The Tampa Bay Devil Rays were the subject of a page-one story – “Case Study: Fix a Baseball Team” — in the business section of last week’s New York Times. Much was made of the “boys club” chemistry and “slap happy camaraderie” among principal owner Stuart Sternberg, 46, and his 20-something assistants, Executive Vice President Andrew Friedman and President Mathew Silverman.
Terms such as “positive arbitrage” came tripping off the tongues of all three when discussing player valuations. Their quantitative approach, it was noted, has much in common with “Moneyball” subject Billy Beane, the well-regarded, iconoclastic general manager of the Oakland A’s.
The contrast with 75-year-old senior coach Don Zimmer, practically a boyhood chum of Abner Doubleday, couldn’t be more stark. Zimmer acknowledged a recent “heated argument” with Friedman over whom to keep on the major league roster.
“Stu Sternberg is no dummy,” Zimmer told the Times, “and he must think they will grasp a lot. I say give them a chance.”
I say he has no choice.
* In the NYT‘s baseball preview, it listed six players “knocking on the door” of major league impact. Among them, Rays’ outfield prospect Delmon Young. “The only thing keeping the 20-year-old Young out of the major leagues is his organization’s unwillingness to start his salary-arbitration and free-agency clock,” stated the Times.
True, but in fairness to the Rays, that’s not the only factor. Young did not have a particularly impressive spring.
* The Wall Street Journal ran a recent piece on Baseball Info Solutions, a statistics firm that has devised what some baseball insiders say is the most accurate gauge of fielding. It doesn’t focus on the players with the fewest errors, but the players who convert the most batted balls into outs. By BIS’s calculations the best-fielding leftfielder over the past three years has been Carl Crawford of the Rays. Ironically, the worst-fielding third baseman is the Rays’ Ty Wittington, based on his play with the Mets and Pirates.