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Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Time for Rays to turn a few pages

— The worst team in baseball.

That’s them.

It doesn’t matter how they got here, how startling it is.

The worst team in baseball.

“I don’t blame them for saying that. That’s exactly right,” Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said after Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Mariners at the Tropicana Field, another blanking.

“We’ve earned that. We’ve absolutely earned that title right now. I don’t believe that we are, but we have absolutely earned that right to be considered that. Do I believe we’re going to get better? Absolutely. Do I believe we can turn it around? Absolutely. But for right now, if you’re a baseball fan and you’re watching us, and you look at everything, you have to consider us the worst team right now.”

The Rays have lost 13 of 14 games. They’re 24-41. They own the worst record in the big leagues for the sixth consecutive day. They’re on a 102-loss pace. I’m not even sure the Cubs are looking over their shoulders anymore. The Astros? They’ll have to guard against overconfidence when the teams meet this weekend in Houston. First, the Cardinals are here tonight and Wednesday for their two pounds of flesh. Maybe the idea of that will fire up this lifeless bunch.

The worst team in baseball.

Where’s the heart?

There have been injuries, pitching injuries, but it’s been compounded by a batting order that, very nearly to a man, is being lousy at the very same time. I’m sure this wasn’t anywhere in any Rays preseason metrics — this wasn’t possible, to be that bad, everyone, all at once. This franchise even stepped outside its business model, spent a little more, to finance this now bankrupt campaign.

It’s time to turn a few pages.

Time to clean what house can be cleaned.

In the name of humanity, send Logan Forsythe away, today.

The Rays tried the just as obvious Monday, stripping Grant Balfour of his closer role, Balfour on the Barbie after he blew another appearance Sunday. It will be bullpen by committee for the foreseeable future in a season that has none. Understand, there are any number of Rays you could remove from their current roles, demote to the minors even, only the farm system wouldn’t support it. The Rays would be clown princes at that point.

The Rays also tried the not so obvious Monday, the extremely not so obvious. Maddon reached into his well-worn Up With People bag of tricks and produced a … medicine man. That’s right, a real, live Seminole tribe medicine man, whose business reportedly reads “Rainmaker.”

It rained all right, over the Trop and seemingly only over the Trop, at least the weather radar showed that soon after Price’s first pitch. Spooky.

Under the big top, the drought rolled on.

... Darn it, Joe, I’m a rainmaker, not a runmaker.

After wasting Chris Archer’s excellence Sunday, Rays bats ignored David Price’s 10 strikeouts. Price has 111 strikeouts this season against only 10 walks — and he’s 4-6.

The Rays, even the playoff Rays, were never an offensive juggernaut. But this is still another dimension. Getting shut down by King Felix Hernandez on Sunday is one thing, but Monday the Rays couldn’t crack Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez, who came in 1-4 with a 6.82 ERA. Anyone can be king for a day against this lineup.

Everything could — and should — be on the table right now.

It’s not the Rays model to fire or trade guys in the middle of seasons, but this season wasn’t in any of the models, either.

Yes, this team has a lot of guys locked up and maybe figures it can weather this. But as this misery goes on, how do you not listen as sonar pings reach you on the ocean floor about interest in guys like Price or Ben Zobrist? The Rays have to listen, maybe even deal. It’s that kind of season and it shows no signs of letting up.

“I’m not making excuses for anybody,” Maddon said. “Right now, we are the worst team. I don’t anticipate to remain the worst team. But right now if people want to say that, I don’t blame them.”

When it rains, it pours.

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