Wednesday, 2 April 2008

A second home for 'Rays from across the pond'

And hello everybody! To those of you who have read my blog over the past couple of years on MLBlogs, and to those of you who are finding me for the first time now that I have opened a parallel Blogspot blog - you are all very welcome.

I'm sure that many of you will be aware of the relaunch and redesign of MLBlogs - and the many problems it has caused. I'm not planning at the moment to close down my original blog, and I'm still hoping that the issues will be sorted, and that MLB Advanced Media will stop ignoring regular users in the hype over their 'celebrity' bloggers. But just on the off-chance, I figure I may as well set up shop and get things rolling here.

For now, I'm going to be cross-posting a lot off stuff between the two RAPs (that's Rays from Across the Pond for the uninitiated), although if I have the time I am planning to post some more general baseball bits and pieces over here in addition to the Rays-centric stuff on MLBlogs. We'll see how it goes. In the meantime, here is my post from yesterday with my thoughts on the Rays' opener, and

EDIT: I've also reposted a few of my recent posts below, and put in a link post for some of my favourite older ones.  I don't like the new blog emptyness!

A new, good start.

Ok, so here we go. 2008. So many things to talk about.

Baseball first, as it should be of course. And I would firstly like to thank the Orioles (and in fact baseball in general) for scheduling openers as day games. This meant that I could watch the Rays take on the O's at a very reasonable 8.05pm start time. Nice.

As I'm sure you know, James Shields got the nod for the Rays in Kaz's absence, and a very good job he did too. After a somewhat shaky first inning (understandable in the circumstances) in which he threw 28 pitches and gave up two runs, he was lights out from there on. Final line - 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks and 2 K's. And perhaps most encouragingly, despite not having his best stuff, only 86 pitches in total - if he can keep that up once his arm is stretched out more then several complete games are sure to follow.

Coming in behind Shields, Trever Miller, Al Reyes and Dan Wheeler pitched 2 innings for just a solitary hit, which while not indicative of anything is of course a positive start considering the shambles that was our 'pen in 2007.

Then we come to the hitting. And I will start on a slightly disappointing note for me. As anyone who has read this blog in the past will know, I was looking forward to Jonny Gomes getting regular play out in right. But while I wouldn't swap him for anyone (and scroll down to number 18 on this list for just an example of why), even I recognise that he is a little bit too all-or-nothing. I still think he can achieve big things given the chance, but once again he will be sharing playing time this year.

And the man he will be splitting right with is something of a surprise - Eric Hinske. A non-roster invitee, Hinske had a great spring, and deservedly got the start on opening day. He didn't disappoint either, belting a fourth-inning line drive homer. That shot extended what had become a Rays lead in the second thanks to a swinging-bunt by CC and a 2-run single by BJ Upton. Jason Bartlett and Dioner Navarro added RBI-singles in the 6th to round off a 6-2 win to put the Rays proudly atop the AL East. Navvy had a very strong day at the plate, going 3-4, as well as collecting a stat that I'm guessing we won't see very often from him - caught stealing at home plate! Part of a double-steal of course, but still...

All in all, it was a very encouraging start - nothing to get too excited about of course, but with the exception of a shaky first the all round performance was very solid. Hopefully its going to stay that way!

As its the start of a new season, there are of course many things changing, and one of them is, I'm afraid, going to result in one of my semi-regular complaints about Now don't get me wrong, I love that I can watch the Rays from an ocean away, but seriously guys, you don't do yourself any favours. My complaints today are twofold - firstly I assume that are hoping that people switch to the Silverlight media player. Well, I would be happy to try it, except that it won't install on my old computer. Fine, I can live with that. Except that the Media Player no longer has the nice options for resizing the picture. Last year (and during Spring Training) you could watch it at the standard half-window size, expand it to the full window, or make it full-screen. Now the full window option has been removed and the full screen option is the native media player zoom, resulting in poorer quality. Why take options away?

The second issue is that judging from last night's game, is now presenting its games in widescreen. Ok, so I don't have a widescreen monitor, I'm going to have big black bars at the top and bottom of the picture when I watch fullscreen. I can just about live with that. But when, as was the case last night, the game isn't shown in widescreen anyway, that means I have the black bars on both sides as well - leaving me with a picture that takes up maybe 70% of the screen rather than all of it. Now I don't know how many games are now transmitted in widescreen, but I'm guessing that most of the ones that are shown on local networks are not. Which means I'm going to have to put up with small pictures and big black borders this year. Nice.

Still, baseball is back, and for that I am thankful.

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