Rays Need to Fill their Clubhouse Void

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 The Tampa Bay Rays front office and my moles have gone silent. The organization seems to have again gone into their seasonal Black Ops mode when finalizing and considering their list of targets for the current 2010 Hot Stove season. But just like a hunter, the Rays have their scouting department scouring the countryside for videos and research that will point their direction towards a few of their prized prey.

And with another banner set to be raised to the rafters in April 2011, the Rays have the young talent and pitching to again cause some havoc in the American League East. But the 2010 season took a toll on the young team as they saw 5 of their top 6 2010 salary earners exit the franchise 40-man roster on Sunday morning. The team saw a combined $ 40 million in 2010 salaries instantly fall off their books which was almost 55 percent of their 2010 outgoing financial picture for Rays players.

Firmly in the Rays off season sights is a way to stop the bleeding in their Bullpen while finding a viable fiscal and physical solution to losing Carlos Pena, who was the franchise’s all-time Home Run and Walks leader. But even more important for the Rays will be to find a player who can take a firm hold of the clubhouse legacy started by Pena and embrace it with the same passion and commitment Pena held for his Rays teammates. It might be one of the most difficult finds for the Rays front office this off season.

The main problem with losing a person like Pena and his ability to command this Rays clubhouse is that you can never match up the team again with that personality and intensity type, but you look for a figure who commands the respect and can take the reins in the clubhouse without a power struggle or in fighting. That is a rare thing to find as ex-Rays slugger Pat Burrell found out in 2009 when he accosted B J Upton in the Rays locker room thinking he had the support of the team, then suddenly found out he was not in the power loop.

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This will be a delicate acquisition because the Rays need to find a player who can step into the Rays spotlight and also share it with all 25 members of the roster at the same moment. A balance of power and charm might be in order to adhere to the Rays request for another clubhouse leader. But some say that the omission of Pena in 2011 will bring out the leadership gene in Rays players like All-Stars Evan Longoria and David Price. Or the departure of Pena could smooth the way for possibly fellow starter Matt Garza to take an expanded role within the confines of the clubhouse.
 
What the Rays put on the field is extremely important in 2011. But they can not forget the guys still left here who will instantly feel a bit of a vacuum void left by the departure of Pena. This is not to underestimate the comedic misadventures and antics of Andy Sonnanstine, who can come up with awesome off-the-cuff pranks and actions, but a solid core of confidence needs to be solidified before the beginning of the 2011 season. The void in the Rays clubhouse is not huge, but to not fill it or even attempt to mend it’s gap could be disastrous for the team as the season progresses.

Maybe the Rays could set their gun sights on someone like Free Agent Jim Thome who might command a salary like Pena’s, but could provide a instant patch to their leadership and Designated Hitter hole with ease. No longer can the Rays set their sights firmly just upon possibly inviting Pena again into the Rays sanctuary. Even with Pena’s past vocally adamant wants to return to the Rays, can a financially adequate figure be reached without hindering the rest of the Rays off season secret double agent game plan.

Not only will the Rays be trying to find players to take over the missing pieces in their roster, they will be trying to glue together a few ripped apart seams in their clubhouse character. This might be more difficult than finding a guy who can hit over 30 Home Runs, or hold hitters to under a 3.00 ERA as a reliever. Physical ability is always available within the cycles of players who yearn for a shot in the Major Leagues, but sometimes character and leadership is not their game or part of their professional credo.

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The departure of Rays leadership by players like Pena, Carl Crawford and Dan Wheeler will be truly missed in the Rays clubhouse, but hopefully the Rays front office has a secret plan in the grasps of their fingertips that can rectify and eliminate this gap with clarity and confidence.

And the move to fill this leadership void might just be the biggest hole to fill this off season. One of the biggest mistakes a team can do is eliminate a team’s heart and soul and not repair it or replace it with a honest effort to bring harmony and confidence that will build from the Spring to Fall. The Rays need to bring someone else in who can “Do that dance”.
 
 
 

2 Comments

I agree that every team needs clubhouse leadership and the Rays will need to replace that in losing the guys you mentioned. Thome is a great option, although, as a division rival, that would scare me senseless!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
I knew that name would send shivers through some one.
But he is the one guy I can instantly point to and admire and respect the moment he stepped into the Rays clubhouse.
Iknow there are many others, but to find leadership plus get a upgrade at DH would be a Godsend.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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