Tampa Bay began the season 1-8 as many people rushed to write the Rays off after numerous key players departed as free agents, but with last night’s win over the Twins they’re now 12-11 overall, going 11-3 since the dreadful start.
What’s particularly remarkable about the Rays climbing above .500 is that they’re winning with the same pitching-and-defense equation they thrived on last season despite losing Gold Glove left fielder Carl Crawford and basically their entire bullpen to free agency, trading shortstop Jason Bartlett, and being without third baseman Evan Longoria since the second game of the season.
Yet the Rays’ relievers rank fourth among AL teams with a 3.06 ERA that’s even better than last season’s league-leading 3.33 mark and their defense ranks second in the league in converting balls in play into outs. And their rotation has been strong too, with James Shields looking like his old self following a career-worst 2010 and ace David Price picking right up where he left off last season.
I’m not sure how long Sam Fuld is going to play like an All-Star and the Kyle Farnsworth closer experiment remains risky despite his being 5-for-5 converting saves so far, but this Rays team is very much a legitimate contender thanks to some shrewd low-cost pickups by the front office, a remarkable farm system that continues to churn out young talent year after year, and a manager in Joe Maddon who excels at mixing and matching to make the puzzle work no matter how odd the pieces may look coming out of the box.
OXON HILL, MD — Edwin Encarnacion began the offseason as, arguably, the second most desirable free agent on the market. As the Winter Meetings approach their end, however, he is a man without a team. And may not have a team any time soon.
Many teams have been rumored to be checking in on Encarnacion, but the defining trait of his free agency thus far has been clubs taking a pass. The most recent one being the Rangers, who are reported to simply not have the money to sign him, despite him filling a clear offensive need in Texas. Maybe the Rangers would be more competitive on the free agent market if they had a new stadium. Who knows?
The Blue Jays, for whom he most recently played, offered him a four-year, $80 million deal that most figured was a lowball, and when he rejected it, they moved on to Kendrys Morales. The Red Sox acquired Mitch Moreland. The Yankees are reported to be passing. The most recent team linked to Encarnacion is the Indians, who are reported to have an offer out to him, but at this point it’s likely far lower than what most free agent watchers thought he might get a few weeks ago. A four-year, $90 million deal did not seem crazy for him in October. In December, there is speculation that he could be had for $60 million over that same term which, frankly, would be a bargain. That’s less than Mark Melancon, the third best closer on the market, got from the Giants.
There have been a lot of remarkable things that have happened in the past few weeks, but one of the most unexpected things would be one of the top bats in the game getting second-tier closer money.
OXON HILL, MD — Bill King has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
King, one of the iconic voices of Bay Area sports, was known for his handlebar mustache and his signature “Holy Toledo!” exclamation. King broadcast A’s games for 25 seasons, from 1981 through 2005. He likewise broadcast Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors games and got his start as an announcer for the Giants in the late 1950s after they moved to San Francisco.
King passed away in October 2005. With the Frick Award, however, he has now been immortalized among baseball broadcasters.