The Tampa Bay Rays is in the postseason playoffs, the first time since 2008 and that almost-championship season where we won both the AL East Division Title and the AL Championship then. We went to the World Series and our hopes of winning the World Series were dashed by Philadelphia.
Fast forward to 2010.
We have entered the postseason on a high note, winning the AL East Division Title. That high note seemed to sour when we began play in the ALDS Game 1 and 2 against the Texas Rangers over at Tropicana Field and – so far in both games – we lost. You got that right, lost!
Game 1, 6 October 2010: Texas 5, Tampa Bay 1. Uh-oh!
Game 2, 7 October 2010: Texas 6, Tampa Bay 0. What is going on here???
You got that right: What is really going on here?
Well, I was there just for the ALDS Game 1 (I could not make it to ALDS Game 2 due to work commitments) and I have noticed several things: Lack of a defense and the pitchers we were using. Then you had Joe Maddon (the Rays’ Manager) arguing with the home base umpire over some scoring decisions; in fact, Maddon got ejected in Game 2 right around the fifth inning for arguing with the umpire.
When I was at Game 1 I noticed that the umpires were ruling heavily in favor of Texas at every opportunity. Aren’t the umpires supposed to be fair and impartial or show favoritism towards a team? The way I look at it, it looks like favoritism from the umpires was rampant.
And we can’t forget Evan Longoria, whose comments about low attendance at Tropicana Field at the next-to-last home game against the Baltimore Orioles prompted the Rays to give away 25,000 tickets at the last home game of the season, which resulted in an almost sellout crowd (and Evan getting his wish). Evan, if you are out there reading my blog you got your wish for the last home game of the season as well as ALDS Games 1 and 2: Sellout crowds. However, why didn’t you play a great game in the ALDS and let the Rays catapult to wins instead of losses?
OK. Three more games in the 2010 ALDS Rays-Rangers matchup. If the Rays want to move on to the ALCS it has to win all three games: Two against the Rangers in Arlington, TX (a city about the size of St. Petersburg in population) on Saturday, 9 October 2010 (ALDS Game 3; Rays won 6-3!) and Sunday, 10 October 2010 (ALDS Game 4; Rays won 5-2!) and one more game over at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, 12 October 2010 (ALDS Game 5).
But at ALDS Game 5 at Tropicana Field, we thought we would make it to the ALCS to take on the New York Yankees. As I had other commitments that evening I could not make it to the ALDS Game 5 at Tropicana Field but I monitored the game on my BlackBerry and on the first inning, Texas scored 1-0. No need to worry - yet.
Then the third inning, Rays tied with the Rangers 1-1. I'd thought, we can climb out of this given the Rays' record of coming from behind.
Fourth and sixth inning, Rangers scored 1 each, making the score as we went into the 7th inning stretch Rangers 3, Rays 1. We got a problem.
Top of the ninth inning, the Rangers sealed their trip to the ALCS by scoring 2 more runs, making the score Rangers 5, Rays 1. Once B.J. Upton popped out on the bottom of the ninth it was game over.
You got that right, game over for the Rays as far as the postseason is concerned. End of the line. No reentry southbound, like the sign on southbound Interstate 275 at 4 St N (Exit 32) says. Opportunity for the Rays in the World Series denied.
Hoping that the Rays would win, I bought tickets for Game 1 of the ALCS featuring the Rays vs. the Yankees on StubHub - while the prices were low. I figured, if the Rays won the prices would go sky high. But the Rays did not advance in the postseason and I got my money back - no problem.
Why did the Rays lose in ALDS Game 5 and not advance to the ALCS? There are a lot of variables that I hear from a lot of angles. But here's what I think: Rays manager Joe Maddon I feel made a mistake in allowing Kelly Shoppach to pitch as a starter. I feel if Joe Maddon used another pitcher to lead off I think we would have went on to the ALCS. Additionally, the Rangers had something up their sleeve as far as defense is concerned in ALDS Games 1, 2 and 5.
If the Rays want to do better in 2011, it needs to do some housecleaning. First, keep Maddon as well as Upton, Crawford, Pena and Longoria - the Rays would not be the same without them. (I know, Crawford from what I hear may be leaving the Rays because his salary is high and keeping him would be out of the Rays' budget). Second, get rid of the underperforming players - I'll let you decide on that.
Now for another issue, if I may have your undivided attention for just a moment.
Right after the Rays lost to the Rangers in ALDS Game 5 at Tropicana Field, the St. Petersburg Times came out with this article written by Gary Shelton. I took a look at this article and all it contains is disappointment as well as fear that the Rays will fall back to its losing days in the Devil Rays era. At its best, the article in my opinion was poorly written so that the St. Petersburg Times can make more money selling newspapers. And by the way, Jeff Harrington, did you assist Gary Shelton in writing this article just to put more fear and worry in Rays fans?
Now I want your prediction as to how the Rays will do in 2011. Will we get to go back to the postseason and this time go all the way to the World Series?