09 > 08

February 21, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Posted in Baseball, Rays | 4 Comments

So by now, most baseball fans know about 9=8, which was the Rays motivational slogan during their improbable run to the World Series in 2008.  It meant that if nine players played hard for nine innings every night, the Rays would be one of the eight MLB playoff teams.  It seemed far-fetched when Joe Maddon introduced it during spring training, but it turned out to be prophetic.  The team wore t-shirts that said 9=8 all season as a reminder of their goal.  When they clinched a playoff spot, the Rays started selling 9=8 t-shirts to the fans, including me.  So how do they follow the amazing success of 9=8?  Joe Maddon’s unveiling of the new slogan was eagerly anticipated during spring training this week.  It’s pretty simple and it’s awesome:

09 > 08

Simply put, 2009 will be even greater than 2008 for the Rays.  The goal is to win at least 100 games.  If the key players can stay healthy and the new additions contribute like they are expected to, it’s quite possible that the Rays will make 09 > 08 a reality.  I can’t wait to see it.

One consequence of the Rays new winning ways is a huge increase in fan support.  There was record attendance at last weekend’s annual Fan Fest at Tropicana Field.  Justin from Tampa Bay Sports Wasteland has a great post about his experience at the Fan Fest.  They also had a parade on Thursday in Charlotte County, Florida, their new spring training home:

rays_parade

Photo credit: St. Pete Times

A year ago it would’ve been hard to imagine fans turning out for a parade even in St. Petersburg.  It’s great to see Rays fever spreading all over Florida.  Hopefully this is a precursor for a much bigger parade at the end of October!

Finally, the Rays continue to add free agents to their spring training roster.  You probably know about the major offseason acquisitions like Pat Burrell, Matt Joyce, Joe Nelson, and Brian Shouse, but the Rays have also recently added these players as non-roster invitees:

  • Morgan Ensberg – the former All Star has fallen way down since his amazing 2005 season for the Astros, but he should be a great contributor to the Durham Bulls this year, and a decent fill-in for the Rays if there are injuries.  Despite his struggles, he’s still good at taking walks and getting on base.  And who knows, maybe he can resurrect his career the way that guys like Carlos Pena, Ty Wigginton, and Eric Hinske have done for the Rays in recent years.
  • Adam Kennedy – he’s always been a great defensive second baseman who is decent offensively.  It’s surprising that the Cardinals recently released him after a pretty good 2008 season.  He’s really in camp because Akinori Iwamura will be playing for the Japanese WBC team and the Rays needed an extra second baseman for their spring training games.  But he’s supposedly a good teammate and influence in the clubhouse, and if there’s an injury, he wouldn’t be a bad backup infielder.
  • Jason Isringhausen – he’s the most intriguing of all of these players.  He’s been one of the most consistently effective closers of the past decade, but he had a really bad year for St. Louis in 2008.  He had surgery in September for a torn flexor tendon, so that might have been why he pitched so poorly.  If he can bounce back, he should be a very useful reliever for the Rays, possibly even the closer.  It’s a low risk, and potentially very high reward signing.

The Rays first spring training game is on Wednesday, and I’m sure that I’ll have many more things to say about the Rays once the games start to be played…

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4 Comments »

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  1. Dave,

    Kennedy = Roster flexibility like you said.

    Izzy = Done. He begged the Cardinals to give him a minor league deal last week and they declined, even though he’s 8 saves shy of 300. Great, great guy but he’s been horrible the last 2.5 years. Much of it has been injuries, some of which he keeps to himself, but a lot of it is between the ears. He wills runners on in the ninth…

  2. Despite the Rays being in the same division as the Yankees, I think they are a great team with definite potential to win it all. I’d like to see Price start out the year in the majors, unlike the rumors of him beginning the season in AAA.

  3. Tony – judging by his stats, it sure looks like Isringhausen was very good in 2007.
    .
    Marie – as much as I’d love to see Price in Durham again, I think there’s about a 0% chance of that happening.

  4. If I’m not mistaken, I think Morgan Ensberg played most of last year in the Tribe’s system. Man, what the heck happened to that guy?


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