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Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer

Marc Topkin

Marc Topkin has covered baseball for the Times since 1987 — from the lengthy effort to secure a team, to the awarding of the Tampa Bay franchise in 1995, and through each of the Rays seasons starting in 1998. He has traveled throughout the United States with the team, as well as to Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Japan, and has covered All-Star Games and the World Series, as well as Super Bowls and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Phone: (727) 893-8801


Blog: The Heater

Twitter: @TBTimes_Rays

  1. Indians, Cubs can't avoid talk of World Series championship droughts


    CLEVELAND — The 68 years the Indians have gone without winning a World Series would seem a compelling enough storyline to make them sentimental favorites this week.

    Except that they're playing the Cubs, who can do them 40 years better in not winning since 1908.

    "We'd be talking about nothing but our drought if we were playing any other team," said Indians 2B Jason Kipnis, a Chicago area kid who grew up rooting for the Cubs and dreaming of playing at Wrigley Field. "They've got us beat in that, and hopefully that's the only thing they've got us beat in and that remains and we're celebrating."...

    CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 24:  Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during Media Day workouts for the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on October 24, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) 678153269
  2. Maddon, Francona match wits in Cubs-Indians World Series

    The Heater

    CLEVELAND — This World Series that starts tonight in The Land is about a lot of things.

    The cursed history and tortured fan bases of the long-suffering Indians and longer-suffering Cubs. The expanding-before-our-eyes use of dominant power relievers like Chicago's Aroldis Chapman and Cleveland's Andrew Miller. The dueling emergences of future star infielders Javier Baez of the Cubs and Francisco Lindor of the Indians....

    CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 24:  Manager Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs speaks with the media during Media Day for the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 24, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images) 678153269
  3. Cubs in the World Series? Did that really happen?


    History will be a major theme when the World Series starts Tuesday in Cleveland.

    The AL-winning Indians are seeking their first championship since 1948, a 67-year drought which seems rather significant - until you consider that the NL champ Cubs haven't won since 1908, tacking on another 40 years.

    Heck the Indians at least have won a World Series since the Cubs were last in one, in 1945.

    Which is part of the reason that made Saturday night so memorable at venerable Wrigley Field, at the corner of Clark and Addison streets....

    Former Rays and current Cubs manager Joe Maddon sported a wetsuit for the champagne celebration in the clubhouse.
  4. Bunt by ex-Ray Ben Zobrist helped spark Cubs' slumbering offense


    CHICAGO — The Cubs won their way into the World Series relatively easily Saturday night, riding a dazzling performance from starter Kyle Hendricks to beat the Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw 5-0.

    But to hear Cubs manager Joe Maddon tell it, the NL Championship Series may have been won three nights earlier, in the fourth inning of Game 4.

    That's when Ben Zobrist, like Maddon a longtime former Ray, helped them break out of a hitting slump that had led to two straight shutout losses and a 2-1 series deficit by dropping down a bunt....

    Ben Zobrist’s bunt in Game 4 of the NLCS helped snap the Cubs out of their offensive funk.
  5. Ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon deflects credit, Cubs eager to give it to him


    CHICAGO — Speaking from the stage in the middle of the pandemonium that was Wrigley Field late Saturday night as 42,000-plus who hadn't moved roared for him, to small groups on the infield between hugs and high fives, in the champagne-sprayed clubhouse wearing his custom wet suit, to anyone else who would listen, Joe Maddon insisted the colossal accomplishment of leading to the Cubs to their first World Series since 1945 was about everybody else....

    “He sticks to his thoughts, his convictions, his feelings,” says Jaye Maddon of husband and hugging partner Joe.
  6. Cubs head to first World Series since 1945


    CHICAGO — Now that the Cubs got that part of their mission out of the way, beating the Dodgers 5-0 on Saturday night to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1945, they can move on to that next little item on the to-do list: winning their first championship since 1908.

    Well, once they and their fans recover from celebrating their first pennant since the Truman administration....

    Cubs players rush the field after clinching their first National League pennant since 1945 with a six-game win over the Dodgers.
  7. Cubs get to Dodgers' Kershaw early, clinch World Series berth


    CHICAGO — That wasn't so hard after all.

    The Cubs vanquished 70 years of pennant-less frustration and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw relatively easily Saturday night, rolling to a 5-0 win and a date in the World Series — their first since 1945 — with the Indians on Tuesday in Cleveland.

    Kyle Hendricks gave the Cubs a dazzling start, allowing one hit — a leadoff single to Toles — in the first seven innings then leaving after a second with one out in the eighth. Aroldis Chapman took it from there as the Cubs faced only 27 batters, the only other team to do that since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. ...

    Dodgers rookie leftfielder Andrew Toles drops a fly ball by Anthony Rizzo during the Cubs’ two-run first inning.
  8. Rays Odorizzi, Dickerson, Wills to appear at Buddy Baseball event


    Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi and OF Corey Dickerson, plus radio broadcaster Dave Wills and mascot Raymond, will be on hand Saturday to mark the 100 Saturdays of Buddy Baseball event in Temple Terrace.
    Buddy Baseball is a non-competitive recreational league for boys and girls ages 8-22 with special needs who are paired with a buddy to assist them on the field.
    The program started in Oct. 2009 and has grown to include 88 players and 93 buddies from a five-county area. Saturday's event is at the Family Recreation Complex, 6700 Whiteway Drive....

  9. Friedman and Maddon in Dodgers-Cubs NLCS, raising questions for Rays

    The Heater

    As the Andrew Friedman-presidented Dodgers compete this week with the Joe Maddon-managed Cubs to see who wins the National League pennant, it's hard to not see the Rays as the big losers.

    It was a long two years ago when Friedman, having declined previous overtures from other teams since taking over Rays baseball operations in October 2005, accepted a lucrative offer to leave the team he had built into a contender for a bigger market challenge....

    Joe Maddon, who has the Cubs in a second straight NLCS, has proven difficult to replace.
  10. Rays Archer makes appearance in Uncle Grandpa animated series


    Rays RHP Chris Archer joins other big-leaguers Jose Altuve, Adam Jones, David Price and Noah Syndergaard for an "appearance" in the World Series-themed episode of the Uncle Grandpa animated series on The Cartoon Network.

    The episode will air Oct. 22, at 12:15 p.m., and should also be available through the network app. Here is a clip from the show:




    Rays Chris Archer and Orioles Adam Jones.
  11. Rays' Chris Archer excited to do World Series analysis for ESPN


    Chris Archer, obviously, rather would be pitching in the World Series.

    Instead, the Rays righthander will be there providing analysis for ESPN as part of its pre- and post-game TV shows and during the game on radio.

    "At the end of the day, it's fun to educate the fans from a current player's perspective,'' Archer told the Times. "They have great analysts, and I think me going on there - and the reception I got last year was for the most part 100 percent positive - I can educate them on what the pitcher is trying to do. It's definitely a different perspective.''

    Archer received rave reviews for his TV work last postseason, and was interested in returning. The deal was finalized this week....

    Chris Archer will provide analysis for ESPN as part of its pre- and post-game TV shows and during the game on radio.
  12. Rays part ways with longtime strength/conditioning coach Barr


    The Rays have parted ways with longtime strength and conditioning coordinator Kevin Barr, whose contract was not renewed.

    Barr had been with the Rays since the 2003 season, voted 2009 major-league strength and conditioning coach by his peers. He got word of the decision on Monday.

    "It's been a great 14-year ride with some great people and I've enjoyed every minute of it,'' Barr texted Monday night....

  13. Rays VP Bloom turns down interview for D-backs GM job


    Rays baseball operations VP Chaim Bloom has turned down an opportunity to interview for the Diamondbacks' open GM job.

    Bloom interviewed previously for openings with the Brewers, Phillies and Twins. He was reportedly a finalist for the Phillies job that went to Matt Klentak.

    Instability in the Diamondbacks front office could be an issue as they seek to replace recently fired Dave Stewart. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopolous also reportedly declined an interview.

    Bloom's decision was first reported by the Arizona Republic. He has declined to discuss job pursuits....

  14. A look at Rays potential arbitration issues


    As detailed in Sunday's Times, the large number of arbitration eligible players the Rays may have, and the corresponding salaries they will get, compound the challenge they face this off-season in trying to improve the team without increase the payroll.

    The site reported today the cutoff for Super 2 arbitration eligibility is expected to be within 2.127 and 2.131 days of service time, which if correct would mean that OF Kevin Kiermaier, 2.131, would qualify. If so, Kiermaier would be in line for a raise to around $3-million for 2017 rather than getting $550,000 or so, and would would make more over each of the next three seasons with that as his base as he now would have four years of eligibility rather than three. RHP Danny Farquhar also would be eligible, RHP Chase Whitley (2.125) could fall just short. also released its projected arbitration salaries for each of the eligible players, and there is model is usually pretty good, though in their list of Rays players they seem to be a little light on Kiermaier and RHP Brad Boxberger, and maybe on Alex Cobb, who made $4-million each of the last two seasons when not pitching due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.

    Here are the projections, with service time shown, first-time eligibles in bold:...

    Kevin Kiermaier could be in line for a raise to around $3-million for 2017 rather than getting $550,000 or so.
  15. Rays' offseason challenge: improve without increasing payroll

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays officials head into the offseason facing the dually difficult challenge of trying to improve their team against increasingly tough competition without increasing their $68 million or so payroll.

    "In terms of competition, it's fierce," baseball operations president Matt Silverman said. "Not only are all clubs getter smarter, but resources are heading to the large market teams, and it makes it more challenging for us to put a competitive club on the field. ...

    The Rays have $23.5 million committed to star third baseman Evan Longoria next season, a hefty amount for a team whose payroll isn’t likely to top $70 million.