Stuart Sternberg complains about lack of support during times of success for the Rays.
by Josh Kipnis
Tampa Bay Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg is fed up with the fans in the Bay area. “I am frustrated this year. We’ve replicated [the success of] last year and our attendance numbers were down 15 percent and our ratings were down…We’re getting to the point where we don’t control our own destiny. This is untenable as a model going forward.”
Three teams face elimination on day MLB dreamed of 20 years ago
by Charlie Miller
Today is a day that Major League Baseball had in mind when it expanded the playoffs for what was to be 1994, but due to the strike, actually began in 1995. Four playoff games, three of which could be elimination games. All in one day.
It will be tough to match last Wednesday night for a four-game set that ranked as the best ever, but with three teams’ seasons on the line, today is must-see baseball.
Beginning today at 2:00 ET, Tampa Bay will attempt to stave off elimination at home against Texas. Then at 5:00 St. Louis hosts Philadelphia in the only non-do-or-die affair. At 7:30 the Yankees will be in Detroit trying to extend their season another few days and force a Game 5 back in New York. Milwaukee and Arizona begin at 8:30, but I suspect most of the nation will catch only the last few innings after the Yankees-Tigers tussle. The Diamondbacks will try desperately to avoid the embarrassment of being swept at the hands of the Brewers.
Texas at Tampa Bay
Two veterans (using the term relatively) couldn’t get the job done on the mound for the Rays, so once again manager Joe Maddon will have a rookie on the hill in an effort to shut down the Rangers. In Game 1, Matt Moore, making his second-ever big-league start, held the Rangers scoreless through seven innings to jumpstart the series for Tampa Bay. James Shields, author of 11 complete games this season, was knocked out in the sixth and was charged with seven runs in the Texas beatdown. David Price made one mistake too many last night and gave up a timely home run to Mike Napoli in the Rangers’ 4-3 win. Now Jeremy Hellickson, with no previous postseason experience, will start the Rays’ elimination game at home.
If the Rangers are to close out this series and continue to advance, it will be their bullpen that will carry them. The acquisition of Koji Uehara, Mike Gonzalez and Mike Adams during the season has allowed manager Ron Washington the flexibility to not only shorten games in front of superb closer Neftali Feliz, but also play matchups as well. With Alexi Ogando, who was in the rotation all season, and veteran lefty Darren Oliver, the Texas starters have no pressure to pitch deep into games, allowing them to leave it all on the mound for just a couple of times through the order.
Ogando pitched a scoreless frame in Game 2 and got out of a bases loaded, one out jam in Game 3. Oliver bailed out Uehara in Game 2, then needed a little help from Ogando the next night. Adams pitched a clean inning in Game 2, left a mess in Game 3 before Gonzalez struck out Johnny Damon then gave way to Feliz to save. The point is that this deep bullpen gives Washington lots of options.
The Rays were second to the Tigers in the American League in one-run games, and the Rangers didn’t fare well over the course of the season. But once the bullpen stabilized, Texas became much better, going 11-7 in one- and two-run games since Aug. 4.
For the Rays to move on to the ALCS, they’ll need to win a couple of blowouts like they did in Game 1.
A couple of nights ago, I enjoyed the greatest night of my baseball life. Four teams fighting for a playoff berth in four different games, and three of them went into extra innings. Can it get it better than that? Well, if you listen to MLB, it can. But I disagree.
It appears that MLB is determined — for whatever reason — to add a couple of playoff teams, create perpetual interleague play and in so doing, make the DH rule universal.
I understand that the additional playoff teams generate more revenue. But if that is all we’re about here, let’s just have a 30-team postseason tournament in September and October to determine the champion. The team with the best record in each league gets a bye in the first round, and let’s play five rounds of seven-game series.
Of course, that sounds absurd — at least I hope it does to everyone — but where do we draw the compromise between increasing postseason revenue and maintaining the integrity of a true champion?
I submit that we have that compromise now. If anything, we’re too far on the lost integrity side, but maybe that’s just me. I just happen to believe that the truest measure of the best baseball team in any given year is over 162 games, not over 19 postseason games with days off in between.
Am I suggesting that we go back to the days of no divisions and have the two league champions meet in the World Series? No I’m not. While I do believe that is the truest measure of a champion, I understand the drama and suspense of elimination games.
But think about what opening up 2011 to an extra playoff team in each league would have taken from the game? There would not have been the incredible drama Wednesday night. The Yankees and Phillies had already clinched home field advantage. The Rangers, Diamondbacks, Tigers and Rangers had all clinched division titles. And the Red Sox, Rays, Braves and Cardinals would have clinched wild card berths.
You may argue that the drama we witnessed on Wednesday would have remained, but moved to a later night featuring wild card games. Perhaps, but playing to get into the playoffs offers a little more drama than merely playing to advance. And what about the Orioles and Astros? Those teams and their fans were able to witness relevant games for those teams for the first time in months. And while the Houston fans weren’t treated to much drama, Camden Yards was as vibrant as ever Wednesday night. Please don’t take those opportunities away.
No matter how hard executives and networks and websites try, sports just can’t be scripted. You can’t manufacture drama. Whether it’s just two postseason teams or 16, the drama will happen on the field as played out by individuals. Some seasons play out with three or four fantastic divisional races going down to the wire. Some years don’t. This season was one of those where the dramatic line was drawn between the fourth- and fifth-best teams in each league. Next year will be different. But it is never predictable where that line will be drawn.
So please, MLB, don’t mess with the existing playoff structure.
Tuesday night's performances keep Rays and Cardinals alive.
by Josh Kipnis
“Triple” is not the most common word in baseball. Any hitter will tell you that a triple is the hardest stat to check off the list. And for a defensive player, a triple play is just about unheard of.
This year’s wild card race had been a rarity of its own, as the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays each attempt to mount monumental comebacks in their hopes towards a playoff berth. Which is why it should be no surprise that “triple” was the keyword for success last night.
I think the Red Sox are done. It’s over, Red Sox Nation. On Sept. 1 there seemed to be no doubt that both the Red Sox and Yankees were in the playoffs. The only question was which team would finish first and which would be the wild card. Then the Red Sox woke up and thought it was 1978.
As with Boston teams prior to the curse being reversed in 2004, this team keeps looking over its shoulder waiting for something bad to happen. And bad things keep happening.
Will the Tampa Bay Rays or St. Louis Cardinals make the postseason?
--By Josh Kipnis
With October right around the corner, who are the most feared teams in the MLB? Surprising to most, the Yankees and the Phillies aren’t at the top of my list. In fact, the two hottest teams might not even make the playoffs.
Who among the young franchise's players deserve this special honor?
MLB Mt. Rushmores
by Charlie Miller
The question was posed earlier this season whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore. That certainly piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. But it isn't as easy as it sounds. Let the arguments begin.
Tampa Bay Rays Mt. Rushmore
The Devil Rays spent nine of their first 10 years of existence languishing in last place, with seemingly no hope of competing with the heavyweights in New York and Boston. Then came a minor name change from Devil Rays to just Rays, and a major cultural change under manager Joe Maddon. The team wore shirts that said 9+9=8. Their motivation was that nine guys playing hard for nine innings equals one of eight teams playing in the postseason. Certainly a key to their success was that during the years spent in last place, the team was spending more than the big market teams on draft picks and player development. That strategy paid off, and the Rays are now going head-to-head with wealthier teams in the AL East.
There can absolutely be no argument here. The only category among the franchise’s all-time list that I could find without Crawford’s name at the top was home runs, and he is fourth in team history with 104. The team’s first real star, Crawford made four All-Star teams and stole 409 bases. From 2003 (the year he became a full-time starter) to 2010, he averaged .299 with 13 homers, 70 RBIs, 50 stolen bases, 93 runs and 12 triples. The fans’ warm reception upon his return to Tropicana Field this season in a Red Sox uniform spoke volumes to his popularity.
The popular third baseman is fifth on the team’s all-time list in runs and hits, and fourth in total bases and RBIs. He is currently the face of the franchise and under contract through 2013 with team options through 2016. I can’t imagine the team not picking those up. He has seven postseason home runs in 21 games.
The innovative manager is responsible for all the good seasons in team history. In his six seasons at the helm, he’s guided the Rays to their only four winning seasons, two division titles and an AL Pennant. He was recently voted the manager players would most like to play for in an SI poll of 291 major leaguers.
In 2005, at the age of 28, Friedman was promoted from his position in player development to general manager. Under his leadership, the franchise saw its first success in 2008.
Close Calls James Shields' 70 wins, six shutouts and 16 complete games are tops on the team’s all-time lists.
The former No. 2 overall draft pick may not be in a Rays’ uniform much longer, but B.J. Upton has been a fixture in centerfield since 2007 and was a key player in the Rays’ AL Championship in 2008.
Lefty David Price has the best ERA in team history (min. 500 IP) and is already third in wins with 41. And he was that 23-year-old on the mound when the Rays clinched the AL pennant in 2008.
Aubrey Huff is second or third on most of the franchise’s all-time lists.
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com
You already know about the Dodgers and Mets financial issues, that Adam Dunn has two hits (in 58 at-bats) off of lefties this season, and that the Cubs are…well, the Cubs. Now it’s time to focus on the positive news from the first half of the baseball season. Here’s my starting nine: