Monday, August 31, 2009


Questions I Would Like To Ask Joe Maddon

It's very easy to second guess a manager, even if he is reigning AL Manager of the Year. It's also very easy to wonder what is going on in Joe Maddon's brain. If I had a chance to ask him 10 questions, here is what I would ask:

1) Why do you always insist on giving players a day off on the day before or after a scheduled day off?

2) What is the best concert you've been to?

3) Andy Sonnanstine over Wade Davis? Really?

4) Do you always think about protecting your starting pitcher so that he cannot qualify for a loss in a tight game?

5) What percentage of your yearly salary do you spend on wine?

6) How much of your match-ups are based on numbers and how much is based on feel?

7) You have helped in turning around a once dismal franchise, what do you think led to these changes?

8) Why do you think the players struggle on getaway days?

9) What is your barber's response when you keep telling him/her what your new hairstyle is going to be?

10) I understand having faith and trust in your players, but why do you insist on letting struggling players continue to struggle instead of moving them down in the lineup and let them fix their problems in a position that hurts the team less?

These are just my questions, some baseball, some not. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why someone would want to know these answers.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scotty Noooo!

And just like that, in the blink of an eye, the Rays all time leader in wins, strikeouts, and ERA is gone. I can't say I didn't see this coming, but I can say I didn't see it coming NOW. 3.5 games out of the wild card with 3 days left in August seems like an odd time to trade away your #2 starter and most reliable pitcher over the past months. But it was a move that needed to be made for the future of this franchise, and I am pretty confident that Kazmir wasn't going to carry us to the playoffs on his back.

So lets dissect this deal a little more. First the negatives, and there really aren't that many other then the timing. Trading a team player like Kazmir, someone that I consider an "old school" D-Ray, pretty much out of nowhere is going to take it's toll on the locker room. Players know it is part of the business of baseball, but I don't think anyone saw this one coming and it is going to affect the locker room atmosphere no doubt. Kazmir is only 25, but I think it's pretty safe to say he has reached his prime in Tampa Bay. He was a great player, but never really developed in to the player we thought he would be when we traded for him with the Mets. That doesn't mean he won't be, it just means he won't be here. I think Kaz needed a change of sceanery much like Edwin Jackson, who has done very well in his first year with Detroit.

The pros definately outweigh the cons in this deal. For one, we have $22 million of Kazmir's salary off the books. 22 Million. That is a lot of money, money that we desperately need if we want to re-sign the face of this franchise, Carl Crawford. I was almost sure that either Crawford or Kazmir was going to have to be traded in the offseason because of payroll restrictions, and when it comes to it, Crawford is a much more essential part of this team. The rays are loaded with minor league talent at the pitching position, and can afford to take their chances now on another young arm like Wade Davis or Jeremy Hellickson.

Joe Maddon seems excited about the prospects we are getting in return for Kazmir, Matthew Sweeney and Alexander Torres. On paper, these guys look good. Torres as done great this year, going 12-4 between high A and AA. Sweeney is a power hitting 3rd baseman who we could maybe transition into a first baseman. But the real prize seems to be the PTBNL, who Maddon said was a key piece in this deal (Brandon Wood?). Getting 3 good prospects for Kazmir is about as much as you can ask for when your payroll is as restricited as it is in Tampa.

It's sad to see Kazmir go, he was an integral part in the turnaround of this franchise. He was very active around the community and liked by everyone in Tampa Bay. However, this is part of the game. 5 years from now this team is going to look completely different other then Longoria and Price. Kazmir came in as the savior of this franchise, did his job, and now its time for him to move on. He has a long career ahead of him still and i think i speak for all rays fans when i say we wish you the best of luck, Kaz.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Please No....

As I'm hearing and reading the Scott Kazmir rumors, all I can think is "Please No!"

A few months ago, or even this past offseason, I could have understood a trade of Scott Kazmir. In fact, I even had told a friend this past offseason that the Rays should trade Kazmir at that time. He was on the decline at the time and we were not sure if he would be able to rebound. However, Kazmir has come back with a vengeance.

The timing of this trade, assuming it happens, makes zero sense.

To me, this says the Rays are starting to give up on the season. That's the only way I can see this trade being justified at this time. Kazmir has been very very good lately and would be an integral part of the rotation in a playoff push. The Rays are only 3.5 games out, and have no reason to give up on this season. Not only that, but the Rays signed Kazmir to an extension last season. He is not eligible for free agency for a few more seasons, and his contract is relatively cheap compared to his potential ability.

If Scott Kazmier were a lost cause and his value would never be higher, I would say go ahead and trade him for whatever you can get. But I don't see it this way after the way Kazmir has pitched over the last few weeks. I really hope the Rays' front office has a plan and a reason for trading Kazmir at this time. Otherwise, there are going to be a lot of disappointed fans and I am going to start counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Best Way To Describe Carlos Pena's Week

There have been a lot of random quotes going through my head regarding Carlos Pena over the last week. Of course I can go with the "Zoolander" quote that of "Pena, so hot right now." Another option is to go with the classic song "Feelin hot hot hot." But I believe the best way to describe Carlos Pena's last week all inclusive is by playing a game of NBA Jams. Here is Carlos Pena's last 5 games in a nutshell as quoted by the classic video game.

"From Downtown" - A Pena bomb on August 21st against Texas starts the hot streak off

"He's Heating Up" - Need 2 straight baskets to start heating up, and Pena is there with 2 homeruns against the Rangers on the 22nd.

"At The Buzzer, YES!"- An RBI walk0ff single in extra innings against the Rangers, driving home Evan Longoria

"He Can't Buy A Bucket" - The 3rd game in the Texas series in which the Rays get shut out

"For 2!" - Another huge homerun, this time a 2 run shot against the Blue Jays on Monday

"From Wayyyyyy Downtown!" - A 2-run upper-deck shot against the Blue Jays on Tuesday to give the Rays a 2-1 lead

"Boom-Shaka-Laka" - Pena's 2nd homerun and 6th in 5 games, another upper-deck bomb against the Blue-Jays Tuesday night. Dave Wills really should have yelled "boom-shaka-laka" when this ball was hit as there was no doubt.

After this last week, there is only one way to describe the way that Carlos Pena is playing.


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Why... so many pitchers have career games against the Rays?

Are pitchers really getting that much more hyped up to play the reigning AL champions? Is it the Rays' knack for the strikeout that is helping opposing pitchers out? How is it that a pitcher will throw a perfect game against the Rays and then go 0-4 in his next 6 starts? Why is it that a team with this quality of a lineup strikes out 15 times in one game?

So many similar questions have been baffling me all season. The Rays need to bring their best day in and day out through September. Allowing pitchers to continually have career days may really hurt the Rays' chances at playing in October. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Headlines I Would Like To See

"Rays new stadium built without taxpayer money and a sweet retractable roof to be ready for 2010 season"

"Rays acquire Usain Bolt as pinch base runner"

"Each home run hit by Rays player gets you a free lap dance at Mons Venus"

Headlines I Would Like To See

Entire Boston Red Sox roster tests positive for PED's.

Team suspended 50 games

Pawtucket Red Sox organization gets called up.

Headlines I Would Like To See This Weekend

Here is the list of headlines I would like to see this weekend:

"Rays Pull Within 1 Game of Wild Card"

That is all.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Bone To Pick With ESPN

I rarely like to call out professional writers, unless I have a good reason. Today, I have to call out Jayson Stark. In his weekly "Rumblings and Grumblings" column, he decided to talk about the struggling closer position for most of the contenders. Here is what Stark said about the Rays:

The Rays got to the World Series last year via the mix-and-match bullpen hodgepodge route after Troy Percival went down. They're trying it again this year.
They've already had eight different relievers save at least one game. And they've had 14 different relievers finish a game. So one thing you can say about Joe Maddon, besides the fact that he sure looks cool in black hair: He's no push-button manager.

The good news for them is that, believe it or not, 14 teams in the division-play era have made it to the postseason in years in which at least eight different pitchers saved a game. But the bad news is, only three of those teams -- the 2003 Red Sox, 1991 Braves and 1992 Braves -- have won a postseason series.
And the worst news is, none of those 14 won it all. So as much as some people in this sport would love to disprove the necessity of the one-monster-closer concept, reality isn't cooperating very well.
The funny thing is, though, that the Rays have had a remarkable flair for making this work. They've blown only one save in the ninth inning all year -- and it was by a pitcher (Isringhausen) who isn't even on their active roster anymore.
Nevertheless, says one scout, "They might be No. 1 on this list for me, because the pitchers they're using back there are not really 'closers.' It's just a collage of guys trying to do a job. On the right day, it can work. But on other days, you say, 'What are they thinking?'"

There is one major thing missing in this piece, and it's the name J.P. Howell, the Rays' closer. Yes, Joe Maddon likes to mix and match his matchups, especially in the latter innings of a ballgame. Maddon does NOT do this in the 9th inning anymore. The Rays have their go-to-guy, and it's J.P. Howell. In an article about closers and a long paragraph about the Rays, Howell's name wasn't even mentioned. This is preposterous. Stark discusses closers being solid if they have under a 2.50 ERA. Well Mr. Stark, Howell's ERA is right now 2.18. Sure, Howell only has 14 saves, but he has only been the closer since June. Stark mentions Howell in this article under the list of closers with the worst save percentage, noting Howell's percentage is 73.8. He did not look at the fact that Howell has only 3 blown saves since May 23, the day that Troy Percival was placed on the disabled list. The last of his blown saves was June 9. Funny, Jonathan Pabblebon has also blown 3 saves since May 23rd. And let's not forget that J.P. Howell has a 6-1 record since May 23rd.

So, Jayson Stark, I am really disappointed in your article. I was not with you when you wrote this so I will not guess as to what you looked at and didn't, but it seems to me that you did not give your fair time to J.P. Howell. He may very well be the Rays' 2009 team MVP and easily could have been an all-star. J.P. Howell deserves a lot more respect than this. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

I Don't Want To Jinx This But....

I am starting to think Pat Burrell and BJ Upton have turned the corner. Both have been struggling very much this season. We have been waiting the entire season for these 2 players to start to play to their ability, and I am starting to think they are there right now. I even started to think twice about this fact when Burrell flew out with the bases loaded and 2 outs last night. Then I realized it was a hard hit ball, just in the wrong location. They have combined for 4 homeruns over the last 2 games. It's not just the homeruns that have me excited, as Upton was a double short of the cycle Tuesday and his defense is irreplaceable. These 2 players breaking out and continuing to play this well over the next month and a half could be exactly what the doctor ordered to push the Rays over the hump. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This Pisses Me Off

Before I write this post, I'd like to point out that it's currently the top of the 3rd and the Rays are winning 1-0.

It really pisses me off when Joe Maddon gives these players extra rest, especially at this point of the season. Earlier today, I touched on the fact that it's now a sprint to the finish line. Joe Maddon needs to be playing his best players every day for the rest of the season. The Rays CANNOT afford to give up games here. Why Joe Maddon is giving Jason Bartlett a day off right after a day off is beyond me. Bartlett is a better fielder and better hitter than Reid Brignac. He is the leadoff hitter, and potentially the team MVP. The manager's job is to put the players in the best possible position to win. Joe Maddon has failed to do that tonight, no matter what the outcome of the game is. It doesn't take a pissed off rocket scientist to figure this out.

It's a Sprint

"The marathon is over. It's not a sprint. It's a good thing we are fast."
-Matt Garza on the Jim Rome Show

45 games to go, the Rays are down 4 in the wild card race to Texas. It's time to sprint and sprint fast. I could list all the cliches in the world such as "forget the past," "what's done is done," or even "it's not over 'til the fat lady sings" and they would all be fitting. Really, there is one thing left to do, win. The pitchers need to make the pitchers, and the hitters need to come up with the clutch hits. The Rays have dug a hole for themselves and now have no margin for error. Execution now is more important than effort. This is a playoff team that's currently on the outside looking in. Opportunities will present themselves over the next few weeks. Sweeping the hapless Orioles and then winning the series against the Rangers will go a long way towards putting the Rays back on the inside track. There are enough games left against the Red Sox and the Rangers that the Rays control their own destiny.

The Rays' fate is in their own hands, it's now time to execute. It doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why The Rays Can Do This Long-Term

Being an armchair general manager is a lot of fun. As a fan, it is very easy to say "we should sell the farm to win now." While in a pennant race, prospects are thought of as trading tools and not future stars.

If you are a fan of a big market franchise, you can afford to live by that philosophy. The Rays' front office is smarter than that, and that is why the Rays will contend for a playoff position for years to come.

Example A: The Rays do not trade Jeff Niemman in a deal for Jason Bay. The Rays make the world series in 2008. The next season, Jeff Niemman leads the team in wins in the middle of August.

Example B: The Rays do not sell the farm for Victor Martinez. Instead, the Rays get a post-deadline deal for Greg Zaun. Zaun and Martinez have comparable stats for their new teams, but Zaun has played in about half the games. Now we can wait and see what Wade Davis will turn into as a Ray.

Finding lower-cost and higher-efficiency trades is the reason the Rays can afford to contend for years to come. The Rays are proving this with smart deals for the second straight season. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Days 2 And 3 From Anaheim: All I heard Was “The Rays Suck”

I heard one sentence repeatedly from Angels’ fans. “The Rays suck.” When I first heard this on Tuesday night, my response to the fans was “Did you stay up all night thinking of that one?” I mean seriously, that’s all you got for me? At least insult me with something intelligent. Talk about how 2 out of the 3 hits are from a catcher that we’ve had for less than a week. Talk about how your worst starting pitcher has held us to 3 hits. Tell me how a rally monkey would tie a sting ray into a knot. I heard none of that, just “The Rays suck.”

Then, there was Wednesday. I thought I might finally get my retribution and see a victory on the road. The Rays had a 2 run lead with 2 outs in the 6th. There were 2 runners on base, but I was fairly confident with Grant Balfour on the mound and the number 8 hitter, who has hit 2 homeruns all season, Gary Matthews Jr. at the plate. I figured worse case scenario would be a single and 1 potential run. I didn’t see a bomb that would wind up 10 rows deep into the right field bleachers. That’s when everything unraveled and next thing I knew, my ticket was good for free buffalo wings since the Angels had put 10 runs on the board.

All the sudden, I heard it again, “The Rays suck.” This time, I didn’t even try to balk back at the fans. Right now, they were right and I deserved to hear it. Less than a week after the Rays closed the gap in the wildcard race to 1.5, the Rays were swept out of the building and luckily ended a 1-5 road trip. Of course, I don’t think this team sucks. I do think this team is failing to meet expectations and is not playing to their potential. I think there is some poor execution at the plate, in the field, and on the mound. Time is running out. If Rays keep playing like this, Rays’ fans should expect to hear “The Rays suck” all through September as fans won’t be hearing it in October. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Percival Done

Na Na Na Na
Na Na Na Na
Hey Hey Hey

After (technically) 2 seasons of blowing saves and making Rays fans nervous with a 3 run lead in the 9th inning, Troy Percival finally realizes what just about every Rays fan realized 2 months into last season......Time to hang up those cleats big guy. To be fair, Percival was an All-Star closer in his prime and could very well end up in the Hall of Fame someday. His 358 saves rank 8th on the all time list. Unfortunately, none of those prime years were with the Rays. Instead, we got 34 saves and an ERA of about 4.90. Thats means Percival earned $245,376 for every save he made. I'm not a financial advisor, but I think the Rays could have done better.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

TV Programming Alert

Evan Longoria will be in studio with Jim Rome on "Jim Rome is Burning" today. Hopefully Rome brings him some good jungle karma for tonight's game.

Rays-Angels Game 1 Thoughts And Observations

First off, I am really proud of the Rays fans. This is my third year going to a Rays' road game. The first year, I saw 1 other fan. Last year, I saw a small handful. This year, half of my section were fans of the Rays. We represented very well. One guy had some good signs, including offering Todd Kalas a beer. Of course, the back of that sign said "Future Rays Player in the Oven" with an arrow pointing down, so from behind, people must have thought he was pregnant. Ooops. I hope the blue and white shows up again tonight.

Second off, I want to thank the Angels for running a quality ballpark. The fans were classy and fun to talk to about baseball. The ushers helped a lot, and didn't mind us moving around to open seats. They had a nice bit for Vlad Guerrero on his 400th homerun, which is an accomplishment even I can applaud. And, well, putting Dwayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy on the kiss-cam together was a nice humorous touch.

Third off, I want to touch on the game a bit. BJ Upton looked like he wasn't even trying at the plate. BJ, if you are struggling, there is a lot you can do to help the team that doesn't involve base hits. Those things all take effort. And before you complain BJ, please realize that your on base percentage is lower than Pat Burrell's. That is not ok. As for Willy Aybar, I do think he needs to get in the game more, but not in the field. I have touched on his fielding before, and it can be costly. Giving away outs is brutal. Speaking of giving away outs, Greg Zaun dropping a pitch on a Bobby Abreu steal is bad, very bad. It was a free out with Abreu trying to just attempt to take an extra base on a 2 strike count, figuring even if he gets thrown out, he gives the batter a fresh count. The next pitch was hit 10 rows deep into right field. Execution and effort need to be there in a pennant race.

And finally, I didn't find the Longoria family last night. I will be searching again tonight.

Those are my thoughts from night 1. I will be back tomorrow with more from night 2.

Monday, August 10, 2009


We are taking our act on the road this week. It is time for us to be obnoxious fans of the opposing team. This week is the Trop it Like it's Hot unofficial road trip! I will be attending all 3 games in Anaheim. Although I will not report live from the games (because I refuse to be "that guy" who brings a laptop to baseball games, and if you are "that guy", you are a tool), I will be back the following day with reports and observations. Enjoy the games and stay up late to watch so you can look for me on TV. GO RAYS!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How They Match Up: East Side vs. West Side

It is time for another tale of the tape matchup. Today, the Rays are hopping on a chartered flight to the other side of the country. So, I want to look at which is better, East Side vs. West Side.

Better baseball history:
East Side: Yankees, Red Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Rays
West Side: Lots of teams moved from the east side
Advantage: East Side – The West Side was so jealous that it had to steal a few teams from the East Side

More current baseball teams:
East Side: A lot
West Side: Padres, Angels, Dodgers, Mariners, and I will even give you the Diamondbacks and the Rockies
Advantage: East Side – The Rays play here

Major metropolitan city:
East Side: New York
West Side: Los Angeles
Advantage: Push - Hard to determine between the business capital of the world and the entertainment capital of the world

90's Rapper who was killed:
East Side: Notorious B.I.G.
West Side: Tupac
Advantage: West Side – Even though Tupac is (possibly) still alive, he was a much better entertainer. His music was great and he even was solid in “Above the Rim”

East Side: Disney World
West Side: Disneyland
Advantage: East Side – Disneyland could fit into Disney World’s parking lot

Hosts of late night talk show:
East Side: Letterman, Fallon
West Side: Conan, Kimmel
Advantage: West Side – Conan is the selling point

Natural Disaster:
East Side: Hurricanes
West Side: Earthquakes
Advantage: East Side – At least they can be somewhat predicted

Gambling city:
East Side: Atlantic City
West Side: Las Vegas
Advantage: West Side – VEGAS BABY!

East Side: Ivy League Schools
West Side: Stanford
Advantage: East Side – Just because of the way people can pronounce “Haaaaaaaarvard”

Time zone:
East Side: Eastern
West Side: Pacific
Advantage: West Side – You can watch a Rays game then still go out at night afterwards, or if a game goes 13 innings, you can still make it to work the next day easily

Place where Evan Longoria played:
East Side: Tampa Bay Rays
West Side: Long Beach State Dirtbags
Advantage: East Side – Dirtbags are an awesome mascot, but we love him playing for our favorite team

East Side: Batman
West Side: Ironman

Advantage: East Side – Hands down

TV Show Settings:

East Side: “How I Met Your Mother,” “The Office,” “30 Rock”
West Side: “Entourage,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Arrested Development”
Advantage: Push – All those shows are way too good

Star athlete turned felon:
East Side: Michael Vick
West Side: OJ Simpson
Advantage: West Side - OJ didn’t kill anything, errrrrr, wasn’t convicted of killing anything, and I guess that makes him better than a convicted dog killer

Annoying things said:
East Side: “Wicked haaaaad” by someone from Boston
West Side: “Hella” by someone from San Francisco
Advantage: Push – I want to punch both in the face equally hard, or as someone from Boston and San Francisco would say, I want to hella-punch both in the face wicked haaaaad

Final Results
East Side: 7
West Side: 5
Push: 3

So there you have it, the East Side has shown its supremacy. Maybe this is because of my east coast bias, but the results do speak for themselves. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the East Side is better than the West Side.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hebrew Hammer

Wikipedia told me Gabe Kapler is Jewish and also hinted that he took a year off to let his system flush itself of any roids. So like any good reporter, i believe it one hundred percent. Also a quick google search made me wonder...

How many guys at the local JCC are swole like this?!

"Put down the Manishevitz and pick up a lox flavored protein shake"

At least we don't have to put up with the narcoleptic Rocco B anymore...enjoy that half-season worth of starts Boston.

"Me so tired"

And just because...

That Magical Moment

One pitch, one catch, or one swing of the bat can turn a season around. Any of those things can erase bad memories of a perfect game or blowing a big lead.

Was Evan Longoria's homerun last night that moment for the Rays?

Forget the new lineup. Forget the 2 homeruns that Matt Garza allowed. Forget not scoring a run until late in the game (again). Forget about 16 team strikeouts. Forget the strange play in the 8th in which Ben Zobrist was only awarded 3rd base. Forget blowing a chance with the bases loaded and nobody out twice. None of that mattered.

Forget the golden sombrero that Longoria was wearing for his 4 strikeout effort. That's ancient history.

A swing and a drive, deep to left field. GONE!

This doesn't instantly make up the distance that the Rays are behind the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers. This doesn't clinch a playoff spot for the Rays. However, this may be the moment that will propel the Rays right back into the hunt. It may just be one moment of one game, but that one moment may be just what the Rays needed to find the magic that they had in 2008. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why.

Work tomorrow is gonna suck.....

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Road Signs For Joe Maddon

During yesterday's postgame interview on the Rays Radio Network, Joe Maddon said that this morning he was going to take a bike ride and think about what lineup he wants to use today. Here are some road signs I hope Joe Maddon sees during his ride:

As I've said before, I am a major advocate of Joe Maddon doing whatever it is to put the Rays in the best possible position to win and I will not judge based on results. Yesterday shows that the lineup is better with Bartlett in the leadoff role. BJ Upton needs to play in the field, but Jason Bartlett seems to be a better fit for the leadoff spot. I still think Pat Burrell should be the DH more often than Willy Aybar, but right now Willy Aybar has deserved a chance to play more often while Burrell needs to get himself together. And oh yea, I'm tired of Evan Longoria getting thrown at. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure all of this out.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Give Me Runs Or Give Me Death!

If I were James Shields, I would be pissed off today. What an effort wasted.

With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out, Dioner Navarro struck out. I saw it coming.
With BJ Upton on 2nd, Evan Longoria drilled a signle into center. Tom Foley waved BJ Upton home. Upton was thrown out by a few feet. I saw this coming also.

For some reason, the Rays just aren't giving James Shields any run support. Maybe it's bad luck or a mental block, but it can't continue. 3 runs or less in 14 starts? That's just sad. That's a major reason that his record looks very mediocre.

If I were James Shields, I would be pulling my hair out or punching a gatorade cooler (with my non throwing hand).

If I were James Shields I would stand up in the middle of the locker room for my Patrick Henry moment and say "Give me runs or give me death!" It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why.