FIRST INNING
The Rays just took 2 of 3 from the cross-state rival Florida Marlins, but Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune said “taking two of three from the downstate Marlins simply won’t do.”…Did the Rays “lose” this series?

We admit, we have gotten caught up at times in the feeling that the Rays should win every game and we love it. But this is still baseball. The best teams will lose 60 games. The worst teams will win 60 games. There are going to be days when the Rays put up a stinker. It will happen. It is not a reason to think that all of the sudden the end of the fun is near. To us, the key is winning series. Win two of every three games and the Rays will be fine. And that is what they did. And the thing that should not be lost here, is that the Marlins are a good team. They entered the series 6 games over .500. The Rays did what they had to do and on Sunday they were playing with “house money”…NO

SECOND INNING
The Rays just averaged 26,500 fans for their 3-game set with the Marlins, a 40% increase over the same series last year…Just a few weeks ago there was a lot of grumbling that the fans were not supporting a winning team…Where are those same writers now?

This is to be expected. It just isn’t a juicy story to say the fans are coming to the games. At the same time though, there is still this stereotype out there that the Rays have no fans. We showed previously that in 1997, the Bucs were coming off 364 straight losing seasons and started the season 4-0. And yet in week 5 at home against the Cardinals, the stadium was barely half full. And that is a team that only has 8 home games a year. We knew the crowds would come. We just needed to be patient. In fact it is happening sooner than we expected…TRYING TO FIND ANOTHER REASON TO CRITICIZE THE FANS

THIRD INNING
There has been a lot of chatter about the recent stories that said Ken Griffey Jr would be willing to waive his no-trade rights (not a ‘clause’. he is a 10&5 player) to play for the Rays…Ignoring money, are the Rays a better team with Griffey on the roster?

We understand the argument for both sides of this issue. On the one hand Eric Hinske has an .852 OPS and Gabe Gross has a .737 OPS and a decent glove. Griffey has a .749 OPS and years of wear and tear that won’t translate well to the Trop’s turf. But Griff posted an .847 OPS last year and was at .926 just two years ago. If he was the fulltime DH it is not impossible to imagine he could get back to those numbers. And when he is healthy, he is still a better than average defender. But he is rarely healthy and he is 38. Let’s just say that Griffey is still capable of being better than Hinske and Gross and he would probably be in the lineup more often than Cliff Floyd. If money was not an issue we would take Griffey and Gross over the other two. Alas…YES

FOURTH INNING
Lou Piniella said the Rays turnaround would have begun during his tenure if ownership had loosened the purse strings when he was manager…Is he right?

Would they have won more than 70 games if the Rays brought in a couple of above-average veterans? Certainly. But they would not have been in playoff contention. Piniella did not have a developed Scott Kazmir and James Shields. And he wasn’t going to find those guys on the free agent market…NO

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING…FIFTH INNING
Gerry Hunsicker says that buyers have to overpay at the trading deadline…Will the Rays, a team that is normally very active “sellers” at the deadline, be able to make a deal at the deadline this year?

The Rays have used a formula to get where they are and they are smart enough not to deviate too far from that blueprint and risk the future of the franchise. If the Rays want a veteran difference-maker, it is going to take a Wade Davis or a Jake McGee or a Jeremy Hellickson. They will not give those guys up lightly. The Rays might be able to make a deal, but it will be more for a Gabe Gross-level player. And in fact, there is a better chance that the Rays are “sellers” at the deadline. Why wouldn’t the Rays trade Al Reyes, a free agent at the end of the year and fill his spot with a David Price or a Jeff Niemann or a Juan Salas?…NOT A BIG ONE

SIXTH INNING
In his last start, his first since an on-field dustup with Dioner Navarro, Matt Garza had one of his strongest outings of the year, giving up just 1 run on 3 hits and a walk in 7 innings…Has he turned the corner?

We don’t like that he only had 3 strikeouts. A pitcher with Garza’s stuff should have 6-7 Ks every time out, even on a bad night. But if Garza’s problems were related to not being able to control his emotions, then the last incident might have been the one that was severe enough to open his eyes. We would expect that Garza will have problems in the future, but hopefully they will be fewer and farther between…HE IS CLOSE

SEVENTH INNING (over/unders)
8 starts this season at double-A Montgomery for David Price:

Bill Whitehead is reporting that Price might be promoted later this week to Montgomery. If true, Price will come under our original prediction of 9-10 Vero Beach starts with 5. If he were to pitch the rest of the regular season with Montgomery, that would be 13-15 starts. The Rays could hope to split those starts with Montgomery and Durham and then call Price up for a September playoff run. That seems awfully fast no matter how good he is…OVER

1.5 wins for the Rays versus the Cubs:

In game 2, the Rays throw Andy Sonnanstine against Carlos Zambrano. Advantage Cubs. In game 3, it is James Shields versus Sean Gallagher. Advatage Rays. So it could come down to the winner of game 1 with Scott Kazmir and Ryan Dempster on the mound. Gotta go with Kid K’s hot arm…OVER

EIGHTH INNING
The Rays now get the Cubs. This will be there fifth series, of the last six, in which the Rays have faced a playoff contender. During this stretch the Rays have lost 3.5 games to the Sox, going from 1.5 up to 2 down…Has it been all bad?

During that stretch the Rays went 3-2 in series and still have a 2 game lead in the Wild Card. In fact we would argue that the Rays proved during this stretch that they are not a fluke. They are a legitimate playoff contender and they must be taken seriously…NO

NINTH INNING (putting out the fire)
Joe Maddon is not overly concerned about Edwin Jackson’s recent performance…Should he be?

Joe Maddon should have never stopped being concerned about Jackson’s performance, even when he was throwing well…YES

The Rays are going to add an alternate jersey in ’09 that also says “Rays” on the front, giving them three jerseys, none of which say “Tampa Bay”…Should this worry fans?

Not until the caps have an SA (San Antonio) or LV (Las Vegas) on them…NO

Chien-Ming Wang is out until September after injurying his foot running the bases…Are the Rays now the favorite for the Wild Card?

We would say that this evens the playing field a little bit. The Yankees still have a $200 million payroll and the luxury of adding a CC Sabathia, Bronson Arroyo and a Jason Bay…NO

 
 

5 Comments

  1. Robert Rittner says:

    I like Piniella and think he is a good manager. I also think given the opportunity he could have done well with the Rays; his reputation as a better manager with veterans is, I think, overblown.

    But on this issue he is dead wrong. In his last year the Rays had a pretty decent second half which seems to have blinded him to the fact that it was a lousy team.

    These were the players who got at least 200 ABs that year: Toby Hall, Travis Lee, NIck Green, Alex Gonzalez, Damon Hollins, Huff, Gomes, Cantu, Gathright, Lugo, Crawford. Of the remaining 11 players who got any ABs, only Kevin Cash is still in the majors.

    These pitchers got 100 innings or 20 appearances: Hendrickson, Fossum, Waechter, Nomo, Kazmir, Trever Miller, McClung, Baez, Harper, Carter, Orvella, Brazelton, Colome, Borowski. Of the remaing 6 pitchers who appeared, none are in the majors.

    Even with excellent prospects on the horizon (Upton, Young, Shields et al), I don’t think there is any chance that trying to spend their way into contention could have worked. That entire team had to be gutted and management had to start over, which is exactly what they did.

  2. Anonymous says:

    agreed. there is no way any manager is winning with those ballclubs even with an additional $10-20MM in payroll. unless the team is going to go to $100MM, it needs a solid foundation and the Rays did not have a solid foundation at that point.

  3. sean g says:

    i gotta go under on both of your over/unders. If Price is being promoted already then it seems like he is indeed on the fast track. as for this series. shields worries me recently. until he gets straightened out, i dont trust him

  4. abbie says:

    i have to say that i think Shields and Kaz are almost locks. i would say 2 are a YES and maybe 3.

  5. blake says:

    I hope Sonny ate his Wheaties this morning, pitching against Big Z won’t be easy. I like the direction we are headed. Sure, we have lost a few games to the Sox recently, but our strength of schedule is the toughest in the majors according to ESPN and we are right on the cusp of the playoffs! Also, if we do make the playoffs as a WC that could work out for the best for us. It would mean we would have Game 3 at home with Garza on the mound, and quite frankly, that is the best case scenario for the Rays. Garza has been lights out at home and has struggled on the road this year, although, I think he has the ability work out his road woes soon anyways.

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