Why do you think the Rays were so quiet on the trade front? And if B.J. Upton wasn't getting traded, why did so many people report that he was going to get moved?
-- Ted J., Tampa, Fla.
It looks to me like the Rays decided to keep Upton because nobody was willing to give up what Tampa Bay wanted in return. While he might have been available, the club was not going to give him away. You've got to remember that even though Upton has not reached the offensive potential forecast for him, he remains quite a talent. I'm not sure there's a better center fielder in the game, particularly when one considers his range and the strength of his throwing arm.
As for your other question, you never know what goes on behind closed doors with the Rays, who remain one of the most tight-lipped teams in the game when it comes to dispensing information. Because Tampa Bay operates in said fashion, it allows those wishing to float rumors to always include the Rays, because the organizations know the Rays will not be confirming or denying any reports on or off the record. I would have to believe that most information about Upton getting traded elsewhere was being generated by potential suitors interested in acquiring him.
What is wrong with Evan Longoria this season? I have him on my fantasy team and was expecting big things from him. Instead, he just doesn't seem to have it. Normally, he has a hot period at some point during the season. Do you think he's still due to have one of those hot streaks?
-- Paul S., Hudson, Fla.
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I don't think anything is wrong with him per se, I think he is simply the victim of a hard-luck season beginning in Spring Training, when he got the news that his car had been stolen. Longoria appeared to have worked especially hard during the offseason in the hopes of carrying the offensive load for the team. But he hurt his oblique and missed 26 games at the beginning of the year. Seemingly he has been in the flow of things during different segments of the season, however, Longoria has not gone on a tear the likes of which Rays fans are used to seeing.
Manager Joe Maddon was talking about Longoria prior to Sunday's game and noted that he has not been expanding his strike zone, but he has been missing his pitch. Having said all of that, I would expect Longoria to get on at least one sustained hot streak before the season's final two months run its course.
I have enjoyed watching Johnny Damon play for the Rays this season -- he still seems to have a lot of little boy left in him, which is probably one reason he's still the player he is. Do you think he is a Hall of Famer? I sure do.
-- Roy C., Clearwater, Fla.
I would agree with you about how much fun it is to watch Damon play. Not only has he been fun to watch, he appears to have a lot of baseball left in the tank for a 37-year-old. Where the Hall of Fame is concerned, I believe he is a Hall of Famer, but I think it will require the voters to look a little bit outside the box. He does a lot of different things on a baseball field, and he seems to pass a different famous name on some all-time list every time he gets another hit, double, run scored, etc.
In addition, he has played for championship teams in the past, and he is one of the best players I have seen to have around the clubhouse. If all of those qualities aren't enough, he is close enough to 3,000 hits that he could reach that epic milestone, which would make him a lock for Cooperstown.
From everything I read leading up to the Trade Deadline, I thought for sure that Jeff Niemann would get traded. I would have been all for it, because he's the most inconsistent pitcher on the team. Since the Rays are using a six-man rotation and will likely return to a five-man rotation at some point, do you think Niemann will become the odd man out?
-- Tom J., Port Charlotte, Fla.
You're being a little hard on Niemann, aren't you? Particularly after he just completed his fifth consecutive quality start Friday night against the Mariners. How about him setting a new record for the lowest ERA for a month by a Rays pitcher with a 1.06 ERA for July? I understand the appearance of Niemann being inconsistent, but the poor performances have come shortly after returning from having physical problems.
In the first half of the 2010 season, he was the most consistent pitcher on the team before going on the DL with a sore shoulder. This season, he had early back problems. Now he seems to be back and in full stride as evidenced by his performance Friday night, when he struck out a career-high 11 hitters. As for the six-man rotation, I don't know who will be the odd man out. I will say this: I'm not a fan of a six-man rotation. I don't believe the starters on the staff are either.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.