30 Teams, 30 Posts (2016): What is Raymond?

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. Today, I reveal the truth about one of the AL East’s mascots- Raymond of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Below you can see Raymond, the mascot of the Tampa Bay Rays:

You may be thinking that, given the fact that he is the mascot for the Rays, that he would be a Ray. You would be wrong. It turns out that he is NOT a Ray.

Here’s some information about Ray from Tampa’s website:

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 8.02.56 PMDo you see the relevant thing, here?

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 10.23.35 AMYes, he is, apparently, a “seadog”. However, according to Wikipedia, there is no such thing as a seadog. Oh, it’s a slang term for seals, or for people (or dogs) that spend a lot of time at sea, but there is no such thing as a sea dog. Nothing of the species Canus Manta Whatthefluffalus. In fact, there isn’t even a genis called Canus. There is, obviously, Canis, which is where dogs are, but Canus (Latin for “aging”) does not.

So, what is it, Tampa? What is Raymond? What scientists truly discovered him? Could he be… (GASP) a mere man in a suit!?!?!

Tell us the truth, Tampa. We know you are hiding something.

 

Advertisements

(Blogathon ’16!) On the Joe Maddon Head

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

In front of the TV in my bedroom, for reasons not fully known, there is a piggy-bank in the shape of Joe Maddon‘s head. It looks like this (apologies for the crappy smartphone picture):

CZ0U2kRUUAEASFa.jpg_largeI received it from a relative who found it at a Goodwill store or something like that, but where did it come from? How did it come to be?

I did some research, and found the truth: it was once a stadium giveaway in Tampa in 2011. It was given out on May 1 vs. the Angels (this game), and went to the first 10,000 kids under 14:

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.54.43 AMHowever, there were, according to Retrosheet, only 16,248 people in attendance that day. Were there 10,000 or so kids and only 6,000 or so adults? Did they just give them out to everybody? We may never know.

We also may never know how this, a bank in the shape of Joe Maddon’s head, got to upstate New York. I’d like to imagine it had crazy adventures, traveling the country with it’s fellow TV-situated souvenirs, a Buck O’Neil bobblehead and an even-more-inexplicable San Diego Padres-era Adrian Gonzalez statue.

Or maybe somebody just went on a vacation to Tampa, brought it back up, and didn’t want it anymore.

I prefer the first possibility.

At 7 AM: Related To Somebody Famous For Something Else

This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

 

“30 Teams, 30 Posts”: Musings and Mysteries on Evan Longoria’s cap commercial from 2010

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here. Today, I remember Evan Longoria’s chase for a lost cap.

The year was 2010, and Evan Longoria had his hat stolen. A wild chase ensued, as he pursued the cap-napper across the Tampa Bay area (presumably), doggedly hunting to get his cap back.

It was all covered in a New Era commercial:

I’m not sure why this has stuck with me. Maybe it’s because, like almost every other commercial, it got spammed ten thousand times during the 2010 season. Or maybe it’s because of the many mysteries within it:

Like, how did the guy steal his hat to begin with?

It appears from the very beginning that the cap-napper had his cap from the very beginning. You never see him grab it. You never see it in Longoria’s possession to begin with. Clearly, we are either not seeing a few crucial seconds, or there is something very wrong with Evan Longoria and he merely was looking for an excuse to chase a guy through the city.

What’s so special about that cap?

It looks fresh out of the box, it doesn’t look like it’s been used or would have any sentimental value. And, I mean, jeez, the Rays must have like hundreds of them. And why was he wearing his cap out and about on the town, anyway? It’s his work uniform. Do you see football players walk around with their helmets on? Do you surgeons walk around in full scrubs?

Exactly.

Why does he abandon that bike?

I mean, jeez, just dropping it like that on the streets? Somebody could run over it or trip on it or something! And did he steal it? Because, uhm, I’m not sure if hijacking a bike is justified when chasing a cap-napper.

Where are the old people?

There are lots of elderly individuals in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area. You don’t see any of them in this. What strange world does this commercial take place in?

Why would he jump out of a helicopter?

Yes, I know it was actually a stuntman, but how could any person be that reckless?!?! Yeesh. What were you thinking, Evan?

I believe that Longoria did get his hat back, but we may never truly know. Maybe he has been hunting for his cap ever since 2010, and the one we’ve seen play is merely a duplicate that he created so he can continue to pursue justice.

Or something like that.

 

 

Preview/Prediction for AL Wild Card Tonight

It’s the Tampa Bay Rays at the Cleveland Indians tonight, with the winner advancing to the ALDS. While I’ve predicted the past two games correctly, I feel like this one will be tougher. But, ultimately, I still like the Rays here.

My reasons:

  • Pitching, pitching, pitching. Alex Cobb is a better and (slightly) more experienced starter than Danny Salazar, and the Rays bullpen, while tired and sometimes erratic, at least has a defined closer and role players, unlike the by-committee approach that now rules the Indians’ pen.
  • Hitting. Team WAR on Fangraphs for the Rays this season was 30.3, behind only the Red Sox. Team WAR for Indians was 21.8, 15th in MLB. Also, Evan Longoria is on fire. That alone can turn the tide of the game.
  • Fielding: The Rays have an advantage in most advanced fielding statistics and metrics.
  • Momentum: The Rays were playing only two days ago, on Monday. The Indians have been sitting around since Sunday.
  • Playoff experience: The Rays have been here before, most (but certainly not all) of the Indians haven’t.

So, I’m predicting a 5-3 Rays victory tonight.

AL Wild Card Tiebreaker Preview

Well, Game 163 is tonight, as the Texas Rangers host the Tampa Bay Rays for the right to advance to the Wild Card Game against Cleveland on Wednesday.

It is, of course, folly to try and predict a single baseball game. There are so many actors and factors (a rhyme!) that are in play, and a single strange hop or blown call can change everything. Luck will have just as much to do with the result of this game as skill.

That said, the old axiom that good pitching beats good hitting suggests that the Rays have the advantage tonight. Why? Because they have David Price on the mound. While Price was only 9-8 this year while Texas’ Martin Perez was 10-5, win-loss records are misleading. Instead, look at how Price has a lower ERA than Perez, and how Price has a better WAR than Perez, and how Price has experience pitching in big games while this will be Perez’s first rodeo.

Of course, that experience could cut both ways. You see,  Price’s relative veteran status means that the Rangers have had plenty of times to face him. They know him firsthand, and while that might not save them if he is having a good day, it certainly evens the odds a bit. Alex Rios, for example, is a career .435 hitter against Price in 23 at-bats, including two home runs. Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre also have good numbers against Price, and Nelson Cruz– back from his Biogenesis suspension- has had three home runs in his career against the Rays’ ace, including one in the 2010 postseason.

By comparison, only four members of the Rays have ever faced Perez, so they will be going mainly on scouting and video. Maybe this will mean nothing, as the Rays’ contain plenty of hitters who are just naturally gifted.

Which, of course, leads to how these two lineups stack up. In general, I’d say this is a slight advantage to Texas, especially with Cruz back. Texas, statistically, has hit better for average and power this year than Tampa, although not overwhelmingly so, while Tampa has a edge in getting on base. The two are ridiculously close when it comes to OPS, with Tampa at .737 and Texas at .736. However, Texas didn’t have Cruz these past few months due to his suspension, so I hypothesize that his addition will provide the ever-so-slight edge for the Rangers.

So, the starting matchup favors Tampa, but the lineups will likely favor Texas. What does that leave us with? Bullpens, fielding and managing.

Starting with the last of the three: Joe Maddon is unquestionably the better strategic mind than Ron Washington, using advanced metrics and unconventional tactics while Ron Washington… doesn’t.

Next, fielding. This is tough, as the advanced fielding statistics are really complicated, Gold Gloves are subjective and the traditional statistics are often misleading. And, I got to say, it all depends on what stat you look at… so I’m calling this one a push.

And so, finally, the bullpens. I give a slight advantage to the Rangers, at least assuming there aren’t any screwups. Their bullpen was better statistically than the Rays’ bullpen this season, although admittedly Fernando Rodney was erratic all year for Tampa, going from Cy Young to Cy Yuk and back again several times, so who knows?

So, there you go, it looks like a very evenly-matched contest, but I’m going to go with the Rays, 4-2. I just don’t feel like going against David Price.

So about the weekend…

Things we learned over the weekend:

The Dodgers have a lot of money

You know how I wrote that analogy of how the Yankees are like Godzilla sleeping between rampages? Well, the Dodgers think that’s adorable. This weekend, they’ve signed Zack Greinke for $147 million dollars,  Korean ace Hyun-Jin Ryu for $36 million and presumably the moon for a few billion dollars they had left over. For the first time since the ill-advised 1998 Orioles, it looks like a team will top the Yankees in the payroll column.

But, interestingly, the Dodgers aren’t getting as much hate as the Yankees do when they go on sprees like this. I have a theory: The Yankees’ public image is of the Steinbrenner family and it’s surrogates, old money with a superiority complex, real or imagined, and with the YES network filled with varying degrees of homerism. By contrast, the public face of the Dodgers’ ownership is Magic Johnson, one of the most beloved sports figures in America, and their games are called by Vin Scully. Add in the fact that there are 20 titles between the two, and it becomes clear that the Dodgers are going to be regarded as benevolent overlords, at least by comparison.

The Dodgers have a lot of pitching

Oh, the other thing: here’s the list of MLB-ready pitchers now on the Los Angeles Dodgers-

Of course, there are only, at most, five rotation spots for these eight guys. Presuming that perhaps they will keep six pitchers (with the sixth pitcher being a long-relief and spot-starter who can go in when somebody inevitably gets hurt), that means that two pitchers, likely Harang and Capuano, will probably be traded. Traded, presumably, for prospects that could one day further reinforce the Dodgers.

The Royals actually have done something, but the Rays may have gotten the better part of the deal.

The big move this morning/late last night is that the Royals and Rays made a trade: James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named (or cash) go to the Royals, who send top hitting prospect Wil Myers, pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery, and long-term (he’s still in the low minors) 3B prospect Patrick Leonard.

In the short-term, perhaps, the Royals have gotten the better part of the deal, getting “Big Game” James Shields, a perennial Cy Young Aaward candidate, as well as fellow MLB pitcher Wade Davis. But in the long-term, this could be a disastrous move for the Royals. They gave up four prospects, three of whom were on Baseball America‘s list of the minors’ top 100 prospects. Myers is said to be one of the best power-hitting prospects in all of baseball, Odorizzi had a brief stint in the majors last year and had a 3.03 ERA between AA and AAA last season and Montgomery isn’t as big a prospect as he once was but could still blossom into a big league pitcher. The Rays will be able to have these players for at least another five or six years.

And for this, the Royals get Shields for two years, and Wade Davis for maybe three or four years. And even with these upgrades, it’s unlikely that the Royals will be able to compete in the AL Central, although perhaps it makes them a outside contender for a Wild Card spot.

Could the Royals still “win” this deal? Of course. But I agree with many of the other people online: the Rays will probably win this deal in the long run.

An Eyewitness account of Evan Longoria’s setback

So, I was at the ballpark last night. Evan Longoria was in town with Durham on a rehab assignment- having injured his hamstring earlier in the year. I’ve seen him before in the big leagues, but the chance to see a ballplayer on a rehab assignment in the minors is something you should never pass up: you can see them far closer for far cheaper. Why, you can get close enough to realize they have begun growing more facial hair.

Good thing I went last night, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen him at all.

(jump)

Continue reading