The Rays just concluded a 7-game home stand in which they won 6 including a sweep of the Red Sox. The Rays now have opened up a 4-game lead in the East with a week to go before the All-Star break…Are the Rays now the team to beat in the AL East?
The Rays now have an astounding 8.5-game lead over the Yankees. Of course, if these standings were reversed and the Rays were looking up at the Sox and Bombers, everybody would be counting the Rays out. As it is, many still think the Yankees are going to catch the Rays. Winning the East will be nice, but as we have said all along, our eyes are firmly entrenched on the space between the Rays and the Yankees. A playoff spot is a playoff spot, and it doesn’t matter if it comes via the division or the wild card. If the Rays go only 39-35 over the last 74 games (94 wins total), a very realistic number, the Yankees would have to go 47-26 to finish the season, just to tie. Not impossible, but clearly an uphill battle. But for the division, we still think the Sox have too much talent and experience…NO, BUT THEY ARE THE TEAM THE YANKEES HAVE TO CATCH
Last week the Rays played “Sweet Caroline” on the speaker system at the Trop after sweeping the Red Sox. This is a song the Red Sox claim as their own, playing it before the home-half of the 8th inning at Fenway…Is there a song the Rays should be playing at the Trop in the middle of the 8th inning?
“Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes. Not only does the song have a tempo building crescendo, and a “take on all comers” tone to it, but this would be a great way for the front office to keep pushing the Rays outside of the Tampa-St. Pete area. They could do something where each of the “Seven Nations” represents a different county, including Hillsborough, Piniellas, as well as 5 other surrounding counties. They could even include Orlando as one of the “Armies” and Charlotte County, the new Spring Training home of the Rays, as an unofficial 8th Army. How pumped would the crowd get when that song came over the speakers? It would rock the house. This makes even more sense as we are writing it. This might actually become a public crusade of ours. “Seven Nation Army” needs to be the Rays 8th inning rally song…“Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes
The Rays had 2 players named to the AL All-Star game (Dioner Navarro and Scott Kazmir), with the best record in baseball, did they deserve more?
This is a tough one. Our gut says “Yes”, but who was snubbed? Evan Longoria is the first we think of, but he still has a chance in the voting for the final spot. Andy Sonnanstine has 10 wins, but he has hardly been dominant. Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Carlos Pena and James Shields have all performed below expectations, so they can’t complain…NO, AS LONG AS DIRTBAG GETS FINAL SPOT
Since Grant Balfour has been promoted, he has been the Rays best reliever, do the Rays need to trade for another relief pitcher?
In 17.2 innings, Balfour has struck out 27 and allowed only 6 hits and 7 walks. If Troy Percival and Al Reyes are both healthy, there are 3 arms that will be fighting for 7th and 8th inning duties (Balfour, Reyes, Wheeler). Keep in mind that if (a big if) Percival and Reyes can both stay healthy, the Rays will be forced to cut a pitcher (most likely Gary Glover). If everybody is healthy, we don’t see a need. But we have to assume that they won’t be 100%. Look for Jason Hammel to be included in any trade for a reliever to open a spot with JP Howell getting bumped down a notch…MAYBE. HARD TO IMAGINE EVERYBODY STAYING HEALTHY
Recently Chuck LaMar tried to take a lot of the credit for the Rays success this season…Is this deserved?
LaMar, at times, drafted very well. Nobody can take that away from him. But even that aspect wasn’t perfect. His last two first-round picks with the Rays were Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend. Not great. And once you get past the draft, LaMar did everything wrong, even to the point of alienating the Rays from the rest of baseball as a team that was impossible to deal with. While he did land Scott Kazmir, his stubborness most likely also cost the Rays numerous other very good prospects. If there are 5 criteria for a GM, LaMar was an 8 (out of 10) in one of the categories, but pulled a 1 or 2 in all the other categories. It took the new front office 2 years to fix the mess that was left behind…NO
A look outside the box…
Outside of the Red Sox/Twins series, what other series should RAYSHEADS be keeping their eyes on?
That Twinkies/Sawx series is gravy for the Rays. No matter what happens one of those teams is going to add a game to the loss-column and the Twins are the second-place team in the Wild Card right now. With plenty of room between the Rays and the O’s/Jays, the attention should be on the A’s at home against the Mariners. Oakland is the third-place team in the wild card and only 3.5 back of the Red Sox. But they have lost 6 of 10 and are playing an M’s squad that is playing a little better since their recent shake-up. This series could mark the beginning of the end for the A’s…OAKLAND v. SEATTLE
What are the odds the Rays will make the playoffs?
Since 1995, only one team had the best record in baseball on July 1 and failed to make the playoffs. That was the ’06 Red Sox. The Rays still have plenty to prove, but they are clearly in the driver’s seat. The teams we worry about are the Yankees and whoever does not win the Central (Twins?)…66.7%
What are the odds of the Rays including one of their top pitching prospect in a deal before the trade deadline?
The two big names that everybody wants from the Rays are Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson. The guy the Rays would prefer to trade is Jeff Niemann. With the loss of Jake McGee to Tommy John surgery, trading a big-time prospect seems like a real long-shot. But Davis has struggled in double-A and Hellboy is not very big for a right-handed strikeout pitcher. We have no idea what the Rays scouts really think of those two, but if they are as high on them as everybody else, Davis and Hellboy will still be in the Rays system come August…16.7%
What are the odds the Rays will sweep this 2-game series with the Yankees?
The Rays have an excellent, winnable matchup tonight with Scott Kazmir and Andy Pettite. Tomorrow is a different story with Edwin Jackson going against Sidney Ponson who is having a strong season but just got pounded by the Rangers in just his 2nd start for the Yankees after being released by the Rangers due to a discipline problem. We have to think the Yankees and their fans come into this series fired up. If not, they might as well pack it in…33.3%
A look ahead…
With the Yankees sitting 8.5 games behind the Rays, and the Rays still trying to prove themselves, which team has more pressure on them in this 2-game series?
A two-game series against a divisional rival is huge. It is very difficult to sweep a 3-game series, which means most often the best a team can hope for is a 1-game boost in the standings. On the other hand, a 2-game series offers a very real chance for a sweep. If the Rays are swept, they will still have a lead in the division and there won’t be any loss in confidence. However, if the Rays were to somehow go into Yankee Stadium and take both games, they would not only open a double-digit lead over their rival, but they will have done it in the Bombers backyard. That would not be the final nail in the proverbial coffin, but it might be the first…YANKEES
Putting out the fire…
Al Reyes is set to come back off the DL, who is gone when he does?
Reid Brignac, who was only called up to fill out the roster and warm the bench in case of emergency. That will give Reyes about a week to re-injure himself, for when Troy Percival is ready to come off the DL. Otherwise, somebody will have to be DFA’d…REID BRIGNAC
Rocco Baldelli ended his rehab assignment with a strained groin…does this mark the end for Rocco with the Rays?
There is no chance of seeing him in the big leagues this season. He is a free agent at the end of the season, but the Rays will most likely bring him back on an incentive-rich contract…JUST FOR THIS SEASON
Carl Crawford made a stink about playing center field on Monday, wishing he had been given more warning…Should the Rays be concerned?
For all his talent, CC is very needy. Hates batting leadoff, hates playing somewhere other than left. But this is just temporary and not something that CC will have to do very often…NO