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

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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

WaMu goes Wawaa…

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Just in case you HAVEN’T heard, your neighborhood friendly financial giant Washington Mutual is the latest casualty of the slumping financial trend here in the US. I know that it’s not too funny, but I can’t help but laugh when scouring news sites and seeing a headline like “WaMu is the biggest bank failure EVER!” I just imagine someone saying it very exaggeratingly… ironically its true. Anyway, here’s the news release if you are interested in reading.

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Washington Mutual Inc was closed by the U.S. government in by far the largest failure of a U.S. bank, and its banking assets were sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co for $1.9 billion.

Thursday’s seizure and sale is the latest historic step in U.S. government attempts to clean up a banking industry littered with toxic mortgage debt. Negotiations over a $700 billion bailout of the entire financial system stalled in Washington on Thursday.

Washington Mutual, the largest U.S. savings and loan, has been one of the lenders hardest hit by the nation’s housing bust and credit crisis, and had already suffered from soaring mortgage losses.

Washington Mutual was shut by the federal Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp was named receiver. This followed $16.7 billion of deposit outflows at the Seattle-based thrift since Sept 15, the OTS said.

“With insufficient liquidity to meet its obligations, WaMu was in an unsafe and unsound condition to transact business,” the OTS said.

Customers should expect business as usual on Friday, and all depositors are fully protected, the FDIC said.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said the bailout happened on Thursday night because of media leaks, and to calm customers. Usually, the FDIC takes control of failed institutions on Friday nights, giving it the weekend to go through the books and enable them to reopen smoothly the following Monday.

Washington Mutual has about $307 billion of assets and $188 billion of deposits, regulators said. The largest previous U.S. banking failure was Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust, which had $40 billion of assets when it collapsed in 1984.

JPMorgan said the transaction means it will now have 5,410 branches in 23 U.S. states from coast to coast, as well as the largest U.S. credit card business.

It vaults JPMorgan past Bank of America Corp to become the nation’s second-largest bank, with $2.04 trillion of assets, just behind Citigroup Inc. Bank of America will go to No. 1 once it completes its planned purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co.

The bailout also fulfills JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon’s long-held goal of becoming a retail bank force in the western United States. It comes four months after JPMorgan acquired the failing investment bank Bear Stearns Cos at a fire-sale price through a government-financed transaction.

On a conference call, Dimon said the “risk here obviously is the asset values.”

He added: “That’s what created this opportunity.”

JPMorgan expects to incur $1.5 billion of pre-tax costs, but realize an equal amount of annual savings, mostly by the end of 2010. It expects the transaction to add to earnings immediately, and increase earnings 70 cents per share by 2011.

It also plans to sell $8 billion of stock, and take a $31 billion write-down for the loans it bought, representing estimated future credit losses.

The FDIC said the acquisition does not cover claims of Washington Mutual equity, senior debt and subordinated debt holders. It also said the transaction will not affect its roughly $45.2 billion deposit insurance fund.

“Jamie Dimon is clearly feeling that he has an opportunity to grab market share, and get it at fire-sale prices,” said Matt McCormick, a portfolio manager at Bahl & Gaynor Investment Counsel in Cincinnati. “He’s becoming an acquisition machine.”

BAILOUT UNCERTAINTY

The transaction came as Washington wrangles over the fate of a $700 billion bailout of the financial services industry, which has been battered by mortgage defaults and tight credit conditions, and evaporating investor confidence.

“It removes an uncertainty from the market,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney. “The problem is that markets are in a jittery stage. Washington Mutual provides another reminder how tenuous things are.”

Washington Mutual’s collapse is the latest of a series of takeovers and outright failures that have transformed the American financial landscape and wiped out hundreds of billions of dollars of shareholder wealth.

These include the disappearance of Bear, government takeovers of mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the insurer American International Group Inc, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, and Bank of America’s purchase of Merrill.

JPMorgan, based in New York, ended June with $1.78 trillion of assets, $722.9 billion of deposits and 3,157 branches. Washington Mutual then had 2,239 branches and 43,198 employees. It is unclear how many people will lose their jobs.

Shares of Washington Mutual plunged $1.24 to 45 cents in after-hours trading after news of a JPMorgan transaction surfaced. JPMorgan shares rose $1.04 to $44.50 after hours, but before the stock offering was announced.

119-YEAR HISTORY

The transaction ends exactly 119 years of independence for Washington Mutual, whose predecessor was incorporated on September 25, 1889, “to offer its stockholders a safe and profitable vehicle for investing and lending,” according to the thrift’s website. This helped Seattle residents rebuild after a fire torched the city’s downtown.

It also follows more than a week of sale talks in which Washington Mutual attracted interest from several suitors.

These included Banco Santander SA, Citigroup Inc, HSBC Holdings Plc, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Wells Fargo & Co, as well as private equity firms Blackstone Group LP and Carlyle Group, people familiar with the situation said.

Less than three weeks ago, Washington Mutual ousted Chief Executive Kerry Killinger, who drove the thrift’s growth as well as its expansion in subprime and other risky mortgages. It replaced him with Alan Fishman, the former chief executive of Brooklyn, New York’s Independence Community Bank Corp.

WaMu’s board was surprised at the seizure, and had been working on alternatives, people familiar with the matter said.

More than half of Washington Mutual’s roughly $227 billion book of real estate loans was in home equity loans, and in adjustable-rate mortgages and subprime mortgages that are now considered risky.

The transaction wipes out a $1.35 billion investment by David Bonderman’s private equity firm TPG Inc, the lead investor in a $7 billion capital raising by the thrift in April.

A TPG spokesman said the firm is “dissatisfied with the loss,” but that the investment “represented a very small portion of our assets.”

DIMON POUNCES

The deal is the latest ambitious move by Dimon.

Once a golden child at Citigroup before his mentor Sanford “Sandy” Weill engineered his ouster in 1998, Dimon has carved for himself something of a role as a Wall Street savior.

Dimon joined JPMorgan in 2004 after selling his Bank One Corp to the bank for $56.9 billion, and became chief executive at the end of 2005.

Some historians see parallels between him and the legendary financier John Pierpont Morgan, who ran J.P. Morgan & Co and was credited with intervening to end a banking panic in 1907.

JPMorgan has suffered less than many rivals from the credit crisis, but has been hurt. It said on Thursday it has already taken $3 billion to $3.5 billion of write-downs this quarter on mortgages and leveraged loans.

Washington Mutual has a major presence in California and Florida, two of the states hardest hit by the housing crisis. It also has a big presence in the New York City area. The thrift lost $6.3 billion in the nine months ended June 30.

“It is surprising that it has hung on for as long as it has,” said Nancy Bush, an analyst at NAB Research LLC.

On facebook, I just saw my friend’s status which reads, “(friend) is a J.P. Morgan Chase account holder now. Awesome?” Classic.

Well, I am now off to the downtown Rays watch as they take on the Detroit Tigers to hopefully CLINCH the AL EAST. I’ll try to begin the Austin storytelling tonight through TTMC III: Austin Edition, which should be a multi-part deal. And we’ll finish the sci fi list by this weekend, thank God. ND vs. Purdon’t tomorrow as well… we’ll have a nifty preview.

Go Rays. Read the heap.

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Priorities

bad rays

Thanks to fellow domer Mike Hatke for finding this story. It just goes to show that with out the readership, references and creative content of you heapsters., my little “landfill” if you will, here in cyberspace just wouldn’t be the same. Later this afternoon, The Rant II is also provided by another reader, but we’ll give him the proper credit when the time comes.

If you missed Barack Obama’s historic speech last night, or you just can’t get enough of that smile, check out Fightin’MexiCan’s blog over there on your right. He has the clip up, and his own political analysis (it’s credible… history major at Notre Dame). Also, check out Scott Hagan’s I’m So Bored With the USA. It’s been update with more of his adventures in the Dominican Republic!

As I said, Mike Hatke brought this blurb to my attention. As a Rays fan, I can only applaud this young man’s priorities. A true (Devil) Rays fan ’till the end, he essentially sticks up for them rather than his girlfriend! Hilarious. It’s short enough that I can copy and past the whole thing, but if you want to check out the blog, click here: What Did I Just Do?

When I was in high school being a Rays fan was less about being cool and more about being rebellious. I should clarify; rebellious in the sense that it was unique, like a unibrow. One event that stands out in my mind comes when I was dating a girl named Katie. She wasn’t the biggest of Rays fans, but more than most because she didn’t like baseball one bit. We were an odd couple, to say the least, but she understood that I had needs she simply could not satisfy.

We dated for about a month before that faithful night. It was the weekend before homecoming and a friend of mine was holding a party. Katie and I agreed to meet up there because I wanted to see the end of the Rays and Yankees game before arriving. The game lasted longer than I had anticipated and when I arrived Katie was nowhere to be found, at least until I went upstairs where she was cornered by a guy.

His hands all over her, much to her dismay, as she attempted to wiggle away from him while telling him to leave her alone. I rushed over and pulled him off. He immediately looked down at my shirt which featured the Rays insignia (these were the days of green) and decided to comment “She has low standards if she’s willing to date a Rays fan.”

I could not believe this guy was brave as to insult something I cherished that much right in front of me. I figured he would not be so daring as to say it twice. I asked him what it was he said. He repeated. I flew off the handle and grabbed him by his popped collar, throwing him against a wall.

“If you ever and I do mean ever say something like that again I will put you through this wall. The Rays will be good before you know it.”
At this point he had a bewildered look on his face. “What about her?” he asked.

“Same for her, she knows her place.”

By now most of the party had gathered around to see a fight or something, but much to their disappointment nothing happened publicly. Katie dumped me, and my night ended in heartache.

The Rays lost.

Absolutely hilarious story. Props to R.J. Anderson, who ever you are. Don’t know if I would have done the same thing… I don’t even think I had that much faith in the Rays at the time in general…

Like I said, a new edition of The Rant should be up today, and perhaps some sci-fi list action? We shall see 🙂 .

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“Damn Yankees”

yankeeflames

Just in case you have YET to check out the Rays page for all you vital information, here are the current American League East standings.

Rays 75 – 48           – GB

Red Sox 71 – 53     4.5 GB

Yankees 66 – 58      9.5 GB

Blue Jays 64 – 60     11.5 GB

Orioles 60 – 63       15 GB

According to ESPN’s crazy calculations, the Yankees have an 8.1% chance of making the playoffs this year as of today! And well, the Rays? 91.1%. I like these odds. So, in celebration of the possibility of the Yankees NOT making the playoffs since the 90’s, I present to you Yahoo!’s list: 10 Reasons Why the Yanks Won’t Make the Playoffs!

By Bob Birge
PA SportsTicker Staff Writer

Writing off the New York Yankees is always a dangerous proposition. Until the Yankees actually miss the playoffs – something that has not happened since 1993 – they never can be counted out.

However, here are 10 reasons why the Yankees could be facing the prospect of no postseason baseball in their final season at the House That Ruth Built:

1. A ridiculously difficult schedule over the final two months of the season that includes two 10-game road trips – one in August and one in September – 10 games against the Angels and, starting on Monday, a stretch in which they will play 16 of 19 games on the road.

After John Lackey came within two outs of pitching the first no-hitter against the Red Sox at Fenway Park in 50 years on Tuesday, the Angels improved to 7-1 against Boston this season. But following Wednesday’s game, the Red Sox won’t see the Angels again in 2008 – unless they meet in the playoffs.

2. A ridiculously favorable September schedule for the Red Sox, with only nine road games. The Red Sox have lost four of their last five home games to the Yankees and Angels, perhaps removing – or at least lessening – their aura of invincibility at Fenway Park. But even with the mini-slump, Boston still boasts the American League’s second-best home mark at 37-15 (Tampa Bay is first with a 40-16 record at Tropicana Field).

3. Tampa Bay and its stable of young pitchers aren’t going away. The Rays’ starters are young, and they still have to go through August and September in their first pennant race, which is always a concern. But they aren’t rookies. They’ve taken some lumps for the last couple years, and now they could be ready to reap the benefits. For example, Matt Garza out-dueled Toronto ace Roy Halladay on Tuesday with his first career shutout.

The Rays’ September schedule is not as favorable as Boston’s, as they play 17 of their 27 September games on the road, including the final eight. However, the Rays seem to have recovered from their seven-game swoon prior to the All-Star break. In the second half, they are 7-5.

Also, Tampa Bay has 45 wins from its starters, tied with Boston and Toronto for the second-highest total in the AL.

4. Forty percent of the Yankees’ rotation is still comprised of Sidney Ponson (whom the Red Sox battered on Sunday) and Darrell Rasner (who is just 2-7 in his last 10 starts).

5. Mike Mussina may be ready to take a second-half fall. It’s not just because he was hit hard by the Orioles on Monday; every pitcher is entitled to an occasional bad start, and Mussina has had very few this year. It’s because of his track record. Here are Mussina’s win totals in the last four seasons: 12, 13, 15 and 11. He already is at 13 this year. The Moose has not won more than 15 games since going 17-8 in 2003.

6. The injuries (no Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and Chien-Ming Wang) could finally catch up to the Yankees.

7. Eventually, the Yankees are going to have to pay for the seemingly indifferent manner in which they approach the first two months of the season. In three of the last four years, they have been under .500 in June or beyond: 2005, 31-32 on June 14; 2007, 43-44 on July 13; 2008, 30-31 on June 6.

8. Joe Torre, who guided the Yankees to playoff appearances in all 12 of his seasons in the Bronx, is no longer the manager, and the Steinbrenners are going to be punished by the baseball gods for mishandling his contract situation last year.

9. Nothing lasts forever. The Yankees are going to miss the playoffs at some point.

10. Given the state of the economy, a $200 million payroll doesn’t go as far as it used to.

How about that? My favorite is #10 hehe. It must be noted that the article is a little old- about half a month… when the Yankees were actually in the rearview mirror of the Red Sox, who lead at the time, and the Rays, who have lead for the majority of the season. Here’s to hoping for a miracle! Or rather, that the perennial miraculous climb up the standings does NOT occur. Rays are home for a 3 game set against Major League best LA Angels of Anaheim. Winner of the series leaves with the best record in the ML.

And now some anti-Yankees propaganda!

Saddam

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Hurricane’s a Comin’ II

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Annnnd here’s your 11 pm update, for all of you who are keeping tabs. All of the info is on the chart!

11pm

Soooo, as you can see, the pink area has been extended up to the Tampa Bay area. Great. So we’re under a hurricane watch here. Check out that black line. Yeah, that’s the projected path of the center of the storm. Hmm… it appears to go right over where I live. Double Greeaaaattt. But, we’re about positives here at the heap.. Thus, a rare and truly unique opportunity… to blog about the hurricane experience, has materialized! I’m stoked.

In fact, I have special “bonus” footage of 2004, when the last legitimate threat to Tampa occurred. Funny story… That was my first year at Notre Dame, and I came home to surprise my family in September! And well, Thanks to the hurricane, I was stuck in Tampa two extra days and I missed 3 exams! Luckily my profs were pretty nice about it. Anyway! The bonus footage! Check out these videos and pics!

It was kinda close, so we decided to board up…

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The winds were strong enough to snap a tree in my Abuelo’s yard!

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Being outside? Not a great idea, but you can see the horizontal rain and the strong gusts!

Driving around isn’t great either… but you get to see a huge uprooted tree and a fence blown over!

*Quick updates: Rays win 7-4, Bucs beat Patriots in the preseason 27-10, and Citrus Park got schooled by the Hawaii team 10-2.*

I’ll keep you heapsters. posted while I still have electricity!

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“DL” Blues

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cc

Is it all starting to come apart for the Rays? We knew that one of the faces of the franchise, Carl Crawford, was gong to end up on the DL after an injury to a finger. Now defensive AND offensive stud rookie Evan Longoria will be joining hm on the 15 day disabled list, after Longo took a pitch to the wrist, resulting in a slight fracture. The question is, should we begin to panic? This isn’t the first time where the Rays have had tough circumstances regarding the unavailability of players. The classic Rays – Red Sox brawl back in June resulted in 5 suspensions for the Rays.

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Navarro, Kazmir, Pena and Bartlett have all had a stint on the DL this year also. So, while it may be tough that it is two of the most marketable, and well, most exciting players, its time for the bench to step in again to deliver the Rays. Most notably, you KNOW that Dominican utility man Willy Aybar is ready to play any position. He has been used to plug up any holes in the infield the Rays have had, playing four positions in the infield. He also provides a clutch, opportunistic offensive threat. The same thing with Ben Zobrist, who has recently proved he can also play outfield, though it will probably be Eric Hinske and Gabe Gross out in left. Don’t forget the return of Rocco Baldelli in right field, as he has slowly been able to recuperate from a diagnosed mitochondrial disorder. Hopefully he can provide the right-handed bat the Rays have been lacking.

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