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Clubhouse, like club, lacks spark

Clubhouse, like club, lacks spark
ST. PETERSBURG - The starting pitching has been ineffective, the offense spotty and the defense untidy. But there has been something else missing for the Rays .

Call it joy. Call it youthful enthusiasm. Call it fun. Call it, if you want to sound cool and pseudo-intellectual, joie de vivre.

But, at least until 11:06 Friday night, when B.J. Upton was greeted at home plate by a bouncing mass of white and blue, call it lacking.

"We play exciting Baseball, and I think we've lacked in that a little bit," Troy Percival said after Friday's festivities. "Get back to playing fun, having fun when we're out there, playing with enthusiasm and excitement. That's what we did all last year, and there's been a little bit of that that hasn't been there."

There are no absolute answers why but at least a couple of theories.

One is that the offseason shuffle of personnel changed the personality of the clubhouse. Guys with major presence, such as Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske and Jonny Gomes, are missed, replaced by players who may be more talented but don't show the same style of leadership.

"Those were good clubhouse guys," Carl Crawford said. "You never realize how important those kind of guys are until they're gone. They were a big part of what we did last year, that's no secret. We just have to have other guys step up.

"I don't want to say clubhouse atmosphere is what made us win games - we have to go out and play - it's just a little different. Those guys made a big difference."

Another is that the fun is a product of winning, not the other way around, and the Rays have yet to do so consistently.

"When you go on that great 20-game run, and I'm confident this group has that in them, I think we'll see a lot more of that," executive VP Andrew Friedman said.

Manager Joe Maddon said - to use another cool phrase - that the esprit de corps is strong and the clubhouse mood good and that they're still having fun with antics such as dressing up on road trips (Stay Hot, Dress to Win, and the upcoming White-Out to South Florida).

Percival said it all started to feel right on Friday night.

"We have to feel like there's 25 guys out there trying to do one thing as opposed to a bunch of guys that are just playing the game," Percival said. "We can have 15 guys hit .350 and not win games here. That's one thing we did last year - guys came up big at the right time and had fun doing it."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 17, 2009

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