The Journey, Not the Destination

If the first three hapless efforts in the Bronx had lulled me into a baseball-induced coma, last night’s effort was electro-shock therapy. I’m back baby. (Anyone notice Desmond Jennings shout “CLEAR” right before his at-bat in the top of the first?). I was all set to sit down and write about Matt Moore. There isn’t a lot left to say about his 11 strikeouts but, I had this idea working about the stoic nature of our burgeoning pitching staff.

But I can’t focus on that now because I just finished Gary Shelton’s column in this morning’s St. Pete Times. Everytime we get this thing pointed in the right direction. Everytime a baseball fan base starts to emerge. Something like this happens.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like Shelton. He’s a decent writer and usually hits close to the point. But this column is crap.

Here’s where Shelton steps in it:

Fair or not, this season will be remembered largely for the week to come. Ask yourself: If the Rays finish shy of the postseason, will you remember a resilient team that performed beyond its expectations, beyond its flaws, beyond its budget? Or will you remember it for not seizing an opportunity? Will you remember coming back or falling short?

Anyone that chose ‘falling short’ should stop reading right now. You aren’t going to like my take on baseball. In fact, if you are that focused on the playoffs, you probably want to just stop reading this blog altogether. I write for people that like baseball. Not for people that want cool playoff merchandise.

Here’s the thing. Shelton is judging the Rays by a football standard. In football, the end result is all that matters. That is partly due to the fact that it is so easy to make the post-season. There are now 490985460985340546309 different bowl games to qualify for and 12 of the 32 NFL teams make the playoffs.

Baseball is different. Football has to be judged by postseason success because the season is so short. You simply cannot get a feel for a team’s real capacity in 12 or 16 games. In baseball, every wart and beauty mark are on full display. Baseball teams are judged by their entire body of work. Regardless of this week or next week, the 2011 Rays have an incredible body of work that I’m glad to have watched.

Every night, we sit down with our television or radio and know that the Rays can win. Most nights, we know that the Rays should win. That has been going on for six solid months. That is not common and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The 2011 Rays were entertaining every night.

This team gave us their blitz back from the brink after an 0-6 start. They gave us the LegendofSamFuld. They gave us the expectation that James Shields would go 9 every night. They gave us revenge against Carl Crawford and total domination of the Red Sox. They gave us Johnny Damon’s consecutive walk-off hits. They gave us Desmond Jennings’ explosion onto the scene and Matt Joyce’s all-star first half. They gave us Sam Fuld’s ridiculous, game-ending, 360-foot sprint. They gave us pajama night, and grunge night, and letterman sweater night. They gave us Joe Maddon’s season-long mullet, Dave Martinez’s beard, and Jeremy Hellickson’s game face. They gave us the Astro doll on the dugout, David Price’s dugout pranks, chocolate whip cream pies, and missed flights due to missing passports.

How can you not like that?

Every night of this season has been a blast. If you didn’t enjoy it, that is because you are either have unrealistic expectations or are late to the party. Anyone that remembers the Devil Rays era enjoyed this season because they know it isn’t always this fun.

Look, there are 80-win seasons in our future. There are 70-win seasons in our future. There may even be another 60-win season in our future. When those days come — and they come for everyone — we’ll remember how much fun this summer was when the gang of no-names made this run.

Gary, welcome to the club. We have seat for you over there.

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