Mourning the Rays

Carl Crawford

We’ve been duped.

No, that picture of Carl Crawford in Red Sox gear is not a work of photoshop mastery. You are seeing what you are seeing- a workhorse taking the payday created by the current Major League Baseball system.

Tampa Bay Rays fans everywhere have been straight up fooled. For the last half of a decade, we actually thought we were no longer the glorified farm system of the major leagues.

I’ve lived through the Naimoli days (who I didn’t know was a Notre Dame alum), where we tried to mesh the young and cheap with the old, glorified, but past their prime. I’ve seen the Rays try to copy the Yankee formula to an embarrassingly cheapened and quite unsuccessful degree- I’m looking at you HIT SHOW years. And I’ve seen the Rays have a team full of minor leaguers who would probably have to scrounge around for playing time in other teams’ farm systems.

And then it happened. New ownership. Stu Sternberg- a man with a plan. No more “Gruden-esque “deals like giving  up prospects for has beens. The talent was brewing in our own system, we just needed time, and a few key trades that, while a gamble, brought in youth, and ultimately loads of potential.

The rest is history. After winning 2 AL East titles and having three winning seasons in a row, it seemed like the Rays were ready to be perennial threats to the former status quo of the AL East instead of the perennial doormat. A young nucleus was in place. A starting pitching staff that could easily dominate the scene for years to come had been assembled.

There are two issues. How can any GM work contracts so that almost half a roster becomes free agents at once, and also, how can you not even try to keep the face of your franchise? Offering arbitration must have been an insult to CC. But he knows the system, and he now is a rich man thanks to it.

The Rays have thrived on scouting out unproven talent  and signing on the cheap. I know how we operate. But you can’t help but wonder if this call for payroll reduction, and blaming poor attendance, a horrendous stadium, and whatever other factors Sternberg wants to claim are hindering the Rays franchise from competing fiscally with the big boys is nothing but a sham.

We are being duped.

It’s just a cover up. Management knew this day would come. While we made some GREAT moves, again, how can you allow for all of these contracts to expire at the same time? It’s a cover up. Slashing payroll to cover up managerial mistakes. Gotta love it.

Baseball is a special game. No one really gets it like we do here in the United States. Yes, the game is played in Asia and in Latin America, but the game of baseball is by far the greatest expression of Americanism at it’s finest. Hard work yields reward. Loyalty is an afterthought. We follow the almighty dollar. But who can blame CC, Carlos Pena, Joaquin Benoit, or anyone else who is soon to find a new home with a fatter paycheck?

I’ll have to accept the fact for now that Tampa is just a MLB training ground- and if we are lucky, we may get to see something special every couple of seasons.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

“Breaking” News

This just in to The Heap news desk:

Mark McGwire used steroids.

Let that sink in for a second. Or did you just chuckle to yourself, and just shake your head whispering, “It’s about time.”

Today, the former king of swing (dethroned only by another fellow ‘roider) finally came clean after the quite physical evidence of his choices were captured by cameras and seen by the nation for the past decade.

Come on, who of you out there were wholeheartedly surprised by this announcement? In fact, as a baseball fan, I am a bit offended by the timing of his announcement. Not even a week ago, McGwire might have even been voted into the Hall of Fame! Looks like it was one and done. What could have motivated him? Why now? I think he knew he could never shake the stigma of The Juice. He conveniently waited to see if he would make it this one time. He was a long shot, and one, he will forever remain.

Mark McGwire, as a normal sized Human Being

But then, is it plausible to say that the theatrics of the Steroids Era was engineered and puppeteered by Big Baseball itself? You’ve heard it all before all over the airwaves. Baseball, America’s Game was sagging behind the NFL in attendance and popularity. A strike towards the beginning of the decade only made the situation worse.

Enter the Home Run. The pinnacle of offensive explosion in any sport. A timeless play in a timeless game.  The individual’s effort in order to help the efforts of the team, but for those brief moments, the spotlight is on the batter as he rounds the bases. The home run personifies the American individual and the nation. (Check out my essay on Japanese/American baseball in the Original Works page)

Mark McGwire, as a chemically altered beast

In a decade of almost unfettered economic growth, of getting ahead at all costs, the 90s and the Steroid Era go together quite well. But in the end, it all falls down on itself. McGwire and Enron, A-Rod and Bernie Madoff, even Palmeiro and US Banks all had their heyday only to be exposed for what they were. Living the American dream.

Using performance enhancing drugs is cheating. Mark McGwire is a cheater. But don’t you worry, he and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Sammy Sosa had quite the supporting cast- many of which are still TBD. The steroids era (we can only hope) is in its final act. They will have their curtain call soon.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

Carl Crawford Steals Bases

the heap.'s Logo!

Sorry for the lack of posts. I just haven’t had the urge to write lately. I’ve been in an awful funk that I just can’t shake. Hopefully I’m able to snap ot of it soon. Having some fun with my family this weekend surely helped, as did making an awesome dinner last night.

But you see, the Rays have been in quite a funk themselves. They recently came back from a 3-6 road trip, and hadn’t won a series since opening week against the Red Sox at Fenway.

Funny as it may be, those same Red Sox made their season’s first visit to the Trop this weekend. Rays took 3 out of 4. Next comes Baltimore and then a jaunt up to the new Yankee Stadium. Another 3 out of 4 is quite doable, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

Today we honor Carl Crawford, the longest tenured Ray on the team. He stole a MLB record tying SIX BASES. Unbelievable.

In recognition, fellow Jesuit and Notre Dame Alum James Geyer has created the following picture. Enjoy.

Go Rays. I should hopefully make it to a game in the upcoming weekends. I went to a real stinker against the White Sox!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

2009 MLB Predictions: A “The Peanut Gallery” Exclusive

The 2009 Major League Baseball Season is upon us, and with it comes some lofty (and some not so lofty) expectations for the 30 MLB teams. Mike Russell, one of the authors at The Peanut Gallery, has offered his preview of the season. Most of his views line up quite nicely with the opinions of The Heap, so please take a gander and his projections. Here’s a snippet.

Peanut Gallery’s MLB 2009 Forecasts and Predictions

Posted in Baseball on April 5, 2009 by remixrunixlp

Ah, Baseball. Finally, April 5th is here, and I can stop pretending to care about the myriad of other sports vying for my attention, for the true champion of my athletic obsession has returned. With every new season comes new hopes. Hopefully baseball will have a full year not marred by another steroid scandal (…or does A-Rod’s little slip count?). Hopefully the hot new rookies on your team pulls an Evan Longoria-esque explosion and catapults your merry band of bat wielding gladiators to golden glory. Hopefully, my friggin’ Mets remember that the full baseball season includes a little month known as September.

If you know me, you know that I LOVE this sport, and this really seems to be the only credentials needed to make EXPERTTT opinions and analysis for the upcoming season (I’m looking at you, Steve Phillips). With that in mind, I’m throwing caution to the wind and making my own predictions for 2009. Yankee fans be forewarned: your team misses the playoffs by one game :( ….and yes, much like last year, would’ve made the playoffs in any other division.

In addition to basic record predictions and playoff guestimations, I’ll also throw my expertise’s substantial gerth around at picking the award winners, “best of…” moments, and of course – it wouldn’t be the Peanut Gallery otherwise – moments of sheer stupidity bound to haunt 2009. Let’s get to it!

Make sure to read the rest by clicking the link above!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

You Are Dead To Me!

The feel good story of the 2008 baseball season may end up leaving a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of Rays fans everywhere. Rocco Baldelli, who has been the face of the franchise for many years, has signed a one year contract with the Boston Red Sox Sux. Blasphemy.

Not the sort of news I enjoy coming home to.

What makes this incredible to me is the amount of time the organization gave to Rocco to overcome injury (some inappropriately inflicted during the offseason) and for him to stage a comeback after being (mis)diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder. In the 2+ seasons prior to the back half of the 2008 season, Rocco had played next to nothing, being a regular on the 60 day DL list and on injured reserve.

Clearly this is a frustrating situation to be in as a player. No matter what team you are on, even if it was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, most professionals want to play. I don’t want to take anything away from Baldelli’s accomplishments as a member of our ball club. He was many times the sole reason to drive across the bay and watch the team play in that sarcophagus of a stadium (before current renovations).

I’m not sure how I should judge this. Of course, it initially comes across as a slap in the face to the efforts of the Rays organization to keep him in the game and to provide him hopeful support. Then again, could it be that someone in the front office really messed up? Or perhaps this was to be expected when Rocco filed for free agency after the season. Did we not up the ante when it came down to it? I definitely think the chance to play closer to where he grew up was a huge factor as well. I can’t help but think that the signing of Pat Burrell only expedited the process.

Nevertheless, we will miss you Rocco. You will always be remembered as a legendary Ray, and as an essential part of the eventual success of the franchise.

I’ll try not to boo too hard when they announce your name when you visit the Trop.