Terrified of Tampa

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Devil Rrays, originally uploaded by mandolux.

[Tampa is] going to be not just a team on the radar screen in coming years, they’re going to turn into a force.” – Theo Epstein.

Sadly, I concur. The sentiment would have probably seemed at once more prescient and less surprising had I published this when I first started writing it. Which, for the record, was actually before this March 20th Twitter. Also, before we were at the quarter pole looking up at the Rays in the standings.

By now, everyone and their mother has heard about these “new” Rays, making this piece both redundant and superfluous. But I’m not quite convinced that Red Sox Nation is as concerned about the Rays as they should be.

Obviously they’re going to cause problems this year. There’s the fact that they’re leading the division, of course, but more alarming is the fact that their Run Differential suggests that they should be leading the division (the Rays have scored 26 more runs than they’ve allowed through 43 games, while the Sox are +25 through 44). Think it’s a scheduling thing? They’re 18-12 vs the AL East.

Frankly, it’s looking more and more like the BP guys called this one, as they called the White Sox’ miserable ’07 season. I thought they’d be improved, but that an 88-74 season was seriously optimistic.

That’ll learn me to compete with the math geeks.

My real concern, however, isn’t this season. Not that I relish the thought of a resurgent Rays club, but Tampa making a single season run like the Marlins of yore I could live with. The longtime laughingstock positioning itself for years of competitive play, I’m not sure I can.

Which is a problem, because that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Consider the roster:

C D Navarro
1B C Pena
2B A Iwamure
3B E Longoria
SS J Barlett
RF J Gomes
CF B Upton
LF C Crawford

SP J Shields
SP S Kazmir
SP E Jackson
SP M Garza
SP A Sonnanstine

RP T Percival
RP D Wheeler
RP A Reyes
RP T Miller

I’m not sure what you see, but I see a solid club. They’re above average, I’d argue, everywhere but catcher, shortstop and right field – and I haven’t even run the numbers, that could be understating the case. The rotation is solid 1-4, and the bullpen has options beyond a closer fresh off the juvenation machine.

And unlike the aforemention Marlins, the Rays are in the process of making sure that the key pieces will be around for years to come. Shields, Longoria, Wheeler, Pena, and now Kazmir. And if Neyer’s right, Upton could follow.

Perhaps you’ll also recall how our much vaunted farm system was ranked second in all of major league baseball? Guess who finished ahead of us. Seriously.

As if Tampa’s current staff wasn’t frightening enough, help is on the way. David Price, last year’s first overall pick in the draft, got an excellent review from A-Rod despite coughing up a homer to the Cooler while the latter was on a rehab assignment. Bolstering the staff shortly should be Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Jeff Niemann, while Bartlett’s replacement Reid Brignac is in place.

Couple the best farm system in the game, with a talented young major league roster and the financial wherewithal to sign some of the young players to multi-year deals and what do you get? A competitive Rays club. Oh, and they may be getting a brand new waterfront ballpark.

Within one, maybe two years at the outside, we’ll be sitting in our rockers waxing nostalgic about the good old days when we only had to worry about the Yankees. Mark my words.

You can talk all you want about the talented Blue Jays pitching staff – which is excellent, no doubt – but it’s the Rays that really scare me.

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5 thoughts on “Terrified of Tampa

  1. A) You're high.
    B) Man up and make a prediction. I will: the nee Devil Rays finish behind Toronto, New York, and Boston.

  2. a) the accusation would be more credible if you said drunk, but either way i'm going with neither
    b.) i hate predictions. in any form. but as my manhood's been challenged, i'll bet they finish third ahead of both bird clubs.

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