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Rays had some major success in minor leagues this year

Rays Tales | Best composite record, three of four full-season teams with championships, and top players graduating to big leagues.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco is the most shining example of the organization’s work in the minors.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco is the most shining example of the organization’s work in the minors. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Oct. 9
Updated Oct. 10

BOSTON — The Rays didn’t just win at the major-league level this year.

Overshadowed by the American League-best 100 regular-season wins and the East Division title, the Rays also had a monumentally successful year in the minors, which bodes well for the future.


⋅ Their seven affiliates combined for a 411-249 record (.623) that was the best of any organization, ahead of the Yankees (.595) and Red Sox (.588).

⋅ Three of their four full-season teams won league championships. Triple-A Durham finished with the best regular-season record (86-44), High A Bowling Green (82-36) and Low A Charleston (82-38) won best-of-five playoff series. And Double-A Montgomery just missed, losing in the fifth and final game of its series. (No, Biscuits manager Morgan Ensberg’s job isn’t on the line.) Plus the short-season Florida Complex League team finished with a league-best 42-15 record.

⋅ They sent a number of talented players to the majors, headlined by Wander Franco and Shane Baz, and helped many others with injuries, role changes and more.

Developing players and winning are not always the most compatible missions, but the Rays pulled of pretty much a doubleheader sweep.

Rays starting pitcher Shane Baz delivers in the first inning against the Red Sox in Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday at Tropicana Field.
Rays starting pitcher Shane Baz delivers in the first inning against the Red Sox in Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

“The goal of the minor leagues and of a player development system is to develop championship-caliber players,” baseball operations president Erik Neander said. “And if you’re developing enough of them, they should be competing and learning how to win as well. And our clubs did, arguably, as good a job of that collectively as any collection of minor-league affiliates has ever done. We’re really, really proud of that.”

Even more so, Neander said, coming off 2020 when many missed not only competition but development time due to the canceled minor-league season.

“Keep in mind that a lot of these players didn’t have baseball a year ago,” he said. “For them to be on their own, using Tele-Coach, and Zoom coaching, and to do all these things to keep tabs on them, to keep them going, to help them adapt. And to find ways to clearly have made the most of it relative to the competition is something that above and beyond the wins and losses and the success just makes us that much more proud because of all the work that went in over the last 18 months to now.”

Player development vice president Carlos Rodriguez also was beaming.

“It’s hard to win and to do so at the rate we did this year,” he said. “Our process prioritizes individual player development ahead of winning. However we do believe that winning across the minor leagues this year is the result of our collective process and an incredible effort from our players, coaches and staff despite the cancelled season in 2020 and while navigating changing protocols.”

A-Rod back to ripping Rays

Former Yankees star and Fox/ESPN broadcaster Alex Rodriguez said some nice things about the Rays last week, but that didn’t last. Thursday, he said he was “a huge fan” of Kevin Cash and called him “one of the great young managers.” Then he said the Red Sox have given Alex Cora autonomy to use analytics but manage the game in real time, to “not watch the iPad but watch the game.” And finally Rodriguez said, “Can Kevin Cash, as a manager, make that great an adjustment?”

Boss Man speaks out

B.J. Upton is known for speaking quietly, but the longtime Rays outfielder and full-time Tampa-area resident came out loud and aggressive on Twitter Thursday with comments about current team management and principal owner Stuart Sternberg, tied seemingly to their season-sharing plan with Montreal.

Upton, who hadn’t posted a tweet on his @MelvinUptonJr account since March 1, started his rant during the ALDS opener with this: “Stu needs to sell”

Then, “And he tried to use the playoffs as a bulls--t plan”

And, “Y’all wanna start a petition … I’m down, we worked too hard to build this and he wants to walk out on a city”

Also, intriguingly, “I’ve got a buyer.”

Lastly, “This the same team that took me to arbitration over 300K”

The Tampa Bay Times confirmed Upton, 37, posted the tweets, but he didn’t respond to a query through a representative as to what led him to speak out.

Rays rumblings

An original Yandy Diaz logoed T-shirt is among the first items available on the website launched by Steve Nam, the team’s Korean interpreter and budding graphic artist. … With players and staff allowed to bring family for postseason trips, the Rays are using two planes — one for those traveling solo, the other for significant others and kids. … The Red Sox’s measuring of the Trop mound during their September visit was based on unusual measurements in their pitcher analytics data, specifically extension toward the plate, according to the Boston Globe. As we also reported, the Globe said Major League Baseball had no issue with the Trop mound. ... There isn’t much talk among Rays players about the Montreal season-sharing plan, which isn’t much of a surprise since it’s unlikely many, if any, will be with the team after the Tropicana Field lease expires following the 2027 season. .. Will be interesting to see if the the plan is discussed, formally or informally, as part of the negotiations in the new collective bargaining agreement that has to be worked out during the offseason. Makes sense since the union is going to have major concerns. Leading agent Scott Boras said he can’t see any way players will agree to it given the logistical inconveniences.

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