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If First Basemen Could Only Pitch...

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Thanks to the NHL All-Star Break, I have a full week off work. Even though I'm doing a few small jobs here and there this week, today is my true "off day". I worked out, stained some wood for a new shelf, read the newspaper about the upcoming "cold snap" (after shoveling snow in college I can tell you 45 degrees is not a "cold snap"), and looked up a few of my former high school classmates on the HCSO website to see who has been arrested. It's now 11 a.m. and I'm not quite ready to record more of my MST3K episodes from video to DVD. So I thought I would comment on the few things happening in Raysville this past week.

* If we witness nuclear war, all that will be left surviving is cockroaches and Devil Rays' first basemen. I can't argue with the soon-to-be picked up Carlos Pena, Hee Sop Choi, Greg Norton, or Ty Wigginton at first. But I'm afraid with Joe Maddon's incessant tinkering, trying to show the world he's so damn smart, we'll have plenty of people at the Trop saying "Who's on first?" followed by, "Why the hell is he on second?"

* Scott Dohmann may be the nicest guy on the planet, but he is hardly the answer to the Rays' bullpen woes. A quick look at Dohmann on baseball-reference.com compares his career stats to Jason "Suitcase" Boyd, Randy "I couldn't stay in the '82 Cubs bullpen" Stein, and Jason "base hit up the middle" Standridge. Scientific stats comparison aside, Dohmann is a low-risk, low-cost free agent. So was Dan Miceli, Brian Meadows, and Scott Dunn. For Dohmann's sake, and for the Rays success, I hope he pans out better. I will not bet the farm on it, however.

* John Romano, columnist for the St. Pete Times, is a bit tricky to figure out at times. Sometimes he's all doom and gloom, other times he's on target. Today's column was on target when it comes to fan expectations on the Rays turning things around sooner than later. We didn't expect overnight success, but we did expect a change in direction from Vince Namoli. While it is easy to understand the NDRO's patient and cost-effective approach, it's hard to understand how they thought the approach would go over so well with fans tired of Namoli's shenanagins. Free parking and a touch tank can only get you so far. If payroll doesn't get ratcheted up, and the team doesn't go after valuable free agents in 2008, the team's star players AND fans will look elsewhere for winning baseball.

* Speaking of payroll, if you didn't see the comments in R.J.'s "Payroll Patrol" column yesterday, we had a pretty good debate going on regarding exactly how the Rays are increasing payroll 10-15% when it's going backwards. Come opening day, I will compare 2007 payrolls of all 30 teams to 2006 payrolls. I'm curious if the rest of MLB has already passed by the Rays in terms of 10-15% payroll increases being sufficient. After all, Moneyball is soooooooo 2002.

* I hear a lot of talk of the Rays moving to the NL East if and when the Marlins relocate to San Antonio or Las Vegas. Don't count on that happening next season, or ever. Both San Antonio and Las Vegas do NOT have a new major league-ready ballpark set to host any team. You also can't just plop down 25,000 bleachers in the outfield of both cities' minor league ballparks and say it's a viable temporary home. If the Marlins do move, it won't be until a new stadium is ready which would likely be in 2010 (coincidentally when the lease at Dolphins Stadium expires). There is a more likely chance the Marlins will get a new stadium in Miami or nearby Hialeah by then.

Even if the Marlins were to move out by 2010, who's to say the NL East will be any friendlier than the AL East is now? The Mets are building a very scary team that should be get for four or five more years. Behind them the Philles are rebuilding and could be competitive by then, as could the Nationals. The Braves will either re-stock or bottom out. Maybe the Rays don't finish last in that division, but I hardly expect a first-place finish either. And as for spending, I don't see the Mets, Phillies, Nats, or Braves slicing their payroll down to anywhere near $40 or $50 million by then.

* Hmmm... the trade rumors for Elijah Dukes have died down. Coincidence?

* Elsewhere in baseball, Scott Podsednik will be sidelined six weeks after undergoing hernia surgery. Sounds rough, but having Lisa Dergen look after you while you're all laid up ain't half bad.

* Finally, one of my favorite things to do during the offseason is check out the ad campaigns teams run to boost ticket sales and fan interest. Not too many of 2007's campaigns have rolled out yet, but the Rockies is already up there as one of the lamest. The Rocks allowed some 47-year-old marketing executive who never picked up a bat in his life to select "R You In?" as the campaign with the "R" reflecting the letter R in the Rockies' uniforms. Other than the obvious sexual double-entendre', judging by the half-empty Coors Field last season the answer is "no".