Tag:Tampa Bay Rays
Posted on: January 20, 2012 5:10 pm
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Pena, Scott smart moves for Tampa Bay Rays

Carlos Pena to Tampa Bay is cute in a homecoming sort of way, sure. But could it be more than that? You bet.

Ever so quietly -- as usual -- the Rays are working smart and putting together another team down there by the water that will give the Yankees, Red Sox and everyone else fits this summer.

Maybe Pena, at 33, struggles to stay above the Mendoza Line anymore. But he did whack 28 homers for the Cubs last summer while collecting 80 RBI, which was exactly ... 28 more homers and 79 more RBI than the Rays got from Manny Ramirez in 2011.

Nobody, surely starting with the Rays, is expecting Pena to replicate his 2009 All-Star season (39 homers, 100 RBIs).

But Pena trumps Manny by about 1,000 miles both on the field and in the clubhouse. Together, Pena and Luke Scott, whom the Rays added as a DH bat earlier this month, should be a much more productive first base/DH combination than last year's Casey Kotchman/Johnny Damon tag team.

In fact, the Rays last summer ranked dead last among major-league first basemen in 2011 in both runs scored and RBI. Overall, Tampa Bay's 707 runs scored ranked eighth in the AL.

In Pena and Scott, they should get more production. And with a killer rotation in James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and rookie Matt Moore or Jeff Niemann -- the Rays' 3.58 ERA in 2011 was second in the AL only to the Angels' -- there is no reason why it shouldn't carry Joe Maddon's club deep into September once again.
Posted on: January 9, 2012 7:13 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 7:19 pm
 

Riffs from the Hall of Fame voting

The 2012 Hall of Fame election -- by the numbers, and with the skinny. ...

Elected

Barry Larkin, 495 votes, 86.4 percent: Many numbers tell the tale, such as Larkin becoming the first 30/30 (homers/steals) shortstop in history. But how about in 1988, when he led the majors with only 24 strikeouts in 588 at-bats?

Maybe next year (or the year after)

Jack Morris, 382 votes, 66.7 percent: Great chance next year (which will cause massive coronaries in Sabermetric community), but he could run smack into wall via overloaded ballot that includes Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.

Jeff Bagwell, 321 votes, 56 percent: Start forging plaque after big jump from 41.7 percent last year.

In need of GPS

Lee Smith, 290 votes, 50.6 percent: A decade on the ballot and it's like he's trapped in a Republican debate. No traction.

Tim Raines, 279 votes, 48.7 percent: Criminally unsupported for guy who ranks second all-time in stolen base percentage (300 minimum attepts), though up 11 percentage points over last year.

Edgar Martinez, 209 votes, 36.5 percent: Fighting the designated hitter uphill battle. If you don't have 3,000 hits, it helps to have worn a glove at some point during your career.

Alan Trammell, 211 votes, 36.8 percent: Heading in the right direction after 24.3 percent last year, but still undeservedly playing the "bye" to the voters' "good."

Fred McGriff, 137 votes, 23.9 percent: CSI investigators -- or are those PETA reps? -- checking for pulse as Crime Dog's 493 career homers get no love.

Larry Walker, 131 votes, 22.9 percent: Even the Canadian exchange rate doesn't favor Cooperstown.

Mark McGwire, 112 votes, 19.5 percent: Big Mac Fan Club not allowing new members. Remarkably consistent from last year's 115 votes, 19.8 percent.

Don Mattingly, 102 votes, 17.8 percent: Just three more years left on the ballot. Hope Donnie Baseball's managerial stint with Dodgers outlasts that.

Dale Murphy, 83 votes, 14.5 percent: A Hall of Fame man, and even if he can't be in Cooperstown, I hope baseball somehow involves him more.

Rafael Palmeiro, 72 votes, 12.6 percent: Did this guy or his career really exist? Outside of wagging a finger at Congress, I mean?

Bernie Williams, 55 votes, 9.6: To those who support Bernie and Jorge Posada: How about we just put every Yankee who played between, say, 1996 and 2001, into the Hall?

No soup -- or future ballots -- for you

Juan Gonzalez, 23 votes, 4 percent: The Rangers had a homecoming ... and no Hall of Fame supporters showed up for Juan-Gone.

Vinny Castilla, 6 votes, 1 percent: Six votes?!?! Vinny had one Hall of Fame moment. That came near the end of his career when he walked into the stadium past me as I was arguing with a security guard who wasn't buying my press pass, stopped, grinned, then approached me in the clubhouse wanting the scoop ... and complimenting me for getting in the guy's face so spiritedly.

Tim Salmon, 5 votes, 0.9 percent: Not Cooperstown worthy, but easily could join Dale Murphy in the all-time good guys' Hall.

Bill Mueller, 4 votes, 0.5 percent: The guy won a batting title (AL, 2003), but I think somebody mis-read Mueller's moving receipts for Hall votes.

Brad Radke, 2 votes, 0.3 percent: I'm assuming the two who voted for Bad Brad are refugees who watched him, incredibly, win 12 consecutive starts while going 20-10 for an absolutely miserable Twins team in 1997.

Javy Lopez, 1 vote, 0.2 percent: Had the Braves allowed him to catch on nights when Greg Maddux started, he may have earned two votes.

Eric Young, 1 vote, 0.2 percent: Very cool. Had no idea Eric Young's mother was in the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.

Jeromy Burnitz, 0 votes: Yeah, but he'll always have that starting berth for the NL in the 1999 All-Star Game in Boston on his resume.

Brian Jordan, 0 votes: Coincidentally, no votes for the NFL Hall of Fame, either.

Terry Mulholland, 0 votes: No votes, but gets points for being part-owner of the Dirty Dogg Saloon in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Phil Nevin, 0 votes: On the other hand, his managerial career (Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens) is taking off.

Ruben Sierra, 0 votes: Whatever happened to the Village Idiot?

Tony Womack, 0 votes: The New York precinct refused to consider him following that game-tying, Game 7 double against Mariano Rivera to set up Luis Gonzalez's game-winner in the 2001 World Series.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:57 am
 

Beltran talks hot, Indians now in mix

Carlos Beltran continues to sort through interest from at least five clubs -- maybe more -- and hopes to make a decision by Christmas, sources with knowledge of the discussions say.

The Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays were all said to be "in the mix" on Wednesday, and talks were heating up. By Wednesday night, the Indians had joined them in serious talks with the free agent outfielder.

Beltran is said to have offers for both two and three years, with the dollars varying significantly. He earned $20 million last season in the final summer of a seven-year, $119 million deal.

At this point, the six-time All-Star appears to be weighing his preferred city (cities?) against average annual value (AAV) in yearly salary. The many American League clubs involved suggest that, at this point in his career, teams view Beltran more as a designated hitter than as an everyday outfielder.

While Beltran still prefers the outfield, one source close to him said Wednesday that he would be open to DH'ing part-time.

One team that probably would offer Beltran the most time in the outfield is St. Louis. The Cardinals have been aggressive all along, especially since Albert Pujols signed with the Angels. St. Louis figures to move Lance Berkman to first base and go with Allen Craig in right field, with Matt Holliday in left and Jon Jay in center field. Beltran could mix in both in center and right in a rotating Cardinals cast.

Beltran has intrigued the Blue Jays all winter -- enough, according to a source, that their pursuit remained unchanged after it was revealed this week that the Rangers had won the posting for Japanese free agent pitcher Yu Darvish. In other words, did the Blue Jays, who were believed to be knee-deep in the Yarvish bidding, up their ante after losing the pitcher? No, they've been aggressive all along.

In Toronto, Beltran projects more as a DH-type, because the Jays, of course, have Jose Bautista in right field and Colby Rasmus in center. As of now, they've got newly acquired Ben Francisco, Travis Snider or Eric Thames in left field. Beltran has played very little left field in his career.

The Red Sox have had an exceptionally quiet off-season, losing closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies and so far failing to add any significant pieces. They have been looking for a bat to lengthen their lineup, and with right-fielder J.D. Drew gone, Beltran makes some sense in Boston. Right field can be demanding in Fenway Park, however, with the configuration of the fence, and David Ortiz is back as the Red Sox DH.

Tampa Bay, on a tight budget, needs help at both first base and DH, where Johnny Damon got most of the at-bats last year.

The Indians have been scrounging around for ways to improve their offense all winter, and their late entry into the Beltran talks Wednesday added intrigue as the outfielder moves toward making a final decision. Cleveland has been a distant admirer before -- the Indians spoke with the Mets last July about acquiring him in a deal. Beltran had no-trade powers then and, eventually, approved a deal to San Francisco. The Giants talked about bringing him back early in the off-season but scotched that idea fairly quickly because of a tight budget.

Adding Beltran not only would give Cleveland another potent bat that it seeks, but also depth behind center fielder Grady Sizemore. Banged up severely in recent years, Sizemore has undergone five surgeries in the past two seasons, including one to fix a microfracture in his knee. The Indians are set at the corner outfield spots with Mickey Brantley and Shin Soo-Choo, and at DH with Travis Hafner.

Now 34, Beltran batted .300 with 22 homers, 84 RBI and a .385 on-base percentage in 142 games last summer for the Mets and Giants. He's had serious knee issues in the past but was strong enough to produce an All-Star season in 2011.

The Rockies also were talking with Beltran, but earlier this week they signed former Minnesota Twin Michael Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million deal.
Posted on: November 30, 2011 6:58 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 7:01 pm
 

Rangers' Levine declines Astros interview

Thad Levine, Rangers' assistant general manager, has removed his name from consideration for the Houston GM job one day after the Astros obtained permission from Texas to talk with him.

"He loves the Texas Rangers," a person close to Levine said.

Levine issued a statement through the Rangers: "My family and I have happily decided to forego any current outside opportunities and remain part of the Texas Rangers family. We are extremely appreciative of all the opportunities that Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and ownership have provided to us. Winning a championship and bringint it home to the Metroplex remains my singular focus."

Considered one of the brightest young executives in the game, Levine, 40, has been one of Daniels' top assistants in Texas for the past six seasons. Before that, he worked six more seasons in the Colorado Rockies' front office, including serving as the senior director of baseball operations in 2005.

Earlier in the off-season, Levine was a subject of interest to the Los Angeles Angels before they filled their GM vacancy with Jerry DiPoto, who had been in Arizona's front office. Levine did not interview with the Angels. This opportunity with Houston would have been his first GM interview.

The Astros also have received permission from Tampa Bay to interview Rays GM Andrew Friedman. Most in the industry think it would be a huge surprise if Friedman leaves the Rays, despite the fact that he's a Houston native.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 6:24 pm
 

Astros get OK to speak with Rangers' Levine

Still to be determined is what kind of a closer new Astros owner Jim Crane is, but in looking to fill his club's general manager vacancy, he's off to a rousing start.

One day after obtaining permission from Tampa Bay to speak with Andrew Friedman, the Astros on Tuesday were granted permission by the Rangers to speak with highly respected Thad Levine, assistant general manager to Jon Daniels, according to sources.

Friedman and Daniels are two of the brightest GMs in the game. Levine, in working under Daniels, has built a reputation as one of the smartest and most promising young executives in the game.

With Friedman in the GM's seat, Tampa Bay has won two AL East titles in the past four seasons and earned a wild-card berth in a third. The Red Sox, by comparison, have won only one AL East title in the past 16 seasons.

Friedman also spoke with the Angels earlier this winter, though he never reached the point where he waded too deeply into the interview process. He loves his situation in Tampa Bay with owner Stuart Sternberg, club president Matt Silverman and manager Joe Maddon, according to multiple sources, and is not looking to leave.

Whether the pull of his hometown Astros would be enough will be determined in the near future, though sources indicate it still would be a surprise if Friedman does leave his current situation. With the baseball winter meetings convening next week in Dallas, Houston is looking to move quickly -- though the Astros almost certainly will not have a new man on the job by then.

Levine has been one of Daniels' top assistants for the past six seasons. Before that, he spent six seasons in the Colorado Rockies' organization serving as senior director of baseball operations in 2005.
Posted on: November 28, 2011 10:15 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 11:29 pm
 

Astros obtain permission to talk with Friedman

It's a long way from job offered and job accepted, but the Astros on Tuesday obtained permission from Tampa Bay to speak with general manager Andrew Friedman, sources with knowledge of the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com.

New Astros owner Jim Crane, wasting no time after a firing GM Ed Wade and president of baseball operations Tal Smith, is setting his sights on the man widely considered to be one of the top executives in the game. That Friedman is only 35 and is a Houston native are both happy coincidences -- and, as for Friedman's hometown, one huge chip the Astros apparently hope they can cash in.

With Friedman in the GM's seat, Tampa Bay has won two AL East titles in the past four seasons. The Rays also earned an American League wild-card berth another of those years. The Red Sox, by comparison, have won only one AL East title in the past 16 seasons.

Friedman also spoke with the Angels earlier this winter, though he never reached the point where he waded too deeply into the interview process in either place. He absolutely loves his situation in Tampa Bay with owner Stuart Sternberg, club president Matt Silverman and manager Joe Maddon, according to multiple sources, and is not looking to leave.

Whether the pull of his hometown Astros would be enough will be determined in the near future, though sources indicate that it still would be a surprise if Friedman does leave his current situation. With the baseball winter meetings convening next week in Dallas, Houston is looking to move quickly -- though the Astros almost certainly will not have a new man on the job by then.

News that the Astros have obtained permission from the Rays to speak with Friedman was first reported by Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 5:35 pm
 

Maddon, Gibson representative of modern managers

More than ever, managers come in all shapes and sizes.

Two new skippers named this offseason -- St. Louis' Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura of the White Sox -- have never managed before in their lives.

Mike Quade had managed more than 2,000 minor-league games when the Cubs hired him last year.

So in this modern context, it couldn't have been more fitting that Joe Maddon (American League) and Kirk Gibson (National League) were named as Managers of the Year on Wednesday in voting by the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.

Before the Rays named him as manager in 2006, Maddon spent 31 years in professional baseball with the Angels, the first 12 at the minor-league level as a manager or instructor.

When Gibson was named by the Diamondbacks as their manager last winter, before his three-month stint as their interim skipper in 2009, he had never managed at any level.

"As players, and if you talk to Mike and Robin I'm sure they feel this way, you always believe you can do stuff," Gibson said on a conference call Wednesday. "You always want to believe you are something more than you are.

"I was fortunate to fall into a good situation. I was familiar with the team and the organization because I had been in it."

Gibson, who came to the Diamondbacks as their bench coach in 2007, cited the belief and support of a front office led by president Derrick Hall and general manager Kevin Towers, who helped him put together a coaching staff that, philosophically, all hold similar beliefs and core values.

"They stood behind me when I maybe did something unconventional," Gibson, 54, said. "When I hear somebody say I did something unconventional it makes me smile because sabermetrics and numbers are a part of the game where applicable, but sometimes you need to fail to become a good ballplayer. Sometimes you need to fail to become a good team.

"When you've been in the game a long time, it helps you. I coached youth hockey and I coached youth baseball. That was instrumental. I spent five years in the television booth. That was helpful.

"You look at everyone's path, and if you utilize your resources properly, you can do well. [Matheny and Ventura are] great baseball minds. If the support is there, they will succeed."

Maddon, 57, managed rookie ball in Idaho Falls (1981), Single A in Salem, Ore. (1982-1983), and in Peoria, Ill. (1984) and Double-A in Midland, Tex. (1985-1986) before spending several seasons as a roving minor-league instructor before joining the Angels' big-league staff in 1994.

"I like the way I was able to get here," Maddon said Wednesday. "I'm very grateful.

"I'm always interested in the struggle. It's hard to say you have more fun after the struggle than you have during it."

Both Maddon and Gibson prefaced their remarks by noting they were speaking about their own situations, not those of Matheny or Ventura.

Maddon, known for his unconventional and creative way of thinking, honed some of those skills during his journey to the majors -- not after it.

"I'm so grateful I had all those years in the minor leagues," Maddon said. "A lot of things that are so-called 'outside the box', I had a chance to try those things in Salem, Ore., Midland, Tex., Peoria, Ill. I had a chance to try some of that stuff.

"You figure out what mistakes you've made, what you said to a guy and how he reacted. ... For me, I can't imagine what I'd do now without that experience.

"Having said all that, it's a little different now because a lot of the job today is not on the field. It's what happens in the clubhouse, dealing with personalities, having the ability to interact with the media."

But the bottom line today is the same as it was a generation ago: Winning.

Maddon is a new-age thinker in an old-school body.

Gibson, in turning a 97-loss Arizona team into 2011 NL West champions, helped blaze the trail for managerial neophytes like Matheny and Ventura to debut in the majors.

Together on Wednesday, they presented a pretty good snapshot of where today's managers are -- and where they come from.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 6:04 pm
 

Rangers looking like anything but one-hit wonders


Here's the thing about the Texas Rangers as the champagne sprayed Tuesday in Tampa Bay: Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, the Rangers early stars this October, were elsewhere when Texas made its first foray to a World Series last October.

And as the Rangers move on and prepare to meet either the Detroit Tigers or the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series, those two are just the latest examples of Texas' power both on the field and off.

Lots of people assumed the Rangers were done last winter when they couldn't retain Cliff Lee. But general manager Jon Daniels and his staff were creative enough to fill in the cracks of a very good core and the Rangers so far haven't missed a beat.

I don't know whether C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and the rest will provide enough pitching to slip past the Yankees or the Tigers and push the Rangers to their second consecutive World Series.

But I do know that under club president Nolan Ryan, Daniels and beyond, the Rangers never for a moment spent one time feeling sorry for themselves losing to San Francisco last fall. They never for a moment wasted time looking in the rear view mirror.

"The reality is, there are a lot of teams that have gotten there once," Daniels told me in March as the Rangers limbered up in Arizona. "That doesn't take anything away from it, but that's not our goal.

"First of all, we want to win it. And second of all, we don't want to be a one-hit wonder. And we need to prove that."

As the Rangers climb the charts again in 2011, they look far more long-term than one-hit wonder.
 
 
 
 
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