Earlier this month the Tampa Bay Rays promoted Erik Neander from General Manager to President of Baseball Operations and agreed to a multi-year extension. Neander’s rise through the organization began in 2007 and last night he celebrated another Tampa Bay Rays American League East Championship. While much of the credit and failure for any organization begins at the top, it speaks volumes that Neander goes out of the way to include all those around him that make for a successful season.
When pressed about roster construction, he’ll be quick to point out all the different units of the organization involved. “Wander Franco that’s Carlos Rodriguez and the International Group. The Austin Meadows and [[Mike] Zunino and all these trades, Kevin Ibach and that group.” Neander said. “Brandon Lowe, RJ Harrison and Rob Metzler and that group. Shane McClanahan tonight. It takes so many people to allow something like this to be possible. We’ve got a lot of special staff and it comes down to the players and the players do this. There’s a lot that all of us to be a part, a small part of this. And it shows.”
Not only is credit given to the groups responsible to find talent, credit goes to the players and even to the minor league staff in Triple-A that weren’t directly involved in wins and losses on the field but played a huge role in keeping the morale and motivation high in Durham.
What the Rays present players more than most organizations, in my opinion, is the opportunity to compete and reach the pinnacle of playing in the big leagues. Neander discusses these opportunities summarizing the many opportunities players have beginning every year in spring training. “You have opportunities that are there to guarantee someone a roster spot. You have opportunities that are there to compete for a job and make the big league team. You have opportunity and come in to camp and just compete without any guarantee of anything after March.” He said. “I think our staff has done a wonderful job for each of those opportunities. Then our players with our coaches have done the absolute most that they could to make the most of the situation and that’s why we’re here.”
He continued, “The coaching staff down there [Durham], Brady Williams, Rick Knapp, Kyle Wilson all of them. Every player in Triple-A wants to be in the big leagues. And to keep things where they did to have the season they did. We’re not at this moment without those efforts in addition to everything that was done here.”
Neander was gracious with his time and his class and professionalism in acknowledging all those around him was refreshing.