Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers ALDS preview Myths, mysteries about Rays

Why is John Jaso called Mikey?

Because after he got called up for the first time in 2008, Carlos Peña didn't know his name and — when calling him out in team tradition to sing on a bus ride — called him Mike Jaso. "From that day forward," manager Joe Maddon said, "he has been Mikey."

Why does Carlos Peña take ground balls during BP with that little black glove?

To do better with the big one in the game. Pena said the 9½ glove (about the size a T-baller would use) forces him to focus and concentrate more on catching the ball, and he often makes it more challenging by holding a ball in his other hand so he can't use it to help.

What does GTMI mean?

Officially, Get The Man In, though there originally was a more colorful m-word used. It was spawned from a comment by Carl Crawford during a spring training drill new hitting coach Derek Shelton, left, was running focusing on driving in runners from third with less than two outs, and it became a team motto, and a T-shirt.

Why does Maddon wear those striped socks?

The Rays had some made in June after seeing the Cardinals wearing them, and Maddon joined several players in going old-school. But it became permanent for him after the Rays were no-hit for the second time this season as a tribute — of sorts — to Pants Rowland, manager of the 1917 White Sox, the only team in MLB history to be no-hit twice and still reach the World Series. Maddon also has a framed photo of Rowland, right, on his desk.

What's with Evan Longoria's hair and beard?

The "mullet" look, above, is something he copied from good friend and college buddy Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies, though not quite as wild. The beard has two tales — he started growing one in September and kept it until the Rays clinched. Now he's planning to grow another one and keep it throughout the playoffs.

Why does Longoria go into the stands behind home plate before home games to toss a fan a ball?

Even he's not sure. He remembers tossing a ball to a kid one day and having a good game, and he started making it part of his routine. "It's one of those superstitious things I guess that I just do to do," he said.

Why is there no label on Joe Maddon's water bottle?

In this case, there's nothing deep or mysterious or exotic. It's just Maddon, from his years as a coach, being practical: That way, he knows it's his.

Why do the Rays untuck their jerseys after some wins?

It's a tribute to closer Rafael Soriano, who they noticed would do so after completing each save. So at the urging of James Shields, most of the rest of the players also do it after Soriano gets the final out. "Shirts out for Soriano," Shields calls it.

What's the reason for the silly dress-up trips?

Manager Joe Maddon is big into building team unity and risk-taking, and this is one of his most public ways — given the blue-plaid BRaysers, soccer and hockey jerseys, all-white, all-black, urban cowboy, wild Loudmouth golf pants and other outfits the Rays have worn over the past two years. Plus, he likes to poke fun at establishment: "To wear a $1,000 suit on an airplane among peers, to me, is absolutely crazy."

And some myths:

The Rays are a horrible offensive team

Actually, they're just a horribly inconsistent offensive team. They ranked third in the majors in runs scored and fell one short of the team record.

Evan Longoria is their most valuable player

That's certainly the national perception, but Carl Crawford hit almost 100 points higher with runners in scoring position, and Rafael Soriano has had the larger impact.

The Rays get thrown out a lot on the bases

Actually, they are very efficient, fourth-best in the majors with a 78 percent success rate on stolen bases, and first overall with 172 steals. (Their 47 caught stealings are seventh most.)

The Rays' success is due to all their homegrown players

Sure, the draft is a big part of it, with top-5 picks B.J. Upton (No. 2 in 2002), Jeff Niemann (No. 4 in 2004), Evan Longoria (No. 3 in 2006) and David Price (No. 1 in 2007). But more than half their players came from other organizations.

Carlos Peña's at-bats are all or nothing

Peña came to the plate 578 times and struck out 158 times (27.3 percent), got a hit 95 times (16.4) — including 28 homers — and walked 86 times (14.9). He had a higher on-base percentage (.325) than B.J. Upton, Sean Rodriguez, Willy Aybar and Reid Brignac.

Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers ALDS preview Myths, mysteries about Rays 10/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 4:35pm]

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