The Tampa Bay Rays begin spring training this week. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are finalizing their coaching staff and getting ready for the April NFL Draft.
The similarities end there.
The Rays are the envy of every small market team in baseball and most of the big spenders.
The Bucs are, by consensus, the worst franchise in the NFL.
Some say it’s all about money. The Rays spend what little they have wisely. The Bucs spend as little as possible.
It can’t be that simple. Or is it?
The Rays believe there has to be strong leadership up front, and they have it with executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon.
The Bucs are owned by the Glazer family, which has so many things on its plate it doesn’t know which fork to pick up. They have a general manager in Mark Dominik, a butler of media tidings whose main function is to make everything smell like roses.
The Rays hired Joe Maddon to run their team. The Bucs chose the now-deposed Raheem Morris two years ago. Nothing more needs to be said about the competency of those making key decisions.
The Rays learn from their mistakes and have the second-best farm system in baseball.
The Bucs repeat the same mistakes, though they might look a little different.
Their new head coach, Greg Schiano, is older than Morris, but hasn’t stood on an NFL sideline in 11 years. He is a high risk for an organization that has a bad track record when it comes to taking gambles.
The Rays know where they are going with the best pitching staff in baseball and a lineup that is good enough to get them into the postseason.
The Rays took lefty Matt Moore in the eighth round of the 2007 draft and he is turning into a treasure. They locked him up with an eight-year contract, the first five of those years guaranteed at $14 million.
The Bucs paid linebacker Quincy Black $29 million for five years to miss all those tackles. In ’09, they made Kellen Winslow Jr. the highest paid tight end in the NFL.
Who would you want spending your money? Andrew Friedman or Mark Dominik?
The Bucs looked like organized chaos right through last week, when they hired Butch Davis to be their special assistant on yet-to-be-determined matters.
When Rays officials speak, you believe them.
When Bucs officials speak, you need a translator to decipher what was said.
When Davis held his press conference last week to announce his hiring, he admitted he wasn’t exactly sure what he would be doing.
Can you imagine Maddon telling us that?
Davis appears to be Schiano’s seeing-eye dog. A substantial portion of Schiano’s staff will be composed of guys who coached college last year.
“I am not going to be on the field,” Davis said. “I am not going to be in the meetings and actually teaching and coaching, those kind of things. As far as the actual go on the grass and those kinds of things, that is not my role.”
Okay, please tell us what you will be doing!
Davis said his duties are by choice and not because he would lose a good portion of the $2.7 million buyout he is owed by the University of North Carolina for firing him last summer if he coached again too soon.
He complimented Domink, who survived the purge of the old coaching regime despite his 17-31 record as a GM and is the person most responsible for assembling the current talent on the team.
The Bucs have a reported $67 million of cap room available, which is more than any other NFL team. Domink said they will be active in free agency. If they are and he can’t sign the right people, he will be in signing his own death warrant.
Can you imagine if the Rays had more money to spend than any team in Major League Baseball?
The Bucs’ staff additions make you nervous. They hired two former New York Giant assistant coaches as their coordinators for offense and defense.
If this was any other franchise, you might be okay with that. But it isn’t and you wonder if the Glazers and Dominik just want to mimic this year’s Super Bowl champs. The Bucs have unofficially offered assistant jobs to four former Rutgers coaches. That’s an awful lot of guys doing on-the-job NFL training.
In Maddon we trust.
In the Bucs we hope and pray.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.