Tracy Ringolsby knows who will finish in last place

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He sounds certain, but will FOX’s Tracy Ringolsby bet his hat on it?

A month before spring training, fans of all 30 major league teams are
supposed to have hope about what the coming season will bring.  Makes
for good marketing. Bottom line, however, is while there is reason for
hope with most teams, there’s no argument over which teams are the
worst.

First place in the six divisions is up for debate.  Last place, however, is a slam dunk. Mark it down now.

Last
place still belongs to the Royals in the AL Central, Oakland in the AL
West, Toronto in the AL East, Washington in the NL East, Pittsburgh in
the NL Central and San Diego in the NL West.  These are not overnight failures. They have earned the distinction.

I take issue with Oakland in that group.  Sure, they may very will finish in last place — I’d probably pick them to finish there this year — but they’re not an “earned failure” on the order of, say, Kansas City. They have some good young pitching. They are a battered, but perfectly respectable team in ways that the others in that crowd are not. They just happen to not be as good as the other three teams in the division. No shame in that.

I take less issue with the others, but still there is room to quibble. Toronto looks like a last place team, but they did finish 11 games ahead of Baltimore, so I don’t think anyone would die of shock if the O’s “beat” them out.  Pittsburgh has to be the front runner for last place, but if you assume old players get worse and young players get better, Houston could easily fall below them this year.  The Padres actually finished five games ahead of the Diamondbacks in 2009, so I don’t know that they’re a lock for last either.

I think the only rock solid locks for last place are the Royals and Nats.  For everyone else: let’s play some games first, OK?

Kevin Kiermaier on Rays’ recent moves: “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset.”

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On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”

Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.

The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.

When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.