Today In Poorly Formed Thoughts

A brief internet search is all it takes for one to draw the conclusion that Florida Today writer Peter Kerasotis relies on pure hatred for at least a third of  his readership.  When not purposely antagonizing anyone who forms opinions through reason or empirical evidence, Kerasotis employs a brand of homerism normally reserved for those who call in to sports radio programs often enough to be on a first name basis with producers.

Despite leaning toward the probability that other’s bitter criticism allows him to remain relevant (read: employed), his latest article is such a disasterpiece of poorly formed thoughts lacking substance, and supported only by cliches, that to let it go without criticism almost seems morally reprehensible.  In it, Kerasotis attacks the Tampa Bay Rays, their offseason strategy, their fans and the very nature of knowing what you’re talking about.

Here we are, 29 days away from the reporting date for pitchers and catchers, and already Tampa Bay’s season is effectively over.

How nice of Kerasotis to summon Cassandra for assistance with his diatribe.  While the thinking, and I use the term loosely, that he uses might be considered tragic, the rest of the article would be more accurately described as comedy.

In fact, what the Rays just did is go from recording the American League’s best record last season to their worst offseason in franchise history.

While it’s true that the Rays were the American League’s best team last year, I’m not so sure you can compare an offseason in which the team acquired an additional ten draft picks, a ton of underrated Minor League talent and a completely underrated arm for their bullpen at a very good price to the offseason ahead of the 2000 season when the Devil Rays traded for Vinny Castilla and overpaid to sign a plethora of aging veterans like Juan Guzman and Gregg Vaughn to multi-year deals.

That season, with a payroll of $62.8 million (10th in MLB), Tampa Bay finished fifth in the AL East once again. This offseason, the Rays ransacked the Chicago Cubs farm system and had set themselves up over the past few years to soften the blow of losing players to free agency.

Normally, this is where you’d type the obligatory rip-the-franchise paragraph for letting its fans down, except that you can’t, because it’s the other way around. It’s the fans who’ve let down the franchise.

Yes.  Because fans in Tampa Bay haven’t been ripped enough by unemployment (hovering around 12%) or the complete lack of urban growth in the region, let’s tsk tsk them and their foreclosed homes for letting down the franchise.

The Rays even gave away 20,000 free tickets to a game last season, two nights after an embarrassing number of fans — only 12,446 — showed up on a night Tampa Bay could clinch the American League East, which is only baseball’s best division.

No one is suggesting that the Rays attendance numbers are phenomenal, but it’s a little more complicated than just bad fans.  The game that Kerasotis is writing about was actually a Monday night in which they were playing their division’s last placed team after they had already clinched a playoff spot and the division title meant little more than bragging rights and playoff matchups.  The team has only been around for thirteen years and despite being young and successful, don’t draw well in other ballparks either.

Yet, despite all this, the Tampa Bay area continues to send the message that it’s a small-market area that wants to be so small as to become non-existent as far as Major League Baseball is concerned.

You know, if you totally ignore economic factors, local urban decay, the team’s brief history and a home stadium with all the convivial appeal of the U.S. Emabassy in Afghanistan, I totally agree with Kerasotis.


Again we agree.  The one word paragraph really sums up the article to this point.

The early odds have Boston winning the AL East and New York taking the wild card. Then it looks like either Toronto or a Baltimore team that surged late in the season under new manager Buck Showalter to finish third, with the other team finishing fourth.

That leaves the Rays in last place, and perhaps not long for Tampa Bay.

This is truly a work of master trickery on the part of Kerasotis.  He switches from using the “early odds” to how “it looks” to make the Rays appear far worse than anyone actually considers them to be.  A quick check at reveals that while the Red Sox (+200) and Yankees (+250) may be favourites to win the American League Pennant, the Blue Jays (+2500) and Orioles (+2500) have far worse odds than the Tampa Bay Rays (+1200).

Really, who can blame them if they bolt?

Attendance equates to revenue and revenue equates to being able to keep players like Carl Crawford, Matt Garza and Rafael Soriano on the payroll.

Instead, in a season where Tampa Bay had the AL’s best record, it also had MLB’s 22nd-worst attendance.

The Cincinnati Reds, a team with far more history than than the Rays and who also won their division ranked 20th in attendance.  The San Diego Padres, who battled to the last day of the season finished 18th in attendance.  Is there any worry that these teams will be on the move?  What about the eight teams below the Rays in attendance?  What about the Baltimore Orioles or the Kansas City Royals who both had less attendance than the Rays, but with a higher total payroll?

These are not insignificant losses the Rays just suffered.

Crawford is a rare athlete — a blend of speed, power, defense, and leadership.

Matt Garza won 15 games last season, was the 2008 ALCS MVP and is the only pitcher in franchise history to have a no-hitter.

As for Rafael Soriano, he saved more games in the AL last season (45 in 48 opportunities with a 1.73 ERA) than anyone else, even Mariano Rivera. And now he’s going to be Rivera’s setup man, and presumably the Yankees’ closer-in-waiting for when Rivera retires.

They also traded Jason Bartlett during this odoriferous offseason.

No one would ever suggest that the Rays aren’t going to miss Carl Crawford or Rafael Soriano, but competing with free agent offers from the two biggest markets in baseball isn’t going to happen for Tampa Bay if the Rays sell out every game, it’s probably not going to happen for any other team in baseball. It’s also a little bit more than disingenuous to bring on all of the doom and gloom over losing these players without mentioning Reid Brignac, Desmond Jennings, Sean Rodriguez or Adam Russell waiting in the wings, let alone Jeremy Hellickson who’s probably already able to offer close to whatever the Rays lost in giving up Garza.

There’s also no mention of the likelihood of Tampa Bay signing one of the remaining DH options in Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero or Manny Ramirez.

It’s actually nine players who left via free agency this offseason — Crawford, Soriano, Carlos Pena, Dioner Navarro, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Randy Choate, Brad Hawpe and Dan Wheeler, who also went to the Red Sox.

Oh my god.  How will the Rays ever recover from losing Brad Hawpe’s massive contribution last year, which consisted of only 46 plate appearances? Or Dioner Navarro who quit on the team when he wasn’t named to ALDS roster?  Or Carlos Pena, who had 63 more strikeouts than hits last season?  The rest of the list not already mention are relief pitchers, who despite their worth to the Rays last season, would be traded by any team in baseball for the equivalent of a supplemental round draft pick, let alone in Balfour’s case, a second round pick as well.

The good news is that the Rays now have nine first-round picks and 11 of the first 89 picks in this June’s draft. You know what that means for Tampa Bay? It means one word, and it’s spelled this way.


Where exactly has Kerasotis been the last few years?  I know he writes for Florida Today, so one would assume his location to be near Florida, somewhat close to the Tampa Bay area, and yet his complete ignorance as to how the Tampa Bay Rays have been building their team leaves me wondering if he’s located on a planet far away from baseball.

How else can you explain any analysis of the Tampa Bay Rays that leaves out everything that the team has come to stand for?  The Rays have built their organization in a manner that takes advantage of the low cost of younger players under team control.  As a player leaves via free agency or becomes too expensive to keep through arbitration, the team has a Major League replacement ready from within their system.

Kerasotis’ final written statement is astounding for the amount of stupidity it contains despite being only eleven words long:

Meanwhile, what’s left of pitchers and catchers report in 29 days.

What’s left?  What’s left is a roster that will continue to emerge and still compete in the toughest division in baseball, right now and long into the future.  The fact that they’re able to do this with one of the lower payrolls in baseball and in a market that’s smaller than most in baseball is what makes this team noteworthy, not a perceived inability to keep talent or lacking fans.  The Tampa Bay Rays are a team to be celebrated, not criticized without reason.