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Cubs 2, Rays 1: Moral victories and literal defeats

Let that be a lesson to you! No one no-hits the 2017 Tampa Bay Rays for nine consecutive innings in the same game!

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Tampa Bay Rays
I wanna flyyyyyy like an eagle...
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What do we say about a game like tonight’s game? In a lost season, you’ve sorta got to find any kind of joy you can. It was nice to see Joe Maddon again, and the Rays’ former skipper seemed to like being back for a little bit, giving a thumbs up to the crowd during a standing ovation. It was also nice (for me, personally) to see Ben Zobrist, who is my favorite baseball player of all time and one of the greatest Rays to ever play for the team. My personal pet argument is one where the Rays retire his number (despire Peter Bourjos currently claiming #18) but I’ll admit that the argument isn’t only an analytics one, which probably renders it too personal to convince anyone. Still, a man can dream.

A conspicuous lack of offense

Boy, the Rays sure didn’t have much early offense tonight, did they? Even less so than usual! Put on your tin foil hats, everyone, because the culprit is clearly a lack of sign-stealing. Joe Maddon, when asked about the Boston Red Sox’s well-documented case of sign-stealing against the New York Yankees, spoke thusly:

“There’s been a lot of different ballparks (with) an urban legend behind each one,” Maddon said. “One ballpark in the American League, we used to roll our signs all the time. Not just runner on second base, runner on first base, whatever – always rolling your signs. We were concerned about it.”

Wow, folks. In case you forgot, the Tampa Bay Rays play in the American League. Creepy. Maddon’s speaking out against sign-stealing didn’t end there:

Your best method is to conceal your signs. Don’t just be so blatantly simple. Do something a little bit different. (Maybe) you give up one sign and then all of a sudden you do the exact opposite intentionally.”

It’s clear to me that Maddon is taking an active approach against the poorly-documented but apparently well-known-throughout-baseball chicanery of the Tampa Bay Rays, whose inability to properly steal signs forced them into an early no-hitter alert against Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery. Montgomery, if you remember, was traded to the Seattle Mariners for one Erasmo Ramirez, placing him squarely within the Rays’ sphere of influence for a period of time. Montgomery clearly picked up on the sign-stealing prowess (a true Extra 2%) of the Rays and took the knowledge to the Cubs.

Later that year, the Cubs won the World Series. This can’t be a coincidence, folks.

A peculiar family tree

Look, I’m not saying that the Tampa Bay Rays are the only ones in Major League Baseball that engage in deceitful sign-stealing tactics, and are completely vulnerable to “rolling your signs” as Joe Maddon states.

I’m screaming it.

And the connection don’t end there. Chris Archer, too, has a Chicago connection. Archer came over in the Matt Garza trade, along with Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer, and others. Eagle-eyed readers will note the name headlining the trade package for the Rays: Matt Garza. What a “coincidence” that the only pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter for the Tampa Bay Rays left the team to the Cubs.

Did you notice the quotes around “coincidence?” That implies that it is not a “coincidence” at all! Matt Garza took his knowledge on how to throw no-hitters at Tropicana Field to Chicago, where the Cubs tried to use the very same knowledge on the Rays tonight!

Brandon Guyer is yet another name on that list. Perhaps you are familiar with Brandon Guyer’s most marketable skill: the ability to get hit with a baseball. Guyer even gets hit with pitches in the strike zone. How convenient that Kevin Kiermaier is able to draw a HBP to start the game off, eliminating the early possibility of a perfect game. Schemes within schemes, people.

One name that, unfortunately, you likely do not recognize immediately is that of Hak-Ju Lee. Lee was considered to be the top prospect in the trade for a while. Only when Chris Archer began to assert his dominance over baseball did Lee begin to fall off. After injuring his knee and missing an entire season, the Rays cut Lee, and he hasn’t been heard from since.

Consider reading this well-written and insightful summation of the career of Hak-Ju Lee if you are interested in the fall of a top prospect from grace. Be aware though, if you click on the link, you are put on an FBI Replicant Watchlist for replicants, as only a cold, unfeeling robot would desire to read such a tragic tale in his spare time.

Did Chris Archer allow an early run on a Kyle Schwarber home run to set the stage for a possible no-hitter performance? And did he do it to cover up his involvement in Hak-Ju Lee’s disappearance? Only time will tell.

And it’s been enough time. That’s a solid yes.

Sleeper agent heroes

With all of these ironclad evidence stacked against the Rays, it seems highly unlikely that the Rays would have any chance of escaping this game with anything less than a perfect game. Right?

You fool.


The use of sleeper agents by the Rays has been well-documented. Carl Crawford (whose nickname, let’s not forget, is The Perfect Storm) most famously whiffed a relatively easy sliding catch on September 28, 2011. Nolan Reimold scored from second base to sink the Red Sox 4-3, and the Rays responded minutes later with a walk-off win over the Yankees to reach the postseason and eject the Red Sox from the Wild Card.

What you don’t know—because you couldn’t possibly have the same level of working knowledge that I do—is that the Rays station sleeper agents all over the MLB, waiting to be activated. Addison Russell is one such sleeper agent. While the Rays were being no-hit, the Rays front office activated the chip implanted deep within Russell’s brain that makes him airmail balls thrown to first base. Russell’s E6 put Steven Souza Jr. on second with one out, giving the Rays a scoring opportunity. Unfortunately, Maddon’s “rolling signs” rendered the Rays offense mute, and they came up short again.

But here is the Rays’ most incredible trick of all. Russell was not the only sleeper agent on the Cubs team. In fact, he wasn’t even the only sleeper agent in the Cubs’ starting lineup this night. Yes, the most important agent for the Rays tonight was:

Mike Montgomery

It is a bold move to allow your own double agent to nearly pitch a shutout against you due to your inability to steal signs thanks to highly advanced sign-changing techniques by your former skipper, all while your own starting pitcher is secretly plotting to allow the no-hitter to draw attention away from his involvement in Hak-Ju-Lee’s catastrophic knee injury.

But a home run by Brad Miller to break it up seems way less likely.

The Rays Manchurian-Candidate’d Montgomery for only one at bat, but it was all they needed to break up the no-hitter. The Rays would just have to wait until tomorrow to get no-hit.

And honestly, with name like “Montgomery,” you know he’s still working with the Rays.

At this point, a win (or another hit) wouldn’t even be necessary. The Rays proved their point: they can get at least one hit without stealing signs successfully, or at all. Why bother get any more?

So they didn’t.

The Rays were nearly no-hit by Mike Montgomery and the Chicago Cubs, but instead they triumphantly enacted their master plan: getting a hit at a time that the Cubs did not want them to get a hit.

It was not, in fact, a late-September poor offensive showing by a disappointing team that failed to live up to its potential, but instead a convoluted yet calculated conspiracy involving sleeper agents, secret identities, and sign stealing.

The Rays play another game tomorrow. Since Jon Lester isn’t a sleeper agent, though, the Rays will probably get no-hit.