Posted on: August 7, 2012 4:32 pm
Tampa Bay Rays 2011 hero and face of the franchise Evan Longoria is due back for the Tampa Bay Rays tonight after being out for nearly 2 months with a hamstring injury. If there was ever a player who is most valuable to his team, Longoria would be it. The Rays, who have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball have been fortunate to be hanging around the playoff chase with their terrible hitting. Prior to Longoria being injured the team was posting 4.6 runs per game with him in the lineup. Since then, they have scored just 3.8. That's ALMOST a run per game and when your pitching staff is under 4.00 for their ERA, that ONE run is the difference in third place in the standings (and 7 games out of first) to first place and leading the division. When Longoria went down early in the season, Joe Maddon said the team's mentality would be to 'stay afloat' and try to 'hold down the fort' until Longo's return. A few weeks later, after the Rays dropped nearly 10 games behind the first place Yankees, Maddon changed his tune, claiming the team needed to start putting together wins and winning out series. It hasn't helped that free agent acquisitions Carlos Pena (.sub .200 batting average) and Luke Scott ( 0-40 something before going back on the disabled list) haven't filled the void. The team as a whole is batting WELL under the Mendoza line and Carlos Pen'as 46 RBIs are the team lead. It is obvious that Evan Longoria's impact goes well beyond his bat. The former Gold Glove winner has created a hole at 3rd base that is likely to remain there for a few more weeks. Longoria is expected to return to the lineup, primarily as the designated hitter, but I can assure you his presence in the lineup alone will make a big difference for Pena and the middle of the lineup. The Rays are expected to tread lightly with Longoria as his DL stay and subsequent rehab stints had a few bumps. Just last week, Longoria took a day off because of soreness in his hamstrings. Longoria can afford to drop even .30 to .40 points on his batting average AND STILL lead the team in that category. Hits, translate to runs, and with Desmond Jennings and BJ Upton on base, Longoria's batting average is more than enough to drag some runs across the board. Should Longoria be fully healthy, you can expect to see the Tampa Bay Rays on top of the WIldcard standings within a few weeks. If he were to STAY healthy for the remainder of the season, I would not be surprised to see Longoria and the Rays' pitching staff carry the team back to the top of the AL East. Even if it takes all 162 games.
Posted on: August 18, 2010 5:06 pm
How crazy ould it be if:
1. The Boston Redsox acquire Manny Ramirez and come back and get into the playoffs. Not only through a Wild Card, but they are crowned the division winners. That would be nuts.
2. The San Francisco Giants come from 5 back in the NL West, where the Padres have led pretty much ALL Year. None of the Giants 5 starters have worse than a 3.62 ERA. Pat Burrell has been lights out for them since his arrival. His batting average is currently .50 points higher than it was earlier in the season.
3. No one has made any mention of Neftali Feliz for a possible Rookie of the Year candidate, but his 29 saves and that 9.2 K rate have got to get some respect. The only thing hurting him would be his 3.48 ERA. Then you look at his .987 WHIP.... This could hinge on the Rangers finish, but if this kid gets just 6 more saves he would have 35...in his rookie year.
4. What if the Cincinnati Reds can hold off Pujol's St. Louis Cardinals? Do the Cardinals miss the playoffs? Right now they are behind two other teams in the Wildcard chase. The best player in baseball watching playoffs?
5. Ubaldo Jimenez DOESNT win the NL Cy Young. Honestly, this guy's team win % in games he's pitched is .792 . Adam Wainright is the only other player with 17 wins, but he has twice as many losses as Jimenez's 3. Consider Ubaldo also has 4 no decisions.
Posted on: August 10, 2010 4:52 pm
I'm sick and tired of hearing athletes skewered for their personal indiscretions. Rarely do you see a athlete both on top of his sport AND being vilified. It's because we as human beings all have our faults. Deep down, consciously, we all are aware of this. Yet, when a player, no matter what sport he or she plays, is caught doing something wrong OUTSIDE OF THEIR sport, we immediately start comparing them to school teachers and clergy. These people are not brought in to be role models. They did not play their sport as children with the sole hope of changing peoples lives. Many athletes choose to do the 'nicer' things, because some feel it truly is their calling or maybe they just want to give back.
Let's start with baseball and take it back a few decades. Was Babe Ruth considered a great role model? The beer guzzling and hot dog eating? Was DiMaggio and his womanizing cool? Ty Cobb, biggest racist in maybe all of sports, was a great ballplayer, all of these guys great ballplayers, but for the most part beloved by fans then and fans now. The most recent former home run king was basically a speed user, as were many players in his time- and they did it to perform during games. Is that not performance enhancing? Where are all those asterisks? Consider it this way, as this is my own opinion:
Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, (Insert PED user here) were simply trying to get the upper hand in their careers. It's not as though they popped magic pills that made them Superman. They were dedicated in their work ethic, they were talented since childhood, they were often the first ones in and the last ones out at the end of the day. It was a commitment they made to themselves, whether selfishly or not, that in turn, made their team better. Early on, before the drugs were tested for, can you fault a player for using? Really? I mean, if you had an office job and I told you that you could use this certain program that would improve your quality of work, make your 'team' (your peers or your underlings) better, and possibly increase your rate of pay...would you do it? Of course. We all do. Now, once they make it illegal to do it, will you continue do it? Look, I don't like the slant that these PEDs put on some of our favorite players of our generation. I hate having to compare what "so and so's numbers" look like next to "PED user's numbers." I'm just saying that when some of the earlier users were juicing, I doubt they were behind closed doors, ringing their hands in excitement, thinking " shoot this and I'm Superman!"
What about football? Why don't we go crazy when they use steroids? I'll bet over the years, maybe twice as many football players have used the drugs. A QB can't throw further, a receiver can't run faster, a lineman can't get THAT MUCH STRONGER? Do steroids make you throw more accurately, as people think it makes you hone in on a baseball easier? Does it give you the ability to catch a ball with ONE HAND and three fingertips? Rarely do we see steroids being a big issue in our favorite football players. And then there are players like Terrell Owens. I listened to sports radio today and heard the host call T.O. a fraud. A Fraud? No steroids, no wife beating, no tabloid headlines...certainly not a lack of statistics. I looked into his stats once and I'm pretty sure that T.O. (at this time two or three years ago) was already in the top 5 (maybe 3rd?) in most 'important receiving statistics'. People treat this guy like he is terrible. Forgive me, but even with all of his prima donna acts in the locker rooms and on the sidelines, the guy can BALL. He can catch, he can run, and he can score some touchdowns. Not to mention, for all the griping about T.O....he's pretty darn entertaining. If you were still playing football out on the street in front of your house and T.O. is on the sidelines, you'd want that guy on your team. Anyone who says they don't is a flat out liar. I could talk about Ben Roethlisberger, who was America's Sweetheart early in his career, only to be lynched in the media for a night that we don't completely know about. We weren't there, how do WE, the fans know? Think of it this way, in court, you can't say what someone else said. It's called "hear-say". Well, guess what the media does?
The last point I'll make here (simply to keep it short, because I could hit every sport, really) is about Tiger Woods. As a human being, a father, a husband, and the face of many products, Tiger Woods is a complete failure. We came down so hard after Tiger Woods, because he lifted us up so high. Early in his career, his smile and humble demeanor helped bring interest to a dying sport. It also merged a big gap between African American's and golf. Tiger said all the right things, did all the right things, and damn it - HE WON! He amazed people that didn't even PLAY golf. He had a beautiful wife, wonderful children, blah blah blah. Who cares? Did Jack Nicklaus' wife ever putt one in for him? Did we follow Arnold Palmer from the course to the bar and count his drinks before he drove home? Who cares what these people do in their personal lives. What's a shame is that the media is primarily to blame for all of this.
Throughout the years athletes AND celebrities like actors and singers have all done their fair share of dirt behind the scenes, but because of today's media, we are all privy to the details. It should not change the product that we see on the field or the love we have for them AS athletes. It's time that we started to separate athletes and role models. Looking for your fair sure of role models in sports, is like looking for your future wife in a bar. These players are all paid to entertain. We should live and die by the things they do on the diamond, within the hashmarks, on the fairways, the rinks, and the courts - not the things they do off of them.
Posted on: July 28, 2010 5:28 pm
...they will come.
And I'm not just talking about stadiums, ballparks, and sporting grounds. I'm talking about The Franchise. The Company. The Team. I'm talking about a commitment not only to winning now, but the future of your franchise. I am talking about starting right at the top - great ownership. Not a business man, ONLY looking to make money and turn an investment. I'm talking about an owner who either starts up a brand new team or takes over a team that maybe was going in the wrong direction. The reason that I am going all crazy on this subject, is because of the excitement I have had over the years with the Tampa Bay Rays ownership. I am reminded of that excitement and commitment to winning everytime I watch the product on the field. Today, I was again reminded of the feeling you get when you know that the owners want it as bad as you do.
Earlier in the week I had heard an interview with Steve Yzerman on a local radio show here in Tampa. I'll be the first to admit, I am not a very big hockey fan and even after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, I still was not a huge follower. It caught my attention, without a doubt, but it was not enough to keep me hanging around. Today, my favorite local sport talk show had yet another interview, this time with brand new CEO Ted Leiweke. You could hear it in his voice that he was not only committed to winning, but committed to sustained success. Committed to the fans, the city, and the people around him. I could tell he was being honest and his track record (the NFL's Seattle Seahawks for one) speaks for itself. It has created an excitement in me, that even 2004 couldn't muster.
The same goes for when Stuart Sternberg took over the Tampa Bay Rays. At the time, the product on the field had gotten stale, the ownership seemed less interested in the fans and more interested in the money. Sweet Lou didn't get what was promised in the beginning of his tenure and by the end of it, the new ownership wanted a youth movement. New ownership, basically started building these team from the ground up. They brought in a relatively young front office to handle personnel. At the time it appeared Friedman and Silverman knew more about MONEY and less about personnel, but over time we have seen these guys have not only an incredible business savvy, but fantastic eyes at prospects. And surely, it's not only them. The Rays are deep all the way down to the Minors where they have perennial Championship contending teams. They also have a fantastic scouting department, development department, coaches, etc. What good is it drafting first if you consistently draft busts? What good is it having young players, if you don't have a manager that can handle the young, different personalities? From the outside looking in, you would think that others around baseball were scoffing at what the Rays were trying to do. Consider that they brought in a new age, philosophical Joe Maddon as manager. You know, the guy with the famous hipster glasses, the gray hair, and oh yeah...no prior MLB managing experience. How has that turned out?
The team took steps to distance themselves from a utterly TERRIBLE past and history for what was still a YOUNG franchise. They did away with the silly DEVIL Ray. They did away with the indigo and purple (seriously?) uniforms. They revamped "The Pit" as Joe Maddon once affectionately called the Trop. This was only the beginning as over the next few years, the team's new owners, led by Sternberg, would slowly begin to increase payroll. They would find diamonds in the rough in the likes of Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist and basically the entire bullpen. They would rid themselves of 'entitled' players like Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes. They took some gambles in letting go of players like Young and former face of the franchise Scott Kazmir, but got their returns in players like Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Sean Rodriguez. This is a commitment to winning. You see players leaving, but you see returns. You see players coming and many that don't want to go. You see accountability from young players and their young contracts. You see a team constantly trying to keep pace in their tough division, but constantly moving forward.
These are not your 'Devil' Rays of old. These are not your Lightning of recent.
For a different perspective, consider the other Tampa Bay franchise, the Buccaneers. The Glazers, owners of the Bucs for a few years now, came in with the same idea. The same philosophy of win, win win. They built the team a new stadium, they lowered ticket prices, they changed the team's uniforms, they locked up key veterans and future Hall of Famers. They emptied their pockets for one of the better coaches in the league and some of the better Free Agents available. They got their team, their fans, and their city a much needed Championship. The city was alive! The city was buzzing! They were the first to bring true Sports success to the city! We love them! They love us! ((Silence))
And then? The shut put locks on their bank vault. They released their veterans. They released their coach! Now they are going through a youth movement, which in itself is actually the best way to go about things, but they are not opening their pocketbooks for some of the key guys that are with the team. Young, yet proven guys. And what are the results? All the sell outs they had the eyars prior, the fans are turning away. Why? Is it the product? Partly, maybe. More so, it is the commitment. The Glazers have been some of the stingiest owners in ALL OF SPORTS, the past few years. It appears they have turned their backs on this franchise and with it, the fans. The fans notice these things. Where is the buzz? Where is the excitement? Why is it that the Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstotts, and John Lynchs aren't more involved with this team? Obviously, not only the fans see it.
And thus, as we look at the history of great franchises, we notice that it starts from the top. The owners and then trickles down. What do all of these franchises have in common?
San Francisco 49ers
New England Patriots
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Besides multiple championships, they all have owners who want to win and it shows. These owners know that like all good investments, when you put your money IN, you will get your returns! Another thing all of these franchises have in common...are the fan's support! Obviously, this is not to say that ALL other owners are simply in it for the money, but you can easily see the difference in what is considered 'small market teams'. Look at the history, that these teams above have. You have to start somewhere, but where? At the top. With the owners.
Posted on: June 4, 2010 3:00 pm
We are not to the mid point of the season, but far enough in that we can start examining the shocking start that the Tampa Bay Rays have had this season. I predicted prior to the season that the Rays young pitching staff would have a relatively good year. I wasn't so much comparing them to the people I mentioned, although, I was simply using the trio's as examples of what the team would need.
As of today, the Rays starting rotation still ranks first in the American League, with a stellar 3.12 rotational starter ERA. The starters have been going deep into games and even after a few missteps the past week or so, the combined team ERA of 3.17 is good for third place in the Major Leagues. If you look at the pitchers' individual performances, you will see that at the moment, fifth starter (and rookie) Wade Davis has the same amount of wins (5) and a better ERA (4.04) than Yankees ace CC Sabathia (5 - 4.14).
There has been a youth movement in the AL East this year as far as pitching goes. David Price ( 8-2 - 2.29 ERA), Jeff Niemann (5-0 - 2.79 ERA), Phil Hughes (7-1 - 2.54 ERA), Clay Buchholz (7-3 - 2.73), and Davis. All pitchers are either in their first year or sophomore years as full time starters. All of these pitchers are anchoring their team's rotations and as I said before, no rotation has been better than the Rays. (In the AL)
So far everyone has expected the young Rays team to collapse, especially when their run differential was through the roof. They have slowed a bit, but have yet to suffer a terrible losing streak. Their worst is 3 losses. At the same time, they are not exactly burning things up as far as going on big tears where they break off big winning streaks. Their longest winning streak was 7 and they have gotten others of 3 to 5 in a row, before dropping one and starting another streak. It can be said this team is consistent in their pitching, but not so much in their hitting.
They started the year with timely hitting, batting over .330 with runners in scoring position. the charge was led by Evan Longoria, who has been the most consistent Ray. The team has since dropped off their production with RISP (.279) The average is still better than their team batting average (.258).
The Rays lineup has really been in a season long slump. Many of their hitters are hitting below their career averages and some have yet to really pull it around.
- Carlos Pena : Career: .247 Current: .176
- Jason Bartlett: Career: .287 Current: .231
- BJ Upton: Career: .266 Current: .225
- Dioner Navarro Career: .253 Current: .204
I could understand one pointing to different player's averages on other teams, but the significance in drop off and the amount of players on one team with this drop off is not something that is easily overlooked. Or overcome for that matter.
Consider that just last year, Bartlett seemed to have his breakout year, making the All-Star team and finishing with a .320 batting average.
Carlos Pena last year had 17 homer by the end of may, this year he has just 8. As a matter of fact, only Evan Longoria has more homers, with 10.
Ben Zobrist who had his coming out last year as one of the biggest surprises in the league, had a terrible start to his season. Prior to March 20th, Zobrist had zero home runs for the season. He has since found his hot bat and popped 4 homers since.
It's been well documented that the rays were nearly no hit by Cc Sabathia early in the year. Later, Dallas Braden pitched the second perfect game against the Rays in as many years.
After all of that, you'd expect the team to be below, if not somewhere near .500 and a few games out of first place in their division. On the contrary, the team just came off of a 20 straight game stretch in which they went 12-8 and have kept their lead of the AL East, as well as the crown of "Best Record in Baseball". They have led or been tied for the lead in their division as far back as April 14th, taking full control as of April 22nd.
Still, no one expects this team to stay on top for much longer, even after West Coast road trips, a 21-6 Road record, 12-8 in 20 straight games, and a plus .500 record at home. Even with dead bats and power outages. Even with a plus .500 record against each team they have played this year, including the 2009 World Champion Yankees.
Even if this team were to suffer a drop off in their pitching and the ERAs were to inflate, there is no reason to believe that they would rise to ridiculous numbers. Although many of the pitchers are pitching better than their career ERAs, even if they leveled off to their normal numbers, this team is bound for plenty of wins. Even if the team plays at a .500 clip for the rest of the season, they would still eclipse 90 wins.
I said it before and I'll say it again, this is a team that is destined for greatness, and if opposing fans are holding their collective breath for a collapse - be forewarned that it is never going to come. This team will be playing in October. Be it as the Division Winner or the Wildcard, the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays are not going to fall to far from grace.
Posted on: April 2, 2010 5:26 pm
I hate tinkering with something as rich in history as Major League Baseball, but I just got this incredible idea. This all started with an argument between a Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan, in which the two were comparing Youk and Tex. They were throwing numbers back and forth and just for fun I wanted to compare what Pena's numbers looked like. (Not good by comparison. Tex leads the group, but in straight up numbers over the last two years Pena compares favorably to Youk.)
This conversation led me to drift off into another thought about how strong the AL East is. I wondered to myself, " What would an "All AL East All-Star Team look like?".
I began thinking about how Ray's players compared to others in the division and then it hit me. Oh my MAPLE BATS SPLINTERING, what if baseball had an "Intra-Division All-Star game?!"
Think about it. We would probably want to cut the Major League regular season back down to 154 games and during All-Star weekend, instead of doing all the other ridiculous festivities like Home Run Derby, we could set up Tournaments throughout the break that would consist of All Stars from each individual division. AL Central would have a team consisting of All-Stars from this division, the AL East would have theirs, AL West theirs. Same for the NL side. These teams would play one another in some form of a tournament. Be it Round Robin or Single elimination, figure it out so that the math works and in the end, you have one winner. They could play two games a day or the teams could stretch it out over a 3 day weekend. This would allow all the players that deserve to be All-Stars the chance to play and not force managers to do a 2 innings and out deal. These guys would play full games if they wanted to. Make the incentive the same as what is in place now, homefield advantage in the playoffs. The AL East wins the tourney, they get homefield when they play a team from the AL West or Central. Winner of the AL/NL finale gets homefield in the series.
I don't know why no one thought of this before, but I really think it could bring some extra excitement to All-Star weekend and bring a new competitive spin to the game. Now us AL East fans can PROVE that we have a better and tougher division than (Insert division here). This will open our eyes to a lot of new players who can't create new names as heroes in the playoffs. I seriously think it is something to consider and obviously would need to be tweaked, but THIS is the initial blueprint for spicing up a stale All-Star Weekend in baseball. This eliminates the Home Run Derby and still showcases the talent of individual players in their respective positions and sports.
Posted on: March 19, 2010 10:41 am
Last year the Tampa Bay Rays were looking for certain things in the off season that they assumed they had when they picked up Pat Burrell's 26 HR per season average and 90 RBI's. They knew his batting average would be low, but would accept the offensive production. Unfortunately, as local fans know all too well, Pat Burrell did not live up to his expectations last year. For various reasons his numbers dropped and due to injuries he had his fewest at bats since his rookie season. So what can a cash strapped team like the Rays do? They have to hold on and put their faith back in a driven Pat Burrell and they have to keep in mind they can't afford another season of low production. Basically, the Rays need insurance. Say hello to Hank Blalock.
Hank Blalock was easily the Rays biggest free agent acquisition. He is still relatively young and he has put up Pat Burrell-esque numbers. Blalock's career .269 batting average is better than Burrell's .254. Blalock has hit for 25 homers or more 4 times in his 9 year career. His RBI aren't as high as Burrell's but Blalock has cracked 110 RBI in a season. In the same amount of games last year both players had similar numbers. Low batting averages, high strikeout rates, 60-70 RBI range. Where they differed were the home runs. Burrell had 14, nearly half as many as the 30 the season prior. Blalock had 25, more on par with his better career years. He had his prior two seasons shortened by injuries as he played a combined 123 games batting .290 22 HR's and 71 RBI. In a lineup this potent, those home runs can add on a lot more RBI.
Should Hank Blalock crack the roster on Opening Day, there is a great chance he could be counted on to fill roles shared through the years by Eric Hinske, Gabe Gross, Gabe Kaplar and at other times, Ben Zobrist. Similar to how Zobrist found his way into the starting lineup, Blalock is capable of handling platoons throughout the corners of the infield. On days when Carlos Pena or Evan Longoria would need to catch a break, he could fill in and still replace some of the power in the lineup. Another example, although extreme is today's projected lineup of Blalock at first, Pena at DH, and Burrell at right. The more realistic lineup would involve either Blalock or Burrell at DH.
It's important that at least one of these two fulfill their expectations and ideal that BOTH would perform up to par. The addition of Blalock could once again make Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman look like genius' if it were to pay off.
Posted on: February 24, 2010 12:34 pm
The Tampa Bay Rays projected starting rotation has the makings of great stuff. These guys have the potential to be the best starting 5 ever. Think about great combos like Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz or Hudson-Zito-Mulder. We've got the potential for all 5 of these guys to be lights out. Don't forget our offense is capable of putting up tons of runs too. Barring injury, it's not out of the question to think that these guys could all post 13+ W's and at least two (Garza and Price) could top 20.
The year that the Rays made it to the World Series, they had 5 starters in double digit wins. They were young pitchers who hadn't yet established household names. Edwin Jackson, Andy Sonnanstine and James Shields combined for 42 wins in 96 games. Just for fun I looked up Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz and saw that in 1993 they combined for 57 wins in 107 games. Steve Avery posted 18 more wins for them and they advanced to the NLCS where they lost. All of these pitchers had 200+ innings of service that season.
In 2002 the Oakland A's posted a 103-59 record and made it to the ALDS where they lost to the Minnesota Twins in 5 games. This was the best year for their Big 3 of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder. All three pitchers topped 200 IP and had a combined 57 wins in their 99 games started.
This year there is a lot of extra pressure heaped on the players to produce and maek that last push for the pennant. Many contracts are set to expire and Rays owner Stu Sternberg has gone on record as saying payroll will be cut almost 30%. Which would take the team close to their $45 million payroll they had in '08. The Rays have succeeded by successfully drafting and developing players that fit their approach. Critics would argue that the team is made up of over achievers such as Ben Zobrist 2009 or Dioner Navarro of 2008. I would argue that the team under performed last year. Matt Garza and James Shields posted sub .500 win % and had terrible run support. By terrible I mean near last in the league. Pat Burrell was a huge disappointment and no one expected BJ Upton to have such a drop off. It's expected all of these players are going to come back stronger. Carl Crawford seems to think he may be playing his final days with the Rays. You can't easily pay him the money he deserves and reduce payroll.
The Tampa Bay Rays are still a lot younger than the rotations of the '93 Braves and '02 A's. Jeff Niemann, David Price, and Wade Davis are all looking to break their first full season. James Shields and Matt Garza, the two experienced veterans in charge of bringing consistency are entering the prime years of their careers. The team looks to rebound in one of the toughest divisions in baseball and they already understand how important it is for them to come out of the gates with a strong start. I expect big things from this year's Rays.