• Archive:  
Updated: April 20, 2010, 2:23 AM ET

Rays should forget tomorrow, win today

Kruk By John Kruk
After sweeping the Boston Red Sox, things are clicking on all cylinders for the Tampa Bay Rays, who are 10-3 overall and 7-0 on the road. Their recipe for success has been a mix of great defense, running and pitching.

It's pretty clear what the Rays know how to do -- and that's pitch. Matt Garza is off to arguably the best start of any pitcher in baseball. He's 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA. David Price, who takes the mound Tuesday against the White Sox, seems to have completely turned the corner with two impressive outings and two wins in his first two starts of the year. Add Jeff Niemann and James Shields to the mix, and you've got one of the best young starting rotations in the league. And now Tampa Bay finally has a complete pitching staff with the addition of closer Rafael Soriano.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Pena & Evan Longoria
AP Photo/Michael DwyerWorry about the future later. The Rays should try to win it all now.
Offensively, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton add speed, while two guys in the middle of the lineup, Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena, can change the game with one swing of the bat.

I love what the Rays bring to the table, but the only issue is that their front office will soon have the toughest decision of any front office in baseball. It's no secret that Tampa Bay is a small-market team with a small payroll ($68.2 million, which is 22nd in baseball). The Rays have a great team. Not a good team, a great team. But are they contenders or pretenders? Crawford and Pena are free agents this year, so if the front office believes the Rays can win with those guys, they're going to keep them. If the front office thinks there's a chance the Rays won't, then it will get rid of them.

There's no pressure on the Red Sox, Yankees or Tampa Bay's players -- the pressure is on the front office. What are they going to do? Let's say it comes close to the trade deadline and they are either a game or two up, or a game or two behind whoever is in first. What do you do then? Do you ride it out and say, 'Hey we can win with these guys.' Or do you throw your season away by trading Crawford and Pena?

The Rays have a lot to play for. They play because they want to win for the organization and themselves, but they are also playing for Crawford and Pena because they love them. That's a lot of pressure to put on a young team, and it has responded well so far.

As a former player, it's hard to understand the concept of preparing for the future. Players are taught that today is the most important day. If Tampa Bay trades them, they are sending the wrong message to the team.

If the Rays are 15 games out near the trade deadline, well, then you know what they're going to do. Do you risk three or four years of futility because you have to wait for the draft picks you're getting for Pena and Crawford? If I was GM, I would look around and say, "Hey we can do this." Too many teams prepare for the future and nobody knows what the future holds. Tampa Bay needs to say, "The heck with 2011 and 2012, we're going for this thing today!"

If Tampa Bay doesn't win this year and it gets draft picks and they aren't good for three or four years, it will have a hard time keeping up with Boston and the Yankees, who always are going to reload. The Rays have an opportunity to win their division and make a push for the World Series, so they better take it.

John Kruk is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."

Baseball Tonight Live

Baseball Tonight analysts, ESPN.com writers and SweetSpot Network bloggers chatted and gave their in-game opinions of all the day's games -- all in Baseball Tonight Live.

Touch 'Em All

Who went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page. For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?