Gut check time in Tampa Bay

When I made my predictions for the 2012 season, I marked Evan Longoria as the American League MVP.

My reasons?
I felt the Rays were going to win the Division because of their pitching and Longoria was probably going to be their offensive star. And using the “Who is the best hitter on a Division Winner?” logic, Longoria would take the prize.

And as predicted, the Rays solid starting pitching and new closer Fernando Rodney has shot Tampa Bay to the top of the standings. And Longoria with his 19 RBI and .994 OPS has been the offensive star.

 Well, now Longoria is going to miss 1 or 2 months because of a hamstring injury. His replacement Elliot Johnson drove in the winning run the other day and the Rays won again tonight. But they aren’t going to be playing the Mariners for the rest of the season.

They have a Yankee series coming up and as I wrote earlier, the games between the Yankees and Rays are all important. If they were important in April then they are meaningful in May as well.

A slumping Rays team and some head to head wins could be exactly what the Yankees and their bad rotation but good bullpen could need to pull ahead. (Sorry Baltimore and Toronto, I will think of you as contenders when I see it.)

Someone needs to step up for the Rays in the lineup and in the infield.

B. J. Upton has been starting to hit the ball. It would help the team if he finally blossomed into the MVP candidate he is supposed to be.

Hideki Matsui could return and give the team a spark.

Instead of banking on former Yankee heroes (isn’t that the Yankee strategy?) it would be nice for Tampa if former Number 1 pick over all, Tim Beckham, would be ready finally for his close up in the big leagues and maybe give the team a spark at shortstop.

Instead he’s slumping at Triple A Durham and, oh yeah, is suspended 50 games for a failed drug test. (What is it with Tampa’s former #1 picks overall and drug problems?)

So the Rays need to show resolve.
They have more problems with Longoria than tracking down who stole his hat.

If they can weather this, then Joe Maddon IS the best manager in baseball.

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