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Flattery won’t get you anywhere with the Rays

Rays Tales: Losing top exec and coaches to other teams has become a regular issue, and somewhat of a compliment.
Boston Red Sox's Chaim Bloom looks out at Fenway Park in Boston on Monday after it was announced he will be the baseball team's Chief Baseball Officer. In this role, Bloom will be responsible for all matters of baseball operation. [ELISE AMENDOLA | AP]
Published Nov. 2

ST. PETERSBURG — If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, repeatedly having top staffers hired away by your competitors has to rank a pretty close second.

That happened again to the Rays last week, when senior vice president Chaim Bloom, the top lieutenant to general manager Erik Neander, was lured away by the Red Sox, who offered him the chance to run their entire baseball operations department.

And it could happen again this month, as bench coach Matt Quatraro remains a candidate for the manager’s jobs in San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

And this all follows last winter, when two of their coaches, Rocco Baldelli and Charlie Montoyo, were hired for manager’s jobs in Minnesota and Toronto. Plus Triple-A manager Jared Sandberg, got a spot on the Mariners’ big-league coaching staff, and longtime minor-league field coordinator Bill Evers was hired by Baldelli.

“I wish clubs would stop sincerely flattering us,” principal owner Stuart Sternberg said.

As frustrating as it may be, the Rays know this is the price of having so many good people on their staff. And it is subtly reflected in how they often, though not always, replace those who leave from within, as they put an emphasis on having depth in their coaching and front-office staffs, much as they do with players.

Plus, the promotions are ways to keep others from leaving. And sometimes they are proactive, such as parting ways with pitching coach Jim Hickey a year before his contract was up to promote Kyle Snyder in October 2017 before he got hired elsewhere.

Since 2014, they’ve lost top-level executives Andrew Friedman (to the Dodgers), Matt Arnold (to the Brewers) and Bloom, plus a handful of others in lesser roles, while also reassigning R.J. Harrison and Mitch Lukevics, and pretty much handled it all internally, with many of the replacements working their way up after starting as interns or in entry-level positions.

While they went outside to bring in Kevin Cash to replace Joe Maddon as manager, and in doing so passed over bench coach Dave Martinez (who did all right for himself in Washington), Cash had played for the Rays, and was seen as a rising young star among candidates. Similar with Quatraro.

Flattery comes in different forms.

Awards season

Sunday could be a big night for Kevin Kiermaier, who is a finalist to win his third Gold Glove award. Kiermaier won in 2015 and 2016, then missed out in 2017 and 2018 when limited to fewer than 100 games due to injury. His competition for the American League centerfield award is Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red Sox) and Mike Trout (Angels). “Obviously we’re biased but I think he’s the best defensive player in baseball,” manager Kevin Cash said. … Cash is the most likely Ray to be among the finalists announced Monday for the main Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards — rookie and manager of the year, Cy Young and MVP. “If it were to happen it’s a huge honor and a great representation of the success of the organization,’’ Cash said. … Kiermaier finished third among centerfielders in the Fielding Bible award voting, behind Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain and Washington’s Victor Robles. … Shortstop Willy Adames, who seemed worthy of a Gold Glove finalist spot, was eighth for the Fielding Bible award. Second baseman Brandon Lowe and leftfielder Tommy Pham were ninth.

Bloom report

Asked about now competing against his longtime colleagues, Bloom texted: “It will definitely be interesting but one positive is that I have so many good friends there and I’ll get to see them more often! Look, they’re really good, both their roster and the caliber of their staff. We did great work there that I’m proud of. But we’re all competitors in this business. We like challenges. And it’s going to be fun to compete against them.”

Rays rumblings

Along with some restructuring of the minor-league coordinator staff, longtime coach Steve Henderson is retiring. Henderson, 67 this month, was the big-league hitting coach for five years, and most recently a minor-league coordinator. … Triple-A pitching coach Rick Knapp’s good work at Durham earned him an interview for the D’backs’ job, though Matt Herges was hired. … Way-too-early odds for the Rays to win the 2020 World Series from a couple of online sites were 20-1. … The Rays were fifth in ESPN’s initial power rankings, behind the Dodgers, Astros, Yankees and Braves. … Good luck to longtime TV man Dewayne Staats, a finalist for the fourth time for the prestigious Hall of Fame Frick award. … There’s now a March 24 spring finale at the Trop against a squad of minor-leaguers. … Now retired longtime coach Tom Foley did much for the Rays on the field, but his occasional dugout rendition of Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon also was something. … Best wishes to former Tampa Bay Times colleague Martin Fennelly, who always loved a good a baseball debate. … With Travis d’Arnaud, Avisail Gacia and Eric Sogard free agents and Johnny Davis and Hoby Milner outrighted, there are 36 players on the 40-man roster, with reliever Jose Alvarado still to be reinstated from the 60-day injured list. … Infielder Vidal Brujan made the All-Arizona Fall League squad, with outfielder Josh Lowe a second team selection. … Yes, that was former Ray Jeremy Hellickson in the midst of the Nationals World Series celebration. Hellickson pitched in nine games for the Nats this season, though last in May as he was sidelined by shoulder issues.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays


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    Former Ray Rocco Baldelli wins top honors after his first season with the Twins.
  2. Erik Neander, Tampa Bay Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, addresses the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Award came from a vote of team executives; Yankees Cashman was second.
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    The easiest part of the day for the travel-weary first baseman may have been receiving the prestigious award.
  4. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash speaks at a news conference before an Oct. 1 American League wild-card game practice in Oakland, Calif. JEFF CHIU  |  AP
    Marc Topkin: The Twins Rocco Baldelli and Yankees Aaron Boone are the other two finalists for the hard-to-define award.
  5. Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe (8) is showered with sunflower seeds after hitting a solo homer in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
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  6. Erik Neander, Tampa Bay Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, says of the general manager meetings, which start this week, "We’d love to find a way to score a lot more runs without sacrificing run prevention.'' DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays Tales: Erik Neander says 2019 success provides “a stronger starting point” than they have had in a while. Plus, rumblings.
  7. Manager Kevin Cash has led the Rays to back-to-back seasons of 90 or more victories. He finished third in the American League Manager of the Year voting in 2018 and is one of three finalists again this year with the winner being announced on Tuesday. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
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  8. ALLIE GOULDING   |   Times
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  10. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash (16) smiles in the dugout just prior to the Rays taking on the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the American League Division Series Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 in Houston. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
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