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MacPhail hits a HOMERUN on Vlad Guerrero deal …..

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MacPhail hits a HOMERUN on Vlad Guerrero deal …..

Posted on 05 February 2011 by Rex Snider

Is there any chance that you will look back, ten years from now, and recall exactly where you were, or what you were doing when the marriage of Vladimir Guerrero and the Baltimore Orioles spread throughout the sports world?

Probably, not.

While the addition of this sure-fire Hall Of Famer stands to benefit the Orioles in so many distinct ways, the blunt reality is Guerrero is a short-term fix and benefit for the ballclub …. and I’m okay with that.

For the past couple months, I’ve been publicly lobbying for this acquisition.  And, as the weeks toward Spring Training have dwindled, my plea has been getting louder.  It’s an ideal fit for both sides – Guerrero is a lifetime .333 hitter at Camden Yards, and the Orioles sorely needed his lethal stick.

Yeah, I’ve heard the rumblings about the slugger being “over the hill” and an “injury risk”, as well as his perceived lack of appeal to other clubs – especially as camps are set to open in just a couple weeks.

To those who bemoan this signing, I’ll simply question your knowledge of Vlad Guerrero, as well as the intimacies of baseball ….

Oh, and let’s not forget the folks who decry Guerrero’s signing as a figurative BLOCK of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold.  Are you serious?  Welcome to the big leagues, bunk.  The truth is Pie and Reimold have BLOCKED THEMSELVES.

Both players have garnered opportunities, and while they haven’t necessarily squandered such chances, they haven’t seized them, either.  It can be a cruel business – produce or else.

So, let’s take a quick look at the supposed liabilities involved in bringing one of the greatest hitters of the past decade, to Baltimore …..

OVER THE HILL

Guerrero is coming off a season that yielded a .300 batting average, with 29 homers, 115 runs batted in and 83 runs scored.  And, these statistics were not an aberration – he has batted under .300 just once, since 1997.

But, perhaps, the most telling fact from last season was Guerrero’s .320 batting clip with runners in scoring position.  Ironically, this is also his career average with RISP, as well.

If he’s “over the hill”, just give me a few more geezers …..

INJURY RISK

This is undoubtedly the biggest misconception and overblown worry about Vlad Guerrero.  Yeah, he missed 60 games, in 2009.  Players get injured, but Guerrero has played in 140+ games, per season, in 7 of 8 years.  And, he has played in 140+ games in 11 of his 13 full Major League seasons.

But, since we’re talking about injury risks, let’s bring Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold back into the discussion …..

In his half dozen pro seasons, Reimold has spent time on the disabled list in 5 of them.  Got that?  He’s been on the DL in 5 of 6 seasons.  In fact, Reimold has played in 130+ games in just 3 of his 6 pro years.

As for Pie, he has been injured in 3 of his last 6 pro seasons, and he has played in 130+ games, just twice in those 6 years.  Of course, some of his missed time was simply attributed to poor performance.

That said, if we’re talking about “injury risks”, it’s a pretty safe argument to suggest Vlad Guerrero has been a much healthier option than the two players he’s likely to deprive of playing time.  And, he doesn’t ride the bench for less than stellar production.

LACK OF APPEAL AMONG OTHER CLUBS

This was absolutely the most humorous of the assertions against bring Guerrero to Camden Yards.  Indeed, I’ve heard those who’ve proclaimed “nobody else wants him …. that should say something.”  You’re right, it does.

Guerrero is pretty much limited to designated hitter duties.  Thus, every National League club is eliminated from the discussion.  To compound his narrowed opportunities, only a handful of American League teams entered this past off-season needing to fill the DH slot.

The Twins and Rays went with cheaper options, in Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.  And, the Rangers wanted to upgrade their defense at 3rd base, which relegated Michael Young to DH, with the acquisition of Adrian Beltre.

That really left the Orioles and Mariners as likely obscure options.  Both teams had the designated hitter role filled, but they could’ve improved with some position jockeying, by adding a player of Guerrero’s caliber.

Finally, I really want to address the naysayers who’ve reasoned “DOES VLAD GUERRERO MAKE THE ORIOLES A PLAYOFF CONTENER?”  Well, that really is a great unknown, huh?  Conventional wisdom suggests that he probably doesn’t raise the team to such lofty expectations – but the games are played on the field, not the blogs.

Regardless of even a modern day version of “Murderers Row”, any team will realize success based on their pitching.  However, Guerrero’s presence in the lineup makes the team better, in both tangible and intangible ways.

He makes the Orioles lineup much more formidable – his .320 batting average, with runners in scoring position, dwarfs the .246 mark achieved by batters in the cleanup spot for the Orioles, last season.  He’s a bonafide run producing hitter.

Along with Derrek Lee, Guerrero will provide Nick Markakis with protection he’s never enjoyed.  Plus, given Brian Roberts’ and Markakis’ knack for working walks and stellar baserunning, Guerrero will most definitely have his RBI opportunities.

In mentioning, Roberts and Markakis, do you realize they’ve never played for a winning team at the big league level?  Together, these guys have played 1,980 games in an Orioles uniform and they’ve never been part of a winning season.

Vladimir Guerrero can change that …..

He might not be the piece that leads the Orioles back to the postseason, but he makes the lineup and team substantially better.  If Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis taste winning for the first time, it might translate their game to another level.

The same can be said for the younger players, such as Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta.  Having them exposed to WINNING at an early stage of their careers could prove invaluable for years to come.

So, for those who decry the Guerrero acquisition as a blocking of Reimold, Pie or anyone else, I say HOGWASH.  I don’t want to hear the foundational excuse about “being ready to win”.

If you’re not ready to win, than you’re ready to lose.

I applaud the Orioles for getting this deal wrapped up.  Perhaps, they overpaid to get their man.  We knew such a reality faced this organization, on the heels of 13 consecutive losing seasons, right?

Welcome to Baltimore, Vlad.  Most of us are happy you’re here …..

 

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Andy MacPhail’s latest excuse?  The San Francisco Giants …..

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Andy MacPhail’s latest excuse? The San Francisco Giants …..

Posted on 09 November 2010 by Rex Snider

I saw this day coming from a far distance. As soon as Nelson Cruz whiffed on Brian Wilson’s fastball to end the World Series, I sensed the Baltimore Orioles and their fans might suffer a setback.

As I said a couple weeks ago, the San Francisco Giants are the ultimate exception to the rule, especially as it regards the construction of a World Championship-caliber organization. To be blunt, they’re a team built on a foundation of strong pitching and a subpar offensive attack.

For better or worse, that’s the Giants.

Stastically, the Giants had Major League Baseball’s best pitching product, in 2010. Touting a 3.36 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, San Francisco’s pitching absolutely served as the catalyst of a late-season run at contention.

Their core starting staff, including Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Baumgarner and Jonathan Sanchez are among the game’s very brightest. And, all four of them are “homegrown”, which really serves as a testament to the organization’s scouting and development wing.

But, does anybody really expect a team with such inconsistent and undependable hitting to be a perennial contender? Do opponents shudder at the prospect of facing pasted-together lineups?

San Francisco Giants' (L-R) Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, Edgar Renteria and Eugenio Velez celebrate defeating the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of Major League Baseball's World Series in Arlington, Texas, November 1, 2010.   REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

That’s the best way to describe the Giants offensive attack …..

Their lineup posted a collective .257 batting average, coupled with a .720 OPS and 1411 hits to wrap up the regular season. Less than impressive? Well, the Orioles surpassed the Giants in BATTING AVERAGE and HITS. What does that tell you?

I’m not suggesting the Orioles had a better lineup, in 2010. But would you trade Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Brian Roberts for Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Cody Ross and Andres Torres? I don’t think anyone in the right mind would make that deal.

The Giants finished the World Series with only three players from their opening day lineup making significant contributions; Aubrey Huff, Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe.

Not exactly Murderer’s Row, huh?

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Former Orioles skipper Mike Hargrove believes in Buck Showalter as manager and Peter Angelos as owner of Orioles

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Former Orioles skipper Mike Hargrove believes in Buck Showalter as manager and Peter Angelos as owner of Orioles

Posted on 04 November 2010 by Ryan Chell

With a new manager in the mix for the Orioles in Buck Showalter, and with Showalter at work over the last week  building his own personal staff, one former skipper of the Baltimore club joined WNST earlier in the week to weigh his opinion on the direction of his former team and of the World Champion San Francisco Giants.

Mike Hargrove, who managed the Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles in his 16-year professional baseball career, joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” this week to discuss Showalter and the state of the Orioles as well as his thoughts on the World Series.

Mike Hargrove

Hargrove managed the Orioles from 2000-2003 for four seasons, and was the team’s first high-profile manager since the team relieved Davey Johnson of his managing duties.

Hargrove recently was the manager of the Liberal BeeJays until 2009, a semi-pro summer league baseball team in Kansas-a team that has produced players like Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, Rich Harden, Astros OF Hunter Pence, Rays C Kelly Shoppach, former closer Troy Percival, and OF Scott Hairston.

He coached the team immediately after resigning his position as manager of the Seattle Mariners in 2007 despite the team having a 45-33 record and currently on a huge winning streak.

“Contractually, I cant talk about it,” Hargrove told Forrester of the mystery surrounding his departure from Seattle. “I feel a little uncomfortable talking about it.  Let’s put it this way. I never lost my passion for the game, and I really liked the players on that ballclub. They played hard, and they played to win and it was a good situation in that regard.”

His job with Liberal is one that is a little more relieving for Hargrove than his past MLB managerial jobs. When he initially signed on with the BeeJays, his wife-his agent-had Hargrove sign with the team for one season and a very bizarre rate for a salary-one dollar.

“It’s a town in Liberal, Kansas…and growing up there I was always interested in what the BeeJays were doing,” Hargrove said, who before his playing days with the Texas Rangers suited up for the BeeJays. “They won five national championships, and this number may be low, but there is something like 48-52 major league players who have come through and played.

“My wife and I were on our way back from Seattle to Cleveland in ’07 after I resigned, and we stopped by to see my relation in Texas.  Bob Carlisle, the general manager, and my wife conspire all the time anyway, and he mentioned to her in jest that if Mike would like to come back and get it back on the right track. They had really fallen on hard times, and in fact the club was real close to folding up and ceasing to exist. Sharon mentioned it to me on the way home…and I said sure I’ll do it for one year. I’ll come back and do it for one year. Obviously I wasn’t doing anything that next summer anyway.”

“I went back and enjoyed my time…and we ended up fourth in the nation and I had a blast. They asked me if I’d do it for another year, and I said I’d do it for one more year. We finished third in the nation that year, and we got the thing back on track.”

Hargrove said that he sees a lot of himself in the current manager, Buck Showalter, and he said that those Orioles fans looking for a winner have one in Buck.

“I think a big step in that direction took place over this last year with the hiring of Buck Showalter,” Hargrove said. “You saw how Buck made a difference in how the Orioles played the game, and the success they had on the field.”

Buck Showalter

In a way, the transition that Showalter is going through now is similar to his tenure here in Baltimore in the early part of the decade. After the cleaning of house of the previous organization, Hargrove-who enjoyed a ton of success as manager of the Cleveland Indians including five straight playoff appearances-said on top of not being left with much to work with, the young players on the roster kept getting hurt during the four seasons Hargrove was in the dugout for the Orioles.

“At that time I just felt like the team was getting old…(continued),

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Things that KILL …..

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Things that KILL …..

Posted on 29 October 2010 by Rex Snider

I’ve made no secret about my adoration for the Texas Rangers. I’ve always been a Nolan Ryan fan, and I think their lineup is assembled as solidly as any organization in recent memory. To see that team in a 2-0 hole is mind boggling.

The San Francisco Giants are an aberration. Cody Ross? Aaron Rowand? Juan Uribe? Edgar Renteria? Aubrey Huff? Pat Burrell? Andres Torres? Are you kidding me …..

It’s a HUNGOVER morning in my life and I’m not feeling very affectionate. Thus, I will dedicate the spirit of today’s blog to the Texas Rangers and their pathetic performance through the first couple games of the World Series. Things that KILL …..

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My guaranteed World Series prediction …..

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My guaranteed World Series prediction …..

Posted on 27 October 2010 by Rex Snider

On a rainy Wednesday morning, most of Baltimore’s sports fans are taking a collective breath from a successful and equally suspenseful start to the Ravens season. Meanwhile, 2,800 miles away, on the opposite side of the continent, a town is readying for the start of the World Series.

Much to the chagrin of Bud Selig and the upstanding folks at FOX SPORTS, the underdogs have advanced to this year’s fall classic. That’s right, two teams tasked with dethroning last season’s pennant winners slayed the same opponents and advanced to this round of determining Major League Baseball’s World Champion.

Back in April, if you would’ve presented me with a dozen guesses at this season’s matchup for “all the marbles”, I’ll guarantee you there’s ZERO chance I would’ve thrown out the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants. There’s no way I could’ve conceived this series.

Good?

Bad?

Who cares, it’s baseball ….. and it’s not the Yankees or Red Sox.

I like to think I know baseball. I honestly believe I’m a student of the game; I can project a starting lineup for every Major League team and most starting pitchers on respective staffs. That said, I follow the American League even closer than the National League.

I was raised on the 3 run homer and watching the pitcher take a seat between innings. I absolutely LOVE

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Seriously ….. Buffalo?

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Seriously ….. Buffalo?

Posted on 21 October 2010 by Rex Snider

When it comes to the landscape of cities serving as homes to America’s elite level of professional sports franchises, I’ve been perplexed by some of the towns that hold such distinctions.

A few such cities or metroplexes are really just a misrepresentation of the TRUE demographic …..

How did the Texas Rangers end up in Arlington? That’s easy, they really serve the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

The same can be said for the New England Patriots, who play in Foxboro, but represent Boston’s fan base. And, lets not forget the Golden State Warriors, who count the basketball lovers of Oakland/San Francisco as their regional hometown supporters.

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Ugly History Repeats Itself

Posted on 21 October 2010 by Erich Hawbaker

In last night’s Yankees-Rangers game, the Orioles faithful had a flashback. In an eerily similar play to Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, the visiting team’s outfielder backed up the wall, didn’t make the catch, and then immediately pointed up at the stands above to signify fan interference. I watched the replay at least 10 times (isn’t DVR great?), and one could make the argument that this ball really may not have been caught even if it had gone untouched. But one can also clearly see that a fan is pushing Nelson Cruz’s glove away while another one is grabbing the ball and then giving Cruz the middle finger.

I was actually pulling for Texas going into this year’s postseason. This may be a big deviation from my staunchly capitalist philosophy on life, but I think it’s nice for everybody to win sometimes, and when my team is out of it, I’ll typically support the one that has never won a championship before or has not done so in a long time (the Rangers are the only team of the 8 in this year’s playoffs who have never won a World Series). And I respect fans who have remained true to their colors thru years of losing and frustration, and who never gave in to the temptation to jump on someone else’s bandwagon. I can even admit that I was happy for the Red Sox when they finally won it in 2004, but that was short-lived as their fans then proceeded to become even more obnoxious than their counterparts from New York.

We all know that what happened in 1996 was absolutely the wrong call. What happened last night may or may not have been. But baseball wasn’t using replay back then, and now they supposedly are at the umpires’ discretion. If you’re the ump in that situation, you have to at least look at it. Have to. Calling the game correctly is your job, and you were recently given a wonderful new tool to help you do that in case you’re not really sure what you just saw. The refusal to utilize replay in that instance was inexcusable. But I don’t expect Bud Selig will do anything about it; we wouldn’t want to jeopardize baseball’s “human element” now, would we?

I posted a rant about this and good old Jeffrey Maier on Facebook last night as it was happening, but my angst subsided rather quickly as it became clear that karma in the form of Bengie Molina was going to take care of this one on its own. This drew a reply from my stepbrother, who is also a diehard O’s fan. He told me that I need to just get over Jeffrey Maier, and I think he’s right. I will be adding that to my list of New Years resolutions, along with losing some more weight (35 lbs lost so far!), reading more, getting back to my drawing, and practicing my German.

I can’t forget what happened in 1996, but I guess I can stop being so pissed about it. Maybe the real reason that it still stirs so much anger in me after 14 years (and if you’re reading this I don’t need to tell you) is that the Orioles have been sitting in the basement of the AL East ever since. The last time they made the playoffs or even broke .500, I was in middle school, Bill Clinton was President, and the Nintendo 64 was the most advanced video game system on the market. Plenty of other bad teams have gotten their acts together between then and now, but the Orioles under Peter The Terrible have only gotten worse. There is a whole generation of kids out there now who have never seen a winning Orioles team, and unfortunately I don’t see that changing any time soon. But while I’m waiting, I can at least find a little solace in the evil empire being behind 3 games to 2 and having to go the rest of the way without their newest million dollar baby Mark Teixeira. As my ancestors would say, “Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude.”

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Got to Root For the Rangers

Posted on 16 October 2010 by Marty Mossa

I don’t follow major league baseball.  Heck I had to text a friend last week to find out who was in the post season.  I didn’t realize that San Diego choked (those poor sports fans in SD),  and I didn’t realize that the Tampa Bay Rays won the East.  I bet there were at least 15,000 fans excited about that.  My point is this: I really don’t care about MLB.  But it’s really not my point.  I want to talk about the Texas Rangers.

The Texas Rangers were at one time the Washington Senators.  They moved to Arlington, Texas in 1972.  In the 39 seasons that they have played in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the Rangers have gone 3007 – 3174 in 39 seasons.  That is an average of 77 wins, and 81 loses a year.  Prior to this year, the Rangers have been to the post season only three times, 1996, 1998, and 1999.  They, prior to this season have never won a post season series, nor even a post season win in Arlington Stadium.  They were 1-9 in post season play.

This year however they beat the Tampa Rays in five games, winning all three road games, and losing both home games.  Currently they are playing the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.  They blew a five run lead last night in Arlington, however won their very first post season game in Arlington by the score of 7-2.

Now I’m not rooting for the Rangers because I hate the Yankees.  Actually I don’t care about the Yankees, nor do I hate them.  How could I hate them when my cousin’s husband is a broadcaster for them?  All my sports hatred is consentrated on the Pittsburgh Steelers and their trailer park trash, inbred fans.

The reason I am rooting for them is simple.  Let’s face it; the Rangers are the step child in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.  The Cowboys rule the roost, and have since they came into the NFL in the early sixties.  The Rangers are second in seniority in the metroplex.  The NBA Dallas Mavericks joined the league in 1980, and the NHL Dallas Stars moved from Minnesota in 1993.  The Cowboys have been in eight (count them), eight) super bowls.  They possess  five Vince Lombardi Trophies.  The Mavericks have had some success in the post season, and have made it to the NBA finals.  The Dallas Stars have had much playoff success since their move to Dallas.  They have appeared in two Stanley Cup Finals.  In 1999, they brought Lord Stanley’s Cup to Big D for a victory parade.

In July of 1980 I went to Dallas to visit my friend Paul who was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth.  While in Dallas, I pick up the sports section of the Dallas Morning News.  Here we were in the middle of July, the middle of the baseball season, and there was far more coverage of the Dallas Cowboys than there was of the Texas Rangers.  Now I haven’t been to Dallas in nearly thirty years.  I would image that The Rangers get a little more respect now than they did in 1980.

Let’s face it, Dallas is known for two things; the Dallas Cowboys and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.  The city is the proud owner of six sports championships (Cowboys (5), Stars (1).  It would be nice to see the Texas Rangers shed themselves of the step child syndrome, and be able to parade down Elm Street in downtown Dallas holding the Baseball World Series Trophy.

 

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Yankees could be in for a Lone Star stomping

Posted on 13 October 2010 by Rex Snider

If you share my hatred for the New York Yankees, are you optimistic about their potential demise in the upcoming American League Championship Series?

I think it’s quite possible …..

Admittedly, I have a very soft spot for the Tampa Bay Rays. They exist in Major League Baseball’s most competitive division and they’ve assembled a collective group of ballplayers capable of beating the very best teams. Their cast of talent championed the American League’s Eastern Division, which is a huge accomplishment.

But, last night, I steadfastly rooted for the Texas Rangers in the finale of the teams’ five game series. I wanted to see Nolan Ryan advance to the next round. I wanted to see Josh Hamilton on a bigger stage. I wanted to see Cliff Lee, again.

Oh yeah, and I hope to see Mark Teixeira beaten by his old team.

Most of all, I think the Rangers stand a better chance of beating the Yankees, in comparison to the Rays. While realizing the Rays handled the Yankees during the regular season and they’re very familiar with their divisional rival, I think they’re quite evenly matched. Whereas, I think the Rangers might have the respective strengths to exploit the Yankees weaknesses, especially in a short series.

We all know the Yankees vulnerability is the starting pitching. They’re forced to add A.J. Burnett and his 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP to the postseason roster; he’ll likely pitch Game #4. Burnett joins C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes in rounding out the rotation. Aside from Pettitte’s postseason resume’, the Yankees staff is not overly impressive.

Maybe it’s just me, but I like the Texas lineup against New York’s staff. The Rangers can hit. Better yet, they can MASH …. and the power potential in that lineup exists from top to bottom. They’re also aggressive on the basepaths, as we saw in last night’s win over the Rays. On two occasions, the Rangers scored from 2nd base on ground balls to the infield.

At the same time, I respect the Yankees lineup. However, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter have suffered through less than stellar seasons. And, we may very well see the Yankees finally paying the price for an assembled outfield that includes Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner. Not exactly a vintage Yankees cast, huh?

If I look at these teams with a sobering view, the impressions are pretty simple …..

Yankees lineup vs. Rangers lineup – Advantage Rangers

Yankees starting pitching vs. Rangers starting pitching – Advantage Rangers

Yankees bullpen vs. Rangers bullpen – Advantage Rangers

Yankees intangibles vs. Rangers intangibles – Advantage Yankees

I’m certain some readers will think I’m crazy and making conclusions exclusively with my heart, while hoping the Yankees get smoked. Well, I’m certain that figures somehwere into my perspective – I’m only human. And, I do hate the Yankees.

However, I think the Texas Rangers are a more complete ballclub. They just beat the team that outlasted the Yankees through 162 games. And, they rose to the occasion when it mattered most.

When these two teams meet, the Rangers will feature the best player of the two rosters, thanks to Josh Hamilton. They’ll also feature the best pitcher on both clubs, as Cliff Lee has proven. The Rangers are a better team and they’ll prove it in 6 games.

You heard it here …..

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Hey Tampa, here’s your opportunity ….

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Hey Tampa, here’s your opportunity ….

Posted on 12 October 2010 by Rex Snider

For years, the Tampa Bay Rays have been hosting sparse crowds in their inept home, Tropicana Field. We all know the scene, occasional humans speckled throughout the makeshift, indoor airplane hangar. At least, that’s what it looks like.

During the first chapter of the Rays existence (or should I say DEVIL RAYS?), it was easy to defend the lack of interest among Florida’s gulf coast baseball fans. Aside from the initial crush and fanfare, the Rays assumed a predictable role as a doormat. Even additions, like Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff and Tino Martinez couldn’t help the team in the standings or at the box office.

But, something suddenly happened …

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