Rays on Baseball America's annual Best Tools poll of AL Managers - Maddon voted 3rd best Manager - Are they Nuts?

By Curtis Stelzer

First Things First: How great would the races be right now if Major League Baseball would adopt a 2nd Wildcard for each League?  The Rays would be leading the Angels 1 1/2 games for the final Wildcard spot.  The Cleveland Indians and the Blue Jays would only be 3 back.  What a race that would be – plus – it would boost attendance in most of those cities as well.

Baseball America released its annual Best Tools poll voted on by all American League Managers and, not surprisingly, there are more than just a couple Tampa Bay Rays players on that list.  Baseball America gives the Top 3 for tons of different categories and unfortunately for the Rays former Tampa Bay players Jose Bautista (3B, OF for the Toronto Blue Jays) and Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton are both in the top 3 for Best Power and most exciting player.  Can you imagine how good Tampa would be with this pitching staff if you had to go through a 3-4-5 of Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton & Evan Longoria – and Desmond Jennings sparking the top of the lineup…I would say the Rays would be in a 3 way race for the AL East title.

Rays Starting Pitcher James Shields was voted to have the best changeup and the 2nd best pickoff move in the AL.

Rays Closer Kyle Farnsworth was voted the 2nd best reliever behind future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees.  I am going to assume this list is only for 2011 and not based on a career…have the AL Managers not seen how inconsistent Farnsworth has been in his career.

Casey Kotchman is the 3rd best defensive 1st Baseman behind Yanks Mark Teixeira and Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez.

Rays 3rd Baseman Evan Longoria was voted the 2nd best defensive player at the hot corner.  Rangers Adrian Beltre topped the list.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon was voted 3rd best skipper in the AL behind LA Angels Mike Scioscia & Minnesota Twins’ Ron Gardenhire.  3rd???  FYI AL Managers – the Rays have a better record than both the Angels and the Twins.  Let’s see…the Angels have the 4th highest payroll in Major League Baseball at $138Million+ and the Twins have the 9th highest payroll in baseball at $112M+.  The Rays payroll??  $41 Million!!!  The Angels payroll is more than 3 times the amount of the Rays and the Twins are approaching the same thing.  I’m just sayin!

At the time of the vote…here is the vote for a couple of the Rays Minor Leaguers…

OF Desmond Jennings, most exciting player in Triple A

LHP Matt Moore, best pitching prospect in AA

SS Hak-Ju Lee, most exciting player in advanced single A

Rays fans, the future is more than bright for this ball club and if the organization is going to keep the payroll around $50 Million or less – Tampa really needs to a) push for that 2nd Wildcard b) keep spitting out talent from the minors like its nothing!

Curtis Stelzer is the featured Tampa Bay Rays columnist for RantSports.com. For daily updates, follow him on Twitter @Stelzy and join the fan page on Rant Sports MLB – Tampa Bay Rays



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