Thursday, July 30, 2009

Still holding out hope, the season is not over

This guy's still holding out hope for a Rays turnaround!

I'm holding out hope.  I'm holding out hope that these Rays will somehow find what they're missing. I'm holding out hope that this team can get hot. I'm holding out hope that the starting pitching becomes dominant again. I'm holding out hope that Pat Burrell and Carlos Pena didn't forget how to swing the bat. I'm holding out hope that Dioner Navarro can get clutch hits. I'm holding out hope that the Rays will be a playoff team.

Last night's loss to the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field has a very demoralizing feel to it. Many are saying today that the Rays are done. Columns declaring their death were published and Yankee fan thinks the Rays were just a fluke. But, I say ... there's still hope. Somewhere, buried deep, is the Rays we know and love. We saw them Tuesday night. We've seen them in flashes during other parts of the season. Where are they now?

This team, as it stands, is capable of going on a run.  The Yankees did it. The Red Sox did it. Now, it's the Rays turn. And maybe, just maybe, if the Rays get hot at the right time... they can ride it all the way to the promised land. I know many of you may think I'm overly optimist. But, this is baseball, not football. One game or two doesn't get you eliminated. Baseball is 162 game marathon. It's a marathon that miracles can happen. The Rays have plenty of games against the teams in front of them. It's up to them to seize the opportunity.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 6-2 loss to the Yankees:

  • Get some offense going, please! I'll say this for the Rays lineup, they really know how to stink up the joint. I've got to give some credit to Joba Chamberlain for his excellent performance, but the Rays gave him a lot of help.  For some reason, this team isn't making adjustments as they go through the order.  The Rays need to change their approach on the 2nd and 3rd trips up against a pitcher. The Yankees did it last night. Why couldn't the Rays?
  • PtB Hate.  Pat Burrell has become the new Troy Percival to Rays fans. He got booed at the Trop last night as he continues to look absolutely lost at the plate. He went 0-4 with K's.  PtB even got his own "hate" column from St. Pete Times writer John Romano this morning.  He's an easy target. He wasn't part of last year's run. He's making a lot of money. And he's not doing what he was paid to do. I'm not sure there's any use of hating on PtB, because he's here to stay. It may be easier just to root for him to get on one of those "streaks."
  • Carlos Pena's falling stock. Pena's starting to get some bad vibes coming his way from Rays' fans. It's a little harder to hate on Pena because he's such a nice guy and he represents so much about the Rays turnaround. However, if he keeps looking bad at the plate or something happens to PtB... Pena could be in for his boo birds at the Trop.  I've even heard some talk from fans that the Rays should trade Carlos Pena.  That's a subject I don't think I've ever heard until this week.
  • Matt Garza and Derek Jeter.  If you want to point to one big mistake Garza made last night, it was giving up the triple to Jeter to begin the game. For some reason, that run loomed large all game. It seemed to give Joba some extra energy as he took the mound in the bottom of the 1st. For the most part, Garza was solid... just not solid enough.
  • Good defense. One common thread among these games is the defense.  On Monday and Wednesday, the Yankees made some great plays and won. On Tuesday, they didn't look as good and lost. It's like Joe Maddon keeps saying: Pitching and defense will win games.
  • Royals Relief.  This week would be a good time to start a win streak.  The Rays are 6-0 versus the Royals this year. Tomorrow night starts a 4 game set.
  • 5 games back. The 2009 Rays are now 5 games back on the 2008 Rays.  But, the 2008 Rays would be 3 games back from the 2009 Yankees. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Picture post: Kazmir bobblehead takes place of honor on my desk

One day after his fine performance against the New York Yankees, the Scott Kazmir bobblehead arrived in the newroom. Kaz is sporting the road grays and seems to be mid-pitch with a big grin on his face. I've been told that there is precedence for trade before bobblehead day. The Cubs traded Michael Barrett in 2007 before his bobblehead giveaway. The promotion went on as planned.

As for Kaz, I would like to see him stay a Ray for awhile. He's going to take his place next to my phone on my desk for the rest of the season. That way, I can have Kaz watching me as go about my day.
Kaz takes his place of honor on my desk.
Here's a look at a quick video of the Kaz bobblehead:

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Trade deadline suggestion: Stay the course

Staying the course is never easy. It wasn't easy last year when the Rays were in first place, trying to hold off the Red Sox.  The 2008 team had some holes. They needed a right handed bat. They could've used a solid closer.  Those holes led to rumors.  This closer is coming here for so-so. That team wants some unknown prospects for the right-handed right fielder.  We've got to make a move! The Red Sox are dealing, so should we.  The Yankees are making moves, we need to slow them down.  In the end, the Rays front office didn't get any major moves done. Yet, the Rays still won the Al East.  The Rays still went to the World Series.  The Rays still finished better than the wheeling and dealing teams.

Fast-forward to 2009.  These Rays don't have as many glaring holes as the 2008 Rays, yet they're in 3rd place.  Panic is setting in.  And the rumors are flying again. Big names. Big prices. To read some publications, you would think Andrew Friedman is on the phone non-stop, figuring out ways to get Cliff Lee for Scott Kazmir.  Or Victor Martinez for Carlos Pena. Or even Carl Crawford for Roy Halladay. What a deal, right?

I'm going to say that none of those deals really make any since in the long run.  Would I like to see Roy Halladay in a Rays uniform? Of course. Would I like to gut the farm system to make it happen? No.  Would I like to see the Rays trade Carl Crawford for Roy Halladay? No.

Here's the deal.  The Rays are a talented team.  There is no doubt that this group of guys has what it takes to compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox.  This is a team that struggled in April and has been playing catch-up ever since.  This is a team that is capable of going on a run and scooting right past the Yankees and the Red Sox.  It's also a team that has a friendly August and September schedule to do just that.  The Rays don't need to mortgage the future now. They just need the players they have to play better.

And then there are those who say the Rays should start selling. Get rid of Kazmir. Trade Crawford. Dump salary. Start over.  I disagree.  The Rays are still very much in this race.  They are 9 games above .500.  They have plenty of games left against the teams ahead of them. It would be foolish for the team to give up on the season right now.  

What kind of message would that send to the locker room? What kind of message would that send to the entire team? Guess what guys? You're playing good ball... but, not good enough. We have standards. You'd better be in first place by the trade deadline or we're throwing in the towel.

As for those who say the Rays can't afford to keep the roster, I would like to remind everyone that baseball does *not* have a salary cap.  The only spending limitations the Rays have are their own, self-imposed limits. Limits that Stu Sternberg has already shown willing to break. We don't know what goes on inside the Rays front office.  This is a team looking to get a stadium. They're not going to have a fire sale with some of their most bankable stars.  Sternberg didn't buy this team as an investment. He bought it because he wants to own a baseball team.  And that means he wants to win.  Am I suggesting that he's going to go deep into a hole? No. I'm suggesting that the Rays are more flexible on payroll than you might think.

Maybe I'm just a little too loyal. Maybe I don't get the "business" side of things. But, I just think it would be a travesty to trade Carl Crawford or Carlos Pena or Scotty Kazmir in the next couple of days. It would be overreacting. Stay the course. Catch fire. Return to the playoffs. This team has the talent as it stands right now.

No doubt, the Rays can still compete

Last night's game was a breath of fresh air. For nine innings, the Rays reminded us that they could hang with the New York Yankees and the $100 million infield. For nine innings, the Rays played defense like a team possessed.  They pitched. They played great defense. They got timely hits. They took advantage of the Yankees' mistakes.  They scored runs.  They played "Raysball."

If anything else, the Rays showed us that they're capable of playing with the Yankees.  They also showed us that they can beat the Yankees. Good pitching and good defense is what it takes. Now, the question is: Can they keep it up?  Can they play like this for the last 2 months of the season? Can they turn it around?  We'll see soon enough. But, for now, we know that the disparity between the two teams is not as big as Monday night's game suggested.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 6-2 victory of the New York Yankees:

  • Scotty Kazmir, welcome to 2009.  I've taken a lot of heat for my support of Kazmir. I understand he's had some difficulties this year, but it's still too early to write him off.  If anyone needs to know why, just rewind the DVR and watch last night's game.  Kazmir gave a performance that reminded us of his days in green.  He reminded us why, as early as last year, he was considered one of the best up-and-coming lefties in the Majors. He reminded us why fans of the "Devil Rays" would show up just to see him. He reminded us why Met fan gets a knot in their stomach when they see him. He reminded us why he was an All-Star last year and why he was the strikeout king in 2007.  Most of all, he reminded us that he's only 25 year-old... much too early to give up on.
  • Defense steps up.  In Monday night's game, the Yankees showed how effective their defense is now. Last night, the Rays made sure everyone knows where the true gloves are at. After the game, Joe Maddon pointed out that the Rays got good pitching and good defense and they won the game. It's not rocket science.
  • Getting early runs.  For the first time since the All-Star break, the Rays staked an early lead and held on for nine innings. It was a breath of fresh air from what we had been seeing.  It also seemed to give Kaz some momentum when he went back out to the mound.
  • Slump busters.  Carlos Pena's slump is getting so pronounced that his name is now being mentioned in trade rumors.  He does look sad up at the plate, but I'm sure Pena will figure out a way out of this slump soon enough.  When he does, the lineup becomes that much more dangerous.
  • Garza versus Joba.  I'd like to see the Rays starters put 2 good, quality starts together in a row. I'm sure Matt Garza is up to the task. If the Rays pitch and play defense like they did yesterday, the Yankees don't stand a chance.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yankees resume bullying the Rays

It looks like order is restored in the AL East.  The Rays are back to being the Yankees little brother.  A brother that's never going to be as tall. A brother that's never going to be as handsome. A brother that takes his bullying and doesn't lift a finger to stop.

That's how the Rays came across last night in what could've been their biggest game of the season. The Rays had no answer on the mound.  The Rays had now answer at the plate. And they didn't have the answer on defense.  They let the Yankees come into the Trop and push them around, just like they did the first 10 years of the Rays existence.

I understand that the Yankees are a great team.  They have great pitchers.  They have an incredible lineup.  But, really... would it be too much to ask for a little resistance? Maybe a close game.  Maybe a real battle.  The Rays seemed to fold early in this game and let the Yankees just cruise their way to a victory.  I know the season isn't over yet.  The Rays could win the next two games or put together a big win streak to get back in it. But, at least for last night, the Yankees took their place once again as the team who pushes the Rays around like a little brother.

Here are some things I noticed in last nights 11-4 loss to the Yankees:

  • Where are the bats?  I'm not sure who took the wind out of this lineup, but it's gone. Some may argue that AJ Burnett is a tough pitcher. I say he's not Roy Halladay... a guy the Rays have handled. 
  • Need some early life.  The Rays offense has been abysmal early in games since the All-Star break.  Last night was not exception.  In the 1st inning, after a BJ Upton strikeout, the Rays had the opportunity to pound on Burnett for a run after a walk and an error left Carl Crawford on 3rd. Longo struck out. Zobrist lined out. And the Yankees scored three in the top of the 2nd.
  • Game plans.  In my 10 things I'd like to see column yesterday, I claimed that I thought Joe Maddon was a better a manager than Joe Girardi.  I'll have to retract that a bit and say that Girardi definitely out managed Maddon last night.  It was obvious the Yankees had a plan to attack James Shields and they did it with precision.
  • James "Big Game" Shields, 1-7 versus the Yankees.  Much has been made about Shields like of run support, but in reality he's just not pitching that well.  He's consistantly inconsistant this year.  Giving up big innings here and there while looking great in other innings. In a game like that, the Rays need their #1 pitcher to step up... Shield didn't.
  • Grab momentum.  One thing the Rays were really good at last year was grabbing momentum when they got it.  Somewhere along the line, they've lost that skill. In the top of the 5th, Shields got Alex Rodriguez to strikeout looking.  And then Gabe Gross made a great play on a Hideki Matsui line drive to right.  The Rays could've grabbed on to those plays as a momentum shift and taken control in the bottom of the fifth.  Instead, the Rays go 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth and the Yankees start the 6th off with back-to-back homers.
  • Yankees defense, a reminder of what was.  The Yankees didn't fail to notice how important defense was to the Rays run last year.  This year, the Yankees are using the Rays playbook to cut rallies short.  They made several plays to rob the Rays of hits. Hits that could've started rallies.  The Rays don't have that kind of defense this year. And, it shows.
  • Any better tonight? On paper, the Rays look like they're in for another long night tonight.  Scott Kazmir takes the mound. He hasn't won a game since coming off the disabled list.  He faces C.C. Sabithia, the Yankees hot ace lefty.  If the Rays have some resolve, tonight would be the time to break it out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's Time: Rays need to step-up or sit down

It's crunch time for the Tampa Bay Rays.  The 1st place New York Yankees come to Tropicana Field tonight for a 3 game set. The Rays are 6 1/2 games behind them for 1st place and 4 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the Wild Card. 

The Rays are running out of excuses... and time. They need to take this opportunity not only to gain some ground, but to send a message to the rest of the league that they're not going away. They have to show their best games are in front of them.  They have to show that their stud pitchers still have it.  They have to show that they can keep up with the monstrosity that is the New York Yankees.

Will it be easy? No.  The Yankees are playing their best baseball in years.  They've got their top 3 starters going against the Rays top 3 starters.   The Yankees bats are hot.  The Rays bats have been lukewarm at best. Tonight's series could be the difference between playing in the post-season or missing out a year after the World Series trip.  This series will show if these Rays have the same swagger that their counterparts from last year did.  At 7:08 tonight, we'll start learning a lot about this team.

10 Things I want to see this series from the Rays:

1. Dominant starting pitching.  We still haven't seen too much in the way of dominant starting pitching all year from the Rays.  James "Big Game" Shields needs to live up to his nickname and put some goose-eggs on the board. I don't want to hear about run support or any of that. I want to see domination of one of the toughest line-ups in baseball.

2. Early leads. Since the All-Star break, the Rays seem to meekly go about their jobs in the first three innings. It doesn't matter who's pitching... a rookie or Roy Halladay.  The Rays need to get going early this week.  They can't let AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia fly through their order the first time.  Make them work.  Make them think. Get some runs.  Don't wait for the 8th inning to try and mount a comeback.

3.  Solid defense and concentration.  Against a team as hot as the Yankees are right now, every out counts.  The Rays need to get every out they can and not let any go.  The Yankees will make you pay for runs.  They will make you pay for mental mistakes.  The only remedy is to not make them.

4.  Take what you can get.  At times, the Rays seem to be up there swinging for the fence every chance they get.  Leave that to the Yankees. Instead, go out there and play some small ball. Runs are going to be at a premium.  The Rays need to do what they do best and take what the pitcher gives them.

5. Hot. Hot. Hot.  The Rays offense has been an enigma all year.  When they're hot, they're really hot.  When they're cold, they get handled by rookie lefties.  All that has to end tonight.  Slumps are no longer part of the vocabulary.  When you're chasing the Yankees and Red Sox this late in the season, you don't have time to wait for some to get "toasty."

6.  Outfox the Yankees.  Joe Girardi has had it pretty easy the last couple of weeks. The Yankees are peaking and making his job that much easier.  I'd much rather have Maddon in crunch time than Girardi.  That being said, I think the Rays need to make sure Girardi's uncomfortable in the dugout.  The Rays know what they need to do for that.

7.  Bullpen dominance.  Of course, these games may come down to the Rays bullpen versus the Yankees bullpen.  We've seen some brilliance out of the bullpen as of late.  They need to keep it going.  He-who-must-not-be-named-closer will probably see some big action against some of the toughest bats in baseball.

8.  Give me some swagger please.  We saw it all last year.  We've seen flashes of it this year.  The Rays need to find some of that swagger they had last year.  That feeling you got, that they wouldn't be pushed around by their big brothers in the AL East anymore. 

9.  Home Field Advantage.  The Rays have been a much better team at the Trop this year, they need to make sure they establish that again. It may not be a sell-out, but the Rays have been able to make the Trop feel very hostile.

10. 9=8.  If nothing else, go back to what got you going last year.  All nine players need to make sure they have their "A" game on tonight.  The Yankees aren't going to give the Rays anything.  The Rays are going to have to show they want it, and then take it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Rays offense watches in silence as Buehrle pitches the perfect game

First off, congratulations to Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle for pitching a perfect game.  It's a rare and honorable feat to retire 27 major league batters in a row... without a mistake. Good job.

As for the Rays, the offense has finally frozen up. They seemed to be a bit on the chilly side for the first 7 games since the All-Star break. On the 8th day, Beuhrle froze them. One by one they came to the plate... and one by one they went back into the the dugout.  Sure there were a couple of chances. The most noticeable being DeWayne Wise's robbery of a Gabe Kaplar home run in the bottom of the ninth. But, all in all, the offense didn't bother to show up.

That seemed to be the story of the entire series.  The Chicago White Sox and Ozzie Guillen have seemingly avenged themselves for the Rays bouncing them from the playoffs last year.  The Rays need to take a lesson from this series and realized nothing's going to be easy for them for the rest of the yar.

Here's a list of things I noticed in the White Sox 5-0 victory over the Rays:

  • Scott Kazmir still finding ways to give up runs.  A grand slam, Scotty? Really? I know in the big picture it didn't matter. Beuhrle was dealing. But, I've said over and over that the Rays need Scott Kazmir to make a serious run. I didn't get a good feeling after today's game. Apparently, the feeling extended to Kazmir's arm... which he still says is feeling tight.
  • Trade Rumors. All kinds of rumors are flying around involving the Rays and the trade deadline. But, I still think the Rays are going to stand pat like they did last year. They may get a middle reliever, but I don't expect a "blockbuster" deal. 
  • Get the bats going. Honestly, the Rays are going to have to figure out how to score more than 4 runs over the next couple of days.  Four or less isn't going to cut it against the Yankees next week.

Rays give one away

The Rays margin for error is slim.  They can't giveaway games like they did last night too many more times. The Yankees are playing lights out ball and the slumping Red Sox are making moves to right their ship. It's imperative that the Rays are able to close the door on games that they're up 3-1 on in the 7th inning.  Last night, a series of misadventures lead to a White Sox comeback that gave them new life and took some of the wind out of the Rays sails.

Here are some things I noticed in the White Sox 4-3 victory of the Rays:

  • Big Game James Shields still not dominating.  While Shields wasn't horrible last night, he did make a couple of mistakes that cost him the game.  He couldn't get the final out in the 7th inning and walked Gordan Beckham.  That walk turned into 3 runs for the White Sox.
  • BJ & Bartlett.  Both made costly defensive mistakes in the seventh.  Jason Bartlett tried to rush a throw. It ended up in the dugout.  And Bossman misplayed an Alexi Ramirez fly ball that drove  in 2 of the 7th inning runs. I'm not going to call either player out, both have been superb defensively all year.  However, those are the types of plays that seperate playoff teams from those on the outside looking in.  The 2008 Rays made those plays.
  • Where's the offense? Seriously, the Rays offense for the most part has slumbered since the break. I keep waiting for the break out game, but they can't seem to score more than 4 runs. Maybe they're saving it for the Yankees on Monday.
  • Trade rumors. There are plenty of trade rumors swirling around the Rays as we approach the deadline. First off, I don't think the Rays are going to trade Carl Crawford.  Secondly, I believe the Rays may make a deal for a right-handed middle reliever. I don't think we'll see any "big" moves unless something falls into their laps that is too good to pass up. It's interesting that last year's team seemed to have more glaring holes, but they had the better record. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rays giving away All-Star t-shirts during next homestand

It looks like the Rays will be giving out some t-shirts next week during the homestand.  Each of the Rays All-Stars will get their own shirt, starting with Carl Crawford on July 27th against the Yankees.

For a full list, go to this link from 10 Connects:
Rays giving away All-Star t-shirts during next homestand | | Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater

I would venture a guess that this is a good sign that Carl Crawford won't be traded at the deadline. I'm not sure it's good form to feature a guy on a t-shirt and then trade him a few days later.

The upcoming homestand is really jam-packed. Besides the t-shirts during the Yankees and Red Sox series, the Kansas City series has 2 concerts and a Kazmir bobblehead. Very interesting.

Here are the pictures of the shirts:

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Jeff Niemann, Rays ace

Say it with me: Jeff Niemann is the best starting pitcher on the Rays right now. Say it again, this time slowly: Jeff Niemann is the best starting pitcher on the Rays right now.  I have to pinch myself every time I think about that.  Going into the season, I never would've predicted Niemann would be doing this well halfway through the season. I didn't even think he'd be a starter. But, there he was last night...owning a Chicago White Sox team that was out for blood.

If you go through the Rays starters, they all have issues.  James Shields gives up big innings. Matt Garza can't control his emotions.  David Price is going through growing pains. And Scott Kazmir is trying to find his mechanics.  Through all of that, every fifth day, here comes Niemann. 

I hope Shields, Garza, Kazmir and Price were taking notes last night. Niemann didn't let the lack of run support get him down. He didn't walk guys. He didn't fold when the White Sox got a couple of runs. He went out there throwing first pitch strikes.  And when he had to make the really big pitch... he did, time and time again. Jeff Niemann, the fifth pitcher, has set the bar. Can the rest of the Rays stable of pitchers keep up?

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 3-2 victory over the White Sox:

  • Ninth inning heroics.  It wasn't as dramatic as a late home run, but Pat the Bat's walk in the top of the ninth off Bobby Jenks was quite a sequence. Jason Bartlett took some heat for swinging at strike 3 against Jenks the night before with the bases loade and PtB looked like he may have learned a thing or two. He got up 3-0 in the count and took a strike.  I expected PtB to be swinging a 3-1, and apparently so did Jenks. He threw a high inside fast ball that PtB laid off and walked in the game tying run.  
  • He-who-must-not-be-named-closer.  For Rays fans, we're seeing something we haven't seen in awhile: a legitimate shut-down guy.  JP Howell has converted 4 saves of 1 run games on the road in a row. And he seems to do it effortlessly.  I wasn't nearly on the edge of my seat in the bottom of the ninth as I would have if Troy Percival was trying to shut the door.
  • Lefty murder.  Joe Maddon tried to mix up the lineup a little to offset White Sox lefty Clayton Richard. It didn't work.  Joe Dillionaire and Willy Aybar were 0-6 against Richard for the night. I'm pretty sure Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford could've done that. The Rays do get a break today.  Sox lefty starter John Danks is out because of a split on his finger.  They will start RHP Carlos Torres tonight, fresh up from Triple A.  The Rays need to welcome him to the league.
  • 1-run games.  The Rays have played some real nail-biters since the All-Star break. All 5 games have been 1 run affairs.  The offense still seems to be struggling a bit, especially early in the games.  They need to come out early against Torres and get some runs.  I'm sure James Shields would appreciate the run support.
  • AL East balance of power.  For the first time since the end of the 2006 season, the New York Yankees have earned first-place outright in the AL East.  They're hot right now and on a 5-game win streak.  Each day, the July 27th series at the Trop looms larger and larger.  Meanwhile, the Red Sox are learning what the Rays did before the break: Playing Texas in Arlington is no fun at all.
  • Scott Kazmir's cramped arm update. It appears the Kazmanian Devil will not miss a start due to arm cramp.  That is all I have to say about that.
  • 2009 Rays vs 2008 Rays.  The 2008 were 55-39 at this point last year.  Right now, they're 52-42 and 3 games behind that pace.  The 2009 Rays are going to have to keep winning to keep pace... the 2008 Rays really started taking control of the division at this point last year.  From games 95 to 136 the 2008 Rays won every series they played in.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Submitted for your approval: Cowbell Kid

White Sox change the calendar to October

From the 1st pitch, you could tell the Chicago White Sox came to play some baseball.  Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has made no bones about his disappointment over the White Sox elimination last year by the Rays in the ALDS.  This year, he's almost turned into a crusade... a crusade the Rays haven't seen since April when the Sox came in and took 3 of 4.  

This time, Ozzie's throwing around quotes about how the Sox were "beat up last year."  Make no mistake, the White Sox consider the Rays their measuring stick.  Guillen learned his lesson last year: The road to the World Series goes through one of the AL East teams. If you can't beat them, you might as well forget about the big prize. 

The Rays would be wise to pick their intensity up a notch this week.  While I don't think the White Sox will be able to keep that intensity up for three more games, I do think the White Sox are treating this like a game in October.  The Rays can beat the White Sox, but they're going to have to plays some solid baseball.  That means: no errors, no caught stealing, no expanded strike zones, no mound meltdowns, ets.  The Rays need to have their "A+" game or we may begin wondering if Guillen's right about last year's playoffs.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 4-3 loss to the White Sox:

  • Missed opportunities. The Rays had chances in the 8th and 9th to tie the game and came up short both times.  The White Sox have a much better bullpen than the Royals and it showed. You can only pull the come-from-behind rabbit out of the hat so many times in a row.
  • Catching runners. A pivotal play in the 8th came when Jason Bartlett tried to steal 3rd with 2 on, 1 out.  Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski gunned him down and B.J. Upton didn't advance to 2nd. Of course, Carl Crawford got a single on the next play that would've probably scored someone from 2nd. I really don't have a problem with Bartlett going there. I do think that Upton should've taken 2nd.  I think that play is an example of the Sox focusing in on taking away one of the Rays strengths: stealing bases.  Pierzynski also gunned down Carl Crawford in the 1st inning.  The Sox were ready for this series.
  • CC's inside-the-park homer.  A thing of beauty and words cannot describe it.  So, here's the link to Crawford's homer.
  • Aybar's defensive woes.  It's hard to pile on Willy Aybar. He's been so good in so many clutch situations over the past couple of year. But, I'm going on the record and saying he doesn't need to be playing at 2nd base too often. His defense last night was atrocious.  I think against the Kansas City Royals, you're willing to give up a little at 2nd to get his bat in the lineup.  But when the White Sox are playing like it's Game 7, you need to make sure the defense is shored up.
  • A maturing David Price.  King David had his struggles last night, for sure.  But, it was how he reacted that most impressed me.  He could've easily folded after the Paul Konerko homer.  Instead, he continued to battle and put goose eggs up on the board... giving the Rays a chance for a comeback. He showed some real maturity. I like it.
  • Joe Dillionaire update.  Since I'm always concerned about Dillionaire's place on the team, I found this interesting. With Brian Shouse slated to return to the team soon, Dillionaire's job may be in jeopardy. However, like most people during the recession, Dillionaire is hedging his bets. He's learning how to be the emergency 3rd catcher.  That would give Maddon more flexibility when it comes to pinch-hitting for Dioner Navarro and Michel Hernandez.  I like it!
  • Kazmir arm cramp updates.  We're getting mixed signals from the Rays about Kazmir's arm. Kaz says he's fine and will be ready to go for his next scheduled start.  However, Joe Maddon isn't as convinced. I'm guessing they'll err on the side of caution and won't start him.  That means Garza would start a day early or we'd get a look at Wade Davis in the rotation. 

A reminder to check out my guide to the #Rays twitterverse. If you'd like to be included, hit me up via twitter, e-mail, DM, etc.

Monday, July 20, 2009

#Rays fan guide to the twitterverse

As many of you already know, I'm a freak when it comes to the social networking site twitter. Most games, I have my Tweetdeck (more on that later) up on the computer... furiously typing 140 character observations to fellow #Rays fans in the twitterverse.  Even though I may be watching alone, I've always got several other #Rays fans watching along and twittering away. It's like a virtual sports bar! We even get the occasional (and sometimes, not so occasional) Yankee fan or Red Sox fan.   We can engage fans of the #Rays opponents, asking questions and talking smack.  We get links to breaking news and we get links to good analysis.
For some, the Twitterverse is much like a deep, scary forest.  A place you may look through but never enter. I wanted to create this guide to help #Rays fans navigate the Twitterverse, so we can have even more people joining the party.
Here are some things you need to know when it comes to the #Rays twitterverse:
1.  #Rays - You've probably noticed in this post that I referred to the Rays with a # symbol in front of them.  I do that for a reason.  The hastag symbol makes it easy to follow #Rays threads. All you have to do is search "#Rays" and you'll get posts about the team.  The hashtag symbol helps differentiate between posts about a bar call "Ray's" or someone getting sun "rays."  You can still search for "Rays," but you'll have to wade through the posts.  Serious Rays twitterers use the hashtag for their posts.
2. Tweetdeck or other twitter applications.  In order to get full enjoyment of twitter during games I use the tweetdeck application.  It makes it much easier to sort and reply to all kinds of tweets during the game.  I found I was missing a lot of tweets when I was just using the twitter web access. Once I went to tweetdeck, I found it much easier to interact.
Basically you get a series of columns with your twitter feed, your replies, and your direct messages. You can also add columns for searches. I have columns for "Rays", "#Rays," my username, and the Rays' current opponent. You can also add columns for the Rays starting pitcher or a specific player. The possibilities and the columns are as endless as your imagination.

Screenshot of Tweetdeck
These applications also make it easier to follow people.  Generally, I follow just about anyone who mentions the Rays or the #Rays.
3. Mobile Tweeting.  The other thing I really like about Twittering the #Rays is the mobile aspect.  On any given game day, you can find #Rays fans actually twittering from the game. Some send pictures, others send game updates.  Either way, it makes you feel like you're closer to the game.  It also works the other way. You can twitter while you're at the game.  If you have an smartphone or iphone, it makes it easier to interact. If you're like me with just an old fashioned SMS camera phone, you can still do some interacting at the game.
4. Gameday Tweets. Another great aspect of twittering the #Rays is getting updates before and during the game.  Instead of waiting for the broadcast or the next day's newspaper, you can find out instantly why someone has been scratched from the lineup.  Also, Joe Maddon has been twittering lately with his words of wisdom. Interesting stuff.
5. The art of the retweet.  The retweet is when you repost someone's tweet to all of your followers. This is valuable because sometimes and interesting tweet from someone you may not follow can escape your notice.  However, when someone you follow retweet's it, you can see it and get the information. I also like to retweet articles of interest or some interesting observation someone makes.
6. The #Rays Twitterverse Roster. This list is by no means all inclusive. I came up with it by going through my followers and #Rays posts over the last few days. I also took twitter suggestions. There are plenty of fans that I tweet with out there, but I don't want to publicize without their permission. If you'd like to be added to the roster as a fan, just leave your twitter link in the comments, send me a tweet, or DM me. I'll get you added.
Here's the list, in not particular order (except for the first one):
As I said before, this list is in no way all incompassing. I'll will continue to add to this list throughout the season and I'll put up a permanent bookmark on my homepage.  Just let me know if you want to be added!
Also, we've created a Twitter/Facebook crossover page for #Rays fans. You can go here to join:
You can also e-mail me any suggestions for this list at m_weber @

Rays rolling right along

The Rays didn't waste any time making a statement about their intentions for the 2nd half. On Sunday, they finished off a sweep of the Royals in Kansas City.  All three games, the Rays came back late in the game and the bullpen shut the door. To be sure, the Royals aren't among baseball's elite... but, these are the types of series the Rays had trouble with earlier in the year. It was encouraging to see them take care of a team they were supposed to.

Now, the Rays face a four-game set against the White Sox in Chicago.  Earlier in the year, the White Sox used revenge as a motivation to take 3 of 4 from the Rays at the Trop.  Let's hope the pain of the division series loss has subsided a bit or the Rays understand that the White Sox are coming with guns blazing. Our old friend Ozzie Gullien spent a lot of time in the off-season figuring out ways to beat his old team. He's going to have plenty of tricks up his sleeve. 

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 4-3 victory of the Kansas City Royals:

  • Matt Garza's control.  Our favorite spitting pitcher is going through some issues right now. He's having a little bit of a control problem and finds himself getting into jams. Yesterday, he was able to get out of the jams for the most part.  It's worth keeping an eye on, but I'm not too worried about him.
  • Squeezing the Royals. In a way, I saw a lot of the old "Devil Rays" in the Royals this weekend. They have some young talent, but they're really hobbled by a weak bullpen.  When Gabe Gross took a close 2-2 pitch for ball 3, I was reminded of what it was like when the Rays weren't baseball elite.  All the calls seem to go the other way.  Gross ended up walking in the winning run.
  • Scratching and clawing from behind.  The Rays did a good job yesterday of scratching and clawing their way back from behind. Earlier in the season when the Rays were behind late, it seemed they just waited for the long ball to bail them out.  Almost no consideration was given to moving the runner over, sacrificing and doing what it took to get the run across.  In the 8th, Crawford hustled out an infield single.  He got to 3rd on an errant pick-off throw.  Longo walked. Instead of striking out while swinging for the fences, Carlos Pena beat the shift and got a RBI single. That kind of at-bat has been noticeably absent late in Rays games all season.
  • JP Howell, "he-who-must-not-be-named-closer." How refreshing was it to see a guy come in the 9th inning for three consecutive games and shut the door with no drama whatsoever? Matty from St. Pete reminded me that the Royals traded JP Howell to the Rays for Joey Gathwright.  Howell is becoming the Rays stone-cold closer, while Gathwright is toiling in the Baltimore Orioles farm system and jumping over cars on You Tube.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Return of the Kazmanian Devil, sort of

Looking at their stats coming into the game, last night's pitching match-up looked like a gimme win for the Royals... on paper.  However, the stats don't tell the whole story of Scott Kazmir, the Rays fallen ace. He took another step forward in his return to form battling Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke pitch for pitch, out for out. In the end, both gave up 1 run and didn't get a decision.  But, if you're looking for clues as to what to expect from Kaz in the 2nd half... this is a good sign.  Now, the Rays need to see if he can give this kind of performance again in 5 days.

Here are some of the things I noticed in the Rays 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals:

  • Kazmir's cramps.  Even though I'm complementary about Kaz's performance last night, I was a bit concerned when he called over the trainer before the 7th inning and essentially took himself out of the game.  Later, it was described as "mild forearm cramps."  Seriously? That's worse than a finger infection.
  • Applebottom jeans, boots wit da fur.  Joe Maddon is a genius or at least Willy Aybar makes him look like one.  The skipper pencilled in Aybar to start at 2nd because his research showed that he could have some success against Zach Grienke.  Whatever that research is, they need to patent it. Because Aybar went 3 for 3 against Grienke.  In the eighth, he atoned for an error by knocking in the go-ahead run. Someone has to make sure and introduce Willy to Flo Rida when he's at the Trop.
  • Wheeler & Howell.  For the 2nd night in a row, these 2 took care of the 8th and 9th innings with no drama whatsoever.  Both were very workman like and took care of business. Granted, the Kansas City Royals aren't the Red Sox or Yankees. But, it feels like it's been a long time since we've seen the 8th and 9th innings sewn up like that.  "He-who-must-not-be-named-closer" is really signing Troy Percival's retirement check now.
  • Pat the Bat streak.  PTB is really coming on.  Last night's game-tying double is just what the brought PTB in here for.  The Times reports that PTB made a swing adjustment to help offset the bad adjustment he made when he had a stiff neck. The Rays are going to win a lot of games with him hitting like that.
  • Joe Dillionaire appearance. We don't get to see Joe Dillionaire too often, but last night he scored the go-ahead run.  He was pinch running for PTB. He did get an at-bat later. He flew out.  Poor Dillionaire, we may not see him too much longer.
  • 2009 vs 2008. At 50-41, the Rays are 5 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox.  Coincidently, they're also 5 games behind the 2008 pace. However, the 2008 team was in the middle of a losing streak during this stretch. The 2009 could pick up 4 games on their 2008 counterparts with 4 wins in a row.
  • Looking ahead to tonight. Matt Garza gets to take the mound and start his second half off fresh. The Rays can finish off the Royals with a sweep tonight and position themselves well going into Chicago.  Maddon said on his twitter feed that the Rays need 5-5 on this trip.  6-4 sounds much better to me.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Longo shows up with the big stick

It was looking a bit dire for the Rays last night.  "Big Game" James Shields turned into "Big Inning for the other team."  The bats were just puttering around.  Overall, the team looked like they didn't realize they don't have time for these types of games anymore. The Kansas City Royals were up 6-2 and the Rays season seemingly hang in the balance.  

Then somewhere, somehow the Rays began the turning around. It was instantaneous.  It was slow. But, it was forward movement. They started scraping some runs.  A Longo single knocks in one. Crawford scores on a past ball.  In the seventh, Pat Burrell welcomed himself to the 2nd half with a 2 run shot... bringing the score to within 1.

Then there's Longo. Our lovable All-Star who had to miss the game for a finger infection.  A guy who was even questionable for last night's game.  A guy who the Rays need to play well in order to be successful.  Down 1 run in the 8th inning with 2 outs and a runner on... Longo did what any MLB superstar would.  He brought out the big stick and showed why he is this organization.  In doing so, he sent a message to his teammates and the rest of the league.  The Rays are ready for the 2nd half.

Here are some things I noticed from the Rays 8-7 victory over the Kansas City Royals:

  • Sweet bullpen.  While Longo deserves plenty of adulation for that homer, the win wouldn't have been possible without the bullpen pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings.  Joe Nelson, Randy Choate, and Chad Bradford all kept the Royals from scoring.  Dan Wheeler and J.P. Howell finished them off after the Rays took the lead.  There wasn't any margin for error. Wheeler and Howell came up big.
  • Pat the Bat's resurgence.  I know I've been hard on PTB and his lack of production. I'm sure PTB has been as hard on himself. And that will keep him from stepping up as a leader. PTB is familiar with tight pennant races. He needs to lead by example. Maybe a hot streak will get him going both  on the field and in the dugout.
  • Carl Crawford, All-Star MVP. This guy seems to be unstoppable right now. Last night: 3-5 with 3 runs scored and an RBI.  The fact that he started Longo's 8th inning at-bat on first made it much easier for Longo to time the fastball.  CC's a game-changer.
  • Tonight: A young ace-in-the-making versus a fallen ace.  Tonight, we get are first look at the 2nd half Scott Kazmir.  He has no easy task going up against Royals All-Star righty Zack Greinke. Kaz is very important to this team's 2nd half.   We'll see tonight if he has the make-up to go mono-y-mono with Greinke.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Paparazzi post: Longo pictures from LAX

One of my twitter followers @aleighbar sent me a great e-mail with some paparazzi photos of everyone's favorite GQ Ray: Evan Longoria.  Fresh off his trip to Kansas City as an observer, Longo was caught on camera at Los Angeles International Airport headed to the ESPY's.  I'm assuming these pictures were of him getting ready to leave to head to Kansas City.  Either way, enjoy a look at Longo... off the field.

The 2nd Half: 10 Things I'd like to see

The 2009 season for the Tampa Bay Rays has been quite a roller coaster.  The Rays got off to a slow start in April and have been playing catch up ever since.  As it stands at the break they're 6 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.  They're 3 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees in the Wild Card race.

The 2nd half starts with the Rays on the outside looking in.  Now, we have to see if they can truly make a run and compete with Boston and New York the rest of the way.  The 2nd half starts off with a tough road trip followed by some cooking against the Yankees and Boston.  We'll see real quickly if this team's going to keep pace and make it a real exciting 2nd half of 2009.

Here are 10 Things I want to see in the 2nd Half:

1. The Return of the Kazmanian Devil.  The Rays starters seemed to have suffered from the hangover Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey were concerned about following last year's World Series run.  This was especially true for Andy Sonnanstine and Scott Kazmir.  Now, at the half-way point, Sonnanstine's throwing for Durham and Kazmir is fresh off the disabled list.  His last couple of starts looked promising.  Now, for the Rays to have a successful 2nd half, Kazmir needs to buckle down and become the Kazmanian Devil from 2007.  The Rays could truly ride him right into the post season. 

2. Focused concentration.  Last year, the Rays defense was a shining example of intense focused concentration. It was an area of focus and it showed every day on the field.  This year, it hasn't been quite as tight and I blame concentration. I think the players let the World Series get to their head a little bit and aren't concentrating as much on the little things. They can't just show up and win. They have to play hard every day.  As the Oakland A's and Cleveland Indians showed them, nobody is going to roll over.  Everybody wants to prove themselves against the defending AL Champions.  Take nobody lightly and come to play every night.

3. Play every one like you're playing your division foes.  This goes along a little with the concentration problems. But, the Rays really need to focus when they're playing teams outside of the division.  The AL Central and the AL West have been giving them fits all year.  It seems as though the Rays get extra juiced to face the Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Yankees... but, when it comes to the rest of the teams they just go through the motions.  They have 6 games against the Royals and 4 games against the White Sox early in the 2nd half.  That would be the perfect opportunity to send a message that nobody's safe against the Rays.

4. King David gets going.  At some point, David Price is going to turn the corner and become the pitcher we all expect him to be.  After getting called up to the team, he's faced his share of struggles.  Hopefully, he's turning the corner to be the dominating pitcher we expect him to be.   The quicker King David is anointed, the better that makes the Rays in their race to catch the Red Sox.

5. The Vicious Circle line-up, redeux.  Early in the season, Joe Maddon talked about his vicious circle line-up that started with B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford then ended with Akinori Iwamura and Jason Bartlett.  That lineup has changed drastically since then because of injuries and slumps.   The Rays need to get their line-up hitting on on cylinders in order to battle the AL East.  That means more production out of Pat Burrell and Dionar Navarro, the two weaker links in the circle.  Pat the Bat has shown some pop lately and Navarro seems to be getting some clutch hits now.  If they can all get going at the same time, this team will be real tough to beat. 

6. Longo, straight through.  For a 23-year-old, our man Longo is really having trouble staying healthy. First, he missed time with the hamstring injury and now a mysterious infection derailed his All-Star start.  No matter what, the Rays need Longo's bat to keep the offense going.  Carlos Pena seems to do much better with Longo hitting.  And if Longo and Ben Zobrist are hitting, Pena is almost assured the home run title in the American League.

7. Bullpen, bullpen, bullpen.  It seemed to take 2 months, but the Rays bullpen finally settled down in June and July.  After a little shuffling, the roles seemed to be more defined and the bullpen is able to get the outs they need.  There are going to be some tight games in the 2nd half and it's up to these guys to get the outs.  J.P. Howell is turning into quite the unnamed closer in the pen and could get himself a permanent job with a good 2nd half.

8. Win some on the road.  The Rays are sporting a real nice record at the Trop, but they need to start getting some more wins on the road.  They're 8 games below .500 on the road.  If they were at .500 on the road right now, they'd be in 1st place in the AL East.  The upcoming 10 game road trip in July would be the perfect opportunity to make up some ground on the battle against the road.

9. Have fun.  Last year (except maybe the Cleveland series going into the All Star break), the Rays seemed to have fun every night. Even if they lost, they didn't hang their heads.  They just came back the next day and knocked the other team around.  This year, they seem to press more often.  Maybe it's the expectations.  Maybe it's that first taste of success. Maybe they lost some of the fun locker room guys. No matter what it is, the Rays have to find again.  They have to show they are "one team" again.

10. Beat Boston. Beat New York.  Despite every thing else, it's probably going to come down to head-to-head versus these teams.  The Rays have had some good success against Boston dating back to last year.  They need to keep that rolling when they face off again in the 2nd half.  As for the Yankees, the Rays seem to be Jeckyl and Hyde.  We need to see a lot more Jeckyl and a lot less Hyde the rest of the year.  The Rays still control their own destiny and I suspect they will for most of the 2nd half.  But, in order to make that destiny, they're going to have to be the teams that, as for now, are better than them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Carl Crawford, an MVP for Rays fans

As I watched Carl Crawford accept the MVP award last night in the All-Star game, I could only think that it's only fitting that CC would be the first Ray ever to win an All-Star MVP.  This is man who, for years, toiled for a team that was a national joke.  He was our All-Star before anybody else knew about him.  Now after a World Series and an All-Star MVP, everybody knows CC.  He's a man who knows how to get on base and make something happen when he does.  He's a man who rules left field and makes great plays look routine.  He's a man who didn't whine when the team was losing and didn't hang his head last year when he was hurt during the Rays stretch run. 

Last night, Carl Crawford awed the baseball world with his home run robbing catch.  To Rays fans, it didn't surprise us. We've seen him make great plays like that for year (although no home run robbing ones).  But, for the rest of the baseball world, who couldn't believe all the Rays that were on the team, CC showed them why Joe Maddon chose him.  He showed a player that they all wished they could root for.

Some have begun floating the rumors of a Rays team without Carl Crawford. To me, that's heresy. I understand that teams have to make payroll moves. I understand that teams sometimes have to trade current talent for future talent.  But, to me, CC is the on bridge between what we knew and what we're seeing now.  He's a player that's irreplaceable.  I can't speak for Andrew Friedman or Stu Sternberg. But I hope they look at Carl Crawford and sees what I see: A Tampa Bay Ray for life.

Here are some of the things I noticed in the American League's 4-3 victory over the National League. 
  • No Longo, No Pena.  The 3-4 batters in the Rays lineup didn't participate in the actual game. Longo was pulled from the lineup earlier in the day and Pena was the manager's decision. I'm fine with that.  Those 2 need to rest their bodies for a big second half.  The Rays have a big road trip coming up and they're going to need all the runs they can get.
  • Joe Maddon's managing.  I thought the skipper did a good job last night with the pitchers. He stuck with the closer trifecta to bring home the game for the AL.  I bet Maddon wishes all his games could be that easy.
  • Blink and you missed Edwin Jackson.  It was good to see E-jax out there... all 4 pitches he threw. I suspect we'll see a lot more of him in the 2nd half when the Rays and Detroit Tigers face-off.
  • Halladay's helmet. Because the AL sent so many players to the plate in the 1st inning, Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay got to bat. Unfortunately, he didn't pack his helmet so he had to borrow one.  Evan Longoria wasn't using his, so he peeled off the TB logo and wore it to bat. Let's just hope for Jays fans that he didn't use Longo's batting glove.
  • Fast game.  The game was over in 2:31.  Just right. I wish more games would go like that. Of course, there weren't any mid-inning pitching changes to worry about and the offensive cupboard was a little bare.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My thoughts on Longoria not playing tonight.

As a Rays fan, I was secretly relieved when I read the scroll at the bottom of MLB network. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see Evan Longoria suit up and start 3rd base for the American League All Star team. However, Longo needs some rest. The hamstring injury has been bothering him and the only way it will truly heal is by getting some rest.

By holding him out of the game, Longo gets 4 days off. Granted he's in St. Louis, but he's now not playing, not practicing and getting some real rest. Hopefully, Longo can turn that rest into another hot streak to start off the 2nd half. I don't need to tell you that the Rays don't have much room for error for the rest of the season. A healthy Longo will go a long way into making sure the Rays are ready.

Longoria will not play in All-Star Game | | Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater

Enjoy the All Star Game - Still tweeking the site

For the first time in their history, the Tampa Bay Rays will have five players dressed and representing the American League in the All Star game.  Last year Dioner Navarro, Evan Longoria, and Scott Kazmir all played big roles in the American League's victory.  This year, Longo is joined by Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, Jason Bartlett, Carl Crawford and Joe Maddon.  This All-Star game reminds me a little of the hey-day of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  In those days, Pro Bowls were stacked with Buccaneers. I hope you enjoy tonight's All-Star game.  I'll be twittering about it.

On a separate front, I'm still working on the redesign of my site.  I wanted to use the All-Star break as a chance to move on from the original Blogger template I used into another template that I could tweak a little bit more. Besides writing about the Rays, I also enjoy messing with code on sites. So, if you see anything out of the ordinary, just shoot me an e-mail at m_weber @ or send me a twitter message at  Thanks.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Seventh inning wretch

For the 2nd game in a row the Rays completely folded in the 7th inning, allowing the last place Oakland A's a chance to win the series and the season series.  In the 2nd half, the Rays are going to have to do much better against the teams they're supposed to beat.  Joe Maddon's going to have to figure out a way to get the guys motivated to play teams like the A's.  For some reason, they seemed to have packed it in the last couple of days.

The good news: The All-Star break is here.  This year, there's plenty to watch with 5 Rays going to St. Louis.  Carlos Pena will even get to do the home run derby.  Fun stuff.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 7-3 loss:
  • Big Game James gets some runs but still can't get the win.  Much has been made of Shields' lack of run support in the 1st half of this year.  Yesterday, Pat Burrell helped 6th inning charge to get him 3 runs.  However, he couldn't close the door on the 7th.  Shields needed a shut down inning and couldn't get it. Then the bullpen finished the job for him. Shields said after the game that he needs to fix the fact that the Rays are losing when he's pitching.  That may be a job for the entire team.
  • Pat Burrell getting streaky.  Pat the Bat arrives at the All-Star break, just as his bat starts heating up. If he can keep it going in the 2nd half, expect the Rays offense to go to another stratosphere.
  • 4-2 home stand.  I get the feeling the Rays really missed an opportunity during this homestand. Sweeping the Blue Jays really gave them some momentum going into the A's series.  Instead, that momentum is deflated in 2 straight late losses to the A's.  4-2 is acceptable, but it would've been real nice to go 5-1 or 6-0 on the stand, considering they swept the Jays.
  • 2008 vs 2009.  The Rays have played a few less games this year before the All-Star break and are sporting a 48-41 record.  After 89 games last year, they were 55-34.  So, they're 7 games behind last year's pace.  One thing to consider, game 89 was the 2nd game of that infamous 7 game losing streaking heading into the All-Star break. The 2009 Rays can do some catching up right out of the gate.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rays truly do channel the Devil Rays

Like everyone else around the Bay area, I blame the uniforms.  What else could explain complete and utter collapse at the hands of the Oakland A's.  The home team was cruising along nicely until the 7th inning and the *boom* and *boom* and the rout was on.  Garza looked like Rolando Arrojo and Joe Maddon looked like Larry Rothschild.  As for the rest of the team, they looked like the guys in the 90's who could score a few runs early and the give up the game.  I'm not going to give the Rays grief for the decision to wear them, but I will say some things are better left in the closet.

I got to enjoy yesterday's game from the 300 section of the Trop.  I bought the tickets off a season-ticket holder on Stub Hub.  They were real good seats and gave me an interesting view of the action. Here are some things I noticed from the Upper Deck of the Trop in the A's 7-2 victory.

  • Matt Garza left wondering.  So was I. With 1 out in the 7th, his pitch count around 100 and Bradford warmed up, Maddon decided to leave Garza in the game.  For Garza, it was one batter too many.  The frustration was evident in Garza's body language before the homer, after he was like a caged bull. Once he gave up another hit, that was it for his night and his chance at a win.
  • Randy Choate, 1 pitch = 2 runs.  In a rare feat, reliever Randy Choate came in the game pitched on pitch and gave up 2 runs.  Adam Kennedy (our old friend) took Choate deep to right field pretty much blowing the game open for the Rays.  To me, this was the true turning point. If the Rays can get out of the inning allowing only 2 runs, I like their chances. But, those 2 runs seemed insurmountable for the "Devil Rays."
  • Maddon's antics. One disadvantage of being in the stands without a radio is watching events unfold without having a clue as to why.  That was the case 8th inning when the umpires mysteriously sent an A's runner to third.  Maddon came out like Sweet Lou, screaming and yelling.  Of course, in the stands, we got into it. Giving the skipper plenty of cowbell and cheers for it.  The Times says the call was a catcher error because Michel Hernandez illegally touched the ball with this catcher's mask.  Pretty obscure rule.
  • Bye Bye CC?  Times columnist John Romano laid the team's options for Carl Crawford in the near future.  Basically he says Rays fans may have to prepare for life without CC in left field.  I said before the season began the CC may be the first guy on the trade block if the Rays were out of it at the All-Star break.  As it stands, the Rays are still in it and CC isn't going anywhere. I can't vouch for the off-season, but I believe this team will try and keep CC over other guys in the quest to keep salary in line.  
  • Smash Mouth messes up the concert record.  As you may know, the Rays were undefeated in concert night games stretching back to last year.  Last night, changed that trend.  As for the concert, besides the awful acoustics, the group grew on me as the concert went on.  I did think they tried a little too hard to be hard core for a group that my daughter would know from their cover of a Monkees tune for Shrek.

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