Hello everyone, it’s time for my one and only AllStar break update. I have to sandwich this between a ThursdaySunday vacation I just took in which I had no Internet access and a flight to San Diego tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. So I’ll do what I can in talking about my teams and their headlines.
- Jeff Francoeur got traded to the Mets? Seriously?
- Carlos Pena competed in last night’s Home Run Derby, where he narrowly missed advancement to the second round. Albert Pujols would like to thank the fan who brought an out over the wall and turned it into a home run. Pena had a bad pitcher, Scott McNulty, who threw the ball outside 90% of the time. And he’s an assistant baseball coach at my school. Maybe I should interview him about the experience. I’ll leave out the “bad pitcher” part.
- Speaking of the Home Run Derby, I thought Nelson Cruz, who lost in the finals to Prince Fielder, was quite impressive. Looking at him, I can see that he’s a good allaround player with an easy power swing. I would like to see him go on to big things. He has already shot up from “FourA” journeyman to AllStar.
- Despite my approximately 3,300 votes for Pena, he did not win the Final Vote. I also voted against Shane Victorino because he’s a Phillie, but he won anyway. I would like to thank Dustin Pedroia for opening up a spot for Pena, though I’m surprised Ian Kinsler isn’t there. He should be, he deserves it.
- The Rays stand at 4841, 3.5 games behind the Yankees and six games back of the Red Sox. They have started slowly making their move lately, though the last place Oakland A’s have inexplicably given them a lot of trouble. At least here there was no long losing streak prior to the AllStar break. The Braves are 4345, a half game ahead of the Mets, which is hilarious. I hope the Mets crash and burn for the rest of this season. And beyond.
- Jeff Francoeur got traded to the Mets? Seriously? He was sent packing for Ryan Church in Thursday night’s trade, the first between the Braves and Mets in more than 15 years. Francoeur had been on the chopping block for several weeks as the Braves had run out of patience, but I never thought they could send him to the enemy. Church didn’t think he would be a Brave either, but here he is. He’s been the better player since last year, and his lefthanded bat gives the Braves options between him and righthander Matt Diaz. This may be a good deal.
I’ll be watching the AllStar Game tonight as I pack for San Diego. I’ll be staying for six nights at a little family reunion in Escondido. We should be seeing about 30 of our relatives, including a few that I haven’t met. Hopefully we have some baseball fans in the house. News just broke that Evan Longoria, the first ever Rays starter in an AllStar Game, is out due to an infected ring finger. I hate that for him and the team. Good luck to the remaining Rays and Brave in the game tonight, and until I’m back, go Rays.
Rather than dwelling on the embarrassing Rangers series and the Rays giving back their goodwill as they are ever so accustomed to doing, I would like to address the 2009 AllStar Game and its participants. Four Tampa Bay Rays, breaking last year’s record of three, made it into the game with the possibility of a fifth.
Evan Longoria won the voting at third base by a landslide, and for good reason. He has hit 21 home runs and is up about 20 points on his batting average in 2009. He is still doing just about everything he did last year and making his case as a top MVP candidate. Congratulations to the first ever Tampa Bay starter in an AllStar Game. Now do us proud.
Jason Bartlett was voted in as a reserve shortstop by the players. He should have been the starter, and would have been if not for the reputation and Yankee votes for Derek Jeter. He is hitting around .360 with eight home runs he had one last season and has stepped his game up in just about every possible way. And he was already the team MVP last year.
Carl Crawford is another very deserving name. Hitting around .320 for most of the season, Crawford now has eight home runs and a blistering 41 stolen bases. Add a few more walks and he would be Rickey Henderson. This lineup falters without a jump start from him. This will be his third AllStar appearance.
Ben Zobrist was a controversial, but sensible, selection by Joe Maddon. Not even a regular starter for nearly two months, Zobrist has hit home runs and done all the right things when games were on the line. He has 16 home runs, eight stolen bases and about a .400 onbase percentage. He has elevated himself in literally every facet of the game. Just like in the regular season, Maddon can play him in several different spots here. And I know he is not the guy to let this get to his head.
Carlos Pena can also be voted in as part of the Final Vote on MLB.com. He leads the league in home runs and usually plays an outstanding first base. I would like to see him finally have this honor and share it with many other Rays and their loyal fans.
On the Atlanta Braves front, they only managed one representative: catcher Brian McCann, who had the credentials to start despite a slow start to the season due to eye injuries. Those have obviously since been corrected. He has been the bright spot in the lackluster offense for the Braves. Chipper Jones is still doing well, Yunel Escobar is having a good year and Nate McLouth was a welcome boost, but McCann is gluing them all together. He has also had to work with a 60 percent turnover in his starting rotation and has done a very good job with them.
I think the biggest name left out was the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler. He was only hitting .255 as of tonight, but was already near 2020 and has been the spark plug to the Rangers in the absence of Josh Hamilton (who won a starting job anyway). He is in the Final Vote, but I have to vote for Pena. Our apologies to Mr. Kinsler, though his team beating the Rays makes me feel less sorry for him.
Here are the starting lineups:
C Joe Mauer
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Dustin Pedroia (Should have been Kinsler)
SS Derek Jeter (Should have been Bartlett)
3B Evan Longoria
OF Jason Bay
OF Ichiro Suzuki
OF Josh Hamilton (Should have been Crawford or Torii Hunter)
C Yadier Molina (Should have been McCann)
1B Albert Pujols (Obviously)
2B Chase Utley
SS Hanley Ramirez
3B David Wright
OF Ryan Braun
OF Raul Ibanez
OF Carlos Beltran (Will not play due to injury; replacement to be announced)
On an unrelated note, I would like to mention that pitcher Alex Koronis has made his professional debut with the Princeton Rays as a lateinning reliever. The former Tampa Spartan earned a save in his debut on June 30 and has pitched two scoreless outings. This is the first time that I can say a player that I covered, no matter how briefly, has gone on to bigger things. In addition, former Spartan Jose Jimenez hit his first professional home run with the Arizona League Angels on June 23. Keep it up, guys.
Now we have to find out who the starting pitchers and the final men will be. I’m voting for Pena and alternating between Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval and Matt Kemp. Anybody but Shane Victorino because we don’t need any more Phillies. Congratulations to the All Stars, and until next time, go Rays.
The 2009 All Star Game is quickly approaching. Live on July 14 from St. Louis, we will see the best (and most popular) players in the game on one field. So, as a Rays fan, I am heavily voting for my team’s players, especially Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, Jason Bartlett, Carl Crawford and writein Ben Zobrist.
Pena leads the American League in home runs, yet he trails the elite Chris Davis in the voting. Yes, the Chris Davis who is hitting .194 with 101 strikeouts and just 14 walks, with nine fewer home runs, who plays for the Rangers of all teams, is ahead of Pena. This is a travesty of the highest order. Pena is a much better player than Davis. He deserves more respect.
Longoria should be leading the league in votes. Until recently he was. He has been a key catalyst in a somewhat disappointing lineup. If he got in last year, why shouldn’t he start this year? He will… just keep on voting for him.
Bartlett should start too based on his stats and reputation as a winner. He is hitting .373 with a careerhigh seven home runs and 14 out of 15 stolen bases. He has also been a defensive wizard and the anchor of the infield. Derek Jeter leads him by a landslide in voting. Is he having a good season? Yes. Does he deserve to be there? Probably so. But he will be the starter solely based on his reputation and Yankee fandom. Bartlett should be this year’s starter, no question.
Crawford is currently fifth among outfielders. Several of them deserve to start, so Crawford should at least get into the game. His incredible 37 stolen bases and counting, added to his .307 batting average, make him a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year and for All Star consideration. The most exciting players should get in. Crawford is one of them.
Even though he is not on the ballot, the legend of “Zorilla” needs to go to St. Louis and be honored as he should be. Ben Zobrist has singlehandedly won or sealed the win on several games this year for the Rays. His onbase percentage of .400 and 15 home runs only begin to tell the story. He has driven in 42 runs and hit most of his home runs with runners on base and/or in late, close game situations. He has played his best defense despite being moved around the outfield and middle infield. At age 28, he’s even running better (8for10 in base stealing). Most importantly, he has been the Joker card in the Rays’ deck. He can be placed in there anywhere at anytime and get the job done. With World Series home field advantage on the line, Zobrist is exactly the kind of player the American League wants. Take him, Joe Maddon you won’t regret it.
I’m also voting for a few of my favorite Braves, notably Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Nate McLouth. I am absolutely not voting for any Red Sox, Yankees, Mets or Phillies. I would encourage you to follow my lead.
Don’t forget to vote for the 32nd member of each league’s roster in the days leading up to the game. Then watch the game July 14 on FOX. I’ll be watching it the night before I leave for a six day trip to San Diego. Until then, vote today and vote Ray.
And watch the epic World Series rematch at Tropicana Field. Rays vs. Phillies starts tonight with David Price vs. Jamie Moyer. If you can get there (I can’t), please buy tickets and support your American League champions. Until next time, go Rays.
I have recently been on another brief blog hiatus thanks largely to the actual move from one apartment to another that took place last Friday, the days of cleaning and unpacking, and my new school quarter starting this week. I’ve been a bit deprived on baseball lately. Except, of course, for the 79th All Star Game from Yankee Stadium, a showcase of baseball’s greatest players. And Jason Varitek. There were three Tampa Bay players for the first time ever in an All Star Game, those guys once again being Scott Kazmir, Dioner Navarro and Evan Longoria. They all got their playing time not only that, but they actually made positive contributions to the game and affected its outcome.
Navarro was the first Rays player to appear, pinch hitting for Varitek (wisely) with a runner on base. His strikeout and subsequent throwing error obviously didn’t help his cause, but greater things were on the way. Longoria pinch hit for designated hitter Milton Bradley and hit the game tying ground rule double, making it 33 in the eighth inning. Navarro then threw out Cristian Guzman at second base to send the game to extra innings, and he probably should have scored the winning run in the 11th inning, but home plate umpire Derryl Cousins incorrectly called him out at the plate on what was a great throw from Nate McLouth. It would have been irrelevant if Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler had been correctly called safe by umpire Tom Hallion on a steal of second base. So after the umpires granted the game’s eternal extension, Kazmir finally appeared in the 15th inning after every other pitcher had been exhausted. Having thrown 104 pitches two days earlier, there was cause for concern, but Kazmir represented his team with pride by throwing a perfect 14pitch inning to set up the American League’s win in the bottom half. So now if the Rays do pull off the 1969 Mets turnaround, they’ll host four games of the World Series at Tropicana Field. In the last 25 years, teams with home field advantage have gone 205 in the World Series. So the cost of losing this game is very substantial. At least the Rays helped their league win.
Speaking of the Rays and winning, they returned to action tonight at home against the Toronto Blue Jays and edged out an exciting 21 victory to snap that seven game losing streak. James Shields allowed one run in seven innings, pitching well with no run support. That is, until Ben Zobrist entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning down 10. In a scene reminiscent of Akinori Iwamura teeing off Clay Buchholz, he took A.J. Burnett’s inside pitch and launched it deep into the right field seats down the line to give the Rays their margin of victory. J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour stranding that runner at third base in the next half inning definitely assisted them as well. But tonight’s victory was all about Zobrist, who has caught Navarro’s sense of timing his home runs. Shields deserved to win, and he did.
Now this whole winning concept that they had most of the first half has to keep resurfacing as the Red Sox don’t ever seem to lose. Not to mention those pesky ancient Yankees. The Rays need to send the freefalling Blue Jays back to their country by broom and stay right up there with baseball’s best teams. They got off to a nice start tonight. Until this task is completed, go Rays.
I have been away from Rays blogging recently, as I have been preparing for a move to a new apartment. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been following the Rays, of course. As a matter of fact, I would have had time for one or two posts if I hadn’t been so busy voting for Evan Longoria in the Final Vote for the upcoming All Star Game. I probably sent between 500 and 600 ballots. My dad threw in over 300 more. In the end, it all paid off as Longoria defeated close runners up Jermaine Dye and Jason Giambi with a record 9,000,000 votes and officially became an All Star. For a rookie, this is a monumental accomplishment. Same goes for the Rays, who now send Longoria with two other players, Scott Kazmir and Dioner Navarro, as the first trio to represent Tampa Bay in the same All Star Game. So congratulations to him, as well as to National League winner Corey Hart.
Never mind that the Rays have lost four games in a row, they have to win sometime soon. They’re not, you know, that Devil team anymore. So until next time, go Rays.
On this Rays off day very rare these days I'll be telling you, Rays fans and otherwise, about some interesting upcoming events.
First, the All Star Game takes place at Yankee Stadium on July 15. I think it's time to vote for some Rays, or at least erase some of the excessive big market influence that has infiltrated this baseball tradition. Some very deserving players are being shortchanged in the voting for this game (B.J. Upton, anyone?) and they need fan support. We should start giving them this support. I've already started, and hopefully others join me in this cause. Vote today, and vote Ray. And by the way, if Chipper Jones doesn't start, I'm starting a riot.
Another major event in progress is the legal process with the city of St. Petersburg to approve the deal on the impending Waterfront Stadium project. Go to http://www.fansforwaterfrontstadium.com for more information on the project and how to support it. I'm entirely behind it, and I think there is no reason not to be. As a matter of fact, no offense to any other Rays fans, I believe that at this point, anyone who doesn't support Waterfront Stadium is an idiot. The funding is right there in place, the land is available, and there is a growing demand for this new, sustainably built, fanfriendly stadium to be constructed and opened. Who wouldn't want to see it open and continue to watch the team and its fanbase grow? The Rays can use this new ballpark, as it should be very comfortable for an openair Florida stadium, and in many ways an upgrade over their current home. So get behind it, urge on the city council and vote for it (if you live in St. Petersburg), and and watch the excitement unfold.
I just thought I would get these opinion pieces/fan requests out of the way before the series in Boston starts. I should be back soon with more on that battle for supremacy, and until then, go Rays.
The All Star Game for 2007 is officially in the books, but not before some interesting drama was piled on in the 9th inning, ending in a 5-4 American League win. 5-2 in the 9th inning, then Alfonso Soriano hits that home run to right field to make it a one-run game, THEN Francisco Rodriguez loads the bases…and Aaron Rowand flies out. Good, I hate the Phillies. Some news and notes:
-Carl Crawford’s home run. In the 6th inning on a full count against Milwaukee’s Francisco Cordero, Crawford destroyed a hanging slider into the right center field seats in AT&T Park, which is not an easy accomplishment because of the distance and wall height. Crawford, who hadn’t hit a home run in probably about a month, made his name and left a Devil Rays mark on the All Star Game. This was my favorite part of the game, seeing a member of my little small market team make a decisive impact in front of an international audience.
-Ichiro’s inside the park home run, the first in All Star Game history, was one of the game’s greatest moments as well, being such a rare accomplishment, and one of the most exciting plays in baseball. Griffey could never have expected that ball to just roll the other way off the wall, and it was obvious that Ichiro would score, but a great play regardless.
-Ken Griffey, Jr., despite that little defensive mistake, made a big difference in the game despite the loss. He drove in each of the first two National League runs and made a huge defensive play that I just had to laugh about. He fielded a base hit and threw Alex Rodriguez out at the plate by probably at least 30 feet. Russell Martin could have easily let the throw drop, but he fielded it perfectly and ran into Rodriguez, who looked like he was about to get run over by a bus. Seeing Rodriguez get thrown out by that much was definitely another highlight of the game.
-American League Champions, please send postcards and money to:
Attn. Victor Martinez
Martinez’s home run gave his team the insurance run they would end up winning by. It’s always good to see home runs and other exciting plays in All Star Games, because that’s where the money comes in.
-Barry Bonds provided his share of unintentional comedy during a dugout interview on FOX. He said that baseball needs to "bring back some of that old fraternity"–hilarious, seeing as he was never part of such a thing. This guy, who thought he was entitled to free drinks two weeks after his Major League debut, refused to help former teammate Brian Fisher with his son’s medical disorder (which he would later die from), and once asked a reporter, as if he were a 4th grader, if he went to "deaf school", thinks he can bring back "baseball fraternity". Not only that, but he strategically dropped that cliched "the game is for the fans" line. It’s true, but laughable coming out of Bonds. He can be a stand-up comedian with material like that. I rewound it and watched it again, and still couldn’t believe it. He really is delusional.
The All-Star Game was not too bad this year, and most of the players got some good exposure. I think Devil Rays such as James Shields and Carlos Pena (who has outhomered starter David Ortiz 20-14), and maybe a Brave like Edgar Renteria, could just as easily have been on the teams as some of the other guys, but no bad players were in that game. (If only the Japanese could say the same thing-see my previous post for more on that.) Now it’s time for the Devil Rays to top 2005 and make a big second half run this year, like the guys in the Major League movies (I and II, the good ones). Please, win more than three road games this year.