Saturday, May 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays like idea of adding another wild card under baseball's new playoff format

PORT CHARLOTTE — The details and logistics have yet to be finalized, Major League Baseball going past its Thursday deadline to announce the addition of two more wild-card teams to its playoff field this season.

But the Rays sure like the concept.

"Anything that increases our chances of making the postseason on an annual basis is a good thing," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said.

"I think it's great," manager Joe Maddon said.

The plan calls for the addition of a second wild-card team in each league — increasing the playoff field to 10 of MLB's 30 teams, still a lower percentage than the NFL, NBA and NHL — to create additional competition and interest. It also puts a tremendous value on winning a division title since the wild cards are set to meet in a potentially captivating and somewhat-cruel one-game showdown.

"I think it's exciting," Rays third baseman and player rep Evan Longoria said. "It was pretty unanimous around the league that the more playoff spots the better. Once you get into the playoffs, it's more revenue for the ball club, it's more excitement for the players, so I think it would be a no-brainer for everybody."

For the Rays, competing in the treacherous American League East, the biggest benefit is the most obvious, the creation of another entry point to the postseason. Conceivably, they could now finish behind the Red Sox and the Yankees and still make the playoffs.

"I like having more teams in," starter David Price said. "That gives us a better chance."

But since the Rays have crashed the postseason scene in three of the past four seasons, several players suggested MLB is not being benevolent, that the concept isn't as much about making sure more teams are included as that certain big-market teams are not excluded.

"With us playing in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox, one of the three teams is always getting cut out the last few years," outfielder Matt Joyce said. "I don't know if it's one of those things where they always want to see Boston and the Yankees in the playoffs because they have so many fans and they're such a big draw. That might be part of it."

"Hmmm …" Price said. "I wonder which one it is?"

The new format definitely puts a premium on finishing first, as the three division winners essentially get a first-round "bye" before starting best-of-five division series play with the wild-card survivor. Under the old plan, the sole wild-card winner started on the road but otherwise on essentially equal footing with the division champs.

The Rays say they prefer it that way.

"Our goal is not just to get to the playoffs. Our goal is to win our division every year," Maddon said. "To win our division is kind of a significant moment. It tells you where you're at as an organization."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that wasn't the case in 2010 when, knowing they had at least the wild card, they "conceded" and "didn't try to win the division," news not only to the Rays, who did win it, but surely to the New York fans who paid hefty prices to watch those games.

There are still inequities in the new plan, such as having teams from different divisions playing schedules with vastly varied degrees of difficulties (due to the unbalanced format) competing against each other. Also, that one team could win its division with, say, 87 wins, while another with 90-plus could be left competing for a wild-card.

There is also concern about the equity of a one-game wild-card playoff as the two teams battled for six months to reach the postseason and one will be out in three hours.

"That's almost unfair," Price said. "One game does not determine the better team. I don't feel like that serves any justice."

"It's kind of firm," Maddon said. "I would imagine the team that is the upper-level wild-card team would be the one that's a little bit more concerned. The one that comes in at the very end, you'll take that one-game playoff."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Rays journal: Rays shut out by Orioles in opener

Rays journal: Rays shut out by Orioles in opener

By Joey JohnstonTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — Rays LHP Ryan Yarbrough deserved better Friday. But the offense didn't offer much, allowing the Orioles to escape with a 2-0 victory before an announced crowd of 11,354 at Tropicana Field."It ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays trade closer Alex Colome, outfielder Denard Span to Mariners

Rays trade closer Alex Colome, outfielder Denard Span to Mariners

ST. PETERSBURG – In January, sure.In July, absolutely.But, now?And, once again, for someone who they hope helps in the future.The Rays made a shocking trade at a surprising time of year Friday, dealing All-Star closer Alex Colome and Tampa...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

The Rays made a major trade Friday afternoon, sending All-Star closer Alex Colome and OF Denard Span to the Mariners.The return is two minor-leaguers, RHP Andrew Moore and RHP Tommy Romero. The Rays also sent cash to the Mariners.Span, a Tampa produc...
Updated: 8 hours ago
For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

By JOEY JOHNSTONTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For openers, the Rays will use RHP Sergio Romo, the 35-year-old career reliever, as tonight's starter against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.Romo is making his third career "sta...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Alex Cobb excited about return “home” to Trop even in Orioles orange

Alex Cobb excited about return “home” to Trop even in Orioles orange

RHP Alex Cobb has already pitched twice against his former Rays mates in Baltimore and said it didn't feel that weird, especially since there were so many new faces in the lineup.But coming back to the Trop, where he made his big-league debut and spe...
Published: 05/25/18
Willy Adames goes back to AAA, leaving Rays with “a lot to be excited about’

Willy Adames goes back to AAA, leaving Rays with “a lot to be excited about’

Willy Adames' first stint in the major leagues ended as planned Thursday night when he was optioned back to Triple-A Durham at the end of his planned three-game cameo filling in for new father Joey Wendle.Adames said going back down was "tough" even ...
Published: 05/25/18
Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Having lost two straight and nine of 12 times overall to the Red Sox, the Rays needed two things to go right Thursday:First, a strong start from Blake Snell.Second, some early runs against Rick Porcello from an offense that had...
Published: 05/24/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Home cooking clearly agrees with OF Denard Span. The 34-year-old Tampa product continues to deliver, producing at the plate, running the bases, making diving catches in the outfield, and Thursday, even going over the short sidewall twice in hot pursu...
Published: 05/24/18
Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays weren't kidding about being serious that starting relievers gives them the best chance to win.So much so, they plan to do so again this weekend against the Orioles — in all three games. The plan is for Sergio Rom...
Published: 05/24/18
Rays tripling down on starting relievers vs. Orioles this weekend: Romo, Stanek, Romo

Rays tripling down on starting relievers vs. Orioles this weekend: Romo, Stanek, Romo

The Rays aren't kidding about being serious in using relievers to start games.After unveiling the strategy last weekend against the Angels, manager Kevin Cash said they planned to use it again, and he made that official on Thursday, naming Sergio Rom...
Published: 05/24/18