Larry Stone of The Seattle Times has a column today looking at the 2009 Rays and how the Mariners hope to follow in their footsteps.
In Don Wakamatsu, [Mariners GM Jack] Zduriencik saw many of the same qualities that made Maddon a successful manager — organization, intelligence, teaching ability and energy…”There’s a lot of parallels,” he said. “If Don becomes a Joe Maddon, I think we’ll all be real happy.”
Stone spoke with Andrew Friedman for the piece, but the really good stuff did not make the cut. Stone included some of those quotes in his blog. Here are a couple of our favorites…
On whether defense (something we have called the Rays’ “Moneyball”) is still an exploitable commodity:
“Certainly, it’s pretty popular now,” he said. “It’s something that, just like any other facet of the game, if you put too much emphasis on it…Our goal is not just to improve our defense, but to be more well-rounded, with footspeed, power in the middle of the lineup, our pitching. We felt we had reached that point last offseason, but for us, it wasn’t just about defense.”
On whether the Rays will be able to find other overlooked areas to exploit:
“We certainly think there are some,” he said. “Maybe not as substanative. Certainly, we feel there are, and always will be. The nature of the game — really, human nature — is that people tend to gravitate toward the same things at the same time. As a result, other things are under-appreciated. Our job is to try to figure out what they are, and try to take advantage.”
On whether it is more difficult now that other teams (such as the Mariners) are using a more statistical approach:
“Absolutely,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t say we’d be able to accomplish it. I said it was our goal.”
What scares us is that the Rays have spent the last three years exploiting a giant hole in the baseball world. Defense comprises maybe one-third of the game. While doing so, they nearly hit a home run on almost every move they made. That got the team to the top of the American League mountain. But now other teams have closed the gap. And as World B. Friedman points out, the windows of exploitation are smaller. Can the Rays maintain success, even if they continue to hit home runs with all their moves? And what happens if the Rays strike out on a few?
In the end, it might not matter that the Rays have one of the smartest front offices in baseball and it might not matter that they have one of the best managers in baseball. Without the resources of a big market ballcub00, it might just be impossible to be consistently competitive without a lot of luck.