A few quick items to peruse while hoping we're not too messianic ...
• Despite still being able to seal the deal over the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, the Rays' Evan Longoria and Joe Maddon remained steamed at a group of their own fans who became tangled with the third baseman during at attempt at the final out of the game at Tropicana Field.
The run-in occurred as Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury hit a pop fly toward the stands along the third base line. Several fans reached for the ball as it descended upon them, blocking Longoria from making the play. Angry that on-deck hitter Dustin Pedroia might be afforded a chance to even the score, Longoria responded in Moises Alou-like fashion with what he himself called "a few choice words." ("They did their job," Longoria said of surrounding fans who followed his lead with razzing of their own.)
Ellsbury would later fly out to right field to end the game and Pedroia had to put his bat away, but that didn't stop Maddon from throwing one of the fans under the proverbial bus during his manager's press conference after the game.
"I'd like the fan to understand, the one on the third-base side, you don't do those things. Really," Maddon said. "Our fans need to know that. In a game like that, you're in our ballpark, you let our fielders field that ball, because once the fielder reaches in [to the stands] the fan can catch it and there's going to be no interference called."
I can see where Longoria and Maddon are coming from — gotta keep your heads in the game, guys — but this still rates as a monumental overreaction considering that the Rays weren't moments away from the World Series and that they ended up winning anyway in the same at-bat. Just like fans have to know when to pick their spots for souvenir collecting, members of a franchise that's still trying to build a fan base have to know when to pick their battles. (This isn't one of them.) [Rays Index]
Other stories from around the 'sphere ...
• Only in baseball: The Red Sox began one week with a monumental steal of home against their biggest rival, then started the next by watching as one player from their upstart nemesis swiped six. Which would you rather have happen against you? [NYT Bats Blog]
• For those of you grumbling about ESPN showing yet another Red Sox-Yankees game tonight, there's hope: The forecast for the game doesn't look good. [New Stadium Insider]
• Huge contract demands or not, the Nationals are expected to bite the budget bullet and draft Stephen Strasburg with the first pick in next month's draft, reports SI.com's Jon Heyman (quite possibly from the side of Scott Boras' pool). I still fail to see that the Nationals have a choice in the matter if they want people to keep considering them a major league baseball team. [SI.com via Federal Baseball]
• It was a nice little weekend for Cards start Albert Pujols, who took the day off in Washington on Saturday, then went to the White House that night for a tour after being invited by VP Joe Biden. Because of charity work in the Dominican Republic, Pujols didn't make the White House trip with the '06 Cardinals. [Post Dispatch]
• I issued my apology to Barry Zito a few weeks ago, but the AP photogs and his teammates are apparently holding firm. Despite his third straight quality start — the Z-Man has only given up three runs in his last 20.1 innings pitched — the camera men are still only distributing photos of the "Wow, I just got rocked" vein (like the one below). Meanwhile, his teammates are still not supporting him with any runs, so his record is still only 0-2. Old habits die hard, they say. [Mercury News]
• In a Tupac-like posthumous move, Super Pretzel paid tribute to the late Harry Kalas over the weekend by airing the final commercial he ever taped. [The Fightins]
• Finally, speaking of video, a fan at Sunday night's White Sox-Rangers game produced a fan blooper clip for the ages, throwing his popcorn into the air as a foul ball sped toward the screen and Joe Morgan howled with delight. [Bugs & Cranks]