Saturday, May 30, 2009

Picture post: Rays battling Twins!

This picture is courtesy of my brother Jeff. He's excited to see King David and 3 Doors Down.

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A season on the line and Choate comes up big

It was the worst possible scenario for the Rays.  Minnesota Twins red-hot catcher Joe Mauer at the plate representing the tying run in the top of the ninth. He had already hit a single, double, and triple this game... a homer would complete the cycle.  Who would Rays manager Joe Maddon turn to?  J.P. Howell? Nope, already pitched.  Dan Wheeler? Nope, pulled him.  Grant Balfour? Jason Isringhausen. Nope. Nope. Instead, Maddon calls on one of the newest Rays: Lefty specialist Randy Choate.  The matchup didn't seem too promising.  Mauer's been a tough out all year. But, Choate did it! He struck out Mauer to get the Rays a much needed win at the Trop and put an end to the 5 game losing streak.

Here are some of the things I noticed last night:

  • Home cooking's good for the soul.  The Rays looked much more comfortable at home.  One of the Twins bloggers even commented on Twitter that the Trop had more artificial noise going than the Metrodome at a Vikings game. Nice. That's what I like to hear.
  • The Rays way return.  The whole game felt like a throwback to last year.  Stars stepping up. Good starting pitching.  Big outs by the bullpen.  All around good game.  Maybe it was because the Rays spent some time yesterday watching the MLB Network's replay of Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS.
  • Centerfield Power.  I don't know why, but I really enjoy watching homers that go out to straightaway center at the Trop.  We got treated not to one, but two thanks to Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria.
  • Willy Aybar and Ben Zobrist.  It was good to see those two making an impact on the game in the absense of Akinori Iwamura and Jason Bartlett.  The Rays are going to need Slick Willy and Zorilla to really be on top of their game the rest of the season.  These guys are important to the Rays moving forward.
  • James Shields goes deep.  I mentioned yesterday how important it is for the Rays starters to give plenty of innings. Shield still gave up a couple of bad pitches, particularly the Michael Cuddyer shot in the sixth.  But, the Rays were able to quickly get that run plus 2 more back in the bottom half of the inning.

The Rays still have to do this consistently before they craw back into the AL East race.  Tonight, David Price makes his 2nd start.  He needs to keep his pitch count down and give the Rays some good innings.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Underachieving in 2009 or Overachieving in 2008

Fifty games in to the season, the Tampa Bay Rays are tied with the Baltimore Orioles for last place in the American League East. It's not a place many Rays fans expected the team to be. It's probably not where the Rays management thought they'd be right now.  The defending American League Champions are finally coming back to where the rest of the league thought they'd be last year.

It was supposed to be different this year.  The team made some upgrades to shore up its lineup. A couple of new relievers were brought in.  And King David Price was waiting in the wings to make the rotation one of the most formidable in the league.  Instead, we have a broken down ace in Scott Kazmir.  A pitcher who went from dependable to painful in Scott Kazmir.  Our opening day starter can't seem to prevent one big inning from killing him every fifth day.  And, now, we have King David on a strict pitch count every fifth day.

The injuries, too, are piling up.  That's the danger of going .500 with a healthy team.  You can't afford to lose the ground you're going to lose when the injuries start coming.  

This Cleveland series was hopefully the lowest of the low for the Rays.  The question is: Did the Rays overachieve in 2008 or are they underachieving in 2009? Here are some of the differences between the 2 teams:

  • Winning at home.  Last year, the Rays owned Tropicana Field. They won 57 games with a .704 winning percentage.  Not too shabby.  And as the Rays media people liked to point out, the Rays were real solid when the Trop was sold out.  This year, the Rays are playing .500 ball at home (11-10).  If they're going to climb back in it, they have to make home games count.
  • Starting pitching. This is a big trouble spot for the Rays right now.  The starters are not getting the job done, especially Andy Sonnanstine and Kazmir.  The Rays already addressed the Kaz problem, but now they may have to address Sonnanstine's problems.  They can't keep sending him out there every fifth day.  As for the rest of the starters, Jeff Niemann's been serviceable. Matt Garza and James Shields have to lock in.  It's important for those two guys to start getting wins and giving the team good innings.
  • Bullpen Roles.  Because of the problems in the starting rotation, the bullpen's been a mess. Last year it worked like a well-oiled machine in the middle.  Joe Maddon was able to pick and choose where he got his bullpen work to maximize the match up.  This year, it's not happening.  The lack of innings from the starting pitchers is creating all kinds of problems in the bullpen.  Lance Cormier is almost become a de facto starter.  Last year, we didn't see Jason Hammel too often. The Rays need to define the rolls for team.
  • One game at a time.  Last year's team seemed to be able to put a bad game behind them and stay level headed after good games.  This year, they seem to continue one bad game into the next and after good games they get too cocky and can't do nothing the next day. It's a long season.  Keep an eye on the game in front of you.  They don't need to be playing down to their competition.  Go in, beat them, and go home.  One win will turn to two and the next thing you know they'll have a win streak.
  • Contributions from the bench.  The injuries to Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura definitely put a damper on the season, but these guys that were called up have to start making contributions.  The Rays dealt with injuries all last year and never missed a beat. Now, they have to do the same thing.
  • Have fun.  This team doesn't look like it's having nearly as much fun as it did last year. Granted, we've seen flashes of it. But, we haven't seen the happy-go-lucky guys that made this team so great to watch.  I'm not sure if it's the change in veteran leadership or the team's putting too much pressure on itself to win.  Maybe after this debacle in Cleveland, they'll realize that they can just have fun.

Speaking of having fun, don't forget to follow me at www.twitter.com/m_weber   There you will get my musings in real time along with breaking Rays news and in-game chatter with other Rays fans.  Join me!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Goin' fishin'

Since Rays are playing so bad I thought I'd take a break from blogging and go fishin!

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Picture Post: Weekend Giveaway

This Sunday's giveaway arrived in the newsroom. New Era kids cap. At least it isn't red.

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Introducing: The New Rays

Over the last week or so, the Tampa Bay Rays have gone through a roster overhaul. It seems every day the Rays have a new player in uniform.  In past years, that would've meant shedding salaries and looking toward next year.  This year, it's all injuries. I'll be the first to admit, I have only a passing interest in the Rays farm system.  I'm aware of the big names, some of the other players I don't know much about.  So, I want to put on my journalist hat and introduce you to some of the new Rays.

First off, here's a look at the disabled list as it stands today:

Chad Bradford
Scott Kazmir
Troy Percival
Brian Shouse
Shawn Riggans
Jason Bartlett
Akinori Iwamura
Pat Burrell
Fernando Perez


Now, time for the New Rays:

Randy Choate (LHP) - Choate appears in the Rays media guide under Non-Roster Invitees.  The New York Yankees drafted the 33-year-old from Florida State University in 1997 where he played with JD Drew.  He made the Yankees opening day roster in 2001/2002.  Spent time with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, and Milwaukee Brewers minor league systems before the Rays signed him in December of last year.  

Who he's replacing: Brian Shouse

Interesting Trivia: Made major league debut July 1, 2000 at Tropicana Field as a Yankee.  He faced one batter: Fred McGriff.

Other Interesting Fact: First name is Randol

Jason Isringhausen (RHP) - Probably one of the more well-known of the new Rays. Isringhausen has had a long career saving Major League Baseball games.  With 293 saves, Izzy is 22nd on the all-time save list.  

Izzy began his career as a starter in the New York Mets organization.  Injuries derailed his career as a starter and the Mets eventually traded him to the Oakland A's where he was moved to the bullpen.  He pitched with the A's for a couple of years before signing with the St. Louis Cardinals as a free agent in 2002.   The past couple of years have been off and on for Izzy.  In 2006, he was removed as the Cardinal's closer,  then he was reinstated in 2007 before finally losing his job in May of last year. He left the Cardinals for good in August.  The Rays signed him to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.  It appeared the Rays were using him as a backup plan for Troy Percival.  That came to fruition last week when he was brought up and Percival went on the DL, possibly retiring.

Who he's replacing: Troy Percival

Interesting fact: Izzy makes his off-season home in Tarpon Springs. 

Reid Brignac (SS) - The Rays drafted Brignac in the 2nd round of the 2004 June Draft.  The 23-year-old has worked his way through the Rays minor league system with stops in Princeton, Charleston, SW Michigan, Visalia, Montgomery and Durham.  He made his major league debut on July 3rd last year after Jason Bartlett was placed on the 15-day Disabled list. He played 4 games and made 2 starts.  His season was cut short after a pitch broke his wrist.

Who he's replacing: Akinori Iwamura

Interesting Fact: Brignac spent time this off-season with former major leaguers Eric Young and Will Clark helping at a Little League Prak in Baton Rouge.

Dale Thayer (RHP) - Thayer is getting his first work in the big leagues this year.  The Rays acquired him as the player to be named later in the Russell Branyan deal in 2006.  He spent all of last year with the Durham Bulls going 3-1 with 9 saves and a 2.77 ERA.

Who's he replacing: Technically, Pat Burrell. But in reality he's another arm out of the bullpen to provide middle relief.

Interesting fact: According to the media guide, Thayer wants to be a police officer or fireman when he's finished with baseball.

David Price (LHP) - King David has arrived.  With plenty of fanfare, the Rays ace-in-waiting is now in the rotation.  Price was drafted as the first overall pick in the June 2007 draft and has quickly worked his way through the minor to arrive with the team his first year as a professional.  He did have some memorable moments last year during the Rays run to the world series.  He started one game and pitched in relief during several others.   Probably the biggest of those moments was when he shut the door on the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS at Tropicana Field. Price is here to stay.

Who he's replacing: Scott Kazmir

Interesting fact: President Barack Obama told Price during a campaign rally at Legends Field last year that he wouldn't hold it against him for eliminating his beloved Chicago White Sox from the playoffs.

Joe Dillon (Utility) - Probably the biggest question mark among the "New Rays."  I had actually never heard of the guy before he was called up yesterday.   Dillon was the player to be named later in the deal that sent Adam Kennedy to the Oakland A's a couple of weeks ago.  for the most part, Dillon is a career minor leaguer. He's played a few games in the bigs the last couple of years for the Florida Marlins and the Milwaukee Brewers.  

Who he's replacing: Jason Bartlett

Interesting fact: Spent the 2006 season with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.  He played 1st, 3rd, and outfield for them.


Some of these guys may be with the team for the long haul, others will disappear rather quickly. For more posts like this, sign up for my RSS feed.  There, you can get my posts delivered right to your RSS reader or you can even get on my e-mail list.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Matt Garza, Bring back the hope!

Dear Matt Garza,

Today is rough day to be a Tampa Bay Rays fan.  Last night, your team gave up a 10-0 lead to lose in the bottom of the ninth.  It was a night that was supposed to be a coronation for King David Price. It was a night that the Rays were supposed to finally win in Cleveland.  It was a night that the team was supposed to go over .500 and never look back.  Instead, we watched with you at the implosion that happened on the field.  We watched with you as the team reverted back to the 2007 form we left behind.  We watched as the team, content with its lead, put the game on autopilot.  We watched as Victor Martinez, the man who said teams aren't supposed to try once they're down that much, get the game winning hit.

Now, it's up to you.  You're the ace now.  Scott Kazmir is gone.  David Price isn't ready. And James "Big Game" Shields is giving up big innings.  You're the man this team looks to when it needs redemption.  You're the man with the filthy stuff.  You're the one capable of tossing a no-hitter.  You're the one, we as Rays fans are looking toward to turn around the season.

We know it's still early.  But, a 162 game baseball season can be a fickle beast.  A bad loss like last night can turn into a long losing streak. Guys will hang their head.  Trust is broken.  The clubhouse is splintered.  Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria are great, but they can't put this team on their back the way you can. You need to go out there and re-establish the Tampa Bay Rays we knew from last year.  The team that overcame adversity. The team with swagger. The team with confidence.

Matt, you can do it.  You can raise the Rays Revolution in ways not other player can.  Go out. Put this team on your back and get it done.  It's not over. It starts tonight.  With you.

Sincerely,
Rays Revolutionary

Monday, May 25, 2009

Meltdown Rant

One of the benefits of having a blog about your favorite sports team is the opportunity to truly get your feelings off your chest after a tough loss.  And tonight, I have a lot to give off.

This has to be the worst loss in franchise history. I'm embarrassed to be a Rays fan. This team was up 10-0 at one point in this game and go on to lose it 11-10.  There are no words to describe what happens when a team gives up 6 runs in the bottom of the ninth. There are no words to describe the emotion watching your team completely meltdown against a hated rival.

It was a day that was supposed to begin the David Price era in Tampa Bay.  The would-be king of the Rays rotation took the mound and did what he was supposed to do... get batters out. But his work was undone by 2 guys who weren't even on the team when the Rays played Cleveland last week: Dale Thayer and Jason Isringhausen. Not only that, they had to get racked wearing red hats that make them look like their mothers dressed them.

I hope this loss really stings in the clubhouse.  I hope the players go back to the hotel and watch ESPN to see what a national joke they've become. I hope the people all over Cleveland are talking about how the Indians came back from 10 down and took it to the defending American League Champions.  I hope the Rays remember the feeling they've got right now and never let it happen again.

This is all I've got for now.  If you've got your own rants, feel free to send them to me and I'll publish them here. Maybe we can turn this into a group therapy session. Just send your rants to bucs8ball at gmail.com. You can also follow my rants at www.twitter.com/m_weber

/Rant

Price era begins and 10 things I want to see

Tonight begins the David Price era begins in Cleveland.  It's only fitting that Price gets his first start in a place that the Rays haven't won since 2005.  Carl Crawford is the only active player on the roster from that game.  Right now, the Rays are a .500.  The question is: Can the team rally around Price and start making some serious noise in the AL East? We'll get a good idea of that tonight.

For now, here are 10 things I would like to see from the Rays this week:

1. The David Price we expect.  It would be a bit anti-climactic if David Price laid an egg tonight after all the hype.  We all remember what he looked like in the AL Championship game, but do you remember his first Major League start against the Orioles last year?

2.  Good defense at 2nd base.  Now that Akinori Iwamura is out for an extended period of time, the Rays are going to face the challenge of keeping the defense tight in his absence.  It looks like Ben Zobrist and Willy Aybar will get some extra playing time.  Also, Jason Bartlett has a little strain that could keep him out a couple of games this week. We know how important up-the-middle defense is to this team. Let's hope it doesn't cost the Rays any games this week. And did I mention how nice it would be to have Adam Kennedy right now?

3. Pile on Cleveland.  After last week's series, I've really got no love for the Cleveland Indians.  They're a trainwreck of team like their manager Eric Wedge.  Last week's retaliation on BJ Upton was just uncalled for.  The Rays need to channel the energy they had during the bench-clearing brawl to get the Indians hitters out.

4. One-two punch.  David Price is going today, followed by Matt Garza on Tuesday.  I want to see these guys become a 1-2 punch that teams look at their schedule and hope they don't see both. 

5.  The resurgence of Navi.  Rays catcher Dioner Navarro finished up the week with a .212 average.  He looked good this weekend and is finally catching some fire.  The Rays need that to continue if they're going to keep it going.   A hot Navi makes their lineup that much better.

6.  Pat Burrell's return.  Especially with Aki on the DL, the Rays are going to lean on Pat the Bat more than ever.  I'm ready to see this guy return to the lineup and start one of the "streaks" we've been hearing about.  I think Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria will be more than happy to see him return.

7.  More Blue Jays implosion.  The Blue Jays have lost 6 in a row. I would like to see them continue that little streak.  A Red Sox fan told me after the teams played, "The Blue Jays aren't the 2008 Rays. They don't have near the swagger that the Rays do."  Nice.  I haven't watched too many Blue Jays games this year, but that's good to hear.   We still don't see the Jays until June 29th

8.  A true closer.  Jason Isringhausen has now taken Troy Percival's spot on the team and it's time to give him the closer role.  One thing that bothered me about last year's playoff run was the lack of a true closer.  We watched the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox work methodically to get to their closer.   The Rays did a little bit of that in the first half of last year, but Percy was just too erradic.  Joe Maddon has hinted that the Rays will do a closer-by-committee approach, but I want to see him give it to Izzy and plan games like that.  Get each reliver back in a familiar role and keep it that way.

9.  Less 4 game series.  The Rays really can't do anything about this one, but can the league get over this 4 game series stuff?  The series against the Indians is the 3rd 4 game series out of the last 4.  To me, 4 game series are anti-climactic.  Even if your team wins the 1st two games of the series, they still risk a split.  Also, with 4 games instead of 3, it's a lot harder to get a sweep that can give your team a boost.  Instead of saying, "let's sweep the Indians"... I instead find myself saying, "let's take 3 of 4 from the Indians." Sad.  

10.  Above .500. Now that the Rays are at .500, they need to start climbing above that mark to get comfortable.  That means winning each series.  It starts tonight in Cleveland and ends at the Trop against Minnesota.  5-2 over that stretch would be nice going into next week.  I want to see this team grind their way right back into the division race.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Warren Sapp in a Devil Rays uniform?

I saw this at a restaurant I was at this afternoon. Nothing like a football player sporting the baseball team's uniform. Do you think we could get BJ to play wide receiver for the Bucs?

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Rays have a little Marlin for dinner




After a full day of roster moves, speculation and shake-up, the Tampa Bay Rays took the field for their first game of interleague play in Miami against the Florida Marlins.  It was quickly obvious that the Rays were coming out firing on all cylinders.  The Rays climbed to an early 13-0 lead as all batter... including pitcher Andy Sonnanstine had a hit.  If you recall, the Rays feasted on the Marlins like this last year.  The went 5-1, inlcluding a 15-3 victory in Miami in June.

Here are some of the things I noticed:

  • Andy Sonnanstine looked good for a second game in a row.  He only allowed one earned run (a homer to Hanley Ramirez) and, more importantly, didn't walk anyone.  Sonny has always loved South Florida. He gotBulleted List his first win there in 2007.
  • Dinoner Navarro is now officially over the Mendoza line.  Pinkeye made sure there would be no doubt he was over .200 by the close of business last night. He went 4-6 with 3 RBI's and 2 runs, including a homer.  He brought his average up to a whopping .211.  Nice night, Navi! Your buddy Bossman is still below .200.
  • Looks like the Marlins will take a page out of the A's book to slow the Rays down.  They're bringin up lefty Sean West to face the Rays.  The first 2 pitcher to face the Rays yesterday, Ricky Nolasco and David Davidson were both off the team by the end of the night. I hope West doesn't bring the ghost of Steve Carlton with him.  Interesting note: No batter from either team has faced either pitcher.  Marlins batters will get their first look at Jeff Niemann.
  • Don't look now, but the .500 Rays picked up a game on everyone in the AL East in the first night of interleague play.  The Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox all lost getting the Rays one game closer. Those are the kinds of nights I like to see.
  • Dale Thayer and Reid Brignac both got into the action last night.  Brignac got his first big league hit, going in for Jason Bartlett.  As for Thayer, he got his first ever big league save for working the final 3 innings.  Neither is expected to be with the team long. David Price will replace Thayer and Brignac will go down when Pat Burrell is back.
  • It's good to see Carlos Pena hitting the long ball without Pat the Bat behind him in the order.  I guess that's what happens with you have a guy batting .375 behind you.


Thanks to one of my twitter friend, Toby.  He's a Rays fan that was at the game last night and sent some pictures.  You can follow me on Twitter by going to www.twitter.com/m_weber.  There you will get all my musings on the Rays and get updated every time a put a blog post up.




Reaction to Friday's big events

Friday could turn out to be one of the biggest days of the season for the Rays.  It all started innocently enough with a quick message on the Durham Bulls twitter account saying: +@#" and *#@+;! just got called up to the bigs. With that it was off to the races for journalists, bloggers, and other MLB rumor fans.  Around lunchtime, it was confirmed that Dale Thayer and Reid Brignac were coming to the team.  But, when who they were replacing wasn't confirmed the speculation just continues.  Was a trade in the works? Was somebody hurt?

Soon, we knew the answer. Andrew Friedman flew down to Miami and let us know that Troy Percival and Scott Kazmir were on the disabled list and David Price was coming to the big leagues. That's right. The day we've all been waiting for starts on Monday. The Price era begins in Tampa Bay.

According to the St. Pete Times, manager Joe Maddon says it's likely Troy Percival will retire. He told the team his arm was numb when he took the mound the other day and couldn't let his teammates down any more. There's plenty of hate on Percy, but I think he was an integral part of getting this team to the next level last year.  Who could forget in spring training when he compared the Rays starting rotation to the old Atlanta Braves rotation?  He was a veteran leader that the bullpen missed in 2007.  He helped teach guys like Balfour and Howell how to be effective.  Many Rays fans I know blasted me for defending Percy as much as I did, but I will say that the team was better for having him here.

As for Scott Kazmir, it looks like a little rehab is just what the doctor ordered.  I'm really rooting for Kaz.  He's the single most successful pitcher in Rays history... and he's only 25.  The Rays need this guy to get back to form if they're going to keep making runs this year and next.  Just imagine the 2007 Kazmir following Price in the rotation with a Matt Garza and "Big Game" James Shields start thrown in there. The Yankees could only dream of buying such a rotation. The Red Sox would need more than Jason Bay to keep up.  I think we haven't seen the last of Scotty Kazmir this year.  I think once he clears his head and gets back on track, we'll see the Kaz of 2007.  A guy, on a bad team, you didn't want to miss his start.

Friday, May 22, 2009

It looks like David Price is coming to Rays!

The Tampa Bay Rays told us just a few minutes ago that David Price will most likely be joining the team and take Kazmir's start on Monday.  This follows an intense day of speculation... and all this before tonight's game.

So here's what we know so far:
Scott Kazmir is on the 15-day disabled list with a Quad strain.
  • Troy Percival is also on the 15-day disabled list with Tendenitis
  • Sources say Percy is headed out of town and is contemplating retirement
  • Dale Thayer and Reid Brignac are both with the team right now
  • A Rays official told 10 Connects News that David Price is expected to join the team and pitch in Kazmir's place on Monday.
After all this,the team still has a game to play tonight!

Roster Move Today?

Rays Index posted a tweet they got from @durhambulls saying
 
+@#" and *#@+;! just got called up to the bigs.
 
Now, the speculation is on! Who are these mystery call ups? Who's going bye-bye to make room? Is it a trade? Is someone getting demoted? Is David Price finally coming up?
 
It's coming fast and furious.  The St. Pete Times and TBO have finally picked it up. I suspect we will know something in the next few hours. Until then, follow the discussion with me on Twitter.  You can find me at www.twitter.com/m_weber. If you don't have an account, sign up and follow me. I'll be giving information as I get it.

Rays win: Zorilla becomes a cult figure

Once again, Ben Zobrist... inspired by his wife's music... comes up to the plate and saves the day for the Tampa Bay Rays.  This time it was an exciting 2-run shot in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and salvage a split against the Oakland A's.  Despite the late game heroics, the game was without its problems.  The offense was once again tight against a lefty starter.  While Matt Garza pitched well, the bullpen gave up some runs. But, in the end, the Rays got the W in exciting fashion. The .150 brothers (BJ Upton, Dioner "Pinkeye" Navarro) even contributed.

Here are some of the things I noticed:

  • Zorilla, a cult figure.  That's what Joe Maddon said after Ben Zobrist's 3rd pinch hit homer this year.  Zorilla is quickly winning the hearts and minds of Rays fans.  The one-time starting SS has carved a little niche for himself hitting late homers.  If I'm not mistaken, I even saw him intentionally walked the other day with the game on line.  Rays fans may hate Scott Kazmir and Troy Percival, but there's nothing but love for the Zorilla!
  • Speaking of Troy Percival, another rough outing from the big guy. He walked 2 and gave up a long fly to center field that Bossman lost in the lights.  It may be time to revisit my post on why Percy's still on the team. I did notice that Maddon already had Nelson up in the bullpen and didn't waste no time with the hook after the bases were loaded. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Mr. Spock was the answer.  He promptly gave up a hit and walked in a run.  I guess we should just be happy that none of the A's knocked that Vulcan change up to the back wall of the Trop.
  • The .150 brothers actually had a decent day.  Give credit to Dioner "Pinkeye" Navarro for coming up with a big hit after Zorilla's home run.  The game was tied at that point and it would've been easy for Pinkeye and Bossman to do their normal thing with all the excitement. Instead Pinkeye cranked a double and Bossman got a big walk to set up Carl Crawford's walk-off single.  It was great seeing Pinkeye hustle around 3rd to score that run and get mobbed by his teammates.  Between the two, they were 4 for 8... another night like that and they'll be off the right side of the blog.
  • Matt Garza is really putting up a great season.  Eight strikeouts and only 2 earned runs.  Too bad the offense couldn't help him out and get him some run support or he would've easily picked up another W.
  • The Steve Carlson Syndrome looked to be in full effect again for most of the game. Just like he did in April, Dallas Braden worked through the Rays lineup like clockwork.  They got to him in the 2nd, but he was sitting them down pretty easily after that. The Rays Party brought out the stats on the Rays vs Lefties.  I really think it's the lack of stolen bases against lefties.Fortunately, the A's bullpen was able to blow it worse than the Rays bullpen.  Steve Carlton loses. 
  • Jason Bartlett is still making a case for the All-Star team.  Nothing better than watching Bartlett tear it up while Garza's on the mound. 
Remember to follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/m_weber.  I've been doing real time discussions with Rays fans during the games.  It's great to get the perspective of Rays fans from all over the country, watching the game together.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sweeny robs... Kaz fails... Rays lose

In what's becoming a familiar refrain this season, the Tampa Bay Rays came up just short against the Oakland A's tonight at Tropicana Field. The A's used another one of their stable of lefty pitchers to stop the Rays lineup early in the game.  Meanwhile, Scott Kazmir was way too hittable and the A's took advantage putting up 7 runs before Joe Maddon pulled him.

The Scotty Kazmir question is growing. He now has had three bad outings in a row.  Even though I defended him last night, I'm beginning to come around to the fact that we may not see the 2007. After the game, Joe Maddon says they need to continue to grind it out with Kaz.  He says Kaz is a 2-time all star and has talent.

Here are some things I noticed:

  • Ryan Sweeny is now public enemy #1 in my book.  That guy was doing all kinds of robbery in center field including that last drive by Bossman. He's going to have to go on my players I love to hate list with Pedroia, Youklis, A-roid, Tiexiera, Victor Martines, etc.
  • Carlos Pena finally got his groove on.  He's been quiet ever since Pat Burrell went to the DL. Tonight, he came ready to play.  The A's even walked him to get to the red-hot Jason Bartlett. Now, that's fear.
  • Mediocre lefties are killing the Rays again.  For a couple of games, it seemed the Rays had put the ghost of Steve Carlton behind them. But tonight, the old Lefty reared his ugly head for the 2nd night in a row.  No offense to Brett Anderson, but the guy hadn't won a game... but, the Rays still had trouble.
  • The .150 brothers are also back. I'll give Dionar Navarro a little bit of credit for getting on base and scoring a run in the 8th.  Also, BJ Upton was robbed in the bottom of the ninth. But, these 2's batting average are dropping faster than the team is in the AL East Standings.  Just a couple of days ago, the .150 brothers seemed poised to make it to the top of the mountain known as the Mendoza line.  But, they couldn't quite do it going 1-9 tonight.
  • Evan Longoria's slumping a little.  He had 2 more strikeouts, but he did get a nice hit in the 8th inning.  I think we're just so used to him coming through every time... that we're a little spoiled.
  • Congratulations to Joe Maddon on his contract extension.  The reigning AL Manager of the Year deserved it.  It looks like we're going to see 3 more years of infield shifts, old relievers, and wine drinking philosphy.  Go Joe!


I'd like to invite any of you to join me on Twitter.  We've got some great discussions going during the game.  To join in, go to www.twitter.com/m_weber and follow me.  Then type #Rays in the search box and see what people are saying about the Rays.  You can start following other Rays fans and enjoy the ups and downs that is Rays baseball.  I even talked Todd Kalas into following my twitter feed during Web Wednesday tonight!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Missed Opportunities

That's all I can say about tonight's game.  The Rays got real strong performances from James Shields and J.P. Howell, but were unable to score.  In the end, Joe Nelson gave up a 3-run homer to Matt Holiday that sealed the deal for the Oakland A's.

After the game, manager Joe Maddon said this was the type of game they're having trouble winning this year, but they're going to have to figure out a way to do it.  He also says the team is going to have moments like they did tonight. They just have to put it behind them.

Here's some of the things I noticed:

  • Tough night for the Longo/Pena/Bartlett combination. They were 1-14 with 6 strikeouts and 8 men left on base.  They especially had problems late in the game when you really want those guys up.  Of course, we've learned to expect so much from those 3 guys this year that they were bound to let us down.
  • Rays need to win the next 2 games against the A's to head to Miami 1 game over .500.  This was a tough loss as far as momentum goes. The Rays had won 4 in a row for the first time this season.  The fifth game was within their grasp.  They now need to regroup and go for the next two.
  • For the 2nd time this home stand, an extra out costs the Rays big time.  Last Thursday it Akinora Iwamura's error that led to a big Cleveland inning.  Tonight, Bartlett missed a ball that should've got the Rays out of the top of the 11th with no damage. Instead, Holiday hits his 3 run homer.
  • Good game from James Shields, it's just a shame he couldn't get any run support.  The guy pitched a great game, but ended up leaving with the game 0-0.  The lineup owes "Big Game."

Scotty Kazmir takes the mound tomorrow night.  Earlier, I made a post about the possibility of trading Kazmir. I'm against it, but others are floating it as a possibility.  I'd like to know what you think.  Go and weigh in!



Kazmir: Keep him or Let him go?

How quickly we forget. Sometime in the last year, Scott Kazmir went from being the one-time future of the franchise to nothing more than a disposable part of a .500 team.

It all started with a comment from a co-worker (Matty from St. Pete) who called me a "Kaz apologist" when we were arguing about what starting pitcher could be sacrificed for David Price. I had to think about that for a moment. I know he's not quite been the same since the all-star break last year.  But, this is a guy who was the Rays only all-star pitcher last year.  I know he's had a little trouble this year early in games, but he's still 4-3.  This is a guy who's not striking out as many this year, but lead the league in strikeouts in 2007.  He's a guy who is on his 5th year with the team, but he's only 25.

Later, as I was headed home from work, I turned on an afternoon sports radio host who went as far as suggesting the Rays trade Kazmir now.  I almost had to slam on the breaks.  Trade Kaz?  Why not trade Longoria while you're at it? That's sacrilege. He went on to say that several reputable blogs were advocating trading Kazmir.  I was floored.  I couldn't wait to go home and find out who could possibly want to get rid of Kazmir.

Sure enough, when I got home I found this DRays Bay article from a few days ago.  I will be the first admit that I'm not nearly as analytical as those guys over there.  But, c'mon, a few bad starts to begin the season and you're ready to give up on a guy like that for some mediocre prospects? No way! I'm sure any team would jump at the opportunity to get Kaz the same way the Rays got him from the Mets.  What floored me is on how quickly some in this fan base have dismissed him.  There were even unsubstantiated rumors that the Rays tried to move Kazmir in the off-season.

I understand we're not seeing the Kazmanian Devil this year.  He's pitching like crap early in the games and getting shelled. His fastball velocity is down and he's having trouble hitting the strike zone.  But, this .500 team has no business moving the pitcher with the most potential while still trying to make a run to the postseason. Trading him would only leave the Rays like the Mets, dreaming about what could've been.

If you'd like to keep up with all my Rays musings, follow me on twitter... you can find me at www.twitter.com/m_weber . You can also subscribe to my RSS feed to the right.  If you're unfamiliar with what to do with an RSS feed, you can just type in your e-mail address and you'll get all my posts right in your e-mail inbox.

Rays rolling, need to keep it going!

The Tampa Bay Rays did something last night they were unable to do since last season: win 4 in a row.  This is the kind of streak they need to keep pace in the AL East.  The Toronto Blue Jays will face off against the Boston Red Sox as they finally dip their toes into their AL East schedule.  It's important for the Rays to keep winning while the teams ahead of them play each other.  .500 doesn't seem like much of a milestone, but the Rays can quickly start adding games and find themselves over that mark.

Here are some things I noticed:

Jason Bartlett is playing like a man possessed. 3 for 3 with 5 RBI's is just insane for the Rays shortstop.  There should be no excuse why he isn't the starting shortstop for the American League this year (except for the popularity of that guy from NY)

Jeff Niemann did his part.  I wrote earlier that the Rays starters need to step up.  Given a nice cushion, Niemann went out and pitched eight good innings, giving up only 3 earned runs.  Now, we get to the big 3 in the rotation.  Shields and Kazmir need to get it done.

Carlos Pena is seeing a lot of balls. For those of you complaining about Pat Burrell's lack of production this year, look no further than Pena's home run total during Pat the Bat's absence. Many fans may not notice, but I'm sure Pena misses him.

Team building.  I like the blurb about Carlos Pena's birthday bash and postgame BBQ on Sunday. After their big win against Cleveland, most of the team showed up to with the 1st baseman a happy 31st birthday.  Yesterday, Pena put a note in the clubhouse saying, "it was the best birthday of my life." That's the kind of unity I like to see.

Keep it going.  This Oakland team in not very good and the Rays have to keep the pedal to the medal.  The Blue Jays have won 4 in a row and the Yankees have won 6 in a row.  The Rays are in a dogfight and cannot let games against week opponents slip away.

Quick note:  
I'm connecting with a lot of Rays fans over on Twitter. If you'd like to follow me and get in on the discussion, go to www.twitter.com/m_weber  If you're looking for other Rays fans to follow look on my list and start following people.  There's good in-game commentary and plenty of post-game analysis... all in 140 characters or less.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Give me some Troy Percival love!

Troy Percival takes a lot of heat from Rays fans. Many wish he would just go away like he did during the playoffs last year.  Most wish he wasn't on the team anymore.  But, let's give credit where credit is due today.  Percy showed veteran leadership in the 9th inning when he was able to not only get the save (striking out 2), he also got some payback for B.J. Upton.  I know some are saying that there's no way Percy meant to hit Mark DeRosa. I disagree. You don't spend as many years in the league as Percy has without learning a few tricks. It was brilliant the way he went out there and got his payback and the save.  Good job, Percy! Now, watch your back, Jason Isringhausen is coming up.

After the game, Joe Maddon said it was his mistake on the lineup card.  He said he loved the emotion from the team today. He said it was obvious they brought in Kerry Wood to hit Bossman.  He says there are a lot of pages "in the book" that need to be burned or extricated. He finds nothing wrong with Bossman stealing a base down 9-0 to try and come back. Also claims Percy didn't hit DeRosa on purpose (I have my doubts).

Breaking News: Burrell to DL, Izzy getting called up!

Rays manager Joe Maddon said after the game that Pat Burrell's going to DL and Jason Isringhausen is getting called up.  Pat the Bat's DL stint will involve some retro days. Maddon wasn't completely sure on that.

My Take: Lineup Card Snafu

In case you missed it, the Rays had to take Evan Longoria out of the game and instead bat Andy Sonnanstine because of a foul-up on the lineup card.  The Heater Blog from the St. Pete Times has been keeping an update on exactly what happened today.  Needless to say, it's not often you see a pitcher batting in the American League. It's even rarer to see a pitcher batting in the 3 hole in either league.

I hope this is a very good lesson to Joe Maddon.  Under no circumstances should a Tampa Bay Rays lineup card be filled out without Evan Longoria batting 3rd at 3rd base.  This is a guy who needs to be in the game, every day at third base. He's the MVP. He's the driving force behind this lineup and he's one of the best fielding third baseman in league.  Don't try to get cute by making him a DH.  You've got plenty of guys that can DH for you in Pat Burrell's absence. Let this be a lesson... Longo plays!

Turning the corner?

So far this weekend has become a throwback to last year.  Friday night the Rays get a walk-off homer from B.J. Upton and on Saturday we see a good old fashioned grind-it-out win at Tropicana Field. All year, the Rays struggled to find their groove.  The starting pitching is having trouble.  The bullpen is not as tough. The little things they did right last year are going wrong. But, for the last two days, things are looking up.  Maybe this team has turned the corner. But, it's going to take more than a weekend for me to fully believe.  Here are 10 things I would like to see from the Rays this week:

1.  Solid Starting pitching.  Matt Garza is the only starter pitching with authority. Andy Sonnanstine's troubles are well-documented. Jeff Neimann is still learning his way around the big leagues. But, what can we say about James Shields and Scott Kazmir.  I said earlier this year that the Rays need to get 2 of 3 wins from the "big 3" each time through the rotation.  Right now, they're lucky to get one.  We know that both Shields and Kaz are capable of dominating, but we're just not seeing it.  Before I believe the corner is turned, I need to see this guys light it up on back to back nights.

2.  More Bossman.  Gary Shelton wrote a great column  about B.J. Upton's struggles this morning. In it, he makes a good point about how the Rays need Bossman to jump start the lineup in the lead-off position. He's right. Maddon knows that the "Vicious Circle" line-up is the key to the Rays' offense long term health.  That's why he's stuck with Bossman at the top.

3.  More Fire.  I've noticed all year that the Rays are lacking a fire that had last year.  They seem more like robots than the fun-loving group we saw last year.  Maybe Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske's departure have something to do with it. If that's the case, other guys need to step up and fill that roll.  We saw the fire Friday night.  According to Bossman (after the game) and Mark Topkin , Troy Percival became the cheerleader for the team.  Maybe the most hated man on the Rays roster is going to step-up into a leadership roll.

4. Series Wins. The Rays have had trouble all year winning series (against teams other than the Red Sox).  Between today and next Sunday, they have the chance to win 3 series.  They need to finish off Cleveland today.  Then, they need to take 3 of 4 from Oakland at home, followed by a weekend series against the Florida Marlins.  That would put them over .500 and possibly on their way.

5. Series wins are nice, but big win streaks are better.  The FOX guys pointed out once again yesterday that the Rays have only had one 3 game win streak all year.  That has to change.  While the Rays aren't racking up long losing streaks, they're also not getting the big winning streak that leads to making up ground in your division.  If they can't get those kind of streaks going, they'll continue to hover around .500 at the bottom of the AL East.

6. Early leads.  The past few games, the Rays have come out of the box very slowly the first time through the order.  I attribute this a little to Pat Burrell being out of the line-up, but that excuse only goes so far.  Nothing is more frustrating than watching the Rays let a mediocre pitcher get comfortable on the mound. Apply the pressure early, and it will make the Rays' starting pitchers a little better.

7. Zorilla every day.  I must admit, I'm late to joining the Ben Zobrist bandwagon.  But, that guy is becoming a baller.  I really think he's won the starting right field job from Gabe Gross.  He seems to be playing like the guy we were looking for last year in right field.  I remember last year how Maddon kept saying he really like Zorilla's swing.  I've become such a big fan that I'm putting a link to the right of the page to Zorilla's wife's CD.  Buy it now for inspiration, it's working for Zorilla.  If her CD isn't your thing, you can always check out Rays Index's Zorilla t-shirt .

8. National league dominance.  Last year, the Rays feasted on the National League going 12-6.  Specifically, they went 5-1 versus the Florida Marlins.  They start their interleague schedule Friday versus those Marlins and they need to keep that up.

9. Some Toronto losses.  I know the Rays can't do anything about this until they play them, but, wow, that team doesn't seem to lose too often.  Dare I say they're playing like the Rays did last year?

10.  More "Sox beater" jersey.  The Rays are 3-0 in the blue "Sox beater" jerseys. I want to see those jerseys  more against someone other than the Red Sox.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bossman brings back a little of that 2008 magic

Thanks, BJ.  Last night, you were able to bring back some of that 2008 magic to a team that has sorely been lacking any emotion.  As you rounded the bases after hitting your walk-off homer, the team was waiting for you at the plate. You did a little dance and were mobbed.  The Trop rocked. Dionar Navarro got you with the shaving creme. Fun and games all around for a team that hasn't had much to celebrate this year. Now, can you keep it going?

Despite the feel good emotions of last night's victory, the Rays need to go out this afternoon and show they've turned the corner.  Right now, the starters are struggling.  Even James "Big Game" Shields and Scotty Kazmir couldn't turn the corner for that group. Both looked horrible in successive nights against the Indians.  The Rays are still having trouble scoring early. Last night, they were retired in order the first time through.  But, Bossman gave us a glimpse of hope... a glimpse that Rays fans everywhere can hope carries over.

Here are some things I noticed:

  • Last night's rally from down 7-0 represented the biggest comeback in franchise history. That's big news for a team who has been unable to mount serious comebacks all season.  It was a hallmark of the 2008 team.
  • I'm still missing the 2007 Scott Kazmir.  He's describing it as a "funk," but he's going to have to snap out of it if the Rays are going to make any noise this year.  They can't afford for the Kazmanian Devil to give up big innings early every start.
  • The Bullpen looked good.  Even though they're getting severely overworked, they were able to put up goose-eggs on a tough Cleveland lineup. Troy Percival even took the mantel as a leader and led the cheerleading in the dugout before Bossman's walk-off home run.  Bossman credited Percy for telling him to "play Rays baseball."
  • The Rays have 2 afternoon games this weekend.  Fans to today's game will get a Evan Longoria Rookie of the Year figurine (some assembly required).  Kids will get a Matt Garza t-shirt to tomorrow's game.

All in all, the Rays have to keep it going today.  They need to beat teams like Cleveland at the Trop. They can't afford a let down. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Not so sweet homecoming.

The expectations were there.  The Tampa Bay Rays were returning home to face a last place team with their workhouse on the mound. What could go wrong? This should be the start of something good.  Unfortunately for the Rays, no good came of Thursday night's game against the Cleveland Indians.  The Rays showed they're closer to last place than they are first place.  It was a game that highlighted much of what was wrong with the team.

Here are some of the things I noticed:

  • "Big Game" James Shields turned into "Big 3 innings" last night.  Look, I understand Aki's error made you mad, but I don't understand 10 hits.  The first time through the order, Shields looked pretty good and then it all fell apart the 2nd time through.  Maybe it's time for "Big Game" to visit Garza's sports psychologist. This guy's supposed to be our ace! Not to sound the alarm, but he's only won 1 out of his last 5.
  • Fausto Carmona? This guy has struggled out year, but the Rays couldn't hardly sniff a hit off of him until the game was out of reach. Maybe if "Big Game" got some run support early, he wouldn't have blown his lid when Aki made the error.
  • Indians catcher Victor Martinez worked his average right up to .400 on the backs of Rays pitchers. 4-5 with 2 RBI's.  The Rays need to figure out a way to get this guy out.
  • Akinori Iwamura's error highlighted how different this team is than last year.  First off, the Rays didn't make those types of errors in 2008.  The Indians were able to tack on 3 runs after Aki missed what should've been a routine grounder.  The other big difference is that when the 2008 did make those types of errors, the pitchers usually bailed them out.
  • Ben Zobrist, aka Zorilla, made anther bid for become the Rays hero.  Unfortunately, he could only knock in 3 runs on that homer when they really needed six.

All in all it was a rough night at the Trop.  As the Indians began to pile on, the Cleveland fans behind us got louder and louder.  Not only was there something magical missing on the field, but the magic was missing in the stands.  I feel like I'm watching the magic go away and the Rays are finally coming back to earth.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

At the Trop!

Minutes until gametime. Let's do it Rays!

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No CC, No Pat the Bat

Just got word that Carl Crawford and Pat Burrell will be out of the lineup tonight. I'm headed to the game in just a few hours.  Hopefully, James "Big Game" Shields will keep the Cleveland bats quiet and they won't miss CC and Pat the Bat.  I'm excited for this home stand!

A fresh start: Going to the game tonight!

The Rays return home tonight for an 8 game home stand versus Cleveland and Oakland. I think this is going to be a pretty telling home stand. We'll get to see if the "schedule" is truly the excuse for the slow start.  There is no reason the Rays shouldn't be able to feast on Cleveland and Oakland the way Toronto has.  We'll see tonight.  I'll be there! Will you?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wonder what Kevin Kennedy was doing last night?

According to this website:
 
Kevin Kennedy was filling in on NESN for the Red Sox broadcast last night.  I'm not sure exactly what the deal is, but I don't think he's good enough that the Rays have to share him with other teams... especially division rivals.
 
Thanks to JoeMaddonSucks.com for noticing this.

Evan Longoria arrives in the newsroom!

Warning! Some assembly required. This is the figurine the Rays will give out Saturday to all fans. When we took it out of the box... we found out that it had to be assembled. Overall, not so bad. We also got one of the Matt Garza t-shirts that the first 10-thousand kids will get on Sunday. My girls will look good sporting a Garza shirt for the rest of the season!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

10 Questions for Dewayne Staats

My mother told me if I didn't have anything nice to say, not to say anything at all. So, after tonight's debacle at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, I've decided I'm not going to rail on Andy Sonnanstine's high pitches or Pat Burrell's stiff neck or Aki needing rest.  Instead, I'm going to lay out 10 questions for Dewayne Staats in honor of Web Wednesday on Suns Sports/FSN.

  1. Why do the Rays have three pitchers in the rotation that can't seem to get past the 5th inning?
  2. Is it really necessary to keep your hot 1st baseman well-rested on a night you're playing a division rival on national television?
  3. Why can't the starters and the bullpen have a good night on the same night?
  4. Since the Rays are 3-0 in their blue "Sox beater" alternate jerseys, why don't they wear them every night?
  5. Can we put out a call for the 2007 version of Scott Kazmir? I really miss that guy.
  6. If the Rays can't get it together, does that mean Carl Crawford will go somewhere else?
  7. Is Uncle Cliffy Floyd available? If not, could we just get David Price?
  8. Would it be lame to bring back the Ray Hawk?
  9. Are the Baltimore Orioles really that much better than they were last year?
  10. Do you think Evan Longoria could make a successful run for Governor of Florida?
Sincerely,
Michael Weber
Rays Revolutionary

How many of May's 19 games do the Rays have to win to get back in the AL East race?

The Rays have 19 games left in May.  All of these games are against non AL East teams, except for the two against Baltimore tonight and tomorrow.  This stretch could be the make or break part of the season.  They can either gain some ground, stay mediocre, or nose dive. And without any head to head games against Toronto, Boston, or New York... they can only pick up games by winning more and losing less.

Here's the question for all of you Rays gurus out there:  What do you think the Rays record needs to be for the rest of May in order for them to climb back in the AL East race?

You can answer below in the comments section or send me a message on twitter:

www.twitter.com/m_weber

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fading optimism for 2009

With last night's loss, my optimism is beginning to fade.  Coming into this season, I really though there was no way the Rays wouldn't be competing with the Red Sox and the Yankees for first place in the AL East.  Instead, the Rays get ready to play Baltimore in a series of AL East bottom dwellers.

Let's face it, the Rays were rolling at this time last year.  While the rest of the league was saying they'll come back to earth, true believers were jumping on the bandwagon.  For those true believers, anything better than before was bonus.  We didn't go into the season expecting much. Why should we? But, the Rays proved us wrong... a year ahead of schedule.  So, when the Rays lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies, Ray fan didn't panic.  This is easy.  We'll bring back the same team next year and everything will be fine. But, it's not.  The hunter become the hunted.  The hungry team got filled up on their own success.  The scouts are paying attention. Lesser teams want to beat the Rays so they can say they're this year's Rays.

When you get right down to it, the Rays are nothing more than a below average team.  That's what their record says.  The can't win more than three games in a row.  They've had trouble with teams they should be beating.  They're not sustaining momentum from one game to the next. All of that adds up to a team with a 15-18 record.

Last night's loss was sort of a microcosm of the season.  Coming off a big victory (like 2008), the Rays played a tough grind out it game, only to come up short when it really mattered.  Not only that, they looked bad doing it.  Hopefully, the Rays can turn it around.  A 6 or 7 game win streak could put the Rays right back into the thick of things.  But, until then, they're just a below average team battling Baltimore for 4th place in the AL East.

Off Day Fun: Rays Ebay Search

Since today is an off-day, I thought I'd have a little fun and see what kind of Rays stuff I can dig up online.  Basically, I entered the search term "Tampa Bay Rays" into ebay to see what kind of stuff pops up. Here's what I found:


For $11.50 you can get this Phiten Tampa Bay Rays 55 inch necklace with Titanium disks.  I wasn't quite sure what a Phiten necklace is, so I had to google it.  The website for Phiten USA says: Phiten products work with your body’s energy system, helping to regulate and balance the flow of energy throughout your body.  Josh Beckett and Joba Chamberlain seem to be big fans. 




I also came across this Evan Longoria dog tag for $9.99. I'm really not to sure what to make of this one. Maybe it would be a good present if your girl really digs Longo? It even comes with a free 30 inch chain.




And, finally, one person is selling a miniature replica of Tropicana Field.  When I first clicked on the link, I wasn't sure how cool it would be to have a replica of a dome stadium. However, upon further review, you can actually take the top of the trop to see the inside. Pretty cool.



Sunday, May 10, 2009

Maddon plays "Do or Die with Pena"


I'm going to preface this by saying that I'm a huge Carlos Pena fan.  But really, was he the best person to be batting in the top of the 9th with 2 on and 0 outs.  The Rays finally wrestled a little momentum from the Red Sox.  A walk by Akinori Iwamura and a hit by Jason Bartlett had Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon on the ropes.  His head wasn't straight and you could tell that Red Sox nation was holding their breath.  Up walks Carlos Pena with the game on the line.

Before we go any further, let's rewind.  Rays manager Joe Maddon gave Pena the night "off."  I understand that it is a long season and that guys need to rest, but c'mon it's the Boston Red Sox at Fenway on a nationally televised stage.  Carlos will get plenty of time to rest during the off day. Instead, Willy Aybar takes the field and makes an error that leads to an early Red Sox run.  Do you know who else missed Pena? Evan Longoria.  He wasn't quite as hot with Pat the Bat behind him. It was almost like you had one half of a dynamic duo.

Back to the top of the ninth.  Maddon has a "fresh" Pena ready to pinch hit against Papalbam, but the question is where?  You really like starting the inning off with Aki and Bartlett.  This is where they shine.  Plus, you don't want to pinch hit for one of your middle infielders.  So, what about the catcher?  He's batting .182.  Fine. Grab a helmet Carlos, you're going in for Navi.

Except, the situation changed.  Aki was unable to score on Bartlett's base hit.  So, now you have the 2 on, no outs situation with a flustered closer.  Next in the order is a guy who can sacrifice bunt.  But, you've already committed to a man who pretty much either strikes out or hits a homer.  Worse yet, he's followed by a guy who's not only in a slump but also is 2nd on the team in strikeouts. 

Maddon decided to play "Do or Die with Pena!"  In this case, it was die.  Pena strikes out. Upton strikes out. Carl Crawford strikes out.  End of game.  End of series.  I guess if Pena hits a 3-run blast, I'm writing about how great a manager Maddon is.  Actually, I doubt it.  If I'm able to correctly predict a strikeout for Pena before he even gets up, I'm sure Maddon's charts say the same thing.  He was hoping for a miracle.

I felt like the Rays were sleepwalking through the game.  That seems to happen this year after huge offensive nights.  Some joke that they use 2 days worth of runs up in one day.  Garza pitched well.  The bullpen did just enough to lose the game and here we sit... ready for yet another last place battle against the Baltimore Orioles.

I would also like to issue a challenge to Joe Morgan to watch a few more Rays games. He actually said that Papelbon was pitching around Crawford to get to Longoria.  Really, Joe? Did you miss the part where Longo owns the Red Sox? You were probably the only one in that stadium that thought pitching around CC to get to Longo was a good idea.   Also Joe, trading Edwin Jackson did not diminish the Rays starting pitching as much as you would have us believe.  I understand he won 14 games last year, but we didn't call him Ed"winless" Jackson because he was good at winning games.

Rays Round-up: Sox beater edition

As soon as the game started yesterday, I had a feeling the Rays were going to take care of business. It wasn't the pitching match-up.  It wasn't the fact that Kevin Youkilis was out of the line-up.  It wasn't the fact that the Rays have owned the Red Sox all season.  In fact, the reason I really was sure the Rays were going to beat the Red Sox... the "Sox Beater Shirts."

Once I saw B.J. Upton trot to the plate in his blue alternate jersey, I knew the Red Sox were in for it.  When the Rays don the blue jersey they mean business. No messing around like the night before. Instead, pure focused energy on beating the Sox to a pulp.  Evan Longoria immediately showed the power of the "Sox beater" jersey with a 2-run-homer. Red Sox nation should've headed for the Fenway exits right then.


Great game. But, the Rays cannot afford to take the Red Sox lightly today.  They need to take this series and keep pace with the Blue Jays.  Maybe I should send an e-mail to the Rays front office asking for the "Sox beater" jersey again tonight.

Here's a round up of some the Rays links from this morning.  As always, my comments are in italics:

- The Boston Herald breaks down Evan Longoria's 2 big at-bats yesterday.  It was a nice look inside the thought of the batter and pitcher in that sort of situation. Don't miss the comments on this one.  Red Sox Nation thinks the pitchers need to drill Longoria to break up his comfort level at the plate.  I think that would just give Pena another RBI opportunity.

-The Boston Globe says starting pitching, not Julio Lugo is the culprit behind the Sox troubles. Boston is still ahead of the Rays in the standings.  I think the Sox will be fine as long as they don't have to face the Rays.

- MLB.com writer Bill Chastain actually calls Longoria the Sox nemesis.  Is there any question that the Rays fans are truly blessed to watch Longo come of age?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chicks Dig the Longball!


That shirt says it better than anything else.  The Rays took advantage of the new Yankees Stadium launching pad to finish off a sweep of the Yankees.  The Bronx Bombers almost seemed like the Rays had earlier in the year, getting so close, yet so far.  When Joe Girardi brought in Mariano Rivera to face the teeth of the Rays lineup with the score tied, I had a feeling they'd get to him. I just didn't realize that CC and Longo would hit back to back homers!

For the first time this year, the Rays have a 3-game win streak going.  They were also able to beat a left-hander for the 2nd time this season (although, I'm not sure Steve Carlton would've enjoyed pitching in the new Yankee Stadium). Let's see if they can continue their domination of the Boston Red Sox in this weekend's three game set.  If they can, the future's looking really bright!

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

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