The Rays are coming to town today, and we haven’t talked to our friends at DRays Bay in awhile. I reached out to Daniel Russell, my counterpart over there with some questions, and he kindly provided answers (I did the same for him, read my answers to his questions here.) There’s been a lot going on over in Rays-land lately, so let’s hear what he has to say about his team.
TT: 1. The Rays are sitting at second place in the AL East, with a pretty decent record. The Yankees are now the favorite by odds to win the AL, and Boston is lurking around doing Boston things, so what are your expectations for this season? Do the Rays have a chance to win their division, or at least a wild card? What would kind of finish would make you guys happy--in other words, is a playoff appearance enough, or do you need to go deeper?
DRB: Being the last team eliminated from the playoffs last year hurt. There was a feeling that the team was good enough and capable enough for a strong playoff run last year, and this year’s team is certainly better, so failing to make the playoffs would be a massive disappointment. There will always be a chance to win the division, the three big teams tend to oscillate throughout the season (the Rays were previously in first place). Anything can happen, but Tampa Bay needs to be in the playoffs -- and beyond a one-game Wild Card play-in -- for this season to be a success.
2. We love Rocco Baldelli so far. What do you think of his performance as a manager? Is it a surprise, or was he one of those guys you knew it was inevitable with? I think we talked about him before, but any other fun stories or facts about him you can share?
I think the hallmark for a new manager doing well is not hearing any negative stories, and thus far that’s true for Rocco. One of my writers put together a retrospective of his career that’s worth your time: https://www.draysbay.com/2019/5/30/18645581/rocco-baldelli-twins-rays-manager-player
3. Back on the topic of the Rays, they look built for the future. Is this a core you can see sticking together and winning some baseball, or is this just the product of churning a lot of talent, and it’s likely to be blown up at some point? We all know Tampa’s reputation as savvy talent developers, but does it turn into a World Series again at some point?
There are certainly pieces the Rays intend to stay: Zunino, Adames, Lowe, and Kiermaier up the middle are longterm assets, while the team’s best two hitters are in the corners of the outfield in Pham and Meadows, with both sitting on years of arbitration remaining. Add in Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, and there’s certainly a strong foundation for a run longer than a year or two. The window for competing is open!
4. What the hell is going with your stadium situation? Obviously, everyone knows Tropicana field is bad, and Florida has a ton of pro sports teams to compete with for stadium dollars. It sounds like this Montreal thing is a ploy to get someone to pony up, but who? Is Sternberg going to kick in some cash to make this happen, or is it entirely on the state? Is there a realistic chance the Rays leave? What do you make of this whole mess (and we’ve been there, we faced down contraction in the late ‘90s, and had to fight tooth and nail to get Target Field built.)
Contraction is not the concern here; the Rays are staring down the barrel of the gun of relocation, and the front office seems dedicated to preserving baseball in some way in Tampa Bay, as opposed to watching it slip away. I see this as part creative thinking and part desperate measure. In other words, I don’t think it’s a ploy, but we’ll know more about the team’s intentions at the press conference on Tuesday. If it works, there’s more money all around, and Sternberg should be able to contribute what’s needed for a stadium in Tampa. The proposal seems to be aimed at maximizing revenue from two partial markets instead of struggling in one.
5. Who are some players we haven’t heard of that will probably impact the series?
Have you heard of Joey Wendle? Because he’s finally healthy and might be platooning at third base with brand new call up Michael Brosseau, a bat first infielder. The two of them are in while Yandy Diaz nurses a hamstring issue.
6. Okay, who wins this series, and why? My prediction is that the Twins take two, with one going to extra innings. Seems to be our lot in life lately.
Given how the Rays have played in the last week, I’m not gonna argue with the team only taking one. It’s been a downward trajectory as the team is facing 47 games in 48 days, with today the rare off-day.
7. Was there anything I should have asked but didn’t?
Emilio Pagan is the reliever you should be afraid of right now. The other high leverage relievers are not on the active roster.
How many games do the Twins win against the Rays?
This poll is closed
3 (Twins sweep)
0 (Rays sweep)