"That ball gets by Cantu," yep, "Cantu strikes out," check, "Cantu just couldn't get to that one," how many times did we hear those three phrases last season? Let's face it, the `Human Lawn Statue' isn't the best thing in the field, but when your swinging the bat like he did last ...oh, wait, he didn't bring the lumber with him either this season.
At shortstop for your Devil Rays, Ben Zobrist, who as it turns out has more fanfare than a person with a lower batting average than Neifi Perez and a glove less than `Nefiian', the Z-Man had his moments, but so did Tomas Perez. All the more rage is Zobrist's .228 batting average and `gulp' .572 OPS.
That ladies and gents, is your starting middle infield, not exactly Roberto Alomar and Cal Ripken Jr., heck not exactly Brent Abernathy and Chris Gomez. So you may be wondering, why in the world would I bring this up in a time we should be sitting back, dreaming of next season, and enjoying a pair of certain northeastern teams notable absence from the Championship Series', because I'm not prepared to write about Joe Maddon's body language throughout the season, at least not yet...
Super Rookie Evan Longoria has yet to be shifted to second base and along with the other members of 'The Wonder Twins' Reid Brignac will need at least a half of a season in the minors before we should considering bringing them up. B.J. Upton would make Chuck Knoblauch blush if placed at second base, and let us not think of shifting the `Minuteman' to short.
Unless and follow me here, the new turf being installed will slow down the balls enough, and B.J. plays back just enough where every single routine play has to be turned into a Web Gem throw. Now before you go `click' and rid yourself of this idiotic theory, think about the majority of B.J's errors...the more time he has to `load the gun' and fire the more likely he's become to overthrow or oddly enough, under throw the first baseman.
So what's that leave us with? Cantu , Zobrist, Wigginton available to play 2B/SS, though I loosely say play, Tomas Perez, a free agent who I hope can pursue his lifelong dream of mastering the entire `Thriller' dance routine from the safety of his own house. So this leaves us with the wide world of free agency looking to fill one or two gaps in the `Green Machine' (in building at the moment), the two names that I find the most persuading to say `Hey, he's a Ray!" are Craig Counsell and Mark Loretta.
Stacking those two up with Cantu and Zobrist it's one sided, not only because the Counsell and Loretta team combine to be 71, and the two Rays are barely able to drink legally, combined age, 49. So the two are vets, there shouldn't be a problem with that if you consider the fact that most Ray critics will be quick to point out the team needs more veterans. Counsell has a ring, Loretta gained valuable experience in the playoffs with the Red Sox this year...oh wait....
If I had my choice I'd think Counsell would be a better fit, though Loretta has more power and will pop a load of more doubles, he's really only able to play 2B and 3B, Counsell can play those and SS. Loretta popped 5 homers compared to Counsell's 4, RBIs aren't an accurate description of the player as much as the team (which explains Loretta's 29 RBI advantage) and the lines are as follows; Loretta: .285/.345/.361, and Counsell: .255/.327/.347. Though Loretta's numbers look slightly better and he's a year younger, Counsell gives the Rays something they don't have off the bench, a legitimate pinch runner.
Defensively Counsell is better, Hardball Times `awarded' Craig Counsell the Gold Glove at second base with a +20 defensive rating, Loretta was on the other end of the spectrum, albeit with an injury, he finished the year with a `Lead Glove' at a -17 rating, just for note Cantu was only a -12, Nick Green a -15.
I'm not suggesting that either of these guys should be brought in and start right away, but with Cantu (hopefully) being shopped around and Zobrist needing a chance to mold into his future role of reserve infielder both could do just that. Neither are long term solutions but as a stop-gag until the `Wonder Twins' are ready, this becomes a move of necessity if we truly aren't going to accept mediocrity, and let's face it, this Statue is chipped.