Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Ex-Rays find rough sledding after leaving

The meeting took place a week or so ago in Atlanta. • Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton had played together for years in the Rays outfield, and Crawford sought out his former teammate to offer what advice he could. • After the 2010 season, Crawford left the Rays for a massive free-agent payday with the Red Sox and spent most of the past two seasons miserable and struggling in Boston, before being rescued with a trade to the Dodgers.

Which made Crawford something of an expert as he saw Upton, who left the Rays for a not-quite-as-massive free-agent payday with the Braves, spend most of the first two months miserable and struggling in Atlanta, going into the weekend hitting .154 with seven RBIs.

They talked about hitting, and Crawford assured Upton that no matter how bad it felt to be booed in Atlanta, to trust him that it was worse in Boston.

And then Crawford got to the point.

"We don't realize it until we leave, but we had it really good in Tampa," Crawford relayed later to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. "They gave us a lot of freedom to just go out and play baseball. They let you be yourself. Get ready how we want to get ready.

"It's a unique place in baseball but you don't realize that until you leave. Hitting .145 after the first month — we never did that in Tampa. Neither one of us."

They are not the only ones who have had trouble adjusting after leaving the Rays, and the relaxed, positive atmosphere created by manager Joe Maddon and cultivated in Chris Westmoreland's home clubhouse.

Consider the view of RHP Joel Peralta, who played for five organizations before coming to the Rays in 2011.

"It's like a dream being here, just the way you get treated here," Peralta said. "This team is so different from every other team. Brandon Gomes got called up for the first time ever and I saw the way they treated him when he got here — like a guy that's got 10 years in the bigs. I never saw that anywhere else.

"I really think the way they treat you here is what makes you better. That's what gets the best out of you. I never felt that with any other team, and I think that's why I've been more successful here than anywhere else."

Here's a look at a few players whose careers dropped off — for whatever reasons — after leaving (active player stats through Friday; inactive players with an -x):

Player Avg. OPS

Jason Bartlett-x

Rays (08-10): .288 .752

Since: .231 .591

Carl Crawford, Dodgers

Rays (02-10): .296 .781

Since: .268 .733

B.J. Upton, Braves

Rays (04-12) .255 .758

Since: .151 .496

Dioner Navarro, Cubs

Rays (06-10): .243 .652

Since: .217 .642

Carlos Peña, Astros

Rays (07-10): .238 .884

Cubs (11): .225 .819

Rays (12) : .197 .684

Since: .233 .707

Player Avg. OPS

Jeff Keppinger, White Sox

Rays (12): .325 .806

Since: .210 .470

Casey Kotchman, Marlins (DL)

Rays (11): .306 .800

Since: .226 .606

Johnny Damon-x

Rays (11): .261 .743

Since: .222 .610

Pitcher W-L ERA

Scott Kazmir, Indians

Rays (04-09) 55-44 3.92

Since: 13-17 5.45

Matt Garza, Cubs

Rays (08-10): 34-31 3.86

Since: 15-17 3.46

Dan Wheeler-x

Rays (07-10): 11-16 3.56

Since: 2-2 5.25

Rays rumblings

It may not be the best fit for the Rays, but Aug. 26 looks like the more likely makeup date for the May 2 snow-out in Kansas City. … Since leaving Triple-A Durham's May 9 game with what was said to be an upset stomach, top prospect OF Wil Myers has hit .167 with 13 strikeouts in 48 at-bats. Overall, he is hitting .242 with 53 Ks in 165 at-bats. … Baseball America's second mock draft in advance of the June 6-8 event now has the Rays taking S.C. prep catcher Nick Ciuffo at No. 21 and sticking with Gonzaga LHP Marco Gonzales at No. 29. … Foxsports.com's Jon Paul Morosi says MLB should consider moving the Rays, or A's, to Montreal because "frankly, I think it will be a much better baseball market than Oakland or Tampa Bay at this point." … The Rays are reported to be among the teams interested in released LH reliever Jordan Norberto, but his preference is to re-sign with Oakland. … Former RHP Roberto Hernandez (the first one) will again represent the team at the draft. Three other ex-Rays will be there for other teams: Andy Cannizaro (Yankees), Fred McGriff (Jays), Jim Mecir (A's). … RHP Josh Lueke has one of the more interesting clubhouse T-shirts: a Darth Vader illustration with the saying: Free Throat Hugs. … Broadcasts from Detroit next week will sound different: Todd Kalas will be filling in for Brian Anderson, and Kelly Nash for Kalas, on TV; Neil Solondz for Dave Wills for two games on radio. (And Joe Smith will be there for the Times.)

Got a minute? Jake Odorizzi

Best meal you can make? The only thing I can make for myself is spaghetti — with sauce and turkey hamburger.

Must-see TV? The Walking Dead.

Favorite movie? I like Remember the Titans.

Dream vacation spot? Bora-Bora. It looks pretty awesome.

Guilty pleasure at the mall? Probably The Finish Line, I'm a big shoes guys.

 
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