ST PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 01: The Tampa Bay Ray raise their 2010 American League East championship banner just before the start of the Opening Day game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field on April 1, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
I found myself a bit perplexed this past weekend. As I took in the Yankees/Red Sox game Saturday afternoon, I was giddy with excitement as Boston blew a nine run lead. As with many Rays fans at this point, the Red Sox have leapfrogged the Yankees on my most hated list. This happened a couple years ago, and I find myself rooting for the Yankees whenever they play. After a game, I typically reenact the scene from Ace Ventura when Jim Carrey takes the plunger to his mouth and spends an inordinate amount of time in the shower cleansing himself.
But with the Red Sox free fall, I got to thinking. Maybe Rays fans should begin rooting for the Red Sox when they play New York. With the new playoff format, it is more important than ever to win your division. Otherwise, after game 162 it's off to face the Angels in a winner take all death match, and the Rays have the fortune of facing Jared Weaver or CJ Wilson. How disappointing would that be? Think about it. The Rays play well all season, win about 94 games in the toughest division in sports, and they are rewarded with a one game playoff against an elite pitcher. This is a devastating scenario I have zero interest in.
The Red Sox are by no means out of the playoff push. They have way too much talent to simply write off. But this season's cold start certainly feels different than last year's for the Red Sox. Ellsbury is out. Carl Crawford now has an elbow injury that could keep him of the field longer than originally expected. Their bullpen is rancid, while their starters are long on talent, but short on results thus far. An implosion seems right around the corner. Nothing would be sweeter.
With the Yankees aging, they still have a potent offense that can carry them through the season. The back end of their bullpen is lock down with Soriano, Robertson, and Rivera. But the one chink in their armor appears to be their pitching staff. Obviously, CC Sabathia will come around. But outside of him you have Ivan Nova and Hideki Kuroda battling it out for number two and three in the rotation. While Kuroda was excellent for the Dodgers, I still question how pitching in the AL East in Yankee Stadium will treat him for an entire season. Nova is solid, but certainly not the legit number two starter you would expect from the Yankees. But even after those two, there's even more question marks. Philip Hughes and Freddy Garcia round out the rotation until the trade deadline or Andy Pettitte's growth hormone kicks in.
The point is that the Rays have an opportunity to cash in on the Red Sox struggles and the Yankees weakness in their rotation. And the bigger point is to stop rooting for the Yankees versus the Red Sox, and start cheering for Josh Beckett and Dustin Pedroia. The first time is painful, and you won't enjoy it. But after that first time, it gets better and better. Or maybe not.
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