Results tagged ‘ Tom Foley ’

Hair Today….Gone Tommorrow… for a Great Cause

Some say Rays Manager Joe Maddon has made more than a few headlines for his follicle hair coloring statements over the past few seasons. From his steady head of gray to John Cash black to a more subtle but pronounced medium brown this Spring, Maddon has made his hair fashionable.

On Thursday Maddon’s “ hair moment” or in fact his “loss of hair moment” will proceed over an event that has seen it’s list of participants grow by the hour. Over 26 members of the Rays are set to see their locks fall to the ground and be swept away as a symbolic gesture of support for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Dubbed “Team Rays” on their website, Maddon will be not only leading by example, but following the road set forth by another Tampa Bay sports icon, Tampa Bay Lightning F Vinny Lacavalier.

This is the same organization that Rays starter Wade Davis showed such support for in 2011 as he let a young cancer patient shave his head as he sat in a chair over the Rays dugout after the conclusion of a Sunday game. That was only one participant, and the crowd was amazing. Think of the magnitude knowing over 25 members of the team and the Rays staff will also sit in the chair and have their locks fall to the grass in support of this effort.

Rays participants set to join Maddon in the barber’s chair before the Rays Thursday afternoon contest in Port Charlotte include Rays pitchers: Davis, James Shields, Bryan Augenstein, Cesar Ramos. Jake McGee, Alex Cobb, Brandon Gomes, Matt Torra, Albert Suarez, Matt Bush, Dane De La Rosa and Rays rookie sensation Matt Moore.

Not to be outdone by the pitchers’, the entire Rays catching corps will also have their time in the leather chair as Jose Molina, Jose Lobaton, Chris Gimenez, Mark Thomas,Stephen Vogt, Robinson Chirinos and follicle-challenged Craig Abernaz will see their hair fly away in the Charlotte Sports Park wind before that days contest. Also making an appearance in the chair will be some of the members of the Rays right-side of their infield: SS Reid Brignac, 3B Jesus Feliciano, INF Elliot Johnson, plus Rays outfield members Matt Joyce, Brandon Guyer and the “Legend” himself, Sam Fuld.

A few well-known figures in the Rays coaching staff will also need more sunscreen this Spring as Third Base Coach Tom Foley and Bench Coach Dave Martinez will also be supporting this great charity. The Rays front office will also have a few hit the chair as Rays Senior VP of Baseball Operations Brian Auld, Sr VP Mark Fernandez, VP of Branding and Fan Experience Darcy Raymond, Sr Director of Corporate Partnerships Aaron Cohn,Manager of Corporate Sales Jake Hornstein and two Directors of Corporate Partnerships, Richard Reeves and Josh Bullock.

I think the paragraph on the pcfcutforacure website under “Team Rays” speaks volumes on why the team is so focused and excited about the event:

This is about being there for the kids and their families. We want them to know they are not alone. It’s a small gesture, but it is our way of showing support for them while gaining empathy for what they are going through. We have a saying posted in our locker room that says ‘Fortune favors the bold.’ As we go forward with this campaign we are doing so under the flag ‘Fortune favors the bald.’ As an organization, we are proud to support organizations and institutions like the Pediatric Cancer Foundation (PCF) and the Moffitt Cancer Center.”

This is the kind of event that bonds a team. Unified with a common thought and goal, it can be a great starting point of the Rays taking another step not only in their development as a team, but as a great inspiration to other teams around the MLB to follow suit. I commend Maddon and his troops for their commitment, their outstanding community involvement and support, and most of all for donating what some see as a status symbol but they see as only hair and a visual stamp that they support this organization.

If you want to help support this cause with a donation of your own, text CUT to 50555 or go to pcfcutforacure.org. Just as every snip of the scissors is a chance to change a life, every text can also be life-changing for someone.

 

 

2012 Toby Hall & Friends Celebrity Golf Classic

Professional athletes have a special format and platform to help educate and introduce us to charities and organization that are among us that without their support or enlightenment might go unnoticed or suffer financial downfalls and possible extinction. This is one of the many reasons I have chosen to be a part of the annual Toby Hall and Friends Celebrity Golf Classic. Well, that and helping out one of my true baseball friends.

His 2012 event again was overflowing with support from the baseball and sports community of Tampa Bay. From the Tampa Bay Lightning to former and current athletes coming together to help support Hall and The Miracle League, the event was a winner from the arrival of the first golfer. This year the event took on a different feel for me. Hall had announced his official retirement as a player earlier in the year, and now his focus and determination was focused and pin-pointed towards helping those organizations that touched at his heart strings.

I also took on a different face within the classic this year as I was on the opposite end of the camera lens taking photos of some of the golfing pairings, and getting some unseen shots while accompanying Hall and his entourage around the course during the days events. It was great to see former Tampa Bay sports icons like Tampa Bay Bucs RB Mike Alstott, T E Dave Moore, K Martin Gramatica. and the Bucs mega fan Big Nasty made the region’s football presence known at the event. Other NFL participants were Kansas City Chiefs TE Anthony Becht and former Jets, Bengals and Bucs OL Matt O’Dwyer.

As usual, the Major League Baseball community both in Tampa Bay and with a bevy of former Rays made the bulk of the events celebrity attendees, each bringing their own spin and special moments to the event. Current members of the Rays showing their support for the former Rays backstop included SP David Price who formed Team Price along with teammates SS Reid Brignac and CF B J Upton. Also attending the event was SP James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb and RF Matt Joyce who all acted as celebrity golfers in the classic’s pairings.

But Rays players were not the only one having fun on the links this day, Rays Third Base Coach Tom Foley, former Pitching Coach Chuck Hernandez, Bench coach Bill Evers, former Rays Hitting Coach Steve Henderson and former Rays OF and current Montgomery Biscuits Coach Ozzie Timmons made their rounds Thursday. Former Rays bat boy and current Toronto Blue Jays P Jesse Litsch was also on hand as well as FSN Sports and Rays Television broadcast man-on-the-move Todd Kalas who came out to support the event plus performed some spontaneous Awards Dinner MC work that inspired the evenings auctions.

Several other former Rays and long time supporters of the classic which included a pair of new Chicago Cubs, LHP Trever Miller and RP Andy Sonnanstine, plus new Indians RP Dan Wheeler who made their annual show of support for their former teammate. Former Rays backstop Gregg Zaun again brought his humor and great vibe to the event along with Washington Nationals OF Jason Michaels who again brought his unique putter and local radio “babe” and original Hooters icon Lynne Austin who I still owe a Bloody Mary. Local NBA icon and restaurant owner Matt Geiger also showed his tall and big presence on the links.

It was a great day on the greens and fairways and I had a great time talking and shooting the breeze with many of the celebrities and amateurs who took to the links. With great weather and great bonding on the golf course, the night’s final event brought the whole day to an eventual climax. Along with the raffles and awards presentation, Hall then introduced a group that had touched more than his heart strings to the assembled crowd.

Hall spoke of his recent introduction to another great baseball related group called Buddy Baseball that pairs a volunteer with a special needs player and they bond both on and off the field. His emotional moment touched so many in the crowd, and showed us another great organization to not only keep an eye on, but help develop into the successful model The Miracle League has become around the Tampa Bay area. Hall presented the group with a $ 4,000 check on this night, and with it came a rush of emotions all over the room and with the players and staff.

So many of the works and events that athletes do both in Tampa Bay or around the country do not get their “just desserts” within the local media. I volunteer for these events every Spring not to glamorize the athletes involved, but hope to inspire and promote others within the region to also join the path to helping these organizations have continued success and expansion into other Tampa Bay regions. Knowing that Hall has included the Baseball Buddies group now with The Miracle League charity it is a great moment for special needs kids and adults around the Tampa Bay area to have that unique baseball experience and enjoy the game.

Post Script:

I will be posting all my additional photos of the 2012 Toby Hall & Friends Celebrity Golf Classic on my Flickr page (Rays Renegade) if you might desire to re-post or download a photo for your own.

Prove Me Wrong “Briggy Baseball”…Please!

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When the Tampa Bay Rays traded SS Jason
Bartlett in the off season, I was hoping that young shortstop Reid
Brignac had made the transition needed to play on a daily basis and
provide a stop gap up the middle using the assets of his outstanding
athletic ability.

Having a solid and consistent bat to go
along with a brick wall defense would just be the delicious icing on
the proverbial cake. But something seems to be missing. What I have
seen so far this season is a young player who is still trying to find
his groove.

Your alter ego “Briggy Baseball” has
the defensive chops to play at this level. I am still waiting for
that player we have seen the past 2 Springs that seemed to punish the
ball both at the plate and in the field. Somewhere, somehow this guy
who produced some dramatic defensive moves and provided more than a
few gasps has been MIA in the Rays infield.

Maybe I am being a bit too critical
here right now since the Rays staff and the front office must have
seen the potential and commitment intertwine as you must have made
the needed steps to sprint over the hump ans was the perfect
candidate to replace Bartlett.

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I wasn’t expecting a early season
hiccup of 3 errors and a .971 Fielding Average with 25 games under
your belt. Do I push that under the category of “growing pains”
as you learn the position full-time, or do you need a little more
work than we all originally diagnosed.

Please prove me wrong over the next 10
days. Come on Briggy, you have the talent and the moxy to push out of
this sluggish mode and provide a solid game day performance as the
Rays try and raise the Rays win levels. A good guy in that shortstop
slot will go a long way in securing a few wins.

I want to overlook an early potential
fielding error when there was some miscommunication between you and
Second Baseman Ben Zobrist when no one was covering the bag when
Toronto OF Rajai Davis stole a base in the first inning. Blue Jay OF
Cory Patterson, who is a left-handed batter was at the plate, and if
I remember, when a base runner steals off a left-hander, it is the
Short Stop’s responsibility to cover the bag.

It might have been a slight malfunction
made more interesting by your acrobatic save of the ball not going to
the outfield wall by hurling you body perpendicular to the turf and
grabbing it on the bounce like it was designed that way. If someone
would have been there to catch a great throw by Rays catcher John
Jaso, it would have been another caught base stealer on Jaso’s stat
chart.

I have seen more than a few plays in
the field by you in this young 2011 season to make me think it is
just an on-field adjustment for you, but do we have the time to wait
for all the pieces to be pushed into place? A .971 Fielding
Percentage is above average for a young player…over 162 games, not
a stitch over 2 dozen starts.

If you glove is having a bit of a
problem, it can be compensated by bringing the lumber at the plate,
but you are hitting at a .240 mark against right-handers (like
tonight’s starter Brandon Morrow) and has struggled profusely to post
a disappointing .125 against southpaws. Coming into 2011 you were a
.268 hitter against right-handed pitching with 9 career Home Runs.

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Instead you are hovering at a .206
average right now with no Home Runs and 4 RBI. Brignac has not had a
extra base hit in 31 games, the longest drought in Rays history.
Interesting enough, the former streak of 29 games without an extra
base hit was by former SS Bartlett back in 2008. Tonight you have
gone 0-for-2 with a nice bunt, but still you are just a bad game away
from meeting Mr. Mendoza.

Do we have to post up teammates Elliot
Johnson or Sean Rodriguez at your spot when Southpaws hit the mound.
I had such great expectations for you since your rookie campaign
where you ranked in 3rd among rookies with a .256 average
4th in RBIs (45), and 4th with 8 Home Runs. You future to
me looked bright as the Rays sunburst.

But I am beginning to worry more and
more with each ball hit towards the hole if the athlete in you is
clicking that night. Becoming more anxious when you hit the plate,
mostly against right-handers now and you seem to have lost that “pop”
that produced a stellar .367 average.

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Somewhere between Opening Day and now
the lines have crossed somehow. Briggy you are better than this both
on the field and at the plate. Adjustments have to be made now, or
you might see yourself sitting more and more and might lose that
chance to compete nightly.

Maybe going back to “Briggy Baseball” basics is the best solution. You have one of the best infield
instructors in Coach Tom Foley in your clubhouse, maybe sitting near
him when you are on the bench against right-handers will make the
bells and whistles finally begin to chime for you.

I really want to see the “Briggy
Baseball” persona we have fallen in love with over the past 2 seasons
to rear its charismatic head. You have the talent, now it is time to
show all of us why you are here and not back with Triple-A Durham as
you figure things out. Please prove me wrong Briggy….I double-dog
dare you…..Please.

Pena’s Progress take a Step Backwards

 

 

Foot injuries can be the worst injuries in baseball for a powerhitter like Rays First Baseman Carlos Pena. Due to the fact that there is a minimal amount of muscle and ligaments in that apendage, sometimes the injury can bring you down like a ton of bricks when the pain gets too much, even for a professional like Pena.This one region of the human anatomy has mostly a bone surfaces that can easily bruise and when injured can provide a constant level of aching pain if you do not rest it and let it heal. The simple action of an opponent accidently stepping on the wrong part of your foot, or inadvertantly twisting their cleat onto your shoe can render a constant and lingering pain that can go on for weeks or weeks without treatment.


So this past Saturday during the Rays versus New York Yankee contest when Pena finally gave into his searing foot pain in his right plant foot, you knew it had to be tremendous pain to get him to leave such a hotly contested series. One of the givens in athletics is that you always have some sort of ache or pain during the competitive season. When Pena finally confessed to the obvious pain in his right plant foot to the Rays Medical Staff, they took every precaution and every  treatment move to try and get Pena back in the Rays line-up as soon as possible.

But after a training exercise and drill set yesterday before the Rays played their finale against the Twins, the team decided that Pena could be better served with a bit of down time and let his injury heal naturally. So following the game last night against the Twins, the Rays Medical staff  have a conference with the Rays front office and Coaching staff and decided to place Pena on the Disabled List retro to August 1st. This will provide some added rest time for Pena to do additional sessions to promote some healing of the region, plus give the Rays an added body on the Rays 25-man roster on their 6-game roadtrip. 


 

When Pena left the Rays line-up during their game against the Yankees, you knew it had to be something monumental for the Rays clubhouse leader to finally sit with his team so close in the hunt in the American League East. But a consistent pain in the top of your right foot when you are a left-handed batter can in time take you mentally out of your focus range while hitting as the repetious ache can feel like someone is stabbing the top of your foot when you swing a bat, or use your right foot as your trailing foot on the First Base bag.

That back leg is also a key element to providing optimal power in the swing process from the left-side of the plate. To have any type of nagging ailment in this region of the body can render your swing less productive, and provide limited power until the pain or the cause is found and dealt with accordingly. The loss of Pena tothe line-up until possibly the home series against the Texas Rangers will take another power bat out of the Rays line-up, and could be critical to them staying in close proximity to the Yankees in the A L East stadnings.


 

Think about it, Pena is one of those old-fashion warriors who normally will play through the pain and aches, to provide the  motivational leadership to keep the Rays young guys hungry. To see Pena sit, even for one game meant that the pain had to have reached his personal limits. So it was great to see the Rays do due diligence by performing an M.R.I, which concluded Pena had a slight ligament tear on the top of his right foot. But even with the right care and guidance the last several days, Pena’s injury did not respond the way the Rays had hoped, and he will spend a few days on the D L  healing and hopefully regaining his power level for the stretch run.


 

It is the kind of injury that you can deaden with pain killer or shots, but can also fester and become worse if not diagnosed and treated before it becomes a more severe tear or even finding the ligament detached from the bone. It was great to see Pena doing agility drills and performance tests with Rays Head Trainer Ron Portfield and Rays Third Base Coach and infield instructor Tom Foley before the game. They did agility drill with and without the baseball to try and gauge Pena’s range of mobility and seemed to focus on his quick acceleration left and right whilemanning a defensive position on the field.


 

Porterfield and Foley also tested Pena’s progress with him coming out of his hitting stance with a test on his first three steps out of the batter’s box to see if there is any hesitation or hitch to compensate for his ligament injury. They also did a battery of testing his acceleration moves on the base paths and a battery of test movement with Pena shifting his weight in multiple directions before concluding the exercises and all three then standing near the first base foul line discussing the exercises at length.


From the body language displayed by both Foley and Porterfield, it looked like they were receptive by noticeably concerned by the lack of progress in Pena’s situation . Their facial expression showed that they were not optimistic and totally pleased with the drills. The next step might be a bit of rest and relaxation for Pena for a few days, then re-evaluate the situation and plan a rehabilitation plan accordingly. 

 

One thing that has stood out in the past two Rays games is the visual fact that the Rays do not have an adequate bat outside of Pena that strikes any notion of fear into the opposing pitching staffs. The Rays have recently seemed to be one guy short of a great offensive strategy at times. The expulsion of Pena from the Rays line-up has left  one of the Rays young power hitters, Evan Longoria exposed and during this roadtrip teams will try to intimidate and make Longoria carry the bulk of the Rays offensive power.

 
In the last two games without Pena’s threat of power, the Twins manipulated Longoria and temporary fixes to the Rays line-up did not extract any levels of fear in the four slot in the Rays line-up. Now will be the time for Matt Joyce, Dan Johnson and even Willy Aybar to step up and become other great power options for the Rays in Pena’s absence. This segment without Pena will be another test to see just how adaptable this Rays team will be to change and if they can adapt on the fly to bring their offense back up to par and win. 

 

The loss of Pena until possibly next weekend could be a major blow to the Rays trying to stay in pace with the Yankees. With one of their leaders and big bats missing from their line-up, the Rays need to immediately refocus their attentions and have each team member contribute on this 6-game roadtrip through Toronto and Detroit. If the Rays stumble and fall and do not regain their offensive mindset, the season could pivot on these 9 games. It the Rays line-up can reconnect and finds a way to contribute evenly throughout the line-up, they might be able to effectively weather the Pena injury situation and come out on the winning end.

If not, it is going to be a long 9 games, and the team could find themselves closer in the standings for the American League Wild Card slot with the Boston Red Sox instead of nipping on the Yankees backsides for the A L East title. If the Rays want to secure their destiny and surge ahead, each member of the Rays roster during these 9 game will have to dig a little deeper and provide a few moments of their own.  But that is what good teams do, they adapt, conquer and move onto the next test with flying colors.

2010 Toby Hall & Friends Golf Classic

 

                                      
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Have to say I had a more than a fantastic time yesterday during the 2010 Toby Hall Golf Classic. Saw a lot of old baseball friends, and met a few new ones during the event and the social times later at the awards presntation and silent auction at the Courtside Grille. It is funny how I was just standing there helping both the participants and the celebrities get their correct size Addias shoes for the event, and so many people just seemed so glad to see me at the event. And that what makes that day an instant classic memory.
People were fast to extend their hand for a handshake or do a little chatting with me about a multitude of subjects before heading out for a round of golf. I felt like I belonged yesterday in that environment, and I thank everyone for that. But then again, I never been known to be a isolated hermit and I do tend to be a bit too outgoing at times.

But there were also some people missing that I had hoped to check up on and see how things were going with them, but they had to take a “rain check” on the event because of some great news and unexpected events. Within the first few minutes I learned that ex-Rays slugger Jonny Gomes was going to miss the classic because he had just joined the exclusive “Dad’s Club” after having a baby girl. And that former Ray Rocco Baldelli was going to to miss the event after some travel fatigue following his recent trip to Europe.

And  that Rays centerfielder B J Upton, who also has his own golf event this week was actually  currently up in New York filming a segment on the MLB Network that is  making the video rounds on the Internet today. But also former WWE wrestler and Rays fanatic Brian Knobs was also AWOL for the event because of scheduling conflicts. But the classic also had some very familiar faces to local Tampa Bay fans such as World Champion boxer Winky Wright and former players of the Tampa Bay Bucs like Mike Alstott, Anthony Becht,Matt Bryant, and Matt O’Dwyer. 

           
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Current Bucs players Clinton Smith, Kevin Carter and Sheldon Quarles also came out to support the classic which was working closely with the Miracle League of Florida to raise $ 250,000 to help construct a state of the art facility in Hillsborough County(Tampa area) for physically challenged kids to get the opportunity to enjoy the game of baseball. But mostly it was the Major League Baseball contingency, that included a lot of local home grown MLB talent coming out to support the cause and to have a great round of golf with their fellow MLB players. 

And the Rays had several players come out and show support like Dan Wheeler,Andy Sonnanstine(who was late, but got into speed mode and completed the course),and James Shields. The Rays Coaching staff also had golfing fanatic (Third Base Coach) Tom Foley out representing the Rays staff. Former Rays players showed up and support their former Rays catcher in his foundation’s drive to help the Miracle League of Florida reach their goal.

Former Rays players like Trever Miller (Cards),Miguel Cairo, Jorge Cantu (Marlins) Chuck Hernandez (Coach), and retired Rays players like Doug Creek, Roberto Henandez and Jason Romano were all on hand to play in the Scramble format classic. Local baseball talents like pitcher Jesse Litsche (Toronto),Casey Kotchman (Seattle),Boof Bonser ( Boston), Gavin Floyd (Chicago White Sox), Denard Span (Minnesota). Also in attendance was a excited and totally gung ho Yankee prospect pitcher Christian Garcia that was loving the day on the Bayou Club Golf Course even with it wild conditions. 

       
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The media was also not forgotten as local radio host Fisher and the Rays own Todd Kalas were on-hand to show that the Rays voices in the poressbox and on the air waves were also represented in the classic. Former MLB players Darnell Coles and Casey Cox  were also playing for the great cause. And during the event I found out that Romano had actually retired and was now working closely with Speed Gel, which is a cream that can help reduce inflamation, help heal injuries and relieve  common musle pain.

But Span, who doesn’t play golf, actually stayed in the clubhouse and we spoke on a always expanding round of subjects, some not baseball related. Span actually chuckled when I mentioned where I sat and remembered me and how persistent I was to get his autograph. Always a compliment if a fan can leave an impression on a player. Well, I think so. 

I asked Span about the new Twins digs set to open up this Spring, and we both were in agreement that the turf might be rough until May before it has some give and take while playing on it. He also acknowledged that the Twins might lose some homefield advantage for a few homestands until they also got to know all the nooks and crannies of playing this new stadium. But I also found out he also played football as a wide reciever before he was drafted into the MLB. Span actually laughed when I told him I took the football route and should have picked baseball.  

And it was a great day on the links and in the clubhouse getting to know Span and other golfers’ in between holes chatting about the game and  things outside the game. And even if the day did stay a bit blustery with huge wind gusts, it was  a great event I will never forget. From the  game of cart tag near the end of the event, to the congestion of golf carts at the check-in point where everyone seemed more than happy to stay around  and talk or make post-classic plans at Courtside Grille, the day just seems to fly by in no time and the classic was over
on the links for 2010.

And I have to say I have not volunteered for  a golfing event since I used to help out with the Emerald Coast Golf Classic (Senior PGA) up in Milton, Florida. But I would be more than willing to give time and my energies to events like this anytime and anywhere. Sure I might have started out just being the guy who help get everyone in their Addias golf shoes, but by the end of the day, I was part of the great day and wild times that will live on inpictures and conversations. 

                  
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And that is what these events are really all about. Letting go and just enjoying the day and the wide variety of athletes chasing a small white ball and bringing a possible life changing moment to children of the Miracle Leagues of Florida to experience teamwork and being teammates while enjoying playing baseball themselves.

Several times that day Hall made sure to come by and thank me for my time, but in reality I did not need thanks, I was more than happy to give what I could to this former Rays that I  will always consider a “baseball buddy”. Hall is the type of player I would give up almost anything to help him achieve his goal, or get that dollar amount for his cause.

 
So hopefully in 2011, I can again get a call or email from his foundation, and I will be more than eager to help out a “buddy” reach the ultimate goal for his foundation. Oh, and Toby, I am the one who needs to thank you for such a great off the field memory that I will cherish forever.

Indian Raindance Ramblings

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


Kensaviation@Flickr.com

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

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

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

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


Skurdrafan1@Flickr.com

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

          
           Cynthia1091@Flickr.com

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

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

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


Mark Duncan / AP

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

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

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

Could Maddon have planned this Mistake?

 


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I have to say that the lineup card fiasco yesterday stirred up its own pot of controversy as we sat there in the stands for almost 15 minutes not knowing what was going on at home plate. We could see Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge constantly bickering and arguing a fact from just beyond Dick Vitale’s seat, but even the loud and proud Vitale probably could not have figured this fiasco out in less time. It is not the intention of the Tampa Bay Rays to try and shore up their defense by putting both Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist at the same position.

But you do have to give it to the Cleveland bench for not saying a thing before the Rays took their first time out in the field to solidify Wedge’s argument that Longoria should be tossed off the lineup card in the 3-hole.  It was a measure of stealth that they let the Rays get their 3 outs then protest the line-up card to basically make this an old school National League versus American League game. By showing the error to the umpire crew the Indians did in fact get Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine put into that third spot for the ballgame. But little did they know that Sonnanstine was a .400 hitter and could stroke the ball with authority. Because the Rays play basically a NL-type game with a designated hitter most nights, the loss of Longoria did not take a huge bite out of the Rays scoring machine.

You would have thought it would cause all kinds of havoc and make for a very one-sided contest, but in reality, it boosted the Rays bench confidence in their team, and also got the other Rays pitchers to want to also take a few hacks at the plate. One television camera even caught Rays starter Scott Kazmir taping up his bat on the bench maybe hoping for a pinch-hitter role in the game. But what soon seemed like a huge injustice to the Rays turned into a plus as Sonnanstine put down an incredible bunt to get a fielder’s choice when the Indians instead went to second with the throw to get the speedy Carl Crawford. But later in the contest, Sonnanstine would make the Indians pay with a nice stroke to leftfield that had Ryan Garko doing circles out there in left field.

But for some reason, the post-game interview with Rays Manager Joe Maddon saw him take complete blame for the line-up blunder. He said it was basically his signature and that he was responsible for the error and that no one else’s fingerprints are on the decision to submit the wrong lineup card before the game. Okay, I am not a huge fan of conspiracy theories or even the mixture of intelligence and character building in reference to his team. But if I was, then Maddon is a true genius. For some odd reason I see his smiling face not at all too upset on the reversal of losing Longoria, who even got up off the bench and penciled in Sonnanstine’s name himself before putting on a sweat top and sitting on the bench.


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How much of a true warrior statistician would you be if you pulled the wool over the eyes of not only your team, but the opposition.  I truly think that Sun Tzu would be proud of Maddon right now. I think he meant to do that yesterday. For some odd reason it makes sense that starting on Friday, his pitchers would again be taking the plate in Inter League contests against the Florida Marlins. Here we had the best hitting pitcher on the Rays having to take hacks today against a guy making his MLB debut.  It doesn’t take a wise man to see that the simple fact of Sonnanstine hitting can give the Indians a false set of confidence in at least one quick out in an inning.

It also doesn’t seem too far fetched to think of Maddon as using this “error” as a tool to motivate his pitchers who are now chomping at the bit to get time at the plate. That makes for more focused Batting Practice swings by the pitching staff, plus a bit of covert action by showing the pitchers’ one of their own going 1 for 3 with an RBI in Sundays win. I can see Maddon sitting in his office trying to devise his own “Trojan Horse” situation to boost not only the confidence of his pitching staff, but for his players to believe again in 2009. After the rough start to the season, and the last two nights emotional and building confidence levels, this move could make them take on a army of Transformers.

I sat down near the Bullpen and even joked about Joe Nelson and Dan Wheeler getting some hacks today at the plate. But in the back of my mind, I knew that Sonnanstine might get three chances, and by then it would be the seventh inning or beyond and the bench could be put into action. The last few days I have seen several members of this pitching staff take to the batting cages, and some of them have more focus than last season. So if Maddon did indeed do this to instill a sense of magic and power to his pitchers’ they got the message loud and clear. For the pure fact that he is the last one to see that lineup card before he gives it to either Dave Martinez or Tom Foley to submit, you have to think they also check it out while walking out there.

But for the fact that no one questioned it before the middle of the first inning is in itself a bold move by both benches. It could have been decided that Longoria’s name not being put under the “DH” moniker was just a clerical error and he would have been inserted anyway. But the umpire crew did its job and made the right decision. With a bit of luck, and skill it worked perfectly into the Rays favor. This is not to mean that Pat Burrell has been replaced by a pitcher, but it is a great thing to know that the pitchers want to contribute at the plate too now. That can lead to all sorts of plays and chances for this team to get additional bats in the lineup in the coming Inter League games.

I can truly see the mind of Joe Maddon cooking up this scenario and even making alternative plans in his head if it did not work well. That is why I like Maddon. He is one of those managers that actually manages during the game. Situational hitting, double steals and also watching for routine flaws in the other team is his style of play. Maddon is a great lover of the strategies and moves of the game. I am really thinking he just played the best joke on all of us, and only himself and maybe his Coaching staff know the truth in this matter.


Rienhold Matay / AP

So for now, the Rays as a “NL” team are 1-0 in the season. We will find out just how good this play of events evolves when on Friday night the pitchers again take to the plate in Miami.  Not to truly say that the Rays skipper did do it on purpose, but if he did, it would be one of the best coaching moves to motivate a sector of your team since the bat sc
ene in “Bull Durham”. Sonnanstine is now in the history books, and the Rays turned a visual mistake into a confidence-boosting exercise. Sounds just like something Maddon would cook up in the kitchen too.

 

 

 

Maddon’s “Thanks-mas ” 2008 Celebration

 


 


I was sitting here today at the computer in the house with the outside temps hitting the mid 40′s for the first time this season and thought I forgot something this year. It took me a short while, but I remembered that I did not write about the “Thanks-mas” project that Rays Manager Joe Maddon does for the area homeless every year he has been with the Rays.  I can not believe I forgot the one thing that brings the true Christmas spirit into my heart the last few years.

 
 

One of the things I look forward to reading about every year since Maddon came aboard with the team is the community involvement he has with the area charities and his demonstration of his great cooking skills. So in the middle of December of 2008, after his marriage and honeymoon European adventure, he made sure to come back to Tampa Bay and take care of some urgent culinary business.

 

 
 

 


But that is the kind of guy that Maddon is in life, he remembers the community . He is that guy you would want to meet you at the sports bar and watch the game with while eating a few hundred chicken wings while chatting about the little things in the game. I have had the pleasure of talking with him a few dozen times, and the guy it total class from the first word to the last. And he shows genuine passion for the area and it’s fans.

 
 

 


For that reason, I think the team and the community is so lucky to have signed Maddon to be our 4th club manager. Since his first days in office with the Rays, he has had an eye to the community, and had addressed the issue of homelessness and community involvement from everyone from the front office to the players. Rays staffers and personnel like Rays third base Coach Tom Foley, Head Trainer Ron Porterfield, and even Rays Radio announcer Dave Willis help distribute food and smiles during the event.  But the man of the hour is Maddon who truly  knows the advantages he has in life, and shares himself with the community anytime and in anyways possible to give back to the area.
 
 

And with his busy schedule after the 2008 season, you might think he would  shelve the project for awhile. But no, Maddon made sure that the preparations and the products was ready and available for his yearly foray into the kitchen to cook some home favorites for the folks in the Tampa Bay area.  He started this years adventure at the Bradenton Salvation Army where a roomful of anxious folks got to dine on Maddon classics taken from his mom Beanie’s recipe books.

 
 

 


Maddon understands that in the recent developments with employment dipping in the state and financial situation coming up almost nightly, that the community sometime needs a hand up, not a hand out. “Everybody just assumes that people within these circumstances or conditions are people who don’t want to work, or they’re lazy, or whatever,” Maddon said. “There are a lot of different reasons why people end up in that situation. And this economy is showing it right now, front and center. “
 


With the Tampa Bay area struggling, like the rest of the country during the holidays, Maddon understands that this is a national problem, but can only do what he can right now locally to help people understand they are not alone and there is hope upon the horizon. Maddon was quick to note that, “There are a lot of folks out there who would really much prefer having their steady job back and their homes, etc. This is a tough time. When you’re considering the homeless situation, it’s a wide variety of people and a wide variety of reasons why they’re there.”

 

 
 

 

 

This year is Maddon’s third consecutive year Maddon has hosted the event with the help of the Rays organization. As he has done in the past, Maddon prepared a traditional Italian holiday feast. With the help of Rays employees, Maddon shopped for the food earlier in the week before helping to cook and serve it at the Salvation Army. And if the meal was not enough, the Rays  also provided gift packs for the youngsters in attendance, and also passed out Wal-Mart donated gift cards to those receiving meals.

 


As the people began to sit down and eat his prepared feast, Maddon added that, “I’ve been wanting to just grow this thing to the point where we include families and kids, because people don’t even consider the children involved in this situation,” Maddon said. “It’s always about a male. It’s normally a male, 40-plus, or whatever, but it’s families.

 
 

 

 

“So the more we get the information out there, and the more we shed light on the situation, the more people gain an understanding. And I need to be more educated on it myself. But I do know one thing — it’s one of those things that sticks to me and I felt like I needed to do something about it.” 
 


Maddon wanted to add toys to the events this year because of a trend he was seeing in the past of the event where single parents and families were also being left homeless by the effects of the economy.  A displaced family sometimes has no choice by separate and find shelter and food in family members in the area, or even in shelters during the holidays. This broke Maddon’s heart because it sometimes separates the family at the time of the year where they need to bond and be as one. 
 


“Last year, when we went to the Metropolitan Ministries and at Bradenton, it was the first time we were exposed to families and single moms,” Maddon said. “And, my goodness, it’s tough, because you know where you came from, you know where you grew up. And you know what you’ve got right now and you see what you’ve got. And for me, it’s a tough thought.”

 

 
 

 

Maddon does not hide the fact that this situation gets to him deeply and sometimes he ends up in tears because of the suffering and the agony that these families must endure year round.  Hosting these events is just a small bit he can do for the community, but it is a very well received holiday tradition started by a guy who is just starting out on his own family this past off season. One of the participants in this year;s event was his new wife Jaye, who sported a “Rays” Santa hat and was all smiles as she helped serve the meals this year.

 

 


 

 

Ever since the movie, “Pay It Forward” people seemed to have taken a kinship to that phrase and made more of an effort to help people. I know I do, but is people like Maddon who can make a small gesture like these fantastic Italian fests that can be the fire that gets someone to the next level and back on the road to fulfilling his own dreams and goals in life. But during the holiday season, you want to believe in miracles and that everything is possible in this world.

 

 

 

“When I get over my crying, in a quiet corner somewhere, it’s great,” Maddon said. “The kids are appreciative. The parents, the people are very appreciative. And also the people that work in these places. We’ve really built a pretty good relationship with them also. And furthermore, it’s Christmas, man — it is the best day of the year.”  So there you go America. This is the kind of man you voted as the American League Manager of the Year. I can only say he is my candidate for “Man of the Year” based on everything he does on and off the field for the Tampa Bay Rays.



I want to than Barry Jones, one of my Facebook friends who is also the Rays Community Relations Coordinator and posted these great pictures of the event.

 

 

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.

Rays Even the Series Against Phillies

 

 

 

From Batting Practice on last night the Tampa Bay Rays looked loose and in control compared to the stiff and “deer in the headlights” stares from Weds. night. As the Rays get some playoff vibes they will no longer have those gitters and butterflies. It was just a case of International stage fright last night. They came out on fire and ready to rock the house on Thursday night.

From the offset, the Rays were joking around and just more “rays-like” last night. Gone was the pressure to put a 2-spot up on the Phillies and make them play like a champion up in their park this weekend. Also gone was the aspect that the Rays did not belong here, that luck and a great pitching staff got them here, not offensive talent.

Funny that Fox put a mic on Jonny Gomes last night. Of all the people to mic up on the bench, Jonny can give you the best sound bytes, but you have to keep a censor near you too. The conversation between him and Andy Sonnanstine was fantastic. I do not know what  it is about the bandwagon comments by the Philly fans, but alot of us have been here for a long time, and we are not going anywhere.

I get so upset when the Philly media calls the are a “bandwagon community.” There is that cottage element in every town. Some poeple just do not want to believe until it is thrust into their faces 24/7, then they jump on a bandwagon with gusto. But to say that ALL Rays fans are bandwagoneers is just plain stupid and lacks a certain amount of braincells.

 Prove I have not been a long time fan if you are so inclined, and I will pull out the tickets tubs and stadium giveaways to prove you are full of it all. Prove I am only going to the game becuase we are in the Playoffs and I will show you pictures from Rays finctions and events you do not even know about. Prove I was not here in 1998, and I will hit you in the head with my purple seat cushion given out at the first game ever for the Rays.

 

 

Los Lonely Boys

Now that was a National Anthem. It was clean, concise and had a great amount of harmony without needing a timeout to just catch up with the octave changes. I really enjoyed their performance alot. Just goes to show you that a band that has a more country-based roots can wing it with the best of them.

But, I do have to take exception to an article I saw in a local fishwrap. MLB must be crazy to not give the Rays the top choices in the anthem singers. I saw that the Phillies will have Taylor Swift singing on Sat. night. Guess we are not worthy yet of a breakthrough country artist in the dirty south. Guess we would not understand her country twang and  great vocals.

Guess it is back to the pumpkin patch for all of us. And the Sunday anthem singer might just be the best of all of them. I loove hearing Patti LaBelle sing period. That is my music era, and I relish it. I am really anxoius to hear that woman belt out a tune on her pipes. It might be the best one I have heard since that Whitney Houston performance at the Tampa Super Bowl a million years ago.

 

 

Evan Longoria

Fist off Evan, congrats on the nod by The Sporting News  for top  AL rookie this year in the MLB. There is no one else in the American League right now that can touch you defensively or offensively. It is a great honor and one you truly deserve this year.

With that out of the way, let’s get doen to business here. What is going on with you at the plate dude. In the ALDS and ALCS you started out slow and by now got your groove on, but so far you are in a tire rut of  a major hole. In the World Series, you are currently hitting goose eggs for 8, with 4 strikeouts.

Granted if anyone on this team deserves some slack, it is you. But I do not consider you  a rookie. You do not act or play like one, and to not throw that label on you is a treu hnor in itself. But, dude this team needs that clean-up guy to poke a few balls into the holes and provide some protection for Pena and Crawford in the batting order.

 

 

So far the only people scared of you is the couple in the front row of Section 110, who have seen a ball flash before their eyes in the past couple of series from either your glove or Jason Bartletts’. The ball down the line last night was not within your reach, and that error charged to you was for force of the ball, not your effort. We all know you are the second coming of Brook Robinson at third, but why do you have to be hitting like Vinny Castilla right now on the biggest stage of your life.

 

    

 

Upton and Pena Wake up from Slumber

Last night the 2-3-4 hitters for the Rays went 2-11, but the two were hits by B J Upton. That does not tell all of the story here. The trio also scored 3 RBI’s in the game, even though there was no hits by Pena and Longoria.  The Rays scored 2 runs on ground outs in the 1st inning. During the regular season, the Rays only drove in about 53.2 percent of the men from third base with less than 2-outs, which was the 6th worst percentage in the majors.

But last night, the Rays put the Phillies down early as Akinora Iwamura walked to lead off the game, and Upton hit a beauty into rightfirld that was mishandled by Jason Werth. With the ball bouncing on the ground towards Werth, he took his eye off the ball long enough to make a bad adjustment and the ball hit the outside of the glove and bounced away from him. That left men on the corner with no outs for the Rays.

Pena then hit a strong grounder to Jimmy Rollins at short and he had to make the play at first base. With that smash, Iwamura easily scored from third and Upton moved over to thrid base on the play. Evan Longoria then hit another screamer to Rollins, who had to duplicate his throw again to first and Upton came in to score to put the Rays up 2-0.

 

 

Rays Keep Pressure on Phillies

The Rays came out again in the 2nd inning and kept pressure on the Phillies on the bases. Dioner Navarro hit the first of his two hits to right in the inning and Rocco Baldelli walked on a controversial call.

With the count, 3-2, Rocco  was apparently rung up by Home Plate Umpire Kerwin Danley, but in an appeal to first, First Base Umpire Feildin Culbreth signaled that Baldelli checked his swing and a ball was called on the play. Replays showed that the Rays might have gotten a gift from that call as Baldelli’s wrist did break, and the play should have been a strikeout.

 

 

Bartlett then came up and hit a smash down to Pedro Feliz at thris that he could not get a handle on, and Bartlett reached on an infield single. This loaded the bases for the Rays with the top of the order coming up for the Rays. Aki quickly popped up to Rollins before Upton hit a ball to right. With Werth having trouble before on a grounder to right, Third Base Coach Tom Foley sent Navarro to the plate.

 

 

After he scored Foley also sent Baldelli to the plate and Rocco came in comepletely sideways into Phillies’ catcher, Carlos Ruiz, but could not dislodge the ball. It was a funny play to actually watch, becuase Baldelli did evrything he could to make Ruis drop the ball, but a overhead camera shot showed if he stuck his hand out beofre hitting Ruiz, he was safe at the corner of the plate.  But that is hindsight.

 

 

In the 4th inning, Cliff Floyd led off with a single to center for the Rays. Navarro then came up and hit a ball up the middle to put 2 men on base for the Rays. Baldelli then came up and hit a ball off the end of the bat to Feliz, who threw to seocnd base to get Navarro. Utley tried to get Baldelli at first, but could not get his throw off in time to snag the speedy outfielder.

 

 

So with guys at the corners and 1-out, Bartlett came up and attempted  a suicide squezze on the first pitch, but bunted it foul. Floyd was breaking for home on the play and might have taken the ball into his body if not for the foul. Bartlett then attempted to bunt on the next pitch and put down a perfect safety squeeze bunt in front of  Phillie starter, Brett Myers. Myers only play was to first and Floyd easily scored to put the Rays up 4-0.

 

Phillie Errors

Phillie made two key errors in the game, but only one cost them any runs. The error in the first inning by Werth in right is the only play in the game to cost the Phillies. On that play, his slow movement to the ball coupled with  not watching the ball into his glove cost the team a early run.

 

 

In the 5th inning, Pena walked and was leading off first while Longoria was at the plate. On the 2nd pitch to Longoria, Ruiz fired a throw down to first hoping to catch Pena leaning, but instead the ball hit Howards in the glove and bounced over Pena into rightfield. Pena advanced to second on the play, but was stranded on base by 2 quick outs by the Rays.

 

            

 

James “Big Game” Shields

Considering this was a huge game for the Rays, what other pitcher did you want to hit the rubber than James Shields. He went out there and had problems in every innig, but remained cool and trusted his defense and came out with a win on the night. Shields went 5.2 innings and gave up 7-hits, but shut out the Phillies during his start.

But his night was not without drama. In the 2nd inning he gave up a double to Ryan Howard that 1-hopped to the wall in centerfield to lead off the inning. He then walked Pat Burrell  and threw a Wild Pitch to put both men in scoring position before settling down and getting 3 quick outs to strand the 2 Phillie runners on base.

 

 

In the 3rd, he again gave up a double to Ruiz down the leftfield line that bounced around in the corner on Crawford before setting down the next 3 Phillie batters in order. In the 4th, he gave up another lead-off single to Howard and gave Shane Victorino a infield single to second on a ball that hit the turf seam and bounced up on Iwamura. He again got it under control and set the next 2 Phillies down to strand both men on base.

 

 

In the 5th inning he got some help from Baldelli in getting out of the inning. With 1-out in the inning, Utley sent a shallow fly to right that Baldelli tracked down and caught in time. Werth had wandered too far off first base and was doubled up on a throw by Baldelli to Pena to end the inning.

In the 6th, Shields got two quick outs then issued a single to Victorino to right.  Greg Dobbs then came up and hit a 1-hopper to center that Upton could not catch in time and the Phillies had 2 men on with 2 outs. That was it for Shields and Rays Manager Joe Maddon went to the Bullpen.

 

 

The Price is Right in the Bullpen

Dan Wheeler then came in for the Rays and got Feliz to ground to Longoria, who threw to Iwamura for the force out and end the 6th inning.  Wheeler came back out in the 7th inning and gave up a walk to Ruiz to lad-off the inning.  He then got Rollins and Werth to strikeout to post two quick outs in the inning.

 

 

Maddon then came on and brought on David Price, the rookie to face Utley and Howard. Price gave up a walk to Utley befoe strking out Howard on 5 pitches to end the 7th inning. In the 8th, Price came back out and got 2 quick outs before Eric Bruntlett came on to pich hit for Burrell.

Bruntlett homered to left on the first pitch from Price to break the shutout for the Rays.  Price rebounded by getting Feliz to hit a grounder to short to end the inning with the Rays up 4-1. In the 9th inning, Ruiz lead off with a double down the left field line. Price then got Rollins to pop out to shallow center to Bartlett.

 

 

 

Longoria then had a ball ride up his glove and bounce away from him for his 1st error of the World Series. Ruiz scored on the play by Werth and pulled the Phillies to within 2 runs, 4-2. Utley then struck out and Howard hit a ball to Iwamura backing up behind first to end the game for the Rays. 

 

      

 

Remember Pitchers’, Chicks Dig the Long Ball

The Rays pitchers got their first real chance to step into the cages today during Batting Practice. With the games heading to the National League park, the Rays’ pitchers will have to bat in their games. Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine were seen taking their licks in the cages today.

 

 

Scott Kazmir also got into the action by hitting a few long and deep for the Rays during BP. All three batters/pitchers have a good stroke, and it will all get at least 2 at bats per outing up in Philly. The Rays pitchers’ have not had to bat since the Florida Marlins series in July of 2008. In the Interleague series this year, Andy Sonnanstine was the big pitcher’s stud hitting .400, or 2-5, with 2 walks in the series.  Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir went hitless going 0-4 and 0-2 respectfully.

 

 

 

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