Sense of Cynicism

By Robbie Knopf

People like to say that “this is the year” for the Rays. But not in the usual sense. Analysts and fans claim every year that maybe that year would be the year that the Rays and their low payroll finally collapses, leading to a sub-.500 season. Last year, the Rays started 1-8 and Evan Longoria was out with an oblique injury and people were saying that maybe the Orioles were better than the Rays. But that didn’t happen as the Rays made a furious charge in the last two months of the season, enough to make the playoffs when coupled with the Red Sox collapse. But that was just luck, right? If the Red Sox don’t go 7-21 in September, Game 162 never happens and Rays fans go through an offseason of frustration- if losing to the Rangers in the ALDS for the second consecutive season isn’t bad enough. Wasn’t it just luck that the Rays made the playoffs in 2011?

Yesterday, Evan Longoria injured his left knee on a stolen base attempt. Joe Maddon said that the injury was a “day-to-day gig right now.” Nevertheless though, there will inevitably be people saying that Longoria’s injury is worse than we think and that without him in the lineup, the Rays will falter following their outstanding start and completely implode. But even if Longoria’s injury is sidelines him more than a couple of days, even then the Rays won’t collapse.

The Rays may have a low payroll, but they get the most from their money. They have built an elite pitching staff by working through the draft. They sign undervalued free agents to under-the-radar contracts, and often if not always, those deals work out. And even when an injury occurs or a player departs through free agency, the Rays have the depth in their system and the versatility among their players to keep their team going.

What will happen if Longoria misses any significant amount of time? Jeff Keppinger will play third base or the Rays will shift Sean Rodriguez to third with Reid Brignac at shortstop. The Rays could even go after a guy like Jorge Cantu. Is it the ideal? No. But the Rays manage to trudge along no matter what befalls them. Should we be worried if Longoria goes on the DL with the knee injury? Yes, we should. But in the long run, everything will work out. The Rays have proven that year after year.