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In Defense of the Rays, Other Thoughts



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Aside from a farewell lunch for a departing diplomat and trip to Half Street, SW, to get the car inspected, it’s a reasonably quiet Friday, meaning that it’s as good a time as any to catch up on a few items from the past week.

Regarding the big news from last Friday, I noticed that most of the immediate reaction to whom the Rays received in return for David Price appeared decidedly negative. The three-way trade involving the Rays, Tigers, and Mariners saw the Cy Young Award winner depart for Detroit, Austin Jackson go to Seattle, and Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, and Single-A shortstop Willy Adames head south to Tampa Bay.

I wasn’t so sure:

I’ll be today’s resident contrarian then. . . . I suspect we overestimate Price’s value in [criticizing the Rays] bringing back young, cheap, and already good (not to be confused with spectacular) big-league talent, in addition to a Single-A prospect.

Someone else subsequently chimed in:

The Rays, who are run by people smarter than myself, clearly believe that from now through the end of 2015 Smyly and Franklin are likely to be more valuable than Price. They could be right. Also unclear is the question of whether they were operating under a mandate from ownership to reduce payroll and/or wanted to free up payroll space for the offseason.

Gabe Kapler of Fox Sports’ Just a Bit Outside spent much of a related column picking up on the theme that Tampa Bay’s front office has more than earned the benefit of the doubt:

If you’re listening to talk radio, you may think Andrew Friedman watched a few Nick Franklin highlights, checked out Drew Smyly’s projections for the next five years, and perhaps called up a scout who saw Adames in the Midwest League for a game or two. A quick note to Rays’ president Matt Silverman for approval, a phone call to Dave Dombrowski to execute the deal, and you’re envisioning Friedman leaning back in his office chair, satisfied and smug.

This scenario couldn’t be farther from the truth. The baseball community suggesting that the Rays took pennies on the dollar for David Price is akin to assuming that we know scouting, player development, and our sport’s analytics better than a group which has historically outperformed the industry.

Friedman and the Rays don’t mind. They are not looking to tell us how they get from point A to point B. When you have a machine that runs on a more efficient, cheaper fuel, it’s not prudent to show your competition the blueprint.

We do know a few things. These elements, crucial to the Rays’ success, are not proprietary, but certainly aren’t universally understood. Countless scouts, front office personnel, player development employees, and analytics specialists worked tirelessly to determine if this deal was the best available.

The Baseball Operations department lost sleep poring over possible outcomes. Studies were performed. Packages were weighed against each other. Qualified baseball men sat in AL Central ballparks watching Smyly pitch and in the Northwest observing Franklin. Adames was thoroughly scrutinized. Teammates were polled. Character checks were performed. Data was utilized not only from 2014, but many years before.

Perhaps someone outside the Rays organization has a better read on David Price. Remember though, this is a group that has had him since his baseball infancy. They’ve watched him develop as a pitcher, a teammate, and a man. They supported him publicly through some PR hiccups and assisted in his growth process. Ask yourself this: Who is better equipped to evaluate the piece they parted with and his value?

Have the Rays earned your faith? They’ve had six straight winning seasons out of the last six, a feat only two other clubs can claim – the Cardinals and Yankees. We know about the loot those two organizations have dropped. Of course, the Rays have done this without their payroll ever eclipsing $79 million.

***

For the legal eagles out there, Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk got his hands on “the documents supporting the temporary restraining order issued today preventing Major League Baseball and the Nationals from enforcing the arbitration which ruled in the Nationals’ favor in connection with its dispute with the Orioles over cable rights fees.” In short, “MASN is asking that the arbitration be set aside for conflict of interest for the most part.”

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Some two weeks back, I did my best to remember the day I went to Fenway Park and witnessed the brawl between Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek. My cousin, Curt, who had paid for the tickets, subsequently e-mailed me with his own memories from the conclusion of the game and aftermath. Among them:

Mariano Rivera came trotting in from he pen. “Just once,” I said to the rabid Sox fan sitting behind me, “I’d like to see him get lit up.”

Trot Nixon hit a long fly ball which Gary Sheffield hauled in on the track. I figured that was our last, best shot. When Bill Mueller got hold of one and send it deep to right I thought [the ball would be caught for the final out], but Sheffield went back to the wall then threw down his mitt in disgust. You would have thought the Sox had won it all right there on July 24th. Being Fox’s game of the week, nobody left the stadium until Jeanne Zelasco finished interviewing Mueller on field which was tied into the stadium PA system. Then a jubilant crowd finally filed out of the old park in the Fens. Complete strangers hugged you, and as I drove my car out of the parking lot I was getting high-fives, despite my New York tags.

We had missed our dinner reservations at the Olde Union Oyster House by a couple hours and I explained to the restaurant hostess on the phone why. “You were at Fenway for that game? Don’t worry, Honey, we’ll feed you,” she said.

Again, good times.

More here, here, here, and here.


Tags: MLB


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