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Mental makeup matters for the Rays

Jun 2, 2013, 2:30 PM EST

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There’s no database that quantifies which team has the most knuckleheads on it. Anecdotally, however, it kinda feels like the Rays do. They’ve had a number of high-profile bad citizens — and worse — over the years. Josh Sale, Matt Bush, Toe Nash, imports like Josh Lueke and Yunel Escobar and many others have had bad character and sometimes criminal moments either with the Rays or before they got there. It’s enough to lead one to conclude that, when you’re trying to squeeze that extra 2% out of limited resources, things like preferring standup guys have to go by the wayside.

But the Rays say it’s not so. Marc Topkin talks to Rays officials as they approach the draft and they all note that, while predicting who is going to be a jerk and who isn’t is tough business, it’s business they take seriously:

“It’s something that is very important in our process,” Friedman said. “We talk about it a lot. We try to break up onfield makeup and off-the-field makeup … It’s something that is critical to how we’ve done things in the past and will continue to be.”

Maybe they’ve just had some bad luck. Maybe we’re just cherry picking the Rays’ character lapses and not noticing them as much on other teams.  But at least their front office is aware of it.

  1. tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    You can’t list named and ignore Elijah Dukes.

    And really, Josh Hamilton was quite a jerk (at least from a squandering-your-chance and selfishly screwing over the team standpoint) before getting a handle on his life.

  2. beefytrout - Jun 2, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Wow… Toe Nash is a name I’ve haven’t heard in a long time.

  3. indaburg - Jun 2, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    You’re trolling me, aren’t you, Craig? It’s exactly what you said about squeezing the 2%. They can’t be particularly. As the old saying goes, beggars can’t be choosy, sadly. I wish they could all be of Mariano Rivera integrity and ability, but that doesn’t come cheap. There are some good guys on the team too. Evan Longoria does a lot locally for charity, including my favorite local pet rescue, Pet Pal Animal Rescue (http://www.petpalanimalshelter.com/we-love-evan-longoria-2/). Price does a lot too. Zobrist is a veritable boy scout whose career choices were preacher or baseball player. He chose wisely, and also does a lot locally. Sam Fuld does a great deal for Juvenile Diabetes. When BJ was here, he worked a lot with the inner city kids to get them involved with baseball. Then there is Joe Maddon himself, who started HIP–the Hazleton Integration Project (http://www.hazletonintegrationproject.com/), a project to help integrate Dominican immigrants to his Polish, Italian, and Irish and less than welcoming hometown in Pennsylvania. He also does a lot locally in Tampa Bay, primarily with the homeless, but he also helps out animal rescue. (I wonder if the Rays have an opening for a PR agent…oh wait, I can’t bullshit.) So yeah, there are some bad characters, but they have some good guys too. I try to focus on them because otherwise, I would find rooting for this team unbearable.

    • indaburg - Jun 2, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      I’ve no idea why that came out in blockquote. I’ve been having wordpress issues today.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:59 PM

      Tampa has an “inner city”? What is that the part without palm trees and Stephen King-ish rusted-out old Disney statues abandoned outside of liquor stores and Chuck E. Cheeses?

      • tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:36 PM

        There are plenty of rough areas in Tampa. Orlando too.

        My wife dragged me to The Lion King right by The Amway Center (Jesus Christ that thing was like 3 hours long and at intermission I was like “Oh thank god it’s over…..nope)….

        And not a block from there we came to a dead stop because the car in front of us was trying to pick up some crackhead hooker….no other cars around, so it was easy enough to go around….

        But yeah, there are rough areas in every urban area. The parts surrounding Tropicana Field are pretty bad, and even walking up to the St. Pete Times Forum you see bums sleeping in the doorways of abandoned (or in the process-of-being-reconditioned) buildings.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:39 PM

        I think of rough neighborhoods and inner cities as different things. We have the first where I live, but I don’t think anyone would say we have the second. I was just being funny anyway. You don’t think of urban decay when you think “Tampa.” (Whether or not that’s the reality.)

      • tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:54 PM

        I would say any city that has “projects” qualifies as having an inner-city.

        Tampa has projects.

        And I assumed you were joking. But it actually is a problem in pretty much any big city in the country.

        Hell, I live in a city of about 250,000 people and even we have an area of public-subsidized apartments that, when larger in scale would qualify as projects.

      • indaburg - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:16 PM

        St. Petersburg has a pretty rough ghetto in its shadow. During the daytime, parts of it are actually quite beautiful in spite of the abject poverty, with its palm trees and brightly colored houses. They’re older homes, so they don’t have that cookie cutter look. They have character. It’s near the water, so you get the gorgeous Tampa Bay view. But there’s a lot of poverty and drugs. Too many single babies having babies. When I lived in Kenwood in downtown St. Pete (great neighborhood walking distance to said ghetto, full of 1920s Craftsman bungalows), you could hear the bullets at night in the distance. It reminded me of being back in the Bronx. BJ volunteered to bring those kids to our great game. We only hear about the bad guys though.

      • indaburg - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:23 PM

        I knew you were kidding. (And the Rays don’t play in Tampa–they play in St. Pete. :-P)

  4. randygnyc - Jun 2, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Whatever they’re doing is not working. Unless they think rape is a culture they endorse.

  5. mazblast - Jun 2, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Craig, every team has some character issues, even your beloved Braves (Escobar, Otis Nixon). Some more than others, some more publicly than others. Sometimes it just runs in streaks. Some have them because they’re having to take guys with known character issues, as the Rays may have done, and others because their players are BMOCs who think they can do any darned thing and get away with it, such as the Yankees of the last 90 years or the mid-80s Mets.

    I’m not saying the Rays are innocent of possibly intentionally overlooking character issues in the past, but their track record does seem to have improved lately. Perhaps experiencing some success can lead to tightening formerly loose standards.

    • tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:11 PM

      In 2011 they traded for a guy (named above) who anally raped a chick who was passed out.

      Even though he wasn’t convicted of that specific charge (because he accepted a deal for a lesser charge), “A report from the Kern County Crime Lab states, “Josh Lueke matches this DNA” from the anal swab, tank top strap and hair of the alleged victim.”

      That’s not a “character issue.”

      • thebadguyswon - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:24 PM

        Josh Lueke is a piece of crap. No team should employ him and the fact that the Rays do is beyond pathetic. Screw them.

  6. raysfan1 - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    First, there’s a big difference between being a jerk and being a criminal. Escober’s “Tu eres” eye black stunt, for example, was stupid but no worse than what some commenters have put on various NBC sports blogs (especially the football blogs comment sections). Sale’s recent comments make him look like a spoiled, not-bright, immature punk, but he is still young and hopefully will mature and learn. As for the criminals, Bush, Nash, and Dukes all ruined whatever potential they had as minor leaguers. Thankfully for his sake, Hamilton has been able to overcome his personal demons. I agree with the other commenter who stated every team has had these issues.

    That leaves Lueke; agree or disagree with his sentence, he served it. The Rays are also not the first team to sign him since his crime. I have sympathy with the idea that he forfeited his privilege of representing MLB, but he was not in fact banned. I’d rather he weren’t on my favorite team, so like indaburg, I concentrate on all the good citizens on the team instead. I also presume he’s been told that one instance of bad behavior and he’s done–at least I hope so.

    • tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:01 PM

      The Rays didn’t just sign him though.

      They traded for him. They gave up something of value, in addition to his salary, in order to acquire him.

      And not only should he be banned from baseball, he should be banned from society and living in a run down trailer in sexual-predator neighborhood like most people who behave how he behaved and don’t have the luxury of having a good lawyer and a budding career (that certain people who lack morals will happily pay him to continue) and to have committed their crime in a state that can’t house the criminals they are already housing let alone additional ones.

      There are some crimes where a debt can’t be “repaid.” And he didn’t serve his sentenced. He served A sentenced. Not one fitting his behavior (and no one, save for other rapists, would disagree with that).

      • raysfan1 - Jun 2, 2013 at 9:01 PM

        We ain’t arguing, other than he semantics of how you want to describe his sentence; and I think he got off light as well. I’m a Rays fan in spite of Lueke.

    • thebadguyswon - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:07 PM

      Just the fact that they would employ a guy that did that is disgusting. I mean there’s being cheap and there’s being cheap to a fault and that’s exactly what that is. Josh Lueke is a rapist and they evidently felt he was a piece they wanted to acquire in a trade.

      I would counter the Rays fans by saying I don’t think Andrew Friedman gives a wit about character. He wants cheap talent wherever he can get it.

    • indaburg - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:30 PM

      I disagree about Sale. It wasn’t just his comment, it was his actions. I do not care that he went to a strip club. I have no issue with that whatsoever; he is an adult. It was what he did at the club by his own admission. He threw quarters at the young woman, hitting her with them. He brought the girl to tears. He then proceeded to brag about doing that to a “hoe” (sic) on a public forum. That’s more than just making stupid comments. I was pleased that the Rays suspended him indefinitely and sent him home. Hopefully the time away will make him realize that playing baseball is a privilege and not a right, and he will grow from this experience. At the same time, he is establishing a trend of stupid behavior. First, he was suspended for crystal meth, so he didn’t learn from that. And now this? I’m not too hopeful. If he wasn’t a first round pick, he would be gone.

      • raysfan1 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:54 PM

        You’re right, I should have mentioned his actions as well as statements. I also agree with the suspension. Just meant that his actions and statements are still short of what others have done and that he still has a chance to grow up and to learn. If he fails to do so with whatever second chance he may be offered, I will have no sympathy for him.

      • tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:56 PM

        I was offended by the fact that he took a Daniel Tosh joke and thought it’d be funny to actually do it and then brag about it.

        He should think more about imitating Richard Jeni.

  7. onermedboxer - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    You’re making the Tampa Bay Rays sound like the Detroit Lions or something

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