Home > Uncategorized > A Crush on those Coquettish (Devil) Rays…

A Crush on those Coquettish (Devil) Rays…

Some days, when the Jays are particularly pathetic, I like to think about what team I’d cheer for if I were free to make googly eyes at all 30 franchises. I know, I know, It’s sort of like fantasizing about another woman. It’s sleazy, cheap, and somewhat unethical, but it’s all on a theoretical plane, so I justify it, however sheepishly…

It is through such ambivalent mental cheating that over the last four years I have started cheering for the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. I can honestly say that it started before they were good. Back when guys like BJ Upton and Delmon Young were just breaking in to the Bigs, when they had names like Evan Longoria, Reid Brignac, and Wade Davis on the farm, and they were being run by a 28 year old whiz-kid named Andrew Friedman. I was so fond of the Rays that in 2007 I travelled down to Seattle with a couple friends to watch the kids thump the Mariners. My one friend, Matty, wondered why we were watching a Rays game (my other friend, Mikey, was just enamored with the Foam Fingers…) and while I deflected his concern by making jokes at the Rays’ expense, the truth was that we were watching them for the same reason you frequent a cafe with a cute barista. I had developed a little crush on this young team from Tampa.

The next year they made their surprise run to the playoffs, cementing my feelings. Really, if you can cost the Yankees a playoff spot, I’m always going to have a soft spot for you, but it was more than that. The Rays just have panache. I know that everyone loves the image of the grizzled old ball player, squint marks around his eyes, tobacco stains around his mouth, gray hairs spattering his flowing locks, the faint smell of Ben Gay and rawhide wafting as he saunters past, but for all their sun chafed glory I’ll take a team busting with youngsters any day of the week. Their youthful abilities haven’t been whittled down by the constant grind that is professional baseball. They still move gracefully, run the bases, see the ball and react like a cougar chasing a 20 year old…

The Rays, well, the Rays are chocker block full of kids. There’s still Upton, with all his precocious talent, then there’s human Swiss Army Knife Ben Zobrist, slick infielders Brignac and Sean Rodriguez, and some kid named after a desperate housewife. Heck, even their vets like Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena seem young (not so much Pat Burrell, but hey, we can’t win them all).

And really, their young position players would probably be enough for me, but there’s also their pitchers: Garza, Price, Shields, Davis, Niemann are all good to great and they’re all 28 or younger. It’s like playing footsie with a girl who’s beautiful and witty (Yes, we all know that wasn’t the “girl” analogy that I wanted to use, but it’s possible, not probable, but possible that the Bride could read the blog, and, well, I like my bed…). Anyhow, to really cap off my crush, Tampa, despite seemingly graduating their entire minor league system to the big leagues in the past three years, still have talent on the farm.

The only problem with the Rays? Tropicana Field. What an absolute dump. First of all, baseball should always – and I mean always – be played outdoors. If Minnesota can have an outdoor stadium, and Seattle can have an outdoor stadium, then surely Tampa can have an outdoor stadium. Honestly, when, and for what, was that ugly morass of blahdom even constructed? The lack of a quality building means that the Rays, despite being competitive for three straight years now, have never really gained any traction in Tampa. Their attendance numbers continue to reflect an indifferent audience, that might come out to see the World Champion Yankees, but probably wont come out to see a team that’s missed the playoffs sixteen straight times (Go Jays… whooo…).

If a beautiful building existed there, perhaps things would be better. Somewhere fans could go out, sit in the sun (maybe with giant shady spots for those hot Florida days), drink some good beer, socialize, watch some top quality ball. If that were the case, then maybe, just maybe, the Rays would actually be able to make money and keep some of this talent.

Unfortunately, they don’t and their owners seem to be penny wise and pound foolish. They’ve shown an excellent understanding of how to build a top flight team, but also show no interest in maintaining that quality by keeping a reasonable payroll. This year, Rays ownership raised their payroll to a little above 65 million (still 25th in baseball), but have intimated that next year it will drop back down to the 45 million range. Say goodbye to Crawford, say goodbye to Pena, say goodbye to the corpse of Burrell…

What could Friedman have done with even a modest payroll? Could the extra money have allowed the Rays to seriously pursue Roy Halladay this winter? Would it allow them to keep franchise icon Crawford (who incidentally leads the franchise n most offensive categories, except nose hairs). It’s just sad to me, watching this wonderful thing of beauty, that will slowly weather, age, and erode because they play in a city, and stadium, that doesn’t deserve them. It’s a little like watching that delightful barista finish her shift and leave with a dude you just know is a douche… Sigh, all you can do is remind yourself that it’s just a crush, that at home you have something better. At home you have a team with a 20 million a year center-fielder who can’t run, with an ace who’s nine months removed from Tommy John surgery, with a leadoff hitter whose career OBP is .330, and with a first baseman whose OPS is .622. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, why would I have a crush on another team when I’ve got it so good…

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