Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
Rays need to Find their Evil,Mean and Nasty Gene
It is one of those things you want your team to possess at this late season juncture. There is definitely something to that old warrior’s credo that only the strong survive. That nasty, vile and dog-eat dog mentality can be the fulcrum point that can get players through the pain and suffering that always happens around the 50-games left mark in the season. It is either transform into a meaner version of your team’s former image or you run the insane risk of defeat rather than victory. Plain and simple, it is time for the Tampa Bay Rays to take on a “no more Mr. Nice Guy” persona.
It might sound a bit melodramatic for the Rays to have to abandon their Boy Scout sparkling clean and virtuous image, but the stark reality is that each and every loss can put another dagger in the Rays heart and potentially sabotage all the hard work the team has done to this point. Sure the Rays currently look to be in fine shape only two games out against the New York Yankees, but there are foes hiding in the darkness that want that A L East and Wild Card spot the Rays hold in their pocket.
I am not saying the Rays have to become the “Ty Cobb” reincarnations and go into bases with their spikes up, or look for a fight, The things is right now the Rays do have a “Mayberry RFD” mentality posing as the kinder, gentler version of the Yankees. This has to be squashed right now before the Rays take on the Baltimore Orioles this weekend, and the Texas Rangers next week. The Rays have to instill a mentality that someone stole their lunch money and they are not going to take it anymore!
And today’s game fully illustrates just that pattern of good natured intentions that has to be nipped in the bud before the Rays are making golf tee time reservations than hotel reservations for friends and family during the Playoffs. The Rays had the Detroit Tiger’s right where they wanted them prior to the beginning of Wednesday’s matinee game. They had a chance to make some special Rays all time seasonal series history in this contest. If the Rays would have defeated the Tigers today, it would have been the Rays first ever seasonal series sweep. That’s right, the Rays would have gone undefeated against the Tigers both home and away…A major coup heading into this final stretch of the season.
But instead of the Rays stepping on the Tiger’s necks and twisting, the Rays seemed to go about their usual game plan and made it look interesting, but shot blanks in the end. That is not the way to “man up” at this point in the season and take the opposition for everything they give you. Sure Detroit starter Justin Verlander got into a groove in the middle of the ballgame, but the Rays let him establish that comfort zone. Winning teams that go far in the Playoffs take control of those games and dictates the outcome, not hope or look for a rally or fortunate chances to sustain anything.
During the last series, media members said it was going to be the “most important series of the season”. Well I hate to break it to everyone, but every series is important, since April. From that loss in Motown on Wednesday afternoon, to the final game in Kansas City on October 4th, the Rays have to fully integrate a “them or us” attitude. And it all begins when the streaking O-birds try and nest at Tropicana Field this weekend. The Rays have to come out in those three contests like a cat hungry for moist, juicy black and orange Oriole treats. They have to adjust their mentality to leave nothing to chance, that a 1-run lead will not cut it, they have to play as if October depends on the outcome.
The Rays have to take their normal “good guy” routine and toss it off the top span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. With 28 of their final 48 games against their American League East foes, and another 16 against the always tough A L West bunch, the season could pivot right now. You can bet your stars that Baltimore, Seattle, Oakland and Toronto would love to provide some noise and angst for the Rays by dropping them lower in the standings and give someone like Boston, Minnesota or even the Chicago White Sox a chance to push the Rays down for the count.
Now is the time for a Rays uprising. It is time to toughen up and show no mercy in any of the final 48 games. I am not telling the Rays to keep pushing even if they are 5 or 6 runs up on a team, but do not get off their throats, do not let them breathe, do not let them even think they have a remote chance to survive a game. Some people talk about the Yankee persona. That image is boosted by the historic tradition of finishing the job and making the Playoff and beyond., That pinstriped army doesn’t take anything for granted and will step on your neck and twist until you are gone….every time.
This is not a call to emulate the Yankees own credo of intimidation. But this is a call for the Rays to put away their manners and get after what they deserve this season. I respect this 2010 Rays team for their spunk and bond between all the Rays players in the clubhouse, but it is time to get physically and mentally hungry. For the Rays veteran leadership to make the young guys hungry for another taste of that sparkling champagne. I guess it is time for the Rays to quote the movie “The Program” to “put the women and children to bed and go hunting for dinner.” And if that means eating a few extra Orioles, Blue Jays and even Angels, then so be it, because you never get in the way of the big dog when he is feasting, it is bad for the digits.
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