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Jake's Take: "Waiting is the hardest part...."

This entire offseason has taken it's toll on the Rays fanbase. It's basically split between "Trade Optimists" and "Lack of Movement Pessimists". Neither side is completely right and neither is completely wrong. Luckily, no animals or people have been harmed because of this squabble.

When you look at the AL East right now, it's 4 teams with alot of movement and changes and 1 team with basically no changes from last year's final rosters.

Guess which team is the Rays....

However if you look into many of the moves made by those 4 other teams, you'll notice that those teams haven't really improved as greatly(as originally thought) or at all. The AL East is full of teams filling in holes, however opening new holes.

I may not sell you all on my thoughts, but take a look at what I'm seeing. I'll go team-by-team.

New York Yankees: The Yankees major moves this offseason was resigning Hideki Matsui, signing Kyle Farnsworth and Octavio Dotel to help the bullpen and tearing Johnny Damon away from the Red Sox Nation. Have the Yankees improved?

Not really... They still have a rotation on the fringe of totally imploding within. Last year's new arms are injury-prone and getting older. Pavano was vastly overrated and had probably his best stastical season of his career in his contract year with the Marlins. Jaret Wright proved that he's nothing without the help of Leo Mazzone and he's also a target for batted balls. Johnny Damon gave the Yankees a legit lead-off hitter, but they didn't take into the fact that he was one of the worst defensive CFers in baseball. The signings of Farnsworth & Dotel were kinda dumb, just for the fact that Farnsworth is highly combustible and overrated and Dotel will not likely be ready until the 2nd Half of the 2006 season. The Yankees will score alot of runs next year, but with the declining skills of their pitchers...they'll just give them back up.

Boston Red Sox: The major moves of the Boston Red Sox was the unexpected loss of Theo Epstein on Halloween, the initial kindling of the "Great Florida Marlins Firesale of 2005" by acquiring Beckett-Lowell-Mota for prospects, trading Edgar Renteria for a 3B prospect named Andy Marte and the unforseen loss of "Passion of the" Johnny Damon. Unbeknownst to the Red Sox Nation, Larry Luccino turned the legendary "Fenway Pawk" into an amusement park for the 2006 season.

If Charles Dickens was a sportwrier and still alive, Boston's Offseason Summary would be named "A Tale of 2 Offseasons". Acquiring Josh Beckett may have been the best move of any team this offseason, however the Red Sox Mgmt. thought they had to do more to keep the Yankees off their backs.... Boy did that backfire on the future of the 2006 team(however, it didn't ruin their future). They used the Winter Meetings to acquire blue-chip 3B Andy Marte for SS Edgar Renteria. Yeah, this trade would be great....if they had a back-up plan at SS. Now they have 4 3rd Baseman(Youkilis, Marte, Lowell and Cora) and and 0 short-stops. Then Brian Cashman and the Yankees landed the biggest sucker-punch in the ongoing fight between the "Evil Empire and the Red Sox Nation" with the signing of Johnny Damon. This blow may have a snowball effect because Manny Ramirez, being Manny, has declared that he'll waive his no-trade clause and is willing to be dealt to the NL superspending New York Mets. So the Red Sox have holes at the Short-stop and Centerfield spots that are hard-to-fill due to the major Free Agents already being signed. A deal with the Devil Rays may be even impending, due to their unwillingness to trade just to make trades early on in the offseason. Knowing the Rays, if they do make a trade with'll cost the Red Sox dearly.

Toronto Blue Jays: Hey big spenders! The Toronto Blue Jays newly found wealth has netted them the highest paid closer in the MLB in BJ Ryan, the top starter on the market in TJ-patient AJ Burnett, traded 2 arms and a Spring Training Superslugger for Lyle Overbay and are reportedly trading for Troy Glaus in their 2nd "Big" trade of this Offseason.

On paper, the Blue Jays have spent their way to the top. On paper, they are legit contenders for the AL East. Yet, if you look into it...they really put themselves into a bit of trouble for the future. BJ Ryan was a great closer in his 1st full season of duty in 2005, but with his contract and his move being on fans minds...he has to pitch to his full potential to not get ragged on by fans. Next, AJ Burnett is a great starter but he's yet to put together the numbers that everyone has expected out of him in the majors. His pitching has led him to the surgeon's table before and I wouldn't doubt if he returned there again. The acquisition of Lyle Overbay was pretty nice for them, with his consistant numbers he's put up in Milwaukee....but they gave up good arms in Bush and Jackson to get him. That's a risky gamble with a team trying to contend now and contend for the future as well. Now, there's rumors that Troy Glaus may be heading to Toronto in exchange for Orlando Hudson and Miguel Bautista. Glaus is a good hitter, when healthy, but the Blue Jays just gave away their best defensive player in exchange for another 1B/3B player. They'll be a better hitting team, but they'd be alot worse defensively. Risky, Risky, Risky...

Baltimore Orioles: The Baltimore Orioles have quietly made some moves this offseason when they hired pitching guru Leo Mazzone to teach their young arms how to pitch at their full potential, traded 1 crummy reliever(Kline) for another(Hawkins), got a new catcher(Ramon Hernandez), lost their closer to a divisional rival(Ryan) and could possibly be trading their best offensive player.

The Baltimore Orioles exceeded everybody's expectations last season and led the AL East for the first few months. Then it all fell apart.... Their pitching fell apart, Brian Roberts cooled off and fired their manager. They haven't really made any improvements in their offseason and they shouldn't expect a repeat of last year's small taste of success. Roberts is recovering from a surgery that ended his season early last year and will probably not return to his 2005 form. They've yet to decide on who their closer will be going into Spring Training. Their only positive is that Leo Mazzone knows how to make marginal pitchers good ones and they hope that he can do that outside of Atlanta.

Right now, the Rays have basically the same team that they did last year and they still have the "Trading Chips" that they had at the beginning of the offseason with alot less teams needing players like them anymore. Some look at this as a negative(they won't trade these players and will basically have the same team that almost lost 100 games last season) and some look at this as a positive(Needy teams will be desperate and make risky trades that give us more than their worth).

Nonetheless, we need to support our team(or try to) and gotta believe in management a little more than we have so far. The Rays have players that are very raw and have loads of potential and just need to play to it. We've got the basic foundation of our future team set and we've just got to make deals/trades that build on it.