“Tampa Bay Rays one bat away from 2012 World Series”

That is the title of the latest column from John Romano of the St. Pete Times.

One bat. That’s all it will take.

One bat. And I like the Rays better than the Yankees or Red Sox.

One bat. And I think Tampa Bay is back in the World Series in 2012.

Romano does say that this is “overly simplified” and “probably overly optimistic.”

Actually, we think he is spot-on. But unfortunately, it is also all-too-familiar, and unlikely to be fixed.

The Rays were one bat away from returning to the World Series in 2009. The team realized this and added Pat Burrell.

The Rays were still one bat away in 2010 when they tried to trade Burrell for Milton Bradley and signed Hank Blalock to a minor league deal.
Both Burrell and Blalock were eventually released.

And last year of course, it was Manny Ramirez. And we all know how well that turned out.

The Rays are always “just one bat away.” The problem is, the Rays aren’t going to spend the money, or the resources (e.g. starting pitchers), to go out and get a proven bat that doesn’t come with some major flaws.

And so, the Rays will continue to be inconsistent offensively. And next year, we can all sit back and talk about how the Rays are still “just one bat away.”

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28 Comments

  1. Beth says:

    I wonder if John Romano knows this, and figures he can safely write one column that gets recycled every few years.

    But in fairness, pre-2008 no one was ever saying they were one bat away. So there's progress.

    More interesting, to me, is why a system that has succeeded in developing pitching has not been able to develop hitters as well. After all, with limited resources the Rays could also always be "one arm" away from greatness -- and yet that's not the case.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      "But in fairness, pre-2008 no one was ever saying they were one bat away. So there’s progress."

      Definitely. And to a certain extent, I think Carlos Pena gave the front office (and the fans) a false sense of how easy it is to find undervalued sluggers.

      I think the Rays way of mining the scrap-heap works great in the bullpen and for bench/role players. But how often are you going to find an MVP-type bat really cheap that every other team in baseball missed on? We are learning that it is not as easy as Carlos Pena made it seem.

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      • Sarah says:

        Yeah, they've used the scrap-heap approach to fill in those mix and match roles.

        But they've now got 8 potential big league quality starters, all of whom they either drafted or obtained through trades as prospects.

        So why haven't they drafted or acquired hitting prospects of equal quality? Their home grown position players are led by Longoria; others (Upton, Brignac) have underperformed based on expectations. Jennings is still an unknown. I don't know whether growing good pitching is just easier; or if the Rays' staff is just better at it; or if the RFO made a decision some years back that their strategy would be to grow pitching and try to trade for hitting.

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    • allen wynne says:

      abreu, crawford, hamilton, baldelli, delmon young. nothing ever worked out for the best. and BJ was suppose to work out too

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  2. Michael says:

    Sam Fuld will bunt us to glory

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  3. Brianknowsbest says:

    To be fair we didnt have 8 starting pitchers in those years. We have a little more to work with here.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      this definitely a fair comment. But I don't see the Rays going out and trading for Hanley Ramirez either. More likely, they are going to land 2-3 solid prospects and hope that one turns into a solid middle of the order bat. And that's not helping in 2012.

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  4. Cody says:

    In an ideal world, the Rays would:

    Re-sign Kotchman, or sign Luke Scott at 1B

    Sign Luke Scott, Carlos Pena or Damon as a DH

    Trade Brignac and a pitcher to Atlanta for Martin Prado

    And boom. World Series worthy.

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    • No. says:

      Yeah, Luke Scott. A broken down clubhouse racist teabagging ass. He'd be a great fit for the Tampa Bay area. No, I mean that honestly, not sarcastic. I'm sure Upton, Price and Molina would love having him throw chicken wings and plantain chips at them.

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  5. Don says:

    Rays are one Jason Bartlett (.325) hittting SS and one Buster Posey (pass in the Draft) from being unbeatable......
    Too BAD....so sad...money is tight....How about Shoppach at $3mil. and a couple of .200 hitting SS....can we win the WS with them???

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  6. Joe says:

    I have had my problems with Romano, for being inconsistent and somewhat hypocritical. I know being an armchair quarterback is a lot easier than being a GM, but come on John (and I said this in the comments there too), if they cared, THEY ALREADY WOULD HAVE ADDRESSED IT. We know why they can't or won't, their pitching and defensive model doesn't fit into it. So, to me, its an empty piece meant to appease people like me, but instead further show why the Rays are frugal.

    As Cork said, its not the Rays way to trade for an established player, they want that player to have as little as service time possible, and then try to sign that player to a TEAM FRIENDLY contract. And my continued problem is the Rays don't want to be flexible with this practice. It's ok to dabble in free agents, its ok to spend a 3 year 21 million dollar deal. Its as if the Rays hate the winter and rather live for the draft?!

    As far as Romano goes, he's a shill for Stu, just as Topkin and Shelton are. I have HAD IT with the Times GROSS bias towards Stu Sternberg for him without ANY SHRED of criticism towards him and his agenda, not even one major second guess. It's as if we are children and the Times is Stu's best friend.

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  7. Joe says:

    Let me say this, for as great as the Rays young pitchers are, will SOMEONE STEP up and become THE Cy Young level force that any number one on any other team will fear? Price was the closest thing in '10 to being that, but took that step back. Shields, for as many CG's he throws, just doesn't to me still have snap dragon fire in the belly PURE ACE. We can have 5 number 2's and without the ONE, how good is it? You can be nickeled and dimed as the Rangers proved in the postseason. I just want someone to claim the throne and TAKE IT!

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    • Drew says:

      It can be good enough to get you to the playoffs with a horrible offense.

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    • Tom says:

      "Snap dragon fire in the belly" Not sure what that is but I think it is something Shields needs to avoid.

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      • Joe says:

        I am talking about a start in the playoffs where he KNOWS he has to go 8 or 9 and strikes out 9-12 batters.... I just want a Rays pitcher that we KNOW is going to instill fear in the opponent (the whole media recognizes this too), that you can chalk up a win for the Rays regardless.

        We got craftsmen and professionals, I can't wait for the Rays to have an ASSASIN in our rotation

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        • Sarah says:

          Sorry, Joe, but that sounds like crap to me.

          Shields and Price seem like two of the most competitive people alive. Any more fire in the belly and they'd need to have it surgically removed. And to dismiss Shield's many CGs -- how do you think I guy gets through 9 innings of major league pitching without some very serious fire in the belly? His CGs not only included a number of close victories; they helped save the bullpen so that they were able to do their jobs through September.

          Effective pitchers strike fear into the hearts of opposing hitters, and we've got those. I have no idea what you mean by an "assassin" (or in your words assasin) in our rotation.Both Shields and Price have had Cy Young caliber years, Price in 2010 and Shields in 2011. How much better were they supposed to be? Honestly, you are looking at this Rays team and what you find to complain about is their starting pitching?

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          • Joe says:

            Sarah, I know what you are saying, sorry. I just value the shutdown, forget about today pitcher. The Rays rotation is filled with above average starters who night in and night out give you the chance to win. And in the playoffs, you got the added caveat of being tired.

            I went more off about this in the more current thread. I don't dislike what we got, but either we don't have the right kind of that ONE pitcher, OR we are asking our pitchers to do too much. So, I do love a stat line of a pitcher who wins you 22-24 games a year, pitches 210 IP, strikes out 230-270K and an era of about 2.5. You know with that you are probably a Triple Crown winner like Kershaw is in LA, and you know you have a shot of winning that contest. And if the offensive production was there, those win totals can go higher than that. Not everyone can win 25 like what Guidry did in 1978. But there is a level that is higher than what our starters are, and what I am trying to eloquate is can one of them jump up there and stay there? I say its Price, but I am hoping he comes in ready to do it.

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        • Dave L says:

          I second the crap motion.

          We tap out in the playoffs because of anemic hitting not because Bob Gibson is not in the rotation.

          Is our starting pitching perfect? No but I wouldnt blame our playoff woes on the strongest faction of the team

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  8. Joe says:

    Understood, but disagree, ONLY in the sense the other team knows the game is over before it starts. We don't have that kind of starter yet. Shields is susceptible to being beaten 2-1 by yes, anemic hitting. No argument from me, so then ok, why not win that 1-0 game where the 1 run feels like 9? Matt Moore brought that big start in the playoffs and Shields in Game 2 was struck by the bad inning, and voila, we were beaten.

    So forgive me when talking about an assassin. Verlander is that. Sabathia when right is that. The Rays have the most quality starting rotation in the bigs that does NOT have that. Call me jaded, but that is what its all about. Pedro Martinez was that. Halladay most days is that.

    The Rays how constitued force themselves to win the 1-0 game. And shame on them for not doing it (or they will say shame on the fans for not showing up ) :) !

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    • Tom says:

      Prior to Verlander when was the last time a pitcher had 22-24 wins, 230-270K's and a 2.5 ERA?

      As to Halladay, you do realize he lost game 5 of the NLCS. I guess someone forgot to tell Carpenter and the Cards that the game was over before it started.

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      • Joe says:

        And that game took one mistake right? In a game played at the high end, one mistake and game over. Carpenter has been and can be at a higher level than what our guys have done TO THIS POINT.

        That is NOT saying that one of our guys can carpe diem and seize the moment.

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    • Sarah says:

      Joe, I don't know why I can't leave this alone, because clearly you are so lacking in logic on this topic that there's no point in discussion.

      But let's just say that if your standard for good pitching is the 2011 Verlander then you might as well accept the fact that you will never be happy.

      You say "Sabathia when right is that," but I would add "Price and Shields, when right, are that." Many top tier pitchers "when right" can shut down a game, and the Rays starters are "right" more often than those of most team's. Remember those two games in which Sabathia and Shields met head to head within about two weeks? The Yankees won the first 1-0 on an unearned run; the Rays won the second 2-1. Do you think the Yankees were any happier to face Shields than the Rays were to face Sabathia?

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      • Joe says:

        Not trying to win an argument, trying to state something that our guys big game reputation is not yet been earned. It can be earned going forward.

        I am not trying to win anything. I know this isn't 1968. Heck, I was born in 77. Can we see a Jack Morris type of start for crying out loud? Garza's Game 7 start against Boston stands to be the biggest big game start ever, and we see our guys working with a margin of error that is too miniscule to avoid. I was talking about more in the more newer thread, its as if the front office can't lose on anything?

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  9. steve says:

    I know what this article is trying to say and I agree with it to a point, but I think AF realizes that this might be this clubs best chance to go to and WIN the WS. We were in on Willingham and now we are in on Beltran allegedly. I have faith that Freidman is going to bring an impact bat to team without giving up one of the top pitchers. Guzman in SD seems like he doesn't have a spot now even after his performance last year, maybe we can work a trade with SD for one of there 10 1b on their 40 man. After all I don't really think we need a middle of the order bat, I think we just need to be more consistent 7-9 which was 3 easy outs for the opposing pitchers too often last year. Can't afford to give pitchers easy innings in the playoffs. A bounce back year from Briggy, resign Damon and a Blanks/Guzman for Davis/Neimann trade would make me very optimistic about 2012.

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  10. steve says:

    And we weren't blown away by the Rangers we were very close to them last year. If the HP ump doesn't rule that ball foul in that 5 run TEX inning in game 2 and we left that inning tied at 3 we might be talking very differently right now. Even with just resigning Kotch and Damon I believe this team is very capable of winning the WS. Maybe I'm just a homer.

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    • Raysfan137 says:

      I'm not about to join the debate. Just want to say it is nice to see someone noticing the glass is more than half full. Some of these dialogs get so caught up in the funk of discontent. Heck, I'm even willing to say we have a shot despite re-upping with Shelton :). I can certainly live with another year of Damon and Kotch if it that's what it come down to. At the end of the day, if that's our worst choice, we're in good shape.

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