In this edition of Deep Thoughts Steve and I reminisce about some of the most memorable moments from the season that was.
Erik: It's going to be hard to beat the moments from Game 162. I think those are the ones that are still fresh in everyone's minds. Other than Longoria and Dan Johnson propelling the Rays to the playoffs, what other moments from the season stand out for you?
Steve: Oh yes, that final night of the season was probably the best night of baseball I've ever watched; nothing else this season can top that. I still get teary and jittery whenever I watch the replays.
But otherwise, this season was oddly bipolar for me. There were times when I loved watching the team, and other times when I wanted to gouge my eyes out and could barely bring myself to care about the games. Andy Sonnanstine getting four starts? The Rays taking so long to call up Jennings and Guyer? I could barely watch Sonny's final two starts, and I was so frustrated with the team in late June. Sam Fuld and Casey Kotchman are great and all, but it was tough to get too excited watching them because I knew they were merely short term stopgaps. I wanted to see our youth.
Hmm, apparently I'm complaining more about the bad times than highlighting the good. Looks like I still have some pent up frustrations I need to work through, geez.
Erik: But, you didn't answer my question. Did any other moments stand out for you? I guess you can take the negative side of that if you wish. Not all memories have to be positive. A positive one that stands out for me is Sam Fuld's walk off inside the park home run that was ruled a triple. The team was down 7-3 entering the ninth and was facing Aaron Crow and Joakim Soria. I don't think there was a more exciting single play in baseball this season.
Steve: Oh, there were many positive memories for me too; that inside-the-parker was definitely one of them. Sam Fuld's whole #Legend status early in the season was absolutely amazing, and probably one of my favorite parts of the pre-Jennings season. He added a flair or excitement early in the year, and considering the team was looking utterly dead in the beginning of the season, it was so much fun to watch at least one player excelling. His catch against the White Sox is still probably one of the best catches I've ever seen, and even with all his other late-season dives, I don't think he topped that one.
And of course, the #LegendofSamFuld hashtag was a thing of beauty. For all the grief that Rays fans got this season, there were certainly a lot of them around then. If you watched the way the @RaysRepublic twitter feed blossomed over the course of the season, I don't know how you could ever think that Rays fans don't exist.
All right, tough question time: who did you enjoy watching more early in the season, James Shields or Alex Cobb?
Erik: That catch against the White Sox was likely still the best even if context is removed; remember that the bases were loaded and if he misses it Juan Pierre gets an inside the park home run.
Early the season as in May 31st-June 18th? Cobb was certainly impressive, and it's always fun to watch a young pitcher start to figure things out, but Shields was the must watch pitcher for the team this year. I made sure I watched every one of his starts. I do wonder what the Rays would have done with Cobb had he not come down with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, though. You?
Steve: Shields is the man and I loved watching him this past season, but him and Cobb both had their own special allure for me. Shields' success was all the sweeter because of his struggles last season, and watching casual fans have to reverse course on their opinion of him was pretty hilarious. But I really enjoyed watching Cobb pitch, mostly because it got back to the whole "let the kids play" attitude. It's always exciting to watch prospects play, and Cobb exceeded all expectations set for him. He looked like a mini-Hellickson/Shields out there at times.
And hey, it didn't hurt that Cobb was replacing Sonny. I think I would have been glad to even see, oh, Casey Fossum on the mound at that point.
But to return to Shields for a second, he didn't get as much attention as Price or Kazmir until this season, but by the time Shields is done as a Rays, he'll easily be one of the franchise's longest tenured (and most successful) pitchers. I know it's a minor moment, but he did pass Kazmir on the strikeout leaderboard this season; it wasn't necessarily a memorable moment, but I think it was a telling one.
Any other moments stand out to you? What about Deezy's first week? Zobrist's 8 RBI day? Those were up there for me.
Erik: What do you think the Rays do if Cobb doesn't get hurt? Do we see Matt Moore?
I believe he's already the team's longest tenured pitcher. He's the model of durability. From 2007-2011 only five other pitchers have thrown more innings than Shields. That's a testament to him and the Rays training staff. I'm with you, I think Shields' entire season was a memorable moment. It's going to be awhile before we see 11 complete games on this team again. His 13K performance in the complete game against Florida certainly stands out.
Deezy's first week was great because we'd all been sitting in anticipation for months. David Price striking out a team record 14 in Toronto was great.
Steve: You could make the argument that Shields just completed the best season ever by a Tampa Bay pitcher. I think the argument is close if you're looking at WAR, but man, 249 innings with a 2.89 ERA and 3.42 FIP? That is really difficult to top.
Thinking back on Deezy's first week, I guess what really made this year special for me was the amount of youth on the club. Jennings had one of the best debut performances for any Rays rookie not named Longoria, and it's pretty difficult to top how Matt Moore and Alex Cobb performed in the majors. And then there was Brandon Guyer's home run in his first major league game (in Baltimore, where his wife worked no less), and Alex Torres's clutch spot start filling in when Niemann stunk. This was definitely a team in transition, but I never minded watching the young players perform, even when they stunk.
Erik: Do you think we see what we did out of Matt Moore if Cobb doesn't go down with TOS?
Steve: Huh, good point - probably not. Or at least, the Rays would probably have only used him out of the bullpen, as they would have had plenty of rotation depth by then. Although I guess if they had Cobb around, there's a possibility they send Niemann to the DL at the end of the year instead of letting him ride it out.
I would never wish an injury on anyone, but I suppose that did all work out quite well at the end. Seeing Matt Moore pitch in Game One of the ALDS...that was something I never thought would happen a few months ago.
Erik: That's certainly true, not with him starting the season at Double-A. I'm sure we're missing some other moments. Matt Joyce's go ahead home run in game 161 for example. What about you all? Are there moments you think we didn't cover that really stood out for you, be they positive or negative?
Steve: Oh, I'm sure we're missing a big moment; my memory is notoriously horrible. Anyone out there want to add in some of their favorites?
Your deep thought of the day
After I die, wherever my spirit goes, I'm going to try to get back and visit my skeleton at least once a year, because, "Hey, old buddy, how's it going?"