Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The 2008 Tampa Bay Rays = The 1969 New York Mets?

It's hard to admit this, but I'm gonna go ahead and do it anyway: as a Red Sox fan, the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays scare me.

Last season, I kicked around an idea that made it as far as the drafts section without ever actually graduating to "Publish Post" status. The thinking was that the Rays, with a slew of young players on the rise, were in serious danger of putting their bleak history behind them and unleashing the pent-up fury of ten futile years on the American League...much like the 1969 Mets did during their Amazin' run to the pennant. The similarities were there, I could just never quite fit it all together the way I wanted.

Now, with the 2008 season fast approaching, I'm willing to try revisiting that line of thought. Here goes, in wonderfully lazy bullet point form:

  • The Mets finished ninth or tenth in the first seven seasons of the franchise's existence, never winning more than 73 games. The Rays have finished fourth or fifth in the first ten seasons of their existence, never winning more than 70 games.

  • The Mets were led by a pair of good young pitchers who set the league on fire in 1969: Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. The Rays' rotation is anchored by former Mets draft pick Scott Kazmir and James Shields. Kazmir and Shields are 24 and 26, respectively - the same age as Seaver and Koosman in 1969.

  • The Mets had an exceptional bullpen featuring Ron Taylor, Jack Dilauro, and Tug McGraw. The Rays have Juan Salas, Al Reyes, and Troy Percival. Okay, so it's not perfect.

  • Average age of position players on the '69 Mets: 25.9. Average age of position players on the '07 Rays: 25.9.

  • The Mets gained legitimacy in their early years thanks to their first manager, Casey Stengel. The Rays were first perceived as a threat when Lou Piniella came on board. Neither lasted past a fourth season or had a winning record with their respective team.

  • It's likely that each team will field a rookie third baseman (Wayne Garrett and Evan Longoria), a shortstop who is below-average offensively and makes plenty of errors (Bud Harrelson and Jason Bartlett), an outfielder who is good offensively, but not as good as I first thought (Tommie Agee and Carl Crawford), and a player who is better with the bat than I expected (Cleon Jones and B.J. Upton).
That's all I've got at the moment. Were a couple of those points kind of a reach? Yeah, I'll admit it. But of the six, at least four are solid comparisons. Will the Rays 2008 end the same way as the Mets 1969?

God, I hope not.


Draft King said...

After seeing several seasons of bad baseball at Tropicana Field during my five year run in Tampa, it would be amusing to see the Rays make a playoff run. But, with baseball's inequity as far as payrolls from team to team, I doubt strongly that the AL East has too much to worry about from the Rays.

Anonymous said...

I definitely think a run could happen. Between Garza, Shields, Kazmir (and eventually price), the Rays have a downright scary young pitching staff, to go with a solid bullpen and a tremendous offense. I'm a Mets fan, and have been preaching to my friends all winter that the (ex-D)Rays are the team to watch this year.

Paterno Lives! said...

same team that has never finished higher than 4th in their division and just renamed themselves after sunshine despite the fact that they play in a dome? that team?

I think Boston, with their payroll 4 times that of TB, will be fine.

Anonymous said...


One More Dying Quail said...

Anonymous #2: Pithy. I like it.

DK: Payroll inequity should only negatively effect a team's ability to compete in the long run. Anybody with a lot of good young talent, such as the Rays, can put a good season or two together. It's the matter of paying that talent that hurts eventually.

I'm sure the division will still be Red Sox/Yankees at the top, with Tampa, Toronto and Baltimore bringing up the rear. It's just the possibility that has me intrigued/worried. If the Rays start off hot...wow, I don't even know if I want to consider that.

Anonymous said...

I think the Rays could do it.

Cocaine is a hell of a drug

Finn said...

I think third place in 2008 is far more likely in a division featuring what could be the worst team in baseball (the Orioles) and a Blue Jays team that doesn't appear to have any particular advantages over the Rays.

They'll clearly need to upgrade their bullpen if they want to make serious noise in the division. They've netted the flotsam of the league and come up with a group of guys like Dohmann, Birkins, Glover, and Balfour to go along with their typical group of underachievers (Orvella). It's a huge weakness. Their pen stinks.

One More Dying Quail said...

Yeah, looks like I picked the wrong week to stop drinking.

Adam said...

Their talent is scary, there's no doubt about it. But I feel like their talent level has been high the last season or two (perhaps not as high as this upcoming season) yet the results have yet to materialize.
Maybe this year will be the perfect storm where all of their talent develops all at once. Stranger things have happened, and again they can be competitive with the players they have, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Anonymous said...

They are on their way there, don't know if this is the year though. I give them a better shot when guys like David Price, Jacob McGee, Wade Davis, Reid Brignac, Desmond Jennings get up the ladder.

Nick said...

Third place .500 isn't that far of a stretch, but a pennant run? Uhh no way. Also, with Scott Kazmir's health in question now, even third place might be a stretch. If they lose him, forget it.

Anonymous said...

It has happened!!! All you doubters are RETARDED!!!