Tag Archives: Alex Cobb

Ben Zobrist Traded from Tampa Bay Rays to Oakland A’s

Over the weekend the Tampa Bay Rays continued their A to Z roster rebuild by trading long-time fan favorite Ben Zobrist to the Oakland Athletics.

The Zobrist trade is the latest move in a busy offseason for the Rays.

Since October the Rays have had to find replacements for president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and manager Joe Maddon, who is now manager of the Chicago Cubs.

After nine seasons with Tampa Bay Ben Zobrist became a member of the Oakland A's this weekend. Zobrist is just the latest of many players to be traded by the Rays as they retool their roster. Photo R. Anderson
After nine seasons with Tampa Bay Ben Zobrist became a member of the Oakland A’s this weekend. Zobrist is just the latest of many players to be traded by the Rays as they retool their roster.
Photo R. Anderson

Friedman and Maddon were the two people who were most often credited with the turnaround of the Rays. Under their tenure the Rays experienced their first winning seasons in team history along with some trips to the playoffs including a World Series appearance in 2008.

With the departures of Maddon and Friedman a sort of free for all trading of players ensued as the new president and manager sought to put their stamp on the franchise.

In addition to Zobrist, the Rays have also parted ways this offseason with their 2014 Opening day right fielder, left fielder, second baseman, catcher, shortstop along with six pitchers. By any calculation that is a very busy two and a half months.

With months to go before the start of the season it is entirely possible that even move roster moves will be made before Opening Day.

The only safe player on the roster appears to be Evan Longoria at third base but something tells me that the Rays would even entertain offers for him if they felt they could get enough prospects in return.

If recent history is any indication Alex Cobb will be the next pitcher to be traded by the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo R. Anderson
If recent history is any indication Alex Cobb will be the next pitcher to be traded by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Photo R. Anderson

While each of the moves have stung to varying degrees, the Zobrist trade is perhaps the most puzzling.

By all account Ben Zobrist was one of the most popular members of the Rays organization having spent his entire nine-year career as a super utility player filling whatever spot in the infield or outfield needed him.

Off the field he was involved in numerous outreach programs within the committee showing that he was more than just a player there for a paycheck.

Speaking of that paycheck though, Zobrist was due to be a free agent at the end of the 2015 season and was certainly due for a raise in salary.

While the baseball economists will say that small market teams like the Rays need to trade players like Zobrist to get value in return instead of watching them depart in free agency.

The business model the Rays seem to embrace is shedding some salary and gaining some prospects in return that they hope will turn into Major Leaguers that they can sign on the cheap and then trade away when they are due for a raise. Lather, rinse, repeat and hope all goes to plan. That is far from an ideal way to run a fan driven business.

The Tampa Bay Rays made their first and only World Series appearance in 2008. That season also marked the first winning season in franchise history. If things do not turn around the club may be headed back towards their losing ways. Photo R. Anderson
The Tampa Bay Rays made their first and only World Series appearance in 2008. That season also marked the first winning season in franchise history. If things do not turn around the club may be headed back towards their losing ways.
Photo R. Anderson

Despite the focus on television contracts and corporate sponsorships as revenue streams the fact remains that teams still need fans to be successful.

Most fans understand that baseball is a business and roster moves need to be made from time to time but when fans continue to see their favorite players traded year after year they can start to resent the organization.

In college athletics, especially basketball and football, turnover is extremely high as players leave college early to start their professional careers.

In the professional ranks however fans do not want to have to learn an entire roster every year.

Of course fall out from trading popular players like David Price last year and Ben Zobrist this year are far from the only issues facing the Rays who seem one the cusp of returning to their devilish losing ways.

Before when the Rays made their famous midseason salary dumping trades there were still enough key pieces left on the roster to absorb the losses. History also showed that the traded players seemed to struggle after leaving the Rays leading to the belief that the trade worked out in favor of the Rays.

But as the trades became more frequent, the remaining roster was left weaker and the returns diminished.

Instead of a team poised to win the American League East Division year after the year, the Rays find themselves once again as sellers among a retooling division that is adding pieces at a breakneck pace.

Joe Maddon instilled a winning tradition with the Tampa Bay Rays before opting out of his contract and joining the Chicago Cubs. Time will tell if the Ray way can continue without its ringleader. Photo R. Anderson
Joe Maddon instilled a winning tradition with the Tampa Bay Rays before opting out of his contract and joining the Chicago Cubs. Time will tell if the Ray way can continue without its ringleader.
Photo R. Anderson

Most teams go through a natural process of up and down years so a couple of bad seasons will not necessarily spell doom for the Rays but any prolonged losing streak risks further alienating a fan base and making it more difficult to get the new Ballpark they so desperately want full of those suites for the big corporate sponsors.

There is no doubt that should Ballpark discussions continue to break down in St. Petersburg, cities like Montreal and Charlotte will be all too happy to make room for the Rays.

Montreal and Charlotte are certainly both good cities and both have a long history of supporting baseball but I do not think either of them should get the Rays.

Personally I hope that the Rays enjoy a long and prosperous run in the Sunshine State and return to their winning ways sooner rather than later. Failure to do that may mark the end of Major League Baseball on the west coast of Florida leaving the Miami Marlins as the only Florida based MLB team.

Of course should the Rays make the trek up to Montreal, I hope they put heaters in the sting ray tank and find a warm winter coat for DJ Kitty.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a new roster to learn.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

David Price Traded to Detroit Tigers in Latest Rays Pitcher Salary Dump

Another non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone in Major League Baseball.

As is the case every year when Major League Baseball’s Silly Season concludes there were winners and losers with the rich in talent teams getting richer and the rebuilding teams continuing to rebuild.

Each year teams are labeled as either buyers or sellers at the deadline as they seek to either add players to help them in the short term or trade away players for prospects that they hope can help them in the long term.

What is often lost in the midst of the trade deadline are the teams that are caught in the middle of having the record to be deemed a contender and those that are in wait until next year mode.

The Tampa Bay Rays, who were considered by some experts to be World Series favorites at the start of the season, found themselves in the murky middle ground when it came to their ace pitcher David Price.

David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner was traded to the Detroit Tigers Thursday afternoon. Photo R. Anderson
David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, was traded to the Detroit Tigers Thursday afternoon.
Photo R. Anderson

Many teams would give their left arms for a chance to add the former Cy Young Winner to their rotation but with the Rays overcoming a rough start to the season to finally play solid baseball which has them only eight games out of first place in the division, and about five games out of a Wild Card spot, one could argue that Price was needed to make a valid postseason run.

Repeatedly team management stated that it would take an epic “knock their socks off” offer from a team that included several top tier prospects to make them part with their ace at the deadline.

In the end the Rays traded Price to the Detroit Tigers for a less than sock losing trio of players that appear to have far less upside at the moment than Price.

With the trade the Tigers now have three Cy Young winners in their rotation and seem destined for another American League Championship Series showdown with the Oakland Athletics who also added depth to their rotation prior to the trade deadline.

Trades in baseball are nothing new but when a team trades away a fan favorite and leader in the clubhouse, such as Price who spent seven seasons with the Rays, there is always bound to be push back from the fans.

As expected when news broke that Price had been traded, many fans filled team message boards with angry comments saying that they were done supporting the Rays. Others asked how they could have traded Price for so little in return.

The answer to why the trade was made comes down to economics. The Rays have a long history of trading their aces when they are due big raises in free agency since Tampa Bay does not have the payroll flexibility to match many other teams when it comes to salary offers.

David Price (far right) anchored the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff and became the latest ace to be traded by the Rays. Time will tell which pitcher picks up the slack and leads the staff with Price gone. Photo R. Anderson
David Price (far right) anchored the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff and became the latest ace to be traded by the Rays. Time will tell which pitcher picks up the slack and leads the staff with Price gone.
Photo R. Anderson

David Price just becomes the latest pitcher to be traded by the Rays joining Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir, and James Shields. What makes the Price trade different is the fact that it came in the middle of the season while the Rays were still driving for the playoffs.

Previous trades of pitchers and other impact players were usually made during the offseason.

In reality the Rays still faced a tough task in making the playoffs even with Price since the Orioles were winning just as many games as the Rays making it impossible to cut into Baltimore’s division lead.

But the Rays certainly still had a shot at making the postseason. Trading Price away during that run will likely affect clubhouse morale as well as well as fan reaction to the perception that the Rays have given up on the current season.

Many fans get heavily invested in players and when a long-time player is dealt it can feel like losing a close friend or family member.

I can still remember the disappointment I felt while sitting at Minute Maid Park a few years ago after learning that the Houston Astros had traded Lance Berkman to the New York Yankees right before he was scheduled to play. It had seemed like Berkman would spend is entire career as an Astro.

Following the announcement that David Price was traded many Rays fans stated that they would not return to Tropicana Field. It is unlikely that such a fan boycutt would have any measurable effect on the bottom line financials for the team. Photo R. Anderson.
Following the announcement that David Price was traded many Rays fans stated that they would not return to Tropicana Field. It is unlikely that such a fan boycutt would have any measurable effect on the bottom line financials for the team.
Photo R. Anderson.

The harsh reality is most teams do not base their business decisions on the desires of the average fan.

Baseball is a business and like any other business it is driven by profits and the bottom line. For baseball teams the bottom line is enhanced through corporate sponsorships, suite sales, and television revenue.

While the money generated by a fan attending the game’s in person is certainly icing on a team’s financial spreadsheet it is a mere drop in the bucket for most teams meaning that the loss of a few hundred or even a few thousand fans is not going to affect them long term.

Once of the reasons often given for any new Ballpark or stadium project is the need to add additional luxury suites to increase revenue from the corporate community. Suites equal big bucks for teams at all levels of baseball. Rarely, if ever, will a team say that they need a new facility to make more affordable family seating in the outfield.

While those shots of happy families eating cotton candy look great on television, the fact remains most teams would prefer to have a Ballpark full of corporate clients spending big bucks on suites as opposed to stands full of families.

That is just the reality of the game and fans can either accept that fact to continue to have their hearts broken whenever a favorite player is traded away.

The days of a player spending their entire career with a single team and retiring to either become the manager of the team or a broadcaster covering the games are very likely behind us.

In fact, when the farewell tour of Derek Jeter’s 20 years in Yankee pinstripes is over it is likely that there will never be another player to spend two decades with the same team.

Alex Cobb will likely be one of the key pieces of any future success of the Tampa Bay Rays following the trade of staff ace David Price. Photo R. Anderson
Alex Cobb will likely be one of the key pieces of any future success of the Tampa Bay Rays following the trade of staff ace David Price.
Photo R. Anderson

Time will tell if the fans boycott Tropicana Field the rest of the season as some have suggested in response to the Price trade.

Attendance at the Trop, and the desire for a new stadium, will likely continue to be a hot topic between St. Petersburg officials and team ownership this off season as has been the case for several years now.

But as long as the high rollers keep going to the Ballpark and filling the suites the loss of some disgruntled fans is not going to affect the Rays pocket books.

Welcome to the new reality of baseball where the bottom line trumps the box score every time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see how DJ Kitty is handling the news.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Rays Earn Boston Tea Party Berth

The Tampa Bay Rays never seem to do things the easy way.

But, based on recent results, the hard way seems to suit them just fine.

Playing in their 39th game in the past 41 days the Tampa Bay Rays claimed the American League Wild Card title Wednesday night with a 4-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

The Rays have been winning away from home for over two weeks. They finally will come back to the Trop on October 7th. Photo R. Anderson
The Rays have been winning away from home for over two weeks. They finally will come back to the Trop on October 7th.
Photo R. Anderson

For the second time in three nights the Rays went into a hostile environment faced with a win or go home elimination game only to arise victorious and celebrate on the field while the home team’s fans looked on with sadness.

Of course the showdown in Cleveland was just one of many stops on the Rays’ late season whistle stop tour.

The Rays have been on the road since September 24th, when they opened a three-game series in New York against the Yankees.

The Rays swept the Yankees.

Then it was off to Toronto, where they lost two games to the Blue Jays before winning the regular-season finale to force a one-game tiebreaker with the Texas Rangers.

The Rays beat the Rangers with a complete game pitching effort from David Price in front of a sellout crowd at the Ballpark in Arlington.

The win in Texas earned the Rays a trip to Cleveland where they once again claimed victory and silenced a sellout crowd.

Fernando Rodney, finished off the Cleveland Indians Wednesday night. Rodney  will look to  shoot some more arrows starting tonight in the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox. Photo R. Anderson
Fernando Rodney, finished off the Cleveland Indians Wednesday night. Rodney will look to shoot some more arrows starting tonight in the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox.
Photo R. Anderson

Alex Cobb took the mound for the Rays and allowed no runs on eight hits a walk and five strikeouts to pick up the win.

Despite missing 50 games earlier in the year after getting hit with a line drive and suffering a concussion, Cobb showed no signs of buckling under the pressure created by the sellout crowd of 43,579 rally towel-waving Cleveland fans.

With the Cleveland win the Rays earned another destination and more frequent flier miles.

The Rays will start the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox tonight.

The Rays and Red Sox are familiar division foes who were fairly evenly matched during their regular season match ups this year.

Matt Moore takes the mound for the Rays tonight against the Boston Red Sox. Photo R. Anderson
Matt Moore takes the mound for the Rays tonight against the Boston Red Sox.
Photo R. Anderson

Matt Moore will look to continue the strong pitching performances by Rays starters in game one of the best of five series tonight at Fenway Park.

The good news for the Rays is that on October 7 they finally get to return to Tropicana Field for a home game and some changes of clothes.

A home game would also occur in game four of the series if needed before a return trip to Boston in the event of a winner take all game five scenario.

The Rays will get to add 2013 Wild Card to their banner collection at Tropicana Field. Of course they are hoping for several more up to World Series Champion this year. Photo R. Anderson
The Rays will get to add 2013 Wild Card to their banner collection at Tropicana Field. Of course they are hoping for several more up to World Series Champion this year.
Photo R. Anderson

Regardless of what happens in Boston the Rays will get to hoist a 2013 Wild Card Champion banner into the rafters at Tropicana Field.

Of course there is room for a few other banners as well as the team has its sights set on a return trip to the World Series.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there is some American League Division Series baseball to get ready for.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

 

Rays Finally Silence Rangers in an Elimination Game

The past two times the Tampa Bay Rays went to the postseason they were knocked out by the Texas Rangers.

So on paper when the Rays and Rangers met Monday night for the tiebreaker game to earn the second Wildcard spot and a trip to the postseason it felt like deja vu all over again.

The Rays had dropped two of three games against the Toronto Blue Jays to slip from first place in the Wildcard standings to tied for the second spot with the Rangers. The Rangers on the other hand had won 10 straight games and were hosting the pivotal 163rd game of the season.

Historically Rangers Ballpark in Arlington has not been kind to the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo R. Anderson
Historically Rangers Ballpark in Arlington has not been kind to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Photo R. Anderson

The Rangers held a four games to three edge over the Rays during their regular season meetings leading to the Rangers having home field advantage for the regular season tiebreaker.

Momentum and home field advantage were clearly in favor of the Rangers, on paper.

On paper the pitching match up also favored the Rangers as David Price, the defending American League Cy Young Award winner, took the mound for the Rays.

Despite being the defending Cy Young Award winner Price had only defeated the Rangers once in his career and in previous meetings the Rangers and little difficulty scoring runs off of him.

Before the game there were many who looked at Price’s past performance against the Rangers and said that the Rays were foolish to put him on the mound in a win or go home type scenario with the whole season on the line.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon made several player substitiutiuons that helped propel the Tampa Bay Rays into the postseason Monday night. Photo R. Anderson
Rays Manager Joe Maddon made several player substations that helped propel the Tampa Bay Rays into the postseason Monday night.
Photo R. Anderson

But Rays Manager Joe Maddon is not one of those people who does what conventional wisdom says and he put his ace on the mound despite Price only having one victory in his career against the Rangers.

Thankfully for Rays fans though Monday night was not like the previous two meetings as the Rays defeated the Rangers in Arlington to return to the postseason for the fourth time in the last six years.

As for David Price, the guy who the Rangers had managed to dominate the past few years, he pitched a complete game and only gave up two runs.

I guess one could say he balled up that piece of paper that said he couldn’t win against the Rangers in big games.

The Rays face the Cleveland Indians tonight in a win or go home Wildcard game with the winner facing the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.

Alex Cobb who finished the season with an 11-3 mark and a 2.76 ERA in 22 starts will take the mound for the Rays.

Alex Cobb will look to extend the season for the Tampa Bay Rays tonight when he pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Wildcard game. Photo R. Anderson
Alex Cobb will look to extend the season for the Tampa Bay Rays tonight when he pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Wildcard game.
Photo R. Anderson

On paper the teams are pretty evenly matched.

And once again the Rays will be living out of their suitcases as they face yet another game on the road.

Of course, the Rays seem to excel in the face of adversity and hostile crowds so I will place my money on the Rays winning the game.

While there is still a lot of October baseball to be played I would not be the least bit surprised if the Rays make it all the way to the World Series.

Don’t tell me what the odds are of that happening on paper are.

After all, the Rays have shown time and time again that just because it is the conventional wisdom, it is not the way the Rays play.

The Rays are a different team with a quirky manager that gets the most out of his players in every situation and once again they are in the playoffs.

Regardless of what happens in the game tonight the Rays will be remembered as a playoff contender once more.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to watch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson