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How Sweep it Is: Orioles Advance to ALCS

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Well, this is cool. The Baltimore Orioles have swept the favored Detroit Tigers to advance to the American League Championship Series.

The Orioles will play either the Kansas City Royals or the Los Angeles a Angels, though right now it looks like the Royals, who are leading 5-1 in game three after winning the first two games in Anaheim could be on their way to sweeping the highly favored Angels in their division series.

Personally I would rather see the Angels come back and win it simply because the Orioles have pretty much owned the a Angels this year and have had some pretty tough series against the Royals. Regardless of the outcome of the Angels and Royals series, the Orioles are just four wins away from advancing to the World Series since 1983. Regardless of who they have to play I think that they have a great chance.

Congratulations to the Orioles and the young players that I have gotten to know in their minor league careers in Norfolk, Chris Tillman, Zack Britton and Kevin Gausman.

This is really pretty cool. I have believed in this team ever since Buck Showalter was hired as the manager and Dan Douquette as the General Manager. One only has to go through my website and look back at what I wrote back in 2011 and early 2012 about the Orioles to verify this.

My hope is that tomorrow the Giants will finish off the Nationals and that both the Orioles and Giants will advance to the World Series regardless of who they have to play in their respective League Championship Series later in the week.

Have a great night and may your Monday be better than most Mondays.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Giant’s, A’s and Orioles and the 2012 MLB Playoffs: Taking Me Back to the Church of Baseball

“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones….It’s a long season and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.” Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) in Bull Durham

As any reader of this site knows Padre Steve loves baseball. In fact it is a passionate love that goes back to my childhood thanks to my dad. I talk with good reason about belonging to the Church of Baseball.  I love the game and I find a lot of life lessons and draw much inspiration from it.  It is something that is good for my soul, baseball parks are among the few places that I feel absolutely safe and even baseball on television or radio can calm my often troubled PTSD afflicted mind. I love the game, I love the players, I love the people. I can’t say that about a lot in this world.

I have gotten to know a lot of players both major league and minor league, front office staff and among my favorites former players of the Negro Leagues.

This year is kind of weird. If lucky I might have one of my three favorite teams, the Giants, A’s and Orioles make the playoffs. The last time I had a favorite win the World Series was 2010 when the Giants did it. The Orioles and the A’s have had fairly long droughts in getting to the playoffs or the World Series.

As a kid growing up on the West Coast, born in Oakland and being a Navy brat I have a natural tendency to support West Coast teams in the post season, unless they are the Evil Dodgers, who I hate to say I have cheered for in the World Series when they played the Yankees, may God have mercy on me, but it was against the Yankees so I’m sure there is some measure of grace.

My dad was a big National League fan and he became a die hard Giants fan a bit before I was born as the Giants moved to San Francisco about the same time he was transferred to Naval Air Station Alameda. I remember seeing the Giants in Candlestick as a kid, seeing Mays, McCovey and Bobby Bonds play and watching Ed Halicki throw his no-hitter there in 1975. We also went to a decent number of A’s games including the 1972 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers back in the days of Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Mutcat Grant, Vida Blue, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Campy Campaneris and Reggie Jackson. My dad couldn’t stand A’s owner Charlie Finley but who could not like the mixture of uniforms and the ball girls in hot pants down the foul lines?

So in a sense because of geography I was a default fan of the Giants and Athletics. However my love of the Orioles defied my dad as well as geography. I started liking the Orioles as a kid because I would always see them in the playoffs. Though my dad didn’t like the Orioles he had tremendous respect for their players, especially outfielder Frank Robinson and Third Baseman Brooks Robinson. I could name the Orioles starting rotation and liked the way that Manager Earl Weaver argued with the umpires. In retrospect my dad kind of reminded me of the scrappy Weaver. My dad always emphasized fundamentals, pitching and working hard.

The Orioles also had the a minor league affiliation with the Stockton Ports back in the 1960s and early 1970s. When my dad was transferred to Alameda for his final assignment on the Aircraft Carrier USS Hancock he moved us to Stockton because we had a great aunt there.  So with the Ports playing at Billy Herbert Field about a mile from our house and a few blocks from where I played Little League ball I was at the stadium a lot including a hat giveaway where the team gave out black Orioles caps with the classic Cartoon Bird. In 1972 the Orioles left and the Angels took the team but from that time I remained an Orioles fan.

That love for the Orioles has increased over the past decade as I have gotten to know the team, organization and players through their minor league affiliates the AAA Norfolk Tides and High Single A Frederick Keys.

I want all of my teams to advance. As I write this the Giants lost their first game against the Reds last night while the A’s have went down 2-0 against the Tigers thanks to great Tigers pitching and critical errors. The Orioles open tonight against the Yankees.

No matter who wins it has been a great season for my teams. The Giants fought a lot of adversity to win the NL West, the A’s pulled off one of the most amazing runs seen in baseball to overtake the highly favored Texas Rangers in the final game of the season and Buck Showalter’s never say die Orioles have surprised the experts, but not me for the entire year.

My picks to win the Division series are the Tigers, the Giants, the Cardinals and the Orioles. Yesterday I would have picked the A’s but as much as I like them the chances of taking three in a row against the Tigers pitching are a lot lower than sweeping the Rangers. However, if there is a team that can come back from a 0-2 deficit it is the A’s. I think that the Giants take the Reds despite last night’s loss, and I think that the experience of the Cardinals will give them the edge over the Nationals, but think that the Nats could win the series. Finally I think that the Orioles are going to take the Yankees. They have played them even all year and despite all the power of the Yankees I think there is something about this Orioles team that is going to take them deep into the playoffs.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Buckle Up: Buck Showalter’s Traveling Road Show O’s Put an End to Rangers’ Misery 5-1 in Arlington

Wild Ones: O’s Win in Arlington (AP Photo-Tony Gutierrez)

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

I had no doubts about tonight. The Rangers were not looking good and the plucky Orioles had nothing to lose. Buck Showalter’s stingy Orioles pitching and clutch hitting ending the defending two time American League Champion Texas Rangers season in the first American League Wild Card game.

The Rangers stumbled into the playoffs being swept by the amazing A’s and the Orioles played hard against the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox in the final weeks of the season. The Orioles exuded a confidence that came from winning one run and extra inning games and not losing a game when leading after the 7th inning. Their bullpen was lights out and their starters, a collection that most people could not name and were not around at the beginning of the season were good enough to get them to the playoffs. They are 75-0 when leading after the 7th inning.

Joe Saunders (Reuters- Tim Sharp)

Buck Showalter started Joe Saunders who the O’s picked up in late August from the Diamondbacks. Saunders had a 0-6 record against the Rangers in Arlington before tonight but since coming to the Orioles has been reliable in important games. Saunders was not phased by history. He went in and aided by excellent defense shut down the potent Rangers offense.

Buck (Getty Images- j. Meric) 

The Orioles gave up just one run in the first inning and after that played great defense shutting down several potential Texas rallies with three double plays. The Rangers also had good pitching by starter Yu Darvish but the Orioles were able to make their hits count with Robert Andino, Manny Machado and Nate McClouth applying the coup de grace in the top of the 9th.

Former Ranger Darren O’Day pitched two innings of scoreless relief while former starter and now late season reliever Brian Matusz struck out Josh Hamilton on three pitches.

The Rangers loaded the bases against Orioles closer Jim Johnson in the 9th but Johnson and the O’s as always held giving up nothing.

Now the O’s will go back to Camden Yards to play the Yankees in the ALDS. They finished a close second to the Yankees in the AL East and were 9-9 against the Bronx Bombers during the regular season. They won 4 of the last 6 games they played against the Yankees in September.

I have known for a long time that this Orioles team is a special team. I felt it at the end of 2011 when they helped end the Red Sox season in  walk off fashion. I have also seen many of these players in the minors for the past few years playing on either the AAA Norfolk Tides or High Single A Frederick Keys. I have seen them develop and have watched the culture of the organization change after the hiring of Buck Showalter at the end of 2010 and GM Dan Duquette in the off season.

These guys are winners. I think that they have a good chance of taking the Yankees in a 5 game series. It certainly should be fun.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Cardinals in Seven: Padre Steve’s World Series Pick

Last Year I made picks for both the MLB Playoff series and the World Series that were very accurate. See the 2010 MLB Post Season Page link at the top of this page.  I try to look at all the stats in the regular and post season to make my picks.  This year I did not get around to picking winners for the Division or League Championship Series.  I plan on providing analysis of each game during the World  series.  Of course I could be wrong, but this is my pick.   

 

This is a really interesting World Series that I really believe will go the full seven games. I am picking the Cardinals but not because I think that they are the “better” team in the context of this season.  I think that in a 7 game series that Tony LaRussa will do just enough to beat the Rangers.  The majority of baseball commentators are predicting that the Rangers will win this in 6 or 7 games. If they were playing the Brewers, Diamondbacks or Phillies I would pick them in a New York minute. But they are playing a team that at the end of August was 10.5 games out of the Wild Card race in the National League and handily defeat teams in the NLDS and NLCS that were on paper better than them.

I believe that the Texas Rangers are the better team and I actually kind of want them to win the Series because I like Nolan Ryan, Ron Washington and would like to see the Rangers win their first World Series. Over the course of this year’s 162 game season I don’t think that there was a better team in baseball.  They have decent starting pitching, a great bullpen and hit the hell out of ball.  They have made mincemeat of some of the best pitchers in the league.  Ron Washington is one of my favorite managers, he is smart and really has shaped this team into the machine that they are.  They are at or near the top in almost every offensive category including stolen bases.  They have a better record than the Cardinals and the two teams pitching staffs have similar records and statistics for the season.  The Rangers held off a late season rush by the Los Angeles Angels and took the AL West for the second time in as many years.  They eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays in 4 games chewing up a very good Rays pitching staff and proceeded take down the Tigers in 6 games to reach the World Series for the second strait year.  Ron Washington is turning into a great manager who has proven that he can manage the game and inspire his players at the same time.

However the Wild Card so to speak is the “Wild Card” in this series. The Cardinals took advantage by the epic collapse of the Atlanta Braves in September and won the NL Wild Card on the last day of the season.  They then had to face the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS.  The Phillies had the best record in the National League but had fallen victim to the Red Birds 6 of 9 times during the regular season 3 of which came in September.  They dispatched the Phillies in 5 games after being down 2-1 in the series.  Then they went to their division rivals and NL Central Champion Milwaukee Brewers. They took the Brewers with whom they evenly split their 18 regular season games in 6 games.

These are both great teams with a lot of character and talent.  When one looks up and down the roster they are filled with great hitters.  The Rangers have the edge in overall quality but the Cardinals are also very good and had the best team hitting in the Division and League Championship Series.  Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Jon Jay and Matt Holiday highlight a line up that hit for a .274 batting average, .341 On Base Percentage and .425 Slugging Percentage in the regular season and produced 762 runs. The Rangers roster includes Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz.  The Rangers hit a Major League leading team batting average of .283 On Base Percentage of .341 a .460 Slugging Percentage and which produced a MLB high 855 runs.

However the playoffs have been another story. The Cardinals led all the playoff teams in batting average (.288) and runs (111) while having .345 OBP and .448 SLG percentages.  The Rangers hitters were not as dominant in the playoffs hitting for a .259 team batting average producing 90 runs and achieving a .330 OBP and .434 SLG.  They were still potent especially Nelson Cruz the ALCS MVP who hit .364 with six homers and 13 RBIs.

The pitching performance of the two teams in the regular season was quite similar the Cardinals had a slightly better team ERA of 2.74 versus the Rangers 2.79 but LaRussa is unorthodox in his use of his bullpen when has performed magnificently.  Game one will feature the two teams’ workhorses, Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals and C J Wilson for the Rangers.  The bullpens are both excellent and the Rangers feature Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando.  Ogando has been particularly good and as a former starter can pitch in extended or short relief.  The Cardinals bullpen features Jason Motte and Octavio Dotel who have been excellent in the playoffs.

The hitters will challenge the pitchers of both teams and the starters will need to perform to protect their bullpens.  LaRussa will use his bullpen in ways that cannot be anticipated and the Rangers could face any pitcher in any situation.

The reason that I am picking the Cardinals is the fact that they have done so much that they were not expected to do this season. They overcame a lot to get to this point. The Rangers were expected by many to be here again, especially after the Red Sox collapsed in September and did not make the playoffs.  The key for me is Tony LaRussa and his ability to manage a game inning by inning batter by batter in order to deny the opposing team the opportunity to score runs in any single inning particularly “the last three innings of the game.”  LaRussa manages the details of a game probably better than anyone in baseball and though many criticize his “micromanagement” it certainly has worked.  Provided nothing really unexpected happens LaRussa will pass the great John McGraw on the all time managerial win list sometime during the 2012 season. None of this is to be disrespectful of Ron Washington, he too is an excellent manager and the Rangers would not be where they are without him.  Likewise the Cardinals have home field advantage and Busch Stadium is a pitchers park which plays well with how LaRussa uses his bullpen and bench.

The Rangers are an amazing team and I do think that they are the better team and really want to win this, but there is something about this 2011 Cardinals team.  Since the end of August they have played every day with their season on the line and risen to the occasion.  Besides they have the Rally Squirrel…. How can they lose?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s World Series Prediction: Tortureball Continues Giants in Seven

We Baseball fans it is that time, time to pick the winner of the World Series.  This series is very interesting because no-one saw this series coming. Perhaps it is the bias of many sports writers to the East Coast that had most predicting a Yankees-Phillies matchup.  Regardless the Rangers and the Giants are in the series and both teams are looking to break long term World Series droughts the Giants going back to 1954 when they were still in New York at the Polo Grounds and the rangers to their establishment in 1961 as the expansion Washington Senators.

The teams go into the series with similar regular season records the Rangers finishing the regular season 90-72 and defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 in the NLDS and the New York Yankees 4-2 in the ALCS to get to the World Series.  The Rangers have some outstanding players the most notable being Cliff Lee (12-9 3.18 ERA) and slugger Josh Hamilton.  They are backed by some other outstanding players such as starting pitcher Tommy Hunter (13-4 3.78 ERA), Shortstop Elvis Andrus and Outfielder Nelson Cruz as well as their young closer Neftali Feliz (4-3 2.37 ERA 40 Saves).   The Rangers had a team batting average of .276 a .338 OBP a .419 SLG and .757 OPS.  The Rangers hit 162 home runs and scored 787 runs in the regular season led by Josh Hamilton who hit .359 with 32 home runs and 100 RBIs.  Lead by Cliff Lee the Rangers’ pitching staff had a 3.93 team ERA allowing 636 Earned Runs and 162 Home Runs while giving up 551 Walks, 24 Intentional Walks and striking out 1181.    The Rangers’ pitchers allowed an average 8.4 hits, 1.0 Home Runs, 3.4 Walks and 7.3 Strikeouts per 9 innings. Cliff Lee who dominates other clubs has done so with the Giants in the past but has not faced them this year.  Lee is 3-0 with 1.13 ERA in three career starts against San Francisco while holding Giants to a .159 batting average.  The last time Lee faced the Giants was with the Phillies in 2009 and Cody Ross has had success against Lee. The Rangers committed 105 errors and a .982 fielding percentage.

The Giants finished the season 92-70 and defeated the Atlanta Braves 3-1 in the NLDS and the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 in the NLCS.  The key to the Giants success has been their pitching which was led by great young starters including two time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum (16-10 3.43 ERA 231 Ks) as well as the excellent Matt Cain (31-11 3.14 ERA 177 Ks) and Jonathan Sanchez (13-9 3.07 ERA 205Ks) and Rookie Madison Bumgarner (7-6 3.00 87 Ks).  The Giants also have a topflight bullpen which is anchored by closer Brian Wilson (3-3 1.81 ERA and 48 Saves). Their offense has not been their strong suit but on occasion they have had good run production and have managed to get timely hits all through the season to allow them to win many low scoring games which were dominated by Giants pitching. The Giants hit 162 Home Runs, had 687 RBIs and had a team .257 batting average, a .321 OBP, .408 SLG and .729 OPS. Their leading hitter was Aubrey Huff who hit .290 with 26 Home Runs and 86 RBIs and rookie Catcher Buster Posey who was called up from Triple-A Fresno on May 31st and hit .305 with 18 Home Runs and 67 RBIs.  Their pitching staff had a 3.36 team ERA and allowed 546 Earned Runs, 134 Home Runs, 578 walks, 58 Intentional Walks while striking out 1331 batters.  They gave up an average 7.9 hits, 0.8 Home Runs, 3.6 walks and averaged 8.2 strikeouts per 9 innings. In addition the Giants led the National League in fielding allowing only 73 errors for a .988 fielding percentage.

One possibly overlooked statistic is their records against common opponents. They played the Red Sox, Orioles, Cubs Marlins, Astros, Brewers, Athletics, Pirates and Blue Jays. The Rangers went 37 and 30 and a .552 winning percentage. The Giants went 33 and 18 against the same opponents for a .647 winning percentage. The Giants also have the home field advantage, a ballpark that is not a hitter’s park where they had a 49-32 record in 2010. The Giants lead the all-time series against Texas 15-7 and have won last seven meetings (2001-09). The Rangers have lost 11 in a row in San Francisco, where they are 2-12.

I expect this to be a close series and for Giants pitching to do better in shutting down the Rangers than the anemic Yankees’ pitching staff of the Rays especially in San Francisco. I expect Cliff Lee to pitch well but I don’t think that he will be the same factor that he was against the Yankees in the 2009 World Series or the 2010 ALCS. I expect that the Giants will continue to get the key hits and defensive plays coupled with solid pitching in tight games and because of how they have played all year. Add to this the habit of Giants’ Manager Bruce Bochy to make the right moves at the right time as he has seemingly done since the beginning of September. The Rangers have not had to face the caliber of pitching that the Giants can throw at them and I believe like Earl Weaver said “The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.”

Both teams have had amazing seasons with tremendous stories of comebacks as well as stories of personal redemption. There is also the story of a band of cast offs, and a pack of eccentric pitchers that do amazing things. Giants win in seven games of Giants’ Baseball, better known as “torture-ball” for their first World Series title since 1954.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Yankees Sweep Twins while Rays Remain Alive

Still smiling, Mariano River and Yankees seal the deal again (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The ALDS series between the Yankees and Twins ended about as I expected it to end, another humiliating defeat for the Twins at the hands of the Yankees.  As I said on my prediction the “Twins cannot beat the Yankees with a stick.”  Once again that proved to be the case as the Twins lost their 12th straight playoff game.  They had an excellent record but did not do well at the end of the season and that carried into the ALDS. Once they lost a 4-0 lead with Francisco Lariano on the hill in game one the writing was on the wall as to how this series would end. The looks on the faces of the Twins players and Manager Ron Gardenhire showed it all and from that moment on they were toast. If one wants to beat the Yankees or for that matter any other good team one has to believe that they can win against them. The Twins unlike the lowly Orioles don’t believe they can beat the Yankees.  That is the difference, until the Twins start believing they can beat the Bronx Bombers they will be the perpetual victim in the ALDS or ALCS whenever they face them.   The Yankees won 6-1 on Saturday with Phil Hughes holding the Twins to just 4 hits in 7 innings work.  The Yankees hitters cranked out 12 hits to get the 6 runs including 2 home runs, one each by Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano.

The Thrill of Victory (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Deep in the heart of Texas the Rays kept their hopes alive against the Rangers. The Rangers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 7th on an Ian Kinsler home run. It seemed at that point that the momentum had shifted to the Rangers and their usually very effective bullpen. That did not happen, the usually strong bullpen surrendered 2 runs in the 8th and 3 more in the top of the 9th to give the Rays a 6-2 lead. The Rangers scored another run on a Nelson Cruz solo home run.  Rays starter Matt Garza was effective through 6 innings and relievers Randy Choate, Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano limited the Rangers to just 1 hit and allowed no walks in the final three innings.

The Agony of Defeat (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees now get a few days off before they play the winner of the Rangers-Rays series. Today the Rangers and Rays play in the first of three Divisional Series games with Tommy Hunter (13-4 3.73 ERA) going up against Wade Davis (12-10 4.07 ERA).

More later,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Two for the Road: Yankees and Rangers Dominate as Home Managers get Tossed

Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire gets Tossed by Hunter Wendelstedt in the 7th inning of game 2 against the Yankees (AP)

“The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager, because it won’t hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game.” Earl Weaver

So much for home field advantage in the American League or is there such a thing? The ALDS series have been dominated by the road teams the New York Yankees in Minnesota and the Texas Rangers in Tampa.  Up in the northlands the Twins actually took early leads against the Yankees in both games especially in game one where they were manhandling Yankees’ ace C.C. Sabathia.  However they could not hold and the Yankees took game one 6-4. They went up 1-0 today and had the game tied at two before the Yankees put the game away by a score of 5-2.  Twinkies Manager Ron Gardenhire got tossed in the 7th for arguing balls and strikes with Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. The Twins definitely had their chances but could not capitalize and now have to go to the Bronx down to the Yankees 0-2 and that is not a recipe for future success.  It looks like the Twinkies will continue the sad song of playoff losses against the Yankees.  Somewhere I hear the Little River Band singing in regard to the Twins against the Yankees:

Sit down, take a look at yourself
Don’t you want to be somebody
Someday somebody’s gonna see inside
You have to face up, you can’t run and hide

Have you heard about the lonesome loser
Beaten by the queen of hearts every time
Have you heard about the lonesome loser
He’s a loser, but he still keeps on tryin’

Rays Manager Joe Maddon Gets tossed by Umpire Jim Wolf in the 6th inning during game two against the Rangers. (AP)

Down at the Trop the Rays have been held to just one run by the Rangers losing 5-1 to Cliff Lee and friends and 6-0 to C.J. Wilson and friends.  The Rangers benefited in the second game on a check swing which should have been called a strike out to Michael Young with one out in the top of the 6th inning. The next pitch Young clobbered 431 feet for a 3 run home run.  Rays starter James Shields had been pulled in favor of reliever Chad Qualls by Joe Maddon and was already losing it on the bench and the home run brought the usually unflappable Maddon out and he promptly got tossed.  While it was a terrible call it ultimately did not change the game, the Rays didn’t hit, just like they have not hit since the All Star break. Their .236 team average speaks for itself. You don’t win championships when you don’t hit.  Now the Rays who are obviously wondering what happened to them have to go to Texas where the Rangers were 51-30 during the regular season and hit .288 with 93 home runs scored 430 runs.

Bad Call: Michael Young goes around on a pitch ruled as a ball. He hit a 3 run homer the next pitch (MLB/TBS)

The Rays need to recover their composure and start hitting or they will go home for the year with owner Stuart Sternberg has promised to drastically reduce payroll in 2011 which means that many of the players that have been the keys to their success will not be back.  The long off season for the Rays could begin as early as Saturday.  Despite their success in the past three years the team plays in the worst stadium in baseball and for the most part the area has lost that loving feeling in regards to the Rays.  If you ask me it’s time to move the team back to a real baseball city, perhaps Montreal or maybe a Triple-A city with a baseball tradition, fan base and population to support the team.  That however is a story for another day or perhaps much of the off season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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