April 2009

Renegade Odds and Ends



Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Okay, here we are a few days before the official beginning of the season on Sunday night with the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies taking the field against the Atlanta Braves. I actually think it is kind of cool that the Phillies pay two “warm-up” games against the Rays in the next two days to get psyched to take on the Brave in their first battle to return to the Fall classic again in 2009.  I am actually looking forward to watching both of the Philly games the next two days. I am not in Philly right now, but I do have a really late flight booked right now if I still have a hankering for some cheesesteak.

Yes, I have tickets available to me, and also have a place to stay and a few meals owed to me from the World Series bets with friends in the City of Brotherly Love. I have a 6:10 am flight on Sat morning that will get me into Philly in time for a great breakfast at the Centennial Cafe at Ohio House. Believe me, I can do a great breakfast, but I hate that everyone looks at me funny when i order grits in the north.  I know, I know, they have that multiple pork/beef/snout product scrapple, but I like my meat in strips, which are crispy and tasty, not a conglomerate mass of mumbo jumbo meats.

But with the game going on in the after noon (1 :05 pm start time), If I go up I am going to have to do my “steak-on” after the game. But even then I have choices. I have a bet to claim of a steak at the Capital Grille, or maybe even Creed’s Seafood and Steak out in King of Prussia. I have not decided. But I will tell you that at this moment, I am 85 percent on the plane with no problem.  I love Philly. I guess the fact that my grandfather was a police sergeant in the town, and that I served up there for two years in 1988-1990 before I was called back into the Army National guard for duty make me love the place more and more every year. But, I hate to say it that I can never live there. They hated my southern accent then, and it is just as sharp today. Well, it is going to be on my mind all day long. the chance to go up again and relive a few memories or tragedies tomorrow. Win or lose, I can tell you that the steak with that melted butter is going to taste like Kobe beef to me, even if it is on a Italian or kaiser roll.



My Season Tickets


I always wait until the last moment to make my final payment for my Season Tickets for the Rays. I think the Sales Department have adjusted to my late timing, but they do not know why. I do the “late” thing because I want to build up the excitement for the season. So that my tickets get to the house and I open the bow within days of the season starting. I have done that for 10 years straight. Some of my old Rays ticket reps got used to it and did not worry about my late payments, knowing I was going to make the final payment and get my tickets in time for the first contest. But my room mate kid’s have never seen the way I act with the poor Fed Ex guy until this year.


Usually they are in school, but this being Spring Break for them, they got to see me in all my glory as I opened the door to the Fed Ex woman holding that huge box in front of her that looked like a bar of gold to me. they saw me sign fast and take the box oh, so gentile into my hands and rip the box almost in two in one fast motion. As I opened the box, I saw the external box that held the booty of the baseball gods. It had a beautiful picture of the players hands reaching up to caress and grab that awesome American League trophy. Just as I had caressed and fondled the trophy a few months before, it was a giddy sight to behold. 

But what happened next might go down as the weirdest thing I have ever done in my life. I am not a huge fan of exposing my emotions out in the open for the world to see them, unless we get into the playoffs or the World Series ( You had me at “playoffs”). But the  simple but loosely adapted “Snoopy Dance” I did on the front porch had the kids in the neighborhood asking when I began to smoke crack. I have a weird tendency to celebrate the finer things in my life. Getting my treasured tickets is the alpha to my year. And with that comes a wild expectation of the season. Of the dreams still unfulfilled and the anticipation of watching them unfold that banner next Monday night ( April 13th).

Also within that scope is the thought of another season of highs and lows concerning both friends and foes on the field. I always look forward to certain teams coming into town and chatting with some ex-Rays players. This season I am extremely happy to know that some guys have already been granted roster spots, and some are in the fight right now to secure some of the last spots, or might still be traded before 3 pm on Sunday. This is that last fraction of a pre-season that can change everything by the simple actions of a club. But I can truly tell you that the honest truth is that I am just anxious to again just cheer for my home team. I can tell you I take huge pride in coming from St. Petersburg, Florida, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Even if it is a stadium shot  of me on my laptop, or catching a foul ball, I enjoy this game beyond words most nights. And to me that is what baseball is all about.



Calling All B-52’s Fans


I recently found out that one of the Saturday night concert series groups this year will be the group, the B-52’s. Now I am more than anxious about this for the fact that I saw them in a small club in Gainesville, Florida while I was in college and fell in love with this group. Most people know their hits “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster”, but the group has a pile of other great eclectic songs to choose from their albums. I am looking forward to hearing “Planet Claire” and even ” My Own Private Idaho” this summer. I am going to try and dig up a few more names that are being considered for the Summer Series today when I am down at Tropicana Field. But as usual, the Season Ticket holders will be given wristbands so we can get up close and personal down on the field during the concert. As usual, I will be there.



Maddon’s Maniacs

I am going to have to do a blog in the next few weeks on this group I keep bringing up called the “Maddon’s Maniacs”. I know a few people have asked me how to join, or even what they are all about, but I could do multiple blogs on this great group. I hope to see if the head gurus will grant me some interview time so I can get it straight from the horses mouth on the origins and the initial ideas for this group a few years ago. But in the meantime, I will be heading down to the Trop. today to be used as back-ups,on-scene and hopefully speaking roles concerning the Ground Rules video that is seen before the Rays games on the Jumbotron. 

The “Maddon’s Maniacs” are not new to the multi-media thing. We have been used before in short videos for the screen during in game entertainment, plus in 2007, the entire grou
p was pictured on the last issue of  the “Play Ball” magazine that was given out to the fans before home games. But most people remember us from the “Braveknobs” video shot with Rays loud and proud fan, former WWE wrestler Brian Knobs. I know I really enjoyed the video a lot, and even had a speaking role. The group has also been in the background for several local television morning shows based out of either the Trop, or Ferg’s across the street before games. If you would like to know more about the “Maddon’s Maniacs, or even join this awesome group, visit
www.raysbaseball.com today and click the “Fans” section for this and other great Rays groups.

I will try and get some great pictures of the scene today at the Trop., and hopefully be able to post something before I leave for the airport tomorrow. Yes, I am now 95 percent on that plane.

Photos credits:      1)  RRCollections
                              2)   RRCollections
                              3)   Gavinclark@Flickr.com
                              4)   RRCollections

Waiver Options




With this week showing a variety of waiver options, I decided to try and hopefully make the process a little easier to understand. I have a feeling that some people do not have a true idea of what the waiver system is, or some ways it can be used by MLB clubs. So I decided that today I am going to try and describe the ways that clubs can remove players off their rosters via the current waiver system. I will try and give an example with each one so that it might be a bit easier to see what can happen to some of our favorite players this week during the cut-down time for rosters to be set by 3 pm on Sunday.

As we read the newspapers and the sports pages throughout this  week we will see that a certain play has been “waived” because he will not make the team’s roster, or is not in the 2009 plans in the major leagues for that position. Simply put, a waiver is a system where a team grants a player a “release with options”. This waiver process can grant certain assignments concerning the player’s contract and his placement in the team’s system. When a player is placed on waivers, his contract ( and his future employment) is then made available to any of the 29 other MLB organizations, thus he can be claimed by anyone in the MLB for that season. 

The first selection available to teams in this waiver process is the Outright Assignment. This is generally when a team wants to remove a player from their 40-man roster. Usually when a player is put on outright designation, the team is not considering him for their current roster, and  he is then made available to all 29 MLB teams through a waiver system established by the MLB that will communicate his designation to all 29 clubs in the league. When a Club decides to place a player on waivers, a representative in the organization will enter the information into a MLB created and protected system called “ebis” by 2pm. The ebis system collects all of the entries for that particular day and send a notice to all 30 Clubs informing them of players placed on waivers. This notice typically arrives between 4pm and 5pm Monday-Friday, and only certain people within Baseball Operations receive the document¬∑

If an organization wishes to claim a player on waivers, they have until 2pm on the second business day following the player being placed on waivers.  A player placed on Monday will clear or be claimed on Wednesday – an entry on Thursday will clear on Monday.  This rule was slightly altered in 2008 – MLB considers all days in Spring Training business days, so Saturday and Sunday are part of the claim period. 

The first round of acceptance or denials on the claim goes through from the weakest team ( by previous years record ) to the pennant winner in that league. The process then reverts to the weakest team in the other league until all 29 teams have had a chance to claim the player. If no one claims him, he is then returned back to his original team, who can either place him in their minor league system or release him.  In the case of Ryu, who was put on waivers by the Rays on January 13, 2009, the American League teams did not put in any claims for him. And so he passed unto the National League squads, who then got their first chance to either claim or let him go through the system until he would eventually be looked at by all members of the National League, then go through the same process with the American League.



In this case however, the San Diego Padres decided to take a look at Ryu and claimed him off waivers on January 15, 2008. Ryu was then considered a member of the Padres roster at that time. But after a short period of time, the Padres again put Ryu on waivers again on in March. Then on March 26, 2008, the Cleveland Indians put in a waiver claim for Ryu and he was subsequently a member of the Indians. But in a rare twist, MLB voided the waiver claim by the Indians and was returned to the Padres 40-man roster.  This is not a usual measure, but maybe MLB decided that this player had now been tossed from two 40-man rosters in less than 3 months, and maybe his elbow surgery in July 2008 was not fully healed and he still had medical issues.  This story will probably still be unfolding during the 2009 season.



A second waiver procedure is that a team can place a player on an Optional Assigment . If a player is on the 40-man roster but not on the active major league roster, he is said to be on optional assignment. His organization may freely move him between the major league club and the minor league club. If a player is on the 40-man roster and not the active 25 man roster for any part of more than three seasons, he is considered out of options and may not be assigned to the minors without first clearing waivers.  There is a clarification here that the player is considered out of options if he spent 20 or more service days in that calendar season. 


However, if a player has less than 5 years of professional experience, he may be optioned to the minors in a fourth season without being subject to waivers. If a major league player is ineligible for free agency and “has options” remaining, his team may option him to a minor league team without consequence. This is usually what is meant when players are “sent down” to the minors. Likewise, when a player on the 40-man roster is added to the active major league roster, he is “called up” to the majors. Players such as the Rays pitchers David Price and Wade Davis fit these descriptions, and can be assigned to their minor league teams without causing them to clear waivers at this time.


A majority of the major league teams will be using this following waiver process this week to eliminate players from their rosters. They also have the option of Unconditional Release . As you might guess, this type of waivers is required before a player is released from his organization.  (i.e. not wanted in the Majors or the Minors).  the last few days the names of former Tiger Gary Sheffield and Marlin infielder Dallas McPherson have had a few teams salivating at the thought of a quality player being on the market without trade repercussions or requirements. After their release, they are free to contact any of the other 29 MLB teams and try and secure their spot on their roster for the season.



The last option is the option that most teams wish they could remove a player from their rosters. Most people consider the Trade Route a more inviting and prosperous method of relieving your team of a player, and maybe getting some help in the process. It also can have a hint of glamor or even excitement as you might be traded for a budding superstar, or even a current star and be a important trade piece for you new squad.  Such is the case right now concerning the Rays fifth rotation spot. Both Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann will not travel with the Rays to Philadelphia on Friday as the team completes their Spring Training games. They will remain in Port Charlotte, Florida at the Spring Training complex and work out while the team decides their future in 2009.


With rumor flying off the Internet almost hourly about trade developments, both players are without options this year, and for one of them to secure the fifth position would guarantee them a spot on the team’s 25-man roster. Several teams are in negotiations with the Rays for the duo’s services, and the odd decision might even be made that they could trade both pitchers for prospects before the Sunday deadline. Trade waivers also give the teams more of a say in who, who and where their players might end up for the coming season. the best case scenario is to have them in the opposite league so that they do not face your club throughout the season either on the mound, or in the batter’s box.

I hope this makes a little more sense of the confusing and also heavily worded aspects of waivers and how they can be achieved in baseball. I can truly tell you that I get a headache every time I try and read these sections as thing are changed almost yearly as to the requirements and the procedures of this type of action. There can be a negative connotation associated with being “placed on waivers”.  But the true essence of the process should be viewed as a protection of the players career. Without the process of being placed on waivers, a player could be shuttled between the minors and majors of an team with no chance for a realistic future or opportunity with the squad.   With waivers, at the very least a player’s contract has the opportunity to be claimed by another MLB team and he may receive a fresh start.

Photo credits:  1) www.sulphurdell.com
                       2) RRCollections
                       3) www.sptimes.com
                       4) RRCollections

Rays Cancel the Gabe and Gabe Show




During their daily pre-game news conference in the Rays dugout, the Tampa Bay Rays have just announced that they are going to release both Gabe Kapler and Gabe Gross this afternoon to make room on their roster for two additions to be announced later today.  This is a huge departure from the scenario that was evident a few days ago where the duo would be a platoon action in right field for the Rays. It seems that their Spring Training averages, and their scaled back defensive play might have been a factor in the decision. ” I was extremely shocked, ” Gross told the Clearwater Sun. ” I thought after I signed my one-year contract, this would be my home for the year, defensing right field for the Rays.” 

One main factor in the decision might be the lack of power this spring by both Kapler and Gross. Gross currently has a single home run and only 8 RBIs, which pale in comparison to fellow Ray Jon Weber’s 3 homers and 14 RBI’s in the same time period. Even non-roster invitee Rays Sadler , who has 4 homers and 8 RBI’s has shown more power and ability this Spring than Gross. But it might be the .164 batting average posted by Kapler that might have sealed his fate this spring.  Kapler has gone 9-55, which is a masked improvement over going 0-14 to start the spring.


Even thought the announcement goes against the Rays previous defensive movements, it is said that the team might be making a roster spot for Gary Sheffield, who will clear waiver this week after being released from the Detroit Tigers. In a vertical move, it seems that former Tiger, Matt Joyce might have done enough to secure not only a 25-man roster spot, but also a change to platoon with Sheffield in right field for the team. “We consider Joyce a kid who just might have lightning in a bottle right now” Rays scouting director Syd Finch told the media. ” With him growing and Sheffield tutoring the young guy, we have a current win-win situation on our hands.”



Gabe Kapler, who gave up a chance to again manage in the minor league system has been given the same option in the Rays minor league system if he so desires. “I was told I could manage the Tampa Bay Rays rookie league team if I desire until they can find a suitable position for me.” Kapler told the Evening Independent. ” I actually think this might be a great start to a long and prosperous managing career and I want to thank the Rays fans for not being an ex-Red Sox this Spring.” Kapler also will be still conducting his daily pose-offs with Rays designated Hitter Pat Burrell while he is in the Tampa Bay area. 


” The reason that the Gary Sheffield situation is so enticing is the PR potential of this move,” Gary Kroger, Fan Excitement Manager of the Rays said before the packed media house in Port Charlotte today. ” Think about this for a moment, here we have a guy who is about to hit his 500th home run, not even our fan favorite Fred McGriff was able to do that in his career. That means PR money in the bank.”  Even though the move might be considered dramatic by most Rays standards the team decided to go “outside the box” on this one because of the demands on the Rays showing their true potential this season.  




“For us to defend our American League East pennant, we have to get out of the gate early to exhibit the passion and confidence in obtaining our second trophy.” Finch added. But what is more amazing, is that this is also the day, a year ago when the Rays declined their 2009 option on Rocco Baldelli.  A decision will also be announced later today on the 2010 $ 11.5 million option for Carl Crawford.  Is there some sort of romantic significance to this date in Rays history for contracts and major announcements to be made by the franchise. ” There really is not set goal or objective on this date, ” said Kroger. ” What is amazing is that the Rays and the world take such pride in the date, and truly feel that April 1st is a magical date both in history and in practical jokes.”  I am not sure what to make of that statement when Adam Friedman runs into the room and proclaims loud and clear, “April Fools!, you really did not think we would dissolve the two Gabes’ did you?”

Photo credits:   1)-3) www.stpetersburgtimes.com