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.
The Most Hated Man in Boston Tonight
I guarantee when the Tampa Bay Rays head to Boston for their last series of the year against the Red Sox from September 6th through the 8th, there will be one member of the Rays who better have a map handy of the city of Boston when the Rays charter flight arrives at Logan Airport. Because after tonight, Rays Designated Hitter Dan Johnson’s picture will probably be blown up and memorized inch by inch in the minds of every single cab or limo service employee in the greater bean town area.
Johnson had better let someone else hail the cab or rent the limo, because if they see Johnson’s mug, you might just end up seeing the tail lights of that same vehicle as it pulls away leaving Johnson, and whoever else is with him in the cold. Johnson will probably take it in great stride knowing an entire city is right now loathing his existence and wanting a re-do on the pitch that cost the Red Sox a chance to humiliate the Rays. Instead it was the collection of red clad Boston fans who get to leave Tropicana Field tonight as it gives off it’s amber glow.
Some of the Red Sox Nation might have forgiven Johnson for his first instance of displeasing the multitudes that follow the Red Sox way back on September 9, 2008 when Johnson instantly took the breath out of almost every Boston fans both within Fenway Park, or watching on NESN with a blast up and over the Red Sox Bullpen for a game tying Home Run in the 9th inning off the Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. That single moment of Rays clarity in 2008 has also been embraced by a large collection of Rays fans as the biggest Home Run in Rays history…Bar none. And it was done by a guy who fought traffic to get to Fenway Park for the game that night, and was not there in time to start in leftfield.
You know more than a few of the Red Sox Nation’s historical fan base were a bit freaked last night when Johnson again got to oppose Papelbon in the bottom of the ninth inning as Johnson dug in at the plate for hi second appearance EVER against Papelbon, Johnson stood at the plate last night with great patience and was rewarded with a walk on 6 pitches to give the Rays a sense of impending hope in the game last night. But it was not meant to be last night for Johnson as Reid Brignac came on to pinch run for Johnson and he was left to watch from the dugout. Last night Johnson could not extract any carnage upon the Red Sox, but tonight was another story. But it did add a sense of revisiting that moment as Johnson stood in the batter’s box tonight.
Johnson’s latest injustice towards Red Sox Nation did not come against the Boston closer, this time it was reliever Scott Atchison who got the unpleasant task of having to turn and watch the ball disappear within the right field stands as the collective 36,973 ( 102% capacity) in attendance either danced or just shook their head in dismay. In that instance, you only had to look at someone’s face to know what team they rooted for tonight. Rays fans were high-fiv’ing and jumping like school kids, while Boston’s local faithful fan only looked for the exits. Johnson had again torn a bit of their Red Sox reality to shreds and this time it will not go down lightly.
Johnson is a player who despite a .149 batting average has also posted an unheard of .367 On-Base Percentage because of his patient nature at the plate. To rub it in a little more, Johnson as either walked or hit his way on base for the Rays in 14 of his 16 games with the team. You might say that Johnson did tonight what he has done all year long in the minor leagues where he won the Triple-A Home Run Derby, plus smacked out 30 Home Runs in 96 games before being called up on August 2,2010. Johnson was just doing what Johnson is paid to do….Hit the ball a long way.
The only better moment for tonight would have been if Papelbon had been toeing the rubber for this recent Rays/Red Sox venture. But Papelbon was not even warming up in the Red Sox Bullpen at that moment, he was seated on the wooden bench watching that same ball go deep into the stands and the celebration begin under the Trop’s roof. By ending the game in this fashion tonight, it was like a UFC cage fighter knocking you down, then twisting your neck until you passed out. It was a total reversal of fortunes in a matter of 8 pitches before the ball settled 384 feet beyond the Home Plate keystone.
So Johnson had better either have friends in Boston, or find some manageable entertainment options within the region of the Rays hotel during that last series in Boston. Maybe a great option would be to rent a car so that he can just come and go as he pleases without bringing up this second heartache again to the populous of Boston. But I will bet you anything if Johnson is standing at a street corner during that last road series in bean town and there is a puddle of water within range, some cabbie or truck driver will exact a little surgical play back to Johnson for again dashing the hopes of many in that city.
But then again, maybe it is better that Johnson and the Rays visit Boston almost two years to the day that Johnson first became a curse word on every Red Sox fan on that night in 2008. Being infamous might not get you cabs or even a hearty hand wave, but it will remind you of why Johnson might be one of the most hated Rays in recent memory among followers of the Red Sox Nation, and I think Johnson is okay with that.
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