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By Any Name, Tampa Bay Still Pathetic


Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Shortly after the Tampa Bay organization dropped the "Devil" from their name and decided on calling themselves just the Rays, someone in the office asked me if this was the year they were going to get over .500.

To be honest, I hadn't really given it much thought. For one, it was the middle of winter and preseason predictions were the furthest thing from my mind. And two, Tampa Bay's chances in any given season affect my life about as much as the weekly results from American Idol or Dancing With The Stars, meaning, of course, that I could care less.

But it just goes to show you, for the first time in its miserable history, Tampa Bay actually had some juice entering a season. Thanks to an abundance of young talent, people were starting to talk about them for the first time in a positive light.

I actually didn't even mind manager Joe Maddon's handling of the whole running over the catcher thing with the New York Yankees. It was almost as if they were letting the rest of the league know that their time was coming, and their sad short history as the league's doormat was over. And who better to show that they weren't going to get pushed around anymore than the big, bad Yankees.

Evan Longoria
Evan Longoria was one of the reasons people were taking notice of the Rays this season.
In one fell swoop, though, all the good thoughts are gone. What the Tampa Bay Rays did with third baseman Evan Longoria on Monday tells you all you need to know about that organization.

Instead of building that new stadium on the shores of St. Petersburg, they should move the team to Orlando near Disneyland, because this will always be a Mickey Mouse franchise.

If you don't know what I am talking about, well, pay attention. Longoria was one of the reasons people were taking notice of the Rays this season. He is as blue-chip a prospect as you can get. A true can't miss by all accounts.

Longoria was drafted with the third overall pick in the 2006 draft and excelled at the minor league level last season. This season was going to be his coming out party. It still could and probably will be, but it won't be in April, and probably not May either, for that matter.

You see, the Rays sent him back to the minors on Monday, and don't let anyone tell you any differently, the sole reason they did this was based on money. They didn't want to start the clock on his service time any sooner than they had to. And that, my friends, is pathetic for what was supposed to be an up- and-coming team.

From what I know, and from what Wikipedia explains in detail for me, a player is eligible for arbitration after three years, and free agency after six years of service time. According to baseball's most recent collective bargaining agreement, a year of service time is defined as 172 days. However, of the players that fall short of this mark, the top 17-percent with at least two years of service time are also granted arbitration eligibility. These players are called "Super 2s". The exact amount of service time varies from year-to- year, but has been as low as 128 days and as high as 140 days, although the number is usually between 130-135.

So, if you count backwards from the end of the regular season (September 28), a player that is called up on May 24 and remains on the roster for the remainder of the regular season will accrue 128 days of service time. A player that is called up on May 12 would accumulate 140 days of service time.

Thus, for all of you fantasy baseball people that drafted Longoria, I wouldn't count on him in your lineup until Memorial Day (May 26) at the earliest, which would give him 126 service days this season, and in all likelihood delay his arbitration/free agency clock by one year.

It is a bush league move, though not as rare as you might think. Milwaukee, for instance, did the same thing with reigning NL Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun last year. Had they had him all season, though, they may have made the playoffs and wouldn't have fallen two games short of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.

In all likelihood, the Rays are not going to have the type of season Milwaukee had last year with or without Longoria, but what kind of message does this send to the team's fans, however few of them there may be?

I wouldn't have even minded this move if Longoria was just abysmal this spring. But, he did nothing to hurt his chances of staying with the big league club, hitting .262 with a .407 OBA and a .595 slugging percentage in 42 at- bats. Also, seven of his eleven hits this spring were of the extra base variety.

The other 4-A team in Florida, the Marlins, also have a Rookie of the Year candidate on their team in Cameron Maybin. The 20-year-old outfielder, who was one of the centerpieces of the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis deal this offseason, was absolutely atrocious this spring, hitting just .190 and was without a hit in his final 18 at-bats.

If Longoria would have done that, I would have understood a demotion. I still probably wouldn't have agreed, but you could make the case that he wasn't ready. Longoria is ready.

The only way this type of move would make sense for the Rays would be if they were the Boston Red Sox or Detroit Tigers, teams that have a bona fide chance at winning a title THIS season and maybe wouldn't be able to watch a young player grow. The only thing Tampa is going to be fighting for now is draft positioning with the likes of the Pittsburgh Pirates - another pathetic franchise that I am going to have rip apart at some point soon.

Instead of giving fans in Tampa a reason to believe, showing them that their years of frustration were just about over. the Rays pull this kind of garbage.

Longoria is going to be up at some point. I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that it is around the time mentioned above, and he will have a good year and probably win the AL Rookie of the Year. But the way the Rays handled this whole situation just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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