Yesterday was one of the most memorable days, not just in Rays history, but also in baseball history. The Rays and Cards not just outduelled the Red Sox and Braves, they also did it in remarkable fashion. I've never felt so hyped watching baseball since the 2008 season ... it was awesome.
The most remarkable thing about the 3rd Rays playoff appearance in 4 years is the way they do it. They build from within. They have to do it that way in order to compete with the power houses of the AL East (which will not only be two but three in the near future with the very smart Blue Jays front office). And ... it's the right way. The Rays can't and won't compete on the open market. They can't and won't sign big-time free agents. They have to (and do) find some hidden gems every year. And, they have to (and do) develop their own talent.
In my introductory post on this site I mentioned that I mostly love the Rays out of two reasons. First, because I always like the underdog and second, because they do business the right way. And that is showing off right now. The Rays win despite losing tons of major league talent in Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, ... . And they do it by (mostly) replacing these players from within.
I know lots of people would have liked to see the likes of Desmond Jennings, David Price (in 2009) or Jeremy Hellickson (in 2010) being promoted earlier, but the Rays have to make sure that their up-coming prospects deliver from day one. They have to be READY when they hit the majors. The Rays normally are not able to lock up their major league talent for much more than the first 6-7 years (except for Shieldsie and Longo! ;-)) and that is why they have to make sure that the players they develop are ready from day one. I think that is a very smart plan which gives the Rays a chance to compete every year. Therefore, lets check out the following graph:
(Click at the image for a larger view)
The Rays have the 3rd best winning record in the AL since 2008 (only 1 win behind the Red Sox) and the most playoff appearances (with the Yankees). And that's especially remarkable as every year rookies played a very essential part in reaching those goals!
As you see above, talent development is key to the Rays success. And because the front office knows and lives that, I love the Rays. I love blogging about their prospects as they are key to the (future) organizational success. That's also the reason why I have been a bit disappointed with this years' draft class as talent acquisition is also key to the organizations success. That's also the reason why I check the minor league box scores of every affiliation every day.
Summarizingly said, I love to watch people at work when they know what they are doing. (Side note: And I also feel that way watching Guy Boucher and Steve Yzerman as well as Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris work ... great time to be a Tampa fan!). I trust the process as it has brought us the likes of Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, Jeremy Hellickson, David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, ... via draft and the likes of Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano, Casey Kotchman, Joel Peralta, Grant Balfour, Carlos Pena, Dan Johnson, ... via trade or free agency.