The Rays clinched the American League East, arguably the toughest division in baseball, for the second year in a row. If anyone was thinking that 2020’s division title was less than because of the shortened season, Rays came back in 2021 to make clear they are the division’s power house.
There are still some goals for the coming week. Important goals like clinching the best record in the American League to assure home field advantage moving head; symbolic goals like winning 100 games for the first time in Rays history. But mostly expect this week to be about resting dinged up starters and trying out players in different roles to figure out the complex puzzle of a 26 man ALDS roster.
We all know that we are approaching a pivot point in the future of the Rays in Tampa Bay. We all know that ownership is very enthusiastic about splitting the team between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal. But “unveiling a sign” to shine light on the idea during the postseason? That seems like it would be a good idea only if thumbing your nose at your current fans were your goal.
Dave Wills and Andy Freed pleaded for a Jomboy lip-reading video on...cardgate? Whatever we are calling the Kiermaier-stole-cheat-card-and-then-got-hit imbroglio. And Jomboy complied. This breakdown makes clear that Jays catcher Kirk actually lost the info card from his wrist band — he hadn’t simply had it hanging out of his pocket, as some have suggested. But the absolutely best thing we learn from this video breakdown: during the melee after Kiermaier was hit, the Wednesday Blue Jays catcher, Jansen, once again loses his cheat card wrist band! You couldn’t make this up.
The Jays throw at Kiermaier because he stole their secrets, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/XyTBmfUL9y— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) September 24, 2021
The mothership (MLB network) has tended to overlook our guys, but maybe they’ve made up for their neglect with this video?
The local baseball writers association chapter awards end of season accolades each year. For 2021, the MVP award, named for Don Zimmer, was Mike Zunino:
Mike Zunino, MVP— Sports by Tampa Bay Times (@TBTimes_Sports) September 24, 2021
The Rays' catcher is the winner of the Don Zimmer Most Valuable Player Award, voted on by the Tampa Bay chapter of the @officialBBWAA and presented by @TBTimes_Rays ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/wmUbIxz6HV
This Collin McHugh interview on a Fangraphs podcast is absolutely worth your time! He talks about pitchers use of statistical data; whether he misses having reporters in the clubhouse; his “football” fandom and other things. I did NOT know that Logan Morrison was McHugh’s Ben Francisco.
From Marc Topkin: How is this memorable Game 162 ten years ago?
Durham Bulls bat dog would never do this!
Around the League
In some ways this hypothetical — how would the Mets be different if they had hired Chaim Bloom? — is just sort of silly. But the article itself offers insight into the thought processes of major league front offices ($).
Since the Rays just saw him, let’s take a look at what makes pitcher Sandy Alcantara so good.
This New Yorker article from a few weeks ago looks at baseball’s experimentation with automated strike zones — it covers the technology and of course the “human aspect.” (I still don’t understand why we need inconsistently and sometimes terribly called games for baseball to remain “human” but apparently that remains a widespread view).
The sad anniversary of the death of Jose Fernandez, Emilio Macias and Eduardo Rivero was this weekend. I think about Fernandez regularly — I ride by his former high school on my bike trips down the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, and for some time they had his number hanging from a fence visible from the trail. His immigrant story, his smile, his talent, his “baseball is fun” spirit are all memorable. He was, an investigation found, impaired as he raced his boat into a rocky jetty, killing not only himself but two less heralded but surely equally loved companions. His complicity in three deaths makes our mourning him more complicated.
Here are a few of his moments on the mound, via Pitching Ninja:
José Fernández vs. Jayson Werth.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 25, 2021
Why were you looking at me?
Because you were looking at ME. pic.twitter.com/FCkhOLUVSy