In preparation for the season-opening series against the newly-renamed Tampa Bay Rays, myself and R.J. Anderson of DRays Bay and Beyond the Boxscore exchanged five questions apiece. Here's some scoop on the Rays.
1. You know what it's like to go through a true youth movement. We've lost plenty over the last ten years, but do you have any advice on what it's like to deal with talented young players on the Major League level? Because that's not exactly an Oriole trademark lately.
The key is the term "talented", the 2002 Rays were young, but that youth included Toby Hall, Brent Abernathy, Jared Sandberg, and Jason Tyner. I would simply advise to not expect too much. B.J. Upton had a rough stint in 2006 that had most writing him off, meanwhile everyone expected Delmon Young to win rookie of the year last season, Upton not only had the better season, he didn’t run himself out of town with his mouth. I can’t help but look at Adam Jones nad have a feeling that he’s going to sneak up on a ton of teams this year, I know he’s not technically a rookie, but if you’re going to put high expectations on a youngster he’s the one.
2. Seriously -- how exciting is having Kazmir, Shields and Garza fronting the rotation?
Very. Troy Percival seems to think so too, he even had a t-shirt made comparing the trio to the eerily similar Braves’ trio from the early 90’s; Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery.
3. There is a lot of talent in Tampa. How soon do you think the Rays can really become contenders in the AL East, given that most things break right with the players, and also assuming the Red Sox and Yankees keep on keepin' on?
Hopefully next year, but just because you’re a contender doesn’t mean you have a chance to win the division, as you guys know. In a way it’s easy to get down on the idea that even if everything goes our way – the rotation filling out and bubbling over to a dominant pen, the lineup being good like people think, ect. – it still might not be enough to win the division. Then you remember that Hank Steinbrenner won’t shut up and that this, after all, is baseball and you have to believe that before 2012 the Rays will have reached the playoffs.
4. We all know the pitchers, Crawford and the finally-emerged Carlos Pena, but who's the most underrated Ray?
Akinori Iwamura. Some Rays fans have ran their mouths saying he’s an average player from being benched, frankly they don’t know what they’re talking about. His transition from third to second has been seemingly flawless, and while he’s not a huge power hitter, his approach to hitting is far better than people give him credit for.
5. What's the general feeling on manager Joe Maddon? We never hear anything about this guy.
He’s polarizing, mainly because he’s quirky and he’s managed the Rays to the worst record in each of his seasons at helm, but when we win – if we win perhaps – he’s going to be a blast. He’s a very intelligent guy, upon arrival an article was written about his fascination with Malcolm Gladwell’s great book Blink. He’s a fan of red wine, and to reference what I mean look up his quotes about "face", liking "we, not I", and about talking to Joe Girardi regarding the Elliot Johnson collision at the plate where he essentially takes a question and turns it into a conversation on what he likes including the line: "I like iTunes, I’ve downloaded some stuff off of there…"