As we lead off the new season, we're going to try out a few new features here at the WTDB. To lead things off, I've convened a panel of a few of the best and brightest minds covering the Yanks' opponents in their first series, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Our panelists are:
Kevin Gengler, of the Rays Talk Blog
R.J. Anderson, of the DRays Bay Blog
Manny Stiles, of the newly-created Devil Rays Universe Blog
Tell us about yourself as a baseball fan. How long have you been following the Devil Rays? Were you a fan of baseball before the Rays came around, and if so, of what team?
KEVIN: I was a Braves fan until the late 90's, but since I was never really attached to them as a hometown team or anything, I had no problem switching allegiances to Tampa Bay, although I didn't follow baseball really closely until Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli were emerging.
RJ: I’ve been a fan of the Rays since their inception in 1998, before that I wasn’t really into baseball and I was somewhat young.
MANNY: I have been a baseball fan essentially since birth. I only became a fan of the Devil Rays this month after putting my fanship and writing skills up for charity to the highest bidder on ebay. Matt Silverman, the President of the Devil Rays won and now I am of course, a Devil Rays fan. Before that, I just pretty much liked whatever team was beating the Yankees.
What do you think of your team? What place will they take in the AL East, at the end of the year? Do you think they'll make the playoffs, and if so, how far will they get?
KEVIN: I think they have more talent than ever, but we'll see how that translates to the win column. The important thing this year, in my opinion, is to get the youngsters as many at-bats as possible. Hopefully we minimize the at-bats guys like Greg Norton get and maximize the at-bats for guys like B.J. Upton and Elijah Dukes, who need to experience but don't really have a regular spot.
RJ: Best case scenario? 3rd place in the AL East, realistically? 4th. Playoffs? Nope, but watch out next year.
MANNY: 2007 WORLD CHAMPIONS!
Who's the one player on the Devil Rays that every Yankee fan shouldn't take his eyes off of when he's in the game? What's so great/interesting about him?
KEVIN: The obvious answer has to be Delmon Young. He's got it all: He can make the diving catch, nail the runner at third, and then knock one out of the yard. Also, Carl Crawford obviousy has the athleticism to make anything happen. And B.J. Upton, because he can make the impossible look routine and the routine look impossible.
RJ: The obvious answer here would be Carl Crawford, but since I want to go a different way I’m going to say Delmon Young, he’s just got that aura that screams superstar.
MANNY: I would say Carl Crawford, but you already knew that. Most exciting player in baseball. So watch out for Delmon Young instead!
Is there any player on your team who you wish would be traded elsewhere? Why?
KEVIN: I wouldn't "like" to see anyone go, really. But it's pretty obvious that someone has to get moved. Assuming we move one outfielder (to make room for Dukes) and one infielder (to make room for Upton), my two guys would have to be Baldelli and Cantu. I'd hate to lose Baldelli, but like I said, one of our outfielders will probably have to go. And Cantu is the IF choice because Upton seems to have taken to 2B the best, and has much better tools than Cantu. The return on Cantu would likely be minimal, but that's how it goes.
RJ: Indeed there is, Josh Paul, he’s really not all that useful to be honest.
MANNY: I would never WANT to trade any of my players away.
Are there any moves your team made this off-season that particularly excited you? Why?
KEVIN: Yup, that Scott Dohmann signing. Seriously, we didn't do much this offseason, and I don't really view the Iwamura signing as something that got me excited. Unless he absolutely rakes, he's essentially just keeping the seat warm for Evan Longoria, who'll be up for Opening Day 2008 if everything goes according to plan.
RJ: Signing Al Reyes to a minor league deal. Well, re-signing, but nonetheless I’d say he’s going to be a hot commodity in the league and in fantasy leagues if/when he gets his chance to close.
MANNY: I am most excited to see a full season of Delmon Young in the bigs.
What is the one player move you think your team should make?
KEVIN: This is a really tough call. Logic says deal a strength (outfield) for a weakness (pitching), but honestly, we're so stocked with pitching prospects that I don't know about that. Unless you can deal Baldelli or Crawford for a bona-fide #2/borderline #1 pitcher, I think the right deal would be to deal an OF for a top-of-the-line relief pitcher and an A-/B+ prospect. To throw one out there, how about Rocco Baldelli to Atlanta for one of their relief guys (*ahem* Mike Gonzalez) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
RJ: Trade Jorge Cantu for a reliever, and move B.J. Upton to second.
MANNY: DON'T trade anyone
What do you think of this year's Yankee team?
KEVIN: Scary-as-hell lineup, serviceable pitching. Concerned about the bullpen, since Torre seems to ride 1-2 guys too hard during the year. My money says they win another division crown, but fall short in the playoffs again. And I have to say, I'm really excited for the Phil Hughes era.
RJ: They’re very talented, I think Brian Cashman and the front office has begun to learn that money doesn’t always buy wins or titles. I think the prospects they got in the Sheffield deal may be slightly overrated, but then again when you’re getting an animate object for a near-40 year-old who's had some injury issues, I’d say you came out on top of that deal.
MANNY: They suck.
Which Yankee player (if any) do you dislike the most? Why?
KEVIN: Just one? Okay, let's go with... Actually, the Yankees don't really have that one standout guy that just grates on you (Curt Schilling, I'm looking your way). Let's go with Robinson Cano, since I don't believe he's nearly as good as the stats say.
RJ: I don’t really ‘hate’ any Yankee to be frank. I respect what Jeter and Mariano have done, but if I have to go with my least favorite it’s gotta be Giambi.
MANNY: All/Any of the Yankees. I am particularly fond of disliking Derek Jeter a.k.a. "Plays like #2"
Which Yankee player do you like the most (or, if you must, which player do you dislike the least)? Why?
KEVIN: Does Phil Hughes count? If not him, then possibly Bobby Abreu. No real reason
RJ: Same feel as the last question, I don’t particularly like any of them, Derek Jeter has earned my respect from the money he (along with Tino Martinez) have poured into the University of South Florida baseball program.
MANNY: I think A-Rod is FAR better than Jeter and anyone who doesn't see it needs sterilized for the good of society.
Have you ever been to Yankee Stadium, and if so, what did you think of the experience?
KEVIN: I've been there once, and didn't really have as good a time as when I went to Citizen's Bank Park. Of course, the following factors were in play: I was watching the Rays in Philly, I think it was Yanks-Mariners at the Stadium, and I was with my friends at CBP compared to my parents at YS. I'm really interested to see how they go about things with the new park, and I'll probably try to get out to Yankee Stadium at least once more before it's gone.
RJ: Nope, never been to New York at all.
MANNY: Been to the neighborhood but never to a game there, which saddens me a bit.
How do you like the Devil Rays' ballpark? Any features fans shouldn't miss when they visit (special food, seats with a special view, nearby bars or restaurants)?
KEVIN: N/A, never been to the Trop since I live in New Jersey.
RJ: It’s better than advertised. The ‘must sees’? Eh depends, if you have a child the rays touch tank may interest you, or the numerous museums/games may be your thing
MANNY: I haven't been there (YET). Bu I am going next month (I live in Arizona) and am planning on doing a LIVE running blog from the stadium on the Monday night ESPN game (April 23) vs. the Yankees. I'll get details to you as they emerge, because I'd like Yankees fans and ALL onlookers to enjoy the unique perspective.
What's your favorite pro-Devil Rays chant? What's your favorite anti-Yankees chant? Favorite thing you've ever heard a heckler say about the Yankees or a Yankees player?
KEVIN: I dunno, if the "Ee-Wah-Mur-Ah" thing catches on here like it did in Japan, that'd be pretty cool. Are there even anti-Yankee chants? I'll just play it safe and go with "Yankees suck," though that's not really a chant. Nothing in particular comes to mind in the way of heckling, but anything The Heckler says is my favorite.
RJ: To be frank we really don’t have a ‘chant.’ My favorite anti-Yankee chant? Ditto, but maybe I can start the ‘2000’ chant?
MANNY: Don't know any Devil Rays chants... "Year 2000 clap, clap, clap clap clap" is always fun, or my personal favorite --
"Any Yankees fan born after 1920 is a bandwagon jumper" - Manny Stiles
The Yankees and Devil Rays are going to play 18 times this season. Off the top of your head, predict how the season series is going to wind up.
KEVIN: Yankees 10, Devil Rays 8
RJ: I’d love to say the Rays win the series, but I’ll go 8-10 Yankees.
MANNY: 18 wins for the Devil Rays, ZERO for the Yankees.
Well, thanks for the insights, guys! A few comments:
1) It looks like the Devil Rays need some lessons in chanting and heckling. Please, feel free to use the comments to share some pro-Rays chanting options, or perhaps share some of your favorite heckling concepts, for the education of our brothers in baseball down in Tampa.
2) Ask for Cantu to be driven out of the lineup, and Upton to replace him, and ta-da! the Devil Rays front office sends Cantu down to the minors. Very accommodating, those folks.
3) If gambling were legal, there'd be a pretty decent living to be made off of Manny Stiles...