Results tagged ‘ Tiled Cap ’

Rays Need to Find Some Relief for First Base

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When Sean Rodriguez was designated last week by the Tampa Bay Rays, then dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the move left a huge question mark on who might man the Rays First Base bag if something happens to James Loney?

This is not to suggest Loney will be hampered by injury or fall off his current offensive groove in 2015, but weirder things have happened under the tilted cap.

images (4)Early thoughts suggest that current Rays INF Logan Forsythe might be carrying an extra glove in his bag this spring, or quite possibly will be doing some additional reps this winter and during Spring Training learning the 1B nuances.

If you were wondering, Forsythe has lined-up at 1B once in his career and mans a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage on 1 career putout.

So with that small career sampling by Forsythe you might think the Rays would be better vested if they found another option at 1B, or at least someone with a little more experience scooping bad throws into outs.

First Base is not a spot you can master as you have to basically multi-task constantly throughout a game to keep runners, guard the line while also being a stop gap on the right side of the infield.

And I have not even ventured into the mental and physical bumps and bruises associated with those high throws, balls in the dirt that somehow bounce up and leave welts, bruises and nasty tell tales signs.

download (3)So I wonder if Ben Zobrist might be asked to take additional training and reps at 1B where he could bring another facet to his game and he does have a .983 career fielding percentage playing 1B 17 times in the past for the Rays.

There also could be a few guys outside the Rays system who could be viable candidate too. 

Maybe recently non-tendered guys like Justin Smoak (Jays) or Gaby Sanchez (Pirates) who come into the fold with viable game experience, but might cost the Rays upwards of around $ 2 million plus a season.  

Smoak might be in the Rays wheelhouse as a player who has experience at the position and has been a DH Smoak has had an up and down career since he was drafted in the First Round (11th pick) of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. He was then traded to the Seattle Mariners, then after the 2014 season the M’s became disenchanted with him and he was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays on October 28, 2014.

download (1)Seattle paid Smoak $ 2.6 million in 2015 during his first venture through the arbitration process. Even though Smoak’s career batting average of .224 and 74 career Hrs might not set your mind ablaze, his .995 career fielding average in 5 MLB seasons as a First Baseman plus the added bonus he could be a great bat off the bench (DH in 21 career  games).

This current bit of fall from grace might benefit the Rays as well as offer  Smoak a chance to re-establish himself as a MLB First Baseman.

Gaby Sanchez was a surprise non-tender by the Pirates, but you have to wonder if his 2014 offensive numbers were a fluke or a sign of aging. With the Pirates wanting to put versatile Josh Harrison at 3B bag, and move power hitter Pedro Alvarez to 1B for the 2015 season, Sanchez quickly found himself a man without a contract and team at the Arbitration Deadline

download (2)Like Smoak, Sanchez definitely has skills at First Base, but his offensive pedigree has taken a hit since he was dealt to the Pirates by the Miami Marlins 3 seasons ago. In his 5 years with the fish, Sanchez maintained a .243 average and showed power with 74 HR and 184 RBIs, but his 3 years with Pittsburgh he has maintained only a .241 mark with 18 HRs and 82 RBIs.

 Sanchez main attribute might be his consistent glove and has a .995 fielding percentage mark.

There is also an outside chance that the Rays could just take a wait and see posture as the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby winner, Allan Dykstra (no relation to Lenny) could come in an further impress the Rays and quite possibly garner a utility and bench spot on the Rays 25-Man roster.

images (5)If Dykstra can keep up the .280 average with 16 HR and 74 RBis he set in Triple-A Las Vegas in 2014, he could quickly go from dark horse Triple-A farm asset to a MLB uniform.

Darkening Dykstra’s chances might be his less than marvelous .981 fielding overage in 2014, and his career .986 mark might be fodder that he needs more seasoning before breaking the ceiling and making his MLB debut.

Even if the Rays do not have a clear leader in who might tag-in during the regular season for Loney at First base, there are many viable options and the off season is still young.  

There is more than enough time for another name to surface, a trade to be formulated and quite possibly someone come to the Rays before the report to Port Charlotte, Fl in February.

Who knows, maybe Smoak or Sanchez could be there, or Dykstra could improve his glove skills and hit the cover off the ball.

Say It Ain’t So Joe!

JMad

 

I so want to pop on one of those hipster caps, clutch a bundle of newspapers and wander outside Ava’s in South Tampa right now and mimic that great cinematic scene and scream: “Say it ain’t so Joe, say it ain’t so!

imagesI wasn’t a firm believer in Maddon when he was announced as the Tampa Bay Rays Manager almost a decade ago. But then I did not want that other “Joe” either who wears pinstripes to manage my then D-Rays.

I was uninformed of his love of computerized stats, reports, graphs and believing in the numbers as much as a hunch, feeling or a spur of the moment stroke of genius.

But I quickly became a follower.

images (7)So yeah, it irks me a bit today when I heard the Rays will lose their in-house musical and entertainment savant who decided his tenure with the Rays will cease now rather than extend his stay or do a “farewell” year as a lame duck Rays skipper.

I was on pins and needles the first few times I heard Maddon during interviews and as my resistance to his style of baseball waned, I began to march to the beat of his drum and began to stand solid behind this new essence of the Rays with this Mad Man with his black-rimmed glasses at the helm.

images (3)From his want to “give back” to his adopted Tampa Bay community with his “ThanksMas” innovative program that fed and let struggling and homeless individuals around this region know that the Rays, their employees and Maddon believed in them through their culinary show of love.

Maddon quickly won my heart by his charity, intelligence and want to make his Rays teams not only successful, but a benchmark of how to evolve and transform players and veteran into a victorious hodge-podge of inspiring and aspiring Tampa Bay sports icons.

20141024_140329I was one of the first to pop my name and money down for the inaugural first rendition of the  “Maddon’s Mad Men” that quickly reformed as the “Maddon’s Maniacs” and became a spirited group of Rays fans who voiced and showed their support for the Rays main guy.

Maddon  grew on me. From his courage to bench a disgruntled Delmon Young, then sending the ROY candidate to Minnesota. It showed courage, but it also showed that he was not above jettisoning a promising player if he felt it might poison the Rays clubhouse, or provide unneeded drama.

images (24)What was really amazing was how when Delmon returned 6 years later in the final month of the 2013 season there was a level of respect shown towards Maddon that was not there in 2007. It was never said aloud, but you got to know Maddon was pleased Young had matured, developed and could again help the Rays cause, now as a veteran.

a3I was amazed at the way the “Magical Summer of Baseball” transpired this franchise and energize not only the Rays, but the whole Tampa Bay community. That process started with Maddon chatting with the guys on the turf of the Namoli Complex in St. Petersburg, transformed during the season peaking as he accepted the American League Championship Trophy from his former boss’s wife and ended among the rain puddles in Citizen Bank Park.

But that 2008 success only made you want to root for him more, want to again see him on the post season stage ready to pull a wily play out of his notepad, or pop up his palm for a enthusiastic high-five as a Ray returned to the dugout.

images (23)It saddens me we will not see Joe hoist a World Series trophy here in Tampa Bay. Bothers me that this happens now when the sting and bite of Andrew Friedman leaving for western pastures in Chavez Ravine and his team maybe again on the verge of something special.

PajamaI’m going to miss the team head cheerleader who brought fun back to road trips via planned events, the manning of T-shirts, jerseys or even PJ’s to bring some comic relief and energy into leaving the confines of home for 7-10 day ventures around the country.

I mean Maddon was a man who embraced our region for its positives and negatives, became a R V owner, a local restaurateur and somehow during all of this got some of us (even me) back on a bike wandering this great area on trails and back road rediscovering our region.

images (4)He helped transform the Rays culture on the field, in the stands and even might have instilled the first healthy clubhouse in the MLB when fresh food, healthy options and smoothies intertwined into the Rays pre and postgame lifestyle.

But most of all I’m going to miss the guy who truly had become the Captain of our Rays ship. Taking us to places no one else had, be it post season, managing an All-Star team or even giving us all cause to further embrace our community be it through humanitarian or even social efforts.

images (18)While some are going to have to take some time to come to terms with this, get over their confusion and angry moments, we all knew this day was going to come. We all knew that one day you would take that Rays hoodie off for the last time. Hang up the Elmer Fudd winter Rays cap and venture on with your life somewhere else, but we had envisioned that years away.

But even if the time was only 9 season, it was a true pleasure knowing you Skipper. Was a treat to hear you take, to see what antic or item might show up at a press conference or be presented to your players in the Club house (my favorite was Cliff, the penguin).

images (25)Joe, where ever you go, whatever your next destination I want you to know I still cherish, relish and embrace all the “Maddon Maniacs” knickknacks, T-shirts and photos taken with you over your Rays tenure.

But seriously Joe……..”Say it ain’t so!”

From Bait to Predatory…Friedman Leaves a Grand Rays Legacy.

AFre

 

I’m going to miss Andrew Friedman.

I think we all kind of saw this coming whether you wanted to admit it or not. Friedman was truly that proverbial fish thrown into the deep end of the Major League Baseball pond where money ruled and stockpiling talent and expecting grand results was but a pipedream.

images (2)He was a part of a franchise where other teams fan bases flooded Tropicana Field and branded it such names as “Fenway South”. He inherited a job that had broken more experienced men and because of the Rays formidable financial restrictions, a team payroll that basically tied his fins together until he found his own unique way to swim alongside and eventually surpass the once omnipotent MLB sharks.

images (1)I mean the guy started out as a optimistic minnow learning to swim in infested waters that could have easily made the Rays into consistent seasonal fodder for the large market sharks, but Friedman brought his experience and innovative tactics he honed as a rising star in the financial field and evolved it into a solid and marketable foundation for a small market franchise to find success in these infested waters.

Friedman used the essence of risk management combined with largely successful algorithms and processes that turned a franchise once mired in a losing persona that emerged within a few years into the 2008 American League Champions.

And that my friends is one glorious legacy to pen onto your baseball resume.

download (1)Sure Friedman was but one sharp point of the Rays successful trident during his tenure that also contained Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg and then Team President Matt Silverman, but Friedman was the  man out front of it all taking the good and bad hits, being the confident and consistent soldier.

Silverman will now man Friedman’s old VP of Baseball Operations chair and Brain Auld will take a step up and become the Rays new Team President, but do not expect too much of a backslide as Friedman, Sternberg and Silverman it is said could finish each other’s sentences.

Some will be quick to point out that Friedman is vacating his seat as the Rays saw their 6 consecutive winning seasons and 4 post season appearances since 2008 come to an unexpected end.

images (2)It is easy to point to another’s person’s faults as they leave to embark on another challenge especially with a large market franchise that is the total opposite of the Rays organization. But no matter your personal opinion on Friedman’s departure, ponder for a moment where this franchise might of ended up without his ideas, guidance and up-tempo perseverance.

ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian once said of Friedman: “ His emphasis on scouting and player development, his ability to piece together a contending team each year despite limited financial resources and his astute use of sabermetrics have made the Rays an organization that others try to emulate, though usually without nearly as much success”.  

Say what you want about Friedman’s departure, but realize he has grown so much from that small minnow in the pond surrounded by hungry predators that commanded the other 20-odd M L B franchises.

imagesFriedman has definitely matured within the game in his years with the Rays, brought targeted innovations as blueprints for other small market teams successes as well as brought the Rays out of the deep darkness within the MLB pond to become a consistent antagonist to the rest of the MLB fishery.

Guess it is time to admit for one last time the once defensive minded minnow that was Friedman has now fully evolved into a species of the same predatory animal that commanded the MLB for years.

Maturing from a minnow to a shark, now that’s the Rays Way.