Heading into the off-season, as expected this homegrown, dynamic group was going to take a hit.
Rays fans are complaining, but they shoulder a lot of the blame for the team’s $40-$45 million dollar payroll. The Rays were awesome the last three seasons, but no one came to watch. Yes, they play in a dumpy dome known as Tropicana Field, but for only 12,000+ fans to show up on the night the Rays clinched the AL East is sad.
Winning normally fills ballparks, which means more revenue for a team to invest in good players.
No Rays fans can criticize that the 2011 season is already over because the door was open for three seasons to give their stars a reason not to want to leave.
The Rays still have 3B Evan Longoria, who is arguably the best in baseball. Longoria was named Rookie Of The Year in 2008; he has also won two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger all before turning his current age of 25. Longoria is only going to get better.
Voted second behind King Felix in the 2010 CY Young ballot, the Rays still have their staff ace David Price. He finished 19-6, with an ERA of 2.72, with 188 strikeouts and only giving up 15 home-runs pitching just shy of 205 innings.
Price is the leader of a still very viable starting rotation. Trading Matt Garza for a slew of prospects was a move that the Rays could afford with the emergence of ace prospect Jeremy Hellickson, who scouts say will dominate in his first full season, at the bottom of the order. In between sits Wade Davis, James Shields and Jeff Niemann, which is still a solid group.
Skipper Joe Maddon is an oddball, but he has molded so many youngsters into superstars that it overrides anything else. For two seasons straight, not one Rays starting pitcher went on the DL for an arm issue and that is all due to Maddon.
The Rays signed old teammates Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, which give them a needed veteran presence. Nothing calls for incentive more for these two than sticking it to both the Red Sox and Yankees. This was a great move by the Rays front office, as it gives the youngsters something to get excited about.
The Negatives: Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: Tampa Bay Rays’ »