A look back…
The Rays entered the All-Star break on a 7-game losing streak, and the question on everybody’s lips is…Have the Rays come back to Earth and revealed their true selves or is this but a speed bump?

The key to the Rays first-half surge was pitching and defense. During the 7-game losing streak the Rays only committed 4 errors. Not great, but not that bad either. On the other hand, the pitching completely fell apart, to the tune of a 6.47 ERA for the starters and a 7.10 ERA for the bullpen. Unless you think the Rays were pitching above their heads for the first 87 games of the year, then the Rays are going to be just fine. Remember momentum is only as good as the next starting pitcher. Sure Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine are prone to an occasional bad outing, but Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza are not going to allow 5, 6 or 7 runs every time out as they did during the losing streak…SPEED BUMP


Headlines…
On Tuesday Scott Kazmir pitched the 15th inning for the AL squad in the All-Star game against the wishes of the Rays. This has forced Kazmir to be pushed back in the rotation and he will now start on Sunday or Monday rather than Saturday…Would the Rays have been better off pulling Kid K from the all-star game and not letting him throw?

From the standpoint of the game of baseball Kazmir needed to be on the team. However, we think baseball would be better off letting players in Kazmir’s situation sit on the bench as an “honorary” all-star and have his spot filled by a relief pitcher that can actually throw without worry…YES

Headlines…
Last week, Hank Steinbrenner said that excitement from Rays fans was bordering on “arrogance” and that they “better be careful. They’ll learn this [stuff] can change real quick.”He also said the Rays and Rays fans should be thanking the Yankees for helping their clubs with revenue-sharing…Have the lowly and once-insignificant Tampa Bay Rays gotten under the skin of the once mighty Yankees?

1) Arrogance? We are thinking something about a pot and a kettle and the color black; 2) Sure we are grateful for the revenue sharing. On the other hand, if Hank Steinbrenner has a problem with it, why don’t we just try a salary cap? We are fairly certain that the Rays and many other teams would be more than happy to forgo revenue sharing for a chance at a level-playing field. Then again, the Rays are a better team right now with a quarter of the Yankees payroll. The Spankees wouldn’t know how to play the game if they had to spend the same amount as every other team; 3) The Yankees (and Red Sox) should be thanking the Rays for their recent string of success. Because the Rays (and O’s and Jays) have been so bad for so long, it has almost guaranteed every season that, with baseball’s unbalanced schedule, the AL Wild Card would come from the East. Every year the Yankees and Sox were playing 55-57 games against clearly inferior divisional opponents; 4) Mr. Steinbrenner, get over it you blowhard. Making the playoffs is not a birthright for the Yankees. Sometimes you have to actually earn it, and besides it was not a Rays fan that threatened to kill a pregnant womanSURE SEEMS LIKE IT

Headlines…
There was a recent Denver Post article that said the Rockies asked for David Price when the Rays inquired about the availability of Matt Holiday. Doug Fernandes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune then wrote an entire column about how the Rays can’t trade Price…Is this even remotely possible and is this even worth talking about?

We are still not even sure why this is a story. Of course the Rockies are going to start by asking for the Rays top prospect for the services of Holliday, who is not a free agent until after next season. What wasn’t reported was Andrew Friedman’s reaction to the situation when Price’s name was mentioned, which was probably somewhere between “oh, nevermind” and “trying to find the mute button on the phone before spitting out his gum in a fit of laughter usually reserved for a Richard Pryor routine.” Price isn’t going anywhere. So just because a writer can toss around not-very-clever phrases like “This Price isn’t right,” does not make this a story…NO and NO

Headlines…
Two of the Rays biggest prospects, Wade Davis and John Jaso were promoted this week to triple-A Durham…Is there any chance we could see either of these guys in a Rays uniform this season?

There is zero chance for Jaso, and unless he thoroughly dominates the IL, we might not see him in the Trop in ’09 either. The Rays are taking their time with Jaso. This is his first in-season promotion and he spent a year and a half in double-A despite an ’08 all-star appearance. Catchers take time to develop and the Rays are taking their time. As for Davis, we dreamed earlier this season of a scenario in which Davis and Jake McGee were called up in August/September to be a lefty-righty version of the Joba Chamberlain from ’08. Well, McGee is gone, but David Price is cooking. It is a long-shot, but if some of the major league arms start struggling in the Rays ‘pen or a couple of guys go down with injuries, we can’t rule it out…VERY SMALL


A look outside the box…

What other series in baseball this weekend should Rays fans keep their eyes on?

The obvious answer is the Angels-Red Sox series in LA. This will be a tough series right out of the gate for the Sox and is a good opportunity for the Rays to at least keep pace or even regain the lead and remove the bad taste of the last 2 weeks from their mouths. However, the other series that may be just as important is the A’s in Yankee Stadium. The A’s are the 3rd place team in the Wild Card and just traded away another starting pitcher. The Yankees sit 5.5 back of the Rays in the Wild Card. It will be interesting to see if the A’s pack it in and give up on the season in which case this series could be the beginning of the end. But if the A’s can muster some fight and try to stay in the race, they could make life difficult for the Yanks and a little easier for the Rays…OAK-NYY


Over/Unders…

Wins in the second half for the Rays: 38

The Rays have 68 games left in the regular season. In the last few seasons, 94 or 95 wins was good enough for a playoff spot. 39 wins gets them to 94. They have 31 games left at home and 37 on the road. If the Rays can go 18-19 on the road, that means the Rays need to finish 20-11 at the Trop. No impossible, but with 10 home series remaining, that means winning every series with 1 or 2 sweeps mixed in. That is a tough task…UNDER

Wins against the Blue Jay in this series: 1.5

The Jays are throwing 2 10-game winners, but AJ Burnett has been part of many trade rumors which could be a distraction. Besides he is going against James Shields who is sure to come out of the break with a chip on his shoulder the size of Hank Steinbrenner’s ego after getting torched by the Indians before the break. The third game should be a no-brainer with Scott Kazmir go against some no-name…OVER


A look ahead…

The Blue Jays come into the Trop 9 games back in the East and has been a major disappointment this season…Is this exactly the team that the Rays need to start the second half?

We would rather have the Royals. The Jays are still a very talented team and the all-star break may have been exactly what that team needed. The Jays will also throw 2 10-game winners in this series. With the offensive struggles of the Rays recently, this scares us. Still, with the A’s next and then a trip to KC, 2 or 3 wins in this series could be the launching pad to a strong run to start the second half…NO


Putting out the fire…

A lot of players avoid the home run derby saying that it can alter their swing and cause bad habits. Should we be worried that Evan Longoria participated this past week?

He is young and it is not like Dirtbag was on a home run tear before the break. The kid can flat out hit. He will be fine…NO

Reid Brignac came up to replace Jason Bartlett for a week, making only 2 starts and 4 appearances, finsihing 0-10…In hindsight, was this the best idea?

We would feel a whole better about it, if Brignac finished 1-10 and got that first major league hit out of the way. Now he has to go back to Durham with an o-fer hanging over his head and no idea when he will get another shot to erase it…NO

David Price showed up at #2 on Baseball America’s updated list of Top 10 Prospects…Is this deserved?

Well, he only has 9 professional starts, but he is 4-0 at double-A and we always say that is when you separate the prospects from the never-will-bes. The other worry seems to be that he has not been overpowering. For a lefty that can touch 99 on the gun, it is a little worrisome that he is striking out less than a batter an inning. But the rest of the numbers are strong, so it is possible that he is still adjusting and fine-tuning his mechanics and has yet to “let it loose”. If that is the case, the rest of baseball better watch out…YES

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