First off, I never introduced myself. I am The Rocket Scientist. Why do I call myself that? Well, it’s because I am a rocket scientist. Beyond being a rocket scientist though, sports are my passion. I am a die hard fan of any professional team that plays in the Tampa Bay area (Rays, Bucs, Lightning, Storm, and I will admit I even went to a Mutiny game once). I grew up in Clearwater. The Devil Rays started playing games during my freshman year of high school, and I became a fan immediately. I went to the University of Michigan for college (go blue) and came back to the University of Florida for graduate school (go gators as well). Both of my degrees are in Aerospace Engineering, thus actually being a rocket scientist. After finishing graduate school, I moved to Los Angeles for my job. I quickly discovered how amazing the DirecTV MLB Extra Innings package is, and I wonder how I ever lived without Extra Innings and NFL Sunday Ticket. Every day after work I race home to watch the Rays play, and have loved attending Rays-Angels games the last 2 seasons. It is an honor to be able to write about one of the teams that I love, and I am really happy to be a part of the RaysTheStakes team. Feel the heat!
Now on with our regularly scheduled program…
I think we can all admit that this team has been struggling. I will be the first one to say that I haven’t pressed the panic button, but after this weekend I broke the glass to get to the panic button. Things just are not clicking on a consistent basis. Hitters aren’t hitting, pitchers are walking batters, and fielders are making mental mistakes. This is not the same Rays team that we all saw on the field last season.
I have seen comparisons to the Rockies of last year, or even that this team shows shades of the 2007 Rays, but this morning I realized who the 2009 Rays look like.
The 2009 Rays look exactly like the Cleveland Indians in "Major League 2."
In "Major League," the Indians took the American League by storm in the second half of the season. They won enough games to tie the Yankees for the division lead, and then edged their rivals out in a playoff. In the sequel, they showed up to spring training completely full of themselves and with a lost passion for the game. The team was just going through the motions day after day. They would win a game here or there, but would lose series after series. There were mental mistakes, excuses, and no desire to win.
There are also player comparisons that I have noticed. They are as follows:
Pat Burrell as Jack Parkman – Jack Parkman was the high priced free agent and homerun hitter. “When he does his little shimmy, it drives all the girls crazy.” In his first home game, he hits a solo homerun. After that, he isn’t shown hitting another homerun for the Indians. Although Pat Burrell has been a solid team player, he isn’t hitting up to his potential. He is still stuck on 1 homerun for the season, a solo shot that he hit in a blowout. Now, to be fair, it is not like pitchers have to fear players hitting behind him, players such as Zobrist, Gross, Kapler, or Navarro. Burrell has taken his fair share of walks and is getting on base. However, he needs to find his pop. He was brought in to help the Rays beat left handed starters. The Rays are 0 for the season against lefties so far.
Dionner Navarro as Rube Baker – Rube Baker was the catcher who couldn’t accurately throw the ball back to the pitcher. Although this seems like a trivial task, Rube had the inability to focus. Although I have seen some improvement over Navarro since I wrote the piece about him last week, I still do not think his head is where it needs to be. His passed ball yesterday was an example of this, and Brian Anderson did a very good job calling Navi out on this. I think the team needs to get Navi some magazines (if you have seen the movie, you know what magazines I am talking about) to read so he can start catching and hitting up to his potential.
Evan Longoria as Pedro Cerrano – Pedro Cerrano was the power hitter who couldn’t hit a curve ball. When he was hot, he would crush the ball. When he was cold, he would strikeout every time he got to the plate. Evan started off the season as the hottest hitter in baseball. There was a death in his family, and since his return, his bat has gone colder. He has zero homeruns since his return to the team. Although Evan hasn’t been ice-cold and he does have a few big hits in the Rays few wins, he is not hitting to his potential and is hitting into untimely double plays and strikeouts in the Rays losses. The Rays would be doing a lot better if Evan were to “find his marbles.”
BJ Upton as Willie Mays Hayes – Willie Mays Hayes was the speedy leadoff hitter and centerfielder who decided he wanted to learn how to hit for power in between the first and second movies. In the first game of the season, Willie calls his shot 3 times, hits all 3 balls to the warning track, where they are caught. Willie also had a nagging “leg injury” that he would use an excuse for everything. BJ Upton is the Rays leadoff hitter who is swinging too hard, and thus went 0 for the weekend. He has been hitting the ball a bit more solid, but still not getting on base. As a leadoff hitter, it is his role to work the count, find a way to get on base, and put the team in a position to score a run early in the ballgame. He did this quite well in the first game against the Yankees, but since he seems to be swinging too hard for the fences and not just trying to get himself on base.
Matt Garza as Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn – Rick Vaughn was the starting pitcher who was downright nasty in the first movie. His fastball was unhittable. In the sequel, Vaughn took a few mph off his fastball and started thinking long term about his career. He tried to mix more pitches with his so called “terminator” and they all get crushed out of the park. Matt Garza is having the same problems. He has lost some velocity and control. His pitches are getting smashed regularly. If his arm is still dead from working late into last season, he needs to rest and be ready for later in this season. If his arm is alive, he needs to have better control and keep the ball in the park.
Joe Maddon as Lou Brown – Lou Brown was the coach of the Indians. He had fire to him, but never really got mad. He had the inspirational idea in the original Major League of winning it all to spite the owner. In the sequel, he finally got mad at the team, leading to a heart attack. Well, Joe hasn’t blown a gasket yet. He may need to soon though to light a fire under this team.
The Crowd at Tropicana Field as Randy Quaid, Rabid Fan – Randy Quaid plays a crazy fan with season tickets who believe the Indians will win the World Series before opening day. Once the season starts and the Indians lose their first game, he immediately turns on the team, telling the team how much they suck (among other insults not suitable for posting). Well, I know how fans in the Tampa Bay area can get. If the Rays start losing often, then we may see the return of 10,000 people a night.
I know this comparison makes it look like I am really down on the Rays. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Like I said earlier, I haven’t pressed the panic button yet. There is a silver lining to the Rays being like the Indians in "Major League 2." After manager Lou Brown has his heart attack and the old owner buys back the team, the team finds their passion for the game. Parkman gets traded, Rube can throw the ball to the pitcher, Willie gets on base and steals 2nd, 3rd, and home, Vaughn comes out of the bullpen to strike Parkman out, and even Randy Quaid gets back behind the team. But beyond these few players turning it around, the thing that keeps my hopes up is the end result. The Indians make it back to the World Series.
Something needs to change. This change needs to happen before it’s too late. Maybe it’s time that Joe Maddon has a very serious talk with the Rays about getting on the right track, hopefully without having a heart attack. The other option is for Vince Naimoli to buy the team back. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out which option is better.
-the rocket scientist