The thoughts in the following post are those of Jacob Larsen and shouldn't be considered to be the thoughts of the writers/staff of DRays Bay.
As much as things change, things will always stay the same.
In a Diary, one of our readers noted that our little tumble last week shouldn't be a surprise at all and basically the Rays reap what they sow. I agree that it shouldn't be a surprise that we have a couple of losing streaks, playing with a youth-heavy team, but I stop agreeing after that.
Whenever people bring up the Rays, it's the same entire song and dance that they've used since the Vince Naimoli days. Instead of admitting that the Rays were out-played or out-hit, some Rays fans choose to blame everything on our microscopic payroll and our choice to go with homegrown teams over "Free Agent"-heavy teams. They bring up that we haven't really had a homegrown World Series winner in a long LONG time, but why even utter "World Series" when we've gotta utter ".500 team" or "playoff spot" first?
It sickens me that people have nitpicked so much in the previous 8-9 years, that people are starting to agree with deplorable crap that ESPN analysts like Steve "I can only get a job for ESPN" Phillips and all the non-HOF flunkies of the BBTN crew spout out. I really don't care what kind of a picture ESPN tries to paint with the crap that they say about the Rays, but some fairweather fans seem to forget all the "love" we received a few years ago with our second-half surge or the infamous Interleague 12-Game Winning Streak of 2004.
I get the fact that it's pretty hard to wait for all our prospects to come together and make a run at a 81+ win season and a playoff-berth and we'd be smarter to pursue some of the bigger name Free Agents, but we can't do that right now. We pursued some of the better relief FAs (Speier, Dotel and Gagne) and nary a one chose to go to St. Pete. Justin Speier is the only one that remains healthy and off the DL, while Dotel is being shown the door by a Rule 5 pick and Gagne may never pitch an inning in the majors again.
However, does anyone think that our best course of action to attract better Free Agents is to let all of our kids play and show them that they could be the last remaining piece of the puzzle? Also show them that we're great at reclamation projects, like what we've done with Wigginton-Norton-Reyes-Harris-Pena.
While some of our older, more long-time fans of the Rays may not like to admit it, we're in way better shape now than we've ever been. The reason we're 16-22 is due to mismanaging.
Gripe, Gripe, Gripe
-I hate, nay, loathe Brian Stokes.
Good Idea: Move a fringey starter to a relief role
Bad Idea: Wait til' the start of the season to define his role.
Good Idea: Give a veteran reliever the closer's role, relieving pressure that would be on the newly positioned former starter.
Bad Idea: Use newly positioned former starter as our 8th inning set-up man, "white flag" reliever and back-up closer.
Bad Idea: Have him rack-up tons of pointless innings.
Bad Idea: Keep him in the same role, even if he's given up 4-5 Walk-off hits.
-While Chad Orvella may not be electric(4 BBs, 0 Ks) as his '07 minor league stats make him out to be(21 Ks, 7 BBs), I'm more comfortable with him being our 8th inning guy than Brian Stokes.
-Shawn Camp, Gary Glover and Brian Stokes should be in Durham right now, but Salas saved one of their jobs and my feeling is that he saved Stokes' neck from the chopping block.
-We shouldn't have 3 long-relief pitchers (Glover, Ryu and Corcoran) when all 16 of our wins are won with a 2 run or less margin. We're 16-13 in games decided by 2 runs or less, so it appears that there's barely a use for 1 long-reliever...let alone 3.
-Allow Rocco Baldelli to fully rehab his hamstring injury, rather than rush him back too quickly as I believe that we already have. No point in rushing him back if he's only going to pull up lame again.
-Evan Longoria has a 33-game on-base streak going in Montgomery right now, with his last baseless game being April 9th. He was pulled after his 2nd plate appearance last night, due to precautionary reasons after being hit by a pitch early in the game. He, correct me if I'm wrong, leads the Southern League in HRs, RBIs, Runs and Slugging. He's 2nd in walks, 4th in OBP, total hits and batting average.