Today we are joined by a brand new GM. Commandeering the Tampa Bay Devil Rays is Babatunde Oladotun. Babu, on top of being a co-ump, will be taking over the 8-7 Devil Rays as they fight to stay above 500 and a playoff spot. They went from a dominate team looking like an easy playoff spot, to hoping for a miracle to make it. Winning just one game out of their last six, Babu takes over this session in the hopes to turn the tide and get ready for next season. Here's what he had to say.
1: Having taken over, describe your experience of the process and what it means to you.
A: This season will still go down as "Robin Era" Devil Rays, with one cameo from me calling the shots in the final session. But anyway, there wasn't much to my experience taking over. Robin decided the team's recent poor play, and how we'd fallen off from fighting for the #1 position in the season to becoming a playoff longshot, that had driven him into thinking he was a mediocre GM. Now in reality he was an amazing GM, but he just didn't have the time, and that made him question himself and drove him into wanting to resign. I was the first person he talked to about this and he PM-ed me around session 14 asking if I wanted the job. I accepted immediately, Robin managed his last game in session 15 against our main Season 2 rival, the Indians, and while it was a disappointing shutout, it was the note he went out on. From there, I was the GM, and while I'm only days into the job, I'm already trying to inspire both myself and the team to believe that we can shed this slump and return to being the Devil Rays of the past.
2) How would you describe the mood in the locker room, both on new management and this season?
A: In this season, the overall mood is usually "win or lose, this is a good team and we're gonna win the whole damn thing"; that really stayed until after the All Star Break when we had the losses to the Astros, then the Yankees and the Indians. Now it's just kind of silent; they were active at the beginning of the season but activity has slowly diminished and my main struggle as a GM will be getting that clubhouse activity back up, because the low activity causes a vicious cycle with poor performance in games as well, which causes people to be even more uninspired and silent in the clubhouse.
3) So the biggest issue is activity, what's the best thing the Devil Rays have going for them and how will it help you stand out in the standings next season?
A: The main thing we have going for us is that at the end of the day, we still have a core that was around for the playoff run last season and this is a group that knows how to win, and always has a winning mindset. It's why that, even though we're a playoff long shot now, people still believe, just because we know how to win and if we can win at least one game, it'd make all the difference. On the flip side, we're now losing touch of how to win because we've been in such a slump for so long, but we have guys with playoff experience on a team that for its entire existence has been one of the league's better teams. As for next season, we just need to make sure we're not losing touch of that winning magic
4) This off season, who's coming back and who's walking, at least on your end of things?
A: I haven't talked to much of the team about it yet, all I know is that Smorin plans on retiring. I'd imagine some of the guys I'm attached to from FCFB, like Doug Quail and Gimpy "Schlemp" Schlempteen the 32nd, will want to stay, but mostly because I've grown close to them from another league of course. On one hand I might look to bring in guys I know in FA now that I'm GM, just to help remedy our general activity issue, on the other hand I don't want to create a boy's club.
5) So what's your most memorable moment as a Devil Ray?
A: My most memorable moment as a Devil Ray was Storm's 3 run homer off Pie in the playoffs against the Red Sox last season. Well either that, or my 0 difference and two home run game against the Royals this season.
6) Our last guest [Tequila] had this question. Do you think your team is liked or hated? Which do you prefer? Why?
A: Well the Season 2 squad, with faces like Dom, JD, Wade and of course Robin, developed a reputation of being the "bad boys" in the MLR. We were good and we talked shit. For this season up until the last few sessions though, we've been good but without nearly as much main Discord shit talking, aside from occasional cameos from Wade. But obviously not really any activity from folks other than me and Robin either (and Wade every two weeks when he's able to come online and ping the Indians due to the situation in Venezuela, which I'm not blaming him for, and I admire Wade's character).
But when it's really just Wade, and given how far we are from really what was the pre-split, "Whitt era" Devil Rays, so many people in the league now weren't around for that time. I have to think anyone who genuinely dislikes us is just older and from that era and still thinks we're like that. Nowadays, we're not necessarily liked but I don't think we're hated. People like me and Robin have probably built a good reputation for the team in between Wade's little cameos. As a person I always like being the well respected good guy rather than the bad guy who stirs up drama, so I prefer being liked anyway. For next season I hope to build a better team image and make us more well liked (and no that doesn't mean getting rid of Wade -- he will still be around as far as I'm concerned right now).
7) So a good team image, what are other reasons someone should sign with the Devil Rays? What sets you apart?
A: I'd say just having traditionally a winning culture and environment -- while we're currently lacking in that department as I've talked about, everyone on the roster buys into our culture of success and I think even with significant a roster overhaul that won't change hopefully as long as I'm managing the team. Not a lot of teams have sustained mostly success and winning over their entire existence.
8) Now as a co-ump with Robin, you get an inside look at pitchers that others don't. What player or team surprised you the most and what did they do?
A: Robin and I have talked before about how umping really does help with scouting -- I mean not much, other than that if you need specific pitches it's right there in your DMs instead of going through threads. Though to me the biggest benefit of umping is how you all of a sudden know every player in the league and probably their Reddit username too; what times they're online, sometimes what they tend to pitch/swing, etc.
The one instance I can point to with how I used umping to my advantage was when I hit my 0 difference shot against the Royals when we played them. I had a strong hunch there would be a repeat of the previous pitch as I led off the inning because I had umped the exact same pitcher (Nori Aru I think it was) two sessions prior and he would often repeat to start off innings, and sure enough it happened. Now of course, this is something lots of good scouting could reveal just as well too, but I had remembered that little detail in particular because I had umped him recently.
9) So what would you say to those that are thinking about umping next season?
A: Go for it as long as you're sure you have the time. [...]This is from a previous interview I had.[...] "Umpiring itself doesn't take much. You need the time, obviously; the ability to check your phone/computer frequently to see if a swing is in is helpful if you want to be known as a timely ump. You need to know how to insert players and numbers into a calculator. But aside from that, that's kind of it. If you want to be known as a great ump, as perhaps I can speak for that now, well you just need enough time to be timely (I try to always make sure the game is never waiting on me and will set aside a lot of other things to do that), a passion in writing that allows you to deliver memorable writeups, and a knack for one liners if you can't get a good writeup. Being aware of the community meme culture so people actually like your writeups helps as well. But really, I think being a great ump is something any aspiring umpire can do."
10) And for my next guest, what question would you like answered?
A: Let's make it wholesome. Who is your favorite MLR personality and why?
11) Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to those reading?
A: Go Devil Rays, flap flap fuckers and we may be done for this season but we'll be back next season. And once this article is released I can answer any additional questions in #press-conferences.
The well spoken GM gives a silver lining to the Devil Rays. If he can translate his optimism to a winning format, both the Devil Rays and their fans can look forward to better times. With the Devil Rays transitioning from the Robin Era to the Babatunde, one thing is for certain: the next chapter looks promising.