This is a Behind Enemy Lines I’ve been threatening to do for years, and one that is very unlikely to ever be repeated. As a writer who is both an editor at Bless You Boys and a deputy site manager at DRaysBay, I’ve previously been tasked with the bizarre need to do same-day recaps for both teams. And so, I’ve often joked there would come a day that I would simply interview myself when it came time to do a Tigers/Rays Behind Enemy Lines. That moment has finally arrived.
We’ve actually had some fun with these in the past, whether interviewing my DRB site manager, or my personal favorite was when we looped the Rays’ Twitter account into doing BEL with us.
So anyway, onward with this slightly unorthodox Q&A.
BYB: Do you think the Rays are where you expected them to be in the AL East starting the season?
DRB: Yes and no. I think going into this season most Rays fans thought it was going to be a tall order to get that number one spot in the division again, especially considering all the work the Yankees and Blue Jays did to bolster their rosters. The AL East has been a consistently tricky division the last few years, but I don’t think anyone could have guessed where it would be today. Going into 2022 I assumed the Blue Jays were going to be the biggest competition for the Rays, but I certainly couldn’t have predicted what an absolute juggernaut the New York Yankees were going to be. Nor, do I think anyone could have predicted how lousy the Red Sox would be. The Sox tend to give the Rays a real run for their money year-to-year, and with Chaim Bloom in charge they have a good bit of insider knowledge, but man, they sure stink right now.
It’s still anyone’s guess how the season will shake out, there’s a lot of baseball left, but the Yankees certainly seem like an unstoppable force if they can stay healthy.
BYB: Have any players been a big surprise, either positively or negatively?
DRB: For the positive side of things, without question: Manuel Margot. There are so many players I could talk about here, like Wander Franco (but he wouldn’t be a surprise, I suppose), but Margot is really showing why the Rays decided to sign him to that two-year extension. Margot (which is also incidentally what I named my cat), has an absolutely insane .348 average in a league where the general average is hovering around, what, .230? That he’s hitting that well without the juiced ball is just wild. His wRC+ is 178. Absolute monster.
Negatively? Eh, no one really stands out as an absolute bust, though we’ve certainly seen some less-than-stellar bullpen performances, and the Rays are generally well-known for their pen. Possibly worth noting is Corey Kluber who I think we really hoped to see a hot comeback from, but has so far just been so-so.
BYB: How much is it hurting to not have Tyler Glasnow in the lineup this season?
DRB: I mean, the flowing hair, the sensational interview skills, the Cy Young caliber performance of last season before he was injured? Do we miss Glasnow? Abso-freaking-lutely. Glas is incredible, and his starts were always must-see TV. That said, I think the Rays have always managed to overcome setbacks, especially in terms of their pitching. This season’s real standout has to be Shane McClanahan who is quietly just a strikeout machine.
BYB: Given how everyone is currently playing, who do you imagine will be representing the Rays at the All-Star Game?
DRB: This one is so tricky because the Rays have notorious difficulty getting players elected via the vote. In a fair world, Manuel Margot and Wander Franco would be in very real consideration. Since it seems far more likely that a pitcher will get the nod I’d love to see either McClanahan or reliever J.P. Feyereisen and his incredible mustache get the nod. (In fairness, they aren’t even in the top 30 in most stats so I genuinely don’t know who will get to go). Anyway, the answer really should be Manuel Margot as of right now, but we shall see.
BYB: Which player should the Tigers be mindful of this series?
DRB: Shane McClanahan is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game, I don’t see that going well for the Tigers given their current run production woes.
BYB: Which Tigers player will be the biggest problem for the Rays?
DRB: My original answer to this was going to be Austin Meadows, because I was intrigued to see how he’d do against his old club, but I guess since he’s on the IL, for this go-round I’m going to say Miguel Cabrera. He knows Corey Kluber well and has seen great success against him with a career .362 average, and that was amassed during some of Kluber’s best years.
Many thanks to me for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’d like to read more of my NON-Tigers work, you can find it over at DRaysBay.