Time to Gear Up for the Red Sox Nation Invasion
I saw it in a dream last night, a Tampa Bay Rays broadcaster is seen galloping on horseback across the Howard Franklin Bridge with an over-sized cowbell in his hand and a Rays jersey upon his back bellowing and calling for the residents to arm themselves for the weekend onslaught of accents and attitudes being funneled towards the hamlet of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Many have already thrown out epic vernaculars about this weekend Tampa Bay Rays versus Boston Red Sox series. About how the traveling brigade of Red Sox Nation faithful will over run this region like Sherman did ATL back in the mid-1860’s. That this trip is going to end with champagne being popped in hotel rooms and on the beaches as members wearing that dreaded “B” upon their bonnet will laugh at this young franchise trying to take what is their destiny.
This is the same bunch of faithful fans that throughly clogged websites and comment boards spewing tales of a impending 100+ victory 2011 campaign, a return to Major League Baseball post season dominance, and the hammer coming firmly down with authority upon the hearts of the Rays Republic. This is the same franchise that adamantly believes they are coming down to Florida for a late season off day and vacation, not an epic weekend series of battle that could tarnish their end goal, possibly finally eliminating that fantasy of 100 wins.
Posts and blogs have deemed this series the ultimate “beginning of the end” of the Rays chance at firmly grasping meaningful October games, but is it really that clear cut? If this Red Sox team was so superior in talent then why is their so much banter crossing each team’s bow by fans right now?
Some military historians will tell you that barrages upon the siege site you want to occupy weaken the resolve and confidence of those within the shelled area. Is that why more than a bucketful of Red Sox blogs and fan-based websites have begun to use their written and vocal weapons, to try and beat back the Rays Republic’s resolve and hope for a Tropicana Field filled with jaws on their knees and impending doom over the Trop’s dome.
Little do the pundits of Red Sox Nation know that this level of Rays confidence breeds a silent willpower while maybe a few compounded Red Sox insecurities and rolling thoughts of doubt or implosion are forcing out a larger number of sporadic attacks upon the Rays Republic. Maybe after this weekend the Red Sox Nation will see that this beach side oasis called St. Petersburg is more major league than they imagined.
I’m am not trying to delusional here. I know the Rays chances of even posting up for a chance to get an invite to the extended October party currently rests at less than a 10% possibility, but those are better odds than 21 other Major League Baseball teams that will be playing out the month as an experiment into their formulation of their 2012 squads.
Some Boston blogs have stated that the Red Sox 7 game cushion would be a insurmountable wall for this young Rays squad to attempt to scale, but with 7 dates between these two teams in their next 10 games, the Rays could firmly stick a poisonous barb in the Red Sox celebration plans with a string of impressive victories. There has been chatter that if the Rays have to muster a sweep of these 7 games, if that were to happen then destiny and faith are the real sweethearts of the Rays trek.
If the Rays take care of business at home and get a minimum of 2 out of 3 games, then the Rays Republic have to become “bird watchers” on the out-of-town scoreboards over the next few weeks as the Red Sox have 3-games series on the books upcoming with both Toronto (9/13-15) and Baltimore (9/19-21).
Those games will be conveniently sandwiched between this 3-game home visit and the Rays last possible visit to Fenway. These pesky feather friends of the Rays could peck away series victories against Boston to make the Rays final 19 contests more interesting. Considering the Red Sox lost 2 out of 3 in Toronto on their current road trip, post season plans are definitely not in stone for Boston, but winning becomes paramount right now if the Rays want to pop those champagne corks again.
Right now the combined efforts of Rays starters Wade Davis, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson will be amped to their highest levels as anything less than success will let the Red Sox Nation’s words and comments drive another verbal or written nail in the Rays coffin. But if this team does what they have done over the last 20 games, providing 6 walk-off victories, it might be the Red Sox Nation who might end up clutching their treasured “B” across their hearts in disbelief and wonder.
This series needs no extra drama. It doesn’t facilitate any measures of “up-and-in chin music”. This series will display who has the right blend of tools in their woodshed, and who in the end on Sunday afternoon will get taken to said shed beaten and battered. Battlelines have been clearly drawn, and the day of rest today will be needed both mentally and physically as this could be the start of a series of hard fought battles to ultimately not only decide the Rays/Red Sox 2011 war, but their ultimate surrounding in October.
Young guns like Brandon Guyer, Desmond Jennings and Hellickson should have significant parts to play in this series, and if they rise to the top, the Rays will follow. Boston and Tampa Bay playing each other with consistent fever and fury is an rivalry in it’s infancy, with a series win this weekend, the Rays could move it swiftly to it’s “teen years”. There will be backward moments lined with pitfalls and human error, but a team united will always beat a team divided.
Some have commented that failure in any aspect during these critical 7 games will doom the Rays post season streak, but the smart money is on the underdog. For the underdog Rays are the team that has risen from the dead early this season, scraped and fought for this late season surge with the prize still within their sights.
During Spring Training I still remember Red Sox fans accosting me for telling them they will not reach the 100-win plateau……With calculated wins over these 7 games, that mark will forever perish. Today is a day of calm in Tampa Bay, a day of refocusing, revitalizing and re-stoking the impending fires before Boston tries to come into Tropicana Field trying to stake their claim to a post season prize.
Maybe those epic witty vernaculars work in the jargon and accents permeating Southward from Boston, but here in blue-collar Tampa Bay the simple act of winning can silence those lips and maybe make a few Nation followers doubt themselves. That would be a silent but deadly attack in this showdown worth the price of admission. Gear up Tampa Bay, the Red Sox are Coming! The Red Sox are Coming! Still I wonder, can Rays broadcaster Brian Anderson ride a horse?