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 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 fourth day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, FOUR Gold Glove awards for the Rays infield…
OK, the Rays infield is not going to win four Gold Gloves this season. But the Rays do have four infielders that have the ability to play Gold Glove-caliber defense. And if the Rays are going to contend in 2010, all four will need to be on top of their game defensively.
Two Rays, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, already have Gold Gloves on the their resumes. At second base, Ben Zobrist posted the highest UZR/150 in the AL this past season (30.8). Placido Palanco was second at 11.0. The longest shot at the Gold Glove may be the one player that came to the Rays with the best defensive reputation, Jason Bartlett.
Even if the Rays win just three Gold Gloves, they would have to be ranked with the best defensive infields ever. The Orioles from 1973-1975 featured Gold Glovers at third base (Brooks Robinson), short stop (Mark Belanger) and second base (Bobby Grich), but had a weak defender at first base (Boog Powell). The 1999 Mets had one of the best all-around infields (John Olerud, Rey Ordonez, Robin Ventura, Edgardo Alfonso) but only won two Gold Gloves (Ordonez, Ventura). Olerud did win a Gold Glove with Seattle the following year.
Maybe more so than any team, the Rays have built their team around preventing runs. The Rays are a very good offensive team, but they do not have the firepower to compete with the Yankees and are not likely to outscore the Red Sox. So if the Rays are going to compete in the AL East, they need to be more like the ’08 Rays (2nd in the AL) and less like the ’09 Rays (7th) at preventing runs.