FIRST INNING
The Rays just dropped 2 of 3 to a last place Astros squad after having swept the team with the best record in baseball, the Cubs. Did the Houston series expose the Rays a little?

Certainly the ‘Stros are more talented than their record and the Rays might be overachieving a bit this season so the teams are closer talent-wise than their records would indicate. Still, this series did expose the Rays a little bit. The optimist might say that the Rays were a couple of pitches away from sweeping the series. Well we didn’t get the nickname Professor Pessimism for nothing. We watched this series and saw a team that played just well enough to lose 2 of 3. Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir each showed flashes of brilliance. In fact Garza at times on Friday looked as good as we have ever seen him pitch. And yet both lost 1-run contests. Certainly the offense could have helped but an experienced pitcher finds a way to win those 1-run games. When a playoff birth is bound to come down to one or two wins, mental let-downs and mental errors will make sure the Rays are on the wrong side of those couple of wins needed for glory.

SECOND INNING
Stuart Sternberg visited the Trop this past weekend and stated that if the proposed waterfront stadium is not approved, the Rays will only be able to continue playing in the Trop for 4-14 more seasons. If the proposal fails, where are the Rays playing home games once they leave the Trop?

Sternberg used an old poker saying when he said the Rays would not “throw good money after bad money”. In other words, if the proposal for a waterfront stadium fails, that is it. It will never happen. And as well as they have done remodeling the Trop, the Rays do eventually need a new home. Our guess is that the Rays will quietly approach Tampa and Orlando and see if one of those cities will be willing to build a new stadium. And we have a good feeling one or both will say ‘yes’. If that doesn’t happen then we feel that Sternberg and Co. will sell the Rays before they will move out of state, proving once again that they won’t throw good money behind bad money. If they fail in Tampa/St. Pete, we feel they will pack it in and let somebody else give it a go…TAMPA OR ORLANDO

THIRD INNING
In the past few days both David Price and Jeremy Hellickson, two of the Rays top five prospects were promoted to double-A Montgomery, joining two of the other three, Wade Davis and Jake McGee. Davis and McGee were considered the jewels of the system entering the season but have failed to consistently impress this season. Are their stars starting to fade a little?

Well, McGee is going to miss at least a couple of starts with a sore forearm. But it will be interesting to see how both McGee and Davis pitch in the second half. Clearly King David and Hellboy earned their promotions, but a nice side effect for the organization is hopefully that this will be a wake-up call for Davis and McGee. We have always said the two biggest jumps are triple-A to the majors and single-A to double-A. So it is still possible that one or both of Price and Hellickson will struggle in Montgomery. But McGee and Davis need to realize that this is not the Devil Rays. The major league rotation is no longer being filled with temporary plugs waiting for prospects to be ready. There are five talented and more importantly young pitchers in the Rays’ rotation. That means anybody in the minors will have to wait for an injury, a trade or they will have to beat out one of the incumbents. And if we include Jeff Niemannm there are now five pitchers who are competing for a chance to do just that. Only one or two will succeed…NOT YET, BUT THEY SHOULD BE ON THEIR TOES

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING…FOURTH INNING
The Rays just used the top pick in the draft on high school shortstop, Tim Beckham, adding even more depth to an already stacked organization. However, the Rays have a pretty good shortstop at the major league level and the top shortstop prospect in the minors, Reid Brignac, just around the corner in Durham. What does the Beckham signing mean for Brignac and Bartlett?

First of all, Beckham is only 18, born in 1990. We don’t know about you guys but that makes us feel like running to the store and buying some depends. But for the Rays it means he is at least three or four years away from playing for the Rays. It just so happens that the Rays have three more seasons after this one until Bartlett is eligible for free agnecy. So they could decide to stick with Bartlett for the next three years and ride the defensive wave that has been created by the tag-team of Bartlett and Aki Iwamura, whom the Rays control for two more years. If that does happen Brignac will need a new position. Right field seems like it could be a good fit. Then again, Bartlett is a bit of an offensive liability and Brignac is at worst, an average defensive shortstop. If Brignac replaces Bartlett at some point, we can see a lot of scenarios down the road. Most of which involve Evan Longoria, Beckham and Brignac filling third, second and short in some order. Longoria (3B), Beckham (SS), Brignac (2B), left-to-right? How about Brignac (3B), Beckham (SS), Longoria (2B) or Brignac (3B), Longoria (SS), Beckham (2B) or Longoria (3B), Brignac (SS), Beckham (2B)?…NOTHING FOR NOW

FIFTH INNING
We are now a little over a month from the trading deadline, and some writers are starting to speculate about some big names that could be traded. It seems like every time one of these names comes up, the Rays are listed as one of the teams that might be interested. Whether it is Ken Griffey Jr, CC Sabathia, Freddy Garcia or somebody else. Is it possible that the Rays could make a big splash in the trade market?

This remains the last big mystery concerning the new Rays ownership and front office. Exactly how far are they willing to go and how much of the future are they willing to forfeit for one shot at glory? What we do know about the Rays suggest they won’t bite on a big name: 1) The Rays are not about to overpay for anybody. They have followed their blueprint and it has worked to get them where they are. We can’t see them deviating too far; 2) The Rays are ahead of schedule when it comes to winning. Anything in ’08 should be considered “bonus”; 3) The Rays have several available pieces in Durham if needed. There isn’t a difference-maker down there but Dan Johnson, Juan Salas and Jeff Niemann could be called in to fill a hole caused by injury or poor performance. That being said, one name that is intriguing is CC Sabathia, but at what cost? Keep in mind that Sabathia can walk at the end of the year as a type A free agent. That means the Rays would receive two draft picks between the first and second round next year. So if the Rays do fail to win after trading for Sabathia, it would not be a complete loss. Might that ease the pain of losing a Jake McGee, Wade Davis or Jeremy Hellickson? This would be easier to swallow if the Yankees hadn’t just lost Chien-Ming Wang. So this is still a very, very long shot. It seems far more likely that the Rays will look for cheap upgrades. But even then, at what position? Can they find a cheap right fielder that is an upgrade over Gabe Gross and Eric Hinske? Can they find a relief pitcher that is better than Juan Salas or Jeff Niemann? Not likely…NO

SIXTH INNING
BJ Upton is tied for the AL lead in outfield assists with 8. Yet lately several runners have tempted fate by trying to take an extra base recently. This aggressive baserunning has exposed a weakness of Upton’s. Mainly that he gives up on plays too early sometimes. He seems to take for granted that a runner will stop and is lazy getting the ball back in. Is this something that we should worry about?

BJ has made an incredible transition to CF. He is so good that we wonder why nobody pushed this sooner. He seems like a natural in center and his long throwing motion is more suited for the outfield. Still, it seems as though his solid defense is going to his head a little. It is almost as if Upton assumes that other teams are suddenly afraid of his arm or he thinks they should be. If Maddon really wants to send a message he will pull Upton out of a game next time he lollygags in the outfield and it costs the Rays a base. Maddon doesn’t need to do it in the middle of an inning, but he can make a switch in between innings. And there is a precedent with Maddon pulling Delmon Young last year in the next to last game for not running a ball out. It is only a matter of time. Sooner or later this will cost the Rays a game if it is not stopped…YES

SEVENTH INNING (ODDS MAKERS)
Playoffs for the Rays in ’08?

The Rays are 1 game back in the East and are still 3 up in the wild card. We fully expect the A’s to fall off the pace a little. They are good. They aren’t that good. And besides Rich Harden is due for another trip to the DL. If that happens it will be The Red Sox, the Rays and the Yankees for two spots. Certainly there are worse positions to be in, but this one does not bode well. Even if the Yankees make a big trade, we just have a feeling that this is the season that the Yankees second half run doesn’t fire. And that just means that the Rays will stay in the race until the end and we are worried that the Rays inexperience will cost them dearly…20%

Al Reyes is still pitching for the Rays in August?

Reyes is a free agent at the end of the year and he is 96 years old. On top of that the Rays have younger, healthier options in Durham, like Juan Salas and Jeff Niemann. And there is that David Price fellow. Of course, will anybody want Reyes? And certainly the Rays won’t trade him to an AL foe. Still, either Reyes is on the DL or he is on another team seems like more likely scenarios than pitching for the Rays…21%

CC Sabathia will pitch for the Rays this season?

The idea of the free agent compensation of 2 picks next season makes this at least possible. However, this would be higher if the Yankees hadn’t lost Chien-Ming Wang…2.2%

2 all-stars for the Rays?

Marc Topkin says it is not likely even if the Rays deserve more than one. We actually think having Terry Francona as the manager helps the Rays. If it were Joe Torre, he would send 13 Yankees. Francona doesn’t have that reputation and he always speaks highly of the Rays. We have to think that either Scott Kazmir or Andy Sonnanstine will get the nod. And Troy Percival would be a feel-good story. And can Dioner Navarro’s season both offensively and defensively, be ignored? We see Navi and one of the pitchers…82.3%

The next long-term extension announced by the Rays is Joe Maddon?

The only player that makes sense is BJ Upton and he has shown no signs of being interested in surrendering any of his free agency years. And we have stated it here many times: The Rays will not enter ’09 with Maddon on the last year of his deal…92.4%

A sweep of the Marlins?

Martin Fennelly said that losing the third game of the last Marlins series and hence not sweeping was a major disappointment. So now that the Rays are going to Miami for the rematch, we have to wonder what Fennelly is demanding this time around. On the road against a team with a winning record? Winning the series should be enough. But certainly the Rays are capable of sweeping. However, even if the Rays get a strong performance from James Shields, it is hard to imagine the Rays will get solid outings from Andy Sonnanstine and Matt Garza…32.5%

EIGHTH INNING
For the first time the Citrus Series interleague matchup between the Rays and the Marlins is important in the state of Florida but does anybody else care?

Actually, Yes. Both the New York Mets and the New York Yankees are looking up at these two clubs and the entire city of New York will have one eye firmly glued to the scoreboard. Both fanbases would love to see their divisional rival swept in this series heading into their own Subway Series this weekend. Get excited RAYSHEADS. Not only is interest growing in our own backyard, but it is growing throughout the MLBiverse…YES

NINTH INNING (Putting out the fire)
On Saturday night, in a crucial moment late in the game the Rays tried to turn a double play and Carlos Lee went out of his way to grab Aki Iwamura (in his special place) as he tried to throw to first. Aki never got the throw off. Was this a dirty play?

No. But that was about the clearest case of interference on a double play as we have ever seen. Just because a runner can still reach the bag with their foot does not mean they are immune to an interference call…NO

Stuart Sternberg says the DH rule in the AL hurts small-market clubs. Is he right?

NL squads can put 5 cheap players on their bench. AL teams only get the luxury of 4 bench players. That leaves the Rays having to spend $3MM on a player that they hope will play 100 games (Cliff Floyd)…YES

The Rays lead the Wild Card despite James Shields only being 4-5. How important is this next start for Shields and can the Rays stay in the playoff hunt without consistent dominance from James the Greater?

Andy Sonnanstine has been picking up the slack for Shields with his 8 wins. But the Rays can’t count on that continuing. Conceivably Matt Garza could also step up, but that is too much to count on. In the end if the Rays really want to be a serious contender for the playoffs, Shields needs to rediscover his A-game and that starts tomorrow night…VERY

The Rays looked pretty sweet in their “throwback” St. Pete Pelicans unis on Saturday night. Should Stuart Sternberg and Co. have adopted this moniker and look this year instead of just dropping the “Devil” and going with the new look?

Rarely does going half-way work. Dropping the “Devil” was like putting a band-aid on a cut. If it was realy that bad, they should have gone with a whole new identity. We do like the blue unis, so those combined with the name Pelicans would not have bothered us. But man, those pinstriped Maroon and yellow unis were easy on the eyes, and at least “Pelicans” means something and sounds like a real team…YES

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3 Comments

  1. DirtbagFan says:

    1st inning:
    Did the Houston series expose the Rays?
    I knew the 'Stros were gonna be tough to beat as soon as I realized that they had lost 8 in a row coming into the series, they are too talented to lose that many consecutive games. No, they are what we thought they were.

    2nd inning:
    Stadium talk.
    I say Tampa or bust... I like the concept of the waterfront stadium, but if that falls through it won't break my heart as long as they find somewhere in Tampa to play (plus the waterfront park won't have any parking- which is freakin' annoying).

    3rd inning:
    Are McGee and Davis fading?
    I think you're right, having Hellickson and the King breathing down their necks will motivate McGee and Davis, but i think both Price and Hellboy (as you called him) will surpass them; that reminds me of a Flogging Molly song: "...And the light of a fading star- is what you were, is what you are. Like a glow that christens the moon- you shone too soon, you shone too soon..."

    4th inning:
    Beckham's effect on Bartlett and Brignac:
    I asked you about this a few weeks ago and you convinced me that you're probably right (go figure)... I'm just gonna have to get used to Ol' Noodle-Arm at SS 'til Beckham's ready.

    5th inning:
    Trade Deadline Splash?
    I've been very consistant in my belief that they Rays won't make any desperation moves at the deadline... this ownership group has shown that they will not make lateral or backwards moves. And I love 'em for it.

    6th inning:
    Lazy Upton:
    You're right; Upton does seem a little "matter-of-fact" out there, and he's driving me nuts with his looping throws to the plate, as it leaves no doubt in a runners mind that the ball won't be cut-off... makes baserunning way too easy for opponents.

    7th inning:
    playoffs in '08: 45%, but they'll have to get that intensity back that they had last month.
    Reyes still pitching for the Rays at end of '08: 60% Percy will have a trip or two back to the Dl and Reyes can lend a hand while he's gone.
    Sabathia as a Ray: 1%, they're not gonna do it.
    2 Rays on the All-Popularity team: 36%. Although Aki should be a lock, and Navi should get a look, so should Crawford, and Dirtbag, and Pena,...
    The next extension will be Maddon: I'll stick with you're expertise on this one.
    Sweep of the Fish: 55% , I'll take 2 out of 3.

    8th inning:
    Rays v. Marlins does anyone else care?
    A little. But only true baseball fans... you're casual fan could care less.

    9th inning:
    Did Carlos Lee play dirty by interfering with Aki?
    No. Was there interference that should've been called? Yes.
    Is Sternburg right about the DH hurting AL teams? Sure. He's right about everything.
    How important to the Rays' playoff hopes is Shields? About as important as any one player can be. Without Shields the Rays have only Kaz as a consistant performer (that's assuming that Shields finds his "stuff" again soon-- which i think he will). Shields needs to start winning very soon if the Rays plan on making a run at the post-season.
    Should the Rays have changed to the Pelicans? Absolutely not! The Pelicans is just as lame/bent-wristed as the Rays, but much harder to come up with plays-on words for. I couldn't have named my blog, "Pelican the Stakes", now could I have? And "Pelican Index"? sounds like a John Grisham novel.

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  2. Wade says:

    Obviously Orlando has been trying to court an MLB team for years. I think Buddy Dyer still loses sleep over losing the Expos to DC.

    Courting the Expos, Marlins, etc didn't work well because the Trop is just 90 miles away, and MLB doesn't seem to think (rightly so it seems) the market here could support both.

    You just know those UK tourists would eat up the season tickets, though.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Stadium talk = My answer is if they propose a stadium with AIR CONDITIONING & A RETRACTABLE ROOF and on site parking they will get the support of the FANS, all be it in St Pete, Orlando or Tampa. They need the support of the fan base they have now. That is the lacking ingredient in this recipe.

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