All those weeks of voting.
All that repetitive SUBMITTING and REFRESHING of your screen (25 times per visit).
All that hoping.
And Sunday at noon we will all find out if it was worth it.
Last Year’s Game Was Truly Classic
As you know, TBS will announce the All-Star rosters Sunday at high noon, and I, for one, am a little nervous.
I am sure you can guess why. The Rays never get alot of love from the Midsummer Classic. It has been rare to find more than the one obligatory Ray on the All-Star roster each summer.
Last year was different, though, as the Rays had a ******** 7 players put on the roster.
Of course, Rays manager Joe Maddon was in charge of rounding out the rosters after the fan vote. But you would have gotten alot of beef if you tried to mount an argument that any of the Rays in last year’s group was undeserving.
(click the links below to see my thoughts on these stories last July–then again, I am sure you have better things to do, so…)
So what are the Rays going to do for an encore?
Well, first of all, Joe Maddon more than likely will not be managing the AL side. So that might mean that 7 Rays will not make the game.
That’s fair. 7 is alot.
However, I think that the Rays should certainly get at least 4 All Stars for this year’s game. There are 4 guys who are very deserving and have earned their spot.
(voted in as a starter)
.292, 12 HR, 55 RBI, 12 SB
(at last check, was being voted in as a starter–cross those fingers!)
.318, 60 Runs Scored, 29 SB
(not many relievers have been as dominant as he has)
2-0, 19 Saves, 1.57 ERA, 1 Blown Save
(he SHOULD be the starter of the game–who else has been as good?)
11-4, 2.92 ERA, 90 K, 1.20 WHIP
I think that John Jaso (has come on like gangbusters after being called up) and Reid Brignac (the AL’s leading pinch hitter) might get some consideration, but it is a snowball’s chance that they would make it.
Let’s CC What Happens
As I said, 4 Rays in the game should be a given. But Rays fans know how it works.
No respect=Few players in the game
But the team has had a solid first half of the season, even if they have faltered as of late. That should translate to increased respect and, hopefully, increased numbers in the game.
No matter what, I am really hoping that Carl Crawford will get into the game as a starter. I am confident that if he relinquished his lead as a starter that the AL manager will still choose him as a reserve.
But the longtime Rays left fielder has never made the game as a starter, and this would be a perfect way to cap his career as a Ray, should things not work out the way most Rays fans want them to and Carl leaves the team at the end of the season.
High noon. See ya there.
It is hard to believe that the second half of the baseball season starts today. It seems as if the first half flew by so quickly. But the first pitch of post-All Star Break baseball will be thrown tonight at 7 by Derek Lowe of the Atlanta Braves to the New York Mets.
The Rays don’t get going until tomorrow against the Kansas City Royals, unfortunately. So it will be a day of reflection on what has happened and guessing on what is to come this season.
Rays’ Mid-Season Awards
When you look at this Rays team as a whole, and at the season as a whole, not one guy stands out. That was one of the hallmarks of last season’s team and one of the big reasons why it was so successful. They literally are “One Team” as the ads proclaim, and it is not a bad trait to have.
BUT, I’m not going to be lame and say that the award goes to the whole team. Not everybody gets trophies here, so I’ll be narrowing my pick to one guy.
That guy is Carl Crawford.
With all due respect to Evan Longoria, Jason Bartlett, and Ben Zobrist, Crawford has been the most dependable player on the team. He does not strike out alot, he is hitting .309, he has scored the second most runs on the team (58 behind Carlos Pena’s 62), and he has stolen a league leading 44 bases.
When CC gets a hit, defenses shudder. He is more disruptive on the basepaths than any other guy in the league. HIs SB% is top-tier stuff and he even stole over 20 bases in a row to start the season.
Plus, just ask the guys on the AL All-Star squad how they feel about him.
The rotation for the Rays has been hit and miss. Unfortunately, this team could depend on its starters alot more last season, and things could get hairy the remainder of the 2009 campaign if these guys do not step up.
The most consistent starter this season has to be “Big Game” James Shields.
He goes out there every 5th day and throws excellent baseball games. Period. He leads all starters in ERA and innings pitched. If he could get some run support from his offense he could be an 11-game winner and an easy pick for the All-Star team. Alas, his hitters have scored more than 3 runs in a game for Shields only 8 out of 19 starts. Tough to win when you have to be near perfect every start.
If the Rays score runs for him in the second half, look for Shields to put up some amazing numbers.
This might not be the sexiest award out there, but you don’t win without a solid bullpen. The Rays are second to Boston in the AL in bullpen ERA (3.56 to 3.42) which is a big reason why they are in the running for the division lead. Guys like Lance Cormier, Randy Choate, and Chad Bradford have helped to stabilize a ‘pen whose ERA was 6.16 just two years ago.
The top Reliever thus far, though, has to be JP Howell.
Howell has become the team’s defunct closer, and he has thrived in the role. He has a 2.11 ERA, 5 wins, 6 saves, and sports an incredible strikeout ratio (50:42.2 innings!). When he comes into the game, teams don’t hit. And, more importantly, teams don’t score. He has protected many leads for the Rays thus far, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Maddon officially name Howell as the closer for the remainder of the year.
Top Bench Player
If a team’s bench can be a strength, then a team will be successful. The Rays had a strong bench last year with role players such as Eric Hinske, Cliff Floyd, and Jonny Gomes playing a big part in the World Series run. This year is no different.
The Top Bench Player so far this year has to be Gabe Kapler.
Don’t get upset that it isn’t Ben Zobrist. He became a starter a long time ago and thus does not qualify for this award.
Kapler has done it all. He has played great defense, throwing guys out at will. He has been a force at the plate, knocking 4 BIG home runs this year and doubling 13 times (7th on the team) in only 113 at bats!!! To put it in perspective, no other Ray has that kind of production in so few at bats. If he projected as a full time starter with numbers such as these, he would have gotten All Star consideration.
The Rays have not made many moves, but it looks right now that Randy Choate is the best addition to the team thus far.
He has been a steadying influence on the bullpen and his 1.84 ERA has shown that he can be counted on to get the job done. And his cheap contract means that he is just the type of guy the Rays love to get.
Most Disappointing Player
Unfortunately, there are many contenders for this award. There are some Rays players who have underachieved in a big way in 2009. BJ Upton would have been a lock for this award, but he has really turned it on as of late. The same can be said for Pat Burrell.
One guy who has not been able to improve at all has been Dioner Navarro.
His .223 average, 13 doubles, .254 OB%, and 7 walks in 69 games this year have been bleak. There are few teams that can succeed getting that kind of production from such an important position. Sure, he calls a great game, but you have to get some offense from your catcher. Let’s hope he turns it on in the second half as he did in 2007.
Rays’ Mid-Season Report Card
I’m not happy that this offense, which can be so potent, has been shut down left and right by inexperienced pitchers the last 2-3 weeks. That cannot be. When rookie takes the mound, he has to be dealt with accordingly. The Rays’ hitters do not have that killer instinct right now.
This has been a part of the Rays’ game that can be counted on at all times. Zobrist may lack the Aki range at 2B, but he has done fine there. Kapler and Gross have platooned well in RF. And Longo, Bartlett, Crawford, and Pena are among the best at their positions.
Inconsistency among the starters have plagued this team all year. An improvement there will lead to a serious run at the division.
Joe has done a nice job keeping guys focused through injuries. But some of his moves have been perplexing.
Front Office B+
The guys up front have gotten the players to help the team at a low cost–something they are pros at and something that resulted in Andy Friedman getting Executive of the Year last season. Burrell might have been a bust so far, but he will turn it around. We’ll see if the Rays try to add anybody at the trade deadline–don’t count on it, though.
Best Moment of the First Half
I had a great time watching BJ Upton go yard at the Trop in the bottom of the 9th against the Cleveland Indians in May.
The game had everything: great defense (Upton gunning down a guy at the plate), a big comeback (they were down 7), and the capper (Upton’s walkoff). It was the biggest come back victory in Rays’ history.
Biggest Question in the Second Half
Can the Rays’ rotation calm down and pitch the way they did in 2008? The offense will come around–too much talent there not to–but the rotation is too shakey. You know Shields and Matt Garza will pitch well most of the time. That’s it. Jeff Nieman, Scott Kazmir, and David Price cannot be counted on right now. If the rotation does not improve, they will not be able to keep pace with the Sox and Yankees.
Series to Pay Attention to in the Second Half
I am going to ignore the obvious Boston and New York series. Of course those could be big.
However, I argue that if the Rays cannot do well in their 6 games against Kansas City, 9 games against Toronto, and 10 games against Baltimore the Sox and Yankees’ series will not matter. The Rays have to beat the guys they are supposed to beat. Nothing short of .600 baseball against those three falling teams will do.
My Playoff Picks
AL East: Boston
AL Central: Detroit
AL West: Texas
Wildcard: Tampa Bay
NL East: Philadelphia
NL Central: St. Louis
NL West: Los Angeles
That’s as far as I’m going to go with my predictions. As you saw with my Home Run Derby and All-Star Game MVP predictions, I’m not all that good at it.
I’ll leave that for the professional prognosticators.
What I will predict is that I–and hopefully you–will have alot of fun cheering for my team and going to the ballpark.
What more could you ask for?
This Rays fan is ecstatic with the selection of every deserving Rays position player to the All-Star Game roster. I was getting a little worried as they made the announcements of the AL reserves because no Rays were being mentioned. Every year the manager of the team always gets a little leeway when it comes to selecting players from his own team to the roster.
I was worried Joe Maddon might buck tradition and leave off guys from his own team in favor of being as fair as possible.
What was great is that “fair” was exactly what happened today.
The Rays got an unprecedented (for them) amount of players put onto the team with the selection of Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, and Ben Zobrist.
Every one of those guys should be an All Star and it is great that they will represent the reigning AL Champs in St. Louis next week.
It’ll be interesting when it comes out more directly which of those guys were player selections and which of them were Maddon selections. Either way, they made it on the merit of their play, not simply due to their time in the league over the past years.
I was a little surprised that so many Red Sox were put on the team (again, I don’t know right now which were chosen by Joe and which were player selections) not because of the team’s lack of success but because of some incidents in the past with the Rays and Red Sox.
Good for Joe taking the high road and getting the deserving Sox on the team. It would be hard to argue leaving any of them off.
What is even more exciting is the potential of getting Carlos Pena onto the team as well through the final man fan vote. I’ve already started voting. This might not be the most deserving of guys, so I’m just closing my eyes and hoping we can get one more Ray on the roster.
But this was truly a day for the Rays. Not only will the game be a pure treat to watch this year, with no ill feelings whatsoever about who should have made it, but today brings alot of pride to the area and to the team that has waited a long time for it.
On a side note: It was quite a hit to see only one Cub put on the team after they set the record last year for most players from one team on an All-Star roster. But they got what they deserved.
This is for all of you who give a hooey who I voted for on my All-Star Game ballot (and I am sure there are not many of you out there). For some positions I varied my vote a little depending on the day or the week and what was going on.
C Joe Mauer, Twins
1B Justin Morneau, Twins
2B Ian Kinsler, Rangers
Brian Roberts, Orioles
SS Jason Bartlett, Rays
3B Evan Longoria, Rays
OF Carl Crawford, Rays
Torii Hunter, Angels
Ben Zobrist, Rays (write-in)
C Brian McCann, Braves
1B Prince Fielder, Brewers
2B Chase Utley, Phillies
SS Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
3B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
OF Ryan Braun, Brewers
Raul Ibanez, Phillies
Justin Upton, D-backs
Sadly, I couldn’t justify in my mind voting for any Cubbies this year. Ryan Theriot and Derrick Lee are the most deserving, but the rest of the offense is brutal. If the law of averages holds up, though, I can see the Cubs really turning up the heat in the second half.
Do not attribute the high number of Rays on my ballot to the fact that I am a Rays blogger. Honestly, I think you would be hard pressed to find a shortstop in the AL with better numbers than Bartlett, a better third baseman than Longo, a more complete outfielder than CC, or a more explosive (for the at bats he’s gotten) outfielder than Zobrist.
I know that Zobrist has played second almost exclusively since Akinori Iwamura went down, but it seemed that his super-utility (and the fact that Kinsler is having a great year) would prevent him from getting in at that position. So voting for him in the outfield made the most sense.
Ok, so feel free to tear my ballot apart…
As everybody knows by now, the commish has decided to expand both AL and NL rosters by one pitching spot for this year’s installment of the All-Star Game.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
The only negatives that might come from this are:
–The rosters seem to be getting ridiculously large as it is, how much bigger could they get?
–This could create something else for the All-Star Game whiners (of which I am one, occasionally) to latch on to, specifically as to whom gets to be put into that spot.
However, positives could include:
–We will never have to worry about a tied All-Star Game again.
–The threat of injury will be reduced for the pitchers on both rosters.
–One more deserving player will get a chance to put “All Star” on his resume.
The best positive I heard about this idea came from ESPN’s Buster Olney this morning. He said this added spot might be a nice opportunity for baseball to pay respect to an aging pitcher who has put together an impressive career, if not an impressive season.
The pitcher he mentioned was Jamie Moyer.
I agree with Olney. Moyer is the type of guy who has put together a wonderful career, but has not had many All-Star level seasons. Hard to believe, he has made the All-Star game exactly once (2003).
There aren’t many better candidates out there.
So if baseball handles this extra spot with reverence, I can see it being a welcome change to the Mid-Season Classic. It would be neat to see that aging pitcher get one more chance to be introduced before an All-Star game. He wouldn’t even have to play. Simply being there as an insurance policy and, even moreso, a symbol of what is good about the game would be enough for me.
However, if this extra roster spot simply turns into another source of controversy, then it would be better off if we did not implement it in the first place.