Ask Gary: Why were the Indians better than the Rays?

by Gary Shelton on October 29, 2016 · 0 comments

in general

(Each week, the readers take over and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports.  Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Looking at the Cleveland Indians' success this year, their payroll is "only" about 40 million more than the Rays and they are ranked 21st compared to the Rays being 30th. Your thoughts as to why the Indians are more successful--better front office, coaching, player development, Lebron James, all of the above?

Barry McDowell​

Maybe it's because I grew up poor, but $40 million seems like a lot to me. You could buy four veteran bats for that. You can rebuild a bullpen for that. I'd sure be comfortable if the Rays had $40 million dollars more to spend.  I always thought you don't have to spend the most money, but being in the top half to top two-thirds would be nice.
Still, I see what you're saying: The Indians aren't filthy rich like the Yankees or Red Sox.
Cleveland was barely above .500 for the previous two seasons. But your assumption for this year is right: the Indians beat the Rays organizationally. Cleveland won 94 games; the Rays lost 94. That's too much to excuse.
How did they do it? The Indians had a nice collection of arms, including Corey Kluber, who was better this year than any Rays pitcher. They have  a terrific young shortstop in Francisco Lindor. They found a great free agent in Mike Napoli. I saw a headline on ESPN this week that asked aloud if base stealing was the key to the Indians' success; it certainly wasn't part of the Rays' plusses, was it?
I'm sure the Rays would point out that in their nice run, Cleveland wasn't as good a franchise is they were. But that's old news. Lately, we can see the holes in the structure of a team that isn't what it was pitching or on defense, and isn't nearly athletic enough.
Here's what you have to ask. Is there enough in the farm system for the Rays to catch the Indians in two seasons? Is there a Lindor?
We'll see.
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Nice to see the Cubs doing so well, but it's got to hurt a bit for loyal Rays fans to see the Rays former brain trust, Madden and Martinez, in charge.
Howard Powders
Howard, it doesn't hurt me. If Joe had stayed, I think he'd be gone by now. The Rays were never going to pay that salary for a manager. (Remember, part of the reason they let go of Lou Piniella is he made too much money.)
I liked Joe a lot. I wish he were still here, because he made a reporter's job so easy. He talked in lead quotes (the first quote of the story), as the saying goes. He was accommodating. You could ask him anything, and he would be civil every time. But it was common knowledge that someday, he was going to leave for the big money. Doesn't everyone who can?
I think the out that was exercised in his contract hastened his departure. But it was inevitable.
Davey was a good soldier and a good guy. I wish he had had a longer look as he applied for the Rays' manager. I sure thought he'd have his own team by now. He's young, he speaks Spanish, he's learned by the side of Maddon.
Me? I feel good for both of the guys. You only meet so many great humans in sports, and I've always tended to pull for them after they went elsewhere.
Often, you will include lengthy quotes of sports figures in your columns.  Do you write real fast to capture all they say, or do you have some nifty technology to help you with this task?
Scott Myers
It depends on the quote and the circumstances.
If it's a live quote -- Jon Cooper after a lightning game or Dirk Koetter after a Bucs' game -- then I use a digital recorder. I type as fast as I can, but I always have the recorder as backup.
If it's a daily practice report and I'm not there, I'll cut and paste with the team transcriptions. Of course, it's better to be there. The team doesn't do a thorough transcription of Cooper, for instance.
If it's an old story where I'm quoting, say, Phil Esposito, and will be often google something I wrote on the subject, then cut and paste.
The Bucs begin a critical stretch in their season with 3 straight home games. The NFC South division looks wide open so you think the last 2 road wins against 1 win teams were fools' gold or are the Bucs on to something with a legitimate playoff chance this year?

Larry Beller

Larry, I don't think we know yet. I think we'll find out a lot Sunday against Oakland.

Remember, the Bucs really haven't played a lot of great quarterbacks this year. There was Matt Ryan in the opener, but them came Case Keenum and Paxton Lynch (most of the game) and Derek Anderson and Colin Kaepernick. Yes, you have to win against whoever you play, but the secondary and pass rush will get tested in the weeks to come.

My gut feeling is that the Bucs are a year away. I think they can get into the race, and they they can reach .500. But it may be 2017 before they really make you happy.

That's really not so bad, is it? If Koetter could bring the Bucs to the playoffs by then, and end this ridiculous streak of non-essential seasons, I'd buy in. Wouldn't you?

I loved your column the other day about TB sports.   I am curious about your answers.  Who do you think was the worst owner in TB?   The worst coach?   The biggest Bucs draft bust?  What do you  think is the biggest blunder ever made by a TB sports team?

Jim Willson

Thanks, Jim. I had fun writing it. You could tell by how long it was.

The worst owner? Wow, that's tough. I'd say it was Takashi Okobu, the old Lightning owner. No one even know if he existed. Even when he had team members go to Japan for the Nagano Olympics, he didn't meet them. But Hugh Culverhouse was no day at the beach. Neither was Vince Naimoli or Art Williams or Oren Koules. I know, I know. A lot of people praise Williams for taking care of the team's debt; I've always had a hard time cheering a guy for paying the light bill, however. How about this: How  about a five-way tie for last place?

The worst coach, to me, was Richard Williamson. He was a nice enough guy, but I wrote at the time that he wouldn't have been considered for the Florida job, or the FSU job, or the Miami job. So why hire him? Evidently, his players wanted him. But why should they get a vote?

Williamson was supposed to be a stopgap for a big name coach (Bill Parcells, who kept playing dodgeball with the Bucs). Instead, he was awful.

The Bucs' biggest draft bust isn't easy, either. How about Dexter Jackson, the wide receiver who the team took in the second round? On a team with lousy receivers, he never caught a pass. Not a screen, not a post. Nothing. Charles McRae was bad, too. He hated football.

But the biggest bust, and the biggest blunder, was Booker Reese. That's because he actually messed up two drafts. He messed up 1982, because the team wasted a draft pick on him. And he messed up 1983, because the team traded away their No. 1 pick to take him in '82. Remember, Doug Williams had left the Bucs; well, if they had kept their 1983 draft pick, they could have had Dan Marino to replace him.

The Bucs have had a lot of busts. Reese and Curry and McRae and Gaines Adams and Keith McCants and Brian Price. I would defy any other team in the league to match them for missed picks.

The rest of the questions? The worst quarterback bust was JaMarcus Russell. Sternberg should own the Rays (any owner would push for a new stadium). DeBartolo, a Hall of Fame owner, should own the Bucs. Vinik should own the Lightning (layup). Brad Johnson, who outplayed every quarterback in the playoffs, should start the Bucs' opening game. David Price, despite his post-season record, should start an ultimate game for the Rays.

You should pull for Maddon to win it all, because we aren't vindictive. Marty should have the puck in an ultimate game. Dungy was the Bucs' best coach,even though he didn't win it all. The new Rays' stadium should be in the Gateway area.Ronde Barber was the Bucs' best secondary performer, edging John Lynch. Ben Bishop is the Lightning's best goalie. Booker Reese is the biggest bust.

Jon Cooper is the Lightning's best coach, although Tortorella won the cup. But Cooper doesn't melt faces. Lynch is the Hall of Famer here, though all of the athletes mentioned should be in. The biggest play was Barber's return. Gruden is the best Bucs' TV analyst. Belichick's leaving the Jets is huge; the team's front office should have grabbed his leg and made him drag them.  The only guy who can stop Brady is Roger Goodell.

The worst owner in Tampa Bay sports was Hugh Culverhouse. Spygate was the most important ruling Goodell made, and he tried to hide it. McKay's execution of the offense was the best quote.  Alvin Harper was the worst free agent. The blade used to cut off Alvin  Harper's finger was the best piece of equipment.

As of now, who do think will have the better career: Maritoa or Winston?

Jim Willson

As of right now, this second, I have Winston slightly ahead. But I watched Mariota on Thursday night, and he was terrific.

The real answer, of course, is it depends on how the teams surround both of them with talent. But I think Winston has a bit more juice as a leader, and I think his arm is big time.  For him, the key is always going to be limiting his interceptions. Part of that, of course, is to have a strong running game and faster receivers. Evans is fine, but the Bucs could use a game-breaker on the other side.

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