Saturday, May 30, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: Thank Heaven For Small Miracles



  • Evan Longoria. Dirt McGirt went 3 for 4 from the plate, including a 3-run dinger in the 6th to put the Devil Rays back on top for good. (We'll accidentally forget about the error at 3rd...shhh).
  • James Shields. The ace looked the part in what turned out to be a grit-and-grind kind of game. Shields pitched 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 7 hits while striking-out 5 and walking 1. That, my friends, is what a top of the rotation starter's stat line should look like just about every time around. Shields threw strikes at a rate of about 69% which is paramount in getting ahead of scrappy hitters like those on the Twins. Shields now moves to 4-4 on the season with a respectable ERA of 3.53.
  • Carl Crawford. CC had another productive game; 2 for 4 from the plate with a solo homer (his 2nd) and recording 3 of the Devil Rays' 5 runs.
  • The Red Sox lost.


  • Carlos Pena. Pena struggled at the plate going 0 for 4... again. The Crime Cat looks like he needs to get back to basics; "see the ball, hit the ball". With the injury bug sneaking around camp the Devil Rays need El Gato to produce more consistently.
  • Reid Brignac. Okay kid, you're getting your opportunity to show management why they should keep you up to play second base in Aki's absence, now take advantage. Another 0-fer for young Reid last (o-3) and he's not doing himself any favors.
  • Joe Maddon. Why? Why Joe? Why pull Gross in the 6th in favor of Kapler in a close game? Give me one good flippin' reason? Gross is at least 147 times better in RF (which is crucial in a close game), and he's a better, more patient hitter than Kapler as well. This is a situation where playing the lefty v righty match-up makes no sense whatsoever because Gross is hitting better against lefties than Kapler is. Plus from that at-bat forward Kapler faced right-handed pitchers, so what was the point? Don't over-think yourself in an attempt to be Phil Jackson. Come on Joe, what's your beef with Gross, and on the same note, what's up with your love affair with Kapler?


  • Randy Choate was credited with the save last night, giving him his first career save in 199 games.
  • Starting today we will now hand out a "gameball" called "Caviar" (keeping with the high-end dining experience theme) to the best Devil Rays' player each game- similar to what Rays Index does with their Sunburst Player of The Game (with the obvious exception that I'm not giving away a prize if you guess who I'll pick- my pockets aren't nearly as deep as Prof's).


Evan Longoria. Its only appropriate that the first Caviar award be given to my nickname-sake.

Friday, May 29, 2009

See You In St Louis

With just a few more days left before June, talk of the 2009 All-Popularity Game is all the rage, especially in Rays' circles thanks to some guy named Longoria raking in votes like leaves in autumn (Evan currently has the 2nd most AL all-star votes behind only Derek Jeter).

I couldn't be happier for Evan, but with all the pomp and circumstance that led to Evan becoming a major league player, and considering that he's already considered one of the top 20 players in the entire league, its certainly no surprise to see him garnering so much love and support from the masses- it was to be expected.

However, the person for whom I think the most love is actually deserved currently lies 4th in the voting among players at his position, despite the fact that he has the leagues' highest batting average (.373), a nice fielding percentage (.978), a very impressive OBP (.418), and a handful of stolen bases (14).
This player leads all other all-popularity players from his position in OBP, Steals, RBI, and batting average.

I'm talking, of course, about our very own Jason Bartlett.
Up until he hit the DL, JB was having a career year, and there's no reason to believe that a slight ankle injury should change that. Sadly I'm not sure that Bartlett would have gotten enough votes prior to his injury, but now the typical fans' "out of sight, out of mind" mentality matched with most fans' "homerism" will most likely doom JB to the ranks of "best players not in St Louis" in July (much like Aki last season).
Unless we can mount-up and get serious about making certain that Bartlett gets the trip to St Louis that he deserves. Let's find a way to get Bartlett the attention he deserves, and show America that the All-Star game is for the best players, not just the most popular ones.
Join us in voting early and often for Jason Bartlett (you can vote 25 times per day per e-mail account).
Start voting- the kid deserves it! Vote Here.

CHEESE & WHINE: Good Riddance Cleveland



Remember the good ol' days (2 weeks ago) when everyone was healthy and there were actually legitimate accomplishments to list here... ahhh, the memories.
  • Ben Zobrist. Zorilla is taking Bartlett's spot as a permanent resident up here. Zo was 2 for 4 from the plate with another double and is now batting .304 (but it seems like .600).
  • Willy Aybar. Aybar hit a solo homerun (his 3rd) in the 6th to bring the Devil Rays to within 1, and finished the day 2 for 4.
  • JP Howell. JP worked 2 no-hit innings striking-out 3 and walking zero. Its amazing how effective he is when used in the proper situation.


  • Swept. The Devil Rays were swept in Cleveland in what seemed like a 4-game series that lasted a month. A series in which they had leads of 10 and 5 runs, and still found ways to lose. They've now lost 5 in a row (one full time through the rotation, top to bottom). I'll spare you the redundancy of how many consecutive losses in Cleveland that was and how McClung was the last winner at the mistake by the lake...
  • 0-fers. The Devil Rays were o for 7 with runners in scoring position. Over the last 3 games they were a total of 4 for 32 with runners in scoring position, or .125. More 0-fers: Yesterday, Pena, Dillon, Gross, Kapler, Brignac, and Navarro combined to be 0 for 15 from the plate (and its not like they were facing Santana or Greinke).


  • Anyone who assumed that leading the AL East this season was a right that the Devil Rays earned last season should now have their feet firmly re-planted on the ground. Right now their singular vision should be getting back to .500 immediately- before it gets out of reach.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Sonnanstine continues to show that he'd make a better reliever than starter, so his summer home should be in the bullpen where he apparently belongs.

For several years Joe Maddon, when asked any question in regard to Sonny, generally responds with a canned response about how Sonny warms up very quickly, which obviously points toward Sonny being a viable option for the 'pen.

The bigger and more decisive sign that points Sonny toward the bullpen is that his entire pitching career is based on deception. He doesn't have the capacity to blow heaters by batters, and doesn't have any truly filthy pitches, but he does have a variety of deliveries/arm angles and a huge array of different pitches, which enables him to be very effective the first (and sometimes second) time through the lineup. The Achilles' heel to this technique is that after seeing enough pitches from Sonny batters stop being deceived and start spraying balls all over the park.

Check out this chart if you don't want to take my word for it:



1st time thru LnUp



2nd time thru LnUp



3rd time thru LnUp



This alone should park Sonny in the 'pen as a mid-range to long reliever or even a possible set-up guy before someone who'll just pump fastballs by the batters (ie Balfour).

When do I think he should move in to his new summer home?

As soon as Kaz comes back into the rotation, obviously.

When (hopefully it's not and "if") Kazmir returns from the DL/rehab assignment someone from the rotation has got to go, and although Niemann hasn't been all that great, Sonny's situation would make him the more likely candidate to head to the 'pen.

CHEESE & WHINE: The Curse Continues


  • Ben Zobrist. Just another day at the office for Zo; 2 for 3 with a double, a triple, and 2 walks. Come on Ben, when are you gonna start helping this team?
  • Evan Longoria. Dirtbag hit his 13th homerun of the season ending a 17 day homerun drought. Evan finished the day 2 for 5 with 2 RBI (he did strike -out twice, but we're trying to find some positive here).
  • The Red Sox lost.


  • Andy Sonnanstine. Sonny started strong then struggled (more on that later today or tomorrow); allowing 8 earned runs on 9 hits in only 3 innings, striking-out 3 and walking 2. Sonny's ERA is now an incredible 7.66.
  • The Devil Rays left 11 men on base, striking-out 10 times to a handful of misfit toys that just got off the island.
  • Willy Aybar. I'm still a fan of Aybar, and he had a fine offensive day (2-4), but over the last 2 days he's shown me all that I need to see about his ability to play second base. Aybar is a great fill-in at the corners, but he doesn't look the least bit comfortable at second.


  • Ben Fransisco is ridiculously good against Andy Sonnanstine. Career numbers v. Sonny: batting average: .889 (8-for-9), five homers, and 12 RBI. Holy crap!
  • Evan Longoria is second amongst all American Leaguers in All-Star voting. Vote early, vote often.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Devil Rays are bumming me out, but...

This makes me feel a little bit better. Misery loves company. Let's hope either (1) more AL East teams share the Devil Rays' misery or (2) the Rays stop sucking.

Ed Note: At this point I'm fairly certain it'll have to be (1).


Last month I predicted how 2 weeks worth of games would play-out for each of the AL East's "big three", and quickly termed it Eternal Optimism. It turned out that I had a fairly successful go at it, so in an attempt to once again be eternally optimistic (and hope it helps break the slump) I am going to do a shortened, less-specific version only this time I'll do it for the next 7 games, will include Toronto, and will only predict the overall record of each team at the end of the 7 games (not the specific outcome of each game like last time).
So without any further ado:

Boston Red Sox: 4-3
The Sox get 2 more v. Minn before heading to Toronto to take on a suddenly struggling Jays team for a 3-game set before 2 games v. Detroit to round out the 7 game stretch.

New York Yankees: 3-4

The Yanks will have one more game against Texas before heading to Cleveland for 4 and then wrapping up with 2 more against Texas.

Toronto Blue Jays: 3-4

The Jays get 1 more in Baltimore (starting soon) before 3 v. Boston then 3 versus the Angels to wrap up their 7-day spread.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: 5-2

Tampa gets 2 more cracks at breaking the Cleveland Curse before heading to Minnesota for 3 and Kansas City for 2 to round out the 7 game span.


We're this to transpire the Standings would look like this:















I'd take this as another step in the right direction all things considered. Time will tell.

Second Base

Our friends over at Rays Index have posted a similar poll, and many other sites and blogs are posing the same question as well, so lets hop on the train and see what all 5 of our readers have to say about it:

Let me know what you think in the comments section.

CHEESE & WHINE: So Much For The Stopper


  • Carlos Pena. El Gato launched his AL-leading 16th homer, and recorded his 40th RBI. The HR was Pena's only hit, but when things aren't going well you take what you can get.
  • Carl Crawford. CC stole his 30th base of the season, and hasn't been caught stealing since late last season. Here's the silver-lining of Melvin Upton struggling: if Melvin were actually getting on base like a lead-off hitter should then CC wouldn't have as many open bags to steal.
  • No one got hurt.


  • RISP. The team total with runners in scoring position: 0 for 10. You're not gonna win too many games with numbers like that.


  • Every run (for both teams) last night came by way of the home run.
  • Tampa has now lost 15 straight games in Cleveland.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Defining Moments

Every season every team has their own defining moment. Sadly, I believe that last night's complete and utter collapse may be that defining moment for our beloved Devil Rays. Coming back from a walk-off loss or losing a game in which you led in the 9th is hard enough, but to be given a 10 run head-start and then to subsequently squander such a seemingly insurmountable lead may be close to impossible to recover from.

Last night's loss is the type of loss that sits quietly in every players' subconscious just waiting for its chance to whisper quietly in their ear the next time they find themselves in a clutch situation. Lurking, undetected, biding its time until it can reach back and cause them one second of pause, one instant of self-doubt, one slight hesitation that could cost them another game, and then another...

Last night's loss can be a cancer in every players' mind for the rest of the season. It can be the defining moment that sinks the Tampa Bay ship. A moment that could single-handedly end the possibility that these Devil Rays are going to be able to keep up in the AL East.

Last night's loss coupled with a sudden rash of injuries could leave the Devil Rays with a victim mentality from which they may not recover. They may feel sorry for themselves and mentally pack it in, they may blame circumstances or perhaps each other, they may blame the umps or Joe Maddon, or some sort of hoaxy Lake Erie Curse; adversely, they may feel like fools and spend the rest of the season trying to prove that they're better than that, they may finally realize that no one is going to hand them 90 wins just for showing up at the park, they may band together and decide that its time to start taking this season seriously,they may rise up on the wings of eagles...

Or they just might not care.



  • No freakin' way.


  • Anytime the Cleveland Indians (or anyone for that matter) spot you 10 runs you should win the $%&%^& game!!! Apparently I care too much, because I spent 7 hours of restless sleep commiserating over the failure that is my Devil Rays, and woke up just as pissed as I went to bed.
  • Every single pitcher in the bullpen that touched the ball last night.


  • This is the least informative post ever written on this normally reputable and informative site, and I apologize.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cheese & Whine: Rays @ Marlins, Part 3


This one was frustrating. I mean, there's nothing wrong with having a hard time against Josh Johnson. The guy's good. But the Devil Rays managed to knock him out in the 7th, down only one run, and still couldn't win. They should have been able to do it several times over. The Devil Rays, 1-11 with RISP, had opportunities, and did not capitalize. I shouldn't be this mad about losing the rubber match of a series the Devil Rays won handily, but this game was maddening. So many chances to win it, without actually winning it, you kind of got the sense watching it that the Devil Rays were just sort of counting down time until the inevitable happened. In the 11th, it did, and that's that.

This, in a game in which the Rays lost Akinori Iwamura, who'd had a very good game, to a knee injury (a hard slide into 2nd by Coghlin caught Aki's planted left leg--a clean play; if anybody deserves blame, it's Dan Wheeler for putting the throw on the first-base side of the bag). We await an MRI, but it didn't look good.

Another series against the Indians, a very beatable team, coming up. Is it too much to hope for a sweep? Probably, but I still expect the Rays to win it.

A longer post when I'm less irritated.

- Dustin


I was prepared earlier this morning to put something more together, but now I'm mad all over again. So, I'm just gonna leave this thing as it is, in deference to lessons I learned as a child.

Cheese & Whine: Rays @ Marlins, Part 2



Jeff Niemann: Five K's, one walk, and four hits over six innings is pretty much everything you hope for from your fifth starter. Plus, according to Madd0n, Niemann was going to be allowed to start the bottom of the seventh--after all, he'd only thrown 90 pitches--but after the seven-batter, 1-run top of the inning, Maddon pulled the plug and brought in J.P. Howell to protect the lead, which, it should be noted, he failed to do.

Grant Balfour: The Mad Australian looked his old self again, coming on with two baserunners and getting a strikeout to end a 2-run Marlins 7th. For this, Balfour got the win, and he gets his cheese from this site.

Ben Zobrist: 3-5 at the plate, including a double, with a run and a ribbie. The recently-oded (brilliant, that!) Zorilla continues to put the super in super-utility.

Jason Bartlett: JB batted in his 27th, 28th, and 29th runs, scored one, stole his 13th base, and went 2-5 with his 11th double. He did leave five men on base, but overall, yet another strong night for the Rays shortstop. This guy is, apparently, all out of bubblegum (note: linked video contains one marginally bad word, but it makes the point so beautifully, and comes from such an excellent movie, that I just had to include it here).

Melvin Upton: Though he's still in the doghouse, Upton made a couple of excellent plays in the field, and also went 2-4 with a run, an RBI, and a walk. And he did not strike out all game. That's more like it.

Plate Discipline: It's not often that the Devil Rays walk more than they strike out, but tonight they went 9:8. Well done. Now if they could just make sure to turn more of those free passes into runs...


Evan Longoria: For starters, let me say that this whine has nothing to do with the Dirtbag's play tonight. Watching him leave the game after being hit by a pitch on the elbow is terrifying. Supposedly, he's fine--just "one of those good ol' contusions," according to this article. We certainly hope so, but we'll also be holding our breath to see what happens to the current front-runner for this year's AL MVP. For the record, Longoria was replace by pinch-running Reid Briegnac, who came around to score in the 6-run 9th.

Clutch Hitting: It's hard to complain about this after a game the Devil Rays won by seven runs, but 6-20 with RISP is not good. The final score suggests that the Rays won easily. They didn't. If not for the explosion in the 9th, it's a one-run squeaker (and the Rays are 5-7 in one-run games, so there's every reason to think they might've lost). It didn't have to be that close coming into the 9th. While I appreciate the continued effort, and I'm thrilled the Rays won by a large margin for the second night in a row, this (1) ought to have been Niemann's win, and (2) ought to have been a blowout earlier. Against teams like the Red Sox and Yankees, or even the Blue Jays, Twins, Angels, and (maybe) Tigers, the Rays will not get so many chances. If they're going to contend over the long haul, they need to do better.

Gabe Kapler: Can somebody please explain to me why this guy starts games? He's not better at the plate, on the basepads, or in the field than Zobrist or Gross, so what's he doing out there?


Watching Upton play this year has, heretofore, made me think of this. Though he shows signs of coming around, he remains on notice at this site. His 2-4 showing tonight, including a double, an RBI, and an all-too-rare walk, is good, and he's almost got his average up to the Mendoza line (as of the end of tonight's game, he's at .196, though his slugging and OBP are both under .300). But there's no reason why we ought to be excited about that in late May. To get his numbers anywhere near where they should be by the end of the year, Upton will need to get very hot sometime in the very near future. Until then, the RocketScientist and I have at least one (actually, we have several) headline hopes in common: "Jason Bartlett Leads Game Off with Homerun."

Just in case the Red Sox have caused anybody to forget to hate the Yankees over the past couple years, here's a little reminder as to why they shouldn't be overlooked.

There are a number of different reasons to dislike inter-league play. A few minor disappointments are listed here, but many are more important. For example, the match-ups are arbitrary and uneven, the so-called natural rivalries are often laughable (sure, there's something to Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox, or maybe Royals-Cardinals, but Rays-Marlins, or Rangers-Astros? Give me a break), and it devalues meetings such as the All Star Game and, of course, the World Series. I agree with others that the whole idea ought to be either (1) scrapped, or (2) made the rule rather than the exception. That is, MLB should either get rid of the entire notion that the AL and NL are discrete leagues until the final series of the post-season, or they should go back to the old days, where AL and NL met twice a year, once in the Mid-Summer Classic, and once, more importantly, in the Fall Classic. Even though the Rays have a favorable interleague schedule this year (Florida and Colorado? Yes please!), and other teams have less favorable ones (witness, for example, the Mets taking, so far, 2 of 3 from the Sox), the system as it exists is--not to put too fine a point on it--crap.

Be sure to check out Report Card Time, in which our DirtbagFan drops some knowledge and passes some judgment on our Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Overall, I have to agree with his grade for the team thus far. The Devil Rays have earned that C, and they justly deserve the return of the once-exorcised Devil, who will, until further notice, accompany the Rays on this blog and others.

This site has wondered aloud about what ought to be done with Kazmir. His struggles, which have been on-going, more or less, since last year's All Star break, have been both profound and frustrating. Yet we, and the Devil Rays, ought to be careful. Kaz is still a big league talent. The trick has got to be figuring out what in the world is going on. One wonders whether he's been trying to do too much. There was talk about his need to develop his secondary pitches, and it's possible that, in the attempt to do so, he's lost track of his primary pitches. I'm no pitching coach (in fact, the profundity of my own lack of coordination gives me pause in issuing such conjectures), but I wonder...I've been reading the book Boys of Summer, an excellent piece of prose about, among other things, the Brooklyn Dodgers teams of the early-mid 1950s, right when they became great and right before they heartbreakingly moved to L.A. (thanks Robert Moses; thanks Walter O'Malley). In it, the author talks about several promising young Dodger pitching prospects who were not allowed to move to the big leagues until they'd developed good curve balls. In the process, several pitchers fell apart completely, and the careers they might have had were ended prematurely. As he has it, the strain of learning a new pitch screwed up their mechanics for their other pitches on the one hand while undermining their confidence on the other. Could this be the problem with Kazmir? If so, could it be fixed by letting him go back to basics? He's got some time, now, to spend figuring it out while on the DL. Let's hope this works and he can get back to form.

With the win tonight, the Devil Rays are one game over .500, 3.5 games out of first, and 3 behind New York and Boston. In spite of the lousy start to the season, they are very much still in the race. If I had to give one reason why they might not be leading the division by this time next month, it'd that they lose the games they ought to win against the likes of the Indians and Rockies. Do you remember several years ago when they seemed to beat the Beasts of the East while playing down to lesser competition? Me too. We've seen some of that this year. Let's hope we don't see any more. As Evan Longoria pointed out tonight in a post-game interview, they Rays need to take advantage of every opportunity to gain ground when they play outside of the AL East. They've done so the past couple nights, and they did so against Cleveland, yet they drop games agaisnt the A's? That, ladies and gentlemen, is ridiculous. Let's hope they sweep this series.


- Dustin

Saturday, May 23, 2009



Okay, so the player formerly known as BJ has been making a little more solid contact, and he's hit a couple of homers over the last 10 days or so. So what. Lead-off guys are supposed to be a weapon- consistently on-base, patient at the plate, aggressive on the base-paths. Well, Melvin has fit one of those 3 traits so far this season, but even when he's aggressive on the base-paths he still seems prone to miscues and mistakes. I love Upton as much as the next guy, and I realize that he will be a great player, and that he's a huge asset to the Devil Rays, that being said- there is no way he should be leading-off. I wouldn't let him lead-off for my son's little league team right now. I'm thrilled that he's showing signs, but I'm ready for results.

Lets just clear the air- first and foremost, Gabe Gross is the best rightfielder on the roster, bar none. Now that we've settled that let's figure out exactly why he's not playing more. Can you seriously tell me that you'd rather have Gabe Kapler in the game (even against left-handers)? Gross' average v lefties: .600 (3 for 5). Kapler's average v. lefties: .250 (10 fro 40). This should be a no brainer. Gross should be the "everyday" guy with Zobrist starting v. select lefties and pinch-hitting for Gross in the clutch. Kapler should be sent packing.

As we speak (I know that we're not actually speaking- its just a figure of speech, really) the Devil Rays are 4.5 games behind division leading Toronto, 4 back of Boston, and 3 back of New York. In the span of the next month the Devil Rays play several very winnable series (Cleveland, KC, Washington, and Colorado), they also have several tough series (Minnesota, LAA, and New York). This particular series against New York could determine who's headed for a pennant run and who's headed back to the drawing board. The road won't be easy, but keep in mind that Tampa has played very inconsistent baseball all season and are still only a stone's-throw away from the division lead. If they can catch their stride there just isn't any one particular team playing well enough to stop them from re-taking their rightful place atop the AL East.

CHEESE & WHINE: Sonny Start to The Citrus Series


  • Andy Sonnanstine. After being handed a huge lead Sonny could've shut it down and pitched safely, but he stuck to his game and pitched very well; lasting 6 innings allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, striking-out 2 and walking 0. That's about as good as it gets for a pitcher like Sonny. Oh, and lets not forget that he also contributed offensively too; going 1 for 4 with a single and a walk, and scoring twice.
  • Gabe Gross. I'm always talking about how Gross doesn't get any love from anyone but me, well the love-fest continues; Gross went 3 for 5 from the plate with a HR, 4 RBI, and a walk. Lets also remember that he's, by far, the best right fielder on the roster as well. Go ahead and remind me why Kapler is still a Devil Ray.
  • Dale Thayer. Thayer, a minor league mainstay, finally made his major league debut last night and made a good showing of himself. Dale (while sporting a great "porn-stache") pitched 3 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits. He did look fairly hittable, but not too bad for a debut.
  • Dioner Navarro. Navi is showing signs of life; going 4 for 6 with a homer and 3 RBI. In honor of this performance and his more attentive style behind the plate I have decided to take Navi off-notice.


  • Nah, I'm good.


  • Reid Brignac finally recorded his first major league hit after going 0-10 last season. Big Ups.
  • Boston, NY, and Toronto all lost last night. Talk about a possible fulcrum point for a turn around.
  • Keep a close eye on who starts tonight in Durham. If Price goes tonight, as scheduled, then Davis will be the guy called up on Sunday to pitch Monday in Cleveland. If Price doesn't pitch tonight then he's the guy.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Headlines I Would Like To See When I Get Back From Vacation

I will be traveling out of the country for the next 8 days. When I get back home and look to catch up on Rays’ news, here are some headlines I would like to see in no particular order:

  • Andy Sonnanstine Hits Go-Ahead Homerun to Squish the Fish
  • Crawford Steals 7 Bases in Game
  • Marlins’ Attendance Reaches Triple Digits for the Season
  • Marlins Attacked by Landshark Stadium
  • Dale Thayer Gets 1st MLB Save with 1-2-3 9th
  • Reid Brignac Gets Huge Pinch Hit Single in 2009 Debut
  • Delmon Young Throws Helmet at Umpire, Misses, Still Suspended 50 Games
  • Pat Burrell Goes Yard Twice in Return from DL
  • Scott Kazmir Admits he Can’t Find “The Issue,” Accepts Minor League Assignment
  • Joe Maddon is on 13 Game Streak of Filling out Lineup Card Correctly
  • BJ Upton is on 3 Game Hitting Streak
  • Stu Sternberg Does not have Swine Flu, Instead has a Fever, And Only Prescription is More Cowbell
  • Evan Longoria Drives in 5 as Rays Dominate
  • Indians’ Carl Pavano Still Laughing about Stealing Steinbrenner’s Money
  • Ohio Demands to Become a Canadian Province
  • Jeff Niemman Continues to Improve, Strikes Out 7 in Win
  • Gabe Kapler Names Himself Manager of Charlotte Stone Crabs, Names Self Starting RF
  • Jason Bartlett Hits for the Cycle
  • Jason Bartlett Leads Game Off with Homerun
  • Indians' Ed Harris and Pedro Cerrano Settle Argument: Harris Throws Curve Ball to Jesus Christ. The Messiah Swings and Misses.
  • Dan Wheeler Blows Lead…Again. Offense Bails Him Out in 9th…Again.
  • Gabe Gross Disgusted at his Sick Game
  • Kazmir Hits Victor Martinez in the Face, Gets Suspended 15 Games
    (Author’s note: this wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, and I should add this to the Kazmir options in yesterday’s post)
  • Jorge Cantu Remembers who he is, Gets Golden Sombrero in Rays Victory
  • Joe Mauer to Take Weekend Off Due to Pink-Eye, Navarro Questioned in Farting on his Pillow
  • Dionner Navarro Goes on Hunger Strike
  • Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist Challenge Pat Burrell to Homerun Derby
  • Yankees go on Losing Streak after A-Rod’s 50 Game Suspension
  • Willy Aybar hits Homerun at Meaningful Time
  • Troy Percival Retires, Wants to Play Handball with Jake Plummer. Bullpen Holds Lead for Win
  • Indians’ Willy Mays Hayes Hits Ball in the Air, Does 25 Pushups in Batters Box
  • David Price Named AL Rookie of the Week
  • Andy Sonnanstine Lowers ERA to 6.85
  • Lebron James Shows up to Indians-Rays Game Wearing Rays’ Hat, Rumors Fly
  • Matt Garza Listens to “I Love it When you Call me Big Papa” on his IPod While Pitching, Flirts with No-Hitter, Shuts Out Indians
  • Zorilla Strikes Again!
  • Carlos Pena First Major Leaguer to 20 Homeruns
  • Joe Magrane Quits MLB Network, Comes Back to Rays’ Booth
  • Lakers Lose in 5 (ok this doesn’t have anything to do with the Rays, but I’m just really sick and tired of Lakers fans)
  • Akinori Iwamura Turns Unassisted Triple Play
  • Grant Balfour’s Fastball Hits 97 as he Strikes-Out 5
  • Rays on a Roll, Looking Like ’08 Team Again.

If a few of these actually happen, I will be quite happy. If I had to pick one to see, it would be the last one. Who knows if these will come true. Predicting the future isn't rocket scienice.

Ode To Zobrist

The crowd they are gathered,
The team is all warm.

Outside of the Trop
there arises a storm.

As the rain beats,
leading the way to thunder.

The Rays take the field,
attempting the A's to put under.

The man on the mound
works quick and throws hard.

Leading his his team
like Captain Picard

The innings they come,
and the innings they go.

The Rays leading by 1,
and facing a worthy foe.

Into the 8th
that tricky old inning.

Oakland scores 1,
we're back to the beginning.

Tied headed for the 9th,
and here comes the closer.

But Percy, oh Percy
is such a push-over.

He blows like the wind,
outside of the Trop.

Giving Oakland the lead
now they're 2 runs on top.

Bottom of the 9th
most all hope is lost.

But the gang keeps fighting,
no matter the cost.

Aybar gets on,
but Aki gets out.

Only 2 outs left,
a loss, no doubt.

But what is this ,
from the dugout I see?

A tall slender player
who's name starts with Z!

So many times ,
he's come through in the clutch.
He can't possibly do it again,
enough is enough.

But now with the count
at 1 and 1 sitting

Zobrist has visions
of nothing but winning.

The pitcher delivers the ball,
hoping Zobrist to beat

But Ben is ready...
and sends it into the seats!

Hooray, hoorah,
he's done it again!

This utility player,
whom most just call Ben.

You can call him Clutch,
call him the Thrilla'
But me and my friends,
we call him ZORILLA.

CHEESE & WHINE: It's A Zo-merun


  • Ben Zobrist. Has there ever been a better clutch pinch hitter? When he steps up to the plate in the clutch it's almost a foregone conclusion that the Devil Rays are going to win. In case you live on Mars; the Devil Rays watched a 2 run lead slip away in the 8th, then continued to watch Oakland take a 2-run lead in the top of the 9th. The momentum had swung and this game was all but over. Enter Benjamin Thomas Zobrist to pinch hit in the bottom of the 9th and, right on cue, he smashes a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall for a 2-run zo-merun to tie the game at 5. Amazing.
  • Matt Garza. Garza pitched 6 and 2/3 innings allowing 2 runs on 7 hits while striking-out 8 and walking 4. What a night and day difference between watching Kaz and Garza. Garza wasn't as sharp as usual and still dominated the Oakland hitters (much lik Kaz did in the not-so-distant past). Garza is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best pitcher on this staff.
  • Melvin Upton. I've been riding this kid all year long, so I'll give him a little love; the player formerly known as Bossman Jr was 2 for 4 with an RBI and a walk. Gotta start somewhere.
  • The Trop. Although they lost power during this first inning, the Trop gets a shout-out because it's been nothing but rain here all week long. If it weren't for the dome then at least 5 of the last 8 games would've been either delayed or postponed due to rain/lightning. What do you have to say to that all of you open-air stadium supporters?


  • Troy Percival. Fatty McFluffnuts did his best Devil Ray impression, pitching all of 1/3 of an inning, managing to walk 2, allow a hit, strike-out 0, and sending 2 earned runs (the go-ahead runs) across the plate. What a "closer"!
  • Evan Longoria. Dirtbag is in a serious funk, going 1 for 4 while striking out once. Over the last 10 games Evan is 9 for 41, or an alarming .220, with zero homeruns and 24 strike-outs.
  • Carlos Pena. El Gato is also slumping a bit, having another 0-fer night, going 0 for 3 while taking 1 walk. Feast or famine continues in regard to Carlos.


  • Despite it all the Devil Rays managed to finish this homestand at 5-3, which is not as good as they'd have hoped, but will suffice considering how poorly they played. They must find a way to avoid playing down tho their competition.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Kazmir Conundrum

Rewind to July 30, 2004. The Devil Rays traded for a stud young pitcher, Scott Kazmir, in the worst trade in MLB history.

Fast forward to opening day 2006. Scott Kazmir became the youngest opening day starter since Dwight Gooden. Kazmir was an allstar.

Fast forward to 2007. In this season, Scott Kazmir would lead the American League in strikeouts.

Fast forward to early 2008. Kazmir strained his elbow during spring training and missed the first month of the season. In his first 7 starts, he tore it up. His ERA after these 7 starts was 1.40 and he had 44 strikeouts. In this time, the Rays signed Kazmir to a contract extension with $28.5million guaranteed and a potential for $39.5million. These games got Kazmir another bid to the all-star game.

Fast forward to June 17, 2008. The plane has started its nose dive. Kazmir gave up 3 hits and 1 run, striking out 7. Those numbers seem quality. However, these took place in 4.2 innings in which Kazmir threw 110 pitches and walked 4. This is the day that Scott Kazmir lost his command. This is the day Scott Kazmir lost his confidence. Since June 17, 2008, Kazmir has only lasted longer than 6 innings three times, and has made it a full 7 innings just once.

Fast forward to the present. The plane has crashed into a mountain. Kazmir now has an ERA of 7.69. He is only striking out 6.97 batters in every 9 innings. His fastball has dropped from topping off at 95 to about 92. His normal fastball is hitting the catcher under 90, and way too often is out of the strike zone. Kazmir has given up at least 6 earned runs in 5 out of his 9 starts. For a number 5 pitcher, this is unacceptable. Kazmir is the Rays’ number 2.

The Rays have left themselves with a conundrum.

What should the Rays do with Scott Kazmir? Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon are in a very tough position due to the contract extension signed last season. Can a small market team afford to pay a player $9million to come out of the bullpen or pitch in AAA? Then again, can this team afford to march a pitcher with a double digit ERA this month to the mound every 5 days? Can the team even afford to keep an ineffective pitcher at this point?

In my mind, here are the Rays’ alternatives for Kazmir and their potential results:

a) Do nothing, keep sending Kazmir to the mound every 5 days, and pray that he finds his game. They could hire a sports psychologist, hope that he has one good start and finds his confidence, or that he just finds the strike zone. This is a high risk/high reward play. If Kazmir finds his game here, the Rays will be very happy. If he keeps pitching the way he has been, there will be a lot of losses coming.

b) Put Kazmir in the bullpen. Since Kazmir cannot seem to last more than just a few innings, maybe putting Kazmir in the pen will allow him to throw harder for a shorter period of time. He could be a decent weapon out of the pen, but lately he has struggled to get starting, and
he is making way too much money for the Rays to make him a mid-reliever.

c) Trade Kazmir. I am being 100% honest when I say that over the offseason, I said the Rays might be smart to trade Kazmir. I could see more problems coming, and it seemed as though
his value would never be higher. The Rays have him under their control for potentially 3 more seasons, but at this high of a salary, he is not giving the Rays a good bang for their buck. Now, his value won’t be as high as it was in the past. However, teams should still be somewhat interested in a lefty with solid potential.

d) Send Kazmir to the minors. This is another high risk/high reward option. Other stud pitchers have been sent to the minors in recent years, including Dontrelle Willis, Barry Zito, and Brett Myers. All 3 of these pitchers found their confidence and were able to continue a career in the majors. Kazmir does have 2 options remaining, but would have to approve being sent down. If he does go to the minors, being able to dominate again would really do wonders for his confidence. If this is chosen by the Rays' management, I really hope that Kazmir realizes why and accepts the assignment.

e) Put Kazmir on the “Designated-rest List,” also known as the DL for healthy players. This seems like a viable option. This would give Kazmir a week or 2 of rest, allow the Rays to test a minor league pitcher such as David Price or Wade Davis in the big league rotation, and give Kazmir a few minor league “rehab” starts. If Kazmir is having arm problems, rest may be exactly what he needs.

Which option is best? I honestly like option d. Right now, Kazmir is too ineffective to continue starting every day, and he is too much of an asset to put in the bullpen or trade. Although there may be an arm problem, to me it seems as if there is a much bigger mental issue. If Kazmir would accept a trip to AAA for however long it takes to find his game, it may be most beneficial for not just his career, but also for the team. The Rays’ front office always talks about planning for later in the season and future seasons. The reason David Price isn’t currently pitching for the big league club is because they would “rather win in September than in April.” Can’t they use the same excuse for sending Kazmir down? When Kazmir gets to AAA and starts finding the strike zone again, he will once again believe in himself. That confidence will carry over to the big leagues again, and Kazmir will once again live up to his potential. Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman really have a conundrum on their hands. What should they do with Scott Kazmir? What would YOU do with Scott Kazmir? I know how I would, but then again, handling a pitcher really isn’t rocket science.

Let's Put The Devil Back...

A week ago our friends over at Rays Index decided that if the 2009 Rays wanted to play like Devil Rays teams of old then they would treat them that way:

From now, until the Tampa Bay Rays have a winning record, we will only refer to the team as the “Devil Rays.” The team wants to be “The Rays” and be the beacon of sunlight shining through The Trop’s roof? Then they better damn well stop playing like the bottom-dwelling fish.And we will pay the fines. For every instance in which we use the team’s old moniker, we will donate $1 to the Tampa Bay Rays Foundation, until the team has a winning record, or the end of the season, whichever comes first...

Well, we've decide to jump on board with them.

Until this team can prove that they deserve their new and improved name they shall be referred to as the Devil Rays, and we too will pay the fines (we'll also keep a running tab in the sidebar to show how much we owe).

Let this serve as a call-to-arms to all Rays bloggers, join the rebellion- strip them of their name just like they continue to strip us of our sanity on a daily basis.
There comes a time when change is necessary, and that time is now!

I've also decided that if Joe Maddon wants to be stubborn about Upton leading-off then I'm going to be stubborn too. Mr Maddon will stay "on notice" until he either bumps Upton out of the lead-off spot or until Upton moves his average to .250.

Just to get the ball rolling (so to speak), freakin' get your crap together Devil Rays (that's 1).

CHEESE & WHINE: Kaz Strikes Again

Tampa Bay: 6
Oakland: 7

  • Carlos Pena. After a week and a half drought El Gato finally got back on the Long Ball Express, hitting his 14th homer of the season. Carlos also hit a double and finished the night 2 for 3 with 2 RBI and a walk.
  • Akinori Iwamura. Aki was 2 for 4 with his first triple of the season, and has now moved his batting average to above .300 (.303).
  • JP Howell. Howell worked another inning without allowing a hit while recording 1 strike-out. JP has looked amazing as of late and seems to be thriving in his recent "faux-closer" role.


  • Scott Kazmir. I've pushed the panic button on this one. Enough is enough. With 3/5 of the Rays rotation struggling this team is going nowhere. There is a fundamental difference between, say, Niemann's struggles and Kaz' struggles though; Niemann is a rookie and has shown signs of improvement whereas Kaz has done just one thing consistently, stink. Kaz was once the ace of the staff and now looks like a 5 guy at best. Something's got to give. Soon. Last night was another "gem" for Kaz, giving up 7 runs on 8 hits in 4 and 1/3 innings, walking 4 and striking out 3. When you start as poorly as Kaz did you never give your team a chance. The offense did all they could to help, but this loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Kaz and all of his "mechanical issues". Hey kid, quit worrying about where your toe lands and pitch the dang ball!
  • Melvin Freaking Upton. I don't know who I'm more pissed-off at, Upton or Maddon. Maddon is just being stubborn at this point by leaving Upton in the lead-off spot, and Upton is sucking beyond imagination. At first I loved Maddon's stick-to-itiveness, but this is just becoming foolish. If Bartlett can work his way up the line-up then why is Upton immune from sliding his way down it. Upton was 0 for 5 again, bringing his BA to .177- I wonder why the Rays can't consistently score runs...hmmm.


  • It looks as if Maddon is on the cusp of signing a 3-year contract extension that would have him set-up as the skipper until after the 2012 season. I wonder- if Upton is still hitting .177 in 2012 will Joe will still ave him leading-off?
  • Be sure to check-out my 1st quarter report card for the Rays.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: The One They Should've Won

A's: 4

  • James Shields. Shieldsy must not have like his report card grade, because he came out and did exactly what an ace should do; he shut down the other team and outlasted his counterpart. Big Game James had a stellar performance; retiring 17 in a row at one point, but didn't get any help from his friends who couldn't find a way to score him a single run. Shields pitched 8 1/3 innings, allowing 0 runs on 4 hits, walking 2, and striking-out 5. What else could you ask for?
  • JP Howell. JP came into the game in relief of Shields and inherited 2 runners, but allowed neither to score. Howell recorded 2 innings of work, allowing zero hits and striking-out 1.
  • Aki/Maddon. Maddon takes a lot of crap for some of his hair-brained schemes and outlandish shifts, but last night he had Aki in all the right places at all the right times. It seemed as if Aki was a ball-magnet last night as every grounder found its way into his glove. (Speaking of his glove (and I may be wrong here), but I'm fairly certain Aki started the season with a new glove, but has recently switched back to his old gator-skin glove (black/blue/orangish-ish.) Aki also went 2 for 4 from the plate on the night.


  • Sucking. The Rays were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Wow- way to help out a pitcher who's working his butt off for you.
  • The Beef. Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena were a combined 0-9 from the plate with a total of 4 K's.
  • This team had at least 17 billion chances to score and win this game but blew them all, some of which were detailed in The Hangover at Rays Index.


  • I hate to be an if's and but's person, but if the ump's strike-zone hadn't suddenly turned into a postage stamp while Wheeler was pitching (there were 3 pitches that would've ended the inning had they been called correctly) then Oakland never puts up 4 and Aybar's homer was a walk-off. Sad that such a great "pitchers' game" got spoiled by an ump taking 1 at-bat off.
  • Oakland's starter, Outman, has the perfect name for a pitcher, whereas Tampa's, Balfour, not so much.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Report Card Time!

With 40 games under their belts its time for the team's first quarter report card.

Just like the old days the grading will be a simple A+ through F scale. There will be a grade for each player with as short an explanation as possible (I'm sure you've got better things to do than listen to me drone on), as well as a grade for the coaching staff and for the team as a whole.
(all stats are as of 5/19)



Shields (3-4) is supposed to be the ace, but has struggled to find the strike zone at times, which is uncharacteristic, and has been very hittable at times as well (56 hits in 52 innings). We need to see more out of the top of the rotation soon. Very soon.

Kaz has managed a 4-3 record, but I'm not sure how. Kid K's mechanics have been off and he's averaging just over 5 innings per start (surprise). Kaz has walked 25 while only managing 32 K's. At what point do we become truly concerned?

Garza (4-3) has been the best of a bad bunch so far this season. He has the best ERA of the starters (3.50), the most innings per start, and the most K's (45)

Sonny has the highest ERA of the staff (7.36). Andy is one of those coin flip guys; either he's on or he's off, but the one thing that has always been historically true is that he doesn't issue walks... until now. Sonny has already walked 14 batters this season (or 1 BB every 3 innings) after only walking 37 all of last season (1 BB every 5 and 1/3 innings).

As the number 5 guy you can't expect much (especially from a rookie), but until last night Niemann was bad. Very Bad. Jeff has shown that he's got some filthy stuff if he can find it, and hopefully last night was the confidence boost he needed. Niemann does have the 3rd best ERA of the starters at 4.97 but has a 1:1 strike-out to walk ratio.

For the Rays to be successful these guys have got to become way more consistent. They cannot continue to be a wild card if this team expects to compete down the stretch. If the starters can't start eating more innings the residual effects on the bullpen will be enough to sink the ship as they head toward September.


Cormier has been an inning-eater thus far, having pitched 11 and 1/3 innings more than the next closest reliever (Balfour). Lance also has the best ERA of all the pitchers, starter or otherwise (2.17). Cormier has flown under most pundits radars, but today he gets his just desserts [sic], receiving the only "A" on the pitching staff.

Howell has been up and down thus far, but has had more ups than downs and has posted the second best ERA on the staff (2.60), and has, for the most part, been hammering the strike zone striking-out 20 (the most among the relievers) in just 17 and 1/3 innings of work.

Nelson and Balfour have fairly similar numbers so far this season, and both are middle of the road. Nelson is 2 for 2 in the save department, but has walked 12 in only 16 and 2/3 innings of work. That number has to come way down.

Shouse is supposedly the lefty-specialist, but hasn't been overly special, and will probably be the first one pushed out of the bullpen if the need arises (and it will).

As I said, Balfour and Nelson have similar numbers at this point, but Balfour is going to have to get better for the Rays to compete consistently (and he has as of late). Balfour has gotten a lot of work so far this season and is walking way too many batters (12 walks to 17 K's).

Wheels has been the biggest disappointment out of the 'pen so far and has the highest ERA of all the relievers on the staff (5.79). Wheeler has allowed 9 earned runs in 14 innings pitched. Not quite what I'd call "set-up guy" numbers.

Troy, Troy, Troy. What a conundrum. Percy has, at times, looked as bad as I've ever seen a "closer" look, and has rarely looked good, but somehow, someway he's managed to pull-off 6 saves in 6 opportunities and I've got to give credit where credit is due. His job is to record saves and that's what he's done, even if it comes at the expense of my blood-pressure.

The bullpen has really been the Rays' saving grace over the past week or so, and have represented themselves fairly well, but they can't be expected to keep it up for long. With the addition of Isringhousen yesterday we'll see how the 'pen can maintain themselves. If these guys start getting a little help from the starters they should be fine. I believe that the race for the AL East will come down to bullpens, so these fellas are going to have to keep it together.



Navi has been a shell of his 2008 self so far in 2009. He has at times looked nothing short of lazy behind the plate, and can seemingly only contribute offensively by sac. bunting (BA .179). The Rays need Navi to step up his game- the sooner the better.

El Gato started the season red-hot from the plate, sending balls over walls at a ridiculous rate (13 HRs, leads the AL), but has slowed considerably over the past 10 days. Pena has had an all-or-nothing approach at the plate so far this year and is striking out way too much (50 K's). Carlos' defense has shown that his Gold-Glove was well deserved, and that his first shouldn't be his last.

Aki has been a little less consistent on D than he was last season, but is still doing a fine job at 2nd, and has picked up his game offensively hitting .291 from the bottom of the line-up.

Longoria has cooled-off as of late, but still leads the league in doubles (16) and RBI (46) and is tied for 3rd in the AL with 11 HRs. Just because expectations are so high, I've been surprised at a few fielding gaffes thus far, but let's not split hairs.

Bartlett has been ridiculously good so far, hitting .384 which is good enough for 3rd in the league. He also has an OBP of .423 and 11 stolen bases. On top of that JB has already matched his career high HR total of 5 in a season.

CC has been excellent in the field (3 assists which already matches his '08 total), formidable at the plate (BA .327) and unstoppable on the base paths (24 steals, which is 7 more than the next closest player in the league (Figgins)).

This bad apple has been spoiling the bunch all season. The player formerly known as Bossman has shown sparks at the plate lately, but is still miles away from where he ought to be. Upton is hitting a ridiculously low .183. His performance in the field has been above average, but not nearly good enough to counter his troubles at the plate. A lesser player may get the benefit of the doubt due to his defense, but we know what Melvin is capable of, so expectations are high.

Gross should get more love from fans and Maddon. He is by far the best defensive rigthfielder on the roster and isn't half bad at the plate. Gross is hitting .254 and is great at grinding-out at-bats. As far as I'm concerned he should never be sat in favor of the other Gabe.

Pat has disappointed so far, to say the least. I, for one, was very excited about the Burrell signing despite hearing about his 'streaky" nature, but this is ridiculous. They didn't bring Pat on-board to hit for average they brought him in to hit home runs, plain and simple, and so far he's failed miserably, plain and simple (1 HR). To be "streaky" is one thing, but streaks (or down cycles) don't last 40 games (or at least they shouldn't). Hopefully a week or so off (15 day DL) is what Pat the Patient needed to get his swing back in-line. We'll see.

A few players are bringing the average down for the whole squad, but overall the starters aren't doing too bad. They'll need to be better to play in the fall. Pat Burrell and Melvin Upton are the keys here, if they can do what's asked of them, and everyone else plays the way they have so far (with the exception of Navi), the Rays can win every time they take the field, regardless of who's pitching or for how long.


Zobrist has been amazing. Better than his numbers show, and better than advertised. All this guy does is make clutch plays. He can legitimately play 5 positions (some say 7), and he can hit from both sides of the plate. Zobrist is hitting .279 and has 7 HR's in 86 AB's.

Aybar is another versatile bench player who can play several positions and can hit from both sides of the plate. Aybar is hitting .263 for the season, and is a consistent contributor. Having Burrell on the DL should give Willy a chance to shine (like he did last season in place of Pena/Longoria).

Nope. Waste of a roster spot at this point. Matt Joyce is ready for the call-up and Gross is better in the field and more consistent at the plate. Kapler has been consistently out of position in RF, and has been anemic at the plate (.212).

Since Navi doesn't want to play baseball this year (and Riggans is hurt again) someone has to do it, and Michel has done a fine job behind the plate and has held his own beside it as well, batting .258 and contributing 8 RBI. Just to put this into perspective; Navi has 7 RBI in 31 games while Michel has 8 RBI in 9 games.

With the exception of Kapler the bench has shouldered much more than their share of the load. Once Joyce joins the team and Gross heads to the bench in place of Kapler it may be one of the strongest benches in all of baseball.

Maddon has made some ridiculous errors (ie Sonnanstine as DH due to line-up issue), and his refusal to bump Upton out of the lead-off spot just seems stubborn at this point. Maddon has to realize that there's a fine line between genius and luck. Maybe last year shows that he wasn't so much genius as he was lucky. Also of note, Jim Hickey has been missing something with his starters. The top of the rotation is too good to be so bad, and Hickey makes big bucks to fix it.

The team finally clawed their way back to .500 with a big win v. Oakland last night. Now its time to string together some series wins and play consistent ball as they march toward the dog days of summer. For now their 1st quarter grade reflects their record- right down the center.
Don't like my grades or my assessments?
Tell me about it in the comments section.

A Ranking System For The Position Players

A few weeks ago, I ranked the bullpen using my own ranking system, developed entirely by rocket science. Today, I am going to rank the position players using a random yet fitting system that only I (or Bill Simmons) could come up with, movie quotes. Since the Rays were like a little pest who stayed in the way of the big guns who kept trying to take over, they reminded me of Bruce Willis in Die Hard. While Hans Gruber and his team were using their high priced weapons to take over Nakatomi Plaza, John McClane (Willis) kept thwarting their plans by staying in the way while staying out of the way, eventually killing the terrorists off one by one. Does that not sound like the Rays to you? In honor of one of the most underappreciated movies of all time, here is the ranking system for the position players.

1- “He’s still alive, only John could drive a man that crazy.” – Every time you step up to the plate, I just want to break things.

2 –
Dr Hasseldorf: “Well, Gail, by this time the hostages should be going through the early
stages of the Helsinki Syndrome.”
Harvey Johnson: “As in Helsinki, Sweden” – You just make yourself look like an idiot.

3 – “Hans, Bubi, I’m your white knight” – You are a career defensive replacement or backup, and should never be anything more than that. Your only role should be to come into the game in the end to try to save the day or give a starter a day off.

4 – “Oh my God the quarterback is toast!” – You are a regular starter, but wow are you struggling. You haven’t hit as well as you should or you haven’t really shown up in the field as well as you can. However, you have shown in the past that you were once good and can break out. You also may potentially be on the disabled list.

5 – “Welcome to the party pal!” –You have been an average player or even a backup for your entire career and now you are stepping up in clutch situations at the plate and in the field. You should be a regular starter. You probably can play more than 2 positions in the field as well. As Rays fans, we welcome you with open arms.

6 – “Now I know what a TV dinner feels like” – You are heating up and have been stepping up in clutch situations. Now it’s time to really turn on the heat.

7 – “Hit it again!” – You are a homerun hitter, and when you are on fire, you are unstoppable. However, when you are missing the ball, you are striking out far too often. So please, “Hit it again!”

8 – “I’m an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane” – You are stealing everything, including stealing bases, stealing away hits from your opponents, and stealing the hope away from the other team.

9 – “Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho” – You were an above-average player for most of your career, and now you are just tearing it up. You absolutely should be an all-star.

10 – “Yippie-ki yay, Mr. Falcon” (censored version) – You are a stud, can be trusted in any situation at the plate, whether a clutch homerun or just an RBI single is needed. You have an outstanding glove. If all goes right, you might be on your way towards on MVP season.

Here is how the players rank:


Michel Hernandez : 3 - “Hans, Bubi, I’m your white knight” – Hernandez has been great off the bench. He has stepped up in clutch situations, has hit pretty well, and has been solid behind the plate. However, Hernandez is still the backup catcher. If it’s playoff time, I’d still trust Navarro behind the plate. If Hernandez keeps playing as well as he has though, he may be ranked a 5 quickly. Having only played 9 games out of a potential 40, that’s not enough yet to give Hernandez a higher ranking yet.

Dionner Navarro: 4 - “Oh my God the quarterback is toast!” – I have detailed Navarro’s struggles before. Although Navarro has improved since the first 2 weeks of the season, he still is not hitting or fielding to his potential. It is time to really step it up Navi, now. Batting .179 is just not going to cut it for the season.


Willy Aybar: 3 – “Hans, Bubi, I’m your white knight” – I was struggling with whether Aybar fit as a 3 or a 5. The determining factor between the rankings is that I don’t think Aybar should be an everyday starter when the entire roster is healthy. There are better players on the roster and it is holding Aybar back a bit. However, Aybar is a very solid option off the bench. He can play multiple positions in the field and is a switch hitter. With Pat Burrell currently on the DL, Aybar can really step his game up though and turn himself into a 5 or even a 6 quickly.

Jason Bartlett: 9 – “Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho” – If Bartlett doesn’t make the all-star team, then the system is flawed. He is hitting .384, has 5 homeruns, 22 RBI’s, an on base percentage of .423, and 11 stolen bases. In terms of American League Shortstops, he ranks 1st in batting average, homeruns, RBI’s, stolen bases, and on base percentage, 2nd in doubles and triples, and 7th in fielding percentage. If he keeps these stats up, he can easily become a 10 on these rankings very soon. Last year’s team MVP is working his way towards more deserved honors.

Akinori Iwamura in the field: 4 – “Oh my God the quarterback is toast!” – This may be harsh for Aki, but his alligator-skin glove has not been as sharp as it had been in years past. Aki has 5 errors already this season, while he had 7 errors in each of the last 2 seasons.

Akinori Iwamura at the plate: 6 – “Now I know what a TV dinner feels like” – It would not be fair to rank a .291 hitter who is a regular starter at a below average rating. Aki has been hovering between .277 and .300 most of the season, and that is excellent for a batter at the bottom of the lineup. His 15 RBI’s show he is producing from the 7-8-9 spots, and have added many needed runs for the Rays at unexpected times.

Evan Longoria: 10 – “Yippie-ki yay, Mr. Falcon” (censored version) – Is there anything the 2008 AL Rookie of the Year doesn’t do well? If the Rays make the playoffs this year, Longoria is going to lead this team there. When that happens, his name will be in MVP discussions. By the time Longoria’s career is done, he is going need a trophy room, not just a shelf.

Carlos Pena: 7 – “Hit it again!” – When Pena is hot, nothing can stop him. There is a very good reason Pena leads the AL in homeruns. However, he has not hit a ball out of the yard since May 7. When Pena gets cold, he strikes out way too much. You are due for a hot steak Pena, so please, “hit it again!” If you don’t hit a homerun, can you please at least make contact with the ball?


Carl Crawford: 8 – “I’m an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane” – 24 stolen bases, 0 times caught stealing, and we are just a quarter of the way through the season. Crawford probably can’t keep this pace up, but I won’t be surprised if he gets close to 100 stolen bases on the season. He is a reason to watch games. Oh yeah, his .327 average is tied for 11th in the AL and only has 1 error on the season. Crawford is going to force the front office to pick up his $10,000,000 option at the end of this season if he keeps this up.

Gabe Gross: 3 – “Hans, Bubi, I’m your white knight” – You are the epitome of Maddon’s “white knight.” All you should do is come in to play RF in the 8th and 9th inning in a game in which the Rays lead is within 3 runs. Your .254 batting average and your .365 on base percentage is keeping you away from a lower rating.

Gabe Kapler: 2 –
Dr Hasseldorf: “Well, Gail, by this time the hostages should be going through the early
stages of the Helsinki Syndrome.”
Harvey Johnson: “As in Helsinki, Sweden”
- Kapler is hitting .212. He may be slightly faster than Gabe Gross, but Gross has a better arm and glove. Ben Zobrist is a better hitter. Kapler isn’t being developed into a future player. He keeps making himself look dumb at the plate. Gabe Kapler is dead weight on this team and look for him to be the first to go when Matt Joyce is ready.

B.J. Upton: 6 – “Now I know what a TV dinner feels like” – If I had done these rankings last week, Upton would be a 4 for sure. However, Upton is finally starting to hit the ball better. He had 2 homeruns, including a walk-off homerun, in the weekend series against the Indians. Upton has 2 games in the last week in which he got 3 hits. If he can keep this up, the average will soon make its way over the Mendoza Line. Baby steps, BJ.

Ben Zobrist: 5 – “Welcome to the party pal!” – I have written before that Zobrist should be the everyday Right Fielder. He still is in a platoon with the ambiguously Gabe duo. I do really believe that if Zobrist were to be an everyday starter, he would continue to improve. I want to see Zobrist continue how well he is playing over a long period of time before he moves up in the rankings. Maddon needs to first look at Zobrist and say, “Welcome to the everyday lineup pal!”

Designated Hitter

Pat Burrell: 4 – “Oh my God the quarterback is toast!” – Burrell has not lived up to his nickname, or his salary for that matter. He was brought in to be a right handed power bat, and currently has 1 homerun. This homerun was in the home opener against the Yankees, April 13. For someone making $8,000,000 only to be a right handed power bat, that’s unacceptable. I think Burrell will get better as the year goes on, but until he starts hitting the ball into the stingray tank, he stays ranked a 4.

This is how John McClane, Hans Gruber, and I all see the team shaping up right now. Currently, there are a lot of 3’s-6’s, right around average. This seems quite perfect for a team that is currently 20-20. There are a few players such as Jason Bartlett, BJ Upton, and Ben Zobrist whose rankings will increase will most likely coincide with an increase in the team’s winning percentage. Hopefully this team just keeps getting smarter and stronger, just as John McClane did as Die Hard progressed. If they can, well then the Yankees, the Red Sox, and Hans Gruber need to be scared.

These are all just comparisons and rankings of one person, they aren’t rocket science.

-The Rocket Scientist

CHEESE & WHINE: Shall We Go for a Walk?

RAYS: 13
A's: 4


  • Jeff Niemann. The kid definitely deserves some credit for this one, despite the fact that he could've pitched the crappiest game of his career and still gotten the W. Niemann, who has struggled all year, finally found a way to pound the strike zone and put together a good outing. Jeff was able to avoid the "big inning" and put up some fairly impressive numbers along the way, allowing just 8 hits in 8 innings, surrendering 4 runs (3 earned), while striking out 3 and walking...wait for it... ZERO. Hopefully this start will give Niemann the confidence he needs in order to put some consistent starts together.
  • Jason Bartlett. Its getting to the point that he essentially has his own parking space up here. JB produced again, going 3 for 3 from the plate with 5 (yes, 5) RBI and a walk (those numbers are good enough for me to accidentally forget to mention his throwing error).
  • Carlos Pena. El Gato gets some love for showing that he's not a one trick pony. He can do more than just hit homers. Pena worked over the pitchers all night amassing 3 walks to go along with his 1 hit. Pena's BA is still way lower than I'd like to see, but his patience at the plate has his OBP looking okay regardless.
  • Ben Zobrist. Nice catch (pic).


  • Melvin Upton. The player formerly known as Bossman Jr was back to his old tricks going 0 for 3... again.
  • The top of the lineup. Actually the 9, 1, and 2 batters (Hernandez, Upton/Gross, Crawford/Kapler). These "players" combined to be 0 for 13 from the plate. o for 13! Five of the team's 10 strike-outs came from these gentlemen as well. If it weren't for 9 walks I don't see how the Rays win this game. Take it as a gift and move forward.
  • The freaking Blue Jays keep winning. Cut that crap out already!


  • Jason Isringhousen made his Rays debut last night working 1 inning, allowing 1 hit and no runs. As a gesture of good-will and as a "coming-up" present I've decided to take Isringhousen "off-notice", for now... but he's on a short leash.
  • The Rays are finally back to .500 for the first time since being 4-4 on April 14th.
  • Niemann joins Garza and Kaz as team leaders with 4 wins each.