Rays fans have a lot to look forward to

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So, yeah, that amazing September comeback didn’t result in a whole lot of October excitement, but the Rays should only be stronger in 2012.

This was supposed to be something of a rebuilding year for Tampa Bay after the losses of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena and the decimation of a bullpen that was could have been considered baseball’s best in 2010. The Rays, though, managed to hang tough and win 91 games to make it into the postseason.

There will be no similar exodus this winter. The only significant players not under control for 2012 are Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon. That doesn’t mean everyone will be back — B.J. Upton could be traded and the Rays may figure it’s not worth exercising Kelly Shoppach’s $3.2 million option — but the Rays shouldn’t have to cut corners this winter.

The Rays will also get a full season from Desmond Jennings next year and perhaps one from Matt Moore, depending on how they want to play it. They could stick with their rotation of James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann at the start of the season, allowing them to finesse Moore’s service time a bit. Or they could trade a starter for a shortstop and plug Moore right in. He’d likely be one of the AL’s top lefties right away.

Either way, the Rays will be a big-time threat. Depending on how the winter plays out, the American League’s three best teams on paper next year could all play in the East.

Imagining Theo Epstein in politics

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“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Or: “When Theo Epstein won World Series championships with the two most championship-starved franchises in baseball history, he got bored, and decided to run for the Senate or something.”

That latter bit is the premise of a Politico piece speculating that the Cubs president could go into politics one day. The story features an interview with former Obama chief strategist David Axlerod, who thinks Theo has what it takes. Mostly what he has is fame, popularity, good looks and money. No idea what his positions on issue are, but that other stuff goes a long way in politics these days.

Bonus: given what we just elected last fall, a guy who once had a little temper tantrum and dressed up in a gorilla suit is just as viable a candidate as anyone.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.