Thursday, July 8, 2010

Price, Rays Sweep Sox

David Price continues his Cy Young-like season by downing the Boston Red Sox Wednesday night allowing 8 hits, 2 earned runs, and striking out 10 in 7.2 innings pitched as the Rays completed the 3-game sweep 6-4. Price earned his 12th win of the season and is currently the front-runner to start for the A.L. in this Tuesday’s (7/13) All-Star game in Anaheim. This is such an unbelievable feat for a Rays pitcher and further gives the team and organization much deserved notoriety.

Hopefully Longo’s bomb in the 4th inning on the 1st pitch he saw from Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield helps snap him out of this mini slump that he’s currently fighting off. The team went 3 for 12 with men in scoring position, which isn’t great, but it got the job done. Leaving Sean Rodriquez stranded on 3rd base with no one out during the bottom of the 2nd inning could have been a major blow, but with Price in the zone the Sox didn’t sniff a run until the 6th inning and Tampa had a solid lead by then.

Things did get hairy during the top of the 9th when Boston put up two more runs making it 6-4. Randy Choate gave up a single to J.D. Drew and Matt Garza came in to try and close the game out. Drew stole 2nd on indifference and Garza gave up a huge double to Darnell McDonald scoring Drew. Garza then walked Big Papi. With men on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, and Garza clearly struggling, Kevin Youkilis had a chance to be a hero, but popped out to B.J. Upton to end the game. The Trop was truly electric and it felt good to see Sox fans leave with their heads down and mouths shut. If I had to hear, “Let’s go, Red Sox!” one more time, my head was going to explode.

The controversy of the night came in the top of the 9th when Rays skipper Joe Maddon decided to go with Matt Garza as his closer. I had no problem with this. Garza struggled during Monday night’s game and was benched early. He was probably the freshest pitcher in the bullpen and the pen, especially closer Rafael Soriano, had been overworked since the Minnesota series during the holiday weekend. The knock on Garza is he’s a slow starter and it was too important of a situation to gamble on the hard-throwing righty, but he got the job done and that’s all that matters. No point second-guessing something that worked. Matt should be good to go for his slated start Saturday night.

Tampa Bay goes up against Cleveland in a 4-game set. Taking 3 of 4 against the Indians would carry huge momentum over through the All-Star break and it’s not something that’s out of the question. Hopefully the true Rays fans that showed up throughout the Red Sox series continue to show their support over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ponder's Heisman Campaign

I want to preface this with I’m a huge Christian Ponder fan. The senior quarterback for the Florida State Seminoles is an exemplary student-athlete and I believe he deserves all of the accolades in the world. He graduated with his Bachelor’s in two years and will have his MBA by the end of the college football season. He gets little to no recognition even though he has partaken in many community service outings within the state of Florida as well as his home state of Texas. The young man wasn’t highly recruited at all, but former FSU offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden saw something in the young signal-caller to give him a scholarship offer during one of the Seminoles’ high school camps. He went from an average quarterback as a sophomore to a star the following season and he is beloved by ‘Nole Nation. Depending on how well he does this season, many publications have Ponder as a late 1st to early 2nd round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. His Heisman Trophy campaign went viral (here) at midnight, July 7th and I think this is a horrible idea. Here’s why…

Florida State has been borderline mediocre for the past six seasons with only a handful of bright spots during this time. Obviously, one of these bright spots is Christian Ponder. With a bevy of weapons and an experienced offensive line, there’s no reason to believe Ponder can’t win the Heisman. Before his ‘09 season was ended early due to a shoulder injury, statistically he was one of the top QB’s in the nation. Well, now the Florida State Athletic Department has put a huge bulls-eye on Ponder’s back and teams will surely be gunning for him even more.

The ‘Noles were prime for a breakout season with a new, and fiery, head coach in Jimbo Fisher and a brand new defensive coordinator in Mark Stoops, who’ll be implementing a unique Cover-2 scheme that has never been utilized at FSU. This was supposed to be the year they got back on track and it was by flying under the radar that was going to help the Seminoles succeed. Teams already know how good Ponder is. No need to assist them and pump them up by showcasing this campaign. Now, there’s pressure on a kid when there wasn’t pressure before on a team that is still developing talent and trying to climb back in the right direction. Who actually thought this was a good idea?

I understand this is supposed to help recruiting because there’s a player in the spotlight that’ll be featured on ESPN daily and it’ll make the program more appealing, but this is a new age where highly touted recruits don’t care about that anymore. They’re in it for themselves. I’d say the majority of them want the spotlight, serve their three years, and go on to the NFL. If they happen to win a National Title during their college career then that’s a bonus.

Heisman campaigns are for Top-5 talent teams that actually have a shot at winning a National Championship, something the ‘Noles will not be playing in this season. The element of surprise has officially been exposed and FSU doesn’t have the defensive talent capable of taking some of the pressure off of Christian. He has what it takes between the ears and his physical attributes are clearly there, but a Heisman is truly won by a team and not just the individual. I honestly wish the young man luck and I hope that he proves me wrong, but this was a bad idea for FSU’s 2010 season.