The Journey, Not the Destination

If the first three hapless efforts in the Bronx had lulled me into a baseball-induced coma, last night’s effort was electro-shock therapy. I’m back baby. (Anyone notice Desmond Jennings shout “CLEAR” right before his at-bat in the top of the first?). I was all set to sit down and write about Matt Moore. There isn’t a lot left to say about his 11 strikeouts but, I had this idea working about the stoic nature of our burgeoning pitching staff.

But I can’t focus on that now because I just finished Gary Shelton’s column in this morning’s St. Pete Times. Everytime we get this thing pointed in the right direction. Everytime a baseball fan base starts to emerge. Something like this happens.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like Shelton. He’s a decent writer and usually hits close to the point. But this column is crap.

Here’s where Shelton steps in it:

Fair or not, this season will be remembered largely for the week to come. Ask yourself: If the Rays finish shy of the postseason, will you remember a resilient team that performed beyond its expectations, beyond its flaws, beyond its budget? Or will you remember it for not seizing an opportunity? Will you remember coming back or falling short?

Anyone that chose ‘falling short’ should stop reading right now. You aren’t going to like my take on baseball. In fact, if you are that focused on the playoffs, you probably want to just stop reading this blog altogether. I write for people that like baseball. Not for people that want cool playoff merchandise.

Here’s the thing. Shelton is judging the Rays by a football standard. In football, the end result is all that matters. That is partly due to the fact that it is so easy to make the post-season. There are now 490985460985340546309 different bowl games to qualify for and 12 of the 32 NFL teams make the playoffs.

Baseball is different. Football has to be judged by postseason success because the season is so short. You simply cannot get a feel for a team’s real capacity in 12 or 16 games. In baseball, every wart and beauty mark are on full display. Baseball teams are judged by their entire body of work. Regardless of this week or next week, the 2011 Rays have an incredible body of work that I’m glad to have watched.

Every night, we sit down with our television or radio and know that the Rays can win. Most nights, we know that the Rays should win. That has been going on for six solid months. That is not common and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The 2011 Rays were entertaining every night.

This team gave us their blitz back from the brink after an 0-6 start. They gave us the LegendofSamFuld. They gave us the expectation that James Shields would go 9 every night. They gave us revenge against Carl Crawford and total domination of the Red Sox. They gave us Johnny Damon’s consecutive walk-off hits. They gave us Desmond Jennings’ explosion onto the scene and Matt Joyce’s all-star first half. They gave us Sam Fuld’s ridiculous, game-ending, 360-foot sprint. They gave us pajama night, and grunge night, and letterman sweater night. They gave us Joe Maddon’s season-long mullet, Dave Martinez’s beard, and Jeremy Hellickson’s game face. They gave us the Astro doll on the dugout, David Price’s dugout pranks, chocolate whip cream pies, and missed flights due to missing passports.

How can you not like that?

Every night of this season has been a blast. If you didn’t enjoy it, that is because you are either have unrealistic expectations or are late to the party. Anyone that remembers the Devil Rays era enjoyed this season because they know it isn’t always this fun.

Look, there are 80-win seasons in our future. There are 70-win seasons in our future. There may even be another 60-win season in our future. When those days come — and they come for everyone — we’ll remember how much fun this summer was when the gang of no-names made this run.

Gary, welcome to the club. We have seat for you over there. Blow-it.com.

A Two-for-One Special

It’s been a while since I posted in the Blow-It.Com section. But I noticed two things this week worthy of induction into the exclusive Blow-It.Com club.

1) The St. Pete Times (I don’t know who is behind this, the writer or the editor, so we’ll just throw the whole publication into the blow-it.com arena):

In both of the summaries of games 1 and 2 of the Rays-Royals series this week the St. Pete Times referred to the crowd as “a gathering.” I think that is such an underhanded dig at the fan base. Not only that, but to use it on consecutive days is particularly offensive. It’s like being around a kid that says something he thinks is funny, realizes no one laughed, so he says it again. Hey, Times, why don’t you get back to running multi-part “exposes” on some low-level government bureaucrat. Because you have to be better at that than you are at sarcastic humor. A “gathering?” Really? Sounds like an adjective that better describes your readership than the fans of this club.

2) Fox Trax

Uncle already. Just because you have the ability to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.

First, we saw Fox Trax on the occasional pitch-by-pitch replay of an at bat and I thought it was marginally interesting. Then we started seeing it on the replay of close calls by an umpire, and I thought it was a little less interesting because, in slow motion, it was easy to tell if a pitch was a strike or not without the graphic. Then, either BA or his producer decided it was a good idea to use Fox Trax anytime a pitch was replayed, regardless of whether it was close or not, and I started to get annoyed.

Now, it is a permanent fixture on the screen and is animated with an aerial shot of the plate? Who thought that was a good idea? Maybe FSN could throw a blue halo around the ball so we always know where it is? Can we just watch the game please without feeling like we are looking at a heads-up display or playing a video game? Real life is just fine for me, thanks.

Blow-it.com.

“Makeup” is just journalistic cover

Joe Smith and the St. Pete Times ran a lazy story about Rays’ first-round pick Taylor Guerrieri today that basically concluded that Guerrieri [side note, this kid needs a nickname fast, I have only typed his last name twice and I am already worn out from all the Rs, Is, and Es] fell to the Rays at 24 despite top-10 talent because of a “makeup” problem.

As Dirk Hayhurst pointed out on Twitter yesterday “makeup” is a “loosely defined term” that is a “key factor in the future of aspiring people.” (I don’t know how to link to specific tweets but Hayhurst’s timeline is here and you should all be following him because he is an entertaining read.) I’ll go further, “make up” is Joe Smith saying ‘I think this is a bad kid but I didn’t bother to get any proof of that other than unattributed rumors so, rather than reporting, I am just going to write that he is a bad kid using ambiguous terms that baseball fans will understand but, that will never amount to anything in a lawsuit for libel.’

Don’t believe me? Here is Joe Smith’s evidence that Guerrieri has a “makeup” issue:

He was not drafted in the top 10 even though Baseball America thinks he’s a top 10 player;
He tranferred high schools;
There are unconfirmed rumors about some unidentified incident; and
He won’t talk to the press even though the other first-rounders will talk to the press.
I know, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, it must be truly bizarre for a newspaper reporter to get denied an interview from a suddenly (marginally) famous person. But you have to take yourself pretty damn seriously to think his refusal to grant you an interview proves he is hiding something. I mean, why else would a high-school senior not talk to a reporter? It couldn’t possibly be because that reporter works for a newspaper famous for taking minor stories and blowing them all out of proportion, could it? I don’t know who the shadowy “advisors” are referenced in the story but, I hope their his parents because, as a parent, I would never let my kid talk to some nosy writer about some minor thing on one of the best days of his life.

Hey. Joe. You are a baseball writer, not Woodward and Bernstein. Go write about baseball. But, if you insist on doing this investigative journalism and you are going to write a story that will follow a kid for his whole career, the least you can do is, you know, some reporting. The kid shoots down your interview and that’s it? I am not a reporter but, if this kid really did something as bad as you imply in your story, then someone else saw it. Right? Or at least heard the rumor and can tell that. Right? Because if no one else has any information, then I think you should have just called your editor and said “doesn’t look like there is anything here.”

Unless someone decides to do some reporting, I am just going to assume that this kid did something we all did when we were 18. Unfortunately, in the world of high-priced amateur athletics, if you can play ball, you are not permitted to be an a-hole when you’re 18 because it gets written up in Baseball America.

Blow-it.com.

OK. Fine. I’ll Take the Bait.

Dummy McDumberson (alternate nicknames I rejected “Moron McMoron,” “Hanky McMouthpiece,” “Hairdo McJackA–,” and “YESsy McSteinbrenner”) over at Forbes is back on the internet trolling for controversy. While I resisted his first pass, I cannot hold my tongue any longer.

Here is his latest moronic take on the Rays. WHAT?!?!? The Rays cut back advertising on WGUL? OH NO!

Look, I don’t know anything about WGUL, and I really like Paul Porter, who I think does an awesome job on the PA at the St. Pete Times Forum and the O-Rena (or whatever the new place in Orlando is called) but, how exactly does Paul Porter’s conclusion that the Rays are “clearly cutting back” mean anything? Is Paul Porter now an advertising analyst? Does he even do ad sales for WGUL? Isn’t he just a talk-show host? Does Ozanian do any, you know, background research?

At best, Porter’s opinion can be limited to WGUL right? Do we think a radio station that features The Best of Michael Medved, Best of Mike Gallagher, John Gibson Show, Phil’s Gang, and Bloomberg – First Word, has a big following of baseball fans? Why exactly were the Rays advertising there in the first place?

More importantly, so what if they cut back on radio advertising? Does that mean that didn’t increase marketing in other avenues? Did this guy even bother to do any, you know, reporting?

If Ozanian were a music reporter, he’d be writing breaking stories claiming that Michael Jackson is still alive after hearing a Michael Jackson song played on the radio. At this rate, Ozanian is going to need his own Blow-it.com category.

How do I get his lazy-ass job?

I Refuse to Write about the C-word

Yesterday, the “C” word was in the news because some lazy writer at Forbes regurgitated some lazy rumor about the Rays.

Maybe Stu could be the closer? (Roy Betancourt / IOS / PR Photos)

 

There is a lot of good analysis on the web explaining all the reasons the Rays are not going to get contracted. If you like, I will link to it.

I just refuse to spend any more time in this space obsessing about the club’s financial health (they made some money last year), the market, the fan base’s loyalty, or the likelihood that the Rays will remain the Tampa Bay Rays for a long time.

Do not worry about posturing principals and their mouthpieces. This IS a baseball town.

Hey Forbes Stick to Business, or the Flat Tax

Sweet Spot economics expert Larry (from IIATMS) shot me a quick email this afternoon passing along

Forbes Magazine’s recently released team valuations for Major League Baseball. Larry has written extensively about the Rays and the economic conditions MLB has created that limit the Rays’ ability to succeed. Go read his stuff at IIATMS, it’s awesome.

There is a lot of information in the Forbes valuation but, I can’t take any of it seriously for two reasons.

1. Forbes went beyond its area of expertise to expound on the Rays’ potential on-field success for this season. Apparently, parsing through Forbes’ logic, Carl Crawford was the reason the Rays won 2008-2010 and his departure means the team will lose and move. (This conclusion is ironically in a story that features a photo of Evan Longoria, who is and has been better than Crawford.)

2. Forbes couldn’t even be bothered to use the Rays’ “new” logo. I put quotes on new because the logo is more than 3 years old.

Blow-It.com

The First Hall of Famer in the club.

The Blow-It.com fraternity gets a little more prestigious this morning with the addition of Hall of Famer Tracy Ringolsby.

Ringolsby spent tens of minutes researching and writing this piece for Fox Sports.

His two most-entertaining arguments:

1. “The franchise has drawn 2 million only once — the inaugural season of 1998.”

No one showed up to see the stinkers Vince put on the field from 1998-2007! The outrage! Anyone that wouldn’t plunk down $150 to see Ryan Rupe and Jason Tyner clearly doesn’t appreciate baseball and doesn’t deserve a team.

2. “As Rays players reach free agency, they become members of the Tampa Bay alumni club. If the ticket-buying public doesn’t care, why should ownership?”

The Rays can’t afford to pay free agents because they don’t sell tickets! The only reason people don’t buy tickets is because they are ungrateful neophytes who don’t know how to spend their money! There is no other way to measure fan interest beside ticket sales! (What’s that? The Rays had great local TV ratings but attendance numbers were crushed by the economy — which was hit this market harder than others — and a bad stadium? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! To quote the great Homer Simpson: “Facts schmacts. Facts can be used to prove anything that is even remotely true.”)

Hey. Tracy. There is a whole world outside of baseball that, amazingly, actually affects the game.

By the way, sweet cowboy hat.

Rob Neyer inducts John Romano into the club.

John Romano has the latest doomsday [ok, I agree that adjective was too strong so I dropped it. Ain’t the internet grand?] off-season scenario in today’s St. Pete Times. He writes:

 

Trust me John, this hurts me more than it hurts you.

Which is precisely how they will proceed going into next week’s winter meetings in Orlando. They will look for the perfect deal. They will try to find the perfect player on the margins. They will operate as if a pennant is still within reach.

And if that doesn’t work, they should be willing to go in a completely different direction.

The baseball winter meeting is one of those non-news events that news organizations have to make into a big deal because there isn’t anything else newsworthy going on (kind of like NFL training camp and “best shape of his career” day at the start of spring training). We have been suffering through two months of rumors and speculation and, finally, all the big players are going to be in the same hotel for a few days so, let’s make it seem like the only relevant off-season action happens in six days.

The winter meetings are a chance to sign some guys, but they aren’t the only chance. So, John, your false urgency have earned you a membership in the Blow-It.com fraternity.

I’d write more but our illustrious Sweet Spot leader Rob Neyer beat me to the punch:

Sorry, but I don’t see that happening because I think the guys who run the organization are just too bloody smart to reach Opening Day without putting a roster together that’s capable of winning 90 games. And if you can win 90, you can win — by dint of luck or acumen — 95, and get into the playoffs.

Teaching Peter Golenbock why [Big] apples are not [Tropicana] oranges.

Peter Golenbock is an important author. Just ask him and he will tell you just how important he is.

(I once shared a pre-game meal with Mr. Golenbock in media dining. The next day, when I said hello to him, he said “oh, you probably recognize me from ESPN Classic.” Seriously. I just ate with him 24 hours earlier.)

Mr. Golenbock has descended from whichever ivory tower he is currently hanging out in to compare the Rays to the Brooklyn Dodgers in the most recent issue of Creative Loafing. (Note to CL. Publishing poorly researched stories in a desperate attempt to make some waves is what landed you in Chapter 11 earlier this year. Maybe it is time for a different editorial philosophy…no?).

Golenbock’s comparison is based on the fact that Brooklyn Dodgers played in Brooklyn and Stu Sternberg grew up in Brooklyn and, well, not much else.

Attention Rays fans. Do. Not. Drink. The. Kool-Aid.

 

This is not a repeat of the Dodgers’ story for two GIGANTIC reasons:

The markets the Rays are rumored to be heading to are not Los Angeles; and
Bill Foster is not Robert Moses.
According to Golenbock the Rays have considered a move to “Charlotte, San Antonio, Sacramento, Las Vegas, or if [Sternberg] could, northern New Jersey, or in a perfect world, Brooklyn.” That, somehow, is akin to the Dodgers decision to be the first Major League Baseball team in the nation’s second-biggest city and the first Major League Baseball team in ALL OF CALIFORNIA. Sounds about the same right? I mean, Charlotte has never had a team.

Tell me why local leaders should be scared of Charlotte, San Antonio, Sacramento or Vegas? Those are all markets that are similar to the Tampa Bay. They are named as potential locations for the Rays because the Rays can’t credibly threaten to move without identifying some place they could, in theory, go. When O’Malley threatened to move, he could hold Los Angeles over New York’s head. Stu is stuck with the bustling metropolis of San Antonio or forclosure-ridden Vegas. Those are not threats that strike fear in the hearts of men.

More importantly, the struggle between Walter O’Malley and Robert Moses was a clash of the titans. O’Malley was one of baseball’s most powerful and wealthy owners. Moses, in case you have never heard of him, is one of the top-5 most powerful political leaders in the history of this country (excluding Presidents). If you don’t believe me, read Robert Caro’s 1200-page tome on Moses titled The Power Broker. O’Malley and Moses shaped the City of New York and were not accustomed to opposition. There was simply no way that either O’Malley or Moses was going to compromise simply because neither of them ever compromised. They both had to win because their entire future in the City of New York was built upon their unbending power. Plus, both O’Malley and Moses were holding guns. Moses had full authority over O’Malley’s request for a stadium and O’Malley had a real option to re-locate in Los Angeles. That deal could not happen without one man blinking. And neither man had eyelids.

Stu Sternberg is a finance-geek and Bill Foster is the mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida. Hardly a confrontation that will be remembered in the annals of history. (Why else do you think Creative Loafing is the only paper willing to print this?) Sternberg is, by his very nature, a dealmaker. Foster, has no leverage. You don’t have to be a professional mediator to see that this is a situation full of bluster that will ultimately end in compromise. Neither guy can afford to call the other’s bluff because they have no alternatives.

Peter Golenbock, however, sees beyond our obvious read on the situation. And, if you don’t see it, that only proves you aren’t as smart as Peter Golenbock. I mean, just ask him, he’ll tell you just as soon as he is finished with ESPN Classic.

*By the way, I think Peter Golenbock is the most distinguished inductee in the Blow-it.com fraternity…

Did I invent a time machine?

My pre-coffee brain had a small freak-out session this morning while I was reading my morning newspaper. First, I saw a story about The Tampa Big Lebowski Festival and then a story about Contraction in Major League

Ken: “I am the walrus? I am the walrus Walter?”

Baseball. Any reasonably-sleep-deprived brain would understand those occurrences to mean that my house had somehow been sucked back to the late 1990s through some cosmic wormhole. Right?

I looked and looked and, when I realized there were no references to Monica Lewinsky anywhere in the front section, I was appeased that it was still 2011.

This contraction rumor, spurred by another half-hearted column from Ken Rosenthal, is apparently spreading.

Call me a skeptic but, I think it is interesting that the two teams “rumored” to be candidates for contraction are the only two teams in Major League Baseball stuck in bad ballparks. That can’t be a coincidence, right?

Just out of curiosity, Ken, remind me again which two franchises Bud targeted for contraction last time. Minnesota and Montreal you say? How’d that work out? They both got brand new ballparks? Hmm. Interesting, no?

Doesn’t it stand to reason that Major League Baseball might have dusted off that old playbook again in the hopes that it can spur Oakland and Tampa Bay to dedicate otherwise scarce public resources to a new ballyard? What’s that? You didn’t bother to answer because you don’t want to cut off your pipeline of leaked stories? Fair enough.

Major League Baseball is the only major professional sports league not currently facing a labor showdown. Why on earth would MLB waste its opportunity to capitalize on all the hate headed toward the NFL and NBA by contracting teams? Even Bud is smart enough to know that this isn’t the time for bad press or bad stories. No one is getting contracted. Book it.

Welcome to the Blow-it.com fraternity Ken. In honor of this weekend’s Lebowski festival, I rebuke you in the immortal words of Walter Sobchak “[Ken] you are like a child that walks into the middle of a movie and wants to know what is going on.”