"Well, the Rays did it."
The world of sports has always been kind to copycats. The Spurs became the Patriots of the NBA. Or vice versa, I can't remember who became the poster boy for wise front offices first. The Cowboys follow the Yankees and so on and so on. It's a safe bet, then, that the Tampa Bay Rays are going to become the blueprint for teams in baseball and beyond.
What owner could argue with such a tempting plan? Spend no money for years, let the losses pile up and say that's all about building for the future. Take the Islanders, as Newsday did this morning. The team's been awful for years, both on and off the ice, with little to nothing to show for their dismal play. Now, though, they can tell their fans to hold tight while we build from within. Sure, we won't win many games but we'll draft high and develop superstars.
If it were only that easy. People have conveniently forgotten the days when the Rays trotted out retread stars like Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs and Wilson Alvarez in a futile effort to get good overnight. They're ignoring teams like the Detroit Lions, Kansas City Royals, the Knicks and the Islanders, teams that have been awful for years and show no signs of getting to any championship games anytime soon. The Rays are a great story but attempts to follow their lead are going to end up in the gutter more often than not. Good scouting and drafting are vital but so is trying to put together a good team in the here and now.