Results tagged ‘ playoffs ’

It is “Put Up or Shut Up” Time for the Rays

 

And so it begins.

The Texas Rangers are the first team that has been mathematically eliminated from any chance at a 2014 post season berth.

From this point on that number will grow constantly until the final 10 spots are secure and the celebration champagne flows around the league.

1378648_10151724900023429_1227590394_nSure I want to see the Tampa Bay Rays in that hunt until the end, and possibly get a chance to fight again even if it is Game 163 to claim that glistening trophy. If this team needs any visual reminder of how they are respected around baseball……just play the video above.

It sucks that once again the Rays are not included in clips showing spectacular game ending plays, walk-off heroics or even a hint of pitching brilliance. That video in itself would make me work a bit harder, grind a bit longer and produce a bay of salty sweat to grip another post season chance.

Sure time is passing quickly for any rise of the Rays to get within single digits of even a chance at an American League East title. But maybe, just maybe if this team can duplicate their recent road magical essence at home, they could easily erase a few competitors, start a righteous climb up the Wild Card ladder and grasp a chance of baseball in October.

mlb-tampa-bay-rays-minnesota-twinsI am one of those fans who believes until the door is shut. That Destiny, Hope and even her twin Faith can embrace this Rays squad and help them on their journey.

This Rays home stand will decide if they travel upward or slide down further out of any contention.

. To add a little bit of spice and additional drama to the mix is the pure fact the Rays play 22 of these final 28 game against their A L East rivals.

That’s right, the Rays only have 2 sets of 3-game series against the Chicago White Sox (@ home) and the Cleveland Indians (in C-town) outside the confines of the A L East.

The Rays have will play Baltimore Orioles only 3 more time ( 3-Home) this season, the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees  each 6 more times ( 3-Home, 3-Away) this season.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay RaysBut there is a bright and shining light as the Rays will get the chance to face the current cellar dwelling Boston Red Sox 7 times (4-Home, 3-Away) before the season wraps up.    

It is no longer about playing .500 ball over the rest of the season.

During their current AL East only home stand, the Rays might have to win 7-8 of these contests to make their future  a bit brighter before they head on a 6-game New York, Toronto road trip.

Now is the time to win at all costs, it is truly time for this Rays squad to fully articulate and embrace that this home stand is the true essence of a proverbial “Put up or shut up” moment.

mlb_a_postseasonsign_576With only 28 games left in the 2014 schedule the Rays have to intensify their game and win at least 18-20 of these contests at a minimum to be within the last cloud of dust for a post season slot.

Now is the time for the Rays to truly leave it all on the field.

I Have a Fever, and There is No Cure!

 


 

I was sitting at the outside bar at Ferg’s, a regular Rays watering hole just beyond the shadow of Tropicana Field right before heading into the 72 degree confines for Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series and an old college friend of mine, who is an ex- Army corpsman and a current St. Pete Fire Department EMT told me I looked like liquid garbage sitting on that wooden stool. Always nice to hear such sweet nothings like that from a cute brunette in a uniform, but instantly I became alarmed by her observation.

But deep down, I knew she was right. I was suffering from something that has been constantly growing deep inside myself for the last few days. It has begun to start overtaking a huge chunk of my life with regards to the normal every day activities. My friend turned a empathetic ear towards me and sat there quietly listening for a few minutes ramble on about the weird changes that had been happening recently to my body and mind.

Of my enduring wild bouts of sudden insurmountable insomnia that had me watching replays of Rays games on MLB.TV until 5 am, or about the increasing night sweats after a few bad Rays losses. Or even about the thoughts circling within my brain bringing me to a stage of insanity that routinely rings in my head after a recent close ballgame that could have gone either way. I told her how my reaction time to foul balls was uncommonly sloth-like instead of being like the usual human Venus flytrap.

She instantly began to humor me a bit and just sat there and nodded her head from time to time as I went on about the lack of concentration on thoughts that did not revolve around baseball, and the difficulty I was having prioritizing even simple events like laundry or eating lunch at the same time. That I turned my cellphone to silent to keep my little world secure from friends in Texas, Minnesota or New York from ruining my little Utopia right now.

 

I complained to her that for some odd reason, only three things seemed to matter to me right now. That I am impressed that my body is still doing routine tasks, but that they seemed more centered around what time the Tropicana Field gates will fly open at the Trop. She just sat there listening like a $200/hour personal shrink with a spoiled rich kid with social network anxiety problems on a overstuffed leather couch.

I even went as deep into it all as to tell her about my new found preoccupation with minimal issues like my special free parking place at the bike rack at the stadium, or my routine of biking to and from the stadium a certain way, and not deviating from that path a single step, even if there was a taxi or car in the way. I had gone into a unforeseen mode of superstition and daily routines I had not experienced for two years. I was down right going bonkers before her very eyes.

I rambled on about the way I was battling a huge bout of game time indecisions on the simple decisions like if I was going to have the Cuban sandwich, or got “hog-wild” and stack the loaded nachos with a bevy of jalapenos and hot sauce. My basic decision-making process was now being bogged down by a sense of internal mental fatigue that made me not even want to consider anything out of the ordinary, or remotely new right now in my day-to-day routines or game day patterns.

That in the bitter end, even after a huge win lately, I was battling a huge mountain of fatigue and restlessness that had never entered my life before. I felt like something was trying to invade and take over my body. That a foreign object or beings was infiltrating my soul and pushing the usual Renegade to the curb.

Through all of this she just sat there listening and mentally jotting down the symptoms and the causes to give me a quick spot-on diagnosis that people who work as E M T’s have to do almost instantly so many times daily on their job. You could almost see the smoke and wheels turning in her mind as she was eliminating mental illnesses and adding psychological responses and placebo cause and effects that could be the ultimate source of this epidemic that has bogged down my mental and physical being. Then she began to clear her throat and made a announcement of what I needed to do right now:

“You have to understand that this aliment has been around for a very long time. The cause of your problem is not solely physical in nature, but can be processed through your body at an astounding rate that will boggle your usual senses and day-to-day routine abilities. That your internal clock right now is being sped up to an alarming rate by a visual and environmental stimulation brought on by your own emotional pull towards the subject matter at hand.”

She then laughed and smacked me in the noggin a few times. She still had not fully revealed what was her final diagnosis. She just kept teasing me with it, knowing that I might not be able to handle the truth, or maybe was waiting for my nerves and the mind games that were already playing in my head to swirl a bit longer and turn me into a mental bowl of mush. She was sitting there trying to see if my orbiting energized electrodes could pick out the aliment all by itself before revealing the cosmic truth at last. She was truly amazed that I could not figure this simple aliment out all by myself without outside help.

“Darling, you really still can not figure this illness out by yourself?
You, my dear friend are suffering from a odd-cultural ailment that has plagued man every since the ancient cavemen first picked up two sticks and began fighting with the assembled tribe watching them. You are suffering an urbanite-based version of battle fatigue that effects people who follow a particular sports team and sometimes lives and breathes on their seasonal outcomes. You are beginning to show extreme signs of a acute case of Post-Partum Playoff Disorder”


And the news immediately shocked me. Here I was a strong-willed guy who had never fallen into that unforeseen trap of competitive silliness for years while ademently following my local team. But for some reason during this point in every season I fell face-first into the unobvious abyss and uncoiled for some reason. She saw my face suddenly go blood-less and turn a odd shade of off-white for a moment until I had that look of a man suddenly saved by the grace of god, or maybe by a errant throw by the shortstop to first. I had finally got it. I finally understood what was going on, and it all made total sense to me now.

 

Still there was a missing overall theme to the barstool prognosis. There was a missing piece of the final aliment puzzle that made me feel mildly empty inside at that moment. What was the final cure, or was there even a known cure? Could this be treated with kindness, or did I have to go through a rapid decompression of emotions and thoughts to again function like a normal human being? Or did I just have a fever for some extreme Cowbell? She sat there with a sly smile and a simple look on her face that told me I had already seen the answer.


“Think about it this way. Last season the tide and the final result of a possible playoff push and result was decided early on in last month of the 2009 season. The stress and the emotional attachment could be stretched out over the course of the season with no sudden pushes and floods of emotional attachment until the final conclusion and resolution in October. The symptoms could be masked with ease. What you need to do now is get up out of your seat, turn around three times and do three cheers for pizza, then do a rowdy rendition of the “Chicken Dance” for me.”


I sat there for a moment before rising from my seat and slowly remembering the moves of that classic dance and began to perform for a few moments. And you want to know something, it suddenly felt better.


“For the last few months you have been sitting a bit more idle in your seat, not celebrating like the rest of the Rays Republic. You have internalize the stress for some reason. You have taken your outer fandom and turned it within yourself forgetting your love for celebrating aloud and with vigor by showing your pride with this team. But last, but not least, you have to again not hinge every emotion and thought on the outcome of these next 48 hours. Life goes on without the Rays sweetie, and so should you!”


And with that prolific oratory, we both began to have one of those deep belly-busting laughs that you can only have with great friends. She saw that the color was again rising within me, coming back into my tanned skin and that my face was slowly ebbing towards its usual peach-color. Maybe I just needed to hear it from someone else. Maybe I needed a reassurance that others were going through this same mode of illness. Maybe I did just need more cowbell in a sense. I then asked what we should call this odd aliment that had taken over my life and my entire thought process for so long.

I wanted to attach some kind of astronomical name or even a cause and effect process for this illness that had caused so much sleep-less nights and sloth-like days. I needed to somehow throw a symbolic verbiage up in my mind to get a solid label on it all, and then finally move forward. The words out of her mouth seemed to come out in slow motion and my eyes and ear hung on every syllable and vowel until it finally wrestled in my eardrums.


“It’s very simple what you got………..You got Playoff Fever and you will not be the first to show these symptoms…or the last It is an illness of the Fall Classic. Everyone gets some form of it, you just look it to an extreme level. So let’s get off this barstool, the Trop’s gates are about to open!”

Quit Trying to Write the Rays Obit

 

 
Elise Amendola/AP
With a exact dozen games left for this band of Tampa Bay Rays in the 2010 season, some within the Rays Republic have begun calling franticly skyward to the Gods to help stop an apparent exodus of our communities confidence and belief in post season prosperity. The latest rolling in of dark clouds have quickly assembled above the Rays, and with its darkened cover comes the slight elimination of the sunlight that helps to provide a centrifuge of negative energy and misguided pockets of doubt at this moment.

Some within the Rays Republic have already sighted the Four Cow-nosed Rays of the Apocalypse furiously fluttering towards our Tampa Bay region, but as of now, this collective Rays posse are still circling out in the Gulf of Mexico just beyond the impending sunset on the horizon. That by the Four Cow-nosed Rays of the Apocalypse own immortal presence within their eyesight, this Rays team has to acknowledge and prepare for the carnage that could unfold in the near future.

The hot cauldron of water these Rays are currently emersed in will soon become a rapidly rolling boil, and this fragile Rays team might be scalded like crayfish tossed into a steel pot for consumption. Several signs of an impending Rays apocalypse have already shown their gory faces, and that we might as well give up now or forever be condemned to the purgatory of mediocrity that engulfed our teams from 1998-2007.

To fight this prophetic conclusion might be futile and cost this team their own souls forever. With signs of the impending doom already being unsealed, could this Rays team find the moral fortitude, the almighty gumption, and the divine light of wisdom and truth to rise above these ashes and regroup. Can their will and confidence be restored and thus provide them with a emotional and mental weaponry to defeat and conquer despite their current physical imperfections and mistakes in battle.

Even though a mighty warrior named Joba thrust his sword deep into the Rays collective heart this past evening, can this group of Rays revolutionaries still regain the beating heart of a champion and endure the immense pain they have already been subjected upon themselves and emerge from this darkness with a renewed vigor and vitality?

That this prior set of moments of weakness and strife can be used internally by each of these Rays combatants to bring an increasing urge to again fight back and provide a ferocious fire in their bellies for redemption to conquer this foe that is trying to condemn them to their own demise. Both other voices within the darkness are harking to their destruction with unfounded tales of woe surfacing from the almighty ESPN telling the masses that these Rays are slain and left dying at this point, and thus will not be able to rise to the mountain top of the American League East.

 

But alas, the prediction by this ESPN soothsayers has mysteriously forgotten that with a single thrust of the Rays victorious sword, with a single win upon the Bronx battlefield against these Yankees, the Rays would still control their own final path on this AL East journey. That if by chance, these two kingdoms of baseball majesty still remain tied atop the A L East summit at the end, the tattered and torn Rays would be crowned the champions, and not that lot from the borough of the Bronx.


Lost amongst the ruin and rubble of the last three games in which these Rays have floundered is still the seeds of triumph and not the planting of despair that would have these Rays wandering aimlessly about the cityscape. That by their own Rays arms and actions they will have to condemn themselves to their own pitfall of failure. The actions of another floundering kingdom in yonder Boston, who is simultaneously imploding amongst its own dismal fate, the Rays chance at playoff redemption should be secured soon.

With all the current strife and turmoil anointed on these Rays hurlers, their seasonal light still shines bright, and glorious growth can still happen within the next 12 games. That even amongst the battlefield with the increasing combative sorcery of their current enemy, these Rays still have a solid chance to stand tall and proud in the end. That by entrenching themselves in their fundamental baseball beliefs, these Rays know in their heart if hearts they can still perservere.

The Four Cow-nosed Rays of the Apocalypse may be on the immediate horizon, but they are not here for destruction or even dismantling of this army. They are there as a constant reminder to this Rays team that failure can be bestowed upon them with haste, but that ultimate glory and positive affirmation can also be just beyond their reach if they were to turn themselves 180 degree and seek it.

The apparent sighting of this foursome is not to be taken as a defeat, but as a reminder of how far this team and this franchise has swam in 13 seasons to partake and embrace a second possible American League East summit. Sometimes we have to have hints of the past pushed at us to remind us of just how far we have traveled.

The Rays can look at this scenario with the almighty Yankees in two ways before they take the field tonight.

 

They can look at it with a pessimistic set of eyes and see a 1 ½ game lead going into their last dozen games with a two game streak of frustration and disappointment streaming within their minds. Or these Rays can view this as a 3-2 Yankees advantage in the 7-game home-and-home series with Game 6 and 7 in the next two days.

To take the first scenario would be to embrace the defeatist aspect of what this series.

To envelope yourselves in the second set of circumstances will give heed to confidence and the ability to fight back and recharge the energies to take the next two games to this foe and come out with a 4-3 edge in this battle. To me personally, it is time to go out and net those Four Cow-nosed Rays of the Apocalypse and pop them back into the Rays tank where they belong and take the next two nights to the Yankees.


If The Tampa Bay region burrows deep within itself to the misguided beliefs and insane assumptions flowing from our Northern neighbors and ESPN, then we are truly in that pot of scalding water and will be consumed by the masses. But if you believe in the “Rays Way” and the collective heart and soul of this region still beats strong , along with that of our Rays squad, then stand up, yell loud and make sure the rest of this country know the Rays are still alive and well and ready to sting anyone in our way.
 

Rays and Yankees, Playing For All the Marbles

 
 
Bill Koustroun/AP

You want to throw last night’s performance under the heading of “gutsy and determined” but it lacked the finishing blows needed to give the Tampa Bay Rays another shot at the top spot. The game did go back and forth playing like a simple kid’s yo-yo for innings before the New York Yankees took advantage of unusual Rays Manager Joe Maddon miscue and put the finishing touches on a solid victory.

Some sitting inside Yankee Stadium last night were wondering why these Rays would not go away and give in to the obvious conclusion. They wondered to themselves why this young team took it on the chin hard in the opening innings and still came out and answered the bell every inning by clawing and scratching their way back before being pushed back into the darkness by one simple mistake.

This game had all the nuances and dramatic plot twists of a post season contest, except for one key element. It was still September. If this is the way these two teams are going to play in a few weeks, heaven help the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins fans, and the makers of Pepto Bismol. Games like the last four between these two opposite ends of the spectrum teams is what will propel this new rivalry to astronomical heights min the coming years. These two team will have played 7 of their last 10 against each other, and the tally is tied at 2-2 going into tonight’s battle.

This is no longer your Father’s Rays., who were the lonesome losers and bottom dweller of the American League East. This Rays team has matured over the years and gathered a wealth of useful Yankee knowledge and experience and is now ready to dethrone the Kings of Baseball. The Rays franchise has come a long way in their yearly series against the Bronx Bombers since those lonely Rays days of the late 1990’s. New York fans still embrace and speak about their team’s dismantling of those pesky D-Rays back in 1998 when the D-Rays won only one game (at home) against the Yankees at home, and had to settle for a 1-11 dismal seasonal series mark against the Bombers.

 
Kathy Willens/AP

The 2010 yearly series mark is now set at 8-7, with the Yankees having a chance to better their Southern rivals and post another winning edge in this seasonal series. With the game pressures increasing, and the number of games decreasing, this final series of 4 games will decide more than just the yearly series. At stake is a possible American League East title, plus a nice high position in the cat-bird’s seat as we both enter the playoffs.

This is the way pre-playoff baseball should be played. Both teams are watching for every little subtle nuance or err in judgment. Every crack and crevice in their fortified armor will be attacked and manipulated to try and produce the needed firepower and run production that will provide victory in the end. This series is definitely has a distinctive “take no prisoners” attitude from both teams.

You do not need bulletin board fodder or any profound reasoning to get your emotions up for this series. It is all about the top tier, and to the winner of this last series gets the added momentum of having the edge in the first tie-breaker if these two teams end up tied at the top spot at the conclusion of the season. And that possibility does still seem bright on the horizon with the Yankees still having to entertain the Boston Red Sox six more times, while the Rays play the likes of the Orioles, Mariners and Royals in their last 10 contests.

Right now you have to systematically give the edge to the Rays based on the winning percentages of their final foes, but across from them is the defending World Champions, who will not surrender or retreat an inch of ground without a fight. That makes for entertaining baseball, and will be the essence and foundations for future baseball stories told to grandkids and anyone who will listen for years to come both in New York and Tampa Bay. These two titans from different prospective will fight to the last out.

 
Kathy Willens/AP

And even if the Rays or Yankees take a firm grasp of the divisional title and hold it close to their vest, there is still the thought and realistic expectation that these two might end up as possible 7-game series foes in a later round of the playoffs. This is not to push down the accomplishments or records of the Rangers or Twins, but for some odd reason it seems destiny is riding the wave of the Rays right now. But fate is definitely in the wheelhouse for the Yankees. It will be the endurance and stamina of these two squads that will provide an ultimate survivor.

So with that in mind, their game day mistakes will be amplified and popped under a increasing microscope no matter if accidental or intentional by nature. Fans will embrace or discard rumors, situational judgments and incite hard spoken opinions and embattlements to each team’s place in this late seasonal battlefield. Chants will be bellowed to the heights and small disagreements will ensure among usual friends. This renewable rivalry might even test family bonds in some homes.

All the odd and perpendicular angles of these two teams seem to point to a possible splitting of the four games in this series. The subtle nuances and occasional on the field changes in fate or destiny of either team’s usually reliable weapons might come quickly into the light as the deciding factors, or the weapons of their own immediate demise. This is the way baseball should be played in late September. With the same energy and hustle of April, but with a keen eye on the prize with every pitch.


 
Bill Koustroun/AP
 
This type of series is why the Yankees and Rays fans have grown to dislike each other for different reasons. Yankee fans think the Rays faithful rely on gimmicks like cowbells and flashy stadium videos while they adhere to tradition and doing their “Yankee Roll Call” during every game. The Rays fans take exception to the Yankees coming into Tropicana Field as Yankee Stadium South boasting about rings and things that will never be equal because we are 13 years old, and the Yankees started played in 1901 as one of the eight charter Major League teams.

It is more than just a battle on the field of two giants of the game today. It is a fight between the younger cousin and the feisty older brother for dominance. It is a fight of tradition forged by 109 years against a young whippersnapper that came from the cellar to contend quickly and will not go away. It is about a region fighting for respect and a chance at redemption, while the other wants to add to their legacy.

Last, but not least, it is a classic David and Goliath story where the “city that never sleeps” is being pestered and bothered by a town some think “roll up their sidewalks at 10pm and go to bed”. Some say it is the opening blows by the changing environment of Major League Baseball where money and taking the best talent doesn’t provide protection to getting the gold in the end.

Others think being smart with investments in players and matching talents to a precision game plan will bring victory in the end. Lines are drawn, gears has been obtained, now it is time for the bats and arms to do the talking and let the chips fall where they may. As ring announcer Micheal Buffer loves to say “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!”

 

Winning Will Cure the Rays Current Blues

 
 

As the Tampa Bay Rays players and staff assembled on the Tropicana Field turf after Sundays game in their “Loud Pants” ensembles for their chartered flight to New York it is apparent the team is trying to do evereything possible to again set the course of this Rays ship in the right direction. Losing 2 out of 3 against the pesky Angels this weekend did nothing for the Rays confidence level as they head into a critcal 4-game mosh with the New York Yankees.
 
Losing right now should be the last thing on the Rays menu right now The Tampa Bay Rays do not need to be sputtering at this important juncture of the season. The Rays need to resemble more of a classic muscle car (69 Camaro) and use their offensive horsepower to thrust right through the next two weeks with their hair on fire. This is not the time to become in any way timid or secure, then get trampled by letting another team get the best of them as they daydream of the future.


Every single team and players the Rays will play against during the duration of this 2010 season is going to try to knock the Rays off the post season mountain top and cause them stumble or flutter. The Orioles, Mariners and Royals have nothing to lose except a few 2011 MLB Draft positions. It will be on their immediate radar that if they can,as a spoiler team put their own late season exclamation point on their year by defeating the Rays in a game or shocking them in a series, they will do it in a New York minute.

 

But first the Rays have to digest firmly in their own minds that they will collectively begin to stop defeating themselves on the field. Small mistakes right now have shown huge reprecussions, and wins right now come at a premium price. I will give Desmond Jennings a break in getting thrown out in a rundown the other night because he might have misread a sign or the pitcher’s motion.

Rookies make those mistakes. But the Rays have to eliminate that possible mistake scenario and focus and adjust accordingly to what the opposition is going to give them for the rest of the season. Every single mistake no matter how small on the surface will be magnified and could be a key element towards a defeat. Eliminating simple mistakes could be a key component to the success or failure of this team over the next two weeks.

Right now the Rays are not playing to their true potential. For some reason they seem to shift into a defensive mode or shell after obtaining a lead and then try not to make critical mistakes instead of  going out and playing the “Rays Way”  and strongarm a team like the Angels.


 

The number of 1-run games recently played in by the Rays might not signal a offensive slowdown on the field, but the Rays current offense seems to be on a tethered leash and needs to break away soon. If not, the Rays might be packing for an away series in the American League Divisional Series instead of flaunting a home field advantage.
The Rays have given the Minnesota Twins ample time to rally and converge fast upon the Rays for a shot at homefield advantage in the post season, and might even give the Twins a chance topass both the Rays and New York Yankees soon and control their own postseason destiny.


That can not happen. The Twins must be kept down in the second or third seed range for the Rays to get a favorable match-up that provides them an honest chance to again get to the American League Championship Series. Any stumbles or bumbles from this point on gives not only the Yankees and Twins a “leg-up” on the Rays, but give the Texas Rangers a dose of confidence that the stumbling Rays might be an easier target to defeat in the post season.

 

The next four days in their series against the Yankees should be a major battle for the Rays to secure their second American League East title. Any deviation from the ultimate game plan could tumble the Rays into a second place scenario and then the Rays will have to await their possible opponent and fate after October 4th.

Most Rays fans have acknowledged that a split or better in this series is within the Rays firm grasp, and a falter at all to lose more than two games in this series will be the possible boot step the Yankees will use to secure the division and become clean and clear of the Rays carnage over their final games.


This is the time for the Rays veterans to come to the front and bring the young guys with them to blow this Yankee series and the Rays offensive machine into high gear. This is the time for destiny and fate to either join together in the Rays cause or see this team falter. The next four games  will set the overall tone of the Rays final home stand, and provide the Rays with a chance for the enitre team to celebrate with the home fans instead of by themselves possibly in Kansas City. 

Right now the stars are aligned for the Rays to possibly clinch next Sunday in front of the afternoon crowd at Tropicana Field. With a current “Magic Number” of 8, the Rays know that any loss, or wins by the Boston Red Sox, who also begin a 3-game series against the Baltimore Orioles tonight could put another banana peel on the Rays path to the post season. Winning right now provides a more solid foundation going into the final games and the playoffs.

It is as simple as Nike always says, “Just Do It”, and the Rayscan come home to the Trop late Thursday night for the last home stand with a renewed sense of gusto and bravado that will propel them into the playoffs.

 

The game plan is simple, just win and the rest will take of itself. But even the simplest of plans can run into hidden traps and slight deviations from the norm. For those trying moments,maybe another simple premise of “adjusting and conquering on the fly” will be in order to provide success for the Rays.  


No need trying to complicate the rest of the year’s game plan. Winning breeds success and bolsters the positioning the Rays will need to rise to the top again. All we need now is a quick adjust ment or tune-up to our offensive machine, then the Rays can rev up those motors to rhe redline and get some much needed distance between themselves and those dastardly Twins and Yankees. Plus a few well placed wins also put the final dagger into the Red Sox  still beating playoff heart. That in itself should be motivation enough.
 

Top Rays Memory of 2008………………..Playoffs Baby!!!

 

 

 

Everyone remembers the magic of your first time. The first time you had a bubbly ice cold soda, or maybe even tried that ride at the fair that scared you to death a year earlier. But the fascination and the excitement of trying something, or achieving something for the first time can be a rush that can not be beat.

 

 

It is for that reason that my Top Moment for 2008 for the Tampa Bay Rays includes a new “first” for the franchise. As I said before, we always remember our first time entering the ballpark, checking out the sounds, smells and the atmosphere of this new electric-charged dome. You still think about the first Batting  Practice or your first foul ball catch, or even the first autograph you ever got at the game. And who could ever forget the taste of that first stadium hot dog. I know all of these are still fresh in my mind, and it has been over 40 years since my first game at Al Lang Field watching the St. Petersburg Cardinals.

 

 

So it is with great pleasure that I introduce my number one memory of 2008. It occurred on September 20, 2008 with 36,048 other believers in the stands and jumping up and down like madmen. It was a time for rejoicing and for remembering all the things we loved about the Rays. Not only did the team play a hard fought 7-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins, but the team secured its first EVER playoff berth.

 

Considering this team had never won more than 71 games a year, and for most of the year fought hard to keep its top spot in the American League East race, this was the moment for the home fans and the players to salute a great season, and the celebrate together. I know a lot of people might consider one of the many I picked as a number 2 moment for this top spot. This was personal to me. I got to celebrate with a few friends as they wandered and cheered around the stadium,

 

I got to remind a few of them that the journey has just began and they made sure I knew that it was us, the fans that drove this bus to the playoffs as much as the players. And I got to drink from the champagne bottles and taste that sweet nectar that went down like cool rainwater and tasted like spun honey. It was one of the biggest moments for me as a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays…………….and hopefully you got to enjoy it too that day…………….

 

Basking in the Moment………..1st Playoff Berth 

 

 


It might have looked like a mob scene out of your favorite sports movie, but believe me, the energy in that place yesterday was so severe that it sometimes seemed to choke you from the intensity in the air. From the energy and the explosion of emotion in the stadium atmosphere yesterday, this game was won by the time they  even first stepped  on the turf.

 


Seriously folks, I have never felt so drained emotionally and mentally in my life. I was literally crawling out of the Trop at 9 P.M. after celebrating in the stands, near the clubhouse with a few friends, and in the Budweiser Brew house having a few brews with the old crew from the last 10 years. This was a night were everyone in Tampa Bay would have a peaceful nights sleep.

 

 


This is a day/night/weekend that will sit up there with the best memories I have involving sports in my life. I have been to a few wild celebrations, like the Baltimore Ravens victory party in Ybor City after they won the Super Bowl in Tampa, or even a late night cocktail party at Reign after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup with a few ex-Rays players.  I am so spent right now and I have not come down from this yet. And I have a  Season Ticket holder Picture Day in 6 hours with the players. Well, the ones who are awake at 10 am.

 

 

All I can say is this is going down in my memory banks as one of the greatest day in my fan life. How can it get any better………….oh, wait WE could have THREE more of these great celebrations before the playoffs are all over with this year!  And then the real party will begin!  But let’s not get too far in front of ourselves here, there is a long road to go to even think of that situation right now.

 

 


THREE more chances where these guys pay as much attention to their team partying as they do out with us, the fans.  From interview to interview last night, the guys to a “T”, talked about the Tampa Bay Rays fans. They included the fans in their celebrations. Getting up on the dugout and spraying the masses with champagne and beer. Throwing 9=8 playoff hats and T-shirts to them all, and relishing a moment that will live in this franchises history books  and memory forever.

 

 

 


You always remember your first time. You remember where you were, Who you were standing with, and what you were doing at that exact moment. When the guys came running down into the Bull Pen Cafe area and I was standing on the railing, I can not remember how many of those guys came up there and slapped my hand and gave me a fist bump. But the ones that were special were the Hugs from J P Howell, Jonny Gomes, Chad Orvella and Scott Kazmir.  I have chatted almost daily with  a lot of these guys on their way to the Bullpen, or back in the right field area, and they are some of the best guys you will ever want to meet.

 


Howell for instance used to be one of the quietest guys on this team when he was a starter. He was moody and never seemed to want to talk. Now since he has found his calling in the bullpen,  he is one of the friendliest people I have ever encountered on the Rays. Dan Wheeler is not known to smile a lot, but he does when we chat back and forth during the games. There is a unique bond there between the Bullpen and the fan here that I have never seen before in my life. But then again, they are living the dream this year.

 

 

From the first champagne bottle out of the clubhouse, to the two bottles that Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos had ordered for himself and the close fans down there, it was a magical night. The parade around the Trop outer perimeter was a show of the love and respect these guys have for the fan base. I have been lucky enough to know a few of these guys off the turf in private. And I have to tell you this in total confidence, not one time this year did any of these guys take this responsibility to the fans or to the community as a  job or work.


 

                        

 

This group actually enjoys interacting with the fans. From the time they walked out at the Spring Training complex in mid-Feb. to now has been a long and rewarding journey. There have been player injuries and players have come and gone from the roster, but the core of this team have been strong, mentally tough and been an inspiration to the fans. Not many groups have a tie to the fans that these guys have. The Rays community can honestly say the have the team’s back at any moment.

 

 

The funny thing about this celebration is that about 25 percent of it was outside the locker room in the field where these guys have toiled and struggled and left themselves bleeding and wounded some nights. To say this battle did not end with a fairy tale ending is totally accurate. This season has now almost come to a close at home, but in the next wek they might have a Divisional Crown celebration either in Detroit or Baltimore, then sprint home and get ready for the First of many October games in the Trop.

 

 

I really need to hit the sack for a few hours before I fall down, but the adrenaline is still pumping hard in me right now and I have tossed and turned for about 5 hours since I got home. I am a emotional wreck right now, but I would do it again in a New York moment. If you have never been to one of these defining moments, you know how the Rays Republic is now feeling. If you have not, I truly wish it upon yourself and your team sometime in the future. It is a roller coaster ride fitted with some great ups and downs that is not even over yet.

 

                                

 

 

I just want to repurchase my “E” ticket so I can climb aboard the coaster again and roll through another three of these celebrations with the Rays and this truly spectacular group of guys.  I actually now know what other team’s fans have talked about when the y remark about the feelings and the intensity of the moment. I can see why New York Yankee and Boston Red Sox fan yearn and seek thin moment in their lives yearly. But I have to almost admit, I do not want to share it with them anytime soon.

 

 

So As I finally slink out of the stadium, and check out that bright orange roof, I am reminded of all the glory and the sweat and tears that have blanketed this great dome in the past 10 years. But tonight they all seem like a distant memory as we have a new found tradition of winning and are celebrating the success of our boys’ tonight. I can’t wait to get back into my seat tomorrow and see how much of the energy is still trapped in this building…………….9 am is coming fast to me tonight.

 

Fly little Rays, Fly

 

This entire year the Tampa Bay Rays have been thought of as a small fish in a big pond. Well, with less than 14 days until the end of the season, it seems the food chain has been reversed this season in the A L East.  The Rays were considered at one time a marine animal that coasted and glided in the shallows and deeps of the gulf of Mexico just off our beautiful beaches.

 

But the renewed logo is trying to push the swimming rays to the wayside and come upon a new meaning to the word “Rays”. Be it the “Rays of Light”, or maybe the “Rays of Hope”, Tampa Bay has seen a multitude of Rays references for most of their  games. How could this team that had never won more than 71 games a season be flirting with 90 wins in their 11th season in the league. And how dare those Rays push the $ 200 million dollar souls of baseball long gone to the wayside come playoff time.

 

You know there has to be a few dozen Fox Television executives anxious with the fact that the Rays might make it past the first round of the playoffs. And if they do make it past that round, would a Brewers versus Rays match up just make the suicidal. But let’s not get to far ahead of ourselves. We have a huge week ahead of ourselves here at home at the Trop. We have the mighty Boston Red Sox, defending Worlds Series Champs looking up at us from below, but not far from the surface. This series will be a huge playoff decider for either team. The Rays could come out with another sweep and put themselves up 4 games when the Red Sox leave town. Or, the Red Sox could win a game or two and make it still a closer race with a game or less margin for error by either team going into their last  11 days of the season. 

 

We have the upstarts of the wild card, the Minnesota Twins coming in for 4 games near the end of the week to stage either a playoff dance for the Rays, or a sense of urgency for both teams if they split that series. Of course during that Twins weekend we have the Troy Percival figurine night, which come complete with a steel back to promote better stability, and sturdy internal construction to keep the hamstrings and back fully straightened throughout the weekend.

 

But seriously folks, I for one thought we might see this kind of upward mobility by the team in 2009, when the high draft pick pitchers had a year or two at the Triple-A level. Now am I upset that Evan Longoria did not start up here instead of come back a mere 11 games later……..Of course it was an issue. Am I upset that David Price did not get to hold that MLB ball  before Sunday? Actually I was not upset about this one at all. He had a chance to feel the championship atmosphere and attitude down in Durham last week. He will know the expectations and the committment needed to secure that covoted prize and yearn to have one for himself and his team. He got to watch as another team another team celebrate a title on his  Durham Bulls home turf, and hopefully it lit a fire in him to not see that again this season up in St. Petersburg, Florida.

 

We have a unique opportunity to shock the world by getting into the party, much less crash the prom.  This team has been one with the motto, “We are One Team,” from the ticket sales, to marketing to commercial that seemed a bit corny in April, but now seem like a fortune teller knew something us fans could not even fathom after Spring Training. Life is special here right now. This is the last local franchise that has not won a league championship.

 

The Buccaneers got their Lombardi in San Diego, California after years of struggling like the Rays. They fought for respect with a number of coaches before 1 guy stood above the crowd and you believed he was the man to lead them to the promised land. The Tampa Bay Lightning began their career in  Tropicana Field, back then called the Thunderdome, eons ago, and even set the old NHL Playoff attendance record in the building. There were a huge crowd of shivering Florida hockey fans loving the fact we could watch a hockey game when it was 90 degrees outside. The Lightning moved to their new home in Tampa, and in a few years got to play a Calgary Flames team that had a dominating offense, but the Lightning was a team of destiny that year and brought the Stanley Cup to the sands of Tampa Bay.

 

Now it is time for the Rays to try and make it a threesome by gaining that experience and that motivation to secure our own piece of the World Series Trophy and have a ticker tape parade 1st Avenue South from the site of Al Lang Field/Progress Energy Park, the site of the Spring revival, to the sloped roofed Trop., the site of the best team in Florida.  Such things have happened here in Florida before, we have had winners here before this season.  And with the way this squad has been assembled, you will be hearing the name, Tampa Bay Rays for a long, long time in the major leagues. 

 

 

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