For better or worse, the Tampa Bay Rays are well aware that they have a target on their back.
Just recently, the Rays drew the ire of WFAN’s Evan Roberts, who accused Major League Baseball’s best team of cheating after a hot start. After taking two out of three from the New York Yankees earlier this month, Roberts became suspicious, though he provided no real evidence to back his claim. At the time of his rant, the Rays were 29-7. Since then, they’re 6-7, which includes a series split with the Yankees and losing two out of three against the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets.
While Roberts is a die-hard Mets fan, he hasn’t recanted his claims, even though his favorite team, which was reeling at the time, took a series against the Rays.
The Rays, who surely don’t spend their free time listening to Carton & Roberts on WFAN, seem to be well aware of those now-infamous comments. While Tampa Bay hasn’t publicly responded to Roberts, others in the industry have directed far more pointed comments, they had T-shirts made up as a response/rebuttal.
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, it was 28-year-old outfielder Luke Raley who had the shirts made in response to Roberts’ comments.
“Everyone gets the message … That video, it hit us. So we wanted to own it … Keep doubting us; we’re going to come out and keep playing good baseball,” said Raley, via Topkin.
#Rays Luke Raley had some T-shirts made in rebuttal to recent skepticism/criticism by @WFAN660 radio hosts. Said Raley: “Everyone gets the message … That video, it hit us. So we wanted to own it … Keep doubting us; we’re going to come out and keep playing good baseball” pic.twitter.com/gNEXrJADDq
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) May 22, 2023
The shirt—seen above— is a part of this piece from Roberts’ rant:
“Christian Bethancourt – HELLOOOO – Taylor Walls, WHAT?!” Roberts ranted. Bethancourt is a 31-year-old catcher who has already mashed the second most homers in any season of his career. Walls is a former top prospect who has improved on last season’s batting average by almost 100 points.
“You know what most of us do? We don’t know who they are so we just say the ‘Rays are brilliant.’ Here’s the problem, I know who they are. They’re not good,” Roberts continued. “The Rays are 19-3 at home? HELLOOOO. Are you gonna wake up when the article’s written in The Athletic, or are you gonna wake up now? Sometimes you don’t need evidence. Sometimes you gotta say, ‘What I’m watching doesn’t make sense.’ So I’ll do it, I’m not a Yankee fan. I’m gonna raise my hand. Hey, ladies and gentlemen, what I’m seeing in Tampa, makes no sense.”
Raley is a bit of a journeyman himself, so the skepticism likely resonates with him. A former seventh-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Raley was traded to the Minnesota Twins and back to the Dodgers before he even made his major league debut. That didn’t come until 2021 when Raley was 26 years old. Following a cup of coffee in the big leagues, he was traded to Tampa Bay. Against all odds, he’s now carved out a role for himself, despite struggling in his first two bouts at this level.
So, it makes a bit of sense that he would not only take exception to Roberts’ comments but use them as motivation. While the Rays are 6-7 in their last 13, they’re still 21 games over .500. Roberts has yet to double down on his take. At the same time, you can expect the Rays to continue to play at a high level and not shy away from the spotlight, even if it comes with baseless accusations.
[Marc Topkin on Twitter]