball should be played. Both teams are watching for every little subtle nuance or err in judgment. Every crack and crevice in their fortified armor will be attacked and manipulated to try and produce the needed firepower and run production that will provide victory in the end. This series is definitely has a distinctive “take no prisoners” attitude from both teams.

You do not need bulletin board fodder or any profound reasoning to get your emotions up for this series. It is all about the top tier, and to the winner of this last series gets the added momentum of having the edge in the first tie-breaker if these two teams end up tied at the top spot at the conclusion of the season. And that possibility does still seem bright on the horizon with the Yankees still having to entertain the Boston Red Sox six more times, while the Rays play the likes of the Orioles, Mariners and Royals in their last 10 contests.

Right now you have to systematically give the edge to the Rays based on the winning percentages of their final foes, but across from them is the defending World Champions, who will not surrender or retreat an inch of ground without a fight. That makes for entertaining baseball, and will be the essence and foundations for future baseball stories told to grandkids and anyone who will listen for years to come both in New York and Tampa Bay. These two titans from different prospective will fight to the last out.

 
Kathy Willens/AP

And even if the Rays or Yankees take a firm grasp of the divisional title and hold it close to their vest, there is still the thought and realistic expectation that these two might end up as possible 7-game series foes in a later round of the playoffs. This is not to push down the accomplishments or records of the Rangers or Twins, but for some odd reason it seems destiny is riding the wave of the Rays right now. But fate is definitely in the wheelhouse for the Yankees. It will be the endurance and stamina of these two squads that will provide an ultimate survivor.

So with that in mind, their game day mistakes will be amplified and popped under a increasing microscope no matter if accidental or intentional by nature. Fans will embrace or discard rumors, situational judgments and incite hard spoken opinions and embattlements to each team’s place in this late seasonal battlefield. Chants will be bellowed to the heights and small disagreements will ensure among usual friends. This renewable rivalry might even test family bonds in some homes.

All the odd and perpendicular angles of these two teams seem to point to a possible splitting of the four games in this series. The subtle nuances and occasional on the field changes in fate or destiny of either team’s usually reliable weapons might come quickly into the light as the deciding factors, or the weapons of their own immediate demise. This is the way baseball should be played in late September. With the same energy and hustle of April, but with a keen eye on the prize with every pitch.


 
Bill Koustroun/AP
 
This type of series is why the Yankees and Rays fans have grown to dislike each other for different reasons. Yankee fans think the Rays faithful rely on gimmicks like cowbells and flashy stadium videos while they adhere to tradition and doing their “Yankee Roll Call” during every game. The Rays fans take exception to the Yankees coming into Tropicana Field as Yankee Stadium South boasting about rings and things that will never be equal because we are 13 years old, and the Yankees started played in 1901 as one of the eight charter Major League teams.

It is more than just a battle on the field of two giants of the game today. It is a fight between the younger cousin and the feisty older brother for dominance. It is a fight of tradition forged by 109 years against a young whippersnapper that came from the cellar to contend quickly and will not go away. It is about a region fighting for respect and a chance at redemption, while the other wants to add to their legacy.

Last, but not least, it is a classic David and Goliath story where the “city that never sleeps” is being pestered and bothered by a town some think “roll up their sidewalks at 10pm and go to bed”. Some say it is the opening blows by the changing environment of Major League Baseball where money and taking the best talent doesn’t provide protection to getting the gold in the end.

Others think being smart with investments in players and matching talents to a precision game plan will bring victory in the end. Lines are drawn, gears has been obtained, now it is time for the bats and arms to do the talking and let the chips fall where they may. As ring announcer Micheal Buffer loves to say “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!”

 

Will Tampa Bay Divide Again?

 

                
                                                                         Ciekurzis.org


Really Hillsborough County Commission? You really want to step on these collective St. Petersburg and Pinellas County toes again? Just because this side of the bay is envisioned daily wearing mostly Docker shorts and inexpensive flip flops and spending most of their downtime hanging out at beach bars drinking fruity drinks with umbrellas, can you seriously considering this hot potato of controversy was not going to divide this region’s opinions again. By considering to even ask for a formal powwow with the A Baseball Community (ABC) Coalition to speak to your own divided HCC membership on this issue seems to be amateurish at best.

 

And it might be helpful for your ultimate goal HCC Chairman Ken Hagan, if you had every one of your HCC Commissioners’ on board with you in advance. I know I personally think it stupid and frowned upon when your own group has a division within its own house before you commit to anything, but then again, that might not be your style of leadership. Funny how HCC Commissioner Jim Norman comment to the St Petersburg Times recently that ” He’s (Hagan) not speaking for me”, might speak volumes that this might be more of a newspaper/media shout-out crusade by you for some free press and attention when your own county’s finances and future sport ventures revenues might be in a tight knit ball with no strings left dangling.

 

Are you really going to try and throw your County’s already smug “superiority complex” out there for everyone else to see? Or will you say you are “doing your job” by claiming you are doing due diligence on the Rays stadium issue by trying to get an preliminary discussion going with the ABC Coalition, which has no political pull or remote chance of being a key player in any future discussions of this stadium deal. And did you forget something remember Mr. Hillsborough County Commission Chairman, especially now in this down economic climate, money talks and B S walks, even within a city considered a even Southern folks to be a “cow town” until as recently as 1990.

 

Until today, your agency has been playing it smart by sitting back and letting all the dust settle on the Tampa Bay Rays stadium issue. So why is it right now, when the focus should be on the influx of Major League Baseball players about to arrive and begin to fill the county business coffer’s and housing vacancies in our regional community that you want to tip over the apple cart and start a controversy and ultimate division of the region……..again. Oh! You think most of us have not forgotten the sorted past power struggles for control of Tampa Bay baseball between the Sharks (Morsani) and the Jets (Namoli) posses’ proclaiming our own version the epic “West Side Story” doing their own improvisational song and dance towards getting the region’s first taste of MLB-quality baseball?

 

How embarrassing it was for us as Tampa Bay area citizens to watch as two separate Tampa Bay Baseball groups considered themselves superior and collectively converged upon MLB as separate business entities to try and seducing the MLB power brokers during the first round of expansion site considerations and verbally sparred in the media and tried to constantly downgraded the other to show a visible key weakness of community division in the Tampa Bay area’s quest for baseball. That neither of the area’s groups even ventured into the expansion discussions with the MLB hierarchy with the same agenda points showed the deep division by the region, and not only by the saltwater that separated the two battling communities.


Sandbarsandsunsets.com

That first attempt became a complete and utter fiasco and the first expansion team in Florida ended up being awarded to another Florida group poised down Miami way because our two communities were doing their rendition of the Hatfield’s and the McCoys and canceled each other out by internal regional fisticuffs. The MLB leadership seemed to find it unnerving and utterly shallow that the two Tampa Bay groups were fighting for this one region’s team, and no compromises from either group was on the horizon. And it was not until each side of the bay ultimately agreed and considered that the Namoli baseball group out of St. Petersburg might have the necessary political and baseball clout to impress and regain MLB’s trust that the Tampa Bay region’s should be considered a viable location for baseball. Divided regional loyalties ceased and we collectively began the hunt to fight for a MLB team as one region.

 
 

How does your little political power play now by asking the ABC Coalition to chat with your group before they finish their rounds of discussions with the Pinellas County government agencies not constitute the basic element of tampering? How did you find a mindset of justify your pushing your collective political agenda forward with these actions being “okay” and not the usual sleezybag ” look at me” political mentality associated with an ultimate misplay of power by a government official. How soon is this school yard power play going to backfire into your faces like a kid with a firecracker on the Fourth of July? Did you even think of the massive repercussions of your request, or were you going to “play dumb” to the white noise that came from this action and hope support came running of unforeseen sources?

 

How can a leader of a county governmental agency who ultimately knows that his area’s finances are tied up neatly in a beautiful bow be so into discussing something they realistically can’t consider unless they want to possibly anger their own region’s citizens by asking them to tighten their belts a little tighter, or maybe even pull the sheepskins over their citizen’s eyes by imposing another bump in future sales taxes to even consider such a future power play. Has the HCC Chairman really been blunt and honest enough to Hillsborough’s own citizen to tell them that their possible finance options for such an future endeavor as seducing the Rays to their side of the bay might be unfathomable unless extreme measures were taken to secure even minimal finances for such a proposal.

 
 

Hagan can not say he is on his own “fact-finding mission”, that was the entire reason for the initial existence of the ABC Coalition in the first place, but it was to center on Pinellas County and St. Petersburg options towards future support of baseball, not expand its horizons over the bridge towards the eastern shore of the region. I think the Hillsborough community should be proud of the past HCC commitments to improving sports projects among their community made possible by them imposing the half-cent sales tax increase in the past to help fund projects like Raymond James Stadium and other sports ventures. And that theirs collective County revenue stream for such projects will be weakened until after 2026, which is beyond the current Rays stadium lease with the City of St. Petersburg.

 

And also maybe forgotten by Hagan was the Hillsborough County additional financial sports projects commitments made possible by their collection of an a hotel tax increase that helped financially secure the building of such venues as The Forum, the modernization of the Florida State Fairgrounds complex, upgrade to Raymond James Stadium and George Steinbrenner Field and will ultimately limit the HCC coffers in that aspect until 2035.
 

And it might be a shrewd move by Hagan to get some needed media attention towards this issue right as MLB prepares another Spring Training edition in 2010 within the Tampa Bay region. But it is so easy for people around this community to forget that the ABC coalition is only an “advisory committee”, and they can not move or even remotely consider moving the team or “green-light” any stadium project or location requests to anyone, even the Rays. People simply forget this Coalition is a third party entity started to dig deep into the Rays impending stadium issues and simply report their collective recommendations. They have no governmental power. That basic decision-making process still and always will, belong to the Rays and their landlord, the City of St. Petersburg until 2015 at the earliest.
 
 
 
 
And as we have learned about the Rays in the past, they do not show their cards often. And when they do, it is for a specific reason or to gather information or opinions. This issue is far from over, and we have not really heard more than a collective whisper out of the Rays camp about all of this since the ABC Coalition made their report final a few months ago. The conspiracy theorist mind inside me says a lot of this is already been decided and might be ready to go at a moment’s notice. But the other side of my mind tells me that the Rays might sit back and let both sides of the bay battle over this for a spell before finally revealing their own goals and thoughts on this entire process. As business minded and professional as the Rays organization has been under Stuart Sternberg, they have also been a bit predictable outside the player personnel aspects of the team. And even now, maybe a few cards have fallen from their deck of cards for a reason.
 

 
                       MLB.com


With the Rays about to “officially” unveil the new “Sunday” alternate jerseys on Wednesday with no “Tampa Bay” regional significance emblazoned over the front of their new “Sky Blue” color pallet jerseys, maybe the team is sending out early signals that this entire fiasco will be done in a business manner with no regards to communities or even social acceptance down the road. Maybe the Rays are setting up another scenario, a more concise and surgical approach that none of us will see coming, not even from our front porches looking towards the tilted forward roof of the Trop.

 

And the whole process of Hagan even asking for a chance to speak to the Coalition might have sent ripples through the region. The City of St. Petersburg is already on the defensive since the committee ultimately overstepped their initial set of guidelines and considered locations outside Pinellas County. And with these new calls from the east side of Tampa Bay wanting an audience to discuss the idea of Tampa Bay baseball can be viewed in many ways, with interesting twists all over the place. But unless the HCC as a group can shoot down any of the locations, or open their financial situation wide for all to see, this has to be just another wedge to force this region apart again with no healing in sight. This whole new Hillsborough County Commission situation just opens another wide open wound that needs a bandage quick before in gets infected and turns into another ugly mess. You can be sure I will keep my ears to the ground hoping to hear something new, and hopefully inspirational to everyone within Tampa Bay.

Crisis brewing in the Tampa Bay Tidepool

 


1 out of 8 citizens within Tampa Bay region currently do not have the luxury of report to a job on a daily basis. And it is this impending economic pickle that might finally sour the Rays Front Office to this region effectively corralling the numbers needed to support the team in the next 5 or 6 seasons. With the team basically coming “out front” and telling their fan base they have collectively “borrowed” money for payroll from future Rays squads, this might be a sign of leaner times for the Rays until the entire economic system rebounds and again begins a healthy upswing.

 
 

But this is also a National crisis, but the media and blogs posted in the past month or so questioning this region’s passion and love for the game are ridiculous. These same postings do not address solutions within the region, but point to outer posts or locales where a “healthy” revenue stream can be obtained with minimal effort by the men who guard the coffers. And with their statements, they do not even surface emphasize or firmly grasp this region’s struggles to simply tread water right now because they are not down in the Rays trenches on a first hand basis, and seeing the growing fan base increasing potential and the beaming pride from the ground level of both young and old fans in the stands.
 
 

They point to the black-and-white facts of the Rays lacking great local Corporate support and ticket sales, or even the abysmal Season Ticket holder numbers which in comparison would look firmly out of context numbers when stood next to the Corporate support shown within the large capital cities of industry like New York, Philadelphia or Boston, which have over 100 years of baseball support systems in place to form a solid fan foundation compared to the less than 20 years of total Tampa Bay’s Major League Baseball existence.
 
 
 
I have seen recent postings by the people throwing stones at this region for not showing “undying” gratitude or support to the Rays after their tremendous 2008 Playoff run, but what they fail to show is the honest fact that even in these increasingly financial tough times, the Rays have raised their overall attendance marks for three seasons in a row. They want to throw out the simple factoids that the Rays are ranked 23rd out of 30 teams in overall attendance figures, and base their streams of logic towards figures that the Tampa Bay region can not fully support, or even stand behind their Rays squads with any large community voice or presence.
 

And some of these same authors’ have been bold and brazen enough to label this community a “Spring Training town” and not able to muster the needed revenues or support to even keep a Florida State League team in our abandoned waterfront stadium. But these same voices forget to tell you of City of St. Petersburg legislation to secure baseball events like the ACC Baseball Tourney and other yearly baseball tournaments for the currently vacant Progress Energy Park.

 
 
 
But some of these same fears distributed by writers might become true very soon because of the unemployment epidemic that has plagued this entire country, not just this region of Florida. The increasing unemployment situation will give a more solid foundation to their points and counterpoint suggestions that the Tampa Bay area is just treading water in an ever expanding sea with up to 12.5 percent of the region’s prospective ticket buyers (Pinellas County), and a majority of the people in this area maybe turning away from the Rays situation for a spell to support their families, or even securing their home ownership dreams by fighting off the foreclosure hounds that have ravished this area.
 
 

The basic instinct of prioritizing their family finances, and cutting out such past luxuries as attending countless Rays games could dramatically effect Rays game attendance figures throughout 2010. I know this region is just a small puddle within the larger pond of increasing frustrations felt by citizens throughout the United States by this growing epidemic, and it might hit hard on MLB teams in other cities like Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and the list can go on and on….until we are again on a solid footing. But even that first hint of a ripple, that first stone dropping into the water can change the outcome and appearance of the entire scenario in a matter of seconds. This time is that important right now here in Tampa Bay.
 
 

As of December 2009, there are over 15 million people just like myself, fighting to find even a part-time gig to support their sole existence, not just their MLB yearly habit. And it might be someone like myself, or even you who ultimately adds one more failure to the Rays board by not being able to attend games, or showing a physical presence at the ballpark every night. But I also know I will do everything short of becoming another street dweller to raise the bar and show my pride physically as well as fiscally in my love of the game and my hometown Rays, as long as I financially can… But there are many who will not be able to make that financial commitment or even take these types of chances in 2010 with their incomes, or even attend as many games because of fiscal woes and their decreasing disposable income limitations.
 
 

And that will fuel the non-support flames even higher towards the Rays bonfires again, not the reality that this service-oriented, transient populated Tampa Bay community lives and breathes off the tourism dollar and the seasonal ventures by out-of-town fans that come here for weekends or weekdays following their teams road trip schedules during the MLB season. And even the most dedicated Rays fan might have noticed the economic effect in the stands during the 2009 season when Boston and New York came to town the Rays could bank on being sold-out in advance, even during the mid-week.
 
 

RRCollections

But in 2009, there was an increasing ocean of empty blue-colored seats poking out towards television cameras to viewers in the other reaches of the United States. And to them, those empty seats transferred quickly to lack of support, or even a visual reminder of just how hard this region is struggling with itself to fill those same empty seats on the usually slow Thursday night games. My tickets for 81 games come in at $ 1,799 for the season for my little seat right next to the Rightfield foul pole at Tropicana Field. That breaks down to around $ 20.21 per game. And I will be honest, some nights that $ 20 could be better spent, but it is my personal commitment to this team that I give it to the Rays without a single moment of hesitation or concern right now.
 
 
I know I am not bringing up anything surprisingly new to the extent or the possible damage this could do short-term to Rays attendance figures, or even the Rays Front Office’s future plans to further invest in this community long-term, or instead begin ways behind-the-scenes for the Rays to look towards their next revenue options or hidden agendas, maybe even into moving to another locale. And to some reading this, that same commitment by me to securing my Rays Season Tickets might seems as a form of fiscal suicide, or even a hint of insanity, but it is my personal part to stand up nightly and try and keep this team here by showing the Rays Front Office that some of the fan base within the Tampa Bay community will do anything short of being homeless to show their team spirit for this franchise.
 
 
 
The entire MLB community will experience up and down movements in 2010 in their team’s game attendance marks. But right now, it is critical within the Tampa Bay area to put as many fannies in the seats as possible to squash suggestions and opinions from outside the region as to that ,” what is best for us” propaganda from afar. It is a moral imperative that this community does something to deafen the attendance volleys from these same writers that are heard high and clear within the confines of the Third Floor offices of the Rays. But there is a breaking point to every relationship, even a community bond such as the Rays and Tampa Bay.
 


Mark O’Meara/AP 
 
 
Even with the ABC Coalition report findings showing mixed results for the area, this region will show signs of internal splintering and sub sequential re-cementing its focal points over the stadium issue and location for the next few years. Misunderstandings and unsubstantiated rumors and biased opinions will rule the day until forced out of people’s minds by the stark reality of the truth unfolding in front of them. But a community, which inter-locks its arms together can push back a stronger show of force and strife than a community that stands divided as the opinions and slander flows through the cracks like the ebb of the tide.
 
 

For our much maligned region of Florida to survive the attacks and the volleys from outside our walls we have to join and remain strong in our bonds and commitments to baseball in our community. I remember another city back in 1984 that also thought they were on solid ground and enthusiastic towards their opinions that ” things would work out” for its city and its NFL team coming to a harmonious agreement. And the citizens believed in this team and community meshing until the Mayflower moving vans formed outside Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and their team relocated in the middle of the night to Indianapolis, Indiana.
 
 
Nothing in life is ever guaranteed. If it was, we might not have to even consider this post or the possible existence of baseball ever leaving Tampa Bay. So within this 2010 season the Tampa Bay community will be given time to show their commitment to baseball. And if we fail, we have no one to blame but ourselves from the Goodbye waves to the moving vans again from Tropicana Field.
 
 
 
 

Sometimes I take it Personally

 


Why is it that this odd-shaped protruding region of the United States has always had to defend itself from the media attacks and the scattering writs of the uninformed. Why is it that Tampa Bay has been cubby-holed by countless comedians as the “Armpits of American society” for the far-fetched tales of wild and bizarre events that seem to ooze daily out of the entire state of Florida?

I have come to the mindset personally that I do not get offended anymore because I am here by choice, and have lived in some of these same cities that now mock us, and I moved away from those metropolitans because of their crime rates, community angst and the general frustrations of living in a city that broke its city pride into mini sections or boroughs.

 
 

To me, fractured city pride and invisible borough loyalty boundaries seem just as comedic in nature as any tale told from within the “Sunshine State”. Simply, just ask anyone from Queens what they think of someone from the Bronx and you quickly get the picture. For some wild reason, people from outside the South tend to grasp this section of Florida and have comedic nicknames for it’s cities like ” The City of the Newlyweds, and Nearly Deads “, “Redneck Junction” or even “The Geritol Ghetto”.

How is an area suppose to raise any form of positive respect when most folks outside this region do not show a hint of wanting to know the true essence of what normalcy is within Tampa Bay. They just know from the mindless treks and ill-fated journeys of relatives or friends who have wandered down to this alligator infested, Hurricane influenced handful of communities and spun their tall tales without regard to truth or factual integrity, and this region has suffered from it.

And I think I have been more than fair when I have read and even commented on columns and blog postings written by people outside this area of the country who have portrayed this particular Florida region for their ever-growing lack of financial or physical show of support by the surrounding communities to stand behind their Rays baseball team.

 
 

But that is also where I personally think so many have crossed that invisible line, and I want to go full bore on the offensive against them. Artillery, tanks and even maybe a air invasion by a legion of mosquitoes, but it would make no difference in their opinions. I have read articles and postings about how Tampa Bay will be soon losing their Major League Baseball squad teams to New Jersey or Connecticut and it produces another nerve twitching in my neck. It seems like an endless sea has opened up and swallowed this region whole after just one author seems to hit that magical “Enter” button.

For some reason this region goes from seemingly showing signs of being supportive to a Janet Jackson knock-off wondering “What have you done For me lately?”. This influx of negativity needs to be squashed for what it is……most of it is mumbo jumbo hearsay with no regard to the honest truth , and other seems to be a blanket test balloon sent out to see if a certain Northern community to test their constituents interest or even evoke future planning to evolve into multi-sports towns.

 

 
MattSolomon/Flikr.com 

But not all of the volleys have come from outside the Florida state lines. Some like the political landmines set by our regional neighbor, Orlando have set-up for itself along with the exploits of snake-oil salesman/politician Armando Gutierrez to boost his own political future by getting locals into a frenzy for Orlando to try and secure a MLB team via the establishment of their own Facebook page. That is not the total extent of the Orlando effort, but it is comedic that they are seeking 10,000 members before petitioning anyone with eyesight of their intentions to get credibility to their region too.

But I also find it a bit interesting that a majority of these same authors might not have even ventured within hundreds of miles of Tampa Bay unless it is for covering the Rays during a series, or even a family vacation. Florida is as foreign to them as Arizona or even a third world country. I just sometimes get sick and tired of constantly defending this region from attacks outside the region. I have to tell you that the image of this area being populated with country bumpkins or even being considered a backwater town is as insane as the possibilities of New York City sinking into the Atlantic Ocean.

But people outside of the state tend to gain a sense of tunnel vision when something bad happens in this region of Florida and the media dwells upon it even past a normal point of involvement. But then again the reality that for over 100 years, Major League Baseball teams have flocked to Tampa Bay to hold their monthly rituals of Spring Training, ever since Branch Rickey brought the Boston Browns to town so long ago.

 
 

 
BearspawCC.com


And the Spring Training homes of the past two World Series Champions are situated within the locales of Tampa Bay. But sometimes it simply amazes me just how fast and furious public opinion can head spiraling downward with just a simple mention of bad news and Tampa Bay in the same sentence. But how many people can tell me the original cities involved in the first commercially scheduled flight in the United States?

Sometimes I think that it is the general consensus superiority by some locales to always think they are better than other based on past events or even the city’s P R spin doctors who effectively propelling shots at their communities like darts off a wall, with minimal physical image damage and no collateral damage to their cities reputations or perceptions by outsiders. Guess I got to get used to some times being the “Redheaded Step-Child” of the United States with me always sounding off in my Southern drawl trying to fend off the sometimes obnoxious perceptions and views of other’s to my hometown area.

But I guess when you region is situated on a piece of land mass that protrudes from the bottom of the United States like a growth, and you then also live on a secondary out spurt of land mass, you have to sometimes just sit back and laugh too. But do not be secure in me smiling or even laughing for you forget, this collar does hide a redneck…just kidding (maybe).

 
 
 

It’s A Regional Thing

 

I have been upset during the following year that the Tampa Bay Rays have rised to  such heights in the Major League Baseball world, and the world still see Tampa Bay as a single city. It can get a bit unnerving to always have to defend the City of St. Petersburg as the town where the Rays plays, but the Tampa Bay community is it’s resident home.

All of the major sports team who have graced this region have used the regional name. None have been pinpointed to be named the Tampa Bucs, or Tampa Lightning. The old North American Soccer League Champs were called the Tampa Bay Rowdies, not the Tampa Rowdies.  The Rowdies were also the first professional team in our area to use the regional name on a championship trophy when they won the NASL’s title in their 2nd season.

 

     

 

The Lightning is a great example of why using the Tampa Bay motif has worked well for a team. They first began play at the Florida State Fairgrounds, then moved to the Thunderdome (Tropicana Field) before moving to their current home, the St. Petersburg Times Forum in Tampa.  If the team had kept the name based on their location city only, it would have had to change at least 3 times to designate a correct locale.

The Rays went on board with the respect for the region and decided to use the region as their entire demographic for baseball. Just becuase this area is a “hot bed” for Spring Training baseball, before the team was awarded, it was only a Class A destination for ballplayers on their way up the minor league scale.

The Tampa Bay region all have a personality of their own. Tampa Bay  is considered the second largest hispanic community in the state of Florida, and it’s pride is revealed bautifully in Ybor City. The region has a bridge system that is considered a masterpeice on the world’s stage in the Skyway Bridge. Communities like Sarasota, with the Ringling Museum, and Clearwater where the Philadelphia Philles hold their Spring Training all add to the melting pot of the region.

 

                                   

 

For newspapers, radio and television to constantly pull the region down by calling them the “Tampa Rays”, or that we play in “Tampa” is an insult to everything we have tried to complish with all these other sports. Is it because these other teams are actually located in Tampa and if they mess up, it is still within the guidelines of a locale and not a geographic nightmare.

The Rays and the City of St. Petersburg have a huge  rolling backdrop showing the team plays in St. Petersburg. The team has it well defined in the 2008 Media Guide and also in the promotional materials given out to fans during the years. The tickets  do not have the city stated on the, but is that the next step to getting that respectability from the country.

Or can the City of St. Petersburg keep taking this hits by the media by not correcting themselves or obtaining the first credo of journalism..Accuracy.  Is the action oif a few going to effect the works of many. You bet they do. The 3 second sound byte by Tim McCraver or Joe Buck can destroy an entire year of  city promotion or community identity becuase they did not convey the correct town name.

 

 

If the media can tell you that the New England Patriots play in Foxboro, Mass., why can they not tell you that we play in St. Petersburg. It is not all about “little brother”, St Petersburg feeling totally inferior, it is about the civic pride I know I have for my town. Have you ever heard the Detroit Lions referred to as the Pontiac , Michigan Lions when they played there. No, but you knew the city they played in and also had the respect to call it correctly.

Maybe Matt Silverman needs to make up a secondary letter to the media. This time to instill a $ 1 dollar penalty anytime the city is not correctly identified on any kind of mideia from 2009 on. I think he could easily pay a few salaries with the money derived from that venture. Local DJ’s can’t even still get the name right, or will not even call them just the Rays.

People forget that before a few years ago, the largest crowd to ever watch a NHL playoff game was in the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Thunderdome was their home for many years, and I saw that contest against the Phildelphia Flyers.  The commentators of that game on television got the locale correct, and that was over 15 years ago.

But during the MLB playoffs, the announcers selected to broadcast the post season on TBS and Fox could not be counted on to correctly name the community they were staying in for the series.  Why is it that the world can not remember a simple name like St. Petersburg. Do we need to move to our sisiter city in Russia to get total recognition? 

 Nyet, we do not have to travel half the world to get respect. We just have to pound it into the media subconscious. But you would think a winning season and an incredible push to the World Series would tranform the city’s name onto the tips of their tongues.

I even have a friend, Jeff, who is also on the Rays Fan Wall of Fame with me who is a dynamic supporter of this team. He is known as the “sign guy” by many at the Trop., and he mentioned to me he thought of making up T-shirts during the years stating that fact we are the Tampa Bay Rays ” and not the “Tampa Rays”.

We have had personalities like Kool and the Gang, and M  C HAmmer make those mistakes during concerts this year and you heard the crowd correct them immediately. But as Jeff  was going to put on his T-shirts, “It’s a Regional Thing” either you get it, or you are clueless……….Which one are you? 

 

 

Rays Thoughts Hitting on my Noggin’

  

                  

 

The Tampa Bay Rays management have announced that they will hear from Troy Percival next week on if he will elect for surgery on his back and bad knee during the off season, or try and rehab it by the Rays reporting date. The report came from Percival’s agent, Paul Cohen. Cohen said Percival is going through his normal rehab at the moment, although he isn’t throwing because it’s too early in the offseason, and the pitcher will see more doctors before making a final decision.

 

What? Percival was suppoose to come see Rays Manager Joe Maddon duing the American League Championship Series and never even came to the Trop. Now we hear that he is doing “normal” rehab before deciding if he wants to have surgery. I would think the medical staff of the Rays would be involved in this venture since Percival is still under contract with the team.

 

Maybe there is something else here that is being hidden from the Rays medical staff by Percival. He is a very proud individual, and maybe the problem is that things have healed in the past by rehab, but at 38-ish I know personally, you body has a mind of its own. Hopefully the Rays will get total disclosure into the doctors’ reports and their evaluation before Percival even hit the knife, or the treadmill.

 

If he misses any amount of time in 2009, should the Rays discard him like Al Reyes.  You remember Reyes, out 2007 closer who developed arm problems maybe by throwing himself ragged ledd than a year after arm surgery. A guy who is injured can sometime  hide an injury with careful delivery mechanics. I think the team needs to get an insurance policy, like a Kyle Farnsworth, or even Kerry Woods in case Percival can not make it out of May this upcoming season.

 

          

 

Thank you B J ! Thank you for thinking of the team and getting your surgery in enough time to rehab and come in for Spring Training in good shape and ready to rock and roll in 2009.  There have been people who have questioned your committment and your integrity last year to the team. Little do they know that in 2009, you will explode out of the box and be totally healthy for the Rays.

 

Considering that is your non-throwing shoulder, I also think your throws to the plate will have a better velocity and accuracy since you will not have a twinge of pain from your left shoulder on the follow-through. And considering that in the playoffs you were feeling better than ay other time during the season, and hitting for power and average, it shows you have the ability.

 

So take your time and get 100 percent healthy and we will see you real soon in Port Charlotte hitting bombs and stealing a whole bushel of bases again this year.

 

 

 

Cliff Floyd is another player who has been granted his free agency, and also is considering surgery on his bad shoulder.  Floyd was quoted as saying last week that even if the Rays do not want to resign him, he will get his shoulder repaired and be ready for anything.

 

I was a little upset that Floyd hurt himself in Game 2 of the Wrold Series at the Trop., but hopefully it was not on that play where Floyd broke his maple bat into three pieces.

 

Floyd had as much value in the clubhouse as in the batter’s box for the Rays last year. He showed alot of the young guys a different veteran attitude and approach to the game. He took a few guys under his wing last year and they grew and matured during the season. Even if he is not retained even for a modest contract by the Rays in 2009, he has laid some fantastic ground work with this team and should be proud of it.

 

Floyd  should be offered a nice incentive contract and a chance to again lead these guys towards finishing the gola set by them during the playoff run. It will be a hard road to the World Series in 2009, but I would follow “Big Cliff” to the promised land.

 

Hot Stove Report

                         

There have been a few rumblings that the Rays are looking towards the Florida Marlins for our new right-fielder. Jeremy Hermida is a great player, but I truly feel he is a better fit for the National League than for the power pitching of the Americna League.  Hermida has been up with the Marlins first in 2005, then has bounced back and forth between the majoras and the minor leagues in 2007 and 2008.  In 2007, he had a banner year for the Marlins hitting .296, with 18 home runs. 

 

I think this guy can play great for the Rays, I am just not sold on him yet. He basically walked 10 percent of the time in 2008, but struck out 138 times. I think his bat is not the right fit for the Rays. We need power, but not at the expense of swinging for outisde pitches and gopherballs in the dirt.

 

He also swung at 43.2 percent of the pitches he saw in 2007.  a saving grace is the point that he made some kind of contact in 78.7 percent of the pitches he saw.  That normally translates into running the count and getting on base via a walk. But as we noted before, he is not a great contact hitter. He hit only 46.7 percent of those pitches somewhere on the field into fair territory. Oh, and by the way………..he is a left-handed batter.

 

He is a young guy who I feel needs another year in the majors, and in the National League to be effective. I could be wrong, because the guy has hit 35 homers with over 243 RBI’s in the last 2 years. Whoever the Rays pick to be the right-handed bat for the team had better have a thick skin. I have a bad feeling that if he comes here and doesn’t light up the board a bit, the Cowbell Kid might come down and heckle him before the games in the outfield.

Rays Right-field Wish List

 

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

Thoughts after the World Series Hype Has Died Down

 

 

 

Congraulations to the Tampa Bay Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford for winning the 2008 Fielding Bible award for hsi position. Crawford also won the award in 2006. He is the only two-time winner for the Tampa Bay Rays, despite missing an entire month due to  index finger injury.

 

He’s baaack! And he didn’t even have to play a full season to win it. Carl Crawford missed most of the month of September but still wins the Fielding Bible Award in left field for 2008 with 87 points. It’s his second award, having won it in 2006. In 2007, he finished second to Eric Byrnes by a mere three points. Despite the missed time, Crawford held off Willie Harris’ late run for the highest Plus/Minus total in left field (+23 to +22).

One important distinction that differentiates THE FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS from most other baseball awards, such as the Gold Gloves, is that there is only one winner at each position, instead of separate winners for each league. The goal of THE FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS is to stand up and say: “Here is the best fielder at this position in Major League Baseball last season.” Another key feature of the system is that it also recognizes the runners-up for each position, instead of just focusing on the winners.

Also in the running for a Fielding Bible Award on the Rays were Carlos Pena, who ended up 4th in the voting for first basemen.  The Rays rookie third baseman, Evan Longoria ended up second to eventual winner Adrian Beltre of the Seattle Mariners.  Dioner Navarro ended up 7th for catchers in the 2008 voting.  And former Rays’ batboy and current Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher, Jesse Litsch ended up 3rd in the pitchers’ category for the award.

 

          

 

There have been more than a few newspaper accounts calling into question the events that unfolded in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series. One of the biggest “What If’s” seems to stem from Rays third base coach Tom Foley sending Jason Bartlett to the plate to try and tie to score up at 4-all.

I personally do not have a problem with him sending Bartlett in that situation. The fact that Chase Utley pumped and faked to first made the point kind of moot. If Utley had thrown the ball to first to get the streaking Iwamura, Bartlett would have scored easily and we would not be having this conversation.

But the true fact is that the pump fake by Utley actually had nothing to do with it at all. Bartlett had his back to Utley before he even decided to throw the ball to Carlos Ruiz for the easy tag-out at the plate. I do not even think Bartlett would have stopped if Foley has thrown up the stop signal to him in time. It was a heads up move by Utley that might have changed the entire make-up of thst game and sent the momentium to the Phillies.

It is one of the reason that Utley is considers one of premier second basemen in baseball right now. He made a nano second decision to try and bait Bartlett or Foley, and decided basically in mid-air to not throw to Howard for the easy out at first base. He instead decided to try and nail the sprinting Bartlett and make a statement in the World series. I think it was a bold move by both teams that just speaks volumes to the competitive nature and agrressiveness of these World Class teams.

 

 

 

Another  decision by Rays Manager Joe Maddon has been played out in the media as to the pitching matchups in Game 5. did the wrong pitchers’ get chances in this game instead of the rookie phenom David Price to save the game for the Rays?

I am with Maddon on this one totally. You started Grant Balfour fresh and with a strong hand to take down the pinch-hitter and take on the top 2 spots in the batting order in the bottom of the 6th inning. It was not in the plans that a former team mate of Balfours’ in Milwaukee, Geoff Jenkins get a monster hit off him to set off the inning.

 

 

Balfour actually threw a great pitch that Jenkins had to go up and get high in the strikezone. Jenkins has been listed in the scouting report as a primary low-ball hitter, and Dioner Navarro asked for a high and tight fastball. the ball came in high, but might not have been as tight as they both wanted before Jenkins hit it for a double off the scoreboard in right-centerfield.

 

The real miracle in all of this is the fact that the Phillies used 5 total pitches to get Jenkins from second to the plate to score the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 6th inning. Maddon could dictate that Rollins would put down the sacrifice bunt to push Jenkins to third base, but Jayson Werth hit a good outside pitch to score Jenkins in the inning.

After that play, Maddon removed Balfour becuase he wanted a leftie to face the next two lefties in the Phillies lineup, Utley and Ryan Howard. Here is where the real drama come out people. Maddon brought in  J P Howell, one of his best relievers during the season to face the 2 Phillie power men. He got Utley on three pitches to strike him out for the second out in the inning. Then he got Howard to hit a high pop-up to Longoria at thrid to get out of the inning.

Now what happened in the top of the 7th inning might be a reason to grumble if you were a Rays fan.  Navarro came up and struck out to start the inning off for the Rays. Rocco Baldelli then came up and slapped a high Ryan Madson pitch to right to tie the score up again for the Rays. Baldelli has been a high fastball hitter his entire career, and he got a juicy one from Madson over the heart of the plate.

Then  it gets interesting for the Rays. Jason Bartlett comes up and slaps the 2nd pitch from Madson into leftfield for a single. With the go-ahead run at first with 1-out, Maddon decided to let J P Howell put down a sacrifice bunt to move Bartlett to second base. Howell took the second pitch and put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Bartlett over to second base.

The play on paper and in action was perfect, but could he have used Fernando Perez instead and maybe gotten a baserunner out of all of this?  That is the question I have. Why not use your speed demon to maybe get you a errant throw to first, or maybe even get a base hit and put more pressure on the Philly defense. Instead you have a pitcher who will not be booking down the line too fast.

The play worked out to the Rays advantage by moving over Bartlett, but could they have gotten more out of the play? Howard had been pretty reliable at making at least one error at first during the World Series, and a ball missed by him at that juncture would have been huge to the Rays confidence.

Then with Akinora Iwamura slow bouncing ball over the pitching mound and heading for the outfield, Chase Utley makes the play of the day for the Phillies. Could this have been the big difference in the game, and not even been a factor if Fernando Perez was streaking into second base in front of Utley. We wil never know if it might have been a game turning play for either team. In stead it became a defensive gem that might have sealed the Phillies victory over the Rays and ended the series.

If Maddon had replaced Howell with a pinch-hitter, would that maybe have prevented Pat Burrell from hitting that monster off the side of the stands in left-center for a double?  We will never know that either. But considering the way Burrell was chasing the fastballs of most of the Rays pitchers’ this series, Howell’s slow rollers must have looked like a softball to him at the plate. These all are great points of interest in this suspended game that took over 51-some hours to finish.

The Phillie still might have won a game in St. Petersburg and still gotten their first title since 1980. But would it have been more fun to see them have to scramble and win one in the hostile home of the Rays. Considering that the Spring Training home of the Phillies is stationed only 20 miles north on US 19, it might have been a surprisingly more even crowd if they pulled off the series win in Florida.

Either way, it was a great learning tool for the young Rays who are built to get here again. For the Phillies, it could happen again, but alot of the media think the Phillies just pounced on Rays’ miscommings and took this one by default. I do not want to detract anything from the Philly awesome run at the title. They were a great opponent and kept the game fair and within control during the World Series.

 

                       

 

I only have one huge problem with the World Series. I know Cole Hamels had a fantastic 2 games in the World Series, but I think the MVP was actually playing rightfield for the Philadelphia Phillies. Every year for the past 3 years, someone different has come forward and lead the Phillies to vidtory during the season.

First it was the bat of Ryan Howard pounding the National League pitching. Then last year it was the fleet feet of Jimmy Rollins and his run at a hitting streak. And this season it was Chase Utley showing power and grace as he was the early favorite to win the Home run crown in the National League.

The Phillies’ Jayson Werth hit .444 in the World Series with 8 hits and 3 doubles for the series. He also scored 4 runs and had 6 walks while posting 3 RBI’s for the eventaul series winners. I do not know what the tally sheet looked like for the final voting for the MVP of the World Series, but I hope that Hamels only got the trophy by a single vote, because without Werth, the Phillies would not have won the series at all this year.

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