When the Devil Rays released Dan Miceli yesterday it barely registered a blip on the national sports radar. That was a mistake. The rest of the baseball universe should have taken notice. And the rest of the Rays players better have noticed. The Rays front office and manager Joe Maddon have made it clear…This is not our old brother’s Devil Rays. Releasing Miceli was more than just a move to open a spot for Gary Glover. It set a precedent. The Rays will no longer be held captive by the thought of saving a buck at the expense of a few wins.
Now we don’t want to make too much about the team swallowing $850,000, but this is is significant. We, like most observers, had assumed all along that Miceli was a lock to be on the opening day roster. We never even questioned it. He was the closer on opening day last year and struggled with arm injuries early in the season. After his return he was decent if not spectacular. Entering 2007 Miceli was one of only two veterans that were expected to anchor a young, inexperienced and shaky bullpen squad that was atrocious in 2006. In the past, a veteran with a guaranteed contract would have been enough to guarantee a roster spot. Other managers would have ignored his spring performance and given the veteran the benefit of the doubt. Not this time.
The Yankees have won 4 world series and been in the playoffs every season for the past 11 years. Is it only because of their $200 million payroll? The Yankees are not the only big payroll team. There are a number of teams with payrolls north of $100 million these days. Not all of them win. The payroll helps, but there is a difference between the Yankees and other teams.
It comes from the top. It comes from George Steinbrenner. For all the silly things he has done and said, he is a great owner. He wants to win, and he holds the players accountable if they don’t. If a Yankee fails to perform, he is gone. The Rays have made a statement and that declaration is the Rays will field the 25 best players. Andrew Friedman and Maddon have stated that there were no guaranteed jobs. We wanted to believe them, but we were skeptical. Yesterday the Rays put their money where their mouths are. If Jorge Cantu and Jonny Gomes didn’t feel the pressure before…they feel it now.
This is not your older brother’s Devil Rays.