After over two months of rumors, it appears as Rays GM Andrew Friedman is staying put in Tampa Bay. Just a few days ago when the Los Angeles Angels announced that they were hiring the former Diamondback executive Jerry Dipoto, Rays Republic was able to take one big collective sigh of relief. This signing meant that Friedman was off the radar of another large-market team. The Friedman rumors ignited in August, when the Cubs fired their GM Jim Hendry. Immediately following this, Friedman’s name was quickly well-noticed on the list of possible replacements. At the time it was a big topic amongst Rays baseball; here’s a past article about it. It wasn’t ’till about a month later, that the Cubs found their man. The name is a well-known one; Theo Epstein. After getting Chicago out of the way, the Friedman subject started to flare up again when Andrew was spotted at a Florida restaurant with Halos’ owner Arte Moreno. Right after that occurrence, it was Tweeted that Friedman was the Angels number 1 choice for GM.
Apparently there was more circumstances involved, as the Angels found someone else to fill the role. The Rays really do need Friedman for real success. He is the man that turned the franchise around and helped build a championship-caliber baseball club. To be honest, I couldn’t picture the Rays without the guy. He’s done amazing things and hopefully the Rays will witness more for many years to come.
Rays Republic, don’t forget to vote Friedman for Executive of the Year in the GIBBY Awards! Much more Rays and Rays moments were nominated for the annual awards at MLB.com. Click here to cast your votes.
For the second straight year, the Rays have lost the ALDS to the Texas Rangers in front of their home crowd. This time it ended in Game 4, with another frustrating loss last night at the same close score of 4-3. So close yet so far, as they say. The Rays just lacked the timely hitting that would of put them in the ALCS both this year and last year. Very bothering to see one player (Adrian Beltre) hit three crucial solo homers in the game and the Rays again coming back late and just falling short.
It’s amazing how drastically the mood of Rays Republic changed in just a matter of a week. Evan Longoria hits the biggest homerun in franchise history, and a week later the Rays are knocked out of the playoffs. I was very surprised in the outcome of the series. Not only that the red-hot Rays lost in four games, but also the games they won and lost in the series. The Rays struck first, destroying Texas’ ace in Arlington and getting boosts from unexpected sources. Game 2-4 featured the Rays core 3 starters, including two games at the Trop. I don’t think anyone would have guessed they would drop all three. Overall, there has been more disappointing days in the franchise’s past. In a matter of fact, last year’s ALDS was more upsetting considering the regular season the Rays had. With a bad beginning and bad ending, 2011 wasn’t such a bad result at all. It will be remembered throughout baseball for many years, just like the magical 2008 run. It was a season of miracles and shock. They may have not went as far as they wanted, but they definitely did something that they should be proud of. And that’s knocking out Boston and stunning Red Sox nation. With their $39 million payroll, the Rays did something great dismantling their pompous rivals and miraculously making the playoffs. For how they did this with such passion, I must say it was a great season.
Maybe the Rays just weren’t ready to go all the way this year, and the third time wasn’t the charm. But with the incredibly bright future they have, nobody can be surprised to see the Rays playing in October next year. The potential pitching staff they have is unmatchable; with Moore, Price, Archer, Hellickson, and hopefully Shields. Today is not a day for Rays fans to hang their heads in disappointment, but rather to remember all the great moments of 2011.
It’s been a fustrating past few days for Rays Republic. Two close losses, and one that for sure could have been won. Let’s start with yesterday’s pivotal Game 3 at the Trop. Firstly, Price was called to start that game over Jeremy Hellicson. To me that makes no sense. Why would Maddon start David (who has struggled this month) for Game 3 instead of Hellickson, who has more rest and is pitching great recently. Although I have great confidence and respect for Price, I just thought that Jeremy would be a better choice for the game. Despite all this, Price didn’t have such a bad outing yesterday. But that leads to another thing that irked me in yesterday’s heart-breaker. I haven’t discussed much about J.P. Howell on this blog this year, but he is definitely a subject of matter in this ALDS. For some reason, Maddon has a lot of trust in Howell.
Although I think Howell has been a big part of the Rays in the past and have a lot of respect for him, he frankly hasn’t been the same since recovering from his disastrous injury. It’s really too bad it had to happen to such a good guy, but that’s the reality of baseball. Unfortunately, Maddon is not totally aware that J.P. is hurting his team late in games (like last night). With Juan Cruz, Wade Davis, and Niemann in the bullpen; I don’t see the logic in putting him in in that situations. There’s plenty of other scenarios that would fit Howell, like a lead of at least 3 or a large deficit. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann have done plenty this year to prove that they are deserving of this responsibility. The next frustrating ALDS decision I want to discuss, is the Game 5 starter. Optimistically assuming that the Rays win today, I don’t understand at all why James Shields is starting Game 5. Let me get this straight; James† Shields is the best pitcher by far on the Rays.
On the other hand, rookie Matt Moore has a day more rest than Shields and the Rangers have absolutely no answer hitting him. I’m aware that this means Matt Moore will be the ALCS Game 1 starter, but you got to get there first. At the end of the day, I still like the Rays chances in this series. This is virtually nothing compared to how much the Rays have been through. They came back from 9 games behind in September, I think they can win two games in a row. That’s truly how I think of the Rays being of the verge of elimination; win two games. I’m very confident the Rays can do this after the unforgetable miracles I’ve witnessed this year.
Carl Crawford was the face of the franchise for the Rays for nine long years. He was a fan favorite in Tampa Bay, with his ridiculous speed, acrobatic catches, and clutch hits. The inevitable transfer came during the offseason this year, when Crawford was signed by Boston for a mammoth $ 142 million contract through 7 years. Crawford did a lot to prove that a 30-year old ballplayer could be signed for a gigantic contract like that, by having a tremendous 2010 season. Things were looking up for CC until the season actually started. Crawford started horrendous in the first two months, and still has disappointed Red Sox Nation hitting .259 in late September with a very low stolen base total. Crawford was aware of the poor season more than anyone, and recently started an ‘apologetic diary’ to Red Sox Nation. Something tells me that the $142 million contract had a little bit to do with his idea to start a diary.
The diary, which is written at ESPNboston.com, basically states ‘Sorry for the year I’ve had’. But when Carl tried to elaborate, things didn’t exactly go as planned. From a reader’s standpoint, it seemed as if he was attacking Rays fans while praising Boston fans. Some controversial quotes included: “If Tampa makes a miracle comeback and takes the wild card from us, I will be devastated. I definitely wouldn’t want to lose to those guys and watch them get into the playoffs while we go home. That would just be devastating to me.” Really? It’s devastating when the team that made you who you are succeeds, but when the Angels or Yankees beat you it’s fine? That wasn’t all though. Crawford also called out Rays fans: “It was a bunch of haters in left field, pretty much.” But Crawford also had some words for the Red Sox fans who apparently never do any ‘heckling’: “You guys have been really supportive and I appreciate that.” Tell me this guy isn’t the MVP suck-up of the year. Just the fact that Crawford decided to make an ‘apologetic diary’ makes him suck-up. When Crawford said “I just want to say I’m sorry for the year I’ve had”, I don’t think that’s ‘just’ what he had to say.
The truth is that the only way he is going to win over Red Sox Nation is by playing better. Sucking-up just doesn’t work in Boston. Unfortunately, it looks as CC has tarnished his reputation in Tampa. He may have got the filled seats and fan energy he asked for, but he won’t welcome anymore in the “empty seats” of the Trop. It’s just sad what money does to good people.
The Al East, unlike any other division, has a three-headed monster: the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. And then there are the Blue Jays and the Orioles; the typical 4th and 5th place of the division in the past four years. Toronto and Baltimore are usually a team that quickly finds themselves out of the pennant race with the tough division. Although the Rays, Yanks, and Sox are a better baseball team than both Toronto and Baltimore, the Jays and O’s do one thing better than all three. Like many mediocre teams in MLB, the Jays and Orioles play “spoiler” in the month of September. These two teams have the biggest ‘spoiler’ job in all the MLB, being in the AL East. While some teams (like the Rays and Red Sox) are competing in tight race to the playoffs, the Jays and Orioles are playing their hearts out just to put a huge dent in the competitive team’s chances. As pesky as these ‘spoiler’ teams get, I truly believe that all teams should be putting in a 110% effort everyday even if they have no chance of making the postseason. It is the true sign of a hardworking team, that really takes pride in their job. The Rays were in this situation for a long 9 years, so they definitely have played this role before. This year the Jays have been the team helping out the Rays, and the Orioles have been the team giving them issues.
Toronto has won four of their last six against Boston, helping the Rays get back into the conversation. Quite frankly, the Rays wouldn’t even have a chance at this point if it weren’t for the Blue Jays. Toronto has fought to the death against Boston; winning two resilient comeback victories and displaying full-out effort in close games. This is a team that all teams should look up to as a role model. They might not win that many games or have a stacked roster, but they know that every game is a big game. As for the Orioles, this role has become a routine September for them. Unfortunately, their main victim this year so far is the Rays. Baltimore won the series two out of three at Camden Yards, which cost the Rays important ground in the battle with Boston.
Baltimore’s job is just getting started though, with all of their final 14 games of the season against playoff contenders. Hopefully they are just getting warmed up, as half of those four games are versus Boston. As for the members of Rays Republic, good job Jays and good luck O’s!
Four years ago, Jeff Niemann was just a huge kid with an arm. Two years ago, Jeff Niemann was a MLB starter with a very bright future ahead of him. A little over a year ago, Niemann looked like a pitching phenom and future superstar.
Mid-season of last year, one injury almost completely destroyed everything for the Big Texan. That shoulder injury was a major setback in the growing career of a young pitcher. Ever since that day the Rays announced he would be placed on the 15-Day DL, Jeff Niemann has never been the same since. It’s a sad story that has happened to countless pitchers throughout baseball history. The Rays and Rays Republic hope that it won’t end that way for Jeff. Luckily, he’s only 28 years old, and has made a bit of progress this year in getting back to his ‘A-game’ form from 2010. In the first half of 2o1o, Niemann put up ridiculous numbers, including a startling 2.77 ERA through 117 IP. The second half was a disaster, after recovering from the shoulder injury. His velocity and command was nothing like it was in the excellent first half. It was clear it might be a while before Niemann returns to his best form. The Rays knew that injuries were really the only problem the Rays could have with their starting pitching, which was terrific when 100% healthy. In 2011, Niemann worked hard to get back his spot in the rotation. Although another injury got in his way of success. Niemann again spent some time on the DL, but luckily the Rays had Alex Cobb come to the rescue.
After returning from the DL, Niemann got his spot back, but Cobb was not sent back down to Durham. Cobb’s outstanding pitching convinced Joe Maddon that a 6-man rotation would be ideal. This worked out even better than expected, the extra rest was really coming in the pitchers’ favor. Especially for Niemann, who was starting to pitch well after returning from the DL. Unfortunately, that 6-man rotation didn’t last long though. Cobb got hurt and required season-ending rib surgery. Hopefully for the talented young pitcher, the injury won’t be too much of a setback like it was in Niemann’s case. Now Niemann is starting to struggle on the mound, like in last night’s big game in Arlington (http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=18710899&c_id=tb). Niemann will have his chances to return to his 2010 form. Even with the probable addition of Matt Moore and Chris Archer next year, the Rays really hope he’ll be pitching well by next year. The Rays do have a great pitching future, and a healthy Niemann could be an important part of the Rays success in years to come.