Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Aki Trade: What it means for the Rays.

The Tampa Bay Rays wasted no time making sure they didn't get stuck with Akinori Iwamura's half-million dollar buy out option.  The team traded the 2nd baseman to the Pittsburgh Pirates for right-handed reliever Jesse Chavez.

So, what does the deal mean for the Rays? In the short term the Rays unload Aki's salary, opening up more payroll for next year. In the long term, the Rays get a reliever that is in their control for the next few years.  Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman says Chavez has a real upside. 

The Pirates used Chavez as a setup man late in the season. He was able to get some outs against lefties, but had trouble against righties. He does have a 96-mile-per-hour fastball and the Pirates were considering a possible closer role for Chavez.

It's still to early to envision exactly what Chavez's roll will be in the Rays bullpen.  I think the main problem with the Rays bullpen is the lack of a closer. If they get a closer, the rest of the pieces could fall in to place.

It's sad to see the Aki era end in St. Petersburg. Who can forget some of the big hits he had in 2008? He'll also be immortalized in Rays' lore as the man who made the final out in the 2008 ALCS.

This trade opened my eyes to one other thing. No matter how much I complain about the Rays and their payroll, the Pirates and their fans have it much worse.  Aki became the highest paid Pittsburgh Pirate yesterday.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Color chart needed to figure out Rays ticket prices next year

The Rays today released their 2010 ticket prices and it looks like you're going to need a color chart to go along with your schedule to see how much a ticket will cost.

The Rays will have five categories of individual ticket pricing: Diamond, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze.

Here's how it breaks down:
  • Diamond games are all weekend games against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Tickets for those games start at $20 for Upper Reserved and TBT Party Deck. The Rays will play a Diamond series against the Yankees in the first week of the season. After that, the Rays don't have a Diamond series until the last week of July. In all, there are 9 games with Diamond pricing: 6 vs the Yankees, 3 vs the Red Sox.
  • Platinum games include all other Saturday games, weekday games versus the Yankees and Red Sox as well as Opening Day versus the Balitmorie Orioles on April 6. Platinum tickets start at $18 for Upper Reserved/ TBT Party Deck. There are 20 Platinum games.  If the Rays continue their summer concert series, those would be Platinum games.
  • Gold games are all Friday and Sunday games that don't involve the Red Sox and Yankees.  There are 20 Gold games. Tickets for Gold games start at $12. That's the biggest drop between color codes. For example you can see the Royals Friday, May 20th for $12. The same game will cost you $18 on Saturday night.
  • The last two price categories is the Silver and Bronze. Silver includes all the rest of the weekday games, except for the 5 Bronze games. The Bronze games are April 29 vs Kansas City, May 17 vs Cleveland, June 9 vs Toronto, July 8 vs Cleveland, and August 2 vs Minnesota.

As for free parking, it looks like it's going to get a lot tighter next year.  The Rays will still allow vehicles with four or more passengers to park for free-- on Bronze and Sunday games. For all other games it's just the first 100 cars with four or more people. Other than that, you'll have to pay $10 to $20.

Despite being a little complicated, the Rays seem to be trying to price their tickets along with demand.  We all noticed last year how weekday games were all slow, while the weekends did real well.  It looks as though the Rays want to increase their profit a bit on the weekend games, while trying to encourage people to go to weekday games by offering discounted tickets.  We'll see how it works.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rays get new hitting coach

The Rays named Derek Shelton their new hitting coach today. He replaces Steve Henderson who was let go after the season. Shelton comes over from the Cleveland Indian organization (a team that has had some success against the Rays lately).  The 39-year-old has been their hitting coach since 2005.

Shelton does have some playing experience. He played 2 years in the Yankee organization as a catcher before an injury derailed his career.

I say it's good to see a little shake-up in the organization. I hope Shelton can keep the bats going and figure out a way to turn Pat back into the Bat.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Congratulations, Bossman Junior

It's rare that a team playing out the streak give you something to really root for, but credit the Rays for showing that there is still life left in this organization. Last night, the Rays made a statement to the Yankees. They not only kept CC Sabathia from getting his 20th win, they punched the Yankees in mouth with a good old fashioned butt-whuppin'

And, of course, the star of the night was Mr. Melvin Upton, aka Bossman, Junior.  The Bossman continued his hot streak in games that don't count by hitting for the cycle. Watching the game you could just feel it coming, especially after Bossman got his homer. The crowd at the Trop gave Bossman a standing ovation as he headed into the history books as the first Ray ever to hit for the cycle.

Overall it was a nice win for the Rays, but they still have a long way to go.  The Yankees are a real good team and the Rays are going to have to play great baseball to keep up next year

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ex-Rays helping other teams in 2009 playoffs

This time last year Rays' fans were sporting "Beast of the East" and "Playoff Bound" shirts. Kevin Costner was recording songs. And the Rays were the darling Cinderella story for the national media. This year, the Rays are battling just to stay above .500 for the year. It's been a disappointing run, but the future looks bright for next year.

While Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, James Shields, and the rest of the team will be hitting the golf course very soon, several ex-Rays will be trying to make a post-season impact in other uniforms. So it may be worth watching some of these guys as the post season gets going.


Eric Hinske, New York Yankees - Who knew that having Hinske on your roster was a precursor to winning the AL East. Apparently, someone told Hal Steinbrenner who acquired Hinske from the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this year. Yankee fans appreciate his workman like approach. This is Hinske's third AL East Championship in a row. Maybe the Rays should look at bringing him back next year.




Rocco Baldelli, Boston Red Sox - It was great seeing Rocco get the chance to play some playoff baseball in a Rays uniform. But, questions about his medical condition made him expendable for the Rays 2009 plans. However, it's good to see him get the chance to play some post season ball with the team he grew up watching.



Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that this one is the most disturbing to me. I still think the Rays season went in the tank after the Rays got rid of Kazmir for several prospects who weren't ready to help the team.

While we won't know how the Rays made out until years down the road, we will soon see how the Angels made out on the deal. They plan on using Kazmir as their starter in Boston for Games 3 or 4 in the ALDS.





Edwin Jackson, Detroit Tigers - Granted the Tigers haven't clinched, but E-Jax is still playing meaningful games in October. Of course, one could argue that Matt Joyce played a big roll in the Durham Bulls championship run. But, I won't go there.

I must admit I wasn't too distraught over the trade when it happened. But, following the Kamzir move, I've been looking at this trade in a little different light. Maybe Joyce will get the chance to play for an AL Championship next year.






Trevor Miller, St. Louis Cardinals - I wonder if the Rays wouldn't like to have this guy back in their bullpen this year. His whopping 2.10 ERA would've looked real nice when the Rays' bullpen was blowing games. I think his loss hurt this team more than they expected. J.P Howell and Miller did a good job of locking down lefties. This year, they were replaced by the Dynamic Duo of Brian Shouse and Randy Choate. See the problem?


Jason Hammel, Colorado Rockies - I'm sure not too many Rays' fans shed tears over the loss of Jason Hammel to the Colorado Rockies. Our 2008 long reliever did a good job in the back end of the Rockies rotation. Him and his teammates are busy trying to fight off the pesky Atlanta Braves.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Caption This: Late September at the Trop!



They say a picure is worth a thousand words. If so, I wonder what this picture says to Rays ownership?

Please feel free to leave your caption below.

Monday, September 28, 2009

One advantage of not making playoffs: Cheap Rays gear!


Got this Nike shirt for $7.99 at JC Penney's over the weekend.


I was a bit saddened on Friday when I received an e-mail from Stub Hub advertising MLB playoff tickets. It struck me for a moment just how exciting last year was. Once the Rays had clinched their playoff berth, I was running around buying shirts, looking for playoff tickets, planning television specials, etc. This year, I can barely bring myself to watch the final few games. Yesterday I even chose to suffer through the Buccaneer humiliation at the hands of the Giants before finally turning on the Rays.

However, there is one bright side to this year's performance: Cheap gear! On Saturday, as I was tooling around town with my wife, I realized just what kind of deals are already out there. Think about it, before last year the Rays gear didn't sell too well so department stores didn't stock up. However, they got caught off guard during the playoff run and couldn't keep the stuff on the shelf. So, when this year started, the retailers stocked up early and often.  And now that there isn't going to be a playoff frenzy, they're going to get stuck with Rays merchandise they can't move during football season.

So, I picked up the shirt pictured above for $7.99.  The price tag said $9.99 which I was happy to pay for a Rays Nike T-shirt. But, then when I got to the cash register, it rang up for another 20% off. Good deal. There were about 15 shirts just like that on the rack at the J.C. Penney's in Spring Hill.

Later on that day, at Dick's Sporting Goods, they had a Scott Kazmir white Rays jersey on sale for $19.99. That's a bargain, even if you don't like Kaz. For that price, you can cut off the name and have a great home jersey to wear to the Trop.

I guess the Rays losses this year will bode well for my wardrobe. I already put in a request to the Mrs. for one of the Blue Red Sox beater jersey shirts for Christmas. I could also use another hat or two. So, celebrate the losses by stocking up. I'm pretty sure the retailers will be much more conservative next year and you won't ever see these kind of deals again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

2010 Outfield: Bossman stays, CC goes




Now, that's the Bossman we've been looking for all year. Last night BJ Upton put on a big show, going 2 for 3 with 3 RBI's in the Rays come from behind win over the Seattle Mariners. He also made a spectacular game-ending catch to make sure the Mariners didn't rise from the dead.  And Bossman's performance last night is a perfect example of why Bossman may be in the 2010 outfield without Carl Crawford.

I know. You wish Bossman would just go away. He's been so disappointing. I've heard over and over again from Rays fans that the team needs to part ways with their center fielder. Last year, it was Fernando Perez that was going to take his spot. I hear Rays fans whispering now about Desmond Jennings. The chorus calling for the ouster of Bossman grows with each strikeout, with each base running mistake, and each day his average sits below .250.  Heck, I was even mocking him earlier in the year for not being able to break the .200 mark.

Yet despite fan protests and despite the rough season, I fully expect BJ Upton to be starting center field for the Rays in April. And it could be an outfield without Carl Crawford. That's right. I said it. An outfield without CC that includes the Bossman.

Blasphemy, you say! CC is a fan favorite. The team would never trade him! Why would they keep Bossman over the face of the franchise, Carl Crawford? The reasons: Money and risk.

Right now, BJ Upton is arbitration eligible for the 2010 season. Based on his performance this year, I would expect the Rays to come out pretty good when it comes to Bossman's 2010 salary.  With Bossman's talent, that could make him a real bargain. A bargain they couldn't get anywhere else. So if the Rays think 2009 was anomaly and not proof of Upton's future, than they would be crazy to move him now.

On the other side, there's CC. He was one of the Rays most consistent players, he's a fan favorite, he was even the All-Star MVP. Yet, the Rays may still move him.  CC is one of the "big 3" when it comes to salary next year. CC, Carlos Pena, and Pat Burrell are expected to make almost $30 dollars combined next year. CC would be worth $10 million.  One of these guys has to go.

While Pat Burrell would be the obvious choice, it may not be as easy as you think. The Rays would have to find a team willing to take on the salary of a guy who appears to be the shell of his former self.  John Romano from the Times suggested that the Rays  talk to the Cubs about trading Burrell for Milton Bradley. However, that would only work if the Rays can convince the Cubs that American League pitching and the DH role are behind Burrell's slide.  The Rays would also have to decide if bring a guy like Bradley to the team is good for clubhouse chemistry. At the end of the day, the Rays may be stuck Burrell for at least half the season.

As for Carlos Pena, I think the Rays are too thin at 1B to get unload Pena.  He's their power-hitting left-handed bat with a good glove at 1B. I just don't think the Rays have a guy that could step in and take his place.  They could check out the free agent market, but are they really going to find any value. They may be better off just keeping Pena.

That leaves Carl Crawford. He's coming off a great year and his value may never be higher. The Rays have plenty of outfielders waiting in the wings that could take over in left field, including Ben Zobrist or Desmond Jennings.  The Rays could get some real good ball players for CC at bargain rates. It could also leave the Rays in a position to address some of their other glaring needs like catcher and bullpen.

Would I like to CC gone? Absolutely not. Crawford is the face of this franchise, both the good and bad years. We've watched him grow up along with the team. But, I think the Rays are going to put aside emotion and look at CC's value strictly be the numbers. Ownership has already show that they can be very cold when it comes to making moves (trading Kazmir). As long as I keep the $$$$ in mind, moving CC while keeping Upton makes perfect sense.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rays are eliminated from playoff contention

I guess I shouldn't really take it too hard, this is only the 2nd time in the Rays history that they were even this close. But, last night's loss to the Seattle Mariners officially shut the door on the Rays chances of defending their championship.  I think it was a little ironic that the Seattle Mariners snuffed out their playoff chances. This is the same team that brutalized the Rays in mid-August in a series that could've been the catalyst that led management to trading Scott Kazmir.

Now that the 2009 season seems to be winding down, it's time for the Rays to look toward the future. Management has some very tough decisions coming up in the off-season. And depending on how the American League playoffs play out, the Rays could see their divisional rivals loading up even more (just imagine what would happen if the Yankees some how get eliminated).  

Between now and this time next year, the Rays need to figure out how to capture just a little bit of that magic they had from last year. That way, we can enjoy a little more post-season magic ourselves.


A Glimpse at the Future: Durham Bulls win Triple-A Championship


Can you identify these guys? (Wendy Eagan/MiLB.com)



I got the rare opportunity last night to watch the Durham Bulls plays some baseball.  The Bulls beat the Memphis Red Birds 5-4 in the Triple-A National Championship game. The game was televised on ESPN 2. As someone who mostly focuses on the Rays, it was a good  chance to get a glimpse at the Rays' future. All I can say is that I'm excited about that glimpse!

Minor league pitcher of the year Jeremy Hellickson took the mound to start the game for the Bulls. The 22-year-old looked impressive only allowing 2 hits in 5 innings. He has good control and command. I could easily see this guy throwing for the Rays real soon. I was impressed with his mound presence and the way he was able to get outs in a workman like way. He was voted the game's MVP for shutting down a hot Memphis Redbirds lineup. I"m not sure why Bulls manager Charlie Montoya took him out, but either way I enjoyed watching him.

I also came away real impressed with outfielder Desmond Jennings. This guy would look real good in Rays gear, tearing up the base paths and patrolling the outfield.  Jennings got the first RBI of the game. He knocked Raimer Olmeda in on a double. What I really like was how he hustled to stretch what should've been a single into a double. Later in the game he won a foot race with the Memphis pitcher to the first base bag, allowing another run to score. I will tell you now that Jennings give the Rays options in the outfield in the upcoming months.

And then there's Sean Rodriguez or S-Rod as he's known in some circles. As many of you know, I'm not the biggest fan of the Scott Kazmir trade. But, S-Rod could make me forget real easily.  He led of the 4th with a solo homer, showing off his nice swing and his ability to come up big.  He played 2nd last night, but I'm not sure what position the Rays are projecting him for in the majors. ESPN 2 interviewed S-Rod after the game and he's a real well-spoken guy. Maybe he can help lessen the pain from the Kazmir trade.

All in all, it was an interesting experience watching the Bulls play on TV last night. Besides Hellickson, Jennings, and A-Rod, I also got to see our old buddies Joe Dillionaire and The Greatness that is Michel Hernandez. In fact, Hernandez lead of the bottom of the 11th with a double that turned out to be the winning run.  I also got to see Matt Joyce and Justin Ruggiano in the outfield. I'd really like to see Joyce step it up in the off-season to earn a roster spot next year.

As the big team winds down it's season, it's good to know that there are some bright spots in the Rays future. I look forward to seeing many of these guys next spring as they battle it out for a roster spot in the show.


(Wendy Eagan/MiLB.com)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Durham Bulls or Tampa Bay Rays



It figures, every fall I end up with some sort of  TV viewing conflict. But tonight it's not about NCIS or Hell's Kitchen, it's about the Tampa Bay Rays versus the Durham Bulls. Tonight, the Rays take on the Seattle Mariners in a game that really doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. However, the Durham Bulls get a nationally televised game on ESPN 2 when they take on Memphis for the Triple A Baseball National Championship.

The Bulls game offers several things for me to watch for the future of the Rays. First off, Jeremy Hellickson is the starting pitcher for the Bulls tonight. He's the Rays minor-league pitcher of the year and a guy I've heard plenty about, but never seen. Also, I could get my first decent looks at Sean Rodriguez and Desmond Jennings. Both could be on the Rays' roster next year. I also get to see some of my favorite fringe Rays players, such as Joe Dillionaire, The Greatness that is Michel Hernandez, and that Matt Joyce guy that got traded for E-Jax.

Tonight will give me a great chance to evaluate some of the Rays future with my own eyes. While it may be only one game, I trust my eyes much more than I trust some "Baseball Prospects" ranking. Some e-mailers and twitter friends have accused me of being naive when it comes to the Rays prospects. I will agree that I don't get as fired up about prospects in the minors as others. However, I refuse to rate a player that I've never seen with my own eyes in a game situation. I'm not going to get excited about a PTBNL because some guide says he's a great prospect. Maybe that makes me less of a fan, but honestly I don't care.

Tonight, I will get to look at some of these guys and make my own opinions (as much as I can in one game). I will also get the chance to see a team actually playing for something. It's just too bad that the only thing the Rays are playing for is a winning season.

Durham Bulls vs Memphis Redbirds Tonight 7pm ESPN 2

Monday, September 21, 2009

Too bad the Rays couldn't play Toronto all year long

Watching the Rays complete the sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend, I couldn't help but wonder what could've been.  The Rays have had some serious success against the Blue Jays this year, taking 14 out of their 18 match-ups. If only the Rays could equal that success against the other the AL East, we would be making playoff plans right now.

It's good to see the Rays taking care of business as the season winds down. I think it's very important for this team to end successfully this year to build toward next year.  The better they do right now, the more confidence the young pitching staff will have in April.

Two weeks from today, the 2009 season will be history. The Rays and their fans will be watching the playoffs from home. Let's hope we're watching with an eye toward next year.

Fan Photos:  Thanks for those of you who've sent in some photos for the project I'm working on. But, I still need more. I'm looking for any photos: fans, players, or anything else having to do with the Rays. You can e-mail them to m_weber @ tampabay.rr.com

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Magic Number: 7 and a call for submissions!

With wins on Thursday and Friday the Rays have knocked down their magic number to 7.  With 7 wins, they can ensure themselves of an over .500 record in the year after the World Series, only their 2nd winning season in franchise history.  Now, if they can just keep this kind of momentum going for next season, I may hold out some hope of a return of the magic for 2010. Go Rays!

Call for submissions: Like some of the Rays last week, I'm already looking ahead to the off-season. I'm working on a project and I need your help. I'm looking for any fan pictures you have from the 2009 season. Go through your "my photos" folder or wherever you keep them and find your best pictures. 

Don't forget to scroll through your camera phone as well.  You can send them to me at m_weber @ tampabay.rr.com. Make sure you put "Fan Photos" in the subject line so they don't get lost in my inbox. I'll be using these for a project you should see around the beginning of next year. I won't use them without getting your permission first, but as a Rays fan, I'd like to see what kind of pictures you have. Thanks in advance!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Was last year the fluke? 2009 Rays = 2007 Rays

Rays look much like the 2007 version right now. Photo courtesy of Stephanie.

To think, I thought these kind of stretches were a thing of the past.  Long losing streaks. Blown games. No offense. Players fighting in the clubhouse. Season-ending injuries. Bullpen pitchers who can't get anybody out. Career minor leaguers in the starting line-up. For a moment last night, I thought the time machine had slipped me back a few years.

Welcome to the 2009 Rays, a version of the 2007 Rays with higher expectations and a better winning percentage in June. Other than that, they seem to pretty much be the same team. And now that the Rays are at .500 with 16 games to play, they're in danger of following their magical 2008 season with a real clunker. It's a shame really, this team had all the potential to make life interesting all year. Instead, they bagged it when it counted most.

I'm not sure what's going on in the locker room right now. Nobody seems to know what prompted Carl Crawford and Pat Burrell to argue in the clubhouse before yesterday's game. But, the fact that they did argue tells me a lot about the mood in the locker room.  I'm sure the players are just as fed up as we are about their performance. But the difference, they can do something about it.

I wrote yesterday that the Rays need to play out the streak with pride and professionalism. They need to play each game like they're still in the hunt.  Joe Maddon needs to find a way to motivate a bunch of guys who seem to have packed it in. They need to do what they can to stay over .500 so this team doesn't become some sick footnote to history. My biggest fear is that the true footnote in Rays history won't be this year, it was last year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Round 1: Pat the Bat vs Carl Crawford

Update: 11:30 PM After the Rays walk-off loss to the Baltimore Orioles, Pat Burrell left the clubhouse before it was open to the media. Crawford said he's not talking about the pre-game incident. This is from Marc Topkin of the St. Pete Times Twitterfeed.



Marc Lancaster from TBO is reporting that some sort of shouting match took place between Pat Burrell and Carl Crawford this afternoon. The two exchanged words in the clubhouse. According to Lancaster, both players met with manager Joe Maddon, who said "everything's good."

No, Joe. Everything's not good. This clubhouse is falling apart at the seems. I don't know the details behind this altercation, but the lack of leadership on this team is becoming more and more obvious each day. These are still important games. They're going to set the tone for the off-season and next season.  The fade that everyone expected of the Rays has finally come to fruition. The next few days will show whether this team will continue down the drain or try to salvage something.

The most annoying giveaway since the Cow Bell

Red Sox fans if you thought the Cow Bells were obnoxious, wait until you see this weekend's giveaway. The first 10,000 kids 14 and under will receive a Rays Rattle Drum.  This drum is the same one featured in the Karate Kid 2.  Upon getting the drum in my hand, I proceded to go Mr. Miagi with it and learned just how quick the drum can annoy people. My co-worker was ready to pull it out of my hand and stomp it. In fact, I had to go in to a sound proof edit booth just to shoot the video. Otherwise, I risked my life.


video

The Rays are also giving away a Matt Garza figurine, similar to the Evan Longoria Rookie of the Year that was given out earlier this year. All fans to Saturday night's game will get the figurine and also a chance to see Tito Nieves perform in the Rays 10th post-game concert.



Back to the Garza figurine. I figured that most of you, like me would wonder how authintic it was. So, I've included a close-up of the goatee. You decide. I didn't see any sunflower seeds dripping of the chin.

I couldn't resist having Garza pitch in front of Kazmir's good-bye newpaper ad

That's what she said: Jan from the Office to be Rays fan for a day


In order to kick-off their their new syndicated runs of the Office, More TV 32 is bring Melora Hardin to Friday night's game versus the Toronto Blue Jays fans. Office fans know Melora as Michael Scott's former boss Jan. Hardin will throw out the first pitch on Friday and sing during the 7th inning stretch.
Just the other day, I saw Hardin in the move "17 Again" (don't hate on me, I have a daughter who loves High School Musical). It made me wonder, just how much work she has done throughout her career. A quick look on imdb shows that Hardin has quite an expansive resume.

Here are some highlights:
As a child actor, she had several guest appearances on shows such as Different Strokes and Love Boat before getting a recurring roll on Little House on the Prairie.

In a role that might have made her a star sooner, Hardin was set to play McFly’s love interest in “Back to the Future” (1985), but was recast because of her height when her co-star to be, Eric Stolz, was let go and Michael J. Fox, who was shorter than Hardin, was given the lead.

In the nineties, she appeared in the movie "The Rocketeer," along with appearances on Quantum Leap, Caroline in the City, and Friends.

In 2004, she began to be seen on the critical fave “Monk,” playing wife to the obsessive compulsive investigator (Tony Shaloub).

Since getting cast in the office, she's appeared in “Thank You for Smoking” (2006), “27 Dresses” (2007) and “17” (2008) with Zac Efron and Matthew Perry.

10 things I want to see from Rays as the season ends

Photo courtesy of Stephanie
With 17 games left, the Tampa Bay Rays 2009 season is quickly coming to a close.  For most of the season, the Rays were chasing the Yankees and the Red Sox. However, recent events have left the team out of the division race and on life support for the wild card. Needless to say, it's almost time to look toward next year.

As Rays fans have learned through the years, it's never easy watching a team try to play out the season with nothing on the line. For the most part, the Rays will be playing teams that are already out of it. So, as fans, what do we look for as the season winds down?

Here's my list of 10 things I want to see over the next couple of weeks:

Hustle and Heart. How the Rays finish this season could go a long way into how they start the next season. I think it's very important for them to show hustle and heart.  Guys can use this time to show management that they haven't given up and they want to try again next year.  When Joe Maddon and management meet after the season, they're going to remember who showed up and who didn't.

Finish above .500. This should be a big goal of this team. If they somehow let this season end with a losing record, all the strides they've taken to be respectable will be gone. History won't remember that they were 12 games over .500 going into September. All history will remember is that a team that went to the World Series in 2008 ended with a losing record in 2009. Meanwhile, Rays fans will be left with only one winning season to remember.

Younger Bullpen. I'm not sure about you, but I'm ready to see some of the newer faces in the bullpen. Let's see some more Dale Thayer or let's see some Andy Sonnanstine in the bullpen.  I'm not sure who else the Rays can bring in once Durham's season's is over, but I think the Rays should try some guys in some new roles.

Wade Davis innings. This is a good chance for the young Mr. Davis to get some innings under his belt and maybe avoid some of the early season troubles that rookies David Price and Jeff Niemann faced this year. If he can get the kinks out now and have some things to think about in the off-season, maybe he can slip right into the number 4 spot in the rotation next year.

Home crowd love.  I'm guessing Tropicana Field isn't going to be busting at the seems these last few games, but this team should show some love for the die hards that are still supporting the team in the end.  Keep that home record looking pretty good and look forward to next year.

Finish in at least 3rd.  The Rays also need to make sure they stay ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays in the standing. Finishing 3rd looks much better than finishing 4th. The Rays have a home series against the Jays where they can make sure that happens. Plus, because of a bet I made earlier in the season, I get to go to a Bucs game for free as long as the Rays finish in third. If they drop to fourth, I'm buying tickets.

Bartlett's Average. I wouldn't mind seeing Jason Bartlett pass Derek Jeter in the AL Batting Average list. Right now Jeter is at .332, Bartlet at .327. A couple of good games could make the Bartlett the best hitting shortstop in the AL.

Longo's RBI's.  With a couple of good games against some bad pitchers, Evan Longoria could make it a race for the RBI title. Before long, Joe Girardi's going to start giving off days to some of his players here and there. Longo needs to show up and knock people in. It would be nice having the RBI leader on the Rays.

Yankee Killers. I know the Yanks may be shutting it down before the final series against the Rays at the Trop. But, I would like to see the Rays redeem themselves a bit against the Bronx Bombers. The Rays haven't really played the Yanks well since early last season. A sweep or a series win to end the season could give the Rays some good Karma going into next year.

Matt Joyce, Reid Brignac, Fernando Perez, Shawn Riggans, Sean Rodriguez, etc. I'd like to see a good sampling of these guys in the next couple of weeks. I'm not suggesting that Joe Maddon go all Durham on us. I'm just suggesting he mixes these guys in a little with an eye toward next year.



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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Rays 2010 Schedule Posted

The Tampa Bay Rays released their 2010 schedule today. I normally don't study the schedule too much before the season. Baseball isn't like the NFL where you can start making predictions based on next year's schedule.

 
With that being said, here are some of the things I noticed on first glance:

 
  • The Rays start 2010 at home on April 6th against the Baltimore Orioles. Not a bad way to start the season, although they play 6 of their first 9 against the O's. I'd much rather face them at the end of the season.

  • Long west coast road trip in May. The Rays play 3 @Seattle, 3 @Oakland, 3 @LA from May 4th to May 12th. They get one day off before returning home for a 3 game set against Seattle.

  •  Speaking of May, the Rays only get 2 off days. In fact, they play ever day from May 14th to June 2nd.

  • The Rays get to face the Boston Red Sox each month of the season.
 
The big thing now is for the Rays to finish 2009 strong, so that we actually have something to look forward to next year.
 

 

No more! Reid Brignac leads the team out of the void.

I am the new president of the Reid Brignac fan club. Photo courtesy of Stephanie.
I'll be the first to admit, I wasn't the biggest Reid Brignac fan. Every time he came up to the Rays, he seemed to be a non-factor. Many Rays fans chided me for not giving Reid a chance and dismissing him outright. But last night, the Durham Bulls shortstop truly made his major league debut.  Brignac went 4-4 with a homer, 2 doubles, a single and 3 RBI's. It was almost as if he willed the Rays out of their 11 game losing streak to an 8-4 victory of the Baltimore Orioles.
To be sure, the Baltimore Orioles are not in the same league as the Yankees and Red Sox. But, they're still a major league baseball team and in the first inning the Rays looked like they were still in the same funk that plagued them over the last 11 games. They got an early 1 run lead, but a combination of scoreboard and mental errors allowed Baltimore to jump to a 4-1 lead. The bottom of the 1st, the Rays looked like a team who hadn't won a game in a long time.
Then came Brignac. BJ Upton was on 1st, 2 outs.  The game very well could've hung on this at-bat and Brignac came through with a 2-run homer. And like that, the gates were open.  The Rays found their offense. They found their defense. And David Price found enough to keep putting up zeros on the O's.  The bullpen even found some of its groove with the combination of Dan Wheeler, Brian Shouse, and JP Howell getting the final 6 outs... a task that hasn't been easy for the Rays lately.
The Rays have had serious leadership issues since Carlos Pena got hurt.  It's one thing to step up and say you're embarrassed by the losing streak. It's another thing to go 4-4 and have a career game when given a rare start. And, for that, I must tip my hat to Mr. Reid Brignac. I hope you're able to play your way on to the opening day roster in 2010.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Open Letter to Joe Maddon

Dear Joe:

I understand it's tough. You never expected this kind of performance from your team after last year.  You, along with the rest of us, thought the worm had turned for the Tampa Bay Rays. No longer would the team and its fans be subjected to the kind of torture that comes from losing 11 games in a row.

I'm not placing the total blame on you. I know that you have no control of the bullpen meltdowns. I know that you've tried every mix and match you have to try and get the final outs. I know that you've tried leaving the stater in there a hair longer. I also know that you can't control the disappearing bats. I know that it's not your fault that Carlos Pena broke his fingers and BJ Upton's gimpy angle.

I know that you can't say how the Scott Kazmir trade completely demoralized your team. I know that keeping your mouth shut must be tough. I know in the back of your mind you're trying to figure out how that could've happened. How a team could sell of parts, while its competition was busy signing players specifically to beat your team.

I know you're now looking to the future. Looking to 2010 when things are supposed to be better. But, I'm not. I'm looking at right now and the rest of the season. I'm asking for you to do something that is tough for any manager: motivating a team that has given up.  When things are going good, it's easy to get the guys motivated. When things are going bad, that's when a manager can earn his stripes.  Dealing with the last few weeks of the season could define you and this season for years to come. 

If this team finishes below .500, it's going to reflect on you. Nobody will remember that the Rays were 12 games over .500 going into September. Nobody will remember that the Rays were still in the Wild Card hunt when the front office pulled the trigger on the Scott Kazmir deal. All they'll remember is how a team that went to the World Series, finished below .500 the next year. And with that, all the swagger will be gone, and this team will once again be the Devil Rays.

So, I don't want to hear about next year. I don't want to hear about the slow start in April. What I want to see is some wins. All I'm asking is for .500 ball and a 3rd place finish in the AL East. Draw deep, Joe and figure out how to get these guys to win some games. End the season on a good note so your predictions for next year don't ring hollow. This team is better than that. You are better than that. Don't let the magic from the 2008 season end with a return to 2007. Draw deep and finish strong.

Sincerely,
Michael Weber
Rays Revolutionary

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This is what happens when you give up on your team

The moment I heard about the Scott Kazmir trade, I knew this was what we were going to be left with.

Argue about the prospects. Argue about the money. Argue about the future. Argue all you want, but this is what happens when you give up on a a team: The team gives up on you.

Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of blame to go around.  We can blame Joe Maddon. We can blame the Carlos Pena injury. We can blame the bullpen. But ultimately, the slide started the day the Rays front office secretly traded Scott Kazmir to another contending AL team.

Maybe ownership learned a valuable lesson this year. Maybe they learned the value of a "team" over the value of "money." I'm not asking them to break the bank to compete. I'm not even asking for trading deadline additions. All I'm asking is that the Rays front office give this team the chance to win.  That chance was clearly taken from them and their play on the field shows.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's wrong with the Rays?

With the losses piling up, I've been running out of honest post-game discussion about the Rays. Since September 1st, I basically could've written one article and just published it over and over again. I just would have to change the name of the teams. This is the worst we've seen the Rays since 2007. It's obvious something is fundamentally wrong with them right now. Some are blaming the manager, others are blaming the front office (that's me on the Kazmir trade), others are blaming pitching coach Jim Hickey.  Meanwhile, columnists at the Times and Tribune are already looking toward next year and what the roster is going to look like.

No many (myself included) would've guessed this is how the season would be unwinding. Since the final out of the World Series, I expected the Rays to battle night in and night out toward a repeat permance. I at least expected them to compete in meaningful games in September. However, it looks as though the "wall" many people predicted for the Rays going back to last season has finally happened.

To get a better pulse on what Rays fans think of this "wall" I posted this question on Twitter this morning: What do you think the problem with the #Rays is right now? Why do they look so bad?

Jennay1821 : it seems like they lose or gain their motivation too early in the game. If ONE thing goes wrong too soon, they almost give up :(

pdriscoll81 : Pen collapse & Los injury have taken little life that was left out of us. Don't think they've "packed it in", just not playing well


JohnMAbbott : I just think they gave up. Losing Kazmir (and now Pena!) was just too much of an emotional blow.


mgrad92 : Same here. Maybe a long season of bailing out starters burned out the 'pen?

deedee70 :I think there are several things causing them problems. 1) There only seems to be a few players who have been able to hit. 2) They just lost Pena their big hitter. 3) The bullpen does look good at all. They are lacking some talent there. and finally, 4) They have had some questionable calls against them by the Umps.


Pixie1212 : broken spirit- they were showing lack of hustle before the Kaz trade and Los injury- those two things have only made it worse.


Jstein2469 : a team that just went to the series a year ago, has had the pen break their hearts numerously, and watching the standings.it really looks like a young team that knows there's no post season and doesn't know how to finish the season professionally.


NTFHoops : Starting pitching actually good (sans Sonny). Hitting and fielding poor due to lack of focus. Relief poor due to 0 confidence. None of the negatives are Mgr's fault. He's not walking guys, giving up HR's, striking out, or hitting into dp's. Guys nd to stepup

ramedy : I think they're just physically/mentally taxed from frustration. I don't think Kaz trade mattered after game or two. Also, Maddon's dye job and Fernando Perez' mustache


mattsinn : Bullpen, bullpen, and the bullpen. It's atrocious. #Rays


JudgeWhopper : losing recent games in the 8th & 9th innings, need to look at all these reliever changes in a new light.


PatrickinNC : What do you think the problem with the #Rays is right now? Why do they look so bad? >>> They've given up.

This season has become disappointing all around. Last year, it seemed Rays fans had some ammunition to fight back against Yankee fans and Red Sox nation. This year, they can rightfully say they put us back in our place. This Rays team is only a shell of the magic we saw last year.  Now, we begin the speculation on whether the Rays can regain some of that magic in 2010.





One game so far in September

In case you're keeping track, the Rays have only won 1 game in September. And with one more game at New Yankee Stadium and a 3 game set at Fenway this weekend, the Rays may not be able to get back on track until Monday at the earliest.

This team's slide is verging on disgraceful.  I hope Andrew Friedman and Stu Sternberg are taking notes. This is what happens when you show a team you don't have faith in them. Any September attendance bump was lost with this losing streak. 

I know that some will argue that this slide was inevitable. That the Yankees, Tigers, and Red Sox are just better this year, but I'll argue over and over again that trading Scott Kazmir to the Angels led the Rays to where they are now. I've said it over and over again: Dumping Kazmir for prospects sent a message to the team that management thought this team didn't have a chance of making it back to the World Series. While no player will ever come out and admit it, their play on the field speaks volumes.

The Rays don't have much to play for now. It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks. Will the Rays have some pride and play out the season on a strong note? Or are they going to keep thinking about the golf course and the fishing hole?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tampa Bay Rays: Small Market Team?

One of my colleagues,Noah Pransky published a story on 10connects.com about the Rays and their label as a small-market team. In it he points out that the Tampa Bay market is the 14th largest television market, yet the Rays spend less on payroll than several teams in lower television markets. So, to automatically label the Tampa Bay Rays as small market is a bit disingenuous.

I agree with much of what Noah is saying.  The Rays ownership are running the team based on an acceptable profit margin for them. Ownership has said they need to keep payroll around $65 million to maintain their margins. The question is: What margins are they shooting for?

To answer that question, you have to decide whether ownership is in the business to make money or are they in the business for ego.  The more ego involved, the more likely they are to decrease those profit margins. However, if ownership is looking for specific returns on their investment, then expect more moves like the Kazmir trade. Or it could be some sort of combination of both. Taking risks (increasing payroll for a run this years) when they present themselves or bailing out when those risks don't look like they're going to pay off.

Overall, I have to give the Rays management credit for turning this franchise around. The fact that I actually care enough to get upset about the Kazmir trade is huge turnaround from the first few years of this franchise.  I love what they've done with the team and I only critique because I care. I'm anxious to see what this off-season holds. Are we going to see more "money moves" or "winning moves?"


So, you had a bad day

Just about a month ago, yesterday's day-night double-header looked like it could be a great day for Rays baseball. What could be better than facing the AL East leader with the chance to pick up 2 games in one day? It could become a day the 2009 Rays reaffirm themselves and show that 2008 wasn't a fluke. Instead, we get a DH sweep that adds on to the back end of a losing streak. A bullpen that can't get anyone out. A starter who's a shell of his former self and should be working on Durham's playoff run. An injury to starting first baseman that could've made that game his last in a Rays uniform. Overall, a bad day for the Rays.

I'll give credit to the Rays, they made it interesting this year. But now, they look like they've just packed it in. The only group that looks like they have any fire is the starting pitchers (minus Sonnanstine). The offense and the bullpen are already thinking about off-season plans. And with Carlos Pena out for the season, we don't even get to see a Ray possibly win the home run crown.

I think Joe Maddon needs to start looking toward next year when it comes to playing time. Do some experimentation and see what kind of things he can do. I know many fans are already calling for Jim Hickey's head. I'm not sure I agree. I think this year's pitching has as much to do with last year's innings as it does with Hickey.  Some fans are even calling for Maddon's head. I also think he should be given another year.  This season gave the Rays a glimpse of what it's like to be in the hunt without being in the lead. Hopefully, Joe and the front office learned plenty of lessons that will keep this from happening next year.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Have we seen the last of Carlos Pena in a Rays uniform?

Is that it for 'Los? That was the first thought I had when I got word that Carlos Pena may be lost for the season. My mind imediately drifted to a time when his smiling face may not be the starting first baseman for the Rays.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't want to see Carlos gone. I don't want to see the team trim payroll at the expense of decent Rays. But if recent history has taught us anything, the Rays are a cold and calculating organization. They're going to run the numbers and come up with a formula. That formula will be the deciding factor on whether the Rays keep Pena or send him packing.

Time will tell. I'd like to think that the Rays front office takes more into consideration that just the numbers. But, if not, we very well could've seen the last of Carlos Pena in a Rays uniform.

Davis solid in debut, bullpen falters again

Rays rookie Wade Davis opened plenty of eyes in his debut on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers.  Looking like a man who could become a nice fixture in the Rays rotation, Davis went about the work of getting Tigers out. He  gave up only 1 run on 7 hits with 9 strikeouts in what only can be described as a brilliant performance for a rookie. Then, the shoe dropped.

For the third game in a row, the bullpen takes the loss. It was the eighth blown save out of 12 attempts in the last 28 games. Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell have become nothing more than walk machines. And speaking of walking, manager Joe Maddon is getting plenty of exercise going from the dugout to the mound. Yesterday, he used 5 pitchers to get the final 2 outs.  Those 5 pitchers gave up four runs in the process. Somewhere (probably in California), Troy Percival is laughing.

So, what's the problem? Maddon claims that the bullpen is having a "hiccup."  J.P. Howell thinks the bullpen just doesn't believe. Whatever the problem is, the Rays have wasted a golden opportunity in this homestand to make a run toward the wild card. Instead, they seemed resigned to their fate as a third place team. Now, they have to go up to New Yankee Stadium for a double-header against two of the best pitchers in the league.

At this point, the Rays have all but written their script on the finally of this season. If I'm Joe Maddon, I'm watching each and every one of these players to see who still has the fire and who's packing it in. This team needs some changes in the off-season and the ragtag group in the bullpen would be a good place to start.

As for Davis, I'm encouraged by his first start. I think this run in the last month of the season will be good for his confidence going into next season. Maybe he can avoid some of the rookie problems that plagued Jeff Niemann and David Price early this season and get them out of the way before April 2010.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Guest Post: Reasons to support the Scott Kazmir trade

Editor: This is a guest post from Stephanie, a fervent Rays fan who wanted to get her thoughts about the trade that sent Scott Kazmir to the Angels. Rays Revolutionary has gone on record questioning the timing of the trade during a playoff hunt. Stephanie provides a differing view point.

I had been so busy at work on that Friday that I hadn't had a chance
to look at any baseball related news. On my way home, I got a message
asking me what I thought of the Kaz trade. It was a good thing I was
at a red light when I read it, as I might have driven off the road
otherwise - I didn't have a clue what was going on, all I knew is that
I didn't want to lose Kaz. Having watched what was Kaz's last start
at the Trop in a Rays uniform (though I didn't know it at the time),
the standing ovation he received made me think of him as the prodigal
son for all long-time Rays fans. He had taken a lot from the fans in
the first half of the year, but the emotion behind the ovation was
more than just fans being happy about a well-pitched game, it was
pride in watching our boy return to form as the best pitcher the Rays
ever had. For me, Scotty was more than just a baseball player, and
trading him hit me personally. Although I had been crushed when Sonny
and Joe Nelson were sent down, at least they were still in the
organization.

Unlike the rest of the fanbase, who has gone through the same sadness
and confusion that I did, I haven't felt the anger or resignation that
a lot of people have expressed. Some people have accused me of being
a fangirl, and they're right. I am a big fan of not only the team,
but of the front office, and where possible, I'm going to look for
reasons to support what they do.

It is clear that the decision to trade Scott Kazmir carried a heavy
price. We can debate the odds that the Rays were going to make the
playoffs before and after the trade, whether it hurt the team or
helped. Either way, they've taken a big hit in terms of public
perception and fan reaction. They have certainly lost some ticket
sales, some merchandise sales, some fan loyalty. I don't know the
exact dollar figure, but it was certainly a predictable loss. The
front office isn't stupid either - they knew that this reaction would
happen. Any discussion of the Kazmir trade, then, starts with one of
two possibilities. Either the team is run by complete morons who woke
up one morning and decided that slapping the fanbase would be a good
lark or they felt that the hit they would take for trading him would
be worth it.

Is it a straight salary dump? I think it's hard to argue that it is.
If we wind up with a significantly lower payroll next year, I'll take
this statement back, but I'm guessing, between contract increases,
Garza, Upton, Howell, and Bartlett all going to arb. or being signed
to a long term deal, and needing to do something with Niemann, that
the 2010 payroll will be higher. Nor do I think it was dumping salary
for this year alone; I would estimate between the salaries they added
after the deadline combined with the hit in attendance that it comes
out essentially neutral.

So if it wasn't salary, what could make it worth the hit to trade him
in the middle of the wild card hunt? I believe it was a pure risk
evaluation. There's a lot we'll never know about players, and I won't
pretend to guess at what information the front office has on Kaz. I
do know that, before the year started, there were a fair number of
journalists and sportswriters arguing that the Rays should trade
Kazmir because he had peaked. I don't really agree with that, but
there were enough people repeating it that the idea was at least out
there. Unfortunately, Kaz didn't do a whole lot to refute the theory
during his first half. It was undeniably bad. 7.11 ERA, 1.79 WHIP
He had worked back up to an ERA+ of 77 by the time he was traded. If
he finished out the year strong, teams would probably be willing to
chalk up the first half to a fluke. It's not inconceivable, however,
that he could have ended up with a couple more bad starts - say, rough
outings at New Yankee Stadium and at Fenway - even if all his
mechanical and psychological issues are truly behind him and he has
returned to form as a dominate pitcher. The Rays would be left in the
uncomfortable position of trying to trade a starter with a 6 or 7 ERA
with a reputation for being emotional and due $22.5 million. During
the off season, their leverage would be next to non-existent, as
everyone knows the Rays payroll has limitations and Kaz is a big chunk
of that. As a free agent, almost everyone would take a chance on
Kazmir, in a trade, the centerpiece might well have been the money,
with some roster hamsters thrown in as secondary considerations.

There's a further risk - the economy has changed. Remember that the
Yankees didn't pull the trigger on a trade for Brian Bannister because
the *Royals* wouldn't kick in a few hundred thousand dollars. It's
easy to say that they'd be able to trade with all 29 teams after the
season, but it's not really the case - you're still talking about
being limited to probably 4 or 5 teams or so, 2 of which are in the
division.

I'm not *happy* about Kazmir traded, and I'm less happy about the
timing. However, the market size and share of the Rays means that
hard decisions are going to have to be made sometimes. Sternberg's
"get used to it" comment riled a lot of people, but I think it's a
fair comment. They're going to have to make trades and decisions that
are difficult and sometimes not optimal because they can't afford to
do otherwise. Once I accepted that, I don't think the trade looks
awful. I want the Rays to do everything they can to maximize their
chances at the playoffs this year - but I keep in mind that this team
isn't build to just contend this year; they're built for a decade of
dominance. The reason running a major league team is hard is because
questions don't have easy answers. Weighing the risk of Kaz finishing
poorly, the risk of making bad trade, the risk of not being able to
make a trade at all, the changed economy, the hit to playoff chances
this year, playoff chances next year, the hit with the fanbase...there
are an awful lot of competing factors.

I don't know whether the Kazmir trade will end up being good or bad.
There will be times that the front office will end up making bad
decisions, whether this one or others. The bottom line for me is that
I do trust that the front office is absolutely vested in putting a
superior team on the field, year in and year out. They won't be
perfect, but I don't know anyone that I would rather have running this
team. This trade has done nothing to change how I feel about the
team. It's been a rough year, but it's also been our 2nd best year
ever. We are playing meaningful games in September, for the 2nd year
in a row, and the 2nd year ever. Not much broke right for us this
year, but we have an outside chance now, and next year looks good.
That's worth supporting.

Since the Rays aren't bothering, why should I?

Today I'm going to forgo my usual column about the Rays. I figure if they don't have to show up, why should I?

The Rays are 3-6 since trading Scott Kazmir.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A new off-season wish: A real closer

Don't get me wrong, I like J.P. Howell. I thought he made a great transition from starter to reliever. He also has the ability to use that nasty curve to make guys look bad. Unfortunately, it looks like his shelf life as a closer may have come to an end. 

For most of the night, it was a pitcher's duel between Justin Verlander and Jeff Niemann. Runs were at a premium all night and the game scooted right along. Then came the ninth. J.P. Howell put two guy on with walks before giving up an RBI single to Adam Everett. The Tigers tacked on two more insurance run, more than enough to keep the Rays from mounting a full come back.

The Rays bullpen has been questionable most of the year and it's a big reason they find their selves in the position their in.  Last year, they win that game. This year, they come up just short.  I think the Rays are in serious need of a bullpen overhaul in the off-season.  A solid closer would be a good start. I've got no problem keeping Dan Wheeler and J.P. Howell as set up men. Grant Balfour probably pitched over his head last year and what we're seeing this year is the true Balfour.  As for the other guys, they all can go as far as I'm concerned. The old, tired reliever act isn't working.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Red Sox moves help them get the thorn out of their side

I guess things are right in the universe of the AL East this morning. Boston Red Sox fans are finally celebrating getting that thorn out of their side. It's a thorn that's been bothering them for a little over a years.  A thorn that showed up quickly, but is now petering out.  With a 6-3 victory over the Rays, the Red Sox all but ended the Rays chances of returning to the playoffs for a second year in row.

It was painfully obvious last night the difference between the "haves" and the "have-nots." The Red Sox moves during the trade deadline seemed aimed at stopping the Rays. They shored up all the positions that caused them problems with the Rays last year. They made huge upgrades at the shortstop and catcher position. The addition of notorious Rays' killer Victor Martinez was like icing on the cake.  In the bullpen, Danial Bard and Billy Wagner are both guys who got Rays out without a problem last night.

The lesson to be learned here: The Rays have to get at it early if they want to make the playoffs. Like it or not, the Rays are still chasing their slow start in April. They're learning this year that it's much easier to be the team looking down. Maybe it's a lesson they'll carry into next year.  As for Boston, they've made the moves to beat the Rays... but, their's a giant elephant staring down at them from the Bronx. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Carlos and the Rays remind me why I love this team

I know I've been spewing a lot of negativity on this blog since the Scott Kazmir trade. But right now, I'm putting all that aside in honor of last night's beating of Boston and Carlos Pena's emergence as the true leader of this team.

For a few moments last night, things looked a little hairy.  J.P. Howell came into a base-loaded situation in the eighth and threw a wild pitch that scored the tying run. It looked like the 2009 Rays were going to come up just short again.

But here comes Robo-Los.  With a strength unmatched, Robo-Los picked up the team and put it on his back. He started the bottom of the 8th with a double, followed by a Pat Burrell RBI single which was in turn followed by an Evan Longoria homer.  Three runs, no outs, bye-bye Boston. It was a beautiful reminder that the Rays are still the thorn in the side of the Boston Red Sox.

The Rays did a good job of turning it around last night. Let's see if they can ride the momentum into tonight's game.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 8-5 victory over the Red Sox:

  • Evan Longoria, Red Sox Slayer. In case you're wondering, Evan Longoria absolutely feasts on Red Sox pitching. He's batting .362 with 8 homers and 26 RBIs. Sick.
  • Bullpen Moves. I heard more than a few Red Sox fans questioning Joe Maddon's match-up pitching changes over the last two nights. But, one big difference between Tuesday and Wednesday was Boston's bullpen.  Terry Francona used Jonathan Papelbaun 2 innings on Tuesday, making him unavailable for Wednesday.  That probably changed the dynamics of the 8th and 9th for both teams.
  • Getting to Beckett early.  The Rays did a good job of getting to Beckett early before he settled it. Unfortunately, the Red Sox offense spent the evening chipping away at the lead the Rays built.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So, where is that "pitching depth" you were talking about Mr. Friedman?

No pitching depth here!. Photo courtesy of RaysRenegade via twitter.

I'm still  looking for that pitching depth Andrew Friedman said allowed the Rays to make a move during a playoff run. It was nowhere to be found. Instead, I saw a starter who is nothing more than a generic righty and a team that looks like it's playing without a hope.

How else would you expect the players to respond?  Across the field in the other dugout is a team that goes and gets what they need. They have a new catcher.  They have a new shortstop. They have a new middle-reliever.  The Rays? They replaced one of their most consistent starters with a guy who had trouble getting AAA guys out.

Of course, management will point to the stands and say that's why they had to move Scott Kazmir. But, isn't that putting the cart before the horse? This is only the Rays second winning season. It's only the second time games in September have actually meant something. You expect us to believe that Rome was built overnight? Last night's attendance was a referendum on the Scott Kazmir trade. If the Rays management doesn't think the Rays are making the playoffs, why should the fans? We know that the walk-ups are your bread and butter. Who's going to walk-up to watch a team playing the rival with one hand tied behind their back?

In the end, all of the Red Sox fans and all the Yankee fans were right. The Rays are nothing more than a farm team for the big boys.  For one magical year and a half, I was able to suspend that disbelief and think that this team may be something different. But I guess in the world of major league baseball, there will always be haves and have-nots. The Rays will always be the Yankees and Red Sox pesky little brother. The boy that every once in awhile gets one over on the big guy, but later learns his lesson.

Here are some of the things I noticed in last night's 8-4 loss to the Red Sox:

  • Errors, errors, errors. I'm not sure who gave the Rays the dropsies, but they sure looked bad out there. If you want to contrast the difference between the Rays and the Red Sox this year and last, look no further than the defense.  Jacoby Ellsbury made to big stops in center field to prevent runs, while the Rays spent all evening giving the Red Sox extra outs. Last year, that wouldn't have happened.
  • Robo-Los. I've got to tip my hat to Carlos Pena. He's single handedly trying to carry this team. I fear, however, it may be to little, too late. 
  • Andy Sonnanstine. I'd really prefer never to see him pitch a game in a Rays uniform again. It looks like the league has figured him out.  But, I guess management thought he had enough left to trade last night's scheduled starter.
  • Pitching depth, part 2. I misspoke early when I said I couldn't find any pitching depth. I found it in the bullpen.  Joe Maddon seemed to have a pitcher for every batter in the Red Sox lineup. We got to see all of them.
  • Sean Rodriguez from the Angels. People tell me that's a good pick-up. I guess I would be more impressed if he played for the Rays last night.
  • Attendance Woes. This will be talked and talked about today.  Fans will be called out. Management will use it to justify the Kazmir trade.  Don't worry, I'm sure the Rays will draw well on Saturday for the Beach Boys concert.
  • Red Sox fans. I really dislike many Red Sox fans. At least Yankees fans were humbled a little by last year. Not so for Red Sox fan, who seems to think this one win justifies all their theories on how the best team did *not* go to the World Series last year.  Keep telling yourself that, Red Sox fan. I hope it makes you sleep better at night. In case you're wondering, you're no different than the Yankees. The only difference is that the Yankees signed their big guns before the season. You picked yours up during the season.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Robo-Los tries to exorcise Scotty Kazmir

Look what I arrived in the newsroom this afternoon: Robo Los. Kids going to the Trop on Sunday will get Robo-Los.
Robo-Los wasted no time taking over my desk and working to exorcise any ghost of Scotty Kazmir. He knocked some sense into the bobblehead with a piledriver. Robo-Los said [in best Arnold Terminator voice], "We're going to smack around the Boston Red Sox tonight!"
Go Rays! Beat Boston!

Primary today for Mayor of St. Pete. Could determine future of Rays.

You may not know it if you don't live in St. Petersburg, but today is a big day when it comes to politics and the Rays.  St. Petersburg residents will be narrowing down the field of candidates to replace Mayor Rick Baker. And today's decision could determine the future of the Rays in St. Petersburg.

My colleague, 10 Connects reporter Noah Pransky has been closely monitoring the election and the stadium fight. He's talked with the candidates and covered the ABC Coalition, the group researching the Rays stadium issue. He did a report in July the candidates' position on the Rays and the ABC Coalition findings. You can also follow this link for an overview on today's election and follow the results.


Beat Boston!

This morning I pulled myself out of the doldrums a little and sported my "Beat Boston" shirt from last year's playoffs. But for me, this series has lost a little bit of its luster after the Rays traded Scott Kazmir.  Tonight's game should've been the battle of lefties: Lester vs Kazmir.  Instead, the Rays subtracted from their team while the Red Sox shuffled their rotation and signed a veteran leader.

To be sure, the Rays playoff chances depend on a good showing the next three games.  Joe Maddon will tell you that it's only one game at a time, but in reality all these games count double. Andy Sonnanstine makes his triumphant return to the Trop where he's usually pitched well.  The Red Sox are red hot right now and the Rays are going to have their hands full slowing them down.

It's a big stage. Let's see if the Rays can still "Feel the Heat."

Here are some of the things I noticed in yesterday's 11-7 victory over Detroit.
  • Winning record on the road. Give the Rays credit for overcoming adversity and still getting a winning record for the road trip.  It's just too bad they let two of the games get away from them.  Those games could come back to haunt them down the stretch.
  • Lineup changes.  All year, Joe Maddon stuck with his "Vicious Circle" lineup regardless of slumps or match-ups. Over the last week or so Maddon's been more proactive in his lineup, moving guys all over the place with great success. Evan Longoria seems to be coming out of his slump a bit and Carlos Pena continues his tear.
  • "Big Game" James Shields and run support. No more whining about run support for James Shields. Getting a 6-run lead before your first pitch goes a long way into making up for past inadequacies.
  • Bartlett's Power. I just wanted to point out that Jason Bartlett has 12 homers this year. He had 1 last year.
  • Brian Shouse's effectiveness. No wonder Maddon didn't bring that guy in the other day to face Granderson, I can't remember the last time I saw him actually get somebody out.

Rays Revolutionary treated by Truly Nolen © Layout By Hugo Meira.

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