I Wish Them The Best I Wish Them The Best …..I Really Do ! Wait A Minute Reality & Gut Check Time …………..
Spring Training is here and teams have arrived at their respective destinations for the start of the Cactus and Grapefruit League’s preseason games. The Tampa Bay Rays for their part , this weekend they have their fan friendly ‘Rays’ Fanfest’. There the Rays’ effervescent fans will get to meet and greet the players as well the Rays’ coaching staff and owners. All well and good one might think for the franchise but they , alongside several other teams around the league face a very daunting task this upcoming season. Major League Baseball (MLB) for all the nonchalant mindset and comments from the owners and in particular from Commissioner Bud Selig , has simply failed to address a number of issues that still places the game and a number of teams on the edge of a precipice . Were it not for the fact that the NBA , NHL and NFL have their own problems in part, that are somewhat similar in nature to that of baseball’s . We wouldn’t as such , be overly concerned.if only because MLB isn’t in the midst of a labor dispute. And even Major League Soccer (MSL) are not to be left out of this all , as they now face a very tense period of deliberations as they try to resolve their impending collective bargaining agreement renegotiation with the Major League Soccer Players’ Union (MLSPA). MLSP’s Executive Director Bob Foose and the league’s commissioner, Don Garber , have been cordial with one another during their deliberations. But the players themselves, feel that they’re now being short-changed by the league and its process.
Both NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his NBA counterpart David Stern have their own problems, as they try to eke out an agreement between themselves and their respective unions – NFLPA & the NBPA . NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter have now backed their respective leagues against a wall and they now await their next moves. It’s now one big game of cat and mouse ,with a little bit of ‘chicken’ being thrown in for good measure.
As to the season and how the teams embark upon it will rest with their play during Spring Training. A number of teams will be looking to show off their new acquisitions to their fans and likewise the fans themselves will want to gauge how they feel that their teams will do. For myself, as a Florida Marlins’ fan I just want to see the team remain competitive throughout the course of the preseason and then acquit themselves well enough to challenge the likes of the Mets , Phillies and Braves within the NL East division. If they can hold their own against that triumvirate of teams and contend for the division. Then there’s no reason to believe why they won’t be able to contend in the postseason in the in both the NLDS and NLCS . Anything gained beyond that to me, would be deemed more than welcomed if it meant another World Series appearance ! I’ve been lucky enough to witness organization win two of them , since their inception. Which is more than can be said for the Cubs’ organization over the past 100 hundred years.
Now we can all opine on the struggles of the teams that we know that won’t be in with a shot of competing for anything other than mediocrity within MLB and as a matter of fact within the respective divisions . I mean what would the odds-makers in Vegas be wagering on there being a Kansas City Royals , Washington Nationals World Series ? Much less the Pittsburgh Pirates winning more than 85 games during the regular season ? Any takers on either ? I thought not ! It’d be catastrophic for major league baseball and could well send Bud Selig and the MLB hierarchy into a catatonic state , were the scenario to arise, where the Nationals and Royals to ‘meet up’ in the league’s showcase event in the ‘Fall’.
One of the more intriguing scenarios and division this season , might be the competitiveness that might well arise within the AL West . The cream always rises to the top they usually say. That may no longer be the case in that regard , as there have been several changes made to the roster of the Los Angeles Angels . We may well see them regress and come back to the pack within the division. They are still the team to beat and on paper though they are a lessened squad, don’t be fooled into thinking that Mike Sciocsia won’t have his team ready to play. Both he and his coaching staff will most definitely make sure of that. With the Seattle Mariners Mariners , Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers, all having added pieces to their respective rosters. The division could be very interesting place for to see some very good baseball being played throughout much of the regular season. The Mariners have added enfant-terrible’ Milton Bradley to their lineup , where he’ll be alongside major league veterans Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki . But the biggest blow to the Angels may well have been them allowing the departure of their pitching ace John Lackey to the Boston Red Sox , via free agency. Never mind the fact that Vladimir Guerrero is now a Texas Ranger and one could surmise that Angels’ GM Tony Reagins wants a fresh face new look to owner Arte Moreno’s team.
Both the AL Central and NL Central should allow us the chance to see whether or not there’ll be repeat champions within both divisions. As both the Minnesota Twins and the St Louis Cardinals will be looking to successfully defend their divisional crowns. They’ll no doubt be tested by the respective aspiring contenders within their division. But in each case the division is theirs to lose. And with both Joe Mauer of the Twins and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals as the reigning league MVP’s, there would also the possibility of the duo repeating those feats. Suffice to say , that if they were both to repeat as the respective league MVP’s, I wouldn’t be at all be unhappy , as they are both terrific players and a credit to the game of baseball.
The usual frenzy that we’ve come to expect and see from both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will continue to go on unabated within the AL East . One , is the team ‘we all just love to hate’ , while the other we just continue to bear, just as long as they are ‘beating up’ on the Yankees . Am I wrong or am I right ? You’ll hear no qualms from me on that matter !
And while the Yankees have gone about ridding itself of players they supposedly feel are no longer of value to the team . With Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera now both in the last year of their respective contracts. It’ll be interesting to see the stance taken by Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman and that of the team’s front office . In particular the actions of Henry ‘Hank’ Steinbrenner and his brother, Harold ‘Al’ Steinbrenner , who under the patriarch George Steinbrenner , now run the organization along with its board members. But as custodians of the family’s ownership of the team , they’re now entrusted with looking after its immediate future and long term success. The thought process may well be to re-sign both Jeter and Rivera to sizable contracts but nothing that would be deemed to be overly long term. Both have been the ‘face’ of the Yankees’ success over the last decade plus. Wherein they have been around for the team’s most recent World Series’ successes . The thought of neither of these two players being part of the organization beyond this year could well be seen as a passing of the torch ? But who would then be deemed the recipient of the mantel held by Jeter ? And who could be seen as the ‘natural heir apparent’ to Rivera ? The two players are perhaps two of the most beloved players in the long line Yankees’ greats that have played for the organization.
Courtesy of St Petersburg Times
By Bill Varian , Times Staff Writer
TAMPA — Proposals to build a new pro baseball stadium in Hillsborough County may be speculative at this point.
But Hillsborough officials say what’s certain is that there is little public money available to help turn that prospect into concrete, should the Tampa Bay Rays direct their gaze this way. There also doesn’t appear to be any political will to even broach the topic.
“It’s unlikely given the financial situation of cities and counties that any government will step up with a financing plan to build a new stadium,” said Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. “And again, I think we have to be mindful that we work together as a region, not in competition with one another.”
The debate over the Rays’ future in St. Petersburg took a turn last week when it was confirmed that at least two groups are investigating possible baseball stadium projects in Hillsborough. One group is looking at downtown Tampa, the other at the state fairgrounds.
Those two locations were among five possible new homes for the Rays put forward by the ABC coalition, a business group formed by the city of St. Petersburg to assess the team’s future. With St. Petersburg officials refusing to hear the report, Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan has invited the group to give a presentation to his board.
But practically speaking, Hillsborough County government has little room from current available tax sources to help build a stadium. What money there is in an era of government layoffs would not make a significant dent in debt payments for a stadium that could cost $500 million or more.
And no one is stepping forward to float another new tax.
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As I alluded to earlier, the AL East will about the two prominent teams is the Red Sox and Yankees. As they fare, the fate of Tampa Bay Rays may well be decided upon whether they can pose enough of a challenge to these two dominant teams. In all likelihood the wild-card berth representative for the American League will come from within the division. And for the Rays to pull of the feat of either winning the division or being the wild-card representative , they are going to have to play 0.600 ball or better. Meaning that they’ll have to win a minimum of 97 games. As to whether or not they are capable of achieving that feat will be dependent upon the coaching ability of Joe Maddon and his coaching staff . This team is certainly capable of doing that if the likes of Evan Longoria , Carl Crawford , B. J. Upton , Ben Zobrist , Carlos Pena , Willy Aybar and in particular the pitching rotation led by Matt Garza and James Shield ‘play up’ to their full potential.
Rays’ ownership under principal partner Stuart Sternberg and General Manager Andrew Friedman have done their very best to make sure that the best possible in onfield talent is there , in trying to attain the success they seek. And that is with the limited financial resources that is available to Sternberg. This will be the ‘make or break season’ for the organization altogether. Failure to meet even moderate success on the field and it means that Tropicana Field , the home venue of the Rays , will then become a barren wasteland in terms of competitive baseball. Lackluster support from the local community has hurt the commercial viability of the club and it may well mean that Stuart Sternberg and his partners may well seek to relocate the franchise elsewhere. The thought of building a state of the art venue that seats anywhere between 35,000 to 45,000 fans for the moment is just that , all talk !. And given the economic climate within the state, it will prove to be hard to justify that type of expenditure at the expense of the local infrastructure and quite possibly the local taxpayers. This much is certain, the cost of building such a facility won’t be borne by the club or for that matter by the MLB hierarchy . We’ve seen the merits of Bud Selig’s edict on this very topic. And that is to suborn and extort the community into building a facility that it can ill afford to pay for. And given the idiocy of the local print media and their belief that the money is there for such a venue to be built . You could surmise that as long as they have something to write about within the local sport’s market then nothing else at all matters.
As the season unfolds it will be great to see how a number of teams fare and whether or not there will be a distinct change in fortune for some. Given the present unenviable tenure of the Chicago Cubs and their prolonged drought. Perhaps the baseball gods might willingly smile upon the club and at least grant them their wish of an appearance in the World Series. Don’t you now believe that their long suffering fans at are least are deserving of that fate ? ‘Curse of the goat’ and Steve Bartman notwithstanding, even the Cubs are deserving of their day in the sun. But wha’d ya know, they will somehow find a way to disappoint their fans. I mean it’s been 102 year and counting, since they won a World Series. So why all of a sudden should things change for the better, for the organization ?
Alan Parkins aka tophatal ………….
For the fans out there who’ve seemingly lost ‘faith’ in their team. Here’s George Michael to reassure you that you’ve got to have ………..”Faith”.
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