It’s time for another edition of This Week in Rays Baseball — the first in some time. I digress.
First on the docket, details on the Rays previously announced renovation of Tropicana Field have surfaced. They’re planning what is being called a 360-degree “interior stadium fan access” with the creation of walkways behind the outfield seating areas, similar Rays’ Port Charlotte spring stadium which has a boardwalk and centerfield tiki bar. They’ll also open up what was the dark, glass-fronted Batter’s Eye restaurant into an open-air meeting spot with concessions. “Fans can actually walk around the stadium without having to go into the concourse area,” said Joe Zeoli, the city’s managing director of development administration, in a Tampa Bay Times article. “You will be able to watch the game as you move from left field to right field, for example.
“Most of the other items are maintenance,” noted Zeoli. “This item will kind of get everybody’s attention.” Those renovations will include restroom upgrades, pipe replacement and ceiling restoration in the home clubhouse, improved exterior lighting in employee parking areas, and refurbishment of exterior awnings. All of the work is expected to be complete before the start of the 2014 baseball season.
The Tampa Bay Times’ article goes on to note,
Though the glass walls are coming down, there still has to be a dark area in centerfield that provides the hitting background, which is known as the batter’s eye. In the new configuration, that may be a screen or a mesh banner, and it will be smaller than the fronting of the restaurant, though it will meet league requirements. The Rays likely will consult with the coaching staff — and possibly have hitters test it out — to make sure it provides the proper background.
The majority of the $1.3MM overhaul will come from a special stadium capital projects escrow account which the city controls. Since the team cannot spend money from the account without city approval, they will be asked to approve the project at a November 25th city council meeting.
The Rays have signed 30 year-old RHRP, Mark Lowe, to a minor league deal, including an invitation to Spring Training. Lowe posted a 9.26 ERA in 11 appearances with the Angels this season before he was released in June. Lowe was picked up by the Nationals from there, though he pitched exclusively with Triple-A Syracuse before opting out of his contract after being passed over for a September call-up.
In his time with the Mariners and Rangers, from 2009-2012, Lowe compiled a 3.60 ERA over 177 appearances, impressively posting a 10 K/9 over a span of 193 innings. Lowe represents another in a long line of Rays reclamation projects that have have found recent success. DJ Short of NBC Sports’ was quick to remind us, “The Rays have earned the benefit of the doubt at this point, so it would probably be more surprising if he didn’t end up being a contributor in 2014.”
Finally, Noah Pransky reported this week, “Despite his August promise to intervene in the Rays’ Stadium Saga, Commissioner Bud Selig told reporters on Thursday that he has no plans to get involved in negotiations right now. He went on to write, “A departure from his previous frustrations, Selig said he was comfortable with the direction of the conversation.”
- Wil Myers has been named the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year, beating out fellow teammate Chris Archer and the Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias. Myers, the Rays’ third AL Rookie of the Year in the past six seasons, received 23 of 30 first place votes, while Iglesias came in second with five votes and Archer scratched the surface with one. The Marlins’ Jose Fernandez won the award on the NL side, to which we retort, “Ha ha, Puig!”
- In other news, the Atlanta Braves are getting a new stadium. On Monday, the Braves announced plans to move to a new ballpark in the suburbs, north of downtown Atlanta. Their current home, Turner Field, opened only 17 years ago, however team president John Schuerholz said the current facility needs “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of upgrades” that “will not do anything to improve access or the fan experience.” Sound familiar? In addition to moving away from the traffic and parking issues that plague downtown, the Braves’ new location will put them closer to the heart of their fanbase. That they’ll be moving away from the city’s downtown core is particularly interesting. In short, the announcement bucks the “build stadiums in livable, walkable districts” model that many have argued in favor of, including MLB commissioner Bud Selig and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. How this bodes for the Rays in their search for a new ballpark is unknown. An owners meeting is scheduled in Orlando this week, which should allow principal owner Stuart Sternberg and commissioner Bud Selig to discuss the stadium stalemate. In short, something hyperbolic is all but expected.
- The reasons for moving away from downtown are compelling. Each red dot on the heat map (below) represents a Braves ticket sold in 2012. Turner Field is at the very bottom of the dark red area, while the new stadium’s right in the thick of it.
- Marc Topkin writes, “This will be a key week, not as much for making moves but focusing on what Friedman openly admits is an “ever-evolving” plan, as the GMs gather in Orlando for their annual get-together, in advance of the traditional December winter meetings.” On the docket for the annual get-together, Friedman and company will be talking to other teams as well as outside free agents. They’ll also attempt to engage the 10 players hitting free agency, while plotting how to fill several large holes (first base, closer, DH). To that end, they’ll deal with the 10 arbitration eligibles and, as Topkin put it, “fit it all into a payroll expected to be around the same $60 million as this past season while remaining competitive.” That’s no easy task.
Bill Foster’s rein of error came to an end last night, after Rick Kriseman beat the incumbent by a 12 point margin. During the mayoral race, Kriseman acknowledged the throng of issues he’s tasked with fixing, including (but not limited to) the Pier, curbside recycling, economic redevelopment in Midtown, and the Stadium Saga. As the Shadow of the Stadium‘s Noah Pransky noted,
“But in 2013, with Rick Kriseman knocking Foster out of office, 56% to 44%, once again, it seems to be a “win” for the Rays. Kriseman promised an end to the gridlock over a replacement stadium, while Foster maintained it was impossible to move forward and still protect the interests of St. Petersburg.”
The Tampa Bay Times took one last, post election, shot at Foster,
St. Petersburg voters sent a clear message Tuesday that they want their mayor to provide stronger leadership and their city to aim higher. That is why they replaced incumbent Mayor Bill Foster with Rick Kriseman, who promises to bring new energy and fresh ideas to City Hall. Now Kriseman should build on his solid victory, unite the city and lead St. Petersburg in a more positive direction.
In other Rays related news, the organization declined Juan Carlos Oviedo’s option. Initially signed to a minor league contract prior to the 2013 season, Oviedo sat out the entire season recuperating from Tommy John surgery. It was believed that Oviedo would be a contender for the closer spot in 2014. The Rays can either restructure a new contract for him, or start looking for a new closer. Keep in mind, you’ve got a pair of pitchers in the pen that would make excellent closer’s — Jake McGee and Alex Torres.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Rays locked up Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar, and David DeJesus. The left handed outfielder and the Rays have agreed to a new two-year contract that will cover the 2014-15 seasons, including a club option for the 2016 season. He’s projected to make $10.5MM over the span of his two year extension. The contract replaces the $6.5 million 2014 club option the Rays picked up on Sunday. As our buddy at the Rays Tank noted,
“Originally his deal wasn’t that great of a pick up, over six million for a 34 year old outfielder. But with a three year contract, a player like DeJesus is a steal. And gives the Rays some options.
On the other side of the coin it also means that Matt Joyce’s time in a Rays uniform may be over. Joyce is being pushed out, with Myers, Jennings, DeJesus, and Fuld taking up spaces. And Kiermaier and Guyer waiting in the wings, Joyce seems to be trade bait.”
Finally, Wil Myers has been lauded with another award. This time, the Rays rookie right-fielder has been awarded the MLB Players Rookie of the Year. Jose Iglesias of the Marlins was awarded the same on the NL side. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced their finalists for the 2013 Jackie Robinson Award, better known as American League Rookie of the Year. Chris Archer joins Wil Myers on the list of finalists. The BBWAA will announce the AL and NL Rookie of the Year on November 11.
- Per Noah Pransky, mayor-elect Rick Kriseman says he will reach out to the Rays this week to “Get to know each other better.”
Everything dies, baby that’s a fact, But maybe everything that dies, someday comes back.
So here we sit again, another plus 90 win season under the belt, questioning what more could have been done. Perhaps the Rays would be in better straits, had they won half of the 28 losses that came by one or two runs (10 at the hands of sub .500 teams). Or, hadn’t their offensive numbers dropped off in the second half of the season, while the pitching numbers (as a whole) increased in all the wrong areas, we’d be talking about a team ready to face the A’s or Tigers in the ALCS. Whatever the case, after winning four consecutive elimination games, the Rays are packing their lockers, as opposed to their bags en route to Oakland or Detroit.
Simply put, the Rays got bested – no ands, ifs, or buts about it. As a whole, this season, the bullpen had a hard time performing in critical situations, the offense couldn’t piece together wRISP situations, and a lack of tenacity (in a manner of speaking) on the base paths sounded the death knell for the Rays. Game 3 of the ALDS was a microcosm of the season at large. Blame the months of April, June, and August, compounded with their inconsistent play in the ALDS, for their early exit from postseason play.
Now begins the agonizing off-season — one that promises to be filled with doom and gloom scenarios surrounding the Stadium Saga, annoying discussions regarding the reduction of the 2014 team payroll, and rumors of who may be on the chopping block. Oof.
Whatever the case, I love my small market team. Credit where it’s due — considering the circumstances, Joe Maddon did everything he could with the tools he had. The challenge of leaping over the 90 game hurdle presented itself, and the Rays cleared it by winning 92. Also gone is the albatross of not making it past the first round of the playoffs — something that’s plagued them since the 2008 World Series season. These are things we, the Rays Republic, should be proud of. In the words of every Cubs fan, maybe next year… I mean, DEFINITELY next year. Only 173 days and counting until Opening Day against the Blue Jays.
After a brief respite, one where I’ll be researching numbers, etc, I’ll start the arduous task of writing about who may be here in 2014, who may get traded (and for whom or what), and who’ll hit the free-agent market. That said, who do you think may be here, or gone, next season, what positions will need bolstering, and what will it take to get back to the postseason in 2014? Feel free to leave your comments below!
I wrote, in our series preview, there were five things the Rays needed to in order to be successful in the postseason against the Red Sox:
- Negate the Red Sox running game.
- Get runners on for Longo.
- Get strong performances from the starters.
- Swarm the starters early on.
- Take a game at Fenway.
If game two of the ALDS proved anything, it’s that the Rays were unsuccessful in executing the aforementioned strategies against John Lackey and the Red Sox. Tampa Bay fell to Boston for the second consecutive day, this time by a score of 7-4, in what could have been David Price’s last start as a Ray.
Contrary to what his final line may suggest, Price didn’t pitch terribly. However, he wasn’t great either. Price gave up his fair share of broken bat bloopers, while the Red Sox hitters took advantage of Fenway’s quirks, playing wall ball with the Monster to put runners in scoring position. It didn’t help that the Rays fielders made a handful of defensive gaffes that Boston took advantage of. An errant throw by catcher Jose Molina in an attempt to gun down Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning led to the Red Sox’s first run. Ben Zobrist, uncharacteristically, failed to turn a pair of double plays that led to runs — once when Shane Victorino slid in hard to take him out, the second when he got a late feed from third baseman Evan Longoria and never got a grip on the ball, launching a throw that actually hit the Red Sox dugout wall. The error proved costly after Stephen Drew plated a run on a 310 foot fly ball off the monstrosity in left-field that would be an easy out in any other ballpark.
In kind with the strategy he employed against the Rangers Monday, Price pounded lefties inside with fastballs and stayed away from righties. Simply put, the Red Sox happen to have better hitters than the Rangers and were able to time his fastballs pretty well. Price, at times, made his best Jeremy Hellickson impersonation, having to pitch over the plate after falling behind in the count. And much like Helly, Price payed for his mistakes. Price’s night was over after seven innings following David Ortiz’s second homer of the game. If there’s one saving grace it’s that he saved the bullpen by pitching seven innings. Jake McGee finished out the game.
Tampa Bay had plenty of chances to get back into the game but, the offense but couldn’t get the big hit they needed it the most. They hit into three double plays, including a pair of inning ending double plays in the seventh and eighth with the tying run at the plate. The Rays went 2-8 wRISP overall, while Zobrist and Wil Myers had the worst nights at the plate, going a combined 1-8 with eight men left on base.
The Rays find themselves on the brink of elimination for the fourth time in a week. Alex Cobb holds the Rays’ season in his hands, when the good guys come home Monday to take on Boston in front of a sold out Tropicana Field. His offspeed repertoire will hopefully be what the Rays need to calm the Sox’s bats. Cobb will face a very tough Clay Buchholz, and you can read about the pitching match-up here.
Rays 10/7/13 Starting Lineup
- Matt Joyce gets the start at DH vs Buchholz, hitting seventh.
- Marc Topkin writes, “Rays ace David Price did not take kindly to criticism from TBS analysts Dirk Hayhurst and Tom Verducci. Hayhurst is a former pitcher who spent most of his career in the minors, Verducci a long-time and respected journalist. Here is the tweet Price posted at 1:07 a.m., when the Rays were on their way back from Boston,”
Dirk Hayhurst…COULDNT hack it…Tom Verducci wasn’t even a water boy in high school…but yet they can still bash a player…SAVE IT NERDS
- Per Roger Mooney of the Trib, “In the history of the American League Division Series (1995-2012), not including this season, 22 teams have fallen behind 2-0. Four of those clubs came back to win the best-of-five series — the 2003 Red Sox (against the Athletics), 2001 Yankees (Athletics), 1999 Red Sox (Indians) and 1995 Mariners (Yankees).” He goes on to write, “Dating to the 1916 World Series, this is the ninth time the Red Sox have taken a 2-0 lead in a postseason series. Five of them were sweeps. The only time Boston didn’t emerge was the 1986 World Series, when the New York Mets won in seven games. Overall in postseason history, teams that have taken a 2-0 series lead won 121 out of 143 times. That includes a 59-8 record in best-of-five series.” It won’t be easy, but a win is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
- Last time Julianna Zobrist sang anthem before a Rays game Ben won it with a walkoff homer – September 7, 2012 vs Texas
- As a friend noted, Rays should be able to win tonight based on these selected statistics. Selected being the operative word, but still…