If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and what they will do, and why. Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do. However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans.
On the fourth day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, FOUR winning records against AL East foes…
Here at RI, we have been very forgiving of the Rays and their new management over the course of the past two seasons. First team in the history with the first pick in consecutive drafts? No problem! A “major league” pitching staff that included Jae Seo, Casey Fossum and Shawn Bleepin’ Camp? What the hell! But it has now been two years, and overall shittiness aside, improvements have been made and the honeymoon is now officially over. It’s true.
We are about to enter season three of the Stuart Sternberg/Andrew Friedman/Joe Maddon-era, and it is time to take the kid gloves off. It is time to start winning games…a lot of games. A team such as the Rays can have only two goals to start a season: 1) Stockpiling of young talent, teaching the game, and auditioning players for jobs at the major league level; 2) WIN. There are no other options and there is no in between. The Rays have successfully implemented the first goal, treating each of the last two seasons as an extended spring training. In season three, the Rays are now ready to win. And we do not mean 75 wins. The Rays goal for 2008 should be nothing short of the playoffs…Seriously. But in order to make the playoffs, the Rays need to do something they have never been able to do…Consistently beat the other four teams in the AL East.
Since Major League Baseball switched to an unbalanced schedule in 2001, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have posted exactly three winning records against an AL East rivals over the course of an entire season. In 2003, the Rays went 11-8 against both the Orioles and the Blue Jays, and in 2005 Tampa Bay finished 11-8 against the Yankees. In those seven seasons the Rays have never posted a winning record against the Red Sox. In this day and age, baseball teams play nearly half of their games within the division (at least 72 of 162). The Rays will never be a winning franchise until they are able to consistently win games against their own divisional foes.
Many have trumpeted the cause of realignment, stating the Rays will never be able to compete in the AL East against the Big Four and their budgets. While we have long dreamed of more natural rivalries with the Marlins and the Braves as well as double-switches and sacrifice bunts, we have never championed the cause on this website, because it seemed a little too much like taking your ball to another court because the other kids were a little better.
There is no excuse for not having a winning record versus the O’s and Jays, as they just do not have the talent of the Rays. On the other hand, beating the Red Sox or the Yankees on a consistent basis would be a difficult task for any team, but not impossible. For the first time in franchise history, the Rays have the starting pitching to compete in the AL East with the 1-2-3 combination of Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza, and more experienced and formidable bullpen to back them up. Anytime the Rays enter a series with two or three of those starting pitchers scheduled to throw, the Rays should win the series. And in the games not started by the Big 3, the Rays may finally have an offense with the potential to outscore another team.
If you are faced with an angry pit bull, you can either poop your pants or you punch him straight in the nose. It is time for the Rays to take the diapers off and start punching their rivals in the nose. That means winning records…not just against the O’s and Jays, which should be a no-brainer…but also against the Red Sox and Yankees.
On the fourth day of Raysmas, all Rays fans want is FOUR winning records against AL East foes, and..
THREE AL All-Stars [Day 3]
TWO new pitchers in the rotation by the all-star break [Day 2]
ONE Evan Longoria in the opening day lineup [Day 1]