Change your name and your image will follow. It worked for Puffy or Puff Daddy or P. Diddy, why shouldn’t it work for a baseball team too?
From their inception, the baseball franchise in Tampa Bay has pretty much been the laughing stock of Major League Baseball. However, six weeks into the season the new-look Rays are in first place in their division and showing no signs of letting up.
Was it really all in the name?
To find the answer to this question, one must start at the beginning.
First of all, baseball is unlike any of the other three major sports, in that a draft pick takes a lot of time and commitment to develop before he can add value to the team.
Thus, when drafted, each baseball player has less immediate impact on his team than any other player in any other sport.
Given this factor alone, Tampa Bay has been able to turn losing season after losing season into excellent draft position year after year.
The Rays have in turn used these picks mainly on high-potential high school players—which often take even more time to develop than their counterparts out of college.
Players such as Carl Crawford and BJ Upton are just two offensive selections drafted out of high school by the Rays that have now come into their own as All-Star caliber players.
Mix that with capitalizing on key trades for more young, talented players such as Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and Dioner Navarro and eventually a pretty good team starts to shape up.
The last ingredient is in developing these players. Tampa Bay has done an incredible job in this area—as exemplified by current number-one starter and former 16th-round selection James Shields.
Perhaps the only team in the league better at developing young talent is the Arizona Diamondbacks, who hold the best record in the majors, and carry only two starters over the age of 27.
It also never hurts to know when to cut your losses on problematic players and so called ‘locker-room plagues’ like Delmon Young either.
As evidenced time and again in baseball, a team with great chemistry has just as much chance to win as a team with the highest payroll, and that is certainly what Tampa Bay has developed into—a team with great chemistry.
Up and down the lineup, Tampa Bay has that unique blend of veteran leadership and young, unpredictable talent.
Players like Evan Longoria, Edwin Jackson, and Andy Sonnanstine are playing carefree baseball, while gaining valuable locker-room wisdom from age-old vets like Troy Percival and Cliff Floyd.
Finally, add a few scrappy players like Akinori Iwamura, who has switched positions for the good of the team, and Dioner Navarro, who can capitalize on opportunities, and you have a team whose play has garnered the envy of even Hank Steinbrenner.
Not to mention—with more young pitchers like Wade Davis, Jacob McGee, and David Price on the horizon, the Rays look like a team just beginning to shine.
So, was it just a change in the name? Hardly.
Consider the new name a byproduct of the change in the organization and a glimpse of things to come.