Spoilers could Ruin the Rays Playoff Party
I am a sucker for those movie teasers. You know the ones I am talking about. The segments taken from the movie that in one minute are better than the 130 minutes you spend sitting in that theater wondering why you spent $ 6 to see this junk. Sometimes I think that baseball has its own set of teasers throughout the season,and that you never know who or what might be playing that spoiler role until after it is all said and done.
Who would have guessed that the teams making a run to take that spoiler role this season would be located beyond the Continental Divide. Who would have believed that the 2009 edition of the Tampa Bay Rays would find trouble on the other side of the country. Even though we are now beginning to turn and burn our way through the 3rd act in the season,there have been a several huge spoiler moments that have been ignored by the Rays fans.
And those shortcomings might be brought back into focus in the next few weeks. I have heard it a few times this season that, ” A loss in April is the same as one in September”, or my new favorite, ” A season is not lost with a loss in April”. I have to say I totally disagree with both of those quotes. A loss anytime is the year will effect you in the end…..period.
The first set of quotes might be true in some people’s minds,but right now with us chasing the pack of New York and Boston in trying to defend our American League East crown, the West is getting mighty testy with the Rays. Having the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners focusing their collective attentions on us to get some wins and boost their own chances in the A L Wild Card race,those April through August losses to this division are beginning to playing out bigger and bigger every day.
It is not to say that the team will not re-right the ship and cruise to a divisional or Wild Card playoff slot,but some of the key losses of the past could come back to sink the Rays ship before October 1st. Take for example our season opening 7-game home stand where the Yankees took 2 out of 3 and the Chicago White Sox took 3 of 4 to put us at an early 2-5 home record to begin the season. It has been forgotten that we let the Yankees take a series from us at home, where in 2008 we seemed to own everyone in baseball.
In the month of April,the Rays won their first series of the year against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park,but did not win another series until the Red Sox made their first 2009 visit to Tropicana Field. In that time,the Rays dropped 6 straight series and went 9-14, including going 5-5 against their own AL East foes.
I have always been of the mindset that if you lose one game to your divisional opponent,it will take 2 wins to get back that initial loss. Now that can be spread out over the entire season,but you need those critical rival losses back at some point before the end of the season to compete for that playoff berth. And that same scenario is beginning to play out in the Rays chances for the 2009 playoffs.
If you take their current record of 23-15 against the AL East,it looks like they are within my simple formula for getting to the playoffs. But for some odd reason I forgot to include the spoilers in all of this,the American League West division teams. It might have been a simple case of out of sight, out of mind, but this division now holds an important key to the Rays playoff hopes.
I know that seems odd with the Rays having to still play 31 games against their divisional rivals and I am sweating about the 11 games still to play against the AL West squads. But if you think about it,the Rays currently holding a losing record of 8-14 against this division,which includes a 3-game sweep of the Rays by the Texas Rangers during the July 4th weekend.
The Angels currently lead their division and look like the team to beat in the West again. But with two of that divisions teams,Seattle and Texas still battling the Rays to stay in the Wild Card Race,every contest against Seattle and Texas will take on New York and Boston importance right now. I have always boasted a importance in winning our divisional games, but for some reason I lost sight of the guys out West. We are done with one member of that division with our seasonal series against the Oakland A’s completed. But the A’s did take the yearly series 6-4 from us this season.
That only illustrates the fact that we need to win against the West as well as the East the rest of the way. The West could hold the trump card for any of the three getting into the postseason this year. If Texas sinks us in their 6 remaining games against the Rays,it would be a huge blow to any Rays hope for the playoffs. But, we also can not lose sight of the odd mid-week 2-game series against the Mariners at the Trop. either here. Those eight games could mean the difference in a Wild Card berth, or watching on television this October.
The truth be told, we have to worry about the AL East,but we also have to respect what the AL West could do to our playoff dreams. The only team we have a winning record against in 2009 is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,who we begin a 3-game series tonight @ 10 pm. It is also the last stop of our 6-game road trip. We have already gone 1-2 on this trip,and might need a sweep to keep us within fighting range in the AL East and put some cushion between us and Seattle in the Wild Card.
And to think of a sweep here in Anaheim is a tall order since the Rays are 1-10 in Anaheim Stadium. The Angels are also playing some pretty fired up ball right now and could be a true test for the Rays. With the Red Sox opening a 4-game series tonight against the Detroit Tigers in Fenway,then heading to Texas and Toronto for 3-game series. And the Yankees beginning a 3-game series against Toronto before they embark on their own “West Coast excursion” to Seattle and Oakland. Now is the time for the Rays to put an end to the AL West dominance this season.
Everyone has said that this race might be decided before the beginning of September. Right now for the Rays it is critical that we get as many wins as possible before we enter September and a month of mostly A L East games. In that month we will face our division rivals in 20 out of 28 games. Mixed into that divisional fever will be 3-game series against the Rangers and Tigers, plus that odd 2-game Seattle series.
For the Rays to achieve their goals of making the playoffs again in 2009,the team must take care of their spoilers’ from the A L West. Those three teams might just hold the deciding factors in the race for the Rays. Wins against them are all pluses for the team. But to lose against any of them right now could put another doubt in the minds of Rays fans.
But that is why we play 162 games and do not award division crowns or playoff berths after a month. If we had awarded a berth back at the beginning of May, the three divisional winners would have been the Toronto Blue Jays,Seattle Mariners, and the Chicago White Sox. That is a big difference from the current leaders of Los Angeles, New York and Detroit. The games are falling off the schedule for the Rays, and the time is now to show their might and claim a stake in 2009.