Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays a huge disappointment at halfway point

Here's a question you wouldn't have expected to be pondering at the end of June:

Is this going to be the worst season in Rays history?

Barring a historic comeback (that would make it the most remarkable season in Rays history), it certainly will rank as the most disappointing, even more so than 2009, when the afterglow of an unexpected World Series appearance and the year-after accolades and All-Star honors gave way to the reality of 84-78 and third place in the AL East. But what makes this season so stunningly bad is that the Rays were supposed to be remarkably good. The internal and external expectations were higher for this team, the overall level of talent and experience better, the commitment to win from ownership greater.

"It's not what we had envisioned on a lot of different fronts," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's just been awkward."

But the way the first half — which they (mercifully) ended Friday — has gone, and with the likelihood that ace David Price will soon be traded and the potential that other key veterans may go, too, there is a chance this team could end up among the worst.

And that's in a franchise that, over 16 previous seasons, has known terrible.

The Rays — well, actually, the Devil Rays — have been plenty bad before. They have lost 100 or more games three times, finished 51 games out of first once and 48 another time, dropped 15 games in a row, and blown games in which they led by eight runs and once, somehow, 10.

So how low can this group go? Here is a look at the three worst teams that have worn the black and purple, green and blue of the Tampa Bay franchise:

2002

Manager: Hal McRae

Low point: 48-100 on 9/14

Longest losing streak: 15

Longest winning streak: 4

Run differential: minus-245

Cast of characters:

C: Toby Hall/John Flaherty; 1B: Steve Cox; 2B: Brent Abernathy; SS: Chris Gomez; 3B: Jared Sandberg; LF: Carl Crawford; CF: Randy Winn; RF: Ben Grieve; DH: Aubrey Huff; SPs: Tanyon Sturtze, Joe Kennedy, Paul Wilson, Ryan Rupe, Jorge Sosa; RPs: Esteban Yan, Steven Kent, Travis Harper

Gory details: Reached 100 losses in 148th game, quickest in more than 50 years (1949 Senators). … Used 14 rookies, 10 making big-league debut. … Had 40 losses in which they had tying or winning run at plate. … Lost three straight games in which they led with two outs in the ninth inning.

2006

Manager: Joe Maddon

Low point: 61-101 on 10/1

Longest losing streak: 9

Longest winning streak: 4

Run differential: minus-167

Cast of characters:

C: Toby Hall/Dioner Navarro; 1B: Travis Lee; 2B: Jorge Cantu; SS: Julio Lugo; 3B: Aubrey Huff; LF: Carl Crawford; CF: Rocco Baldelli; RF: Damon Hollins; DH: Jonny Gomes; SPs: Casey Fossum, Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Tim Corcoran, Jae Seo; RPs: Tyler Walker, Brian Meadows, Shawn Camp

Gory details: Went 41-40 at home, 20-61 on road, including 3-33 after July 1, becoming first team to lose 100-plus with winning home record. … Used 12 starting pitchers.

2001

Managers: Larry Rothschild, Hal McRae

Low point: 52-96 on 9/22

Longest losing streak: 8

Longest winning streak: 4

Run differential: minus-215

Cast of characters:

C: John Flaherty/Toby Hall; 1B: Fred McGriff/Steve Cox; 2B: Brent Abernathy; SS: Felix Martinez/Chris Gomez; 3B: Aubrey Huff; LF: Greg Vaughn/Ben Grieve; CF: Gerald Williams; RF: Ben Grieve/Randy Winn; DH: Greg Vaughn; SPs: Tanyon Sturtze, Ryan Rupe, Bryan Rekar, Paul Wilson, Albie Lopez, Joe Kennedy; RPs: Esteban Yan, Travis Phelps, Victor Zambrano, Doug Creek

Gory details: Fired Rothschild 14 games into season. … Played a team-record 16 rookies. … Traded McGriff, Lopez and Mike DiFelice in July, becoming youngest team in majors.

The halfway point

Year W-L Pos-GB Finish Pos GB

1998 34-47 5-24.5 63-99 5 -51

1999 35-46 4-15 69-93 5 -29

2000 32-49 5-11.5 69-92 5 -18

2001 24-57 5-23.5 62-100 5 -34

2002 28-53 5-23 55-106 5 -48

2003 27-54 5-24 63-99 5 -38

2004 40-41 3-11.5 70-91 4 -30.5

2005 27-54 5-20 67-95 5 -28

2006 35-46 5-15.5 61-101 5 -36

2007 33-48 5-17 66-96 5 -30

2008 49-32 1+.5 97-65 1 +2

2009 44-37 3-5 84-78 3 -19

2010 48-33 3-2 96-66 1 +1

2011 45-36 3-3.5 91-71 2* -6

2012 43-38 3-5.5 90-72 3 -5

2013 42-39 4-6 92-71 2* -5.5

2014 33-48 5-12 66-96+ ? ???

* Made postseason as wildcard; +projected

Short stops

. There's certainly chatter about the Rays blowing things up with multiple deals, and team prez Matt Silverman did say on WDAE-AM 620 they "have to listen" and "be open to reworking" the roster. But hearing Silverman say repeatedly how good they feel about the core and their 2015 chances makes a fire sale seem unlikely.

. The Rays would be reluctant to trade David Price to an AL East team and likely would require a premium if they did. But might they be willing to consider the Blue Jays in gambling that Price likely wouldn't sign there long term, so they would face him only this year and maybe part of '15 rather than the next six to eight years?

. Because Price isn't a free agent until after 2015, there is the possibility a surprise and/or desperate-to-win team would make a move, with the idea of trading him later. For example, the Royals had two scouts at his Wednesday start.

Rays rumblings

Add ESPN's Buster Olney to those of us expecting the Rays to trade LHP David Price scheduled to start next on Tuesday in New York — sooner than later. … The Cards are considered a strong favorite for Price because they have a need and the prospects to land him, led by slugging OF Oscar Taveras. But there's some question in St. Louis if they would/should trade him. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal is among those saying they shouldn't. … The Dodgers, who have money and prospects (OF Joc Pederson, INF Corey Seager, P Julio Urias), remain a candidate, as are the Giants, with a loaded Double-A pitching staff the Rays supposedly have scouted heavily. … There's some chatter among scouts that the Rays prefer to get back a catcher, which has to keep the Braves, with prospect Christian Bethancourt, in the conversation. … Rosenthal also says the Angels "would love a shot" at Price but may not have the prospects. … ESPN's Jim Bowden pegs the chances of Price being traded at 75 percent, INF/OF Ben Zobrist at 70. The A's, Marlins and Orioles are among those rumored to be interested in Zobrist, plus Price suitors such as the Braves, Cardinals, Jays and Giants. Package deal? … There's an offday to navigate, but ex-Rays RHP James Shields looks lined up to pitch for the Royals at the Trop on July 7.

Got a minute? | David Price

Best meal you can make?

Spaghetti with sauce

Must-see TV?

Graceland. I love that show.

Karaoke song if you had to?

Either something by Usher or Regulate by Warren G or anything by the Temptations.

Food you hate?

Healthy food. Can't stand it.

Celebrity crush?

I'm a big fan of Meagan Good and Zoe Saldana.

     
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