Tampa Bay’s season-long search for respect ends in Boston celebration

I have a friend who’s stuck in a dysfunctional relationship.  We’ve all been there before.

The problem with their relationship is that his partner doesn’t respect him.

I didn’t really know what that meant until I was there myself, in a bad relationship, many moons ago.  For whatever reason, she had lost respect for me.  There comes a point when it’s impossible to get that back.

Sox high fiveThis post-season, I’m not too sure the Red Sox respected the Rays.  In a matter of only five days, they ended up disrespecting them by beating them three games to one, celebrating on their own turf and leaving the lower-payroll Rays to wonder what might have been if they could only string together a few more hits.

The Red Sox went into this year’s American League Division Series expecting to win.  The alternative was unacceptable.  I’m not convinced the Rays shared that same mindset.

The Tampa Bay Rays (92-71) were a good team this year.  I would even go so far as to call them a very good team.  But they weren’t a great team and that’s what it takes to win championships in Major League Baseball.  The Sox, on the other hand, might not be great either but they’re pretty damn solid from top to bottom: impressive starting rotation, power bats, clutch hitting, speed on the field and on the base paths and a dugout-wide determination to remind them that last year’s 69-93 record was an aberration.

Tampa Bay has now reached the playoffs in four of their last six seasons, but they’ve made it out of the first round only once.  Year after year, they yield some of the league’s best pitching, both starting and relief.  They even come up with some clutch hitting from time to time, i.e., Jose Lobaton’s Game Three walk-off home run.  But this team relies far too often on the bat of one man, Evan Longoria, to carry them.

EVAN LONGORIAThere was a time during the season, right after the All-Star Break, when I thought the Rays might have turned a corner.  They went on a tear.  They hit the road to face Toronto, Boston and New York, all division opponents, for 11 straight games.  They won nine of those.  Prior to that, they won 17 of 19.  It was at that point, mid-summer, that I thought they had earned their opponents’ respect in what is consistently Major League Baseball’s most competitive division.  The Rays were finally to be feared.

But that was the regular season, not the post-season and in the post-season, timely, consistent hitting matters.  The Rays didn’t get that.  They hit .227 against Boston pitching while the Sox hit .286.  The Rays’ on-base percentage was .294.  The Sox was one hundred points higher.  Respect!

Perhaps I’m over-exaggerating the respect factor a bit.  The Sox obviously respect the Rays.  But they also know they own them or at least they did this post-season.  The Rays knew that too.  Like my buddy, to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, they had no hand in that relationship.

So it’s now back to the drawing board for an organization that can only afford to spend one-third the money that Boston can.  Boston is not three times better than Tampa Bay but they are better.  This post-season, they were also more determined.  And more respected.  They demanded that.

Money can’t buy respect.  The Rays will have to earn it.  Unfortunately, they’ll just have to wait until next season to do so.

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15 Replies to “Tampa Bay’s season-long search for respect ends in Boston celebration”

  1. Chris

    The Rays are in essence the ” Rodney Dangerfield ” .. of baseball . They simply cannot get any respect no matter how hard they try . C’mon , meager support , a wavering fanbase and beat writers in the locale who appear to be about as knowledgeable when it comes to the franchise , as Sarah Palin is known to be on the US Constitution and the members of the US Supreme Court .

    The Niners’ Aldon Smith gets busted on felony weapons’ possession (three counts) stemming back from a 2012 incident where the player was stabbed , but two victims were shot . Both the Niners and NFL were aware of the incident , yet somehow it was all kept on the down low . Since that incident the player has been involved in two traffic violations as well as DUI incident . Now what ?

    The Yankees have signed Girardi to a four-year contract extension . Now the question is , will they keep Robinson Cano while adding Price to their pitching roster ? Your thoughts on that ?

    You are only as good as your record reflects

    tophatal ……………………..

  2. Chris this was a great article. I do think the Rays front office is onto something with Will Meyers. The trade to bring him in might not have seemed to help this year, but this kid sure looks like a lock for perennial All-Star Status to me.

    The Ray’s have to build there team in a different way then teams like Boston, and New York who can just reload every year with Free Agents. They definitely shouldn’t break the bank for Price this off season trade him, and get a stud catcher from some team. They are on the right track they just need to not peak so damn early like they did this year. They have to build a team that is built to play in October….. then they will be a feared opponent for any AL team.

  3. I think the Red Sox respect the Rays a lot. My bet is that the two teams that concerned John Farrell the most heading into the post-season were the Rays and A’s, because their pitching is very good, you know that they’ll provide maximum effort, and they’re very well-managed.

    The Rays do need some offense; Desmond Jennings seems to be less than expected and there are too many fringe players on the roster. But moving Price for some bats – especially with Moore, Cobb and Archer around for a while – could make them a very dangerous team next year.

  4. Chris

    Given the inconsistency of the Rays pitching this season , they’re in need of a great deal more than most are willing to admit . They still have issues all over the place that were not properly addressed this season . And terms of next season and a projected pitching lineup it’s OK to suggest that they may well get better , but so too will the Yankees , Orioles and Red Sox . As we know the Rays simply haven’t the financial resources to match those guys on any level .

    How bad are the Giants at present ? Damn , that game last night was an abomination in terms of their (Giants) performance !

    tophatal ………….

  5. I think the Rays get support, Al, it just doesn’t show up at the ticket window.

    They’re in the top ten in local television ratings among Major League Baseball teams and there are plenty of knowledgeable fans in the area that support the team in their own way.

    Like I said, just not at the box office.

    And I don’t know whether moving the team to Tampa will change any of that.

  6. That’s the talk around town, Uncle AF, that Price will be wearing another uniform as soon as next year.

    But what would they be able to get for him? Sure, it’d clear some salary off their books but are they just going to load up on more prospects that they don’t have to pay? I mean, whoever they get in that deal will eventually demand a paycheck if he produces. And I’m sure Loney’s going to want some more money after the season, and post-season, he had.

    Rays ownership have become masters at bargain basement shopping. I wonder if they get tired of it.

    And you’re right about Jennings. We keep waiting for him to become that really dangerous lead-off hitter. We thought he might step into that role once BJ Upton left but it has yet to happen.

  7. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to welcome Swannie into the mix. A long-time friend and first time commenter.

    Swannnie, Myers is getting a pass for his post-season performance because he’s a rookie. He started making better contact later in the series, when it was already too late, but hitting .100 when you’re going against the Sox just ain’t gonna get it done.

    I also agree with you on the catcher situation. Not sure there’s too many out there though that can help a lineup and not break the bank. Lobaton and Molina call nice games and Lobaton was clutch late in the season but damn, watching Molina run to first is just painful.

    I think the whole Trop shakes when that happens, he he.

  8. Chris

    The ratings are not helping the Rays in their endeavors because on a national basis they’re not amongst the top ten teams , it’s only in the local market with regard to the franchise and the figures applicable . As to baseball’s claims of the ball club averaging 22 ,000 fans per home game . Other than when the Red Sox or Yankees are in town, when are there more than 25,000 plus at the Trop ? This past season in the AL Tampa ranked ranked fifteenth in the AL and that was lower than the Astros who lost over 100 games for the second consecutive season . So explain that one to me if you can ? And the knowledgeable fans you speak of , are they the same ones yearning for the new ballpark but haven’t the common sense to know where the money will be coming from to pay for it all ?

    Moving the team to a baseball appreciative environment would be of benefit to the Rays . Tampa is a fair weather environment when it comes to the support of that franchise and baseball . The facts do not lie in terms of the attendance and you cannot put it anymore succinctly than that .

    The number hits (sacks) taken and INT’s …. thrown by t Eli Manning . Is there any truth to the rumor that , he will be seen by an immunologist and tested for an STD ?

    NFL QB stats (interceptions) , fumbles for lost yardage and sacks . Those stats behind a lousy defense and an even worse offense are clear indications why the Giants are 0-6 .

    tophatal ………….

  9. Al…

    I can’t support of defend Rays fans not going to the ballpark. I ended up going to three games this year, which is probably far more than most fans went to.

    Regardless of how far it is or how shitty the stadium is, it’s still a fun time. As a fan, I just hope they don’t end up moving the team. I think Tampa Bay residents need to realize that is a legitimate opportunity.

  10. I’ve been to 2 games at the Trop within 20 days this year and I try to make one a year. I hear many say the Trop is a dump, but I have to defend it. It is a fun time! Great prices! It’s very navigable, free parking for 4 or more. And on 3 occasions, it was just me and another female for late night games and I never felt threatened. That means so much. But, most importantly, we live in FL where it rains and can be so hot, but we don’t have any rain delays or the aggravation of a postponed game at the Trop and can enjoy the game in a/c comfort.

    I also hope the Rays don’t get moved. I picked up a few 2014 schedules and shared them with Yaz. I am looking forward to another road trip down to the Trop! I sure wished I lived closer- I’d be there often! Cheering for the Rays, except when they go against Boston:)
    Dee Dee

  11. Chris

    What is the opportunity ? Seeing the team play or hearing the owners bitch and whine about the lack of support ? Is it the glass half-empty or half full scenario with the organization ?

    Well it’s as if the Dodgers have dug themselves a deep hole , now down 0-2 against a Cardinals’ team with deeper pitching and a more consistent offense based on the evidence of the postseason .

    A $215 million payroll doesn’t seem to get you a lot nowadays .

    Brady does it again for the Pats and the Saints were made to look mortal after-all .

    Another loss for the Bucs and even more uncertainty not only about the team, but quite possibly Schiano’s long-term future .

    tophatal ………………..

  12. Dee Dee…

    Whatever the Rays decide to do, assuming that means stays here locally, their plans will have to include a dome, or at least a retractable one. It simply rains to much here and the last thing MLB needs is the constant rescheduling of home games.

    That being said, how many parks have you been to, Fenway not withstanding? Fenway, Wrigley and the like can’t be compared to modern stadiums. They’re institutions. Heck, they even rebuilt Yankee Stadium. Anything new, however, has to be state of the art.

    The Trop, while not entirely bad, appears to be stuck in the 80s. Remember that Kanes furniture sign deep in centerfield that is supposed to keep track of Rays pitchers’ strikeouts? The damn thing wasn’t working for the playoffs? Who does that?

    I’m honestly believe the Rays will get their stadium and it will be in Tampa. One can only hope that means the team is here to stay and that the local population turns out to support them.

  13. To be perfectly honest, Al, I haven’t heard anyone in the organization “bitch” about lack of support, unless you’re talking about Longoria’s ill-advised comments last year. This year’s been a bit different. They know the fans have their back, just not in ticket sales.. It’s really an anomaly more than anything else.

    If they wanted to, they could really up and move.

    It’s not like Stern demanding the Kings stay in Sacramento. Selig has more than once said fan support in Tampa sucks and would probably support moving the team.

    I honestly don’t think that’s gonna happen. Eventually, they’ll get things done.

    I think, he he.

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