Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rays Give Big Crowd Something to Cheer About

Saturday was turn back the clock day at the Trop, and it attracted an announced crowd of 24,000 people. There were of course many Rays fans, but there were many more people who came to the game to cheer the Dodgers; or to relive the Brooklyn Dodgers and meet the great Dodgers of the past on hand. Kazmir pitched well against the Dodgers giving up 3 runs in 6 innings. The Rays took the lead in the 8th inning on a Dioner Navarro home run and the bullpen managed to hold the lead.

This is the type of game that the Rays have not been winning and need to. Of course you want to win every game, and you do not want to say one game is more important than the other, but some are. When a big crowd shows up to the Trop for whatever reason, the Rays need to win that game. The Rays made a big push through the media to get people to come out to this game. They sweetened the deal by giving away Don Zimmer bobble heads and bringing in some of Zim's great teammates off of the 1955 World Champion Dodger team. I think all of this effort would have been for naught had the Rays lost.

Tampa fans are very fickle and like to watch winning teams. The Buccaneers and Lighting have shown that when you put a winning product on the field, fans in Tampa will show up and support the team, but if the team ia not winning fans won't be there. To make sure you have fans coming back and supporting the team you need to win the games where people came to game for some other reason than they enjoy Rays baseball. There is nothing worse than when the Rays draw a big crowd and stink up the joint. You leave the game and hear people talk about what a waste it was and how bad the team is. The Rays need to win over fans, and the best way to do that in Tampa is to win.

I was at the game and to me the Rays seemed to win over some people. The game was exciting and the Trop was rocking in the 9th inning with Reyes in for the save. My sister-in-law came to game with my wife and I and had a blast, and she usually hates baseball. The excitement of the game and the result has made her a fan; she actually asked if we could watch the game on TV today. The Rays won over one fan that I know of yesterday, and i am willing to bet they won over some more also. In order for this team to get over the hump and get fans on board, they need to win when they get people to the ballpark. The Rays took a step forward yesterday, and I am confident it is only the beginning.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Breaking News-- Elijah Dukes Off Rays Roster

Elijah Dukes is off the Rays roster. The Rays have not said if he was traded or released at this time. Andrew Friedman is supposed to make a statement sometime soon about what is going on, but Dukes is off the Rays roster. The Rays have called up veteran Dustin Mohr to takes Dukes spot on the roster.

This move seems like a long time coming for the Rays who have not played Dukes since the St. Pete times reported that he allegedly had sex with a 17 year old who was living with his grandmother. While Dukes was riding the bench on the road things only got more complicated here in Tampa. Local radio station 620 WDAE has been bombarded by calls from Nishea Gilbert (dukes' ex-wife) and from Dukes' family members. The St. Petersberg times also ran a story daily about some part of Elijah's life.

The Rays, who had been looking to move Elijah to another team, said the talk increased after Elijah called into 620 WDAE to defend himself. In that call Elijah was very defensive and yelled, which is understandable after being awoken from family members saying his family was under attack on the radio. The St. Pete times immediately wrote a story about the phone call. The next day Elijah allegedly told a SPT reporter to go F--- Off and the it seemed the Rays ran out of options. I hope the Rays traded Elijah and did not just outright release him, but it is unsure at this time. If he was released I hope Elijah is picked up and gets a fresh start somewhere else as a change of scenery maybe exactly what he needs.

We have just learned that Elijah Dukes has been optioned tothe minor leagues and has been placed on the temporarily disabled list. This will give the Rays time to try and trade him and have a replacement on the team in case one of the OF goes down and we do not have to go with Norton and Gomes in the OF again.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What to do about Rocco

The Devil Rays thought they were going to have Rocco Baldelli back in the lineup this evening, but after suffering yet another set-back, it looks like he will be out 4-8 weeks. Rocco, who has not played since may 15th due to a pulled hamstring, was rehabbing this week in Durham when he tweaked his hamstring running out of the batters box on Tuesday. Things looked to be fine on Monday when Rocco played DH in his first game on his DL stint and went 3-5 including a home run in Durham. The Rays decided to let him play CF on Tuesday and he tweaked himself running out of the box late in the game.

This set-back is another in a long line of injuries or injury set-backs for Rocco, who has only played in only 263 games since his rookie year in 2003, is immensely talented, but i think it is safe to say he is injury prone. Since the end of 2004 Rocco has had a knee surgery, a tommy john surgery, a quad problem, and now hamstring problems. It just seems that Rocco cannot stay healthy and if its not one thing it is another.

Rocco when healthy is a threat to go 30/30 each year and is one of the best defensive center fielders in the league. Rocco is a 5 tool player and has shown flashes of being that great outfielder the Rays though he would be when they drafted him, but it becomes moot when he can't stay on the field. The Rays need to figure out why his hamstring keeps flaring up on him and how they get can get it treated. Maybe the Rays should contact the Reds training staff as Ken Griffey Jr seems to be over his hamstring problems that sidelined him for so long.

The Rays at one time had a glut of outfield talent and it seemed that would could not find a way to get them all on the field, but between Elijah Dukes problems, Josh Hamilton being picked up in the rule 5 draft, and Rocco's injuries the Rays are looking real thin in the outfield. The Rays are so thin that on Wednesday, when Carl Crawford was given the day off, the outfield consisted on Johnny Gomes, Delmon Young, and Greg Norton. The Rays talented outfield has now become one injury away from quite possibly the worst outfield in the league. The Rays have put BJ Upton into center field a couple times this and many believe that will be his position in the future, but he is out right now due to injury.
As great as BJ might be in the outfield, Rocco is a better defensive fielder out there and i would prefer to have Rocco out in the field, but it seems that may not happen. The Rays really need to evaluate what to do with Rocco and how to move forward with him. The Rays could keep him at DH and hope that takes pressure off of his hamstrings, but then you lose his great defense and the last two tweaks have come from running out of the batters box. The Rays may just have to hope to get him to play enough and trade him away for something decent. The Rays had offers for Rocco this year, but did not feel it was good value. I love Rocco out in the outfield, but of we can't get him to stay on the field maybe it would be better to get something for him. The best time for the Rays to trade him would be now while his contract has not started to escalate, but no one will give you close to value while he is hurt. Also, what happens if Rocco goes on to stay healthy and becomes what we all know he is capable of?
I think the Rays need to find a different doctor or expert to help Rocco out. The hamstring problem has got to be fixable and their has to be something that can help and I think the Rays need to figure out what that is. Rocco is a force in the field and if healthy will be a top outfielder in the league. The Rays need to decide what they can do to get this guy back on the field and keep him healthy. Once he is on the field and healthy than they may have to make another decision on if they believe he will stay healthy. As tough as the decision will be, I am hoping we actually get to it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bucs Start Mini Camp

The Buccaneers started mini camp yesterday and just as Jon Gruden said Jeff Garcia was the number one Quarterback on the depth chart getting most of the reps. The surprising thing was that Bruce Gradkowski got the majority of the reps that were left. Simms throwing motion is messed up at the moment as he is still adjusting from the spleen surgery he had last year. Chris Simms has said that he is still not 100% and is adjusting his throwing motion to protect that mid-section. At the moment it looks that Bruce Gradkowski is the back-up quarterback to Jeff Garcia and Chris Simms will be the number three starter. Gruden during a television interview spoke directly to Jake Plummer telling him if he is watching that they would love to have him. One has to wonder why Chris re-signed here as it has always been obvious that Gruden hates him and would rather have a guy who does not want to play in this league over Simms.

Second round pick Aaron Sears who is fighting for a starting spot in the offensive line missed the first day to "some issues he is going through" according to the Buccaneers. Petigout did not practice in the morning, but did practice in the afternoon. The offensive line will be key to the Bucs this season. Buenning is trying to be moved to center, which would be a great move if he can play center to have a solid line all the way across. A player that you should watch for is Maurice Stovall. I think Stovall will be the number two reciever on the team when the season starts. Stovall is a big strong reciever who can go underneath and up top.

Brian Kelly is back and ready to get going. Kelly is healthy and wants to get back out on the field and compete. This is great news for the Bucs because they are a much better defense when Kelly is in the lineup across from Barber. Kelly is our best shutdown corner and he was extremely missed last year in the secondary. While Kelly does want a new contract he is not planning on holding out and don't look for the Bucs to get a new contract done anytime soon as Bruce Allen has said that Kelly is making what he should be and they will look into an extension next year.

Simeon Rice was also seen at camp running sprints and laps. Simeon looked real good running and is recovering nicely from his shoulder surgery last year. Simeon did not participate in any of the practices, but was out there and running. Simeon is still in good shape and the Bucs are claiming he will be ready for the start of Training Camp on July 27th. Simeon will be needed to help out the Bucs pass rush, which was one of the worst in the league last year. The Bucs have said that they plan on rotating Gaines Adams in with Simeon, but I think they should keep Simeon in when Adams comes into play, which will allow the Bucs to put pressure on the Quarterbacks.

The Linebackers look good in mini camp. Barrett Ruud, who is now the starter, has looked the best he has since being in a Buccaneers uniform. I have always liked Ruud as he is a smart linebacker with great instincts, but he was stuck behind Quarles. While I still think the situation revolving around Quarles stinks to high heaven i believe we are in good hands with Barret Ruud. Ruud was a star at Nebraska and was effected last year early on by the loss of his mom. Derrick Brooks has commented that Ruud has asked more questions and has looked better than he as every seen Ruud since joining the Bucs. Cato June has looked as one of the most athletic Linebackers on the team and has looked great in coverage. June most likely will move to the other side and take Nece's job as the Bucs have no plans of moving Brooks from his spot on in the linebacking corp. The Linebackers look real solid and with guys like Nece, Chukwurah, Black, Winborne backing up the starters. The Bucs also hinted that you may see some 3-4 sprinkled in during the course of the year.

The return of Raheem Morris as the secondary coach has created a lot of excitement to the defense and the team. No players are happier with his return than Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen. Phillips and Allen had their best seasons and seemed to be improving every year while Morris was coaching, but last year they both took a huge step back and looked bad during most games. While people may say that Morris could not have made that big of a difference, if you watch the games it is obvious he does. Phillips and Allen's problems stemmed mostly from being out of position and not being able to adjust, these are things that Morris will fix. Phillips and Allen also need to watch out for Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson. Piscitelli and Jackson have looked good and under Morris they may be ready to step right in. Piscitelli seems to be more ready than Jackson as he has played safety longer, but if I was Allen or Phillips I would make sure i was paying attention and playing well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Gomes and Harris lead Rays bast D-Backs

Coming into tonight's game the Rays had never lost to the Diamondbacks, going 6-0 in two series against the D-Backs in inter league play. The D-Backs had been on a nice run and were coming off of a good series against the Orioles and the Rays are coming off of a 2-4 game stretch against the Padres and Rockies. The Diamondbacks looked poised to finally beat the Rays as the Rays sent Edwin Jackson to the mound, who is still seeking his first win as a Ray, against experienced Livan Hernandez.

Jackson, whose job has been in jeopardy after bad outings most of the year and Jason Hammel being called up, looked very good until he was pulled due to injury. Jackson left the game with a fatigued and strained middle finger ligament on his pitching hand. Jackson did not want to leave the game and could be seen telling the coaches and trainers no as they told him he was coming out. You have to feel for Jackson who needed only 1/3 more of an inning to qualify for the win. Jackson went 4 1/3 innings giving up two runs on four hits and four walks. Jackson looked impressive most of the night except for a rough 3rd inning. Jackson wanted to stay in for the win, but the Rays don't want him injured, and I hope he makes his next start as he proved he deserved it.

While getting a good pitching performance from Jackson, Hammel, and Glover the Rays offense definitely scored enough runs led by Brendan Harris and Jonny Gomes. Harris almost became the first Ray in history to hit for the cycle coming up a double short. Gomes continued his torrid pace since coming up from the minors hitting another home run, his fourth since being called up on June 14th. Crawford also contributed to the effort with two rbi and a stolen base. The Rays bats which had been held silent since the start of the Padres series have come alive the last two games and they hope to continue that through this series and when they come home to play the Dodgers.

This tear that Gomes has been on is reminiscent of the one he went on two years ago after being sent down and called back up and I hope he can keep it up. Gomes has struggled since May of last year and has had trouble hitting the off speed pitches. Gomes claimed he needed more AB's to get it worked out, but most including me, felt he needed to go back down and learn to adjust in Durham. There is no doubt that Gomes has power and can hit the ball a long way, he just needs to learn to take pitches and hit the off speed stuff. We all love the way Jonny plays the game and so does the Rays organization. Look for Gomes to get regular time in RF for the foreseeable future as he his bat is leaving him in the lineup. Rocco Baldelli is expected to return to the team on Friday, but should play a decent amount of DH to try and keep his hamstrings uninjured, which will give Gomes time in RF when Rocco DH's and time at DH when Rocco is CF. The concern for Johnny will be when BJ and Rocco are in the lineup everyday, Gomes may find it hard to get AB's than, unless the Rays do trade Ty Wigginton, which has been discussed.

The Rays will look to continue the winning ways tomorrow as they take on the Diamondbacks again. The Rays will send J.P. Howell to the mound (1-1 with a 3.60 ERA) and he will be opposed by Doug Davis (4-8 with a 3.70 ERA).

Monday, June 18, 2007

Rays need to decide on Dukes now

Elijah Dukes has not been in the starting lineup since news came out that he would soon be the father of his sixth kid by five different women, and this time it was with a 17 year old foster child. While what Elijah did was not against Florida law, it just became one more thing that Elijah and the Rays had to answer about. While Elijah does not want to speak to the media, and honestly I understand his position on why, his ex-wife has been more than happy to come out and talk about the situation. Now i know the Rays are trying to figure out what to do, but they need to do it fast for Elijah's sake.

One can understand that the Rays are in a very difficult position here. The Rays are taking heat from all sides in this situation. The media and many fans want Elijah off of the team and he would be gone by now if it was up to them. On the other hand there is the MLBPA, which is not going to let them cut him for these transgressions and also there are still many fans who believe in Elijah and are calling for the Rays to help. Meanwhile the Rays have decided to bench Elijah while they are on this road trip during inter league play and only pinch hitting him for the pitcher when that is needed. Elijah cannot be happy about this and i for one have seen him pissed about this the first day he was benched. The Rays need to understand that Dukes still has friends on this team and by stretching out this situation they are only hurting chemistry on the team and allowing others to start to be angry with the Rays front office.

We know that there has been interest in Dukes by other teams and I think that may be the best thing for Dukes at this time. Dukes grew up in this area and maybe a change of scenery will help him out. Right now Dukes and his family are under a microscope and anything they do will be scrutinized and it is easy to find out anything you want about him because everyone in Tampa knows something about him. Dukes and his family would benefit from a trade to another team and another town. The Rays need to help make this happen by trading him. The Rays need to realize though that they will not get what they perceive as value for Dukes at this time due to his off the filed problems, lack of playing time, and he is slumping right now when he does play. I think that the pressure and stress is getting to Elijah and he just needs to be traded. The Rays can help him and I think that would be the best thing for both sides. Whatever the Rays do it will be ridiculed by some and praised by others.

For those interested in hearing both sides of the Elijah Dukes situation click on the 620 WDAE link on my site and go to there podcasts. Sign up on the site, its free, and check out the on and Ian podcasts. They have interviews from both sides of this situation, listen to both and remember the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Did Edwin pitch himself out of the rotation?

The Rays recently called up Jason Hammel to replace demoted Chad Orvella in the bullpen, but Edwin Jackson might have just made a case for Hammel to move to the rotation. The Rays have already retooled the back end of the rotation with two starters from Durham, Sonnanstine and Howell, and with the way Hammel pitched in a 7 inning relief of Edwin tonight, Edwin's job may be in jeopardy. Joe Maddon had to pull Jackson in the first inning after he gave up fives runs and had only managed to get one out. Hammel came in to relieve Jackson and pitched 7 strong innings giving up three runs on six hits while striking out eight.
Jackson had to be thinking in the back of his mind before this start that he needed to look good. The Rays have been making some moves recently and have said that they will not settle for mediocrity anymore. The rotation and bullpen have been altered for the better so far and Jackson has looked very unimpressive. Although Hammel was called up to pitch out of the Bullpen, he is a starter and with the success of the Durham starters that have been called up so far i am sure Jackson was not comfortable. Jackson should have used this pressure to show his stuff, but it looks like he fell flat on his face.
Jackson poses quite a dilemma for the Rays because he is out of options. What Jackson really needs is more time to pitch and that should be in Durham. Jackson should be getting the work he needs and innings he needs to be successful in Durham, but he can't because he would have to pass waivers to go to Durham and that won't happen. Last year Jackson proved he was not a great option in the bullpen as he is a slow starter and gets stronger as the game goes on. Also, Jackson just needs innings as a pitcher to get it all down. Jackson was converted into a pitcher by the Dodgers after drafting him and was rushed up to the big leagues without getting the seasoning he needed. What Jackson really needs is time to pitch and learn to harness his talent, but the Rays and fans are growing restless.
The Rays ownership and fans can look to a similar situation for hope though. In 2003 the Detroit Tigers were one of the worst teams ever in baseball and there starting pitching was not very good. In 2003 Mike Maroth lost over 20 games and Jeremy Bonderman lost 19 games. Both of the starters had a mid to high five era and did not look good on the mound, but the Tigers kept running them out there. People said they were ruing their pitchers, or they just commented that these pitchers were never going to be good. Now, four years later, Bonderman anchors one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, which includes Mike Maroth. These guys learned how to use there talent and learned to pitch at the big league level and maybe that's what Jackson has to do. Jackson has the talent he just needs to figure out how to use it, but will they give him that time?
Although similar to the Tigers situation, Jackson's and the Rays situation is a bit different. When Bonderman and Maroth were in the rotation the Tigers were horrible, but the Rays have been making a push and the better they get the worse Jackson looks right now. Also, the fans in Detroit did not expect more out of them, but the Rays fans see a glimmer of hope and when Jackson gets on the mound it seems to disappear. Finally, Maroth and Bonderman did not have some young pitcher who could come in and pitch better than them, but Jackson has multiple guys behind him that could take his spot. Jackson has talent, but do we have enough patience to wait for him to finally show it?

Peyton Tops Preliminary QB Rankings Again

It is still a long way out from the fantasy football season, but there is no better time than the present to start getting ready and looking forward. Obviously things will change during Training Camps and Preseason, but there is value in looking at rankings now. I have ranked the passers who at the moment have the starting job and have not included any quarterbacks drafted in this NFL Draft. Although you could see a Brady Quinn or JaMarcus Russell get the job, I still probably will not rank them high or want them on my team as the likelihood of either thriving this year are slim to none.

Peyton Manning again topped my list as the top Quarterback available and the only one i can see an argument for taking in the first round of a draft in standards leagues. The second tier is made up three great quarterbacks and i believe that after Tier 2 the Quarterbacks start to become even and no one really sets themselves apart from each other. Anyone below tier 3 i would not be comfortable going into the year as my starter, but could have solid years if they continue to develop or have a bounce back year. In standard 10-12 team leagues you could not pay me to take anyone in the last tier.

The off season is long and dark and we are starting to come out of it now. I was excited to get started on my rankings and i have done a couple mocks so far and i seem to be pretty close to where these guys have gone in the mocks i have done. I hope you enjoy and feel free to lay into me if you think i am wrong.

Tier 1

Peyton Manning

Tier 2

Tom Brady
Drew Brees
Carson Palmer

Tier 3

Mark Bulger
Jon Kitna
Matt Hasselbeck
Donovan McNabb
Tony Romo
Matt Leinart
Philip Rivers
Ben Roethlisberger
Eli Manning
Vince Young
Mike Vick

Tier 4

Jay Cutler
Alex Smith
Jake Delhomme
Matt Schaub
JP Losman
Steve McNair

Tier 5

Brett Favre
Jason Campbell
Jeff Garcia
Chad Pennington
Trent Green
Damon Huard

Tier 6

Tarvaris Jackson
Rex Grossman
Byron Leftwich
Charlie Frye
Andrew Walter

Monday, June 11, 2007

Rays Odds and Ends

620 WDAE is reporting that the Nationals are looking to acquire Rays center fielder Elijah Dukes. The Rays have said that they believe it would be best for Elijah if he was to go to another team and get out of Tampa due to all of his problems. The Nationals are not the only team interested in the center fielder, but these talks seem more serious than any other team thus far. While the two sides are said to still be apart on the issue, the Rays should be looking for some bullpen help in return. Elijah does not have the trade value that he once had due to his off the field problems and his continued slump at the plate, but he has shown that he is a capable center Fielder and the Nationals are in need of some outfield help. If Dukes were to go to the Nationals he could be around Dimitri Young, brother of Rays Delmon, who Elijah knows well and by going to another team Elijah would get a fresh start.
62o is also reporting that the Rays have talked with the Minnesota Twins about trading Ty Wigginton. The Rays gave Wigginton a shot last year and he has shown what he can do and has been a great presence to the team, but with so much young infield talent Wigginton has become expendable. With the emergence of Bendan Harris and Carlos Pena the infield has become crowded and Rocco will be back soon making Upton full time at second once again. The Twins have always seemed like a grade trade option for the Rays to me since they have so many young arms. The Twins have great pitching, but lack hitting while the Rays have great young position players and not much in the way of pitching at the major league level. If the Rays can get some bullpen help for Wiggy i would be all for it.
The Rays have sent Chad Orvella and Tim Corcoran back down to Durham, but have not said who will be called up to replace them. The announcement should be made sometime later today. I hope the Rays call up another young guy or someone who has not been given a chance yet, rather than recycling the likes of Seth McClung and Rudy Lugo. Lugo and McClung have proven what Orvella and Corcoran have, that they are Minor league pitchers that will not be effective on the major league level. The Rays need to try some other guys to get the pen fixed. Edit- The Rays have called up Jason Hammel to replace one of the relievers. The Rays have not said whether Hammel will go to the pen or take E-Jax spot in the rotation. I hope the Rays leave E in the rotation as he is a guy who pitches better the more he pitches and he already struggled in the pen last year. Also, the Rays are going to workout former A, Jay Witasik tomorrow and he could be signed and take the second spot opened up by the demotions. If the Rays signed Witasik they would need to make room for him on the 40 man roster, which means someone would need to be cut. I would look at one of the relievers that was just sent down to be gone.
BJ Upton's injury was not as bad as it looked on Friday and he will not head to the DL. The Rays will still be cautious with Upton, so i do not expect him to be back until the Padres series starting on Friday. Dioner Navarro is also better than expected and actually was the emergency catcher on Sunday in Miami. With Casanova playing well, it should give Navarro time to get better before he comes back fully.

Rays Take Series Against the 'Fins Despite Bullpen

The Series against the Marlins could not have started any worse for the Devil Rays. After over an hour of a rain delay, BJ Upton came to the plate after Iwamura got out and went down with a strained Quad trying to beat out a infield single. Starting catcher Dioner Navarro would be carried off in a stretcher later in the game after taking a ball off the neck behind the plate. Finally, the Rays watched as the bullpen blew a six run lead, the second time in 4 days that the pen blew a huge league. The bullpen was so bad that the Rays turned to Josh Wilson, utility infield, to pitch the 8th inning and he actually was the best pitcher of the night for the Rays.

Lucky for the Rays their ace, Jaime Shields, took the mound on Saturday to steady the ship once again. Shields produced another gem going seven innings and only giving up two runs. Gary Glover, who has emerged as the only reliable option outside of Reyes in pen, pitched the 8th and 9th without giving up a run to hold the win for the Rays. Shields looked amazing as usual during the game and showed why he is the staff ace and why he should be an all-star. Shields has not had a start yet in which he left and the Rays were down in the game. If the Rays had a pen Shields could be 9-0 easily and maybe better.

The Rays sent rookie Andy Sonnanstine to the mound on Sunday to close out the series. Andy looked unhittable in his second career start and earned the win. At one point in the game Sonnanstine struck out seven batters in a row, which came only two shy of the American league record. Sonnanstine also helped out with his bat getting timely hits and driving in runs, not bad for a guy who has not seen an at bat since his Junior year in high school. Sonnanstine moved the ball in and out of the strike zone and was hitting his spots. If Sonny can continue to hit his spots and stay away from the center of the strike zone he will be a very effective pitcher.

The Rays are currently 4-2 on this nine game road trip with a three game series against the Rockies starting on Tuesday. The Rays could easily be 6-0 on the road trip right now if it wasn't for the bullpen. The bullpen blew a five run lead in the 9th against the Jays on Tuesday and than followed that up with blowing a six run lead on Friday. If the pen was half way decent the Rays could be fighting for a wild card spot this year, but since they forgot to address the bullpen we have to sit through this crap they call relief pitching. Hopefully the Rays front office is watching the same thing we are and realizing that they are not that far off. The Front Office finally solved the Jae Seo and Casey Fossum part of the rotation by calling up Howell and Sonnanstine, hopefully they will do the same with the bullpen.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Rays Looking for Payback against Cross State Rival

The Rays started off inter league play with a 3 game set against their cross state rival The Florida Marlins on May 18-20. The Rays were coming off of a sweep of the Rangers in Orlando and were looking to keep the streak going, meanwhile the Marlins were ending a 10 game road trip in that they started 2-5. The Rays were feeling pretty good about the series at home and should have after the sweep and having a struggling team come into town. The Series did not go the way the Rays expected as they were swept out of their own building in convincing fashion.
The Rays are again coming off of a nice series in which they took two of three from the Blue Jays and could easily swept the series had their bullpen not blown a five run lead in the ninth inning of the first game. The Rays bats were on fire in Toronto, especially Carl Crawford who went 8/16, scored and drove in seven, and tacked on three stolen bases. The Rays pitching staff has still been up and down and the bullpen looked horrid in the first game against the Blue Jays.
The Marlins are coming into the game having won three of their last four. The Marlins pitching staff have not given up more than four runs only once in their last fourteen games and the hitting is starting to come around for them as well. The Marlins have also got a boost from a place that no one would expect, Byung-Hyun Kim. Kim, who was traded from the Rockies to the Marlins for Jorge Julio just before the first series with Rays, has gone 2-0 and has only given up 7 runs in his last 22.2 innings. The Marlins are still being led on offense by Cabrera and Ramirez, but are getting contributions from others as well.
The Rays will send JP Howell to the mound in the first game to match up against Kim. Howell looked great in his first start after being called up from Durham, giving up only one run in eight innings while striking out seven and walking none. Hopefully Howell can keep it up and add another solid starter to the rotation and help the Rays keep momentum going. The second game will feature a match up of Aces as Jamie Shields takes the mound against Dontrelle Willis and the final game will feature Andy Sonnenstine against Sergio Mitre, who has been on fire recently.
What to Watch for:
Can the Rays bullpen keep up what they did in the last two games of the Blue Jays series or will they regress to that ninth inning of the first game of that series. Gary Glover has emerged as an 8th inning guy who can get the job done and hopefully he keeps it up.
Miguel Olivo was the one who spiked Josh Paul in the previous Marlins/Rays series, which caused Paul to go on the DL for 4-6 weeks. Olivo was not hit by the Rays pitchers afterwards.....
The return of Akinori Iwamura to the lineup. Aki, who has been out for a couple days due to taking a ball to the eye will return to the lineup this weekend. Aki will bat lead off and will start at 3B...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Decision Looms for the Rays

The Rays have the number pick in the upcoming MLB Amateur draft that will be held on June 7th and 8th. The Rays have the luxury of knowing that their man will be there, they just may not be sure who that is. The players who are rumored to catch the Rays eye are David Price, Matt Weiters, and Josh Vitters. While I can see the Rays taking either Price or Weiters, I just do not see them taking Vitters. Vitters is a great 3B prospect, but the Rays are set at 3B and Vitters coming out of High School would take a while to get up to the big club. Price seems to make the most sense for the Rays since their one glaring problem is pitching, but with the arms they have now in the minors it would not surprise me if they went out and got Weiters, who is considered to be the best position player in the draft. The Rays may also be weary of taking another college pitcher in the first round, as their luck with first round college pitchers has not been the best.

Price is a 6-5 left hander who has been looked at as the consensus number 1 pick all year and his past performances show why. Prices numbers are phenomenal and have been his whole career. In 2006 Price had his "worst" college season going 9-5 with a 4.16 ERA, 155 strikeouts in 110.1 innings pitched with only 43 walks. Price followed that up with an outstanding performance for the US National team leading them to a Gold medal in Cuba. Price went 5-1 with a .20 ERA, with 61 strikeouts in 44 innings and while only walking 7. With Price leading the way Vanderbilt entered the 2007 season as a top program in the country. Price led the Commodores to the SEC Title going 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA. Price pitched 133.1 innings and struck out 194 while only walking 31. As you can see by his numbers, Price has lived up to the billing, but the number of innings may make the Rays a little weary. Price is a big strong kid with good movement on his fastball, a good slider, nice change-up and has great command. Price has the power and control you look for and is a left hander. Also, the Rays have had problems with character guys from their first round pick, but Price does not carry this risk. Anyone who is asked about Price talks about how great of a young man he is and how he prepares for a game and is a great leader.

Wieters is considered the best position player in the draft and can play not only Catcher and First Base, but also was a good pitcher for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Weiters is a big strong kid with a great arm, but needs to work on his footwork and blocking skills. In three years in College Weiters average never ended below .355 and he never had less than 10 home runs in a season. Weiters is a patient hitter and knows how to work the count to get himself into better position to be effective offensively. Weiters was a good relief pitcher for Georgia Tech averaging 5 saves a season and about a 3/1 strikeout to walk ration. Weiters obviously won't be pitching in the big leagues, but it does show his arm strength and accuracy he has behind the plate that will help him catching. His familiarity with pitching will also help him with his ability to call the game from behind the plate and relate to the pitcher. Right now Weiters is still a work in progress defensively, but with some time in the minors he could be a very solid defensive catcher to go along with his great offensive presence. If the Rays don't take Weiters number 1 overall he will most likely go to the Royals number 2 overall.
Now the Rays most glaring need is and always has been Pitching and so Price looks like the obvious choice. Price could be ready to come up to the Rays come the middle of the 2008 season and would make a great addition to the rotation with Kamir, Shields, Niemann and others. Weiters is an interesting pick for the Rays also though because they have never had that offensive minded catcher who can also play some defense. Navarro is just not what the the Rays expected and Riggans has not been healthy enough to show the Rays much after he was called up and given a shot. The Rays do have an interesting prospect in Jaso who is tearing the cover off the ball in Montgomery right now and also has thrown out over 50% of the runners who have stolen on him. The emergence of Jaso as a legitimate prospect may have weighed in on the Rays decision.
I think the best choice for the Rays is to take Price and add him to the other great young arms that we have, but I would understand if they took Wieters. A couple years ago the Twins were "forced" to take Joe Mauer because a college pitcher named Mark Prior was too expensive to sign. I guarantee no one on the Twins is regretting that decision at this moment. Here the "signability" issues may be switched as Weiters is represented by Boras, but there is precedent for a catcher to be taken above a pitcher and turn out better. If Weiters is the next Mauer i think you have to take him, but I think Price addresses a need for the Rays and he is simply too talented to pass up on. From what i am hearing the Rays will be taking David Price on Thursday, but either way I will be a happy man.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Donvan headed back to Florida?

A weekend after leaving the University of Florida to head the NBA and coach the Orlando Magic, Bill Donovan is headed back to the Gators. Donovan stated in his press conference that he has always been intrigued with the NBA and the "easy" thing to do would be to stay at Florida. Apparently, he was not as intrigued as he thought.
Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley was on his way to interview Anthony Grant, head coach of Virgina Commonwealth University, for the recently vacant head coaching position when he received a call from Donovan. After getting off the plane in Virgina he checked his voicemail and Donovan had left a message telling Foley not to do anything without talking to him first. Foley contacted Donovan and got back onto the plane and headed back to Gainesville.
The Florida Sentinel broke the story this morning that Donovan had contacted the Magic telling them that he was unsure of taking the job and wanted to go back to Florida. The Magic sent officials over to Donovan's home and they were surprised to be met by Donovan's assistant head coach at the door and told he was not going to talk to anyone right now. At first it looked as if the Magic may try to hold Donovan to his contract, but now it seems he will be let go from it and allowed to go back to the University Florida.
Donovan surprised many people by taking the Orlando job since he was in contract negotiations with Florida and had turned down multiple previous offers to coach at other places. Donovan had said that he was happy at Florida and wanted to stay at Florida and continue what he started so when the announcement came out that he had been talking with Orlando and in fact took the job shocked many. As shocked as people were by his leaving UF, this announcement is even more of a shock. To my knowledge no one has taken a job in the pros and than a couple days later said no thanks.
I think Donovan is making the right choice by staying at Florida because he is not a pro coach in my opinion. Donovan is a disciplinarian and known as a tough coach, which is the same style as Brian Hill who had recently been fired. I do believe that Donovan has ruined his reputation with the pro level by what he is doing now and may not get another chance in the NBA for a while, if ever. Donovan is a great college coach and I believe that he should stay there and for him I am glad he changed his mind. I am not sure why he had a change of heart, but I am sure many people will offer their opinion. If I had to offer my opinion, i would say that he never thought his decision through with himself or his family. Donovan is a family man and when he had time to sit back and think, I believe he realized the big mistake he was doing. Donovan will be the brunt of some media jokes and may have ruined his reputation with the NBA, but he is still a great coach and a better man. Welcome Back Billy, even if you were only gone a day.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Moves that may effect you

Free Agency not only changes the dynamic of the NFL, but also changes the dynamic of Fantasy Football. Players come and go and there stock rises or falls depending on the situation they go to. Last year Brees went to New Orleans and the stock of the Saints offensive players immediately went up. On the flip side sometimes a player will move teams to get more money, but the situation becomes worse and their fantasy stock drops. Here is a list of some of the key moves that may effect your fantasy draft.

Joey Harrington- At first this seemed like no news at all, but with Vick getting into more trouble and maybe jail time on the horizon Harrington maybe a viable bye week replacement. The Falcons have a new coach in Bobby Petrino who is very offensive minded and Vick honestly does not fit that system. Some of the young receivers are growing, Crumpler is a stud, and the combo of Dunn and Norwood is dynamite in the backfield. Watch the Vick situation closely and watch the wire as Harrington maybe a deep sleeper.

Joe Horn- Horn had one of his worst years last year due to injuries. I for one was very surprised to see him leave New Orleans where he is an icon in that community. Horn will add a much needed go to wide out for Vick if he is there or Harrington if Vick is gone. I say this, but there have been other vets that have gone to Atlanta to help out Vick and it just did not work out because of how Vick plays. I think the move to Atlanta hurts Horns value ultimately if Vick is the QB there. Horn was not going to be a high pick, but if Vick is throwing him the ball i think he takes more of a hit.

Willis McGahee- This may be one of the best moves for a running back in a long time. McGahee is a stud and has been stuck behind a pathetic offensive line and no quarterback since he has come into the NFL. Even though the Bills offense was stagnant last year he still managed to almost get to 1,000 yards. This year McGahee is behind one of the best offensive lines in the league and has a veteran quarterback behind center to take off some of the pressure. Even better, the Ravens style is made to play defense and run the football all day. McGahee's stock is rising and rising fast. Mcgahee is definitely a solid first rounder now.

Fraley, Steinbach, Jamal Lewis- I put the offensive linemen in with the running back here because it is a complete upgrade at that part of the ball for the Browns. After drafting Joe Thomas the Browns have totally re-done that offensive line and made it suitable for the AFC North and running the football to protect Frye or Quinn whoever the starter maybe. The biggest beneficiary is Jamal Lewis who came over from the Ravens after they got a younger stud back in Willis McGahee. Lewis who has been a rebound man for people every year might actually break through this year. The Browns organization has a new commitment to not only the run, but also to winning. This new offensive line will create holes and Lewis will be a nice sleeper back you can pick up for depth.

Dre Bly- Bly moves to Denver and becomes number 2 corner back to Champ Bailey. No one will want to throw on this secondary with Bailey, Bly, and Lynch back there. Bly will post some great numbers for IDP with teams wanting to throw away from Bailey. The Broncos defense got a huge upgrade not only with Bly, but also with their draft and should be a nice defense for you that most people have forgotten about.
Travis Henry- After trading Tatum Bell for Dre Bly the Broncos needed a running back and addressed it by getting Travis Henry. Henry spent last year with the Titans and put up some pretty nice numbers on an offense that was not that great. Lets face i, anyone can run for a 1,000 yards behind that Denver O-Line. Henry is a good back who had some great years in Buffalo, but was forced out by Willis McGahee. The combo of a good back and that offensive line could produce some nice fantasy numbers for you. The mocks i have seen so far have noticed this and he is going earlier than expected, but you can still get him early second and have a nice second back.

Tatum Bell- Bell was supposed to have that beak out year every year and because he was a Bronco he always had the potential to put up huge numbers, but it never happened. The Broncos and Bell have gone their separate ways and for Bell it may be for the better. Kevin Jones is going to be sidelined until at least half the season is over and the Lions coaches really like Bell. Bell is the perfect type of back for the Mike Martz offense and he could see some great numbers this year just as Kevin Jones was putting up last year until he got injured. The Lions coaches have been really happy with his performance so far and expect him to be the starter. He is looking like a late 3rd round really 4th round pick right now.

Matt Schaub- Had he taken over for Vick in Atlanta he would have much more value than he does in Houston right now. Schaub is a good QB, but has not been able to showcase his talent so he is an unknown. The other problem is that Houston has not been able to keep a QB on his feet since they started there franchise. Schuab is going to go throw growing pains and this year will be a big one for him. The Texans addressed the line in FA and the draft, but it is still going to take time. Schaub will be a nice keeper QB in late rounds and if he does get time to stand up and make throws look out becuase he will make them and be a nice option.
Ahman Green- Ahman Green is getting up in age and although he left the tough NFC North division he is now on a team that has not had an offensive line since inception. Good news is that as i said above the Texans are making strides to improve that line. Also, Head Coach Gary Kubiak is from the Mik Shannahan school of thought and wants to run the ball to set-up the play action pass. Running is key to Kubiak's offense and Green will be a big part of that. If the Texans have any sort of O-Line Green will be a nice option. For now he is about a 4th round pick.

New England
Randy Moss- Moss was not happy in Oakland and did not live up to his hype. Fantasy owners have felt burned by him for a couple of seasons now, but this year is the year he returns to that top form. This is Moss' last and best chance to win a ring and he will not pass it up. Rumors have it that he is running a 4.3 40 for the Patriots in his physical and is ready to get going. Brady will get him the ball and Bellicheck will keep him in check. I think Moss will be a top 5 WR this year when it is all said and done and you will be able to get him as a top 15 WR value. Moss is ready and will have a great year.
Donte Stallworth- He will be the #2 to Moss in New England and that could be a good thing. With double teams and more coverage going to Randy the speedster Stallworth could see a lot of single and busted coverage and make some great plays. New England likes to spread the ball around so he will get his touches and his shots. As long as he stays healthy he will be a nice option.

New York Jets
Thomas Jones- A great spot for both Jones and the Jets. Jones gets out of that dreaded RBBC situation and the jets finally get a running back that can run there system well. Mangini's system is the same that he ran in NE and they always wanted a RB who could run and catch out of the backfeild. In NE they had to combine Faulk with someone else, but in New York they have that person in one back, Thomas Jones. The Jets O-Line is good and will open holes. Mangini is dedicated to running the ball and Jones should put up some nice numbers this year, especially in a PPR league.

Dominick Rhodes- Talk about stock dropping. Rhodes went to a team that has no offensive line, another star RB in Jordan, a future stud back in Bush, a brand new HC in Kiffen, and brand new QB in Russell. I hope he is happy with his Super Bowl win because he is going to have little to no value this year. Rhodes is in a RBBC situation still on a worse team with NO offensive line. Right now he is going after the 10th and 11th rounds in the mocks i have seen and he deserves it. Don't waste your time.

San Francisco
Darrell Jackson- A true #1 wide out gets to finally be that #1. I had no clue why the Seahwaks would be so dumb as to trade him within the division, but they will regret it. Alex Smith is an up and coming QB and Gore is going to be a top 5 RB in the league. D-Jack becomes the number 1 target for Smith and he has Davis, Gore, and Lelie to take the pressure off. The Hawks felt they could let him go since they had Branch, but when healthy D-Jack is one of the top WR in the league. Look for him to have a nice year and be undervalued in your drafts.
Tampa Bay
Jeff Garcia- Bucs? Offense? HAHAHA, right? The Bucs finally addressed the offensive line that has been a thorn in there side for years, and got a QB perfectly suited for Grudens offense. The courtship of Garcia by Gruden has been for a couple of years now and Jon finally has his man on the team. Garcia knows the system and has run it before. The Boy Genius has also installed the shotgun and has got more athletes on offense. Don't get caught up in the competition for QB talk, Garcia will be the QB and he will have a nice year. Stovall is a good WR that no one knows about, Galloway still runs well, the Bucs added Jeremy Stevens to compliment Alex Smith at TE and Caddy will have some nice lanes with the new O-Line. Garcia is worth a flier as your second QB.