Thursday, November 20, 2008



CONGRATULATIONS TAMPA BAY RAYS,

2008 ALCS CHAMPIONS!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Give Me One Reason...

GIVE ME ONE REASON...
Why Percival is still the Rays Closer:

Percival has been nothing short of a determent, at best, since the all-popularity break. Percy has been on and back off of the DL twice since the break, and is now "day-to-day" for the remainder of the season.
Since returning from his latest trip to the DL he has been underwhelming to say the least: 2.1 innings, 5 hits, 5 walks, 7 runs! And trust me on this; if Jason Hammel has to come into the game to relieve you during the 14th inning (Sept. 10 v. Boston) then its time to take a seat and watch for a while (well done Mr. Hammel, by the way). Those numbers are indicative a young, inexperienced middle reliever not the man known as having the 9th most saves in league history.

If the Rays truly believe that they can make a run at the Series then its in the team's best interest to sit Percy down for the remainder of the season and let him get back to some semblance of his early-season form. Until then Grant Balfour or Dan Wheeler can hold down the fort nicely, I'm sure. In fact, I'm fairly certain that Balfour (what an unfortunate surname for a pitcher) will be Tampa's closer next season.

GIVE ME ONE REASON...
Rays fans shouldn't be routing their hearts out for Toronto:

Toronto began a 4-game set with Boston last night (Friday). Although the 'Sawx' dismantled them 7-0 in game one of the series the Jays are as hot as any team in baseball right now, going 24-11 since early August and holding opposing batters to an OBP of only .300. If they can find a way to win at least 2 of the next 3 against the Sox then the Rays will be one giant step closer to putting it into cruise control as they waltz into the post-season for the first time ever, and as AL East division champs to boot! Gives me goose-pimples just thinking about it.

GIVE ME ONE REASON...
Why Joe Maddon isn't Manager of The Year:

Admittedly I'm not the biggest supporter of Joe 'Jimmy Buffet' Maddon, but despite all of his misuse of pitchers (see Trevor Miller) and lack of utilizing the bunt/sacrifice he has propelled a perenial loser into the stratosphere, a team whose season is usually all-but-over by mid-June, and turned them into real, legitimate contenders.
Albeit he has a ton of talent, the likes of which Tampa has never seen, but someone's gotta keep them boys in line, and I believe Joe has been great at making sure that no one is "above the law" (i.e. BJ Upton) and keeping the wheels from falling off (especially during that pre-all-star-break-meltdown). Joe has worked around an incredible rash of injuries down the stretch and has all of his bench players over-achieving (ie Ruggiano, Riggans). In my opinion Maddon's a shoe-in for the award. Period.

sidenote: Cliff Floyd should get honorable mention as co-manager or player/coach. Some GM somewhere should be paying attention to how well he handles the young guys, and should convince him to manage their club as soon as he hangs up the cleats (prob. after this season).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cheese & Whine: July 25

CHEESE & WHINE: Royal Pain in The Butt!

RAYS: 2
Royals: 4

CHEESE:
  • The Rays are playing one of the worst teams in baseball, one of the "big three" pitchers is on the mound, and they throw the series opener away. I'm not writing a single good thing about it. Although I have to give Bartlett some credit for going 3 for 3 on his first day back on the job.

WHINE:

  • Matt Garza (8-6) gave up 4 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings, walking 4 and striking out 0... against the Royals!
  • The top of the lineup (Aki, and Upton) were an astonishing 0 for 8...against the Royals!
  • Hinske was also 0 for 4, and Gabe Gross still can't buy a start...against the Royals!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cheese & Whine: July 24

CHEESE & WHINE: Go & Zo go back-to-back

RAYS: 4
A's: 3

CHEESE:
  • James Shields once again pitched very well; going 8 1/3 innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits while striking out 7 and walking none. Now if we can get Shields to pitch like that on the road then the trip to the post-season would be much smoother. Shields is now 9-6 for the season with an ERA of 3.66 over 21 games.
  • Zobrist and Gomes went for back-to-back jacks in the 5th. Gomes hit a 2-run homer into left while Zobrist sent his over the rightfield wall. Its a shame that Ben seems to be rounding into form just in time to be sent back to Durham. The Rays will miss Zobrist's power when Bartlett returns (although Bartlett seems to be the more consistant hitter).
  • The Rays won their 20th series of the season, matching a franchise record.
  • We're headed to KC.

WHINE:

  • The upper-middle of the Rays lineup (Crawford, Longoria, Pena) were a combined 0-10.
  • With Greg Smith's amazing move to first the Rays should know better than to push their luck... Yeah, I'm talking to you Bossman and Aki...
  • Percival did a fine job closing this one out, but he faced 3 batters- walked one and struck out none. I'd like to see my closer getting more K's than BB's.

CRACKERS:

  • Last Night's back to back homers by Gomes and Zobrist marked the first Rays back to back jacks of the season that didn't include Dirtbag.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The "Pundits" Strike Again...

Well, once again, while reading an article on what I thought was a reputable site I found a HUGE, glaring error. I stumbled onto this article on Sports Illustrated's SI.com which was written by Joe Sheehan from Baseball Prospectus. The dateline shows that the article was written yesterday (July 21) and updated today, and yet they state the following:

"The Boston Red Sox are the best organization and the best team in baseball. Injuries have hit the Red Sox hard this season, yet they're still in first place, thanks to the depth (especially in pitching) that they've created by strong drafting..."

Last I checked the Rays had a 1.5 game lead.
I expect a better product from SI and baseball prospectus...

Cheese & Whine: July 22

CHEESE & WHINE: Ace Up Their Sleeves

RAYS: 4
A's: 0

CHEESE:
  • Scott Kazmir (8-5) finally looked the part. The Rays' Ace looked like an Ace, lasting 7 innings allowing only 2 hits while shutting out the A's (despite having to work-around 3 lead-off walks). Kid K struck out 9 and walked 4; retiring 18 of 21 batters during one stretch. To me, the most important stat on the board is the 7 innings pitched. We've waited a long while for Kaz to control his pitch count and he finally accomplished it.
  • Grant Freakin' (and I mean that in a good way) Balfour was electric again. This guy is shaping-up like a closer. Look for the Aussie to be the Rays closer starting in 2010.
  • Dirtbag looked good at the plate again, hitting a homerun for the third consecutive game. Evan finished 2 for 5 with 2 RBI.
  • Upton finally looked more comfortable at the plate going 2 for 3 and taking 2 bases on balls. Bossman also stole his 29th and 30th bases of the season.

WHINE:

  • Both the Sox and the Yankees also won. The Sox beat Seattle 4-0, and the Yankees defeated the Twins 12-4.
  • The Rays left a staggering 13 runners on base.

CRACKERS:

  • The Rays recorded their ninth shut-out of the season which is a franchise record. I'd say they're good for 3 or 4 more this season, maybe even more if Garza can stay consistant and Kaz can keep his pitch count under control.

~~~~~

visit Rays Index for more Rays info

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cheese & Whine: July 21

CHEESE & WHINE: Jays Spoil Sweep

RAYS: 4
Jays: 9


CHEESE:

  • Evan Longoria, with the Rays trailing 3-2 in the third, hit a solo homerun (his 18th) to tie the game.
  • Carlos Pena, not to be out-done, followed with a homer of his own. El Gato now has 15 for the season.
  • Both Al Reyes and Troy Percival pitched in the game, and at the time of this post neither one is set to go back on the DL- thank heavens for small miracles. Both relievers looked good, pitching a combined 2 2/3 innings and allowing 1 hit and no runs between them.

WHINE:

  • Joe Maddon pulled Jackson in the 5th after Edwin had allowed 6 runs off of 8 hits. At that point in the game the score was 6-4 and the Rays had a decent chance at getting back into it. Anyone who has watched Jackson pitch over the last season and a half knows that he gets stronger at around 80-85 pitches, and usually pitches his best innings later in his starts. So what does ol' Joe do? He pulls Jackson after only 86 pitches, I know he had just allowed a 3-run homer and then another hit, and most of the time I'd agree with pulling Jackson before it got out of hand, but here's where the move doesn't make sense: He replaced him with Jason Hammel. Does Maddon really believe that Hammel is a better option than Jackson (who was just entering his prime pitch count area (85-110))? In that situation I'll take Jackson for another inning and two-thirds over Hammel anytime.
  • Jason Hammel helped prove my point, pitching for 1 2/3 innings and allowing 2 runs on 2 hits while walking 2.
  • Reyes and Percival (although the game was essentially over at that point) should combine for more than 1 K against 10 combined batters.
  • In the 4th inning, with Gomes on third, Zobrist hit a sac-fly to dead center. Gomes tagged-up and headed for home and had the throw to home beat by a few steps, but was unable to touch the plate. Although Zaun did an awesome job of blocking the plate, he (Gomes) has to be able to get past the catcher and touch the plate.

CRACKERS:

  • Evan Longoria has been involved in every back-to-back homerun scenario for the Rays so far this season (I believe that there have been 3 instances, including one back-to-back-to-back against the Angels)
  • Longoria leads all rookies (and the team) with 18 homeruns. He is second only to A-Rod (20) amongst all AL third basemen.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cheese & Whine: July 19

CHEESE & WHINE: Zobrist to The Rescue

RAYS: 2
Jays: 1

CHEESE:
  • James Shields stepped up and pitched a good game when he needed it most. There were several instances throughout the game where the wheels looked like they may fall off, but Shields recovered nicely throwing 105 pitches (65 strikes) in 7 innings, giving up only 4 hits and 1 earned run (a solo homer by Lind in the 3rd). Shields retired 4 and walked 2.
  • Eric Hinske once again showed patience at the plate taking a 2-out walk from Burnett in the 7th- this translated into the tying run...
  • Ben Zobrist made up for his sub-par defense while filling in for Bartlett by blasting a first-pitch, 2-run homer deep into right field in the 7th to put the Rays up for good.
  • Grant Freakin' (and I mean it in a good way) Balfour was unhittable... That was one of the most ridiculous displays of pure pitching talent that I've ever seen- Mariano Rivera would've been impressed. Balfour faced 4 batters and struck out 3 to close-out the game. He was called in in the 8th (with 2 outs) to face Alex Rios, and inherited a runner on 3rd, Balfour struck Rios out and then dropped 'em in order in the ninth to conserve the win.
  • 23,706 attended the game, which is fairly impressive considering the 7 game slide before the break, I guess some of those "fair-weather/bandwagon Rays fans" plan on sticking around.

WHINE:

  • The Rays offense is still gasping for air. They only compiled 5 hits, albeit against a very good pitcher in Burnett. I honestly thought that the bats would wake up yesterday, but alas, I was wrong. The top of the lineup (Aki, Crawford, Upton, and Pena) was a combined 3 for 15 with 2 of the hits being credited to Aki.
  • Gabe Gross can't buy a start...
  • Zobrist has to make the routine play in the eighth, but instead made an errant throw to Pena, putting the tying run into scoring position- could've cost the Rays dearly if Balfour wasn't a demi-god.

Friday, July 18, 2008

DL News

The Rays will have to wait a little longer to get their good-luck charm back on the field.
Apparently Jason Bartlett's injury is a bit worse than anticipated and he won't be in the line-up tonight, but he is still expected to be back in the line-up at some point during this 6 game homestand according to the St Pete Times.
In anticipation of his return (and the return of Al Reyes and Troy Percival) Reid Brignac (who showed that he is nowhere near ready for the "big-show" yet) was optioned back down to Durham on Sunday.

In related news:


Since "The Professor" over at Rays Index has recited his wedding vows the Rays are a staggering 1-7... I demand an annulment, as you have clearly shifted the plane of existence upon which the Rays were so delicately balancing! Damn you, Cork!

Points To Ponder

Points To Ponder:
Rays v. Jays
July 18-20

  • The Rays are 3-7 over their last 10 games, having lost 7 in a row coming into the break, while the Jays are 6-4 over that same span.
  • The Rays are 8.5 games ahead of Toronto in the wildcard race.
  • The Rays are 5-1 against Toronto so far this season.

Pitching match-ups:

  • Tonight we get Shields v. Burnett. Shields has been a bit (just a bit) of a disappointment to this point so far this season, amassing a record of 7-6 with 5 of his 7 wins coming at home. His ERA stands at 3.83 and he is 3-0 in 4 career starts against the Jays. Burnett is 10-8 this season, but is only 3-5 away from Toronto, his career numbers against the Rays are; 6-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 14 starts.
  • Saturday's match-up is Garza v. Halladay. Garza has been the most consistant Rays pitcher as of late and has shown a lot more composure on the mound since his little run-in with Navi in June. He (Garza) is 7-5 in 17 starts this season with an ERA of 3.96. Garza is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in his career against the Jays. Halladay is the Jays Ace and is 11-6 with an ERA of 2.71 this season. In his last start he shut-out the Yankees, allowing just 2 hits.
  • Sunday's match-up should be Kaz v. Parrish (although Jackson may get the start for Tampa if Kaz needs more rest coming off the all-star game). Kaz has also been a bit disappointing this season as he has struggled mightily with pitch-count, rarely making it into the sixth inning. Kid-K is 7-5 with an ERA 3.04 and hasn't won since June 27th. Parrish is 1-0 in 3 games while replacing the injured Marcum/McGowan.

I have a feeling that the Rays will be looking to re-establish their offensive prowess today, so I'd look for Tampa to come out swinging in a desperate attempt to end this losing streak right now, especially considering the fact that they face Toronto's Ace tommorrow night.

I give the series to the Rays 2-1 (but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see Garza show up the Jays' Ace (Halladay) on Sat. and the Rays pulling off the sweep.)

-----

visit Rays Index for more grat Rays coverage.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

One More Day

The wait is almost over... One more day until we get Rays baseball!!
The Rays resume their march toward October tomorrow night in St Pete versus the Toronto Blue Jays... and not a moment too soon.

I needed the break, but now I need the Rays...what can I say, I'm needy!

p.s. If Jonny Gomes is on the field I may lose my mind... and my TV may end up being broken by a flying remote... and I may have to find Joe Maddon and box his ears for being such a nincompoop!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dirtbag Finishes Dead Last

Well, my namesake (Dirtbag) fell well short of winning the homerun derby, in fact he finished dead last.

Justin Morneau spoiled the night by beating the far superior Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton smashed a record breaking 28 homers into the far-reaches of Yankee Stadium in the first round, but ran out of steam in the championship round, only hitting 3 to Morneau's derby winning 5.

Hamilton, a former Devil Ray, exemplifies the rise-fall-rise from the ashes story, and I was happy to see him perform well, as all Rays fans should be, and quite frankly was miffed that he didn't win.

As far as Dirtbag is concerned, I think we may just see him give it another go in the years to come. I was pleased to see that he was having a good time and soaking it all in- you only get one first time, and I have a feeling that with his "hitters' hands" he may very well have one of those fancy Homerun Derby trophies on his mantle at some point in his career.
Time will tell.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Jason Bartlett and the Rays losing Streak

I'm the first to criticize, so I'll be the first to compliment:

Baseball is a superstitious sport, and I believe that Jason Bartlett is the Rays' good luck charm.

Jason Bartlett last played for the Rays on July 2nd, at which point the Rays were 52-32,and had the best record in baseball.

Since that day the Rays' record is an embarrassing 3-7, with all 3 of those victories coming against the lowly Royals, and are now 1/2 game behind Boston.

I'm sure that to some extent there may be some coincidence involved (and let's not forget the liability of having Jonny Gomes on the field during several of those games), but looking back over the last 10 games I can find several fielding mistakes and many horrible at-bats by both Brignac and Zobrist (who have taken Bartlett's place in the lineup in his absence) which have added up to, I'd say, 2 losses over that period. We could've used some "Bartlett-luck" during several of those games for sure.

If the Rays win 2 of the 7 that they lost, they would still stand atop the AL East and the mindset of both the players and fans would be a much more healthy one coming out of the all-star break.

Luckily, Bartlett should be back in the lineup against Toronto on Friday and the Rays can begin to play like the '08 Rays again, not the '07 Devil Rays...hopefully.

So for all the times I said that Jason Bartlett was a below average player with a below average bat and a noodle-arm... I rescind my criticism, and humbly say: Welcome back Mr. Bartlett, apparently you're the Rays' good-luck charm, please remind your teammates how to win!

Thank God for the All-Star break!

The Rays have done their best impression of the Devil Rays in the week leading up to the All-star break, dropping 7 in a row, including being swept by an Indians team that has underachieved all year.


Make sure you check out the Home Run Derby tonight, where my namesake (Dirtbag)will represent for the Rays! At the expense of sounding like a homer, Evan has the power to actually contend if he can avoid being star-struck by the likes of Lance Berkman and 60,000 lousy Yankees fans.

The Derby is on ESPN tonight at 8.

And tune into Fox on Tuesday at 8 for the All-star game, in which the Rays are represented by; Dirtbag, Kaz, and Navi.

Should Gomes Be Sent Packing?

I haven't been shy about my thoughts on the Jonny Gomes situation, but what do you think?




Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jonny's gotta Go(mes)!

I don't care what anyone else says at this point, Jonny Gomes does not belong on a baseball field under any circumstances.

Period!
Pointe finale!


And if you watched last night's game it'll be hard for you to argue with me while keeping a straight face. Gomes looked like he'd never even seen right field let alone actually played out there. He took a horrible angle on every single ball hit in his direction (I can think of 4 instances off the top of my head, but there may've been more).

I don't care if the opposing pitcher is a lefty (i.e. Lee last night) and every other player in the line-up is left-handed; Gomes needs to be parked firmly on the bench (where he obviously belongs).

Normally I'd say, "Okay, let Jonny do the DH duties", but if the Rays' wonderful manager, Mr. Maddon, had taken the time to check out ol' Gomes' track record against Lee ( 0-17 going into last night) he wouldn't have marched him out there even if he actually did know how to play RF.

If management's plan was to send Jonny out there to showcase him as potential trade-bait, its not working. Actually, if anything, its accomplishing the exact opposite effect. No GM in his right mind would make a move for him unless they were really, really desperate for a DH that's currently hitting an astonishing ...wait for it... .185 !!

Gabe Gross may not be the long-term answer (although he does have plenty of upside), but in terms of the rest of the 2008 season Gross needs to be getting at least 3 out of 4 starts in RF, and Aybar and Floyd need at bats, so guess who the odd-man-out is... you got it... Jonny Freakin' Gomes!

Love your energy Jonny, your work ethic is admirable, but its time to turn in your helmet and jersey, and pack up for your move to, ummm, I don't care where, just not here... thanks for the memories, blah, blah, blah...

SEE-YA!

Cheese & Whine: July 12

CHEESE & WHINE: Shut-Down in C-Town

RAYS: 0
Indians: 5


CHEESE:


  • Boston and New York sucked equally as badly as the Rays did, so no harm no foul.
  • You can't actually expect to win too many games against a team's ace at home (espescially Cliff Lee so far in '08).

WHINE:

  • James Shields cannot pitch away from the Trop. Shields struggled again, giving up 5 earned runs on 10 hits over 6 innings, recording 4 K's while walking 1.
  • Carl Crawford hasn't recorded a hit in his last 20 AB's, and was credited with an error when he let a routine line-drive into left field bounce off the top of his glove.
  • I implore all Jonny Gomes fans to give me one good reason why he belongs on the field...ever! Not once or twice or even three times last night did he misjudge the ball, but four times. This guy, no matter how charismatic or how great his work ethic is, is costing the Rays games. Unbelievable! More later...
  • The Rays bats are as silent as I've ever seen them; on this roadtrip Rays hitters are a staggering 2 for 40 with runners in scoring position!!!!!
  • I could go on forever, but if you watched the game you've already endured enough torture.

CRACKERS:

  • The Rays haven't won in Cleveland since 2005, I'd say the law of averages has them finally getting one very soon.
  • The Rays have no excuse to lose either of their next 2 games considering the pitching match-ups: we've got Garza vs. Ginter, who is making his Cleveland debut tonight and tommorow we get Kaz vs. Sowers, who is 0-5 and touts an ERA of 7.81. The Rays lose either of those games and you can go ahead and push the panic button.

Friday, July 11, 2008

9,000,000...

Dirtbag Fan:
I'll take 'Big Numbers' for $1,000, please

Alex Trebek:
9,000,000

Dirtbag Fan:
What is the number of votes recieved by Evan Longoria in the "Final Man" all-star voting?

Alex Trebek:
That is correct!



Of the record 23.2 million votes cast Dirtbag received a staggering 39 percent of them according to MLB (approximately 500 of which came from yours truly)!

Thank you Rays fans for making my namesake the AL all-stars Final Man!

I'm like a proud parent.

Congrats Evan!

Cheese & Whine: July 11

CHEESE & WHINE: Uh-Oh

RAYS: 2
Indians: 13

CHEESE:

  • I got nothin'...


WHINE:

  • The top of the lineup (Aki, Crawford, and Upton) were a combined 0-10 at the plate.
  • Andy Sonnanstine pitched 5 1/3 innings allowing 6 runs on 9 hits while striking out 0.
  • Maddon marched Sonny out to the mound to start the 6th despite the horrible 5th that he'd had (surrendering 5 runs) and allowed yet another homer to the first batter he faced in the sixth. Sonny is partly to blame, but Maddon should never have sent him back out in the sixth.
  • Jonny Gomes doesn't belong within a mile of the outfield. He took another horrible angle in the 8th and if this were a close game it could've cost the team dearly.
  • The blown double-play attempt by Zobrist changed the entire complexion of the game. If Ben completes the DP the inning is over and they go to the 6th tied 2-2.
  • Joe Maddon essentially threw-in the towel by sending Hammel in as the long-reliever.
  • This was the Rays 4th consecutive loss, which ties their season high for most consecutive losses.

CRACKERS:

  • Until he surrendered the homer in the 5th Sonny hadn't allowed a HR since May 21st. Unfortunately he gave up 2 more to the next 7 batters faced over the 5th and 6th innings.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dirtbag for President...

...or at least for all-star!

Time is running out to vote Dirtbag into the all-star game.
Vote early and vote often: Dirtbag for President, er All-Star.


How Important is It?

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE CLEVELAND SERIES?

The Rays have now lost three in a row for the first time since the beginning of June (when they were swept by Boston at Fenway). They haven't been able to produce any runs so far during this road trip (okay, that's not fair- they scored 1) and are nursing a division lead that has now shrunk to just 2 games over Boston, and are headed to the armpit of our great country for a 4 game set against the Indians.

The obvious question is, 'How important is this series in the grand scheme of things'- in terms of the big picture?

The answer: very!

Teams will have their ups and downs throughout the seaon, I understand that, but when you're a young, upstart team that happens to play in the AL East-- you cannot give games away. The Yankees and Sox will make you pay.

Coming out of their homestand, in which they won 6 of 7 (including a sweep of the BoSox), the Rays had an opportunity to really put a run together and head to the break with a 5 or 6 game lead, but instead they went to the Bronx and did their best Devil Rays impression and laid a big, fat egg. If the Rays can't get it together, and smoehow drop 3 or 4 to the Indians I don't think they'll ever recover.

This may be the most important series of the season so far. The Sox are playing the O's and Yankees are playing the Pirates, so chances are that they will each win their respective series; which makes it all the more crucial for the Rays to 'right the ship' against the Indians.

Mark my words; If the Rays don't at least split this series, they will not make the playoffs. It doesn't neccessarily matter who the Rays are playing- its the circumstances/timing more than the opponent, the Indians just so happen to be the team that could be the catalyst for a disappearing act of historic proportions.

Time will tell.
---

For the record, on paper it looks like the Rays should win at least 2 (probably 3) of these games, but If the Rays find a way to lose.... look out!

Cheese & Whine: July 10

CHEESE & WHINE: Buckin' Bronx

RAYS: 1
Yankees:2

CHEESE:

  • Edwin Jackson pitched fairly well, but had to settle for a no-decision in his 18th start of the season. Jackson threw 100 pitches, 63 of which were strikes, allowing 1 run on 6 hits while striking out 3 and walking 2. Someone with Jackson's 'stuff ' should be recording more than 3 K's in 6 1/3, but anytime you hold a team to 1 run you deserve a win regardless.
  • JP Howell did it again. Howell came in in the seventh with a runner in scoring position and one out and once again got his starting pitcher off the hook by striking out Gardner and then Jeter. JP pitched a total of 2 innings and recorded 3 K's.
  • Carlos Pena looks like he's back to normal at the plate, belting another homer in the sixth to tie the game at 1. El Gato now has 14 dingers on the year.
  • Although they lost, the Rays played a decent game and didn't embarrass themselves like they had the day before.

WHINE:

  • The Rays got swept by the Yankees. Since May the Rays have effectively gone to Fenway twice and been swept twice and then onto the Bronx where they were swept again. If the Rays want to be considered a contender they need to learn to win on the road against division opponents (I know, I'm starting to sound like a broken record- but it's true).
  • Carl Crawford looks like a bush-leaguer at the plate right now. CC went 0-5 last night following an 0-4 performance on Tuesday. Looks like someone better quit whining about having to play CF once a decade and start concentrating on hitting the ever-lovin' ball!
  • The Rays were 0-5 with runners in scoring position yesterday and 2-28 with runners in scoring position during their current 3-game slide. Can't win games with numbers like that.(MLB)
  • Why on God's green earth is Reid Brignac getting at-bats in crucial situations when you've got Gross and Aybar on the bench, and Zobrist ready to take over at SS if need-be? Another shining example of Joe Maddon falling asleep mid-game.
  • The freakin' Yankees giving Abreu a gatorade bath after the game. Really? How the mighty have fallen...

CRACKERS:

  • I never thought I'd say it, but we need Jason Bartlett. Get well soon noodle-arm, we need you!
  • Dirtbag is still leading in the "Last Man" all-star vote, but lets not rest on our laurels... keep voting, Evan deserves it.
  • Can I start a petition to get Gabe Gross more starts? I understand that the Rays are a bit heavy in the lefty dept., but Gross is far superior to any of the other defensive alternatives, and is a fairly patient batter with a decent amount of power and plenty of clutch- he NEEDS to be in the line-up more often.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cheese & Whine: July 9

CHEESE & WHINE: Damn Yankees!

RAYS: 0
Yankees: 5

CHEESE:
  • No one got hurt.
  • BJ Upton was 2 for 4 with a double, and sent several balls back to the track, so he's making good contact. Oh, and bossman recorded another stellar assist from CF cutting down Jeter at the plate to end the third.
  • This was only the third time this season that the Rays were shut-out... hey, they lost 5-0 to NY- I'm reaching here.

WHINE:

  • Scott Freakin' Kazmir makes me furious! I've already written one post about his pitch-count woes and now it seems like I'm due for another. Once again, the Rays "ace" didn't make it into the sixth inning, throwing 97 pitches in 5 innings. Kid-K did live up to that moniker by recording 9 K's, but he's fortunate to have not given up 5 or 6 earned runs in the process. This kid has to cut down the pitch-count or he's just not that useful as a starter.
  • Navi getting thrown out at second by a spinning Derek Jeter just helped all the Jeter worshippers find one more thing to drool over... problem is if that's any other player on the roster (maybe even including Cliff Floyd) Jeter's theatrics are meaningless because they'd have gotten there easily.
  • The Rays looked like the Devil Rays. Last trip to Boston the Rays looked like the Devil Rays, and now they go to NY and do the exact same disappearing act... neither team is going to take you seriously if you lay a big, fat egg every time you leave the Thunderdome-- and they shouldn't. If you can't put a quality effort together on the road against division rivals you're destined for mediocrity. Rays Index agrees.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cheese & Whine: July 8

CHEESE & WHINE: Mid-Day Mis-step

RAYS: 4
Royals: 7

CHEESE:

  • Matt Garza pitched well again- despite his numbers; going 6 2/3 innnings surrendering 9 hits and 3 earned runs while recording 5 K's and issuing 3 walks on his way to a no-decision.
  • Navi showed us exactly why he belongs in the All-Star game with yet another heads-up play; with a man first and no outs Navi wisely let a pop-up bunt fall at his feet, setting up a 2-6-3 double play.
  • Carlos Pena had another good all-around performance, flashing the leather when need be and coming up as Mr. Clutch with a solo homer in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extras.
  • Carl Crawford stole his 300th base- he is one of only 9 players to accomplish this feat before the age of 27.

WHINE:

  • Crawford did his best BJ Upton impression, and slacked-off in CF- allowing KC to score the go-ahead run in the 3rd. I firmly believe the outcome of this game is different if Crawford hustles and prevents that run. I expect more from a veteren player than "Carl-being-Manny"
  • Dan Wheeler allowing back-to-back jacks in the top of the tenth... tsk,tsk!
  • The Rays struck out 12 times and stranded 12 runners.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dirtbag for President...

...or at least for All-star.

Vote now and vote often to get Evan into the All-Star game. We only have until Thursday to get Evan in as the last member of the AL All-Stars, and he definitely deserves it.

In case you needed some convincing:

These are Dirtbag's stats in comparision to all other AL third basemen...


  • Leads the AL in 2B with 22.

  • Tied for second (Beltre) in HR's with 16.

  • Second in the league with 52 RBI.

  • Second in Total Bases with 151.

  • Second in slugging percentage with .537
Not too shabby for a 22 year old rookie...

He deserves to be at the All-Star Game, and it's up to us to get him there.

Vote Now:
MLB

Cheese & Whine: July 7

CHEESE & WHINE: ROYAL FLUSH

RAYS: 9
Royals: 2

CHEESE:

  • The Rays will try to sweep the Royals today , it would be their second consecutive sweep and third sweep in the last 4 series they've (The Rays) played, and have now won 11 of their last 12 games overall.
  • Shields pitched very well; going 7 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 earned runs while recording 8 K's and only allowing 1 BB.
  • Longoria and Gross each recorded a HR combining for 3 RBI. Dirtbag now has 16 homers on the season while Gross has 7.
  • Carlos Pena's bat is getting back to normal. El Gato was 3 for 5 with a 2 run double.

WHINE:

  • Brignac recorded 2 errors. Acceptable-- for now.
  • I missed the game thanks to Directv and bad weather being like oil and water.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Wedding Bells

Congratulations to Cork over at Rays Index, as he joins the millions of poor, er... lucky souls who are already married.

Marriage is grand.... divorce is 10 grand... choose wisely!

Be sure to stop by Rays Index and wish him luck...

Royal Disappointment?

The sun is shining- not a cloud in the St. Petersburg sky, you can smell coconut shrimp as it co-mingles with the salty bay air. Folks are whistling "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as they stroll down the boardwalk walking their Scottish terriers with their cute little Carlos Pena jerseys. Birds chirp as the sound of the surf methodically washes away ten years of frustration... and somewhere in the distance you can still hear Sox fans crying softly into their lucky charms.

So with their heads held high and their chests puffed-out, fresh off a series sweep of the defending World Series Champs- the Rays march back to the Trop for a series against the almost last place Kansas City Royals...

This has disaster written all over it.

How many times in the history of sports has a team risen to the challenge and beaten their arch-rival, or the "unbeatbale foe" just to follow it up with their poorest performance of the season? I'll tell you; it happens a lot.
Preparing yourself mentally for the big game is easy, adrenaline does the work for you, but getting pumped up for the run-of-the-mill games- well that's a different story altogether.

Even if you consider it from a fan's perspective, its difficult. I was so excited about the Sox series I couldn't wait until first pitch each night, it felt like I was a kid in school waiting for the eighth period bell to ring or lying in bed waiting for Santa to come on Christmas Eve- the games just couldn't start fast enough.

The Royals series? I love watching the Rays regardless of the opponent, but really- how pumped can you get about the Royals? Even if Bo Jackson himself marched out onto the field as the Kansas City clean-up hitter it would still be difficult to even begin to garner the same type of excitement as the Sox series.

This is where inexperience can get you caught with your pants down. This is that series where veteran teams know that by winning big they can start a snowball effect that will carry them to the Break, but the inexperienced team can just as easily start to sef-destruct.

Coming off a huge series in which they've built themselves a nice little division lead, and heading into a series against a much lesser opponent is dangerous for any team, but a young team that is just now learning how to win is doubly susceptible to the prototypical let-down.

These are the series that the Rays are going to have to dominate if they plan on being contenders all season long, after all (as Sox fans are so quick to point out) you don't get anything for having the best record in baseball at the All-Star Break (although it does have anice ring to it).

No, I don't believe that if the Rays lose this series that they'll just fade away into a second half of disappointmnet and mediocrity, but I do believe that if they aren't careful, they just may give away a game or two that they'd give anything to get back come September.

Rays = Braves?

The fellas over at BlueWorkhorse have written a great post in regard to some of the similarities between the '91 Braves and the '08 Rays.

Unlike most bloggers they've actually fortified their argument with some fairly compelling analysis.

Check it out here.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sox fans are crying...

Hop over to Rays Index and check out this gem of a story about the whiny pukes who associate themselves with the Sox:

They can't be serious?

Jeff Niemann CG...

Admittedly I'm not as up to par on what's going on in the minors as I should be, but I did catch an interesting tidbit at the bottom of an article on TBO (which i found through a link on Rays Index):

Jeff Niemann struck out 12 in his first career complete game. Finally. First of all, any time you see that a pitcher rung-up 12 its a great sign, but that Niemann, who has struggled with consistancy and shoulder issues (inter-related I'm sure), was able to pitch the complete game is a great indication that he's progressing well.

Cheese & Whine: July 3

CHEESE & WHINE: VICTORY, SWEEP VICTORY!

RAYS: 7
Sox: 6

CHEESE:
  • The Rays swept arch-rival Boston at the Trop, again, and now hold a 3.5 game lead in the East.
  • Crawford and Longoria once again poured it on offensively. Each player went 3 for 4 with Longoria racking-up 3 more RBI, including a 2-run double to start the scoring in the bottom of the 7th.
  • You know things are going well when Gary Glover gets the W, and actually deserves it. Glover's numbers aren't spectacular, but retiring Manny and Co. in the top of the 7th when it was starting to look like Boston was mounting a comeback was huge.
  • Jason Bartlett played another solid game on both sides of the ball. If he keeps this up I may have to come up with a nicer nickname than Ol' Noodle-Arm. Bartlett was 2 for 3 with 2 RBI and another stolen base (18).
  • BJ Upton finally showed some hustle in center and made a great catch with his back to the ball. Bossman also stole 2 bases and now has 25 steals for the season.

WHINE:

  • I was all set to go crazy on Kaz's not being able to keep his pitch-count down again, but then the Rays went and swept the Sox, and I said "Screw It".

--------------

be sure to visit Rays Index.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Setting The Standard

Well, I stumbled upon yet another example of a paid writer spitting out complete nonsense. In this case the error is mostly harmless, but I feel (as someone who doesn't get paid to write, but who spends a lot of time checking my facts) that a paid writer must be held to a higher standard.

Sports Illustrated has been running a feature all season called "Scouting Report", in which they profile a particular player and do exactly what the title implies. Today I happened upon their newest scouting report, on Chase Utley, and was quite interested to see what they had to say, but I didn't make it very far before stumbling onto a dubious mistake; basically as a preface to the player's ratings they show a scale of how they categorize the players and then give an example of another player in the league that corresponds with that category. It's easier to see it for yourself, so here is the "Catagorization scale" from the Chase Utley Scouting Report (verbatim):


CATEGORIZATION
Scale

Elite: top player at his position (Joe Morgan)
Premium: top five at his position (Robbie Alomar)
Good: top 10 at his position; occasional All-Star
(
Ian Kinsler)
Average: everyday position player
Key role: part-time or platoon player (
Akinori Iwamura)

Do you see the obvious mistake in this scale?
When the hell was the last time you saw Akinori Iwamura in a situation where he was a "part-time or platoon player"? Of all the players in the league that actually do play part-time this chucklehead lists Aki as his example of a part-time player? And this guy gets paid? This is the kind of ridiculous stuff that stops people from taking internet writers seriously. There is no way this guy has watched a single play of Rays baseball over the last two years if he is delusional enough to write that Aki is a platoon player. Aki should be the freaking starting second baseman in the All-Star Game based on his stats, and someone within the Sports Illustrated organization releases an article to the whole world that lists him as a part-time player.
Unbelievable!
Unacceptable!
By the way, they listed Chase Utley in the "top 5 at his position" category... I say that that's fairly generous considering that outside of hitting he's just slightly above average at everything else, but what do I know- I don't get nice shiny checks from SI.
-----------------------
check the article out for yourself here.

Can The Rays Sweep The Sox?

In a word, YES, but will they?

It all boils down to pitching.

Tonight's matchup features Kid-K v. Dice-K and either pitcher is capable of shutting down an opponent, so its hard to get a read on who'll get the better of the pitching duel.

Most baseball fans agree that if Kid-K is on his A-game he's as good as anyone in the game, but he has to last longer than 5 innings to be effective, an early call to the 'pen could spell disaster for the Rays. Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware of the fact that the bullpen has been one of the Rays bright spots this season, but against a talented BoSox team you want your starter on the hill as long as possible.
Kaz is 4-1 at home with an ERA of 1.24. Against Boston though, he is 0-1 with an ERA of 6.75 in his first game back off the DL (May 4th).

On the other side of the coin, Dice-K is an impressive 9-1 with a road record of 4-0 and an ERA of 2.20. He threw 5 shut-out innings against the Astros in his last outing.

I always look forward to watching Kid K pitch, but I just can't wrap my mind around sweeping Boston again, so I'm going to have to say that it certainly wouldn't surprise me to see the Rays win, but I'll say Boston gets away with one.

But hey, two out of three ain't bad... ask Meatloaf.

No More "Game Recap"....

Instead of doing the game-by-game hi-lites/low-lites segment which we had given the misnomer of "game recap:" We will now change the format and call it... drumroll, please...

"Cheese and Whine"

"Cheese" will detail the positive points that I drew from that particular game, while "Whine" is self-explanitory; I'll whine about what I didn't like... it's what i do best. I may even occassionally include a bonus section called "Crackers" which will just be facts/stats points to ponder, etc.


Bon Apetit.

Cheese & Whine: July 1

CHEESE & WHINE: Leavin' Em in our Wake(field)

RAYS: 3
Sox: 1

CHEESE:
  • Matt Garza picked up his seventh win pitching another gem. Garza lasted 7 innings, allowing just 1 unearned run off of 5 hits. He started the day off by retiring the first 9 Sox that he faced. Garza'a ERA is now a very respectable 3.47
  • Navi was 2 for 4 on the night recording 2 of the Rays 3 RBI and is now hitting a solid .316. Navarro continues to perform at an all-star level day-in and day-out, and its a shame that he won't get the credit he deserves to make the 'All-Popularity' team.
  • Grant Balfour came in with 2 men on in the top of the 8th and got out of a jam. He then put on his "closer-hat" in the top of the 9th and proceeded to become nearly unhittable; allowing one hit and striking out 3 to end the game.
  • Even Longoria's defensive play continues to shine. In the top of the 7th Dirtbag made yet another fabulous diving catch then, as if it were second nature, threw to first from his knees to record the out. Amazing.

WHINE:

  • The errors (3 last night) are starting to add up. Give me a game in which the Rays commit 3 errors against the Sox and 9 times out of 10 I'll show you a loss. The Rays have gotten this far with solid D they need to make sure that they stay focused and nip these mental mistakes in the bud.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rays Index Says its Navi, I Say They're Wrong!

The fellas over at Rays Index think that Navi is the Rays first-half MVP, and at first blush I was inclined to agree (I find its safer to agree with those guys than to argue), but on second thought I decided that they are wrong.

They (the Rays Index) did list Dirtbag, AKA Evan Longoria, as a possible candidate, and I agree that he's been even better-than-advertised. I think he's running away with Rookie of the Year honors, should recieve a Gold Glove, and at least a few votes for MVP if he can get his batting average up around .300, but in terms of the player who has single-handedly changed the face of the Rays season so far...

..that goes to a guy who was absolutely horrible last year; but had an open mind, was very-coachable, and has made an amazing transition into his new role as long-reliever:
JP Howell.

Howell has been a great surprise thus far this season, and has shown exactly zero signs that his fast start is a hoax. He has consistantly eaten up innings and batters with some nasty stuff. With Scott Kazmir rarely making it through 6, and the endless struggles of Jackson coupled with the inconsistancy of Garza, JP has been exactly what the doctor ordered to "keep the wheels-on" all season long. Howell has recorded a 3.0 ERA over 51 innings (spread over 30 games) so far this season, allowing just 36 hits and 17 earned runs while striking out 45.


He's the glue that's holding this team together and that's precisely what a team MVP is (see fig 1):
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*fig 1
Team MVP (proper noun):
1.the glue that holds a team together.
2. James Phillip Howell
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
...see i told ya.

Oops, I was wrong...

Several weeks ago I thought that I saw the wheels coming off the Rays victory wagon. In one of my posts I said that the Sox had built a nice little lead atop the division and that the Rays had enjoyed a nice run, but were headed back to mediocrity... I was wrong, and I couldn't be more excited about it.

The Rays have re-captured the Al East division lead, and with a victory last night reminded themselves that David does beat Goliath. God loves underdogs and so do we... Go Rays.

If the Rays take 2 out of 3 in this series I believe it will be quite possible to head into the break with a 3 game lead in the division (the Rays have series with the Royals, Yankees, and Indians while the Sox get the Yankees, Twins and O's before the break).

We'll see, I 've been wrong before.

Game Recap: My Shields & My Strength

June 30, 2008

RAYS: 5
Sox: 4
HIGH-LITES:

There were more Rays fans than Sox fans at the Trop. To the outside world that might not seem like a big deal, but to us (Rays fans) its a tear-jerkingly beautiful happening.

James Shields recorded his 6th win, allowing just 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 1/3, striking out 5 and walking one. Shields started the game on fire, but ran into some trouble in the 4th. He showed mental toughness and rebounded nicely; allowing just one run in the 4th and 1 in the 6th (a solo homer by JD Drew- that chased Shields from the game). James the Greater (as the good folks over at Rays Index have dubbed him) threw 104 pitches, 66 of which were strikes.

BJ Upton went yard on the first pitch of the night (for the Rays) and set the tempo for the game.

Gabe Gross went 2 for 2 with a homerun. He also walked twice. Gross continues to be, (in my opinion) far and away, the best choice for RF day in and day out, but apparently Mr. Maddon doesn't agree.

LOW-LITES:

The top half of the lineup (Upton, Crawford, Aybar, Pena, Dirtbag) went a combined 3 for 16. I understand that occassionallly a pitcher is going to have a good game and that's just part of baseball, but what I left out above is that the 6 and 7 batters (Hinske and Navi (and later Gomes as a pinch hitter)) combined for an amazing 0 for 6- that's the one thru seven batters going a combined 3 for 22 against a pitcher who wasn't looking especially nasty. The Rays can't have off days offensively against a beefed-up lineup like Boston and expect to win.

Troy Percival hurt his hammy again. I love Percy as much as the next guy, but what good is he if we have to wheel him out with his walker everytime he takes the hill, and then he's only healthy enough to pitch once a month... pure frustration.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Burnt to a Crisp

It was determined yesterday by the powers-that-be that upon appeal of Akinori Iwamura and Coco Crisps' suspensions Aki will have to serve the 3 game suspension that he was originally handed while Crisp (who initiated the entire fiasco by taking a cheap shot, at Aki of all people, the night before the brawl) had his suspension reduced from 7 to 5 games... RIDICULOUS!

Shields, who did nothing more than defend himself when Crisp charged him, got 6 games... again, Crisp initiated the event, but the harsher penalty goes to Shields...UNBELIEVABLE!

My wife's cousin was at the house when they first showed that Aki's suspension was upheld while Crisp's was reduced, and he hit the nail on the head, "Must be nice to be a Red Sock."... yeah, must be.

Except for the part about having to live in Boston.

Kid-K pitch Kount

Let me preface this by first saying that I am a huge fan of Scott Kazmir, and would be fairly annoyed were the Rays to lose him (via trade, injury, etc...).

That being said, if Kid-K can't figure out how to keep his pitch count down - or to be more precise, average less pitches per inning, he will eventually slide down the roatation, and rightfully so.

Your Ace is supposed to be as close to a lock for a W as you can find, and that means keeping the bullpen seated firmly on their tooshes.

The problem is that the young Mr. Kazmir hasn't made any progress in bringing his pitches/inning down at all over the first few years of his young career.

Why?

I'm glad you asked. I'll tell you why:
Ego.

Scott has no doubt spent his entire life blowing batters away with his nasty stuff. The issue now is that major league hitters have seen it all before- especially scrappy old veterans. Don't get me wrong, Kaz can throw some nasty goods, but for some reason he feels the need to challenge every batter with every pitch.
He's got an ego the size of the Trop when it comes to pitching right-at solid hitters. There is no doubt in my mind that Kaz can 'fan' anyone in the league consistantly, but the major issue with trying to challenge every batter is that its going to put too many balls in hittable places, resulting in tons of foul balls as good batters try to fight off the heat, the outcome of which is: more pitches per inning.

I can't even count the number of times I've seen Kazmir record a big K- but it cost him 7, 8, or 9 pitches because the batter sprayed fouls all over the stadium before finally whiffing on the inside heat.

Every batter doesn't have to be a K, let your defense protect you. Put some balls in play and sit back and watch while Dirtbag and Co. take care of business.

I'm not a pitcher, never was, I pitched exactly 1 inning in my illustrious little league career, and know next to nothing of the mechanics of pitching, but I can assure you that if Kazmir can't figure out how to consistantly make it to the 7th innning he'll spend his career mired in the middle of the rotation, not the top.

Game Recap: Long(oria)ball


June 27, 2008

RAYS: 10
Pirates: 5




HIGH-LITES:


Evan Longoria is playing at a level well beyond his years. He has already emerged as one of the if not the best third baseman in the league and his offensive production has been steadily rising as well. Last night Dirtbag went 4-5 with a 2B and a 3-run homer to start off the scoring. That's 4 homers in the last 5 games and he now leads the team in HR's (15), Doubles (20), and RBI's (46)... not bad for a rookie.

Carl Crawford's offensive production has finally picked up as well; he was 3 for 5 with a solo HR in the 6th.

Hinske got the start in RF, again and it paid dividends on the offensive side; he was 2 for 3 with a 3-run homer.

Although Pena went hitless in his return to the lineup (although he did record a sac fly resulting in an RBI) he looked solid at the plate and I see no reason to believe that he won't get right back to crackin' 440 footers sooner than later.

Grant Balfour pitched 2 1/3 allowing 0 runs on 0 hits while striking out 3 and walking none.



LOW-LITES:

If the Rays plan on being playoff contenders they cannot let a team like Pittsburgh get back into a game in which they (The Rays) led by 7 in the third; especially when its your Ace (Kazmir) versus a first tim starter.

Kazmir, although he pitched fairly accurately (70 of his 103 pitches were counted as strikes), packed it in as soon as the Rays mounted a nice big lead, and he's lucky it didn't cost him another W. If Kaz wants to continue his career as the Ace he is going to have to learn how to keep that pitch count down.
-------
visit Rays Index.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Will the Rays sweep the Pirates?

The Rays are getting set to open a 3 game series with the Pirates tonight, will they be able to make it back-to-back road sweeps?

Points to ponder:

Pitching:
The Rays pitchers for the 3-game set are:
Scott Kazmir, LHP (6-3, 2.03)
Edwin Jackson, RHP (4-6, 4.35)
Andy Sonnanstine, RHP (8-3, 4.85)

The Pirates pitchers:
Jimmy Barthmaier, RHP (0-0, -.--)
Taubenheim (0-0)
Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (6-6, 6.43)

Advantage: Uh, Duh... Rays.
----

Defensively: The Rays have recorded 19 less errors than the Pirates. Call me a homer, but anytime Dirtbag is playing third that's an inherent advantage right off the top.

Advantage: Rays
----

Offensively: The Rays and Pirates have fairly similar offensive numbers with BA, OBP, and SLG all within a few hundredths of each other. The Rays have stolen substantially more bases with a league-leading 85, whereas the Pirates have a league-low 23. The Pirates have struck-out less, but they've also walked less. Pittsburgh has also scored more runs so far this season (382 versus Tampa's 365)

Advantage: I give a slight edge to The Rays, due to the dispairity in stolen bases.
----

Mindset: The Rays are preparing for another homestand v. Boston, so their heads may be on the wrong series. If they lose focus Pittsburgh could sneak up on them. The Pirates aren't well known for looking ahead, or backward, or really paying attention at all.

Advantage: Pirates

Well, I say even though all signs point to yes, with Jackson/Sonny pitching I never rule out an aweful game, so I'll say a resounding NO. Two out of three will suffice.
----

Poor Pirates

As someone who was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania (about 80 miles north of Pittsburgh) I have a unique perspective into the next series on the schedule, so being the humanitarian that I am, I'll lay out that perspective for you:

First and foremost, for those of you who commiserate that the Rays don't have a following outside of Tampa/St. Pete I can assure you that you should feel fortunate for the fans we do have, we're not alone in wondering aloud, "where's the love?".

For 24 years I lived a stones-throw from Steeltown, met thousands of people, watched tons of sports (and of course was born a Steelers fan), but of all those people and over all those years that I spent in such close proximity of Pittsburgh, I only knew 1 (just 1) actual Pirates fan. That's it! ONE!

The Devil Rays always had the excuse that there are just too many Boston/New York transplants in Tampa/St Pete to convert them all into Rays fans, but the poor, lowly Pirates have no such excuse.
The day(s) Bonds and Bonilla walked away so did the fans, and as the years have flown by the ownership has never given them (the fans) a single reason to come back.

If there is one team in the league that can relate to the Devil Rays/Rays or one group of fans (albeit a small group) that can relate to Devil Ray/Rays' fans its the poor bastards in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are the one team that has been as consistantly bad as the D. Rays over the years, so we, as Rays fans, should show a little sympathy toward the unlucky souls who've chosen to follow the ol Buc-o's- we can relate.

We know the pain that's involved with routing for a loser year after year after year... we know the heartbreak that occurs every year after we foolishly convince ourselves during spring training that "this is the year"- just to come to the realization by mid-June that we're once again going to be looking up at all the legitimate major league clubs... and a little piece of our heart disappears, never to be seen again.

It has been a staggering 15 years since the Pirates have sniffed a winning season. Sad, but true. I honestly don't know how Pirates' fans don't throw themselves from bridges every September (God knows there's enough bridges to choose from).
I admire their true, faithful fans. The ones who sit in an empty park when its 45 degrees in April and route for a team that they know can't win.
We are kindred spirits we fans of The Rays and the Pirates, we share a dubious, self-destructive, masochistic bond.

Its a sad story when a city/state that is sooo ridiculously faithful to the Steelers can be so cold and uninterested in the Pirates, but I can't blame them, and neither can you.
Too many years and too many lies have callused the hearts of the Pittsburgh baseball fan, and it should be a constant reminder to Rays fans of how incredibly close we came to the same fate had current ownership not come riding in on their white horses dressed in navy blue and sunshine yellow, writing checks, and carrying victory on their backs.

The Pirates, in turn, should draw some solace from the Rays in seeing that it is possible to right a sinking ship, even if that ship has been sinking for a very, very long time.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Game Recap: Good Garza !!



June 26, 2008

RAYS: 6
Marlins: 1



HIGH-LITES:


Matt Garza pitched an awesome game this afternoon. As a matter of a fact, he pitched as close to a no-no as you can get; striking out 10, facing 1 over the minimum, and allowing just 1 hit (a solo HR by Ramirez in the 7th). This is the type of game that convinces me that if Garza can stay out of his own head he can be just as good as Kaz before all is said and done. Muy Impressivo

Longoria (AKA Dirtbag) had another great day offensively going 3 for 5 with 2 doubles and a homer. The way the ball jumps off of his bat is unreal. I firmly believe he will lead the team in homers by the end of the year.

Upton's patience at the plate. I've been bustin' BJ's chops a bit lately about being lazy, but his good eye at the plate is paying dividends (or maybe he's just too lazy to swing the bat...).

Homers by Longoria and Zobrist and a near grand slam by Riggans showed another glimpse of the offensive potential that the Rays are yet to live up to so far this year. Hopefully this series was the offense's coming-out party. We'll see when we face Boston next week at The Trop.



LOW-LITES:

10 runners left on base.

The Prof over at Rays Index jinxed Garza by mentioning the NY Mets during his Live Blog-A-Baloo and cost him the no-no!

Game Recap: 5th Inning Frenzy


June 25, 2008

RAYS: 15
Marlins: 3


HIGH-LITES:


Carl Crawford had a great night, going 2 for 5 with 2 HR's and 5 RBI. Crawford's first homer of the night (in the 3rd) "drew first blood" and put the Rays up 3-0.

The 5th inning. In the top of the 5th every batter recorded a run. Crawford and Longoria both hit homers, and the Rays tacked on 10 runs (which isn't a Rays record by the way. They've scored 11 in an inning twice; most recently last year against Baltimore).

Jason Bartlett had his child... wait- let me rephrase that: his wife had their child. Congrats.



LOW-LITES:

This is the part where I would usually complain about how Upton was still lazy out in CF and about how aweful Zobrist was at SS, but when a team wins by a dozen, you let some stuff slide.
Aki was credited with his 1st Error of the season... shucks, I was really hoping he'd stay error free until the beak in order to help bolster my argument that he should be the starting 2B at the all-popularity game. He still should be, of course, but 0 errors looks so much nicer than 1.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lazy-Town

Welcome to Lazytown, population: 1, founded in early summer 2008 in the heart of center field at Tropicana Field (but not to worry- it travels around the country from one ball park to another-- it was last seen in Miami on the evening of June 24th).


I'm talking about our own dear, beloved Bossman Junior (BJ, for you folks who love to initialize everything) Upton.

As a fan who has only missed watching 2 games this year, I feel that I am more than qualified to chime in against one of our beloved Rays if I deem it necessary, and I do.

Let me expound:

Over the last several weeks I've noticed a decided difference in the defensive play of Mr. BJ Upton, in that he suddenly feels that it is no longer necessary to run at full speed or cover anything more than a 20 foot radius in CF.

While the rest of his teammates are bustin' their tails for every win it seems that Bossman has lost his will to compete. I guess winning a couple of games entitles him to acting like he deserves to be on the roster- regardless of his obvious lack of effort.

Mr. Upton will jog over in the direction of a soft blooper to middle center and watch it drop then once he finally finishes his stroll over to the ball, that inevitably dropped 6 feet in front of him, he grabs it and proceeds to throw a blooping hailmary to the plate... everytime! Hey BJ, throw it to the cutoff man sometimes! Or here's a novel idea: hustle after the ball and maybe you could catch it and record an out- or at least catch a runner at third and not have to throw a looper to the plate because you reacted so slowly... everytime! Yeah-yeah we know, "You're sooo talented..." , blah, blah, blah... I've seen tons of below average players have amazing years (or even careers for that matter) because they put forth the effort that "superstars" are too good to bother with, and we've all seen "superstars" get sent packing because they were "too good" to be benched or told what to do....

Okay, slow down... I am not implying that I want Upton shipped out of town or DFA'd or anything silly like that, but I am lobbying for a stern talking-to from management and a few days on the pine to think about it.

In case you haven't noticed, BJ's numbers at the plate are down as well, so its not like he's countering his laze-fair defense with superb offense either (stay tuned, I may just present statistical evidence to support that).

Case and point: BJ's gotten lazy. Winning's coming easily, so there's no pressure. How fast our beloved Bossman has forgotten how life as a Devil Ray was, or how much winning meant to The Rays as recently as this May. I think the whole team has lost some intensity as of late, but the "good ones", like BJ, are supposed to learn how to keep winning not how to rest on their laurels.

Here's Upton's batting numbers at this point this year vs. last year:

YEAR AVG OBP SLG OPS HR
2007 .320 .402 .545 .947 9

2008 .284 .397 .424 .821 5

Don't get me wrong, I still love our little buddy BJ, but I'm getting tired of the nonchalant, lack-luster performances as of late. I honestly believe that he needs to be humbled a little, and I think the Pittsburgh series would be the perfect time.

Maddon could even spin it to the press that he's just giving BJ a "well-deserved rest"...

Well deserved, indeed!

Game Recap: Aki To Victory...


June 24, 2008

RAYS: 6
Marlins: 4


HIGH-LITES:

Aki went 3 for 5 out of the lead-off spot, including a 2 run homer (his 5th of the year) in the 3rd to put the Rays ahead 2-1. He also recorded his 12th double of the season and finished the night with 7 total bases.

Although Sonny was far from prefect he pitched a fairly good game, which is all the Rays ask of him. Andy gave up 6 hits in 5 innings of work, allowing 2 earned runs while striking out 5.

Howell, despite giving up a run, recorded 4 K's in 2 innings of work. J.P. continues to impress with some great pitches when they matter most and picked up the W.

Evan Longoria hit another clutch double in the top of the 9th to put the Rays up by a margin of 6-3. He came through in the clutch again in the bottom of the 9th; with the bases loaded Evan made an amazing diving stop to prevent an extra bases hit then threw to 2nd (from his knees) to record the second out of the inning. That play more than made up for the balls he lost in the lights earlier in the game.
Patience at the plate by Navi and Hinske. In the 8th, with the bases loaded, immediately following less-than-stellar at-bats by and Upton and Dirtbag, first Navi and then Hinske showed patience and allowed the Marlins to beat themselves by walking-in 2 runs.

LOW-LITES:

BJ Upton's lackluster performance on both sides of the ball. The fellas over at Rays Index touched on BJ's recent lack of effort yesterday, and Mr. Bossman proved their point fabulously last night. Upton was 0 for 4 from the plate with 4 runners left on base. He also helped Crawford screw up a routine fly ball into left-center: after Crawford let one get by, BJ proceeded to stroll over in his usual cavalier manner and managed to muff a bare-handed grab of a ball that was nearly stationary, which gave the Marlins the go-ahead run. Upton better get his head in the game... more on this later today.

Troy Percival came in and recorded the save, and I have no idea how he got away with it. Percy faced 7 batters and walked... are you ready?... 4 of them! Look on the bright side; he recorded a K too. Over the last 7 days Percival has an ERA of 9.00, giving up 5 BB to only 2 K's in 2 appearances.
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's a Full House...

With El Gato (Carlos Pena) set to come back either during the Pittsburgh series or the Sox series (as laid out by the folks over at TBO) the time is drawing near to start considering who gets moved/DFA'd to make room on the 25 man roster.








I pose the question to you, the Rays faithful:
Who will it be, and why?
Zobrist?
Gross?
Hinske?
Glover?
Aybar?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

All-Popularity Team...

The "All-Star Game" is fast approaching and according to the latest numbers the only Ray even close to making it into the MLB's annual popularity contest is Carlos Pena.

I'm fine with Pena being there, as he's played fabulous defense all year, but my complaint is this:
How on God's green earth is Akinori Iwamura not even on the list for second basemen?

Aki is playing flawless defense (not nearly-flawless, but truly flawless) and has had as hot a bat as anyone in the league over the last 6 to 8 weeks, as denoted by the fact that he (Aki) has the 4th most hits by an AL second baseman this season (only one hit behind Pedroia, who has played 4 more games). Couple that with the fact that Aki has exactly ZERO errors in 187 attempts as opposed to Pedroia (who leads the vote for 2B, by the way) who has 5 errors in 203 attempts and its easy to see where I'm going with this.








Still not convinced?

Try this on for size: Ian Kinsler is second in voting right now, he has... wait for it... 14 errors in 221 attempts and a fielding percentage of .965, which is third from worst in the AL!
Guess who has the best fielding percentage in the AL (or the entire league for that matter), you got it... Aki (1.000).

And don't even get me started about the fact that Willy Aybar is listed as the Rays possible representative at 3B instead of Longoria, who is playing the hot-corner as well as, or better than, anyone else in the league (yeah, that includes you A-Fraud)... Ridiculous!

I say whichever Ray gets onto the "All-Popular" team by default (as each team is guaranteed at least 1 player) should reject the offer to play, as a means of boycotting the stupidity that is the MLB All-Star game.

Unreal!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Game Recap: Jackson loses...again

June 15, 2008

RAYS: 3
Marlins: 9




HIGH-LITES:


Hmmm...


Grant Balfour recorded 4 K's and allowed no hits thru 2 innings of work in relief of Jackson.


Bartlett, Hinske, and Gross, all recorded 2-out RBI's. Putting runs on the board with 2 outs is a crucial part of the game and will prove to be of vast importance should the Rays make a run at the Pennant.


We only had to watch Jackson pretend to be a major league pitcher for 5 innings.





LOW-LITES:


Edwin "Freaking" Jackson. The Dodgers should've left good enough alone and let Jackson be an outfielder instead of trying to make him a pitcher. He gave up 6 earned runs (two 3 run homers)on 5 hits in 5 innings while recording all of 1 K and walking 3.


Yet another E for Bartlett (that makes 8)... I'm just sayin'


Miller, Glover, and Hammel allowed 1 run each in relief of Jackson.
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