Tag:Johnny Damon
Posted on: December 8, 2011 8:43 am
 

Homegrown Team: Tampa Bay Rays

Josh Hamilton

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

No team has had as much success drafting and developing its players like the Tampa Bay Rays. The one-time laughingstock of MLB is a model franchise to even the biggest spenders. The Rays have had big name leave, but keep replacing them with younger, seemingly better players. A year ago, the Rays lost Carl Crawford because they could no longer afford him. By the end of the season, Crawford and the Red Sox were sitting at home while the Rays were in the playoffs -- again. The reason is because they grown enough crops on the farm to have a successful harvest nearly every fall.

Lineup

1. Carl Crawford, LF
2. Desmond Jennings, RF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Josh Hamilton, DH
5. B.J. Upton, CF
6. Aubrey Huff, 1B
7. Reid Brignac, 2B
8. John Jaso, C
9. Elliot Johnson, SS

Starting Rotation

1. David Price
2. James Shields
3. Jeremy Hellickson
4. Wade Davis
5. Jeff Niemann

Bullpen

Closer - Dan Wheeler
Set up - Matt Moore, Andy Sonnanstine, Alex Cobb, Jake McGee, Jason Hammel, Jose Veras

Notable Bench Players

The Rays have a couple of decent bats off the bench in Delmon Young, Matt Diaz, Jonny Gomes and Jorge Cantu.

What's Good?

Crawford and Hamilton to go along with Longoria, Upton and Jennings? That helps, that's for sure. The rotation is exactly the same -- and that's a good thing. You've also got Moore sitting there. The starters are an embarrassment of riches. It's one of the main reasons the Rays can still compete in the AL East with a smaller payroll.

What's Not?

The bottom half of the lineup isn't great -- especially with Johnson at short. But there's enough help at the top of the lineup to make up for the bottom. The bench isn't deep defensively, but it's the American League so you don't need quite as much as you do in the National League. The bullpen isn't full of experienced relievers, but there are some quality arms that can switch from starting to relieving.

Comparison to real 2011

The same pitching staff plus Crawford and Hamilton make up for losing some of its Frankenstein bullpen and Johnny Damon. I put Hamilton at DH to try to save some wear and tear on his body, he can still play in the field every once in a while and give Jennings a day off and have someone like Young DH. Or Young can play in the outfield. The bullpen might be the most interesting question, but I think the offense and the starting pitching are enough to improve, if slightly, on the team's 91-71 finish.

Next: Philadelphia Phillies

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: December 3, 2011 8:39 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 9:39 pm
 

Saturday rumors: Kuroda, A's and more

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Saturday's the last day at home for a couple of days for most in baseball, as the winter meetings kick off Monday in Dallas -- and that goes for reporters, as well. That meant a rather light day in rumors, but expect things to pick up on Sunday and then go fast and furious on Monday. Last year news of Jayson Werth's deal with the Nationals came on the day before the start of the meetings, so that goes to show things don't just go down in the hotel lobby.

Hiroki KurodaThe news of Chris Capuano's signing with the Dodgers seemed to signal the end of Hiroki Kuroda's time in Los Angeles, and maybe even his time in the United States. However, the Rockies are pursuing Kuroda (Denver Post). Kuroda's also been mentioned as a possibility for the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Angels, Rangers and others. Kuroda blocked deals to the Tigers and Red Sox last season. WEEI.com reports Kuroda is open to pitching in Boston. His former team in Japan, the Hiroshima Carp, have also offered him a contract.

The A's could be popular in Dallas, as the team has pitching for sale. "I wouldn't rule anybody out," assistant GM David Forst told the San Francisco Chronicle. The A's are looking for an outfielder in return. Closer Andrew Bailey is among the most popular trade targets on the team, already drawing attention from the Rangers, Blue Jays, Reds, Padres, Mets and Mariners. (Chicago Tribune)

Someone put in a bid for Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Seibu Lions are expected to accept the bid, regardless of the amount. (Kyodo News)

Matt Garza's agent told the Cubs' right-hander to prepare for "an active winter meetings." Garza told him he'd be in Italy. Garza was dealt from the Rays to the Cubs last offseason and is under team control through 2013. The Cubs have let it be known that they're open to trading just about anyone. (MLB.com)

The Rockies are interested in Japanese second baseman Kensuke Tanaka. The left-handed hitter played in just 49 games this past season for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters because of an ankle injury, but is said to be healthy now. (FoxSports.com)

The Red Sox will meet with Bob Garber, the agent for C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt, during the winter meetings. (Boston Herald)

Not many have thought that Rays general manager Andrew Friedman would consider taking the Astros' GM job, but free agent outfielder Johnny Damon seems to think it's a possibility. "He's not going to sign me and then leave," Damon told the Boston Globe of Friedman. "If he goes to Houston, his hometown, he's going to try and bring me along with him. That's where my waiting game is." Damon also said he told David Ortiz to play in New York and take advantage of the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium.

Casey Blake is drawing interest from nine teams, including the Indians. He can play both corner outfield spots and both corner infield spots. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

The White Sox are looking to trade for a starter and an outfielder and are dangling John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton. Among the teams that could be a match are the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Nationals, Reds and Braves. (Chicago Tribune)

Tim WakefieldKnuckleballer Tim Wakefield said he has a "strong desire" to pitch for the Red Sox next season. The 45-year-old needs seven wins to surpass Roger Clemens and Cy Young as the franchise's all-time leader. (Boston Herald)

The Reds held their annual RedsFest in Cincinnati this weekend, so there's plenty of news from the banks of the Ohio thanks to the media availability of GM Walt Jocketty, manager Dusty Baker and most of the team's roster and top prospects. Jocketty said the team is looking for a "top of the rotation" starter and have targeted six different players, but didn't name any of them. Jocketty also said the team had looked at Detroit infielder Ramon Santiago as a backup shortstop, and would ideally like to sign a left-handed hitter or switch hitter to back up Zack Cozart (Cincinnati Enquirer). Baker said the team is looking both internally and externally for a closer, but will not have a closer by committee to replace Francisco Cordero (MLB.com). 

Follow all the moves with the CBSSports.com free agent tracker.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: December 1, 2011 12:30 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Kansas City Royals



By Matt Snyder


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

Long a punching bag for fans and media alike, the Kansas City Royals have become a darling in recent years due to their strong farm system. We keep hearing about how they'll be a World Series caliber team by 2014 and the first wave of strong talent hit the bigs in 2011 -- with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas leading the charge. There's more on the way, too. For the purposes of this exercise, though, the Royals get to add two All-Star veterans to the lineup who have long since departed. Oh, and they get back an aloof ace.

Lineup

1. Alex Gordon, LF
2. Johnny Damon, RF
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
4. Carlos Beltran, CF
5. Billy Butler, DH
6. Mike Moustakas, 3B
7. Salvador Perez, C
8. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
9. Mike Aviles, SS

Starting Rotation

1. Zack Greinke
2. Luke Hochevar
3. Aaron Crow
4. Danny Duffy
5. Chad Durbin

Bullpen

Closer - J.P. Howell
Set up - Jeremy Affeldt, Greg Holland, Blake Wood, Tim Byrdak, Mike MacDougal
Long - Louis Coleman

Notable Bench Players

Matt Treanor, Kila Ka'aihue, Mark Ellis, David DeJesus, Mitch Maier, Jarrod Dyson

What's Good?

That really looks like a nice lineup. There's obviously some growing up to be done in the 6-7-8 spots, but that's a lot easier done when the top five spots are that strong. And remember, Wil Myers is on the way ...

What's Not?

With Beltran and Damon getting up into their high-30s, the outfield defense would lack range. Of course, DeJesus and Dyson are both available off the bench as late-inning defensive replacements, so the situation wouldn't be dire. There is no real closer, but that's a bit overrated anyway. And the starting rotation leaves something to be desired, for now, until Crow and Duffy prove their worth and some of the other prospects (like John Lamb and Mike Montgomery) start to arrive.

Comparison to real 2011

It's actually pretty similar, aside from a few huge names. These Royals have Beltran and Damon instead of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, while Greinke has been thrown atop the rotation. Those are upgrades and, remember, the real-life Royals didn't get full seasons out of many of their young players. It's reasonable to put this squad above .500 and maybe even lingering around in the playoff chase into August.

Up Next: Atlanta Braves

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 1:14 pm
 

Free-agent position rankings: Ortiz top DH



By C. Trent Rosecrans

One of the toughest positions for a free agent to land a big contract got a little tougher after Adam Dunn's terrible 2011. Teams are already skittish on spending big bucks (and maybe more importantly, tying those dollars up for years) to a DH, plus with only 14 of the 30 teams having the position, it's difficult for any free agent DH to have leverage. Most of the teams already have a DH under contract, so the possibilities here are going to be pretty repetitive.

1. David Ortiz: Big Papi created a stir when he said he may be interested in playing for the Yankees, but it's unlike the Yankees would want to spend that kind of money on Ortiz. Instead, they expect to have Jesus Montero as their main designated hitter in 2012 and beyond. Ortiz struggled early in 2011, but finished with a .309/.398/.554 line with 29 homers and 96 RBI. Even though he didn't start his career with the Red Sox, it's tough to imagine him in any other uniform. 
Possible teams: Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Angels, Mariners

Edwin Encarnacion2. Edwin Encarnacion: The Blue Jays have a $3.5 million option on Encarnacion, who has been a frustrating player to watch. Just when you think he's done, he goes on a hot streak, and he can really hit when he's hot. After the All-Star break, Encarnacion hit .291/.382/.504 with 11 homers and 36 RBI. Encarnacion played third base and first base, but DH is his best defensive position.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Mariners, Athletics

Johnny Damon3. Johnny Damon: Damon will be 38 next season and he's more or less finished in the outfield, even though he did play some first base with the Rays last season. In 150 games, he hit .261/.326/.418 with 16 home runs and 74 RBI. The Rays are considering bringing Damon back, but he'd have to cost less than the $5.25 million he made in 2011. Damon is 277 hits shy of 3,000 for his career and would likely need two more seasons to reach the milestone. It could be difficult for him to find a place to do it unless he decides to take a pay cut. 
Possible teams: Rays, Mariners, Athletics

Jim Thome4. Jim Thome: There was a report that the White Sox were considering offering Thome their hitting coach position, but did not. However, that may be a sign of which way Thome may be leaning in his decision for 2012. Thome did say he was leaning toward playing, and although he was used mostly against right-handers, his splits were pretty even -- .257/.352/.470 against right-handed pitchers and .253/.385/.493 against left-handers. Thome seemed energized after joining the Indians, hitting .296/.390/.479 in Cleveland. Even if he doesn't return, he will have solidified his Hall of Fame resume, hitting his 600th home run in 2011. 
Possible teams: Indians, Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Athletics, retirement

Hideki Matsui5. Hideki Matsui: The A's loved Matsui, if not his production. A solid influence on younger players, Matsui hit just .251/.321/.375 in 2011, but rebounded hit hit .295/.353/.425 in the second half of the season. Matsui would have to accept less than the $4.25 million he earned in 2011, but that doesn't seem to be too much of an issue. Most expect him to return to Oakland, especially with the A's agreeing to open the season in Japan against the Mariners.
Possible teams: Athletics, Mariners, Japan, retirement

Jorge Posada6. Jorge Posada: One of the "core four" is probably done as a Yankee. If Posada wants to keep playing, he'll do it in a different uniform. The Yankees will be moving on with Montero as their DH who can also catch. Posada hit a career-worst .235/.315/.398 with 14 homers in 2011, but did go 6 for 14 in the NLDS against the Tigers, starting all five games. He struggled against left-handers this season, hitting .092/.169/.108 against lefties. With few DH spots available, he may not find any takers and will retire a Yankee, not by choice, but because there's nobody out there willing to let him play for another team.
Possible teams: Athletics, retirement

Vladimir Guerrero7. Vladimir Guerrero: Guerrero has said he'd like to play two or three more seasons, but it could be the end of his career, as well. Guerrerro hit .290/.317/.416 in 2011, but had just 13 home runs in 145 games for the Orioles. Guerrero passed Julio Franco for the most hits by a Dominican-born player late in the season and finished the season with 2,590 hits and 449 home runs. Guerrero didn't get a contract until Feb. 18 last year, but did get the money he was looking for -- that could be tougher this season. Still, there are teams out there that could use him.
Possible teams: Orioles, Athletics, Mariners, Blue Jays, Rays, retirement

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 7:19 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 11:09 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Tampa Bay Rays

RaysBy Evan Brunell

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s
R.I.P. series...

Team name: Tampa Bay Rays
Record: 91-71, 2nd place AL East, 6 games back. Wild card champions, lost to Rangers 3 games to 1 in ALDS
Manager: Joe Maddon
Best hitter: Ben Zobrist -- .269/.353/.469, 20 HR, 99 RBI
Best pitcher: James Shields -- 16-12, 249 1/3 IP, 11 CG, 4 SHO, 2.82 ERA, 65 BB, 225 K

The Rays have now reached the postseason two years in a row, but dropped its second straight ALDS to the Rangers, making it to four games before the season ended. It was a remarkable run for a team that had to remake its bullpen and replace Carl Crawford in left field.

2011 SEASON RECAP

Tampa began the season as an afterthought in the eyes of many. After all, how were the Rays supposed to contend with New York and the revamped Red Sox? That didn't stop the team from producing, though, posting a record over .500 each of the first three months. The team got quite a bit of attention in April when Manny Ramirez retired instead of serving his 100-game suspension for failing a drug test for the second time. They weathered it though, despite losing someone that was supposed to be integral to the lineup. Sam Fuld dazzled the team for a while, but the Rays limped through the season offensively until Desmond Jennings was promoted in late July.

July wasn't kind to Tampa, finishing with a 11-15 record but they turned on the jets after that, going 35-20 and winning the wild card on the last swing of the regular season, with Evan Longoria's homer disappearing over the fence minutes after the Red Sox completed their collapse.

2012 AUDIT

The Rays have a decent amount of overturn coming, set to lose two starters from their lineup in Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon. Backstop Kelly Shoppach and reliever Juan Cruz also played integral roles, but the important thing to notice here is that none of Tampa's important players are free agents. That's huge, and while the Rays will doubtless be making some moves -- and if you see below, I have them making two significant trades -- they should enter 2012 with a team fairly recognizable from this year. This is a team poised to contend, and the riches in the minors will keep on boosting the team. Their postseason may have been cut short, but they'll be back plenty of times in the coming seasons.

FREE AGENTS

RP Juan Cruz
DH Johnny Damon
RP Kyle Farnsworth ($3.3 million club option)
1B Casey Kotchman
C Kelly Shoppach ($3.2 million club option)

OFFSEASON FOCUS

  • The Rays need to make room in the rotation for Matt Moore and fielded calls on James Shields this trade deadline. They need to field more calls and deal him to Cincinnati for first baseman Yonder Alonso, backstop Ryan Hanigan and a pitcher. Alonso can step in at first or DH, Hanigan can step in as the backstop and the pitcher can either be a back-end starting pitcher -- which Cincy has plenty of -- or a solid reliever. The move would give the Rays cost-control over Alonso for years and inject some thump into a lineup that could use another strong hitter.
  • Let Kelly Shoppach go and wait on Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon's market. Shoppach could be brought back on a smaller deal, but $3.2 million is too much for someone who hit .176/.288/.339, and fell under .200 in batting average for the second straight year. Similarly, Kotchman had a solid season with the bat but the Rays shouldn't rush to pay him, as there's a reason he's bounced from team to team. Let the market dictate Kotchman's price, then maybe you entertain bringing him back. The same applies for Damon. If the price is right on either, one of them can return to play first or DH opposite Alonso.
  • Trade B.J. Upton to the Nationals for Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina. Upton just can't justify his salary anymore on the Rays, and the Nationals have big interest in Upton. Desmond can fix the shortstop hole in Tampa, while Sean Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist and Bernadina can help fill the hole in the outfield left by Upton's departure.
  • Pick up Kyle Farnsworth's option and use the money saved from Shields and Upton to sign Mike Gonzalez. The Rays need a shutdown lefty in the bullpen, and Gonzalez can be that man. J.P. Howell used to be, but coming off a bad year, you need another, reliable, lefty in the bullpen. Then, use the rest of the money to bring back Kotchman or Damon, or go after someone like Jason Kubel.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 29, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 2:57 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

By Evan Brunell

The Rays and Rangers will meet for the second year in a row. Last season, Texas came away with a victory, needing the maximum five games to do so. They would go on to advance to the World Series before losing to the San Francisco Giants. Both teams are in dramatically different places this time around, with the Rays team undergoing turnover while the Rangers' offense is one of the most fearsome in recent memory. Let's break down each team's position and determine who has the advantage....

TEAM INFORMATION

Tampa Bay Rays (host games 3, 4)
91-71, AL wild card champions
Manager: Joe Maddon
Team batting statistics: .244 batting average (25th in AL), .322 on-base percentage (13th), .402 slugging percentage (13th)
Team pitching statistics: 3.58 ERA (8th), 1.22 WHIP (2nd), 2.27 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: SP James Shields -- 16-12, 249 1/3 IP, 2.82 ERA, 3.25 xFIP, 65 BB, 225 K

Texas Rangers (host games 1, 2, 5)
96-66, AL West champions
Manager: Ron Washington
Team batting statistics: .283 batting average (1st), .340 on-base percentage (5th), .460 slugging percentage (2nd)
Team pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (13th), 1.24 WHIP (5th), 2.56 K/BB (5th)
Star player: C Mike Napoli -- .320/.414/.631, 432 plate appearances, 30 HR, 75 RBI

SCHEDULE (Click here to view the entire postseason schedule)

Full Playoff Coverage

Game 1: TB @ TEX, Sept. 30, 5:07 p.m. -- Matt Moore (1-0, 2.89 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94)**
Game 2: TB @ TEX, Oct. 1, 7:07 p.m. -- James Shields (16-12, 2.82) vs. Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95)
Game 3: TEX @ TB, Oct. 3, 5:07 p.m. -- Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.95)
Game 4*: TB @ TEX, Oct. 4 -- Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40) vs. David Price (12-13, 3.49)
Game 5*: TB @ TEX, Oct. 6 -- James Shields (16-12, 2.82) vs. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94)

* If necessary | ** all pitching matchups projected

TEAM BREAKDOWN (Click player name for statistics)

Catcher
Texas: Mike Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba
Tampa Bay: John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach

The Rays' catcher situation is like that of shortstop: Choosing between bad or worse. Jaso and Shoppach have both combined for extremely disappointing seasons while Napoli was one of the best offensive players in the game, robbed of his due because his counting statistics aren't up to snuff due to playing in just 113 games, but Napoli can do serious damage. Torrealba isn't a zero either, but most of his value comes on defense.

Advantage: Rangers

First base
Texas: Mitch Moreland, Napoli
Tampa Bay: Casey Kotchman

Kotchman came out of nowhere to give Tampa fantastic value out of first base, hitting at a .306 clip and providing his usual stellar defense at first place. While no one expects Kotchman to keep this up next season, what matters is right now. And right now, Kotchman is head and shoulders better than Moreland, although if Texas goes with Torrealba behind the plate and Napoli at first base, this conversation changes.

Advantage: Rays

Second base
Texas: Ian Kinsler
Tampa Bay: Ben Zobrist

Both Kinsler and Zobrist had excellent seasons -- both at the plate and in the field. Picking one or the other amounts to nitpicking as both players have 30 stolen bases. Zobrist holds a small edge in batting average and Kinsler holds a small one in slugging percentage. Even fielding numbers aren't any help. This is as even as it gets.

Advantage: Tie

Shortstop
Texas: Elvis Andrus
Tampa Bay: Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac

As mentioned before, Tampa's shortstop spot is horrible. Between Rodriguez, Reid Brignac and Eliot Johnson, Rays shortstops combined to hit .193/.256/.282. League average was .266/.321/.386. That's simply awful, awful production. The Rangers clearly win out here, with Andrus' solid bat and strong glove.

Advantage: Rangers

Third base
Texas: Adrian Beltre
Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria

Evan Longoria has been one of the best third basemen in the game for a long time. Up until this year, you could have argued that he was the best AL third-baseman for years running. Alas, Beltre's second straight excellent season has supplanted Longoria, coming off a down year. Beltre's 32 homers rank fifth in the AL, and he missed a month and a half! Add in his all-world defense, and he runs away from Longoria even though Longo is still a threat and hit .289/.454/.589 in September.

Advantage: Rangers

Left field
Texas: David Murphy
Tampa Bay: Desmond Jennings

Murphy looked like he would have a lost season, but turned it on down the stretch and forced the Rangers to move Josh Hamilton to center for the playoffs in order to get Murphy's bat in the lineup. It's easy to remember that Jennings debuted with fantastic numbers in August, but September told a very different story. All in all, both players have things working both for and against them and nothing quite standing out.

Advantage: Tie

Center field
Texas: Josh Hamilton
Tampa Bay: B.J. Upton

This is pretty easily Hamilton's domain here after Upton hit just .243. Hamilton remains one of the best players in the game despite being injury-prone. When he's on the field, he produces. Upton can't say the same, although he turned on the jets at the right time for Tampa and had a productive September.

Advantage: Rangers

Right field
Texas: Nelson Cruz
Tampa Bay: Matt Joyce

Here's an interesting matchup. Cruz missed time with injury but when he was right, enjoyed yet another productive season, missing 30 homers by just one blast. Cruz's calling card is power, while Joyce counters with a better overall game, flashing a strong glove. With both players' offensive games basically evening out, the balance tips to defense, and Joyce wins there.

Advantage: Rays

Designated Hitter
Texas: Michael Young, Napoli
Tampa Bay: Johnny Damon

Yet another win for the Rangers on offense. We all know what Napoli can do, but Young figures to get most of the at-bats at DH. Despite Young having to adjust to the DH spot on a full-time basis for the first time in his career, Young coolly racked up 106 RBI and should get some MVP attention. Damon, by comparison, falls far short.

Advantage: Rangers

Starting pitching
Texas: C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis
Tampa Bay: Jeff Niemann, James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson

The Rays win here, although Rangers fans will probably beg to differ. Yes, Wilson had a fantastic season -- you can't take that away from him. But Shields, Price and Hellickson all had excellent years as well. No one's shorting Holland and Harrison here, but at best, these two pitchers are no better than fifth best overall with three of the first four spots belonging to Tampa. The Rays are in the postseason for their pitching, not their offense.

Advantage: Rays

Relief pitching
Texas closer: Neftali Feliz
Tampa Bay closer: Kyle Farnsworth

Feliz's future as a closer was in doubt even as late as early August, but he clamped down the rest of the way and will pair with Mike Adams for a formidable 1-2 punch. There isn't a soft underbelly of middle relief either, and this bullpen has the potential to pick up the slack left over from the starting rotation to beat Tampa. But the Rays have taken a completely remade bullpen and turned it into an elite corps, too. Tampa's relief ERA of 3.73 is 10 spots higher than Texas' 4.11, but Texas' bullpen is different after importing Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez. Let's call it even.

Advantage: Tie

Total advantage: Rangers (5), Rays (2), Tie (3)

PREDICTION (click here to see full postseason predictions)

CBS Experts
Evan Brunell: Rays in 4
Gregg Doyel: Rays in 4
Danny Knobler: Rangers in 5
Scott Miller: Rangers in 4
Trent Rosecrans: Rangers in 4
Matt Snyder: Rays in 5

Evan's take: The Rangers are a fearsome club, there's no doubt about that. The offense is awe-inspiring and the pitching has the ability to hang tough with Tampa Bay. The Rangers basically cruised to the division title in September, so it's easy to overlook the club because of lack of press, but those who overlook the club are making a mistake. I selected the Rays in four because in the postseason, I believe far more in pitching than offense. I also give credence to how teams played down the stretch. Tampa went 17-10 in September (of course, Texas went 19-8, so there's that) and was in playoff mode for two weeks, constantly playing must-win games then seeing it all pay off when Evan Longoria's second homer of the night went over the fence to give T.B. the wild card. The combination of pitching and the hot hand tilt me toward predicting the Rays to advance.

More Rangers-Rays ALDS coverage

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Posted on: September 29, 2011 12:18 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 2:17 am
 

Playoff race: Epic finish sends Rays to playoffs

Evan Longoria

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Evan Longoria's solo homer off of the Yankees' Scott Proctor capped what was perhaps the most exciting final day of the regular season in baseball history, and solidified two epic collapses by the Red Sox and the Braves.

Longoria's homer gave Tampa Bay an 8-7 victory just minutes after the Orioles' Robert Andino's liner scored the winning run in Baltimore to seal a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Red Sox. Longoria was in the on-deck circle in St. Petersburg, Fla., when the Red Sox score was announced. Just three minutes later, Longoria hit his second homer of the game.

It was just another comeback for the Rays, who were behind in the wild card race by as many as nine games and then were down 7-0 in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game against the Yankees. Tampa Bay scored six in the eighth inning, including three on Longoria's first homer of the night. Dan Johnson hit a two-out, pinch-hit homer in the ninth to tie the game.

While the Rays were within a strike of losing, the Red Sox were within a strike of winning.

Jonathan Papelbon, who had never surrendered an earned run at Camden Yards until Tuesday, struck out the first two batters he faced in the ninth inning trying to protect a 3-2 lead. But Chris Davis doubled and then Nolan Reimold hit a ground-rule double to tie the game and then Andino hit a sinking liner to left that Carl Crawford -- the former Ray -- couldn't catch, scoring Reimold.

Three minutes later, Longoria ended Boston's season, and completed the Red Sox collapse.

The Rays will now head to Texas to face the Rangers in the first round of ALDS on Friday, while the Yankees will host the Tigers.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 10:32 am
 

Pepper: Crawford apologizes to Red Sox fans



By Matt Snyder


With the Rays climbing to within two games of the Red Sox in the AL wild-card race, it's going to be a fun final two weeks for baseball fans. Some interesting perspective on the drama comes from current Red Sox and former Rays' left fielder Carl Crawford.

Crawford played nine seasons and 1,253 regular-season games for the Rays. He's easily the best player in the history of the young franchise at this point, but he walked this past offseason for a seven-year, $142 million deal and signed with the Red Sox. And he's now having the worst season of his career, from an individual standpoint.

In a diary entry for ESPN.com, Crawford notes that hears the boos from "haters" when the Red Sox visit Tampa Bay and that those fans need to realize he's going to be coming back for six more years. Two more entries of note:

"If Tampa makes a miracle comeback and takes the wild card from us, I will be devastated. I definitely wouldn't want to lose to those guys and watch them get into the playoffs while we go home. That would just be devastating to me."

And ...

"I want to end the diary saying something to the fans of Boston. I just want to say I'm sorry for the year I've had. You guys have been really supportive and I appreciate that. Hopefully when we get into these playoffs, I can be the real Carl Crawford that I know I am. We'll see."

I love seeing that kind of accountability from someone who could easily just blow everyone off and count his millions.

Ironman: Speaking of the Rays, Johnny Damon has now tied Pete Rose and Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Hank Aaron with an impressive streak. Damon has now played in at least 140 games in 16 different seasons, making it a four-way tie atop the all-time record book (TampaBay.com). Does anyone doubt Damon can do it again next year and set the record? I sure don't.

More from Damon: This is funny, and true. Damon points out that Red Sox fans have to root for the Yankees now. “They’re going to have to root for them if they want a chance at the postseason,” Damon said (BostonHerald.com). “They couldn’t root for me when I played in New York. Now they have to root for the whole team.” Man, how much are Yankees fans relishing this?

Happy Birthday: Hall of Famer Joe Morgan turns 68 Monday (Hardball Times). The two-time MVP is widely considered the best second baseman to ever play the game (and was also a broadcaster for years, but we'll leave that alone, being his birthday and all ... )

While we're here: Speaking of Joe, he just led the world's largest chicken dance. Check it out (via Big League Stew):



Sigh: Tigers manager Jim Leyland says he isn't an "on-base percentage guy." (MLB.com) Look, Leyland knows a lot more about baseball than I do, which is quite an obvious fact. But that doesn't mean he can't be wrong about certain things. I just don't understand what it is with the so-called "old-school mentality" that prevents people from grasping that OBP is the percentage of times batters don't make an out. I don't get how you can not be an OBP guy. You go to the plate with a bat. The main object is to not make an out. It's very, very simple. Leyland, thankfully, doesn't say he likes batting average, but instead slugging. Slugging percentage is much more important than average, but OBP is much more important. Think about it. Even if you're just churning out singles and walks over and over, you're still scoring runs. Slugging is very important, too, which is why OPS has gotten more and more run in recent years.

Humbled Ozzie: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recently made a trip to the Negro Baseball League Museum in Kansas City and came away with a renewed appreciation for everything he has. "It’s so different, and sometimes you shake your head at what these guys went through all this stuff for baseball to be better now than then," he said (Chicago Tribune).

Shoot him up: Phillies slugging first baseman Ryan Howard has bursitis in his left ankle, and he'll have a cortisone shot to help him deal with the issue the rest of the season. (MLB.com)

Johan 'felt good:' Mets ace Johan Santana threw a three-inning simulated game Sunday and he "felt good." (ESPN New York)

Johnson wants Wang back: Chien-Ming Wang has been a bit inconsistent in his return to the hill this season, but he's shown flashes of being solid -- like in his quality-start win Sunday. It will be tough to squeeze into the Nationals' rotation next season, especially if they land a free agent like C.J. Wilson, but current Nats manager Davey Johnson says he'd bring Wang back. "As far as I'm concerned, he's a keeper," Johnson said (MASN Sports).

Don't rush: Rockies starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa underwent Tommy John surgery June 3, but he's looking to be back by opening day of next season. That wouldn't be unheard of, but it would be just 10 months after a procedure which typically has a 10-14 month recovery period. So it would certainly be a quick recovery. Jim Tracy, his manager, wants De La Rosa to be patient. “I told him (De La Rosa) about Dr. Jobe and the importance of following the program and don’t try to deviate,’’ said Tracy (DenverPost.com). “Don’t try to speed it up. If you do that and you follow the program and you don’t try to speed it up, you’ll feel like you have a bionic arm. Because it will completely heal and you’ll basically have a brand new elbow.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com