Results tagged ‘ Trever Miller ’

Do You Still Cheer for your Ex-Players?

 
 



I decided to venture over to Myspace the other day to check my
mail and maybe tweak my profile a bit when I noticed that I had a message. I
clicked on it and lo and behold had an email from the Cowbell Kid. Now anyone
who knows me will tell you I had a few small run ins with him, but nothing
serious about respect for the game and some behavior I heard about in the past. 
But I do have to throw this compliment out there to him, he has made efforts to
clean and polish his act up a bit since late last year, and for that I sit back
and say thank you.

 



Everyone
who has ever taken in a game at the Trop will know that he was famous, or
infamous for yelling at players during Batting Practice about certain
inconsistent behaviors in their past or in their playing styles. It is no secret
that he got more than one player a bit upset. I personally know of one incident
last year that got one player almost to the point of jumping into the stands and
taking him on during a weekend series against the Astros. I am not going to name
the player, but if you were at the Trop that Saturday night, you know who he is
by the yelling and screaming go to and from the
field.

 



But that
was part of his game psyche, to try and get into the head of mostly the
relievers or right fielder in the league. Now there have been a few moments
where personal stuff might have popped down between himself and another player
that were not above board, but that is in the past, and that play is no longer
on the New York Yankees, so it is in the vault with the rest of the deeds. But
since that has been one of his focal points over the year, he emailed me with a
problem he is just now starting to develop because of some recent trades or
actions by the Rays to change their
roster.

 



I am
going to take the quote directly from his email so you can see that I am not
making this up, or trying to embarrass him. He said, “Here’s where it gets
tricky I have grown fond of some of the players that will no longer be a part of
our team, usually I will abuse any opposing players just because they are not on
the Rays team! But because of the respect some of these guys have gained in my
eyes I am going to have to be selective about my targets. ( never thought that
would ever be a problem for me ) oh well .”

 



And I
know that will be a problem for him in 2009 and the season that will go on for
the Rays. I know he has a fond friendship and a game day type of bond with
former Rays players like Jonny Gomes, who is now with the Cincinnati Reds, and
Rocco Baldelli, who is now a dreaded Boston Red Sox. Because he is one of the
most vocal fans about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, it is going to be
interesting what will happen during B P in 2009. But then again, he will also
see Gomes during Spring Training games, and it might be a tense moment for him
to see Jonny in red and white for the first
time.



 


 


I know I
have had the same situation since the Rays began play. I would begin to talk
with a player and develop a bit of dialogue and when they were in the Bullpen or
out in right field I used to chat it up with them a bit, but when they left, I
did not stop trying to chat with them. My reasoning for this is that we are both
in love with the same thing………Baseball, and that common ground has a huge
amount of conversational pieces. A great example is former Rays right fielder
Jose Guillen. I used to yell out to him every game and even try and tell him if
a player was taking a wild turn at this if the ball came into the corner near
my seat.

 



It was
not to confuse or to even play coach, but to be his eyes when he had his back to
the field. I got to know him better and every time he comes back into the Trop.,
he comes over and say hello. Other players like Shawn Camp, who is now with the
Toronto Blue Jays have come over and shook hands and then got to their business.
But the best at keeping his old Tampa Bay baseball friendships up was former
Rays catcher Toby Hall. Every time the Chicago White Sox came into town, he would
stroll down to the corner and we would talk about his time in Chi-town and how
his kids were growing. Hall and I never went out fishing or even for more than
beers at Ferg’s, but we always seemed to have time to talk even during games
when he was in the Bullpen.

 

It is a
fine line and a personal choice if you want to remain friends or just change it
to a buddy who plays for the enemy. I was talking with former Rays player Joey
Gathright about that last year after a game and he said that it was tough
sometimes to come back here and see the people who cheered for him now booing
some of his actions. But he also knows that he can not pull punches or even
slack off a moment in front of his former home crowd or it would give them
another reason to boo louder to him. And there lies the problem. Can we as fans
of our team separate the player from the team, or are they a whole not matter
what?

 



Everyone
takes that problem and decides for themselves.  I stood up and cheered for Texas
Ranger outfielder and former Rays Josh Hamilton the first time he came up to bat
at the Trop., and I am not ashamed of it at all. Some things happen in life that
you need to celebrate or show your appreciation to a player. The first time
Rocco Baldelli comes to bat I will also stand and clap. It is my way to salute a
great player that we will miss not only in the lineup, but talking with
field-side before the games. But then  again, I have also mourned the loss of
two great former Rays players who I think were stand up guys and died way before
their times.



 

 

 



I am
speaking of former Rays pitchers Joe Kennedy and Cory Lidle. I am not going to
go into the moments or the reason for their deaths, but they were moments that
made me question baseball and life in general for a moment in time. I was not a
close friend of either guy, but we did have conversations and used to talk down
in the Checkers Bullpen area any time they came into the Trop. It was a baseball
buddy kind of bonding that you just wanted them to be successful and have a
great life. I have written blogs about each of them, and my blog to Lidle was my
first sports entry in years on my old Myspace page. I have since removed the
posting and it is sitting in my blog scrapbook where only I can read it
now.

 



So it is
now my place to celebrate baseball, and when it comes to our former players, I
try and keep in touch with them when they come into the Trop. Be is chatting
with Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch, who last year told me about his new
home purchase in a great area west of Pinellas Park, Florida, or Brandon Backe
standing there talking with a group of Rays fans talking about nothing in
general, but loving every minute of it. So do we as fans, try and keep these
small friendships or baseball buddy situation alive and well, or do we let them
die because they are playing for another
team?

 
I choose
to decide on a individual basis. There are players who I do not chat with that I
used to laugh at jokes with and see outside the stadium all the time. Even if
the player did not leave here without throwing insults or comments at the team’s
management, I do not hold them accountable because they spoke their minds and
the issue is closed. But it is hard to gain some face time with a player and get
to know them and then they get traded or sign as a free agent somewhere else.




 
But my
best example might be Rays relievers Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller. I was not
close to either of these guys the last time they were here. We would exchange
comments and glances as they passed my seat, but it was not until they came back
to Tampa Bay after stints with the Houston Astros that the respect and the bond
grew. Every day they would pass my seat area and we would chat with them for a
few moments, and during the year, if I missed a game , they noticed and asked me
where I was, like friends sometimes do. And that meant a lot to me. But it was
the day after the Rays clinched their first playoff berth that really set the
tone for me with my Bullpen guys.

 
 


 



I was
given one of the champagne bottles used in the celebration by a member of the team, and I asked Wheeler
if he would mind signing it for me. He took the bottle back in its bag and it
stayed back there for about 4 innings. He ended up having everyone in the Rays
Bullpen sign that bottle and then brought it back to me. I stood there and just
stared at the bottle for a bit then remembered why I like to talk to these guys.
They are good people, and even the short times we chat with them are remembered.
Guess sometimes there can be bonds outside the foul lines in baseball. So with
that, here is a question for you. Do you maintain your friendships and
conversation with your ex-players, even if they are playing for a division
rival?



All pictures used in this blog were obtained from the RRCollections.





 
 

Rays Revisited……………August 6, 2008 Encore Broadcast

 

 
 
 
 

Last night I was sitting on the couch just starring at the big screen checking out the cable listing and flipping by ESPN, MTV, VH-1 and the Food Network when I saw a listing that really caught my eye. With less than 3 weeks now until the guys take the field for the first time, I was excited  about the upcoming season, but maybe a dose of the past would get me more than excited for the first official workout on Feb 15th in Port Charlotte, Florida.
 


What I saw on the screen was a Rays encore game from August 6th, 2008 on the Florida Sports Network ( FSN ) against the Cleveland Indians. At this point in the season the Rays had already won 67 games and were on pace to blast the former wins mark of 70 wins out of the water for the season. The energy was getting more and more intense at the Trop., and the team also could feel it in the air.  The night before, the Rays had beaten the Indians the night before 8-4 on 3 homers in the 7th inning. So with momentum on the Rays side, it was time for something magical to happen.

 


 

 

 I settled in with a nice cold beverage and a warm bowl of popcorn and again wanted to get caught up in that 2008 Rays-mania again.  And the action started even before the first pitch that night.  The Rays completed their waiver wire trade for submariner Chad Bradford  from the Baltimore Orioles, and had brought another unique weapon into the Rays Bullpen arsenal. No one was sure what kind of pitcher Bradford would be for the Rays, but considering how he dominated against us with the Baltimore Orioles, we were betting for more of the same out of this tall right-hander. Bradford would be meeting the Rays in Seattle as they began their long road trip.
 
 
 

On the screen I had to relive that first inning where Rays starter Scott Kazmir got lead-off hitter Franklin Gutierrez hit a 3-2 count change up into the seats to give the Indians a early 1-0 lead in the game.  Then after 2 outs, Jhonny Peralta started again on his roll and hit a single into center field. Tonight would be magic for Peralta, but more on that later. Kazmir got Shin-Soo Choo to foul out to Evan Longoria at third to end the inning. 
 

 

Then the Rays made this game interesting as they went to work on Indian starter Jeremy Sowers. After an out, Ben Zobrist, who was playing center field tonight because of a B J Upton benching for slowly running out an out in the 8-4 win the prior night, singled center field. Carlos Pena then came up and Zobrist stole second base on Indians catcher Kelly Shoppach before finally walking  after being down 0-2 in the count.
 

 

Evan Longoria then came up and Rays Manager Joe Maddon tried a double steal on the play and Shoppach this time threw out Pena, with Zobrist sitting on third base with one out.  Longoria then threaded a ball into center that was misplayed by Gutierrez and after Zobrist scored, Longoria  ended up also on third base with one out and the game tied 1-all. Dioner Navarro then came up and got the count to 2-0 before hitting a 2-run homer to left field to give the Rays their first lead of the night.

 


 

 

The second inning went pretty eventful, but no scoring by either team. Cleveland saw a nicely laced double off the bat of Sal Fasano, but both men were stranded on base that inning. In the bottom half of the 2nd inning, the Rays also had a few chances, but came up empty.  Jason Bartlett lead off the inning with a hard hit double to deep right center field, but was stranded on second after three straight hard hit ball right at Cleveland defenders in the outfield.
 

 

In the 3rd inning, Peralta cam up and quickly got Kazmir into a hitter count 3-1, before hitting a long homer to center field to bring the Indians within one run 3-2.  The Indians substituted Ryan Garko out for Andy Marte, and he hit a low flying single to left field. Marte was stranded on base after Andy Gonzalez flied out to Eric Hinske playing in left field.  The only action out of the Rays in the bottom of the inning was a 9-pitch walk issued to Pena. But at the end of the 3rd inning, the Rays still lead 3-2.
 

 

The 4th inning saw both team go 3-up and 3-down as the innings went fast and furious. But in the top of the 5th the Indians quickly came out and Jamey Carroll lead off the inning with a 6-pitch walk. Peralta again came up, and this time got a nice ground rule double to left field that just skirted over the short wall next to the foul pole. That put two men into scoring position for the Indians with no outs in the inning.

 


 

 

Choo then came up and hit a single to right that scored Carroll and Peralta went to third, and still there was only  one out in the inning. Marte then came up and hit a sharp double right down the line and Peralta and Choo both scored, and Marte moved to third on a error by Longoria. Gonzalez then came up and Kazmir issued him a walk on 4 straight balls after going 0-1 on him. Maddon then came out and got Kazmir and J P Howell took the mound for the Rays.
 

Kazmir again went only 4.1 innings and threw 97 pitches in the game.  Howell did come in and get both of the Indians batters in the inning to stop the bleeding and the Indians were now up 5-4 over the Rays.

  
 


 

 

Sowers got 2 quick outs before Gonzalez, playing first base misplayed the ball and Zobrist was sitting on second with 2 -outs in the inning. Pena then walked for the third time in the contest to put two men on base for the Rays.  On the second pitch he saw, Longoria then hit a single to left and scored Zobrist. The inning ended 1 pitch later as Navarro hit into a fielder choice and the Rays pulled within 1 run of the Indians 5-4 in the game.
 

 

In the 6th inning, with Howell still on the mound,  Gutierrez grounded out to second base before Carroll singled to left to put a man on for the Indians.  Ben Francisco then also grounded out to second and Carroll moved over to third on the play. Peralta then hit a double to deep left center ans was 4-4 on the night for the Indians. Carroll scored on the play and the inning ended with the Indians going up 6-4 on the Rays. The Rays went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 6th inning and only saw 10 pitches in the inning.

 

 

During the 7th inning, the Indians went down in order 1-2-3, and the Rays seemed to finally have an answer for the Indians offensive power tonight. Howell went 2.2 innings and got 4 strikeouts on the night for the rays in relief of Kazmir. But the Rays did not capitalize on the situation and only got an infield hit by Akinora Iwamura in the inning. So after 7 completed innings the Rays were behind by 2 runs on the Indians and some in the stands did not see a Rays victory coming today.
 

 

In the 8th inning, Trever Miller hit the mound for the Rays, and  only a  double hit by the Indian’s Gutierrez to deep center was the only hit by either team to go past the infield. Time was running out on the Rays and they only had 3 more outs to try and get this 68th victory of the year. So the 9th inning started with Miller , but after issuing Peralta his 5th hit of the night,  Miller knew he had one more batter until he was replaced by Rays closer Troy Percival.

 

 
 

 
 

 
With Peralta on first base after only one pitch in the inning, the Rays were gambling on a bunt, and Choo did end up bunting to Miller who spun around and threw to second base to retire Peralta.  Percival then came in to relieve Miller and get the final outs of the inning for the Rays.  Choos, who was still on first  base after the fielder’s choice then stole second to put himself into scoring position. Marte then hit a sharp ball to Aybar at shortstop. Aybar double pumped the ball and threw from behind second base to throw out Marte for the 2nd out.  
 

 

On his third pitch to Gonzalez, Percival threw a wild pitch under the glove of Navarro and Choo walked in without a problem to put Cleveland up 7-4.  3 pitches later, Gonzalez hit a long fly to Eric Hinske in left field for the final Cleveland out of the game.
 

 

With their back to the wall, the Rays would end up coming up with one of the most impressive displays of offensive power in the bottom of the 9th inning tonight.  Edward Mujica cam out for Cleveland with the mission to shut down the Rays offense and give the Indians their 50th win of the season. Bartlett, who was the designated hitter tonight then hit the second pitch he saw into deep left field and put the Rays into early position to try and get at least one run back on the Indians. 

 
 


 
 

Hinske then came up and took the first pitch he saw to right field down the first baseline to post two quick doubles on Mujica. Bartlett ended up scoring on the play and the Rays were thinking they might have a chance in this contest.  After 4 pitches, Gabe Gross hit a 2-run 434 foot home run to the base of the right field outfield seats to tie the game up 7-all, with no outs in the inning.

 


 

 

Mujica’s night was over as he was quickly relieved by M Kobayashi.  Iwamura hit a ball to the second base side of first base and Gonzalez went over to make the play. Kobayashi was trailing the play to first base and was just short of scraping his foot across the bag to get Iwamura. With Aki now on first base, the Rays had a chance to win the game. Zobrist then walked on 4 straight pitches and set up a man on first and second with no one out for the Rays.
 
 

 

Pena then came up and homered to deep center field right under the windows of the Batter’s Eye Restaurant for a 10-7 Rays victory. With the entire team waiting for Pena at home, the crowd and the team were both screaming and yelling for Pena. As he neared the plate, Pena’s batting helmet went high into the air as he went into the mob standing on home plate waiting for their leader.  Not lost in the fact that the Rays scored 6 unanswered runs that night without surrendering an out in the inning.

 
 
 



 

FSN sideline reporter Todd Kalas quickly brought Pena to the side and asked him to explain what just happened. Pena was quick to say that he could not even describe what had happen and that the energy was fantastic in the Trop. that day. As he was being interviewed, Longoria tried to sneak up on him and give him a cold water shower out of a Gatorade cooler. But he only got the back of Pena, and that was the only cold moment for the team in that 9th inning.
 

 

I spilled my soda and was jumping up and down on the couch the same way I did in August during that afternoon contest. It was a feeling I was missing during this off season. I needed that jolt to remind me what we are again going to be fighting for in 3 weeks. But the feelings and the emotions of watching that game will not dampen before we have our home opener and we can see both those banners unveiled in the rafters of Tropicana Field. 
 

 

Last night reminded me of the sorrows and the tears of 2008, of hard work and sacrifices by everyone on that roster. But it also reminded me of the team that never quit, and of the guys who daily stepped up and made this team the Rays top winning club in their short history.  And how great it is going to be to again sit in my seat and cheer these guys on as they try and duplicate their feat against some of the toughest competition in major league baseball.
 
 
 
 

Are the Rays Finished Adding Pieces for 2009?

 

 

 

So after the latest signing of former Phillie Pat Burrell to the roster, are the Tampa Bay Rays going to stand pat for the 2009 season, or is now when the real magic is going to happen for the team. You want to believe that the Rays holy trinity of Stuart Sternberg, Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman have not closed the coffers and still might have a few tricks up their sleeves for 2009.

 


You have to believe that the recent activity by the team is not the total resetting of the roster. That there are still a few deals sitting in the corners gathering a bit of dust, but not without merit here. I see the roster as 75 percent complete, with some Spring training signing recently maybe pushing it to 80 percent done for the season.

 

 


With the signing of former Marlin Joe Nelson before the New Year, the Rays did more than just get a qualified reliever for their Bullpen. They got an upgrade to the Trever Miller or even Gary Glover or Scott Dohmann additions in 2008.  Nelson can carry a bit more of the load than either of those three guys by actually closing games if called upon to do so for the Rays. And with the health of Troy Percival basically being that only he knows EVER if he is healthy, and even then still wants to pitch in games.

 



There is a time when being a  strong competitor can actually weaken you ball club. If you need any examples of that, just look to the mound conversations that Rays Manager Joe Maddon had with Percival during the season in Boston, Oakland, and even at Tropicana Field. You have to admire the bravery and the commitment to your team, but the sacrifice has to be mutual. You do not give up yourself if you also upset the balance and the strength of your Bullpen, which Percival did for a short period of time twice in 2008.

 

 


Some people have already called out the  signing as Pat Burrell as mediocre at best for the Rays. I do not understand how you can even signal such a sign to the nation when the guy has been consistent with his bat almost his entire career. And also has been a key member of his last squad and not a replacement or second tier player. The signing of Burrell will help protect Evan Longoria, and it is a role that Burrell knows well from doing the same job with the Phillie’s for years.

That is right, Burrell’s numbers might be a bit weaker than you might want, but after years of sitting in the order behind Ryan Howard and giving teams the option of who to pitch to in games, he might actually see more of those meatball pitches this season because of the two guys in front of him. With Longoria and Carlos Pena penciled into the lineup in front of Burrell, he will see more pitches, and considerably more fastballs than he has seen in recent years. And to top that off with the fact that Stat guru Bill James thinks that with Burrell added to the power grid in Tampa Bay, the Rays “Big 3 ” might top 100 homer in 2009.

 

 


But what about the other holes in the Tampa Bay armor that need to be addressed. The two mentioned above are upgrades on the 2008 model without a doubt. But people are still pointing to right field and saying that the team did not get better there in any shape or form. Again, that is your own perception, and to forget about either outfielders’ Gabe Gross or even new Rays Matt Joyce is an insult. Both of these guys could be great parts of the Rays puzzle in 2009. Both are great professionals who work hard and hit the ball with power.

 


You never know, Joyce could surprise everyone on the Rays coaching staff and come away with the starting nod in Boston for the first game. I actually loved the trade for it’s youthful side, plus the added feature of Joyce played well against the Rays in 2008, so there is a track record of the guy rising to the occasion. If this was to happen, then you have someone like Gross who could fetch a good level player in return in a trade, or even maybe two if a team is desperate for a great outfield addition.

 

 


2009 will have more surprises before the guys clean out their Spring Training lockers in Port Charlotte. I actually think that there is about 2 more trades that need to be addressed even before the beginning of the season.  Another guy who might not be a member of the Rays when they head to Boston is reliever Chad Bradford. He did exceptionally well in 2008, but his over $ 3 million dollar salary might be a problem more than a solution in 2009.

 


Bradford is a extremely unusual pitcher in his style of pitching and also his way of inducing those ground ball outs for the Rays. I remember when he played for the Baltimore Orioles, I could not imagine watching his pitches come in and actually rise towards you instead of break away from you. The adjustment and the concentration needed to hit that kind of pitch is extreme indeed. So Bradford might not have a different home in 2009, but it is not like the Rays do not have options in the matter.

 

 


We actually have a guy invited to Spring Training who might equal Bradfords ground ball numbers, and if the both make the roster, it could be a two-fold gift for the Rays. Randy Choate has played in the American League before, and is another guy who throws sidearm with gusto. Most of the Rays fans might remember him as a member of the New York Yankees, who was a leftie specialist, and also a great ground ball pitcher. With both of these guys on the Rays roster, the Rays defense will see more possible plays in the infield, which translates into more possible outs by that stellar group.

 

 


So the Rays might need to hope that Choate makes the squad to boost that percentage up to 90 percent prior to the 2009 Opening Day. One piece that I still fell might be missing from the Rays actually might be their own device right now. Rocco Baldelli has been approached and swooned by a few clubs this past off season, but they have not gotten him to sign. I think the Rays need to open the coffers just a small bit and sign him as soon as possible. You know he will give the team a bit of a discount because of everything the team has done the last few seasons.

 

 


Truly, do you think if you matched an offer from Cincinnati or even Boston, Rocco would not sign with the Rays?  You have to know that the team must have been thrilled to learn the news that the first prognosis of his illness was incorrect. The Rays must have been jumping for joy in the aspect that Rocco maybe could become an everyday player again in the league. And if that happened, doesn’t that also open the door to him taking right field as his own and truly pushing the naysayers away with gusto that the Rays upgraded themselves in every position that was weak in 2008.

 


The Rocco possibility is just that right now, a possibility, but it gives a new light and a new direction to the team that was not there a few months ago. The only weaknesses on this team to the eye was at Designated Hitter, Right Field, and another possible “lights out” reliever. With the past two signings, and the possible addition of Choate as a left-hander to the Bullpen, the team might have improved  even more than in 2008.


 

 


And it is what the Rays will need to do in 2009. They must improve in a few areas to even try and make a run at a post season bid again in 2009. The Yankees have loaded up and will have a few kinks during the season as always, but then Boston is retooled in their pitching to stop people in their tracks in 2009. The AL East will be a battleground in 2009, with maybe the winner of the division only winning 90 games this coming season. 

 

 

 

Also do not forget that Toronto and Baltimore will have a lot to say about who gets the crown in 2009 for the American League East.  All 5 of the squads in this division know that it is “put up, or shut up” time in the division. Teams are beginning to look at the Rays method of success and will try and build their team in a shadow of that image in 2009.  It is not a question of “Who will be the Rays of 2009″. It is more a question of, “Are the Rays batter in 2009?”  If the answers come out right, there will be more champagne celebration in our future. And a lot of second guessing by other teams.

 

 

 

Possible Rays 2009 Resolutions

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions can be the best or worst thing in your life for that short period of time where you are truly planning to follow them like a life changing moment.  They can either benefit you in the long run, or might be a  short term fix to a enduring problem. But whatever the reason, or the matter, a resolution can find a solution to a nagging situation or problem.

 


But when you resolution pertains to 25-guys sitting on a major league roster, it might take on a whole different set of rules and expectations. So here we are on the first day of the new year, and I am thinking about a few simple resolution for my hometown Tampa Bay Rays. They are simple resolutions that will help the ball club and also maybe send them back into the playoffs in 2009.

 


Now I know some of these might not have a chance to happen at all, but that is the beauty of a resolution. Sometimes we pick things so wild and out there that they have a marginal chance at best to even succeed.  These resolutions will give the team a better sense of what is needed to now compete in the competitive American League East. The division has gotten a lot more pitcher friendly in the last few weeks, and the Rays have stayed a bit pat on the past roster and need to make a few moves to combat the increase in pitching prowess in the division.



 

Resolution 1:

Find a right-handed bat that can help the offense take it to the next level.


There are a few bats still out there in the Free Agent pile that could come in here and help the team right from the “get go”, but they might want a small fortune in cash and a contract that might last a few seasons.  With the Rays, A’s and Jays pretty much going to be fighting over the last few big bats in the marketplace, the Rays need to step up and take the first one off the board.

 


Now if he is a big bat that can also play right field, that would be a plus- plus for the squad. With that in mind, I am thinking that former Angel Garrett Anderson might be perfect for the spot. He has a consistent bat, and also a fantastic work ethic, that Rays Manager Joe Maddon has seen from his past years as the Angel’s bench coach. He is also a pretty slick outfielder, who has a above average arm, and can still run the outfield real well.

 


Sure there are still guys like Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu out there who could also get the job done for the Rays, but they will come with multi-year contracts and a huge amount of baggage. Burrell had been considered to be heading into a slow downward spiral in his career. The last two seasons have shown modest offensive outputs compared to early 2000-2005 seasons for the big right-hander. 

 


Bobby Abreu would come to this squad over 12 years after we selected him as our first field player back in the Expansion Draft. I would love to see the prodigal son play for the Rays, but watching him the last few seasons in right field just a few steps from my seat, I have seen that his speed and also his quickness to the ball in the outfield have suffered. His bat is still mighty, but  a multiple year contract might include a year of decline at the plate and in the field for him.

 

 

 

Resolution 2:

Find a southpaw reliever to compliment the Bullpen:

 

Ever since Trever Miller left for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Rays have been down to only J P Howell in the relieving corp as a southpaw. The team might be able to get away with only one leftie in the Bullpen, but I think it is an oversight if they try this out in 2009. Balance on a squad is essential to its survival. And having a second southpaw might be enough to sway a contest in their favor in 2009 either by situational pitching, or even my middle relief to give Howell some breathing room.



The number of left-handed relievers still sitting out there on the Free Agent shelf is getting smaller ever day. I know the Rays have the mentality that the longer they wait, the more value they will get for a player in 2009. But isn’t it about time we think of quality and not quantity in 2009. For years the team has gotten low priced players who are just that..below the market  on both value in talent and they are expected to extend themselves to greatness.

 


Even with the numbers of lefties dropping like flies, there are still guys like  former Atlanta Brave, Will Ohman. Now during the 2008 trade deadline, the Rays were very interested in Ohman as a left-handed addition to their staff late in the season to help them through the playoffs. I can see no reason to just let someone else come on out and take him off the pile now that he is free and clear and will not cost a single player or multiple players to acquire for the Rays.

 


There are still guys out there like Joe Biemel, but he has been here with the Rays before, just like Trever Miller, and he will have to want to come back.which I do not think he wants at this point in his career. Then you have guys like former Rays Casey Fossum, who played for the Detroit Tigers in 2008. I like Fossum, but not for this squad, they have evolved way past his pitching style and we would not mesh well into this mix of guys. Then you have guys like former Cub Scott Elarton and former Cardinal Ron Villone. Both who are in their declining velocity years and might just be an older version of J P Howell circa 2007.

 

 

 


Resolution 3:

Get 1 of the 2 best young players on your team a contract extension:

 


This one might be tricky for the Rays, but something they truly must do if they are wanting to be as successful in 2012 as they are today. Now in the past few seasons they have locked up pitchers’ James Shields and Scott Kazmir for multi-year deals, and are about to hit the big money plateau with former All Star Carl Crawford. But is it in the team’s best interest to maybe lock down a young star with a multiple year deal when they are just budding in their craft?

 


Heck yes, you can seek and get that security from players like B J Upton and maybe even Matt Garza. Upton might be the easier of the two because the Rays have dealt with trying to get him an extension a few years ago, and might already know the parameters of the discussions. I also think that to get him under a long term deal this off season might be a shrewd deal considering he is about to have a breakout season in 2009, and it would be cheaper to get him now, while he is recovering from shoulder surgery than after he explodes at the plate.

 

 


Upton played most of the season with his banged up shoulder suffered in an early season series against the Baltimore Orioles. Almost everyone in the stadium saw a change in his batting style, but we had no reason to believe anything was wrong at the time. When it finally came out about the injury, it made a huge amount of sense considering his front shoulder was not striding into the ball, so his power was decreased considerably in 2008. When his shoulder felt better towards the end of 2008, you saw the result as the ball was flying off his bat, and his swing looked more fluid and compact again.

 


Matt Garza, now here is a guy who did a complete 180 degree turn into possible stardom in 2008. He had an early wrist nerve situation that could have hampered him all season, but it subdued and he went on to have a great season for the Rays. The young star had a highly publicized meltdown in the Texas heat, and came out the next time and showed no ill effects from the fallout, and a renewed vigor on the mound.


 

 


Towards the end of 2008, he was consistent as any pitcher in the A L and the team’s confidence was high in him as he took the mound twice in the ALCS and won both games to garner to MVP trophy for the series. His transformation was huge, and if he even steps up gradually in his career, his ceiling has now been set high and he should achieve that plateau in the next 2 seasons.

 

 


Resolution 4:

Sign Jason Giambi already:


Now I am one of the people who do not like old serial killer eyes a lot. I think that Giambi might come with some baggage, but we are not getting him to play first base for the Rays. As long as we hide his fielding glove after Batting Practice, he will be a solid choice for the Designated Hitter position. The guy is a true hitting machine when he is motivated. And how could you not be motivated when you get to play 17 games each against your two worst enemies, the Yankees and the Red Sox. Not only that, but with 3 squads currently seeking his services, it might be prudent that the Rays be a the aggressor here before Giambi feels neglected and signs with another team.

 


I think that it might take a 2 year deal, but it will be well worth the money and the pain to have this guy on your roster. He is a huge community service guy, which the Rays value a lot in their players the last few years. He is also a great clubhouse guy and can just build on the work that Cliff Floyd did for the Rays last year.  The deal might bog down the Rays for about $ 20-25 million dollars, but Giambi also is worth ever cent if he strokes the ball the way he did at Tropicana Field last  few seasons.

 

 

 


Resolution 5: 

Keep the team chemistry up high and the success will come again:


You have to admit that Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s slogan for 2008, “9=8″ went a long long way into pulling the team towards their playoff goal. The mental workup of the Rays was high from day one, and the team continued to compete and succeed towards that goal in 2008. Because of this, I ma actually looking forward to the new motto or credo that Maddon brings out in 2009.

 


Maddon is an avid reader, and you know that during his travels to Europe in the off season, might have picked up a few new quotes and stories to translate and morph into baseball related folly for the team. He is one of the best motivators I have seen in baseball due to his low key approach to players and the media. But if you have seen him behind the scenes, you know he has true intensity and the drive to excellence in everything he does in life.

 

 


By keeping up that same credo and positive energy in 2009, he will again give the team a support to lean on when they get down or begin to doubt themselves or the system. With his coaching staff, Maddon can affirm and display this mantra for everyone to see, and to believe in again in 2009.

 


So here we go with 5 simple resolutions for the Rays in 2009. Some of them might involve a little money, but then again with the increased Season Ticket holders, and the new interest in our team, the Rays will have a new revenue stream that had been nothing more than a trickle from the facet in 2008. Hard work and also strict contractual situations are ahead for the team in the next 40-some days.

 


With Arbitration hearing coming soon, and the young stars getting healthy raises in their salaries only a few years away for the team. The future is bright for the Rays, but only if they also secure the past with success and the formulation of a winning attitude and tradition. And it all begins on this first day in January, 2009.

Top Rays Memory of 2008………………..Playoffs Baby!!!

 

 

 

Everyone remembers the magic of your first time. The first time you had a bubbly ice cold soda, or maybe even tried that ride at the fair that scared you to death a year earlier. But the fascination and the excitement of trying something, or achieving something for the first time can be a rush that can not be beat.

 

 

It is for that reason that my Top Moment for 2008 for the Tampa Bay Rays includes a new “first” for the franchise. As I said before, we always remember our first time entering the ballpark, checking out the sounds, smells and the atmosphere of this new electric-charged dome. You still think about the first Batting  Practice or your first foul ball catch, or even the first autograph you ever got at the game. And who could ever forget the taste of that first stadium hot dog. I know all of these are still fresh in my mind, and it has been over 40 years since my first game at Al Lang Field watching the St. Petersburg Cardinals.

 

 

So it is with great pleasure that I introduce my number one memory of 2008. It occurred on September 20, 2008 with 36,048 other believers in the stands and jumping up and down like madmen. It was a time for rejoicing and for remembering all the things we loved about the Rays. Not only did the team play a hard fought 7-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins, but the team secured its first EVER playoff berth.

 

Considering this team had never won more than 71 games a year, and for most of the year fought hard to keep its top spot in the American League East race, this was the moment for the home fans and the players to salute a great season, and the celebrate together. I know a lot of people might consider one of the many I picked as a number 2 moment for this top spot. This was personal to me. I got to celebrate with a few friends as they wandered and cheered around the stadium,

 

I got to remind a few of them that the journey has just began and they made sure I knew that it was us, the fans that drove this bus to the playoffs as much as the players. And I got to drink from the champagne bottles and taste that sweet nectar that went down like cool rainwater and tasted like spun honey. It was one of the biggest moments for me as a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays…………….and hopefully you got to enjoy it too that day…………….

 

Basking in the Moment………..1st Playoff Berth 

 

 


It might have looked like a mob scene out of your favorite sports movie, but believe me, the energy in that place yesterday was so severe that it sometimes seemed to choke you from the intensity in the air. From the energy and the explosion of emotion in the stadium atmosphere yesterday, this game was won by the time they  even first stepped  on the turf.

 


Seriously folks, I have never felt so drained emotionally and mentally in my life. I was literally crawling out of the Trop at 9 P.M. after celebrating in the stands, near the clubhouse with a few friends, and in the Budweiser Brew house having a few brews with the old crew from the last 10 years. This was a night were everyone in Tampa Bay would have a peaceful nights sleep.

 

 


This is a day/night/weekend that will sit up there with the best memories I have involving sports in my life. I have been to a few wild celebrations, like the Baltimore Ravens victory party in Ybor City after they won the Super Bowl in Tampa, or even a late night cocktail party at Reign after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup with a few ex-Rays players.  I am so spent right now and I have not come down from this yet. And I have a  Season Ticket holder Picture Day in 6 hours with the players. Well, the ones who are awake at 10 am.

 

 

All I can say is this is going down in my memory banks as one of the greatest day in my fan life. How can it get any better………….oh, wait WE could have THREE more of these great celebrations before the playoffs are all over with this year!  And then the real party will begin!  But let’s not get too far in front of ourselves here, there is a long road to go to even think of that situation right now.

 

 


THREE more chances where these guys pay as much attention to their team partying as they do out with us, the fans.  From interview to interview last night, the guys to a “T”, talked about the Tampa Bay Rays fans. They included the fans in their celebrations. Getting up on the dugout and spraying the masses with champagne and beer. Throwing 9=8 playoff hats and T-shirts to them all, and relishing a moment that will live in this franchises history books  and memory forever.

 

 

 


You always remember your first time. You remember where you were, Who you were standing with, and what you were doing at that exact moment. When the guys came running down into the Bull Pen Cafe area and I was standing on the railing, I can not remember how many of those guys came up there and slapped my hand and gave me a fist bump. But the ones that were special were the Hugs from J P Howell, Jonny Gomes, Chad Orvella and Scott Kazmir.  I have chatted almost daily with  a lot of these guys on their way to the Bullpen, or back in the right field area, and they are some of the best guys you will ever want to meet.

 


Howell for instance used to be one of the quietest guys on this team when he was a starter. He was moody and never seemed to want to talk. Now since he has found his calling in the bullpen,  he is one of the friendliest people I have ever encountered on the Rays. Dan Wheeler is not known to smile a lot, but he does when we chat back and forth during the games. There is a unique bond there between the Bullpen and the fan here that I have never seen before in my life. But then again, they are living the dream this year.

 

 

From the first champagne bottle out of the clubhouse, to the two bottles that Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos had ordered for himself and the close fans down there, it was a magical night. The parade around the Trop outer perimeter was a show of the love and respect these guys have for the fan base. I have been lucky enough to know a few of these guys off the turf in private. And I have to tell you this in total confidence, not one time this year did any of these guys take this responsibility to the fans or to the community as a  job or work.


 

                        

 

This group actually enjoys interacting with the fans. From the time they walked out at the Spring Training complex in mid-Feb. to now has been a long and rewarding journey. There have been player injuries and players have come and gone from the roster, but the core of this team have been strong, mentally tough and been an inspiration to the fans. Not many groups have a tie to the fans that these guys have. The Rays community can honestly say the have the team’s back at any moment.

 

 

The funny thing about this celebration is that about 25 percent of it was outside the locker room in the field where these guys have toiled and struggled and left themselves bleeding and wounded some nights. To say this battle did not end with a fairy tale ending is totally accurate. This season has now almost come to a close at home, but in the next wek they might have a Divisional Crown celebration either in Detroit or Baltimore, then sprint home and get ready for the First of many October games in the Trop.

 

 

I really need to hit the sack for a few hours before I fall down, but the adrenaline is still pumping hard in me right now and I have tossed and turned for about 5 hours since I got home. I am a emotional wreck right now, but I would do it again in a New York moment. If you have never been to one of these defining moments, you know how the Rays Republic is now feeling. If you have not, I truly wish it upon yourself and your team sometime in the future. It is a roller coaster ride fitted with some great ups and downs that is not even over yet.

 

                                

 

 

I just want to repurchase my “E” ticket so I can climb aboard the coaster again and roll through another three of these celebrations with the Rays and this truly spectacular group of guys.  I actually now know what other team’s fans have talked about when the y remark about the feelings and the intensity of the moment. I can see why New York Yankee and Boston Red Sox fan yearn and seek thin moment in their lives yearly. But I have to almost admit, I do not want to share it with them anytime soon.

 

 

So As I finally slink out of the stadium, and check out that bright orange roof, I am reminded of all the glory and the sweat and tears that have blanketed this great dome in the past 10 years. But tonight they all seem like a distant memory as we have a new found tradition of winning and are celebrating the success of our boys’ tonight. I can’t wait to get back into my seat tomorrow and see how much of the energy is still trapped in this building…………….9 am is coming fast to me tonight.

 

ALCS Celebration…………My Third Choice of Rays Memories in 2008

   



I was sitting here today trying to figure out which one of the over 320 blogs that I have done in 2008 might even be in the top 3 when it finally occurred to me that it is rather simple. I guess i am going to use the next three days to select  a few of the blogs that meant the world to me in 2008.  From the moment I saw the guys come out of the Spring Training complex field house for the last time, to the meeting of the buses’ at Tropicana Field after the last game in Philadelphia, it has been a wild and truly unforgettable ride for the Rays in 2008.



For me to even try and fathom 3 moments that could be included in a listing is beyond my comprehension for a bit here. But I have decided that the third one has to be the wild and crazy celebration right after the Tampa Bay Rays clinched their first ever American League East title. It was one of two picture blog entries I popped online that night, but it was the one I also felt a part of while the rest of the team celebrate a few feet away from me. It was a night of believing in yourself and your team. Of realizing that miracles and faith can have a huge push towards achieving and obtaining your goals.


It was also a night for the long time fans of the Rays to point to as the reason we sat in those stands for the past 11 seasons and took the abuse and the catcalls from Boston and Yankees fans. It showed why we cheered and clanged those pesky cowbells to show the team we were behind them late in the game, or even when those other team’s chants began to ring through the stands. It was a night where the past and the future meshed so well. Gone was the loser moniker that the Rays had fought so hard to overcome. In front of them was a frontier of new beginnings and unlimited potential to strive for the best and the highest goals obtainable in the sport.


It was a night of redemption. A moment of clarity in a sea of doubt for a lot of people in the Tampa Bay area. It showed that even a small market team like the Rays could upend the status quo of the league and strive to be great for that one moment. So I hope you enjoy this first look back into what I think was a huge point in the Tampa Bay Rays 2008 historical run and clinch of  current dreams and future aspirations.

A fan-tastic day

                                      

I swear this is the last Photo
blog of the American League Championship Series I am doing this year. I
had too much fun last night and still can not find my car keys. But
anyhow, here are the last few photos that I have gotten since I got
home from a vastly unprepared road trip to Tampa with some people who
felt like it was 1999.

 


I am glad there is not a Game 8,
because I know a few people who will not be awake until almost 6 p.m.
tonight. This is something that will change this town forever. Some
people have called my hometown a “Sleepy little hamlet”, “God’s waiting
room”, and my new personal favorite, “Where Bums and Benches meet in
perfect harmony”.

 


But to be a part of a World Series
against a fellow Spring Training site-mate is spectacular and  will
make the area more energized than usual. So enjoy my little photo fest
and I will see you all on Wed. night when the champagne stains should
be out of my new ALCS Champs cap, and my brain is ready for another
exciting series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

 


Akinora Iwamura and “Big” Cliff
Floyd. Cliff has been here before, but you can tell it never gets old
for the veterans either. I saw people like Dan Wheeler and Floyd, and
even Trever Miller acting like kids in the candy store
tonight……………and I like it. It was the leadership of such players like Floyd and Carlos Pena that the Rays clubhouse began to gel early in the season and reached its boiling point tonight on the turf at Tropicana Field.

 

 


I am starting to believe that Rays
Rookie David Price is starting to like all the celebrating in the
clubhouse this postseason. He deserves the save tonight, and he will
surely be on the World Series roster when it comes out in a few days.
Price became the first rookie pitcher in MLB history to get a win and a save in his first post season action. Amazing how far this guy has risen in one season. He began the season down in low Class-A ball, and rose through the system to get to the major league level at the September mark in the season.

 

 


I can tell by the broad shoulders
that this is Rays Bullpen catcher Scott Cursi getting the crowd into
the celebration tonight at the Trop. Scott is a huge reason these guys
are psyched and ready to go every night coming out of the Bullpen.  He
is the Enforcer. Cursi surely got either a share or a monetary bonus from the Rays for his work this season, and he rightly deserves it and more from the team.

 

 


James “Big Game” Shields is also
known as the true master of champagne bursts and celebrations. Shields
is one of the big 4 starters that will try and bring home the Rays
first World Series title. Sheilds will end the season ranked as one of the top 20 pitchers in baseball. He made great strides in 2008, and further cemented his cahnge up as one of the best in the league
.

 

 


Scott Kazmir is becoming an old
professional at this celebration stuff. He is now known as one of
the true cork popping experts in the Rays clubhouse. Kazmir is also one the
premier lefties in the game today. Kazmir might have had a down season of you lokk at his statistics, but he was there when the team needed him and was always up for the challenge for the team. Even at his young age, Kazmir showed why he is the most experienced on this staff, and the “go-to” guy in the future for the team.

 

 


Edwin Jackson is cooling down the
“Old Man” on the Rays, Carl Crawford. He was here during the lean years
in Tampa Bay, and to see a winning team and a playoff berth was a dream
to Carl before this season. Now the Rays can go beyond any of their
wildest dreams and contend for a World Series title starting on Wed.
night.
Edwin Jackson has been maligned and beaten up in the press this year as not being the great pitcher for the Rays. But in the end result, he tied for the team lead in victories, and inproved throughout the entire season. He still hit rough patches, but he fought through them and became a extremely aggressive pitcher in 2008.

 

 


One last photo of Rookie David
Price getting a cold shower to go with his first professional save
tonight in the game against the Boston Red Sox. Price has a huge future in front of him in baseball. The guy was one of the final picks in the “Next competition for ESPN in 2008. No matter what the magazine decides, you can truly see that he is one of the bright spots for baseball, and not just the Rays in 2009. We saw just a small bit of the talent and the ability of this young pitcher late in the season ans during the playoffs.  In 2009, he will get a change to claim a spot on the Rays rotation as a starter, and from there…..the sky is truly the limit for him.

 


Okay, that is the end of all three
blogs, I swear.  But I truly hoped you enjoyed going into the picture
world of the Rays celebrating their first American League Championship
tonight.  Be sure to tune into FOX starting this Wed night at 8 p.m.
when the Rays take on the National League Champs, the Philadelphia
Phillies in the best-of-seven series for the World Championship.

 


Also, if either team steals a base
during a World Series game, Taco Bell will be rewarding every American
a spicy beef crunchy taco for FREE the next day. Considering that the
Rays stole 10 bases in the ALCS, we all might be eating tacos for a few
days.  Go to www.stealabasestealataco.com for more information.

 

 

How cool is that, a rookie like
David Price comes in and set down one of the best lineups in the
American League and now he gets to hold the AL Championship Trophy.

 

Sp_296220_shad_rays_7c

 


Aki again among the Rays faithful
who stayed beyond 1 a.m. to help celebrate another Tampa Bay Rays
victory and their first run at the World Series. Something I found truly remarkable about this guy in 2008, is his interaction with the fans and his love for both this area and our style of baseball. I do not even remember what time I got home that night because I did not sleep a wink as I got into traveling mode after Game 2 of the World Series.


 

                  Sp_296217_cass_rays_17c

 


I had to add one more photo of
that world class dog pile that David Price and Dioner Navarro are on
the bottom of here. I know it hurts, but it also feels so good guys. 
Congrats again to a great team, and a great set of human beings. You
are our heroes and our inspirations guys. By the time that the Rays had won the ALCS, they had celebrating on the field down to an artform. So many times this year the team had late innings rallies and walk-off victories that just added up to the final prize of winning the American League Pennant tonight.



 

Shop Now!



I have not even left the ballpark
yet and they are almost out of the Rays American League merchandise
sent in the first wave by MLB. How crazy is that.  I am so glad the
fans are excited about the World Series. I hope at least 25 percent of
them come back to the ballpark in 2009 and fill the stadium.  Oh, news
flash here people………..We play the Phillies in Philly next season
as part of the Inter-League schedule.  How cool is that!!!!!  


Road
Trip.


 

 


The entire team getting some personal personal time with
the AL Championship trophy. Do they pass it around and can keep it for
one day like the Stanley Cup? I hope at some point either in the off season or during 2009, the Rays Season Ticket holders and Maddon’s Maniacs can pose for photos with our first real trophy in franchise history.  It was all a total effort of the Rays Republic and the team and staff to secure our place in history tonight.


 

                   

 



This Photo is going to be firmly
planted in my mind for a long, long time. This is the final out of the
game…………a force out of Jason Bay by Akinora Iwamura to seal the
deal for the Rays. If there was one photo to show the joy and the celebration of winning the pennant, it has got to be this picture right here.


 

 


Carlos Pena getting ready to do
that dance he loves to do at celebration.  Maybe Carlos can teach the
entire Tampa Bay area that dance some time.

 

 


Tell me that is not one proud
owner. He promised us a winner and he delivered ahead of
schedule…………he could run for President right now and get
elected on the Rays ticket.

 

            

 


Carlos and Ben Zobrist a few
minutes after the final out of the game. This team is more like a
family than the Pittsburgh Pirates teams in the
1970’s……………..We Are One Team!!!!!   Tell me the marketing
department is not proud of that slogan now!

 

 


This is what the Trop. looked like
2 minutes after the last out. Rays players running everywhere looking
for a teammates to hug and slap some fist bumps on them.

2008 Arbitration Predictions and Results

 

 

So here we are…………..Arbitration Day. During the next 7 days teams will really show just how much they want certain members of their 2008 roster. Not lost in all of this is the Type “A” or “B” eligible arbitration candidates. Luckly for the Tampa Bay Rays, they do not have any of these candidates and can either offer arbitration to their players’, or not and not risk losing anything.

 

Because we do not have any classified arbitration candidates, the Rays would not recieve any type of compensation from other teams for them signing their players past December 7th.  Today is the first day that teams will be contacting their players and their agents and let all of the above know their desires for 2009.  With the Rays, there will be a few really important decisions on personell and the make-up of the Rays roster in 2009.

 

With the Rule 5 Draft also on the horizon, the team might elect to not offer arbitration to certain memebers of the team knowing they would like to remian with the Rays, and can use their roster spot for the Rule 5 draft until they are resigned by the team. Just because a player is cut loose from the Rays does not always mean they do not want him on their roster or in the minor league system.

 

It is a bit of a mind game to try and disguise your true interest in some players and hope that the work with the mirrors and shadows protects these players. Back to the arbitration game, I will try and make a few predictions here today on who might, or might not be offered Arbitration by their 2008 clubs.

 

As predicted, the Tampa Bay Rays did not offer any arbitration to any of it’s 4 free agents on Monday night. Rocco Badelli and Trever Miller were actively seeking another team for 2009 on Monday and did not expect the Rays to offer arbitration.

 

Eric Hinske and Cliff Floyd are the other two free agents for the Rays and both are currently going through offers from other teams. Floyd is also rehabbing a shoulder surgery to help repair some damage suffered during the 2008 World Series during Game 2 at Tropicana Field against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

 

Arbitration Predictions:

 

 

               

 

I am going to start off with Raul Ibanez of the Seattle Mariners. Ibanez  will be offered arbitration by the team, but he will refuse the offer and end up signing with another club. The guy is a power left-handed bat that will be needed in a few National League outfields in 2009. He will also have his pick of Designated hitter spots in the American League by at least a half dozen clubs before finally signing in Toronto.

 

 RESULTS:

The Mariners did offer Arbitration to Ibanez on December 1, 2008 at 2:32 PM CST  . 

 

 The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a few decisions to make in regards to the arbitration of power-hitting first baseman Mark Teixiera and hard throwing closer Francisco Rodriquez. Both players are considered in the top tier of Type “A” candidates for arbitration, and the Angels might use this to offer them arbitration with the hopes they will decline and sign with another team.  Another part of the equation would be the draft picks acquired for either of them to leave the team to re-stock the Angels minor league system.

 

Two other Angels also will have a go at arbitration today with mixed results for them both. Starting pitcher Jon Garland might not be offered arbitration bascially because he is not the dominating pitcher he was before coming to LA from the Chicago White Sox. Darrin Oliver, a reliever, might be a Monday decision becuase he would make the same amount if he was with the club or turned down for arbitration. I think that both might be offered arbitration, with Oliver a last second yes or no decision. Another Angel in jeopardy of not getting offered arbitration is Garrett Anderson. He  is another bubble player who might be offered arbitration due to the loyalty to the club, but the hearing might bring him a lower salary than as a free agent. 

 

RESULTS:

  The Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem  announced at 7:31 pm CST that they have decided to offer arbitration to  Mark Teixiera, Jon Garland, Darren Oliver and K-Rod for 2009. Garrett Anderson was not granted arbitration by the club.

 

 

The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies will not be offering arbitration to relievers Tom Gordon and Rudy Seanez. Gordon makes total sense since his ceiling and salary were high in 2008, and he was out with an injury the entire year. The Phillies invested in Brad Ledge for their closer, and he responded in producing a fantastic season and a solid spot on the roster as the Phillies 2009 closer. Seanez is a left-handed reliever and might be one of the next relievers to sign a contract, maybe for the Rangers.

 

Also up for consideration will be starter Jamie Moyer and right-fielder Pat Burrell. Moyer has been a linch pin in the Phillies rotation since coming over from the Seattle Mariners. His pitching stabilized a Phillies rotation that was a mess before his arrival. Burrell is a home-grown Phillies star who might have just made himself too expensive for the Phillies taste. I think the team will offer arbitration to Moyer. The team will still work to cut a deal with Moyer, but will certainly decline an offer to Burrell for 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The team has decided to not offer arbitration to all four of their eligible candidates for 2009. Tom Gordon was the only player not mentioned, but is still injured and will not be offered a contract for 2009.

 

 

The San Diego Padres will not be offering arbitration to  former closer Trevor Hoffman. This is actually a sad event. More so by the way the team kind of dumped him after giving him a contract offer and then rescinding it and not giving him a reason why before announcing the decision. This act might come back to haunt the Padres since Hoffman is thinking seriously about maybe closing for the division foe, L A Dodgers.

 

RESULTS:

The San Diego Padres confirmed at 7:41 pm CST that they are not going to offer arbitration to Trevor Hoffman.

 

 

Former All-Star and Atlanta Brave closer/starter John Smoltz will not be offered arbitration by the team.  This is not to mean that he doesn’t still have any fire and gas in the tank, but the Braves did get rocked in 2002 by Greg Maddux accepting arbitration and getting a huge increase in salary. He might still be in the Braves jersey on Opening Day, but not at a arbitration sized increase in pay.

 

RESULTS:

The Atlanta Braves confirmed at 8:09 pm CST that they are declining to offer arbitration to pitcher John Smoltz.

 

 

                     

 

The Toronto Blue Jays will offer Arbitration to pitcher A J Burnett. There are signals in the Jays system that they want to put an end to the uphill climb in payroll without results in 2009. But to let Burnett go would send the wrong message to Roy Halliday and the staff about the intentions of the team. I think the team will make a few runs at players to try and compete with the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees in 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The Toronto Blue Jays have offered arbitration to pitcher A J Burnett, but have denied arbitration to his battery mate Gregg Zaun. The decision on the pair hit the Internet about 6:56 pm CST tonight.

 

The Texas Rangers have a huge decision to make as to the future of current DH, Milton Bradley for 2009. Bradley had a breakout year for the team and would again be a great cornerstone with Josh Hamilton in the middle of the Rangers’ lineup for 2009. For that reason, I think the Rangers will offer arbitration to Bradley for the 2009 season, and then at trade deadline time, trade him for more pitching.

 

RESULTS:

The Texas Rangers announced at 11:55 pm CST that they will offer arbitration to Milton Bradley for 2009.

 

 

                                      

 

With the Brewers, I think we will see one given arbitration and one let go for obvious reasons. C C Sabathia will definitely be offered arbitration. Sabathia made such an impact on this team after his trade from Cleveland in 2008. To say they would also let this guy go with out a fight would be a huge PR mistake and also a roster busting move. Public sentiment is high that the team needs to retain their big train and let him roll another year in Miller Park.

 

On the other hand, the Brewers felt they got robbed in the closer department by the injuries and the inconsistant pitching of Eric Gagne in his Brewers stay. For that reason, the Brewers will not be offering arbitration to Gagne. Even the recent retirement of closer Solomon Torres can’t keep Gagne on the Brewers’ roster.

 

Another set of Brewers’ racing for arbitration hearing and raises are pitchers’ Ben Sheets and Brian Shouse. Sheets will be offered arbitration as a goodwill gesture that the team wants to be competitive in 2009. The showe of faith might be enough to retain Sabathia. Sheets recent injury problems might weigh heavy in this process, and the team might not offer at the last minute. This is seriously one that is on the fence right now.

 

Brewers reliever Brian Shouse will not be offered arbitration. The minor league system of the Brewers’ actually have a pretty godd supply of relievers in their minor league system that are itching for a chance at the major league level. This might be the deciding factor in Shouses’ future with the team.

 

   RESULTS:

The Brewers have offered arbitration to C C Sabathia, Brian Shouse and Ben Sheets. They did decline to offer Eric Gagne an arbitration hearing on December 1, 2008 at 3:08 PM CST.

 

  

                           

 

 

In the Yankees camp, both Bobby Abreu and Mike Mussina will be offered arbitration. Abreu will be offered it more as a afterthought to any team thinking of signing him for 2009. Since he is a Type “A” candidate, the signing club will lose a draft pick in June, and the Yankees will also get a compensation pick for him.

 

Mussina is semi-retired and not thought of seeking a contract with any team in 2009. This might be a pre-emptive strike set up to divert any team from trying to get him under contract in 2009. The Yankees feel he might be going through a “Troy Percival” stage and might not want to play now, but as soon as the teams report, might consider a contract for 2009.

 

                   

 

Also speaking of the Yankees, they will not hand an arbitration offer to Andy Pettitte for 2009. The thinking in the Yankees camp is that Pettitte is already emotionally out of the Yankees staff and might not be a totally positive member of the young pitching staff in 2009. It is a shame since Pettitte is a dominating leftie when he is on his game.

 

The Yankees also will not offer arbitration to Jason Giambi. This one kind of puzzles me a bit in the fact that Giambi might end up in the A L East again in 2009, and wouldn’t you like the fact that you took 2 draft picks for that team to even sign the “Gambino”. His defense has gone downward fast in the last few years, but after some eye situation early in 2008, he hit the ball as well as anyone in baseball.

 

 

                     

 

Also in the Yankees camp is  Ivan Rodriguez. As you might remember, the Yankees basically borrowed him for a few months trying to make a stretch run and catch either the Rays or Red Sox before the playoffs. He was a major upgrade at the catching position. But his increase in salary with Jorge Posada still on the roster might be enough for the Yankees to not offer arbitration to Rodriguez.

 

   RESULTS: 

 At 4:48 pm CST, the New York Yankees have declined to offer arbitration to pitchers’ Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and Right-filder Bobby Abreu.

 

Staying in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox will offer arbitration to veteran catcher Jason Varitek. Considering what he has played for in the last few years, he might be one of the big winners in average change in salary in 2009. Varitek’s agent . Scott Boras tried to play up Varitek’s “stats” by comparing him to a far superior catcher in Jorge Posada to the Red Sox earler in the Hot Stove season.

 

RESULTS:

The Boston Red Sox have decided to offer arbitration to both Jason Varitek and pitcher Paul Byrd.  Word came in at 8:14 pm CST, with Byrd’s offer a bit baffling with the recent news about the signing of Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa.

 

The Colorado Rockies will offer arbitration to closer Brian Fuentes. This might also be a smokescreen by the rockies to gain posession of a teams draft pick for signing Fuentes.  He was been contacted by several clubs that have already interested in the closer, even with the compensation issues.  Fuentes might turn down the offer and seek his spot somewhere else in the MLB in 2009.

 

 RESULTS:

The Colorado Rockies have decided to offer arbitration to closer Brian Fuentes.  The offer hit the wires at 6:59 pm CST tonight.

 

Frank Thomas of the Oakland A’s will not be offered arbitration by the team. This is not for lack of desire or offensive firepower, but the team already has it on good authority that he wants to stay with Oakland and might be willing to negotiate a discount to remain with the club.

 

RESULTS:

The Oakland A’s confirmed at 9:07 pm CST that they are not offering arbitration to Frank Thomas for 2009.

 

         

 

Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs is an interesting player to consider for arbitration. The team would like to offer him arbitration, but only on the premise that he will turn it down and they can reap 2 draft picks for him. But the flip-side is that they offer it and he accepts it and give the team a secere situation both in salary and in the Bullpen. If there is any movement to show he would accept the arbitration offer, the team would refuse to offer him arbitration for 2009. This one truly might be decided on a written agreement and not on a handshake. Reliever Bob Howry is also up for arbitration and might not be extended an offer for arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS: 

 The Chicago Cubs announced at 11:03 pm CST that they have decided to not offer arbitration to Kerry Wood and Bob Howry for 2009.

 

On the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox will not be offering arbitration to both Ken Griffey Jr., or Juan Uribe. With the recent trade talks concerning Jermaine Dye and Nick Swishers trade to the Yankees, you might think the team would retain Griffey for one season as insurance. On the up-side, he is also on pace to hit a few milestones that would be a PR masterpeiece for the White Sox to promote in 2009.

 

Juan Uribe is an easier piece to replace either with minor leaguer Josh Fields, or by a trade. Uribe has been an adequate player for the team , but his arbitration increase in salary would not sit well with the White Sox payroll issues for 2009. Also under consideration is shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who has gotten alot of talk lately as trade bait for the White Sox. Cabrera might be offered arbitration based on his recent reade rumblings.

 

RESULTS:

The Chicago White Sox announced at 12:35 pm CST that they are offering arbitration to Orlando Cabrera for 2009. No word yet on the status of arbitration for Griffey Jr, or Juan Uribe at this time.

 

 

             

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks might take a few days to consider if the offer arbitration to Adam Dunn, or set him free. He has not been one of the big names thrown around in any circles this off season and might not be worth the compensation picks for another team to consider him in 2009. I think the D-back do end up offering him arbitration as a gesutre he has a place if he wants it in 2009. But I also think in the back of their minds, he turns it down and takes the play out of their hands.

 

Also up for consideration by the D-backs is starter Randy Johnson and relievers’ Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz. Both players had an adequate 2008, and it might come down to what place they will have in the future of the team as to their status for arbitration. Cruz might be a decison based on the want and need out there for relievers who can set-up or close with the least amount of baggage. Cruz will come down to a last minure discussion before he is offered arbitration.   Lyons and Johnson might be the two guys’  not be offered arbitration for 2009. Another D-back who is sought after by many teams is second baseman Orlando Hudson who will certainly be offered arbitration to try and retain at least some draft picks when he declines the D-backs offer.

 

RESULTS:

The Arizona Diamondbacks have announced at 9:26 pm CST that they are not offering arbitration to both Randy Johnson and Adam Dunn. Being offered arbitration will be Juan Cruz, Orlando Hudson and Brandon Lyon. 

 

The Florida Marlins had an amazing run at the National League East title early in the season before falling by the wayside. At the forefront of that action was Luis Gonzalez . Gonzalez was the veteran presence on the club, and with catcher Paul Lo Duca might both be victims of payroll cutting for 2009. Also up for arbitration is veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes, who I think might have done enough to merit the team offering arbitration to him to hold onto this valuable commodity at least until the 2009 trade deadline. I have a feeling that Gonzalez and Lo Duca played their last ball for the Marlins and will not be offered arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS:

The Floridas Marlins announced at 11:08 pm CST that they will not offer arbitration to  Arthur Rhodes, Luis Gonzalez, and Paul Lo Duca for 2009.

 

Several other veterans have arbitration issues to contend with in the majors this off season. Moise Alou is considering retirement, and that might be the total basis that the New York Mets do not offer him arbitration. His injury might not have been severe to end his career, but he might just consider it time while he can still function naturally.

 

Also up for arbitration on the Mets are Luis Ayala and Oliver Perez. Ayala might be the odd man out as the Mets have high hopes for the inning eater Perez and they might not offer arbitration to both Alou and Ayala, but offer arbitration to Perez.

 

RESULTS:

Out of the New York Mets offices at  8:22 pm CST is the announcement that they are declining to offer arbitration to Moises Alou and Luis Ayala. The team is however offering arbitration to pitcher Oliver Perez.

 

 

Alan Embree has been a tough competitor for years in the American League. He has been a “go-to” reliever for years and might be starting down that road of decline finally. For that reason, I see the Oakland A’s considering this for a bit of time then not offering him arbitration, but extending a Spring Training Invite to him to see if he is still a dominating reliever.

 

RESULTS:

At 9:07 pm CST tonight, the Oakland A’s have denied arbitration to Alan Embree and Frank Thomas.

 

 Edgar Renteria is considered to be on the way out and the  Detroit Tigers also must make an educated guess as to if they offer him arbitration, will he accept it or turn it donw and move onto another team in 2009. This is another team that will have to feel out its veteran before it either commits or turns down arbitration to him. I have a feeling they will not offer him arbitration.

 

   RESULTS:

The Detroit Tigers did not offer arbitration to Renteria on Monday, December 1,2008 at 2:42 PM  CST.

 

 

The Minnesota Twins had a remarkable 2008 season, and also included in that was the work of reliver Dennys Reyes of the Twins Bullpen unit. Reyes had one of his best seasons in the majors and added a veteran persence to the staff. I have a feeling that it was enough to merit an offer of arbitration for Reyes to continue in Minnesota for 2009.

 

 RESULTS:  

The Minnesota Twins just offered arbitration to reliever Dennys Reyes for 2009 at 4:20 pm CST .

 

The St Louis Cardinals Bullpen was a mess in 2008. The closer role ended up being a closer-by committee assignment during the season and no one truly stepped up and took over a veteran role in the Bullpen. For this reason I feel that  former closer Jason Isringhausen  and Branden Looper will not be offered arbitration by the team. I do feel that reliever Russ Spring might be a bubble guy and also might be offered arbitration for 2009.

 

RESULTS: 

At 6:19 pm CST, The St. Louis Cardinals have denied arbitration to three of their pitchers from the 2008 staff. Jason Isringhausen, Branden Looper and  Russ Springer all were not offered arbitration by the Cardinals. 

 

Since coming to the Kansas City Royals, Mark Grudzienlanek has been a clutch player in the middle for the Royals. He has been a solid defender and an above average guy at the plate for a team fighting for an idenity in the A L Central divisionI have a feeling that the Royals might reward that loyalty and service by offering arbitration to Grudzienlanek for 2009.

 

RESULTS: The Kansas City Royals just offered arbitration to infielder Mark Grudzielanek  at  8:17 pm CST for the 2009 season. 

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers had another fantastic run at the National League pennant in 2008. The team was sitting near the .500 mark most of the year and finally took over the division late in the season, and overtake the Arizona D-backs for the Western division. On the forefront of that move was the acquiring of Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox, and Casey Blake from the  Cleveland Indians. Both of these players have done everything asked of them by the Dodgers and will be offered arbitration today.

 

Another twist of fate for the Dodgers saw their Bullpen and starting pitching come togewther at the right time and take over the game for the team. Starters’ Brad Penny and Derek Lowe hunkered down and played playoof type ball the last month of the season to propel LA into position for the title.  For that reason, these two starters might be offered arbitration for the 2009 season.Reliever Joe Biemel helped anchor the leftie side of the Bullpen. Infielder Jeff Kent was up and down all year long due to injuries and did not participate fully in 2008. For that reason, I think that the Dodgers will not offer arbitration to Biemel and Kent for 2009

 

Also up for,arbitration is future Hall-of-Famer, Gregg Maddux. He did not have an explosive  end of the year for the Dodgers after being picked up from the San Diego Padres, and might not be offered arbitration by Los Angeles.

 

 RESULTS:

The Los Angeles Dodgers have just offered arbitration to Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake and Derek Lowe.  In a second announcement, the team has decided to deny arbitration to pitchers’ Joe Biemel, Greg Maddux, Brad Penny and infielder Jeff Kent. Final word came out from the Dodgers office at  7:20 pm CST tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Goals 6-10 for 2008 Exceed Expectations

 

          

 

In the beginning of the season I set 10 goals or written items that I hoped the Tampa Bay Rays would complete to become a more productive and successful team. At the time we all did not know the type of franchise success we would see in 2008.

Also stuffed into that list was a few personal obsevations ands wants for the team in 2008. I did a middle of the year evaluation of the list on July 18, 2008 and saw that the team was focused and moving forward in achieving outstanding success on the field.

I am again going to go over the high and lowpoints now after the season is over. I am no longer going to assign a letter grade to the options because this has been a totally “A” year in all aspects. There is no way I could see this coming, and the team took the region by storm in 2008. 

 

The blog today will focus on the items 6-10, and the logo unveiling last November in St. Petersburg, Florida at Straub Park.

 

 

 

As everyone might remember, 12 months ago we set out changing the basic style of the team with a logo change and a uniform retro-fitting. Gone was the old “TB” on the hat that had a ray centered beneath the “TB” symbol. In came a clean looking “TB” in a great marine blue color. Then you get to the uniforms that were streamlined into a more uniform design without the old “Rays” on the chest area of the uniform.

The uniforms went from a white and green basic jersey with blue pinstriping on the sleeves to a retro looking White and Blue model with a logo that popped with the odd shaped “R”, and the sunburst in the center of the logo blasting out for all to see. The team held a fantastic outdoor event to unveil the new look with most of the players coming in for the event.

The new design was met with some crtics wanting the old Rays look becuase it had a modern flair without being boring. Others were upset that the away jerseys would not have the “Tampa Bay” moniker blazen across the chest of the players anymore. It was replaced with the new logo “Rays” across the chest.

          

 

Other were debating why to let go of the entire past for the new look. One thing the Rays did leave “old” on their jerseys was the flying ray patch on the sleeve. The team decided to continue that tradition and  replaced the dark black and colorful ray with one that matched the teams new blue and white jerseys. All in all, the new look showed the team was trying to move beyond the loveable losers’ of the past and were hoping for a new attitude in Tampa Bay.

 

 

                

 

Starting with the bottom of the list at number 10, was the Akinora Iwamura must feel at home at second base.  To sya he did not do a superb job this year would be an insult. the guy went from a position where he has won Gold Gloves in Japan to a new position for the betterment of the team. Not only did he do it with grace and style, but he made himself a front runner for years at the position.

Iwamura was one of the people nominated for a Gold Glove this year at second in the AL. He only committed a handful errors all year long and ended up ranked 4th among AL second baseman in his first year ever at the position. He became a vital cog in the Rays double play combination working with Jason Bartlett like he has been playing to position all his life.

The hardwork and the determination of Iwamura to make his transition flawless was carried out to a “T”. Aki stood tall and in the pivot long to make sure the team got a chance to complete every double play in 2008. He was also instrumental in the field making countless great plays behind second and relaying the ball into home. Iwamura has found a new home at second base, and will be even better in 2009.

 

 

 

 Number 9 stated that catching had to hit a new high this year. Well, that will be an easy one. Dioner Navarro started the year off on fire and got hurt. When he returned, he stayed above the .300 mark well into the second half of the season before falling below that mark for the only time in 2008. Behind the plate he took more control and exercised his own playcalling alot this season.

But the action with Matt Garza in Texas in the ruffle on the mound and in the dugout finally put him on top. It showed that he had the heart and the determination to lead this team behind the dish and put his stamp on the team. With his new confidence at the plate translated perfectly to his time behind the mask.

For the season, His batting average for the year was only behind Minnesota’s Joe Mauer at the position in the AL. That is a huge change from the guy battling to stay above .191 during the first half of 2007. Navarro continued during the first half of 2008 getting better and better every game. He was rewarded with his first All-Star invite and was key to the tying and winning run for the AL in the game. He caught 8 innigs in that game and solidified his place among AL catchers with is performance.

 

         

 

Number 8  was about the 1-2-3 setup guys securing the game. Well, this one is a bit tricky. the Rays Bullpen showed a huge upswing in 2008, but the closer role was up in the air alot more than expected in the year. Troy Percival was signed to make a solid end to the Bullpen but went down numerous times during the season.

His back and knee did show the wear and tear of all his MLB years, and by the end of the season he was on the DL and did not even get posted to any of the Rays post season rosters. His health situation put the pressure on the young Rays and they responded brilliantly in most cases.

From J P Howell and Grant Balfour securing the 7th inning for the Rays nightly, to Dan Wheeler or even Jason Hammel being called on to put out the fires in late innings, the young squad held together and mixed and matched nightly to get the Rays the victory.

It was not your picture perfect way to run a Bullpen, but the Rays did make it happen and post one of the best turnaround years ever for a Bullpen. The young guys matured and got valuable experience, and the veterans stood tall and made the plays when they were needed in 2008.

 

                           

 

Number 7  was that the right-field guy has to be consisitant and kick butt.  You would have to define that a bit more to really decide if it was a successful year or a failure. I have it more at a banner year for finding the right guys finally, but it could have been a lot better organized.

Jonny Gomes and Eric Hinske got most of the early reps in right during the beginning of the year. With the trade for Gabe Gross, the Rays brought in a guy who had never been counted on like this to raise the bar for the team. Gross came in and put his defensive and offensive stamp on the position early.

Gross made countless great play in the field and became a electric guy at the plate. He hit a 436 foot homer on August 6th that just showed the improvements he had made with the Rays. Gross made a massive improvement to the position to the Rays before the trade dedeadline.

After the return of Rocco Baldelli, the right-field platooning took on a more effective mode. You had the defensive skills of both guys as  a plus in the field and had bats fron both sides of the plate to balle pitchers’. The Rays had a solid core in the last half of the season, and the addition of Baldelli proved amazing at the plate during the rest of the year and in the playoffs.

 

     

Number 6  was our prospects need to improve. This became a double-edged sword to the Rays in 2008. We saw guys like Elliot Johnson, Reid Brignac and Ben Zobrist come up and solidify the infield when needed, but the additon of these prospects did not make the difference for the Rays. Zobrist was the most consistant of the guys from the minors in coming in and making the job his in 2008.

Zobrist was being counted on to be the “go-to” guy in the Ray’s lineup in 2008. An early injury set him down and it took some time before he came back up and made his mark offensively this year for the team. He developed a offensive style that was not seen in his game before 2008.

Pitching saw Grant Balfour come back up and not back down an inch the rest of the season. Balfour came on and argued and grunted on the mound and held batter at bay most of the year. His willingness to not back away from heavy hitters made him a valued player in the Bullpen this year.  But the guy who made the entire minor league system tremble this season came up in September, and will not have to even think about the minors in 2009.

 

 

David Price was the Rays first selection in 2006. He had been annointed by many even before stepping on a MLB mound to be a phenom. Price did nothing to set that rumor to expectation down after his stint against the New York Yankees in New York. Price got better and better every time he hit the mound and became a inspiration to the team.

To out this into prospective, the Rays had enough confidence in this rookie in the ALCS to put him on the mound to finish off  Game 7 against the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox. Price performed brilliantly and helped paced the Rays during the playoffs.

The rest of the prospect system got a bit muddled in 2008. Desmond Jennings went down with an injury and saw limited time this season in the minors. Jake McGee went down with an arm injury and had to have Tommy John surgery. But even with these high ceiling guys going down, players like Fernando Perez came out of no where and made you know that the Rays prospect system is alive and well.

 

 

So here is the first of 2 end of the year goal realization blogs.  Goals 6-10 were finalized today and I will write about 1-5 tomorrow. All in all you have to admit that the Rays saw a increase in every aspect of the game in 2008. Every player on the team stepped up in the season and made it magical in their own ways. 

 2009 will be a year of expectations and the either success or failure to improve over 2008. It will be a harder road for the Rays in 2009. People will be gunning for the team and will not be broadsided anymore. That in itself might be the biggest challenge for the team next year. Living up to the expectations of the local fans and media after a darling season.

 

A Trio of Tidbits: Miller, Baldelli and MLB Network

 

 

                                  

 

It is being reported that former Rays reliever Trever Miller will complete his signing with the St Louis Cardinals today. The former lefty specialist for the Rays will have to complete a physical before the deal can be deemed official. Miller, who was in his second stint with the Rays was the  reliever on the mound when the Rays  clinched their first postseason berth in franchise history. Miller, along with team mate J P Howell were the top 2  lefties in the  MLB in preventing inherited runners’ from scoring.

 

Howell and Miller were the top two left-handers in this category in the Majors. On Aug. 3 against Detroit, Miller recorded his first win and first decision since Sept. 30, 2006 at Atlanta, snapping a Major League-record streak of 121 straight appearances without receiving a decision.

 

The Cardinals would be Miller’s seventh team. He made his Major League debut with the Tigers in 1996.  Miller has been a great tool against left-handed batters in his career and posted an overall ERa of 4.15 last year for the Rays, but was used mostly as a late inning lefty situational pitcher for the team. He got left-handers to hit only .235 against him.

 

Miller will not have to be follicle challenged with the Cardinals. As you might remember, Trever used his think hair to support one of the better Rayhawks on the team. His hair was sculpted by his wife Para, who also did a similar model on their young son to imitate Dad’s hairdo.

 

Miller was very active in the community for the Rays, participating in numerous hispital visits and always chatting with fans before the games. He was a slightly introverted guy who had a soft spot for kids and enjoyed talking about baseball.  Miller will be missed in the Rays Bullpen in 2009.

 

Miller is the first of the Rays 4 free agents who has resigned with another club beside the Rays. The deal is for 2 year.  I wish him luck and hope that his 2009 goes well for him and his family. He will be missed down the right-field line by us in Section 138.

 

 

 

  

The Hot Stove action is starting to heat up for another one of the free agents from the 2008 Rays roster. Rocco Baldelli’s name has been mentioned alot in the Boston newspapers as one of the options for the 4th outfielder for the team. It would be a bit of a homecoming for Baldelli, who is from Rhode Island.

 

One of the obstacles standing in the way of his signing might be the amount of time between starts he may need to recover from his fatigue syndrome that he has suffered since the beginning of  Spring Training in 2008. It was thought early in the season that Baldelli might have played his last baseball because of the ailment, but medication and a change in his daily lifestyle has made Baldelli at least a part-time player.

 

 

                         

 

 

If Rocco were to sign outside of the Rays’ organization, it would be an end to a bitter-sweet relationship with the team that drafted him in trhe first round in 2000. It would also be bitter-sweet to lose one of the most popular players in the Rays short history to another team, hopefully outside of the American League East division.

 

His year did not begin until a series against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in August. In that first game, Baldelli made an impressive play in right-field coming in for a low floundering fly ball to make a great shoe-lace catch for the Rays. He also exploded at the plate hitting his first hit since May 2007 in the Rays win over the Seattle Mariners.

 

        

 

Baldelli was instrumental in the Rays success in the post season. He came on in countless games and got needed hits, and some times even hit a home run to secure a win for the Rays. But one of his memorible moments might be in Game 2 of the World Series when Rocco sprinted all the way from first base and went home on the play.

 

Baldelli was out at the plate, but the collision with Phillies catcher, Carlos Ruiz made the front cover of Sports Illustrated for the effort. If this was one of your last momments in the sun Rocco, let me tell you, it was shining bright and clear that night at the Trop.

 

 

                                Logo for the MLB Network

 

MLB Network is set to begin its operation on January 1, 2009 ,and will be a television specialty channel, primarily owned by Major League Baseball,  The Network is se to begin broadcast into over 50 million homes in the United States.  Cable Providers, which include ,Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner and Cox Communications have minority ownership of the new network, with MLB retaining a controlling two-thirds share.

 

The channel is building its state-of-the-art headquarters in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood and moving into MSNBC’s old studios in nearby Secaucus, New Jersey. Profitability is expected by the end of 2009, according to industry sources. And by 2015, revenue from cable subscriber fees and advertising is projected to soar beyond $210 million, with a net value easily exceeding $1 billion.

 

Major League Baseball is the last major North American professional sports league and major professional sport overall to launch its own network. NBA TV dates back to 1999, the NFL Network to 2003, and the US version of the NHL Network to 2007, However, MLBN will have the most households of these four networks when it launches, largely because of the financial participation of the cable systems.

 

MLB Network expects to carry 26 live baseball games in 2009 and Saturday night is the most likely time slot these games will air in. Other early programming will include portions of the 2009 World Baseball Classic as well as highlights, studio programming, international and development league games, and archival material. Also in the works is a nightly news and highlight show patterned after ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.

 

The Network has already begun hiring background reporters and announcers for the new programming. Trenni Kusnierek, who was the Brewers’ former sideline reporter will serve as a network reporter in 2009.  He was previously employed by the Fox Sports Network in Wisconsin in 2008. Hazel Mae will also join the  MLB reporting ranks for the new network, coming from the studio as the host of Sportsdesk on NESN.

 

Matt Vasgersian, who is the former San Diego Padres’ announcer  in another of the well known baseball voices to grace the new network. Vasgersian will be the voice of the MLB Network, and well as the lead host of both the MLB Tonight show and the off season Hot Stove show for the network.  Joining Vasgersian in the sutdio will be former YES Network announcer and former MLB player, Al Leiter on both programs.

 

Coming on as a Network analyst will be former player and ex-ESPN staffer Harold Reynolds, to also participate on the MLB Tonight  show and help sort out the trades and signings on the Hot Stove program for viewers.

 

Ex-Tampa Bay Rays analyst and player, Joe Magrane has also been signed by the network. His position has not been defined yet by MLB, but might be in consideration for the analyst position on the 26 broadcasts by the network in 2009.

 

Magrane is a funny and very colorful commentator and could lend a nice twist to the usual bland broadcasting by television networks.  He has been doing Fox Sports Network and Rays Television Network since 1998. Magrane recently did the studio color commentary for NBC Sports of  the Olympics baseball tournament in China.

 

This season, he was nomintaed for the Ford Frick award, which decides the boradcasters eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for his work with the Rays.

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Hot Stove Pot Beginning to Simmer

 

When the World series ended with the upstart  Tampa Bay Rays losing to the Philadelphia Phillies, it was the first bit of heat to the offseason’s Hot Stove predicitions and rumors. The Rays quickly made announcements on declining options and granting free agency to 4 of this years Rays’ players that helped the team land in the Fall classic.

First to hit the free agent market was Tampa Bay Rays’ mainstay Rocco Baldelli, who had his 2009 option actually turned down in the early atages of 2008 after he was diagnoised with fatigue syndrome. Baldelli still might sign back with the only club he has ever played for maybe more out of loyalty for all the years and times they took to secure his health and might even give a nice “hometown” discount to the Rays.

 

 

Baldelli has had a series of injuuries from Tommy Johns’ surgery, knee surgery, and his latest set back that the Rays stood behind him and kept him on their roster. Some other teams might have cut loose years ago, but the Rays felt they needed to get Baldelli and themselves on steady ground before committing to a future deal. Both sides will probable settle on an incentive laced agreement with playing time and offensive statistics playing heavy on the deal.

 

 

Eric Hinske came to the Rays and provided ample protction on the offensive side for the club while they searched for a right-handed bat for rightfield. With the renewed health of Baldelli, it gave Hinske less time in the field, and he was primarily a bench player after the trading deadline. Hinske will probably noy be with the club in 2009, and will seek more playing time either in the outfield or at third base on another squad.

 

 

 

One of the fee agent signees’ of 2008 that will not be back with the club might be Cliff Floyd. It was discovered during the World Series during Game 3 that Floyd had injured his shoulder in that contest while batting. He tried and rehab the shoulder before Game 4, but the Rays decided to de-activate Floyd and put Hinske on the 25-man World Series roster.

This injury was first thought to be career ending for Floyd, but recent reports have come out that if he opts for surgery, he might be ready in time for 2009 Spring Training. By refusing his $ 2.75 million dollar 2009 club option, it frees up money for the club to pursue another DH candidate for the Rays in 2009. Floyd has not stated if he intends to pursue the Rays as a free agent again in 2009, but he will have the surgery to repair his Labium tear in the coming weeks.

 

                                 

A club option that was turned down for Rays reliever Trever Miller might have more than a few heads turing or scratching this week. The team had a 2009 club option that would have paid him $ 2 million in salary for the season. The move might be a financial one, or it might be a sign that the Rays might want to look elsewhere for their lefty specialist. There have been rumors that the Rays still like miller and might resign him to a reduced contract before Spring Training.

Another rumor flying across the Internet is that the Rays are going to make a run at Atlanta Braves’ left-handed reliever Will Ohman, who the Rays tried to trade for duting the trade deadline in August of 2008. Because of the Rays intense involvement in trying to get Ohman earlier in the season, this might be a precursor to signing him.

 

 

 

Then there is the rumor starting to gain steam that the Rays might part with leftfielder, and 2-time All Star, Carl Crawford in a trade with the Colorado Rockies for Matt Holliday. Crawford is about to hit the high dollar marks for the Rays, and by trading him and maybe a  major league ready pitching prospect, the team might be able to free enough salary space to afford the power bat of Holliday in rightfield for the Rays.

Alot of this depends on what the Rockies will ask for in return for Holliday. I think that a package with Crawford and maybe even a Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine might be attractive to the Rockies. They would get a replacement for Holliday, and get an upgrade in their starting rotation immediately.

I will keep my ear to the ground and see what happens with this rumor. Do not forget that the Rays saved up to 2.5 million by refusing their two club options for 2009, and relieving themselves of Crawford’s 2009 salary of $ 8.25 million dollars would free up about $ 10.75 million. Hollidays 2009 salary is set at about $ 13.5 million dollars.

 

 

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