Today's electronic conversation between Sports columnists John Romano and Gary Shelton:
JR: Sadly, this is the moment where I bow to your superior knowledge, Gary. Last year, at this time, I was still a skeptic. I still believed the Rays were a team with holes. I predicted Tampa Bay would win 77 games in 2008. You, on the other hand, were a sage. You saw what few others could see. You, my friend, went out on a limb and predicted 79 victories.
GS: That's why they call me Captain Optimism. I always see the glass 3/16ths full. Of course, I also see things floating in the water.
JR: That's the residue from what's left of our careers. So are you feeling optimistic now? Can the Rays repeat, or are they destined for the one-hit wonder anthologies?
GS: If you have been no-hit enough, there is nothing wrong with being a one-hit wonder. Still, I think we should define our terms. Is there success only in defending the crown? Is it failure if this team wins 90 but misses the playoffs?
JR: Tampa Bay ain't that snooty yet. I think anything above 90 wins would be a success, no matter what the standings say.
GS: I'm not sure all of your e-mailers would agree. Still, another playoff run would be fun to see. Here's a question: If the Rays get back in the playoffs and the Yankees don't, how much money is that going to cost Hank Steinbrenner?
JR: Depends on how much it costs to clean Brian Cashman off his shoes.
GS: Not to mention A-Rod off of his mirror.
JR: I will say this: The Rays are a more talented team in 2009. They have a deeper bullpen, a proven rotation and more pop in the lineup. On the other hand, adding another crook didn't make Ocean's Twelve better than the original.
GS: I agree, it's a talented team. But I want to see whether Troy Percival can make you forget last year's injuries. And frankly, I'd like to see some of the starters move from the 11-12-win range to the 15-16-win range. Also, the team has to avoid injury, slumps and Madonna, not necessarily in that order.
JR: Okay, no more dancing around. Tell me where David Price finishes in rookie of the year voting, how many saves Percival has left in his arm, how many home runs B.J. Upton hits considering his repaired shoulder and how many times Jonny Gomes calls to say he wants to come home?
GS: David Price wins the rookie voting. Percival has 27 saves, but not the one you want. Upton hits 21 home runs. And Gomes calls the way Nick Lachey calls Jessica Simpson. For you: How many homers for Longoria? How many RBIs for Pat Burrell? How many each do Shields, Kazmir, Garza and Sonnanstine win? And what are the numbers for this week's lottery?
JR: Longoria hits 35 homers and Burrell drives in 96 runs. Shields and Kazmir move forward with 15 wins apiece. Sonnanstine takes a step back with 11, and Garza is happy to hit 10 after spending time on the DL. And who needs to play the lottery when you work at a newspaper these days?
GS: You can never be too thin or too rich. I know I can't.
JR: Tell it to Amy Winehouse.
GS: I do not know you.
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