Results tagged ‘ Red Sox ’

The Most Hated Man in Boston Tonight

 

 
Steve Nesius/AP

I guarantee when the Tampa Bay Rays head to Boston for their last series of the year against the Red Sox from September 6th through the 8th, there will be one member of the Rays who better have a map handy of the city of Boston when the Rays charter flight arrives at Logan Airport. Because after tonight, Rays Designated Hitter Dan Johnson’s picture will probably be blown up and memorized inch by inch in the minds of every single cab or limo service employee in the greater bean town area.

Johnson had better let someone else hail the cab or rent the limo, because if they see Johnson’s mug, you might just end up seeing the tail lights of that same vehicle as it pulls away leaving Johnson, and whoever else is with him in the cold. Johnson will probably take it in great stride knowing an entire city is right now loathing his existence and wanting a re-do on the pitch that cost the Red Sox a chance to humiliate the Rays. Instead it was the collection of red clad Boston fans who get to leave Tropicana Field tonight as it gives off it’s amber glow.

Some of the Red Sox Nation might have forgiven Johnson for his first instance of displeasing the multitudes that follow the Red Sox way back on September 9, 2008 when Johnson instantly took the breath out of almost every Boston fans both within Fenway Park, or watching on NESN with a blast up and over the Red Sox Bullpen for a game tying Home Run in the 9th inning off the Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. That single moment of Rays clarity in 2008 has also been embraced by a large collection of Rays fans as the biggest Home Run in Rays history…Bar none. And it was done by a guy who fought traffic to get to Fenway Park for the game that night, and was not there in time to start in leftfield.

 
Michael West/ Boston.com

You know more than a few of the Red Sox Nation’s historical fan base were a bit freaked last night when Johnson again got to oppose Papelbon in the bottom of the ninth inning as Johnson dug in at the plate for hi second appearance EVER against Papelbon, Johnson stood at the plate last night with great patience and was rewarded with a walk on 6 pitches to give the Rays a sense of impending hope in the game last night. But it was not meant to be last night for Johnson as Reid Brignac came on to pinch run for Johnson and he was left to watch from the dugout. Last night Johnson could not extract any carnage upon the Red Sox, but tonight was another story. But it did add a sense of revisiting that moment as Johnson stood in the batter’s box tonight.


Johnson’s latest injustice towards Red Sox Nation did not come against the Boston closer, this time it was reliever Scott Atchison who got the unpleasant task of having to turn and watch the ball disappear within the right field stands as the collective 36,973 ( 102% capacity) in attendance either danced or just shook their head in dismay. In that instance, you only had to look at someone’s face to know what team they rooted for tonight. Rays fans were high-fiv’ing and jumping like school kids, while Boston’s local faithful fan only looked for the exits. Johnson had again torn a bit of their Red Sox reality to shreds and this time it will not go down lightly.

 
Steve Nesius/AP

Johnson is a player who despite a .149 batting average has also posted an unheard of .367 On-Base Percentage because of his patient nature at the plate. To rub it in a little more, Johnson as either walked or hit his way on base for the Rays in 14 of his 16 games with the team. You might say that Johnson did tonight what he has done all year long in the minor leagues where he won the Triple-A Home Run Derby, plus smacked out 30 Home Runs in 96 games before being called up on August 2,2010. Johnson was just doing what Johnson is paid to do….Hit the ball a long way.

The only better moment for tonight would have been if Papelbon had been toeing the rubber for this recent Rays/Red Sox venture. But Papelbon was not even warming up in the Red Sox Bullpen at that moment, he was seated on the wooden bench watching that same ball go deep into the stands and the celebration begin under the Trop’s roof. By ending the game in this fashion tonight, it was like a UFC cage fighter knocking you down, then twisting your neck until you passed out. It was a total reversal of fortunes in a matter of 8 pitches before the ball settled 384 feet beyond the Home Plate keystone.

So Johnson had better either have friends in Boston, or find some manageable entertainment options within the region of the Rays hotel during that last series in Boston. Maybe a great option would be to rent a car so that he can just come and go as he pleases without bringing up this second heartache again to the populous of Boston. But I will bet you anything if Johnson is standing at a street corner during that last road series in bean town and there is a puddle of water within range, some cabbie or truck driver will exact a little surgical play back to Johnson for again dashing the hopes of many in that city.

 
Steve Nesius/AP

But then again, maybe it is better that Johnson and the Rays visit Boston almost two years to the day that Johnson first became a curse word on every Red Sox fan on that night in 2008. Being infamous might not get you cabs or even a hearty hand wave, but it will remind you of why Johnson might be one of the most hated Rays in recent memory among followers of the Red Sox Nation, and I think Johnson is okay with that.

 
 
 

A Vital Dose of Redemption and Realization

 
 
Reinhold Matay/AP

By now the whole baseball World knows that the Tampa Bay Rays lost twice last night. They lost the chance to push themselves past the New York Yankees and visualize the 2010 team dream, but that revelation is mute right now. They lost the whole bag of marbles last night against the dreaded Red Sox and their Southpaw boy wonder Jon Lester. The Rays further lost within their own misguided intention and advances than by simple game action.

But that is what this series is all about. It is either going to be a time of redemption (for the Red Sox) or realization (for the Rays). Redemption in the fact that some of the walking wounded among the Boston roster are seeing that odd shaped roster beginning to cement itself and play as a define and articulate unit, much to the chagrin of the home town Rays. Redemption that a Wild Card reclamation is as close as 6 simple games, and made closer with the knowledge both the Rays and New York Yankees are not playing at their highest levels.

Redemption that as their own newspapers and bloggers have not screamed out the battle cry yet that this 3-game vacation into the sunshine can make or break their 2010 season, even with 32-odd games to follow. Forget that the Rays have 24 more games against the American League East over the course of the rest of the season, including another foray at Fenway in the near future. Tonight’s win showed the Rays hopefuls that the Red Sox machine might seemed broken and battered, but it can still rev its engines at full RPM’s when needed.

 
J. Meric/Getty

Realization by the Rays that this team is sometimes too slow to adjust and submit to changes at the plate as pitch after pitch goes by outside the zone and gets called for a strike. The Rays managed to suffice in the “Rays Way” for almost 6 innings before adjusting their game and swinging at those borderline calls that had been called by Home Plate Umpire Gary Darling all night long. It took too long for the Rays to up their game and swing at those pitches 6 inches off the plate that got the arm action of Darling and saw countless Rays rallies die an instant death with a still cocked bat at the plate.

 
J. Meric/Getty

Forget the double plays by Evan Longoria and B J Upton in the first and third inning that equalized any sense of control issues with Lester by giving the Rays freebie base runners than have them dissolved instantly by a solid ground ball hit to either Marco Scutaro or Adrian Beltre, who quickly dished the ball off to second and first to squash any Rays rally like a bug. A brief realization by the Rays that Lester and Boston catcher Victor Martinez were not always on the same page, but not utilizing it to their advantage to get more than one solo run in the stressful bottom of the fourth inning.


Here was the Rays trying to produce runs via the “small ball” approach, but Lester was pitching outside to try and eliminate a bunt down the line, or even a solid contact with the ball. By the time the Rays realized and circumvented their approach, it was already the bottom of the fifth inning, then base running malfunctions became the letter of the day. First it was Sean Rodriguez being completely hung out to dry by Lester on a steal attempt of third base with two outs that further complicated the Rays game plan.

But the huge exclamation point on the “missed it by that much” game performance of the Rays is best illustrated in the base running of Upton , who began the bottom of the sixth inning by walking, then getting a smooth and clean steal of second base off of leftie Lester before committing the ultimate game faux pas on a single to centerfield that former Rays farmhand Darnell McDonald scooped in shallow centerfield then tossed a grenade to Martinez who got Upton at mid-body on his feet first slide into home. Aggressive base running is one thing, and hustling and seeking the plate in an instance where the ball was maybe 40 yards above the top clay of the infield is suicidal at best.

 
Reinhold Matay/AP

Love the aggression, hated the result. But that is just another realization that night that maybe they were playing this game a click slower than the Red Sox. But this series already is showing high signs of a epic struggle for redemption by the Red Sox and the Rays did not have the ammo to fight back tonight. Six times in this contest the Rays either tried to get a man to third, or he advanced to either score or get thrown out. Six times the Rays had a honest and realistic chance to post more runs, but something jammed the Rays own engine every time, but once.

So I guess it is only right to tip your cap towards the players and fans wearing the big “B” on the cap tonight for playing the hands that were dealt to them and capitalizing on Rays mistakes or offerings. It was not as if either pitcher was brilliant, even though they both combined for 18 of the 24 strikeouts in the game. Fitting still was the last out, a called strike on pinch-hitter John Jaso that looked a few inches below and outside the strike zone to most in the stands.

An instant realization by the Rays that they let this game get away from them. But it also gave the Red Sox a realization that this series, and this season might just be beginning to heat up. I think I am going to bring a tube of sun block to the game tomorrow night because I some burning to be done, hopefully it will be the realization that the Red Sox might have woken a sleeping Rays giant. Or maybe it is the Rays this time who will seek a redemption for their play on Friday night.
 

We Still Get No Respect

 

Somewtimes it is just hard to get respect when you had a losing team for so long. I know the Buc and Lightning fans understand this bad aura that hangs over your team like a huge albatross. But with the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays to the top of the American League East Championship, and on the doorstep of leaning in for the big prize, how could this happen to our local paper.

I opened the local fishwrap, the St. Petersburg Times the other day and found a reamrkable sight. It was not a huge picture of the Rays celebrating a win, or a local politician with a mohawk. It was a simple crossword puzzle enjoyed by millions each day that is supplied to the paper by a publishing syndicate. Well, upon gazing at this great puzzle of black and white, I noticed one line that read “Home of the Rays” on  16 Across.

And what do you think I thought when the word “St Pete” would not fin into that space. I pondered and wondered what other city could be used in that spot. “Trop. City” was too big. “Title town” had the righr feel, but was also too bog. So I filled in lines 9 down and found that the town had to have a “T” in it.

Can you believe that the copy clerks at the St. Petersburg Times, or even at the original publication let this error fly all the way into our little nest. Imagine the embarrassment and the humiliation that the Mayor of St. Petersburg must be feeling. You see “St. Petersburg, Home of the Tampa Bay Rays” on a rolling banner behind home plate every game, yet this error is in out hometown newspaper.

Rodney Dangerfield has made a career and a living out of trying to get respect. I find it a bit funny that now the city that started the commercial airlines business and the air postal idea is being bookended with the town to our East again. Even though the town that is now St. Petersburg was once a part of Hillsbough county in the past, it was actually called Hillsbough Point until John Williams established the city of St. Petersburg among the orange groves and sandy beaches.

Maybe we have to win it all to get that respect and have people remember who we are in St. Petersburg. I know I was born here and always have showed alot of pride to be from Florida and St. Petersburg. I never said I was from Tampa Bay because that is a regional name and not a city name in the region. Guess we just have to hoist a World Series parade on ESPN with a huge marching band from St. Petersburg High School with the huge word blazoned on their lead banner “St. Petersburg, Florida” on it. But then again, the announcers will just say it is a city in Tampa Bay.

 

 

I have had a few people ask me for a prediction on the ALCS this year. I know that the Boston faithful who have read this have commented and been a bit one-sided, but then again I understand civic pride. So for me to comment would be kind of anti-climatic. You know who I am rooting for, and what I hope will be the end result.

To put a finite number on a game______ ending would just ruin the focal point of the whole thing. We might have been Playoff virgins in the beginning, but we are 4-1, just like you in the playoffs so far this year. We might not be the reigning “World Champions”, but that is okay. They always say that time brings about change. To put it lightly, did you really expect me to post that the Red Sox were a better team. I only see a few spots where they might have an edge outside of Fenway Park.

But to be totally honest with you, does it matter what the homefield would be right now. Based on the 2008 statistics, we went 8-1 against you at home, and might have only went 2-7 at Fenway, but who won the last @ game there this year? Base the ideal on who has the better Bullpen and it is very one-sided. You might have a dominant closer, but we have a reliever triade that has stopped powerful team in their tracks all year long.

Tell me your Red Sox guys will pop back at Grant Balfour when he gets into his four-letter word fiasco on the mound. I could see a 98 m.p.h. earmuff if that happen too much in this series. Remember, this team is not scared of the Red abd White anymore. They have their own dish of confidience and they are not afraid of anything or anyone at this moment.

I am expecting a huge amount of ticket scalping to go on for this game and the Boston faithful will be the ones helping the local economy this weekend. I know of a few people who are selling their $ 55.00 tickets in the Baseline Box area for over $200 dollars. The one thing Rays fans loved about ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush is he gave the little guy the voice to sell tickets above their face value again. Now, the Rays vs Red Sox matchup might not get the prices the Superbowl will get in a few months, but wait until the World Series, you might see a new high in Rays demand.

So, Boston fan, if you can’t get a seat in the Upper Deck for the ALCS, come on down to Ferg’s and enjoy the game with the locals. Or you can just retrats to your hotel’s cozy little fern bar and hope they will let you watch the game. Whereever you are at 8:37 p.m. tonight, you will hear a loud scream for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox have been a great team for the last 6 years, maybe it is time for the new world order to take over for a while………….It’s okay Boston, it will only hurt a little while……………Rays in 6 games 

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