Most of you know who Marc Normandin is - a Baseball Prospectus writer, the guy who built Beyond the Boxscore into a giant, and also a Red Sox fan - today he had a chat on BP and answered quite a few Rays' questions:
Matt (SF, CA): When you do expect things to click for the Rays? Do they have what it takes to grab a pennant?
Marc Normandin: Despite being a Sox fan, I'd love to see the Rays grab the division. I don't think 2008 is going to be the year for that, but with the Sox trying to blend veterans with youths and the Yankees trying to cut costs to make building a perennial winner easier, they might be able to sneak it in if everyone starts peaking together. 2006 could happen again for the Sox easily, especially if Lowell collapses, they can't replace Manny's bat and Ortiz starts to show his age and size. That would open up the top of the division for the Rays, who should be better each year from here on out for a bit.
jlarsen (DRays Bay): Dayton Moore or Andy Friedman, which GM would you put more stock in? How much do you think Andy has learned with Hunsicker working along with him?
Marc Normandin: I think they have both done very well with their unique situations. Tampa has a strong team in their FO, and I'm excited to see how their efforts work out for them. You don't hear as much about the inner workings of the Royals, and though I know Moore isn't going it alone, he doesn't have a Hunsicker to help him out, so he's handicapped in this "contest".
RJ (Beyond the Boxscore): Where would the Rays middle infield rank right now in the AL East?
Marc Normandin: Hey there R.J., thanks for stopping by. Gosh, the AL East middle infields stink. I didn't realize it until now. Boston has half of a good MI in Pedroia, and Baltimore the same with Brian Roberts. Aaron Hill is no great shakes, so assuming that Bartlett hits average for his position while fielding a fine shortstop and Iwamura does the same, they are probably second best. That's kind of scary, no offense.
He also noted that he thinks Justin Upton would be the better Upton when everything is said and done. Marc is great, so do yourself a favor and read the chat transcript as well as his work, and no I'm not just saying this because he's a former SBN guy.