Friday, July 31, 2009

Rays - month by month

Check out the Rays record by month dating back to last year

mo / w / l / %
APR- 14-12 .538
MAY-19-10 .655
JUN- 16-10 .615
JUL- 13-12 .520
AUG- 21-7 .750
SEP - 13-14 .481

mo / w / l / %
APR- 9-14 .391
MAY- 16-14 .533
JUN - 19-7 .731
JUL- 11-12 .478

Our July through Septemeber of 2008 is almost identical to May through July of 2009. Our slow start in April is really killing us right now. The first three months last year we logged 14, 19, and 16 wins. I don't doubt that we could get 16 or so wins in August and September, but that won't be enough to overcome our brutal April from this year. It's really sad when you consider that of those 14 losses 11 of them were to teams that have records worse than ours, and it also included a 7 game homestand in which we lost 5 games (most of those games involved some sort of pre game patting of the back for last years accomplishments).

Bucs Ring of Honor

The Times had a piece today about the Bucs Ring of Honor that is coming this season. The pose the question: Who should be in first? Good question, but I think there are better issues to consider. Like, "How exclusive should this thing be?", "Is it based on stats alone or intangibles?", "How many can go in at one time?", and "How long after retirement should you have to wait to be included?".

At the very least they need to avoid turning this into a Boston Celtics or New York Yankees situation where you have an overload of shitbags on the list which defeats the purpose of starting the thing to begin with. The Gators made the mistake of coming up with hard and fast rules when they started their Ring of Honor in 2006. By doing so the initial inductees were Emmitt Smith, Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, and Jack Youngblood, leaving Wilber Marshall out of the fold the the dismay of a lot of people. Not surprisingly the rules were changed and Marshall was inducted the following season. The downside of not setting hard and fast rules are obvious. The Miami Dolphins have one of these things too. I'm not as well versed in their history, so to comment on the validity of their selections (19 in total), but the number is probably about right considering they've been to the Super Bowl 5 times in 43 years.

As for the Bucs, the names that will be kicked around are John McKay, Jimmie Giles, Richard Wood, Lee Roy Selmon, Doug Williams, Ricky Bell, James Wilder, Hardy Nickerson, Paul Gruber, Tony Dungy, John Gruden, John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott, , Shelton Quarles. This based on my own memory and glancing at the all time stats leaders in passing, rushing, receiving, interceptions, sacks, and tackles. That list is entirely too long.

Current players should not be included (that would remove Brooks from consideration since he hasn't officially retired just yet). Simply winning a Super Bowl should not result in automatic inclusion. I don't think Barry Switzer is making any Cowboy Hall of Fame, nor is Larry Coker being honored by the Canes. This would eliminate John Gruden. Ricky Bell didn't do enough on the field before he died. Shelton Quarles I threw on the list based on his total tackles, but he doesn't pass the smell test.

If I were in charge my list would be Selmon, Wilder, Nickerson, Gruber, and Dungy.

Selmon is in the Hall so that is an easy one. Look at James Wilder's all purpose yards. He accomplished this on the worst teams in Bucs history. If you took 1985 James Wilder and put him on the 1979 team or any of the late 90s teams, he would have gotten a lot more attention. Hardy Nickerson is important because he was statistically great but also what he represented when he showed up. He signed as a free agent in 1993, and really without him on the field, it would have been more difficult for the Sapp/Brooks/Lynch nucleus to turn into the leadership unit that guided our defense for so many years. Nickerson was the only guy on the field for a while there that wasn't OK with losing, and plus he was an absolute beast. Paul Gruber kind of goes without saying as does Dungy.

So what about Doug Williams, John Lynch, Warren Sapp, and Mike Alstott? I think a waiting period should be in order for Lynch, Sapp, and Alstott. As for Doug Williams, maybe Trey can speak more to this, but on paper he doesn't appear to have been good enough. He quarterbacked very average offensive teams. The defense carried those late 70s early 80s Bucs teams. I think Doug Williams got a lot of run in Tampa for a long time because the franchise was lacking star quality in it's roots until the 90's and 00's teams came along. If the Bucs had logged 20 years of great teams prior to Doug Williams playing for the Bucs, I doubt he would have gotten the recognition he received.

Thoughts from you guys?
UPDATE: Throwbacks were unveiled today. And merchendise is available

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tampa Sports Authority and Baseball

With a stadium debate going on in the subconscious of the community, the Yankees in town, and their fans at the Trop, now seems like a good time to remind all the people who support a Rays move to Hillsborough County exactly where their allegiances lay.

Scan the Times archived articles below and you’ll see that in 1993 and 1994 the Tampa Sports Authority and Hillsborough County were willing partners with the Yankees to get together for some good old fashioned publically financed stadium building. I don’t question that any of the three people that read this don’t already know this, but it is worth revisiting. The situation isn’t transparent to the casual observer. I wouldn’t fault someone for assuming that a small stadium, with a field bearing George Steinbrenner’s name, would have been 100% financed by the richest team in baseball. But of course, it is not.

I guess I feel this all matter because the County decided to get in bed with another franchise, while our own community was in the midst of trying to land a team of its own. To me, the decision was made in 1994 that Tampa was not in the business of housing a Tampa Bay baseball team. End of discussion.

How would it look if the City of St Petersburg redeveloped Al Land Stadium into a practice facility for the Carolina Panthers, erected road signs directing traffic to “Panthers Stadium” so fans could go watch practice? That’s basically what Hillsborough’s partnership with the Yankees is akin to.

St Petersburg Times Articles on Legends Field

Yankees talk with TSA - Septemeber 1993
Intial proposal - October 1993
Delays - December 1993
Final deal - April 1994

Gary Shelton knee-jerks over last night's debacle.

It's no secret that everyone feels this homestand is huge. Which, in hindsight is reason enough to feel that it won't go well. But Shelton proclaiming last night's game as "The most important of the season" is silly. Making statements like these should generally be reserved for when the season ends and you reflect back. Take last year. Most people point to that Red Sox game in Boston that Dan Johnson won with his pinch hit home run as the biggest game of the year. However, at that moment in time, while it was certainly a big game, it didn't feel like the biggest game of the year yet (Note: A lot of people feel the Zobrist homer against the Jays to end the 7 game slide heading into the All Star break was the biggest game last year).

Was last night a let down? Yes. But, that article was not the proper reaction.

Additionally, Shelton doesn't appear to have a firm grasp on reality. That reality being, we are the Tampa Bay Rays, and despite our current $60 payroll, all roster moves have to be made in the context that we are Tampa Bay. Trading for a average fielding, good hitting $7 million a year catcher doesn't make sense for this organization. It's tough to argue on behalf of trading FOR a starting pitcher (Halladay) when just last offseason the decision was made to move Edwin Jackson because there was a logjam in the rotation. In most cases the Rays do fit the description of a team that is buying at the trade deadline. In the Rays case though, I don't think they should ever consider themselves buyers unless they are serious contenders to win a World Series. Our shortcomings against the AL Central and AL West tell me that the Rays will have a difficult time in the ALDS against the likes of the Angels, Rangers, Tigers, White Sox, or Twins. There argument exists that adding one pitcher is just enough in a 5 game series, but not with this team.

July has been a rough month for the Rays. We have exactly 1 win that was a no doubter: the July 10th win over the A's. Final score 6-0. Niemann's complete game shutout. The Rays are 10-11 in July, but 9 of those ten wins could have easily gone the other way. Maybe a trade is what they need, but not at the expense of future seasons. Sternberg has been pretty public about the bloated payroll, and warning the fans not to expect $60 million to be the new norm.

I expect the Rays to either stand pat, or possibly move a higher salary guy to a willing suitor.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A shift in Spurrier's demeanor

I think we can all agree that the whole search to find out who didn't vote Tebow as the preseason 1st team all SEC was completely insane. Maybe it's just me but I don't have a memory for things like "Who's first team All-whatever", preseason rankings, and things of that nature. I first took note of it when I read the Sun-Sentinel afterthought that three players were unanimous selections, and Tebow wasn't on the list. I was actually amused. Knowing that coaches can't vote for their own players I thought maybe some renegade coach threw their guy on the list, or maybe Les Miles because Snead led the Rebels to a W against LSU last year, or maybe Lane Kiffin for obvious reasons. I thought the story was dead until SEC Media Days when the press decided to make public a stupid private ballot. Before Steve fessed up I thought maybe he had been the one and he decided to vote for Snead just to needle the UF contingent. Seems like a subtle, unimportant opportunity to be a wise ass. Who knows. But I wasn't prepared for his reaction (see Pat Dooley's article).

I don't recall ever seeing Steve backtrack like this. There are different levels of "coming out with it" and I couldn't foresee this as a possibility". More likely responses would have included (read the following in a Spurrier voice):

  • "Well, Tim Tebow is a fine football player, but he does lots of good things besides throw the football, and figured well....Jevon Snead can certainly throw it pretty good, so I'll put him as my first team quarterback"
  • "I just figured Tim Tebow would get all the votes, and I thought Snead deserved some attention"
  • "My assistant fills those things out and I guess he thinks Snead deserved to be a first teamer".

I wouldn't have bet any amount of money that the response would be a shame filled speech that included phrases such as

  • "I didn't sleep worth a damn last night"
  • "I'm embarrassed"
  • "I apologize"
  • "I went to Commissioner Slive and changed my vote, so no he's unanimous"

Seriously, this isn't the 2001 and prior Steve Spurrier. What gives? He's never caved to this type of scrutiny before, so why do it now for something so stupid?

I think the best possible explanation is that he's concerned about how people perceive him in Florida. When Steve left for the Redskins he was the face of Florida football, for all of time. Before last season, I don't think anyone would have said any differently. But Urban and Timmy have certainly moved up on that list pretty fast and maybe Steve felt that by not genuflecting at the alter of Tim Tebow it would paint him in a somewhat jealous light (which isn't good). Who knows?

I think Steve has always been proud of his accomplishments, and has enjoyed being the figurehead of the program so to speak. He probably has some regrets about leaving, and is disappointed in how things went when Bernie Machen asked him for a resume when Jeremy Foley was interviewing candidates to replace Zooker. He obviously is glad for the success of the program, but in the last few years it has come at the expense of his own success, so there has to be some conflicting emotions there. He put himself in that position though.

It's just strange to see him behaving like this.


I checked out a few innings of the Phillies/Cardinals game on FOX last Saturday. Charlie Manuel made a call to the bullpen and what emerged appeared to be a burly Central American fellow, was actually Chan Ho Park. Am I wrong, or does this guy's beard completely transform his look?

Road to 95 Wins - July 27

Is it just me, or did that road trip seem to last forever? It was certainly defined by comeback wins. The Rays trailed in the final three innings in five of their six wins. The other game was the Garza vs. Halladay donnybrook that went into extras. Six wins on a ten game road trip is great, and we were a strike away from another win in Chicago. But when you are facing these types of opponents you'd like to see the Rays put the game away a little quicker.
It goes without saying that this home stand is huge. Five games against New York and Boston (with four against the Royals in between. We're undefeated against the Royals this year, so it would be nice to continue that). Pitching matchups for the Yankees series:
James Shields vs. AJ Burnett
Scott Kazmir vs. CC Sabathia
Matt Garza vs. Joba Chamberlain (National TV game on ESPN).
It seems like the Rays mindset is that they're chasing the division leader at all time, not the wild card. Probably smart by them. It wasn't long ago that the Sox had the edge, and that could always change again. The Yankees are on pace for 100 wins, and they don't have the look and feel of a team that is going to win 100 games. Yes, they lead MLB in runs scored, but that figure is bloated by the new Yankee Stadium. The run differential is more indicative and that number is about the same for the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays (+77, +78, +73 respectively).
An interesting sub plot to this weeks games will be the non-waiver trade deadline that is upon us. It would seem that the Yankees Rays are going to stand pat with what they have, and the Red Sox seem to have already made the moves they had intended to make. But who knows. If some NL team comes calling looking for an arm and makes Friedman an offer he can't refuse for never know.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

If the Playoffs started today...

Our LDS matchups would be as follows:

Yankees vs. Tigers
Red Sox vs. Angels

Dodgers vs. Cardinals
Rockies/Giants vs. Phillies

In the NL I'm read to annoint the Phillies East Division Champs. The Marlins are in second, and that team doesn't resemble a playoff team in the slightest. If someone wants to crown a division champ this early, the Dodgers are as close as you could come to being a sure thing. The Wild Card race and the Central race are both closely contested (credit to St. Louis for pulling the trigger on the Matt Holliday trade).

As far as I'm concerned the whole AL is up for grabs. The only certainty is that either the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rays will win the AL East. The Wild Card is very much up for grabs, the Central is a three team race (Tigers, Twins, White Sox), and the A's are the only team in the west that I'm willing to count out.

Friday, July 24, 2009

2009 Florida Gators

The amount of praise being heaped on the Gators this summer is something that I don't recall seeing.

  • In the Atlanta-Journal Constitution Tony Barnhart is saying that if the loftiest goals are attained this year that Tim Tebow should be considered the greatest college player ever.

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel is calling Urban Meyer the second coming of Bear Bryant

  • In what is supposed to be considered an anonymous ballot, the southern media felt the need to smoke out the person who didn't vote Tim Tebow first team All SEC, and it was The Head Ball Coach.

The best team I've seen was the mid 90s Nebraska Cornhuskers. I don't ever recall these types of superlatives being laced into the discussions about the Huskers. Same thing too with the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. Can anyone come up with a suggestion?

FYI - I think it is premature to be comparing Urban Meyer to Bear Bryant. He's been at Florida for 4 football seasons only. If the Gators fail to win any sort of title this year, and Tebow fails to win any sort of individual award, despite what they say I think people will view him in a less glorified light than if they manage to meet all the lofty expectations.

Rays problems on display for 2 hours

Yesterday I alluded to our poor record against the White Sox this season, yesterday makes it 2-6 to a mediocre team for the year. I don't think this warrants a tantrum like the guy at Raysindex threw this morning, but he does dance around a few good points. When this season ends, if the Rays find themselves 4 games short of the playoffs, the team's shortcomings will be glaring.

  • 9-14 in the month of April

  • 14-16 in one run games

  • 3-4 against the Orioles

  • 2-6 against the White Sox

  • 3-5 against the Indians (including a 4 game sweep in Cleveland)

  • 4-6 against Oakland

On the flip side the Rays were 13-5 in interleague play, and are 6-0 against the Royals. So it isn't that they aren't capable of beating weaker opponents. Perhaps the upcoming 9 game homestand against the Yankees, Royals, and Red Sox are what they need.

Make no mistake, the Rays aren't putting on a 2008 performance, but remember last year we actually won the division. A wild card will suffice. The Red Sox are currently crapping the bed. Outisde of Jason Bay, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia their lineup isn't that scary. Pitching-wise, Dice-K has been terrible, Brad Penny still hasn't regained his 2007 form, and Time Wakefield is what he always is. Lester and Becket are their two best starters by far and this season we've managed a combined 3-2 record against those guys. It was this time of year last year when the Yankees took a nose dive, and the Sox appear to be doing just that.

The frustrating thing wasn't the 27 outs from yesterday, it was the whole four game series. We lose game 1 by a run (a game that David Price gives up a 3 run homer to Konerko), we pull off a miracle in game two in the bottom of the 9th (first ninth inning comeback all year), Game 3 falls apart in the 7th with 2 outs and nobody on, and then to top it off perfect game #18 happens to us yesterday afternoon. All in all, the Rays should be happy to be getting out of Chicago. I think they need to take 2 of 3 from the Blue Jays this weekend. The Blue Jays are 6-14 in their last twenty games.

Jon texted me something along the lines of "nice catch" after the Kapler near-homer in the 9th. I had no idea what was happening, so of course I reply "Did we win". Good job by me being on top of things. Perfect games are fun, but not when it happens to your team. The nice thing about baseball is that when your team loses, 24 hours later it's old news, except when your team loses in a perfect game.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stadium sites

Google Maps image with data

This shows the results of the ABC Committee research.

I also found this interesting thread which includes some old Cincinnati Enquirer articles that discuss the options the Reds had available when they were looking to replace Riverfront Stadium. There are some excellent points made on the pros and cons of a neighborhood stadium vs. a waterfront stadium.

Some graphics depicting the Broadway Commons site.
The guy who did this Broadway Commons concept also developed something called Armour Field in Chicago. Jon you probably know something about this. It looks like the Polo Grounds in a way with short distances down the line and a huge center field which Yankee Stadium also had before the renovation in the mid 70s. Speaking of Yankee stadium, it amazing how close those two parks were to one another

Old picture of baseball played at the Orange Bowl

Rays / White Sox

I think I may know what this guy was thinking.

James Shields was good for 6 2/3 inning last night. He consistently retired the first batter each inning. He was getting ahead of hitters. In typical James Shields fashion he did give up a home run, and a few other batters came close, but after recording the second out in the bottom of the 7th with nobody on things came unraveled. The next batter drew a walk on a perfect 3-2 pitch that home plate umpire Laz Diaz called a ball. I've never heard Dwayne Staats so upset in all my years watching Rays broadcasts. That would have been the end of the inning, but one thing lead to another and the Rays lose. Yes, BJ could have avoided any damage had he not misread the Alexei Ramirez line drive, but it really didn't have to come down to that. The karma train went in reverse last night after the good fortune from the night before.

We're now 2-4 against the White Sox this year, and 3-5 against the Indians. I don't understand how that is possible when you consider how we've done against the Red Sox and Yankees. This afternoon we get Kazmir vs. Buehrle in an afternoon game

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Midweek blitz

I'm out of the loop because of work, but if you are interested in the official findings from the ABC Committee they are here. In short, new stadiums cost the public lots of money, and no matter what people from San Francisco will tell you, the cost is never covered entirely by owners. Also, Tampa/Hillsborough County are on the hook for a lot of money tied to Raymond James Stadium and the St Pete Times Forum. It also appears that Orange County is way ahead of the rest of the state in terms of being able to generate revenue from which to pull taxes from to fund a facility.

A guy who blogs about the Oakland A's stadium quest posted about the Rays recently.

I got home from work at 10 pm on Monday. I watched half an inning and went to bed. I saw Balfour pitch himself out of a 1st and 3rd with nobody out jam. I know Jon and I have joked in the past that he's a poor man's Rob Dibble, but you can't deny that the guy guys amped when he pitches against the White Sox. Too bad we lost that game, because he came through in that spot.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm pretty freaking excited about Jeff Niemann this year. The back end of the rotation really came down to deciding between 2 of 4 guys (Sonny, Jackson, Price, and Niemann). I still think the Rays did the right thing. Price had options, so he was sent down. Niemann was out of options, and as a former first round pick you have to give him a shot. We needed depth in the system in the way of right handed OFers, and Jackson seemed to be able to fetch more in a deal than Sonny. I have no problem with how things worked out. is even suggesting that Matt Joyce's presence makes it more likely that the Rays would move Crawford so that they could keep Pena, because affordable power at first base is non existent. That is a discussion for another time. Back to the original point; Niemann had another huge outing last night and it is awesome to see him continue to improve. Maddon commented that he has our three best starts all year.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Marlins break ground

The Marlins had their groundbreaking ceremony, which included some more detailed graphics of the stadium. If you ask me the only thing this stadium has that Tropicana Field doesn't are glass walls beyond the outfield that allow for views to the outside and, a grass playing surface. Not to mention a moat that separates the first several rows of seats around the infield similar to what the new Yankee Stadium has. I wonder if the group that released the study to renovate the Trop, could perform a similar feasibility study to see what the cost of replacing the paneling between the support beams, seen here from the outside during construction and here on the inside, with glass. Inside shots from the modern day here, here, and here.

If the Marlins represent the modern day benchmark for baseball facilities in Florida, it seems much more cost effective to look into a glass wall option than pay for a roof that will be closed 90% of the time. The only other difference is the playing surface, and I think we can all agree that the modern day turf is a huge upgrade from what used to be installed in stadiums. Many NFL teams (Bengals, and Ravens come to mind) even use this despite playing outdoors.

Who thinks this is feasible?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Follow ups on comments from the stadium post

Just a follow up on a few items I commented on in the Stadium thread:

This article ran in the Tampa Tribune this week. At the bottom they note that Tropicana Field has 60 suites, and the ABC Committee is recommending 60 at most. Remember i mentioned earlier that the Marlins just lowered their numbers in their new park from 60 down into the 40s because the demand wasn't there. If a team owner feels he needs a new stadium to gain access to facilities that allow them to sell premium seats, perhaps Tropicana Field already fills this need. Consider the revenue sources available t0 a baseball team :

  1. Game ticket revenue
  2. Local radio and television deal
  3. Revenue sharing
  4. Royalties from merchandising
  5. Concessions
  6. Advertising
  7. Sponsorships/Promotions

(As it relates to the stadium issue, there is an expense side that would change if the Rays moved (lease expense), but any new facility would probably represent an increase in that expense.)

When you really look at these revenue streams the only one that a new stadium would significantly impact would be the first. Ticket revenue is their largest source of revenue (maybe second largest but we don't know what the Rays get in revenue sharing from the league) , but as the Tampa Tribune is noting, a new facility isn't giving the Rays a huge leap in premium seating to gouge their wealthier constituents, and the total capacity would be less than Tropicana Field. So what gives?

Exact Bob Howsam Quote from "Baseball in Cincinnati: From Wooden Fences to Astroturf"

Remember, his words not mine

Also, I fought hard to get permission for artificial turf covering the whole field of play - except of course for the sliding areas around the bases. At that time, although there were artificial turf stadiums, they all had dirt infields as with the natural grass fields. At first I was given permission to have such a field for only a year. Then I won approval to keep it and now several fields are made that way.

There are really only a few things you have to do well in order to have a successful franchise. Some of them have to do with the stadium itself: a design that will involve the fan in the game as fully as possible. Then there is the look of the place and its condition. It should be clean and attractive. If you expect people to spend three or four hours there, they should feel as comfortable as in their own homes. But since the stadium is also a setting, the field of play should be as attractive as a well set stage.

So the artificial turf comes in for a number of reasons. It always looks good. It doesn't need cutting and trimming and watering. It is a pleasing color allowing a contrast with the white of the ball, a contrast that allows the eye to follow the ball wherever it goes against the turf.

Most important, turf allows the game to be played the way it was meant to be played. Why should so hard to get a perfect dirt and grass infield? We can come much closer with the artificial turf. Therefore chance has less to do with the outcome. Home teams can't tamper with the surface and give themselves an unfair advantage. The fast bounces on the carpet , coupled with good arms in the outfield, make for close plays on base runners: excitement. And of course this is what the fans love.

Back to the Rays..

All the little pieces of evidence when taken as a whole are ridiculous. We've got an ownership group saying that Tropicana Field isn't a good enough facility. Yet, when you look at the revenue streams the area that an owner would want in a new stadium to exploit their rich fans, the Rays already have that (luxury suites). Then you have this ABC Committee saying we need a closed roof to make things comfortable. It is silly to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a retractable roof when ultimately the roof will always be closed when people are inside. We already have that. Then you read this quote from a dude in the 60s talking about how awesome artificial turf is enough to make your head explode. Lastly, a new expensive stadium will equal higher rent expense for the Rays. None of this adds up

You can sort of understand the new stadium in cases like the Brewers replacing County Stadium. That facility didn't allow ownership to financially rape their fans. But I don't see how Tropicana Field handcuffs Sternberg from pillaging the passive fan who isn't just there to watch a game.

A new stadium will increase the value of Stu's investment in the Rays partnership exponentially. That is the reason the Rays want this to happen. All these other factors are a smokescreen.

Ethan Skolnick of the Sun-Sentinel wrote an article today about the Marlins new stadium. Most of it is Marlin specific, but the facts he gives about attendance in new stadiums applies to our situation too. Take those comments, and then figure that after year 2 or 3 when the new car smell wears off, the team will be right back to where we are now in terms of attendance. Weekend draws have been great this year too! Because the team is good. This stadium thing is ridiculous. If they move away from downtown, and the move isn't to the Carillon area, then the Rays have risked alienated half of their fan base for very little to gain

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Links - Did you know Mickey Mantle liked beer?

UM has Jacory Harris calling season ticket holders - It's probably not going to help recruiting when your starting QB has to work the phones to get people excited for the upcoming season.

The Gainesville Sun is running a "Top 25 Players in the SEC" feature.

Natural Light is running television ads now.

When I was searching for the Natty Light add I came across this ad from the past featuring Mickey Mantle.

Total estimated cost of the new Marlins stadium is now up to $2.4 billion over 40 years.

Rays stadium is a circus

The ABC (A Baseball Community) Committee has come out that the Rays need a retractable roof because "we need to have a fully air-conditioned interior". Wow, sounds a lot like what we have right now. Earlier in the week this column ran an touched on a lot of the reasons why I've been saying a new stadium is a bad idea, namely 1) The renovation bill is almost as much as a total rebuild, 2) Selling the land now to a developer would be bad business (low market value) 3) The community is still paying off the Trop.

I have a book called "Baseball in Cincinnati: From wooden fences to astroturf". It is a collection of articles published over several decades. The book was released in 1988. The article that gets into the period of time when Riverfront Stadium was conceived was particularly fascinating. Bob Howsam was the Reds GM at the time. I can post the actual quotes later when I get home, but the quotes were in stark contrast to the feelings people have now about stadiums.

  • Howsam pushed hard for astroturf because he felt it was more pleasing to the eye, and he wanted to ensure that the facility was a nice place to look at. He also said that baseball would be played the way it was meant to be played if they installed astroturf. His words, not mine.

  • The elected officials in Cincinnati really wanted a multi purpose facility on the water front. Reds ownership did not want a new stadium, and preferred to stay in Crosley Field. Bill DeWitt owned the team at the time, and the Mayor of Cincinnati Eugene Ruehlmann pleaded with him to sell the team if he wouldn't cooperate with the city. Ruehlmann also wanted the Reds to sign a 40 year lease, something DeWitt did not want (this would have put the Reds in Riverfront stadium until the year 2010.

So in 1966 we have a case where an owner doesn't want a new stadium, and city officials are waiting in line to spend public dollars on a facility that would be torn down 33 years later because it was considered outdated. Thirty years ago teams were moving into larger facilities which provided more tickets to sell, which meant more revenue. Now teams are moving into smaller facilities, with the hope that this will increase demand...and price. Some teams put tarps on their extra seats to achieve this goal. This of course hurts people who want to spend $10-$15 on a ticket at most. If you use Bob Howsam's criteria for a stadium, Tropicana Field fits the bill. But as we know Sternberg says it isn't a sufficient facility. I could accept this argument if the Rays were playing at a stadium without club suites, or premium box seating (Wrigley Field), but Tropicana Field has both of these things. The entire second level is lined with suites, and the first rows just behind home plate are priced at a premium. Premium seating is the only variable in a new facility that would affect the bottom line. So my question is: How much more premium seating would a new facility have? The Marlins just decided to lower the number of premium seats from 60 down to 49. I don't know the exact numbers on Tropicana Field but they appear to have a decent inventory of suites at the stadium.

So if a new stadium will have a roof that is constantly closed, and the increase in luxury boxes doesn't result in a material increase in revenues, are we spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new building so that we can watch baseball on grass?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

All Star festivities prove to be eventful

This year's All Star game was a fine example of how far the Rays have come since 2007. Once upon a time our lone All Star representative was Lance Carter, who wasn't an All-Star caliber player. He was a quota selection. I think Lance Carter's greatest accomplishment was that he and Danys Baez fetched Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany in a January 2006 trade. Nowadays we're getting guys voted in by fans to start the game (Longoria), we've got our manager coaching the AL team, a guy participating in the Derby, and five representatives (Longo, CC, Pena, Zobrist, Bartlett) in all. To top it all off, CC wins the freaking game MVP award. Of course none of this means jack squat, but its at least another indicator that the Rays aren't the same (in a good way).

I know everybody feels home field in the World Series is a joke and I agree. It certainly didn't help us last year. I still can't believe we lost that series to the freaking Phillies. Look at those guys this year; they are courting Pedro Martinez to shore up their rotation. 2009 Pedro Martinez. And we couldn't beat those guys last year! Before that series started last year I was saying all the things a fan would say trying to avoid "jinxing" the Rays. But you know what, f-that, we should have won that series. In 2009 while the Rays are optioning guys like Sonny to AAA and sending David Price to start the season in Durham, the f-ing Phillies are digging up a corpse for a stretch run in a division that we absolutely destroyed in interleague play this year. The Marlins are still in it! The same Marlins that we beat 5 out of 6 times this year. If the Dodgers don't win the National League pennant this year there is no way you can convince me that the NL representative in the World Series should't get the 1999 Braves treatment from whoever wins the AL.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Home Run Derby inspires nothing

Ever notice the inverse relationship between your age and the amount of pleasure derived from watching the Home Run Derby. I timed my viewing to see Carlos Pena and his upside down Rays logo (courtesy of, take his hacks. Also thanks to ESPN for interviewing one of our franchise's biggest disappointments during Pena's turn at bat. My only other observation was that Joe Morgan seemed very defensive anytime he reminisced about his playing days. I'm guessing this had something to do with it.

Urb denied the Notre Dame rumors again yesterday. He was responding to this article written by Paul Finebaum. If you aren't familiar with Finebaum's "brand", he's an Alabama homer (despite being a Tennessee grad), and he likes to piss on the rest of the conference. Take this piece, which ran today as a good example of the angle he works. Ole Miss poses the biggest threat to Bama this season, so it stands to reason that Finebaum would take shots at them in the preseason. Basically, he is "biased southern football guy". His bitter bear routine on Urban giving a scouting report to his old buddy from Utah is hysterical.

Lastly, Brian Griese was released. This was inevitable. I kind of thought Byron Leftwich would get the axe at some point, but it is hard to envision a QB depth chart of Freeman, McCown, and Josh Johnson. Freeman and McCown are shoe-ins for roster spots. So it really comes down to whether or not the Bucs want to give up on a guy with one year of service in lieu of Leftwich or not. I would rather roll the dice on Johnson, and possibly end up with a quality young player. The Bucs have nothing to lose this year. I suppose they could put Johnson on the practice squad, but there is probably some process he would have to go through that would make him available to other teams first.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Road to 95 Wins

Last year I scanned through the list of teams that made the playoffs in the wild card era of MLB, and it stood to reason that a good goal for any team looking to make the playoffs is 95 wins. Outside a few exceptions 95 wins will generally get you in. Last year the Rays got to 97 and it was good enough to win the division. Boston got the wild card with 95 wins, but 90 would have been enough thanks to the Yankees slow finish to the season.

The All Star break seems as good of a time as any to break out this year's version of the road to 95 wins. Sadly the Rays are on pace for 87 wins. Good enough to be competing for a spot in September, but things will have to change in order for the Rays to make the mark. I'm well aware that we are a mere 3.5 games behind New York which that in and of itself is reason enough to go with the flow and chase the leader (who is within reach). But I like looking at the rest of the season in this fashion too. It's a good coping mechanism for when we go on road trips and lay an egg.

With 72 games left (36 home, and 36 road), the Rays must win 47 games.

My rationale was to start with the thought that they need to at least go .500 on the road, and win every home series. That wasn't enough, so I went back and chose certain home and road series where I thought an additional win wasn't out of the realm of possibilities. Obviously baseball lends itself to streaks, both positive and negative so this is really just a road map. Last year when I did this it was much less daunting. We had a .585 winning percentage on this date last year compared to .539 this year.

With tons of series against the Yankees still left on the schedule those obviously remain most important, but lets not forget about Texas. They are very much in the race this year. The Angels aren't a shoe-in to win the West, and the runner up in the West could take the wild card this year. That fact alone make the Rays sweep at the hands of the Rangers in July that much more painful, because that may be the deciding factor of our playoff fate.

After the Zorilla walk-off this past week Joe Maddon was saying in the post game show that the team hadn't had a really long homestand all year and the second half of the season was much friendlier in that regard. I didn't check his facts on that, but I do see a couple 9 game homestands and a 7 gamer to round out the season. But I also see a couple 10 game road trips and one more trip to the west coast.

Rays fans should be rejoicing. We're in the playoff hunt at the midway point of the season for a second year in a row. Of course expectations are much greater this year, but after 10 straight years of having your season end in May, it is still pretty exciting to be talking this way in July.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Too soon?

Last night's game wasn't on TV, so all I have is observations of a box score and uniform commentary. You can read a box score, so here's my best Paul Lukas impression.

Last year's St. Pete Pelicans was the best throwback promotion the Rays have done. The St. Pete Saints is OK too I guess, but it doesn't really excite me the way the Pelicans did. I think we could all get on board with a St Pete Cardinals if not for the one big problem. It would basically be our team wearing another MLB team's uniform with one of these on the hat.

Good idea by the Rays, but it is at least ten years too soon. I like how they went with the Rays against the gradient oval on the hat as opposed to the TB hat. I think the Turn Back the Clock promos that teams do are cool for the most part. But in order to make the promotion fun, you have to wait long enough to turn back the clock. There are several rules of thumb you could apply, but in our case we have a player on our current roster who was on the team when these throwbacks were our standard uniform. Also, we still play in the same stadium, and not enough has happened to separate the vibe of that team and the current team. It just doesn't "feel" that long ago.

The Buccaneers are going to wear throwback uniforms during a game this year when they unveil the Ring of Honor at RJS. Good timing on the Bucs part. The time lapse isn't much different than that of the Rays and the unis they wore last night, but it feels longer for the Bucs. All those old Bucs are gone, the team is playing in a new stadium, they won a freaking Super Bowl, and an entire decade has passed since they were considered a last place stalwart. I'm curious to see what they go with. There were several variations to their Orange & White uniform.

  • In their first year they actually had orange numbers on the white jerseys.
  • This was changed fairly quickly to red numbers, which is how we all remember them.
  • In the early 90's the Bucs introduced orange pants, and a Bucco Bruce logo that was larger than the original. Check our Errict Rhett, and compare back the to James Wilder picture from #2.
  • Of course they could always go with the Orange Jersey. The orange appeared brighter in later years, but I don't think this was a change made by the Bucs, rather it was a byproduct of a change in by the manufacturer that made the orange appear brighter than before.

If I was in charge of putting this thing together for the Bucs I would opt for the small Bruce logo and orange jersey noted in the Lee Roy Selmon picture above. We shall see. Great timing by the Bucs. They passed up some opportunities in the past (Thanksgiving Day games) when they could have worn these, and the end result was more anticipation for their throwbacks than the Rays had last night. I think the Rays should take a few years off from the throwback promos and use that money to pass out some more bobbleheads at the door.

I'm willing to bet a million dollars they showed the footage of the cotton eye joe guy on the big screen last night. After all the uniforms were the same as the day that footage was shot.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Whew, so if we're winning we won't cut payroll.

Does this even have to be clarified? You would think conference calls to discuss the payroll would announce things like "Hey, if we're in it this year, we will be buyers at the trading deadline". Not, "If we're contending for the playoffs, we won't cut payroll". Although there is a precedent for giving up while contending for a playoff spot late in the season.

Navi plans pie attacks in lieu of batting practice

Niemann's second complete game win wasn't as impressive as the first one, but it was still very good. His breaking ball was working well for him, and aside from the 9th inning he stayed out of trouble for the most part.

So we're looking at a second half with Niemann and Price being the 2009 version of Sonny and Edwin last year. Block out Edwin Jackson's performance for the Tigers this year, and you would think the 2009 back part of the rotation would give you more than the 2008 version.

I know Price has had his struggles this year, but it is ridiculous to expect a guy who is basically a rookie starting pitcher to come in and dominate. I heard Duemig talking about how important these innings are to Price's future when I was in St Pete a couple weeks ago. The payoff long term will be huge, and if the rest of the rotation gets it's act together this doesn't have to come at the expense of the team. Check out the number from Sandy Koufax early in his career. When he was 23, as Price is this year, the Dodgers kept running him out there to start games, and the payoff was very big, albeit short lived (I don't wish retirement at the age of 30 on David Price by any means). During Bill Simmons podcast with Jack-O he meandered down the path of saying David Price is better off in the closers role. It's just way too early in his career to be making statements like that. The guy had one career start before this season. I think the Rays are doing the right thing. I know he has had his struggles this year, but outing like he had against Toronto are a clear indicator that he's on the right track. The Rays are really fast tracking him compared to Jeff Niemann. They each got their first call up to the bigs last year, but Niemann is three years older than Price. Both guys are first round picks out of college, both were aces on their respective staffs in college, and both guys had significant mileage on their arms when drafted which seems to be pretty common amongst starting pitchers from the college ranks. I think the Rays definitely did the right thing with Niemann, especially considering what Chicago did with Mark Prior (drafting him in 2001, and starting him 19 times the following season). I just hope that they've given Price the rest he needed after his run at Vandy

One more thing on the game last night; Longoria's timely home run. In the bottom of the 6th, the Rays have CC at 1st and BJ at 3rd with two outs and Longo at the plate. Crawford gets tied up between 1st and 2nd on a pick-off move to first, BJ breaks for home plate and gets thrown out on his attempt to score ending the inning. I immediately text Jon expressing my understanding of the attempt to score because Longoria has been an automatic out since he pulled his hamstring. Normally you wouldn't want guys on the basepaths ending an inning like that with an All Star at the plate. Of course, when Longoria resumes is AB at the bottom of the 7th he promptly hits a solo home run to left field, once again making me look like an idiot. Even in hindsight though I'll take mistakes on the basepaths like that once in a while, because more often than not the results are going in our favor this year. Upton especially has been manufacturing runs on his own lately. Just this week against the Blue Jays he reached base, was aggressive on the base paths and ended up scoring by stealing home. Plus, it is chaotic for opposing pitchers when either or both of those guys are on base. One thing I will say about Crawford, is it seems like he has been getting hung up between bases a lot since his streak of consecutive steals to start the season was snapped. I have no problem with this because he's freaking Carl Crawford, but it's worth pointing out (a very small price to pay I might add).

Friday, July 10, 2009

This has changed my viewing pleasure

I saw this article linked to another site recently. It discusses the offset camera angle that most teams use in their broadcast. Now I'm obsessed with it

Baseball Tonight last night had the Red Sox highlights via NESN, and it is superior, except for the fact that the pitchers head often blocks the plate.
It should be noted that the Rays have both camera angles but opt for the off set camera for the live broadcast, saving the dead center camera for replays of close calls. One of my favorite cameras is the one at home directly over home plate, something you don't see in any other park

Anyway I thought it was interesting, especially the effect the offset angle has on making off speed pitches look nastier than they really are. I'm sitting in training now, but I've got more thoughts on Price's outing from yesterday and the Rays placement in the standings. I'll try to post it today, and if not tomorrow morning.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rays sweep Jays in front of the campers

Through a combination of finishing some projects early, and having others moved back, coupled with the man keeping a close watch over our charge-ability, I found myself taking PTO today with a rare opportunity to take in a weekday afternoon Rays game. It was a dandy of a match up: Halladay vs. Price.

Today Tropicana Field played host to tens of thousands of youth campers from across the bay area. In the past this game amused me because, in stark contrast to most weekday afternoon games, they were heavily attended by kids who were really into the game and who wanted the Rays to win. Rays management generally invited the campers for sub-par games. Times have changed; the campers weren't the only ones interested today.
David Price had some good stuff today. He used his slider and fastball effectively to put batters away (he struck out Lyle Overbay three times), and logged 6 quality innings en route to the Rays win. You gotta feel good about starts like these from Price. You have to say it was his best outing this year. Only 1 walk, with 6 hits scattered in 6 innings, and he got out of trouble in the 6th by putting away Overbay to end the threat. Second win in the last two weeks over Halladay for the Rays too. Now if we could only meet expectations against the Derek Hollands and Tommy Hunters of the league.
Rays wrap up the first half with a three game set against Oakland. Try to bridle your enthusiasm, because it will crush your soul when Vin Mazzaro, Gio Gonzalez, and Brett Anderson do things to the league's second most potent offense that they have no business doing
As I type we sit 4 games behind the Yankees for the Wild Card spot. July is really too early to be making statements like that. Look at the number of disappointments this team has endured and it has to make you feel good about a second half surge. Imagine how many games this team wins in April during Longoria's hot streak, if BJ Upton was getting on base then at the rate he has been lately. The bullpen is starting to come around, and the starting pitching is too talented to be this inconsistent all year.
Brace yourself for another playoff hunt.

Sid Fields Records comes to life


It dawned on me last night while watching the late innings of the Rays/Blue Jays game that I spend an inordinate amount of time composing e-mails and text messages. Therefore I'm going to try this on for size. Even if it turns out to be a poor alternative to e-mail communication, at the very least I can use it as a means to archive quality e-mails. When I left my first job, I left behind a significant archive of e-mail genius which is basically lost forever. At the very least this can act to prevent that, since as we all know it is likely that any current or future work email archives will be lost for similar reasons as the first, and I'll have something to show for time wasted.