Monday, August 31, 2009

Sizing up the Rays chances with a month to go

Today the Rays sit 5.5 games behind the Red Sox for the Wild Card. Take the Rays best month of the season and compare it with the Red Sox worst month

15-14 sox (win % - .517)
19-7 rays (win % - .730)

Applied to 32 games remaing for Boston, and 33 for the Rays you get

24 Rays wins and 17 Sox wins. 7 game difference.

It would be a miracle, but hey it's something. I don't see it happening though. The Red Sox are playing much better than a .500 ballclub now, and the Rays don't have enough games to catch up with that. Ultimately that slow start is what is hurting. The last couple months haven't been awful, but you can't play this way when you are playing catchup.

Also, Grant Balfour yesterday.....no need.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My take on the Kazmir trade


As discussed earlier on this blog, I think it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Scott Kazmir will finish out his career elsewhere. The timing of the trade is a bit peculiar. Aside from a complete dismantling of the team, Rays fans can now say that they've run the gamut of emotions that one can experience when you throw your support behind a small market club with mediocre revenue streams. If you find yourself angry with the system, it could be worse. If it wasn't for revenue sharing the Montgomery Biscuits roster would be suiting up to play the Tigers tonight. There's imbalance in the league, but it could be much worse.


From a philosophical standpoint, this makes sense (brace yourself for lots of Marlins comparisons). The GMs with the most street cred subscribe to the theory that when dealing with limited resources it is best not to hand out lucrative long term deals to pitchers. The logic being that it is more likely that a hard throwing pitcher will break down and you won't get the value per dollar that you might get had you given that contract to a position player. The Marlins implemented this philosophy by cutting bait with the pitching staff from their 2003 World Series at about the same time the Rays traded Kazmir, who is 25 years old. Here is the Marlins 2003 rotation and the age each pitcher was when they were moved by the Marlins (note: AJ Burnett was not on the Marlins post season roster that year due to injury, but he did pitch for the team that year)


Josh Beckett - 25

AJ Burnett - 28

Dontrelle Willis - 26

Brad Penny - 26

Carl Pavano - 28


Beckett and Kazmir are similar in that their big league clock started earlier than most, hence they were dealt at 25, whereas the others on the list you see were a bit older because they didn't make it to the show when they were 20. The Rays have caught a lot of flack in the past for holding players back in the minors (Longoria last year at the beginning of the year, Delmon Young, Elijah Dukes, to name a few). This illustrates why the Rays have to do stuff like this.


Now Larry Beinfest, Marlins President of Baseball Operations (not the GM, Michael Hill is the GM, but Larry is incorrectly labeled as such by a lot of people), is commonly credited for being the best at dealing with limited resources. Yes, the Marlins won the series in 2003, but they haven't been back to the playoffs since. They have been competitive deep into the second half of the season many times since though. But the moves to dismantle the World Series team haven't yielded a playoff team just yet, and this is the National League we are talking about. If Andrew Friedman and Gerry Hunsicker are going to maneuver the Rays in a similar fashion, they are going to have to be much better at it than Beinfest, because we all know that the American League is a little less forgiving than the National League. No disrespect to Larry Beinfest, but I think people in south Florida need to open their eyes a bit with him. He's gotten a free pass for life. Anything they do, the reaction is "Well, if Larry says it's OK than it must be fine". Really? I'll spare you the laundry list, but this guy isn't perfect. He's getting a lot of mileage out of Hanley Ramirez (terrific at the plate, extremely pedestrian in the field). It's like people forget that he had to trade a Cy Young caliber pitcher to get this guy. Congratulations pal. Yes the Marlins front office is good, but they aren't splitting the atom. I personally think that their trade with the Tigers is (or at least should) kill some of their good will. Miguel Cabrera is a monster, and all they got in return was Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. Jury is still out, but I'm pessimistic on both.


Scott Kazmir is a small man who's money maker was a big fastball. That is a risky investment for a MLB team located in St Petersburg, FL, even if he does have his best years directly in front of him.


Having said all that, if the Rays missed the playoffs last season, I don't think this trade happens this year. I don't care if anyone disagrees, the bar was moved last year. I don't like it, but it was. If the Rays went 81-81 last season and were well out of the playoff chase by mid August, we would be evaluating the status quo much differently today. 4.5 games back with a month of baseball to go is far from out of it (although from looking at this team play, they don't appear to be playoff material). The backlash against the front office would be brutal if this trade happens in the franchise's first playoff chase ever. To make matters worse, we sat through a brutal stretch of starts from Kazmir with the hopes that he would break out of his funk, which he did! Kazmir has been great as of late, and I had him pegged as someone who would play a key role in the team's chances to make the postseason. The fantasy equivalent is when you take a guy in the first few rounds of your draft, only to see him shit the bed for half a season. You finally sell the guy off and he turns into a Cy Young candidate.


The depth at starting pitching in our organization is what made this possible. Wade Davis appears to be on his way to the rotation. While it seems to be a tall order to ask a rookie to replace a veteran, we are asking him to replace a 25 year old veteran, not CC Sabathia or Josh Beckett. Perhaps the drop-off won't be as great as you might think. Judging from Kazmir's recent outing though, I'm not optimistic on this front.


The Rays can spin this all they want, but I think this move signals the end of our season. Brace yourself for all the bitter bears who will come out of the wood works, and bitch and moan about cutting payroll. Our friends in Hillsborough County might even spin a yarn about how much more money the team would make there, and try to trick people into believing things would be different if the Rays played in their shithole.


So what did we get in return?:



  • 21 year old (???) Venezuelan pitcher Alex Torres

  • 21 year old third baseman Matt Sweeney

  • Player to be named later

I'm normally leery of the player to be named later, but in the case of a waiver trade, if a player traded is on the 40 man roster that player would have to clear waivers in order to be named. They can call it "player to be named later" and finish the trade in the off-season and circumvent the waiver process. I believe this player has been agreed upon and Joe Maddon calls this player "a very interesting player that I'm very excited about". The Times considers this player "closer to the majors" than the others. A quick glance at the Angels 40 man roster, the players on it whom aren't on the active roster are



  1. Robert Mosebach - P

  2. Sean O'Sullivan - P

  3. Anthony Ortega - P

  4. Fernando Rodriguez - P

  5. Rich Thompson - P

  6. Ryan Budde - C

  7. Bobby Wilson - C

  8. Matthew Brown - IF

  9. Sean Rodriguez - IF

  10. Freddy Sandoval - IF

  11. Mark Trumbo - IF

  12. Brandon Wood - IF

  13. Terry Evans - OF

  14. Reggie Willits - OF

http://losangeles.angels.mlb.com/team/roster_40man.jsp?c_id=ana


I don't know anything about any of these guys (or the players who have been named). I will stop short of giving Friedman and Hunsicker the Larry Beinfest treatment, and hold back on blind praise. But I will say that given the timing of this trade I suspect that the Angels were not a willing trade partner after the season. The players made available to the Rays were, in the eyes of the Rays, worth taking the risk of blowing our playoff chances because the Angels want Kazmir for the stretch run. A month ago I think we all thought there was a chance that the rest of the league had soured on Kazmir and that his trade value wasn't what it used to be. Well he's gone now, so keep your fingers crossed that this works out.


In the meantime, we are blowing it in Detroit. If we don't win today's game there is a strong possibility of a sweep which would basically bury us.


If any of you guys have info on these prospects please share, otherwise I will post some links next week if I find any about them.

UPDATE: Last thought. With one month to go, we're basically giving up 5 appearances from Kazmir to save $24 million. If the trade market was light on him before the non-waiver trade deadline, and the Angels suddenly came out of the wood work with a great deal, it's hard to question this. It should also be noted that Kazmir had to pass through every team except the Yankees to get to LA in the waiver process. Whatever that means. Lots of players get put on waivers, and pulled back when claims are put in on them, so there probably isn't too much to be taken from that since the waiver process is a mere formality this time of year.

Also, there is a strong liklihood that if you are the type to look around the internet for opinions on this trade that you will come across some that consider Kazmir past his prime. I don't subscribe to this theory. If anything he is entering his prime, which if you are an organization such as the Rays, is when you would get maximum value. By no means do I think we've pillaged the Mets and Angels by taking a young talent for our own personal gain and disposed of him just as he hit his decline. On the contrary, I think he's got some quality years...we just can't afford them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gator Depth Chart 2009 - Defense



The Gainesville Sun ran previews and depth charts over the last month. I'm compiling them here, along with a graphic that brings the entire offensive and defensive units together for ease of review.
Now the defense.
The big story after the championship game last year was that we were returning our entire two deep defensive unit. That still seems to be the party line, and while it is more true than false there are a couple things to point out.
1. Dustin Doe started last year, and has missed just about every offseason workout because of his suspended drivers license problem. Supposedly everything is worked out now, but I'm sure this guy will miss some time, not to mention he's probably been passed by Stamper.
2. Defensive tackle. We didn't have a first and second string rotation that was set in stone last year. We lost Javier Estopinan, who contributed at times. We also lost Torrey Davis. Now I know Torrey wasn't a consistent contributor, but it looked like he was finally getting on the field and making plays, and that all came to a sudden end with his unceremonious departure. Brandon Antwine is back, but he has really been battling injuries. So much so, that the Sun has him listed pretty far down on the depth chart. Lastly, John Brown, one of the big seven Lakeland recruits from a few years back, finally gave up and transferred. Bottom line, there is an element of turnover in the interior of the line that should be acknowledged.
3. This depth chart lists Major Wright as a starter, but Will Hill is killing it in practice. The coaches think he may be the best player on the defense. Will Hill can play both strong safety and free safety, and the prevailing opinion is that Ahmad Black is too good to sit, which makes Major Wright the odd man out. It wouldn't be shocking if the starting secondary was Haden/Black/Hill/Jenkins.
The talk on the team is that the defense wants to be the "best ever". Please do so. If the Gators want to repeat the defense will have to play a major role.
Previews from the Sun

Gator Depth Chart 2009 - Offense


The Gainesville Sun ran previews and depth charts over the last month. I'm compiling them here, along with a graphic that brings the entire offensive and defensive units together for ease of review. First the offense. The comings and goings of the team are obvious, and have been discussed many times over (Percy, Murphy, Trautwein, Watkins, Tartt). So basically your biggest playmaker, your best receiver, and both starting tackles. If you told me, without naming the team, that a major college program would lose both starting tackles, their top two receivers, and the player who had the most rushing yards amongst all WRs/RBs, then I would have a hard time predicting success for that team. That speaks to the magnitude of Tebow to this team. With all due respect to Traut and Watkins, I think the feeling among a lot of people is that Matt Patchan and Marcus Gilbert are quite capable of filling the shoes, and perhaps play better. Trautwein was very mistake prone towards the end of the season. Matt Patchan's emergence has allowed Carl Johnson to stay at guard and solidify the interior with the Pouncey twins which is huge for the running game. Demps, Rainey, & Co. showed flashes last year to make us feel that someone out there is capable of running the football. I worry about replacing Murphy. I watched the SEC Championship game Sunday morning and that guy was better than people realize. The Bama corners were really physical with him, and he was able to fight them off, get separation with his speed, make catches in traffic, and get yards after the catch consistently. Percy was the best WR but Murphy did things that I'm not sure can be duplicated by anyone else on this year's roster. I'm really excited about seeing Aaron Hernandez. He was awesome in 2007 when he first saw playing time, and even better last year. I expect big things from him.

Links to Gainesville Sun Previews

Here's to hoping we know how to play the Tigers


Seven of the Rays next thirteen games are against Detroit. Tonight we get to face Roy Halladay...again. I feel like that guy pitches every game Toronto plays against us.


It would have been nice to have swept at least one of those series in the last homestand, but you can't complain about winning all three series, and reeling Texas in a little bit. I feel like Texas is screwed. They have a ton of road games left this year. Boston is an interesting case because while they appear to be sucking wind right now, they show signs of life every now and then (kind of sounds like the Rays). They just put in a claim for Billy Wagner and his surgically repaired elbow. The Mets...the 2009 Mets have no room for Billy Wagner, but the Red Sox do. That is a good sign for the Rays.


Yesterday's game was tough. The Rays brought nothing to the plate. David Price wasn't dominant, but I was impressed. He got some really tough breaks that lead to the three earned runs, but he kept things under control despite it all. If that game happend earlier in the year I could see him unraveling. Most exciting performance of the weekend has to go to Kazmir. Everyone who cares about the Rays breathed a sigh of relief after seeing that outing. The guy was pitching, he wasn't just standing up there throwing the ball at the catcher.


I expect the Yankees to hand Texas some more losses this week. Our road record in Toronto has been quite good this year (4-2). It seems like we're setting up for a nice series against Toronto followed by some disappointment in Detroit. We have a terrible record on Sundays, and a terrible record on the last game of home stand and road trips. The Tigers series is four games (Friday - Monday). So it stands to reason that the Sunday and Monday games are going to be difficult for the team to win. Those Friday/Saturday games would be nice to get.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Email back n forth on 09 Gators

Chain of emails to follow between Threet and me discussing the upcoming season. The email that triggered was a cut n paste job from a message board post that served as a "season preview". It's much too long to include here.

The Emails
***********************************************************

From: Threet Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 10:24 AM

My thoughts on the write up:

Interesting read. I agree about Arkansas, they concern me for the exact reasons he pointed out.

Additionally, I don’t think we completely blow out Tennessee. I think we dominate the game with the outcome never really being in doubt, but the score will not reflect the domination, 34 – 7 we win. However, I’d love 56 - 0.

Finally, I completely agree about Will Hill – but, the real question is who will he replace? Black or Wright? I think he’ll overtake Wright. Black has proven to be a opportunistic ball hawk with an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. Wright, while a big hitter, seems to struggle in coverage occasionally, which is why I think Hill will take his starting job. Or maybe one of them gets injured, who knows? Hill seems capable of making the big hits and aptly covering WRs in the open field, plus he has a fun name to say. Last year on every kickoff, I’d look over at Erica and say watch Will Hill, sure enough he would usually come flying down the field and make the tackle.

From: Nate Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 10:16 AM

That guy started to lose me with his kooky details like “Tebow fakes an injury”. I jotted some notes as I read. Overall though it isn’t silly to predict an unbeaten successful
Defense of the title. A few thoughts in bullet form

· I disagree that TX/OU and USC/OSU are elimination games. Anything can happen in college football. That year GA Tech/and Colorado split the national title was dropped right in the middle of a run where Notre Dame and Miami were dominant and winning titles. Out of the blue we had a year when teams for seemingly no reason were losing multiple games.
· I agree that Penn State is a real possibility to go all the way. I wouldn’t call them dark horse though. An unbeaten Big Ten team, unless there are three unbeatens, should not be excluded from the title game.
· His logic on Tebow’s Heisman win is flawed. Voters aren’t going to get all misty eyed when they vote. His “third candidate” thing, referring to Harrell last year, is wrong. Harrell wasn’t on anyone’s ballot last August, so why can’t there be someone else potentially waiting to explode that isn’t talked about now (Reesing from Kansas maybe). I’m not saying Tebow won’t win, but it isn’t going to be due to anything that has to do with last season or lifetime achievement awards. If anything Colt McCoy has the lifetime achievement award potential because he doesn’t have that award on his resume yet.
· I agree that the defense stepping up and giving us more three and outs is going to play a big part in the offense’s ability to generate points
· Comparing the defense to the 60’s is asinine. That was a completely different era of football. To say “we won’t approach the 1960 defense for points allowed is like predicting that David Price won’t pass Cy Young for all time wins. But then he says we will compare to the1963 team, which is total BS. Our defense is good but they aren’t going to be that freakishly good, to where we routinely hold opponents to around 10 points a game.
· Black and Jenkins didn’t come out of the blue. Both guys were giant recruits that were expected to start and play well.
· I agree on Will Hill. No offense Major Wright, because he’s a good safety, but Black is too good to sit down. I think it is funny that he says nobody will emerge, and in the next point he predicts that Will Hill will supplant a current starter.
· Totally agree on Hernandez. I love that guy. I think there is strong evidence for his statement on the receivers. Percy was so good, we really couldn’t take touches away from him. There is a stable of talent that is untested, I think that is the best way to put it.
· Hysterical that he predicates all his statements on “no injuries” and then predicts a major injury in the Charleston Southern game.
· He has Brantley playing against LSU. Not going to happen. Tebow doesn’t sit in a game played on the road against a national title contender unless it’s 70-0.
· You and I discussed Arkansas a few weeks ago, so we’re all on the same page here. Agreed that this is the sleeper game.

I’m not ready to predict a final outcome to our season. I will say though:

· I know we are deep on offensive line, but you cannot avoid the fact that we’ve lost both starting tackles. The poster discounts OU as a contender because they lost starters on the line. Well so did we. I wasn’t a big fan of Trautwein, but he was a 5th year senior. I have a little concern about our tackles. I’ll leave it at that.
· Ironically the Gainesville sun has an article on this today. I think losing Murphy is a big f-ing deal. I worry that we won’t have a receiver that can play the role he played last season. He was a completely different player than Percy, and we need someone like him to run those routes and make those catches. Riley Cooper is not up to the challenge. Cooper has a role that he plays nicely, and he shouldn’t be asked to do anything differently this year. I’m hoping Nelson can fill Murphy’s shoes.
· I’ve always felt that people worried too much about LSU. I’ve been a big believer that, even in the years we’ve lost to them, we were good enough to beat them. This year I think people are underestimating LSU. They went in the tank at the end of last year. They’re a better team than their record indicates. I think we can all agree that Auburn, Mississippi State, and Arkansas are not serious threats to win the West. Of the remaining three (LSU, Bama, and Ole Miss) LSU looks like the favorite. I question our ability to beat a team more than once, simply because we’ve never been given that task in the Meyer era. In my years of watching Gator football I can only recall four rematches within a season.
o 1994 FSU – Tied in the regular season and lost in the Sugar Bowl
o 1996 FSU – Lost in the regular season and won the Sugar Bowl
o 1999 Bama – Lost both games
o 2000 Auburn – Won both games
That 2000 Auburn team pales in comparison to the LSU teams of recent years. If we played Auburn 20 times that year I think we would have won 20 times. The other three examples are good indicators of why I am worried about rematches. That 1994 tie felt like a loss by the way. That reminds me. I saw a message board poster yesterday comment that the 2007 LSU game was the most upset he has ever been watching a gator game. Most people agreed with him. I think this is a pretty strong indicator that the message board community, by and large, is made up people who were out of touch prior to Meyer’s arrival. I’ve had other losses that stung more, but I’ve never been blindsided the way I was in November of 1994 when FSU tied us. I remember Bobby Bowden being interviewed on the field afterward and he slipped and called it a win. I can’t blame him for that.

The poster also alluded to our rivals being giddy over our impending doom when Timmy graduates. I have a lot of faith in Brantley. I feel he is better positioned than Doug Johnson was in 97 to take over for a seemingly irreplaceable quarterback, and Doug Johnson was two Friday night benders away from having a really nice season that year.

I think the Gators are in really good shape. It’s really just the tackles and the untested WR talent that concern me. Other than that I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to beat everyone on our schedule. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Ole Miss or Bama to win the west.

From: ThreetSent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 2:07 PM

- Agree about Penn State being a legitimate contender for BCS NC game, but let’s say at the end of the year Texas is the undefeated Big 12 Champion, Penn State is the undefeated Big 10 Champion, and either Florida or LSU is the 1 loss SEC Champion. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to think a 1 loss SEC Champion, especially considering Florida and LSU completely destroyed Big 10 Champs in recent BCS NC games, could get in ahead of Penn State. I don’t want to delve into the math of the BCS, but I do know human polls account for 2/3 of the final BCS tally. If both the human polls voted the 1 loss SEC team ahead of Penn State, couldn’t the SEC team get in? Now there are a lot of other factors out there, mainly – would voters (including other coaches) do that to an aging Joe Paterno? Who knows what would/could happen, but as usual the BCS could turn into a real mess.

- He’s right on about our rivals (and other non-Gator fans) being giddy about Tebow finally being gone in 2010 and predicting mediocrity. I hear this all the time – “you better enjoy it this year, because next year you won’t have Tebow,” etc.. Usually I just smile and say, “We’ll see.” Many people don’t realize how well Meyer has recruited the past few years and how much talent we have. I don’t expect 2010 to be a NC year, but I certainly think we can contend for the SEC. I think the common misconception is that Tim Tebow is Florida football, but in reality Urban Meyer currently is Florida football, which is why we’ll be fine after Tebow leaves.

- It’s probably too early to chart this, but it’s still fun. Barring injuries, Meyer has the depth chart at QB setup perfectly. Brantley, after 3 years on campus, will be a redshirt junior next year, 2010, when he will likely be the starter. Behind Brantley we have Jordan Reed, who will likely redshirt this year, and we have Trey Burton committed in the 2010 class, who will likely redshirt in 2010. So we have 2 years of Brantley, then Reed, who will be a redshirt junior, and Burton, who will be a redshirt sophomore, left to compete for the 2012 starting job. Granted a lot of things can happen, Jordan Reed can decide he wants to steal a laptop, Trey Burton could go somewhere else, John Brantley could suffer a career ending injury, maybe Brantley develops a lazy eye, but it’s interesting to look at how Meyer has built the depth at QB. I had to make a table to make sure I got it all straight:

Year Starter Backup 3rd String
2009 Tebow (Sr.) Brantley (R So.) Reed (Redshirt)
2010 Brantley (R Jr.) Reed (R. Fr.) Burton (Redshirt)
2011 Brantley (R Sr.) Reed (R. So.) Burton (R. Fr.)
2012 Reed (R. Jr.)? Burton (R. So.)?



- During FSU’s glory years, I think a significant part of their success was how they managed depth at QB, of course they also had great defenses and skill position players. Once someone graduated, the incumbent starter was usually a junior who had been on campus for at least a couple years and was familiar with the system and the game at the collegiate level, which seems to translate into more consistency between years and ease the transition of breaking in a new QB. Take a look back at their QBs in the 90s, it’s a pretty solid list – 2 Heisman trophy winners. Things really started to go downhill once Weinke graduated and they were forced to play a young, inexperienced Chris Rix.

Year Player Class Comments
1990 Weldon Jr.
1991 Weldon Sr. Later on as a Buc, had it out with Trent Dilfer on the golf course
1992 Ward Jr.
1993 Ward Sr. Won Heisman and NC
1994 Kanell Jr.
1995 Kanell Sr.
1996 Busby Jr. Played for NC
1997 Busby Sr.
1998 Weinke So. Played for NC
1999 Weinke Jr. Won NC
2000 Weinke Sr. Won Heisman and played for NC


- Not really related to the QB depth and progression, but I got started with this and I thought it was interesting - Looking at recent NCs it appears having an upperclassman at QB is a prerequisite (except for 2003 USC):

YearTeamQBClass
1993Florida StateWardSenior
1994NebraskaFrazierJunior
1995NebraskaFrazierSenior
1996FloridaWuerffelSenior
1997Michigain/NebraskaGriese/FrostSenior/Senior
1998TennesseeMartinJunior
1999Florida StateWeinkeJunior
2000OklahomaHuepelSenior
2001MiamiDorseyJunior
2002Ohio StateKrenzelSenior
2003LSU/USCMauck/LeinartSenior/Sophomore
2004USCLeinartJunior
2005TexasYoungSenior
2006FloridaLeakSenior
2007LSUFlynnSenior
2008FloridaTebowJunior

From: Nate Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 2:45 PM

Good table on big ten champs. I had no idea it was that bad. I agree that Florida, regardless of what happens on the field against the SEC, would destroy any team from the Big Ten this year. But then again, I would have said the same thing going into 2007, and look what we did in the Citrus Bowl against Michigan.

Your hypothetical involving FL/TX/PSU is the BCS nightmare for this season. I still think Penn State would get in over Florida. If the schedule plays out the way it should, your scenario would have Florida losing the toughest game on the schedule. The only quality win to our name would be Georgia (neutral site). Yes, I know your scenario also calls for us mopping the floor with LSU in Atlanta, but that still wouldn’t erase the fact that our only true test on the road was failed. I think there is a big backlash against SEC hype in this country, and given the amount of respect (deserved or not) that the Big Ten gets, I cannot envision a scenario that puts the screws to Penn State like that. Plus their coach is Joe Pa. Joe Pa has been f-ed numerous times by polls in his younger days. I think the human polls would see to it that their votes outweighed anything the computers would do to them because of their paltry schedule. Check out Penn State’s schedule

(Bold games are conference games prior year’s record in brackets)
Akron
Syracuse
Temple
Iowa (9-4)
@Illinois (5-7)
Eastern Illinois
Minnesota (7-6)
@ Michigan (3-9)
@ Northwestern (9-4)
Ohio State (10-3)
Indiana (3-9)
@ Michigan State (9-4)

These guys will probably win their home games. So we’re counting on Northwestern or Michigan State to hand them an L.

Other than UGA and LSU our schedule isn’t very daunting. We can’t afford a misstep.

From: Threet Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 3:51 PM

Our schedule may not be daunting, but I wouldn’t mind trading it for Penn State’s schedule, which is a joke.

I enjoyed the On Rocky Top except. I’ll probably read it once my old man is done with it.

From: Nate Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 2:56 PM

We talked about Jordan Reed earlier. This was in the Sun today:

Days after freshmen Jonotthan Harrison and Mike Gillislee got their black stripes taken off their helmets, coach Urban Meyer said that quarterback Jordan Reed had his removed as well.
It wasn’t necessarily Reed’s progression as a quarterback that has impressed Meyer; it was his ability to take down freshman defensive lineman Kedric Johnson in the “Circle of Life” drill.
“He’s really going hard,” Meyer said after Monday’s practice. “(He has) no idea what he’s doing, but we’ll get that done.”
Reed’s performance might also have an affect on how future quarterbacks are treated.
“I guess we’ll start that tradition. If you’re a quarterback and you defeat a defensive lineman (in the circle of life drill) you get your stripe off,” Meyer said.
From: Threet Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 4:03 PM

I’ve heard a little bit about him and that clip from the Sun reinforces what I’ve heard – he’s a big physical guy, similar to Cam Newton. Maybe in 2010, we’ll use him in the 2006 Tebow role.

From: NateSent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 3:05 PM

One thing I forgot to mention about the 2010 team: the way recruiting has gone on defense, we have a ton of great players on that side of the ball, it makes it easier for the offense to transition between key players at the skill position when in all likelihood we will have a defense every year that keeps opponents at bay. I think we have more talent on defense now than I can ever remember.

From: Threet Our depth at LB is ridiculous. There’s another beast at LB we’re after this year – Jeff Luc. He looks like a hoss and I think Urb will reel him in.

http://insider.espn.go.com/ncf/recruiting/tracker/player?recruitId=78240&action=login&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fncf%2frecruiting%2ftracker%2fplayer%3frecruitId%3d78240

From: Nate
Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 3:24 PM

I just got through listening to Finebaum interview some media type (named Hooker) from Knoxville about the Vols upcoming season. Hooker painted a pretty bleak picture. Said that they are lacking in talent. For all his shortcomings Kiffin did reel in a decent class. Even if he can’t coach a lick, if Kiffin hangs around for 3 or 4 years and stocks their cupboard Tennessee could be in good shape to bring in another coach and their program could be back on track. Kiffin had a good track record recruiting at USC, but you could argue that isn’t hard to do. Imagine how easy any of the big 3 Florida schools would have had it in the 90s if they were the only school worth going to in the state.

I understand where UT fans are coming from. In the summer of 2002 we were all spinning the impending Ron Zook era to be something we all subconsciously knew it would not be. My uncle from Maryland predicted in the summer of 1997 that we would go undefeated and repeat as national champions because he had been reading glowing reports about Doug Johnson in “Gatorbait”. He was dead serious too. I get more worked up thinking about the 98 team than I do the 97 team. Neither of those losses should have happened. 2001 is the most referenced disappointing season, but 1998 ranks right up there. We had a really good team, and our season changed on two plays. We would have torched Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl that year if given the chance.

From: Threet Funny you mention both ’97 and ’98 – I was thinking about those teams on the can earlier (I’m serious, that isn’t a joke) and I came to the same conclusion – ’97 was a good team, tough loss to LSU and a bad loss to UGA. Then they assumed the underdog role and pulled the upset on Florida State and finished the season with a ho hum Citrus Bowl victory over Penn State. The ’98 team was very good, potentially great. We lost a heartbreaker to UT in Knoxville and somehow lost to FSU with the Rooster as QB (f-ing Marquand Manual) and we finished the season by destroying a Donovan McNabb led Syracuse team in the Orange Bowl.

From: Nate Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 4:00 PM

That literally made me laugh out loud.

The five season of Spurrier after the national championship did not go the way people envisioned. From 90-96 the program was on a steady ascent to the top. All the pieces were in place.

In 97 LSU beat us by one lousy touchdown. Doug Johnson threw 4 freaking interceptions that day, and no touchdowns. Any average QB could have quarterbacked us to a win that night. I know Georgia beat us by 20 that year, but Johnson and Brindise combined for 0 TDs and 3 INTs. The Gators basically gave up in the 4th quarter of that game. It was almost like the team decided not to give a sh1t because we already had a loss.

98 we’ve covered ad nausea. That team could have won a national title.

The 99 season turned when DJax dropped that punt against Bama. We probably still lose to FSU, and Bama probably still drills us in Atlanta, but the season seemed to turn after that home loss.

In 00 heading into FSU our only loss was to Miss St (inexplicably). I still can’t believe Spurrier started Jesse over Rex in that game. His biggest mistake as head coach

01 – We all know what happened

The Meyer era has a different tone. We ascended to the top so fast, and it feels like the whole goal now is to stay on top. Quite a different feel than the 90s. The difference makers from year to year are always one or two games, and our championship teams completed the task and teams like 97 and 98 I guess just weren’t good enough. 98 for me is becoming increasingly difficult to swallow.

From: Threet That ’99 loss to Alabama in the Swamp was tough. I remember strutting into that game with no doubt that we would win. I also remember some lunatic slamming his visor into the aluminum seating at Ben Hill Griffin about 700 times that afternoon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who else loves the new catcher


Pinch hit grand slams by the new guy go a long way towards making people love him, and making Dioner Navarro more maligned. The Rays roller-coaster is climbing again. Two straight wins to snap the 6 game skid, and Baltimore coming in on Tuesday, which is a series that we should be winning. Next weekend's series with Texas is gargantuan. Interestingly our last road trip of the season is a three game trip to Arlington. Texas had a huge May and July. You would think that they should be cooling off about now. I still have a hard time accepting that the Rays are only an above average team. This underachieving has to stop eventually. They are fortunate to be 3.5 back after what has transpired this season.


The Yankees resurgence has been a difference maker too. In hindsight it is unwise to think that the Yankees would duplicate last season's poor finish. They had been making the playoffs every year since '96, so it would only make sense that they would rebound from last year's letdown. The fact that we're basically out of the division race has left a lot of people disappointed but really it is hard to question the players when they say "we are right where we want to be". 44 games left, and still controlling their own fate. The team is relatively healthy. The thing that blindsided a lot of people has been the poor performance against the good teams in the AL that aren't fixtures at the top (Texas, Seattle, Chicago). All .500 or better, but none of them were on the radar as teams to look out for. Pitching matchups for Baltimore


Price (5-5) vs. Berken (2-10)

Niemann (10-5) vs. Tillman (1-0)

Shields (7-9) vs. Matusz (1-2)


We are 1-1 vs. Baltimore at home this year and 3-4 overall for the year. Sorriness.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Staats column in Tampa Tribune


Rays Projections from another angle

Taking a quick look at the Rays performance at home and on the road against the teams left on the schedule you get a projected total of 85 wins, which is slightly lower than the 87 that their current winning percentage has them targeted for. I had to improvise for the teams they haven't faced yet in the respective locations. Also included below are the list of AL Wild Card winners since the creation of the Wild Card and their win totals. Doesn't look good on paper. The Red Sox slide is keeping us relevant, but the Rangers don't seem to be showing any signs of letting up.


At this point we need to hope for a run similar to what the Phillies had last year and what the Rockies has the year before last. Last year at the 114 game mark the Phillies had a 62-52 record (1 game better than our 61-53 mark). In 2007 the Rockies were 59-55, but their win streak to end the season was unprecedented and you cannot count on something like that to happen. Point being, this isn't out of the realm of possibility. But, both the examples cited are National League teams, which is pretty telling.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Falling off pace



The Rays fell short by a game in their last home stand. The road trip added two more games to make up down the road. Putting the 95 wins aside, the focus at this point is really on catching Boston and Texas.. The Yankees show no sign of letting up. The Rays had a golden opportunity to catch the Red Sox in their recent swoon, and not only came up short, but now have fallen back to 4.5 games behind. Yes, we still have six games against Boston, but it is unlikely they win all six of those games. You'd like to see us get at least 4 of the six, but that only gets us two games back from the 4.5 we still have to make up. Hopefully Baltimore and Toronto at home will provide some relief, but I'm nervous about Texas coming in. The Central and the West seem to own us. We also have a ton of games against the Tigers on the horizon, and I don't believe we have seen them yet this year. It's a damn shame we couldn't pull out a win in that first game against the Angels, and an even bigger shame that we blew that lead Friday night against the Mariners. This season is filled with games like those, and last season it seemed like we were on the winning side of most of those situations.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

FLORIDA TUSKERS

The Tampa Bay Rays own a share of the new Florida UFL team

Here are the uniforms if you care

The interesting thing here is that the Rays are the LP, not Stuart Sternberg. This will certainly draw some attention from people upset about team spending on payroll, and their eagerness to solicit public dollars for a stadium. Interesting play by Rays ownership.

Thoughts?

UPDATE
Gary Shelton revealed the investment in his column today
http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/article1027214.ece
Less than $2 million. I have to agree with Gary. This isn't a big deal at all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shelton on Upton

http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/article1026505.ece

This just puts in print what we've all been thinking this entire season. Some of us famously bashed Upton profusely in the months leading into the 2007 season, and he went on to put up very nice numbers that year. Last year he dropped back off, but his postseason made us all quickly forget. Same goes this season, save June when he was player of the month.

BJ's career has been a roller coaster. Drafted as a SS, later tested the waters at 2b, and settling in at center field. At the time he landed in the OF it was very disappointing in light of the logjam in the OF (Crawford, Baldelli, Young, Dukes, Hamilton, and then Upton). His 2004 call up for 45 games was a disappointment, but at the age of 19 that shouldn't have been surprising as it was a bit premature. By the time we saw him again two years later he had been grouped together with Young and Dukes in the papers for their antics in Durham. Then you had the benchings from Maddon for not hustling.

From BJ's point of view you can understand the frustration. His career hasn't gone as smoothly as Crawford's. I think Maddon probably did right by giving him a lot of time this year to turn it around. The guy needs stability. But now it appears maybe that stability should be at the bottom of the order.

There's really no telling how his future will turn out. If BJ turns into a regular .240 hitter that strikeouts a lot, but plays amazing defense and steals tons of bases, perhaps that would be in the Rays best interest. It could lower his market value, and justify his slot in the 9 hole, making him cheap enough to retain.

It is interesting to look at BJ's draft class
http://www.mymlbdraft.com/2002/

As the second pick overall it's pretty obvious why expectations are high. Other names that stand out

Zack Greinke (underachiever)
Prince Fielder - Best player in the first round
Jeff Francis - spotty at best
Jeremy Hermida - Giant bust.
Joe Saunders - Nice selection
Khalil Greene - Horrible
Scott Kazmir - great until this year
Nick Swisher - solid player
Cole Hamels - excellent
Matt Cain - coming back around
Loney, Span, Guthrie, Francoeur, and Blanton - all servicable major leaguers.

Career stats per baseball-reference.com
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/u/uptonbj01.shtml

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gainesville in the eyes of Urban Meyer

Pat Dooley did an interesting piece on Urban Meyer today (as long as you can cut through the Sister Hazel nonsense. On a side note, when I was at UF Dooley did a daily radio show that wasn't that bad. He would however on occasion talk about music. Long story short, his taste in music is horrific. There were many a time that he wondered aloud what the best Tom Petty song is. disastrous radio) .


Jon, you may not enjoy the article so much.



Perhaps my head was in the sand, but I wasn't aware of the extent that Meyer was struggling to adapt to Gainesville. I think the fact that he has found a comfort zone there is sort of a big deal for his longevity as Head Football Coach.



The most interesting part for me was the bit about the 2005 team. I would like to know what seniors "tried to implode it". According to Gatorzone.com the seniors on the 2005 team were:



Matt Kynes, Vernell Brown, Deshawn Carter, Kyle Morgan, Jarvis Herring, Todd McCullough, Shan Cimock, Bryan Royal, Jeremy Mincey, Jonathan Marvin, Mike Degory, Lance Butler, Randy Hand, Tavares Washington, Dallas Baker, Otto Graham, Jimmy Newmeyer, Markell Thompson, and Nick Flemming. The article implies that Vernell, Herring, and Mincey were boys with Meyer. We know Dallas Baker was on board. Go back to that list and eliminate all the spares, and your left with Todd MuCullough, and a group of offensive linemen (Mike Degory, Lance Butler, Jonathan Marvin, Randy Hand, Tavares Wasshington.

So one could draw the conclusion that Urban Meyer is blaming the three losses (at Bama, at LSU, and at USC) on a group of angry offensive linemen who miss their weight lifting buddy Ron Zook.

Nothing like a text message from James Bates to go play bocci to lift your spirits, eh.

Thoughts heading out west

From the man that brought you this article last week, comes the proclamation that the Rays are playoff contenders because of Wednesday's game. Not that I disagree with him on that point, but I think this is pretty good evidence that Gary Shelton is a bit of a loose cannon in his Rays coverage.

Game comments
During the first part of the game, bullpen coach Bobby Ramos was being interviewed by Todd Kalas. I commented to Gayle that the guy sitting in the party area directly behind Ramos looked like Roberto Hernandez (he was even wearing the old Ray on top of the rainbow oval hat). Three innings later, the crew pointed it out and confirmed it was indeed Roberto Hernandez. This disconcerting part is that he was in close proximity to the point where he could be coaching up the bullpen, which isn't what you want from that guy.

Dewayne Staats has taken his game up a level this year. His tone continues to be that of a fan. He spent a lot of the broadcast coaxing Kevin Kennedy into admitting that the Rays are more badass than he envisioned when he took Joe Magrane's seat in the booth. Staats also took the liberty of talking crap about the national media and their comments on the Rays. I'm paraphrasing but he said something along the lines of "All these guys saying the Rays are out of it...well I never see them at Tropicana Field, or on the road covering the away games. They don't know what they are talking about". Dewayne's stock is rising in my estimation.

The FSN crew showed a lot of footage of Pat Burrell's sleeveless one on one batting practice session with Joe Maddon. It drew some sympathetic comments from my wife ("I feel sorry for him. He's trying"). I guess it worked, since he slugged a home run later in the game.

Win Tracker

The team fell short of the target by a game this homestand, but considering they took both games from the Red Sox, it's not all bad. It would be nice for the team to take at least 2 games from the Mariners over the weekend considering the Yanks and Sox play a four game set beginning tonight. There is ground to be made up in either the wild card or the division race. so opportunity knocks.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Price vs Penny tonight

Price's stats at home vs road this year

Home (MIN, LAA, PHI, FLA, TOR, KC)
4-1 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.34 WHIP in 6 games

Road (CLE, NYY, COL, TEX, CHW, TOR)
0-3 with a 8.20 ERA, 2.01 WHIP in 6 games

So he looks good at home. But consider the opponents. Those road starts were against tough opponents (sans Cleveland, but that start was during the sweep).

Rays still in control

There's an overall sense of desperation among the media covering the Rays, and among a lot of the vocal fans (radio callers, message board posters, etc). The team seems to be keeping it together. Every interview I see they all say "we are right where we want to be" (which seems like a lie because you'd think they would want to be in first place right now). But it's kind of true actually. We sit 5.5 back of the Yankees for first, and 4 back of the Red Sox for the Wild Card. We still have 7 games left against the Sox (4 home 3 away) and 6 against the Yankees (3/3 home/road). That is enough to truly say we can make our own bed still. A win tonight and we're three out of the wild card with over 50 games left.

Normally you want to win your division, but it would appear that a wild card winner coming from the AL East will draw the AL West winner (most likely the Angels), based on our performance against the Central Division front runners I think I would rather take my chances without home field advantage against the Angels than risk facing the White Sox again, who seem to own us this year.

Dewayne Staats sticks to his guns


I'll defer to the Times for the details on last night's game.


Dewayne Staats stole the show for me last night. This year, Staats has shown a propensity for a calling a game with Rays colored glasses. He spent a good solid inning raking Laz Diaz across the coals last road trip. He was at it again last night with the umpiring crew after the dead ball ruling that left Zobrist at 3rd and Aybar at 2nd. I wish there was some video online because you would have thought you were watching the game with him in his living room. Subsequently in extras, the Rays had the bases loaded again with nobody out and he was still making comments like "Well, the Rays will have to win this game for a second time here". Todd Kalas was dispersed to track down a rule book and by the time the game ended shortly after midnight the air had been cleared, and it appeared the right call was made.


Not good enough for Dewayne though. In the post game show he still harped on it, claiming, "Well they called it by the book, but that's a bad rule. They should change it".


Dewayne Staats is about 30 years, and a drinking problem away from calling Rays games the same way Harry Caray called the Cubs games on WGN.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tribune article on the Ring of Honor

Martin Fennelly weighs in with his opinion on who should be in. Far too liberal in my opinion. His whole list loses credibility when he suggests that a sports writer should be on the list. His logic for Doug Williams isn't strong enough (he was our Quarterback when we made the playoffs). If anything that is an indictment on him, since the offense killed that team's chances of a Super Bowl.

Warrick Dunn is a nice player, but c'mon.

Brad Johnson is a joke.

Basically any player that had any sort of positive press, this guy is ready to erect a statue.

Rays roster beyond '09


Buster Olney touched on the Rays in his post trade deadline wrap up. John Romano also discussed Carl Crawford's future during the All Star Break. This link provides a good summary of the current year's payroll obligation, and this one gives a little more detail by player.


If the Rays are serious about moving payroll in the offseason the only way to do it and make a dent would be to focus on guys making $2 million plus. In order of 2010 obligations that would be


1. CC - $10 million club option for 2010

2. Pena - $10.125

3. Burrell - $9 million

4. Kaz - $8 million

5. Aki - $4.25 million club option

6. Wheeler - $3.5 million

7. Navi - Currently earning $2.1 but is aribtration eligible for 2010

8. Bartlett - Arbitration eligible currently making $1.9


Other arbitration players are


Joe Nelson

Grant Balfour

Gabe Gross

Lance Cormier

BJ Upton

JP Howell

Matt Garza

Shawn Riggans


Free Agents for Next year (with current year's salary in brackets)

Percy ($4.4 M)

Bradford ($3.6 M)


Obviously Percy is not welcome back. I like Bradford, but for the number of times he has gone to the DL, I don't think he is someone worth offering a contract to. There is $8 million right off the bat. Of all the arbitration guys Bartlett, Upton, Howell, and Garza will see pay increases. Particularly the last three guys, all of whom are below $500K. Navi is grossly overpaid, and I can't see the Rays getting killed on his case.


Feel free to draw your own conclusions but the Rays don't appear to be in a position to keep all the current players and still satisfy the impending raises that appear to be headed to the arbitration guys. It seems that one or two of CC, Pena, Burrell, and Kaz would need to be moved. If it were up to me I'd like to see Burrell ($9 M) moved and perhaps decline on Aki and cut bait with Navi instead of moving another one of the top four.


I feel like CC is too valuable to move, but he would fetch more on the open market than any of the others.


Thoughts?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Credit to Threet..

Found this after reading his comments on the Bucs post from yesterday

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LLpUbBCwLA&NR=1

Some others...

John Lynch

Reidel Anthony

Mark Cotney

Lastly, not a commercial, but better. The intro to the Bucs Eagles playoff from '79. The intro to CBS NFL Football is awesome. Way better than the shit they put out today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3irRA_mt_w&feature=related

"You are looking LIVE...at Tampa Florida"