The fault lies in their play, but you could also say the stars …….

The fault lies in their play, but you could also say the stars …….

Inasmuch as I love the game of baseball , I have to admit this might be one of the worst seasons on record in recent history. The AL East is barely recognizable and the level of play in what is said to be the best division in baseball has been truly dire. Defending World Series’ champions, the Boston Red Sox have now become an afterthought as the season has progressed. Say nothing of which, a great deal is being made out of a rivalry between the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays , which resonates about as much as a rancid piece of cheese that has been left out for days on end, merely sticking up the joint. Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles merely have to play .550 baseball or better to have the division sewn up for themselves and thereby win their first AL East crown in over a decade.

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If the Baltimore Orioles were to falter, then the likely recipients of their fall, would likely be the Toronto Blue Jays , whose play this season has been moderate though not overly inspiring. John Gibbons and his managerial staff , have a team that appears to be on the cusp of achieving something special this season, but a great deal of the success they are seeking will be dependent on the play of many of their seasoned veterans on the team’s roster, as well as the coaching acumen shown by Gibbons and his staff. The Blue Jays will be the guests of the Seattle Mariners when the two teams meet on Monday afternoon, with Drew Hutchinson taking the mound for the visiting team against Felix Hernandez of the Mariners. The game itself could provide us with something of a precursor as to the ambitions of two teams wishing to remain in the midst of the wildcard hunt if not their respective divisional races .

Buck Showalter and his team , will play host to the New York Yankees at Camden Yards , in Baltimore , Maryland on Monday afternoon. For the Yankees, their season now seems to be fading fast , as too are the hopes of team captain Derek Jeter and the team making the MLB postseason. For Joe Girardi , this might well have been a season where injuries may well have played a part in his team’s faltering , but in large part it has come down to the lack of productivity from his pitching staff and the inconsistency of the offense of the players. Jeter in his twentieth and final season with the franchise , may well go down as of the Yankees’ greatest players and given the ball-club’s achievements and their captain’s own astonishing career , it must be said, his departure from the game of baseball will be seen as the end of an era.

Hope springs eternal, but year in and year out the Tampa Bay Rays have simply promised more than they can deliver for their forlorn fans. In spite of the idiocy of some among the Rays’ fan-base, who will continue to make excuses for a front office which now seems devoid of real creativity. The recent trade of All Star pitcher David Price put an end to any chance the Rays might have had for the postseason. Price, being traded to the Detroit Tigers gives the AL Central based team a leg up on their divisional rivals in their chase for the division, while the Rays themselves continue to languish at the mid to lower end of the wildcard contestants .

Six and a half games out of the wildcard placing and the Tampa Bay Rays remain a long shot for one of the two AL berths. Consistency remains the key , but this team has not remained consistent in terms of winning series much less winning games over the course of the season, when needed . All of the enduring optimism from Joe Maddon cannot make up for the fact this remains a very average team in spite of claims at to the depth of their pitching. As good as the rotation may well seem to be, you simply cannot discount how woefully inconsistent their offense tends to be. Whatever leadership is said to be on the team , no one can seem to point to a vocal leader, certainly not Joe Maddon with his ongoing whimsical anecdotes and the same can be said of their all too less than knowledgeable fans. Excuses are now the norm from almost every quarter when it comes to the organization, be it from the local media, the fans or from members of front office and their ongoing cries of either disillusionment, or the simple fact they have become defeatist. Whining from the likes of players such as Chris Archer simply amplifies one of the ongoing issues within the organization and the lack of a competitive spirit.

If there is one manager within baseball who is expected to succeed this season , then it would have to be Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels . With a team that is said to possess one of the strongest lineups in the AL from a batting standpoint, there should be no reason for the Angels to falter this season. Everything Scioscia and his staff have asked for, has been granted by team owner Arte Moreno and GM Jerry Dipoto , along with a six-figure payroll for a team which now has the best player in the game among its lineup. If there are doubters as to the talents of Mike Trout , then I would gladly like to hear the arguments from those who think to the contrary ! ! Albert Pujols may well command the respect of his peers within the game, but the Angels are now Trout’s team for him to lead and his teammates willingly follow his lead.

If the Los Angeles Angels are to have things their own way, then they will have to overcome what is proving to be a very competitive and resilient Oakland Athletics’ team , who are not yet ready to relinquish their dominance of the AL West , much less the defense of their divisional crown. The two teams this season have proven to be highly combative in their seasonal meetings with the A’s currently holding a lead in those contests (6-3) in 2014. The most recent contest between the two divisional rivals, ended with an emphatic 7-1 mauling of the Angels by the A’s at Anaheim Stadium , in Anaheim, California on the 11th June.

Three-and-a half games separate the Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Angels within the AL West , but Mike Scioscia’s players seem to be in the driver’s seat in terms of the wildcard berth at present by virtue of a better record than their two closest rivals the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners . Tuesday pits the Angels against the disappointing Philadelphia Phillies , with CJ Wilson on the mound taking on Jerome Williams , when these two teams meet at Anaheim Stadium. The Tigers will face off against the Pittsburgh Pirates with the opposing pitchers being Robbie Ray against Edinson Volquez of the Pirates , in a game being played at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ,. Seattle will square off against the Toronto Blue Jays , with J A Happ looking to improve on his 8-6 record for the season , when he opposes Chris Young at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. All three contests should prove to be interesting and highly competitive given what is likely to be at stake , at this point of the season.

It doesn’t seem so long ago, where fans thought of the Texas Rangers as an organization likely to succeed at the highest levels of the game. Hall of Famer and Rangers’ great Nolan Ryan held sway as a senior executive within the organization , but then wheels on the Texas juggernaut became deflated and then suffered a large puncture. Ryan was made the scapegoat for the ball-club’s ills , but in many respects it was simply the arrogance of the franchise , starting with the front office , down through the managerial staff and several of the players , some of whom are no longer with the organization. GM Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington are now left holding the bag , as the team now wades through a season of sheer mediocrity. The Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies now share the worst records in the entire Major Leagues, a sad indictment of two teams showing little ambition this season.

In all likelihood, this will prove to be Ron Washington’s last season with the Texas Rangers , because it seems highly unlikely he will be asked to return for next season. The team has become listless , uncompetitive , totally lacking in leadership both and off the field of play. Having assumed the contract of Prince Fielder in a trade that simply made no sense whatsoever , the Rangers have now burdened themselves with an unproductive slugger whose prime came and went at least three or four years ago . As to what this indicates about the mindset of Jon Daniels and the ownership group of the Rangers is anyone’s guess , but clearly, this was a catastrophic blunder on the part of the organization in acquiring the player from the Detroit Tigers.

Fielder has been limited to forty-two games this season, having been placed on the sixty-day disabled list(DL) , likely to miss the rest of the season and undergoing neck surgery. Injuries asides, which has plagued the Rangers for much of the year, it has been a lack of leadership all-round which has played its part in the team’s lousy play and record (46-71). If Texas are to now any real signs of life, then their current series against the Tampa Bay Rays which resumes today when the two teams meet at the newly renamed Global Life Park in Arlington , Texas. Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays will face opposing pitcher Nick Tepesch of the Rangers in what should prove to be a riveting pitchers’ duel.

If the Texas Rangers are to avert a disastrous season then series such as the one being played against the Tampa Bay Rays will have to be won decisively and the consistency has to be maintained over the remainder of their schedule. Ron Washington’s long-term future is now intertwined with his team’s play, and if failure is to play a part in the ongoing drama now unfolding, the manager is likely to become a managerial casualty during the off-season along with several other possible candidates around the game of baseball.

Call me naïve, but I believe the NL Manager of The Year is likely to be Matt Williams of the Washington Nationals . Williams seems to have managed to achieve the impossible, having his team play with a great deal of consistency while keeping at bay the Atlanta Braves , Miami Marlins and New York Mets out of contention for the divisional crown in the NL East. In his first season as the manager of the Nationals, it now looks as if the incumbent manager has been able to do what his predecessor Davey Johnson failed in doing and that is getting a team mixed veterans and youth to believe in themselves. A great of the credit has to go to Matt Williams and his managerial staff , the faith shown in the staff by the ownership group and GM Mike Rizzo . The Nationals’ billionaire owner Ted Lerner and his partners are certainly intent on bringing a World Series’ title to the ball-club and are ready to do whatever it takes to achieve the goal.

Matt Williams and the Nationals will be seeking to make their first postseason appearance since the 1981 MLB postseason and the team reaching the NLCS and their 3-2 series’ loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. With a four-game lead over the Atlanta Braves within the NL East and Fredi Gonzalez’ Braves looking nothing like reigning divisional champions, it has to be said Washington now has the division practically sewn up. The high-flying Nationals will take their show on the road, when they meet the New York Mets at Citi-Field in Flushing , New York, in the first game of their three-game series against their divisional rivals. Doug Fister of the Nationals takes the mound for the visitors against Rafael Montero in a pitching contest between two of the NL’s best young pitchers. It will be interesting to see how the season now pans out for the Washington Nationals where star players Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg will be seeking to make their mark over the remainder of the season for the team.

Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper were first round draft picks by the Washington Nationals in 2009 and 2010 respectively, with both players now seen as major reasons why the team is now having some semblance of real success. Yet, until the ball-club itself has made a deep run in the postseason with the pair in question contributing to the success , what we have witnessed so far, are the players living up to the expectations first seen as collegiate players and then within the Nationals’ farm system before their debuts in the Big Leagues. MLB agent Scott Boras will no doubt be making sure both of his clients are likely to be handsomely rewarded when their existing contracts are due to expire. Boras has certainly made his presence known among the general managers around baseball , where he has proven to be a thorn in the side of these front office executives. His zealous representation of some of baseball’s most high profiled and highest paid players by way of their contracts and salaries , has been a major reason why their remains a financial imbalance among the haves and have-nots within baseball .

Some of the individual regular season awards will be hard to decide but I believe we could well see repeat winners for a number of the top prizes. Clayton Kershaw seems to be an odds on favorite to repeat as the NL Cy Young Award winner, and in the AL, the award is being fiercely contested by Chris Sale , Felix Hernandez , Rick Porcello and Jon Lester . League MVP in the AL is Mike Trout’s to lose, albeit, many believed he would have been a worthy winner of the award in 2013, only for the voters to go with Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers. Though this season both Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano are staking valid claims as worthy candidates, but Trout’s all-round presence and contributions have greater weight than either of his competitors for the award.

NL honors for League MVP is not a foregone conclusion, but Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Morneau , Yasiel Puig , Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton are making solid claims why they should be atop of everyone’s list for the award. The rookies and their debuts within the AL and NL will simply be about the impressions made and how dynamic they happen to be. Hard to believe however, Derek Jeter during his playing career, having won the AL Rookie of the Year Award , was never afforded the prestige of winning the AL MVP. The AL Manager of The Year Award , I believe will come down to Buck Showalter of the Orioles, Bob Melvin , Ned Yost and John Gibbons, should he be able to pull off of the improbable and lead the Blue Jays to a divisional win in the AL East.

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As baseball enters the final third of its season what has impressed you the most in terms of the teams’ play or that of a player’s? Chime in with your thoughts as you see fit, on this and anything else you believe to be of importance.

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(1) Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell , left, is seen here with David Ortiz. This season the Red Sox have been abysmal , showing little competitive spirit within their division ,lying in fifth and last place within the AL East , often described as the toughest division in all of baseball . AP Photo/ Dave Walsh …

(2) A pensive Buck Showalter looks on from the dugout during a regular season game being played by the Baltimore Orioles . Getty Images North America / Steve Jones …

(3) Jays slugger Jose Bautista , right, is congratulated by manager John Gibbons after hitting a walk-off single in the 10th inning to beat the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday 22nd May 2013 . After a slow start, Bautista is posting better numbers, but the Jays need him to start producing the way he has in the past . This year the Toronto Blue Jays are definitely looking like divisional contenders . within the AL East while seeking to make inroads on the Orioles’ lead within the division . REUTERS/ Mark Blinch ….

(4) Los Angeles Angles’ GM Jerry Dipoto ,left , is seen here with Mike Trout center and team manager Mike Sciocsia . Trout was the recipient of the Jackie Robinson Award as AL Rookie of The Year. Trout has been spectacular for the Angels over the past three seasons leading the team in a number offensive categories. AP Photo / Mark Daniels …

(5) Texas Rangers’ manager Ron Washington left is seen here with GM Jon Daniels . The team has failed miserably this season and with Prince Fielder limited to forty-two games , now on the sixty-day disabled list . The Rangers are mow mired in mediocrity , while having one of the worst records in all of baseball. A great deal of the failure has been attributed to Daniels’ capricious off-season moves via the free agency market and several other far-reaching trades, saddling the team with Fielder’s exorbitant contract . AP Photo/ Jack Marshall …

(6) Washington Nationals’ manager Matt Williams greet Bryce Harper at the end of the game , where the Nationals were victorious in a home contest played at Nationals’ Ballpark in Washington , DC . AP Photo/ Garry Mason …
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Ewa Sonnet who always provides us with pleasurable and pleasing images .

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No quick takes just a take …….

No quick takes just a take

The NBA postseason still remains a mess , with the clouds still hovering over a rather unsavory episode that neither the press or the fans fully comprehend . Instead it has been the constant apathy among both parties, that continues to be clear as everyone tries to make sense of Donald Sterling’s comments and the fact the NBA hierarchy chose not to reprimand the Los Angeles Clippers’ owner for his prior actions. This whole incident, has cast a giant shadow over this entire postseason , where the quartet of teams now remaining and now playing in the Conference Finals must now be wondering if there are likely to be any other events likely to overshadow the postseason , as it meanders towards a conclusion.

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With the Eastern and Western Conference Finals now taking shape , it is becoming clear that the defending NBA champions the Miami Heat are going waltz their way towards a third consecutive Finals’ berth , with their opponents the Indiana Pacers , having all but given up in making the series an actual competitive contest . The first game of the Eastern Conference Finals was won by the number one seed, with the belief being that Frank Vogel’s players were ready to avenge last season’s Conference Finals’ loss , but within the space of five days this Pacers’ team has fallen back down to earth and have shown the competitive nature of a docile cat afraid of their own shadow.

Now up 3-1 in their series, LeBron James must now be relishing the fact, that he and his teammates are now five wins away from securing a third consecutive NBA title.

If the contest in the East is said to be lacking in drama, then game three has breathed life into the Western Conference Finals with Serge Ibaka’s presence for the Oklahoma City Thunder and their contest against the San Antonio Spurs. Ibaka’s presence has given renewed energy to the Thunder , who now seek to overcome a 2-1 deficit , where a pivotal game four contest tonight , will tell us a great deal about the makeup of this team and whether or not they are indeed capable of defeating a Spurs’ team looking to make a quick return to the NBA Finals and seeking to avenge last season’s loss to the Miami Heat.

The coaching merry-go-round has begun in earnest with Steve Kerr having shunned the overtures by Phil Jackson to succeed Mike Woodson as the head coach of the New York Knicks . If that situation was not as asinine as it now looks , consider the fact that for the second time in four years Mike Brown has been fired by Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert and that particular organization. I am beginning to feel that Gilbert , has little acumen, when it comes to owning a professional sport’s franchise , much less knowing what it is needed to make that an outright success ! As for this idiocy , that LeBron James would seek to rejoin that franchise to play alongside Kyrie Irving now makes about as much sense as James joining the Sacramento Kings because in being paired with DeMarcus Cousins would make that particular franchise a legitimate contender for an NBA title.

As if the comedic travails of the Cavaliers were not idiotic enough as they now seem to be , in conjunction that with of the New York Knicks , then consider the ongoing idiocy now unfolding within the front office of the Los Angeles Lakers . Anyone now believing that the Lakers would now be a desirable destination for anyone seeking to further their NBA coaching career either has to be delusional or a downright idiot to believe that the franchise under the auspices of Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss has any inherent idea about what they are actually doing. These past two seasons alone, should prove to anyone with an ounce of common sense that a great deal of intelligence is lacking within the alleged acumen of both front office executives. Mike D’Antoni’s resignation and the next fallout with his actions , speaks volumes about the sense of unrest , that there was said to be within the Los Angeles Lakers as a franchise this past season. Beyond the team being uncompetitive , excuses in part could be made for the absence of Kobe Bryant , but the team was lacking heart and there was never any leadership forthcoming from the coaching staff or seasoned veterans on the team’s roster . Buss’ search for a successor to D’Antoni , is now likely to be a long drawn out protracted process that is likely to be speculated upon by an ever-growing circle of fans and observers alike.

Well, so much for the NFL Draft , the expectations thereof and the first round of the process, befitting the idiocy of the hyperbole and drama that surrounds this annual event, now becomes one of the teams now looking to sign their draftees to their rookie contracts. If that was not enough, the one player where a there was said to be great deal of scrutiny of and where he would likely be picked, still draws a great deal of news , for all the wrong reasons . The Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Johnny Manziel seems to be drawing as much undesired attention to himself without yet having proven himself worthy of the stories now unfolding .

Manziel’s maturity level was continually questioned throughout this NFL Draft process and it may well have led to what many believed was the justification his being drafted so low . From being thought to be the likely first quarterback taken in the Draft , the player was taken as the twenty-second overall pick by the beleaguered Browns , who were in search of a passer for more competitive than the now departed Brandon Weeden than many of the quarterbacks to have filled the position for the franchise over the past eight seasons . As to why Johnny Manziel would feel it necessary to be seen in Las Vegas at a UFC , albeit , that it was on the weekend , but with the player and his agent trying to suggest, that the party and “Playboy Image” was said be surrounding Manziel was nothing but a creation by the press and his detractors , in no way should be seen as a detriment about his skill-set as a player. Those issues, may well be overlooked, if the rookie can lead the Cleveland Browns to a successful season in 2014. For head coach Mike Pettine and his coaching staff , their futures as well as that of the Browns’ fan-base, will be looking to the young rookie to bring about what they feel to be some long and overdue success to a franchise, that has seen very little success over the past decade.

Johnny Manziel will be given every opportunity to display his craft over the Browns’ preseason where he is likely to share a great deal of the playing time with the team’s likely starter Brian Hoyer . Though on the team’s depth chart , Manziel is likely to be seen as third in that role behind Tyler Thigpen , with a fourth alternative being Connor Shaw. Cleveland’s opening regular season schedule , begins with a week one contest at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania, against their AFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers on the September 7th , 2014. Manziel, as the Heisman Trophy winner , undoubtedly has a great deal of expectation to live up to and without the other added distractions, the player must now prove his detractors that he is indeed capable of leading this franchise to some semblance of success, while also displaying the skill-set we all witnessed during his collegiate career with Texas A&M and his tenure with the program.

I am sick and tired of hearing repeated and the most banal of excuses, about why a team that becomes hamstrung by injuries cannot compete during the MLB season. Unless, that the players lost to the roster represents more than one half of their front-line starters , then there should be no reason for the constant whining of the fans. And therein lies the idiocy recently and claims concerning the under-achieving Tampa Bay Rays and a team that was said to have the best pitching roster within the Majors , as well as being capable of winning ninety to ninety-five games this season. A languid start has seen this team fall short of what many felt that Joe Maddon’s playing staff were capable of achieving at this point of the season , albeit, the Rays compete in one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball . As contentious as the AL East is known to be , several of the teams there can now be judged and now be said to be under-achieving, including the defending World Series’ champions the Boston Red Sox , who now find themselves rooted at the bottom of the division , eight half games behind division leaders, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Toronto for its part, coming off a rather lopsided victory over the Tampa Bay Rays , were never thoroughly tested at any point , during the game played at the Rogers Center , in Toronto , Ontario , on Sunday afternoon . If the Rays are said to be a flawed team , then this contest against the Blue Jays , gave the fans every reason to see why , with their being mental lapses throughout the game, both competitively , as well as mentally . The two teams are set to meet again on Tuesday afternoon , with Alex Cobb of the Rays facing the Blue Jays’ Mark Buerhle in what should be a very good pitching contest .

Call me naïve, but I have always felt that “spending big “ , does always necessary means a team will , ” win big “ , when it comes to the World Series ! Case in point , has to be , both the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees , as this season’s two biggest spending teams by way of their payrolls. This season alone the two ball-clubs will combine to surpass almost 20 % of the over $ 3.1 billion that will be committed in team payrolls , with several of their players being among the highest paid in the game by way of their annual salaries or the contracts or contract value .If that is not an ongoing indicator about how out of whack the game of baseball has become, by way of the economic imbalances . Then I for one , would like to hear a concise explanation from any baseball fan, who now believes that the game can be self-sustainable with the ever-increasing contracts among the top teams , while their mid and small-market counterparts, are left in their wake !

In 2013, both the Dodgers and Yankees were atop of the spending pile , in terms of payroll commitments , with only the Los Angeles’ based franchise making the postseason , where they fell to the St Louis Cardinals in a rather lopsided NLCS Pennant Series. Out-managed and outmaneuvered by a stealth Cardinals’ team in the series , that Don Mattingly, as the manager of the Los Angles Dodgers, will be under even greater pressure and scrutiny to take this team further into the postseason this year , than he was able to do in 2013. That stinging failure, still lingers deep within front office of the Dodgers, with owners Peter Guber and Magic Johnson among the partners showing their concern , as to the team’s failings this past postseason.

In a division where now, three of the four teams are above .500 , the Los Angels Dodgers find themselves 4 ½ games behind the hard charging San Francisco Giants , who themselves have the best record in baseball with a 33-19 mark . Now in spite of Josh Beckett’s recent superlative outing in pitching a no-hitter in the team’s 6-0 trouncing of the Philadelphia Phillies . I still believe that the Dodgers will be hard pressed to equal their feat of last season , in running away with the NL West divisional title . It will indeed, take a great deal more than the Dodgers’ pitching , of which the rotation is plentiful in terms of their starters , if the team is to be truly successful this season . The effort will have to be collective one , with the offense being the primary emphasis , if Don Mattingly’s players are to obtain their first World Series’ appearance in over twenty-five years , with that feat being accomplished in 1988 , with their 4-1 triumph over the Oakland Athletics .

The Dodgers followed up that victory over the Phillies , with two positive results against the Cincinnati Reds . Those teams will meet again on Wednesday the 28th May at Dodgers’ Ballpark in Los Angeles , California , with Homer Bailey (4-3) taking the mound for the Reds against his NL counterpart Clayton Kershaw (3-1). As the Dodgers go this season, so rests the fate possibly of Don Mattingly’s long-term future with the ball-club , with the likelihood, that the team’s failure might well lead to his ultimate dismissal . However, his leading the franchise to that long-awaited World Series’ triumph would certainly cement his legacy in the annals of Dodgers’ postseason history , as being one of the few managers to have led the ball-club to a series’ victory in baseball’s showcase finale.

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Picture gallery .

The sports’ world is forever in search of stories that will whet the appetite of the fans and generate the debates , discussions , call them what you will. For the most part, without those tidbits to actually to nibble on, there is simply nothing to lure us in and to keep us galvanized on the events taking place at any given moment . What recent events, have piqued your interest in the world of sports and has there been a sports’ story , that you feel that has in some way been over exposed in terms of its coverage ? Chime in with your thoughts as you see fit on this and anything else you feel to be relevant.

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(1) MIAMI, FL – MAY 26: Frank Vogel of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the Miami Heat during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 26, 2014 in Miami, Florida. The Pacers face the Miami Heat in a pivotal Game Five , on the brink of elimination from this season’s NBA postseason with a 3-1 deficit now staring them in the face. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images …

(2) Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) drives to the basket over Indiana Pacers forward David West (21) during the second half of Game 4 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals playoff series, Monday, May 26, 2014, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Pacers 102-90 . AP Photo/Lynne Sladky ……

(3) Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against Kendrick Perkins of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first quarter during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 27, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This series is now tied at two games apiece (2-2) with the Thunder having overcome a 2-0 deficit . Ronald Martinez/ Getty Images …

(4) Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder look on in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on May 27, 2014 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City,Oklahoma. Getty Images / Andrew D Bernstein ….

(5) Cleveland Cavaliers’ team owner Dan Gilbert ,left, is seen here with Mike Brown , center and team GM Chris Grant . Brown was fired for the second time during his second stint with the Cleveland based NBA franchise . Likewise , Chris Grant was not given a contract extension by the Cavaliers with his being succeeded by David Griffin , who has now has sole responsibility for player personnel decisions as well as seeking a new successor to fill the vacant coaching position. AP Photo/ Gary Mason …..

(6) Johnny Manziel of the Cleveland Browns is seen here on NFL Draft Day , having just been selected by the franchise , where he is likely to be third on the team’s depth chart . Manziel has been the center and focus of news’ media attention in recent weeks , but over the past weekend the player was seen at UFC event in Las Vegas Nevada , in the lead-up to the Browns’ OTA’s (organized training activities) , with many questioning his willingness to be team player and shying away from the constant glare which he seems to seek out at almost every opportunity. Erik Burkhardt , Manziel’s agent , has suggested , it has been the press seeking out his client, rather than the player placing himself in front of the media . In a recent turn of events, a lawsuit has been filed against Johnny Manziel by an unnamed victim . claiming sexual harassment in which the plaintiff is seeking $25 million in damages . Burkhardt claims that the lawsuit is frivolous, without merit and will be challenged within the Florida courts , where the suit was originally filed. AP Photo / Martin Jones ….

(7) Toronto Blue Jays’ Adam Lind celebrates a home run with third base coach Luis Rivera , left, during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Toronto on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim ……

(8) Tampa Bay Rays’ Alex Cobb reacts after getting hit by a ball from Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Reyes during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Toronto on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim ……

(9) Starting pitcher Josh Beckett (61) of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the ninth inning during a game in which he threw a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 25, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Dodgers won 6-0 . Getty Images North America /Hunter Martin ….

(10) Starting pitcher Josh Beckett (61) of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with teammates after throwing a no-hitter during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 25, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Dodgers won 6-0. Getty Images/ Hunter Martin …….

(11) Starting pitcher Josh Beckett (61) of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with teammates after throwing a “no hitter” against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 25, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Beckett became the first MLB pitcher to throw a “no-hitter ” this season, joining select group of players to have accomplished the feat in baseball history. Getty Images /Hunter Martin …..

(12) From left to right , seen are Peter Guber , Stan Kasten , Mark Walter and Magic Johnson , who make up part of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ senior managing partner and ownership group for the Los Angeles’ based franchise . The ball-club was purchased for a record-breaking sum of $ 2.156 billion in 2013 , making it the largest purchase in North American sports’ history for a professional sports’ franchise. AP Photo / Matt Peters ….

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Back to the drawing board , again ……….

Back to the drawing board, again

Well, with both the Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays bowing out in the divisional series of the NLDS and the ALDS. It is hard to explain, where the two teams now go from here in terms of their immediate long-term futures. Managers, Fredi Gonzalez and Joe Maddon did all that was asked of them by way of their respective hierarchies, but at the end of the day it simply was not enough. The Atlanta Braves with a great deal of ease won the NL East , going away from their closest rivals , the Washington Nationals . In the case of Maddon and the Rays, it was a year erratic plays and then heightened moments of excellence, only to the stumble at the most inopportune of moments. Simply making the postseason, was all that the Rays could have hoped for, in spite of the optimism shown by the team’s 2012 Cy Young Award winning pitcher David Price .

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Utter frustration and dismay, would be the best way to describe the very fact that the Tampa Bay Rays fought all season long to gain a postseason berth , only for their pitching and then their hitting to let them down in their ALDS match-up against divisional rivals the Boston Red Sox , who might now be the clear favorites to win the AL Pennant for this season. Of the four teams left at that stage of the postseason the Red Sox might well be the most balanced of the quartet in terms of their fielding , offense and pitching . And that to my mind may well be the determining factor as to whether or not John Farrell leads this team to their third World Series’ title in the past seven seasons . It would certainly justify the faith shown in the manager and his staff , after a year of sheer turmoil and utter incompetence shown by Farrell’s predecessor , Bobby Valentine . The ease with which Boston was able to dispose of the Tampa Bay Rays, says a great deal about the determination of the team and the simple lack of real depth and leadership of the Rays’ staff altogether . When I have repeatedly pointed this fact out to a number of Tampa’s supporters , few have been prepared to answer that question succinctly, simply choosing instead to point to the managerial acumen of Joe Maddon. Yet , the manager can only give instruction to his players, and then expect them to execute accordingly.

The ease of Boston’s 3-1 series’ win in a best of five game series , has been a damning indictment of a Rays’ organization , although well ran , it remains with an unenviable task of trying to compete against teams within their division , who possess far deeper pockets and essentially have far greater resources all-round. During this off-season, GM Andrew Friedman will have to contemplate whether or not the organization can afford to retain the services of David Price , who in many ways was the team’s best pitcher and overall performer during the postseason. A one-year . $10 million contract was all that the ball-club could afford in 2013. Greater riches await Price and his agent Bo McKinnis , should they refuse what is likely to be another single or no more than two-year deal from the organization . A rather asinine article written in the business bible for many Forbes Magazine, suggested that the Rays would be able to negotiate a multi-year multi-million television deal that would be able to sustain the franchise over the decade and a half. Unfortunately, the writer of this article must have been someone with very little knowledge of the ball club and clearly not an intelligent enough individual, to realize the fact that once again the Tampa Bay Rays were at the lower end of attendance levels for baseball’s thirty teams during the 2013 season . In spite of the claims MLB that the Tampa Bay Rays draws on average in excess of 22,000 fans per home game at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida. That figure in reality, is a great deal closer to 15,000 hardcore fans that this franchise is known to possess. The fact the matter is, in spite of a growing television audience in the local market , on the national stage this ball-club is far from being a major draw.

Tampa as a baseball town, is unable compete along the lines of their big market counterparts, never mind the fact, that the Sales and Marketing Department’s attempts of selling the Rays as a brand, has proven to be about as successful an attempt, as it has been for the current Presidential administration’s attempt to raise the debt-ceiling and creating the perception that it will be a cure to solving the federal government’s budgetary woes. One can only carry on repeating the same lunacy for so long, before the general public or the fans finds that whole exercise tedious and rather comedic. The biggest issue I have with the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization is the continued reluctance shown by managing partners Matt Silverman and Stuart Sternberg to seek out a wealthy financial backer willing to take stake in the franchise , while providing the franchise with the means and resources to go after some of the more marquee free agents available. Granted, Maddon and his managerial assistants in conjunction with Andrew Friedman have been able to assess great talent by way of the MLB Draft over the past few years , while also being able to obtain workmanlike free agents via trade acquisitions that have proven to be productive. Yet, if Tampa is to compete against the top-heavy payrolls of teams such as the New York Yankees , Detroit Tigers Boston and Boston Red Sox , then the front office will clearly have to rethink its current strategy.

The disappointment of this postseason, has not been lost on the Rays’ fans as a great deal more was expected from this team at the start of the season. As the year wore on, it became abundantly clear that they were not the best team in the AL East , as many analyst and commentators alike had predicted. All of the hyperbole was simply misplaced on a team , that at best, their main hope was simply to make the postseason and then hope that the baseball gods would look down upon the franchise favorably as they sought to make their way the World Series. In 2013, it was not meant to be and at this juncture, I do believe it may well be a considerable length of time before we see the Tampa Bay Rays make another appearance in baseball’s showcase finale. Five years removed from that sensational year and that series’ appearance against the Philadelphia Phillies whetted the appetite of the fans, but it has now become a lovelorn quest that has proven to be so disappointing at every juncture for this organization in the subsequent years after that World Series’ appearance in 2008 .

As the front office spends time this off-season reassessing their needs and how best to strategize, who will remain a part of the current roster , and which players will be jettisoned. The thought has to be , whether or not it is feasible to continue along this path while knowing that next season without a doubt the New York Yankees , Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles are likely to get considerably better in terms of their lineups . In the case of the Toronto Blue Jays , theirs has been a lesson in abject stupidity and a complete lack of leadership from their executives on down to the managerial staff and amongst the players . After such an abject season, one can only question the decisions made by the front office and the lack of competitiveness shown by the team throughout the entire season. I can only surmise, that the goal of the organization was simply to assemble a platoon of overpaid stars to place alongside Jose Bautista and then to let the chips fall where they may , rather than to assemble a cohesive lineup. Manager John Gibbons is likely to return , but in all likelihood , his long-term future with the organization will not be all that long , if this franchise fails to compete in 2014.

With Joe Girardi and the New York Yankees agreeing to a contract extension , it remains to be seen whether not the organization will be as ambitious in retaining the services of Robinson Cano , as the player becomes a free agent this off-season. The retirements of Andy Pettite and Mariano Rivera , will see something of a depleted pitching staff , that this season was nowhere as good as advertised . Add in, the continued idiocy of the Alex Rodriguez saga and the Yankees’ less than ambitious task of seeking to remove the player from their organization , along with Bud Selig’s stupidity, in handling this issue. And baseball’s most celebrated franchise will have its own endearing off-season drama of comedic events .

Two years in succession and a change of leagues and the absolute mediocrity shown by the Houston Astros remained intact. It is one thing to lose one hundred games 2012 , but to repeat that feat again in 2013 as the American League’s newest arrival, was something that I believe not even the Astros’ fans were expecting. GM Jeff Luhnow and team owner Jim Crane must now be wondering, if that added incentive of $100 million offered by the league hierarchy was worthwhile in making jump from the NL Central to the AL West . While there is said to be a sense that current manager Bo Porter has the team heading in the right direction , there are those who feel that he and his staff are not the right people to be in charge and oversee the development of their young players on the roster, as well as seeking the progress of the farm system and prospects . With a payroll of just over $22 million in 2013 , the Astros’ salary obligations were the lowest in all of Major League Baseball and a far cry from the $228.8 million that was committed to by the New York Yankees . Consider the fact also that the game’s highest paid player , Alex Rodriguez , whose salary this season was a colossal $29 million delivered meager returns for the franchise , while the likes of the Astros struggled not only with attendance , but also trying to remain competitive over the course of the season . Next year, we are likely to see the Astros begin their Spring Training schedule with the usual mindset amongst baseball’s thirty teams , but once the regular season starts , will the team revert to ways of old , in proceeding to show us the form witnessed in 2012 and 2013 ?

As an avowed Atlanta Braves’ fan I expected a great deal more out of the team during the postseason ! The fact that Fredi Gonzalez and his staff could muster a sense of urgency amongst the players provides me now with the ammunition I need to not only be critical of the manager but the entire organization as a whole , from the executives on down . The NLDS series was simply an absolute abomination to endure and watch. Capsizing at sea perhaps , would be the best way to describe the effort of the team , as no one showed any emotion, or sought to step up to the plate. A clear case can be made that the Braves are a reflection of the manager Fredi Gonzalez , whose laid back style is not the type effort that is needed when managing in the postseason .

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Now that we are down to the final four teams for playing to become the AL and NL pennant representatives for this season’s World Series . It will be interesting to see how these respective series pan out with the Boston Red Sox playing host to the Detroit Tigers for the first two games of the ALCS at Fenway Park , while the St Louis Cardinals will have as their guests at Busch Stadium the Los Angeles Dodgers . While the league hierarchy and some of the more uninitiated, try to suggest that baseball has a level playing field , but consider the fact that these four teams combined, will have a payroll exceeding $600 million. Baseball has lost its way, in spite of the controversy and drama seen this season . Simply leave comment as you see fit on this and anything else you believe to be pertinent to the subject matter .

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Picture and slideshow details below .

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(1) Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his teammates celebrate their 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in game four of the NLDS played at Dodgers Ballpark in Los Angles California . AP Photo / Mark J Terrill ….

(2) Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves reacts after striking out in the third inning of game four of the NLDS played against the Los Angeles Dodgers . Heyward like the rest of the Braves’ offense performed poorly during the series as a whole . Getty Images North America / Stephen Dunn ….

(3) Tampa Bay Rays’ manager Joe Maddon speaks with pitcher Jamey Wright , during the second inning of game four of the ALDS , which was played at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida against the Boston Red Sox . Also pictured, catcher Jose Lobaton . Boston would go on to win the game 3-1 and take the series 3-1 to make their to the ALCS , where they will play the Detroit Tigers . AP Photo / Chris O’Meara ….

(4) Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara celebrates with teammate , Jarrod Saltalmacchia after Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays is struck out in the ninth inning of game four of the ALDS . AP Photo /John Raoux ….

(5) New York Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman is seen here with the team’s manager Joe Girardi . The manager has agreed to a four-year contract extension said to be valued at $16 million . This off-season the team faces a number of tough decisions , most notably the re-signing of third baseman Robinson Cano as dealing with the decision to also acquire Japanese pitcher Lure Masahiro Tanaka . There also remains the uncertainty as to whether or not Alex Rodriguez will be a part of the roster for the upcoming 2014 season . The Yankees’ third baseman has a lawsuit in which he seeks to sue MLB as well as the team’s lead physician Dr Christopher Ahmad in a suit seeking unspecified damages , emotional distress , pain and anguish , slander , while seeking to do harm to his career and reputation . It should be noted , that an appeal’s hearing and date has yet to be set in the ongoing process, during which Rodriguez will seek to have his two hundred and eleven game suspension overturned . Getty Images / Thomas Croft ….

(6) Alex Rodriguez is seen here arriving at the MLB headquarters in New York City for an impromptu meeting with arbitrator Fred Horowitz . Also in attendance , were the player’s legal team headed by criminal defense attorneys Joseph Tacopina and David Cornwell . Getty Images / Robert Keller ….

(7) Houston Astros’ owner Jim Crane , left, is seen here with the team’s manager Bo Porter as he is formally introduced to the convened members of the media at Minute Maid Park in Houston , Texas . Coming off two straight seasons of losing in excess of one hundred games , the long-term future of the franchise is not as bright as Crane and his fellow executives have been trying to suggest . In recent months , it has been suggested that the Astros have been facing some steep financial difficulties which the owner and general manager Jeff Luhnow have denied . AP Photo / Ashley Jacobson …..

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tophatal ………… 10/10/2013

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MLB news

MLB postseason schedule

This week in MLB history

This day in MLB history

MLB free agents 2014
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Gianna Michaels

Somewhere over the rainbow …..

Somewhere over the rainbow

Well the baseball season is now entering its final three weeks and the biggest cause for concern to my mind has to be the meltdown by the Tampa Bay Rays . A little over two weeks ago the form of this team was not in doubt and it would have been generous to suggest that they would be on the way to sowing up one of the two available berths for the AL wildcard spots . I went even so far as to suggest, that Tampa needed to secure the division (AL East) to secure a position in the postseason. Yet, who knew that a catastrophe awaited the team , whose play over their last thirty games has simply been abysmal . In the midst of this all , manager Joe Maddon , for from being troubled , remains upbeat and acting as there should be nothing at all to be worried about. For the Rays’ fans , they have to be troubled not only by the demeanor of the manager but also by the lackluster performances of the players and their laissez-faire approach to each game and series over the past three weeks .

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Another loss at home last night (Wednesday) by the Tampa Bay Rays to AL East divisional leaders the Boston Red Sox , may well have added another nail in the coffin for the Rays’ season and quite possibly their postseason ambitions. Seemingly , they have been unable to play themselves out of their slump and there seems to be absolutely no leadership being supplied by anyone on the team’s roster , much less from the manager or anyone amongst his staff . The conclusion that I have come to , concerning the Rays and their fans , is that they are extremely happy with their lot when the team is winning, but simply too afraid to be critical of the organization , when things are not going right . Chalk that all up to the apathy and simple mindset of the fans, and the continued stupidity shown by the local beat writers and television pundits in the locale who cover this MLB franchise . Ideas of grandeur, way above their station and not one clue as how to remedy what ails the ball-club on the playing field or by way of the front office hierarchy .

For a pitching rotation that was deemed to be amongst the best in all of baseball , the Tampa Rays’ staff have performed unevenly throughout much of the year . Matt Moore the pitching staff’s leader in wins , has himself been up and down, in terms of his recent performances . And the rookie, Chris Archer , although he has been something of a pleasant surprise , but it simply cannot be left to the player to be the one, upon whom the management can pin their hopes on. The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, David Price has been somewhat inconsistent and I do not believe that he is fully fit , even after two spells the team’s disabled list. Jeremy Hellickson , another mainstay of the rotation, can guarantee you the quality starts, but only if the run support is also there . Here we go again , as it relates to the Rays , if the offense is not going then the struggles are quantified even more so .

Tampa Bay will resume their current series with the Red Sox , with the final game of the trilogy on Thursday ,where a win is of the utmost importance. With the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles now playing out a highly competitive and controversial series , there is no further room to falter for Joe Maddon’s team. With a three-game series next up for the Rays, against the Minnesota Twins , away at Target Field in Minneapolis , Minnesota . It will be intriguing to see how the team acquits itself against one the AL’s more disappointing teams this season. Ron Gardenhire‘s days with this ball-club must now be numbered and no amount of excuses can be made for the team’s continued failures . . On the mound for the first game of that set, beginning on Friday, will be Chris Archer of the Rays against Kevin Correia of the Twins. Two young starting pitchers looking to make a name for themselves amongst the litany of quality pitching now within the AL .

As the AL East divisional race now plays itself out , with the Boston Red Sox now seem assured of the title , we are left with a three-horse race between the Tampa Bay Rays , Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees , seeking to become one of the two wildcard aspirants from the AL. Throw in the fact, that the Kansas City Royals , Cleveland Indians , Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics are also pursuing those berths , this all adds up for an all too intriguing and suspenseful closure to the regular season , which ends on the .final day of September .

One of the more disappointing stories of this baseball season once again, has to be the continued failure of the Los Angeles Angels. A team , built around the talents of Albert Pujols , C J Wilson and Mike Trout . And here we are, now wondering what has gone wrong for this Mike Scioscia managed team . The prevailing thought now has to be that team owner Arte Moreno and GM Jerry Dipoto will have to reassess the future of the team’s manager , his assistants , as well as several players on the roster and their immediate future within the organization . If Trout can be developed from within the farm system, , then why hasn’t there been other successes from within , rather than Moreno opening up his check book to make a big splash, solely to try and keep up their more renowned in-state rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers ?

Anaheim are now faltering within the AL West and likely to miss the postseason for the fourth consecutive year , something that is unlikely to sit well with the owner and many of the team’s primary sponsors . At 70-76 , currently lying third within the division , the Angels are 9 ½ games out of an AL wildcard berth and it would take a calamitous chain of events, as well as the team playing some extraordinary baseball for the Los Angeles Angels to climb into that particular race. Mike Scioscia and his team will travel to Minute Maid Park in Houston , Texas to begin a three-game weekend series , starting on Friday against the Houston Astros . Let us just say, that at this juncture, both teams will be playing for pride and a great deal of self-respect, with Jason Vargas of the visiting team taking on Dallas Keuchel of the Astros in that opening series’ game .

I have always maintained that the financial imbalance in terms of the payroll scales within baseball , will be the thing that will ultimately drag it to its knees , along with the ongoing issue of illegal substances being used on a widespread basis ! Purists and fools alike, are now talking about instant replay being introduced within the game , something that has been long overdue , but the MLB hierarchy remains delusional along with the vast majority of the fans, who are of the belief that the game can continue in its present structure. Creative accounting will not stop the hemorrhaging of red ink on the balance sheets of a number of teams . Add in the idiocy of those who lack the knowledge, to know that some of the small market teams around the league , who actually turn a profit , do so at the largess of the MLB hierarchy , by way the asinine luxury tax-sharing scheme . The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees , are the two teams with the highest payrolls in all of baseball , within their combined total salary obligations for 2013 being just under $500 million (a half-billion dollars [$500,000,000]) . For the first time in baseball history the opening day salary of Major League Baseball topped $3 billion ($ 3,000,000,000) , covering all thirty teams in the league. Yet it should come as no surprise, to know that over one-quarter of the teams in within baseball actually struggle to break even on an annual basis.

Continuously, we hear , Bud Selig state, that the financial health of the game remains safe. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the league’s highest-ranking executive lives in a world of delusion.. And need we be reminded, that during the past six years, three teams within baseball have faced the brink of financial ruin , with two in particular ( Cubs and Dodgers) having placed themselves into bankruptcy reorganization (Chapter 11) , after the financial manipulation and mismanagement by their previous owners . All of this under the not so watchful eye of the MLB Commissioner, whose own CFO Jonathan Mariner , shows as about as much financial acumen , as the auditing accountants who oversaw the disastrous failure of the Enron Corporation . There you have it, baseball’s finest at their alleged best, showing all of the oversight of a federal governmental agency and being equally as incompetent .

If to singularly show how asinine the luxury tax sharing scheme (a fraudulent maneuver to my mind ) has become . It is now being widely reported that the New York Yankees whose team payroll for 2013 will be $ 228.835 million , will have to pay a surcharge of $29.1 million to the MLB hierarchy . Yet somehow the now $ 2 billion ($2,000,000,000) concern known as the Los Angeles Dodgers , the only other team in baseball with a payroll exceeding $200 million , will only have to pay $9.1 million back to baseball’s governing body . Somehow, these figures do not add up or make sense , no matter what the formulaic solution might be, in how the league determines the sum to be paid as a tax. Clearly, there seems to be a bent here, in punishing a team unfairly , while simply slapping the wrist of another team, whose payroll is a mere twelve million dollars less than that of the New York Yankees . Questions have to be posed to either Jonathan Mariner or Bud Selig as to the disparity in the taxes paid , with only these two teams having to pay this surcharge , albeit, that they are the only two teams to exceed the $200 million threshold . No formal statement has been forthcoming from Bud Selig or any major executive of the league’s hierarchy concerning this disparity in terms of the Yankees having to pay the aforementioned sum of $29.1 million against that of the Dodgers having to pay just over $ 9 million.

The Yankees’ own fate also seems as their regular season winds down, does seem imperiled. Though of late, they have been on a spirited run, having made up a margin of almost six games on the Tampa Bay Rays over the last six weeks in the divisional standings . A big psychological blow, came for the franchise, when it was announced by manager Joe Girardi that team captain Derek Jeter’s season would come to an abrupt end, with the player being placed on the team’s disable list . Jeter was only able to compete in seventeen games during 2013, the second lowest figure of the player’s now distinguished eighteen-year career. With the team now looking to make even greater inroads into that lead , with it now being down to a mere one game , and with the Red Sox’s lead being now down to 9 ½ games, the upcoming weekend series between New York and their heated rivals the Boston Red Sox , now takes on even greater meaning . That series begins on Friday, with Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees taking on John Lackey in the first of that trilogy of games. With Jeter likely to be in the dugout at Fenway Park , in Boston , Massachusetts, to support his teammates , it will be interesting to see how the Yankees acquit themselves in the series . At the same time , there is likely to be a great deal of speculation raised as to whether or not the front office is likely to take up the option of the $ 9.5 million that would be due to Jeter, were he to return for his nineteenth season in 2014. Teammate, Mariano Rivera , has already stated that this would be his last year , although GM Brian Cashman and senior managing partner Hal Steinbrenner are said to be pressing baseball’s all-time saves’ leader to return for what would also be his nineteenth season in the Majors. Rivera is adamant, that this would be his last season, and that it is now, his wish to spend more time with his wife, Clara and their three children.

The New York Yankees of 2013 , might just be the last remnants that we see of this team, with an aging core of players all in their mid to late thirties . Injuries, off-field controversies , unproductive segments by several high-priced individuals have all added to the drama and ongoing saga of this famed ball-club . Need we also be reminded, that Alex Rodriguez remains a part of this ongoing circus, with the player of late contributing to his team’s drive for the postseason , while seeking to appeal his now two-hundred and fourteen game suspension. That appeal process will take place after the postseason, much to the chagrin of fans and a number analysts alike, who feel that the player has made a mockery of the process , while others believe that it has been Bud Selig who has dropped the ball, in not having sought an expedited , earlier hearing , once Rodriguez made it known , that he would appeal his suspension for contravening baseball’s steroid policy . My own belief on this issue , is that Rodriguez would have been willing to take a ban similar to that of Brewers’ slugger Ryan Braun, whose sixty-five game suspension was in fact negotiated by his agent , Nev Balelo . So for the unenlightened, who felt that this was Bud Selig showing his authority and bringing down the hammer on Ryan Braun, simply think again . The commissioner may create the impression, that he wields a great deal of power, but that power is in fact limited in its parameters , as it has been the MLBPA (Players’ Union) that more of than not, has the league hierarchy and team owners , weak at the knees and falling all over the place like drunken stooges .

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With the MLB postseason set to begin on October 1st , what if anything are you as a fan, most looking forward to seeing ? Which teams do you feel will prevail in the playoff races, as the regular season now winds down ? By all means , do leave a comment as you deem fit on this article and anything else you believe pertinent to the subject matter .

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Picture and slideshow details below .
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(1) Rays’ closer Fernando Rodney celebrates the last out after the Boston Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia pops out to end the ball game played between the two teams on Thursday night at Tropicana Field , in St Petersburg , Florida . Tampa would defeat the Red Sox 4-3 to stop their two-game skid . AP Photo /Chris O’Meara ….

(2) Red Sox catcher Mike Napoli , right , breaks his bat during the game , as he grounds out , while Rays’ catcher Jose Lobaton looks on . AP Photo / Chris O’Meara ……

(3) Red Sox DH , David Ortiz homers in the sixth-inning of the game played on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida . Although the Rays won the contest the series was in fact won by the visiting Boston Red Sox . AP Photo / Chris O’Meara ……

(4) Umpire Bill Miller (26) ejects Ron Gardenhire (35) of the Minnesota Twins as umpire Dale Scott (5) looks on during the fourth inning of the game against the Oakland Athletics on September 11, 2013 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The AL Central Twins have been abysmal this season and a non-factor in the divisional race , leading to the speculation that the manager may not be returning to the organization next season . Getty Images North America / Hannah Foslien …..

(5) Los Angeles Angels’ owner Arte Moreno , left , is seen here with the team’s general manager Jerry Dipoto at Anaheim Stadium , Anaheim , California . . With the team now likely to miss the postseason for the fourth consecutive season and a lackluster year in the AL West . There is the widespread belief that Moreno must come to a decision , does he retain his general , manager who over the last two seasons has committed to the organization to salary commitments in excess of $ 275 million or does he sever ties with one the league’s longest tenured managers in Mike Scioscia ? All signs point to the latter , with Scoscia likely to lose his managerial position with the Angels . Getty Images / Matthew England …

(6) Mike Scioscia (14) and Collin Cowgill (19) of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim show home plate umpire Laz Diaz (63) ,where they claim Cowgill was hit by a pitch during the sixth inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins on September 9, 2013 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Getty Images / Hannah Foslien ….

(7) Derek Jeter (2) ,right, of the New York Yankees celebrates their win against the Oakland Athletics with teammate Mariano Rivera (42) at Yankee Stadium April 21, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Nick Laham / Getty Images ……

(8) Yankees’ lead managing partner Hal Steinbrenner , left, is seen here talking with the team’s general manager Brian Cashman . At the start of the season the organization sought to lower the payroll to conservative figure of $185 million, but with multiple injuries to Mark Teixiera , Curtis Granderson , Derek Jeter , Alex Rodriguez , Michael Pineda and Andy Pettite. The decision was made to acquire a number of players to fill the positions made vacant ,with the minimum amount of promotion of players from within the team’s farm system . An aging roster beyond the possible long-term ramifications of Alex Rodriguez’s possible multi-game suspension could prove fateful for the franchise . This off-season the ball-club will be paying to the MLB hierarchy $29.1 million as a surcharge by way of the luxury tax scheme . The Yankees’ NL counterparts the Los Angeles Dodgers , whose payroll of $216.6 million , will be paying $9.1 million by way of the same tax burden . Clearly there is something awry, with how MLB seeks formulates its system with regard the tax scheme . In 2012 the New York Yankees , Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox were all subject to the luxury tax scheme , with the teams in question paying varying sums to the league hierarchy . The scheme is meant to benefit the small-market teams around the league in assisting with their salary commitments. Yet it is commonly believed that a number of ball-clubs systematically abuse the system , with a number of owners pocketing the funds in question . Miami Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria is a prime example of someone who abused that system , in the years prior to 2012, before that organization went on an outlandish spending spree , signing several high-priced free-agents , only for the team to then falter that season finishing with a sub .500 record within the NL East that year. AP Photo/ Peter Matthews ……

(9) MLB CFO Jonathan Mariner , the league’s executive in charge of their financial operations , who oversees much of the hierarchy’s finances and audit protocols . Unfortunately , for baseball under Mariner’s and Bud Selig’s tenure, the hierarchy has failed miserably in overseeing the financial morass that now encompasses the game. AFP / Keith Parsons …….
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tophatal …………..

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MLB news

MLB schedule 13th September 2013

MLB results 10th September through to the 12th September

MLB probable starting pitchers 13th September

MLB standings (divisional) and wildcard standings

MLB teams’ probability

MLB schedule (calendar)

2012 MLB postseason

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Los Angeles Angels news and the team’s active roster

New York Yankees news and the team’s active roster

Tampa Bay Rays’ news and team roster

Los Angels Angels’ remaining regular season schedule

New York Yankees’ remaining regular season schedule

Tampa Bay Rays’ schedule (remaining regular season games)

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This week in MLB history

This day in MLB history (13th September)

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Hot chic pic of the day , actress , Paula Patton .

Troubles ? Yes me too !

< Troubles ? Yes me too !

At diverging ends of the same kaleidoscope within the world of baseball we have two teams , both seeking to achieve the same goals his season . For the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays , this could prove to be a make or break season for both of these esteemed franchises . Both teams are barely playing .500 ball within the league standings with the Dodgers firmly rooted at the bottom of the NL West with a 17-22 record , forty games into the MLB season . For Joe Maddon and the Rays , this season has simply been one of sheer inconsistency , with the team now having lost their AL Cy Young Award winner from 2012 , David Price (1-4, 5.24 ERA ) for what appears to short but most definitely acute period , where he will be sorely missed from the team’s starting lineup, as he will be placed on the team’s DL . Not the sort of start that the fans had envisaged for the ball club coming into the season.

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At the same point last year things were somewhat different for both teams in terms of their standing at the time . Joe Maddon came into the season with what was adjudged to be the best pitching lineup in baseball , with a league leading 3.19 ERA in 2012 , yet this season things are not quite what they should be as it relates to the team’s pitching within the AL . With Price now on the fifteen-day DL , spearheading the lineup of the Rays’ starting pitching , will be Moore (7-0, 2.44) , whose surprising start to the season , has him amongst the top pitchers in the AL as well as within MLB , itself .

If this Tampa Bay Rays’ team is to have any chance of having a successful season , then for all sense and purpose the level of their play will have to be raised from beyond its current . Long considered to be the Rays’ best player and the presumptive leader in the clubhouse . I have always felt that Evan Longoria , undoubtedly a tremendous player , I believe him to be lacking in the skills needed to be viewed as a leader on this roster . A prodigious talent , the Rays drafted the third baseman as their first overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft . In the subsequent years Longoria has proven to be an invaluable asset to the Rays both on and off the field of play . He is now the highest paid player on the Rays’ roster and amongst the highest paid third baseman in the game. Albeit , that he will have a long way to go in order to match the reputed $29 million that the New York Yankees will have to pay the sidelined , and often controversial Alex Rodriguez , the game’s highest paid player on an annual basis . Clearly a case , where reputation rather than apparent talent is a constant reminder why the game of baseball remains devoid of financial expediency amongst the team owners and general managers .

Although the Rays are 6-4 in their last ten games , a two-game losing streak , is clearly representative of the ongoing problems facing Joe Maddon and his managerial staff , as they close out the first quarter of their arduous 162 game schedule . And the team’s most recent game was a narrow defeat suffered at the hands of their divisional rivals the Boston Red Sox , a team that seems to have rebounded under the presence their recently installed manager John Farrell . Joe Maddon will now take his to Camden Yards to face the Baltimore Orioles in a three game series , with the first of those games taking place on Friday , in what is sure to be a highly competitive match-up. Taking the mound will be Jeremy Hellickson (1-2, 5.25 ERA) of the Rays facing off against Jason Hammel (5-1, 4.93 ERA) .

Already 4 ½ games behind the division leading New York Yankees (25-16) within the AL East , the division is likely to become either a three of four-way dogfight , if the Orioles can play themselves into the mix to join the Red Sox , Yankees and Rays as part of this all-our guerrilla warfare that is likely to take place between this quartet of teams over the course of the season . I think that is pretty safe to say , that in spite of the off-season splash made by the Toronto Blue Jays in acquiring Jose Reyes and R A Dickey , that organization is simply bereft of intelligence , overall talent , but above all , managerial acumen !

How this season goes for the Los Angeles Dodgers and what they are able to achieve , could go a long way in determining whether or not Don Mattingly and his managerial staff are retained at the end of this year . With a splash being made after the franchise was acquired for an astonishing $2.15 billion , it has to stated that with an ownership group that includes Magic Johnson , Hollywood mogul Peter Guber , and billionaire venture capitalists , Todd S Boehly and Mark Walters , expectations are understandably high. . Anything short of the MLB postseason will be seen as a major disappointment for the organization but most notably the fans . For a team with one of the largest payrolls in baseball , success for the Dodgers will be measured by the number of World Series titles that this organization believe that they can amass . And for the Los Angeles Dodgers whose last postseason appearance came in 2009 , in the NLCS , which came with a lopsided 4-1 series’ loss to the Philadelphia Phillies .

Almost forty games into their schedule the Dodgers are a ghastly (17-22) , looking up at the San Diego Chargers (18-22) , Colorado Rockies (21-20) , Arizona Diamondbacks (23-18) and the division leading and defending NL West champions the San Francisco Giants (24-17) . With almost $90 million tied up in players on the team’s DL , it is easy to understand why the Dodgers had their woes this season , just prior to the return of Zack Greinke . A case could be made that the team’s failure are simply because of the unforeseen injuries to a number of mainline starters . Yet with a roster that is literally filled with All Stars at several positions , this should not be the excuses one would expect to hear anyone on the coaching staff , much less from a front office executive or the players themselves .

The Dodgers will be tested this weekend , when they begin a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves at Fulton County Stadium , in Atlanta , Georgia , over the next three days. On the mound in the first of the three scheduled games , will be Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers against Paul Maholm of the Braves . If there is another case to be made for Don Mattingly and the team’s woes , then it would have to be the anemic lack of run productivity from the team’s alleged potent offense . With a team ERA of .261 , the Dodgers at this point of the season have a lowly 127 runs batted in (RBI’s) , an NL low and ranking them next to last in the league , just above the woefully inept Miami Marlins . Hard to imagine that being adjoined to this team , given the makeup of the roster and the prodigious talent that makes up the offense . Matt Kemp looks a pale shadow of himself compared to last season , whereas, the always consistent Adrian Gonzalez is simply doing what he does best , and that is to hit and create runs . And this season from an offensive standpoint , Gonzalez has proven to be the Dodgers’ best player , by far .

If these are signs of desperate times, then I would have to say that in spite to a solid start to their season , the Texas Rangers remain under a great deal of pressure to succeed . In two of the last four seasons this organization has stepped unto the game’s grandest stage and simply come up short . In 2010 and 2011 , back to back seasons , the Rangers under manager Ron Washington played in the World Series , and the fact that on both occasions , the manager’s teams were simply no match for the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals . Both seasons with then team President , Nolan Ryan in charge , a team that w as built under Ryan’s expressed wishes , with the ambition to garner that elusive title . No expense was spared to lavish millions on players who were thought to be in their prime or on the cusp of meeting that goal. GM Jon Daniels , was merely the puppet , as the marionette Nolan Ryan pulled all of the strings needed .

From my own perspective, I believe that the Rangers will be hard pressed to replicate their divisional success of the past few seasons . Last year , for 157 days of the 182 days that the baseball season on view. It was simply a spectacle for those in attendance for many of the games , many of us were privileged to witness the team`s dominance of the AL West . Yet over the last ten days of their season imploded, as they succumbed to the Oakland A`s on the final day of the regular season, and in doing so , lost their divisional title . Last year , for 157 days of the 182 days that the baseball season was simply a spectacle for those in attendance of the games , many of us were privileged to witness the team`s dominance of the AL West . Yet over the last ten days of their season imploded, as they succumbed to the Oakland A`s on the final day of the regular season, and in doing so , lost their divisional title . That meltdown on the final day of the regular season led to the ramifications , as during the off-season, we saw the removal of Nolan Ryan from his position as team President , albeit that he still retains a minority stake in the franchise as an owner . Ryan relinquished his role in all day-to-day personnel decisions, which will now be left in the hands of Jon Daniels and team manager Ron Washington . The Hall of Fame pitcher , will now be with Rangers in merely an advisory and consultancy role , without any real authority whatsoever .

For the Rangers ,in spite of the doubters , because many believed that a number of their off-season moves including the trade of Josh Hamilton , might well have hindered the progress of the team. Instead , the performances of Yu Darvish , has the fans simply forgetting about the players who left during this past off-season . On Friday the Rangers will play host to the Detroit Tigers for a weekend three game set at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington , Texas . With each team, seeking supremacy within their division, this series should make for an interesting insight into the ambitions of both of these highly respected ball clubs.

It would be correct to suggest that last season Washington Nationals` GM Mike Rizzo , erred , when he made the decision to end the season of pitcher Stephen Strasburg far too early than was needed . With the player being placed on a pitch count, the decision was made that Strasburg would pitch no more than one hundred and eighty-five innings for the entire 2012 season . That decision in essence, cut what hopes and aspirations the team ad for the postseason and it simply sent the wrong message to Strasburg`s teammates and to the Nationals` fans . No amount of excuses from manager Davey Jonson or the downright asinine assertion , that the shutting down of the player was for his own well-being and good . Harper`s innings` count would end up at 159.1 innings for the year and the subsequent belief still remains that the loss of Strasburg for the postseason led to the Nationals` downfall.

For Stephen Strasburg and teammate Bryce Harper , as the two stalwarts of the current roster , as the duo along with Gio Gonzalez are seen as the long-term future and their of their championship aspirations. This season both of the aforementioned stars have suffered rather serious injuries during games. And remarkably, neither Davey Johnson or Mike Rizzo have sought to have either Harper or Strasburg removed from the games in question . Kind of idiotic , when you consider how much fuss was being made over Stephen Strasburg and his long-term health. So I guess with hindsight you can teach two old dogs a trick after-all ! And that is ow not to make a complete ass of yourself while trying to safeguard your image and baseball intellect . This season the Nationals have gotten off to something of an inauspicious start , yet they remain within striking distance of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East , as they seek to make a successful defense of their divisional title .

The NL East should prove to be an interesting duel between the Braves and Nationals in terms of their play and ultimately their regular season meetings in 2013 should prove to be pivotal , as both seek to earn a playoff berth this postseason .

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

One quarter of the way through the MLB season , what if anything has stood out most for you in terms of the play of the teams and what do you hope to see from the ball clubs in the lead-up to the MLB All Star Game in 2013 ? By all means, simply leave a comment as you see fit .

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Picture and slideshow details below .
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(1) Atlanta Braves left fielder Justin Upton (8) celebrates with teammates Jordan Schafer (17) and Andrelton Simmons (19) after hitting a grand slam in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, May 17, 2013 in Atlanta. Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis looks on at right. AP Photo/John Bazemore …

(2) Los Angeles Dodgers’ Nick Punto is forced out at second base by Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla (26) after a Matt Kemp ground ball in the first inning of a baseball game, Friday, May 17, 2013, in Atlanta. The Braves would defeat the Dodgers 8-5 . AP Photo/John Bazemore …

(3) Tampa Bay Rays’ Ben Zobrist , left,connects for a double against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of a baseball game , Friday, May 17, 2013, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton …..

(4) BALTIMORE, MD – MAY 17: Evan Longoria (3) of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with manager Joe Maddon (70) after scoring in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 17, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images …

(5) Bryce Harper is seen ere alongside Nationals` manager Davey Johnson and a team medical assistant , as he is escorted off the field having suffered a mild concussion . AP Photo /Matt Palmer ….

(6) Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo , left, talks with manager Davey Johnson during batting practice at Nationals Park, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, in Washington. The Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League baseball division series Wednesday. The best-of-five series is tied 1-1. < AP Photo/Alex Brandon ….

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tophatal …….. 05/17/2013

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MLB news and team by team news

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Hot chic pic of the day actress Sharon Leal .

Bye , the bye , news , views and all of the things you thought that mattered ….

Bye , the bye , news , views and all of the things you thought that mattered ….

Well, after an eventful weekend , during which I aided a friend by repairing his computer , as a reward he , along with his wife , my girlfriend and I , took in a movie . Given, the fact , that lately , in terms of my movie entertainment, the last film I took in at the theater, was Denzel Washington’s Oscar nominated role, in the movie, “Flight” . A great film, with a terrific ensemble cast, and fantastic on-screen performances by the main actors , in the various leading roles . Sunday afternoon, as a quartet, we took in the movie “42” , starring Chad Bozeman and legendary Hollywood screen actor , Harrison Ford . The movie itself , was biopic , which gave if anything a stylized Hollywood telling, on the life of Hall of Fame baseball player , Jackie Robinson , and the events leading up to the desegregation and integration of Robinson into the Major Leagues , and the repercussions from that life changing event .

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Robinson   is   seen  here     being    interviewed   by   noted    journalist    Jimmy  Piersall   .  @   copyrighted  material    LA     Times     all  rights reserved   ...
Robinson is seen here being interviewed by noted journalist Jimmy Piersall . @ copyrighted material LA Times all rights reserved …

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Leave it to the Los Angeles Dodgers , after their off-season , and their lavish off-season of continued spending , while the front office led by lead owners , Magic Johnson and Peter Guber , and one can simply understand the urgency being shown by Johnson and his business partners . Yes, well having spent just over $2 billion to buy one of baseball’s most renowned baseball teams . It is easy to understand why there would be such a belief that the Dodgers , in order for them to remain relevant within the game , it would mean winning , and not simply having a $200 million payroll , and with the managerial staff and GM Ned Colletti suggesting that “ money is of no object , by way of acquiring talent . Well, it has been a quarter of a century , since the Dodgers were part of baseball’s showcase event , the World Series . The year was 1988 and franchise’s greatest triumph in their recent history. That series , set about all the adulation and excitement , one would come to expect from a long-established and famed ball club , whose rise back to prominence had long been awaited . In the ensuing years since , that victory , for the Dodgers , it has been seasons of high and lows , but in recent years , the ball club became more widely known for the events taking place off the field , and with the gross negligence and financial mismanagement by former owner , Frank McCourt , and his having to place the ball club into bankruptcy protection and reorganization .

A patron recently suggested to me , that the team owners within baseball were actually businessmen. Well , if they are anything like Saul Katz , Fred Wilpon , David Glass , Bob Nutting , John Moores , Stuart Sternberg , Jeffrey Loria and McCourt , himself . Then clearly there is a reason why the game finds itself in such a financial rut and one of its own making . And for those who suggest that this all comes about because of a dire economy , then think again. Baseball’s financial morass , came by way of the league hierarchy , dumb ass front office executives/general managers , owners and the players themselves , thinking that they could simply make hay , while the sun shines without ever thinking about the game’s long-term future and its financial future .

Consider the fact, that one-quarter of the ball-clubs in baseball, struggles to eke out a profit without the aid from the MLB hierarchy and the game’s archaic tax sharing revenue scheme . And the purists out there, would have you believe that Bud Selig actually knows what the hell he is actually doing ? On a good day the MLB Commissioner could not tell you or explain to the most ardent of fans succinctly , why he failed so miserably in not equating the explosion of offensive prowess during the nineties , when there was clear evidence , that not everything within the game was above reproach . Meanwhile , anally retentive idiots suggested that the players’ malfeasance in terms of their cheating, taking illicit substances , was OK .

On the Opening Day of this MLB season , the Los Angeles Dodgers , did have the league’s biggest payroll , with salary commitments in excess of $213.5 million . That figure would be supplanted , when the New York Yankees acquired troubled out-fielder, Vernon Wells from the Los Angeles Angels . And while the player is off to a good start this season , with his new team , it must be said that Wells has remained something of a failure, having yet to live up to his exorbitant seven-year $126 million contract .

Yankees’ GM , Brian Cashman , must still possess a great deal of guile in convincing the Angels, and still have his opposite number , Jerry DiPoto , agree to such a deal where the Angels would still be committed to paying 65% of the remaining two years left on Wells’ ludicrous deal, with the New York Yankees paying for the remaining sum. Granted , the Yankees and Angels are two of baseball’s big market teams , with a great many resources at their disposal . And it has been those indices , that have aided the big market teams , while the minnows and lesser lights within the game , have been left to feed off the scraps left at the table .

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Slideshow .

One of the Dodgers’ many trades initiated over the last ten months , which saw the team’s payroll balloon from a mere $153 million to its present figure , which saw a 40 % increase from 2012 . Well, that came by way of the signing of pitcher Zack Greinke , the 2009 Cy Young Award winner , whose six-year $147 million contract , must now have everyone wondering , if the player , was actually worth it , given the most recent incident involving the pitcher . Greinke was involved in an altercation that led to a multi-player brawl , which first came about after the pitcher struck opposing batter , Carlos Quentin of the San Diego Padres . Quentin reacted angrily , charging the pitchers’ mound and coming to blows with the Dodgers’ ace , that would lead to his collar-bone being broken in the ensuing fracas and two team melee between the opposing . As to what this all says , as to the baser instincts of the players and the allegations that players in baseball , can actually brawl and fight , I leave it for you all to be the judge of that ! Suffice to say , Quentin will correctly sit out , his league mandated eight-game suspension . Zack Greinke for his troubles will now spend at a minimum, sixty days on the Dodgers’ DL , recuperating from his injuries . Can someone explain to me , what Greinke’s intent might have been when he sought to “beam” Quentin during the game ? And as one patron tried to suggest, it was simply manly testosterone rising . More like a bunch of frigging assholes with nothing better do with their time , who’ve now placed their respective teams at a disadvantage .

An idiot’s bitch move, and why the players in the game are so anally retentive !

That brawl , last Thursday at Petco Park in San Diego , California , did nothing , but raise the stakes in the anticipated returning meeting between the two teams and heated rivals within the NL West . That most certainly will be the case when the Dodgers play hosts to the San Diego Padres at Dodgers’ Ballpark , in Los Angeles California , for a three-game game home series , starting this Monday , 15th April , 2013 . That series could very well tell us a great deal about both teams , their intent the prospective directions that they may well be heading in. That series could very well tell us a great deal about both teams , their intent the prospective directions that they may well be heading in.

There comes a time where everyone and every man has to stand up and be counted . At this juncture , the excuses and stop and the truth has to be told as it relates to the Tampa Bay Rays. The fans may not like or actually want to hear it but at this juncture the Rays are amongst the worst performing teams in all of baseball . Slice it and dice it , but Joe Maddon and his staff simply know that this team is not meeting his expectations or those of their most earnest and diehard fans . The departure of James Shields and Wade Davis had nothing to do with gaining a competitive edge by promoting talented pitchers up from within the Rays’ farm system. Once again , it’s simply back to the penny-pinching ways of the early predisposition of Stuart Sternberg and his business partners , who as owners of the franchise , have just about everyone within the locale, drinking the Kool Aid , while they continue to bitch and whine about a new stadium within the city of St Petersburg, Florida .

I truly believe that the Rays’ front office erred greatly in allowing the departure of James Shields and to a lesser extent, Wade Davis ! Now , Andrew Friedman , is not necessarily banking upon the players , but more so the managerial ingenuity of Joe Maddon. Yet the manager for his part , forever the patriarch to team , simply refuses to acknowledge the fact this roster is simply not as good as last season’s group of players . The stats at present , bear this out , and with the Rays’ record of 4-8 , twelve games into the season and the projection for the team , based on present form , would be a win total approaching between 55 and sixty wins for the year . A far cry, from the ninety-win season of 2012 and a third place finish within the AL East , and narrowly missing out on a playoff berth for the playoffs . If the Rays and specifically , Evan Longoria , are to be relevant within the AL this season , then there has to be, more of a sense of urgency from the players , rather than the lackluster performances and the repeated excuses being put forth , by anyone within the organization seeking to make a public statement .

Next up for Maddon and this team , will be the final game of an away series against what appears to be a resurgent Boston Red Sox team, under new manager , John Farrell . And today, the Red Sox added to the Rays’ woes by inflicting the team with their third straight loss and their fifth loss in their last ten games , placing the Rays at the foot of the AL East . With that 4-8 mark , Joe Maddon and the Rays , have the sixth worst record in the Majors , with the bottom mark as of the 14th April , held by the lowly San Diego Padres (2-10) .

Now inasmuch , as I believe that the Rays can overcome their difficulties , a great deal of how the team deals with this adversity will be based on the leadership abilities shown by Evan Longoria and teammate , David Price , the AL Cy Young award winner of last season , and the franchise’s only winner of one baseball’s most illustrious individual awards . Price’s season in 2012 , was sound if not spectacular , without their being , a no hitter or perfect game to show in his stats, but what David Price was able to show , was his consistency , and his will to go that added extra mile on behalf of the team.

Call me naïve , but if the Miami Marlins (2-11) (@ 04/14/2013) do end up with the worst record in baseball this season , is there a chance that team owner , Jeffrey Loria will seek to blame the press and fans alike , for the team’s ongoing misfortunes after last season’s abysmal showing , ineptitude and gross misconduct of then manager , Ozzie Guillen ? This much I do know , Loria , along with Bud Selig over the past eighteen months have sold the residents of Miami , and in general the fans of baseball , a real can of goods, but more appropriately a bucket load of fecal matter . Yet , here we are , with baseball fantasy geeks seemingly looking for shreds of evidence that the Marlins do indeed have several good players on their roster . That would be like suggesting that pop singer, Britney Spears , has never lip synched while performing on stage . Thirty million CD’s later and her music still is vapid and her talent remains marginal at best . And in the case of the Miami Marlins , beyond Giancarlo Stanton , there is no real reason to watch the Marlins play.

At this juncture , pitiful might well be the only and best way to describe the underachieving Marlins this season . GM Michael Hill and the front office have pared down the team’s payroll to a miserly $40.5 million from last season’s audacious $118 million , as Ozzie Guillen and an overrated team sought to lay assault on the rest of the NL , as was their intent to make a serious challenge of winning the franchise’s third World Series title . In reality, the Marlins’ chances were doomed from the outset , as their season began and ended in a whimper .

The firing of Ozzie Guillen, acknowledged by many as a necessity has seen the ascent of former Marlins’ Mike Redmond as the besieged, Guillen’s successor . So far, the signs are not that encouraging for the rookie manager and his staff , as his team has begun floundering and capsizing like a listless vessel floating nowhere across the ocean. As poorly as the team has played , you simply get the feeling that this might not be the worst that the Miami Marlins has to offer their fans and the fans of baseball in general .

Fan base for the Marlins this season, appears to be bordering on being downright anemic in terms of attendance for the team’s home games, at their year-old $575 million Marlins’ Ballpark , built at taxpayers’ expense , “ without one red cent” coming from baseball’s hierarchy or the team’s ownership . Reminder to the Tampa Bay Rays’ fans and their incessant stupidity , that a venue ought to be built for a franchise whose ownership group seems to be unwilling to contributing towards the cost of a new venue , but yet , you continually hear senior team managing partner , Stuart Sternberg “ bitching and whining” , as to why the city , county and state municipalities will not come to his aid , with the building of a new venue to replace the archaic and now crumbling Tropicana Field , in St Petersburg, Florida . Stupid is as , stupid does ! Only in the state of Florida where, the fan-base of the only two professional franchises combined , would hardly make a dent in the average attendance for a New York Yankees , Boston Red Sox or Philadelphia Phillies’ home game . Florida , simply isn’t a state that can sustain two Major League Baseball franchises , let alone , one .

As if to give you an idea as to what this might entail , consider the following , the Boston Red Sox recently saw its’ consecutive games’ sellout streak in terms of home games’ attendance come to an end after 820 games , of which , twenty-six were playoff appearances , A feat that has not been accomplished by any other franchise in baseball and which came to a culmination , after a decade of economic success for the franchise , along with two World Series championships in 2004 and 2007 . Alas , the Marlins have never reached those heights of economic success , albeit , that they are one of the few franchises to have won two world titles over the last sixteen years . This year , I don’t believe that the Miami Marlins will be even in with a remote chance of making the playoff ! They are simply not good enough a team , to challenge anyone within their division , much less the rest MLB.

What are your expectations in the lead-up to the 2013 All Star Game , and which teams do you believe , are likely to be a success this season , in terms of their regular season play ? Chime in, on this, and anything else , you believe pertinent to the subject matter , at hand .

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Robinson is seen here being interviewed by noted journalist Jimmy Piersall . @ copyrighted material LA Times all rights reserved …

(1) Los Angeles Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez , left, gets back to second base just in time to be the throw to Arizona Diamondbacks’ Cliff Pennington during the seventh inning in a baseball game, on Sunday, April 14, 2013 in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks defeated the Dodgers 1-0 . AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin ….

(2) Los Angeles Dodgers’ Josh Beckett, right, meets with catcher A.J. Ellis during the seventh inning in a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks won 1-0 . AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin ..

(3) Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis , right, walks off the field as the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate a 1-0 win in a baseball game, Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Phoenix. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin ….

(4) San Diego Padres’ Carlos Quentin charges into Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke after being hit by a pitch in the sixth inning of baseball game in San Diego, Thursday, April 11, 2013. AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi …..

(5) Punching and getting your ticket ” punched ” . In this April 11, 2013, file photo, San Diego Padres’ Carlos Quentin charges into Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke after being hit by a pitch in the sixth inning of baseball game in San Diego. Quentin on Sunday, April 14, dropped his appeal and began serving an eight-game suspension for rushing the mound and inciting a brawl in which Greinke broke his left collarbone. AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi ….

(6) Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson delivers against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Monday, April 15, 2013. Against the backdrop of the events that took place at the ballpark , tragedy struck downtown Boston as the Boston Marathon took place , as two explosives devices were set off , killing three individuals and injuring one hundred and ninety-seven more , with many of those injured , being in serious or critical condition. AP Photo/Winslow Townson …

(7) Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings can’t come up with a triple by Boston Red Sox’s Jacoby Ellsbury during the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Monday, April 15, 2013. AP Photo/Winslow Townson ….

(8) Boston Red Sox’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia watches his solo home run with Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Lobaton during the fifth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Monday, April 15, 2013. The Red Sox would go on to defeat the Rays 3-2 and ” sweeping ” their divisional rivals in their home series . AP Photo/Winslow Townson …..

(9) Tampa Bay Rays’ ‘ David Price pitches in the first inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Saturday, April 13, 2013. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer ….

(10) Marlins’ executives , CEO, Larry Beinfest , left , is seen here with general manager , Michael Hill , who between them , have to deal with meddlesome team owner , Jeffrey Loria, and Loria’s stepson, David Sansome . The two lead front office executives in charge of the day-to-day personnel decision-making have been undermined by the team owner and his stepson at almost every turn . And with that has come the unenviable task of having deal with the firestorm and publication relations’ nightmare after Loria’s verbal attack and onslaught against the local and national media , as well as for their criticism of his decisions, after the team’s end of season “fire sale” . Loria claimed that after the team’s abysmal season in 2012 , it was unsustainable to have a $118 million payroll , with the franchise barely making any money . All this in light after he and the rest of the front office executives have colluded with Bud Selig into coercing the city of Miami commission to fast track the financing and vote for what has become a $575 million boondoggle in the implementation and building of the Miami Marlins’ Ballpark , completely financed by the city , which is still in the midst of its biggest financial crisis in over two decades . To exacerbate things even further the city commission now finds itself under investigation by the US Justice Department , as they seek to ascertain whether or not there was collusion and claims of certain commission members accepting monetary incentives from unknown sources in exchange for their votes . Current Mayor Tomas Regalado and his predecessor , Manny Diaz are one five central figures at the center of the investigation. It is not yet known if any executive from the Marlins’ front office or from the office of Commissioner Bud Selig , is the focus of the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation. However, under a subpoena , documents have been removed from the town hall as well as from the homes prominent city commissioners , as the legal arm of the federal government conducts their investigation. Getty Images / Rick Hill …..

(11) A legend in his own mind and now one of the most despised and disliked individuals in all of baseball , Miami Marlins’ team owner Jeffrey Loria , who in the past year, has ordered the paring down of the team’s payroll from $118 million to a now miserly $40.5 million , which he believes to be competitive enough to give the Marlins a chance of being a contender within the NL this season . Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post/ Osvaldo Ortega ….

(12) Miami Marlins’ manager Mike Redmond , who succeeds Ozzie Guillen . after the former manager’s unsuccessful and only season with the South Florida franchise , which was a disastrous and politically charged 12 months of sheer mediocrity from everyone within the organization . Miami Herald / Jean-Louis Baptiste …..

(13) Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins . The young outfielder is remains the centerpiece of a team , that this year simply hasn’t performed or met anyone’s expectations . The player himself , was said to be unhappy with the team’s fire sale , that saw the 2012 roster gutted to its very core , with many of the high-priced players simply jettisoned by the front office , at the behest of the Marlins’ unpopular team owner , Jeffrey Loria .

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Tophatal 04/15/2013

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Stability , spelled , S T A B I #### , Oh hell no !

Stability , spelled , S T A B I #### , Oh hell no !

By Tophatal ….

It’s really been interesting to see the fallout politically, in the aftermath of the Presidential and Congressional elections . With over $2.5 billion spent on television ads , to serve up the usual diatribe , not a goddamn thing changed in terms of the makeup of the Congressional chambers or within with the White House . Yet , we now have the two main political parties haranguing one another, for their lack of inaction , in getting about , and conducting the nation’s business within both chambers . I will look at this way , Rep. John Boehner , as House Leader and his Democratic counterpart in the Senate , Harry Reid , are two self-indulgent and conceited bastards ! . With their bumbling and fudging on so many issues , one has to question why the fuck they’re now acting so concerned over the “fiscal cliff malaise” . The Democrats and Republicans , collectively , have never shown the slightest concern over this issue , until the stakes were raised concerning the expiration of the Bush tax cuts “ . Now that was a man , who knew how to fuck things up , and not be prepared to take responsibility for his actions ! His successor, Barack Obama, having inherited a mess , well, his idea was to surround himself with a bunch of plutocrats and intellectuals whose idea of the real world , has been, to wet their finger , stick it up in the air and use it as a kind of weather vane to test the political climate . Why, they simply didn’t insert their fingers into each others’ ass as a true measure , might well have proven to be more productive for all of the use that it would’ve done . Smells like it shit , but it can’t be shit, because taste is so appealing to these congressmen and women . Guess what ? Shit to a congressman might just be the ” elixir of life “, and their reason to exist and live !

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Adding insult to injury , was a recent interview granted jointly, by Boehner and Reid , to Scott Pelley , the CBS news’ anchor and also one the co-hosts and presenters on the broadcast outlet’s popular prime-time news’ magazine program “60 Minutes” . The two congressional law-makers , suggested that there was a great deal of bilateral unity and that the US Congress has been productive . WTF ! Perhaps , I might have missed the day that they passed the bill , that allowed a statute ,an allotted $2 billion in pork barrel spending for projects such as the beautification of privately owned land in states such as Pennsylvania , Michigan , Wisconsin , California and Montana on a wide variety of unproductive and meaningless studies and alleged workforce related projects . Getting ten guys to dig an even bigger hole than the one they have already dug , only then to fill it in at a later date , is actually counter-productive , unless that hole will be used to dump human waste matter , Well , if that’s the case , then why not corral all 535 Congressional members and simply dump their ass in that hole along , with rest of the human waste ? .

Speaking of things that have not changed , how asinine is the situation now surrounding the New York Mets ? Having signed David Wright , their All Star , third baseman to an exorbitant and extravagant six-year $147 million deal , the cash-strapped financial organization , which last season lost in excess of $40 million , and who were pleading with wealthy New Yorker’s to do their civic and well-meaning duty by purchasing a stake in the cash-starved ball-club, as a way of providing it with some liquidity . This bright idea was initiated by none other than Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon , who along with his father , Fred Wilpon and the team’s senior managing partner, Saul Katz , have presided over this financial morass . Funny, the damn clueless Mets’ fan, overlook the ball-club’s financial woes , but would rather point to the fact that by retaining Wright , and signing him to such a contract , provides the organization with stability. Yes , this is the sort bold-faced idiocy, one should now expect from the fans of the New York Mets . Citi-Field is > now an elephant’s graveyard and will remain that way , as long as the Wilpon family and Saul Katz are allowed to preside and reign of that franchise . Anyone who believes to the contrary , clearly knows nothing , concerning the ongoing mess that has encompassed the ball-club. Ignorance is bliss, and amongst the Mets’ fans, it has also become a way of life ! LOL,LOL,LOL !!!

And while Wright now has that “guaranteed contract” to live up to , the Mets’ Cy Young Award winner , R A Dickey, is left to haggle with the organization over a contract extension . Stability , I ask once again ? Sandy Alderson , Paul Di Podesta and J P Ricciardi do not understand the meaning of the word “ stability”, and of they happened to trip over a sign mentioning that very same word . I would dare say, that their intent would be to ignore it ! All three were brought in to revamp the organization, with regard to its personnel, gauge their prospects and the organization’s farm system . Well, let’s just say eighteen months into their soiree , and the results have added insult to injury

. Uncompetitive , lackluster and genuinely devoid of leadership on and off the field of play , and it is understandable to see why this team has struggled in the way that it has during 2012 .

Next season may not bring much joy or success for the New York Mets , as they will undoubtedly seek room for improvement , as too will their divisional rivals , the Atlanta Braves , Miami Marlins , Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals . The chasm between the Mets , and the divisional winners , Davey Johnson’s Nationals , should prove to be enough an indicator , of how high a mountain , Terry Collins and his managerial staff will have to climb.

I’ll say this, for Magic Johnson and the syndicated partners who purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers for a staggering $2.156 billion , leaving no one in any doubt that the purchase price paid , was merely a sign of things to come . The changeover from the old brigade of Frank McCourt , and CFO Peter Wilhelm , was long overdue . But there have been some holdovers , with Tommy LaSorda and GM Ned Colletti remaining with the organization. LaSorda’s position , is a roving goodwill ambassador special consultant . In other words Tommy still gets to keep that corner office overlooking the parking lot , in order for him to take his mid-afternoon naps and stay the hell out-of-the-way of Don Mattingly and his managerial staff. Colletti, for his part, will have to show his acumen, as it relates to the personnel decisions that will have to be made. Stan Kasten , specifically brought in by Johnson and senior managing partner, Mark L Walters , will be directly over Ned Colletti , in the hierarchy structure of the newly revamped Dodgers organization. As to things begin to take shape , will be predicated upon the inevitable changes that will undoubtedly be ,made and the overall decision-making of the senior executives .

We were able to see for ourselves how gregarious Magic Johnson was said to be , when he initiated the initial overtures to the Boston Red Sox to acquire Nick Punto , Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez , while adding $176 million in future salary commitments for the team. In all four former Red Sox players were acquired in what was a ten-player two team trade . The addition of the aforementioned players was not enough to secure the Dodgers a playoff berth , as the franchise saw the San Francisco Giants not only take the NL West divisional crown , but also the NL pennant , and to top it all , the World Series, itself. The triumph of the San Francisco Giants
will have left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Dodgers’ fans
, as well as the organization as a whole .

The Dodgers have been quick to pull the trigger this off-season quickly releasing players that they felt were superfluous to their needs . Once a mainstay on the Dodgers’ roster , James Loney . recently found himself a new home , signing one year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. That addition will undoubtedly help the Rays and their lackluster offense . As to the Dodgers’ own needs , well it has been one of pitching , and that was plain for all to see by way of the team’s statistics . With that mind , Don Mattingly made an outlandish offer to the 2009 NL Cy Young winner Zach Greinke as the starting pitcher was given a six-year $147 million deal , making Greinke the highest paid pitcher on the team’s staff . With money now being of no option to the Dodgers , with the backing of venture capital firm Guggenheim Partners LLC , the primary owners of the baseball franchise through their sports’ holding unit Guggenheim Sports & Investments LLC . Guggenheim with assets of $180 billion , the company is headed by Mark L Walters and Todd S Boehly , with the venture capital firm having offices around the globe , most notably in some the major international financial capital markets . .

I’ve no doubt that the Los Angeles Dodgers will be competitive for the foreseeable future but the biggest obstacle to that will be the San Francisco Giants . Their meetings over the past five years have proven to be thrilling . It will be interesting to see how Greinke fits in with the existing rotation of the Dodgers, headed by Clayton Kershaw , Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang , Chad Billingsley, Ronnie Belisario and the relief pitching staff .

While the Los Angeles Dodgers look to “become “ the New York Yankees of the NL , the actual AL franchise is now troubled by injuries to key players and with an aging roster , questions are being asked , as to what players are being developed through their farm system , that might be ready for promotion up the ranks . Alex Rodriguez will be sidelined through to the month of June , as he undergoes hip surgery and the recuperation process. The loss of the third-baseman might not be as pressing as some might perceive, given the player’s lack of productivity during the regular and postseason for the team . The Yankees’ foray in the playoffs was short-lived , due to the lack of productivity by the players under Joe Girardi’s command. Curtis Granderson , Mark Teixeira , Nick Swisher , Brett Gardner and Rodriguez failed miserably as the team fell to the Detroit Tigers .

With Alex Rodriguez sidelined , the Yankees’ opened up their pocket-book and offered a one-year $12 million contract , to former Boston Red Sox , first baseman , Kevin Youkilis , acquiring the player as a free agent . Youkilis , if you remember , ran afoul of former Red Sox manager, Bobby Valentine , who engineered the player’s trade to the Chicago White Sox , during the season . If anything, that was a sign of things to come for franchise, as their season fell apart , with it, ultimately leading to Valentine’s dismissal , but not before , other major upheavals amongst the playing staff led to discord amongst the fans and the local media personalities , with their heated criticism of the then , beleaguered, Bobby Valentine, as well as the front office , with much of their heated venom directed at team President , Larry Lucchino and team owner, John Henry . With the firing of Bobby Valentine , GM Ben Cherington has hired , the candidate he originally sought for the managerial position , John Farrell . The newly installed manager , a former pitching coach with the ball-club , is certainly well-liked by a number of players on the roster , especially amongst the current pitching staff. Cherington, hopes that Farrell can engineer an immediate turnaround, that will see the team become a major challenger to the ever-present Yankees , Tampa Bay Rays , as well the reinvigorated Baltimore Orioles, and the middle of the road contender , the Toronto Blue Jays. Baseball’s need for the AL East to be competitive and exciting , year in , and year out , is paramount , if it is to attract the attention of the fans throughout the season.

I’m sorry, but being sent to “ baseball purgatory “ , is nothing to be proud of ! When the Tampa Bay Rays , made the announcement that they would be sending pitchers , Wade Davis and James Shields to the Kansas City Royals . Not only was I surprised , but I kept asking myself , did either of the two players do something to piss off management , much less the ownership group ? That might well be one explanation , but the fact that both now , Davis and Shields , are now said to be excited about playing for the Royals . Well, it leads me to believe , that they may well have been duped ! In return for the trade , Joe Maddon , gets budding prospect , Wil Myers and four other prospects from the Kansas City Royals. Long-term, this trade may well benefit the Rays , but with regard to the team’s needs and its immediacy , this was nothing more than a penny-pinching exercise by GM Andrew Friedman .

Joe Maddon and Friedman , will have a hard time trying to convince the most vocal of Rays’ supporters , of which they are not that many, that the loss of Shields in particular will not be felt . Beyond Shields and David Price , they were few pitchers in the Rays’ starting lineup , that could give the manager some “quality innings ” and starts during 2012 . And with the credible presence of Jeremy Hellickson , I firmly believe that the Rays will regress in terms of their overall pitching this upcoming season ! And predicated upon what we already know to be true, Friedman will not overpay for talent , because of the ball-club’s wish to be financially prudent .

Bearing in mind, that this month the Rays’ sought to make Evan Longoria the highest-paid player in the franchise’s history , by offering him a contract , worth $100 million over six years , effective, in 2016. Granted, Longoria is seen as the “ face of the franchise “, and perhaps , one the most popular players in Rays’ history.One man . on his own , cannot carry the load, that is being asked of Longoria by the organization, and it is incumbent upon Andrew Friedman to place the best roster around a player of Evan Longoria’s skill-set , in order for the Rays to succeed. As of now , I don’t believe the evidence is there to suggest the success sought will come about in a short matter of time. This ball-club has toiled for its success over the past fourteen seasons , but it has only been in the last six years , where the Rays’ peers and their fans have really stood , and taken note of the franchise’s success . True in part , one appearance in the World Series and a series’ defeat , has to be seen as minimal , but for the Rays’ fans who have had to endure those losing seasons , they would rather take that lone appearance , and the recent successes, over the years in the wilderness when this ball-club was being ridiculed every step of the way.

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Picture gallery

What opinions if any, do you have that might be on appearance deemed capricious spending by the teams as they sign contracted players to long-term deals or in the case of Zack Greinke , a rather ludicrous and exorbitant contract , that simply makes no sense, given his lack of tangible success since 2009 ? And do you believe that either the New York Mets or Tampa Bay Rays can be truly competitive this upcoming season ? Chime in with your thoughts and anything else you believe warrants interest as it relates to the subject matter .

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Picture and slideshow details .
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(1) President Barack Obama and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney shake hands in the Oval Office after their lunch Thursday at the White House. The two met in hope of forming a bilateral approach , in tackling many of the nation’s underlying issues . The former Massachusetts’ governor has promised to aid the President in any way that he can. AP Photo / Mark Hanson …

(2) U.S. President Barack Obama (2R) shakes hands with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as first lady Michelle Obama (L) and Ann Romney look on after the debate at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. The focus for the final presidential debate before Election Day on November 6 is foreign policy. Getty Images North America/ Joe Raedle …

(3) Speaker of the House , John Boehner , left , is seen here alongside President Barack Obama , center, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid . The three have routinely met in recent months , trying avert a “fiscal crisis ” , but in recent months in the lead-up to the automatic “kick in” of tax increases on January 1st , 2013, there have been more frequent meetings and telephone conversations tasking between the President and the Speaker, Boehner as they seek to avert this looming financial crisis . With Congress due to vacate Capitol Hill for their winter break by 20th December , there seems little doubt as to the urgency and delicateness of the matter , but because of the incessant bickering between the “two sides” no common ground has been found . AFP/REUTERS/ Anatoly Litvikov ….

(4) FILE – In this Sept. 27, 2012, file photo, New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey delivers against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning of a baseball game at Citi Field in New York. Dickey and Mets general manager Sandy Alderson can agree on one thing _ they would prefer to have closure before opening day. The Cy Young Award winner can become a free agent after the 2013 season and says he won’t negotiate once it starts, so the Mets probably have to sign him to an extension or trade him to get the best return. AP Photo/Kathy Willens ….

(5) New Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke adjusts his cap during a baseball news conference announcing his $147 million, six-year contract, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Dodgers also closed a deal when signing South Korean pitcher, Ryu Hun-Jin , to a six-year $36 million contract . AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes …

(6) Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti , left, and co-owner, Magic Johnson, right, present pitcher Ryu Hyun-Jin , center, of South Korea, during a baseball news conference announcing his $36 million, six-year contract, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, in Los Angeles. Ryu becomes the first player to go directly from the Korea Baseball Organization to the United States big leagues. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes …

(7)Kansas City Royals pitcher James Shields, center, held up his new jersey, flanked by Royals general manager Dayton Moore, left, and Royals head coach Ned Yost , during a press conference at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012. Shields and Wade Davis arrived in Kansas City to undergo physicals and check out the stadium from the home clubhouse for the first time. Shields and Davis became members of the Royals on Sunday in a blockbuster trade that sent top prospect Wil Myers and three other minor leaguers to Tampa Bay. AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, David Eulitt …

(8) Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria , smiles as he answers questions during a news conference after signing a six-year, $100 million, contract extension Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Longoria is signed with the Rays through the 2022 season. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara …..)

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US Jamaican native Vanessa Veasley .

It’s all a numbers’ game

It’s all a numbers’ game

By Tophatal

Well now that the US Presidential election is now over , the incumbent Barack Obama has won a second successive term in office, as President of the United States . Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney , the former governor of Massachusetts proved to a decisive loser , but if anything , also a brazen and immature petulant child . Romney , in directing his animus towards his own political party , the Republican Party . That anger and the mere fact that he the statements attributed to him , were that the hierarchy chose not to back him , as a mainstay candidate and true Conservative . Consider , the fact that, former White House Chief of Staff , Karl Rove , through his Super-Pac , American Crossroads , backed the GOP challenger , and numerous conservative Republican candidates to the tune of the $196 million in campaign ads . American Crossroads , is said to have raised in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars ($250,000,000) towards the ouster of Democrats at the state and federal level. But herein , lies the idiocy of Rove’s maneuvers , barely three percent of the candidates backed by his Super Pac were voted into office by the electorate at large . Indeed , such a high price to pay for such meager returns . If anything the donors in question , should now be confronting Rove , to ask for their monies , back. Yet there you have it , free speech , and all that it claims to be at work , and showing little in return for the Republicans at this juncture . The hierarchy of the Republican Party , should now be looking at themselves in the mirror, and asking ” how could we have fu#ked up this much , and still look such complete a#sholes in comparison to the Democrats “ ?

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The country yearned for change , but the status quo has remained the same, with the President being returned to office as well as several members of the House of Representatives and US Senate . The sad indictment of this election, and the asinine analysis by the pundits and electorate, is the damn fact that the vast majority of the electorate , just happens to be politically naïve and completely out of touch of reality , as to what the candidates actually stood for . Never mind the fact that the campaigns of both candidates were so light on specifics and as to the business acumen of Mitt Romney , if you buy into the fact that he’s a self-made millionaire because of his work with venture capital firm Bain & Co. LLC ,. Merely , look at the claims being made by Romney , as to his prowess an d the success as governor of Massachusetts . That state , in comparison to the state of California, which accounts for over 38% of the nation’s GDP of $13.6 trillion ($13,600,000,000,000) is like the wart on an elephant’s ass , in terms of Romney’s bold claims of handling an economy and being able to balance its budget . Many of the claims made , by former governor Romney , while valid, much of it, has to be taken with a pinch of salt , when one considers a great deal of creative accounting took place on the part of the Massachusetts’ administration under , the then governor. And we wonder why, Mitt Romney failed so miserably ? Here was a candidate , who simply could not identify with a clear policy goal , or simply explain himself with regard to the economy , foreign policy , much less , a slew of other social and political issues .

Consider the fact that over the course of this election cycle, in excess of $2.3 billion will have been spent on electoral ads, that simply portrayed falsehoods and misrepresentation of facts, that in the end served little purpose , other than to show how innately asinine the democratic process just happens to be here in the United States. Yet , this is the sort of democratic reform the people state that they want , when, in essence at the end of the day , nothing ever changes . And for those Tea Party advocates out there , how many of the candidates that you championed , found themselves elected into office , upon this asinine premise of continued lower taxes , and little else beyond that stance ? For the Democrats, don’t be fooled into thinking that because Barack Obama has been returned for a second term, things are likely to get any easier , because as the leader of the party , he has shown very little backbone if any, as a determined advocate , or as a disciplined leader. Platitudes, and being a great orator, can only get you so far , when you have little of substance going for you and your party . Especially when the likes of Senator Harry Reid (D Nv) , and House Minority Leader , Nancy Pelosi (D Ca) , remain as a yoke around the neck of the party , offering little of tangible substance , and with neither, seeking to be bipartisan , in order find a common ground, in how best to ail the country of its woes, foreign and domestic .

On patron of this site tried to suggest that Mitt Romney’s electoral platform , was clear , and succinct , on so many issues , but in no way was that clearly the case ! . Now, while not wanting to let Obama of the hook , on the same issue , this to my mind may well have been one the worst Presidential electoral campaigns , in recent history , given the credentials of both candidates ! In essence , the electorate , were the left with the choice , of choosing between “ the lesser of two evils” . As the saying goes, “ better the Devil you know , than the one you don’t “ .

Now let’s spend a little time delving into the world sports , and the world of baseball during this off-season , And lo, and behold, teams are on their various spending sprees. The Tampa Bay Rays have seen fit to resign Evan Longoria to a contract extension that will see the player earn $100 million over a six-year period , a deal set to commence in 2016. The Rays’ front office led by GM Andrew Friedman and senior managing partner, Stuart Sternberg , did not want to have to deal with a situation, wherein the Gold Glove winner and All Star would have to go through 2013 in the midst of negotiating a contract . This proposed deal , though yet to be ratified , may well lead to the departure of B J Upton , a player whose free agency status will certainly have risen , given his productivity for the Tampa Bay Rays in recent years . The fact that such a situation is likely to arise does leave the Rays’ middle order , in terms of its offense somewhat askew, when adjudged against their immediate counterparts within the AL East , as well as the rest of the AL , as a whole.

Joe Maddon and his coaching staff , have been extremely lucky in recent years to have attained the ongoing success , much of it attributed to the managerial acumen , of Maddon, himself . We can all attest to the fact that the Tampa Bay Rays have been one the small market teams that toils in the world of baseball , barely able to eke out a profit without the assist of the MLB hierarchy by way of the league’s tax sharing revenue scheme. And boy , what a scheme it has been , especially in the case a moribund franchise such as the Kansas City Royals , who with each season, the asinine claims are being made that the ball-club is on the move and about to be a credible contender within the AL and baseball as a whole . Clearly, the idiots, making those prognostications haven’t looked at the Royals’ recent record over the past decade plus , and the fact that the team hasn’t had a winning season in well over a decade . And this past season , the Royals in the AL Central , proved to be as competitive in their foray , as Romney’s Presidential quest.

What might all the more disturbing concerning the Royals’ laughable situation , is that David Glass , senior managing partner and owner , was once the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of Wal-Mart , the world’s largest retailer , employer of approximately 2.3 million employees in the US and globally. It should not be forgotten that the retailer also happens to be one of the most profitable concerns in the world . Now if Glass, with his alleged cannot turn around a moribund ball club such as the Kansas City Royals , and turn it into a profitable and competitive concern , then what does that indicate to you about the organization and its hierarchy ? Chime in with your thoughts .

And for those out there who believe that MLB has a handle and the rampant use of PED’s (performance enhancing drugs) and the continued idiotic claims by Bud Selig that baseball has the stiffest possible penalties in all professional sports . Well , that maybe true , but those penalties , simply have not been enough of a deterrent to stop players using illicit substances. Today, the Philadelphia Phillies’ catcher, Carlos Ruiz was suspended for the misuse of an illicit substance , which will see the player miss 25 games of the regular season . However , the catcher , will be allowed to participate during Spring Training . And this is the sort , of nonsense we ought to expect from the hierarchy of baseball , when it comes to coming down harshly on players for flouting the game’s rules ? And to think I was once told by a patron that baseball was simply doing that the best it could with regard to the actions of the players who transgress the one of the most sacred rules of the game . The rules now mandated in terms of the punishment meted out , simply do not go far enough , neither are they severe enough to be a deterrent . In the past eighteen months , at the MLB level as well at the minor league level , collectively over 187 players have been netted in baseball’s drug policy of prevention. Here’s simple evidence that the hierarchy under Commissioner Bud Selig , simply does not know what the fuck it is doing, and the claims attributed to the commissioner’s office with regard to the fact , that they have been able to clamp down , and stop the rampant use of banned substances is asinine and untruthful . Close to two hundred players have been ensnared , but it still hasn’t stop the use of PED’s within the game .

At the age of ninety-five , former MLBPA Executive Director , Marvin Miller , a former US government employee, as an economist , died . Mitchell , became the first ever leader of the players’ union , which was formed in 1954, but whose power and profile was not raised with any great significance , until 1966. It was at Miller’s insistence that collective bargaining and the free agency was brought into being , with players being afforded the right of refusal to negotiate their futures with regard to their long-term contracts and salaries that reflected their worth , or being able to decide a destination by way of a trade , and the premise under which they were compensated . Long thought of as a pariah by the owners, throughout much of the sixties and seventies Miller was happy with the fact that his members were no longer indentured slaves. The eighties and nineties, definitely raised the profile of the players’ union (MLBPA) and the gargantuan power at their disposal. So much so, that the league hierarchy would cease to be defiant and crumbled in the wake of any disruption caused . Bud Selig and his ascent to the position first as interim commissioner , merely ruled the league with utter disdain and incredulity while bringing about some necessary changes , while eschewing other issues that were already acute and of great concern to the new owners within the game and their front office executives. A s the escalation in revenues grew within the game , so too did the demands of the players by way of their salaries . And with that came the bloated spending by the teams and the incessant belief by the general managers , that no expense should be spared in gaining the best talent available . no matter what the cost .

The median salary in baseball has exploded to the extent where it is now $2.3 million , whereas in 1973 , the median salary within the game was approximately $36,500 . The highest paid player in the game today , is the New York Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez , as he has been now , for close to a decade . When it is all said and done . Rodriguez , in baseball salaried earnings alone , will have garnered in excess of $525 million , having signed two multi-million contracts , that each time exceeded $250 million . And with the New York Yankees , not without the financial resources to avail themselves of such means, with its cable broadcast outlet YES Network , as well as a massive sales and marketing department within the organization . It has to be said that there is very little that goes uncovered , while still remaining in the hands of the Steinbrenner family , as the control and ownership is dealt with by Hank and Hal Steinbrenner .

Speaking of the venerable New York Yankees , and their abysmal failure in 2012 . their playoffs hopes were dashed by the abysmal showing of the team’s offense and pitching in the postseason . And nowhere was this particularly more relevant than amongst the team’s starting pitching, with the exception of C C Sabathia. With the formal announcement being made , that Andy Pettite has been resigned , for a one-year $11 million inked deal , it simply lets you know that the Yankees will once again be reliant on an aging arm, and a player whose best years are now behind him , and most certainly not ahead of him. It is hard to conceive how the this revamped Yankees’ team can be deemed competitive enough , to deal with the likes of a resurgent Baltimore Orioles’ franchise , as well as the ever-present Tampa Bay Rays. It remains to be seen , whether or not the Boston Red Sox , under their new manager , John Farrell and a newly revamped coaching staff , will actually bring to the table , after the abysmal and abject failure of Bobby Valentine in 2012 .

As we know the Red Sox were able to rid themselves of $173 million in salary commitments, by sending Josh Beckett , Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers , an organization now seeking to become the New York Yankees of the Western seaboard , as well as the NL as a whole. With a new ownership group in place , headed by venture capitalist billionaires Mark Walter , Todd S Boehly, and former NBA great , Magic Johnson. It must be said that if the Dodgers are to be successful in 2013 , then a great deal of that success will come down to the acumen shown by GM Ned Colletti and team President & Head of Baseball Operations , Stan Kasten.

The Dodgers will certainly be looking to usurp the recent dominance of the San Francisco Giants and their recent successes in the postseason , as well as divisional champions within the NL West. And if recent history is anything to go by , when these two teams have met , then 2013 , could bring us a great deal of renewed interest in the rivalry , as well to the competitiveness of the division as a whole.

For Giants’ manager , Bruce Bochy , and the front office headed by GM Brian Sabean and team managing general partner & principal owner , Larry Baer , as they are target , the marked bulls-eye that everyone will be aiming for , as those teams seek to dethrone the reigning World Series champion. Bochy’s Los Angeles’ counterpart Don Mattingly , will most certainly be looking to show that his team are credible and legitimate contenders for the divisional crown as well as the NL pennant and the World Series title. I would dare say that the San Francisco Giants , are not likely to give up either one of those titles without a fight , with the Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as the Colorado Rockies , seeking to gate-crash the party of these two venerable and well-respected franchises.

In the immediate aftermath , of the wrath of the fans of the Miami Marlins’ fans, it should come as no surprise , that Bud Selig , being the venerable prick that he is , has seen fit to now question the actions of Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria , as he , and the front office continues with a “fire sale” , jettisoning many of the high-priced free agents that the organization brought in , prior to the start of the season. If Selig feels so interested in the actions of Loria and the staff, then why is it that when this very same exercise was undertaken in 2003 , when Loria having seen his franchise win the World Series that year , went about dismantling the roster , claiming that the franchise had lost millions of dollars , and that from a business standpoint , it was not economically viable to keep that team in place . Now unless , we are being misled by baseball’s hierarchy , a franchise that makes a deep postseason run during the baseball playoffs , can net several million dollars from such an endeavor , by way of sales , marketing and the ancillary rights’ fees that the teams obtain within their local market place , as well as the compendium of revenues derived from MLB’s other principal sources during such a run . The fact of the matter is , the team owners , and baseball’s hierarchy would rather keep their finances away from the prying eyes of the public , press and specifically the , municipal , state and federal governments alike. Is it any wonder there is such secrecy involved in many of the endeavors when a baseball team coerced and cajoles state , county and city municipalities into paying for in many cases cavernous venues that at times are rarely filled , with much of that money coming at the taxpayers’ expense. And yet we have these apathetic and moronic fans within the Tampa and Oakland markets yearning for their respective teams to have new facilities built for their use .

Consider the fact that, the financially cash-strapped New York Mets and their “ white elephant “ known as Citi-Field , built at the cost of $775 million , has yet have consecutive sellouts of regular season games over the past two years . Yet the city’s mayor , Michael Bloomberg , expresses his satisfaction that the edifice built , but having overran its original budget and construction time, was an effort well worth doing . Bloomberg, has now shone away from the fact, that the franchise remains a financial boondoggle as well as a flea-bitten piece of fecal matter in terms of the ball-club’s competitiveness since Citi Field was built. Only in New York , can a city with such ideas of grandeur , still try to come up smelling of roses, when it has been rolling around in shit !

The Miami Marlins on the other hand are unlikely to be severely punished by Selig’s office for their antics , simply because the commissioner hasn’t the stomach or the backbone to do so, considering his own involvement , having interjected himself in the negotiation of that franchise’s own ballpark , which has now embroiled the city of Miami in a federal investigation by the US Justice Department , as to the municipality’s actions , that led to its financing ($ 575 million) and specifically how they went about in approving the deal , which places the debt burden on the residents of Miami. The city’s mayor Tomas Regalado , has seen fit not to answer any questions publicly on the matter, referring all question to the city’s legal representative , while he , and the city’s commission , try to get a handle on their self-inflicted multi-million dollar deficit budget crisis. How fu#ked up is that situation , yet we have lame ass individuals bemoaning the fact that they’re being screwed over by the federal government when it comes to their taxes , but yet they are not in the slightest bit concerned when resources that is needed for their city’s infrastructure is being used to benefit billionaire and millionaire sports’ franchise owners . Apathy simply knows no boundaries when it comes to the sports’ fan in general . So make of it, what you will.

The dust has settled , the game’s individual awards have been bestowed upon the players, by whom the BBWAA felt were deserving in 2012. If there was a bone contention to be had, then it came voting for the AL MVP . The two leading candidates were, Mike Trout of the Los Angles Angels , and the Detroit Tigers’ hard-hitting first baseman , slugger Miguel Cabrera. Amongst the purists of the game, many favored Trout , as he was viewed as the better all-round player. Statistically, Cabrera , had the better season, and as the game’s first Triple Crown winner in just over a decade, many felt that the advantage laid with Miguel Cabrera .

Cabrera came away with the accolade and the Tigers’ second such win of the AL MVP , in the follow-up to Justin Verlander , in 2011 who won both the Cy Young as well as the game’s biggest individual honor.

While the New York Yankees , seeks to pare down salary by 2014 , it should be noted beyond resigning Pettite , GM Brian Cashman has sought to resign the game’s all-time saves’ leader Mariano Rivera. It would appear that the Yankees’ hierarchy seeks to be financially prudent , while many of their most heralded rivals are seeking to make deep inroads in terms of boosting payroll, specifically , the Los Angeles Dodgers , who at the end of 2012, have added in excess of $275 million in payroll . It remains to be seen whether or not the Yankees can remain competitive , and dominant within the AL East.

As I alluded to earlier , the Los Angeles Angels were a considerable disappointment over the course of 2012 , with team owner, Arte Moreno , and GM Jerry Dipoto having committed over $300 million in acquiring amongst others Albert Pujols and C J Wilson , to name but a few players added to the roster. The failure of the Angels during the season rested primarily with the lack of pitching from their frontline starters when needed . It would appear that widespread changes are about to be made concerning the current pitching roster , most notably with former Cy Young winner , Zack Greinke , being released by the team. The player was not able to show the form that won him the award , a couple of years ago, and it has been amazing to see his fall from grace in such a short period of time.

A “major player” in the Greinke sweepstakes, once again , would appear to be the “high spending” Dodgers , who will do whatever it takes , even if it means “breaking the bank” . I would like to think that the MLB hierarchy is closely watching the moves of these teams , as no expense is being spared to acquire players , while the small market ball-clubs struggle to survive and barely eke out a profit , without an assist , by way of baseball’s tax sharing revenue scheme . Financial expediency still has not caught on in baseball , in spite of the asinine claims of a number of individuals , who simply do not know what the hell they are talking about . When have you have ever heard the likes of well-respected baseball journalists , Buster Olney or Tim Kurkjian , much less MLB’s own CFO Jonathan Mariner , ever speak candidly about the financial situation of the game ? Leaving it to an asshole such as Bud Selig , in many respects, is akin to asking Sarah Palin to enlighten us with her views on world peace for that matter the vagaries of the US economy. In reality would you be prepared to listen , given the actual evidence right in front of your very own eyes ? I guess not ! We have already seen the commissioner’s haphazard handling of the Dodgers’ financial situation , and also that of the Cubs’ and Texas Rangers , and while his complete lack of oversight concerning the ongoing financial mess of the New York Mets , leaves a great deal to be desired . Should we really, in actuality , expect anything more , or any the-less from an ignorant oaf, such as Bud Selig? Need I remind you , of his own dubious rise to his current position, having been the former senior managing managing partner in the ownership group of the Milwaukee Brewers ? At a time when the commissioner has been calling for financial restraint from the MLBPA , Bud Selig , has been earning in excess of $20 million annually over the past five years ? How the fuck no one actually questions this , while apathetic fans call for stadiums to be built at the taxpayers’ expense should clearly indicate to us all how fucking stupid the vast majority of fans just happen to be ,

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Talking points , what if anything do you feel is likely to happen in terms of the major moves during this off-season . And what you feel can best done in order to rectify the clear financial imbalances that there are within the game of baseball ? Simply chime in with your comments and thoughts , on this and anything else pertinent on this subject matter .

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(1) Moderator Candy Crowley of CNN tries to bring Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama back on topic during a town hall-style debate at Hofstra University October 16, 2012 in Hempstead, New York. During the second of three presidential debates, the candidates fielded questions from audience members on a wide variety of issues. Getty Images North America / Spencer Platt ….

(2) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) and moderator Candy Crowley (C) listen during a town hall-style debate at Hofstra University October 16, 2012 in Hempstead, New York. During the second of three presidential debates, the candidates fielded questions from audience members on a wide variety of issues. Getty Images North America / Spencer Platt ….

(3) FILE – In this July 6, 2012, file photo, Tampa Bay Rays’ B.J. Upton hits an RBI-single off Cleveland Indians’ Nick Hagadone in the fifth inning of a baseball game in Cleveland. A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press Wednesday, Nov. 28, the Atlanta Braves have reached an agreement on a five-year deal $75.2 million deal with Upton. AP Photo/Tony Dejak ….

(4) Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria , right, smiles as he answers questions with Rays’ principal owner Stuart Sternberg during a news conference after Longoria signed a six-year , $100 million, contract extension Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Longoria is signed with the Rays through the 2022 season. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara ……

(5) File-This is a 2008 file photo of Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team. Ruiz has been suspended for the first 25 games of next season following a positive test for an amphetamine in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Ruiz’s suspension was announced Tuesday Nov. 27, 2012 by Major League Baseball. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic …. (6) MLBPA Executive Director Marvin Miller , is seen granting an interview with the convened press . Miller , the first director of the Players’ Union died at the age of ninety-five , due to ill-health and old age . Many of his contemporaries and team owners have offered their condolences , upon hearing the executive’s passing . Courtesy of CBS news @ copyrighted material all rights reserved

(7) Miguel Cabrera , right, of the Detroit Tigers , and his contemporary Mike Trout of the Anaheim /Los Angeles Angels . Both players were the leading vote-getters for the 2012 AL MVP , which was eventually won by the Triple Crown winner , Cabrera . A crowning achievement for the player after an exceptional 2012 season . AP Photo / Ryan Hall …

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A tale of one city but two teams that now seem to be at a loss.

A tale of one city but two teams that now seem to be at a loss.

By Tophatal

It is the same mentality, and not much has changed and there the idiocy goes on. The Tampa Bay Rays are simply now playing and fighting for pride .Unfortunately, theirs is a task that is really in the hands of others as it is in much with themselves , and the way , they will now meet the obstacles placed in front of them . Joe Maddon and his staff have simply placed far too much faith in genteel talks , rather than holding his players accountable for many of their own self-inflicted wounds . Ill-timed series’ losses , lack of timely hitting and the pitching that at times has been woefully inconsistent.

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At 83-70 and nine games remaining on the Rays’ regular season schedule , it has to be said that the team’s plight now remains remotely inaccessible , by way of the AL East as well as a possible wildcard berth within the AL and that of being part of this postseason schedule . The divisional rounds of this postseason begins on the 3rd October , and with their being a great deal at stake , it will be interesting to see how the teams fare during the divisional series as they get under way. The Rays came away today with a heartwarming 3-0 victory over their divisional rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays.Next up for the Rays will be a two game series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, commencing 25th September , before heading to Chicago to take on Robin Ventura’s —– Chicago White Sox , in a highly anticipated four-game series starting on the 27th of this month . The White Sox, are in the midst of their own heated divisional race , as the AL Central heats up , as the team holds a one game lead over the Detroit Tigers . There still remains a number of plot-lines that are yet to be fulfilled , with so many teams vying for the few berths and divisional races remaining that are not a forgone conclusion.

The Rays’ own worries beyond this season should they fail to make the postseason will be one of revamping the roster and , paring down payroll and dare one say ? The same old routine ,of the same old excuses, concerning why this organization is once again at a crossroads and is unable to challenge the “major” teams within the game of baseball. As I have said repeatedly, I believe that it is now time for team owner Stuart Sternberg to either seek an outside investor with deep pockets to assist in going after the major free agents on the market , rather than this continued asinine stupidity, that this ball-club is heading in the right direction. If this means the team once again disappointing their small core of fans , then clearly Sternberg and his partners are beginning to misjudge the faith of the fans who still support the team. Being among the franchises with a fan-base that realistically from an economic standpoint , barely survives but for the grace of the league hierarchy and their archaic tax revenue sharing scheme . Bud Selig’s attempt to create this premise that parity is alive and well within the game of baseball , is now falling flat . The Tampa Bay Rays at the culmination of the regular season will certainly have some decisions to make as well as a great deal of reflection as to why their season fell so flat .

For all of the false bravado that has been forthcoming Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach Greg Schiano , and there is little to suggest that this team is capable of making an assertive challenge within the NFC South much less the conference or NFL as a whole. For the second week running the team has come up short and once again the offense has proven to be woefully inept in all facets of the game. And it is now becoming abundantly clear that quarterback Josh Freeman’s game decisions are more of a liability than they are an asset. Anyone who believes to the contrary needs only to look at Freeman’s play over the short span of 2012 , to see that the shortcomings witnessed in 2011 , have not disappeared from his game.

The Dallas Cowboys played hosts to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cowboys Stadium, in Arlington , Texas. Both teams came into this matchup with similar records of 1-1 , with both looking to gain some traction within their respective NFC divisions. Opposing quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Tony Romo , have had moderately successful seasons coming into this game but in no were their displays indicative of what the fans should expect of the two players in question. Neither in this were particularly pretty , albeit that there were some pretty big plays from the Buccaneers in the opening moments of the game. However, from thereon in , as the match-up unfolded , it became pretty clear the direction , in which this event was heading. Tampa’s much vaunted defense , which to my mind remains a work in progress, simply didn’t live up to the task at hand ! Freeman’s efforts, in leading the offense were nondescript and lacked real aggression on his part . The resulting 16-10 loss by the Buccaneers was not one of the team’s better games of 2012, leading me to believe that Greg Schiano and his staff ,will be going back to the drawing board to work out the kinks in the team’s defense as well as offense.

Freeman’s post-game interview would suggest that the Buccaneers , win and lose as a team but there was nothing there to indicate that he bore a great deal of responsibility for a poorly executed game , followed by a woefully inept offense, that offered very few highlights or positives for the Buccaneers’ fans. For the locale on air personalities giving their diagnosis of this game, I have to sometimes wonder what they saw from the event that gives them any remote indication that this is a very good Buccaneers’ team to begin with ! They were poorly coached , Greg Schiano and his coaching staff , made few, if any adjustments, to try and negate the Cowboys’ offense throughout this game. Not that the events, as they unfolded , would have provided anyone with a great deal of excitement sought, as these pair of teams were offensively challenged from the outset . DeMarco Murray, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant offered the Cowboys’ fans a glimmer of hope as to what they can expect over the remainder of their season , should the team’s offense become a great deal more consistent. From my own perspective the Cowboys will be in for a hard time challenging the might of the New York Giants (2-1) within the NFC East, as they still remain “ the class” of the division ! Whatever the remainder of the season holds in store for the Cowboys will be in part be based upon their play , rather than the team leaving their fate in the hands of others .

The Buccaneers in week four will host the Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium in a conference match-up between two teams fighting for early season survival not just within their respective divisions but also within the NFC . Whether or not Schiano and his coaching staff will have answer for Robert Griffin III , the Redskins’ offense and of the play-calling of Mike Shanahan, remains to be seen.

As a diehard New England Patriots’ fan , I will support this team through hell or high water ! That being said, there comes a time where I feel it not only right to be critical of head coach, Bill Belichick, and a number of decisions that he tends to make but also with his continued tinkering with the defense . And yes , I am well aware that last season , the team’s defense was amongst the worst in the NFL over the course of the year. In 2012, things do not seem to be all that different even in light of glimmering signs of improvement and the mere fact that the front office’s preponderance of going with a number of defensive players by way of the 2012 NFL Draft , seems to have not achieved much way of an overall improvement in the secondary’s play .

Sunday night , in NBC’s highly anticipated broadcast showdown , the network served up for the viewing public’s pleasure , the game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium , in Baltimore , Maryland . And of the games in week three , this might well have been most thrilling , if not necessarily the best adjudicated of the regular season games that the fans have been witnessed to , in 2012.Once again, the replacement officials played their part in denying the fans what should have been a far more exciting game by their somewhat haphazard interpretation of the rules , in rendering some curious decisions throughout this match-up. Anyone who simply believes that the NFL is not suffering through a rash of idiotic refereeing decisions that have been made during this season , well those individuals are not of sound mind or competence . From an image standpoint, the NFL while it remains immensely popular with its legions of fans, the temerity of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to suggest that these replacement officials are doing a favorable job , in lieu the league’s certified referees not being available to the NFL because of the league enforced lockout , is akin to suggesting that Rosie O’Donnell would prove to be an adequate substitute for Heidi Klum , to parade around in sexy lingerie, as part of a Victoria’s Secret Model Lingerie show and extravaganza . Roger Goodell, is an ass and will remain an ass for the foreseeable future! I don’t believe that I could put it anymore succinctly than that !

The game itself, between the Patriots and Ravens beyond the incompetence shown by the officials , became all about the efficiency shown by the opposing quarterbacks , Tom Brady and Joe Flacco . The Ravens’ quarterback with his full complement of offensive weaponry , was ably served by his receiving corps, led by Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, Ray Rice , and Anquan Boldin . The Ravens came away with a hard-fought 31-30 victory that dropped the Patriots to 1-2 , within the AFC East , placing them behind the New York Jets (2-1) and the Buffalo Bills (2-1). And while the Ravens walk away victorious, with another stellar display coming from Joe Flacco , the Patriots will be left to wonder what might have been , in having this game snatched away from them , when it was all within their grasp. Next up, for Bill Belichick’s team will be a divisional game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium , in Buffalo , New York.

Revenge is a dish best served cold and most definitely what has befallen the New Orleans Saints (0-3) this season can be seen as justification for the franchise’s failure to truly acknowledge their misdeeds . Now while their anal retentive fans try to suggest that their being persecuted for the errors in judgment by the coaching staff current and former, for the events of the past four years. There can be no denying, that the players involved in this farce remain in complete denial. Perhaps, none more so than the team’s celebrated quarterback Drew Brees and his continued stance that teammate, Jonathan Vilma is innocent of all the charges currently being leveled against him, in the Saints’ bounty scandal. If it were not so asinine as to the claims being made by Vilma, that while the NFL has only one signed affidavit concerning his actions in this episode , he will be able to have nine in opposition to those statements .I’m wondering whether or not the player will be able to conjure those up , by pulling them out of his own asshole ! Jonathan Vilma , was and still remains reluctant to give any form of a statement concerning his reported actions in this whole debacle. He categorically denies any wrongdoing on his part , albeit that the statements made the team’s former defensive coordinator < Gregg Smith , would suggest otherwise . However, with the NFL hierarchy’s total mishandling of this case and the very way that Roger Goodell has rendered his ruling on this issue. It now leads me to believe that no matter what action is now taken by the NFL , the stench of this whole spectacle will still remain within the public’s view and senses .

To my mind , the way that the Saints have started their season , with three successive losses to open their season , in many ways makes up for the smugness shown by Brees , Vilma , Will Smith and this entire Saints’ organization from their front office on down to the player personnel and coaching staff . Seeing , Drew Brees , having to explain why the team’s offense lacks direction as well their usual customary explosiveness and the lack of defense from this unit , is akin to watching a child having to explain why it is their lying , having been caught with their hands in the cookie jar ! Brees may well believe that they can turn things around , and that “ the us against the world mentality will be enough to guide them through. In reality however, the quarterback is simply blowing smoke up everyone’s ass , as he and his teammates now look for a way to scurry on out of the limelight . How else can you explain the Saints’ 27-24 loss in a game played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans , Louisiana, where they were completely outplayed by their opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs , from start to finish? Get the feeling that the Saints’ fans are in a for a long an arduous season ? Chime in with your thoughts and observations on the matter.

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(1) Tampa Bay Rays pitcher J.P. Howell throws out Toronto Blue Jays’ Colby Rasmus at first base after fielding his ground ball during the seventh inning of a baseball game in St. Petersburg, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack ….

(2) Tampa Bay Rays’ B.J. Upton , left, is congratulated by Ben Zobrist after hitting a solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in St. Petersburg, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. The Rays would defeat the Blue Jays 3-0 . AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack ……

(3) Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria , left, signals to the dugout from second base after hitting a two-RBI double as Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar watches during the eighth inning of a baseball game in St. Petersburg, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. The Rays won 3-0 . AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack ……

(4) Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray dives for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys would defeat their conference rivals the Buccaneers 16-10 . AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez ……

(5) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) hands the ball to running back DeMarco Murray (29) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez …..

(6) Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) strips the ball from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. AP Photo/LM Otero ….

(7) Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, left, talks with line judge Esteban Garza during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Baltimore, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. AP Photo/Nick Wass ….

(8) Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith walks off the field after an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Baltimore, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. Baltimore won 31-30 . Smith, who was playing less than 24 hours after the death of his 19-year-old brother, had six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens. AP Photo/Nick Wass ….

(9) New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, center, looks for a receiver as he is pressured by Baltimore Ravens defensive end Pernell McPhee during the first half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. AP Photo/Gail Burton …

(10) New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) challenges the official after wide receiver Lance Moore (16) hit the pylon in the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. After review the pass was ruled incomplete. AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman …..

(11) New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is sacked for a safety in the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

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Desperate measures call for desperate remedies , in desperate times

Desperate measures call for desperate remedies , in desperate times

By Tophatal

In what, once looked like a an all-out single-handed race with a hare taking the lead in the race for one of the two AL wildcard berths for the postseason . It now looks as if the Tampa Bay Rays are looking to play themselves out of contention in the aforementioned two-horse race. For Joe Maddon and coaching staff , this now comes about getting this team to recommit themselves to the task at hand. .

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Granted, the Rays were not major players in the trade deadline in making any major deals as they stood pat at the insistence of GM Andrew Friedman . With limited financial resources , there is no denying that Friedman has been able to work miracles over the past few years . So much so , that he has to be considered one of the better young front office executives in all of baseball. One of the really telling issues for the Tampa Bay Rays for this season has been the very fact that the pitchers are getting very little run support from the offense . And if that cannot be dealt with in a timely fashion , with a little more than thirty games left on the MLB schedule . It has to be said that desperation will set in not only amongst the Rays but also with a number of teams on the cusp of garnering a playoff berth and with those other franchises in locked into a tight divisional race .

The return of Evan Longoria from the DL , was seen as an added bonus for a team that was said to be desperate for run production. So erratic have been the Rays’ performances as they sought to narrow the gap between themselves and the New York Yankees (75-55) within the AL East. Now the Rays find themselves four games out of first place within the division and 1 ½ games out of the wildcard race . Coming off a heartbreaking 2-0 loss at the Rogers Center in Toronto , to the Toronto Blue Jays . The Rays will face the Blue Jays once again on Friday , with Jeremy Hellickson (8-9,3.42 ERA) on the mound facing his Jays’ counterpart Brandon Morrow ( 7-5, 3.06 ERA ) . A win , is a must for the Tampa Bay Rays , they embark on the final month of their schedule . Sunday , pits the Rays in the final game of their three game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. However, it will the highly anticipated upcoming home series against their divisional rivals the New York Yankees that may well determine how resolute the Rays are , as they seek to keep themselves apace of the other wildcard berth contenders , as well as within striking distance of the Yankees within the division. That series begins on the 3rd September ,with the first of three games of what should turn out to be a highly competitive series , which the Rays currently lead 7-5, in what is a year-long schedule of eighteen games that are normally played between the two teams.

On the mound for the Rays in the three set series against the New York Yankees will be James Shields (12-8,3.91 ERA) on 3rd September , Alex Cobb (8-8,4.39ERA) on the 4th September and in the final game of the series will be Matt Moore (10-8, 3.58 ERA) . Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has yet to affix his starting lineup of pitchers for the series . The New York Yankees’ pitching lineup has seen a number of injuries sideline several of their starting pitchers , and it has left to Girardi and coaching staff to designate a starter for several of the team’s games according to readiness and availability at the time. Throughout much of the season , it has been the Yankees’ pitching that is and will remain their Achilles’ Heel . It is something that has not been lost on the Yankees’ opponents over the course of this season . However, with Girardi’s over-reliance on the team’s offense and the mere fact that their propensity for the “ long-ball “ (home runs) seems to be one of the team’s most effective weapons in their arsenal , and it has made it far easier for the New York Yankees to eke out their wins over the course of their 2012 schedule . Now whether or not this team can maintain its lead over the rest of their divisional rivals over the remainder of the season remains to be seen.

If there is one AL team that I would certainly like to see appear in this postseason , then it would definitely have to be the Oakland A’s ! This long-suffering franchise , often the butt of so many jokes , finally seems to living up to the potential that their fans believed that they had within them. What was once considered a two-horse race within the AL West between the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers for the divisional supremacy , has now been gate crashed by the upstart A’s . So much so , that should there be the slightest complacency amongst the Rangers, then quite possibly the A’s could walk away with their first divisional title since 2006 and first playoff appearance since that year , when they made the ALCS , only to be swept by the Detroit Tigers (4-0) in four games .

This season through sheer hard work, grit and determination the Oakland A’s are proving that this young team , that they have what it takes to challenge the might of the , Angels , Yankees , Tigers , White Sox and the Orioles . Bob Melvin and his coaching staff are proving that nurturing of the young talent and getting these players to apply themselves to the task at hand , is far more beneficial than spending countless millions on over-priced talent . At 72-57 , good enough for second place within the AL West, it has to be noted that the A’s would not have found themselves in such a position , were it not for the contributions of Brandon Inge , Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick , Jonny Gomes , Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss . From a pitching standpoint , it has been left to the likes of Tommy Milone , Jarrod Parker , Ryan Cook and Brandon McCarthy to lead the way. Granted , with the 50 game mandatory suspension of Bartolo Colon for violating baseball’s drug policy , it does leave the A’s in something of a bind. However, with what appears to be the growing confidence of the team and the ingenuity being shown by Bob Melvin , there is no reason to believe why the Oakland A’s cannot overcome such a major adversity. Even without Colon , the team is proving that they are resilient enough to plow on through without their most experienced pitcher .

With a mere thirty-three games left in their schedule, and coming off a victorious 12-7 defeat of the beleaguered Cleveland Indians . Next up for the A’s , is a three game series at the O Coliseum , in Oakland , California, against the Boston Red Sox . If Bob Melvin’s players can at least come away with either a series’ sweep or a 2-1 series’ win . then it would bode well for the team , when they are due to meet the Los Angles Angels in what might is sure to be a highly anticipated and competitive series . To date the A’s are 7-5 in their head to head meetings with Mike Scocsia’s —– Angels this season . With their resiliency , this series with the Angels , which begins on Monday 3rd September with game one of the three-game match-up should prove to be eventful . And whoever, holds sway at the culmination of this three-game set could as such be viewed as one of the team’s said to be “in the driver’s seat” with regard to assuring their own fate. So tight is the bottle-neck atop of the AL wildcard standings , that one of the teams in question can now afford to have any major slip-ups between now and the end of the season , which culminates on the 3rd October , 2012. The A’s fate, now lies in their own hands , and it will be interesting to see how this ball-club deals with the obstacles placed in their way .

The Detroit Tigers’ owner Michael Ilitch is not an individual who is averse to spending money and in conjunction with team GM Dave Dombrowski , and in recent years the ball-club have spent a great deal of the owner’s money in assembling a competitive team . The biggest splash made in the off-season , came by way of the Tigers acquiring Prince Fielder as a free agent and then signing the first baseman to a lucrative nine-year $214 million contract that makes the first baseman one of the highest paid players in the game . That asides, the Tigers have simply struggled to be in recent years to make themselves part of baseball’s postseason fare. In 2011 , the team was brushed aside by the Texas Rangers in the ALCS 4-2 , and it left something of an embarrassing and unsavory taste in the mouths of the Tigers’ players.

Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland , the venerable sage of the game , along with his assistants have assembled a roster in 2012 , through free agency via their farm system . The challenge however , for 2012 , has been to main a consistency to their season , while challenging for divisional supremacy within the AL Central . That task is being made extremely difficult with the very fact that the Chicago White Sox (72-58) have been playing at a high-caliber , while not seeking to let the Tigers try to eradicate their three-game lead within the division . In their most recent game against the Kansas City Royals , Detroit did themselves no favors by simply letting that game slip from within their grasp on their way to a self-deprecating 2-1 loss to the Royals. . Clearly, it is games such as this, that the Tigers can ill-afford to lose if they are to have any chance of erasing the White Sox’s lead within the division.

The Detroit Tigers will play hosts to the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan , for three games for what is sure to be three exciting match-ups in front of a sold-out crowd of rabid and vociferous Tigers’ fans. The first of those three games takes place today with Doug Fister (7-8, 3.67 ERA) taking mound for the home team against Jake Peavy(9-9, 3.09 ERA) . This series is likely to be one of pitching match-ups , than that of it being an onslaught of offensive power being on display. The pitching staffs in question are pretty evenly matched and their respective team ERA’s are only a few percentage points (0.62) apart . Whomever, holds sway at the culmination of the series should feel content with their situation , as the season slowly meanders to a close .

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Picture gallery .

With the regular season of baseball now in its final quarter stretch run , what if anything has been the biggest surprise to you , during this season ? And which teams do you see or feel will be viable contenders for the AL and NL pennants ? To your mind which ball-club has been the biggest disappointment over the course of this year ? Simply leave a comment as you see fit on this, and anything else you believe to be pertinent to the subject matter .

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Picture and slide show details .
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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Moore walks off the field after giving up two runs against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012, in Toronto. The Rays would go on to lose the game 2-0 to the Blue Jays . AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim ….

(2) Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Evan Longoria watches the ball sail toward the fence after hitting a two-run home run against Texas Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison in the first inning of a baseball game , Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. The hit also scored Ben Zorbist. AP Photo/Tim Sharp ….

(3) New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia (52) looks down as Toronto Blue Jays’ Adam Lind rounds third base on a two run-home run hit by teammate Yunel Escobar in the sixth inning of a baseball game , Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012 at Yankee Stadium in New York. AP Photo/Rich Schultz …

(4) Yunel Escobar(5) of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a two run double against the New York Yankees during their game at Yankee Stadium on August 29, 2012 in the Bronx Borough of New York City. Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images …

(5) Oakland Athletics Josh Reddick , right, is greeted by Yoenis Cespedes after hitting a two-run home run off Cleveland Indians’ Justin Masterson during the fifth inning of a baseball game , Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012, in Cleveland. AP Photo/Ron Schwane ….

(6) Manager Bob Melvin(6) and < Seth Smith (15) of the Oakland Athletics argue strike three with home plate umpire Paul Emmel (50) during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on August 30, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images ….

(7) Kansas City Royals’ Alex Gordon , right, runs past Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird after scoring a solo home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel …..

(8) Home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez (79) , center, calls Kansas City Royals’ Billy Butler , left, out after Butler tried to steal home on a wild pitch during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel ….

(9) KANSAS CITY, MO – AUGUST 29 : Prince Fielder (28) of the Detroit Tigers and Mike Moustakas (8) of the Kansas City Royals laugh after colliding on a play at first base during the 6th inning of the game at Kauffman Stadium on August 29, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images …

(10) Starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the 1st inning of the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 28, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images …….

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You Play The Game To Win ………… Herm Edwards Has Never Won Anything

You Play The Game To Win ………… Herm Edwards Has Never Won Anything

By tophatal ….. 6/11/2012 …12:13:03 PM

The season within baseball is now beginning to find itself on a path. And teams are now positioning themselves before the All Star Game which this year will be hosted by the Kansas City Royals . MLB this weekend , provided us with a slew of inter-league games between the AL and NL teams. In addition , to there being a number of surprised performances it should come as no surprise that the Tampa Bay Rays are finding themselves in the midst of things . Joe Maddon and his coaching staff pretty much have the team playing at a high standard . The AL East has always been a very contentious and competitive division , with their being a number of changes in the standings over the past two weeks .

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The Rays currently have a ½ game lead over their closest rivals within the division , with the New York Yankees currently sitting in second place . In addition, as we know with the divergence in the payrolls of these two teams , it simply displays the problems that now besets the game of baseball. Complaints and the idiocy of the claims , there is now parity in sport is not on evidence by what we currently see on display . For those pointing to the different teams that have won the World Series , ask yourself how is it that the likes of the Kansas City Royals , Pittsburgh Pirates , San Diego Padres , Baltimore Orioles have not been a part of baseball baseball’s postseason fare in a number of years ? There are team owners that we know are ambitious to win , while there are others who would rather sit idly by in order to receive monies by way the league hierarchy’s tax sharing revenue scheme. If this is Bud Selig’s idea “of a joke” , then , it’s not working out well , or for the better but it is certainly making the commissioner the butt of jokes around baseball’s fan-base .

Maddon for his part has the team to make a spirited run as they seek their second AL East title . As I stated earlier there are a slew of inter-league games encompassing the league’s teams. The Tampa Bay Rays have been the guests of their state rivals the Miami Marlins . Ozzie Guillen ….. team is in a divisional dogfight against the Atlanta Braves , New York Mets and Washington Nationals within the NL East .

The Rays will look to sweep the series having defeated the 13-4 in-game two of the three game schedule. Sunday taking the mound for the Tampa Bay Rays will James Shields , as he faces off against Anibel Sanchez of the Marlins . Marlins Ballpark since its inauguration has been something of a surprise for the team’s fans as baseball’s newest venue , it is being viewed as one of the finer stadiums in all of baseball .

This third game should tell us a great deal about both and teams their ambitions . A win for the Tampa Bay Rays would increase their lead over the Yankees , who themselves will be hosting crosstown rivals the New York Mets at Yankees Stadium . Jonathan Niese and Andy Pettite will be the opposing starting pitchers in the game . As we know the “Subway Series” has been a rivalry that has long endured within the game bringing together both factions of fans for a rivalry that is almost unparalleled within baseball .

The Rays have been reliant on the pitching and specifically the roster led by James Shields , David Price , Jeremy Hellickson , Alex Cobb and Matt Moore . The team’s offense also has been impressive and this is borne out by their standing within the AL . Of the players that I believe to be the key to the Rays’ success this season , none to my mind will be more important than Ben Zobrist ! Evan Longoria , seen as the team’s best player has become injury prone and far too often it has been to the detriment of the Rays .

Tampa Bay Rays schedule over the remainder of June should prove to be very interesting , with several games where they will match wits with a number of teams seeking to improve their standing within their respective divisions . In large part I believe that GM Andrew Friedman and senior managing partner Stuart Steinberg have done a tremendous job in keeping the Rays competitive and a viable baseball enterprise . That is in spite of the organization having one of the smallest team payrolls in all of MLB (baseball) . Whether or not the Rays can reproduce the form that has seen the team make the postseason repeatedly in each of the last four years remains to be seen . All this in spite of being treated like the “ unwanted stepchild “ who is viewed as being unappreciative of all that has been offered it by the league hierarchy and the imbecilic commissioner Bud Selig ! This being the same commissioner who is said to be working hard to be the conduit for the team owners and general managers/front office executives but who has been extremely critical of the Rays’ ownership and what he believes has been their lack of effort getting a new ballpark. Given the apparent lack of intelligence of this commissioner , could he actually be the worst individual to have served the game in his current capacity ? Let know your thoughts on the question posed ?

The Tampa Bay Rays’ current home venue is the aging Tropicana Field , in St Petersburg , Florida . Bud Selig has criticized Andrew Friedman , Stuart Sternberg and the governmental agencies of Hillsborough County and Pinellas County and their lack of commitment in the building of a new stadium to house the franchise. I may well be naïve in my thought process but it has been Bud Selig who was quick to assist the New York Mets and New York Yankees in the building of their ostentatious venues to the tune of $2.355 billion , with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaiming that with both venues ( Citi-Field & Yankee Stadium) within his city , it now makes gives locale two world-class venues for the game and the epicenter for best two franchises within the game . Michael Bloomberg is a delirious and delusional asshole as can be evidenced by his political career in the city of New York ! As that city’s highest-ranking political executive , he has proven to be ill effective as the city tries to deal with a mounting budget deficit and his inane edicts.

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Are you a proponent of inter-league games ? What if anything has been the biggest surprise or disappointment you in the first quarter of the MLB schedule ? Chime in with a comment as you see fit .


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(1) MIAMI, FL – JUNE 10 : Pitcher James Shields (33) of the Tampa Bay Rays watches his team from the dugout against the Miami Marlins during the game at Marlins Park on June 10, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

(2) Outfielder Desmond Jennings (8) of the Tampa Bay Rays gets back safely to first as Gaby Sanchez (15) of the Miami Marlins takes the throw during the game at Marlins Park on June 10, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …

(3) Shortstop Jose Reyes (7) of the Miami Marlins turns a double play as Sean Rodriguez (1) of the Tampa Bay Rays tries to break it up during the inter-league game at Marlins Park on June 10, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …

(4) Outfielder Matt Joyce (20) of the Tampa Bay Rays cannot get to a fly ball during the inter-league game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on June 10, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …

(5) MIAMI, FL – JUNE 10: Infielder Ben Zobrist (18) of the Tampa Bay Rays cannot handle the throw at second as outfielder Logan Morrison (5) of the Miami Marlins gets back safely during the game at Marlins Park on June 10, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ….

(6) ST. PETERSBURG, FL – APRIL 30: Shortstop Brendan Ryan (26) of the Seattle Mariners applies the tag to infielder Evan Longoria (3) of the Tampa Bay Rays on a steal attempt during the game at Tropicana Field on April 30, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ….

(7) Rays’ GM Andrew Friedman is seen here with the team’s Gold Glove award winner Evan Longoria (center) and team manager Joe Maddon . The player is currently on the team’s DL , out for a possible 4-6 weeks . AP Photo/ Carl Mason …

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It Starts From The Top , On Down ………

It’s Starts From The Top , On Down ……………

I think that we can all assume that for any organization the success attained usually comes by way of ownership in terms of a professional sports’ franchise and the lead executives within that organization. Within the area of Major League Baseball (MLB) I think that we can surmise that there are some damn good owners as well some very bad ones amongst the bunch . The same can be said for the general managers and managers themselves . If there’s leadership from up above as well a high degree of intelligence then it usually bodes well for a team .

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In recent years and it would be fair to say that the Tampa Bay Rays have had a reasonable amount of success within the AL East and the postseason as an organization. Team owner Stuart Sternberg along with his managing partner , Matthew Silverman and general manager Andrew Friedman have been the mainstays of upswing in the fortunes of the franchise. But undoubtedly it has been the boldness Friedman and his personnel decisions that cannot be underestimated . The hiring of Joe Maddon as the team’s manager and his subsequent hirees as coaching assistants have simply genius in its strategy and simpleness . And one cannot say enough about the draft choices made by the general manager over the last five years . Suffice to say that those players who have made it to the majors are the envy of the teams around the league .

Undeniably the heroics of this team this regular season brought about a great deal of excitement for the fans within the Tampa Bay area and that loyal following in attendance at Tropicana Field , St Petersburg , Florida got the chance to cheer on their heroes during the postseason . Short-lived as that was anyone who would have suggest during mid August the Tampa Bay Rays would end up being the AL wildcard representative at the end of the regular season may well have been laughed at . The team’s postseason foray for 2011 ended up rather abruptly with the Tampa Bay Rays being summarily dismissed by the Texas Rangers (3-1) in the ALDS . With that loss the front office now looks to next season and what changes they may well deem prudent to become more competitive . What has and will always be the biggest concern for the organization are the financial constraints that they are placed under . When adjudged against other teams around the league the Rays’ situation is not necessarily viewed as an enviable one . But they have managed to survive and be competitive in a league that has now become more to do with spending for the large part rather than genuinely developing talent .

Fortunately for Joe Maddon and his coaching staff with the natural maturity and the progress shown in the development of players such as David Price , Evan Longoria , Alex Cobb , Jeremy Hellickson and B J Upton the organization has been extremely lucky . It has been this sort of development of talent this has made this ball club the envy of the league . The credit for this must undoubtedly go to Andrew Friedman , Joe Maddon and the coaching staff.

The issues that the Tampa Bay Rays face concerning their dire need for a new state of the art facility with Tropicana Field not being viewed as fan friendly have been well chronicled . The issue is treated as a hot potato by the league hierarchy and it has gotten to the stage where MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has berated the organization as well the politicians of both the cities of St Petersburg and Tampa as well Hillsborough and Pinellas County , as to their inaction, in getting a new ballpark for the team. Someone should remind Selig that just because New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg allowed the commissioner to ” fist “ his sphincter and it doesn’t mean that the politicians within both municipalities or for that matter the ownership group of the Rays will allow the same thing to happen to them ! Bloomberg under the subterfuge of seeing two multi million dollar ballparks ( Citi-Field & Yankee Stadium ) built within the city of New York suddenly feels that the municipality becomes the epicenter of the baseball world . That clearly is not the case but you would be hard pressed to convince a New York Mets or Yankees’ fan of that !

This off-season the Tampa Bay Rays will have to contend with the fact that they have yet to reach an agreement with their general manager concerning a contract extension. We know that the Chicago Cubs’ vacancy has now been filled with Theo Epstein accepting the offer from owner Tom Ricketts . Meanwhile , with Los Angeles Angels’ general manager Tony Reagins having resigned his position , it leads to a vacancy within that organization . The team’s multi dollar billionaire owner Arte Moreno is no slouch and will look for a high profiled and competent replacement for Reagins . Moreno , it has been reported , has met with Andrew Friedman twice within the last 48 hours to discuss the Angels’ vacancy with the Rays’ general manager , to gauge his interest . At the same time laying in wait observing this hall has been the ownership group of the Houston Astros . I somehow get the feeling that if Friedman is made an offer that he simply cannot refuse then he will undoubtedly leave this organization and make his way to the West Coast , into the more than welcoming arms of the Angels’ front office .

In spite of the friendship between Andrew Friedman and Stuart Sternberg , the mutual respect between the two will remain. But it can’t have been easy for the Tampa Bay Rays general manager having to cut costs in terms of the player personnel simply to make this ball club not only competitive but also profitable from a financial standpoint. No such hindrances for the organization’s two biggest divisional foes the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees with their multi million dollar payrolls as well having at their disposal as a treasure chest their respective sports programming cable network providers NESN and the YES Network .

As I alluded to earlier the situation facing the Rays become more dire with each passing moment as to their future and that of a new venue. Entering now into the fray is the city of Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer offering up his own assessment of the baseball team’ future. The mayor has let it be known that he feels that the cities of St Petersburg and Tampa have ill served the organization . Either Dyer is a complete asshole or this is simply nothing more than a political ploy on his part . If he feels that luring away the team from Pinellas County to Orange County and the city of Orlando will serve his municipality city well , then so be it . But given the fact , that both the city and county are at this moment struggling to literally stay afloat due budgetary shortfalls speaks to the stupidity of the mayor . If he firmly believes that fawning over sports’ franchise owner and using taxpayer’s monies to fund stadiums as a means of initiating an upturn in the city’s infrastructure while teachers , city employees and first responders are either furloughed or “pink slipped” indicates to that he is simply another political crony willing to prostitute himself out to the highest bidder ! I can only surmise that Bill Foster of St Petersburg and his city of Tampa counterpart Mayor Bob Buckhorn will have a few choice and pointed responses for Dyer when they see fit respond to his comment publicly !

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What thoughts if any do you have concerning the points raised within this piece ? Simply chime in with a comment as you deem fit . Thanks as always for the continued support !

Alan aka tophatal ………………

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(1) Rays’ manager Joe Maddon is seen here alongside GM Andrew Friedman during the 2008 MLB Playoffs . AP Photo / Chris Howard ….

(2) Arte Moreno (left) is seen here with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and the Angels’ former general manager Tony Reagins (right). Moreno has met with Rays’ general manager Andrew Friedman to gauge the executive’s interest in joining the Los Angeles Angels in a similar position . @ copyrighted material all rights reserved MLB.com …..

(3) Mayor Bill Foster (R) speaks to the media regarding the two St. Petersburg, Florida police officers killed during a shootout on January 24, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. A deputy U.S Marshal was also wounded. The suspect, 39-year-old Hydra Lacy, Jr., was later found dead in the home where the shootout took place. Getty Images / Tom Boyles …..

(4) Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn talks Tuesday about the teamwork of the many law enforcement agencies, many with representatives behind him, during the four-day hunt for Dontae Morris. Skip Rourke / St Petersburg Times ….

(5) City of Orlando Mayor,Buddy Dyer, looks out from his office unto the horizon of the downtown Orlando area. Dyer was one of the main facilitators in getting a new arena built for the NBA franchise, the Orlando Magic . picture appears courtesy of orlandosentinel/ Jason Arnot ………..

(6) Tropicana Field home to the Tampa Bay Ray since the team’s inception and now viewed an archaic edifice by a number of players and teams around the league . Bud Selig has been highly critical of the ownership group of the Rays . But the commissioner has done little to assist the organization and their ambition of getting a new facility. However , he was front and center in dealing with the Boston Red Sox ownership and the of the New York Yankees’ front office in making sure that there would be no problems in their dealings with the New York City Council (members) by holding countless private meetings with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. St Petersburg Times / Collin Walsh ….

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It’s All In The Bag ………. Or Is It ?

It’s All In The Bag ………. Or Is It ?

Coming off an improbable season ending to their regular schedule the Tampa Bay Rays now find themselves facing their biggest piece of adversity of the postseason. The team is now down 2-1 in the ALDS and are now in a ” must win ” situation” if they are to go further into the MLB playoffs. Standing in their way just happens to be AL West divisional champions the Texas Rangers .

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Monday night’s game was a heart wrenching loss ( 4-3) for the Rays at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida . On the mound for the team , manager Joe Maddon placed his faith in starting David Price . Countering for Ron Washington’s Texas Rangers they had Colby Lewis . Two young pitchers with contrasting styles but both eager to show the fans and their respective managers that the faith shown in them was certainly justified . Throughout the regular season both pitchers showed their sterling presence within the AL and league as a whole . But as we all know once the postseason everything starts afresh and it’s a new set of rules that everyone now plays by with regard to the pitching .

The crux of this game has to be predetermined by Joe Maddon’s team willingness to get their bats popping and not hold anything back. Get a lead , defend it steadfastly and let the chips fall where they may .

From my own perspective I felt that the Texas Rangers had a slight edge in terms of the respective pitching rosters but that by no means can always determine the outcome of a series . The postseason stats might bear this out but as all know anything can happen and usually does during the events that tend to unfold during the MLB playoffs.

Game four today will pit Jeremy Hellickson against David Murphy and clearly the players on this Rays’ roster knows what is being asked of them at this juncture . Win or go home .

Given the heroics of the team throughout much of the regular season and their improbable comeback I would hate to think that the Tampa Bay Rays could bow out of the postseason at this juncture ! They have given their fans a deserving uplift as well as the entire community within the area . Long forlorn and viewed as one the less bright spots on most teams’ regular season schedule this organization has given many of the small market teams around the league reason to hope and pursue success.

The crux of this game has to be predetermined by Joe Maddon’s team to get their bats popping and not hold anything back. Get a lead , defend it steadfastly and let the chips fall where they may .

For me the surprise team to make this postseason has to be the Arizona Diamondbacks and their very vocal manager Kirk Gibson and his experienced assistant staff . From worse to first within the space of one season the Diamondbacks were runaway winners of the NL West . In dethroning San Francisco Giants this young team played itself into contention for a postseason and berth where they now meet the NL Central divisional winners the Milwaukee Brewers led by their manager Ron Roenicke .

Kirk Gibson exemplified during his professional career as a player ….. playing tough and not giving any quarter to an opponent. It has been those instincts that he has instilled into his players that paid great dividends not just merely for the fans but the organization as whole under the ownership group led by senior managing partner Ken Kendrick with GM Kevin Towers taking of care of baseball operations and all personnel decisions.

Having lost game two in their series 9-4 to the Brewers the Arizona Diamondbacks now find themselves down 0-2 in the best of five game series against a Brewers team looking to make the most of their first appearance in the postseason since 2008 .

In a determining game three the Arizona Diamondbacks willl send to the mound Jay Collmenter to face Shawn Marcum of the Milwaukee Brewers . And while the Diamondbacks have struggled to score runs in the postseason this hasn’t been the case for the Milwaukee Brewers with their prolific offense led by Ryan Braun , Prince Fielder and Corey Hart .

It would be unfortunate to see Arizona Diamondbacks be swept out of the series against the Milwaukee Brewers without actually proving to be competitive during the postseason . As we know however , it is not simply what you are able to do during the regular season but how you acquit yourself during the postseason when you are placed under real adversity . And this now happens to the position that Kirk Gibson’s team now finds itself in .

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thoughts if any do you have concerning the plight of both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays ? And do you believe that either of these teams will be able to erase the deficits they face and play themselves back into contention within their respective series ? Simply chime in a with a comment as you deem fit .

Alan aka tophatal ……… https://tophatal.wordpress.com

http://facebook.com/tophatal

http://twitter.com/tophatal

Picture and slide show details below .

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(1) Closer Neftali Feliz (30) of the Texas Rangers celebrates with catcher Mike Napoli(notes) #25 after the Rangers defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 in Game Four of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field on October 4, 2011 in St Petersburg, Florida. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images ….

(2) First baseman Mitch Moreland (18) dives to touch first base ahead of a sliding Johnny Damon (22) of the Tampa Bay Rays in the sixth inning of Game Four of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field on October 4, 2011 in St Petersburg, Florida. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images …..

(3) Infielder Sean Rodriguez (1) of the Tampa Bay Rays is congratulated after scoring against the Texas Rangers during Game Four of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field on October 4, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …..

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MLB News

MLB scheduled games 4th October 2011

MLB probable starting pitchers 4th October 2011

MLB results 3rd October 2011

MLB postseason individual player stats batting averages

MLB postseason individual player stats pitching ERA & wins

MLB postseason Team stats cumulative

NB : At the time of posting this article the result of the Rangers Rays’ game wasn’t yet made public .

Who’s To Blame And Who Not To Blame …. Better Yet What Do You Do After That ?

Who’s To Blame And Who Not To Blame …. Better Yet What Do You Do After That ?


I am delirious at present , having watched the excitement and suspense unfold last night in a number of games that closed out the baseball season. And as we are now all aware the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox …. folded like tents being blown away in a sandstorm . God knows , there are about to be some serious repercussions within the city of Boston . And I do believe that the fans will be lambasting not just the players on that Red Sox team but also the coaching staff and front office . There’s every reason to believe that quite possibly because of this Terry Francona could very well end up losing his job in the same manner as his predecessor Grady Little . The city’s flagship radio sport’s talk station WEEI’s switchboard has to be now lighting up with the fans now looking to apportion blame while some may well be seeking some sort of consolation and solace out of this all.

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Slide show for your perusal .

With the season having ended and the standings reflecting what one might suggest was an unbelievable year . I am not so sure that this postseason can live up to the drama that we may have all witnessed in the last forty eight hours much less over the last month of arduous season. The biggest disappointment for myself was to see the Braves simply wilt under the pressure but at the same time with this young team having endured this sort of pain I can only hope it makes them stronger and more attentive as to what it takes to become champions. Certainly manager Fredi Gonzalez , his coaching staff and the entire front office can feel proud of their accomplishments this year but at the same you can only wonder as to what might have been had they managed to eke out one or two more wins over the course of their season.

Opportunities when they’re thrown your way cannot be wasted and I think that this happened to be the case here with both the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox ! In the case of the Braves it came down to their inexperience and that of the manager’s own intuitive experience and what to expect when placed under pressure and real adversity . The seasoned veterans on the team such as Chipper Jones , Derek Lowe , Tim Hudson and Alex Gonzalez were meant to the leaders for the young members of this team but it simply would not be enough with the advent of the pressure placed upon them . In losing out on the NL wildcard berth with that privilege going to the St Louis Cardinals the Atlanta Braves missed out on making another postseason appearance . Last season their divisional series loss to the eventual World Series champions the San Francisco Giants was enough to suggest that the organization was heading in the right direction under the tenure of Fredi Gonzalez and GM Frank Wren . Now it’s back to the drawing board and the travails of the offseason making deals , acquiring players and winter ball .

Congratulations to Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays for an improbable season and pulling off what has to be said must be one of the truly great finishes to a schedule for any franchise under astonishing circumstances . I certainly hadn’t envisioned this team coming from 7 plus games behind with less then a month to go in the season. But as they say ….” you never what to expect “ and certainly the players began to believe in themselves and what was possible. This was certainly epitomized in the play of the team and in particular by the young players who were thrown into the lion’s den by Maddon and his coaching staff . Clearly the likes of Jeremy Hellickson , Desmond Jennings , Sam Fuld , James Shields , Evan Longoria , B.J Upton and Ben Zobrist never felt under any undue pressure as they simply did all that was asked of them and a great deal more .

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Fans of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ….

Now comes the hard part of the Tampa Bay Rays in their divisional series against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington , Texas . And though things might favor the Rangers , given what we have seen from the Tampa Rays during the month of September I firmly believe that nothing is off the table by way of the unforeseen or the unexpected !

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Manager Joe Maddon (70) of the Tampa Bay Rays hugs Sean Rodriguez (1) after the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……

There is no denying that this last month of the season gave the fans more than they could ever have expected . As the scenarios began to unfold , who could have known that the final day of the season would have meant so much to the teams vying for those two final playoff berths . Now comes all of the hard questions …… with the fans and analysts within the genres of sports journalism looking for the answers . It simply won’t just be about the teams who missed out on those playoff berths but also about the ball clubs who simply failed to live up to expectations and to my mind there are many who can be categorized within that area. Big money teams asides and the salaries afforded for those organizations at the end of the day it all comes down to the competitiveness of the teams and their play on the field . But it would be remiss not to suggest the part played by the general managers and team owner who are simply chasing after the glory for their teams by simply looking to spend big with the chance of reaping the rewards that await .

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Picture and slide show for your perusal .

As the postseason awaits I am not so sure that the thrilling suspense afforded the fans can actually be lived up to ! I mean that’s unless the teams involved give it their all with some thrilling displays of baseball that we could never have thought possible . What thoughts if any do you have about the regular season finales and of the postseason itself ? Chime in with your thoughts and expectations .

Alan aka tophatal …………… https://tophatal.wordpress.com

http://facebook.com/tophatal

http://twitter.com/tophatal

Picture and slide show for your perusal .

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ATLANTA – SEPTEMBER 28: Jack Wilson (1) of the Atlanta Braves turns a double play against John Mayberry, Jr. (15) of the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on September 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Braves would go on to lose the game in extra innings 4-3 to the Phillies . Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images …..

(2) ATLANTA – SEPTEMBER 28: Chipper Jones (10) of the Atlanta Braves paces the dugout after striking out in the 13th inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on September 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images ………

(3) HOUSTON – SEPTEMBER 28: Nick Punto (C) of the St. Louis Cardinals is showered with champagne by Chris Carpenter, right, as they celebrate winning the National League wildcard at Minute Maid Park on September 28, 2011 in Houston, Texas. The Cardinals would defeat the Astros 8-0 to clinch the NL wildcard and deprive the Atlanta Braves of the spot that they held for the last six weeks . Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images …….

(4) Carl Crawford (13) of the Boston Red Sox walks in the dugout with first base coach Ron Johnson (50) after a 4-3 loss against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images …………

(5) Manager Terry Francona (47) of the Boston Red Sox argues a call with first base umpire Scott Barry in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images …….

(6) The Tampa Bay Rays celebrate their victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit to defeat the New York Yankees 8-7 . Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …..

(7) Infielder Evan Longoria (3) of the Tampa Bay Rays rounds the bases after his bottom of the twelfth inning walk off home run against the New York Yankees during the game at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …..

(8) Fans of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ………….

(9) Manager Joe Maddon (70) of the Tampa Bay Rays hugs Sean Rodriguez (1) after the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……
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MLB news

MLB results 28th September 2011

MLB final standings of 2011

MLB final wildcard standings of 2011

MLB postseason schedule

Divisional series games scheduled 30th September 2011

Probable starters 30th September 2011

Divisional series games schedule 1st October 2011

Probable starters 1st October 2011

Pick ’em At Your Peril ……………..

Pick ’em At Your Peril ………

Well with the baseball season now climaxing in a schedule of games that may well impact the playoff scenario it is extremely hard to believe that after a 162 game schedule it all now comes down to this . The divisional winners are set but we have a quartet of teams now vying for the wildcard berths within both leagues . Those teams are the Atlanta Braves , St Louis Cardinals within the National League with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays within the American League . This all bodes well for the league hierarchy of baseball and in particular for both TBS and TNT who will broadcast the divisional and league championship series before Fox Sports takes over the tenure to televise the World Series , itself.

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Slide show for your perusal .

At this point the questions now being asked and the reverberations caused , have to be about the meltdowns of both the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox who less than three weeks ago held sizeable leads over their respective wildcard rivals coming into the last day of the season . The troubling fact is that for the managers in question they now have to their teams playing with added vigor because of what’s said to be on the line for both of these ball clubs . For Fredi Gonzalez he knows it is imperative tonight that the team is victorious against the Phillies Phillies in a game to be played at Turner Field , Atlanta , Georgia. For Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa he knows that this is the last chance for his team to make something of what many believed to have been something of a disappointing season as they were favored to win the NL Central . That privilege went to Ron Roenicke and the Milwaukee Brewers and in doing so that could conclude with the manager being named NL Manager of the Year . But I do believe that he could well be challenged for that honor by Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks !

The St Louis Cardinals in their pivotal game face the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park , in Houston , Texas . And there is no one on this Cardinals’ team who does not know the importance of this game and what it means to their season . Certainly for the St Louis Cardinals’ fans they are cheering on the players in the fervent hope that they can make the postseason . Add into this all the intrigue surrounding whether or not this could well be Albert Pujols’ last season with the organization and you can begin to feel the fervor and excitment arising out of this scenario as it plays itself out .

I have said repeatedly when teams such as the Boston Red Sox with their financial wherewithal simply act as if money is of no object as they chase down talent in the search of glory , sooner or later you’re bound be undone by your own avarice . The organization led by GM Theo Epstein and team President Larry Lucchino have the league’s second highest payroll behind the venerable New York Yankees . And inasmuch as that might sour the taste for some fans one cannot be denied is the very fact that when spent wisely no one can argue with the success attained by that organization. For the Boston Red Sox front office the question now being asked is…. how could this all have spiraled out of control so quickly ?

With there now being rumors of discord between Francona and Theo Epstein there is a thought that the same fate that befell his predecessor Grady Little could now await Terry Francona should he and the team fail to deliver . From my own standpoint it has been the inconsistent pitching from the front end of the rotation led by Josh Beckett that has been the primary cause of the Red Sox’s woes . It will be left to Jon Lester pitching for the ball club tonight against the Baltimore Orioles ____ to acquit himself well and the team still into contention for that AL wildcard berth.

If there is one thing that Joe Maddon has going for himself and the Tampa Bay Rays at present then it would have to be the momentum and the hunger of this young team . And granted , there are some seasoned veterans at the heart of this roster but it has been the welcome play of the youngsters on this squad that has brought about this surprising turn of events . The likes of Desmond Jennings , Sam Fulds , Alex Cobb , Sean Rodriguez and Jeremy Hellickson have all contributed to the success of the organization this season . And for Joe Maddon and his managerial staff this has to be one of the most pleasing moments of his distinguished career .

As to what may transpire tonight no one can really say but I am sure that the events as they unfold will have all of us riveted to our screens and for those of us able to witness the events live at the venues in question . I can only surmise that you too will be enthralled by the games as they take place . Trying to determine a winner however might not be as easy as it looks and I for one can only hope that the intrigue will only add to the competitiveness of the games !

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Picture gallery for your perusal.

Which teams do you favor or actually envisage attaining the resepective wildcard berths ? Simply chime in with a comment as you deem fit .

Alan aka tophatal …………….. https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Picture and slide show details below .

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(1) Atlanta Braves’ pitcher Derek Lowe walks off the field after giving up two runs to the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Atlanta. The Phillies would go on to defeat the Braves 7-1 . AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton …..

(2) ATLANTA – SEPTEMBER 27: Chase Utley (26) of the Philadelphia Phillies is congratulated by Ryan Howard (6) after hitting a home run against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images ……

(3) Allen Craig (21) of the St. Louis Cardinals receives congratulations from Yadier Molina (4) after hitting a three run home run in the eighth inning scoring Albert Pujols (5) and Lance Berkman (12) at Minute Maid Park on September 27, 2011 in Houston, Texas. The St Louis Cardinals would defeat the Astros 13-6 . Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images ….

(4) St. Louis Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, left, slides safely into home plate to score as Houston Astros catcher Humberto Quintero (55) handles the throw during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Houston. Molina and Allen Craig scored on a triple by Ryan Theriot. AP Photo/David J. Phillip ……

(5) Manager Terry Francona (47) of the Boston Red Sox walks back to the dugout during the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 27, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Red Sox defeated the Orioles 8-7 . Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images ……..

(6) Boston Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and second baseman Dustin Pedroia, from left, high-five teammates after a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Baltimore. Boston won 8-7. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky …..

(7) ST. PETERSBURG, FL – SEPTEMBER 27: Catcher Kelly Shoppach (10) and pitcher Kyle Farnsworth (43) of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate their team’s victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2011 in St.Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……

(8) First baseman Mark Teixeira (25) of the New York Yankees takes the throw at first as Johnny Damon (22) of the Tampa Bay Rays gets back safely during the game at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays would defeat the New York Yankees 5-3 and now tie the Red Sox atop of the AL wildcard berth standings (90-71) Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……
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MLB news

MLB standings

MLB wildcard standings

MLB schedule

MLB probable starters 28th September 2011

MLB results 27th September 2011

MLB Standings final day of 2010

MLB widcard standings final day of 2010

MLB results final regular season games of 2010