Point: Put them in Coach, They’re Ready to Play

Mark you dream crushing, Lionel Ritchie hating, Decision to let Doogie Howser skip all those grades disagreeing, trying to keep kids from playing on your lawn by calling them “whippersnappers” and “hooligans,” “No Man.” Take a page out of the Jim Carrey movie and start saying yes to life. Donʼt be like the college basketball rules back in the day that said the freshman had to play on a separate team. Donʼt you think, if given the capability to play Pete Maravich his freshman year, the LSU varsity coach wouldʼve jumped at the opportunity? He wasnʼt allowed…We are.

Ok, I admit, the Lionel Ritchie line was obscure, but he called people to say he loved them, and I think the Raysʼ front office should make some loving calls of their own. Bring up these young guys. The platoon leftfield and bullpen doesnʼt need to be a platoon for the second half of the season. The positions need to be filled by 2 young
guys who deserve the right to play at the big league level. Not because theyʼre prospects, not because theyʼll sell tickets (if they would…weʼd have already tried that. Iʼm sure weʼd adopt the “throw back opposing team home runs” strategy if we thought there was a Henry Roengardner in the stands who could sell more tickets)…itʼs because theyʼve earned it, and itʼs because we need them.

When we made our run a few years back on our way to the world series, we did it with youth, speed and defense. Desmond Jennings is young, he has 17 stolen bases and has only been caught once (my guess is he tripped on the way to second or third), and he has a total of 0 errors in the outfield. Not once has he made an errant throw or dropped a flyball or misplayed a double to the gap and let a runner get an extra base. That sounds like someone I want to see playing at the Trop. Heʼs the reason we didnʼt mind losing Carl Crawford. He is Carl Crawford(but with 12 home runs at the all star break, he probably has more power).

Another big factor in our Pennant Winning run was our bullpen. And as much as I like our 3, 4 and 5 pitchers, seeing them pitch into the 8th inning scares me…regardless of the command they show for the first 7. We need relief pitchers we can count on, and I think I have a solution, and I think you know what that solution is. (If youʼre this far into the point/counterpoint and donʼt know what my solution is, than remind me not to ever
ask you for help with anything.) Call up Jake McGee. Heʼs been closing in AAA Durham, and I know we got JP Howell back, but that just means we have a reliable set-up man from 2 years ago. We need the young fireballer to beef up an unreliable pen.

I think this one is a no-brainer. Regardless of rules that let us keep a player one year longer or pay him $14 less per game in the future…let these young talents showcase their stuff in front of the world and help lead us where we need to be. Iʼm not saying we should call up every young player that we have in our farm system…Iʼm saying call-up the guys who will help us win right now. It seems hard to argue with.

Point: Close…But no Cigar

Mark you negative-image pushing, bad-role-model endorsing, punchline explaining bozo. There is a time for subtlety, and it can even come when paying tribute to a team of yesteryear. Now granted, there are worse things that happen in our day to day lives than seeing a cigar on a baseball uniform for one throwback regular season game, but that doesn’t mean we have to celebrate and glorify every bad habit that the people who came before us made.

If the Rays are going to wear throwback Little League jerseys, they are going to wear these Belmont Heights jerseys from the back-to-back World Series participants that featured Derek Bell and Gary Sheffield (pictured)they were in, and I couldn’t tell you one player who played for the franchise. (Can I call it a franchise? It seems kind of like calling Church’s Chicken a “restaurant”) So if the argument is “we should keep it the same for history’s sake”, then it seems a little ridiculous. This isn’t the LA Dodgers wearing the old Brooklyn uniforms or the
First of all, I have no idea who the Smokers were. I don’t know what years they played, I don’t know what league Oakland A’s wearing throwback jerseys of the Kansas City(or Philadelphia) Athletics. This isn’t even the Nationals deciding to don Expos attire for a game this summer. I just looked this up, the Smokers were a minor league team that won the international league in 1951. If a team plays in the middle of a century, and there’s no one there to witness it…does it make a sound? Obviously it does. This just in, the Rays are going to wear the uniforms of my little league team from 1991 next year.

Secondly, do we really need a picture of a cigar on a jersey that says “Smokers” across the chest? Would they need a picture of a guillotine if they were paying tribute to the Nottingham Executioners? Would they need a picture of moonshine embroidered on the throwback uniforms of the Dodge City Drinkers? Would we need a picture of a whip if we were honoring the Bradenton Crackers? Not only would those pictures be unnecessary, they would, for the most part, be wrong.

I’m all for paying tribute to the smokers. I’m all for Tampa being steeped in cigar making and smoking. Hell, I’m all for taking part in smoking a stogie from time to time. What I’m not for, and this is my final point, is beating a dead horse. We’re paying tribute to the smokers, right? That’s not a word that needs to be explained to people. Adults know what it means, kids over the age of 10 know what it means, and kids under the age of 10 will only know what it means if we decide to make it a cartoon. Let the kids today keep a little bit of their innocence.

I think it was the correct move by the Rays. No one remembers the smokers, no one needs to see the picture to know what smokers means, and no one needs to choose this as their battle.

Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.

Counterpoint: Get it Right.

Mark, you unfair, Lance Armstrong loving, Derek Jeter “homerun” grabbing, Tuck Rule agreeing cheater. Some instant replay isn’t good enough. There needs to be more. There needs to be most. Whatever it takes to get the call correct.

AJ Pierzynski’s trot to first base after striking out against the Angels in the 2005 ALCS should’ve been all for not if replay had determined that the catcher never dropped the ball. Derek Jeter getting hit on the hand last year in a game at Tropicana Field should’ve been called a foul ball after they took a look at the replay and determined Jeter to be showing off his thespian side. When umpire Tim McClelland forgot the rules in the Angels-Yankees 2009 ALCS and said Cano was safe at third and Posada was out, even though they were both clearly out, he said, “[The replay] showed that Cano was off the bag when he was tagged. I did not see that for whatever reason… I’m just out there trying to do my job and do it the best I can.”

Not trying to take away from the umpires doing their job, just trying to make their jobs less accident prone. Some companies have signs up at their workplaces that say, “23 days without an accident” (23 was an arbitrary number, obviously…fill in the blank any way you wish). If Major League Baseball had this sign, it would never get past 1 day (the day after the all-star game when there are no games scheduled usually has no accidents).

When companies find ways to improve productivity and improve the finish product, they jump on the chance. Why is Selig’s Bunch so slow to use this tool put in place to help them. Selig would’ve been the guy who voted against the backboard and opening the bottom of the net when basketball was looking to change the rules. He would’ve voted against cars getting GPS put in them. He would’ve voted against companies using websites to promote their business.

Imagine all the things that help businesses run smoothly. Now I want you to imagine all of those things being taken away because of one person. Now I want you to imagine that little girl is white. (every time people imagine things, I think they should end it with a McCounaghey-ism)

I get it, the game is slow. It takes a long time. I don’t think each ball and strike should be replayed, but certainly the check swings. We have a camera that runs perpendicular to the batter, and yet we still call on the umpire 90 feet away to determine whether the hitter broke his wrist. Use the technology you have baseball. The balls are better. You use them. The bats are better. You use them. The gloves, the spikes, the helmets…all better and all used. The cameras are better…use them.

The season is slow and takes a long time. But at the end of the season, only 8 teams get to make the playoffs. Shouldn’t the calls be right so that you get the actual best teams making it to October(now November)? Without making things right, Ben Johnson would still have a gold medal. Without making things right, Bernie Mac’s character would’ve ended his career with 2998 hits and Mr. 3000 would’ve ceased to exist. Without making things right, every episode of an 80s sitcom would’ve ended with no morals or lessons and our generation would’ve grown up thinking we could throw a party when parents were away or book 2 dates for the same night or do drugs at a party, all without consequence. Make things right, Major League Baseball. If for no other reason, than to teach this generation that making things right is the best way to be.

Counterpoint: It Takes a Villain to Raise MLB

Mark, you sesame street watching, “we are the world” singing, triple ply with aloe softee.  Villains are a cornerstone of baseball. Some of the best players in history have been villains. Barry Bonds. Ty Cobb(at least according to Field of Dreams). Haywood from Major League.

Do you remember when Superman fought off the nice guy you were actually rooting for? Of course you donʼt…because Comic Books and movies need villains just like sports. How boring would Gotham be without villains?

I think the difference is, sports fans donʼt all have to agree on who or what the villain is.

To Tampa Bay Raysʼ fans, the Yankees and Red Sox are villains. Johnny Damon played for both the sox and the evil empire, and now heʼs our DH. Did we jump right in to that relationship and embrace him as one of our own or did we try to keep him away from us like we were Sarah Conner in Terminator 2? He looks like the same guy who was trying to kill us the last time he was around, and now heʼs trying to help us? Cue the Guns-n-Roses and letʼs run from this player, right? Nope. Heʼs no longer a villain, because he switched to the good side.

Tiger Woods. Brett Favre. Jordan. Eddie Martel, QB from “The Replacements”. The Iron Sheik. Ivan Drago. and now Lebron James who is one loss away from making tons of NBA fans extremely happy. (note…obviously since I wrote this he is now 0 losses away, and tons of NBA fans are extremely happy). Dallas jerseys sold in Cleveland this past week like Budweiser at a Nascar event. Lebron has proven to be as popular as a chaplain on a porno set. And you know whoʼs watching? Everyone.

People tune in for once in a lifetime talents whether theyʼre nice or not…but more people continue to watch when the guy is a d-bag. I hope Bryce Harper continues to blow kisses at pitchers and stare at his monster blasts, because that would mean heʼs still hitting monster blasts, and people will watch that hoping that heʼll be a good guy one day as well as being an incredible player. At the risk of making 2 references to the same movie…

People will watch, Mark. They’ll watch these games for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll rush in from their driveways, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll turn on their tvʼs as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, I won’t mind signing a baseball for you,” Bryce will say. “It’s only twenty dollars per person.” They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be
so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. The one constant through all the years, Mark, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Mark. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will watch, Mark. People will most
definitely watch.

Point-Counterpoint: Does Baseball need Bryce to be ‘Bron

Two days ago, in the face of kiss-gate, Jeff Passan wrote this column arguing that Bryce Harper turning villain would be good for baseball.

I take the point on this: Baseball doesn’t need gimmicks.

Brendan takes the counterpoint: LeBryce would be good for the game. (Due to technical difficulties, Brendan’s post might not be up until later. No, those technical difficulties are not manufactured because Brendan keeps getting the upper hand in these little debates).

 

Point: Theme a Little Theme of Me

By Brendan T. Gleason

Mark, you boring, no fun having, no fun wanting, beginning of the story Scrooge. (you know…before he sees the error of his ways and actually likes things).

Everyone knows that trips are supposed to be fun. I donʼt care if youʼre in a car with a couple buds on the way to Vegas, if youʼre on a train with your significant other to go
antiquing(you know you drag the mrs. from time to time, Heilig) or if youʼre on a work trip with the rest of your fellow employees from Tampa to Seattle(followed by LA and then Baltimore). Make it fun.

We can say that theyʼre already playing a game, and it should be fun because theyʼre making millions of dollars to do something that so many of us would do for monopoly money…and thatʼs partly true. But I say, these guys are playing a game we love, making millions of dollars to do it, I better see the fun off the field as well as on it. Thereʼs a rain delay? go slide on the tarp. Out to dinner after a ballgame? Sign some autographs. Buy some drinks for strangers. Enjoy the fact that youʼre a major league ballplayer. Have a long road trip, throw a theme to each city and show up prepared.

Seattle is grungy…wear grungy clothes. LA has beaches and a laid back atmosphere…wear beach attire. Wear pajamas to Baltimore because thatʼs where “House Party 2 – The Pajama Jam” was filmed. (truth be told…no idea why they chose pajamas for Baltimore, but I still say go with it!) I think they should wear cowboy gear on the next trip to Arlington. Maybe dress as gangsters when they have a road series against the White Sox. Collectively dress as a full slab of ribs and waddle through the
Kansas City airport when they have a 3 game stint against the Royals.

Why not?

This just in…Major League Baseball players all dress in the same outfits every time they take the field. If your everyday “work” requires you to put on a costume, why should it be a big deal if they want to do it while traveling?

I was fortunate enough to go on a cross country comedy tour with 3 of my best friends. We were on the road for 3 months, stopped in 55 cities, had over 80 shows, and did it
all while traveling in a tour bus for what seemed like 15 hours each day. It was a ton of work, and it could get stressful, but we worked better as a group and got along better as
friends when we were goofing off. Every now and then I would sit back and realize I was on a cross country and back road trip telling jokes to America…how could I not
have a blast with that?

Which brings me to the biggest reason why I think itʼs a good idea…camaraderie! If youʼve ever seen a fictitious baseball movie, you know the team doesnʼt really start to
gel on the field until they gel off of it. Direct quote from baseball movies: “The new pitcher or manager is a kid, we hate everything about our jobs…oh wait, the kid is
teaching us why we fell in love with baseball all those years ago, and now since we get along as people and weʼre having fun, weʼre going to start playing better as a team.” –
The entire adult baseball cast of both “Rookie of the Year” and “Little Big League.”

If itʼs a good enough strategy for a kid who had a medical mistake that made him throw fast and another kid whoʼs grandpa owned a team, kicked the bucket, and left him in
charge…itʼs good enough for these Rays!!

Point: That Decision S*^cks

Mark, you rule loving, “just-the-facts-maʼam” saying, Bronxian prude. Sure, Bronxian is underlined in red right now, but iʼm pretty sure itʼs a proper adjective.

Iʼm not sure how you could side with the Tropicana Field staff on this one. But it makes me think that you side with other ridiculous decisions, like the tuck rule, or the decision to televise “The Decision”, or Rachelʼs decision to end up with Ross. Really? Top 5 worst main characters from any show ever. Seriously…whine more Ross, I dare ya.

I have a couple points on why kicking this fan out of the stadium was a bad decision. In no particular order.

• I have some pretty good friends out here, all of them Dodgersʼ fans, who sent that link around, calling me lame for liking the Rays. Thatʼs how bad this is. Dodgers fans…who saw some of their own brethren beat a Giants fan to within an inch of his life because he was wearing a different jersey, are saying that the Rays are lame because our stadium kicked out a guy for wearing a shirt that said “yankees s#@k”. (I donʼt want to get kicked off anything related to the Rays right now, so Iʼm being careful). Obviously Iʼm not comparing the 2 incidents. One was a stupid thing that will go away in a couple of days, the other was a seriously disgusting act. But it gave my Dodger fan friends something to make fun of me for. So thanks again Trop.

• The Yankees are one of our 2 biggest rivals. They buy players. They buy championships. There are die hard Yankees fans who have never been to New York a day in their life. The Yankees do suck. That shirt was just telling the truth. Would they have kicked him out if his shirt said, “The Taliban Sucks” or “2 and a Half Men Sucks” or “The fact that when people hear the word Friday they think of the stupidest song thatʼs ever been recorded for YouTube instead of one of the greatest movies of all time…sucks”? I donʼt think so.

• Thereʼs no reason for The Trop to kick out ANY fans. Thatʼs like a struggling restaurant kicking out customers for bringing their own straw. The Rays need all the fans they can get or else people will continue to think itʼs always “dress like your favorite blue seat day” at Tropicana Field.

Itʼs not about the Yankees, or the first amendment or about rules so much as it is about stupidity. Dude is watching a game, wearing a t-shirt with 0 curse words on it. The line that weʼve drawn keeps getting moved closer and closer to absurdity, and the people drawing the line are standing on the wrong side.

Counterpoint: National and American Mean the Same Thing (In this Case)

Mark you purist, elitist, baseball snob. The game has changed, and having interleague games sprinkled throughout the season is one of the better changes. I donʼt know why people get so up-in-arms about interleague play, but donʼt seem to care about any of the other modifications that have graced baseball since invention. Sure, the rules have remained pretty similar since the start of the 20th century, but so much about the actual game has changed.

Letʼs start with some boring logistics. The mound height has changed a couple of times…no big deal. With that, in the late 60s, the strike zone shrunk.(both of these first 2 changes had to do with Bob Gibson…that dude was sick!) In 1971 the batting helmet became mandatory. Very boring, but necessary. Like using a 1st round pick on an offensive lineman. The designated hitter came into effect in 1973 (obviously AL only…different debate).

 

There have been some interesting advancements. Pitchers used to pitch every night. Cy Youngʼs Win Record is the safest record in sports. No pitcher will ever touch that. If a pitcher started this season and won 30 games per year for the next 17 seasons…he would still be a win short of the record. This goes hand in hand with my next point…what pitches did the hurlers throw back in the day? A fastball and a slowball. Thatʼs what they were called. And thatʼs why pitchers could pitch every night. Now thereʼs a slider, a curve, a sinker, a slurve, a splitter, and Eddie Harris puts a little Jalapeno up his nose and wipes the snot on the ball when the ump isnʼt looking.

 

Itʼs fun to see New York play New York. itʼs fun to see Chicago play Chicago. Itʼs fun to see Oakland play San Francisco. Itʼs kind of fun, i guess, to see Florida and Tampa Bay battle it out. Itʼs fun to see pitchers from the AL try to bat. itʼs fun to see the NL get a DH.

The biggest reason Iʼm a proponent of Interleague play is, the season is so long. Why not have a few games here and there against the other league? Theyʼre all playing baseball in the majors. If a guy can get traded from one league to the other midseason, then we know the playing field is level. Itʼs the regular season. The AL teams play 18 interleague games. 5 NL teams play 18, 10 play 15, and one team plays 12. Making a grand total of 126 games. If you donʼt like the Interleague play, lucky for you there are 2,304 other games to occupy your time during the baseball season while you complain about the game not being pure.

Point: Trade Bait James

Mark, you sentimental, living-in-the-now homer.

I admit, now might not be the best time to argue in favor of trading James Shields. Heʼs one of the hottest pitchers in all of baseball right now, and heʼs gobbling up innings and wins like a hippo gobbles marbles. But not just any hippo…a hungry hungry one. So why am I taking the side of swapping Big Regular Season Game James? For a simple reason, that might not sound so simple at first. The reason is…I donʼt want to trade James Shields.

Bare with me for a second.

I didnʼt want to trade Delmon Young.
I didnʼt want to trade Scott Kazmir.
I didnʼt want to trade Matt Garza.
I didnʼt want to trade Victor Zambrano.

Ok, maybe not so much on that last one. But the pattern is undeniable. Whenever I want to hold on to a player for emotional reasons, our front office gets rid of him and makes me regret ever doubting them. Why would I be emotional about Shields? Since heʼs been a pro, heʼs always been in the Tampa Bay uniform. It even said Devil Rays for the beginning of his tenure. Heʼs had some rough patches, but heʼs been our opening day starter a couple of years, and has had some incredible stretches of top notch pitching.

Itʼs tough to see a lifer go, but if we are going to trade him at some point, there doesnʼt seem to be a better time to do it. The whole point is to sell high, and i donʼt think there are too many players in the league who are higher right now( since snoop and willie nelson are not officially on a roster right now.).

So my stance is this…Iʼm a huge James Shields fan, and would like him to be a Ray for life, but Iʼm all for trading him if we decide to trade him. It sounds like a silly argument in a debate that Iʼm having with myself. I feel like both minds of Tyler Durden in Fight Club, only if this is a “Trade James Shields Club,” we are breaking the first 2 rules by talking about it, but talk about it we must.

So Mark, you sugar coating schmuck, let me hear all the great things about Shields and why we should keep him, but remember this…We have the arms in the farm league that are ready…we have a front office that rarely makes trading errors, we donʼt have a better time to move Shields to get something great in return and we canʼt put too much faith in a guy who retaliates with a weak pitch at Crisp, and then jeopardizes his pitching arm by swinging blindly when Coco charges. Iʼm glad he didnʼt connect, because he might still be out had that punch landed.

Although “Big Game” is a decent boxing nickname.

A Day to be Remembered

One of the really cool things about last night is the way everyone seems to have a cool story about where they were or what they were doing when it all went down. It’s almost like the baseball equivalent of the JFK Assassination (does that make Robert Andino Lee Harvey Oswlad, Evan Longoria Jack Ruby, and Dan Johnson the second gunman on the grassy knoll?).

I thought it’d be fun to collect stories about where you were when the tide turned. Here are the stories of The Ray Area. Add your stories in the comments.

Me?

I missed all 7 Yankee runs because I was at an open house hosted by my 3-year-old’s pre-school. After the open-house ended, I headed to a local bar with the Mrs. and some friends to have one beer and watch the game. Boy, what a depressing place. At some point, I stopped watching the Rays altogether and just focused on the Orioles. We finally went home and I was sitting on my couch trying desperately to focus on a Motion I was editing that needs to be filed today. I was watching the game but, decided it was too sad to watch our boys flame out so, I was flipping back and forth with some show I couldn’t care less about. Then the walk, then the next walk, then the first bomb. Finally, the Mrs. joined me and we watched the rest. I threw the Motion I was editing around the room three times, once into a ceiling fan. Needless to say, my marked up copy was looking rough this morning.

Brendan Gleason:

Last nightʼs game was indicative of the Rays season. Never any quit, regardless of the situation. Whether down 7 runs in the final innings of a game, or down 9 games in the final month of the season, these guys show more heart than the Wizard couldʼve ever given to the Tin Man.

I got to a bar on the 3rd street promenade around 5:15. Living in California is generally cool for sports. I like Monday night Football being done by 9pm. I love waking up on Saturdays and waiting no time to watch College Football. But I do sacrifice early innings of baseball games that start at 7pm Eastern, so it was already the top of the 4th when I met up with some other Raysʼs fans living out here to watch the game. It was actually right before Teixiera hit his second home run off Price to make it 6-0.

Before I thank Longoria for the 3-run jack in the 8th and the walk-off, I have some other thank-yous to make.
Thank you Tampa Bay Bullpen…8 innings of 3 hit baseball, with the only run coming in the 5th on an Andruw Jones rare air. Thank you Buck Showalter…you got your team ready and wanted to win what couldʼve been a meaningless game to the Orioles organization. Thank you Waitress at the bar…sure you only brought me 5 wings at a time for All you can eat Wings, but you kept bringing them without judging me. Thank you Jonathan Papelbon…now you can do your stupid stare into the mirror all off-season and think, “why did i throw fastballs down the middle of the plate to every batter”? Thank you Dan Johnson…your .108 average was not at all in your mind when you took the pitch over the wall. Thank you 3 guys playing pool rooting for the red sox…you left during the rain delay when the sox were up and the rays were down and made me like you less. Thank you Joe Maddon…I heard Dick Vitale say that if Maddon doesnʼt win Manager of the Year, they should stop giving out the award. I agree. Thanks for everything Joe.

And now for the thank you of the night. This one goes to Evan. i know it was a team effort, but thank you Longo for the 30th and 31st home runs of the year. Iʼll never forget where I was for a lot of events in my life, and Evan Longoriaʼs double down the line that cleared the fence on the fly is one of those moments. He was on deck when we learned the Sox had lost, and he reached in to his inner superstar and made a decision to end the game and send his team into the playoffs.

Thank you all for the season…and thank you for extending it. I look forward to seeing what this group of scrappy, young, Major-League-Baseball-poor ballplayers.

Chris Glover:

Bless me baseball Gods for I have sinned. I lost faith. I questioned The Process. As Pedroia’s home run cleared the left field fence and the NESN announcer proclaimed that the second baseman was “willing his team to the post season” I could not have slumped further in my chair. By that point I’d all but surrendered hope for the Rays who had fallen behind 6-0 just moments before. Denial, anger and bargaining had all flown by in a matter of minutes and now depression was threatening to give way to acceptance. We made it close just to lose like this? To lose with errors from our MVP infielder and a miserable performance from our All Star ace? The next hour and half were bordering on sadistic as Rays batters came to the plate and were sat down again by a mixed group of relievers including the much maligned pair of Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett. Baltimore were doing their best to keep the Sox in check but the end was nigh for another year.

As Damon stepped to the plate in the 8th, the win percentage for the Rays was 0.3% (echoing the odds of making the playoffs back in August). Forgive me baseball Gods, but to my earthly mind, that rounded down to zero. His single barely registered; just another man to be left on base. Then came Zobrist’s double and Kotchman’s walk. Still not much, but I did flip the sound back to the Rays from the Sox game. Fuld and Rodriguez put the Rays on the board but with Jennings and Upton going down, the brief rally (and the season) seemed to be over.

I believe in stats. I love stats. For once, I ignored them. The stats said hope was lost, and even with Longoria’s blast, the chances of winning were still slim, but suddenly, we had life. What had started a few minutes earlier as a quiet single and a couple of walks had snowballed into a comeback and you just knew the Sox were watching in their locker room: frustrated and increasingly nervous. They were just taking to the field as Dan Johnson worked his magic and, though it was far from clear at the time, momentum would be the Rays’ for good.

The ten minute span from the time Papelbon came on to close out the game to the moment Longoria’s line drive crept over the left field wall, serves as a microcosm for the Rays season. All seemed lost on so many occasions but whether by skill, luck or blind persistence the team kept going and those few minutes will become entrenched in baseball folklore, sure to be told (and embellished by those who left the stadium or turned off the TV early) for years to come. Even the shot itself made us wait for a couple more glorious seconds; unsure if the ball would drop in, drift foul or deliver the most unlikely victory. I know there are at least a couple of residents in Toronto who were unknowingly impacted, as a yell of disbelief, relief and joy exploded at around midnight last night. I hadn’t dared to think about the impact of a play-in game, the playoffs or anything beyond the next at bat, but suddenly everything was released in those few moments.

“I normally like to try and attempt to say what I’m thinking, but I don’t even know what I’m thinking right now”. Maddon was speechless. I was speechless. We were all speechless (or just yelling/tweeting/emailing/texting nonsense). At one point I was just sat with my hands on my head, mouth ajar, staring at the reactions online and on TV, trying to process what just happened. The importance of those moments in baseball history is still to be determined, but what is certain is that they will not be forgotten by anyone who lived them.

I tried in vein to write something on the games in the immediate aftermath, but everything just sounded too cheesy and more at home in Orlando than St Pete’s. But there will be enough time for people to be down on the fans for not buying tickets or management for not calling players up sooner, so for now, let’s just enjoy being part of history, oh, and promise not to doubt the team, The Process, or the baseball Gods again.