The New Look Bruins

Make no mistake about the fact that the Boston Bruins were one of most disappointing teams from this past National Hockey League season. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup Championship in 2011 and they were expected to follow suit in 2014 as they won the Presidents’ Trophy for the most points during the season. But in the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Bruins were upset by the Montreal Canadiens in seven games and they have yet to recover. The Bruins were an up and down hockey team this past season. The Bruins would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and that disappointment brought with it wholesale changes in Boston this off-season.

Peter Chiarelli was fired as the general manager of the Bruins and he would be replaced by Don Sweeney. And when the Bruins brought in Sweeney, there was a ton of speculation that longtime head coach Claude Julien would be dismissed as well. But the Bruins decided to maintain Julien and instead they made changes to their roster.

Don Sweeney

At the 2015 NHL Draft, Sweeney and the Bruins were wheeling and dealing. The Bruins traded left winger Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for goalie Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller and the 13th overall pick of the NHL Draft which Boston used on defenseman Jakub Zboril from the Czech Republic. The Bruins would also send defenseman Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames in exchange for the 15th, 45th, and 52nd overall selections in the draft. And once you factor in that the Bruins owned the 14th overall selection, they became the first team in NHL Draft history that had three consecutive first round picks. The Bruins would have six of the first 52 selections in the 2015 NHL Draft as they looked to get younger while Sweeney is looking to put a team together while also seeking to develop team chemistry which is something that Boston lacked all season long.

As a new general manager, Sweeney has come and he is not married to any of the veteran players on the Bruins roster which means that he is free and clear to do whatever he wants as he attempts to get Boston back into contention. But now it is just a matter of seeing whether or not that these moves that he has orchestrated will work.

The Bruins still have a core of veterans that includes defenseman Zdeno Chara who is the team’s captain, along with centers Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly, and David Krejci who are all alternate captains. And the Bruins still have goalie Tuukka Rask between the pipes who remains as one of the top netminders in the National Hockey League. But as the Bruins have gotten younger and are rebuilding, the pressure is still on this organization to contend for and ultimately win the Stanley Cup Title. Although Julien survived with the Bruins this off-season, the pressure will be on him this upcoming season to improve off of this past season’s disappointment. And no matter what, Sweeney will forever be linked to the transactions that he made recently as only time will tell if they’ll hurt or help the Bruins.

Send In The Clowns

http://guardianlv.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/phil-650x417.jpgLast year when Phil Jackson became the new team president of the New York Knicks, he was looked at as a savior. Jackson played 12 seasons in the NBA and he helped the Knicks win their only two NBA Titles in franchise history. Jackson would then go on to win 11 NBA Championships as a head coach which is more than anyone else in league history. So when Knicks owner James Dolan appointed Jackson to his current post last year, the folks in New York City expected the Knicks to become instant winners, but that hasn’t been the case.

Jackson’s first move in New York was to name Derek Fisher as the Knicks new head coach. Fisher played for Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers and the two helped the franchise win five NBA Championships. And when Jackson and Fisher entered Madison Square Garden, they came in as if they were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as they were attempting to save the Knicks from themselves.

But in the Knicks first full season under Jackson’s regime, the team went 17-65 which was the second worst record in the NBA. And in typical Knicks fashion, the ping-pong balls didn’t bounce in their favor at the NBA Draft Lottery as they were left with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Jackson spent this past season raving about point guard D’Angelo Russell to the point that he was fined by the NBA for publicly discussing a player that had yet to declare for the NBA Draft. Jackson was so enthralled with Russell that he never mentioned any other top prospects that the Knicks would be interested in selecting. The Lakers had the second overall pick which they used on Russell. But the calamity of errors that is the Knicks would be completed when NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced their pick.

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Kristaps Porzingis

The Knicks selected power forward Kristaps Porzingis this past Thursday night and the boo birds reigned supreme at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York to the point that it sounded like Madison Square Garden. Porzingis is a 19-year old native of Latvia that Jackson compares to Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowtizki. But the folks in New York were expecting the Knicks to select a more established college player from the United States as Porzingis invokes memories of Frederic Weis in 1999.

One person that is not a fan of the selection of Porzingis is Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony.

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Carmelo Anthony

As a result of Jackson’s influence, Anthony re-signed with the Knicks last summer to the tune of $124 million over five years. Jackson promised Anthony that he would build a contender around him and even though Anthony has backtracked publicly about his displeasure of the Knicks taking Porzingis, the die has been cast as he is not happy. And although that the Ringling Brothers Circus no longer comes to Madison Square Garden, Knicks owner James Dolan (himself included) has the best clowns in town working in the front office who actually believe the garbage that this team can contend for an NBA Championship in the near future.

Jackson’s famed triangle offense has only worked when Michael Jordan and current Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant suited up for him. Jackson has never drafted a player and turned him into a star and the same can be said about him building a team from the ground up. Dolan has given Jackson full autonomy with the Knicks and as long as Dolan is willing to write the checks, Jackson can care less if the folks in the Big Apple like what he is doing. Fisher is Jackson’s apprentice with the Knicks and he is already a defeated man as Jackson handed him a beaten up Trans-Am to restore in the Knicks that instead are ready for a scrap metal yard. Anthony is 31-years old and he is coming off of knee surgery. Anthony wants to win, but he should have taken less money to join the Chicago Bulls last summer as they would have given him a more realistic shot to win. Jackson may not care what people think of his moves or lack thereof, but he’ll still has to convince the media, Anthony, and the season-ticket holders in New York why this team is ready to make a push for the postseason. Training camps in the NBA are set to open in three months and already you can write the Knicks epitaph for the 2015-2016 season before it even starts. By the looks of things, Jackson is becoming just another basketball icon that associated himself with the Knicks only to realize that they are a sinking ship that is flush out of lifeboats and it is a very long swim to shore.

Oil And Water In Cleveland

After one season as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, it wasn’t a total surprise that power forward Kevin Love has decided to opt-out of his deal and become a free agent. This past season Love averaged 16.4 points and 9.7. rebounds per game which were his lowest totals since his second year in the NBA when he was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. For his seven-year NBA career, Love has averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game as he is one of the better power forwards in the league. And although Love has said publicly that he would be interested in returning to the Cavaliers, I highly doubt that this will be the case next season.

Last summer when small forward LeBron James decided to leave the Miami Heat and re-join the Cavs, he wanted to form another “Big Three” like he did in South Beach which led to a pair of NBA Championships there. And with point guard Kyrie Irving already on the Cavaliers roster, Cleveland only needed to find a big man to makes James’ wish come true. Love was getting tired of losing with the Timberwolves and he was looking for a change of pace. Love was traded to the Cavaliers last summer in a three-team trade that also involved the Philadelphia 76ers. And in return the Timberwolves received a king’s ransom with Cleveland sending them shooting guard Andrew Wiggins and power forward Anthony Bennett. Bennett was the first overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft while Wiggins was the first choice in 2014 and they joined a rebuilding Timberwolves team while Love had his sights set on his first trip to the postseason in his NBA career. But from Love’s first day in a Cavaliers uniform, he never fit there.

Love’s game was never able to correspond to that of James who took an immediate liking to Irving and power forward Tristan Thompson. And when Love suffered a torn labrum in the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics, the Cavaliers actually played better with Thompson now being inserted into the starting lineup as you have to wonder if Cleveland would have able to make the NBA Finals with Love in the same fashion that they did without him?

With the Timberwolves, Love was able to put up 26 points and 13 rebounds routinely because his team was always losing and they were an after thought. And even though the Cavs do not play in a big media market, Love was not able to handle the pressure cooker that he was in on a nightly basis playing alongside James.

So now it is time to play the guessing game as far as where Love will be playing next season. Love is a West Coast guy and after bypassing on center Jahlil Okafor last night during the 2015 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers have a glaring need in their frontcourt. Love is very familiar with the bright lights of Hollywood as he was born in Santa Monica, California and he played his college ball at UCLA. With power forward LaMarcus Aldridge letting the Portland Trailblazers know that doesn’t intend to return there next season, the Blazers have a need at the power forward position as well. Love grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon and he already spurned the folks in that state when he decided to attend UCLA as opposed to the University of Oregon. If center Roy Hibbert decides to decline his player option for next season, the Indiana Pacers could be in play for Love’s services, but would playing there with small forward Paul George restrict his game like it did in Cleveland with James? The Boston Celtics are desperately seeking a star player to build their team around, but would Love be up for the pressure that comes when he puts that green uniform on? The Toronto Raptors enter this summer with cap space and their guard oriented team needs a big man to play off of. And once you look at the Big Apple, both the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets need to make a splash. The Knicks missed big time with the fourth overall pick last night in the draft by taking power forward Kristaps Porzingis and you have to wonder if Knicks team president Phil Jackson will get desperate and sign Love? But would Love’s game be able to function alongside that of Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony who commands the basketball on most offensive possessions? The Nets could be up a creek after power forward Thaddeus Young opted out of his deal and center Brook Lopez is expected to follow suit. The Nets also traded center Mason Plumlee to the Trailblazers and if Nets general manager Billy King doesn’t make a big move soon, he could be a man without a country; or in this case a team.

Wherever Love will play basketball next season he will have to shed the reputation of him merely being a stats guy as he has been known to put up gaudy stats as far as points and rebounds, but it doesn’t mean a thing being that the teams that he generally plays for don’t win and they’re typically blown out. Staying in the Eastern Conference for Love would be a reach because he would have to face James and the Cavs four times a season. If Love decides on the Lakers, he would be coming home, but there would be added pressure to put on the purple and gold and more importantly to produce championships there. But wherever Love calls home for next season, he’ll more than likely be overpaid and he’ll be on a team where he can get lost in the shuffle.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

The Surging Pirates

The past two years have been good to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates have made the playoffs in each of the last two years which is huge considering that they hadn’t qualified for the postseason prior to that since 1992. And in 2013, the Pirates won their first postseason round for the first time since winning the World Series in 1979. Under general manager Neal Huntington, the Pirates have been developing talent and more importantly they now expect to win. But things were going to be a little bit different this season being that the Pirates lost catcher Russell Martin in free agency. Martin would sign with the Toronto Blue Jays last off-season after he was so vital to the success of the Pirates pitching staff over the last two seasons. And after a slow start to 2015, these Pirates under manager Clint Hurdle now have the look of a contender.

On May 16, the Pirates found themselves with a record of 17-20 as they were a hot and cold team. But since then the Pirates have been sizzling as they are 23-11. The Pirates overall record of 40-31 has them owning the top slot in the National League Wild Card race and if it weren’t for the incredible start by the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh would have the best record on the Senior Circuit.

Andrew McCutchen

It’s no coincidence that the Pirates turnaround this season began when center fielder Andrew McCutchen was able to get going at the plate. McCutchen was named as the NL MVP in 2013 and he is one of the best five-tool players currently in MLB. In mid-May, McCutchen was only batting .231 as some folks feared that he lost his power when he cut his hair. But now McCutchen has been able to increase his batting average to .292 to go along with a .376 on-base percentage, 9 home runs and 44 runs batted in and as he goes, so do the fortunes of the Pirates. Outfielder Starling Marte is in his fourth season with the Pirates and he’s in the midst of his best MLB season being that he is on the verge of setting new career-highs in home runs, runs batted in and slugging perentage. But the biggest bright spot so far this season for the Pirates has been catcher Francisco Cervelli.

The Pirates acquired Cervelli from the New York Yankees last off-season as they were looking to cushion the blow from losing Martin, but they didn’t expect what they are currently getting from him. At the plate, Cervelli is batting .306 with 3 homers and 22 runs batted in 55 games; while behind the plate he is calling games for a Pirates pitching staff that has an earned run average of 2.89 which is second in the National League.

Gerrit Cole

Starting pitcher Gerrit Cole was the first overall pick of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft by the Pirates and Pittsburgh appears to have found themselves a frontline pitcher now that they’ve taken the training wheels off of him. Cole is leading MLB this season in wins (11) and his earned run average of 2.16 is fifth as he is looking to become the first Pirates pitcher since Doug Drabek in 1990 to win the NL Cy Young Award and the first pitcher in team history to win 20 games in a season since John Smiley in 1991. After revitalizing his MLB career with the Pirates in 2012 as he went 16-10 that year, starting pitcher A.J. Burnett spent last season with the Philadelphia Phillies where he led the NL in losses with 18. But Burnett has returned to Western Pennsylvania for 2015 and his 6-3 mark with a 2.05 earned run average could earn him his first All-Star Game appearance. And you cannot forget about relief pitcher Mark Melancon who is leading MLB this season in saves with 24 as he has been lights out in the ninth inning.

The Pirates are navigating through the tough National League Central where they have to deal with the Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs as they are more than holding their own which is a testament to Hurdle and his managerial skills. The Pirates are the second team that Hurdle has led to the postseason as he was the skipper of the Colorado Rockies in 2007 when they won their only National League Pennant. These Pirates might not be like the “We Are Family” team that captivated Pittsburgh in 1979, but if they could win a World Series like them, no baseball fan in the Steel City will ever forget McCutchen and crew.

Source: Piratesprospectus.com, Baseball-reference.com

It’s Go Time For Riley

This past NBA season marked just the second time since 2004 that the Miami Heat missed the playoffs. The Heat went 37-45 and they finished in tenth place in the Eastern Conference as they were dealing with a litany of issues. The Heat were attempting  to recover from the sudden departure of small forward LeBron James who decided to re-join the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer. The Heat were also without the services of power forward Chris Bosh for the second half of the season as a result of blood clots. And through it all, the Heat missed the NBA Playoffs by only one game.

Since 1995, Heat president Pat Riley has been the architect of this organization and he has molded it in his championship image under his watch as Miami has won the NBA Title three times. Riley wants to keep that winning formula going and beginning with the NBA Draft tomorrow night, the Heat are entering an important stretch as they look to reshape their roster for the upcoming NBA season.

The Heat have the tenth overall pick pick in the NBA Draft along with their second round pick as they will look for the opportunity to get younger and more athletic. As of right now Riley and the Heat are not showing any indication that they are willing to trade out of that slot as they could still find an impact player there with the likes of Duke small forward Justise Winslow, Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson, and Louisville power forward Montrezl Harrell all potentially being available there.

After acquiring point guard Gorin Dragic from the Phoenix Suns last season, the Heat have every intent to keep him in South Florida and not allow him to test the free agent waters this summer as they are reportedly prepared to offer him a five-year deal worth $80 million. Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade appears ready to opt-out of his contract and even though he and Riley are currently apart on the workings for his potential new contract, I expect cooler heads to prevail with Wade remaining to Miami for next season. The Heat are also counting on Bosh returning and being healthy for next season as they’ll need him to be a catalyst for this team as he has averaged 19.3 points and 8.6 rebounds for his 12-year NBA career.

But the Heat’s plans for next season will hinge on what they’ll be able to do tomorrow night at the NBA Draft. Under Riley, the Heat have been in the NBA Draft Lottery three times and it has either been hit or miss there. In 2002, the Heat drafted small forward Caron Butler while they chose Wade in 2003. And in 2008, Miami selected forward Michael Beasley. Butler provided immense value for the Heat as they used him to acquire center Shaquille O’Neal from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004 and he and Wade led Miami to an NBA Championship in 2006. However, Beasley was the second overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft after the Heat missed out on point guard Derrick Rose who was selected by the Chicago Bulls. Beasley has played for three different NBA teams including three separate times with the Heat and he has never lived up to his potential.

Pat Riley

In this instance Riley and the Heat are not that far off from being a contender once again and drafting an explosive wing player could be just what the doctor ordered for them. Winslow has shown that he isn’t afraid of the big stage as he is fresh off of helping Duke win a national championship. Like Winslow, Johnson is leaving school after one season and he has plenty of untapped potential while Harrell continued to improve in each of his three years at Louisville.

Riley has one of the best basketball minds of our time and the gears are working to get the Heat back to the postseason.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

Quality Pitching Being Wasted

Matt Harvey

The New York Mets have been around since 1962 and they’ve always been known for their pitching. The Mets organization has been home to starting pitchers such as Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman, and Dwight Gooden just to name a few. Strong pitching has carried the Mets to a pair of World Series Championships and it is once again prevalent with their present day team. The Mets currently have a surplus of young pitching in their organization that includes starting pitchers Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard along with relief pitcher Jeurys Familia. And the Mets have another starting pitcher in their minor-league system by the name of Steven Matz who they are very high on as well. The Mets team earned run average of 3.60 this season is fifth in National League while they are also fifth in quality starts (43), and fourth in strikeouts (566) as they currently have three starting pitchers that are posting winning records.

But the dominance of the Mets pitching staff hasn’t carried over to their lineup which has left this team perplexed. Injuries have put second baseman Daniel Murphy and third baseman David Wright on the disabled list. And for Wright, he has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis which has threatened to end his Major League Baseball career altogether. Offensively the Mets are near the bottom of most statistical categories in the NL. Already this season the Mets have played in 24 games where they scored two runs or fewer and one of the low lights of this came last month when the Mets lost consecutive 1-0 games to the Washington Nationals.

Sandy Alderson

For Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, his tenure in New York has been highlighted by re-developing the team’s minor-league system while keeping the big club together with spit and glue due to the financial peril of the team’s owners in Fred and Jeff Wilpon. But the past two off-seasons have seen Alderson spend money on veteran bats that have been unable to answer the bell.

Curtis Granderson

In 2014, the Mets signed outfielder Curtis Granderson to a four-year contract worth $60 million. Granderson is a lifetime .256 hitter, but the Mets brass knew that he was good clubhouse guy and they were hopeful that he would show some flashes of the player that had consecutive 40-plus home runs campaigns for the New York Yankees in 2011 and 2012. But what the Mets have gotten in Granderson is a player that is a shell of himself as he is batting .209 with an on base-percentage of .329 during his time with the Metropolitans. Granderson has only hit 9 homers this season for the Mets and he hasn’t been comfortable in most of the positions that he has been placed at in the team’s lineup. Then there is outfielder Michael Cuddyer. The Mets signed Cuddyer last off-season to the tune of $21 million for two years. Cuddyer led the National League in batting in 2013 as a member of the Colorado Rockies, but he is a shell of that player with the Mets as he is currently batting .256 with 6 homers and 28 runs batted in. Cuddyer has also grounded into 12 double plays this season including a game-ending one this past Sunday against the Atlanta Braves as his production or lack thereof has drawn the ire of fans and sports writers in the Big Apple alike.

The Mets currently have a record of 36-35 and they are in second place in the NL East as they are 1.5 games behind the Washington Nationals. The Mets have lost their last five games which included being swept over the weekend by the Braves. But if the Mets had a better offense, we could only imagine how good that this team could be.

The Mets lineup is lacking some key ingredients as they are missing a lead-off hitter along with a consistent clutch bat. And even when Wright and Murphy return to the Mets lineup, they might not be able to perk this team up by themselves.

Kevin Long

Prior to becoming the Mets hitting coach this season, Kevin Long was the hitting coach of the Yankees for the past eight seasons. In 2014, the Yankees offense was near the bottom of most statistical categories in the American League last season which is why he was let go last year, and in spite of this the Mets welcomed him with open arms.

As things are shaping up this summer, it appears that only one team will make the playoffs from the NL East and with the Nationals failing to put a stranglehold on the division, it is up for grabs. Even as the Mets claim to be “rebuilding”, they now have a golden opportunity to excite their fan base and win the NL East for the first time since 2006. Under Alderson’s watch, the Mets have played it close to the chest and at Major League Baseball’s trade deadline they have typically been sellers. But more than ever the time is now for the Mets and Alderson to be buyers. With the additional wild card spot in each league, it has given more teams the belief that they are contenders than ever before and thus they’ve become more hesitant to waive the white flag. However an upgrade to the Mets lineup could work like a blood transfusion for the club as eventually the pitching staff in Queens will get frustrated as far as not getting any run support behind them. If the Mets were to make the playoffs, they could be a very dangerous team due to their pitching. But that quality pitching can only get you so far if they don’t have quality bats to support them and thus it is wasted.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Same Old Rays

Over the off-season there was a huge shakeup within the front office of the Tampa Bay Rays that they weren’t quickly expected to recover from. Longtime Rays general manager Andrew Friedman left to become the president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers while manager Joe Maddon opted out his contract to become the new skipper of the Chicago Cubs. Under the watch of Friedman and Maddon, the Rays made their only four playoff appearances in franchise history along with two American League Eastern Division Championships and a World Series appearance in 2008. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg replaced Friedman with Matthew Silverman and Maddon with Kevin Cash. Silverman had previously worked under Friedman in the Rays front office while Cash played nine seasons of Major League Baseball as a catcher including one for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2005. But when Cash was named as the new manager of the Rays, he didn’t have any previous managerial experience. And what Sternberg and the Rays have gotten after the transition in their front office is a very familiar result.

This season the Rays were expected to be at the bottom of the American League East, but nearly halfway through the 2015 MLB season, Tampa Bay is in first place in the division as they continue to be a thorn in the side of other clubs within division with a new cast of characters.

It wasn’t just the departure of Friedman and Maddon that left people skeptical about the Rays chances in 2015 as there was a roster overhaul.

Starting pitcher David Price is the Rays all-time leader in earned run average at 3.18, but he was traded last season to the Detroit Tigers while starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks over the off-season. The Rays would also trade utility man Ben Zobrist who played the second most games in franchise history to the Oakland Athletics. And with the departures in Tampa Bay, this season has been a credit to the system that Sternberg has in place there.

The Rays are currently 40-31 which is remarkable for a team that was expected to flirt with losing 100 games this season. And in the AL East where nobody appears ready to run away with the division, the Rays have a puncher’s chance to win it.

Since beginning this MLB season with a record of 6-8, the Rays have not been under .500 and they have held their own in the American League East where they are 18-14. The Rays have also won eight of their last ten ballgames which was highlighted by them taking three out four games last weekend against the Washington Nationals who are in first place in the National League East.

From the Rays initial turnaround in 2008, the name of the game for them has been pitching. And although some of the names have changed on the back of the jerseys this season for the Rays, they have still been able to bolster a strong starting pitching staff. Tampa Bay’s team earned run average of 3.31 is tops in the American League while they are also first in opponent’s batting average at .236.

Chris Archer

2015 is the fourth MLB season for Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer and he appears to be putting it altogether. Archer has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball this season with a record of 8-4 and an earned run average of 2.18. Archer has not lost a decision since May 7 against the Texas Rangers and he’s already had a stretch this season where had three consecutive starts where he struck out at least 11 batters as he is well on his way to earning his first nod as an AL All-Star. Archer is also on pace to become the first Rays pitcher since Price in 2012 to strikeout at least 200 batters in a season.

Evan Longoria

The Rays everyday lineup isn’t full of household names, but they continue to find a way to do just enough to win ball games. Second baseman Logan Forsythe is currently leading the team in batting average .288, on-base percentage (.364), and hits (70) while outfielder Steven Souza Jr., is making a name for himself as he is tops on the club with 14 home runs. Then there is Rays third baseman Evan Longoria who is the unofficial “Mr. Ray”. Longoria was the Rays first round pick in 2006 and he has spent his entire Major League Baseball career in Tampa. Along with being named as the American League’s Rookie of the Year in 2008, Longoria is a four-time AL All-Star and he is also the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs, runs batted in, and slugging percentage. This season Longoria is batting .270 with an on-base percentage of .351 while his 32 runs batted in lead the team.

For a small market team such as the Rays, they have to do things differently as it isn’t within their budget to spend heavily on free agents. Instead the Rays have concentrated on developing players in their system along with paying close attention to sabermetrics which has allowed them to remain competitive in spite off all of the departures that they have endured. Whereas on the surface it will appear that the Rays are set to struggle when they trade “key” players such as Price, Tampa Bay has prepared for those departures for a few years which allows them to cushion the blow. Along with the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, and Oakland Athletics, the Rays have one the best systems in Major League Baseball as far as being consistently competitive and regardless of what anyone outside of their facilities thinks, they don’t waver from their plan.

Matthew Silverman

Now as the MLB is set to embark of the All-Star Game next month, the Rays remain in the conversation to win the muddled American League East while Silverman will be in the converstation to be the AL Executive of the Year and Cash the AL Manager of the Year. And although the folks in West Florida haven’t come out in droves to support the Rays, this club could be ready to hang another banner as AL East Champions in 2015.

Source: Baseball-reference.com