When the baseball schedule came out, no one would have been surprised that this weekend's series between the Rays and Astros would have included the worst team in baseball. We just wouldn't have thought the worst team would be the Rays. But that's what has happened. The Rays came into the series with a record of 25-42, which had them 5 1/2 games behind an Astros team expected to be the worst in baseball. What's happened? How did the Rays get here? Here are 10 reasons why the Rays are the worst team in baseball.
We overrated them … and so did Andrew Friedman
We can sit here and bang away at how all these Rays players are having off seasons, and certainly some are. But some are putting up the numbers they always have put up, or close to them. Maybe our opinions of them are just a little too high. For example: Coming into this season, Ben Zobrist (top right) was a lifetime .263 hitter. Desmond Jennings (middle) was a lifetime .250 hitter. Matt Joyce was a lifetime .249 hitter. Maybe we shouldn't be shocked by numbers this season that are not all that lower than their lifetime stats. Executive VP Andrew Friedman (below) constructed this team, and there are major holes that haven't been filled through free agency or player development. Maybe everyone on this team is playing about the way he is capable of playing.
They're not that good
Recent history suggests the Rays are better than this. After all, this is the same team that made the playoffs a year ago. Then again, it's fair to point out that the Rays had to win a one-game playoff to qualify for the second wild-card spot. That means the Rays were a loss away from finishing sixth in a 15-team league. Let's not overthink this. Why did we think they were all that good in the first place?
The superstar isn't playing like a superstar
I know Evan Longoria (right) can't do this all by himself, and he has little protection around him in the lineup. Still, if you're considered one of the best players in baseball, you have to do better than he is projected to do this season: .263 average with 17 homers and 65 RBIs. His numbers should be more like .270 with 30 homers and 110 RBIs in the middle of a lineup with American Legion hitters.
You hate to whine about them. Everybody gets them. They're part of the game. But the Rays have had it rough. At one point, they were missing three of their five starting pitchers: from left, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson. Moore is out for a year. Hellickson isn't back. Other key players who have been or are on the disabled list include Ben Zobrist, Ryan Hanigan (second from right) and Wil Myers (far right). That's a lot for any team to overcome, especially when its minor-league system lacks in developing position players.
The Rays came into the weekend 27th in the majors in runs scored. No wonder. They can't hit for average (23rd in the majors) or power (26th in slugging percentage). So if you can't hit singles and you can't hit homers, that means this: You can't hit. In the previous 13 games coming into the weekend, the Rays (2-11 in that span) had been held to two runs or fewer eight times, including five shutouts.
Ineffective early starting pitching
You can't blame the starting pitching of late, but early on, it struggled. From opening day to May 11, Chris Archer had two victories and a 5.16 ERA. Eric Bedard didn't win his first four starts, and the Rays lost three of those games by a combined score of 9-5. The Rays won only one of Jake Odorizzi's first seven starts. And the Rays won only two of Cesar Ramos' seven starts. By the time the Rays got to the end of May, they already were 10 games under .500.
Because the Rays don't get in many save situations, closer Grant Balfour has never been able to establish a rhythm. Coming into the weekend, he had blown only two saves, but it feels as if he has pitched much worse than that, especially when you see that 5-plus ERA. His main setup man hasn't helped.
Leaky setup man
Joel Peralta's favorite pitch this season appears to be the gopher ball. He has allowed five home runs already after allowing only seven all last year.
Joe Maddon hasn't had enough gimmicks
We've had themed road trips and a medicine man. But where are the penguins? Where is the snake? Can we get a magician to saw a lady in half — or, perhaps, Jose Molina? Sure, you roll your eyes at this stuff, but it sure worked in the past.
They were just due to have a bad season
We have become spoiled in Tampa Bay.
The Rays had put together six winning seasons in a row. Five times in that span, they won at least 90 games. They have made the playoffs four times. Do you realize how hard that is to do, especially when you're a small-market team shopping in the discount stores while all the rich teams in your division are shopping on Madison Avenue?
The Rays couldn't possibly keep it going. Sooner or later, their bargain-basement shopping was going to backfire. If you buy cheap stuff, it breaks. If all the players on the Rays were that special, they would be making millions more and playing for someone else.
Sadly, the Rays were due, sooner or later, to have a bad season.
This is sooner. This is that bad season.
tom jones' two cents