If you’re anything like us on the masthead, you can’t bear to watch an entire Rays game anymore. At least not in one sitting. So you do some channel flipping. And right now, there is some compelling counter programming in the Republican National Convention. And again, if you’re like us on the masthead, maybe you noticed some similarities between the RNC and this Rays season.
How so? Well, there’s the fact that both are giant tire fires. There’s the fact that you’ve been praying for the season/election to be over for weeks now, only to be reminded that there’s so much more baseball/politicking to go DEAR GOD MAKE IT STOP.
But even beyond that, there is the cast of characters.
You have Kevin Cash, not unlike a certain nominee’s wife, giving a speech after every game that sounds really familiar. Like, didn’t I just hear this one last night? And...was that a Rick Roll?
Dana Eveland trots out to the mound like Scott Baio, and you just cover your eyes/ears because you know what’s coming, and it’s not good. Steve Geltz toes the rubber, and he reminds you of Rudy Giuliani. Didn’t this guy used to actually be kind of decent? Just what the heck happened to him?
TBex plays Chris Christie. So much hype, so little production. But, dang, sometimes, underneath all that bluster...no! Don’t give in to hope! He’s a bad baseball player! Don’t let the occasional bomb fool you!
You look left, and there’s LoMo, silenced on Twitter like a #NeverTrumper. You look right, and Drew Smyly is throwing his teammates under the bus like Ted Cruz. You look to the middle, and there’s Mahtook and Motter and Arcia and Farquhar and Decker lined up like the JV debate slate, and you wonder how these these guys ever ended up in the majors in the first place.
Chris Archer and his idealistic anti-fluoride-ism gives you Rand Paul flashbacks, while Brad Miller is sooooo Mike Pence (safe choice, no range). Meanwhile, Evan Longoria tries valiantly to be John Kasich’s "only sane man in the room," but there’s just too much crazy, while Kevin Kiermaier is Gary Johnson, running around with his hair on fire, acting against all odds like there’s still a chance to win this thing, despite all indications to the contrary.
You wonder how we got to this point. Where did it all go wrong? And then you remember: it went wrong with Jeb. He was supposed to carry this team. He had the pedigree, the record, the grooming. But it became clear, from Opening Day, that Jeb was in over his head. He was not ready for prime time.
Just like the starting rotation. Yes, Rays fan, this starting five is just like the former Governor of Florida. So much talent, so little payoff. In their wake, they left a vacuum that could only be filled by Trump. Also known as the bullpen.
This bullpen had issues from day one, and everyone knew it. It couldn’t help itself, anymore than Trump can help Trumping. But in an ordinary year, you might not have noticed it. (Hey, did you know the Rangers are in first place and have a terrible bullpen?) But this wasn’t an ordinary year. This was the year of the Jeb collapse and the Trump rising.
Sure, every once in a while things seemed to be a little less crazy. Relievers had a few good outings; Trump read a whole speech off a teleprompter. Maybe it wouldn’t be a true disaster? But then would come the implosion — a blown five run lead; a tweet about bimbos. So you weren’t really surprised when it all went to pieces. But you were captivated by it. You wanted so desperately to look away, but you couldn’t, anymore than you could turn away from the burning Cuyahoga River.
And it’s then that you realize, as you behold the glory of Cleveland and the agony at the Trop in picture-in-picture: We are witnessing something special here. We are Making Last Place Great Again.