Sunday, November 11, 2007

5 Reasons why Delmon Young should win Rookie of the Year

Sometime this week, the American League will announce its 2007 Rookie of the Year. Barring any voting irregularities, the two front runners should be Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Tampa Bay Devil Rays right fielder Delmon Young. Although I believe Pedroia will probably win the award, I have challenged One More Dying Quail of the illustrious sports blog One More Dying Quail to give five reasons why the candidate on his beloved Red Sox is more worthy than the candidate on my local nine.

Five Reasons Why Delmon Young Should Win AL Rookie of the Year

1) Consistency – Despite being only a rookie, Delmon Young played in all 162 games in 2007, being only one of two players to do so. Even if you add Pedroia’s 14 postseason games, Young still played more games in the 2007 season. This consistency in Devil Rays’ season of flux (or general misery, if you prefer) not only allowed Young to tally the second most at bats in the American League but undoubtedly made manager Joe Madden’s job a bit easier.

2) Clutch hitting – In leading all AL Rookies in RBIs with 93, Young hit a whopping .349 with runners in scoring position. Whereas many other Rookie of the Year contenders in the AL bounced around their respective lineups, Young spent a majority of his season in the 5th spot in the Devil Rays lineup.

3) Versatility – In order to fill the Devil Rays injury-depleted outfield, Young moved into center field for a month. Although far from spectacular, Young provided much needed flexibility in a time of crisis. Among leading AL rookies, only Reggie Willits of the LA Angels played more games at a different position than Young.

4) Fielding prowess – Delmon Young was one of the best fielding right fielders in the American League in 2007. Young’s 16 assists were 3rd in the league among RFs and, according to, Young’s range factor (Range Factor ((PO + A) divided by innings) was 4th best among AL right fielders. And according to the fine gentlemen of Thunder Matt's Saloon, he should have won a Gold Glove. Unfortunately however, the Gold Glove is awarded to three outfielders, not necessarily a center fielder, a right fielder, and a left fielder.

5) Overexposure – Last but definitely not least, hasn’t Boston won enough already? Allowing Pedroia to win AL Rookie of the Year would continue the collective arrogance of Red Sox Nation. Haven’t we seen enough of the Red Sox for one year? Hopefully, the voters give the Rays fans something to cheer for besides Kevin Costner concerts and Fred McGriff’s endorsement of the new uniforms, his first major public endorsement since the 1989 Tom Emanski videos*.

*Possibly not true.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Church Members Upset Over Devil Rays Name Change

Starting in 2008, thousands of baseball fans will be without a favorite team. All across America, members of the Church of Satan are denouncing their allegiance to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays after the team decided to change their moniker to the "Tampa Bay Rays" effective next baseball season.

"Granted, I could never make the trip to see them in person," said a Church of Satan member from Salem, Ore. "But they were definitely my favorite team."

Some Church of Satan members are accusing the Devil Rays' ownership of kowtowing to the Religious Right.

"It's all those Bible-thumpers' fault," said a church member from Rome, NY. "You don't see us making a big deal over the San Diego Padres, do you?"

Although the true reason behind the name change remains unclear, the head of the Church of Satan, Magnus Peter H. Gilmore, believes the team made the move to spite the church.

"We were in the midst of negotiations for the souls of some of their players when the organization low-balled us and we had no choice but to walk out."

According to Gilmore, deals had been made to ensure the success of many "Devil" teams, such as the New Jersey Devils, the Duke Blue Devils, and the Arizona Sun Devils. Past deals have included the souls of Martin Brodeur, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, and Barry Bonds.

"Each team has had to sell us a few souls in order to win. Tampa Bay hadn't done that yet," said Gilmore. "We saw a few players we liked in Scott Kazmir, B.J. Upton, and Carl Crawford."

Gilmore claims when the Devil Rays counter-offered with Rocco Baldelli, Elijah Dukes, and Don Zimmer, he knew there was no chance for a deal.

"It is no secret having the Church of Satan on your side has its advantages. Look at the history. We've supported winners," said Gilmore. "But the Tampa Bay baseball team did not take the negotiations seriously and now they are on their own. I feel bad for our members who are baseball fans, but we don't take too kindly to being insulted."

Because of the failed negotiations, some former Devil Rays fans are already making plans to change their allegiances.

"I guess I'll root for the Yankees next year," said a Church of Satan member from Hell, MI. "It's no secret the Big Man Downstairs is quite fond of George Steinbrenner."


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Remembering Sammy Khalifa

(This post has nothing to do with Tampa Bay baseball, but it was something I wrote on another website and wanted to save for myself.)

Twenty years ago today Sammy Khalifa played his last major league game.

Two and a half years later, his father, Rashad Khalifa, was killed, allegedly by Muslim extremists with ties to Al-Qaeda.

As a part-time shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1985 to 1987, Khalifa hit .219 and had an unremarkable career .579 OPS. But it wasn't in the batter's box where Khalifa made his mark: in a sport long in tradition and pioneers, Sammy Khalifa was the first Arab-American and Muslim-American in the major leagues.

Surprisingly, there is little celebrating Sammy Khalifa as a sports pioneer. Although there have been prominent Arab-American athletes in other sports (Doug Flutie, Rony Seiklay, etc.), Sammy Khalifa stands as the one and only major league baseball player with roots in the Middle East.

Fortunately, the career of the first Arab-American to play in the majors was long over before the Khalifa name would again make headlines. In 1989, a group of religious scholars in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa (religious edict) against both the father of Sammy Khalifa and author Salman Rushdie. (Rushdie also had a previous edict pronounced against him four days earlier by the Supreme Ruler of Iran.) Whereas Rushdie escaped assasination by living under police custody, Rashad Khalifa was not so lucky. According to Wikipedia, "he (Khalifa) was stabbed 29 times and his body drenched in xylol but not set alight" because of his establishment of religious sect he called the "Submitters". Again according to Wikipedia, the Submitters' doctrine stemmed from Khalifa's own interpretations of the Qur'an, including mathematical research into the religious text. Some still consider the Submitters to be a cult with no base in traditional Islam.

Currently, Sammy Khalifa lives in the Tucson area, no longer affliated with baseball.

Looking back, it is difficult to imagine the saga of the Khalifas playing out today. What if Sammy Khalifa had a longer, more distinguished major league career? How would his career have been effected by September 11th, 2001? What if, along with Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn, we recently inducted the first Arab-American ballplayer into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Could Sammy Khalifa have been a bridge to ease the current tension between the West and the Islamic World?

As further developments arise in the death of former NFL player-turned-soldier Pat Tillman, it might be time to take a moment and remember Sammy Khalifa, the first Arab-American baseball player and the first athlete with ties to the war on terror.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Making you Love The Tampa Bay Devil Rays

This is a post I wrote for Jay Busbee's Sports Gone South website. That site is now closed, so I figured I would put the post here.

With Jay on a weeklong pilgrimage, I have once again been summoned to tug your heartstrings, be still your heart, and get you all doey-eyed for a bunch of men running around playing a modernized game of rounders.  This time however, instead of trying to win you over to the dark side of those hated New York Mets, I’m going to stay a bit more regional. Today, I am going to make you love the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Admittedly, in the first ten years of the team’s history there hasn’t been much to love about the Devil Rays.  Horrible ownership, atrocious personnel, embarrassing off-field incidents, and home games in a dungeonesque former hockey arena quickly made the Devil Rays the biggest American League joke this side of Kansas City.  Two recent events however, have ushered in an era of optimism in the organization.  Although some players have been known to still “act the fool”, new ownership direction in 2005 and the fleecing of the New York Mets to acquire ace Scott Kazmir have given hope to the fine denizens of the Tampa Bay area.

So without further ado, I present to you five good reasons why you should fall madly in love with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

They are not the Yankees or the Red Sox

Due to Tampa Bay’s proximity to the Atlantic Coast, the Devil Rays have been mired in the American League East since their inception.  Unfortunately, this division has been the stomping ground of two of the most evil empires in sports: the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.  These two teams, with their astronomical payrolls and ESPN exposure, are the Goliaths of the baseball landscape.  So who better to topple these juggernauts than the newest, most up-start ballclub in the division? Hey, if the Osceola Rangers can topple the Yankee invaders in 1862 , why can’t the Devil Rays 145 years later?

Carl Crawford

Faster than a speeding bullet, more range than a locomotive, and able to leap and rob opponents of home runs, Carl Crawford is the face of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  At only 25 years old, Crawford is already the Devil Rays franchise leader in hits, runs, singles, and sacrifices.  He has also led the American League in triples each of the last three years and stolen bases three out of the last four 
years.  Didn’t know that?  You would if you bled Devil Rays green.

The Arms Surplus

James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine, Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann, David Price, and the aforementioned Scott Kazmir. These names and several others represent the future of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitching rotation.  And the future looks bright. With any luck, the Devil Rays’ young guns could be the next Glavine, Smoltz, Avery, Mercker, and Millwood.  Or at least the next Willis, Johnson, Olson, Sanchez, and Nolasco.

Beautiful fanbase

Although more famous as an elephant graveyard for retirees nationwide, the Tampa Bay area is also well-known its cornucopia of gorgeous women.  Think Miami, without the pretentiousness.  From the Original Hooters in Clearwater to the University of South Florida to Tampa’s bevy of adult entertainment establishments, proverbial “eye-candy” are everywhere.  Even at Tropicana Field.  You never know, you might even spot area resident and Florida State Cowgirl Jenn Sterger.

Warmer than the former Leningrad

Even though they are known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Tampa Bay professional baseball club actually plays its games across the bay in St. Petersburg.  According to World, the average temperature in St. Pete, Florida is at least 40 degrees warmer than the average temperature in St. Pete, Russia .  So when deciding between the Devil Rays and the St. Petersburg Spartak of the Russian Basketball League, remember, sunshine, beaches, and bikini-clad women beat parkas, blizzards, and frostbite any day of the week.  And usually twice on Sundays.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Random Player Pages

I've come across a few early Internet fansites dedicated to miscellaneous baseball players. Check these out, they are borderline obsessive.

Have a good weekend. I'll be around.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

256.25 schillings will get you a ticket to the Hall of Fame

In introducing his recent article on the staying power of baseball's most senior pitchers, writer Sean McAdams makes the assumption Boston Red Sox right-hander Curt Shilling is a future baseball Hall of Famer. But is that true? I am not so sure.

Curt Schilling has been a good, if not great, pitcher since 2001. He has won 20 games or more three times, pitched over 200 innings four times, and averaged over a strikeout an inning. Now, although I am far from a baseball statistician, those are Hall of Fame caliber numbers. Add to the fact Schilling started this run in his mid-30s and his accomplishments become all the more impressive.

However, when judging a player's Hall of Fame potential it is imperative to examine his entire body of work. Schilling has pitched in the major leagues since 1988. During that time, he has won over 10 games only 10 times, the same amount of times as Dwight Gooden and three times fewer than David Wells. Gooden's Hall of Fame chances are pretty much nil and Wells will not be considered a serious Hall of Fame candidate anywhere outside of the Bronx. For his entire body of work, these are Curt Schilling's contemparies.

Of the other elderly hurlers McAdam discusses (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Jamie Moyer, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson), Clemens, Maddux, and Johnson are sure-fire future inductees. Glavine will join them, but I believe he needs to get his 300th to solidify his candidacy. That should happen in 2007. Moyer, although he has pitched effectively with a high-school fastball since the days of Willie Mays, has never had Hall of Fame numbers.

This brings us back to Schilling. According to, Schilling's average season is 14-9 with a 3.44 ERA in 220 innings. Again using Gooden as a reference, Dr. K's average season was 15-9 with a 3.51 ERA in 226 innings. Pretty similar.

Not to campaign for Dwight Gooden, but I don't believe Curt Schilling will be able to put together a resume fit for the Baseball Hall of Fame when he retires. If he ever retires.

(P.S. 256.25 schillings = $14.50 admission x 1.29 dollars to euros x 13.7 schillings to euros)

Monday, February 5, 2007

Wanted: Mascot Handler (Apply Within)

Are you interested in an exciting career in entertainment? Do you love sports? Can you restrain a seven foot tall pseudo-animal from mauling fans? Then the Cleveland Indians have the job for you.

According to the official job site of Major League Baseball, the Indians are seeking two mascot handlers to work with Slider, the Indians' mascot. These lucky individuals will "generate excitement and entertainment throughout the Ballpark and surrounding areas." Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, as with many job listings, the job of mascot handler carries with it many unlisted responsibilities.

Ever wonder who feeds the mascot? Who watches the mascot while the team is on the road? Who is the first person looked at when the mascot inexplicably attacks an innocent fan? The mascot handler, of course.

The life of a mascot handler is not quite as glorious as the Cleveland Indians describe. Do you think mascots were born cheering for the home team? And who do you think cleans up when a mascot forgets his potty training?

A mascot handler must train a mascot to behave appropriately, no matter what team or element they represent. The job is not just one of brute enforcement, but one of subtleness. Prior to even being considered, mascot handlers must be well-versed in Pavlovian training techniques. Years of training goes into ensuring mascots don't root for the wrong team. All that training can be all for not in moments with one bad incident. Of course, the pressure facing mascot handlers is much greater now more than ever due to several embarrassing incidents between mascots and fans or coaches.

Being a mascot handler is hard work. While the team is on the road, your responsibilities are to care and maintain the mascot. Few people realize the energy needed to groom, feed, and keep a mascot entertained. The mascot handler is also responsible for the mascot's fitness program and may often have to run stairs with the mascot in the off-season.

Sadly, mascot handlers get little credit in the success of a mascot. Like other types of managers in the entertainment industry, mascot handlers are often ignored when a mascot achieves a high level of success. Many mascots, such as The Famous Chicken, have left their team-affiliated handlers and ventured solo, becoming more general "sports mascots". Others, such as former Montreal Expos mascot Youppi, have negotiated their own contracts with other organizations and moved on without bringing their former handlers. Of course, considering the absent-mindedness of many mascots, we may never see a mascot handler nominated into the Mascot Hall of Fame, although without a handler's loving guidance, every mascots could have ended up in the Orphanage of Cast-Off Mascots.

Finally, before considering a career as a mascot handler, keep in mind an emotional attachment may occur between handler and mascot. Like any pet, caring for a mascot becomes a labor of love. Mascot handlers must continuously remind themselves that being a mascot handler is a profession, and the mascot does not belong to the handler, but to the people. And if the mascot passes away or is killed on their watch, they must be strong and move on. Although some mascots are still cheered in death as they were in life, a mascot handler must be prepared to train the next generation of Phillie Phanatics, Sliders, or Mr. Mets.

Still interested? Apply to be Slider's mascot handler here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Why Hate The Fish?

Ok, I know it's not baseball season, nor is it close to baseball season. But something is bugging me. ESPN has started previewing the upcoming baseball season in a multi-part series called Hot Stove Heaters in an attempt to get fans prepared for baseball. Normally this is not a bad thing. Should be a good thing, right? Well, this year ESPN has decided the Florida Marlins are public enemy number one. I don't know why, but three articles in the last three days have bashed the Marlins in some way, shape, or form. I have never seen anything wrong with rooting for the underdog Fish, especially when they beat the Yankees in 2003. So ESPN, why all the Marlins hate?

In their opening salvo against the Marlins franchise, ESPN writer Tim Kurkjian called Dolphins Stadium "the worst ballpark in the major leagues". Kurkjian's logic is that because of their lack of attendance, the Marlins stadium is worse than any other. First, let me be up front, I have been to Dolphins Stadium. I went to the Marlins' home opener Opening Day 2004, right after they won the World Series. So although I have never seen the ballpark empty, I was there. But to insult the facility because of lack of attendance is a faulty premise. Keep in mind for many years the Cleveland Indians could barely fill a quarter of Municipal Stadium, their much older, colder, more empty, caverous "mistake by the lake".

Granted the Marlins could use a new stadium, preferably with a retractable roof, but in my opinion, Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bays Devil Rays, is the worst stadium in baseball. True, its cozier dimensions give the appearance of higher attendance because the few fans there are not as spread out, but baseball is not meant to be played indoors. Period. Watching a game at "The Trop" is like watching a game in a musty basement. It doesn't feel right. Add the fact that Tropicana Field was once home to the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, and you can see why baseball doesn't fit there. Contrary to Mr. Kurkjian's ideas, lack of attendance doesn't make something horrible, the facility itself makes it horrible.

After Mr. Kurkjian's claim against the Marlins, writer Phil Rogers discusses the city of Portland's attempt to have the Marlins relocate to the Pacific Northwest. Insulting the stadium in which they play is one thing, but to promote the moving of the franchise because of the lack of attendence is a slap in the face to the many fans of the Marlins, of whom I know do exist. Once the Florida legislature finally approves of a workable deal and the Marlins can get their new stadium, they will be fine. Hopefully the new stadium will be in a location that will be convenient for both the citizens of Miami and the purchasing power of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The franchise just needs a legislative hand, not a moving truck.

The third attack against the Marlins was minor and perhaps true, but considering ESPN's previous comments, enough is enough. In Paul Lukas's newest Uni Watch article, he rates the Marlins' uniforms a two out of five. Ok, that they may be, and maybe I am getting too defensive about a team that I only occasionally root for, but it's the principle. Stop hatin' on the Marlins.

Now I am not saying everyone should jump on the Florida Marlins' bandwagon, but no one discusses moving the Royals or the Pirates. Or even dare suggests combining the two aforementioned pitiful franchises and having them play in Oklahoma City or any other third site. So ESPN, how about showing the Marlins a little respect? They do have the best young pitching staff south of Detroit. With Cabrera, Willis, and the rest of the young talent in South Florida, I see playoffs by 2010.