Tuesday, June 30, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: Rays are on Halladay in Toronto

Rays: 4
Jays: 1

  • Jeff Niemann. Jeff outlasted his counterpart (notoriously long-lasting Roy Halladay) and added another W to his 2009 campaign (7-4) by going 7 and 1/3 innings, allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, oddly enough only striking-out 1 (despite throwing 65% strikes) and walking 2. Niemann's ERA is now a very respectable 3.95.
  • Carl Crawford. CC may not be leading-off the line-up, but last night he led-off the scoring in the 3rd when he blasted a 2-run homer into RF to put the Rays up for good. Crawford finished the night 2 for 3 with 2 RBI, a walk, and a steal (his 40th).
  • Gabe Gross. Gross continued his hot hitting going 2 for 3 and drawing a walk. Although, someone needs to remind Gross to leave the running to his younger, faster teammates, as he was gunned down trying to stretch a single into a double (the tag debatablly missed him) and was gunned down again later in the game trying to steal second, but when you're hitting well I'm more than willing to forgive a sin or two here and there. I am a just and faithful blogger.
  • Pat Burrell. PB was taking some heat over at Rays Index yesterday, and responded by doing exactly what we expect of him; hitting a homerun. The Rays are already averaging more than 6 runs per game, and if Burrell can start producing as well... look out!


  • Carlos Pena. 0 for 4. Everyone has an off night every so often, especially against the likes of Halladay, but Pena looked out of place at the plate. The holes in his swing are growing daily.
  • Willy Aybar. See Carlos Pena above.


  • The Rays play more than 20 percent of their remaining schedule against the Blue Jays, so having their number would greatly increase their chances at a playoff run. Toronto is thinking the exact same thing too, I'm sure.
  • Tampa Bay is now third place in the AL East, leading Toronto by 2 games, while trailing Boston by 5 and NY by 1.5
  • If the season ended today the AL division winners would be Boston, Detroit, and LAA, with the wildcard belonging to NY. So, despite all of Tampa's early struggles and consistent inconsistency they still stand just 1.5 games from being in the wild card position- but there's a whole lot of baseball yet to be played. This should get exciting!

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Jeff Niemann. It's like watching one of my little boys grow up right before my eyes.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Morning Thoughts

SATURDAY: RAYS 3, Marlins 2

**In Which the Rays Walk Off**

Scott Kazmir: I know it's sort of a backhanded compiment to Kaz to be excited that it only took him 92 pitches to get through five innings, but it is an improvement. And, as the Professor pointed out, his velocity is back up in the low-mid-nineties, which is close to where Kid K ought to be sitting. Let's hope that if he's not back, he's at least close and here to stay.

Jason Bartlett: He continues to rake at the plate and terrorize on the basepads, all while providing pretty good glovework. This guy's leading the All Star voting for shortstops, right? RIGHT?!?!

Dionner Navarro: Did not play, so did not disappoint.

B.J. Upton: He's playing so much better these days, I'm not even going to mention the fact that he got gunned down AGAIN trying to steal second. Nope, not gonna mention it.

SUNDAY: RAYS 5, Marlins 2

**In Which the Rays Complete the Sweep**

David Price: King David offered justification for Sonny's demotion by going 6.1 innings on 96 pitches and giving up only one run. Price looked pretty good, and the fact that he picked Hanley Ramirez off first almost makes me want to overlook the 4:5 K:BB ratio. Things seem to be going in the right direction for Price. Let's hope he keeps it up!

J.P. Howell: Racked up a save today to go with his win last night while striking out three and walking two on the weekend. The de facto closer, Howell is anchoring a bullpen that seems to have worked out its kinks.

Clutchiness: These past two games felt close, but the Rays pulled through. Close games, as we know, presented problems for the Rays earlier this year. We've been hoping that the Rays would figure out whatever it was that made them lose to bad teams, like freaking Cleveland, while beating good ones, like the Red Sox, who might be the class of the league. With Upton hitting, the rest of the offense continuing to click, and the bullpen coalescing, it seems like they've got it together, but I will continue to hold my breath.

The Week that Was:

After the Rays were shellacked in their first game against the Phillies, yours truely hoped, in the comments to this post by our good friend the DirbagFan, that getting blown out would actually be a blessing in disguise, less crushing than a close loss and more likely to be useful as a motivating tool. I've got no idea whether or not I was right, but the Rays haven't lost a game since. Go figure.

Also, it seems Phillies reliever J.C. Romero slapped a Rays fan after a game last week and may now be facing prosecution. We don't have actual photographic evidence, but if we did, I'm betting it would look something like this. Anyhow, we probably won't ever know what exactly the guy said to provoke Romero, but I'd be shocked to learn that fans in Tampa Bay dish anything worse than do the good citizens of the City of Brotherly Love.

The Rays are, apparently, the fastest team to reach 100 steals and 100 homeruns in a single season. We the faithful have known that the Rays offense was potent, or at least capable of being potent (after all, they lead the league in RBIs and OBP, and are close in almost every other offensive category), but I had no idea that their combination of long- and small-ball was historic.

Coolstandings has the Rays' odds of making the playoffs as right around 50-50. That sounds about right to me, too.

My second team, the Mets, refused to help the Rays this week, and instead allowed themselves to get swept at home by the Yankees. Sigh.
The Week that Will Be:

The Rays head up to Canada to start the week with a series against the Blue Jays that should, if things go well, solidify the Rays status as the non-Yankee-or-Red-Sox contenders in the East. With Niemann, Garza, and Shields going, there's certainly reason to be hopeful. Then again, Niemann's coming off six days rest (tho this isn't the first time he's had his starts moved around), and might be rusty. Plus, they're trotting out Halladay for his first post-DL start. The Rays need to win the series, and, obviously, a victory tonight would go a long way towards that end. I am going to continue to believe in the power of positive thinking (recent evidence to the contrary notwithstanding) and predict that the Rays will indeed take two of three in Toronto.

After closing out the month of June in Toronto, the Rays move on to the second series of the week against the Rangers. Arlington might be a tough place for Kaz and Price, both of whom will hopefully build on the success they had this week. Then again, the Rangers just dropped a series against the Padres, so maybe they're ready to fall off the planet.

Let's keep in mind that the Red Sox will also be on a road trip through Baltimore and Seattle (the Yanks also face Seattle, starting Tuesday), so we'll probably need to win, say four of six just to keep pace in the division, let alone gain. That means it's time for another two-series-winning week.

Let's Go Rays!!

- Dustin

Saturday, June 27, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: Chicken Dinner...

Rays: 7
Marlins: 3

Sorry, no cheese & whine today, very busy day in the Dirtbag Household.

Please refer to Rays Index for all your Rays needs.


Friday, June 26, 2009

This time tomorrow...

Supposedly, some time today the Rays will make their rotation decision by deciding what move(s) will be made to free up space for Kaz, who is presumably actually ready to pitch like a big leaguer again.
In case it hasn't been beaten into the ground enough the 4 most likely options are; Price to Durham, Niemann to the 'pen, Sonnanstine to Durham, Sonnanstine to the 'pen.

I've made my opinion clear on several occasions, here and here.

Soon we can all stop speculating and start hoping that Kaz will look at least a little like his old self again.

CHEESE & WHINE: Shaky Start, Solid Finish

Rays: 10
Phillies: 4

  • Andy Sonnanstine. After giving up 4 runs on 6 hits in the 1st it looked like Sonny was not long for the game, but he bounced back and was lights-out for the next 4 and 1/3 innings, allowing just 2 over the minimum from that point forward. Sonny finished the night with 7 strike-outs, one walk, and was awarded the W.
  • Gabe Kapler. Gabe finished 1 for 1 with a double, a walk, and a steal. Kapler put on a clinic on how to avoid the tag while sliding. Despite arriving after the ball on both his double and his steal attempt Gabe was able to sneak past a few lazy tags by simply staying aware of what was going on in front of him.
  • Carl Crawford. CC was 2 for 4 with 2 doubles, a walk, and 2 RBI. CC is now hitting .313 for the season.
  • Ben Zobrist. After his lovely wife sang the National Anthem, Ben proceeded to hit his 16th homerun of the season (I wonder if that's ever happened) , and finished the night 2 for 4 with a walk, and 2 RBI.
  • Willy Aybar. Aybar, who was playing for the injured, but not really injured, Evan Longoria, finished the game 3 for 4 with a homerun (6), 3 RBI, and a walk.
  • Beating Philly. It was the wrong series and 8 months too late, but it was still gratifying to see the Rays win a series v. the Phillies.


  • Dioner Navarro. Navi was 1 for 5 and left 3 men on base. Too many games this season Navi has been either 0-fer or 1-fer (hence the .215 BA), and it's getting old. Apparently last year's hitting capabilities were the anomaly not the previous year's lack of hitting.


  • Jason Bartlett broke the franchise record for consecutive-game hitting streak formerly held by Quinten McCracken. Bartlett extended his hitting-streak to a new franchise high 19 games after hitting a single in the 5th inning.

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Jason Bartlett. See Above.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Here's our latest installment of GM1R:

Give Me One Reason...
Why the Rays can't sweep the Marlins.

Not that I want to look past the end of the Philly series, but looking forward to the "exciting conclusion" of the Citrus Series, this weekend could prove to be quite the springboard for the Rays who have obviously struggled with consistency all season. The Marlins will head into town tomorrow (Friday) for a 3-game set. Coming into Thursday night Florida has won 4 in a row and are 1 game over .500, but historically the Rays have played well v. the Marlins, and they're due for another run. Both the Yankees and Jays are within reach and what better time to start digging-in to catch Boston than right now against their downstate rivals?

Give Me One Reason...
Why CC shouldn't be forced to take over at lead off.

If you've watched the Rays at all this season you've seen how inept at leading-off BJ Upton is, but more importantly you've noticed how lead-off-esque Carl Crawford's at bats typically are. While Joe Maddon has stood firm by his decision to put BJ at lead-off this season, CC has become one of the scrappiest batters in the league (this is where a good writer would site how many pitches he sees per at bat v. the league average). It seems as if Crawford has been stretching every AB into a full count and really chewing-up the opposing pitcher's pitch count which is exactly one of the primary roles of a lead-off guy. He is also sporting a much better BA than Upton (.310 v.244). Another point to consider is this; if CC is leading-off then the bases will be clear for him to steal whenever the opportunity presents itself. Whereas, although Upton is also fairly quick, if he leads-off and gets-on ahead of Crawford then CC's base running prowess is compromised (until BJ inevitably gets himself picked-off, of course). CC has repeatedly said that he doesn't like hitting out of the lead-off spot and Maddon has stubbornly and repeatedly insisted that BJ's the guy no matter what, but come on man, since when have egos gotten in the way of winning in Tampa?

Give Me One Reason...
Why moving Sonnanstine to the 'pen isn't the wisest option in light of Kaz's return.

With Kaz penciled-in to return any day now the rotation shuffle is mere hours away. Several possibilities have been floating around the Rays-iverse for a week or so now, and the most popular scenarios seem to be; move Niemann to the 'pen, send Sonny down to Durham, send Sonny to the 'pen, or demote Price. In my opinion sending Price down is out of the question, so that leaves Sonny to the 'pen, Niemann to the 'pen, or Sonny to Durham. Niemann has shown that his stuff can be filthy, and I believe that moving him to the 'pen now would seriously handcuff his development so check that one of the list too. That leaves the two scenarios regarding Sonny. Many times Maddon has either hinted or blatantly stated that Sonny would make an ideal reliever; he warms up quickly, and he's much tougher to hit the first time through the lineup as I documented here last month. He's never been dominant, but he's shown for several years that he's Big League (4th or 5th man) material. Sending him to Durham would accomplish nothing, as Sonny's mechanics are sound, so there's really nothing for him to work on down there. It does the Rays no good to send someone who could contribute to the team down to Durham and hold-on to lesser relievers in the Bigs. So, give me one reason why Sonny won't head to the 'pen.

CHEESE & WHINE: Well Played

Rays: 7
Phillies: 1

  • Matt Garza. Matty-G was sharp to start the game but struggled with his control starting around the 4th inning where he walked the bases loaded. Garza was tossing a no-hitter into the 5th and finished the night having pitched 8 innings, allowing 1 run (a homer by Werth) on 3 hits, while striking-out 7 and walking 3.
  • Jason Bartlett. JB was only 1 for 4 with 2 K's, but he extended his hitting streak to 18 games and is now tied for the franchise record. Bartlett's 1 hit was a 2-run single in the 5-run 8th.
  • Pat Burrell. You have to feel good whenever a player gets to play against his former team, and to me it was just a matter of time in this series before Pat the Patient brought out the bat against a bunch of pitchers that he's ultra-familiar with. PB finished the night 1 for 4 with a homer and 3 RBI. He did, however, leave 4 runners on base. Baby steps.


  • Evan Longoria's Hammy. Longo left the game in the 7th inning with some pain in his hammy (the same hammy he's been nursing for nearly a month now). Evan doesn't think its a big deal [TB Rays], but I'm fairly certain we've seen the last of Longo for this home stand. Apparently the Rays can't enjoy good news (Aki's knee not being as bad as originally assumed) without matching it with bad news.
  • JC Romero. Forgive and forget I cannot do. The league knew he was juicing and let him pitch in the world series regardless. B.S. I never want to see him again.


  • Sonny's last game as a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays will be tonight (strictly conjecture), hopefully he puts together a solid performance and the Rays can actually win a series v. the Phils.

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Pat Burrell. Let's hope that's the start of his first hot-streak for the Rays.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: Flashbacks

Rays: 1
Phillies: 10

  • Winston Abreau. 2 and 2/3 innings, 3 K's, 1 BB, 1 hit, no runs in relief of David "I'm the new Kaz" Price. That'll do.
  • That's it.


  • Flashbacks. I couldn't help but feel sick to my stomach as I flashed back to the Fall Classic and how the Rays looked equally foolish last night as they did then. What is it about the Indians and Phillies that bring out the worst in the Rays? The Phils had lost 8 of their previous 9 games and just like last fall the Rays managed to make them look like a legitimate champion. Infuriating.


  • Life was easier when we had no expectations for the Rays.


  • Nope.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Evan Longoria has relinquished the all-star vote lead back to Derek Jeter.
Dirtbag had been leading the votes for the last several weeks, and looked like a lock to be the number 1 vote getter, but a few slow weeks due to the injured hammy and the subsequently less impressive stats have let Jeter claw his way back into the lead.

I know a lot of Rays fans and Longo supporters had begun to rest on their laurels when it came to All-Star voting, but it's time to get back on that horse and start voting again.

In related news, Crawford has also fallen off pace and is now the number 5 outfielder.
Bartlett is second amongst shortstops, and will not catch Jeter.

Rays v. Mets, A RETROspective

Before the Mets series I posted a Rays v. Mets introspective, now that its in the books I'll go back and look in retrospect at how my thoughts panned-out. Here for Rays the Stakes 201st post is
Rays v. Mets a RETROspective:

Introspective: I wonder if the Rays can win this series. No (kinda).
Retrospective: They did. It wasn't always the prettiest thing, but the Rays managed to put some balls over fences that no one else seems capable of doing, and they found ways to win games that weren't blow-outs. After a disappointing start to the series they finished on a high note with back-to-back wins.

Introspective: I bet Longoria gets off the schnide in New York. Yes he most certainly will.
Retrospective: Ah, not really. During this series Longo's BA dropped below .300 for the first time this season, and he continues to have large holes in his swing. Perhaps v. Philly he'll find his phlavor.

Introspective: If BJ struggles during this series will i get to see BJ leading-off in the Philly series? No
Retrospective: Technically I still don't know, but as I said in the introspective post; for some reason or another BJ is going to be the lead-off guy, so I've got to learn to deal with it.

Introspective: I wonder how many cheesecakes Navi will eat while in New York. Three, one with strawberries, one with cherries, and one plain.
Retrospective: I guessed 3, I was wrong, he had 4 and also arranged to have one shipped back to Tampa for today.

Introspective: Is tonight (Fri.) Sonny's last stand? He'll pitch 'til Kaz gets back, but his last stand has come and gone.
Retrospective: Sonny didn't embarrass himself, but he is what he is. Look at these numbers from a post I did a few weeks ago, and see exactly why he's be a great reliever. [Sonny's Summer Home]

(10 pre-series questions that I answered Yes or No, now listed with the actual result)

1) Will the Rays sweep the Mets in New York?
Introspective: No
Reality: No
2) Will The Rays win this series?
Introspective: Yes
Reality: Yes
3) By the end of this series will Pena have at least 24 homeruns?
Introspective: No
Reality: No (22)
4) Carl Crawford will steal at least 4 bases.
Reality: No (zero)
5) BJ Upton will be either picked-off or caught stealing at least once.
Introspective: No
Reality: No
6) JP Howell will record a save.
Introspective: Yes
Reality: Yes (game 2)
7) Tonight's start will be one of Sonnanstine's last 3 starts before moving to the 'pen.
Introspective: Yes
Reality: We'll have to wait and see
8) The Rays will average at least 7 runs per game v. the Metropolitans.
Introspective: No
Reality: Nope (5.3 runs per game)
9) Gabe Gross will get 2 starts.
Introspective: Yes
Reality: Yes
10) At least 712 Mets fans will have Rays gear on under their Mets jerseys.
Introspective: Yes
Reality: Ahhh, so close- turns out it was only 711. A 12 year old boy with a Santana jersey over a Pena t-shirt didn't make the game because his asthma acted-up right before he was supposed to catch the bus to Citi Field.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cheese & Whine: Rays @ Mets, Part 2


Just as everybody got comfortable complaining that the Rays don't win the close ones, they go out and beat this guy by two runs.


James Shields: James the Greater threw seven solid yesterday. Beyond the two doubles in the second, which began and ended the Mets' scoring, and Alex Cora's one-out double in the third, Shields was lights out. After the aforementioned third-inning double, Shields sat the next fourteen Mets he saw.

Middle of the Order: Back-to-back doubles in the 5th from J.B. and "Gabe" Kapler put the Rays on the board and tied the game, followed by homers in the 7th and 9th by Peña and Zobrist, respectively, that gave the Rays the lead and then put the game away. The middle of the Rays order accounted for almost 100 percent of total offense yesterday, and all of the scoring.


Top of the Order: I'm excepting Upton from the criticism, as he did get himself on base twice. Both times, he was gunned down at 2nd off the bat of Carl Crawford, who also managed to get himself caught stealing second base. Longoria was, once again, 0-fer. I feel bad for complaining about C.C. and Longo, as they carried the team earlier this season, but it's true that their poor performance didn't sink the Rays yesterday, they need more from these guys.


The Rays stopped a three-game skid yesterday. Hopefully Dirtbagfan is right about the Rays streakiness, and we're about to be treated to a six-game streak.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: The Rays were Nieve(d)

Rays: 3
Mets: 5

  • BJ Upton. Bossman was 2 for 5 with a double, a steal, and 2 RBI.
  • Andy Sonnanstine. Not a spectacular outing for Sonny, but outside of the 3-run homer which he surrendered in the 2nd Sonny did a pretty fair job (sadly, he wasn't offered and run support); Sonnanstine pitched 6 innings allowing 4 runs on 7 hits while striking-out 5 and walking 2. Sonny threw 95 pitches, 61 of which were strikes (64%).
  • Dan Wheeler. Wheels pitched for 2/3's and recorded 2 K's.


  • Top/Middle of the lineup. Crawford, Longoria, Pena, and Zobrist combined to be 1 for 13, leaving a combined 8 runners on base. Longoria looks like a sucker for anything down and away lately (he did take 2 walks last night though), and Pena has lost his patience completely.
  • AL East. Again, 2 of the 3 teams currently ahead of the Rays lost (Red Sox and Blue Jays), and again the Rays fail to take advantage. Keep it up fellas and you'll be enjoying some nice hot cider while sitting on your couch in October watching the Yankees and Red Sox battle for your AL Championship.


  • The Rays are streaky; their last 12 games: lose 3, win 6, lose 3. That's not gonna work.
  • Don't forget to head over to Rays Index before every game and pick your Sunburst Player of The Game.

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • BJ Upton. Not many good choices.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rays v. Mets, An Introspective

The Rays head to the Big Apple to take on the less evil of the two New York clubs this weekend. Here are my inner thoughts on various things surrounding the series.

RAYS V. METS, An Introspective:

I wonder if the Rays can win this series?

I really thought the Rays would leave Colorado with a series win, but alas I was wrong. Now I feel like they won't leave New York with a series win, so given the current trend that means they will indeed win the series. Sonnanstine has a lot to do with how this series will go. If he struggles tonight two things happen; 1, the Rays most likely loose the first game of the series, 2, the bullpen gets overused tonight which in turn handicaps the team in the following 2 games. I think they won't win the series, which means they will.

I bet Longoria gets off the schnide in New York.

For some reason I seem to think that Longo has kinda had it on cruise control for a week or so, I also think that if he watches film of his at-bats yesterday he'll be embarrassed enough to make sure that he's not resting on his laurels any longer. Longo starts the climb back to .325 in New York.

If Upton struggles during this series will I get to see JB leading-off v. Philly?

This would be a dream, but I'm afraid Joe is too stubborn to sell the horse he's already ridden for 70 games. We're apparently stuck with BJ even if he's a detriment to the team out of the lead-off spot.

I wonder how much cheesecake Navi will eat while in the Big Apple?

At least 3 whole cheesecakes, 1 with cherries, 1 with strawberries, 1 plain.

Is tonight Sonny's last stand?

Sonny is on borrowed time in my opinion. No matter how he pitches from here until Kaz gets back I feel as if he's headed to the 'pen one way or another. The question becomes, how long before Kaz returns? Sonny's last stand was about 3 weeks ago... he fell.


10 questions in regard to this series to be answered with a simple YES or NO.

1) Will the Rays sweep the Mets in New York?


2) Will The Rays win this series?


3) By the end of this series will Pena have at least 24 homeruns?


4) Carl Crawford will steal at least 4 bases.


5) BJ Upton will be either picked-off or caught stealing at least once.


6) JP Howell will record a save.


7) Tonight's start will be one of Sonnanstine's last 3 starts before moving to the 'pen.


8) The Rays will average at least 7 runs per game v. the Metropolitans.


9) Gabe Gross will get 2 starts.


10) At least 712 Mets fans will have Rays gear on under their Mets jerseys.



Rays: 3
Rockies: 5

  • Jason Bartlett. JB is picking-up right where he left off before his trip to the DL. After going 2 for 4 last night Bartlett once again went 2 for 4, including a triple.
  • Dioner Navarro. Navi was 2 for 3 from the plate with an RBI and a walk. Navi also caught Barmes trying to steal second.
  • The Bullpen. What was the Rays' Achilles' heel for the first quarter of the season has started to become their bright spot (sunburst, if you will). Last night Nelson (who gave-up his first hit in 8 outings!), Balfour and Choate combined to allow 0 runs on 2 hits in 3 innings of work. The trio combined for 0 walks and 4 K's. Solid gold.


  • Matt Garza. Matty-G struggled with his control for the second straight outing, that's not good. Garza looked his old-self out there losing control of his emotions. I hope the next time Hickey comes out to see him and he (Garza) walks away while Hick is still talking that Maddon will give him the hook immediately. That behavior of showing-up your pitching coach is selfish, childish, and unacceptable. Garza lasted 6 innings, giving-up 5 runs on 4 hits (3 HRs), while striking-out 5 and walking 2.
  • Blown Opportunities. The Rays were 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position, and left 12 men on base.
  • Evan Longoria. Dirtbag looked like an A-baller at the plate last night. Come on Evan, see the ball, hit the ball. Longoria was 1 for 4 with 3 strikeouts and a HBP.
  • Carlos Pena. Pena should've excelled in the thin Colorado air, but failed to generate any offense last night, going 0 for 4 and leaving 4 men on base.
  • The Yankees and Red Sox lost. This is usually a good thing (and it still is), the bad part is the fact that the Rays could've made up a game on both teams and didn't.


  • The Rays are now 2 games behind Toronto, 3 behind New York, and 6 behind Boston.
  • Many Thanks to The Rocket Scientist. TRS has been writing here for just a few months, but his comedic stylings have been tickling readers from the start. Well it turns out that you can't keep big-league talent in AAA for too long, so TRS has taken his show on the road with a few of his friends and started another new Rays' blog. Check him out at Trop It Like Its Hot, but don't forget to come back Rays the Stakes when you're done.

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Jason Bartlett. Another .500 night, another opportunity for me to beg the question why he's not leading-off.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I Have Been Taken in an Expansion Draft

Hey Everyone,
It's your friendly neighborhood rocket scientist. I wanted to formally announce that I have been taken in an expansion draft. With all of the talent for bloggers out there, an expansion draft was held this morning. In the first round, I was drafted and have been named a new team captain. I invite you all to come over and check out the new site. It is going to be humorous, informative, and most of all, legendar-RAY! If you like what you have been reading here out of me, please check out the new site. If you don't like what you've been reading, then check it out anyway because there will be a couple of other writers as well.

So please, everyone, Trop it like it's hot!

I want to thank dirtbag fan for helping me get my start here. I'm sure I will be back time to time and will still read what he has to say every day. And remember, this is just blogging, it's not rocket science.

-The Rocket Scientist


Rays: 3
Rockies: 5


  • Evan Longoria. 2 for 4 with yet another homer. This was Dirt McGirt's 16th homerun and his 60th RBI. Evan's batting average is hovering around .300 (.308 to be exact), and it would be nice to see him keep it closer to .325, but I'll take .300 any day.
  • David Price. Or at least his control, and pitch count control. Price threw 72% strikes last night (71 of 99) which is a full 10% more strikes than league average (according to Kevin Kennedy). Price also lasted 7 full innings in a losing effort during which he allowed 5 runs on 10 hits, not overly horrible for Coors Field. King David also recorded a pickoff when he gunned-down Fowler at first base. The pitch efficiency and location control were both extremely encouraging despite the loss.


  • Run Support. Yesterday we posted about how few runs the Rays average after a big offensive day, last night they proved my research almost to a tee. Check it out (Repeat Runs)
  • BJ Upton. 0 for 4, again. At this point moving Bossman out of the lead-off spot wouldn't just help the team, I think it would help him too.


  • Last night The Rays managed 3 runs on 8 hits. Of all the players who recorded a hit Longo was the only one to record more than 1.
  • The Rays issued ZERO walks last night.

CAVIAR (gameball):

  • Evan Longoria. Another homer, another .500 game (plus there really wasn't any other competition)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How They Match Up

In a segment new to Rays the Stakes, we are going to look at how 2 things compare in a "tale of the tape." In the first installment, I want to see how beverages, businesses, and ballparks matchup. Today we shall look at Tropicana vs. Coors.

Beverage Type:
Tropicana – OJ
Coors – Beer
Advantage: Coors – Although I start every morning with a glass of Tropicana OJ, beer will always have the edge as a beverage

What you are left with a few hours after drinking a lot of the beverage:
Tropicana – A full bladder
Coors – A full bladder and an awesome story
Advantage: Coors - Do it for the story

How you feel the next day after drinking a lot of the beverage:
Tropicana – Healthy, your cold is gone
Coors – Hungover
Advantage: Tropicana - Hangovers suck.

Game best played with the beverage:
Tropicana – Any cheesy game to get your kid to drink it
Coors – Beer pong
Advantage: Coors – Beer pong always wins

How it’s transported (in theory):
Tropicana – The “Juice Train”
Coors – The “Silver Bullet Train” in the commercials that interrupts football games
Advantage: Push – Could one of you get original with your transportation and move the product by rocket ship? I’ll build it for you if you pay me enough.

What happens when you leave the beverage in the refrigerator too long:
Tropicana – Tastes bad, smells worse
Coors – Skunk
Advantage: Push - Nobody wins here

Other products made by parent companies:
Tropicana – Pepsi, Gatorade
Coors – Zima, Keystone Light
Advantage: Tropicana – If I could, I would count this as 2 wins
Biggest competitor:
Tropicana – Minute Maid
Coors – Busch/Miller
Advantage: Push – All of the above also have naming rights to ballparks

What happens when container gets cold:
Tropicana – Nothing
Coors – Can turns blue
Advantage: Tropicana - I don’t care what color my can is as long as my beer is cold. The blue can is just a waste of time

How the beverage compares to other alike beverages:
Tropicana – One of the best
Coors – Has no taste compared to good beer
Advantage: Tropicana – OJ all tastes alike, beer can be so much better than the Silver Bullet

Tastes good with:
Tropicana – An Omelet
Coors – Nachos
Advantage: Coors – Assuming there is chicken and guacamole

Product is made in:
Tropicana – Florida, the Sunshine State, gorgeous!
Coors – Denver “The sunshine state, gorgeous!” according to a drunken Luke Wilson in “Old School” (after probably having too much Coors)
Advantage: Tropicana – Made in the actual Sunshine State, and winter is no fun

Also sponsors:
Tropicana – The Bradenton Juice of the defunct South Coast Baseball League
Coors – The NFL, NASCAR, and 9 NHL teams
Advantage: Coors – Pepsi should market Tropicana more and its own products less

Biggest complaint about the ballpark by players:
Tropicana – “The catwalks got in the way”
Coors – “Even Gabe Kapler can go yard here”
Advantage: Coors – Chicks dig the long-ball

Biggest complaint about the ballpark by the fans:
Tropicana – “Indoor baseball in Florida in the summer?”
Coors – “Outdoor baseball in Colorado in April/September?”
Advantage: Tropicana – 72 degrees and no rain beats out freezing temperatures and snow

The turf at the stadium:
Tropicana – Takes a beating on outfielder’s knees
Coors – Elongated to prevent more doubles and triples
Advantage: Push – Rays hit 2 triples last night and outfielders have been healthy this year (knock on wood)

Random colored seats in the stadium stand for:
Tropicana – Gold seat is where Wade Boggs hit a homerun for his 3000th hit
Coors – Purple row in the upper deck marks the exact height of 1 mile elevation
Advantage: Tropicana – Wade Boggs claims he could down 70 Coors in a day, he wins

Restaurant in the stadium:
Tropicana - Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar
Coors - Blue Moon Brewery at the Sandlot
Advantage: Coors – Blue Moon was invented here, and that’s a damn good beer

Stadium has also hosted:
Tropicana – NCAA Final Four
Coors – MLB All-star Game
Advantage: Tropicana – One of the best sporting events of every season (author’s note/brag: I was there in 1999 when UCONN beat Duke, heck of a game)

Animal findings within the stadium:
Tropicana – Stingray tank
Coors – Dinosaur fossils found during construction
Advantage: Coors – This is close since the stingray tank always gets Erin Andrews extra airtime when ESPN broadcasts Rays’ games, but the historical perspective of finding dinosaur fossils gives Coors the edge.

The home team’s best season:
Tropicana – 2008 Rays make the World Series
Coors – 2007 Rockies make the World Series
Advantage: Tropicana – The Rays were more recent…and they won a game in the series

The better home team in 2009:
Tropicana – Rays are 35-31
Coors – Rockies are 31-33
Advantage: Tropicana – Let’s not forget the Rays currently lead the season series 1-0

Final Standings:
Tropicana 10
Coors 8
Push 4

There you have it folks, Tropicana barely squeezes out a victory over Coors. This is just how I see it; it’s not like it’s rocket science.

-The Rocket Scientist

Repeat Runs

The Rays lead the league in runs per game (5.7 RPG), and have managed to score 10 or more runs in 10 of their 66 games thus far in 2009. That means that more than once a week the Rays have some sort of offensive explosion. In fact, twice they've scored 15 runs, and they've scored 12 or more runs in 7 games (including 12 last night at Coors Field).
Since May 1st the Rays have scored 10 or more runs 6 times.

Here's where I've done some research and found an interesting tidbit: In the 6 games following those 10+ run games the Rays have only managed to put together 3.8 runs per game.
So basically, in other words, every time the Rays have a big offensive performance during which they score 10 or more runs they only manage to plate 3.8 runs the following day. Nearly 2 full runs less than their season average of 5.7 RPG.

Furthermore, one of those 10+ run games was followed by another 10+ run game (v. the Marlins 5/22 and 5/23- and becomes the exception to the rule), so that actually pads their average RPG after a 10+ run game. If we were to throw-out that one game which they managed to back-up with another 10 run performance the disparity between their season average RPG and their RPG after a 10+ run game would be even larger: 2.6 runs per game in games following 10+ run games, or a difference in RPG of 3.1 runs.

So as the Rays prepare to tee it off in Colorado again tonight hopefully they can use the rarefied air to start minimizing the RPG disparity following big offensive days, because I'm afraid that 2.6 runs per game just isn't going to cut it, especially not in Colorado.

Whenever the Rays start tacking on runs Mrs DirtbagFan always tells them to save some of those runs for the next day.
I agree.

CHEESE & WHINE: Rocky Mountain High

Rays: 12
Rockies: 4

  • Gabe Kapler. I'm still one of Gabe's biggest critics, but credit is given where credit is due: The Hammer finished the night 3 for 4 with 4 RBI, including another homer (his 4th). Kapler finished a double away from being the first Rays player to hit for the cycle.
  • Ben Zobrist. I might as well call this the Zobrist & Whine post every morning. Zorilla ended the day 3 for 5 with 1 RBI (coming on his 14th homerun of the season). Zorilla also finished a double shy of being the first Rays player to hit for the cycle.
  • Jason Bartlett. How great was it to see JB back in the lineup? I was slow to come around on this guy, but his value is no longer arguable. In his return from the DL Bartlett managed to go 2 for 4 with an RBI and scored twice.
  • BJ Upton. Upton was 3 for 5 on the night with a home run and 3 RBI. Bossman also had 7 total bases in the game. Of course he couldn't help but get picked-off at first, again.
  • Joe Nelson. Nelson has been about as good as you can be over his last seven appearances; allowing zero runs and, believe it or not, zero hits in that span. Last night Nelson threw for 1 and 1/3, walking 1 and striking out 3, allowing zero runs on zero hits. Go ahead and keep doing that Joe.
  • Longball. The Rays combined for 5 homers in the game, one each for Upton, Pena, Kapler, Longoria, and Zobrist.


  • Boston, New York, and Toronto all won their respective games as well- so much for making up ground. C'est La Vie.


  • The Rays are now 4 games over .500 for the first time this season.
  • Ben Zobrist has just one fewer homer run than Evan Longoria despite having 60 less AB's so far this season.
  • Pena's 21 homers leads the AL.

CAVIAR (gameball):

  • Ben Zobrist/Gabe Kapler. These two are on fire.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mr. Kotter vs. Mr. Ruth

Up until last week, Gabe Kapler played baseball like he was Mr. Kotter, a Social Studies teacher who was known for his good intentions in the TV show “Welcome Back Kotter” and was played by actor Gabe Kaplan. As we all know, Kapler had stopped playing baseball and was learning the ropes as a manager (cough, teacher, cough) in the minor leagues. Last season, he decided he wanted to return to the big leagues and played for the Brewers and continued his mission to play solid baseball into 2009. Kapler signed in the offseason with the Rays for $1,000,018 to be a platoon right fielder and right handed bat. Although his intentions were great, and he played solid defense, he was still batting .169 with 0 homeruns and 5 RBIs after a game in New York on June 6.

Then, on June 8 against the Yankees, Gabe Kapler came to the plate with the Rays down a run and Michel Hernandez on base. Boom, gone, homerun! At the time, I compared this hit to being able to toast an Eggo. I wasn’t going to look too much into one homerun. The following thought never crossed my mind:

Is it possible that Gabe Kapler found his swing?

Has Gabe Kapler gone from Gabe Kaplan to “Gabe” Ruth?

Now with 2 more games played, 2 more homeruns hit, an RBI total doubled, and a batting average finally over the Mendoza line, Kapler is finally looking like he is worth $18, not to mention that extra $1,000,000. Gabe Kapler has been mashing like he is the Great Gambino over the last 3 games. I do not expect Kapler to continue to play like Ruth, but I do think he needs to continue to play less like Kotter. The batting average needs to continue to increase and merge closer to .250. The RBI’s must be boosted to reasonable numbers for a number 6 or 7 hitter. And finally, Kapler must avoid the embarrassing moments (such as stopping between 3rd base and home, or striking out to Yankees’ ace pitcher Nick Swisher).

I know I have been one of your biggest critics this season, but I am willing to cut you some slack. Gabe, I plead you this: please continue to improve on your performance with every game you play. If you can be a consistent right-handed bat in the bottom of the lineup, it will go a long way towards carrying the Rays back to October baseball. If you digress, you are going to leave a large hole in the lineup that will be hard for this team to overcome. You don’t have be Gabe Ruth, but you can’t be Gabe Kaplan either. All Rays’ fans will be happy with you performing somewhere in the middle, and figuring out why this will help the team isn’t rocket science.

-The Rocket Scientist

CHEESE & WHINE: Day After an Off-Day


Red Sox 38-25
Yankees 36-27
Rays 34-31
Blue Jays 34-31
Orioles 27-36

  • The Rays used a nice series against the Angels (2-1) coupled with a fully-expected sweep of the Nationals to claw their way up to third place in the AL East standings. Now as they head into Colorado to face a red-hot Rockies team we'll find out exactly what the 2009 Rays are made of. Although this is an interleague series and not some knock-em down, drag-em out divisional rivalry I still consider this the most defining series of the season up to this point. If the Rays can win the 3-game set in Colorado, effectively putting together their first consistent run of the year, they can put the rest of the league on-notice that they are, indeed, still a team to be reckoned with. Am I saying that if they drop the Colorado series 2 games to 1 that they're ship will have sailed? No. But what I am saying is that unless the Rays want to enter the ranks of teams that are "tough to beat" or "can win any game" but just continue to wallow in pools of mediocrity, they need to be able to string together some 7 out of 10 streaks. Winning fifty five percent of your games may work in other divisions, but in the AL East that doesn't fly, the time to start turning potential into results is right now.
  • The long awaited return of the Rays' all-star shortstop, Jason Bartlett, is finally upon us. Having JB back in the lineup should be a major boost given his stellar OBP (.418) and well above average fielding ability.


  • Another season-ending injury for the Rays. This time its Jason Isringhousen who'll be hitting the DL never to return. Izzy suffered a torn UCL (elbow), and not only his season, but also his career may be over. Hopefully closers won't start being scared to come to Tampa Bay, as apparently its where relievers go to die.


  • To those of you who live in Florida: step outside today at around 4 o'clock and feel how ridiculously hot it is out there (and its only gonna get worse for the next 10 weeks). Now picture yourself sitting in that sun for 4 hours trying to watch a Thursday day-game in a nice, shiny, new, outdoor-air stadium. Pure hell.

Monday, June 15, 2009

An Open Letter To The Rays

Dear Rays’ Players and Coaches,

Congratulations, you have swept the Nationals, won 5 in a row, and now are only 3 games behind the hated Yankees, 5 behind the Red Sox. Now here is your goal for this week: KEEP IT UP. You are starting to play great baseball. You are getting help from players who struggled through the beginning stages of this season. You got your right handed power bat off the DL and your starting shortstop will be rejoining the team tomorrow. The time to create something really special, the time to get hot, the time to make 09>08 is RIGHT NOW. You are going to be playing a Colorado Rockies team that has won 11 in a row. Winning this series on the road would be a statement to the entire league. Gaining more ground on these teams during interleague play will send them a message. Now is the time to show that 2008 was not a fluke and that you are for real in 2009. There can be no more playing uninspired ball and no more excuses. In the words of the late US Hockey coach Herb Brooks, “This is YOUR time.”

To keep up the hot streak, here is what I believe each of you needs to do over the next week against the Rockies and Mets.

Joe Maddon – Coach to win every game. You can’t unnecessarily rest any players as you have another day off next Monday. Stay aggressive.

Jim Hickey – Ask for 6-7 innings from each of your starters.

Bobby Ramos – Whatever you’ve been doing for the last few days, keep doing it. The bullpen has not allowed a run over the 5 game winning streak. Keep up anything close to that and this team will continue to win a lot.

Tom Foley – Keep sending runners home and making outfielders make perfect throws.

George Hendrick – Make CC and BJ Upton steal every they are on 1st and 2nd base is empty. Yes, I said every time.
Steve Henderson – Whatever you’ve been doing with the Gabes, keep doing it, and add Dionner Navarro to that workout regiment.

Winston Abreu – Have a solid first outing. You haven’t pitched in the majors in 2 years, but you were destroying AAA. A solid first outing will give you the confidence you need to move forward.

Grant Balfour – Pound the strike-zone, and if possible, add some juice to that fastball.

Randy Choate – Continue to fool lefties and please stop walking batters.

Lance Cormier – Be ready to shut down a rally when a pitcher can’t make it those 6-7 innings.

J.P. Howell – You may be the new closer, so stay loose and ready for the 9th. The team needs you to be solid.

Joe Nelson – Since giving up 4 runs against the Indians on May 27th, you haven’t allowed a base-runner in 6.2 innings. I know that’s impossible to continue forever, but anything close to that will really prove your worth.

Dan Wheeler- I only have a mild heart attack when you enter the game. Stop making me even think there is a chance you may blow a lead when your number is called.

Matt Garza – A gem. I know you have solid starts in you against the NL (see: the Marlins gem last year). You are due for another.

Jeff Niemman – Your last 3 starts have gone 3 innings, 9 innings, and 3.2 innings. I won’t ask for the 9 again, but how about 6?

David Price – Stop walking batters. Don’t be afraid to pound the strike zone. Your stuff is electric. Trust it.

James Shields – A solid game on the road. You only pitch once on the road trip, and you will have 5 days rest, so step it up and pitch like the number 1 starter.

Andy Sonnanstine – Thank Joe Maddon (or the schedule maker) that you aren’t pitching in Colorado. Now please, can you keep the ball in the park?

Michel Hernandez – You continue to be a solid backup for Navarro, but it would be nice if you threw out another base stealer.

Dionner Navarro – Stop bunting with 2 outs.

Willy Aybar – Starting in the 5th inning, go into the batting cages and get loose. In the NL parks, I guarantee you will be pinch hitting a few times over the next 6 games.

Jason Bartlett – Remind the fans how much we missed you while you were on the DL, and show everyone why you deserve to be an all-star.

Joe Dillon – See: Willy Aybar.

Evan Longoria – You only have 3 RBI’s since your pulled hamstring. That number needs to increase. Your mission, if you shall choose to accept it, is to become the AL leader in RBI’s again. Jason Bay has you by 3 right now.

Carlos Pena – 3 games in the mile high altitude means it is time for you to tee off.

Carl Crawford – Run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run.

Gabe Gross – If you can throw out another runner or 2 to go with your random clutch hits, it will go a long way towards adding numbers in the win column.

Gabe Kapler – (In the voice of Stewie Griffin) “Good news! I don’t have to kill you now!” Seriously though, you’ve hit 3 homeruns in your last 3 games? I like it. Now keep getting on base and prove to me it’s not a stroke of luck, and then I won’t hate you as much.

Ben Zobrist – Whatever you have been doing, don’t stop.

Pat Burrell – Hit a homerun. You have 3 games in Colorado and 3 games against your former hated rival in the Mets. Just one time, please hit the ball out of the park.

So there it is. If each of you does what I have said, this team will be on the back to October Baseball. This is my mission for you all, and I hope you can not only reach the goals set forth, but exceed them. Getting it done is not rocket science.

-The Rocket Scientist

PS: For those of you who were wondering, I did not cash in the WSOP event that I played. I got most of my chips in with top 2 pair against a guy with pocket aces. The bottom card on the flop paired and I couldn’t recover. Sigh....

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Don't Forget To Keep Voting.

A few weeks ago we asked Rays fans to rally together to make sure that Jason Bartlett, Carl Crawford, and Carlos Pena get a much-deserved trip to the All-Star game. We need to continue the support. Also, let's try to get Ben Zobrist into the game as a write-in.

Keep voting! Click the picture above to be taken to the original post which then has a link to the MLB voting page.

Remember, you can vote up to 20 times per day, per e-mail account.

CHEESE & WHINE: We'll take it.


  • Dioner Navarro. 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
  • The Bullpen. Nelson, Wheeler, and Howell combined to pitch 3 and 1/3 innings of 1 hit baseball. Oddly enough, none of the three recorded a strike-out, as Howell was credited with the win.
  • Gabe Kapler. Another clutch homer for Kapler, but don't expect me to change my stance on this guy. Last night's homer came on a check swing (seriously) and was a testament to The Hammer's strength. He's still the weakest (figuratively) link on the roster (Navi's a close second).
  • Matt Garza. For the second game in a row I'm putting a pitcher up here that most people think should most definitely be in the "whine" section instead. Here's my logic (and if you watched he game you'll probably agree): In the first Garza gave up 3 runs on 4 hits and had absolutely no control. He continued to fight his control for the rest of the outing, but managed to fight through it without allowing another run and only giving-up 3 more hits in the next 4 and 2/3 innings. Last year Garza would've completely melted down in the first and wouldn't have made it through 3. So although it wasn't pretty I give Garza credit for fighting through a tough night and doing what it took to keep his team in it.
  • Joe Maddon. Not for the Kapler move (pinch hit for Gross in the 8th), but for finally giving Gross some consecutive starts in right field. Gross has proven time and again that he is a really good fielder with a rocket arm, and that he isn't half bad at the plate either and its about time Maddon has given him a chance to show that he can do it consistently. Last night marked Gross's 4th consecutive start.
  • Steals. The Rays recorded 5 stolen bases, 1 each for Crawford, Brignac, and Zobrist, and 2 for Upton.


  • Evan Longoria. Come on Dirtbag, the last thing the Rays need is for you to become a streaky hitter. Another night, another 0-fer. Longo finished the night 0 for 3 with a K and a walk.
  • AL East. During the 8th inning of the Rays' game it looked as if every other AL East team would lose and the Rays would have a chance to make-up ground on all 3 teams that they're behind, but an error by Luis Castillo of the Mets gave A-Rod a walk-off winner, and the Phillies (who were robbed of a walk-off homer in the 12th when a towering shot that went 20 or 30 feet above the foul pole was judged to be foul and the umps refused to even review the call) lost to Boston after giving up 3 runs in the 13th. The Blue Jays did lose however (in more ways than one); not only did they lose the game they also seemingly lost their ace, Halladay, to a strained left groin.


  • Pat Burrell made his return to the lineup last night and was 0 for 3, but he looked like the bat speed was there, and he made a bid for a homer to dead center that was caught at the warning track. Having Pat back should have a positive impact on the hitters on either side of him even if he can't get hot right away.
  • Mrs. Dirtbag Fan will be in attendance for tonight's game at the Trop with her lady friends while yours truly takes care of Daddy duty back home, and tries to find the game on the radio. What's this world coming to.


Gabe Kapler. Kapler hit the homer that put the Rays over the top, and he did it with a half swing. If I didn't know any better I'd be impressed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

62 down, 100 to go.

With about forty percent of the season in the books the Rays have once again clawed their way back to .500 (31-31). Every time so far this season that they've reached the .500 plateau Rays fans everywhere start drinking the kool-aid and believing that the 2009 Rays have finally arrived, just to find that they (the Rays) have found some way to slip helplessly back to sub-mediocrity.

Well, I for one, am drinking the kool-aid yet again, and this time I think they're more primed for a "never-turning-back" type of run than they have been at any other point this season.

Allow me to elaborate:

1) The return of Pat Burrell (tonight) and Jason Bartlett (prob. Monday). PB & JB are both vital parts of the Rays, which couldn't be made more obvious than by Bartlett's league- leading .373 BA (although I believe he's not eligible to technically be the league leader anymore due to lack of AB's). Burrell hadn't accomplished much prior to his trip to the DL, but if history has shown anything it's that Burrell will follow in the footsteps of Stella and eventually get his groove back. His presence in the lineup will also benefit Pena. Having Bartlett back in the middle of the infield will certainly not hurt things either. With these two in the lineup the Rays are undeniably better.

2) The Washinton Nationals. The Nats are just what the doctor ordered in order to get the Rays over the .500 hump and headed back toward the top of the AL East where, let's face it folks, they belong. The problem with this series is that its a classic trap series. The Rays are starting to play well again, they're at home, and the Nats are bottom-dwellers- its got T-R-A-P written all over it, and as our friends over at Rays Index pointed out the problem with a series like this is that anything less than a sweep is unacceptable. But if the Rays take care of business the .500 mark may finally be a thing of the past, as far as this season is concerned.

3) Carlos Pena. Pena looks to be coming out of one of his down cycles which hopefully means he's climbing back to an up cycle, that is never a bad thing.

4) BJ Upton can't possibly get worse which means that he can only get better.

5) Softer schedule. While the Rays play host to the Nats for 3 Boston will be battling with Philly for 3 (yes, we have to root for the Phils... I know, it sucks), and the Yankees will be scrapping with their cross-town rival, the Metropolitans. If the Rays can pull off the sweep and the Sox and Yanks each drop 2 out of 3 the Rays could be within 2 of New York and 4 of Boston by Monday (i know, no love for Toronto...boohoo).

Well, the only thing left to do is play the games. That's the easy part.


Rays: 11
Angels: 1

  • Dioner Navarro. I've been pretty hard on Navi, so I'll give him some much deserved love today after finishing last night's game 2 for 5 with a solo homer and a 2 RBI double. He also caught Chone Figgins trying to steal second.
  • Carlos Pena. El Gato was 1 for 3 with a 3-run homer and 4 RBI. Carlos now has 19 homeruns and trails only Gonzalez (22), and Ibanez (21) in the HR dept..
  • Gabe Gross. Gabe was 3 for 4 on the night with 2 RBI and a walk. Remind me again why the other Gabe ever played in Gross's stead.
  • Reid Brignac. Nothing spectacular, but 2 for 4 is a start for a young kid still trying to learn that hits in the gap can be just as useful as the long ball.
  • David Price. I may be the only person in the blogoshere that would put him here, but hear me out. Despite all the control struggles and ridiculous walk total (6), King David left the game having allowed 0 runs (although one of his baserunners scored after Balfour came-in in relief). I know that Price needs to pitch much, much better than he did and get through more innings, but there were at least 10 occasions during the game that he could've melted down and completely let the game get out of control (including the top of the first when he walked the bases loaded with only 1 out, but held it together and got out of the inning without surrendering a run), but when it mattered the most he came through (with a little help from his friends). Price finished the night after just 4 and 1/3 innings having allowed zero runs on just 2 hits while walking 6 and striking-out 6.
  • Randy Choate/Joe Nelson. Choate and Nelson combined to pitch 3 innings of no-hit baseball, recording 4 strike-outs and making sure that a comeback of Cleveland-esque proportions would not happen again on their watch.


  • BJ Upton. Come on man! Enough is enough with the half swings and lack of focus at the plate. Once again BJ was 0 for 5 from the plate, striking-out 3 times. Hmmm... I wonder where Bartlett should land in the lineup (but won't) when he comes back next week.


  • The Rays put runs on the board during 6 of the 8 innings in which they batted.
  • Longoria was a career low 0 for 19 when he smashed his 400+ foot homer to centerfield off of Santana. What better way to say, "You buzz the tower again and its gonna get ugly", than to send one flying all the way to Sarasota. Take that you little punk- respect the game and straighten-out your hat!
  • 100 games left in the regular season.
  • Check-out this video of a seagull helping the Indians win.


Dioner Navarro. This is more like the Navi the Rays need; a role player playing his role.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pedro The Ray?

Our friends over at Rays Index have dug up a story out of the Dominican that, loosely translated, says the Rays have been checking out Pedro Martinez.


Head over to Rays Index and check it out in more detail.

CHEESE & WHINE: Dolly Parton

Rays: 9
Angels: 5

  • Willy Aybar. Aybar had a great night from the plate; going 2 for 3 with a 2-run homer, 3 RBI, and a walk.
  • Carl Crawford. Another day another pair of hits for CC. Crawford went 2 for 4 from the plate with an RBI. He was also credited with an outfield assist when he gunned down Abreu at home to save a run (it was Abreu though- he had no business trying to stretch that out).
  • Ben Zobrist. Ben was 2 for 3 with a walk and scored 3 times.
  • Carlos Pena. El Gato is heating up again (thankfully) and is making great contact. Carlos finished the game having gone 2 for 4 from the plate, hitting his 18th homerun of the season and scoring twice.
  • Lance Cormier. Cormier to the rescue, again. After Niemann struggled Cormier was called on as the long-reliever again, and represented himself well; pitching 2 and 1/3 innings, allowing 2 hits and zero runs, while striking-out 2 and walking one. That'll do.
  • Jason Isringhousen. 1 inning, 2 K's- that's all I want.


  • Jeff Niemann. Niemann is technically still the 5-guy, and a rookie, so we can't forget to cut him a little slack, but he's got to find the strikezone a bit more consistently (48 of 91 pitches for strikes) no matter where he falls in the rotation. Niemann finished the game having pitched only 3 and 2/3 innings, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits while striking-out 3, and walking 3. The sad part is that he was this close (picture my fingers really close together) to squeaking out a W despite it all.
  • Evan Longoria. Evan's recent struggles continued last night with another 0-fer. Longo was o for 4, and looks fairly awkward in the box right now. I understand the caution with the hamstring, but if he can't even try to run out grounders because he's still worried about reaggravating the injury then he needs to sit back down until he can.
  • Dioner Navarro. Here's a big, giant surprise; Navi was 0 for 4, again. This guy has done very little this season to show that he belongs in a starting lineup. Navi did record a pick-off last night with a nice little snap-throw to third to catch Figgins who was taking a generous secondary lead.


  • Yesterday I wrote an article called Sweet Friday in which I speculated on what the lineup card would look like on Friday if all went well, but apparently I jumped the gun on Bartlett being ready.
  • The Red Sox beat the Yankees last night and are now 7-0 against their New York rival this season. These two teams beating up on each other is supposed to help level the playing field, but New York isn't doing the Rays any favors by giving away 7 division games to the stinkin' Sox.


Carlos Pena. Although his homer may not have been as productive as several other hits last night, Pena's making good contact- and the ball is jumping off of his bat again. Pena heating-up again is about as important as any other circumstance surrounding the Rays right now, and for that he gets the gameball.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Rocket Scientist’s Random Pre-Vacation Thoughts

Another week is ending, and another vacation is coming up. Before I head to Vegas for the weekend, I have more random thoughts on the Rays and some other random sports to leave you with.

The Rays swept the Royals and won the first game against the Yankees, then lost 3 games in a row. As the season goes on, streaks like this are taking 1 step forward and 3 steps backwards.

Carlos Pena may really be Pedro Cerrano. He needs to forget Jobu and do it himself.

I LOVE LeVon Washington’s desire to play for the Rays. I know nothing about him, other than what I have read in the last 12 hours, but I can tell he is going to give 110%. The Rays need people in like that in their organization right now. Hopefully Scott Boras lets him sign before August.

I really need to see “The Hangover.”

I am very happy BJ Upton had enough fire to get himself ejected last night. It didn’t affect the outcome of the game and the strike-zone was questionable at best in the 9th. It also shows to me that Upton has a fire beneath him and really wants to win. I was surprised and disappointed that Joe Maddon didn’t argue enough to follow Upton to the clubhouse. Maddon needs to put up a bumper sticker in the dugout that says “WWBCD.” (What would Bobby Cox do?)

“Sometimes I wish I was Tiger Woods” (song by Dan Bern, but I have the same thought).

Jeff Niemman is growing on me, quickly. I think he may have some down days, but he is improving and could develop into a very nice number 3 pitcher.

Andy Sonnanstine is killing me, quickly. I think he may have some up days, but he is regressing and needs to develop some sort of hamstring injury that he can work out in the minors. In unrelated news, Wade Davis is tearing it up in AAA still.

Tim Floyd resigning from USC isn’t shady at all, kinda like Roger Clemens “misremembering conversations” or Sammy Sosa forgetting how to speak English. His next job will be Isiah Thomas’ assistant at FIU.

Ben Zobrist is making a serious bid to be an all-star in my mind. Joe Maddon selecting the backups won’t hurt his chances…unless…

Joe Maddon really may pick very few Rays to be all-stars and Rays fans need to be prepared for this. He loves giving extra rest to players, and the all-star break is a perfect time for rest. If I were a betting man (and I am) would bet that he is going to send 2, at most 3 Rays’ players to the game when 4 may deserve to go.

To that quarterback who used to play for the Packers and has retired and unretired about 84214533 times: please go away. Everyone is tired of you and it’s not like you are the player you were 5 years ago. I refuse to say your name until a full NFL season goes by without you playing a single down…or until I watch “There’s Something About Mary” again.

Evan Longoria hasn’t looked the same at the plate since his hamstring injury. He has, however, been looking great in the field and one can only wonder what would have happened if Willy Aybar hadn’t been playing third in the 8th inning Sunday against the Yankees.

If the Rays don’t take 2 out of 3 from the Nationals this weekend, I am going to be frantically hitting my metaphorical panic button. I still might hit that button if the Rays don’t sweep the Nationals.

What do you think Elijah Duke’s welcome will be the first time he bats at the Trop this weekend? My guess is he gets pelted with eggs, baseballs, and demands for child support payments.

I refuse to call Pat Burrell a bust (yet) due to his injury and tendency to be streaky; however his signing and $9 million salary may have handcuffed the Rays. It is quite evident that the bullpen is struggling more than Screech Powers trying to get together with Lisa Turtle. Having some leeway to make a trade for a dominant bullpen arm could be the difference between playing in October and holding 2010 tryouts in September. Andrew Friedman’s hands are tied and he won’t be able to add the help that this team seems to desperately need. In related news, I actually think a healthy Chad Bradford would be an upgrade in the Rays’ current bullpen.

There are very few sporting events better than a game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. One of the best games I’ve ever been to, and will ever go to, was game 7 of the Lightning vs. Flames series.

Where have you gone: Grant Balfour’s fastball? Dan Wheeler’s command? Carlos Pena’s glove? Joe DiMaggio?
Reid Brignac JUST missed connecting on a ball last night for a homerun. I would really like to see him get that first shot and see what he can do when his confidence rises.

Is there anything more frustrating then “buffering” while listening to streaming radio? Well, I can think of a few things, like a crying baby on an airplane or people who use “The Milkshake Song” as a cell phone ring, but it’s close.

Gabe Kapler hit a homerun in the wind-tunnel known as Yankee Stadium. I rank that accomplishment along the line of toasting Eggos.
Gabe Kapler still sucks and hopefully will be the odd man out when Burrell comes off the disabled list.

I am headed to Vegas this weekend and will be playing in the World Series of Poker Event 24, $1500 no-limit hold ‘em event. I will provide results when I get back. Wish me luck!

-The Rocket Scientist

Sweet Friday

It seems like a lifetime ago since the Rays lineup card looked even remotely close to what it was intended to look like. Of course with Aki's injury being season-ending the lineup won't look exactly like it was supposed to again this year, but according to various sources (including the official site of the Rays), both Burrell and Bartlett should be back in action on Friday.

When Friday's lineup card gets posted, if it looks something like the one below I'll dance a frickin' jig, whistle a tune, and pray to God that it makes a difference (how could it not?).

Here's how I see Friday's Lineup Card:

  • BJ Upton (CF)
  • Carl Crawford (LF)
  • Evan Longoria (3B)
  • Carlos Pena (1B)
  • Pat Burrell (DH)
  • Ben Zobrist (2B)
  • Jason Bartlett (SS)
  • Matt Joyce (RF)
  • Dioner Navarro (C)

Isn't that a just thing of beauty to see a legitimate designated hitter, and the league leader in batting average finally back in the lineup?

*For the record; I'd rather see JB leading-off, but Maddon has made it blatantly obvious that Upton is there to stay. I also wouldn't mind seeing Hernandez getting more starts as a means of motivation for Navi (anybody else ready to see Riggans again?). Gross in right field wouldn't bother me either.


Rays: 3
Angels: 4

  • Ben Zobrist. Zorilla hit yet another homer, his 12th, in the 8th inning to pull the Rays within 1. Zo finished the night 2 for 4 from the plate with 2 RBI, scored a run, and was the only Rays player to record more than 1 hit.
  • Carlos Pena. El Gato was 1 for 2 with a double and 2 walks. With patience will come better pitches to hit, and with better pitches to hit will come more homers. *fingers crossed*
  • Gabe Gross. Offensively Gross was less than stellar (1 for 4 with 2 K's), but Gross showed exactly why he deserves a roster spot over the other Gabe by showing good instinct and showcasing his great arm on several occasions, including gunning down Kendrick from shallow RF.


  • James Shields. You could see from the first pitch that Shields didn't feel like pitching. If you go back and look at the tape you'll see that he was just kind of skulking around right out of the gate, and it wasn't until the 3 inning that Shields caught his stride, but between his lackadaisical approach and a few defensive errors the Angels were already on top, where they'd stay the rest of the game. Shields finished the game having pitched 6 and 1/3 innings, allowing 4 runs (2 earned) on 10 hits, while walking 0, and striking-out 3. Not good enough for the supposed Ace of the staff.
  • Dioner Navarro. Navi is back to his sucky ways once again, going 0 for 4 with a strike-out. Navi's descent back into the mires of hitting sucktitude coupled with his crappy defensive effort this weekend have re-earned him a spot "on-notice" (sidenote: as no major gaffes have been made as of late Joe Maddon has been removed from the list).
  • RISP. Team stats with runners in scoring position: 0 for 8. Not gonna win those games.
  • Evan Longoria. Since returning from his strained/sore hamstring Longoria is 0 for 6 with 3 strikeouts. E-Lo has drawn 4 walks (1 intentional) during that stretch, but the Rays need more from their stud third baseman.
  • BJ Upton. Stop trying to steal.

  • In round 1 of the first-year players draft the Rays selected (30th overall pick) 17 year old LeVon Washington (fresh off of shoulder surgery (no red-flag there?)) from Gainsville, Fl. Washington bats left-handed and throws right. Their second and third round picks were Kenneth Diekroeger (ss), and Todd Glaesmann (of) respectively.

CAVIAR (game ball):

Ben Zobrist. Another day another homer.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pythagorean Potential

Earlier this morning I stumbled on this article by Ted Keith over at SI, and found one particular paragraph of particular interest:

Their Pythagorean record, which projects a team's wins and losses based on the number of runs it scores and allows, suggests that the Rays should have the second-best record in baseball, with five more wins than they do right now, yet instead they have the worst disparity between projected and actual performance in the American League.

One could go two different directions with this information; one, there is no reason why with such a high Pythagorean Theory that the Rays can't rebound from a slow start and still reach their originally perceived potential, or, two, the Pythagorean theory fails to factor in the fact that last season's bullpen played above themselves and their subsequent return to earth this season.

So let's do exactly that and look at both sides of the coin:

Argument 1: Several anomalies have prevented the Rays from living up to their supposed potential, and they will rebound from said anomalies in order to reach their Pythagorean Theory projection.

The Rays' stats help make this argument for me; they have a slew of players at or near the league lead in BA (Jason Bartlett .370), RBI (Evan Longoria 55), home runs (Carlos Pena 17), and steals (Carl Crawford 34), so if these trends continue the team can't help but win more games. The Rays have also played fairly well against their two biggest division rivals New York and Boston (10-8), but have played down to the level of some lesser opponents (i.e. Cleveland (3-5)).

This info coupled with the idea that the Rays have suffered a bad case of the injury bug; Aki (out for the season), Bartlett (2-3 weeks), Burrell (2-3 weeks), Longoria, and those who were mentally injured; Scott Kazmir (2-6 weeks (estimated)), and Troy Percival (potentially retired) leaves you wondering exactly how they (the Rays) have managed to even hover around the .500 mark at all.

Optimism, stats, and Pythagorean Theory combined make it hard to argue with the fact that the Rays won't still right the ship, but only time will tell. One thing we know now though is that the time for the turn-around is running thin, and the opportunity for the Pythagorean theory to prove its' relevance is fading fast.

Argument 2: The bullpen was the determining factor in last season's success and their shortcomings will be the undoing of this season's expectations, Pythagorean Theory be damned.

This train of thought basically says that all those offensive stats mean absolutely nothing if the guys out in the 'pen can't finish opponents off, and anyone who was a fan of the Rays pre-2008 can attest to the truth behind this theory. Life as a fan of a team who shows time and again that no lead is safe is pure hell, and with a few shining exceptions so far this season it looks like the patchwork 'pen isn't going to come close to the success they ran into last season.

Not all the blame can fall on the shoulders of the bullpen either, though. The inconsistency of the starting rotation has put the bullpen into some fairly hairy situations so far this season, and has caused them (the bullpen pitchers) to be overused or stretched thin during several stretches this season. A starting rotation that once looked like the envy of the AL East has looked like a shell of its former self and has already been shuffled in Kaz's absence, and looks to be shaken up again due to Sonny's lack of consistency and Price's promotion.

It's been said a million times in the past and here's number one million and one: the three most important things in baseball are; pitching, pitching, and pitching, so unless Upton, Longoria, Pena, and Burrell can all hit 50 homers the pitching would have to drastically improve in order for the Rays to compete, and the opportunity to reach their Pythagorean Theory potential (or minimize the disparity) is unobtainable due to the fact that it neglects to factor-in the unforeseen drop-off in pitching both from the rotation and the 'pen.

Which will it be? Which side of the fence do you fall on? Can the Rays reach their Pythagorean potential or no?

CHEESE & WHINE: I Hit it Farther in Church League Softball

Rays: 3
Yankees: 5

  • Evan Longoria. Dirt McGirt was back from his tweaked hammy, and is hopefully the first in a long string of players returning from injuries (are you listening JB and PB?).
  • Carl Crawford. Another day another pair of hits. CC was 2 for 4.


  • Carlos Pena. El Gato had better find his stride again real soon if the Rays expect to get on any sort of run. Last night Pena was 0 for 3 and was hit by a pitch for the second game running.
  • BJ Upton. I was all ready to come in today and finally take BJ "off-notice", but with another 0 for 4 performance his stay at the On-notice Hotel (free robe included with every stay) has been extended.
  • Little League Ballparks disguised as MLB parks. You'll notice that Sonny isn't in the "Whine" section, and rightfully so; he allowed 6 hits against the Yankees at their house, 4 of which were homeruns, the problem is that 2 of those homers would've been flyouts at any other major league park, so I don't hold Sonny accountable at all. Take those away and he pitched 7 innings allowing only 4 hits and 3 runs, and he'd be in the "Cheese" section without a second thought. This new park is a joke. Its no exaggeration to say that it is within the realm of possibility for a strong player to accidentally hit a check swing homerun over the RF wall. Seriously. Like Dwayne and Ken said during the broadcast, that's not baseball that's slow-pitch softball.


  • Word on the street is that Pat the Patient will be back in the lineup by the end of the week, and JB should be back before long as well. And not a moment too soon.
  • Quick shout-out to our own writers, Dustin and Brian. Thanks for holding down the fort on the weekends. Much appreciated.

CAVIAR (game ball):

Gabe Kapler. No he's not in the "Cheese" section. Yes I'd still dance a jig if he were DFA'd right now, but his 2-run homer was a bright spot on an otherwise regular day.