Thursday, April 30, 2009

Viva la Revolution! Garza takes control!

Viva la Revolution!  The Rays are back... at least for today.  The team returned from a lackluster road trip just in time to remind the Boston Red Sox who their true nemisis still is.  Matt Garza took the ball, put the team on his back and carried them tonight.  He even had a complete game through 27 batters. This game was a complete polor opposite of what we saw last night.

I do want to temper my enthusiasm, slightly.  The Rays looked good, but I want to see them do it two days in a row.  Tomorrow, the struggling Andy Sonnanstine takes the mound.  Let's just hope he just needed a little home cooking as well.

Here are some of the things I noticed tonight:

  • How about Matt Garza? He's struggled a bit this year with his control, but tonight he was just filthy. He completey shut down the red hot Red Sox bats. After the game, he told Todd Kalas that Ellsbury's hit looked like it was harder of the bat.  Once it got past him, he was hoping someone could make a play.  He said the team's going to come out and play hard again tomorrow.
  • It was real entertaining to listen to Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy talk about a no-hitter without using the words.  Contrast that to when AJ Burnett was working a no-no and Staats couldn't mention it enough.  After Ellsbury got his little hit, it was like it opened the floodgates on Kennedy.
  • Everybody got in on the action offensively.  Even the Greatness that is Michel Hernandez was busy driving in runs and hitting his first ever major league home run. Dioner, you watching?
  • The Rays kept themselves alive in the AL East hunt, at least for tonight.  Boston had the chance to come in and quickly finish off the Rays.  Instead, the Rays reminded the Red Sox just who's in charge.
  • The Rays need to keep the fire going.  The Red Sox aren't just going to lay down give up the series.  Remember what happened the next day after the Rays whipped the Yankees.  This series is too important and the Rays need to keep their foot on the gas pedal.
  • I'm looking forward to tomorrow's morning round-up.  Nothing will be more enjoyable than reading the panic in the Boston rags.

Rays Round-up: Monster is here!

The Monster is here.  The Rays are coming off of a horrible road trip to battle what could be considered one of the toughest parts of their schedule. Over the next two weeks, it's all divisional battles with 7 games against the Red Sox, a couple against the Yankees, and 4 against Baltimore. This could be the make or break stretch run for the 2009 Rays.  If they're going to shake off the funk, they're going to have to do it starting tonight.

The optimist in me says a good series against the Red Sox will erase the bad memories of this road trip.  Just remember, the Boston Red Sox know the Rays are struggling.  They're going to do their best to put them away, right now.  On the other hand, maybe the Rays just need some home love to get them going.  I guess the real question is:  Did the Rays play above their talent last year or are they playing below their talent this year?

Here's a look at the morning round-up.  As always, my comments are in italics.

According to the Heater, Bartlett doesn't see any fire in the team.  It's hard to argue with that. This team just feels different than last year's squad.  The guys aren't picking each other up like they did last year.

In case you're wondering what the 1st place team in the AL East is doing.  They have career minor-leaguers hitting game winning homers for them.  When you're on a roll,  things go your way.  Reading that article brought back memories of last year's games.

Sluggish. Listless. Lathargic. Three words the Minneapolis Star tribune used to describe the defending AL Champions.  There's no doubt about that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rays giveaway baseball cards came to the newsroom today.

What a collection! Imagine my excitement when I realized I got a "Kevin Kennedy" card. Maybe someone will trade me Staats for Todd Kalas.

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Rays Round-up: Monster is looming edition

One night. That's all the Rays really have to turn it around before the monster that is the Boston Red Sox arrives at Tropicana Field. The Rays are doing what everyone was waiting for last year... choking under pressure and higher expectations. The little things that went right last year are going wrong. Small mistakes that were overcome last year are instead magnified. This team needs a spark. I don't know what it is or what can be done, but right now they're on life support... back in the AL East cellar.

Here's a look at some of what's going on around the Rays blogosphere (I couldn't bring myself to read the Minnesota papers). As always, my comments are in italics:

Rays the Stakes has put Dioner Navarro on notice and is threating B.J. Upton. I'm with him on that one. I feel ready to hurl whenever I see Bossman and Navarro's batting average. That's why I'm going to keep track of their average right there on the right of the blog.

Rise of the Rays is also questioning Bossman's position at the top of the order. He's really killing the team's offense at the top of the order. However, as a big fan of Joe's Vicious Circle line-up, I'd rather just see Bossman hit the ball.

Rays Index is trying to cheer everyone up with a community project: Tampa Bay Rays WAGs. If Zorilla's homer had led to a win, I was going to download Julianna Zobrist's CD and listen to it all day today. Then, I was going to write a review and put links all over the place. However, thanks to JP Howell, Mrs. Zobrist didn't get the benefit of my promotion today.

DraysBay bad Rays baserunning is getting tiresome. I haven't zoned in on that as one of the bigger problems with the Rays. I think the Rays are just pressing too hard to overcome hitting deficiencies.

The Rays Party is preparing for their draft coverage. May be the only thing exciting going on around June.

Trop Talk described last night's game in one word: Heartbreak. I have many more colorful adjectives I could use to describe last night's game. I wasn't really heartbroken about the game itself. I seem to feel it in my gut that they wouldn't win. I'm more heartbroken about the reality that this team is now what it was last year.

9=8 Blog made a rare (for this season) post about the return of Raysball. It's just sad that one day later that post doesn't hold up when the Rays go back to DevilRaysball. I do like his layout, however.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Time to face facts. This isn't last year's team

Maybe it's time to face facts.  This obviously isn't last year's team.  Instead of the Rays celebrating a come from behind victory, we get to watch the Minnesota Twins celebrate their own late inning heroics to grab the game.  Nothing makes me feel worse than seeing the other team finish the game in that fashion. Even Dewayne Statts and Brian Anderson looked like someone died after the game.  

JP Howell and the bullpen will get the brunt of the blame for tonight's loss.  But it really was a team effort.  Once again, the Rays proved they can't hit lefties.  Steve Carlton gets channeled and the Rays look clueless (1-8 vs Lefties if you're counting).  It's getting so bad that opposing managers are leaving their starting lefties in longer than they probably should.  James Shields becomes his own worst enemy for the 2nd game in a row, giving up another 1st inning homer and then hitting a batter to push in a run after the Rays tied the game.

Props to Ben Zobrist for forgetting that it's 2009, not 2008.  His 2nd pinch hit home run provided a little excitement,  too bad the guys behind him couldn't get it going.

Bossman's "Extended Spring Training" is wearing on me.  I notice myself, other fans I talk to, and other bloggers are beginning to notice how difficult it is to win with your leadoff guy batting around .150.  I've decided to highlight the starters that are batting below .200.  Their pictures and averages will appear there until they can get it over .20o.  Hear me, Dioner Navarro?

No more cheerleading from me until the Rays turn it around. 

Rally Hawk!

This guy got it going last night! Let's see if he can do it again.  The Rays are looking for a win streak tonight against a tough lefty!  Make sure you share this with your friends... and if you're not signed up for the Rays Revolutionary facebook page,  what are you waiting for?

Rays Round up: Bossman's middle finger edition

Tonight's a pivotal game for the defending American League Champions.  Just like they did against Oakland, they rather easily took game one of the series.  However, this time they need to use that first victory as a spring board to a series win.  They got the 1st win they need to start a streak.  Tonight they can get a streak going while beating a tough lefty pitcher.  I would prefer to not think of Steve Carlton at all while watching the game.  I would prefer to think of Boss man figuratively flipping off the entire Twins fan base (see below).

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Here's the Rays Round-up.  As always, my comments in italics.

- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire says Jeff Niemann "has a little funk to him, a little hitch to his giddy up."  I really have no idea what that means, but it sounded complimentary in a strange sort of Gardenhire way.  Maybe I'll have to call him funky Niemann.

- In case you're wondering, the Twins believe it's a bit of a victory that their starter Scott Baker didn't allow any home runs.  I'm glad the Rays were still able to beat him. Now, I just want to see the Rays beat a lefty tonight and win 2 in a row.

- One Twins fan  says he's waiting on BJ Upton's apology. Here's what he had to say from the Star-Tribune's comment section:

My wife, 16 year old son and 10 year old daughter and I were perched in our favorite seats in section 103, row 5, seats 1-4 enjoying, albeit begrudgingly because of the loss, a Monday night at the Dome. During the bottom of the 5th inning, some fans choose to, as home run porch fans will do, start to chide B.J. Upton, center-fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. In defense, there was no malice of intent in any of the comments directed at Mr. Upton. My family and I have been to more than out fair share of games in the very seats we were in tonight and have witnessed the standard chide to any centerfielder not currently employed by the best team in Major League Baseball, the Minnesota Twins, and, never has the reception been met with what happened tonight. Mr. Upton, as I use the term loosely, decided it would be a good idea to provide the multiple families in our section with a constant use of his middle finger gestured towards us. Maybe I'm making a mountain out of mole hill; but, isn't there a standard by which MLB players should conduct themselves off AND on the field? I await your apology, Mr. Upton.

I'm not completely defending Bossman here.  But, if you're going to insult a man at his place of employment, you can expect a little retaliation.  Twins fan needs to get a grip and blame his fellow fans for yelling Bossman's way.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A streak starts with one

Before you can start a win streak, you have to win the first game.  The Rays went into Minnesota and got the series off to the right start. Now, they have to really get the streak going with another win against a tough lefty. 

Here's some of the things I noticed tonight:

  • The 3-4-5 batters came through with a... gulp... 2 out rally in the 1st inning.  Longo got it started with a hit.  Pena tripled him in. And Pat the Bat knocked in Pena. Maddon couldn't have drawn it up any better.
  • The more I watch Jeff Niemann, the more I'm convinced that the Rays didn't really trade Edwin Jackson.  Niemann, like Jackson, seems to be teetering on the edge at all times.  Some of those times he teeters toward letting the other team have a big inning.  Other times, he seems to be able to pitch his way out of the big jams.  I'm sure Sonnanstine is now on notice that he's on the hot seat when it comes to David Price.
  • After the game, Carlos Pena told Todd Kalas that the team is just trying to keep it simple and have fun.  He believes if they keep doing that, the wins will come.
  • The bullpen was able to keep the Twins from mounting a comeback.  Broadcast analyst Brian Anderson said the bullpen looked just like it did last year.  It was good to see them get the chance to do their job.
  • I'm going to draw on the karma of Polk County Ray Hawk Fan.  I'm going to repost it tomorrow night.  Maybe he can overcome the karma of Steve Carlton tomorrow night.
  • Check out my new header.  Let me know what you think about my new design.  You can find me on twitter at or just leave a comment at the bottom of the page. While you're at it don't forget to sign up for my RSS feed. If you don't know what I'm talking about just punch in your e-mail address and you'll get all my posts delivered right to your inbox. Don't worry, I won't spam you.

This guy's pumped! Are you?

It's time Rays! The losing has to stop now... The Rays have only one series before the return home to face the Boston Red Sox.  They need to use this Minnesota series to get warmed up! I bet this guy will be outside Tropicana Field as early as tomorrow to get ready for Thursday night's big game.

Thanks to Bud from Spring Hill for the picture of this unnamed fan from Polk County.

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Rays Round-up: On the edge of panic

In case you haven't noticed, the Rays are in last place.  Not only that, they've assured themselves of a below .500 April.  And in the monster that is the AL East, it could be a tough hole to climb out of.  For this team to turn it around, a win streak is in order.  And it starts with one game in Minnesota tonight.  Last year at this time, we could be accepting of an April like this. Now, we're spoiled.  We want the chase for the pennant.  This team is too talented for anything else.  My hand is hovering over the panic button.  It's going to take a real nice series against the Twins to move it away.

Here's a look at some of the stories around the web this morning.  As always, my comments in italics:

- The Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote a nice little preview article on the Rays this morning.  It's always good to get an outside opinion of your team.  The author doesn't believe the Rays are in trouble after 19 games, but he believes they're having trouble dealing with expectations.

- Pitcher Andy Sonnanstine calls his performance embarrassing.  Thanks for the great self-evaluation Sonny.  You look like you're pitching batting practice out there.  Get it together or the Red Sox are going to eat you up!

- Rays are making what could be their final trip to the Metrodome. The Trop is becoming the last of a dying a breed.  The old school dome's are disappearing one at a time.  

- Just in case you're wondering, Boston is looking real scary right now. The Red Sox have taken control of their own destiny.  The Rays will have the opportunity to do the same later this week. Let's just hope they can put this mess behind them and return to form at Tropicana Field.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Newsflash: Rays can't hit lefties!

Steve Carlton syndrome 7
 Rays 1

While the rest of the country figures out ways to deal with Swine Flu, the Tampa Bay Rays are suffering from their own ills.... namely Steve Carlton syndrome.  That's what happens when a left-handed pitcher takes the mound against the Rays and looks like the 2nd coming of Lefty.  I was really hoping today would be the day that the Rays could finally beat one of these lefties.  All the stars were aligned.  But, once again, Steve Carlton's power was too much for the Rays to overcome as they drop their 4th straight series in a row.  Now, they're off to Minnesota for a three game set before returning home to face the red hot Boston Red Sox.  Scary days indeed are ahead for the Rays. Hopefully, they can come out of their funk before this time next week or we may have to officially push the panic button.

Here are some of the things I noticed:

Another lefty did the Rays in.  Dana Eveland and his nice little soul patch below his lip took care of the Rays hitters with little effort.  The Rays put up a little stink in the 2nd, but after the A's scored 4 runs in the bottom of the inning... Eveland just cruised along.

Sonnanstine is really looking bad this year.  I commented to a friend of mine that Sonnanstine may have just pitched himself right out of the rotation. It's sad, because I really like Sonny. But, he's really looking bad.

Props to Joe Maddon for tweeking the lineup today.  I like how he gave Zorilla and Aybar the start today. It didn't really make a difference in the big scheme of things, but it shows that Maddon is doing what he can to provide a spark.

Bossman, Jr. really needs to start hitting the ball.  Slump or not .156 is unacceptable.  The same goes for the catcher.  These guys need to start getting some hits.

10 Things I want to see this week

1.    Beat a lefty. By my calculations (subject to rotation changes), the Rays will have 3 chances between now and Friday to beat lefties.  That starts today against Dana Eveland and his 7.36 ERA. I don't want to see that guy looking like Steve Carlton and I really don't want to see Minnesota's Francisco Liriano (0-4, 7.06) project the power of the lefty.  The Rays should beat both of these guys and get on track before facing Jon Lester again

2.     Finish the road trip strong.  A good series in Minnesota will help bring some much needed momentum to this team ahead of the Red Sox series.  I don't want to see the team coming back to the Trop with all kinds of question marks.  A small winning streak will get rid of those types of doubts.

3.    A straight sweep by the big three.  Each time the Rays go through the rotation, I like to see the big 3 rack up at least 2 wins.  The last 2 times through the rotation, the Rays have only got 1 win from the big 3 (despite James Shields awesome performance).  I want to see Shields/Kazmir/Garza get a win streak going.  If those three get wins this week, the future will be looking much brighter next weekend.

4.    Don't overlook Minnesota.  It will be real easy for this team to overlook the Twins ahead of their big home series against the Red Sox.  They need to keep focused.  The only way they're going to crawl back into the race is to win one game at a time and get some sort of streak going.  Overlooking Minnesota will be bad news going into the Red Sox series.

5.    Remember the #20.  Last year, the Rays began their turnaround at game 20 with a nice little sweep of Toronto in Orlando.  This year, the Rays play #20 in Minnesota.  A sweep of the Twins would be huge.

6.    Last year's Dioner Navarro.  His swing looks awful right now, much like it did when he first got here from the Dodgers.  I'd like to see Navi get back to his 2008 form.  Having a good hitting catcher is important to this line-up.

7.    Bossman back on track.  I know he's basically still in Spring Training, but it's time for him to get it going.  He's an integral part of the Vicious Circle lineup. If he's not hitting, it breaks the circle a bit.  I don't need to see the Bossman from the playoffs (although it would be nice), I just want to see him get some more hits.

8.    Troy Percival Drama.  The Feast or Famine Rays have made it real easy on Percy and Maddon.  Since they either win going away or lose a close one, we haven't had to see Percy in a save situation in awhile. May be time for a good edge of your seat save.

9.    Home dominance.  Returning home means that it's time to once again make the Trop a terror for opposing teams.  Who better to start that with than the Boston Red Sox?  The team the Rays sent home from the Trop in last year's ALCS.  I'm planning on going at least to Saturday's game.  I may head over their on Thursday, as well.

10.  David Price?  Peter Gammons has said the the Rays planned to bring Price up on May 1st.  It would be real nice to see him pitch on Friday or Saturday against the Red Sox at home.  Looking at the probable pitchers, I wasn't really feeling Sonny and Niemann taking on the Red Sox on Friday and Saturday.  Stay tuned.    

Check it out: Rays tales - St. Petersburg Times

This almost escaped my attention this morning.  The St. Pete Times had a nice little article comparing local high school pitching maching Patrick Shuster to another former prep machine... Scotty Kamir.  It's worth checking out the link just to see the picture of the Kazmanian Devil as a high school kid.

Rays tales - St. Petersburg Times

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Rays Round-up: Josh Freeman edition

The Rays have the Gabes and now the Bucs have the Joshes.  If you missed it yesterday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up to get Kansas QB Josh Freeman.  For me, it was a sad day in the history of the Tampa Bay sports.  The Bucs seem to have returned to the legacy left behind by Richard Williamson.

What does this have to do with the Rays?  Not much, except I would've rather seen them get a victory to improve my mood.  Of course, it was TV blackout day and we couldn't watch what was going on without going to Oakland and getting tickets.  But, from what I heard on the radio I didn't miss much.  Another run-of-the-mill lefty terrorizing Rays' hitters.  Garza having control problems. And a new problem: The inability to mount a comeback.  Like I said before, I'm not ready to push the panic button.  A West Coast road trip is nItalicever easy.  I would consider a .500 record when they return to St. Pete a bonus. I'm anxious to see how they're going to play against the Red Sox.

Here's a look at today's Ray's Round-up.  As always, my comments in italics.

-The Oakland Tribune highlights Jason Giambi's homer as part of the catalyst for the A's breaking their 5 game losing streak.   Uhhg... the Rays should wipe the mat with these guys every day of the week.  I really think they need to win today's game.

-Maddon defends his decision to hold back the starters in Spring Training.  I'm not really that upset about the pitcher's spring training workload.  Yes, they are making some mistakes. But, if the Rays offense would produce a little more consistently those mistakes would not be magnified. 

-Rise of the Rays breaks down the numbers against today's lefty of the day Dan Eveland.  I would really like to add a win in my Steve Carlton Syndrome counter today.  This is the perfect pitcher to break out of the lefty slump with.

-Rays the Stakes has a poll asking which announcer you like better Kevin Kennedy or Brian Anderson.  I really liked Brian Anderson when he filled in last year... for about 2 games. His analysis and anecdotes seem to get repetitive after that. I think it's mostly because he's inexperienced, but I think he can grow into the roll. Maybe Kennedy is only here for the short term and they're giving Anderson some practice.  I think the producers must like him too. He was an AFLAC trivia answer and then they showed footage of Griffey going yard on him.  As for Kennedy, his experience still makes him my choice.

-The Rays Party has a new poll to rank the Rays versus the rest of MLB.  Honestly, so early in the season, it's really hard to get a good sample of what a team looks like compared to the rest of MLB.  So, I went the easy way out and ranked them by their record.  Of course, being a homer I kicked it up a couple of places. :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chalk up another Steve Carlton Syndrome Loss

In a 162-game season, you're going to have games like today.  Games that are on the West Coast. Games against a rather mediocre team.  Game that aren't on TV.  And games that turn into yet another disappointing loss.  It's April 26th and the defending AL Champions are still in the cellar.

I'm still withholding my panic button until the next home stand.  Last year, game 20 was the one they turned it around.  And right now, they're keeping close to .500 for the road trip.  That's acceptable as long as they can turn it around at home next week against a white hot Red Sox team.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that the Rays fell victim once again to the Steve Carlton syndrome and lost to another lefty.  This lefty was the greatness that is Dallas Braden. You can talk all you want about Garza's walks and the weak offense. But, it still seems the Rays can't do anything against lefties. Matty from St. Pete even told me that if he getting ready to play the Rays he would make sure they get every lefty in the organization.

Steve Carlton... you win again! Even if you don't have any comment.

What would you trade for a replica ring? One man offers up his boat!

It seems like the market for those Rays replica championship rings just won't slow down.  A quick search on ebay found 79 rings for sale at many different prices.  The going rate looks to be between $20 and $40.  But, it was on craigslist where I found the true deal of the day.  A Holiday man is willing to trade his boat for one of the rings. Here's his post with the pictures:

Hi Will trade 16ft fiberglass Tri hull Scat Craft boat. No motor or Trailer. Must pick up. 

Now, that's quite a deal. You can get an actual boat for your ring.  I've got an e-mail out to the seller asking him what inspired him to trade his boat for one of these Rays replica rings. I'll let you know as soon as I get an answer.

People looking for the rings, like the guy from the boat ad, should be careful.  At least one seller is warning of "fake" rings.


Another seller from ebay decided to use a blurry picture to sell his ring for $125.  I liked it so much that I'm going to post his picture and give him a little free publicity. 

All in all, looks like there some good deals out there for these Rays rings. You'd better hurry up if you want the boat, I'm trying to work a deal that involves this blog, a brokered California fake ring, and this boat.

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Rays Round-up: Gross Swing Path edition

One of the great things about Joe Maddon's managerial style is when he does stuff like writing a line-up based on "swing path."  That's what happened last night when Maddon went for Gabe Gross over Ben Zobrist in right field.  We all know that Zorilla has the hot hand, but Maddon went with gross because he his "swing path" matched up better with A's starter Trevor Cahill.  What did Gross do? He rewarded Maddon by going 2 for 2 with a homer and a double of Cahill.  Wow!

As for the rest of the game, the Rays did much like they did Wednesday night.  They feasted on a young, inexperienced pitcher early and went for the jugular.  Carlos Pena had 2 homers... racking up his 14th multi-homer game of his career.  Jason Bartlett continued his hot hitting going 4-5 at the bottom of the order.

The Kazmanian Devil got his 3rd win of the season last night, giving the big 3 at least 1 win in the go through the rotation.   Matt Garza gets the ball tonight in a Steve Carlton Syndrome game. The A's are sending lefty Dallas Braden to the mound. The Rays hitters will have to show the can get the bats going against a run-of-the-mill lefty tonight.

Here's some of what others had to say this morning. As always, my comments are in italics.

TBO talks about the Rays racking up K's and says Maddon would like to see the Rays batters strike out less often.  I'm sure that's something we'd all like to see.  If the Rays would just take strikeouts and short pop-ups out of their arsenal, they'd be unbeatable.

The Oakland Tribune has last night's game from the perspective of their rookie pitcher.  The Rays did a good job of taking advantage of the young pitcher's mistakes.  At least they're beating the righties they're supposed to. Now, if they can only take down some of those lefties.

In case you're wondering, the Boston Red Sox are hot... real hot. They won their 8th in a row last night in a dramatic come-from-behind victory of the the New York Yankees.  The Sox have only lost 2 games at home all year, both against the Rays.  This series against Oakland is important so the Rays can gain some ground while the Sox/Yankees battle each other.  The Rays need to return home following this series and the next against Minnesota on a roll to battle this hot Red Sox team.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rays Round-up: Power of postitive thinking edition

After a loss like Thursdays, it's hard to think anything but negative thoughts about your team. It's easy to get into a rut and decide that your team is just garbage. But, you could be harming your health!  According to the Mayo Clinic, studies show that keeping a positive attitude is important for your long term health.  Instead of giving in to negative self-talk, you need to weed out misconceptions and irrational thinking and then challenge those thoughts with rational, positive thoughts.

So here's my list of Rays negative self-talk and ways to put a spin on it:

Negative Thought:  The Rays offense is horrible!
Positive Thought: The Rays offense has faced some really good pitchers that last week that have brought their "A" game.  The Vicious Circle lineup is still talented. They just need to put it together for a few days in a row.

Negative Thought: The Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are already pulling away from the Rays leaving them in the dust.
Positive Thought: You win the division in head-to-head matchups.  The Rays still have 48 games against those 3 teams. That's plenty of games to catch-up.  Those teams also still have to play each other. Only one can win at a time.

Negative Thought:  The starting pitching is not as good as it was last year.  We need David Price. We miss Edwin Jackson.
Positive Thought: The Rays starters are keeping them in the game. If they continue to do that all year, they'll win more games than they lose.  This team is too talented.

Negative Thought:  The Rays are a one year fluke.  Now, they go back to the cellar where they've always been.
Positive Thought: This is a talented team who can compete with anybody in baseball.  They need to just get some things going their way and they'll be on a roll before we know it. It's only April, there's plenty of games left to play.  These last 2 weeks will become a distant memory like that losing streak the 2008 Rays had in July.

Here's a look at what other people are saying. As always, my comments are in italics:

- Rise of the Rays says Maddon's post-game comments about the shadows at Safeco field make him sound a little whiny.  The manager said after the game that he thought the roof should've been closed for the 3:40 game.  I really hate Safeco field.  It's not just the shadows. It's the way that the field holds balls that should be homers up in the air.  It's a weird place. I hope that the Rays don't create nothing like that if they build a new stadium.

- The Rays Party points out the Rays lack of sacrifices this season. Honestly, this one doesn't bother me as much as it does others. For example, I don't think there was any context in yesterday's game to lay down a sacrifice bunt.  When you're moving runners over, you have to have faith that the next guy can get them in.  With the way the Rays are hitting, I can see why Maddon won't give up any outs too easily. He's working to get his team hitting.

- TBO had a good wrap-up of yesterday's game. I found Pat the Bat's quote the most interesting part: "It's real simple. If we don't score, we can't win. And we've got to score." That's right, Pat. It's embarrassing to get beat 1-0 on a first inning homer.  Maybe the guys will finally be embarrassed enough to take it out on the A's.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It only takes 1

This game should be called "It only take one."  That's all it took for the Seattle Mariners to take game 3 and the series from the defending AL Champions. I hate to say it, but these are really the type of games you have to win if you want to be a contender. Once again, the Rays wasted great pitching and couldn't drive in the runs that they needed to win. For some reason, I knew in my gut when Ichiro hit that home run in the 1st that it was going to be the game changer. I just didn't think it would be the only run the Mariners needed.

Here are some things I noticed tonight:

  • How bad do you think James Shields wishes he could have that pitch to Ichiro back in the 1st inning?  In a classic pitchers duel like we saw today, it always comes down to one pitch. Unfortunately for Big Game James, that one pitch came early in the game.
  • Felix Hernandez lived up to his King Felix nickname.  He pitched lights out against the Rays, even working his way out of trouble after errors and walks.  
  • The Rays did have their chances, they just couldn't get the key hit.  Pat Burrell and Zorilla both found ways to get on base against King Felix. Too bad Navi and Aki couldn't do anything to get them in.  Hernandez also seemed to own Longo, who may have lost his jungle karma.
  • I was arguing with Matty from St. Pete over text message. He claims that the Mariners are this year's version of the Rays. While I think they're improved, I don't thing they're as good as the Rays were last year.  The Mariner's line-up has a lot more holes in it right now than the Rays did last year. However, give the Mariners credit... they beat the Rays.
  • As well as Hernandez pitched, the Rays did have their chance late in the game.  Seattle went to the bullpen in the 8th inning with the top of the Rays order coming up. They had 6 outs to score 1 run.  They failed.  
  • This is the 4th straight series loss for the defending AL Champions.  They've only taken one series and that was the first one of the year. The call for another streak begins tomorrow night in Oakland. But, right now, the Rays aren't looking like a team competing against the "Beasts of the East." They should own teams like the Mariners.

Jungle Karma for the Rays

I guess we have Jim Rome to thank for the Rays big turnaround last night.  Rome interviewed Longo on yesterday's show and picked up some Jungle Karma.  For those of you unfamiliar with Rome, he says when athletes call his show they always seem to do a little bit better.  In this case, I hope that Longo's Jungle Karma extends through the rest of this West Coast swing.
Here's a link.  The only problem is you have to pay to hear it.

Rays Round-up: Begin the Streak Edition

It starts with one game. Whether you are ending a losing streak or beginning a winning streak, it must start with one game. The Rays got the first half of the equation started last night with a dominating performance over the Seattle Mariners. They looked like the 2008 Rays last night with their foot firmly on the gas pedal. They made the Mariners look like they really didn't belong on the field with defending American League Champions and they didn't let up.  Now, they just need to do it again this evening because this win will seem so much better if it begins a streak.

Here are some things I noticed:

The Rays hitters got it going early.  Unlike the night before the Rays weren't content to just jump out to an early lead, they kept tacking on runs. They scored every inning but the 7th and 8th. That type of offense is the sign of a great team.  You never let the other team chip away at your lead.

Who's Edwin Jackson?  Jeff Niemann's performance was remarkable last night. He retired the 1st 12 batters he faced, and looked dominant doing it.  The only blip was a rough 5th inning in which he was tagged for a 3-run homer after an error and a walk.  Sonny better keep an eye on Niemann. If he keeps pitching like that, Maddon's going to be hard pressed to pull him out of the rotation for David Price.

Dioner Navarro's struggles continue at the plate. He went 0-5 last night and was unable to break his slumb.  But before I go too hard on Navi, I would like to say I saw some strong emotion coming from him after one of his early fly outs. He looked upset with himself.  That's what I like to see, guys holding themselves accountable.  Navi's an important part of the Vicious Circle line-up. His bat was a big reason behind the Ray's success last year and he's going to need to get his mojo back.

I'm now officially part of the Zorilla fan club. Last night was the first night I was able to watch a game and not say to myself, "Oh no, here comes one of the Gabes."  Zorilla is really playing himself into a full time right fielder.  Who would've guessed last year that the answer in RF was our starting shortstop from opening day 2007?

Here's a look at what people are saying in our Rays Round-up. As always, my comments are in italics.

Carlos Pena called a players-only meeting before the game to get the team on track. It's good to see Pena really taking control of the leadership position for the Rays.  Last year, guys like Hinske and Uncle Cliffy Floyd were there to run the clubhouse, but the Rays needed a guy who can assume the role for years to come.

Longo is an RBI machine.  They pointed out on last night's broadcast that Evan Longoria became the 3rd fasted active player to reach the 100 RBI mark. In typical Longo fashion, he didn't know he reached the mark.  Longo is still playing MVP caliber baseball.  He seems to be so unstoppable that the Mariners actually walked him to take their chances with Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell. That's respect.

The Seattle Times' Mariners Blog points out some of the Mariner's deficiencies last night.  I agree with this blog that Ken Griffey's time may be up.  I've been watching that guy play since I was in High School, but he looks like a shell of his former self.  He's really hurting that order in the number 3 spot. It may be time for Junior to let go.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Deep thoughts from Joe Maddon

All day, I've been hearing the splashing sound of Rays fans jumping off the bandwagon into the Bay. But leave it to the eternal optimist Joe Maddon to give us this uplifting thought after last night's game:

"We're going to keep doing what we think are the right things to do," Maddon said. "That's the way we do our business. We believe in it. And when we start hitting, everything will clear up. The skies will clear up and the sun will come out again and it will stop raining."

Joe, you can start by getting a win tonight.

Rays round-up: Internet Outtage Edition

I had plenty to say this morning, unfortunately an internet outtage took away my thunder. I could go on about Maddon's defense, lack of hitting, and uninspired play. I expected a lot of from the Rays last night, instead I sit here this morning wondering if I should hit the panic button.

Here's today's Rays Round-up. As always, my comments are in italics.

Rays Index touches on the touchy subject of outfield defensive alignment. I'm still pretty upset about the fly balls going over Kaplar's head. However, it would be a moot point if the Rays could score some runs.

Just in case you didn't get enough discussion on Kaplar's position. Even Mariner's fan blogs picked up on it. Okay, I'm done beating this dead horse.

The News Tribune calls Washburn the hero last night. Can't argue that.  The Rays are going to continue to see a steady diet of lefties until they show they can hit them. That means Aki, CC, & Pena.  Pat the Bat, Gabe Kaplar, and Longo all did their jobs last night.
Internet outtage this morning has delayed my round-up report. To hold you over, here's the slump slayer hat I wore most of last year. I'm keeping it with me to send some karma to the Rays cold bats.

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Move along, not much to see here

The Rays rewarded my late night with another ho-hum performance losing to the Seattle Mariners 4-2.  This game featured much of what we've already seen this season.  We saw the Rays make a lefty look like the 2nd coming of Steve Carlton (see my new side bar). We saw the Rays unable to get guys in with runners in scoring position. We saw plenty of strike outs. We saw both Gabes.  We saw a shallow center field.  I could probably go on forever with this list.

Here's what I noticed tonight:

  • I'm going to start calling the Rays problems with lefties... the Steve Carlton Syndrome. It struck again tonight in the form of Jarrod Washburn. The guy absolutely owns the Rays. He got into a little trouble in the 1st inning, but after that was pretty much spot on. Pitched his way out of a jam in the 4th.  Then his team put some runs on the board to reward him. Struck out 9... including Carlos Pena 3 times. He made CC/Pena/Aki look horrible. The Rays are going to continue to see a steady diet of lefties until they prove they can hit them.
  • Andy Sonnanstine looked good for the most part. He struck out seven and kept the game close. He had a rough 4th inning which pretty much accounted for all but 1 of the Seattle runs.  
  • Once again, the Rays let role players get the best of them.  Seattle's 4th inning rally was all about the bottom of the Mariner's order.  I'm not sure what was going on when Rob Johnson was up to bat, but it looked like Kaplar was playing the "girl at the plate in Little League" center field.  I'll have to hear the post game, but it sure looked like some more of that Maddon defensive "aggressiveness."  Then Yuniesky Betancourt does the same thing 2 batters later and that was followed by a Gabe Kaplar catch in center that could've very easily been another over-the-center fielder's head shot.  
  • It looked like the Seattle Mariners were more pumped up to play the Rays than the Rays were pumped up to play the Mariners.  The last decent emotion I've seen out of this team was the first game of the Yankees series. Since then, nothing.  I saw plenty of emotion from Washburn and the rest of the Mariners.
  • Props to Pat the Bat and Gabe Kaplar. Both did their part against Washburn. Pat the Bat had an RBI and a couple of hits.  Gabe Kaplar made that nice play in center field and was 1 for 2 with a walk.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Say it ain't so: Bossman Junior sits tonight

According to the Times Rays blog, Bossman Jr. is not in the starting lineup for tonight's game against the Seattle Mariners.  He says that the injury won't cause him to go to the DL and he'll be available for spot duty.  However, this is still cause for concern for a couple of reasons. Number one, a quad injury (or any leg injury) can linger for a long time. We saw what happened with CC last year. It was like the injury that never ended. 

Next, Bossman's right-handed bat is important against lefties. The Mariners are the 2nd team in a row to adjust their rotation to give the Rays a lefty. His right handed bat is crucial if the Rays are going to figure out a way to beat lefties.  

The final problem is Joe Maddon and the organization. They're going to baby this injury for awhile. I just hope they don't baby it out right out of contention.

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Rays Round up: It's gonna be a long night edition

Today begins the dreaded "West Coast" trip. For those of us who are glued to the Rays every night, it means late nights and less sleep.  I find myself rooting for 2 1/2 hour pitching duels on these nights.  I'm also less likely to stick around for a blowout either way.  I believe whoever invented the DVR did it for nights like this.  Because before DVR's, we were stuck wading through some of the crap on SportsCenter to see what our team did in the middle of the night.

Here's today's Rays Round-up. As always, my comments are in italics.

Larry Stone from the Seattle Mariners asks What will the Rays do for an encore? Very good read. It gives an excellent perspective of the Rays from the outside looking in.  The Mariners (and many other American League teams) are trying to become "this year's Rays." He also points out how difficult it is for teams, like the Rays, to recapture magic from one season to the next.  

Joe Smith from the Times points out that the Rays bench must play key role if team is to succeed. The Gabes, Zobrist, Aybar and others who may still be in AAA will have to once again step up in key situations. 

An off-day debate popped up on Rays Index over Maddon's aggressive defensive alignments. I'm going to continue with my take that he's getting a little too cute. But, if they start winning, I'll probably forget about defensive shifts.

Rays Party takes a look at 2 former Rays pitchers: Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel.  I know plenty of Rays fans who think trading Edwin "less" Jackson was a mistake.  I think that they'll change their mind once Matt Joyce gets going.

Rise of the Rays breaks down some of the Rays batters against Mariners pitcher Jarrod Washburn. 11-3 record versus the Rays. Uh oh.

Maybe the Rays could use this guy.  Patrick Schuster of Mitchell High in Trinity became the first high school pitcher in Florida to toss four consecutive no-hitters. He struck out 17 in a 5-0 victory. He's signed to play with the University of Florida, but maybe the Rays will give him a look!?

Monday, April 20, 2009

10 things I would like to see the Rays do on the West Coast

Yesterday's whipping at the hands of the Chicago White Sox left a sour taste in my mouth during today's off day. All day discussions among Rays fans have been about how bad the team is playing and how it looks like they really were one year wonders.  The consensus seems to be that Rays needed the day off and the trip to the West Coast to get themselves together and refocused on their defense of the American League Pennant. It's not going to be easy for the team. They're not going to sneak up on anybody. Everybody's going to be gunning for them. Everybody's is going to scout them.  Now is the time for the team to come together and get on track. It begins tomorrow night in Seattle.

With that being said, here are 10 things I want to see out of the Rays in Seattle (assuming I can stay up late enough to watch the entire game):
  1. Quick Start-  The Rays need to jump on the starters early. I'm tired of this 5 minute 1st inning stuff. Don't let the starter get comfortable. Make sure he knows from the first pitch that he's not facing some second rate AL West team, he's facing the AL Champions! A team on a mission! A team to be reckoned with.
  2. Small Ball- Back to Rays baseball. The homer is fun and I enjoy the horn followed by "Feel the Heat,"  but let's face facts... this isn't a home run team. This team needs to get base runners, move them over, and hit them in. This team needs to quit relying on the long ball all the time. When you get up to the plate, don't think about changing the game with one swing. Instead, go up there and figure out how you're going to get the runner over or in.  Once you start moving runners, you'll start seeing better pitchers and the homers will take care of themselves. 
  3. Get the guys out you're supposed to get out- Every team has them. You know the guys that are easy outs every time through the order.  The good fielding shortstop that can't hit good.  The guy called up from AAA to cover for an injury.  They have names like Gardener, Anderson, Lilibridge.  They're guys you wouldn't recognize on the street and you barely recognize them on TV. These guys need to be dispatched... with a vengeance. I don't want this faceless bunch getting on base. I also don't want them scoring runs. I want them out. And I want them out, yesterday!
  4. Throw Strikes- Seems like a simple proposition, but it seems that Rays pitchers have had a little bit of problems in this area.  It's not just the starters. The bullpen is just as guilty.  These guys need to throw strikes early and throw them often. Get ahead of the batters. Let them know you mean business.
  5. Lose the slumps- I'm tired of the slump excuses. It ends now. That means you, Pat the Bat! Both Gabes, get your slump buster going! Willy Aybar, get it done! Dioner Navarro, start wrecking the ball! Bossman, getting really going! I want to see some solid hitting from the entire lineup... including the bench players. I'm tired of excuses. Start knockin!
  6. Good base running- I've seen some sloppy base running so far this season.  There's no excuse for men paid to play professional baseball to see some of the Little League mistakes I'm seeing out there. I'll forgive a guy who has blazing speed, but Kaplar, Gross, Pena... you guys need to keep the fundamentals in mind. Don't get thrown out and blow a rally! Be aggressive, not stupid.
  7. Quick, low pitch count innings- Would it be too much to ask for a quick 1,2,3 inning from the starters. Go out there, get the three guys you're supposed to get and go back to the dugout. I know these are professional hitters. But when your team rallies to get you back in the game, don't blow it by allowing a cheap run in the next inning. I don't want to even see a pitch count graphic on TV until the 6th inning.
  8. The 2008 Wheeler, Balfour, and Howell- Look, I appreciate what you guys did last year. But, last year is over and now it's time to separate the men from the boys.  I want to see you regain your 2008 form Prove to the entire league that this bullpen wasn't just a one hit wonder last year.  Show the fans that love what you did last year that it wasn't a fluke.  Show that grit and determination that made the Bay Area fall in love with this pen.
  9. A save from Troy Percival without any drama- Look, we know Maddon's going to run you out there again. There's no use fighting it. So, why night show us fans that you still have a little left in the tank. Show us why the Rays thought they could go into the year with you. Show us that you're over that injury that you used as an excuse last year. Show us you're more than a washed up, has-been that has some sort of blackmail material on Maddon.  Do it, Percy! Show us!
  10. Some attitude- You did it last year. When the Yankees tried to push you around in Spring Training, you fought back. When the Red Sox tried to intimidate, you fought back. Nobody respected you.  They laughed at the little team in St. Petersburg trying to keep up with the big boys. The Yankees knew they'd catch you in the 2nd half. The Red Sox banked on you folding down the stretch. But, all along, you maintained that us versus the world attitude and proved them all wrong.  But, now that attitude's gone. You're like Rocky III, a champion who hasn't been tested. You've got all the trophies, rings, and banners... but, you've lost the attitude. Do something to get it back. Make it us versus the world again and you'll be successful!

Ticket Promise + Not Enough Tickets + Yankee Fan = Riot

Leave it to Yankee fan to put a smile on my face after the Rays rough last few games. Pepsi over promised tickets to Yankee fans who showed up for a promotion last week. What Pepsi learned is that if you ask Yankee fan to gather for something "free," you'd better provide what you promised. Instead of publicity or buzz, Pepsi had a near riot on their hands when they showed up with only 100 pairs of the 250 tickets for the home opener of the new Yankee stadium. Many of those 100 pairs were for a game in June. After that, Yankee fan took matters into their own hands. Watch the video below for a Yankee fan riot (It's worth sitting through the annoying ad):

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Rays Round-up: Wheels coming off bandwagon

With no frame of reference for Rays fans, some are already beginning to question whether this team will make it out of the cellar this year.  It's tough to watch a team with so much magic last year, look so awful to begin this year. But, as Maddon and others will point out, a 162-game baseball season is not a sprint, it's a marathon.  The creme will usually rise to the top. You just hope the top doesn't get too far away from you.  

The Rays have the day off today before playing a late night game tomorrow night in Seattle. Here's today's Rays Round-up. As always, my comments in italics.

-Times columnist John Romano says it's not time to panic, yet.  He works to calm down a frustrated fan base after a frustrating home stand.  Romano make some good points about the Rays home stand. He breaks down both the good and the bad without being a complete cheerleader for the team.

-TBO says it's the perfect time for the Rays to get out of town.  They're leaving behind all of the pomp and circumstance from championship week for a west coast trip.  Maybe this week will humble the team into a good road trip. If Maddon is correct and the batters are "trying too hard" then this trip may be just what the doctor ordered.  We'll see quickly.  

-After a red hot start, the Seattle Mariners are cooling down a bit. Like the Rays, they've lost 3 of their last 4 at home.  This team does already own a 6 game win streak. The Rays will have their work cut out for them.  

-The Chicago Tribune give a good account of how the Sox dominated the Rays this series.  They did a good job of pointing out just how huge Brent Lillbridge, Chris Getz, and Brian Anderson were.  The Yankees and the White Sox both had no-name role players come up big against Rays pitching. I'm not sure what it means, but it's definitely a trend I don't want to see. Successful pitching keeps those three off base all weekend.

-Rays manager Joe Maddon made an interesting observation after yesterday's game:
 "When you don't get off to a good start, you don't get off to a good start," Maddon said. "If it happens in the middle of the season, you're in a slump. And if you do it at the end of the year, you're choking. It just happens to be happening at the beginning, which makes it even more glaring." That's why I love Joe Maddon.  No matter how bad it looks, he can always look at the glass half-full.

-For entertainment value only, a feud is brewing between Ozzie Guillen and Nick Swisher. I can't get enough Ozzie entertainment.  Go get 'em!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

White Sox to Rays: This isn't 2008!

The Chicago White Sox today put the Rays out of their misery with a 12-2 thumping, taking 3 out of 4 from the team that ran them from the playoffs last year.  If there were any doubts among the Rays or Rays fans that this is a different year, than the White Sox did what they could to remove them. It was obvious throughout this series that Ozzie Guillen had spent a lot of mental energy on how the Rays defeated the Sox in the ALDS. That energy translated to his team. And the White Sox sent the Rays to a place that haven't seen in a real long time: the AL East Cellar!

Today's game was never really in doubt. From the moment AJ Pierzynski hit his 2 run homer in the 2nd, it was pretty much over. The Rays were without BJ Upton, who had to be pulled because of a Quad injury (expected back on Tuesday).  Evan Longoria played DH because of a tweeked foot. Bartlett and Navi were given the day off.

After the game, Maddon didn't seem happy.  He says it almost looks like the team is trying too hard at the plate right now.  He says the team has to start scoring some runs and stopping walking batters.   

Here are some things I noticed:

  • The Rays role players aren't getting it done right now.  Willy Aybar played a big role last year in the run to the World Series. Right now, he's just not hitting the ball.  The 2 Gabes are struggling so much, that some fans are starting web pages devoted to sending them packing.
  • I'm going to keep harping on this, but there are times when you have to leave your position players in position and quit with the shift.  Thome hit a grounder that would've been an inning ending double play, except there was nobody covering 2nd.  I really think these shifts are hurting the defense.  Don't over think it, Joe!
  • Garza loss today marks the first time this year that the Rays didn't get 2 of 3 wins from the big 3.  If the Rays are going to be successful through the entire season, they're going to need those 3 to keep winning.  I want to see 2 out of 3 wins each time through the pitching rotation.
  • In the post game, Kevin Kennedy addressed the Gabe Kaplar/Ben Zobrist right field debate.  He says as a manager, you can't over react thirteen games into the season. You have to get the guys at bats.  Interesting to note, Maddon did start Zorilla today at shortstop. 
Is it panic time, yet? I don't think so.  I'd like to see the Rays go over .500 in the upcoming road trip, win at least one series, and put together at least one 3 game winning streak.  The Seattle Mariners are hot right now and the Rays could really get some confidence by beating them on the road.  

Going green to bring the Rays some luck

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Rays Round-up: Zorilla vs Gabes

Judging Rays' fandom reaction to last night's game, one of the biggest concerns is why Friday night's hero Zorilla didn't get the start.  There's really not much positive to take away this game. At least Pena, Bartlett, and Longo are still hitting. Tonight, Matt Garza will get the chance to give the Rays a split against the White Sox.  This is an important game. If the Rays are going to be contenders, they're going to need their big 3 to get at least 2 wins each time through the rotation. So far, so good. But, tonight Garza has to pick up Kazmir.

Here's today's Rays Round-up. As always, my comments are in italics.

- For those of you concerned about Gabe Kaplar's start of Zorilla, TBO got some answers from Maddon. Basically, he's trying to get Kaplar going and he can't do that from the bench. Kaplar and Pat the Bat were both brought in to help the Rays against lefties. So far, it's not working out so great. The Rays still look like they did last year against the Rays. I'm not too concerned, these guys will come along. For those of you who hate the Gabe, I wrote a little trivia contest for you to play. It's called Gabe or Gabe.

- Busy day in Chicago sports, so not much coverage from Chicago rags.  In case you're wondering, the Chicago Bulls beat the Celtics in their NBA Playoff Game, the Blackhawks won their playoff game and both the Cubs and White Sox won.  As for the Rays/White Sox game, they provided your basic Chicago-skewed look at the game.  It's good to see Chicago sports fan is on cloud 9 this morning.  Hopefully, they don't forget how both the Sox and the Cubs made early exits from the playoffs last night.

- The Southside Bronx blog breaks down Ozzie Guillen's decision to start Brent Lillbridge as a right handed bat against lefty Scott Kazmir.  He drew 3 walks and scored 2 runs. This guy has .067 batting average and he was walked 3 times. Unacceptable. To quote the Rays radio team, "they were pitching him like he was the second coming of Ricky Henderson."

- Marc Topkin of the Times has a little blurb on the added shifts this year.  I still say Maddon's getting a little too cute with these shifts. Sometimes you have to play to prevent doubles instead of trying to turn a single into an out.

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