The Rays are off to an excellent start in Spring Training. Sean Rodriguez is hitting everything in sight, Jeremy Hellickson is striking out everything in sight, and the club is on a seven game winning streak after defeating the Red Sox (again) today in Fort Myers. If not for the great start, the focus on the Rays right now would be on the troublesome comment from the incumbent DH Pat Burrell and his possible platoon partner, Hank Blalock. This past Saturday, as the Rays took the field in Clearwater against the Phillies, Burrell gave an interview in which he lamented playing DH and desiring to play more outfield because he felt bored in games both by the lack of action on the field and the lack of action in the stands. He heaped tons of praise onto the Phillies fanbase – the same one that ironically booed him through most of his many abysmal slumps that seemed to be cured only by visiting Shea Stadium to destroy Mets pitching. The session gave the impression of an exit interview one would give a company after they’ve been laid off, not one that would come from a guy who is being paid $9m to step up to the plate 4-5 times a game. Those sour comments were then followed by newly signed Hank Blalock whose first comments when talking to the media as a member of the Rays organization was that he was here, “because I had no other opportunities.”
Blalock was given a softball question by the media that he could have easily replied to with one of the many cliches that we hear from baseball players. “I’m appreciative of the opportunity that the Rays have given me to make the club and giving me the flexibility to request a trade or release should an opportunity with better playing time arise,” would have been a great response to the question. Here is a major league veteran who has been little more than replacement level talent the past few seasons pulling a page straight out of the Milton Bradley Public Relations manual. Blalock’s comments did not sit well with the fanbase from the comments I saw online and they certainly could not have sat well with players in camp such as Rodriguez, Reid Brignac, and Matt Joyce who are busting their asses to claim what appears to be two final roster spots as it is unlikely all three can avoid a AAA assignment. Blalock walks into camp expecting a position, and the only way that will happen is if Willy Aybar’s wrist injury is more serious than the initial reports and he starts the season on the disabled list.
The Rays brought in Blalock with the hopes he could make the club and serve as a backup to Carlos Pena and primarly work in a platoon with Burrell at DH. I do not think they expected for Blalock to platoon in both splits and attitude with Burrell. Both players are major league vets that have had success in their careers but are both coming off sub-par seasons and need to be showing the fanbase and their teammates that they have come to play in 2010 rather than speak with a sense of entitlement or longing for another location. This is not the 2004 Devil Rays that were out of contention before the season began that played in front of crowds only slightly bigger than the one that gathers at the Flea Market off Hillsborough Avenue on the weekends. Please shut up and just put up the numbers you are being paid to produce and show some veteran leadership rather than whining about your current lot in baseball. In a state that has a 13-17% unemployment rate, we are not very tolerant of millionaires whining playing a kids game.