After Saturday night’s loss to the Red Sox, the 2017 Tampa Bay Rays season has officially been put to bed. While many of you already pulled up the blanket and tucked in the Rays a few weeks ago, the team - which had fought off sleep like any good child does - finally acquiesced and closed their eyes for the evening with Saturday’s loss.
We’ve reached the point where fans can’t even play the “Well, if we win the next three series, and two of them are sweeps, and the Twins lose the rest of their season series…” game any more. And that’s fine. The baseball season is long, and it’s kind of cathartic to be able to put one to bed for good.
It allows for reminiscing on the good and the bad, and personally, I’m find it easier to find more good once the clock has reached midnight. Both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus playoff odds now have the Rays below half a percent of making the playoffs, but as reasonable humans we know the season is over. We can turn our focus to the 2017 offseason and even the 2018 season if we want to get greedy.
We can find time to appreciate the first hint of morning coolness after the never ending Florida summer, or, if you (like this author) live in points north note the touches of orange and yellow dotting the trees along the path of your evening stroll. You can finally catch up with friends (and family…) who have taken a backseat to Fox Sports Sun over the past six months. It’s a strange feeling officially cutting the cord with a season, it’s the emotional equivalent of saying goodbye to your best friend for six months. Sure, you’ll be able to talk to him on the phone (maybe the equivalent of gazing lovingly at the replays of Kiermaier catches on Twitter?), but it’s not the same as being with him day-after-day for half of the year.
The sentiment from most Rays fans in regards to 2017 was summed up brilliantly in Friday night’s recap from DRB writer, Darby Robinson:
This game is a great capsule for the whole year. Low expectations at the start, encouraging and inspiring effort to give some real hope for what could happen, and then a crushing collapse snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. And just when you give up and accept your lot, that glimmer of hope starts shining through again. Only to be snuffed out cruelly, quickly, and embarrassingly.
This season has seen the Rays already improve their win total from 2016, and (despite the tone of this article), there are still more than two weeks of the season to go (13 games to be exact). There’s still a chance of reaching .500 for the first time since 2013, for those who find such benchmarks meaningful.
But that’s kind of the antithesis of this article. For the final few weeks, I’ll be watching to see crazy plays like KK’s pair of web gems from Friday night. I’ll be watching to see if Wilson Ramos can get red hot down the stretch so we can totally over-inflate our expectations for him for next season. I’ll be watching for Alex Cobb’s last few starts for the only organization for which he has ever played. I won’t be checking the score.
A few months ago, for a separate project I am working on, I watched the entirety of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series on YouTube. The game didn’t have the scoreline anywhere on the screen, and at first I was both flummoxed and annoyed, completely lost as to what was going on. But around the fifth inning, I actually found the change of pace rather pleasant. Instead of focusing constantly on the score, I simply watched the players on the field, the batter-pitcher showdown, and all the little things going around just outside of the score.
That’s how I plan on watching the Rays for the final two weeks of the season. Grass in my toes, hippy flower behind my ear, not a care in the world about the final score.
And I think I’m going to love it.