For all the concerns I flexed over Scott Kazmir going to the World Baseball Classic, I must admit I'm finding enjoyment in the tournament. The proper words are hard to find, but sometimes I wonder if I'm a bit too caught up with the Rays when it comes to baseball. No matter who or what I write or think about, there's always a Rays tie. The first thing I noticed about the Netherlands team was Randall Simon. To be fair, that's a bit of a coincidence, I tuned into the game when he was batting, and really, who the hell knew that Randall Simon was playing for the Netherlands anyways?
This Rays-centric mode of thinking has actually been in my mind a lot as of late. Is it a good thing that I always find the match or does it takes away from enjoying certain events for what they are; completely independent of the Rays? Victor Zambrano is pitching for Venezuela and memories of him as a Ray pop to mind. Fernando Cabrera closes for team Puerto Rico and the time Tommy and myself started a grassroots effort to claim him off waivers pops up. Hell, the Tampa Bay Lightning blow a late lead and we talk about how it's the 2007 Rays all over again. That's not even baseball and yet the Rays are still prevalent.
I won't lie, I've been hoping that Mark Dominik is just like Andrew Friedman. That Raheem Morris is Joe Maddon. Kellen Winslow Jr. can be Matt Garza, or Brendan Harris, or Sean Burroughs. I see people on other sites talk up the Rays and it's still surreal. This is the stuff that daydreams were made of when the opposing team racked up a dozen runs on Casey Fossum. The same thoughts that crept to mind when I used to wonder if Jae Seo would ever regain his 2003 or 2005 status and give the Rays a formidable one-through-three punch in the rotation.
When I was working on the Shields post a very specific memory popped to mind. It was from Shields rookie season, and it was one of his final starts. Perhaps the final start of the year. Shields was pitching in New York in the middle of a rainstorm and couldn't quite escape without being lifted.
I remember the time in Texas when Ben Zobrist hit a homerun and Edwin Jackson pitched quite well, but the bullpen blew the lead. I remember Mark Hendrickson finishing off a complete game in Baltimore and handing Joe Maddon the baseball to celebrate his first victory with the Rays. When Greg Norton and Dioner Navarro hit homeruns to beat the Red Sox. I remember when beating the Red Sox was beating the Red Sox! Not, beating the Red Sox.
And so I've wondered, is being so connected with 1/30th of Major League Baseball that you can't truly focus on another game or team without the that one set of players popping up a good thing?
I saw Gene Kingsale slide for a ball he wasn't going to catch and it reminded me of Carl Crawford in the playoffs. That pang of hopelessness shot through my stomach like only the playoffs could bring. I never knew that feeling until last year. I never uttered the words "Not like this." with conviction until then. Kingsale redeemed himself and the Netherlands began a celebration that will be unmatched in this tournament.
And it reminded me of the Rays celebration from last October after the ALCS.
I think that answered my question.