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Pssst,, I Would LOVE a Chance to Attend the 2012 Winter Meetings

I can hardly wait until November 26th. I mean I have as good as odds as anyone to possibly get a phone call from to shadow a writer during the 2012 Winter Meeting that will be held in Nashville, Tenn between December 3-6 2012. I mean Nashville is one of those town yearning for Baseball, and not just on the television series “Nashville”.

I’m not a “Winter Meeting” vet like so many other fans or participants, but I have strolled the halls of a past Winter Meeting held in the town that Mickey Mouse built (Orlando,Fl) and got to meet and greet a lot of the other fans, journalists and even a few General Managers and front office people I have gotten to know from my past “Rays days” as their Pepsi rep.

But it going to take at lead one ringy-dingy from someone within the offices of to take this dream and adventure to the next level. I would fly strapped to the wing of the plane, but a Coach seat would be better on my overall traveling appearance so I do not show up looking like I got dumped out a wind tunnel and got a few dozen bird feather or bug remnants in my teeth.

Heck, did not have to get me a quality room, the KOA would suit me just fine as long as the shower water is hot and the tent dry. But that is one of the special things about staying within striking distance of an event like this, you never know who you might take an elevator with, sit near at lunch, dinner or late night nibble. I mean in O-town I got to chat with Cal Ripken Jr in the elevator and shot the breeze with A J Pierzenski as he awaited his car. Those moments are still fresh in my mind, and I want more….

This kind of contest is made for someone like me, not because I write a MLB blog, but would give me the kind of access and experience that could possibly one day be pushed forward to me getting full media credentials instead of my current Photo creds to cover and write about the Rays Concert Series and special events like “Pitchers and Catcher’s Report Day. It would bring another drop of legitimate journalistic experience to type onto an MLB media request and could be just the turning point I have seeking for the last 5 years to cover my hometown Rays a bit deeper and with more clarity and substance.

Of course a $1,000 check waiting for me would be a pleasant surprise, with most of that booty turned around and popped into goodies and presents vis’s Team Store. But there is also such more to these Winter Meetings that even that kind of money can’t buy. Players and their agents will also be in the halls, seating areas and all around the event and maybe I could get a few special seconds with one of the highly regarded Free Agents (maybe B J Upton) and do a clever, but respectful interview. The potential of winning this event and what could transpire are endless, almost to the point of infinity.

One of the best parts of winning something like this is the pure and special fact I will be able to be the shadow or fly-on-the-wall with one of’s own. Of course I already have a current and long time writer in mind to shadow during the Winter Meetings, and he already knows me from my photos and posts already with the Tampa Bay Rays.

That’s right, if I somehow answer my telephone when calls, I would pick my hometown writer and author Bill Chastain. I mean Chastain not only has a bevy and treasure trove of Rays information, he has also been the author of several baseball and non- roundball books and is well respected in the offices and around the MLB…period.

Now all I have to do is cross everything on my body and possibly even my eyes hoping that even the slightest possible chance is within my grasp on that faithful November 26th day that the special administrator of the independent judging organization picked by will somehow finds my 10-digit phone number in his eyesight.

But then again I was inducted in the Rays/Pepsi Fans Wall of Fame as “Mr. Lucky” so I got that little slice of karma on my side. Just got to remember to charge the phone that day and keep it close. You never know, weirder things have come true for me in my insane MLB life.

If you also want to take a chance and possibly get a call to visit Nashville, click this link and take a chance….What you got to lose…

McGee Needs to be a Viable Rays Relief Option



Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jake McGee is one of the Rays young pitchers I worry about as the Rays Pitchers and Catchers report date (2/15) ticks closer. I’m not concerned about his past painful journey, or even his pitching arsenal. I am worried that McGee might get pushed into the same multi-functional category as New York Yankees starter/reliever Joba Chamberlain by possibly wear too many MLB caps instead of being focused in one finite direction.

On the surface the aspect of a MLB rookie to possessing such flexibility might not seem dangerous. It might be seen as ultimately valuable to the Major League squad to have a pitcher who can perform the multiple duties of both starter or a reliever in their bag of tricks. But that transformation comes with its own set of perils and dangers.

Some have speculated that Chamberlain has been flip flopped once too often in his short Yankee career swapping his role from starter to relief, and that his overall pitching has been effected by the juggling. There is a distinctive different make-up for a pitcher who performs every five days as opposed to a pitcher who has to ready at the beck and call of your Manager on a daily basis.

Not only are there many different mental aspects to take into consideration between the two options, but the modus operandi of each individual facet of pitching both in preparing and game day prep take on a completely different feel and clarity withg both spots in the roster. I would hate to see the Rays make the same Chamberlain type mistakes with McGee.

This is a southpaw who as recently as 2008 was considered by Baseball America to be the 5th best prospect in all of minor league baseball. Suddenly the mid-2008 Tommy John’s surgery to repair a left elbow unlar collateral tear instantly halted McGee’s meteoric rise through the Rays farm system.

When issued their 2011 Top 50 Major League Baseball prospects list recently, McGee’s name was not anywhere to be seen on that list. That is why I am worried about McGee. Not that his confidence could ebb or that his talent has peaked, but with a fall from grace sometimes you get thought of in a different light by your organization. Possibly changing your whole future dynamic with the franchise.

You only have to look into the Rays Centerfield to see a perfect example of changing a player’s direction in their MLB career. B J Upton was considered to be the “Rays shortstop of the future”. Suddenly when a few clouds of doubt or concerns reared their ugly heads, Upton was on a carousel of positional stops from Third Base, to Second Base to finally landing in Centerfield. Ultimately the “Rays shortstop of the future” got to look in to see his supposed pre-destined position from a completely different angle.

I bring this up because there are whispers that McGee might not be brought into the Rays 2011 Spring Training as a relief candidate. He might again be stretched out as a starting candidate, possibly for Triple-A. Most would think this flexibility in McGee’s game is commendable, but I see it as a variation of the same familiar path that the Yankees took with Chamberlain early on in his development. I personally feel that New York ruined a talented ballplayer and made him mediocre by the year-to-year flipping of his job description.

Even during the 2010 Rays minor league season there are indications that the team might be flip flopping on McGee’s potential MLB abilities. When the Rays promoted McGee on September 14,2010  he had previously been appearing mostly as a reliever for the Triple-A Durham Bulls since his August 7,2010 promotion from Double-A Montgomery.

Here is where a huge Rays red flag begins to fly really high for me with possible Chamberlain type comparisons. McGee appeared in only 11 Bulls games, all in relief except for a solo start before his Major League promotion. McGee posted an overall Bulls  0.52 ERA in 17.1 innings with 27 strikeouts and a .148 opponents batting average. All stellar relief credentials that should show a talent for that relief side of the game.

The interesting side twist is that McGee started the 2010 season with Montgomery where he started 19 games, going 3-7 over 88 innings with 100 strikeouts. If you start a guy early on in the minor league season as a starter in the higher levels of your farm system, then why did he suddenly transform into a relief candidate upon promotion to Triple-A?


Surely the Rays, who have a lack of quality left-handers in their relief corps would realistically have McGee come into Spring Training camp as a bona fide relief candidate. But there are more than a few whispers that McGee will be extended out again this Spring to become a starter, possibly for the Triple-A Bulls.

This flabbergasts me totally. Here is a player who demonstrated, even on a short term MLB relief test, that he can perform at a higher level and instead he might be considered to start games instead of hone his craft as a reliever in either the MLB or at Triple-A?

I really hope this is just one of those erroneous rumors that pop up about this time of the year just to test the waters, then proves to be totally false. McGee could be a great left-handed option for the Rays out of the Bullpen for a long, long time.

The idea of pushing McGee starting again with Rays left-handed farm system talent like leftie starter Alex Torres waiting in the wings is simply bananas. McGee could fill a huge need gap in the Rays system by learning the craft of relief while also gaining a boatload of confidence and possibly transform into a future closer option for the Rays.

The Rays have never been known to grow in-house relief talent at the back of the Bullpen, McGee could eventually be the key to breaking that farm system cycle.

Even if McGee didn’t make the Rays final 25-man roster out of Spring Training and went down for some intensive late inning work with Durham, it would benefit McGee and the Rays tremendously. Putting McGee into a rotation spot, even on the short term, could push McGee closer towards a possible Chamberlain burnout situation where McGee is being pulled in two distinctive different pitching directions.

I am not discounting McGee’s worth as a starter here, but his overall value as a reliever, even at the Triple-A level, fully trumps his consideration again for a starting nod. McGee is too good of a pitching talent to have to ultimately re-invent his pitching style on a monthly basis. His value right now to the Rays is as a key southpaw reliever, possibly even fulfilling the spot as the Rays designated left-handed specialist.

But McGee will need to work on his relief craft to push down his 2010 short term 3.87 ERA against left-handers. The talent is there, it just has to be tweaked and plucked and possibly pulled out from within McGee to flourish as a member of the Rays relief corps.  With the talent potential and possible chance for McGee to find some roster security, I truly feel the relief corps is his best possible position for the McGee and the Rays.

Because McGee has shown in his brief Durham stint that he has the kind of pitching to punish hitters in the late innings, it is all up to the Rays now With Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s constant juggling of pitchers and hitters to force favorable match-ups during the late innings of Rays contests, McGee is a valuable tool the Rays really need to succeed in 2011, but all that could be tarnished, or possibly dismissed if the Rays rumor is true that McGee will again be a starter. That would be a crying shame. 



Blast from My Past


On this day off of all things Tampa Bay Rays Baseball, I decided to do some scavenging of some of my older boxes filled with books on baseball or artifacts from the early years of the Rays. The first thing I come upon is a 1999 D-Rays Opening Day Program ( actually 5 of them) and a signed copy of the manuscript to my all time favorite comedy movie “Bull Durham“.

It was like I was opening my own time capsule hidden within this dank storage unit and finding treasure after treasure that I had long forgotten I even had. Piled into these red storage crates were years of bobblehead experiences both with names from now, and yesterday, including a unusual Drew Carey figurine I traded a Slider (The Indians mascot) bobblehead I gathered entering the stadium, while the young lad got a Carey bobble and seemed unimpressed by it. So to make someone besides myself smile that day, I anxiously traded with the young boy with both of us getting the deal of a lifetime in our own minds.

Pondering and squeezing into the tiny space of this unit I gazed upon a crate marked “books and paper memorabilia” that housed it own secrets and pleasant surprises. With this pile of dusty book covers and worn page ends I found something I had forgotten a long time ago existed in my collection. It was a copied article I wrote for way back in September 17,2002 as a “Fan on Base” entitled “Thank you right back, MLB“.

It was my first published writing of any type on the Internet, and was the secondary seed to why I write even today. So, on this day of rest for the Rays lads while they await their Friday night contest in Toronto, I am going to reproduce this posting that was submitted way before the creation of, and you can judge for yourself just how far my writing has either advanced or is evolving every post.

Funny, I sit in my usual chair in the Rightfield section and it feels like the first game of the season.

Fans around me were whispering about the impending strike and about missing any or all of the games. I just sat there and watched a team maturing on the field. I am of the opinion that a true fan does not make posters, throw objects or harass the players or other teams’ fans. We are all lifetime members of a unique fraternity/sorority. We are baseball fans.

Baseball games are a creative and fun release for me from stress and the pressures of life. I know the players consider it a “job”, but I would consider it an honor and an extended childhood dream to play on that turf. Funny, I still get a thrill from fielding Batting Practice from the (Checkers) “café” at Tropicana Field.

The impending strike has no evil thoughts or effect on me. I would have missed the games, but I know that each side was trying to
protect the future generations. I knew whatever became of the meetings, the “kid” in all of the players’ and owners would emerge in the end.

Baseball is a business today, but you also saw the faces and comments with hidden meanings to suggest a positive end to the talks. As a true fan, I planned to be there for the first game after the settlement, cheering as loud as the first game in franchise history. I was thinking of walking down and shaking the hands of all of the (Rays) Bullpen guys. I would have missed them all. I waited 20 years for (MLB) baseball in my hometown, and if the strike would have had any negative turn, then I still would have been there on the “first day” after any stoppage.

I admit that I am a kid at the ballpark. I enjoy the banter with the players, and the photos, autographs and other things during, after and between the games. I am a former pro player, but of another “ball” sport, and I enjoy the present day ballplayer in Tampa Bay. They might be modern warriors, but they are also a prototype of the old-school players. Most do not play for millions, but for pride and team.

I have heard such recent comments as “Just glad to be here” and ” What is better than getting paid to play a game we used to play for free Pepsi from the coaches?” I really enjoy throwing jeers at the visiting players. Like the time the Yankees Paul O’Neil heard “cup check” from most of the people in Section 138 in Rightfield at the Trop. But the most memorable moment was at a recent game. The Indians’ Right fielder , Michael Tucker, was laughing and smirking under that serious veneer. We love the game, and are not afraid to yell at times.

Forget the notion that these guys are spoiled millionaires. The best baseball to me is played at the Trop. Not because of talent, money or even hustle. It is because these (Rays) players still have the hunger, the intense desire to play as they did when they were 10-year olds in the dust bowls of America. I have to end this story now–got a few neighborhood kids who need me to throw some pitches to them.

Unlike (former Ray) Jimmy Morris, I only throw 80-ish on a windy day. But I also sit on that mound dreaming and loving the thought that baseball is safe for these kids to watch for years to come.

It was good to see baseball go on. I would have missed the kid-like fans and friends I have met during America’s greatest game.

Got to admit, reading that brought back a flood of emotion and memories of the time with the Rays since Mar 31,1998, to last night’s contest. I still fancy it to any other sport out there, and finally have come to peace with the idea that even if baseball is a business, it is also a pure form of the stride of all of us to compete daily at a high level no matter what our skills are, or our opinions.


To me, baseball has become the great equalizer where a millionaire can sit next to a guy who dig ditches for the City and both will cheer, clap and high-five after a great play. No social nuances or speculations, just great kid-like fascination and wonder of seeing the game played at its highest level with more than few smiles beckoning from ear-to-ear.