Fat Lady Left a Sour Note
I actually think it was kind of ironic and prophetic last night that the called third strike against Evan Longoria was actually under his knee caps. So many times this season we have just seemed to let things glide under our radar. The many missed game-winning opportunities and failed scoring attempts just all cam together in that one monet when we got to watch the Rays ship flounder on the rocks…. again this season. The last ditch attempts to right the ship have led this team to half baked ideas and irrational base behaviors before that final voice of the umpire squandered another chances at victory.
The climatic, slow motion movement by Home Plate Umpire Scott Barry of thrusting the stirkeout signal carried so much force last night because with his right arm cutting the thick air in Tropicana Field like a Samurai sword, Barry cut the still beating heart out of all of our chests and finally ended the Rays scramble for the playoffs. Among the huge outpouring of moans and groans was the agony that the Fat Lady finally got her moment. That she got to finally show off those pipes of hers a lot later than even the so-called experts expected it.
No matter how upset you are today you can take solace Rays fans in knowing we lasted until the 151st game of the season before finally bowing out. that silver lining might seemed tarnished to some, but the truth is……… we lasted a long time past expectations. The Rays have now established a bench mark of going the the second farthest into the season before an elimination from contention. I know that might not seem like much right now with our hearts in our hands, but it is something to build on totally here. And how soon we forget we used to be out of contention by mid-August at the latest before the last two seasons.
And as I got up this morning, the sky was still blue, the water was still running and the air was crisp and not full of fire and brimstone. The world did not end in the last 12 hours since the end of that game. And unlike the movie trailer of “2012″ above this paragraph, we will again breath fresh air and eat great tasting foods. Our local sports world might have taken a death blow to the middle of our skulls, but our community and the Rays themselves should be proud of the fact we survived this late into the race. And that is a solid reason to clap and celebrate.
But the final trip down this road has not ended for us yet. We still have 11 games (including tonight’s game) left in the season to make people sit up and take notice that we might just be the 2010 template for the rollercoatser 2007 Colorado Rockies model. You remember that team, they fought their way to the World Series ( like the Rays), then fell upon hard times in 2008 when they missed the playoffs after a hard run, before finally regenerating themselves and kicking some major booty this season to be in a line for a National League Wild Card slot.
So think about it Rays fans, if they can do it? Why can’t we return to that same glory too? In 2010 we have a young and solid rotation coming back and will sport three different seasons “Rookie of the Year” candidates possibly on the same 25-man roster. Third Baseman Longoria (2008 winner),Starter Jeff Niemann ( possible 2009 ROY) and true rookie pitcher Wade Davis. For the third year in a row the Rays will have a possible ROY candidate on their team as a new Rays crop of young players begin to hit the Major League level. And there are more than a few Bulls players currently at Triple-A just chomping at the bit waiting for their shots too.
There is so much to look forward to in February 2010, which really is not that far away. For the first time in the Rays history, they should have 4 starting rotation slots configured for their pitching staff even before they report to camp. There might be some player tweaking by the front office with the field staff, but you can bet the Bullpen will need some of those “HI!, I’m_______” tags for that first session after the Rays Fan Fest. And that might not be a bad thing either.
So our hearts right now might be breaking a bit, but we have to stand tall because we still have some people to upset starting on Friday night. We could throw a huge monkey wrench into the post season parade for the Texas Rangers and maybe even help eliminate them from consideration during our 3-games series in Arlington this weekend. Then, after a 4-game bruise cruise with the Baltimore Orioles during our final home stand, we could jumble up the playoff pairings by putting a few “L’s” on the Yankees ,and maybe send them into the playoffs on a awkward note.
And sure, we might have been on life support for about two weeks, but that is the thing about faith and determination, until that last percentage point of a chance fell off the board, that sliver of hope, that last movement of the second hand moving slowly, we still had a prayer for the 2009 Playoffs. And you got to admit, both the New York Yankee and Boston Red Sox fans loved that last strikeout. It not only forbid the Tampa Bay Rays a chance to repeat, it gave both teams exclusive bragging rights up until the 2010 playoffs begin.
And that might be the thing that hurts the most today. Not only did we give a small segment of Red Sox Nation and the Pinstripe Posse a reason to ridicule and tease us for the next 6 months to a year, but we gave them a solid example of why we were not good enough to be in the playoff this season. In the first two innings last night the Rays stranded 5 out of their 6 base runners without a chance to cross the plate. We had the chance to deliver a swift killing blow to the hearts of the Mariners, but let the situation unfold like a cheap house of cards and it instead became a loss.
So maybe it was fitting that we go down on a bad call because for so many games this season we have not been the better team, or even the worthy team of posting a win. So the downtown parade to the playoffs will be canceled, the energetic pep rally held in downtown St. Petersburg will not happen, but the season is not over by a long shot. We still have a few messages to deliver to the other MLB teams. They need to remember that this is a proud Rays team and have the backing of their community, and that we do not plan to stay down long or for the standing 8-count again in 2010.
For all the people sulking and moaning about the loss of a potential playoff berth, it is time to strap on the boots again and get back to work cheering and banging our Cowbells for this team to finish out on a high note. Even if it taste bitter right now, this Rays team needs to see us standing behind them and showing we have their backs. Everyone knew this was going to be a hard and lonesome road to get back into the post season. Both of the teams in front of us re-tooled and re-formulated their rosters before and even during the season to fight the Rays at every crossraods to block their path and possibly moving up the standings.
And think about this Rays fans. We are in the most competitive division in sports. Playing with less than a $70 million payroll this season, we forced the ‘big boys” to open their deep wallets and bring in some effective hired guns to take us out. Our talent might not have stood the test of time this season, but they both know we are right behind them for many years in the future. And that the level of this squads potential and drive for more might be the best secret weapons we have coming into 2010. Now that the chance to play into late October is gone, it should make more than a few of the Rays vets and rookies even more hungry to again taste the champagne. And if we do get back to that lofty perch in 2010……….How sweet will that nectar be on our lips.