Results tagged ‘ Will Rhymes ’

Remembering Some of the Fabric that Made the Rays 2012 Quilt

I sometimes think of the Rays unique ability to find players n the hidden recesses as a seamstress taking a piece of unused material and finding the right spot to be sewn it into their quilt pattern that will show promise to the overall Tampa Bay Rays team fabric. Sure there have been many patterns sewn and then discarded by Rays, but each addition had their purpose and conception in the Rays ever-changing roster design. From their inaugural line-up to their 2012 final game in October the Rays front office has found bits and pieces that have either been compliments or mute points in their want to again be a top the American League East.

Some have worked brilliantly and brought intense value to the Rays fold while a few seemed to be just parcels the team needed to fill voids due to injury or even production and then they were cut back out of the Rays pattern and set free again. The Rays in 2012 took a lot of these player patchwork pieces and again some fit nicely while others just served a short-term purpose and were discarded into the wind. 

Players like Brandon Allen, Brooks Conrad, Hideki Matsui,Will Rhymes, Drew Sutton,and last but not least, Rich Thompson. all had moments in the Rays fabric that either played to the Sun or escalated into darker moments. From stem to stern, this group of add-ons were key components of the Rays quest to find a cohesive offensive unit that somehow seemed to tear a hole into the team’s fabric at the worst possible moments. Some were brought in as stop-gaps to keep the fabric whole while other player’s mended their injuries or to plug gaping holes in the Rays defensive alignment.

Each member had their Rays sunburst highlight moments with some being at the plate (Allen, Matsui), while others were remembered for action on the field. 2012 was not the first time the Rays searched the MLB waiver wire or brought in players from the scrap heap who found ways to produce. Some had small bursts in the sunlight like Allen, Matsui and Thompson, but even the magic produced by Sutton and Conrad at Third Base as Evan Longoria healed could not save their spot in the Rays 2012 blanket. Rhymes showed the consistency the Rays desired at Second Base, but the Trade Deadline acquisition of Ryan Roberts made him also obsolete to their future plans.

Each had their own colorful blend into the Rays 2012 quilt and each should still be considered huge parts of the Rays 2012 fabric. Each of these players has seen his bit of material taken out of the Rays fabric with some finding other vistas while other await someone else wanting to add their pattern to their MLB team’s own clothe. None of these players might ever again don a Rays uniform, but their brief tenure with the team will be remembered by the Rays Republic as interwoven and special parts that were instrumental to the Rays success in 2012.

 

Zorilla 2.0

I am starting to believe in this full circle train of thought. That all things go into circles and come back again new and improved and somehow modified in their simplicity. I guess we can say the same for Tampa Bay Rays newly annoited SS Ben Zorbrist, or should I call him Zorilla 2.0?

It was exactly 6 years and 33 days since the first time a young and lanky SS prospect was traded to the Rays from the Houston Astros for a gruff and grumbling Aubrey Huff. Along with Zobrist the Rays received P Mitch Talbot, who we all know wears Cleveland Indians garb now. Zorbrist came to the Rays as a infield specialist, but his true specialty was playing the deep hole between second and third base both with range and a cannon attached to his shoulders.

Some say that his ability back then worked B J Upton around the infield from Third to Second before he finally found his home in Centerfield. But 2006 was a memorable season for the defensively maturing Zorilla as he spent only 18 games at Triple-A Round Rock and when Zorbrist and Upton were recalled by the Rays on August 1st after the Rays felt secure enough with the tag team of Upton and Zobrist at SS that they sent starting SS Julio Lugo to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline.

All Zorilla did was start 50 of the final 56 games….all at the Short Stop position. How good was the new acquired defensive neophyte? Well not 31 days later did Zorbrist and Rays catcher Dione Navarro stamp their own brand on Major League Baseball history when they recorded the only 2-6-2 triple play…EVER.


Many might have forgotten Zorbrist was the Rays Opening Day SS in 2007 starting 13 of the Rays first 17 games, then something happened and he fell out of favor and started only 2 of the team’s next 17 games before the Rays sent him down to Triple-A Durham and subsequently claimed SS Josh Wilson off waivers from Washington. Most see that as the memorial moment that the Rays might have set their sights on Zobrist being a key figure in the Rays scheme, just not front and center in their future infield.

Still, I think this is a great idea that has been kicked around for quite a while by Rays Manager Joe Maddon, who wanted to see Sean Rodriguez take ownership of the spot, but little things have de-railed the S-Rod experience for the Rays along with Rodriguez’s enemic .209 average with only 6 HR and 30 RBIs. Zobrist has a great first move towards the hole, and even with a few years of rust to shake off before he again find his optimal rhythm, I hate to say it, he is a vast improvement at the plate as well as in the field.

There are going to be a few rough patches as he again gains the trust in his abilities on the opposite side the the second base bag, but if anyone can do it and provide the leadership and positive mindset needed to be a consistent and agile SS, it has to be the Rays # 18.

It is a lot to ask of a player who doesn’t even make the Rays all-time Top-5 SS list in any category, but this is also the same stellar fielder who garnered a .989 fielding average and is not listed on either the SS or 2B all-time errors Top-5 list (Upton is #5 @ 2B with 12). So far in 2012, Zobrist has 8 errors in 961 total innings all around the Rays infield, and outfield. As a whole, the trio of Rodriguez, Will Rhymes and Elliot Johnson have combined for 31 errors with Zobrist tied with Rhymes for 3rd most on the team.

This is not to say errors will cease and life in the middle of the Rays infield will be a bed of roses. There will be challenges, possibly multi-error contests, but the leadership and offensive confidence of Zobrist should emulate enough so that the rest of the infield can feed off of Zorilla and grow tighter and stingier over the last portion of the season. The Rays have not put Zobrist’s finger in the dike hoping to stave off the total flooding of potential errors, but the maturation of Zobrist and his “can-do” persona should do miracles in a position in the field that was looking more like a gaping hole.

Seriously, to me it is a long time coming, and a position change that will not only get Zorilla consistent starts in one spot in the Rays field alignment, but it can finally give him a chance to possibly not have to lug around the huge equipment bag with 9 different gloves inside it. Who knows, if Zorilla takes to this position like he did in 2006 and makes it his own again…..It would be hard not to vote him again as the Rays team MVP like in 2009. Zorilla 2.0…….I like the sound of that more and more.  

First Half in the Books, Can’t Wait for Friday

Been a rough first half for the Tampa Bay Rays. Some things have gone as planned, while others have seemed to be spontaneous adjustments and hunches that either worked brilliantly or destined to be talked about, and dissected over and over again by the Rays faithful. Not once this season did Rays Manager Joe Maddon get to post the nine names he wanted on his line-up card together, the 9 names that he felt would make a difference, would bring him a consistent key to victory.

Not one line-up card in the first half carried all 9 of the Rays best players. That in itself proves something to me.  It also tells  a tale of how hard these first 86 games has been for the Rays coaching staff and Maddon to nightly present a consistent line-up card.  How frustrating  it must have been for Maddon over these first few months to consult his Medical staff before penciling in someone with clarity.  From B J Upton’s early season absence to Evan Longoria’s delayed return ( maybe mid-August), this team has been  a mire shadow of their 2011 selves.  

But with this All Star break comes a mini diversion of their 162 strife with a few days of life away from the ballpark to not only catch their breaths, but recharge and re-focus heading into their final 76 contests, I’m expecting to see some nervous energy and renewed excitement  bouncing from the roof catwalks to the outfield walls when the team again straps on their uniforms this Thursday in preparation of their second half kick-off against divisional rivals Boston.

Odd how that old Maddon mantra of “Fortune Favors the Bold” will again be in play this Friday as divisional rival Boston brings their bats and fans into the Trop. for a weekend shindig. Bold moves have been made all year-long with positional players doing a merry-go-round of nightly choices, with a few of them meriting longer looks and prolonged involvement for players who might not have made this squad if all were healthy. Still the seamstress known as Maddon has stitched some amazing embroidery so far this season with his patchwork quilt of players from Brandon Allen to Will Rhymes.

Got to hand it to the Rays skipper for keeping the positive front, going with his gut instincts and proving again and again sometimes stats do not lie about players and situations.  Only problem is Maddon will have to dig a little deeper over this final stretch, to find the pieces of the puzzle that fit each and every situation. Maddon has always preached the gospel of “Pitching sets the tone”, and it does, but when bats go silent or swing at dead air, even a brilliant pitching performance or quality start can be lost in the nightly box score. Maddon might have to listen closer to the Zim bear as he whispers into the Rays skipper’s ear.  Seize the day has to be paramount with  a hard-nosed defense again becoming the focal point of this club.

Might be kind of ironic that the group Train will perform on the Rays first night of their 10-game home festivities to begin their quest for another champagne soaked clubhouse and game dates in October. I got a nice vibe of reassurance from this squad in their final game in Cleveland on Sunday, that with all the strife, humbling injuries and peculiar results this team has had to endure over their first 86 games , the simple prospect of this team sitting just 1 game out of the American League Wild Card race is amazing.

I believe it was less than a month ago that the entire AL East was so jammed and reaching for the top spot you had to check the standing nightly to see who might be top dog.  This division currently has their entire corp of contenders at or above the .500 mark and are bunched within single digits from the top-tier to the cellar. Toronto and Boston currently are 9.5 games out of the top spot, but that could change as quickly as a 3-game win or losing streak by anyone in front of them. To put this into deeper prospective, if the Rays were to get swept in their upcoming series against Boston ( not going to happen), the Red Sox would not only jump over the Rays into third place, it could just as easily push the Rays from eyesight of the New York Yankees into the cellar.

Even with the Rays currently sporting a 45-41 record, ESPN has the Rays enthusiastically sporting a 26.8 % chance of again spilling champagne in late September.  For that to materialize, this squad has to re-mold itself into a more consistent fighting machine both on the field, and especially at the plate. Signs have been surfacing lately with Ben Zobrist rising his average up more than 50 points, Luke Scott finally getting the woodpeckers out of his bat bin, and Elliot Johnson no longer being the “secret weapon” no one knows about. Just a little more out of each of the Rays 25, and this club could be on track to again move onward and upward.

I know this Rays squad has it in them, we all saw it in their  early Walk-off victories that somehow got lost in all the clouds of frustrations both on the hill and at the plate.  When the Rays again get a few cogs of their offense back from their  injury hiatus, pieces of the overall Rays puzzle will click back in place. Matt Joyce is days away, Evan Longoria could be back by mid August, starter Jeff Niemann should begin some level of baseball activities soon, possibly being back before the roster expand in September.  This team realistically has their old magic just out of their reach right now, but it could be back sooner than we all imagine.  For now, patience is not only a virtue for this team, it is a necessity.

Tropicana Field’s Tract has an Unfortunate History, but Maybe Not “Cursed”.

When people asked me if Tropicana Field is cursed, I sometimes do not know what to tell them. I guess it depends on what you consider a “curse”, and what you consider a flaw in judgment or design. Either way, I think the tilted cap in St. Petersburg, Florida has had it run of bad luck, obscure historical factions, and maybe a few disgruntled former residents both in and out of the dirt.

The word “cursed” to me definitely bring out negative energy, and with the rash of recent injuries, some downright insane, I can see the logic for people thinking this place might need a exorcism or sage cleansing ritual. Cursed is a powerful word. One that drums up evil intentions and vibrations that can come from both above or below the sandy soil of this region. For that matter, possibly the Trop is cursed per se, but only because of the past inhabitants or procedures done on this site before the stadium was erected.

People forget the long history of the corner of 16th Street and First Avenue South. Before the city of St. Petersburg decided to erect this futuristic arena to attract the eye of a Major League Baseball tenant to come play among the filtered Sun streams in 72 degree splendor, there was plenty of prior notion and movement that could have conjured up hostile spirits both dead and alive.

Some tales say a resident of a Caribbean nation practiced rituals condemning the new construction on the site of her former low-cost housing development bulldozed down after city officials ruled it was in the way of the progress of baseball. Whispers went through the wind that such rituals were performed on the construction grounds and might be the basis of any curse.


Still even earlier before the housing unit was even a figment in anyone’s mind, 3 different cemeteries called this area their final resting places. Oakland, Evergreen and Moffet occupied the rolling acreage that is now home to the cars, trucks of those gathering to watch Tampa Bay Rays games. These cemeteries held the final resting places of Civil War veterans, founding community leaders of this city, and was the local burial ground for the Sugar Hill and Gas Plant district long before the city spread out towards the Gulf waters.

In 1958, some 150 interned souls from the Moffet,225 from Evergreen were suppose to be transferred to the local Lincoln Cemetery to make way for the impending low-cost housing community. There is little or no reference to what might have happened to the souls who occupied plots in the Oakland Cemetery, even after the construction started on the Laurel Park housing complex. Ironically, this was the same complex razed in 1990 to make way for the new stadium.

People forget this site used to be the City of St. Petersburg’s Gas Plant site in which two steel towers supported massive natural gas cylinders that towered over the region long before the downtown development went skywards. The aftermath of this contamination left by the residue of decades of gas deposits made the soil more like muck and it’s leakage down into the soil cost the St. Petersburg taxpayer’s a large sum of money to clean this area up enough to build a stadium without health concerns now or in the future.

Even as construction began on the 175 off-ramp from I-275 in February 1976, a construction crew found old leg,arm and a ribcage while doing road prep. Old coffins, gravestones and even a human skull were discovered by road crews preparing the surfaces for the impending Interstate finger into the heart of the town. All within a Carlos Pena Home Run distance from the Trop’s Rotunda. Some even say unmarked graves, and their residents might still be scattered 6 feet under in and around the Trop’s location. But even if these interned souls linger under the asphalt and cement, this doesn’t make the Trop or the Rays “cursed”.

Sure bad vibes could still be lingering from past souls, displaced families and resident of Laurel Park, but that probably doesn’t have any relationship to the recent odd happenings with this team or its players. Will Rhymes fainting into the arms of First Base Coach George Hendricks did not show or maintain possession features. Jeff Keppinger getting blasted in his right foot by a foul ball while sitting in the Rays dugout doesn’t portray demonic intentions or a “curse” interaction.

Sometimes the action of someone saying a place is “cursed”, filled with negative energy or evil intent can spread like wildfire and then some begin to believe not only the hype, but the past lore that pre-dated this stadium. The recent run of bad luck or cursed behavior witnessed by the Rays players and their fans is more psychological than physical right now. Sure injuries are happening, but is the spirit of St. Petersburg founder John Williams causing them. Could a Civil War veteran be the cause of all this recent injuries, or is it just the plain fact this team has been riding a lucky star for so long, a little mis-guided mojo gets referred to as a curse.

It all depends on your beliefs on if the past leads us during our present, or if we are deemed to repeat the past complete with good, evil and occasional accidents guided by prior events or entities. I guess the reality is that each of us has to decide for themselves their own conclusions, reasonings or justifications for the recent injury plague. Whatever you final conclusion be it a curse, coincidence or just plain bad mojo, Tropicana Field will always have distractors, haters and people who want to conjure up this stadium’s evil catwalks, demonic light fixtures and the horrific sight of Raymond’s blue fur. Everyone has their opinion, but I do not think this team is cursed or even damned…….anymore.

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