Intensive Battles on the Horizon
To most people the odd premise of the Meatloaf song, “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” could be adapted into the stark reality and finalization of the next final weeks of the 2009 baseball season. Right now, this song can give the Tampa Bay Rays a musical punctuation mark to what must be done for rest of the season to realize their dream of taking this team into the postseason. And it is a good thing to envision and a positive thing to take two out of three games from your opponents, but what happens if you have only two games (Seattle) or a 4-game series ( Detroit/Baltimore/ Yankees) against an opponent? Do you then have to adjust to winning both of the two games, or three out of four games in that four game series?
Everyone seems to be starting to quoting those cliches right now of “Crunch Time” and “Must Win Situations” when chatting about the Rays chances. And to me it is all so funny because I have been voicing those concerns ever since April. I actually think that you set up your post season chances in the first three months of the season. Silly losses and unfocused moments rob you of wins that could be valuable right now. But in those early months of the season, people throw around phrases like the gospel according to ESPN that “It is early” or “Not to worry a 7-game winning streak can fix all of this”.
And in those early months you can be that naive about the ending of the season. Because there was so much baseball to be played, to even thinking of having to buckle down and win at least 2 out of 3 of the rest of your games to get into a spot to claim a Wild Card berth seemed like odd vision in the early months. Funny, they could even go this route and still come up short of your goal. And to me that is the reality right now.
We need help to get to the post season. We truly do. It is not like this team is not competitive enough or strong enough to take on all comers to get there on their own, but they need help to step up the ladder and take that Wild Card berth. We have exactly 39 games left to our season. And we do have a huge important series lingering against team like Baltimore (8), Detroit (7), New York Yankees (7), Boston (6)and Toronto (6) that will shape the Rays dreams and aspirations for the postseason.
But maybe the remaining teams hidden on that schedule will be the deciding factors in this quest for the playoffs. There is one division in baseball that has handled not only the Rays, but the entire AL East this series in their series. The A L West again might hold the trump cards. The Rays are currently a combined 31-25 (.554) against the above group this season with all of their seasonal series games against Detroit still on the books. 25 of those 39 games are against team that are sporting a .500 record of above this season.
And 27 of those 39 contests are against our American League East foes. The Rays currently have a 27-18 (.600) record against their division in 2009. But not lost on the Rays is the fact that half of their final 32 games are played against the Red Sox, Yankees and Rangers, who all currently have great spot to enter the 2009 post season.
Those divisional games are important, and could be the fulcrum to balance the Rays towards a eventual Wild Card, but for some reason I am worried about a small set of 5 games more than the divisional tilts. The odd 2-game series against the Seattle Mariners and the 3-game series against the Rangers in late September in the hot box located in Arlington, Texas might be the last grasp at a chance to secure their goals. Those 5 games, not the divisional one could prove to be the teams downfall. And you know that this team has been simply miserable against the A L West division in 2009.
But I am not panicking or even about to spout defeatist venom yet. Sure this 7-game road trip envisioned by Rays Manager Joe Maddon to be the “Ring of Fire” could actually be the hot box they need right now to get into mental and emotional shape to grind out these last 39 games. But for their goals to still be on track, they need to take at least 4 or 5 of the seven games on the slate.
And there is nothing that Detroit would like better than to pop down the Rays because they could end up being an opponent in the playoffs. The Tigers would love to send the Rays back home with their barbs between their fins and have to regroup and reformulate a plan to get them to their goals. Right now there are a few teams sitting there waiting for their chance at us again knowing that a victory by them can end this Rays drama in 2009.
Now the Rays front office is already secure in the fact of offering our 2009 Postseason Ticket packet prices and options to us in the mail the last few days. In it I saw that the package in 2009 for my seat will cost me $ 1080. That is a bit higher than last season, but you have to admit, we have expected more out of this team in 2009. And this Rays squad has the talent and the abilities to thrust themselves right up into that Wild Card mess and make it interesting all the way to their last game on October 3rd against the Yankees at home.
And believe me, I do not want to be watching football during the weekends in October. I would rather be sitting in my seat at Tropicana Field seeing these same Rays fighting for a chance to redeem themselves on the World Series stage again. But in the Rays post season packet is the message that any money or tickets not used this postseason will be adjusted and placed in our accounts for our 2010 Season Ticket purchase.
And I have faith in their chances and abilities to again celebrate and enjoy their moments with the fans in securing a second romp into the postseason dance. I will send in my money hoping and praying for a chance to again sit there and maybe catch two more foul balls during the American League Divisional Series. I hope to be sitting in the Trop for a pivotal game in the ALCS, and might even have a chance to see another first pitch at a World Series game placed in the dome. If not, I know my money will be there for me to enjoy another year where promise and hope will reign heavy again in April, May and June.