hangoverIf 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 try to project what they will do based on what we have learned. Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do. We prefer to live under the premise that the people that run the Rays are smarter than we are, and know many, many more things that even the most learned fan will never know.

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. Looking back at last year’s 12 Days of Raysmas, we see that the Rays didn’t come through on very many of our wishes, and the result was a somewhat disappointing season. Let’s hope that changes in 2010.

On the first day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, ONE American League Most Valuable Player…

In 2009, Ben Zobrist finished 8th in the AL MVP voting. It was the highest finish ever for a Tampa Bay Ray. Unfortunately for Zorilla, that is likely to be the highest he will ever finish in the voting. Part of his allure this past year was that he came out of nowhere and did not have a regular position. Neither of those will be true in the future.

No, the player that will win the first-ever MVP award for the Rays will be Evan Longoria. After one month in the majors, we made the bold prediction during a radio interview that Dirtbag would win multiple MVP awards before his career is over. 2010 would be a good time to get that first trophy. But if that is to happen, several factors will need to fall into place.

  • Longoria will need to step up his already impressive offensive display. In his first two seasons, Longo hit .272-27-85 and .281-33-113. While batting average and RBI are way down on the list of important offensive stats, they are still highly regarded by fans and the media that vote for MVP. Longoria will probably need to hit .300 and his RBI total probably needs to be 120+.
  • He cannot show a regression with his glove. Carlos Pena won the gold glove in 2008 and then took a step backwards defensively in 2009. Longoria needs to avoid that sort of let down and continue to demonstrate that he is one of the best all-around players in baseball.
  • He needs to stay healthy. After missing nearly a month in his rookie season, Longoria played in 157 games last year. Unlike players such as Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols, Longo does not have the numbers that can withstand an extended stay on the DL and still look great. If he wants to contend for the MVP, he needs to play 145+ games.
  • And most importantly, the Rays need to be a contender. The days of players like Andre Dawson winning the MVP on a non-contender are over. And Longoria does not have the bat that can lap the other candidates even if the Rays are 10 games out of the playoffs. Quite simply, the Rays need to be playing meaningful games in final 2 weeks of the regular season if Dirtbag is to have any shot.

Evan Longoria has the bat, the glove, the name recognition and the supporting cast to win the 2010 AL MVP. And on the first day of Raysmas, that is what we want.

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9 Comments

  1. Larry Pietro says:

    Very true about Zobrist. He was effective in his whack a mole role.
    Longo plays when he's hurt, which effects his numbers. Yogi's answer: Don't get hurt. And when you get hurt, get better.

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  2. Don says:

    I always have to laugh when Zobrist gets the Rodney Dangerfield treatment from media types...ie. "he will NEVER finish higher in voting...."
    Lets look at Zo vs the rising star Longo for 2009....

    use: OBP/SLG/AVG
    ZO: .405/.543/.297
    Longo: .364/.526/.281

    Who had best year? Who was team MVP?
    So the conclusion is that Longo gets better and Zo hits the skids....don't know about that rationale?
    One other thing about this little slam...I would love to see Longo play 2nd, RF and 3rd base and see how his offensive stats would hold up?
    Future!...who knows what happens to either player... but past performance does nothing to support the premise!

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  3. ElijahDukes says:

    I too hope for an AL MVP season from Longoria, or any Ray for that matter...

    But, I wanted to take objection to a little something-something I read at the top of this page. I never comment here, and I visit this site with decreasing frequency because of quips like: "Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do." I know that is a shot at some of the other blogs I frequent, and I understand your point here.

    1) But, let me point out that this blog, more than ANY other I've read, routinely questions the decision-making and leadership of Coach Joe, who I believe to be unquestionably one of the better managers in all of baseball. Is he not one of the "people who runs the Rays?"

    2) This blog also routinely questions the play and mindset of the Rays' players, especially Upton. BJ is one of the most sought-out trade targets in all of baseball, and yet the Rays brass hasn't unloaded his lazy, sorry, no-good, doesn't-know-how-to-play-the-game, no-fundamentals, terrible baserunning, non-hustling self. Who's questioning who here?

    3) Rays Index also likes to throw in various shots at progressive statistics such as WAR, UZR/150, et al, especially with regard to Ben Zobrist's fantastic 2009 campaign. I understand the difference between process and results, but you cannot deny that Zobrist did not play to the level of defense that UZR suggested for 09, because it is a RESULTS based statistic. It is not a whim, or a projection, etc. It is what he DID in 2009, i.e. his range and error rate regressed against other major leaguers at the same positions. Sure, it's fine to say that he may not perform as well defensively in 2010, but to suggest that he didn't perform as he did perform is simply retarded.

    4) And to continue on the Zobrist bandwagon, I should point out that his VALUE was exactly derived from his ability to defend well at multiple positions; however, this does not mean that he will not be able to defend well at a single position. It makes no sense to suggest that he will somehow lose defensive prowess by playing fewer positions. The one argument you COULD make is that opposing pitchers stopped feeding him meatballs in the second half of the season, but that has no effect on his defense.

    All that said, I still read the blog, and I do enjoy it. Keep up the mostly-passable work.

    Thanks!!!

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    • Don says:

      I truely believe that Elijah Dukes wrote this post....no one else could miss so many bases....
      1) Joe Maddon is a nice guy...He is Not one of the best managers in baseball...he couldn't run a McDonalds with Dukes cooking!
      2) Upton is everything you say he is and more...believe me when he is out of cheap pay seasons he is out of here..
      Please find a buyer!
      3 & 4) Ben Zobrist is one of the BEST defensive players on the Rays...IF you don't recognize that.... than you don't know what you are watching!
      The only meat balls ZO gets are from media types that can't swallow the fact that.... he is one of the BEST players the Rays have...they just don't get it!

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    • 1. I feel there is a difference between questioning the decisions of Maddon and the players on the field and questioning the decisions made in the front office. For the most part, we can see what is going on in the field but we know little about what is happening in the front office between Friedman, the players and other teams.

      2. I have at times been critical of Upton, but I dont think I have ever questioned his mindset or his hustle. I have been critical of his propensity to get thrown out on the bases, but I dont think I have ever offered a reason, only that it happens. And in fact, on several occasions I have defended Upton against those that do say he is lazy. I have been very adamant that his talent and grace often makes it look as though he isn't trying. And I have never called for the Rays to trade Upton. If I were running the Rays I wouldnt trade him.

      3. "Rays Index also likes to throw in various shots at progressive statistics such as WAR, UZR/150..." Huh? This 100% false. In fact I often use these stats and have never spoken negatively about them, unless I was simply pointing out a shortcoming if it was relevant to a certain scenario. For example, depending on which WAR you are using, there are some that feel it undervalues closers. And everybody agrees it undervalues catchers. As for UZR/150. I routinely reference a player's UZR when writing about their defense, but even the creators of UZR admit it needs three seasons worth of data to paint an accurate picture. I am yet to hear somebody say that Zobrist was as good as his 2009 UZR would suggest. That is not to say that he isn't good. In fact I think he is a very good defender. Just not that good.

      4. And I never said he would take a step back defensively if he played only one position. My point was simply that starting a game at seven different positions (as he did in 2009) adds to his value. He is not going to be a utility player in 2010, so many may look at him as less valuable.

      thanks for your mostly-passable reading

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      • ElijahDukes says:

        Hi Professor,

        1) I understand there is a difference between the decisions that the coaching staff, including Joe, makes, and those that the front office pursue. In the case of almost any other team in the majors, you would be completely right on this point. However, I do believe that the Rays front office has a uniquely strong connection to the staff and in particular to Joe Maddon, who has chosen to utilize the pen and other starting pitchers (Niemann really comes to mind) in a way that is very consistent with the rationale from the front office. I would also point out that Maddon is one of the lowest paid managers in MLB, and that he has never publicly called out, taken issue with, or faulted the front office. I'm not a conspiracy theorist - I'm just pointing out the facts. The Rays have chosen to pursue an organizational philosophy that is "top-down," and so I feel that the manager really reflects the decisions of the front office.

        2.) Fair enough on Upton - I'm not going to pull up the old articles because they are not written by "The Professor" but other contributors. Still, there are contributors to this blog who have called for Upton's head or a trade within the past two years. And I will also throw out a wild pitch and say BJ could finish in MVP voting next year. He will actually be healthy (which has not happened in a few seasons) and he is only going to improve at the plate. Dropping him in the order will increase his RBI totals, his raw power is unquestionable (and people forget he did hit 27 or so HR in 2007). Watch out!

        3) You're right about the three seasons of tracking data - in a certain sense. That is, the consensus is that 3 years of UZR data = 1 year of hitting data. However, Zobrist logged more playing time this season in particular than ever before, and just because the variance of a particular metric is higher does not discount the results - for example, some slot machines may pay out at most $100, and some may have a million dollar jackpot, but in the end, they all have an expected value of about 35 cents on the dollar.

        4) If the Rays contend next year for a playoff spot and Ben comes anywhere close to his 2009 campaign as a 2B regular, you can bet that he will be in consideration for AL MVP voting, and he will certainly finish higher. He will a) no longer have come from "nowhere" as he did last year; b) be THE Rays second baseman, not that utility guy who hits pretty well; c) rival Longoria as the team's most valuable player. It must be noted that Zobrist was more valuable than the Dark Prince, Albert Pujols, according to WAR last season - and he did it in the American League.

        Finally, I recognize that WAR and other progressive stats have their shortcomings - and they may indeed undervalue closers (and certainly undervalue catcher defense) - but I also feel that WAR is the best available metric for player-to-player evaluation. In terms of value - bang for the buck - you can't tell me that Zobrist was not the true runaway leader last season.

        Note to Don: I'm sure you are a nice, well-meaning fan, and I am a fan of all Rays fans. But I am a little bit more than sure that you more than missed more than most of the points of more than most of my post. And I am not Elijah Dukes, but he is a great ball player and it's a shame that the Rays couldn't keep him around - I've seen him play in person back in his HHS days and he is a pure, raw athlete that just needed a little molding and a lot of polish to become a threat. He is a great on base guy already, has a good arm, and if somebody can teach him his position, he will make for a great outfielder. I am not in favor of his behavior, but make no mistake - Dukes is and was a good piece, and it is too bad that we got almost nothing in return for him because of his antics off-the-field.

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        • Don says:

          Well I'm glad Dukes has at least one fan...because I never met another one!
          Also the Rays would have traded Dukes for a puppy dog at the time..... and would have been happy he was GONE!
          Plus you might be missing the point of a (good) blog site...
          different points of view is what they are about....ie
          Zo better/worse than Longo....
          Maddon being smart.....
          Upton being dumb........
          All all points that encourage (provoke) responses...
          Other wise ...we all agree...and thats not going to happen!

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  4. KillaTapes says:

    I'm just going to go out on a limb and say (as I've also just seen Dukes say) that I think Bossman Jr gets or comes close to an MVP this season. People truly have forgotten how talented he is when he's healthy and I think he will be a very important piece to the Rays championship run in 2010.

    But of course I'd be elated at the notion of any Ray winning the award.

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