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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Paging someone smart, paging someone smart

That leaves me out.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, or just Rays or whatever, are in the playoffs. I know this is true because I turned on the TV last night and there they were, winning ANOTHER playoff game. And it said RAYS right there on their uniforms.

Imagine the uproar if this little blog existed a year ago and I wrote, "A year from now, the nation will watch with jaws on the ground as the Washington Nationals participate in baseball's playoffs."

The laughter would have been loud and long.

But here they are, the Rays. The freaking Rays. About to move one step closer to the WORLD SERIES!

How did this happen? Could anyone have seen this coming? Did all the pieces fall into place all of a sudden? Did they catch lightning in a bottle, pull a Nats of 2005 and just keep it going all year?


What I'm driving at - is there any realistic reason to think this could happen to our favorite team in 2009? Should I be full of hope or just continue to be green with envy?


Nate said...

We'd need about another 5-6 years of being one of the worst teams in baseball to really replicate the Rays experiment? Are you game?

MikeHarris said...

I'm game, my heart may disagree.
There was no middle ground. They went from "suck" to the playoffs.

Steven said...

A lot of people had the Rays improving to about .500. Very few if any preseason picks had them winning 97. It's all the more unlikely given that Upton, Crawfod, and Kazmir didn't have great years.

The misperception is that they did it by stockpiling high 1s. That's not right. Longoria and Upton were high picks, and Garza and Bartlett were that great-for-both teams deal for Delmon Young, who was a high pick. But Pena was a reclamation project. Crawford was a 2. Balfour came over for Seth McClung. Shields, Jackson, and Sonnanstine were late picks. Kazmir was fleeced from the Mets. JP Howell was a great trade for Gathright. Navarro came in a trade for Mark Hendrickson. Iwamura was an int'l FA. Floyd was a cheap FA.

So how did they do it? They have been very good at scouting and projecting players and made lots of good moves. Scouting, drafting, and player devo aren't a crap shoot. These are repeatable skills. Some guys are better at it than others. Bowden's successes are below-average, not-quite-horrible guys like Redding and Perez. The Rays successes are all-stars. Bowden has lots of excuses. The Rays could all claim the same excuses--payroll, no blue-chip veterans to trade, etc... but instead they were just way better at this than our guy.

Steven said...

In other words, being a low-payroll, worst team in baseball for a decade wasn't the key. In fact, for much of their time as one of the worst teams in baseball they were the epitome of high-payroll dumb-ness under Chuck Lamar spending big dollars on the likes of Vinny Castilla, Jose Canseco, Ben Grieve, Fred McGriff, Greg Vaughn and Wilson Alvarez. Only in the last 4-5 years or so have they become a low-payroll team.

You have to be smart, not rich, to win in MLB. Being dumb and cheap is bad, but being dumb and rich isn't much if any better.

Hendo said...

Also, let us note that the Rays' guys are peaking all at once and have stayed healthy.

Can they do it again next year? Maybe, with the devil's own luck, and some offseason spending. Without the spending, I've got a lot of doubts.

Steven said...

no question about what Hendo says. Developing good young players may help you get good for a while, but you have to spend to stay good and keep those players through their peak years. That's where the spending really matters--the Phillies are a good example. Lots of home grown talent but they resigned their good players through their late 20s and 30s--Utley, Howard, Rollins, etc. But again that's why FA isn't very fruiftul. Most teams re-sign those very good players until they are into their declining years.

Hendo said...

Good point by Steven. Spending alone doesn't do it either. And signing your young guys to long-term contracts helps build your core.

They have a good young rotation. Their age in the bullpen (Percival, Miller) may be a bit worrisome.

And do they have a guy ready to back up Cliff Floyd -- and to back up whoever is the backup?

Steven said...

Don't forget they did this with down years from Kazmir, Crawford and BJ Upton. They could be better next year.

George Templeton said...

Draft well and sign (Longoria, Crawford)

Trade well (Garza and Bartlett/Kazmir)

Develop a lot of good young pitching (Sonnanstine, Shields)

Get lucky with scrap heap signings (Percival, Carlos Pena, Edwin Jackson, Grant Balfour)

You don't need to be the worst team in the league for a number of years, you need good management (getting rid of Chuck Lamar was the start). The question is whether Jim Bowden constitutes good management (on balance, I would say no).

We have some of those elements (not all of them), and they may well bubble all at once some year (like it did with the Rays) or it might be gradual (like the Tigers rise was).

What I hope is that unlike the Rays we have ownership willing to spend the money on a big ticket item that may help this alonmg (I ain't holding my breath on that).