Tonight kind of sucked, so permit me to present a recap that is free of much of the level-headed and well-thought-out statistical analysis you've come to expect (and, frankly, deserve) from DRaysBay. We've finally wrapped up the season series with the Sox, and I'll tell you what, even a meaningless game between 2 disappointing AL East rivals can feel intense when it's your hated rivals.
And let's get something straight: the Red Sox are the true rivals of the Tampa Bay Rays. It's not even a question in my mind. Sure, transplant Yankees fans pack the Trop when it's Jeter Appreciation Night (and every other night when the Bombers are in town) but nothing, and I mean nothing, can compete with the sheer obnoxiousness of Tampa Bay area Boston fans.
And consider this next phrase my sort of half-assed peace treaty: from my limited experience, Boston fans at Fenway Park are just fine. Better than fine, honestly. I went in 2011 to Fenway sometime in August, when the Rays were infinity games out of the Wild Card and there was no way that they'd be able to make the playoffs, and I had a wonderful time. I sat next to a guy wearing a Bruins Jersey and after the obligatory "holy toledo a rays fan i didnt think y'all'd evah show ap" everything settled down and we talked about farm teams and hot dorgs and why the '11 Saux were the greatest team evah. It was exactly the kind of experience you'd want as a visitor at a ballpark. The people around me were knowledgeable about the sport and it really felt like a group of like-minded folks with no sort of antagonistic undertones. I'd go back in a New York Minute.
Let's all contrast that with what we have seen at Tropicana Field. It's a generalization to say that the Red Sox fans that show up to cheer on Ortiz and whoever are rowdy and obnoxious. But...it's not an over-generalization. I've seen more heated arguments at the Trop when the Red Sox come to town than for any other team. Red Sox fans seem to scream louder than other fans, which is fine until it becomes Carlin's Seven Dirty Words. This is all anecdotal evidence, and that's all we have, because we're all just arguing about anecdotal stuff here. But it rings true for some many of us in the Tampa Bay area, and it's impossible to ignore.
Re-reading what I just wrote makes me think that this is framed to be a takedown of Red Sox fans. It's not. It's really, really not. What I hope it is, is just a sort of rumination over how I see this team, and how I'd bet many of you see it too: we're the little guys. We're the upstarts. We're the team that's not invited to the party but just shows up anyway. It's funny how that connotation also implies a sort of underdog mentality, but what people never remember is that the underdog is the runt of the litter, and has the odds stacked against him no matter what. Brad Pitt said that or something.
Being the underdog comes with a sort of drive for self-validation. We are rivals with the Red Sox, but they don't see it that way. It bothers the heck out of me. What annoys me most about Red Sox fans (in St. Pete) is their sense of entitlement. But at the core of it, it's how I feel about those guys. And I think it belies a sort of insecurity on my part as a Rays fan, that even when we are better than the Red Sox (with the notable exception of 2013-although even that claim comes with a fair bit of doubt) it's never really acknowledged, what with ESPN lead stories and that go-to excuse about the Trop having all the aesthetic appeal of an empty warehouse.
They say what you see in your worst enemy is what you see in yourself. Well, I say that. Well, maybe I don't say that, but I just said it. There's a lot of similarities between both clubs, maybe more than I'd like to see, but definitely a non-trivial amount. My fourth grade English teacher taught me two things: 1. Your name goes on the top right part of the paper, above the red line, and 2. Every good story needs a villain. If you hate the Red Sox and their bandwagon-y fans that's fine. If you hate the broken, worn-out old stadium with the weird structure that interferes with balls in play that's all good too. They are my least favorite baseball team; not even the Yankees and their fans hold my ire as much as the Beantown Bombers do.
But I think your worst enemies are your worst enemies because they hold a funhouse mirror to your own dumb face. You see yourself reflected not in image but in content, on a deeper level that it takes some digging to get into. You squint and distort your face to revel in the unfamiliar and you cannot help but look, because you have to laugh at that mangled reflection. Because if you didn't, it would become uncanny, and there is little more unsettling in this world than the recognizance of yourself in your nemesis. Once you know him, then you understand him, and once you understand him, you sympathize with him, and once that happens, you cannot help but love him, because you love yourself. And all of a sudden you're standing on one side of a platform as he stands on the other, with only a mirror between you that just seems more and more like a window every day
And honestly, who wants that?
- Apparently there was also a game today. Who knew right?
- Hellickson sure didn't pitch very well, did he? After allowing a two-run home run to Christian Vasquez (!) he ended up leaving one out into the third inning with a final line of 8 hits, 6 runs, and 2 strikeouts. Everything was up, everything was missing. It's the kind of start you want to forget, but the fact that it was his last start of the year makes that all the more difficult.
- The bullpen sure didn't pitch very well, did they? Immediately after relieving Hellickson-on the first pitch, no less-Steve Geltz allowed a home run to Rusney Castillo, his first of his career. The Rays got hit around by the Pawtucket Red Sox today, and only Cesar Ramos was able to do anything resembling stopping the bleeding.
- The offense didn't hit very well, did they? They, too, had no answers for Allen Webster. In the second, the Rays mounted a two-out rally when they were only down 1-0. Hanigan was hit with a pitch and KK singled up the middle, followed quickly by Zobrist. He plated the first and only Rays run, but was thrown out at second base after the Red Sox successfully challenged a stolen base call.
- The defense didn't play very well, did they? Loney booted a ball in the third inning that allowed a run to score, but most importantly it extended the inning as long as humanly possible, kicking Hellickson from the game and allowing Geltz to give up the home run.
- This is the kind of game they tell you to forget and move on from. Let's all follow that advice tonight,