Editorial: Those darn Tampa Bay Rays
And so we again engage the enemy, the team that has come to torment us and stand in our way, coming in first in the division and forcing the Red Sox to once again play the wild card route in the post-season.
Tonight, the Sox take the field to begin the second stage in their quest to defend their championship in the first game of the seven-game series against the vaunted. . . Tampa Bay Rays?
With the New York Yankees an irrelevancy – and isn’t that in itself bizarre to hear? – and the Chicago White Sox standing in line with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for tee times, all that’s left standing in the American League besides Boston is the Florida expansion baseball team formerly known as the Devil Rays, representing the little engine that could.
They are a cute story, but a historic rival? This is the team that couldn’t pitch, hit, bunt or throw straight for the first 11 years of their existence. A team that, before this year, finished better than last just once when they placed fourth in the five-team American League East in 2004, the year the Sox won their first championship in 86 years. A team whose home stadium has catwalks that if a ball hits off one, it is still in play and can be caught for an out – or get stuck up there for a home run. A team who the Red Sox have beaten 119 times with just 68 losses since the Rays first game in 1996.
We would caution the Nation not to get overly confident about this series and look forward to the return of Manny being Manny in Dodger Blue. The Rays, after all, held off the Red Sox and all other teams in the A.L. East since June and came into Fenway in September clinging to a tenuous first-place lead – then promptly won two of three in our backyard.
They are a scrappy bunch who can run and hit and pitch and don’t back down, as an early season brawl between these two teams can attest.
Once the soft spot on the schedule and nine home games that season-ticket holders usually gave away to relatives for family obligations, the Rays have inserted themselves into the balance of power we once shared with the Yankees. Theirs will now be must-see games on the schedule next year and we, the fans, will do well to share the view of Red Sox players and coaches in not looking past this one-time patsy.
They are for real and you can be sure of one thing: They’ll come to play.
The Patriot Ledger