Thursday, January 27, 2011

Touch of Grey

I had reconciled myself to the idea that the Rays were heading back to the cellar this upcoming season. My hopes dimmed with every defection. Gone now are Crawford, Pena, Bartlett, Garza, and half of the bullpen. Instead of maybe winning the division, my most optimistic wish was for the team to finish ahead of the Orioles. Little did I know that my bleak outlook was about to change.
Saturday night as I was finishing off my last beer I heard the news that almost had me doing a spit take all over my television screen. The story that caused my near eruption was that not one but two of the players that were possible mid season acquisitions for the Rays playoff run last year are close to signing with the team for the upcoming season.
MannyJohnny Damon
According to the report Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon are expected to sign with Tampa Bay within a week. For me the season has gone from one of silent resignation to a year of wishful thinking. While it’s true that Damon and Ramirez are over the hill, there is a chance that they both have something left in the tank.
The Rays offense left a lot to be desired last year. Manny may not be my favorite player, but he did have a higher OPS (870) than any of the Rays except Longoria. He will be the much needed upgrade at designated hitter. Damon’s on base percentage was only one point lower than that of Crawford, whom he will be replacing in leftfield.
In my opinion this was a good move on the part of the management. They have brought in two very experienced hitters in an effort to boost attendance and to bridge the gap between the past and the future. And who knows, maybe make another run at a division title.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Last Child

Ronde Barber has announced that he is returning for his 15th season as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. I was thinking that I would be posting something about his career in honor of his retirement, but once again I have underestimated the man. I pretty much wrote him off after the ’09 season just to see him comback this past season and have a very impressive year.
Barber, whose contract is set to expire in March, has played his entire career with the Bucs as a third-round draft pick in 1997. A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Barber, 35, is the only player in NFL history to record 40 sacks and 25 interceptions, three of which came during the 2010 season.
Ronde so impressed the coaching staff and General Manager Mark Dominik in the season finale that it led to Dominick to be quoted as saying "For the many years he's got in the National Football League and to play at that level and to feel like he knew what (Saints quarterback) Drew Brees was going to do on a majority of the plays was phenomenal. I was really impressed with the way he finished his 2010 season.''
I watched that game and Mark was right, Barber was as disruptive to the Saints game plan as a dinner bell during the taping of The World’s Biggest Loser. He was all over the field making tackles and breaking up passes. His knowledge of opposing offenses and leadership will be especially valuable considering the Bucs talented, but inexperienced secondary.
Ronde Barber
I have been a Bucs fan from the beginning and I don’t think anyone has stayed with the team for 15 years. Ronde is the last player from the Super Bowl winning team, in fact it was his interception for a touchdown that sealed the deal at Philly in the conference championship game. He’s been here so long that he remembers when they wore the orange uniforms for all the home games. Coach Morris says it isn’t a question of if he’ll be back, but how much he’ll be making when he does. Considering his value to the team and the fans, he should do very well.