Results tagged ‘ Rays Renegade ’
It is the time that you truly find out what your club thinks you are worth.
First and foremost baseball is a business. And as such an arbitrary dollar amount is invisibly attached to each player, especially during the arbitration process.
On Tuesday, when the Tampa Bay Rays offer their first salary exchange in the arbitration process to their 6 eligible players, some will be within reason, a few might be on par to their tenure and abilities, and quite possibly one player might not see any figure exchanged and be non-tendered, thus becoming a Free Agent.
Ever since the 2007 off season, when the franchise abandoned the “Devil” in the woodshed, the Rays Front Office has been downright fickle when it comes to negotiating past a certain point in the whole arbitration process, and they have a very high arbitration winning percentage on their side of the table.
The Rays front office maintains an exceptional winning percentage, well over the .750 mark during the arbitrator’s segment of the process, and that can be very intimidating and has surely led to some players in the past just accepting what the club is willing to give them rather than possibly face defeat and a lesser seasonal salary amount.
And immediately you have to wonder if the Rays whole process might change in the organization since the departure of Andrew Friedman and the Rays could possibly morph into a more negotiations friendly or monetary complimentary Rays regime?
Don’t count on it.
Sure Friedman was the focal figure everyone looked upon when the arbitration process rears its ugly head each off season, but you have to remember new Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman was quite possibly always right next to Friedman offering up his own statistical research, calculations while safeguarding the Rays coffers.
And even if one cog of the Rays past arbitration machine is gone, there were plenty of folks in 3-piece suits and lambskins on their wall providing behind the scenes fortified data and scenarios thrusting out in all directions of any counter proposal of possible negotiation ploys that could be submitted to the Rays for consideration.
Current 6 Rays players who are under the arbitration umbrella this off season are: Matt Joyce, Alex Cobb, Desmond Jennings, Logan Forsythe, Drew Symly and Jake McGee. Each will be privy to an amount the team feels is fair and competitive for their services in 2015.
Several websites have their calculated guesses as to the Rays possibly offerings, but none of these website salary numbers are connected to the team’s first offering, or might be just arbitrary numbers of their own.
Currently most sites have the Rays offering a combined $20.9 million in possible 2015 salary for their 6 arbitration eligible players.
So let’s list the Rays 6 eligible players starting with the players we know will most certainly be offered salary arbitration and end with a few who might be on the fiscal bubble.
Heading the Rays arbitration salary list is RHP Alex Cobb, who is a key cog in the Rays pitching machine and has just over 3 years of MLB service and could be submitted at least a $4.5 million arbitration 2015 salary figure.
LHP Jake McGee who most have penciled in as the Rays closer in 2015 and has over 3 years of MLB service time quite possibly will be offered a team-friendly $3.8 million 2015 salary.
LHP Drew Symly has been a pure trade deadline delight since the Rays traded David Price to the Tigers and got this soft-spoken southpaw into their rotation. Symly, who has just over 2 years of MLB service time stepped up his game and could see his arbitration salary starting at a team-friendly $3 million for 2015.
CF Desmond Jennings who seems to have been here forever, but only has a little over 3 years of MLB service might see an arbitration figure of possibly $3.2 million offered on Tuesday.
INF Logan Forsythe, who was traded to the Rays in 2014 and is a part of the Rays crowded infield could get an arbitration salary offer of at least $1.2 million for 2015.
OF Matt Joyce who has had some great successes, but also some hitting flaws over 5 years of MLB service is expected to get a $4.9 million figure.
I personally feel there is a clear separation here of the players who the Rays might value as key to their success past 2015, and a few who might be walking more on eggshells than a firm footing with the team past this first exchange of arbitration salary figures.
Do not see any of these 6 remaining Rays players not being offered an arbitration salary amount tomorrow, but I believe the bottom 3 players listed above might be dealt a reality check and might find themselves a bit wanting in the salary department for 2015.
There was just a blot on Twitter that Tampa Bay Rays former jack-of-a-trades Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” that the Rays would designate him for assignment today.
Well, personally, I kind of saw the writing on the proverbial wall.
Main reason not being that S-Rod was to possibly garner $2 million in salary through arbitration, it was clearly a fact he is one of the last “pets” of former Rays Manager Joe Maddon that was left on the Rays 40-Man roster.
This is not to downplay the timely hits and run scoring escapades Rodriguez brought to the forefront during his Rays tenure, it is just we have more than a few multiple minor league and M L B caliber guys currently on the roster who can do it for less, possibly play more and do not have a lingering Maddon tie.
Some have whispered over the last few off seasons and during the extremely stressful Trade Deadline periods that S-Rod could be send a-packing. Of course those moments never reared their ugly heads until today.
Rodriquez is a capable M L B player who could like so many others on the Rays be plugged in wherever he was needed or take a bat and hit the batting circle with visions of RBIs dancing through his head.
With Brandon Guyer, Logan Forsythe able bodies who can handle S-Rod’s old tasks at a considerable lower salary, the choice surely was made easier when the Rays aw they could save around $2 million in salary with this one swift move.
Sure his .211 batting average last season left a lot to be desired, but his career-best .443 slugging percentage in 2014 showed he could be a great versatile position guy and his career-high 12 Hrs in 2014 might just make him a wanted man off the bench possibly well suited for a National League squad as a fill-in situational # 9 guy.
Joel Peralta was the first of Maddon’s preferential guys to get the Rays heave ho when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers not so long ago.
Wanna bet a certain someone will call and at least check in on what the Rays want for Rodriquez, and I bet they call from a 847 area code.
I decided not to write a blog post about the Tampa Bay Rays whittling of their respective managerial candidates from 10 to 3 until some of the heat and rage had died down. I felt I needed to let the anger pass that some great candidates were eliminated from this list like it was just a simple qualifying heat and they wanted the top 3 to aspire to greatness possibly being their gold, silver and bronze medal candidates for the Rays open manager’s slot.
If the Rays Front Office was trying to bring some sense of normalcy towards their selection process, they failed miserably as the process now seems to have been reduced to a comical 3-ring circus vibe with only the main act being a credible choice for their open post.
Bronze Medal- Raul Ibanez
I’m still not sure why he is even on this list. Sure Ibanez represents a quick 180 degree switch from the norm that was the Rays Way. Sure he played against this team as a player as recently as last season as a member of the Kansas City Royals, but the TEAM won the American League Championship, not Ibanez.
I understand and celebrate that he is a meticulous, charismatic and has his personal ducks all lined up, but his inexperience in managing a team is still in its infancy stage and to push a unproven game day novice into the Manager’s slot might have worked in the M L B of the 1900-1920’s, but today’s game is a statistical animal that needs to be fed the calculations, tendencies and proven tactical assessments and does not rely favorably on pure gut feelings and spur of the moment recollections.
I think Ibanez will mature into a great asset to baseball I just feel he is here 2-3 years too early for him to be considered for the Rays top dog. I also know Ibanez has not officially retired from playing yet and I do not see him as a player/manager hybrid for the Ray.
If Ibanez were to be given the Rays reigns, there might be more problems within the Rays organization than just a inexperienced Manager at the helm.
Silver Medal- Kevin Cash
I liked Cash as a player. Local Tampa guy who fought his way up the ladder to actually playing for this franchise and was behind the Tropicana Field dish. I also think his time spent as a scout and on the job of Bullpen Coach for the Cleveland Indians makes him a viable candidate, but like Ibanez, it is just a tad bit too early for him to slide into a M L B managerial post.
But I do like the aspect of a Bullpen Coach getting a chance at the top spot. A Bullpen Coach sees the game at a different angle. From the beginning when he assesses if the starter’s focus is sharp, his pitches crisp and if there are any “tells” being displayed he is an important cog of the game day machine.
I think Cash can do the job, but in the end, on the job training makes for a more game savvy Manager who already has it within his wheel house to make those lightning quick hard decisions, try risky tactics and rely on both his past successes and failures to adjust and formulate an on the fly judgment that could lead to a victory.
Gold Medal- Don Wakamatsu
Personally I think that failure makes him the best candidate. Sure that tenure gave him a huge managerial black eye, but Wakamatsu also gained valuable insight to become a more respectable player’s coach, but also gaining the wisdom to know when to pull the reins and reel in a trouble player or evolving negative situation.
Wakamatsu was at the Mariner’s helm during the last playing days of Ken Griffey Jr and Milton Bradley’s careers. One was adjusting to his reduced on the field role while the other just seemed mad at the world. Because of his soft hand approach towards both players and some others within the Seattle Clubhouse, he lost some vital respect and eventual control over Griffey Jr and Bradley as well as some of the young leaders in his M’s Clubhouse.
But Wakamatsu did not walk away from the game with his head down, he found a gig more suitable to his evolving talents and was a vital coaching and leadership cog in the Royals 2014 World Series machine.
If you look at a list of the Royals best in-game decisions/tactics in 2014, I know you will find more than a few of Wakamatsu’s fingerprints among them.
The Rays next Manager needs to further the evolution of the Rays into that next realm or dimension of their development. He has to bring his new eyes into the system and quickly fix it’s errors or faults. Every Manager the Rays have ever had left their mark on the team’s development, I think Wakamatsu would make a great fit as the Rays next skipper.
Ibanez and Cash might have the heart and hustle to provide that, but Wakamatsu has the other intangible items needed to take this team possibly finally towards hoisting that golden trophy in November.
I truly think and believe Wakamatsu is the answer to the Rays problem at this time. He not only deserves a second chance at managing, he is the most qualified of the 3 left and the Rays would be lucky to have him at their helm.
Plus having experience coaching in the American League plus having a stint in coaching in the American League East is a great thing to pop high on your Rays Manager Resume.
I am to give #TeamWakaWaka the gold.
Gosh, that did not take long.
We all knew that one day the possibility would rear its ugly head that the Tampa Bay Rays recently anointed President of Baseball Ops Matt Silverman would have to one day deal mano-on-mano with the analytical and crafty Andrew Friedman, who fled the Rays and landed with the Dodgers wearing a more historic shade of blue.
During the last minute prep before the Rays were to submit their names for their 40-Man roster by including a few prospects names to guarantee their omission from being plucked during the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, the Rays had conversations with several teams like the San Diego Padres, Houston Astros plus the Texas Rangers before Silverman was left with just one option……Friedman.
So before the strike of midnight the deal was sealed that sent veteran reliever Joel Peralta and Triple-A reliever Adam Liberatore westward to the dodgers in exchange for right-handers Jose Dominquez and prospect Greg Harris.
The trade on the surface between the 2 former 4th Floor Rays officemates seemed to ultimately compliment the Dodgers as they got a low salary Bullpen option in Peralta and a player who could be on the cusp of earning a spot in the L A Bullpen this spring.
Sure this trade helped the Rays solve some of their payroll concerns as well as make it easier for the Rays to complete their 40-man roster moves while getting some of value for Liberatore who quite possibly would have been left off the Rays final 40-Man roster.
Without question, Liberatore would have been plucked quite possibly in the 1st Round of the upcoming Rule 5 Draft if left unprotected by the Rays and all the Rays would have garnered was the $50,000 fee.
Ultimately Friedman knew the stats and abilities of each of these garnered trade pieces and knew of their inherent risks and liabilities firsthand because he scouted and watch them play when he was the Rays VP of Baseball Ops.
But let’s not be naïve here to think Friedman might have gotten one over on his former team, this trade has its own high points for the Rays with one significant power option that might bring the Rays dividends as early as when Pitchers and Catchers report in February 2015.
Dominquez could quite easily be the early great return on this trade. Sure he did have some stumbles and rumbles while in the lower levels of the Dodger system, but his stock has risen greatly in the last few seasons, even getting tastes of life at the MLB level in both 2013 and 2014.
Some might say he still has some control concerns after allowing 10 runs in 14 2/3rds innings over the past 2 MLB seasons, but his 12/6 K/BB ratio shows he has strikeout abilities that will be needed by the Rays with Peralta now gone from the Rays Bullpen. Dominiquez, who has been clocked throwing as hard as 103 mph might be a piece honed and sculptured this spring to be a cog in the Rays 7th or 8th inning playbook.
Also playing into his favor is the fact even with his not so stellar MLB stat line, he has averaged 10 strikeouts per 9 innings at the minor league level and if the Rays can fine tune his natural power talents, he could be one to watch even on the first day this spring. He mainly throws heat with a slider that is more known for its velocity than movement, but you know the Rays will show him a few new grips or pitches and expand his arsenal before he makes his Rays regular season debut.
And maybe Dominquez’s power is hereditary as he is a cousin to Rays prospect Alex Colome and former Rays RP Jesus Colome. For now I’m going to call him Smiley #3 (some people will get that reference). Both Harris and Dominquez also are from San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic.
Harris was drafted by the Dodgers in 2013 and posted a good season in 2014 during his stint in Class-A ball in the Midwest League and has solid strikeout numbers and throws in the mid-to-low 90’s. He is still 2-4 years away from possibly being near the MLB level and Harris should develop a few secondary pitches before he gets nearer to a possible stint with the Rays.
He also has a really interesting historic Rays tie-in as his father Greg, who was a former MLB pitcher (75-90 record) as well as a D-Rays minor league pitching coach with Rookie-Level Hudson Valley Renegades back in 1996-97.
Sure some will instantly put a check mark next to Friedman’s name with this trade as he garners a low cost Bullpen arm, and possibly 2 for 2015, but Silverman got an explosive arm that could be an impact as soon as 2015 as well as shed $ 2.5 million off his payroll.
But the real benefactor at the end of this might be Rays 2B prospect Ryan Brett who was a late addition to the Rays 40-Man roster right after the trade was completed. If Liberatore had not been traded, quite possibly Brett would have been left off the Rays 40-Man roster and subject to the Rule 5 Draft.
Conclusion: Everybody won in this trade. Now and in the future.
It is great news hearing that the City of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays might finally be seeing eye-to-eye in regards to a new home for the Rays. But unfortunately for the Rays, a few of the sites they coveted just 2 seasons ago are now either out of their price range, or set for a different type of development.
The Channelside District down near the epicenter of Tampa has been plucked by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s owner and his plans for that area do not include letting another sports team share in the wealth.
With both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties over the past few years both seeing their light-rail system ideas abolished by the public’s vote, a stadium in or around the West Shore Blvd area might also be past its expiration date.
Still, the Rays deserve to at least look, explore and quite possibly then remember that tract of land just off the southern end of the Howard Franklin might still have yearning for a possible multi-use facility that could include a stadium, a hotel/convention center and dining and shopping center open year round.
Next time you rush down on I-275 on your way home from Tampa, just past the Ulmerton Road exit look towards the northwest and check out this spectacular parcel of unused land and see if you can see what I see in my imagination:
A beautiful state-of-the-art retractable roof baseball stadium and hotel/convention center with the stadium’s roof opening towards the east to take in the flickering lights of Tampa from the angles within the stadium to provide a postcard backdrop.
That facility would become a shining jewel in baseball’s crown. Would set the standard in green technology while embracing its ecological habitat proving that man and nature can harmoniously co-exist, even with some of Tampa Bay’s tide pools just a Home Runs length away.
For the sake of honest here, this is the same parcel of soil was my personal choice for the building of a baseball stadium site back in the late 1980’s when the discussion first came up for the site of the then Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field.
This parcel of land sits smack dab in the middle of an ever growing section of Pinellas County that can support such a complex being built on this site, and should flourish beyond present expectations as both an entertainment center and transportation hub.
It is situated within a critical epicenter of the cross-county area to give more access to Tampa residents and upper Pinellas and Pasco-Hernando county citizens, but will be a bit of an added burden for people traveling from Sarasota or Manatee Counties.
If a stadium was proposed for this spot, this parcel would need a bit more tweaking and upgrading, to take on the extra burden of game day traffic, but it is at the threshold of two existing multi-lane infrastructures with I-275 providing north and south travel ease and Ulmerton Road, which is Pinellas County’s longest east-to-west travel road a gateway to several beach communities.
Alternative transportation is already in place because of the neighboring businesses surrounding Carillion Parkway. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) already has several bus routes that service the surrounding neighborhood office complex/condo community to the west of this parcel of land and services could be expanded to ease the transportation burdens of fans and visitors staying downtown or visitors who are staying out on the beaches.
Maybe PSTA and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority (HARTA) could combine or share resources and create an additional Express Route from Hillsborough County (west Shore or International Plaza) and bring fans to games from satellite parking lots or pre-destined pick-up locations throughout the Tampa Bay area.
This location (to me) is perfectly suited for the Rays needs.
So let the Rays take their gander around the other sites within Tampa Bay, and in the end they will probably drive right by this parcel of land and hopefully it will scream to them “Baseball Stadium”.
Sometimes the answer to things in life is right in front of your nose. For the Rays, it could be this great tract of land just off a few main thoroughfares that has a great bay view.
Tampa Bay Rays rookie pitcher Jake Odorizzi deserved better…..He truly did.
I will never be a voting member of the Baseball Writers of America Association (BBWAA), and I never will be. I’m a blogger of an independent blog that is featured upon a MLB owned and supervised blogging community.
The closest I will ever get to being a voting member concerning anything M L B-related will be the online voting process of the GIBBY’s or the internet and in-stadium ballot process for the All-Star Game participants every summer.
Some of you no doubt will brand me a “homer” for the critical commentary I am about to unfold. But I find it personally a bit upsetting and inexcusable for a local media member of our Tampa Bay Rays to not even give one of our own solid rookies at least a solo 3rd place or 1 vote for the 2014 Rookie of the Year award.
He was the only person among the voting panel for the 2014 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award to tip his cap to Odorizzi’s efforts this past season. To make this even more special for Odorizzi is that fact Antonen is a part of the Baltimore Orioles voting bloc and did not have to show any sort of acknowledgment to Odorizzi.
That is a man who voted with clarity and no biased integrity (in my opinion).
I have a mountain of respect for Antonen now, but lost what little I had for Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, and that is my “Two Cent’s” worth of commentary. And believe me, Smith will not lose a single ounce of sleep worried about some blogger calling him out for his ROY voting.
I can understand Smith’s votes for 1st (Jose Abreu/Chicago White Sox) and 2nd (Matt Shoemaker/ Los Angeles Angels), but I am calling bull hockey sticks on his 3rd vote which went to New York Yankee hurler Dellin Betances.
Sure Betances had no chance of winning with Abreu’s garnering all 30 1st Place votes or 150 points, but you would have thought a writer, who is based in the Tampa Bay market would somehow vote for their local guy as a sign of respect for a job well done.
Instead, Smith’s 3rd selection went to a guy who possibly played in Tampa no more than 2-3 seasons ago as a member of the Florida State League (high Class-A) Tampa Yankees. I guess NY Yankees star got a cap tilt vote from Smith to show his community support for the farm team.
Maybe it is the possibly outdated thought process of rooting and voting for the home team guy that has me so worked up here. That a local media member of the BBWAA doesn’t vote for a guy on his local baseball team, but for one who plays on our biggest rival.
But Smith was not the only Tampa Bay based sportswriter to include a Yankee and not a Rays with their 3rd place selection. Dick Scanlon of the (Lakeland) Ledger also did not show any Odorizzi love as he voted for Betances Yankee teammate Mashahiro Tanaka who was on the disabled list for an extended period of time in 2014 but did make a few appearances in September.
So that make 2, count ‘em 2 local Tampa Bay writers who showed their 3rd place love for guys wearing pinstripes instead of possibly gaining some integrity points with the Rays fan base by selecting Odorizzi.
Heck, it would have been amazing and great if at least one of them would of casted a vote for Odorizzi.
I know there are tons of Yankee transplants right now who are going to argue with me and spit back their own logical points, but in the end, the local guy got no love from not 1, but 2 local BBWAA writer……Plain and simple.
I mean if you take a gander at the individual voting ballots of the 30 participating voters in the 2014 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year voting, some did show some love for a home town rookie after voting for Abreu and Shoemaker in the top 2 slots.
Detroit Free Press writer Lynn Henning showed local love to Detroit Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post showed a hometown salute and a 3rd place vote to Yankees pitcher Mashahiro Tanaka.
And I do not have an issue with Takanao Ishii of the Sports Nippon Newspaper selecting Tanaka for his 3rd place choice. It is an honorable show of respect for the Japanese pitcher that one of his countrymen selected him.
In the end, this is my opinion plain and simple and I can rant and rave all night long and into the orange sunrise and this omission of Odorizzi from the local writer’s ballots will not change.
But then again what was I to expect from a group of local media members who didn’t even vote Odorizzi the unanimous 2014 Rays Rookie of the Year.
You deserved better Jake…in my non-voting opinion.
The Atlanta Braves have not been shy or silent they need to find a trade partner for Evan Gattis this winter. The Braves current C/OF needs to find a new home so the ATL squad can give the catching reigns fully to young defensive wunderkind Christian Bethancourt this spring.
A team that could dangle a veteran starter with some team control could become the ideal trade partner that could help the team seal their rotation hole and help them give Bethancourt control behind the plate heading into 2015.
And the Tampa Bay Rays could quite possibly be the team that helps facilitate this for the Braves.
As we head into the M L B G M Meeting in Arizona, both teams have a need to subtract personnel this winter with the Rays wanting to find a trade ally for starter Jeremy Hellickson.
The first glaring point that most Braves might bring to the forefront is the fact Hellickson only pitched 63 2/3rds innings in 2014 after a pre-spring surgery to remove some loose fragments in his pitching elbow. Since his return, Hellickson was a valued Rays starter proving he was healthy and suffering no setbacks from his prior injury.
The addition of a versatile player like Gattis would be a great addition for the Rays who need some offensive firepower heading into 2015. Even though Gattis himself had some health concerns in 2014 with a bulging disc in his back.
Combine Gattis’s back issue with Hellickson’s elbow you would think each team would do their due diligence via their respective medical staffs before any conversation escalates past the preliminary stage.
Even if both players did have darkened clouds surrounding their health in 2014, but each finished the season on high notes providing a brighter outlook for either player being considered in a possible trade package.
Hopefully the Brave realize even with a small statistical model in 2014, the pure fact over the last 2 seasons Hellboy’s has increased his strikeout rate (7.9 K/9 innings) while also lowering his walks issued (2.7 per 9 innings pitched) should show the veteran hurler has overcome some past control issues and would be a solid contributor to the Braves rotation.
Adding another nugget of goodness to the Braves trading for Hellickson is the fact he was the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year as well as a Gold Glover. Players like that usually do not come up as trade pieces when there is still team control in play. The fact Hellboy is even up on the block is a testament to the younger hurlers on the Rays current staff of developing faster than expected and might be pushing a player of Hellickson’s caliber towards another team.
Gattis would come to the Rays as a firm offensive upgrade especially at the Rays catching position and finished the 2014 season while maintaining a .263 average in 401 plate appearances. Even more glaring is the fact Gattis’s 22 HRs easily outpaced all 5 players who caught for the team and hit only 6 HRs in total with Ryan Hanigan garnering 5 of those HRs.
Helping Gattis in his case as a possible Rays trade target is the fact he has fielding versatility. Not only could he provide at bats as a catcher, but also at Designated Hitter and as a possible corner outfielder during InterLeague play.
It is not often that you could possibly trade for a single player who could help adjust or eliminate so many glaring holes in your roster. Both with a bat and glove Gattis is an instant Rays upgrade at DH and catcher (Sorry Ryan).
Another get selling point for Hellickson is the fact he is under team control until the end of 2016 and his projected arbitration salary is an affordable $3.5-3.9 million for 2015. That would give the Braves a bit of salary relief as well as bring on a starter with a proven M L B track record that would solidify the middle to back-end of the Braves rotation for at least the next 2 seasons. Of course this also works great for the Rays who have to cut a significant amount of payroll heading into 2015.
Gattis would also bring the Rays some salary relief as well as he is under team control for another 4 seasons. But one glaring point that might come with any trade chats about Gattis is that those 4 seasons of possible salary stability for a team like the fiscally-challenged Rays might come at the cost of another player at or near the M L B level.
The Braves will certainly want to up the ante because of Gattis’s 4 years of control, and it might be a hidden godsend as the Rays could include some like Brandon Guyer, Tim Beckham (Georgia native) or another player who might find their career path blocked as they near the M L B level.
A straight-up trade of Gattis for Hellickson will not happen oir be entertained by the Braves or Rays, but these two M L B caliber players should be a great starting point for both front offices to facilitate some chatter towards a possible Rays and Braves swap of talent.
I was just about to start reading Chapter 16 of Ben and Julianna Zobrist’s book “Double Play” today when the Tampa Bay Rays announced that the team was picking up Benzo’s $7.5 million Club Option securing his services as a Ray for 2015.
The title of Chapter 16 is “A New Lineup Card”, and with the Rays recent juggling of upper level positions and internal desk swapping, a positive bit of press coming out of One Tropicana Field felt like a cool sea breeze on a hot September night.
After the weeks the Rays front office has had seeing their VP of Baseball Ops and their Manager both pack their bags and head for distant pastures, the announcement of Zobrist coming back again next season brought a well needed hint of normalcy to the Rays as well as kept one of their most consistent offensive weapon in the Rays lineup.
Seriously, Zorilla is the type of player that every M L B team yearns for or hopes at least once in a decade to develop within their farm system and see established long-term on their major league 25-Man rosters.
But you also hope the Rays front office did not have to think more than 15 minutes, or every even ponder the conclusion that this team might benefit more with that $7.5 million and set Zorilla free onto the M L B landscape.
Zobrist’s $7.5 million salary might be considered expensive by Rays standards, but if you collected players with similar fielding and offensive stats from around the M L B, the Rays are getting a great bargain for his services in 2015.
I shudder to think that declining Benzo’s Club Option was ever on the table, or seriously considered even for a nanosecond.
With the Rays losing two top tier pieces of their management puzzle, letting a player of Benzo’s caliber go would have sent a clear message that the 2015 edition of the Rays were either going into a deep re-development and roster structuring mode, or were willing to further frustrate and agitate their bewildered Season Ticket base.
Believe me, if Zorilla would have been turned loose I would of been one of the first to hurdle a fine chunk of limestone.
But now is a time to rejoice and thank our lucky stars Silverman and company made the right move and selected the Club Option that will keep #18 in our Rays lineup and again in our hearts during the 2015 season.
So here we are Day 1 A J (After Joe).
The sky is still that beautiful shade of blue, the Sun still an amazing orange mass in the sky and not a dark cloud to be seen.
The Zombies did not attack, the Trop is still a tilted cap, and for now, the Tampa Bay Rays might want to retrofit and possibly introduce once again their 2007 “Under Construction” motif. For the Rays will most definitely be in a bit of a rebuilding mode both in talent and confidence heading into the Spring of 2015.
Sure some of that once solid Rays Way foundation that Maddon created so elegantly during his tenure is going to show some cracks with his unexpected exit stage right, but they can and will be fixed.
Problem is while most of the Tampa Bay fan base are still in a bit of shock and bewilderment, the Rays front office has to be swift and plug the Rays current void in leadership as fast as a well-placed 2-seamer.
Matt Silverman, who some says might have hastened Maddon’s exit when he advised him of his opt-out option after Andrew Friedman’s departure for the pastures of Los Angeles needs to now fill this managerial void while the wound is still fresh.
He needs to strap on those “big boy” pants, take the lead with authority in finding Maddon’s replacement and pop him into place before the wound has time to fester and the fan base loses anymore confidence in the Rays want to stay here in Tampa Bay at all.
Names are already swirling around the circular roof of Tropicana Field. Some have a MLB pedigree while others might be unknown to us, but the MLB establishment know their talents and are eager to add their expertise to their franchises.
I mean yesterday on a local Tampa Bay radio station it even seemed for a moment like the Rays current Pitching Coach Jim Hickey was throwing his hat in the ring, but he might have the talent and the respect of the Rays pitching staff, but he is not who the Rays should be focused on if they truly want to seek an internal choice for their next Manager.
Honestly right now a lot of the Rays Republic is feeling a bit vulnerable with 2 key elements of their past success peeling rubber out of the Trop parking lot for more financial vistas. Right now this whole scenario has to be Silverman’s to fix, and if he does due diligence and a dash of due diligence he will notice the right fit is already located under the Teflon roof of the Trop.
Screw the extended interview process.
Dave Martinez, who began his Coaching ascent as an unpaid outfield consultant and rose to be mentored and molded by Maddon to be his right-hand Lt is the guy who should be given the keys to the Rays Clubhouse.
The same Martinez that stood on the Tropicana Field Firs Base chalk line on March 31, 1998 during the first D-Rays player introductions and was a mainstay in Right Field until his departure in 2000. The same Davey Baseball who has worn #4 both as a player and Coach of the Rays.
An interesting trivia note is not only did Martinez start the Rays first contest ever, but he also recorded the Rays first hit, a 3rd inning single off Tigers starter Justin Thompson that also during its flight, struck the First Base bag.
That by itself should be a perfect pedigree for a team to hire Martinez as he has training in the modernization of baseball tactics and strategies spent alongside the true professor who challenged the old school thought processes of the game and initiated innovation and strategic upgrades in thought and situational decision-making during contests.
Sure Martinez doesn’t have a lot of resume material as the head honcho of the Rays, but has been near Maddon’s side since the spring of 2006 has been responsible for the Rays base running and bunting strategies which were responsible for more than a few Rays victories.
Has post season experience having been to the post season 4 times in the last 7 years as a Rays Coach after only going to the playoffs once as a player in 16 years.
At any moment during a Rays game you could of glanced into the Rays dugout and seen Martinez and Maddon locked into their statistical matchups, situational probabilities and voicing their valid opinions or preferred preferences. That by itself is a hard thing for two people to coordinate on a regular basis, Maddon and Martinez proceeded in their conversations like they were second nature.
I mean look at the fairy tale storyline that could emulate with Martinez as the Rays skipper. He played in and provided the first hit ever for this franchise, became a consultant with the team and rose through the ranks to become Maddon’s confidante and trusted ally.
Heck, the players, staff and the Rays front office already know he is personable, is a Rays fan favorite and if we could elect a new Manager, Martinez could possibly win the post in a landslide. He has been a positive Rays fixture, a mentor, an M L B Draft day participant and always willing and able to speak, listen or help anyone within the organization at a moment’s notice.
He has roots in this area and even had his son drafted by the Rays in the MLB Draft (31st Round) back in 2013. If anyone not only deserved a shot at the Rays helm, but seemed destined for the spot, it is Martinez.
I understand fully that the Rays truly need to do now is find the right fit, the right guy to not only move upward again, but truly mange the Rays ship with integrity and command instant respect from bow to stern.
In my opinion the right guy has been standing next to Maddon and not only has the respect of this team already, but the confidence in them and himself that he can take this team to another level, and quite possibly further than they have ventured before.
Come on Matt, you know he has the league cred and knows the Rays inherently infectious team philosophy and has all the qualities to be the Rays main guy.
Now all Martinez needs is the chance to show all those other teams why they should of hired him, or why he quite possibly waited in the wings for just this perfect hometown opportunity.
Davey Baseball is Rays baseball.
I so want to pop on one of those hipster caps, clutch a bundle of newspapers and wander outside Ava’s in South Tampa right now and mimic that great cinematic scene and scream: “Say it ain’t so Joe, say it ain’t so!”
I wasn’t a firm believer in Maddon when he was announced as the Tampa Bay Rays Manager almost a decade ago. But then I did not want that other “Joe” either who wears pinstripes to manage my then D-Rays.
I was uninformed of his love of computerized stats, reports, graphs and believing in the numbers as much as a hunch, feeling or a spur of the moment stroke of genius.
But I quickly became a follower.
So yeah, it irks me a bit today when I heard the Rays will lose their in-house musical and entertainment savant who decided his tenure with the Rays will cease now rather than extend his stay or do a “farewell” year as a lame duck Rays skipper.
I was on pins and needles the first few times I heard Maddon during interviews and as my resistance to his style of baseball waned, I began to march to the beat of his drum and began to stand solid behind this new essence of the Rays with this Mad Man with his black-rimmed glasses at the helm.
From his want to “give back” to his adopted Tampa Bay community with his “ThanksMas” innovative program that fed and let struggling and homeless individuals around this region know that the Rays, their employees and Maddon believed in them through their culinary show of love.
Maddon quickly won my heart by his charity, intelligence and want to make his Rays teams not only successful, but a benchmark of how to evolve and transform players and veteran into a victorious hodge-podge of inspiring and aspiring Tampa Bay sports icons.
I was one of the first to pop my name and money down for the inaugural first rendition of the “Maddon’s Mad Men” that quickly reformed as the “Maddon’s Maniacs” and became a spirited group of Rays fans who voiced and showed their support for the Rays main guy.
Maddon grew on me. From his courage to bench a disgruntled Delmon Young, then sending the ROY candidate to Minnesota. It showed courage, but it also showed that he was not above jettisoning a promising player if he felt it might poison the Rays clubhouse, or provide unneeded drama.
What was really amazing was how when Delmon returned 6 years later in the final month of the 2013 season there was a level of respect shown towards Maddon that was not there in 2007. It was never said aloud, but you got to know Maddon was pleased Young had matured, developed and could again help the Rays cause, now as a veteran.
I was amazed at the way the “Magical Summer of Baseball” transpired this franchise and energize not only the Rays, but the whole Tampa Bay community. That process started with Maddon chatting with the guys on the turf of the Namoli Complex in St. Petersburg, transformed during the season peaking as he accepted the American League Championship Trophy from his former boss’s wife and ended among the rain puddles in Citizen Bank Park.
But that 2008 success only made you want to root for him more, want to again see him on the post season stage ready to pull a wily play out of his notepad, or pop up his palm for a enthusiastic high-five as a Ray returned to the dugout.
It saddens me we will not see Joe hoist a World Series trophy here in Tampa Bay. Bothers me that this happens now when the sting and bite of Andrew Friedman leaving for western pastures in Chavez Ravine and his team maybe again on the verge of something special.
I’m going to miss the team head cheerleader who brought fun back to road trips via planned events, the manning of T-shirts, jerseys or even PJ’s to bring some comic relief and energy into leaving the confines of home for 7-10 day ventures around the country.
I mean Maddon was a man who embraced our region for its positives and negatives, became a R V owner, a local restaurateur and somehow during all of this got some of us (even me) back on a bike wandering this great area on trails and back road rediscovering our region.
He helped transform the Rays culture on the field, in the stands and even might have instilled the first healthy clubhouse in the MLB when fresh food, healthy options and smoothies intertwined into the Rays pre and postgame lifestyle.
But most of all I’m going to miss the guy who truly had become the Captain of our Rays ship. Taking us to places no one else had, be it post season, managing an All-Star team or even giving us all cause to further embrace our community be it through humanitarian or even social efforts.
While some are going to have to take some time to come to terms with this, get over their confusion and angry moments, we all knew this day was going to come. We all knew that one day you would take that Rays hoodie off for the last time. Hang up the Elmer Fudd winter Rays cap and venture on with your life somewhere else, but we had envisioned that years away.
But even if the time was only 9 season, it was a true pleasure knowing you Skipper. Was a treat to hear you take, to see what antic or item might show up at a press conference or be presented to your players in the Club house (my favorite was Cliff, the penguin).
Joe, where ever you go, whatever your next destination I want you to know I still cherish, relish and embrace all the “Maddon Maniacs” knickknacks, T-shirts and photos taken with you over your Rays tenure.
But seriously Joe……..”Say it ain’t so!”