There are a handful of future Hall of Famers playing in the MLB today. Some of them will be debated over wether their name should be in Cooperstown or not; and Damon is probably one of the biggest names in that category. Johnny Damon has done it all in his long and successful career. Just finishing his 17th year in the MLB, the 36-year old has won two World Series titles and was elected to the All Star Game twice. But the one word that really defines Damon’s career, is consistency.
Damon’s ability to play good baseball year after year if what makes him such an ideal player to have on a team. The stats definitely back him up in that department. Damon has never batted under .256 in his whole career, and he’s never had a season where he played 140 or less games (besides for his rookie year). He also has finished top 25 in the MLB in stolen bases (14 times), hits (10 times), and runs (11 times). Clutch is another word that describes Damon well. In both his championship seasons, 2004 and 2009, Johnny had some big clutch hits to help his respective teams succeed in the postseason. This part of his game is something that really helps him in his Hall debate. On the other side of things, his stats are pretty much the only thing weighing him down. A .286 average and 231 homeruns are not your typical Hall of Fame stats. This is why reaching every milestone possible will be important for Damon’s chances. A big one was achieved this year, as Damon became the 11th player in MLB history to hit at least 500 doubles, 100 triples, 200 homers, and 2,500 hits. He joined some great HOF names on that list; including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, George Brett, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, and more. Even with this incredible feat, Johnny may need another milestone to get him into Cooperstown. Everyone knows exactly what that is; the magical 3,000 hits. Out of all the active players in the league right now, Damon is the closest.
When he (hopefully) starts the season next year, he will stand at 2,723 hits. 277 hits away, Damon and his fans hope it will take just two years to reach the magical number with time running out. At the end of the day, I think it’s going to take that milestone to get his jersey hung up in Cooperstown. As for Damon’s future, it seems questionable in a Rays uniform. At almost 37, Damon is entering free agency. The way he plays with such hustle and heart, it looks like he can easily get through two years. Whatever team he’s on, I am confident he will be able to reach the milestone if he stays healthy. But man, wouldn’t it be nice to see him hit number 3,000 with the Rays.
The Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year):
Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay (22) 113 (My 1st place vote)
Jim Leyland, Detroit 48 (My 3rd place vote)
Ron Washington, Texas (3) 37
Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles of Anaheim 13 (My 2nd place vote)
Joe Girardi, New York 9
Manny Acta, Cleveland 5
John Farrell, Toronto 1
This one was one of the three awards I thought was a no-brainer, along with the Walter Johnson Award and the Willie Mays Award. Joe Maddon had another unbelievable season as the Rays skipper, and lead the team to their historic comeback. He’s been talked about on sports sites everywhere including mine (article here and here), and most have agreed that he is the best manager in all of baseball. He was just awarded the top AL manager by Sporting News a few days ago. It’s nice to see Maddon get some good recognition here, and hopefully he will take home his second Manager of the Year Award in the coming weeks. For my Connie Mack Award article, click here.
The Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year):
Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay (8) 67 (My 1st place vote)
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City (9) 67 (My second place vote)
Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles of Anaheim (3) 27
Michael Pineda, Seattle (3) 23
Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay 7
Ivan Nova, New York 7 (My 3rd place vote)
Brett Lawrie, Toronto (1) 5
Dustin Ackley, Seattle 4
Zach Britton, Baltimore 3
Alexi Ogando, Texas 3
Jordan Walden, Los Angeles of Anaheim 2
Chris Sale, Chicago 1
Overall, I would have to say I am satisfied with the result of this voting. It was at least a sigh of relief to see the much deserving Hellickson tie for first. I was convinced the whole season that Hellickson was deserving of the ROY Award and was favoring Hosmer as the runner-up. Jeremy was recently acknowledged as Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year, rating him the best rookie in all of baseball. It wasn’t ideal to see Hellboy not the sole winner in this one, but it was still good to see him and Hosmer stand as the one-two in the voting. I was also very happy to see Desmond Jennings get recognition with 7 votes, after the boost he gave the Rays since his call-up. For my Willie Mays Award blog post, click here.
The Goose Gossage Award (Top Relief Pitcher):
Jose Valverde, Detroit (13) 74 (My 1st place vote)
Mariano Rivera, New York (4) 56 (My 2nd place vote)
David Robertson, New York (3) 39 (My 3rd place vote)
Jonathan Papelbon, Boston (1) 21
Koji Uehara, Texas (1) 6
Alfredo Aceves, Boston (1) 5
Neftali Feliz, Texas 2
Greg Holland, Kansas City 2
Chris Perez, Cleveland 2
Brandon League, Seattle 1
Vinnie Pestano, Cleveland 1
The 1-2-3 order was identical to my voting on the Goose Gossage Award. Valverde was the obvious choice for winner on this one after the incredible season he had. Not really much to be said on this award, click here for my Goose Gossage Award post.
The Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young Award):
Justin Verlander, Detroit (21) 147 (My 1st place vote)
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles of Anaheim 67 (My 2nd place vote)
CC Sabathia, New York 58
James Shields, Tampa Bay 40 (My 3rd place vote)
Dan Haren, Los Angeles of Anaheim 20
CJ Wilson, Texas 9
Josh Beckett, Boston 6
Ricky Romero, Toronto 5
Felix Hernandez, Seattle 2
Doug Fister, Detroit 1
Brandon McCarthy, Oakland 1
David Price, Tampa Bay 1
This result may have been the most disappointing out of all of them. Verlander was the obvious winner and Weaver was the sure runner-up, but I strongly disagree with Sabathia being in he top three. Apparently Shields’ better ERA and 11 CG (yes I meant 11) wasn’t good enough to get him front of C.C. I don’t want to take anything away from Sabathia, he had another great season, but Shields frankly just had a better year. To read a full argument, click here to see my Walter Johnson Award post.
The Stan Musial Award (MVP)
Jose Bautista, Toronto (11) 225 (My fifth vote)
Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston (5) 200 (My third vote)
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (3) 183 (My FIRST vote)
Curtis Granderson, Detroit (1) 135 (My fourth vote)
Justin Verlander, Detroit (2) 126
Adrian Gonzalez, Boston 109 (My second vote)
Dustin Pedroia, Boston 68
Robinson Cano, New York 55 (My eighth vote)
Ian Kinsler, Texas 35
Michael Young, Texas 28 (My sixth vote)
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay 25 (My tenth vote)
Alex Gordon, Kansas City 20
CC Sabathia, New York 13
Paul Konerko, Chicago 12 (My ninth vote)
Adrian Beltre, Texas 10 (My seventh vote)
Alex Avila, Detroit 8
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles of Anaheim 6
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay 6
Mike Napoli, Texas 4
James Shields, Tampa Bay 3
Victor Martinez, Cleveland 2
David Oritz, Boston 2
Melky Cabrera, Kansas City 1
Even though the winner of the voting was ranked number 5 in my ballot, I’m still not disappointed to see Jose Bautista get the award. I was also relieved to see the top 3 as Bautista, Ellsbury, and Miguel Cabrera. There are some parts of the results I strongly disagree with though. For example, Ian Kinsler finishing ahead of teammates Adrian Beltre and Michael Young. Young had an average .58 points higher than Kinsler as well as more RBI’s. I also thought that Dustin Pedroia was overrated in this voting, finishing ahead of Cano and Young. Overall, these results could of been much worse and it will be interesting to see how similar this will be to the MVP results. Click here for my Stan Musial Award post.
The Rays Rant is evaluating every Rays player of 2011. Well at least the ones that played a decent amount of time in the big leagues this year. I will also be handing out the following team awards: Team MVP, the Team Leader award, Defensive Player of the Year award, Team Batting Champion, Stolen Base leader, Team RBI King, All-Star, the Impact Player award, the Rookie of the Year award, the Heart & Hustle award, and the Team Player award. Here are the grades and evaluation of the 2011 Rays:
Alex Cobb- When Alex Cobb was called up in the middle of the season to replace the injured Wade Davis, nobody really knew what to expect from him. He quickly showed that he was another Ray rookie talent, and was excelling at the Major League level. It seemed as if he was on a roll, until he required season-ending surgery. I big blow to the pitching staff, but still a bright future ahead. Grade: A
Juan Cruz- The Rays signed Juan Cruz in the offseason as part of their efforts to rebuild the bullpen. When they got Cruz, they were really just trying to get lucky. And very lucky they were, as Cruz went 5-0 in relief for the season. Cruz really was a surprise after the previous two years, which included a horrible 2009 and a 5.1 inning 2010. Grade: A-
Wade Davis- As expected, Wade Davis made the young 5-man Rays rotation. Like the other four guys, Davis looked bright coming into the season. But 2011 ended up being a bit of a frustration for Wade, as he put up better stats the previous season. His ERA climbed .38 points higher, but his 11-10 record with a 4.45 ERA was still pretty decent. Grade: B-
Kyle Farnsworth- Farnsworth was probably the Rays best offseason move. With no bullpen that meant no closer, and the Rays were out to find one. Just like almost every other reliever on the Rays impressive bullpen, Farnsworth didn’t really have high expectations coming into the season. The 36 year-old Farnsworth had the best season of his long career. Grade: A+
Jeremy Hellickson- The surging young right-hander had a tremendous season this year, and was probably the second-best starter in the rotation. His 2.95 ERA is one of the best in the league, and he is a very strong candidate for the ROY award. Grade: A+ Award: Rookie of the Year award
J.P. Howell- Recovering from a horrific shoulder injury, J.P. and the Rays were thrilled after over a year on the sidelines. But it quickly became clear that Howell wasn’t the same, and he ended the season with a 6.16 ERA. Grade: D-
Jake McGee- McGee has been a young bullpen arm that the Rays are excited about. He still is a developing player though, and let up a lot of runs in 2011. Still his 5 wins was pretty good. Grade: C+
Matt Moore- Matt Moore is all he’s hyped up to be. The fireballer southpaw showed terrific stuff in his first month in the MLB, and lead the Rays pitching staff in the postseason. Moore is probably the most exciting rookie in the baseball, and my pick for ROY next year. Grade: A+
Jeff Niemann- Niemann is in a recovering process, after coming back from a major career-setback last year. Everything was looking great for the surging Niemann until he injured his shoulder. This season, Niemann has shown that he is on the right track, with an 11-7 record and a ERA just over 4. Grade: B
Joel Peralta- Peralta had an impressive season as the Rays setup man, and was part of a very smart offseason move. Joel is a big part of the Rays future in the bullpen, and will likely (and hopefully) be a Ray next year. Grade: A-
David Price- Price had extremely high expectations coming into the season. Considering all of that, 2011 may have been a disappointment. After a Cy Young caliber 2010 with a 2.72 ERA and 19 wins, Price finished 2011 with a losing record and an ERA of 3.49. Most think it was just an off-year for the phenom lefty, and he will continue his ace ways in the future. Grade: B Award: All-Star
Cesar Ramos- Being the only left-hander in the ‘pen, Ramos had one of the biggest jobs on the team. He just barely did it good enough. He had problems with the longball, letting up 19 dingers in the season. Grade: C+
James Shields- Shields had an unbelievable season, finishing with a stellar ERA of 2.82 and a remarkable 11 complete games. Shields was really the third-best pitcher in the AL this year, just behind the ridiculous seasons of Verlander and Weaver. Grade: A+ Awards: Team MVP, All-Star
John Jaso- Overall a disappointing year for Jaso. His average dipped to .224 and his defense behind the plate was sloppy. Grade: C
Kelly Shoppach- Quite frankly an embarrassing season for the backstop, hitting .176. The highlight of his season was some clutch homers, but besides that it was just one big disappointment. Grade: D-
Reid Brignac- Another big disappointment for the Rays, Brignac wasn’t able to do anything offensively. He hit .193 and knocked in only 15 runs. His great defense at shortstop was what kept him in the league. Grade: D
Elliot Johnson- Another Rays shortstop hitting in the .190′s. Johnson was still able to get some big hits, and his defense and running game was pretty good. Grade: D+
Casey Kotchman- One of the biggest surprises in MLB this year. Here’s a recent article I wrote about him for a full evaluation. Grade: A+ Awards: C0-Defensive Player of the Year award, Team Batting Champion
Evan Longoria- Just like David Price, Longoria had very high expectations coming into the season. Many experts even picked him to be the AL MVP in their preseason predictions. Considering the player he is, 2011 was a bump in the road. Injuries were a big part of it, as he played at least 20 games less than he would have. He still was able to rack up 99 RBIs and 31 dingers, but his .244 average was really the only disappointment. But it won’t be a season that Longo will forget, as he got the biggest hit in franchise history. Grade: B+ Awards: Co-Defensive Player of the Year Award, Co-Impact Player of the Year award, Team RBI King
Sean Rodriguez- The only part of Sean’s game that wasn’t good in 2011, was the hitting. He finished the season with a .223 average. His defense was great and he really helped the Rays with his high baseball IQ. Grade: B- Award: Co-Heart & Hustle award
Ben Zobrist- Every team in baseball wishes they had a player like Zorilla. The best utility man in baseball also knows how to hit, knocking in 91 runs and hitting 46 doubles. What makes Zobrist amazing, is how he defends every position he plays so great. Almost anywhere you put him, he’ll field above-average. Grade: A Award: Team Player of the Year award
Johnny Damon- Closing out on a great career, Damon has shown he can still play. He’s really a perfect fit for the Rays; the way he plays with his heart and hustles on every play. A .261 average and 73 RBIs is not too shabby for a 37 year-old. Grade: B Award: Co-Heart & Hustle award
Sam Fuld- The young left fielder will always be known for his fearless defense in the outfield. His hitting is something that is still developing though. Here’s a past article about him and his legend. Grade: B- Award: Co-Defensive Player of the Year award.
Desmond Jennings- When the Rays called up phenom Desmond Jennings this season, it was huge boost for the team. Every part of his game was great, including his power (which surprised everyone). His season started off with a bang , and that’s when everyone knew what kind of player he was. Grade: A+ Award: Co-Impact Player of the Year award
Justin Ruggiano- Ruggiano has been in the Rays organization for a long time, but hasn’t seen too much big league playing time. His time came in 2011, and he gave the team a bit of a boost with some clutch hits. His defense in left was also impressive. Grade: B-
B.J. Upton- In maybe his last year in a Rays uniform, Upton once again repeated some of his same issues. His average was once again low (.243), his strikeout total was very high, and his baserunning was also not so great. On the bright side of things; Upton knocked in 81 runs, was great in center field, and lead the team in stolen bases with his great speed. Grade: B Award: Stolen Base leader
Matt Joyce- Last but definitely not least, it’s the big bat of Matt. Joyce was one of three Rays elected to the All Star Game in Phoenix. After a terrific first half, Joyce’s second half wasn’t nearly as good. What impressed me about Joyce this year, is how he met his goals. Coming into the season, Joyce worked hard to improve his running and fielding game; which hadn’t been up to par last season. He committed just 3 errors (with 8 assists) this year, and only 1 caught stealing. Grade: B+ Award: All-Star
Last but definitely not least, the Stan Musial Award is the highest honor of all the BBA Awards. It acknowledges the the (AL) MVP of league. To learn more about BBA and the BBA Awards read my earlier post. Deciding the top players in the AL was a long thinking and research process, and ultimately an extremely tough choice. So many players put up terrific numbers in 2011, making it nearly impossible for me to order the top ten best. Here they are:
1.) Miguel Cabrera- Another great year to a great career for the slugging first baseman. Last year Cabrera finished second in the AL MVP voting, right behind Josh Hamilton. It looks like he will definitely be finishing in the top three again, as he has put out some terrific numbers. First off, Cabrera leads the MLB with a stellar .344 BA. He also has 30 homers, 105 RBI’s, and 111 runs. He leads the AL in doubles, OBP (by far), and games played (161 G). Incredible for a big guy like Miggy, to only miss 1 game, hit the most doubles, lead in OBP, and lead in average. The only part of his game that is not MVP- caliber, is his speed and defense. When I considered that all his competitors were good in at least one of those two things, it made the choice even tougher. But I decided to give it to him because he lead in the most stats, and quite frankly has hit the baseball better than anybody in the MLB. My last factor in this vote, was that his team went farther than any of the other candidates (besides Michael Young and Verlander).
2.) Adrian Gonzalez- Another terrific slugging first baseman, similar to Cabrera. With the second-best avg. (tied with Michael Young) in the Majors (.338), Gonzalez has probably had the best year of his career so far. Adrian has really made a bid for first in this award, knocking in 12 more RBI’s than Cabrera and playing much better defense. I still had to give it to Cabrera though, because he leads in everything else and they both aren’t good baserunners. Also, Gonzalez had more hits, but Cabrera’s less K’s in more ABs definitely evened that out.
3.) Jacoby Ellsbury- At number 3, Ellsbury was almost good enough for me to put him at #1. It was really hard for me to put the young center fielder at #3, after the amazing season he had this year. Every part of his game was MVP- caliber, but the most surprising was the power numbers. Incredibly, Ellsbury has more homers that Gonzalez and Cabrera with 32. Also, he knocked in 105 runs which is tied with Cabrera. He finished the season ranking top 5 in every offensive stat; including runs, hits, and stolen bases. His 39 thefts are much better than any other MVP candidate (including Granderson). Also, his Gold Glove worthy defense in CF is definitely not something I overlooked. Really, the only thing that kept out of #1 or #2 in the voting was his average. A .321 average is terrific, but it’s just not as good as Gonzalez’s or Cabrera’s. Considering the lack of speed of those two big guys, having a higher average than Ellsbury means that they hit a lot more solid line-drives.
4.) Curtis Granderson- The only thing that got in the way of a #1 vote, was Granderson’s .262 average. Average is something that I weigh heavily in these votes, and .262 is not an MVP number. Besides that, everything else Granderson does on the baseball field is MVP- caliber. His run-producing numbers are ridiculous, and he’s also an impressive outfielder and baserunner.
5.) Jose Bautista- It’s really hard for me to put a player like Bautista 5th in this voting. Out of all these candidates, Jose may mean the most to his team. He leads the league in WAR and is the MLB home run champion. His fielding is also above average. The average is really what brought him down.
6.) Michael Young- Let me just start with this: the Rangers would not be in the World Series if it wasn’t for Young. A true ballplayer, Young was moved to SS this year and still performed. His .338 average is second-best in baseball and his 106 RBIs are also remarkable.
7.) Adrian Beltre- Another great Ranger infielder. Beltre struggled through hamstring injuries throughout the year, and still amazingly was able to rack up 105. RBIs. In addition to that, his stellar defense and high average were also impressive.
8.) Robinson Cano- Cano’s ridiculous second half of the season is what puts him in the conversation. He ended the season with 118 RBIs (2nd in AL) and a .302 average. He also had another great year at second base.
9.) Paul Konerko- Now here’s a great baseball player that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Once again, Pauly has posted terrific offensive numbers. He hit .300 with 105 RBIs and 31 dingers.
10.) Evan Longoria- Well this one may be a little bit bias. Longoria saved his season by ending it on fire. After recovering from an early-season injury, Longo still ended the season with 99 RBIs and 31 homers. His defense was terrific once again, and it looks like he will get his 3rd Gold Glove Award this year. His .244 average is what hurt him though.
Honorable mentions- Some other players with great seasons include: Justin Verlander (pitching Triple Crown champ), Mark Teixeira (111 RBIs, Gold Glove- caliber season), Victor Martinez (.330 average, 103 RBIs), and Josh Hamilton (.298, 94 RBIs, great defense)
If you are a member of the BBA and have posted your Willie Mays Award (or any other award) votes, I’d really like to see what you think. Comment the link of your post below. I would also love to see anyone else’s opinions. You also can rate the post from 1-5 stars, evaluating my voting. If you’re a blogger interested and joining the BBA, click here.
Yesterday, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox won the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Although he seemed to many as the obvious winner of the award, another candidate is probably more deserving. One of the unsung heros in the MLB this season is Rays first baseman, Casey Kotchman. Kotchman, who has had a terrific season, surprised everyone in baseball in 2011. In his career before this year, Casey had never been a good hitter in the majors and mostly showed his skills on the field. His incredible defense at first base was frankly the reason that he made a MLB roster for six years.
After a poor season with Seattle last year, the future looked very dull for the (then) 26 year-old Kotchman going into free agency. When he was signed by the Rays in the offseason, it wasn’t really a shocker that he agreed to a minor league contract. With the big loss of Carlos Pena, the Rays were praying that Casey would be a MLB-quality ballplayer in 2011. Not only did he meet that goal, but he remarkably exceeded the expectations. He lead the Rays in average, batting a terrific .306 this season with maybe his best defensive year of his career. He’s one of the great stories in the big leagues this year with how he turned his career around. Not only did he help himself, but he also was a rock in the Rays lineup all-year long. The Rays definitely wouldn’t be playing October baseball this season if it wasn’t for Kotchman. His clutch hitting, consistent on-base ability, and his stellar defense were all big contributions to the Rays success.
Now on the other side of things, Jacoby Ellsbury has had a unbelievable season up in Boston. He’s a very strong candidate for MVP and every part of his game was excellent this year. Even though he had a better season than Casey, I still don’t think he was deserving of the award. Ellsbury never really had to comeback from anything except injuries; which was the only thing that got in the way of performing last year. He was always a phenom player in my eyes, and after three straight impressive seasons (’07 – ’09) everybody knew that the next healthy season would be another good one. I just wish Kotchman would get more recognition for this season. Winning this award would be a perfect fit for him and all his hard work. Hopefully the Rays will have him next year, so he can once again prove what a great player he is.
My fourth BBA Award is the Walter Johnson Award, which acknowledges the best pitcher in the league (AL for my voting). Read my earlier post to learn more about the BBA and its awards. Out of all the BBA Awards, this one was by far the easiest to chose. It was a simple order for the first 3 and I really didn’t have to think much at all in voting. Usually when it comes to Cy Young voting, the stats say it all. Here are the top 5 AL pitchers:
1.) Justin Verlander- With all the great AL pitchers this year, Verlander is still the no-brainer for the Cy Young Award. A season to remember, as Verlander has put up some of the best pitching numbers I’ve seen in years. Not only is he the pitching Triple Crown champ, but he also leads the league in IP. I don’t think I have to say more…
2.) Jered Weaver- Weaver, who is the obvious #2 for the Cy Young voting, trails Verlander in ERA by just .01. 2011 was another terrific season for Weaver, with a 18 W, a 2.41, and 198 K’s. With all the great seasons he’s had, this one is probably the best of his career.
3.) James Shields- Another pitcher with a breakout year, and this one much more surprising. Shields worked hard during the offseason, and it really paid dividends. After an underachieving 2010, Shields put himself at the top of the great Rays rotation. He posted the third-best ERA in the AL, and was a work-horse as well with his nearly 250 IP (2nd in AL). Although many people fail to realize this, Shields leads the MLB in a very important (and underrated) pitching stat. That stat is Complete Games, which Shields has a stunning 11 of. The closest pitcher to this amazing feat, is Roy Halladay with 8. The closest AL pitcher to Shields in CGs, is Felix Hernandez with 5! Even Justin Verlander has 4 CGs, which is incredibly 7 less than Shields! There’s definitely a reason why “Big Game” James is now nicknamed “Complete-Game” James. If it wasn’t for a few horrific starts against Oakland and Seattle, Shields would be the definite #2 right behind Verlander. Hopefully the Rays can keep this guy for next year, as he was the probably the team MVP in 2011.
4.) C.C. Sabathia- Although his good ERA of 3.00 was not amongst the best in the league, Sabathia was the ace of the Yankees. He racked up 19 wins in 33 starts and was also a work-horse, with his 230 strikeouts through 237.1 IP. Just another year of work for the big southpaw.
5.) Rickey Romero- The young ace of the developing Blue Jays staff, really lead the team along with Jose Bautista this year. His 2.92 ERA is ranked 6th in the AL, and his 15-11 record was great considering the low run-support.
If you are a member of the BBA and have posted your Walter Johnson Award (or any other award) votes, I’d really like to see what you think. Comment the link of your post below. I would also love to see anyone else’s opinions. You also can rate the post from 1-5 stars, evaluating my voting. If you’re a blogger interested and joining the BBA, click here.
The big topic around Rays baseball has been the attendance issue. It isn’t a new problem at all, but seems to be getting much more attention after the conclusion of the 2011 season. A few days ago, Stuart Sternberg basically stated that the attendance was simply inadequate to support a MLB team. Here’s some quotes from his frustration boiling over:
“I am frustrated this year. We’ve replicated last year [on the field] and our attendance numbers were down 15 percent and our ratings were down. The rubber has got to meet the road at some point here. When you go through the season, you control your own destiny, if you win out. We’re getting to the point where we don’t control our own destiny. This is untenable as a model going forward.
“”When you’re sitting here at this point and you lost by a run, you know another X dollars might have changed things. Three or five million wouldn’t have changed things necessarily but 15 to 30 might have. That’s where we were. And for the foreseeable future that’s what we’ve got … Whatever you want to say, there are 29 other teams passing us like we’re going in reverse right now. Except on the field. And at some point that changes.”
The timing for this public statement was terrible, and is starting to irk fans around Rays Republic. He also said: “This is untenable as a model going forward”. If Stu could of just waited a month or two to say this, it wouldn’t have such a negative vibe to it.
At the end of the day, what he said is unfortunately true and is a real issue. This year, the Rays recorded the second-lowest average home attendance than any team in baseball (under 19K). Even down the stretch during the exciting run and in playoff games, the attendance was under-par. Another thing that dipped this year, was the TV and radio ratings. We’re not talking about just any baseball team, we’re talking about probably the most exciting team in baseball for the last four years. This is a team that did the impossible, completing a historical comeback to knock out the Boston Red Sox this year with a $39 million payroll. They’ve made the playoffs three out of past four years, and possess the best young players in the game. So the winning is obviously not a problem with the attendance. The question is, what keeps the fans from showing up to the games? For a start, the Tampa Bay area is one of the worst economic regions in the country. The unemployment rate there is almost 12%. I’m not trying to make an excuse, but rather provide some food for thought. On the contrary to the media and blogging world calling Tropicana Field a lousy stadium, I have to strongly disagree. The stadium itself is not bad, it’s the location that is unacceptable. Tropicana Field is 72 degrees every game, there are no postponements, and getting from point A to B inside the stadium is quite simple. It doesn’t have any foul odors or anything else that has been rumored in the media. But I do believe the St. Pete location prevents a percentage of fans from coming. Most of the fan base is in north of St. Pete (by Tampa). With the traffic and the roads that lead to the stadium, it isn’t a very short trip. So to summarize all that, I think a new stadium in Tampa would definitely help. I’m never going to say that Tropicana Field is a bad stadium, but I will say that a new stadium could be necessary in the future.
A new stadium could attract many tourists, as well as the great fan-base in Tampa. Money is a problem though. It’s a huge investment and the Rays aren’t producing nearly enough revenue right now to pay for something like this. Another reason for the Rays lack of attendance, is the age of the franchise. The (Devil) Rays started just 11 years ago, which many critics fail to mention. By that time, many residents in the area already had a favorite baseball team. Florida consists many elder residents, that are from the Northeast and the Midwest. You can’t expect them to be huge Rays fans if they’ve been rooting for a team their whole life. In opposition to what the media/blogging world says; Tampa Bay fans do deserve the Rays. If you think about it, what other city would produce adequate attendance in America. There’s none that I can think of. So if a MLB team doesn’t work in Tampa Bay, then where will it succeed. That’s why a new (indoor) stadium in Tampa could save the Rays. Progress will be gradual, and it probably will take a few years before serious discussion. I think that the Marlins (who also have low attendance) getting their new ballpark will inspire the franchise to take a step forward. I truly believe that the Rays fans will bounce back next year and prove all the critics wrong. Relocation is not necessary if the fans start showing up, and I am confident they will. Rays Republic is so tired of getting bashed, and will respond next year. The Rays have defied every possible odd; I think they can save their franchise. If you’ve learned anything about the Rays by now, you know to never count them out.
Here are the Goose Gossage Awards for my third voting in the BBA Awards. The Goose Gossage Award acknowledges the best relief pitchers in the league. Read my earlier post to learn more about the BBA and its awards. Here’s my top 3 AL relievers:
1.) Jose Valverde- It has been a career year for Jose Valverde, going an incredible 49 saves in 49 opportunities in his 9th year in the big leagues. With the most saves and highest save percentage in the AL, the stats really say it all for Valverde. He’s been a big part of the Tigers postseason run and has made Detroit just about a sure victory with a 9th inning lead.
2.) Mariano Rivera- It’s just been another year at work for the best closer who ever played the game. Rivera also had 49 save opportunities in 2011, but blew 5 of them. Still his 44 saves are the second-best in the AL, and his 1.91 ERA is very impressive as well.
3.) David Robertson- Maybe the most underrated player in the AL this year, Robertson leads the AL in a very underrated stat. That stat is holds, which Robertson has 34 of. Besides holds, Robertson has posted a 1.08 ERA, .170 opponent batting average, and a stunning 4-0 record. Robertson’s ridiculous stats have proved that he is the best setup-man in the AL, and a necessity for the New York Yankees.
If you are a member of the BBA and have posted your Goose Gossage Award (or any other award) votes, I’d really like to see what you think. Comment the link of your post below. I would also love to see anyone else’s opinions. You also can rate the post from 1-5 stars, evaluating my voting. If you’re a blogger interested and joining the BBA, click here.
This is my second award voting in the BBA Awards. To learn more about BBA Awards read my earlier post. The Willie Mays Award is one I’ve been looking forward to all year. The award acknowledges the best rookie (AL in my case). Like the Connie Mack Award, you all know who my winner is for this award. I’ve debated with many people this season about why Jeremy Hellickson is the no-brainer to win the AL ROY Award. Here’s my top three:
2.) Eric Hosmer- The Royals’ Hosmer is amongst the three best offensive AL rookies, with Jemile Weeks and Mark Trumbo. What made me pick Hosmer over these two guys was his balance of skills. Hosmer showed everyone that he could hit for power (like Trumbo) and hit for average (like Weeks), but still manage to hit about .40 points higher than Trumbo and much more RBI’s than Weeks. Although Trumbo’s power numbers are a bit better, Hosmer has him beat average wise and even defensively. Both Jemile Weeks and Trumbo do not field as well him, and that’s a very important stat to look at when it comes to ROY.
3.) Ivan Nova- Probably the Yankees’ second best starter, after his terrific second half of the season. His best statistic by far is wins, which he has 16 of and an impressive perfect record post-All Star break. It was a hard choice wether to put him in the top 3 or not, but I decided to because of how much he means to his ball club.
If you are a member of the BBA and have posted your Willie Mays Award (or any other award) votes, I’d really like to see what you think. Comment the link of your post below. I would also love to see anyone else’s opinions. You also can rate the post from 1-5 stars, evaluating my voting. If you’re a blogger interested and joining the BBA, click here.
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.