BOSTON —Nope, this is not going to be the worst Rays team of all time, as a certain writer for a certain website that you may happen to be reading right now suggested in April was a real possibility. Not going to be second worst, third, even bottom 10. Not going to lose 100 games. May not, at 62-61 with 39 games left, even have a losing record.
Which also means they aren't the "disgrace,'' "least interesting team,'' "embarrassment" or any of the other negatives they were labeled during an offseason and spring in which they traded, let walk and otherwise ditched most of their veteran players and then got off to a 3-12 start.
Rays hate was trending. Looking back, some of the more harsh comments at the time now seem a bit off base:
Broadcaster Keith Olbermann, on Twitter:
"Truly: the commissioner of baseball should step in and override the Rays DFA'ing of (Corey) Dickerson and trading of (Steven) Souza. In its own way it damages the legitimacy of the pennant race as much as does the Marlins' Jetertanking.''
Jon Tayler for SI.com, headlined "The Rays are the latest team to give up on the 2018 season":
"Not to be outdone in terms of a Sunshine State sell-off, the Rays have spent the last week trying to catch up to Miami in terms of surrendering the season before it even begins. … The result is a Rays team that, a few bright spots aside, will be bad (at best) in 2018. … It's going to be a long time, most likely, until the Rays see the postseason again. But while contention was going to be a tough task in 2018 no matter what, it's still startling to see how thoroughly they've given up on the season. There are tank jobs, and then there's what Tampa's front office has done, stripping the team of most of its best parts and leaving nothing but (Chris) Archer, (Alex) Colome, Kevin Kiermaier and some fringe major leaguers. What's galling is how little the Rays have gotten in return for their fire sale."
Ryan Romano for Beyondtheboxscore.com, headlined "The Rays are a disgrace to baseball":
"There's a certain baseball team in Florida that's had a really bad offseason. This team has a history of poor management, but recently it's sunk to a new low. … Yeah, the Marlins suck, but this isn't about them, it's about the Rays. They're one of the most miserly clubs in MLB, and this offseason is worse than the rest — while they have a chance to build a great team, they're refusing to spend money and destroying yet another window for contention.''
Broadcaster and Rays fan Dick Vitale, in a series of Twitter posts (though he later jumped back on board):
"What r the @RaysBaseball goals? Maybe time has come 4 current ownership to sell the club/ the situation now is embarrassing …
"R all loyal faithful season ticketholders going to get a break on ticket prices? … It's hard to believe that the desire is to give the fans a team that can compete!
"Hey a good move by @RaysBaseball getting an exp player with some power / speed Carlos Gomez … still a long long long way from being competitive.''
Patrick Redford for deadspin.com, headlined "The Rays Are Being Stripped For Parts":
"The Miami Marlins are not the only Florida-based baseball team who will be punting on the 2018 season. …. The Rays seem to be following Derek Jeter's lead and shedding as much salary as possible.''
Bill Madden for the New York Daily News, headlined "Awful baseball hurts Tampa Bay":
"It's become quickly apparent the Rays are going to be unwatchable this year; a terrible team with no pitching, no hitting, no exciting players other than Kevin Kiermaier. … But what could you expect after they traded away or declined to re-sign their four most productive and popular players. … The analytical geniuses who put this team together have come up with a cockamamie concept called "bullpen day" in which a trio of relief pitchers will fill in as their fourth or fifth starters. … Rays owner Stu Sternberg … should be ashamed.''
Dayn Perry for cbssports.com, headlined "The Rays are now the least interesting team in baseball":
"The point is to win baseball games. If I'm feeling charitable toward teams who have tanked or are tanking, I'll say the point is to win games now or position yourself to win games in the determinate future. The Rays, though — having long ago realized that major sports franchises can make money without trying — are doing none of that. They are, however, boring the living hell out of us."
Jacob Shafer for bleacherreport.com, headlined "Marlins and Rays' embarrassing selloffs show MLB can't survive in Florida":
"Florida's teams are dead in the water. They've spent the winter jettisoning their assets and engaging in embarrassing selloffs that have set them up for irrelevance. It's ugly. It's going to get uglier. … The sum of these deals have moved the Marlins and Rays from fringe postseason hopefuls to guaranteed basement dwellers bound for 100-plus losses.''
Craig Calcaterra for nbcsports.com, headlined "The Rays are a disgrace":
"The Tampa Bay Rays have taken a hacksaw to their roster and their payroll this offseason. … Given the lackluster return for most of these players … it's laughable to say that these are truly baseball-inspired moves, even if the Rays front office and some Rays partisans are claiming they are. They're financial moves. … Meanwhile, if you're a Rays fan and you just want to watch popular and familiar players play baseball and, heaven forfend, would like to see the club add some additional good ones to help the team get better, I guess you're outta luck.''
And, least we forget:
Marc Topkin for the Tampa Bay Times, headlined "The 2018 lowdown: It could get real bad":
"Given how these Rays have started — on a pace, even after some recently improved play and (the April 20) thrilling win to finish 51-111 — and given how the injuries have piled up, how stiff the American League competition looks, how they'll likely trade a half dozen veterans by the July 31 deadline, could this end up among the worst teams in their 21 years? Or even join the ignominious trio that lost 100 games?"
The 2019 schedule is out this week, with an expected March 28 home opener vs. Houston; interleague trips to San Francisco and San Diego, visits by Colorado and Arizona, home-and-homes with L.A. and Miami; four west coast journeys; a finish at Toronto. … In confirming plans to use an opener in 2019, manager Kevin Cash said the ideal mix would be three traditional starters and two-three openers. … The Rays moved from fifth to second (behind San Diego) in Baseball America's updated organizational talent rankings, lauded for "a system loaded with future big league bats with an impressive amount of projectable pitchers as well.'' … OF Carlos Gomez could have a future on TV based on a recent MLB Network segment but figures he has to "play better" to get more opportunities. … A wonder: Did making the spring Corey Dickerson deal with Pittsburgh enable the Chris Archer trade talks? … Coach Rocco Baldelli and ex-Rays Sam Fuld and Josh Paul made Tim Brown's Yahoo.com list of future managerial candidates. … Cash isn't the only innovating manager; Triple-A Durham's Jared Sandberg used a four-man outfield last week vs. Lehigh Valley lefty slugger Dylan Cozens. … Ex-Ray James Shields is now tied for 62nd on the all-time strikeout list at 2,207, set to next pass Jim Palmer. … Congrats to team president Matt Silverman and wife Andrea on their third daughter, Casey. … Sternberg said they're likely to try some sort of the ticket pass plan other teams are using but it likely "won't move the needle.'' … The 20th anniversary celebration continues Saturday with a Wade Boggs bobblehead and first pitch.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays