Why Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton sometimes wear one long sleeve?
Initially, because it felt good. Several companies make sleeves for pitchers, and Upton started wearing one last season. Crawford joined him and thought it made his arm feel better. Then suddenly they looked around this season and noticed a lot of other players doing so. A fashion statement? "I think now it is," Crawford said. "I know that many people are not having arm problems. I think it's the thing to do now."
Why Dioner Navarro "gives thanks" whenever he reaches base?
"I thank God, and then I throw a kiss to my family - my wife and kids. They expect it, and sometimes I get caught up in the moment, and my son is like, 'Dad, where was my kiss?' It's really neat. It's something personal. To a lot of people it wouldn't mean anything, but it means a lot to me and my family."
What Joe Maddon writes on his lineup card?
At the top of every card is C+BL, short for Courage + Believe = Life, the motto of John Challis, an inspirational teenager Maddon met in June who died of cancer.
He starts with personal observations of the other team, such as their signs or tendencies. Then he lists stats, such as extraordinarily good or bad hitter-pitcher matchups, his starter's stats against each hitter (to decide whether to let him face one more batter), his hitters' numbers with runners in scoring position and double-play tendencies.
He also breaks down the other lineup by building "blocks" - groupings of hitters - that he wants to slot certain relievers against.
Finally, like anyone else, he jots notes to remind himself of things like which players he doesn't want to use that night or who could be a defensive replacement.
What does Cliff Floyd draw in the dirt before each at-bat?
"I lost a couple dear family members, my dad being one last year and my grandmother this year. It's a little tribute to them. I always put their initials in the ground (CC for Cornelius Clifford, LS for Louella Stancle). Basically it's because I feel they're with me. It's not about superstitions. It's not about hoping I get a hit. It's just a little tribute to them, and what they mean to me."
Why Carlos Pena pats his helmet when he rounds second after hitting a homer?
"It's kind of personal," he said. "Basically I'm sharing that moment with a very special person in my life."1
What's written in Matt Garza's hat?
Two main things: the initials of his kids, and about 10 "trigger" words that he looks at when his emotions are about to get the best of him on the mound. "I've always had stuff written in my hat," he said. "It's just to get a focal point so I don't have to look somewhere else. Just to regain a focus. When the game starts going fast it's something to calm me down. A lot of people say turn around and look, but I don't like to, because that's where the bad things happen. It's just stuff to help me remind myself to stay calm."
What is Grant Balfour yelling on the mound?
In a family newspaper, we really can't explain. Suffice to say one of the team's most colorful players finds a way to fire himself up for the challenge. "I'll yell things like, 'C'mon, hit me!' Things like that to pump myself up," he said. "Yes, there's some curse words in there."
And some myths ...
1. Troy Percival blows a lot of saves.
Actually, he has blown only four (in 32 chances), which is fewer than 42 other relievers, including Francisco Rodriguez (seven), Francisco Cordero (six) and Jonathan Papelbon (five).
2. Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena are their most clutch hitters.
They are good, but actually it is C Dioner Navarro, who has a .314 average with runners in scoring position that ranks among the top 25 in the American League.
3. Gabe Gross can't hit left-handers.
He didn't get much chance before coming to the Rays, going 5-for-54 (.093) in his first four seasons. This season, he's 13-for-68 (.191) with two homers, including a walkoff shot off Chicago's Matt Thornton.
4. The Rays are good because they're stacked with high first-round picks.
Well, only if three is a lot. The only top-five picks on the roster are CF B.J. Upton (No. 2 in 2002), Longoria (No. 3 in 2006) and LHP David Price (No. 1 in 2007).
5. Scott Kazmir throws a lot of pitches each inning.
He does, and his average of 18 is the highest of all AL starters. But there are 10 others (who threw at least 50 innings) with more, including Jays closer B.J. Ryan (18.7) and Boston's Clay Buchholz (18.2).