While I have joked many times about Peter Gammons donning his Red Sox cheerleader outfit on Sportscenter or Baseball Tonight, Gammons had some pretty interesting insight on the Rays with St. Pete Times writer Tom Jones.
I've had the great pleasure of speaking to Gammons twice before, once in a brief on-air interview for my old radio show and a couple of minutes at Raysfest 2006. There's no doubt Gammons loves the Red Sox, and after covering their heartbreaks from the mid 1980s to their ultimate success in 2004, he has every right to. He also is very much in touch with what's going on in baseball, and you can almost take every word he says for fact.
With that said, I thought his interview with Tom Jones in today's St. Pete Times was very interesting. It's interesting for all Rays fans, management, and the Tampa Bay market.
I'm not going to rehash the whole article, but here are some of the highlights or few things that really jumped out at me.
* Maybe not right now, but some day the Rays will have to trade one of their top outfielders for one or two premiere pitchers.
I've said this for a while now, and for the last year I've said the team should make Elijah Dukes look like the next Willie Mays and trade him away to some team gutting the present roster for the future. Of course Dukes hasn't helped his cause for this idea, but I still believe the Rays need to keep Crawford in left and Young in right. You can figure out who the odd men out of that equation is.
The Rays have (and still do) talked about building from within which is fine with me. But at some point in time you have to build with a few good parts from outside of the organization. With the free agent market getting ratcheted up a few million dollars per player this past offseason, the next logical idea is to trade a few players.
Note I said trade a few players for good MLB-ready or proven players. We're not talking about stocking up the minor leagues again... we did that last year. Every team at some point in time has had to part with young talent to get those key parts to the winning equation. I agree with Gammons, and the apparent view of the NDRO-- not just yet. But it will have to happen soon so you're not stuck with a bunch of young players loaded with potential but not much else around them to lift them up to that next level.
Of course one may worry about making a bad trade, sending that decent player away for a good veteran player or two only to see that player sent away finally turns into the star everyone thought he'd be. But the risk of sending away someone on the cusp of being great is just as big as making a huge free agent signing or even having the top draft choice. For every Pedro Martinez signed, there's an Eric Milton. For every Dewon Brazelton drafted, there's a Mark Teixeira a few selections below. For every Joe Carter/Roberto Alomar for Fred McGriff/Tony Fernandez trade, there's a Fred McGriff for Manny Aybar deal. You just don't know. There's risk in life, and there's risk in trading potentially good talent for something already proven. Speaking of draft potential...
* Wade Townsend and Jeff Niemann need to prove they can stay healthy before they can prove to be cornerstone pitchers.
AMEN BROTHER! I keep hearing about these two being the saviors of the rotation in two or three years, but they have to have a healthy season from start to finish before you can clearly say one or both will have a positive impact. Once they get healthy they have to prove they can pitch in the majors before we crown them the next great one-two punch in baseball. History has its trail of pitchers who were great in the minors, but flopped miserably in the majors (paging Todd Van Poppel). There's no doubt Niemann and Townsend have a ton of upside to both of them, but until they prove it (likely in three to five years) let's not call them the next Glavine/Maddux combo just yet.
* Scott Kazmir can be the next great pitcher if he gets some run support and solid defense behind him.
Then again, so could I... and so could Zane Smith or Jerry Garvin. I guess you could say the same about every pitcher in the bigs, although with the youth on this team and the NDRO not yet spending big wads of cash on free agents the reliance on consistently good offense and defense will make or break this team (again).
* Joe Maddon is smart and positive.
So is my next door neighbor, but she's also about 87 and too busy driving for Meals on Wheels to think about the Rays this season. See my column from last week to get my thoughts on how long the Maddon regime should last, and what should determine if it lasts long.
* The team's stadium should have been built near the I-4/I-75 corridor.
Yeah, and the team should have drafted Teixeira instead of Brazelton. Another woulda, shoulda, coulda, that can't be fixed right now. Twenty-five years ago when both Tampa and St. Pete were fighting to build the first MLB stadium in this market, not too many people could have predicted the population shift to the east into Brandon and Polk County. Orlando was still a relatively small dot on the map with a big mouse running the town. Back in the early to mid 80s the population growth was in the Carrolwood area and whatever open space was left in Pinellas County. I have a great idea for a new stadium smack dab in the middle of downtown Tampa, but since I don't have $450 million for it (and no one else will pay that much right now) I guess it'll have to stay in my land of pipe dreams for now.
Thousands of people drive from the Bay area to Orlando to watch Buccaneer training camp; a collection of grown men in short shorts sweating a lot. In the mid 90s anywhere from 20,000 to 27,000 people braved that difficult drive across a stinking bridge from Tampa, Lakeland, and beyond to watch a fledgling Lightning hockey team. Something tells me when the Rays become good, people will suddenly forget about the drive and how dumpy the Trop can be.
* That Stu Sternberg fellow is a nice guy.
He is, and I agree with Gammons that Stu is a great businessman. If that translates to putting a good product on the field year-in and year-out will be shown as time goes on. He is a huge improvement over Vincent J. "Do You Know Who I Am?" Namoli, and I can only hope his winning personality can be complemented with a winning team.
It's not like whatever Gammons says is Bible-like, but his track record shows he can be believed in most everything he says. If he's even 85% accurate on what he said about the Rays, then we could finally see some happy days at the Trop sooner than later.
Here are a couple of non-Gammons observations I've had recently:
* MLB has suddenly discovered swiping away the MLB Extra Innings television package from 75 million cable subscribers to 15 million DirecTV Network subscribers isn't so smart. Perhaps urged on by an FCC investigation into the shady and exclusive seven-year proposal by MLB and DirectTV, MLB has had a "change of heart" and will keep Extra Innings on other satellite outlets and In Demand cable networks if those networks agree to eventually add the MLB network to its basic cable tier in 2009.
I'm happy to see this, although I'm still wondering if I should throw my $180 to MLB after they showed their cards with this deal. Money's going to be tight for me this summer anyways, and giving it to MLB after they clearly weren't interested in it a couple of months ago when they struck this deal probably isn't in my best interest.
* The Associated Press is reporting Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is finally enjoying the fruits of having a winning team in Detorit. Considering it took Ilitch about 11 years to figure out he had to put money IN to the Tigers to get something OUT of the team, I guess all I have to say is, "What took you so long, pizza boy?"
* On August 11, 1992, Dunedin's Ricardo Jordan struck out three Clearwater Phillies with such finesse and force I found it necessary to make a note of it in my Blue Jays scorecard.
Yesterday, Jordan was sentenced to seven years in prison for selling cocaine and marijuana because he wasn't making the money he used to in his brief stint in MLB.
Sometimes life throws a curveball at you, but everyone has some talent or the ability to learn something new to adjust. Selling drugs to pay the bills shouldn't fit into one of those categories.
* Knowing David Wells' history, should ANYONE give him a gun and take him on an African safari?
* Is anyone else disturbed by Wendy's using The Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" in their new ad campaign? For those not familiar with what the song is all about, let's just say it has to deal with "getting in touch with yourself". Now it's being used to sell hamburgers?
Kinda gives a whole new meaning to "where's the beef?", doesn't it?