Rays Look For Silver Lining As Yankees Parade Another Trophy
St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Today's Yankees championship parade runs almost a mile through the Canyon of Heroes, from Battery Park to City Hall.
But how long will it really last?
For all the reasons having the Yankees on top again is good for baseball, excuse the Rays and other teams that now have to try to dethrone them for not necessarily seeing it that way.
"Order," Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg observed Thursday, "has been restored to the baseball universe."
When the Yankees missed the playoffs last season - a direct result of the Rays making it - they reacted the way only the Yankees can, with a free-agent frenzy costing them more than $420 million that restructured the team for this season and years to come.
That it worked this year doesn't help.
"In the current structure," Sternberg said, "nothing makes our life easier."
Certainly, the Rays aren't going to respond the same way. They plan to make only minor moves as they operate with a payroll in the $60 million range, about 30 percent of what the Yankees spend.
"With respect to our roster-building, we can't concern ourselves with what the Yankees or Red Sox do," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "We must continue to be keenly aware of what our limitations are and operate within those parameters to put the best team on the field.
"Each market has its own unique challenges, which is why our philosophy is so introspective."
So what impact does the Yankees' championship actually have on the Rays?
It could be good for the Rays if the Yankees get spoiled by success.
The Yankees invested a lot of money in winning this season but also a lot of emotion. They were motivated to capture another championship for ailing owner George Steinbrenner, to quell the criticism of manager Joe Girardi, and, for players individually, to prove they were worth the money (CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett) and hassle (Alex Rodriguez, Joba Chamberlain).
But it could be bad for the Rays if the Yankees decide it was such a great time - "I forgot how good this feels," captain Derek Jeter said - that they really want to do it again, and come to Tampa for spring training just as driven and motivated.
It could be good because with a payroll in excess of $200 million and the core of their team locked in for years, there isn't much the Yankees can do to get better. General manager Brian Cashman is determined to make the team younger, so it's possible they'll just try to fill their holes with younger players or midrange free agents.
But it could be bad because the Yankees need to address some areas - like maybe having a fourth starter they actually trust - and there's no way they're going to defend a title without being satisfied they're equipped.
It could be good because the other big-bucks AL teams, such as the Red Sox, Angels and Tigers, are going to spend even more to improve their rosters in an effort to find a way to take down the Yankees.
But it could be bad because the Rays also have to play those teams, too.
It could be good if the Yankees let success cloud their decisions.
For example, the speculation has been that they were likely to dump either leftfielder Johnny Damon or designated hitter Hideki Matsui in an effort to get younger and free up some DH at-bats for catcher Jorge Posada and Jeter. It makes sense, but with Damon having a good overall postseason and Matsui winning the World Series MVP award, it may be much tougher for them to say goodbye. Dumping Matsui - even though it might be the right move from a baseball standpoint since he's 35 and has creaky knees - at this point would be an international incident.
But it could be bad because Cashman is smart, and they could offset whatever hits they take for ditching two fan favorites by acquiring a big-time leftfielder such as Matt Holliday or Jason Bay (or, down the road, Carl Crawford).
Fans at the Trop
It could be bad because Yankees fans, who typically aren't shy, quiet or polite to begin with, are going to be more obnoxious than ever.
The vicarious Tampa ones who claim the team as their own are going to treat spring training like their October, and amazingly, they will find their way over the bridge in greater numbers when the Yankees are in town.
But it could be good because at least there will be a crowd at the Trop. And the Rays' new ticket structure just happened to put an additional premium on Yankees games.
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