My First Rays Game-A Playoff Game to Boot!

Tropicana Field
Tropicana Field-No I’m not leaning, the Trop is designed that way.

We won the lottery. No, not Powerball, the Rays’ Ticket Lottery. For the first time ever, Baseball Ross and I entered a playoff ticket lottery and won.

I guess you’d say the Rays are my second team. The Phillies, even as maddening as they can be, are still my favorite team. However, now that we live in Clearwater, I must admit that I kinda like my now home town team.

We had heard horror stories from friends about how hard it is go get to the Trop, how horrible parking is. Just horror story after horror story about how difficult everything is when it comes to going to see a game at the Trop.

So we planned ahead. We got maps of approved parking lots and when we could, bought parking passes ahead of time and we decided to leave hours early.

It worked out. For the first game, we didn’t get a parking pass due to a “burp” with the ticket buying site. We left for St. Pete early and followed suggestions by a neighbor on how to find parking and….it worked.

A local sports bar, Ferg’s which is across the street from the Trop had a big party and we headed there after parking.

Ferg’s is your average sports bar, average food but they do provide a place to hang out before a game and have a really cool outdoor area complete with TVs, which is where we hung out.

Hanging out at Ferg's
Hanging out at Ferg’s

Another cool thing is that if you walk the walkway/underpass from Ferg’s to the Trop, there are home bases embedded in the sidewalk outlining major events in St. Pete baseball history. Like this one:

IMG_0208

Since it was our first game, we splurged and went with some pricy tickets that had food included. We got to eat in the “Bank America Club” and even had waitress service at our seats! That was pretty cool.

Bank America Club
Bank America Club

We also spent a lot of time exploring. The Trop is now home to the Ted Williams’ Hitters Hall of Fame.

They had some really interesting displays there. I think you might recognize this guy:

IMG_0218 IMG_0229

 

We also paid a visit to the Ray Tank. Personally, one of my favorite features! I LOVE to pet rays. For some reason they just fascinate me.

IMG_0251 IMG_0253

 

In fact, the Rays’ game winning home run that night went into the tank right about where the left side of the picture is.

The only real downside to this visit was our sight lines.

Sight Lines from My Seat
Sight Lines from My Seat

There are two bad things about our seats:

1. The incline is not very great so when you get a woman that’s 6 feet tall with 4 inches of teased hair on the top of your head…you won’t see much.

2. I had a WALL in front of me that kept me from seeing the Rays dugout and any fouls that went down the right side.

The best thing was the TV that was on a five second delay so we could see what we missed.

I did sit at the end of the aisle until those people arrived so I could get these pictures:

IMG_0279
Rays Manager Joe Maddon is Introduced.

IMG_0280 IMG_0268

Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino

Best of all…The RAYS WON!

 

Advertisements

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly–Phillies Style

I just don’t know what happened to this season. I don’t. While I never expected the amazing-ness of recreating the 2008 season, I certainly expected that we’d do better than we did.

May be I’ve become spoiled. I mean, had this happened in the late 90s it would have been the norm, what was expected, but since the miracle of the 2008 season, all the seasons that we’ve been in the hunt, a threat to contend with, this season came as a smack to the face.

What or whom is to blame? The injuries? Trades? Lack of production/effort? Bad management?

Does it matter?

There is so much blame to go around. Rabid Ruben Amarro, Jr., Uncle Chuckles…the injury bug…I could go on. So much of the 2012 season with the Phillies was so ugly that I don’t think I can ever look at the season without putting a metaphorical bag over its head.

We all know what made the season Ugly (and I do mean to use the capital U, it was THAT ugly) and over the next four months every pundit will claim to know the cause of this years’ debacle. So why should I rehash it?

The Bad? Hmm. There were some things that I would say were bad, but did not merit being called ugly. Not many because I feel like 2012 was such a craptastic season that almost all the negatives were so strongly negative that really there wasn’t much bad for me, it all turned Ugly. Top it with the cherry that was Ryan Howard breaking his big toe. Does a year any more Ugly than that?

Bad, trading players to other teams…and then they  made contributions for their new teams. Shane Vicotrino, Joe Blanton, Hunter Pence, Scott Posednik and Rich Thompson were traded away.

I liked Posednik and Thompson. I’d watched the two of them last year in Lehigh Valley. I got to talk to Pods in Spring Training and he seemed like a nice guy. Thompson had been with the IronPigs from the beginning and to see him traded away was like a kick in the teeth, especially when they traded away Pence and Victorino just a month later. Thompson at least got traded to his hometown team, but he might have been good to keep here, he’s a decent fielder and considering his salary was considerably lower, it would have given us some more space under the cap to try to find someone for third base.

Bad was Freddy Galvis coming out to a hot and roaring start…giving hope that may be the season could at least be decent…only to have him sidelined by not only a back injury but a fifty game suspension for PEDs.

Bad was also how the front office kept inflating the attendance numbers to try to keep the “sold out” streak at CBP going. I mean any fool with eyes could see the large areas of empty seats. You can’t tell me that THAT many people purchased tickets then didn’t go. I’m sorry. Talk about “massaging” data!

The good. Hmm…when it comes to the big boys, frankly there’s not a lot for me. I look at Darin “Babe” Ruf…that makes me happy. I look at Tyler Cloyd…that’s another bright and shining star. What do these guys have in common? They’re young and offer promise…may be that’s what the big Phils need…HOPE…not another older player signed for a year or two to fill in a gap. Hope can go a long way in inspiring a team to do better.

For me…the things I’ll remember about the 2012 season all had to do with the minor league levels. Granted, I had a lot of contact with the players at this level…but that’s what will shine for me. This year, frankly, I want to forget the majority of the Big Phillies year and focus on the guys who give me hope that may be once management decides to give the younger guys a chance to play that may be, we can become great again.

I look at Jesse Biddle, Austin Wright, Adam Morgan, Tyler Knigge Cody Asche, Tyson Gillies, Darin Ruf, Tyler Cloyd, Jake Deikman and think…that we might just have something there…we have a massive amount of talent and potential that THEY are our future..THEY are the ones to help pull this team up.

This is what keeps me going, the hope that may be these guys that I’ve watched this summer and in some cases, several summers, that these guys can get us to the big game…whether Rabid Ruben and Uncle Chuckles give them the chance before any of them are old enough to qualify for social security remains to be seen.

 

As I read over what I had written, I realize I sound bitter. As a fan who live and dies with her teams, this year has been so hard to take. So much potential seemed to have been squandered. Personally, I lay a lot of the blame with management who seems stuck on bringing in and then keeping in older guys who just don’t seem to be getting it done on a regular basis…which would be understandable, IF there weren’t some kids in the farm system that might just have the potential to get the job done, as well as the veterans are but would also give hope to the future. That’s what makes me bitter.

I’ve said it before and I’l say it again, I’d rather lose because we have younger players learning to play at the Major League level than losing because the players we have are at the end of a great career and can’t manage to keep playing everyday at that same Major League Level.

Now…that I have that rant off my chest…I’ll start blogging about the Fall Instructional League…and my lists of “BEST OF” for this year….so keep reading…I’ll be back soon

 

 

Elevator Day–What can it mean?

It’s a day of moment in the pharm system. Some going up, one coming down. Jordan Whatcott, Frank Gailey and Ryan Duke were all promoted from Reading to Lehigh Valley. Pat Misch was sent from Lehigh to Reading.

So what does it mean?

Personally, between trading Thome (especially without consulting Manuel, who was quoted as saying that he didn’t know that they had traded Thome until after the game) the rumors rabidly circulating that they are looking to deal Cole Hamels to the Rangers OR that the Reds, Dodgers and Yankees are all interested in Shane Victorino and now, all these moves….

I think they are floundering, they are desperate and hopelessly flailing, trying to find something, anything to staunch the bleeding.

As much as I’ve questioned Amarro’s actions over the last year or two, this is the most concerning to me. He obviously knows that his job is on the line. He bet everything that the veterans on this year’s team would be able to pull him through. He spent every dime he could on older players, making a team for now, but the problem is that he over paid and gave older players long term contracts that keep them tied to the franchise. The contracts are also so large that very few teams could afford to inherit these contracts IF we could convince them to take them in a trade.

I’ve come to think of Ruben as “Rabid Ruben”, foaming at the mouth and running around and biting at anyone and anything trying to find something to work. In the meantime, the team is floundering, foundering and nothing will get better until Rabid Ruben is “cured”. By cured, I mean excised like a cancerous tumor.

At this point, it’s OBVIOUS that he’s grasping at straws, throwing in not only the towel but every other piece of laundry in the basket too. Let’s stop the cancer from growing, excise it now, get someone else in there and stop the damage before it gets any worse. Why not do a wholesale housecleaning at the top and also replace Manuel with Hall of Famer, Iron Pigs’ Manager Ryne Sandberg?

They need to keep Hamels. We do not have enough pitching talent for next year without him. I think we have pitchers coming up that might be ready in the future, but not this year and not next year.

As far as Victorino, I like the guy, BUT as I’ve written before, we are flush with young talent that could grow into the position, Derrick Mitchell, Tyson Gillies, Jiwan James, Steve Susdorf, Domonic Brown (if he ever gets healthy) and those are just the guys I can think of off the top of my head. We have to look to these young, talented guys for the future; Rabid Ruben’s habit of looking outside the pharm for senior talent obviously isn’t working, let’s use the talent we’ve home grown and let them lead us into the future and stop looking back.

Could it be Victorino?????

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that there is a greater chance of the Phils being able to move Shane Victorino, with the Reds, Dodgers and Yankees reportedly showing interest.

What will Rabid Ruben do today? What mayhem will he cause and how will it affect the Phils…

I think he knows that with his past performance that his job is on the line…I think he’s grasping at straws.

So the question is…what will his desperation cause him to do?

Frustrated doesn’t begin to describe it.

I can’t even find the words to describe how I feel right now. I’ve always been known for my loquaciousness and for me to be speechless is beyond the pale.

There are so many problems, where can I start?

1. Injuries. The Phils weren’t hit by the injury bug, it’s more like a plague of injury locusts. Howard, Utley, Thome, Martinez, Galvis, Halliday, Stutes, Nix when will it end? At one point, we had NINE guys on the DL.

2. Age. I’m starting to think they might go faster on one of those Hove-arounds you see advertised on TV… You can go, go, go in your Hove-around! Ok, I’m kidding, but age does contribute to reason #1.

3. Lack of Consistency. Not just on the field, but also in the clubhouse. On the field, Uncle Chuckles keeps changing the line up. How can anyone get into a groove when they never get to bat in the same position? In the club house, with all the injuries there’s never the same guys in the line up so again, how can they get into a groove?

4. Contract Uncertainty. Hamels and Victorino’s contracts are up. With the problems we’ve been having with Blanton, Kendrick and the floating fragment in Worley’s elbow can we afford to let Hamels go? No. The problem is that to keep Hamels and stay under the luxury “tax” payroll limit, there has to be some concessions made…and it looks like Hamels importance will outweigh Victorino’s so unless Vic is willing to lessen his demands; we will have to let him go.

That being said, if Vic goes, there are plenty Pharm Hands willing and capable of stepping in: Derrick Mitchell, Domonic Brown, Steve Susdorf, Tyson Gillies, Jiwan James, they’re all just waiting. I know they are lacking in experience, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I’d rather lose some games as part of a learning curve rather than because Amarro went to a fire sale and picked up the first over 40 player he could find.

5. Attitude Adjustment Needed. Antonio Bastardo had to miss games because he threw a temper tantrum and punched an exercise machine which ironically punched him back. Now he’s got stitches, swelling and as Uncle Chuckles mentioned today, an infection to boot. Wonderful.

Shane Victorino also seems flat. I swear it seems like he’s given up. This goes right back to #4.

This bad attitude just seems to be spreading like a cancer.

I’m at such a loss. Sadly, there’s nothing we as fans can do. It’s so hard to sit here and watch our beloved Phightins suffer. Will it get better?

We’ve lost so much, players, games, spirit, I’m not sure that getting Howard, Utley or anyone else back will do enough to change our failing season.

I just don’t know and frankly I’m not sure that Manuel or Amarro do either.

My Jerry McGuire Moment

I apologize for not blogging this week. It’s not that I haven’t been to any games or watched them on tv/internet, it’s that I just haven’t felt well, inspired to write.

I find myself feeling like Jerry McGuire in the beginning of the movie where he’s sort of rushing all around doing what he needs to do because that’s what he does, not what he wants to do. Then that one night he is hit by that bolt of inspiration that causes him to write his mission statement. Seeing that I’m starting this post at 1:30 a.m. I’d likely get fired by my boss too if I were writing this for a company that actually paid me to write. Heck, depending on where I end up, may be I’ll fire myself. (Ha!)

I think the thing that sent me into my funk was the whole Cole Hamels/Bryce Harper “incident”. It just got the wheels in my head running and I couldn’t get them to stop.

I look at the Phillies roster and how EIGHT of the 40 men on the roster are on the DL. EIGHT. These kind of things happen, granted usually not eight at a time. The Phillies are hurting for players that can produce at the major league level. Then Cole goes and makes, frankly, a bonehead move like hitting Harper ON PURPOSE with a 93mph fast ball.

How do you justify that? They are hurting for players and Hamels goes and gets himself suspended. So that made NINE guys that couldn’t play. If you ask me, he got off easy. He essentially only had to push back one day in the rotation. I honestly think if a player gets a five game suspension it should be five games where he could actually play. With a pitcher it equates to just delaying their start one day. Not much of a punishment for intentionally hurling a ball 93 mph into a guy’s butt.

Hamels contract is up for renewal at the end of the season. Howard Eskin was reporting that Hamels is asking for a seven year contract. Now, if he wants a contract that’s comparable to the 5 year deal that Cliff Lee got, Lee got 11 million the first year, 21.5 this year and for the next three years he gets 25 million dollars. Some sources are estimating that Hamels will ask for approximately what Lee is getting. If Hamels gets the 25 million a year that Lee is getting the next three years, for his contract: that’s ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. Think about it.  I’m not saying he can’t produce but after his questionable behavior this week, would you feel comfortable investing that kind of money in a guy who might just make a decision on a whim that could harm the team without thinking about the consequences? Will he still continue to play to his fullest ability?

Look at all the money the Angels put out for Albert Pujols. INSANE money. He just got his first home run this weekend. What’s his incentive to keep playing as hard as he can? His money is guaranteed. He played hard last year because he wanted the big contract, this year? Can you say the same?  If he never hits another homer, he still gets paid the same. There’s no bonuses for playing hard and it’s just human nature to do only what you have to to get by. That’s where the problem lies, there’s just no incentive. I’m not by any means suggesting he’s tanking on purpose, but I’d wager he just doesn’t seem to be playing all out every game like he did last year.

Then look at the money that’s tied up in long term contracts. Chase Utley is down to only one more year, but will he ever be able to play again? If he does, at what level? I can actually say, I have had patella problems including surgery to thin the tendons to lengthen them. I did the therapy. My knee is good, but it will never be 100% and I can tell you from experience that it’s the stopping and turning that make it hurt. Not running/walking. I can walk for days and it doesn’t bother me, but if I stop quick and turn, that’s a different story. Isn’t that what a second baseman does? Grab a ball turn and throw? If it’s arthritis, there isn’t a lot that can be done to keep the pain from returning.

Howard’s out. Hopefully by the end of the year he’ll be back. He’s in the first year of a five year deal. 20 million this year and next and the last three years 25 million dollars.

Amaro’s got so much money tied up in some of these major contracts it doesn’t leave a lot for them to get players to add depth to the roster so that when injuries occur there’s someone to step in. They get players like Wiggington, a player who’s former team wanted to get rid of him so badly, they were willing to pay half his salary while he played for someone else. Laynce Nix’s contract wasn’t renewed with Washington. He was “cheap” at 1.15 million this year, but no one else wanted him. If so much money wasn’t tied up they might have been able to get some one, err, a little more playable?

Then when disaster strikes, and how can you not call eight of your players on the DL not a disaster, you could turn to your farm system for replacements. I personally think that the Phillies have one of the best farm systems in the league. There is a great deal of talent in the pool. So many guys who could step in and help. There might be a learning curve while they adjust to playing at the top level, but I’d rather lose a few games to inexperience than because the guy playing is past his prime.

I really like Jim Thome. He’s a super nice guy. I wish him no ill will, but I think there’s a problem when he can’t practice taking ground balls without needing to sit on a step stool. I saw him in spring training. They had him next to Bright House on the short field sitting on a step stool fielding ground balls. You can’t tell me that there was no one who was more physically able to fill first base. At the time we still had Matt Rizzotti. He had played with the  Phils last spring training. This year? They didn’t bring him up and soon dealt him to the Twins. Darrin Ruf is leading the Eastern League in batting average, Cody Overbeck is in Lehigh Valley and don’t count out Big Jim Murphy who’s 2nd in the Florida State League in RBIs. I’m not saying that these guys are truly ready to play as good as Howard the first day but they’d be making a third of what Thome is and may be they’d grow into the position and frankly, I’d be willing to bet that they could slide into second without throwing their backs out. Give the young guys a chance.

Shane Victorino’s contract is also up at the end of the year. Who’s going to replace him?

I’m fairly certain that they’ll either pay way too much for too long for him or they’ll bring in another guy over 33 to take his place.

What about all the good outfielders in the farm system? You’ve got guys like Derrick Mitchell and Tyson Gillies (Gillies is currently ON the 40 man roster though he’s playing in AA Reading) or even Rich Thompson who should at least earn a shot at winning the spot.

Look at all the players that the Phillies didn’t want who went on to have  success somewhere else: Michael Borne, Gio Gonzolez, Jason Donald, Adrian Cardenes, Michael Taylor, Lou Marsen…they’re somewhere else and making an impact and that’s just the guys that are in the majors.

They spend all that time to develop the talent then ignore it. It’s so frustrating.

As a fan, the majors are getting more and more out of reach as well. To make the money to pay these huge salaries, they have to charge more for tickets, souvenirs cost more, food, everything. It’s getting to where the average Joe can’t afford to take the whole family out. What about getting your kid an autograph? Unless you go to a charity event or pay for it, it’s likely not going to happen (unless you’re at spring training).

Then I look at the farm system. That’s where I as a fan, look for my investment.

The whole minor league system is set up to not only be fan friendly, but affordable. MiLB was running a promotion, “A family of four can go to a minor league game for 46 dollars” or something like that. It included a hot dog and drink for everyone too. Heck, on dollar Tuesdays in Clearwater, you can get a berm seat for a buck, a hot dog for a buck and a small soda for a buck. Heck add an ice cream sandwich in for desert and a bag of popcorn and that’s still just five bucks. You can take a family for dinner and a game for just twenty bucks. If you’d go to Citizen’s Bank Park, that’s what? Half of an upper deck seat?

The players may not make much money but they don’t mind saying hi or even waving on occasion if they see you at the games often enough and heck you can afford to go often when the prices are so low.

Saturday night we went to Dunedin to see the Threshers play the Blue Jays and we sat right behind the Threshers dug out. Cost six bucks a ticket. (Friday night it was only 3 bucks a ticket!!!) I don’t think most people have the money or connections to get seat like that in Philly. Here you can sit close enough that you can feel like you’re actually supporting your team and may be heckle the umps too.

That’s something the average person can’t do in Philly. With the salaries going up, I’m going to imagine the ticket prices will too.

I guess I’ve just been thinking too much, I just feel so jaded. It’s not that the Phillies don’t have talent, it’s just that so much of it isn’t “what it used to be” and to keep getting older guys without at least giving their young talent a chance is just so frustrating to me. They keep losing so many games for not having any offense and I look at the farm system and there’s so many young guys that just might be able to contribute if just given half a chance. They’d want to be there so much that they’d put in the effort, push so much harder that may be they could put together a few wins without worrying about throwing a back out, or pulling a calf muscle.

I don’t know. At least for now, I’ll spend $30 a month, sit at home with my dogs on my comfy couch and watch the Phillies that way. I can eat my own food and drink my own drinks. I can do that for a whole month and also watch MiLBtv too. All of those games as well for the same $30 bucks. If I’m going to go to a game, I’ll go to the minors. At least I know that these are guys with something to prove, a reason to play hard and may be sign a ball or two.

This is just my ramblings, the ramblings of a tired (it’s now 3 am when I’m finishing this) and frustrated fan. My mission statement if you will, to find good baseball wherever I can…or at least can afford.

 

 

 

Spring Training Day 7, Part 2

So I’m home now. As I reported earlier, I noticed that Ryan Howard was walking with a slight limp, almost tenderly. Ross had seen him walking earlier in the week and mentioned to me that he seemed to be walking fine.

So today as I watched Mansolino hit grounders to Utley, Utley would then toss the ball to Howard at first. Howard only took a few steps. I didn’t notice the limp as much then, but when Howard was walking to first, it WAS more noticeable. It was about half an hour after my previous post on this, that Matt Gelb from Philly.com posted this article:

Howard has minor setback…

So that’s right, you heard it here first! Baseball Betsy broke the news on this one! (Ok, I’m done now, but it’s my first “breaking news”)

Here’s a few pictures of Utley and Howard this morning…

Chase Utley Fielding Grounders, 2-25-12Chase Utley Fielding Grounders, 2-25-12Ryan Howard Catching a ball at First 2-25-12

Here is a link to video I took of Howard working with Utley this morning

Click HERE to see it.

I think one of the highlights this morning was the guy next to me yelling to Shane Victorino, “Hey Shane! Saw you on Hawaii 5-0! Looked good! You should get an acting agent now!”

Shane just shook his head and said, “No way!”

Shane Victorino says "No way!" to more acting

I think the weirdest thing I saw today was as Ross and I were heading home. Over on the short field in the shadow of Brighthouse, was Jim Thome taking grounders. What was strange was that he did it while sitting on a step-stool!

Jim Thome taking grounders while sitting down on the job

As I said earlier, it was a good day, picture wise and afterwards finding out that I “broke” news…but autograph wise, it wasn’t good at all.

I do enjoy going to spring training every day.  Sun and baseball, what more do I need?