They say that old Western gunfighters used to use their eyes to bring their opponents down in a street side disagreement. That a twitch of the eye or even a glimmer or glance could trigger an explosive event where one lies dead and the other victorious. Why is it tonight I think we just might be preparing for the fight at the O K Tropicana with plenty of fireworks and unexpected results before either teams give an inch tonight.
I do not think there are enough superlatives my pocket size Webster’s dictionary to illustrate the true essence of what tonight’s game means to these two teams itching with their finger firmly on the trigger knowing that tonight’s eventual winner gets another crack at those city slicker New York Yankees.
Both the Tampa Bay Rays and the visiting Texas Rangers have shown that they both have a huge propensities to post impressive victorious campaigns in the other’s hostile environments, with both combatants hushing the home crowds. That is all about to possibly end tonight, for it is now a solo “Win or be Gone” situation where a gunfighter’s mentality may just be the final key to being crowned the victor and getting a champagne or Bud Light shower, with and the loser seeing their playoff dreams dead in the water..
Presently both the Rays the Rangers know what is at stake with a lose, and can see with their own steely eyes how to come out victorious tonight and get another shot at those smug Yankees. Not lost within all the predetermined drama and swirling circumstances is the small aspect that no matter who the victor is tonight…. A new chapter of baseball history will be written with the game’s final out.
Who knows what misadventures on the field or post-game jubilations awaits either team as they get set to play in front of 40,000+ highly energized fans under the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field tonight. Not lost on their minds, and those of their fans is the fact have a slight edge as the Rays are 45-18 (.714) lifetime playing in front of crowds 30,000 and above, but that pure and plain fact will not rattle the confidence of these ornery Rangers.
Still undecided is which page of the current ALDS history will be re-written tonight. No matter the final outcome, you can bet the fans both inside Tropicana Field and watching in Texas and around the country will get their money’s worth tonight. If the hometown Rays take it to the Texans tonight, they will be the first team since the 2001 Yankees to come back from a 0-2 start at home and finish off in the victor’s circle in an ALDS.
If the Rangers were to upend the high flying hometown Rays, this Texas team would be celebrating their franchises first postseason title …..ever. Not even the founding Washington Senators even won a single game in the post season, much less win a series. An added plus is the pure glorious fact that the ultimate winner will get to host the Yankees at their home stadium for the first two games of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) set to begin this Friday night.
Not lost in all the frilly glitter and plaid glamour tonight is the fact that if the Rays were to be defeated at home tonight, these two teams would have combined their collective road victories to become the first ALDS pair to even win all five of their road contests. But then we get the added bonus of superior pitching match-up between some of the best throwing left-hander in baseball in a ALDS finale.
How incredible is it that the Rays David Price and Rangers Cliff Lee get to square-off again tonight with some much on the line and put their own personal stamp on their team’s chance for victory. Lee posted a clear advantage in Game 1 of the ALDS, but there have been heavy whispers that Rays Manager Joe Maddon has made a few adjustments to his line-up card for tonight and will have the Rays coming out at Lee with both barrels blazing.
Neither of these pitchers’ or their teammates’ have shown an ounce of stepping down, or aside for the other during this 5-game Battle Royale. Ultimately, it may come down to whichever team shows the first sign of weakening. Both have solid defenders in the field, but a slight miscalculation could provide the needed crack in either team’s armor right now.
This ALDS has been a classic old fashion baseball barnburner with no preconceived notions on the horizon as to who should be favored tonight. Who would have imagined less than a week ago that those “Claws and Antler” loving strangers from the Lone Star state could have moseyed into the Trop and put a hurting on the home town Rays by outscoring the homesteaders’ by a 11-1 margin in those contests, plus send more than a few shivers up the spines of the Rays Republic.
But with the Major League Baseball best road record in 2010, the Rays again showed why you can never count out this spontaneous team until recording the 27th out. The feisty Rays might have wandered into Arlington, Texas with a huge disadvantage in the series this past weekend. Then provided the Rangers with a personal double dose of the Rays old fashion Southern in-hospitality by strolling into the red-clad Rangers homestead and pushing the Rangers around for two solid games within their own green pasture.
But with everything squared-up and even now, it is again about time to see if we have a Rangers redemption or Rays celebration tonight. Before the clock ever strikes midnight, there will be an other Rays versus Rangers historic performance written in stone under the dome of Tropicana Field. Now we just have to wait and see which team’s fate and destiny gets written tonight into the MLB record books.
How much poetic justice would be served if a former Ranger and current Rays reliever Joaquin Benoit could provide the initial punch needed after being booed by the partisan Texas crowd in Arlington this past weekend. Or how insanely ironic would it be if a current Ranger and former Rays farmhand Josh Hamilton were to deliver the first deathblow to the Rays playoff chances after being applauded by Rays fans in Game 1 and 2.
Neither team has to be coached or prepped on the severity of the moment, and the fact that their 2010 season is at stake tonight. Both team’s have itchy fingers and are ready and eager to go at it tonight.
Some say that the actions of a pitcher and a hitter at the plate mimic those of a pair of gunfighters’ ready for battle. Each trying to provoke and gain an advantage before finally administering the final shot that would decide one’s death or elimination. All night long these battle will be undertaken by both team’s until the ultimately there will only be a team of 25 still standing and celebrating the victory.
It reminds me definitely of a deadly gunfight where two may enter the field of battle, but only one is left standing in the end.
With the Tampa Bay Rays pulling off a miracle of their own today in Arlington, Texas, you would hope that Major League Baseball hierarchy, which takes over the prospective team’s stadium (Tropicana Field) for the postseason would possibly even entertain the far fetched thought of uncovering the 5,762 seats currently hidden under a veil of blue plastic in Tropicana Field’s Upper Deck.
For the entire 2010 season, MLB has stood silent and let more than a few National and local media sources batter and bewilder the Rays front office with the team’s visual weekday 2010 attendance woes. With attendance down in every ballpark within the MLB kingdom, they let the media pound the Tampa Bay community as MLB’s (New York) office took a back seat totally within the dark shadows.
Boasting sell-out crowd in both Game 1 and Game 2 , both in the afternoon of the first round of the American League Divisional Series against the Texas Rangers, you would think maybe it was time for MLB and the Rays front office to possibly re-discuss and jointly decide to uncover the dusty obstructed view Upper Deck seats and get a few more excited and extra revenue inducing Rays Republicans in those lofty seats.
MLB’s executive offices (in New York City) had been more than firm with the Rays front office even as far back as 2008 on their on-going commitment to not even let the local Rays consider removing those blue tarps until the team possibly advances to the 2010 World Series. Even if www.raysbaseball.com would conveniently sell out their remaining Game 5 tickets before 10 am on Monday when tickets are available to the general public, MLB will stand concrete in their previous decisions to leave the blue tarps upon the Upper 300’s section’s seats.
Gone is the common sense mentality that even with a fast sell out of online tickets, opening this previously tarp-covered region would go deaf upon MLB’s ears even with a nice monetary incentive of deciding removing the tarps and providing extra vocal and unexpected revenues towards the postseason money pot.
The only other time the MLB has given the Rays Front Office permission to sell those seats was in September 2008 when MLB decided to unwrap the high level seats for Game 6 and Game 7 of the American League Championship Series with the Rays playing their usual sell-out opponent, the Boston Red Sox. That small decision increased the Tropicana Field capacity from 36,048 to an audio-popping 42,048 fanatics. But if the Rays can logically sell out those extra 5,762 seats before issuing Standing Room Only (SRO) seating in the lower bowl, isn’t it a “win-win” opportunity for the Rays and MLB in the long run?
But maybe that is the problem with my logic. It makes sense, and usually that kind of rhetoric doesn’t apply well with the aspects of unforeseen money and a possible variable of ticket revenues that would have to be eventually pushed into the playoff pot and divided accordingly with the MLB, the teams and with the players. With the aspect of expendable money at a premium in this Tampa Bay region, if a Rays fans, or any baseball fan want to throw their money at you , wouldn’t you be foolish to push them away towards game day refuge at a local Sports bars or sitting at home watching on television and loosing that instant revenue?
MLB could give the Tampa Bay region the ammunition right now to fight back the well disguised ruse of our overall attendance situation and show that this Tampa Bay region is a great baseball community by providing additional seats by removing the tarps that some view as a hindrance to this community getting total respect from the Baseball World.
By MLB giving the Rays Front Office even the remote possibility or permission to tuck those tarps away for this deciding ALDS game could be viewed as their admittance that this region can sell seats and give the wrong impression to the rest of the Baseball World.
If MLB does grant this request, it would be like the MLB hierarchy is not condemning the low seasonal attendance, and instead maybe rewarding the bandwagon fans who might be here just for the ALDS game, then revert back to their usual viewing habits. What could be viewed as a great “win-win” situation for the organizations involved might in fact trigger a external discussion on why this facility is not suitable for baseball.
There is no way that MLB will open the forbidden “Pandora’s Box” of the Rays impending stadium situation by giving something to reward the few Rays Republic faithful who still seek to attend a ALDS game. It is sad, but true. Baseball is a huge industry that will not intentionally put itself in a bad light towards the Rays future situation.
But why is it that the possibility of removing a few blue tarps in the Trop’s Upper Deck being treated like a political red herring instead of an opportunity to entice and gather more Tampa Bay community fans to the Major League Baseball community. MLB has said in the past that Tropicana Field present ( with tarps) capacity provides an intimate setting for baseball. That might be true, but wouldn’t 5,762 extra fans yelling ,screaming and spending their money make MLB and the Rays smile from ear-to-ear.
If you need someone to help clean, unwrap or even dust those seats before Tuesday, give me a call. I will do whatever I can to get an extra 5,762 extra members of the Rays Republic into those seats and make the Trop shake with enough noise and thunderous movement to set off a seismometer somewhere in the Southeast.
He is one of those people who could fade into the background at a party and become part of the wallpaper. He has always seemed to be point-on when it comes to staying out of trouble and not projecting a highly-paid bad boy. He has always been a role model, but maybe the rest of the Nation is just getting a glimpse of this great person we have known since 2002.
Has it really been 8 MLB season sine he graced the Trop’s turf with his uncontrollable chaos running style, but smooth as silk stroke and acceleration towards any base. Have we really seen the last of him on Thursday afternoon, or will there possibility be a return engagement in 2011? How much have we gotten accustomed to his sudden speed and grace flowing in the outfield making hard plays looking routine that even a one game rest for his weary bones makes the Tampa Bay Rays look like an entirely different team.
The solid image of him just standing in the Batter’s Circle before a plat appearance just portrays speed and grace with every pore of his body. How fitting that in possibly his last season to grace a Rays uniform he was selected by the local media as the Rays 2010 Most Valuable Player. Ever since that first jog out into the outfield in Toronto he has slowly and silently become the glue that holds this team together.
Even when the Rays were victimized by opposing pitching, you knew he would get a critical hit or make a play that stood out as a beam of light towards the stands. He is the kind of guy you could give your son his name based on him as a person as well as a ballplayer. He is the kind of guy you would hang out with if he was not making millions on the ballfield, and possibly play with on a Adult Softball team.
He has become that iconic Rays player you hope is not just once in a lifetime. His way of playing the game has never been questioned or seen as rebellious.
He has played the game to his own tune, and that melody rings loud and true to the man beneath the uniform. No matter if he is thrilling us with plays or being a spoken voice of his comrades, his voice is one of the most respected voices ever in that Rays clubhouse. And he earned that honor by doing it the right way. Defending his teammates in every instance, being a silent but deadly team leader in that Rays clubhouse. A voice respected, admire and seen as a true inner voice to the distress or extreme joy within those walls. He has been the voice of the Rays without even knowing it.
And I was one of those 35,000+ chanting his name in Tropicana Field in the eighth inning on Thursday night. Immediately upon hearing the cheer and chanting start I rose to me feet and celebrated in mass the career that will transcend time in my mind. To celebrate a man and a player that might be the first to wear the Rays colors into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Applauding a man who will always be solid in my mind as the model of the perfect Rays player.
You might have noticed I have not put his name once into this post. Not once have I uttered his nicknames or even tried to write his name. Because it pains me to do so. His possible departure aches me within with a pain that I do not want to acknowledge until that last moment. For his name will always make me smile, always make me remember Rays moments, but mostly it will remind me of what a great human being, father and key component to any organization. He will that bright sunburst until he hangs his cleats up for the last time.
He started as a keystone to this revival of this franchise. Was here with the strife and pain of getting better and winning those close ones. He celebrated titles and possible advancements that we only dreamed of for this club. He was the guy we all wish we could trade places with for one day. I got to end this now because there is a problem with my eyes.
Once in a lifetime you meet someone or see someone who can transcend the norm and become one with the ongoing heartbeat and rhythm of baseball. May fahter used to tell me tales of Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle and their times in St. Petersburg. But I have my own icon of what I think is the perfect baseball player, for me, his name is Carl Crawford, and Imiss him already and he is not even gone.