There's a phrase that always comes up when reading about the Rays.
Those who cheer for the Rays use it. As do those who read about them and talk about them.
I've used it. We all use it.
Well, that's just what the Tampa Bay Times does.
It's a catch-all phrase that describes how the Tampa Bay Times chooses to write about their local franchise, how they criticize their team.
Well, that's just what the Tampa Bay Times does.
What is that, exactly?
They criticize any trade of an expiring or expensive contract that brings back prospects. They complain when the Rays sign players coming off bad seasons. They even complain when the Rays bring in good players if they’re coming off injuries.
In fact, that pretty much sums up the Times’s major offseason articles so far.
The Rays traded a second baseman on the wrong side of 30, Logan Forsythe, for a high impact prospect with six years of control in Jose De Leon. They signed an elite defender in Colby Rasmus, a veteran player rejoining the hitting coach that made him a success story. They signed Wilson Ramos, the best free agent catcher on the market who could turn into the best catcher the Rays have ever had, and signed him for two seasons to take advantage of his recovery from knee surgery. He’ll likely return in May.
It's the kind of offseason that gets people fired up, but you wouldn’t know it from reading the only newspaper in Tampa Bay.
What else happened?
The Rays traded Drew Smyly, an unfortunately broken pitcher who was the major league piece of the David Price trade in 2014. Smyly went on to outpitch Price in the second half that season, but a casual fan may not realize that deal was built around the Rays’ shortstop of the future, top prospect Willy Adames. In the new Smyly trade, they picked up … another young guy(!), outfielder Mallex Smith, who has blistering speed and solves the Rays outfield depth woes of last season, as well as two other prospects with major league projections.
That's what the Rays do.
They learn from their mistakes with a goal to improve from a 68-win season — even without the Tampa Bay Times’s support.
Fans are tired of reading it. You can bet some of the players have grown weary of it as well.
Sadly, it is the reality of the situation. The Rays front office is doing what it can. They simply don't have the local support to lure big-ticket free agents or even keep many of their own stars in the spotlight. This isn't breaking news.
This isn't to suggest that all articles written by The Times are bad ones. This Forsythe-for-De Leon trade might turn out to earn praise for the Rays. They know they should stop acting as if the Rays just traded away Ryne Sandberg. Come summer, the Ramos signing might be the shrewdest move in the majors.
But it's always the same kind of skepticism, and it's always wait-and-see.
Most Rays followers get it. They understand the plan and why it has to be that way. But knowing it doesn't make reading someone’s criticism any less depressing. They go into an offseason knowing they don't have a prayer of their newspaper publishing articles about how the Rays don’t need to drop top dollar on aging players like Edwin Encarnacion or Mark Trumbo or even Jose Bautista. Imagine the criticism the team would face if they broke their budget on a bad deal!
So is going into the regular season knowing that everything has to go almost perfectly for the Rays to have a chance of getting national media coverage with the big boys like the Red Sox.
The Rays are not alone in dollar store criticisms either.
You get brief windows of success that garner positive articles, followed by stretches of rebuilding with harsh criticism. That's where the Rays are now. Rebuilding.
The Rays are trying to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2013. At the same time, they have to be mindful of what this team is going to look like in two years, three years, five years.
So the Rays have two choices, neither of which is ideal.
They can blow the whole thing up and start from scratch, like the Astros did when they lost 100 games three years in a row and, two years later, made the playoffs.
Or the Rays can do what they are doing: get good pitching, build around selected veterans such as Evan Longoria and Kevin Kiermaier, find the right (and cheap) pieces to put around them and hope it all works out.
Will the Times praise the Rays for making the best of a tough situation? It didn't last season, but that doesn't mean it won't this season.
Wait and see.
But the Rays must realize that frustrated writers aren't going to love them unconditionally.
They'll complain, and rightfully so, if the plan doesn't work. They'll stay away, and rightfully so, if there's another 90-loss season in store. They stop celebrating the team if it's no good.
That's just what these writers do.
This article was written to lampoon the recent article Lamenting another uninspiring offseason of The Rays Way 01/26/17 [Last modified: Friday, January 27, 2017 6:53am] by Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times.