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Tampa Bay Rays could be great benefactors if baseball adds second wild-card team

ARLINGTON, Texas — It hasn't necessarily been a good World Series from the Tampa Bay perspective, what with the failed Rays (Josh Hamilton, Pat Burrell), former Rays (Aubrey Huff, Jorge Cantu) and could've been Rays (Buster Posey) running around on the field.

But the best news may have come from the jeans-wearing 48-year-old man standing over by the dugout.

A "substantial number" of players favor the addition of a second wild-card team to the playoff field, union chief Michael Weiner said. And "a consideration that a lot of players have" is to help a team such as the Rays, who are constantly battling the financial behemoths of the AL East.

"Certainly some of them are motivated by looking at a situation like the American League East, where you can have an excellent team that does not make the playoffs," Weiner said.

The union view is important but only part of the equation as the owners, and thus commissioner Bud Selig, who said last week he was open to it, would have to agree. Expansion of the postseason field is subject to collective bargaining, which means it will be negotiated as part of a new agreement that would go into effect for 2012.

This could be a huge development for the Rays, and one principal owner Stuart Sternberg has been championing for a while.

While the AL East situation is a major push, Weiner said not all the players agree with increasing the field from the present eight, as some take a bigger picture and longer-term view of what's best for the game. "Even on the Rays there's not a unanimous view that we should do this because it would help the 2012 Rays," he said.

The players will seek to form a consensus at a December board meeting in Orlando then come up with a preferred format (a one-game play-in, two-of-three, etc.) and structure.

ON THE OTHER HAND: Expect the union to be monitoring, and even scrutinizing, how the Rays proceed with plans to significantly reduce their payroll in relation to the use of revenue-sharing funds.

"The Basic Agreement gives teams a lot of flexibility in terms of how to operate," Weiner said. "It will be disappointing though if the Rays that have been a competitive squad for a number of years now no longer are. We're just going to have to wait and see how it actually plays out."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: It is unlikely the Rays will sign any of their pending free agents (such as relievers Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Randy Choate) before they hit the open market five days after the end of the Series. … They're likely to wait until the three-day deadline to decide (decline?) options on RHP Dan Wheeler ($4 million, or $1 million buyout) and INF Willy Aybar ($2.2 million, $275,000 buyout). … Communications director Chris Costello resigned, after 12 years with the team, to pursue other opportunities. … Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports the Tigers will be "deeply interested" in free-agent-to-be LF Carl Crawford, while Peter Gammons continues to say the Red Sox will "go really hard" after Crawford, along with the Angels and maybe the Yankees. … The Rays will be the visitors for the Orioles' March 1 spring opener at renovated Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. … RHP Andy Sonnanstine is part of the inaugural induction class for the New England Collegiate Baseball League Hall of Fame.

Tampa Bay Rays could be great benefactors if baseball adds second wild-card team 10/30/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 30, 2010 8:08pm]
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