Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays seek to keep pace in AL East

2013 couldn't have worked out better for the Red Sox, who won 28 more games and their third World Series championship in the past 10 years.

AP photo

2013 couldn't have worked out better for the Red Sox, who won 28 more games and their third World Series championship in the past 10 years.

The celebration was joyous, the parade memorable and there's still a few free drinks to be had around town. But for the most part, Red Sox manager John Farrell said, winning the World Series was fun while it lasted.

"The euphoria," Farrell said, "has definitely worn off."

That's how life is in baseball these days, and especially in the ultracompetitive American League East. The latest reminder came Friday morning, when centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a key part of Boston's championship run, was officially introduced in Yankees pinstripes, making his departure doubly troubling.

The level of competition among the AL East teams forces the action, making it so none of the clubs can afford — figuratively and literally — to stand pat.

As well as the Rays have done — making four playoff appearances over the past six seasons, matching the Yankees — in competing with four better-financed foes, it's only getting more challenging. The East teams tend to be among the more advanced-thinking and aggressive in making moves, creating essentially a year-round competition.

"I expect the East to be incredibly competitive, as it has been in recent years. The other four teams in this division are extremely well run, and when that happens, it fosters more competition. I think we're all in our way trying to one-up each other and trying to figure out how to put the best team together," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said.

"When you have four well-run teams that keep kind of raising the bar, it creates a really competitive environment, both in terms of the offseason and in terms of the season. … Obviously there are a lot of moves left to make for all five teams, but I would be very surprised if, when the dust settles and opening day rolls around, there isn't a scenario where all five teams have a chance to be really, really good."

That looked to be the case last winter, when Toronto and Boston, after finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, the previous season, both engaged in extensive makeovers.

While 2013 couldn't have worked out better for the Red Sox, who won 28 more games and their third World Series championship in the past 10 years, it couldn't have gone much worse for the Blue Jays, who improved by only one game and dropped to last place.

So when the Jays assemble in Dunedin in February, the challenge will be clear: "We've got to make sure our focus is, 'Hey, you know, we didn't answer the bell last year, but now it's time to do it,' " manager John Gibbons said.

After finishing fourth last season, the Yankees have been among the most active this offseason, adding Ellsbury, catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Carlos Beltran to what they expect to be a healthy Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. But they've lost second baseman Robinson Cano, who has yet to be replaced, they don't know if Alex Rodriguez will be playing, and still have significant holes in their rotation.

"I think we've made moves definitely to improve our ballclub," manager Joe Girardi said. "The offseason is not over. … I think we'll look different come Jan. 31 than we do right now."

The Rays may, too, of course, as they wrestle with whether to trade ace David Price and, after bringing back first baseman James Loney, seek to add a few other pieces. The Orioles are even more of an unknown at this point, having made several subtractions without additions.

All seem to know what they're in for.

"It's always a given with the other teams in our division," O's manager Buck Showalter said, "that they're going to be better."

Marc Topkin can be reached at

Tampa Bay Rays seek to keep pace in AL East 12/13/13 [Last modified: Saturday, December 14, 2013 8:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. L.A. delay could re-open Super Bowl chance for Tampa in 2021


    Construction delays on the NFL's new stadium in Los Angeles mean the Rams and Chargers won't be playing there until 2020, a year later than expected, and the ripple effect could give Tampa another chance at landing a Super Bowl in February 2021.

    Tampa and Raymond James Stadium last hosted a Super Bowl in 2009, when the Pittsburgh Steelers edged the Arizona Cardinals.
  2. Bucs' Gerald McCoy, Jameis Winston honored in NFL top 100


    Helping fans pass time through the offseason each summer, NFL Network has been unveiling its top 100 players for 2017 as chosen by the players, and the Bucs' Gerald McCoy and Jameis Winston are the first Tampa Bay players revealed, coming in at No. 52 and 57, respectively.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis WInston and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, shown in the 2016 season finale against the Panthers, have both been named to the NFL Network's top 100 players for 2017.
  3. The play occurred in the third inning when Angels rookie Nolan Fontana, making his major league debut, tried to slide past the tag of Rays second baseman Michael Martinez.
  4. Former Gator Caleb Brantley paying a steep price for nothing


    It turns out Caleb Brantley isn't quite the dirtbag that millions of people presumed. It's too bad the damage to his reputation and bank account is already done.

    Caleb Brantley, who dropped to the sixth round of the draft, works out during Browns rookie minicamp. [Associated Press]
  5. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Daniel Robertson walks off the field after being left stranded at first base to end the game.