What is there to look forward to with Rays?

by Gary Shelton on February 19, 2018 · 12 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Dickerson was designated for assignment./CARMEN MANDATO

Dickerson was designated for assignment./CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 4 a.m.

The spring is for the dreamers and the poets, the wishful and the hopeful.

It's a time to fantasize, to project and to imagine your baseball team as an essential one. It is a time for writing down possible lineups. It's a time when shortstops don't make errors and your left-fielder hits more than the other guy's. It's a time to envision winning all of the close ones.

But what do you do when when all you can see are detours?

In Tampa Bay, thinks are glum, perhaps as glum as they have ever been

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Odorizzi won 40 games in five years for Rays.. /JEFFREY S. KING

Odorizzi won 40 games in five years for Rays.. /JEFFREY S. KING

in spring training. Three times, the Rays have lost 100-plus games. They've said goodbye to star players. They've seen a brief run of success fade into more time in fifth place.

And you wonder: Is this the least anticipated season in Tampa Bay Rays history?

Certainly, it seems to be shaping up that way.  Evan Longoria is gone. Jake Odorizzi has been given away. Corey Dickerson, last year's all-star, has been dumped.  There is little to base any hope upon.

This weekend is the perfect weekend for the Rays. They signed C.J. Cron, largely because he's cheaper than Dickerson, who they then designated for assignment. They traded Odorozzi for the Twins' 27th rated prospect.

Hey, I get it. Odorizzi wasn't good last season, and Dickerson's swing still reminds you of the Hulk trying to swat a mosquito. He spent the second  half of last season watching his average fall off a  cliff. But they were players who had some moments. Look at the remining roster. How many moments do you see?

Even now, you cannot trust the roster, particularly the part of it that makes any salary to speak of. You cannot believe in outside acquisitions. The farm system is a series of broken promises.  If this team is going to contend for a title, it will be one in AAA.

It has not always been that way. Even in the terrible seasons, there seemed to be something to look forward to. A free agent. A pitching staff. Longoria. Price. Zobrist. Boggs. Something.

These days, however, how can you even count on anyone to stay? Kiermaier, maybe. He seems untouchable. But the internet is filled with rumors about Chris Archer and Alex Colome and Adeiny Hechavarria. The fire sale continues, and I don't see a lot of stars in the in basket.

Look, the Rays have had some truly awful seasons. This is going to be better than most of those. But that doesn't mean that there is an eagerness to shout "play ball."

In 1998, the team was shiny and new. It drew 2.5 million, still the most it has ever drawn. But it was baseball, and the sellouts began ... and lasted one day.

In 1999, the team drafted Josh Hamilton, who would become a star. Sadly, it wouldn't happen here. Still, there was Wade Boggs, who was sneaking up on 3,000 hits.  Jose Canseco joined the team.

In 2000, the Rays were convinced that fans would come out to see home runs, and they put together the hit show. It missed.

In 2001, the Rays brought manager Larry Rothschild back, but he was gone after 14 games. John McHale came into run the franchise.

Things turned hard in 2002. The team lost 206 games in two years, it's worst-ever mark. Still, the Rays started the 2002 season by sweeping Detroit, giving room for some early optimism.

In 2003, Lou Piniella came home, giving the Rays a proven winner at manager.

In 2005, after five years in the basement, Piniella guaranteed the Rays wouldn't finish last. General manager Chuck LaMar immediately tried to caution the media after creating lofty goals. The Rays finished fourth. Yay.

In 2006, Stu Sternberg took over for Vince Naimoli. Andrew Friedman took over as general manager and Joe Madden as manager.

In 2007, the Rays were still losing. But the formation of an impressive starting rotation was in play.

In 2008, there wasn't that much anticipation to the season. But the Rays went all the way to the World Series.

In 2009, more success was anticipated, but the team won 13 fewer games.

In 2010, the Rays rebounded as David Price became a star.

In 2011, there was rookie pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, who went on to be rookie of the year. Hellickson's success didn't last, but he was excellent early.

In 2012, there was Price, who would win the Cy Young. Madden was coning off his second Manager of the Year award.

In 2013, there was the trade for Wil Myers, who would become Rookie of the Year. But the Rays didn't like his attitude, and he was quickly gone.

In 2014, the Rays still had Maddon, and they had made four of six post-seasons.

In 2015, the Rays had a new manager in Kevin Cash for all of those who thought Joe Maddon's voice had become to lose listeners.

In 2016, the Rays had a lot of arms.

In 2017, the Rays had a lot of bats.

In other words, there has usually been a reason to believe. But this year? It looks like the start of a dark journey. In New York, they look forward to baseball. In Boston. In Houston.

Here? Not so much. It looks like a franchise being stripped for parts.


Yeah, the beer is still cold, and it's the closest thing to legit baseball you'll get. The team will tell you that it expects to win. Someone has to, I suppose.

The rest of us? We're struggling.


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