Posted on: January 20, 2012 5:10 pm
Carlos Pena to Tampa Bay is cute in a homecoming sort of way, sure. But could it be more than that? You bet.
Ever so quietly -- as usual -- the Rays are working smart and putting together another team down there by the water that will give the Yankees, Red Sox and everyone else fits this summer.
Maybe Pena, at 33, struggles to stay above the Mendoza Line anymore. But he did whack 28 homers for the Cubs last summer while collecting 80 RBI, which was exactly ... 28 more homers and 79 more RBI than the Rays got from Manny Ramirez in 2011.
Nobody, surely starting with the Rays, is expecting Pena to replicate his 2009 All-Star season (39 homers, 100 RBIs).
But Pena trumps Manny by about 1,000 miles both on the field and in the clubhouse. Together, Pena and Luke Scott, whom the Rays added as a DH bat earlier this month, should be a much more productive first base/DH combination than last year's Casey Kotchman/Johnny Damon tag team.
In fact, the Rays last summer ranked dead last among major-league first basemen in 2011 in both runs scored and RBI. Overall, Tampa Bay's 707 runs scored ranked eighth in the AL.
In Pena and Scott, they should get more production. And with a killer rotation in James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and rookie Matt Moore or Jeff Niemann -- the Rays' 3.58 ERA in 2011 was second in the AL only to the Angels' -- there is no reason why it shouldn't carry Joe Maddon's club deep into September once again.
Posted on: July 11, 2011 9:36 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 10:11 pm
PHOENIX -- Weary of all this talk about how the Yankees' Derek Jeter should be in attendance at this All-Star Game, I went looking for someone who agrees that he shouldn't be anywhere near this event.
I found the guy.
And truth be told, it wasn't all that difficult, either.
Meet David Price. Yeah, THAT David Price.
Guy who served up the homer that was Jeter's 3,000th hit in New York on Saturday.
In fact, Price surrendered Jeter's first three hits on Saturday -- single, homer, double -- and yet appeared startled when I told him I had him figured for the one guy who is glad Jeter is nowhere near Phoenix.
"I'm not mad about it," Price said, smiling. "I love it.
"When he first hit it Saturday, I was mad when it went over the fence. Then I was like, 'It's Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, get over it.
"I understand people want to see him. But he's trying to get his body ready for the second half. He's been on an emotional roller coaster these past couple of weeks. He's the ultimate team guy and he's trying to get ready to help the Yankees in the second half."
OK, enough with the respect.
Now, David, the truth ... you saw enough of him on Saturday, right? You're sick and tired of him, right?
"I might be," Price said, eyes twinkling. "I wouldn't mind seeing Derek Jeter one bit -- but I'd ask him what he's going to give me [for surrendering his 3,000th hit].
"Aw, I'm just kidding."
Likes: Really fun talking with the three Pittsburgh All-Stars and seeing their excitement -- outfielder Andrew McCutchen, closer Joel Hanrahan and starter Kevin Correia. ... Ditto first-time All-Star Michael Cuddyer of the Twins. ... Padres closer Heath Bell having his father, wife and kids in tow at the press conferences Monday so he could share the All-Star excitement. Very, very cool. ... Glad to see Adrian Gonzalez getting his due in Boston. He was so overlooked and underrated when he was playing hidden in San Diego. And he's a class act who is intelligent and thoughtful as well as highly skilled. ... Very interesting seeing the Biltmore, the luxury resort where John McCain gave his election night concession speech after losing the last presidential election. ... Rokerij, best restaurant in Phoenix. The blackened salmon with apple chile was sensational Sunday night (as were the green chile potato, roasted beets and prickly pear margarita that came with it). ... Rubio's Fish Tacos, a San Diego staple blossoming in Phoenix. The manager of the joint we stopped by for lunch Monday was so sweet, too. She was a baseball fan and, overhearing All-Star talk at our table, she brought over four warm churros on the house.
Dislikes: The Home Run Derby. The rules are convoluted and it continues forever. And I mean, forever. Does it really need to be three hours? Of course, I'm also the guy that gets worn out quick at a movie by special effects. A little bit goes a long way, just like home runs. It's why I hated Super 8.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"We learned in Sunday school
-- Mac MacAnally, Back Where I Come From
Posted on: November 19, 2010 3:12 pm
Some excellent and very well-reasoned responses to my defense of Felix Hernandez's AL Cy Young award this week. In fact, this is the best batch of letters in a long time. Nice to hear from everyone. ...
From: Henry H.
To answer your question, Hernandez did not start against Tampa Bay this year. And in my heart, I agree with you: Pitchers SHOULD BE paid to win. Some are. But anymore, most are paid to keep their teams in games and eat innings. I don't think it was sportswriters thinking they're smart. I think this vote was sportswriters trying their best to get it right. I think they did because, as I pointed out in the column, this was a very unique year for Hernandez. But I'm with you in hoping this is an aberration rather than the coming norm.
From: Jay T.
Though your opinion on the matter has merit, I cannot support it. The pitchers that finished second and third respectively both were better candidates. Felix pitched in the AL West, which was the Rangers then nobody else, where as Price and CC both had to deal with three definite powerhouses of the division. Did Felix have a great year? Yes. But I am sorry to say that 13 wins, when most of your games are against weaker opponents, should not get you a Cy Young.
Tough call. And I'd say your opinion has merit as well.
I have no problem with Felix Hernandez winning. My problem is with CC ending up third. The Yankee Love has got to stop. He had a worse season than a handful of other pitchers -- Trevor Cahill, Clay Buchholz and Jered Weaver all had better ERAs, and better WHIPs. All CC had was wins, which are easy to come by when you are a Yankee. Further, somehow he basically got the same point total as Price, which is a joke. Price's ERA is almost a 1/2 a run better than CC's, and CC did not have to pitch against the best team money can buy. Plain and simple, there were several pitchers better than CC in the AL, so people have got to stop handing the Yankees everything.
I take it you don't own a copy of Sinatra's New York, New York.
FROM: Jack H
Given the same sabermetrics Felix Hernandez had, would he win the Cy Young if he were 0-25? Now that I think about it, I would vote for Price. Very good W-L and a good ERA, etc. I could just as well argue that Hernandez lost seven in a row early in the year before his team was eliminated, and demoralized his team and although he pitched great, the team basically packed it in. We have now said that for Cy Young, wins mean nothing.
I hope that's not what we've said. I really do. And if it is, then we need to veer back in the other direction.
Posted on: October 12, 2010 2:51 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2010 4:54 pm
There is nothing like a Game 5 (or Game 7) in sports, and nothing like the pitch-by-pitch tension that builds in an elimination baseball game with the October leaves changing and Halloween costumes in the stores.
-- Texas can say what it wants about having Lee on the mound, and there is no question he's The Man. But it would be more of a guarantee if Tampa Bay was pitching some slob not named Price. Unless you're wearing a Rangers uniform, you'd much rather be in the Rays' cleats tonight: Price on the mound, bats coming back to life, the momentum of winning the past two games in your back pocket and what will be a thunderous, sold-out crowd behind you.
-- Crazy how things work out, and how perfect is this: Price, the man who sparked a controversy in Tampa by criticizing the Rays' fans via Twitter for not showing up on a potential clinching game in late September, pitching in front of not only a sold-out crowd tonight, but a crowd that voraciously snapped up those extra 5,000 tickets. This is a chance for burned bridges to be rebuilt, a chance for Price, 25 and as good a pitcher as there is in the game, to stand tall now that Tampa fans have put their money where Price's mouth is.
-- Maybe you don't realize this, but here is how rare a Game 5 is: We haven't had one since 2005, when the Los Angeles Angels beat the Yankees 5-2 in Anaheim to advance to the ALCS against the Chicago White Sox. Not only that, there's been very little drama in the Division Series' since '05, period: Entering this fall, a total of 11 of 20 series since then have been 3-0 sweeps. Last fall, Game 163 between the Tigers and Twins -- not a Game 5, but an elimination game nonetheless, was by far the most exciting game of the entire postseason. It was all downhill after that.
-- The home team has yet to win in this series. Only once before has a team won the first two games of a best-of-five postseason series on the road and then gone on to lose: the 2001 Oakland A's, who played the New York Yankees. Texas will do everything tonight to make sure that changes, and don't be surprised to see manager Ron Washington call on starter C.J. Wilson if, for some reason, Lee is off.
-- This either works in Tampa Bay's favor -- or in Texas', if you figure odds are that this eventually will change: Never before in major league baseball history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, has there been a postseason series in which the road team has won every game in a best-of-five series.
-- In Game 1, Lee threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 hitters, and threw 76 strikes out of 104 total pitches. The Rays ranked third in the AL this season with 802 runs scored, but only 13th with in hits -- only Seattle, in the AL, had fewer. That partly explains why the Rays were no-hit twice this summer. And it explains how steep their challenge is tonight: They cannot expect to get extra runners on base via walks. They must be aggressive in swinging at Lee's strikes -- but it's a fine line between being aggressive, and coming too far out of their game.
-- From Texas' perspective, taking an early lead is a must. That would take the Tampa crowd out of the game, it would allow the Rangers to settle in and it might give Lee all he needs. "I think it depends on how many runs is put on the board when you score first," Rangers manager Ron Washington said Sunday in Texas while looking toward Game 5. "If you put one run on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. You put two runs on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. As long as it doesn't get past a grand slam, I think you're in good shape."
-- More Washington: "This was a five-game series when it started, now it's a five-game series. They proved they can beat us on our field, we proved we can beat them on their field. This is what it's about now. They have the right person they feel that's going to be throwing ... and we certainly feel the same way. So it's a matter of going out there, getting Cliff some runs, and if we get him some runs, he'll take it to the finish line. That's what it's all about."
-- Great stuff from Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena agreed that there will be no ejecting bases in Tropicana Field tonight, but, as he said, "I can't deny it, it's going to be pretty exciting. It's not as easy to control your emotions. It's fun. It's fun to be a part of it."
-- Tampa Bay's attitude? "We came here facing our elimination," catcher John Jaso said as the Rays dressed after Game 4 to fly home to St. Pete for Game 5. "And we still are facing our elimination." So far, so good with that.
-- The Rangers, for one more day at least, remain the only team in baseball never to have won a playoff series. Someone asked Lee the other day about pitching for a team with such a "sorry history." "I've heard something about that," Lee deadpanned during a post-Game 4 news conference the other day. "But that really doesn't matter to me that much, to be honest. This is a different team than has ever played here. It's a whole different set of circumstances."
Likes: Game 5, for "all the marbles" (as Texas third baseman Michael Young says). ... Bobby Valentine in line to manage again, either in Florida or Seattle. Great fit in either place, but especially the Mariners with their Japanese ownership and Bobby V's ties to Japan. ... Sandy Alderson interviewing with the Mets as a potential general manager. I disagreed with many things Alderson did as president of the Padres, but he would be a great fit with the Mets, who need an adult to run that sorry franchise. Allard Baird, who interviewed Monday, would be a very fine choice as well. ... The Jim Joyce Twitter controversy that erupted on Tuesday. Suddenly, the umpire showed up with a new Twitter account and several tweets that looked authentic -- until MLB-PR tweeted that it was not the real Jim Joyce. ... Baseball working with Stand Up 2 Cancer. ... I don't plug a whole lot of things like this, but if you have a minute to vote in this Pepsi Refresh Project, Gabby's Ladder is a terrific organization for bereaved children in Michigan and Ohio that could really use a helping hand.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"If the businessmen drink my blood
-- Arcade Fire, Ready to Start
Posted on: October 10, 2010 7:11 pm
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- This postseason is becoming Made to Order for the Yankees.
As the New York Daily News comically -- and correctly -- pointed out early in the week, they received an "EZ Pass" in drawing the Twins in the first round.
Texas' failure to finish off Tampa Bay in three or four games pretty much assures the Yankees that they will not face the winner's ace -- the Rangers' Cliff Lee or the Rays' David Price -- until Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.
Lee and Price will oppose each other in the deciding Game 5 of the Rangers-Rays Division Series on Tuesday night.
The ALCS begins on Friday. The Yankees will have had five days off to prepare, with ace CC Sabathia fully rested for Game 1.
Meantime, there are a couple of other angles playing into the Yankees' hands: Neither Texas slugger Josh Hamilton (ribs) nor Tampa Bay cleanup hitter Evan Longoria (strained quadriceps) is playing at full strength right now.
Hamilton, who missed most of September after breaking a couple of ribs colliding with the outfield fence in Minnesota (is that the center whereby all breaks fall for the Yankees?), is hitting .143 over the four games of this AL Division Series. He's struck out four times in 14 at-bats.
The outfielder, of course, insists that the still-healing ribs are not bothering him.
"I wish I could use that excuse, but they're not," he said. "This is the whole thing that makes baseball fun. You figure them out, and then they figure you out. If it was easy, nobody would play."
Texas manager Ron Washington acknowledges that Hamilton is not at 100 percent but is keeping details in-house.
"I don't think no one is 100 percent right now," Washington said. "But you understand Josh hasn't seen live pitching in a month and he's up there fighting, and he's fighting hard. It's not an excuse, but he is facing some pretty good pitching right now."
Longoria is faring better at the plate, especially in Tampa Bay's 5-2 Game 4 win Sunday when he cracked two doubles and a two-run homers. He's batting .250 for the series, with a .294 on-base percentage. The two-run homer are his only RBIs.
What's particularly bothersome about Longoria, though, is watching him run. He's clearly slowed by the left quadriceps both running the bases and in the field.
"He's under strict managerial orders to not run hard, although he can't anyway," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "What you're seeing is pretty much where he's at right now. I want him to guard that leg. As we get deeper into the playoffs, it shall get better. But for right now, I'm good with what he's doing."
Likes: Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5 Tuesday in Tampa Bay: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." ... The Rangers taking the field for Game 4 to Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream. ... Sundance Square in Fort Worth. ... Southwest Airlines, where you don't get the feeling you're bothering the employees when you fly with them. ... Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High School's football team blasting Carleton Airport 34-21 on Friday night. The Falcons now are 6-1, clinched at least a share of the Huron League title and clinched another berth in the state playoffs. Way to go, boys.
Dislikes: Error on me in writing that Tampa Bay had not played a noon game all season before Sunday, including spring training. That was the word in Tampa Bay's clubhouse. The truth of it? The Rays have short memories. They actually had an 11 a.m. start in Boston on Patriots' Day and three 12:10 p.m. starts in Tampa during the season. Thanks to alert reader Daniel Frederick for pointing this out.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well it's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
-- Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried
Posted on: July 2, 2010 9:11 pm
If American League manager Joe Girardi chooses to start Tampa Bay's David Price in the July 13 All-Star Game -- a very real possibility given that Price led the AL in ERA (2.44) and wins (11) on Friday -- the coast is clear.
And if National League manager Charlie Manuel gives the nod to Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez -- which seems a slam dunk -- that should work, too.
In the first season in which baseball will deem ineligible any starting pitcher working on the Sunday before the All-Star break, the view from several days out looks pretty good.
Of the top AL starters, only the Angels' Jered Weaver (who leads the majors with 124 strikeouts), Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann and the Yankees' CC Sabathia currently are projected to start for their clubs on that Sunday.
Among the NL's top starters, only the Mets' Mike Pelfrey is slated to start on Sunday, July 11. But depending on what manager Jerry Manuel does with his pitching on the club's off-day on Thursday, July 8, that could change.
Price, a serious candidate to start for the AL, is scheduled to make his final pre-All Star start for Tampa Bay on Wednesday, which would leave him plenty rested for the Anaheim game. And if Girardi looks in a different direction, Seattle's Cliff Lee (last first-half start next Friday), Boston's Jon Lester (Friday) and Clay Buchholz (Tuesday), the Yankees' own Phil Hughes (Friday) and Texas' Colby Lewis (Wednesday) all should be eligible.
Jimenez makes his final pre-All Star start on Thursday and, assuming good health, should be a foregone conclusion to start for the NL in Anaheim.
As for the rest of the NL's top starters, things are setting up very nicely for Manuel: Florida's Josh Johnson (final first-half start slotted for Wednesday), St. Louis' Chris Carpenter (Friday), Adam Wainwright (Saturday) and Jaime Garcia (Thursday), Philadelphia's Roy Halladay (Saturday), Atlanta's Tim Hudson (Friday or Saturday), Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo (Friday), the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (Thursday), San Diego's Mat Latos (Wednesday) and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (Wednesday) and Barry Zito (Thursday) all should be fresh for the game.
Likes: Great move by Texas acquiring catcher Bengie Molina. Look out, this is the strongest team the Rangers have had in several years. ... The wheels came off the wagon horribly in Arizona, but make no mistake: Fired general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch are good people. ... New Arizona manager Kirk Gibson's first game in the dugout, of course, is against the Dodgers. Who else? ... The All-Star break just around the corner and Texas, Atlanta, Cincinnati and San Diego in first place. ... The new concert DVD from Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, Live in Hyde Park. Very, very good. Great song selections, tremendous playing and some breathtaking camera work of both the band's work and the crowd in Hyde Park. ... Quaker Oatmeal Squares for breakfast. ... Ben & Jerry's Milk and Cookies ice cream.
Dislikes: It's July, so here comes the July 31 trade deadline, a time that you would think would get a baseball writer's juices flowing. And it does mine, too -- it's fun to see the moves as they're made -- but it's also become one of my least favorite times of the year because there is so, so much wrong information that will be produced this month. And ferreting out the truth from the fiction is next to impossible. The sad, simple fact is the journalism bar at times is lowered today, and this is one of them.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
-- The Cars, Magic
Posted on: October 29, 2008 6:12 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- Arguably the most unusual game in World Series history is set to resume at 8:37 p.m. this evening, with Philadelphia and Tampa Bay tied 2-2, and the most fascinating thing of all is that the tactical moves will begin immediately.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said just before batting practice Wednesday that Ryan Madson will "start" for Philadelphia. The first Phillies pitcher will take the mound in the top of the seventh inning.
Before that, Manuel is expected to pinch-hit for pitcher Cole Hamels, whose spot in the order is up first when the game resumes in the bottom of the sixth.
Reliever Grant Balfour is in the game for the Rays, and the big question will be whether Rays manager Joe Maddon will immediately go with left-hander David Price or allow Balfour to face what is expected to be a left-handed pinch-hitter for Hamels -- likely Geoff Jenkins, possibly Matt Stairs or Greg Dobbs.
If Maddon does go to Price, the danger is this: The pitcher's spot in the lineup is up fourth when Tampa Bay hits in the top of the seventh. With the Rays only getting three at-bats and the Phillies four (barring extra innings), Tampa Bay can ill afford to give up an out.
Another option, of course, if Maddon elects to start Price is to double-switch right out of the gate.
"I think we're going to find out real early," Manuel said of the Price question. "He came in against us in Florida, of course, and he went through our left-handed hitters twice, ... I figure that, evidently, they gained confidence in him there.
"And I think we're going to see him."
Tampa Bay's Maddon declined to divulge whether he will stay with Balfour or switch pitchers immediately. He also declined to say whether he would even have another pitcher warming up when the game resumes, so stay tuned.
In addition to Price, the Rays will have starter Andy Sonnanstine available.
"David threw about 40-some pitches his last time out," Maddon said. "He has not pitched as a starter in awhile. I'm a little concerned about how many pitches he can throw. I would say, comfortably, 50 to 60 would be within my mental range.
"Andy, I have to check with him but I believe he's going to be fine. I've already had Hick (pitching coach Jim Hickey) start that conversation with him, but I have not heard back yet. But I would say Andy is good for the same number."
As for Manuel's decision to start with Madson, even though it surely will be an odd feeling for the right-hander to be pitching so early and right off the bat, the manager said he thinks it will be fine.
"He's got experience and, a couple of years ago, he was a starter," Manuel said. "He's been throwing the ball real good. I think from a mindset (perspective), he also knows that we've just got actually three innings of baseball for our bullpen to pitch."
Never before has a World Series game been suspended like this. There have been 40 postponements in World Series history, 29 because of rain, one because of cold (1903) and the 10-day postponement following the San Francisco earthquake in 1989.
The weather here in Philadelphia is cold and windy. Game-time temperatures are expected to be somewhere between 42 and 44 degrees, with a wind chill in the 20s.
Posted on: October 22, 2008 1:52 pm
ST. PETERSBURG -- You're going to hear a lot over these next seven-to-10 days about how the Philadelphia Phillies have an "American League-style lineup."
What that means is that they have the ability to put a lot of runs on the board in a hurry. They're deep and they're powerful. They've got speed and power atop the lineup in Jimmy Rollins. They've got a rugged middle of the lineup with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell.
But here's my question: If the Phillies' lineup is so AL-oriented, then why did they go 4-11 in Interleague Play this season? In five series against AL teams, they didn't win one.
Two of the five AL teams they faced qualified for postseason -- Boston (against whom the Phillies were 1-2) and the Los Angeles Angels (0-3). Three were not -- Oakland (1-2), Texas (1-2) and Toronto (1-2).
This isn't a knock on the Phillies, who are playing their best baseball of the season and easily could win this series if they keep it up. It is an indictment of the NL, which simply still isn't as strong as the AL.
It's no wonder, then, that one of the main points of the report turned in by Philadelphia scouts for the Phillies to digest going into this World Series is that the pitching staff must keep the ball in the ballpark against Rays hitters. The Phillies think they can be successful if their pitchers stay away from predictable pitch selection patterns, which would keep Longoria, Upton, Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and the rest of the Tampa Bay hitters off-balance.
If Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Co. can establish themselves, it's the Phillies who could win this series with the long ball. They ranked second in the majors in homers, trailing only the Chicago White Sox.
The keys to this series, for me, are these:
-- Game 1. Philadelphia has not played a game in a week. Similar layoffs did no favors for Colorado (eight days) in last year's World Series or Detroit (six days) in 2006. If the Phillies' hitters have their timing Wednesday night, that will be a terrific sign for them. If they look lost against Scott Kazmir, it could be a sign of rust, and it could be a scramble for Philadelphia to turn it around.
-- The bullpens. With complete games having gone the way of the stock market, so many postseason games turn now somewhere between the sixth and eighth innings. We know Philadelphia is air-tight late with Ryan Madson (who handles the eighth innings) and closer Brad Lidge. The wild card is Tampa Bay phenom David Price. The Phillies saw what the rest of us saw in the ALCS: Rays relievers Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell are beginning to show wear and tear. That could leave Tampa Bay vulnerable -- or it could leave an effective Price as a breakout star.
-- Jamie Moyer. Philadelphia's Game 3 starter has gotten clobbered in the postseason. In two games, against Milwaukee and the Dodgers, he's served up eight runs and 10 hits in only 5 1/3 innings. He didn't make it out of the second in his NLCS start in Los Angeles. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel says he never considered not starting Moyer in the World Series, and the soft-tossing lefty is not a charity case: He led Philadelphia's staff during the season with 16 wins. But finesse pitchers are exceptionally risky in the postseason. There are no easy outs, and if a guy's touch is off even by a little bit ... look out.
There will be a harsh glare on Tampa Bay's kids, but they've responded to every challenge this season and I think they will respond again. None of the past four World Series has lasted longer than five games, and three of them have been sweeps.
I think this goes a bit longer, and I think the AL superiority again will be evident.
Tampa Bay in 6.