Tampa Bay Rays: Can the machine keep running without Friedman and Maddon?
The mass exodus from Tampa Bay appears to have begun. Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon both left for greener and wealthier pastures this winter, Friedman to the Dodgers and Maddon to the Cubs. These two were largely responsible for the Rays rise from perennial doormats to World Series contention.
It seemed only a matter of time before the wheels would fall off the Tampa Bay machine. I was never under the impression that Friedman was as happy working for the low budget Rays as Billy Beane is in Oakland. That he left to join the most well-heeled team in the league only reinforces that belief. Kudos to Friedman for deciding to take on a new challenge. Baseball fans will finally get a chance to see what he is capable of with more freedom to deal as he wishes.
The legend surrounding Joe Maddon had reached epic proportions in Tampa Bay, but he too sought a change of scenery. Maddon will be taking over a Cubs organization loaded with young talent that could take the league by storm as early as this season. Maddon had grown frustrated with the Tampa Bay organization, and exercised his opt out clause only ten days after Friedman bolted.
It is now regrouping time in Tampa Bay. New manager Kevin Cash is inexperienced, but is well thought of in baseball circles. I cannot help but wonder if Friedman and Maddon saw the writing on the wall and got out while the getting was good. Despite showing an ability to develop frontline starting pitching, the Rays have not had the same level of success developing hitters, save for Evan Longoria.
The Rays are coming off their first losing season since 2007. More losing appears to be on the horizon, with a lineup that should again struggle to score runs. With attendance already lagging, even with the team in contention, will the Rays organization be able to survive the defection of the two baseball shamans who helped bring playoff baseball to St. Petersburg?