It may only be the second day of the season, but the Rays are already thinking ahead with roster moves.
The player who hit a grand slam and knocked in the game winning run last night hits second tonight. The player who collected an unwanted golden sombrero last night in the ninth spot of the lineup is hitting cleanup tonight while the guy with the second worst TAv in baseball last season it in the lineup while last night's fifth place hitter is on the bench. The fans shake their heads when checking out the daily lineup while Joe Maddon is on the field explaining to the pool of writers the process (sorry, Mike Ferrin) behind the lineup. The aggressive shifting of last evening and the lineup and even rotation machinations are the kinds of things you expect to see in a pennant stretch rather than opening weekend but that's become the modus operandi for Maddon.
Does history give any clues as to how the Mets will perform with a lower payroll?
Late last month, ESPN New York's Adam Rubin reported that the Mets are facing the largest one-year payroll cut in major-league history, at least in terms of total dollars. With owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz deprived of the profits they derived from decades of investing with Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, and struggling to find minority partners willing to provide a quick infusion of capital, the team is hemorrhaging money and facing a growing mountain of debt. According to general manager Sandy Alderson, the Mets lost $70 million last year, and made no real attempt to retain pending free agents Carlos Beltran (who was traded in midseason) or Jose Reyes (who departed for the Marlins in December). Barring even one additional midlevel signing, they could become the first team to drop $50 million in salary from one Opening Day to the next.
The pitching depth of a champion is there, but the offensive firepower is not
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade—whether in September (or before), the division series, league championship series or World Series. It combines a broad overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski, and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview.
Do the surging Rays have a real chance of overtaking the Red Sox?
There is a scene in Donald Westlake’s The Score in which all the thieves sit around and discuss an absurd plot to rob an entire town in one night. After fleshing out enough of the details, it dawns on everyone involved that this seemingly implausible plan is all too possible. The Rays’ intentions are less malicious, but their own scheme to steal riches from another’s pocket began to look more realistic after the events of this past weekend.
On Friday morning, the Rays trailed the Red Sox in the Wild Card race by 6 1/2 games. Tampa Bay had 20 games remaining, including seven against Boston. Was that a surmountable deficit? Sure. Was it likely to be surmounted? Both intuition and our Playoff Odds answered a resounding “no.” Still, days can feel like weeks during the final leg of a pennant chase, and over the course of three days, the Rays cut three games off of Boston’s lead. A three-game lead with 17 games to go—including four head-to-head matchups—looks a lot more feasible.
The day after Tampa Bay's thousandth 1000th victory as a franchise, remember how hopeless things seemed several years ago.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
It seems like a long time ago now, but things had gotten bad enough for the Rays several years ago that Joe considered abandoning hope for the franchise in the following piece, which originally ran as a "Prospectus Today" column on June 9, 2005.
Josh Hamilton and Chase Utley are restored to active duty, Dan Johnson and Russell Branyan reach their expiration dates, and J.P. Howell and Lenny DiNardo both re-emerge after long absences, though almost certainly with different results.
Pegging BP's favorites in both leagues, both in the standings and for the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division with first-place votes in parentheses, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that has been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.
After going from worst to first, the Rays have hit hardcover, and Ben brings you the verdict.
Three years after PECOTA projected 88 wins for a Tampa Bay Rays club that had never before surpassed 70—only to see those expectations eclipsed by a team that went on to earn 97 victories and an American League pennant—the team's rise to relevance in baseball's most competitive division has received the full-length book treatment, courtesy of Jonah Keri's The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First(available now at an online retailer or brick-and-mortar bookseller near you). Jonah is a friend—not to mention a former author of Baseball Prospectus—so if I'd had nothing nice to say about his book, I likely would've taken my mother's advice and said nothing rather than publish a negative review (not that I imagine my condemnation would have made much of a dent in sales). Fortunately, I was spared that decision, since The Extra 2% is consistently well-researched, informative, and entertaining, which should come as no surprise to regular readers of Keri's previous work or those intrigued by the tale of an underfunded team that could.
The book’s title refers to Rays owner Stuart Sternberg’s philosophy that rather than attempt to lap the field—an unrealistic goal, given the team’s financial realities and the challenge posed by sharing a division with baseball’s behemoths—he and his subordinates should merely seek to gain a 52-48 edge on the competition. Although the subtitle promises to explain the team's success under its capable cadre of Wall Street-trained executives, a considerable portion of the text is devoted to recounting how the franchise first plumbed the depths of failure. The bulk of the book's first third examines how the franchise got itself into the hole that the regime fronted by Sternberg, Matt Silverman, and Andrew Friedman was forced to dig it out of after acquiring a majority stake in October 2005, so once you’ve completed the prologue, be prepared to wait a few chapters before being reintroduced to the principal characters behind the organization’s rebirth.
Mix one Hank Steinbrenner comment, the Mets' money woes, and the A's and Rays' stadium situations, and suddenly it's 2001 all over again.
This time, it seems, it started with Ken Rosenthal. Two days after Hank Steinbrenner let fly with an attack on baseball's revenue-sharing plan that concluded, "if you don’t want to worry about teams in minor markets, don’t put teams in minor markets, or don’t leave teams in minor markets if they’re truly minor," Rosenthal penned a Fox Sports Exclusive that significantly upped the ante: "Don't be surprised if the “C” word—contraction—returns to the baseball lexicon soon," he wrote, noting that he'd been "hearing rumblings" that "certain big-market teams" wanted to whack the Rays and A's. In one scenario, wrote Rosenthal, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg would end up buying the Mets from the troubled Wilpons, while A's owner Lew Wolff did the same with the McCourt-wracked Dodgers, before watching their old teams go poof.
From there, it was off to the races, as every sportswriter with a slow news day grabbed Rosenthal's unsourced speculation and ran with it. In the St. Petersburg Times, John Romano wrote a column headlined "Threat to contract Tampa Bay Rays may be gaining credibility," in which he concluded that while the Rays probably wouldn't disappear overnight, "whether you want to acknowledge it or not, Tampa Bay is now on the clock"—one that he insisted could strike midnight in 2017, when Tropicana Field is paid off. CBS Sports' Ray Ratto fired back that contraction was not just a terrible idea, but a sign of America's cultural decline. (So far as I can understand it, this has something to do with bar fights and the CalTech basketball team.) The New York Daily News' Bill Madden, citing "one high-level baseball source," wrote that both A's owner Lew Wolff and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg "told Selig they are not prepared to continue operating under the present circumstances. Translation: 'If we can't get new stadiums, buy us out.'"