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.

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“DL” Blues

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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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