The next Rays

FanHouse’s Andrew Johnson proclaims the Rangers to be the next Rays:

Trying to find the next Tampa Bay Rays a year after their meteoric rise to the top of the American League is a bit of an insult to what the Rays accomplished in 2008. Going from worst to first in one season just doesn’t happen very often in baseball.

The 2008 Rays were the next 1991 Braves, if anything, so trying to find the heir to the Rays one year later when it might actually take a full generation for that team to emerge could be a fool’s errand.

On the other hand, if we look at the 2008 Rays as following in the footsteps of the 2007 Rockies and 2006 Tigers, it’s much easier to find a team that could take the mantle of enormous surprise in 2009. Enter the Texas Rangers.

I think Andrew is right that the Rangers are going to be very good very soon, but I kind of hope this “The Next Rays” thing doesn’t become a new meme in baseball. You know and I know and Andrew knows that good teams don’t arise overnight, but there’s a wide swath of fandom and mediadom that probably doesn’t understand that. I’d hate nothing more than for baseball to become like football, where people expect some team to come out of nowhere every season, with the identity of that team serving as the offseason’s primary parlor game. Such a dynamic creates impatient fans and is a disservice to the scouts and front office folks who put a lot of damn work into turning losers into winners.

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  1. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    The Rangers have a nice farm system, but where is the pitching that’s going to carry them?  We’ve seen various iterations of a Rangers team make the playoffs only to fall short due to the lack of a talented/deep rotation. 

    Kenny Rogers, Millwood, etc. are not the aces who can bring you to the Promised Land.

    TB at least has/had some great young arms to balance the club’s talented positional staff.

  2. Wooden_U_Lykteneau said...

    Indeed. There are also a lot of people that think that the Rays got so good solely because of their high draft picks, not shrewd trades like:

    * Grant Balfour from the Brewers for Seth McClung, July 207
    * Dan Wheeler from the Astros, July 2007 * Matt Garza and SS Jason Barrett from the Twins for OF Delmon Young, November 2007
    * Willie Aybar for Jeff Ridgway from the Braves, January 2008
    * Gabe Gross from the Brewers in April 2008
    * Chad Bradford from Baltimore in August 2008

  3. RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

    I’ll do my best to keep this brief and to the point, Shyster.  Further, I don’t think your point is as much The Rangers as the concept
    of Coming from Palukaville to The Fall Classic. However, as the Self Appointed North Texas Desk of All Things Rangers, I feel an obligation to weigh-in.

    Offhand, I don’t see that The Rangers making the playoffs, or doing really well this season, should be regarded as a Meteroric Rise. They actually held their own in 2008, and while their final record was pedestrian, they played some brilliant baseball last year.  A lot of that might be the division they played in. Nonetheless, the only team in the AL that gave them fits were the Angels. Here is my summary (that, nobody has asked for…):
      Offense:  The Rangers lead baseball in 2008 with RBI’s and team BA. Whether they can recreate that remains to be seen, but the only big bat not returning to the roster is Milton Bradley, who missed 40-odd games anyway.  They did not             have a shortage of hitting to take his place.                  Impact on 2009:  A wash. Offense has never been a problem for this team.
    Defense:  My biggest peeve. The Rangers also lead the league in errors in 2008, with Ian Kinsler
    running the baton for the infield. His April and May was a defensive disaster, but he leveled
    out and played brilliantly from June to August before he got hurt. If he can contain this
    facet of his game and stay healthy, that should improve. The concern is the Rookie SS,
    who made 32 errors in 120 AA games last season. This is making my feet sweat just thinking
    about it. One only hopes Ron Washington can yank him out of the lineup if he starts having trouble early. The Outfield is fine – as is their catching.
      Impact on 2009:  A Wash. Starting a rooking SS   will likely off-set any other improvements, as
    will Young’s inevitable handful of throwing gafs from being new at 3rd base. 
    Pitching:  OK, not the strongest rotation in the league, but Padilla and Millwood are each capable of having a good contribution of starts. They both had injuries and other issues last year, but
    I’m hoping that Nolan’s beefed-up conditioning results in three or four improved starts for each
    of them. Add to that Sheets, who’s signing is not Imminent, but Likely, and you have three
    serviceable starters who should provide 75 – 80 decent outings (not For Sure wins…just good starts).  The rest of the rotation can be cobbled from the list of promising youngsters they have wandering around.
    Impact on 2009: Six additional wins
    Intangibles: Laugh, if you must, but the most promising development for this team in the off season has been the return of a red home uniform. This one thing has has created more positive buzz in Ranger Fandom than anything else.  Maybe watching Padilla so much has us all crazy as loons, but we view this as a Sound Improvement.  Finally, if North Texas has a mild summer that isn’t so dang dry and hot, you can count on this contributing to some wins, as well.
    Impact on 2009: Six additional wins
    So, The Rangers come away from all of this with enough to at least secure a wild-card berth.
    What happens from there? Ask me in September.

  4. scatterbrian said...

    weird that a guy calling himself a BaseballHack would only predict 12 added wins considering the red unis and “Nolan’s beefed-up conditioning”….that’s more like 18 wins…

  5. pete said...

    It took 95 games to win the wild card last year, Royce, and that was with the Indians and Tigers completely out of the picture. It’s unlikely that it will take 95 games to win the wild card this year, but 91+ is a pretty good bet.

    I like the Rangers going forward, but 91 wins is going to be tough in 2009. There’s a better chance that Anaheim falls hard due to the losses of Teix and KRod, attrition, and worse luck (they outperformed their pythagorean record by 12 wins) and Oakland doesn’t put it together. That’s a very winnable division, especially if Texas gets a moderately healthy Ben Sheets.

  6. RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

    I only mention the return of the red uniform because abandoning them and returning to the white/blue garb was not well received in the ranks of Rangers fandom- we saw it kind of like drinking Jo-Bu’s rum. We can only hope that their return ignites a maelstrom of good vibes and sound fielding.

  7. RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

    You’re right..! Probably is…also probably funnier just knowing it lurks in there under the surface…

  8. themarksmith said...

    I imagine if the Rangers pull it off, then everyone after them will be “the New Rangers” just like the Rays were the “new Braves”.

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