Tag Archives: Baltimore Orioles

Rays Take Weekend Series at Minute Maid Park but Get Little Time to Celebrate

After winning a weekend series against the Houston Astros the Tampa Bay Rays could be finally heading in the right direction.

While still possessing the worst record in baseball the Rays can be encouraged somewhat by winning two out of three games against the Astros who many predicted would have the worst record in baseball for the fourth straight year.

The Tampa Bay Rays took two out of three games against the Houston Astros over the past weekend. Photo R. Anderson

The Tampa Bay Rays took two out of three games against the Houston Astros over the past weekend.
Photo R. Anderson

The thrill of victory will be short lived though as fresh off of the series win the Rays return home to Tropicana Field tonight to host their American East Division foes the Baltimore Orioles.

Tonight will mark the sixth time that the Maryland based and the Florida based teams have met this season with the Orioles winning all five of the previous matchups.

Back during their Devil Rays days the Orioles and Rays would often be battling each year for the second to last spot in the division and bragging rights over the team that finished last.

In recent years the Rays and Orioles have both been among the top teams in the division which makes this season a bit of a historical mix up.

After the death of Don Zimmer, Desmond Jennings and the rest of the Tampa Bay Rays are playing with heavy hearts and patches honoring Zim. Photo R. Anderson

After the death of Don Zimmer, Desmond Jennings and the rest of the Tampa Bay Rays are playing with heavy hearts and patches honoring Zim.
Photo R. Anderson

While the Orioles currently sit in second place within the division a mere 4.5 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays the Rays are 13.5 games back and in last place.

As often noted I am always torn whenever the Rays and the Orioles play each other since I have deep rooting ties to both franchises.

In the past I have tended to root for the home team during head to head matchups, or I will often find myself pulling for the team with the best chance of representing the division in the playoffs.

Using that formula it should be a no brainer that I would root for the Orioles to sweep the Rays over the next couple of games since the Orioles stand the best chance of making the playoffs this season but I just can’t seem to discount the Rays yet.

I guess there is part of me that does not want to believe that the Rays, who many people felt had the roster to propel them to the World Series, are finished in mid-June.

The Tampa Bay Rays started a series with the Baltimore Orioles tonight and will look to keep the winning ways going. Photo R. Anderson

The Tampa Bay Rays started a series with the Baltimore Orioles tonight and will look to keep the winning ways going.
Photo R. Anderson

That is not to take anything away from the success of the Orioles, or to suggest that I do not bleed Orange and Black, but I really am finding it hard to believe that the Rays are struggling as mightily as they are.

Granted the Rays have had to deal with the death of Don Zimmer and a string of injuries that have exposed their lack of depth in certain areas but many teams deal with injuries and tragedies each year and still manage to win games.

In a way my struggles with the unexpected fall of the Rays is similar to what many fans of the Miami Heat might be feeling following the five game series loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals last night.

The Spurs dominated the Heat throughout the series and posted the highest per game margin of victory in NBA Finals history so it was not a close series and even fell two point shy of ending in a sweep.

Prior to the series many Heat fans likely thought that the series would go to seven games as it did last year.

The Spurs and Heat are two of the best teams in the NBA and have been for many years accounting for eight titles since 1999, with three for the Heat (2006, 2012, 2013) and five for the Spurs (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014).

Of course each team made it to the finals in years where they did not win the title as well so one could make the case that the Heat and the Spurs have been the teams to beat for much of the 21st Century.

Despite those years of success there will be those that look at the “collapse” of the Heat as a sign that the roster needs to be ripped apart and rebuilt from scratch. What that approach fails to consider is despite the Ricky Bobby mantra of “If you ain’t first you’re last” there are second place finishers each year that in many cases were just as talented as the ultimate winners but fell short in the end for whatever reason.

Just as there will be calls from some fans to implode the Heat roster and rebuild following the finals loss there will be those who feel that the Rays will need to go back to the drawing board following the below expectations season they seem like to finish with.

Of course the Rays are known for late series miracles so I am not discounting that they can’t finish strong but I do think it is safe to say that a World Series game at the Trop is unlikely this year.

Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays will need an offensive spark and a miracle to live up to the expectations for the season and avoid a player purge at the trade deadline in July. Photo R. Anderson

Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays will need an offensive spark and a miracle to live up to the expectations for the season and avoid a player purge at the trade deadline in July.
Photo R. Anderson

Personally I do not subscribe to the theory of imploding rosters after a single bad year and prefer to look at the bigger picture and a team’s entire catalog of work.

The Rays can and will win again with the bulk of the players that they currently have just as the Heat can likely be a threat for the NBA title again next year with a few tweaks here and there.

Of course time will tell what those changes will be and rather the management of both clubs takes a scalpel to the roster to make fine adjustments or performs roster surgery with a chain saw.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to flip a coin to decide whether I am wearing my Orioles hat or my Rays hat tonight.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Baseball’s Beasts of the East

This week the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays faced off in an American League East battle.

Before that it was the New York Yankees and the Rays facing off.

After all of the inter division dust settled the margin between the first place Orioles and the last place Rays was a mere three and a half games.

The Baltimore Orioles currently sit atop the American League East standings where only three games separate first from fifth place. Photo R. Anderson

The Baltimore Orioles currently sit atop the American League East standings where only three games separate first from fifth place.
Photo R. Anderson

The order of teams in the division is likely to change many times between now and the end of the regular season with the Rays, Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees and Blue Jays each having a legitimate shot to win the division when all is said and done.

The same can be said in the National League East where only three games separate the tied for first place Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals from the last place Philadelphia Phillies.

As is the case in the American League East, each of the five National League East teams, Marlins, Nationals, Phillies, Braves, and Mets should feel pretty good about their postseason chances at this point in the season.

While the beasts in the east are all within striking distance of each other things get a little more spread out for teams west of the Mighty Mississippi.

The American League Central has a 6.5 game spread between the first place Detroit Tigers and fifth place Minnesota Twins. In fact the Tigers have a 4.5 game cushion over the second place Chicago White Sox.

The Washington Nationals are currently tied for first place in the National League East with the Miami Marlins in a division that also has three games separating the top from the bottom of the standings. Photo R. Anderson

The Washington Nationals are currently tied for first place in the National League East with the Miami Marlins in a division that also has three games separating the top from the bottom of the standings.
Photo R. Anderson

Out in the American League West the margin stretches to nine games from the first place Oakland Athletics to the fifth place Houston Astros.

In the National League, both the Central and West Divisions have a 9.5 game margin between first and fifth place.

This snapshot of the standings shows once again how the most competitive divisions in baseball reside along the Atlantic coast. But the question remains what is it about those 10 teams that makes them so good year after year?

One could make the argument that much of baseball started with the east coast teams and the fact that they are still competitive could be in direct result of their longevity as franchises.

While it is true that the bulk of the teams in the East Divisions have long histories that does not account for the three World Series appearances by the relatively young Florida based teams.

Despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball the Tampa Bay Rays manage to stay competitive year after year in one of the toughest divisions in Major League Baseball proving that money cannot always buy wins. Photo R. Anderson

Despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball the Tampa Bay Rays manage to stay competitive year after year in one of the toughest divisions in Major League Baseball proving that money cannot always buy wins.
Photo R. Anderson

The Rays have one World Series appearance ending in a loss and the Marlins won their two trips to the October Classic proving that age is not the only driving factor when it comes to success in the east.

With length of franchise existence ruled out as the driving factor behind the success in the East one might be tempted to say payroll is the key to what makes baseball on the East coast so much more competitive than the western counterparts.

While it is certainly true that the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies are not shy about spending money to sign players, the current teams atop the National League East and American League East, the Marlins and Orioles respectively, have some of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

Additionally the Tampa Bay Rays have shown year after year that they can be competitive despite a payroll that is a fraction of the size of some of the big spenders in the division.

So one cannot use history or finances to point to as reasons behind the competitive balance in the Eastern Divisions of Major League Baseball.

A third possible reason behind the success of the Eastern Division franchises that could be pointed to by some is the proximity of the teams to each other that leads to heated rivalries.

While it is true that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have proximity as well as a heated rivalry that has spanned over a century there are rivalries in all divisions in Major League Baseball so the Eastern Division teams cannot claim a monopoly on that reason either.

In the final analysis one cannot really point to why the 10 Eastern Division teams seem so much more evenly matched than the other 20 teams in baseball.

Sometimes there are not simple answers for things.

One does not need to know how exactly it is that the Earth spins down to the molecular level to appreciate that it prevents people from floating off into outer space any more than one needs to know the complete formula for the success the teams in the Eastern Divisions.

Sometimes in life it is just best to enjoy the resulting sausage without having to see how it was made, and right now there is some very tasty sausage being made in the American and National League East Divisions.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am suddenly craving some bratwurst for some reason.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Rays’ Spring Home Garners Top Honors

The other day USA Today announced the results of a poll of Top 10 Spring Training Ballparks as voted by their readers.

Lists like this are often subjective in nature and one could make arguments that what makes one Ballpark better than another one is in the eye of the beholder with everyone looking for something a little different in terms of what makes a good Ballpark.

While some people might look for a Ballpark that has more amenities such as luxury suites, others might look for a Ballpark that feels like it belongs back in the Golden Age of baseball. With that caveat in place, I tend to mostly agree with the results of the poll.Charlotte Sports Park Map

The readers of USA Today recently crowned Charlotte Sports Park, Spring Training home of the Tampa Ray Rays, as the best place to watch Spring Training. Photo R. Anderson

The readers of USA Today recently crowned Charlotte Sports Park, Spring Training home of the Tampa Ray Rays, as the best place to watch Spring Training.
Photo R. Anderson

While there seems to be a yearly campaign of complaining about their regular season home, Tropicana Field, The Tampa Bay Rays garnered the top spot with their Spring Training Home the Charlotte Sports Park, in Port Charlotte, Florida.

I visited Charlotte Sports Park a few years back and definitely found it to be a very nice complex and one that I definitely hope to return to many times.

For the record I also tend to think that Tropicana Field is a very suitable Ballpark for baseball and am growing tired of the yearly whining about how out of date it is and how much it needs to be replaced.

Charlotte Sports Park underwent a $27,000,000 renovation in 2009 and is utilized by the Class-A Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Florida State League at the conclusion of Spring Training which allows for nearly year round use of the complex.

With great seats located all around the Ballpark there really are no bad seats to see the Rays in action. Photo R. Anderson

With great seats located all around the Ballpark there really are no bad seats to see the Rays in action.
Photo R. Anderson

Aside from the bragging rights of having the favorite Ballpark the Rays also boast one of the shortest commutes between Spring Training home and regular season home with a drive of about 90 minutes between St. Petersburg and Port Charlotte.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins are the other teams who spend the Spring and regular season based in the same state and also enjoy short commutes for their fans.

Of course the Tampa Bay Rays once had a much shorter Spring Training commute when they spent the entire year in St. Petersburg, FL splitting time between Al Lang Stadium and Tropicana Field a few miles down the road.

The full Top 10 list features only three Ballparks from Arizona’s Cactus League showing that most people surveyed prefer their Spring Training baseball in the Grapefruit League under the Florida sun.

A boardwalk stretches across the outfield at Charlotte Sports Park and ensure easy walking from one end of the facility to the other. Photo R. Anderson

A boardwalk stretches across the outfield at Charlotte Sports Park and ensure easy walking from one end of the facility to the other.
Photo R. Anderson

While I cannot speak for the Cactus League Ballparks on the list I do have extensive bleacher and box seat time in the Grapefruit League so I feel pretty confident in commenting on those facilities.

The oldest Ballpark still in use, McKechnie Field, in Bradenton, FL is the long-time home of the Pittsburgh Pirates and ranked fourth on the list.

For historical factors alone I would have moved it up into the top 3 but I suppose fourth place is not too bad considering it comes in as the second Grapefruit League Ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, or Birdland South as it is called by some Oriole fans, had a strong show of support from the readers in the poll. Photo R. Anderson

Ed Smith Stadium, or Birdland South as it is called by some Oriole fans, had a strong show of support from the readers in the poll.
Photo R. Anderson

As far as fifth and sixth place go I would swap the Philadelphia Phillies’ Clearwater based Ballpark, Bright House Field with the Baltimore Orioles’ Sarasota home at Ed Smith Stadium.

In full disclosure I have only driven by Bright House Field so perhaps it is nicer on the inside than a quick glance down the highway shows but for my money it is hard to beat the old Ballpark charm of Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium also features an air conditioned restaurant which allows fans a chance at a sit down meal before heading back to catch the action on the field.

Coming in at number 10, Osceola County Stadium may soon be without a Spring Training tenant as the Houston Astros consider replacing the Ballpark they have called home since 1985. Photo R. Anderson

Coming in at number 10, Osceola County Stadium may soon be without a Spring Training tenant as the Houston Astros consider replacing the Ballpark they have called home since 1985.
Photo R. Anderson

The 10th ranked Ballpark on the list is in danger of no longer hosting Spring Training games in a couple of years. With the Houston Astros exploring locations in West Palm Beach, FL their days at Osceola County Stadium seem numbered.

It will be a shame if the Astros leave the Spring Training home they have had since 1985 for greener pastures since according to the pollsters the fields of Kissimmee, FL are already pretty green.

Granted Osceola County Stadium is an older facility but with older Ballparks making the Top 10 it shows that older is sometimes better in the eyes of the ticket buying fans.

For completeness the entire Top 10 Spring Training facilities, according to the readers of USA Today, is included below along with the Major League Baseball teams that call them home. Ballparks I have visited are listed in bold. Ballparks with an asterisk beside them are among the Ballparks I plan to visit next March.

Half of the 30 Major League Baseball teams call the Grapefruit League their home for the spring and based on the results of the poll seven of the 10 best Ballparks also call Florida home. Photo R. Anderson

Half of the 30 Major League Baseball teams call the Grapefruit League their home for the spring and based on the results of the poll seven of the 10 best Ballparks also call Florida home.
Photo R. Anderson

  1. Charlotte Sports Park – Port Charlotte, Fla. Home of the Tampa Bay Rays.
  2. Goodyear Ballpark – Goodyear, Ariz. Home of the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds.
  3. Salt River Fields – Scottsdale, Ariz. Home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
  4. McKechnie Field – Bradenton, Fla. Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.*
  5. Bright House Field – Clearwater, Fla. Home of the Philadelphia Phillies. *
  6. Ed Smith Stadium – Sarasota, Fla. Home of the Baltimore Orioles.
  7. Tradition Field – Port St. Lucie, Fla. Home of the New York Mets.
  8. Cubs Park – Mesa, Ariz. Home of the Chicago Cubs.
  9. JetBlue Park – Fort Myers, Fla. Home of the Boston Red Sox.
  10. Osceola County Stadium – Kissimmee, Fla. Home of the Houston Astros.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some trips to some ballparks to plan.

Copyright 2014 R Anderson

Sometimes Routine is Anything But

If one stops to think about it life is full of routines.

From the hours we work, to the route we take to get to work, there are routines that tend to be the same day after day.

There is even an order in the way we get ready each morning. Any deviation in the routine such as putting on the deodorant too soon can lead to stains on one’s shirt and the need to try again.

Other routines can include eating at a certain restaurant on a certain day each week because one likes the pot roast special that is only offered that day.

These routines can breed both comfort and contempt for their daily sameness.

The world of baseball is also full of routines before, during and after the game.

Before the game players follow the same pregame warm-up rituals which can be both performance based as well as superstition based.

During the game there are things called routine pop flies and double plays with the assumption being they are so easy to turn that they become routine and almost second nature.

After the game many players follow the same post game rituals night after night before returning to the Ballpark the next day to start the routines all over again.

I was thinking about routines and how they can sometimes go wrong the other night when I saw a video of Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado’s knee injury when he was running to first base.

Two routine plays sent two Baltimore Orioles players out of a recent game proving that routine is not always so routine after all. Photo R. Anderson

Two routine plays sent two Baltimore Orioles players out of a recent game proving that routine is not always so routine after all.
Photo R. Anderson

Now, Manny Machado, like every other Major League Player, has run to first base hundreds if not thousands of times since first playing the game of baseball as a child. One might go so far as to say that running to first base is one of those routine plays.

While players can be called either safe or out upon their arrival at first base, few would argue the fact that the act of arriving at first is pretty much routine.

Every so often though something goes amiss with the routine and a player gets injured by doing something just slightly different from the way that it had always been done.

In Machado’s case the deviation from the routine occurred when he caught the edge of the first base bag at a slightly wider than usual angle.

The resulting angle caused Machado’s knee to buckle as he fell to the ground behind first base. Machado remained on the ground for several minutes as the training staff tended to him and he ultimately left the field on a stretcher with his season over.

The good news came a few days later in that the injury was not as bad as first thought and the recovery time should be short and allow Machado to join the team in Sarasota, FL in March for Spring Training.

Of course in the same inning that Machado was injured another Oriole player was hurt during a seemingly routine play.

In the bottom of the seventh inning Orioles infielder Alexi Casilla went after one of those routine fly balls and was running into right field to get it.

Unfortunately as Casilla was diving for the bases loaded ball hit by Rays’ right fielder Wil Myers Castilla’s head was introduced to the knee of Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis’ leg.

Although Casilla initially had the ball in his glove to record the out it rolled out of his glove as he hit the ground, and Markakis’ knee leading to what would become the tying runs for the Rays.

Casilla finished out the seventh inning but was soon sent to a hospital for observation. During a press conference after leaving the hospital Casilla stated that he has no memory of the play due to what is likely a concussion. Time will tell if he is able to return this season.

In the same inning two players from the same team showed that routine plays are anything but and can lead to injuries when just the tiniest of things change.

Machado’s and Casilla’s injuries made me think that if highly trained athletes at the top of their game can get injured doing routine things what hope is there for the rest of us?

A few years back I sprained my back after tripping over my cat in the middle of the night. Now the path I was taking at the time was one that I had taken many times before.

In fact, I had even managed to avoid colliding with the cat in his favorite sleeping spot along the way time after time.

Still the routine was interrupted on this particular night leading to a doctor’s visit to explain why my back was sore and some medication to help it get better.

That was the last time that I hurt myself tripping over the cat and the walks once again became routine but history shows us that we are just one false step away from altering the routine at any given time.

That seemingly boring daily commute to work can be interrupted by construction, accidents, or even a rain shower that lowers visibility.

The restaurant with the great pot roast special can run out of mashed potatoes one week making the pot roast seem not so tasty.

Even the most routine of routines can change with little or no notice. The key is to not be the one leaving on a stretcher when it does.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about pot roast has me a little hungry.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Tampa Bay Rays Join My Triple Double Club

Tonight around 7:30 or so I will be at Minute Maid Park watching the Tampa Bay Rays play the Houston Astros in the third game of a four game series.

While the night will include postgame fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July, it occurs to me that it will mark another milestone as well.

While it did not occur to me at the time when I purchased my ticket, tonight’s game will mark the second time that I have seen the Rays play in Houston. Add that to two games at Tropicana Field and two games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and the Rays become the first member of my Triple Double Club.

Fresh off their first World Series appearance in 2008 I visited the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009 for a long overdue trip to Tropicana Field. Photo R. Anderson

Fresh off their first World Series appearance in 2008 I visited the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009 for a long overdue trip to Tropicana Field.
Photo R. Anderson

There have been numerous teams that I have watched come and go through Minute Maid Park through the years.

But with the exception of seeing a few of them for Spring Training games, there have not been many that I have seen in multiple Ballparks so the Rays induction in the Triple Double Club is sort of a big deal.

The fact that the event will be met with post game fireworks is sort of a happy coincidence.

Okay so the Triple Double Club may be something that only matters to me but I thought that it was pretty cool.  Considering that I have only made it to four of the 30 Major League Ballparks so far the fact that I saw the same team twice at three of those ballparks is nothing to sneeze at.

I have seen the Baltimore Orioles play at three stadiums during the regular season but only once at each ballpark so they are in the Triple Single Club. Of course seeing them play in two different Ballparks over a four day period gives them bonus points. And I have seen them play in three ballparks over the years during Spring Training.

A second ballpark viewing of the Rays was added in Arlington when I saw them take on the Texas Rangers. Photo R. Anderson

A second ballpark viewing of the Rays was added in Arlington when I saw them take on the Texas Rangers.
Photo R. Anderson

The Texas Rangers are in the Double Double Club as I have watched them at both their home Ballpark and Minute Maid Park. It stands to reason that they would be a strong candidate to join the Triple Double Club as all it would take was a trip to an additional ballpark when they were in town to get them there.

The Toronto Blue Jays make it into the Double Single Club as I have seen them play at both Tropicana Field and Minute Maid Park.

The Houston Astros are the team I have watched the most due to the close proximity between my house and the Minute Maid Park.  I have probably seen close to 100 games at Minute Maid Park over the past decade but ironically I have never seen them play a regular season game at any other Ballpark.

I’ve made numerous trips to Florida to see the Astros play in Spring Training games but during the regular season it seems that the desire to see them play far from home just doesn’t exist. In that way the Astros closeness is both a blessing and a curse.

Minute Maid Park became the third ballpark to watch the Rays in when I saw them take on the Houston Astros in 2011. Photo R. Anderson

Minute Maid Park became the third ballpark to watch the Rays in when I saw them take on the Houston Astros in 2011.
Photo R. Anderson

There have been years where I thought about making the four hour drive to see them play the Texas Rangers in Arlington but those thoughts were usually quashed quickly at the thought that I could just wait until the Rangers came to Houston.

But there are certainly worse places to watch games than Minute Maid Park.

With the Astros move to the American League this year the odds of me completing the Single Thirty Club of seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park is pretty high.

I do not have the number in front of me but it seems highly likely that I am less than five teams away from reaching that goal of seeing all 30 teams from the air-conditioned comfort of Minute Maid Park.

Off of the top of my head I know I have yet to see the New York Yankees play there but the other teams that I am missing escape me at the moment. The Oakland Athletics seem like another team that I have yet to see play but with them sharing a division with the Astros that is an easy team to cross off of the list.

Tonight will mark the sixth Tampa Bay Rays regular season game that I have attended and the second at Minute Maid Park earning an inaugural induction into the Triple Double Club as I have seen a pair of games at Tropicana Field, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Tonight will mark the sixth Tampa Bay Rays regular season game that I have attended and the second at Minute Maid Park earning an inaugural induction into the Triple Double Club as I have seen a pair of games at Tropicana Field, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

I suppose it is entirely possible that the Yankees and Athletics are the only missing teams but I will definitely have to look into that.

I do know that the National League, and in particular the National League Central, is well represented in my list of teams that I have seen multiple times there.

While the focus tonight will be placed firmly on enjoying the Rays and the induction of the first member of the Triple Double Club the festivities will be short lived.

Tomorrow afternoon I will start my way towards the Triple Triple Club as I will be catching a matinee game between the Rays and the Astros.

I guess that means I need to plan road trips back to Arlington and St. Petersburg to complete the Triple Triple Club for the Rays.  I don’t think my arm will be twisted to hard to make that happen.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to decide which Rays shirt to wear to tomorrow’s game.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson