September 2010

Some Things in Life Can be FREE


Chris O’Meara/AP

I might not be the only one to tell you just how weird it felt to walk into Tropicana Field last night and already here the sound of thousands of people sitting in their FREE seats even before Batting Practice was over. Had a odd and strange aura to the stadium as I entered Section 138 and already 3/4ths of the seats had bodies in it.

Now do not get me wrong here, I applauded the fact Tampa Bay responded in such a positive way to come out last night for the Rays home finale, but I really also wanted to question each and every one of them and ask, “What took you so long to come out?” Sure, a FREE ticket probably got a few of the danglers from the fringes of the Rays Republic to take in another game, but did it really take offering 20,000 FREE tickets all around the stadium to get this kind of support.

If the Rays wanted a clear and definite response to “If we opened the doors, would they come” kind of questioning, then the Rays Front Office definitely got their answer. And I really hope that the Rays sold out of a few ballpark commodities last night, or at least I hope people spent at least $ 10 somewhere within the stadium either at the concessions stands, or possibly the Rays Team Store. You would hope a small minority of the people who received their FREE tickets would have least bought something cold to drink.

And even with the FREE tickets, there were more than a few people who brought their tickets into Tropicana Field and looked for seat upgrades or even a better seating position even though their ballpark experience that night was being bought for them by two of the Rays rising stars.

Recent comments by Rays All Stars Evan Longoria and David Price on the lack of fan support actually backfired on the young duo, and to show their concern their message was sincere and not meant to alienate or act privileged, they worked with the Rays to provide a perfect storm, or sell-out possibility for the Rays last home game of this season.


Even if this “embarrassing” moment by either player was premeditated, or had any ulterior motives is mute now because the Tampa Bay community answered the call and filled the Trop to the upper rafters. Only thing that might have cemented a more positive future consideration by some of these 20,000 “guests” might have been a more colorful and exciting game accented by an orange roof and a victory cheer. But that is where the night might have fell a bit…towards the dark side.

But hopefully, the assembled crowd that might have not been usual Rays fans might have gotten a taste or even a nibble of wanting to come again, or possibly maybe even investing in multiple games or a ticket package for 2011. And behind all the common courtesy and all the FREE promotion this pulled in for the Rays, the end result might not be felt until April 2011. You have to wonder if you converted any of that FREE crowd into becoming members of the Rays Republic, or if they are one and done, never to step again into the confines of Tropicana Field.

But it was great to look up into the far reaches of the Trop last night and not see many empty seats just prior to game time. Was fantastic to see kids climbing over each other to get to Raymond, or yelling for BP baseballs from the Oriole’s players, or maybe even just sitting there with glove in hand waiting for the game. You want to hope, you want to actually dream that this could become a reality.

You wanted to envision in the not to distant future that Sections like 138 could be filled to the brim like this when the Oakland A’s roll into town, or during the weekday evening games we could pack the Trop like a can of sardines. But the generation that can make that happen nightly are currently yelling for cotton candy, trying to eat a big Kayem hot dog, or just so excited to see their idols playing line rather than home on their television.


Nights like this can happen in Tampa Bay where the Trop can be filled top to bottom and not a Red Sox or Yankee player on the field. Nothing against those teams, but this community needs to flock and pack this stadium on dates that do not include those two American League East rivals. It doesn’t have to be 36,000+ to show this team and the Rays Front Office that St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay region can be a massive baseball community.

Last night was a perfect example of the fact this town loves this Rays ball club, but sometimes things out of your own control can hide this communities true feelings. Hopefully this region can decide during this post season push just how much they care about this team and provide some sort of sign in the off season as to the future of this franchise. Either this community makes some sort of conscientious effort to show the Rays their commitment, or the only time our kids will see baseball will be on the television, and that surely would be a crime.

Second Time was Just as Sweet!



You could feel the moment beginning to pulsate within the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field. It was the top of the ninth inning with Tampa Bay Rays closer Rafael Soriano heading to the hill. With the sound of the sledgehammer hitting pure steel, your heartbeat synched solely with that one loud clang for several moments before someone shook you and you were forced back into this realm of reality.



Rays starter David Price had done his job for eight solid innings, and now the Rays All Time saves leader was not out there to collect another save, but to be one with a moment that will be in Rays fan’s minds for a long, long time. Soriano did not have to be inserted into the game with a 5-0 score and no chance of a save opportunity, but somehow, it just seemed right that the guy who anchored the backend of the Rays success this year should get a front row seat to the celebration carnage.



And even before Home Plate Umpire Joe West got a chance to throw a vocal note to the final pitch thrown by Soriano past Baltimore Orioles hitter Adam Jones, the Rays dugout and Bullpen were half way to the pitcher’s mound. Celebration was in full force in St. Petersburg that night with veterans like Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford taking special moments to collect all the sights and sounds of this cherished event.



With a scheduled Team meeting at the pitcher’s mound, the entire team collected and embraced, high-fives all around brought the evening to its ultimate climax, but there was a second act yet to be played out upon the turf of Tropicana Field. As the Rays employees were herded into their own special corral just to the west of Home Plate to be a part of the celebration, the first bottle of champagne was open by Rays First Base Coach George Hendricks who then made sure Rays Manager Joe Maddon, who was being interviewed in full view of the entire stadium at the time, got the first taste of the bubbly.



Sweet nectar of the God’s streamed down Maddon’s fresh new Rays playoff cap and upon his Carolina Blue plaid lettered T-shirt to commemorate the moment. Just as quickly, players began to filter out of the Rays clubhouse holding their own bottles of Domaine ste Michelle champagne looking to celebrate and salute a moment 161 games in the making. B J Upton and Crawford were the first to rise to the top of the Rays dugout and spray the home crowd while others looked for family members or friends to celebrate this historic Rays moment.




Then slowly, but surely, the team made its triumphant march down the First Base sidelines with bottles in hand spraying the crowd and offering a few swigs to those special fans and friends assembled to bring a final end to the first primary goal of this Rays team. I took my usual photo space down by the Rays Bullpen secondary clubhouse entrance and began to shoot the impending celebration stampede heading my way. I had to put down my camera as player after player came by and let me have a small slice of that moment with them.



Willy Aybar immediately doused me with champagne right after I congratulated Upton and Grant Balfour and then I saw the biggest smile on the faces of both Evan Longoria and David Price who earlier that day were going through some personal damage control after some unusual comments by the pair.



I yelled at Longoria that “this was the first of five celebrations” and he looked at me and said” I truly believe that.” Price then shook my hand and I told him I was proud of his actions today and every day he has been here.



Suddenly, the players sea seemed to part for a moment and one of my oldest baseball friends on the team presented me with a ¾ full bottle of champagne and quickly he disappeared in the exuberant posse. I quickly took a long and deep swig of that nectar and immediately passed it to a friend who took her own dose of delightful bubbly and I thrust the bottle to the air. A few players saw this and also cheered and pointed to me as I took in this second celebration, and immediately remembered just how far this team had come in 2010.



How only one National Media guru had predicted the Rays to be in the post season at all, and a shot at getting the divine prize of another American League East title was still sitting on the mantle waiting for the Rays to claim it for themselves. That celebration will have to wait until Kansas City, but tonight we were toasting to the success and the finalization of putting the Red Sox out of our rearview mirrors knowing that the New York Yankees were the only foe in our sights of another A L East crown.



And there was something soothing about this second time. Something that did not have me nervous or pacing like in 2008. Maybe it is the pure fact we have been here before. That we have scaled the mountain in recent times and could again hike it with the ultimate result this time…winning it all. Tonight was the symbolic starting point to that journey. A celebratory exclamation point to the 2010 season, but the Rays still have some walking to do along this dark path.



Tomorrow might be the last home game, but the team still has one more goal in mind, one giant moment yet to savor and enjoy…One more celebration before the season ends. But that is for us to ponder tomorrow, tonight is the time to celebrate, enjoy and totally let the pressures of the last few weeks pour down your body like the droplets of champagne.



Now is the time to show the emotions and the feelings that have been bottled up waiting for this glorious moment. I think it is time for me to finish this bottle of champagne and then look to the heavens knowing this is the first of five celebrations.

Why Reopen this Rays Wound Now?



Sometimes this whole Tampa Bay Rays attendance situation feels to me like a cut or a scratch that never seems to want to heal. Just when you think it has finally growing some new skin of its own, it get broken again and you have to dab it with some Neosporin or Aloe Vera to promote the healing process all over from scratch. You want the itching and the clawing of opinions to just go away, but all you can do is keep dabbing the ointment and hope that one day, the final healing process will begin.

It was fine with me when the National and local Media threw their two cents into the ringer on this issue considering I have lost so much respect for the National talking heads (ESPN) and the local fish wrap (St. Petersburg Times) since they were the main culprits in re-opening the wound for such a ling time during this 2010 season. But lately, the infestation has crept into the sanctuary of the Rays clubhouse as the media wishes to expand the illness and infest others into the battle.

First the media got Rays Manager Joe Maddon to speak his mind about the issue, and it was front page fodder. Maddon had inadvertently gone into the media “company line” and protested the lack of fans in the seats earlier in the Rays season, and somewhere in the darkness, the media editors were smiling like Cheshire Cats. They had the Big Kahuna of Rays fandom denouncing the decrease in fans in the seats, but no answers spilled from the Rays skipper on how to correct this ailment.

And the media finally bagged another big fish when they got Evan Longoria, who has not played since last Thursday night to chime in his personal two-cents on the lack of Rays fans in the seats.

“I don’t think there’ any more time for rationalizations. We figured if we have a chance at the beginning of September then maybe the fans will come and now it’s the end of September and its almost October and were still kind of looking up in the seats going where is everybody?”

You got to admire theory of Longoria, who it has been told is healthy enough to play if asked, but is sitting on the bench as a precursor to a healthy playoff push by the Rays. But what has got me to lose some respect points with Longoria is the honest fact he somehow forgot where he plays baseball:

“Obviously we want to bring a championship to Tampa. And we’d like more than 12,000 to 15,000 to know about it.”

The media sirens also honed in last night and got a major coup by capturing Rays All Star David Price in their ever growing circle of attendance disappointment. Price ended up posting a comment on his Twitter page about the lack of fan support.

david price 

“Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands…embarrassing”

Then a few hours later, Price might have been schooled by some of his close allies that it might have seemed a bit empathetic to the plight of most of the Tampa Bay Rays fans personal choices in regards to attending games and issued a small apology making it seem like the emotions churning in the Rays clubhouse possibly influenced his outburst

DAVIDprice14 david price

“If I offended anyone I apologize I did not think it was gonna turn into this…”

The difference in Longoria and Price’s responses compared to the media’s usual firestorm towards the Rays fan base is pretty simple to me. Longoria is a budding leader of massive proportions in this Rays clubhouse, and he might have felt a personal obligation to stoke the fires a bit, but I know he did not mean to make the attack malice or laced in personal agendas unlike the St Petersburg Times. I do however find huge problems with Longoria thinking he goes to work in “Tampa” and not St. Petersburg, but then again, I am extremely proud of this town.

Both Price and Longoria were expressing their own personal feelings and emotions with the Rays fourth smallest crowd of the season. I totally get that, and do feel that this was a time for this community to post up and show their support. But then again I was coached at a younger age to see positives and evoke positives out of a negative situation. It is easy for people in today’s World to focus on the slight negative situations instead of exposing a more positive and encroaching enthusiasm through positive speech.

How easier would it have been for either player to have provided positive comments or even a plea for the fans in this Tampa Bay area to come out and celebrate with the Rays on Tuesday night. Push out a request, a invitation for the Tampa Bay community to join the 10,000+ Rays faithful fans to come celebrate a great 2010 Rays season and toast to a impending playoff campaign.

By the actions and comments of either of these Rays players throwing out positive affirmations and showing “open arms” to inviting the community to their party, the message might not have put some on their heels or even commenting negatively towards Longoria or Price. Positive motivation might get more people in the stands instead of the negative comment of two guys making extreme salaries as opposed to most in Tampa Bay right now.

Opening this ever festering wound of low attendance at this critical point has some beads of merits, but it also could evoke little positive rewards by badgering a community already on it’s heels after tall tales of oil on our beaches and mass unemployment in our community. Alienating some within the Tampa Bay community before an important last two home games and a solid push towards the post season might send some away from the Rays box offices.

Positive emotions and words right now will have people coming to the Trop for the next two games. Finding fault, pushing blame or even attacking those who pay your salary is not productive at this point. It is disappointing to see the army of empty blue seats overshadowing the Rays and their fan base.

Only answer to that is simply to invite the Tampa Bay community to come down tonight or tomorrow and celebrate with friends, family and other Rays fans as this team finishes their primary goal of getting back into the post season. To get that usual FSN/Sunsports broadcast watcher to want to experience this celebration firsthand with his local community friends and neighbors in a positive light, not by pushing him deeper into his Baca lounger with tales of nonsupport and not deserving baseball.

Some people forget that Rays Baseball is a business. With that in mid, if a business or its “employees” constantly admonished my self worth with negative comments addressed towards me for not buying their wares, then my desire for their goods and entertainment would be moot and I would partake in other options. There might lie the root of the whole enchilada.  

Nothin’ But a Good Time with Bret Michaels



Saturday evening way before the Tampa Bay Rays took on the Seattle Mariners, the Rays Republic saw the resurging brilliance of a man who has waged his fair share of War in the battlefields of Rock and Roll and come out better for the journey. At a time when most ex-hair band lead singers are lounging somewhere else resting on their follicle ladened 1980’s laurels, sitting in isolation while continuous residual checks op into their mailboxes, this guy is still loving the Rock Star lifestyle one stanza at a time.


Men and women all over this big blue marble have lived vicariously through this rock icon’s adventures for a long time starting with his first exposure to the vice and decay of the rock and roll lifestyle that can chew you up and spit you out as candy while getting his first taste of this sweet as the front man for the iconic glam metal band Poison.


Here is a guy who has sold out tons of venues like Tropicana Field as both a solo act and as a lead singer, but he was doing something we all wanted to do before the game…He was throwing in front of the Rays dugout with Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos, and tossing a mighty fine and tight fastball. The guy who could do almost anything just wanted to throw some soft toss, then get ready to pop the top off Tropicana Field with a slew of cover songs and songs we all know by heart.

Pat Manfredo

That is one of the things that makes all of us want to meet or take a photo with the guy. He is one of the most genuinely honest and down to earth guys in Rock and Roll, and he made time to toss a few fastballs, then sign a few autographs before heading to his hidden suite just to the left of the Rays Press Box.

Pat Manfredo

Even when he gave an A Capella rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame that will surely be posted on Youtube soon, It was all Bret Michaels as we have come to know this hometown guy from Butler, Pennsylvania. If he wasn’t a rock legend and icon, he would be that troubadour possibly playing in a neighborhood tavern cranking out his original tunes and filling the place during the weekend.


And if it wasn’t for the huge stage and the megawatts of surging heat and power from the banks of amplifiers and gear, you almost felt like it was a small time guy doing a show for his 30,000+ friends and family that shuffled into the Trop. Even before Michaels hit the stage I was down talking with his drummer ( Chuck Vanslau ) before Michaels hit’s the stage for his Rays /Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series action.


I remarked to Vanslau that I had seen Michaels perform a few years ago at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida as a solo act right after his second “Rock of Love adventure and was excited to see how the show had progressed. Vanslau remarked that ” I should pop my seatbelt on and get in a comfortable position because, this plane was going to fly high, fast and leave no prisoners”.


And that is exactly the way this show took off from Michaels first note. It got into a sweet and fats climb as Michaels visited some of his Poison past by starting off with “Talk Dirty to Me“, then proceeding to “Look What The Cat Dragged In that was full of energy and strutting around the stage that made Michaels one of the greatest front men in the glam metal era. Both songs were pushed to the limits by Michaels vocals and the pulse set high and furious by Vanslau, Pete Evick (lead guitar) and Rays Schering (bass guitar).


Just as the fever was beginning to climb, Michaels next went into the Southern Anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The rendition by Michaels honored the Southern classic and was met with arousing banter of singing from the assembled crowd with their glittered wristbands high in the air holding cellphone and recording the moment. Always a stirring moment when you see people using their cellphones as imitation lighters in the air to signal their approval for a song.


Michaels then brought it back a bit with the songs “Go That Farfrom his fourth solos album Rock My World andSomething To Believe Infrom Poison’s “Flesh & Blood album released in June 1990 that gave the now sweating crowd a few moments to collect themselves and soothe out with a few ballads before Michaels was to again take crowd on another ride in his 13 song set.


Immediately after “Something To Believe In“, Michaels again raised the stakes by taking a few moments to thank the crowd for the well wishes and note Michaels has received over the past months, then got quickly into propelling the rhythm sky high again by doing “Unskinny Bop and raising the crowd vocal responses and dancing to a top tier again. Michaels then injected the audience with his newest single, “Nothing To Lose that brought the energy level down a notch but still had that flowing and cohesive meandering stream that is all Bret Michaels.


The song was from his just released “Custom Built” solo album and again had cell pones and the crowd swaying both in the stadium and down near the stage in great unison. And just when you thought it was safe to stay within that gentle flow, Michaels again hits another cover, this time turning the classic Loggins & Messina song “Your Mama Don’t Dance, And Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll” to a whole different level by throwing in a little bit of Michaels spice and herbs to enhance the classic and make it his own.


Then Michaels showing a little raspy sound to his voice took a short breather while Vanslau did a great drum solos and again Michaels, who stayed on stage just beyond the lights gathering in the energy Vanslau was producing and went straight into another great cover of the Sublime song “What I Got” which is also on his “Custom Built” album and his version tonight produced some of the greatest guitar licks of the night from Evick and Schering and proved once and for all that a great front man like Michaels can take any classic song and turn it into his own.


And just as you were coming up for a gulp of air after singing another great song, Michaels let you not only get a fast breather, but pulled out his acoustic guitar and did his greatest song, “Every Rose Has It’s Thorns” that had most of the stadium singing along with Michaels again and taking another huge visit down memory lane. This is definitely one of those iconic songs that everyone has attached someone to, or have an emotional attachment to, and Michaels again had the afterglow of a sea of cellphone screens beckoning his voice high into the rafters.


Michaels then started his last ascent into the high energy mode of his concert by thrusting out another vintage Michaels moment when he reached back into the archives for “Fallen Angel” from Poison’s second album “Open Up and Say…Ahh!“, then Michaels pulled the show into a last frenzied moment with the always popular and always thumping Poison song ” Nothin’ But A Good Time” also from the May 1988 “Open Up And Say…Ahh!” album.


This last song put the crowd over the top emotionally and you could see that Michaels and the assembled crowd by the stage were both spent reliving some of the great moments of all over lives in this concert. As Michaels was summing up the night on stage, he let the crowd know he would love to come back again in 2011 and do it all again. This statement brought up a thunderous applause from the crowd and you know more than a few Rays executives might just take him up on that in 2011.


As the crowd moved towards the Trop’s exits, Michaels stayed behind the Rays stage talking and meeting some of the assembled people backstage. But that was not the end of his night. Michaels ended his night the same way he began it before the 7:10 start on Saturday night.


After so many of the crowd had left the turf of the Trop, Michaels made his way back between the barricades that sat between the Rays dugout and the back end of the clay infield and again donned a glove and threw a last few pitches before Michaels and his band had to head to the airport for a flight to New York.


Ahhh, the life of a Rock Star, jetting from city to city being admired by millions, adored by men and women alike and the last thing you wanted to do before leaving Tropicana Field was throw a baseball around again. Bret, I became a fan all over again just by that moment.


Post Script:

After posting this blog post, before the Rays Sunday afternoon game, a member of the Rays brought me a gift down to my seat on the Rightfield corner. I did not open it immediately, but when I did, it totally shocked me that inside was a custom designed Rays hat from Team Diva, who also designs Bret Michaels headgear. I had remarked earlier in the year to someone in the front office that maybe we could get a custom made Cowboy hat for Michaels to wear on stage.


 By the way, look up to the picture of Michaels singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame“, does the Cowboy hat on his head look familiar at all? Instead, I wore the custom made Cowboy hat from the third to eighth inning of the Rays game. It is a cherished possession now adorned in blue sharpie with Bret Michaels autograph. I have to paraphrase Michaels and tell you, “It don’t get better than this!”


Mumm’s The Word!



I still remember the swig of celebratory champagne that Tampa Bay Rays catcher Shawn Riggans gave me along the right field sideboards in 2008. It was so sweet and luxurious after the campaign the Rays had endured to get their first post season berth in team history. For some reason the bubbles and the taste of that nectar of the Gods stayed with me, so much that I had to get two more bottles from someone as keepsakes.

I opened one of the bottles this past May 14th to celebrate a milestone birthday I never thought I would reach, and that same glorious taste trickled down my throat again as I shared it with a few friends at a local tavern. It was one of the same stock used in the 2008 Rays celebration, and it immediately took me back to that fantastic time in Rays history.

And here we are again with a “magical number” of two games before the Rays can again blast the crowd with it’s nectar, and fully push cork upon cork to higher height in and around the Rays clubhouse. More than a few people have asked me recently what nectar the Rays will digest, pulse into the crowd, or shower each other with in 2010? The answer is a visit to an old friend, who in 2008 helped usher the Rays into their first historic celebration,

The champagne of choice again for your Rays will be G.H. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Brut, the omnipotent celebratory champagne of the Tampa Bay Rays circa 2008. Starting on Sunday afternoon, the Rays will have more than enough bubbly to accommodate both the team and the Rays employees as it is possible that if the New York Yankees defeat the Boston Red Sox on ESPN’s featured game Sunday night (around midnight) the team will assemble somewhere in a hidden lair around Tampa Bay where the corks and the bubbly will flow freely for a few hours. But let’s get back to meeting the celebration drink of choice of the Rays.

Nothing is better than to have a great bottle of champagne to pour on your friends and team mates after 10 seasons of futility. And the Rays have their personal favorite this year in G. H. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Champagne. I am going to give you some insight into this great beverage and provide you with some expert advice on the Rays bubbly of choice here.

One review tells us that:

G.H. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Champagne is a complex blend of the best citrus and grape varieties that offer pungent, earthy aromas and creamy flavors that linger with richness on the finish. A bold expression of prestige and style, the Cordon Rouge with its distinctive red sash of the French Legion of Honor, is one of the world’s most popular champagnes. Try G.H. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Champagne, it makes any occasion even more special”.


Still another review of G.H. Mumm’s champagne tells us about the Mumm’s Cordon Rouge:

“G.H. Mumm’s Champagne Cordon Rouge Brut NV, 12%.: This bottle was quite likely two years old or more, from what the distributor rep who sold it to my predecessor tells me. I brought this one home to check out the condition of the wine, due to water damage to the labels that made it impossible to sell, and I was happy to find that what is in the bottle is doing just fine”.

“Medium straw in color, with an active bead and plenty of froth in the mouth; the nose is all flint and unbuttered popcorn, with more of the same on the palate, anchored with a solid core of under-ripe apple and a hint of bread dough underneath it all. It shows good intensity on every level, with plenty of verbosity and good length on the finish”.


Personally, I like the citrus underlying flavors of this champagne and consider it a huge upgrade from the usual money grubbing celebratory vessels like Clicquot’s . The taste and the character of this champagne fits this Rays team, and with baseball being a very superstitious sport, you know all will be done to keep the celebratory champagne status quo.

“A worthy exemplar of G.H. Mumm’s quest for excellence, Mumm’s Cordon Rouge is a distinctively fresh, full-bodied champagne with impeccable consistency of taste. Emblematic of the richness and finesse that characterizes the company’s own vineyards, Cordon Rouge has worn its famous red ribbon since 1876, now synonymous with house’s credo of superlative quality.
Mumm’s Cordon Rouge has become an icon of the champagne category and epitomizes Georges Hermann de Mumm’s maxim of “Only the best“”.

Wow, that last review was from the Mumm’ website and was a grand slam right out of the old ballpark. So as you can see, the champagne picked by the Rays to the beverage of the moment is actually a great vintage and could be just as great on a upcoming Anniversary, wedding or even a World Series celebration. You can purchase the Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne at most wine stores in the area, and can also get a bottle online if you do not want to travel the city looking for your own bottle of celebration.


I have one more hidden bottle of G.H. Mumm’s that no one knows about in my house, just in case we have a reason to celebrate something truly amazing come the first few days in November 2010. And just like the Rays, it will taste sweet and worth every penny, even if most of it will never reach my lips. So in advance of a possible clinch on Sunday night, or a more fan friendly celebration on Monday evening, I want to take a glass right now and propose the first toast to the Rays.

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, The foresight to know where you are going,
And the insight to know when you have gone too far

Time to celebrate…………….. Who has another bottle? ( POP! ).



Longoria’s Quad Feeling mighty Odd


Chris O’Meara/AP

Sometimes weird and unusual injuries happen as the human body begins to break down towards the end of a hard fought and hard contested Major League Baseball season. No matter what the preventative measures taken in advance, some times the body just has to give. With Tampa Bay Rays Third Baseman Even Longoria only missing one other start in 2010 (May 23 in Houston) maybe this latest injury could be a blessing in disguise to get some extra rest and relaxation before the Rays embark on their second post season venture.

Speculation right now is that Longoria could possibly be rested for almost a week, or until the Rays head out for their last road trip to play the Kansas City Royals next weekend. Already there are a few cries of despair and agony within the Rays Republic, but isn’t it more important to have a healthy and ready-to-go Longoria in October than to possibly see him shelved with fatigue or a nagging injury during the playoffs?

Rumors are also flying as to how Longoria might have strained his quadricep, but if you saw this pivot on a double play against the Yankees while in the leftie shift on Thursday night, you would have seen a small grimace on Longoria’s face as he swept his foot past the second base bag. Longoria did play the rest of the inning, but he did seem a bit uneasy and shook his leg a few times, maybe to try and keep it from binding up while he was on the field.

As an ex-Track sprinter & pole vaulter, I can tell you the most mettlesome injury is
a tweaked or pulled quadricep that can grab the back of your leg and seem to not let go no matter what happens. It cripples and takes you down almost instantly because of the muscle throb and pain. Even worse is the fake confidence this injury can give you that you are healed, then you play on it and it instantly grabs at you again and can become a more severe injury.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

This injury to Longoria might seem a bit troublesome for a Rays offense that has sputtered a bit in the past few weeks, but then again, this Longoria injury could also have a distinctive double meaning for the Rays. The first aspect is that it can give the Rays young infielder some much needed “sit time” with possible pinch hitting duty (doubt it) while Longoria gets the needed medical treatment and also a well deserved rest and relaxation period on the bench.

Secondly, the time with Longoria out of the line-up can be used as a great talent evaluator for Rays Manager Joe Maddon. who might have not penciled in his entire 25-man playoff roster just yet and could use pieces like Dan Johnson, Sean Rodriguez and even Willy Aybar to anchor the “Hot Corner” for a week. This could give the trio some extra plate appearances, plus give the Rays a possible look at alternatives if Longo happens to re-injury himself in the playoffs.

I think this works great for Rays in seeing more plate appearances for Johnson as they try and evaluate his potential for the playoff roster, and maybe a audition for a possible 2011 Spring Training invite with the Rays. Most people seem to have forgotten that Johnson actually played Third Base for the Rays during this year’s Spring Training games, plus Johnson spent the majority of his time at Triple-A Durham playing the “Hot Corner” instead of only DH’ing and playing First Base.

This unfortunate injury to Longoria might actually work out to be a hidden silver lining for the Rays and for the Rays utility guys to step up and make an added late season impression. There is nothing better for a borderline or utility player in the Major Leagues than to establish their talents at another position and maybe get a solid chance to be added to the playoff roster.

The Longoria injury also seemed to happen at a time when Maddon systematically was going to try and to give his 3-time All Star a bit of a rest anyways. The original prospect was possibly only a day or two at the most off for Longoria, but the extended rest period can recharge his body and his mind for the quick paced playoff campaign.
With Longoria telling the Tampa Bay media before Friday nights game that his injury is a “moderate strain” to his quad and not a tear, a sigh of relief was seen on a few faces.

Longoria also underwent an MRI, which came back showing no extensive damage to his leg. Longoria will undergo heat and cold treatments plus spend a few special moments in the hydro-pool as he rehabs himself to get back as soon as possible.

Going to be fun to see how Maddon comes up with a winning strategy or a platoon method at Third Base with Sean Rodriguez possibly getting the most time playing against lefties, while Johnson should get ample time at the plate coming in to play defense against right-handers. Aybar has spent time in the past at Third Base, but Aybar will probably spend most of this Longoria injury time still at the DH spot instead of taking a possible turn at Third Base.


This quadricep strain by Longoria can be looked at with a glass half full, or half empty mentality. Most within the Rays Republic might see it as an half empty situation where our most prolific power hitter ( at the moment) is down for the count for a week while the Rays are clawing their way to secure another post season berth, plus fight for the crown again in the American League East.

The worry warts among the Rays fan base have brought up the fact of an extended injury by Longoria, but I have a distinctive feeling Longoria will be back in the cages before the end of the weekend trying to keep his timing and swing in check for a possible pinch-hit appearance some time during the last home series against the Baltimore Orioles.

But the Rays glass is definitely half-full as they have adequate and great alternatives in-house to supplement a small time off by Longoria. There was a time not so long ago that an injury like this would have sent shockwaves through the Tropicana Field. The great emergence of Rodriguez as both an offensive and defensive weapon combined with the power hitting of Johnson have given the Rays a bit of flexibility at the corner that they did not have in the past.

All will be fine and well in Rays-ville as Longoria sit and get better daily with an eye on coming back and dominating in the post season, and Johnson and Rodriguez get a few extra shots at trying to impress the Rays and become viable options again in 2011. Most teams within the Major Leagues, if a player of Longoria’s stature falls to injury there is a immediate panic and shuffling to find an answer. For the Rays, the answer is already sitting on their bench eager and willing to do what they can to help this team get to achieving “What’s Important Now”.

Leave D J Kitty Alone!


Why is it that people tend to look for thing to argue or find fault with today. Why is it politically correct now to be a complainer, or find fault with something that doesn’t fit neat and clean into their own sense of community acceptance today. Sure we all laugh hysterically at videos within the confines of our own home of people either hurting themselves or other people, but in public, we instantly show shock, dismay and give a stern look to those around us . When did we all get so PC bound that we lost our sense of humors?

It is as simple as that. Sure a high brow fish wrap like the Wall Street Journal is a “fan” of the Tampa Bay Rays D J Kitty, but they also have to push their own agenda of wondering if this degrades the franchise and admonishes all the good work principal owner Stuart Sternberg put into his baseball obsession. But then again, why is a financial publication even discussing a viral video produced by a baseball team that has no basis in fiscal or fainacial matters. Maybe we are turning the New York based Wall Street Journal from their Yankee moniker to the Rays? Yeah, I didn’t think so either, but it was worth a try.

The video was produced within the confines of a private residence for the amusement of Rays Republic fans. The originator of the video did a previously video of the piano-playing kitty, but since it did not go viral on Youtube, maybe PETA got a late start on the “Kitty-gate”. Is propping your own personal kitten up on a DJ Hero video game console unit cruel and unusual punishment, or just plain funny? How many of us have personally positioned our own pets in a certain way to do funny hand antics and maybe even doing a “Gangster” pose ?

If this was a completely illegal action, then a lot of us would be prosecuted and found guilty of bad judgment more than cruelty to our pets. People have been propping and positioning their animals long before we had video cameras or any video reproduction devices. We all find it “cute” and “Adorable” when people put their own kittens in clothes or even position them in a setting, but D J Kitty draws the attention of PETA? How is this Rays video phenom any different than the Los Angels Angels own Rally Monkey?

And we all know by now that DJ Kitty was manipulated and worked into a variety of poses and antics to simulate an actual antics of a club DJ complete with a crooked Rays cap and a Rays home white jersey. And I love the comment by PETA spokesperson Martin Mersereau who stated in the Wall Street Journal,

I’ve seen far worse things. But I doubt that cat enjoyed being puppeteer. He doesn’t look happy to me.

Guess we need to find ourselves a cat whisperer to find out if the feline is actually in deep need of therapy or possible a bigger portion of Kibbles & Bits for dinner. The video is used primarily for in-game entertainment and during the opposing team’s Pitching Coaches visit to the mound. It was produced to get the attention of the opposing team and break their concentration, not commit a PETA faux paux.

Next thing we know we are going to see the inventor of World of Warcraft sue the Rays for their small video of in-game figures talking and fighting during another Rays in-game video. The WoW video is not as popular as the DJ Kitty promos, but then again who can resist a back and white Tabby cat. And how informed is PETA if they make a statement like this from Mersereau:

“Baseball obviously needs cheerleaders-real ones. This might be an SOS.”

Really, cheerleaders? Well then Mr. Mersereau you are not at all familiar with the Rays dance troupe affectionately called the Rays Team? Getting back to reality here, the aspect and the promotion of the Rays D J Kitty was a great invention and proper by the Rays executive to promote his team and show support. I know who the owner of D J Kitty is, and respect the job he did and find no personal fault with his actions pertaining to the video or care of his prized feline.


Just like his animal friend the Rally Monkey, D J Kitty is all about promotion and support of his team. There is not intent to harm, deface or even ridicule the kitten in the video, and no action that should warrant more than a few long laughs and possible imitations in the stands of D J Kitty’s motions. Whether it is the “Jersey Shore” first pump” or even your own arms swaying from side-to-side in unison with the music, D J Kitty was developed for the entertainment and enjoyment of the Rays fans.

Political correctness has run amuck in so many other aspects of our lives that we should have a place like the ballpark where our raw emotions can sometimes rule the day more than an active P C thought processes. D J Kitty is all about fun and laughter and not about oppression or manipulation at all. He is showing support for his Rays and not admonishing anything or anyone. But for some reason, PC has snuck into his own feline life.

Humor is becoming a lost art in this era of PC moments. But things like D J Kitty, “America’s Funniest Videos” and the baseball bloopers we view during every Major League Baseball game have all of us laughing….even that woman in the PETA T-shirt.


Quit Trying to Write the Rays Obit


Elise Amendola/AP
With a exact dozen games left for this band of Tampa Bay Rays in the 2010 season, some within the Rays Republic have begun calling franticly skyward to the Gods to help stop an apparent exodus of our communities confidence and belief in post season prosperity. The latest rolling in of dark clouds have quickly assembled above the Rays, and with its darkened cover comes the slight elimination of the sunlight that helps to provide a centrifuge of negative energy and misguided pockets of doubt at this moment.

Some within the Rays Republic have already sighted the Four Cow-nosed Rays of the Apocalypse furiously fluttering towards our Tampa Bay region, but as of now, this collective Rays posse are still circling out in the Gulf of Mexico just beyond the impending sunset on the horizon. That by the Four Cow-nosed Rays of the Apocalypse own immortal presence within their eyesight, this Rays team has to acknowledge and prepare for the carnage that could unfold in the near future.

The hot cauldron of water these Rays are currently emersed in will soon become a rapidly rolling boil, and this fragile Rays team might be scalded like crayfish tossed into a steel pot for consumption. Several signs of an impending Rays apocalypse have already shown their gory faces, and that we might as well give up now or forever be condemned to the purgatory of mediocrity that engulfed our teams from 1998-2007.

To fight this prophetic conclusion might be futile and cost this team their own souls forever. With signs of the impending doom already being unsealed, could this Rays team find the moral fortitude, the almighty gumption, and the divine light of wisdom and truth to rise above these ashes and regroup. Can their will and confidence be restored and thus provide them with a emotional and mental weaponry to defeat and conquer despite their current physical imperfections and mistakes in battle.

Even though a mighty warrior named Joba thrust his sword deep into the Rays collective heart this past evening, can this group of Rays revolutionaries still regain the beating heart of a champion and endure the immense pain they have already been subjected upon themselves and emerge from this darkness with a renewed vigor and vitality?

That this prior set of moments of weakness and strife can be used internally by each of these Rays combatants to bring an increasing urge to again fight back and provide a ferocious fire in their bellies for redemption to conquer this foe that is trying to condemn them to their own demise. Both other voices within the darkness are harking to their destruction with unfounded tales of woe surfacing from the almighty ESPN telling the masses that these Rays are slain and left dying at this point, and thus will not be able to rise to the mountain top of the American League East.


But alas, the prediction by this ESPN soothsayers has mysteriously forgotten that with a single thrust of the Rays victorious sword, with a single win upon the Bronx battlefield against these Yankees, the Rays would still control their own final path on this AL East journey. That if by chance, these two kingdoms of baseball majesty still remain tied atop the A L East summit at the end, the tattered and torn Rays would be crowned the champions, and not that lot from the borough of the Bronx.

Lost amongst the ruin and rubble of the last three games in which these Rays have floundered is still the seeds of triumph and not the planting of despair that would have these Rays wandering aimlessly about the cityscape. That by their own Rays arms and actions they will have to condemn themselves to their own pitfall of failure. The actions of another floundering kingdom in yonder Boston, who is simultaneously imploding amongst its own dismal fate, the Rays chance at playoff redemption should be secured soon.

With all the current strife and turmoil anointed on these Rays hurlers, their seasonal light still shines bright, and glorious growth can still happen within the next 12 games. That even amongst the battlefield with the increasing combative sorcery of their current enemy, these Rays still have a solid chance to stand tall and proud in the end. That by entrenching themselves in their fundamental baseball beliefs, these Rays know in their heart if hearts they can still perservere.

The Four Cow-nosed Rays of the Apocalypse may be on the immediate horizon, but they are not here for destruction or even dismantling of this army. They are there as a constant reminder to this Rays team that failure can be bestowed upon them with haste, but that ultimate glory and positive affirmation can also be just beyond their reach if they were to turn themselves 180 degree and seek it.

The apparent sighting of this foursome is not to be taken as a defeat, but as a reminder of how far this team and this franchise has swam in 13 seasons to partake and embrace a second possible American League East summit. Sometimes we have to have hints of the past pushed at us to remind us of just how far we have traveled.

The Rays can look at this scenario with the almighty Yankees in two ways before they take the field tonight.


They can look at it with a pessimistic set of eyes and see a 1 ½ game lead going into their last dozen games with a two game streak of frustration and disappointment streaming within their minds. Or these Rays can view this as a 3-2 Yankees advantage in the 7-game home-and-home series with Game 6 and 7 in the next two days.

To take the first scenario would be to embrace the defeatist aspect of what this series.

To envelope yourselves in the second set of circumstances will give heed to confidence and the ability to fight back and recharge the energies to take the next two games to this foe and come out with a 4-3 edge in this battle. To me personally, it is time to go out and net those Four Cow-nosed Rays of the Apocalypse and pop them back into the Rays tank where they belong and take the next two nights to the Yankees.

If The Tampa Bay region burrows deep within itself to the misguided beliefs and insane assumptions flowing from our Northern neighbors and ESPN, then we are truly in that pot of scalding water and will be consumed by the masses. But if you believe in the “Rays Way” and the collective heart and soul of this region still beats strong , along with that of our Rays squad, then stand up, yell loud and make sure the rest of this country know the Rays are still alive and well and ready to sting anyone in our way.

Rays and Yankees, Playing For All the Marbles

Bill Koustroun/AP

You want to throw last night’s performance under the heading of “gutsy and determined” but it lacked the finishing blows needed to give the Tampa Bay Rays another shot at the top spot. The game did go back and forth playing like a simple kid’s yo-yo for innings before the New York Yankees took advantage of unusual Rays Manager Joe Maddon miscue and put the finishing touches on a solid victory.

Some sitting inside Yankee Stadium last night were wondering why these Rays would not go away and give in to the obvious conclusion. They wondered to themselves why this young team took it on the chin hard in the opening innings and still came out and answered the bell every inning by clawing and scratching their way back before being pushed back into the darkness by one simple mistake.

This game had all the nuances and dramatic plot twists of a post season contest, except for one key element. It was still September. If this is the way these two teams are going to play in a few weeks, heaven help the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins fans, and the makers of Pepto Bismol. Games like the last four between these two opposite ends of the spectrum teams is what will propel this new rivalry to astronomical heights min the coming years. These two team will have played 7 of their last 10 against each other, and the tally is tied at 2-2 going into tonight’s battle.

This is no longer your Father’s Rays., who were the lonesome losers and bottom dweller of the American League East. This Rays team has matured over the years and gathered a wealth of useful Yankee knowledge and experience and is now ready to dethrone the Kings of Baseball. The Rays franchise has come a long way in their yearly series against the Bronx Bombers since those lonely Rays days of the late 1990’s. New York fans still embrace and speak about their team’s dismantling of those pesky D-Rays back in 1998 when the D-Rays won only one game (at home) against the Yankees at home, and had to settle for a 1-11 dismal seasonal series mark against the Bombers.

Kathy Willens/AP

The 2010 yearly series mark is now set at 8-7, with the Yankees having a chance to better their Southern rivals and post another winning edge in this seasonal series. With the game pressures increasing, and the number of games decreasing, this final series of 4 games will decide more than just the yearly series. At stake is a possible American League East title, plus a nice high position in the cat-bird’s seat as we both enter the playoffs.

This is the way pre-playoff baseball should be played. Both teams are watching for every little subtle nuance or err in judgment. Every crack and crevice in their fortified armor will be attacked and manipulated to try and produce the needed firepower and run production that will provide victory in the end. This series is definitely has a distinctive “take no prisoners” attitude from both teams.

You do not need bulletin board fodder or any profound reasoning to get your emotions up for this series. It is all about the top tier, and to the winner of this last series gets the added momentum of having the edge in the first tie-breaker if these two teams end up tied at the top spot at the conclusion of the season. And that possibility does still seem bright on the horizon with the Yankees still having to entertain the Boston Red Sox six more times, while the Rays play the likes of the Orioles, Mariners and Royals in their last 10 contests.

Right now you have to systematically give the edge to the Rays based on the winning percentages of their final foes, but across from them is the defending World Champions, who will not surrender or retreat an inch of ground without a fight. That makes for entertaining baseball, and will be the essence and foundations for future baseball stories told to grandkids and anyone who will listen for years to come both in New York and Tampa Bay. These two titans from different prospective will fight to the last out.

Kathy Willens/AP

And even if the Rays or Yankees take a firm grasp of the divisional title and hold it close to their vest, there is still the thought and realistic expectation that these two might end up as possible 7-game series foes in a later round of the playoffs. This is not to push down the accomplishments or records of the Rangers or Twins, but for some odd reason it seems destiny is riding the wave of the Rays right now. But fate is definitely in the wheelhouse for the Yankees. It will be the endurance and stamina of these two squads that will provide an ultimate survivor.

So with that in mind, their game day mistakes will be amplified and popped under a increasing microscope no matter if accidental or intentional by nature. Fans will embrace or discard rumors, situational judgments and incite hard spoken opinions and embattlements to each team’s place in this late seasonal battlefield. Chants will be bellowed to the heights and small disagreements will ensure among usual friends. This renewable rivalry might even test family bonds in some homes.

All the odd and perpendicular angles of these two teams seem to point to a possible splitting of the four games in this series. The subtle nuances and occasional on the field changes in fate or destiny of either team’s usually reliable weapons might come quickly into the light as the deciding factors, or the weapons of their own immediate demise. This is the way baseball should be played in late September. With the same energy and hustle of April, but with a keen eye on the prize with every pitch.

Bill Koustroun/AP
This type of series is why the Yankees and Rays fans have grown to dislike each other for different reasons. Yankee fans think the Rays faithful rely on gimmicks like cowbells and flashy stadium videos while they adhere to tradition and doing their “Yankee Roll Call” during every game. The Rays fans take exception to the Yankees coming into Tropicana Field as Yankee Stadium South boasting about rings and things that will never be equal because we are 13 years old, and the Yankees started played in 1901 as one of the eight charter Major League teams.

It is more than just a battle on the field of two giants of the game today. It is a fight between the younger cousin and the feisty older brother for dominance. It is a fight of tradition forged by 109 years against a young whippersnapper that came from the cellar to contend quickly and will not go away. It is about a region fighting for respect and a chance at redemption, while the other wants to add to their legacy.

Last, but not least, it is a classic David and Goliath story where the “city that never sleeps” is being pestered and bothered by a town some think “roll up their sidewalks at 10pm and go to bed”. Some say it is the opening blows by the changing environment of Major League Baseball where money and taking the best talent doesn’t provide protection to getting the gold in the end.

Others think being smart with investments in players and matching talents to a precision game plan will bring victory in the end. Lines are drawn, gears has been obtained, now it is time for the bats and arms to do the talking and let the chips fall where they may. As ring announcer Micheal Buffer loves to say “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!”


Winning Will Cure the Rays Current Blues


As the Tampa Bay Rays players and staff assembled on the Tropicana Field turf after Sundays game in their “Loud Pants” ensembles for their chartered flight to New York it is apparent the team is trying to do evereything possible to again set the course of this Rays ship in the right direction. Losing 2 out of 3 against the pesky Angels this weekend did nothing for the Rays confidence level as they head into a critcal 4-game mosh with the New York Yankees.
Losing right now should be the last thing on the Rays menu right now The Tampa Bay Rays do not need to be sputtering at this important juncture of the season. The Rays need to resemble more of a classic muscle car (69 Camaro) and use their offensive horsepower to thrust right through the next two weeks with their hair on fire. This is not the time to become in any way timid or secure, then get trampled by letting another team get the best of them as they daydream of the future.

Every single team and players the Rays will play against during the duration of this 2010 season is going to try to knock the Rays off the post season mountain top and cause them stumble or flutter. The Orioles, Mariners and Royals have nothing to lose except a few 2011 MLB Draft positions. It will be on their immediate radar that if they can,as a spoiler team put their own late season exclamation point on their year by defeating the Rays in a game or shocking them in a series, they will do it in a New York minute.


But first the Rays have to digest firmly in their own minds that they will collectively begin to stop defeating themselves on the field. Small mistakes right now have shown huge reprecussions, and wins right now come at a premium price. I will give Desmond Jennings a break in getting thrown out in a rundown the other night because he might have misread a sign or the pitcher’s motion.

Rookies make those mistakes. But the Rays have to eliminate that possible mistake scenario and focus and adjust accordingly to what the opposition is going to give them for the rest of the season. Every single mistake no matter how small on the surface will be magnified and could be a key element towards a defeat. Eliminating simple mistakes could be a key component to the success or failure of this team over the next two weeks.

Right now the Rays are not playing to their true potential. For some reason they seem to shift into a defensive mode or shell after obtaining a lead and then try not to make critical mistakes instead of  going out and playing the “Rays Way”  and strongarm a team like the Angels.


The number of 1-run games recently played in by the Rays might not signal a offensive slowdown on the field, but the Rays current offense seems to be on a tethered leash and needs to break away soon. If not, the Rays might be packing for an away series in the American League Divisional Series instead of flaunting a home field advantage.
The Rays have given the Minnesota Twins ample time to rally and converge fast upon the Rays for a shot at homefield advantage in the post season, and might even give the Twins a chance topass both the Rays and New York Yankees soon and control their own postseason destiny.

That can not happen. The Twins must be kept down in the second or third seed range for the Rays to get a favorable match-up that provides them an honest chance to again get to the American League Championship Series. Any stumbles or bumbles from this point on gives not only the Yankees and Twins a “leg-up” on the Rays, but give the Texas Rangers a dose of confidence that the stumbling Rays might be an easier target to defeat in the post season.


The next four days in their series against the Yankees should be a major battle for the Rays to secure their second American League East title. Any deviation from the ultimate game plan could tumble the Rays into a second place scenario and then the Rays will have to await their possible opponent and fate after October 4th.

Most Rays fans have acknowledged that a split or better in this series is within the Rays firm grasp, and a falter at all to lose more than two games in this series will be the possible boot step the Yankees will use to secure the division and become clean and clear of the Rays carnage over their final games.

This is the time for the Rays veterans to come to the front and bring the young guys with them to blow this Yankee series and the Rays offensive machine into high gear. This is the time for destiny and fate to either join together in the Rays cause or see this team falter. The next four games  will set the overall tone of the Rays final home stand, and provide the Rays with a chance for the enitre team to celebrate with the home fans instead of by themselves possibly in Kansas City. 

Right now the stars are aligned for the Rays to possibly clinch next Sunday in front of the afternoon crowd at Tropicana Field. With a current “Magic Number” of 8, the Rays know that any loss, or wins by the Boston Red Sox, who also begin a 3-game series against the Baltimore Orioles tonight could put another banana peel on the Rays path to the post season. Winning right now provides a more solid foundation going into the final games and the playoffs.

It is as simple as Nike always says, “Just Do It”, and the Rayscan come home to the Trop late Thursday night for the last home stand with a renewed sense of gusto and bravado that will propel them into the playoffs.


The game plan is simple, just win and the rest will take of itself. But even the simplest of plans can run into hidden traps and slight deviations from the norm. For those trying moments,maybe another simple premise of “adjusting and conquering on the fly” will be in order to provide success for the Rays.  

No need trying to complicate the rest of the year’s game plan. Winning breeds success and bolsters the positioning the Rays will need to rise to the top again. All we need now is a quick adjust ment or tune-up to our offensive machine, then the Rays can rev up those motors to rhe redline and get some much needed distance between themselves and those dastardly Twins and Yankees. Plus a few well placed wins also put the final dagger into the Red Sox  still beating playoff heart. That in itself should be motivation enough.