1998 was the debut season for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It took a number of years before their games were shown in Central Florida on a regular basis.
Their TV announcing team of Dewayne Staats, Brian Anderson and Todd Kalas is entertaining, informative and easy on the ears.
I became a regular viewer…repetition led to familiarity…familiarity led to likeability and I morphed into a Rays fan.
The 2013 version of the Rays reminds me in many ways of my favorite team of all time---the 1979 Baltimore Orioles.
There has been some Rays Magic in many of their victories on their way to the ALDS. Not quite on a par with the 1979 Os, but magic never the less. Like those Orioles, it seems like night in and night out, a different Ray stepped up and got the crucial hit, made the defensive gem or threw the right pitch at the right time.
The Rays have not dominated the way the 102-win Birds did in 1979…but, 92 wins means you are not Forrest Gump.
One through eight, these Rays cannot match that 79 Oriole batting order…but they get the job done. Watching a Zobrist or Loney at-bat is a clinic in preparation and patience. Wil Myers is an old school treat without batting gloves. Evan Longoria personifies the crafty vet who makes each at-bat a quality at-bat. Pitchers earn their pay facing the Rays.
I do not think there is an active MLB player who enjoys playing the game as much as Yunel Escobar. What a joy to watch him play.
These Rays are a far better fielding team, and while their pitching is laudable…it’s not Palmer, Stone, Flanagan, McGregor and Dennis Martinez…but, in this day and age no pitching staff is. However, in relief, Fernando Rodney is the equal of Tim Stoddard in the nail-biting category.
Manager Joe Maddon is Earl Weaver with a laptop and a chardonnay, minus the Raleighs. Earl had his stats with his multicolored Pentels compiled by PR maven Bob Brown using long division…by hand.
Both managers are nonpareil mix and match lineup guys…mostly making all the right moves. While, Maddon does not have the luxury of Roenicke, Lowenstein and Ayala he puts the pieces together magnificently.
The Rays have fun, are loose, enjoy one another and play as a team. In 1979, Orioles owner, Edward Bennett Williams described his team as a “Band of Brothers.” I cannot give that sobriquet to the 2013 Rays…mainly because teams don’t stay together like they used to.
The 1979 Os played at Memorial Stadium…a grand old dame, the house of thrills on 33rd Street, the world’s largest outdoor insane asylum. I loved that place.
For the Rays, it’s The Trop…a dreary dowager, devoid of charm, atmosphere and not made for baseball. Perhaps that is why the Rays are number 30 out of 30 teams in attendance this season.
That’s a crime. Those 79 Birds benefited from the “Oriole Way”---a team concept mindset that started in A ball and was consistent throughout the system.
The current management of the Rays has applied the same theory and put a consistently superior team on the field---in the same division as the big spenders from New York, Boston and Toronto.
The Rays draw 33 1/3% more on the road then they do at home. Shame on Tampa Bay.
I’ll being cheering on the Rays…win or lose; it’s been a great ride this season.