Rays Notes: Dennis Eckersley on Fernando Rodney, Carillon Stadium, Hak-Ju Lee


This season, Fernando Rodney has a special year, dominating hitters to an unbelievable 0.60 ERA, the major league record for a pitcher who threw at least 50 innings, and saving 48 games. Whose ERA record did Rodney break? Dennis Eckersley‘s from his 1990 season where he managed a 0.61 ERA and also 48 saves. Eckersley, now an analyst for TBS, gave his thoughts on Rodney breaking his record to Marc Topkin.

"“I was happy for him,” Eckersley said before ALCS Game 3 Tuesday. “It goes to show how tough it is. And no one would have gave a (darn) until that happened, then people say, he did that once. So at least I got some attention for something that happened so long ago. I don’t think anyone even knew. So he should be proud of it.”“Pitching in that ballpark for that club, they needed him so bad, I think there was more pressure on him, absolutely.”"

It’s funny is how few people heard of Eckersley’s 0.61 ERA season before this year. It wasn’t Eckersley’s MVP and Cy Young year- that was two years later- and he although he finished second in the AL in saves like Rodney this season, he was far behind the leader, Bobby Thigpen, who saved a then-MLB record 57 games. Rodney breaking the record gave Eckersley more publicity than he had gotten in a while, especially for his 1990 performance. But even if the best ERA over a minimum of 50 innings wasn’t exactly a stat everyone had on the tip of their tongue entering this season, it tells you something that Rodney managed to set the record and even more importantly that in pitching so well he carried the Rays all season. If Rodney didn’t pitch as well as he did, the Rays wouldn’t have had a chance after the Evan Longoria injury. Eckersley’s ERA jumped more than 2 runs to 2.96 in 1991. Rodney will fall back to earth as well. But can he continue to provide the type of stability at the closer position that the Rays haven’t had in their history?

Drew Harwell of the Tampa Bay Times talked to various experts regarding the viability of the proposal for a Rays stadium in Carillon that we’ve heard so much about. The key to the stadium, Harwell states, is getting the support of the local businesses around the Carillon business park who would play a large part in making Carillon a destination if a stadium is build there and because the Carillon proposal features more use of surrounding buildings than any existing stadium in history. We’ll start with the negativity.

"“There’s a lot of skepticism that people would go there, a lot of skepticism that it would get funded, and a lot of skepticism that it would be successful,” said Darron Kattan, a managing director at Tampa commercial real estate firm Franklin Street.“The Rays do not have a track record of drawing in a big audience, and that’s something lenders and developers will look for,” Kattan added. “Real estate investors would be very cautious about putting their money out there, simply because it’s unproven.”“The stadium could be gravy for certain kinds of uses, like marquee restaurants that think central Pinellas would be a great area to expand,” said Tom McGeachy, a managing principal for Ciminelli Real Estate Services. “But I don’t know that the stadium by itself is going to be a driver for a huge amount of retail … with such limited demand.”"

Now here are the advantages of the potential stadium per the people Harwell talked to.

"Corporate bosses would get great use out of the park, said Mark Klein, CEO of commercial real estate firm Klein & Heuchan. Business leaders could whisk visiting clients to games, move workers into nearby apartments and boast of all the entertainment to prospective employees.“If you don’t have to have your workforce driving from suburbia, with the cost of gasoline, that’s big,” Klein said. “People like to live and play in the same place.”In the Gateway area, which includes Carillon, only 6 percent of the primo “Class A” office space is vacant, half the rate of downtown Tampa and a third the rate of West Shore, according to real estate data firm CoStar. That’s a sign of healthy demand and, for developers, a potential opening to build anew.“In all the markets I’m involved with, that’s the busiest market I’ve got,” Osprey Real Estate Services North Bay president Wendy Giffin said.Retail and residential “investment folks are pretty high on the idea that this could happen,” said Lee Arnold, the CEO of commercial brokerage Colliers International Tampa Bay, who represents some Carillon tenants."

Whether the Rays could pursue a stadium in Carillon is a very interesting question, but the Rays want to survey all their options and find the best solution and we’ll have to see whether Carillon is the place they eventually choose. The proposal has its benefits and problems, but it’s a real, concrete proposal like there hasn’t been on the table since 2008 and it’s clear that the Rays are making real progress at finding where their future stadium will be.

John Sickels of Minor League Ball talked about Rays top prospect Hak-Ju Lee and was cautiously optimistic about his offense.

"On purely subjective grounds, when I’ve seen him in person he looked like someone who could improve his hitting with experience. I don’t have sabermetrics to back that opinion up, but the bottom line is that I haven’t given up on his bat by any means."

And to close, in semi-Rays news, a baseball museum is opening up in Ybor City to remember the Tampa Bay area’s history in baseball prior to the Rays. Josh Poltilove of the Tampa Tribune has all the details.