Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
A few of us within the inner sanctum of the Rays Republic gasped aloud on Tuesday evening when in the top of the first inning Tampa Bay Rays Centerfielder B J Upton seem to get his right cleat stuck in the Trop’s Field Turf, and then came down ackward onto his left ankle. Upton immediately went to the turf and was holding his upper ankle region when Rays Head Trainer Ron Porterfield and Rays Manager Joe Maddon strolled out to see the extent of Upton’s injury.
After a few minutes lying on the turf, Porterfield assisted Upton to his feet and they tried to put adequate weight on his left ankle. After a few more minutes of flexing and checking Upton’s balance, Maddon decided to replace Upton with Ben Zobrist more to “err on the side of caution” than to try and agitate the injury any more than was needed. Upton made his way off the field under his own power, but had a distinctive limp to his step and immediately Porterfield and the Rays Medical Staff went to work on Upton’s injury.
After the game that evening, Maddon advised the Rays fans and media that Upton’s injury seemed to be a ankle sprain, but for caution, Upton would get a few days off to secure his services again on Friday when the New York Yankees head into Tropicana Field for a key end of the month match-up. Upton would be under the supervision of the Rays training staff for those two days, and then another injury acessment would be made by game time on Friday evening.
Upton was seen before today’s matinee series ending game against the Detroit Tigers doing agility drills and running movement with Rays Strength and Conditioning Coach Kevin Barr. Both walked out to the Rightfield corner and did a few agility drills and stretches before Barr observed Upton doing curly Q running patterns and multiple hard turning drills to check on the strength of his ankle.
With a thumbs up from Upton as he walked by today, I think we can safely guess that Upton will be back patrolling Centerfield tomorrow night when the Yankees invade Tampa Bay again. After watching Gabe Kapler, who started in Centerfield for the afternoon contest get tied up and running after a ball in the RF gap that Upton would have gotten to in 3 strides, it is a good thing we will have our best defensive Centerfield player back on the turf and running at full speed again tomorrow night.
Within seconds of B J Upton’s collapse onto the Tropicana Field turf last night, I went into General Manager mode trying to think off the cuff of any recent Rays possible trade scenario, or even a totally multi-team aligned situation for completing a trade with any clarity today. As I sat there last night with camera in hand watching our Centerfielder who has been mentioned in numerous trade rumors, lying on the green Field Turf in obvious pain, the trade wheeling and dealing cogs were turning in my head.
Upton had just made a routine Centerfield catch of Detroit’s lead-off hitter Austin Jackson’s fly ball into the middle of the Rays outfield, but Upton went down to the ground like a sack of potatoes clutching his lower leg. Instantly it was time to venture into Rays trade mode.
Somehow it seemed like something as simple as Upton catching his metal cleat a bit off center in the blades of the artificial turf had caused his to roll his ankle on his follow-through to get the ball back into the infield.
As Rays Head Trainer Ron Porterfield and Rays Manager Joe Maddon jogged out to Upton’s location, a flood of recent Rays trade names began to swiftly race through my head of any possible Major League players that could fit firmly within the Rays needs. Not even thinking at this moment if Upton’s injury was long term, or even day-to-day, I want to revisit a few recent trade whispers to see if they were still relevant to the Rays needs.
Knowing in the back of my mind, that there had been recent darkened hallway whispers that Rays top outfield prospect, Desmond Jennings might not be ready for the day-to-day grind of the Major Leagues, the sight of Upton laying on the field instantly put me on the offensive to find a viable MLB ready option. There have been more than a few openly discussed prominent names from around the Major Leagues possibly finding a home soon with the Rays.
There had been more than one mention of even Upton possibly being mentioned as a trade piece with the Philadelphia Phillies for future free agent/rental player Jayson Werth, but the Rays seemed to be firmly committed to using their highly praised and stocked farm system as the catalyst for any player changes and were not actively considering anyone on their Major League roster. A trade of this nature would have brought a few new challenges to the Rays. Considering a short term investment like Werth would be a totally new adventure for Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and the team.
The Rays have discussed bringing in short term players during the Trade Deadline period before, but the Rays have never pulled the trigger with any vigor. There was also some recent Rays trade chatter with the Kansas City Royals for a guy who could play almost anywhere, but that discussion was silenced and shelved quickly after multipurpose player David DeJesus suffered a broken thumb and could be out a substantial amount of time.
The Rays had discussing this trade with the Royals, and it seemed like the Royals were eager and willing to possibly trade for Rays farm hand LHP Jake McGee and send DeJesus to the Rays, but that scenario is just dust in the wind now. But would McGee have been enough to secure DeJesus?
There have been other names floating out in the MLB stratosphere with outfield possibilities for the Rays, but either the trade price would too steep, or the return product might not be a great trade-off. There was huge speculation a few weeks ago that Brew Crew member Corey Hart might find himself in the Rays outfield mix, but the demands from the Brewers were way too high, and could have made the Rays immediately discontinue any discussions. But there was a low cost option that was also floated by the Rays of maybe acquiring outfielder Jeff Francoeur from the New York Mets. The only problem with that scenario is that Francoeur is not the player he was two years ago when he was patrolling the Braves outfield.
But another scenario might have opened up just around the time of Upton’s injury last night on another baseball diamond up in Washington D.C. when Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was shelved after findo out he had considerable inflammation in his right throwing shoulder. With Nationals starters Luis Atilano and J.D. Martin also on the mend, it could this recent injury bug within the Nationals rotation bring down the asking price of Washington slugger Adam Dunn, who has been known to be on the Rays “Wish List”.
A recent clarification by Dunn that he did not want to DH, but wanted to daily play in the field, might limit his possible usage for the Rays. But Dunn might be that missing right-handed bat the Rays have been eager for all season long.
But at what cost will it take to even get Dunn? Would sending a minor leaguer like starter Matt Moore be enough of a trade off to get a rental player? The Nationals might be seeking a MLB ready guy like Wade Davis or Andy Sonnanstine to fill in until their young pitching staff gets healthy. So would a trade for Dunn who could be waltzing right back to the Nationals after the season be worth the two month rental price right now?
More and more this week I am considering the true option that the Rays might be better served with just staying pat with their current options and fighting for a Playoff spot with the guys who got them here. With Rocco Baldelli getting into game day shape, there is a possibility he could be a useful right-handed bat the Rays could use down the stretch with minimal fiscal damage.
With the Rays announcing after last night’s game that Upton has a possible ankle sprain and might just miss a few Rays starts before possibly being in Centerfield for Friday night clash with the New York Yankees, the Rays have adequate in-house options like Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist to cover a short term absence of Upton from the line-up. But the moment Upton hit the turf, my mind was wandering through the rosters of a few clubs looking for the suitable replacement to garner the Rays the best chance of success.
So I will put away my trade master cap and return to just being a Rays fan and trying to guess what direction Friedman and company might go before the end of the Trade Deadline. Will the Rays stand pat with the guys who got them here in the first place, or possibly rent a guy for a few months and hope for a great return in their invested trade. No matter what they do, there will be discussions and banter to go along with it. But that is the nature of the trade beast. Someone will always be unhappy, someone will always see holes, and people will always want more….That is the Rays Republic Way.
I have a mind to leave Sun Life Stadium right now and go somewhere kind of quiet like the busy neighboring I-95 off ramp so I can make a long distance call back to Tampa Bay’s barrister barroom bullies, Morgan & Morgan Law Firm and see if they want to represent me in my audio discrimination case where I felt embarrassment and humiliation from our cross state rivals, the Florida Marlins and their game day staff who seemed to violate my audio instrument rights by refusing to let me bring in my adorable little Carolina Blue Rays cowbell into the stadium tonight. It is a blatant attempt to silence the Rays Republic fans who made the pilgrimage down to Broward County to support our Rays.
And after taking my little blue Rays noisemaker back to my car, I got the shock of my life as these same Sun Life Stadium gatekeepers handed me a small dark-colored vuvuzela, disguised today as a simple “Marlins Air Horn”. It was their simplistic way of letting me know they make the rules regarding my noisemaker, and their instrument of deaf tonight was going to be a horn that definitely sounds like a huge swarm of Killer bees descending upon us Rays fans in attendance in their lovely outdoor hot oasis tonight.
It seems that the first 15,000 fans who wandered into the stadium tonight were going to be given the Marlins personal interpretation of the vuvuzela /air horn and immediately I wondered just how many Marlins Season Ticker holder were either happy or a bit upset with Marlins sponsor American Fasteners for sponsoring such a promotion. But these are also not your garden variety or even copies of the South African instrument currently all the rage just over the Atlantic Ocean in the country of South Africa during the FIFA World Cup. These Marlins vuvuzelas are only a good foot and a half compared to the over 3 feet of molded plastic that encompasses a classic vuvuzela sold in the streets surrounding the World Cup venues in South Africa.
And these noisemakers have become one of the fastest selling sports items in the World that can be easily customized, or extended by their users for a more pronounced and deeper sound. But this smaller unit given out as I entered the Marlin’s seating bowl could compare quite comparable to our own Rays cowbell promotions that have been done over the last three season, including the post season. Maybe now I understand all the noise commotion over a simple $ 65 Latin Percussion cowbell and a large drumstick being pounded right behind you head. But the low hum of these vuvuzela /air horns do not produce the 127 decibels of the parent vuvuzela creation, which is like having someone run a lawnmower continuously behind your ears all night long.
But I can understand the local sports minded obsession, and constant playing of these childhood toy that in Zulu means ” to make a loud noise”. For a few moments the constant hum of the vuvuzelas after 3 innings of constant blowing and no formal “Cowbell Etiquette” videos or groups like the “Maddon’s Maniacs” to help educate the masses in the stands, the vuvuzelas /air horn have ruled the air tonight. It was kind of funny as a small group of Rays fans and myself began to do a rendition of the “Flight of the Valkyries” or better known as the music from the helicopter scene from “Apocalypse Now” to provide our own Rays counteraction to the local Marlins kids blowing the noisemakers until they were either tired, or their lungs burst from the constant pressure.
Sure it got to me a bit earlier tonight that my Rays cowbell was now alone and unattended in my car and it could easily hear the commotion and noise coming from the high walls of the stadium tonight. How it wished it could have been included in our musical interlude tonight to make noise, in unison with the Marlin’s new noisemaker. And maybe this simple instrument will soon become the Marlin’s noise element that the team will use for the rest of the 2010 season, and might catch on like our own cowbells as their own personal piece of noisy home field advantage.
It is now the top of the sixth inning and with the score in the Rays favor 4-1, the noisemakers have to intimidated the Rays and it is amazing the small pockets of musicians and amateur vuvuzela operators beginning to incorporate their vuvuzela’s sounds into recognizable songs and even a impromptu “Charge” serenade from time to time. The original models of the vuvuzelas can still be purchased state-side on the websites of companies like Amazon.com which has them listed in the 29 inch version for as low as $ 6.99 and up, and $44.99 for a dozen. I think the vuvuzela and its unique sounds are here to stay, and just might find its way into more sporting events within the next few months (lookout NFL/NHL).
But, I will stay with my familiar Rays cowbell. Maybe it is because I can use different rhythm patterns and striking motions to change the sound and the way it carries through Tropicana Field. But the more I hear the vuvuzela tonight, the more interesting and new usage ideas keep popping into my mind like hot buttered popcorn.
Do not be surprised if a few of these vuvuzelas /Marlins air horns make their way home from the Inter-state rivalry and begin a small increasing sound segment within the Trop. when the San Diego Padres come in on Tuesday night. But then again,on the same Amazon.com website at the bottom of the vuvuzela page, the company also is thinking about the anti-vuvuzela movement and list E A R classic trademark un-corded earplugs…for a special price of .10 cents a pair……Might be another wise investment option for those who hate the cowbells…..and maybe now the increasing popularity of the vuvuzelas….zelas…..zelas….zelas.
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