We have another new writer joining BaseballGB for 2015. Mark is a Tampa Bay Rays fan and will be blogging about the team during the season ahead.
The baseball off-season is usually a time of great intrigue and excitement for baseball fans across the globe but for fans of the Tampa Bay Rays this off-season has been dominated by the number of high caliber exits from the set up. The loss of the general manager, manager and a number of exciting starting pitchers and guns with the bat has left a seemingly large hole in the franchise. Already the 2015 season has been dubbed by some as a year of transition for the Rays, but ultimately there is a glimmer of hope that there will be a chance to remain competitive in the AL East.
When we look at the Rays’ not-so-distant past we see overachievement to an extent, culminated by the World Series appearance of 2008. For the franchise to compete so efficiently on such a low budget in seasons gone by has been remarkable but I do fear that this 2015 season may be a return to darker times. However in Kevin Cash the Rays have hired a manager who comes with fresh impetus and has been handed a 5 year deal in order to stamp his authority on the new look Rays and get them moving forward in the right direction in the near future. You have to take this 2015 season with that grain of salt as Cash himself has stated that his main focus for this season is to just try and “win”.
One way we may stay competitive and have a chance of winning is through our now sole franchise player Evan Longoria. In times of strife we often look to one player to be the focal point for the franchise and to play out of their skin in order to drive the team on. With the recent losses of David Price, Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist and Will Myers, Longoria now is the sole icon for the team. However with the emergence of an up and coming and exciting new starting rotation and plenty of prospects in the farm system, if Longoria and co can keep the team competitive in 2015 I’m sure those joyous times wont be too far away.
We all know that the Rays compete in the notorious AL East, which year after year produces the most ultra competitive baseball and is home to another challenge to the Rays for their transition year. It’s tough to see your team weaken on paper whilst those around you seem to consolidate what they have or in the case of the Red Sox this season burst the bank in order to go all out for October. This challenge is set every season and is nothing new to the manager or the fans, it’s just worth noting that to be the best you have to beat the best so anything above fifth spot in the division this season will be an achievement in my opinion for the Rays.
So when it comes to the 2015 season I think the Rays need to go out and play no fear baseball. For a side who thrived for so many years as being classed as underdogs, this season really seems like a nothing to lose one. Nobody is expecting anything from this side in the near future so anything other than last in the division will be a bonus. I have the opportunity to follow my team this year filled with the excitement of seeing how all these new faces will fit in and combine together to hopefully produce some good times for Rays fans in 2015. I write this piece with opening day being only a few days away and I do hope that by the time my season review is written I can have dispelled some of my trepidations for the upcoming season and be talking of a successful and winning season for the Tampa Bay Rays.