Ask Gary: The 2011 draft was supposed to save the Rays

by Gary Shelton on January 21, 2017 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

The Rays trade of Mikie Mahtook this week puts on exclamation point on the epic fail of their 2011 draft when they had 10 of the first 60 picks and apparently whiffed on the entire draft. A financially challenged franchise like the Rays, that has no hope of competing for top free agents, has to be better at drafting and developing their own talent. The St. Louis Cardinals are well known for their great farm system and they are one of the most successful franchises in baseball year after year. Shouldn’t the Rays copy some of their techniques or hire away some of their personnel? This franchise will never be competitive if they continue to fail at developing young players other than pitchers. Have they made any significant changes to address this obvious weakness?

Larry Beller

The Rays have done a lot of shuffling with their front office, but who knows how effective it will be?

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The 2011 draft, as you state, was supposed to be a draft that solidified a franchise. It hasn't been. Now, let's be honest. Taylor Guerreri, the top pick, wasn't taken until the 24th pick, so you aren't exactly picking from the cream of the crop. Still, with 10 of 60 picks, you should have more assets than the Rays have.

I was disappointed the Rays traded Mahtook. I never thought he was going to be a star, but he had a little something. Maybe it would never have translated to an every-day player. And the Rays did draft Blake Snell in that mix (he was the seventh player the Rays took that year).

Five years is pushing things. Still Guerreri has a shot (he was 12-6 in Montgomery last year). But Brandon Martin was arrested for murder. Kes Carter was released. Tyler Goodell was claimed by Philly. I think five of the draftees are gone now, and four of the others aren't exactly knocking at the door.

You're right. The Rays need for their draft picks to work out more than most teams. That's why the 2008 drafting of Tim Beckham (over Buster Posey) was such an embarrassment.

Much of the success that the Rays had during the Andrew Friedman years was propped up by the high picks in the draft: Evan Longoria, David Price, B.J. Upton and Delmon Young (who was traded for the push that brought Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett). Those were can't miss prospects. Since the Rays moved back in the draft, they haven't drafted as well.

The Rays aren't going to get rich with free agents. They aren't going to win trophies from their trades. That leaves the draft, where the team has a long way to go as far as developing talent.

FSU Men's Basketball has been quietly moving up in the ranks and with the exception of North Carolina have been on a run beating up on the cream of the ACC crop.  Do they really have what it takes to make a run in the big dance?

Michele Forte

I think they do. A recent bracketologist (they sound smarter than they are) had FSU getting a No. 2 seed at the end of the year. From there, a team can do some damage if it stays healthy and hot.

The thing is, college basketball is a much younger sport than it used to be, and as such, it's harder to forecast. You knew in the old days that UCLA was going to be around, and Kentucky, and Kansas, and North Carolina. Now, there are 12-15 of those kinds of teams. I think FSU is one of them.

Look, this FSU team isn't the Anthony Davis-led Wildcats. It could lose in an early round, too. But the Seminoles are fun to watch. I have a hunch you'll be watching for a while.

Which of our local General Managers (Rays, Bolts, Bucs) has the toughest challenges in the year ahead? I would probably vote for the Rays considering how lousy their recent position player development has been.
Barry McDowell
All of them face tough challenges to get beyond their current level and into the next group. I could make an argument for all of them, actually.
The Rays? Your pick makes a ton of sense. They're the worst team (by winning percentage) in town, and they've got rich competitors around them, and they play the sport where it's the hardest to make the playoffs. They haven't drafted well, as we've discussed, and they aren't outsmarting anyone anymore.
The Bucs? They're the most popular team in town, which means that a lot of us are ready with suggestions for Jason Licht. I've always said it's toughest to go from an average (or slightly above) team to a very good one. The Bucs simply need more quality players.
The Lightning? They have to make a decision on a goaltender. They may have to reconstruct their roster to get better defensively. They need to be an essential team again. A reminder: Right now, the Lightning is winning less than the Bucs. Can you believe that.
In other words, the challenges faced by the general manager is in synch with the expectations of the fans. This year, I think most of us were fine with the Bucs winning nine games. We didn't really expect more. We didn't think much of the Rays, either. Only the Bolts have disappointed.
If you say that you'd accept each team making it to the second round of the playoffs, then I'd rank the challenges like this: 1. Rays, 2. Bucs, 3. Bolts. And don't forget, USF has some challenges, too.
Lets pretend that tomorrow, you will become owner of the Tampa Bay Rays.  What would be the first 3 moves that you would make?
Jim Willson
One: I'd try to find a perfect stadium location, preferably where they don't speak French. You can't make up empty seats. This team will scuffle as long as it has to plead with fans to come inside the gates.
Two: I'd offer every player on my team to the highest bidder except for Kevin Kiermaier. I probably wouldn't pull the trigger on a lot of them, but I don't believe there should be any security for a last-place team.
Three: I'd put the front office on notice. I want a smart general manager who is  a shrewd judge of talent. Either the drafts of this team turn around, or different people will be making the selections.
Four (bonus): Free bacon at the  1 p.m. games on Sunday.
Considering what's been going on lately around the NFL. Franchise shifts, lower ratings, former players saying that if they had to do it over, they would not play football. Do you think that the league might be losing its grip on the public?  Where do you see the NFL in 20 years?
Jim Willson
Don't forget, Jim, the NFL is still the dominant league in this country. It has the highest TV ratings, the biggest stars, the largest ticket demand. Yes, the league dipped earlier this season, but there isn't another league in North America who wouldn't swap places with them.
But, sure, there are problems. The health crisis among players isn't over. There will be more parents who don't want their kids to play. (Ever seen an offensive lineman in pee-wee football? The poor guys just ram into the kid across from them every play. Where's the fun in that?)
In 20 years, I think the NFL will still dominate  (maybe not in 50 years, but I think it'll take longer than 20 years to ebb). I think, by then, it will be a worldwide game (the NFL covets those international television rights). I think more players will retire  young while their health is good.  There will be rampant franchise shifts. By then, 24 teams might be in Los Angeles.
With the great job that Jeff Vinik has done with the Lightning, why hasn't the league given us another  All-Star Game?

Jim Willson

I agree with you that Vinik is special, but his gifts as an owner probably aren't appreciated enough on a league-wide scale. His Community Heroes is a great program, but does it mean anything in Toronto or Montreal? Does it influence the big spenders who blow into town for an All-Star weekend?

The thing I like about Vinik is that his team isn't built around the celebrities in the house. It's built around the common guy trying to make Tampa Bay better. When the league starts to narrow things down for an all-star game, the concerns are where the owners dine.

I'm surprised, too, that Tampa Bay hasn't gotten another All-Star Game. It's warm. It's friendly.

Now that the team matters again, I would think everyone would want to come here to party.

How come Fred McGriff gets so little love in the BHOF balloting?

Scott Myers

Over the years, I've always voted for Fred. So I might not have your perfect answer.

A friend of mine, who doesn't think Fred belongs, says simply that he didn't think he was great enough for the Hall of Fame. I disagree. I've always said that if you're going to take votes away from some players for taking PEDs, then you have to inflate the numbers got your ego achieved while the guy was clean. And no one ever even whispered that Fred was a 'roid guy back when they everywhere. Jose Canseco never uttered it, and he blamed everyone.

Fred had a lot of big hits for a lot of good teams. Maybe it was because he was a quiet guy. Maybe it was because he wasn't demonstrative.

Tom Verducci, of ESPN, had this stat: From 1987-1993, McGriff hit 228 home runs and ranked first in the majors. From 1994-2004, he hit 265 and ranked only 26th. So many people on steroid cocktails passed him.

And I think that's always going to be the bottom line for Fred. He was just stuck in the wrong era, when cheaters ruled and got rich and chicks dug the long ball. It's a shame.

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