Results tagged ‘ playoffs ’
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.
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.
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.