Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rays power,speed combo an MLB first

B.J. Upton drove his team into the record books Sunday afternoon with his first swing of the third inning that produced the 100th home run of the season for the Rays.

The Rays are now the fastest team in major league history to hit 100 home runs and steal 100 bases before the All-Star Break.

The 2oo3 Marlins, the 1998 Blue Jays , the 1994 Indians and 1977 Reds also went 100/100 before the break, though none of those four did it as quickly as the Rays.

The '94 Indians and '77 Reds needed 84 games to go 100/100.

The Rays did it in 77 games. And with 118, the Rays reached the 100/100 club with the most steals.

We know the Rays can steal bases. Carl Crawford led the majors with 39 prior to Sunday's game. Upton was third in the American League with 27, a number that would lead the National League as well.

Jason Bartlett, despite missing 19 games with a sprained ankle, is tied for eighth in the AL with 16 steals.

We know the Rays can hit home runs, too, what with Carlos Pena, Pat Burrell, Evan Longoria and Upton in the lineup. What is amazing is while Pena leads the AL in home runs, Pat the Bat has two and Upton's history-making homer Sunday was only his sixth of the season.

Most team are built for either speed or power, and since the mid-1980s, teams have usually been built for power. The art of stealing a base has declined over the years since managers don't want to risk losing a base runner.

Rays manager Joe Maddon is not one of them. Every Ray has the green light, because Maddon's philosophy is if the opportunity presents itself to steal a base, go. Maddon doesn't care if his runners are thrown out trying to steal third. He doesn't believe in the rule that the first or third out should never be made at third base.

Maddon would rather his players take chances. He's willing to risk a runner getting caught stealing third if stealing the bag means having a runner on third.

As for all the home runs, that's due to big power years from Ben Zobrist and Jason Bartlett, both of whom have already exceeded their previous best home run totals.

"Everybody talks about our speed. Nobody talks about the power," Maddon said. "I'm good with that."

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