It's sort of fitting that the Rays spent most of their series in Cleveland waiting. It's fitting because like the team, we've spend most of the season waiting. Waiting for the team to start winning like it was 2008. After all, this team was 30-20 after 50 games last year, and whether our expectations were fair or not, I think we can all agree 23-27 is not where this team should be.
We are waiting for the Rays to start playing like the Rays.
The lineup has been the lone bright spot, but we're still waiting on under performing starters in the lineup. We wait for B.J. Upton and Dioner Navarro to resemble the players we saw during last year's run to the World Series. And while both have shown signs of breaking out, neither have been able to put together a sustained run of success at the plate. We could argue about moving B.J. Upton down a few spots, but there's no guarantee that it will fix anything.
In the rotation we have one good starter (Garza), one pretty good starter (Shields), one average to below average starter (Niemann), one "hittable" starter (Sonnanstine), one developing starter (Price), and one lost starter (Kazmir.) We were waiting for Scott Kazmir to take that leap to next level, but now we're just waiting for him to take the mound sometime this year and be somewhat capable of getting hitters out. We wait while David Price develops and continue waiting for James Shields to pitch on the road like he does at home. We're waiting for Andy Sonnanstine to stop giving up seven runs a start, and with Jeff Niemann we're just waiting for him to throw a pitch as the "Big Nyquil" has a tendency to put us to sleep on the mound.
While we wait on all that, we also wait on the 2009 bullpen to perform like the 2008 bullpen. Well maybe not as good as 2008, but at least better than the one we've seen so far. Other than my boy Lance Cormier and the Dude J.P. Howell, we are waiting for someone to step up and be the next Grant Balfour. Ideally, that would be Grant Balfour, but we're waiting for him to stop walking people and start telling people to sit the #&^% down. Joe Nelson looked like that guy, but now I'm waiting for him to resemble the guy he was in the first month or his arm to fall off. I'm still not sure which will happen first. Dale Thayer waited a long time to reach the majors, but after one good and one so-so performance, we still have to wait and if the mad-stache is the real deal. Some waited for Jason Isringhausen, but I think soon most of us will be waiting for him to go away like Troy Percival (who may have waited too long). Dan Wheeler? I'm waiting for Erik's next recap on him.
We are also waiting on injuries. I'm waiting for Pat Burrell's neck to heal so he can be "The Bat" we signed. Now, I'm waiting for Jason Bartlett to come back and play like an MVP (seriously). We're waiting on Chad Bradford's sidearm and waiting for Fernando Perez to stop blogging and start stealing bases and scoring runs (ok, maybe he can still blog since he is awesome at it).
Some people are waiting for radical changes to the roster and even waitng for Joe Maddon to change or the manager to change all together. To those people I say...keep waiting. Maddon is not changing his style nor is he going anywhere, at least any time soon. The roster changes may come, but we have to wait until at least June or July to see where we are in the standings.
With a team that is 23-27 and waiting to get the hell out of Cleveland, the forecast much like it did for the last few days, calls for... wait for it...more waiting! It's too late to say "it's early," but it's far too early to say it's over. As the calendar turns from May to June, the Rays will be a sub .500 team, but are not out of it. This is where it gets tough for me as a fan and as a writer/analysis. My fanhood says this team sucks right now and while that is probably true, the other side says wait it can't be this bad. For now I'll give that side the benefit of the doubt. After all we waited 11 years just to be in a position to do all this waiting.
For now we hope the Rays' first 50 games have been one big rainout. When it turns around is still TBD