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Maddon, Rays look forward after falling short of goal

ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Maddon's wife, Jaye, has taken the brunt of any disappointment the Rays manager has felt since the elimination of his team early Tuesday morning.

"I've been very unpleasant in the mornings, my poor wife," Maddon said. "Just reflecting on all of it, we could and should be farther along. We can play deep into the playoffs against the teams that are out there, we match up very well. But we're not going. And it's our own fault. It's nobody else's fault.

"So I take my hat off and commend all the teams that are going. Oakland and Baltimore, I think it's outstanding what they did this year. For us, personally, we're good enough to be there. But we did not play well enough to be there, so we have to go home and watch."

Maddon has also lamented: "We're playing at the top of our game right now, and I've got to go home and barbecue steak."

Alas, that is all spilt milk, and there's never been any use for crying over said mess. That pretty much seemed to be the sentiment in the clubhouse on Thursday as a handful of players cleaned out their lockers to close out their work year.

"Yesterday was a sad day," Ben Zobrist said. "Today we move forward."

But feelings of what might have been will take a while to heal as Luke Scott pointed out earlier in the week.

"If Evan [Longoria] hadn't missed three months, and if I would have had 600 at-bats, we would have walked away with [the American League East division]," Luke Scott said. "That's in my heart. It's just my opinion, but I think we would have walked away with 100 victories."

Scott added: "When you have pitching this way, man, there's no doubt -- I firmly believe that we should have went all the way."

James Shields, who struck out 15 Tuesday night in one of the finest pitching performances in team history -- but lost, noted that having a good pitching staff "doesn't mean you're going to make the playoffs."

"We definitely have a good pitching staff," Shields said. "We have to put everything together. You can't just pitch and not score runs. You can't just not play defense. You've got to do it all.

"Over the last couple of years, we've pitched, we've had timely hitting, we've had really good defense. This year, there were some points in the season where we didn't have that. And that's kind of what cost us."

All will now head to destinations all over the country to hunt, fish, play golf and work on getting better for the 2013 season. Meanwhile, Rays executives will get busy cobbling together next year's team, which like any other Rays collection, will likely feature a healthy share of turnover.

"We are a turnover team," Maddon said. "We do change things on an annual basis. ... This is the way the game is played today. I appreciate the guys that aren't going to be back. All they've done for us. For me, personally regarding my own personal career, I've always relied on the players and how they've performed. And I've been the beneficiary of a lot of good performances over the last couple of years. But this is how this thing works. It's the business component of this thing now, and that's the way it is. I think you come to accept it."

Specifically, the Rays' offense is the area most would like to see addressed before next season. The Rays (.240 team batting average) and the Athletics (.238) became the first two Major League teams to win 90 games and bat .240 or less since the 1972 World Champion Oakland team that hit .240 and won 93 games.

"Before the All-Star break, we had a lot of injuries," said Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations. "I don't think we're going to do anything in this coming offseason that's going to put us in a position to withstand losing Evan for 85 games. I don't think that's going to be something we're going to be able to accomplish."

Friedman said, at the end of the day, the Rays did not have the offensive depth to handle the prolonged loss of Evan Longoria nor the subsequent losses of Matt Joyce, Keppinger, B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings for different periods of time.

"So it was a strange year in a lot of ways," Friedman said. "And people focused a lot on the offense, and rightfully so, and we're going to spend a lot of time thinking about and discussing and analyzing, because we don't want to make a knee-jerk reaction and do something when there's noise. It's about stripping out the noise and what's potentially a systematic issue.

"We get that we'd love to have an elite pitching staff and an elite offense -- difficult to do. And so it's just figuring out that relationship between the two and trying to maximize the runs we can score and the runs we allow, conversely. ... Now it's about trying to construct a team that can score more runs next year."

The 2012 season is in the books, now comes the offseason work needed to construct next season's club in the hopes of making the 2013 season something special.

Tampa Bay Rays, Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria, Luke Scott, James Shields, B.J. Upton