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Sports Then and Now

2014 Major League Baseball Preview: Is Money the Answer? 10

Posted on March 30, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Despite hitting 86 home runs the last two seasons, Chris Davis is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.

Despite hitting 86 home runs the last two seasons, Chris Davis is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.

Several major league baseball teams spent the winter spending money like a drunken sailor in hopes of moving to the top of the league. Yet, as we prepare for the 2014 season the teams expected by many to contend are a combination of big money and middle payroll teams.

For now, the Los Angeles Dodgers have surpassed the New York Yankees as the team with baseball’s highest payroll. However, that doesn’t mean the team in the Bronx is suddenly being frugal. The suspension of Alex Rodriguez hacked a large salary off their payroll, but the Yankees made up for that by signing Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka and high money free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.

While several teams in recent years have been able to make the playoffs without high payrolls, once the playoffs begin the higher payrolls have generally had an advantage. That was quite obvious last season in the two playoff series that went to a decisive game. The higher payroll Cardinals and Tigers each started a seasoned veteran in the fifth game of their division round playoff series (Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander, respectively). Their opponents, the Pirates and A’s, each started a rookie who wasn’t even in the major leagues when the 2013 season started.

Having a high payroll is no guarantee that a team will make the playoffs, but big off-season spending has certainly put several teams in a position to contend.

Below are a few thoughts heading into the 2014 season:

Baseball’s Most Underrated Player
In the last two seasons Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis has hit 86 home runs, driven in 223 runs and scored 178 runs, yet ESPN’s recent player rankings didn’t have him listed among the top 25 players in the game. The Sybermetrics disciples have become so enamored with WAR and other made-up stats that they have forgotten that driving in and scoring runs is the name of the game. As a team, the Orioles have been generally dismissed despite having two consecutive solid seasons, but they have a very potent offensive and if David has another strong season the O’s could again be in contention throughout the season.
Read the rest of this entry →

The Worst Strike Three Call In The History Of Baseball….If You Are A Rays Fan (VIDEO) 2

Posted on April 09, 2013 by Joe Gill

Officials in any sport can turn into an enemy of the state with one blown call.

Umpire Mike Everitt will not be able to step into Tampa, Florida after this HORRIFIC strike three call to end the Rays-Rangers game.

The call was so mind boggling that the Rangers pitcher, Joe Nathan even said “WOW”.

Time to check those bi-focals ump!



Oh he did say he was sorry….


Tip Of The Cap To GameDayR!

Rays Win to Cap Baseball’s Wildest Night 13

Posted on September 29, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays came from seven runs down in the final game of the regular season to make the playoffs.

Before this season, in the history of Major League Baseball no team had ever missed the playoffs after leading by eight games or more in September. Thanks to a trio of shocking comebacks on the final night of the 2011 season, it has now happened twice.

The Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves have been two of the most successful baseball franchises of the last two decades, but they now are both going to be remembered for years to come for their epic collapses to end the 2011 season.

For a baseball fan, it is hard to imagine a night with more excitement than was seen on September 28th. On a night that perfectly epitomized the last month of the season for the Red Sox, Braves, Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals, there were emotion shifts nearly every minute as teams tried to stake their claim to a playoff berth.

Rays Rally While Red Sox Fade
On September 3rd the Tampa Bay Rays were nine games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL Wild Card race. The Rays won 17 of their final 24 games and benefitted from the Red Sox dropping 20 of their final 26 to pull off a shocking comeback.

But it was the final comeback that was perhaps the most impressive. The Rays and Red Sox entered the final night of the season tied for the Wild Card lead.

Things didn’t look good for the Rays early as David Price allowed seven runs over the first four innings as the New York Yankees jumped to a huge early lead. With the Red Sox leading the Baltimore Orioles by a run, it looked like the Rays had to hope for a Baltimore comeback just to secure a one-game playoff.

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to a long offseason. The Rays rallied for six runs in the eighth inning, capped by a three-run home run by Evan Longoria, and then tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a home run by Dan Johnson (his second of the season).

While this was happening, the Red Sox seemed headed to victory as they maintained their 3-2 lead over the Orioles into the ninth inning. When Jonathan Papelbon struck out the first two batters, it appeared that at the very least, the Red Sox would be playing the Rays in a one-game playoff on Thursday in St. Petersburg.

But suddenly, the Orioles started to rally. Back to back doubles by Chris Davis and Nolan Reimold tied the game and then Robert Andino capped the comeback with a single to rightfield that brought home Reimold with the winning run. Read the rest of this entry →

Major League Baseball’s Wild Card Wednesday 17

Posted on September 28, 2011 by Anderson Melvin

Jacoby Ellsbury and the Boston Red Sox have hit a lot of walls during their attempt to secure a 2011 playoff spot.

Popular alternative-rock band, Green Day, had a platinum hit single titled “Wake Me Up When September Ends” off of their American Idiot album in 2005. While the song may have debuted in June of 2005, it has become popular now more than ever. At least in the cities of Boston and Atlanta.

Sheer misery, agony, and torture wouldn’t even begin to describe the pain that the fans of these two historically reputable teams have had to endure over the past twenty-seven days. The month has been a, for lack of a better word, curse to the Red Sox and Braves, something Boston is far too familiar with and something Atlanta wants no part of. September has handed the Braves and Red Sox a combined 36 losses and taken near double-digit leads in both wild-card races away from each team.

On the other side of the equation, there’s the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals. With a lot of the talk coming from how poorly the Red Sox have played, much credit is due to Tampa Bay, who has gone 16-8 since being down 9 games to Boston on September 2. The Rays have baseball fanatics around the country wondering how they’ve managed to battle their way back into a tie with Boston for the wild-card. The answer is simple. They believe they can win it.

“There’s a real strong believability about what we’re trying to accomplish right now but when you get to this point, you really want to finish things off,” said manager Joe Maddon.

Rays players, fans, and coaches are all going to need to keep that belief up for one maybe even two more days if they want to make it to the postseason. Read the rest of this entry →

B.J. Upton: The Five Tool Player Who Never Was 1

Posted on July 24, 2011 by Marisa Ingemi

B.J. Upton has yet to live up to being the second pick in the 2002 MLB draft.

Trivia Question- Who was the #2 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2002? I was looking at the marvelous draft that was ’02, and was surprised to see it was B.J. Upton who was the pick in the second slot. This was a draft with Cole Hamels, Jon Lester and Zack Greinke.

Upton was a member of the 2001 USA Junior National Team, and in 2002 he won the Baseball America First Team All American. He hit over .600 with 11 home runs in his senior year, and in return for his terrific season he was drafted number #2 overall in the MLB Draft.

Upton has been viewed as a disappointment over the years, Hitting .273/.383/.401, .241/.313/.373 and .237/.322/.424 in his last three seasons. His numbers have declined in every year, and so have his power stats. After a 24 home run season in 2007 he hit only nine and then eleven bombs.

Bossman Junior was viewed as a five tool player when he was drafted. He could run, hit for power and average, field and throw. His problem is not his skill, but it may be his head. Upton has been pulled by his manager, Joe Maddon, several times in his four full years in the majors. Is his attitude holding him back from his full potential?

In 2003, Upton made 56 errors to lead the minor leagues, and a lack of focus has been cited as a possible problem. But his biggest problem actually came in 2008, the Rays AL Championship season. He was benched twice for lack of hustle in that season. He has also been known to admire his home runs, particularly an incident in 2008 that prevented him from reaching second base on a double because he thought it was gone.

Then in 2010, he found himself in the midst of more controversy. He and Evan Longoria got into it in a game vs the Diamondbacks after Upton did not hustle for a ball hit into the outfield. After this, there have been no more incidents with BJ, so it was thought he may have figured it out. However, he is still hitting just .229 with a .310 OBP and .318 wOBA.

I don’t think we will ever see the super star that we all hoped for all those years ago. Maybe he can build an MLB career for himself. But he will never be the five tool player we thought he was.

Manny Ramirez’s Legacy Comes With a Black Cloud 4

Posted on April 09, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Manny Ramirez is retiring after a week in the lineup of the Tampa Bay Rays.

On some fronts the news that Manny Ramirez is retiring from baseball to avoid his second suspension under the banned substance policy is shocking. However, given the combustible nature of his personality, you had to know that he wouldn’t exit baseball in a conventional manner.

Now, with the reality that this player with unquestioned Hall of Fame credentials has failed not one (during the 2003 anonymous testing), not twice (50-game suspension in 2009), but now three tests for using a substance related to performance enhancing drugs, the debate begins about whether he is indeed worthy of being in the Hall of Fame.

In some ways, the case of Manny Ramirez is going to be significantly more difficult to judge than that of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens.

In the cases of all four of these players you have a significant body of work before you know that they started taking steroids that either shows that using steroids took them from being pretty good to great (McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro) or from great to immortal (Bonds and Clemens).

Because Manny Ramirez was great from the day he got to the minors (.315 batting average in three minor league seasons with 31 home runs and 115 RBI in 1993) and his numbers were remarkably consistent for his first 14 full seasons in the league, it is much more difficult to get an understanding of when Manny started using steroids than it is for any of the players I just mentioned.

In many ways, Manny’s situation is most similar to Alex Rodriguez, who also was a superstar from the day he got to the majors.

When he was confronted with his own steroid use two years ago, Rodriguez attempted to mitigate the damages by putting a defined period around his steroid use. Even though are enough irregularities to believe that his steroid use went beyond the years he has admitted to, for the most part Rodriguez has put the situation behind him and the belief is that he will eventually get in the Hall of Fame. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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