You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers! Ben Ice and Kris Dunn are here to field your questions on anything Tampa Bay Rays. Since there have already been some interesting things going on before the season starts, we’ll chum the waters with an obvious one.
The dual-signing of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon have some people scratching their heads, wondering if the Rays front office has finally gone over to the dark side. We’ll start with Manny, since Johnny’s addition has less question marks attached.
1) Manny’s motivation heading into the season?
Kris: So many media-types are questioning his motivation, implying that he has no motivation/desire to play at a high level, and that’s why he signed such a low-dollar deal. We talk so much about players in a contract year, and how important it is for them to put up great numbers in order to maximize their offers during free agency, I get that. What I don’t get is why no one questions anyone else when they enter free agency (after a bad season) and sign a small one-year deal! i.e. Russell Martin (2011), Ken Griffey Jr. (2009), or even Vladimir Guerrero (2010). Injuries, age, and one other factor seem to be what everyone wants to attribute these “low-ball” contracts to. That other factor is simply this…After having a bad season: Before tying yourself up into a multi-year deal for less money, sign a one year deal to prove yourself then reap the benefits in free agency the following season. Seems to me that there is even more motivation when a player signs a contract that is lower than what they became accustomed to or expected. I just don’t see why Manny is being branded with the Scarlet Letter here.
Ben: I think it’s pretty simple really, and Manny said it at the press conference. He’s made his money, now he wants to prove he’s still got it. We all know he’s on the downside of his career, but that doesn’t make him useless. DH is the perfect spot for him. Dude can still hit; he has a .313 lifetime batting average. That’s 18 seasons worth of stats. Sure he hit .261 for the White Sox last year but it was a small sample size. He hit for .311 with the Dodgers that same year and still managed between the two to finish the year at 9/42/.298 in an injury plagued year.
He spent the off-season working out with Evan Longoria. That should have been an inkling that he might be thinking about the Rays. He shed some weight, and he’s motivated, not by money now, but by his legacy. He knows what is being said about him and he wants to turn that back on his naysayers. There is no better feeling than to prove them wrong, and if he and Damon help bring a championship to Tampa, that’s icing on the cake.
2) Has Johnny Damon gone mercenary in his old age? Will he be relevant in Tampa Bay this year or is this his swan song?
Kris: Three reasons why Johnny Damon helps the Rays this season. 1) He provides Desmond Jennings with a true mentor at the top of the line-up, 2) He helps to weather the Manny-storm if and when it strikes, 3) He makes everyone else in the dugout look eloquent when speaking to the media. All kidding aside, the Rays needed a guy like Johnny Damon. A true leader by example, top of the order guy who can provide the young Rays with a spark at the top of the order.
Ben: Johnny Damon brings intangibles to the team this year that exceed what he may or may not do on the field. While he certainly won’t suddenly regress to his peak years, his leadership in the clubhouse, cool demeanor and sportsmanship should serve this young Rays team quite well. As Kris pointed out, he also provides Jennings with a great mentor. Jennings, who will most likely start the season in the minors until his eligibility clock crosses into another year, will benefit from the leadership and work ethic that Damon brings to the game.
3) Ryan Doumit seems to be an unwanted man in Pittsburgh, is he a fit in Tampa?
Kris: Anytime you can go out and get a veteran (29yr old) with some pop (20 HR/162g), relatively cheap, I’m all for it. In the Rays case, they like John Jaso and he has earned a shot to be the starter. The reason I like Doumit is because it would provide depth at Catcher (small need), First-base (large need), and even Outfield (small need). Versatility is so often under-rated.
Ben: There’s never been any doubt that Doumit can hit, but as a backup catcher I see him as more of a liability. His defense sucks. He was a -7 runs saved last year, second worst only to John Buck. His Caught Stealing percentage was an absolutely atrocious 7%, throwing out only 6 of 90 SB attempts. That’s is NOT the kind of guy you want as a backup. You might as well put green lights at the bases and pass out free passes to the opposing team. And I won’t even touch on the health issues that have followed him for most of his career.
Do you have questions you’d like answers for or just some commentary about the Rays, shoot me an email at rayhawksblog at gmail dot com.