A few weeks later, that same team is slumping and arguing in the dugout like Florida's version of the Chicago Cubs.
Having struggled to a 12-19 record since May 23, the Rays' juice carton finally spilled over at Tropicana Field as teammates B.J. Upton(notes) and Evan Longoria(notes) had a tense exchange in the dugout during the fifth inning of a 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon.
Longoria appeared upset at what he perceived as a lack of hustle from Upton on a play in center field, and for good reason — Upton's pursuit of a Rusty Ryal(notes) drive to the gap earlier in the inning was reminiscent of Hanley Ramirez's lollygagging over in Miami.
Still, Longoria took offense at Upton's approach from a philosophical standpoint and the result was the second teammate disagreement in the public eye over the last three days (Carlos Zambrano(notes) vs. Derrek Lee(notes) on Friday being the first).
Luckily for the Rays, the Upton-Longoria spat took a different turn from the Cubs' confrontation because both teammates sounded as if they had already buried the hatchet and were chalking it up to a simple case of frustrated boys being frustrated boys.
Here's what each player said about the run-in (via The Heater)
"Over the course of a season it's going to happen. It happens and it's done with ... We just disagreed, talked about it, it's done with, and move on. We can't have those type of distractions. We've got to move on and try to win some ballgames. We're in the middle of a pennant race right now and that's all that matters."
"It's just the byproduct of a frustrated team. We're trying to win games. Guys are going to have differences of opinions, it's the bottom line. We've talked about it, we've hashed it out, and it goes no further than today. We just talked about the situation in the outfield and the positioning. It's not that big of a deal, it's just a couple guys who are frustrated with the way that they're playing and not being able to help the team. I think it just got a little bit more out of hand than it should've."
Upton said his path to the ball was influenced by bad positioning and a belief that left fielder Matt Joyce(notes) might get to it first. No word on if Longoria, manager Joe Maddon or any of the other Rays were privately satisfied by that explanation, though they have bigger things to fret over now that the team has dropped to third place in a division they once dominated.
There's plenty of time for the Rays to turn things back around, of course, but I think it's now worth wondering if Upton will be a part of it much. He was already rumored to be part of the Rays' deadline tradebait with young Desmond Jennings(notes) waiting in the wings and you have to think this latest dugout discord gives general manager Andrew Friedman added incentive to make a move.