After getting optioned to triple-A Durham Thursday afternoon, Jorge Cantu said he had no business being in Tampa Bay. He's 100% right, and he's 95% responsible for the situation he's in.
It's not like I don't like the guy. Cantu stole all of our hearts in his magical 2005 season. How could he not have? With the aging Roberto Alomar deciding late in spring training to hang it up, Cantu's explosion on to the main stage was remarkable in what would become another train wreck of a season. In 150 games, Cantu seemed to answer the franchise's question on what was on second. He had a .286 batting average, 28 homers, 117 RBI, and easily was selected as the team MVP. Then came 2006.
After a letdown and injury-plagued 2006 season, Cantu looked to return to his '05 form in 2007. He hit a respectable .255 in spring training but was just beat out by second base contestants Ty Wigginton and B.J. Upton. Of course, Cantu's suspect defense didn't help his cause that much to begin with. Cantu was one of the final cuts in spring training and he wouldn't let you forget it. Instead of putting his chin up and vowing to fight his way back to the majors and prove everybody wrong, Cantu demanded a trade and there was much speculation on if he would report to Durham. Cantu was called up several weeks later, only to spend the majority of his time on the bench while Upton starred at second, and Josh Wilson filled in well after being claimed by the Rays in early May. Cantu's Rays career was toast before it had a chance to be revived.
But it was Cantu who wouldn't allow his own career to be revived. By making such a big clamor over his demotion at the start of the season, Cantu placed himself over everybody else on the team when in reality he was an average second baseman living off the fumes of one really good season. The Rays didn't have to go out of their way to make him happy afterwards, and they didn't. With better alternatives than Cantu, his demotion to AAA Thursday night should be no surprise to anybody.
It's not a surprise to Cantu, who clearly sees the opportunity he may have had to make everything right flew out the window in April. Now he's handling himself a little better than his first demotion, acknowledging the team is going in a different direction and he doesn't fit in. Still, Cantu is looking for the easy way out hoping the Rays just release him so someone else can pick him up. Cantu's agent, Steve Canter, isn't helping matters by trying to compare Cantu's situation to those of Julio Franco, Milton Bradley, and Shea Hillenbrand. With the Rays thoroughly wrapped around the idea of getting value for value, I don't see that happening too soon.
So the Rays go on with Wilson, Wigginton, and Upton at second. Cantu goes on as the sore thumb on a youthful team in Durham. Instead of fighting one more time to get back, Cantu wants the Rays to just let him loose in the hopes of what he did for one magical season makes him a star on another team.
Well... I thought Cantu got it right.
Other notes from Raysland:
- Stuart Sternberg threw his support behind Joe Maddon prior to Friday night's 14-4 win at Yankee Stadium. That should be seen hardly as a surprise despite Maddon's 99-158 record in just under two years of service. Despite Maddon's ever-confusing lineups (and reasons for them), his alleged aloofness to a losing situation, and his buddy-buddy approach to managing, Maddon will likely stay past 2007 and for a simple reason-- he keeps quiet. As long as Maddon sings a happy song and doesn't throw a temper tantrum, he's good for the NDRO. And as long as Maddon keeps fans scratching their heads, that's more of a spotlight on Maddon instead of the moves by management that have caused some head scratching.
- Sternberg also pumped up the idea of the team's financial flexibility, suggesting that if a big-contract player comes along to help the team it won't be a big deal. Interestingly though, Sternberg said, "We have needs, but every other team does, just like the Yankees and the Red Sox. There isn't a team in baseball that doesn't. Hopefully they'll stretch to us for one of their needs and I think we can have a fit with most any team." It's true Stu, all 29 other MLB teams have needs, but using that as an excuse for not making a good deal is unacceptable. It does take two to tango, but sometimes you have to initiate the dancing.(Thanks to the Tampa Tribune's Marc Lancaster for the quotes)
- Speaking of Yankee Stadium, I learned a few things from my trip to the old ballpark while on vacation a few weeks ago:
- The stadium is a hulking dump in one of the worst neighborhoods in America. But thanks to 26 World Championships and a pile of Hall of Famers and legends who wore the pinstripes, there is some charm between the walls with peeling paint in the Bronx.
- New York City weather forecasters suck even more than Tampa Bay weather forecasters. All week long I heard about how torrential downpours were supposed to wash out the entire day of the game. My wife and I prepared for rain, only to get five straight hours of sun on us in the bleachers. I'll send my bills for skin cancer treatment to FOX 5.
- Speaking of weather, nothing sucks more than wondering if the game you've waited weeks to see will get rained out. Stop complaining about the dome.
- Stub Hub = happiness. Two tickets in the right field bleachers, Row A, plus shipping and handling came out to $48 total. Best seats in the house.
- Yankees fans are talkative, and very passionate. At first it was cool because you don't always get that in the Trop. By the fifth inning I wanted to strangle the guy sitting next to me.
- The line between "passionate" and "ignorant" with Yankees fans is very thin. After allowing one walk in the second inning, fans were screaming for Joe Torre to pull Kei Igawa. And put in that gas can of a bullpen? Come on now...
- When P.A. announcer Bob Sheppard says "Joe Mauer", it sounds like he's saying, "Joe Mama". Highly entertaining.
- Sheppard was entertaining when I could hear him. Whoever was playing the music that day seemed more interested in listening to Usher and T.I. instead of a legendary voice.
- Even if you hate the Yankees and their fans as much as I do, see the old ballpark before a wrecking ball knocks it down in 2009.
- Speaking of the Yankees, I laugh when I read "expert" columnists in the New York papers who suggest Bobby Abreu should be traded. If these knuckleheads haven't realized now that Abreu is at his hottest in August and September, I don't know how they keep their jobs.
- That bastion of truth in New York, the Post, reports the Rays are listening to "anything about anybody" when it comes to trades. The Yankees like Ty Wigginton, but the Rays are reportedly not letting him go for nothing (a.k.a. Scott Proctor).
- There was something in the air tonight Fernando... both Dioner Navarro AND Julio Lugo hit grand slams. Go play the lottery while you can.
- Is it me, or was the recent hoopla over the Phillies losing their 10,000th game in franchise history just a bit much?
- If you want the real losers of baseball, Fox Sports' Dayn Perry says look no further than Tropicana Field. In his top ten ranking of the worst sports teams of all time, the Rays trail only the legendary Washington Generals and the Prairie View A&M football squad.
- Finally, I was shocked and confused to find out the new "Cavemen" show on ABC has gone through a total rewrite and recasting recently. What? A TV show based on a car insurance commercial wasn't good enough to stand on it's own?