The 2018 season passed its halfway point some 14 games back, but the All-Star break nonetheless feels like a good time to reflect on the season up to this point.
Today’s reflection: what song, to you, seems emblematic of the Rays 2018 season thus far?
We’ve asked some of our DRB contributors to name their songs and tell us why they resonate, and we invite you all to do the same in the comments.
(Warning: some song lyrics may be NSFW)
Mister Lizzie: Most years I start the baseball season with real hope that the Rays will field a strong, competitive team. There are usually some veterans who might have career years; youngsters looking to break out; there is almost always good pitching and just enough talent to allow for some optimism about the team’s chances.
This year, however, I had no such expectations. This was a rebuilding year. It was a clearing-payroll-for-the-future year in which maybe we’d see a few prospects. I was set to handle this year more as an observer than a fan. I would watch with a critical eye, assess the experiments with pitcher usage, perfect my ability recap losses in interesting ways.
Here we are at the All-Star break, however, and my critical distance is gone. Somehow I have fallen for this team. They can be good! The pitching experiments are fascinating, they sometimes work, and they have created new heroes named Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, and Sergio Romo. Denard Span was a revelation while he was here; Mallex Smith may have his rough edges but I’ll never tire of watching him run the bases with that Florida pendant threatening to garrote him at any time. Some guy named Bauers has been smashing power alley doubles and Wilson Ramos is making me a little dizzy because I had come to believe that a competent catcher who could also hit was, like the unicorn, only a figure of fantasy. I could go on.
As I get pulled in to rooting for this team, the song that plays in my head is a real oldie. Like 1913 oldie. Written by James Monaco and Joseph McCarthy, Al Jolson sang it in a Broadway show called The Honeymoon Express, and it has been covered since by singers from Bing Crosby to Gloria Estefan to Barry Manilow.
You Made Me Love You, here sung by Judy Garland. I didn’t want to do it!
Jared Ward: Its not a secret that I love hip hop. So when I was looking for a song, I wanted something that HYPED me, much like this team does.
There are moments where I this team hypes me up and gets me excited for what is coming. And then there opposite moments, where I’m reminded that the Future isn’t as bright as I want it to be. Much like Future’s disappointing verse in Kings Dead.
King’s Dead, from Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future and James Blake
Darby Robinson: Hopeful, exuberant, joyous trumpets! When I think of this team, with ups and downs, roller coaster of emotions, I see it going in a great direction. Nothing makes me want to celebrate like some fun indie pop, and this team has given us all reasons to celebrate what has happened and what will happen. It’s alright, believe!
From Mat and Kim, “It’s Alright”
John Ford: I think I was pretty clear that I thought this season was going to awful. Sure, I had some wild dreams if everything went just so, but that was just wishful thinking. Really, my entire hopes for getting through the first half with my sanity intact — at least until the kids showed up — was the Joey Wendle watch.
But what happened instead? Oh my sweet Jebus. Old Man Span and bullpen days and Openers and Wilmer Font and Matt Duffy being better than Longo and Mallex’s necklace and the Buffalo and If ya Snelllllll and Chaz Roe’s slider and Sergio Romo’s slider and OH MY GOSH JOEY WENDLE ACTUALLY DIDN’T SUCK and and and
It’s been wild, y’all. We won almost as many games before the All-Star game as I thought we would win all season. It really makes you wonder, is this team Dead or Alive?
Jim Turvey: “Something good, oh something good, oh something good,
Oh something good tonight will make me forget about you for now”
This trippy Alt-J joint encapsulates the Rays 2018 perfectly. There is certainly something good (the calling up off Willy Adames - briefly - and Jake Bauers; the .500+ record at the break; the success of The Opener) about the season, but it’s acting to distract slightly from the fact that the Rays are going to have a hell of a time being legit contenders even once they have all their troops at the major league level, thanks to the insanity that is playing in the AL East, hence the “make me forgot about [the AL East] for now.”
”Forty-eight thousand seats bleats
And roars for my memories of you”
The other big story of the Rays 2018 season has been the announcement of a potential new stadium in Ybor. While the Trop doesn’t quite hold 48,000 (42, 735 is the official tally), Rays fans will certainly roar their memories of the Rays when/if the Trop is no longer their home
Ashley MacLennan: I’m torn between The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” and Bryan Adams’ “Can’t Stop the Things We Started.” Basically any song that has a “the best is ahead of us” tone to it. I think the Rays have had the kind of season that surprises anyone who expected them to tank. This team just won’ quit and I look forward to seeing what they do in the second half.
Rather than choose, I’ll give you both:
The Carpenters, We’ve Only Just Begun
Bryan Adams, Can’t Stop this Thing We’ve Started
Danny Russell: Ain’t it Fun is a jangly, bumpy ride that subverts expectations and (by this point) is a song that’s a little dated... but it’s also, still, a great experience. The gist is that it’s possible to have a blast blazing your own trail, and that hold true in Tampa Bay, even if rebuilding is a road often taken. The Rays rebuild has no business being as enjoyable as this season has been, and with the Rays reaching the All-Star Break above .500 yet again, it’s hard to deny these infectious Rays personalities are worthwhile television.
Considering the lyrics, I’m also reminded of the island the Rays seem to have found themselves on:
I don’t mind
Letting you down easy but just give it time
If it don’t hurt now, but just wait, just wait a while
You’re not the big fish in the pond no more
You are what they’re feeding on
So what are you gonna do
When the world don’t orbit around you
Ain’t it fun, Living in the real world?
Ain’t it good, Being all alone?
A team that still prioritizes and employs an array of advanced metrics, the subscribing media landscape has all but moved on from the Rays for the glamour of what bigger budgets can do with sabermetrics. The Rays are instead still jamming away in their garage. They may not hit it big, but it sure as hell is fun.
What melodies are running through your head this All-Star break?