How invested are we hard core Rays fans? A few numbers may help put things into perspective. Thursday evenings game against the Red Sox will be the Rays 149th game of the year. The previous 148 games have lasted 434 hours and 23 minutes. If you are like myself and are tuned in to watch nearly every Rays game, you have dedicated nearly 18 days of your life to watching Rays baseball. Additionally, the season is 166 days old and many of us may spend an average of an hour a day in DRB reading and commenting on a story or contributing to a pre/post game discussion. This results in approximately 7 more days contributed to the passion of being a Rays fan. All told, many of us will dedicate nearly 25 days of our year focused on Rays baseball just during April through the end of September.
In the time that we have invested in watching the Rays in 2011 we have seen the hitters look at nearly 22,000 pitches and watched the pitching staff deliver nearly 21,000 pitches. What is the return on investment (ROI) for the time and concentration required to dedicate 25 plus days and look at over 40,000 pitches? To me the ROI has to be playing meaningful games in the month of September. Not meaningful games in the sense that the Rays have a chance to be a spoiler and ruin someone else's season, but meaningful in that the Rays have an opportunity to be one of the four teams playing in the ALDS at seasons end.
No matter the outcome of the remaining 2011 schedule, playoffs or no playoffs, the season has been a rewarding one for me. When a Toronto Blue Jays come from behind victory in Fenway Park elicits the same emotion as getting that 10-speed bike on Christmas morning, the ROI has been achieved.
The fact that I feel the season is a success doesn't necessarily translate that all Rays fans that have invested an equal amount of their time to the team feel the same way. Kevin Goldstein of BaseballProspectus.com wrote an article about the Rays detailing what he feels the Rays should have done differently which could have put them into the playoffs. Goldstein's article (Eye on The Prize...Eventually [subscription required]) concludes with:
The Rays are a smart and well-run team, and a model for others on how to not only survive with their budgetary limitations, but to flourish. Still, playoff opportunities don't come every year, especially in a division with the Yankees and the Red Sox, and the Rays have seemingly refused to capitalize on them, none more so than this year to feed an over-arching desire to remain competitive long-term. There is being competitive and there is winning championships, and by focusing entirely on the former, the Rays are potentially costing themselves the latter.
It is my opinion that Goldstein belief is that the Rays miscalculated by not striking when the iron is hot while the Rays seem to maneuver with the confidence that the iron will remain hot. Being satisfied with the Rays season doesn't mean that I am satisfied with every move or timing of every move. Their are some very pertinent questions that can be discussed regarding the 2011 Rays season. Some of the questions posed below led Kevin Goldstein to reach his conclusion.
- Should the Rays have called up Desmond Jennings, Brandon Guyer, and Matt Moore sooner?
- Should the Rays have traded for another bat or reliever at the trade deadline (7/31 or 8/31)?
- Should the Rays have traded Casey Kotchman, Johnny Damon, and others at the 7/31 or 8/31 deadline rather than hold on to them?
- Did Joe Maddon stick with Sam Fuld, John Jaso/Kelly Shoppach, and Reid Brignac too long?