I found a couple of interesting articles on the net, a few of them with a thin thread of relation to the Rays, and others with complete relation to them. Here are the four articles, with more info on each after the jump:
Front Office Hire
Former Ray named Winter League Player of the Year
US Announces WBC Roster, three former Rays aboard
The Rays finally released their 2006 TV schedule today, completing a scheduling process that has taken almost six months. The Rays were late this year in releasing starting times, spring schedules, and lastly, TV schedules, but at least it is finally out. The TV schedule features 142 games, two more than last year and the year before, and is the most games ever televised for the Rays. The TV slate includes, surprise surprise, all games against New York and Boston, as well as their three game home interleague series with Atlanta. Overall, 72 home games will be on the tube, as will 70 road games, with FSN Florida carrying 75 games, and over the air local channel 66, or 17, depending on your cable program, the former Pax affiliate, picking up the reamining 67.
It is unclear whether, at some point in the year, games on FSN will be switched to sister network Sun Sports, and if memory serves me correctly, this is the Rays' last year of their TV agreement with the former Pax affiliate. The Rays could get a fight for netowrk TV coverage next year, as the combo of WB and UPN left local channel 38 without a major netowkr affiliate and putting it in direct competition with Channel 32, and both carried the Rays at some point over the last eight years. Anyways, key games picked up by FSN include the season opener April 3 in Baltimore, a 3pm start, with the home opener being picked up by the Rays TV network. New this year will be the broadcasting of some Rays games in High Def, with those games yet to be determined. FSN will also pick up two spring telecasts, a March 16th afternoon game vs. Boston, and an evening game the next week.
Returning to the booth are Dewayne Staats, and Jim's favorite color analyst, Joe Magrane, who return for their ninth season in the Rays' TV booth. Todd Kalas also returns as the fill-in third commentator and Rays on Deck host, and he will be adding something new to his portfolio this year. He will host nine half hour episodes of a new show called "Inside the Devil Rays", which is billed as something that "will include player profiles, with rare behind-the-scenes stories and interviews, plus episodes offering inside access to other aspects of the team and its operations". Gee, sounds exciting, wake me up when the game starts.
Now let me ask an idirect question to the Rays' brass. Why would you broadcast more home games than away games, and choose the oddest timed games to televise. For example, why do you broadcast 1:15 weekday home games while leaving 7:15 Wednesday night telecasts untelevised? I am sure that the networks have their say in scheduling matters, so I am not really blaming any particular part, but some of the boradcasted games decisions seem very peculiar. Why not broadcast all road games, all weekday games, and not boradcast some unappealing weekend showdowns with teams like Kansas City or Detroit, thus encouraging people to go out to the ballpark? Alas, the addition of two games, however small of an improvement that may be, is an improvement nonetheless, and this news can only be regarded as good for a season that looks to be the most exciting in club history.
Front Office Hire
Here was a peculiar little tidbit tucked away on an article on MLB.com's website:
Wait, huh, wha? Who is this? Haven't heard any mainstream outlets report this yet. But all you need to read to understand why he left the Dodgers is the statement in bold in the quote box. Apparently all things DePodesta are being purged from LA like all things LaMar were expelled here. Still we don't know much about this guy, nor do we know what position he has taken with the Rays. Looks like we'll just have to wait and see on this one.
Former Ray named Winter League Player of the Year
This piece had a rather loose link to the Devil Rays, but had a link nonetheless. Yurendell De Caster, signed as an undrafted freevagent by the Rays back when their Carribean scouting prescence was strong, was named Baseball America's Winter Player of the Year after hitting .325 with 17 home runs and 47 RBIs, as well as 11 stolen bases. Still only 26 years of age, De Caster was plucked from the Dominican by a Rays scout, and spent his first season of pro ball with the Rays' Dominican League affiliate, hitting .239 with five homers and 39 RBI, unimpressive numbers indeed. He spent his first year in thec states with the Rays' old Gulf Coast League affiliate, and hit to a line of .236/.316/.328, for an OPs of .644, and it looked like he may become history, another failed prospect.
But in 1999, De Caster joined the Princeton Devil Rays with teammate Josh Hamilton, and caught on fire, batting .257 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI, finishing with a .503 SLG and an OPS of .837. After that, he was promoted to his first full season league, and played below average with the Charleston River Dogs, hitting .240-7-28, with a 712 OPS, and left the Rays organization after the season after being plucked in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft by then-GM Cam Bonifay and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bonifay, in a twist of irony, would then of course go on to take a front office position with the Rays before being fired last October. De Caster got of to a slow start in the Pirates organization, but hit his stride in 2002, and has not had an OPS under .710 since then in rising through the Pirates organization all the way up to AAA Indianapolis last year. He is primed to make his MLB debut at some point this year after that awesome winter performance, and is quickly looking like another one that got away for the Rays.
US Announces WBC roster, three former Rays aboard
The USA Baseball organization announced its roster for the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday, and the list includes three former Rays, and would have included four had Rays OF Carl Crawford elected to participate. The three players, reliever Dan Wheeler, outfielder Randy Winn, and releiver Todd Jones, join a depleted roster without many key stars who elected to to participate, not the least of which includes Crawford.
Wheeler, drafted by the Rays in the 34th round of the 1996 amateur draft, was raised in the team's farm system, playing with the major league club in parts of 1999-2001, before moving on to play with the New York Mets and, currently, the Houston Astros. Winn was the last player left from the inaugural team of 1998 when he was traded following the 2002 season in the Lou Pinella deal. He spent the first three years of his career in the Florida Marlins' organization before being picked in the expansion draft by the Rays, and he spent parts of the next five seasons on the major league club and their AAA Durham affiliate. Since leaving Seattle midseason last year in a trade, Winn has played for the San Francisco Giants, the only player keeping the team's average outfield age under 80, and doing so quite well, hitting for a 1.071 OPS in his last 231 ABs of the season with San Francisco.
Jones has the least connection to the Rays, but indeed was a spring training invitee previous to the 2003 season. Jones, who has 2226 career saves, has also played for the Detroit Tigers, and cashed in on his rebound season with the Marlins last year big in free agency, going back to Detroit for well over what he is worth. Some of you may also know him for his weekly column in The Sporting News.
While I am happy for the three former Rays who made it to the Classic, I am somewhat disappointed that Carl Crawford won't be playing for the U.S team. The WBC may not be the most prestigous event you will ever see, but it is still an international showcase, and it would be nice to see CC recognized on an internation stage. Whether or not his reason for pulling out is truthful or not, it is a disappointment not to see him playing, no matter what the anti-international tournament forces lead by Stienbrenner and the BP boys say.