Tag Archives: Tampa Bay Rays

Baseball: The Winter Game

Yes, baseball is the summer game. But that is precisely why it resonates so warmly in the dead of winter for those of us in cold climes.

As I write this post on a Sunday morning from my home in  New Jersey, a good deal of snow still dominates the view through the picture window of our family room. A leonine storm is headed our way today on this second day of March, threatening to dump several inches of snow and probably a bit of ice on us once more. The forecast low temperature for Monday is 1 degree Fahrenheit.

Yet this afternoon I can turn on the transistor radio or, more accurately, fire up the MLB app on my iPhone or iPad and listen to a spring training game from Florida or Arizona. Yesterday, I tuned in to disappointment: the Indians and Giants were both rained out, and the Phillies had wrapped up. I thought I’d try the Brewers-Dodgers, but the only options were LA broadcasts (no thank you). So I managed to catch a couple innings of the Pirates and Rays before errands chased me off the couch and into the cold.

It’s been a long winter across much of the United States, and I’ve had little inspiration to post the last couple of months. But the sound of bat meeting ball coming through a tinny speaker from a distant Snowbird stadium does wonders for one’s mood. It is hope, springing eternal.

 

 

 

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Indians fans: It is our lot in life to suffer

This blog has been silent through the September wild card chases, and it took the Indians’ disheartening performance last night to stir me to write again.

Although their pitching ranged from acceptable to excellent, the Indians failed utterly at the plate. I credit a gutty performance by the Rays’ starter for much of that, but the Tribe’s inability to drive in runs was largely their own doing.

The worst was Nick Swisher striking out late in the game with two men on and a great chance to score. Swisher took three vicious, aim-for-Lake-Erie cuts. The first? OK. Why not take a chance. But the second and third roundhouse swings were inexcusable when solid contact putting the ball in play would have brought something good. Every kid in Cleveland who ever played sandlot ball knows that. But Buckeye native Swisher evidently forgot. The Indians’ hopes for a comeback evaporated as he headed back to the bench.

The one-game wild card playoff is just another tease to lure Indians’ fans into another round of false hope. I imagine in a year or two, Major League Baseball will, in an effort to squeeze out even more TV revenue, propose another pre-qualifying round of playoffs, maybe with five-inning games, all to tantalize and taunt Cleveland fans (increasingly few who remain alive or in memory of the last champions from 1948). For 2013, we’re stuck with the memory of watching the Rays — an expansion team that plays in a dome — celebrate at Jacobs Field while our guys sat glumly in the dugout.

Realistically, the Indians were lucky even to get a shot in the post-season, which lasted a measly three-plus hours. During the season, they beat up on the weaklings (many in their own hapless AL Central Division) and struggled against the elite teams, most shamefully against Detroit.

No, this was not a championship-caliber team, and we Tribe fans will endure another gray winter needled by a bitter wind off Lake Erie, waiting for a new season to begin. On this sad, predictable morning, it’s tough to find hope amid the pain.

This year’s spring training caps are hideous

Let me repeat that headline: This year’s spring training baseball caps are hideous.

As my long blogging layoff will attest, I’ve paid little heed to the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues these past few weeks. So what I saw on a television set in a neighborhood shop a short while ago hit me harder than it might have otherwise. On the tube was a Tigers-Mets game. When I saw the Mets’ caps, I blanched.

From a distance, they look like something for a beer league softball team. On closer inspection, there’s Mr. Met running the bases — in the wrong direction. (Yeah, it’s the Mets, so why should I be surprised?)

I was vaguely aware of the unveiling of these new cap models when they were announced a couple of months back but I didn’t pay attention. After doing a Google search for images of the new caps, I wish I’d skipped the spring altogether.

The white-billed Yankees’ caps may be the worst of the lot. Or maybe it’s the egg-splatter Tampa Bay Rays model. All in all, these caps look like they belong on sale by street vendors in the seedier sections of any number of Rust Belt cities.

I started this blog based on my love of baseball caps, but I have standards. Most of these spring training caps are devoid of artistic merit and devalue the brands of the teams they represent. The teams see this merchandising as a profit center, which is why there’s a continuous stream of new models.

Sorry, MLB. I ain’t buying.

 

 

Time to get back onto the field!

It’s hard to believe that a San Francisco fan like me has failed to post anything since the Giants swept their way to the World Series title, but so be it. This morning I resolve to shower off all that celebratory champagne spray and head back out onto the blogging field with a few general observations:

  •  The World Series: I’m not complaining about the Giants blitzing the Tigers, but I always feel just a bit let down when the series only goes four games. There’s no question the Giants were the superior team, but the Tigers were no slouches. I expected a tighter, more nerve-wracking set of games than what we got.
  • Baseball is a funny game: Tim Lincecum is a prime example. During the regular season he went from being one of the most feared pitchers in the game to, at one point, the starter with the worst ERA. During the playoffs and the series, he emerged as a mid-game stopper out of the bullpen. Go figure.
  • Baseball is a funny game II: Barry Zito confounded hitters and more than a few Giants’ fans with his unexpected turnaround over the course of the season. That he emerged as savior and star during the playoffs was even more unexpected, especially when contrasted with the 2010 championship season, when he was left off the playoff and World Series rosters.
  • Substance abuse: I woke up this morning to news that Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies has been suspended for 25 games for taking banned medication. This comes on the heels of the long Melky Cabrera suspension in a season when he fell from grace shortly after becoming the MVP of the All-Star game. I’m glad baseball, which turned a blind eye during the home-run-happy steroids era, is cracking down. And I continue to be disappointed by players who think they can beat the system.
  • Evan Longoria: It was great to read that Longoria wanted to stick with the Rays for the remainder of his career and signed a long-term deal. We have too few single-franchise players these days. I’m glad to see Longoria buck the trend.

Red Sox Nation shows its pride on Massachusetts license plates

Red Sox fans are crazy for their team, and as I traveled New England while on vacation last week I was struck by the number of BoSox specialty Massachusetts license plates I saw. They were a common site on Cape Cod, on Boston area highways, and I even spotted them in New Hampshire and Vermont.

If you live in Massachusetts, the Red Sox plates are a pretty good deal: for $40 you get to display your team pride on your car and contribute to the Red Sox Foundation and the Jimmy Fund.

I’ve seen plenty of college plates around the country, but I was hard pressed to recall any other plates for Major League Baseball teams. I have seen New York Yankees plates vehicles registered in New Jersey, which also lets fans buy New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies plates, although I can’t recall seeing them.

I’m in Philadelphia a fair amount these days, and I’ve never seen a Phillies plate on a Pennsylvania-registered vehicle. If this list from the PA DMV is correct, there are none to be had — and none for the Pittsburgh Pirates, either.

Same story in California: no plates for the local nines in San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco.

How about in my home state of Ohio? Yes, you can get a Cleveland Indians plate along with plates for the Cincinnati Reds and professional teams of lesser sports like football, hockey and basketball.

Florida enables you to buy plates for the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins, and in Illinois you can get them for the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. There was talk last season about Illinois adding St. Louis Cardinals plates, although I can’t find definitive word whether that happened.

You can get a Cards plate in Missouri, although a quick search this morning didn’t show me a Kansas City Royals option.

I could spend all day researching which teams are available where, but I don’t have the time. I’ll close by saying I think these fan plates are a great idea, especially when they raise money to support great causes like the Jimmy Fund.

If you’re a fan of a team not mentioned above and know if you can buy a specialty plate in your state, I’d appreciate it if you’d note it in a comment below.

What a night in baseball!

What a crazy night in baseball.

Using the MLB app on my iPhone, I just listened to the last inning as the Braves fell to the Phillies in 13 innings to give the Cardinals the NL wild card.

Then I switched over to the Yankees broadcast to hear the Rays win in the 12th moments after the Red Sox fell to the Orioles.

You’ve got to love this game.

 

What cap will Manny Ramirez wear on his Hall of Fame plaque?

That’s a question that’s likely to remain hypothetical.

Manny Ramirez slipped away quietly into retirement Friday after it was revealed he flunked a drug screening. Unless some future commissioner grants a pardon for the stars of the Steroid Era, I doubt Manny will ever make the Baseball Hall of Fame. He has the stats to justify entry into Cooperstown, but with his tainted record I doubt the Baseball Writers of America will vote him in.

I can’t disagree with them, but what a shame. Manny was a fearsome hitter through most of his 19 big league seasons, the last cut short after just five games with the Tampa Bay Rays. And his free-spirited, dreadlocked persona was always a fun story, much more compelling than the surly moodiness of media-hating Barry Bonds.

If Manny somehow were to make it to Cooperstown, the question would be whether he’d wear the Indians’ Chief Wahoo or the Boston “B.” He spent eight years with each club, taking the Tribe to the World Series twice and the Red Sox to its curse-breaking championship in 2004.

With the exceptions of triples and stolen bases, Manny’s numbers in Boston were just a shade better than the great numbers he posted in Cleveland. And the Bosox winning it all is the clincher.

So Manny would go in wearing a bronze Red Sox cap. But he won’t.