Well, the majors has lost one of the few truly good guys of the game.
Ken Griffey, Jr has said goodbye.
From the days of being known as The Kid to days where he was accused of falling asleep like an old man, Griffey has always been a fan favorite.
As a midwest and east guy for my entire life, my experience with teh REAL Griffey has been rather limited. I say REAL as in, the Griffey who terrified pitchers and gave fans in the outfield seats souvenirs left and right.
His time in Cincinnati was marred by injuries, and many–including myself–questioned why the guy would leave a great situation in Seattle for the inconsistent Reds.
I’ll always remember his fun side. He seemed to always have a smile on his face, which made his “acting” in the movie LITTLE BIG LEAGUE such a riot because he tried to come off as if he were some serious, arrogant superstar. It was totally against type, which is probably why he agreed to play the part.
Last season he seemed able to offer the Mariners something at the plate. This year, not so much. The rumors about Griffey might be true, but they do not erase at all the incredible career he has had.
He was never a guy caught up in the steroids scandals that have rocked baseball of late, and that is something right there that makes him a guy anybody could root for.
Cooperstown will be calling soon as he is sure to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
You can take a nap now, Kid.
You’ve earned it.
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.
Painful. Just painful.
The Rays left the friendly confines of Tropicana Field last Thursday ready to find a way to climb back into the fight. To take the wild card spot away from those blasted Red Sox. To start their run to the postseason.
In the news that day everything from The Sporting News to The Tampa Tribune was calling the Rays a surging team that was about to make that run we have been waiting for.
Apparently the beautiful weather of the West somehow cooled the Rays white hot squad.
Terrible West Coast
It was as ugly playing baseball in the West as the smog-plagued LA skyline: hard to tell what was going on, impossible to put fingers on landmark issues, and overall chokingly bad.
Almost as bad at that forced metaphor.
After losing today’s game to the Angels, the Rays will travel back to St. Pete for a 3-game weekend series with the Toronto Blue Jays. Their return is both welcome and full of disappointment.
The Rays left the Bay Area a mere 1 1/2 games out of the wild card spot. A spot that the Red Sox were doing everything to give away. The Rays and Texas Rangers were only too happy to oblige taking it.
The Rangers continued to snap at the spot, while the Rays had other plans.
After enduring a 1-5 West Coast swing–YES I SAID 1-5 RECORD IN THEIR LAST 6 GAMES!!!–the Rays now find themselves 4 games out of the final playoff spot and searching for answers.
Why can’t we hit?
Why can’t we pitch?
Why can’t we field?
Where’s our clutch hitting and our timely pitching?
There don’t seem to be any answers out there right now. Only results.
Friday: L 7-6
Saturday: W 10-4
Sunday: L 11-2
Monday: L 8-7
Tuesday: L 6-0
Wednesday: L 10-4
It’s like reading an autopsy report replete with all the gory pictures.
Today’s Problem Inning: The 7th
If you have read any of my past posts, you know that it seems the Rays get hit in the forehead with one 2-by-4 of an inning almost every game. Sometimes they are able to weather the storm and hang on to a win, sometimes they fall down, knocked cold.
Today they fell.
Jeff Nieman had already endured the disappointment of losing the lead of a game he could have won when Grant Balfour gave up a 3-run dinger to Gary Matthews, Jr. in the 6th.
That gave the Angels a 5-4 lead.
In the top of the 7th, Jason Bartlett led off with a double. He would end that part of the inning standing on second.
The bottom of the 7th was entertaining–in a comical kind of way.
Reliable Randy Choate entered the game and promptly gave up two consecutive singles. After a groundout moved both runners to 2nd and 3rd, he intentionally walked Vlad Guerrero.
Then, as I have said so often about the 7th inning before, and also said to my friend at Julia’s Rants this morning, it all fell apart.
A groundout into the hole at SS led to Jason Bartlett making a little league throw (actually, that insults little leaguers) to Evan Longoria at 3B that ended up being more towards the Angels dugout than anything.
Two runs scored there.
Angels up 7-4.
Choate departed in favor of Dan Wheeler. Check out what Wheeler has done before in the 7th.
Wheels got a groundout before presenting Howie Kendrick with a gift of a fastball that the latter batter flung out to deep left field.
In a snap, the game was 10-4 Angels.
Oh, and in a snap, the game was pretty much over.
Lots of teams from the East go through rough trips to the West. Don’t know why. I listened to Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy debate why the Rays were so much off their game.
–Taking in the sights
–Too much time at the beach
–Strange time zone
–Sun baked brains (ok, they didn’t say this last one)
Whatever the reason, the Rays absolutely stunk on this trip. Winning 1 out of 6 games will not get you to the playoffs.
It’ll get you an early fishing trip in October.
(I’m going to watch Jaws tonight, my fave flik)
I know that the Mariners are a surging team and that the Angels are one of the best.
But the Rays were SUPPOSED to be a surging team too. And, last I checked, the defending AL Champions should be one of the best too.
Maybe neither of those are true.
Maybe their brains really were sunbaked.
Time to get into the shade of the Trop and take out our frustrations on the Blue Jays.
Forget the West.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been entertaining family the last few days. We had a lot of fun spending time in Orlando, swimming, and watching my brother graduate from college.
It was kind of cool picking my mom up from the airport not only because I got to see her after a long time apart, but also since I was able to be reminded of something ELSE I love very much.
Ah yes, my Rays can never be far from from my mind.
The last post I put up indicated my excitement over the Rays’ “sweep” of those blasted Red Sox and how great it was that they were sitting just 2 1/2 games behind them in the wild card race.
After that everything went dark.
No, not like the typical gloomy, storm-ridden skies of Seattle (though we had our own scary weather down here in Tampa too).
Dark as in lack of energy, no electricity, nothing working.
I was able to pay attention to my guys as much as possible, but it might have been for the best that I didn’t see the heartbreak of Friday, the lack of permanance in Saturday, and Sunday’s stinkfest.
Right now I feel like I’m surveying the damage after the storm, and it looks pretty grim.
Where Did the Pitching Go!?
You know, the guys who helped to guide us to the Series last year when the hitting disappeared from time to time?
Don’t get me wrong, our hitting needs to get the thumb out.
But what made the Tampa Bay Rays a playoff-caliber team last year was the fact that when the hitting fell the pitching was there to catch it.
Right now we’re falling into the abyss.
Rays sink in extras 7-6
I’m glad I missed this one. Rays hitters must have thought that getting 5 against Felix Hernandez was enough and put it into cruise control. You can’t blame them. Wait, yes you can.
Jeff Nieman pitches a great game–until the dreaded 7th. He falls apart to give up 4 runs in his 6 1/3 innings. His bullpen did not help at all. The M’s manage 4 runs on 5 hits in the inning, launching them back into what was shaping up to be a blowout. Then Ryan Langerhans takes our most trusted ‘pen guy, JP Howell, yard in the 11th to win it.
He was down to his final strike!!!!
Rays win 10-4
Rays hitters manage only 8 hits while scoring 10 runs. Ugh.
James Shields gets run support, but he needed it; he threw only 5 1/3 innings and gave up 4 total runs on 8 hits, walking 3. That’s about a 2.00 WHIP, folks. That is stuff that gets people who aren’t a team’s ace sent to the minors.
Rays get blasted 11-2
Our “hitters” get 2 runs on 7 hits.
Scott Kazmir had looked like he was climbing out of the hole he was living in so he could finish strong. Not so. His line was typical Scotty: 4 1/3, 7 R, 9 H, 2 BB. Terrible.
The Seattle pitching was awesome.
Opportunity Knocked and Knocked and Knocked and Knocked…..
Four times the Boston Red Sox choked out a loss to the New York Yankees. Four times in four games. It took them about 2 1/2 weeks just to score a run!
It felt like a storm ripped right through the heart of this team in Seattle as the Rays were only able to grab 1 1/2 games (the 1/2 only because they didn’t play that day!) so they can now sit 1 1/2 games out of the wild card.
You tell me.
How many times do you think the Red Sox will lose 4 in a row after being swept by the Rays between now and the end of the season?
NONE! IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN AGAIN! THIS WAS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY THAT JUST BLEW AWAY!!!!
Somebody please drop a large fan thing on me for goodness sakes….
(Don’t worry, nobody was hurt)
The Seattle series did little to help our chances to catch the Sox for the wild card spot.
It did wonders for allowing New York to start to run away with the East.
This next series just might go a long way towards determining what kind of October we are going to enjoy in the Tampa Bay area:
Stormy or sun-drenched?
Man, why can’t storm damage be more like this?
I think I could live with that.
Fresh off of a “sweep” of the Boston Red Sox, and currently (as of this minute) 3 games out of the wildcard spot, the Tampa Bay Rays will board a plane for a good ol’ fashioned West Coast Trip.
The Rays will take on the Seattle Mariners and Los Anaheim of Angeles Angelic Baseball Players of California.
Sorry, the LA Angels of Anaheim.
I’ll be entertaining family for the next few days, but I wanted to drop in a few gold nuggets (get it?) of info about this extremely important series.
The Rays are in a rare position where no matter what they do in the next 3 days against Seattle they will reap some sort of benefit. That is because the Yankees and Red Sox are duking it out in New York.
Should the Rays lose any of these games, they will lose ground to one of the aforementioned teams but not to both.
However, should the Rays win any of these next three games, they will gain all important ground on one of the Yanks or BoSox. That is key.
In a way, they can do no wrong. But to lose any of these games to Seattle–a very strong team, despite the loss of Jarrod Washburn–will go down as a HUGE wasted opportunity at a time when opportunties are knocking less and less.
Records We’d Rather Ignore
The Rays’ young men go west having fared poorly against the teams in that division. They stand with a sub-.500 record against those teams (7-12).
They lost 2 of 3 to the M’s way back in April, but both teams have undergone a rejuvenation of sorts in the last month or so. Even though the Mariners might be slowly falling out of the playoff picture, they have done alot of damage.
We have to make sure they don’t do any more.
Friday, the Rays will send their default ace of the staff, Jeff Nieman (10-5, 3.62), to the mound against the true ace of the M’s staff, Felix Hernandez (12-4, 2.78).
Nieman has thrown well this season, and should find that his 12-6 hammer will have just as much movement in SafeCo Field’s pseudo-outdoor stadium as it does in the friendly confines of the Trop.
King Felix is a bigtime strikeout pitcher and the Rays’ hitters will need to be disciplined if they want to have a chance. However, as with one of my fave pitchers, “Big Z” Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, Hernandez can be his own worst enemy–he often gets inside of his OWN head.
Let’s hope for a case of the “crazies” for Felix.
Saturday the Rays will pitch James Shields (6-8, 3.75) against the M’s Ian Snell (2-8, 5.19).
Shields is a guy who gets no respect. Or maybe that’s runs. Either way, he gets none of it. The guy almost threw a no hitter his last time out and STILL got saddled with the loss! Poor hitting behind him has been the bane of Shields pitching existance this year. The Rays’ hitters owe him.
The recently acquired ex-Pirate Snell will be making an attempt at impressing the home crowd in his second start for the Mariners. He did a nice job shutting down the Rangers his last time out, and will look to put the brakes on an equally impressive offense this time.
I’m sure my friend at The Pittsburgh Peas, Matt, will be watching with great enthusiasm to see how his guy Snell fares.
I’m hoping it’s poor, buddy.
I’ll get back with everybody on Saturday to talk about a (hopefully) exciting and successful Rays series. We really need these games.
I hope the Rays bring their best out west.
We are sitting (now at the end of the creation of this post) just 2 1/2 games behind those Sox for the wildcard lead. Oh my.
Let’s strike gold!
(This guy has gold. See? Gold.)
I’m not going to call this a “sweep.” To do so in a two-game series would be kind of cheap.
I AM going to call this a turning point, though.
This series against the wildcard-leading Red Sox was going to go a long way towards determining whether our Boys in Blue would sink or swim.
To lose both games would put the Rays 7 out of the wildcard and, essentially, end their season.
To split would be a wasted opportunity to gain some ground.
To take both games, well, that was just too much to hope for.
Yet, it was exactly what we got!
Rays 6, Red Sox 4.
The Rays now sit only 3 games behind Boston in the wildcard standings. They have a somewhat challenging schedule coming up, but this could be the Rays’ chance to do some serious moving.
But first, let’s talk about tonight’s game.
Chicks Dig the Long Ball
The Rays and Red Sox combined to hit 6 long balls tonight. The Rays got more bang for their buck by scoring all 6 of their runs via the tater.
The Red Sox hit two solo shots and scored their other two runs a la the always exciting, um, groundout.
(FYI, groundouts are not exciting)
Here’s how the night went:
In the second, Jason Bay went yard. Sox 1-0.
The Rays retaliated with their own longball, but Carlos Pena made his count for two. Rays 2-1.
Carl Crawford celebrated his 28th birthday by going opposite field for a 2-run dinger. Rays 4-1
The Red Sox were feeling left out, so “newbie” Victor Martinez took one over the fence. Rays 4-2.
Pat Burrell knocked a very business-like homer over the left field fence. Rays 5-2.
In the 7th, Jason Bartlett cemented his spot at the top of the order with a 2 out jack-son. Rays 6-3.
Sometimes I get a little worried when the Rays rely too heavily on home runs to score, but about this time last season they started to do this (score almost exclusively via the home run) and they rode it all the way to the Series.
So I’m going to shut up about it.
The pitching was exactly what I expected: TIRED.
Both starters needed to give their respective teams 6+ innings and keep the score manageable. If they went out of the game too early, the fatigued bullpens were bound to be shellacked. If they stayed for their 6+ innings but gave up a ton of runs, the game would be difficult to win.
One starter kept his end of the deal. Luckily, he was ours.
David Price gave the Rays 6 strong innings giving up 2 runs on 6 hits, walking none, and striking out 5. It was exactly the type of start the Rays needed.
He didn’t look sharp all night long, giving up solo shots to Bay and Martinez, but what was impressive about the young hurler was that he kept his poise. That will be something to build on for his next start.
The Red Sox did not fare as well.
Brad Penny was rocked for 5 runs, 6 hits, and 2 walks in his 6 innings of work. You had to feel for Terry Francona (sort of) since he was pretty much locked in to allowing the right hander to work through the home runs. He could do nothing else after using every arm in his bullpen in the 13-inning marathon last night.
The Rays were fooled by nothing coming out of Penny’s hand, knocking him around in only his second 6-inning performance since July 4th.
Three Keys to Tonight’s Game
1–BJ Upton needs to stop moping and start hitting. YEP. Upton went 1-3 tonight and stole a base, his 34th. His one hit was a rocket to left on a tough inside pitch. This is the BJ we need to see more often.
2–Price needs to stay on the mound. YEP. While his 6 innings were not earth shattering, they were yeoman-like. Price did the job and saved the bullpen from getting hammered tonight.
3–Rays hitters must chase Penny. SORT OF. The Rays knocked Penny around pretty good, but didn’t get him out of the game early. Who knew that would actually work in the Rays’ favor?
Result: 2 1/2 out of 3: WIN!!
The Rays begin a 6-game West Coast road trip on Friday against the Mariners. They’ll then take on the Angels. The Rays are not very strong on the Left Coast, so these games might be a challenge.
The Red Sox face their nemesis in the Yankees for a 4-game set that could go a long way towards reshaping the AL East. It’ll be fun to watch.
Let’s hope they knock each other around while the Rays keep the winning streak going.
Now let’s get some sleep…
The first post I put out a few days ago was only to rate the trades that occurred on Friday, the trading deadline day.
However, I got a few e-mails asking me why I left out one trade or the other. They got me to thinking….why NOT go through the notable trades from the trading deadline and just before?
I enjoyed arguing with some of you through comments and e-mail about what you thought of some of the trades. Good times…
This post might be more for me than anybody since I LOVE trades and how they affect teams. I think they are something that is utilized by baseball better than any other sport and is part of the reason why this game is so grand.
Again, I’m primarily looking at the team that is the bigger part of the deal, though in some cases I grade both teams.
So without further adieu….here is part deux.
Deal: Reds trade Edwin Encarcion et al to the Blue Jays for Scott Rolen
Analysis: It seemed that Encarnacion never really got it going in Cincinnati. He hit a load of dingers last year, but the average the last few years was never really what Dusty Baker wanted (.209 in 2009). I don’t see him being the 3B of the future for the Jays, unfortunately. However, from what I’ve read about the two young pitchers who were also sent to the Jays, the real value might be there. These two pitchers might make an impact on Toronto this season, which would make the Jays winners here. The Reds get an aging 3B who might be able to help out a little next year. While the Reds play in a strong offensive park, the fact is that Rolen is 34 and has seen his best years pass him by.
Grade: Reds–C+ Jays–B+
Deal: Jerry Hairston, Jr. to the Yankees for a Single-A catcher
Analysis: This just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. Of course, the Rays are notorious for making the “not a big deal” trades that end up getting them a bunch of wins. Maybe the Yankees have been taking notes. They already went into the Rays’ playbook to make a deal for Eric Hinske earlier in the year, after all. Hairston, Jr. has speed and versatility. For those reasons he might be a nice guy to have on a team. A National League team. I don’t see him helping the Yanks out too much. Then again, New York didn’t give up much, either.
Deal: Brewers deal to get Claudio Vargas from the Dodgers
Analysis: The Brewers needed a starter. A good starter. They needed somebody to help them contend with the Cubs, Cardinals, and, suddenly, the Astros. Instead they dealt for a bullpen guy in LA who they actually had not that long ago and dumped because of his ineffectiveness. They didn’t give up much, but they didn’t get much, either.
Deal: Cubs get John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny from Pirates
Analysis: This is a case where I think both teams won out. The Pirates got a young hurler in Kevin Hart and a strong piece of the bullpen in Jose Ascanio. The Cubs needed a starter in Gorzelanny (he’ll start this week) to fill in for Ted Lilly and they needed a strong lefty in the ‘pen in Grabow who will take the place of the Tommy John-bit Neal Cotts. Grabow will complement Sean Marshall in the bullpen and add some stability to a shakey group.
Grade: A for both teams (especially because of the mad kung fu skills of Gorzelanny)
Deal: Royals get Josh Anderson from the Tigers
Analysis: This guy was got for cash. That’s it. Typically these deals are non-issues. This one fits in with that characterization. So why are we talking about it?
Grade: Who cares?
Deal: The Giants get Freddy Sanchez from the Pirates
Analysis: The Pirates are becoming to be old hat in these trade discussions. With that said, the Bucs are doing the right thing. Sanchez was scheduled to make $8 mill next year. That’s too rich for a team with so many holes. I was hoping that the Rays would get this guy–he’s one of my faves–so that they could move Ben Zobrist’s rocket arm and huge bat to right field. Alas, not to be. This move will probably lead to the Giants releasing Rich Aurelia and his salary. Sanchez will help the Giants. The Pirates got a pitcher in Tim Alderson who will help them–in the future.
Deal: Phillies land Cliff Lee from Indians
Analysis: C’mon, do we have to talk about this one? I was hoping the Rays might get active here, and they were, but not as active as the Series champs. They got Lee, gave up some guys they’ll miss, and promptly saw him throw a complete game shutout. ‘Nuff said.
Deal: Mariners get Jack Wilson from Pirates for a bunch o’ guys
Analysis: The M’s got the shortstop they had hoped they had in Yuniesky Betancourt. When they realized Betancourt was a flop defensively, they shipped him to Kansas City–where he’s struggled. Wilson is a solid piece of the future puzzle for the M’s and will get them some wins in the future. The guys the Pirates got will be helpful, but not too helpful right away. Ronny Cedeno is flopping right now and catcher Jeff Clement was not sparking the way the Mariners wanted. I thought that the addition of Clement might lead to the Bucs moving Ryan Doumit–to the Rays. Not so. Oh well.
Grade: Mariners–B+ Pirates–B
Deal: White Sox get Mark Kotsay, Red Sox get Brian Anderson
Analysis: No doubt, the White Sox won this trade–right now. The White Stockings got a premiere pinch hitter who can play almost any corner position. He is a veteran who can fit in immediately with is new team and pay dividends as they push for October. The Red Stockings got a supreme underachiever in Anderson. He might develop, though, into a guy who might be the utility outfielder Rocco Baldelli is supposed to be. With JD Drew on his way out (c’mon, folks, he’s hurt, like, ALL THE TIME) this might be a good add–next year.
Grade: White Sox–B+ Red Sox–B+ (potentially)
Deal: Giants get Ryan Garko for Single-A pitcher
Analysis: Garko was a fan fave in Cleveland, but he was going to be up for big money in the off season. So he was shipped. He was taking playing time away from guys the Indians really wanted to see and they did not view him as a piece of the future. He has a gift for being offensive–in a good way–and should help the Giants offense get going. The guy Cleveland got will be good two years from now. That’s something to be happy about in Clevelend–and there isn’t much these days. However, the move will give more AB’s to superstar-in-the-making Matt LaPorta
Deal: Matt Holliday goes to St. Louis
Analysis: Waste of time to talk about. He’s hitting .529!!!
Grade: A+ (and it sickens me to say that)
Sorry if the pics got a little weird there at times. I’m as distracted by the strange moments of our favorite sport as anybody.
I think that runs down most of the more notable trades that have occurred the last few weeks (and a couple of not-so-notable trades).
I think that this time of year is the most captivating of any sport out there. Teams are fighting for division titles. Others are scrambling for wildcard berths. Franchises are deciding whether to buy or sell. Squads are scouting for both this and next year–and with a do-or-die attitude.
It’s just great.
And the waiver-wire trades are going to get going soon too. Teams have to make waiver deals before August 30th if they want that guy to be eligible for the post season.
And the countdown begins.
And if anybody asks me about the Julio Lugo deal……..