If Stu Sternberg is watching the playoffs, hopefully he is seeing the San Francisco Giants and what happens when a team that really wants to win, makes moves to increase its chances of doing so.
The Giants had a lot of pieces in place, especially the unbelieveable rookie Buster Posey, but you can't help but notice the impact of the new guys, Cody Ross and, to a lesser extent, Pat Burrell. That's not to say the Rays should have kept Burrell. He is clearly a National League player and just didn't fit with the Rays.
And the Giants didn't even necessarily want Ross. They just wanted to keep the sliding San Diego Padres from getting him.
The point is, they did something when the season was winding down and it's worked out phenomenally for them. The Rays, though they promised to go all out, let the team stay as is when everyone knew the bats were lacking. And what happened when the playofffs came? They couldn't score runs. Joe Maddon can take some of the brunt for that for some questionable lineup decisions (See: Shoppach, Kelly). But again, the Giants loaded up when they didn't necessarily need to. Ross and Burrell have sparked the lineup. And that's the one thing the Rays needed. The Giants were aggressive. The Rays needed to be and weren't.
Burrell was acquired on the cheap after the Rays sent him packing. He was a low-risk investment but had a lot more on his resume than Brad Hawpe, the Rays' own low-risk investment. Signings don't always work out. For every Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit, there's a Pat Burrell and Brad Hawpe. Hawpe hardly got a chance to show what he could do, appearing in 15 games before he was shown the door at the end of the regular season. Maybe the mistake was in thinking a National League hitter could be productive in not only the American League, but the best division in it.
The Giants had an overstock of outfielders and it was fine with them. They did whatever thought it took to win and in this case it was sneaky waiver dealings and being on the lookout for an opportunity.
It's not all doom and gloom for the Rays next season. If they deal James Shields to insert Jeremy Hellickson into the rotation, the pitching could be even stronger. And although Rafael Soriano and Carl Crawford are as good as gone, J.P. Howell could be a good enough closer and Desmond Jennings could be a good enough outfielder.
Even though this season was the one to go all out, there's a good chance the Rays could be on the cusp of the playoffs as the season winds down next year.
Maybe by then, Sternberg will have learned what it really means to aggressively pursue winning, not just hoping it will happen with what they've got.