No Playoffs? No Problem!

So! The season is about to close out, and as I write this the Oakland Athletics are one win away from cementing the second Wild Card spot, assuredly making the Rays one of the best teams in recent memory to not make the playoffs.

Firstly, and I hope others will join me, I want to applaud the Oakland Athletics team for coming in to this year and giving the rest of the league the business! What a year for them, and I think we should all put on an Athletics cap (or at least a temporary tattoo) when the postseason begins, because let's not forget how similar our two clubs are in the way we are run and the way we have to approach the idea of "winning". If someone with a similar strategy can come in and make a lot of very good/elite teams look silly, and we feel like we are on PAR with them, it should give us a lot of excitement for the coming years. Go run the table Athletics!

Now, on to the main event. THE RAYS! They won a lot! Like, a lot more than I thought they were going to win. Most of it came in this second half of the season. The team really came alive...but why? Well, now that I look at it, we seem to look a lot different than the beginning of the year. We no longer have Span, Archer, Hech, Ramos, or Miller. Gomez, Faria, Robertson, and Cron have seen reduced playing time for one reason or another in favor of Choi, Adames, Bauers, Lowe, Wendle, and a host of others that I cannot be bothered to list out. I imagine if you are here on this post you can tell your Yarbroughs from your Chirinos's. But the gist of what I am saying is this: The team in the second half of the season was totally different (and much better) than the team in the first half! Seems like a pretty lukewarm take, and you can make your arguments about Ramos still being on the team, Robertson not getting injured, etc. Those could have resulted in a different and possibly slightly BETTER team than we are seeing now, but my original point about the second half team being better as a whole than the first half squad remains the same.

"But why did this happen? Why didn't we trot out that dominating squad in the FIRST half?! Most of the difference makers were either on the bench or at AAA! Damn that Front Office and their inability to make good decisions!"

Now hold on there comrade, there might be a method to this madness. A secret to the sauce. The Front Office Sauce, if you will. It's a bit expensive, oversalted, and sometimes gets put on the wrong food, but it can also be just the thing to kick that meal into high-gear. Remember the beginning of the year when we were upset with some of the moves made by the front office? Like a certain cornerstone 3B getting traded to the Giants, or our studly outfield getting whisked away for what seemed like very little return? Now, there was every reason to be upset. I was too! I did not see the initial replacement squad (that would become the first-half squad) as being a net improvement or even a lateral movement. But the Front office told us, the fans, that it is always trying to win while also setting us up for future success. A tricky balancing act that can easily go awry with a couple of bad decisions. Many of us did not believe them, or believed that yes we could win SOME games, just not ENOUGH games to be playing in October.

But what if they were talking about this the whole time? Now, I may be giving them far too much credit, or maybe we as fans do not give them enough credit. And I'm not just talking about one GM here, I'm talking about the whole team that makes up the FO. But we as fans knew what we had knocking on the door of the majors from AAA, and so did the Front Office. They elected to wait until the Super 2 deadlines had passed before bringing our lovely prospects up to the majors to promptly (or not so promptly *cough* ADAMES *cough*) start tearing it up. At around the same time, trades were made to remove Archer and Miller from the team for Choi, Glasnow, Meadows, and Baz. We also got this guy named Pham, who I hear is pretty good. It was pretty clear from this point on that the idea was never to tank as many journalists suggested, but to plug a hole for the first half of the year and keep the ship afloat until the big boys came in later to take over and sail that sucker to October!

But this season was odd. The Red Sox and Yankees would not die, and with the surge of the Oakland Athletics out of the gate this year, it made it close but ultimately a no go for playoff time this season. So this brings us back to why they did not bring out the big guns in the first half? It also leads into what I believe is the most important takeaway of my long, arduous rant here today. The number one reason is the Super 2 deadline. If you want to put things in a one-sum perspective: we effectively traded the better odds at getting to the postseason this year for an additional year of control over potential All-Star caliber players Adames and Bauers, as well as solid to above-average players such as Lowe. There is little doubt that we would have won at least a handful more games this year with Adames and Bauers in the lineup day one, which turned out to be the difference. A gamble lost, but still a net-gain in my opinion. We played meaningful games late into September and came up short, but it was THERE. We may be surprised that we have done so well, but you know who doesn't seem to be? The Front Office. You know what they also did? They got us one additional year with Bauers and Adames lighting up our lives and playing into Octobers. If that is the price to be able to wait an additional year of sure competitiveness before possibly seeing Adames or Bauers go, I think the Front Office Sauce was paired beautifully with the 2018 season.

This post was written by a member of the DRaysBay community and does not necessarily express the views or opinions of DRaysBay staff.