Sunday, June 24, 2007
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
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
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
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
Monday, June 18, 2007
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
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.
Monday, June 11, 2007
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.