Last night, my wife stumbled upon this quite entertaining blog called "1000 Awesome Things". I'd never heard of the site before - which shows how ignorant I am of pop culture and current trends, considering the site already has a book and has won a Webby - but it highly amused me. It's delightfully idyllic, harkening back to childhood memories and helping you rappreciate the small things in life that get looked over too easily. Also, it reminded me of a thought I had last week.
Last Wednesday evening after watching the Rays play their early game, I got bored and decided to watch another game to help the time go by. I flipped open MLB.tv and tried picking another game to watch that would entertain me. I love watching quality pitching play, so I tuned in to the Royals-Angels match-up to watch Jered Weaver and Zack Grienke face each other. There was no reason to not like the game; the Royals have some young players up finally, like Alex Gordon and Kia Ka'aihue, and I find myself reading Royals-centric writers quite frequently. Everything seemed perfect.
Except...even though the game didn't disappoint - it ended up a 2-1 win by the Angels in the 10th inning - I couldn't get myself interested. Something about the game just didn't call to me, didn't reach out and suck me in, and so I turned the game off by the fifth inning. In retrospect, it looks like an exciting game and one I'd like to watch; in the moment, though, the gameplay seemed unexciting, the players lackluster, the drama flat. Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention to the game, but whatever the reason, I couldn't get into it.
After I turned the game off, two thoughts flashed through my head. One, there's something to be said for having a favorite team and rooting for them day in and day out. You get to know the players, know them personally, know their habits and idiosyncrasies. You're in tune with the current storylines following the team, knowing that this player is a slight slump, this one is having trouble with the inside fastball, and this other one is finally showing some plate discipline. Those storylines help infuse games with more excitement than they'd otherwise have, making you personally attached to how well each and every player performs. The more you watch, the tougher it is not to watch.
The second thing I realized was this: it's awesome being a Rays fan.
As much as the Rays can make us pull our hair out at times, they're one of the most exciting, dynamic teams in the majors. I can't quantifiably prove that assertion, but think about it. The Rays have a large collection of some of the most exciting young players in the majors. Sean Rodriguez. Reid Brignac. John Jaso. Matt Joyce. Jeremy Hellickson. Heck, even Matt Garza, BJ Upton, Jeff Niemann, Evan Longoria, and David Price are young and exciting as heck to watch. Oh, and did I mention Carl Crawford?
This is also a team that doesn't do anything by half measures. They're third in the majors in runs scored and first in stolen bases (by a large margin too). First in the majors in walks, and fifth in strikeouts. Third best defense in the majors (by UZR); sixth best according to Dewan Plus/Minus. They've had a perfect game and a no-hitter thrown against them, and a 17-strikeout one-hitter. Not that I liked those games, but they fit with the premise: good or bad, the Rays are an exciting team to watch. When their offense is going, it's one of the best in the league; when it's not, it's one of the worst. There's no in-between.
I've talked to other baseball fans on Twitter and watched others from afar, and I've picked up on a trend: many people that aren't fans of the Rays still tune in to watch the Rays play, just for fun. Like I said, we've got a fun young core of players to watch. The Rays play solid fundamental baseball; they work the count, make spectacular defensive plays, always try and take the extra base, bunt with the best of them, and have an interesting pitcher starting every single day. Our manager loves to safety squeeze, to shift his defense around nonstop, to make moves that put pressure on the opposing team to execute their plays. Our closer is a mysterious
And so, over these last couple months of the season, try and appreciate how special this team is. Teams like this don't come along every year, and there are fans from many other cities wishing their franchise could be more like us. Five years ago this statement would have seemed ludicrous, but we're damn lucky fans: we get to cheer for one of the most exciting, amazing teams in all of baseball every day. Enjoy it. Live it up. Banners fly forever, but memories like this last a lifetime.