Not a whole lot to say here.
This year has been pretty memorable for my household. I won’t bore with details but it’s been a pretty darn good year!
As far as my Rays go, who could ask for more?
I know that the boys did not go far in the playoffs, but the way they fought through the month of September kind of softened the blow of an early playoff exit.
Game 162 ring a bell?
Greatest night of baseball ever.
I hope that all have a safe night tonight and I cannot wait to see what 2012 has in store for us all.
The countdown comes soon…
This is not going to be a long one. No jokes please…
I’m putting up a post while holding Robbie–no small feat–while also watching the draft. Of course, not many people care about the MLB draft because there are never any immediate returns. You typically have to wait several years before any of these guys start showing up in the majors.
That’s ok with me.
The MLB draft is one of hope. It is strategic. It is vital to trams such as the Rays, Pirates, and Royals. A poor draft hurts for a few years.
What I’m thinking tonight:
–The Rays have the #2 ranked farm system in MLB!
–the Yanks have the #5 system! That is a surprise!!
–the Rays have 10 picks in the first 60.
–this draft is possible because of the departures of top free agents Carl, Carlos, Wheeler, and Soriano. Their losses hurt BUT we hve a team in 3rd place without them AND will infuse the 2nd best system out there with 12 more picks in the first 89! The future looks good!!
–I’d like to see the Rays get a few starters, a SS, and a power hitting 1b. That will be a strong draft for sure.
–I’m keeping an eye out for a local product from the high school down the street (can’t remember the name). Strong pitcher. Strong hitter.
So the draft starts with two pitchers going. Not a surprise!
I just want to preface this by saying it is a highly unresearched post. Perhaps “rant-like” is the best description.
Tonight is the deadline for 2009 MLB draft picks to sign with the teams that drafted them. At last glance on MLB.com I see that the top 3 picks are not signed and 13 of the first 32 picks remain at large.
Kind of a Stupid Draft, Isn’t It!?
(focus on the thought bubble, not the stupid sign to the right)
I have to admit, one of the least exciting drafts you’ll ever experience is the Major League Baseball draft for one simple reason–it doesn’t matter (and that is taking into account the NHL draft, whose rules are a little beyond me but is still more exciting!).
Right now it doesn’t matter, anyway. The guys who are picked won’t make a major league roster for 2 years at the minimum and, probably, many more years than that on average.
So why write a post about it?
Well, I’m a little PO’d that so many players are given the right to choose whether to sign or go to college.
The system currently established is so risky that is boils down to being absolutely stupid!
I think that option should be adjusted somehow. I don’t know exact solutions, but I know that the NFL and NBA seem to have it right. Ok, they have issues too, but typically when a player gets drafted into that league they, oh I don’t know, ACTUALLY SIGN A CONTRACT!!!
The Nationals’ Issues
#1 pick Steven Strasburg is mulling over whether he’d like to sign with the god-awful Washington Nationals or play in an independant league (no college for him, I guess).
He is trying to make this decision despite $16 million being on the table.
HOW IS THIS A DECISION!? SIGN THE CONTRACT AND GO PLAY BASEBALL!!
One reason for this guy not signing can be attributed to his agent.
Apparently he is represented by Scott Boras…
AKA the devil incarnate.
He is telling Strasburg to hold out for the neighborhood of $25 million guaranteed. And the kid, dazzled by the dollar signs, is agreeing.
What a sham.
Not only does the idiot Boras represent Strasburg, he also represents–wait for it–the top 3 picks who, as I mentioned, all have not signed.
If the Nats don’t sign him, Strasburg will go back into the draft next year and Washington will automatically get the #2 pick in next year’s draft. His value might never be as high as it is right now.
But the damage will be done more to the Nationals. The Nats will lose a year to develop Strasburg into a top-tier pitcher AND they will “lose” a top prospect in the process.
Draft Issues Hit Small Market Teams Such As Our Rays!
Despite a trip to the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays’ first pick, Lavar Washington, Second Baseman extraodinaire, also has not signed. In fact, the latest word from Andrew Friedman is that he and the Rays’ second-round pick Kenny Diekroeger will not sign before tonight’s deadline.
Did I mention that Washington is a client of Satan himself too? Coincidence? Nope!
I know money is important, and athletes need to get as much as possible now before it’s too late. But this is just ridiculous.
And for teams that are always financially strapped, such as the Rays, losing out on your first two draft picks in a draft can be disasterous. Let’s not forget that this team was built on youth and talent, not money.
I mean, we’re not the Yankees.
We’re happy with the way we do things. But the current system surely doesn’t make it easy.
Apparently, the only satisfying draft you can find in the Major Leagues is one of these.
What a shame.
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?