Results tagged ‘ Wade Boggs ’

Tampa Bay’s Pursuit of Basball..A Short History Lesson

 

                            

 

The pursuit of major league baseball in the Tampa Bay area began hard and furious in the  1988 after  the  proposed building of the Florida Suncoast Dome in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The area now had a viable baseball stadium within the  area, and also had an estimated 12,000 deposited Season Tickets on hand.  The area baseball group were tireless in their pursuit of either an existing team, or an expansion franchise for their new  domed stadium.

 


The local group them began to woo major-league baseball to the Sunshine State by visiting and trying to obtain ownership shares in existing MLB clubs that were in either financial trouble or wanted leverage to get stadiums or other breaks from their local city governments. Yet despite nearly eloping with several teams like the Minnesota Twins, Oakland A’s, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, and San Francisco Giants, the region had to wait until 1998 to field a team of its own.


 

 

Baseball first arrived in Tampa/St. Petersburg as teams began to flock to Florida for spring training. The father of major-league baseball in the area was Al Lang, a Pittsburgh native who had moved to St. Petersburg in 1910 and within a few years had joined the management of the local ballpark. After failing to talk Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss into having his team train at Waterfront Park, the future home of Al Lang Field,  ( Dreyfuss refused, calling the backwater a “one-tank town” ) and watching the Chicago Cubs move their spring operation from New Orleans to nearby Tampa.

 

 

Lang finally convinced Branch Rickey to bring his St. Louis Browns to St. Pete. In anticipation of the team’s arrival, financing was approved for a new ballpark, seating 2,000 fans. The first game at the new field saw the Cubs defeat the “hometown” Browns 3-2, behind a first inning homer by rookie outfielder Cy Williams.  Professional baseball  in the town was an instant hit, and soon became so popular in St. Petersburg that businesses began to close early on weekdays so that fans could attend games.

 

 

 However, Rickey’s players, unable to find any other sources of entertainment (movie theaters closed early, and alcohol was forbidden by town law) were bored silly. Embroiled in a financing dispute, the Browns left after their first year to be replaced by the Philadelphia Phillies, who moved to the town’s training facilities in 1918. In 1922, the New York Yankees and Boston Braves arrived in St. Petersburg. Babe Ruth, the Yanks star attraction, was once chased out of the outfield by alligators at Huggins-Stengel Park located near the center of town.

 

 

 

In 1928, the baseball-mad city helped Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert turn a $60,000 spring training profit. The St. Louis Cardinals arrived in town in 1938 and stayed until 1997, at various times sharing the city with the Yankees, Giants, Mets, and the Orioles. Tampa, too, has had its share of spring training tenants, having hosted six teams since the Cubs left after the spring of 1916.

 


Local interest in bringing a team to the Tampa Bay area first emerged after MLB expanded into Toronto and Seattle in 1977. While attracting major-league teams to the area for the spring was never a problem, luring a team on a permanent basis proved to more problematic. Most of the problems were a result of a lack of cooperation between the Tampa and St. Petersburg city governments. Although it was mutually agreed upon between the two cities that it was in their best interests to bring major-league ball to the area, Tampa and St. Petersburg’s local sports authorities independently courted dissatisfied major league owners while making plans for separate stadiums.

 


In 1984, a group of investors known as the “Tampa Bay Baseball Group” ( led by businessman Frank Morsani ) managed to buy a 42% stake in the Minnesota Twins, hoping to move the team to Tampa. But Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, acting in what he called “the best interests of baseball,” pressured the group to sell their share to Carl Pohlad, a local banker who intended to keep the team in the Twin Cities. Tampa was foiled again in 1985, when Oakland A’s president Roy Eisenhardt, after agreeing in principle to sell the team to Morsani’s group for $37 million, decided to keep the team after agreed to a new stadium lease with Oakland’s mayor.

 

 


In November 1985, both cities made separate presentations for expansion teams (amidst charges of plagarism ) to Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who was annoyed at the local community civil war. However, the rivalry continued. From 1986 onwards, St. Petersburg appeared to be the destination of choice for the Chicago White Sox, who were unhappy with Comiskey Park. The St. Petersburg group went so far as to break ground on the Florida Suncoast Dome in 1988, ostensibly the new home of the White Sox. Their neighbors across the bay steamed, and the Tampa Tribune opined that that the locale of the new stadium “puts one in mind of a particularly pinched Albanian village.”

 


However, hopes ended in 1988 when Chicago officials managed to pass financing for a new stadium at the last minute by unplugging the Legislative clock to get a resolution passed to keep the team in the South Side of Chicago. Even though the Sox ended up staying in Chicago, the Suncoast Dome was well on its way to being built, effectively ending the long rivalry between the two cities with regards to baseball; it was agreed that any team coming to the area would be housed in the new stadium.

 


However, opportunities evaporated as quickly as they appeared. Morsini’s attempt to buy the Texas Rangers in 1988 was foiled, MLB left the Tampa Bay area out of its expansion plans in favor of Miami in 1991. Then Seattle Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan had made a verbal agreement with the Tampa Bay baseball group, but decided to try and keep the team in the city by selling his team instead  to Nintendo in 1992. MLB again rebuffed Tampa Bay in late 1992, when National League owners rejected a agreed upon proposal that would bring the San Francisco Giants to the Suncoast Dome.

 

 


Finally, Tampa Bay was awarded an expansion team on March 9, 1995, ending what new owner Vince Naimoli called “a path of ten thousand steps, ten thousand phone calls, ten thousand frustrations.” Three years before starting play, the team named  former Braves executive Chuck LaMar as their general manager; LaMar, charged with the task of building a team from scratch, decided to build his club around veteran cornerstones. To that end, the team signed future Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs, slugger Paul Sorrento, and  Opening Day pitcher Wilson Alvarez. They then traded for Tampa Bay native Fred McGriff and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Kevin Stocker. The trade for Stocker took the most heat as the team had picked young outfielder Bobby Abreu and then turned around and traded the young star to Philadelphia for the experienced shortstop.

 

 

 Larry Rothschild, who had never before managed a game but has always been a well-regarded major-league pitching coach, was named the team’s first manager.  So here we have a just a short history of the Tampa Bay area and their quest to obtain their MLB franchise. The area sweated long and hard to finally field a team in the local sunshine of Tampa Bay. And within 11 years of their first game, celebrated a playoff berth for the young team.

 


Tampa Bay’s pursuit of  major league baseball was a investment in the past and the future for the region. And the area is finally reaping the benefits of acquiring  a professional team to play in the confines of Tropicana Field.

 

 

Rays Lose Close One 3-2

 

Well, it is that time of the night/day that I tell you my thoughts and opinions on the latest Rays loss at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles 6-5. But first, We have to give you some good trivia to make you smile and want to attend Jeff Niemann’s MLB pitching debut tomorrow.

 

 

 

Trivia Question:

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In 1931, Chick Hafey of the St. Louis Cardinals became the first batting champion to wear glasses.

 

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly     The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

 

Now back to our normally scheduled The Good the Bad, and the Ugly for tonights game.

 

 

                                              The Good

 

The  mire presence of Rays top prospect Evan Longoria must have made an impression on the Rays hopeful fans who do not usually attend games.

 

The Rays experienced  almost a 20 percent increase over attendance from the Friday night contest. I am going to attribute that to the arrival of Longoria tonight, and no the free Rays visors given out to the fans. Evan did almost everything right tonight in his pro debut.  He signed a ball for me after Batting Pratice( again, thank you Evan), he handled the ball numerous times and the throws were tight and on target. And he got a single tonight and his first RBI to top it all off.

 

 

It was a chore just to get the ball for him again. I am getting the impression that the Orioles do not like to give the balls back after major feats, or a rookies first hit, or RBI.  the ball was finally retrieved before we had to send Jonny Gomes over there for it.The  fact that Evan is here will ease the defense about the hot corner. I know from playing third base, it can make or break your ball club in who is manning that spot. If the player has the reactions of a cat, the Hot Corner can be your best friend to your ball club. I personally think it will be manned by Longoria for a long time.

 

But then again, we thought current Oriole and former Ray, Aubrey Huff was the second coming of Wade Boggs.

 

 

*** Rays Designated Hitter/Rightfielder Jonny Gomes cam up as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th tonight and the crowd was on their seats looking for a tying run from the bomber.  Jonny connected on a George Sherrill pitch hit to right field, but it fell just short of the wall for an out.

 

The crowd was totally into the at bat, and the entire Rays and O’s fans in attendance were holding their breath when Gomes hit that monster.

 

 

** The hitting of Centerfielder BJ Upton tonight pulled his average up to above .300 again. Upton is seeing the ball better and his contact with the ball is crisp and on the head right now. I am going to predict he will go on a 10 game hitting streak from tonight on………..knock on good wood everyone.

 

 

*The number one Kudo of the night belongs to Evan, but Carlos Pena did nothing to even sit in the shades tonight. In the earlier innings, Carlos snagged a ball going down the first baseline at a backwards angle, and got the runner with a throw to pitcher Jason Hammel. It was a super play, and should be on the Top 10 plays of the night on ESPN without a doubt.

 

In his next at bat, the crowd was calling for a Home Run. And Carlos did not disappoint his fans this night.  He hit a solo homer to right field that would have cleared any ballpark in the MLB.   Currently, Pena is leading the American League with 5 homers, and is tied for first within RBI’s with Blue Jays Vernon Well for the lead with 12.

 

 

                                             The Bad

 

 

There really wasn’t alot of bad tonight by any one player. There was a few bad moments. And for that reason, I am going to just list three plays that changed the course of the game for the Rays.

 

***  A  series of misplayed flyballs to deep Right Center  by BJ Upton and  Nathan Haynes gave the Orioles  DH Aubrey Huff a ground rule double, and two batter later, Ramon Hernandez got  a triple after some confusion in the outfield.

 

**   The Orioles had brought in Chad Bradford, a sidearm slinging pitcher who seems to hit the top of the dirt during his delivery into the contest. BJ upton managed to get a bunt single to third and was sitting on first base. Bradford has a weird pitching style, and a even wilder pick-off move.

 

It appeared to me that Bradford had twice before shufflied his right rear foot on the rubber before he throws to first base.  BJ did not pick up on this and was cuaght in bewteen first and second for a “caught stealing” attempt. I mention this, because I wonder if BJ sometimes is too aggressive. The reasoning for this, is that he has had three baserunning errors in the past three games. The fact he was caught stealing on this occasion would not have produced a run, but maybe a slight moment of concentration loss is to blame here.

 

* The Rays brought in reliever Dan Wheeler for Trever Miller.  It was 2 outs in the top of the 9th innig with no one on base. Wheeler then served up a home run ball to leftfield for Ramon Hernandez.   He is currently batting .194, and got two RBI’s and a triple and homer tonight against our pitching staff.

 

 

                                       The Ugly

 

The ugly tonight is the baserunning situations that have cost the Rays some runs in the last few games. I have already talked about one of them in the above “Bad” section.  Willy Aybar was hurt when he slide into home after running through a stop sign by  third base coachTom Foley.  In the slide st home, Aybar aggrevated his hamstring and is on the 15 day DL for his actions. Not only BJ Upton, but other Rays have been caught in ” no man’s land” this year by over running the bases, or testing the arms of outfielders in the division.

 

I am all for testing the arms of the players, and triyng to be aggressive at times, but do these players have a  personal “green light” to moonlight decisions on the base paths, or do they just mis read the sign sometimes.

 

There was one play tonight that caught my eye and I am pleased to see it work out for the better.  There was a hit and run play called with BJ Upton on second and Eric Hinske up to bat.  BJ Upton was on the move and Hinske hit a beautiful ball to left center to move BJ to third. During the next at bat, Evan Longoria hit the ball to left field and scored Upton.

 

I guess you just have to play the odds sometimes when you are running the bases. But at  this early junction in the year, are the actions worth a possible loss……….we shall keep this in our sights and see what develops here.

 

 

Rays Former Player of the Day

 

Current second baseman Brendan Harris of the Minnesota Twins is batting .367.

Tonight he was 2-4 with a pair of singles. He also was the pivot man for a 5-4-3 double play to end tonights win for the Twins.    

 

 

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays Scribbles

I was trolling the Internet today looking for MLB news, and I found this great story about a prank pulled by Philadelphia Phillie’s Bret Myers pulled during Spring Training.  It happened in my hometown of Clearwater, Florida. This is the Spring Training site of the Philadelphia Phillie’s, and is located not even two miles from my home. 

It involves a young pitcher named Kyle Kendrick. The prank involved a few veterans like starter/closer Brett Myers and the entire coaching staff and some management. He also got punked by his agent in this prank. It is funny as all get out as the player was told he was traded to the “Giants” of the Japanese baseball league. His (pun) salary was $ 1.5 million dollars, thank god it was not Yen.

The next clip is a failed PDA by Philadelphia Phillie pitcher, Brett Myers. No, it isd not Brett Myer Day on my blog, just ran into a few really funny clips that I think can make your Monday feel better.Brett had a bit of problems up in Boston a while back during and Inter-league series with the Red Sox. He was out on the town, with his wife and made a bad character call. I do not condone what went down here, but I do know that he is making every step possible to help him in his situation.

I did my usual pilgrimage Friday morning out to the Rays Spring Training complex in St. Pete., and saw the pitchers’ and catchers’ come out in their new uniforms and greet the assembled fans and the new baseball season.
A few of the guys looked really eager to get out there and begin to finally throw some meaningful strikes and get set for “live” batting practice here in a few days. the first game of the spring is approaching fast.

Remember, we start our quest on Feb. 29th in our “turn-around” year.
Fitting we start playing on the Leap Year date, because this is the year we hope to change the national outlook on our squad. This is the year we hope to have a few heads pop sideways from Seattle to Miami. We are hoping in the next few months to finally have people at places like ESPN, love to show our highlighted without the jokes and puns included in the broadcast.

One of the guys I am keeping an close eye on will probably not make the Major League roster this year, but was a colorful addition to last years Southern Championship team in Montgomery, Alabama.Chris Mason is a major pitching talent for the Double-A Montgomery  Biscuits. He is known for his amazing pitching as well as his hair color.  Now everyone remembers the movie, “Summer Catch”, based on the Cape Cod Baseball League. 

In this movie, there is a hot shot pitcher who has his hair spiked in white and black to almost look like a Naruto character. Now Chris does not look exactly like this, but he did start the year as a platinum blond, shave it all off, go “goth” black, shave it off, and almost came out in a “pink caddy” look last year around the playoff time. Thanks Goodness his coach on the Biscuits vetoed that move. He wants to be on ESPN for talent, not showmanship.

Good thing this guy has some really great true talent, or this “hair statement” phase might not go well with the parent club. 

This next weekend is the 11th Annual Fan Fest at Tropicana Field. It is held only on Saturday and is a great place to get the vibe started for the upcoming MLB season.
Now, I have only missed 1 of these events, and that was by choice. It is a great time for kids of all ages.

It features a Pepsi/Rays Wall of Fame induction for the new class of fans that demonstrate a talent, special charm or endeavor for our hometown team. And yes, I have been on the wall for almost 5 years now. I am the guy who looks like a coach in his picture. It is a great time to see what spirit and commitment some of us have for our team. This is not a celebration of the “bandwagon” fan, but the true die-hard fans that can make or break the stands in a close game.

Along with this event, there will be baseball displays through the venue featuring items from Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb and other Rays notables like Wade Boggs. 

 Also, there will be tons of events for the kids. there will be a base running timed event, a batting cage area that looks like old Ebbetts field, and face painters and tons of events for all ages. There is also going to be a silent auction going on all day to benefit the “Rays of Hope” foundation. That is the arm of the franchise that awards grants and scholarships to deserving teams and players throughout the year in our community. I am a huge supporter of this cause and would love for everyone to also be a part of it in some way.

There will also be a tour of the Home Rays’ locker room. This will give you a glimpse of the area that these warriors get ready to face the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees’ firsthand.

Harold Reynolds of ESPN fame will be on stage in the Budweiser brew house taking questions and meeting with the masses. A few years ago, Peter Gammons was here before his injury, and he gave a fantastic speech on what he saw in our future as a team. It was a fantastic look into the mind of one of the greatest baseball writers, and recent inductee in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Last but not least, there will be an autograph signing involving the Rays players, and some veterans from the past. Players like Carlos Pena, Scott Kazmir, and Cliff Floyd will be signing for the fan.

If you have never been to this event, it is free parking and admission. Well worth the time and an experience the kids will remember for years to come. I will be there almost all day. Just look for the guy with the Cheshire cat grin, that would be me. See you there.

 

Recent Rays Moves………….My View from Rightfield

 

 

Wow!

Here it is a few days from the Winter MLB meetings in Opry-ville and we made a few needed moves that will help define our current and future goals for our squad.

 

First off, let me get that off my chest right now. I am not a Delmon Young hater in anyway, but, from my seat in Right Field, I could read some of his body language and tell  he was just buying time before the poisoned axe or his actions  dictated a move to new Fieldturf pastures.

 

 Have fun in the pillow-dome Delmon. You complained about not being able to clearly see balls at the Trop. Wait until you look up in that sea of lights and  true white roof at the Metrodome………..you will wish for the grey white roof of the Trop. I do wish him alot of luck in his future and success with that “Young” brothers curse of having a small attitude adjustment problem. His brother seemed to have finally gotten his attitude to shine with the Nats, let’s hope it doesn’t take Delmon as long to fine the right basepath to being the great teammate. Delmon’s departure will come back to haunt us at times,…………..but only for 6 or 7 games a year.

 

Now the players we got for Delmon are quality guys. Matt Garza is a young player that can br dialed into this rotation for years and will be a positive and needed upgrade to our constantly inproving and maturing pitching staff. Garza has not even hit the stride in his career yet, so the sky is the limit right now with him.

By the way, in Garza’s last 2007 start in, he pitched 6.2 innings with 4 hits and 1 ER against the Royals and Lost the game. We will take 6.2 inning outting any day with only 1 ER…….with the offensive power we have on our roster right now, it should always  be a “W” with the Rays.

 

The additon of Garza is great because this staff can grow into a huge AL East  pitching monster. Scott “The K” Kazmir is just getting started. James Shields was perfecting a few of his pitches last year, and gaining a boatload of knowledge about American League hitters.

 

 Those two will hold down the front of the rotation for a long time. Matt Garza is a great addition to help get those extra ( hopefully) 10-15 wins a year to get close to that hallowed 82-82 mark.

 

They only curious point to this trade is Jason Barlett,the second player involved in this trade.  He is destined to be just a stop-gap fill-in until protege’ Reid Brignac is ready to man the 5 hole for years to come. Bartlett  hit .265 last year, but only has 10 HR’s in his career and only 1,079 AB’s in his career.  He has primarily been a utility man during his career in the bigs, and this is his first extended playing time in the shortstop position.

 

Now he knows the role he will play here in Tampa Bay, but who knows, someone could come to camp to even replace him ( maybe Ben Zobrist ). Worst things have happened to our team.  Remember Danny Batista and Roberto Alomar retiring from our squad with only days to go in Spring Training. Losing these ex- All-Stars was viewed at the time as a failure by the team. It turned into the emmergance of Jorge Cantu and Jonny Gomes as “go-to” guys for the Rays for  that year.  So, sometimes a bad look can turn into a solid gold treasure when you only look at the surface of a situation. But that is why we play the games and do not award a trophy for roster potential, but game results.

 

With that in mind, let me wander a bit. and fantasize here.

 

 Can you go back home again in baseball? Not to a home per se, but to an old team that left you unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, and you selected to a good NL team that did not even know if you could play an entire season because of health and personal concerns.

 

Josh, I have always wanted success for you and knew that you could and would pull yourself together and show the world what a ture 5-tool player looks like up here. You went on to  prove you can play at the highest level and even make their opening day lineup in Right Field. the start of the season offensive expolsion you provided made everyone’s jaws dropped in awe. You finally had an entire country knowing you had it in you, and you proved it to everyone.

 

Hey Josh, I was there the day you came back after your off field problems that took you from baseball and the Rays. I was the Pepsi  guy in the locker room talking to Tim M. right before you went out the door of the training complex and first met the media.

 

I knew then that you had it again. That your head and attitude felt right to me, and I wanted the sky for you. Can you forgive the powers from beyond the Trop’s D-rings and just listen to them if they want to trade and include you on our squad.  I would cheer and enjoy watching you in Right Field again. And a huge plus that people forget, you can be the left-handed bat that Joe has been searching for in the lineup. Could be a sea of pluses for both the team, and yourself.

 

Okay, fantasy time is over……… Trade number two might not seem big on paper or even in reality, but it can be the jump start for each player. Elijah Dukes and Glen Gibson both needed a team that wanted them and believed in them. Now I do not think the Rays ever disliked or wanted harm for Elijah. His off-field and on-field distractions just took their toll on himself and the front office. Both parties knew that a change of scenery can work wonders for you, as a  person and a player.

 

 I wish you a cartload of homers in that new park Elijah. And we will not see you for  about 6 years. It take a few years for the schedule to again list the Nats’ as a interleague opponent again.So this trade might be a hidden blessing for you.

 

 Now Glen Gibson is  daily becoming a more polished pitcher.  Baseball America rated Gibson’s changeup and curve the best in the Nats’s farm system. Now we  know he has inherited talent and a great barometer a phone call away from him. Not every guy has a father that pitched in the majors. That could end up being a hidden blessing for him and the Rays.

 

Fantasy time again…………this time Minor edition.  The Rays’ top draft pick last year, David Price has set high expectations of himself and his progression in the Rays farm system this year. Now I will never argue with a Vandy grad, but I just want him to have a shot to know the systems and not rush his progress. When he gets called up to the Big club, he may  get hit like a pinball for a few weeks, but being a Southeastern Conference pitcher is a bit of a farm system in its own right. The best have had a rough beginning until they adapt and conquer the unique strike zones and brutal power potential of a MLB batters’ box.

 

I love to hear bravado and throwing caution to the wind, but I think a year in triple-A and a call up down the line could be his best medicine. There are a great amount of talent in Double-A and Triple-A right now biting at the bit to get that Spring Reporting date here and start to show their stuff. Jeff Neimann, Jeff Ridgeway, JP Howell,Mitch Talbot, and ex-big club guys like Chad Orvella, Jae Kuk Ryu want another shot up here as well. And that does not include the future power pitchers scattered in the Montgomery, Columbus, and Vero Beach teams. The future looks really bright for this team in the pitching department.

 

Having a prospective rotation of………Scott Kazmir, James Shields,Matt Garza, and add any of these  current teammates names,………Andy Sonnanstine, Jason Hammel and my favorite, Edwin Jackson to the mix, make for an exciting rotation problem  that could win anytime they hit the rubber.

 

Back to reality.  The addition of  closer extrodinaire, Troy Percival only makes the 6th through 9th inning  a more secure spot for the Rays.

 

What I am talking about is the fact that  Gary Glover,Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler are proven MLB relievers who can make it a challenge for any team to try and score after the starter leaves the game.  We have had great relievers before, but never in the middle roles.

 

 I think Reyes showed a huge amount of class in knowing that what is right for the team is great for the future of this squad. I think that is why they picked up his option. There is no doubts or questions he is a plus everytime he hits the mound for us.

 

 He might be the last guy to get the ball on most nights, but he is the first to know that this team has  within reach lofty goals, and they are within reach most nights, even in Fenway Park.

 

Now I have heard a bushel basket of rumors about additons and subtractions to this team. I want to address my views on a few subtractions here.

 

 Delmon might have been a player with a career that will bury his older brothers, but he also has the Young family cancer of that hidden danger and aggression that could ruin all that is good with……..a simple, casual walk to first.  Rays’ fans know what I am talking about here. I enjoyed watching Aubrey Huff hit for years here, but when he started to jog down to first is when he got that dreaded “Ben Grieve” epidemic. Maybe it is in the aura of Right Field that our players get that attitude and begin to falter right in front of us. 

 

Brendan Harris and Josh Wilson were the “blue collar” guys last year. Each guy experienced  a banner year. they got to play ball almost every night and did it the right way. Both got rewarded in different ways.

 

 Brendan got to play in another Dome, but has a great chance to be the everyday guy in the 5 hole up in Minn. Josh Wilson was put on the daily MLB waiver wire with the hopes he could pass through without a hitch. One big hitch, some people actually read those waiver wires daily.  The Pirates took a gamble, and got another quality infielder for their rebuilding ballclub. We wish you a ton of success Josh……you did a great job for the short time you were a Rays. Just a reminder, we did get Josh on waivers from the Nationals last year.  Karma?  you never know.

 

The last two trades I want to discuss did not happen as of the writing of this blog. That does not mean that the teams are not on their cellphone right now mending the deal or twisting the pieces to fit both teams.

 

 The First is the rumor of Edwin Jackson shipping off to Seattle for  1b/DH Ben Broussard. Now I am a huge “Action” Jackson fan, just ask him (lol). I liked Ben Broussard when he was an Indian, but I think his production has slowly seem a downward spiral. We could have done better even in a rumor than this one.  Another rumor had the Mets again this year coveting Jackson.  I do not know what the Mets’ still have left in their farm system. They have been active the last few years adding the missing pieces to their squad. But I am not sure their farm system is as strong as when we plucked Scott Kazmir from their clutches.

 

The second  non trade is a two-parter.It is the “non” trading of Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli.

 

I know that Carl would love to be a part of the first winning team in this franchises’ short history.  He should be a part of this celebration……front and center. Rocco I believe will come out of Spring Training in better shape, and better condition than any other time in his short Rays tenure.

 

 I used to be out at the Rays complex delivering alot, and when Rocco was mending from his surgeries and bumps and bruises, he was  always eagerly training and building himself up for his return. If you remember, Joe used to like to have Rocco in the dugout at home games and selected road series because of his great attitude and zest for success.

 

 I think this time it is totally personal for Rocco. I feel he knows that the team took a gamble and signed him to a long term deal. He is a proud guy, and he is probably the most excited about reporting in  Feb. 2008. Rocco stated in a news article he will relax this off season for a change. I believe that like I believe the “Clear” was a muscle relaxing ointment.  FDA approved too………right? He is probably getting in the best condition both mentally and physically for this team.

 

Right Field has been a concern for the big wigs upstairs since Delmon hit the road for the Great White north.  I think Jonny Gomes, Rocco, or even the tandem of Triple-A studs Fernando Perez or Jason Ruggiano can man it better than Cliff Floyd, Geoff Jenkins, or Darin Erstad. No disrespect to Darin, Luis Gonzalez, or Cliff. I even recently heard a rumor of my old baseball buddy Trot Nixon maybe being a good fit for us. He did hit great here against us, But remember fans,so did Jose Cruz Jr. when he was with the Jays and then got suddenly an average hitter at the Trop.

 

I think the Rays can have a perfect “wait and see” attitude here, unless Josh Hamilton is truly availiable….hint hint Andrew and Matt.

 

In conclusion, the non-tendered list of players will be announced in the coming weeks. This is a huge announcement that always has a few jaw dropping names on it. Things can change dramatically if a huge or unexpected name is released.  There always seem to be a  a few  high dollar drops, or a player with  health questions when  these names hit a wire……………We shall see.

 

 Kick the tires and look  real close under the hoods  there guys. This team is finally in a position to take quality over quantity in a players signing.

 

This team will have Carlos Pena back with a projected one year deal.  Pena has two years until he is a Free Agent, but both sides are working towards a agreement in place before the Spring Training report date.

 

I think this might happen to both prove both sides points.  His agent,Scott Boras says that “Carlos is just heating up”, and the Rays are hoping it was not  just a fluke year offensively for Pena. Either way, Carlos will be a rich guy come Feb. 2008.

 

 And we are a richer team both in knowing the talent is the best this team has fielded in its 11 years in the MLB. Sorry Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs and Jose Canseco. I wanted the “Hit Show” to be the thing that we measure our successes by, but that is not the case.

 

I will end this with a note about the hardest working Rays I have nkown in my years watching and following this team.  Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi  is always working with the pitchers and providing BP pitching and foul pole comments and analysis. I have known Scott for years and truly feel blessed to have ever met him. We have had a routine of him coming to give me some grief before every game down the Right field line after he tosses with the Rightfielders.

 

 We have a habit of tipping our caps after the last out before he heads into the locker room for the night. Scott is a guy who has invited me out a few times when I have gone on road trips to celebrate with himself and a few people on the team. I have cherished these moments in Seattle and Cleveland. I look forward to 2008 for both the Rays sucesses, and seeing my baseball buddy again manning the Bullpen with Bobby Ramos. As always Scott, I tip my hat to you for what you do for the Rays, and our  Section 138 fans group.

 

Only ( as of Dec 7th, 2008) 77 days until Pitchers’ and Catchers’ report ……..and I can’t wait until 8 am that day.

Kevin Costner and the Rays

 

On November 8th, the Tampa Bay  Rays will present the new look of the future to all in attendance in waterfront Straub Park in St. Petersburg, Florida. It has been billed as a event for all ages with special appearances by ex-players Fred McGriff and Mr Hall of Fame, Wade Boggs showing off the new duds.

 This date is only the first of two kick-off dates to showcase the new uni’s and logos. The following day, the crew hits the Tampa downtown Gaslight Park to again display the uniforms and give fans a venue to vent or shout their approval on the choices.

For years, the team has been working behind the scenes to update and translate the new look Rays to the public. They have done a massive retro fitting to the home stadium, the Trop., that has been converted from a average ballpark, to and interactive family friendly park with all the new bells and whistles.

 The next step was the on field look to complete the transition from the Vince Namoli era to the new Stu Sternberg baseball look.

 The uniforms are suppose to convey and old style that will accent the days of uniform lore. Gone will be the green lettering and the blue piping. Gone will be the green modern looking “Rays” logo on the outer gear and home uniforms. Also going the way of the dinosaur, will be the “Tampa Bay” lettering on the away jerseys.

 This is not the last stage of the transformation of the team. The on field product is taking leaps and bounds in confidence and skill. The record does not speak well of the developments, but we did play 17 games against Boston, and 7 against Cleveland this year. This is noted, since they are the two teams via to play the Rockies soon in the World Series.

 Oh, I forgot the main thing about that day.

 Kevin Costner, Mr Crash Davis and Billy Chapel of baseball cinema fame will be on hand to help in the unveiling of this new look. This is a guy who made our AAA franchise a hit with everyone from Cali to Maine. I think he personally made it cool to wear a Durham Bulls hat.

 I still wear mine daily to work.

 Kevin had a special place in my psyche. He has been in 2 of my favorite baseball related films, “Bull Durham“, and “For the Love of the Game.”

 Both are great films with a flair for the cocky and confident nature of the sport. I have the honor to have personal collectibles from both films and they are treasure possessions to me.  I am currently working on getting a “Meet and Greet”  with him for a photo op and a signing of the 1999 Baseball America magazine with him portraying “Bill Chapel” on the cover.

The event will conclude with a waterfront fireworks display, and a few hundreds hats and items throw to the masses.

The next evening, ____Rays players and coaches will be situated all over Tampa Bay to meet and greet fans at the Champs sporting good store locations to help the official public sales of the new look ___Rays merchandise.

I am looking forward to it like a kid at Christmas. I have been a fan even before our first pitch. I was a fan wanting and waiting since the first proposed “buying” of a team back in the days. For those who forgot, before we got our team, we tried to buy the Twins, A’s, Mariners,Giants, and White Sox.  All those efforts went by the wayside by either MLB rulings, or local ownership in the their respective areas finally bellying up to the bar and paying for their teams.

 I am excited to hear Costner’s band , “Modern West”.  If this band had half the talent that he has on the screen, they will rock the bay that night and send everyone home with a memory for the ages…….

 

 

 

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