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Rays Trade Matt Garza to Cubs

As expected, the fire sale continued on Friday for the Tampa Bay Rays.  In an offseason where the Red Sox have made enormous strides and the Yankees are essentially the same team that won a championship two seasons ago, Tampa Bay has all but given up on contending in the AL East.  The Rays fell further behind for the immediate future on Friday when they agreed to trade ace Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs for a package of minor league prospects.  If you recall, Garza tossed a no-hitter back in July and finished the 2010 season 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA.

Tampa Bay has already let Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena walk and closer Rafael Soriano won’t be returning either.  They traded shortstop Jason Barlett — who had become a fan favorite amongst the handful of loyal Rays fans — to the Padres.  Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton remain with the team, but we can only wonder how long it will be before the Rays start fielding trade offers for the two young studs.

The bottom line is the Rays have become a franchise that needs to either change locations or accept their position as perennial bottom-feeders in the AL East.  Sure, a three-year span where their prospects have an impact and are still under team control could arise again, but unless they find a way to fill the stands they’ll never be able to sustain a talented roster.  Pending a few more trades before the season begins, Tampa Bay will likely revert to the form we grew used to before 2008 came along.

Tampa Bay Rays’ Reid Brignac Does the Dougie (Video)

The Tampa Bay Rays clinched a postseason berth last night and decided to do what any athlete would do when they’re happy about something — the “Dougie Dance.”  Braylon Edwards Dougied on Darius Butler after he caught a touchdown pass against the Patriots and did it again on Sunday night against the Dolphins.  So what if he was benched for the first quarter of the game because he was arrested for a DUI?  The Dougie can’t be controlled.

To this point, I’ve never been truly uncomfortable watching someone do the Dougie.  That just changed.  Check out the Reid Brignac Dougie video, courtesy of The Big Lead via TampaBay.com:

MLB Playoff Preview: American League

The National League playoff picture has yet to become clear, with only the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies looking comfortably ahead of their division rivals. As such, we’ll take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the American League powerhouse teams where the playoff picture is more clear.

The truth is, predicting who will win the World Series, even when picking from eight teams, is a crap shoot at best. The five and seven game series can easily go either way and the better teams, as proven by the 162-game schedule, rarely have any significant advantages over such a short span.

A few points of particular interest, when looking at playoff contenders, are their strengths or weaknesses in the secret sauce categories. During the eight team, Wild Card-era of baseball, teams that have had the most success have three things in common: strikeout pitchers, good team defense and a good closer (all of these are adjusted for ballpark and competition and all that junk).

Each win in the playoffs is that much more valuable, so closers often get extended for two and even three innings while good defenses keep games close. Good offensive teams do not have a significant edge in the playoffs because they face more power pitching and rarely get to see number four or five starters.

So how do the American League teams stack up? Let’s find out:

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Tampa Bay Rays Sport Funky Golf Outfits

Aside from their stellar play on the field, the Tampa Bay Rays have become known for their strange clothing choices. Inspired by manager Joe Maddon, the team has themed road trips.

They’ve had a hockey road trip where they all wore hockey jerseys, they did a Western road trip with cowboy outfits, and my personal favorite was the snazzy BRayzers they debuted.

Well the Rays just finished up a six-game home stretch on Sunday and flew out for a huge series with the Yankees in New York. You figure the Rays would be all business and completely serious heading into the monstrous series, but the team actually was living lighter with a Lacoste-type attitude.

As I found out from Big League Stew via SI Hot Clicks, the boys from Tampa decided to sport golfing/country club outfits. I guess it’s just Halloween every month for Tampa Bay. Too bad the lax attitude didn’t help them on Monday night.

Rays Senior Prom for Senior Citizens to Become Annual Event

You’ve probably seen the Pepsi commercial where Rays third baseman Evan Longoria suggests to Detroit’s Johnny Damon a “Senior Prom for Seniors Citizens.” I never really knew what that commercial was all about, but I always thought that suggestion was as funny as the Rays new BRaysers plaid blazers. Well, the Rays took that line from the commercial and ran with it, hosting a Senior Prom for Senior Citizens last week after their afternoon game Wednesday.

The turnout was fabulous — 2,500 people showed up to participate — and as Ben Maller points out, the Rays will make the senior prom an annual event.

So what made the event special? According to WTSP, “The music and scoreboard graphics also took fans back to an older era. Boutonnieres and corsages were provided as well. Ushers dressed in tuxes and prom dresses while Elvis and Frank Sinatra impersonators entertained.” Here are a few pictures courtesy of Sharing Florida in case you missed it:

Between the Senior Prom and their weekend night club at The Trop, the Rays have to win some sort of award for creative promotions. They’re owning.

Sources:
Rays Tales: Adventures in plaid [St. Petersburg Times]
TV commercial inspires huge turnout for “MLB Senior Prom” [Ben Maller]

Rays Debut the ‘BRayser’

For whatever reason, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon thinks it’s a good idea for his team to have fashion-themed road trips.  The picture above are the Rays new “BRaysers“, which is a combination of the words “Ray” and “Blazer.”  Clever, eh?  Apparently, the fashion work was done by fashion designer Julia Alarcon with the help of Rays TV broadcaster Todd Kalas, who was also sporting a BRayser on Tuesday night.  Personally, I’d prefer to be given a rookie hazing haircut.  For whatever reason, Maddon is thrilled with the hideous jackets:

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An AL East Team Will Miss Out on a Playoff Spot

Has anyone taken a look at the MLB standings lately?  If you have, you’ve probably noticed that the power across the league is pretty concentrated.  The AL East currently has three teams — the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Tampa Bay Rays — that have a better record than any other team in Major League Baseball.  The Yankees and Rays, both with records of 42-26, came into Sunday leading the division.  The Red Sox trail both teams by a game and, with a record of 42-28, would be first in any other division in baseball.

So, what’s the point?  The point is that it’s highly likely that one of the three aforementioned clubs is going to get screwed out of a postseason spot because they play in the toughest division in baseball.  When the Red Sox were swept by the Orioles in mid-April, I wrote that they were in serious danger of burying themselves before the season even really got underway.  I also sounded off on David Ortiz, who at the time was batting .158 with 0 home runs and 2 RBI.  I’m not sure if he got a hold of some of those Flintstones chewables that gave him his power before or what, but Big Papi has a pulse.  All of a sudden the Red Sox DH is 6th in the AL with 15 homers and is batting a much-improved .263 with 45 RBI.  He’s a huge reason the Red Sox, who came into the season preaching “run prevention,” are leading the AL in runs scored.

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