Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. We all know the famous saying, but does it hold true when talking about baseball?
The (Devil) Rays were a putrid team for their first 10 years in existence. Then 2008 comes around and things change. The team starts to win. The fan base grows. The fruits of continually having high draft picks combined with a new, shrewd, Front Office begin to show. The Tampa Bay area falls in love with baseball. The fan base is like the young, bashful, dorky kid in high school who gets a girlfriend after years of rejection and instantly falls in love for the first time. The Rays are this girlfriend. A whirlwind romance follows. Month after month goes by and you start to feel as if you are one. When they’re sad, you feel for them. When they’re happy, you share in the exuberance. You’ve never felt this way before and think it will last forever. You hit a little rough patch in October, but you push through it, knowing that the following year is going to be the best yet. Then that year starts out a little different. Maybe she seems a little distant. When you look into her eyes you no longer see that same person you fell head-over-heels in love with. The little things that were quirky and cool and worked out so well last year don’t seem to have the same touch this time around. As the year drags on you notice her doing things like hiding her text messages, having to take care of her ‘sick mother’ a bit too often on Friday nights, hitting into one too many double plays, what have you. Eventually she comes to you and tells you it’s over and that the same magic just isn’t there from last summer. You’re heartbroken. After years and years of constant rejection you finally find your dream situation, and then before you know it it’s gone.
If 2008 had never happened this Rays season would be looked at as pretty successful, no matter how the final couple of weeks play out. Instead of being so negative and ripping into this team every chance you get, as I’ve heard/read many people in this market do this season, remember what we as a fan base went through from 1998-2007. Having a team that was in playoff contention in August was something we could only dream of. We’d have killed to realistically be able to speak of wild cards and MVP candidates. Has this 2009 team underachieved? Probably, but they know that. Don’t turn on them for having a season where they’re going to win around 85 games. Does this season hurt more than the others? Of course it does, but we should relish in that pain because it’s been 100x more fun to watch the team in 2009 than in 98-07 combined.
Remember, there’s always another pretty girl waiting around the corner in 2010…