After the firesale, could the Rays lose 100 games?

by Gary Shelton on February 26, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Cash will manage a team with lesser talent this year ./CARMEN MANDATO

Cash will manage a team with lesser talent this year ./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

These days, you cannot help but notice the dark cloud over the franchise known as the Tampa Bay Rays.

Soon enough, you may wonder if it is a mushroom cloud.

These are dark days for the Rays. They have given away the face of their franchise, the team's all-star, the team's MVP and a 10-game winner as quick as a finger snap, and the only question is how far the franchise might fall.

Don't forget the free agent losses, too. Alex Cobb doesn't look like he'll be coming back. Neither does Logan Morrison. Tim Beckham was given away last year.

Now, there are injuries. Brent Honeywell is gone for the year.


And you wonder: Could they lose 100?

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Kiermaier may not recognize some of Jos teammates./JEFFREY S. KING

Kiermaier may not recognize some of his teammates./JEFFREY S. KING

I know, I know. Teams don't lose 100 games any more. It's been since the 2013 season that Houston -- now a power -- lost 111 games. The Marlins, who may flirt with the number as well, lost 100 that year.

But on a Rays' team that has been stripped for parts, where the fans have been sucker-punched time and again, you have to wonder how bad it might get. Will Kevin Kiermaier run into an outfield fence? Will Chris Archer be struck by a meteor?

There is a dark cloud above, which is good only because you cannot see the sky falling. You can say this team lives in a room of broken mirrors and black cats, but in truth, ownership has led it here.

Oh, the Rays don't seem to think their plummet will be as bad as some believe. General manager Eric Neander told the Tampa Bay Times: "This isn't a team that's going to win 60 games here," he said. "With respect to the quality of our pitching and the quality of our defense, we're going to be competitive."

The national picture doesn't say that the sky is falling, either.  Bovada, the gambling sight, lists the Rays' over-under at 77.5 games, which isn't that much worse than last year.  USA Today says they'll win 76 games. Not good, but it's a long way from losing 100.

Still, when a team is stumbling in the dark, it's easy to understand the gloom. After all, the Rays of two seasons ago lost 94 games, and it seemed much more prepared for a season than this one.

For the record, for all of the dismal days in their past, the Rays have managed to lose 100 games only three times. (Two other times, they lost 99. They finished the '98 season 1-8, but that one win  kept them from losing 100. In 2003, they won their final two games to avoid the statistic.)

It was 2006 the last time the Rays lost as many as 100. That wasn't a team without talent. It had Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff. It had Scott Kazmir and James Shields. It had a young Ben Zobrist. Delmon Young and B.J. Upton were here. Joe Madden was on the job. So was Andrew Freidman.

And it lost more than 100.

Look at this team: Who is going to bring the power? If you count Morrison, Souza, Dickerson and Longoria, you are missing 115 home runs from last year.

Who is going to drive in runs? Count the same four:  You are missing 301 runs batted in. Last year, even with the players they've dealt, the Rays were last in batting with runners in scoring position, hitting .227.

Who is going to be the ace? Archer can strike out a lot of guys, but he hasn't won more than he's lost since 2014.

In other words, wait until the high-rollers from New York and Boston get ahold of this team. It could get ugly.

At least the Rays won't compete with the old Cleveland Spiders, however.  You've heard how bad the Spidermen were, right?

It was 1899, and the Spiders' owners also obtained the St. Louis Browns. So the ownership had a fire sale of their own, shipping most of their players -- including Cy Young -- to the Browns. Meanwhile, the Spiders lost 134 of 154 games. Attendance was so bad that opponents wouldn't travel to Cleveland, leaving the Spiders with 112 road games. They gave up 8.1 runs per game.

I know, I know. With all of the guys who have left, the Rays lost 82 games last year. They weren't going to contend either way. But don't you have to try? We get it. Hiring professional baseball players is expensive.

As they say, it beats the alternative.





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