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Perfection Again

Roy Halladay

What is it with Florida teams and perfect games?

For the twentieth time in the history of this amazing game, a perfect game has been thrown. 

For the third time in two seasons, a perfect game has been thrown against a team from the great state of Florida. 


Roy Halladay put together what is tantamount to absolute perfection tonight when he took down the Florida Marlins in 27-up-27-down fashion.  I know that my friend at Phillies Outside must still be celebrating, as well he should.

But why does this keep happening to us?  And by “us” I mean the baseball denizens of Florida?

The Rays went through it against Mark Buehrle and the White Sox last season before enduring the pain of another perfect at the hands of the Oakland A’s and Dallas Braden.  And now the Florida Marlins know what we “northerners” felt each time.

Of course, when the Rays took the field each time there was no real thought that a perfect game could be thrown at them, all due respect to Buehrle and Braden.

Halladay, though, is one of those rare pitchers who has no-hit stuff almost every night he toes the mound.  A perfect game isn’t as earth shattering in that case.

But that takes NOTHING away from the amazing feat of the Doc. 

Thank goodness he’s on my fantasy team.

And hopefully the teams from Florida have paid their dues with regards to perfect games…


Gradin’ the Tradin’

Ah, well.  The Rays did not make any moves at the trade deadline.  Despite two glaring needs, the team was unable to do that trade that might have helped to shore up some weaknesses for the final playoff push.

I don’t know that moves HAD to be made.  This team stood pat last year and was able to utilize the huge talent it had to make it to October.  This year’s iteration of the Rays is not much different, and should be able to ride its talent–both here in the majors and in the minors–to a division crown or wildcard berth. 

It ain’t gonna be easy, though.

Even though I can’t look at any moves the Rays made, I wanted to take a look at the multitude of moves made yesterday and grade how each move should help each team.


Deal: Red Sox trade for Victor Martinez

Analysis: Jason Varitek has not been what the Sox have needed this year.  Sure, he’s led the team as an old grizzled veteran should, but little more than that.  Add in the fact that Mike Lowell’s hip is not long for this season and you have a need at catcher and first base.  Well, the Red Sox filled those needs with the addition of Martinez.  One of the more coveted players available at the deadline, the versatile Martinez might just be the piece that complete the playoff puzzle for the Sox

Grade: A+


Deal:  White Sox trade lots of young arms for Jake Peavy

Analysis:  Initially this looks like a great deal.  The White Sox were able to rekindle interest in moving Peavy late Friday (interest that waned early in the season) and finally consummated the deal.  Why Peavy would want to pitch in hitter-friendly US Cellular Field in a new league is beyond me, but he had his reasons to waive his no trade clause.  The Sox got a pitcher who is not ready to pitch now and might not be ready for several more weeks.  The Padres got a plethora of arms that should help them long term.



Deal:  Twins acquire Orlando Cabrera

Analysis:  I don’t like Cabrera.  Let’s get that out of the way.  I don’t like the way he tried to make some lame point in the playoffs last year against the Rays.  I am glad Grant Balfour struck him out, though.  Why do I say all this pointless blather?  Because this is a perfect move for the Twins.  And if I’m saying that with the way I feel, then you know it is good.  The Twinkies needed a strong shortstop, and they got it.  He will hit 2nd in the lineup ahead of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer and will help that offense really get going.  And his defense will be welcome in the Metrodome–especially if you saw the bumbling of Brendon Harris in last night’s game.



Deal:  Tigers get Jarrod Washburn

Analysis:  Washburn was not going to be able to help the Mariners make the playoffs this year.  And he was going to ask for more money than the M’s would be willing to pay him after the end of this season.  For them, this is a great move.  For the Tigers, this move makes sense.  They will now have a solid 1-3 in the rotation.  Plus, the move enabled them to keep pace with the moves the Sox and Twins made within the division.  But can Washburn keep up his torrid pitching?  I don’t think so.

Grade:  B-


Deal:  Braves and Red Sox exchange 1B: Adam Laroche and Casey Kotchman


Analysis:  The Braves have fallen out of love with the guy they acquired for Mark Teixeira not that long ago.  Why?  They want more home runs.  Kotchman has just 6 this year.  But the guy is hitting .283 and plays a decent 1B.  Laroche, on the other hand, struggles to hit .250 and only has 13 dingers this year.  Each guy has only around 40 RBIs.  This is kind of a non-deal–much like the Jeff Francoeur for Ryan Church deal earlier.  What are the Braves thinking?

Grade:  Braves–C             Red Sox–B


Deal:  Marlins trade for the Nats’ Nick Johnson

Analysis:  Everybody seems to love Nick Johnson.  I don’t get it.  He’s a marginal hitter, and ok fielder, and he might actually be slower than our own Pat Burrell.  What’s the deal?  When the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez was told of the trade, he reportedly pumped his fist and yelled “YES!”  Why?  This might help the Marlins shore up their infield by moving Jorge Cantu to 3B and allowing Johnson to man 1B, but that’s about it.  But, the Fish did not give up much for him so…

Grade:  B


Deal:  Rockies get Joe Beimel from the Nats

Analysis:  Make fun of the Pirates all you want, at least it seems they are getting a direction in mind for the franchise.  The Nationals don’t have a clue.  They dumped a solid lefty bullpen guy in Beimel to get two youngsters–one of which, I read, is recovering from surgery.  Ugh.  This deal should help the Rox, but not that much.

Grade:  B


Deal:  Dodgers send minor leaguer 3B Josh Bell to O’s for closer George Sherrill

Analysis:  I’m looking at both sides of the coin on this one.  The Dodgers acquire a solid closer who has been more and more consistent as the season has gone on.  Thus, right now the Dodgers have one of the more potent 8th- and 9th-inning guys out there.  The Orioles got a guy I hadn’t heard much about, but about whom I read is something special at 3B.  Melvin Mora won’t be long in an O’s uni, so getting Bell, who might get a callup sometime next year, plays out perfectly for Baltimore.  This team is going to be pretty exciting come next season. 

Grade:  D’s–B+        O’s–B


As with any trade that went down in the last few days, we will have to wait and see how things go.  Of course, the Cardinals have gotten immediate returns on their move as Matt Holliday has TORN IT UP since his arrival in St. Louis.

Lots of the deals above included young minor leaguers.  Their value is not entirely quanitfiable just yet, but it may be sooner rather than later.

Either way, Friday was lots of fun.

Even if the Rays did do nothing.

Tradin’ Post: Rays Edition

I had a few ideas of moves that the Rays should consider before the 4 pm trade deadline hits today. I know that this post has a shelf life (about 6 hours), but I think that talkin’ trades is one of the fun parts of this game we love.  I wanted to spend a little time on it.

Of course, NOTHING I write about here is coming true. 

But I did a little digging and a little research to see if something out there made sense for my Rays that could get them to the post season again.


Guys to Get: Catcher

One of the needs the Rays have falls right behind the plate.  Our catcher position has been brutal offensively.  Dioner Navarro and Michel Hernandez have combined to hit about .228 with 6 home runs and 38 RBIs. 

Not the type of production you can live with from ANY position.

In their defense, so to speak, those two guys have played some great defense this year and really called some solid games.  That is worth its weight in gold and will probably keep both of them at the Trop for the remainder of the year. 


If the Rays made a move I think that there are two guys who would fit VERY VERY well.


Ryan Doumit


 .255   5 HR   20 RBI

Doumit is better known for his offense than his defense.  He broke out big time for the Pirates last year (.318/ 15 / 69 / 34 2b).  He has had some setbacks with his health this year, missing time several times over the course of the season.  However, the production he has been able to put up in spite of only 109 at bats is phenomenal for a catcher.

He’s 28 years old, which means that he is getting ready to enter his prime offensively.  I am sure his defense can come along if coached properly. 

And keep in mind that the Bucs just trade for Jeff Clement with Seattle.  Clement was a highly touted catching prospect for the M’s and just might have made Doumit expendable.

He has a team-friendly contract that puts him under team control until 2013.  Hmmmmmm….sound like a Rays-type of player?


Kurt Suzuki

.285   6 HR   47 RBI   1 error

This is the guy I’m most excited about.  And it might be a long shot for the A’s to drop him.  But he is only 25 years old, has some pop in his bat (26 doubles!), and does not make errors.  He calls a good game and, if you’ve watched him play much, is nimble around the plate.  He is a tough out and will draw a walk from time to time.

His contract is league-minimum right now and for next year.  In 2011 he becomes arbitration eligible–something the Rays should be able to buy out after Pat Burrell’s contract is off the books. 

He could bring alot of stability offensively to the catcher position and maintain the defensive prowess behind the plate we have been used to.


Guys to Get: Reliever

I don’t think that that the Rays have a big hole anywhere on the team right now.  Surely, the starting pitcher has been quite inconsistent, but you don’t want to make any trades to shore that up (especially with Cliff Lee gone and Roy Halladay ridiculous).  Our other position players have done just fine–offensively and defensively.

I look at the bullpen as a spot where we could improved.  Specifically, our 7th and 8th inning guys.  I love Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler, love ’em.  But they have not put together the most consistent seasons this year.  And you can’t have guys who are inconsistent come into the game to hold the lead for JP Howell.

It is with this in mind that I nominate the two following guys for acquisition.


Rafael Soriano

1-2   1.88 ERA   65 K   18 BB   15 SV   12.19 K/9 (!!!)

This guy is just a dream, more than likely, because the Rays are probably not going to throw the money he will be scheduled to make next year at him.  He should make 6.1 million next season in the final season before he becomes a free agent.  He is 29 and is coming off a shakey year in 2008. 

He has shuttled from setup guy to closer all year long.  But wow.  What a drastic difference if you could get hitters looking at Soriano’s 95mph heat in the 8th and Howell’s 85 mph “heat” in the 9th.  The Braves don’t mind moving him because they have….


Mike Gonzalez

MikeGonzalez7.jpg Mike Gonzalez after getting his 39th consecutive save! image by klingreen

3-3   3.06 ERA   60 K   20 BB   9 SV   12.06 K/9 (!!!)

He is 31 but seems to be finally hitting his stride with the Bravos.  He is a lefty, but he would be a great replacement for either (or both) Randy Choate and Brian Shouse.  He has been moved from team to team over the course of his career, playing middle reliever, setup guy, and closer at each stop.  The Braves have been pleasantly surprised at his output this year and have alternated between Soriano and him as the closer all season long.

His contract is more manageable for the Rays next year–his final contract year–as he should make 3.45 million.  He has a quirky delivery but he can strike anybody out at any time.  Not too bad for a setup guy.   


Guys to Go

For reasons mentioned before, I think that the Rays could throw in these guys to any deal just to help sweeten it.  I don’t think that any of the players mentioned below will work for one-to-one straight up trades, but they are certainly salary dumps and add-ons that could help any deal go through.

Brian Shouse

His value has taken a hit since his return from the DL.  His ERA has balooned to above 5.00 and he is not getting the one guy Maddon allows him to face out.


Dioner Navarro.

He is not recovering from his slump.  He is trending in the wrong direction.  As a switch hitter he does fine against lefties, but against righties he hits only .190.  Not good.


Grant Balfour

I love the guy.  He leads the team in holds, but he is not reliable.  He’s given up 6 runs in his last 10 appearances.  That is not a consistent set up guy.  He is a free agent after this year.


The Red Sox have pulled 4 1/2 games in front of the Rays for second place in the division with the Yankees up 7 games!  Time is ticking.

I don’t want the Rays to make any drastic moves that will affect negatively our ability to win next year.  That is one of the things that makes me proud of our front office–they do NOT succumb to peer pressure at all.  If they think we can make it to October, the deal will be done, but only if it does not hurt us next year or the next two years.

Only 6 hours and counting!!!

A Blah End to the First Half


I don’t want to get too deep into the disappointing loss yesterday.  I am going to take Canuck’s advice at The Watercooler and try to take a break from things.  I think the Rays Republic needs it.

Yesterday was another one of those typical Rays games where things looked great–then went to heck.


James Shields put together a stellar game for 6 1/3 innings.  He was setting them up and knocking them down.  His pace was fast and his pitches were effective.  The Oakland A’s hitters were swinging at first or second pitches the entire game and Shields was getting ground out after ground out.  He was not walking anybody and his command was impeccable.

So what happened?

It wasn’t as if the defense let him down.  Ben Zobrist, playing right field (which should be his future position in my opinion), gunned down a runner at the plate in the first inning.  Michel Hernandez was calling a great game and was throwing guys out trying to steal (at least when the umpires were calling it right). 

Offensively the Rays were scuffling a little, but they had put up 3 runs in the bottom of the 5th with some timely hitting. 

So what was the deal yesterday?

It was a combination of things.  Things that were out of the hands of Shields and many of the players on the team.

First, let’s talking umpiring.  Now, you won’t hear many complaints about umpires here at Cowbell.  I am a big fan of human error and not of computer call enhancement.  I like when I can argue about a missed call on a strike, a home run, or a foul ball.  That is what makes baseball fun and I hope we never lose that.

But that call of safe on an A’s base stealer in the 8th was ridiculous.  Hernandez threw Matt Holliday out by a clear foot, yet he was called safe at second.  What resulted?  The A’s proceeded to put up 3 runs in the frame.  The entire complexion of the game was changed and James was chased. Over one bad call.

Longo was called out on a strikeout when his foul ball had clearly hit the ground first.  He stood there exasperatedly trying to tell the home plate umpire that, but he was getting nowhere fast.  That ended what could have been a Rays threat in the 7th.

5/30 Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays Manager by jonathon.

And Joe Maddon’s managing in the game was not his best.  He brought in Dan Wheeler to replace Shields in the 6th with 1 out and 2 on to face Jack Cust.  Cust is 2-13 against Shields, but 2-3 against Wheeler.  What happened?  Cust gets a hit and an RBI. 

Maddon then brings in lefty Randy Choate to face lefty Adam Kennedy (boy he’s killed us, hasn’t he?  Makes you wonder if we had him at 2B and Z in RF).  Kennedy had just homered against Choate the night before.  So what happened?  Kennedy gets another hit.

Those things were disappointing, to say the least.  To be let down by those who are “in charge” of the game is something that is almost unforgiveable. 

However, let’s not forget that while the Rays capitalized when they could offensively, they did only score 3 runs.  I mentioned in a previous post how Shields had only received more than 3 runs of support in 8 of his 18 starts this season.  Well, let’s make it 8 out of 19 starts now.

The All-Star Break is here.  And not too soon.  Let’s see if our guys can get some R&R and put this latest 2-game losing streak behind them. Let’s forget about how we could have gained 2 games on the Yankees this weekend.  Let’s forget about our inconsistency in our pitching and hitting.

Let’s just enjoy watching some baseballs get the stuffing knocked out of them into the St. Louis night sky and yell for our Carlos Pena

Let’s get ready for the second half.  It is going to be a doosie!

One More Time

Every team in baseball enters today knowing that they will not play another meaningful game until Friday.  For some players it will be a nice break.  For others, it will mean catching a flight to St. Louis for the All-Star Game.

MLB All-Star Game 2009 logo

Let’s hope the Rays don’t let the appeal of a vacation distract them from the business they need to take care of today.

Our Boys by the Bay will take on the Oakland A’s today in the rubber game of their three-game set this weekend.  After taking a terrible loss last night 7-2, the Rays will be looking to rebound and head into the break on a high note.

“Big Game” James takes the mound for the Rays, sporting a relatively disappointing 6-6 record but with a stout 3.37 ERA.  He has been hit-and-miss this season with regard to his performance, yet has not received the run support he deserves.  This guy could easily be 10-4, but the Rays don’t score runs for him.

Here’s an upsetting stat if you are a Rays fan: in Shields’ 18 starts this season the Rays have scored 3 or fewer runs 10 times.  Wow.  That must be frustrating.

He will be opposed by ANOTHER rookie in Brett Anderson (5-7, 4.86).  He is coming off a complete game shutout against no less than the Boston Red Sox and has given up only 1 earned run in his last 14 1/3 with 16 Ks and only 6 hits.

That is a guy on a tear. 

Uh oh.

Last night I thought the Rays needed to do several things to win.  In a nutshell they needed a patient plate discipline and a conservative hitting approach.

They did neither, striking out 13 times, walking 3 times, and scoring only 2 runs.

Today is anybody’s guess on what the Rays need to do to win.  When the Boys in Blue come off a game like last night’s things get a little crazy the next day.

You could tell that something was frustrating Joe Maddon last night as he was ejected last in the game for arguing a call that even he, after the game, admitted was the right call.  Joe is a great manager, so perhaps it was a way of trying to get a lethargic team a little more fired up.  Sometimes that works. 

It didn’t last night.

Anderson faced the Rays May 20th and got the win by going 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, and striking out 5.  He walked none.

We know that the Rays are at their best when they are taking pitches and working the count.  Obviously they did not do that last time. 

They also managed only 4 hits in that game. 

Granted, it was a West Coast game and those are always difficult for East Coast teams to play.  Things get wacky out there.  And they did put up 4 runs in that game, despite the loss. 

I think that 4 runs will hold up today if the Rays can manage them.

The energy has been lacking in the last week.  I am looking to see somebody get the guys ready to rumble in this one.  Oh, if only we still had the ultra-hyper Jonny Gomes on the roster!


Let’s hope they learn from their mistakes.


Game Time Approaches, but the Game Will Feel Far, Far Away From Me

I didn’t go to the game tonight.  Too many trips to Lowe’s and The Home Depot.  (Can I get $ for giving them a free plug right there?)

Matt Garza toes the hill tonight for the Rays, looking to make up for his horrendous start this past Sunday against the Rangers.  He should get it considering the lineup he will be facing.  We’ll see, though, if that will be enough for a Rays win. 

Dallas Braden goes for the A’s.  He has a great ERA (3.13) and a great Oppenent’s Batting Average (.257) but a disappointing record (6-7).  Those numbers all add up to a pitcher who is coming into his own in his third major league season but is not getting any kind of run support from his teammates.  There aren’t many pitchers with an ERA in the low 3’s and a sub-.500 record. 

But them’s the A’s, after all.

The Rays’ offense did a great job chasing Vin Mazarro last night.  They had the long ball working, the speed rolling, and the pitching dealing.  I think they are going to find things a little more difficult tonight.  Braden knows the strikezone and does not walk many guys. 

He also does not give up the long ball.  He has only yielded 7 of those in 106 innings. 

If the Rays want to win I’m thinking that they will need to:

–Be patient at the plate.  Braden seems to thrive against hitters who are too aggressive. 

–Make the most of their opportunities.  This is going to be a low-scoring game, so mistakes with sacrifice bunts (talking to you Navarro!) and baserunning blunders won’t cut it.

–Look for singles and doubles instead of the long ball.  Sometimes our hitters get a little too impressed with themselves when they get the home run working. 

The game is not on tv tonight!  Stupid MLB rules. 

So it will be a night of Pink Panther 2 for me (just arrived in my Netflix–why it was on there in the first place is beyond me). 

Hmmm, I’m thinking that this is one crappy Saturday night.  Let’s hope it won’t be made worse by a Rays loss!

What a Night! Full of Education! Yep, Education…


stadium pic.jpgIf you couldn’t tell from the title, I had a great night tonight. 

I got to see a game (hadn’t been to the park in a few weeks), the Rays won, Longo and Pena went yard, and Jeff Nieman threw one impressive shutout.

There is so much to talk about, I don’t know where to start!


I picked up my replica ring as soon as we got to the stadium.  I couldn’t wait.  And I am sure you will agree it looks quite handsome on my elegant phalanges.  My dog Daisy does; just look at that face…

ring and daisy.jpgI decided to grab a corned beef sandwich at the brew pub–I know, I know, not exactly baseball game food but that restaurant makes one impressive hot corned beef.  Sue me.

The game started with a very scary play.  For me and those around me, anyway.  My seats are just under an overhang in a box.  Great vantage point.  I feel really lucky to have found seats in this exact spot.  You can watch the game and talk without worrying about getting hit by a foul ball.  Not one foul ball has come near me this season, except for one bouncing up and into my box.  That’s not a bad thing. 

This night was different.

A foul ball off the bat of Adam Kennedy, the game’s first batter, had the most perfect trajectory such that it skimmed the bottom edge of the overhang and came right at me!  We all lost track of the ball until it emerged at the last second.  The gentleman in front of me put his hand up and SMACK it hit him in the palmand caromed into the hands of an older woman.  Good for her.  Baaaaad for him. 

Somehow the ball sliced his hand open!  He was bleeding profusely and had to find an usher to get some medical attention.  The EMT on hand came back to tell his friend that the guy had to go to the hospital to get help they could not offer at the stadium!  I asked his friend if he was going to go with him.

Nope.  He was staying for the game.

Good friend.  Sheesh.

————————————-OK, BACK TO THE GAME———————————————————–

After that the game proceeded at a brisk pace.  Nieman was mowing them down.  Strikeout, nice play in the infield, flyout.  He was setting them down every which way, and giving up only a few hits along the way. 

It was funny to see the A’s misplay a foul ball that they lost in the lights off the bat of BJ Upton only to see him follow up their misplay with a double down the left field line.  He would come around to score.

Pena hit a massive home run–as only he can–into right field to give the Rays their second run.  Man, he would have been classic in the Home Run Derby.

Ben Zobrist continued to show his plate discipline by walking with the bases loaded.  That guy know his strikezone inside and out and it shows.  He rarely offers at a bad pitch.

Longo went WAY deep into the left/center seats.  I was hoping for a Longo homer and he gave it to me.  I saw him his one of the most monstrous grand slams I’ve ever seen earlier in the season.

Pat Burrell did a nice job with a couple of doubles tonight.  It is nice to see him putting the bat on the ball with more authority in the last week or so.

There were a couple of plays that elicited a chorus of boos from the crowd.  Early in the game Longo tapped a ball which was fielded by the pitcher.  Although he beat the throw to first, he was called out.  We all stood up and booed the umpire Angel Hernandez on that one and cheered when Joe Maddon came out to argue.  Joe can be quite fiery when he thinks he is right. 

Then in the 9th, with Nieman just trying to end the game, Jason Bartlett made an amazing grab of a ground ball hit deep in the hole to his right and alertly went to third with it because it was the only chance he had of getting an out.  The guy was out by a mile.  He was called safe.  Even Nieman showed some emotion on that one.

The story of the night, though, was Jeff Nieman’s masterful performance.  I said before the game that he should have a nice night considering the A’s offense was fairly dismal.  I would say that a 6-hit shutout with 6 K’s and only 108 pitches qualifies. 

He was absolutely dominent throughout.  His slider and curve were working so well that the batters were pretty much closing their eyes and hoping to hit them!  To be able to see him end the game on his terms and get his second shutout of the season (the other against the KC Royals) was great. 

Hard to believe that the only guy on the team with a complete game, and a shutout in each, is Nieman with two.  He raises his record to 8-4 and lowers his ERA to 3.73.  He leads the team in wins, complete games, shutouts, and fewest losses by a starter.

Everybody thinks James Shields and Scott Kazmir when they think of the Rays’ ace, but maybe we all need to start putting Jeff Nieman into that category.

He helped to make the game memorable for everybody in the stadium.  And it was quite a treat to see him get hit with a shaving cream pie from the hands of the guy who helped him get this shutout, catcher Dioner Navarro.

We learned alot from this game:

–The term “ace” is a description that does not fit just one pitcher on this team

–The Rays are resilient, as they have now won 4 games in a row after looking dismal in Texas

–When the pitching is going, everything else seems to fall into place

–The Rays’ mascot, Raymond, is almost as entertaining as the game itself

–Corned Beef is delicious

And most importantly

–Do NOT try to catch a foul ball off the bat of Adam Kennedy without a glove

Quite an educational night.