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As Rays slump, a debate about leadership erupts

MINNEAPOLIS — Stumbling against the lowly Twins on Thursday after being swept by the Royals and losing 11 of their past 13 overall, the Rays obviously have been lacking in a lot of areas.

But they insisted earlier in the day that a lack of leadership to correct their flaws was not among them.

"We're just not playing well, that's the bottom line. We're not playing good baseball," third baseman Evan Longoria said.

Twins 6, Rays 4: Rays blow a pair of leads in fifth straight loss — the 11th in 13 games

"It's not for lack of leadership. It's not because guys aren't getting on guys or guys aren't pointing out mistakes. Everybody knows what a mistake looks like. Those things don't need to be pointed out. Sometimes I think it does more harm than good, especially when a team is going bad."

The issue became a hot topic Thursday when Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson said in a 620-AM radio interview the lack of leadership was glaring in not holding players accountable for poor effort and lackadaisical play.

"It comes down to leadership, and I'm quite frankly not real sure that the Rays have any," Anderson told hosts Tom Krasniqi and Ronnie Lane.

Longoria said he considers manager Kevin Cash the primary leader — and a "tremendous" one at that — but added they also have several players who provide leadership in different ways.

None though, he acknowledged, necessarily do so in the classic style of counseling young players directly and/or calling them out publicly, such as how veterans Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske did on the 2008 Rays team.

"There is sometimes undue pressure put on guys to be the quote-unquote leader or to be the guy that has to come out and be vocal and call people out or talk about it in the media," Longoria said. "I don't think we have a guy like that in here, and I don't think that's a necessity. But there are certain things that are necessary, and we are doing those things."

Starter Chris Archer, who after Wednesday's game said they needed to play with more passion and heart, also said they "for sure" had proper leadership, which is often exhibited out of public view.

Cash agreed that they did but added that "there's always a case for better leadership," starting with himself. Also, he said he considers it vital to success and thus understands why it comes into question in a skid.

"Everybody leads in different ways," Cash said. "Some guys lead on the field, some lead by example, some vocally lead. … You've got to have different guys that do it different ways. Look, sometimes it's difficult to lead when we're going through a stretch like this. But ultimately you like those guys to stand up."

Anderson, who also extensively criticized the play of outfielder Desmond Jennings, didn't back off his points when talking with the Tampa Bay Times later Thursday but said he regretted the manner in which he made them, saying, "I let my passion for this team get the better of me, and I reacted a little too aggressively to a poor series vs. K.C." He also said he "regretted terribly" that it became a story and a distraction. (See tampabay.com/blogs/rays for his full comments.)

Starter Jake Odorizzi said the team has plenty of leaders and the issue was overblown.

"When you hit a rough patch, everyone starts to point fingers," he said. "We've been on worse losing streaks than this and leadership wasn't called out. When we were (1-14) when David (Price) was here and Joe (Maddon) was here, you didn't hear anything about a lack of leadership."

As Rays slump, a debate about leadership erupts 06/02/16 [Last modified: Friday, June 3, 2016 9:01am]
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