Minnesota 6, D-Rays 3. Four in a row. Seven of the past eight games, dating back to the final game of the Red Sox series before the break. It’s ugly and it will only getting uglier. Unfortunately, with the team making as many trades as they have made, this team is on the verge of giving up on the season. With Julio Lugo set to be shipped elsewhere very soon, the second half is likely to become a tryout for the 2007 season. The team has made it clear that they do not want to rush their young prospects to the big leagues before they are ready, but it is time to see B. J. Upton, Juan Salas, Kevin Witt (not so young), Ben Zobrist, Jason Hammel, J. P. Howell and Seth McClung (as a closer) in Devil Rays uniforms. In September we are also need to see Delmon Young, and Elijah Dukes patrolling the outfield. The team cannot keep using castoffs in the lineup like Travis Lee, Greg Norton, Russell Branyan, Tomas Perez, and Damon Hollins. These players are not part of the future and they are not helping the Rays win games now. The pitching staff? Casey Fossum does not give the team a chance to win, so why keep sending him out there every five days. He is not part of the future of this team. We would rather lose with Hammel or Howell on the mound then struggle to watch another game pitched by Fossum. The Bullpen? It is what it is…A disaster. With three different closers lost to injuries this season, pitchers are in the bullpen that shouldn’t be there and there are pitchers who are in roles that don’t suit them (ie. Brian Meadows). Juan Salas has been as dominant as any player can be in the minor leagues and why he is not in the major leagues is beyond us. We understand that he is young in terms of being a pitcher, but he is not young. He is 28. If they had converted a 20 year old to pitcher that would be one thing. But one of the announcers during the Futures Game said it best. Sometimes when a player is 27, 28, 29, they just “get it”. It looks like Salas “gets it”. Will he struggle at times in the majors? Probably. But that is ok. He is 28, and his maturity level should allow him to survive any difficulties he will endure. Seth McClung has DOMINATED at Durham. 20 strikeouts in 11.2 innings and only 1 walk. He already knows the big leagues. Why isn’t he back already? The team does not have a closer right now. McClung looks like he has found his calling. Now is the time to give the shot.
There is an old saying in the NFL, that the most popular player on the team is the backup quarterback. It is the same in baseball. The most popular players in baseball are the top prospects in the minors. We here at RI are advocates of patience. Let them grow and develop. But this season is now lost and the players that are here are clearly giving up. There are players at AAA Durham that may be ready. There are players on the major league roster that are not part of the future. At this point, attendance will begin to fall and it will fall fast. Why should fans go watch a team that loses and loses with players like Fossum on the mound and Perez, Branyan and Hollins in the lineup? At this point, the fans need hope. There is no hope in half this roster. There is hope in the minors. We know that we will see some of these guys in September, but that is six weeks away. This team is in serious danger of a 5-25 stretch. We would rather watch a last place team with Upton, Young, Witt, McClung, Salas and Hammel than the stale bread the team keeps sending out to the field right now.