Tampa Bay Rays (23 days until pitchers and catchers report)
We have other things to write about later today, so we won’t waste an entire post on Marc Topkin’s latest piece. Rather we will just bitch about it here. In the piece,”Rays paying it forward“, Topkin suggests that the recent contracts signed by Carlos Pena and Scott Kazmir are an indication that the Rays front office is committed to spending money and retaining the team’s talent. The contracts therefore are indications of the team’s commitment to winning.

By giving more than $24-million over three years to Carlos Pena and going up to nearly $4-million for a one-year, arbitration-avoiding deal with Scott Kazmir, the Rays on Friday put two of their best players under contract for the upcoming season.

And they may have put to rest questions about their commitment to assemble, and retain, a competitive team.

There is only one problem with this thinking. In the two contracts combined, the Tampa Bay Rays gained ONE extra season out of the two stars. The Rays have now “retained” the services of Pena and Kazmir for ONE additional season.

The Rays and Scott Kazmir agreed to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. And where would Kazmir be playing in 2008 if he had not signed the contract? THE TAMPA BAY FRIGGIN’ RAYS. Kazmir is arbitration-eligible. NOT a free agent. Unless the Rays decide to trade Kazmir, he will be playing for the Rays for the next three years. He does not have a choice. And avoiding arbitration probably saved the Rays a little money. Topkin does not seem to comprehend this. The Rays avoided arbitration with Kazmir. They have done nothing yet to retain his services beyond what he is already committed.

In the case of Carlos Pena, the Rays reached an agreement on a three-year contract. That deal does keep Pena in a Rays uniform for the first of what would have been his free agency years. Not three free agency years. Not five. Not seven. Pena is now locked into playing for the Rays for one more season than he would have been otherwise.

This is not a knock on the Tampa Bay Rays. They have shown this off-season that they are willing to spend money and that they will retain their young talent, IF THEY CAN DO SO FOR LESS THAN MARKET-VALUE. That is a commitment to the bottom-line. Not to the talent. Not to the team and not to the fans.

If Topkin wants to make this point, he can tell us about the Pena deal. It is not a huge commitment as it is just for one additional year. However, it is something. Topkin can also tell us about the Troy Percival deal and the Cliff Floyd deal. But please…please…don’t use the Kazmir-deal as an example of the team’s commitment to retaining talent and their commitment to winning. The deal has ZERO bearing on the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, 2009 or 2010. It does however have a bearing on the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays in that as of now, the chances of Kazmir playing for the Rays beyond 2010 are now a little less.

Here is a suggestion. If and when the Rays reach an agreement with James Shields on a long-term contract, that goes into his free agency years…we want Marc Topkin to erase Kazmir’s name everywhere it appears in the article and replace it with the name “Shields”. Then he should resubmit the article to his editors, because only then will the article make any sense.

Rays paying it forward [St. Pete Times]

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • Gerry Hunsicker appeared on XM radio’s The Show. Among the topics covered were the recent signing of Carlos Pena to a three year contract and whether 2007 was a surprising performance. “I got to think in Carlos Pena’s case it wasn’t that he never showed the talent because that’s not true, we were the beneficiary’s of Carlos Pena coming to Tampa Bay where there is a little less pressure, the expectations for him might not have been as high and he felt very comfortable. He was given the opportunity to play through the ups and the downs and had a manager that had the confidence in him to put him in the lineup everyday“. Hmmm? A manager that had the confidence to put him in the lineup every day? Let’s see…He only made the roster out of Spring Training because Greg Norton was injured in the last week before the regular season. The Greg Norton. And Pena did not become the everyday first baseman until the second week of May because Joe Maddon was giving starts at first base to Ty Wigginton and Jorge Cantu. Yes folks. Papa Joe had so much confidence in Pena that he benched him in favor of Jorge freakin’ Cantu. [MLB on XM]
  • Rays Anatomy offers two points-of-view on what to expect from Carlos Pena in 2008. [Rays Anatomy]
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13 Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    I'm confused is Marc Topkin dishing out the kool aid or is he drinking the Rays Kool-Aid.

    Topkin is just a puppet for the team. They know he will write whatever they tell him to write. Topkin would have to think about it for a couple of seconds in order to figure it out or maybe he is just to afraid to alienate the team which is essentially his meal ticket.

    either way it is sad.

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  2. Sean G says:

    Topkin is an idiot. I hate that he is the Rays columnist for the paper that is in bed with the team.

    And people wonder why blogs have become a mainstream source of information

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  3. Robert Rittner says:

    More nonsense. Here is the headline (& the bold face just below the headline):

    "Rays paying it forward

    Sternberg believes Pena, Kazmir deals - and efforts toward keeping others - bring brighter days closer."

    See-"and efforts toward keeping others?"

    And read the whole article. It is essentially a review of Sternberg's statements about the team, not an opinion column evaluating what has been done.

    And further, as a statement about the public reaction to the two signings, the statement Topkin makes is perfectly correct; it has created a sense that the team is committed to building a contender. As a matter of fact, the Rays did not have to extend Pena at all and the implicit comparison is to the assumptions many have made that as soon as any player would cost more than near minimum he would be let go.

    Again, the commitment mentioned is a comparison to common assumptions that no Ray would be paid much above minimum. not that they would be sewn up for multiple years, which given that the decision is more Kazmir's than Sternberg's is irrelevant anyway.

    Here, I will do it to you. Your first statement:

    "We have other things to write about later today, so we won't waste an entire post on Marc Topkin's latest piece."

    Ok, you did not lie. You only were marginally dishonest in that you wasted 2/3 of a post on another nasty and small-minded attack on a perfectly reasonable article.

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  4. Big Mike says:

    The quote in the post are Topkin's words. NOT Sternberg's.

    It is Sternberg's job to sell the team and that is what he is doing. It is not Topkin's job to sell the team. It is his job to report the news, and his words are just wrong.

    why is that so difficult to understand?

    Yes. Sternberg is just as full of shit, if not more, but that is his job.

    "And they may have put to rest questions about their commitment to assemble, and retain, a competitive team."

    all Topkin is doing is taking the garbage that Friedman dished out and shoving it down further. In the first paragraph he points out that the Rays now have Pena and Kazmir "under contract for the upcoming season." Why is this important? As Prof points out, it is not important at all, because both would have been under contract no matter what.

    Just because Sternberg is selling it, does not mean Topkin has to buy it. Or does it?

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I actually think (as do many) that the team has made great strides to make the team better. BUT, outside of a Pena contract wayyyyyyy below market value (see Mourneau, Holiday), the RFO has done nothing to show that they are committed to keeping the young talent.

    And to use Kazmir as an example of keeping young talent is so far beyond stupid that it makes me laugh.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    and before others jump on that last comment and say that Pena was a 1-year wonder and shoudnt be compared to Holliday or Mourneau, keep in mind that Pena had a 27 home run season and another season in which he hit 18 in half a season.

    And I am not saying that Pena deserved as much money as those guys, but his value would have fallen a lot closer than the deal he signed.

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  7. Robert Rittner says:

    You really have to stretch and squeeze to take something negative from anything in the article or about the article. The sub-headline clearly says "Sternberg believes"; Topkin is not selling the team. He is simply reporting on the deals and indicating, quite rightly, that they may (note the word "may") increase confidence that the team is committed to winning. I have yet to read an analyst who does not say pretty much the same thing. It is an innocuous article and deserves no in-depth parsing or suggestions that it reflects some sort of toadying to the team.

    From when I first began visiting this site I was shocked at what appeared to be a vendetta against Topkin. There were sensationalist headlines (do adults still use the word "suck"?) and attacks on all sorts of articles he had written, but I have yet to read one criticism that was anything but petty and silly. It isn't a question of agreeing with Topkin; but even if there are disagreements, all of the comments taken together that have appeared here amount to nitpicking and foolishness. The stuff that appears here is unworthy even of 12 year olds who, disliking someone in their class, hurl all sorts of juvenile sarcasm at her/him about his baggy pants or zits or middle name and think they are scoring points.

    The St. Pete Times has been rather even-handed in its treatment of the Rays. I have been following all their articles on the proposed stadium, for example, and if anything they tilt towards the negative. I have read a few that appear enthusiastic about it or that could be read as subtly favorable, but I have seen more that are just the opposite.

    As for evidence that the Sternberg group has demonstrated a commitment to building a contender here, I'll leave that for another time as it has been discussed ad infinitum in many places already, and in my view their commitment is very obvious.

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  8. Devil Ray Guevara says:

    sternberg believes. and according to Topkin's words (may have put to rest questions) indicate that he believes also. Sternberg does not speculate on the questioning. Topkin and the fans "question". So either Topkin believes or he thinks the fans believe. and if it is the latter, it is Topkin's job to show why it is silly to believe that. Either way the article comes off as propoganda

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  9. The Professor says:

    did I miss something?

    I am not saying that Topkin needs to editorialize the team's comments, but the article does come off as a bit of a puff-piece. and even if it is just Sternberg's comments that he is trying to portray then Topkin owes it to the reader to show that the team really has not done anything substantive to retain the younger talent.

    I would have a far-smaller problem with the article if Topkin had said that the team took a small-step with Pena and they are trying to secure Kazmir and Shields to long-term deals. That would have been factually accurate and would have supported the rest of the story and Sternberg's quotes.

    It is subtle difference in choice of words, but a moon-shot difference in how the story is portrayed.

    As it stands now, Pena only some-what supports the notion and Kazmir does not support it at all. and whether they are Sternberg's beliefs or not is only partly relevant. The words outside of the quotes are Topkins.

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  10. Robert Rittner says:

    I will leave aside my disagreement with your statement that Kazmir's deal is irrelevant and that it was but a small step with Pena or that they have done nothing else to retain young talent. I think the case is more subtle than you make it, but that is not my objection to your posting.

    As I have said before, it is your site and you may do what you like with it. My opinion is that you corrupt a really excellent blog, one that can be a major league site, by periodically trying to become a minor league version of Fire Joe Morgan. Their avowed purpose is to expose really bad journalism. In the process they often go overboard, get smarmy and become narrowly dogmatic about using numbers to prove points. But overall, they usually select really vile examples of bad reporting or commentary and skewer it with wit and intelligence.

    You seem to have decided to focus on reporting on the Rays. Nothing wrong with that, but to achieve your apparent goal, you have to exaggerate minutae and use hyperbole in your own commentary. It is as if someone were writing a paper on the evil of Adolph Hitler and from the list of crimes-mass murder, fomenting war, totalitarian tyranny-selected some detail about him being an indifferent painter.

    Except in this case, you cannot even identify one truly significant problem with the reporting, and when you come up with something you think is wrong, rather than try to understand the context, or simply explain your difference of opinion without suggesting a broader problem, you broadcast a scathing attack.

    This encourages responses like "Topkin is an idiot" or "the paper is in bed with the team" or "just a puppet for the team" or "Sternberg is full of shit", none of which are remotely legitimate and all of which are simply hyperbolic expressions of irrational responses. And they certainly do not add anything to any discussion.

    You think it is a puff piece. You think he might evaluate the statements more critically because you think they are exaggerated. I disagree, but fine. That requires a sentence at most, hardly 2/3 of a post with misleading use of quotations and no recognition of the possibility that another point of view is reasonable.

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  11. The Professor says:

    I do not know about the first or last quotes you give, but as for the second and third quotes, you should read

    THIS

    THIS

    THIS

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  12. Robert Rittner says:

    I withdraw the statement that the comment about the paper being "in bed with the team" is not remotely legitimate. As a regular reader of the Times, I do not think it is true, but your articles on the subject do raise legitimate questions that should be respected. In fact, I remember now discussing your comments with someone at the time.

    I do not withdraw the statement about the other 3 comments as the second one refers to Topkin directly, not to the Times, and I do not consider that legitimate in any way. As for the other two, you do know-and know with certainty-that Topkin is not an idiot. You may not agree with him or you may think his articles are poorly written or that he is not a good reporter or analyst. Again, I disagree, but regardless, you absolutely know he is not an idiot.

    But you are avoiding the real issue which is using your blog for juvenile and sensationalist style rants focused on trivia. Not always or even usually. On the contrary, if you did that I would not bother to respond-or for that matter visit the site. Most of what you do is outstanding. That is what makes the occasional talk-radio style digressions into screaming exaggerations, incomplete quotations, & ugly and childish language so disappointing.

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  13. The Professor says:

    geez. I didnt even say he "sucks" this time...your objection has been noted

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