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Thread: Tampa Bay Rays 2012 Thread
02-20-2012, 11:50 PM #1
Tampa Bay Rays 2012 Thread
Well...I am a Tiger fan, born and lived in Michigan for years...
I used to walk to the old Tiger Stadium from where I lived in Detroit...
I retired to Central Florida, so the Rays have evolved into my second favorite team...
I get to watch all the Rays games on TV and I go the Tiger games when they play the Rays at Tropicana Field...
Maybe there are some others who also have some interest in the Rays...
I keep hoping that some year, the Rays and the Tigers will meet in the post season...
Of course, I would have to pull for the Tigers, but it would be fun to watch the games in person when they played down here...
I really don't expect the Rays to do as well as they did last year...
But I said the same thing last year...
It could be an interesting season...
02-21-2012, 12:04 AM #2
To start off this season, this article by Sam Fuld is really popular among the Rays fans...
Fuld is a bench player for the Rays, with a lot of hustle, who plays hard 100% of the time...
Fuld wrote this about Game 162 of the 2011 season, when the Rays beat the Yankees and made it to the post season...
Fuld is a good writer and he captures the game quite nicely...
Maybe some of you remember seeing that game...
It was an awesome game and an awesome day in baseball history, as the Red Sox completed their year-ending flop...
Sam Fuld on the Tampa Bay Rays' win over the New York Yankees in Game 162 of the 2011 regular season - Grantland
The Tampa Bay Rays' Sam Fuld revisits last season's historic night
By Sam Fuld on February 20, 2012
Ilike to consider myself a coordinated person. I make a living running after baseballs in the outfield, sometimes dodging bullpen mounds, dancing along unpadded walls, even leaping over oncoming teammates on occasion. I think I could more than hold my own on those Japanese obstacle course TV shows. But when Evan Longoria lined a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Yankees during the last game of the 2011 season to put us in the playoffs, and it came time to climb the three steps that lead from our dugout to the field, I lost all semblance of body control. I ate it. Face-first.
This is what first comes to mind for me when I think about that historic day in Major League Baseball, September 28, 2011. The Yankees had clinched the AL East a few days earlier, while we were tied for the wild-card spot with the Red Sox, who were on the verge of the biggest September collapse in baseball history. Over in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals were mounting a comeback against the Atlanta Braves almost as improbable as ours. National media were having a field day covering the Sox and their $160 million payroll. This was a team that had gone from World Series favorite to the brink of squandering a playoff berth to the cash-strapped, overachieving Tampa Bay Rays.
But here we were at the end of September, with our postseason fate in our own hands. We had played good, not great, baseball that month. The Red Sox, who had fallen victim to their starting pitchers' poor performances and some bad luck, now stood tied with us as they took on the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards that night.
If this was the biggest game of the year, you wouldn't have known it from inside the clubhouse. I strolled into the locker room, comforted by the sound of our customary 2 p.m. playlist — I think Kanye West's "All of the Lights" was on. The typical early crowd was there: the young September call-ups; J.P. Howell rocking back and forth in his chair, his long NorCal locks bouncing along, greeting me with a "What it do?"; and, of course, our training staff, who log more hours at work than a first-year investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
We all knew somewhere hiding in the building lay protective plastic tarps, champagne bottles, and swim goggles; and we all knew perched above our lockers were baseball bags waiting to be packed up for the winter months. But for whatever reason — maybe it was our youth (our three leaders were Evan "Longo" Longoria, 25, James Shields, 29, and Johnny Damon, who could fit into a crowd of college kids as well as anyone on the team); maybe it was our manager (Joe Maddon always wanted us to feel comfortable and free. He has pasted quotes on the locker room wall like, "Integrity has no need of rules" and "Rules cannot take the place of character"); or maybe it was the small, virtually pressure-free market we played in. The atmosphere inside those clubhouse doors was almost no different than it would be before some invisible game in the middle of June.
I grabbed fellow reserve outfielder Justin Ruggiano and convinced him to go outside for a run with me. I'd been craving this run all day long, partially to burn off the pizza I'd been struggling to avoid (does the CBA mandate that each MLB clubhouse provide pizza 24/7?), partially to get some sunshine that, ironically, we Rays are so deprived of for half our games (Tropicana Field is the only non-retractable dome in the major leagues). And maybe just to spend a little time with a buddy who'd experienced this crazy season with me — and who, in this unpredictable profession, I might never play with again. We lumbered down a few long St. Petersburg blocks and returned to the Trop, drenched, in time to watch the Yankees' Robinson Cano take early batting practice. He launched underhand flips deep into the vacant right-field seats. A-Rod emerged from their dugout and started to loosen up, poised to match Cano's deposits, though his were directed toward the left-field seats.
"Does this mean they're not playing?" I asked Rugg. The thought of Brandon Laird and Ramiro Pena replacing them in the lineup was pretty nice. "I dunno, dude," he answered.
It was 3 p.m., and I was already speculating on the Yankees' lineup as if I were the owner of a fantasy team.
Four hours later we came to bat in the bottom of the first inning, already down a run. There were two noticeable peculiarities tonight. One: For once, the Trop was packed. Two: The guy standing on the hill for New York was Dellin Betances, making his first career major league start. Betances reminded me a lot of myself — if only I were a foot taller, threw a lot harder, and looked 20 times more intimidating. He was a monster. He seemed like one of those guys who was either going to throw five no-hit innings (he was a starter in the minors but had only worked out of the bullpen for New York) or walk five guys and not get out of the first inning.
After Desmond Jennings popped up to lead off the inning, Betances issued free passes to B.J. Upton and Longo. Maybe Betances just needed to face a lefty: he followed by striking out Matt Joyce and Damon, throwing curveballs that I swear someone dropped from one of the catwalks. Our one-run deficit suddenly seemed a lot larger.
Already, we non-starters had begun paying attention to the Boston-Baltimore game. The scrolling scoreboards at the Trop showed only one game, and it wasn't the Twins-Royals pitching duel. The anxiety reminded me of watching the draft the year I was taken, or checking the mail every day in high school while I waited for my college acceptance letter. I needed to have more detail, more insight. I left the dugout and went to our clubhouse, where several TVs were showing the game. This would be our schedule for the next few innings: up the stairs to watch the Red Sox when we were done hitting, back down once the Yankees made their third out.
By the fifth inning, we were spending more and more time watching the game in Baltimore, because that was a lot less painful to watch than the one at the Trop. A-Rod was indeed taking the night off, and Cano was only DHing, but still the Yankees had built a 7-0 lead in the fifth inning. This, coupled with Boston's 3-2 lead, had us thinking more about the bags above our lockers than the champagne. Thankfully, I had my mid-game routine to distract me from this helpless watching: 15 minutes on the bike, stretch, take some hacks off the tee and off our hitting coach Derek Shelton in the cage. Usually by the time I had completed this program, the game was somewhere in the seventh inning and I was too busy to get worked up about a potential high-leverage, pinch-hit situation. It was no different tonight, except my pinch-hit at-bat felt like more of a test on my bum wrist than any real opportunity to win a ballgame.
I got the nod in the bottom of the eighth. "Sammy!" yelled our bench coach Davey Martinez, bopping his two closed fists on top of one another — the international sign for "get ready to hit." Still down 7-0, we had loaded the bases against lefty Boone Logan with no outs. Girardi had seen enough and called on righty Luis Ayala, a guy who slings the ball like he's skipping rocks, with a 1.64 ERA at the time. As I hopped into the on-deck circle, I had butterflies going. They weren't really a product of the game situation, but more out of fear of looking like an idiot. I hadn't seen a live pitch in exactly 14 days! What if Baltimore came back from their 3-2 deficit and we won tomorrow's play-in? Just swing hard and don't look hurt. I had to look healthy to make that playoff roster.
Ayala threw me three straight balls to start the at-bat. Then two I-can't-believe-I-just-did-that-to-this-little-slap-hitter fastballs right down the middle. I stepped out, figured more of the same was coming, and envisioned hitting a line drive over Nunez's head at short. Nope. Changeup. Seven times out of 10 I would have swung and missed over the top of it. But this time I saw it right out of his hand, and knew it was a ball immediately. Wow. Never took the bat off my shoulder and got one of the easiest RBIs of all time.
Four batters later I stood on second base with two outs, down 7-3 now. I had given Yankees second baseman Eduardo Nunez the obligatory "What's up, man?" and he smiled in return — the kind of amused grin only a player who knew he was already going to the playoffs could give. Then, Longo stepped to the plate. Before I could turn around to check the Red Sox game (just kidding, I wouldn't do that … OK, maybe during a pitching change … or a long at-bat), he had blasted his 30th home run of the year and I was high-tenning in the dugout. How did we go from 7-0 to 7-6 in just 25 pitches?!
I played an uneventful top of the ninth inning in right field, then prepared to hit third against Cory Wade. Girardi refrained from using his "big three" — Soriano, Robertson, and Rivera — so that they'd get ample rest for Game 1 of the ALDS. Cory was a Ray during spring training, and despite pitching well, didn't break camp with us. After carving up triple-A hitters for two months, he took his "out" (a contract clause that many minor league free agents exercise to find an opportunity elsewhere) and signed with the Yankees. He quickly became a key reliever for them, and had whittled his ERA down to 1.85 heading into tonight. He probably hates us, the pessimist in me thought. There's no way he's letting us get to the playoffs.
Two outs to start the inning. It was down to me. Don't try to hit a homer. I had already reached my quota on the year, three. Just extend the inning. "Sammy!" It was the same voice, same word, and same tone as the inning before. Except this time the hand gesture was a plea to come back to the dugout. My stomach had dropped, my spirits deflated, but I wasn't going to show any disappointment. Frankly, I'm not good enough to have any baggage and remain employable. At that moment, the last thing the dugout needed was any negative vibes. I really, really, really wanted to hit, but after the shock wore off, I remembered that Joe was the best manager in the game, and he had an uncanny knack for pushing all the right buttons. I was over it. I was ready to cheer on Dan Johnson.
I snuck into an empty space on the dugout rail and watched Dan get himself into a 1-2 hole. Ball two. Then, a foul ball. It was a healthy hack on a fastball, one that gave us all a little hope in this dire situation. We were Butler and the Red Sox were Duke. Dan Johnson was Gordon Hayward and his half-court heave was about to rim out. But then it went in. But Dan hooked a changeup down the right-field line. We all leaned forward over the padded dugout rail, not one set of feet on the ground, and then erupted as if we had each simultaneously drained a 50-foot eagle putt. Home run, game tied, and now we were going to win. We knew it. If you looked at the win expectancy at that particular moment, you'd see us at only 53 percent. But there was no convincing any of us in the dugout that momentum didn't exist in baseball.
Scott Proctor came in to pitch for the Yankees and convinced his arm it was 2006, closing out the ninth and then holding us scoreless in the 10th and 11th. Meanwhile, the clubhouse-to-dugout shuttle got busier as play resumed in Baltimore. At one point, we were all gathered in the food room, where one large screen was showing our game, flanked on either side by two smaller ones showing the Red Sox game. I looked around the room and said, "Raise your hand if you played baseball tonight." About 10 hands shot up, with only Jeremy Hellickson abstaining — he had started the previous night. We all turned to Helly. "You're next."
The buzz from Dan's home run had slowly worn off, and it felt like we were headed for a repeat of the 16-inning, five-hour, 44-minute marathon we'd played in July. As word trickled out to the dugout that Boston had grounded into a double play to kill a ninth-inning rally, we decided to duck back inside to watch Baltimore's last chance. Back on the field, Longo booted a ball to lead off the top of the inning, and my thoughts reverted back to their more comfortable pessimistic place. Papelbon struck out the first two Baltimore batters in the bottom of the ninth, and we were running out of steam.
Then, a Baltimore double coupled with a Yankee baserunning blunder gave the food room a jolt of life. It felt like a sports bar, not a clubhouse. We were all just fans, powerless to control the outcomes of these two gripping games. Even Dan Johnson, proud smile and all, had transformed himself from hero to spectator. But it wasn't fun! When you're playing, or even just available on the bench, you don't feel as nervous. You can't. You have to convince yourself that what you're doing doesn't matter, that nobody's watching, that your job and money and pride aren't on the line. The dozen of us that had gathered in that room all knew this role well. But the role of fan? We were as comfortable as a bunch of dads at the Little League World Series, except we had TWO games to watch at the same time.
Just then, Nolan Reimold doubled to tie it up in Baltimore, while our Jake McGee got the pesky Yankees' Brett Gardner to ground out to end the inning. Holy cow! I forgot I had a bum wrist and slapped every free hand I could find. Momentum is a funny thing.
Three pitches later, Robert Andino lined a splitter to left off of Jonathan Papelbon in Baltimore, sending us remaining "fans" sprinting toward the clubhouse exit as if we were being chased by an armed man.
The little segment of the Trop's left-field wall, just right of the foul pole looking out from home plate, spans only 20 feet and can't be much more than four feet high. It's a dream for left fielders like me who can touch a basketball rim only on a good day, because there's no way I'm robbing homers anywhere else. Nobody really knows why it's like that in left field … there are a lot of things at the Trop that nobody really knows about. Jeff Niemann, a guy whose knees can probably see over that part of the wall, once told me that in his three-plus years with the Rays, he'd seen it come into play exactly ONCE.
Make it twice. After B.J. Upton struck out, Longo did his best right-handed Dan Johnson impersonation, driving a misplaced fastball just past the foul pole and barely over that elusive piece of left-field wall. Off the bat, I thought Evan had a sure ground-rule double. Watching the replay later, it reminded me of Mark McGwire's record-breaking 62nd homer in '98. It had to be the shortest home run in Tropicana Field history, both in distance and time.
The game itself was a microcosm of the whole season. The Yankees' one-run first inning was like opening day for us, when everyone was writing off us and our $42 million payroll. The second inning with Teixeira's grand slam was like the first week of the season, when we were swept at home twice, and lost Manny Ramirez for the season and Longoria for a month. The Yankees' 7-0 lead heading into the eighth was our nine-game deficit in early September. Whether you put it into numbers or you just felt it, the odds against us were mind-boggling.
We were a bunch of overlooked, undervalued players and coaches, and we loved each other because of it. Someone asked Johnny Damon if this was as good as winning a World Series with Boston and New York. As he smoked a cigar, he simply said, shaking his head, "Better." Maybe we were all caught up in the moment, but I think every one of us nodded and wholeheartedly believed him.
Sam Fuld plays left field for the Tampa Bay Rays.
02-21-2012, 12:22 AM #3
Quotes from Joe Maddon on the first day of Spring Training 2012...
"I believe this team is capable of getting back to the World Series," manager Joe Maddon said. "Absolutely.""Yes, we not only want to get to the playoffs, we want to get deeper in the playoffs," Maddon said. "We want to get back to the World Series. That is our goal as we stand here. I'm sure almost every camp you're going to walk into right now this time of year, they're going to be saying the same thing, but I'm here to tell you legitimately this is our goal. And every day that we work is toward that end.""I like the idea of expectations being raised a little bit," Maddon said. "I like the idea of people wanting to include us in that type of discussion. I want our players to like it, too. It's more about managing expectations this year as opposed to trying to build some, and I'm very good with that.""That's what we want to be, that's our goal every year to be that team that everyone wants to come after," he said. "Our goal is to go to the World Series and win it. … We've got a really good team. I'm excited about it. … Everything is right in line for success. We've just got to go right out there and execute it.""We're at the point now, that every time we show up here our goal is get back to the playoffs and our goal is to win the World Series," Maddon said. "It's got to be."
02-21-2012, 12:29 AM #4
Pitcher, James Shields, has some comments on the first day of Spring Training...
"We've got some good things going on here,'' Shields said. "I think we made some good moves this off-season. It's nice to see some new guys coming in and some old guys coming back. I think we have a pretty good squad. We kept the nucleus of our pitching staff, we kept pretty much the nucleus of our defense, added some new offense in there. I think it's a recipe for success.''"That's what we want to be, that's our goal every year to be that team that every one wants to come after,'' Shields said. "Our goal is to go to the World Series and win it. We've been in the playoffs three out of the last four years, that's pretty good compared to what we've done over the last 15 years. We've got a good team over here. We've got a really good team. I'm excited about it. We've got a good pitching staff. Everything is right in line for success. We've just to go right out there and execute it.''
02-21-2012, 12:35 AM #5
Jeff Niemann is ready to play after losing his salary arbitration meeting to the Rays...
Jeff Niemann said he does not have any ill feelings toward the Rays despite losing his arbitration case earlier this month.“Oh no, not at all,” he said this morning. “This is part of the business and sometimes the business side of baseball comes up and your agent advises you how to handle things. I’m glad it’s done with and over. I’m ready to start the spring.”
Niemann sought $3.2 million but settled for $2.75 million after a panel of three arbitrators ruled in favor of the Rays.
“I considered it a win-win situation going in,” Niemann said. “Certain circumstances got us to that point. We did it, went through it, got the experience. Now I’m ready to go out there and play.
02-21-2012, 12:50 AM #6
Notes from the first day of Spring Training for The Rays 2012...
J.P. Howell, relief pitcher, has shaved his beard and has cut his long hair down to a near buzz cut...
Kyle Farnsworth says his elbow feels fine, but he will monitor it must closer this year to avoid any issues...
Carlos Pena gets a corner locker, used by Pat Burrell and Johnny Damon in the past...
02-21-2012, 01:00 AM #7
Large Crowd Shows up for Rays FanFest...
Over 25,000 fans showed up, significantly more than last year...
Rays owner, Stuart Sternberg, was happy...
“What could be better than this - I’m smiling ear to ear,’’ he said. “These are always great and each one you can say is better than the last, but there’s a real sense of optimism.’’
02-21-2012, 10:31 AM #8
I fully expect the Rays to compete for the AL East this year. Their pitching is the best of any of the teams in the division, nay, the AL IMO. Where they are still weak is in hitting. Outside of Longoria, they don't have anyone in that lineup that scares you on a day in, day out basis. B.J. Upton? Psshh! Pena can blast the ball and had some of his best years in Tampa, but he's an all-or-nothing guy, more nothing lately. They have some young guys that could help--Tim Beckham and Desmond Jennings.
I should caveat this, though, and state I only follow the Rays because I follow the AL East. I don't hate the Rays, per se, but they aren't at the top of my list.
02-21-2012, 09:15 PM #9
It should be interesting to see if the Rays trade a SP in season for a position of need that arises. They have so much depth that even an injury shouldn't kill them.VT B.R.B. "We only part to meet again"
2014 AAT: RHP Warwick Saupold
02-21-2012, 09:47 PM #10
Can't root for a team that rosters Josh Lueke...http://tigers-thoughts.blogspot.com
RIP estrepe... Miss ya bud!
02-22-2012, 12:29 AM #11
Not a fan per say but I do like them. They are kinda the underdog and I love to cheer for the underdog. With the way they are set up I wouldn't be surprised to see them take the AL east this year. They have a top pitching staff and they have IMO the best manager in the game. They may struggle to hit the ball but they have some young guys who may show up this year for them.
02-22-2012, 02:59 AM #12
Word is circulating that Wade Davis may ask for a trade, if he is sent to the bullpen...
“I’m a starter…I don’t see any reason for me to be in the bullpen. I understand they’ve got to do certain things, but we’ll see. … I definitely want to be a starter and stay a starter forever. And that’ll be my mentality”…Davis said there haven’t been any conversations — yet, anyway — with anyone from the Rays about possibly ending up in the bullpen. And if he is sent that way, he might end up approaching them, though he wouldn’t have much leverage to force a trade…”If it ever did come to that, it’s something we’d talk about then,” he said.
02-22-2012, 03:04 AM #13
Projected Opening Day Payroll for the Rays (subject to change)...
02-22-2012, 03:06 AM #14
2012 Top Prospects for the Rays...
02-22-2012, 03:13 AM #15
Longoria dating Playboy model, Jaime Edmondson...
02-22-2012, 03:18 AM #16
Spring Training TV Schedule For The Rays...
• Thursday, March 15, at 1 p.m.: Phillies vs. Rays in Pt. Charlotte. SUN
• Sunday, March 18, at 1 p.m.: Red Sox vs. Rays in Pt. Charlotte. SUN
• Sunday, March 25, at 1 p.m.: Marlins vs. Rays in Pt. Charlotte. SUN
• Saturday, March 31, at 1 p.m.: Red Sox vs. Rays in Pt. Charlotte. SUN
Last edited by Auburndale Ray; 02-22-2012 at 03:20 AM.
02-22-2012, 03:23 AM #17
Jose Molina says he is prepared to play 162 games if called on by the Rays...
02-22-2012, 03:26 AM #18
Joe Maddon says he likes the idea of raised expectations for the Rays...
02-22-2012, 03:32 AM #19
Spring Training for the Rays...
It all starts here...
02-22-2012, 03:39 AM #20
Game Day Promotions for the Rays in 2012...
02-22-2012, 09:37 AM #21
What is Alex Cobb's expected role for 2012? Is he going to be in the starting rotation?2013 AAT: Alex Avila, C
2009-2010, '10-11 AAP: Ben Wallace
'08-'09 AAP: Richard "Rip" Hamilton2011 AAL: Roary the Lion
02-22-2012, 10:07 AM #22
02-22-2012, 10:57 PM #23
Well...On June 29th game...
The Zimmer Bear will be given away...
To honor Don Zimmer, the 81 year old Senior Adviser for the Rays...
02-22-2012, 11:02 PM #24MotownSports Fan
- Join Date
- Jun 2007
Are they still doing the Saturday concerts?Adopt-a-Tiger: 08' Lucas French, 09' Andrew Oliver 1-0 vs NCAA, 10' Daniel Fields
Adopt-a-Lion: 08' Dan Orlovsky, 09' Jeff Backus
02-22-2012, 11:21 PM #25
Joe Maddon was impressed with J.P. Howell, relief pitcher for the Rays today...
He said he looked stronger, sharper and more confident than last year...
Maddon was also impressed with Fernando Rodney...
He said he believes Rodney will be just what they need in the bullpen...
He had great velocity and movement on his pitches and was working on his control...
02-22-2012, 11:29 PM #26
02-22-2012, 11:37 PM #27
Niemann went to arbitration and lost, but there seems to be no hard feelings...
Davis seems intent on remaining a starter, so if he flounders, I suspect he may be the one to be traded...
02-22-2012, 11:47 PM #28
02-22-2012, 11:53 PM #29
David Price and his French Bulldog, named Astro...
Price seems to have more fun than most in the dugout, when he is not pitching...
Of course, he is a fan favorite for the Rays...
02-23-2012, 12:00 AM #30
The big "IF" with the Rays seems to be centering around Carlos Pena...
IF, he can be productive with 30+ home runs and close to 100 RBI and a better batting average...
This team could be very competitive...
IF, he flounders down around .190 batting average and 200 strikeouts...
This team might struggle...
Of course, Pena is just one player and I suspect he will give it all he has...
I sincerely believe he loves playing for the Rays and living in Florida...
We shall see...
02-23-2012, 12:24 AM #31
Rays have an official new mascot...
There is still some confusion as to whether "Raymond" will still be around...
DJ Kitty was very popular at FanFest...
02-23-2012, 11:20 AM #32
02-23-2012, 11:58 AM #33
Your 2013 Tampa Bay Devil KittiesVT B.R.B. "We only part to meet again"
2014 AAT: RHP Warwick Saupold
02-23-2012, 06:14 PM #34
DJ Kitty is from this video they show on Tropicana Field's video board during games. Pretty humorous, actually
02-24-2012, 09:55 AM #35
02-29-2012, 09:49 PM #36
02-29-2012, 09:52 PM #37
02-29-2012, 09:54 PM #38
02-29-2012, 09:56 PM #39
02-29-2012, 09:58 PM #40
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