Mailbag: Projecting a dream outfield
Beat reporter Bill Chastain responds to fans' questions
From what I have seen from Fernando Perez, I think he deserves to be on the Rays' roster. Can you imagine their outfield if it had Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Perez? Think how much ground they would cover. Could the 2009 outfield end up like this? I sure hope it does.
-- Matt G., Westport, Conn.
That certainly is a possibility. Perez has demonstrated his speed on several occasions since the Rays selected him from Triple-A Durham. A nice facet of Perez's game is that he seems to improve every season. I think the pitchers would really enjoy having such an outfield.
Being a Rays fan, I am curious about what is going on. I understand things like this: no hits -- no runs. There is not one hitter on the team with an average above .300, but the Rays keep heading their way to October. What, in your opinion, is their internal secret?
-- Alexander L., Moscow, Russia
Good question. Though the team's hitters aren't having their best year statistically, they seem to get just enough hits -- and at the right time -- to support the pitching. But I agree with you -- it's crazy. Just look at the recently completed series with the Red Sox. The Rays managed just two hits in 36 at-bats with runners in scoring position, yet they came away with a series win. Go figure.
Do you think that management will open up the covered seats in the upper deck for home playoff games?
-- Carl A., Tampa, Fla.
The seats would remain covered until the World Series. At that point, Major League Baseball would require the seats to be uncovered.
Every week, it seems, I hear a negative comment about Rays fans from the local newspaper, sports radio and ESPN. These comments have a negative impact on some of the fans. With so many games played, does the media really expect Tropicana Field to be full every game? This is a relatively new team, with its first winning season. I think the fans are doing a great job supporting this team, What do you think?
-- Irene C., Clearwater, Fla.
I agree with you. After all the losing, I'm sure the club had a difficult time selling season tickets and corporate tickets during the past offseason, so every night, they are starting from a lower base attendance than most teams. Next season should be more of a litmus test of whether the Tampa Bay area can be a legitimate baseball area.
I have been pulling for the Rays since they were in first place; I'm tired of seeing New York and Boston finishing one-two every year. But having no players with playoff experience other than Cliff Floyd, Chad Bradford and Dan Wheeler, do you think the Rays can go far in the postseason, assuming they make it?
-- Adam B., Sioux City, Iowa
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Despite their youth and lack of playoff experience, I like the way the Rays are set up for the playoffs. They have quality young pitchers who can dominate, and they have above-average defense. In my opinion, those are qualities that can carry a team deep into the playoffs.
Why is Upton getting so much flak? He has the best on-base percentage on the Rays. He has shown great plate discipline for a player his age. When he does make a mistake on the field, he always takes responsibility for his actions. I hope Upton is a piece that will be in St. Petersburg for the long-term.
-- Shannon F., Sarasota, Fla.
I think the recent news about Upton having an injured labrum in his left shoulder is all you -- and those who question his desire -- need to know about him. I agree with you that he is a piece the Rays would like to keep in the fold for years to come.
It would be a great idea for the Rays to help organize a bus trip to the Trop with a ticket. It would help the gate as well as fans who can't drive or have no means of transportation. Get it organized quickly; 15,000 [in attendance] does the club an injustice. It will help.
-- Howard B., Longwood, Fla.
Yes, that would be nice, but there simply hasn't been the demand for said bus service to justify it. A private enterprise used to run it but couldn't make it work financially; perhaps now another one will give it another try. It is going to take a bus company or a transit provider to make it work -- that's a business the Rays don't know much about. If you look at other cities, those services are provided by the cities (which charge for it). It's more evidence of the Tampa Bay area's need for a regional transit system.
Troy Percival always seems to struggle. When is Joe Maddon going to forget about his friendship with the veteran closer and use Grant Balfour or Wheeler instead?
-- Ray C., Atlanta
Percival has been a high-wire act on many occasions this season, and Maddon is friends with him from their days with the Angels, but Maddon denies that his objectivity is clouded. And one thing you can say about Percival is that he might make things interesting, but he hasn't blown many saves.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.