PORT CHARLOTTE — There are certain things, besides signing players to $100 million-plus contracts, that other teams do that the Rays can't.
But as the Rays have had additional success, they've noticed that more and more teams are doing some things the way they do — in constructing their team, valuing young players and signing the best to long-term deals, stocking up on players with speed and versatility, putting an emphasis on preventing injuries.
"I'd like to be a good copycat; it's good to finish a close second and learn from the person in front of you, let them sort of run through the wind a little bit and you catch the draft," principal owner Stuart Sternberg said.
"But I do feel that certainly what we did and some of the emphasis we put on certain parts of the game, while they weren't groundbreaking, they were all in in that respect. And I do feel there, there's no question, there has been some emulation there."
They've also noticed it in the way other teams are playing their style of game, specifically the emphasis on defense and pitching, which means they have to keep evolving as well.
"I think you're going to see a lot of teams revert back to the style we've played the last couple years," manager Joe Maddon said. "I think if you look at what Texas did last year, that's a prime example of a really good team, a well-balanced team that all of a sudden started to emphasize other components of the game. And we kind of got beat with our own stick at the end of last season.
"So I really think it's imperative that we attempt to stay ahead with what we do."
Without getting too specific, he said that includes getting better at fundamentals and being more proactive "attempting to stop things" other teams try to do to them.
SEEING RED: Manny Ramirez had issues getting adjusted to the scrutiny and intensity of playing in Boston, but he said he grew to enjoy it and expects ex-Rays star Carl Crawford to adapt well.
"It's a great town to play," Ramirez said. "I think he's going to do way better over there. … Sometimes they expect so much of you, over there the competition is so good that he's going to have to maybe focus more."
Boston manager Terry Francona said of Crawford: "It's amazing how you can hate somebody so much in a different uni and then fall in love with 'em when they're in your uni."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Individual game tickets are expected to go on sale this week; look for a premium-priced presale starting Tuesday. … RHP Matt Garza told Chicago media he knew he was likely to be traded based on the small Trop crowds: "When you're drawing 12,000 and you're in first place in the East, it's kind of rough to picture yourself there the following season." … Julianna Zobrist, wife of Ben, should have her second CD of Christian music out by June. … Among reasons Maddon suggested for fans to be interested: "We're very affable." … Though Sternberg made it clear he had no intention of getting involved with the Mets, the New York Post's Kevin Kernan wrote: "If things turn worse for the Mets owners, however, and they are forced to sell as a result of the Madoff Mess, don't count out Sternberg and his group, all New Yorkers."