Rays Ready For a 30-Day Battle
Something tells me this is going to be a long 30 days for the Tampa Bay Rays as they march towards determining their post season fate. Little voice in the back of my head is telling me that this surge of the Tampa Bay Rays towards their third possible slot in the post season in 4 seasons might have a few unforeseen surprises, and a chance for them to ambush their opponents who underestimate this young Rays brigade.
Hope the Rays clubhouse leadership can firmly make their comrades aware of the many pitfalls and land mines still hidden from their view on their quest. Some around baseball have said this Rays aggressive march could end up be a suicide mission, that every member of this team will have to leave everything they have within themselves nightly out on that diamond fighting tooth and nail to their last swing or toss to bring about October glory again.
The Rays still have enough games against the New York Yankees (6 games) and Boston Red Sox (7 games) to make their September campaign work to their advantages. This well thought out and aggressive maneuvering of Rays Field General Joe Maddon is going to encounter a few incredibly steep inclines with a slippery and icy slope. In other words, it is not going to be a walk in the park if the Rays want to celebrate in October.
This same Rays squad has shown this season they are up for the challenge, and have succeeded when their backs have been against the wall. That kind of mental toughness and commitment could be instrumental over the coming weeks, especially when the darkening shadows try to overtake Tropicana Field during their 15 home contests.
If the Rays want to truly make it into those meaningful games in October, they will have to earned it with sweat, hustle and a little hemoglobin upon the AstroTurf. Not trying to throw a irrepressible dark cloud upon the Rays march towards October, but there might be a few things the Rays Republic might want to consider before buying your celebration champagne.
The Rays have an all time record of 133-209 or a less than joyful .389 winning percentage during the month of September. To put an even bigger haze on the prize, September has been the Rays worst month to garner wins in the franchise’s short history. In their previous 13 Major League Baseball campaigns, the Rays have never even hoisted a single “W” above the .500 mark for the month.
The only other times the Rays have even come close to the “even-Stephen” mark was during their two previous romps towards the post season. In 2008 and 2010 the Rays had to post 13-14 marks during the month to even get a chance to celebrate along with the fans.
But it will take a few lucky breaks, a 4-leaf clover or two, and possibly each and every member of the Rays Republic frantically rubbing their rabbit’s foot to get the Baseball Gods into letting this same Rays team parade into the October sunlight. Considering how they started their 2011 season, this would be a colossial achievement for this team. Some have already said it will take a perfect storm, a universally aligned divine intervention for the Rays to stay above that .500 horizon during this grand march towards their 2011 destiny. Doubters beware of the Rays magic.
There are only 26 Rays contests left in 2011, and with the Rays squad hovering between 7.5 and 9 game back of their Northern rivals, defying their past September history would be an epic achievement. The Rays still have 13 games against the 2 teams above them in the AL East, and these same rivals have 4 more battles between themselves that could make the AL East standings a little more interesting come the final weeks of the season.
By the conclusion of the Rays and Red Sox 4-game battle ending on September 11th, the Rays should have a more realistic view of their fate, destiny and dreams. It is going to be a rough road as the Rays battle their own AL East members during 22 of their final 26 contests, even playing host to the always aggressive Texas Rangers for a late season 4-pack. Road doesn’t get easier for the Rays, but that is what good teams do…Win when they are suppose to lose.
To say this is an extreme uphill climb would be diminishing its full effect and intensity. We all know that this Rays team has pulled more than its share of magic out of their caps this season, especially during the last few home stands. With 15 of their final 26 contests at home, the Rays have a chance to firmly determine their march towards their goal of meaningful October games.
Rays Republic got to experience that “Magical Season” in 2008, and again revel in the madness and celebration with another AL East title in 2010. This final push for the Rays will decide more than just their fate in October, it could be the last time a few of the Rays players ever have a chance to play as a team on the Trop’s turf. 26 chances in the next 30 days to survive and play again in October. I am beginning to like the Rays odds.
The mission will be tough, but somewhere deep within me I know this is also a team that strives to be the underdog, enjoys being overlooked by their opponents. This is a team hungry to again win the battle before embarking on an October war. Who knows, if the Rays are successful in this campaign maybe Rays Manager Joe Maddon will wear a military helmet into a post game Press Conference. Maddon might even quote General George Patton or Sun Tzu. Either way, it is time for the Rays to suit up because their 30-day campaign begins today with full gear with October on the horizon.