Mailbag: Without star-filled roster, why are Rays so much better than Mets and Yankees?

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Tampa Bay Rays at home plate September 2021
Tampa Bay Rays at home plate September 2021

SNY's Andy Martino will be responding to and breaking down answers to questions from readers. Here's the latest...

No position player on the Rays would start for either Mets or Yankees (with possible exception of Wander Franco). Then why are the Rays so much better? @SamStephenson12

Though I don’t agree with your premise entirely on the lineups (and Franco is more than a “possible exception''), the question is a great one. And it’s one I recently asked with slightly different wording to a high-ranking executive from one of the New York teams.

That person’s answer cut right to the heart of the matter: “They have no choice but to do the right thing.”

The executive’s meaning: Because of their limited budget, the Rays are forced to make the highly difficult decisions that richer teams punt on for sentimental reasons or other market factors like media and fan reactions.

If their fans wanted Francisco Lindor, Yoenis Cespedes, or Giancarlo Stanton signed to inefficient megadeals -- the sorts of contracts that should probably never happen but that teams often cave to anyway -- the Rays simply couldn’t do it.

In defense of the Yankees and Mets in this comparison, the Rays trade homegrown stars in a way that New York fans would never allow. James Shields, David Price, Blake Snell, and so many others were sent packing at the right time. New York teams face extreme pressure to keep their players for too long and fund their declines.

The Rays’ fan base is less numerous and less passionate. It’s a better environment in which to make smart baseball decisions, and they have consistently hired and promoted the right people to do so, from Andrew Friedman to Chaim Bloom to Erik Neander.

Those executives are all brilliant and disciplined. But if Neander were ever tempted to splurge on a big extension or free agent contract, he simply couldn’t do it. The Yanks and Mets lack that excuse.