FIRST INNING
A look back…
On Friday night, BJ Upton was pulled unceremoniously from the lineup in the 6th inning and then benched on Saturday for not running hard…With the Rays in the middle of a pennant-chase, was the move prudent and was it justified?

We have tried to stay mum on this topic outside of an occasional note in the comments section. Is BJ the only baseball player, or even Rays player, to dog it? Not even close. We believe 1) It is easier to look like you are giving less than 100% when the player is athletically gifted as Upton; 2) We wonder if being such a gifted athlete and knowing how easy much of the game is, causes Upton to occasionally be bored. That is not an excuse, we are just speculating on an explanation. We also feel Upton gave Maddon no choice but to bench him. When Maddon called him out publicly, it put Upton under a microscope. If Maddon had not disciplined Upton, the weight of his words with the rest of the team would have been compromised. Now, as a fan, we have to wonder about the timing. We want the best lineup on the field everyday, especially with key offensive players already missing. But if this is the move that sparks Upton and the rest of the team, then we are behind it 100%…MADDON HAD NO CHOICE

SECOND INNING
Headlines
In last night’s game, Joe Maddon intentionally walked Josh Hamilton with the bases loaded bringing the winning run to the plate with 2 outs. The ploy worked but…In hindsight, does Josh Hamilton deserve that much respect?

At the time we were in awe at the move. Hamilton is having a great year, but he is no Barry Bonds and he is not even close to a guaranteed home run. He only has 3 more home runs than Carlos Pena. Hamilton is an RBI machine, but even a single or double in that situation and the Rays still have the lead. No, we actually wonder if the motivation was something else, which gets you inside the head of the mad scientist named Papa Joe. We wonder if Maddon was actually ignoring the score. What if the score didn’t matter and Maddon was just playing for the 1 out. In that case, Maddon liked his chances of getting the right-handed hitting and weaker hitter Marlon Byrd with the right-handed throwing Dan Wheeler than any of his pitchers against the lefty Hamilton? If that was the motivation it is cunning and a bit risky. But it is playing to win rather than playing “not to lose”…NO BUT WE LOVE IT

THIRD INNING
Headlines
A few days ago, Ken Rosenthal reported Barry Bonds’ agent sent a text message to Andrew Friedman asking if the Rays would be interested in Bonds’ services. The text went unanswered…Why would Friedman just ignore the message and can we now finally put this talk of Bonds-to-the-Rays to rest?

[crickets]….DO YOU MIND? THE RAYS ARE TRYING TO WIN A PENNANT

FOURTH INNING
Headlines
There are about 2 weeks left in August…How many minor leaguers can we expect the Rays to call up in September when the rosters expand?

In September the Rays have the option of promoting some or all of the members of the 40-man roster to the majors. In past years, the Rays would only call up 2-3 players, in part because players weren’t ready and in part because the move adds service time to the minor leaguers moving them closer to free agency and arbitration. But this year is different. The Rays are fighting for the playoffs. Of the players already on the 40-man roster we would not be surprised if David Price, Mitch Talbot and Kurt Birkins are promoted. Jeff Niemann is a “maybe”. If his arm is tired at all (a good possibility based on recent performance), then he will be shut down. We also expect Jonny Gomes and Elliot Johnson to make their way back to the Trop. Joel Guzman is a possibility due to his strong glove. Of the players not already on the 40-man, look for the Rays to find a way to get Mike DiFelice back in a Rays uniform. Joe Maddon will want a third catcher on the roster. They may also try to get a spot for Dan Johnson who is leading the IL in OBP and OPS...AT LEAST 5, AS MANY AS 9

FIFTH INNING
Headlines
One blogger makes the case that the Rays should trade Carl Crawford this off-season…Is this move as crazy as it sounds?

Crawford is set to make $8.25MM next season and the Rays still have a $10MM option for ’10. Those are reasonable numbers for a player of CC’s ability. In addition he will only be 27 on opening day next season, meaning these two seasons are the peak of his prime. The problem is Crawford still hasn’t reached the level many envisioned and it is starting to look like that will never happen. There is also the issue of the turf at the Trop which Crawford blames for his knee problems. Certainly the Rays could trade Crawford and expect a very good bounty in return, but the problem for the Rays is who would take over in left? There is already a need to fill right field next season. And while there are some potential replacements (Justin Ruggiano, Fernando Perez), none can replace Crawford’s production. The Rays would be in a bit of a jam if they had to replace 2 outfielders…NOT CRAZY, BUT NOT LIKELY EITHER

SIXTH INNING
A look outside the box
With the Yankees roadkill…what other series should RAYSHEADS watch closely?

Nothing tricky here. Despite all of the injuries, the Rays have actually lengthened their lead in the East. With the Angels in town, the best the Rays can hope for is to not give any back. That means the Rays really need at least one win by the Orioles at home against the Red Sox. Of course we would feel much better if the O’s could take a pair, but that might be greedy…RED SOX @ ORIOLES

SEVENTH INNING
Over/Unders
Home Runs for Carlos Pena this season: 39.5

Maintaining his second-half pace would give Pena 39 home runs. Of course, maintaining his pace from the last week would give him 60. We have a funny feeling the former is more likely and even then?…UNDER

Juan Salas’ actual weight as compared to his listed weight: 230

We are sorry. We couldn’t find a screengrab from Salas’ ’08 debut. But for those that have been wondering where he has been all year we now must assume he was at the buffet table…OVER

Wins for the Red Sox on their 9-game roadtrip: 6

The Orioles and the Jays have actually been playing very well recently and clearly have not given up on the season. And then it is 3 in Yankee Stadium. We have to wonder if that will be the Bombers’ last gasp. We see at least 1 loss in each series, so it is not out of the realm that the Sox will lose one of these series and go 5-4…UNDER

Wins in this series at home against the Angels: 1.5

The good: The Angels come in, having lost 3 of 4 to non-playoff contenders. The bad: The Angels will throw 3 pitchers that have at least 10 wins. The Good: All of the starting pitchers are right-handed. The Bad: Jered Weaver dominated the Rays back in June in Anaheim. The Good: The Rays are 4-2 against the Angels this season. The Bad: The Angels now have Mark Teixeira and the Rays do not have Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria. The Good: The Rays will throw James Shields and Matt Garza. The Bad: The Angels are the best team in baseball…UNDER

EIGHTH INNING
On deck
With the Rays guaranteed to still be in first place after this series and the Red Sox on the road for 9 games, which includes 3 against the Yankees…How important is it for the Rays to win this series?

As we said before, what the Rays don’t want to do is give games back. The goal for the last ~40 games is to keep pace and once or twice a week add a game to the lead. If the Rays can enter the beginning of September with a 6-7 game lead in the East, it will put all of the pressure on the Red Sox. Even with two head-to-head series, winning 1 game in a series guarantees that the most the Red Sox can gain is a single game. Therefore the pressure is on the Red Sox to sweep each series and that is not likely to happen. As a side-note. We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, but the Angels are only up on the Rays by 1.5 games. While best record will not change who the Rays play in the first round, it would give the Rays home field advantage in the ALCS. That could be the difference…KEEP WINNING SERIES AND KEEP PRESSURE ON RED SOX

NINTH INNING
Putting out the fire
Troy Percival might not need knee surgery after all…Is this good news?

We love Percy as the Rays closer, when he is 100% healthy. Or at least 75%. But when he tries to “tough it out” the Rays and their fans are playing Russian Roulette. Would it kill him to go down to Vero Beach for a rehab assignment and get his timing back?…WE HOPE SO

You keep calling the Yankees “Roadkill”…Have the Yankees given up on the season?

If you haven’t read Hank Steinbrenner’s comments, they are priceless. Apparently the poor Yankees are out of it because of injuries and will come back stronger next year. As if they are the only team to suffer injuries. And yet they still run about $150MM in payroll every night…YEP AND WE LOVE IT

 
 

1 Comment

  1. steve-o1285 says:

    I think we can all shed a tear for the Yankees and, more importantly, for Hank. A class act like him should never have to go through a difficult season.

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