Tampa Bay Rays fans have been through this before

Well, we know there will not be any controversies surrounding Blake Snell's time on the mound in a playoff game for Tampa Bay during the 2021 season. In the 2020 postseason, Snell and Charlie Morton started 10 of the Rays' 20 playoff games including three of six in the World Series.

Now both are gone from the Rays. But this team has been here before.

This organization, which does more with less than any big league club, is at it again. They had both pitchers under contract for the 2021 season at a combined $25.5 million, but both were not retained. Morton had a $15 million option on his contract and the Rays did not pick that up, making him a free agent. He signed a one-year deal for $15 million with Atlanta. And then Sunday night, Snell was traded to San Diego for four players.

The Rays get a nice package in return for Snell, who had three more years to go on his deal and was owed $39 million. Sportrac lists Snell's salary for 2021 at $11.1 million and 29 starting pitchers will earn more. But the low-attendance, low-revenue Rays have traded another quality player and this has certainly become the M.O. for this organization. They can't afford their good players.

The Rays got 21-year-old righty Luis Patino to headline their return for Snell. He is ranked as the Padres' No. 3 prospect in a very deep farm system and is rated No. 16 in its top 100 by Baseball America and No. 23 by MLBPipeline.com. Tampa Bay also got catcher Francisco Mejia, a former top 100 prospect once ranked No. 11 by MLB.com. They got right-hander Cole Wilcox, San Diego's No. 9 prospect and a third-round pick out of Georgia in the 2020 draft. He dropped in the draft due to signability. San Diego got him for $3.3 million - a record for that round and what amounts to first-round money. That also get catcher Blake Hunt, San Diego's No. 10 prospect.

That is a nice haul for Snell, it seems to me.

If Patino alone reaches his potential, this will be a nice deal for the Rays. If Wilcox also hits his ceiling, this could become a great trade for Tampa, even before they get anything out of the two catchers. But these are ifs and Snell was proven. He won the 2018 American League Cy Young Award and went 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA last summer. He was pulled early in Game 6 of the World Series, which Tampa Bay lost. The Rays were two wins shy of winning their first World Series.

That close to winning it all and a year after they won the AL East by seven games (in a 60-game year), the Rays let two key members of the rotation leave the club. Meanwhile center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, due to earn $11.7 million in 2021, could be next to be dealt.

If some Orioles fans get frustrated when the club trades Dylan Bundy, Jonathan Villar, Richard Bleier, José Iglesias and others while rebuilding, how must Rays fans feel today?

Maybe they are simply used to it and realized that Snell would never finish out his current contract there. They've previously seen their club trade other pitchers like Chris Archer, David Price and James Shields.

But the Rays somehow have made this work before. Around the AL East, we're used to seeing them make moves exactly like this. It must be lather, rinse, repeat for Rays fans.

But when a club was that close to winning the World Series, seeing team management move top talent for future assets can't be easy for its fans to watch.

Baseballs-at-Camden-Yards-Workout-Sidebar.jpgLosing two giants in the industry: Former Orioles public relations director Bob Brown died Monday morning. He was 89. He served the club as PR director, traveling secretary and publications director from 1959 to 1992.

In a role that was behind the scenes as it relates to fans, many in Birdland may not realize how significant he was to the franchise. His impact, based on what I saw, learned and observed about him, was enormous.

When the Orioles were known as one of the best teams in baseball, they also had a great reputation for the work their public relations team did off the field - all led by Brown.

I didn't know him well, but I can vaguely remember those early years in my career in the early and mid-1980s when he showed kindnesses to a young kid that probably didn't have a clue what he was doing.

For years, the O's had Brown and John Blake, now with the Texas Rangers, heading up their PR efforts. For their world, it was the equivalent of a team having All-Stars batting third and fourth. They were a spectacular team and the O's lost someone very important to their family Monday.

RIP, Mr. Brown.

Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro died Saturday night after a long battle with cancer. He was 81. Throwing his trademark knuckleball, Niekro pitched until he was 48. On Major League Baseball's all-time lists, he ranks fourth in innings (5,404), 11th in strikeouts (3,342) and 16th in wins (318).

He threw 245 career complete games, with 104 coming after he turned 40. Amazing.

After his playing career, Niekro got some attention when he managed the all-women Colorado Silver Bullets baseball team. But before that, he was the manager of the Triple-A Richmond Braves in 1991. You won't even see this mentioned on Wikipedia, but I know it happened. I was there as one of the two radio broadcasters for the Braves.

My memory is not the greatest from those days, but Niekro was just always a class act. I remember two things that happened often. One was that he would often note how a pitcher could help his team without ever throwing a pitch. He could field well, hold runners. study opposing hitters well, take care of himself with proper exercise and nutrition. He could learn to bunt better, Niekro would remind us. Niekro made this point often and it left a lasting impression.

The other thing he did was just to be funny with us. Before pre-taping each manager's show for the broadcast we would do a 3-2-1 countdown to cue up the tape for broadcast. Most nights, after one of us doing the games did the countdown, he followed with his own 3-2-1. All right, Knucksie, we get it. We would start over and he would do it over, too. This was a running comendy routine that played out all year. He just got a kick out of doing it, and who were we to argue?

Also it took me about half the season to call him Knucksie. It just didn't feel right, but I also didn't want to remain the only one in the ballpark calling him Phil. We've lost another Hall of Famer and this time one I got to work with.

RIP, Knucksie.

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