Most people probably believe that the Tampa Bay Rays are our least offensive divisional rival. That may be true, but there's still plenty of things about them that bother me. Some are their fault and some aren't. In no particular order:
1. The advanced metrics people will defend them to the death. Pitching, defense, and a strong farm system are a modern baseball statistician's three pillars of success. Never mind the myriad of obvious problems with the team (more on that later). Don't be surprised if someone tries to tell you that James freakin' Loney is uber-valuable because the Rays are "using him the right way". If James Loney was on any other team, you would never think twice about him. Sure, they have been able to find an above average number of talented and cheap young players. But they are not infallible, and they squandered more than their fair share of high draft picks. Remember Tim Beckham? Wade Townsend? Jeff Niemann? Dewon Brazelton? How about the fact that their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round draft picks since 2009 have a combined total of 1.2 WAR at the major league level? These things always seem to be conveniently ignored. I can only hope their prospect well has dried up for good now.
2. They never have any offense. Teams that can't hit are sooooo boring. How can people respect them every year when they so blatantly ignore one side of the ball? Camden Chat has opened my eyes to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference, and I use those sites regularly now. However, I don't really care what the spreadsheets say about the Rays. They can't hit. They don't spend any money. So they shouldn't win.
3. Their stadium is depressing. I'm automatically bored as soon as I turn on a game at the Trop. The dull blue walls and off-colored turf may lull me to sleep by the Bottom of the 1st. You would think that the lack of crowd noise from their non-existent fans couldn't get any worse, but then they start with the cowbells. We really have to worry about a catwalk? A catwalk??? Really???
4. Their name change was stupid and they tried to sneak it by everyone. Some overly-sensitive group must have really nagged them into submission. They tried to pull the wool over everyone's eyes when they suddenly changed their name and logo from the bad-ass cartilaginous fish to the super-upbeat bolts of sunshine.
5. Their magical playoff run in 2008 kicked off a few years of success that is blown out of proportion. The Rays went from last place in 2007 to a World Series appearance in '08, where they received a beatdown from the stacked and rightful champions that year, the Philadelphia Phillies. Everyone loves an underdog. The problem is that it justified the hype surrounding their sabermetric model indefinitely. They went on to win 90+ games for four years straight from 2010-2013, and I still have no idea how. Looking back on each of those teams, there are a handful of star performances and a whole lot more liabilities. Now that Friedman and the incredibly annoying Joe Maddon are gone, here's hoping they slowly slide back to irrelevance.
In summary, I think this team should learn their role and go back to the cellar in our division, probably forever. I hate losing to them.