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  1. Seems fair. I’d also note that Sternberg has turned the Trop from a poor atmosphere and surrounding to an actual ballpark, even if the old perception about the stadium remains.

    Comment by R.J. Anderson — March 27, 2009 @ 10:42 am

  2. I know there is lots of inconsistency in defensive metrics, but according to Dewan’s new book (it is the Bible after all), the Rays had the 9th best defense in baseball last year.

    Comment by Andrew — March 27, 2009 @ 10:45 am

  3. I would have expected the front office to lose a few points for their “we’re the smartest guys in the room”, over-the-top arrogance.

    Comment by Jeff — March 27, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  4. What exactly is this referencing?

    Also, odds are, they are the smartest guys in the room.

    Comment by R.J. Anderson — March 27, 2009 @ 10:52 am

  5. I’m also not sure where this has been reported. But, assuming you are correct, unless that starts hurting their ability to run a baseball team (engineer trades, etc.) then I don’t see how you can penalize them for arrogance.

    Also, Dave is only being consistent since he didn’t dock the Steinbrenners.

    Comment by rwildernessr — March 27, 2009 @ 10:56 am

  6. it seems a little odd to me to say only positive things about the ownership and then rate them only a C+. Sternberg seems like a sharp guy who both cares about winning and fostering goodwill with the community – C+, while still a positive grade, i guess, seems a little low to me. i just don’t really see many negatives in him.

    Comment by zac — March 27, 2009 @ 11:15 am

  7. I understand the Rays ownership has major plans for expansion but it seems like the economy is making those plans seem less and less likely, or at least putting them on hold indefinitely. It doesn’t seem like their budget is going to passing teams like the A’s, or even getting that high, anytime soon.

    Comment by Gina — March 27, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  8. Tampa sure looks good, but this year I don’t see their pitching keeping up with Boston. Boston’s starting pitching has more depth and quality. To bad Tampa isn’t in California, then the playoffs for the next five years would be a lot more exciting.

    Comment by JC May — March 27, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  9. I think it’s been clear throughout these rankings that money plays a huge role in the grade Ownership gets.

    Comment by Eric — March 27, 2009 @ 11:23 am

  10. I’m in awe at what Sternberg, Friedman and company have done with this team. The more I read about the transformation of the Rays the more amazed I am of this team.

    These guys had a plan the entire time. By late 2008, I realized that with a few tweaks this team could be good. And even then, I’ve been kicking myself for not following this organization sooner. The Rays have done a remarkable job putting a quality team in place.

    Comment by ThundaPC — March 27, 2009 @ 11:27 am

  11. “Their market will always make them compete on a budget, but they’ll be funded well enough to keep their team together.”

    my point is that this hardly seems enough of an indictment to dock them all the way down to a C+.

    Comment by zac — March 27, 2009 @ 11:31 am

  12. “Tampa sure looks good, but this year I don’t see their pitching keeping up with Boston. Boston’s starting pitching has more depth and quality.”

    Would love to hear you elaborate on that.

    Comment by Tyler — March 27, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  13. It’s so awesome that my 2 favorite teams in baseball are #1 & #2. It’s gonna be fun seeing the Rays and the Red Sox making the playoffs and Yankees falling a bit short a few more times in the next several years. And I’m sure that the Red Sox/Rays going 1-2 in the AL East will happen once again, with 2008 not being the exception.

    But speaking from a Red Sox fan’s point of view, the Rays are really scary. They are going to be good for a long, long time.

    Comment by YC — March 27, 2009 @ 11:36 am

  14. “they’ve pieced together an elite bullpen from retreads”

    I read this as “they’ve pieced together an elite bullpen from retards” and laughed my ass off.

    Comment by Eric Cioe — March 27, 2009 @ 11:43 am

  15. Well… I would say the team suddenly becoming awesome had a lot to do with it.

    Even then, they werent selling out late in the year when the team was in first place playing big games…

    Still, loooooonng way from previous years.

    Comment by alskor — March 27, 2009 @ 11:58 am

  16. Could you expand on that? I’m curious what he’s done.

    Comment by A's Fan — March 27, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  17. If youre talking bullpen – absolutely.

    If youre talking rotation – well, the have the best pitching prospect in the world at AAA… so that’s what I call “depth.”

    They do have some depth questions on their staff, though. Are guys like Miller or Hellickson ready to step in if needed? What will they get from Niemann? Hammel, Howell, Balfour all exceeded expectations in 08. I agree its not 100% clear cut, but I like their depth a hell of a lot better than the Yanks, frankly. Im sure some Yankee homer will come on here and tout middle relievers like Aceves, Coke, etc… as “depth.” They do not even begin to compare to the Sox or Rays for depth.

    Comment by alskor — March 27, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

  18. Well, yes, although I meant the aesthetics factor. Things like new paint, cleanliness, ads to cover the back wall — revenue! –, the rays tank, the new video/scoreboards, painting the catwalks black instead of another Tropicana ad, the new turf, etc., and that’s just on the inside.

    Also: he got rid of those leaves/oranges/rays stickers on the outfield walls. I’m not sure we can ever thank him enough for that.

    Comment by R.J. Anderson — March 27, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

  19. Nitpicking – I thought Joe Maddon deserved a shout out here. He appears to be a very forward-thinking manager, seemingly a perfect complement to the front office’s mentality and his organization’s major league talent. Any comments?

    This year I’ll be very interested to see if he can keep the fire burning in his team’s collective belly. Down the stretch last year I thought it was clear that his optimism and composure seeped into all corners of the locker room/organization. That optimism and composure helped a young team stare down the mighty Sox last year in the ALCS (one for the ages), and I think a fair amount of credit has to go to Maddon. Thoughts?

    Comment by Big Gulps, eh? — March 27, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  20. Hammel, Howell, Balfour all exceeded expectations in 08.

    One of these is not like the others.

    Comment by TomT — March 27, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

  21. Mr. President?

    Comment by Andrew — March 27, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  22. You might want to cut the homer bullshit for a minute because anything can happen. Youkilis and Pedroia are going to regress. Lester could regress. Ortiz’ decline might be for real. Daisuke’s insane luck is going to run out eventually, and Beckett might have had his one elite year. Those low risk signings could all go bad, and there’s no predicting a year where all sorts of people go down with injuries like 2006.

    I’m not saying the Yankees don’t have issues (They’re so so soooooooo old, they might have to get a Ponson-esque INNINGS EATER again if Joba hits his innings limit anbd Burnett goes down), but this is the worst kind of homerism. If you were spouting this Rivals.com-esque homer crap in regards to say, the Detroit Tigers, sure. Cool. But nothing is for sure in the AL East unless you’re a moron.

    Comment by Nick — March 27, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

  23. the stadium looks a ton better inside and out, the fan experience is a lot better (it was more of an Arena Football/NBA experience previously), and before Friedman and Co. took over the easiest change to the fan is the floors are no longer constantly sticky, they obviously had a low bar set for ‘improvements’ to the stadium, but they have exceeded expectations for what could be done in that time span for the stadium

    Comment by CubFanRaysAddict — March 27, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  24. Overrated, IMO. His team was coasting to a 4-1 thrashing of the Sox in the ALCS. Then Balfour got in trouble in Game 5, and…he just stood there. He had an entire bullpen that was ready to be warmed up, and he just sat there and let the Red Sox come back and nearly pull it off again like 2007 against Cleveland. I think if the Rays won that game, they would have gone on to win the World Series. Instead due to Maddon’s idiocy, they were exhausted due to a grueling ALCS, just like the 2003 Yankees.

    Comment by Nick — March 27, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

  25. Right, and Boston in ’07 was exhausted from a grueling comeback against Cleveland, leaving them to get steamrolled by… wait, that didn’t happen? Talk about revisionist history. If the team going seven games in the LCS wins the WS, they stayed sharp by playing the whole time. If they lose, they were worn out. Pick one, people.

    Comment by Kevin S. — March 27, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  26. Enlighten me… They all turned in pretty good seasons. I realize Hammel’s numbers didnt end all that pretty, but they arent bad at all.

    Comment by alskor — March 27, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  27. Boston got some momentum and took advantage of a Cleveland team that was themselves spent and beat a Colorado team that really was not a World Series team and whose momentum had peaked. Tampa almost suffered the same fate but reached down for one last handful of energy.

    Comment by Nick — March 27, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

  28. Kevin S: I hear what you are saying – and agree that too often lazy reporting (or commenting) is revisionist. However, teams win 7 game series in different fashions. In particular, how heavily the pitching was taxed can play a huge role in the next series. Game 7s themselves can result in empty pens or blowouts.

    Comment by rwildernessr — March 27, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

  29. Keep up the good work, I’m excited to see how this series ends.

    Comment by Wally — March 27, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

  30. Nucular.

    Comment by JLP — March 27, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  31. Where’s Captain Obvious when you need him?

    Comment by JLP — March 27, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  32. Career FIP 2008 FIP
    Hamell 5.17 5.25
    Balfour 3.63 2.22
    Howell 4.23 3.39

    I do not see where Hamell exceeded expectations. He will either improve this year or be DFA.

    Comment by TomT — March 27, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  33. I don’t think that Wally means what you thought he meant.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — March 27, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

  34. What’s with your overt hostility? You really should calm down.

    For one, I am a Red Sox fan but not a Yankee hater. I for one think that the Yankees are a worthy rival to the Sox and see the Yankees as an incredibly well managed Franchise. What I’m saying is that I’d rather see the Red Sox/Rays advance to the playoffs rather than the Yankees not because I hate them or because I think they don’t have the talent to do so, but simply because the Red Sox/Rays are my 2 favorite teams. Is it wrong for me to root for my favorite teams? I don’t think so.

    Moreover, I’m not saying that the Red Sox/Rays will advance to the playoffs every year and the Yankees won’t make it. I highly doubt the Yankees will be shut out every single year. What I was stating is that 2008 will not be the only year that the Red Sox/Rays will both reach the postseason. Do you really think that both of them will not reach the postseason together at least once or twice in the next decade? That’s what I was referring to.

    You are right in saying that anything can happen in the future. However, we are making judgments based on the information that we currently have on the 3 teams. Based on those data, it’s more likely that we’ll see Red Sox/Rays both making the playoffs like 2008, then that event never happening again.

    Comment by YC — March 27, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

  35. So from what I’m gathering here, the AL East should probably be a pretty good division this year. ;)

    I’ll throw my hat in with the Rays.

    Comment by coreyjro — March 27, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

  36. Inconceivable!

    Comment by IndigoSatellite — March 27, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  37. I like the Rays. The front office is doing a good job and the farm system is loaded. They deserve the ranking. But before we fall all over ourselves and attribute it all to their unique genius, should we not reflect on the fact that they picked first in the draft for about a zillion successive years? Maybe that had a little something to do with their eventual success.

    Comment by Mick — March 27, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

  38. …zillion consecutive years… sounds better.

    Comment by Mick — March 27, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

  39. Yes it does. Money is by far the most important concern.

    That’s why the yankees ownership received an A+, while dave cited other negatives.

    Comment by John — March 27, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  40. “The people who crow that they are living off of high draft picks from years of losing are just showing their ignorance.”

    Comment by Scarygood — March 27, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  41. Agreed. Going to a Rays game five years ago was an experience in blandness. The stadium was dingy, the staff generally lax or disinterested. Even with a winning product, the new management has really put in an effort to build its fan relations.

    Quite frankly, the last two years have been more fun off the field. Promotions include free post-game concert by some fairly popular entertainers. Fans gather in the parking lots well before gates open to tailgate, which has been encouraged with live music and free parking.

    A nice touch is that front office staff act as ushers and gate greaters at sometime during the season. They have fairly open policy to include fan made videos on their stadium big screen. They have made the front office accessible.

    Comment by Joe — March 27, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

  42. god baseball fans are the easiest people to troll

    Comment by Nick — March 27, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

  43. Maybe so, but it sure as heck didn’t hurt. How many of those guys who provide that great depth came at the very top of the draft? I’m guessing a lot of them. Now, that’s just not enough to constitute an entire team, but ignoring it is plain silly.

    Comment by mattymatty — March 27, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

  44. By the way, I’m an NOT saying that Dave ignored it.

    Comment by mattymatty — March 27, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

  45. Let me get this strait…

    TB owner comes out and says he wouldn’t be able to afford a salary floor. Salary matches revenue, yadda yadda.

    Florida is ranked 29th for that very reason. TB is ranked at #2 regardless of it.

    So…

    Both have elite ML-ready young pitching, both have good ML-ready young hitting, both have elite, top-of-the-line minor league system. Both have owners that will continually have their payrolls at the bottom of the league for the next few years.

    One is ranked 2nd. One is ranked 29th.

    What, exactly, am I miss?

    I mean, don’t get me wrong. TB is certainly in a better position. The SP depth they have is insane. I’m not saying Florida should be #2. But this is just ridiculous lol.

    Comment by Nny — March 27, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

  46. The difference between 2006 and now is the depth the Red Sox have. They have Beckett, Matsuzaka, Lester, Wakefield, Penny, Smoltz, Buchholz, Masterson, Tazawa, Bowden and even Hansack capable of holding thier own in the major leagues. In 2006 they had to resort to starting guys like Jason Johnson (gag me) and David Pauley.

    If Lowell goes down, they can shift Youkilis over to 3rd and put Chris Carter at 1st, who hits very well.

    Also, Ortiz’s decline is not for real. He put up those numbers last year with a wrist and shoulder injury, and he is reportedly recovered from both. But even so, the Red Sox did plenty fine without a healthy Ortiz last year, didn’t they? Even if he gets injured, an offensive core of Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, JD Drew and Mike Lowell can do fine without him.

    There isn’t any pure slugger in it, but all but Ellsbury are capable of between 20 and 30 homeruns, along with monster OBP’s, which is much more important that the number of taters anyway.

    Comment by Jim — March 27, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

  47. Well….they definitely good good off of high draft picks, but people act like it is a guarantee for a high pick to work out. It takes a damn good scouting team to build the second best team in baseball with draft picks. Just look at the Pirates. They could be the Rays right now, but instead they are just as bad as always. The difference is the front office.

    Comment by Jim — March 27, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

  48. One is perpetually rebuilding because they want to avoid arbitration with their players. They’re not trying to avoid large free agent contracts, they are trying to avoid arbitration raises.

    One is blaming the city on their struggles for lack of a new stadium, the other made improvements to the stadium they have.

    One is trying to win. The other simply is not.

    One will invest as revenues increase. The other will not. See the two WS titles Florida won and how they sold the farm immediately after.

    Low payrolls sure, but day and night. The Marlins would have never even thought about adding Burrell for 8 million. The Marlins probably wouldn’t have added Tex for 8 million.

    Personally I think the only question is how did the Marlins not finish 30th? And how Jeffrey Loria is allowed to be involved in MLB in any capacity whatsoever.

    Comment by Matt — March 27, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

  49. “One is perpetually rebuilding because they want to avoid arbitration with their players. They’re not trying to avoid large free agent contracts, they are trying to avoid arbitration raises.”

    The only player you can make a case about that with is Miguel Cabrera. And they traded him as his peak. He was still viewed as a possible third baseman, he was coming off another monster season, he had two years of service time left, so forth.

    The thing that justified the Cabrera trade was Hanley’s contract. Plain and simple, no small market team would be able to keep both Cabrera and Hanley. It came down to a choice between the two. They made the right one. Cabrera was not going to be retained, so they sold him at his peak value. They also were coming off a horrible season, and 2008 run-differential wasn’t exactly impressive.

    “One is blaming the city on their struggles for lack of a new stadium, the other made improvements to the stadium they have.”

    How exactly are the Marlins going to improve a stadium they don’t own?

    “One is trying to win. The other simply is not”

    Two losing seasons in the 6 seasons that Loria has been owner. In contention up to the last month all but one of those 6 seasons.

    “One will invest as revenues increase. The other will not. See the two WS titles Florida won and how they sold the farm immediately after.”

    1997, loria was not owner.

    2003, payroll increase both years after and didn’t decrease until 3 years later when it was a flawed, old team. (Salary places will list the 2003 payroll as higher than the 2004 payroll, but that was not true due to things like Pudge’s differed contract and such)

    So, uh, what?

    “Low payrolls sure, but day and night. The Marlins would have never even thought about adding Burrell for 8 million. The Marlins probably wouldn’t have added Tex for 8 million.”

    They signed Carlos Delgado. They were in the running for Javy Lopez. I’m too lazy to put in the time to find the others, but, yeah.

    Comment by Nny — March 27, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  50. “One is perpetually rebuilding because they want to avoid arbitration with their players. They’re not trying to avoid large free agent contracts, they are trying to avoid arbitration raises.”

    The only player you can make a case about that with is Miguel Cabrera. And they traded him as his peak. He was still viewed as a possible third baseman, he was coming off another monster season, he had two years of service time left, so forth.

    The thing that justified the Cabrera trade was Hanley’s contract. Plain and simple, no small market team would be able to keep both Cabrera and Hanley. It came down to a choice between the two. They made the right one. Cabrera was not going to be retained, so they sold him at his peak value. They also were coming off a horrible season, and 2008 run-differential wasn’t exactly impressive.

    “One is blaming the city on their struggles for lack of a new stadium, the other made improvements to the stadium they have.”

    How exactly are the Marlins going to improve a stadium they don’t own?

    “One is trying to win. The other simply is not”

    Two losing seasons in the 6 seasons that Loria has been owner. In contention up to the last month all but one of those 6 seasons.

    “One will invest as revenues increase. The other will not. See the two WS titles Florida won and how they sold the farm immediately after.”

    1997, loria was not owner.

    2003, payroll increase both years after and didn’t decrease until 3 years later when it was a flawed, old team. (Salary places will list the 2003 payroll as higher than the 2004 payroll, but that was not true due to things like Pudge’s differed contract and such)

    So, uh, what?

    “Low payrolls sure, but day and night. The Marlins would have never even thought about adding Burrell for 8 million. The Marlins probably wouldn’t have added Tex for 8 million.”

    They signed Carlos Delgado. They were in the running for Javy Lopez. I’m too lazy to put in the time to find the others, but, yeah.

    Comment by Nny — March 27, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  51. sorry, delete this one please. messed up.

    Comment by Nny — March 27, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  52. OK, but seriously, how much of that team was built off of high first-round draft picks? Longoria, Upton, and Garza/Bartlett from the Young trade (and Young was hardly valued at the same level as when he was drafted when they traded him). Everybody else was either drafted after teams had at least one pass at him, picked off the scrap heap (Carlos Pena), or outright stolen from another team (Scott Kazmir). It’s really not worth even mentioning that they were always picking so high when talking about their success last year. Same thing with the farm system. Price and Beckham were grabbed numero uno, but even taking them away, the system is loaded.

    Comment by Kevin S. — March 27, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

  53. They don’t have Stephen Strasburg.

    Comment by BrettJMiller — March 27, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

  54. Who’s the homer here?

    Comment by BrettJMiller — March 27, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

  55. Wait, Carlos Pena is the Rays best hitter? Am I missing something?

    Comment by DavidCEisen — March 27, 2009 @ 7:53 pm

  56. What Brett said.

    Comment by Teej — March 28, 2009 @ 12:29 am

  57. Best hitter? Yes. He has been for the past two years. Looking at wOBA, he was by far their best hitter in 2007. He was their best hitter in 2008 as well, but by a microscopic margin over Longoria, thanks to a pretty decent gap in OBP.

    (Well, technically, Andy Sonnanstine had the highest wOBA on the team last year. As if I needed more reason to love that guy.)

    Comment by Teej — March 28, 2009 @ 12:37 am

  58. The Longoria contract alone is enough to permit this front office to have that “smartest guys in the room” arrogance that was discussed earlier.

    The most the contract can possibly be worth, if the Rays exercise all options, is 9-yrs $44 million, and $725,000 of that has to go to the Rays’ charity of choice. You’re talking about locking up one of the best third basemen in the game, for his prime years, at a cost of less than $5 mil per year.

    The kid was valued by FanGraphs at $24.1 million last year, and that was in 122 games.

    Even if he turns into Pedro Feliz, he’s still well worth the money.

    Unbelievable deal, and it will allow them to keep their core together for much longer than most (or maybe all) small market clubs.

    Comment by CH — March 28, 2009 @ 8:43 am

  59. Well, that Delgado deal was pretty much based on the premise he would take an extremely back loaded contact to play for Florida for a year. If anything, I think your example illustrates the counterpoint to the very argument you are trying to make.

    Comment by Joe — March 28, 2009 @ 10:35 am

  60. “Andrew Friedman and his gang have done tremendous work in putting this franchise back on it’s feet.”

    It’s with an apostrophe should be used as a contraction for it is. It’s a sunny day.

    To show possession, there is no apostrophe. …franchise back on its feet.

    Great message and content, but you make a ton of basic writing errors. You have a great future in the business, but perhaps a few writing courses are in order for you. You’re obviously smart, but the writing itself lags behind your ideas.

    Comment by Joe — March 28, 2009 @ 11:50 am

  61. “One is perpetually rebuilding because they want to avoid arbitration with their players. They’re not trying to avoid large free agent contracts, they are trying to avoid arbitration raises.”

    The only player you can make a case about that with is Miguel Cabrera.

    — Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen?

    Comment by LarryWayne — March 28, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  62. Well, the Delgado contract was an experiment to see if that a big contract would attract fans. If Billy Beane does it, it’s brilliant. If the Marlins do it, it’s being penny-pinchers.

    Anyway, the guy said that the Marlins would not sign Teixiera to a 1 year, 8m contract, let alone Burrell for 8 mil. It was in response to that. But they signed Pudge to a 1y, 10m contract. They signed Delgado to what amounts to a 1y, 11m contract.

    I don’t understand the fault in not giving out bad contracts. Especially when you’re a small market team, you have very little room for error. The FA market is the most expensive market to get talent on, price wise.

    Comment by Nny — March 28, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

  63. You are right, what you did here was really really easy and anyone could’ve done it. Congrats.

    Comment by James — March 29, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

  64. This seems awfully high for the Rays. I know everyone is still riding the Ray-hawk bandwagon, but EVERYTHING went right for them last year. They have a lot of young talent, but young talent is fickle. They also have a horrific fanbase, and a very low payroll.

    I really have no problem with them in the top 5, but beyond 2009 they will start to have to deal with real issues. Health? Depth? Salaries? The Rays can’t make a mid-season acquisition to sure up the bullpen or the rotation if it costs too much. Plus they can’t afford rentals for young talent because they can’t pay a veteran team.

    There biggest problem will be staying good against the Yankees and Red Sox. Both of which have basically unlimited money to throw at there problems (and one actually spends wisely) Not to mention the Jays and Orioles which both have much higher payrolls.

    Looking into the future of the Rays is very tough, 2-3 years from now payroll will have to go up or there best players will move on.

    Comment by Ted — March 29, 2009 @ 7:57 pm

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