Trying to get back in the swing of things - no promises of contributing more regularly...
This off season has been invigorating with the Devil Rays - and there have been barely any player moves as of yet... The new owner, new coaching staff, new front office staff, new stadium rules, new ticket prices, new parking rules (for at least next season) has gotten the interest of the fanbase... Because the moves seem to suggest something the Rays have lacked since their inception:
A direction and a drive to be competative.
There is another topic that was mentioned in the media, and I link to fan discussion of the topic just because I find this captivating: renaming the Devil Rays as one of the moves to change the franchise for the better. How aboutsome suggestions for a new name for the Rays in the comments of this post? Personally I am huge on the Tampa Bay Thunder and have been since before the franchise was awarded... Maybe because there is already a Storm brewing in the reigon and where there is Lightning, there is Thunder...
The other issue that is worth discussion is Rays former first round draft pick Josh Hamilton. Hamilton's suspension from MLB continues through the 2006 season and John Romano at the St. Pete Times wrote up a piece on Josh today - pleaing for help for this wayward soul.
How good could Hamilton have been?
Well, you could say he was a rarity. He was a position player so talented, he was drafted No.1 overall out of high school. Between 1987-99, there were only four prep hitters taken with the top pick. There was Ken Griffey. And Chipper Jones. And Alex Rodriguez. And Hamilton.
That's four MVP awards, about $325-million in salaries and one guy mowing lawns in Raleigh, N.C.
One day he was the future and the next he was the past. And, overnight, we lost 20 years or so of potential memories.
Of course, there is more at stake here than the fortunes of a ballclub. By now, everyone can see the depth of Hamilton's addiction.
"This is not a baseball story, this is a human story," said Ron Dock, the intervention coordinator for the New York Yankees. "This is the kid's life. He needs help, and he needs to know there is no shame in asking for help."
The Devil Rays have done what they can. They have tried a hands-on approach. They have tried hands-off. Mostly, they have had their hands tied.
The team is limited in the amount of contact it can have with Hamilton. He is not allowed to practice at its facilities. He is not allowed to work out with its trainers or conditioning experts. He is not even allowed, contractually, to play for an independent league team or in Japan.
I don't know how it happened but Hamilton went from backwoods country baseball star to tattooed junkie overnight. Maybe it was the fact he was exposed to what he had never had been before and could not escape the vice? Maybe the pressure got to him? I'm trying to figure there is an excuse besides unabashed stupidity for a kid with unlimited potential to throw his life away, but we've seen it before in the pro sports world and will undoubtedly see it again.