DM3229FIRST INNING (A look back)…
Earlier this week, you called on the Rays to discipline Troy Percival for his actions directed towards a fan after last Sunday’s win over the Red Sox…Any surprises from the reactions you have seen?

We are surprised that we haven’t heard even an explanation or an apology from the Rays or Percival. This surprises us because it did become a bit of a national story. It was carried on Deadspin, The Big Lead, Sports Illustrated and even the St. Louis Post-Dispatch among others. It seemed like everybody was talking about it except the Rays. And of course, the reason the Rays weren’t talking about it, was because nobody at the Tampa Tribune or the St. Pete times had the guts to ask the tough question. Sure they got the comments from Evan Longoria and Joe Maddon. But not once did we see anybody address what Percival did and that is a shame…JUST ANOTHER REASON NEWSPAPERS ARE BLEEDING

SECOND INNING (Headlines)…
Evan Longoria leads the league in doubles (14) and RBI (38), is second with 10 home runs and is hitting .368 to go along with his gold glove defense. Assuming the Rays stay in contention…Is Dirtbag the leading candidate for the AL MVP award?

At first we thought there was no way anybody else was even close. Then we looked up Kevin Youkilis’ numbers. He leads the AL with a .393 average, a .505 OBP and a 1.224 OPS. His 6 home runs and 20 RBI are not terrible either. And he is the catalyst and leader for a team with a better record…NO

THIRD INNING (Headlines)…
Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings are both off to scorching starts at double-A and triple-A respectively…Are these guys going to see a promotion anytime soon?

Here is where things get tricky. If the Rays were still struggling and Gabe Kapler was still 0 for forever, then we might see Joyce in the next week or two. But do the Rays want to mess with what is working on the chance it could be a little better? On the other hand, if Joyce is the answer at some point this season, then the Rays may prefer sooner rather than later to get him acclimated. As for Jennings, he has such little experience that he is probably in double-A through at least the all-star break…MAYBE JOYCE, MAYBE NOT JENNINGS

FOURTH INNING (Headlines)…
Carl Crawford is now 20-20 in stolen bases and on pace for 108…Will CC be the first player since Vince Coleman in 1987 to steal 100 bases in a season?

The big thing going for Crawford is that his legs are healthy for the first time in a few years and for the first time he is drawing walks. He is on pace for 65, which would nearly double his previous career high of 37. But at the other end of the spectrum is the lack of doubles and triples. At his best, CC should collect 50-60 extra-base hits in a season. This year he has 7 and is on pace for about 35. Every time CC hits a double or triple instead of a single, that is fewer opportunities to steal a base. Once the doubles and triples start coming, the steals will start going down. Of course, if CC steals 80, he would be the first person since Coleman and Ricky Henderson in 1988 and even that would be impressive…NO

FIFTH INNING (Headlines)…
Recently Fangraphs took a look at Scott Kazmir’s numbers and concluded that he was broken and likely headed towards a shoulder injury…How worried should we be?

Certainly we should be worried, but we are not near the cliff. If Kazmir’s problems were physical his problems would be consistent, but they are not. Most of his issues are in the first inning. His opponent OPS is .993 in the first inning and 10 of the 18 walks allowed have come in the opening frame. No, Kazmir’s issues are between the ears. He is a pitcher that needs his mechanics to be perfect to be effective. He has yet to learn how to battle through bad starts. Once he finds his mechanics and his confidence, we are hopeful that Kazmir will find his velocity. Besides, as careful as the Rays are with their starting pitchers, if there was any worry, he would not be taking the mound every fifth day…NOT MUCH

SIXTH INNING (A look outside the box)…
The Rays are slowly working their way back into contention…What other series should Raysheads watch closely this weekend?

Clearly the Rays can take care of their own business by winning two of three in Boston, but the Yankees in Baltimore could be just as important. The Yankees are reeling and are in danger of falling apart completely. They get Alex Rodriguez back tonight, but he can’t pitch. If the Yankees lose two of three, the East might be a 3-team race after all. Only the third team will be the Jays and not the Yankees….YANKEES AT ORIOLES

SEVENTH INNING (Over/Unders)…
80 stolen bases for Carl Crawford?

Crawford still has to play 81 games this season at the Trop and his legs do not like the FieldTurf. Even if CC stays off the shelf all season, he will eventually slow down…UNDER

9.5 home runs for Jason Bartlett?

Barty has 4 in 30 games and his career high is 5. He still has 3 games in Coors Field and 8 more in Coors East (Yankee Stadium)…OVER

1 start for Jeff Niemann after the all-star break?

Joe Maddon clearly has little confidence in The Giraffe at this point and the David Price promotion is a matter of when, not if…UNDER

1.5 wins for the Rays in Boston?

Let’s face it, right now, the Rays have the Sox’ number and are in their heads. Until the Red Sox prove otherwise, the Rays will continue to win head-to-head series…OVER

EIGHTH INNING (On deck)…
Earlier this week, RI showed that the Rays were just under the pace of reaching their goal of 2.5 million tickets sold this season…Do the Rays have a chance of reaching the MLB average in attendance this season?

Of course, a lot of this will depend on whether the Rays are contending in September. If they are, it will certainly be close. What is disturbing are the 3 games already this season with attendance below 14,000. Granted the Rays got off to a tough start, but they were hardly eliminated. And the Rays have a lot of games remaining this season against opponents less appealing than the O’s and White Sox…NO

NINTH INNING (Putting out the fire)…
John Heyman ranked Joe Maddon as only the 9th best manager in baseball. Seems a little low…Where should he be ranked?

He only has one good season and the Rays have disappointed so far in 2009. But we still have a feeling that if you polled GMs around the league and asked them to pick somebody other than their current manager, Joe Maddon would be the #1 choice for more than half….TOP 3

Juan Salas was recently released by the Indians…Any chance the rays resign the relief pitcher?

The bullpen has been shaky at times this season and the Rays do love pitching depth. We suppose it is possible he comes back on a minor league deal, but we suspect he will find another team with a clearer path to the big leagues…LITTLE

What is the beer of choice for this weekend series in Boston?

It worked last time, so we are sticking with it. The division belongs to the Rays until the Red Sox prove otherwise and we are keeping Red Sox Nation’s beer until then…SAM ADAMS

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