The A’s have had their fair share of history against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Due to the change in scheduling and the geographic locations of the two teams, they didn't play each other during the regular season this year. Now, the Rays find themselves in Arlington, Tex. playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series beginning Tuesday.
The A’s, just like the rest of us, will watch from home, but they might (or not) be realizing how that could be them playing on the big stage instead of Tampa Bay.
There’s a lot the A’s can learn from the Rays as they begin the Fall Classic.
More money, more problems
Starting with money: The two don’t have a ton of it.
- A’s 2020 payroll: $35,283,875
- Rays 2020 payroll: $23,621,315
If you’re fans of these organizations, the lack of monetary value shouldn’t surprise you, but the Rays made it to the damn World Series with the 28th lowest payroll in the game.
So, it can be done despite the lack of deep pockets.
Just like A’s, the Rays emphasize infield versatility. Tampa Bay infielder Mike Brosseau learned every infield position, as well as left field, during his time in the minors. He played three infield positions during the AL Wild Card Game win over the A’s last season.
Each year, the A’s are spoiled with positional flexibility. This season, that was put on display with two-time Platinum Glove Award winner Matt Chapman having season-ending surgery.
The A’s acquired infielder Tommy La Stella from the Los Angeles Angels around the trade deadline. He was unbelievable, striking out just 12 times overall during the regular season. While he was acquired to be a left-handed bat at second base, he also played multiple positions. He even could have played outfield if needed.
And Chad Pinder. Man, you put that guy literally anywhere, and he delivers. I have yet to see him pitch or catch, but I’m sure he would do just fine in those positions as well.
Rays infielder Joey Wendle is starting Game 1 of the World Series at third base, but he also is able to play all over the diamond.
Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker straight up compared Wendle to third base legend Brooks Robinson.
You know who else has been compared to Robinson? Matt Chapman.
Well, A’s catching great Ray Fosse said Chapman might even be better than Robinson. Talk about a compliment.
The aggressive behaviors alone between Chappy and Robinson are parallel. And they both have the ability to snag everything and finish off any play.
Either way, that’s some great company to be associated with.
Strong bullpen, strong results
Only two other teams’ bullpens had a better ERA in 2020 than the Rays (3.37) last season: The Los Angeles Dodgers (2.74) and the A’s (2.72). All of which are pretty nasty.
The Rays have a strong trio in Peter Fairbanks, Diego Castillo and Nick Anderson. They very much are part of the success that sent the Rays to the World Series.
That shows having a strong bullpen can do exceptional things.
Ryan Thompson almost is Yusmeiro Petit-esque as he's able to come through in clutch situation with runners on base and constantly proves himself as a dependable arm out of the bullpen. You add guys like Liam Hendriks, who had a 1.78 ERA and Jake Diekman, who gave up one run in 2020 … c’mon.
What the Rays have that the A’s lack is strong starting pitching.
A’s need stronger starters
The Rays have Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton as their prominent guys in the rotation.
The A’s have … Chris Bassitt. He went from hoping to make the A's starting rotation heading into the 2020 season to being their most dependable starter. His ability to shave off a ton of velocity from his fastball with a slow curveball helped lead to a 2.29 ERA.
Rookie Jesús Luzardo didn’t give us the season we, or he, wanted but there’s a lot to be desired.
Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas also were touted to be strong in the A’s pitching staff, but that didn’t work out as well as anticipated.
The A's certainly need to add to their starting rotation, and can look to upgrade in free agency. They went into 2020 with a promising rotation, but came up short when needed most.
Being fun still can get you championships
The Rays were able to maintain their core with surprising at-bats … and don’t even get me started on Ji-Man Choi -- what a delight.
These two teams know how to have fun.
Ramón Laureano being mic'd up during the AL Wild Card Series, while stressful, was a blast. Dropping an "F-bomb" and everything made it a little more real.
It does, however, go to show that you don’t have to be the most expensive or flashy team to make it to the World Series. And yes, this team would have been successful outside of a weird 60-game season.