Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back to the Future

So this weekend the big story in the AL East came from Tampa, as they signed both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Obviously, they created a lot of buzz in Boston because of both players' roles in the team's recent history. Three ideas I've heard thrown around this weekend, and I'll present my opinions about them.

1. Why is Damon making more money than Manny? The short answer is, it's not 2005 anymore. The long answer includes information like Manny having two (2) extra-base hits after being traded to the White Sox, the fact that in the past three years, Damon has played 431 games while Ramirez has played less than 300, and the fact that with the exception of giving a multitude of terrible interviews, Damon will not cause a distraction to a team with dogging it, doing steroids, showing up to camp late, or fighting with your third baseman.

Hate to say it, but Scott Boras was right about the Greg Maddux of position players. Damon has aged quite well. Probably not as well as Maddux, but you don't have to cherry-pick stats to see that Damon, even in a 2010 season where he got relatively little attention, is still a serviceable everyday major leaguer. Ramirez is not. Ramirez is a platoon player and a dangerous bat off the bench. You cannot count on him, especially post-suspension, to be any more.

2. Will this make the Rays a better team/a contender? Let's face it: The Rays are not even close to the way they were last year or over the last several years. When you lose Pena, Crawford, half your bullpen, Soriano, and Garza, you're in for a rebuilding year. I honestly don't see them within five games of Boston or New York this year, but they could if Manny wants to show up to play this year. Doubtful.

What might be the most interesting part is the fact that this, on the baseball side, is probably what's best for the organization. This means Desmond Jennings is in AAA for another year. The way I see it, keeping Jennings down there is like the Red Sox keeping Ryan Kalish there for another year. It's in both the players' and the teams' best interest. Plus, if something happens to either of these guys, Jennings will have a shot. The one-year deals means the job is Jennings's next year.

There's also a hint of the Oakland A's business model here, picking up a couple of veteran reclamation projects from six years ago.

3. Will this put butts in the seats? Damon has an attendance-based incentive written into his contract, which is unbelievable. His marquee value as a popular player is a selling point. This actually does make sense. Who are Tampa Bay fans? A competitive Rays team in 2008-2010 didn't sell the Trop out. Probably because a lot of these Tampa Bay fans are transplants from northern cities. Northern cities like Boston and New York, who rooted for at least one of these guys during a special time. Maybe these guys will help sell a couple of season tickets so that the team can actually finance more long-term contracts for their young stars. Remember, they still have Price, Davis, Longoria, Jennings, and Upton.

Maybe, with a little bit of a revenue stream starting from the buzz coming from these two guys will help the team prevent another exodus like the one this past offseason.

Then again, isn't that how Tampa started their franchise, with guys like Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs, and Jose Canseco? That didn't work. But we'll see what happens. It's going to be an interesting year in Tampa this year.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

I'm excited to see Manny playing 18 times against the Red Sox. And you know he'll be good for a few big hits against the Yankees. He's not the dominant player he was, but few people who have ever played baseball are. Still, I'm intrigued by his return to the AL East.

As for Damon, he was really a product of Yankee Stadium. That place gave him a new life that he wouldn't have had, especially not in a place like Fenway, where right field is so massive. He got the same type of career boost at Yankee Stadium that Mike Lowell got at Fenway.

Lastly, the problem with the way the Rays built their early teams wasn't Canseco, McGriff, and Boggs. Those guys were actually productive in Tampa. The problem was that the Rays management didn't sign, trade for, or draft one decent pitcher. Now, you can certainly make the argument that signing those guys prevented the Rays from acquiring pitching, but that's like blaming ARod for the Rangers woes from 2001-03 even though he was the best player in the AL during those times.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

the only thing that really matters about these signings is that it makes the rays better with little cost and almost no risk. is it enough to get the rays in the mix for the division/wild card with the yankees and red sox? well, that really depends on how good they are, and they'd have to both be pretty good to make up for everything tampa bay has lost (and tampa bay would still need other things like the bullpen - which lost it's four best arms from 2010 - to shape up). but that's not the point. the point is that ANY version of damon and manny makes the rays a tougher team, which is annoying when you have to play that team 18 times. they are seasoned, tough at bats, much tougher than who likely would have had the at bats otherwise. there are a lot of things that could go wrong with these signings too, but so long as they don't these are two veteran players that, at the very least, can't wait to play spoiler for the yankees and red sox. and that's before you get to vlad possibly ending up in baltimore, which would have a very similar affect. it would be nice to keep some of these players out of the al east.

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

Is it really that exciting to see Manny against the Red Sox? What did he do in previous games against the Red Sox other than make JD Drew strain a hamstring?

The Damon/NYS poing is very fair. Without looking at the numbers, I'd say that Canseco, McGriff, and Boggs must have been in between Andre Dawson with the Sox and the Mike Piazza A's Renaissance. Which is to say, nothing to build a championship caliber team.

As you guys said, they probably won't contend, but, like Baltimore, they could very well be a pain in the rear end, and even potentially prevent the Wild Card from coming from the East.