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Introducing the 2019 Rays “Worry Warlock”

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And its kryptonite...

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Tampa Bay Rays Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone who watches Big Mouth on Netflix knows about the Hormone Monster and the Shame Wizard. A pair of perfectly personified mental states, we’re going to honor the writers of Big Mouth by debuting the Worry Warlock.

Everyone has one. Lingering in the back in one’s brain ready to cast doubt over every positive thought with an immediate second guessing. (Wait, should this monster actually be the Second Guess Sister? And should we case Ego Nwodim?! Call up Nick Kroll immediately.) After a lonnnnnnng off-season (this one felt longer than others, right?), the Worry Warlock has had plenty of time to rear its ugly head. So in light of all of our Roundtable predictions from the other day being positive, let’s let the Worry Warlock out of its cage and cast a couple shadows over the 2019 Rays season.

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What if the Rays don’t make a significant move at the trade deadline?

The logline for the past few months has been: It’s ok if the Rays are done with their moves for 2019, they’re saving that payroll flexibility for the trade deadline. Are we sure we’re not just kicking the can down the road and giving a free pass to a team willing to sport a $50 million payroll in the modern era?

What if the Rays start slow and aren’t really in the playoff picture by the end of July? Why would they bring on payroll at that point? Do we start saying the reason they didn’t spend this offseason was because they’re keeping the window open for extensions for their youngsters? Ok, but maybe let’s start to see those talks get underway. The Rays certainly don’t have to spend for the sake of spending, but it’s also not as if this team couldn’t use an upgrade at certain spots. The depth is outstanding but you’re telling me Andrew Miller and Nelson Cruz wouldn’t have helped?

Personally, this is the biggest wide-zoom worry that will linger over 2019.

What if Kevin Kiermaier, in his attempt to prove himself capable of staying healthy, doesn’t play with the same joie de vivre in centerfield?

KK has already stated that he is on a mission to prove that he can be one of the premier center fielders in all of baseball this year. One of the essential features to any keystone player is health. Availability is the best ability may be corny as hell, but it ain’t wrong. And Kiermaier knows that. We’ve seen him go through strange stretches of defensive we’re-not-going-to-call-them-yips-because-I-know-what-that-does-to-the-comment-section’s, and while it is patently absurd to read into anything in spring training…. [talking in a high pitch so that his lips barely move] he did misplay that ball in the very first action of the year… This is what the Worry Warlock does. Obviously one play in a meaningless spring training game doesn’t matter. But the Worry Warlock certainly wants you to overread into it.

What if all the Rays unique approaches somehow lead to some sort of clubhouse disfunction storyline?

Last year the Rays were able to implement The Opener, bullpen days, seemingly a new lineup every day, and plenty of midseason roster turnover—and everyone handled it perfectly. Ryan Yarbrough was perfectly content in his bulk role; Ryne Stanek took to the Opener like ____; no one complained about being moved around the diamond and not knowing if they had a secure spot in the lineup; and the Rays incorporated all their fresh faces with aplomb. It was a thing of beauty.

But it also seems like an incredible challenge to repeat. The Rays brought in every more utility players and somehow have even less stability in their lineup. If Avisail Garcia (an All-Star in 2017) going to be fine on the wrong side of a DH platoon? Maybe. Heck, probably given his struggles last year, but is there a possibility he doesn’t take to his role? Of course. Is Brent Honeywell going to be fine hanging out in the minors for longer than he feels he deserves? He almost certainly won’t be, but will that fact actually matter at all when he is inevitably called up? Probably not. But maybe. We all know how ungodly talented Tommy Pham is, but we all also know that he, like Wu-Tang, Ain’t Nuthing Ta F Wit.

[records scratches; door slams open]

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“It is I, the Positivity Paladin, here to break up this nonsense! All of this is hearsay and speculation. Are we not the organization that deals in facts and numbers? I just skimmed these Worry Warlock thoughts and there is not a single number to be seen! Who co-wrote this, Hawk Harrelson?! I’m surprised you don’t have: “What if the Rays lose their Will to Win?” as a question in this theoretical jibber-jab.

How about this: What if the Rays manager, who handled all of this last year, does it again in 2019?

Occam’s Razor, mf’er.

What if Kiermaier sommmeeehoooww manages to figure out the perfect balance between aggressive and not reckless play? Or the fact that injury-prone position players is kind of a myth?

What if Tommy Pham is just really effing good? What if the Rays bring in several key pieces at the deadline using their prospect capital (of which they have a lot) instead of their fiduciary capital (of which they do not have a lot)? That would be kind of smart, wouldn’t it, huh?

You can always play these games, Worry Warlock, but with a bit of self-confidence and faith in the system, we’ll always see right through you?

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I am a little anxious about Wendle maintaining a .353 BABIP with a 21.8 percent line drive rate though…