Tampa Bay Rays’ clock ticks loudly as season end nears… or does it

After Tuesday night’s disheartening 7-5 loss to the Red Sox, I was about to post this… 

And so it is done.  That 162nd game ever near.  Hopes of another playoff run dashed with a fade down the finish.  Heads held low.  Body language telling the few fans left in the stadium all they needed to know.

It’s over.

The Tampa Bay Rays gave their playoff run a valiant effort but in the end, they just didn’t have enough.

Enough what, you ask?  Well, hitting is the obvious answer.  Sound defense is another.

The Tampa Bay Rays’ 2012 campaign is not like Shakespeare where you have to search long and hard for the inner meaning.  It’s no episode of CSI that takes the entire cast sixty minutes to decipher it was Professor Plum with the candlestick in the conservatory.  The answers are glaring.  The Rays rank 27th in the majors with a team batting average of .238.  Their total hits, 1181, rank dead last.  Their team fielding percentage, .981, ranks 29th.  Ben Zobrist leads the team with 68 RBIs.  That ranks 65th among major league hitters.  When you can’t hit and you can’t field, you can’t win, even if your pitching is among the league best, which it has been for most of the season.  To make matters worse, the Rays rank last in the league in attendance, the only team in Major League Baseball to not draw over 20,000 fans a game.

It’s a story with another sad ending.

Bloomberg’s Businessweek recently called the Rays one of professional sports smartest spenders, however, that is a plaque on the wall they’d gladly trade for a World Series trophy.  That’s like being called the world’s greatest coupon-cutter.  Ownership wants to win as much as anyone, not to mention a new stadium.  They’re just not willing to mortgage their future to get it.

We’ve heard the story before.  The Rays are a small-market team that can barely draw.  Ownership is not going to break the bank for a hired gun, who may or may not be able to hit anyway (see: Pat Burrell).  Rays fans understand that and, while it would be nice to have a $200 million payroll, most appreciate the fact that their team can consistently compete on a considerably lower budget.  That makes it all the more enjoyable when they take down the over-bloated rosters of Boston and New York.  The only problem is they’re not beating Boston and New York.   Down the stretch, they lost five of the last seven they played against them and seven of their last nine games overall.  I’m not digging dirt on them yet but the shovel is ready.  September is not a good time to go cold.

So what’s next for the Tampa Bay Rays?  Big decisions, most notably surrounding free agents BJ Upton, James Shields and Fernando Rodney.  Tampa has long had a love-hate relationship with Upton but pound-for-pound he’s one of the team’s best all-round players.  Shields’ name, like Upton’s, has also been heard in trade rumors and re-signing him won’t come cheap, unless he finds it in his heart to stay in Tampa for half his actual value but let’s be honest, who does that these days?  Clubhouse camaraderie is one thing.  Ten million a year difference is another.  In regards to Rodney, the Rays let go of last year’s closer, Rafael Soriano, who signed with the Yankees for ahem, $11 million, a little out of the Rays price range.  We’ll see if Rodney suffers the same fate.

So for the Rays organization, it’s once again back to the drawing board.  This team is close, very close, to putting together a championship ball club, but when facing lineups like Texas with Hamilton, Kinsler and Beltre, Anaheim with Pujols, Hunter and Trout and New York with Jeter, Cano and Granderson, well, the Rays just can’t compete, even if their pitchers are named Price, Shields and Hellickson.

Those lineups can only be tamed for so long.  The Rays have to find a way to build an untamable lineup of their own.

Then this happened.

A Wednesday night beat down of Bean town, 13-3, followed by a game, out of reach, season on the line, down four runs to one, Cy Young Award candidate David Price pitching brilliantly but without run support, removed from the game, and then, bottom of the ninth…

Joyce singled to center, Keppinger singled to center, Pena singled to right allowing Joyce to score, stolen base, Vogt walked, Jennings singled to center, Keppinger scored, the pinch runner for Vogt scored, another stolen base and then BJ.


Three-run home run.  Straight away centerfield, finger pointed to the sky.

The Rays scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth.  So much for dejected body language.

That’s the thing about the Rays.  Count them out, I dare you.  They play with the desire to win.  Heads hung low one minute turn to exhilaration the next as the little coupons that could refuse to give up.

Look, not much has changed, despite the emotional win.  The Rays are well behind in the wild card.  Their hitting is still remotely opportune and they’re still grasping at straws.

But they’re not out of it yet.  The shovel still has some dirt in it and that’s what keeps the Rays, and their criticized, yet dedicated, fan base holding on.  It’s what makes Rays fans believe until the final out.

And that’s an out we haven’t seen.


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33 Replies to “Tampa Bay Rays’ clock ticks loudly as season end nears… or does it”

  1. Pingback: Tampa Bay Rays’ clock ticks loudly as season end nears… or does it - BallHyped Blog Network, MLB | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. The O’s have been a bear, D.

    I still couldn’t name a single person in that lineup but they’re getting it done.

    Here’s hoping that final series between Baltimore and Tampa Bay in a few weeks means something.

    Let me know if you come down for it.

  3. We know about the pitching , one of the best rotations in the league. We know about the hitting (sigh). What we didn’t know is how bad their defense got. I haven’t seen that many wild throws since my last year of drunken softball. I can think of a half dozen games when it cost us the win. They have to get that cleaned up. On the bright side there’s always next year.Go Rays!

  4. Will do…I have been an O’s fan my entire life and the past 15 years in particular have been awful to be an O’s fan. I finally have something to cheer about!!!

  5. I can’t wait until the baseball season is over. 162 games is way too long and way too dull. The fact that you can’t name a single player in the O’s starting lineup proves my point. I’ll bet you know at least 5 players on most of the NBA teams. The NBA is just around the corner. Personally, I think NBA preseason games are more exciting than 99% of the MLB season.

  6. It ain’t over yet, Aer.

    I’m actually pissed. I wanted to go to that game last night but all my friends wussed out.

    I should’ve just gone by myself. They gave the fans a real treat last night.

    Six in the ninth? I’d say that’s worth the price of admission.

  7. Yea, Snake, but last night was a good one.

    Don’t get me wrong, you know I’m a hoop-head, but a good baseball game can hold some pretty heightened drama.

    And how soon til you purchase that Darko jersey? Over/under on his minutes per game for the season?

  8. And what happens at the end of the season once the Rays fail to make the postseason ? Paring down of salary , the jettisoning of players ? How much longer should the fans be asked to endure this , if the ownership , simply seeks to be miserly rather than seeking an investor with deep pockets ? Is Sternberg …. that much of a fool ?

  9. Chris

    What happens when the Rays’ season flames out ? Like you said it’s back to the drawing board of paring down salary and trying to compete against the big money teams . Now explain to me why the Bay area fans should continue tolerate this, when they’ve failed miserably in their endeavors while barely eking out a profit unless they’re aided by the MLB hierarchy via the tax sharing scheme ?

    Is that really what the fans deserve for their outlay ?

    Or merely the apathy of the fans that the ownership dupes the fan-base into believing that they are actually doing their best .

    Tophatal ………

  10. What happens now if the Rays’ season flounders ? Is it back to the drawing board and the fans then have to put up with continued excuses of paring down salary . So now the continued apathy continues ? Way to go Rays !

    Tophatal ………….

  11. Darko,12-15 min/gm. I was never a big Darko fan, and I always thought that Joe Dumars was an asshole for picking him over Carmelo, but sometimes a player just needs a change of scenery to come alive and live up to his potential. I hope its true this time around. I thought that Danny Ainge was still hot for Robert Swift.

  12. Al…

    I haven’t heard much out of ownership. I do believe they still think they’re going to make the playoffs (PLAYOFFS?!?) and won’t be making any statements about the future while the present is still at stake.

    Another strong performance tonight but again, the teams ahead of them don’t show any signs of fading.

  13. Snake…

    The Darko signing was clearly the beginning of the end for Joe D. who, at one point, seemed like a genius for putting that championship team together in Detroit.

    The Celtics should have enough size down low and may even reach the Eastern Conference Finals, depending on how the play the Bulls.

    But I don’t see how anyone, in their right mind, can’t pencil the Heat into the Finals for the third straight year.

  14. They’re doing the best they can, Jedly. We’ll see if it’s enough.

    I gotta tell you, it’s really enjoyable to listen to Joe Maddon’s pre and post-game comments. He’s the Zen Master of Major League Baseball. Minus all the championship rings, of course.

  15. Until Selig and dumb ##s actually deals with the imbalances concerning the game from a financial standpoint . The game of baseball will remain a spectacle of the haves and have nots .

    What excuses do you think Maddon and the players will come up with when they’re mathematically out of the wildcard berth ?

    The ownership simply expects the fanbase to buy into their efforts , which in recent years has been somewhat inconsistent . If Sternberg can’t commit wholeheartedly to spending money , but repeatedly makes excuses for the letdowns . Then why the hell doesn’t seek out a partner with deep pockets to assist him ? Or better yet try to work out a major tv deal ? Or is that up above his business acumen ?

  16. Al…

    I don’t think this Rays team is about excuses. I think they played the hand they were dealt.

    Their last four games have proven that they’re not about to roll over.

    As of this morning, they’re only 3 1/2 out with ten to play, nothing insurmountable.

    They just need to finish things up against Toronto and head off confidently to Chicago for their next roadie.

    To be honest, I don’t blame ownership. They’ve fielded a team good enough to compete under their given circumstances.

    Would you prefer they drop two hundred mil and fail or spend a third of that and compete?

    And yes, the Gators looked good. We’ll see how they fare next week against LSU.

  17. The Rays have been the same damn hand for the last five years . How has anything changed over that time ? You can’t be serious with that response . The Rays have been about excuses with the bull#hit of being a small market team . They simply haven’t been innovative or creative enough and even then they’re making a mess in terms of their fee agency acquisitions . Tell me how Luke Scott has done this season much less any of the cobwebs they’ve decided to place on this roster .

    It’s not an surmountable lead but do you honestly believe that the Rays are going to beat out the teams ahead of them in the wildcard standings ? This isn’t last season where the Red Sox imploded in going 7-21 in September to let the Rays in through the back door .

    The Rays are done and it’s time to move on , as far as the organization goes . We have the excitement of the postseason to deal with , which begins 3rd October .

    I see the Bucs are their own worst enemy . That team is clumsy on both sides of the ball . Freeman couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with laser guided technology , were it provided by the US military. And Schiano is beginning to live up to that a#s clown mentality , as the team is once again behaving like thugs at the end of the game against the Cowboys . It’s becoming obvious that the name Schiano wants to make for himself in the NFL, isn’t as a coach but as a class clown and dumb a#s !

    Tophatal ………..

  18. Fat lady is not singing yet, Al.

    3 1/2 games left with 9 to play. They obviously need a little help with some timely losing by either Baltimore, Oakland or Anaheim.

    And let’s be real, even though they were competitive at times over the past two weeks, did anyone really expect the Bucs to go into both New York and Dallas and come away with victories?

  19. The Rays have to make their own luck rather than looking for others to assist them in their hour of need.

    No , what the fans expect from the Bucs is for them to play better . As of ye, t all that Schiano has proven to me is that he’s not that great an improvement over Raheem Morris .

    600 yds allowed against them when they played the Giants and then our local dumb as#es within the local market are talking about a marked improvement by the defense . What planet were they living on ? The Cowboys still made the Bucs’ secondary look bad . As for the offense , let’s just say they’re woefully inept . And once again this Sunday’s game against the Redskins . The game won’t be a sellout and that is of 7 pm today.

  20. Gotta give Schiano a chance to get his feet wet, Al. It’s not like he has the most talented roster in the league. And his starting quarterback’s status as the true leader of this team is still in question.

    I’d go to Sunday’s game if I could. Starting out 2-2 won’t be all that bad considering the Saints and Panthers are shitting the bed early.

  21. Give Schiano a chance ? He’s had his chance , three games into the season and he’s proving that he is no great improvement over Raheem Morris . He’s not holding his players accountable , neither is he willing to make adjustments when necessary . That to me is indicative of a bad coach . He may well have had his success at Rutgers but now look at how bad the Bucs are in every facet of the game . The defense isn’t that good and the offense is no better than a very bad varsity team offense . What players on this Bucs’ team do you believe playing at their best is even a Pro Bowl caliber player ? Last season the Bucs only had one player who went to the Pro Bowl and that was Davin Joseph ( 2008 & 2011 ) but since he entered the league , he’s proven to be injury prone .

  22. On his best day , Josh Freeman couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn , were he assisted with the latest in missile guided technology and if it came with the instructions from the US military .

    Tophatal …………..

  23. Al…

    The Bucs lost ten straight games under Raheem Morris. That’s what got him fired. His players had clearly given up. How can you even say that about Schiano after some a short time frame?

    You obviously forget the scores of last season’s games. They were getting blown out. They were the worst defensive team in the franchise’s history and a total embarrassment. I can’t say I’ve seen that yet at all.

  24. yo chump, lets get Rays tix for monday against the o’s. cheap seats work for this broke couple.

  25. Pingback: Sports Chump » The end of Big Game?

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