Back to the drawing board, again
Well, with both the Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays bowing out in the divisional series of the NLDS and the ALDS. It is hard to explain, where the two teams now go from here in terms of their immediate long-term futures. Managers, Fredi Gonzalez and Joe Maddon did all that was asked of them by way of their respective hierarchies, but at the end of the day it simply was not enough. The Atlanta Braves with a great deal of ease won the NL East , going away from their closest rivals , the Washington Nationals . In the case of Maddon and the Rays, it was a year erratic plays and then heightened moments of excellence, only to the stumble at the most inopportune of moments. Simply making the postseason, was all that the Rays could have hoped for, in spite of the optimism shown by the team’s 2012 Cy Young Award winning pitcher David Price .
Utter frustration and dismay, would be the best way to describe the very fact that the Tampa Bay Rays fought all season long to gain a postseason berth , only for their pitching and then their hitting to let them down in their ALDS match-up against divisional rivals the Boston Red Sox , who might now be the clear favorites to win the AL Pennant for this season. Of the four teams left at that stage of the postseason the Red Sox might well be the most balanced of the quartet in terms of their fielding , offense and pitching . And that to my mind may well be the determining factor as to whether or not John Farrell leads this team to their third … World Series’ title in the past seven seasons . It would certainly justify the faith shown in the manager and his staff , after a year of sheer turmoil and utter incompetence shown by Farrell’s predecessor , Bobby Valentine . The ease with which Boston was able to dispose of the Tampa Bay Rays, says a great deal about the determination of the team and the simple lack of real depth and leadership of the Rays’ staff altogether . When I have repeatedly pointed this fact out to a number of Tampa’s supporters , few have been prepared to answer that question succinctly, simply choosing instead to point to the managerial acumen of Joe Maddon. Yet , the manager can only give instruction to his players, and then expect them to execute accordingly.
The ease of Boston’s 3-1 series’ win in a best of five game series , has been a damning indictment of a Rays’ organization , although well ran , it remains with an unenviable task of trying to compete against teams within their division , who possess far deeper pockets and essentially have far greater resources all-round. During this off-season, GM Andrew Friedman will have to contemplate whether or not the organization can afford to retain the services of David Price , who in many ways was the team’s best pitcher and overall performer during the postseason. A one-year . $10 million contract was all that the ball-club could afford in 2013. Greater riches await Price and his agent Bo McKinnis , should they refuse what is likely to be another single or no more than two-year deal from the organization . A rather asinine article written in the business bible for many Forbes Magazine, suggested that the Rays would be able to negotiate a multi-year multi-million television deal that would be able to sustain the franchise over the decade and a half. Unfortunately, the writer of this article must have been someone with very little knowledge of the ball club and clearly not an intelligent enough individual, to realize the fact that once again the Tampa Bay Rays were at the lower end of attendance levels for baseball’s thirty teams during the 2013 season . In spite of the claims MLB that the Tampa Bay Rays draws on average in excess of 22,000 fans per home game at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida. That figure in reality, is a great deal closer to 15,000 hardcore fans that this franchise is known to possess. The fact the matter is, in spite of a growing television audience in the local market , on the national stage this ball-club is far from being a major draw.
Tampa as a baseball town, is unable compete along the lines of their big market counterparts, never mind the fact, that the Sales and Marketing Department’s attempts of selling the Rays as a brand, has proven to be about as successful an attempt, as it has been for the current Presidential administration’s attempt to raise the debt-ceiling and creating the perception that it will be a cure to solving the federal government’s budgetary woes. One can only carry on repeating the same lunacy for so long, before the general public or the fans finds that whole exercise tedious and rather comedic. The biggest issue I have with the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization is the continued reluctance shown by managing partners Matt Silverman and Stuart Sternberg to seek out a wealthy financial backer willing to take stake in the franchise , while providing the franchise with the means and resources to go after some of the more marquee free agents available. Granted, Maddon and his managerial assistants in conjunction with Andrew Friedman have been able to assess great talent by way of the MLB Draft over the past few years , while also being able to obtain workmanlike free agents via trade acquisitions that have proven to be productive. Yet, if Tampa is to compete against the top-heavy payrolls of teams such as the New York Yankees , Detroit Tigers Boston and Boston Red Sox , then the front office will clearly have to rethink its current strategy.
The disappointment of this postseason, has not been lost on the Rays’ fans as a great deal more was expected from this team at the start of the season. As the year wore on, it became abundantly clear that they were not the best team in the AL East , as many analyst and commentators alike had predicted. All of the hyperbole was simply misplaced on a team , that at best, their main hope was simply to make the postseason and then hope that the baseball gods would look down upon the franchise favorably as they sought to make their way the World Series. In 2013, it was not meant to be and at this juncture, I do believe it may well be a considerable length of time before we see the Tampa Bay Rays make another appearance in baseball’s showcase finale. Five years removed from that sensational year and that series’ appearance against the Philadelphia Phillies whetted the appetite of the fans, but it has now become a lovelorn quest that has proven to be so disappointing at every juncture for this organization in the subsequent years after that World Series’ appearance in 2008 .
As the front office spends time this off-season reassessing their needs and how best to strategize, who will remain a part of the current roster , and which players will be jettisoned. The thought has to be , whether or not it is feasible to continue along this path while knowing that next season without a doubt the New York Yankees , Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles are likely to get considerably better in terms of their lineups . In the case of the Toronto Blue Jays , theirs has been a lesson in abject stupidity and a complete lack of leadership from their executives on down to the managerial staff and amongst the players . After such an abject season, one can only question the decisions made by the front office and the lack of competitiveness shown by the team throughout the entire season. I can only surmise, that the goal of the organization was simply to assemble a platoon of overpaid stars to place alongside Jose Bautista and then to let the chips fall where they may , rather than to assemble a cohesive lineup. Manager John Gibbons is likely to return , but in all likelihood , his long-term future with the organization will not be all that long , if this franchise fails to compete in 2014.
With Joe Girardi and the New York Yankees agreeing to a contract extension , it remains to be seen whether not the organization will be as ambitious in retaining the services of Robinson Cano , as the player becomes a free agent this off-season. The retirements of Andy Pettite and Mariano Rivera , will see something of a depleted pitching staff , that this season was nowhere as good as advertised . Add in, the continued idiocy of the Alex Rodriguez saga and the Yankees’ less than ambitious task of seeking to remove the player from their organization , along with Bud Selig’s stupidity, in handling this issue. And baseball’s most celebrated franchise will have its own endearing off-season drama of comedic events .
Two years in succession and a change of leagues and the absolute mediocrity shown by the Houston Astros remained intact. It is one thing to lose one hundred games 2012 , but to repeat that feat again in 2013 as the American League’s newest arrival, was something that I believe not even the Astros’ fans were expecting. GM Jeff Luhnow and team owner Jim Crane must now be wondering, if that added incentive of $100 million offered by the league hierarchy was worthwhile in making jump from the NL Central to the AL West . While there is said to be a sense that current manager Bo Porter has the team heading in the right direction , there are those who feel that he and his staff are not the right people to be in charge and oversee the development of their young players on the roster, as well as seeking the progress of the farm system and prospects . With a payroll of just over $22 million in 2013 , the Astros’ salary obligations were the lowest in all of Major League Baseball and a far cry from the $228.8 million that was committed to by the New York Yankees . Consider the fact also that the game’s highest paid player , Alex Rodriguez , whose salary this season was a colossal $29 million delivered meager returns for the franchise , while the likes of the Astros struggled not only with attendance , but also trying to remain competitive over the course of the season . Next year, we are likely to see the Astros begin their Spring Training schedule with the usual mindset amongst baseball’s thirty teams , but once the regular season starts , will the team revert to ways of old , in proceeding to show us the form witnessed in 2012 and 2013 ?
As an avowed Atlanta Braves’ fan I expected a great deal more out of the team during the postseason ! The fact that Fredi Gonzalez and his staff could muster a sense of urgency amongst the players provides me now with the ammunition I need to not only be critical of the manager but the entire organization as a whole , from the executives on down . The NLDS series was simply an absolute abomination to endure and watch. Capsizing at sea perhaps , would be the best way to describe the effort of the team , as no one showed any emotion, or sought to step up to the plate. A clear case can be made that the Braves are a reflection of the manager Fredi Gonzalez , whose laid back style is not the type effort that is needed when managing in the postseason .
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Now that we are down to the final four teams for playing to become the AL and NL pennant representatives for this season’s World Series . It will be interesting to see how these respective series pan out with the Boston Red Sox playing host to the Detroit Tigers for the first two games of the ALCS at Fenway Park , while the St Louis Cardinals will have as their guests at Busch Stadium the Los Angeles Dodgers . While the league hierarchy and some of the more uninitiated, try to suggest that baseball has a level playing field , but consider the fact that these four teams combined, will have a payroll exceeding $600 million. Baseball has lost its way, in spite of the controversy and drama seen this season . Simply leave comment as you see fit on this and anything else you believe to be pertinent to the subject matter .
Picture and slideshow details below .
(1) Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his teammates celebrate their 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in game four of the NLDS played at Dodgers Ballpark in Los Angles California . AP Photo / Mark J Terrill ….
(2) Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves reacts after striking out in the third inning of game four of the NLDS played against the Los Angeles Dodgers . Heyward like the rest of the Braves’ offense performed poorly during the series as a whole . Getty Images North America / Stephen Dunn ….
(3) Tampa Bay Rays’ manager Joe Maddon speaks with pitcher Jamey Wright , during the second inning of game four of the ALDS , which was played at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida against the Boston Red Sox . Also pictured, catcher Jose Lobaton . Boston would go on to win the game 3-1 and take the series 3-1 to make their to the ALCS , where they will play the Detroit Tigers . AP Photo / Chris O’Meara ….
(4) Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara celebrates with teammate , Jarrod Saltalmacchia after Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays is struck out in the ninth inning of game four of the ALDS . AP Photo /John Raoux ….
(5) New York Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman is seen here with the team’s manager Joe Girardi . The manager has agreed to a four-year contract extension said to be valued at $16 million . This off-season the team faces a number of tough decisions , most notably the re-signing of third baseman Robinson Cano as dealing with the decision to also acquire Japanese pitcher Lure Masahiro Tanaka . There also remains the uncertainty as to whether or not Alex Rodriguez will be a part of the roster for the upcoming 2014 season . The Yankees’ third baseman has a lawsuit in which he seeks to sue MLB as well as the team’s lead physician Dr Christopher Ahmad in a suit seeking unspecified damages , emotional distress , pain and anguish , slander , while seeking to do harm to his career and reputation . It should be noted , that an appeal’s hearing and date has yet to be set in the ongoing process, during which Rodriguez will seek to have his two hundred and eleven game suspension overturned . Getty Images / Thomas Croft ….
(6) Alex Rodriguez is seen here arriving at the MLB headquarters in New York City for an impromptu meeting with arbitrator Fred Horowitz . Also in attendance , were the player’s legal team headed by criminal defense attorneys Joseph Tacopina and David Cornwell . Getty Images / Robert Keller ….
(7) Houston Astros’ owner Jim Crane , left, is seen here with the team’s manager Bo Porter as he is formally introduced to the convened members of the media at Minute Maid Park in Houston , Texas . Coming off two straight seasons of losing in excess of one hundred games , the long-term future of the franchise is not as bright as Crane and his fellow executives have been trying to suggest . In recent months , it has been suggested that the Astros have been facing some steep financial difficulties which the owner and general manager Jeff Luhnow have denied . AP Photo / Ashley Jacobson …..
MLB free agents 2014