Mason: Get the Rays out of Tampa Bay

The Rays kept their season alive with a high-octane win over the Astros. It wasn't a sellout. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Around the Horn is a weekly column from Chris Mason, where the Eagle-Tribune beat writer offers nine thoughts from the Red Sox clubhouse and around Major League Baseball.

This week's installment focuses on the divisional round series and the start of Boston's offseason. 

1. Move the Rays away 

If you're into swaths of empty seats, the Rays have just the ballpark for you.

Tampa Bay put their season on the line at Tropicana Field yesterday. Cy Young candidate Charlie Morton was on the hill, opposite Zack Greinke, one of the most dominant pitchers of this era. It should have been electric. 

Instead, there were rows of empty seats at first pitch and sections at the top of the stadium were tarped off — for an elimination game.

The "baseball is dying" narrative is overblown, but the optics at the Trop were absolutely awful.

2. No excuses

Yes, it was 1:05 on a Monday afternoon, but consider the fact that the Red Sox drew over 16,000 fans for a meaningless suspended game that lasted 10 minutes in August. That was also a weekday afternoon. 

Plus, Florida resident might as well be in the thesaurus alongside retiree. 

The Rays averaged 14,552 fans per game this year, last in the American League. A playoff team, they didn't hit the 10,000 mark at home 19 times this year. Tropicana Field is an eye sore.

It's time to get the Rays to a market that actually appreciates them. 

3. Coaching changes?

Thus far, the only change made to Alex Cora's coaching staff is the departure of assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett. 

There has to be more coming, right? 

The offense wasn't Boston's problem this season, it was the pitching. Across the board, just about everybody not named Eduardo Rodriguez or Brandon Workman underachieved. 

Will Dana LeVangie be the fall guy for that? 

4. Bet he'll stay with Sox

Either way, look for LeVangie to stay with the organization. 

Though he's only 50 years old, LeVangie has been working in the organization since 1997. He started as a bullpen catcher, worked as a scout, and was bullpen coach before pitching coach.

If they decide to reassign him, perhaps he resumes the old post in the bullpen.

5. Silence from Sale and Price

Despite multiple media requests, David Price and Chris Sale elected not to speak during the last weekend of the season.

"Obviously we would like players to talk to you guys," Cora said at the year-end presser. "But we’ve been very consistent with the message. Sometimes as players, it’s like OK, the message was already out there. We wish they would talk to you guys. Of course.

"But at the same time it gets to the point with them where they’re so frustrated with what’s going on. Obviously they’ve got their schedule and have been going back and forth with a lot of stuff that we have to respect that, too."

Fans are certainly frustrated, too, and deserved to hear from the two injured pitchers as they head into uncertain offseasons. 

6. Starters still matter

A truth has been revealed early in the postseason: Though we're in an age of bullpening and short starts, thoroughbreds like Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton are still worth their weight — and then some. 

7. Lucky No. 17

With the non-playoff team draft slots finalized, the Red Sox will have the 17th overall selection in next season's amateur draft. 

This is only the fifth time the Sox have picked this high in the John Henry era. There were some hits (Andrew Benintendi) misses (Trey Ball), and in-betweens (David Murphy). We still don't know what Jay Groome will be.  

As for the 17th pick itself, there have been plenty of players who never cracked the majors, but it's also Roy Halladay's draft slot. 

8. Let the kids play

Rising superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. drew criticism for flipping his bat in Game 1 of the NLDS from media and players alike. 

"I wanted him to respect the game and respect me as a player," Cardinals reliever Carlos Martinez, who gave up the bomb, said.

Who really cares? 

Acuna's act pumped the Atlanta bench up, and you're lying if you don't think you'd be amped to hit a playoff homer. Any real cause for criticism came earlier in the game when Acuna loafed out of the box and turned a double into a single. 

9. Bogey gets nominated

Xander Bogaerts was announced as Boston's nominee for the 2019 Hank Aaron Award, given to the most outstanding offensive player in each league. 

Getting the nod over last year's winner J.D. Martinez and reigning MVP Mookie Betts is a testament to the dominant year Bogaerts put together at the plate.

Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at cmason@northofboston.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason

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