Whew. Joe is popping open a cold adult beverage on this late Sunday afternoon celebrating a win that had Joe disturbed for much of the game’s final innings.

Happy as hell that Jason Bartlett, who may be an unfair target of some disgruntled Rays fans, got the game-winning hit. He and Andy Sonnanstine saved Merlot Joe from an embarrassing loss. Bartlett and Sonnanstine’s heroics also covered up a depressing lack of reporting by the local fourth estate covering the Rays.

Joe, along with hundreds (thousands?) of Rays fans monitoring Twitter and the blogosphere while watching the game — yeah, people actually surf the net and e-mail while watching games on TV or listening on radio — wondered aloud why in the world Merlot Joe would pull Jeff Niemann after only 70 pitches?

Since we live in the 21st century (2010 to be exact), and newspapers are claiming they want to update people right away about news, couldn’t someone, anyone in the Rays press corps have updated fans via Twitter? Or if they are so concerned with pageviews, put up a blog post that filled in fans why Niemann was pulled?

Now Joe knows that clubhouses are closed during games. But couldn’t someone have asked Rick Vaughn or Chris Costello to call down to the dugout to find out what was wrong with Niemann? At least make an attempt.

By Joe’s unofficial count, there must have been at least a half-dozen local reporters from various local papers and Internet sites there. Surely, if fans were abuzz at what was wrong with Niemann, the same question must have crossed someone’s mind in the Rays press box. Would anyone have been fired for finding out this information and passing it along during the game?

Joe Twittered two reporters who cover the Rays and did not receive a response. That tells Joe that these reporters weren’t at the game, or they succumbed to the 19th century news delivery service mentality of forcing people to wait for the Monday morning environmentally unfriendly newspaper to show up, wet from dew, on the front door.

For example, Joe Henderson of the Tampa Tribune will periodically Twitter thoughtful pearls of wisdom during a Rays game. That didn’t happen Sunday, so this Joe is assuming Henderson was not at the game.

Now Joe has no enemies with any of the Rays press corps nor is he looking to make any, but he cannot understand why no one covering the Rays today saw fit to update fans on why Niemann was pulled so early, which nearly cost the Rays the game.

We live in an interactive society now people. Fans crave information, not clichéd, scrubbed, bleached, homogenized, empty quotes. The old way of doing things won’t work. You can either learn to adjust and keep up with technology or have technology run over you. Business in the media has changed in the 21st century. If fans don’t get what they are looking for, they go where they can find said information. No longer is news dictated by those in ivory towers; fans/readers dictate.

Had any Rays beat writer done the right thing and updated fans, they would have won a ton of street cred with readers. Joe’s assuming editors if not publishers would have liked that.

This is the reason there are such a thing as sideline reporters, which brings Joe to Todd Kalas. Joe likes Todd Kalas a great deal. He’s got a cool job. Who exactly wouldn’t want a job where you get to hang out with Miss Florida contestants and chicks from a bachelorette party?

But once in a while Joe would love to see Kalas put that journalism degree from Syracuse to work and, you know, update us on… the game! It’s nice all these feel-good features Kalas does for Fox Sports Florida/Sun Sports, but any hot babe just out of the University of South Florida with a zoology degree can pull that off.

When Niemann was pulled, Kalas should have made a bee-line to the dugout to find out why.

Well, we finally did find out after the game. Merlot Joe claims Niemann’s back was acting up. Not sure this Joe totally buys that, it wasn’t like Niemann wasn’t still pitching strong. But OK. We found out.

The fact the professional (ahem) reporters never got around to reporting this information hours earlier was nearly as pathetic as gutless T.J. Rives not asking Raheem the Dream if he was going to be brought back to coach this season during an exclusive postgame radio interview after the final loss of a lost Bucs season.

After Niemann was pulled and Dan Wheeler nearly coughed up the game but did yack a two-run lead away, Joe couldn’t understand why Merlot Joe was so quick to yank Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit. Is there some state law that forbids these guys to pitch more than one inning? Granted, these guys have pitched a lot lately but the next game isn’t until Friday. Like pitching these guys two innings each would blow their arms up?

With the game tied and the Rays whiffing on way too many chances with runners in scoring position, Merlot Joe blew through six relievers in five innings. It was, as Bob Ryan once wrote, a glaring example of Creeping LaRussaism and basically reinforced what Yankees TV broadcaster Michael Kay said about Merlot Joe.

Look, this Joe is giddy the Rays are again 20 games above .500 and ended the first half of the season with a great homestand. But two Rays player fans like to beat up on, Bartlett and Sonnanstine, sure as hell covered up some serious over managing by Merlot Joe.



  1. Ben says:

    He had back issuses. Espn reported

  2. Eric S says:

    I was a little ticked when Niemann got pulled. I didn't know what was going on. I agree that if you have Todd Kalas out there, he has to report on this sooner. I guess you have to take Maddon's word for it, but I am a tad skeptical. This is the type of thing Maddon likes to do at times. I will say that the players do respect Maddon, so that is a big thing to have in the clubhouse. I like Lou Pinella, but he would have destroyed this team the last few years.

    I do think Bartlett deserves all the criticism in the world. He hit .320 last yr and he's hitting about .230 this yr. I didn't think he was a .320 hitter. I expect him to hit around .280 to .290 with some SBs thrown in though. He only has 4 SBs this yr. It would be nice if Bartlett started to hit and get on base, so they can stick him in the leadoff spot. Then Ben can be moved to the cleanup spot instead of Aybar.

    Maybe I haven't listened to the radio enough, but I haven't much criticism of Sonny. He has saved them in a number of games. He's either kept TB in the game long enough to come back or saved the rest of the bullpen eating up innings.

    Big series coming out of the break. The Rays have to take 2 out of 3 or sweep.

  3. Robert says:

    Sorry Joe, I cannot stand your writing style, that's why I never read your Bucs Blog. This whole post seems to meander towards a whining conclusion that a couple of reporters did not answer you on Twitter. Since Sternberg's crew arrived the team has held their cards close and either through disinformation or a complete lack of information they have kept fans guessing on personnel and managing decisions. To think that the higher-ups would allow Kalas to make a bee-line to the dugout for information on Niemann is ridiculous. It comes down to the fact that if the Rays want to let out information mid-game they will but it was obvious that something was wrong with the Giraffe when his fastball was struggling to break 90.

    • Eric S says:

      I think the Rays would have been better served to get out the information right away. I don't get the advantage of hiding it until after the game. It just makes fans ticked off at Maddon for pulling him so early. I personally don't criticize Maddon for every move he makes, but he sure makes it easy for people with his curious decisions at times. The Rays can keep quiet about trade options, but keeping quiet on something like this would be silly.

    • Joe Rays Fan says:


      Not sure why you invoked Sternberg. This isn't about him or Friedman or anyone else in the front office. The Rays have been one of the most media friendly teams in MLB since the day Sternberg got here. Joe isn't talking about inside information on trades, just simply why the entire fourth estate covering the Rays didn't inform readers and fans -- until well after the fact -- why a pitcher who was mowing down the opponent (after early-inning problems) was pulled after just 70 pitches. Again, this move (not known why at the time) damn near led to a loss.

      If Todd Kalas isn't a reporter, then why even hire him? The Rays can save a ton of cash by hiring some ditzy chick right out of college to do much of the same tripe Kalas is doing for a third of the price. Again, Joe likes Kalas. This was not one of his better days. He has an all-access pass. He can go anywhere in the stadium at any time, even Naimoli's bathroom. Why he didn't go in the tunnel to talk to Niemann or Jim Hickey -- off camera -- to find out what was going on, Joe does not know.

      Now Joe could really care less if the two reporters he reached out to Twittered him back. One of the two is Joe's former editor who also follows Joe on both Twitter and Facebook. The only reason Joe Twittered those guys was because no one was doing their job, you know, informing readers? What a concept.

      Joe follows other teams' beat reporters on Twitter as well, some of which cover a team that is hostile to the media yet if a pitcher sneezes in the middle of a game they Twitter if it's because he had a cold or because of allergies.

      Nope, no way to spin it. The entire Rays press corps dropped the ball today. Big time.

      • Robert says:

        Joe, I just have to disagree with the Rays being media-friendly, at least when it comes to injuries. Kalas, despite what I think are obvious skills, has always been the comedic relief in the Rays' broadcast. Since his "strapping young lad" bit with Joe in the Devil Rays era he has always covered more fluff, upcoming giveaways and the Miss Florida pageant, than real news. That being said I'm pretty shocked he is still in his current role, I liked him in the booth last year and enjoy him doing USF basketball but with his pedigree I am very surprised he hasn't found a better gig.

        • Joe says:


          Todd likes Florida and he has a pretty cushy gig. In his brief stints behind the mic doing play-by-play he's pretty solid. He's got the pipes.

          (Todd Kalas trivia: One of his roommates in college was Mike Tirico.)

          On a side note, Kalas is in a logjam, to use a baseball term. The Rays broadcasters, Dwayne Staats, Andy Freed and Dave Willis are damned good.

  4. Cork Gaines says:

    Here is something to ponder: If Niemann was injured, why didn't Maddon have ump give Wheeler extra warmup pitches? 1st 4 reached base off Wheels. So either Niemann wasn't hurt (why lie?) or Maddon inserted a pitcher that probably didn't have enough time to warm up.

    • Joe D. says:

      Cork, caught part of the game in the car and the radio guys said that Maddon went to the home plate umpire between innings, which they speculated ment Niemann might have been bothered by a physical ailment, and Wheeler might have needed the time; But felt that Wheeler had enough time.

  5. Joe D. says:

    I kind of think that the Rays reserve the right to play the cards close to the vest, if the reports asked what was going on and were turned down, they as media I think are obligated to say "the rays refused to comment", but I agee the question needed to be asked, and needed to be responded.

    • Joe Rays Fan says:

      Joe D.:

      Bingo! Or at least report, "Rays vice president of communications Rick Vaughn stated there is nothing wrong with Jeff Niemann, that Joe Maddon pulled him as a precautionary matter."

      Boom, done. At least ask. If they refused comment, no big deal, report that. At least you tried.

      Sure didn't seem like anyone tried this afternoon.

  6. Cork Gaines says:

    Keep in mind here, Joe is jumping on one instance, but this brings up an unfortunate glaring weakness in Rays coverage. While I believe the media does a good job telling us what happened, what is happening and what will happen, I think they often miss the most important question, "why?"

  7. Don says:

    A big part of the reason there is not more interest in the Rays is the lack of knowledgeable reporting on baseball in general...you can listen to Tv, radio, print, twitts, blogs and tell most are just rehash type reports that really don't tell you anything...people "lose" interest or don't become interested because of the sources (media) of information don't keep them informed.....so as it is in small market "media types"!


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