First Pitch: The Rays are the Model Team and Haven’t Won a World Series

What Would the Rays Do?

If you’ve read this site long enough, you will have seen that phrase from me. And by “long enough”, I mean “for at least a week”. The Rays are the model organization for any small market team. They’ve found a way to win with a much smaller payroll, in the biggest spending division in baseball, while also removing the word “window” from their vocabulary. They’re able to sustain this success because they make smart baseball moves left and right. They don’t over-value names, they value talent, and they’re not afraid to trade an established player for prospects and replace that player with an unestablished, but talented prospect.

I don’t think every move has to be like the Rays. They would never have gone for Jose Abreu, and I would have been fine with the Pirates going after the first baseman. But when it comes to uncomfortable moves like the idea of trading Francisco Liriano for a huge return, then replacing him with an unknown, I’m in. Maybe I’m more comfortable with risk, or maybe I just remember what people were saying about Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Charlie Morton, and even Gerrit Cole, before they were established. No one thought Liriano or Burnett would be top of the rotation starters, people felt Morton shouldn’t have been in the majors, and there were questions that Gerrit Cole could be an ace because he wasn’t putting up earth shattering numbers in the minors.

I feel the Rays are the model team because they aren’t afraid to look for the next Liriano or Burnett. They aren’t afraid to turn to the next Cole. And usually they will trade the established player for a big return, then replace that established player with someone they got from a previous big return.

But there’s one common argument against the “WWTRD” motto: the Rays have zero World Series titles.

I see this every time I bring up that the Rays are the model organization. With the World Series starting tonight, I wanted to bring up two trends in major league baseball.

Trend #1: The World Series Winners

Since 1994, only one team has won a World Series while having a payroll in the bottom half of the league. That was the 2003 Florida Marlins, and they were a bit of a special case. They bought a World Series team in 1997, then immediately sold everyone off for prospects. Those prospects led to a very talented 2003 team, which was supported with some smart spending/owners collusion (they got Ivan Rodriguez on a one year deal when Rodriguez was looking for multiple years and couldn’t get an offer, which was a trend that off-season which led to the Pirates landing Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders, and Jeff Suppan).

This World Series trend isn’t going to end in 2013. The Red Sox and Cardinals both have a payroll in the top half of the league, with Boston in the top five, and St. Louis around number ten.

Trend #2: The 2008-2013 Standings

Here are the best teams, ranked by total wins, from 2008-2013, courtesy of FanGraphs:

1. Yankees – 564 wins

2. Rays – 550

3. Phillies – 538

4. Cardinals – 538

5. Rangers – 536

6. Red Sox – 535

7. Angels – 530

8. Braves – 528

9. Dodgers – 519

10. Tigers – 517

Notice the Rays in second place. Now let’s look at those ten teams in terms of average payroll per year.

1. Yankees – $211,472,857

2. Rays – $57,938,875

3. Phillies – $141,184,717

4. Cardinals – $103,345,108

5. Rangers – $89,833,681

6. Red Sox – $152,812,160

7. Angels – $130,741,186

8. Braves – $92,932,660

9. Dodgers – $127,173,005

10. Tigers – $129,314,557

No other team is close to the Rays in average spending. They are by far the lowest of that group. The Yankees won 14 more games than the Rays over that six-year span, and did it by spending $211 M per year. So $154 M per year basically bought the Yankees two extra wins over the Rays each season, on average. That’s $77 M per win, which is about what Tim Lincecum got in his recent extension. The Rangers and Braves were the only teams under $100 M, although they were spending an average of around $90 M per year.

Which Trend Defines the Rays?

The Pirates need to follow the Rays model for the simple reason that the Pirates have the same financial constraints as the Rays. The Pirates are actually in a better situation than Tampa Bay, and they can spend a bit more, but they can’t average what the rest of those top ten teams spend. Plus, if the methods used by the Rays work with an average of just under $58 M, then they’d work with whatever the Pirates could spend.

So which trend defines the Rays? Is it the fact that they have zero World Series titles? How much should that count against them, since the World Series has a pretty established trend of going to big spenders? To put the top half in perspective this year, the number 15 ranked payroll heading into the year was $90 M. The next 14 teams spent $104 M or more.

Then there’s trend number two. The Rays have been one of the most successful teams over the last six seasons. The only team with more regular season wins has been the Yankees. The Rays have been successful, despite spending much less than all of the other top teams from 2008-2013.

There are two ways to look at this situation. Number one is that it’s possible for the Rays to win the World Series, and they just haven’t done it. I’ve never bought into the idea that teams can be built for regular season success, but not playoff success. You win in the regular season by winning a lot of 3 and 4 game series. Teams that make the playoffs are often playing above .500, even if they’re playing contenders. I don’t think a team that wins 90+ games a year will find it impossible to go 3-2 or 4-3 in a series in the post-season. So the fact the Rays haven’t won the World Series doesn’t mean anything. They’re getting to the playoffs almost every year, and eventually that will lead to a win. We are only talking about six years. To put that in perspective, the Yankees were out-spending everyone for an eight year period from 2001-2008 and didn’t win a World Series.

The second way to look at this is buying into the idea that the Rays can build a team that can win in the regular season but can’t win in the playoffs. This doesn’t explain how they’ve won in the playoffs before without winning the World Series. What does this really say? Does it give any hope for lower spending teams to win a World Series? Is there some solution out there for lower spending teams to win in the regular season, and win the World Series? If there is, no one has found it yet.

The fact is that winning the World Series is the goal for every team, but it’s not the measure of success. The Rays are successful. Undermining everything they’ve done by saying they haven’t won a World Series is just ignoring how extremely difficult winning a World Series can be. Not only do you have to be good enough to get in the playoffs, but you have to get hot at the right time, and have a good enough team to beat the other top teams in the game in a series that doesn’t always allow the best team to come out on top.

The best chance at winning a World Series is making the playoffs on a consistent basis. That’s what money buys for the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, and so on. The Rays have found a way to do this without money. The Pirates need to be more like the Rays, because they can’t spend like the Yankees, Red Sox, or even the Cardinals. So that’s why the Rays are the model franchise for any small market team. It doesn’t matter that they haven’t won a World Series. What matters is that they have a chance to actually compete for the World Series almost every season. Eventually, that will lead to a World Series win. If the Pirates also want to do this, they need to find a way to make the playoffs as often as possible, with no windows of opportunity, but sustained success. The best way to make this happen is to ask one simple question: What Would the Rays Do?

Links and Notes

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Season Recap Index

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 40-Man Payroll Projection

**Andrew McCutchen is Overwhelming Choice For Sporting News All-Star Team

**2013 West Virginia Power Season Recap and Top 10 Prospects

**Who Will Be the Next Breakout Player in West Virginia?

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Arbitration Estimates

Winter Leagues

**AFL: Hanson Hits Walk-Off Single In Extra Innings

**Winter League Recap: Andrew Lambo and Harold Ramirez Will Play Winter Ball


Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Kevin Anstrom

550 wins ever …
2 seasons with >92 wins ever …
How many WS Titles should they have?

Could have / should have beat the Phils but didn’t.


I see very little comparison between the Rays and Pirates, I think the Pirates are their own model, they bring players in and they develop them different than just about any team. How they handle them after they develop them is situational, the Pirates can’t and don’t have a pattern, they will trade just about any of their prospects for the right price or they will hang on to them if someone trys to steal them.


The Pirates need to carve out their own way. The Rays model has some flaws. They’ve overspent on the one area that provides the littlest value and has the most volatility….the bullpen.


The Rays biggest disadvantage is being grouped in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox, arguably the toughest division in baseball. Kudos to them for being able to reach the playoffs through the WC, which is a difficult thing to do as you are competing against the rest of the league.

Isn’t the real advantage that the Rays must have is an edge in scouting and player evaluation of other teams system, so that they are consistently winning the trades in terms of the talent balance exchanged? Won’t a major contributor to the Pirates’ future success be an upgrade in scouting talent, and that perhaps the most intelligently spent money a franchise can commit to is obtaining the best talent evaluators available in the game?


I don’t think the Pirates need an upgrade in scouting talent, the Rays don’t have a better farm than the Pirates do right now, so why would an upgrade in scouting be necessary?


A large part of the edge in minor league systems that the Pirates now have is due to higher placements in the draft order versus the Rays due to the Pirates lack of MLB success versus the Rays. I think the Pirates under NH have already upgraded their Scouting system, both Internationally and Domestically from what it was previously. My point was supposed to be that everybody gets caught up in how money needs to be spent at the MLB level on players salaries to acquire past proven talent. In a small market like Pittsburgh it makes more sense to overpay for talent evaluators who will be able to bring in equivalent talent (albeit younger talent) at league minimum versus league maximum salaries (like the Yankees or the Red Sox). The Pirates could probably spend an extra $3M on their scouting department to assure they have an edge in talent evaluation and save $30M in major league payroll as a result while obtaining the same MLB record, the essence of the Rays approach.


It is not really true that they are top heavy in high draft picks in their farm system. They only have two number ones and 3 no. 2’s in their system, but they go 15-20 deep in major league talent. Don’t forget the Latin players are not draft picks.


I might add that once Myers gets completely acclimated to MLB,even that might change in the next season or two.


I expect the opposite with Myers–MLB pitchers are going to find the weaknesses in his long swing and he won’t put up the kind of numbers he did this year. I base this on some lingering confidence (probably unjustified) in the Royals developmental system that led them to trading Myers.

A comp in this regard would be Rizzo–MLB pitchers seemed to have found his weaknesses this year to the extent that he was no better than league-average after looking like he was a future star last year. Of course Rizzo could bounce back next year–here’s hoping he does except when he’s facing the Pirates.


If Myers’ development does slow, the Rays will trade him for 2 more awesome prospects. They always win 🙂


All good comments on here. I think the only area the Rays have missed the boat on is the fact that besides Longoria,their offense doesn’t particularly scare any one.


The Rays lack of a WS win is little more than that most years they’ve been the only one of eight teams to make the playoffs with a payroll in the bottom half.

On top of that, though, is that lower payroll teams that make the playoffs are often going to be WC teams putting them at a disadvantage. The Cards and Pirates are a good illustration of this–the Cards extra payroll would have been expected to earn them the 3 extra wins that gave them the division and the Pirates the WC. That difference was huge–give us home field advantage and the opportunity to line up our rotation and I think we’re the team facing the Red Sox in the WS. Do the same with the Rays and Red Sox, and we could have had the Rays vs. Pirates in the WS.

Scott Skink

TNBucs – consider that if Marte didn’t drop a can of corn fly ball and Mercer made a throw any MLB SS makes 99.9x of 100, Bucs are not playing Reds for WC, they’re playing Cards – at home – for the division. It’s not always money.


It’s still money–if not for the resources that allows the Cards to trade/extend/sign guys like Wainwright, Holliday, and Beltran, then it wouldn’t have been a matter of “ifs” on Marte and Mercer.

The Pirates and Cards can be equally good at drafting and developing, or the Pirates could even be slightly better moving forward, yet the extra payroll gives the Cards enough of a competitive advantage to win the division.

Scott Skink

Let’s look at this another way. Yes, the Cards had $116. $28 of that was spent on Westbrook, Garcia, Motte, Furcal. When they went down, the Cards had plug-and-play answers ready to come up.

That would be the equivalent of the Bucs losing Wandy, Morton, Grilli and Barmes. Cole happened to be ready for promotion to take Wandy’s role although nobody wanted him to throw that many innings. Cumpton or Gomar could’ve been slotted in for Morton. Maybe we’re comfortable with that, but I don’t think so. We saw what happened to the bullpen when Grilli went down and roles were changed. Other than Watson, there wasn’t a true rock there. And if Barmes went down we’re looking at d’Arnaud. Ick. Worse than Kozma.

And on top of that losing Craig down the stretch and having Adams ready to go. The Pirates certainly don’t have that.

Bucs might have all that by 2016. But not yet. The Rays don’t have it either.

Stephen Brooks

True dat. Money by itself doesn’t buy a competitive advantage, but money well spent – as the Cardinals do – definitely does.

Scott Skink

This sounds fine if you’re thinking in a vacuum, but that’s not how MLB works. Friedman certainly seems a great GM and I’d suggest that Maddon has a lot to do with Rays’ success despite the age-old argument that managers don’t matter much to W-L records. If there’s something the Pirates can (and have) learned is that all levels of an MLB organization need to be on the same page and move in concert.

However, there are other real-world considerations: Tampa will never have great attendance and the area will never embrace the Rays. That’s a simple fact of their region and stadium. 1.8 million “fans” came out in 09 when the Rays first finished atop the ALE. That held for 2 more years. Then it declined to a steady 1.5 mill the past three years despite two WC appearances. Tampa is not Pittsburgh. A winner in Pittsburgh is worth considerably more, offering more payroll flexibility. And star power is more important here than in Tampa. Stars are expensive.

You also cannot ignore the risk of backsliding by trading off stars for unproven talent, regardless how impressive one’s minor league stats may be. Is it unlikely Polanco becomes Travis Snider or Taillon is merely a 4 and not a 2? Yes. But is it possible? Also yes. It took seven years for TBMTIB to regain goodwill with fans. Neal & Co. need to tread very, very carefully to not lose that goodwill.

Keep in mind that Tampa – despite its payroll – is an old team. They’re old in pitching and in position players. The Pirates are almost 2 years younger across the board. And the Cards pitching is second youngest in MLB.

Let’s also remember that the team the Cards are fielding RIGHT NOW has about the same salary as the Bucs. The Cards have $28 million on the DL, and other than Motte, you could say the others have become superfluous and could all be non-tendered without any negative effect (possible exception Jamie Garcia as the sole LH starter). So the Cards – as currently constructed – represent a more ideal model of internal development without the need for inexpensive spare parts – a tactic that’s backfired on Neal repeatedly.

So until such time as Neal has the minor league depth of the Cards, yes, one might want to follow the Rays’ model. But the time will come – perhaps as soon as this year – that the Bucs might want to follow the Cards, not the Rays. And ultimately have other small market teams asking, WWPD?


“So until such time as Neal has the minor league depth of the Cards, yes, one might want to follow the Rays’ model. But the time will come – perhaps as soon as this year – that the Bucs might want to follow the Cards, not the Rays.”
The Pirates have a deeper farm than the Cards. I have studied the Cards system and the Pirates system. At this point in time the Cards go about 5-6 deep, the Pirates go about 15-20 deep in major league talent.
The Cards philosophy for bringing pitchers and position players up is different than the Pirates, the Pirates want their talent to arrive and stay, the Cards want to win now and always now, so if a pitcher has one pitch and that pitch is a good one, he can be promoted, if the Pirates have the same pitcher, he will still have to develop 2 more pitches before they consider him major league ready.

Scott Skink

Did you only count pitchers? Because I don’t see the Bucs “deep in MLB talent” at positions other than OF. Heck, I don’t see a 3b/SS (Hanson likely replaces Walker) in the system. How many years until Reese supplants Sanchez? When will Dickerson be up…

Don’t kid yourself, Bucs aren’t there yet. Unless you think a solid plan is to continue developing relief pitchers to trade for necessary position players at the trade deadline every year.

Scott Skink

LOL – and Tim’s next post is exactly that – a program of continually trading relief pitchers for parts.


Only until it doesn’t work anymore.


I was just looking for the Cardinals opening day payroll I found $115,000,000. While it is correct that the Pirates, given current MLB revenue structure, can support a higher payroll than the Rays there is an upper limit to that payroll. The Cardinal’s market is valued at almost $300 million, the Pirates’ $141 million, now this could change but there is a limit.

In addition some of the Cardinals success must be credited to having one of the game’s greatest hitters produced 8 win seasons while paying him $13 million. Then having a free spending LA team pay him $25 million while he declines. Not sure how the Pirates can duplicate that.

Bucco in St. Louis

“In addition some of the Cardinals success must be credited to having one of the game’s greatest hitters produced 8 win seasons while paying him $13 million.”

We have an 8 win player. Andrew McCutchen! 🙂

Think about the estimates for Cano’s contract this year (8years – $200 million). Now imagine if we hadn’t signed McCutchen before the beginning of last year. The Pirates have a similar situation to the Cardinals in the early 2000’s in that they have their mega star player signed to a BELOW market deal. Can the Pirates surround Cutch with enough talent to drive continued success? Interestingly enough, the Angels have a similar situation with Trout and they decided to go with big free agent signings that proved disasterous.


You are correct about McCutchen and the potential to surround him with other talent, but he has one season above 7.0 WAR, Pujlos had 2 seasons below 7.0 WAR in 10 years, his 2nd and his last with St. Louis. I do not dislike the Cardinals but I am averse to the idea that there is some intelligent insight to be learned from how the Cardinals constructed their recently successful teams.

I am a believer in the idea that different market and revenue size allows teams to follow different mixes of strategies. Mainly follow what the Rays and Oakland do, not the Cardinals.

Bucco in St. Louis


You are correct to point out that Pujols is in a class of his own. He started posting 7 WAR seasons from his first year, while McCutchen took a couple of years of steady improvement to reach his current level.

There is some things to emulate from the Cardinals. It’s rare they make a big free agent signing. Other than Holliday, I don’t remember them going out and signing someone to a big contract. The Beltran deal is more how they operate. They sign their own to team friendly deals below market (Molina and Wano). Also, the Cardinals have huge, huge sucess in developing late round picks: Carpenter, Adams, Seigrest (Round 41!), and others. Plus, they have hit on their first round selections (damn you Wacha!). They even have their hometown hero in David Freese (= Neil Walker).

…….and most of all, they let Pujols leave town. I can’t stress that enough. Everybody, and I mean everybody, had a Pujols jersey in this town and they let him walk instead of overpaying for his past peak years.


I am not saying the Cardinals aren’t an intelligent organization; my point is that there is nothing special to learn from them. Yes they draft and develop players and do not rely on top free agents at the same rate as the Yankess, Boston, or LA teams however there is this narrative juxtaposing the Cardinals to Boston/Dodgers with the Cardinals as a model franchise against these free spending teams. The Cardinals have significant revenue and are top 10 in market size; they have advantages the Pirates will never have, unless more of the revenue in put into the central fund.

And they offered Pujlos over $200 million for 10 years, and were lucky the Angles took him off their hands. I’ll admit I am bitter, and maybe I am a little too obsessed with the Cardinals and the reasons for their success, but sports fans do not have to be fully rational.


Look what happened to the Marlins, Jays and Red Sox when they tried the same thing as the Angels, they all bombed. Big names don’t guarantee wins, big payroll does not guarantee wins, helps to have money though.

Cato the Elder

Last time I looked, Neal & Co.’s checks were not signed by the “fan’s goodwill.” The less influence fan perception has on front office decisions, the better. If it were up to popular vote, TBMTIB would have been fired last summer – Hoka Hey!

Also, entering the season

St. Louis had a payroll of: $116, 702,085.

The Pirates payroll: $66,298,524.

Rays: $57,030,272

I guess it’s all the same when it’s someone else’s money

You can qualify it however you want – e.g. RIGHT NOW- but at the very least,the Pirates don’t have the luxuray of paying out $40 million dollars to players not on their roster.


Agreed Cato. Winning will keep the fans’ goodwill in tact, regardless of how the Bucs get there. Does anyone really think if the Bucs trade hometown hero Walker and a couple of prospects for Profar, move Jordy to 2B and win 2 or 3 more games next year that the fans will revolt?

I know it’s a stupid trade scenario but it was just to illustrate a point. Outside of trading AMac and Cole (and we’ll even get to the point where those will be accepted, but we’re years away from it now), if the Bucs make the right baseball moves, regardless of the fan’s perception at the time of the move, they’ll be in great shape.

Scott Skink

If you know it’s “a stupid trade scenario” (and it is incredibly stupid to think Bucs would get Profar for anything less than 2-3 system jewels) why even post it?

Neal is right when he suggests it’s harder to stay on top than it is to get there. Expectations are much higher. Mistakes/errors in judgement viewed scrutinized more heavily. Opinions can turn in an instant.

The team needs to keep winning – or at least being competitive to the last week. I believe we all agree with that. This whole conversation started with the other post on trading Liriano – where a number of posters were suggesting trading for players that could not help the Pirates in 2014 while assuming everyone else would continue having career years . That’s just dumb. Or sillier, that Liriano would get Profar. Sheesh.

I’ve been a Neal supporter since day one. Even so, his track record for finding spare parts for position players isn’t very good. We don’t need to revisit the list (and before replying, Byrd/Morneau were not spare parts).

Pirates are not yet at point where they don’t need to think about windows. How long will Pedro/Walker be here? Martin has one more year. Where’s the IF depth from minors? Other than the Nats, there are likely no other teams in striking range for playoffs besides this year’s qualifiers. 2014/2015 is the window, Bucs & Nutting should take the shot. Not by mortgaging the minors, but by not doing anything stupid at the majors level.


“If you know it’s “a stupid trade scenario” (and it is incredibly stupid to think Bucs would get Profar for anything less than 2-3 system jewels) why even post it?”

As stated in the comment, I posted it to illustrate a point. I guess I wasn’t clear what that point is though. The Bucs should trade anyone, except McCutchen and Cole, if it’s a good baseball trade, including if it’s going to take a year or two for the return to pay off. The point was to rebut those that say you can’t trade ____________ because the fans love him and will revolt. No they shouldn’t be trading for some Low A prospects, but if they are trading high value ML assets, they should be able to get ML ready or near ML ready talent. You think Profar for Liriano (plus a prospect) is ridiculous? Have you seen what teams gave up for Dickey, Garza, Shields, etc? Nothing is ridiculous if you find the right fit.

“Even so, his track record for finding spare parts for position players isn’t very good.” Very true. And I guess all I can say is “Who cares?” The Bucs have the nucleus in place. We’re talking about upgrading that for the long term, not about finding a spare part utility IF or 5th OF.

“How long will Pedro/Walker be here?” Until they’re free agents or they’re traded for good prospects. Do you really thing the Pirates can’t win without either of them, especially if they acquire top prospects for their high value guys that are going to walk in free agency (i.e. Liriano)?

“2014/2015 is the window, Bucs & Nutting should take the shot. Not by mortgaging the minors, but by not doing anything stupid at the majors level.” If you really believe 2014/15 is the window, you should be in favor of mortgaging the future to win then. I’m actually more excited for 2016 when the rotation is Cole/Taillon/Glasnow/Kingham/and someone keeping it warm for Heredia while the lineup is essentially the same as now or better.

But either way, nobody’s talking about blowing everything up. All that’s being asked is if the Bucs would be better staying with the MLers until free agency + the comp pick they’ll get or by trading them at high value for top prospects. There are good points to be made on both sides, neither side is right or wrong, certainly neither side is stupid or crazy. One is just more risk averse than the other. You imply that if they Bucs don’t trade Frankie, they’re locks for the playoffs. Nothing’s for certain. There’s risk in not trading him too.


You beat me to “What would the Pirates Do”. I’m looking forward to that day.


I loved that, also.


“My job is to get us to the playoffs. What happens after that is f***ing luck.” – Billy Beane.

No matter how correct the Rays’ moves have been, the ball and bat are both round, and baseball’s weird in that worse contact with the ball can result in a better outcome (a hard line drive right at an outfielder vs a pop up that lands right between the outfielder and infielder). A lot of people refuse to accept how much luck is involved in baseball and especially in a small sample like a 5 or 7 game playoff series. Heck, the Houston Astros might’ve won a series or two! it’s just the nature of the beast that sometimes the great teams like the Rays just can’t get that string of luck necessary.


Tim: Shame on you for that blatantly obvious smack at the SF Giants for their signing of Tim Lincecum – very nice! If they have money like that to spend on him, they must see something.

The Pirates have taken the WWTRD to new heights for mid-market teams. They did a lot of the things the Rays did, but they also reinforced the physical and mental structure of the minor league system so that we have state-of-the-art facilities, a central theme for development of all of the young pitching, an amateur draft process that forced MLB to make changes before any of the other teams caught on and started doing the same things, and a major emphasis on the International Draft – a place they rarely went prior to this management team. They were the Rays on Steroids.

The other thing is the Entertainment Factor. The Rays are that team that nobody knows – the new Bucs are young, outgoing, have strong basic baseball skills, have one of the best parks in Baseball, and a lot of new and excited fans. Did I mention that they are young, and also very involved in the community. ‘Cutch was first, and became the darling of the MLB TV folks and now we have others who will join him. And, when networks start to pick teams for their weekend games, Pittsburgh will be one of the teams they will be looking at getting, especially for games at PNC.

Stephen Brooks

The Rays have turned what would be seen as a weakness for just about any other team – lack of resources – into an advantage. Small payrolls, driven by lousy attendance and low local broadcast rights fees, have forced ownership to buy into a culture of applying those resources where they make the greatest impact. Brilliance born out of necessity. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, or even ideal – every year the Rays have to scrounge around to fill their starting lineup with a couple of cast-offs, guys no one else would sign (sound familiar?). Sometimes they work (James Loney), but a lot of times they don’t (Carlos Pena the second time around). With another $15M – $20M to spend – before the new national TV dollars inflate the whole market, that is – they could afford to bolster their lineup with better mercenaries without abandoning that culture.

That is what the Pirates should aim for – to have the discipline of the Rays, with the wallet to enhance the team in critical areas. Because let’s face it, there are players the Rays would love to acquire or keep that they simply cannot afford – but the Pirates could. Not all of them, but one or two. Which could be enough – just in the off chance that there is credence to the notion that the Rays are built to make the playoffs but don’t quite have what it takes to advance, whatever component is missing, another $15-$20 million wisely spent couldn’t hurt.


There’s no reason to assume with an extra $20 million, the free agents would be better. See this season, James Loney vs. Albert Pujols

Stephen Brooks

See the modifier “wisely spent.”

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