When that the Tampa Bay Rays first tasted victory, reaching the 2008 World Series after only 10 years in life, then-manager Joe Maddon would regularly remind his staff that the franchise was still in its infancy.
“We are where some other teams were 100 years ago,” Maddon might state. “We’re writing history. We’re the first chapters of that history that people are going to look back on.”
The Maddon-headed Rays dropped to the Philadelphia Phillies in that Fall Classic, and the team has still never won a championship — under him or any manager — but after all of these years, dating back to the team’s inaugural season in 1998, the time could be now to change franchise history forever.
Win or lose this week, though, the American League champion Rays have long been changing baseball history with an innovative approach to team building, led by a brain trust whose members have now spread to front offices across Major League Baseball — including to the team they just beat in the American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros, and the team they’re battling now for the Commissioner’s Trophy, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now in 2020, the brainiest baseball team in the bigs is four wins from its first title.
“Are we doing things the right way?”
Between meetings, between conference calls, this question has long bounced around the baseball operations offices of the Rays. Under the leadership of former Wall Street analyst Andrew Friedman — who in 2014, after a decade with the team, left to become the president of the Dodgers — the group developed a reputation for maximizing the potential of its players, creating a strong farm system and making shrewd trades. It helped produce stars like super-utility man Ben Zobrist and ace Chris Archer — flipping the latter a couple of seasons ago for two of the most important members of this year’s pennant-winning club, 6-foot-8 righty Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows.
Playoff bracket, program and much more”
Tampa Bay has not always succeeded, especially in an AL East that contains perennial winners at the big-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, except for its Rays doing things the ideal way — in a fresh way — has meant embracing the opener into their turning, using intense shifts and sometimes a fourth outfielder. Despite a citizenship that positions 28th in MLB, ahead of only the Pittsburgh Pirates along with also the Baltimore Orioles, that doctrine — combined with a reputation for outsmarting different groups in trades and strategies — has brought the Rays respect. Now it’s attracted them back into the World Series.
With a roster which includes few, if any, family names, the hallmark of those 2020 Rays — since it’s been to the club for several years — is thickness.
“Working with Andrew Friedman, depth was always something that was critical to our organization,” Erik Neander, the senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, told ESPN.com earlier this season. “For health and also for unexpected performance in both directions. Depth is a way to have guys who can surprise you in pleasant ways. In this division, we usually don’t bully clubs with the top of our roster. It’s really about flattening the talent slope from spots five through 40, making sure we’re strong there.”
After Friedman’s passing, the unorthodox method of franchise construction and willingness to extend the effect of analytics around the area continued using an all-star quartet of executives, such as Neander. Matthew Silverman began his career Goldman Sachs, where he assisted Rays owner Stuart Sternberg construction his bidding for the group prior to being hired as its president. Senior vice president of baseball operations (currently Red Sox primary baseball officer) Chaim Bloom composed for Baseball Prospectus before linking the Rays as a intern. Current Astros general director James Click also climbed from Baseball Prospectus author to intern, then all of the way to vice president of baseball operations with Tampa Bay. Together, they created a front-office civilization where conclusions were collaborative, nontraditional notions were adopted and negative response from other people outside the business was mostly ignored.
“Try to love the advantages that a participant owns at any given moment. … You do not necessarily understand what [paths] they are likely to take, however, the further choices, the more chances, the further you have a possibility for them to take this step. It’s simple on any certain participant to concentrate on what they can not do, particularly prospects”
Rays GM Erik Neander on scouting and developing players
Not being in St. Petersburg, Florida, hurt. While front office occasionally confronted blowback from the social network seeing a number of its forward-thinking motions, the dearth of the everyday evaluation found in bigger markets such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles intended more space for experimentation, based on preceding Rays executives — and of course that the requirement to become inventive with money. That comparative freedom is something Rays alums say they have begun to value after moving to larger markets.
In recent decades, the achievement of Tampa Bay attracted focus on Bloom, who consulted together with the Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants and New York Mets before taking the job 2019 Running the Red Sox. All of the last four teams in this season’s playoffs — that the Astros (Click), the Braves (team president Alex Anthopoulos worked beneath Friedman at L.A.), the Dodgers and, needless to say, Tampa Bay — have origins and ties into the Tampa Bay organization. Now, Friedman faces for a World Series name against a group he knows in addition to anyone.
“Obviously, I have close personal relationships, my closest friends, but my focus is what we’re doing here. We came back down from 3-1 and our focus is on tonight, and now our focus is four more wins,” Friedman advised Tom Verducci following the Dodgers won the NLCS.
Said Click into the Houston Chronicle, about facing his former team from the ALCS: “On a scale of zero to weird, it’s pretty weird.”
Click additionally advised the Wall Street Journal: “The ability to create your own talent is always going to be a huge mover. It’s something that the Rays obviously do exceptionally well. It’s something the Dodgers do exceptionally well.”
With smarts, the ability to fly beneath the radar into some level and monetary restraints that would frequently demand innovation, thoughts that could begin as watercooler subjects — hypotheticals thrown around for pleasure with colleagues — have become radical ideas really implemented from the Rays on the area.
One of the recent radical ideas: Implementing baseball earliest procedure and analytics trainer and giving him a place in the dugout. Jonathan Erlichman, a former mathematics major at Princeton — nicknamed J-Money by Friedman because of his conspicuously sharp dressing in his early days with the group — climbed from Toronto Blue Jays intern into the Rays’ manager of analytics prior to being called to the coaching staff before this 2019 season.
|2003 World Series||Marlins||Yankees||26|
|2008 ALCS||Rays||Red Sox||25|
|2008 ALDS||Rays||White Sox||24|
|>2020 Rays (28th): 26 teams lower compared to Dodgers (2nd)|
Most famously, prior to the 2018 season, the Tampa Bay front office, under the leadership team of Silverman, Bloom and Neander, wondered if using a five-man rotation along with a traditional bullpen using a nearer was the ideal method to maximize the ability of the roster.
The opener has been created — and unexpectedly, the whole burden of a notion would collapse upon the shoulders of subsequently -35-year-old right-hander Sergio Romo. After experimentation using more under-the-radar relievers such as Andrew Kittredge, Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos to begin games early in the season, the Rays watched Romo, with nearly 600 looks under his belt, as a means to legitimize the practice. Romo completed the livelihood pedigree of a leading reliever who shut out a World Series and, just as importantly, appeared open-minded regarding the thought.
On May 19, 2018, Romo struck out Zack Cozart, Mike Trout and Justin Upton of those Los Angeles Angels at a great first inning. The Rays won the match 5-3. Romo began again the following day, throwing a scoreless 11/3 innings, however Tampa Bay dropped 5-2.
Some watched the opener since the latest savvy experimentation from the analytical Rays. Other longer traditionalist baseball enthusiasts criticized the group’s lack of nearer and set spinning. Among the very pointed criticism came from a elite big league newcomer: Astros righty Zack Greinke.
“It’s really smart, but it’s also really bad for baseball,” Greinke, then together with all the Arizona Diamondbacks, advised Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller. “There’s always ways to get a little advantage, but the main problem I have with it is you do it that way, then you’ll end up never paying any player what he’s worth because you’re not going to have guys starting, you’re not going to have guys throwing innings. You just keep shuffling guys in and out, so nobody will ever get paid.”
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It functioned well enough Tampa Bay maintained up the practice for the remainder of the season. That year, Tampa Bay was the only team to utilize an opener at the triple digits, using the strategy 41 games. In 2019, six groups utilized openers in double-digit games, directed by the Rays in 57 times. What began as a fringe strategy had become mainstream, especially in the playoffs. This October, that the Yankees tried to utilize an opener to deceive Tampa Bay from the ALDS, beginning rookie righty Deivi Garcia before earning J.A. Happ from the next inning of Game two — a movement that finally backfired.
With a spinning topped with the abilities of 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell, Glasnow and Charlie Morton, the remainder of this Rays’ Swiss Army knife nurturing team was tasked with only getting outs, irrespective of situation or inning.
That doctrine has shaped the remainder of this Rays’ roster.
“Try to appreciate the strengths a player possesses at any given moment,” Neander said. “Try to keep the focus there. Try to think about the paths to further development. You don’t necessarily know what they’re going to take, but the more options, the more possibilities, the more you have a chance for them to take that step. It’s easy on any given player to focus on what they can’t do, especially prospects.”
The Mariners saw Ryan Yarbrough as a soft-tossing lefty minor leaguer with very little upside. The Rays watched a pitcher that, together with his and control, could be a up-and-down man at the minimum. The Rays obtained Yarbrough and Mallex Smith for Drew Smyly (who immediately got hurt ). Meanwhile, Yarbrough added a cutter to aid against righties, which is now his very best pitch since he’s gone 28-16 using a 3. 94 ERA over three seasons.
“The fact is that when everyone gets traded, the first thing they say is they do extremely well at developing pitchers, and the fact that I come over and we were able to hone some things and figure out some ways to get better, it was the truth,” Yarbrough said. “It was a great job, and you can see all of the guys who have come up through the years and had a lot of pitching success.”
“We’re good because we have good players and we really work hard to get them in the right positions to be successful and win you games. But the bottom line is that you don’t get to this point and you don’t have a record that we have without having good players.”
Rays director Kevin Cash
The Rays obtained Nick Anderson last year by the Marlins with Trevor Richards for outfield prospect Jesus Sanchez and reliever Ryne Stanek. The Marlins guessed they’d cash in on a 28-year old rookie reliever they had obtained for next to nothing in the Twins. The Rays watched a pitcher, that regardless of his circuitous path to the majors (like time in separate ball) had good things and the capacity to become one of the best relievers in baseball. ) Anderson includes a 1. 43 ERA in the regular season because that trade, with 67 strikeouts and only five walks in 37 2/3 innings.
The Pirates had grown frustrated with Meadows and Glasnow, although both were formerly considered high -20 total prospects. Meadows had been injury-prone from the minors, and also the Pirates had given up on Glasnow as a rookie because of control issues. The Rays watched two gifted — and young — gamers that maybe only wanted a change of scenery. They obtained the set for Archer in 2018, in what seems like one of the best trades of the last couple of decades.
Yandy Diaz had only one home run in 265 at-bats with Cleveland at 2017-18, and he had been obstructed at third base by Jose Ramirez. The Rays watched a participant who had large exit speed, plate area, could play first or third and simply needed to add a few loft to his swing. They obtained Diaz at a three dimensional deal, providing up Jake Bauers. Diaz has struck. 278/. 365/. 451 using a 121 OPS+ together with all the Rays — the most great complementary player.
When asked about his connection with the group’s front office, director Kevin Cash — a former journeyman catcher for groups such as the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees, and that later served as a Toronto Blue Jays scout and then Cleveland’s bullpen coach — clarified the lively as “a collaboration,” imagining a running dialog between the participant development, scoutingfront office and training groups, together with thoughts pitched — and learned — from all sides.
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“That’s where Erik Neander and his staff do such a good job of bringing that all together,” Cash said. “You watch Erik and how he goes about his day, and we’re around each other a lot right now in this bubble, but for every single conversation he has with a scout, he has with an R&D guy. He’s trying to pull as many thoughts together as possible so we can make really good decisions on the baseball field.”
The outcomes of the season’s playoffs keep the fruit of the work, together with outfielder Randy Arozarena tearing up fastballs left and right along with part-time gamers enjoy Mike Brosseau coming with a series-defining home run contrary to the Yankees from the ALDS. The Rays have needed to find respect between the fractures, spending substantial time scouting a player’s character and personality to supplement any attention triggered by the analytics.
Cash stated that the strategy to roster construction formed an underdog mentality within the clubhouse, with lots of players missed by other teams eventually getting a chance together with the Rays. He typically finds that if a participant joins Tampa Bay, it does not take long for him to get in the group’s culture. And while Cash knows how analytics formed the standing of his group, that does not specify the players in his clubhouse.
“I don’t think we outsmart clubs,” Cash said. “We’re good because we have good players and we really work hard to get them in the right positions to be successful and win you games. But the bottom line is that you don’t get to this point and you don’t have a record that we have without having good players.”
Maddon’s Rays composed the initial chapters of this franchise, however Cash’s group is currently attempting to begin a heritage by winning a World Series.
We’re going to discover where this season World Series — along with the team that wins it will fall one of the greatest ever. In the meantime…
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En path to the franchise’s next Fall Classic look, Cash eliminated an All-Star newcomer having a big-game pedigree — Morton — at Game 7 later 5 2/3 innings and 66 pitches, and runners on the corners with two outs, eliciting instant criticism of this movement on social networking.
Cash earned Anderson, expecting that Tampa Bay’s procedure would bring another success after a year where the Rays submitted the AL’s best album (40-20), trusting his very best reliever will get him from this game’s most crucial situation instead of allowing Morton to confront Astros hitters a third time around. Anderson obtained the outside, and also three innings later, the Rays celebrated on the area at San Diego’s Petco Park, using a ticket to Arlington, Texas.
When asked after the game why he eliminated Morton, Cash got directly to the stage.
“It was fairly straightforward. Third period through [the order], we appreciate that. We appreciate our procedure,” he explained. “We believe in our process, and we’re going to stick to that.”