Tonight at Yankee Stadium, Tampa Bay Rays' ace David Price takes the mound looking to make a little history. He'll try to become only the fourth pitcher ever to strike out 10 or more batters in six consecutive games. The other three - Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez - are in or will be headed to Cooperstown. Price's mastery on the mound has helped the last-place Rays climb back to within 9-and-a-half games of first place in the parity-laden American League East. And with less than a month till the trading deadline, Tampa Bay will likely have to cut the number of games and/or teams standing between them and a division title in half by July 31st. It's the only way to keep the Rays' front office from doing what any reasonably savvy business person with half a brain would do...and that's trade David Price. If you're the Rays' bean counters, unless you think Price and an injury-depleated starting rotation can leap frog the Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees, and Red Sox, you can't afford to be sentimental, keep Price till the end of the season when his current borrowed time one year contract expires, watch him be a wise businessman and sign for three times as much somewhere else, and get nothing in return. And Rays fans, you'll be able to read the tea leaves by the All-Star Game two weeks from today. Leading up, the Rays have series against Detroit, Kansas City, and Toronto...teams with three of the five best records in the A.L. It's put up or shut up time. In a perfect world, Price might like to be a Ray forever. He's openly expressed how much the trade rumors have bothered him and how much he loves Tampa Bay. His comment yesterday stood out. Quote: "I've never been as good as I am right now. This is the best I've ever been." Perhaps sensing the inevitable was coming, Price touted his trade value to be at an all time high. And maybe a part of him wants to assure his long time team - the one that drafted him six years ago as a fresh-faced kid out of Vanderbilt - that the cubbard won't be bare once their longtime ace says goodbye.
Tom James is a 2-time Edward R. Murrow Award-winning sportscaster, who does play-by-play & studio work for the ESPN Family of Networks (including ESPN Wide World of Sports, ESPN3, college football, basketball, & a wide array of other sports), CBS Sports Network, Lax Sports Network, & Pro Watercross. Tom also hosts and produces sports documentaries & is part of the weekly regionally syndicated college football radio show, "Southern Pigskin Tonight."