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Tampa Bay News and Links: Astros raid Rays front office

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They cheated — but Rays lose their VP of baseball operations weeks before season starts

MLB: Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rays news

James Click, Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations since 2016, has been named General Manager for the Houston Astros. Houston had fired GM Jeff Luhnow after MLB had suspended him as punishment for the cheating scandal. But now it seems like it is the Rays, who lose a 16-year employee at the highest rungs of the organization, who are paying the price.

This Marc Topkin column ($) includes reactions from Rays owner Stu Sternberg:

The departure of another talented, senior Rays executive is difficult. That difficulty is compounded by the timing of the departure, only days from the opening of spring training.

Fanfest takes place this weekend at the Trop. Here’s more info on the schedule and lineup.

The Rays have announced which minor leaguers are getting Spring Training invites (this would be in addition to those on the 40 man roster, who are included in major league spring training by default):

Neil Solondz provides a little more information about some of these invitees.

Marc Topkin ($) looks at a few of the pitchers.

One of the minor league invitees is USF lefty Shane McClanahan. Take a look at this Twitter thread for more on his stuff:

Around the League:

Some fun tidbits from Sarah Lang on a slow news day. Cole Sulser better hit a few home runs to maintain March 12 as the best slugging birthday in baseball.

For those of you who really like to look under the hood when analyzing pitching, here’s a deep dive on pitch classifications from an MLB data scientist.

And even deeper dive, if you are wondering about the physics of doctored baseballs this is for you.

Will we find out it was all about grit after all? Russell Carlton discusses the limitations of WAR (and no it’s not grit, but context does matter)($)

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be football players

This is not strictly speaking baseball related, but whenever I hear how football has displaced baseball as America’s pastime, I think about how baseball is VERY unlikely to leave players permanently disabled. Either football is going to have to make some real strides to protect players from head injuries, or within two decades you will not be able to justify offering this sport in any high school. In honor of Sunday’s Super Bowl, here’s a great longform New Yorker read about football brain injuries.