Tag:Tampa Bay Rays
Posted on: May 12, 2010 8:10 pm
 

Two Billmeyer friends amused by accusations

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As word of Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer getting busted with binoculars and allegedly stealing signs boomeranged around the game Wednesday, two men who worked with Billmeyer a decade ago found the idea of Billmeyer doing such a dastardly deed laughable.

"I hate to throw him under the bus but, knowing him, I'm sure it had nothing to do with signs," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who, during his 31 years in the Angels' organization, became friends with Billmeyer (who was the Angels' bullpen/workout coordinator from 1994-1999).

"I'd bet on it. I can say that because he's a single guy."

Across the field here Wednesday, one of Billmeyer's former roommates -- Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher -- chuckled and agreed.

"I honestly believe he was either checking out the scenery," said Butcher, who lived with Billmeyer for a time when Butcher was pitching for the Angels (1992-1995), "or checking out his own catcher.

"I know he's the catching instructor there. I wouldn't be surprised if he was bearing down on his own guy."

Evidence uncovered by the Rockies was incriminating enough that major-league baseball delivered a stern reprimand to the Phillies on Wednesday.

The Rockies noticed Billmeyer with binoculars in the Coors Field bullpen during a game earlier this week looking in at Colorado catcher Miguel Olivo from the center field bullpen with the Phillies batting in the first inning. The Rockies asked their television network to zoom in on Billmeyer, and television cameras caught him looking in at Olivo in the second.

"Sign-stealing is going on all the time, and I think it's one of the lost arts of the game if you doing it the right way," Maddon said. "If you're doing it with technology, I totally disagree with it. But if you're doing it through observation ... binoculars, I'd say, are technology."

First generation, apparently -- though Maddon did not elaborate on that part of it.

"When you can get the other side's signs through old-fashioned detective work, it can really impact a game," Maddon said. "If some people are upset with that, then I'd say shame on them for not concealing their signs better."

Even with binoculars in Billmeyer's hand and video evidence, though, Maddon still found it difficult to believe that Billmeyer was studying Olivo's signs.

"I'd love to know what was [in the stands] behind Olivo," he quipped.

Likes: Nothing like a good, old-fashioned, sign-stealing controversy. ... The Phillies have been accused of this before (see Dodgers coach Larry Bowa's radio comments from last October when the Phils were playing the Yankees in the World Series). But a couple of things to remember, for those thinking Billmeyer is the culprit: While you can see the catcher from the bullpen in Philly's Citizens' Bank Park, it's hit-and-miss on the road. Not all bullpens would give Billmeyer (or anybody else) a clear line of vision to the catcher (Coors Field does). Also, the Phillies scored more runs on the road than at home last year, and the same is true so far this year.

Dislikes: The pair of binoculars I have at home have been broken for two years.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply
"So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
"He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do
"So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you
"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
"Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
"Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign"

-- Five Man Electrical Band, Signs

 

Posted on: May 11, 2010 12:52 am
 

The Rays and the art of the perfect game

Perfect games follow the Tampa Bay Rays around the way stray dogs hang near the meat market.

Rays' outfielder Gabe Kapler on Sunday became the only man in baseball history to bat in the ninth inning twice with his team facing a perfect game.

Kapler bounced to shortstop to end Dallas Braden's grab at history in Oakland on Sunday.

And in Chicago last July, he was Mark Buehrle's first out in the ninth inning.

You might recall that one: Kapler was the guy who smoked the fly ball to the wall that Chicago outfielder DeWayne Wise majestically chased down in a highlight reel play for the ages.

"And if you want to take it one step further. ..." Kapler said Monday in Anaheim as the Rays prepared to open a series with the Angels.

Yes, if you want to do that, Kapler now has had three brushes with perfect games in three years: In 2008, San Diego's Chris Young spun a perfect game for 7 2/3 innings on Sept. 7 in Milwaukee when Kapler, then a Brewers outfielder, broke it up by smashing a home run.

Understandably so, Kapler says he felt "very connected to" Buehrle's moment, given how close he came to breaking up and Wise's spectacular play.

As for Braden's perfecto on Sunday, Kapler said, "I think in the order of the universe, there are reasons why it would have been nice for us to break it up. But after the game, I read about how Braden's mom had died of cancer, and it was poetic [to have it happen on Mother's Day]. It was his day. He needed to make pitches, and he made them."

Meantime, Kapler's wild perfect game history isn't all in this crazy Tampa Bay connection.

Manager Joe Maddon?

He's now been involved with three perfect games (plus another no-hitter) -- all on the wrong side.

While his Rays now have been victimized by two perfect games in their past 96 (Braden on Sunday, the White Sox's Mark Buehrle last July 23), Maddon also was the Angels' bullpen coach when Texas' Kenny Rogers was perfect against them back in 1994.

He also was the Angels' interim manager when Minnesota's Eric Milton no-hit them in 1999.

"I'm your guy for a perfect game," Maddon joked. "I'm on the bad side of history once again. Kind of amazing, but it happened."

Wait, there's more: Including the Braden and Buehrle games, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and third-base coach Tom Foley each have been involved with three perfect games.

Unlike with Maddon and Kapler, though, the Rays finally have a winner with Foley and Martinez: Each was on the 1991 Montreal club when Pedro Martinez tossed a perfect game against the Dodgers on July 28, 1991.

The Rays join the Dodgers and Twins as the only three teams to have two perfect games thrown against them.

Likes: Do yourself a favor and watch this absolutely hilarious recent rant by a disgusted Cleveland television guy doing a postgame show. And it was on the Indians' flagship station, no less. ... Terrific analysis encapsulating the mess that is the Kansas City Royals here. ... Classy tribute to the late Ernie Harwell before Monday's Tigers game in Detroit. A sad, sad thing, but the Tigers really deserve credit for the first-class manner in which they've handled everything. ... Really superb Drive-By Truckers show last Thursday at the House of Blues in San Diego. Those guys can play and, boy, do they rock. The new disc, The Big To-Do, is very good. Of course, it's no Decoration Day -- the Truckers set the bar with that (or maybe with Southern Rock Opera) -- but it's good. Love Birthday Boy, Daddy Learned to Fly, Santa Fe and (It's Gonna Be) I Told You So. ...

Dislikes: So, what, this oil is going to continue leaking into the ocean indefinitely? Can we get it fixed anytime soon? Yeah, drill, baby, drill. It's sickening watching what's going on.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"There was that whole weird thing with the horses
"I think they know exactly what happened
"I don't think it needs any explaining
"I'm pretty sure I wasn't your first choice
"I think I was the last one remaining"

-- The Hold Steady, The Weekenders

Posted on: March 3, 2010 4:33 pm
 

Tryin' to reason with exhibition schedule season

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The changing spring training landscape is presenting some clubs with scheduling dilemmas, not the least of which is teams which already face divisional rivals 18 or 19 times a summer because of the unbalanced schedule facing those clubs even more in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

In Florida, with Baltimore having moved to the Gulf Coast side (Sarasota) from Fort Lauderdale, all five AL East clubs are within a two-hour drive of each other. Tampa Bay is just down the road in Port Charlotte, the Red Sox are a little further down the road in Fort Myers and the Yankees and Blue Jays not far north in the Tampa area.

Result: Tampa Bay is scheduled to play AL East foes in 16 of 31 Grapefruit League games. The Orioles play AL East rivals in 15 of 32 games. And so on.

The Dodgers' move to the Cactus League last spring made for more NL West spring matchups. In Vero Beach, Fla., the Dodgers didn't see any of their NL West rivals all spring. This year, Los Angeles plays NL West opponents in eight of 28 Cactus League games.

Aside from the simple fact that you get bored playing the same teams over and over, are there advantages to seeing divisional rivals so often in the spring? Disadvantages?

"There are two schools of thought on that," Baltimore president and general manager Andy MacPhail says. "One, is that you need to hide, or camouflage, what you have. The other is that what you're afraid of letting your opponent see, you get the same benefit with your opponent.

"There's probably some validity to both points of view."

The Yankees, for example, could pitch Joba Chamberlain in a 'B' game one day this spring rather than against Boston, thus not allowing Red Sox hitters the luxury of seeing Joba until the meaningful games begin. Or they could shuttle Joba into a minor-league game.

There was the spring in Arizona several years ago when Curt Schilling did just that, facing either the White Sox in each of his spring starts or the Diamondbacks minor-leaguers. His preference was to not reveal anything to the Rockies, Giants or Padres until he had to.

Meantime, the defections of the Orioles and Dodgers from Florida's East Coast has made the Cardinals and Marlins (Jupiter) and Mets (Port St. Lucie) adjust travel plans. That trio must play each other more often, and make a couple of extra trips north to face the Nationals (Viera).

It's that, or hike clear across the state, or way up to the Orlando area.

Sunblock Day? Technically, because the sun is out. But the game-time temp for Baltimore's first-ever game here in Sarasota today was 54 degrees, with a howling wind making it feel like high 40s or low 50s.

Likes: Thanks to Johnny Damon for playing along when I hit him with this quiz on Detroit and Michigan the other day. Not everybody would have been such a good sport. ... Thanks also to the Jefferson High School track team in Tampa, which graciously shared its facilities with me the other afternoon when I actually got outside for one of my few outdoor runs over the past couple of weeks in this chilly state. Jefferson, by the way, is the alma mater of Tony La Russa and Tino Martinez. ... Great line in Baseball Prospectus in comparing the struggles of the Orioles, Expos and Brewers in its 2010 edition: "The Expos were a ward of the state, while the Brewers were a ward of the Selig family, and in both cases, the clubs were the baseball equivalent of inmates in dire Dickensian orphanages." ... In the tweet world, it will be hard to top one of Dave O'Brien's from several days ago. O'Brien, who does a great job covering the Braves for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, tweeted something about closer Billy Wagner's "flannel shirt." Only he dropped the "r" in shirt. Fairly soon after came another tweet from O'Brien, explaining that's what happens sometimes when you're trying to work the keyboard on a cell phone.

Dislikes: Jay McGwire. What a sleaze. Can you get any lower than writing a book to cash in on your brother's name? Jay and Mark apparently are estranged. This oughta keep them that way. ... Watched the monologue of Jay Leno's return to late night Monday. It was even lamer than his monologues used to be. David Letterman remains the king in my book, and Conan O'Brien got jobbed.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The senioritas don't care-o
"When there's no dinero"

-- Zac Brown Band, Toes

 

Posted on: August 28, 2009 4:52 pm
Edited on: August 28, 2009 11:05 pm
 

Angels acquire Kazmir from Tampa

The Los Angeles Angels acquired left-handed starter Scott Kazmir from Tampa Bay for two minor leaguers, left-handed pitcher Alex Torres and third baseman Matt Sweeney, and a player to be named later on Friday, immediately strengthening their rotation for the stretch run.

Rarely have the Angels been short of pitching over the past several years, but in a twist, while they ranked second in the majors to the Yankees with 713 runs scored entering the weekend, their 4.87 team ERA ranked 26th in the majors. The Angels' rotation, which has been battered by injuries throughout the year, ranks 11th in the American League with a 4.96 ERA.

The move comes after Kazmir, 25, produced a fine start in Toronto for the Rays on Wednesday, allowing one earned run on four hits in a no-decision. Still, it's been a very disappointing season for Kazmir, who is 8-7 with a 5.92 ERA in 20 starts for the Rays. Opponents are batting .273 against him after hitting only .220 against him last year. His ERA has been over 6.00 all summer until now.

While a somewhat surprising move for Tampa Bay given that the Rays are attempting to hang in there in the AL wild-card race, the move would off-load $22.5 million guaranteed to Kazmir through 2012  and give them some maneuverability in other areas, such as picking up outfielder Carl Crawford's $10 million option.

The Rays are not exactly viewing this as waving the white flag, either. They can replace Kazmir in their rotation with Andy Sonnanstine, who won several big games last fall, or rookie Wade Davis. Both are pitching at Triple-A Durham right now. Davis' ceiling is very high, and some scouts expected him to be recalled to the Rays before even David Price this season.

According to a clause in his contract, Kazmir is owed an extra $800,000 if traded.

Kazmir would join John Lackey, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders in a rotation that is healthier than it's been all summer. Being that he's signed through 2011 (with a $13.5 million club option for 2012), Kazmir also gives the Angels some insurance against Lackey leaving as a free agent this winter. If he does, the Angels still would have Kazmir, Santana and Saunders, among others, for 2010.

Kazmir, who cleared waivers before the deal, is eligible for postseason play because he was traded before Aug. 31.

Posted on: March 31, 2009 2:32 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2009 4:24 pm
 

A's Crosby, Angels' Matthews hoping for trades

 Displaced Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby isn't tracking the move of every team as late-spring roster moves intensify, but he still hopes to land elsewhere sometime in the near future.

He isn't alone. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. is among those hoping for a change-of-address in the final days of spring camp.

An extra part now that the beefed-up Athletics have installed Orlando Cabrera as their shortstop, Crosby, 29, is still hoping to prove he can be a valuable, everyday shortstop after hitting .237, .226 and .229 over the past three seasons. In two of those, 2006 and 2007, he played in fewer than 100 games because of injuries.

"They have obviously chosen to move on with someone else, and I hope they give me the same opportunity," Crosby said.

Crosby broke in as Oakland's everyday shortstop in 2004, filling the vacancy created by the departure of Miguel Tejada. He played in 151 games that season, but the injuries started in 2005. A stress fracture in his ribs, back trouble, a broken left hand ... all conspired to prevent Crosby from developing into the shortstop he and the A's hoped.

Finally back on track last summer, Crosby's batting average was seventh-lowest in the American League and his .296 on-base percentage was worst in the AL among regulars and third-worst in the majors.

Enter Cabrera.

"Right now, there's nothing I can do about it," said Crosby, who was supposed to play second base in Oakland's Cactus League game against Kansas City on Tuesday but was scratched before the game. "I think everyone kind of understands where I'm at. I want to be a shortstop somewhere. That's not going to change.

"I said it right when they signed Cabrera and I'll say it to the end. But for the time being, all I can do is work at the other positions and get as good as I can and be ready."

Matthews, meantime, met with Angels officials earlier this spring, after the club signed outfielder Bobby Abreu, and expressed his displeasure at the prospect of reduced playing time. The club essentially delivered this message: Do something about it on the field during camp.

But on Sunday, manager Mike Scioscia informed Matthews that he stands fifth on the outfield depth chart, behind Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero, Abreu and Juan Rivera. Matthews has requested a trade, and the Angels gave him permission to leave camp for a day earlier this week to come to terms with his situation.

The Angels, though, owe Matthews roughly $33 million over the next three seasons and have not found a taker. Two obvious candidates, the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, have decided to fill their center field spots internally, the White Sox appearing set to go with Dewayne Wise and the Yankees announcing this week that Brett Gardner has won the job.

In the cases of both Crosby and Matthews, their personal unhappiness has been tempered to a degree by their good relationships with teammates. So far, neither player's situation has created bitterness or tension in the clubhouse.

"The guys here have been awesome," Crosby said. "Those are the guys I want to go and play hard for, because I love these guys in the clubhouse.

"Almost everyone on the team has come up to me, especially the guys I'm close with. Jason Giambi came up and asked how things are going, and told me if I ever needed to talk. ..."

***

The San Diego Padres, still searching for starting pitchers, have not been able to work a deal for Tampa Bay right-hander Jeff Niemann. The Rays, who optioned David Price to Triple-A Durham because of a glut of starting pitchers, are investigating the trade market because two others vying for the No. 5 starter's slot, Jeff Niemann and Jason Hammel, are out of options.

Discussions with the Padres have not gained traction, according to a source with knowledge of the talks, because San Diego so far has not indicated a willingness to trade first-base prospect Kyle Blanks, a 6-6, 285-pound first baseman who has been the standout of the Padres' spring. Though Blanks' path to the majors is blocked by All-Star Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego is considering trying him as an outfielder.

Likes: Roster decisions coming swiftly in these final days. Gary Sheffield, gone in Detroit. Geoff Jenkins, gone in Philadelphia. DeWayne Wise, in as the Chicago White Sox's leadoff man and center fielder. Kevin Gregg, in as Cubs closer. ... Oakland's equipment truck packed and ready to pull out. ... Michigan State in the Final Four. What a great story, what a great coach (Tom Izzo), what a nice thing for the struggling folks in Michigan, whose 12 percent unemployment rate leads the nation. ... The Pollo Cubano at the Havana Café on Camelback Rd. in Phoenix. ... The Pad Thai at Thai Elephant in Tempe.

Dislikes: Too much hotel time these last seven weeks. Man, it will be nice to get home in a couple of days.

Sunblock day? The locals love it, but I've about had it with the chilly mornings and evenings here in the desert. Where's the heat? Mid-70s or so during the day is beautiful, and yes, I suppose you need sunblock, but as spring training closes, it's been chillier in the Cactus League than usual.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer
"I think he might've been our only decent teacher
"Getting older only makes it harder to remember
"We are our only saviours
"We're gonna build something this summer"

-- The Hold Steady, Constructive Summer

 

 

Posted on: February 26, 2009 1:26 pm
 

Something's fishy with the Rays


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- So how's spring training for Tampa Bay in the Rays' new digs in sleepy Port Charlotte, a couple hours' south of their former spring home in St. Petersburg?

"It's made me pick up fishing," Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton says.

Say what?

"Started about a week ago," Upton says. "I'm staying with (pitcher Scott) Kazmir, and we decided we wanted to start fishing.

"So we went to Cabela's and got some fishing rods. They should be in any day."

Upton says he and Kazmir fish the ponds near their apartment complex. The ponds apparently are stocked with bass.

So they take 'em home and filet 'em? Put the fish on the grill?

"Oh, no, we throw them back," Upton says. "We're just chilling out. There's nothing else to do here."

Upton says he had never fished before this spring. But now, he has a new love.

"I heard when he caught his first fish, he was the happiest guy in Florida," Tampa Bay general manager Andrew Friedman says.

Likes: Bruiser, the Boston Red Sox's bulldog. Well, he's not technically the team dog -- he belongs to one of the spring clubhouse attendants. But it's very entertaining the way Bruiser wanders around the Sox complex with coaches and players opening the clubhouse door to let him in and out at will. ... Yep, I could tell I was driving through a remote part of Florida the other day when I saw this bumper sticker on a pickup truck: "My horse bucked off your honor student." ... Shawn Mullins' 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor.

Dislikes: Dippin' Dots, the "ice cream of the future." You see this sold at ballpark concession stands, in malls, and I don't know. Maybe it's the most delicious thing ever. But they've been calling it the "ice cream of the future" now for, like, 20 years. If it truly was the ice cream of the future, wouldn't regular ice cream have been overtaken by now?

Sunblock day? Wonderful. Bright, warm and sunny. Somewhere near 80 degrees.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"I've lost count of the times I given up on you
"But you make such a beautiful wreck, you do
"There's a tavern on the corner called the Milky Way
"And you look so at home there it makes me afraid"

-- Shawn Mullins, Beautiful Wreck

 

 

Posted on: February 26, 2009 1:26 pm
 

Something's fishy with the Rays


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- So how's spring training for Tampa Bay in the Rays' new digs in sleepy Port Charlotte, a couple hours' south of their former spring home in St. Petersburg?

"It's made me pick up fishing," Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton says.

Say what?

"Started about a week ago," Upton says. "I'm staying with (pitcher Scott) Kazmir, and we decided we wanted to start fishing.

"So we went to Cabela's and got some fishing rods. They should be in any day."

Upton says he and Kazmir fish the ponds near their apartment complex. The ponds apparently are stocked with bass.

So they take 'em home and filet 'em? Put the fish on the grill?

"Oh, no, we throw them back," Upton says. "We're just chilling out. There's nothing else to do here."

Upton says he had never fished before this spring. But now, he has a new love.

"I heard when he caught his first fish, he was the happiest guy in Florida," Tampa Bay general manager Andrew Friedman says.

Likes: Bruiser, the Boston Red Sox's bulldog. Well, he's not technically the team dog -- he belongs to one of the spring clubhouse attendants. But it's very entertaining the way Bruiser wanders around the Sox complex with coaches and players opening the clubhouse door to let him in and out at will. ... Yep, I could tell I was driving through a remote part of Florida the other day when I saw this bumper sticker on a pickup truck: "My horse bucked off your honor student." ... Shawn Mullins' 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor.

Dislikes: Dippin' Dots, the "ice cream of the future." You see this sold at ballpark concession stands, in malls, and I don't know. Maybe it's the most delicious thing ever. But they've been calling it the "ice cream of the future" now for, like, 20 years. If it truly was the ice cream of the future, wouldn't regular ice cream have been overtaken by now?

Sunblock day? Wonderful. Bright, warm and sunny. Somewhere near 80 degrees.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"I've lost count of the times I given up on you
"But you make such a beautiful wreck, you do
"There's a tavern on the corner called the Milky Way
"And you look so at home there it makes me afraid"

-- Shawn Mullins, Beautiful Wreck

 

 

Posted on: January 5, 2009 7:12 pm
 

Rays land Burrell; did Phillies blow it?

As wallets creaked shut and the dollars didn't flow nearly as freely as certain free agents hoped this winter, Pat Burrell wound up moving from one World Series team to another.

An "American League player" for, oh, roughly most of his career, Burrell now really is an AL player, having signed with Tampa Bay for two years and $16 million.

It's a noticeable cut from the $14 million he earned for the world champion Philadelphia Phillies last year.

What's also noticeable is that the Phillies long ago replaced Burrell with an older, more expensive left fielder.

Maybe Tampa Bay's gain will be Philadelphia's loss.

Burrell, his lifetime .083 batting average in Tropicana Field notwithstanding (he's 1-for-12 there with one homer and two RBI), is a significant upgrade for the Rays, a left-handed heavy team in need of a righty bat and designated hitter.

Over the past four seasons, he's averaged 31 homers, 99 RBI, 103 walks and 77 runs scored, and he is one of only six major-leaguers to hit 20 or more homers in each of the past eight seasons. Carlos Delgado, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez are the other five.

Not bad for $8 million a season.

Meantime, the Phillies gave Raul Ibanez three years and $30 million.

Ibanez, over the past four seasons, has averaged 24 homers, 105 RBI, 63 walks and 90 runs scored. His lifetime OBP is .346.

Burrell is 32 (he won't turn 33 until next Oct. 10). Ibanez will turn 37 on June 2.

While Burrell routinely was removed for defensive purposes, Ibanez is a competent left fielder but is in no danger of winning a Gold Glove award anytime soon himself, either.

Burrell well could surpass the 536 at-bats he reached last summer in Philly because, in the AL, presumably spending most of his time as a DH, he will not be removed in the late innings.

There are never any guarantees in the winter, and if Burrell's weak Tropicana Field numbers continue, then the Phillies could look like geniuses for cutting bait and going with Ibanez.

But that's a really small sample, of course, and odds are that Burrell, in time, will rake at the Trop. And at five years younger than Ibanez and with a price tag that dropped below Ibanez, you have to wonder whether the Phillies, in the end, out-smarted themselves.


 
 
 
 
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