Results tagged ‘ post season ’

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!”

Mumm’s The Word!

 

 

I still remember the swig of celebratory champagne that Tampa Bay Rays catcher Shawn Riggans gave me along the right field sideboards in 2008. It was so sweet and luxurious after the campaign the Rays had endured to get their first post season berth in team history. For some reason the bubbles and the taste of that nectar of the Gods stayed with me, so much that I had to get two more bottles from someone as keepsakes.


I opened one of the bottles this past May 14th to celebrate a milestone birthday I never thought I would reach, and that same glorious taste trickled down my throat again as I shared it with a few friends at a local tavern. It was one of the same stock used in the 2008 Rays celebration, and it immediately took me back to that fantastic time in Rays history.

And here we are again with a “magical number” of two games before the Rays can again blast the crowd with it’s nectar, and fully push cork upon cork to higher height in and around the Rays clubhouse. More than a few people have asked me recently what nectar the Rays will digest, pulse into the crowd, or shower each other with in 2010? The answer is a visit to an old friend, who in 2008 helped usher the Rays into their first historic celebration,

The champagne of choice again for your Rays will be G.H. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Brut, the omnipotent celebratory champagne of the Tampa Bay Rays circa 2008. Starting on Sunday afternoon, the Rays will have more than enough bubbly to accommodate both the team and the Rays employees as it is possible that if the New York Yankees defeat the Boston Red Sox on ESPN’s featured game Sunday night (around midnight) the team will assemble somewhere in a hidden lair around Tampa Bay where the corks and the bubbly will flow freely for a few hours. But let’s get back to meeting the celebration drink of choice of the Rays.

Nothing is better than to have a great bottle of champagne to pour on your friends and team mates after 10 seasons of futility. And the Rays have their personal favorite this year in G. H. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Champagne. I am going to give you some insight into this great beverage and provide you with some expert advice on the Rays bubbly of choice here.

One review tells us that:


G.H. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Champagne is a complex blend of the best citrus and grape varieties that offer pungent, earthy aromas and creamy flavors that linger with richness on the finish. A bold expression of prestige and style, the Cordon Rouge with its distinctive red sash of the French Legion of Honor, is one of the world’s most popular champagnes. Try G.H. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Champagne, it makes any occasion even more special”.

 

Still another review of G.H. Mumm’s champagne tells us about the Mumm’s Cordon Rouge:


“G.H. Mumm’s Champagne Cordon Rouge Brut NV, 12%.: This bottle was quite likely two years old or more, from what the distributor rep who sold it to my predecessor tells me. I brought this one home to check out the condition of the wine, due to water damage to the labels that made it impossible to sell, and I was happy to find that what is in the bottle is doing just fine”.

“Medium straw in color, with an active bead and plenty of froth in the mouth; the nose is all flint and unbuttered popcorn, with more of the same on the palate, anchored with a solid core of under-ripe apple and a hint of bread dough underneath it all. It shows good intensity on every level, with plenty of verbosity and good length on the finish”.

 

Personally, I like the citrus underlying flavors of this champagne and consider it a huge upgrade from the usual money grubbing celebratory vessels like Clicquot’s . The taste and the character of this champagne fits this Rays team, and with baseball being a very superstitious sport, you know all will be done to keep the celebratory champagne status quo.

 
“A worthy exemplar of G.H. Mumm’s quest for excellence, Mumm’s Cordon Rouge is a distinctively fresh, full-bodied champagne with impeccable consistency of taste. Emblematic of the richness and finesse that characterizes the company’s own vineyards, Cordon Rouge has worn its famous red ribbon since 1876, now synonymous with house’s credo of superlative quality.
Mumm’s Cordon Rouge has become an icon of the champagne category and epitomizes Georges Hermann de Mumm’s maxim of “Only the best“”.

Wow, that last review was from the Mumm’s.com website and was a grand slam right out of the old ballpark. So as you can see, the champagne picked by the Rays to the beverage of the moment is actually a great vintage and could be just as great on a upcoming Anniversary, wedding or even a World Series celebration. You can purchase the Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne at most wine stores in the area, and can also get a bottle online if you do not want to travel the city looking for your own bottle of celebration.

 

I have one more hidden bottle of G.H. Mumm’s that no one knows about in my house, just in case we have a reason to celebrate something truly amazing come the first few days in November 2010. And just like the Rays, it will taste sweet and worth every penny, even if most of it will never reach my lips. So in advance of a possible clinch on Sunday night, or a more fan friendly celebration on Monday evening, I want to take a glass right now and propose the first toast to the Rays.


May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, The foresight to know where you are going,
And the insight to know when you have gone too far
.”

Time to celebrate…………….. Who has another bottle? ( POP! ).

 

 
 
 

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.
 

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