Posted on: October 4, 2011 10:59 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 11:02 pm

Rays owner still frustrated with situation

By Matt Snyder

Along with the NL wild card Cardinals, the Tampa Bay Rays were the Cinderella story of September with a dramatic run netting them the AL wild card. Tuesday, the story ended with an ALDS loss to the Rangers, three games to one. Still, this was a season for the Rays to be proud of, at least on the field. They fought through significant offseason losses and an 0-6 start to make the playoffs.

Off the field is another matter, though. Principle owner Stuart Sternberg once again reminded everyone how dire the Rays' financial situation is after the loss.

"I am frustrated this year," Sternberg said (ESPN.com). "We've replicated last year [on the field] and our attendance numbers were down 15 percent and our ratings were down. The rubber has got to meet the road at some point here. When you go through the season, you control your own destiny, if you win out. We're getting to the point where we don't control our own destiny. This is untenable as a model going forward."

More Rays
Sternberg noted that when he took over, he was told that if they won, everything would fall into place. Well, the Rays have been to the playoffs three of the past four seasons, including the World Series once. And the ratings and attendance just aren't getting to a point that the Rays can make money and pump more money into the on-field product.

"I don't have all the answers to it, but we've answered any questions stadium related, market related, economy related, area related, sport related," Sternberg said (ESPN.com). "Whatever you want to say, there are 29 other teams passing us like we're going in reverse right now. Except on the field. And at some point that changes. … To a team, winning solves ills. And we are four years into winning and we're no better off right now."

Now, this is about the time where someone chimes in that the Rays haven't won the World Series. True, but 29 teams fail to win the World Series every single season and the overwhelming majority of those teams make money. Even bad teams make money in some markets. The Rays are one of the most well-run organizations in the majors and they still aren't getting enough revenue.

Even if one of the main problems is Tropicana Field and the location, that doesn't explain their TV ratings issues. While Sternberg didn't explicitly say it, moving to a new city at some point has to be on his mind -- even if it's just in the back of his mind right now.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 7:19 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 11:09 pm

R.I.P.: 2011 Tampa Bay Rays

RaysBy Evan Brunell

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s
R.I.P. series...

Team name: Tampa Bay Rays
Record: 91-71, 2nd place AL East, 6 games back. Wild card champions, lost to Rangers 3 games to 1 in ALDS
Manager: Joe Maddon
Best hitter: Ben Zobrist -- .269/.353/.469, 20 HR, 99 RBI
Best pitcher: James Shields -- 16-12, 249 1/3 IP, 11 CG, 4 SHO, 2.82 ERA, 65 BB, 225 K

The Rays have now reached the postseason two years in a row, but dropped its second straight ALDS to the Rangers, making it to four games before the season ended. It was a remarkable run for a team that had to remake its bullpen and replace Carl Crawford in left field.


Tampa began the season as an afterthought in the eyes of many. After all, how were the Rays supposed to contend with New York and the revamped Red Sox? That didn't stop the team from producing, though, posting a record over .500 each of the first three months. The team got quite a bit of attention in April when Manny Ramirez retired instead of serving his 100-game suspension for failing a drug test for the second time. They weathered it though, despite losing someone that was supposed to be integral to the lineup. Sam Fuld dazzled the team for a while, but the Rays limped through the season offensively until Desmond Jennings was promoted in late July.

July wasn't kind to Tampa, finishing with a 11-15 record but they turned on the jets after that, going 35-20 and winning the wild card on the last swing of the regular season, with Evan Longoria's homer disappearing over the fence minutes after the Red Sox completed their collapse.

2012 AUDIT

The Rays have a decent amount of overturn coming, set to lose two starters from their lineup in Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon. Backstop Kelly Shoppach and reliever Juan Cruz also played integral roles, but the important thing to notice here is that none of Tampa's important players are free agents. That's huge, and while the Rays will doubtless be making some moves -- and if you see below, I have them making two significant trades -- they should enter 2012 with a team fairly recognizable from this year. This is a team poised to contend, and the riches in the minors will keep on boosting the team. Their postseason may have been cut short, but they'll be back plenty of times in the coming seasons.


RP Juan Cruz
DH Johnny Damon
RP Kyle Farnsworth ($3.3 million club option)
1B Casey Kotchman
C Kelly Shoppach ($3.2 million club option)


  • The Rays need to make room in the rotation for Matt Moore and fielded calls on James Shields this trade deadline. They need to field more calls and deal him to Cincinnati for first baseman Yonder Alonso, backstop Ryan Hanigan and a pitcher. Alonso can step in at first or DH, Hanigan can step in as the backstop and the pitcher can either be a back-end starting pitcher -- which Cincy has plenty of -- or a solid reliever. The move would give the Rays cost-control over Alonso for years and inject some thump into a lineup that could use another strong hitter.
  • Let Kelly Shoppach go and wait on Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon's market. Shoppach could be brought back on a smaller deal, but $3.2 million is too much for someone who hit .176/.288/.339, and fell under .200 in batting average for the second straight year. Similarly, Kotchman had a solid season with the bat but the Rays shouldn't rush to pay him, as there's a reason he's bounced from team to team. Let the market dictate Kotchman's price, then maybe you entertain bringing him back. The same applies for Damon. If the price is right on either, one of them can return to play first or DH opposite Alonso.
  • Trade B.J. Upton to the Nationals for Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina. Upton just can't justify his salary anymore on the Rays, and the Nationals have big interest in Upton. Desmond can fix the shortstop hole in Tampa, while Sean Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist and Bernadina can help fill the hole in the outfield left by Upton's departure.
  • Pick up Kyle Farnsworth's option and use the money saved from Shields and Upton to sign Mike Gonzalez. The Rays need a shutdown lefty in the bullpen, and Gonzalez can be that man. J.P. Howell used to be, but coming off a bad year, you need another, reliable, lefty in the bullpen. Then, use the rest of the money to bring back Kotchman or Damon, or go after someone like Jason Kubel.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 4, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 8:02 pm

Beltre sends Rangers to ALCS with three homers


By Evan Brunell

Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and George Brett.

That's the company Adrian Beltre finds himself in after his power display in Game 4 of the ALDS, slugging three home runs for the first time in divisional series play. These three players are also on the list, Ruth doing it twice. Two others have also accomplished the honor: Bob Robertson and Adam Kennedy, the last man to accomplish the feat when he knocked the lights out in Game 5 of the 2002 World Series.

Beltre's power led Texas to a 4-3 victory, the Rangers scoring all their runs on solo blasts. Ian Kinsler led off the game with his own homer to set the pace, with three total homers off of Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson (and Beltre adding his third off Matt Moore), but Beltre's all anyone was talking about after the game.

"The first couple of games, their pitchers were really good," Beltre told TBS after the game. "I couldn't get nothing, but today something changed. I felt more comfortable at the plate. I did something to help my team win."

Beltre's power display has been going on for a while. He missed 37 games with a left thigh strain, but came off the DL on September 1 and slugged 12 homers the rest of the way, best in the majors. On the year, he had 32 blasts which is good for second-most in his career behind 2004's 48 taters. If he hadn't hit the DL, it's not out of the realm of possibility to think he could have approached 40. Not shabby for a player the Angels passed on in free agency, much to Texas' gain. Beltre's power and defensive wizardry have both combined to make him one of the best third basemen in the game, something he showed the masses on Tuesday.

And now, Beltre gets to advance to the ALCS in his first postseason since 2004, when the Dodgers were bounced in four games by the Cardinals. Beltre only collected four singles in 16 plate appearances, and that was the extent of his postseason experience... until now.

"That's one of the major reasons I came to this team," Beltre explained, "to hopefully put a ring on my finger."

So far, so good.

Video: Beltre and manager Ron Washington discuss the Game 4 victory.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 5:38 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 5:41 pm

Eye on Photos: Rangers eliminate Rays in ALDS

By Matt Snyder

The Texas Rangers have taken down the Tampa Bay Rays, three games to one. Let's take a look at the series that was, in pictures.

Click on any photo below to enlarge.

A 2-run homer for Kelly Shoppach gave him two HRs and five RBI in Game 1, which the Rays won. (Getty Images)
Rookie Matt Moore had only made one career major-league start before Game 1. He went out and threw seven shutout innings and got the win. (Getty Images)
Josh Hamilton hugs Cooper Stone, who lost his father at Rangers Ballpark earlier this summer. (Getty Images)
Cooper Stone throws the first pitch before Game 1. (Getty Images)
All-Star James Shields was spotted an early lead, but fell apart in Game 2. (Getty Images)
Mitch Moreland came through big in Game 2 for the Rangers, as this home run provided insurance in the eighth. (Getty Images)
Craig Gentry had never been caught stealing in the regular season or postseason ... until Game 3. (Getty Images)
Rookie Desmond Jennings homered to give the Rays a 1-0 lead in Game 3. (Getty Images)
Elvis Andrus had a little trouble with finding a pop up in the Tropicana Field ceiling. (Getty Images)
David Price reacts after losing a 1-run lead in the seventh inning of Game 3. (Getty Images)
Mike Napoli is greeted at home after a go-ahead, two-run home run in Game 3. (Getty Images)
Afternoon game times didn't deter Rays fans from attending. (Getty Images)
Rough day for the camera man, as he fell trying to film Adrian Beltre on a home-run trot in Game 4. Beltre ended up becoming the first player to ever homer three times in an LDS game. (Getty Images)
Sean Rodriguez levels Mike Napoli at home plate, scoring the Rays' first run in Game 4. (Getty Images)

Up next for the Rangers, either the Tigers or the Yankees in the ALCS. So after having never been to a League Championship Series prior to 2010, the Rangers have now gone two straight seasons.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 5:13 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 6:26 pm

Instant Reaction: Rangers 4, Rays 3


By Evan Brunell

WP: Matt Harrison

LP: Jeremy Hellickson

SV: Neftali Feliz

HR: TEX - Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre (3)

Series: Rangers defeat Rays 3 games to 1

Hero: Yeah, I know, Adrian Beltre. Don't worry, I talked about him here. But we need to give a shout-out to Matt Harrison, who took out nine -- count 'em, nine -- Rays by way of the K in five innings. The high pitch count racked up by these whiffs forced Harrison from the game after 97 pitches, but the strikeouts were just what Harrison needed. The Rays were hitting Harrison enough that they always seemed to be on the verge of threatening, collecting five hits and two walks. But nothing can happen if the ball isn't put in play, and Harrison ensured that.

Goat: Let's point the finger at Rays pitching. Entering Game 3, Tampa Bay had allowed Texas a scant .219/.299/.313 line as opposed to the Rays' .245/.322/.491 line. And yet, here the Rays sit, having been knocked out of the postseason three games to one. How does that happen? Tampa did an admirable job shutting down the potent Rangers lineup. And even though Game 4 saw four Rangers homers, they were all of the solo variety. The pitching did a fine job... except it didn't, giving up 16 runs over the last three games after Matt Moore and co. shut down Texas 9-0 in the opening game.

More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Rangers-Rays series2011 playoffs

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 3:47 pm

Hellickson coughs up three homers, leaves after 4


By Evan Brunell

Jeremy Hellickson's first postseason start didn't go as he anticipated, serving up three home runs and allowing Texas take a 3-2 lead after four innings.

Hellickson, who appears to be the favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year award after tossing up a 2.95 ERA in 29 starts spanning 189 innings, got his cage rattled immediately when Ian Kinsler took Hellickson's second pitch of the night deep into the stands, starting Tampa off with a 1-0 deficit. Texas chipped in another run on a homer when Adrian Beltre took him deep. No shame in that, as Beltre's 32 homers in just 124 games was his highest home-run total outside of 2004, when he slammed 48 for the Dodgers.

But Hellickson got burned again by Beltre two innings later. It's the first time in Hellickson's major-league career he's given up three homers. Two homers in one game has happened just twice: June 10 of this season against Baltimore, followed a month later on July 3 against St. Louis.

The Rays wasted no time yanking Hellickson from the game, ending his night after four innings. He finishes his first postseason start with a 6.75 ERA on the backing of three runs in four innings, walking one, whiffing one and allowing four hits in total. If these homers were mere flyouts, or even doubles, Hellickson would have been having a fine game and cruising along. Instead, Tampa's going with their other rookie phenom, Matt Moore, in an attempt to even the series at 2-2 and send the ALDS back to Texas.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:42 am
Edited on: October 4, 2011 12:27 pm

ALDS Game 4: Hellickson looks to keep Rays alive


By Evan Brunell

Rangers at Rays, 2:07 p.m. ET, Tropicana Field, TBS

Rangers Rays
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Ian Kinsler 2B 1 Desmond Jennings LF
2 Elvls Andrus SS 2 B.J. Upton CF
3 Josh Hamilton CF 3 Evan Longoria 3B
4 Michael Young DH 4 Ben Zobrist 2B
5 Adrian Beltre 3B 5 Johnny Damon DH
6 Mike Napoli C 6  Kelly Shoppach C
7 Nelson Cruz RF 7 Sean Rodriguez SS
8 David Murphy LF 8 Casey Kotchman 1B
9 Mitch Moreland 1B 9 Matt Joyce RF

Matt Harrison LHP
Jeremy Hellickson RHP


Hellickson vs. Rangers: Hellickson, a rookie, has only faced Texas once, giving up two runs in six innings on Aug. 30. Due to that, only Ian Kinsler has seen him four times, most among Rangers players, and he's gone hitless. Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli both collected two hits against Hellickson, along with Yorvit Torrealba who hasn't been seen in the lineup since Game 1. This will be the righty's first-ever postseason appearance.

Harrison vs. Rays: Harrison has just one career start against the Rays... coming all the way back in 2008 when he shut out Tampa in eight innings. He's also made three relief appearances and overall holds a 1.29 ERA against the team. Johnny Damon has collected five hits in 10 at-bats against Harrison, while Longoria is a pristine 4-for-4. Overall, current Rays are hitting .325/.438/.575 in 48 plate appearances, which certainly is at odds with his overall success against Tampa.

Full Playoff Coverage


  • If Texas comes away with a victory, not only does the team advance to the ALCS, but it will be it's fifth straight road victory in the ALDS, all against the Rays. That will tie the Yankees' (2003-05) five straight for second-best in the division series, behind Atlanta's eight from 1995-99.
  • Hellickson has one of the highest swinging-strike rates of any pitcher, plus racks up first-pitch strikes as Fangraphs notes. Why, then, has he struck out so few batters? A regression to the mean could be coming as soon as Tuesday against the Rangers.
  • As the Associated Press notes, the Rays starting two rookies in a postseason series is rare, and it will be just the 10th time since 1900 it's occurred.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 9:05 pm
Edited on: October 3, 2011 9:06 pm

Adams implosion calls into question his role


By Evan Brunell

The Rangers had to hold on until the very final out, but were able to walk away from Game 3 with a victory, just one more away from advancing to the ALCS for the second straight year.

The story of the game is going to be Colby Lewis' dazzling performance, as well as Mike Napoli doing what Napoli does best -- cranking home runs. But Mike Adams nearly blew the game for Texas, and at this point, serious thought needs to be given toward whether Adams can reliably be the bridge to Neftali Feliz Texas thought it was getting when it traded two well-regarded pitching prospects to San Diego at the trade deadline.

Adams came up with Milwaukee and had a solid rookie year but was limited to 15 1/3 innings the next two years, missing all of 2007 thanks to injury. He surfaced again with the Padres in 2008 and immediately started establishing himself as one of the best setup men in baseball. In the four years since, Adams has a scintillating 1.71 ERA in 242 2/3 innings, punching out 266. There's no doubt the home park of San Diego has been kind to Adams, but he's shown the ability to do it on the road and as a member of the Rangers. Adams has posted similar peripherals in strikeout and walk numbers, finishing 2011 with a 2.10 ERA in 25 2/3 innings for the Rangers. But where things noticeably changed were in home runs allowed, unsurprising given Adams is now pitching for a team whose home park is a hitter's haven.

Adams allowed three home runs in his short time with the Rangers, although only one was at home. Compare that to the Padres, as Evan Grant notes on Twitter, where Adams gave up just four home runs from the start of the 2009 season until being traded. And to make that even more awe-inspiring, two of those homers came this season. That's right, Adams allowed just three home runs in two seasons.

Unfortunately, Adams' homer-happy parade has only continued in the postseason as he gave up Desmond Jennings' second blast of the game during a nightmare eighth inning. Adams threw just 12 of 26 pitches for strikes, with his only out recorded coming on the basepaths as B.J. Upton was thrown out stealing. He walked three straight batters after Jennings' homer, causing him to be lifted from the game. Only Mike Gonzalez and Neftali Feliz prevented more runs from coming in in a great performance by the two.

Adams is a fantastic relief pitcher, but one has to wonder whether he can be relied on in the eighth inning. As mentioned earlier, Adams's strikeout and walk numbers did not change dramatically upon trade, so he's still a fantastic pitcher. But this season, and with Texas as a whole, he's shown a disturbing propensity to the longball, and just one ill-timed homer can mean the difference between going home and hoisting a trophy.

No, skipper Ron Washington shouldn't bury Adams on the bullpen chart. But after tonight, you can bet that Adams has a shorter leash.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com