Monday, July 30, 2007

Flying Home

Flying back from New York this afternoon and will post more later on the Hall of Fame Induction and the moves made by the Rays over the weekend. Intial impression- not bad. They picked some relievers without sacrificing too much. Wigginton to Houston was a bit of a surprise, but at least they keep him out of the division.

More later...

Monday, July 23, 2007


Wow. That was brutal. I think the Rays made the Yankees mad and the result wasn’t pretty. After beating New York 14-4 on Friday night the Rays from Tampa Bay proceeded to lose the next 3 games in spectacular fashion. During the long, looooong weekend they gave up 45 runs on 53 hits and turned Shelly Duncan into the second coming of Kevin Maas. Even their ace, James Shields, couldn’t escape the shelling as he gave up 10 runs in 3 innings on Sunday.

Adding to the misery were injuries to Jay Witasick and Carl Crawford. Witasick pitched with a bad elbow that swelled to the size of a golf ball by the end of the game. Today he was placed on the 15 day disabled list that could mean he’s spent his last days with the Rays. Crawford’s injury was described as a sprained left ankle and he isn’t expected to miss any significant time. Then again his wrist injury a few years ago wasn’t supposed to be a big deal either.

Several changes to the bullpen were made throughout the weekend. The latest were Witasick going on the DL and being replaced by Jason Hammel (who started the weekend on the major league roster and than was demoted Sunday before being recalled on Monday). Juan Salas was activated as well replacing JP Howell who’s brief return saw him surrender 7 runs in 5 innings in the second game of Saturday’s double header.

Also, making his return to the roster was Jae Kuk Ryu. The South Korean is set to work out of the bullpen during his second stint on the Rays roster. It will be interesting to see if he gets more work this time around. Also joining him is Scott Dohmann. Dohmann was effective in Durham holding hitters to a .211 average. If he is able to continue that in the major’s he could be a huge boost to the leagues worst bullpen.

These may not be the final changes to the Rays pitching staff. Several published reports (including the New York Post) have the Rays moving Ty Wigginton to the Yankees for relievers Scott Proctor or Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth could step in as a closer if Al Reyes is moved. Armed with a dominating (but ruler straight fastball) the former Yankee, Cub, Brave and Tiger has tantalized fans since 1999, but never lived up to his hype.

Proctor would be used as a set up man and should prove more reliable than the current cast of characters. The 30 year-old right-hander enjoyed his best season in 2006 when he appeared in 83 games and pitched to an ERA of 3.52.

The local beat writers have already begun lamenting trading Wigginton. John Romero fired the first shot in his column today stating that it is time to “pay more attention to the box score than the bottom line”. He mentions that Ty is one of the few players with a “fire in [his] belly” and that he wants to stay around.

That’s all well and good, but keeping him would severely tie the Rays hands as early as next season. The power hitting infielder already is a player without a true position. He’s not a natural 2nd baseman, or first baseman and has no shot of moving Aki Iwamura from 3rd. With the likelihood that super prospect Evan Longoria will be knocking on the doors in the majors next season there is even less room for Wigginton. His value is at an all time high.

It will be an interesting week leading up to the deadline. In looking at the current roster the Rays have several players that could fill the needs of certain teams.

Most Likely To Move

Ty Wigginton – Minnesota, New York (AL and NL), California and Los Angeles could all use more power in their line up.

Al Reyes – Every team in contention could use bullpen help with Cleveland and Boston leading the charge. If Octavio Dotel is garnering interest it shouldn’t be hard to move Reyes.

Might Move

Brendan Harris / Josh Wilson – a team like the Mets may be willing to drop a second tier prospect to add some infield depth to their roster.

Casey Fossum / Gary Glover – A long shot, but a team desperate for an arm might be willing to take a shot.

Won’t Move, well maybe….

Jon Gomes – Another player without a spot on the roster. His performance since being recalled may have intrigued some teams looking for power. His limited defensive skills may restrict him to the AL, but don’t count the Dodgers out. As we learned from last year the two organizations aren’t afraid to swap players.

Aki Iwamura – Before you think I’ve lost it, think for a minute. Aki proved he can hit major league pitching and he has shown Gold Glove ability in the field. As mentioned before super prospect Longoria may only be a season away. If Aki stays than one of them has to move. If the right deal comes a long (first tier prospect and a major league ready arm) the Rays may need to move him.

The Rays spend the rest of this week in Baltimore and their performance against their fellow AL East whipping boys will show what kind of team Joe Maddon has on his hands. Will they fold and slink on to another 100 loss year or will they rebound and keep fighting?

Friday, July 13, 2007


At least since the All Star break. Nice win to keep the Yankees reeling. I must say I didn't see much thanks to a post work extravaganza put on by the vendors whose products we sell at the No Limits Fun Factory.

A limo scavanger hunt.... that's the way we roll. Luckily along the way I was able to poke my head into a couple of bars to see the score. Looks like like the Rays led the whole way. Good for them!

That's all..... I'm going to go pass out now....

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Second Half.... Same as the First?

Thanks to the generosity of one of our vendors I spend Thursday night at the ol ball yard. The first game of the unofficial second half, the Yankees in town, James (Don’t call me Jamie!) Shields on the hill – what could go wrong. Well apparently a lot.

The Rays looked as flat as the beer I was drinking. A pop falls in, a dropped ball on a sacrifice bunt, some questionable baserunning all added up to a 7-3 loss at the hands of the Yankees. In order to make any kind of run to save the season they are going to have to go back to fundamentals. It seems like they keep waiting for the big hit to keep them in the game. Right now it’s not coming for them so they have to start manufacturing runs.

More later…..

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Post All Star Blues......

There are slow sports days and then there is the day after the All Star game. Unless you count the WNBA as a sport (and I don’t) there are no games to watch. With my girlfriend out of the house I had the TV all to my self, but nothing to watch. Oh the horror. Luckily HBO came though.

Their documentary The Brooklyn Dodgers:The Ghosts of Flatbush followed the history of “Da Bums” from the “The Boys of Summer” glory days to their move to Los Angeles. As a kid who grew up in Baltimore I didn’t take the time to learn the history of the classic New York teams. As far as I was concerned the only legends were the ones who wore orange and black. I knew the names, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Carl Erskine couldn’t compare to the Brooks Robinsons and Jim Palmers of the world.

HBO may run crappy movies into the ground, but they know how to product a sports documentary. Throw in a lot of classic footage of the team, weave together interviews with former players (in this case Johnny Podres, Carl Erskine and others) random famous people who followed the team as kids (Larry King and Lou Gosset, Jr.) and you have an enjoyable two hours of TV.

The Dodgers make for a great subject. From the integration of Jackie Robinson to the year after year of heartbreak at the hands of Yankees and the move to California there was more than enough drama to fill the two hours. Even those that don’t know the history of baseball may gleam some understanding as to why fans developed such an attachment to the teams of that era.

It was nice that they had a built in villain in Walter O’Malley the owner of the Dodgers who traded an aging Robinson to the rival New York Giants and is forever remembered as the man who moved the Dodgers out of Brooklyn.

Some random items I found interesting:

Johnny Podres, “I’d go have a cigarette. Let me know when there are two outs and I’d butt my cigarette and go out there”.

Branch Rickey – signed Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente.

Liev Schrieber should narrate any and all sports documentaries from now until eternity.

Podres – 9-10 starter wins the biggest game in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He shut down the Yankees 2-0 in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series to give the Dodgers their first Series title after 65 years of heartbreak.

How much have times changed? No one likes the Yankees and the owner was a son of a bitch.

Lou Gosset’s quote, “Until him (Robinson) all of my heroes were white comic book characters”.

O’Malley seemed to be a villain from central casting. Slicked back hair, fancy suits, tiny glasses and cigar and to top it off he was a layer. I half expected him to cackle and fly away like the Penguin.

If the Rays ever leave the TBA I doubt there will be much lamenting. They won’t find any old men lamenting their dearly departed heroes. Chances are it would be hard to find anyone who remembered the team was here.

Perhaps the best thing about these films is that they bring back the nostalgia of the glory days of baseball. One of the random people that they interviewed mentioned that you “could walk down the street and not miss a pitch” because of all of the radios out on the porches.

While the game today may have the greatest athletes that have ever played the special connection between the players and the fans has been lost. The Dodgers more than any other team of the era epitomize the “one of us” familiarity that the fans had for the players. It’s nice when a film like this comes along to remind us of those days.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Everything's fine here... How are you?

Is this rock bottom? Down 13-2 in the 4th inning to the Red Sox and well on the way to an 11th straight loss it looks like the Rays are ready to hit the ground harder than Wile E. Coyote. However, I’m wary of saying it can’t get any worse, because if the Rays have proved anything in the last 10 seasons it’s that it can (and probably will) get worse. So where do they go now?

For starters they head to Kansas City. After a three game series with the Royals the All Star break looms like a mirage in the desert for the battered Rays. The last two months have been costly as they have lost their starting centerfielder (Rocco Baldelli), their 2nd baseman (BJ Upton) and most recently their closer (Al Reyes) to injuries.

With the exception of Carl Crawford who will be flying off to San Francisco to represent them in the Mid Summer Classic the Rays are going to get a much needed break. Without a doubt they need it more than any other team right now. What had been a promising first half at 33-40 has burned to the ground with the 10 game losing streak.

Everyone on the roster is scuffling from the starting pitchers to the starting nine in the field. From Aki (.220) to Carlos Pena (.188) to Ty (.176) no one is hitting in the last two weeks or so. It’s really hard to win when not one single starter is hot. James Shields has cooled off over the last two weeks and is currently riding a 4 game losing streak. Scott Kazmir continues to battle his control and is nothing more than a 5-6 inning pitcher at this point.

Despite all of the chaos that is encircling the team recently there has been one constant and that is Manager Joe Maddon’s optimism.

“Everything’s been good, we just haven’t been winning. It’s a perfect growth moment.” Wow, I’m starting to wonder if California Joe isn’t starting to self-medicate, heavily.

It will be interesting to see if upper management is as patient as the Rays resident philosopher/manager. The firing season in the major leagues has already begun with the sacking of Sam Perlazzo and Jerry Narron.

Removing Maddon from his position will not help. The young players need to have his reassuring presence in the clubhouse. The fire and brimstone method that was the norm under Lou Pinella did not work, so perhaps it’s time to trust in the current leadership.

This season is still one of development for the team. Perhaps the mistake the Rays made was being successful enough to make fans want more. Now fans seem to expect more out of what is a last place team. Right now and for the rest of the season it’s about seeing which of these prospects can play at a major league level. Is Delmon Young ready to realize his fill potential, can Andy Sonnanstine step into the rotation, will Dioner Navarro hit his weight?

Those are questions that need to be answered now not if the Rays can finish next to last instead of in last. In the grand scheme thing of things does that really matter?

The Rays will eventually pull themselves out of this funk, but when they do you have to wonder how much momentum they might have lost from a season that started, if not promising, at least better than normal. Till then hang tough Rays fans.

(Can it get worse? Navarro just knocked in a run with a weak ground ball to first. In doing so he managed to slam his jaw against Josh Beckett’s shoulder and knocked himself woozy. Only with the Rays would an RBI cost them a starting catcher.)