I was at a Clearwater Threshers game a couple weeks ago and they had the FSL standings posted inside the stadium. It was just after the halfway point so the board had records for only nine games or so because their season is split into distinct halves. I was thinking today that although no such thing is done for the Major Leagues we could think in terms of that with the Rays because this should be when the real season starts, when management realizes that the season is lost, any hopes for steps forward are long gone, and wins and losses just don't matter that much. The only important thing is preparing the team for the future and bringing along the young talent.
There's a problem though. We can't think in terms of this being a different season because the Rays aren't doing that. The only signs of organizational thinking along those lines are the trade talks regarding Baez and Huff and even those are only happening because of the trade deadline approaching. This is still a team pretending that it's going somewhere this year and stubbornly sticking to the early season plan.
I'm not calling for a sudden rushing of prospects; Young, Bankston, Niemann, Hammel, etc. should all stay in the minors for now and there's no need to bring Upton up either at the moment. There are changes that need to be made though that not only better prepare the team for the future but may also improve it in the present, though it will take some dependence on the unknown.
Tim Corcoran, Lee Gardner, Joe Nelson, and Matt Carnes are all pitching pretty well in relief for the Durham Bulls. Why aren't they getting real chances in the majors? The bullpen is in sad shape and is due for a shakeup anyway with anticipated trades/salary related departures. There are two and a half months left, find out whether or not these guys can succeed in the majors (their minor league performance suggests major league adequacy) and you may have some of your bullpen pieces for 2006. Even Joe Beimel deserves better than his brief stay up here, maybe he can take the lefty specialist role next season....maybe even right now. Miller is as good as gone at the end of the year due to his likely raise through arbitration so there really wouldn't be any harm in releasing him now since he has turned into a lefty specialist that lacks the ability to get lefties out.
I was fine with Travis Lee being signed as a stopgap for this season but after three and a half months of him doing his "Neifi Perez as a First Baseman" impression it's time for him to go. His glove is great but he'd need to play excellent defense at three positions simultaneously for it to make up for his bat which is absolutely pitiful by the standards of his position.
All the minor league performance and major league performance to this point won't do Jonny Gomes any good if he goes into another slump for three days, he'll be back on the bench. Damon Hollins is 31 and nothing more than a backup while the Rays need to find out if Gathright can hit (and defend) well enough to hold down a starting job but we know Gathright won't be in there every day.
Fernando Cortez is a good bet to be a useful utility infielder but does anyone believe that he'll stay up once Gonzalez is back from the DL? A-Gone should be released immediately on his return but it won't happen.
Cash is worthless and Hall is still a below average player. Would it kill the Rays to send Cash back down and bring LaForest up to be the backup and at least give him a look? I don't think his bat or defense will ever make him a starting catcher but he might be a decent backup, at least he has some pop in his bat.
Nomo and Hendrickson are crap and aren't likely to improve much. If there's anyone else that even looks like they might be able to succeed as a starter (besides the obvious prospects that aren't completely ready yet) then give them a chance, they can't be much worse and you just might find something useful.
The season is over already. Is going 62-100 instead of 51-111 going to improve attendance or give more hope for next season? Of course not, but making honest efforts to sort out what you have and attempting to put the team in a better position for next year just might give people a little hope when they see that and look at the young talent that will be playing on Opening Day 2006.