Ask Gary: Should Rays sign Alex Cobb to extension?

by Gary Shelton on April 8, 2017 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

Alex Cobb is in his contract year and all the talk has been that he will not be here next season. This guy is as talented as any pitcher the Rays have ever had. Injuries have robbed him of so much but it appears to me he is going make it all the way back. Is it inevitable that he will go the way of David Price, Matt Moore and so many other great Rays pitchers of the past?  Is there any chance the Rays could step up and sign this guy to a long term deal?

Larry Beller

I like Alex. I really do. I admire his comebacks. I admire his resiliency.  I wouldn't, however, say he's as talented as, say, David Price.

Sure, there is a chance the Rays step up and sign him to a long-term contract, but I'm not convinced they will. The Rays are choosy with their long-termers. They'll find money to sign one or two pitchers -- like Chris Archer -- but they try to deal when they can to get younger (and cheaper).

I think that's the strongest part of this fan market. They live with the knowledge that most of their players are going to be gone while still in the prime of their careers. There are exceptions -- Longoria and Kiermaier -- but the rest of the division can sit at the big-money table. The Rays can't.

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It's a shame, because Alex is one of my favorite guys. I don't know if you saw the story I did on him this week, but I hung out at his locker long after the other reporters had gone. The story on this site had quotes and observations you didn't read anywhere else.

The game of baseball wasn't nearly as popular when we were kids, stats show. The game reaches more fans than ever. But in a way, it was better when we were young and a player stayed with an organization forever. Granted, someone like Price would just be a normal millionaire, not stinking rich. But stars still made a lot of money.

If you look at it from Cobb's viewpoint, of course, he wants to set up his family in the best way possible. He's certainly put in the time coming back from injuries.

Me? I'd suggest we enjoy him while we can. Most of the Rays graduate from the money the Rays can afford.

Let's turn the clock back to August 25, 2014, the Bucs were at the tail-end of an unpromising preseason with the thin Offensive Line already hurting.  Due to circumstances involving our preseason-rival (the Miami Dolphins), their Pro Bowl guard Richie Incognito was ceremoniously released and (although pending possible game suspension's) suddenly available and interested in playing for the Bucs

You wrote a rather stinging article titled "Just talking to Incognito is bad for Bucs' image".  Most fans agreed with you, except this fan.  It may be the only controversial subject I've ever disagreed with you on, but I got over it. Lol.

Today, Incognito is a leader again much like he was  before the bullying allegations, etc, after the Buffalo Bills signed him as a FA the following season.   The Bills front office and other players sing his praise about being the "ultimate professional".  Finally the question. Gary, any regret from that hard stance article back then?

Bruce Brownlee

Not a bit. In life, and in journalism, you have to stand for something. Now, I regret a lot of things I wrote in my career (usually awful predictions that I put four whole seconds into), but standing against a bully like Incognito may have been the easiest decision of my career. Did you read some of the guff he directed at Jonathan Martin?

As far as a leader, don't forget that Incognito was voted as the dirtiest player in the league in 2009. He was dismissed by the Nebraska team and the Oregon team. He has admitted he crossed the line while in Miami. So I'm not sure I buy him as a leader.

Sure, there is some duality to Incognito. Life isn't always black and white. I'm sure there are parts of Incognito that other Bills' players like; it's a violent game. But if you and I draw a line down the middle, Incognito may be the first guy I put on "never on my team" line. I haven't changed my opinion about that.

If you are privy as a journalist to know this, who in the Bucs organization was "hot" on considering Incognito, and lastly, was it a unified "No" at One Buc Palace once the meeting took place?  Lovie had more weight that year or as much as Licht, but my guess is Licht was the most interested/optimistic.  It's all what-if's, etc, but its off-season and the Lightning have broken my heart so all I have is my hapless Rays.

Bruce Brownlee

Even privately, Lovie Smith let it be known that he wasn't going to sign Incognito. Maybe that says as much about Smith -- who did give millions to Anthony Collins -- as it does Incognito. But the Bucs were one of the many franchises that wanted no part of Incognito. I was told that by league personnel.

For the record, the Bucs never said never, but they obviously preferred Logan Mankins. Some local fans -- who wanted to see better blocking -- thought the Bucs should play Mankins at one guard and Incognito at the other. The Bucs disagreed.

In the NFL, it's rare that a team simply comes out and announces it wouldn't touch a player. I've never seen a team publicly announce that it didn't want Greg Hardy, either. The team just speaks by not signing him.

I don't know that Jason Licht wanted Incognito, either. Who says anyone would have to after the controversy that surrounded him? Some guys are just bad guys. Sometimes, a team has to stand for something more.

Well, it seems the Olympics are in the news again, with the NHL saying it wouldn’t participate, raising cane from some of the players, and at least one article that said MLB “might” find a way to participate, although a lot would have to be worked out. So what is the purpose of the Olympics? Is it to showcase the “Best” athletes from each nation? How do you do that without the NHL, MLB in hockey and baseball? And if the Olympics are not showcasing the “Best” athletes, why do the exist – to showcase “pretty good” athletes?

Cecil DeBald

I'm different than most people, Cecil. I still loved the Olympics in the days of "amateurism."

When I covered the Olympics (I did 10 of them), I came up with a single rule for what I would put in the Olympics. If the Olympics are the most important thing in your career, you should play. If they aren't, well, I didn't care much about TV ratings for my enjoyment.

If it was up to me, in other words, I wouldn't have a dream team from basketball, or NHL players, or pro golfers and tennis players. I'd have hammer throwers and gymnasts and skaters and runners. It's a narrow opinion, but it's mine.

I remember talking to a guy named David Popejoy in the '96 Olympics. He had worked and worked, and at one time, I think he was 28th in the world. That summer, I remember writing that Shaq O'Neal had a movie out, and Popejoy couldn't enjoy going to a movie.

Look, it's natural. LeBron James would rather win an NBA title than a gold medal. Tiger Woods would rather win a Masters. Serena Williams would rather win Wimbledon. So are they really Olympians? Some would probably say yes. They're the best, after all. But do they care about Billy Mills and Jesse Owens and Rafer Johnson? Isn't Michael Phelps, on the only stage where we watch swimming, more of the ideal Olympian?

Maybe I'm wrong. But I think the pros from other sports are about TV ratings and commercialism. They've become fashionable because the money has become so big. But to me, there is something missing.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller April 8, 2017 at 6:40 am

Gary, I’m sure you are right in saying the Rays have no interest in spending the money it would take to sign Alex Cobb. That is their pattern. I don’t quite understand what you are saying about the strength of this fan base who live with this situation happening over and over. I mean is there another option? The Rays are the only game in town. As a Rays fan myself, I hate it that the Rays best players leave because ownership refuses to pay them. It makes me to not want to be a Rays fan. I feel like as a fan we are being played by this ownership group who will suck every penny out of the team for their own profit and put out the cheapest product possible. I know the Rays can’t be big players in free agency. That’s a given. I’d just like to see them make a better effort to keep a guy like Alex Cobb who if the Rays were to sign now probably wouldn’t command David Price type money. I don’t see them even trying which I find very disappointing.

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Gary Shelton April 8, 2017 at 11:36 am

Larry, what i was saying is that one of the most admirable parts of this fan base, while small, is that it absorbs the loss of its stars (as other small-market fan bases do). Of course there is no other option. Fans don’t vote for ownership as if they were politicians. It’s Stu’s game. Besides, do you remember Naimoli?

I’m not saying there is no interest. I supposed Cobb could take such a fan-friendly contract the team would keep him. But there are only so many players the Rays can wrap up long-term. Be honest: If you’re rating the long-termers on this team, where does Cobb rank? Fourth? Seventh? We’d like to keep all the guys we admire, of course, but small-market teams can’t.

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