I remember hearing a story as a kid about Hans Brinker, a young Dutch boy who put his finger in a dike and saved his town. Ever since then I have always assimilated small things turning into big problems to this Dutch fable such as having to use a finger to stop a leak from becoming larger. As soon as he inserted his finger into that hole, the water stopped dripping out of the earthen water retention unit.With my vivid imagination, I went beyond the simple task Brinker performed that faithful day wondering what he would have done if suddenly another hole appeared and he had to use his other hand. Then another water hole opened, and another until he was doing a virtual vertical Twister game to keep the water contained. Last night’s Tampa Bay Rays opener reminded me totally of that childhood fantasy tale. One mistake can sometimes escalate, reproduce and become a sudden emergency situation at the drop of a cap.
Even as the game began as David Price began to wheel and deal on the mound, his counterpart Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie was on point tonight. It surely seemed like the first set of watermarked mistakes might sink one of their team’s chances.
The first scare of the game came at the hands of the Rays as Dan Johnson ripped a ball to Right-Centerfield that bounced off the outfield wall just above the glove of Nick Markakis for a double. The Rays chance to open the initial floodgates were dashed by Guthrie as Johnson ended up stranded at second base after B J Upton and Matt Joyce could not muster any offensive threats. The Orioles had their thumb firmly in the leaking hole, and sealed the deal in the bottom of the second inning.
When the Rays took to the field for the third inning, it seemed as if Price and the Rays had the right diagram to keep the pesky birds down. Suddenly, Oriole Shortstop JJ Hardy blasted a Price pitch to Right-Centerfield and the sound of water dripping began in the corner of the Ray’s tank. It was only the second hit allowed by Price in the contest.
Price got a signal to try a pick-off and quickly turned and fired a perfect strike towards the third base side of the bag. Problem was Hardy was stationed directly in the path of the ball and eluded enough of it to fluster Rays rookie shortstop Reid Brignac to completely miss the throw. Brignac watched in horror as the ball trickled into Centerfield with Hardy sliding into Third Base.
You could hear and see the drip, drip, drip of water beginning to trickle louder out of the Rays tank. Even though it was still only a 1-0 lead by Baltimore at that point, the dripping sound began to become deafening during the fifth inning as Orioles catcher Matt Weiters started off a O’s rally with a single to center, then Price walked Hardy on 5 pitches. Water began to lap over the top of the Rays tank, soaking the outfield turf for the first time in 2011.
Roberts then hit a laser shot to deep Left-Centerfield for a triple as Johnny Damon and B J Upton seemed to be playing an impromptu game of “hot potato” with the game ball before getting it back to the Rays infield. With the score now 3-0, the always dangerous Markakis connected with an RBI Sacrifice Fly to deep Center and Roberts easily strolled to the plate for a 4-0 Orioles lead.
Water began to slowly cascade from the Rays Tank. Price could feel the infield turf getting mushy under the sudden liquid intrusion. Price used his fingers, toes and even a fungo bat to plug the gaping holes in the Rays water attraction. Price’s night was over after 7 innings and 103 pitches,including 7 strikeouts. But the worst was yet to come.
Upton lead off the Rays half of the eight inning by striking the first pitch from Guthrie into deep Centerfield for a double, the n the waters began to get turbulent. After Joyce field out to Center and Brignac walked, thing got all waterlogged. With Rays catcher John Jaso at the plate, Upton broke for Third and was caught red-handed between Second and Third base. During the run-down Upton made sure Brignac got to advance to Second to create another scoring chance while trying to get the Orioles to fall into their own watery graves. After making moves to the left and right, Upton was charging towards Third when Hardy inadvertently ran over Upton.
Without hesitation, Third Base Umpire Laz Diaz signaled for the out without consulting with his crew to see if Hardy had indeed performed an interference move. The initial call was that Upton ran out of the base lines, when in reality, Television replays showed Hardy inadvertently pushed Upton to the clay. Hardy’s own initial reaction on the field showed he knew had made a fax paux.
Suddenly the Rays tank seemed to flow like the Hillsborough River swamping the field and causing the Rays to strand Brignac on second base, which had become a flooded island. As multi-talented RP Andy Sonnanstine pushed gum, sunflower seeds and even a old can of Red Bull into the waterlogged holes, the damage was already done.
Even after Ben Zobrist produced a blast to Rightfield that produced the Rays first run of 2011, a snorkel seemed better suited for his run around the bases. Of course all of this is fictitious. There is no hole in the Rays tank, and Zorilla doesn’t need scuba gear. But it firmly illustrates the fact that the Rays can not let a small puddle of a mistake manifest into a lake this season.
It is the one thing that could drown the Rays chance to not only try to repeat their title, but eventually be above water by season’s end. Water is an interesting thing. It can be used to hydrate, cultivate and even has entertainment applications. But if you let a drop of water seep onto a rock, trickle into small crevasses in the formation over time you could end up with a Grand Canyon type problem.
Seal the gaps Rays. Plug the holes Keep swimming even in the face of deluge…because that is how the strong survive…even for 162 games.
I am done. I am completely done like a bad steak left on the grill too long.
Over the past 14 seasons I have been fooling myself. Somehow I have circumvented my own mind and thrust a faslehood dead center between my eyes. Today I have finally come to the reality that maybe, just maybe I am not the Rays fan I put out there for everyone else to see at Tampa Bay Rays games.
Maybe it was final obeservation that I am treated like a second class citizen by most baseball fans because I do not have a big “B” or pinstripes on my game day wear. Maybe I am just tired of the whole charade and need some time along, in my room with the lights out and some Barry Manalow playing on the stereo…Maybe.
Possibly the truth and vivid reality that I am still chasing the dream of the “underdog” and possibly I fell headfirst into a deep rut or evasive trap to the point where I do not have a way, or a reason to want anything different anymore. Maybe I liked the “Lonesome Loser” moniker more than I realized.
Maybe it was the final observation that over the past few Rays season little by little my past Rays special moments have been whittled away from me, I am just a number now (#730186 to be exact). After missing just ONE Rays game in the last 162, possibly I need a break.
It is sad that today I will get a huge bag of charcoal, fire that backyard grill up and throw my 50+ autographed wooden bats, tons of player photos with the Renegade and game-used jerseys into the blaze to let it all finally return to the heavens. Maybe the offseason frustration level just got so bad in my head and my heart that change had to happen to save my soul.
The stark reality that things have slowly been taken somewhere deep within me. Maybe my devoted fanatic committment of the Rays and the huge roster overhaul has been a initial stepping stone introducing me to my darkened path in regard to this funk.
It is time to release the devil or demon within my chest and set it free to maybe take the soul of the “Happy Heckler” again. Now it really looks like a deliberate move by the Rays to remove my presence from their fan base with slow and methodical surgical moves to cut the umbilical cord. I suddenly feel more like an outsider than a part of something…great.
Maybe it was the reality that even though I am a kid at heart at the ballpark, I can no longer complete my baseball collection each season getting some of the harder autograph because I was not under 14 years of age, which is the current age limit for getting player’s autographs in the lines on Sundays.
Maybe that was strike two in my obvious heart. For this hurt my 2011 adventure to have an autograph of everyone who was on the Rays 25-man roster during the season and now I am left with trading with young fans who want cold hard cash for their signed balls instead of trading Rays collectibles.
Maybe the final blow was finding out today that even thought I have been faithfully writing paragraph after paragraph over the last few years into this very blog, that I am viewed as an angry fan and not someone willing to post positive or even news about the team in a “Rays fan’s point of view”.
I am flabbergasted that my over 1,035 posts have been viewed as trash, that they have been proposed as fan propaganda with hidden agendas and motives. That my fan worship has been all about the all mighty dollar and not about the baseball and friendships that sometimes come with it all.
So I guess all that is left to say is that I am done. I am finished. I am going to fade into the dark abyss. Sure I might have paid nothing yet for my Rays seats, but it will make a nice fire tonight. I can not fanthom following or even writing about a team who can not feel a kinship bond with me, even though some of them are my closest friends.
I guess today is the day I am not longer a Tampa Bay Rays fan.
Like a bad relationship or marriage, this break-up is coming with a heavy heart. It was not anticipated, planned or even thought possible even 24 hours ago, but now it is here and is a final nail in the coffin as I watch that shaved down Jose Canseco bat burning on the grill putting grill marks on the white pine shaft of that game-used bat.
Next will be my “Jersey Off Their Back” game used jerseys of Edwin Jackson or Aubrey Huff jerseys with the whole episode finalizing with me burning my 1998 Game Used Wade Boggs jersey hopefully around game time.
It is said to sometimes say goodbye, but maybe this one has been 14 years long overdue. Maybe on this April 1, 2011 I finally found out that I am just a number.
That my significance is minimal and insignificant to the Rays with every fiber of my being. Maybe on this first day of April, even with the season about to unfold…..my seat will be empty for 81 games, I know it is empty tonight as the 2010 AL East Championship banner is raised and applauded. I am missing in action.
yaD slooF lirpA yppaH A