Tagged: orioles

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!!!

 

9 Games In–History Already Made

The Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday to improve on the season to 6-3.

Who cares, right? 

Well, that mark is the best record to start a season in the franchise’s history.

Of course, there were some dismal years in St. Pete. However, if you consider the Rays have been well above .500 the past few seasons and even won a the AL East in 2008-over the vaunted lineups of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox-you have to look at this start as no small feat.

They began the season by taking 2 out of 3 from the Orioles. Over this past weekend the Rays fell back to earth a bit, losing 2 of 3 to the Yanks. Then there is this series, where the Rays swept the Orioles on the road in 3.

Not too shabby.

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Two Sides to This Impressive Start

First, the only area of concern would be the level of competition in this first week or so of the season.

The O’s are not considered a team that will compete for the division title. Their best finish will be 4th, if things go their way. So it is difficult to consider the 6 games the Rays have played against them (5-1 in those games) a true measure of where this team is.

Also, you have to consider their disappointing weekend against a team that could be considered the Rays’ chief rival for the division title, the Yankees.  The Yanks really took it to them in games 2 and 3 of their weekend series (of course, the Rays dominated game 1).

So you could argue that the Rays are going to be great against the bad teams and horrible against the good ones, right?

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Flipside of the Discussion

The other side of this talk about who the Rays are beating and who they are losing to is simple:

Who cares!?

WhoCares.gif Who Cares? image by farrelledagain

Good teams do not just beat the other good teams in the league. If they did, their record would be horrible.

Good teams are competitive with the other good teams in the league and destroy the bad teams in the league.

That is just what the Rays are doing now.

Sure, we are only 9 games into a 162 game season, so saying that the Rays are off to a great start means little in the grand scheme of things.

This weekend’s series against those pesky Red Sox will show just how serious we should take the Rays start to 2010.

But let’s keep in mind that every World Series champion has to get off to SOME kind of start to begin the season.

Why not make it the best start ever?

1 and Oh MY!

To say that was a great game would be an injustice. 

It was an AMAZING game!

All the drama that came with the fact that it was Opening Day was overshadowed by the drama that came at the end of the game.

Sure, the smoke from all the pyro hung in the air all game long, but it was easy to see that this was a game to remember.

The guys were ready to play after the intros, and they sure played their hearts out. 

(Alas, I was able to get pictures from most of the game before my camera’s battery died!  Dang it!  And pardon the HIGH view, I decided to downgrade on tickets to upgrade the thickness of my wallet)

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The Pitching

You cannot complain about James Shields’ pitching performance.  It was his first outing of 2010, he had a wife who was abou to give birth…yeah, I would say that what he did Tuesday night is just fine.

        6 IP        3 R        9 H       2 BB

I know that the 1,83 WHIP and 4.50 ERA aren’t sexy, but he kept things from getting out of hand.  He gave up 3 home runs–but they were all solo shots–the perfect type of home run to give up. 

Kevin Millwood pitched well also, but he reached his 100-pitch limit much earlier than Shields did, going only 5 innings in his debut. 

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The Big Inning

Every game has an inning that affects the outcome.

I felt that the 9th inning was the inning that changed the course of this game.  But it was NOT the bottom of the frame, but the top.

Rafael Soriano’s laconic performance nearly cost the Rays the game.  He entered with the Rays trailing by 1 with the objective of keeping the deficit just that small.

It seemed he did all he could to fail at that objective.

If it were not for several great plays in the inning, the Rays certainly would not have been mobbing CC at home plate at the end of the game.

Soriano gave up a double to Garrett Atkins, a single to Cesar Izturis (was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt) and had a botched double play put runners at the corners with 1 out.

If Atkins scores, the game is probably over.

Instead, Evan Longoria saved the game with a great play to get Atkins at the plate. 

With two outs and runners in scoring position, Soriano got Miguel Tejada to scorch one right into Carl Crawford’s outstretched arm. 

And we want to trade this guy?  No CC means the Rays sit at 0-1 instead of 1-0.

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Longo Goes Long—OH!

(Ok, this pic is cool, isn’t it?  It is like Longo is Lording over everybody at the Trop)

My goodness, did that ball land yet?

  

I’ll admit, from my perspective in the nosebleeds it was tough to get an idea of how far the ball was going.  I knew it was gone, but how far it went was beyond me.  I was too busy celebrating to watch the ball land, anyway.

Turns out, it was the third longest dinger in Tropicana Field history.  It landed several rows up into the party deck! 

Holee Cow! 

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Carl’s Moment

I don’t want to belabor the amazing-ness that is Carl Crawford, but wow.

I thought it was incredible when he killed those Red Sox in 2003 with a line drive long ball in the bottom of the 9th to get an Opening Day win. 

But this was just as great.

Following his great catch in the top half of the 9th and an almost-walk-off from Kelly Shoppach, Carl delivered a great line drive into right field that secured the game.

Pandemonium, folks. 

I almost fell down the 596 stairs I had to climb to get to my seat. 

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3 Keys to a W

1–Shields’ Composure.     Check.  He gave up 3 dingers, yet no more than that.  Quality start. 

2–Get the Long Ball Workin’.     Check    Longo took one out–WAY out–and Shoppach’s almost dinger helped make the difference. 

3–The Rays Republic Must Represent.     Nope    Sorry Republic, I thought that the Trop was WAY too quiet all game long.  Of course, I was sitting in the Swiss Alps, so I might have missed some of the cheering.

Gotta get at least 2 of the 3 Keys in order to get a W.

So…

2 Keys Checked = Rays Win!

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Final Thoughts

I’m looking forward to this season even more.  The Rays were more than impressive Tuesday night, not only because of their offense and clutch hitting, but because of their resilience. 

That resilient spirit was what helped the Rays take the AL East in 2008.  Game after game was decided because the Rays refused to give up.

Can’t wait to see how Matty does tonight.

Opening Day, Rays Style

The day has come. 

We weren’t sure it would get here.  It seemed so far away all the time.  We slogged through the winter and waited patiently through games that didn’t count. 

But now it is here.

OPENING DAY!!!

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Who’s Playing?

        VS       

The Rays will be taking on the Baltimore Orioles tonight at a SOLD OUT Tropicana Field. 

People weren’t sure if the Trop would sell out.  They questioned the dedication of baseball fans in the area. 

I say, look at the record-high unemployment rate and shut the hell up you insensitive idiots.

We will have 36,973 screaming fans packed into the Trop tonight (I am proud to be one of them) and the place will be rockin’. 

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Pitching Matchup

James Shields vs Kevin Millwood

Shields will be making his franchise record third start on Opening Day for the Rays.  His results have been a mixed bag.  Here is what Shields has done on Opening Day the last two seasons:

2008

@ Balt   7.0 IP   5 H   2 ER   3 BB   2 K   Win   Rays Win 6-2

2009

@ Bos   5.1 IP   9 H   5 ER   5 BB   2 K   Loss   Rays Lose 5-3 (2 HR given up)

Overall, Shields’ stats on Opening Day:

1-1 Record   12.1 IP   14 H   7 ER   8 BB   4 K   5.20 ERA   1.81 WHIP

The numbers aren’t great, but every season presents a new path.  And if you look at what Shields did against these same Orioles in 2008, things look good.

 

Millwood was a stud for the Texas Rangers last season.  He went 13-10 with a 3.67 last season, making him a coveted free agent among pitching-strapped ballclubs such as the Orioles.

However, Millwood has been shelacked by the Rays over his career.  His numbers?

        2-2         1.57 WHIP         6.16 ERA

Wow. 

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Three Keys

As I did throughout last season, here are my Three Keys to a Rays W:

Golden Key Clip Art    Shields’ Composure.  James Shields might have the nickname “Big Game” because of his performances in certain, well, big games, but he is also a guy who can get rattled from doing too much.  He needs to do his thing and get that fastball and changeup working.

Golden Key Clip Art    Get the Long Ball Workin’.  I think that in home openers the adrenaline is high and guys find it tough to get the little hit.  Swining for the fences is way too common.  So if the Rays can connect on a few fastballs and get ’em over the fence, that will bode well.

Golden Key Clip Art    The Rays Republic Must Represent.  The fans have to blow the roof off the place.  They need to make those Orioles quake in their little Nike spikes. 

 

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High Expectations

The Rays enter 2010 with higher expectations than they have ever had before.  Surely, 2009 was thought to be a big year for the Rays as they were coming off of their 2008 World Series berth.  Fans were sorely disappointed with how things went in 2009, however.

The Rays did little to improve the team for 2010, but they really didn’t have to do much.  The emergence of Sean Rodriguez (NOT S-ROD PEOPLE!!!) and the addition of closer Rafael Soriano should be enough to push the Rays into contention again. 

The Rays set a franchise record for Spring Training wins (21).  They open the season against Baltimore.

Those are TWO things that they did before their World Series year of 2008.

Hmmmm…

Whatever happens, baseball is back and I, for one, am stoked to be heading to the Trop this evening to see what the Rays have in store for us.

Let’s Go Rays!

Pizza and a Donut

Just wait, it’ll make sense in a minute….

The Rays were set up perfectly. 

All of the elements were there.

Big series win, wild card contenders in tight games.

The Rays were in an ideal position.

To fail.

Luckily our guys ignored all the warning signs and focused on playing the Raysball we are all used to, coming away with a dramatic win against the lowly Baltimore Orioles.

Whew!

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Pizza: The Pitching

The Rays’ pitchers put out a decent performance.  While they allowed 4 runs to score, they struck out 10 O’s and prevented the big inning from occurring.

The 10 Ks gave everybody in attendance a free pizza Wednesday.  It’s a promotion the Rays have going with a local furniture store and a well known pizza joint.

David Price looked both really good and really shakey. 

The Good: He struck out 5 and allowed only 2 runs.

The Shakey: He threw 102 pitches in only 5 innings.  His WHIP for the game was a balky 2.00 and he threw only 59 strikes in the game.

He did pitch well enough to earn his 6th win of the year (6-5), which is what the Rays need.  W’s are what will get them to October. 

The bullpen did a well-enough job.  They did permit 2 runs, but it could have been worse. 

Grant Balfour was a stud tonight.

JP Howell was just great in the 9th.  I know he gave up a hit and walked a guy, but he also struck out the side. 

For the last out of the game he made Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters look just silly with his breaking stuff.  He was dominant as always.

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Donut: A Win is Worth Its Weight In Dough

 

Or is it D’oh!?

After every win Rays fans can go to Dunkin’ Donuts to get a free donut.  Not too bad.  I’ll be picking mine up tomorrow morning with a coffee on the way to work.  Deeelish!

The Rays have now put together a 3-game win streak.  They haven’t done that in a while.  In fact, the last 3-game win streak came about 2 weeks ago.  Then came more losing than winning.

With two more against the O’s you have to get kind of giddy about the Rays’ chances.  They might be able to sweep this squad heading into the HUGE weekend series against the Rangers

The wild card leading Rangers.

A collapse the next few days will ruin that, so let’s hope that Gregg Zaun’s pregame ear-drum rupturing music in the clubhouse will continue to keep our guys sharp (it’s a tradition Zaun started Sunday, and look what happened there!).

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Just For Men

Rays manager Joe Maddon did something unthinkable for a dude before today’s game.

He dyed his hair.

Jet black.

He certainly looked younger, and maybe it rubbed off on oldie but goodie Pat Burrell because that old guy launched a ball that could have put a hole in a tin shed.

 

In fact, all of the Rays’ bats caught fire as BJ Upton and Gabe Gross also went deep.  The Rays pounded out their 5 runs on 12 hits and looked impressiving doing it.

Guess we should be glad Joe didn’t go for the “Touch of Gray” dye.  (Is that funny?  I don’t know what I meant by that, but it seemed to fit…)

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Overall, this was a great win.  The Rays could easily have let down against a far inferior team.  Instead they came out and put the pressure on the young O’s pitcher.

The Rays bats were alive.

The Rays pitchers were focused.

Pizza and Donuts for everybody!

Time for the Rays to Start Winning

    VS   

It’s enough already. 

I can’t take it.

It’s time to get a winning streak going.  To start becoming relevant in this playoff chase.

The Rays are welcoming the Toronto Blue Jays to the Trop this weekend.  They do so with arms wide open because the Jays just might be what the doctor ordered.  They are a team that is disjointed and unfocused, and they are coming to our house.

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Pitching Matchup

       

The Jays will throw THE MAN Roy Halladay (12-5, 2.78) against the Rays Friday night.

No problem.

The Rays have only beaten the Blue Jays in all three of the games in which Hallday has pitched, most recently in the extra inning Rays win in which both Halladay and Matt Garza threw complete games and dominated the other.

The Rays were just a little better. 

Let’s hope they’re a little better tomorrow too.

James Shields (7-8, 3.79) will look to improve on his recent bout of inconsistency by toeing the mound against a team he has faced twice this year.  In one start he lost 5-0, but pitched 7 innings.  In the other start he pitched 7 innings as well, but the Rays lost 3-1.

For some reason Shields has entered the grey area between ace and unreliable starter.  The Rays seem to have alot of those right now (see Scott Kazmir and David Price). 

A solid pitching performance tomorrow night will go a long way towards giving this squad a little more confidence as they come off a West Coast trip that was anything but fun.

They need Shields to come up big Friday night.  He is a great Tropicana Field pitcher, so we should be able to count on him.

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Three Keys to Friday’s Game

1–Rays’ hitters must be aggressive, or be passive, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!!!

It can be confusing.  There is no good way to beat Halladay.  How the Rays have done it 3 times this season is beyond me.  With a pitcher like him, you choose a strategy……..and then throw it out the window.

2–Shields must get strike 1.  I have noticed that Shields tends to miss with strike 1 too often.  For a guy who relies on his changeup, missing with strike 1, and thus removing the change from the at bat for the next few pitches, is grounds for danger.

3–More hits, less homers.  Halladay won’t be beaten by the long ball.  The Rays have relied on this too much the last two weeks (more on this in a future post).  Let’s string together some singles and doubles and see what happens.

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Win, Baby, Win

(This might be the new go-to pic for Rays wins!)

The next six games will serve as a great opportunity for the Rays to climb out of this funk and get back into the playoff hunt.  They face the Blue Jays for 3 and the Baltimore Orioles for 3 after that.

The Blue Jays come in having lost 2 in a row and splitting their last 10 games down the middle (5-5).  They were beat up by the surging Yankees pretty good too.

Add to the mix the fact that they are reeling a little bit from various factors.  They were unable to move Doc Halladay, the fans have begun to turn on them, and the clubhouse is a place where hope goes to die.

Players in the Jays dugout have been questioning management about the lack of movement on Halladay’s part and the loss of 2-time All Star Alex Rios to the White Sox for nothing.  (He was claimed off waivers a few days ago)  Lyle Overbay voiced his displeasure at losing such a talented young man for nothing in the papers recently. 

This is a team that has lost its way.

An equally lost team is the Orioles.  They have lost 7 of their last 10 and seem to have passed all of their players through waivers, most notably Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, and Danys Baez.  Nobody feels safe in that clubhouse.

Perfect time to lower the boom.

Let’s burn ’em up, Rays!

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.