Story By Tom Bostock
“Strike one! Strike two! Strike three! You’re out!” That has unfortunately been the refrain that the Tampa Bay Rays fans have been hearing from umpires for most of this year. It seems that, until they learn to win some of those one run games, the Rays 33-39 record will continue on a downhill spiral. But all is not lost. Thanks to the perennial cellar dwelling Orioles and their abysmal 20 and 50 record, the Rays have managed to keep out of last place in the American League East.
While the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Socks seem to buy and sell players with little impact to team performance, reloading each year, the Rays keep shooting blanks, trading fan favorites like Evan Longoria, who unfortunately broke a finger while playing with his new team the San Francisco Giants, and stalwart Ben Zobrist, affectionately nicknamed “Zorilla,” starting over again with an influx of new players, primarily from their minor league system. With a break even record of 5-5 in their last 10 games, our youngster Rays seem to be treading water. With one more loss than the Toronto Blue Jays who has an almost identical record of 33 and 38, it’s going to be an uphill battle to respectability.
According to cbssports.com, all is not lost. All star golden glove outfielder, Kevin Kermaier, who injured his thumb (torn ligament) and was languishing on the 60-day disabled list for more than two months is finally back in the field and is scheduled to play against the Houston Astros. That should be great news for all Tampa Bay Rays fans and give a much-needed lift to the young, struggling team. I’m not holding out too much hope that his bat will be heard from until he gets his timing back but just having him healthy should be a boost for team morale. It certainly will be for all Tampa Bay Rays fans!
As bad as current performance has been, there have been several “lights at the end of the tunnel” and they are not oncoming trains. Mlb.com reported that Blake Snell struck out seven batters in the first three innings during his last outing against the New York Yankees. Unfortunately, his command deserted him the following inning, leading to four Yankee runs. Again, the Rays bats were silent.
Right hand pitcher, the recipient of not one but two Tommy Johns surgeries, Nate Eovaldi, who had not appeared in the majors since August 10, 2016, continues to do a yeoman-like job for the Rays while veteran starter, Chris Archer continues to struggle. The big bat of C.J. Cron is all but non-existent of late; perhaps designated hitter role will give him the impetus to succeed.
Firecracker third baseman, Matt Duffy continues to shine. He gets on base almost as much as the grounds crew. His productive bat is making its presence felt at critical times during the games and if catcher, Wilson Ramos, is not in consideration for all star status, something is wrong with the voting system. Pitcher Romo’s slider and curve ball seem to have a mind of their own and opposing batters are flummoxed with his darting, twisting offerings.
Tampabay.rays.mlb.com reports that the Rays depth chart is beginning to take on the appearance of a list of the walking wounded. Pitcher Chris Archer is among the wounded, on the ten-day disabled list with a left abdominal strain. Arroyo is on the 10-day disabled list with a left oblique strain. Faria is on the was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. These are just a few of the Rays players who are not 100%. It begs the question if conditioning might be an issue.
Everyone knows that the Tampa Bay Rays want a new stadium. The present one is outdated and located in an area that is not conducive to increased attendance. Rumors abound about a new location but if the Rays are expecting financial assistance from state government, especially democratic support, they shouldn’t hold their collective breaths. Steve Contorno of Tampabay.com, in an April 19th article reported that “the Tampa Bay Rays shouldn’t bother asking for money to help build a new ballpark in Ybor City.
Why? Apparently, baseball and politics don’t mix, especially where taxpayer money is concerned. During a gubernatorial debate, three of the four democratic candidates for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine and Orlando businessman Chris King were all in agreement: no taxpayer money to help any professional sports team finance stadiums! If the grinch stole Christmas, these grinches are trying to steal professional baseball.
Steve cited a the single voice of reason, former congresswoman Gwen Graham who said we should “absolutely” support public investment in sports teams because “the bring us together.” She pointed to a pot of money that is used as business incentives for businesses to grow or relocate or “Visit Florida, the state’s advertising arm.” You go girl and go Rays!