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Taking Stock
2008-10-22 12:04
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.
Untitled It's strangely fitting that the Phillies and Rays are meeting in the latter's first World Series. When then-Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar was assembling what would be the inaugural Rays roster in late 1997, he decided to build his team around pitching and defense. Any good defensive team needs a strong defensive shortstop, so LaMar worked out a deal with the Phillies to draft a young outfielder out of the Astros' system in that November's expansion draft and flip him to Philadelphia for the Phillies good-field/no-hit shortstop Kevin Stocker.

Stocker had taken over the Phillies shortstop job as a rookie in July of their pennant-winning season of 1993 and had since established himself as one of the game's best defenders at the position. A 27-year-old switch-hitter who wouldn't price himself off the team, Stocker was exactly what LaMar was looking for to anchor his new team's infield. The problem was that LaMar had failed to notice the steep drop off in Stocker's defense during the 1997 season. Stocker's glove recovered in 1998, but he had his worst season at the plate, hitting just .208/.282/.313, and his season was mercifully ended a month early when his hand was broken by a pitch. The next year his bat picked up, but his glove work declined again, and knee tendonitis ended his season soon after the All-Star break.

That winter, LaMar scrapped his defense-first concept, signing aging sluggers Greg Vaughn and Vinnie Castilla to join Jose Canseco and original Ray Fred McGriff in the Tampa lineup. Stocker, the symbol of the Rays' abandoned approach of just two years earlier, was released in May. Despite LaMar's shift in focus, the Devil Rays of 2000 once again finished a distant last in the American League in runs scored. Making things worse, the young outfielder Lamar had used as currency to acquire stocker was a 23-year-old Bobby Abreu, who hit .312/.409/.497 as the Phillies' right fielder in the Rays' inaugural season of 1998 and proceeded to perform at a Hall of Fame level over his eight and a half seasons in Philadelphia.

Now, a decade later, LaMar is the Phillies' scouting director, and his team is in the World Series against a Rays' team that produced its first winning season, first playoff berth, first division title, and first pennant in part due to a renewed focus on pitching and defense. The signature player in that renewed focus is Jason Bartlett, a good-field/no-hit shortstop who was acquired for a talented young outfielder. The trick being that Bartlett wasn't the key player in the deal that brought him to Tampa Bay from the Twins, righty starter Matt Garza was, and the outfielder he was traded for, Delmon Young, is no Bobby Abreu, which just goes to prove that intention is only as good as its execution.

To be fair, LaMar deserves to have a better legacy in Tampa Bay. It was under Lamar that the Rays drafted Aubrey Huff, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, James Shields, B.J. Upton, Andy Sonnanstine, and Young, and it was Lamar who fleeced the Mets in the Scott Kazmir deal. Still, it took a change in ownership and an overhaul of the front office for the Rays to figure out how to make proper use of that bounty.

My point in all of this is that, even in a World Series in which the two combatants have just one prior championship between them (the lowest combined total since 1980 when the Phillies and Royals met, both looking for their first), there is still some history here.

For more from me on this match-up, check out my position-by-position breakdown and preview of Game 1, both up on SI.com.

Comments
2008-10-22 13:58:57
1.   Dimelo
Go AL!!!

Yanks in '09!!!

2008-10-22 14:21:08
2.   standuptriple
Oooh! I love "Tale of the Tape" segments.
2008-10-22 17:16:58
3.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
no Mariano
Yankees go golf quietly
still i watch, baseball
2008-10-22 18:01:31
4.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
Banter too quiet
everyone watching Idol?
I stay with baseball..
2008-10-22 18:40:09
5.   Chyll Will
4 Idol?? Hope not. Not for nothing, but production during the regional auditions is as disorganized as the show itself is terrible. I almost worked on that show when they had auditions this summer in NJ; I drove to the IZOD Center at 10pm on a Sunday and no one was around to greet me or tell me where to go. Plus, not one of the coordinators answered their phones. Of course I don't blame Randy, Paula and Simon for that (well, maybe Paula, that's the kind of blunder she would make), but to say the least my already sensible disdain for Idol was ramped up from then on.

The best part was when one of the same coordinators who ignored my calls left a message on my phone after I got back home to ask for a last minute favor; hoping I would come in at 5am the next morning to work at another location they needed! Fortunately, I restrained myself from calling him back... >;)

2008-10-22 18:46:18
6.   thelarmis
3 4
I'll try the haiku
Just done teaching drum lessons
I watch the baseball

i do okay?!

2008-10-22 18:52:14
7.   Chyll Will
And with that Mr. Jazz, I sleep. Go check out Sonny Sharrock's music when you get a chance; off of that last conversation we had including thelarmis... though some of his stuff sounds like it came straight from Sun Ra's universe (Space Ghost Coast 2 Coast), his influences were rooted in Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Thing is, he was a guitar player; his Wikipedia says he called himself "a horn player with a really fucked up axe." Very interesting...

G'nite >;)

2008-10-22 18:53:34
8.   3rd gen yankee fan
Kazmir looks shaky
Another Philly runs home
What's his problem man?
2008-10-22 18:53:39
9.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
6 great!
5 having never seen an episode of Idol I can't really reply..the "variety" shows here even worse I am sure though.

oh, watched Game 7 on replay finally. Buck Martinex: "Varitek knows he is in a slump but still he said 'I could go 0 for 2000 and still impact this team on every play with my catching'". Bye-Bye Captain! good to see you are very self-aware!

2008-10-22 18:54:20
10.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
7 Chyll, am already there. "Ask The Ages" is one of my favorites. Sonny and Elvin Jones together?? Look out!!
2008-10-22 18:55:13
11.   OldYanksFan
One fifty to one
Rays shock the Red Sox nation
crying in their beds
2008-10-22 18:55:30
12.   thelarmis
good for CC! i've always been a fan of his. that was a great swing!
2008-10-22 18:57:45
13.   thelarmis
i've never seen the american idol show, either.

7 10 you guys have big ears, that's awesome! i've been listening to some Andrew Hill and Grachan Moncur on Blue Note. excellent stuff!

2008-10-22 18:58:05
14.   thelarmis
8 that's awesome!
2008-10-22 19:01:01
15.   Just fair
Inane interview
Shutout ends, with a homer
Called after the fact
2008-10-22 19:02:29
16.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
13 Andrew Hill, superb! I had on Bobby Hutcherson this morning, he played on many of those Hill albums I think..

11 excellent!

Carl Crawford, homer
Tampa Rays, back in the game
Somewhere, Jeter sighs

2008-10-22 19:06:32
17.   thelarmis
howard coaxed a walk
burrell looks like mikey moose
nine is the new eight
2008-10-22 19:07:42
18.   Chyll Will
...zzzzz of course for a complete change of pace, there's always The George Garabedian Players and the (something something) of Harry Arms zzzzz...

http://tinyurl.com/5sdwfg
(definitely the Yankees/Mets 2008 theme songs)

2008-10-22 19:20:01
19.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
18 I figured the 2008 song for the Yanks would be "All the things you could be by now if Sigmund Freud's wife was your mother" by Charles Mingus...

Jeter and Clemens
Texas football, side by side
I feel stomach pain

2008-10-22 19:21:14
20.   3rd gen yankee fan
11 HAHAHAHAHAHA!

14 Hey thanks!

15 16 17 These are all really good.

2008-10-22 19:25:34
21.   thelarmis
wow, Aki is 3-3 against Hamels today!
2008-10-22 19:27:10
22.   thelarmis
dubee to the mound
upton hits the catwalks now
phillies hang their heads
2008-10-22 19:28:52
23.   thelarmis
wow, nice effort by howard. hamels threw a bunch of pitches that inning, but should be alright for a couple more...
2008-10-22 19:29:30
24.   3rd gen yankee fan
I'm finding it really difficult NOT to root for the Rays. They're so likable when they're not baeating us.

22 Dubee... love his name

2008-10-22 19:31:17
25.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
24 agreed. though cool to think of Jamie Moyer getting a ring at 72 years old..
2008-10-22 19:35:57
26.   3rd gen yankee fan
It's been months since I was over on soxaholix.com. So I just went and guess what I saw. The guy who runs it is going to have a guest feature over here soon as part of the Yankee Stadium Memories. Great.

Wow leadoff guy on again for the Phils!

2008-10-22 19:43:40
27.   OldYanksFan
From RAB:
In advance of the release of The Bill James Handbook 2009, the venerable baseball analysts has released his list of the top young talent in baseball. James has also put forward a ranking of the Major League clubs by top young Major League talent, and the Yankees aren't looking so hot with the team ranked 29 out of 30.

According to ACTA Sports, publishers of the Handbook, these rankings include players 30 and younger:

2008-10-22 19:55:39
28.   thelarmis
that 2-2 pitch was strike 3. i wonder if navarro's snap throw threw the ump off...
2008-10-22 20:14:14
29.   Just fair
27 But only one commenter on the BB has "Old" in his moniker, so they've got that going for them. : )
FWIW, good game tonight and Keep Cano.
2008-10-22 20:34:05
30.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
The Go-Go Rays will face Lidge in the 9th..can they come back?
2008-10-22 20:38:17
31.   thelarmis
balfour bringin' some gas tonite. werth has 2 doubles tonight...

30 yeah, they definitely can come back against lidge. should be good...

2008-10-22 20:45:41
32.   Just fair
Howard is one lost dude at the plate.
2008-10-22 20:47:44
33.   Cliff Corcoran
Ryan Howard's lost
Utley will get walked again
No fear of the temp
2008-10-22 20:50:56
34.   Cliff Corcoran
I miss TBS
FOX is botching this broadcast
They must hate baseball
2008-10-22 20:51:15
35.   Cliff Corcoran
Lidge has been perfect
Losing Hamels' start would hurt
Can Rays break his streak?
2008-10-22 20:55:45
36.   thelarmis
lights out at the trop
longoria is on deck
phils will win this game
2008-10-22 21:02:19
37.   thelarmis
phils take game 1, 3-2. good game.
2008-10-22 21:03:14
38.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
Phils win it 3-2
No need to worry people
Go Go Rays in 7
2008-10-22 21:12:03
39.   thelarmis
38 i'm not worried, i'm rootin' for the Phitin's! : )

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