I recently began reading the book "Best American Sport Writing of 2009" and man, it's an amazing read. I initially started it because I felt reading good writing might make my writing less blah-tastic, and I'm quickly getting addicted. The stories are all well written and many of them deal with sports stories that I missed over the year (like this), so it's lots of fresh, new material. And even what isn't new is presented from a unique angle. All in all, it's really excellent stuff; I'll probably fly through this book by the end of the week.
I bring this up because during the course of reading, I've stumbled upon a couple articles that have connections with the Rays. Since we have a long, long time to go until 7 PM (I don't care about the vernal equinox - today is the longest day of the year in my book), I figured I'd pass along some of them to help pass the time. They're all a little bit lengthy, but well worth the read; I guarantee it.
Michael Lewis somehow made it into Cuba by pretending he wasn't a journalist, traveled around the country on his own scouting baseball teams and players, and managed to not get arrested and thrown in prison. He saw lots of incredible players, including one that he highlights and spends some time talking about - Leslie Anderson. Reading his description of Anderson, I'm all the more excited to see him in action.
Also, Cuban baseball is such a fascinating thing. Even without the Anderson mention, this article is worth a read just to get an idea of how the Cuban teams work and function. It's basically what you'd expect of Cuba: baseball without commercialization but with a Big Brother government looming. Fun times.
This article is part of an eleven part series that focuses on all the top sports stories from 2008. Jones chooses to finish off the series with a look at the World Series and specifically, JP Howell. I feel rather morbid for bringing up an article that highlights the Rays' blackest moment, especially on the day a new season begins, but the article does end on an uplifting note. Also, I just loved how Jones portrayed Howell here; he seems so human and the emotion comes right off the page and smacks you in the face. I wish I'd read this sort of story after the 2008 season. Somehow I feel like it would have made it better.
After all our discussion about managers in the "Moments with Maddon" series, I found this depiction of Charlie Manuel very insightful. It argues that making strategic, in-game decisions is one of the smallest parts of being a successful manager, while a manager's people skills are much more important. How does a manager affect the atmosphere in a clubhouse? Does he remove pressure or add to it? When Teague compared the styles of Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel, I couldn't help but make the internal comparison between Lou Piniella and Joe Maddon.