Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Are Yankees asking for trouble?

I want to work for the Yankees.

I hear they pay well.

Looks like the Bombers aren’t feeling the economic pinch like the rest of us. Either that or the Rays really rattled the Yankees’ cage by winning the division title and the American League pennant last season.

So the Yankees respond by paying a king’s ransom for two front-line pitchers and a front-line first baseman. The four highest-paid players in baseball now have their mail delivered to the Bronx.

Might not be enough, though.

The Yankees are an old team and their age showed last season when they finished third in the AL East behind the Rays and the Red Sox.

Derek Jeter is getting old. Alex Rodriguez was never a difference-maker, especially in the postseason. Jorge Posada is getting old. Mariano Rivera is getting old.

There is no telling how the new toys will handle the pressure of playing in New York. History doesn’t favor a smooth transition. You can bet one of them will have a bad season. Maybe two.
Plus, the entire team has to play under the pressure of the offseason spending spree aimed at guaranteeing a World Series title.

These guys better open the season 20-0 or feel the wrath of the New York media and their fans.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bowling at the Trop

You are looking live at Tropicana Field! Welcome to the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl.

Last time we were inside this building was for Game 2 of the World Series. It feels a lot like that night only without the sold-out stadium, the atmosphere and the excitement.

The South Florida Bulls are having their way with the Memphis Tigers, and the crowd that is decidedly USF is loving it.

Why not? The Bulls could use a feel-good game to end a not-so-feel-good season.
The Trop looks a bit different for football.

The infield dirt has been covered with FieldTurf making for an all-FieldTurf playing field.

Tickets were sold for only three sides of the football field. Left field is completely empty.

Fans form a horseshoe around the field, and since this is a bowl game, the seating area is split.

It’s supposed to be one half South Florida, one half Memphis.

But a lot of Tiger fans stayed home, opting for the big hoops game tonight between Memphis and Syracuse.

The blue-clad Tiger fans are sitting between home plate and first base, which is behind the USF sideline.

That means the home team, the Bulls, are backed by fans of the visitors.

For those who are familiar with Rays games inside the Trop, it seems a bit odd to see visiting fans behind the Rays dugout and fans of the home team sitting behind the visitor’s dugout.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rays interested in Giambi, Abreu

Add Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu and Ken Griffey Jr., to the mix of free agents the Rays are interested in signing.

Vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon met with Giambi on Monday during baseball’s annual winter meetings in Las Vegas. The former Yankee first baseman would fill the Rays need for a fulltime slugger.

They also have plans to meet with Abreu’s agent. The former Yankee right fielder could fill the Rays void in right field or he could be used as the designated hitter.

Griffey’s agent has told several news outlets that the Rays are on his short-list of teams he would like to play for. The left-handed slugger could be used as a right field/designated hitter platoon or he could serve as primarily the Rays DH.

Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel is linked in rumors of a possible trade between the Cards and the Rays. The Cards need pitching. The Rays could use Ankiel in the outfield.

The rumors of Delmon Young returning to the Rays are apparently just that, rumors.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Is Delmon Young in Rays future?

One rumor making the rounds of baseball’s annual winter meetings this week in Las Vegas is the return of Delmon Young to the Rays.

The right-fielder, who had as stormy relationship with the ballclub during his stay in both the minor leagues and in St. Petersburg, is rumored to be part of a three-way deal between the Rays, Rockies and Twins.

The Rays would send either Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine to the Rockies, who would send third baseman Garrett Atkins to the Twins. The Twins would then send Young to the Rays.

Getting Young and his sour attitude out of the Rays clubhouse before last season was seen by many Rays as a good move. Getting shortstop Jason Bartlett and pitcher Matt Garza in return was a great move, one that got the Rays to the World Series.

So why would the Rays want Young back?

Because they need a right fielder.

Because they would control his contract for another four years.

Because Jackson is out of options and the Rays are tired of waiting for him to blossom into the pitcher everyone expects him to be.

Because they are not sold on Sonnanstine as a long term fit to the rotation.

Because Milton Bradley, whom manager Joe Maddon and vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman met for lunch Monday, made $5.25 million during his breakout season with the Rangers in 2008.

Because Young comes cheap.

Oh, already mentioned that.

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Maddux memory

Greg Maddux retired Monday. He was the greatest pitcher of this generation and the greatest of any generation.

His numbers are staggering: 355 wins, the second most by a right-hander; 10 plus wins for 20 straight seasons; less than 1,000 walks and more than 3,000 strikeouts.

Here is my Maddux memory:

It was July 18, 2000 at Tropicana Field. Maddux was carving up the Devil Rays on his way to another complete game for the Braves when he faced Jose Canseco in the ninth and drilled Canseco in the butt. At least it was a drilling as far as Maddux was concerned.

Canseco was stunned.

“Me?” he kept asking as he looked toward the mound.

Yes, you.

The Rays pitchers had been hitting Braves batters during the three-game series.

Maddux hit Felix Martinez earlier in the game as sort of a, “Hey. C’mon guys.”

Nope, the Rays hit Walt Weiss again, the second time in the game.

So in the ninth with the game well in hand, Maddux drilled Canseco, who, at the time, was the Rays best player.

Canseco finally walked to first base while Rays manager Larry Rothschild argued Maddux should have been kicked out for throwing at a batter.

Get real, Larry. He’s Greg Maddux.

After Rothschild was tossed, Maddux went back to work and finished off the Rays.

Just another day at the office for the hall of famer.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Rays sign three minor leaguers

The Rays made a couple of minor news Friday, signing right-handed pitcher Jason Childers, right-handed pitcher Jeremy Cummings and outfielder/first baseman Chris Richard to minor league contracts with invites to major league spring training.

Childers, 33, was an International League midseason All-Star in 2008 for Triple A Charlotte, an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. He went 4-2 with a 1.22 ERA, converted all 17 save chances, and held opponents to a .167 average. Childers’ only major league experience came with the Rays in 2006, when he made five relief appearances.

Cummings, 32, spent the 2008 season with Durham (AAA) where he went 8-3 with a 2.87 ERA and was an IL All-Star. He won a bronze medal as part of the United States Olympic baseball team in Beijing, compiling a 1.80 ERA in 5.0 innings of relief. He pitched briefly for a professional team in Taiwan before signing with the Rays on May 12.

Richard, 34, spent the entire 2008 season with Durham, hitting .293 with 26 home runs and 88 RBI. The left-handed hitter led the Rays organization with 26 home runs (third in the IL) and led the Bulls in RBI. Richard was named an IL All-Star and was the Rays Minor League Player of the Month in May. He has compiled a .258 average with 34 homers and 122 RBI in parts of four major league seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals (2000), Baltimore Orioles (2000-‘02) and Colorado Rockies (2003).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Here's the pitch: Keep Anderson

Brian Anderson said it was like clockwork. Matt Garza would show up for a few innings. Then Scott Kazmir.

Then Andy Sonnanstine.

Then Edwin Jackson.

The Rays pitchers made their way to the clubhouse on nights when they weren’t pitching and spent a few innings watching the game with Anderson, who serves as the assistant to pitching coach Jim Hickey.

There, the pitchers would pick the brain of a pitcher who, as recently as spring training, was one of them.

Anderson arrived in St. Petersburg last February hoping his left elbow had enough life for another season. His work early in camp was along the lines of a rehab, but it was soon accelerated and Anderson found himself pitching in games.

And then the elbow gave out again and the left-hander who was a member of the 2001 World Series champion Diamondbacks, called it a career.

Rays manager Joe Maddon wanted Anderson around and offered him the job as Hickey’s assistant so Anderson could still work with the pitchers.

Judging by how well the Rays pitched this past season I’d say it was a good move.

“We just talk,” Garza said last May. “We talk about what’s going on in the game, my last outing, my next outing, things I can do better. I kind of pick his brains.”

“He was huge,” Kazmir said.

Now, the Rays are looking for a TV analyst to replace Joe Magrane, who is headed to the MLB Network, and Anderson’s name is mentioned among the candidates. Anderson filled in when Magrane left the TV booth in August to help with NBC’s coverage of the Olympic baseball games.

It might be a good idea to take a long look at Anderson.

For one, he was pretty good on the air.

Two, he can still work with the Rays pitchers. Maybe not in the middle of games. It’s unlikely anyone would want to make the climb to the TV booth.

But Anderson can chat with the pitchers before and after games as well as on long flights and over lunch on road trips.

The pitches sang Anderson’s praises last season.

The pitching is what helped carry the Rays to the World Series.

It might be a good idea to keep that combination together.