Tampa Bay’s Addition of Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon Two More Reasons for Red Sox Nation to Dislike Rays

Tampa Bay's Addition of Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon Two More Reasons for Red Sox Nation to Dislike Rays I’m starting to dislike the Tampa Bay Rays again. And not for the obvious reason, the fact that Rays fans are walking around town right now in shorts.

Weather.com says the high in St. Petersburg will be 75 degrees on Friday. But it’s going to be mostly cloudy. Hope that cheers you up as you climb up on the roof to chisel down your ice dam.

This dislike is strictly baseball related. And it wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Rays were supposed to be a team that faded back into the lower echelon of the AL East, a team that saw its window of championship opportunity close with the exodus of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and the entire bullpen.

The Rays were the little team that could for the past three years, stunning the country with a World Series appearance in 2008 and becoming a perennial playoff contender. Reality was supposed to return to the Gulf Coast this season, with the Rays back to being a small-market team that couldn’t keep up with the big boys.

Instead, the Rays have made some interesting moves in recent weeks. First, they added payroll and a pair of veterans with championship pedigrees with the addition of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez

The two former members of Boston’s beloved "Idiots" immediately make the Rays more fun to watch, even if they are a long way from their baseball prime. 

Damon is a gamer, a guy who gives it everything he has even when playing injured. He’s 429 hits away from the magical 3,000-hit plateau, so three more productive seasons might be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame. He’s motivated, and is the kind of player you want your young studs to learn from.

That’s not quite the case with Manny. Ramirez said all the right things at Monday’s press conference, telling reporters "I already made my money. I’m here because I love the game. I love to compete." No one ever doubted Manny’s "compete level."

The question is whether or not that level stays dialed up for a full season. To start with, Manny is making 40 percent of Damon’s salary, and that is bound to bother Ramirez at some point in time. He may be the ultimate challenge to the Rays’ cerebral manager. Joe Maddon thought he had his hands full with B.J. Upton? That was strictly minor league compared to what he’s getting into now.

The Damon-Ramirez one-two punch was one thing, now Andrew Friedman (Rays executive vice president of baseball operations) has signed Felipe Lopez to a minor-league contract. Lopez, you may remember, finished the 2010 season in Boston -– his 12th baseball address in the last five years. 

The Sox signed Lopez for one reason only –- to get a supplemental pick when he signed as a free agent with another team this winter. Trouble is, he only signed a minor league deal with the Rays. That means the Sox get no supplemental pick. So, even if he never plays a game for Tampa Bay, Friedman has blocked the Sox from getting another high pick at this summer’s draft.

In other words, the Rays are still swinging away. Apparently they didn’t read the memo that the AL East race has passed them by. They think they’re still in this thing, and have the young rotation to keep them in the hunt.

They’ve got plenty of question marks in the bullpen (another former Sox player, Manny Delcarmen, is rumored to be on their radar screen) but they might not be as bad as we thought in 2011.

That, and the only precipitation in their forecast are a few showers over the weekend. It’s enough to make a Sox fan hate the Rays more than the Yankees.