Tampa Bay Devil Rays! New Look, New Name, Making Some Deals And Possibly A New Field!
- Updated: December 14, 2007
This is an article I found & I thought it was worth publishing on the site. This is one Tampa Bay Rays fan’s perspective, but I think Joe Gonzales, the author of the article below, has reason to be excited. Good for them! The Red Sox and Yankees could use the extra competition to stay sharp in a 162 game season (hey, it couldn’t hurt). I actually liked their core of talent in 2007, they just needed better pitching beyond the top 2 starters & a better bullpen. With the moves they’ve made so far this off season, I think they should be, at worst, a .500 team! Now onto Joe’s article. Brace yourself, it’s a long one, but I think, worth the read!
Tampa Bay Devil Rays! New Look, New Name, Making Some Deals And Possibly A New Field!
By Joe Gonzales
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now just the Tampa Bay Rays) ownership are possibly turning the corner with this franchise. I’m a die hard fan of the Rays and throughout their short existence I have pretty much, each season we have started, had come to the conclusion it wouldn’t be a good one. Though, the tides may be turning.
The ownership is showing very good signs of doing what it takes to get this team, franchise and fan base out from the basement.
First, there was the announcement of the new uniforms. I personally didn’t think there was a problem with our image. I liked the green. I thought our uniforms were conservative (which most teams uniforms are in Major League Baseball), had decent color scheme which didn’t look like any other team and for some reason, I actually liked the vest style uniforms they often wore. The uniforms obviously weren’t the problem with this team. We all know that but I can see why the ownership would want a change.
I think for one, they want everyone to know, especially the fans here in Tampa that this is a new ownership and a new beginning. I think they want you to see Tampa (well, St. Petersburg which is in the Tampa Bay area) and what the area (and state of Florida, FL.) for that matter is all about when you look at them. Sunshine, water (the bay and beaches) and color, in this case blue which does go well for our area.
I will however miss the green uniforms. There were some good moments and images made with the Rays in those green uniforms, especially this 2007 season, such as Carl Crawford’s natural steal of home base, B.J. Upton’s natural steal of home base, Carlos Pena knocking out 40+ home runs and Scott Kazmir and James Shields pitching as two the top and incredibly hard to hit pitchers the league.
But, I can’t complain. I wanted change with this team like all of us fans here I just didn’t think initially that changing uniforms was the plan. I just wanted them to spend 10-20 million on the bullpen. Heck, we had a ton of talent this year everywhere else especially hitting, in the outfield, major improvements in the infield and with our two top starter pitchers. Little did I know though, the uniform change was just the beginning!
The Tampa Rays ownership and organization then announced plans for the development of a new stadium at the site of Al Lang Field in Saint Petersburg, Florida as well as the redevelopment of the existing site at Tropicana Field which would become a residential and shopping community further prospering the growth of the City of St. Petersburg and it’s surrounding communities.
The plan though has not yet been approved but does sound promising as the Rays organization has promised no increased taxes, the payoff of the current, I think 10 or 12 year lease of Tropicana Field and its land by investments and profits from the new development that would go in its place and then additional funds from team itself. Obviously there is a lot more that goes into all that and I don’t know many details but from what I have heard, it sounds like the Tampa Rays ownership has a very good plan and the City of St. Petersburg’s Mayor supports it.
I felt a bit of excitement though when I heard about plans for the new stadium. Tropicana, though not really all that bad of a field, just doesn’t give you the feel of Major League Baseball. I grew up playing 12 years of baseball. I love the game. I love baseball in the outdoors and there is just nothing that compares to watching a ball game in an outdoor stadium. But, I do understand why they chose the dome from the beginning. It gets really friggen hot here in Tampa sometimes and the humidity makes it worse. During baseball season we get a lot of rain as well which obviously could cause problems with ball games that they just don’t have with the Tampa Bay Bucs (due to time of year) or Tampa Bay Lightning (because hockey here must be played indoors). Both of those factors, I’m sure; we’re the main ones in deciding where the Rays would play when they were born.
New ownership has taken into account those factors when it comes to the new stadium. The stadium design, which doesn’t have the possibility of a hard roof, sits 20 feet from the bay and only seats 35,000 – 40,000 fans (with the possibly of a bunch more with additional temporary bleachers) has a really long (I don’t know what to call it but it looks kind of like a mass from a sail boat) slanted pillar beyond center field which would support a pulley type system that would lift two large tarp (looking) covers over the stadium providing shade on really scorching days or protection from rain when it falls. And we all know it will! So, the design, though odd compared to other Major League Stadiums is quite interesting and capable of handling the elements provided by Mother Nature here in Tampa.
Now, even with uniform changes and the proposed plans for a new stadium, it just wasn’t tickling the fans enough to believe in this franchise. But, the ownership I think is starting to get the attention of the fans when it comes to personnel on the field.
Prior to the winter meetings, the Tampa Bay Rays aggressively made some moves initiating a 6 player trade with the Minnesota Twins to ship off 2007 Rookie of the Year runner up Delmond Young, 2007 comeback and reliable shortstop Brendan Harris and Minor League pitcher Jason Pridie for a top starting pitcher in Matt Garza, a reliable shortstop and above average hitter (though had a bad season last year) in Jason Bartlett, and Minor League reliever Eduardo Morlan. The Rays did have some bargaining power this year with the talent they had on the field and reserve talent in the minors and it appears they are using that to fix their pitching issues. Now, with Garza, the Rays have a formidable 3rd starter who may very well be a 2nd or 1st starter on some clubs but with the Rays Kazmir and Shields, he will likely be the 3rd starter creating a top 3 that will compete with all, yes all, clubs in Major League Baseball.
Jason Bartlett, if he returns to form which most think he will, will come in and solidify the infield at shortstop as Brendan Harris is off to the Twins, Josh Wilson is lost on waivers to the Pirates, Akinori Iwamura moves to 2nd base (announced this week) and Carlos Pena at first. The big question right now though is if Evan Longoria is ready to come up to the big leagues and go into the 3rd base position. Most say he should be there but the Rays are looking as we speak in finding depth for third base. We know that Akinori Iwamura is a good fit at 3rd base but if Longoria is ready, you will be looking at one of the best infields in all of baseball.
Aside from 3rd base, the Rays are also looking to add depth at right field now that Delmond Young is off to the Twins. Currently, the Rays have Carl Crawford in left field, B.J. Upton in center (what an awesome adjustment Upton and the Rays made in playing him there), and Rocco Baldelli (hopefully he can stay healthy) and Johnny Gomes in right.
I’m not sold on Baldelli or Gomes in right. If Baldelli can stay healthy the Rays will have the best outfield in all of baseball. If Gomes takes right field, well, sure, he’s very capable of playing right field but there’s a ton of if’s for him at the plate. So, depth at that position, which would also contribute to depth for the DH role, is one of the Rays goals this preseason.
Lastly I should mention the catcher position. Dioner Navarro did not impress last year. He may have come on strong late but still, just not much to be impressed with. The Rays will be looking for depth at Catcher without doubt.
Ok, with all that said, let’s go over a few other moves the organization has made.
Maybe even the most noted deal the Rays have made is the signing of closer Troy Percival. C’mon Rays fans! You have got to love this. Sure he had an injury which cost him some MLB time but he was great last year, we go him on a good deal this year, he’s a veteran and will help the bullpen, oh, and, he can pitch pretty damn awesome still. I just love this signing. I applaud the Rays for getting him.
Next, we have dealt with trouble with Elijah Dukes. The Rays have traded Dukes to the Washington Nationals for Minor League left-hander Glenn Gibson. Again, a good move! We don’t need the issues Dukes gives us. Sure, he could be and probably will be a very good ball player but not here. He has had too much trouble here (not with the Rays but just personally). Glenn Gibson though has very good potential and very good stuff. A couple years down the road and he may be pitching full-time for the Rays. To me, a good deal and I am sure we saved some dough here as well.
Let’s just face it! I know we all want to win now but we still have to have talent in the minors for the future and Dukes, well, he just wasn’t in our future. Gibson has the potential to be and I think this was a very smart move on behalf of the organization.
Lastly, the Rays have sold their No. 1 Rule 5 Draft selection of Tim Lahey to the Chicago Cubs for $150,000.
Ok, why not? The Rays have good talent in the minors so loosing one isn’t that big of deal and they need some money (well, maybe need isn’t the word; more like could just use a lot more extra).
So, aside from that, there are some things that the Rays will still be looking to do this off-season. They need to shore up the catcher position that is important. They need to find some depth for right that will contribute in the DH position preferably a left hander.
Also there are talks of possibly more deals. The Rays may be looking to go after a veteran bullpen pitcher such as Ron Mahay. They may also try to go after left-hander outfielders or players to fill the DH position such as Cliff Floyd, Luis Gonzalez, Luke Scott or possibly even Josh Hamilton.
One thing is for sure and the Rays have made it clear, we will improve. We will start winning!
Well, I friggen hope so!