Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Baldelli wins Tony C. Award

Rays outfielder Rocco Baldelli was voted the winner of the 19th annual Tony Conigliaro Award, which is presented to a major league player who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Tony C.

Tony’s brothers, Billy and Richie, will make the official presentation of the award at the 70th Boston Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual dinner on Thursday, January 8, 2009 at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in South Boston. Tickets are now available for the dinner.

In 1990 the Red Sox began the award to perpetuate the memory of Tony C., who died that February after an eight-year struggle to come back from a massive heart attack that left him severely handicapped. Major League teams submit nominations and an independent 12-person panel does the voting.

Baldelli was first with 43 points followed by Arizona’s Doug Davis with 27 and Oakland’s Brad Zeigler with 26. Cleveland’s Cliff Lee, Cincinnati’s Mike Lincoln, and Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox also received votes.

Baldelli fought his way back to the major leagues after being diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder which causes chronic muscle fatigue. He missed 15 months with the illness and continues to battle his limitations. He played a key role for the Rays during the team’s postseason drive. The Rhode Island native contributed to Tampa Bay’s World Series berth and A.L. Championship by hitting .333 with one home run and 4 RBI in the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.

Past winners: Jim Eisenreich (1990), Dickie Thon (1991), Jim Abbott (1992), Bo Jackson (1993), Mark Leiter (1994), Scott Radinsky (1995), Curtis Pride (1996), Eric Davis (1997), Bret Saberhagen (1998), Mike Lowell (1999), Kent Mercker & Tony Saunders (2000), Graeme Lloyd & Jason Johnson (2001), Jose Rijo (2002), Jim Mecir (2003), Dewon Brazelton (2004), Aaron Cook (2005), Freddy Sanchez (2006), and Jon Lester (2007).

Tony C. became the youngest player (20) to lead a major league in home runs when he hit 32 in 1965, and the youngest in A.L. history to reach 100 homers (22 years, 197 days). His promising career was tragically shortened when he was hit in the face by a pitch at Fenway Park Aug. 18, 1967. He missed all of 1968, made a dramatic comeback in 1969 and was traded to the California Angels after the 1970 season. Tony played two years with the Angels and then made another comeback with the Red Sox in 1975, his final season in the majors.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy holidays Rays style

All this and a cowbell, too?

The Rays are now selling special ticket packages for the holidays that include tickets to the Rays home opener, April 10 vs. the New York Yankees.

The Rays will be raising their American League Champions banner prior to the game.

The Holiday Pack, which ranges from $45 to $75 to $99 depending on seat location, includes one ticket to Opening Day, one ticket to the fan’s choice of three regular-season games, and one Rays cowbell. The offer is good based on availability.

The cowbell should be the deal-maker.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rays spring training schedule

The American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays today announced their 2009 Spring Training schedule as well as pricing options for the 16 home games at the newly renovated Charlotte Sports Park. In their inaugural spring in Charlotte County, Fla., the Rays will open the season at home on Wednesday, February 25 against the Cincinnati Reds.

The Rays Grapefruit League home schedule includes two games against the Boston Red Sox (February 27 and March 7) and one each against the Philadelphia Phillies (March 12) in a rematch of the 2008 World Series, and New York Yankees (March 22).

The Rays will also host the St. Louis Cardinals on March 19 in the first spring training game between these two teams since 1998 and the Puerto Rican National Team in a precursor to the World Baseball Classic on March 4.

In addition, the Rays will visit Philadelphia to play two more games in the Phillies’ annual “On-Deck Series” April 3-4 at Citizens Bank Park before opening the regular season April 6 at Boston.

Rays home games will start at 1:05 p.m. with the exception of two games which will begin at 7:05 p.m.: March 4 vs. the Puerto Rico National Team and March 25 vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Individual ticket prices will range from $9 to $23, keeping Spring Training a fun and affordable way of seeing the Rays up close.

Fans interested in season tickets will enjoy discounted ticket prices from the same seat at each game. Individuals interested in placing a $50 deposit for Spring Training Season Tickets can do so by visiting www.raysbaseball.com/charlottecounty. All individuals who have placed a deposit will be contacted to select their seats by early December.

The opening of Rays Spring Training camp will mark the return of baseball to Charlotte County for the first time since the Texas Rangers left the site after the 2002 season. The state-of-the-art facility contains over 5,000 fixed seats and has additional berm seating along the first and third base lines, group party areas and a renovated suite level.

In addition to functioning as the Spring Training complex for Rays major and minor leaguers, the facility will operate year-round. The 5½-field complex will accommodate extended Spring Training for the Rays and will be home to the Rays new Class-A Florida State League affiliate, the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good to see the Rays get some MVP love

Glad to see Dustin Pedroia win the American League MVP.

I would have voted for Boston’s mighty-mite had I had an MVP vote. I voted this year for the AL Cy Young and placed Cliff Lee first, Roy Halladay second and Francisco Rodriguez third, and, I’m proud to say, that’s how the voting fell.

As glad as I was to see Pedroia receive his first MVP award, I was even happier to see the names of Carlos Peña, Evan Longoria and Jason Bartlett among those who received votes.

Hey, it was hard to ignore the Rays this summer.

Peña received 13 votes and finished ninth. One voter had Peña third on his ballot, which I won’t argue with.

Longoria, who was voted AL rookie of the year, was 11th with 12 votes. His highest was sixth. I’m guessing he would have been in the top-five had he not missed a month with a fractured right wrist.

Bartlett, who was voted team MVP by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of American, received a fifth-place vote by a writer who values defense and finished 18th.

It’s not easy voting for the league MVPs.

Unlike rookie of the year, Cy Young and manager of the year, BBWAA voters (there are two for each award in each American League and National League city) are asked to list 10 names.

Every baseball fan in American can rattle off four or five deserving candidates. It’s the remaining five or six that makes it tricky.

Who do put on the ballot and where do you place him?

You don’t want to just write down names. You want to have some order to your ballot. So you find yourself arguing the merits of the guy you placed seventh over the guy you placed eighth and his merits over the guy you placed ninth.

The last thing you want to do is put someone 10th only to see everyone else voted the guy in the top-5.

Not as easy as it sounds.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Boy, was I wrong about Maddon

I was wrong about Joe Maddon. I think a lot of us were.

I was one of those who thought he was too positive, too nice to manage at the major league level.

I thought the Rays needed someone a little tougher, a little gruffer.


What they needed was someone who could put out the fires left by Lou Piniella, who torched the franchise on his way out of town.

What they needed was a positive face and a positive voice to attract fans chased away by the old ownership.

What they needed was someone who could see the bright spots in all the losing; a guy who noticed better at-bats and a better approach on the mound even when those better at-bats and better approaches on the mound still led to losses.

What they needed was someone who cared less about his won/loss record and more about the development of the younger players.

What they needed they got: Joe Maddon.

A different cat (his words) for sure, but the right cat for the Rays.

The players fed off his positive nature.

Too soft to handle big league egos? Ha! Ask B.J. Upton, who was benched twice last season for not hustling or Dioner Navarro, who got the old “shape up or you’re done” speech in 2007.

Maddon kept the Rays together through the mounting injuries and led them to a first-place finish in the American League East and the American League pennant.

You don’t do that by being nice. You do that by knowing the game and knowing how to manage a team.

How good was Maddon in 2008? He was the best manager in the American League; the best in all of the major leagues, too.

Great hire, that Joe Maddon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

You can make this Price right

You can make David Price become the next big thing, or at least the next big thing as far as ESPN is concerned. Here is how:

It's time to pick this year's NEXT athlete, the athlete destined to make the biggest impact on sports in the coming year (and years). ESPN The Magazine’s 2009 NEXT finalists are Joey Logano (NASCAR), David Price (Tampa Bay Rays), Ricky Rubio (Basketball/Spain) and Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons). Fans can vote at www.espnthemag.com from November 10th – 17th. Go to www.espnthemag.com now to view exclusive video and interviews with the NEXT finalists.

Here is the link to David's video:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pena earns his gold

Now when he walks down the street, people will point to Carlos Peña and say, “There’s goes a Gold Glove first baseman.”

And that thought makes the ever-present smile on Peña’s face grow even wider.

Every ball player wants to be a complete ball player, meaning they are equally renowned for their defense as well as their offense.

Peña has really improved his defense over the last two years, cutting his errors to an incredible two this season for a .998 fielding percentage.

There’s no telling home many runs he saved this season with his ability to dig a throw out of the dirt and his skill at diving toward the first base line and turning doubles into “3 unassisted.”

Rays fans have come to count on Peña for the big home run.

His teammates have come to count on his defense.

Everyone knows what kind of power Peña brings to the lineup – 46 home runs in 2007 and 31 during an injury plagued 2008.

Now, everyone knows Peña is a first-rate fielder as well.

The best defensive first baseman in the American League.

A gold-glover.