DUNEDIN, FLA. - When the Tampa Bay Rays entered the visiting clubhouse Friday they didn’t look like they were headed for the batting cage.
Judging from their hair cuts they were ready for a mass or a WWE battle royal, steel-caged match.
Many Rays had their heads shaved Thursday in Port Charlotte to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Vincent Lecavalier Foundation.
“Some asked to have their heads shaved, some, like me, asked for No. 1 clippers,” said Jose Molina sporting tiny sprouts of hair.
The shearing has raised $5,025 as 37 uniformed players plus 34 office staff got trimmed. Money should continue to flow in as the Rays took batting practice before playing the Blue Jays wearing yellow t-shirts which read “Fortune Favours the Bald” along with a ball cap and sun glasses atop it ... like Rays manager Joe Maddon wears his glasses.
“Everyone talks about participating and doing something to help,” said Maddon, who was asked by Tampa Bay Lightning star Lecavalier to participate.
“This was more than a ball team having a social conscience, our guys really felt it. I can’t think of a more noble cause.”
Maddon told of talking with a grandmother at the hair-cutting ceremony: “She said she’s suffering twice ... once for her daughter, a second time for her grand-daughter who has cancer.”
Even Rick Vaughn, not to be confused with Ricky Vaughn in the movie Major League, had less than a buzz cut. The Rays’ crack vice-president, Vaughn told of a child who had lost her hair during cancer treatment looking at Evan Longoria and others, saying “mom, the ball players look like me now.”
Maddon has always been known for team building whether it’s the all-black trip (where the Rays hit the road dressed like Johnny Cash) or their all-whites (for a visit to Miami).
Those were fun, this is a worthwhile cause.
And while perhaps you’ve heard a moan or two — or 5,000 — from Jays fans about how they have to compete in the big bad American League East with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, you won’t hear it from Maddon.
The Rays reached post-season a year ago with the 21st highest payroll ($71.9 million US) when they finished ahead of the Boston Red Sox.
They ranked 29th ($41.9) when they won the division finishing ahead of both the Yanks and the Red Sox.
And they ranked 29th ($43.8) when they lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies.
“Not one time have I spoken to anyone in that clubhouse who has said ‘we don’t have enough money to spend,’ or ‘why didn’t we spend on this guy.’ It’s about who plays the game better,” Maddon said.
Rays general manager Andrew Friedman and scouting director R.J. Harrison deserve credit for assembling the talent on a budget. Maddon says there is another reason why the Rays have fared so well: Major League Baseball’s drug policy.
“The game has changed,” Maddon said. “Numbers have come down. We wouldn’t be able to afford a guy with 40 homers or 120 RBIs.
NICE TO MEET YOU TOO: Last August when the Rays came to the Rogers Centre Maddon placed a call to the man upstairs.
The Rays manager asked if Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos could come to his office.
“Alex walks in and I said right off ‘I don’t like you,’” said Maddon with a smile. “Alex and the Blue Jays are doing everything right. That’s why I joked I didn’t like him. He’s morphing the old (scouting) with the new (analytics).
“The Jays could be scary this year, they were scary last year.”
The Jays were still in the water on Lake Placid at 81-81 in 2011.
“There’s a big difference in wanting to win and believing you are going to win, I went through it with this club here,” said Maddon, who believes that in years to come teams won’t be defined by their managers.
“Used to be a manager would get fired, the GM would bring in a guy with a different philosophy. Now you’ll see the GM in control. If he makes a change he’ll bring in a manager who agrees with his philosophy.”
GAME ON: Travis Snider homered, his fourth, off Jhonny Nunez, but he also ran up the back of J.P. Arencibia when Elliot Johnson banged against the centre field fence trying to catch a Snider drive in the fourth.
Colby Rasmus scored on the play but the Rays threw out Snider heading back to first. “You have to run with your head up,” manager John Farrell told reporters
Yunel Escobar, Arencibia and Snider each had a pair of hits in the 5-0 win over the Rays.
Following up Ricky Romero, Chad Jenkins pitched three scoreless innings, while Jason Frasor and Andrew Carpenter worked a scoreless inning each.
The four Jays pitchers held the Rays to a bunt single by Brandon Guyer and a single to right by Chris Gimmenez. Longoria was held hitless in three at-bats.
YOU’RE INVITED: Ken Carson, formerly the Jays trainer and travelling secretary, who moved south to run the Jays’ operations will marry Lillian Simmons on Aug. 11. And everyone is invited. Simmons and Carson will be wed at home plate at the Rogers Centre.
They’ve already invited the New York Yankees and the Jays to attend the Saturday afternoon game.
Both parties have accepted.
Simmons and Carson are allowing the teams to use the field for a 1:07 first pitch as part of the reception.
Jays 5, Rays 0
* Ricky Romero pitched five scoreless with 4 Ks
* Jason Frasor had a scoreless outing
* Two hits each for Yunel Escobar, J.P. Arencibia, Travis Snider
* Snider hit his 4th HR