Tampa Bay Rays in bad way

By Matt Verderame

It was not that long ago that the Tampa Bay Rays were the best story in baseball. Fresh off changing the uniforms to something that more resembled a Major League Baseball team and less a minor league outfit, the new-named Rays went out and promptly put forth a great season, reaching the World Series in 2008.

Yes, Tampa Bay would lose in five games to the Philadelphia Phillies, but it seemed like this would be a franchise perhaps following the blueprint of its counterpart in Florida, the now-named Miami Marlins. The Marlins had only made the playoffs twice since being an expansion franchise in 1993, but won the World Series both times with low-cost, young talent and hired guns.

Tampa Bay had the low-cost talent in Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, James Shields, David Price and others. The rentals would come, but the second World Series appearance never would.

Fast forward to June 2016, and the franchise has all kinds of problems. The team stinks, the fans are staying away in droves and Tropicana Field is the biggest dump in the sport this side of the Oakland Coliseum. If Tampa Bay wants to continue having Major League Baseball in its city, it is going to need a new building and fast. Otherwise, the team might end up relocating, perhaps to Montreal.

In the meantime, the on-field product has taken a serious nosedive. With former manager and borderline genius Joe Maddon now running the Chicago Cubs and once-prolific general manager Andrew Friedman working for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay seems rudderless.

The Rays are once again a team with absolutely no offense, only scoring more runs in the American League than the hapless and injured Oakland A’s. Tampa Bay is in the midst of a 10-game losing streak that has seen it plummet to the basement of the AL East, somewhere it will likely stay without visit.

At this point, Tampa Bay has to consider any and all options to fix this perennially horrific offense. Longoria is still the only big bat in town, leading the team in average (.270), home runs (18) and RBI (43). Corey Dickerson does have 13 homers, but he is hitting an appalling .209. Steven Souza Jr. is the only other respectable bat in the lineup, batting .255 with 10 dingers but only 25 RBI.

Frankly, the Rays should be smart and trade Longoria for a considerable haul this summer. He’s in his contract year and at 30 years old, still a very valuable player. Even if the Rays somehow held onto him with a big deal (that won’t happen), they will not contend while he’s still good.

Tampa Bay needs to move Longoria and get legitimate hitters back, either in the form of young major leaguers or prospects ready to come up. This team needs a draw and needs some sizzle.

Right now, it is a lousy watch, which might explain why nobody cares about it.