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Concession Speech: 2012 Tampa Bay Rays

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

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With the regular season over, many teams are facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategy.

But we're not going to let them get off that easy. No sir. No way. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're giving a blogger from each team the opportunity to give a concession speech for this year's squad. Up next is our good friend Cork Gaines of Rays Index.

My Fellow Tampa Bay Rays fans ... My fellow Raysheads:

I come to you today under unfortunate circumstances. The games have spoken and our beloved Tampa Bay Rays will not be in the playoffs. And more importantly, for the 15th straight year, the season will not end with the Rays as World Series champions. That's gotta be some kind of record, right?

Look, as a baseball fan, I will respect the process. But I am here to tell you, the wrong team will win the World Series this year.

The Rays were the best team in baseball this season. Maybe they struggled to score runs at times. And OK, maybe they struggled to even get hits sometimes. But the pitching was the best in baseball. And pitching wins championships, right?

RIGHT?

So I will concede that the Rays will not win the World Series. But when another team does win, I will be doing my best McKayla Maroney impression. I will not be impressed.Mistakes were made: Did the Rays make mistakes? Oh boy did they make mistakes.

Anybody remember the Hideki Matsui experiment? Sure he didn't cost as much money as Manny Ramirez or Johnny Damon or *gulp* Pat Burrell. But he got 103 excruciating plate appearances, with almost all of them coming in a month (June) in which the Rays went 12-15. And in his short time, he earned the lovable nickname, Designated Last Out.

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(Getty Images)

The biggest mistake they made was not trading a starting pitcher before the season. Specifically they should have moved Wade Davis for an upgrade at one of the many holes in the offense.

But with all the depth this team had in the rotation, the Rays moved Davis to the bullpen. Some thought he was insurance in case of injury, but he pitched well in relief. And when starting pitchers did go down, the Rays had plenty of other options in the minors.

The front office sycophants will tell you that Davis was a key component in a great bullpen. And yet, despite his strong pitching he was worth just one win all year (1.1 Wins Above Replacement). And this front office has proven again and again that they can find good relievers simply by digging through the dumpsters behind other stadiums.

So why not deal Davis and get a catcher or a middle infielder or even a good training staff that won't let Evan Longoria get hurt every year? Oh right. Because nobody would offer half their farm system the way the Cubs did in the Matt Garza deal.

Good job, good effort *head hits podium*.

Mudslinging time: Let me give you a few numbers...

  • 3.19 - Team ERA and 0.14 better than any other team in baseball
  • 3.34 - ERA of the starting pitchers, 0.42 better than any other team in the A.L.
  • 2.88 - ERA of the bullpen, best in the A.L.
  • 2.60 - ERA for the entire pitching staff after the All-Star break, 0.90 better than any other team in the A.L.
  • 1,383 - Strikeouts for the entire pitching staff, an A.L. record.
  • 0.60 - ERA for Fernando Rodney, an MLB record for relief pitchers (min. 50 innings pitched)

So yeah, the pitching was amazing.

Now let me give you a few other numbers...

  • .711 - Team OPS, 12th in the A.L.
  • 697 - The number of runs the Rays scored, 11th in the A.L.
  • 32 - Times the Rays had 0 or 1 hits through four innings.
  • 0 - Number of baserunners the Rays had against Felix Hernandez on Aug. 15, the third perfect game thrown against the Rays, and fourth no-hitter, since the start of the 2008 season.

We can live with ugly losses. Heck we were Devil Rays fans once, we can live with a LOT of ugly losses. But the Rays were 21-27 in one-run games, thanks in large part to an offense that would struggle in T-ball. The Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games. They went to the playoffs.

The biggest numbers might be 47 and 27. The Rays were 47-27 when Evan Longoria played (and half of those games were on one hamstring). They were 43-45 when he did not. In other words, they played like a 103-win team with Longo and a 79-win team without.

Sure, other teams had injuries. But when your payroll is $65 million, you can't afford to lose a guy that has been the most valuable player in the A.L. since the start of the 2008 season.

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(Getty Images)

Hope for the future: OK, things aren't that bad. When this team finally suffered injuries to their starting rotation, two more pitchers came out of the Rays' starting pitcher factory and filled in wonderfully. So if we count Davis, the Rays now have eight major-league starting pitchers. Most teams struggle to find five.

And we just have to hope that Longoria will come back in 2013 and play 155 games. And they still have Ben Zobrist, who is like a Volvo. He is safe, dependable and a WAR machine. But you wouldn't want to pick a date up in one.

The pieces are there, and this team will once again be great. And who knows, maybe they will actually trade a starting pitcher for a big league bat or two.

A change is going to come: Change will come by not changing. The Rays maintain greatness by not making huge changes. In fact, most of the big moves have backfired, including Pat Burrell, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Carlos Pena part Deux.

And yet, since the start of the 2008 season, the Rays have played 835 games (including the postseason), and there have only been 13 games in which the Rays were eliminated from the playoff hunt. That span includes four 90-win seasons and three trips to the playoffs.

And that's why it is even less likely they'll make a major free agency or trade acquisition. Instead, look for the Rays to do what they do better than most, find cast-offs to fill in the holes and hope for the best.

"Tampa Bay Rays." That name has new meaning in Major League Baseball these days. The national media is still consumed by the attendance and the third-oldest ballpark in baseball (not counting renovated or iconic parks, e.g. Fenway).

But that's OK. Because come April 2, 2013, we will once again be rooting for our Rays. We won't be rooting for a train wreck in red hose. We will be rooting for one of the best teams in baseball.

And should we win the day, the Rays will no longer be known as a laughing stock or a fluke, and Rays fans will declare in one voice:

WE WILL NOT GO QUIETLY IN THE NIGHT! WE WILL NOT VANISH WITHOUT A FIGHT! WE'RE GOING TO LIVE ON! WE'RE GOING TO SURVIVE! IN 2013, THE RAYS WILL FINALLY BE CHAMPIONS.

Or maybe the offense will once again suck just enough to prove that a team needs more than just one of the best pitching staffs in baseball history *head hits podium again*.

But yeah, congrats to whichever team wins this year ... Or something.

Follow Cork Gaines on Twitter and read him at Rays Index

Previous Concession Speeches: Milwaukee BrewersPhiladelphia PhilliesArizona DiamondbacksPittsburgh Pirates,Cleveland IndiansBoston Red SoxMinnesota TwinsSan Diego PadresNew York MetsMiami MarlinsChicago CubsToronto Blue JaysColorado RockiesKansas City Royals, Houston Astros

Are you ready for the postseason?
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