Out With The Crowd: "Just the fact that they're in the AL East is a concern"
David Bakke is the editor "and sports fanatic" at Money Crashers, and a fan of both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Atlanta Braves. Bakke talked to me via email over the last week or so about rethinking the bunt, the loss of Big-Game James, and who's taking the AL wild card.
Sarah D. Bunting: Who's your favorite addition to the team for the 2013 season?
David Bakke: One of the best additions was Yunel Escobar. Although he had some off-the-field issues in Atlanta, he sure adds a lot of defense on the field and can truly hit the ball.
And who's your least favorite new Ray?
James Loney. There's no way he can fill the shoes of either B.J. Upton or Carlos Pena.
Anyone you were happy to see leave the team since last season?
Well, I wasn't technically "happy" about the Rays trading Wade Davis (along with James Shields), but I was impressed with what they got in return.
Who are you going to miss? Any notable absences this season?
The player I'll miss the most is easily James Shields. He went 15-10 for Tampa last year and averaged almost one strikeout per inning. I'm hoping that Jeremy Hellickson will step up this year to make up for the absence of Shields.
And what's your biggest worry for the team in 2013? Money? Bullpen? Red Sox rising from the dead?
Well, just the fact that they're in the AL East is a concern. All four other teams are a legitimate threat to win the division. Their offense hasn't done very much yet thus far, so that's another concern. And as any baseball fan will tell you, the Rays staying healthy will play a large role in any success they may achieve this year.
The AL East is a soapbox derby this year for sure — any guesses on where the team finishes this year? Standings- or wins-wise.
Here's my take on how the AL East will play out this year based on my pre-season thoughts as well as where things are right now. The Red Sox seemed to have responded well to all of the off-season house cleaning and are off to a good start. The Yankees seem to be hanging in there as well, even with all of their injuries. The Orioles are off to decent start as well. The Rays seem to be playing well under their potential thus far.
I think what you'll see is that the Red Sox play solid ball all year long, but the Yankees will fade, even after Jeter and A-Rod come back. Their roster is simply too old. I doubt the Orioles can repeat their performance of last year. The Blue Jays could be in the mix towards the end of the year, but losing Jose Reyes hurt them badly.
In the end, I think the Red Sox take the division, and the Rays will certainly be in the hunt for the wild card, provided they can get some offense going. I think Joe Maddon is a wizard when it comes to getting the absolute most out of whatever talent he has on his roster, and I think they'll find a way to land the wild card. Mark them down for 92-95 wins, and I think they make the first round of the playoffs.
Any surprises this season? (Pleasant or otherwise.)
I've been pleasantly surprised by their phenomenal record at home, although equally disappointed in their dismal record when playing on the road. And I'm absolutely shocked by the fact that David Price has yet to win a ball game. ["Price has managed to notch a win since we addressed this question." -- SDB]
If you could tell Maddon one thing, what would it be?
I'd tell him to rethink his strategy of not using the bunt. He was recently quoted as saying he think it's overrated, but considering the fact that the Rays are one of the worst teams in baseball offensively, he needs to start using everything at his disposal in order to start generating some runs.
Anything else in MLB bugging you — Rays, other teams, ongoing stories? Mine is the Zapruder-film-level analysis of Stephen Strasburg's arm shakes.
The "personal" strike zones of major-league umpires seem to be coming into play more this year than ever before, in my opinion at least. I think it's about time that Bud Selig steps in, works with the umpires' union or whatever needs to be done, and that a uniform strike zone is established that all umpires be required to use. I've never understood why one umpire should be allowed to call a pitch a half inch off the outside of home plate a strike when other umpires don't. It's unfair to the hitters and bad for the game. It's almost as though opposing hitters need to research the ump behind the plate as much as they do the opposing pitcher.
To me there's nothing wrong with going back to a strike zone of the top of the batter's shoulders and his knees, which is what it used to be back in the 1960s. And of course, if a pitched ball is off the plate, then it's a ball, no questions asked.
Tags: Alex Rodriguez B.J. Upton Bud Selig Carlos Pena David Bakke David Price Derek Jeter James Loney James Shields Jeremy Hellickson Joe Maddon Out With The Crowd Stephen Strasburg Tampa Bay Rays Wade Davis Yunel Escobar