So you may know that I am in the midst–actually the very very early stages–of raising a son.
Who knew it would be so tough!?
Ok, most of you parents knew. I didn’t.
No, this isn’t a post about my kid. This is more of a reflection of how the first quarter of this season has gone for my Rays.
I haven’t been able to post as much as I have the last few years, which has been tough to stomach. Luckily, my excuse is pretty solid. But now that I come back to put up a post I see that we have switched over to WordPress and everything seems to have changed!
What I’m really happy about is the fact that I can sit here and type as a fan of the #1 team in the AL East!
(At least until the Boston/Chicago game is over)
Did anybody actuallly think that the Rays would be sitting atop the toughest division in baseball at this point in the season? I didn’t, and I LOVE these guys.
The question marks heading into the season have been less of an issue than I thought they would.
The Rays have one of the strongest bullpens in the entire league, yet you would be hardpressed to name more than 2 guys in it.
Yeomen such as Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth, Cesar Ramos, and Juan Cruz have all conspired to make many fans and experts look like fools for thinking that the loss of EVERYBODY from last year’s ‘pen was going to be the beginning of the Rays’ demise before the season saw its first pitch.
Instead, this group of guys has rarely had a bad outing and is among the league leaders in Bullpen ERA.
I can’t say that the Rays lineup has been the murderer’s row it has been the last few season. But they ain’t that bad.
And, bear in mind, that they have played almost the entire season without the services of the best 3rd baseman in the league: Evan Longoria! Even when he has been in the lineup, he hasn’t been himself. At last check, he was hitting just .220 with only a couple of dingers. He is NOT himself right now.
But the Rays keep winning.
I won’t talk about the joke of a baseball player who quit on himself, his fans, his team, and his sport in the early stages of the year.
Instead, I’ll mention the work done by guys like Elliot Johnson, Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman, Matt Joyce, and “Super” Sam Fuld. Each one has had a huge hit this season at one point or another, and the Rays would not have their 25 win total without any one of those guys.
I do not know what the rest of the season holds.
Who knows? We all might be blogging with some sort of holographic device before October hits.
What I do know is that these Tampa Bay Rays have laid it all on the line so far, and there is no indication their success will end any time soon.
Wow, what a season!
Finally the Tampa Bay Rays showed up in the 2010 ALDS.
Through Games 1 and 2 there was some team on the field playing against the big league Texas Rangers, but it surely wasn’t the Rays.
This imposter team had put up one measley run and only 8 hits in two games while giving up 11 runs AT HOME, no less.
Apparently, the REAL Rays were waiting in Arlington, Texas.
2 home runs.
Now THAT’s Rays baseball.
Emotions Were High
Around my home, the stress and worry levels were really high. We were wondering if we were about to see the final game of the Rays season. The final game of Carl Crawford’s career in a Rays uni.
There’s going to be at least one more.
What was great to see was while MY emotions were out of whack, the Rays’ were not.
There was Matt Garza calmly rebounding from an early run given up to retire Ranger after Ranger.
There was Joe Maddon keeping his temper in check, even after a few blown calls by the umpires tonight (seriously, blue, you didn’t see Elvis Andrus come off the bag on his stolen base attempt while Jason Bartlett had the tag on him? Seriously?).
This game was tight until the 9th, so the cooler head was going to prevail.
The cooler head and the guy with the bigger bat.
Luckily, that was the Rays on both account.
What was awesome to see was the Rays in the dugout messin’ around as they did all season long.
Watching Evan Longoria with a waterbottle holder on his shoulder, mimicking a cameraman’s pose, “film” the goings-on of the 9th inning. The guys around him were cracking up and suddenly everything was loose.
The Rays were back.
The Rays Were Clutch
There were many events in this game that epitomized the Rays season, without which the Rays would be headed back to St. Pete with their heads held low.
–Carl Crawford had two big catches in the game, keeping the Rangers in check and preventing run-starting rallies.
–John Jaso had the biggest hit of the game in the 8th against the Rangers’ closer. Why isn’t this guy starting every game?
–The slumping and sub-Mendoza-line Carlos Pena took one down the right field line to drive in pinch runner Desmond Jennings with the game-tying run. Then Pena knocked one over the fence in the 9th to ice the game away.
–In addition to CC’s defense, Crawford hit a big home run in the 9th to put the Rays up 4-2 and take the pressure off of Pena. The loss of pressure made it just that much easier for the big first baseman to take one over the fence.
3 Keys to a W
#1 Emotion–The Rays kept theirs in check AND loosened up the dugout in the process. Look out Rangers.
#2 Hit–11 hits and 6 runs make it clear that the bats were warmed up tonight.
#3 Patience–Colby Lewis did not walk a whole lot of guys this season. He walked 5 Rays tonight. That helped to put more pressure on the young righty, and it helped the Rays to a W.
3 out of 3 Keys Turned = W
Game 4 is tomorrow.
How will it go?
If the Rays performance today is any indication, the Rangers have alot to worry about. They needed to put these guys away today.
The Rays can be really streaky, and the losing streak appears to be over.
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.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been trying something new in center field lately.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sounds dirty, but it isn’t.
But it could get unpleasant, if the Rays’ typical west coast woes of the past are any indication.
The Rays head West in a pretty healthy situation. With so many clubs around the league getting pounded by the Disabled List, the Rays are downright lucky to head to Seattle with only Kelly Shoppach and JP Howell ailing.
Here’s a quick preview of what the Rays are looking at when they take on the Mariners in this week’s 3-game set.
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers…
Here’s some numbers for ya.
Neither of these sets of numbers indicate any level of success for the Rays against West Coast teams.
In 2009, the Rays went 12-21 against all of the teams from the AL West division. Yuck. That is some pretty horrible production for a team that finished just out of the wildcard spot. In fact, one could argue that it was the Texas Rangers’ dominance of the Rays late in the season that knocked them out of a playoff spot.
Against tonight’s opponent, the Mariners, the Rays went a pedestrian 2-4 in Seattle.
That certainly does not bode well for this evening’s contest.
These numbers look much better.
Super-3B Evan Longoria has torched the M’s over his short career at a .356 clip. He has only 1 dinger against them, but that average is pretty awesome.
Tonight’s Rays starter, James Shields, does not have the wins to show for his dominance of the Mariners, but his 2.37 ERA shows that he consistently keeps his team in the running for a W against those Mariners.
Our Boys in Blue might be able to miss King Felix in this series, but they will have to face a strong set of pitchers from the Mariners.
Justin Vargas is a strong pitcher with a 3.60 ERA so far.
Then there is Cliff Lee. Sheesh. Let’s hope that he is fatigued after his first dominant start of the season last week.
The Rays finish up with the pesky Ryan Rowland-Smith, a guy who seems to pitch very well against our guys.
What Will Be Successful?
How can we measure success on this 9-game road trip?
I don’t know.
On the Rays’ last 10-game road trip, the team went 9-1 and swept those hated Red Sox in Boston.
I don’t think that an 8-1 clip is realistic, so I think that the Rays could consider this trip a success if they come back to St. Pete with anywhere from a 5-4 mark on up.
If they DO go 5-4, they will have an overall record of 22-11.
I’d take that, for sure.
As if this season could not get any better…
The Rays announced the signing of uber-utilty player Ben Zobrist to a long-term deal.
Of course, this is one of those moves that is quite typical of the Rays and has led to the success they have enjoyed the last 3 seasons. They identify key players to the team’s success in the future. They ensure that these players are for real. They swoop in and sign the players to a long-term deal that could be seen in some circles as a bargain.
Zobrist receives what amounts to a 5 year deal worth $30 million. The final two years of the deal are club options, which gives the Rays complete control over the 1B/2B/SS/3B/RF/CF/LF for the foreseeable future.
This the type of deal that has kept Carl Crawford in town, gave Rocco Baldelli security, and secured Evan Longoria at the hot corner for many more years. In each instance, the deals were for manageable money–manageable for a team of the Rays’ size and location, that is.
GM Andrew Friedman said at the press conference that giving Zobrist a deal such as this is something the Rays are happy to do with any player who displays “ability, work ethic, and character” (raysbaseball.com).
With the threat of losing Crawford at the end of this season (or sooner), the Rays HAD to make a move such as this to keep one of their key pieces in the lineup for years to come.
Congrats to Ben on getting just what a good guy should get: appreciation.
And let’s hope that the Rays can get something done with Crawford so they can keep this nucleus intact for the future…