Tagged: BJ Upton

It’s Been Awhile, but the Trade Deadline is Here!

Kids take alot of time.  Totally worth it…

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So what will the Rays do as the trade deadline looms? 

It seems that the Tampa Bay franchise is best when it avoids the big deal at the deadline.  The deals that make this team what is has been for the last four years or so are the deals that go unnoticed by the MLB public at large.  The Rays will likely end up picking up a guy off the waiver list and stand pat with what they have.

But, just in case…

WHO IS LIKELY GOING?

BJ Upton has already called the trade rumors about him “comical.”  It’s true.  A trade rumor about BJ is like all of the foreclosed houses in the area–omnipresent and depressing.

He’s a big talent, of course.  But he hasn’t utilized that talent at all, which makes him expendable.  Plus, he’s apt to make about $7 million in arbitration next year.

That REALLY makes him expendable. 

The best rumor I’ve heard is that he would go to the Nationals (they are doing things right in DC, aren’t they?) for their SS Ian Desmond and a catcher.  I’m a big fan of Desmond–of his speed, his power, and his youth.  Not many teams have strength at the SS position, so brining him to St. Pete would be great.

Let’s not forget that the Rays have Desmond Jennings, who is hitting .500 right now, primed to take BJ’s place. 

Oooooo, things do not look good for the underachieving Upton.

LIKELIHOOD: Medium

James Shields has had a TON of rumors about him.  The Reds seem to be the frontrunners in the “Big Game” sweepstakes.  However, I do not see the Rays, a team who is so shrewd when it comes to storing pitching, moving him.  His price next season will be $7 million, just like BJ, but that money for a solid #2 pitcher is much smarter to use than on a center fielder.

LIKELIHOOD: Miniscule

JP Howell has made a nice comeback from Tommy John surgery a few years ago, but he is not all the way back.  Nevertheless, there are suitors for the left-handed reliever.  They say that the Royals might want him back, but who wouldn’t want a strong lefty with a wicked curve in their bullpen?

LIKELIHOOD: Could Happen

Kyle Farnsworth has had a renaissance this season, becoming the closer the Rays thought they had lost when Rafael Soriano left town for the New York Yankees last season.  He would fetch a pretty penny on the market.  With the Rays falling out of the race, they can afford to experiment in the closer department.  Since Farnsie would ask for much more money next season, the Rays likely would not be able to afford him.  So…

LIKELIHOOD: Gone

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The bottom line is that the Rays listen to deals on all of its players.  Jeremy Hellickson has been mentioned in trades, but there is no way he’s going anywhere.  That doesn’t mean the Rays won’t listen.

Tomorrow will be a big day.  4 pm Eastern Time is the drop dead time, and it will be fun to guess about who is going where.  Unfortunately, for Rays fans, anyway, no matter what deals are done they will not lead to October. 

But next season, who knows…

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Exalted

The Rays did it. 

I’m just feeling great right now. 

Seeing the boys spray the champagne and beer.  Watching Don Zimmer get doused with champagne by BJ Upton.  Seeing Matt Garza with his diving mask on. 

These are memories.

You start off the season hoping your team will be good enough to be one of the final 8 teams after 162 games.

When it happens, it is tough to put into words. 

The Rays aren’t supposed to be here.  It’s supposed to be the Yankees and Red Sox.  The Rays are supposed to be small market also-rans. 

And here they are clinching a playoff berth. 

And here they are watching the Minnesota Twins struggle against the Kansas City Royals, hoping to get that much closer to the best record in the AL and home field advantage throughout the AL side of the playoffs.

It’s tough to explain.

Joe Maddon said it best when he said that 2008 was pandemonium and 2010 is more controlled. 

I agree to an extent.

I’m happy.  I’m ecstatic. 

But I’m not just happy to be here.

I want to see the boys do something.  I want to see them win the Series.  2008 was a time when we were happy to be there and kept getting more and more surprised with each playoff win. 

But it seems that in 2010 there is a job to do.

I’m happy.

I’m blown away.

I have chills.

And I’m looking forward to what comes next.

Great job, Rays.

Thanks for giving your fans a hell of a year.

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This might sound dumb, but I wanted to say THANKS to those who have continued to stop by the blog.  I have stopped by your blogs too, but have not really had the time to leave comments as I usually do. 

I have had alot going on these days–who doesn’t, right?–and I have let my blogging duties lapse.  I miss it, and I hope that when things settle down for me I’ll be able to get more involved with talking baseball with all of you great folks.   

Thanks for being a great ‘sphere…

BJ Continues to Sit with “Injury”….Yeah, Right….

The Tampa Bay Rays have been trying something new in center field lately.

What’s new?

Their current center fielder is a guy with alot of talent and a bat that can potentially put a ball into the outfield seats on any pitch.

Oh, and THIS guy is grown up enough to understand what it means to be a REAL baseball player.

He hustles.

His name is Ben Zobrist.

Zobrist has been starting in center field for the Rays all week and has yet to be accused of failing to hustle after a ball in the gap, unlike his predecessor.

Yep, BJ Upton has not been in center field since Tuesday night, when he came on late in a game against the Boston Red Sox, and has not started in center since Sunday, when he made the decision that trying to track down a ball hit into the gap did not quite fit with the type of baseball player he felt he was. 

And when the budding leader of the Rays, Mr. Evan Longoria, chose to mention this oversight to the “always-potentially-never-really” talented Upton, this happened.

evan longoria bj upton

Thanks for dailyskew.com for the pic

It was great to see the more mature Longoria turn and walk away from the histrionics of the childish Upton, almost as if to say, “I don’t have time for this baby crap.  Grow up and play the damn game.”

Well done, Longo.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you can stop here.

Manager Joe Maddon said that he had “frank” discussions with Upton several times between Sunday and Tuesday and that the talks went well. 

Funny, I think he said that in 2008 when he had to bench Upton THREE TIMES because the center fielder decided then, too, that hustling was beneath him.

What kind of makes BJ’s current escapade so atrocious is that not only did he jump into the face of one of his “friends” on the team (yeah, right–I don’t know that reacting as if you want to rip the face off a guy indicates that any friendship really existed there) when he was rightfully called out for being a chump, but he also threw a kid who has just been called up, Matt Joyce, under the bus, saying that the left fielder should have gotten to it first.

Nice.

When Upton was not in the starting lineup on Tuesday against the Red Sox, a game the Rays HAD to have, a game against the team the Rays are currently battling for the wild card playoff spot, a game that everybody in Boston and in the Tampa Bay area were eager to watch, Maddon said that it was only because Upton did not match up well with Lackey and NOT because of punishment.

Yeah, right.

I think that every Rays fan was able to read between the lines at the message that Maddon was sending to the youngster:

Insult your team and your fans, and you’ll sit.

Forget the lame excuse for why Upton sat, he sat nevertheless, as he should have.

Then Upton sat again on Wednesday and again on Thursday.  Upton and Maddon claim it is because the loafer has a leg injury of some sort. 

**Is it any coincidence that the Rays have won both of those games?  I don’t think so. 

**Is it any coincidence that Upton taking a seat for those two games came immediately following his temper tantrum?  I don’t think so.

**Is it a coincidence that his “benching” has come against two very good teams that the Rays must fire on all cylinders to beat?  I don’t think so.

It is obvious that Maddon is sending a message.

 

The only real question out there is, will Upton hear it?

I don’t know about that, but I know that there are many things that BJ needs to start doing.

It’s time to realize that the label “potential” has a shelf life, BJ.

It’s time to start playing for the fans and your team, BJ.

In other words, it’s time to grow up, BJ.

Speedy Post: Nice Win Gets Rays Closer to First

The Rays ended the month of June with a really nice win against a team they HAVE to beat if they want to be in the running for a playoff spot, the Boston Red Sox.

Their 9-4 thumping of the Sawx Wednesday night was pretty darn impressive, as the run output from Boston was augmented with some meaningless runs late in the game. 

Matt Garza did just what the Rays needed him to do: shut down the opposition.  He gave up only 6 hits in his 7 innings and looked in command throughout.  He ran out of gas in the 8th inning, but it didn’t really matter at that point because the Rays had a commanding lead.

I had thought that the Rays would be able to beat down Daisuke Matsusaka, but it didn’t really go that way.  He was far from impressive, but he was also far from dominated by the Rays offense.  It was the Sox ‘pen that fall apart, namely Manny Delcarmen

And, let’s face it, you can’t win if your bullpen stinks on any given night.  Luckily, the Rays’ hitters were able to take advantage of Delcarmen’s lack of control.

What really helped to force the Sox pitchers hands was what has helped the Rays to beat Boston 5 out of 9 games thus far this season:

 Stolen Bases!!!

The Rays were able to run on Sox catcher Jason Varitek fairly easily, stealing on 2 of 3 base attempts.  That might not sound like alot, but when NONE of the stolen bases were taken by guys with last names of Upton, Crawford, or Bartlett, then you are talking about some really good base running.  (Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist were the thieves in the game)

If you are a Rays fan, you are not only happy with the result of the game but also with the fact that Tampa Bay sits just 1 game behind the Sox for second place in the AL East and only 2 games behind the Yanks for the division lead. 

Unfortunately, if they aren’t careful during this tough 4-game series in Minnesota, they might give up all the ground they gained last night. 

It will be up to Jeff Nieman and the Rays hitters to start July off the same way they finished June: with a win.

Speedy Post: Rays/Red Sox Game 2

 

So…last night stunk.

How else do you describe an 8-5 loss?

And it wasn’t that close.

The Rays find themselves 2 games behind the Red Sox for second place and 3 games out of first.  Nobody said that the AL East was going to be easy, but the Rays as of late have made everything look more difficult than it needs to be.

The Rays send righty Matt Garza to the mound tonight with the hopes of earning a split in the truncated 2-game series.  He has done well and done poorly in two starts against the Red Sox, but there is something tonight that Garza has going for him.

Nobody on the Red Sox team who might start tonight has faced the spitfire righty, emphasis on the SPIT.

In fact, only 6 guys on the Red Sox roster have any at bats against Garza and only Adrian Beltre is hitting over .261 against him. 

In other words, Garza is due for a good start in a big game against a tough team tonight.  As long as the youngster can keep his emotions in check, of course.  That certainly seems to have been a challenge for the Rays as of late.

The Red Sox will send Daisuke Matsusaka to the mound.  The Rays have had moderate success against the guy with the exaggerated windup, though Ben Zobrist (no hits), Jason Bartlett (.143), and BJ Upton (.077) have had significant struggles.

I would expect to see John Jaso behind the plate (he’s a lefty and has yet to see Matsusaka), Reid Brignac at SS (he has yet to face Matsusaka), and either Kelly Shoppach (.400) or Willy Aybar at DH (.333) tonight. 

Will BJ start?  Who knows?  He didn’t start yesterday, but he did end up getting into the game late.  Manager Joe Maddon said it was not a punishment, but, well, we can all read between the lines. 

No matter who starts, the Rays will have to be patient.  Matsusaka thrives when opposing batters jump on his early pitches.  If the Rays hold back and wait for their pitch, work the count, draw some walks, I think we will see them even the series and get to within one game of second place yet again.

But if the Rays’ hitters are overly aggressive and Garza struggles with his emotions, we can expect another ugly game, for sure.

Rays and Red Sox Get Ready to Throwdown

       VS       

You surely want to get excited about the series that starts tonight between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox. 

You want to get hyped and break out the good snacks before settling down on the couch for a series between rivals.

You want to go through the ritual of getting mentally prepared for yet another series of insanity between to top-notch teams in the AL East.

You want to, but…

Let’s face it, the Red Sox are a long long long way from contending for the division.  Heck, they have to crawl out of 4th place before they can contend for anything.

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Sweeps Is Sweeps

You cannot forget the hard-to-watch destruction that was the 4-game series sweep the Rays handed to the Red Sox last month.  On the one hand, you do not want to put too much emphasis on baseball in April, but you can’t discount it too much, either. 

I mean, the Rays outscored the Rouge Sox in that series by a 24-9 score and dominated pretty much every facet of the game.  They outhit the Sox, outpitched the Sox, and outstole the Sox.

Sadly, while that series was simply legendary, you can’t transfer those good times to this series. 

Damn.

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Pitching In

The Sox are going to throw 2 of their best in this series (all due respect to Josh Beckett, he simply has not been himself lately).

Clay Buchholz (who is pitching RIGHT NOW!) and Jon Lester are having solid seasons.  Their ERA’s are in the low-3’s and they are a combined 9-5 this year.  They typically have good success against the Rays, which could bode ill for the good guys.

They Rays will throw Wade Davis (who deserves SERIOUS Rookie of the Year consideration) in Game 1, which is not an issue because he has pitched in many pressure-filled games this season.  He will be followed by the stellar James Shields and Cy Young-esque Matt Garza.

The Sox pitching in this series might be good, but the Rays’ should be better.

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The Secret?  Stealing

In their series in April, the Rays stole the Red Sox blind.  They took base after base with little resistance. 

Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, and BJ Upton could not be stopped.  And that could be acceptable, if you are a Sox fan, if those were the only guys who were swiping bases.  However, the Rays rubbed it in by having Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and Carlos Pena take bases as well. 

The way the Rays will win this series, and the Sox will lose it, is if the Rays’ stealing success continues.  But if the Sox keep the Rays off of the bases and prevent them from turning singles into doubles we could see another sweep, but this time from the bad guys.

Yikes!

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Closing Thoughts

Funny, when I started this post I thought of this series as yet another ho-hum series in 2010 a la the Royals or Mariners. 

But when you look at the pitching matchups, the battles between base runner, catcher, and pitcher, and the drama that is Rays/Red Sox, I find myself starting to get more and more amped up.

Game 1 might not be looking so good thus far, but jeez I am starting to feel those competitive juices flow.

The Sox may be 8 1/2 back right now, but I would love to see the Rays bury these guys by the end of the series.

Ok, I’m officially pumped.

Main Event

(yes, I know it’s Friday)

I remember getting super excited when I was a kid and the WWF (it wasn’t the WWE back then) had its “Saturday Night, Main Event” that came on after Saturday Night Live.

 

Mean Gene Oakerland would come on and get everybody excited while Vince Macmahon and Jesse Ventura would do the play-by-play.  Hulk would come out and rip off that muscle shirt and Jimmy Superfly Snuka and Ricky The Dragon Steamboat would do their thing.

It was great.

I can feel that excitement coming on right now as we are getting ready for this weekend’s Main Event.

    VS   

Yes.

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Last Year

The Rays and Sox split last year’s series, 9-9. 

However, the Rays dominated those Sox early on, going 9-5 in the first 5 months of the season.

Late in September, though, Boston got its revenge, taking the lats 4 games of the series to help knock the Rays out of playoff contention.  I remember being pretty bummed out after that final Sox series, knowing my guys would not be making a repeat trip to October.

Certainly it is early in the season, and certainly last year was last year.  But I am sure that Joe Maddon and company would like to put together a little streak here at Fenway to send a message that the Rays are for real again in 2010.

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The Pitchers

Game 1

Wade Davis vs. Josh Beckett

Davis did an ok job against the Yankees last weekend.  Not great.  Not terrible.  He gave up 4 runs in his 6 innings of work and came away with the loss.  Of course, he was dueling with a guy who gave up only 1 hit all game long in CC Sabathia.  Beckett is always tough on the Rays, but he can be touched up, especially at Fenway.

Game 2

James Shields vs. Clay Buchholz

Shields has a decent 3.97 ERA right now, but no wins to show for it.  As the team’s ace, he needs to dominate a little more.  Buchholz is one of the Sox’s young hurlers they are hoping will get them through the next few years–he has the stuff to dominate.

Game 3

Matt Garza vs. John Lester

Garza has been amazing this year.  The Red Sox will have their hands full as long as he can control his emotions.  Lester is one of the other youngsters who has the stuff to win a Cy Young. 

Game 4

Jeff Nieman vs. TBA

Nieman showed well in his last start against the Orioles after being hit by a line drive in his first start.  He didn’t get the win, but his 3.24 ERA so far in the season seems just a precursor of things to come.

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Three Keys to a Series Win

Golden Key Clip Art    Emotions must be kept in check.  This is a big divisional series.  Guys like Shields and Garza need to keep their emotions under control or the Fenway fans will eat them alive.

Golden Key Clip Art    Burrell has to hit.  He seemed as if he might start coming out of his season-long funk near the end of the Baltimore series, but the fact is that the Rays have to have their veteran DH do SOMETHING this series.

Golden Key Clip Art    BJ post- postseason success?  He had an amazing run in the 2008 postseason at Fenway.  Is it too much to ask for us to see it again.  If he and Burrell can start playing pepper with the monstrous green monolith out there in left field, a 3-1  series win is not out of the question.

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I don’t think that the Rays are totally ready for a series such as this. 

Sorry.

They played the Yankees at home, so they had the fans behind them.  In the other two series they have played this year they have faced off against the Baltimore Orioles.

Ahem.

The Rays will have to have alot of things go their way if they are to split or win this series.  If they don’t, it might be a rough weekend.

Either way, I am looking forward to seeing this Main Event get started!

So, Red Sox…

Whatcha Gonna Do!!!