Saturday, October 31, 2009

Crawford voted best left fielder in baseball

I think those of us who watch Rays Carl Crawford play on a regular basis will agree that he is one of, if not the best fielding left fielder in baseball.

Well, this confirms it.

Here is the release on Crawford winning his third Fielding Bible Award as the top left fielder in the game ...

Tampa Bay Rays veteran Carl Crawford won the 2009 Fielding Bible Award for left field in an announcement made November 1, 2009, in The Bill James Handbook 2010. This is Crawford's third Fielding Bible Award.

Crawford, who received an almost-perfect score, was chosen by a panel of ten experts, including Peter Gammons, Bill James, Joe Posnanski, and John Dewan, author of the new Fielding Bible—Volume II.

In granting the award to Crawford, Dewan wrote: “This was no contest. No player has ever won with a perfect record (10 first-place votes from 10 panelists), but Carl came as close as possible with nine first place votes and one second. That's 99 points. (The best previously was 98 points by Adam Everett at shortstop in 2006.) If Crawford doesn't win his first Gold Glove this year, I'm going to throw up.”

Officially announced annually on November 1 (before any other fielding awards), the Fielding Bible Awards try to name the single best fielder at each of the nine positions (including pitcher) in the major leagues. This distinction came into play this year as Jack Wilson, who split his time between Pittsburgh and Seattle, won the Fielding Bible Award at shortstop.

"It is almost impossible for a player who is traded between leagues during the season to win a Gold Glove," Dewan pointed out. "I predict that Wilson will not win a Gold Glove this year, even though our 10 judges voted him the best-fielding shortstop in Major League Baseball."

This year, National League players were chosen at three positions, American League players at five, and Wilson at shortstop. 2009 marks the fourth year of the award. First-baseman Albert Pujols of the Cardinals is the only player to have won a Fielding Bible Award four years in a row. Aaron Hill won over Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley at second base only after a tie-breaker was invoked. The complete voting results and further information are available in The Bill James Handbook 2010, published by ACTA Sports (

The 2009 Fielding Bible Award winners are:

First Base—Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (fourth-time winner)

Second Base—Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays (second-time winner)

Third Base—Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (first-time winner)

Shortstop—Jack Wilson, Pittsburgh Pirates/Seattle Mariners (first-time winner)

Left Field—Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Rays (third-time winner)

Center Field—Franklin Gutierrez, Seattle Mariners (second-time winner)

Right Field—Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners (second-time winner)

Catcher—Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (third-time winner)

Pitcher—Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox (first-time winner)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Where did the month go?

It was after I flew home from Philadelphia that morning/afternoon and after I reached my house and wrote the last of my World Series stories when I finally sat down on the living room couch to relax.

The 2008 postseason had been a long affair, but I didn't realize how long until I heard my wife, who was in the kitchen, pouring something in a bowl.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Candy," she said.


"Yes. Halloween Candy?"

"Halloween Candy?"

"Halloween is tomorrow."

Tomorrow? Where did the month go?

That's what happens when the local nine reaches the playoffs and advances all the way to the World Series. The month is no longer made up of weeks, which are made up of smaller units of time we normally refer to as days.

Instead, the month is broken down like this:

Division Series, Game 1, Game 2, travel days, Game 3 ...

Championship Series, Game 1, Game 2, travel day, Game 3 ...

World Series, Game 1, Game 2, travel day, Game 3 ...

There are some off days mixed in between the end of one series and the start of another, and, in the case of Game 5 of last year's World Series, a rain delay that stretched from Monday night to Wednesday night and included a quick trip to soggy Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.

It can be an exhausting process to follow as a fan. It's an exhausting pace to keep as a writer covering one of the teams, as you move from city to city, taking early morning flights that are so early there is no time to sleep after you've finished writing after Game 2. You file, go home and shower and head to the airport.

I can say this: speaking for both fans and for writers, we do it again in a heartbeat. I know I would.

There is nothing like the postseason in any sport. Remember the Bucs run to the Super Bowl? the Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup?

They are one long roller coaster ride where every win is a great and every loss is uh-oh.

This World Series shifts to Philadelphia for Games 3, 4, and 5, and the writers took a special train from New York to Philly. Lucky them.

And lucky fans, too.

The baseball season is still alive in those two cities and to Yankees and Phillies fans everywhere.

Here? We have the 0-7 Bucs and an offseason wondering if the Rays can retool enough to be a contender in 2010.

We also have the memories of one terrific October in 2008, where every game was either a trick or treat.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rays 2010 ticket prices

Here is the Rays release on 2010 ticket prices ...

The Tampa Bay Rays have refined its ticket pricing structure, holding the line on
ticket prices for a wide range of its 2010 home games. Under the new format released today, tickets for nearly 40 percent of Rays games at Tropicana Field will be at or below ticket prices for 2009 when the Rays were named by ESPN the Magazine as “the most affordable team in professional sports.”

“We were proud to be recognized as the best value in all of professional sports and that’s a title we plan to retain,” said Rays President Matt Silverman. “During these challenging times, we want Tropicana Field to continue to be an enjoyable place that families can afford. The objective for our 2010 pricing is to ensure that Rays games remain an affordable family entertainment option.”

“The best way to see a Rays game continues to be as a season ticket holder. It’s our best value by far,” said Mark Fernandez, Rays Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer. “Season ticket holders have access to our best seat locations at up to a 33 percent discount off individual game prices.” Season ticket holders also have the guaranteed opportunity to purchase Rays postseason ticket packages.

For 2010, there will be five categories of individual ticket pricing: Diamond, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze.

This new price structure includes tickets priced as low as $12 for more than 50 games and $10 for more than 30 games. Pricing on Bronze games starts at just $8 for an Upper Reserved or tbt* Party Deck ticket.

Diamond games are weekend games vs. the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Platinum games include all other Saturday games, weekday games versus the Yankees and Red Sox as well as Opening Day, April 6 vs. the Baltimore Orioles. Gold games include the remaining Friday and Sunday games. Silver games include the remaining weekday games except for five select Bronze games.

Diamond Platinum Gold Silver Bronze
Seating Section (9 games) (20 games) (20 games) (27 games) (5 games)
Home Plate Club NA NA NA NA NA
Whitney Bank Club $175 $155 $125 $115 $100
Club 105 $130 $120 $100 $90 $80
Fieldside Box $140 $115 $90 $85 $70
Lower Infield Box $100 $80 $65 $55 $45
Lower Box $65 $60 $48 $42 $33
Press Level $50 $45 $36 $29 $22
Baseline Box $40 $35 $30 $22 $18
Loge Box $40 $35 $30 $22 $18
Outfield $27 $24 $20 $17 $12
Upper Box $23 $20 $15 $13 $8
Upper Reserved /
*tbt Party Deck $20 $18 $12 $10 $8

For the fifth consecutive year, the Rays will continue to provide carpoolers access to free parking in team controlled lots. As in 2009, vehicles with four or more passengers will continue to park free for all Bronze and Sunday games. For all other games, the first 100 cars with four or more will park for free up to an hour before game time, with other main lot Tropicana Field parking rates ranging from $10 to $20 per vehicle.

“Keeping some level of free parking available at all games is important to us, especially for Sunday and Bronze games because we recognize those dates will be popular with families,” said Silverman. “We also continue to be one of the few teams that allow fans to bring food and select beverages to games. It’s part of how we can ensure our games remain an affordable experience.”
Sundays will continue to be “Family Fun Days.”

Those dates feature discounted ticket options for families, special promotional giveaways for kids and the opportunity for youngsters to run the bases after the game.

The Rays will also introduce a new Upper Box Seat seating category that will include the first 11 rows between the bases in the upper deck. Depending on the game, those tickets will range in price from $8 to $23.

Group party area reservations are currently being accepted for the 2010 season. For information on purchasing group tickets or to reserve a group party area or suite, fans can call 888-FAN-RAYS.

Place your reservation for 2010 Rays Season Tickets. Ensure the best seats, biggest savings and all the great benefits.

Call 888-FAN-RAYS or visit,, or visit the Rays office at Tropicana Field or the Rays Tampa office at 400 N. Tampa St.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rays resign Kapler

The Tampa Bay Rays have resigned right-handed-hitting outfielder Gabe Kapler to
a one-year, $1,050,000 contract.

Here is the rest of the Rays release:

Kapler, 34, appeared in 99 games at all three outfield positions for the Rays in 2009. He hit .239 (49-for-205) with eight home runs, 32 RBI, 15 doubles and five stolen bases. Against left-handed pitching, he hit .276 (40-for-145) with all eight home runs, 14 doubles, a .379 on-base pct., and more walks (26) than strikeouts (23).

Over the last two seasons (2008-09), he hit .304 (69-for-227) against left-handers with a .577 slugging pct., 11th best in the majors over that span.

Kapler has played parts of 11 major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers (1998-99), Texas Rangers (2000-02), Colorado Rockies (2002-03), Boston Red Sox (2004-06), Milwaukee Brewers (2008) and Rays (2009). He initially signed with the Rays as a free agent on January 12, 2009. He retired briefly from playing in 2007 to manage the Class-A Greenville Drive in the Red Sox organization.

Kapler's role will remain the same this season, though he will likely share time in right field with Matt Joyce.

Joyce, acquired from the Tigers in the trade for Edwin Jackson in December 2008, is expected to compete for a job on the major league roster in spring training.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's Elmer Fudds season

Those hats you see the Phillies wearing this postseason? The ones with the ear flaps? They call them Elmer Fudds after, well, Elmer Fudd.

I don't remember seeing them until last year when the Rays and Phillies made them popular during the World Series.

They look kind of goofy, but I'm sure they are warm. There are few things more annoying than cold ears while playing baseball up north in late October and early November. Except maybe cold hands, cold necks, cold feet, cold ...

Maybe they shouldn't be playing baseball up north in late October and early November unless the stadium comes with a roof, but that's another blog for another day.

Anyway, the Elmer Fudds are also a better look than wearing the ski masks some of the players wear.

If the Yankees hold of the Angels in the ALCS, expect the lasting image from the 2009 World Series to be Elmer Fudds.

In keeping with the baseball/Fudd theme, here's a memorable quote from one of my favorite Buggs Bunny cartoons ...

Elmer Fudd: [to Bugs as a game warden] Oh, Mr. Game Warden. I hope you can help me. I've been told I could shoot wabbits and goats and pigeons and mongooses and dirty skunks and ducks. Could you tell me what season it weawwy is?
Bugs Bunny: Why, coitenly, me boy. It's baseball season!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oh, Mr. Maddon! Dennis says 9 = 8

About this time last year, the familiar one-panel cartoon was tucked into the funny pages of newspapers across the country, including those found in and around Boston.

Actually, it was Oct. 13, 2008 when Dennis the Menace stood at the blackboard, added 5 and 4 and came up with 8.

"No, Dennis," his teacher said, "we can't agree to disagree."

The cartoon, which I read that morning at a hotel in Newton Mass. (and I know this because I read Dennis the Menace every morning), left little impression other than that all-to-familiar feeling of standing at the blackboard and not knowing the answer.

Look closer: 4 + 5 = 9, except in the world of Dennis the Menace, where it equals 8.

Some readers took that to mean in the world of Dennis the Menace, 9 = 8.

Some of those readers were in Boston that day, preparing for the Game 3 of the ALCS between the Rays and the Red Sox.

And, the Rays advanced that far in the postseason (and would advance farther, still) because, Class? Nine equals eight!

Someone in the Rays organization or a Rays fan or a friend of manager Joe Maddon (I can't remember which) sent a copy of the cartoon to Maddon. It now hangs in his office inside the Trop.

It was proof, Maddon said, of just how far Rays mania spread in 2008.

Even Dennis Mitchell believed. Wonder what good ol' Mr. Wilson thought?

And to have it run in mid-October when the Rays were on their way to the World Series is something you can't make up.

Except, that wasn't the case.

Marcus Hamilton, who draws the Monday to Saturday Dennis the Menace one-panel cartoons, wasn't aware of the odd connection between Dennis and the Rays.

In a phone interview back in June, Hamilton explained he draws the cartoons weeks in advance, so to tip his pen to the Rays and have it run during the ALCS would have been a big risk.

Also, Hamilton said he is a football fan, and wasn't aware of the Rays remarkable run to the World Series or the 9 = 8 theme.

Way to kill a great story, Marcus.

When told of the non-connection, Maddon smiled and said, "Great. A total coincidence. This makes the story even cooler."

I suppose it does.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October Madness

Did you hear how quiet it was at Fenway Park on Sunday after Erick Aybar grabbed Dustin Pedroia's fly ball for the final out? Deafening.

Is it me or are baseball's playoffs taking on a March Madness feel?

You have a historic meltdown/comeback in the Dodgers' Game 2 win against the Cardinals.

You have Alex Rodriguez - Yes, A-Rod - hitting a two-run bomb in the ninth inning Friday to start the Yankees comeback.

You have the Red Sox, one strike from a win to three straight batters, yet going home after Jonathan Papelbon not only allows the first postseason runs of his career, but also blows his first postseason save.

Papelbon was protecting a two-run lead when he allowed a two-out, two-strike single to Aybar. He had two strikes on Chone Figgins before issuing a walk.

Papelbon had two strikes on Bobby Abreu, before Abreu lifted an RBI double off the Green Monster.

No way Vladimir Guerrero was going to let the count go deep on him. He swung at the first pitch and drove in the tying and winning runs with a single to center.

Red Sox Nation, screaming in all its glory when Aybar seemed ready to make the final out, stood stone-like as the Angels celebrated their three-game sweep.

The first week of the playoffs have been must-see cable TV.

Man, I love this game.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cardinal Blue

When was the last time a team was down to its final out with no one on base and came back to win a postseason game when that final out became a game-changing error? Never, according to the folks at ESPN.

Never, at least, until Matt Holliday lost a two-out, bases-empty line drive Thursday in either the Dodger Stadium lights (likely) or the white towels waved by Dodger fans (unlikely) that opened the door to the Dodgers improbable 3-2 come-from-behind win.

Holliday makes the catch - and he made one error in 63 games with the Cardinals this season - and the series shifts to St. Louis tied at 1-1 with the Cardinals having the home field advantage.

But Holliday doesn't, and now the Dodgers are one win from advancing to the NLCS.

''I didn't see the ball,'' Holliday told reporters in L.A. after the game. ''Obviously, I can catch a ball that's hit right at me. It's very difficult to swallow. We had a chance to win the game. It was unfortunate that it happened when it did.''

St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright, who was in line for the win, had this to say: ''That ball got lost in 50,000 white towels shaking in front of Matt's face. It doesn't really seem fair that an opposing team should be able to allow their fans to shake white towels when there's a white baseball flying through the air. How about Dodger Blue towels?"

I thought about that as I watched the Tigers-Twin playoff game Tuesday and the NLDS games in Philly. Fans there wave white towels. The ball is white. Is it possible for a player to lose a ball in the towels?

I would think so. I wonder why it hasn't already happened.

I don't think it happened Thursday, because Dodger crowds are a tad laid back, and I doubt they would be waving towels when James Loney sent that catchable line drive toward Holliday in left field. Maybe before the pitch, but once the ball was hit? I don't think so. It wasn't like it was whistled down the left field line, drilled into the gap or sent sailing over the outfield wall. Loney didn't give the Dodger fans a chance to cheer. Holliday did.

Holliday is considered the goat, though Cardinals All-Star closer Ryan Franklin deserves equal blame. He didn't retire a single batter in the ninth.

Still, Holliday makes the catch and the biggest news Thursday was the Angels win against the Red Sox.

But he didn't, and we were treated to something we have never seen before in the long history of postseason baseball.

Boy, I love this game.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Great game on Tuesday. More, please.

Alexi Casilla is the first hero of the postseason, though technically, his heroics took place during an extended regular season, but let's not argue over minor details.

Tuesday's game between the Twins and the Tigers, Game 163 of the regular season for those two teams, was necessary to determine the AL Central champ, so it was every bit a playoff game. It was no different from a Game 5 of the ALDS or a Game 7 of the ALCS.

Winner moves on. Loser goes home.

The Twins were winners thanks to Casilla's 12th inning single that drove home the winning run in a 6-5 victory. This after Casilla's inability to properly tag at third base in the 10th cost the Twins what would have been the winning run.

The game was the perfect warm-up to the postseason.

The Tigers jumped to a 3-0 lead. They blew a 3-0 lead.

They trailed 4-3 and led 5-4.

Tigers closer, Fernando Rodney (He of the wayward toss into the Tropicana Field press box after a game Sept. 4)turned in the performance of his life, pitching three innings but took the loss.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire used seven relievers, and five turned in scoreless outings.

Tigers left fielder Ryan Raburn lost a ball in the lights and played a single into a triple that allowed the Twins tie the score at 5-5 in the 10th. Goat? Maybe. But it was Radburn who threw Casilla out at the plate to end the inning and extend the Tigers season for two more innings.

It was a game you didn't want to see end, unless you were a fan of the Twins or Tigers.

The game was necessary because the Tigers couldn't hold a seven game lead in the final month of the season. We know this about the Twins, they don't quit.

Minnesota came on strong at the end of the 2008 season and forced a one-game playoff with the Chicago White Sox.

Orlando Cabrera was the White Sox shortstop last year. He is the Twins shortstop this year.

Maybe Cabrera is the key to winning these one-game playoffs in the AL Central. He is to that division what Eric Hinske is to the AL East. Can't win the title without him.

This is the third straight year a one-game playoff was necessary to determine the final playoff team. The Rockies beat the Padres in a thriller in 2007. The White Sox beat the Twins 1-0 in 2008. Tuesday gave us the epic 12 inning Twins victory.

All three games were decided by one run. Two were decided in extra innings with walk-off victories. The other ended with diving catch in center field.

I don't know about you, but I kind like these one-game play-ins.

The postseason starts today. The Twins had 21 hours to celebrate their victory, fly to New York, get some sleep and prepare to battle the Yankees, winners of 103 games this season, in Game 1 of the ALDS that begins tonight at 6 p.m.

I wouldn't mind a repeat of Tuesday's dual at the dome as we go forward with this postseason.

Would it be too much to ask a few Game 5s and maybe a Game 7 in one ALCS be decided by such a contest?

And, if that's not too much, can the World Series go seven games? And can Game 7 go 12 innings?

Give me those, and I won't ask for anything else until next season.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Game 1

I remember driving over the Sunshine Skyway and catching my first glimpse of Tropicana Field. The white, round building with the funny roof never looked better.

It was drenched in sun light. No kidding, it sparkled.

I was as excited as I had ever been to make the drive over the bridge and through the side streets of St. Pete to that ballpark.

It was Game 1 of the American League Division Series. The playoffs. And the Tampa Bay Rays were playing.

I remember thinking as I drove across Tampa Bay and watched the stadium dance under the sunlight that I never dreamed I would ever be making that ride for that reason.

The Rays had been the worst franchise in professional sports for their first 10 years. They finished last in their division and with the worst record in baseball in both 2006 and 2007.

But there they were, Oct. 2, 2008, the American League East champs, playing host to the Chicago White Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS.

We didn't really know it at the time, but the entire baseball world would head to the Trop last October, because the Rays would take care of the White Sox, out-last the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series and play the Phillies in the World Series.

I remember having a good feeling about the Rays a year ago today as I made the ride from my house to the Trop. Carl Crawford would be back in the lineup, and I felt they could beat the White Sox that afternoon, which would give them the advantage in the best-of-five series.

They did, winning 6-4 behind the pitching of James Shields and two home runs from soon-to-be rookie of the year Evan Longoria.

Much like Longoria, the Rays were babes in baseball's postseason, but the intense light never got in their eyes. Maybe the rain in Philly, but not the glare from the postseason spotlight.

Tonight, the Rays play the Yankees at the Trop in a game that means very little except to Yankee starter CC Sabathia, who needs one more victory for a 20-win season.

The talk around the Rays as they finish out the season with one final three-game series is, What went wrong?

Let's leave that for another day. Today, let's celebrate the anniversary of Game 1 of the 2008 ALDS, a day we never thought we'd see, a day we wish to see again.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pirates, Rays come up big

The Pirates and Rays put some money together and renovated the baseball fields at Norma Lloyd Park in Bradenton for the RBI Program, run by the 13th Ave. Community Rec Center.

Great move.

You won't find many major league teams that will work with another on a community project, mainly because it's hard to find two teams that share a fan base, Rays president Matt Silverman said.

The Rays and Pirates do.

The Pirates train in Bradenton. The Rays play across the bay from Bradenton. Actually, across the bay from Palmetto, but you can see Tropicana Field from several points in Bradenton.

Rays pitcher James Shields and Pirates pitcher Matt Capps, who lives in Bradenton, also kicked in, showing they do more than talk about caring for the fan base, they actually contribute to making something better for said fans.

The ball fields are beautiful. The kids in the RBI program don't know how fortunate they are to have a pair of diamonds of that quality.

It won't make them better ball players, though it could help the infielders with their fielding.

They key to their development is the input from the parents. Will they help maintain the fields? Will they help nurture the love for the game?

Football is the sport of choice in Bradenton, with every receiver hoping to be the next Peter Warrick and every quarterback hoping to be the next Tommie Frazier and every defender wanting to be the next Michael Jenkins or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

But there is nothing to say they can't be the next Lastings Milledge or Lance Carter or Joe Mays, a trio of major league players who learned their skills on those very ball fields.

Patrick Carnegie, the executive director of the 13th Ave. Coomunity Rec Center, who played ball on those fields more than a few years ago, had this to say Thursday morning as he glanced around the complex, "It really is a field of dreams, so you never know."

Hey kids, Play Ball!