Were You The One?

Recently columnist John Romano of the “St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times” wrote an editorial stating the Tampa Bay Rays possibly could be one bat away from reaching the last series again in late October. Some have chuckled at this notion while others have taken his conjecture with a grain of salt, possibly whisking the sodium chloride over their left shoulder for luck just in case he is right.

I know Romano’s main premise is encircling the Rays need for one consistent weapon that empowers this team and acts as their point man during struggles and setbacks. A player of stature and confidence that evokes fear in other team’s, possibly with good reason. Names like Ivan Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and even former Ray Carlos Pena quickly come into my mind, but will the price for their services be more than the Rays can muster? Will they quickly be termed “not the one’s”.

Could it be possible my own ideals are more far-fetched than Romano’s? Maybe I am insane to think the entire 25-man roster can transform into one cohesive and consistent unit that nightly can get the job done. For 2 MLB seasons we have seen this Rays club get battered and beaten early in contests and somehow get back off the turf and watch as a Rays du Jour hits the plate or mound and deliver the final death-blow to an opponent. Maybe it is time for this team collectively to take a giant leap of faith in regard to reaching the individual zenith.

Maybe it is as simple as each member of the Rays 25-man roster to take their own game to their next level, to bring about a rude awakening of the slumbering weapons already harnessed within the Rays arsenal. Maybe Rays Manager Joe Maddon should adopt a “Were You the ONE Today?” mantra for his 2012 squad. Possibly that is why this mantra speaks to me in such a way. A total unit is only as strong as its pieces, and this Rays squad has shown in the past it can play with anyone on any given night and post a “L” up on their side of the scoreboard. Did you forget, the Rays did beat the eventual World Series winners in their InterLeague series at the Trop, and outscored them 16-9

Because the Rays payroll is already hovering over $50 million mark for 2012, is there realistically room enough under their ceiling for another impact bat? Considering the potential power and hitting on this team, when all their cow-nosed Rays line up in a row and consistency rules the day, this team is a run scoring machine. The current 2012 roster has the talent, the potential and the ability to combine and prove sometimes the unit as a whole is better than the “one”.

Over the past few seasons we have seen players like Cliff Floyd who showed so many on this team how to be clubhouse leaders and professionals but did not translate that on the field with authority. We saw the Trop termites seemingly destroy “Pat the Bat”, and saw pieces of the puzzles like Brad Hawpe, and Hank Blalock post high hopes, but quickly that balloon burst and again this team was as square one. The “one” big bat concept has not evolved here, possibly doomed to fail from its onset.

But over that same period of time, the Rays Top 5 have produced some impressive numbers and have grown on and off the field. Young players like Matt Joyce, Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson have shown the 5 can expand into even larger omnipresent spectacle possibly becoming a shimmering 25-point star. We have seen shining bursts of the talent and power from players like Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, B J Upton plus pitchers David Price and James Shields as they have all shed brilliant light upon the Trop.

Maybe this is insanity speaking, but these five points of the Rays star need to shine brighter in 2012. The great thing about elevating your game is it becomes infectious to your team. Each player on the Rays roster wants to be the “one” on a daily basis. Could it really be as simple as combined pitching energies and offensive forces combining to add up to one win, one defining moment, one potentially moment of clarity for this team?  If this 2012 Rays team can harness that and mold it into a consistent vessel of power, then the sky is the limit for this team in 2012.

6 Comments

Just curious, where do you think Sam Fuld fits in the Rays mix for 2012. The way he hit later in the year was really poor and I don’t think he could be an everyday player. I’m wondering what you would put him in? Maybe a platoon in the outfield?

Sam Fuld surprised the Rays staff last Spring with his play and hustle, and deserved his slot on the roster. “The Legend” should give Rays Manager Joe Maddon a quick runner off the bench, a platoon player, plus Fuld should get better in 2012. Still, his time may be a little more spread out compared to 2011 becuase of Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce and BJ Upton. Fuld will get his hacks, but he will also have to fight off Justin Ruggiano, Brandon Guyer and maybe a few other surprise players this Spring…..But I have faith Fuld can do it.

The Rays have so many good developing players. They are going to be the franchise of the future.

You know with the recent emergence of Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Alex Torres and Desmond Jennings the next generation of Rays are beginning to show up at the MLB level. But do not despair, Chris Archer, Tim Beckham and a host of other are rising to this extreme level and will one day pull on the Rays jersey. Teams in the smaller markets will live and die by their farm systems. The Rays have the ammo in-house already to give the Yankees and Red Sox fits for a long, long time….and I love it!

Hopefully, there will soon be a salary cap in baseball and then the teams with good farm systems will succeed over those that spent the most money in the past.

I know there are some owners who want a “reverse” salary cap where a team has to spend a pre-determined payroll, but with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the books, a salary cap is a distant thought right now. Small market teams get their own advantages like having players for their duration instead of buying free agents like the ” big boys”. I remember a line in “Moneyball” where an A’s radio broadcaster said they were sick and tired of being the Yankees farm team (because of the Damon and Giambi plucking). By solidifying your young talent, you get them through arbitration which saves you mega dollars…..small team ball has its own advantages.

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