When the Rays first signed right-hander Roberto Hernandez to a 1-year contract worth 3.25 million dollars plus incentives, everyone’s first reaction was “What?”. We’ve already attempted to make sense of the deal here at RCG, but people within baseball are also high on the Rays’ prospects of success on the deal. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe quoted an AL general manager who had this to say:
“The Rays did what a lot of teams were thinking of doing,” said an AL GM. “It’s really a no-risk signing considering the money. If he can get back to what he was and he can put his past behind — and I know that’s a lot of ifs — this guy has great stuff.”
The Rays are certainly taking a risk- especially by their standards, 3.25 million dollars isn’t nothing- but the upside is a pitcher worth far more than the money he’s making and a major contributor to one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. No one knows for sure how Hernandez will do next season, but the early inclinations are that the Rays calculated gamble on Hernandez could pay big dividends.
David Laurlia of Fangraphs interviewed 121 different people around baseball in 2012, and as 2012 comes to a close, Laurlia listed what he thought were the best quotes he received in 2012. Quite a few of them involved the Rays.
“I went through my numbers and found that my third baseman had made five plays for me. Over five months, that’s one play per month. And I was getting crushed in the six hole. I was thinking to myself, ‘What is the point of having a third baseman out there?’”- Burke Badenhop, April 2012
Yeah, sorry about that, Burke. Especially on the Rays in 2012, the defense was iffy at shortstop until Ben Zobrist moved there in the latter part of the season, and Badenhop picked the wrong year to be a groundball-heavy pitcher on the Rays. Even more unfortunate, is that the Rays have significantly improved their infield defense for next season, but now Badenhop is on the Brewers.
“We are typically more aggressive than anybody else. We had a player here, Fernando Perez, who said, ‘We err on the side of aggressiveness.’ We harp on that in spring training and all year long. Don’t be afraid to mistakes. We value mistakes, as long as we learn from them. And we’re going to make mistakes.” – Dave Martinez, June 2012
That’s Dave Martinez talking about one of the basic tenets of the Rays’ team philosophy. It’s always frustrating when the Rays make outs on the basepaths- that time when Carl Crawford was thrown out by the Yankees’ Greg Golson trying to go 2nd to 3rd on a flyball to end the game immediately comes to mind- but at the same time, the Rays aggressiveness in terms of stolen bases and taking extra bases helps them squeeze everything they can out of an offense that has never been elite and without those additional runs they would be in trouble.
“That was how I hit when I was 12 and it was how I hit when I was in high school. For the most part, hitting is a reactionary thing where guys are going to do what comes natural to them. It’s hard to truly make guys change the way they swing the bat.” – Rocco Baldelli, June 2012
That’s something that’s hard for fans to grasp- you can’t do the same thing for your entire life and suddenly change it. If a hitter has a flawed approach at the plate, it’s very difficult to correct it, and on the opposite edge of the spectrum, it’s very difficult to pitch when your velocity wanes and you can’t approach hitters the same way. There’s a lot that you can coach, but so much of the game simply comes naturally.
“You want to hit the bottom side of the ball and you want to create backspin. You want to have a short swing to the ball. I don’t really know if hitting home runs is mechanical or not. I just think it’s just that you have the ability to hit home runs better than some people.” – Wil Myers, September 2012
Speaking about more of the same, Wil Myers is one special player. Whatever hitters need to hit home runs, he has it.
“It’s crazy. We play against the Rays — geez, a million times — and B.J. Upton comes up, and I’ve taken hits away from him up the middle and in the hole. He’s taken hits away from me, too, in that gap and in that gap. Now it’s kind of like a game between us.” – Dustin Pedroia, November 2012
Pretty ironic to finish this with a quote from a Red Sox player, but at the same time one of the biggest adjustments for Rays fans next season will be moving on from B.J. Upton. We know that he could never deliver on the talent we know he has in him, but everything about him from his speed to his power to his playfulness and the entire way he conducted himself on the field, and most importantly, his ability to put the team on his back when it mattered most played a critical role in all the success the Rays have experienced the last five years and we can wish B.J. only the best in Atlanta as the Rays try to continue what he helped start in Tampa Bay.