Around 2-3 years ago, when writing for "The Rocc Says...", I had the opportunity to interview one of my favorite TB/St. Pete Sports Writers...one Mr. Carter Gaddis. I've emailed him a few times in between that time, but I requested a 2nd interview to be done with him. Today, we managed to squeek it in with the possibility of the Iwamura signing looming.
I'd like to thank him for giving me this opportunity, again.
Jacob Larsen: First off, it's been awhile since we've talked to each other. What is new in the life of Carter Gaddis? Any big changes at TBO.com? With you? etc.
Carter Gaddis: Well, since we last spoke, my job description changed. After five years as the Trib's Devil Rays beat writer, I moved late last year to national baseball/backup Lightning. When my replacement on the Rays jumped ship for the other paper in late August, I moved (temporarily) back onto the Rays full-time (although I still do hockey, as well). We'll have a new, permanent Rays beat writer in place sometime next month*, at which point I can return to national baseball/Lightning and do a few other assignments that have always interested me, like the Daytona 500 and the ACC men's basketball tournament. I'll still do plenty of baseball, though, and always with an emphasis on the Rays.
(Through my own sources, unbeknownst to Carter, I've learned that the new beat writer will be former Cincy Red Beat Writer- Marc Lancaster)
Jake- After the first year of the Sternberg/Silverman/Friedman/Hunsicker era, there are a good amount of fans who have gone back to the "Anti-ownership" point-of-view that many of us had during the Naimoli/LaMar era. What are your thoughts on that and what are your thoughts on the NDRO(New Devil Rays Organization/Ownership)?
Carter- It seems like the honeymoon's over. Any good will the new folks built up with the public simply by NOT being Naimoli was essentially trumped by a 101-loss season in 2006. They got a 20 percent increase in attendance this year, but I doubt they'll get anywhere near that type of increase in 2007 unless they win. And, frankly, I haven't seen them do much to improve last season's team. Now, you could say they're wise for not getting involved in the spending spree that's going on with what amounts to a horrible free agent class. But you could also say they're being cheap. It's open for interpretation, and that's because we don't really know these guys yet. Let's see what happens this coming season and, more importantly, next off-season. The 2008 season will be the one on which I judge this group.
Jake- What are your thoughts on the possible 3 game series in Orlando? Do you see their vantage point on it possibly attracting fans from Orlando or is this just a "shot in the dark"? Should fans worry about the Rays moving out of St. Pete/Florida anytime soon?
Carter- There are 20 years left on the lease at Tropicana Field. I don't think the Orlando games are a harbinger of bad news for folks afraid of losing their ball team. I do, however, think the Rays organization would love to find a way to get a new stadium built (probably in St. Pete, possibly on the site of Al Lang Field) in the next decade or so. As for the push into Orlando, I don't think it's a bad idea. They want the TV market there and they want to tap into the corporate community there. I don't think it'll work, though, if the team doesn't get much, much better in the very near future.
Jake- Last time that I emailed you, it was about the alleged Marshall pick-up that turned out to be false. What was the deal with that?
Carter- I asked Friedman about it, and he was as baffled as we were. My guess is that someone assumed the Athletics traded Marshall (their pick in Rule 5) as well as cash for Goleski. Wrong, of course. It was only cash (not Kevin).
Jake- As you probably know more than I do, Rays Outfielders/High-Profile Prospects/Cantu have popped up in tons of rumors this offseason. In percentages, what are the chances that we go into spring training without Crawford, Baldelli, Cantu, Upton or Dukes?
Carter- You asked about the chance of going into spring training WITHOUT these guys. Here's my guess: Crawford, 0 percent. Baldelli, 10 percent. Cantu, 15 percent. Upton, 15 percent. Dukes, 20 percent.
Jake- What are your thoughts on the possible signing of Iwamura and the Rays possibility of picking Marcus Giles off of waivers? Does this mean that the Rays are pretty much showing Jorge Cantu the door or getting him to think about considering a position change?
Carter- Giles is interesting. Remember, he's the guy who made Nick Green expendable in Atlanta! But I don't get a sense that the Rays are going to make a serious run at Giles. I actually spoke with Cantu today at Disney, during the announcement of the Rangers series. He says he has committed himself to coming into camp healthy and fully expects to return to his 2005 form. He also acknowledged that he looked and felt "sluggish" in the field, and he's working hard on his footwork and other defensive skills this winter. If I had to guess right now, Cantu will open the season at second base, batting somewhere in the middle of the lineup.
Jake- Do you forsee any of our prospects, especially pitching prospects, getting extended looks in Spring Training?
Carter- Dukes has a good chance to make the team out of spring training. Jeff Niemann will get a few spring starts with the big club, but they want him to go to Durham and pitch at least half a season without breaking down before they put him in the major-league rotation. Mitch Talbot will begin the year in Durham, as well, but we'll see him with the Rays at some point in '07. Who else? Do you consider Edwin Jackson and Brian Stokes prospects? Joe Maddon said during the winter meetings that Stokes will get a hard look in spring training, and Friedman said last month that he expects Jackson to be "one of the 12" pitchers come April, although the role remains undefined (count on bullpen, I think). Stokes and Jackson are out of options, so they'll get every chance to prove they belong on the club this spring.
Jake- With the story that Durham's ownership will suspend Dukes if he ever returns there, does this pretty much mean that Dukes will either get traded or he has to make the Rays' Opening Day roster?
Carter- I don't know. I know Elijah wore out his welcome in Durham, but if push came to shove, I'd like to think the Rays can work out some sort of agreement with the Durham organization in which Dukes would be allowed to play.
Jake- What are the chances of Josh Hamilton or Nick DeBarr sticking in Cincy or Boston for the entire season?
Carter- I think Josh's days with the Rays are done. Even if he doesn't make Cincy's team, he'll have to clear waivers before he's offered back to the Rays, and I heard lots of rumblings at the winter meetings that the Marlins wanted him. DeBarr ... it would be a miracle if he spends the entire season with the Boston Red Sox.
Jake- What, in your opinion, was the best trade of 2006 for the Rays?
Carter- The best trade was Huff for Talbot and Zobrist, although they probably could've gotten much more for Huff in 2005 (think Anibal Sanchez or Hanley Ramirez).
Jake- If you had the chance to enter the 2006 Amateur Draft, would you have picked Longoria(knowing what he was going to do) or would you have picked Andrew Miller or Tim Linecum(2 pitchers with immense upsides)?
Carter- If I were the Devil Rays, I would've gone for pitching. That's their formula, they say; building pitching depth through the draft and (as we've seen) trades. Still, Longoria at third and Brignac at short in 2009 (at the latest) is intriguing. It's kind of sad that the best third baseman this organization has ever had is STILL Wade Boggs.
Jake- When the Rays eventually break the .500 barrier, how much of that team do you think the team will be homegrown?
Carter- I'd say ... 60 percent.
Jake- When do the Rays have to have the "possible changes"(Name/Color Scheme) to the team sent into the MLB offices/decided by?
Carter- Same time table as this year. They have until May 31 to inform MLB of a change in name or color scheme. I'm betting the name will be Rays. I'm betting the color scheme will feature more blue.
Jake- Do you plan on catching any Vero Beach Devil Rays(or whatever the team name is gonna be) games this year?
Carter- I don't know. It depends on whether they send Baldelli over there for his latest rehab assignment (kidding, Rocco!).
Jake- Funniest Rays-related Trade Rumor that you've heard this year? One that most made sense and one that made no sense at all?
Carter- Funniest? None of them are particularly amusing, but I'd say anything having to do with Carl Crawford leaving this team was pretty ridiculous. It makes sense to me to send Elijah Dukes to the Marlins for some of that fine Florida pitching. But the Marlins don't want him, either.
Jake- Do you see Dioneer Navarro or Ben Zobrist as long-time Rays or do you see them more as "stop-gaps"(Ben Zobrist playing SS til Brignac is ready and the Rays possibly picking Matt Wieters in next year's draft)?
Carter- Navarro is more long-term because of his age and upside. Zobrist ... I like his potential as an eventual major-league utility guy, but who knows? Maybe he'll blossom this year into a legitimate major-league shortstop. He's always hit at just about every level, so let's just see. I think the Rays are leaning toward Vandy's David Price, by the way.
Jake- Edwin Jackson on the 2007 Devil Rays- Buy or Sell?
Carter- I'm buying it now, because Friedman made a point of telling me Jackson is "one of the 12." Whether that's as a starter or reliever, we don't know. I'd bet reliever right now.
Jake- Favorite Memory of the 2006 season
Carter- Tie. Delmon Young's first major-league home run in his debut at Chicago. And Delmon Young throwing out Ichiro Suzuki from right as Ichiro tried to go first-to-third at the Trop.
Jake- Thoughts on Toby Hall's continual lambasting of the Rays ownership?
Carter- Toby has always had his opinions. In the past, he didn't share them quite so publicly. But, that's his prerogative.
Jake- Do you read any fan-made Rays blogs? I hear DRaysBay (http://www.draysbay.com/) is a great one. Sorry about the cheap plug...
Carter- I read as much as I can. It's a good way to know what fans care about. I also see Matt Sammons at Lightning games and practices all the time. We talk more about the Rays than we do about the Lightning.
Jake- Thoughts/ideas/predictions for the 2007 season
Carter- Right now, the over-under on losses is 100. I'll take the over. I know that seems pessimistic, but look at the pitching! I like the makings of the lineup, though, and if Kazmir/Shields/Seo/Fossum/whoever can put together some innings, and if the team doesn't lose 60 games after leading, and if they win ... I don't know ... 15 games on the road in the second half, then maybe they'll come close to 75 wins. Maybe. If everything comes together just right.
Jake- Thoughts for the fans to think about.
Carter- Seriously, don't get your hopes up for 2007. But there is a lot to enjoy about this team: Kazmir's strikeouts; Gomes' huge blasts; Gomes' huge swings and misses; Crawford turning doubles into triples; Baldelli's grace in center; Young's great arm and huge potential. I'm curious to see how Iwamura fits in, on and off the field. I'm also curious to watch Niemann's major-league debut this year, followed by Longoria and Brignac either in September or sometime in '08. Things are still bad in Rays Nation; don't get me wrong. But they're a heck of a lot better today than they were two years ago. Who knows where they'll be two years from now?