Team Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

“The death of the Rays is greatly exaggerated.” – Joe Maddon, Spring Training 2011

I know I’m going to be accused of homerism, but here it is: the Rays are better than you think they are. Yes, I know they just had a rough off season, losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Joaquin Benoit, Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, Grant Balfour, and Dan Wheeler. Those players contributed a total of 15 wins to the Rays last season, and the Rays didn’t add much free agent talent to compensate for these losses. Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Kyle Farnsworth were their only notable roster moves, and they are easy to write off as they are aging or (in the case of Farnsworth) have a spotty track record. How could the Rays possibly hope to compete with the Yankees and the restocked, reloaded Red Sox?

And yet, that’s exactly what the Rays plan to do.

The Starting Nine

Behold, the mind of Joe Maddon!

You may have heard how the Rays like using every advantage they can get, always searching for that Extra 2%, and Joe Maddon buys into that philosophy with authority. In an effort to maximize his team’s production, he shuffles the lineup around nearly every day – 129 different lineups last season – so trying to predict exactly where players will play on the field or where they’ll hit in the lineup is nearly impossible. On most days, Evan Longoria will likely hit third with Manny Ramirez behind him, but that’s the only certainty in the lineup at this point.

In terms of position platoons, there are also few straightforward answers. Jaso will play against righties, while Shoppach will see time against lefties and the occasional righty. Matt Joyce will see playing time against righties, but will likely be benched against most lefties (well, except for against those reverse split lefties). Sean Rodriguez will primarily be played against lefties, although I believe Maddon hopes to increase his playing time against righties this season. Along those lines, Reid Brignac will likely be the starting shortstop against both hands, but if he struggles against lefties, don’t be surprised to see Maddon pencil Sean Rodriguez in at shortstop. Also, while Johnny Damon and Dan Johnson will likely play everyday at their positions, Ben Zobrist or Sean Rodriguez could always get a few starts in favor of them against certain left-handed pitchers.

From a baseball perspective, I love this shuffling: the players don’t seem to mind it, and Maddon’s decisions are always rooted in the analysis he receives from the Rays’ front office. This shuffling may not result in consistent playing time for any player outside Evan Longoria (sorry, fantasy owners!), but since the Rays have so much defensive flexibility, these rotations makes for a better overall ball club.

Depending how you look at it, the Rays had one of the better offenses in the league last season (3rd in runs scored, tied for 11th in wOBA). They did lose Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Jason Bartlett over the off season, but I believe the Rays won’t see as much of a drop off in this area as people would think. Reid Brignac may project to have a slightly worse bat than Bartlett, but he makes up the difference with his superior defense at shortstop. Carlos Pena had a down season last year, hitting below .200 and posting a .326 wOBA (barely better than league average), and Dan Johnson flashed some impressive power numbers in Triple-A and the majors in 2010 (.216 ISO, .339 wOBA).

As for Carl Crawford – well, yes, there’s no way the Rays will be able to replace him. Remember, though, that the Rays are a young team and should see increased production from a number of players as a result. Also, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon will be boosts on offense; even if Manny Ramirez’s power disappears, he’s sure to improve upon the .238/.328/.376 line that the Rays got from their DH position last season.

The Pitching Staff

LHP David Price
RHP James Shields
RHP Jeff Niemann
RHP Wade Davis
RHP Jeremy Hellickson

Unlike the lineup, the starting rotation is pretty straightforward: it’s an above average rotation with plenty of depth. David Price is an emerging ace and although he is unlikely to post another sub-3 ERA this season, he’s still one of the best, young left-handed pitchers in the game. He’s supposedly working on refining his change-up, which could add another weapon to his repertoire. James Shields is a workhorse that will log 200 innings and should have his ERA regress to the 4.00 range, but he does need to improve his fastball location if he wants to lower the number of homeruns he allows. Jeff Niemann is possibly the world’s tallest junkball pitcher, as he succeeds mostly by mixing up his six pitches and boring batters to sleep.

As for the final two, both Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson deserve keeping an eye on this season. Davis had a patchy first full season in the majors,  posting a 4.07 ERA with some rocky peripherals (4.79 FIP, 4.81 xFIP), so most people would view him as a likely candidate for regression. However, to some extent, Davis’s 2010 season resembled David Price’s 2009 season: he started off the season a mess (first half: 4.69 ERA, 5.9 K/9, 4 BB/9), but improved his process and results as the season progressed (second half: 3.28 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9). As he now has a full season under his belt at the majors, he could take a step forward in 2011. Along those lines, Jeremy Hellickson is a top rated prospect with high expectations, but his results may not equal the expectations in his first season. Both Price and Davis struggled upon first reaching the majors, and Hellickson is no flamethrower that will blow batters away; he’s actually very similar to James Shields in his repertoire and skill set.

After losing Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Rafael Soriano, and Dan Wheeler, the Rays’ bullpen has been pegged by most analysts as a disaster. Andrew Friedman did his best to construct a bullpen on a budget this off season, but even he has admitted that the relief pitcher market worked against him and kept him from acquiring one more high leverage arm. That said, I think (and again, this is the homer in me speaking) that their ‘pen is not as bad as most people are making it out to be. There’s no telling exactly how the final bullpen roster will shake out right now, as there are multiple players competing for that final spot, but it looks as though Kyle Farnsworth, Jake McGee, and Adam Russell will be sharing high-leverage situations. The Rays are banking on Farnsworth having improved his game for real over the last few seasons, and they’re taking a flyer on a high upside arm in Adam Russell, but rookie Jake McGee throws in the high 90s and has closer potential. Joel Peralta will be used like Dan Wheeler was in the past – as a right-handed one-out guy – and relief ace J.P. Howell should be back in the bullpen by the beginning of May.

Player To Watch

There are so many, how can I choose just one? Ben Zobrist should have an improved year at the plate, as a back injury sapped him of his power last season. BJ Upton is always a potential breakout candidate. Matt Joyce has some impressive power, and has the potential to develop into a force at the plate against both righties and lefties.

But how could I spend an entire season preview without talking about Manny Ramirez? After having a “down” season in 2010 – yes, a .382 wOBA is apparently considered a down year for this 39 year old – Ramirez was forgotten on the free agent market and went unsigned until late January. The Rays needed an extra bat in their lineup, especially after suffering through the horrors of Pat Burrell trying to hit in the American League, and Manny’s pricetag was perfect: $2M (or $7.5M, if you consider Damon as well). Despite concerns that his bad speed may have slowed, Ramirez still reached base 40% of the time last season and hit for a respectable amount of power (.162 ISO). He’s not the player he once was, but Manny could still be the steal of the off season.

Since arriving in Spring Training, Manny has been nothing but a positive presense: he’s been working harder than anyone else, going to the batting cage even on off days, and working with Evan Longoria frequently. I’m not quite sure where the tales of him having attitude problems came from, but at the very least, he seems like a different man.

Summary

The Rays have a strong roster and most projection systems have them pegged as around an 87-88 win team. In the AL East, 88 wins is only good enough for third place and a pat on the back, but this is a high-variance team filled with young talent. They’ll need some bad luck to hit the Yankees or Red Sox and some good luck to hit their roster, but competing for a playoff spot isn’t out of the question. If a few good things bounce there way, the Rays could easily win 90+ games, and put themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt.

And if the Rays don’t manage to reach the playoffs this season, oh well, it was a restocking year for them anyway. Their roster is locked and loaded coming into 2012 and they have 10 first round draft picks in this year’s amateur draft, so Yankees and Red Sox fans better not write off the Rays too quickly. They’re not going anywhere.



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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.


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Jason B
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Jason B
5 years 5 months ago

Agree with a lot of your points – if everyone is on board with some platoon switching, they should be able to trot out pretty productive lineups whether facing LHP’s or RHP’s. The rotation seems solid and promising, if not overwhelming. I think the bullpen is a big question mark – big drain of talent from one year to the next. Joe has done a good job historically of making his pieces fit together and work pretty productively, so maybe he can work his magic with this bunch also.

JR
Guest
JR
5 years 5 months ago

Quit showing off, Slowinski

Bob R.
Guest
Bob R.
5 years 5 months ago

This is from a BP chat:
__________________________________________________
“rodmalloy (San Francisco): With the uncertainties in the Rays bullpen, who is your darkhorse candidate to get the majority of save opportunities this year? JP Howell or Jake McGee?

Cory Schwartz: Neither. My money is on Joel Peralta, who became a dominant pitcher last season after adding a split-finger fastball to his repertoire, which enabled him to handle lefties much better than he had in the past. It’s probably a three-way race between him, Farnsworth and McGee right now, but the Rays are a progressive organization and I think the right environment for him to win the job.”
________________________________________________________
Later in the chat, he identifies Peralta as his breakout player for 2011, and reiterates his view that Peralta becomes a sterling closer. Do you see any credibility in this view?

Greg
Guest
Greg
5 years 5 months ago

I doubt that he becomes the closer, but I do think he’ll be more than just a ROOGY.

NM
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

I wouldn’t let Peralta’s 2010 numbers skew the way you view him. He was good against lefties too, sure, but the sample size was only 17 innings against the southpaws. His career peripherals indicate hes more of a ROOGY than a reliever than can handle both-handed batters.

JoeC
Guest
JoeC
5 years 5 months ago

Cory Schwartz is kind of an idiot, so I wouldn’t put too much credence into what he thinks.

Of course, I’m an idiot too, so…

Phegan
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Sometimes I feel like Joe Maddon over manages, there were a couple times last year where he tried to pull something crafty and the results weren’t good, or nothing special.

I really wish I had examples, because without examples my point means nothing, but take it from me…I think he over manages.

joser
Guest
joser
5 years 5 months ago

But if he hadn’t “tried to pull something” would the results necessarily have been better?

borbes
Guest
borbes
5 years 5 months ago

Just because the result wasn’t good doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right call. If I call a play with a 10% chance of success and it works, it was still the wrong call if there was a play with a 90% chance of success that I didn’t make. Obviously imaginary numbers but you get the point. The managers job is to put the players in the position with the greatest chance of success… the rest is up to the players.

Paul
Guest
Paul
5 years 5 months ago

I agree in general regarding the offense and bullpen being under-rated. But I think the rotation is way, way, way over-rated. This goes back to the Garza deal. I think that deal is going to kill them this year because outside of Price there are 4 big ifs.

Davis candidate for regression… except that he’s a Ray so nevermind! See, magic! Sorry, Niemann and Davis are NOT David Price, and both need to take a huge step forward this season (a new pitch, unpredictable plus command acquisition), not to mention staying healthy. Hellickson is very talented, but a rookie not named Strasburg just stepping in and rocking the house in the AL East? Sorry, that’s just not credible. Then there is Shields. His stuff has never been great. We’ll see if Crawford and Bartlett just saved his ass this whole time.

I really like the Rays and root for them, but the cheerleading of this team without noting SP issues that I think are even more serious than the Yanks is just silly.

Tom
Guest
Tom
5 years 5 months ago

Shields has a .341 BABIP last season so I do not think Crawford and Bartlett “saved his ass the whole time” Also, Brignac is actually better than Bartlett defensively.

JoeC
Guest
JoeC
5 years 5 months ago

Um, no, the Rays starting pitching situation is worlds beyond the Yankees shitsuation. The Rays actually have major league starters, not has-beens and retreads (at least at the back-end of the rotation).

Price is a legit ace and Hellickson will be the #2 by the end of the season. Shields will bounce back some, but the glory days of his low WHIP ways are likely gone forever. Niemann and Davis are capable 4/5 starters. And, if they need it, Matt Moore is there in the Minors, striking out everything that moves.

The lineup is probably IMPROVED over last year, as hard as that may be to believe after losing Crawford. Ramirez and Damon were smart pick-ups and the Rays have enough hitting, along with their pitching, to take down the wild card, leaving the Yankees out in the cold as the Red Sox were left out last year.

Scout Finch
Guest
Scout Finch
5 years 5 months ago

“Jeff Niemann is possibly the world’s tallest junkball pitcher, as he succeeds mostly by mixing up his six pitches and boring batters to sleep.”

Great description. Can’t wait to watch him pitch.

borbes
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borbes
5 years 5 months ago

We call him The Big Nyquil.

His shoulder issues are definitely of concern though.

Greg
Guest
Greg
5 years 5 months ago

The Rays have more “serious” issues at SP than the Yankees? Really?

joser
Guest
joser
5 years 5 months ago

Yeah, I’m unconvinced also. The difference is that if/when the “issues” become “serious problems” the yankees can go out and buy some more depth.

adohaj
Member
adohaj
5 years 5 months ago

AAA call ups don’t match up well against a proven arm from a club who figured they wouldn’t make the playoffs this year. Advantage Yankees…

Paul
Guest
Paul
5 years 5 months ago

Yeah, they’ll just call up Archer and Torres, two B prospects with control issues who have not pitched in AAA yet, and go on to win the division. You just proved my point, Slowinski.

Sandy Kazmir
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Seemed to work pretty well during the offseason. Buying depth like Colon, Garcia, Prior (saw him hitting 89 the other day suhhhweet) sure is quite the advantage over good prospects.

oh dear
Guest
oh dear
5 years 5 months ago

Their stacked AAA club? They don’t have one.

The Yankees however…

descender
Member
descender
5 years 5 months ago

—And when the issues become big for the Rays, they can draw from their stacked Triple-A club.—

Is there some “stacked AAA” club that the rest of the world is not aware of? With Hellickson coming out of it and into the majors this year, isn’t that the end of the line?

Seems to me like their “depth” was Davis and Hellickson, and the closest guy they have is Torres in AA (read: not ready). Everyone else is even farther behind THAT.

That is not depth, that is the exact opposite of depth. They called up the last of their major league ready prospects, and have no veteran depth to supplant it with if the Hellickson experiment fails.

The Yankee’s have what you would consider a “stacked AAA” roster, full of nearly major league ready pitching in Brackman/Banuelos/Betances… but their plan does not involve using these young unprepared pitchers as the first line of defense (smart). They are injury depth and callups, like they should be.

People who are expecting the Yankee staff to fall on their face are going to be severely disappointed.

Sandy Kazmir
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

HAHAHA descender your ignorance is humorous.

descender
Member
descender
5 years 5 months ago

I’m beginning to think Sandy has no knowledge at all, and just posts snarky nonsense.

Fangraphs did a “top 10 prospects on the rays” a few weeks ago, and the only 4 pitchers on the list were hellickson, davis, torres, and some low-a guy that no one has ever heard of.

Explain to me how that is “depth”. That, or stop trolling Rays news articles you can’t wage an unbiased opinion on.

descender
Member
descender
5 years 5 months ago

I’ll even give you Archer and Moore, both are ETA 2012 at best. Also doesn’t help with this seasons depth.

Sandy Kazmir
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

I supremely doubt that Davis was on the list of prospects since he started 29 games last year. Hulet is a sharp guy, perhaps you could link me to that piece? If you haven’t heard of Matt Moore, you better ask somebody. Hellickson is the new addition to the rotation with Torres providing solid filler in the even of injury and Archer/Moore more likely making an appearance in 2012. There’s more names, but you don’t care to learn anything, just spout Yankee rhetoric so what’s the point?

Brackman isn’t even over-rated as no one is high on him, but Banuelos looks to be a real good arm. Betances is a little lower, but both come with injury concerns (I’d say more than your average young arm) and you have to wonder if they’ve been rushed by a desperate organization. Both of them are universally ranked lower than Hellickson/Moore and I think there’s cases out there where Archer is ranked higher than Betances. Not to mention that we have McGee ready to step in as a high-leverage reliever because there just isn’t room anywhere else.

So enjoy your back three of Burntout, a guy that can’t get out the 5th in Nova, and whichever over-the-hill ganger stays alive long enough to win the last spot by default. The help you have on the way is in the mold of a pretty good prospect, a lesser prospect, and Barry Zito. Good luck with that, I’ll take an Ace and four #3s with a clip on my belt over that spent revolver you guys have where you’re wondering if maybe you should have saved one for yourself.

Tom B
Guest
Tom B
5 years 5 months ago

–So enjoy your back three of Burntout, a guy that can’t get out the 5th in Nova, and whichever over-the-hill ganger stays alive long enough to win the last spot by default.–

And MY ignorance is humorous?

Yours is tragic.

Frank
Guest
Frank
5 years 5 months ago

First of all, who exactly will the Yankees “buy” for depth mid season? You might want to look up the term “trade.”

Second, the real names that should be discussed here are Noesi, Warren and Phelps, in that order. Those guys are most likely to be seen to fill in the rotation throughout the season. Betances and Banuelos haven’t pitched more than a handful of innings in AA and there’s very little, if any, possibility they will pitch in the rotation this year. That’s hardly a “desperate” organization rushing their prospects.

Brackman will start the season in AAA so he has an outside shot at the rotation at some point during the season, but most signs point to the Yankees starting him out in the bullpen. He’s also a top 100 prospect so at least a few people are high on him.

Both teams have top 5 farm systems right now. There’s really no reason to argue about it. But the MAJOR LEAGUE READY pitching depth advantage at the minor league level goes to the Yankees.

B N
Guest
B N
5 years 5 months ago

I will say that as a Red Sox fan, I’d agree with that assessment. The Yankees have a worse rotation on paper starting the season, but the Rays don’t have the flexibility to pull in an established starter (or two) to fill out the rotation in June. Combining this with the fact that the Yankees project to probably earn nearly half a run more per game, and it becomes a bit easier to imagine them in the postseason.

With that said, that’s no reason to count the Rays out. They’re still going to be a competitive team, and they’ve done a credible job convincing us that this is not just a “rebuilding year.” As such, I am hoping to see the Red Sox keep a healthy lead over the Rays. … And beat them in the season series to hold their head under water. Because if you let the Rays tread water in the race, they’ll be dangerous.

AndyS
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AndyS
5 years 5 months ago

Where is Desmond Jennings in this write-up?

Greg
Guest
Greg
5 years 5 months ago

Durham, North Carolina.

Jim
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Jim
5 years 5 months ago

This is in reply to Steve(but there was no reply button to his post):

Yes, but for the whole season?

I can’t really see the Rays keeping him down there for an entire season, personally. Especially given the defensive downgrade the Rays will experience with a full season of Johnny Damon in LF.

The real question is: What becomes of Damon once Jennings ddoes get recalled? Super sub in the OF/DH/1B? Trade bait?

R M
Guest
R M
5 years 5 months ago

Waste his service time? He is 24, and has spent 2 years at AAA. To keep him down for another entire year would just be plain manipulation. He clearly doesn’t have much development left to do….he just has to stay healthy.

Bill
Guest
Bill
5 years 5 months ago

If Jennings had great AAA year last year it would be a bad move to leave him there. The Phillies lost production from Howard by keeping him in AAA when he clearly no longer belonged there. Jennings did not have a super year. Maybe he will grow faster at the big league level, but the Rays need every advantage they can get. It is better for them to wait a little too long to call a guy up then not wait long enough.

borbes
Guest
borbes
5 years 5 months ago

He has plenty of development left to do. He had a mediocre season last year at best and did very poorly in his September call up.

So many people proclaimed him the replacement for Carl Crawford… but honestly, he’s more likely the replacement for BJ Upton who is starting to get a big expensive for the Rays. Maddon has already talked about Joyce being the full time RF eventually, which I think is to open up Zobrist to play LF next year with Jennings playing CF and BJ traded. That would keep us covered for a few seasons until Sale is ready for the big leagues.

Gary
Guest
Gary
5 years 5 months ago

I think if Johnny Damon can maintain a 2 WAR pace of production, they can’t possibly call up Desmond Jennings before September, because they can’t possibly expect Jennings to put up more than 2 WAR prorated.

And the odds of Damon being a 2 WAR player are pretty high barring another year of steep decline. Although the caveat is that while he’s been able to maintain a decent glove, it could very well collapse this year. If that happens, even a big rebound in his bat could be negated and surpassed by poor defense. Whih then could possibly make a Jennings call-up a compelling option for the Rays.

Greg
Guest
Greg
5 years 5 months ago

No mention of Juan Cruz? My money is on him turning into Benoit 2.0.

dangnewt
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dangnewt
5 years 5 months ago

Manny can be a good soldier when he wants to be. If good Manny stays all year long and you never see bad Manny, he will put up the numbers you estimated or more. Good Manny is also a good teamate and young hitters can learn from his approach to hitting.

That said, Tampa is going to love Damon. The guy plays hard, never gives an at bat away and has a positive winning attitude.

Gary
Guest
Gary
5 years 5 months ago

Players love Manny, he in no way has ever been a clubhouse cancer. He’s just frustrating for ownership because he always complains about his contract, and fans love/hate him because of his attitude and lack of effort.

However this shouldn’t be a problem this year because he can’t realistically complain about his contract because he can’t reasonably expect the Rays to offer him any real dough, and the Rays fans won’t hate him because…well empty seats don’t really have the ability to get angry at people.

borbes
Guest
borbes
5 years 5 months ago

Rays fans won’t hate him because he’s cheap and fun. Carlos Pena was terrible last year and we still loved him. But the empty seats crack is just naive. This team has a ton of fans… it has one of the highest TV ratings in MLB. I can list all the reasons why there’s such a disparity between the TV ratings and attendance but they’ve all been said 100x before and I’m sure you can use Google.

Stan
Guest
Stan
5 years 5 months ago

Whoa there. Red Sox players went to management to encourage them to trade him. They were in a pennant race and still were desperate to get rid of him. I think the fact that Manny is a clubhouse problem is unassailable at this point. Maybe his having to watch other players get signed ahead of him last winter was enough to wake him up, but his sitting around hoping to be claimed off waivers didn’t do the trick last year either….

adohaj
Member
adohaj
5 years 5 months ago

“Young hitters can learn from his approach to hitting.”

Imagine if Longoria learns how to have a 14% walk rate

pft
Guest
pft
5 years 5 months ago

I would like the Rays chances a bit more if they had went out and signed Garko for 1B. But it’s a pretty good lineup if Damon and Manny can stay healthy, and if Upton and Zobrist improve. Longoria can also improve on his 2010.

Bullpens are not very projectable, nobody thought the Rays had a great bullpen this time last year. They have some arms in the minors that could step up and do well.

While the Rays have some questions among their starters, almost every team except the Phillies do as well.

As we saw last year with the Red Sox, stuff happens, and one of the 2 teams (Red Sox or Yankees) could be struck with injuries and struggle to win 86 games. Not saying it’s likely. And who projected the Rays to win 96 games
last year? If a lot of things go right, health, development, breakout years, etc, I could see them winning 90-95 games.

If not, and the Rays are out of it by July, you can be sure Damon and Manny will yield some value in a trade with a contender if they are having a good year.

Oddibe McBlauser
Guest
Oddibe McBlauser
5 years 5 months ago

Garko! p’sha…

SKob
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Hardcore nosedive once we start talking about Garko and Kotchman. Are we talking about Durham or Tampa Bay? If we are going to talk minor leaguers, let’s talk about Matt Moore and how Jake Shields better get his crap together or else he’s getting shipped out of town to make room for the minors K leader from the past 2 years! Shields has a high BABIP because lately he’s throwing batting practice. Bartlett and Crawford couldn’t save him because line drives move fast!

Dan G
Guest
Dan G
5 years 5 months ago

Gary,
At the end of the Sox era, Manny was most certainly a clubhouse cancer. The assault on the travelling secretary, the quitting on the team and shooting his way out of town did not sit well with teammates – remember the Manny and Youk shoving match in the dugout in June ’08. Prior to and after that – I totally agree with your assessment and I suspect that good Manny will show up for the Rays. A strong manager like Maddon and teammate like Damon that understands Manny will help in that regard. Also, I don’t know the Rays players, but my general theory is that a team can have one eccentric player as long as the rest of the players are OK with someone who bends the rules a bit and marches to his own drummer; but if a team has more than one head case and/or the other players get bent over every little thing that Manny does or doesn’t do, that can present problems.

Sandy Kazmir
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Youk’s a bitch, moose out front shoulda told ya.

Bob R.
Guest
Bob R.
5 years 5 months ago

This is how Manny quit on the Red Sox. In his last month there, he hit .347/.473/.587, his best month of the season to that point.

What about his last few games there? He played the entire game the last 5 games. In the last four, he went 3-5 with 2 doubles, 2-5 with a home run, 0-3 with 1 walk and 0-3 with 1 intentional walk.

Boston’s record in those last 4 games? They beat the Yankees 9-2 and then lost 3 straight to the Angels. Perhaps this “cancer” infected the pitchers as the losses were by scores of 7-5, 6-2 and 9-2, all 3 starting pitchers doing very badly.

The Red Sox did commit an error in one game and four errors in another, none by Manny, so perhaps he is to blame for undermining the will of those other players.

There can only be one reason to criticize a player for being a cancer, and that is that he impedes the ability of his team to win. In his career, Manny’s teams have consistently been winners. Suppose some players did not like him (and I am not sure that is true anyway). So what if they continue to win! Or perhaps the real problem is with management, not his influence in the clubhouse. Suppose they are the ones who promote the notion that he is a cancer. Suppose the story about the traveling secretary is hyperbole or oversimplified. Possible? Probable?

SKob
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Are you a numbers guy or a Red Sox fan? Because a Red Sox fan remembers how horrible the months prior to his trade were. I don’t mean stats, I mean attitude! Everyday manny would say something derogatory about the team or something else. Even his best friend Ortiz struggled to defend him. Other teammates were takling badly about him. Players don’t talk about teammates unless there are huge problems.

And were you paying attention to the end of his LA contract. Get your head out of the books and stat pages and pay attention to how immature and selfish this jerk can be. Tampa might be so laid back he’ll be comfortable, but this guy is a tool!

adohaj
Member
adohaj
5 years 5 months ago

Skob even will all of the drama at the end of the day the Sox were a better team with him. Bob showed the numbers which show the only thing that REALLY matters.

SKob
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Better team than with Jason Bay… Are you part of the 2% of Red Sox fans who preferred Manny over Bay by the end of that year?

adam
Guest
adam
5 years 5 months ago

Why come to this site if you have this attitude regarding “numbers guy”s?

SKob
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Who said I have anything against numbers guys? I’m a numbers guy! This guy took 5 games of production as an argument against a whole year of disturbing the chemistry of a clubhouse.

I was asking because he is either a bad numbers guy, or in the minority of Red Sox fans. This guy didn’t go back far enough in his numbers because like someone else posted, Manny sucked in May and June. And Jason Bay was widely accepted as an acceptable replacement and a much better teammate.

I have a HUGE problem with Manny defenders on this and believe me, I LOVED Manny when he came to Boston. The fact that nobody would give him more than 2 million for this year should scream that his attitude is indefensible. I’m sure his production will be good in Tampa and I’ll draft him in fantasy, but this is a selfish guy and anybody who goes out of their way to defend his attitude will get a comment from me, especially when taking a 5 game sample from 4 months of play.

Bob R.
Guest
Bob R.
5 years 5 months ago

Adohaj has answered, but I will reiterate the point. Whether Manny is popular with teammates or not, and referring to a specific instance or even a few instances in an 18 year career hardly makes any case at all, his teams have almost always won.

As a matter of fact, Bay had a terrific few months in Boston in 2008, even better than Manny was having as I remember. And I am quite sure that Boston played much better those last 2 months than they had earlier. That again is hardly significant in comparing the two players. What is significant is that in most seasons Manny’s teams have won.

In 2008 Manny had a conflict with management and came out looking like the villain. That does not make him a clubhouse cancer. Nor does it make him selfish or immature. It makes him a person who stands up for his sense of what he thinks is right. You may not like him or how he did it; you may have some code about how ball players should act. That hardly supports a blanket condemnation of Manny. Perhaps your code is a blend of maudlin nostalgia and priggish oversimplification.

I am sure there was a tremendous amount of ill-will in those last few months. Perhaps Manny was the cause; perhaps the blame can be distributed a bit more. Fans were upset. So what! Other players were upset. So what? His teams win, and as for his 2008 Red Sox, while they did do poorly in his last month, to assume he was at fault because the media laid it on him is oversimplifying.

Study the history of many superstars to see how they were perceived in their own time-by other players, fans and management. One reason Boston traded Babe Ruth (not the only reason, but a factor) was that he was out of control-selfish, undisciplined, me-first and all the rest. Look at the perception of DiMaggio when he held out all of spring training one season. In reviewing the obituaries of Snider, you may have caught some comments about him being soft, unwilling to play hard, a selfish player and prima donna.

None of that justifies players behaving badly, but it does indicate that contemporary views are often short-sighted. My comments are only partly based on stats. They are also based on a willingness to suspend judgment until more information is in and to be skeptical about media created demonization of players.

SKob
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

I don’t believe Manny to be a clubhouse cancer, I hate that term. Your entire argument is this vauge defense of how it might not have been all his fault.

At one point – “In 2008 Manny had a conflict with management and came out looking like the villain.” – That is about the worst summary I have ever heard. It was all about money. The conflict was Manny wanting more money and ownership saying no, we have options for a reason. He quit on the team because he was being selfish. Give me one fact to deny this. You have not cited one fact in all your heroistic rambling (I can use cool words too). Are you Bob Ramirez, Manny’s brother?

“Perhaps your code is a blend of maudlin nostalgia and priggish oversimplification.” – Really… Really! Wake up! Sell your Manny baseball cards and read a newspaper. Listen to what his teammates say about him and how his recent managers struggle to find the words to describe him without saying anything too bad. It sounds like you are the one suffering from a nostalgia complex where the good old Man-Ram can do no wrong!

Manny’s teams win huh? What about the dodgers last year? Look at recent history. Yeah the guy has talent still, but his glory days are gone. What are you even arguing here? The guys not a bad guy? No, he’s not, I agree. But his last years in Boston and in LA were pitiful. And he’s already in his last year in Tampa while being over the hill baseball wise. To be overly optimistic is naive!

Shane
Member
Member
Shane
5 years 5 months ago

“I’m not quite sure where the tales of him having attitude problems came from, but at the very least, he seems like a different man.”

They come from the time at the end of his contracts. But I don’t see that really being a problem in Tampa as long as he is playing.

SKob
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

It’s a one year deal… It’s already the end of his contract! And he’s getting crap money. He could start being a douch before May!

pft
Guest
pft
5 years 5 months ago

Mannys attitude problems were off and on, but certainly not limited to his final year with the Red Sox. When he wanted to play, like in 2004 and 2007, he was great. In 2006, he basically sat out the last half year with what some believe to be a phony knee injury because he was upset the Red Sox did not trade for Abreu. In 2008, he basically threatened to do the same as in 2006 with another phony leg injury to get the Red Sox to promise not to pick up his option, and that was the final straw.

I think the good Manny shows up in 2011. He realizes a bad year ends his career unless he wants to play in Japan, and while Manny has plenty of money banked after earning over 200 million, he probably likes the attention he gets being a MLB player, and might not like Sushi.

Deadeye
Guest
Deadeye
5 years 5 months ago

Nice article Flanders.

Mr Punch
Guest
Mr Punch
5 years 5 months ago

Manny’s situation with the Sox was largely shaped by his contract situation, which was in fact, uh, anomalous – everyone always knew those options made no sense. Now, having apparently adjusted well to a 90% pay cut, he could be a real asset.

As to pitching, the truth is that all five AL East teams have questionable starting rotations; and since all 30 teams go into every season with questionable bullpens …..

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 years 5 months ago

“Now, having apparently adjusted well to a 90% pay cut, he could be a real asset.”

And just as importantly, he has little-to-no chance of being a liability (from the standpoint of underperforming his contract) because he’s making just $2M. Big-dollar multiyear contracts can be albatrosses (albatrossi?) for a team like Tampa but its a short-term, low-dollar deal so the downside risk is practically nil (they can just cut him loose if he goes batsh!t crazy).

“all 30 teams go into every season with questionable bullpens”

That overstates it a tad – I think the Yanks with Soriano and Rivera working the 8th and 9th should do just fine, for example.

Dan G
Guest
Dan G
5 years 5 months ago

I defended Manny pretty much to the end – but this is one story that you really have to look at both the batting numbers and the salary numbers.

Manny didn’t want the Sox to pick up his ’09 (and ’10) options at $20,000,000/yr. He thought he could do better on the open market and he was right in that he ended up signing a 2 yr $45,000,000 deal with the Dodgers (he and Boras probably wanted more). Manny is not dumb, he managed to infuriate the Sox to the point that they wanted to trade him (and his potent bat) and drop the options thus making him a free agent, but he was productive enough that other teams were willing to step in and give him more. The die was cast in May and June .228/.328/.386 and .286/.394/.536 and the July numbers that Bob cited were put up when it was clear that: 1) Manny wanted out of town but needed to show that he could still hit and that 2) the Sox has no real choice but to move him for what they can get.

Manny’s actions in 2008 were not illegal, but I would call them dishonorable. With a 1-year deal, Manny will be playing for next year’s contract and will play hard.

Stan
Guest
Stan
5 years 5 months ago

Is that you Scott (Boras?) He was desperate to get that new extension in Boston. However, the Red Sox were too smart to either pick up the options or give him an extension.

Manny and Scott would have been incredibly stupid to bet on the otherwordly numbers that Manny put up in the late summer of ’08. It worked out for them but there’s no doubt it was a bad bet.

mockcarr
Member
mockcarr
5 years 5 months ago

Manny’s ok unless you’re a travelling secretary not giving him his tickets.

Stan
Guest
Stan
5 years 5 months ago

Why do you have Peralta as the ROOGY? Did you see his numbers from last year? He’s the best returning player in the whole bullpen and he’s probably going to be the lead guy for closer. If anything Farnsworth is going to be the ROOGY. He has yet to put up decent stats against lefties in his career. I would expect a more cursory season preview from some other sources but not from Fangraphs!

DonCoburleone
Guest
DonCoburleone
5 years 5 months ago

Excellent preview Steve.. I think you missed a huge breakout candidate in that pen – Adam Russell. He’s in his “prime” at age 27 and despite the (extremely) small sample size he has shown the ability to get K’s (9.0k/9 career, 10.3k/9 last two years), ground balls (45.2% career) and limit HR’s (1.8% HR/FB).. He expectedly walks too many guys (4.33 career BB rate) but the biggest problem appears to be in BABIP (.352 career) and LOB% (67%). Again, this is roughly 55 innings we are talking about here, but Marcel is very high on him calling for a 3.64FIP this year.. Suppose he hits that projection and then gets a couple breaks along the way, you’d be looking at a low 3’s ERA pitcher in 2011..

Plus I saw him pitch in San Diego this year, the guy has a strange delivery and is a GIANT at 6’8″. It will take time for hitters in the AL East to get a book on him and since he is a reliever, the “book” may not be worth a damn until next season at the earliest…

tjbrays
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Everyone talks about Madden driving us crazy with his lineups, look at it from the other side: what does it do to the other managers? How frustrating is he for all the “old school” guys, the traditionalists. How do they plan their bullpen, etc. I bet many are really just cussing him at times.

Bob R.
Guest
Bob R.
5 years 5 months ago

Here is one report on the confrontation between Manny and the traveling secretary. Seems to me the term “assault” is hyperbole. Probably not Manny’s finest moment, but hardly meriting the venom pored on him.

http://www.projo.com/redsox/content/projo_20080629_red_sox_ramirez_altercation.950544e.html

Why exactly is this more damning than LaRussa’s DUI-or incidents from many other people employed by baseball?

SKob
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Yeah, I can’t see how shoving a 60+ year old guy to the ground for doing his job can be blown out of proportion like that. Boggles the mind!

No one here is talking about LaRussa, but at least his stuff is outside the clubhouse and has no bearing on the teams ability to function. I’m more concerned with his little conflict with Rasmus. That’s bad for the team!

jpatches
Guest
jpatches
5 years 5 months ago

You’ve obviously broken your crystal… you forgot to mention Lopez, who was likely the most shrewdest signing of the offseason. He’s going to keep manny’s head glued on right, will cover up the likely infield injuries that occur, and steal the starting job away from rodriguez/zobby by June 1st. And then, Steiny will flip him in July to Florida for another big prospect.
The only problem with the rays is that you cannot field a team of 17 great prospects without moving out some pretty decent players, unless you’re able to pay the piper. This bottom-of-the-barrel budget theme is going to wear mighty thin with the players in a couple of years.

MC
Guest
MC
5 years 5 months ago

Is there any doubt that this club is better than the Yankees?

Anthony
Guest
Anthony
5 years 5 months ago

The reason the Rays will compete has more to do with boston not actually getting better and the yankees getting worse. The Red Sox added a 29 year old guy who’s strength is his speed, which at 29 will only get worse, and a 1B with a bum shoulder, everyone else got old, they lost martinez and Beltre, did the REALLY get so much better that everyone and their mom thinks a Phillies/Sox WS is a lock (Philly is a whole other can of “this team is overrated” worms). The Yanks obviously got worse, I bet Burnett pitches better than expected though.

It’s still a 3 horse race. The Rays aren’t by any means out of it, not with that farm system and with the problems the Yanks (pitching) and Sox (being old and really only swapping 9 WAR for 11) have.

NM
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

I’m not a Rays fan, but I really like this team. They definitely should give the Yankees a run for their money for the Wild Card. I think Jeremy Hellickson will have an easier transition than Price or Davis too.

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