Sunday, April 01, 2007

Adopt The Tampa Bay Devil Rays As Your Favorite Major League Baseball Team...Seriously

We have been enough places in this country to know that a lot of baseball fans grew up without a favorite team. If this sounds familiar, we want you! Sure...maybe you latched on to one team or another at different times in your life, but face it, baseball is a sport built on it's history. It is difficult to get on board when you haven't been there all along. If you will grant us a few minutes, we will give you 14 reasons why you should adopt the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as your favorite Major League Baseball team. If the Rays are good enough for Jenn Sterger, then they should be good enough for you. If Manny Stiles can do it. So can you!

[Editor's Note:
This is NOT an April Fool's joke. Seriously. And if you are finding us for the first time, let us assure you that we are not a homer for the Rays organization. We have no personal relationship and have never been afraid to be openly critical of the front office. You might also assume that we are drunk. We promise that we are sane and we are not too drunk]

1. THIS TEAM IS YOUNG AND TALENTED. The Rays will have the second youngest opening day roster (behind the Marlins) in which all but two of the opening day starters will be 25 or younger. Including the opening day starting pitcher, Scott Kazmir, the lineup will feature six players that have the potential to be All-Stars at their positions (Kazmir, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Delmon Young, B. J. Upton, Dioner Navarro).

2. THE MOST EXCITING PLAYER IN BASEBALL IS A DEVIL RAY
. Carl Crawford, the fastest man in baseball, may already be the best left fielder in baseball. In each of his 5 major league seasons, Crawford has raised his batting average, home runs and OPS. He has led the AL in stolen bases and triples three times each and is an underrated defensive fielder with an accurate if not strong arm. And look for Crawford to add more home runs to his already full arsenal in 2007. Playing with a sore wrist in 2006 he hit 11 home runs in one 30 game stretch. 30 home runs and 60 stolen bases with a gold glove are very realistic for 2007.

3. JENN STERGER IS A DEVIL RAYS FAN.

4. THE BEST OUTFIELD IN BASEBALL. Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Delmon Young are all young and all posses the rare combination of power, speed and defensive skills. Rocco Baldelli returned in 2006 after missing all of 2005 and got off to a slow start but his numbers in the last two months of the season, hinted that Rocco may be ready to breakout and give Rays fans the type of season, they have long hoped for. Delmon Young may be the best hitter of the group. A free swinger that will not hit a lot of home runs early on, but he should hit for a good average and has above average speed that should produce 20+ stolen bases. And those aren't even the best part of his game. Last season Young threw out Ichiro trying to go from first to third on a single to right. Not many players in baseball have that on their resume. The scary thing is many scouts believe that Elijah Dukes, who will be the Rays 4th outfielder this season and will make his major league debut on opening day, could end up the best of the group. There is no room in the outfield for Jonny Gomes, so he will be the team’s DH. Gomes is just fun to watch and has an excitement level to him that is contagious. And besides he looks an awful lot like Mr. Kotter.
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5. GOOD YOUNG PITCHERS. All the hitting talent in the world is great, but a team can’t win with offense alone. Winning is about three things…pitching, pitching, pitching. Scott Kazmir is a legitimate ace. James Shields had a very strong rookie campaign and an even stronger spring training this year. Edwin Jackson is a former Dodgers top prospect that has always had great stuff but struggled with control. Still only 22, he appears to have his control problems in check and may be poised to break out in 2007. Two more top prospects should be in the rotation by mid-season. Jeff Niemann is a 6-9 former first round power pitcher that looks an awful lot like Bruce Sutter. Mitch Talbot came over from the Astros in the Aubrey Huff deal last season and seemed to find another gear. By the all-star game the Rays rotation could consist of 5 talented pitchers, all under the age of 25.

6. THESE PLAYERS WILL BE IN PLACE FOR AT THE NEXT SEVERAL YEARS. The Rays control Crawford and Rocco until 2010 and 2011 and Dukes and Young are under the control of the team until 2012. Negotiations have begun with Scott Kazmir on a long-term deal. Even without a deal, Kid K is still three years from free agency. Most of the rest of the lineup are still several years from free agency. In the era of free agency, players come and go. That will not be the case with the Rays. There is only one regular that will be a free agent after the 2007 season (Casey Fossum) and nobody is going to shed a tear losing him or trading him before the deadline

7. MINOR LEAGUE SYSTEM RATED #1 BY BASEBALL AMERICA. With young talented players already filling the lineup already, there are several more on the way and the next wave is just as talented as the current crop. Shortstop Reid Brignac has a California League MVP on his resume, and Evan Longoria, the 2006 third overall pick was so dominating in his first professional season, that Baseball America already has him as top-10 prospect. Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot should both make their major league debuts in 2007 and there is another wave of talented pitchers right behind them (Andy Sonnanstine, Jacob McGee, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson).

8. NEW OWNERSHIP AND FRONT OFFICE. For the first eight seasons of the Rays history, they had arguably the most incompetent owner and general manager in all of the major sports (no offense to Peter Angelos, Kevin McHale, Isiah Thomas or Matt Milan). The new group assumed control following the 2006 season and have made a number of changes. The previous ownership was known as a difficult group to deal with and the new group came in and made more trades in the first season than the previous group had made in the four previous seasons combined. They like to trade and they are good at it. The Rays went from a middle-of-the-road minor league system to the top system in baseball with top prospects at every position. The changes the owners have made have not been reflected in the standings yet, but the plan is in place. The idea is to give one more season to the young guys to see what exactly the organization has and also give a couple of minor leaguers a chance to catch up. Following this season, the team will decide what holes need to be filled and they will start writing checks in free agency to fill needs.

9. THERE ARE A LOT OF TEAMS IN THE AL EAST THAT ARE EASY TO HATE.

  1. The New York Spankees? George Steinbrenner, the ARod-Jeter lovefest, $200 million payroll, 26 world championships, an all-star at every position. Hating the pinstripes is easy. And we are telling you from personal experience that it feels so good every time the Rays beat up on a team that has a third baseman with a salary equal to the Rays entire 40-man roster.
  2. The Boston Pink Hats? We admit that we once had a soft spot for the Red Sox. We hated the Yankees and they always finished second to New York. They always lost to New York in the playoffs. Rooting against the Yankees led to us rooting for the Red Sox. Unlike the Cubs who nobody ever expects to win, the Red Sox were like the Little Engine That Could. But then they did beat the Yankees and they did win the World Series. And all of the sudden everybody was a Sox fan. New Yorker, Jimmy Fallon is making a movie about it. Women are seen everywhere wearing pink hats. Ben Affleck, of the Unintentional Comedy School of Acting, was the poster fan and always in the front row. And now the Red Sox have a payroll approaching that of the Yankees. Red Sox Nation? Or The Evil Empire, Jr.?
  3. The Baltimore Horioles? Now that Vince Naimoli is no longer managing general partner of the Rays, Peter Angelos can resume his role of worst owner in baseball. The team just can’t get out of its own way. They spend like a big market team, but never seem to get any better.
  4. The Toronto Grey Jays? We used to like Toronto until value of the dollar started falling.

10. THE RAYS FLEECED THE METS. Mets fans are like Pavlov’s Dogs. Just say the name Scott Kazmir and see how they react. It’s fun to tease them. For the record, Victor Zambrano won 10 games in parts of 3 seasons with the Mets. Kid K made his first All-Star appearance in 2006 and he is only 23.

11. THE TEAM IS GETTING NEW COLORS AND LOGO IN 2008. While the team name will officially change from Devil Rays to just Rays, this will be accompanied by a whole new color scheme and logo. Blue which is currently an official accent color for the team will most likely become the primary color. The official team website seems to be a preview of things to come.

12. THE TAMPA-ST. PETE AREA IS A GREAT VACATION DESTINATION. Warm weather, some of the best beaches in the country, close to Disney World, and plenty of strip clubs (if you are into that sort of thing).

13. THE TROP IS REALLY NOT AS BAD AS MOST PEOPLE SEEM TO THINK IT IS. It amazes us how many people talk of how bad the Trop is even though they have never attended a game there. First of all, the Tampa-St. Pete area was forced by Major League Baseball to build a stadium on the cheap. In the first round of expansion, Miami was picked over the Tampa Bay area in part because the city did not have a baseball-ready stadium. So without a team to help finance a new park, the city built the Trop on the cheap. When it first opened, it was awful. It was basically a big empty warehouse. But since then a number of renovations have significantly improved the Trop to the point that it is now actually a fun place to watch a game. Yes it is a dome, but that really can’t be helped in the Tampa-St. Pete area. The weather would never allow for an open roof stadium. And while the field is obviously artificial, the Trop will debut the new FieldTurf2 this season which looks and plays much like real grass. On top of that, the infield is all clay, unlike many artificial turf field which only have clay around the bases. The field plays very much like an outdoor field.

14. THIS TEAM IS GOING TO BE GOOD IN 2008. Don't be a bandwagon jumper. Get on board and feel the satisfaction of having been with the team before they were good. Baseball is a sport whose foundation is it’s history. The Rays have no history. Rather, the Rays history is being written now, in 2007. This is the season when we will look back and say “that’s when it all started.” We will be able to look back on this season and the seasons to come with pride. So give the Rays a shot and join as we watch the Rays march towards the 2010 World Series Championship. You won't be disappointed. This is not your older brother’s Devil Rays.

14. IF YOU STILL AREN'T CONVINCED, OUR TEAM PRESIDENT MIGHT JUST PAY YOU TO ROOT FOR THE RAYS. Just ask Manny Stiles.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Oriole Magic! said...

I tell you what, as an AL East rival fan...the Devil Rays of about 2008-2009 scare the hell out of me.

This team is going to all come together and develop at once, and no one's going to see it coming. ESPN won't know what to do with themselves when the Rays they predicted to finish 5th beat the Yankees 12 times in a row to win the division.

11:20 PM  
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