Results tagged ‘ Rays front office ’

Rays Need to Fill their Clubhouse Void


 The Tampa Bay Rays front office and my moles have gone silent. The organization seems to have again gone into their seasonal Black Ops mode when finalizing and considering their list of targets for the current 2010 Hot Stove season. But just like a hunter, the Rays have their scouting department scouring the countryside for videos and research that will point their direction towards a few of their prized prey.

And with another banner set to be raised to the rafters in April 2011, the Rays have the young talent and pitching to again cause some havoc in the American League East. But the 2010 season took a toll on the young team as they saw 5 of their top 6 2010 salary earners exit the franchise 40-man roster on Sunday morning. The team saw a combined $ 40 million in 2010 salaries instantly fall off their books which was almost 55 percent of their 2010 outgoing financial picture for Rays players.

Firmly in the Rays off season sights is a way to stop the bleeding in their Bullpen while finding a viable fiscal and physical solution to losing Carlos Pena, who was the franchise’s all-time Home Run and Walks leader. But even more important for the Rays will be to find a player who can take a firm hold of the clubhouse legacy started by Pena and embrace it with the same passion and commitment Pena held for his Rays teammates. It might be one of the most difficult finds for the Rays front office this off season.

The main problem with losing a person like Pena and his ability to command this Rays clubhouse is that you can never match up the team again with that personality and intensity type, but you look for a figure who commands the respect and can take the reins in the clubhouse without a power struggle or in fighting. That is a rare thing to find as ex-Rays slugger Pat Burrell found out in 2009 when he accosted B J Upton in the Rays locker room thinking he had the support of the team, then suddenly found out he was not in the power loop.

This will be a delicate acquisition because the Rays need to find a player who can step into the Rays spotlight and also share it with all 25 members of the roster at the same moment. A balance of power and charm might be in order to adhere to the Rays request for another clubhouse leader. But some say that the omission of Pena in 2011 will bring out the leadership gene in Rays players like All-Stars Evan Longoria and David Price. Or the departure of Pena could smooth the way for possibly fellow starter Matt Garza to take an expanded role within the confines of the clubhouse.
What the Rays put on the field is extremely important in 2011. But they can not forget the guys still left here who will instantly feel a bit of a vacuum void left by the departure of Pena. This is not to underestimate the comedic misadventures and antics of Andy Sonnanstine, who can come up with awesome off-the-cuff pranks and actions, but a solid core of confidence needs to be solidified before the beginning of the 2011 season. The void in the Rays clubhouse is not huge, but to not fill it or even attempt to mend it’s gap could be disastrous for the team as the season progresses.

Maybe the Rays could set their gun sights on someone like Free Agent Jim Thome who might command a salary like Pena’s, but could provide a instant patch to their leadership and Designated Hitter hole with ease. No longer can the Rays set their sights firmly just upon possibly inviting Pena again into the Rays sanctuary. Even with Pena’s past vocally adamant wants to return to the Rays, can a financially adequate figure be reached without hindering the rest of the Rays off season secret double agent game plan.

Not only will the Rays be trying to find players to take over the missing pieces in their roster, they will be trying to glue together a few ripped apart seams in their clubhouse character. This might be more difficult than finding a guy who can hit over 30 Home Runs, or hold hitters to under a 3.00 ERA as a reliever. Physical ability is always available within the cycles of players who yearn for a shot in the Major Leagues, but sometimes character and leadership is not their game or part of their professional credo.

The departure of Rays leadership by players like Pena, Carl Crawford and Dan Wheeler will be truly missed in the Rays clubhouse, but hopefully the Rays front office has a secret plan in the grasps of their fingertips that can rectify and eliminate this gap with clarity and confidence.

And the move to fill this leadership void might just be the biggest hole to fill this off season. One of the biggest mistakes a team can do is eliminate a team’s heart and soul and not repair it or replace it with a honest effort to bring harmony and confidence that will build from the Spring to Fall. The Rays need to bring someone else in who can “Do that dance”.

Sternberg to Start the Rays “Baby Steps”

Rays Covert (Signing) Ops Team nets them Leslie Anderson

Trying to follow the Tampa Bay Rays Front Office is becoming more difficult as their “silence is golden” trade chatter blackout grip has become even more tight-lipped and further tweaked beyond any type of white noise in the last few seasons. Now that the Rays can effectively have out-of-sight, out-of-mind multiple Rays staffers and attorneys cloaked in darkness back in the Rays offices in St. Petersburg do a lot of the legwork out of the vision of any eagle eyed journalists or bloggers, getting any morsel or tasty tidbit is getting particularly difficult for us to supply to the Rays baseball hungry fans. 

And today’s announcement of the Rays signing the former Cuban National Team multi-positional player Leslie Anderson to a $ 3.75million /4 year contract, the signing had most of us online, and sniffing around the team’s Spring Training complex caught completely off guard by this Rays move. Most of the Rays Republic knew that the Rays had set their sights by offering a possible contract to fellow Cuban refugee Jose Julio Ruiz in February. And some people actually thought the Rays might have had an upper hand in possibly signing Ruiz seeing that Tampa Bay had the second highest Hispanic population in the Southeastern segment of the United States.

The Rays presented Ruiz’s agent with a $ 2 million offer back in February, but with the recent hurricane brewing within Ruiz’s camp with his firing of his agent, and the ensuing turmoil, maybe the Rays quickly switched their previous focal point on Ruiz, and took another route without being noticed, and ultimately signed the versatile 27-year old Anderson.

And the wild part is that Anderson, who is also a left-handed hitter like Ruiz, might end up being the most versatile of the two players having played both First Base and the Centerfield for Camaguey in the Cuban Baseball League before leaving Cuba in September and becoming available to all 30 Major League Baseball clubs this January.

This signing might just be a great future insurance policy for the Rays since Anderson has been projected to be able to play multiple positions. And with the possibilities of Anderson also playing any of the three outfield positions, it increased the Rays appetite to include Anderson to their system. Most fans might remember Anderson has played Rightfield for the Cuban National Team during the last two World Baseball Classics. 

Before Anderson was moved to First Base while with Camaguey in 2009, he was the team’s starting Centerfielder and considered a great gap hitter with the potential for at least 15-20 Home Runs at the Major League level. And with Anderson’s potential to play all three outfield positions, plus First Base, Anderson brings to the plate another interesting set of future scenarios if the Rays can not entertain Carl Crawford or Carlos Pena to stay with the team when their contracts expire following the 2010 season.

Anderson might actually be a more advanced in his plate discipline than Ruiz, and boasts some really impressive numbers while with Camaguey, where he finished fifth in the Cuban Baseball League with a .381 Batting Average. But more impressive still might be his almost identical numbers against left-handers (.379) and right-handers (.383) to show that Anderson might just be the great addition to the Rays future roster by showing superior numbers from both sides of the plate and might end the Rays platooning outfield spots in the near future. 

And you got to give Rays Director of Scouting R J Harrison and Rays Director of International Relations, Carlos Alfonso a huge double high-five on their department’s Black Ops work to go totally on the deep down low and stay completely off the baseball radar with possible baseball workouts with Anderson without causing any sort of attention being focused towards the Rays or Anderson taking place this Spring.



And you know it was not a small group of Rays staffers’ involved in trying to keep this quiet, but it still amazes me time after time how the Rays have been so silent until they finally announce their signings without a lot of rumor chatter. The usual rumors that have been played have come from the other player’s reps or agents and not from within the Rays office. That in itself is amazing to me.


But this is the path that baseball is beginning to take with instant communications by a bevy of options available at our fingertips. With the addition of instant video conferencing even by cellphone now, baseball workouts can be broadcast back to team officials on a constant stream of video while the players participate in hitting, or even fielding in an arranged simulated game. And maybe the Rays might be viewed as ruining the trade system by staying tightlipped before getting a player’s John Hancock on the dotted line, but in essence, if that is what it takes to get the job done, then I am all for this new Rays personnel mentality. 

Anderson’s signing was not expected by most of us following the Rays this Spring. Most of us within the Rays Republic thought the team was slowly reeling in Ruiz towards finally signing with the Rays instead of hauling in another big fish like Anderson. Reality is that the Rays could still maybe also sign Ruiz in the near future as another future fixture to combat high payroll concerns. And both players effectively co-existing on the same Rays roster should bring a level of excitement to Rays fans. And maybe that is another unsung victory for the Rays scouting department and office staff in not only getting Anderson signed, sealed and delivered, but covering it all in a cloak of mystery, which is really impressive.

Who knows to what extent Anderson will benefit the Rays in 2010, but you know he will have a definite imprint on future Rays squads, and maybe a possible new competition battle in the Spring of 2011 as he makes his mark within the Rays farm system. Looking at both the positives and negatives of both players, the Rays might have picked the one total package multi-dimensional player who will not bring both a sense of drama and uncertainty instantly towards the Rays franchise’s system. 

It is still too early to project any possible scenarios for Anderson, but I could see him being assigned to either Double-A Montgomery and worked out at first base, and then begin his rise through the Rays system with a possible MLB debut date in Tropicana Field maybe in September 2010. And if he does get to the Major League level in 2010, could Anderson be one of those late season additions that propels the Rays again towards the Playoffs. This might not happen, but I like to be optimistic when I talk about these 2010 Rays. Because I really feel another “Magical”-type season brewing under the surface and this Anderson signing could be a great ingredient to the total mixture.


Crisis brewing in the Tampa Bay Tidepool


1 out of 8 citizens within Tampa Bay region currently do not have the luxury of report to a job on a daily basis. And it is this impending economic pickle that might finally sour the Rays Front Office to this region effectively corralling the numbers needed to support the team in the next 5 or 6 seasons. With the team basically coming “out front” and telling their fan base they have collectively “borrowed” money for payroll from future Rays squads, this might be a sign of leaner times for the Rays until the entire economic system rebounds and again begins a healthy upswing.


But this is also a National crisis, but the media and blogs posted in the past month or so questioning this region’s passion and love for the game are ridiculous. These same postings do not address solutions within the region, but point to outer posts or locales where a “healthy” revenue stream can be obtained with minimal effort by the men who guard the coffers. And with their statements, they do not even surface emphasize or firmly grasp this region’s struggles to simply tread water right now because they are not down in the Rays trenches on a first hand basis, and seeing the growing fan base increasing potential and the beaming pride from the ground level of both young and old fans in the stands.

They point to the black-and-white facts of the Rays lacking great local Corporate support and ticket sales, or even the abysmal Season Ticket holder numbers which in comparison would look firmly out of context numbers when stood next to the Corporate support shown within the large capital cities of industry like New York, Philadelphia or Boston, which have over 100 years of baseball support systems in place to form a solid fan foundation compared to the less than 20 years of total Tampa Bay’s Major League Baseball existence.
I have seen recent postings by the people throwing stones at this region for not showing “undying” gratitude or support to the Rays after their tremendous 2008 Playoff run, but what they fail to show is the honest fact that even in these increasingly financial tough times, the Rays have raised their overall attendance marks for three seasons in a row. They want to throw out the simple factoids that the Rays are ranked 23rd out of 30 teams in overall attendance figures, and base their streams of logic towards figures that the Tampa Bay region can not fully support, or even stand behind their Rays squads with any large community voice or presence.

And some of these same authors’ have been bold and brazen enough to label this community a “Spring Training town” and not able to muster the needed revenues or support to even keep a Florida State League team in our abandoned waterfront stadium. But these same voices forget to tell you of City of St. Petersburg legislation to secure baseball events like the ACC Baseball Tourney and other yearly baseball tournaments for the currently vacant Progress Energy Park.

But some of these same fears distributed by writers might become true very soon because of the unemployment epidemic that has plagued this entire country, not just this region of Florida. The increasing unemployment situation will give a more solid foundation to their points and counterpoint suggestions that the Tampa Bay area is just treading water in an ever expanding sea with up to 12.5 percent of the region’s prospective ticket buyers (Pinellas County), and a majority of the people in this area maybe turning away from the Rays situation for a spell to support their families, or even securing their home ownership dreams by fighting off the foreclosure hounds that have ravished this area.

The basic instinct of prioritizing their family finances, and cutting out such past luxuries as attending countless Rays games could dramatically effect Rays game attendance figures throughout 2010. I know this region is just a small puddle within the larger pond of increasing frustrations felt by citizens throughout the United States by this growing epidemic, and it might hit hard on MLB teams in other cities like Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and the list can go on and on….until we are again on a solid footing. But even that first hint of a ripple, that first stone dropping into the water can change the outcome and appearance of the entire scenario in a matter of seconds. This time is that important right now here in Tampa Bay.

As of December 2009, there are over 15 million people just like myself, fighting to find even a part-time gig to support their sole existence, not just their MLB yearly habit. And it might be someone like myself, or even you who ultimately adds one more failure to the Rays board by not being able to attend games, or showing a physical presence at the ballpark every night. But I also know I will do everything short of becoming another street dweller to raise the bar and show my pride physically as well as fiscally in my love of the game and my hometown Rays, as long as I financially can… But there are many who will not be able to make that financial commitment or even take these types of chances in 2010 with their incomes, or even attend as many games because of fiscal woes and their decreasing disposable income limitations.

And that will fuel the non-support flames even higher towards the Rays bonfires again, not the reality that this service-oriented, transient populated Tampa Bay community lives and breathes off the tourism dollar and the seasonal ventures by out-of-town fans that come here for weekends or weekdays following their teams road trip schedules during the MLB season. And even the most dedicated Rays fan might have noticed the economic effect in the stands during the 2009 season when Boston and New York came to town the Rays could bank on being sold-out in advance, even during the mid-week.


But in 2009, there was an increasing ocean of empty blue-colored seats poking out towards television cameras to viewers in the other reaches of the United States. And to them, those empty seats transferred quickly to lack of support, or even a visual reminder of just how hard this region is struggling with itself to fill those same empty seats on the usually slow Thursday night games. My tickets for 81 games come in at $ 1,799 for the season for my little seat right next to the Rightfield foul pole at Tropicana Field. That breaks down to around $ 20.21 per game. And I will be honest, some nights that $ 20 could be better spent, but it is my personal commitment to this team that I give it to the Rays without a single moment of hesitation or concern right now.
I know I am not bringing up anything surprisingly new to the extent or the possible damage this could do short-term to Rays attendance figures, or even the Rays Front Office’s future plans to further invest in this community long-term, or instead begin ways behind-the-scenes for the Rays to look towards their next revenue options or hidden agendas, maybe even into moving to another locale. And to some reading this, that same commitment by me to securing my Rays Season Tickets might seems as a form of fiscal suicide, or even a hint of insanity, but it is my personal part to stand up nightly and try and keep this team here by showing the Rays Front Office that some of the fan base within the Tampa Bay community will do anything short of being homeless to show their team spirit for this franchise.
The entire MLB community will experience up and down movements in 2010 in their team’s game attendance marks. But right now, it is critical within the Tampa Bay area to put as many fannies in the seats as possible to squash suggestions and opinions from outside the region as to that ,” what is best for us” propaganda from afar. It is a moral imperative that this community does something to deafen the attendance volleys from these same writers that are heard high and clear within the confines of the Third Floor offices of the Rays. But there is a breaking point to every relationship, even a community bond such as the Rays and Tampa Bay.

Mark O’Meara/AP 
Even with the ABC Coalition report findings showing mixed results for the area, this region will show signs of internal splintering and sub sequential re-cementing its focal points over the stadium issue and location for the next few years. Misunderstandings and unsubstantiated rumors and biased opinions will rule the day until forced out of people’s minds by the stark reality of the truth unfolding in front of them. But a community, which inter-locks its arms together can push back a stronger show of force and strife than a community that stands divided as the opinions and slander flows through the cracks like the ebb of the tide.

For our much maligned region of Florida to survive the attacks and the volleys from outside our walls we have to join and remain strong in our bonds and commitments to baseball in our community. I remember another city back in 1984 that also thought they were on solid ground and enthusiastic towards their opinions that ” things would work out” for its city and its NFL team coming to a harmonious agreement. And the citizens believed in this team and community meshing until the Mayflower moving vans formed outside Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and their team relocated in the middle of the night to Indianapolis, Indiana.
Nothing in life is ever guaranteed. If it was, we might not have to even consider this post or the possible existence of baseball ever leaving Tampa Bay. So within this 2010 season the Tampa Bay community will be given time to show their commitment to baseball. And if we fail, we have no one to blame but ourselves from the Goodbye waves to the moving vans again from Tropicana Field.