Tagged: Minnesota Twins

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…

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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.

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.

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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+

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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.

Grade:C+

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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.

Grade:A

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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-

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Another Rays Snub By ESPN

(Not an actual portrait)

I was laying around watching Sportscenter this morning, as I can often be found doing most mornings, and found myself feeling nauseous.

No, it wasn’t because of the ubiquitous coverage of White Sox Mark Buehrle’s perfect game yesterday that happened to occur against my beloved Rays. (The coverage was, of course, warranted, by the way…I just am sick of seeing my guys as the team that was no-hit)

No, it wasn’t because of Brett Favre’s constant whining about whether he should come back to play for the Vikings or not (Who isn’t getting sick of that?  Geez!  I used to like the guy!  Now I just want him to go away!)

It was because of a simple poll question the geniuses at the sports network formulated for the fans to vote upon.

In light of the amazing catch that Dewayne Wise made in the top of the 9th inning of Buehrle’s perfect game yesterday (it was quite a catch–dammit!) ESPN decided to give a list of the greatest catches in major league history and ask, “Which of these catches was the best catch?”

Of course I was giddy because I was going to see my guy Carl Crawford honored with a spot on the list because of his exceptional catch in this year’s All-Star Game that helped to preserve the AL’s victory and secure home field advantage of the American League team in the World Series.

It was going to be there and I was going to hear the ESPN (I’m pronouncing it “ess-pin”) anchors gush about how amazing it was.

Catch #1 was Dewayne Wise’s amazing catch.

I threw up a little in my mouth, but was otherwise ok.

Catch #2 was Kirby Puckett’s catch against the wall in the 1991 World Series that they say helped the Twins to win it all that year.

Yawn.

Catch #3 was the black and white filmed Willie Mays World Series catch that we all know and love (and have imitated) way back before anybody can remember.

File:The Catch.png

That’s a good one.  I think that is THE best catch ever.  I’m ok.

Catch #4 was Torii Hunter’s catch to rob Barry Bonds of a home run in the 2002 All-Star Game.

The game was an exhibition back then, so who cares, but whatever.  It was good, I guess.

Catch #5 was Endy Chavez’s catch in the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals to rob a home run. 

A catch that did not save the game because the Mets still lost.  So who gives a crap?

And that was it.

I was waiting for Catch #6, Carl Crawford’s game-preserving catch against the NL in the 2009 All-Star game that allowed the AL to clinch home field advantage in the World Series.

Where was Catch #6!?  Where was it!?

Not there.

Apparently, the masterminds who create the extremely varied and always fresh shows such as blabfest “First Take,” blabfest “Around the Horn,” blabfest “Pardon the Interruption,” and the blabfest “SportsNation” (what other blabfests have I left out?) forgot that one of the best catches just occurred a few weeks ago!

I was livid! 

As a Rays fan you have had to accept certain things over the years.

#1–Your team will be ridiculed as being one of the worst ever.

#2–Your dad will call your team the best AAA team in the majors.

#3–People will not go to the games during the week.

#4–Fans of the opposing team will make up more of the audience at a game than your own team’s fans.

#5–The media will ignore you, except to mention thing #1.

But all that changed with last year’s Rays team.  The World Series Rays team.  The AL Champion Rays team.

All that changed, right?

Well, all but thing #5.

ESPN has been notorious for allowing the baseball team in Tampa Bay to go without notice.  If they play a team in Los Angeles (Dodgers only), New York, Boston, Chicago, or Philadelphia, then they will get plenty of press, but only because of their association with aforementioned team.

But on their own, the Rays are typically pushed to the end of the Sportscenter program.  I can remember many a time where the Rays were actually not even mentioned in the show because they ran out of time.  I can remember many a time on “Baseball Tonight” the Rays receiving barely a sentence of acknowledgement from the mouth of Karl Ravich before moving on to the more marketable teams.

I was able to overlook much of this over the years because I guess I figured the Rays deserved it a little bit.  They were bad for a long time.  That’s hard to forget right away.

But boy oh boy ESPN doesn’t care about the success in Tampa Bay, they care about making sure they pander to the fans of the “big five” baseball markets mentioned above.  Because God forbid they don’t smooch the backsides of those teams. 

So I walked away from the tv.  Angry and incredulous, I made a bowl of Cap’n Crunch.  The Cap’n makes all the world’s ills disappear.

 

Then I accidentally turned on Sportscenter exactly 1 hour later than when I saw it the first time and SAW THE SAME STORY AGAIN!!!

So I stormed like a pouting child to my keyboard and punished it by pounding out my feelings into “words.” 

The nausea returned and the frustration boiled over.  Almost lost the Cap’n! 

Carl, I think that many fans in the country know that your catch belonged on a list of best catches well ahead of a catch a guy made in an All-Star Game when nothing counted and a catch a guy made in a playoff game his team lost and nobody remembers.

Who cares that it wasn’t against the biggest steroid user or for the second team in New York?

We in the oft forgotten Tampa Bay area know your catch garnered you the All-Star Game MVP this year and will help the AL team (the Rays) beat the NL team in the World Series.

We remember.

Too bad we aren’t one of the “big 5” markets ESPN loves so much.

They probably would have pushed Willie off the list if we were–who cares about catches that really matter, right?

Da-da-duh, da-da-BLECH!

donkey20oatie20image.jpg image by ChelseagirlinDC

Home Run Derby Time! Who’s Gonna Win It? Your Thoughts…

 

Ok, so this is kind of a FLUFF post.  I’m going to be asking your opinion about tonight’s Home Run Derby.  I know, I know…

I am really looking forward to tonight’s Derby.  I think that most fans love this night because it ain’t just “chicks” who dig the long ball. 

And tonight will be full of plenty of ’em. 

While I don’t think we’ll see the spectacle that was Josh Hamilton knocking 28 home runs in the first round again, I think we will see some serious competition–taken with a grain of salt, of course.

I am quite jazzed about the whole thing because the guy who I thought could do a great job in the derby in the first place made it. 

Barely.

And he happens to be a Ray. 

Mr. Carlos Pena!

I’m hoping that Mr. Pena will provide the fans with something to cheer about and justify Maddon’s bringing him aboard.  He really should have a good chance.  His uppercut swing is tailor made for this kind of competition. 

The other guy I’ll be rooting hard for will be Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers.  I know that Jonestein over at Baseball, Apple Pie, and Lobster is just as thrilled about Cruz being involved in the Derby as I am.  His 22 home runs are not a fluke.

There are lots of big hitters participating tonight, so here is a quick rundown of their credentials so that you can get an idea of who you will be pulling for.

NL

Ryan Howard, Phillies      22 hrs

Albert Pujols, Cardinals    32 hrs

Adrian Gonzalez, Padres  24 hrs

Prince Fielder, Brewers    22 hrs

AL

Carlos Pena, Rays         24 hrs

Nelson Cruz, Rangers    22 hrs

Brandon Inge, Tigers     21 hrs

Joe Mauer, Twins          15 hrs

 

So there’s the lineup.

The Cowbell is pulling for a Pena/Cruz final with Carlos Pena representing the Rays well and winning the trophy.

Here’s the question:

Who do you think will be the final 2 in the Derby and who will win it all?

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Here is an updated list of your votes thus far. 

Ryan Howard, Phillies      1    

Albert Pujols, Cardinals    1   

Adrian Gonzalez, Padres  2  

Prince Fielder, Brewers    1

Carlos Pena, Rays             2

Nelson Cruz, Rangers        0

Brandon Inge, Tigers        0

Joe Mauer, Twins