So how was your week? Probably better than the Rays'. From Friday (May 22) through Thursday, they had a season-high five-game losing streak, sat through four rain delays and put five players on the DL, including their starting shortstop (Jason Bartlett) and second baseman (Akinori Iwamura), closer (Troy Percival), No. 2 starter (Scott Kazmir) and lefty relief specialist (Brian Shouse). Even for a franchise that until last season knew pretty much only from bad, it was bad. How bad? Bad enough that it has to be considered among the worst weeks in franchise history. Among them:
In a seven-game span, Evan Longoria had his right wrist broken by a J.J. Putz pitch (and would miss 30 games), Carl Crawford popped a tendon in his right hand that required surgery (and wouldn't return until the playoffs), and Troy Percival limped off the mound with a right knee injury (and struggled the rest of the season).
Five players left games with injuries, including starting INFs Aubrey Huff, Julio Lugo and Jorge Cantu, plus reserve Luis Ordaz and reliever Jesus Colome (who was released), with two others already on the DL. "It's like this place is on a burial ground, isn't it?" Huff said.
The Rays lost seven straight (the last 18-2) to drop to the majors' worst record, highest-paid player Aubrey Huff said, "I've never seen anything stink like this," and then-manager Lou Piniella publicly ripped the incoming Stuart Sternberg ownership group, facilitating his negotiated departure at the end of the season.
A losing streak reached historic proportions of 15, longest in the majors since the Orioles dropped 21 to open 1988, and included a no-hitter, 10 losses by one or two runs and three straight when they led with two outs in the ninth.
A dreadful 4-10 start led to the firing of manager Larry Rothschild after GM Chuck LaMar surprisingly decided to bring him back for the season.
Reigning team MVP OF Quinton McCracken tore his right ACL crashing into the outfield wall, All-Star pitcher Rolando Arrojo went on the DL, and LHP Tony Saunders sustained what many who saw it consider one of the most horrific injuries ever, breaking his left arm while delivering a pitch then crumbling to the ground.
With OF Gabe Kapler — who temporarily retired and managed a minor-league team in 2007 — in the lineup, the Rays have, in essence, a coach on the field. Some days, like Saturday, they have two. New INF Joe Dillon, right, spent 2003 as a grad assistant coach at Texas Tech, thinking his playing career was over at age 27, after six minor-league seasons, due to back problems. "I was just going to finish up my degree (in exercise science) and coach and move on to the next step of life," he said. "I didn't really have a plan." But he had surgery and felt better, and friends and coaches talked him into unretiring. He starred in the minors (hitting 39 homers in 2004), made it to the majors in May 2005 with Florida, clubbing a pinch-hit homer to beat the Rays in his second game, and has played in 125 big-league games.
The Rays have almost as much money tied up in injured players as healthy ones:
(Combined salaries of 25 current players)
On the DL
(Combined salaries of DL players: Bartlett, Bradford, Burrell, Iwamura, Kazmir, Percival, Perez, Riggans, Shouse)
You'd think Joe Maddon's three-year contract extension was a big deal, but Rays brass didn't seem to, announcing it mid afternoon, on a holiday, via conference call. … Assuming LHP David Price stays in the majors, he'll qualify for arbitration as a Super Two in 2012. … ESPN.com's Keith Law and Baseball America's Jim Callis project the Rays to take Horizon (Scottsdale, Ariz.) High C Tommy Joseph with the 30th pick in the June 9-11 draft. … Singer Julianna Zobrist, wife of INF/OF Ben, does a pregame concert Friday in Port Charlotte as part of the Class A Stone Crabs' Faith Night. … Yahoo columnist Gordon Edes has a lot of good ideas, but even suggesting elite prospect RHP Wade Davis in trade for Astros closer Jose Valverde isn't one of them. … The Rays were a finalist, but the Celtics won pro team of the year honors at last week's Sports Business Awards. … Four with Rays ties are in Michael Freeman's book of the 100 All-Time Biggest Sports Jerks: Jose Canseco, Elijah Dukes, Hal McRae, John Rocker. … Seated four rows apart at Tuesday's Magic playoff game: Rays president Matt Silverman and former C Toby Hall; Silverman had the better seat.
Got a minute? Reid Brignac
Best meal you can make? Fried egg sandwiches — pretty simple.
Karaoke song, if you had to? I don't do karaoke — sorry, that's not me. If I had to, probably an old-school R&B song, slow it down for the ladies.
Guilty pleasure at the mall? Shoes. I have a shoe addiction. I love shoes.
Must-see TV? Besides SportsCenter, Family Guy — I'm a big fan.
Dream date? Let's go with Megan Fox. She's pretty gas.